SEO

Blow Your Goddamn Trumpet

Trumpet image
A few weeks ago I received an interesting enquiry from a local designer, who does a lot of design work for musicians. Given that I’m a proper music fanatic, I was really excited at the opportunity to potentially work with him and his clients. He asked me for my hourly/day rate, and although I stressed to him that I quote on a per-project basis depending on what I think is required to do the job, I gave him a rough idea of how much I usually charge. We discussed a potential small one-off project (which sadly fell through shortly after discussions began, as his client backtracked on wanting SEO work done), and then he suggested that I work on a pet project of his instead. However when he brought up the latter project, he explained that when he told his team about me, they “freaked out slightly when [he] mentioned [my] rates!” Hmm.

I replied saying something about how we could price it based on their budget rather than my fee, if that was easier – and I left it at that. It was quite a weak and timid response, looking back at it now. I’ve yet to hear back.

Ever since I sent that last email, I’ve been kicking myself.

Sure, the “your prices are high” reveal could just be a ruse to try and get me to lower my prices. Or it could be the case that his team doesn’t value or ‘get’ the cost of SEO. I don’t think I charge exceptionally high prices (I know a few SEOs with less experience who charge about the same), and given that he’s a designer – and probably gets people raising their eyebrows at his prices – I’m surprised he’s surprised (if that makes any sense)!

Whatever the case, I later realised that I didn’t give him any reason to realise why I charge that rate, whether it’s perceivably high or not. I just said “oh I can probably match your budget if you let me know how much that is.” What a mistake. I could’ve/should’ve used it as an opportunity to sell myself a bit more…

I could’ve told him that I’ve been doing SEO full-time for over 8½ years (since early 2009). And that I’ve worked at two agencies locally as well as for Confused.com as part of their in-house team. And that I’ve been blogging for over 5 years and that this humble SEO blog has been a finalist in the Wales Blog Awards as well as the UK Blog Awards for three years running. And that I’ve written guest posts for Moz’s blog, which is widely considered to be one of the best SEO resources in the world. And that one of my campaigns – which I spearheaded single-handedly – was a finalist in the UK Search Awards 2015 for two awards (and that I believe I was the only solo consultant/freelancer to get shortlisted that year). And that I have a bunch of very happy clients on MOM’s testimonials page, many of whom are also on my Linkedin profile as recommendations, meaning that they’re genuine and not simply made up. And that I’ve spoken at one of the biggest SEO conferences in the UK – not just once, but twice – and have a bunch of other speaking gigs under my belt as well.

To be fair, I hate to brag – and the paragraph above feeling like one full-on braggy braggathon. Ych a fi!

…But I could’ve left it with him to think about. Did he think my rates were too high because he didn’t know too much about me? Would he still think they’re too high now that he knows all of the above? I guess I may never know – but next time I’m gonna try this approach instead.

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to blow your trumpet once in a while. The next time I get chance, I’m gonna blast the hell out of the damn thing.

[Image credit – Tom Mrazek]

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…

Click to read more!

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.

Click to read more!

It’s 2017 & I’m Still Seeing “SEO is Crap” Discussions…

Angry face art“The world is on fire,” the mighty Ed Harcourt recently sung.

2017 has begun, swirling from 2016’s turbulent aftermath of Trumps and Brexits – and yet here I am, publishing my first post of the year nitpicking about what someone said about SEO.

“In the name of SEO”

I regularly check and contribute to the Cardiff Start Facebook group, and got a little excited when I saw someone asking for advice on content marketing. While I didn’t contribute myself, SEO got mentioned – although in a way that got my back up a bit:

Cardiff Start FB group comment screenshot
Mike offers some great advice – the only problem is that very first line. The pertinent text (with emphasis added):

“First. Prioritise quality over quantity – pumping out volumes of crap in the name of SEO helps nobody – times have changed.”

Aside from one other teeny-tiny mention, this was the only mention of SEO in the whole thread. A whole thread about content marketing and SEO is seen as the bad bit. “Don’t do it” is essentially what’s being recommended.

I’d usually roll my eyes at comments like this – like I’ve done so many times in the past – but my concern here was that people who are new to content marketing may be new to SEO, too. And now their whole experience of something that could be so crucially beneficial to their website/their business/their livelihood has been tainted. Also, a few people Liked it, suggesting agreement.

So what’s the alternative? Later on, Mike goes on to say that content should provide three things:

a. build trust with existing and potential customers
b. develop your own unique, tailored, audience
c. create demand for your service or product with that audience

Here’s a question for you: why can’t content fulfil that criteria and have an SEO focus?

SEO doesn’t have to be a dirty word

One of my clients has done insanely well creating content with a bit of an SEO focus. With my help, he’s grown his blog from 30 organic search visits a month to 10,000+. That’s an increase of over 300x – in other words, 300 times more people are visiting his website through search engines (through SEO) than they were previously.

So, is he “pumping out volumes of crap” in order to do this? Is that the secret? No. He’s writing good quality content, which helps to build trust with existing and potential customers, that’s unique and tailored to the audience, and that helps to create demand for his service with that audience. Hey, does that sentence seem familiar? Look up a couple of paragraphs.

Click to read more!