Facebook Timeline for Brands – Goodbye Tabs, Hello Messages!

Facebook announced Timeline for Brands yesterday. This comes hot on the heels of all personal profiles being moved over to Timeline too (and boy, didn’t people kick up a stink about that!).

Timeline for brands will be mandatory from 30th March 2012, but if you want to get in there early you can move your page over to the new layout anytime from now!

The full rundown of features can be found here but we’ve summarised what we consider to be some of the biggest changes.

Visual Changes

Goodbye vertical banners, hello cover images.

Businesses who’ve been using vertical banner style images as their main page photos will no longer be able to do so… I’m looking at you, Pepsi, Greggs the Bakers and Virgin Holidays.

facebook pepsi

In all seriousness, though, a lot of brands use this image as a banner, including many we work with.

Under the new Timeline layout, this will not be possible. Instead, you’ll have a square ‘profile image’ and a much larger, more prevalent cover image.

Image dimensions under Timeline are as follows:

facebook timeline cover photo image dimensions

Facebook has issued guidelines for cover images, stating they should not be overly promotional or predominantly text.

Goodbye Landing Tabs

Lots of brands are leveraging tabs at the moment, particularly in engaging users who are not yet fans. Tabs enable business page owners to decide what users will see when they land on their Facebook page. They could choose (as many do) to present users with an image, as opposed to a Facebook wall, or an app, as a certain fast food chain does!

mcdonalds facebook

With Facebook Timeline for Brands you won’t be able to do this. Of all the changes, this appears to be the one inciting a negative response from brand page owners. Yes, it removes a certain degree of flexibility and if you are a brand using this for marketing, it will be disappointing. But I think the loss of tabs is far outweighed by the improved functionality and some of the newer features

Hello Facebook Business Page Messages!

Finally! Hallelujah, thank the Facebook Overlord. Perhaps the most long overdue feature for business pages is here – well, sort of. Your fans can now send you private messages and you can respond to them. It doesn’t seem, at the moment, as though you can message them first (to be confirmed when we’ve played about a bit more). But nonetheless, the ability for them to contact you privately is excellent. Anyone who has been asked a question on their wall that they don’t feel they should answer in the public domain (customer services requests or account specific information from clients) will be thrilled with this. It’s much more seamless to be able to ask fans to ‘message us’ privately rather than having to refer them off to some generic customer support email address or telephone number.

Pin Status Updates to the Top of Your Page

This is brilliant. You can ‘pin’ certain status updates to the top of your page for up to 1 week. This means any key updates won’t be lost, as they currently are, when newer ones are posted. A really excellent feature, I believe.

Add Milestones

As is already the case on personal pages, Business Pages on the new Facebook Timeline will be able to add historical milestones, e.g. date founded etc. This enables you to provide much more history about your brand without interfering with the current topic material.  The Red Bull Facebook page at www.facebook.com/redbull already uses this to great effect.

Facebook timeline for brands milestones

facebook redbull timeline

Personally, both as an Internet marketer and as a consumer and Facebook user, I’m looking forward to all businesses adopting Timeline (even if they have to be forced into it at the end of March!).

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 wisegeek.com and ezinearticles.com as the biggest losers in the US. In April this was followed up with research indicating ehow.co.uk was the biggest UK loser. Ehow.co.uk 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

Ehow.co.uk 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 ehow.co.uk 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

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.

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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 www.shoebuy.co.uk. 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 Shoebuy.co.uk stacks up against the competition, currently holding the top 3 positions.

1st: www.office.co.uk

• PR5

• 1,301,463 backlinks

• 12,860 referring domains

2nd: www.barratts.co.uk

• PR4

• 795,600 backlinks

• 6,476 referring domains

3rd: www.newlook.com/

• PR5

• 87,598 backlinks

• 4,538 referring domains

Nowhere: www.shoebuy.co.uk

• PR6

• 24,668 backlinks

• 142 referring domains

We also spotted a link from the homepage of www.hotels.com (PR8) to www.shoebuy.co.uk, 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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PR, SEO and Social – How They Benefit One Another

PR, SEO and Social Media

PR Helping SEO

PR has long since been recognised as an effective means of enhancing the SEO value of a website for a number of reasons.

