December 6th, 2011.
A few weeks ago we asked a few folks on Twitter to complete a short (okay, maybe not that short) 22 question survey, looking specifically at the business side to working in SEO. We asked the all important questions, including:
- Where are you based?
- What kind of business are you?
- How many people work in the business?
- What other services do you offer besides SEO?
- How many clients do you currently manage?
- Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
- What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
- Your average charge per month for SEO services?
- Typical client retention period?
- Biggest issues facing your business today?
- Biggest barrier to sales?
- Biggest source of leads?
- What activities are included in a typical campaign?
- Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
- Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? ;))
- What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
- What keyword tools do you use primarily?
- How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
- What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
- How did you get into SEO?
- What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
- Have you ever had a site penalised?
The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:
We’ll be releasing the source data as promised in the next few days. Let us know how your company compares to these averages in the comments below!
October 27th, 2011.
Earlier this month Google announced changes to the importance Google AdWords places on Quality Score, which is likely to affect a number of advertisers. Based on tests carried out in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Google’s Adam Juda announced that the update will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.
The update places more importance on the relevancy of a landing page when calculating Quality Score- a component in the formula which determines where your ad displays in search results and your cost per click when competing with other advertisers. Essentially- it’s now more important than ever to ensure that landing pages used for PPC are as relevant and optimised as possible- rewarded by higher positions with lower cost-per-click costs.
In an interview with Search Engine Land’s contributor Pamela Parker, Google’s Director of Product Management- Jonathan Alferness suggests that the current user experience for AdWords users could be improved:
What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction… This means the user experience isn’t what it could be…
In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.
How will this change affect you?
With added emphasis on landing page Quality Score, it’s important to be aware of this change and now is the time to assess your current landing pages. We can expect to see an initial change within AdWords as this change initially rolls out to the rest of the world:
As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance.
Past this, sites with lower quality landing pages may expect to see lower quality score values, lower ad positions, and possibly higher cost-per-click prices when competing against advertisers with better quality landing pages.
October 24th, 2011.
Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first. 450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?
Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.
It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.
As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!
Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.
October 20th, 2011.
Trusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.
Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.
When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.
With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.
While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.
October 20th, 2011.
When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.
The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.
- Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
- Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
- A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours
We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.
1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy
When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.
Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.
2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem
If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)
Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.
If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.
3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem
While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.
Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.
October 17th, 2011.
Findings from Marin Software’s Paid Search Quarterly Benchmarking Report, suggest that if you use one of the new tablets, as opposed to a PC, it’s possible to increase the click through rate on paid ads by more than a third. The research was based on a mapping of how much was spent on paid search by almost a thousand agencies and advertisers across the world, giving a total for all of £1.3 billion.
More than 90% of the annual cost of spending on paid search came from PCs, tablet users spent only 2% and the other 5% cam from smartphone users. The trend tracking was undertaken in the third quarter. According to the report the CTR or click through rate for the ads on tablets was much higher than on PCs. However, when it came to the advertiser’s average CPC or post per click the rate on tablets was 29% less than on smartphones and PCs. The volume of clicks for advertisers with Bing and Yahoo was up 43%, yet there was a drop of 10% in CPC.
The growing use of tablets could mean a shift in advertisers’ strategies for paid search ads, according to Ed Stevenson, the Managing Director of EMEA and APAC for Martin Software He further added may change their strategies for advertising and spending to cope with the shift in browsing habits to things like the iPad. More importantly, advertisers may need to work on device specific programs to improve results. Coincidentally this report was released at the same time as the quarterly report from Google, stating that in the three months finishing the end of September, earnings rose to £6.16bn ($9.72bn), a rise of 33%.
August 25th, 2011.
I’ve been playing about a bit with Google Plus posts this morning, and with the recent share of Vic Gundotra’s Icon Ambulance post I know a lot of people have been viewing the same page that led me to dig a little deeper into Google Plus pages.
Take a look at the source code of the cached version of this page- scroll down and you’ll notice a lot of names appearing in the source code within the <span class=”To”> tag. This tag appears to contain the names of almost everyone who has shared the post, and in this particular case this is a lot of names. On the page this either appears as:
or in some cases:
I’m not yet able to determine why some pages do display some of this text and why others don’t- it doesn’t appear to be influenced by the number of shares, comments or age of post from what I’ve seen. In any case this still contains a list of names hidden from the page:
In order to determine whether Google Plus pages were ranking for people’s names included in the hidden text I decided to run a small experiment. I took this Google Plus post from Matt Cutts and decided to check the rankings of the first 2 pages of Google UK for 38 of the names included in this span tag:
Out of the 38 names I tested for this URL only 2 ranked this URL within the top 20 results. This isn’t a massive feat but I’m sure we’d see more results if we rolled this out across the thousands of post URLs indexed, or expanded the depth past the second page of search results.
This goes to show that the usernames contained in the hidden text can (and does) rank which may be a violation of Google’s Guidelines on Hidden text and links.
