Monday, 28 December 2009

Mashable broadens editorial scope

Mashable, one of the leading sites for social media news, made an interesting departure from its usual coverage of tech news yesterday as it posted a story on a potential airline security breach.

The piece, which covered an alert on a flight between Amsterdam and Detroit, reported that a male had been behaving suspiciously during transit. An extract follows:

"An update to our story yesterday about stricter rules for those taking electronics on aircraft: today a second Amsterdam to Detroit flight with the same flight number – Northwest Airlines Flight 253 – suffered disruption after a Nigerian man reportedly locked himself in the bathroom before landing.

The plane landed safely in Detroit and was immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles. Flight crew said the man was “verbally disruptive” when approached. It’s not yet clear if there was a threat to the plane’s safety."

Although the report does vaguely slip into Mashable's USP, featuring a paragraph covering the implications for those wanting to take their tech into the skies, one suspects the story falls well outside of the site's catchment area.

Indeed, a tweet from the @Mashable account did little to stress the implications of the alert to flying tech fiends.

While this coverage probably doesn't signal a change of editorial course for Mashable, it's an interesting anomaly. Perhaps more significantly is the statistic that the report was only retweeted 531 times, compared the usual thousands of regurgitations a story posted on the site normally receives.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Social media covers EDL protests in Manchester

EDL Protest in ManchesterThis weekend saw thousands converge in Manchester for the 'English Defence League' (EDL) and 'Unite Against Fascism' protests.

The last EDL protest in Birmingham had led to ugly scenes and many were concerned whether the same story would be repeated in Manchester.

As usual, Twitter proved its mettle as a way for users to quickly distribute news and information; city centre residents regularly tweeted and uploaded photographs during the day (congratulations to jonthebeef for excellent coverage yesterday).

Out of the major news outlets, The Manchester Evening News provided fantastic online coverage throughout the day. The paper harnessed various social media techniques to offer a comprehensive and involving report of the demonstrations.

Here's four ways they did it;

Regular coverage

During the day, five MEN reporters regularly tweeted the protest. From 11:45am to 7:53pm, frequent updates from staffers in the field kept users up to date with any news from the demonstrations – injuries, arrests and any developments. This coverage was infinitely more comprehensive than anything offered by the occasional live report on Sky News or the BBC website. Users could get a more complete picture of the protest from the MEN.

Use of rich media

A range of dramatic photographs helped users get a sense of the demonstrations. Regular photographs and the occasional video – from the MEN YouTube feed - conveyed the scenes better than a series of 140 tweets ever could. Fantastic work.

Putting it all together

The use of the Cover It Live application kept everything in the same place - aggregating Twitter feeds, photographs and video. This software allowed the MEN to comprehensively collect all of its various news sources, creating a fuller picture of the demonstration.

Users didn't have to flick through different channels and websites to learn all the news – the information was handily collected in one single place.

User submitted content

Users could put forward their comments in two ways - via the traditional discussion board under the feed – and in the actual feed itself.

The latter allowed users to feature in the 'event'. Their comments appeared in real time alongside those of the reporters on the scene. It was a nice way of including people in the conversation and debate.

One day, I hope someone discovers a safe way to integrate tweets from the 3rd parties without risking libel or misuse. It would have been nice to include updates from people in the middle of the protest.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A guide to anchor text and links

Manchester SEO blog looks at three different kinds of anchor text.

What Is Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the visible part of a website link. A user can click these words to go to another page on the same website, or to a completely different domain altogether.

1. SEO Anchor Text

Search engines use the anchor text of a link to categorise a page. For instance, this link – to a previous Manchester SEO blog on important blogs - uses the text important blogs. Google and its ilk will relate this anchor text to the content of the page.

Why is this useful?

Search engines take into account anchor text when compiling the list of websites for user searches. If a number of links to the same page include identical text, the URL in question will begin to rank in search results for that query.

2. Appealing Anchor Text

Longer anchor text is ideal for clearly stating what a new page will offer. These links use a few words or a phrase for the visible text. For instance, the following goes to the Manchester SEO blog about the use of brand mascots on Twitter.

A detailed synopsis of a link informs users what they can expect to find when they click through to a page.

Why is this useful?

Detailed anchor text is great for usability. It clearly marks out what information a browser can find on each different page.

While SEO weight is great, it's worth remembering that search engines aren't going to become a paying customer. You're writing for the user and a link which goes into more detail is more likely to receive clicks than one which uses anchor text designed with SEO in mind.

Of course, you can still optimise this text for search engines. These links are a nice way to include long-tail keywords or phrases you wouldn't normally focus on.

This sort of anchor text also gives a SEO copywriter the chance to be a little bit inventive. Ambiguous anchor text shows a little leg and leaves the user wanting to know more.

3. "Me! Me! Me!" Anchor Text

This anchor text has no real value. Link text such as 'Click here' or 'More on this', have no SEO weight whatsoever. Unless, you want a page to rank for the search term 'click here'. Which apparently, Adobe does.

These links are also very dull. Users need to be motivated to follow a link and bland text is unlikely to convince anyone to double click their mouse.

Why is this useful?

Click here for more.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Using brand mascots on Twitter

Cartoon characters on Twitter - Manchester SEO blog
Using Twitter to raise a company's online profile is not uncommon. Thousands of organisations try to increase their consumer base through the social media service and, suffice it to say, some do it better than others.

Interestingly though, some businesses are beginning to use fictional creations to deliver their message on Twitter. Cartoon characters, plastic models and furry meerkats have all been used to promote a company.

Here, Manchester SEO Blog examines why this approach may offer a greater appeal to users than the traditional corporate tweets of companies such as Asda.

