Articles Tagged with SEO

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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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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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.

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Applying the Pixar Pitch to Modern SEO

Toy Story Jessie cosplayer image
I recently listened to Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell is Human (having previously listened to the also excellent Start With Why), which is a great book if you don’t particularly like sales but have to do it (e.g. you’re a freelancer/consultant).

One part of the book introduces the concept of the Pixar Pitch, which was thought up by former Pixar employee Emma Coates. It is so simple it’s beautiful. It goes like this:

  1. Once upon a time there was ___.
  2. Every day, ___.
  3. One day ___.
  4. Because of that, ___.
  5. Because of that, ___.
  6. Until finally ___.

The idea is that every Pixar story is told in this way, in six simple steps – and that’s why their storytelling is so effective. In the book (and this blog post), Finding Nemo is used as an example:

  1. Once upon a time there was… a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
  2. Every day, … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
  3. One day… in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
  4. Because of that… he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
  5. Because of that… Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
  6. Until finally… Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

Oh, spoiler alert…? Sorry! Moving on…

I wondered if this formula could be applied to what I’d call ‘modern SEO’ – i.e. a collaborative approach (something that I preach at MOM, especially on the link building side of things) in the current post-Penguin, content-focused, let’s-break-down-the-silos digital marketing climate…

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Getting Detailed Keyword Planner Data via My Client Centre (MCC)

Keyword Planner (Prismafied) imageThis is probably really obvious, but it fooled me, so I thought it was worth blogging about.

TL;DR – To get detailed data using the AdWords Keyword Planner when managing multiple accounts via MCC (My Client Centre), make sure that you click on the ‘Jump to account’ drop-down at the top of the screen, select a ‘big spender’ client, and then do your keyword research as normal. The priviso is that you have to have at least one client in your MCC that’s a ‘big spender,’ otherwise you may not get the detailed data. If you leave it as the default – probably your own/agency account – you may not get the data, especially if you don’t use AdWords yourself, which is what fooled me originally.

Google’s changes

Back in June, Google started combining data for very closely-related keywords in its Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool. For example, the keywords "personal injury claim" and "personal injuries claims" suddenly had exactly the same search volume and suggested AdWords bid data, despite the latter being grammatically unfriendly and therefore less searched-on:

It was either a mighty big coincidence (unlikely), or their data was being lumped together (likely).

At first there was talk that it was a bug (even DMs that I had back-and-forth with the @adwords team showed that they didn’t really have a clue internally what the heck was going on), but eventually – weeks later – it was revealed that it was a permanent change. They also started to show data in ranges: e.g. “100 – 1K” instead of, say, “390”.

Ugh.

Initial confusion

It was also revealed that you had to be an active user – i.e. spending moolah on actual AdWords clicks – in order to get the detailed data, and also potentially have an account that’s been running for at least a couple of months. However, as it stands, no one’s currently sure how much you have to spend in order to see detailed data vs. the generalised ranges.

My question was this: what about people who have access to other AdWords accounts via My Client Centre (MCC)? How does that factor into it?

Well, from a recent post about it on the SEM Post:

“So needing to have active campaigns running for at least 3-4 months, with an unknown spend requirement, will mean many SEOs will have a hard time getting the detailed data unless they are able to MCC an active AdWords account that is seeing the data.”

This confused me, as I had a MCC account with at least 3 or 4 active AdWords campaigns in it (i.e. client campaigns), but whenever I tried to use the Keyword Planner, I was still getting the rough data ranges instead of the detailed data.

…And then I realised what I was doing wrong.

How to get detailed data

Whenever you access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner normally, e.g. if you visit it via Google Search or have the direct link to it bookmarked, you are taken to your AdWords account. In my case, it was Morgan Online Marketing’s AdWords account:

Keyword planner data ranges screenshot
Now I only have an AdWords account for My Client Centre purposes, so that I can manage other clients’ AdWords accounts. I don’t run AdWords ads on the MOM site itself.

And that’s why I wasn’t getting the data: MOM isn’t an active advertiser.

Click to read more!