New changes to Google Algorithm – Panda update

Last week Google announced an update to its algorithm.

Please do not panic people. This is something that I am sure those in search would have seen coming. Google introduces the update by telling us that they want to give us – the people the most relevant search results and that this algorithm update has done just that. I myself wonder if it is because there was a lot of press that Blekko was delivering more relevant search results than Google which forced them into doing a bit more R&D (research and development) and pushing this update.

Panda Update
(source: http://www.gadgetcage.com/)

This update is pretty major in that Google say it is “a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.” They say the update will reduce the rankings for low quality sites which are low value for users. What Google didn’t say were the sites that would be affected. Another post I read, showed that the article sites would be the main losers. So for those that just focus on article writing as your link building strategy, it is time to get moving on to other things. Of course if you are a good seo person, you know you cannot focus on just one link building area, but sometimes are left with little choice if the client does not want to sign off alternative link building activities.

Google close off the announcement in the blog, by defending themselves against the amount of complaints they will get from site owners who see their rankings decrease (even if it is a good quality site). They say “we can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.”

Of course, as most updates, it is just in the US for now but will be coming across the pond sooner than we know it.

Read from the horses mouth: ie Google here

The Phone to Play with at Mobile World Congress

Which phones will you have?

February 14 – February 18th was Mobile World Congress (MWC) which is the conference to attend for anyone in mobile. Unfortunately I did not have a spare 2k to go and could not get a sponsor so alas I was left to read the daily update emails which were quite informative. Not nearly as exciting as if I had gone to the conference myself.

Anyways, we move on….

What are the main mobile phones to look out for?

Sony Ericsson Play

Sony Ericsson Play – this will come out this month to some of the big network operators….

Instead of containing a keyboard, the play has a slider panel that features a playstation D pad controller and buttons. There are two dual analogue touch pads as well that simulate the sticks on a playstation joy pad.

If you go into any high street network store, they will probably tell you how much it will cost. Of course it will just be on contract to begin with, but those pay as you go customer should not have to wait too long before you can buy it off contract.

So has anyone else got a handset similar? Yes the NGP – which is the PSP2, coming out later n 2011.

LG also launched its own “play phone” the Optimus 3D. It has dual camera on the back which allows you to shoot your won 3D video. Then you can share this with the dedicated 3D channel on YouTube.

The LG also has its iPad rival called the Optimus Pad that has 3D technology. We all know this is not the first company to offer a rival product. HTC has its “Flyer” and Samsung has its “Galaxy Tab”. Motorola launched their version at the Mobile World Congress which is the “Xoom”. As soon as one manufacturer launches such an innovative product, the other companies are hot on their heels. Apple will also face competition from BlackBerry’s PlayBook and HP’s Palm powered webOS device.

Black vs White Hat SEO

What is black hat seo?

They are unethical techniques used to inflate your rankings in the search results. Using these techniques goes against Google, Bing and Yahoo and can also create poor user experiences.

Black Hat vs White Hat
Photo from flickr www.flickr.com/photos/hoyvinmayvin/4170037141/

Some examples of black hat seo techniques so you can spot and avoid them are:

* Keyword stuffing: This was one of the most well known black hat practices. People put long lists of keywords within the “keyword” meta tag of your site as well as cramming more keywords on the page without any relevant content.
* Hidden text: This involves putting lists of keywords in white text on a white background or black text on black background to get more search engine spiders to crawl the site.
*Buying links: This means purchasing links on other websites pointing back to your site in the hope of increasing traffic and rankings.

Why do people use black hat techniques?

They do work – people have seen an increase in the site’s rankings of the back of using the black hat seo.

But it is a short term gain as when the search engines find out, the site will be penalised. It really isn’t worth it.

I am sure you must have seen the case with JC Penney who were caught out buying links. They ended up ranking number one for a lot of terms ranging from “bedding” to “dresses”, a lot of terms they didn’t actually specialise in. Yes they are a department store, but ranking for “furniture” and “table cloths” does not quite fit with their product offering.

