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Category Archives: seo

Have you noticed ghost spam in Your Google Analytics data?

keep outFighting spam has always been a hard-fought, epic battle which has still yet to be conquered successfully. Google Analytics is one of the leading tools available for gathering and analysing data about your website but unfortunately, its data been compromised in the past through various hackers. This has left many website owners frustrated and confused about how to interpret their reports, since it was not known whether their statistics were not a true reflection of actual website traffic.

Back in 2014, several bots (website crawlers used by Search Engines) were hacked to visit websites and leave fake referral data within the Analytics reporting. Since then, there have been many similar instances from various sources including fake organic search terms or fake events being reported. Whilst Google’s spam defences are always improving, the fight is a tough one for  them. By not discussing their tactics and strategies to overcome this problem, they are keeping their security systems private, away from the hackers prying ears.

The Next Web Ghost Spam Referrals

There have been many reports recently of a Russian hacker by the name of Vitaly Popov who managed to find a way to use a fake Google domain to send referral spam into Google Analytics. The hacker registered a domain name almost identical to Google but with replacing the first letter “g” with a Unicode character set of the letter instead. This resulted in fake referral mentions being contaminated within the Google Analytics data.

The intention behind this hacking incident was in this case not to expose any vulnerabilities or hotlinking to images. Instead, he successfully managed to leave a political message within the domains’ referral links.

The original message appeared as: “Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!””

Visitors who would be intrigued by the new URL would be tempted to trace it back to its original source. As a result, this would then boost the popularity of the hacker’s own website further. The hits appeared as though they were coming from thenextweb.com but in fact, they were not.

the next web ghost referrals

Ghost referral data appearing as though it was coming from thenextweb.com when in fact, it wasn’t.

How To Remove Google Analytics Referral Spam

Most Google Analytics ‘ghost referrals’ spam can be blocked by using a single filter for a valid hostname. These are websites that you have configured to use within the Google Analytics account, such as ecommerce shopping carts or associated call tracking services. Since the ghost or fake referral traffic never actually goes to your website, it isn’t actually possible to block the visits, either through the .htaccess file or through any plugins.Therefore, setting up a filter which excludes them makes good sense.

The main problem with spam referrals is that they tend to continuously change and reappear, meaning new filters are always required. Our recommendation is to continually check the data showing from your website’s referrals and test to ensure the information is legitimate, to the best of your knowledge. Hopefully there will be a time in the future when your Google Analytics data can be entirely spam-free but until then, take care!

10 SEO Predictions for 2017

As long as SEO has been in place, there have always been discussions, articles and rumours about it dying out and no longer relevant or required within the Marketing industry. There have been many articles, Blog posts or even whole websites aiming to cover the answers to questions such as “Is SEO Dead?” and “Why Do We Need SEO.” However, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has continually evolved, year after year and has always been a vital element of any Digital/Online Marketing strategy.

It’s true to say that some of the SEO techniques from around ten years ago can not be carried out nowadays to achieve the same successes. Practices such as link buying, keyword stuffing, cloaking (displaying one page for a user instead of another) or spammy content are no longer viable and could potentially cause a website to get penalised or blacklisted by the Search Engine directories. Instead, Search Engine marketers have had to adopt their strategies and focus less on what Search Engines want to see and more around what is best for the visitors.

SEO has continually evolved over the years and is ever-present as we move into 2017. Google continues to update its core algorithms to focus on metrics such as user engagement and quality content with the aim of improving its results for the 40,000 or more search queries which it processes for every second. By focussing on the latest recommended best practices and analysing the latest trends in SEO, we can determine which elements are going to be critical for the success of a website as we head into next year.

