SEO Blog

Posted on: 01/10/2015 - 13:39 | Comments:0

I hate SEO. There. I said it. Quite strong, I know, but I can’t help the mounting connotations the acronym invokes in my mind when it’s mentioned these days. I have no problem with the actual meaning of the phrase. Its more of what the term has morphed into in recent years. It's what comes to mind when the phrase is mentioned. Its now almost synonymous with SPAM, cold calling, junk email and hard sale.

White Hat SEOs Vs Black HAt SEOs

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Historically, like the spread on an infectious disease, we (and let’s face it, we all had a hand in this, it’s just that some of us have grown up and evolved with the times) have taken everything that is pure and beautiful with the way the internet interconnects, communicates and lives and slowly but surely destroyed it for our own selfish greedy needs.

Ok, slightly overdramatic but it has taken a single email response for me to come to that conclusion. You see, we have been working extremely hard on a campaign for one of our clients. We collected and collated hundreds of facts about smoking, categorised them into 4 separate categories and then whittled them down to 4 or 6 for each category. We then got Andy, our extremely talented graphic designer to design an infographics around those facts. It was titled The True Cost of Smoking and it was, even if I do say so myself, superb.

The outreach stage went quite well. Many bloggers replied stating how much they liked the blog and infographics. However, amongst the positive emails we received we also received quite a few, obviously automated or cut/pasted jobs such as the one below:

Payment For Link Request Email

So we spent hours collecting the information, processing it, further hours designing the graphics and without even asking for a link back (in the hope that common decency will prevail and credit will be given naturally) and we get a request for payment. Really?

The problem is that today, even the infographic’s future as a marketing tool is in doubt. Like everything else on this path, it has been abused to such an extent that what used to be an engaging, creative and informative way of bringing information to life, now conjures up a silent but growing “not another infographics” grunt as a response.  You see its not poor Jemma’s fault really. It is ours. We, as an industry are responsible for bombarding her with thousands of requests for links to questionable blog posts that contain nothing but some tedious, poorly written text with some shoddy website generated, pointless infographics blunting her reaction to them in such a way that all she does now is robotically send out payment requests in return; probably without even bothering to click on the link, let alone actually reading the content or examining the infographics.

We are here once again. In the same spot we were when directories were first mass produced and used as a linking tool. The same spot we were when people realised that the influence of articles can be harvested and massive article submission offers were used as a genuine SEO tool. The same spot where we were when people realised that those innocent comments on blogs, originally designed to enable networking between bloggers, can now be automated causing billions of crud-infested links pointing to some of the worst corners of the internet. 

The cycle is the same every time. Reputable Online Marketeers find a way to please the search engines ecosystem while SEOs find ways of degrading it to the point that it becomes dangerous.

Online marketers innovate -> Spammers copy, modify and abuse -> Google nukes the whole area as a response. The cycle continues. Real losers? The innovators.

The solution? In this game of cat and mouse between Google and spammers, the only solution is educating the milk bearer. The ones that keep the spammers going. The unaware client who is relentlessly assured that the £250/month SEO that he is investing in is producing natural, organic, white hat, evergreen, kosher links; The client that is being lied to but does not have the knowledge or tools to assess this for him/her self.



You would think that all of the above is starting to sink in. Dodgy link building is dead. After all, talk about online marketing, branding, content creation, content outreach and the famous mantra of content is king is everywhere these days. People are aware that the old ways open themselves up to penalties right? Well, you would be wrong.

Next time you get a call from a client flabbergasted by your SEO retainer pricing, don’t be surprised when he/she tells you that a competitor offering “natural SEO” has quoted them around a quarter of what you have. What they don’t mention is that their definition of “natural SEO” is vastly different from yours or in most cases, Google’s.

