Category Archives: SEO

All in the eyes of the beholder

More and more, personalisation in web search has made tracking rankings an interesting journey.  The fact is, due to personalisation by Google and other search engines, what shows up for individuals in different locations / search histories can be vastly different.

Want to test it out? Pick a search term.  Run it while logged in.  Now go Private / Incognito and make sure you are logged out.  See how the search rankings and terms change?

What Does it Mean?

Personalisation is great for searchers in theory.  They can find the websites and information that they most want, in the fastest time possible.

However, as a website owner, personalisation can cause problems.  Depending on search history, IP location, heck even the e-mails you have opened; searches might direct potential customers to the same-old same-old websites.

Which means you need to be concerned about more than just your search placement. What you see might not be what your customer sees, so the idea of ‘generic’ placement is less important.

Filling in the Gaps

How do you fill in the gaps and move yourself upwards? Well, firstly make sure you are targetted correctly.  Let Google know if you are targetting a specific country (like Canada) via Google Webmaster Tools.  It’ll increase your placements for Canadians automatically, even if they aren’t logged in.

Secondly, watch total traffic movement from search engines – not just rankings.  If you see your traffic from search engines increase, you can be relatively certain rankings have gone up – even if to you your rankings might not have moved.

Thirdly, start looking at ways of being ‘outside’ of your sphere of influence – your website.  You’ll need more than just links but advertisements, e-mails, pins, such that viewers encounter you in more places.  That way you generate traffic from more than just search.  In addition, (pure speculation on this) Google might even start taking into account the amount of times / views that they see of you outside of your location, slowly pushing your rank up.  And no, I don’t mean just plain links; but pins and FB fans and the like.

SEO is Dead. Long live SEO

Every couple of months we see a new post decrying the death of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  There’s actually some very good reasons for these posts, but when you’ve heard the boy cry wolf for over a decade, it can get old.  Yet these days, I think they’ve got a point…

Black Hat & White Hat

Let’s be clear – black hat SEO seems to be doing well.  It’s mostly white hat’s that have been hammered by Google.  If you did everything they said you should do, you can still find yourself in a really hard place – unable to develop the authorship, the link profiles, the relevance and authority that you need by playing their game especially with new properties.

On the other hand, going down the black hat route is fraught with danger.  Make a mistake and you can wipe out – completely.  You could lose everything you’ve built up, or worst – build up in anticipation (or with current sales) and see it all disappear in a blink of the eye when Google catches you.  Not a great thing… I’ve seen it happen before.

So, is SEO dead? Is white hat SEO dead?

Just A Name Change

Not really. What’s happened is a name change – a rebranding.  Now all the white hat SEO’s are calling themselves ‘inbound marketers’.  They’ve expanded their game, from pure manipulation of on-page content and on-page information to include things like content creation, Public Relations and events and the like.

It’s not new – it’s been happening for a while now, but the focus has continued to expand so much with the changes Google has forced us on all that it’s now the thing.  You can’t drive links in anyway other than via PR or good content creation.  You have to plan for some real ‘whiz-bang’ in your marketing now, or else it’ll just die.

It’s possible to do it other ways, to do it slow and quiet; to get guest posts and to reach out to bloggers and the like.  Yet, that’s still PR – just in the guise of link building.  It’s certainly made start-up costs much, much higher.  Now, you’ll have to be willing to shell out real money to get content and views; all in the hope that somehow it’ll get you what you need.

The game’s changed, and frankly; it’s not for the better I think.  Capital needs have definitely gone up.

The Dead Baby Joke

The Dead Baby Joke Logo

As part of running an e-commerce business, one of the most important aspects is Search Engine Optimisation.  With Google constantly pushing out new code changes, it’s important to keep ahead of the curve.  Part of keeping ahead of the curve means testing out new concepts, design changes and just general ideas.  One of the first tests I did was for a social joke site called The Dead Baby Joke.  It’s now defunct if you are looking for it by the way – I had to shut it down for a number of reasons.

The Idea

The idea came about 2 years ago at party, after a series of drinks and bad jokes.  I was introduced to the most horrible jokes in the world – dead baby jokes.  If you haven’t heard of them, just look them up yourself.  It’s pretty bad…

Anyway, the thought was – why not make a site based on the concept of voting for the worst / best dead baby jokes? It should be simple enough in cost, and it’d allow me to test some social media concepts.

The Work

Creating the Dead Baby Joke site (DBJ) was simple enough – I hit up looking for firstly a designer for the logo.  That was easy and quite fun actually – for a minimal amount, we got the above logo.

Next in line was the actual website.  I wanted a website where you could vote on the actual jokes and have people submit it, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an off-the-shelf blog.  I ended up with a modified WordPress blog, with a number of design changes and plug-in’s which worked quite well to start.

Next step was launching the site and getting some backlinks.  That was pretty easy – there are a ton of directory sites out there for jokes and once a few were submitted we started ranking quite fast for the longtail keywords.  In fact, we were no.2 within a few months with minimal cost.