SEO Strategy in 2017

Here are the top 10 SEO trends and developments identified by Net Sixty Six as being at the forefront of Search Engine Marketing in 2017:
SEO predictions 2017

  1. HTTPS: An announcement was made back in 2014 by Google that it wanted to focus more on making the Web a more secure environment. Websites which utilised HTTPS over the standard HTTP would see their visibility improve. As we continue to see more adoption for these domain updates, we will also see improvements in efficiency, site security and also in speed.
  2. Structured Data / Schema Tags: It is estimated that just under 20% of search queries performed by users, currently see returned results in the form of direct answers or ‘rich snippets.’ These are essentially small packets of information to help provide more effective and efficient results so that visitors can easily find the answers they were seeking out. If your website features products, services, a business address, reviews, important dates, authors or special offers, it is a good idea to utilise Structured Data or Schema tagging which will help make the results stand out.
  3. Knowledge Graph / Featured Snippets: By supplying Google with more structured data, we will expect to see more featured snippets, answer boxes, knowledge graph boxes and carousels appearing within the organic listings. Just as the coveted top organic positions are currently being competed for, there is also more focus being done for trying to appear as a featured snippet.
  4. Google RankBrain: Google has been working on improving its machine learning, to help meet the different types of search queries being performed nowadays. As the rise in mobile searches has continued above traditional desktop queries, from the more long-tailed keywords rather than the 2-3 short-tail keyword queries, Google aims to understand user intent and the conversational type of searches. Google will continue to develop RankBrain which it announced last year as being the third most important signal for ranking.
  5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Originally intended for News sites and help content publishers, Google has AMP pages, Google now has over 600 million AMP documents and is caching more and more. By creating a separate mobile index with its own ranking factors, files which utilise AMP will benefit from improved rankings, since the pages will load much faster in a stripped-down form of HTML.
  6. Voice Search: Given the fact that it is much easier to speak rather than type a query and with mobile searchers opting to use virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant, we expect to see a rise in long-tailed keyword queries, perhaps more question based searches such as “Where can I find a good SEO Company in Manchester” as opposed to just typing in “SEO Manchester” into Google etc.
  7. No Pop-Up Ads: From 10th January 2017, websites may not experience high Search Engine rankings if they feature any kind of obtrusive pop-ups or banners which block the intended Content behind it. This new type of signal has been eagerly awaited by many people and will significantly help users (and Search Engines) focus on getting the results they were seeking from their searches. Examples of methods which could lower the accessibility of a website’s content include popups which block the main content or showing a standalone advertisement before any access can be made to the content.
  8. App Marketing: More and more people are interacting with mobile apps nowadays and spending more time within an app. It is more possible now to obtain app data in order to create more valuable and relevant Content for improving user behaviour. From 2015 onwards, there has been a steady increase in app usage and we expect to see this trend continue into 2017.
  9. Super-Local SEO: Local Search has always been an important ranking factor with Google giving preference to companies which have a local presence online. As mobile and voice search continue to evolve into next year, we should see more focus on local SEO, particularly for business information which is integrated into mobile apps. Google is now able to extract the data which is contained within a mobile app and display it into the Search results pages.
  10. Epic Content: The old phrase of “Content is King”, declared by Bill Gates nearly two decades ago, is still applicable today. However, it is increasingly more difficult to rank highly for producing sub standard or republished content. With so much content being published online each day, the top organic SEO positions are becoming increasingly more competitive to rank for. Earlier this year, Rand Fishkin provided some guidance on how to produce content that is x10 better than your competitors in a Whiteboard Friday. To avoid the risk of your website being penalised or having any risk of copyright infringement, it is important to create relevant, fresh and unique content which is way above the standards of any other content out there on the same topic being targeted.

The Impact of Voice Search for SEO

There has been a sharp increase in voice search queries being carried out instead of the traditional typed search queries. Voice search is now the fastest growing search technique for users, since it has many benefits for people. It is quicker, easier and more natural to speak to your mobile rather than having to manually type in the keyword(s) you require.