So we decided to do a test. We typed in the words “SEO services” into google search box and Vince Cuibus, our new SEO Exec compiled a list of the first 100 SEO agencies. He then visited each and every one of them and started searching for indicators on what they consider to be natural link building campaign. What He found was quite astonishing. Out of the 100 sites checked:


31% of companies still unashamedly offer: directory links, blog commenting, forum linksSome of these websites displayed their toxic link building techniques quite clearly and in plain view while others hide it quite well. Here are some examples:

This site blatently offering blog commenting service:

Blog Commenting Service

This site is offering Link Directory submissions "as standard"

Spammy Link Directories Offered "As standard"

This site buried its real link building techniques in it Terms Of Service where no client is likely to ever really look:

Use of PBN admitted in TOS!

25% of companies, although not mentioning it directly, obviously carried out spammy link building. We came to that conclusion because one or more of the below was true.

  • Asking them directly via online chat, phone or email received very evasive answers to the question on how they carry out their link building clearly suggesting they have something to hide. After all, if you carry out link building naturally, you would have no reason to not explain this.
  • Pricing. If no link building tactics were detailed and prices were extremely low (<£250/month) or arranged in vague packages then it’s safe to assume that the methods are less than natural.
  • Examining the website and reading between the lines. Mentions of “secret methods” or tell-tale signs such as guaranteeing that the links will stay live for a specific period of time. 

44% of companies use natural link building methods such as research, content marketing / outreach

These are the guys that say the right thing. Obviously, we have not verified whether they actually practice what they preach and to be honest, in my ever increasing age/cynicism parallel vectors (both pointing in the wrong direction), I would not be surprised if a large chunk of those don’t actually do what they claim to. 

If you are interested in the raw data file from the study, its here. We have removed the urls for obvious reasons.

You would think that online marketing experts are starting to realise that not all tactics used should be shared and written about for the sake of some links. We, as a company for example have some habits, procedures or tactics that work for us in the 3 main areas of any online marketing campaign (idea generation, Content creation and outreach) that are kept to ourselves. Not because we are greedy or don’t like to share, but just because I’m fully aware that as soon as I write my first “5 ways to improve outreach” blog, someone, somewhere will find a way of thoroughly deconstructing it and before you can say “Fiverr”…erm... It will be on Fiverr.

SEO to Marketeer Sig

Posted on: 08/09/2015 - 17:23 | Comments:0

BuzzSumo and Moz reveal the content sweet spot


Content Marketing Sweet Spot Infographics

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The two digital analytics companies teamed up this summer to analyse what makes content shareable and linkable. They analysed over 1 million articles to find correlations between shares and links and answer all content marketer’s prayers to reveal the truth behind what content really works.

They found in a randomly selected sample of 100,000 articles, almost 50% received two or less Facebook interactions (shares, likes or comments) and over 75% had zero backlinks. In the buzz and flow of marketing intelligence from recent years, this finding shows that the internet has responded to the “content is king” mantra, but not in a good way. Most content created is of poor quality and is simply ignored or it is not being amplified effectively. So it is more important now than ever to create compelling content that rises above the deafening sea of noise filling the ether(net).

Shares outweigh links unanimously, unsurprisingly, as shares are much easier to achieve. The ability to share anything on the internet is now a commodity. Getting links is much harder as it requires much more effort than simply hitting a share button. BuzzSumo and Moz’s research established that highly shared pieces of content did not necessarily achieve links in the same way. In fact, of the 1 million posts sampled, there was no significant correlation between amount of shares and links, meaning people share and link for different reasons. This is crucially important knowledge for content writers when setting targets for their content as they must treat shares and links as separate metrics, and they must be viewed on their own individual merits, because shares and links are not linked. 

85% of content published on the web is less than 1000 words in length. Whereas, content over 1000 words long significantly outperforms shorter content with more shares and links. Think about that for a second, 85% of content being published on the internet is sub-standard. This makes content creation exciting again, because knowing this means you can do better than over four fifths of the competition.

The sweet spot


Where content achieves a high amount of shares and a subsequent increase of referring domain links is the ‘sweet spot’. This is the holy grail of content, the answer to all content marketer’s problems. The content that sits in the ‘sweet spot’ comes from major publishers through popular domains, something many people knew already. So no life-changing insight there, however, BuzzSumo and Moz do not leave us hanging, they found that authoritative, research-backed content and opinion forming journalism were also in this sweet spot halo.

