Tag Archives: SEO

A Penguin and Panda recovery story

Enjoyed this, some straight forward honesty with some real experimentation. A lot of us go through some of these things for personal and professional sites and most SEO have a number of personal play sites. Some good, some bad, some deliberately bad to act as a barometer. So, even an casestudy without domain names can confirm what you think you see in your own bubble. Thank you for sharing Michael.

Talking about social effects on SERPs visibility

eyefortravelEarlier today an interview I did for EyeforTravel was published. It is in their Social Media and Marketing section.

I am talking, quite tactically how social media activities can impact your visibility in the SERPs.

This follows some recent posts I have done here about, my presentation at Traverse conference and a some thoughts about the future of SEO.

Penguin 2.0 and future Google changes

So, the clear long term direction is to keep making a quality, well written, engaging, fast site that people would choose to recommend to their friends and family and mention on social. So, no change there.

If you are doing things to game Google, which everyone has to [to some degree] as there is a addictive dependency that has been created. A vicious circle of traffic need/expectation and the sheer dominance of one traffic provider.

In an article earlier this week by Search Engine Land they wrote up about the next significant algo update. The interesting thing in this article is that the after shocks in the last year or so have been just incremental updates, and a full 2.0 is coming.

This latest video featuring Matt Cutts of Google, talks about what changes are coming. Even IF you take his commentary as controlling spam through PR efforts; there is normally some directions/themes that you can take out of it.

Here is that video.

It seems that more changes are coming. Enhancements some might say. The tone of the video suggests that this is to be more comprehensive than before.

  • There is a Penguin 2.0 a web spam change – to continue to target [hate myself for using this term] ‘black hat’. So, more comprehensive would mean more identification, to go deeper with bigger impact for site that are caught
  • Advertorials, to prevent these from passing any page rank. If they are done just for SEO, then they are in violation of their “quality guidelines”. To make this a bit stronger in detection and decision making on value to pass. There are no issue with advertorials – unless they are just done to pass page rank for cash
  • If you are running loans, porn, pills or hard SEO areas you are being targeted by name into your link practices! This included a named mention of finding networks and all sites associated with them

There were some positive things

  • Better communication and information if your site is hacked or have malware inserted
  • An attempt at giving sites the authority they deserve, and then the visibility there too
  • Great news for many who were caught up partially or unfairly by their Panda update. Matt talks about looking for more +ve signals that may move some sites out from the borders
  • And, some presentational things in the SERPs around clustering domains to a user. And, if you do see them once, you would be less likely to see them again on subsequent pages

So, to be honest, if this is true. Then the coming changes would be genuinely quite good for most hard working decent folk! Let’s hope it treats my sites well!




#Traverse13 – my SEO presentation slides

At the weekend, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the inaugural Traverse Events’s travel blogger weekend down in [very] sunny Brighton. It was a busy old time, starting out on Friday nights reception which was definitely in high spirits, [many of which were served in small glasses!], followed by a full Saturday of workshops, discussions, pro-bars and a good amount of networking.  You can see the highs and lows via the event hashtag #traverse13.

It was great to talk to many of you who had entered our Biggest Baddest Bucket list competition, and to get positive feedback from even more who have, and will keep following it as the final winner is found and then travels.

Back on point. I was asked to share my slides from my workshops – so here is a slightly more workable slide-share version. I hope it makes sense without the commentary.  I am likely to publish a post about Author rank and how to setup for WordPress in a week after I get back from this weeks business trip to Spain.   Please do stay in touch via this site, Twitter or my G+.

In this presentation I try to explain

  • What SEO is today.
  • To explain the relationship between SEO, Social Media and Content.
  • To demystify what the Panda and Penguin Google updates where, and what that means for a travel blogger.
  • And, to give practical tips: 5 SEO & 5 Social media things to do today and a look future trends to prepare for.

Any comments or thoughts let me know.

The Power of Online Marketing presentation 5th March 2013

On the 5th March 2013 I was invited over to Ennis in County Clare hosted by My Destination Country Clare and in association with the Ennis Chamber. I was invited over to talk about the power of online marketing and to tailor the presentation to talk to about practical things local businesses can do with SEO and Social media. I also threw in some stats about how powerful Virtual Tours, Videos and other quality content for your users and your rankings alike.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

When we arrived and arranged the conference room there were lots of big foamex mounted pics, mostly for the toddler group, but some strange circus marketing posters. I took the picture below to be an [admittedly arrogant] sign of things to come. How was it going to fail after seeing this?

Say no more....

Say no more….

Qualities of a good SEO

What would you say are the qualities or traits that leads to being a good SEO?

