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SEO

RankBrain is now used by Google in all searches

By SEO No Comments

Last year we discussed how Google’s RankBrain algorithm was increasingly being used – at the time 15% of searches used RankBrain – however Google has confirmed it now uses the algorithm for all searches.

Search Engine Ranking Disruption

The algorithm has caused a disruption is search positioning for a number of search queries – confirmed in a recent Backchannel article by Steven Levy. We previously discussed how RankBrain was considered a very useful signal behind content and links. The news that Google now use the RankBrain algorithm for all searches was a big step by Google and clearly shows that Google now considers RankBrain a key ingredient within it’s search algorithm.

It has widely been reported that many search query results have changed recently – it’s believed that RankBrain is changing the ranking itself, which is not the case. RankBrain is used primarily as a query refinement tool, Google is using it to better understand what the search query is about, second to that purpose is deciding what will rank where.

An example of RankBrain in action is say someone searches for “kilt store in Edinburgh”, Google will understand that this search is very similar to a more popular search “best kilt store in Edinburgh” which it has more data for and can offer better search results – which would lead to The Kilt Store ranking as the top search result in this instance.

Triggering different searches

RankBrain in the above example has affected search results, but this is because it triggered a different search. Google has also confirmed that RankBrain is used as an actual signal. How does this affect your SEO campaign – it doesn’t if your implementing an effective SEO strategy.

If you would like to discuss your SEO strategy with one of the leading UK agencies – get in touch, we love to chat.

Google launch new tool that tests your website page speed & mobile friendliness

By SEO No Comments

Google has announced on the small business blog they have released a new landing page which tests your website page speed and mobile friendliness in one location. This will save you navigating different sites to get this information.

The tool which is available here will test many aspects of your website at one time, and gives 3 results each scored out of 100, including:

  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Mobile Speed
  • Desktop Speed

Optimal Performance

We have long known that these metrics impact both the user experience and SEO results, which means it’s vital they are monitored to ensure your website is running effectively.

google-site-speed-and-mobile-friendliness-bigfusion

In the above screenshot we have used amazon to demonstrate.

The user interface is very nice and easy to use, unlike many of Googles past interfaces. As you move through the results there is information on how you can improve your websites performance in the rated areas.

google-results-big-fusion

If you would like to test your own website click Here.

Flash and SEO

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We had this same discussion back in 2010, does Flash work with SEO?

It is a common misconception that a site made in Flash is invisible to Search Engines. Many think that because of its proprietary code, rich content and the visual bells and whistles it offers that Google and the other major search engines see Flash content as a black hole.

While this may have once been the case, the truth of the matter is that Google has been indexing Flash content and listing sites in its results for years. For the most part crawlers are able to see what a real-life visitor can see. They can read text, click buttons and generally explore your movie as real visitors do.

In an ideal world a developer would be able to construct a site purely in Flash, load in external content throughout and let the Search Engines get on with indexing the page as it would a normal site. Unfortunately for us it’s not quite that simple and though they can and do index Flash content, the crawlers are behind in their ability to fully ‘see’ everything in a Flash Movie compared to the equivalent HTML site and require a bit of hand holding. Here’s how you can make a bot’s life easier and increase the chances of getting ranked well for Flash content.

Use Text

It might sound obvious but to represent words in your Flash you should always try to use text rather than an image. A crawler can’t read the words in an image so if you’ve imported a graphic that contains keywords relevant to the page (a screenshot perhaps) you should consider whether you could supplement the image with a descriptive caption below it, swap it completely for static text or at a bare minimum use the Accessibility Panel in Flash to give an accurate alternative description of the picture.

Accessibility Panel

Since Flash MX Professional 2004 the Accessibility Panel has been available to developers and allows text equivalents to be given for elements of a movie. You can find it under Window > Other Panels > Accessibility

The Name field should be considered the equivalent of the ALT attribute in HTML, and where a longer description is needed, the Description field should be used. This doesn’t only help the Search Engine bots, it also provides better accessibility for screen readers and older mobile devices.

Offer an alternative with SWFObject

Complementing the Accessibility Panel you can embed your Flash using SWFObject.

To embed the Flash use:
<script src=”swfobject.js”></script>

<div id=”someflashcontent”>
This is the alternative content and will be replaced
by the Flash movie.
</div>
<script>
var myobject = new SWFObject(“logobanner.swf”, “mybanner”, “300”,
“250”, “8”, “#FF6688”);
myobject.write(“someflashcontent”);
</script>

SWFObject will detect if the user has Flash installed and if they do it will replace the div content with the specified SWF using JavaScript. If they don’t have Flash they’ll just see the div content as normal. The idea is that you place an alternative text description of the content of your Flash. Try to match this as close as possible to what is in the movie and just as you would with an ALT attribute describe graphics accurately. It works on all the major browsers and operating systems and even Google can execute the simple JavaScript.