So now they have been caught out what next?
Well they now do not rank for these terms and have to deal with a bad lot of PR which means a lot of expensive advertising to recover the damage.

buy links = kicked out of Google = spend more on advertising
Not worth it.

Oh and despite denying they bought links, they fired their search agency SearchDex.

For more information, feel free to browse below:
http://searchengineland.com/the-jcpenney-situation-is-a-symptom-of-a-bigger-disease-65012

Love your blog

Happy Valentine’s day, well belated Valentine’s day. I must admit I have not paid my blog as much attention as I should have over the past few weeks, l got busy offline.

Google Love

This month I have been doing a lot of networking.

February 10 – online marketing meetup
This was the first event since Gus Ferguson took over the meetup which took place on a Thursday evening on the HMS President, if the weather had been better, it would be a great way to end the week – drinks on board the river Thames. Gus really outdid himself by organising 5 speakers to talk at the event, ranging from SEO, to social media and to PR. I will certainly be coming to the next one in May.

February 22nd- London Blog Club
London Blog Club – Richard Fitzgerald who spoke at my last event talked about his success with 52burritodates.com. He started blogging in 2007 and received minimal traffic to his site. It was only when he won the year supply of burritos at a festival last April, that he saw visits to his new blog explode. Moral of the story is that you may be trying to get lots of visits to your site, but if you have a niche then you may hit the jackpot and attract lots of visitors

I also met Tamara Walker who is one of the organisers at London Blog Club and also has her own personal blog, MJtheBest.com. She started the blog after Michael Jackson died and has seen the popularity of her blog grow. She has even gotten free tickets to get up close and personal with the likes of Beyonce on her I Am tour.

SES London
The annual London event was held in the Queen Elizabeth conference centre by Westminster Feb 21- 25th this past week. I attended a couple of sessions this past week but I did find the usefulness of each session depended on the person giving the talk. Some people gave quite general speeches, whereas others really went into detail which was really what everyone was after. I suppose the question time allows those that did not get their answers during the talk to grill the speakers – in the nicest possible way of course.

February 23 – SEO Chicks Boat Party
The SEO Chicks party was a nice way to round off midweek and talk to other fellow seo professionals. It was on the HMS President, the same location that the Online Marketing meetup took place a few weeks ago. There were well over 100 seo, online marketing, social and pr gurus.

What a busy week, but well worth it. Here’s to March for more networking events.

One will be an event I am organising – Search London – March 28th at the Theodore BullFrog, 26 – 30 John Adam Street, WC2N 6HL

New Year Search Club

New Year Search Club was held on Monday, January 17th.

Thank you for everyone who came, it was a great success. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the meetup and I will be hosting another event soon.

We were lucky enough to have two guest speakers. Finlay from Google talked about what 2011 means for search and Richard Fitzgerald informed us about his 52burritodates.com and how he turned his competition win of a year supply of burritors into a social media frenzy.

Here are a few photos from New Year Search Club 2011.

For more information about the meetup please visit http://www.meetup.com/London-SEO-SMO-PPC

New Year Search Club members

New Year Search Club members

New Year Search Club members

New Year Search club photos

How much should you charge for SEO?

The answer is dependent on what services you will provide for your client. I have found that people do not always understand seo and therefore question you when you charge a fee for your services. People pay for a number of different services in business, why should seo be any different?

Cost of SEO

source: flickr.com/photos/woowork/3307031049/

Services
What you need to do is give a detailed explanation of all the services you provide in a document with the number of hours it will take to complete each one and your hourly rate. As long as it is clear, you should not have any disputes. You should refer back to your proposal in your costings so that the client knows exactly what services they are getting for their money.

Consistent
Do not doubt yourself or try and amend the hours. If you have worked in seo for a number of years, then you know how long it takes (realistically) to complete a piece of work. Make sure that what you quote is how long it takes to complete the task and keep the number of hours consistent for that client. Do not make up 5 hours for a piece of work and then change it the next time.

