Articles for April 2012

Facepalm kitteh

MSN Fail: Video Of Car Crash Injuring 10 People Is “Funny”

Ok, so this is a bit off-topic for SEOno, but I’m wondering how long it takes before MSN UK realise the stupidity of what they’ve done and make the relevant changes…

This morning,  I logged out of Hotmail (yes, I still use Hotmail, and yes, it’s on my to-do list to do something about it) and saw this on my screen:

MSN homepage screenshot
(As an aside, I’m loving the juxtaposition of the Sky ad – “dim the lights – for full effect…”)

O-ho, a video! “Car crashes through front of supermarket.” Like William H. Macy’s character in Magnolia! Brilliant. I’m sure it’ll be… hang on…

MSN homepage close-up
Are those people in the way of the car, including a woman with a pram?!

If you are sadist enough (like me, apparently) to go beyond the homepage and actually watch the video, you’ll see it happen at normal speed and as well as about 4 different rates of slow motion. Tasteful.

You might also notice this:

MSN video page screenshot
Can’t see that? Let’s zoom in…

MSN video page close-up
Category: “Funny Videos”?!

Facepalm kittehOh, MSN… That’s pretty bad taste. Turns out 10 people were injured, including “3-month-old baby Tyshawn Davis, who was in the stroller visible in the video and escaped with minor injuries.”

Reminds me of the lyrics to the Faith No More song “Ricochet”:

It’s always funny until someone gets hurt…
And then it’s just hilarious!

At closer examination, it turns out that that “Funny Videos” link is at the top of every video on the MSN UK website, regardless of the content. But still – I was fooled by it, so how many others would be? I’d say this is a big user experience factor: that maybe MSN should consider not showing a link that says “Funny Videos” on a video that clearly isn’t funny, even if said link isn’t necessarily associated with it…

[Itty bitty kitty facepalm image credit: Robyn Anderson]

Scrambled Numbers

#SMsceptic: True Twitter Authority Is All About Follow Ratio

100,000 CupcakesLet’s begin with a (slightly rude/NSFW) quote:

“Having the most followers on Twitter is akin to having the most imaginary friends, the biggest Gamerscore, or the world’s longest e-penis. In other words, what does it mean in the real world? Precisely f*** all.”

A friend of mine wrote that on his Facebook profile a while back. He was annoyed because a friend of his was paying a lot of money to see a social media professional for social media training. This professional’s big, bold unique selling point was that he had a lot of followers, the most in his chosen field and area of expertise, apparently. So he must know what he’s talking about and be good at what he does if he’s that popular, right? And fair enough, he did have a lot of followers. I saw his profile and he had about 100,000 followers on Twitter. Nice!

The only problem? He was also following about 100,000 in return. His Follow Ratio was pretty much 1:1.

Why do I have a problem with this? A few reasons:

Quantity can be gamed: Auto-follow tools such as TweetAdder make it easy for someone to obtain a large number of followers. Set it to automatically follow people based on various criteria (e.g. their location, keywords in their profile’s Bio, etc.). Eventually, as you’ve gone to the effort of following these people, some will follow you back – and you can even automatically unfollow those who do not reciprocate after a certain amount of time. Rinse, repeat, and after a while, voilà: you’re “popular” (read: you look more popular).

Why do I say “look more popular” when they could be genuine followers? Well…

You could be preaching to following the choir: What if the 100k that you’re following – to get 100k people to follow you back – are doing exactly what you’re doing? Then it’s purely a numbers game – you’re not reading their tweets, they’re not reading yours.

…And why do I say that? Well…

It’s impersonal: I think it’s pretty safe to say that if someone is following 100k people, they’re not actually reading the tweets in their Twitter feed. I follow 200+ people I genuinely care about as I type this, and I struggle to keep up! In fact, at an event I went to a while ago, one of the speakers – who gave a talk on Twitter – said that you should just follow lots of people from your business profile, and use a separate/personal profile or a Twitter List to follow the people you actually want to keep up-to-date with. Umm… no thanks, that’s not for me.

Scrambled NumbersQuantity isn’t everything: Social media isn’t necessarily about having lots of (or the most) followers. As I’ve said before (point #12), I’d much rather have 10 followers who care about what I have to say than have 10,000 followers who don’t and who only follow me so that I follow them back and beef up their stats. As always, quality trumps quantity.

And at the end of the day…

It’s snake oil – it’s tricking potential customers/clients: I know all this, and I’m assuming most other online marketing professionals reading this know all this, but does your average Joe Bloggs – who wants to learn how to use Twitter for business use – know to watch out for it? Probably not. My friend’s friend didn’t.

So why is Follow Ratio (FR) important? Well compare the above gent’s ratio of 1:1 (followed by 100k, following 100k) to someone who truly is an authority. If someone is followed by 100,000 people but is only following 100 in return – their FR being 1:1,000 – then it seems a lot more legitimate that this individual is genuinely being followed because people care about them. The person doesn’t have to follow people back and they will still follow him/her.