Loading in external content: A warning!

Even if your Flash file pulls in external content like another SWF, Google can see and index it though it won’t consider that content to be part of the content in your main Flash file. This is an important point if large portions of your site are in Flash and load component parts separately. Each piece of external content may get its own listing on the results page rather than attributing that content to the main page.

See what Flash looks like to Search Engines?

There was once the Macromedia Flash Search Engine SDK tool that would extract text and links from a SWF file and lets us see a Flash file from the point of view of a the search bot. Sadly this is no longer available from Adobe so if anyone has any alternatives for this tool then please let us know in the comments below.

Backlink building locations that will help with your SEO

By SEO No Comments

Link building is one of the most important elements of a successful SEO strategy; with the recent  Google updates including Penguin & Panda many SEO’s have been dancing around link building like Indians around a fire; too scared to do anything in case it creates a problem.

Here are three sources of backlinks that can produce great results without Google punishing you for it.

  1. Relevant Local Directory listing – The keyword here is relevant; a directory which has a high Pagerank and is relevant to your business will give you a high quality backlink that you can trust.
  2. Alumini Directory – If someone at the organisation attends a university event it’s a great opportunity to create a backlink; sometimes you will have to ask for the link, it’s worth asking.
  3. Brand mentions – If your PR team have been working hard you will have been mentioned in the media with relevant content; it’s a great place to start looking for backlinks; contact the source and ask them to include a backlink in the content.

A professional back link building strategy can significantly improve your search ranking; contact Bigfusion to discuss your requirements.

Google confirm AdWords is to be completely redesigned

By SEO No Comments

Some things never change and for the past 15 years very little has altered with Google Adwords; but we had confirmation today from one of our contacts over at Google HQ that Adwords is going to be redesigned and relaunched.

The last time Google tidied up Adwords was back in 2008 and with the speed in which advertising evolves this is somewhat confusing to some. AdWords head Jerry Dischler hinted at this overhaul in a keynote discussion at SMX Advanced in Seattle last June, now we are getting the first glimpse at what’s in store.

“The reason we’re rebuilding AdWords is because the world has changed so much in the past two years. AdWords is now over 15 years old and launched when Google was just figuring out what search advertising was. We rebuilt it several years ago for a desktop world — smartphones were only a year old. Now we are in probably the biggest shift since AdWords was introduced (and I’d argue perhaps ever) with mobile,” said Feng, “And there is now increased demand on marketers and on AdWords as a platform — advertisers are running ads in search, display, shopping, mobile, video. Ultimately, that’s why we’re re-imagining AdWords.”

The redesign will be managed to meet the requirement of modern day advertisers; by discussing with advertisers what they would like. Feng went on to say “How the navigation is laid out can be un-intuitive and comes with a high learning curve,” said Feng.  Second, the platform has grown complex, with hundreds of features launching every year that stack up on each other. And third, the basic design looks and feels kind of dated. “The goal is to create a flexible platform for the future,” added Feng.

There will be no functionality changes; which means the changes will not effect the way campaigns are setup and run.

The screenshot Google has sent out gives some insight into the changes. They show a graphical snapshot of performance — kind of like a more narrowly focused and easier-to-read version of the account-level Home screen in AdWords now. In this view, there are four main metrics surfaced with Clicks and Conversions highlighted and charted below. Then there is a Top ad groups snapshot, as well as an at-a-glance view of the performance split across Devices.

google adwords redesign bigfusion

Another thing we can see in the redesign views is that all of the secondary navigation runs along the left side, parallel to the primary navigation. Options such as Locations, Sitelinks and Devices are surfaced in that navigation rather than buried under Settings.

In the screenshot of the Keywords view on the right, the navigation is again simplified with the tertiary nav options of “Keywords,” “Negative Keywords” and “Search Terms” shown at the very top of the window and any non-keyword related navigation removed from view. Now, comparing the above to the complexity of today’s Keyword view makes the future of ad words looks very refreshing.

current adwords view bigfusion

Feng also confirmed roll out timescales; a handful of marketers will be able to test the platform but they will be selected by Google; it’s estimated the changes will be available for everyone for the end of 2017.

Google confirm top 3 search ranking factors!

By SEO No Comments

Are you wondering what factors impact your SEO results the most? For the first time Google have confirmed it.

Last year Google confirmed that Rank Brain was the third most important ranking factor but at the time would not confirm the first two. But that changed yesterday when Google’s Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed the other two factors were links and content: “I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site”. Andrey would not confirm the order and so now the top position is current joint between links and content.

There are many other ranking factors which Google looks at, but these are the overall top 3.

Here’s the Q&A session with Google’s Andrey Lipattsev.