Now I’m 100% positive that this isn’t deliberate- I think this is simply a classic case of a developers oversight… another classic example of why SEO needs to be baked into the development process from the very beginning- no matter how big an organisation you are!
…a wheelbarrow in an open field that you drag along every day filling it with this and that – each thing you add to it has some significance and some use.
Now imagine you never empty the wheelbarrow. Each day, not only do the things you found the week before now lie at the bottom covered by the newest additions, but the device also becomes increasingly heavy to pull until eventually, it becomes almost impossible.
Now think of the wheelbarrow as your website, and think of its contents as the factors affecting its speed – Let’s explore these factors…
- Empty spaces between code (This only adds to processing time)
- Missing tags (Causing internal errors & bugs in the site)
- Bulky HTML (such as using unnecessary tags where something more CSS compatible would work better e.g. using the tag “font-size” rather than just “small”)
- Background colour being the same as text colour (making all text unreadable)
- Hyperlinks that fail (Devaluing your site in terms of credibility, and possibly increasing bounce rates)
- Missing images
An overload of HTTP requests:
Whenever your web browser fetches a file from a web server, for example when it loads a picture, it does this by using HTTP which stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”.
HTTP is an action whereby you’re computer requests for a particular file. One example is a request for ‘home.html‘ (the homepage of a particular website). The web server then sends a response to the computer that says something like: “Here’s the file you asked for” which is followed by the actual file itself.
Understandably, if your server is receiving a very high volume of requests for a range of different things, such as pictures, graphics, photographs, music players and video rendering, it can take its toll and end up really slowing your website down.
Too many cookies:
HTTP Cookies are used mainly for personalization and authentication purposes. A series of saved information is exchanged between the web server and the browser in order to remember things about how you are using the internet. For example if you are shopping online and exit the website returning at a later date, a cookie will enable the site to remember what you had in your shopping cart so you don’t have to spend time finding the same items again.
Web hosting is the business of providing storage space and access for websites. Bad web hosting happens when said storage space is overloaded with many websites, yours is added to the list and so runs slow. Other issues caused by a bad web host include:
- Search engines being unable to crawl your site resulting in a fall in Search Rank
- Your website being “down” (not working, sending out 404-errors)
- Not being able to contact your web host to fix the issue (since the service is so bad the system has probably crashed)
Excess of external media:
Embedded YouTube videos, actually embedded anything that is coming from another website can potentially slow yours down. When you embed something from another site, you are relying on that sites web server, that sites speed, and that sites ability to ensure the embedded item is working properly there, so that it works properly on yours site. Often, even when it works just fine, it might add an extra few seconds to a certain page loading…a few seconds a potential customer may be unwilling to wait!
Spam is so much more than just a bunch of annoying emails. It slows down the Internet and it increases consumer fees.
The internet is a network where spamming effects everyone that uses it. To push spam around the internet relies on a process; it begins with global networks that pass the spam along to their destination, and ends with the message being received by the recipient.
Simultaneously, time, money and resources are used trying to catch and prevent spammers from infiltrating mail servers resulting in higher costs to the consumer because providers are forced to add more security to their servers and hire more staff to manage and prevent the problem.
Be sure to spam proof all web forms by adding “captchas” or similar.
A ‘favicon’ is an image (as shown above) that stays in the root of your server. It’s definitely needed because even if you don’t care about them, the browser still requests one. If there isn’t one, it will respond with a 404 error (meaning not found). Any error message, such as a 404 or 301, is an extra message sent that adds time to the processing of a site.
This image or lack thereof, interferes with the processing sequence by requesting extra components in the load, and since the favicon is the first thing that is downloaded before these extra components, if there isn’t one, the first thing downloaded will be an error.
Too many advertisements:
Any time a site uses advertisements, you are adding to other processes a site goes through in order to function correctly. Programmes like Google Adsense and Microsoft adcenter are external, and reputable, however it is logical to practice the same rules as with external media; everything in moderation – besides, sites with too many ads look un”site”ly!
If any of these apply to you, take active steps to protect your website against sloth! Speed be with you!
August 17th, 2011.
Goals and transactions don’t match in Google Analytics? The most common problem if goal conversions don’t match ecommerce transactions in Google analytics, is that your urls (pages) can be visited/accessed using both upper case and lower case characters.
This then causes Google analytics to report this page as two different pages, even though it was the same page, plus it automatically inflates the number of transactions. Moreover, your transactions then don’t match your order management system, which sooner or later will cause loss of faith in your web analytics.
Example of how this might look in your report:
To fix this, all you need to do is to set up a filter in Google Analytics, ‘Force url to lower case’. The filter looks like this:
Filter Name:Force Lowercase
Filter Type: Custom Filter, Lowercase
Filter Field: Request URI
After you set this filter, check back in a few days and your goals and transactions numbers in Google analytics should match as in this example below. NOTE: this will only fix the issue from the day this lower case filter was applied. Unfortunately, the data prior to the date when this filter was applied will stay unchanged.
When was the last time you had your Google Analytics tracking code audited? Can you 100% rely on your data? If in doubt, request your Free Google analytics tag audit.