  • Brand – we know Google takes note of how many people look for your brand online as one of many factors that determine how strong your online ‘brand’ is. More press and publicity means more people looking for you.
  • If you’re in the press, whether TV, radio, print or online, there’s a good chance you can leverage this to acquire good, solid, natural links back to your site from high authority press and media websites – as well as links from bloggers, industry specific websites and others who come across your press coverage. Links remain a hugely influential off page ranking signal.
  • Brand citations – get people talking about your brand (even if they’re not linking!).

So it’s little wonder that SEOs particularly enjoy working on campaigns where their efforts can be fully integrated with PR efforts.

SEO Helping PR

By the same token, SEO can have a positive impact on PR as well. Optimising a website to ensure it has a high prominence in search for non-brand terms means a wider audience will find that site

We see time and time again how journalists and media researchers use non-brand terms to find potential sources for news stories. Here at Tecmark, we have been approached by a number of journalists seeking to quote us in articles relating to what we do because they’ve found us in Google for a non-brand search.

In addition, SEO tactics can be employed to ensure a high brand presence throughout the entire top 10 in Google for your brand terms. What this means is that when your potential customers research you in Google (by searching your company name etc) the results should show your site and sites where you control the content predominantly.

Social Media – Benefits for Both!

Social media is, of course, newer than SEO but over the past 12 months has been something SEOs have increased their remit to include. This is because search engines have confirmed that they take note of social factors.

PR agencies too have taken to social media as a digital PR activity – and rightly so.  You don’t have to look far to find examples of social media being accountable for masses of media coverage.

Making PR, Search and Social Work Together

I genuinely believe that SEO and PR offer one another mutual benefits. And of course it’s in the best interests of the client concerned when everything works together.

Regardless of which party physically handles the various elements of the day to day management of social media (advertising, analysing, audience building, incentivising, engaging, answer queries…) every party simply has to be involved in formulating the strategy behind it, with an agreed set of targets and objectives.

Search, social and PR working together can ultimately result in:

  • Better quality digital coverage to a wider audience
  • More citations of your brand on and offline
  • A more natural and high quality link profile
  • A more engaged social audience
  • Increased search visibility

Essentially, if you’re paying for the services of a PR agency and an agency to handle your SEO, you’ll get more from both of them by enabling (and encouraging!) them to communicate with one another.

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Google Plus Reaches 90 Million Users

google plus

Google’s Larry Page last night announced the company’s Q4 revenue information and some other bits of information about their services.

You can find the full breakdown here.

One of the key pull out facts of all that was about the growth in Google Plus user numbers. The number has more than doubled in the past three months. Here are the figures:

  • There are now 90 million Google Plus users
  • At least 60% of them log in daily
  • At least 80% of them log in weekly
  • There are now 1 million business pages on Google Plus

Google Plus launched in June 2011 in closed beta, before opening up to anyone in September 2011. That level of growth over such a short period of time makes it the fastest growing social network to date.

90 Million in REAL Terms

Now we know how many Google Plus users there are, let’s put that in some context.

  • There are only 12 countries in the world with populations higher than 90 million.
  • So Google Plus, if it were a country, would effectively be the 13th largest by population.
  • Amongst the countries with a population of less than 90 million are the UK, France, Germany and Spain.

How Does it Stack Up Against the Other Social Networks?

In terms of number of registered users and active accounts, Google Plus is still some way behind the other big players – but its speed of growth would indicate it won’t be long until it catches up!!

linkedin facebook twitter

As it stands at the time of writing:

  • Facebook boasts over 800 million registered users.
  • Twitter has over 300 million.
  • LinkedIn has over 135 million.

