I went to watch Harry Potter last night. I know that might seem like a highly irrelevant way to start a SEO related blog post, but hear me out.  Before the film (which was, by the way, incredible) there were, as always at the Odeon, a LOT of ads. And one such ad was for Coca Cola’s ‘Future Flames’ campaign. If anyone’s not familiar with the Future Flames campaign, here’s that very ad.

Again, you might not be with me here on what this could possibly have to do with SEO, so let me stop being so cryptic. At the end of the video (57 seconds in) Coca Cola tells its audience where to go to find out more. But rather than telling them explicitly where to go (i.e. a web address) it tells them to ‘search future flames online.’

Future Flames – A Non-Brand Search

It’s pretty common for TV ads to point us to search engines now. Had we been asked to search ‘Coca Cola,’ online I could understand it. After all, it’s highly unlikely that anything will outrank Coke for its own brand terms. But ‘Future Flames’ isn’t a brand term, is it? Not for Coke at least, but there is indeed a gas fire company with a similar name.

I don’t know exactly how much Coke spent on this ad, but it’s showing in Odeon cinemas before, undoubtedly, the film of the year (if not the film of a generation). That can’t possibly come cheap! It surprises me that, with the whole point being to send users off to Coke’s own Future Flames page, that they rely on people finding it for themselves online.

I did the search myself….

Future Flames in Google

Google is dominated by Coke’s listings for ‘Future Flames’ and there’s a PPC ad running too.

future flames google

"Future Flames" in Google UK

Future Flames in Yahoo

Again, Coke has the top spot though doesn’t dominate the listings as much as it does in Google.

future flames yahoo

"Future Flames' in Yahoo

Future Flames in Bing

Coke is 3rd, after thesun.co.uk and the gas fire website I mentioned earlier. In addition, Coca Cola don’t even appear to have an additional PPC ad running on this either.

future flames bing

"Future Flames" in Bing

Now granted, in the UK, Google has 92% of the market share. But nonetheless, this illustrates how easily their campaign could potentially backfire. (I’m sure futureflame.co.uk wish they actually had a site up, rather than a ‘coming soon’ page.

In conclusion, don’t let your multi million pound ad campaign rely on organic search results!

SEO and Online Reputation Management

Yesterday, the Telegraph reported a story about the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, which has recently announced it will pay the equivalent of £8000 for SEO services to essentially eradicate negative results from the prominent positions in Google, thus ensuring that users searching for information about the region find “positive or neutral evaluations of the ecological situation.”

The negative “˜press’ relates to nuclear waste and pollution problems in the region.

This type of activity is known as online reputation management.

Is Using SEO to Hide Negative Results Ethical?

The Internet has made it possible for anyone to say absolutely anything about any other individual or business and to potentially have what they want to say heard or read by a huge global audience. While this has been phenomenal for writers, musicians, journalists, bloggers and many others, it does have its downsides for businesses.

Forums, blogs and review websites will often be an open platform for people to publish negative information about a company. Sometimes, the negative comments and feedback are justified – other times they’re vindictive and untrue. And what’s perhaps more frustrating is that comments are often anonymous or made from usernames rather than real people, meaning that the business has no means of contacting the individual to deal with any problems.

Consumers will commonly Google company names before making a purchase and such posts and comments can appear in the search results – thus potentially damaging the reputation of a company and putting people off buying products or services from them.

As such, SEO can be an effective tool for a business to build a positive brand online.

As for whether or not online reputation management is ethical, well (in my opinion at least) it comes down to how it’s done. Falsifying reviews and creating false positive posts is, in my view, unethical. However, using search engine optimisation techniques to make truthful, honest and genuine press reports of profiles of your company prominent in search isn’t only an acceptable reputation management technique, but is actually a sensible marketing technique as well.

People will always have their own opinions on this matter. But my view is that managing your online reputation isn’t actually about “˜hiding’ anything. It’s about ensuring your content on the web is visible to users already searching for you – whether it’s your website, your social media profiles or news coverage about you. And that is simply good marketing.

360 degree seo

Image made using Stripgenerator.com

SEO isn’t what it was five years ago. Or even two years ago. Even 6 months ago, come to think of it.

The past year has changed a lot in search. Google and its smaller counterparts are finding innovative ways of determining what quality is, whether sites can be trusted and how people are engaging with your site. More importantly, they’re using these indicators to decide, in part, where you should rank for your keywords within the search engines.

It has been possible to achieve decent search rankings without a social media presence, without a Google Places listing… without even having a real brand presence. But that’s all changing and it’s changing in the favour of the end user – the people who use the search engines to find what they are looking for.

I’m not suggesting that the algorithm is perfect and that only people who have a great, organic link profile and a wonderful following on social media platforms will rank. We will always encounter cases where someone, somewhere manages to achieve high rankings by manipulating the algorithm.

