Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Google's new SEO announcements at SES London

Today was the second day of the main Search Engine Strategies conference in London. One of the very last sessions of the day was with Google and contained some key SEO insights.

Author authority signals

Some SEOs, including this blogger, suggest there is a category of quality signals that could be called “author authority”. This is based on very heavy suggestions from Google via Matt Cutts but is not accepted by all SEOs. What is certain is that Google has a new(ish) markup that lets qualified authors connect their content with their Google+ profile and have this connection displayed in the search results.

Google did not confirm (or re-confirm) today that there was a quality signal collection for authors or that there was a connection between ranking signals and author markup. This is in-line with Google’s typical communication/no comment on the details of their algorithms even though they have previously blogged that trust and expert authors are factors that the Panda examines.

However, Google encouraged publishers to make use of the author markup. The exact word used was: behooves. If you are a publisher then it behooves you to use the author markup.

Going beyond Google+

In response to a challenge from the audience, Google admitted that they are looking to expand the profile connected with the author from Google+ to include other social profiles.

Such a move would likely be covered extensively by press and would help ease anti-competitive concerns. It is one to watch carefully.

Google will add crawling support for pushState

Disclosure: Google’s initial commends on this were in response to my question, although the presentation later revealed a prepared slide which confirmed the original statement.

Google currently supports an initiative called the AJAX crawling scheme. This encourages site owners to run a headless browser and map user friendly URLs to exposed rich content within AJAX sections of sites. HTML 5 offers web designers an alternative to some of the more widely used AJAX techniques today.

Google confirmed that they will continue to support the AJAX crawling scheme.

In addition, Google will add pushState support to their crawling. This is to ensure compatibility with some HTML 5 techniques.

Googler Ian Hickson is liaising closely with HTML 5 development and Google’s crawling team.

Expect Google to blog on this topic in the (relatively) near future.

Social Signals matter and updated SEO guidelines

Google had already confirmed that social signals impact SEO although there was some debate about this again at this week’s conference.

In Wednesday’s session, Google revealed a set of bullet points that represent SEO tips for 2012. The green text is used to highlight especially important tips or new additions. This photograph clearly shows that follows, +1s and ‘votes’ matter. What counts as a vote was not discussed.

In addition and as an expansion to having relevant content was the suggestion that social media news sites and devices are a consideration too.

Google is addicted to speed

The session made explicit mention of the problem the search engine faces when slow websites are returned high in the results. Google admitted that they considered marking slow sites with a red dot, average loading sites with a yellow dot and swiftly loading sites with a green dot in the SERPs so users could see in advance. However, this suggestion was rejected due to a number of concerns – including how webmasters would react to such a public branding.

Wait, wait... was all this revealed in a secret session?

This was not a secret session. Instead, this season was headlined as “Getting to grips with HTML5” and was presented by Google’s Maile Ohye. Maile is a name that all SEO agency bods should know.

Running in competition to this HTML 5 was a popular debate as to whether SEO was dead (or whether it just needed a new name). It was this session that attracted the most attention.

On one level this is ironic – an echo chamber of SEOs debate whether the traditional concept of SEO has a future while, just a few metres away, through just one door, Google is discussing the HTML 5 future and the SEO implications of that.

It is important that the SEO community do recognise that SEO has changed incredibly over the last few months. We’re swiftly moving towards the point where old SEO is redundant and new SEO is not a widely held skill. The additional technical requirements that HTML 5 may bring to SEO are good news for an industry looking for reasons to show its value whilst also being a challenge to individual SEOs hanging on to the past.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Key Link Building Strategies: Search Engine Strategies 2012

Search Engine Strategies Logo
Image via Wikipedia
Chris Boggs of Rosetta and SEMPO moderates a session with Patrick Altoft of Branded3 and Lisa Myers of Verve Search. This is the basic link building session and Chris predicts it’ll overlap significantly with the training sessions held on Monday.

Patrick Altoft of Branded3

Patrick argues that not enough attention is given to link building (really?) and that once your on-site SEO work is done the vast bulk of your monthly activity should be the hunt for links.

It’s important to conduct a link analysis before you begin any work – without the analysis you won’t know which is the right strategy to follow.

One form of link analysis is to study the anchor text distribution of your client in contrast to their competitors. This will tell you whether you need more brand anchor text or generic. He points out that the voucher code space is one where many of the major players are lucky enough to have keyword domain names. This means they can build brand and generic links at once.

Another form of link analysis is to us SEOMoz data to study domain authority and link quantity as a graph. Domain authority is the x-axis and link quantity is the y-axis. Sites should aspire to be on the right and high up. This reflects their site having more high quality links than their competitors.

Patrick suggests there aren’t that many types of links as you can boil them down into less than a dozen categories.

Syndicated links are gained when content distributes around the internet and should be used with caution. It’s too easy to get too many poor quality links in this way. Make sure you have plenty of good quality links before you try and push syndicated links too hard.

Patrick explains that link exchanges have evolved and dismisses the idea that link exchanges no longer work. He says that link pages no longer work and reveals a more sophisticated model where sites producing news or blog content agree to reference each other in content posts.

