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

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 Duplicate content, broken links and out of date site maps tend to be errors that show up in your Google Webmaster Tools or SEOMoz  crawl diagnostics summary.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

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

Google Quarter 4 2012 Financial Results

Google has just released their Quarter 4 2012 financial results.The top line data shows the following:

  • Total Revenues of $14.4 billion +36% on Q4 2011
  • Advertising (Mainly Google search) $12.9 billion +18% on Q4 2011
  • UK revenues $1.305 billion +23% on Q4 2011
  • Operating margin (Profit) $3.747 billion + 29% on Q4 2011

Excluding gains from foreign exchange and hedging Google’s UK Q4 2012 revenues would have been $1.288 billion.

Within the available it is possible to work out that average cost per click prices of the Google Adwords service have fallen by 6% against the previous year.

Since the acquisition of Motorola Mobile Google’s results have been more difficult to break down. Essentially, the Motorola mobile business is fairly sluggish compared to the rest of the Google group and tends to drag down the overall growth levels of the core Google search and advertising business.

For more detail see Google Q4 2012 earnings slides.

 

 

Jan23

Facebook Launches Graph Search

Facebook launched Facebook Graph Search today. Being on the sceptical wing of the search industry when it comes to social media I’m not what the hype is about. However, my 21 year old son insisted checked it out. Otherwise I risked falling behind. His exact words were “What would happen if you attended a client pitch and they asked you about Facebook Graph Search?”

So I’ve checked it out. Its apparently in beta mode. As well as registering for the Graph Search wait list. It appears to be an enhanced version of the existing search facility on the site. When Graph Search reaches the limits of its index it accesses the Bing index.

I have had a few ideas about how it can be used. Most importantly it means Facebook has the opportunity to retain search traffic within its own website for many types of search. However, we will see over the next few days how Facebook plans to commercialise its new offering.

Jan15

iPad Leads Mobile Internet Sales Surge

We are just starting to analyse many of our year end performance figures for 2012. The most dramatic improvement has come in the form of the surge in mobile Internet sales via our e-commerce clients. The top performer has been Simply Kids Beds, where online mobile sales have surged  304.7% over 2011. Revenue has grown faster than visits. Visits have grown 193.3%.

The per visit value grew by by 38.0%, due to a combination of a 22.4% rise in conversion levels and a 12.8% rise in average transaction value. The key to growth was the Apple iPad, which accounted for 92.4% of online mobile revenues. The leading smartphone device was the Apple iPhone which accounted for 5.5% of mobile Internet revenue. Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy series did feature in volume terms but failed to register any sales.

We will analyse the mobile performance of other websites over the coming days. We will also drill into the data regarding the splits between revenues derived from various sources such as PPC and organic search.

Jan03

Linking your Google Accounts and Managing your Identity

I have just completed a two day assignment with a client that has alerted me to a growing problem with the proliferation and integration of Google services and accounts that have an important role in search engine marketing. The problem I identified is the need to make sure that you properly link together the more relevant Google accounts.

I have identified six of the more important Google services for linking together under one identity :

  1. Google Webmaster tools – For SEO, sitemaps and website errors.
  2. Google Analytics – For website performance measurement and insight.
  3. Google Adwords – For pay per click management.
  4. Google Shopping – For your products and pricing feed.
  5. Blogger – For publishing news, content marketing, comment and insight.
  6. Google+ – For social networking and exploiting the rel=”author” tag.
Google Account Master Identity - Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwordss

The various search marketing services provide by Google.

Over the course of the two-day assignment we looked at the SEO and PPC performance of two client websites. The client employed an incumbent SEO and PPC managment agency. What I found was that each time we needed to investigate a problem or subject area, I was asking for a different log-in details. Sometimes the log-in was known to the specific client manager, sometimes it was known by someone else in the client marketing team and sometimes it was known by someone else in the client organisation. However, on some occasions the log-in the particular Google service was  known only by someone within the encumbent agent. This person happened to be located elsewhere and could not respond with the relevant information within the same business day.

Now if all of Google services were standalone this would not be a major problem. But increasingly Google is providing the facility to integrate or link these services. For example the way that Adwords can now accept a feed of Google Analytics results for bounce rates, page view and time on site. Similarly, Google Adwords can now display your relevant results from Google Shopping. These two examples provided particularly frustrating experiences. The first when the client wanted to change an image in their Google Shopping derived Adwords ad. The second when the client could not get Google Adwords to link to their Google Analytics account. In both case the client had a log-in of some form. But the log-in being used for the two services was different.

This series of issues meant constant disruption to the task in hand. Indeed the client did not manage to get the Google Analytics data into their Google Adwords account before the assignment deadline was reached. Being able to see bounce rate and page view data within the screens of Google Adwords means a user can make changes to an Adwords campaign without shifting backwards and forwards between an Analytics view and an Adword screen.

I found that many of the various Google accounts had been set up in the past. Generally to tackle a short term problem. And that the person who set up the account may no longer be with the client or agency. My solution was to suggest to the client that a specific person within the client organisation should be the master account holder. This person should own the master log-in email and password information. And be responsible for issues of security. Never forget that when dealing with Google Adwords you are dealing with money and potential access to importaqnt details such as cradit card information.

