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Good SEO protects against website faults

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

It is not unusual to see a blog post appearing in the Google search results within a matter of hours of it appearing online, sometimes even quicker, but how quickly does Google react to other bigger site changes?

In the past we have seen new site launches and re-launches being picked up in a matter of days with Google replacing the old pages with the new ones in a very short time period. However, because we usually take a lot of care over such procedures, we haven’t had much data about how quickly Google reacts when something isn’t done correctly.

With this in mind we decided to do an experiment to find out what happens when a website is ‘broken’ and how quickly Google notices with the aim of seeing how Google reacts and how that might affect the search engine optimisation of websites.

After some recent house keeping on one of our servers we found the ideal subject to test – a site that had been long since abandoned, that was no longer used but, importantly, still ranked in Google for some terms.

The first step was to see where the site stood with Google. Using the Google Web Master Tools we could see that the site was getting around 1000 impressions per day in the search results so with that as a bench mark we decided to ‘break’ it and see what happened.

The parked domain name returned 200 OK for every page

The parked domain name returned 200 OK for every page

After some discussion we decided to go all out and remove the site, pointing the domain at a ‘parking’ page.  Importantly this meant that each page still returned a ‘200 OK’ even though all the content had been removed.

After 5 days there was an expected drop in the number of impressions the site received in Google, a fall of roughly 40-50%. Unexpectedly impressions didn’t go down any further. Crucially the site remained on the first page for some reasonably competitive terms for the next 20 days.At this point we decided to intervene again and removed the parking page so that the domain name no longer resolved to an IP address. Google noticed this and notified us, via the Webmaster Tools, that the site was inaccessible within a day but the search results remained for a couple more days.

The graph below shows the time line with impressions show by the blue line. A indicates the day the content was removed, B the day the parking page was removed and C the final day of any rankings.

Impressions in the Google Results over time

Impressions in the Google results over time

So what can be learned from this?

Firstly, creating good content matters. The site had a lot of good quality content, built up over a few years and had earned a number of good incoming links. Although the number of impressions in Google dropped crucial rankings remained. Importantly Google kept the page previews and snippets for a number of key pages for over 20 days after the content had been removed. This suggests that the historic authority of the page carried some weight. As with most things SEO related, creating consistent, quality content could help iron out ranking bumps caused by other issues.

Secondly, always check that the Google Bot can access your site and is receiving the expected status code (200 if the page is there, 404 if it isn’t). As demonstrated by the installation of the parking page, Google still knew the pages existed and continued to rank them despite the drastic change in content. As soon as the site became inaccessible (and not just returning 404 not found headers) the pages very quickly dropped out of the index.

Thirdly, if you make a mistake on your site don’t panic, Google seems to notice changes very quickly but takes a couple of days to act on them. Unless you have made your site completely inaccessible – in that case you should fix it as soon as possible but probably still avoid panicking.

 


Hurricane highlights Twitter marketing issues

Monday, November 5th, 2012

The recent hurricane in the United States highlighted a number of issues that people often overlook when using Twitter and other forms of social media.

In the aftermath of the storm a number of large businesses sought to drum up some extra sales with marketing messages that caused storms of their own. US clothing chain American Apparel sent out an email to customers in the storm ravaged states offering them a 20% discount “in case you’re bored during the storm.”

This was, understandably, met with a wave of criticism on Twitter as people expressed their views on the retailer trying to capitalise on the natural disaster. Needless to say, the majority of people found the email in rather poor taste.

The reaction highlights how important it is to get your marketing message right when people have to react to it instantly. What seems to be a great idea can soon turn out to be the exact opposite when you haven’t considered how it will be received in the eyes of others, resulting with you being left in the eye of your own storm.

Elsewhere, many people allowed their desire to share the latest pictures of the storm to by-pass their better judgement. As reported by Mashable and others, many of the most shared images of the recent storm were not of Hurricane Sandy at all. Some weren’t even of real storms, having been taken from films such as the Day After Tomorrow, while others were Photoshopped or from storms in the previous years that looked dramatic but were not as destructive.

This is a perfect example of two things – good content can go viral very quickly in the right circumstance, and, just because something is being shared a lot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your sources.

As with the spur of the moment marketing message, if something seems particularly amazing (or indeed plain dull) you should still check the source. On the other hand if you are trying to get a message across some Photoshop skills can go a long way – just choose your topic carefully.


