October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.
September 12th, 2013.
Today is the day that ad:tech came to town!
Behind the glass doors at National Hall, Olympia lay a smorgasbord of digital know-how; from online marketing guru’s to customer relationship management specialists and experts on mobile marketing.
With seminars to the left, conferences above and pop-up stands everywhere else, people from far & wide scattered about the building, shuffling papers and clutching iPad’s on a journey to learn how to be better at their job.
After circling the perimeter to check out some of the businesses on show, I found my way to Oban Multilingual‘s free seminar, where Jonathan Murphy covered tips on how to successfully run multilingual PPC campaigns.
Helpful tips on multilingual PPC campaigns:
- Some PPC campaigns are generally easier to rank in non-English speaking countries, because competition isn’t always as fierce.
- When setting up domains in foreign languages, Google translate should not be an option.
- Whilst Google is king of the search engine in the UK, this doesn’t always apply abroad; Asia favors Baidu and Yandex is popular in Europe – this should be taken into account.
- Webpages should be translated (by a qualified copywriter) after research has been carried out on things like colloquialisms or Americanisms such as “free delivery” that changes to, “free shipping” for websites in the USA.
- Call-to actions and the colour used to display them is important; red is popular in Asia whereas orange is something that would be used in the UK (where red is usually a no-go for a call-to action).
Other useful marketing tips:
After the above I milled about, popping in and out of other talks, to see what other gems I could pick up – Here are a few I particularly liked:
- New international website with no inbound links and no indexed pages? – Try PPC!
Instead of waiting for Google to trawl through the pages on your website and index them, think about how Google uses it’s robot: adsbot-Google.
Pages will be read if you are buying traffic to them, which can eventually lead to rankings, even when the website is relatively unknown.
- Using video marketing in Google’s display network? – Include a transcript!
YouTube allows you upload transcripts for your videos to determine the video’s keyword relevancy for a user searching for that topic. However, it has been tested and proven that Google also uses these transcripts outside of YouTube to index these videos too! So transcripts could help your video turn up in a Google search…
- Are your YouTube videos getting enough attention? – Stop other ‘related videos’ videos showing up after yours yours (when embedded on a website)
Suggested videos are great and all, but not when they could potentially drive business away from you. Simply disable related-video suggestions on YouTube before embedding them. Problem solved!
I hope you find this information useful, I did! ;-)
August 23rd, 2013.
Spend enough time wading through spam emails and you’ll be amazed at what you find. From dodgy salutations to cringe-worthy formatting, on a very slow day this makes for a good few minutes of entertainment.
Here are some of the most ‘creepy’ elements of bad email-ship:
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
This is usually an attempt at making a company look uber-friendly, since the emails they send you are formatted like a buddy would send them.
The downside is that sometimes we sign up with nick-names, tags or misspellings which can quickly turn a harmless greeting into a spammy annoyance. Seeing “Happy Birthday JaneDoe101!” or “JaneDoe101 we miss you!” littering up your mailbox is usually the first step on the way to an unsubscribe!
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
“Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom this may concern” are clear-cut indicators of cold calling (or cold mailing) – sure they’re gender neutral but boy are they impersonal. They scream “Someone, anyone – please read me!” rather than seeming relevant to the recipient.
Too many imperatives
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s true that the call-to action is a huge part of the science behind a smooth conversion, so putting in punchy phrases like “click here!” and “buy now!” seem standard procedure, but there is such a thing of over-doing it.
Ultimately, I don’t want bossy emails, and legally anything being sold is an ‘invitation to treat’ so in your next sales email, try the passive approach with an A/B test to see what gains a better reaction.
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s been a while and there’s a lot to say, but how long do you think I’ve got? People are time conscious, say less!
If you need to explain something a nifty way of doing so is by linking back to a blog post published on your website. Not only is this considerate of your customers, it’s also potential for indirect conversions; they may just browse other parts of your website…
And in taking my own advice, I’ll keep this short and sweet – but feel free to add any other examples you can think of in our vowel to make electronic mail, sustainable! ;-)
August 21st, 2013.
