Last Friday, our Head of Search Tim Grice hosted our monthly B3 Brunch Google+ Hangout on the subject of the recently released Penguin 2.0 update.
The Hangout saw some great questions come through in the Google+ comments with many centred around use of the Disavow Tool and strategies we should be using going forward in a post-Penguin world.
In-line with the questions and comments we saw coming through about Penguin, Tim provides his thoughts on this below.
The main thing people need to take away from the recent update is that it’s not a penalty; it’s an algorithm that is negatively affecting them. Penguin is targeting websites that are ‘over optimised’, with the main focus being on links, therefore it is important to audit your link profile and remove the negative signals Google are using to run the algorithm. If you have been hit by Penguin you have to accept that your investment in low quality link building has been identified and killed by Google, therefore as well as removing the bad links, you need to start thinking about what makes you link-worthy and developing a natural strategy moving forward.
Penguin is like a reset algorithm, if you have invested in link manipulation, it is now worthless and you need to start from scratch by cleaning up your profile and building on a more solid foundation.
You can view the Hangout in full below or over on our YouTube channel.
As always, our next Hangout will be announced right here on the blog and also on our Google+ page so be sure to head over and add us to your circles to be the first to find out about it.
If you have any burning questions or topics that you’d like to see featured in an upcoming Hangout, do let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. The same goes if you have any follow up questions with regards this month’s Hangout – we’d love to hear from you!
On the first day his post drove ~60,000 visitors to the Branded3 site. That’s around 20-30x our usual daily traffic, just to one page.
Our Google Analytics graph for April/May looks like this:
In isolation it looks as if we usually have quite low traffic.
The annotation under the graph says:
Stephen Kenwright breaks Branded3 server: The antisocial network: Path texts my entire phonebook at 6am
(ProTip: You can add annotations by double-clicking any date – this is useful for notable changes to your website such as a large change in traffic or a website redesign)
While our awesome development team were scrambling to fix the servers that had broken with the Path post, it got me thinking.
Be prepared for your server to die
If any website has a sudden surge in traffic, it can kill your server. Imagine a pipe with a slow trickle of water and suddenly a flood comes through. The pipe will probably burst. This is known as the “Slashdot Effect” and usually happens with popular posts on small websites.
Douglas Radburn helped keep the Branded3 website alive when Stephen’s post suddenly got a lot of attention – this is his advice about what to do in this case:
Ensuring your platform is optimised is an important step. Always make sure you’re using the most up to date version of your blogging platform and plugins. Caching options are readily available and easy to configure through plugins, even without specialist knowledge. Set one up now when your traffic is low, and you’ll ride the storm. Cloud hosting allows near-instant scalability in high-traffic situations so that you can quickly react, and depending on your platform, this is done seamlessly.
Having one really popular blog post messes with your metrics
Having a huge surge of visitors that behave very differently to the norm will definitely affect your metrics.
Here are some metrics that changed dramatically from March (pre Path post), April (Path post live) and May (Path post still getting high attention)
|Conversion Rate||0.11%||0.05%||0.03%||Conversion rates plummet|
|Bounce Rate||80.78%||88.61%||86.85%||Higher Bounce Rate|
|Visit Duration||59s||37s||50s||Visit Duration decreased|
N.B.: Bounce rates for websites with blogs are nearly always higher than bounce rates for websites without blogs. Many people who want to read a blog post come to the website to read a blog post and leave. This is a bounce.
Imagine giving this report to a client – it’s as if their website is performing badly. Users are becoming less engaged and less inclined to buy something.
If you’re looking at Analytics for a site that’s not yours, you might not know immediately what’s happened to make the report look terrible.
Why are my metrics dead?
Before doing anything – if you ever see this little icon in the top right, click it and drag the slider to “Higher Precision” to make your data is as accurate as possible.
Look for spikes or dips in traffic and find out what’s causing them. For the Branded3 website it was obvious there was a spike from 30/4/13-1/5/13.
