Free SEO tool: Branded Unlinked Mentions Finder
Aug24

Free SEO tool: Branded Unlinked Mentions Finder

16SHARESFacebookTwitter Turning brand mentions into links is a link building method that still works today and is in my opinion one of the safest methods of link building around for brands that are frequently mentioned on the internet. So that’s why when I came across a tool called the “Branded Unlinked Mentions Finder” — I got all excited about the potential uses that this would give to the team that I work with. This tool is so good that I’m even thinking of placing it in my list of  ‘best SEO tools‘. For example, before I’d be seeking out these brand mentions and contacting the sites that it would make sense for them to link back (i.e. if they’ve mentioned my brand’s survey, or infographic etc). I’d just be scouring the web for opportunities, and that works to an extent but is also very tedious and time consuming. It’s also very easy to miss opportunities if all you’re doing is going through the search results pages. What this tool does is that it checks the search results for brand mentions and utilises Google Docs to parse this information. The developer of the tool mentioned on reddit how he had devised the tool, saying that he had made use of several Google Doc functions such as the importxml function that makes use of XPath to grab data on the page that it checks. It’s something that I’ve been looking for and would likely have been something that I would like to have developed. Hopefully I’ll be able to show off its usefulness below. Example of its usefulness If we take NatWest’s Student Living Index, a recently released survey on student expenditure by city/town, you’ll see that past indexes have been frequently mentioned by university sites, news websites, student websites and generally the sort of websites that you would want your site to be associated with. But those sites aren’t linking to the source of the information that they’ve referenced: Only University College London is linking to the survey page, but look at all those other sites that aren’t! It would be perfectly natural to contact these sites and ask them to actually link to the source of the information they are referencing — to provide readers with access to claims that they are stating through the survey (a valid way of stating why they should be linking to the source). You can also do this for purely branded terms (it doesn’t have to be a survey or infographic) and you can simply enter the brand term to identify those that are mentioning your brand and to see if they are linking to you, but obviously if...

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6 Big Brands Penalised by Google
Jul20

6 Big Brands Penalised by Google

11SHARESFacebookTwitter I thought that I’d put together an example of big brand websites that have been penalised by Google. This is partly inspired by the recent Rap Genius penalisation debacle. Plus, it’s good for SEOs out there who work on large brands to avoid the sorts of tactics that got the following websites banished from the search results by the all-powerful Google. 1. Interflora.co.uk 22 Feb 2013: If you’ve not heard about the Interflora penalisation case then you haven’t been paying too much attention to SEO this year. The popular flower service saw 95% of its top pages for high traffic keywords such as “flower” and “roses” removed from the search engine result pages. 11 days after it was penalised it was allowed back and ranked for many of the high driving keywords that it ranked for prior to its penalisation. In 2011, JCPenny was penalised for engaging in paid link schemes, which saw them out of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for around 90 days. Quite the contrast in comparison to Interflora’s 11 days, but this could be due to the amount of paid-for links that JCPenny accrued over the years. What did they do to recover from this? According to Search Engine Land, they contacted many of the bloggers that they may have incentivised  (possibly with free flowers) to remove any links that may have looked unnatural. What’s also curious about this case is that their website may have been penalised with excessive use of advertorials on major newspaper websites, which I’ll come onto in the next bit. There was likely quite a bit of disavowing going on in the background, which only Interflora and Google would know about, but this may have expedited the status that Google placed on their website from penalised to “normal” — or whatever Google calls a website that is no longer in the penalised stage. 2. 600+ Regional Newspapers Punished Due to Advertorials  22 Feb 2013: Although this wouldn’t be considered a manual penalty by Google, this is still in part related to the penalisation of Interflora, so is very relevant and would be something to take note of for many SEOs out there. First spotted by Anthony Shapley, he noticed that a lot of regional newspaper websites had their toolbar PageRank decrease from the highest case, PageRank 7 to PageRank 0. It can almost be blamed in part for advertorials that they were selling (without including the rel=”nofollow” attribute) and as a result they suffered a blow to their toolbar PageRank. Advertorials offer SEOs an opportunity to increase rankings if they insert keyword phrases along with relevant copy. However, this didn’t...

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My Take on Google Removing Authorship Photos
Jun29

