Author: SEO Kent

Slapped with a bouquet of barbed links

Spam spam spam!

I was going to say something about Interflora but It’s pretty much been said by virtually the whole SEO world now so I won’t but I will talk about various issues arising as there’s always value in pulling that apart.

In terms of penalties, of the 10’s of 1000’s of brands one or two brands getting dinged every 8 months or so is hardly earth shattering (unless you’re the brand of course) but imagine if Google dinged a brand every week or other week?

What then?

Today, the scale of Google being spammed across most verticals by brands of all descriptions is HUGE.

Few brands ranking in Google today for 100’s or 1000’s of keywords have a totally clean profile, in fact it’s fair to say that most will be more than a little grubby, especially if they’ve used companies in the past who advocated any of the tactics that Google has since frowned upon.

Few will hold their hands up and most will vehemently protest at how their tactics are Google compliant and blah blah blah… What else can they realistically say?

Just go and look at who’s ranking in your favourite vertical and answer with hand on heart that company X hasn’t used a tactic that under a microscope isn’t just slightly questionable. It’s all in the interpretation and of course, who’s doing the interpreting. Continue reading

The Magic Box of Glut – Wizards, Sampmerians, Elves and Pink Marshamallow Castles

The Magic Box of Gluttony in the Land of Glut

A world without search

Once upon a time there was a magical world called Glut – Everything happened in the world of Glut, the people within it did all manner of things. They built pink castles from weather resistant marshmallows and cool lakes made out of lemonade and beer where hamburger flavoured fish swam. Some folks knew how to make really fast cars that ran on magic beans made by their friends in the forest of emeralds.

It all seemed ideal in the world of Glut but progress was slow. Few knew how to fish for the hamburger flavoured fish and the magic beans that grew in the forest of Emeralds were known but to the people of Fark. The bottom line was that news traveled slowly in Glut, information was often controlled by the powerful and where it wasn’t, it was difficult for merchants to gain wide reach or appeal for their ideas and products.

Building a search engine to conquer all

Up on a hill next to a mountain in a place called Gooleg  there lived two special wizards.

They were clever wizards backed by the powers of InvestorLand who knew that everywhere they went in the world, people had ideas that they wanted to share so they went to a little known place called Altavistaland and took on the mighty wizard Inktomi where they learnt the secrets of  Retrivicus Informanicus. They went to Microland and bought the ingredients required and built a big magic box. Continue reading

PPC Conversions and Local Business Search Marketing

Niche products, volume, PPC, landing pages and matters arising

I was talking with someone the other day about the challenges faced with getting new business for what was a very niche product. The product is the type that has limited demand, is very niche but adds huge value to the people who want it.

We briefly talked about what they do and how they currently do it, what appears to work and what doesn’t. We touched upon the various online channels particularly with regard to PPC, SEO and Social media. I didn’t get too deep, but my takeaway was that it wasn’t really working as well as they’d liked or expected.

It might be useful to others, to run through a few things as they come to me. Nothing too structured, just a general meander through some of the issues and what we can at least begin to try and do about them. Continue reading

A Value Added 2013 to all

2013 – Wow, how’d that happen?

I don’t post much these days (you noticed huh?).

You could say I got bored with stating the obvious or adding to the general noise of the blah blah blah brigade.

There’s little value add to that.

“Value add” seems to be a prevailing theme that keeps popping up a lot for me these days; be it in my conversations with friends, face to face, or with my kids veiled in failed subtleties designed to try and impart that little something without the alienation part, or online in a comment or a tweet somewhere.

I tend to look a lot more before I leap these days. No point making mistakes if you just keep on making them eh!?

Today, I like to think that in a lot of my actions I’m far more considered; I like to think that I give things a whole lot more thought than I once did. Sometimes I practice what I preach and sometimes I’m pretty sure that I don’t, but hey, I’m trying! That’s all of any of us can really do, right? Continue reading

Dear Redacted

Dear redacted

Further to our discussion the other day, please find a bit of a brain dump below. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about then it’s no surprise that we’ll keep treading mud, so hopefully this will help 🙂

Just like those big buy now messages with phone numbers that we see in printed media, it’s crucial that web pages also have similar calls to actions. It may seem obvious, but today, your site is devoid of all these. People will not dig that deep to find a way of calling or emailing you. The web’s a big place and they can easily just go elsewhere.