If it’s a dip and you know you had a problem with your website (such as it went down that day), you should exclude those dates from your analysis. Export the data from Analytics and manipulate it in Excel. If you didn’t have an issue with your website, and there was a drop in traffic for another reason (such as losing rank in Google) you should still include these dates in your analysis.
If there’s a traffic spike, narrow the date range to the days that were most affected by the traffic spike. You can do so by changing the dates in the top right:
Look around to see what may be causing the spike. The places I’d hit would be:
- Landing Page Report
- Referrals Report
- Keyword Report
Look at the top term – is it new or increased? If so, it’s probably that. If not, have a look at how many rows are in the table.
If there are a lot compared to the previous days, it means you suddenly have a lot more landing pages/sites linking to you/keywords you rank for than before.
Should I filter my reports?
Before you make this decision, you have to decide what you’re reporting in. In this case I’m interested in my conversion rate.
Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that go on to undertake a specific action on your website (buying a product or signing up to a newsletter).
Ask yourself: is this what I want to see? Maybe a certain demographic of visitors will never convert and you should focus your efforts on the behaviours of the visitors that might. For example, if you know that only UK visitors can order products, then focus on their behaviours and increasing the conversion rate for those visitors.
Your decision to filter the data for conversion rate should be based on the questions “are these visitors likely to become my customers?”. In the Branded3 case – anyone who searched for the term “Path” or landed on the Path blog post was not very likely to become a customer – we don’t offer any Path services; we just wrote a popular article about Path.
You can use an Advanced Segment to get rid of irrelevant data, and export the relevant data to get a better idea of what your conversion rate really is. Here’s a video on how to use advanced segments:
It’s up to you whether a specific demographic of people would be potential customers or not. In our case, it was incredibly unlikely – they were just interested in reading a story about Path.
Advanced Segments or Filters?
- Can be applied at any time
- Don’t permanently affect the data
- Can be applied historically
- Best to use for excluding an anomaly in data
Using an advanced segment to exclude traffic for the Path post we get these stats:
|Conversion Rate||0.11%||0.11%||0.07%||Conversion rate dropped|
|Bounce Rate||80.78%||80.89%||80.35%||Bounce rate stable|
|Visit Duration||59s||59s||63s||Visit Duration increased|
This looks a little more normal! We might want to have a look into the drop in conversion rate, but at least it’s not as alarming as before.
- Are permanent
- Permanently affect all data going forward
- Can not be applied to historic data
- Best to be used in a completly seperate profile, to analyse a specific demographic (for example, only UK visitors)
In the past, we had one page that drove 2000-3000 visits a day because it ranked really well in Google for a high traffic term that it just wasn’t relevant for. We eventually re-directed the page. If we hadn’t, I would have recommended a filter be applied to our Analytics account to exclude that page – those visitors were not going to convert, so why should I analyse their actions?
- If your website dies, do something about this ASAP
- Figure out what you want from your reports
- Decide who your customers are and how to best analyse their behaviour
So yes, content can kill your site, but it’s not something that can’t be fixed.
Content has rightly taken a far more prominent role in SEO in recent months. Given the fairly new but oddly familiar status, we are currently somewhat in a state of flux; brilliant content is a necessity, but many of us are unsure about how to create it.
Creating fabulous content is easy – if you know where to look. You don’t have to have a team of Shakespeares in order to create something mind-blowing, though a certain amount of experience outside of SEO is always helpful.
The important thing to remember before creating any content is that this is the element of the site that is customer facing. Imagine your website or blog like a shop: the retail assistants may have a relatively small role in the overall running of the shop, but they’re the people you remember, the people with whom you directly deal.
There are numerous resources you can use to create content that people will remember – these are just a few of them.
Social Media: The World’s Greatest Online Resource
We’ve all come to realise that social media is not just a fad – it’s an incredibly important part of many online business strategies. While the actual websites we use may change periodically (remember Bebo anyone?), the way we use it has to be consistent from platform to platform.
