Monthly Archives: February 2012

Panda – One Year On

google panda one year on

It was a year ago today (24th February) that Google unleashed Panda on the USA (followed by the UK and other English speaking countries in April).

We were fortunate. We weren’t negatively affected by Panda at all. In fact, some of our campaigns benefitted hugely. But nonetheless, whenever Google rolls out such a prominent algorithm development, there are tests to be run and lessons to be learned and here’s what we’ve learnt about Panda in the last 12 months:

The User Comes First

We should have already known this, of course. But for SEOs who were choosing to ignore the user in favour of a more Googlebot tailored web experience, Panda was a harsh lesson.

Google’s users are the reason the search giant makes billions each year from its services. If users are not finding what they are looking for in Google, there’s a risk of them going elsewhere. Google is obviously acutely aware of the quality issues in their search and simply has to make sure the results delivered are not just relevant, but are high quality as well.

Poor Quality Content Doesn’t Cut It

This is what the algorithm update was all about – eradicating poor content from prominent search positions. Google made that clear right from the outset. It became instantly clear just how big a deal content was.

Sites with low quality content and duplicate content suffered badly with the update. Sistrix research highlighted and as the biggest losers in the US. In April this was followed up with research indicating was the biggest UK loser. responded by deleting a massive 300,000 articles from its website in a bid to clean up poor quality copy and improve the standard of its content.

Panda is NOT an Anti-Spam Overlord

With the previous point made, we have to add that Panda is not perfect. At all. Not even close. We still see websites producing hideously poor quality content ranking well for some competitive keywords.

Bad Pages Can Have an Adverse Effect on the WHOLE Domain will vouch for this, I’m sure. If you have 200,000 pages on your site and 30,000 of them are poor quality, this can have an adverse effect on the search visibility of your entire domain (yes, including those decent pages).

Recovery Can Be Slow

If you have been bitten by the Panda, recovering can be a slow process. You have a few options:

  • Remove the offending content (the method)!
  • Complain to Google (yes, they have confirmed someone is addressing complaints where relevant)
  • Start all over again with another domain (not a favourable if you have already invested heavily in your brand)

Don’t expect any of these to offer an overnight recovery though.

It’s Still Being Fine Tuned

Yes, Google knows its algorithm is far from perfect. This explains the 12 subsequent updates all designed to improve the algorithm.

Just for Fun…

Aside from some search results quality improvements, Panda also gave us an excuse to share videos like this on the blog:


Sistrix Analysis of the USA’s biggest Panda Losers

Sistrix Analysis of the UK’s biggest Panda Losers

Tecmark’s iPad 3 Features Wish List

While it’s still all technically rumour, we’re all fully expecting the iPad 3 to be announced in early March (of course, we were all expecting an iPhone 5 at the end of last year and got a 4S, so anything can happen).

At Tecmark, most of us are quite openly slaves to fanatics of Apple products and we’ll undoubtedly be like kids at Christmas by March 7th. We’ve put together our own ‘wish list’ of things we want to see from the forthcoming iPad 3:

Retina Display

Will we see this on the iPad 3?

We’re all pretty unanimous in wanting this one. It’s largely rumoured that we’ll get our way with this one, as covered on both and Macrumors. This seems like perhaps the most obvious upgrade from the iPad 2 to 3. iPhone 4 and 4S users have simply become accustomed to this and an iPad 3 being released without it would be incredibly disappointing.

It remains to be seen whether a retina display would inflate the existing pricing of the devices.

Camera Improvements

iphone camera icon

Again, we’re unanimous in this. If Apple will persuade any iPad 2 owners to upgrade to the iPad 3, there’ll need to be some notable improvements to the camera.

The 2 megapixel camera on the iPad 2 is often criticised and simply doesn’t cut it anymore in the fast moving tablet market. Apple is looking likely to respond with a superb 8 megapixel back camera on the forthcoming tablet.

Battery Life

With every new tablet or phone release, we’re loading up on improved graphics and processors and all of this puts more pressure on the battery. Yet we still all want improved battery life as well, which is, I suppose, one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers as tablets get better and better. Rumours suggest a bigger battery on the forthcoming device, but it’s reasonable to assume that this is simply to accommodate a retina display and better processor without hindering battery life any further rather than to substantially improve the existing battery life.

Improved Processor

It’s highly unlikely that Apple will release a 3rd iPad without any processor improvements. Rumours are conflicting on this one. Some suggest we’ll be treated to a quad core processor, while others suggest that we’re actually going to get an A5X dual core processor. The latter would certainly be an upgrade on the existing iPad 2 processor, but would fall short of the quad core option.