Social Network Reflects the Biggest Trends and Topics of 2011

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Social networking sites and in particular Facebook has become a part of our society that we struggle to live without, it gives you the ability to find out the very basic information about someone’s life and sometimes even the most complex issues that they are thinking about. With likes, comments and statuses, Facebook represents the very opinion of the public and with over 800 million users worldwide it gives one of the most reliable sources of public attitudes and behaviours and their opinions on, well … just about anything, it gives an accurate measure of the most popular topics, subjects, products and services voted by the public and especially internet users.

This week Facebook have announced the use of ‘Memology 2011’ showing the most popular “memes” which includes behaviours, styles and trends of Facebook users over the last year. As well as being important for businesses and understanding search engine behaviour it also plays an imperative part in SEO. With the increasing amount of users signing up to social media sites and with it becoming one of the most used sites on the internet, SEO needs to fully engage with social media.

Memology allows you to see 2011 through the eyes of status updates. You can view the ten most popular global topics for 2011 based on what people were writing about in their status updates, which are:
1. Death of Osama bin Laden
2. Packers win the Super Bowl
3. Casey Anthony found not guilty
4. Charlie Sheen
5. Death of Steve Jobs
6. The Royal Wedding
7. Death of Amy Winehouse
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
9. Military Operations Begin in Libya
10. Hurricane Irene

When Hurricane Irene hit many turned to Facebook for the most recent updates and to check if loved ones where safe. Memology was also used to look further and discover the top trending phenomenon’s on the internet for 2011, judging by Facebook status updates the most popular terms that emerged were ‘planking’ where people are supposed to lie face down in strange locations and take photographs, hit a record high in May after Max Key, the son of New Zealand Prime Minister, posted a Facebook photo of himself planking in the family lounge with his father in the background. The second most trended status was ‘lms for a tbh’ after lms (like my status) and tbh (to be honest) both individually hit record heights.

The results have had a great use in society showing the fastest growing fan pages based on ‘likes’ across the industries of Music, Entertainment, News and Sports. The discussed topics were from all walks of life, but what remained consistent was the active participation generated from Facebook users. The site has benefited from a diverse global audience coming together in one place and starting a valuable discussion about what matters most to them, giving an accurate portrayal of the public’s views over the most important topics and keeping Facebook as one of the most dominating factors in today’s society.


Google Move in to Conquer the Online Music Sharing Market

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Google has fought back yet again as it enters another battle with the undefeated technology giant, Apple. Many have entered the selection of markets that are now under Apple’s dominance, aiming to knock them clean off the top spot, but have left with little success. However Google are refusing to give up and have set their sights on a new industry currently dominated by Apple, the online music sharing market. The aim is to steal Apple’s crown in audio entertainment distribution and Google is pulling out all of the stops to try and play catch—up with its formidable rivals. The main players in this market that all have different levels of integrated music are Facebook, Amazon, Spotify and of course Apples iTunes store.

Google Music is a new store within the Android market and is currently only available in the US, it will be getting released to Europe soon, however there are currently no confirmed dates. Google automatically syncs the entirety of your music library up with all of your devices. There are more than 13 million tracks available to the users, from artists from Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, EMI and the global independent rights agency Merlin and over 1000 independent labels. However for any Prince and Led Zeppelin fans there is some bad news, Warner are not backing Google in this launch and therefore they cannot get any artists tracks under this label. It is the same purchasing system as Apple operates on iTunes, where you can purchase it straight from your phone or computer on to your Google music library. Google+ then gives you the availability to share your music with friends. It is around the same price as iTunes as they are not using this to compete; the ease of sharing music via your personal social network account is going to be the main pull for customers.

Sharing music is a great way to aim at a target audience, with everyone liking at least one genre of music and wanting to listen, learn and share with friends around the clock, this is the perfect way for Google to break in to the industry and become part of the true essence of social networking. Song choice creates friendships and social circles as it brings people together from the most varied origins and backgrounds. What social networking is always trying to achieve is the easiness of connecting people and staying in touch through finding a common interest, friendship or group that a selection of people can all appreciate and enjoy. Adding music in to the mix will create the perfect common grounds for the basis of those friendships and acquaintances and therefore the foundation of social networking.

Blackberry has always been a worrying competitor for Apple, especially in the smartphone industry, and so it was quite obvious that their big break into music would come soon enough and rest assured it has. BBM Music is expected to launch next week and again is trying to offer their current and potential customers much more for their money. BBM Music is giving its customers a choice of 50 tracks for just £4.99 a month, much cheaper than its rivals charging in the region of 45p to 99p per track! Apples iTunes is going to be a tough competitor to bring down as everybody associates this with music and it has become very well established very quickly, also they can offer every song imaginable. However if Google offers a more convenient way to share music with friends, all the music lovers will more than likely give it a try, Google need to impress first time as there is a strong alternative in iTunes, in this industry there is very little room for error.


