Choose Your Own Adventure – SEO For Web Developers: My unified.diff Talk

unified.diff 1st slide screenshot
Last week I spoke at unified.diff, a monthly software/web development meet-up that’s made its home at the wonderful FoundersHub. It was a good and busy crowd.

I was sandwiched between interesting and entertaining talks about the Robotic Operating System and JSON Schema. Additional photos can be found here.

And here are the slides…

For my talk, I decided to challenge myself. I took on the Choose Your Own Adventure format – they were a bunch of books where you decided the journey of the character. Do you climb the mountain (go to pg. 33) or dive into the cave (pg. 38)? You chose the cave? Oh no! You were eaten by a bear! Go back to before that happened (pg. 29), and so on. I remember having a Sonic The Hedgehog CYOA book (in fact, I think it was this one).

Click to read more!

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Why I Named My Freelance SEO Business “Morgan Online Marketing”

One year ago today, on Tuesday 7th May 2013, I took the plunge. I thought I’d mark the occasion of my freelance SEO & PPC business’ 1st birthday by answering a question I’ve been asked a few times by a fair few people: why “Morgan Online Marketing?”

Morgan Online Marketing logo
First things first though… One year. Wow. It’s flown by. I’d like to take this opportunity to say: to the person who told me that “[I] wouldn’t last a day in self-employment,” not only did I prove you wrong, but I’ve done so 365 times over. How do you like that? Thanks for driving and inspiring me.

Anyway, now that that’s off my chest… Back to the name. I’ve had a range of feedback, from people telling me it’s strong and respectable, to a local business advisor simply declaring “nah, not sexy enough…” when he first heard it (which pissed me off at the time, but now, looking back, I just find it really funny).

Now I ain’t no fancy branding expert, but I put a lot of thought into the name. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I came up with it, but when I did, I decided that it’d stick – that I wouldn’t be changing it. Here’s a few thoughts on why I went with it…

Why not SEOno?

The first thing someone said to me was: why didn’t I call my business “SEOno” after this very blog? After all, the blog had been around for years before and some people (him included) see SEOno as my ‘brand.’

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4 Examples Of Soft 404s On Big Websites

Embroidered 404 image

I’ve been working on an upcoming talk that I’m doing in June (it was originally supposed to be last week but it’s been postponed) and I needed an example of a soft 404 page. I ended up finding a few on some big-name, well-known websites – where you wouldn’t expect to see them – so I thought that I’d point them out.

First things first, though…

What is a soft 404?

When you access a page that doesn’t exist on a website, the server gives an error code (a 404 code, a.k.a. a “Page Not Found” code) saying that there’s nothing there – no file or webpage could be found. When a page does exist, it gives a 200 code (a.k.a. an OK code).

A soft 404 is when you access a page that doesn’t exist, however the server gives a 200 code, not a 404 code. In other words, the website might show a “Page Not Found”-style page, but search engines such as Google will see the page and think that it’s an actual live page…

For more info, Google do a good job explaining soft 404s on their Soft 404 Errors page.

The problem with soft 404s from an SEO POV

If Google sees the page and thinks it’s ok (a 200 code), it may index it. If accessing a non-existent URL redirects to a “Page Not Found” style page (e.g. domain.com/zxcvbnm takes the user to domain.com/404), then only one page could be indexed. But if it doesn’t redirect (e.g. domain.com/zxcvbnm shows a “Page Not Found” page but doesn’t redirect, meaning that domain.com/asdfghjkl and domain.com/qwertyuiop do the same) then there’s the risk that any and all error pages could be indexed.

Google hates duplicate content, so if it happens to index a few dozen or a few hundred soft 404s, it might think that you’re trying to game the system – even though it’s a genuine and innocent mistake – and your whole site could suffer as a result.

Finding examples of soft 404 pages

When I was researching the talk, I asked people on Twitter if they knew of any examples of soft 404 pages, but didn’t have much luck unfortunately (many people passed on examples of correctly-working 404 pages). Then it hit me: a Google search for “page not found” would do the trick – granted that you’d have to dig down a few pages in order to find some.

