The End of SEO as we Know it?

Brighton SEO September 2013 Screen

Brighton SEO September 2013 – One Week On

A week ago today I attended to September 2013 conference of Brighton SEO. I attended various presentations and took several opportunities to speak to many of the sponsors and stand holders. Much of the material presented was of high quality. Since then, I’ve spent a week mulling over much of what was presented and discussed and have finally organised my thoughts in a way that it is worth putting pen to paper. So to speak.

The broad consensus expressed at the conference was that SEO practise had changed radically since the spring 2013 conference. And that we were witnessing the end of old style SEO. A summary is as follows:

Negative Elements – Old SEO

These things are dead

  • Orthodox link building led SEO
  • Anchor text
  • Poor quality content
  • Article marketing
  • Link buying – if not dead – much riskier than in the past

In essence Google are getting ever smarter at spotting spammy SEO and driving the websites that utlise spammy tactics from the top rankings.

Positive Elements – New SEO

These activities become more important:

  • Strong branding
  • Strong marketing programmes
  • Building and managing technically sound websites
  • The publication and distribution of unique and compelling content
  • The ability to participate in dialogue with customers and other stakeholders

As a general consequence of the new environment many of the existing SEO agency business models are now defunct. The models deployed by many SEO agencies no longer work and could, in many case, actually be harmful to a client’s marketing prospects. Further, many SEO agency business models must be called into question. Who needs a link buying budget and someone to manage the link buying programme when the output will be worthless? What about the measuring and tracking software used to count and analyse inbound links of your own and competitor websites?

Following on from this, an SEO agency needs to look more like an advertising agency. Business strategy and branding require a different set of skills from raw link building.

I’ll be adding to this post of the next few days.

Sep20

Get a Life – Facebook is Bad for You!

The Economist Facebook Get A Life

The Economist Takes a Look at Facebook Users

I’ve not blogged for a while on Simply Clicks. I’ve been busy with new client accounts and have just spent two weeks in the South of France. However, an article on The Economist website caught my eye.  The article covers research into the happiness and wellbeing of Facebook users. Essentially it refers to two pieces of research that appear to show, that the more someone uses Facebook, the less happy they feel. In essence, heavy Facebook use is bad for you.

There are several caveats. First, the samples are quite small. In one study, just 82 people and the other 584 Facebook users. Secondly, the reasearch is largely confined to young adults in their twenties. Nevertheless, the research tends to indicate that relying on the social media platform your networking leads to a loss of self-esteem. This in contrast to networking in the offline world. One reason given is that posts on Facebook tend to amplify success and doctor the reality, tending to create feelings of envy.

Ironically, as the image above shows, 24,000 Facebook users had “liked” the article in the two weeks after publication. I suspect that as readers of The Economist they may tend to be lightweight users of Facebook. Anyhow, on a personal basis, as a lightweight user of Facebook, both socially and commercially I tend to feel vindicated by this research. Now, a similar study on LinkedIn would be more interesting from my perspective.

Aug29

Getting to Grips with Blog Comment Spam

Since the dawn of blogging, and its role within the world of SEO, we have all been subjected to some degree of spam activity. And spam is not limited to our blogs – email, mobile phones and even letterboxes are being littered with pointless unwelcome communications that many of us throw in the bin before it’s even looked at.
Comment spam on blogs is a special nuisance and I have been looking for a solution to prevent it for some time.
Some blog platforms make this slightly easier than others. WordPress, for example, provides several preventative approaches and plug-ins to help tackle the spam issue. Akismet provides some assistance with spam posts and is one of the favoured options, although I have noticed it doesn’t actually catch all spam comments and therefore a manual check will still need to be carried out. Blogger allows you to operate a verification, moderation and log-in based systems. The latter has become more important with the rise of Google+ author identities but it is a system that remains open to abuse.
As a result, even if you operate a small blog network as I do then it’s likely you will need to check for comment spam on a regular basis. I’ve noticed that once a network of spammers has found your blogs (especially if they are well optimised) then they will keep returning. Sometimes even utilising ‘bots’ to post onto the blogs and therefore automating the process and making them easier to spot.
Because the amount of spam posting I have seen seems to have increased dramatically over recent months, I have spent a lot of time turning off comments systems on my blogs. Again, WordPress allows this function as does Joomla, but some of the online platforms such as Blogger still require manual removal. The latest spam blitz I’ve received has been for WordPress track backs. So track backs are now being turned off.