The Importance of Social Media within SEO

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Search engine optimisation has become essential for any business. Every single company out there now has a website and without improving its ranking on the major search engines it might as well not exist. Putting in keywords, linking to relevant sites and trying to be the logical option for crawlers is what everyone had to consider, again in the ever changing industry there is now another big player that demands consideration, social media. Social media networking sites have become the biggest deciders when it comes to the popularity of different brands, it needs to be a top priority that the companies keep in touch with their customer base via Facebook and Twitter and now Google+ in order to keep rapport going and as a way of feeding them information. It is a way of guaranteeing customers will see the content, unlike sending out millions of emails or flyers, it is a fact that the information is going to flash up on their news feeds or Twitter accounts and they are going to be interested because that individual has ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ that company or interest.

Search engines are indexing more and more social data every minute, they are considering all of that information while they are crawling making social media a very important factor within SEO. The search engines react to the most relevant signals and the next logical development in order to get the most accurate data to the user, and this is how they identify and rank content. Looking at social signals and the content that users discuss and share is a great way for the search engines to identify the relevance of the information. Therefore implementing social media activity in to SEO is a very valuable way of increasing the rankings. The way that social networking sites are used, with individuals tweeting, blogging and commenting all has an impact on the content that they are talking about, the sites are engaging with their customers, and potential clients and interacting with the public, social media is not just about links it is about trying to get valuable content which is appreciated by search engines.

It is important that you drive traffic to your website and get your brand image known; the more relevant links that point to your website and then interesting content, the more rankings will improve. With this valuable information potential customers then link to it and share it with friends and other internet users in order to gain those essential relevant links that help to improve rankings and that hold high value within SEO; this then means that links are created to your social networking site and therefore your original website. It is this kind of social media marketing that gets something out in to the world quickly and is now one of the main players in marketing your brand. It is important to integrate a social media campaign in to your SEO strategy and to seriously consider the importance of the social media sites.


Fast and Furious Internet – Now 100 Times Quicker Than Before

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Technology giant Google has enabled the residents of Silicon Valley, Stanford University student living area, to try out the new 1GB per second broadband speed. This is 100 times faster than the regular internet and has ultra-high speeds for downloading and uploading material. Currently only Stanford are able to access the high-speed networks that Google are building, but it will soon be wired up to almost half a million homes in order to see what differences and benefits it can bring to families in different areas. The download speeds can get up to 300 Mbps, with an upload speed of 150 mbps, making it the fastest internet available to the home user.

This new innovative technology could be an improvement for many, taking just a matter of seconds to download massive files and Google has labelled it as the next step towards high definition broadcasts. Movies, TV series and songs will be downloaded in a matter of seconds making things much easier, faster and waiting will be a thing of the past. Other services can benefit from this increase of speed like emergency services and online medical consultations. This is all made possible by using networks of fibre optic cables, rather than the original copper and wire telephone cables like before. It is giving a groundbreaking speed that is going to make those impatient internet users very happy. Normal cable download speeds are about 13Mbps, or about 1/20th the speed of Google Fibre, hailing this the fastest speed yet.

With internet being the most important part of communication and networking, faster internet is always going to be needed. It is essential for businesses and new jobs to have faster internet connections and Google have once again managed to deliver to their demanding audiences. Google are giving the internet to Silicon Valley free for one year, this campus is home to many students and on-site teachers who are regular users of the internet facilities and will quickly be able to recognise the benefits that it brings. Faster, faster, faster is always Google’s plan and it is going to be used in areas within America where there are people who want and can afford super fast broadband but cannot access it, America currently only ranks 15th in the world for access, and the internet is a huge driver for jobs and businesses which America needs to push. So will Google reach their goals and have the world’s fastest internet to a million users by 2020? Watch this space, they haven’t failed us yet.


A New Viewing Experience with 3D Technology

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Football fantasy is soon to become a reality with progress in the 3D technology. There is a new, intriguing principle that allows subscribers to put on headphones and sit comfortably from their own home, in front of their 3D high definition screens and watch the football. However this offers a whole new twist on the 3D experience, viewers have the opportunity to make selections from drop-down menus and choose which fixture they want to watch, they can watch the match that they want and choose the end that they would prefer to sit in. Once this is decided they can then relax and watch the game as if they were at the ground supporting from the sidelines. With added surround sound it will be like transporting out of your living room to the centre of the action.

