Hitwise posted yesterday about the top UK traffic sources to Amazon. One of the top keywords was “Giles Wareing” so this post is a fun experiment to see if I can rank for “Giles Wareing” on Google and beat Amazon.The reason people are searching for “Giles Wareing” is to buy a copy of The Giles Wareing Haters’ Club
I will post again about how this experiment goes.
Most bloggers will be aware that John Chow no longer ranks for his own
name on Google. John seems quite proud of the fact he got a manual
penalty for blatantly flouting the Google Webmaster Guidelines……or
Yesterday I had 15 minutes to spare so took a quick look at
johnchow.com to see if there were any other issues that might have
caused his ranking to plummet. The results were pretty shocking.
First of all he has a problem with his apache server meaning it serves
lots of pages like duplicate-content.johnchow.com and seems to be allowing
wildcard subdomains to show up the same content as his homepage.
Example twww.johnchow.com and 222.johnchow.com
Next he has the entire
wp-content directory indexed in Google.
The worst problem is that every single story is available at no less
than 4 different urls (not counting the category pages):
One story is also available at http://www.johnchow.com/?p=1508 which
is a different type of link again.
A major issue is that every single post has its comment feed indexed
meaning John has about
1100 useless pages indexed.
Another minor bit of duplicate content is the random post plugin which
doesn’t 301 to the post properly.
Why does this happen?
Clearly John didn’t intend to do all this, the blame lies squarely at
the feet of the WordPress developers for not asking for some help from
SEO consultants. Maybe if they paid some attention to the plugins
people were developing they might incorporate some of the features in
Did duplicate content kill John?
Normally if a site lost its rankings and had this many issues it would
be a pretty clear cut cause and effect situation. However when you
have also violated the Google Guidelines its not quite that simple.
In Johns case I still believe that he has received a manual penalty
but also think he needs to fix the duplicate content issues, just in
Image search is a fascinating subject and something that can drive a substantial amount of traffic to your website. For the past few months I’ve been using a Netvibes widget that allows you to compare image search results in a nice AJAX interface.
How they compare for iPhone
Lets see how the 4 compare for the iPhone image search:
Google is the clear winner here. Flickr seems to be showing photos taken with an iPhone. Yahoo and Ask are way out of date.
Google and Yahoo are joint winners here. Ask has good results but appears to be distorting some of the images.
The key with a search term like “paris” is to offer a variety of results. Some people might be looking for Paris Hilton, some may want images of Paris and some might want a map. This is where personalised search results would be useful.
The winners here are Ask and Google.
Blue Buy Now Button
Google results here are totally unrelated, Yahoo gets the colour almost right but the Ask results are amazing. Flickr had no results.
Red Buy Now Button
Google has the colour right on this one, Yahoo does well with the first result but Ask is the winner again.
Image search engines are clearly very advanced. I was amazed at how well Ask handled the button search queries and will be using them in future to find web design graphics. Personalised results would improve the search results no end by removing Paris Hilton for people who had just been searching for flights to Paris for example.
Lets imagine your site was receiving thousands of visitors per day from Google. The traffic may have been from mainly long tail searches across thousands of keywords or from a few high volume competitive keywords.
One day your traffic levels drop and you can’t immediately see why. This action plan will take you through the steps involved in finding out what happened and deciding what action, if any, to take.
Look at your stats
Check your server logs and traffic stats for anomalies that might indicate your server went down at some stage in the last 2 weeks. If you have server issues while Google is doing a deep crawl you will find the pages that were unavailable will be dropped from the search results until they are crawled again. Losing thousands of pages can result in a substantial drop in traffic.
Checking Webmaster Central will show you whether your site still has pages indexed (you can do this using a site:www.yoursite.com search as well) and if Google has encountered any problems crawling your site.
Look out for the “Web crawl errors” section and make sure that any problems Google has found in the past are not still occurring. Common mistakes include errors in robots.txt and htaccess files.
If you find that there have been problems and that the issues are now resolved there is no action you can take to make Google crawl again quickly, the problem should sort itself out within 14 days depending on how often Google spiders your website. Talk to your host or web developer to make sure the issue isn’t going to happen again.
Are you banned?