Corporate identity

Massive organisations normally use a single account to deliver their social media strategy. Many tweet from a single spokesperson or branded feed in order to transmit their respective message.

Some companies choose to tweet through their brand's mascot. This is a sensible move – a mascot is not only recognisable, but it also immediately conveys the culture and values of an organisation.

There are a selection of Twitter accounts which take this approach, most notably's feed from its figurehead Jeeves the butler.

Jeeves the buter - Manchester SEO blog
Despite his recent sabbatical, Jeeves remains one of the most recognisable mascots of recent years.

The account, a mix of conversational and promotional tweets, speaks for the entire company. By adopting the character for its social media strategy, Ask provides consumers with information and news through a friendly and recognisable face.

This is opposed to a blanket company account which may not provoke the same level of user reaction.

Opportunity for innovation

Fictional accounts have a greater scope for flexibility than those written from a corporate viewpoint. @NatHistoryWhale is a wonderful example of how a profile can bend the established rules of social media marketing for commercial gain.

National History Museum - Manchester SEO blog
The account is hosted by the life-sized model of a whale which hangs from the ceiling of New York's National History Museum. The beast, as you can imagine from someone subjected to screaming children 24-7, is cranky, cynical and occasionally very mean. Think Grumpy Old Men meets Free Willy. This tone comes across in the regular tweets posted on the account. Some choice examples include:

  • Gosh, you all look so haggard, it must be really hot outside today.
  • Do you have any idea how many times I've seen the video they show in here?
  • This one Walrus in the glass case to my left-- he kinda looks like he's dead.
This campaign highlights how fictional accounts can offer an opportunity for innovation – a mascot provides metaphorical distance between a brand and a social media campaign. This whale can be as mean and sarcastic as it likes without damaging the company.

It's also exceptionally more entertaining.

Covert promotion

Chelsea Football Club gives the club's megatron-sized fan base a Twitter feed from Stamford the Lion; the furry mascot who can normally be seen dancing on the pitch like a drunk uncle prior to kick off.

Stamford the lion - Manchester SEO blog
A combination of exclusive news and interviews and 140 match commentary, the account offers users an enthusiastic and authentic set of tweets from the ultimate Chelsea fan.

By using a mascot, the Chelsea marketing department can shamelessly self-promote its brand without being accused of spam or clumsy sales tactics. Stamford is seen a supporter, rather than a marketing tool. He's enthusiastic because he's a dedicated member of the club. Nothing more.

User interaction

Just as Twitter allows users to communicate with companies, it also gives individuals the opportunity to chat with their favourite fiction characters.

The Compare The Market mascot, Aleksandr Orlov, is one of the more famous characters on Twitter. Humorously posing as an Eastern-European meerkat, the Twitter feed regularly interacts with users in order to promote the sub-brand (Compare The and its parent company.

This creative approach has proved to be very popular with consumers (and the bank balance for the insurance site).

Compare The Meerkat - Manchester SEO blog
This consumer interaction has also been used for promotion of television programmes. The American drama Castle – not yet broadcast in the UK – runs a Twitter feed for its main character, Richard Castle. The account follows the life of Castle away from the cameras, providing hype and publicity for the show without the need for conventional marketing campaigns.

More recently, a series of Twitter accounts from the characters of the AMC drama Mad Men proved to be very successful in raising the profile of the programme. Tweets and replies from the employees of the fictional 1950s advertising firm were exceptionally popular with fans of the show.

While the accounts were later revealed to be fake and unauthorised by the network, the campaigns' (for lack of a better word) success demonstrated the willingness of users to interact with fictional characters.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A guide to Google Insights and keyword research

Google Insights guide - Manchester SEO blogGoogle Insights is an easy way to discover popular searches in Google.

For instance, which is the more frequent search – 'Manchester SEO' or 'Search Engine Optimisation Manchester'?

Why this is important

Knowing popular terms allows SEO copywriters to optimise a site for relevant and popular searches. Google Insights is an important tool in this process.

Think of a website as a high street shop. Imagine there are two stores selling the same product. Each venue is located on a different road.

Each road represents a keyword a user may type into Google.

Store number one is located on a busy street which gets a lot of traffic from shoppers. This road is a very popular search term. Many people walk past shop one and, as a result, a number of customers enter to browse for products.

Shop two is placed on a small road away from the high street. This road represents a less popular keyword. Fewer people walk down this road and so, fewer people visit the store to buy things.

Keywords explained - Manchester SEO blog

The same principal can be applied to online searches. If a site is ranked on the results pages for a popular search, it is more likely to have a higher number of visitors than a site which appears in the rankings for a lesser term.

How Google Insights works

Google Insights examines the popularity of a keyword over time and geographical location

Users can compare different keywords to determine the popularity of various terms. In this example, I compare the frequency of searches for 'Manchester SEO' versus 'SEO blog' over a 12-month period.

Manchester SEO versus SEO blog

As you can see, 'SEO blog' is a more popular term than 'Manchester SEO'. The peaks and troughs in the graphs show the relative favour of each keyword over a monthly basis.

How to use Google Insights

Search popularity over time

Users can examine trends over three years, 12 months and 90, 30 or seven days. This allows individuals to spot seasonal peaks in keywords - for instance, the popularity of the term 'Christmas trees' spikes around the winter months. Who wants to buy a Christmas tree in June?

Geographical searches

Geographical filters allow users to establish which area – global, country, county, city – is doing the majority of searches for a keyword. This is a useful tool for businesses keen to optimise a site for a specific type of visitor.