There are several ways that these spammers will try and create links on your blogs. Over time I have discovered the following processes:

  • Traditional commenting on blog posts
  • Commenting on blog pages
  • Responding to existing comments
  • Pingback and track back requests

I thought I had all these eventualities covered when I spent time switching off commenting options on all my blogs as well as pings and trackback requests.
Infuriatingly, I have recently started receiving more comment moderation emails. When I looked at the blogs they were for I thought “How are they doing it as I have already switched the systems off on this blog?” This time they are attaching comments to images – more settings I will need to try and alter in order to avoid further issues!

Since the Penguin and Panda updates from Google we have learnt that the value of poor quality backlinks is diminishing rapidly, although many companies (often foreign) are clearly still offering low cost ‘link-building services’ and will go to any lengths to create their link network. In the meantime, those of us with genuine, quality, well-maintained blogs to manage, will have to spend more and more time fighting the anti-spam war!

Jul29

Simply Clicks Wins The Novastris SEO and PPC Account

Simply Clicks has secured the SEO and PPC management account of Novastris Insurance. Novastris is a start-up insurance company that specialises in the sale of online personal accident insurance.

Novastris is headed up by Steve Nickerson and David Marshall. The pair previously worked together at Accident and General and subesequently at Preferential Insurance. Preferential was sold to the Collinson Group in 2009.

Jul26

Penguin 2.0 Update Impacts Travel Websites in Big Way

Three weeks since the introduction of the Google Penguin 2.0 update and there have been major impacts observed on several leading travel industry websites including travel agents, tour operators and airlines. The data for both click volume changes and percentage change in total link volume comes from a report shown on eConsultancy that tracks the top 25 winners and losers of click volume since the launch of the Penguin 2.0 update. The surprising issue is the number of travel industry sites that feature. Five of the winners and six of the losers come from the travel industry.

Penguin 2.0 Biggest Travel Winners

  1. TeletextHolidays.co.uk +68,228 +68%
  2. HolidayHypermarket.co.uk +26,621 +105%
  3. AlphaRooms.com +22,808 +1,000%
  4. TravelRepublic.co.uk +11,246 +176%
  5. Monarch.co.uk 9,192 +57%

Total travel industry winners = 138,095 clicks.

Penguin 2.0 Biggest Travel Losers

  1. IceLolly.com-105,712  <-75%
  2. SunMaster.co.uk -22,230 <-75%
  3. Cheapoair.co.uk -17,094 <-75%
  4. GlobalLateDEals.com -12,900 <-75%
  5. BestforTravel.co.uk -10,726 <-75%
  6. DirectLineHolidays.co.uk -7,385 -65%

Total travel industry losers = 176,047

The balance of lost traffic totals 37,952 clicks. This would imply that the lost search visitor traffic has been spread out amongst a wider range of winners than the small number identified here. On its own, the search visitor losses of IceLolly.com account for more than three-quarters of the gains made by the top 5 winners. Interestingly one term, “Cheap holidays”, apparently accounts for a large proportion of this loss. IceLolly.com ranked 1st for this term prior to the Penguin 2.0 update and a manual check shows it currently ranks 35 for the term.

I suspect that the biggest issue surrounding Penguin 2.0 is the devaluation of sitewide links. I have yet to carry out any analysis into the sites in the eConsultancy tables but suspect that devaluing certain classes of links is perhaps the source of much of the change.

A wider issue is the impact of the loss in site visitors. And the impact that this has on each individual travel business. Each of these travel businesses has lost between 65% and 75% of their organic search traffic. If I get time, I will return to further analyse the causes behind the changes.