All of this does seem a million years away from the technology that we have today but in the virtual reality, it will be happening within the next few years. With the advances in technology and 3D television, there is going to be a way of watching and consuming football that offers a much richer viewing experience. Currently testing in Beta you put on headphones and sit in front of a screen and have the feeling of being sat in a stadium, if you turn your head either way you can look at the goals at each side of the pitch as you watch the action unfold right in front of your eyes. This immersion technology is currently being developed to transform every viewing experience in the world of sport.

Sony and the Premier League are currently working over concepts to bring bigger and better things for the viewing of football. Sony wants to bring the panoramic experience to viewers all over the world by getting different shots from different angles so that you can immerse yourself in the game and become a part of it. It may restore the initial passion and enthusiasm of the actual sport when people can watch the detail and feel the excitement and remind the nation why it was such a special sport, rather than the more commercialised competition that it has become today. EA wanted to look a different approach and bring 3D to the audience but by creating holographic representations of the different points of the game. This will be able to be accessed via Sky. However the problem of this concept is bringing this fascinating technology to real time, they are currently working to improve this issue.

So is this new technology going to relight the flame of traditional football, and remind the fans why the sport is valued and eliminate football hooliganism and bring supporters together? Or is it simply going to be even less than that; the whole point of going to the game is to be part of the atmosphere and if you can get that at home, why would you go to the grounds. If the crowds dwindle there is no longer a point to the games, therefore there would have to be limits and boundaries in this country to what was being offered, this is more of a global vision. However just the mere thought that this could happen in our living rooms in the very near future is an exciting concept alone. Technology develops and improves every single day and there is always a question of where it will end, at the moment however, it is a very fast moving and exciting time in the viewing of television, technology and experience.


Measuring and Tracking Performance of SEO

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

When conducting search engine optimisation, there is something thing that needs to be remembered and noted; measurement is critical to success. The progress needs to be tracked in order to see if the hard work is paying off or if it is having a minimal effect. It is important throughout an SEO campaign that you identify trends, strengths and weaknesses to see where to go next, what to change and what is actually having the desired effect. One metric that should be tracked every month is the contribution of each traffic source, from direct navigation, referral traffic and search engines. It is important to see where most of the traffic on your site is coming from in terms of bookmarks, email links, promotion campaigns and queries that sent traffic. Measuring the contribution of search engine traffic is also important, how many visits to your site is referred by and which specific search engines?

Keywords are the next thing to track, how many visits are referred by these particular searches? It is important to establish this because the popular keywords driving a lot of traffic to your site needs to be used through your content, titles and tags, their may be keywords that you are underserving. The keywords need to be used effectively as keywords stuffing can have a detrimental effect on your sites ranking. Conversation rate by search query term is another aspect that can highlight performance. These phrases send relevant visitors that convert to conversation, like filling out forms on the site. The term ‘relevant’ is the optimum word here because they need to be interested in your site to do this. This also includes relevant backlinks, your site needs to link to other sites that are relevant, you don’t want them clicking on your link then leaving your site straight away, this will then increase the bounce rate.

Watching the trends over time allow you to see a pattern emerge, using analytics software which can be paid for or that can be accessed for free, will show the progress of these points on your site. You need to be able to effectively interpret this data to apply successful changes, like fluctuations in the data. If there are significant drops in links or traffic there may be a loss of link juice, this means it will need to be checked if the important links still exist. Drops like this can also be due to penalties from search engines or blocked access. Measurement and tracking is highly important in SEO and is an ongoing process. It needs to be considered on a regular basis in order to keep your site at a high ranking or for your site to improve, if it is neglected your site will keep dropping and will become nothing but another lost site in the vast sea of the world wide web.


Is it a thumbs up for Facebook’s Sponsored Stories?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In the last five years Facebook has gathered huge momentum as one of the largest promotion platforms on the web. As a phenomenally popular site that is logged onto daily by most of its users, Facebook promises sure-fire success through its unmatched ability to target specific audiences on a grand scale. Skyrocketing profits are owed to its eminence as an advertiser, with a massive $1.86 billion collected in ad revenue in 2010 alone.