How To Avoid Duplicate Content Across International Websites

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When expanding your website internationally you will have the task of overcoming the challenge of duplicate content. A solution is using The hreflang tag (also referred to as rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”) tells Google which language you are using on a specific page, so the search engine can serve that result to users searching in that language.

Having duplicate content on different versions of your websites for different countries is a big problem.

Duplicate content wouldn’t be an issue if you had one website in English but then you had exactly the same website in Spanish, but it would be an issue if you had one website in English targeted for UK users and another English website targeting Australian users.

By placing this piece of code in each of your websites in the <head> section, it will tell Google to index both pages and then let it decide which website is the most appropriate result depending on what country the user is searching from.bigfusion hreflang

SEO Best Practices

To get the most benefit out of the hreflang tag, the following tips are important:

Where the Hreflang Tag Goes

The hreflang tag can be placed in the on-page markup, the HTTP header, or the sitemap. Only use one of those locations. This tool will help you correctly generate the annotation.

bigfusion hreflang-generator

What the Hreflang Tag Looks Like

The hreflang tag on each page should include a reference to itself as well as to all the pages that serve as alternates for it. If your Spanish website sells olive oil to customers in Spain, France, and Portugal only, the hreflang tags for your homepage might look like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="example.com" hreflang="es-es" />
<link rel="alternate" href="example.com/fr/" hreflang="fr-fr" />
<link rel="alternate" href="example.com/pt/" hreflang="pt-pt" />

Hreflang’s Effect on Rankings

Hreflang tags may not help you increase traffic; instead, the goal of using them is to serve the right content to the right users. They help search engines swap the correct version of the page into the SERP based on a user’s location and language preferences. For information on how geotargeting can help with rankings, learn about ccTLDs.

The Difference between Hreflang and Canonicalisation

Canonicalisation is a tool for showing search engines which version of a URL (each with the same content) is the dominant one to avoid duplicate content issues. Hreflang, on the other hand, is a tool to show which of the different pages (based on language or region) should show up in a search.

Google recommends not using rel=”canonical” across country or language versions of your site. But you can use it within a country or language version

Other methods to use

You shouldn’t just rely on the technique above for handling your international SEO. I would take every precaution you could, here are some of the things you could do.

Host In The Relevant Country

Self explanatory, if you want your site to rank well in the UK then you should use UK hosting. If you want your site to rank well in Australia then you should shop around for some Australian hosting.

Use The Correct Domain Extension (ccTLD (country code top level domain))

If you want to rank well in the UK then you wouldn’t buy a .co.fr domain, you would either buy a .com or .co.uk (any domain not country specific to another country). So if you wanted to rank well in Australia, partnered with Australian hosting a .com.au would work really well.

Use GEO-Targeting In Webmaster Tools

This is probably the most effective thing you can do, you are telling Google what country you want your website to rank in directly. They are giving you the opportunity to let them know where you want to target. You can only do this if you don’t have a ccTLD.

By using all of the above techniques you are being pro-active and not giving Google much of a chance to penalise your sites for having duplicate content.

Three Ways You Will Be Punished For Using Black Hat SEO

By SEO No Comments

Search engine optimisation experts are constantly advising against the use of black hat SEO methods and yet there are still some business owners which choose this approach. One of the reasons why so many site owners still fall into this trap is because unethical SEO companies make black hat SEO look so tempting.

Those working unethically in search engine optimisation try to make others believe black hat SEO is highly productive and yet it is quick and easy too. This is what many website owners want to hear and so they are eager to believe what they are told. Unfortunately for them, black hat SEO does not work in this way and the consequences of a black hat SEO campaign can be devastating.

If you use black hat search engine optimisation techniques, your rankings in the search results will drop significantly and your site may even be banned from the search results entirely. This is obviously the opposite outcome to what those running an SEO campaign aim to achieve. SEO is used to get websites ranked in better positions so exposure and traffic can be gained. If you use black hat SEO, you will not see this result. Instead, you will have less exposure and less traffic visiting your website because of a massive drop in rankings.

The search engines have technology to identify those sites using unethical SEO methods and punish them severely to show this approach is not advantageous.

Using black hat search engine optimisation will also severely damage your reputation. If you are running an online business, reputation is extremely important. Your company needs to be respectable and trustworthy if it is going to be successful. Online consumers do not like to shop from unethical and immoral businesses and if you use black hat SEO, it will be obvious to others your business falls into this category.

The other way you will be punished if you choose to use black hat search engine optimisation instead of an ethical approach is by wasting time, energy and money on an unproductive SEO campaign. Black hat SEO does require money and hard work and yet it does not produce the results you are hoping for if your business requires an SEO campaign. If you have used black hat SEO, you will have lost money and time and this can be extremely disappointing.