The research looked at specific domains and compared a larger sample of 49,952 articles from the New York Times and 46,128 from the Guardian.

  Article Study 1

They found that the correlation between total shares to domain links was lower than when a smaller sample based on a specific content type was compared. They found that opinion forming content achieved a higher correlation of shares and referring links.

Article Study 2

They concluded that content which commented on current events with either a controversial angle or engaging approach performed best in achieving links and shares, as well as authoritative writing, and deeply researched/evidence-backed content.

So now you know what content hits the sweet spot, you need to know which format will deliver the best results. Here is the result of detailed analysis on 757,317 posts that BuzzSumo and Moz took at random to analyse content formats with the highest share and referring link correlations.

Average Total Shares By Content Type

Average Referring Domain Links By Content Type

The content format with the highest correlation of total shares and referring links was ‘Why Posts’ at 0.125, with List posts (0.092) and video (0.091) not far behind. List posts were found to be the most effective content formats to achieve the highest amount of shares and following links. At the other end of the spectrum, infographics were reported to have very low levels of average shares and over 50% of infographics on the web had zero external links. Showing many content publishers have opted to turn to creating infographics out of anything and everything in recent years, which has devalued the potential of infographics as a once promising type of content.

Content length was the last determinant of success and longer pieces consistently produced higher rates of links and shares. The study analysed 489,128 text based articles and found that 85% of content was 1000 words or less, falling into the under-performing category. They discovered that both average shares and referring domain links on average increased in line with a posts length. Long form content gets higher average shares, but emphatically higher average referring links.

The take away points that BuzzSumo and Moz confirmed to increase shares and links were that content over 1000 words and list posts worked best. When they looked at list posts and discarded anything under 1000 words the average number of referring domain links increased from 6.19 to 9.53. Their findings demonstrate that a combination of factors contribute to the overall success of content, with some interesting discoveries about content format, length and type. So when content creation looks bleak, just remember that good quality content rules and that not just any ‘content is king’. We would not suggest writing for the sake of word count, this in fact could produce worse content but make sure that whatever you are writing about has been well researched, displays an original opinion and either informs why or even better can be formatted in a list.

If you want to find out more about the BuzzSumo & Moz report then follow this link to view the 30 page report.

Posted on: 06/08/2015 - 14:26 | Comments:0

As the internet continues to evolve and explode at an astonishing rate, we take a look at what the World Wide Web means to generations of Britons.

General internet usage

Figures from the 2015 Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) reveal that 78% of adults in Great Britain use the internet every day or almost every day – this equates to 39.3 million people. This figure was as low as 35% in 2006 when directly comparable figures were released.

Moreover, 74% often accessed the internet on the go (using mobiles, tablets etc.) and away from home or work. 96% of young adults, (pretty much the whole generation) aged 16-24 used on-the-go internet access, compared with only 29% of people over the age of 65.

Age Gap Internet Usage Infographics

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As recently highlighted by the BBC, high street shopping is on the decline as internet shopping becomes the new way to shop; our urge for convenience and increasingly busy lifestyles has meant internet shopping has shown huge growth in recent years. In 2015, 76% of adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008.

Young adults show the highest penchant for shopping online, with 65% of those aged 16 to 24 purchasing over the internet in 2008, rising to 90% in 2015. The 65+ age group are not to be left out, though; although only 42 percent of them bought online in 2015, this rose significantly from 2008 when the figure sat at 16%.

The most popular online purchase was “Clothes or sports goods”, unsurprisingly, purchased by 55% of adults. Household goods such as toys or furniture was next in line, purchased by 44% and finally travel arrangements and holiday accommodation, the purchase of choice for 37% of adults.