But there are four areas in particular that, in my opinion, can no longer be excluded from the remit of a SEO.

Social Media

anti social media

We know a few things for sure about social media:

  • Facebook has 750 million registered users
  • Twitter enjoys 200 million ‘Tweets’ a day
  • Google+ achieved a rumoured 10 million registered members within less than 3 weeks of launch
  • There are 101 million users on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn is used by 69 of the US Fortune 100 companies
  • In June 2011, 12.54% of all traffic to websites in the UK came from a social network (mostly Facebook and Youtube). Source: Experian Report. This puts social media networks second only to search engines as a source of traffic.
  • There are 700 billion minutes per month spent on Facebook and the average user creates 90 pieces of content on the site per month and is connected to 80 community pages, groups or events. Source: Facebook.

Pretty impressive, but how does that link in with search engine optimisation? Well:

  • Google’s social search now means that opted in logged in users will see search results that are affected by what people in their social networks have shared.

google social search

  • Google uses ‘social signals,’ as a ranking factor. To quote Google’s Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, “I filmed a video back in May 2010 where I said that we didn’t use that as a signal, and at the time, we did not use that as a signal, but now, we’re taping this in December 2010, and we are using that as a signal.”
  • We also know that a site that is widely engaged with on a social media level is likely to accrue natural back links – something that definitely still plays (as it always has) a vital role in SEO.

Conclusion: How can social media NOT be an integral part of a rounded SEO campaign? Failing to integrate it doesn’t only mean you’re missing out huge online branding potential, but you could be hindering your rankings too.

Web Content and Blogging

SEOs have always known the value of having unique content that it is unique to your site. But since Google’s Panda update which rolled out in the US in February 2011 and in the UK in April 2011, it’s even more critical.

Poor content on even just a handful of pages on your site could hinder the whole site.

It’s not just about getting keywords into content. It’s about:

  • Creating content with a fresh, original angle.
  • Creating new content for your site regularly
  • Creating content that could attract long tail traffic
  • Creating content that is ‘social media friendly,’ and shareable. Content is the most powerful tool you have to incite social media users to share your links with their network. This in turn affects rankings.

Conclusion: Frequently updated, fresh and original content is essential to rankings. It therefore goes without saying that on some level this comes under the SEO’s remit, whether on a ‘giving advice’ level or getting hands on with the content themselves.

Local Presence

Google Places listings now pop up above organic search results for the vast majority of searches with a geographic element in them. They also show up for a host of searches where there is no geographical element. Having a claimed, verified and optimised Google Places listing has multiple benefits:

  • More ‘SERP Real Estate.’ That is to say if you have a local presence and an organic presence on the results pages, your business has more space than others on the page. This means more clicks, more traffic and ultimately more business.
  • This verifies to users and search engines alike that you are a real business with real premises
  • This, in turn, adds to user trust of your site.
  • And this again plays a part in a complex Google ranking algorithm

Online PR and Reputation

A part of Google’s algorithm is based on rewarding ‘trusted’ websites. This means finding your company’s brand, link or mentions on other trustworthy places on the Internet.

Google ultimately wants to produce an algorithm that delivers the highest quality, most relevant and trusted websites to its searchers. This means identifying ranking factors that are more difficult for spammers to manipulate and one such factor is this trusted brand element. As such, I can only see this becoming increasingly prominent.

In addition to that, the rise of social media has given a voice to consumers – both in a good and bad way! Someone searching for your brand on Google is likely to find your site first and possibly even second and third too. But what comes beneath that on the first page could be anything. It could be a blog post written about your company or a forum thread about them. It could be positive or negative.

SEOs are now often also charged with ensuring that you are building a positive brand online, that searches for your brand result in users finding your site, your social media profiles and other similar things.


Thanks to smartphones we don’t have to be sitting in front of a laptop or desktop computer to find what we are looking for. We can be out and about and hunting out what we need. This is giving rise to increasing numbers of searches from mobile devices. Our job, as SEOs, is to:

  • Understand which devices your audience is visiting your site from
  • Ensure they’re finding your website when they’re looking for your products and services from a mobile

Part of the process may involve recommending a mobile website or similar in order not to exclude users on the move from your site. But as SEOs, our job is to make sure we understand your website traffic inside out and can make recommendations accordingly.

But the point is that SEOs simply cannot afford to ignore mobile. As Eric Schmidt himself conceded, mobile is ‘growing faster than any of us anticipated.’

In Conclusion

This really is a quick overview. I’ve already broken my, ‘don’t waffle on for 1000 words’ in a blog post rule despite this being a fairly brief insight.

But the fact is that search engines are becoming smarter. They’re getting better and better at identifying a site’s true value to a user and they’re embracing the social media age. As such, a 360 degree approach is no longer an ‘added bonus’ in SEO. It’s absolutely vital.