Jun16

How to Implement a 301 Redirect

Implementing a 301 redirect or more precisely managing 301 redirects is an increasingly important part of SEO. Especially when websites expand or migrate from one owner, host, domain or code platform. Over time, websites, if not properly managed, tend to get ragged. Duplicate content, broken links and out of date site maps tend to be errors that show up in your Google Webmaster Tools or SEOMoz  crawl diagnostics summary. A 301 redirect tells Google or other search engines that your web page or document has been permanently moved to another location or address. As a consequence it sends the PageRank or link juice from the old location to the new.

If you utilise a content management system or CMS there are quite often tools inside that allow you to arrange redirects. If not you will have to arrange the redirect yourself, usually via a .htaccess file. In my case I was working on two separate redirects. One to send http://simplyclicks.com traffic to www.simplyclicks.com. The other to eliminate the index.html versions of my home page. There are good reasons for undertaking both redirects.

Redirecting http://yoursite.com to http://www.yoursite.com

There are two good reasons for implementing this redirect. Firstly, Google may treat the http:// only and the www versions of your site as two different sets of documents. Secondly here is a risk that you will build up two sets of inbound links. There are many ways of organising a redirect and the way selected depends on your operating system and server. In the most reason case I was organising a redirect on an apache server utilising Linux.

Redirecting www.yoursite.com/index.html to www.yoursite.com

My main reason for organising this redirect is a problem I have with web analytics. quite often, web analytics will treat these two versions of the home page as two different pages. So you end up adding and diving all the time to get accurate statistics for your home page. The second reason is more long term and affects link building. What happens, if people send links to a home page which is www.yoursite.com/index.html and you moved platforms? So that your home page became www.yoursite.com/index.php? Without a redirect, the old page would become a broken link, losing all its link juice or PageRank.This redirect also applies to a redirect of .php or similar. But not .asp as this would be covered by the Microsoft IIS and is not covered here.

Below, I show the code used for organising both redirects in the same .htaccess file. The redirects must be in this order. The .htaccess file is uploaded to the root directy of your website that contains your home page.

########
RewriteEngine On
#
# redirect index.htm and index.html to / (do this before non-www to www)
#
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /.*index\.html?\ HTTP/
RewriteRule ^(.*)index\.html?$ http://www.yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]
#
# redirect domain.com -> www.domain.com
#
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yoursite\.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]
########

If you use this code you will need to change the “yoursite.com” to your exact domain, e.g. simplyclicks.com in my case. This code works for me on Fasthosts.com, the largest UK hosting provider. You may need to make several tries and depending on your webhost wait for the new .htaccess file to become activated.

Apr19

Futures Broker Embracing the Mobile Web

Futures Broking via Mobile Device
Futures Broking via Mobile Device

Perhaps the central issue with marketing via the mobile web is the centrality of the mobile web to the marketing organisation’s thinking process. Is the mobile web central to the thought process, or is it something of an afterthought? I have to own up that in most projects I’ve been involved in, even in the past year, I have to convince clients and their web designers of the value of the mobile web. Indeed, even in recent months some clients choose to ignore my advice to make their new websites truly mobile friendly.

Most of the time my attempt to persuade is to quote the progress made by clients that sell online. Pointing out the dramatic sales growth via tablet devices such as iPads. My request is for the new website to be built using responsive web design. That is a web design that adapts to the screen resolution of the displaying device. But given that most web designers are not familiar with the CSS and design skills required to effectively operate responsive web design, in the end we tend to compromise. We generally end up with a design that works okay with iPads and other tablets but fails to work on smart phones.

In essence, most clients have failed to fully embrace the potential of the mobile web. The same could not be said of futures brokers RJ O’Brien. RJO have launched a complete suite of mobile friendly products and services built specifically for the needs of users of iPhone and Android smart phone devices.

The thinking behind RJ O’Brien’s approach is driven by the need to provide a seamless service; in the office, on  the road, and at home and a stream of real time information in a market category where information is time critical.

Apr16

Brighton SEO 2013 – One Week Away

Brighton SEO Conference 2013

Brighton SEO 2013 Underway on 12th April

Its now just one week to the Brighton SEO conference. The south coast’s leading SEO conference takes place on 12th April.