When it comes to social signals Patrick has seen examples where they clearly seem to work but also cases when these signals appear to have had no impact. He suggests that the biggest impact in social may be from blogs which syndicate tweets that they’ve shared or which mention them.

Patrick explains that Branded3’s view on paid links is that they are only risky if they look like a paid link. A free link in among what’s clearly a paid-for blogroll is dangerous, he argues, but a paid for link hidden in the content of another otherwise well behaved blog is safe. The rule of thumb is whether you could show the link to Matt Cutts of Google and confidently lie about it.

The easiest links to get are often from the people you already know so create a prospect list and work through it.

Linkbait is hard, Patrick claims, and you can’t control it.

To wrap up, Patrick reminds the audience that bad links can hurt sites more than not having any links. He suggests that the two biggest “link building agencies” in the UK have their link networks rumbled by Google and that if you hire them, and end up on their exposed network then a penalty may be likely.

Lisa Myers of Verve Search

Lisa begins by pointing you that you need brains for link building. Tools are helpful because they enable you to work more efficiently – but you still need brains.

Lisa’s tried most tools but her slides mention Linkdex, Raven, SEOmoz and Majestic SEO.

A strong tip from Lisa is to know your audience. Go beyond knowing their age, gender and location and put yourself in their shoes.

Identify the social influencers in your subject area. Be prepared to reach out to them and engage.

There’s (professional) disagreement between the two presentations when Lisa starts to highlight how linkbait can be useful. She’s been able to get highly rated links from the likes of Verve Search discovered a connection between their client and Apple and following that up by reaching out to Apple.

Lisa’s zooms through over 50 slides in about 20 minutes (the presentation may become available later) and concludes by agreeing with Patrick in that bad links are worse than no links.

Key Link Building Strategies Questions & Answers

Question: Can having the same anchor text too frequently be harmful?

Answers: Patrick says that it can be. Lisa agrees but suggests you need a lot of this before it’s a problem.

Question: Can social signals impact rankings?

Answer: Lisa says they can and cites SEOMoz’s research in their area that seems to provide some statistical evidence that (some types of) social signals do influence rankings. Patrick points out that these tests are very hard to run cleanly.

Question: How has Panda impacted link building and link profiling?

Answer: Patrick suggests there’s been no impact – except that some sites might now need to work harder in order to maintain the same listings. Lisa disagrees and suggests that Panda could devalue the worth of some sites and therefore it could, in theory, could have had an impact on the link building landscape.


These are not my views. These are the summarised points of two basic SEO presentation given under the spotlight to a mixed audience. By the time you read this post it may no longer accurately reflect the views of today’s presentations. As a reminder; undisclosed reviews or undisclosed ‘advertorials’ are a breach of the Unfair Trading act in the UK.

Landing Page Optimisation: Search Engine Strategies 2012

Landing Page Optimisation is a PPC centric session, first thing in the morning of day one and right after the keynote speech. It was moderated by Jon Myers and presented by Dr Karl Blanks of Conversion Rate Experts and Nathan Richter of Monetate

Nathan Richter of Monetate

It’ll be easy to write up Nathan’s presentation as it’s already online. I think it’s the same presentation as he used for SES San Francisco but I’ll embed the SES London upload below just to be safe.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to embed every presentation. That’s unfair to the for-profit conference but where speakers have made the slides available outside the SES infrastructure then I’ll use those.

Check out the Q&A section below for more of Nathan’s insight.

Dr Karl Blanks of Conversion Rate Experts

Okay, okay – I admit it – Dr Blanks may have lingered for a few minutes too long on his own company at the start of the presentation, triggered by pathological hatred of any sales pitch that dares to appear in a skills conference and may have triggered a few grumpy tweets.

I was won around by the end – perhaps not by the presentation but from Karl’s clear abundance of knowledge in the area. For example, as a throw away comment he recommended as a good place to go to get hassle free voice overs.

The Conversion Rate Experts presentation can be summarised as a “method acting” based approach to creating landing pages. They encourage us to become our clients’ customers in order to design the landing page.

There are two key skill sets;
  1. Be able to sell the product in a face to face situation
  2. Be able to write that pitch down
To start with find someone in the client/company who is very good at selling the product or service. This may be someone fairly junior or someone who speaks to customers every day. Blanks gave the example of a Sony employee in a store who had the best record at selling particular device and had great and reassuring counter-arguments to common customer concerns or questions.

Become a customer – go through the process of buying something from your client and use your own money. Blanks wryly and rightly points out something odd starts to happen to purchase decisions when you’re using company money.

Why use fictional customer personas if you can use real ones. If you’ve really gotten to know the customers and company well enough then this should be possible.

Blanks recommends Kiss Insights as a great web-enabled survey collection solution.

Writing your sales pitch down and turning it into a landing page seems quite a balancing act. Blanks suggests you use as many words in your landing page as you would use verbally when selling the product. However, he also argues to be concise and to edit all the time.

He uses a template to help construct the verbal argument in a landing page. Very roughly it begins with an opening sentence that the reader relates to (the ‘that’s me’ moment), a catchy headline, a joining on paragraph followed by some carefully composed built points. That’s finished off by the appropriate call to action and techniques like urgency creation often work.