At this moment in time, Facebook and Twitter are the greatest resources for content in terms of clarity, honesty and variety from potential customers. Trending topics on Twitter can change almost instantly, meaning you know exactly what your potential customers want, as soon as they want it.
It’s evident to a lot of people that the two biggest social media platforms out there are absolute gold mines for content ideas, but it’s not entirely clear that enough people exploit them on a regular basis for inspiration.
At the time of writing, #MoviesThatNeverGetOld is trending in the UK. The tweets including this hashtag were updating pretty much every second. So if you’re writing for a film site and you’re looking to talk about films people actually enjoy (not the films we’re told people enjoy by the film buffs at IMDB, etc.), you have a hugely rich resource in what is nigh on real time.
#moviesthatnevergetold-Forrest Gump-The Lion King-Harry Potter Series-Titanic-Peter Pan-Back to the Future Series
— Carrie-Anne Phillips (@carriebklover) June 13, 2013
Fairly predictable list here…
— Tweet Like A Girl (@TweetLikeAGirI) June 12, 2013
…But this tweet hailing White Chicks as a modern classic was retweeted nearly 6000 times
Despite being a pretty massive film fanatic, I’d never think to use White Chicks as an example of the kind of film thousands of people would want to read about – but they do, and thanks to Twitter, I now have about three different content ideas just from one trending topic and one odd yet popular film suggestion.
The Keyword Tool
We may also hail the Google Keywords Tool as a fantastic source for judging what people are searching for (and we hail as such because it is), but it doesn’t give us much feedback as to what potential customers really think. Using Twitter to search for terms or products allows us to see first-hand just what kind of content works and what fails miserably.
For example, we’d automatically assume that people looking to read about mortgages are both expecting and desiring dry content. However, there may be a huge audience of people who need to know about mortgages, but are avoiding these pieces of content because they think they’re boring. Social media helps us stop assuming what people want to read and make us realise what people actually do want.
For something similar, this visual highlighting Google’s trends can work as a much faster version of Twitter’s trending topics. If you ever have a spare five minutes, sit and watch this, take notes and allow Google to kick-start the flow of creative juices for you.
Do Feed the Trolls
Authority sites, such as The Guardian, The Times and the BBC, have always been known as great sources for creating content. They announce new developments at a far quicker rate than an SEO content team is able to, whilst simultaneously creating brilliant culture, comment, lifestyle and business features.
As these sites are already known as great sources of content, I’m not going to rehash the same old argument for them. I am, however, suggesting you start reading the comments that linger underneath them.
Comment strings are a fantastic source of inspiration for truly creative content, as you are being given completely honest feedback from those who probably don’t have an output elsewhere. With just five minutes spent on a comment board, you can tell exactly what the majority of the reaction is to news and opinions, as well as how potential customers are thinking and what their desires are.
Of course, many of these comments are created from a heat-of-the-moment reaction, but it’s your job to develop these seeds of ideas and nurture them into fruition.
Harness the Power of Your Imagination
Good content writers are good because they are able to use their imagination thoroughly, which is really something anyone can do. We are all customers, so rather than think ‘what do they want?’, instead think ‘what do I want?’
You may not be interested in the particular topic at hand, but if you can create a piece of content for a brand you wouldn’t consider to be relevant to yourself that you actually want to write and read, then you’re onto a winner.
Drawing upon past experiences also helps on many levels. Remember a time when you were particularly impressed by an experience in a shop – were they overtly professional and formal? Did they crack jokes? Did they seem genuinely passionate about the brand? Use these positive experiences to shape the tone of the content as well as the subject matter itself, because, as I said earlier, content is the only customer facing part of the entire process.
The intention of the page is incredibly important, so you must use your judgement to decide how your content should appear page-by-page. If you’re reading through a blog, ask yourself if it is actually entertaining, or is it just full of links back to your main page? Likewise, for a page on an ecommerce site, is it reassuring? Would you put your credit card details into this page? Is there a nugget of content there that is pretty pointless?