Other Desired iPad 3 Features

Will the iPad 3 have Siri?

The above features were those that we were all fairly unanimous in wanting to see on the new tablet. There were a few other ‘requests’ as well:

  • Tecmark’s Joel Stein would like to see haptic feedback on the new iPad 3 touchscreen. We’ve not been able to find any rumours online that suggest we’ll be getting this. Sorry, Joel!
  • Scott Hague wants to see Kinect style motion sensors using the front facing camera and a ‘mini projector’ using the back camera in order to facilitate Kinect style gaming and control with screen projection onto a wall. Needless to say, he was the only one who mentioned that and there’s nothing to suggest that this will be the case.
  • Gareth Chadwick wants the iPad to be waterproof and ‘easier to stand up’ so he can watch films in the bath. Again, nothing suggests Gareth will be getting his way here!
  • I want to see Siri on the iPad 3. I genuinely like it on the iPhone 4S and do genuinely use it for setting alarms, timers, reminders and sending wordy emails. It seems natural this should be on the iPad 3.
  • Again, it’s only me who’s mentioned this one in the Tecmark office, but if I were to part with my cash for an iPad 3, already having a Macbook and an iPhone 4S, it would need to be lighter and thinner. However, if the rumours are to be believed, it looks like the opposite will be happening in order to accommodate the substantially improved back camera. covered this.
  • Jon Peplow’s suggestion for improving the iPad was one I’m absolutely positive we won’t be seeing: “Ship it with Android Icecream Sandwich OS installed.” Spot the non-Apple user!

Measuring Social Media Performance – Without all the Fluff

measuring social media performance

SEO and PPC – Easily Measurable

Discussing SEO and PPC campaigns with prospective new clients involves forecasting return on investment. It involves demonstrating exactly what a client could expect to get and estimated time frames for this (based on previous experience). Performance is very clearly and easily measurable.

If SEO and PPC campaigns are there to generate leads, then we, as those in charge of the campaign, will be measured on how many we generate. If it’s e-commerce, we’ll be measured on how many sales we generate and the revenue that brings in. Google Analytics makes it nice and simple to see:

  • Traffic
  • Conversions
  • Assisted conversions
  • Return visits

Social – The Challenge of Measurement

Not the words that matter to a client looking for social media's impact on the bottom line!!

Social media, on the other hand, isn’t always as straightforward in terms of measurement. It only takes a swift browse across websites of social media agencies to note that the promised measurements aren’t always as ‘scientific.’

Buzzwords like “interaction,” and “engagement,” like “brand building” and “incentivising” are banded around a LOT in social. I agree – all of those things are important benefits of social media.

But that’s not always as straightforward in terms of measuring and reporting as the metrics we use in measuring SEO and PPC campaign performance.  Measuring brand building isn’t something you can do at the end of a given month scientifically with absolute figures to back up what you’re saying.

Social Media – Measurements that Matter

measuring social media

What will fundamentally matter

For a Digital Marketing Agency like ours where the focus is on measurable return, our clients like us to approach campaigns and campaign performance assessment scientifically.

“1172 new people followed your Twitter account and you got 2461 new Facebook fans this month.”

That is a meaningless piece of information to a Marketing Manager with a set budget and a target to hit – and little or no interest in the inner workings of Facebook!

On the other hand:

“Your social media channels generated 2050 visits to your site this month, an increase of 35% on the previous month. These visits directly from these channels to your site converted at 3%, amounting for 62 sales with an average transaction value of £28. Thus, social media directly generated £1,736 through your website this month and w consider a realistic target to be an increase on this of 35% again next month.”

For the clients we deal with, that holds far more value.

Of course, considerations in measuring social like this are that:

  • Sales as the result of someone finding you on Facebook, then clicking to your site, then buying your products are a tiny part of the picture.
  • Not all campaigns and websites lend themselves to immediate conversion measurement online
  • Some conversions are telephone calls
  • Some purchases are time sensitive. You can make as much noise on social as you want if you’re a holiday company, for example, but people are still only going to book when they actually want to go on holiday.

There are ways of overcoming these issues and even in situations where it’s not as straightforward as getting a user from Twitter to your site and to a sale, there are measurements that matter more to a marketing manager with a tight budget than the number of Fans and Followers:

assisted conversions

An excellent social performance metric – thank you, Google!

