Yack Yack SEO http://www.yackyack.co.uk SEO - Google - Marketing - Code - Social Media - Web - +44 (0) 7825 268 430 Sun, 04 Oct 2015 08:08:55 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 What Should An SEO Do For My Business If I Have A Problem http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/what-should-an-seo-do-for-my-business/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/what-should-an-seo-do-for-my-business/#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 13:11:44 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1484 It’s a fair question, and one that will get different responses from different companies.

Ultimately, your SEO will be looking to identify and unblock any bottlenecks and help return your domains search engine visibility for queries that are important to your business.

In this post, we are going to look at  some of the typical aspects that a reputable SEO company should be looking at if you experience a sudden stop or gradual drop off in traffic to your website from search engines.

Where has my search engine traffic disappeared to?

Businesses that turn to SEO companies for  help will often do so on the back of a crisis.

They may have seen a gradual decline in search engine traffic or a sudden drop in traffic that has a huge impact on sales or enquiries that matter to their bottom line. Such events are of course worrying and require investigation to see what is the problem and how best we can identify and present  solutions.

You’ll need to give your SEO as much information as you can. They’ll need access to your analytics package to view past traffic performance and your Google and Bing webmaster tools accounts  search consoles to see if there are additional direct clues.

You should also be candid with them and tell them of anything that you know that has been done to help them identify things for you. If you bought a tranche of links from a link seller or signed up for a dubious website promotion strategy then tell them.

Lack of transparency will not help you and will cost you more money in the long run and the SEO will likely find out anyway through their investigations.

Using the webmaster search console to help  identify  problems

The webmaster search consoles may tell your SEO professional if there’s a specific issue relating to the domain due to a manual penalty or an onsite performance issue.

The webmaster search console contains specific information about your domain, generated through the search crawl and the responses received. It will also show search traffic numbers and limited information around keywords, volumes, positions and click through rates.

Manual Penalties – Maybe you have a manual search penalty

Search engines will (but not always) notify webmasters if a manual penalty has been applied. A manual penalty  is applied for egregious abuse of search engine guidelines. These might be for link buying for example, hidden text or other spammy type activities that have been identified as unacceptable.

Where you have a manually applied penalty, you’ll need to file a reinclusion request from within the console. You’ll need to outline what you have done to correct any transgressions and politely beg for mercy, promising that you’ll never do what you’ve been penalised for again.

Generally, manual penalties are rare and there are often other reasons why a sites traffic has been impacted. Crawl errors are often responsible.

Let’s look at those.

Identification of Crawl Errors – Is your site generating debilitating site errors?

When a search engine visits a website, it effectively ‘crawls’ the pages using its search engine spider or robot. These spiders or bots as they are known are simple fetch and grab programs that read the content of the pages and then store and classify them in their databases. The codes returned by your web server are recorded and the outputs are then shown to you for analysis.

The crawl aspect of the search console will provide insights into how the search engine is evaluating the domain and will provide clues to any issues. Crawl errors are very useful as they help us see what may be going wrong onsite and contributing to poor performance.

Poor Robots.Txt File

An example of this might be a poorly formatted robots.txt file. The robots.txt file is a means of telling the search engines what should and what should not be indexed. It resides on your root domain and is accessed periodically by the search bots and spiders. Mistakes in these can often block an entire domain from being indexed, leading to very poor performance in search. A review of this file will help identify a problem.

Server Error Status Codes

The error code section of the search console is a great means of identifying on-site performance errors.

Server error status codes are generated by web servers, are numbered and have different meanings. Dependant upon the error, an SEO would advise and explain what each meant and how they were impacting your traffic.  The worst type to have would be 401 or 403 as these are effectively saying to the search bots “go away, you’re forbidden or not authorised” If the bots can’t read your content, then your content cannot be ranked or indexed in search.

More common search status errors are so-called 404 errors. These occur when a page that is requested cannot be found. The web server will often (subject to config) return a generic page that says page not found. The better ones are useful to users giving supplemental help in enabling people to find alternatives.

Server error codes are a useful means of gaining insight into poor scripting or server performance generally so should always be considered as an early part of the investigation process.

DNS Errors

DNS errors are often transient and can occur where the host server has issues relating to configuration or routing or hardware,  DNS errors will restrict access for people looking to read your content. This includes search bots. Persistent DNS errors will prevent your site being seen in search so it’s important to get on top of the issue should it occur.

Server Connectivity and Performance

Sometimes, your web server will struggle to perform and might have connection issues that impact upon page speed and content delivery. Where this occurs, it’s important that you address the causes and return the site to peak performance. An SEO should look at performance factors as part of their investigation as ultimately, search engines would prefer any pages that they return to their users to be fast loading and functional. A poorly configured web server or script will drain server resources and switch users off to your site. If this happens with too much regularity, then search engines will lose confidence and trust in your site as a resource and your rankings may be impacted.

Algorithmic filters due to Panda or Penguin

Other reasons why your site’s traffic may have been impacted relate to so called algorithmic filters. There are many types of algorithm and they are rolled out periodically or generated upon the fly. The two we’ll look at here are called Panda and Penguin.

The search console with regard to these, isn’t that useful as the data ranges we like to use to review such things are limited to 90 days. To take a good look at these we need to see historical traffic data over a longer timeframe as this enables us to look at traffic patterns and discount things like seasonality or general growth over time.

Using Your Analytics Package to Identify Algorithmic Filters


The Panda algorithm is aimed at low quality or thin content and seeks to demote pages that are considered to trigger these signals. Panda has had a number of iterations over the years and SEO’s have identified the dates which can then be referenced against website traffic patterns. The general theory being that if your traffic plummets coincide with the published release dates of these, then it’s pretty easy to conclude what the issue is through looking at your traffic within your analytics package.

It may of course also be very obvious anyway and a good SEO should be frank enough with you to say that actually, your site is appalling and you need to reevaluate your content generation model…

Sites that were built in 1999 may not necessarily meet the expectations of 2015 perhaps. A good SEO company will at least discuss this with you and help you appreciate the needs of today’s web users.  If you are answering a web query in 2015, then you need to be going above and beyond.


The penguin algorithm relates to your link graph. Some websites have unnatural inbound link patterns or have too many links that are considered to be from low quality sites. Where this is the case, a good SEO will help you identify what these are and will be able to help with a plan that will disavow any low quality links.

Again, the use of your analytics package will help the SEO align your traffic with known penguin release and refresh dates so that they can confirm whether or not your traffic fall off is penguin related.

Content Issues

You may have recently undergone a site redesign, your developer may have used a new technology or url structure that impacted your site in a negative way. Poor metadata, duplicate page titles, non existent page titles, poor keyword selection are just a handful of issues that may be present on site. A good seo company will help identify what these are and show you the way forward.

Wrapping things up

As we can see, there are many things that can contribute to poor performance of websites in search engines; manual penalties, algorithmic filters, poor content, poor site structure and architecture, poor hardware and each of these can pull your site down for the queries you aspire to. A thorough examination of these issues will help you take the steps that will eventually return your site to where you’d like it to be. It’s a good idea to have an seo site audit  before issues occur as this can save many thousands of pounds in fixing subsequent issues arising.


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What should you do if your website traffic falls off a cliff? http://www.yackyack.co.uk/penalties/what-should-you-do-if-your-website-traffic-falls-off-a-cliff/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/penalties/what-should-you-do-if-your-website-traffic-falls-off-a-cliff/#comments Sun, 06 Sep 2015 10:11:06 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1453 “OMG Our Search Engine Rankings Have Died!!”

First off, it isn’t funny, at all.  It’s totally traumatic.

If you’ve enjoyed months or years of traffic for keywords relevant to your business and it’s switched off overnight, then it’s truly going to impact you and your business. You have bills to pay, staff salaries to maintain and the loss of traffic is often truly devastating.

Second, they were never really yours anyway. They were always going to be subject to the actions and whims of another for profit entity.

Unfortunately, when it comes to dumb algorithms, there’s little kindness involved. If your website hits the thresholds that say rank this domain lower then you need to take action to reverse those aspects that may be contributing to your misfortune.

The search engine guidelines set out what is and what isn’t acceptable. Hidden text, spammy links, keyword stuffing being 3 top level well known no no’s. There are however a myriad of other no no’s which are often fuzzy and hard to pin down. We need to understand that ultimately, search engines (generally) don’t earn money from sites that use effective SEO so it’s no surprise that they’d make it all a little bit of a minefield. It’s easy to say “Make the best site for your users” but with only 10 spots available to have for each query, it’s understandable that companies and site owners will push the envelop a little to get ahead. It’s this process that often trips folks up which can often lead to ranking catastrophes. FUD is a powerful tool in dissuading the allocation of marketing budget

It’s important to differentiate between penalties and algorithmic shifts of course. Penalties are manually applied  whereas algorithmic shifts like Penguin  and Panda are changes to the way pages are scored.

What to do if your search rankings have disappeared overnight?

If you know what you are doing then it’s pretty academic. Why are you even here reading this?

If you don’t know what you are doing then don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.

You. Will. Drive. Yourself. Mad.

Employ an experienced seo specialist to look at the situation for you.

Algorithmic Search Engine Penalties

They should know if there has been a recent major algorithm change and will look at your website analytics to see if your traffic fall coincides with an algorithm change. If it does, then it’s usually either due to a Penguin or a Panda update.

If your website has been affected by Panda, then it is perceived to have a page quality issue. These might be due to spammy or thin content issues, or machine generated content that is considered to be of low quality.

Your appointed specialist should be able to honestly appraise your site and be frank enough to tell you that it’s lacking in quality.

If your website has been affected by Penguin, then you have a so called back link quality issue.

A backlink quality issue relates to the quantity and quality of the number of links to your website.