My Take on Google Removing Authorship Photos

12SHARESFacebookTwitter On the 25th of June, Google’s John Mueller announced that they were going to remove the authorship pictures and Google Plus circle counts from the search results page on a global scale. It’s now the 28th of June (as I write this) and they have already implemented the ‘change’ to the SERPs. The search results already look significantly different. I guess for the casual user they won’t really see the difference and this has really only affected article related searches and not really the product side of search. So, why Google? What gives? Google has put this down to a visual design “clean up” and with Google talking a lot more about the growth of mobile – they are simply trying to cater to a less cluttered GUI… or so they say. There are some theories going around saying that the authorship snippet profile pictures were drawing too much attention away from Google’s much lucrative ads. And some even saying that they have removed the pictures because Google’s attempt to force people to use G+ has been a failure. Whether Google is telling the truth on why they are removing it is all too difficult to conclude, as they could have done this for any number of reasons. Hell, perhaps those images were contributing to a slower load time for mobile users and were adding that extra bit of latency? Or perhaps their analysis shows that too many people are clicking on the actual profile pictures (leading to a G+ profile page) rather than the actual articles that people searched for. It could be anything! In my humble opinion, I put this move to remove the authorship images down to multiple reasons that have factored into this abandonment. I believe one of the reasons is this is just another update part of a mobile SERP update and just to be consistent they have rolled out the same update on desktop & tablet. If you look into it a bit more, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, stated at the recent SMX West conference that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if mobile search would surpass desktop queries this year. In 2010, Google’s Eric Schmidt announced that Google would do everything via “mobile first”. This could be fueling these changes and with Google wanting to be “consistent” across all platforms they’ve applied this sort of reasoning across all verticals. It sort of makes sense that they don’t just have one reason for this move, but multiple reasons. I believe it’s based on these reasons: It’s drawing attention away from PPC ads and gives more visibility to organic search results. (which by the way already...

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Using the Structured Data Highlighter in Webmaster Tools
Jun05

Using the Structured Data Highlighter in Webmaster Tools

14SHARESFacebookTwitter I’ve never really used this lovely tool located in Webmaster Tools too much, but I’ve decided to invest some time in it to see the results of it. I’m quite impressed actually and I’ve used it on my personal blog to see what would happen and how my pages would end up looking in the search results, as a result of using this feature. So what is the Data Highlighter? It’s a nifty tool in Google Webmaster Tool that allows you to implement Schema markup without having to edit the hard code on your website. You can essentially tell Google that a certain part of your site equals the certain Schema.org markup. Here’s a list of what it allows you to define: Title Author Date Published Image Category Average Rating Rating Votes How do I use it? The tool essentially allows you to define each of the above Schema.org markup by highlighting parts of your page directly via Google Webmaster Tools: Click “Data Highlighter” and it will take you to a page where you’ll have to click on “Start Highlighting”. Once you click this button, type in the URL you want to highlight with structured data. For me, I picked a page on my blog that had a bit of Schema.org markup, but was not showing what I wanted in the SERPs.  It was for a review of a Chinese restaurant in Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, of which I had star ratings, review date, and reviewer fields at the bottom of the article filled in. Tag these properties up with the data highlighter by dragging you cursor, whilst holding down on left click, over the text you would like to highlight. Then right click and it will give you options to tag what you just highlighted – as you can see from what I’ve done here: Hit publish and simply wait for Google to update with this newly crafted information. Here’s the result of that and as you can see I have the stars setup in my listing along with all the other cool features: Google will also use this tagging up of a page to learn how other pages work and I have a similar setup of Schema on a different page. Here’s another review that I did that is now showing star ratings:*Note: I realise that the “Review by” bit is off, and this is simply due to the fact that I entered the wrong information in the wrong field when setting it up on that blog post.  Google will also tell you what is showing up with Schema markup in the SERPs directly from Webmaster Tools: I...

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Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)
May26

Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

9SHARESFacebookTwitter At the end of January Halifax Bank had a partial penalty imposed on its website, which saw a massive visibility drop across many of its product categories for many highly searched generic terms. The only untouched category, from what I could see using the finance keywords that I’m tracking, were mortgages where they saw no visibility drop. Graphs of Halifax.co.uk’s SEO/organic visibility You can see from the following graph the keywords/groups with which they dropped in rank after Google had obviously identified their link schemes/widgets that were being used to enhance their search visibility: These graphs are intended only to paint a picture of a signal change within Google’s algorithm. A more recent graph paints a different picture: As you can see, a change occurred on the 8th of May – way before Google’s recent announcement that it had launched Panda 4.0, which is suspected to have been launched on the 18th of May. A SearchMetrics visibility graph also confirms they’ve seen a visibility increase (before any mention of Panda 4.0 actually – confirming the validity of my graphs above): So, Halifax has essentially been able to get out of their bind in a matter of 4 months. And from what I’ve monitored since they took the hit, they took down the site that hosted their widgets, which essentially made the widgets look like this: (i.e. a CSS-less and image-less widget) This is what the widget looked like before: A smart move on them being able to control the way the widget looks Essentially, a very smart move on their part, was to host elements of the widget on their own servers. So when push came to shove, they could simply remove the CSS/styling that would no doubt induce website owners to remove the widget in its entirety from their own websites. Just to take one example of a keyword they’ve seen a rise in ranking would be “loans calculator”. When they was penalised they saw that keyword drop from the face of the earth. Halifax.co.uk now ranks 3rd for that term, which has a search volume total of 70,000+ searches per month. So, have they been de-penalised? One would assume so with the these results. However, they are still not back to where they originally were before they was penalised. It’s something no doubt they are working on very carefully...

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