According to a recent post featured on Google’s Official Blog, more than half of teens aged 13-18 use voice search on a daily basis and 41% of adults are doing so too. The most common types of search queries being made by voice include:

  • Asking for directions.
  • Dictation of texts.
  • Calling a person.
  • Help with homework or research.
  • Finding out film showing times.
  • Playing a song.
The Impact of Voice Search for SEO

An infographic produced by Net Sixty Six to highlight the impact of voice search on SEO.

Share this Image On Your Site

As the rise of mobile users sees more and more people owning Smartphones, there are many different voice programs installed which make the job of performing searches much more efficient to carry out – and effective too. Apple uses SIRI, whereas Microsoft features Cortana and Amazon uses Alexa. Google recently launched their very first Smartphone called the Pixel, the first phone to use their voice-based Assistant built in.

When typing in a phrase for a search, people tend to shorten the number of keywords, for example “SEO Manchester.” However, this is not mirrored by how we actually speak in a conversation, when we would be more likely to use a more sentence-like query, such as “Find an SEO agency based in Manchester.”

Search engines have been refining their algorithms over the years and Google’s Hummingbird update was aimed at improving “conversational search”, where people are using long-tail search queries (where many keywords are used together, as opposed to just one or two). Traditional search engines would look to find matches of the keywords in text on other websites whereas nowadays, they understand a user’s intent, with the whole query being taken into account.

What does voice search mean in terms of SEO?

When voice search was starting to evolve, there were widespread rumours that SEO was dead, since the short tail keywords could no longer be targeted in the same way, by incorporating them into existing content effectively. However, the focus has also been on the longer tail keywords, which are performed by users who are already at the advanced stages of their decision-making.

SEO specialists need to focus on both searchers who are researching and also wanting to obtain fast responses to their query, with instant results. Pages which are designed to meet the user’s needs have been favoured by Google so a page which includes in-depth answers to questions that start with “What is”, “Where is”, “Who is” and “How” will feature more prominently.

It is still relatively early days for voice search and we simply do not have enough data gathered to properly understand the role it plays on the web marketing world. The rise will continue further for instant answers being shown without search results. Search Engines’ algorithms will continue to improve their understanding of query data and user intent.

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, said in a Whiteboard Friday on this topic:  “in the future I think we’re actually going to be looking for keyword research tools that can perform a voice query and then can tell us what the results either look like or sound like from the engine.” He goes on to  sound a word of caution on purely focusing on voice search over traditional search data, since both sets of data have continued to rise – it’s just that voice search has risen faster.

Essentially, there is still a need for both to be included in any digital Marketing strategy until we can all try and figure out the impact together, as an industry.

Net Sixty Six SEO, 08 November 2016

SEO After Brexit: Techniques and Trends

How Britain post-Brexit could have an effect on search engine optimisation, its trends, techniques, and the industry itself

Brexit map by Nikola93

Living on an Island: how Brexit is set to pose a challenge for search engine optimisation techniques and the state of the industry. Image by Nikola93 (via Shutterstock).

What interesting times we are living in right now. Firstly, Thursday’s EU Referendum returned a narrow victory for leaving the EU (Leave 52%, Remain 48%). Secondly, at this time of writing, we have seen two high profile resignations. One being the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and England manager Roy Hodgson (for his unexpected result in the bagging area). Though Brexit seems inevitable, Cameron has left the job of confirming this to his successor. So for now, Britain is an EU Member State. Furthermore, a referendum isn’t as legally binding as a General Election, so the results could be void. Read more »

Yoast Boost Sees Grammar Rule the Roost

Update to popular WordPress plugin sees greater emphasis on spelling, punctuation, and grammar as well as SEO techniques

Yoast Grammar image by Luna2631.

Good grammar is next to godliness: the latest additions by Yoast sees good grammar at the forefront. Image by Luna2631 (via Shutterstock).

The Yoast SEO plugin has received a major update this week. Version 3.3 sees the addition of spelling, punctuation, and grammar features to its plugin. Till the release of 3.3, Yoast could calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score of your post or page. From 3.3 onwards, content creators can see how the Flesch score is calculated. For all languages, Yoast 3.3 is able to check: Read more »

Google Announce New Tool Which Tests Your Website Mobile Friendliness and Page Speed.