The Problem

Unfortunately, we grew too fast and really didn’t have a good set-up on the backend.  In about 5 months, we got hacked.  A bunch of malicious code was added to the site where malware was dropped onto visitors.  To fix it, I wiped the site and relaunched it – within a few weeks, we were hacked again.

The hacking saw our rankings drop off the chart with Google and we never did recover our rankings.  From generating a few dollars a day on Adsense, we stopped even ranking for the most basic keywords – we started receiving less than a 100 visitors a month.

Eventually, I just let it die rather than fight the uphill battle to rank again.  Our base code was bad obviously and this was after all an experiment.

The Lessons

Firstly, we learnt a lot about basic website links / linking information.  I played around with some spammy link building tactics and noticed what worked, didn’t work when it was going well.   Directories back then worked well; general forum work not so much.

Secondly, make sure you have good code.  Backing up the data was good, but having code that wasn’t too easy to hack would have been better.  That’s the problem with WordPress – it’s so popular, hackers all work hard to figure out what the most common holes are.  And then hit you with it – so you need to keep the entire site up to date.

Thirdly; if you do get hit with bad rankings, its viable to creep up (we did get a few rankings back before we got hacked a 2nd time) but it requires a lot of work. You are better off making sure you  never get hacked in the first place.

Lastly; with a small budget you can definitely create sites that are cool and fun and generate some revenue.  It’ll take a lot more work to generate an actual business though from this.




Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn & Pinterest

So let’s talk about the various social media aspects out there.  Here’s my take on the above mentioned social media sites:


As a business you should have a Facebook Business Page.  That should be integrated to your main website so that customers can ‘Like’ your site immediately.

Things to note:

  • Probably the most widely used, so large audience numbers.
  • Social feeds can expand your reach quickly
  • Customers in FB are not intent on purchasing, so this is more a social awareness push – though on your page sale events and other promotions can be used
  • Recent changes in FB feeds has reduced the views of each update on your page.  Images are the highest, videos a 2nd and all others come a distant 3rd.  So to grow your FB likes, add lots of images.
  • Advertising to increase likes is a so-so option.  It increases likes fast but is costly and is not targeted.


Has been slowly growing with a more tech-oriented crowd and a higher level of interaction seen among those who use Google+.  However, not widely used so far.

Things to note:

  • Integration between Google+ Business Pages and other Google platforms can be tricky (especially if you’ve previously created separate accounts)
  • Not widely used, but much more interactive.  You need to be more active in Circles to get the most from this
  • Great for SEO – links are all dofollow and if shared a lot, can provide a good PR boost


Mostly useful for short messages and customer contacts

Things to note:

  • A must-have for customer relationships
  • Useful for disseminating blog posts, videos, etc if you build up the right followers
  • Auto-following everyone who follows you is potentially viable but can clog up your news feed too
  • Again, join conversations – don’t sit there by yourself shouting without interacting


Generally only useful for personal networking and service oriented businesses (b2b).  Not as useful if you are doing generic retail from our experience.

Things to note:

  • More professionals use this, so higher level of contacts and market
  • Great for creating warm leads in a sales environment
  • Can be useful for creating company profiles to develop additional reputation


Images driven, so if you have something image driven it’s really useful.

Things to note:

  • Pin images for your own company but also other images
  • Repin and follow people – create a social community again
  • Infographics do really well here




SEO Musings

So, I wrote a blog post on Starlit Citadel’s blog on SEO.

Figured I’d cross reference here since I see no reason to write it twice.  I’ll add that there is a 4th option, not covered in that blog post.  Start creating your own properties now.

Obviously, this main blog is one of our attempts at creating our own property.  It’s something I should probably pay more attention to, since I obviously can and should add more information as we develop the company but finding the time between developing two major e-commerce sites is challenging.

Still, if you are interested in starting an e-business; developing a tertiary property that can be linked and thus pass authority through is an important step.

Something I should have done with FG a while ago. Bah!

SEO – a constantly changing landscape

One of the most important aspects of gaining sales in an online environment is a good search engine position (generally Google, though Bing and Yahoo! are good too if you aren’t in Canada).  However, finding a good SEO professional is difficult.  There’s a few reasons for this:

– SEO is composed of multiple parts – onsite & offsite obviously, but also technical level changes and content changes

– there are a lot of charlatans out there

– generally, the good consultants are very expensive because they can command those prices

– often, the markets most businesses work in just aren’t valuable enough to be worth a good SEO consultant’s job

– the landscape is changing, so a good SEO consultant or good techniques one year can become bad techniques the next
It’s something that’s been written about by some great SEO writers; but Google has a tendency to burn SEO’s because once a technique / method becomes too popular, it can hurt their results.  So, even if you do follow what they say  – you can sometimes get burnt anyway.

What can you do?

– research.  Make sure you know what you are buying and who is doing the work

– catalog all the work (and make sure they catalog it for you) so you can revert anything that goes bad

– keep control.  Always, always, keep control of the process and all logins and the like

– lastly; go for quality over quantity always.   Good SEO doesn’t have to be expensive; but these days it’s really hard to get away with nothing.