If the issues can’t be traced to your server or some coding mistake then the situation becomes slightly more worrying. If your site is no longer appearing in Google for a site:www.yoursite.com query then you may have been banned. The best thing to do is sit down and read the Webmaster Guidelines and write down what you have been doing to promote your website, anything that is outside the Google guidelines might cause them to remove your site from the index.
In the event you are confident you haven’t broken any of the rules you should start looking for other websites that are suddenly copying your content or duplicating your pages. Make sure you haven’t suddenly attracted millions of links from p0rn sites as this might raise a flag at Google. Also check your pages haven’t been hacked to include spam content and links.
Common issues frowned upon by Google are buying or selling links, using hidden text on web pages, doorway pages, mass link exchanges and anything else designed to artificially inflate your rankings.
Once you find the issue that caused your site to be banned, submit a reinclusion request to Google and wait. This process isn’t quick but you should see results, depending on the nature of your violation.
I’m not banned
In most cases your site won’t be banned from Google, the pages simply won’t rank as highly as they did before. The search results are changing by the hour and most sites don’t maintain the same rankings for long.
If your traffic drop is major then it is likely that Google either altered the algorithm to place less weight on whatever factors were giving you good rankings before OR they gave your site a manual penalty. A third option is that other sites have overtaken you but if your traffic drop is sudden and quite large this is unlikely.
Try to sit down and analyse what marketing strategies you have been doing to promote your website. Unless you have attracted a few hundred natural links from high quality sites in the last few months it is likely that your rank has fallen due to an over reliance on paid links or directory links.
The first thing I do whenever rankings drop is sit down and create some linkbait articles for a few days.
If you still don’t have any answers, relax and don’t panic. Google alters the algorithms all the time, sometimes sites can disappear for a couple of days and come back stronger than ever.
Keep an eye on the SEO blogs and webmaster forums and try to figure out what has changed in the algorithm and start working towards solving the issue.
Carphone Warehouse, Europe’s largest mobile phone retailer, used to rank number 1 for the search term “mobile phones” on Google. In my opinion they should be number one as they are the biggest brand and have a good website.
Today their ranking has slipped to number 16, lets try and figure out why.
The best place to start is by checking the cache of the page. What do you notice at the top?
These search terms have been highlighted: phones
These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: mobile
With all the quality backlinks in the world a site still won’t rank for mobile phones without having the phrase somewhere in the content.
Lets hope the agency that handles the SEO is reading this, otherwise the Â£10,000 per day that this mistake is costing might end up costing them a contract.
Another interesting site in the mobile phone search results is threestore.three.co.uk which has over 3.6 million backlinks from websites that seem to run the Digital Point Coop. Despite this they have ranked number 1 or 2 for at least 6 months.
Starting a new website from scratch is the most difficult aspect of internet marketing. If the site is the online home of a bricks and mortar company you can normally leverage the reputation and contacts of the business as well as a large marketing budget to kick start the process. These luxuries are not usually available when we launch an affiliate site.
Choosing a niche
The golden rule is to choose something that you are passionate about or, at the very least, knowledgeable about. Ideally you should already read some of the blogs in the niche and know the names of the editors. If you try to start from scratch in an industry you know nothing about you will find it hard to build any traction.
Make sure you have browsed the marketplace at sites like Commission Junction and Trade Doubler to see what programs are available and what sort of CPA they pay.
Building the site
Unless you are good with php you probably want to start your affiliate site using WordPress. For the first few months you really don’t want to be worrying too much about monetizing the site – all you are going to be doing is link building. Make sure you have things like unique titles and meta descriptions on your pages and you really can’t go too far wrong with WordPress.
After a few months you might find you need something more flexible so you might be able to move away from WordPress or to have a mixture of normal php pages and WordPress pages on the site.
I would recommend removing date stamps from url’s as they might make visitors think your offers have expired.
To make your affiliate site appear trustworthy you need to have an eye catching logo as well as an appealing design.
If you’re using WordPress then it’s best not to worry about the design for the first few months. Download one of these themes and the site will look stunning right from the outset.
Most of the ideas you might have for your affiliate site have probably been done before. Unless something is truly revolutionary it is very unlikely that you will achieve any press coverage. A new website for your local shop might be able to get a mention and a link from some local websites but this won’t happen for your affiliate site so you need to think slightly differently.