If All Social Networks Were Countries:

If all social networks were countries, then based on population:

  • Facebook would be the third largest
  • Twitter would be the fourth largest
  • LinkedIn would be the tenth largest

Google Plus by the End of 2012

The launch of Google Plus was met with some cynicism, but Google is integrating this social product with search and focussing heavily on increasing its membership. Recent ‘Hangouts’ on Plus with celebrities like Will.I.Am and David Beckham, serves only to encourage more consumers, while the increased prominence of Plus for brand and name searches is encouraging businesses.

I’ll stick my neck out and hazard a ‘guestimate’ that Google Plus will have more than 250 million registered users by the end of the 2012.

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The Advertising Standard Authority and Websites

advertising standards agency asa online advertising

Since March 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority has been responsible for advertising and marketing online.  All marketing and ads on your website must now meet the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). This means what you say online has to be “legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

That might seem like a common sense approach to advertising on your website, but prior to March 2011, despite frequent complaints from consumers about online advertising, the ASA was powerless to regulate this. However, as stated on the ASA website, their remit now includes:

  • “Advertisers’ own marketing messages on their own websites
  • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under the advertiser’s control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Marketing communications on all UK websites, regardless of sector, type of businesses or size of organisation. “

Does Your Website Meet the Required ASA Standard?

Examples of cases of failure to meet the required standards include (but this is in no way exhaustive):

  • Displaying false reviews or testimonials – the ASA could ask you to verify the authenticity of any such material.
  • Displaying inaccurate or false pricing information.
  • Displaying anything untrue about your products or services.

How Would the ASA Know About Your Advertising?

Complaints! The ASA receives plenty of them and it might only take one single complaint to initiate an investigation.

What if Someone Makes a Complaint to the ASA About Your Site?

  • The ASA will assess whether or not your advertising is compliant. If not, you will be asked to remove/modify the advertising.
  • The ASA states that it prefers to resolve complaints informally. Essentially, this means that in some cases the problems can be solved without the need for a formal investigation or any public adjudication.
  • If you believe the complaint to be unfounded or you do not resolve the matter informally, it’s likely that the complaint will proceed to a formal investigation by the ASA Council.
  • Formal adjudications are published on the ASA website here.
  • Failure to comply several times could result in your being listed as a non-compliant online advertiser

An ORM Nightmare

Your advertising should be honest anyway. Aside from any advertising standards, there’s common sense and decent business practice to consider as well. But for the sites that do fail to comply, it can have a dire impact on online reputation.

Take ‘Betting Scalper,’ a company listed on the non-compliant online advertiser list.

asa non compliant advertisers

A quick Google search for their brand term shows that ASA listing third – not a great introduction to the brand for anyone searching the brand, is it?

betting scalper google



  • All regulation is detailed on the ASA website.
  • Advice on ensuring your online claims meet the required standards is provided on the CAP website.

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Creating a Link Profile Your Competitors Can’t Duplicate

The SEO blogosphere is saturated with talk of social media’s growing importance as a ranking factor. Blogs, including this one, are filled with advice about creating unique and original content for your site regularly (must keep the Panda happy!).

All of that is good, sound advice.

But let’s not forget that links still matter. In fact, they remain the single largest off page factor determining where your website ranks for any given keyword. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how Google perceives the value of a link and how it determines whether or not that link is one that you’ve acquired for editorial value (a big ‘yay’) or because you paid the blogger to stick your irrelevant link on his high Pagerank website (a big ‘nay’).

Your Competitors Want Your Links

When we start a new campaign, whatever the sector is, the first thing we do is identify the competitors (generally, those ranking the highest and carrying out the most activity geared towards achieving rankings for the keywords we’re going after).

Then, we take a look at competitor back link profiles. Why? Well there are a few reasons:

  • We want to know how many links your competitors have and what quality those links are in order to determine how much work we believe it will take to ‘beat them.’
  • We want to know if there are any websites (whether directories, industry bodies or similar) that link to all the competitors. This could be indicative of a site or organisation that it is important that you acquire a link from.
  • We want to check out their best links!

If a competitor has some particularly good links, there’s a good chance that we will go out and acquire those too, wherever possible. That will be one tiny part of our link building strategy. The majority will be in acquiring links for editorial value and more often than not, these are links it is difficult for competitors to just simply ‘acquire.’