Ask yourself these kinds of questions and utilise these kinds of resources about every piece of content you create and you’ll rarely go wrong.
Are there any other resources you’d recommend over social media, comment threads and your imagination? Where do you think resources for truly fantastic content lay?
We’re big fans of BuzzFeed here at Branded3 (who doesn’t love random lists of why the North is better than the South?!) and we especially loved the Desk Safari post today, so we thought we’d do our own B3 version.
So here goes, Desk Safari at B3 Towers!
Head of Creative & Social Andy as a kangaroo.
Insights Analyst Emma as every SEO’s best friend.
Marketing Manager Felicity doing her best Meerkat impression.
Chilling out on a rock, Content Writer Gina.
Digital PR Executive David, Me (Laura) and Project Manager Rosanne as some purrfect kittens.
Project Manager Rosanne couldn’t resist being in twice so here she is as a chicken.
Outreach Executive Rob showing his stripes.
Senior Developer Doug decided on being a playful kitten.
Our London office also decided to join in…
Account Director Mike starring in Lion King.
Account Manager Joe choosing a sideways look as a camel.
And finally, Search Strategist Jenhao as an SEO’s other best friend, the panda.
So there you have it, our best Desk Safaris, we’d love to see yours too so get involved and post them in the comments below!
There’s one story that’s dominated the social media scene this week, but there may be a few others that have passed you by! Take a look at what we’ve been reading about:
Facebook introduces clickable hashtags
- Details – May as well get the big story out of the way first! Yes, Facebook has announced the use of ‘clickable’ hashtags which means you can not only click on a hashtag used in a post to reveal all posts using that term, you can use the native Facebook search bar for the same function.
- What does this mean? – The introduction of hashtags on Facebook means brands can finally get relevant content in front of target Facebook users who are not existing fans of their page, for free. Before this, the only methods would have been through paid advertising. But I’m sure Facebook will find a way to monetise this new system and I don’t think it will be too long before we see promoted (paid for) hashtags, the likes of which already exist on Twitter.
Branded3 sent me, a Social Media Strategist, and Tom Armenante, an SEO Strategist, to day two of SAScon2013. We both took some interesting points away – especially me, with regards to tracking and attribution of social media activity, so we thought we’d give you a summary of what we learned. Oh, and an extra special shout out to Jeff Coghlan and his company – mobile, social, gaming and digital production, Matmi – his augmented reality and gamification talk really blew us away – and thoroughly entertained us!
Keynote Interview – Mike Little, co-founder of WordPress
- The number of WordPress sites is approaching 67 million: Over 377 million people view more than 4.1 billion pages each month. Impressive!
- Born by chance: WordPress was born when, in 2002, a group of bloggers were using B2 but the man who created it disappeared and became uncontactable. The security issues that arose spurred a member of the community to take the software and develop it, with the first release of WordPress emerging in 2003.
- Success due to ease of use: Mike believes that WordPress became such a success because of its user-friendliness, the large, supportive, self-moderating international community that’s built up around it, and the fact that the open source GPL means that anyone can create services, plugins, themes etc.
- Promotes freedom of speech: WordPress.com is effectively banned in countries with an oppressive government regime because it gives citizens easy access to a voice that can be heard globally.
- Continuing improvements to mobile: While WordPress can be used on all of the major mobile operating systems quite easily, developers are working on improvements in this area.
Our Head of Search Tim Grice will be hosting an expert G+ Hangout in Brunch with Branded3 this Thursday at 11:30am (BST) in which he’ll discuss his thoughts so far on Penguin 2.0; the latest algorithm update to be rolled out by Google.
Around 2% of English-US search queries have been affected by the update and in this Hangout, Tim will be sharing his advice on how online marketers can best get their strategies in-line with Google’s guidelines.
With almost 10 years’ experience in the online marketing industry, Tim oversees the development of search strategies for some of the biggest brands in the UK.