Try ideas such as offering awards to various businesses or reviews of products and services. Many companies have press sections on their websites where they link to sites that mention them. You will need to appear very authoritative to pull this off.
Assuming you have added some useful tools and a blog to your site and chose your niche wisely it should be quite straightforward to launch a linkbaiting campaign. Adding some cool content and tools to the website and promoting them everywhere you can in the first few months will dramatically reduce the time it takes for your site to rank and you will reap the benefits of having a solid, natural link profile.
If you have chosen a niche full of interesting products you need to use images of the products in your pages and blog posts. The use of images makes your site appear legitimate and encourages buyers. Images also allow you to get lots of traffic and links using Google Images.
It’s much harder to use images to your advantage in niches such as insurance or mortgages so you might need to consider this when deciding.
Adding your affiliate links
Until you add some affiliate links your site probably just looks like a normal WordPress blog. The key thing to remember is that until you start getting traffic from the search engines you won’t make much money from affiliate marketing so you may as well not include the links.
People who find your site via social networks and RSS feed readers are far less likely to want a new mortgage than the user who typed in “new mortgage” into Google.
The key with affiliate marketing is to pass your links through redirects to make them look like normal links. This results in more clicks from your human visitors as well as making sure Google doesn’t see that your site is full of affiliate links. Luckily there is a good WordPress plugin for adding and tracking your affiliate links.
Where to put your links
If you fill your pages with affiliate links the visitor will probably not click on any of them. I recommend using a couple of links per page along with some “Buy Now” buttons. Keep testing the layouts, click rates and bounce rates to see what works well for your site. My favourite trick is to add an affiliate link such as “Top Sellers” in your navigation bar.
If the affiliate program you are promoting only sells products to US residents you are not going to earn any commission from people in the UK. The solution is to install something like the Maxmind IP to Country database for $50. This allows you to send US visitors to your standard affiliate program and foreign visitors to another.
If you can’t find an appropriate place to send the visitors simply use the Auction Ads Url Converter to send the traffic via Auction Ads to eBay.
Make it look real
If you want to sell gadgets, for example, it really helps your conversion rates if your site looks like a gadget shop. Visit the leading retailers in your niche and make sure your site is laid out like theirs. Most users are still new to blog layouts and prefer to be faced with a standard online shop. You need to strike a balance between appearing too commercial and struggling to attract links and losing conversions because your site looks like a blog.
Google has today announced a new message center section of Webmaster Central so they can communicate with webmasters.
I logged in to my account just now to see what Google has to say. Maybe they would have something interesting to tell me, like how long my mortgage sites will be sandboxed.
Anyway I don’t have any messages, has anyone else got a message? What does it say?
Have you ever opened up your Google Reader account or personalized Google Hompage and spotted a feed that you didn’t remember subscribing to? If you have then it might have been due to a security issue with the way Google handles RSS subscription requests.
Clicking on the subscribe using Google button on most blogs takes you to a page saying “Google offers two different ways to keep up-to-date with your favorite sites” with the option to click on either “Add to Google homepage” or “Add to Google Reader”.
You can see it in action by clicking on the button below (don’t worry, this won’t auto-subscribe you to anything):
The problem is that unscrupulous websites can copy the links to Add to Google homepage or Add to Google Reader and open them up in an IFRAME for every visitor, meaning that anybody who visits their website while signed in to a Google account will suddenly have subscribed to the RSS feed on both Google Reader and the Google homepage automatically.
All a site needs to do is add the following code to their pages, replacing the blogstorm feed with their own feed, and they get a bunch of new readers.
<iframe width="1" height="1" border="0" scrolling="0"
<iframe width="1" height="1" border="0" scrolling="0"
It is worth noting that none of the other RSS readers I tested had this vulnerability.
If you want to see the security issue in action, and are signed into your Google account, click this link. Please be aware that this will auto subscribe you to the BlogStorm RSS feed so if you don’t want to know about internet marketing and general web design related topics you might want to be careful.
Why would somebody want to do this?
Now most of you are saying “Why would a blogger want to get readers in this way?”
Well, there are two answers. The first is simple: blogs like to show off a large number of Feedburner subscribers so if you have no morals, a low quality blog and want lots of subscribers, this is the way to get them.
