Category Archives: Uncategorized

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A Company PR Nightmare? Possibly not

Category : Uncategorized

We all know how important your company domain name is to your business . . . . well perhaps not all of us:

  1. ‘Who Represents’ is a website where you can find the names of agents who represent celebrities – www.whorepresents.com
  2. ‘Experts Exchange’ is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views – www.expertsexchange.com
  3. Want to buy a colleague a pen for Christmas? Try ‘Pen Island ‘ at: www.penisland.net
  4. ‘Therapist Finder’ could be a handy directory. Check your local area at: www.therapistfinder.com
  5. This one is still under construction, but I can’t wait to see the Italian Power Generator company – www.powergenitalia.com

An honourable mention also goes to the designers at ‘Speed of Art’ which has to be worth a visit: www.speedofart.com

Although these company domains may seem to be a PR nightmare the last laugh could be on us because they are getting a lot of free publicity in what is a very competitive online world.


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Google Instant Search

Category : Uncategorized

Last week Google launched Instant Search in the UK.
Basically this allows you to type your search query into the Google search box as before, but for each keystroke you get a prediction of what you are looking for and a list of results below. The idea is that Google predicts the list of keyword phrases that you are probably searching for, complete with organic and paid results.

Benefits to Google Instant
According to Google, there are three benefits:

  1. Faster searches. It should save somewhere between two to five seconds per search.
  2. Instant results. For each keystroke you get a list of results to choose from.
  3. Smarter searching that will help guide users to relevant content.

As Google Instant expands it will provide more benefits to mobile devices in particular, where typing isn’t so easy. However at present it only works on these browsers:

  • Chrome v5/6
  • Firefox v3
  • Safari v5 for Mac
  • Internet Explorer v8

It’s also only available to users when they are signed into their Google accounts.

How Will Google Instant Effect SEO?

According to a statement by Google, its ranking algorithm has not changed so SEO will not be affected. It does, however add a new dimension to SEO. Because now, not only is it important to be on the first page, it’s also important to be listed when the first few letters are typed in, preferably at the top!

There is a lot of talk among SEO specialists about how this will affect well optimised and high ranking sites and what might need to be done to remain high in the rankings. Also how will PPC campaigns be effected?

Like all new introductions it’s important to be aware and keep a close eye on keyword performance over the coming months. There may well be some unforeseen changes in search behaviour because of this, or it may simply make searching the web quicker and easier.


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The New .co Domain

Category : Uncategorized

A new doamain has become available and is causing a bit of a stir. What used to be the suffix for Colombia in South America is now being presented as a new domain for busines – .co – that’s it, not .co.uk but the simple .co

The reasoning behind this new domain seems to be that it represents smaller companies and businesses.
A number of companies have registered their names in the new domain – probably to protect it from being taken by a rival. And if you are a company owner you should consider the same. I say this reluctantly because in my jaded and synical mind this looks like a great way of generating billions of £ in revenue for the domain registration companies. I don’t recall anyone in any blog, chat room or twitter posting saying “What we need is a new domain suffix”.

For example, how may companies own the .ltd.uk, .biz, .eu or even the .uk.com versions of their domain? It may be that .co is directed more at the USA market where less domains seem to be available. Perhaps business finds .biz a bit too hip and not serious enough.

It remains to be seen if .co will gain any validity on search engine rankings, only time will tell, and at the moment this is not a way to boost your site in the rankings.
However According to surveys by .co Internet (www.cointernet.co – who also happen to be handling the .co roll out) 75% of people associate “co” with words like “company”, “commerce” and “corporation”.

So there is a chance that .co will take off. And at around £15 p.a. it may be worth buying up your domain in the .co version to cover yourself against competitors.

At the moment it may not be straightforward to do this. When I made enquiries I was shunted around a bit until I reached one of the ten UK providers. It’s still early days but if you contact your hosting or domain provider they should be able to help you. Alternatively you could go direct to one of the providers – www.cointernet.co/registrars/co-registrars


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Social Media Marketing – Over Rated and Over Hyped?

Category : Uncategorized

Spending time and money on social media marketing is a waste of resources for many companies. This may go against the current trend of Social Medial as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but for many small businesses this is the reality.

So what is Social Media Marketing? Wikipedia describes it as:

“the use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media for marketing, sales, public relations and customer service.”