For example, a hotel chain may wish to add a 'short stay' section to its site if it is getting a number of visitors from nearby towns or locations - these customers may only wish to visit a city for a few nights.


Popular keywords are usually the most competitive. Many websites are optimised to rank highly for these terms and, as a result, it is harder to achieve high positions in Google for common searches.

Generic keywords may not bring in the 'right' type of visitor. It is argued that users who search with generic or popular keywords are merely 'browsers'; people not intent on buying a product. Users who focus their searches – for example 'extra large jeans' - may be more likely to buy said product than individuals merely searching for 'jeans'.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

How Manchester uses Twitter

Manchester SEO - Twitter in ManchesterThe use of Twitter as a marketing and communication tool has been well documented. Here are four ways Manchester companies and bloggers are using Twitter in order to promote, learn and collaborate.

Sharing Knowledge

Twitter allows users to broadcast information. At the risk of sounding like an iPhone advert - any information. Members of the Twitterati can share news, opinion and anecdotes with a number of followers. In any one moment of the day, an individual can have access to a wealth of new information they may never have discovered without the service.

A Manchester example:

As an SEO copywriter, I'm always interested in the opinions and views from peers in the field. Twitter gives me the opportunity to absorb information and advice from a number of SEO and social media professionals in the community (and from around the UK). Blogs from the likes of local writers such as Andrew Nattan, Kieron Hughes and Julia Shuvalova provide topical and insightful discussion into both the SEO and social media industry.

Business Promotion

Cost-effective promotion has never been easier than on Twitter. Within a few keystrokes and a quick left click on a mouse, an organisation can quickly advertise products and events on a massive scale.

A Manchester example:

There are many Manchester tourism groups which artfully use Twitter to this end. Creative Tourist, Visit Manchester and Urbis museum all regularly tweet about exhibitions and events around the city.

Most recently, tweets from the Piccadilly Manchester account advertised a series of events – Platform 4 Piccadilly – which took place in Manchester City Centre last weekend.

Picadilly Manchester Twitter - Manchester SEO blog
Which inspired me to hop on a 42 bus – braving the start of Fresher's week – to take these photographs and share them on Twitter.

Piccadilly puppet - Manchester SEO blog

Picadilly free running - Manchester SEO blog
Additionally, this act of third-party promotion can create a ripple effect - spreading a campaign across a Twitter community and thereby raising awareness (and visitor numbers).

Industry Events

Twitter gives a user access to countless different communities – SEO groups, social media collectives and local bloggers. Many of these collectives hold regular gatherings which allow individuals to meet up, discuss news in the industry and socialise over a few beers.

A Manchester example:

There are a number of Manchester SEO and social media meet ups around the city. Northern Digitals, Geek Up, Manchester Digital and Manchester Blogmeet are just some of the blog and industry groups which regularly hold events for anyone with an interest in the industry.

Social Media Cafe Manchester holds a monthly meeting, the latest at the BBC, which features seminars and light-hearted debate.

This event, like many others around Manchester, gives Twitter users the opportunity to meet each other, discuss ideas and collaborate.

Self Promotion

Twitter offers users the opportunity to self-promote. Individuals can plug blogs, services and goods in their 140 characters. Twitter has been used to advertise products which would normally rot away on Amazon Marketplace, find a date for an evening and direct traffic to a blog.

A Manchester example:

Twitter has provided the vast majority to traffic to this SEO blog. Over the site's lifetime, 31 per cent of visitors have entered from links posted and retweeted on Twitter.

This promotion acts as a low-level targeted advertisement. The vast majority of my followers have an interest in SEO/social media and work in the Manchester SEO community. The nature of Twitter allows me, in the same way Manchester tourism companies use the service, to promote posts to the appropriate audience. These entries can be read and commented on accordingly.


Feel free to comment about this post.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Increasing PageRank using the Jeff Goldblum SEO method

SEO Manchester Blog - the Jeff Goldblum SEO methodThe Manchester SEO blog examines how to increase PageRank using Jeff Goldblum SEO best practise.

What is PageRank?

Google PageRank is like a website's school report. It is a score - out of ten - which is awarded to every page in a domain by the search engine.

Here's what it looks like:

Manchester SEO Blog | Google PageRank

You can also find out the PageRank of a website with a number of online tools.

PageRank displays Google's opinion of a website. The higher the PageRank score of a site, the more highly Google thinks of it. As a result, a page with a larger score will often rank better in search engine results pages.

How is PageRank calculated?

PageRank is calculated using many different factors. Primarily though, it is determined by the number of links to a site from other domains.

Search engines reason that a site's usefulness and reliability is based on how many external domains choose to link to it. More links usually results in a higher PageRank.

The problem

Most links from other domains are directed to your homepage. This can result in a PageRank on the homepage, but not on others URLs deeper in the site.

To maximise a website's ranking, you want to have a PageRank score on as many pages as possible.

The solution

It is possible to share PageRank from one page to another using an internal link (links to different pages in the same domain).

This is where Jeff Goldblum comes in

In the 1996 film Independence Day, a ruthless alien species invaded the earth. Many recognisable landmarks were destroyed and the world's military were having a beast of a time fighting back.

The aliens had Star Trek-esque shields over their vessels which protected them from harm. Things were looking grim for the future of mankind.

Thankfully, Jeff Goldblum – playing a mild-mannered scientist - steps in with a plan to destroy the alien's defences. Here, he reveals the hair-brain idea to a number of important people who are all wearing important ties.

The gist of this plan involves installing a computer virus into the alien mother ship. This will disable the alien's defences. The virus is intended to filter down into each of the smaller alien vessels, lowering the shields and allowing them to be destroyed. Huzzah.

