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Search Engine Optimisation

Advanced SEO Course in Dublin this coming July 7-8

There’s an old saying – “the longer you leave it, the harder it gets“. Well it’s been a very long time now, and s time ticks on it does get harder and harder to return to my blog. So I suppose I should apologise for starting back with a post about a forthcoming course I’m instructing. Sorry!

Advanced SEO Course

I’ll be instructing an Advanced SEO Course for the Digital Marketing Institute this coming week, on Wednesday and Thursday 7-8 of July. The course is the first of its kind here in Ireland (to the best of my knowledge, but I’ll be very happy to be corrected), in that it will cover advanced SEO and is targeted at established SEO folk. It will take place in the Radisson BLU, Golden Lane, Dublin 8.

What Will We Cover?

I’m working on the content, but I’ll likely focus on advanced on-site SEO, with some time set aside to look at Conversion Rate Optimisation. My co-instructor John Ring will take the reigns for the first morning, and I’ll be instructing for the first afternoon and all of the second day (I hope I wont bore the attendess to death mind…).

Small Group, Lots of Interaction

I expect the group to be no more than 8-10 students, so we should get tonnes of interaction, and be able to take time out to address issues and questions that the students have. With a small group like this you can never know where things might lead, but my overall focus will be on sending attendees away with knowledge they can apply to their own sites which will generate tangible returns.

Places Still Available

I haven’t checked-in in a few days, but there were still a couple of places available. I realise the course is not cheap, but I’m working on delivering value for the price. If you’re interested please call the DMI at 01 271 1888. You can also contact them via their website.

Finally

Given that I’ve written on my blog for the first time in many months, I’d like to keep going. If there are any topics of interest to you I’d love to hear from about them. I’ve been toying with writing a very in-depth post about geotargeting and localisation, as this is one area I’ve been working a lot, and there seems to be a vacuum online when it comes to finding reliable info about this topic. Anyhows, any and all ideas are welcome.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Irish Travel Websites Leaving Money On The Table

Last week I was the guest lecturer at the ITAA/DMI Diploma in Online Marketing course. My lecture, titled “Website Architecture – Building A Great Website for Search Engines & Visitors”, covered best practices in front-end architecture with a focus on the travel niche. I wrote last week about my experience with Falcon Travel’s lack of public email addresses, and I found many other cases that led me to the conclusion I draw in this post – the Irish travel niche is not leveraging the web anywhere near its potential.

Irish Travel Agent Websites
Irish Travel Agent Websites

Good CRM and Customer Reviews Should be Friends

Looking through many of the Irish travel sites I visited the first thing that struck me was the lack of any customer reviews. Reviews are a great way to internally measure business success, and are increasingly being used by buyers to help select destinations. Just look at the popularity of Tripadvisor.

So where does CRM enter the equation. When a customer returns from a holiday how many operators/agents follow up to ask the customer if they enjoyed the trip? Soliciting feedback is a great way to build relationships and continuously improve your business offering. Feedback can also be a great safety valve to identify issues early. Soliciting feedback can also reinforce the belief that the business cares about its customers.

I know that I’d appreciate a quick email follow-up from any travel agent asking me was I happy after consuming their service (and by service I include the consumption of the trip or holiday). Amazon has been successfully following up with every single purchase for as long as I’ve been a customer.

User ReviewsLouderVoice for Business)

OPPOTUNITY 1: Travel sites that embrace user reviews, UGC and feedback mechanisms will nurture stronger customer relationships and offer superior user experience to new visitors.

Top Rankings Still Doing Good Business?

I think everyone realises that the travel niche is suffering acutely from out current economic woes. But I imagine high ranking sites are faring better than others. The trends are clear – migration to online channels is only increasing as people search out higher value propositions to offset economic woes.

So I was really quite surprised by how the Irish travel sites were competing in the organic results. Being blunt (many people have told me I’d never make the diplomatic corps) what struck me was the lack of serious SEO. And this struck a particular cord, reminding me of an important lesson – in SEO everything is relative.