  • Direct visits and online conversions from social media sites (ideal but not always possible on all campaigns)
  • Assisted online conversions – if someone visits from Facebook, leaves without making a purchase and then returns and buys a week later as the result of a brand search in Google, yes it’s a search conversion. However, it was ‘assisted’ by social and this matters.
  • Revenue generated directly on your social platforms e.g. if you have a Facebook store etc
  • Telephone enquiries (through advanced keyword and source level call tracking) generated directly or indirectly through social media
  • Any new natural inbound links acquired as the result of social activity (particularly where you are also running an SEO campaign, as this does have a direct benefit on rankings, which deliver measurable SEO visits/conversions.

Bear in mind though, that while an enquiry or sale from SEO or PPC could be immediate, a sale as the result of some social activity could come months and months after a new customer discovers you socially. These are expectations that need setting right from the off.

Secondary Measurements

Followers, fans, shares, mentions…we know it all matters in getting to the final destination. But these should be secondary metrics. It’s ultimately about what all this activity leads to. Elements we report on in a more secondary fashion include:

  • Audience growth
  • Level of interaction with your social accounts
  • Mentions of your brand on the wider web (looking for month on month growth in line with your social activity)
  • Volume of searches for your brand online (again looking for a growth in line with social activity)


We’re an agency that reports scientifically. Our clients expect solid analysis from us and figures that mean something. Yes, it’s important to explain how we achieve social success with secondary metrics as discussed above. But ultimately, it comes down to what the client is getting back (whether directly or indirectly) as the result of work we do on the social side of things. Social media, when discussed in the context of ‘sharing, interacting and making people like you’, can seem a little bit ‘fluffy’ and it’s my feeling that it’s this ‘fluffy’ side of social that can be a real barrier to businesses truly understanding the benefits of social media within their overall marketing plan.

Does PageRank Still Count for Anything?

Is PageRank Dead?

For some time now, there has been a great deal of doubt surrounding the importance of Google PageRank. We keep hearing from people within the world of search that “PageRank is dead”. However, Google is in the midst of a PageRank update. Now, why would Google waste their time with this if PageRank is no longer a key ranking factor?

Matt Cutts has been relatively vocal on Google’s stance on this. In a nutshell, he says that people shouldn’t get too hung up on PageRank, as there are over 200 different signals that Google uses in its ranking algorithm. Although he confirms that it is still one of the more important signals, it is still only one of over 200 signals.

We found a few examples, in which lower PageRank sites outrank the higher PageRank sites for their most competitive keywords. For example, we searched the highly competitive keyword, ‘shoes’. Here’s what we found:

After a bit of searching around, we stumbled across It’s a PR 6 site and, as you can probably tell from the URL, they sell shoes. Needless to say, one of their biggest keywords is ‘shoes’, yet they are nowhere to be seen for this keyword (we searched the top 200, then got bored looking).

If PR is the be all and end all of SEO, as many people would have you believe, then surely Shoebuy UK would at least feature in the top 200? Apparently not.

This is how stacks up against the competition, currently holding the top 3 positions.


• PR5

• 1,301,463 backlinks

• 12,860 referring domains


• PR4

• 795,600 backlinks

• 6,476 referring domains


• PR5

• 87,598 backlinks

• 4,538 referring domains


• PR6

• 24,668 backlinks

• 142 referring domains

We also spotted a link from the homepage of (PR8) to, with the ‘shoes’ anchor text. If this link alone doesn’t allow them to rank in the top 200 for ‘shoes’, this surely raises the question of how valuable links from high PR sites are. Traditionally, SEOs invest so much time, money and effort into acquiring links of this quality, but is it really a worthwhile investment?

There is no doubt that high authority backlinks are essential for a successful SEO campaign, yet it would seem that the days of achieving great rankings as a direct result of PR are over.

Google Sending Mixed Messages

Google are sending out mixed messages as to the worth of PageRank. They’ve told us time and time again that PageRank has become a less significant ranking factor and that we should be concentrating on the other 200+ signals, yet they continue to perform PageRank updates every 3-4 months. Perhaps they just like to keep SEOs on their toes!

The debate will undoubtedly continue as to whether we should be fretting about PageRank, but all we can do is keep on listening to Google, employ the large number of SEO strategies we know that work and experiment to assess new potential strategies and the ongoing value of PR. It’s clear that PageRank most certainly isn’t dead, but under no circumstances can you rely purely on PageRank for a successful SEO strategy.

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