A similar strategy can also be put to use in order to increase PageRank across a website.

Imagine for a moment that the entire alien fleet is your website. The homepage is the mother ship. Other pages deeper in the site – for example, -are the smaller crafts.

Now instead of a computer virus, imagine that PageRank is being injected into the mother ship. In order to get the PageRank across the entire site, this 'virus' needs to be able to travel to every single page.

This process can be achieved by using of internal links. Below is an example which demonstrates how links can pass PageRank through a site. You can enlarge the picture for a better look.

Manchester SEO blog|SEO link map

Notice how the secondary pages have links to the tertiary level. This not only passes rank around, but also ensures that all the pages on a site get looked at by Google.

By using the Jeff Goldblum SEO plan, you can help your website to rank better in search engine results.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Asda issues YouTube apology for the chicken licker

Asda hit the headlines today after a mobile video showed an ex-employee licking produce on sale before returning it to the shelves. The late night adventures of a worker in the Asda Fulwood store has caused a stir in both the local and national media.

The young gentleman in question filmed himself doing all manner of shenanigans in the deserted store. Throwing eggs, setting off fire extinguishers and licking raw chickens. All par for the course for a slow weekday evening.

Understandably, Asda issued an apology. Interestingly though, they decided to submit it through YouTube.

The video itself shows various staff members criticising the employee's behaviour and assuring customers that this kind of behaviour isn't really encouraged by senior management.

It's a nice approach. By giving a human face to the problem, particularly by interviewing the Asda Fulwood staff, the video reassures consumers that the brand shares their concerns and disgust. These are normal people who prefer their chickens to be untouched by the tongue of man.

While it may have been easier to issue a quick press release, Asda has been clever enough to tackle the problem with a social media solution. Maybe it's something more companies will consider in the future.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Five ways to make money from Twitter

Making money off Twitter|SEO ManchesterTwitter gives companies access to over 56 million users per day. The issue surrounding the service is how to turn this massive user base into paying customers. In essence, how to monetise Twitter.

Here are five theories which the site could use to generate the green.

Exclusive material

After Rupert Murdoch declared all online content from News Corporation papers would be subscription based from 2010 in the UK, one has to wonder if the same principal could be applied to Twitter. Would users pay to receive exclusive tweets and access material only available on the service?

A V.I.P account for a musician would give subscribers links to new, unheard material. A software company would offer programmes with 'exclusive' features. A movie studio may offer a subscription fee for tweets about new trailers or deleted scenes from films.

Direct advertising

Spotify, the music service of the hour, pays its bills by airing a commercial every five tracks or so. Would it be possible for Twitter to offer universal advertising – paid-for tweets which show up on all accounts at regular periods of the day? I'm sure companies would be climbing all over each other to pay for access to over 56 million visitors per day.

Celebrity tweets

Using a celebrity name to make money is not a new theory. Hello and OK Magazine have both run high-profile media campaigns focusing on various celebrity columnists. A weighty celebrity writer – dispensing facts or rumours about their A-list circles – can shift copies from shelves.

Could the same process be used for Twitter? Would users pay to read the tweets of Lily Allen or Lady Gaga?

Probably. Yeah, depressing, isn't it?

Search marketing

A PPC campaign for Twitter is not unlikely. Users searching for specific hashtags and keywords would be presented with a 'sponsored link' – a company or service related to the search which is located at the top of the result page.

Related links

Facebook offers users the option to befriend users they may know. Could Twitter also use this theory for commercial gain? Say a user follows Dell computers. Would it be profitable for Twitter to recommend a rival computer manufacturer based on paid advertising?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Twitter Vs. Facebook - Open communication channels

Facebook and Twitter|SEO Manchester blogThe recent moves by Facebook into real-time search have highlighted the increasing pressure on social media companies to beat Twitter at its own game. In the past month, Facebook has acquired FriendFeed, launched a new search function and initiated a real-time update system. You can find more about these updates over at TechCrunch.

Fundamentally though, Twitter allows for more effective communication. Here are some reasons why:

Ease of search

While an effective tool for whatever pointless meme is cruising around Twitter on that particular day, the mighty hashtag is an indispensable catalyst for those interested in finding like-minded individuals. It gives users the opportunity to quickly find those with similar interests, and more crucially, talk to them about it

The launch of Facebook's latest search function has cast a stark light on how Twitter already provides a better service in regards to sourcing information.

The nature of Facebook – of users being able to set up a little corner of the internet for themselves, complete with a host of personal information – naturally leads to secrecy. Horror stories on Facebook - reports of employees searching for potential candidates – have made users more aware of the information they share.

Users with private profiles are discarded from this latest search function. This automatically disgards a high proportion of Facebook users from any search query.

Twitter users aren't so picky about their friends. That is to say, the amount of personal data on Twitter is greatly reduced than that on offer over on Facebook. It is easier to find individuals with similar interests on Twitter purely because privacy is less of an issue.

Effective communication

A random friend request on Facebook is usually met with a quick trawl through the jumbled memories of a night on the pop, followed by a violent jerk towards the reject button. Users don't want strangers rummaging through their photographs or personal information. Especially if they haven't met before. Or have only met once. And have avoided each other ever since.

Twitter users seem less anxious about their 140 characters escaping into the public domain and into the consciousness of a stranger. Even the language used on the site – Twitter's followers compared to Facebook's friends – is less committal. Twitter is a tool for communication. And for the moment, users seem to have embraced that mantra.

Off-site communication

Twitter encourages collaboration online and in the real world. Industry peers, communities and groups frequently meet over a pint to discuss the business of the day. These meet-ups allow users to socialise and get to know each other away from their 140 characters.

