SEO

My Trip to MozCon 2018 in Seattle!

Steve & Roger MozBot photoWhat a month July was! On Sunday 8th July I flew to Seattle to attend MozCon 2018, having won a VIP ticket in a competition by Moz. My submission was a short story about Roger MozBot (Moz’s brand mascot) discovering a time machine, visiting various points in Moz’s past and potential future. You can read it here! (FUN FACT: I only know of 3 people so far who have found the story’s Easter egg…)

Hightlights of my trip included:

When I got back I blogged my notes from two of the lunch discussion round-tables for a post on State of Digital.

And you can see all my tweets, notes, pics, etc. of MozCon and Seattle here.

I also did a talk at Welsh ICE (my coworking space) as part of their ICE Breaker series, which is when members of the ICE community do a 20-minute talk during Wednesday lunchtimes (formerly known as Friday ICE, which used to be held – no surprise – on Fridays). The guys at ICE videoed it and published it to Facebook Live, which I’ve embedded below! 👇

Become Cardiff SEO Meet’s Site Review Sponsor and Have Your Software Demoed to a Room of Digital Marketers…

Cardiff SEO Meet has some fantastic sponsors, including food sponsors and – as of the next event (our 8th one) – a website sponsor (website coming soon!) and a photo/video sponsor.

Recently however I realised that there’d be a great opportunity for someone to be a site review sponsor too, who’d get all the usual perks (listed below) and – if they’re an SEO software/tool provider – a really good added extra…

What is a site review? How do they work?

Our site reviews are essentially live SEO audits, where we quickly audit a volunteered website in 20-30 minutes, running it through a few different SEO tools and trying to give the website volunteer as much ‘quick win’ info as possible – whether that be related to keyword research, technical SEO, inbound link building, Google Maps optimisation, ecommerce SEO or whatever else is applicable to them/their business/their site. The volunteered site is announced privately to the Meetup group a few days before the event, giving them time to do some homework (if they want to) and come to the event prepared. We take suggestions from the audience on what might be wrong with the site and what they could be doing to get the most out of SEO.

Wanna learn more? I wrote about site reviews in more detail over on State of Digital.

We’ve run site reviews since the 2nd event, so we’ve done 6 in total so far. Only one has been filmed, which I’ve embedded below if you want to get an idea of how they go…

Notes on the video: a) you’ll have to forgive the filmed-on-an-iPhone quality; b) the first one we did was a bit clunky and we ended up veering away from SEO-specific topics in parts – they’ve run a lot more smoothly since then; c) it starts about 3 minutes and 25 seconds in

What do you mean “demoed to a room”…?

Cardiff SEO Meet Bierkeller stage photoWell usually we jump into a variety of tools: so I might run Screaming Frog, take a look at the site’s links using Majestic, etc. etc… and even get some random suggestions from the audience (the best one we’ve had to date is Keyword Shitter – LOL). There’s no particular reason why I choose these tools – I just go with what I already use and know.

But then it hit me: with the site review sponsor, we could showcase an SEO software tool for 5-10 minutes of the site review, giving it extra attention and focus during the audit. So if a technical SEO tool takes the slot then we spend longer looking at technical SEO; if a link analysis tool takes the slot then we spend longer looking at link analysis; you get the picture. And if someone takes the slot, I’ll make sure that we don’t use any of the sponsor’s direct competitors – so if it’s a link analysis tool, we won’t use any other link analysis tools – just the sponsor’s.

Click to read more!

Don’t Panic, SEOs! The Whisky-related Zero Result SERPs are a Bug

Update: Google have since put this experiment on hold (source).

Zero-result SERPs have caused a bit of a stir in the SEO industry this past fortnight. For time-related searches, instead of showing a variety of results, Google shows you the answer and… that’s it. Unless you click the ‘Show all results >’ box at the bottom, all you see is Google’s answer. Here’s an example for "time in cardiff":

"time in cardiff" search screenshot
The situation went into panicky overdrive when I checked Twitter this morning and saw tweets from overnight suggesting that whisky-related SERPs had been affected. Rightly so, if you searched for "lagavulin 16" – as in Lagavulin’s 16-year-old single malt bottle – it would show the time box, Google Shopping results, Google AdWords ads (if applicable) and that’s it:

"lagavulin 16" search screenshot
The time box was a particularly bizarre inclusion – what’s the time got to do with a search for a bottle of whisky anyway? There was also chatter that other bottles of whisky with numbers after them (as in their age) were producing similar results.

And that’s when it hit me: what if Google was thinking that people were searching for Lagavulin the place and that the number was the time, as in: “what time is it where I am if it’s 16:00 (i.e. 4pm) in Lagavulin, the Scottish village?”

I tagged Danny Sullivan (who now works for Google) in a tweet and he’s confirmed that it’s an “edge case” (interesting choice of phrase, Danny – not “bug”?) 😉

So there you have it, folks. No need to panic (yet). They’re not after our whisky SERPs – phew! Breatheinbreatheout breatheinbreatheout. Why not pour yourself a glass of Lagavulin?