In the last 3 months, 22% of adults purchased online once or twice, while 28% of adults purchased 11 or more times. Online purchases totaling £100 to £499 were made by 42% of adults who had bought online in the last 3 months. 

 Number Of Purchases In The Last 3 Months

Of those adults who had purchased online in the last 3 months, 42% made purchases totaling £100 to £499, 12% made purchases of less than £50, and 9% made purchases of £2,000 or more. Age of consumer made little difference in this comparison - purchases between £100 and £499 were clearly the most common across all age groups, but in equal measures; of those aged 16 to 24, 49% spent on purchases in this range, compared with 42% of those aged 65 and over.

Online Purchase Value Table

As for problems encountered and complaints, information confirms the younger generations ‘need for speed’ so to speak, revealing 33% of 16-24 year olds had issues with the slow delivery of goods, compared with only 13% from the age group 65+.


Internet Activities by age group

Different age groups were surveyed across 17 different categories of internet use; adults aged 25 to 34 had the highest (or joint highest) use across 7 of the 17 categories surveyed. Those aged 16 to 24 reported the highest (or joint highest) use in 6 of the 17 categories.

Unsurprisingly, age group 16-24 ranked highly in recreational internet activities, such as social media (92%), and also education and training (59%) whilst adults 25-34 tended to use the internet for more ‘day to day’ activities like sending and receiving E-mail (88%) and reading online news, newspapers and magazines (77%).

Uploading original content to be shared to a website and blogging was most popular amongst 25-34 year olds (56%), closely followed by 16-24 year olds (55%).

Internet Usage Purpose Table

With regard to sex, there was little difference between men and women carrying out the said activities, with the exception of downloading software – carried out by 37% of men and only 19% of women. 

Posted on: 06/05/2015 - 15:44 | Comments:0

The Key Differences Between Genders When It Comes To Search

The battle of the sexes has raged from time immemorial, and we’re not going to solve that today - but we have to ask ourselves whether a greater understanding of gendered search can help us reach target markets more effectively. If potential customers are searching differently - and we can start to pick up on those patterns - we should be able to use this information to our advantage. 

Relative to how important these differences could be, there has been surprisingly little research done on the topic. It involves analysing information that’s hard to capture and quantify, and those that have done the research seem to be working from relatively small sample sizes. 
However, their results are startlingly similar. The core of the conclusion seems to be this: women are more likely to use specific, long search terms, while men are more likely to ‘accidentally’ find the result they were looking for. Yet somehow, men are more satisfied with the results they find than women.
Some of the research also suggests that there are key differences in the kind and type of information that men and women are searching for, as well as how they find it. 
Men and women use search differently - and if we’re not accounting for that, it’s potentially a major oversight that could mean we’re losing out.

How Often Do Men and Women Actually Use Search?

The Pew Research Center - an American nonpartisan fact and think tank that focuses public issues and trends facing the world, has been conducting research in this field for over a decade. While their research is US-centric, their results are potentially applicable to the Western world. 
In 2008, they found that while most men and women report having ever used a search engine, men were far more likely than women to even use search on a typical day - while 53% of men were using search on a given day, women lagged behind at 45%. 
As we all know, trends related to technology are constantly changing. If we take a look at overall patterns, we can argue that men are more likely to use search - historically - but over time, women have been catching up to the extent that the difference now is almost negligible. From 2002 to 2008, the percentage of men online using search on a daily basis has risen from 33% in 2002, to 53% in 2008, while the percentage of women has also risen significantly from 25% to 45% in 2002 to 2008 respectively. 
So what? Men are using search engines more frequently than women - but to what end? And what difference does that make to business? 
The data from the Pew Research Center also tells us some more general information - that men have been more engaged in search, and men have stated that they search more frequently - while also expressing greater confidence in their search abilities - though their results and satisfaction with their findings seem to be contrary to this. 

Do Men And Women Have Equal Faith In Search Results? 