It's also true that Facebook can inspire these groups – indeed communities exist for pub regulars, music-lovers and even singletons. Still, finding these sites require a degree of Indiana-Jones-esque exploration of a profile. Tellingly, Facebook users can opt to keep their group memberships private.

Anyone can contribute to a trend on Twitter. There are no exclusive groups and no cliques. It feels inclusive. Facebook does not.

The recent upgrades to Facebook bear striking similarities to the final days of Friends Reunited. Desperate to retain their sagging userbase, FR bolted on any Facebook feature they could – live chat, photo tagging – in an effort to stem the flow of users.

Sadly, in Friends Reunited's case, Facebook had already done it. And it already did it better. Perhaps Facebook should try to redefine itself, rather than ape something Twitter has already done. Better.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Ten important blogs - the top bloggers to have shaped modern blogging

Important blogs|SEO Manchester
Belle De Jour

Arguably, the first British blogger to break out of the virtual world and into the real one. Before the book deal, the television show and the Guardian column, Ms. De Jour entertained and titillated with her experiences as a London call girl. Witty and superbly written (to the point where a UK paper tried to out her as a journalist) and occasionally laugh-out-loud, it's worth a look for those with an interest in both the cultural importance of online copywriting and, um, the subject in hand.

Belle De Jour

Bob Somerby

Founder of the Daily Howler blog, Bob Somerby was one of the first major political writers on the internet. While often criticised for being inaccurate and biased, the Daily Howler showed that it was possible to write about politics and maintain a healthy bounce rate at the same time. Political bloggers such as Guido Fawkes have a lot to thank him for.

Daily Howler

Matt Cutts

As head of Google's Webspam team, Matt Cutts knows things. Secret things. Things that an SEO copywriter would kill for. Sadly, Mr. Cutts isn't known for blurting out algorithm secrets, or indeed, the 16 digit number on the front of the company credit card. Nor should we expect him too. Occasionally though, Cutts lets slip about the latest update or indeed, confirms popular theories surrounding SEO strategy. Every little helps.

Matt Cutts

Comment is Free (The Guardian)

While not a personal blog, The Guardian's Comment Is Free is one of the most influential collection of online musings. The Guardian has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what a newspaper can achieve online and the launch of CiF showed that news and opinion could peacefully coexist in a virtual world. 700 writers regularly contribute to the CiF section – named after a quote from CP Scott – and, even today, it remains one of the leading sites for online opinion and conjecture.

Comment is Free


Richard Horton – detective constable for the Lancashire Constabulary - is better known as NightJack, the Orwell Prize-winning blogger famous for his emotional insight into the secret world of the police force. He became infamous for his criticisms of police bureaucracy and his honest appraisal of the job – describing one local community as the 'evil poor' being just one controversial opinion. Horton's identity was revealed by a court order earlier this year after a landmark legal battle with The Times newspaper. The blog was deleted and Horton was issued a formal warning by his employers. The implications of this ruling, rather than the blog itself, cements its position in the list.

Perez Hilton

Love or loath the nature of his work, Perez Hilton has made his name reporting on the loves and lives of Hollywood's elite. His first blog,, was famous for its brutal and cut-throat reporting of some of the biggest celebrity scoops. The blog inspired countless imitators and thousands of like-minded sites and Perez is now thought to be one of the most influential people in show business; the blog has been know to launch the careers of his friends and acquaintances. Like Mika.

Perez Hilton

Justin Hall

Widely considered to be the pioneer of the personal blog, Jusin Hall started in 1994. As a student at Swarthmore, Hall began chronicling his daily life and undergraduate experiences. He revealed the most intimate details about his time at university – relationships, holidays and, at one point chronicled the time he obtained an STD from a partner. The origins of internet angst.

Justin Hall

Tom Watson

While he may have resigned his parliamentary seat under a hail of tabloid exclamation marks, Tom Watson will be forever remembered as one of the first politicians to connect to constituents through the power of blogging. In 2004, Watson won the New Statesman New Media Award for his attempts to share politics with the electorate. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have followed in his footsteps.

Tom Watson

Xeni Jardin

As the co-editor of cult site Boing Boing, Xeni is responsible for the proliferation of peculiar things. Back in the days before people realised the internet could be used to broadcast more unusual content – talking Nazi cats juggling melons and the like -this woman was spreading internet memes far and wide. An inspiration to all who'd rather surf B3ta than get any actual work done.

Xeni Jardin

Evan Williams

The father of social media, Williams made blogging accessible to all after creating in 1993. The simple layout and open-to-all approach brought blogging into the public domain. It now averages just over 140 million visitors per day. Williams can currently be found at his latest creation, Twitter.

Evan Williams

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Google Caffeine - What's in a name?

Google Caffeine, the latest update to the monster search engine, was revealed last week. My initial reaction was disappointment.

Google is a company known for innovation. A company famous for providing inspiring and useful products. A company with a reputation for branding these products with clever and star-gazing names. Chrome. Wave. Android.

Caffeine just seems to be selling Google short. This update is billed as a major step forward for the search engine giant and by all accounts, a lot of effort has been put into redefining the way the wee little search spiders operate. It's just a shame the codename - Caffeine - lacks the va-va-voom of the actual product.
A codename should be innovative and awe-inspiring. When I hear a codename, I want to imagine Sean Connery in a Navy uniform, sensually whispering the word into the quivering receiver of a red telephone.

A codename personifies a project. When people don't have any product information to go on, a super-secret moniker needs to be a standard bearer. A word to represent how life-changing this new service will be; a viciously-proactive noun for instance – destroyer, killer, tankmouth.