Search marketing as a marketing discipline has evolved over the years and increases in sophistication yearly. This is inevitable as platforms like Google, Facebook et al seek to monetise and deliver quality experiences to their searchers and would much rather that people clicked on their ads. That said, they have to maintain an illusion of natural algorithmic search as few people would hang around if they simply offered a page of ads.

My view with regard to redacted has been from the outset that on-line, it has a whole lot of potential and with the right drive and coherent vision should do very well.Whilst I may have banged on about code and what not and a less than ideal CMS, it isn’t entirely about the code and the structure, it’s far more than that.

The content of a website in 2012 is a vital component of any successful strategy, both on and offsite. You need to be creating content that creates content elsewhere through links and conversations back to you.

What’s that I hear you say, elsewhere!? Yes indeed, elsewhere, just like you’d want people in the street or the local community to tell their friends about their positive experiences, the same can be said of the web (but more on that later).

Visitors are but a click away from going elsewhere, so it’s vital that we make the best opportunity of every visitor we get. We should be looking to determine what it is they do when they arrive, how they got there, what they did, why they did it and more. The installation of an analytics  package like GA (Google Analytics) is a great start and we’ll be able to gain insights from this as time progresses. Through looking at user journeys and tracking sign ups and conversions(sales)  we can then take decisions that will impact future choices around direction and products.

Today,  I do appreciate that the organisation isn’t really run that way and that many of your staff aren’t really attuned to embracing a web based vision and all that this entails. Somehow, this needs to change. If it doesn’t then I’d be surprised if we gained much traction. This may seem like a gargantuan task but it isn’t really, it’s just a case of getting buy in from others and setting it all in train. Your staff should jump at the opportunity and your users (if happy) should be more than willing to provide a little paragraph or two as to their perceptions.

Creating conversations

Internet usage is on the increase. People seldom use old methods to find things or learn things. If we provide a service/product in a space then we should be looking to ensure that we offer people as much as we possibly can in relation to this.

The most successful sites on the web have rich engaging user experiences that ultimately translate to sales.They are easy to use and effectively create conversations.

They are invariably,  websites that are ‘alive’ and embrace user interactions with the people onsite, offering their potential/existing customers a means and ability to follow up on their purchases, experiences, treatments, leaving reviews for example, praising the experiences they’ve had or sharing content via share buttons. Websites that are socially connected with places like facebook, twitter, Google and other open platforms make all of this a whole lot easier.  Facebook pages, G+ accounts and twitter profiles are all great places to share and build audience. You’ve made a great start with these, we’ll look at how we can build on these going forward.

Search engines increasingly look for signals from these places and use these to determine interest and relevancy. Links from other websites like these and others in related spaces are seen as votes the websites that they link to. The more votes a website gets from other websites that are deemed to be related or of authority help boost performance in the search engine results for keywords that websites would like to rank for.

It’s almost a virtuous circle of:

Website creates fantastic useful user experience >> user is happy so talks about it elsewhere online in blogs and forums or other social media >> search engine sees conversation (link back to website) and assigns temporal boost >> website ranks better for keywords >> more users see websites for searches >> circle is repeated.

Rinse repeat.

If  people aren’t talking about you online then it may  be because there is little to talk about. It may be because your sites content is old or out of date, or just doesn’t add sufficient value to the space. The internet contains a wealth of choices that people can quickly gravitate to. It’s important therefore to do one’s very best to give people something that answers their questions and increases their confidence.

The wealth of products and services  offered by redacted  is a testament to what you have built – your vision, your experience, your passion and commitment. That said, this isn’t necessarily being transmitted on-line.

The site as it stands has little of the freshness and vibrancy that your paper marketing materials offer and of course lack that personal touch they’d get from meeting staff.

There are ways of remedying this. A few ideas are as follows.

No one knows that you do it unless you tell or show them

Show people what you’re all about.