Fortunately, contrary to what I’ve said above, I think people are gradually getting wise to this. SEO has had a similar problem: it seems logical to think that the people ranking at the top of Google for a keyword like “SEO agency” are the best at what they do, but what if they’ve gotten via dodgy/spammy means, or it’s a keyword that looks good but doesn’t even get much search volume? Meanwhile, Twitter does have Klout as a metric, but then it isn’t exactly accurate (and I believe Klout doesn’t currently take followers into account)…

To me, what’s important are things like reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth. Fair enough if this social media trainer with a 1:1 FR is actually really good at giving social media training, but in my opinion, they shouldn’t use “I have lots of followers” as a USP when such a thing can be easily manipulated (and – judging by his profile – probably has).

Funnily enough, as I was going to publish this post, someone on my Twitter feed complained about how people he knows are falling for follower numbers. Using Storify, I’ve included the tweets and @mentions between me and two others: @NeilCocker and @tombeardshaw. (More people and tweets were involved in the discussion, but as some of the tweets went a bit off-topic and became quite negative – pin-pointing a particular individual guilty of the practice – I’ve only included a few of them.)

[Image credits: 100,000 cupcakes by Adam Tinworth (because everyone loves cupcakes!); “Scrambled” by Nick Humphries]

Brighton SEO

My Top 10 Takeaways from #BrightonSEO April 2012

Brighton SEO
The only pic I took – terrible quality, I know!

Having been in SEO for over 3 years now, attending a conference was long overdue. Thankfully, we won some tickets to Brighton SEO and so I headed there with Liberty colleagues Andrew (@Andrew_Isidoro / @SEOFoSho) and Ceri.

While Andrew tweeted like a madman (this tweet sums it up well!), I made a ton of notes, equalling 1,000 words – good fun on an iPad, let me tell you…!

Anyway, here are my top 10 takeaways from the event:

1. Bing: Social is a “strong signal” for content
Talk: Panel – Ask the Engines with Pierre Far, Dave Coplin, Martin McDonald, Rishi Lakhani & Tony Goldstone

Straight from the horse’s mouth – Bing’s Director of Search Dave Coplin explained that social is used as a ranking signal in Bing. He even specified that they definitely take Facebook and Twitter into account, and those whose efforts are “bloody good” will be rewarded with better rankings.

2. ISO DateTime gives search engines context to dates
Talk: Microformats & SEO – Glenn Jones, @glennjones

I’m still fairly new to the head-scratching-inducing world of schema.org and rich snippets, but I thought it was cool that “ISO DateTime” can give context to dates that search engines will understand. With so many ways to write a date (17th Apr 2012, 17/04/12, 2012-04-17, and so on), it can be used to clarify a date in one standard format. It can even be used when a date isn’t actually written, but a date is still suggested (e.g. “next Tuesday”).

Glenn’s slides can be found here. See slide 17 for more info.

3. What info to include when reporting on online PR
Talk: How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites – Lexi Mills, @leximills

Lexi’s talk was by far my favourite at the event. In terms of reporting on online PR efforts, one should consider including:

  • Domain Authority of the site (not PageRank of the page: the article/content will be brand new on the site – as a brand new page – and therefore PageRank will be low (n/a) for that page to begin with, so for that reason, DA is a more sensible metric to use),
  • Whether the link is dofollow or nofollow,
  • Whether the link is an image or text,
  • The anchor text of the link.

I think the same easily applies to guest blogging as well.

4. Follow #prwin, #prfail and #journorequest for potential online PR opportunities
Talk: How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites – Lexi Mills, @leximills

Another gem from Lexi. Keep an eye on the above hashtags for an opportunity to strike.

My tip: Want to filter it by industry? Add a keyword after each one, e.g. #journorequest fashion. You could have one (or a few) per client/site.

5. Tell clients their month-average ranking as well as/instead of their current ranking
Talk: Maximizing your SEO Agencies – James Owen, @jamesoSEO

It’s happened to all of us… When we give our client their end-of-month report, they’ve performed consistently well all month, and then Sod’s Law strikes and on the 29th or 30th they’ll drop a few places. We give them their current rank and they wonder it’s been like that the whole time…

In those situations, it might also be worth including their average ranking over the month, so that you can say “yes, it is nth right now, but look at where it was before…!” Especially handy if it’s a temporary dip.

6. Say “Did I explain that clearly?” instead of “Did that make sense?” or “Did you get that?”
Talk: Sell the Sizzle, Not The Search: Tactics for Appeasing Marketing Directors – Chelsea Blacker, @ChelseaBlacker

This is very timely for me. I’ve been meaning to write a post about sales/networking tips for non-sales people, and although Chelsea’s talk was applied to Marketing Directors and others within an organisation, I think it applies to any/all environments involving laymen.