Integration
Within an seo proposal, you should also incorporate ppc and social media. 2011 is the year for integration. It is important to rank high in natural search for those terms that you may be spending too much money on with paid search. The lines between social and seo will become more blurred this year and your social media presence will have an effect on your rankings.

So in conclusion, when you are putting together a proposal, make sure you are clear on the tasks you will complete for the project and do not be afraid to charge the correct amount for it.

Subdomain vs subfolder

There is often confusion in the seo world between subdomain and subfolders. This post shall explain the difference.

Root domain

This is the domain that you buy from the hosting company eg www.example.com or www.seojoblogs.com

Subdomain
This is a domain which is part of the root domain. eg uk.example.com

Subdirectories
Also called folders are separate sections of the root domain. For example www.example.com/blog

What does Google say?
Google has viewed subdomains in the past as completely separate entities from the primary domain. Google uses what it calls “host crowding” where it returns up to two results from a single domain on a search engine results page (SERP) (with the second one indented). As subdomains are treated as totally separate, a single domain could get more than two listings on a Google SERP, through its subdomains. However, in December 2007, Google made a change announcing that subdomains would be more closely associated with the primary domain — not to the point of being viewed as a subdirectory, but not so completely separate. You can see more about this on Matt Cutt’s blog

If you are building your blog on a subdomain so blog.example.com, it may not get any benefit from its root domain and any links you get will flow back to that subdomain and not to www.example.com. Therefore you should set up the blog as a subfolder www.example.com/blog and when you get any external links, it will flow back to the root domain.

Rand Fishkin goes into a lot of detail about subdomains vs subfolders.

When do you use a subdomain?

– If your blog is separate to your services or if your cms does not allow you to add blogging software to the root domain.
– If you already have two pages from your main domain ranking for a search term. Google will show a maximum of two URLs on a given search page but may show more for a root domain if there are multiple subdomains.
– If you have keyword you want to rank for and you are doing link building for that domain.

When do you use subfolders/subdirectories?
– If you want to organise your site into different sections with descriptive URLs. This is also an easy way to grow your site.
– Adding subfolders allows you to build your site and add new content in a search friendly way.
– It is easier to use subfolder than subdomains due to the url structure as it is all under one domain.

And finally, there are some companies that set up a completely separate site to their main site.
When should you use a microsite?
– If you have a brand new product or service that will be eventually sold off.
– If you do not want the product or service to be associated with your site.

Having a microsite is like starting from scratch. There is no trust, authority, ranking power so you will need to spend a lot of time building up trust and authority.

I hope this post has cleared up some of the confusion regarding subdomains vs subdirectories. If you have any comments or questions, please get in touch.

What is a feed?

According to Wikipedia, “a web feed (or news feed) is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content.” So if you visit a site and click on the image below, you will receive updated content from that site. This means you do not need to go back to the site to check when they add new content.

RSS feed

What is RSS
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is the technical format of a web feed. It is just one way for expressing feeds as XML. Another popular feed is Atom. Both feeds are made to be viewed for computers, but you can view them as plain text files.

Who uses feeds?
Most websites that have a lot of content. The BBC news, amazon, google, all big websites will allow users to subscribe to their feed. Smaller sites such as bloggers will also have feeds.

Can I publish my own feeds?
Yes of course you can. If you have a website you can have a feed on your site. Using a cms like wordpress, drupal or blogger, you can choose the theme that incorporates a feed and you will be publishing your feed automatically.

How do you get started with feeds?
To read the feeds, you have to use a news aggregator. One of them is Google Reader. You can go to one place daily and receive all the updates from the sites where you have subscribed to their feed. It is really simple and saves so much time.

There are also feed reader applications:

* NewsGator – FeedDemon 2.0
* NewsGator – Inbox for Microsoft Outlook
* NewsGator – NetNewsWire
* Firefox (via “Live Bookmarks” feature)

Online Services

* Google Reader
* NewsGator
(Online)
* My Yahoo!
* Bloglines
* Pageflakes
* Netvibes

Podcast Readers

* iTunes
* Juice
* Doppler
* FireAnt

So now that you have chosen you feedreader, go and visit your favourite sites and subscribe to their feeds by clicking on the image as shown above.