Sites that have acquired many links at once for example might be seen to be manipulating their link profile. Sites with lots of so called ‘money’ keywords in their anchor text might be another.

In the circumstances outlined; you’ll need to begin the process of fixing your sites on and off site issues.

The good news is that your appointed specialist will be able to help identify these and help you with a way forward, the bad news is that you’ll often have to wait until the algo has updated or refreshed before your site reappears for your keywords. Even then, there are no guarantees as with penguin for example, the link cleaning process may even remove links that offered value whilst retaining those that hamper. It’s critical therefore, to ensure that you use someone who has experience with these and the tools that help identify them

Manual Search Engine Penalties

In some cases, websites receive so called ‘Manual‘ penalties. These are applied by search engineers for what would be in their view egregious manipulation of the algorithm. There have been many cases of these over the years for all manner of organisations. They are a good PR tool for search engines as they send out the message that they are watching for exploitation of their resource and will punish those who try it on.

The good news is that you can clean things up and submit a re-inclusion requests whereby a search engine will review what you’ve done and reinstate your domain in search. The not so good news is that they may refuse it and ask you to try harder.

A friendly suggestion on the way forward

Finally, regardless of whether you have or have not had an issue; perhaps it’s time to take a long hard look at what you do and really ask yourself some honest questions around your content marketing efforts.

The web is only going to get more competitive, to rely on big profit driven corporations for non paid for sustenance is a little bit mad really.

The proliferation of platforms that are taking market share will only continue to grow. People are using an ever increasing level of device and apps to access information. Desktop PC’s, Laptops, Phones, Tablets, Phablets, Watches,  TV’s – Search engines are cannibalising content to keep users on site, social media platforms are doing the same pulling folks away from search engines in the process, maybe it’s time to act like search engines didn’t exist even; become the destination for your niche, be the best.

Good luck.


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Giving Your Content Marketing Happy Outreach and Amplification http://www.yackyack.co.uk/content-marketing/giving-your-content-marketing-happy-outreach-and-amplification/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/content-marketing/giving-your-content-marketing-happy-outreach-and-amplification/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 08:32:11 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1433 Content marketing. It’s been a bit of a buzz phrase now for a time.

I’m going to write about what people should consider when creating new content and how and where they should distribute it.

If you don’t have the time to read all this. Here’s the TL;DR version. Give people what they need, answer their questions and be found where they hang out. Do it with originality and be the best.

A lot of content produced these days falls flat on its face. Chris highlights some great reasons why too.

Unless you’re some leading luminary in your field or A list celeb that gets watched like a hawk day in day out or are some big news organisation with a loyal following then the reality is that you can’t create a piece of content on a whim and expect it to fly; you have to have a strategy with well thought out aims and objectives and goals in mind with what you’re looking to achieve.

Too many people start with “Me”. They sit there and fire up a word doc and begin to rabbit on about how amazing their latest product is or how cool their service is highlighting its sheen and competitive price or retrospect about their recent corporate event posting lots of pics showing stuff that no one really gives a stuff about and then wonder why it doesn’t get shared, or ranked, or linked to or exited after 18 seconds of yawn.

The best content is the content that gets shared and gets referenced and linked to and ranked and visited, again and again and again. If we can understand why that happens and then embed that knowledge at the planning stage, then we really can create something that’ll stand the test of time and win in the game.

Content Marketing Winning Formula

So, what’s the formula? What are the ingredients that’ll make your content fly? That’s of course a multifaceted answer which very much depends on your audience.

How sophisticated are they, what are they looking for, what do they expect from you but above all how useful will you be to their needs.

Need is a big word for four letters. In our day to to day lives we all have needs (oh wait that’s five).

Content marketing to Emotional Needs

The need to laugh or cry, the need to feel loved, appreciated, needed, to be recognised, cared for.

Content marketing to Intellectual Need

The need to have our curiosity sated, our minds stimulated, our questions explored and answered.

Content marketing to Physical Need

The need to get materials or sustenance to sustain and clothe ourselves, build and obtain what we need to run and fulfil aspects of our lives.

Many of us often look to the web to satisfy these of course and there are many different types of platform that do these very well:

The social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter for instance encourage repeat visits (stickiness) through enabling us to create our little networks of friends and influencers where we can learn from each other, keep tabs, rub shoulders with the cool or just laugh at stupid picture or stories.

The research answer platforms of Google and Bing again encourage repeat visits through giving us hints and tips around where we should go to find the answers to our intellectual or physical needs.

So what do the platforms referenced above have in common? The simple fact is that they’re all great examples of content marketing platforms in action, and they all succeed because of what they produce. At the very top level they accommodate people’s human needs and people use them to gain satisfaction.

The satisfaction word is super important. How many of us really enjoy being frustrated!? How many of us would use Google daily if we never found what we needed?

I’m reminded of an excellent little book I read a while back start with why. If we ask ourselves what it is we are doing and why, then it becomes a whole lot easier to crystalise our vision and focus upon where we think it is we need to be going.

Why are we here? To promote our cool content!

What would we like to achieve? Get lots of sales and visitors and earn a squillion pounds so we can go live on a paradise island and drink coconut water.

Well maybe, but in order to do that we’ve got to apply a principle or two and reeeeaally get inside the heads of our readers and or potential customers and give them what they need

So how do we do that?

Starting with Why and Assessing Where To Go

Lets go back to starting with why. We want to get more visitors to our site and we want them to stick around and come back again and again and share our stuff.

Ok great, that’s simple. Let’s assess what needs we are going to meet and be mindful too that the more needs we try to meet the more difficult it’s going to be to get the piece to fly.

Why? Oh ok, well in short; generally speaking if we spread ourselves too thinly and try to be all things to all men then the reality is we are likely to fail. Agree? Good.

Having assessed the needs and our ability to sate it, where to next?

In short, we go everywhere. That is, everywhere online that we think that is currently answering the need that we’d like to address.

We’ll take copious notes and ask ourselves if we can do what they are doing as well or better. If we believe that we can, then off we go, if we can’t and know our efforts are going to fall short then seriously, why even bother? Should you really try to be Gucci when you’re nothing better than the Kwikimart?

You of course are nothing like a Kwikimart, you believe that you are the Gucci of your field and you know you can go above and beyond and kick this competitors arse or at least run him close.

You’re in a bit of a quandary though as the piece seems so big and you don’t quite know where to start. Well, that’s probably because you aren’t really Gucci yet but hats off for confidence and aspiration, you’re up and coming in your sector and people are already buzzing about what you do and you know you have a winning product and you’d really like to rank for that single vanity keyword with lots of volume but are a realist too and know that for today at least that’s a little bit ambitious.

Being an expert in your field, you know however that people have a lot of questions around your sector, not singular one word phrases but questions that start with “What is” “How can” “Help me to” “Show me the best” plus a whole bunch of other variants. You’ve already done your broader keyword research and you know where the volume is generally – you understand that there are so called head terms (one and often two word search terms that generally convert rather poorly) and the longer tail terms (search phrases of three words or more that are more specific and varied). You know all about buying cycles and research modes and understand that through being a part of this process you’ll help convert visitors to paying customers through injecting yourself into that cycle.

A Holiday in The Canaries

At this point it’s probably good to use a real world mock up example to illustrate the point.

In this scenario, you are a holiday company; a travel agent,  and you provide people with a means of booking holidays all over the world.


You’re not the biggest travel agent out there but you’re pretty hot and love what you do and really go above and beyond in sourcing your holidays for potential customers. You care about quality and have a USP that sets you apart from the competition, you have a great app that allows people to enter a set of criteria and your technology stack notifies them the moment a cancellation happens so they get a chance to book at a low price last minute say.

Your website is relatively new and has a big mountain to climb for those high end location type holiday keywords, but you’ve made a good start and you’re gaining momentum and think you’re on to a winner.

You’re a bit like a hunter in some respects. You know where your prey hangs out, you know where all the watering holes are, the little niches in the forest that they congregate in. You know how to bait a trap and you know what kind of food lures them in.

Your keyword research and PPC test campaigns have revealed that your holiday seeking target may often start their journey with a search for ‘holidays’, or they might refine it with other terms and searches ‘Canary Islands’ or ‘Canary islands Holidays’ , ‘Canary Island Hotels’ they might have a wife too or a friend and tell them to take a look too.

You’ll know that they’ll go off and search for similar versions and variants. They might find themselves on a relatively large provider site like Thomson or First Choice. They’ll look for deals or luxury type or budget or starred ratings or hotels with best reviews. They’ll look at pictures, temperatures, facilities, price and compare and contrast with other sites they may have encountered. If they’re smart or overly cautious they’ll want to read independent reviews too so they’ll perhaps seek out tripadvisor. They’ll want to get there easily too so they may well refine further by checking out travel options and flight times and prices. They may find that they’d rather disintermediate and segment the process booking flights and accommodation and transfers separately.

Back to those Needs again…

All of those stages require answers to a variety of need.

The need to feel safe, the need to know they’re not being ripped off and getting value for money. The need to be reassured that it’s going to be a lovely sunny destination and they’re going to have a great time. The need to know that they won’t have to leave at 3am to get a flight maybe and on and on…

When we think about it, there’s not a single piece of content that could answer all of those questions in one hit. It looks like a massive task and we’re unlikely to be able to hit them all overnight. But we CAN begin; our understanding of the sector and the NEEDS of our audience will help inform what we do. Our knowledge of the competition, the breadth of the opportunity puts us in a fantastic position to create a series of content pieces that will win out. We’ll assess the core volume like a river and look at all the tributary phrases that run off.

