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 Ask.com'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 Meerkat.com) 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, http://www.homepage.com/anotherpage/ -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.