Give people quality visual insights.

Create a youtube account for redacted. Upload videos of redacted perhaps.

https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?service=youtube

Get your product specialists to wax lyrical over what they do and how they do it and upload them to the site.

Put these on the pages of the products that discuss the various services.

Install a blog and get product specialists to enthuse about what they do. Show the human side, show people that friendly engaged specialist full of knowledge, advice and insight passionate about the vale that they will bring to prospective new business.

(you might want to draw up a house style and format that people adhere to perhaps, unified message etc)

There will be resistance for sure, but why shouldn’t these people be prepared to talk about what it is they do? I’m sure if they are told that through doing so, they’ll benefit too. Enhanced profiles, increased sceptic trust, greater reach and dissemination of their message.

Talk to your customers, ask them for their thoughts, get a few paragraphs or send them a survey. Put those thoughts on your product pages. Show people those real world valued experiences.

In short, you alone cannot inject the required passion, enthusiasm and content that is needed to excel online in 2012 and beyond. Places like Google are becoming increasingly competitive. Local businesses are legion and compete with each other to occupy what are in effect 1 or 2 effective spots in a Google results page.This is likely to contract further.

Be the best.

Hope that helps, catch up with you soon 🙂

Is your expert link builder worth the trouble?

Don’t buy questionable link building packages, buy good ones

I was just talking with a friend about link building. He’s a small biz chap with a good product and looking to try and grow what he does.

He asked me for my thoughts on link building and it got me thinking of the variety of services that are out there.  The game’s changed, primarily due to the increased perception of risk generated by the chatter and dings delivered by Google.

It’s basically pretty stupid to pay anyone for anything that takes a cheap arse ‘button press’ type approach to link building. 1000 directory submissions, 20 blog posts and 100 forum sigs might seem fairly attractive, especially if it’s packaged up in a £50 one time fee parcel with promises of boosts for your target keyword/s.

I probably sounded almost cliched but I found myself talking to him about  creating genuine conversations and buzz and how that one of the best ways of achieving that might be to build a fully integrated platform that enabled him to do so, which might possibly mean creating the most kick arse resource in the country/region/planet for his  niche.

I pointed him to a resource that’s fairly niche in the home improvement vertical and showed how they were enabling their visitors to ask questions, give feedback, review products and how they could read  product  how to’s with guides and tools and videos and podcasts  along with the usual social box ticking.

There were a few other generalisms but the point of it all was to try and convey the idea that if you set out to make stuff that is  link worthy, as in kick arse useful content that people will want to share on youtube,  niche home improvement/green/save the world/ type communities, blogs, social networks etc, then half of the battle is won.

I guess I was trying to say that even if his end product out there in the real world is top class, well priced, sought after that if his online shop front didn’t do the same then in lots of ways, he’d be wasting his time. Why do people expect inferior shitty boring user experiences to rule their niches?

Socialise get down, let your souuuul hit the waves shake it now, go ladies, it’s a living dream… *

I don’t need to bang a drum that says that the web is becoming increasingly social. Anyone with half ounce of eighteen pence knows this already. The fact is that if you have a bog standard, say nothing space on the web, then by and large people just aren’t going to talk about you.

So I kind of went full circle and said something like your link building company should really be talking to you about these very things. Your brand, your product, your offering. How they’d go about creating something viral perhaps or how they’d use his voice and identity and add genuine value to the places that they engaged with on his behalf. He’s a small business, he can’t be everywhere, but maybe his link building company can give him some stellar advice as to how he can get others to do so. If they can’t then there’s a chance that they are stuck in some time warp creating very little else but shit.

Sure,  you CAN go and buy links of course. You can go out and spam forums, blogs, pr networks with your stupidly crafted laser targetted anchor text and build links  that way. It’ll work too, for a time, but eventually you might get caught up in some mess that see’s your domain Pandarised or Penguinated. I won’t mention Karma. I won’t mention the offence you’ll cause to all and sundry as you pay a bunch of wankers to go pollute the web with your pony “hi nice post” type comments, or your useless kill me now type shitty guest blog posts, or your no one gives a hoot type add no value to the world type press releases as I hope that’s a given.