Gone are the days where you have to navigate to 2 different websites in order to find out how quick and how mobile friendly your website is. Google have recently launched a new tool where users can enter their website address and get the page speed and mobile friendliness score all on the same page. The report is simply a combination of the page speed insights and the mobile friendly testing tool;

net66 new page speed score

At first glance, Google seems to have given this tool a whole new fresh modernised look and it looks great on the eye. You can see from a user experience perspective Google has designed this tool to suit all audiences, similar to that of the rebrand of Webmaster Tools last May.

With this new tool, users are able to get a detailed report emailed directly to them and in this report includes fixes which Google recommend you should implement into your website which will improve your scores and most importantly the user experience on your website.

detailed mobile friendly score

The scoring system is similar to that of the old tool (basic traffic lighting system) but this time, they have included some facts on why certain fixes are a must;

  • People are five times more likely to leave a mobile site that isn’t mobile-friendly.
  • Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.

Note that the old mobile friendly tool reported back with whether your website is mobile friendly or not whereas the new tool gives you a score on how mobile friendly your site is.

It goes without saying that in 2016 people expect to land on mobile responsive websites which are quick and easy to use. Google is constantly making changes in regards to mobile search such as the infamous Mobilegeddon algorithm update and now announcing this new tool.

From a business point of view, having a quick and mobile friendly website is a critical part of your SEO and Internet Marketing activities as it determines how well your website converts the traffic into sales and conversions.

If you are unsure of what a mobile friendly website looks like then be sure to see our website portfolio as every website we design and develop is compatible with mobile and tablet devices.

To summarise, this new tool developed by Google is a combination of the page speed insights and mobile friendly testing tool and redeveloped to make it easier for your average user to test their website.

Search Engine Optimisation: Are You Getting It?

SEO strategy lost on one in two American small businesses

Search Engine Optimisation image.

Search Engine Optimisation matters: small to medium-sized businesses could be missing out on potential traffic and business. With half of the UK’s advertising budget spent online, it is foolhardy to neglect this sector. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Scandinavian Stock).

 

For over a decade, search engine optimisation has been in Net66’s DNA along with web design. In a 2015 survey from Smart Insights, it accounts for 45% of SME sector spending on digital advertising in the UK. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, one in two U.S. small businesses has yet to implement an SEO strategy, according to a survey by Clutch. Read more »

Rumours of a Rival Search Engine

Is Wikipedia Discovery the next search engine set to steal a march on Google?

Possible Wikipedia Search Engine mock up.

The Shape of Things to Come? If the rumours are true, the Wikimedia Foundation could be taking on Google.

 

Holy citation needed or not, Batman… we at Net66 have learned of the Wikimedia Foundation’s latest announcement. Today, Jimmy Wales’ Wikimedia Foundation have declared their latest offensive on Google. This time, with the launch of a rival search engine. Read more »

The Importance of Product Reviews in SEO

Product reviews and their role in consumers’ buying habits

Product Reviews chalkboard.

Imagine you’re going on holiday or about to make a major purchase. Among the first things you look at after price is the customer reviews. For your next trip, you look at customers’ experiences of the hotel, tour operator or airline. If purchasing white goods, you weigh up their responses to the item’s performance. The first place they turn to for product reviews is the internet. Read more »

Google Search Location Filter Axed

Lack of demand cited as reason behind discontinuation

A low-tech version of Google's Search Location Filter.

A low-tech version of Google’s Search Location Filter. Not its successor, though its replacement is just as serviceable as placing a pin on a map.  This pin seems to be in Islington.

A useful yet underappreciated part of Google’s search tools has been axed with little protest this week.  The Google Search Location Filter allowed its users to filter results by location.  For example, browsers living in the United States were able to narrow results down to State level.  They could search for products and services within Detroit and narrow results down to businesses in Michigan. Read more »