Use Your Contacts and Case Studies

If you’ve worked with a major brand, a charity or a Government body, you’ll benefit from a link from them. But why would they link to you?

Personally, I’m not a fan of just asking all your clients to link to you. We don’t employ that strategy at Tecmark. If our clients ask if they can link in, of course we gladly take those links. But we don’t employ a strategy of, by default, pasting our links all over a client website.

One thing we do, however, is issue a press release or blog post when we’ve worked on a particularly notable project. We’ll also offer up a version of that to the client for posting on his or her own site (with links to both parties and other relevant content on the web). These links, within these release, benefit both sides but, most importantly, have editorial value. There’s a reason for them being there. And what’s more – competitors cannot replicate them just by emailing the webmaster!

Link Bait!

I’ve never been a fan of the whole ‘build it and they will come,’ thing. The sheer volume of unvisited websites on the net testifies to the fact that it simply doesn’t apply online.

Build it, maintain it, market it, share it, nag your friends to share it, revise it, try again… and maybe, if you do it well, they will come.

The same applies to link bait. Create an amazing piece of content, whether it’s text, video, image or audio, and get it on your website and you’re half way there. Then you need to get people to it.

However, once you get people there, you’ll also find (if the content is as good as you think it is) it results in some links that you simply can’t just ‘acquire.’ These ‘natural’ links are by no means passively acquired. You have to put the work in to ensure visibility of your content. But they’re frequently links that you couldn’t have achieved any other way.

Link Bait Example

In January 2011, we released some of our own mobile web statistics. We updated this with a second release in August 2011. We have since found that our figures have been quoted (and us cited as a reference) on a whole host of websites – many of which chose to link to us, either to the research page itself or back to our homepage.

Examples of those include a link from the First Choice holiday blog, a brand mention from the Telegraph, scores of links from tech blogs and even links from our competitors.


What we did was essentially become a source of information by spending time researching using data we have access to. It’s good practice to cite your sources and as such, hordes of great websites used our information and cited us.

This has resulted in a large number of links back to the Tecmark site that simply cannot be easily replicated by our own competitors.

And the same applies whatever field you are in – creating a piece of content that has some worth to others can and will generate back links for you – back links that, given their nature, are likely to be more valuable than spammy, paid links.

Creative Link Building

As I said at the beginning of this post, links still matter. Google still uses links as a critical ranking factor and it’s unlikely to change. What will matter is the way in which we acquire them. Google is getting better and better at identifying spammy or paid links. Google’s also getting better at identifying link farms and devaluing them.

The focus should be on:

  • Link bait
  • Socially shareable content
  • Links your competitors cannot replicate
  • Links that are there for editorial value

This means, if you haven’t already, you need to get a lot more creative with your link building than simply emailing webmasters.

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Generation Social

We discuss social media on the Tecmark blog frequently. We talk about the benefits for your business, how individuals interact with brands and how companies can leverage that. So here’s something a little different – a piece of commentary from Amy Murray on the potential detrimental effects social media could have on communication.

Coming to work for Tecmark as a technology and digital newb (please refer to urban dictionary for those not down with the lingo) has allowed me to form my own opinions and thoughts on the influence of technology on our world and interactions with it. I love technology and am truly amazed by how we have invented such fascinating gadgets and gizmos. However, aside from my appreciation of all things techno freaky, I am a traditionalist girl at heart, and can only wonder what these inventions that are replacing traditional concepts are doing for our society.

As human beings our interaction through time has been based upon traditional communication, whether through letter, telephone or popping round for a cuppa. Yet with the relatively recent invention of various social media platforms, it presents the question:

Are the generations to come at risk of losing the ability to effectively interact and engage on a natural human level due to technology taking its place?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am the first to admit that I am a Facebook freak! I love the way it enables people to contact friends from the past or share their lives with others who may not live close by. However, what effect could this be having on the younger generation whose development will undoubtedly be influenced by this change in the way we communicate? We could potentially be nurturing a generation that lacks the very thing we, as humans, are best at doing – communicating with the emotion and feeling that, in my eyes, computers and technology will never be able to replicate. The intricacy of our minds and personalities is exactly why we are unique and it’s safe to say technology diminishes an element of this.