I’ve received an updated programme today and I’m really looking forward to the event. The agenda has a range of speakers from both client and agency side organisations, of various sizes. With the latest changes in the Google algorithm and resultant movements in rankings across many categores it will be interesting to get the latest feedback from SEO industry insiders an former Googlers. Sponsors of Brighton SEO include several specialist link building (or link selling?) agencies. It will be interesting to get their latest take on Google’s attempts to clean up the industry.

 

Of particular interest to me, there’s a specific presentation on integrating Google Analaytics into your Google webmaster tools management activity.

Apr05

Lapsed PPC Management Client Returns

Simply Clicks has regained the PPC management of lapsed client Redford Charles. Redford Charles is a training course operator based in Rochester, Kent.

Redford Charles - Electrical Training
Redford Charles – Electrical Training and Assessment

Simply Clicks originally set-up a PPC campaign for Redford Charles over 12 months ago and managed the business on a retainer for an initial period of 3-months. The pay per click campaign targeted a range of terms related to electrical training and formal qualifications.

After a trial period the client subsequently decided to manage the business in-house. A combination recent change of circumstances at the client and the increasing complexity of PPC have encouraged the client to had the management of the campaign back to Simply Clicks.

Feb07

Mobile and Ski Tracking Apps

It has a big weekend for mobile apps. The Sunday Times published the first edition of The App List, a list of what it claims is the top 500 Apps in the World. This week’s edition listed a total of 250 apps. These were for news, games and social networking.

The Sunday Times is published behind a paywall so that you can’t get online access to much of its content and of course Google cannot crawl and index it. The only way to get the content is to sign up for a subscription. The cheapest of which is the digital edition which costs £2 per week. So I’m relying on the old fashion way of reading the paper edition of the newspaper and picking out some highlights.

Skiing off-piste near Chamonix
Skiing Off-Piste – Avoiding Danger

The first edition App List does not cover travel mobile apps. Travel will be covered in the second section to be published next Sunday. However, the Driving and Technology section of the paper did cover skiing apps. Entitled White Hot, the best ski and snowboard apps. The newspaper selected 5 apps that between them can measure the calories you are burning, create a photo montage or even calculate the risk of avalanches in your ski area.

The mobile apps were a combination of free and paid for apps. Four of the apps are available for both Android and iPhone. With one exclusively for iPhone. In terms of value, the good news is that 4 of the 5 apps are available in free editions.

Alpine Replay - Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Fitness.
This is a tracking app that also uses your mobile’s GPS to gather stats as you ski down the mountain and works out how many calories you are burning. Some features require an upgrade costing £2.99 per month.

Ski Tracks – 69p, iPhone and 79p Android – Rated best for Tracking
Described as a tracking app for the stats-obsessed winter sports fan. This app also uses your mobile’s GPS  to track your maximum speed, distance travelled and vertical descent.

Actionshot - Free, iPhone – Rated best for Action Photos
Skiers and snowboarders often attempt to get action photos of jumps and turns. If this is you, then this is the best app for on or off-piste skiing photography. Its downside is that it is not available for Android devices.

Mammut Safety- Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Safety
This app gives up to date information on avalanche bulletins and assesses the risk of where you are standing.  This app also includes an in-app SOS button that sends an SMS text for help.

Ski and Snow Report – Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Powder Reports
This helps you make the most of your time on the ski slopes by helping you find the best powder snow. The app covers 2,000 major ski resorts.

A general rule for all of these apps is to make sure you understand the costs of using your mobile device whilst skiing abroad. Many of these apps are data hungry. So be careful to use locally available wi-fi. The Sunday Times carried out its tests in the Trois Vallees resort of Val Thorens, where wi-fi is widely available on the slopes and ski lifts. Other resorts that have a large number of outlets with free wi-fi include Chamonix. Both resorts have very high ski runs and offer off-piste skiing, where the safety and tracking would come into their own.

My advice would be to limit your selection to just one ski app. Decide on your priority – depending on the resort and type of skiing you will likely undertake and the function of the app that best suits it; tracking, fitness or powder snow etc. Once you have installed the app then set-up and familiarise your self with it before you travel on your ski holiday.

Jan28