You Don’t Have to Beat Best Practice, You Just Need To Beat The Other Guys

I work with a fairly diverse set of clients, most of whom operate in more competitive niches. So I’m used to working on projects that require significant resources (and budget) to see returns. But looking at the online travel niche here in Ireland I’ve concluded that the lack of sophistication is far more prominent than significant competitive forces in the SEPRs.

One of the sites I noticed doing very well for many short-tail travel phrases was gohop.ie. I was interested to see how they achieved their success, and from what I could see this is down to article submissions. Generally I’d consider article submission to be low-level link building, but to GoHop’s credit they rank, and in reality the means are far less important than the ends.

Article Submissions - low level, but effective
Article Submissions – low level, but effective

OPPOTUNITY 2: SERPs are wide open to a more sophisticated SEO campaign, and I think even a newcomer who embraces high quality content and user interaction can quickly become the online organic leader.

Website Architecture Isn’t Brain Surgery

When designing a good website architecture for both users and search engines it’s important to promote your most important pages. That means building a navigation which tells users, both human and machine, what’s important. Your site-wide navigation tells users more than most other mechanisms, and I have to say that I’m really disappointed to see that one of Ireland’s leading travel agents have commissioned a new website which breaks many of the most basic architecture rules. No names, but it’s also terrible (but unsurprising TBH) to see large agencies churning out such poor websites, and doubly so given that said agency also tout their SEO services on their site. I always wince when I see things like:

<a href="javascript:__doPostBack([...]'')">[... ]</a>

or internal links with 490 character target urls. Things like that aren’t stupid, they’re incompetent.

OPPOTUNITY 3: Non-branded travel-related search terms wont be “owned” by brands as long as they pay huge sums to developers who don’t understand organic search. Small niche players can dominate SERPs while the large brands continue to haemorrhage cash to offline branded advertising.

Cycles Come, Cycles Go…

While current conditions are exceptionally bad for the travel industry, opportunities abound for the group of survivors that compete in the next up cycle. Embracing UGC and interactive feedback loops will increasingly differentiate market leaders from “also-rans”, while user-centric design and content will reduce new prospect acquisition costs and increase customer loyalty.

In my opinion there’s massive upside potential in this online niche, and I hope that the guys from the ITAA course will go on to dominate the online space in times to come. Lastly, thanks to last week’s students for all the great discussions and ideas.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Can Video Comments Explain Why Phone Numbers Matter in Local Search

Something odd happened yesterday. Well I thought it was odd… odd in a very positive way. Something happened that made me really realise that in future we’ll rely less and less on the written word online, and instead consume content like this blog post as video.

So yesterday I was delighted to receive 2 comments on my recent Google Local 7 Pack post. So what’s so odd about that? I’m generally very lucky that people do comment on my posts, but these comments were different:

Richard and everyone else,

Anyone have any ideas how this happened????

http://screencast.com/t/vLQFNIJn

Thanks,

Becky

and:

This might be the answer to my previous question. Do you think this is how it happened?

http://screencast.com/t/uh0iS5eOr

Thanks so much for your thoughts,

Becky

Becky had gone to the trouble of recording her comments as video, and think about this for a moment – how much more fidelity was added to Becky’s question and subsequent answer by using video:

And now Becky’s own response:

It really made my day, firstly becasue I was flattered that anyone would go to so much trouble, but secondly because it opened my eyes to the future – people will be leaving video comments on blogs just as they leave text comments today.

So How Might Google Use Phone Numbers?

Actually the issue Becky raises is very interesting in its own right – there’s a bionic over on the Google Webmaster Support Group called Phil Payne, and one of Phil’s favourite tricks is to look up phone numbers to see where else they’re published (gives some insight into businesses running multiple websites). I had never before considered the impact of phone numbers on local listings, and I think it’s entirely plausible that Becky’s hypothesis above is actually quite correct.

So thanks so much Becky for leaving those video comments – really made my day, and hopefully will help other users out in the future!

