Did someone just try a short URL switcheroo scam on me?

I received an email this morning that struck me as a little odd. At the time I didn’t put all the pieces together, but now I realise the guy may have been string to trick me into getting a link from my site that he could later redirect to wherever he wanted.

All of the fascinating details →

Posted in SEO

Visibility settings: Make your WordPress widgets context-aware

One of the things I like about using WordPress.com is getting an early look at features destined for the self-hosted version, WordPress.org.

For example, today I noticed new ‘visibility’ button on the bottom of each of my widgets. Clicking it expands these filtering options:

Widget visibility settings

Playing with these settings will make any widget you add determine whether it should be shown or hidden based on the page it appears on. For example, you could create a Recent Posts widget that only appears on posts, or a Top Posts & Pages widget that only appears on archive pages.

Some ideas for context-aware widgets →

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor (and how to use it for SEO)

Up Goer Five is one of Randall Munroe’s more famous recent xkcd infographics in which he attempts to describe the workings of a Saturn V rocket using only most commonly used 1,000 words in the English language. Here’s just a part of it:

Up Goer Five, cropped

Inspired by this, The Up-Goer Five Text Editor is a fun tool (created by Theo Sanderson) that restricts the user to just the same 1,000 words. Anything not in that tiny dictionary will be given familiar squiggly red underlines.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor

Scientists have been trying to explain the work they do using only this reduced language. Here’s the work of a paleontologist summarised:

I study tracks, trails, places where animals make homes, and shit, both new and old, and figure out how animals do these things.
Tony Martin, paleontologist

Some of these passages come across as quite patronising (“We burn dead black stuff so that we can build things, power our houses and make our cars go.”), but some of the better ones are quite poetic. io9 has a beautiful description of Saturn:

There is a world that goes around the sun, ten times farther away from the sun than the world we live on. This world is really big – about ten times as wide as our world – and most of it is thick air pulled tight together. It has big beautiful rings around it, made of many pieces of ice.
A loving upgoerfive intro to Saturn and some of its moons, by Rachel Klippenstein

It’s worth reading the full thing.

What does this have to do with SEO? →

The best Google Webmaster videos

Dear Matt Cutts I thought it might be useful to bring together ten of the most popular videos from Google’s Webmasters YouTube channel.

I’ve taken the liberty of filtering out the marketing videos and have just focused on the freely given SEO advice. Most of these feature Matt Cutts answering user-submitted questions or Maile Ohye giving general advice. These are pretty jargon-free and are clearly intended for webmasters without much working knowledge of SEO.

Learn what Google has to tell us about SEO →

The Common Crawl Foundation

Common Crawl: 5 billion web pages indexed, ranked, graphed and the data made freely available.

Today […] we have an open repository of crawl data that covers approximately 5 billion pages and includes valuable metadata, such as page rank and link graphs. All of our data is stored on Amazon’s S3 and is accessible to anyone via EC2.

Common Crawl is now entering the next phase – spreading the word about the open system we have built and how people can use it. We are actively seeking partners who share our vision of the open web. We want to collaborate with individuals, academic groups, small start-ups, big companies, governments and nonprofits.

(via Common Crawl Enters A New Phase)

It seems like you could do pretty much anything with this data, including getting a head start making your own search engine. Blekko have a cool Grep the Web section which is full of ideas for the kinds of information you could discover if you had access to such a database. Basically, any kind of semantic analysis.

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Using A/B testing to find story ideas

I’ve been reading In The Plex, recently, so naturally I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use data in interesting ways. This post appealed:

Earlier I read this post via Hacker News on testing startup ideas. It got me thinking about whether or not you could do something similar in your newsroom. I’ll call it A/B Testing for News Coverage.

via Using A/B testing to find story ideas – andymboyle.com

In a nutshell: Write some spec articles, run AdWord campaigns for them, see which ones are most popular. You could get the value of this without running any ad campaigns though. All webmasters – especially those with newsy content – should pay attention to their analytics to learn what content has proved popular, what searches brought readers in, and be on the look out for spikes of interest in particular topics.

When I clicked through to read this blog post, I was expecting it to be a post about A/B testing fiction story ideas. Imagine a kind of choose your own adventure story where the author writes the opening of the story, then two or three different continuations. The most popular branch becomes canonical, and the author continues the story from there.

I doubt that’s an idea that’d appeal to many authors, but some variation of this could be a fun experiment.

SEO for non-dicks

The key thing to understand is that the rules of SEO aren’t magic or arbitrary. They’re based on the goals of a search engine, which is to find relevant results. Relevance implies genuineness, and genuineness implies trust. So, shockingly, you should try to make your site’s content trustworthy, genuine and relevant. All of the rules have come about due to their utility in detecting those three positive metrics. Good SEO is a by-product of not being a dick on the internet.

(SEO for Non-dicks – mattgemmell.com)

File under things that are very true.