Facebook’s new sponsored story feature adds a new dimension to its established mode of advertising, which has always been positioned neatly in a separate column to the right. Sponsored stories take advantage of existing content provided by users, as a marketing leverage. The activity that appears on Facebook newsfeeds, such as application use, likes, place check-ins and status updates can be transformed into advertising opportunities. For example if a user comments that they; ‘Just had the best coffee in Starbucks with Sarah’, using place check-ins, Starbucks could then stamp their logo next to the message to reiterate their famous brand. Place check-ins also pinpoints the location of their friend’s visit to deliver a useful advertising package.

A Facebook customer support representative commented on the topic of sponsored stories, saying “We are committed to keeping Facebook uncluttered by advertising. Our goal is to only present ads that are useful and non-intrusive and we are continually working to increase their relevance.” However, some may not be pleased with adverts entering a domain that was once free from advertising. Maybe some of the success attached to Facebook lay within its clean presentation, where adverts seemed to sit gently at the side, instead of vying for attention.

Stories in a newsfeed engage a user; friends that visit a profile page are more inclined to be interested in another’s updates. A friend’s activity which is accompanied by a colourful logo reflects the fun of a storyboard. Sponsored stories also work on the notion that we tend to be lead by friends when making decisions about products. If our friends enjoyed a product or service, then we are also likely to do the same. We trust in our friends’ choices, so that the adverts they inadvertently fuel exist as reliable endorsements, we take notice of.

Promotion is never a fixed medium. It continues to branch out and cleverly evolve, in order to reach us; either through subtle infiltration or bold statements, advertising will always continue to catch our attention and influence how we part with our money.


Bowing Out – MySpace Deactivates?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

With Facebook’s surge in popularity, MySpace, the more established of the two seems to have slowly wilted in the shadows. It seems MySpace has become obsolete as it dramatically falls out of favour. No longer trendy, especially amongst younger audiences having a MySpace rather than a Facebook profile is regarded as a serious social faux pas.

This week rumours are circulating around the web that Facebook will shutdown on the 15th of March. However, the revelations published in weeklynews.com are false. In fact it seems that it is actually MySpace that is in danger. More panic is attached to the possibility of Facebook’s demise, which speaks volumes.

MySpace is to be sold off according to its parent company News Corp Digital Media, who hope that Yahoo will take it off their hands. Five hundred staff at MySpace are being laid off, which is just under half of the company’s total number of employees, as its Australian office closes. There has been a reported loss of 165 million dollars, in just one quarter of 2010, which demonstrates how fickle audiences can be.

MySpace’s bid to revive its popularity without competing in a race it knows it cannot win is to change its focus, renaming its company as a ‘social entertainment destination’, which has been forced to diversify its offerings, rather than just existing as another waning social networking site.

MySpace seems to have lost momentum along the way, languishing while Facebook rides a new wave of enthusiasm that has engulfed the globe. It seems that MySpace took its users for granted, standing still, while Facebook gathered pace at an alarming rate.

The audiences that once visited MySpace have abandoned it in favour of Facebook and most have bypassed it altogether. MySpace’s complacency has been their downfall, as the force of Facebook prevails.

Before MySpace had a chance to realise its position, it had lost its appeal and its competitive edge. However, MySpace continues to defend its position, with figures released, such as the creation of 3.3 million new profiles, which totals up to 70 million profiles. However, this is 430 million profiles short of Facebook’s 500 million user base. Their statement seems to be a drop in the ocean.

Social networking sites have tapped into the human propensity to want to stay connected to others, made easier by the immediacy of technology. As technology consumes more and more of existence and becomes entwined with many daily activities. Conditions such as Information Deprivation Disorder arrive, which includes withdrawal to varying degrees, occurring when we are unable to access technology as frequently as we are used to.

MySpace is certainly the more colourful of the two sites, triumphing over Facebook’s blue and white colour scheme. However, the simplicity of Facebook’s design seems to be its defining attribute, as the most recognised logo, font and colour scheme to emerge from the internet.

The design for MySpace’s new logo is a step towards revamping its image, with an inventive logo that reads ‘my’ in a Helvetica font, followed by the symbol for a space. The logo requires some effort from the viewer, which immediately engages them. The space can also be filled with user generated artwork that is revealed when the cursor hovers over an area, adding a personal touch that can be as subtle or as flamboyant as the user wants. But is it enough to attract new audience levels that will get them back on top?

It seems that MySpace is a lesson in the fragility of all business; in so much as you are never out of the woods. Being the leader of a multi-million pound industry is no guarantee of sustained success.