Author Archives: Mark Fielden

SEO Progress Report

SEO Progress Report

Well, it’s the beginning of September and we’ve moved from nowhere (i.e. not on the first 10 pages for our chosen keywords), to page 2 in less than a month.

bluetree s e o position chartWe’ve used SERPS position 100 to indicate that our site didn’t show up in the first 10 pages.

Position 1 is at the bottom, so the lower the better on the chart.

Note: we’re talking about “organic search,” the main results listing, not pay-per-click advertising.

How We Made Progress

This is all we did, really, to make this progress:

  1. For the last three or four months, we’ve been building content on our new website, not exposed to Google.
  2. We removed some irrelevant pages on a micro-site we’ve been hosting for a client.
  3. On 12 August, 2012, we submitted our website to Google.

That’s all. We did no page optimisation, no extra link-building. Nothing.

Why the Progress?

We’re testing our theories.

We believe Google wants to deliver the most relevant page in response to every search query. That’s the page the user thinks most relevant, not the one that a search engine optimisation team thinks.

There’s all sorts of SEO advice out there on the web, but we think we should listen to Google. They tell us to,

  • Make sure our websites are clean and tidy;
  • Follow the SEO Guidelines;
  • Deliver useful information;
  • Create good in-bound links with appropriate anchor text;
  • Make sure our pages load quickly;
  • Make a popular site…

And so it goes on. We’d normally address the first two points first, but thought it would be worth changing the sequence, to see what happens.

Well, quite a lot happened. We wouldn’t normally expect to leap up the scoreboard as fast as that. It confirms our theory that content counts for an awful lot, but there’s still some way to go.

In Our Next Report

Next we’re going to look at page load speed. Again, we wouldn’t usually address load speed now, but Google seems to be pushing it.

Website Malware Attack

What Happens in a Malware Attack

On Monday, I was looking for a local business which I know, so I searched for what they do. Does anybody use Yell or BT.com any more? They didn’t appear in my search results. So, thinking this might turn out to be an SEO sales opportunity;-) I searched for it by business name, specifically.

Bing's malware warning panel.

Bing’s Malware Warning

Bing listed them this time, but when I clicked the link to open their website, this note appeared next to the search results. Bing would not take me straight to their website.

Google, similarly, listed them but with this immediate and scary warning, “This site may harm your computer.” One click fewer than Bing, you notice.

If you go straight to an infected website, your browser will warn you very clearly not to open it, too. If you decide to visit, be prepared to get rid of some spam!

This is all very upsetting for web user and site owner alike.

Why Malware Attacks Happen

Hackers, the source of malware, seek out weak targets. Everyone is vulnerable.

Think of your website like your house: how do you reduce the risk of burglary? You make your house less attractive to burglars than those around it. You buy a house in an area with a low crime rate. You fit decent locks and security lights. You fence the garden, install robust, lockable gates, and plant thorny bushes in vulnerable places. And then you take out insurance so that, should the worst happen, you can replace what you’ve lost.

All these points have website equivalents:

  • Chose a secure web host, one with a good reputation, big enough to afford the serious cost of real security, small enough not to be a target;
  • Understand, implement and check your client and server firewalls and anti-virus systems; keep them up to date;
  • Cover web server gateways with strong passwords and change them regularly;
  • Make sure somebody with sufficient authority “owns” your domain name and those ISP passwords;
  • Validate carefully all data entry fields, blog comments, and anywhere someone else can data enter into your website, as this is where many hacks come from;
  • Keep your operating system, web server and database software up-to-date with the latest versions to cope with new threats;
  • Take regular back-ups – and test them – so you can get back up and running fast if disaster strikes.

And keep constantly vigilant: add regular website audits into your Business Continuity Plan.

Further Reading on Malware

Here’s some more information about malware attacks.

Local Search Marketing Task

apple iphone 5The new iPhone 5 will ship this Autumn with new operating software. It could upset your local search marketing. iPhone 5 will have new maps, developed by Apple, maybe with a 3D mapping feature. Up to now they’ve used Google Maps.

What does this mean for your website and SEO?

Well, your Google Places Page won’t display on new iPhones ands iPads after the launch. Instead, we’re told, Apple will get its local business listings from Yelp, a global Internet directory. Maybe old devices will be upgraded, too.