At Big Fusion, we only use white hat search engine optimisation because we know only this approach to SEO actually works. Black hat SEO is a waste of time and actually harms your business instead of helping it.

There are many white hat SEO techniques available which can help your business and we can help you to identify and use these methods effectively. Don’t be manipulated by those working unethically in SEO but work with us instead because our company is respectable and trustworthy and has been helping clients to achieve impressive SEO results for many years.

Indirect Influencers in SEO

By SEO No Comments

There are a number of direct signals which influence the ranking of pages, most of them are very effective and work like clockwork however what about the other signals which are less obvious.

A direct ranking signal for example would include page load speed, let’s presume your page takes 8 seconds to load and you optimise it, change a few things and get the load speed down to 2 seconds, because this is a ranking influencer it will make an impact all be it a small one, it may improve a websites position from page 10 to page 9 in search results.

These direct influences are real, Google talks about them and allows us to measure them, and they move the needle and make a real difference to organic SEO results.

As an SEO these direct ranking signals are significant and with enough of these influencers optimised we can create measurable developments in organic ranking positions for our web pages; but what about less direct influences for example if we attend an event and do a small presentation on digital marketing for coffee shops, and at the event is a gentleman who runs a coffee blog, he is inspired by our talk and in his next blog links to our page. Would this shift the needle? Absolutely because even though it is an indirect influence it has resulted in the development of a direct ranking influencer.

At this fabricated presentation Richard Branson is in attendance, so impressed with the presentation he tweets something about the talk and mentions my name and all of a sudden thousands of people are searching for my website, sharing my content and writing their own content linking back to me. From all of this it’s likely Googles entity associations and topic modelling association’s algorithm starts to associate me with the term ‘coffee shop marketing’ and I begin to rank higher. Google says that tweets do not directly influence ranking but here we see how they can indirectly make an impact.

With all this new traffic I decide to write some content about coffee shop marketing and along with this a small video tutorial, this will improve the time visitors spend on the website and offer more value improving search rankings for that page. It all sounds great but their is a but!

What clients and managers will say?

Many will say this isn’t real SEO, Mr SEO man. It’s not targeting direct influencer signals and so shouldn’t be used and technically this is true but isn’t that looking at the small picture, if something gets results then it gets results, doesn’t it? Is it worth missing out on something because it’s not technically correct?

The other argument is that it takes time for these indirect signals to make an impact, and that is also correct. It’s not until these indirect signals impact direct signals that they make a measurable impact to rankings.

My Advice

As with most things it’s best to look at the big picture, simply saying that because something does not directly influence SEO so it should be dismissed is thinking inside the box. Many things impact search rankings and they should all be carefully considered. These things will all indirectly positively impact your SEO rankings and should all be taken into consideration.

  • Engagement
  • User experience
  • Amplification
  • Branding through memory
  • Relationships
  • Brand coverage
  • Saturation

 We would love to hear from you, please comment below.

Google Confirms Panda is Part Of Core Ranking Algorithm

By SEO No Comments

Google last week confirmed that Google Panda, one of the most significant updates to fight spam is now integrated into Google’s core ranking algorithm. Google Panda was launched in February 2011.

Recently Jennifer Slegg posted a Panda guide which was vetted by Google’s PR team; in this guide it was declared that Panda is now part of Google’s core algorithm.“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”This was later confirmed by Google’s Gary Illyes.

This means it’s unlikely Google will confirm any Panda updates in the future with the last confirmed Panda update being 4.2, now the algorithm is part of Googles main algorithm. Since this article was released last week Google has confirmed more details, saying the algorithm is consistent enough to not require many future changes. A Q & A session was run with Googles Audrey Lipattsev who is a search quality specialist at Google, he commented to what is meant by core: “It is less about the functionality, which means it probably doesn’t change that much over time and it is more about how we perceive it, in the context of the algorithm. Do we still think this is an experimental thing, it is running for a while and we aren’t sure how long it will last? Or is it like PageRank, it is part of it, it will always be there, at least in the foreseeable future and then probably call it in certain context part of the core algorithm”.

He also mentions Google’s Gary Illyes’s explanation:

“I think this is really the worst takeaway of the past few days, but imagine an engine of a car. It used to be that there was no starter; the driver had to go in front of the car and use some tool to start the engine. Today we have starters in any petrol engine, it’s integrated. It became more convenient, but essentially nothing changed.”

He continued to add: “For a user or even a webmaster it should not matter at all which components live where, it’s really irrelevant, and that’s why I think people should focus on these ‘interesting’ things less”.

Audrey confirmed that Gary was explaining Panda is now part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, and they don’t need to know how it runs because it has been fully tested and it works.  Ammon Johns who was in the hangout asked the question, “once they forget how it works is it core?” Andrey replied “That’s exactly right”.