Holidays > Canary Islands > Canary islands holidays > Compare holiday prices canaries > What are the best hotels in the canary islands > What is hotel amazeballs really like? > Reviews Of Hotel Amazeballs > Canary Island resorts > Pictures of Hotel Amazeballs > Canary Island Flight times > Airports serving the canary Islands, Airport name parking, Accommodation near Airport name….

Answering the questions

Ok so we know what the questions are and we are going to answer them. We have a brand style and we our messaging is pretty much sorted generally but what of our audience and more to the point what kinds of content are at our disposal and what will get the best bang for our buck?

We can have the greatest content in the world but if it isn’t being surfaced then it might as well not exist. So we need to consider how our content is likely to be distributed and by whom.

We might find ourselves in a situation whereby we already have some great people talking about us. We’ve a whole community of people who’ve mentioned our app by way of WOM on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs. Great, but probably isn’t really enough by itself. We need to get our content on cool platforms with big communities. It’s why we added those additional buttons on our images that enable content to be shared to Pinterest or Instagram. It’s why we were meticulous in selecting vibrant amazing imagery that people would like and feel positive affinity to.

We also know that certain kinds of content seems to get shared more than others. People like to have fun it would seem, the need to laugh and smile. It’s for that reason why sites like Buzzfeed excel. Easy to digest content that makes people smile. Of course, unlike buzzfeed we aren’t in the “ad impression” game but we are in the add an impression one and so anything we can do that makes an impression on our visitors is worth doing.

Through establishing footholds on domains with big followings we give ourselves that opportunity to raise our brand and draw people in. We need to understand the audiences of our partners and deliver them results. Buzzfeed, Facebook, Reddit all want content that’s great, that fulfills their users needs, that gets shared and generates ad impressions. They don’t want your boring product page that says nothing and in many ways neither does anyone else! Google wants to give its users what they want too.It wants to surface the best content, the content that answers need, the content that will bring them back again and again and again.

We mentioned previously the USP of our make believe holiday company – a nice simple shareable idea that people will share with others. A solution to people’s problems, in this example the problem of paying too much for holidays perhaps.

You’ll need to probably supplement your efforts with some cold hard cash, a bit of Facebook advertising perhaps or a dalliance with Twitter ads or Google and Bing PPC of course. Some of you will be ahead already having done the hard work of creating great engaged networks of followers and friends on your social platforms, a ready army of content amplifiers ready to do your bidding and share your content IF it’s good enough of course.

So it’s simple really isn’t it?

Think about the needs of people, think about how you can help them with their lives and they’ll like you for it and share your stuff with their friends. Bore them silly and they’ll switch off and you’ll get isolated and sent to Coventry.

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Adding links to the copied user clipboard and appending a link to the text http://www.yackyack.co.uk/analytics/adding-links-to-the-clipboard-for-your-visitors-and-varying-the-anchor-text-to-suit/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/analytics/adding-links-to-the-clipboard-for-your-visitors-and-varying-the-anchor-text-to-suit/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 11:29:53 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1336 Tynt’s a great product, I like it it has a cool stats page and overall I think it’s a great innovation. Check it out if you don’t know what it does.

I wanted something similar that wasn’t dependent on a 3rd party service that I could play with and tweak and do so privately outside of the view of an external organisation like tynt. My starting point was this which I’ve tweaked a little to serve a purpose or two.

I wanted something that I could modify to my own needs and vary aspects that I considered important.

One of these was link building and another was to see what users were copying to gain additional insights that I might use to improve a project or two.

I wanted to give myself an option to help people share my content in ways that added context to what it was they were writing about or citing the content for and to enable an easy visual way for people to quote the source. Both by URL and a relevant hyperlink.

The methods below help me achieve these objectives.

Quite a few webpages have long page titles that might include brand at the front or back, and probably contain a phrase that’s important to what they’d like to rank for or how they’d like to be linked to.

In this regard, we might have a page that has a page title of “Great Hotels In London – Check out this fab resource of well priced places to stay in London from Hotelprovider”

A user copying a piece of text from a page like that, which employed the system below would, in addition to any copied text see a read more and source option when they pasted the copied text into word, or their blog, or facebook or twitter or email or wherever else it was they were using the copied info.

copied text
Read More:Great Hotels In London.

We’d achieve this by using a hyphen or “-” as a stop word in the pattern aspect of our addlink() function below.

In this regard everything after the “-” would be truncated. We simply replace “wordintitle” in the function below with “-“.

Where a page title doesn’t have a hyphen, then the whole page title is used instead.

This is where it’s important to know your site structure and of course, desired outcomes.

We also include a #tag or anchor in the embedded url.

In the example I use #copied which I can then reference in my logfiles or other analytics packages.

If you use GA and you don’t want to or can’t go the ?UTM_SOURCE route, then you can enable # anchor tracking and even disable clicks that came from folks using internal anchors. You just got to mess around with your GA code a little.

Step 1 Slap in Footer before closing Body tag

<? $permalink=$_SERVER[REQUEST_URI];?>
<script type="javascript/html">
function addLink() {
var mytitle=document.title;
var pattern =" wordintitle ";

/*whatever word you put in the var pattern above will be the text 
that'll form the words in the pasted link 
so if wordintitle was 'horse' then everything before 
the word 'horse' would be used for the anchor text,
 else it'll use the full string of document.title */

mytitle= mytitle.substr(0, mytitle.indexOf(pattern));

if(mytitle === ''){
var selection = window.getSelection(),
pagelink = '<br /><br /> Read More:<a href="'+ document.location.href+'‪#‎copied‬">'
+ mytitle +'</a><br />Source:' + document.location.href,
copytext = selection + pagelink,
newdiv = document.createElement('div');
newdiv.style.position = 'absolute';
newdiv.style.left = '-99999px';
newdiv.style.background = '‪#‎ffffff‬';
newdiv.innerHTML = copytext;

window.setTimeout(function () {
/* only need this if you are putting the info in a db comment it out if 
this is not the case */

//alert('Text Copied For You');
 /*uncomment the line above if you are not using the ajax 
shareTxt function */ 


/* you can create a hidden div and put a fadeout notify message
 telling the user that it was copied to the clipboard i'd use
 jquery but it's not mandatory to show a message, 
could do stealth if it suits - if you do not have 
jquery or are happy with a simple alert then comment the 
toggle line out or remove it */

}, 100);
document.addEventListener('copy', addLink);

function shareTxt(){
/* this function sends the data copied to your database for
 later reference */
var ajaxRequest;
// Opera 8.0+, Firefox, Safari
ajaxRequest = new XMLHttpRequest();
} catch (e){
// Internet Explorer Browsers
ajaxRequest = new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP");
} catch (e) {
ajaxRequest = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");
} catch (e){
// Something went wrong
alert("Your browser broke!");
return false;
var texti = window.getSelection();
var queryString = "?sharetext="+ texti +"&ref=<?=$permalink;?>";
ajaxRequest.open("GET", "shared.php" + queryString, true);

function toggle(d)
/* this function shows your hidden div and then hides
 it after 800ths of a second */
var o=document.getElementById(d);

Step 2 Slap in SQL interpreter and create table

The page that the ajax sends the variables to firstly needs a MYSQL table for the data, so here is some sql below. Place this in to your sql interpreter in phpmyadmin for instance and it will create the necessary table for you.

`ref` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
`textshare` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
`ip` varchar(32) NOT NULL,
`opsys` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
`zackmo` varchar(30) NOT NULL,
`hash` int(25) NOT NULL,
UNIQUE KEY `cid` (`cid`),
KEY `ref` (`ref`)

Step 3 Slap in text file and name it shared.php

You’ll need some PHP to process the data and put it into the database. Enter your db credentials in the connection script and save it as shared.php then upload it to the root directory of your site

/* create a file and call it shared.php */
if($_GET[ref] and $_GET[sharetext] ) {
@ $db = mysql_connect("localhost", "dbuser", "password");

$txt= mysql_real_escape_string($_GET[sharetext]);
$ref = mysql_real_escape_string($_GET[ref]);
$insert="insert into copyshared values ('', '$ref', '$txt', 
'$ip', '$opsys', NOW(), '$hash')";
$qry_result = mysql_query($insert);

Step 4 Slap in Footer after Javascript closing tag above

If you want to show a message div saying ‘copied to clipboard’ for your users then you can add a div that fades out like this.

<div id="copytoclip" class="ctc" style="padding:3px;position:fixed; display:none;
 bottom:15%; height:auto; margin-left:15%; margin-right:auto; vertical-align:top;
 z-index:5000; vertical-align:top">
<div align=center>
<img src="someniceimage.png"> 
<span style="position:absolute; bottom:25px; left: 0; max-width:100%; color: white;
 font: bold 18px Helvetica, Sans-Serif; letter-spacing: -1px; background: rgb(0, 0, 0);
 /* fallback color */background: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.7);padding: 10px; ">Copied to Clipboard</span> 

It has been tested (and works) on an ipad, a pc and an iphone. I’ve tested it with ie10, firefox, chrome and safari with no issues. I haven’t tried it with a droid phone.

If you decide to use the fade() function then you’ll need to have the jquery library installed (most domains use it these days so you shouldn’t have an issue with it)

Ultimately, there’s nothing to stop people removing the link created or the url, so it might work for good link building and it might not.

The good aspect for me (and this is where tynt might just be an easier option for you) is that I can periodically review what kinds of content snippets people are grabbing and then gain any insights presented.

Install Recap

To install, you need to create the table in phpmyadmin with the sql referenced above and upload/create shared.php on your server and place it in the directory of the domainroot.

You also need to open up a footer file or include you have that goes sitewide and paste the javascript referenced above along with the div content just before the closing body tag.

If you don’t want to do the ajax or db route thing then follow the instructions I’ve put in the code removing or commenting out the div aspect and the shareTxt() function.

That’s it.