Experian Hitwise has released up to date data suggesting that Google’s search dominance in the UK is far, far greater than its dominance in the USA.

The report suggests that, contrary to what you might read around the web, Google’s share is growing (having increased from 90.53% in May to 92.02% in June 2011).

Google UK Market Share 2011

Yahoo and Bing combined accounted for 5.84% of all searches, the research concludes.

Google in the US

It’s a completely different story in the USA, however, where Google’s market share is a much more modest 65.4% (still not to be sniffed at)!

The US market has been more favourable towards Bing and Yahoo, with the two search engines combined hitting 14% of the Stateside market share.

How this Affects SEO

At Tecmark, we (in most campaigns) use Google for our rankings checks. But we use Bing Webmaster tools and we report on traffic from all search engines.

Although the UK market share is small for Yahoo and Bing, we believe it will grow (as we have seen in the US) and while Google is definitely the focus for the moment in terms of UK SEO campaigns, we don’t expect that this will always be the case.

As such, we:

  • Use techniques that have a positive rankings impact across all three of the biggest search engines
  • Monitor traffic levels from the three major search engines closely
  • Use tools provided by all search engines, e.g. both Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Yes, Bing and Yahoo have a long way to go to even come close to consuming a notable segment of the market. And with search overall account for almost 35% of web traffic, however small 5% seems, it can’t be ignored.

It’s finally here! One of the greatest golfing tournaments in the world…. The Open! That teed off early this morning and just as it did, so too did too the Puttluck tournament – just as prestigious in virtual terms!!

Anticipation has been building over recent days with the Puttluck competition featured in the Mirror, on Pocket Lint and on Loaded Magazine too.

The competition is run through Gamecenter and full terms can be found on the Puttluck website. The prize pool is an impressive £500/$800 worth of golfing gear ‘putt up’ (sorry) by sponsor, Black Widow.

You can download the app here, go to ‘competition’ on the app’s home screen and get putting.

I’m fortunate insofar as I have a job that I love. Like really, really love.

In my role as Digital Marketing Manager at Tecmark I oversee SEO, PPC, Social Media and wider Internet and mobile app marketing campaigns.  I genuinely enjoy all of those aspects but specifically want to talk here about why I love SEO.


I don’t love it every single day. Yes, even those of us in SEO are, on occasion, vaguely human. I have bad days. I have days I curse Google. I have days with my head stuck in link spreadsheets trying to work out why, why, why the spam fest from Hell is outranking a site I’m working on. But those days are few and far between.

Here’s what keeps me gripped.

You NEVER Know It All

SEO is always changing. Constantly. Any SEO who reckons they know everything there is to know about it is either misguided or lying. There is always something to learn. The algorithm is continually developing – hundreds of changes a year. The market is moving quickly. There’s mobile to consider, there’s how social media integrates to consider and while these two particular areas are massive at the moment, who knows what will be the ‘new thing’ two years from now. SEO is a dynamic industry, continually changing.

How can you get bored when things are never the same for too long?

A critical part of my job is making sure I’m up to date – lots of reading, lots of researching and lots of running tests. I’m always learning.

A Result Feels Like Winning

I’m competitive. I’m a poor loser (and not a particularly graceful winner either to be honest). This makes SEO perfect for me. Achieving target rankings, beating your client’s competition – that feels like a win.

Measurable Results

With SEO, you can actually see the results clearly and visibly. You can see how much of an impact your work has had on a client’s profits and the positive effect this has overall on their business.


SEO is challenging. It’s not a simple, ‘here’s a site, let’s buy some links, yay, we won!’ It’s not about manipulating an algorithm – at least not if you want a sustainable campaign. It’s about creating a brilliant website with a brilliant link profile that’s varied and organic. It’s always a challenge to continually identify ways in which you can make a site better, then better still and even better again. But if it weren’t a challenge, I’d be bored.

[Cliché Warning} Content is King

I know that’s a really overused and abused cliché but it’s never been truer than it is now. As someone who loves to write and create content, this lends itself perfectly to SEO and with every major algorithm update geared around improving user experience, more emphasis is placed on content.

I love SEO. Most of the time at least. It’s a job and a hobby for me and, given how completely immersed you have to be to keep up to date, I genuinely don’t believe SEO can ever really be ‘just a job’ for anyone.

facebook isn't dead

As soon as the new kid on the social media scene tipped up last week, (hello, Google Plus) there was a whole new wave of ‘Facebook is dead,’ type posts surfacing across the web. This included circulation of a rather interesting statistic:-

In May 2011, 100,000 users in the UK deactivated their accounts

Now, that sounds a lot, granted. But let’s put it in perspective. Facebook recently hit 750 million users, according to Techcrunch. That’s more than 10 times the population of the UK! So 100,000 UK accounts deactivating isn’t the apocalyptic event that so many are touting it as.