I’ve been using Google Docs to keep track of links built to client sites and to track the progress of any link removal work. Occasionally I’ve noticed links have either been removed, the linking page no longer exists, or the links reported in that incredibly useless ‘sample link report’ are wrong. As SEOs/link builders/content marketers/inbound marketers/digital ninjas (select/insert your choice of title here) this is something you’ll want to check from time to time.
Whilst tools like ScreamingFrog are great for this sort of thing, sometimes you might want the convenience of checking this within Google Docs:
This lovely little formula grabs the lowercase anchor text of the first link containing ‘www.datadial.net’ of the URL in cell A1.
Searchmetrics is a brilliant SEO tool, the amount of insight that it gives on client and competitor sites is incredibly useful. One of my favourite reports, along with some manipulation in Excel is to run a quick rankings comparison report on your competitors so you can gain insight into what they’re ranking for, more importantly what they’re ranking for and you’re not, and also how your site matches-up a full range of industry keywords.
For this sample report I’m going to take a look at some of the bigger sites in the insurance sector.
Other good insurance companies do exist, along with quite a few terrible ones.
Run each domain through Searchmetrics and run a long-tail keyword report on each of the sites that you wish to compare.
Export and download each of these reports.
In Excel create different sheets for each of the exports along with the first sheet which should be named ‘comparison’ this is where all of the magic happens and your data will be pulled-in.
Paste each sites data into onto it’s own sheet, as well as cumulatively into the ‘comparison’ sheet.
Then under Data > Remove Duplicates remove duplicated keywords on the ‘comparison’ sheet.
Then delete the following columns in the ‘comparison’ sheet – URL, Pos, Title, and Traffic Index. This should leave just Keyword, Search Volume and CPC.
Next add columns for each of the sites that you wish to compare. This should leave you with a sheet that looks something like this.
Then, using VLOOKUP you’ll need to pull the ranking data from the other sheets into the comparison sheet. So for example into Column C all of the rankings for Aviva will appear.
The formula you’ll need is =VLOOKUP(A:A,Aviva!A:G,3,0) The easiest way to generate this is to use the insert formula function,
Lookup value – Is the value that you’re looking up, in this case is column A, the keyword.
Table array – is the table you’re finding the value in, which is the Aviva sheet, so click in the table array entry field, then go to the Aviva sheet and highlight all of the columns.
Col index num – is the column with the data in that you wish to import, so column 3, the ranking position.
Range lookup – Enter FALSE or 0 here to find an exact match. This will cause #N/A to be returned if the site isn’t ranking for the keyword.
Repeat this for each site. And then expand the selection by dragging the corner of the box down to apply to each of the cells in the sheet.
Tidy the sheet up by formatting as a table, and (hopefully) you should have something that looks like this.
If the #N/A results are annoying you can easily remove them by modifying the VLOOKUP formular from
You can also colour-code the rankings using conditional formatting.
If you would like to download this example sheet I have added it here – CompetitorReport
June 25th, 2013.
All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.
But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?
Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site.
Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:
Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.
But how should you respond?
People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.
So there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:
#1 Responsive Web Design
What is it?
In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..
– Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.
– Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.
– Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).
– Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.
– General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.
– Lack of Mobile Features – You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.
– Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.
Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone. But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.
#2 Dedicated Mobile Site
What is it?
Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.
The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.
– Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.
– Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.
– Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.
– Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.
– Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.
– SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.
We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.
#3 Mobile Apps
What are they?
Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).
– Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).
– Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.
– Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.
– Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.
– No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.
– Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.
– Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.
We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.
The 4th Option
So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile. There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing. Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options. This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.
So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump. If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.
And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:
You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,
But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,
And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,
To fix your SEO a little bit.
There are two points that must be mentioned here,
Two tags to put in your HTML,
(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)
They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.
Rel=”alternate” on the desktop
Make sure it points to the mobile and all…
And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop
On mobile: Rel=”canonical”
But other things cannot be avoided.
Like linking to mobile, just like I did:
So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:
Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>
Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>
March 19th, 2013.
Over the past few decades, businesses which engage in advertising, PR and marketing have increasingly turned to research in the cognitive sciences to inform their decision making. The hope is that greater insight into the psyche of the consumer will ultimately lead to more profit. In recent years, the rapidly developing field of neuroscience has come to the fore with organisations as diverse as PepsiCo, Intel, CBS, eBay and ESPN utilising ‘neuromarketing’ company NeuroFocus to test for various physiological and cognitive responses to commercials, branding and products.