Nov26

SEO in a Post-Penguin World

This is the best article I’ve read on SEO post the Google Penguin update. The article covers an interview with Andre Weyher a former member of Google’s search quality team. The interview is carried out by James Norquay an Australian SEO. Amongst the many nuggets of good quality information is the following quote from Andre Weyher:

Everyone knew that Penguin would be pointed at links, but I don’t think many people expected the impact to be as large as it turned out to be. At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago. Purchasing links was always risky but resembled a game of roulette, you could get caught but many people also got away with it. Today it’s not a question IF you get caught, it’s merely a question of WHEN you’ll get caught. Not only this but take PR for example, getting a link from a high PR page used to always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours, relevance is the new PR.

This paragraph kills two birds with one stone in the world of SEO, as commonly practised by many so-called SEO agencies. Firstly, they, the SEO agencies,openly admit to insiders that their whole business model is built around buying links through wholesalers and then selling them on to clients at a margin. If I question this wisdom, as I did only last week in a conversation with the CEO of a 40-strong SEO agency, I am met with incredulity. Secondly, every time I contribute to a forum post about the importance of topic relevance compared to raw toolbar PageRank I am shouted down by the received wisdom. Weyher supports me on both counts. All I can say on both counts is that it reinforces my questioning of received SEO practice and why many SEO agencies are struggling post-Penguin.

If I differ on any issue with Andre Weyher, it is on the question of the discovery of questionable techniques such as large-scale link buying. In my opinion Google is not that great at spotting spammy SEO. It is the webmasters and SEOers of competitive sites that are best at this. Your forensic SEO doesn’t have to be that good to spot some the low-quality link buying we see in many market categories. And filing a spam report to Google is quite simple these days.

Ultimately, Weyher makes the point that trying to game Google’s algorithm on an industrial scale won’t work. Create content for users rather than Google. In essence, in order to succeed with SEO, avoid many of the obvious industry-wide SEO techniques.

Oct17

Linking Google Analytics Data to Google Adwords

Two days ago Inside Adwords announced that it was possible to link Google Analytics data to Google Adwords. It has long been possible to link Google Adwords to Google Analytics, but now the information flow is possible in the other direction.

The data available is average bounce rate, average page views and average time on site. In many respects these pieces of data are intermediate measures that may provide additional information regarding the potential for conversion – or other wise. It has long been possible to get access to this information, from inside Google Analytics. Now however, the data is far more actionable, because it no longer necessary to be concurrently logged in to both Analytics and Adwords and constantly switch between screens or tabs in order to make amendments.

So far I have linked two Google Adwords accounts with the inbound data flow. I have only utilised the average bounce rate and average view columns. Retrospective data is available so it is possible to carry out both short and long-term analyses. Depending on how you structure your Google Adwords screens, it is possible to link and action this data at campaign, Ad group and keyword level. The image below shows an actual Ad group level screen.

Linking Google Analytics to Google Adwords

A screenshot of a Google Adwords Ad Group showing Google Analytics Data

 

Oct04

Exact Match Domain Penalty Hits Home

Exact Match Domain Penalty

The Google exact match domain penalty hits a cluster of terms

Google’s exact match domain penalty is hitting home rather hard in these parts. It seems at least one of our clients – with a partial match domain – has taken a tumble from its previously rock solid number 1 ranking.

The client’s website climbed steadily from February 2011, to finally reach number 1 for the largest volume term in it market category in the spring of 2012. It also held top 3 rankings for almost all of the other top 10 volume terms in its market. Early last week it began to slip recording several 2 to 3 places. Yesterday the fall was greater. With almost all of the top ten rankings showing losses of 4 to 6 places.  See the image of rankings changes on the left. The former number ranking for the top term has been reduced to a ranking of number 10 and the campaign no longer has any key terms with a top 3 ranking.

The Google exact match domain penalty was mentioned by Matt Cutts in a Tweet on 28th September. My own experienced, based across a number of exact match and partial match domains, is that Google have been experimenting in this area for several months. I’ve seen falls from both exact and partial match domains and gains by semantic or synonym match domains.

The activity of the last week is just the ultimate conclusion of the programme of removing the advantage partial match and exact match domains have enjoyed over a number of years. I mention partial match domains because, in the example I give my client is the only website on the first page of Google with an exact match in terms of the destination. The other, competing, partial matches are now on pages 2 and 3.

In my opinion, Google Panda, Google Penguin and the exact match domain updates are all part of a wider programme to level the playing field within SEO. But where does this leave the owners of exact match and partial match domains? Simply, for them, SEO is now going to to get a lot tougher. Whereas in the partial owning an exact or partial match domain conferred some form of advantage. Now its a level field their SEO activities will have to get much sharper. Secondly, as mentioned above, semantic match and synonym match domains appear to be amongst the websites that have gained. After all, if someone goes down, then someone else must go up. If you have access to other domains, and, after all, domains are cheap, why not consider shifting your SEO efforts to less keyword related domains.

 

Oct02