People can feel safe hiding behind a profile, especially those who struggle to communicate (for example individuals suffering from autism). Yet this can prove a dangerous place to hide, as all I believe it does is nurture the introvert in us. Let’s also consider the part social media played in the riots, and how the Salford nurse accused of poisoning patients was harassed and abused on Facebook before she had even been convicted. Through the invention of social media, our online reputation has become increasingly at risk, as fellow colleague Joel Stein talks about in his recent blog post for Search Engine People on online reputation management.

So as harmless and innocent social media may appear to the majority of people, it is hard to see how the brains of generations to come will not be different to generations previous. I’m all for social media, yet I believe emphasis should still be on engaging in real relationships with real people, not a computer (they can’t talk back!).

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Google (Not Provided) Data – The Bane of 2012 for SEOs?

2012 google not provided data

We blogged a while back on Google’s ridiculous infuriating stupid controversial decision to make encrypted search the default for signed in users and hold back referring keyword data from organic search. You can read that here.

A few months on and we have had some time to fully assess the situation. Reports on various blogs indicate that some websites are finding far more than Matt Cutts’ suggested “10%” of Google organic traffic affected.

Of course, Google keeps reiterating that it’s all about privacy (privacy mattering much less if a visitor arrives at your site from paid search, apparently) and it’s looking unlikely that the search giant is about to back down.

But is this really going to be as much of a difficulty in 2012 as many are expecting?

The Size of the Problem

Let’s assume that Matt Cutts is right and that, at present, no more than 10% of your website’s organic traffic from Google will be affected. Now let’s assess some hypothetical (but very realistic) figures for an example ecommerce website:

–       100,000 organic visits/month from Google

–       Average conversion rate from organic traffic of 2.5%

–       Average transaction value of £20.00

A website fitting this criteria would have organic revenue figures looking a bit like this:

google not provided data

So based on 10% of Google organic traffic falling foul of (not provided) a site that looks like this loses visibility over keywords that drive up to £5000 worth of revenue each month – of £60,000 over a year!

google not provided december 2011

However, we know that Google is actively pushing services such as Google Plus, Gmail and Apps. We also know that if you are signed in to any of these services (unless you manually sign out) going to Google’s search engine and searching will be a signed in search. So if Google plans such rapid growth of its services (particularly Google Plus) then surely this 10% is only going to grow.

Could the problem look more like this, as many are suggesting, by the end of 2012?

google not provided data december 2012

Perhaps that’s even conservative.

The point is, this is a growing issue.

Marketing Blind Spot

One of my favourite things about Google Analytics has always been the ability to see exactly which keywords are generating sales and enquiries. It’s through this type of Analysis that web businesses are able to identify ‘low hanging fruit’ in Internet Marketing terms and are able to assess how their customers are finding them. This is crucial in order to effectively tailor your SEO campaign on an on going basis.

Losing even 10% of that visibility is disappointing. But to lose 25 or 30% could really limit your ability to use your existing data set to identify new potential areas of opportunity.


The solutions are limited.

Google has now enabled you to link its Webmaster Tools service up to Analytics and this way you can find the top 1000 keywords referring traffic to your website.

But what you cannot see is what these users did on your site, whether they stuck around, made a purchase or just bounced right off. So the data is incredibly limited.

EConsultancy also published a little Google Analytics hack to allow you to get some data back, albeit again one that has its limitations.

Sigh. Sulk. Whinge.

This isn’t something that’s looking likely to change. As much as I stamp my foot about it and speculate about the motives, it seems this is simply a challenge SEOs will have to deal with in 2012.

We’ll have to make more use of the data we do have and perhaps even experiment more with PPC for research purposes to make more detailed Analysis of keywords.

Paying for clicks for keyword research and performance analysis purposes is nothing new, of course. But I’m sure Google will have no complaints if more SEOs turn to Adwords for keyword research. [Insert cynicism].

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