Posted in SEO

The 20 most expensive keywords (and another misleading infographic)

This infographic shows that just over half of the top AdWord keywords fall into insurance and loans categories … but hang on … 24% and 12.8% add up to 36.8%, not 50% or more. I’ve knocked up a quick chart in Numbers showing what I think the pie should look like in reality. Am I missing something? Why would somebody even want to misrepresent that data? So they can overcharge finance companies for SEO work?

Still, the data itself is quite interesting (if you still trust it):

The 20 keyword categories with the highest search volume and highest costs per click, thereby netting Google the most money, are:

  1. Insurance (example keywords in this category include “buy car insurance online” and “auto insurance price quotes”)
  2. Loans (example keywords include “consolidate graduate student loans” and “cheapest homeowner loans”)
  3. Mortgage (example keywords include “refinanced second mortgages” and “remortgage with bad credit”)
  4. Attorney (example keywords include “personal injury attorney” and “dui defense attorney”)
  5. Credit (example keywords include “home equity line of credit” and “bad credit home buyer”)
  6. Lawyer (“personal  injury lawyer,” “criminal defense lawyer)
  7. Donate (“car donation centers,” “donating a used car”)
  8. Degree (“criminal justice degrees online,” “psychology bachelors degree online”)
  9. Hosting (“hosting ms exchange,” “managed web hosting solution”)
  10. Claim (“personal injury claim,” “accident claims no win no fee”)
  11. Conference Call (“best conference call service,” “conference calls toll free”)
  12. Trading (“cheap online trading,” “stock trades online”)
  13. Software (“crm software programs,” “help desk software cheap”)
  14. Recovery (“raid server data recovery,” “hard drive recovery laptop”)
  15. Transfer (“zero apr balance transfer,” “credit card balance transfer zero interest”)
  16. Gas/Electricity (“business electricity price comparison,” “switch gas and electricity suppliers”)
  17. Classes (“criminal justice online classes,” “online classes business administration”)
  18. Rehab (“alcohol rehab centers,” “crack rehab centers”)
  19. Treatment (“mesothelioma treatment options,” “drug treatment centers”)
  20. Cord Blood (“cordblood bank,” “store umbilical cord blood”)

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Fighting the Google Panda death grip

After he tightened the site’s editorial standards and made other tweaks that didn’t change its fortunes, [HubPages chief executive Paul] Edmondson made a discovery. Google’s search engine had indexed some of HubPages content as being tied to “ww.hubpages.com” rather than “hubpages.com,” and the incorrectly indexed sites were ranking higher for certain search queries.

In May, Edmondson wrote an email to Google engineers about the discovery and asked whether he should break up his site into “subdomains,” where each contributor of content to HubPages would essentially have a separate website. That way, perhaps Google’s algorithm could distinguish which part of HubPages had original content and which part had lower-quality articles that were just copies of other content on the Web. Publishing sites such as WordPress, Tumblr and Google’s own Blogger are structured with subdomains, whereas Google’s YouTube and others are not.

In June, a top Google search engineer, Matt Cutts, wrote to Edmondson that he might want to try subdomains, among other things.

(via Site Claims to Loosen Google “Death Grip” – blogs.wsj.com)

Surely this is really bad news? Perhaps HubPages will be honest in how it organises content, but other sites won’t. I predict that keyword heavy subdomains will be the next big ‘SEO expert’ trend.

I don’t care about SEO

A few months ago I tweeted that we no longer needed to sell User Experience and our job was now to focus on delivering good user experiences.

These days we’ve stopped selling UX and started simply doing it.

Sure, some agencies or individuals haven’t quite reached that inflexion point yet, but I can tell you that it’s on the way. Demand is far outstripping supply, so if you’re not there yet, you soon will be. User Experience is no longer a point of difference, it’s just the way all good websites are built these days.

I don’t care about User Experience – andybudd.com

Hopefully in the very near future this shift in approach will happen for SEO too. There really shouldn’t be an SEO company or a marketplace of SEO ‘experts’. The work of SEO is half website design and development (good semantic markup, sensible layouts) and half content production (incorporating keywords, writing good titles and meta descriptions etc.). These skills should be in-house and standard practice.

Search Engine Deoptimization

The blog Live at the Witch Trials proposes a method for harming the search engine rankings of any companies you feel may be deserving. To abbreviate:

  • Look through your target websites terms and conditions to find a clause that prohibits linking. Ryanair’s site has the following T&C:
    “Links to this website. You may not establish and/or operate links to this website without the prior written consent of Ryanair. Such consent may be withdrawn at any time at Ryanair’s own discretion.”
  • Search for all the websites that do link to them anyway.
  • Find contact information for those sites and send them strongly worded cease and desist notices that look official, but make no false claims.

This should have a pretty big impact on how important search engines feel your targets site is, and they’ll soon start to drop in the rankings accordingly.


Posted in SEO

A Posterous SEO issue you should probably be aware of

Posterous places nonremovable canonical URL tags on its posts. That tells the search engine to assign all the “link juice” to the Posterous-hosted page no matter where else the content may exist.

I do not want the Posterous version of the document to be the official URL for much of my content.

