Category Archives: SEO

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Is this the ‘right’ move from Google?

The PPC community has been out in full force in recent days after Google stopped serving paid text ads on the right hand side of its results page.

Product listing ads (PLAs) still appear and a fourth ad has been included at the top of the page for premium phrases, pushing the organic rankings further down the page and giving the SEO community plenty to think about in the process.

Why has Google made this change?

The most likely reason Google has made this decision is for economic gains – with CPCs forecasted to rise given that the top positions will become more desirable – and a push to make the desktop and mobile/tablet experience more seamless, which potentially coincides with the other big announcement that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for HTML is now available.

What does this mean for webmasters and agencies?

The PPC landscape will likely become more competitive with a reduced amount of paid ads now showing in the prime real estate at the top of the page, and campaigns that have relied on the regular and cheaper traffic driven from positions 4-10 may start to see a drop off in click-through-rates, forcing a push into the more expensive premium positions.

For websites that rely more on organic traffic there is the concern that the fourth paid ad position may eat into their share, while only the top three local positions now show by default, down from five previously, which could have an impact on smaller businesses.

What to do

It may take a little time to notice any big changes, but In the short term you’ll need to keep a close eye on Google AdWords and analytics to assess the impacts and adjust bids of your top performing PPC keywords if conversion rates start to drop off. If increasing your bids to maintain the same conversion rate increases your cost-per-sale or cost-per-lead it might be time to weigh up putting more time, effort and money into obtaining a higher organic ranking.


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Hidden Content and Page Ranking

Google’s John Mueller recently spoke about content hidden behind tabs or Click to Expand content:

“If we can recognize that the content is actually hidden, then we’ll try to discount it a little bit. We see that it’s still there, but the user doesn’t see it; therefore it’s probably not something that is critical for this page. That includes the ‘click to expand’…[and] tabbed URIs — where you have all kinds of content hidden away in tabs, those kinds of things. So if you want that content indexed, I’d make sure it’s visible for the users when they go to that page.”

I’d recommend that you make sure important content is not hidden within ‘Click to Expand’ tabs or menus – especially on the Homepage. Important text needs to be visible all the time if you want to keep or improve your site/keyword ranking.


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Video on Adwords PPC

Those in regular communication with me will know that I have been emphasising the importance of video as a part of website promotion for some time.

For many businesses video is an important part of their marketing and brand promotion. Yesterday I was chatting to a local sports celeb who is successfully combining Facebook and his video chanel on YouTube to promote himself, his sponsors and create an income stream. His following on YouTube is such that any new video is guaranteed thousands of visits. So he regulary produces good quality and interesting videos to promote himself and his sponsors. The same videos are picked up by others and embedded on websites, blogs and Facebook so the distribution goes far beyond initial YouTube exposure.

While this particular format probably won’t work unless you have a high personal profile, it does show the power of video in general and YouTube in particular.

Google, who own YouTube, have taken video a step further and will shortly be allowing Adwords advertisers to insert videos in PPC adverts.

Knowing how much people like video this could be a great advantage in PPC advertising. Being listed at position 3 with a video might produce more clicks than being in the top spot with no video. And if you don’t have to occupy the top spot there must be some potential for maintaining or increasing click through rate while reducing average cost per click.

Yes, this is guesswork, but if you currently don’t have a range of videos that relate to your business, now might be the time to give this some serious thought.

For more information see my previous blog – Video as a Business Promotional Tool


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Google’s Panda Update

Google has made another change to it’s algorithm and the way it ranks wesites on Google searches.

Officially known as the Google Panda update (who thinks up these names?*) it has seen nurmerous established sites disappearing from Google’s rankings.

Asssessing who has been effected is never straightforward but Google seems to be targeting sites using duplicate content, non-ethical SEO practices, excessive advertising or what Google terms ‘low trust sites’. There is also evidence that Google is using outside human raters, at least in part, as a form of quality assurance on the Panda update. As the official blog states:

“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.”

So hopefully, this means that well designed sites with original content won’t be effected and will continue to rise to the top of the search rankings.

So far the Panda update has been launched in the USA but will be rolled out worldwide over the coming weeks/months.

If you think your site has been effected by the ‘Panda’ update you can contact me at; barney@catnet.co.uk.

See the Official Google Blog posting on the Panda update here – googleblog.blogspot.com

* Apparently it’s named after a Google engineer . . .


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Google Places – Make sure you are listed

Yesterday I had a phone call from a company regarding my wife’s website. She’s a Garden Designer (www.chrisbarnesgardens.co.uk) and they were offering a very specific service – adding her website to Google Places. I have been on the Google Places bandwaggon for some years, but this is the first time I have been aware of a company offering a dedicated Google Places service.

Formally known as Google Local, Google Places is designed to put your website clearly in the local community and Google likes it very much. In the USA they are pouring resources into it and it’s gaining in importance. If you run a business serving your local area you have to be on there. My wife’s business does target the local area so she’s already listed.


As can be seen from the listings the Google Places results take pole position – above the other organic listings – and there is also a map pinpointing the business locations. This isn’t always the case, if you don’t add a location keyword to your search Google Places listings won’t appear.