 

My closing words were something along the line of ask this ‘expert link builder’ what it is they’ll do.Cut through any old bollocks they give like directories, shitty press releases, guest blog posts in spammy networks and instead listen to those who talk about you and your brand and their understanding of what it is that you are trying to achieve. If they can’t understand that then, I  doubt that long term you’ll get any links worth having.  Sure, there may be some short term SERP success; but if it’s built on a house of cards, then it’ll eventually fall. Far better to take a long view and do it properly the first time around.

Thanks for listening.

 *

7 gift ideas for men and geeks

Christmas  Gift Ideas for Geek and Dudes

So it’s Monday morning and a year to the day of the first post I’ve decided to edit this one and add and subtract  a product or two so, here are a few gift ideas for dudes and geeks.

Looking for Xmas gifts for ones dad or brother, or boyfriend or husband  at Christmas is never easy – I’m not saying this post will make that task any easier either and most of these ideas for Christmas gifts are quite probably a little out of the budget range for some, but…,you might be feeling generous so what the hey. There’s a mixed bag ranging from a tenner up to a couple of k, so fill your proverbial boots and happy Christmas shopping!  Continue reading

Is the unwritten contract between Google and Webmasters broken?

I’m writing this on a phone so forgive the formatting and lack of links and screenshots, i’ll tidy up later.

There’s a lot of change on Google these days, a lot of activity in spaces that Google were once content to monetize with ads.The clear separation that once existed between Googles organic results and its paid ads inventory is becoming increasingly blurred as it pushes on into query spaces that were once the preserve of a diverse bunch of web publishers.

Unwritten Contract? WTF – Explain Yourself Man

Continue reading

Dear Google, Stop Trying to Control the World’s Information

Yet Another Woe No More Analytics Post

So, Google decided to take the gloves off and twist the screw that little bit harder down on organic search. Caution, I suspect I might curse and swear and rant a little but hey, you can always hit the back button 🙂

I’m not going to rant about the outrageousness of it all as that’s been said by all and sundry. If you’ve landed here and don’t know what I’m talking about then, the short explanation is that Google have made a move in the name of privacy but have added a pretty hefty “by the way clause”  that’s sending shock waves through the online marketing community.

Put shortly, if you are one of these people who enjoys crunching numbers and delivering actionable insights derived from user queries to a domain then, that’s all about to change as you will no longer be able to determine the query part of the journey. All you’ll know is that they arrived on your site from Google. If it’s a paid click then no worries there, Google will allow that to stay as it’s valuable to the advertiser and useful to Google.

Valuable in the sense that advertisers need to know how their adspend on Google converts. (No point spending money if you don’t know how well it performs)  and useful to Google as if people don’t spend money their whole house falls. Google isn’t interested in how your organic campaigns perform or convert. There’s no money in it for them. Continue reading

@virginmedia broadband customer services woes

Virgin Media Broadband Customer Services Sucks

Update:I wanted to add that eventually my problem was resolved. FWIW I think VM do have people who are genuinely dedicated to delivering a quality product and that there are amongst their number some very good CS people. My personal thanks go out to Sam T  for her professionalism and successful resolution of my issue

So, I’ve been a Virgin Media customer for longer than I can remember ( > 10 years). I’ve just got off the phone with Michaela at customer retention who despite having heard every detail of my complaint, was unable to talk to a colleague within the company and explain things on my behalf. She advised that I should spend a little more of my precious time writing to them, so that they could make me wait a little longer and inconvenience me a little more.

I’m naturally averse to doing that, as like you and many others out there, if there’s one thing that narks me more than most, it’s corporate bullshit. Especially corporate bullshit that’s designed to wear people down and systematically pick people off through sapping their will.

My VirginMedia Broadband Slows down of an Evening

Recently I’ve been having broadband issues with a service that I pay something like £25 per month for. Up to 20 meg broadband as I believe it’s called.

The ‘Up To’ words are quite important of course, as I doubt anybody using  their 20meg services ever gets that. It’s a theoretical figure that assumes that all being perfect, you could get in theory.