Interestingly, in 2005, Pew found that men have been more aware than women of paid vs. unpaid search results, and are more likely to know the differences between the two. 43% of men know the difference, as compared to 32% of women. Furthermore, 51% of men have some inkling of search engines tracking user behaviour, as opposed to just 34% of women being aware of these systems even existing.
“Men and women trust their search engines about equally. Some 67% of men and 70% of women say they are a fair and unbiased source of information."
“Men stick with a single search engine more than women.  Some 47% of men regularly use just one search engine, compared to 40% of women. On the other hand, 51% of women use 2 or 3 engines, compared to 44% of men.”

Differences In Search Terms And Queries

Knowing about basic differences between the sexes and whether or not they even use search is one thing - but by looking at the differences between their actual methodologies, we can get some real insights into customer behaviour. 
A 2010 paper by Maghferat and Stock appearing in Webology - a peer reviewed journal devoted to the World Wide Web - highlights some of the ways in which men and women use different search terms to retrieve information. While they look into deep web searches, their conclusions on how their sample uses search engines is most relevant to us. 
They found that “68.4% of women compared to 46.2% of men used query search operators in the formulation” of their searches. 
They also found that men are far more likely to ‘accidentally’ come upon their desired search results, whereas women are more often fulfilling their search requirements “structurally and purposefully.” 
In other words - women are more likely to use long search strings, while men are more likely to search generally and then drill down. Men are spreading the net wide and using less key terms, while women are using specific key words for more focused searching. 

What Results Are They After And Who Do They Trust? 

The previously mentioned characteristics ring true with research regarding the differences between men and women’s preferences for information that isn’t centred on online search. 
Though not focused on online search in particular, a 2006 paper out of the Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium by Xie, Hui, Jigang Bao and Morais can give some insights into some fundamental differences between the types of information men and women are looking for. 
They found that while typically men’s “preference for logical and analytical thinking makes it easier for them to use Boolean logic” to put queries together,  women’s “rich verbal abilities… support the use of a wider vocabulary and multiple syntactic relationships.” 
Women are far more likely to go on recommendations garnered through word of mouth, are more likely to share information and are more likely to develop a relationship with a source. They’re also more inclined than men to collaboratively search for information - in some ways we can see this in action in the success of Pinterest and social sharing sites. 
In their specific example - looking at how men and women retrieved information in a holiday setting - they found that women are more likely to search for information regarding lodging, food and local culture, while men were more likely to search for information on transportation, weather and security.

Why Should We Care? 

Women are more likely to share information - and more likely to return to trusted content providers. They’re more likely to recommend your site to others, given their preference for collaborative, social approbation of information. On the other hand, it seems that search engine algorithms are almost inherently skewed towards men’s formulation of queries. 
While some of this data is limited - its power is overwhelming. This information could be used to change the way we write headlines for different audiences. With more information on the kinds of data one sex is more likely to search for, we could have really powerful demographic insights on our hands.
Posted on: 02/02/2015 - 14:19 | Comments:8

Here at Reboot Online a large portion of our workload involves dealing with Google penalty recovery cases. The demand has increased dramatically and several years ago, we employed Kate Brownhill, who in my opinion, is one of the top penalty recovery experts in the UK. 

Up to date, we have managed over 170 penalty recovery clients. Penalties caused by, gently put, less than organic SEO practices. We have seen it all. Comments spam, forums spam, directory spam, pingback spam, profile spam, hijacked/injected spam and every other type of spam possible.

The common denominator of all this spam was the cause of the penalty. Cheap SEO!

Simply put, it was caused by a business owner attempting to get SEO work at cheap prices. You know the type, £250/month service for 1000 directory submissions, 100 comments on PR5 sites etc…

However, in the last 6 months, we have started seeing a different cause for these type of spammy links. A much more sinister cause. Negative SEO.