(via Why I’m dropping Posterous this weekend – forums.posterous.com)

I hadn’t spotted this, but I’m glad I know now.

This could be a problem for you if you duplicate your own content on a Posterous blog, but you don’t want Posterous to be the main home for that content. It is very likely that your Posterous blog will rank higher than the other place, whether you want it to or not.

In truth, it’s probably not an issue for most users. Better to know and not care than to care and not know.

Further reading: Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes – mattcutts.com

Natural Born Clickers: 50% drop in ad clickers

Heavy, Moderate, Light Display Ad Clicker Analysis
March 2009 vs. July 2007
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore
  Share of All Internet Users Share of Click-Throughs
Jul-07 Mar-09 Jul-07 Mar-09
Total Clickers 32% 16% 100% 100%
Heavy Clickers 6% 4% 50% 67%
Moderate Clickers 10% 4% 30% 18%
Light Clickers 16% 8% 20% 15%
Non-Clickers 68% 84% 0% 0%


“A click means nothing, earns no revenue and creates no brand equity. Your online advertising has some goal – and it’s certainly not to generate clicks,” said Starcom USA SVP/Director, Research & Analytics John Lowell. “You want people to visit your website, seek more information, purchase a product, become a lead, keep your brand top of mind, learn something new, feel differently – the list goes on. Regardless of whether the consumer clicked on an ad or not, the key is to determine how that ad unit influenced them to think, feel or do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise.”

(via comscore.com)

According to this, 8% of users are doing 85% of the clicking. Given that most email in circulation is spam, these few gullible clicker people have ruined the internet for everyone else…

No such thing as bad publicity – for SEO

A fascinating story about a scumbag sales operation, DecorMyEyes.com, who leaned that a link is a link, and Google doesn’t care if it’s a good review or a scathing rant – so why make the effort to give good service?

“Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”


The strange part is that Google is intimately familiar with the rage inspired by DecorMyEyes. If you type the company’s name in a Google Shopping search, you’ll see a collection of more than 300 reviews, many of them arias sung in the key of livid.


In short, a Google side stage — Google Shopping — is now hosting a marathon reading of DecorMyEyes horror stories. But those tales aren’t even hinted at in the company’s premier arena, its main search page.

“It’s fair to say,” Mr. Sullivan concludes, “that this is a failure on Google’s part.”

via For DecorMyEyes, Bad Publicity Is a Good Thing – nytimes.com

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Bounce rate demystified

Recently, while looking at the Google analytics for this site, I noticed that my bounce rate was very high. I wasn’t very clear on what this meant, so investigated and concluded that there wasn’t much I could do about it given the type of content I post here.

So a new infographic on Kissmetrics caught my eye today: Bounce Rate Demystified.

I’m not a big fan of this current infographic craze, partly because they lock the data into a very web-unfriendly, non-interactive format, and partly because they are usually nothing more than transparent linkbait, with little or no actual informational substance.

My previous post challenged the former complaint. In this post I’ve decided to dissect the bounce rate infographic and see how good the information really is…

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Handy heuristics that contradict convergence

“In general, the attribution of specialization can increase the credibility of a product or any kind of object,” Sundar says. “It’s really how the human psyche works.”

For instance, the search engine providing product recommendations was labeled “wine agent,” while the general recommendation agent was named “E Agent.”

“Basically, cognitive heuristics are mental shortcuts that we use to make judgments that lead to decisions,” Sundar says. “For example, we see a long essay, we immediately think that it is a strong essay. This is the ‘length equals strength’ heuristic. Similarly, we tend to quickly believe statements made by experts or specialists because we apply the ‘expertise heuristic,’ which says that experts’ statements can be trusted.”

via Name it and webbies will buy it – futurity.org

Interesting piece of SEO psychology. There are some intelligent comments on the study too – I especially liked the kitchen knives analogy made by Chris Edwards:

It is quite common for people to buy multiple tools that do the same job. As a simple example, look in your kitchen… how many different knives do you have for specialised tasks? If you lay them all out and logically look at it, how many different types do you actually need?

We assume that something that is specialised is better, so therefore if something sounds specialised, we will probably lean toward using that one.

(via & via)

Updated 2013.01.17 to tweak the formatting and to actually quote the kitchen knives comment rather than just allude to it.

Posted in SEO

The 80-20 Rule

Pareto principle

Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Juran developed the principle after observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

The 80-20 rule is also a common rule of thumb in business, i.e. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

via Use the 80-20 Rule to Increase Your Website’s Effectiveness – sixrevisions.com

A great article, but I notice the Six Revisions page has some clutter itself. Not anything like as bad as most big blogs though.

This is actually one of the reasons I like this default Posterous ‘Clean Sheet’ theme so much, and I hesitate before adding any extras (even the AdSense ads I wanted to put on). Now I look again with a more critical eye, I think I may remove some of the sidebar links I stuck there when – I doubt they get much use.

Also, what a lovely pie chart!

EDIT: It’s interesting how this seems to contradict the advice from this SEOmoz landing page case study.

Posted in SEO