Nintendo initially opted to name the soggy-sounding Wii, the Revolution. BlackBerry took their inspiration from Dirty Harry's penis-extension of choice.

At its core though, a codeword should be cool. Indeed, companies need to pander to the zealots. No self-respecting kool-aid drinker is going to review a product on Amazon six months pre-release if its name sounds like a new body scrub.

Certainly, a codeword should not float in subjectivity. Caffeine suggests sleepless nights worrying about results pages or bleary-eyed meetings desperately trying to explain to a client why their website has slipped into the SERP abyss.

Caffeine is an ominous title and if Google wanted to scare any SEO copywriter to ever type a keyword surely there are more apocalyptic codewords on offer. Google End Of Days, Google Threat Level Orange or Google They're Coming To Get You Barbara.

I'm genuinely excited about Google Caffeine. I think it will make search much faster and much more efficient. I just wish the team at Google hadn't decided to name their latest update after things in their eyeline during the meeting.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Tabloid tales - paying for online news

From 2010, users will have to pay to read online content featured in titles owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Here are five tabloid tales guaranteed to part you with your pennies.

Disclaimer: These stories are all fake. Possibly. I also take no responsibility for people wearing slogan t-shirts.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Football on the BBC - creating an online experience

Today marks the return of the UK football league and I, like most fans, will be monitoring the action online.

While The Guardian and Sky Sports offer great live feeds from the day's matches, I've found the BBC provides the most complete coverage - not just in regards to news and reports, but in terms of user experience. The Beeb offers a dedicated online section for match days which combines a number of useful features. The end result is a comprehensive and engaging online experience for football fans across the UK.

Media integration

I've always been a fan of the BBC's use of visual media – placing video news on the homepage during major stories, for example. (the death of Michael Jackson being the most recent.)

During match days, the BBC provides a live feed of their television or radio coverage on this mini site.

Today we get radio coverage, although normally Ray Stubbs' mug – on the digital Final Score programme - is available for all to admire online. But we're only celebrating the start of the lower league competition and the BBC doesn't wake up its gameday players for anything less than a Premiership clash. Still, we're left in the capable hands of the Five Live radio team and their expert analysis of every goal and tackle.

There's also a live text feed under the video which combines comments from users and a moderator – more about this later. The BBC introduced this live function during the Beijing Olympics (previously users had to smash F5 to refresh the coverage).

For more on this story...

The BBC duly provides a wealth of background information. Links across the page offer users the chance to read more expert analysis- predictions, club previews and the like. There's a mine of extra info for anyone wanting to know the stories behind the scores. Annoyingly though, these links don't open in a new window and you'll find the live coverage brutally cut short if you venture away from the page.

Elsewhere, an application on the left of the screen allows users to keep up to date with current scores. Handily, these are automatically updated. This tab also gives fans the option to monitor results in other leagues if they maintain an unhealthy interest in the lower divisions or indeed, are exceptionally pessimistic about their team's fortunes this season.

User content

One of the site's greatest facets is the integration of user input.

The BBC 606 message board – for football aficionados across the country - has established itself as one of the most reputable and lively user groups on the interwebs. During match days, comments and opinions from 606 users are regularly posted onto the live feed below the video. It's a great way to actively inspire an audience and produce user-generated content.

Man in black

Of course, the whole package wouldn't be complete without a referee to keep the whole thing in order. Thankfully, Alan Hanson isn't let anywhere near a keyboard.

The afternoon's entertainment is provided by a roving moderator – Caroline Cheese in this instance – who interacts with user comments, reports on developments and generally keeps the whole ship afloat. It's all very entertaining fare and she injects a nice slice of personality into the coverage. Judging by the frequency of her updates, one can only hope that the BBC provide a finger bath of ice water at half time.

Fans can also use Twitter to chat to Ms. Cheese and she duly responds to comments from supporters at the grounds. Like the 606 message board, it's a nice way to keep fans engaged and also allows the BBC to get their mitts on any breaking stories.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Musical chairs - ten female musicians to follow on Twitter

Muscians on Twitter
The Saturdays

For those of you with a penchant for bubblegum pop, each member of The Saturdays holds a Twitter profile. It's interesting to compare five different views of an identical experience – often they tweet about the same thing – and each account serves as an outlet for followers to get to know each member as a person (as opposed to one blanket profile – which also exists).

It's also a nice way to gauge which member of the band has the most hope of a successful solo career. Francesca Sandford leads the pack by some way with over 28,000 followers.

Frankie Sandford on Twitter

Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap was once described as music's best kept secret. Judging by her 731,000 followers, this is no longer the case. Heap, on the cusp of releasing a new album, has been recently tweeting about the process of getting music from her head into your ears – it's a fascinating insight into the creative process behind making a collection of songs.

Imogen Heap on Twitter

Lady Gaga

The eccentric pop scarlet only has 75 tweets to her name. Still, she has amassed quite a collection of followers – 563,257 at last count – and she's quite fond of returning the favour; nearly 70,000 users are on her following list. As you'd expect from a lady famous for her eccentricity, Miss Gaga's tweets range from the surreal - “Dancing with the stars tonight. 2moro with the moons” - to the obscure - “In Russia doing research”. There's also the occasional diva tantrum thrown in for good measure.

Lady Gaga Twitter account

Sara Bariellis

The American pop singer has quite the mouth on her. Despite her harmless pop ditties, the young Sara is occasionally known for a bit of harmless cursing; if nothing else, followers can expect to see a different side to the singer. Still, with over one million followers, I suppose you can do pretty much what you want.

Sara Bareilles Twitter account

Little Boots

Little Boots' 736 tweets provide a fascinating insight into the daily life of a rising pop star. You seem to spend a lot of time of planes, apparently.