So, be sure to claim your Yelp business listing now, if you haven’t already done so!

If you have claimed it, make sure it complements your website and and Google Places page, and that you’re happy with the content.

Don’t use Google Places? Get started here.

More on this in our later Apple Maps post, after implementation.

Cookie Law, the EU e-Privacy Directive

gingerbread man, by punkle at i-stockContents

In this post we provide ideas for UK website owners on how to deal with their obligations under the new EU e-Privacy Directive.

EU Cookie Law Obligations

If your website uses cookies, you now have to declare this clearly to users and, potentially, get their permission to do so.

Since the  situation is a little confused, we’ve been trying to work out the best advice we can give to clients on how to deal with this new legal requirement. Here is the extent of our thinking so far.

Disclaimer

This is our current understanding. We’re not lawyers but this is how it seems to us. We offer the suggestions below as just that: suggestions. Use them at your own risk. If they are wrong, and you’d like to help us correct them, please join in the debate by clicking “Leave a comment” below.

Don’t Panic!

Whilst the rules came into force in the UK on 26 May, 2012, there’s no need to panic, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says so.  At the time of writing, they’re working with organisations the size of Amazon and the banks to get them to toe the line first. It’ll take a while. First Direct had complied when we checked a few days ago; Santander had not.

Cookie Law Requirements

To comply with EU e-Privacy directive, if your EU-owned website uses cookies, you must,

  1. declare to each new visitor that you use them;
  2. explain what they are;
  3. describe how you use them;
  4. obtain consent before storing cookies on a user’s computer or mobile device.

For UK-based companies it’s slightly less onerous, because our Information Commissioner has adopted the principle of implied consent.  In other words, you do not have to stop users browsing your website until they specifically consent. You can make it all clear and then assume consent if the user takes no further action.

The Big Problem With the e-Privacy Directive

Can you imaging what would happen when somebody arrives at your website? They’ll see a big panel saying, “Do you consent to us using cookies Yes or No.”

Given that a percentage of the population haven’t a clue what a cookie is, and even more don’t understand the implications, many people will bail out at that stage. This would lose potential customers and increase your bounce rate, which lowers your page rank.

Companies that have already tried the dead stop approach have experienced serious loss of traffic.

What You Need to Do

Now, according to the Information Commissioner, using your browser’s cookie settings is a recognised way to give legal consent. So, you can use cookies so long as you:

  • make it clear that your site uses cookies;
  • help the user understand what they are;
  • tell users what you do with them;
  • explain how to opt out, or stop them being used.

Having done all that, and having provided the opportunity to opt out by changing browser settings, you can assume consent and let the website work as normal. You can even deposit a cookie so you can make it less obvious next time.

Does My Site Use Cookies?

Your website designer will be able to tell you for sure if your site uses cookies.

Probably the most common use of cookies is in visitor tracking. Google Analytics uses cookies to identify repeat visitors. It’s not possible to identify a person this way, nor, in many cases, even their computer.

Cookies are also used in security scripts, to recognise a visitor, when he or she logs in, and display only that visitor’s private information. In this case, you may be able to identify an individual and you may be holding some personal data about them.

Cookie Law Solution Examples

Each company should, for each of its websites,

  1. Review the use of cookies and amend if necessary;
  2. Decide on a strategy for complying with  the law;
  3. Implement the strategy;
  4. Monitor compliance regularly.

Here are just a few examples. If you follow the links to the example sites, and you don’t see their cookie banners, you probably visited them before and they left you a cookie.

This is the BBC‘s solution – a banner across the top of your browser window. It offers hyper-links to:

  1. “Continue” – assume consent;
  2. “Find out more” – go and read a full explanation;
  3. “Change your cookie settings” – where you can opt out of the four different cookie types

If you ignore the banner and browse to another page, you won’t see it again, even when you start a new session. Because it dropped a cookie.

BBC Cookie Law Example

BBC Cookie Law Example

The Information Commissioner’s Office implements the EU version of the Directive. It insists that you check a box and click a button before you can use the site.

Information Commissioner's Office Cookie Example

Information Commissioner's Office Cookie Example

Floating Cookie Law Example

Floating Example

This one floats on top of your landing page. It’s a free control you can download and use, from Edinburgh digital marketing agency, Civic.

Please also click here for our own approach to cookies. It explains the different categories of cookie.

