Community: The Key to Happiness?

This post was originally intended as a guest blog post on behalf of Welsh ICE. However, given that it’s quite personal in nature, we agreed that it’d be a best fit on SEOno instead.

ICE coworking community image
People who know me personally or via Twitter might see me as a (mostly!) cheery, friendly, positive guy. However I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, I wasn’t happy for a lot of my early life… I was bullied in school, suffered from depression as a teenager, and also experienced bullying in the workplace in some job roles that I took on. I’m in my early thirties now and I’m pretty happy about my life and where I am at the moment… And recently, while looking back over key moments in my life, I noticed an interesting pattern in the times that I’ve been happiest in my life so far:

  • 2003-4: Working behind the bar at a live music venue in Leicester (The Musician Pub – I recommend it if you’re ever in the area)
  • 2005-7: Helping to run LULUMS (Lancaster Uni Live & Unsigned Music Society) while studying at university
  • 2013-present: Joining Welsh ICE, a coworking space in Caerphilly (on the outskirts of Cardiff)

In each of these instances I was in a fun environment and working on things that I love, but there was another key ingredient: a sense of community. When I worked at the live music bar, I became friends with my fellow bar staff, the pub managers/owners, the regulars and the performers (especially the locals on the open mic circuit), and we bonded over our love of good music. Similarly, with the live music society at university, I became good friends with other members of the society, the venue owners that we worked with, and the bands that we put on. Jump to the present day and I’m a self-employed online marketing consultant working out of a coworking space, and the people who run it – as well as my fellow members – have become such good friends that they feel like family.

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The 30-Day Website Interstitial Sign-up Experiment

Email interstitial sign-up eyeroll photoAt the beginning of March 2017, I decided to run an experiment: I would sign up to every single interstital that I encountered for a month. In this post I document this (quite frankly rather bonkers) experiment, and give insights into what I discovered along the way…

What is an interstitial (and do they affect SEO)?

Interstitials are those annoying same-page pop-ups that sometimes appear when you’re browsing a webpage. They appear for different reasons, but usually appear when you’re about to close the browser tab or if you scroll right to the bottom of the page/article. Most of the time (but not always) they’ll ask for your email details, to get you to join the site’s email newsletter.

As a user (and even as a marketer), I am infuriated by interstitials. I often wonder why people implement them, but have never actually gone to the effort of looking into their effectiveness as a sign-up tactic. Part of me just thinks “well, they’ve gotta work – otherwise people wouldn’t do them, right?” But then part of me thinks that I ignore them every time I see one, and I’ve even avoided websites that I know use them to the extreme…

Whatever the case may be, I’m even more curious about interstitials now – given that from mid-January, Google started to penalise them when used on mobile sites. So yes, they may help to get more people subscribed to your newsletter, but are they harming your website’s SEO efforts in the process…? Following on from the penalty rollout, Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) had been keeping tabs on sites that had been using interstitials, but admitted that he had not [seen] widespread impact” even “a full month into the rollout” (source; original emphasis). Even so, Google have this knack of scaring the crap out of webmasters whenever they pull stunts like this, and although it may be a case of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon in reverse(?), I’m convinced that I’ve seen fewer interstitials on websites since Google first announced and then supposedly implemented the change.

So for various reasons, I was curious: How many did I encounter every day? What form do they take? What kinds of sites do they appear on? I was about to find out…

The 30-day experiment

On 1st March 2017, I set up a spreadsheet to log all the sites where I encountered an interstitial during my usual browsing travels. Whenever I encountered one, I made a note of the page/site, the date & time, how it appeared and whether or not I was able to sign up. I’ve made a couple of changes, but I’ve made the spreadsheet public here if you want to take a look.

Vital Random statistics

In total I encountered 23 interstitials across 22 sites during the month (from 1st to 30th March). I honestly expected to encounter more than that to be completely honest… In fact, the inspiration for this experiment came from the fact that I’d noticeably encountered loads the month before.

20 of them were via desktop – only 1 was on a tablet device (iPad) and 2 happened while browsing a smartphone (iPhone).

The biggest gap I had between interstitial encounters was 8 days. The shortest gap I had was 5 minutes (or 0 minutes, if you count that I had two different kinds on the same site pretty much one after the other). And the most I had in one day was 4.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I discovered, too…

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24 Hours of Selfies: My Challenge for Red Nose Day 2017

Red Nose Day selfie photo
It’s a bit short notice (given that it’s only two days away!), but I’ve decided to set myself a challenge for Red Nose Day 2017:

On Friday 24th March 2017, I’ll take a selfie with everyone that I speak to face-to-face (regardless of whether I know them or not!)* and tweet the pics via my Twitter (@steviephil) using the hashtag #steviephilselfie.

* Obviously people can opt out and stuff (plus there’s a few other ‘rules’), but hopefully people will want to get involved.

I had the idea for this ages ago, and RND seems like the perfect opportunity to give it a go. I should be working at Welsh ICE (my coworking space) on the day, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of people to interact (and take selfies) with. If I’m not then it’s gonna be pretty lame, as I’ll probably work from home and I’ll only end up doing selfies with my family, haha… So fingers-crossed I’m at ICE, eh!

If you’d like to sponsor me (please do!), you can do so via my dedicated RND Giving page: https://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/steviephilselfie. Even if it’s just a couple of quid, it’ll all make a difference. Thank you in advance.