As we all know you can’t go to school or do a degree in this subject, so we all come from a diverse set of backgrounds and have experiences from a range of small to big companies, from easy to incredible difficult industries or sectors. If you mix this fact that we can also report into one or more of these job titles; marketing directors, CTOs, heads of engineering or founders, we need to be able to morph into many different environments with quite different people. If you can understand your own traits you have more chance of succeeding.

Here are my thoughts on what qualities make a good SEO

  • Remember to speak to people, not companies/brands. I mean you need to be a good people person and be able to adjust quickly. Remember that people have their own needs, motivations, objectives. Then join that with…
  • Be a good listener. You need to “actively listen”, others may give you clues to a problem you have to solve, give advice, have seen it before or give you the context/release details etc
  • Be patient. Things take time, and if you need others to help. Being patient may be necessary
  • Be optimistic. People will always (mostly accidentally) break SEO, especially in larger companies with outsourced developers (not bitter promise). Staying-power and a positive outlook is essential for a long career in corporate SEO
  • Be flexible [and pragmatic]. There are always compromises to be made, and in a company with many stakeholders. Be ready to be flexible, but stick to what matters
  • Consistent. Be consistent, explain to others why you are making a recommendation, and only push when it matters

  • Be collaborative. Nobody really works alone. Get the developers, marketers, content producers, social media etc etc involved. SEO is a team game
  • Be humble – your manner needs not to alienate anyone, don’t be over confident
  • Be factual/logical – present your opinions, thoughts and recommendations in logical way. Especially important if they may upset other stakeholders, take the emotion out of all situations. Use facts, precedents and best practices

How to use them?

Try to understand your own style and personality. Try to work out the style of the person/people you need to work with. And they adjust [be flexible] to influence, persuade, receive help, work with, to ensure a win-win.

But, do exercise caution

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, consider this… an overdone strength can actually become a weakness.

Delivering on it

So, when you need to work with colleagues, clients or peers, think of your message, think of how you package this-up in a way that is appropriate to convey to message to this type of person in a way they understand. They will appreciate this. You will get what you need to do, and they will be pleased with you. That way your qualities will show through.

If you think you have a gap in your own qualities, the fact is that you can identify the gap means you can work on developing them.

Server Response Codes – what are they & why are they important?

What are they and why are they important?

When you request a URL or an element within a page, your browser you send a request. The magic of the tinter-web happens and the server you end up on sends back the content, with a response code, that communicates with your computer and confirms success/failure or an alternative action suggestion.

To really know what your servers are doing I really would suggest that you monitor your server response codes. This is especially important during any migrations/ launches or major changes. You can get this data easily inside Google Webmaster Tools or any internal tools you may have e.g. Tealeaf. If you are doing testing you can even get browser plugins e.g. http headers, or, fidler for Firefox.

Monitoring server response codes gives you insight into your site health, indexation, what is really happening, advanced usability monitoring, especially if you look by useragent or at a session level.

Server response codes are NOT “error codes”

It all depends on what you wanted your site to do. I jokingly say that reading repsonse codes are a bit like ‘tarot cards’ as you need to add context to when the code was given. You will see some common definations below. So, if you mean to give a 404 to delete a page from Google, then it is a positive thing. However, if you have accidentally deleted or moved a page, then its bad.

So, What are the most commons response codes I should know about?

Defintitions are from the mid Nineties and havent really changed. They are all numerical and they are grouped as…

Successes are in the 200’s

These codes indicate success. As in, you requested and you received.

200 = OK

The request was fulfilled as requested. This is the ideal answer to most requests made. And if you see redirects e.g. a 301, at the end of the chain you should get a 200.

201 = Created and OK

This should following a POST command. POST means that you send a request and the content is then generated, then returned. As opposed to a GET command, which ‘gets’ the same page every time! In the old days, POST was to get search results and GETs were ‘static’ pages. These days, you can have a GET URL, but actually POST to get the content. More to come in real HTML5 as we object.

Redirections are in the 300’s

These codes handle redirections of permanent or temporary in nature.

301 = Move permanently

The data requested has been assigned a new URL, and the change is permanent. This is the most common type of redirect for any kind of content movements, site migrations or major platform upgrades (effectively an internal migration). A user may notice a different URL in their browser. But for a SEBot, this means replace the URL you requested with this new one.

302 = Temporarily moved. A temp re-direct

The data requested actually resides under a different URL temporarily. A user will not likely notice, and the instruction to a SEBot is to look at the new location, but to keep the original URL in its db.

Bad requests are in the 400s

The request had bad syntax or was inherently impossible to be fulfilled.

403 Forbidden request

The request is for something forbidden. You may see this if you are looking around a server and the sys admin has put permissions/access rules. Or an internal request has not be given the right level to authentication.