I digress. If I’m honest, I’ve had issues with their services for months. Sometimes of an evening, it’s just rubbish, it slows down to the point of unusability. I’m told that this is due to throttling. Other times I’ve been told that it’s due to a cap, in that if I download x data during the day, my ability to download data during the evening will be curtailed.

Hmmn, well I’m not one of these people who download films, or music or any of that other high bandwidth intensity stuff.  I just do the whole twitter, FB and surf thing. Most of the time I’m answering customer emails or ftp’ing the umpteenth tweak to a script I’ve hacked, or reading up on quora or stackoverflow or some other obscure techie thing that weirdos like me like to play with.

On ‘fast’ days I used Speedtest.net to gauge download and upload speed. I can’t remember what speed exactly but on such days it was around 14MBPS. TBH, I was happy with that. It was fast enough for me and didn’t leave me sitting there thinking ‘Where’s my 20mbps!!”

Over the past 5 days or so I’ve had very poor service. So poor that it’s been unusable. From 6pm it’s not even worth me trying to get online, it’s akin to the old days of 14kb modem dial up only worse. As I touched upon earlier, I’ve had times like this before, which I’ve grinned and borne which have usually sorted themselves out. Not ideal, but not really worth the short term pain of speaking to someone in India, who usually antagonise me with tech BS platitudes at best or at worst insists that I restart my modem or router to restart services.

Apparently, my Virginmedia Broadband is suffering from low SNR

The other day, having had an FTP upload ceased midflow, the proverbial straw had broke my back and  I decided that it was time to give the guys at Virginmedia a call. I explained to Ganesh that the service was not working and blah blah blahed about how it usually sorted itself out and that I’d already did the restart router/modem things and…well, Ganesh bless him, was no doubt duty bound to ask me to do it all again and after a time the answer back was that I was the recipient of an SNR issue in the area.

SNR – hmmn I thought, Signal to Noise Ratio, Subscription Network’s Rank, or Subscription Not Really worth a carrot perhaps!?

See on other times, I’ve been told other stuff.

Faulty modem, faulty router, attenuator adjustments required for signal boosting, server failure, cable failures, network faults…the list could be endless.

SNR is a new one though, so awesome, excuse number I couldn’t really care what number it is.

If I’m honest, I couldn’t really care less what the reason is either.

I pay for a service and expect to get it. I demand continued service at a level that I’ve paid money for. Whether Virgin Media care or not I do actually spend in excess of £900 per year with them. Yep, £900 to pump a few signals down a cable which includes a nice £1.50 per month for my paper bill troubles.

I’m told that my current woes will be fixed by June the 2nd. The SNR is specific to my area will be resolved and all will be well.

VirginMedia have nationwide network issues

In these days of web democracy one can quickly find out if one is alone in ones experiences.

A quick search on Google shows that people in many parts of the UK are having issues with the Virginmedia service. http://www.google.co.uk/#sclient=psy&hl=en&source=hp&q=virgin+unusable+of+an+evening shows a good smattering of results bemusingly from the virginmedia community pages themselves (well done Virgin, trying to own your online rep)

A look at some of those threads reveals all manner of things relative to exchange capability, the changing nature of users (Gamers, Video, Audio etc), SNR and  Over subscription (probably the most grating, why take on new customers for a service that isn’t delivering to existing customers).

Why I think Virgin media Customer services are poor

In the world view that I inhabit, customers who pay people money to do things for them have some basic rights. Besides all the legal obligations and various duties of care, people like me believe that where a customer is inconvenienced above a certain threshold then at the very least, the company that has caused them problems should at least try to recognise that and recompense them for their troubles. To put customers through various loopholes and give them the run around is to be frank, complete and utter crap.  If a customer isn’t very happy and explains the reasons why, calmly and dispassionately the correct response is to do your utmost to find a way to help. It’ll help if I explain the sequence of events, otherwise I just sound like some rantsmith with an axe to grind.

I won’t include the previous two days of calls to Ganesh and co, as  I’m sure you’ve better things to do, but here’s how it played today.

