Monthly Archives: June 2009

Google labs – City Tours beta


I have just been playing in the Google labs with a new kid on the block. There is a new product in test called City Tours.

There seems a move by all the major players away from a search engine returning list of resources. To engines that actually add-value to that experience. A move to providing answers.

As someone who works in travel and someone who believes in quality inspirational content, this could be a threat or equally a huge opportunity. Still not sure what my opinion is, other than it could be great. Once they sort out some decent answers.

Check it out for yourself >>

Interesting reading 2009-06-26

A huge pile of reading!

A huge pile of reading!

So what from my reading has stood out this week?

My stance on content is to produce helpful, informative and engaging content. That keyword research tools are used to help design the angle of the page, but not to lead the final content. There was a great article on ScienceforSEO which talks exactly about this.

Glenn Murray summarised his approach to content planning as:

  • Do some keyword analysis to identify what customers are searching for;
  • Plan a cluster of pages around each target keyword phrase;
  • Supply the copywriter with a list of topics to write about (preferably one topic per page).

On Social media, there was a standout article on SiteVisibility about what you should measure.

The article suggests a) Clicks per thousand followers, b) Follower velocity, your follow rate, using a 3rd party site such as Twitterholic, c) CTR, clicks vs followers, an indication of what is popular and d) RT’s, how socialable your posts are. Makes sense to me, its an steer on your buzz

Changing tack and looking at some history, Stuntdubl has a easy to follow chart showing the evolution of SEO, check it out when you need a reminder/flash back to the milestones we have all encoutered. See the chart here.

EConsultancy have an article talking about the use of social media by ‘real’ journalists. Here is an extract from their article.

In 2008, 44% were reading feeds regularly; while 19% were reading five or more feeds every day. Use of online video had jumped from 28% to 38%.
This year alone has seen quite a shift: Over 70% of journalists surveyed wanted organizations to provide a page in the online newsroom containing links to every social media environment in which that company participates. 38% of journalists prefer to receive information via company tweets!
28% now say RSS feeds are important, and 62% read them regularly.

It seems in the time pressed world of writing, getting information sent to you helps!

Then on a techie note, on the official Google blog there was an article talking about making the web faster and some of the things that have happened in the past few years. Such improvements in JavaScript speed, code optimisation, server work and the new standard of HTML 5. All of which are currently on my tech wish list for my current employer.

Andrew Girdwood, I think “ranted” (IMHO quite rightly) about the state of the UK SERPs on his personal blog. I won’t even try to paraphrase – take a read.

Rel No Follow is dead and has been for ages – official

SEO talking heads

SEO talking heads

It would seem negligent not to acknowledge this story.  It seems to have sparked a feverish amount of conversation on internal DLs, forums and social media posts.  And my RSS reader is stuffed full of interpretations of this change.  And now, I am guilty of peddling this stuff too.

Page Rank sculpting is dead and has been for a year – official.  The man himself explains all.

The original post on Matt Cutts’ own blog >>

I too have been guilty of implementing this on my clients sites.  But I don’t feel bad.  First of all it has done no harm, and it didn’t detract from the big wholesome projects.  And in the process of executing this low-level tactic it has made a lot of team members take an interest in SEO.  They have helped make a tight information architecture and it has focused the mind on the exclusion of non-value-adding-pages.

So, not all bad.  I think we should retain the idea, but change the execution.

It does leave me wonder a few things – that won’t keep me awake at night

  • I also wonder if any other smaller search engine did a me-too implementation?
  • If I should start leaving comments on other sites/blogs!
  • If Akismet is going to have to work harder against all those form injections from blue pill touting sites?
  • If some bright spark is going to suggest wasting more time taking it off our sites
  • If someone is going to start asking how page rank is calculated and I will end up on a murder charge!

We live and learn. And what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

Nanobreaks – new travel trends Nanobreaks new trend Nanobreaks new trend

Did you know the new thing in travel if you don’t have time for a weekend break? Try a  “Nanobreak”.

In a recent press release from they explain from their extensive data that people are not cancelling their holidays, but instead are changing where they go, and for how long for.  In the Nanobreaks release they talk about a 29% Year on Year increase in people looking for a single night stay. Previously people would go Friday and come back on a Sunday.  Now people are going early Saturday til late on Sunday to squeeze the most out of their trip.

From a UK perspective, the winners are cities like Bournemouth, Brighton, Edingburgh and London.  But also people are taking advantage of some great airfares and travelling to Marrekesch, Venice, Rome, Copenhagen and Nice.

So much so, are currently running a social media campaign around “Nanobreaks” and their onsite page explains it here.

Nanobreaks – the Nanolog campaign from >>

It seems that people are resilent and wont give up on holidays, but will just change where and when they go.

Google squared

One of the things I have played with in Google labs today is Google squared.  It has sparked more questions than it has answered.  Just recently with the release of ‘search options’ and the ‘wonder wheel’ this is making me think that Google is thinking of ways of displaying results and allowing every increasing amounts of personalisation.  This is also just after the launch of Wolfram the computational engine.

If you think back there are 3 layers 1) data 2) information and 3) knowledge.

If you consider a regular search is returning teasers from informational pages,  sparked by a user entering just a bit of data.  Then trying to make comparisons, by displaying more relevant information on the results page is trying to turn that raw data/information into knowledge.  And that is where the real value add is.

I have just done a search for New York hotels and this is what I got.

Google squared results

Google squared results

If you click on the image or any cell, it displays the URL of where it got its information from.

Google squared, with source shown

Google squared, with source shown

It is clearly not ready for a full on release.  Mainly because its returning blanks when trying to complete its grid. But I do find this totally fascinating.

The bit that might become annoying, is that in this example, it has returned my website as an image result but it has given a direct contact alongside.  So, they are using my image from my site costing me money to help their results.

I guess that this is for informational searches.  I have tried adding some simple action terms to the search e.g. Book New York hotels etc and it doesnt want to return back buying links.

I suppose that we need to find a way of measuring this result and ensuring we maximise our opportunities!

UGC deal spotting for travel logo

The logo of Best Travel Deals dot Net

The web is, im my humble opinon moving to a state of near perfect knowledge. (to final use an economics A-level term correctly!)

Here in the UK we have seen the rise of voucher code and offer sites, generalists and ones that specialise in food/restaurants. And if you believe the stats, and attribute the success of these sites to the state of the economy, are becoming more and more important.

As we, the cynical marketers know, these sites are populated by the general public for their peers, but also ‘leaked’ by companies.  Not that I have ever uploaded a code or tweeted one myself 🙂

I was very pleased to see a mail the other day from Mary Song, a US based serial entrepreneur who I would like to call a friend, who has launched a new site.  I am cheap, but I wouldnt normally write a post about a new site because they just asked.  But I am genuinely interested to see if this works.  With all UGC sites, you need to make your own tipping point to make it work and hopefully this will happen soon.

So, check out and see for yourself >>