The second is a bit more sneaky. Imagine you are doing some affiliate marketing, what is the most valuable piece of real estate on the web? Where would huge corporations pay millions per day to get an advert? The answer is right below the search box on the Google homepage.
With this exploit thousands of people could suddenly see your best offers plastered right underneath the Google search box that they use hundreds of times per week. Some people will just assume Google put them there, many will trust Google’s recommendation and buy the products.
I wonder how long this will take to get fixed?
Today is the last day that webmasters can use the old Google Analytics interface.
In case you haven’t quite found your way around the new interface I wanted to remind readers about the Google Analytics tutorial we released last month as well as the second part where we answered your questions.
If there are any more questions, now is the time to ask!
In tribute to the amazingly popular icanhascheezburger.com, which, in spite of failing the “can people type my domain name into the address bar” test, is serving half a million page views each day, I’ve complied a lolcats SEO edition. Enjoy!
Don’t worry – until this morning I didn’t know what lolcats were either.
Yesterday I was trying to take advantage of the Favourite blogs meme run by Mashable.
Mashable were displaying a Google Blog Search widget to show all posts linking to this post on their site. Mashable has loads of readers so I figured if BlogStorm could be the first one listed in Google Blog Search I would be onto a winner.
Under the Publicize tab in Feedburner there is a service called PingShot which notifies various services when you post. I have 5 additional services including the Google blog search pinging service listed so whenever I publish a post Feedburner pings a bunch of sites to tell them.
Feedburner also offers a pinging service of their own so you can tell them when you post.
Google is fast!
Armed with these tools I published the post, pinged Feedburner, Feedburner pinged Google and I sat back, waited a few seconds and started refreshing Google Blog Search to see how long it would take to get indexed.
This is the cool part, the blog post was indexed in Google in about a minute. I don’t know exactly how long but it was less than a minute. Pretty cool, huh?
Was it a fluke?
Tonight I published another post and tried again. This time it took just 120 seconds to be indexed in Google Blog Search. I took some screenshots below.
How fast can you get your blog posts indexed? Maybe some of you could take screen capture videos and we can see who is the fastest?
While checking the latest submissions to the Digg
spam section Upcoming queue at the weekend I spotted an article entitled “Ten Tips to the Top of Google”.
Ever keen to see what tips Digg spammers are offering these days I decided to check it out.
My initial thought was that the article is one of the many SEO articles that is totally misleading and offers bad advice to confused webmasters.
However with a bit more research it turns out that the article was a copy of an old (published March 2004) version of Jill Whalens Ten Tips article which is actually quite a good resource, although it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2005. So the problem here isn’t that the article is bad, it was perfectly fine when first published, it’s just a few years out of date.
This led me to thinking about all the millions of pages of blog posts, articles in article directories and forum posts that have been published over the last 5 years that are starting to become dangerously out of date. Large and well known brands are giving bad advice every day purely because articles they wrote and syndicated in 2004 are still being published around the web.
Google has an algorithm to offer search results based on the sites that have attracted the most votes (ie links) from other websites. This works perfectly fine for the first few years of a search engines lifetime and for ranking time independent data but what is Google going to do in 10 or 20 years time? Just because an article has attracted 10,000 links over the last 5 years doesn’t mean its relevant or even accurate today.
Some pages will be updated and can remain relevant as long as the author is willing to keep publishing new information. Other pages, such as blog posts and news articles, are out of date within months of being published and are very unlikely to ever be updated.
Google is clearly thinking about this issue with its new meta tag allowing webmasters to set an expiry date for their pages but I really don’t see this becoming widely used. The search results seem to be getting more out of date all the time for some niches and there is no way webmasters will voluntarily remove top ranking pages just because they are old.
The only way for Google to solve the issue is to stop relying on overall link numbers and to work out rankings based on the rate a site has been attracting links over the last few months. Google is supposed to give users the results they want, not the results they might have wanted 2 years ago. A site that attracted 10,000 links in 2003 and 100 in 2007 should not rank as well as a new site that gained 10,000 links in the last 6 months.
Think about an example of a new site that launches a TV advertising campaign and gets a flurry of new links in the first few weeks. This is what people want to see in the search results, not some 10 year old site that doesn’t even bother to advertise any more. At the very least people want a diversity of old sites and new sites, at present a lot of search results are just full of outdated information.
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