I called VirginMedia and eventually got through to someone in…India – I explained the situation (again) and was told that technical services might be able to help. I explained that actually, no, they wouldn’t be able to as I wanted to complain about the service and not seek the same responses to answers I’d already heard. Alas, he was insistent and I dutifully waited and explained to technical support that I already knew what was wrong and just wanted to talk to customer services, they argued their corner and eventually patched me though to customer services who listened and made the right kid of noises, until that is they mentioned that I’d get a pro rata refund only.

Pro rata refund only – I typed that again because as I type it, it releases a little more adrenalin and fires me up a little bit further. So, for my 5 days (and numerous other periods of disconnectedness) I’m to receive a pro rata sum. £25 / 31 * 5 = £4.03.

I should add that yesterday I went out and bought a mobile dongle from O2. Long story short is I’ve spent £30 because I need to have services indoors due to the fact that my service provider wasn’t providing me with a service.

I explained this to the nice lady at Virginmedia and explained that I was less than satisfied with what she was offering and that in my view, the offer wasn’t that good. I’d already laid out £30 of my own money, not to mention the time spent on phones trying to resolve it or the hassle of being unable to do what I needed to do on the various evenings I’d had no service. Her hands were tied, she was sympathetic but unable to provide more than a certain level of recompense, she could pass me to customer retention who might be able to help (at this point I’d expressed a view of exasperation an was on the verge of cancelling contracts).

After some time waiting about for the next available operative – Cue Michaela at customer retention – There was no record of what I’d said previously, the nice colleague at customer services hadn’t explained my situation, so I then had to explain it all again and convey the irritation I felt at having paid money etc blah blah blah and that I was now seeking reasons why I should even continue to be a customer and pay them the £900 per year that they currently get hoping that the reasonable response would be something along the lines of “Mr Watts, very sorry to hear about all this, we don’t want to lose you and appreciate the royal pain in the arse that this must be so in recognition we’ll give you at the minimum a sum equal to your reasonable loss that we hope compensates you…we do value your business etc etc” Reasonable huh? But no, Michaela bless her cotton socks, despite being cognisant of every nuance of the situation, tells me that I should WRITE to customer services and complain!.

Me: Um, I’m doing that now, verbally, to you at customer retention. Can’t you do this for me? Can you not convey my concerns to the relevant people who can help me, and take a decision and deal with my concerns? I’ve already invested a considerable amount of my time trying to resolve this.

Her: No Mr Watts, I’m in customer retention, the procedure is that you complain to customer services by letter and an appropriate person will deal with it.

Me: I really don’t understand why despite listening to all I’ve said,  that you expect me to waste even more of my time trying to resolve this! This call is recorded right? Can’t you just forward the audiofile so they can listen?

Her: More petty obfuscating nonsense determined not to help or resolve

Me: Ok, thanks.

I’m not astounded by all of this, I’m simply flabbergasted that a system designed to help customers who have issues could be used in a way to frustrate and aggravate. Changing services to another supplier is fraught with all manner of headaches. Unknown quantities, time out to e there when they turn up being but two that spring to mind.

I’ve thought about writing to Virgin media customer services, I’ve thought about writing to Neil Berkett or Richard Branson, or OFCOM  even but…really, to continue with this merry go round of nonsense serves little purpose other than to waste even more of my time. Customer service shouldn’t be a revolving door of buck passing and annoyance. It should deal with customer issues and get the problem resolved. Customers don’t want to know about policies designed to restrict company loss, they want to be treated fairly and efficiently with no nonsense. There are of course exceptions. Rude people, chancers, conmen and liars should be given short shrift, but I like to think that I’m neither of the above.

Naturally, I’m a little pissed by all this – It’s a lovely day out and I could have been out in the sunshine or reading a book or doing some work but…

Consumers have few tools these days, the most effective are those that get eyeballs and get brands to sit up and take note.If you want to help me, or maybe make others aware of the kind of things they can expect from Virginmedia when things don’t quite work or go wrong, then you could share this post on Twitter or Facebook or wherever else it is you hang out online.  Maybe someone else will get some insight in to what they can expect.

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