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Playing With Attribution Modelling and Getting Aha moments http://www.yackyack.co.uk/analytics/playing-with-attribution/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/analytics/playing-with-attribution/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 09:45:30 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1334 One of the great things about working for yourself is that subject to resource you can virtually do what you like.

I spend far too many hours messing around with what I’ve learnt over the years and applying aspects that will offer limited return. I guess I do it because it’s fun and it sates a curiosity and if I’m really lucky it sometimes causes me to stumble on something of real value.

We all read mountains of stuff about conversions and attribution and the challenges faced in matching up the various channels to their respective ROI pots. People will naturally gravitate to positions that effectively back up the department for which they’re responsible for, so it’s no surprise to read all manner of conflicting viewpoints that make the case for the relative efficacy of channel a or tactic b.

The best way to understand things is of course to pull them all apart and put them back together again, often in the wrong places just to see what happens. Record the results and draw a few conclusions. Rinse repeat until you’re bored or until you’re happy with what you have.

Much of today’s analytics suites are built around cookies and a bit of embedded script on a page somewhere. For those who don’t know ( and I suspect a few of you reading this will so apols to you guys)  when we view a web page on a device the web server has access to a number of environment variables. Not every web page utilises all these as they’re too much hassle (for most) to code into their projects and for most, analytics pages like GA or Omniture are as good if not better for what they need.

Attribution modelling is pretty much covered in most analytics packages but as referenced above it’s all about the set up of the funnel and the interpretation of results. What message you need and who you need to tailor it to. SEO is an amazing channel and it’s no surprise that Google for example, systematically seek to disassemble the ease of measurement whilst introducing new features at the same time. It’s pretty easy to lose people in technical theory; especially if we don’t all speak with the same understandings.   HSTS super cookies, super cookies, cross domain tracking, cross device tracking cookies are just a few examples that most folk will struggle with conceptually.

Anyways, I’ve gone off track a wee bit, so apologies…

So, what have I been playing with and how is it of use potentially?

If we have a big domain with lots of users who come to our site and buy or use and then go away and come back again then we can pretty much begin to measure what they are doing, frequency, visitor length, page views and all the standard stuff that analytics packages will tell us.

1000’s of domains don’t have user accounts and for ecommerce sites  especially, this is a huge lost opportunity.  Check out systems are rightly cautious in enabling folk to purchase without the need for an account (it’s easier to convert folk from the purchase email anyway; incentives etc)

If we have users who are account holders and who return frequently, then we can begin to model behaviour and do a whole lot more useful stuff with tracking.

If we record (locally) specific details about the devices used along with environment variables such as screen, color depth, resolution, IP addresses used, referers, mouse behaviours, GEO data and all those things that are unique to them, then  can we not begin to model the behaviours of those who aren’t logged in displaying similar behaviours  also and begin to assign them to user type pots perhaps? Yes we can.

We might for example, know that user A (lets call him John) originally turned up from Google and he landed on a page that sold Triumph Rocket Touring Back rests.

A very specific page with words relevant to backrest , Triumph, Rocket and Touring. All of the meta and page data, urls etc were pretty tight in terms of KW accuracy so, despite Google hogging all of the query data for themselves we could pretty much determine that John searched Google for a Triumph Touring Back rest or at least a subtle variation.

We can assume That John either went straight to Google himself or that someone suggested he search on Google . Whatever way it’s diced, we know that he came from Google and he used his iPhone to do so.

He didn’t purchase though and we didn’t know who he was. He was at work on their wifi and he wasn’t ready to commit to the purchase as he was in research mode. He looked again on the way home this time on the train, from an edge or 3G connection as he hurtled through the burbs on his way home.

Later that day when he he got home he opened his iPad and he searched Google again or maybe he used the link that he emailed from his phone earlier and went straight to the page. His wife meanwhile was sat on her Mac or PC even. John talked to her about how his back hurt and he wanted a backrest for his bike. John’s wife’s a bit of a bossy boots so asked him to ping her the link via iMessage. The page looked amazing on her retina screen super expensive Mac and after much interrogation, she agrees that it’s a good purchase decision.  Great says John and proceeds to make the purchase on the Mac.

The vendor some days later is looking at the purchases and tracking who came from where and what. He sees this isolated purchase that came from a Mac. One page view of the product and a purchase within seconds. No dilly dallying at all. He sees that the credit card info was from Mrs P Whatsherface (the details stored in John’s wife’s digital wallet)

On the face of things, the vendor has no real way of determining who to attribute the sale to. His ill configured analytics package, attributes it to the direct visitor pot and the vendor concludes that it was either from WOM or that amazeballs local motorcycle magazine campaign he paid extortionate money for just days prior. After all, he sees quite a few of these so they must be from his offline marketing efforts.

In any case, he’s kind of happy, he’s made a sale. He’s even going to renew his motorcycle magazine advert as maybe it’s working well after all. 50 sales of this type already this month…

Meanwhile, the day after, John is on the train to work. He’s on his iPhone again, fiddling around, going through emails and reads the follow up email about his back rest purchase. He clicks the link excitedly and logs in to this account on the motorcycle vendors website. He has a little browse and he’s off again.

So, what can we deduce from this little story? What lessons are there for the vendor?

At John’s first visit from his iPhone, the vendors server or analytics package should have segmented John’s visit in to a pot or database and recorded the various aspects relative to iPaddress, device type, referer, length of stay.

It would have dropped a little cookie too.

When John then returned whilst on the train it could have began to have matched some of this data, it could have seen the cookie and said aha!

It might have noticed the different IP addresses and said aha again!

It might even have noted the different ISP’s and GEO locational stuff and said aha again and then it could have seen those Mac purchase variables and concluded something different entirely.

It could have learnt that there was a whole pre purchase journey that did indeed start with Google and that when it ran a similar back reference model across a multitude of similar purchases that there were similar behaviours.

He’d have saved a small fortune on that crappy motorcycle mag ad also.

So, this is what I’m doing at the moment. Playing with these kinds of factors and seeking to create pots or tables that record specific user and device behaviour and record the various aspects of what they get up to.  I’m in danger of making this a TL;DR post so I’ll shut up for now, but if you’re interested in some of the specifics of how it might work or indeed, if you have any ideas yourself then I’m all ears.

Facebook has enormous power in this regard, but that’s a post for another day perhaps.

Moral of the story? Create accounts, convert your visitors and track everything and analyse retrospectively too.


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How easy is it to determine a good or a bad link? http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/how-easy-is-it-to-determine-a-good-or-a-bad-link/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/how-easy-is-it-to-determine-a-good-or-a-bad-link/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 17:05:50 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=828 Is that a Good Link or a Bad Link?

I played with a new tool this morning. It was some kind of link evaluation tool.

It purported to tell you whether a link from a URL was good or bad or somewhere in the middle.

Cool, I thought.

So I gave it a go and popped in 6 URL’s. All came up with wildly wacky results, all were deemed to be spam, all suggested I should do something funny with them and run away screaming.


I’m not going to link to this tool, but I applaud the effort and love the little bit of it that will generate lots of discussion both for what it’s trying to do and some of the more wackier outcomes.

It might be fun to actually think some of it through and explore the whole notion of good and bad links and what might be a good signal and what might not. The bottom line is of course, that none of it matters really as ultimately it’s what Google or (if you like the traffic) Bing think of it.

It’s in that vein that I write this.

Link Tactics, History and Interpretation

If we track back over the years, we might find all manner of references to how Google determines what is a good link and what is a bad. We’ll find that their position has shifted over the years as they’ve reclassified their determination of what the web should be and how useful or useless a resource might be.

There’s been reams of discussion around quality rater documents and how they’ve classified URL’s as offensive, offensive being not becoming to the standards that Google wants to index or rank very highly.

Pagerank, specifically; linking structures that been determined as schemes designed to have manipulated Pagerank or link juice, have been called out as ‘dangerous’ and against the Google guidelines. Pagerank sculpting as it became to be known was thrown in under the bus as a tactic that might get you in to hot poodo.

There’s also been the general ongoing war on paid links and the various high profile dings given to companies who’ve been caught out.

Usually, these have been fairly high profile brands. At other times, they’ve been targeted at bloggers who’ve been perceived as having a fairly loud voice and audience. The tactics identified as bad, seem to change yearly. What was ok in 2006, isn’t necessarily ok in 2013.

The general rule seems to be that the moment an effective tactic is discussed within the SEO community to the point of ridicule, then Google comes out and makes a pronouncement, usually by video or if especially egregious, at some high profile marketing or search type conference.

Here’s a list of a few tactics that spring to mind that have drawn commentary at one point or other.

Directory Submissions – Generally accepted as spammy and a low quality signal.

This discussion from some time back gives a little insight in to how the ground had shifted from a position where a directory link from a place that had editorially evaluated a listing and wasn’t a free for all was a good thing (Yahoo, ODP) to a position where due to everyone and their cat building a directory to cash in and effectively sell links for page rank and anchor text purposes, wasn’t.

Debra: In the past Google/you have stated directories with strong editorial policies were OK to submit even if they required a submission fee to be reviewed. Is this still the case?

Matt: That’s still the case, but bear in mind that Google will ultimately decide which domains or directories to trust. Just because a directory claims to have strong editorial oversight doesn’t mean that it will meet Google’s criteria or that Google will trust the domain.

Debra: If an editorially run directory offers a sponsored listing option, do you consider them (the sponsored links) paid links and against your TOS?

Matt: Adding a nofollow attribute to sponsored links remains the best practice for any website.

In other words, Google decides, and if you ask folks to pay to play then it might be a good idea to wrap the link in a condom, else risk the wrath of a Googler in a bad mood some time down the line. 

Sponsored Blog Posts – Not very bright if done wearing size 15 shoes.