Landing Page Optimisation Question & Answers

Question: What’s the most important part of landing page?

Answer: That’s a bit like asking a mechanic what the most important part of a car is, responds Blanks. One way to think about it is to find out why your users aren’t converting at this minute.

Question: What’s a good recommendation for a multi-variant testing tool that can cope with different user agents – ie, mobile

Answer: Nathan Richter from Monetate recommends Monetate.


Question: In the keynote session Avinash Kaushik of Google and analytics expert urged the audience to go beyond simply measuring conversions. How does the panel respond to that?

Answers: Blanks argues that you should not just optimise for the sale – optimise for other successes too. Richter encourages developing a list of KPIs and assigning a monetary value to them

Question: In May the UK will fully adopt the EU’s ePrivacy Directive. This means that web visitors cannot be cookied without their consent and without explaining what the cookie is for. Does this not destroy multi-variant question as we know it today?

Disclaimer: This was my question. It was evil.

Answer: Richter responses by agreeing that the industry faces a huge challenge but that it’s not the only one. Hopefully we won’t end up in the situation where effective multi-variant testing becomes illegal. He points out there is possible scope for multi-variant testing the most effective form of permission prompt.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Everything is a Remix part 4: The one for digital marketers

I've written about the fantastically good Everything is a Remix series before and I'm days late with pointing out that part 4 is live.

That said; this post is still worth putting together because Everything is a Remix 4 is perhaps the most important chapter in the series for digital marketers.

This video looks at social evolution in the context of IP - and what's gone wrong with the system. If you want to understand why Google is buying companies just to get hold of their patents then this is the video for you.

There's a risk that that sounds dull. Trust me; the video isn't. It'll hold your attention.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How BizMedia celebrated their 500th Facebook fan

After watching this video I feel as if we might have underplayed earning Facebook fans for agencies all across the UK.

Thre are quite a few BizMedia's on Facebook. This is the one you should Like if you want to join the 600+ others.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Google prompting searchers to block PPC ads

File this under "I've just noticed - is this new?"

Google is asking searchers whether they want to block all ads from a domain. For a while now Google has been offering to block natural search results for a domain and this PPC version is exactly the same.

If a user searchers, clicks and then returns to search again without hanging around on the site then Google prompt for a decision. In my case I wanted to see whether Netflix had Game of Thrones. The site doesn't tell me so I bounced off.


It's certainly interesting. You would have to figure this feature impacts quality score - and perhaps SEO signals too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

PPC bids by Wau

It's decided. The next time I find myself enjoying being pitched to by a bid management platform, by an ad-exchange or Facebook API bot I'm going to ask them about Wau. I want to be able to adjust my bids by Wau.

In fact, let's take it further - I suspect I'm going to have to start to record my time in units of Wau in the timesheet at the end of the day.

You too could benefit from Wau.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Advancements in the world of 3D printing

I wrote about 3D printing on this blog back in 2011 when I speculated about 3D printing and copyright. Hmm. Okay. So the issue hasn't set the world aflame yet - but I still believe it'll be an issue.

This post is lighter in nature. I just wanted to revisit 3D printing and show where the technology has gotten too. It's gone pretty fair. Already. This video shows a model plane created via a 3D printer. It also shows this model plane taking off and flying.

There's more information over at New Scientist.

Here's the catch; The New Scientist posted this story back in July 2011. I can only speculate as to how advanced 3D printing actually is today.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Is Google getting aggressive with the Charles Dickens doodle?

It's good practice to predict the Google Doodles.

They create one of the largest possible search surges, create enough natural traffic to make or break sites (breaking sites as servers crash under the load) and play merry havoc with quality score and click through ratios - not to mention clicks and costs.

Today's Charles Dickens was a sure-in. It's the Victorian writer's 200th birthday today. It's been on my calendar for a Google Doodle for months.

So, what's happened? Is the Doodle the traffic boss we had predicted?

The Doodle for web search results links to Google's book search. Is this the same as linking to Google's own property?

Certainly every result on the first page is a result. There's also a PPC ad in pole position - for Android. Of course, this could be the Android team being caught out and will have to cope with the sudden rush of traffic, no-clicks and the effect that will have on their quality score. Alternatively, this could just be free traffic for Android.

The mobile results are even stranger. There are no click through results (not in the UK, at least) when a mobile search clicks through the logo. The URL produced by the Doodle click is

Does this mean it's Google or nothing?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Google is freaking me out - a response

I don't always agree with Google. Just last night I was reading why Nelson Minar was breaking up with Google. I've followed Minar as a thought leader for years. His post makes a lot of sense.

The drama around the privacy policy is a drama I don't get. It's more like the horror people some people felt when they were told Gmail would have adverts in it that were targeted to the contents of their emails. It's less like the usual howls of protest that rise up in alarm whenever Facebook makes a change because Google users won't see a change.

I'm certainly not much of a fan of the robotic voice of Xtranormal Movies. That said; this "presentation" seems to make the case clearly as to why some people are freaking out about the privacy policy and what a normal, logical, and sane response to those concerns would be.