Iamlittleboots gives followers a nice blend of personal anecdotes and whimsical musings. Also known to conduct the occasional live interview on Twitter with tech-savvy journos.

Little Boots Twitter

Lily Allen

Often described as the pioneer of celebrity twitterers – and with nearly a million followers to show for it – Lily Rose Allen has one of the more entertaining accounts. She often speaks candidly – debasing newspaper articles about her good character and the such – and rarely brings a bad tweet to the table. She's also a regular user of twitpic if you're keen to see the world through her eyes.

Lily Allen Twitter profile

Katy Perry

Perry has a reputation for being a bit of a wild child. This is nicely reflected in her Twitter account – an eclectic mix of backstage antics, real-world situations and occasional self-mockery. It's an entertaining account of the singer's life away from the microphone, peppered with the occasional racy tweet.

Katy Perry on Twitter

Pixie Lott

The 18-year-old Pixie Lott walks a straight line on her Twitter account. A pop princess by name and nature, there's no Bariellis' outbursts here. It's all very sanguine – Tweets about where she is and where she's off to next (normally the next appearance on an MTV-esque pop show). The most edgy update comes when she talks about her new Dr. Dre headphones. Alas, any hint of risqué in this particular update is quickly quenched by the use of a heart-shaped icon.

Pixie Lott Twitter

Florence And The Machine

The Twitter account of Florence And The Machine is barely a month old. Still, you can tell a lot from those first postings and Florence is shaping up to be a fine member of the sorority.

12 interesting updates makes this a Twitter account to watch.

Florence and the Machine on Twitter


The whimsical Australian singer lives up to her reputation on Twitter. Her tweets are slightly surreal, occasionally nonsensical and sometimes share a little too much:

“I'm mean like a cut snake today. I can feel it. I must be ovulating. Wide berth. WIDE berth. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”


Sia Twitter account

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Raising the Manchester bar - Creating an effective pub website

Manchester SEO Blog - Manchester bars online| Odd Bar Manchester
I enjoy a drink. I also enjoy digital marketing. It seemed almost inevitable the two would collide at some point.

Many Manchester bars have an online presence. Much like the bars in the area, some sites are great, some sites are bad and some sites are ugly. If the internet was a bar, the latter category of sites would probably be drinking alone in the corner and smelling of whisky.

Here's a run down of what a bar website needs in order to be an effective online tool.

Make the site easy to find

Searches for bars in Manchester often bring up results for third party sites such as and The good bar websites cut out the middle man and are prominently displayed in a search for their name. This can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • A listing on Google Local - This quickly brings up the crucial information – phone number, address, map. Searches for city bars Bluu and The Cornerhouse both result in listings on Google Maps. Very useful for the time-conscious user desperate for a sup.

    Google search for The Cornerhouse
  • URL – Many bars include the term 'Manchester' in their URL. This is great for minimising the number of search results for other UK venues with identical names. The Woodstock in South Manchester takes this a step further and includes the phrase Didsbury in its URL.
  • Basic SEO – The city centre bar Sam's Chop House includes all the major terms in its title tag: 'Sam's Chop House Restaurant Manchester'. Lovely search fodder for the Google spiders and good for ranking on a number of terms.

Simple navigation

A simple layout is crucial for a bar website. In normal circumstances, a user is looking for a set amount of information: where the pub is, what it's like and what they can order for lunch. TV 21 has a simple and easy to understand navigation. Users can select from a number of options, giving them the maximum amount of information with the minimum degree of clicking. The online habitat of Castlefield bar Dukes 92 is also a great example of a navigation done right; simple and intuitive. Elsewhere, the Kro chain has a lovely map on its homepage which highlights the locations of its four Manchester bars.

Good websites should also try to be mobile phone friendly. Bars need to take into consideration the circumstances of some visitors. When users are accessing information via a mobile, do they want to be impressed by an image-led homepage which takes years to load? The best websites for mobile browsers accommodate the small handset screens - small blocks of text and sparse use of images. Additionally, many Manchester bars use flash on their websites. This makes them inaccessible to an iPhone user.

Keeping users coming back

M20, located in deepest Didsbury, is a lovely demonstration of how to keep users on a website. This tidy site offers users the chance to choose their perfect cocktail based on a series of irreverent questions. For example,'On holiday, are you a chilled out beach bum or an action-hungry pirate?'. The website then suggests a cocktail inspired by a user's responses. Helpfully, it also list the price of said cocktail if you fancy a trip to the actual bar.

Blogs are also a nice way to keep users returning to a site. Northern Quarter bar Walrus incorporates a blog into its website, giving staff the opportunity to talk about their recent experiences at the venue. It's a nice touch which gives added depth to the website.

Press reviews are a helpful addition to a site. They help add authority and may convince many users to pay a visit. Odd has a large selection of published reviews for curious punters.

Online design should have character

The design of a website reflects the character of the establishment. The look of a website creates an immediate impression. To this end, a trendy student haunt probably shouldn't look like a website for Dunder Mifflin.

The website for the Trof chain incorporates elements of its décor into the design. It injects some of the character and atmosphere of the venue into the site.

Manchester Trof Bar

Honorary mentions also go to Walrus, Odd and The English Lounge (a traditional boozer in the city centre which is represented online by regal colours and swirling fonts).

Social marketing

Social networking is a great way to get a bar noticed. The Northern, one of the more recent bars in the Northern Quarter, runs an excellent Facebook campaign. The Northern group is regularly updated with news and events. It also includes a list of opening hours and has a well-attended discussion board. To add a little face to the brand, the director of the pub frequently answers user questions about the bar.