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Search Engine Optimisation

Enterprise Ireland Podcast on SEO Search Engine Optimisation

Two weeks ago myself and John Ring were invited to discuss SEO for a forthcoming Enterprise Ireland Podcast. Ralph Averbuch was our host for the day guiding the conversation from topic to topic, and I have to say Ralph did a lot of homework which really made things easy on the day.

Both John and I had a great time talking with Ralph, and while we really only touched on basic high level issues I think the discussion is useful for any SME considering Organic Search as a marketing channel.

You can listen to the Podcast by visiting this page: Enterprise Ireland SEO Podcast.

If you do listen I’d love to hear any feedback you have, both good and bad.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Interesting Case Study: rel=canonical Google Fail

Michael Wall has written about a short test he ran on a small site using the rel=canonical tag. Very interesting, and certainly one test does not a trend make, but I’d have expected more of Google…

This is why I’ve tried to tell people that rel=”canonical” is simply a bandaid, and the best solution is prevention not cure – publish content on one, and only one, URL.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Google Introduces Local 7 Pack, 10 Pack Dead?

It seems that Google local results now sport a more thrifty “7 Pack” rather than the old more-cluttered 10 Pack:

Google Local 7 Pack Result Set
Google Local 7 Pack Result Set

I wrote about the various Google local display types in my post How To Rank in Google Local, and I also looked at the result for [pizza dublin] at that time. Interesting to see that Apache have lost their #1 position to an inner page on Four Stars website. Funny, but that SERP is so diverse and full of inner pages that I’m surprised some of the pizza companies aren’t using SEO (if they are they probably should find a real SEO…).

Will be interesting to see if this new 7 Pack stays, and if this heralds the end of the 10 Pack.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Google Publishing Extended Snippets on Related Forum Post Sitelinks

After noticing that Google were serving related forum sitelinks I came across this example of extended snippets under these sitelinks today:

Extended snippets beneath related forum sitelinks
Extended snippets beneath related forum sitelinks

This looks like it’s related to extended snippets which Google introduced back in March this year (see post on Extended Snippets). The search query consisted of 6 words, and the main results displayed extended snippets. Quite interesting, and I’m sure click-through rates are quite useful when you get these sitelinks (and the extended screen real estate).

Categories
Search Engine Optimisation

Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues Video

Well worth watching this video from Googler Greg Grothaus (who I hadn’t heard of before):

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Search Engine Optimisation

More Sitelink Variations from Google, #3 with Internal Related Forum Threads

This might not be new (I haven’t been hanging around the Interweb as much as normal the past while), but I just noticed some sitelinks that were very different to the regular sitelinks we’re used to seeing on Google.

This new variation shows 4 sitelinks, together with post date, and most interestingly appears for results other than the #1 position:

4 Sitelinks from related forum posts with post dates
4 Sitelinks from related forum posts with post dates for #3 ranked result

The above SERP showed an authoritative local OneBox (learn about local OneBox in my Google Local rankings post), followed by a site at #1 and again indented at #2, and then a thread from www.boards.ie holding #3. This is where it gets interesting – you can clearly see the 4 sitelinks containing links to other related threads with a date. The date is odd, and in some cases predates the original post date as per the forum.

Interesting all the same, and seems like Google are expanding the sitelinks program at this time.

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Search Engine Optimisation

Why Are My Page Titles Different In Google?

Here’s a small but interesting change from Google:

We may choose to replace titles which are repeated on a number of pages or which otherwise appear to be suboptimal – that’s probably what’s happening here. To resolve that, it would be a good idea to make sure that the titles are unique, compelling and relevant to every page and that the important parts are visible in the first part of the title text. You can get some help with finding duplicated titles in Webmaster Tools under Diagnostics / HTML suggestions.

Source

So if your site has the same title on every page (which happens a lot here in Ireland), Google may choose to override these titles with other more relevant titles. How they generate these is unclear, but what is clear is the need to control your own titles by ensuring they aren’t duplicates. After all, titles are one of the strongest signals you can give to Google.

There are a number of other times Google will change your title, but you’ll have to wait for the official announcement to find out about these I’m afraid. Keep your eyes peeled to the official Google Webmaster blog for the full skinny on this change.