SEO Predictions 2011

What does 2011 bring for search?

1) Integration between ppc, seo and social media
This has been discussed last year but 2011 is the year where people are going to sit up and take note of the positive effects you can get from combining all three as a digital strategy. Once a client has tracking on their website, it is possible to see the visits from paid and natural and social sites. Cost savings can be made on paid search if the site is ranking well for some of those key terms. Regarding social media, blogger outreach content can be optimised by the seo team, if the blogger is going to write about a particular product, they might as well include a couple of links back to that site

SEO predictions for 2011

2) Local search
With the introduction of Google Places in September 2009 and then the merger of the local business centre in April last year, local search is going to play an even more important role in 2011. If you do not already use places for your business, then you should start now.

3) Mobile
People have been jumping on the mobile apps and mobile site bandwagon. Mobile will be increasingly important in 2011. However, webmasters and marketeers will have a better understanding of a mobile app vs a mobile site and how to make these “seo” friendly. To me, it is making your site readable on a mobile device and when someone is looking for your store, they should find it on their handset, which ties back into the second point above, local search

Here are a few seo predictions from the industry experts like Rand Fishkin

#1: Someone Proves (or a Search Engine Confirms) that Clicks/Visits Influence Rankings

I’m taking a chance on this one, but I’ve been hearing from more and more SEOs that there’s some correlation between earning clicks and moving up in the rankings. In 2011, we’ll get confirmation, either through testing or an admission from an engine that click-through-rate from the SERPs, visit count outside of search (or diversity of sources), or other usage-based data is in the ranking algorithm (or a method they use to help ID spam).

#2: Google Local/Maps Adds Filters and Sorting

The big reason Yelp is so much better than Google Maps/Local for finding a good local “place” isn’t just the reviews (which Google aggregates from Yelp anyway). It’s the filters that let me sort by features/pricing/proximity/open status/etc. Google’s been playing the silly game of forcing users to choose search queries to enable rough, imperfect filtering, but 2011 is going to see the search engine shift to a model that allows at least some important filters/feature-selection.

#3: Social Search Will Rise

There’s power in social media search, and Google/Bing’s efforts to date have been lackluster at best. I suspect in 2011, we’ll see the nascent beginning of search that leverages Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn connections to find results from your friends. It’s possible this will start niche-based only (search articles your friends have shared, ala Trunk.ly), but it could also be broader – possibly something from Facebook or Twitter themselves.

I am looking forward to SES London next month, when some of these predictions will be reinforced by other key speakers and industry experts. No one knows for sure what will happen in 2011, but based on the results from last year, we know there will be more developments in search and the fight between Google and Bing will continue.

End of 2010, new chapter awaits

Yesterday I went home to the parents house as I was house sitting while they are out of the country. I could not find my cat and went round to the neighbours who then found him passed away in their garden. It was was quite sad. I did not realise I would get so upset, it was actually my sister’s cat. Mine had passed two and a half years ago. What I was sad about was the end of a childhood era. Both cats we had since I was 11 years old and the passing of them signified an end of a chapter in my life.

snowball the cat

When one chapter closes, another one opens and my mind began to wonder what 2011 would bring. I hope lots of health and happiness. People are always looking for that , the pursuit of happiness. In terms of actual new adventures and experiences for 2011, I have a few:

First is the search club I am organising in January. I hope this will bring more people together to talk about seo, ppc and social. I really think there are very fine lines that separate the three. All can be seen as an integral part of a business’ digital strategy.

The second is my trip to South America in March. I have done a lot of travelling, but never yet ventured to South America. I will be going to Brazil, Igauzu falls and then onto Buenos Aires where I hope to study Spanish for a week.

The third is another trip – as some of my family will be in Australia by next Christmas, I will definitely be sunning myself down under. I just hope I won’t get snowed in like so many people did this year.

Well 2011 doesn’t look that bad. As long as I have my health, I have everything, so I wish you all lots of health and happiness for the next 12 months. And hopefully some milder weather as well.