The Northern Manchester bar Facebook group

Other notable marketing campaigns include Simple Bar (Facebook) and Sweet Mandarin (Twitter).

Social marketing takes a reasonable amount of effort – a undernourished Facebook group page reflects badly on any establishment. A comment on the group page of one particular Manchester bar highlights these perils.

“Can we update this crappy page? Or delete it and start a new one?”

Many Manchester bars also offer regular emial newsletters. This is a simple way of keeping in touch with customers and letting them know about events and offers. Rain Bar and Simple Bar are just two examples of venues using this effective technique.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Google Images Adds New Filtering Option

It's been a busy month for Google. Not content with riling a large proportion of the UK SEO community with its apparent change to UK SERPs, the techies at Google HQ have found the time to implement a new option to its image search service; allowing users to reduce or raise the level of adult content directly from a results page.

It is now incredibly simple to switch between different degrees of safe search in Google Images. The level of adult content can now be easily changed by clicking on the option under the search bar.

Google Image change to adult filter

However, I am sure there are many people keen to say that the first result - an image of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney - fails to adhere to the use of 'strict' filtering of adult content.

Story courtesty of Google Blogoscoped

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A simple guide to understanding Trending Topics on Twitter

Twitter Trending Topics - An internet popularity contest
Twitter gives users the ability to share information. Fast. Using the 'Trending Topics' (the list on the right hand side of the homepage), users can quickly view the most talked about subjects at any particular time.

Here's how the system works:

This is a keyword - examples include celebrity names, locations or events. Only one user has tweeted using this keyword. It's very lonely.

Another Twitter user (usually a follower of the original user) has seen the previous tweet featuring our keyword. This user will either 'retweet' the original message or make their own unique tweet. This tweet will include the above keyword. Now there are two tweets featuring this keyword.

The keyword has spread through Twitter. Many followers - either from the original user, or their followers - have seen the use of this keyword and have now tweeted or retweeted featuring this particular term. These users may also be in other countries. See the recent #iranelection trend for an example of this.

So many users have tweeted this keyword that it has become famous. Famous keywords feature on the top 10 Trending Topics. This list is of the most popular words or phrases being used at any one time.

Sometimes, a keyword is so popular that it crashes Twitter. This usually happens when millions of users post their tweets around the same time. Twitter explodes. Or at least, its server starts smoking. Global events like the death of popstar Michael Jackson is one such example of this.

Occasionally, companies try to use Twitter to market their wares. A very dubious way of doing this is to use a popular keyword in a tweet, followed by what it is they are trying to sell. This is frowned upon.

Trending Topics can vary greatly depending on the circumstances. A trending topic may disappear completely or it may remain in the top 10 list for quite some time.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Cautionary Tale Of Twitter

Social marketing can be a perilous escapade. Especially if you don't give it the kind of attention it deserves.

Marketing campaigns on sites such as Twitter cannot be something a company does just because 'everyone else is doing it'. This kind of mindset can only lead to disaster.

I get the impression some companies see social marketing as somewhat of an inconvenience. The kind of job you get the spotty work experience student to do because no one can think of another task for him to get stuck into.

Identifying an ill-thought out Twitter campaign is not difficult. There are dozens of failed attempts on Twitter, abandoned like the burnt-out cars on the side of the road towards a particularly dodgy neighbourhood. The symptoms of an ailing marketing strategy are pretty consistent.

  • Infrequent updates
  • A dedicated collection of spam followers – it's really not that difficult to block spam followers. Any spam looks bad and reflects poorly on a brand. It gives off the impression that you couldn't give a tweet about the quality of your followers.
  • Hash tag spam

Still, even if your strategy avoids all of these pitfalls, there are still many holes for you to fall into.

The recent Twitter escapades of Habitat – the UK furniture store – is a fine example of how to incur the wrath of the social collective. Hashtag spam is never a clever play. No matter how many Viagra pills you have to ship before the end of the month.

Suffice it to say, jumping on the back of trending topics to advertise your wares, particularly topics of a sensitive nature such as the continuing political unrest in Iran, is not the smartest strategy. It reeks of an incoherent marketing plan; the act of a salesman desperate to get a commission.

This was a schoolboy error from a company, which up to that point, had a steady relationship with Twitter. The damage done to the Habitat brand far out weights any possible profit (if any) made from this misadventure. Companies need to be smarter

Habitat countered this bad publicity with the following tweet:

“We’ve been listening and we know 140 characters aren’t enough for a full apology”

Would this have all been necessary if someone had just found the work experience guy some photocopying to do?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Wolfram Alpha Finds The Funny

Funny Wolfram Alpha quotesWolfram Alpha, the mathematical search engine from Brit scientist Stephan Wolfram, has been live for just over a month. Rather than bringing up a list of relevant websites per search term, a la Google or its ilk, Wolfram Alpha has a pop at answering the question itself. Indeed, it excels in returning a number of searches: the answer to an equation, population density and number of registered users to a website.

Wolfram Alpha is also a search engine with a funny side. Ask it a philosophical question and it probably has an answer. Here is a selection of some of the wittiest, and frankly, occasional smart-arsed Wolfram Alpha results.

So now you know
Wolfram Alpa - polite
Searching for love on Wolfram Alpha
Wait a moment...
Wolfram Alpha - scary
Advanced search engine, you say?

Wolfram Alpha hits the classics
Wish Google showed me this much love
Sans red hat
Sadly, it's not the root of all knowledge and I'm sure that the team at WA are sick of coming to work and finding their inbox full of failed/ down-right weird search queries. If you see any more, let me know.