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The 3 Biggest Takeaways from Kelvin Newman’s Reddit AMA

Yesterday, the mighty Kelvin Newman (@kelvinnewman) of brightonSEO fame did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Kelvin Newman's AMA on Reddit screenshot
I’m a big fan of Kelvin, not only because he runs an incredible conference and has been crazy enough to let me speak at it (not just once, but twice), but because he’s a great guy as well. And as an SEO event organiser myself, I’m always curious to know the thinking behind brightonSEO, how he runs the event and where he wants to take it in the future.

To be honest, whether you’re an event organiser yourself, or just a big fan of brightonSEO (who isn’t?), it’s probably worth reading the whole AMA from start to finish, as there are tips and insights sprinkled throughout. But if you’re a busy guy/gal then here are my three biggest takeaways:

1) On starting a conference: start small and scale up

Kelvin Newman Prisma imageA few new SEO/digital conferences have sprouted up in the UK in recent months, which is fine, but to aspiring conference organisers, Kelvin’s advice is to start small:

I’d always start with something small and then scale rather than launching big. If gives you a chance to test and learn and make mistakes when not very many people are watching. Think of your first event as an MVP.

I can relate to this, as I’m not sure where to take Cardiff SEO Meet at the moment (an all-dayer event does sound tempting…), but at the very least, it’s good to know that small beginnings are the sensible way to go anyway.

2) On hiring speakers: seek out speakers (not vice versa)

It’s very easy to simply accept the speakers who approach you as an organiser, but Kelvin’s method is different:

Keeping an eye on blog posts people are sharing is a key one but I love scouring through our attendee list and looking for people who might have a good perspective and then stalking them online a bit.

Only giving slots to people who put themselves forward can lead to only attracting certain kinds of speakers.

I like this as it naturally leads to a variety of speakers, and perhaps those who aren’t even ‘natural’ speakers. And there is the risk that the people that approach event organisers offering to speak and doing so all over the shop – not just for your event.

However, if you do approach Kelvin and ask to speak (which – to be fair – is how I got to speak at brightonSEO both times), at least have a talk idea at-the-ready:

In terms of pitching to speak, have a talk idea ready to go. Much easier for me to say yes to a interesting talk title than a vague “I’d like to talk”.

3) On what talks to have: some SEO topics are important, but variety is good

This is an interesting one as I’ve always admired Kelvin for booking non-SEO talks at an SEO event, or at least talks that closely align with SEO (such as UX, etc.). But it’s still really important to have some types of SEO talks:

People expect decent technical talks and link building talks. If we don’t programme those people won’t come back.

However Kelvin argues that some of the non-SEO talks are the ones that stay with people – the problem with SEO talks (as is the case with some elements of SEO) is that there’s a ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ feeling about them:

Talks from people like Dave [Trott] and Rory [Sutherland] are the kind that sit in the back of your mind for years to come, whereas the learning about the latest SERP feature you’ll use immediately but it’s value will go down over time.

Our job is to get the right mixture between the practical talks and the inspirational/theoretical ones. Which is something I know we and other events have been criticised for in the past.

Kelvin’s clearly not backing down with this way of thinking, given what’s coming up at next month’s event:

Got three different academics talking this time round about machine learning that might not be mass appeal but pretty sure will get a great receptions.


Read Kelvin’s AMA in full here!

If you’re going to brightonSEO April 2017 then let me know – I’ll be there. 🙂

[Image credit – my own creation using Prisma]

Moving SEOno to HTTPS: How Using Cloudflare Caused a Duplicate Content Issue

HTTPS Secure badge image
A few days ago, I moved this blog to fully (and only) HTTPS. I’d been on Cloudflare for a few months but I didn’t realise that it was inadventently causing a site-wide duplicate content issue (between HTTP & HTTPS URLs). In this post I document the discovery of the issue, the process I took to fix it, and the potential knock-on effects of the change, such as needing to set up a new Google Search Console profile, ‘mixed content’ issues and more…


A few months ago, I moved SEOno to Cloudflare. The site was getting a ridiculously high number of malicious login attempts, and while none of them got through (thankfully), I looked into it and the volume of them suggested that it was slowing my site down. I moved onto Cloudflare – a fairly quick, painless process – and not only have the login attempts ceased, but the site is tons faster. Job done.

At the time, I noticed that HTTPS URLs were working on the site, in addition to HTTP URLs. In other words, https://seono.co.uk/ loaded the homepage, as did http://seono.co.uk/, whereas only the latter had done previously. “Cool,” I thought, thinking nothing of it for ages – I figured that the rel="canonical" tag of the HTTP URLs would take precedence, and at some point I’d sort it out properly.

Then, a few days ago, I was chatting to someone at my coworking space and did a very specific Google search that only brought up seono.co.uk results. And that’s when I spotted it: Google was indexing both HTTP and HTTPS URLs separately…

SEOno Google SERP screenshot
Uh-oh. This full-on flummoxed me for a few moments, until I checked the canonical tags of both versions. Here’s the one for HTTP…

SEOno HTTP canonical screenshot
…and here’s the one for HTTPS…

SEOno HTTPS canonical screenshot
Bollocks.

Rather than having the same canonical tag (and therefore one ‘version’ taking precedence over the other), they were each referencing themselves separately. This meant that the introduction of the HTTPS URLs had resulted in a duplicate content issue site-wide, with every page of the blog having two URLs showing the exact same content. Given the fact that Google was indexing some URLs of one type and some of the other (rather than all of one and none of the other), it was looking as though Google was struggling to understand which version to show predominantly. And worst of all? I hadn’t noticed for months, despite picking up on issues like this when I do technical SEO audits for clients. D’oh.

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