After exploding someone’s head with overly-technical information, I’ll often say something like “do you know what I mean?”, which might leave the listener feeling a little silly (albeit unintentionally). However “did I explain that clearly?” is a softer approach and – chances are – I probably didn’t explain it clearly, so more accurate, too.

For me personally, this has been one of the most valuable takeaways of the event. Thank you Chelsea!

7. Use competitor downtime to your advantage…
Talk: Enterprise SEO Titties (was that a typo or the actual title of the event in the end?!) – Tony King, @ToastedTeacake

All’s fair in love, war and search…

We all know that competitors bid on each others’ brand terms using PPC (especially big brands), in an attempt to cheekily pinch each other’s traffic before it reaches the site. But Tony made a very good point – if you notice that one of your main competitors is experiencing website downtime, increase your bids on those terms. That’s the time to strike, offering yourself as a (functioning) alternative to frustrated customers who could use you instead of waiting for their usual port-of-call website to get themselves sorted and fixed…

It’s cheeky as hell (although brilliant, mind you), but hey – they’d probably do it to you, too!

8. Shape your response to emotional highs (and use SEO and PPC accordingly)
Talk: SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony – Tim, @JellyfishAgency

Use SEO and PPC together, but for different reasons. As PPC can be turned on and off very quickly and ads can be shown at certain times of the day, it can be used to drive people to a website at a time when they might be feeling an “emotional high,” as Tim put it. Don’t just rely on SEO, when PPC could be used to draw in additional traffic that may be more inclined to read/react/buy compared to usual.

EDIT: Sorry, it was Tim who was speaking, not Craig! Cheers to @JellyfishAgency for clarifying!

9. Author Rank could be swayed by industry
Talk: I Believe Authors are the Future – James Carson, @mrjamescarson

James’ talk was interesting – it’s early days for the likes of Author Rank, rel=author, etc., but it’s clear that Google is becoming more and more fixated in this area as time goes on.

James has a theory that in the future, Author Rank could differ by industry. Rather than a well-respected, high-ranking author always ranking well no matter what they publish, Author Rank could be determined by the consistency of what they publish by industry, based on their previous successes. For example, if a famous fashion blogger suddenly blogged about football, it may not necessarily rank well – even if their fashion posts usually do – because it is inconsistent of what they’re known and respected for.

10. Mascots can cause a reaction (but be a distraction)
Talk: I appear to have started a sweetshop (and advertising company) – Dom Hodgson, @Thehodge

Dom easily wins the award for the most entertaining talk of the day (as I’m sure fellow attendeanales reading this will agree…)

Dom originally used a mascot – a “f***ing squirrel,” as he so eloquently put it! – on the first design of his sweet shop website. Although they had a lot of social media mentions revolving around said mascot to begin with (“did that squirrel just f***ing wink at me?!”), showing initial promising signs that his(?) inclusion was a good move, they decided to “kill” the squirrel and eventually removed it from the site. Why? Because an eye-tracking test showed that visitors were distracted by the squirrel, and in some cases it might’ve been such a distraction that it was putting some customers off from buying anything.

I found this fascinating. It just goes to show that even if people say something positive via social, it may not actually be a positive for the website or company.

11./Bonus: Advanced Search String Queries for SEO
Talk: Word from a Sponsor – Analytics SEO, @analyticsseo

Ok, so I lied – I’ve included an 11th takeaway, as while writing this post, I remembered another good takeaway from one of the sponsors – Analytics SEO – who used their ‘sponsor message’ section to share their list of advanced search string queries for SEO.

So that’s it! That’s some of the words from the 1,000-word tome that’s left me with aching fingertips and a low iPad battery…

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank a few people:

  • Analytics SEO, who ran the ticket competition and therefore the whole reason I managed to go,
  • Kelvin (@kelvinnewman), the event’s organiser, for his help and patience with the infamous ‘ticket confusion’ on Thursday,
  • The Brighton SEO blog (I’m assuming Kelvin again?), as I used their list of last-minute Brighton hotels when booking accommodation – a great idea for appropriate, helpful content,
  • Emily (@ems_ob), for the catch-up,
  • The man who bought me a shot of sambuca because I apologised for accidentally queue-jumping him at the bar at the afterparty. Alcohol + poor memory (generally) = I’ve forgotten your name, but if you tweet me and remind me then I’ll edit this post and link to you as promised. (And before anyone tries pulling a fast one, I’ll know the name when I see it!),
  • The magician (@mcrmagic), for blowing my mind to smithereens.

Oh and for anyone reading this who enjoyed the karaoke at the afterparty, I’m the guy who sang the Foo Fighters song. I apologise for the high bits!

EDIT (03/05/12): I thought I’d share this awesome infographic as well…

Brighton SEO Infographic April 2012

Infographic Design by ShellShock uk