There are a number of reasons to get involved with marketing your company/website via social media. There is the potential to reach a huge audience with all the benefits that can bring, and the search engines, especially Google, like websites with social media links which can improve your website PageRank.

But it’s not for everyone. A successful social media campaign needs time and people, two commodities that many small businesses don’t have. And a half-hearted campaign can do more harm than good. A Facebook page with no entries for 3 months makes a company look worse rather than better. The same can be said for a Blog, Twitter and any other media that requires regular attention – and nearly all do.

Larger companies don’t have this problem as they can employ a specialist or designate a member of staff to run the campaign, update entries and interact with potential customers. Most smaller companies don’t have that luxury.

There is also the product or service you provide to consider. Some don’t lend themselves to social media marketing as easily as others. So if you are thinking of starting a Social Media campaign ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your product or service lend itself to this kind of promotion?
  • Does your target audience use social media like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter?
  • Does your business have the resources to run and manage a campaign?

If the answer to any of these questions is not a positive ‘yes’ it may be better to target your marketing efforts elsewhere.


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Top 10 UK Search Engines

Category : Uncategorized

When you check your listing on a browser which search engine do you use? A simple question but important because not all search engines are equal. According to the latest figures the top 10 UK Search Engines are:

1. Google UK
2. Yahoo UK
3. Ask Jeeves UK
4. Freeserve UK
5. Yell UK
6. Alta Vista UK
7. MSN UK
8. NTL World
9. Tiscali
10. Mirago

According to 2009 April 04 figures from Hitwise, the percentages of visitors looks like this:

1. www.google.com 72.68%
2. search.yahoo.com 16.29%
3. www.ask.com 3.96%
4. search.msn.com 3.52%
5. www.live.com 2.15%

These are stats for the USA but it is clear that Google has a similar market share here in the UK, in fact some UK stats suggest Google’s market share is closer to 85%.

So what does this mean for your website marketing and SEO campaigns?

1. Get listed on Google
2. Get listed on Google
3. Get listed on Google

Of course you don’t ignore the rest, especially Yahoo, but getting a good ranking on Google is a major priority.

And remember as well as the search engines listed above there are many specialist online directories and these could also be important to your business website.


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Optimisation is Not a One-off Event

Category : Uncategorized

Having an optimised website in this day and age is essential. But what does this really mean? When I talk about an ‘optimised’ site I consider:

  • Keywords researched and defined
  • Pages designed to target defined keywords
  • Incoming links established from other relevent websites

I could go into more detail but that, in essence, is it.

So once that’s all in place we can sit back and relax? Yes?
Well possibly, but most probably, No you can’t.

The web changes daily, hourly in fact, so if you want your site to stay in a reasonable position then you will need to nudge it along. It’s a bit like pushing a car from a standing start. The first bit is really hard, getting it moving from zero. But once it’s going you just need to keep the pressure on to maintain the momentum. If you stop pushing then the car will gradually slow to a standstill.

A website works in a similar way. Putting in the optimisation work at the beginning will give it a boost, but do nothing after that and you are a little further along the road but at a standstill.

So what do you need to do?

  • Keep link building
  • Update the pages
  • Review you keywords
  • Blog and/or Twitter what you are doing
  • Review performance through Analytics

For a small busy company it’s difficult to get to all this . . . which is why many employ an experienced SEO specialist


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The SEO Quick Fix

Category : Uncategorized

As search engines have become more sophisticated, so have the tricks and fixes used to gain a high rank. Search engine optimisers are often described as falling into two camps; ‘Black Hat’ and ‘White Hat’. I don’t know where these expressions came from but broadly speaking Black Hat is the use of underhand methods for gaining a top search engine position, while White Hat involves doing things by the rules as set out by the search engine companies. But there are grey areas where these two methods overlap.

Link building is a good example. Providing incoming links to your website is essential to gaining a decent PageRank and providing credibility for your site. The White Hat method would be to build the site, submit it to the search engines and allow links to come to the site naturally, through the interesting and original site content.

The Black Hat method would be to buy a batch of instant links from a ‘Link Farm’ and get a good PageRank that way.

So the conclusion might be that buying links is a Black Hat method. But this is not the case, as at the moment it is perfectly legitimate to purchase links from directory sites like Yahoo and Business.com. There are also a number of free directories that provide excellent and highly regarded links – DMOZ being the most obvious. This seems like a double standard so why has it happened?