More Cookie Law to Follow

The UK is, we’re told, ahead of the game in implementing the EU e-Privacy Directive. Our “assumption rule” for first party cookies isn’t approved by the EU. It remains to be seen what stance the EU will take, what other countries do, and what you need to do for European visitors.

We are also aware that the ICO is talking to browser developers with a view to getting them to change the way they handle cookie settings.

And, as the population at large get to understand cookies better, the requirement for every website to explain so much about them will reduce, too.

It’s all a bit of a mess, really, and there’ll be more work to do in the future – bank on it!

Your Next Step

Further reading:

Want some help? Get in touch!


How to Search Web Pages

Many People Don’t Know this Search Tip

a pair of binoculars useful for searchingIt seems that only 10% of Internet users know this productivity tip.

I can’t believe so many people don’t know about Ctrl_F. However, this blog is all about helping Internet users get the most out of it, so an explanation might be helpful.

Back in November 2011, Google’s usability guru, Dan Russell, provides the evidence, reported in New Scientist report.

His stunning observation: only 10% of Internet users know about every browsers’ Find function, Ctrl-F.  Not just web browsers, actually, it works in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other products, and the free equivalents of Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and its calendar, Lightening. In fact it’s always worth a try – except, sadly, in Microsoft Outlook itself, where it means Forward (an email).

How to Search Web Pages

Want to find a word or phrase in a long web page without reading the whole thing?  Here’s what you do:

  1. Click in the body of the web page you want to search;
  2. Hold down the Control key, labelled Ctrl, bottom left of your keyboard;
  3. Press F, for Find, and type what you’re looking for in the field that appears.

Windows users write this as “Ctrl-F” or “Control-F.”  Mac users write “Command-F” instead.

search box in google chromeHere’s how it looks in Google Chrome.

Note also the “1 of 3” to the  right of the search phrase. This shows that we’ve found the first “Portishead” on the page, and that there are three altogether.  Press the down arrow to the right to go to the next, up arrow to go back.

search field in Mozilla Firefox

In Firefox, the search field appears under the window when you press Ctrl-F.

Firefox doesn’t have a count, like Chrome, but if you click “Highlight all,” they become quite obvious. It also has a “Match case” function.

search field in internet exporer 9

In Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9, the search field appears at the top left of the screen.  It combines the options of Firefox with the count of Chrome.

Back Up Your Website

  1. backup key on keyboard, by stuart milesHow often do you back up your website?
  2. Do you ever back up your website?

Reasons to Back Up Your Website

A website is a critical business asset and, with a few exceptions, it should be under constant development.  We know that search engines favour sites with useful content and you continually add more content to keep one step ahead of your competitors.

Over many years, we’ve seen only a few lost websites.  In every case the ISP automatically restored the website – but to an old version.  Not disastrous but,

  1. it took a while to discover the problem;
  2. it took some effort to get it back again.

Backup Ideas to Consider

  1. Check your ISP’s back-up regime and consider moving if you’re not happy with it;
  2. If you rent a virtual or physical server, make sure you sign up to the ISP’s back-up service;
  3. Be sure to test regularly that your back-up can be restored;
  4. After a big update, keep a copy of the site on your local computer, just to be on the safe side.

It doesn’t take long to organise a back-up, but it does require a consistent approach. Make sure your Business Continuity Plan includes your website.

If BlueTree hosts your website then you don’t need to worry. We back up our hosted websites regularly.  If you have a website maintenance contract with us we can include back-up testing as part of the package.

Welcome to the BlueTree Blog

BlueTree's website design logo

Welcome to BlueTree’s Website Design Blog.

If you’re a BlueTree website design client, you update your own site using a content management system, or CMS, that’s very easy to use.  The benefits are,

  • you save on-going costs because you don’t have to pay for updates;
  • you can make changes promptly, with no need to wait for someone else;
  • there are fewer errors, because people who know the subject do the updates.

But here’s the rub: many of  you are new to this. Creating a web site is a bit more complex than writing printed marketing documents. You can make mistakes early on that cost a lot of time and effort to fix later.

So, that’s why we started this Website Design Blog. Over time, we aim to build some guidelines to help you through this start-up process.

NB: we can’t tell you how to build the perfect website. Your perfect website will be unique to you. With luck, though, we can help you to get started and avoid some obvious pitfalls.

Good luck!