In the last month alone, not only has one of our clients been clearly affected, but our own site has also been targeted.  In both cases, a little investigation has revealed the source of the negative SEO attack. Sadly, neither is currently provable in a court of law (but I’m working on it) and until it is, I refuse to be reduced to that level of action and re-action. In total, we have seen clear cut cases of 5 negative SEO attacks in the last 6 months. Previous to that, we did not see one. At this point I would also like to point out that quite a few penalty removal enquiries that we have dealt with were blatantly the direct product of cheap SEO yet the site owner was more than happy to point the finger at negative SEO from one of their competitors. It seems that for some, it’s easier to blame negative SEO rather than admit a poor decision when it comes to choosing an online marketing company.

Searching around the web also shows a worrying increase in websites offering negative SEO type services. Some quite camouflaged in their intent while others are shamelessly and blatantly advertising it for what it is.

I was still reluctant to believe that here in the UK, company owners; entrepreneurs, family men and women, mums and dads… you and me… would be so easily swayed to this dark corner of the business universe historically occupied by swindlers, con-men and thugs carrying out sabotage aimed at weakening, disrupting or destroying a competitors business. Today the web has provided the tools and anonymity for this, seemingly at least, more respectable, more educated people to take on the role of those thugs.

There are still people out there that would swear blind that Negative SEO is impossible or so negligible that the typical, honest webmaster has nothing to worry about. Admittedly, I was also on that side of the argument not so long ago. However, recent experience and time has changed my mind drastically.  So let’s be clear; Negative SEO exists and it’s a growing problem.  Especially on weaker, newer or less established sites where the authority of the site has not been established yet. The same authority that would make the typical negative SEO attack on big brand sites meaningless. It’s a little like trying to chop a tree down with a pair of scissors. If however your website is more akin to a young sapling, a simple pair of scissors are a much scarier prospect.

So we know that the services are there to find, and we know that it’s very possible for a negative SEO campaign to actually work. So, all that’s left is the actual will for someone to want to do such an underhand act on a fellow business. An act that goes far beyond fairness or indeed encouraged healthy competition. Surely, such a service will be rejected by the fair traders of this fair land? I hear you say. This great Land that treasures fairness above all, bureaucracy and… erm… queuing. Well, we decided to put that to the test.

We compiled a list of local businesses consisting of plumbers, lawyers, carpenters, Locksmiths, IT service providers, builders, accountants, cleaning companies and even skip hire companies. We then chose the ones that have a functioning website and went as far as to check for signs that the site has had some SEO done in the past. This was purely to increase the chances that the person we talk to will understand what it is we are about to offer. At this point, we had 84 contacts.

We then sent the below email to all 84 businesses harvested.

The Results:

61/84 businesses replied to the email – Incredibly high reply rate to what is pretty much an unsolicited email.

Out of the 61 respondents:
2   Gave me some well-deserved abuse while rejecting the offer.
11 Politely rejected the offer
19 Wanted more information on the service, payment or the guarantee we provide.
29 Accepted the offer outright and asked for payment details. 

So, out of the 61 respondents, a massive 48 either took the offer on or were very interested in the offer of sabotaging their competitor’s websites. That’s an incredibly high 78.6% while only 21.3% declined.

Ok, so it’s not the most scientific test out there. For a start, a service such as the one I offered is not realistically possible for that price; especially considering the guarantee I provided. In fact, such a guarantee is, I’m pretty sure, impossible to offer at these sort of price point as negative SEO depends on so many factors such as the methods and how authoritative the target site itself is in the eyes of Google at the time of attack. I also only checked a small section of the population in a selection of very small geographical areas. On top of all that, it could be argued that the people who DID NOT respond to my email should also go into the “Politely rejected the offer” group which would have evened out the numbers slightly but I think you will agree, even if we do that, the numbers are still quite shocking.

Saying all that, the levels of responses took me by a complete surprise.

Until Google clearly declares that they are tackling this growing problem, my main suggestion to the majority of webmasters out there is to make the checking of their own link profile a regular job as well as regularly checking Copy Scape for any plagiarism of your content ( Preferably once a week and if not possible, at least once a month. I will write another blog post as soon as I can on the steps you can do to protect yourself from negative SEO but in the meantime, see this excellent post from Felix Tarcomnicu