…Too soon?

Google Reviews are Broken (and Google Local Guides Aren’t Helping)

Basketball points illustrationGoogle has a review problem.

When I help clients with SEO, if they already have – or could benefit from having – a Google Map listing (a.k.a. a Google My Business listing), I help them with the presentation and optimisation of that, too. One element of that is the ability for customers to be able to leave reviews. For a business that works hard to give its customers a good service, it can be a fantastic way to stand out from the competition. I often encourage clients to try and get Google reviews from their happy customers – in a way that abides by Google’s guidelines.

However something that I’m finding is becoming more and more prominent is the phenomenon of fake – maybe even ‘incorrectly-given’ – reviews. This blog’s most popular ever post is about how I managed to remove a fake and libellous review from my parents’ business’ Google listing. We (mostly) got lucky because the review’s text said some very nasty things that were very obviously against Google’s review guidelines, but where the whole Google review removal process gets messy is when the text is ambiguous (i.e. it could be a customer or it could not be, and it doesn’t conflict with Google’s review policy either way) or if no text is left against the review at all.

‘Cold’ reviews

One of my clients (and also my business’ home) – Welsh ICE – gets fantastic reviews. They consistently get 4- and 5-star reviews from people who we know are members and have used their facilities.

…But then, all of a sudden, a few months back, they got a 3-star review with no text against it.

And then another one – 3 stars, no text.

And then a 1-star review with no text.

Two things were weird about these reviews:

  1. When I asked Jamie & Rachel – who are involved with running ICE and looking after its community – if they knew who these people were, they said no. The reviewers (to the best of their knowledge) had never used ICE.
  2. They all had the ‘Local Guide’ tag next to them.

Google Local Guide review examples screenshot

Introducing Google’s Local Guides

I’ve been in SEO (and Local SEO) for a while, and while I’d come across Local Guides before, I hadn’t really paid much attention to it – so I did some research. It’s a way to contribute to Google Maps – most likely rising from the ashes of the death of Google Map Maker, which I’d used previously (with limited success – but that’s an aside). What’s more is that it’s gamified: contributors can earn points and badges, and can ‘level-up’.

Google Local Guides points screenshot
At first I thought it was just a prestige thing, but then I came across something quite interesting: at one point (fairly recently), they offered a Google Play perk, whereby “Local Guides who reach[ed] Level 4 and beyond by 31 August 2017 [had] a chance to receive 3 months of Google Play Music and 75% off a movie rental on Google Play.”

Google Local Guides perk screenshot
…Which I’ve screenshot, just in case the page gets taken offline in the future.

Of course, Google’s Maps User Contributed Content Policy states that “contributions must be based on real experiences and information” – but here’s the thing: how can anyone prove or disprove that a review was based on a real experience? Given that Google are incentivising Local Guides by offering them a Google Play discount, what’s stopping Local Guides from randomly leaving random reviews/ratings in order to get points, including businesses they’ve never even dealt with and/or places they’ve never even visited?!

Click to read more!

Cardiff SEO Meet is Looking for a New Venue for 2018!

Cardiff SEO Meet (alt logo)New year, new venue. After three events in 2017 at Tramshed Tech, it’s time for a change… Cardiff SEO Meet is looking for a new venue for its events in 2018 and beyond. I have somewhere in mind, but I’d like to keep options open and get a ton of suggestions to consider.

Can you help? Do you know of anywhere suitable? Are you a venue owner who can provide a venue? Here’s our criteria:

  • Within 10 mins walk from Cardiff Central railway station
  • Reliable, free WiFi – ideally with no catches (e.g. you don’t have to subscribe to their mailing list or follow them on social media, etc.)
  • Accessible between 5:30pm-ish & 9:30pm-ish on the night, to set up and pack by
  • 50-100 capacity
  • Their own screen/projector setup

And nice-to-haves, although by no means deal-breakers if not available:

  • Food and drink available to buy (negating the need for a caterer – although happy to source externally if required)
  • PA and mic provided (if required, depending on whether or not the venue needs it)
  • Parking outside or nearby (free evening parking an added bonus)

Something like a function room in a bar would probably be our best fit, however another possibility could be an office premises, say if they also host events there… So long as the above criteria are met really.

We have sponsors, so there’s a budget, meaning that the venue hire doesn’t necessarily have to be free/cheap… however if the venue is open to becoming an event sponsor in return for a reduced rate then that’d be fab. Perks include a logo and a link on the Meetup group and on the event page of each event (here’s an example of an old event page), mentions in tweets before/during/after the event, mentions/links in the emails that go out to meetup subscribers (380+ people as I type this), and probably a whole bunch of other stuff. There’s also the fact that the venue will be seen by 30-50 people each time (I’m hoping to ramp this up next year) – one of our past venues commented that everyone who came to the event was a fresh face who had never visited before, so 30-50 new customers essentially.

Let me know! You can leave a comment below, email me, tweet me or @CardiffSEOMeet, or sign up to the Meetup group and message me on there. Cheers!