An influential SEO blogger; Tim’s unique insights and creative strategies have helped to establish him as an industry thought-leader who’s always at the forefront of Google’s algorithm changes.
If you’re an online marketer, don’t miss this Hangout for the latest tips and advice on staying ahead of Google’s updates.
To take part in the Hangout, simply click here to join the event – the first nine to get involved on the day will be able to join in with the discussion – but don’t worry if you miss out on being the first users there, as we’ll be recording the Hangout on air for you to watch on our G+ page or our YouTube page.
See you Thursday at 11:30am!
There’ve been some really exciting updates for casual networkers and social geeks alike this week, so cast your eyes over our list and feel free to add your own in the comments box below.
For the last few years it seems that SEOs spend more effort trying to avoid penalties and updates than attempting to get rankings. It started in 2011 with Panda – an algorithm update designed to stop users writing content just for search engines that is notoriously difficult to recover from.
Panda is very effective at catching sites with thin, spun content that provides no value to users, but surely nobody who still has a reliance on SEO is still trying tactics like these? We’re still finding plenty of sites in need of historic content clean-up operations, but with Google supposedly working on “softening” the Panda update, now is the time to take stock and learn the lessons. Don’t think for a second that low value content will get a thumbs-up from Mountain View in future, and that things that are just about passable now will provide value five years down the line.
Do you use Google Analytics on a regular basis? Are you the go-to person when someone has questions about Google Analytics? Do you love diving into data and getting something really quite useful out of it?
Have you ever considered becoming Google Analytics qualified?
What is the GAIQ Exam and why should I bother?
GAIQ (Google Analytics Individual Qualification) is an exam offered by Google to prove that an individual is proficient in the use and understanding of Google Analytics.
- Costs $50 – you both purchase it and take it online here
- Only available in English
- 70 Google Analytics Related questions (all multiple choice) – chosen at random
- 90 minutes long (test can be paused, expires 5 days after starting)
- 80% is the passing score (you can get up to 14 questions wrong)
- Receive a certificate, and your name is listed in Google’s list of Qualified Individuals. Not to brag, but here I am.
- Once passed, certificate expires after 18 months (so if you’re reading this in 2015 or later, the link above probably won’t work)
Taking place at the home stadium of Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, the two teams – one playing for HM Forces and the other for Scotty’s – kicked off at 11am Friday morning and finished at 12pm on Saturday, in what was an astonishing display of stamina and determination.
Branded3 was at the helm of all the action live from the stadium, utilising Twitter, Facebook and a live blog to encourage people to come down to Welford Road to support the players, or make a donation to the charity if they couldn’t make it.
With a target of £22k to reach, organisers were ecstatic to realise this goal was quickly surpassed with latest figures suggesting the amount raised actually stands at nearer £60k.
Earlier this month the Guardian claimed that Google “has tired of its old friend SEO and is instead cosying-up to the new kid on the block, content marketing.” SEO is still a friend to Google and one it can’t live without, no matter how much it thinks it can…and content marketing is no “new kid on the block” – it’s just new on the search engine circuit.
Despite the author of the Guardian article (Jonathan Piggins of DBD Media) suggesting that “SEO now requires a much more varied skill set…something more akin to high quality writing and PR,” this is not necessarily the truth. Search engines still want to rank sound websites and plenty of massive brands would benefit more from some canonical tags on their website than a content marketing strategy that amounts to the same bill.
Latest from B3Labs
- Another milestone reached for Branded3 as it’s acquired by the
St Ives Group
- The latest media consumer findings & what they mean for digital marketers
- Talk to Branded3 at @BuyYorkshire in Leeds next week!
Latest from Blogstorm
- Watch @Tim_Grice talk all things Penguin 2.0 in June’s #B3Brunch
- Content can kill your site: How to fix it
- Search expert @Tim_Grice talks Penguin 2.0 in a G+ Hangout this Thursday