So should you have your company listed? The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’ – even if your market is national or worldwide. The reason being that it helps your PageRank, targets your local market and it’s free. And if your business relies in any way on it’s location Google Places is an absolute must. There’s the opportunity to add photos and video, contact details, categorise your services and pinpoint your location on Google Maps.

You shouldn’t need a specialist company to do this, your SEO agency should be adding and editing your Google Places entry as a matter of course.


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Google Caffine

Google is in the process of changing it’s search algorithm. This will potentially effect every website listed on the search engine.

This latest update, called Caffine, was announced in August last year, but when the switch will come is not certain, although the general precdiction is that sometime around now is probable.

So what changes will Google make in the way it sorts it’s results?

Google focuses on the end user, and their experience surfing the web so:

Speed – we want faster results and we don’t want to wait an age for a site to download. Slow loading sites could find themselves drifting down the rankings. Want to check the spped of your site? Try this nifty free tool – www.tools.pingdom.com/fpt/

Content – site content and its relevance to the search terms will probably gain more weight.

Mixed Formats – results from Social Media sites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook will almost certainly be included in the mix, promoting active sites while also giving ‘real time’ popularity to site rankings.

Domain – the links to the domain, domain age and the keywords contained in it will probably become more important.

So do you need to panic that your site will shortly disappear from Google’s searches? Well, no, not if your site is well designed and ethically optimised. But slow loading sites need to look at methods to speed up. There are plenty of ways that this can be achieved by using CSS, minimising Scripts and optimising images.

And if you aren’t aware of Social Media Marketing then you need to start paying attention and grasp the basics. This is often more difficult for smaller businesses with fewer resources but it may be necessary to get that Facebook page working and start Tweeting to stay ahead of the pack.


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What is Bounce Rate?

I often find myself talking to clients about ‘Bounce Rate’ and pages with a high or low BR. So what exactly is Bounce Rate and why is it important?

Bounce Rate is a term used in website traffic analysis to represent the percentage of visitors to a website who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the site. It’s expressed as a percentage so a BR of 40% would indicate that four out of ten visitors ‘bounced’.

It’s well known that visitors arriving on the landing page of a new site spend only a few seconds deciding whether or not to stay. If they don’t like the page, they go.
A visitor can bounce by:

  • Clicking on a link on the landing page to a page on a different website
  • Closing the window or tab
  • Typing a new URL into the address bar
  • Clicking the Back button to leave the site
  • The session timing out

So Bounce Rate is a really good indicator of how ’sticky’ a website is. If the content is compelling visitors will stay and look at more pages on the site and will not be a ‘bounce’. The big question is why do visitors bounce away.

  • Page taking too long to load
  • Not the information they were seeking
  • Poor designed landing page
  • Only need information from the landing page (eg. company telephone number or email address)

At the top of the list is what I think is often the main culprit – slow loading pages. If visitors base their decision to stay or go within the first few seconds of landing on the page and it takes 20 seconds to load, many are not going to wait.

So if you have a site with a high Bounce Rate check your page loading times first. There are a number of free tools to do this like Dr. Watson – www.watson.addy.com – which will also check links and html.

So what is a good Bounce Rate?

According to Google.com analytics specialist Avinash Kaushik :

“It is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, above 50% is worrying.”

Although this is a reasonable benchmark it depends on the how broad the site is – or how much of a niche it covers. The former will probably have a higher Bounce Rate because in SEO terms it probably throws a wider net, while the latter should be lower. Much will depend on the keywords targeted and marketing methods.

If you are having a problem with a high Bounce Rate don’t panic! Look at other indicators. Average time spent on the page, keywords used to get there, are these visitors new or returning, referring sites, etc. These can give you a greater insight into where your visitors are coming from and why they are bouncing away.


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5 reasons to build a relationship with an SEO specialist

The best results of any SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaign are usually achieved where the SEO consultant and business director/manager/department head work together. This sounds obvious but doesn’t always happen. The pressures of running a business often impact on communication and the SEO can be treated as a ‘bolt-on’ rather than a part of the marketing process. But there are 5 basic reasons why it’s worthwhile developing good communication with an SEO specialist.

1. You know your business

You know your business, probably better than anyone else and all that information you have about your customers, the competition, sales and your product or service can’t be communicated to an SEO specialist in a brief meeting. Regular communication provides the time to get the basics and the subtlies of the business across.

2. He/She knows SEO

You know your business but you may not know much about Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing a website. Regular communication with your SEO specialst will soon change that and as the relationship builds you will gain a greater understanding and gain your own insights into the type of marketing that will work for your business.

3. Exchange ideas

Exchanging ideas on how to tackle a campaign or a problem can be beneficial for both parties. Sometimes something that seems obvious to one will be a moment of enlightenment for the other.

4. Look Long Term

SEO is more a marathon than a sprint so take time to allow campaigns develop. Develop short term targets but don’t loose sight of the long term aims.

5. Be realistic

Working with an SEO specialist will give you a better insight on what can be achieved. It may be more than you thought possible and will help you to move beyond the ‘We will get you to number 1 on Google’ sales patter so liked by many companies who promise an instant fix for your website’s marketing woes . . . but rarely deliver.