This seems cut and dry right? If you go to one of these websites that pays mummy bloggers to write about stuff on those blog networks, then you’re asking for trouble. Easy to identify, be it from a manual or algorithmic perspective.

if(($post_count_with_money_kwanchors > $defined_percentage) or ($links_per_post_to_singular_domain > $defined_number OR ( $links_to_money_kws > 1 AND $web_graph_shows_more_of_the_same))  might be one easy way of folding in an algorithmic stance which could be overlain  against whatever other set of metrics they might like to check $spends_money_on_adwords $is_a_brand etc etc.

Press releases – A rapidly diminishing tactic of efficacy, abused by users and platform holders

For a time, and even today these can be and are a useful tactic to employ both for general PR and SEO link benefits.The idea is that you get your great news item out there and all the cool news folks interested in your niche will see your stuff and write about it too. Hey, even Google will use your stuff and output it in their news results so you can even get on the first page for car insurance.

You can still get on the first page for car insurance, but in the UK at least you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the page and using places like PR Web for example just won’t cut it anymore.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that someone in the Googleplex might just have read about things like this http://service.prweb.com/pricing/package/advanced/ and decided that generally, weightings from such things should be adjusted in some way.

Barry posted a link and a quote from a Googler that said:

I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.

Quite unambiguous, you might think and hey, they can’t catch them all but its pretty clear in its intent which is “hey you guys, press release tactics are on our radar too, so be careful if you use these too as we might just ding yo ass if we catch you”.

Advertorials – A recent Google post by Darth Cutts set the record straight on these

Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.

The message is simple – do this and you’re dinged. In this particular example they dinged Interflora and stripped out some of the Pagerank from newspapers who were selling these too.

Widgets, Themes etc – A great idea, oft over done for search ranky benefits

Here’s the thing. You create a cool theme or widget for bloggers or site owners which is cool as it does stuff and adds value. However, from a Google perspective it’s not cool at all, if you also get a little link love from your actions as it’s not really earned in the way that they’d like it to be.

As far as widgets go, the code it uses might be a little javascript or an iframe that folks can just pop on in.

Of course, once people like us get a hold of them we tend to get link erections and offer up funky ideas to boost your link pop too. We might have said stuff like “Hey mr browser, just in case you are really old and can’t parse this html stuff, we’ve include a special bit of code called noscript which will show people what to do. Yeah, it has a link to our clients too but don’t worry about that, it’ll help your rankings…”

I am being funny of course, not everyone did that kind of stuff but some did. Some didn’t even bother hiding it and some just left a little brand link to the originator.

For themes it’s not half as egregious, but it can be over cooked too and generally, 1000’s of links from a footer in 2013 just isn’t the best thing to have in a link profile, especially if you come under scrutiny either manually or through Penguin.

Here’s Google’s head of webshhpam Matt Cutts again, talking about the value of links from widgets and themes

… links from article marketing, widgets and other pre-curated content types are unlikely to drive search rankings or visibility

Competitions – Link to me using this link text and win a prize/cash payment etc

Some folks took a view that one of the other possible reasons behind the Interflora penalty that lasted mere days because they are a brand and spend lots with Google  was that they were getting bloggers to write about them via a mechanism called ‘Competition’ the rules set out that all you had to do was do something simple like write about flowers and you’d win some roses or some other silly gift that wasn’t worth very much. However, the link value to Interflora was another story altogether which might well have helped them to rank for cool search terms like flowers or roses or valentines day.

Back in 2007 a very nice chap named David got dinged for something similar. He ran an awesome competition with some fabulous prizes. Someone named Jenni tried to warn him at the time, but he decided that it was good to go. Word spread and everyone was buzzing and bloggers talked about him and entered and linked and…you can read about how he recovered here.

So these tactics aren’t new, but they require a little thought and consideration around how they might be interpreted first.

Affiliate Schemes – Pay people referal fees and get them to boost your link profile whilst at it

There’s 1000’s of affiliate schemes out there. Outside of tradedoubler or CJ for instance, some folks roll their own. For a time these aff links were great for site owners and all very innocent. Some people realised that with a little server side jiggery pokery folks could have their cake and eat it. People using your affiliate add code would often use on topic anchor text as they wanted people to click through and hopefully make a purchase. this way, they’d get paid and the merchant would be a happy bunny.

Some of us realised that there was a bit of a missed link opportunity here and that with a little thought, such schemes could be tweaked to add a secondary benefit. Users could be redirected with session Id’s or Cookies and link love could flow through to a decent organic landing page too. header status 301 mr Google and boom, watch those rankings rise.

Of course, like anything a little bit crafty that’s done to the extreme and bragged about, Google eventually gets to hear and makes a pronouncement on it, usually expressing the view that you use nofollow. Subtext of which is that if you don’t, then it might be interpreted as an overt manipulation of your backlink profile.


Guest Blogging/ Hosted Content –  Let us provide you lovely content for your readers, all we ask is that you link back to our client with a few silly words in the anchor text

Dear publisher, we love your site so much and was wondering whether you’d care to run a cool piece on your website. We’ll even pay towards your hosting costs as we think that content like yours is just the best.

I’ve had emails like this. I’m sure you have too. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this at all. But in Google’s world there’s everything wrong with it. You’re using money to get links to manipulate your link profile and if they just let things like this slide without nofollow attributes being applied then, they’d never make any money cos people might say, “Sod adwords, this is more profitable for me”

The tricky thing is that it is a good tactic for boosting your rankings, provided that you do it in a semi intelligent way. If that footprint is all too present and in the opinion of Google your content is of low quality or otherwise spammy, then you’re really asking for either a demotion of the ability for your blog to rank or pass link juice. If you are the guest blogger and you’re not thinking your tactic through, then you risk poisoning your link profile and seeing your site tank.

You might want to ask yourself whether it is really natural to get #n new links per week from blogs for money keyword that are the same.

Here’s that Matt chap again, talking about guest blogging


Forum Sig Links

Most half decent forum software these days has cottoned on to the ways of the Google rumpers of this world and have given site admins the ability to either nofollow signature links or hide them to the likes of bots and what not. That said, there’s a ton of unpatched or old software out there that gives people an easy link and an opportunity to inject some juicy link text.

These can be pretty powerful (amazed that they still work) and some firms actually hire people to go out and acquire. Some clever bastards write software too that enables you to do a mass blast, or stepped attack and build up x number of links in y days. xrumer being but one of many.

Comments on Blogs

Hey parse_poster_name, I loved your post on string from title tag  before reading this I knew very little, I’m now a little wiser. Thanks Money keyword in name field

Similar to the above, folks are still running around and doing this type of stuff manually and programmatically. If you’re a blogger then you know all about these wankers and sigh if they make it past your comment filters.

Fact is, they still work and people are still massively ignorant about the reasons why. Innocent/not very bright bloggers often think that these commenters are just being nice so happily leave their comments in place, pleased that someone has taken the time to comment on their stuff.

Google’s position is clear and defaults to the standard nofollow, link to them at your own risk perspective.

So you get the general picture. People do a lot of things to get links and get people talking about them on the web, that’s a given. Yet what isn’t so clear or easy to divine is how these tactics are interpreted. Do we really have to nofollow EVERYTHING to be safe? What about people who link to us naturally? Don’t they sometimes use methods that might be considered dodgy? Do we really have to run around webmaster tools or majestic seo constantly evaluating our link profiles, contacting webmasters, forum owners, blog commenters etc?

If every link on the web was nofollowed then it would be a level playing field. Nothing would count and we could all get on with working out what it was that did 😉 But of course that isn’t going to happen so we are left in a bit of a pickle.

We can hope that we never get misinterpreted by a human or an algo and just carry on building, writing and serving our clients, readers etc and hope that the various signals we’re creating everywhere are enough to keep us safe from the vagueries of the black box that is Google


We can be proactive and fuss over every little link in our link profile and chase webmasters and site owners to alter a link to comply with Google.


We can hope that someone builds a very cool tool that takes away and a lot of the legwork and alerts us when things are going tits up and helps us to evaluate them before we go all disavow crazy.

But building that tool isn’t easy either. Sure, we have all manner of data dumps we can inject in to such a tool and draw all sorts of conclusions around link placement, link duration, singular, sitewide, link makeup, link numbers, site authority, social mentions, links in, link ratios, pages indexed, pagerank, markup to name but a few and even with these, it’s not exactly easy.

So lets look at what might be good and what might be a bad link (I’m getting there)

How do we determine a bad link?

So, if a page has been around for say, 2 years and it had no Pagerank and that site had no pages indexed in Google then we might determine that from a quality perspective, it would score low. We might use one of those metrics from SEOmoz or A hrefs or Majestic to bear this out.

How about if that same site was just born? No pagerank, do follow links, poor quality scores from the link scrapers cited above? Would that make it a bad link? Should we chase site owner?

What if there were 100 of these? And if there are, are they on the same IP address? Are they using the same code base? Do we really know when they were created? How do we know that the site owners hadn’t blocked the link scrapers?

We might look at the number of links on the page. Are there 100’s of links to other domains?

We might look at who they are linking to. Are the sites they link to reputable for instance? Are they porn or pills or poker type domains that are totally outside of out niche?

Does our tool even allow us to stipulate a niche? Is it niche specific? If not then why not.

Are the links on the page hidden either through css or some other silly method like noscript or noembed or insert what other method you can think of?

If the linking site is quality and is ranking in Google, then does the link stand the test of scrutiny? Is it a natural earned link? Or has someone paid them to put it there.

If it’s a dofollow comment or forum link then is it a genuine one?

Is it a sponsored blog post? Would it be apparent to Google?

I’m not even going to ask about what is a good link as I think we can all agree that it’s all pretty messy and ultimately, Google decides.