Granted, it won’t be news that the social media giant is happy about. But it’s not the end of the world for Facebook. With an ‘awesome announcement’ (as Zuckerberg said) due this week, Facebook will be grabbing headlines. It’s widely anticipated that the announcement will be related to a new Skype powered video chat function. That would provide an additional layer of functionality in common with Google Plus.

Why Users Will Stick Around

Even if Google Plus does well, as I expect it to, that needn’t be at the expense of Facebook. Users are tied to social networks not only because of the platforms themselves, but the communities and even apps within. 10% of Facebook users are hooked on Farmville, for example. We all have friends on the site and many of us use it as a means of keeping in touch with people. It’s unlikely that a mass exodus would take place when Facebook has already established itself so firmly as the leading social networking site.

Facebook for Businesses

It doesn’t appear (yet, at least) as thought Google Plus has a solution targeted directly at businesses, like Facebook has with its Pages. Of course, Google has Places and AdWords and a host of other business focused tools.  They’re not integrated yet though and I do expect that Google will provide a little more for businesses (in order to compete with Facebook) soon though. Businesses have invested a lot of time and effort into building their communities though and I can’t see them jumping ship any time soon.

So, no, I don’t think Facebook is dying. It will keep much of its existent user base. I think, though, that it will have to keep adding functionality and improving its service to attract new users, given that it is no longer new or novelty.

I was somewhat cynical when I heard the pre-launch rumours about Google’s ‘new social media platform.’ After all, Google Buzz was a dismal failure, essentially an attempted clone of Twitter that was though massively under populated.

In fact, my stance on the matter had been that Google should probably concentrate less on trying to get fingers into all the pies and, instead, stick with their forte – search.

Cycnical? You bet. Yet in spite of this, when Google Plus went into ‘invitation only’ testing and I wasn’t on the guest list, I started to feel a little left out and took to Twitter for a quick tantrum.

Google Plus

Cue DMs and @ mentions from people offering to invite me in! RESULT!

The Good and the Bad

I managed to invite in a few colleagues and friends as well, which was an added bonus.

I spent most of yesterday evening familiarising myself with the platform. It has been touted in blogs and in the media over the last few days as both a, ‘Facebook Killer,’ and ‘the new LinkedIn,’ as well as having received more derogatory reviews as well.

There’s little point in me rehashing the entire feature list here. That’s all covered on the Google Plus website.

But suffice to say that, personally, I’m impressed. Pride swallowed, cynicism kicked into touch. I’m genuinely impressed.

Granted, it’s far from perfect. At the moment, it’s a little eerily quiet. But once the doors open and registration is a free-for-all, I imagine this will change.

To sum up the good and the bad:

The Good

  • Circles! Yes, it didn’t take long for someone to create a Facebook app that enabled Facebook’s lists to behave more like Google Circles. But this level of flexibility with sharing and the simplicity of the user interface and the process of organising Circles makes this a real winner for me.
  • Huddle. This strikes me as a bit like ‘WhatsApp,’ which is a mobile app enabling you to have text based conversations on the go. But there’s no doubt that integrating a group chat mobile function into the platform was a smart move.
  • Hangout. Now I’ve heard mixed reviews about this. Some people argue that nobody ‘wants’ to video chat on Facebook or Twitter. But my own personal argument is that maybe that’s simply because nobody has the option to video chat while using these social platforms. Those who argue that you can use Skype or MSN for video perhaps fail to remember that the same could have been said for instant messaging and Facebook before the launch of Facebook Chat. I think it was another clever call on Google’s part to make this something possible – but by no means compulsory or overly in your face on Google Plus.

The Bad

  • Android favouritism. Now I do get that Android is Google’s baby and Google will always want to give its baby the best first. But let’s not forget that iPhone users are massive on the social media usage and overlooking them with the release of the first mobile app seems ignorant. I’m in no doubt that the iOS version won’t be far away, but as an iPhone user enjoying Google Plus, this delay gives me a cause to whinge.
  • It’s all a little bit quiet. Now I do understand that is the idea of a closed testing period. But nonetheless, there’s not much going on in there right now. That doesn’t take away from my ability to see the potential, though!
  • Photos. I find the whole process of uploading photos and organising who can see them a little bit clunky! Sorry, Google.

But on the whole, I like it!

Is this the End for Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Skype?

No. Not in my opinion, at least. I might have argued previously that there is space in the market for another big social media player, but I reckon I have been convinced otherwise. I will continue to use Google Plus… but that doesn’t mean I will stop using any of the others I use.

Google takes bits of the concept of all 4 of those platforms. But it’s the communities that tie people to their social platforms and I think Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are all established enough to survive.

Mind you, you could have said that about MySpace once upon a time…

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