One reason is that the good, legitimate directories usually access link requests manually at some point. This is considered to be much better than using an automated system which is more easily spammed and abused. It’s easy to fool a webot, but humans aren’t quite so gullible.

However, if you buy all these perfectly legitimate links and a few free links at the same time you might be penalised by some search engines for spamming. This is because too many incoming links arriving in a short period of time is similar to what might happen if you had gained the links from a link farm or something similar.

So we have the classic ‘grey area’ – buying links is bad in one way, but perfectly OK in another way.

So where does that leave us as far as SEO is concerned?

It think to understand this we need to look at a bit of SEO history.

At one time it was possible to rocket a new website to the top of the search engine rankings by just doing work on title and meta tags coupled with some decent headings and content. Long established companies with websites that were top of the rankings for their main keword(s) could be demoted overnight by a new site with no track record or business credibility. This obviously was not good for the end user, and this is why we have this grey area. The end user wants quality results on a search and the search engine company’s interests involve keeping the end user happy and selling advertising on their sites. People who manipulate the system to promote a particular company disrupt the system. So we have this game of ‘cat and mouse’ played across web.

When Google introduced PageRank it was their way of legitimising the best websites. The ones that were interesting would naturally have more links and a higher PageRank so would therefore rank higher in Google than a smaller site with few links – even if it were better optimised. The democracy of the web would rule!

Naturally the SEO community reacted to this by creating link exchanges, link farms, etc, which exploited the PageRank system. Google then reacted by penalising sites which suddenly acquired a large numbers of links and began the system of grading the incoming links for relevancy and quality.

This whole scenario has been played out across a number or SEO methods over the years. Hidden text, hidden links, doorway pages, keyword stuffing, comment tags, page duplication, multiple URLs, site duplication, the list grows year by year. For a company like Google it must be like building a nice smart dam and then having to constantly plug holes where the water keeps getting in.

As SEO ‘experts’ our focus is to promote the services or products of a particular website and company. A search engine’s focus is on its credibility as a tool for providing good quality information. When we manipulate the system to promote our website above others in the rankings, the search engines see this as undermining their credibility and so they take action to stop this happening.

SEO tricks and illusions are not good for the web community as a whole. When we use a trick to gain a high ranking position on search engines we are going against the original ethos of the web for the sake of personal gain.

If you are in SEO for the long haul then you will naturally steer away from quick fix tricks if you have any sense. But part of the problem will be whether this week’s piece of SEO wizardry, which is being touted as perfectly legitimate, may be on next week’s Search Engine blacklist.


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Searchable Flash

Category : Uncategorized

Typical of SEO and the web is how fast things move on.
After my writing about Flash not being search engine friendly it seems that Adobe, Google, and Yahoo teamed up last week to announce that they are making Flash searchable for crawling and indexing.
Good news of course but designers should still proceed with caution. How Flash gets indexed will be an interesting question and what weight a Flash page will carry against an html page in the search engine rankings is sure to be an issue.

Of course there are still accessability/browser/plugin issues with Flash but it’s a move in the right direction.


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Design v Content

Category : Uncategorized

I’ve been working in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) at various levels for around 7 years and things have changed a lot in that time.

When I first started few designers understood or cared about SEO. At that time it was possible to be presented with a new website from a newly formed company and achieve a number 1 ranking on Google within a few weeks by adding a few meta tags and changing the page titles.

Things have moved on a lot since then and search engine optimisation is now an element, albeit a very important one, in the whole process of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). New companies and new websites have to become established and show some degree of longevity before being 100% accepted by major search engines. Good, relevant content is essential as is site structure and navigation. The search engines have become far more sophisticated and so have we, the end users.

But although attitudes amongst designers have changed SEO is still something that is often tacked on at the end of the design process – ” OK we’ve finished the site, can you optimise it now?” Usually the answer to this is ‘Yes’, but it isn’t the best way of going about it.

Optimising a site is all about the end user so SEO should be part of the site’s design process rather than an ‘add-on’. It’s the end user that we have the website for isn’t it?

Being totally focused on design some designers still don’t think too much about the end user – but design can do that, it’s very easy to become so involved with the design that the end purpose gets somehow lost along the way.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at some basic pitfalls of design and how they can derail your website.