If you care about ranking in Google then you need to keep a regular check on your link profile and manually review those that look suspect and even then you could be going OTT and actually diminishing your ability to rank.

A decent well thought out tool that asked lots of questions, that dug deep, that iterated out a few times, that queried multiple sources, that cross correlated with the Google Api might be a good way of taking the donkey work out of it, but I don’t think it exists today.


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Buying and Selling Links to Rank on Google in 2013 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/buying-and-selling-links-to-rank-on-google-in-2013/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/buying-and-selling-links-to-rank-on-google-in-2013/#comments Sun, 24 Feb 2013 15:38:39 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=778 Everyone buys and sells links

So, if buying links that pass Page Rank is against Google’s terms of service and to do so means a potential ding to your rankings what should you do? Not buy links?

But wait, what IS buying links exactly? Where is the line drawn?

Are the links that came about due to the hours of research put in to a piece that investigated or highlighted common interest piece {topic}, bought links, or are they free earned links?

It’s a serious question.

The Hypothetical

Journalist/researcher Fred for example is paid by organisation Daily News.

His job is to write good quality pieces for editorial.

Editorial works closely with marketing and they have lots of conversations around how they grow market share and increase general profitability.

Marketing works closely with sales, and sales are always coming up with ideas for helping them succeed online.

Sales suggests to marketing that it would be really cool if editorial wrote a series of pieces that explored holiday venues in Africa. Marketing uses a few online tools and decides to focus on Egypt, simply because they noticed that last year there was huge spike in search volume and that perhaps it would make sense to ride that crest again, by catering to that query space.

Marketing sits down with sales and begins to thrash out a plan. Marketing talks to editorial and mentions that there’s a shed load of interest in Egypt and that it’s looking to create a splash both off and online and will be looking to sell ad spots to support it.

Editorial, tows the line as it knows that revenue is important and trusts the views of marketing.

Editor John sits down with Fred and explains the brief. Fred goes off and researches all the players in the Egypt holiday query space and draws up a big list of players in the market.

Fred passes his early research back to John, who passes it on to marketing. Marketing and sales sit down and sales say thanks very much.

Sales plan is simple, contact players and explain that they are doing a big piece on Holidays to Egypt  and how they’re inviting interested parties to be discussed. They mention how they have a huge readership and how they’ll be likely to rank for a host of Egypt related keywords too, which will likely drive sales and revenue to those who play.

Sales get back to marketing and explain how they have 4 big brands on board, all happy to pony up £xxxxx for the privilege of being discussed in this in depth piece.

Marketing talks to editorial and sits down with John and Fred enthusing that holiday brands A B C and D will be co-operating with them to supply various pieces of information and prizes to help create an amazing textual piece for publication.

Fred goes away and crafts a top quality piece replete with stunning visuals, competitions and what not. The piece links to the various brands where appropriate in ways that are apt and everybody is happy with the outcome. Fred doesn’t care about nofollow or jump links or noindex. Neither does he care about anchor text or brand signals.

He doesn’t know that anchor text isn’t really so important anymore and that actually, the link juice is what matters and that the on site SEO, brand strength and authority of the linked to site will take care of any requisite ranking ability down the line.

Fred isn’t aware of the details that sales made  with brands A B C and D; it isn’t Fred’s job to know, Fred’s just happy to get paid and is pretty pleased that his work will be shown to 1000’s and inform interested parties looking to Holiday in Egypt.

In terms of Fred’s piece it’s simple – If the publisher uses the words ‘Advertorial’ then Google expects them to use nofollow on any outbound links  that may benefit as a result. Google’s view being that it doesn’t want it’s index to be influenced by paid advertising. However, if the publisher does this, then the piece itself becomes less attractive as an advertising proposition as the Advertiser may be primarily attracted by the link juice provided by this premium publication. It knows that the piece is likely to be scraped by other lesser publishers too and that the link juice accrued should help it rank for it’s own list of desired terms.

The Real World

Let’s look at a real world example of how the Guardian newspaper has established various partnerships in the travel vertical. We’ll see that at some point, their partners receive links from the relationship. See if you can determine whether they are paid or earned through merit and if you can then tell me how simple it was for you.

Taking the query ‘cruise the river nile‘ as an example, we’ll see that in Google UK the Guardian’s travel site ranks fairly well at position 3 just below the fold.


The url of http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/holiday/2934/cruise-the-river-nile is the landing page and within that page is a link to a page that discusses the partner with a phone number for those who wish to contact them in this case ‘Discover Egypt‘  which links to an internal landing page of http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/discover-egypt.

A booking link exists also, but this uses a capture to ensure that the partner itself gets no link love from the domain and that any further movement is blocked to non humans.

Safe, compliant and Google friendly, super affiliate, Google partner, no blatant link or advertorial here.

The only site that benefits link wise, is the mothership of “guardian.co.uk” which of course spreads its link juice throughout its domain.

The benefits to the Guardian here are great.

If the relationship with ‘Discover Egypt’ ever sours, the Guardian can easily transfer the relationship to a new partner and continue to rank for their ex partners brand name. Quite a win for the Guardian and of course another reason for the existing  brand partner to stay on board through the leverage of the Guardians SERP strength.

All good huh?

Okay, let’s look take a quick look on the parent domain of Guardian.co.uk  and see if  their partner benefits by way of a link.

Here’s a good page here.


Not surprisingly, the page also happens to rank for “Holiday deals in the Middle East ” incidentally, it also carries Google Ads.


This page contains lots of links to lots of suppliers, but nothing to the actual partner, but wait, what’s that at the bottom of the page.


It looks like a link to another sub brand of the Guardian’s at  http://www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/36923 and low and behold that page links to their travel partner of discoveregypt.co.uk. How very shocking! :-0



Putting to one side the complex issue of relationships, and sub branded web properties to one side for one minute, we’ll see that the resource page here http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jun/18/middle-east-bargain-holidays-egypt says nothing about it being an advertorial and we have no way of knowing what motivated the writer or the editorial team to produce it.

We can but surmise, and try and make a judgement call based on our knowledge of how this stuff works but that’s all it’ll ever be.

None of the links on the page have a no follow element and the page itself is freely accessible to spiders and bots. It doesn’t appear to be benefiting any one singular property alone and we’d be hard pressed to prove otherwise.

We can but trust in the integrity of the publisher and assume that all is above board.

We’d have no idea if any of the web properties linked to paid for the privilege  we’d have to ask them individually to find out and even then, they may well have an NDA that prevented them from disclosing. For Google to try and police such a scenario would of course be insane.

A scan of the code  shows that it does contain a good solid do follow link to its other sub branded holiday  property at http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/holiday/4421/carthage-roman-africa-and-moorish-tunisiaI thus contributing to its ability to rank for related keywords.

Nothing wrong with that either, just sensible sub branding with SEO benefits that flow through. Why wouldn’t a business try and benefit itself? Who can categorically prove that everything it has done in the way that it has is to benefit its ability to rank in Google?

From my SEO perspective it  is clear. Create a high quality reference page that people will cite and perhaps link to.  Get the page to rank and benefit, fill it with related useful links to a bit of ‘UGC’  and put these on a separate domain to ensure separation and licence to thrill and where possible allow users or partners to get customers to comment on holidays they’ve had and who they used, link out to lots of other domains for free and make it difficult to argue that the page exists for no other reason than to help a person interested in that topic.

Clearly today,  the Guardian doesn’t do Advertorials  but it did in the past, just like a range of other papers who’ve seen themselves Google dinged, just go and do a site:guardian.co.uk advertorial query to see a nice selection of its past endeavours. No use of nofollow, noindex, exclusion by robots protocols or anything.

Is this some huge sin to get your knickers in a twist over? No, not really. Legacy systems are always a problem and the biggest headache for many publishers is that what is acceptable in 2009 isn’t necessarily so in 2013 especially as Google lets so many things slide for as long as it does.

The Takeaway

The takeaway at first glance is perhaps simple – create a proposition of value that is sophisticated enough to sidestep the scrutiny of blatant accusations of lazy link buying. Create a quality offering that adds significant value that is compelling and useful to your users. That may seem glib and may be quite hard to digest from an agency with limited budget perspective, but it’s an honest and  realistic way forward.

At second glance, it’s probably a little more intricate as not everyone is a Guardian newspaper or big brand with unlimited funds. If you can’t afford to do it properly then maybe it’s a signal to back off and try something else. If you can afford to though, then it’s clear that with a little time and effort quality arrangements that win in the SERPs and don’t get you dinged can be maintained in a way where all parties can benefit.

The Guardian example is a little tripartite in construct. Mothership, UGC domain, and Super Affiliate Value Add domain that benefit all constituencies. User wins, Publisher wins, Advertiser Wins, as does Google via its ad network and quality answer to user queries.

If we wanted to ask ourselves is the Guardian selling links or are its partners buying links then from the traditional Google type of understanding the answer would be no, however when we look at it all it’s clearly nonsense, as investment has been made and people all over various organisations have worked hard to establish relationships and that they’ve all been paid for doing so. The end product is one that works and is Google guideline compliant… or is it?

Dig dig dig dig

If we dig deep enough and dissect and ask questions then we can begin to skew it all and cast doubt, but I guess therein is the benchmark, if it really is a job to decipher, if it really takes a high degree of experience to ascertain, then it’s probably ok and will stand the test of scrutiny. Google doesn’t want this SEO stuff to be easy, it wants you to work damn hard for your link love and in some cases would rather you didn’t bother or where you did that they get a little kick back in to the bargain via adsense or partner ads.

It’s been said a million times by folks smarter than me but if you buy links in ways that make Google look stupid then you are asking for trouble, if it’s too easy, or too obvious then at some point you’re at risk of it being interpreted similarly by a distinguished Google engineer.