There is a straightforward reason for making use of such complex science:
We need some understanding of who and what we are communicating with, if we want to have any hope of them understanding us. This is why it is worthwhile incorporating an understanding of cognitive science, whether psychological, philosophical or neuroscientific, into an outreach strategy. Even a cursory glance over the cognitive science page of Wikipedia will reveal that our gut instinct about both ourselves and others is more often than not, flat out wrong. A good outreacher needs to dig a little deeper.
Classic Study: Behaviourism – Skinner and the Rat
Psychologist B.F. Skinner devoted the bulk of his career to the understanding of human behaviour. Perhaps his greatest contribution to cognitive science was his theory of operant conditioning, which holds that behaviours can be learnt on the basis of positive or negative reinforcement.
Skinner demonstrated his theory with a device known as the ‘Skinner Box’, which featured little more than a small container, a hungry rat and a selection of levers. When pressed, one of the levers would release a small pellet of food. Quickly the rat learnt to only press this lever if it wanted to get what it desired. Reinforced by the reward of food, the rat would readily repeat this action over and over again.
But what does this tell us about outreach?
It tells us that well-rewarded behaviour will be repeated. For example, if a journalist has posted an infographic before, had good results, then they are likely to do it again. They know the operation and realise the benefits. This factor of repeatability means that outreach is more scalable.
However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t outreach to those who have never posted infographics before. It took Skinner’s rat some time to understand the process, but once the behaviour is learnt, it is likely to be repeated. This is where persuasion and information kicks in. We wouldn’t dream of entrapping potential clients in a cage to reap some reward: in the rat’s case this was a bag of food, in our case it will be the prospect of driving traffic and awareness towards their website, or just spreading the joy of infographics. Our positive reinforcement will be much harder to enforce. So we have to provide examples of previous successes, as well as building trust to get clients pressing the lever for content again and again.
Wisdom of the Ancients: Emotion and Reason
In the great philosopher Plato’s famous analogy of the soul, emotion was two horses pulling a charioteer, reason, in opposing directions. The harmonious soul would be able to keep both emotion and reason in balance. A strong outreach strategy should have a similar aim.
- Marketers must be able to reassure the logical characteristics in consumers. A tug-at-the-heartstrings ploy may go over some peoples’ heads, or worse still, invite cynicism.
How does this relate to outreach?
- While using emotional hooks is important for content you can’t rely on it for all methods of outreach.
- Know your market. Some markets will not mind their emotions being pandered to whereas others will see this as little more than fluff, prizing ‘the facts’ much more highly.
A more integrated approach between the emotional and the rational will maximise the effectiveness of the outreach.
Recent Study: Optimism Bias and the Effort of Rejection
Optimism Bias:- Research into human decision-making suggests that humans are naturally hard-wired to believe.
It requires greater cognitive resources to question an assumption. It is more effective to believe something than to reject it. By nature, we are trusting. This is why big institutions, popular brands and institutions are built on popular belief and trust. To constantly test and question stimuli would be too draining on our cognitive resources.
How is this applicable to outreach?
- Spend time outreaching to larger influencers. Your content/image/post/media will have greater longevity and far reaching effects- people trust household names.
- Engage in an initial conversation to build the relationship, assuring and informing your outreach target. Eventually, once the aims have been met, it will be far less likely that your request will be denied due to the cognitive efforts of rejection on the receiver’s part.
- Have a full proof strategy, that way you are prepared to respond to any queries.
- This can also be applied to persuasion, turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. It’s like a mental tug of war, making the effort of rejection even more exhausting.
- Well-rewarded behaviour will be repeated.
- Emotion and reason come hand-in-hand. A conclusion (logic) usually results in an action (emotional impulse).
- Determine the market before taking the plunge, whether a more emotive or logical method should be applied.
- Have a full proof outreach POA so that any queries can be met with total reassurance, making rejection less probable.
- Use other brands and institutions where possible to enhance your own content.