Ian Miller: SEO thoughts & General Geekery


My place to discuss what interests me in the world of SEO, SEM, Social Media and the odd bit of general geekery…

How to turn visitors into customers – CRO introduction

On Fri 7th October I gave a talk at Archant’s Digital Suffolk event as an introduction to conversion rate optimisation, and the principles of gaining more customers from your existing traffic. Here’s the full presentation: How to turn visitors into customers

Brett Tabke highlights Google’s selective memory

After yesterday’s “shock” news that Google has accused Bing of copying its search results (and Bing basically said – so what?) Brett Tabke of PubCon / WMW took up the mantle of those of us thinking “But Google’s hardly whiter than white?”

His comments were so good I thought they should be archived for posterity.

Did Bing whine when Google copied their homepage background look-n-feel?
Brett Tabke
Did Bing whine when Google copied Bings' 'mouse over preview' option?
Brett Tabke
Did Yahoo whine when Google copied the "Instant" serps action that a Yahoo intern coded in 2004?
Brett Tabke
Did Bing whine (atleast in public) about Google buying ITA to compete and control Bing's Farecast option?
Brett Tabke
Did Bing whine when Google added the copycat look of the left side serp menu?
Brett Tabke
Did Bing whine whing when Google copied their image search results form and function?
Brett Tabke
Did Bing whine when Google essentially copied Bings entire SERP look-n-feel?
Brett Tabke
But @ you guys (Bing/G) copy the ENTIRE web, Why wouldn't they copy you as a signal too!? They'd be incompetent if they didn't.
Brett Tabke
Then there is that little bit about the book - umm scanning - ya, lets calling scanning - not copying - not infringement...scanning.
Brett Tabke

And Google cynic Graywolf also tweeted:

I love how google said for years they couldnt manually promote sites ... but today we learned thats not really true
Michael Gray

Facebook adds nofollow to Pages links

Everything that’s too good to be true usually is either too short lived (follow links on Twitter posts) or hastily removed as soon as it become public.

It seems that the same thing has happened with Facebook pages. Previously Facebook pages used to give follow links to those happy to create FBML applications, which meant Page status updates could also be gamed

Taking a look around Facebook pages today, I noticed all these previously followed links appear to be nofollowed, adding an “untrusted link” state to the code.

So while for some it was “make hay while the sun shines” it looks like the Facebook links will now go the same way as so many social media sites such as Digg, Twitter and others.

The iPhone’s calendar makes me mad

I love my iPhone, really I do. But recently there have been several things that I’ve come to notice that really try my patience. There are the little things like the number of key taps it takes to actually make a call, the random slow downs and various others, but my most recent bug-bear is that iPhone can’t edit the calendar assigned to an event. Yup, that’s right folks, as soon as a calendar event is created using all the UI goodness of the wheels for choosing the time to make you warm and fuzzy, you’re done, tying it to a calendar for life. Of course, this is an exageration and you could just walk on home and edit the calendar on your Mac, or Google calendar if it’s synced that way. But no, I really wouldn’t mind being able to move a calendar event from a “Work” calendar to a “Personal” one if I’ve screwed it up; heck, maybe even back again if I’m feeling particularly wild.

Luckily, I’m not going (more) mad or noticing this iPhone calendar bug – or “non-chargable feature” as I like to call it. I know I should be more careful and remember to set the calendar when I create an event, but I don’t. I forget and I get mad at myself because it’s usually easier to delete and create a new event rather than remember to log in later to do it. For an “enterprise ready” phone, the iPhone has a got a lot of quirks – sorry “non-chargeable features”…

Apple Store app – why hasn’t it been made already?

Yes, the question really is that simple. I was on a WIFI connection and sat with my iPhone and thought, “I’ll just go check the price on that 13″ MBP I really want” for the umpteenth time and it came to me – why doesn’t Apple have an app for its own retail store? It seems I’m not alone in thinking it would be a good idea, even with the quick and dirty CSS option of a dedicated iPhone UI as Amazon does, it doesn’t have to be a full blown app. (Although I’d prefer that myself, I’m all for offline browsing.)

Not only would having a dedicated app allow us Apple fan-boys (self-confessed, but I admit their failings too) to geek out at every available opportunity, but imagine the upselling and extra features you could include. Here are a few I thought about off the top of my head:

  • The ability to watch, or even stream keynotes
  • General Apple news feeds
  • Latest product spotlight integrated in a similar way to the main site
  • Time bounds offers and specials exclusively via the app
  • Make it transactional
  • Start wishlists of products and accessories
  • Product monitoring for price or spec changes
  • Highlight refurbished products more easily
  • Account management and shipping information for all outstanding orders wherever placed
  • Account recognition, so takes you directly to the Education store if you’re signed in

Basically, that was just thinking about this for a few minutes, I’m sure the very clever people at Apple can think of other, (probably better) features. My point really is that for a company that knows the dedication of its fan base, alongside their heavy promotion of the app store concept and iPhone product, I just find it a little odd they don’t “practice what they preach” and release an app themselves.

It does seem that some companies are making good progress with tapping into the mobile market, with Ocado’s home shopping app receiving good initial reviews. I’m not suggesting that every retailer flags down this bandwagon and hops on board, but for Apple, it certainly feels like a natural and obvious fit.

Google UK SERPs still poor, is it the start of a death by a thousand cuts?

The fact that Google.co.uk SERPs have been showing all sorts of international results mixed into them has been common knowledge for well over a month, ever since the Vince update. However, even now there are still some major shortfalls in the quality of search results. One example is for buy guitar pedals where six out of ten are still US results at the end of July, including an Amazon US result rather than a .co.uk one. So there is obviously still a long way to go for Google to get their results back to their previous positions.

At the moment there’s a lot of scrutiny of Google and not only the quality of their results, but also the manner in which they are portraying themselves and how they are transitioning into the “big company” with their Microsoft moment. Couple that with anti-trust investigations and you’ve got a potent mix of increasing consumer wariness and troublesome PR, and the whole sweet and fluffy “do no evil” mantra is coming under fire.

What can Google do?

Firstly, and most importantly, all these little nagging things such as poor SERPs which is ultimately what the consumer sees. Regain the confidence of the searcher and the rest should fall into place. Personally, I now use more search engines than ever before and for different reasons – Bing’s new user experience for media searches knocks Google out the park, and I’ve found it increasingly returning more relevant results. Other engines such as Wolfram Alpha are certainly never going to be the Google killer they were once touted as. But, if Google can’t regain its mojo as the market leader, then all these little losses of market share can add up to a lot.

So please Google, even though you’ve got a lot on your plate can we have reasonable UK results on from Google.co.uk for reasonable search terms? There are always gong to be exceptions, but it’s been over a month now, is that too much to ask?

YouTube introduces the canonical tag on usernames

Earlier this year I tweeted that YouTube were guilty of not using the Google-promoted canonical tag when it came to multiple versions of the username profile page. So this:




both end up appearing in the index, as in this SERPs at the time:


However, now it looks like they’ve got their house in order and introduced the tag to tidy up the results:


Now, I’m sure that it wasn’t because of my humble tweet that YouTube made the change, but I’m glad that Google are practicing what they preach across their sites.

But, what does it mean for everyone else? Well if you’re an SEO and wondering about the real usefulness of “new” tags such as these are, then these indications do matter. Google has come under increasing criticism due to their seemingly “high and mighty” attitude to making proclamations that affect SEOs; but by at least practicing what they preach they are at least showing willing. Now we just have to find out where they use nofollow inappropriately…