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Slapped with a bouquet of barbed links http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/slapped-with-a-bouquet-of-barbed-links/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/slapped-with-a-bouquet-of-barbed-links/#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2013 20:43:35 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=760 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.

Who created this link monster?

Maybe we can actually blame Google for creating this mess…

It was they after all who back in the day bragged about how cool their algo was using Page Rank and anchor text to divine the importance of a web page. Prior to this, people just wrapped links in URLs or sarcastic words of praise or used ‘here’ or ‘this’ or ‘that’ to point to stuff that they thought was worthy of a mention.

Post Page Rank  and Google and the whole marketing world said to itself “Oooh” so if we do a lot of that anchor text stuff we’ll all get a ranking boost in this Google thing and make more sales etc.

So of course, lots of folks in the online marketing world started writing advice to their clients around encouraging people to talk about them with their keywords and the rest as they say is…

Short history,  Google introduces nofollow and slaps websites for blatant manipulation of link profiles, offering reinclusion routes for those prepared to fess up and clean up.

So, what sensible brand after this latest flexing of brawn  would knowingly engage in tactics likely to get them slapped? Knowingly, probably none –   and herein begins the problem.

If links still power the web (they do) then whoever can sell an idea that delivers lots of citations in a safe way, will win lots of interest from clients. SEO’s by their nature will look to see what ranks a page and will seek to replicate/do more of it.  It’s a base definition for sure, and the whitest of white hatters will breath in sharply and protest but…meh, whatever.

Press releases, advertorials, guest blogging, hosted content etc have all be vaunted as safe tactics at some point or other because they were seen to have relatively high bars to access and were sold as being totally Google compliant which along with a sensible link text approach could add value and would deliver second order benefits to their web presence.

Let’s have a look at a couple of these:

Press releases – Once upon a time these were a standard means of announcing something cool. They cost money to access and had strict rules that said things like, no anchor text,  few links, quality editorial pieces etc etc. Over time, they all turned to SEO shit of course. Companies that provided the services got greedy and said themselves “hey we can make money here and help folks spam the Google” So they did, and they added various SEO options and set various tiers and turned it in to little more than a Google manipulation service.

Advertorials/Hosted Content – The name’s a bollocks but hey, it’s with us now so lets look at what it is. A paid editorial piece. Nothing wrong with those either, we live in a commercial world and for years journalists have been talking about people for a buck. We see them every week in the Sunday supplements, those travel pieces sponsored by big travel brand. Then along comes the world of Google and folks get all smart and realise that they can be a little cute and creative and inject a few links here and there to their various products. Newspapers desperate for every income stream they can muster start selling these as products and advertisers are more than keen to line up for these citations from such lofty publications. Net impact, yet another Google spamming tool.

Actually, I’m going to stop there as you know exactly where it’s going with guest blogging too. Yep, if used aggressively yet another tool to spam the Goog. Sold as a great way to engage readership, stimulate content but ultimately another notion that’s mainly fucked over by lazy bastards looking for a cheap link to their content of dubious value.

Shoot the Gamekeeper?

To be fair to those comfortable folks at Google, they’ve at least set out the rules to try and protect their cash machine and said, if you are going to get people to link to you and want us to rank you fairly, then we need you to let us know that where money has influenced such decisions, you need to wrap them up with a link condom.

It stands to reason that they don’t want folks being able to say that money corrupts their index as to do so is a very slippery slope. Can you imagine if everyone just bought links left right and center? Word might get out that through doing so, you can get lots of free traffic and spend a whole lot less on Adwords. Yep, Google would implode…

But hey, I’ve probably said this before as have a ton of other folks working in this space called the web.

Post Flower Slap

So where next though? What will the agencies and brands around the world be talking about on Monday?

How many will be getting down and dirty and unpicking their spam profiles? Moreover, need they even bother!?

Let’s face it, Google has a habit of smacking a brand periodically, sending shock waves throughout as folks gasp and OH EM GEE, yet the reality is that for most, it either continues as usual or the historical status quo remains!

I won’t single out verticals as we can all but go and look at anyone we so choose and see the most blatant spamming of the Goog by most of those occupying page one, if not today, then at least in the months or recent years previous as those actions of the past help them stay where they are today.

Guidelines shift and what is ok today, isn’t necessarily ok tomorrow as Google determines the line and any tactic that threatens THEIR line is probably at risk, especially if it’s discussed within circles of potential embarrassment.

You might think that on the back of these that everyone who’s doing this will stop it and fall in to line, yet previous high profile dings like this clearly haven’t halted the onslaught, it still goes on and companies will still get aggressive, especially if  they’re brazen (or stupid/clever) enough. A view might be that it’s worth taking the chance that among the 1000’s of brands across the web, that it won’t be them who gets singled out for a banning.

You’ve only got to go take a look at CPC’s in the flower vertical to realise very quickly that the organic rewards for a position 1 or 2 across the flower vertical is just massive and the more cynical among you might go as far to venture that ultimately it was more than worth the risk and that the ROI on’spam tactic’ investment was simply stellar.

Little but not often

Google really  doesn’t do this kind of high profile thing too often as to do so might put them under the spotlight and attract a potential negative PR whirl spin not to mention alienating its user base who expect to see these brands in the SERPs for their queries.

Could we say that businesses are potentially being a little lazy in their link acquisition efforts choosing to use agencies who either have little creative talent or are just stuck in some old school  ‘rinse and repeat’ mentality that achieves little?

Is there any credence to the notion that  Google really doesn’t want folks to merrily use SEO folks anymore at all? Is it simply that SEO goes against almost everything their business model thrives on? Do things like this simply reinforce this notion, or is Google simply policing its index and it’s more a case of SEO’s making a big deal out of something that would otherwise be a private affair between Gamekeeper and Poacher?

The biggest takeaway is as it ever was is that if you do anything at scale and it isn’t tied to cool or funky or hip and it hasn’t generated the various other expected signals then potentially, your’e exposing your website to scrutiny and a possible whacking. That I think, is the real message that Google wants to send, fear encourages compliance and adds that little extra weight to the notion that SEO isn’t too safe a vehicle for marketing budget. Some will listen and some won’t.

Until the next one I guess…



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The Magic Box of Glut – Wizards, Sampmerians, Elves and Pink Marshamallow Castles http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/the-magic-box-of-glut-wizards-sampmerians-elves-and-pink-marshamallow-castles/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/the-magic-box-of-glut-wizards-sampmerians-elves-and-pink-marshamallow-castles/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:11:49 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=750 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.

The magic box would enable people to learn anything they liked – they’d be able to ask it questions and it would scour the world and find them any answer they needed. They of course, needed the worlds help and explained to merchants that they would visit them and scan their products and ideas and help spread their love to the world. Merchants who didn’t want to play were free to put up a little no thank you sign outside their stores but in reality, no one did.

People and merchants alike loved the magic box and word spread like wildfire. The two magicians became very famous and gained riches beyond their wildest dreams. Merchants clamoured to have their ideas and wares included in the box. Soon the box was brimming with everything and people even began to stop using their brains.

For a time, all was well and the world flourished as people innovated – the pink castles grew bigger and artificial rainbows could be summoned at will thanks to the inventions of Fred the artificial Unicorn maker.

The two magicians needed many hands to keep their box working, they employed little elves who had special powers that ensured that answers and information were checked for accuracy and usefulness.

Dissension amongst the masses

Over time, some residents of Glut felt that not everyone’s ideas and wares were freely accessible. The wizards and their elves protested and fought to assure the residents of Glut that information was provided based on a secret recipe that determined what was and what wasn’t useful. Not everyone  was convinced, secret groups formed and protesters formed outside the walls of Gooleg. Among the protesters wagons arrived filled with people from Sampmer land.

Reverse engineering the algorithm

The Sampmerians were a clever breed of Gluts who were renowned for their own magic skills, they called meetings and put up posters imploring folks to come to them with their magic box problems. For small fees, the Sampmerians would help folks get their stuff in to the magic box. They used magic that few can could understand, some called it a dark art but it was much cheaper than paying magic tokens to answer every question.

Enforcing the rules of the box

The folks at Gooleg didn’t really like the folks from Sampmeria but were smart enough to realise that ordinary folks of limited magic token liked what they did. Rather than be accused of heavy handedness or worse still, vested self interest ( a terrible crime in the land of Glut) the guardians of the box drew up charters that dictated how or why a merchant would be selected for inclusion. These charters were often edited and changed to keep up with the magic practiced by the folks from Sampmeria and used warm, smooth language that seemed to be fair and simple to follow but in reality was a licence for the box guardians to slap merchants with penalties.

The Sampmerians weren’t silly of course and easily noticed that the box guardians removed merchants from the box, often silently. Where this happened Sampmerians would often protest and outline the hypocrisy of the box and call for greater transparency. Others would tow the wizard line and point at how a merchant had used a banned piece of  magic to get them to the front of the answer queue, effectively cheating the fairness of the box.

Sometimes the box guardians pulled out their trumpets and stood atop their castle of Gooleg and proclaimed that a well known merchant had been removed from the box for using the darker arts of the Sampmerians whilst simultaneously proclaiming how they adored the compliant merchants who were more than welcome to use the advice offered by the white hatted Sampmerians.

The Sampmerians at their hearts had a simple message around how hard it was for the wizards and their elves to keep up with everything and that through them, people could set themselves free and compete with the Sadrowists * at a much cheaper price.

* A Sadrowist was a name given to folks who always appeared to have answers for folks before everyone else, they often wore off white or yellow tinged tunics to give their answers and they always answered above anyone wearing white alone, their hats were always pristine white and the wizards and elves loved them.