Checking your 404 page

Curious to know if your 404 page is actually showing a 404 code? Use SEOBook’s status code checker. There are plenty of other similar tools out there, but this one is my favourite. Below each example I will include a link to each example’s results in the tool, so that you can see for yourself. You can also use Google Webmaster Tools’ Fetch as Google, if you’d prefer to see what Google makes of the page themselves…

Speaking of which… onto the fun bit now. Here are 4 big websites that currently* have soft 404 pages.

* Note: obviously if you’re reading this post weeks, months or even years after its publication date, they might have been fixed by then, so please bear that in mind…

1) Mozilla

http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/404.html

Soft 404 example 1 - Mozilla

(Click to enlarge)

Mozilla’s soft 404 was the first one that I came across, which was the inspiration for this post and the example that I’ll be using for my talk in June. I like their 404 page (especially the fact that the purple guy’s eyes move and blink every so often), but I imagine the fact that it’s a soft 404 is simply an oversight or an accident.

Click to read more!

SEO

SEOno News & GB Posts: Part 8

News

Big news this time since Part 7 (in January)…

  • I’m delighted to announce that SEOno has been shortlisted in this year’s Wales Blog Awards! I’m up against two other excellent blogs in the Best Tech Blog category. Here’s the full list of finalists. Apparently “over 300 entries were received for the competition from across the country and the judges have now whittled these down to a shortlist of 32 blogs,” so it’s an honour simply to have been shortlisted. The big event is happening on Thursday 15th May in Cardiff.
  • Now I ain’t no fancy web designer, but I’ve put together a simple, templated WordPress site for my wife’s uncle’s gardening business. Check out my handiwork: Big Mick’s Garden Services.
  • My Online Seller Wales talk went down well in February. Click here for a blog post all about it, containing a photo, slides, audio and transcript.
  • I also gave a talk to Cardiff Metropolitan University students for part of a series of entreprenership seminars called Create. It was an introductory talk on SEO, which also included exercises for the students to do, such as keyword research and inbound link analysis. Here are the slides.
  • I also took part in a podcast talking about the pros and cons of trying to procure Government funding as a start-up/freelancer/entrepreneur. I mostly moaned about being rejected, haha…! Want to check it out? Here it is.

Posts on other sites

A recent guest blog post:

For the record, if you’re wondering why I’ve been guest posting less often (especially following on from my thoughts in this post), it’s not because I’m scared of Google’s crackdown, but simply because I’ve been too busy…!

Contributions on other sites

Contributions to other people’s posts (rather than full-on guest posts) – there’s been a fair few over the months and I’ll happily admit that I’ve lost track of them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve missed one or two off…

SEOno News

I’m Naming My Baby After Rand Fishkin

** Ok ok, so this was an April Fool’s. We’re not calling him Rand Fishkin Morgan. At the moment we’re going with Rory Jack Morgan… **

For those of you who are unaware, my wife and I are expecting our first child in early May (which is sadly the reason that I won’t be able to attend BrightonSEO in late April – too close to the due date).

When we found out that we’re having a boy, we discussed what we were going to name him. At first, we liked Noah, but it’s suddenly become an extremely popular name, so we decided against it. Then we were thinking of Rory, but we were still a little undecided. And then it hit me: what about Rand?

There are two Rands (or Randals) that I admire. The first is Randal Graves from Clerks. Admittedly, perhaps not an obvious role model (note: extremely NSFW clip, unless you have headphones…), but I love the name. And then of course, there’s the Wizard of Moz:* Rand Fishkin.

* Genuine job title, by the way. Awesome.

Wait, it gets better. I even managed to convince Emma that we should keep Fishkin as a middle name. In other words, we’re naming our son: Rand Fishkin Morgan.

We’re very excited that we’ve come up with the perfect name for our son! But what do you think? Please leave a comment below!

Baby Rand photo
[Kudos to Roslyn of CopyTyper for her photoshopping skills; the original can be found here - Phyllis Buchanan - under the Creative Commons Adapt licence]

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