404 = Page not found

A commonly used terms across the business, but do they know what it means? In short, the server has not found anything matching the URL requested. This could be a problem if you are not expecting this response code, or could be great if you have deleted a page and you want the search engines to remove this page from its index.

You should ensure that the content of that page works for the user! Ideally a sign-post-page. But a common mistake when creating a “404 page”, especially if you are use your app layer to resolve the request that it treats it like a disambiguation request and 302s to a 200 with a 404-style-message. You should check your 404’s 404 response status today.

Server problems are in the 500’s

500 = Internal Server Error

This means that the server encountered an unexpected condition which prevented it from fulfilling the request. Normally this would be an outage. If you see these in your analysis, you probably can’t do much about these, other than to keep your sys admins/hosting company in check.

503 = Temporarily not available

In the real world, if you take your website down for maintenance or updates etc. (if you need to take it down – why not load balance?), you should return a 503. This is effectively a soft 500. This tell the SEBots to come back later. This is important, as if you give a SEBot too many outages, you will lose your rankings!

There are more response codes, but in reality, every day, these are the only ones you will normally come across.

Link to a fun post about response codes shown in pictures of cats.

Infographic – comedy travel controversy

I came across this one infographic today and it caught my attention. Enough for me to post it here and give it a link. Having an angle always help. Especially if it is down the ‘toilet-humour’ or off-on-a-tangent-similes.

Infographics seem to be the SEO link building tactic of the year. Producing a piece that people will write about and give you a link for is an established technique. Its just that we are all getting more creative and prepared to hat-tip for great executions.

Well done TravelMatch.

The Numbers Behind the Travel Industry

Bing’s webmaster tool – todays opinion

Bing bong

Bing bong - Sites gone

I am wanting Bing to be good and then be able to convince the consumers to enable a more competitive, less Google dominated world.

They make large leaps forward, then fail in a few things. As of today I only have 6 pages of this site in the Bing index. My site is relatively small and is like therapy to me, so not that important really, but I use it to test the benefits and putting verification of my employers sites into a future release. So, what were todays woes?

Verifying my site

I logged in with my Hotmail account, added my account, clicked the right buttons etc. Added this site to the list >> downloaded their XML file >> Uploaded it to my server >> Pressed Verify >> FAIL.

After reading a few forums, the best advice seemed to be to delete the entry and add it again. Then woe behold it instantly could now find its own BingSiteAuth.xml file. When you are in there, its not too shabby. It has most of the features of Google’s own webmaster tool including crawl, errors reports, traffic summary and my favourite “Index Explorer”. Will play some more in due course. And even more if consumers start to use Bing for their daily quantity of searches.

So, I am now in. But I need to work on…


If you don’t have your site/page in the search engines index you don’t even have a chance. So, I have 6 pages, that is only <5% of my pages. This kind of quantity is about the same for my employer, and we have >1mm pages worthy of inclusion. There is a a neat little tool called “Index Explorer” that in a directory drill down view, shows you all the pages they have found at some point. And you can filter by status code, date etc etc. You can also submit URLs manually, but only 10 a day and up-to 50 a month! My next line of enquiry was where to submit my sitemap. I could not find this information inside the tool at all. I found it via a Bing search on their log-in page. And for convenience here is how to do it.

How to submit your sitemap to Bing

Step 1: Copy and paste the entire URL below as a single URL into the address bar of your browser:


Step 2: Change “www.YourWebAddress.com” to your domain name

Step 3: Press ENTER

So, I pasted


… and now I wait

Bing are so close to helping webmasters, then hopefully their index will actually update!
And then users will consider them relevant aswell as aesthetically pleasing. Keep going Team Bing, not much longer to wait now!

Book Review: 50 Ways To Make Google Love Your Website

google book small image

A must read says Land

The book: “50 Ways To Make Google Love Your Website” by Steve Johnston and Liam McGee, is pretty good.

As a cover testimonial, I thought I would re-read it now that I have a physical copy, and I have to say I still like it.

It focuses on Google, but the principles apply easily to all regular search engines. It is an easy to read explanation of the key aspects of ethical, long term SEO best practices in words even a layman can understand.

They go on to explain the concepts from webots, duplicate content through to the importance of links in the Google ecosystem. There are few bits that on this time reading I have learnt. For example I never previously knew what a “hypernym” was ! There are many SEO books on the market and in my time I have read a number. This is definitely one of the best and that is why I was happy to put my name on the back cover. I would recommend this for beginner and advanced practitioner alike.

my quote

My quote on the back cover

Here is the full back cover:

The back cover of the book

Click to enlarge

If you fancy reading it yourself you can do via the link on the Search Johnston site.