The rules of the magic box whilst not explicit, appeared to dictate that only people who paid with magic tokens were allowed to wear non white clothes everyone else had to wear white, there were no exceptions.

The biggest confidence trick in history

When people asked why this was, the guardians of the magic box explained that the box needed magic tokens to work properly, and magic tokens were a scarce resource and the acquisition of which was a multi-varied skill that whilst not everyone was able to master with ease;  could in theory be acquired in sufficient numbers if try tried hard enough or had enough value in their answers.

After a time, ordinary people using the magic box became a little bored with the same old Sadrowist answers and found ways of using their own personal magic scrolls to get answers from the folks in white further down the queue. This was in part due to a perception that the elves and wizards weren’t really playing fair anymore and that people preferred to ask who they wanted rather than someone who’d barged their way to the front through access to magic tokens.

The magic box itself was a little like a Tardis. From the outside it was small but on the inside it was infinite, full of doors and rooms and alleys and vales. The box was patrolled by the elves and rooms were often inspected for compliance with the ever changing charter.

Operation FUD

Merchants within had to wear white hats. Anything that was construed to be a shade darker and merchants risked being removed from their rooms within the box. The nature of the magic box meant that sometimes merchants had to push harder to get the front of the queue when a question was asked. When they did this, their hats would sometimes get grubby in the jostle and it was hard to keep them clean. Not everyone cared of course and people getting the right answers to their questions didn’t really care if the answered’s hat was a little bit dirty. Yet, the merchants knew their hats needed to be scrupulously clean so took great steps to ensure this was so, spending many magic tokens monthly to do so.

This of course made the folks at Gooleg very cross as they much preferred the merchants to spend their tokens with them and become Sadrowist in deed and nature. A fact of the power of the magic box was that if people didn’t use the Sadrowists then the power of the wizards and elves would diminish and the evil emperors Applejob or Zuckerface might rise in ascendancy

This meant that the folks at Gooleg could never really rest but for fear of aggravating the crowd, couldn’t be seen to overtly attack those who’d they’d built their fortunes and riches around, so resorted to elaborate measures to deter the Sampmerian followers.

They bred special animals that could sniff out the scent of a Sampmerian and apply blanket locks to the doors of merchants who’d used them, they’d call them cute little names like Puppy or Kitten rather than Rottweiler or Lion. This was devastating for the merchants forcing some to adopt Sadrowist garbs. Many starved and their families withered, for some it meant whole villages would be forced to eat cake. The wizards and elves proffered that if you had no magic tokens then your value to the world was limited and that ultimately there were better people around to answer user questions.

As time progressed the wizards of the box realised that they were winning the battle and that ordinary folk were a little bit thick and didn’t care or realise that the wizards were gathering the worlds information and silently killing off the originating sources. For some questions they began to answer things themselves. Elves were tasked with providing direct answers extracted from what was already known and where it wasn’t, then users were given an option of opening one of three doors to ask the originator themselves.

Information is no longer free

After a few years of this, the merchants had sold up and the wizard and their elves owned everything. Everyone worked for the wizards and to question them meant death and starvation. The pink castles turned grey and dank and the Unicorns all disappeared. The lakes of beer and lemonade had big fences erected around them and the hamburger fish had been eradicated, replaced by the fishes that tasted of horse.

The end.

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PPC Conversions and Local Business Search Marketing http://www.yackyack.co.uk/ppc-2/niche-products-ppc-landing-pages-and-things-to-think-about/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/ppc-2/niche-products-ppc-landing-pages-and-things-to-think-about/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 13:05:39 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=733 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.

Pay Per Click Ads

PPC is of course great in theory. There’s a wide range of tools available that enable folks to selectively target search  terms and localities tied to a budget theoretically enabling people to find people in search mode and deliver them a best fit experience for their query.

Of course this sounds ideal and whilst in terms of easily identifiable ROI is a far improvement on a channel like local print media, it still falls short.

The biggest issue for niche product providers is often in volume. Let’s take a term like ‘counselling courses’ and let’s assume that it’s a business serving the city of London.

Today, according to the Google Adwords tool, for what appears to be a very modest budget of £100 per day, a business looking for people using the search term of ‘counselling courses’ could expect around 20 clicks.

This is based on 570 ad  impressions for a bid rate of £2 per click with a total spend range of between £24.50 – £30.

If we up the minimum bid a little to say £5 per click then we end up paying around £78 per day and we’ll get an estimated 31 clicks.

Within the above, we’ll have to account for a little ‘ad curiosity’ from competitors and general tyre kickers.

It’s tough to get an accurate figure for what this will be but we can be pretty sure it goes on.

The good news is that Google provides tools that enable you to block certain IP addresses from seeing your ads, so a competitor that rocks up daily and clicks your ads costing you money can, over time be blocked.

The bad news is that it’s all a little bit reactive and that once you’ve been charged, then it’s a bit of struggle to get refunds, and of course more than a techno headache to identify them in the first place, especially if you’re not very technical.

Getting back to the general cost, we should of course be tracking our clicks and see how well they convert. We’ll need to define what exactly counts as a conversion as these can vary from business to business. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that for this example we are measuring the final sale as evidence of a conversion.

Our visitor has clicked on an ad, has landed on our fantastically put together landing page, and has signed up for a course that we charge £495-00 for our.

Our hypothetical  one day event course cost breakdown excluding course materials might be something like:

  • Venue room hire: £150
  • Refreshments and lunch:£15 per person
  • Staff:£300
  • Marketing:£2200

So, at the upper click tier we can see that we need at least 5.5 people to sign up just to break even and 6  to make a profit.

This would appear to be relatively easy to attain. After all, potentially over 1000 people could be clicking through to our advert in a 30 day period, meaning that we only need to convert at a rate of 0.6% to begin to make some money.

Great. But is it? And how easy it to convert at those levels? How many people are simply curious? How many people can make it to the venue on the dates outline? How many people will really believe in the product enough to sign up? How many people will hit the back button and research other courses?

Let’s explore that a little further.

The answers to these intangibles might well be academic but it’s certainly useful to think about them and when we do, we begin to appreciate the ways in which the web is accessed and structured. Through doing so we can begin to address them and hopefully reduce fall outs, tail offs or whatever else you’d like to call them.

So, why would someone hit a back button?

It’s useful to draw up a list and ask ourselves questions that might deter a sign up.

Lack of information on page, no method of payment, too expensive, lack of confidence in the product, venue date unsuitable, wasn’t really interested anyway, too much information/page confusing/poor layout.

Let’s explore these now.

Lack of information on page

Our page should show all that relevant stuff like time, date, course information, intended audience, speaker info, benefits, reasons to attend, travel options,sign up page, payment options, contact options of addresses and telephone numbers, social media presence.

It sounds like state the obvious but how many people fall at this hurdle? We really need to check and recheck that we are providing the absolute minimum at worst.

In some scenarios it might be easier to create a mini site that gives extensive supplemental info, especially for courses that are likely to be repeated over and over. Where this isn’t feasible, then consider ensuring that a link or banner to your course page is dominantly displayed throughout the domain. If you are running more than one course then ensure that this links through to a core courses landing page.

No method of payment available

Having payment options is really important, especially when it comes to of the moment PPC transactions where a person has cost YOU money just to read your content.

You want to get that person whilst they are in buy mode, you want them to sign up NOW, you need to do everything you can to encourage them to do so.

Thankfully there are great tools out there that enable to make such things a whole lot easier.

EventBrite is one such example enabling businesses to sell tickets for their events which have the added benefit of being re-circulated to 100’s of other sites like Events Near.

Paypal also offer a suite of businesses integrations that make taking money and payments that much easier. Worldpay is another.


Too expensive

What is the market saying? Are you competitive? What is your USP, why use you over a competitor?

It goes without saying that you should know exactly what it is you are bringing to the table and what it is you are offering your prospective sign ups.

How will using you make their lives easier? How will paying you £495 get them to where it is that they think they need to be? Is your sales copy answering these questions? Will an early bird sign up be that all important carrot that’ll make the difference?

You have to try and communicate the value of your product and tell people how it’ll enrich their lives.

Lack of confidence in the product

Related to the above really, but what is it about your product that sets it apart? Do you have testimonials from others who have used you previously? Video citations perhaps?

As simple as it sounds, you really do need to bolster your product, Don’t just assume that everyone will have heard of you. The world’s a big place. Try and create a feeling that what you offer is special. Limit spaces, make it exclusive.

People like to feel that they are a part of something special, something that is of limited resource, something that has value. Try and create that.

Venue date/ Venue unsuitable

People often lead busy lives with limited opportunities and time to do things that are important to them.

Is it possible to offer multiple dates? Can this be a monthly gig? Maybe you can run your event in multiple locations at different times? Call it a travelling roadshow perhaps.

The easier you make it for people to attend, the more likely it is that they’ll sign up and the more likely it is that your PPC click won’t be wasted.

Wasn’t really interested anyway

Tyre kickers and time wasters are a fact of life. If you track your visitors and what it is they do and notice that IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx keeps costing you money, then once a month perhaps, you can go through your web logs and identify and exclude them from future click activity. If you’re a little devilish you can even serve them up custom messages comprising hi,  feck and off 😀

Too much information/page confusing/poor layout

Consider how your content looks to your visitors. make it logical, include calls to action and don’t over load your visitors. Consider using expandable sections, use positive imagery, ensure that your buy now buttons are visible both at the top and the bottom of the page. Ensure that your content renders across platforms catering for the dizzying array of devices that people use on the web.

If you can afford it, consider talking to a conversion optimization specialist to see if they can help or guide you further.

Other channels

PPC is of course but one tiny facet of the web economy and I couldn’t possibly begin to cover them all today, it’s just too big a piece with too many overlaps but perhaps it’s at least sparked a dendrite or two.

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