Archive for the ‘BlogStorm’ Category

PostHeaderIcon How we got 75,000 visitors from Twitter in 2 days

Our site has been very busy for some time now and always gets more than 10,000 visitors per day. Lots of people are big fans of the site and use it every day.

Last week the site got a pretty big spike and ended up getting 89,847 visits in a 48 hour period after both Lady Gaga (6.5 million followers) and Justin Bieber (5.4 million followers) tweeted out links to the site.

As you can see from the chart below Twitter traffic was pretty huge and if you include direct traffic (people using Twitter via apps) then it adds up to around 75,000 visits.

Interestingly if you drill down into the referral paths for Twitter you can see that a lot of traffic comes from the stars pages rather than the homepage. Justin seems to have more engagement with his page than Gaga according to this data.

Over the last few months we have put a huge amount of resources into improving and the site now has a new front end design, easier to use interface, optimised back end code & database as well as a shiny new dedicated server. Handling lots of Twitter traffic is pretty hard because it comes in big surges, much like the Digg effect but worse.

Pretty interesting study of the power that Twitter now has.

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How we got 75,000 visitors from Twitter in 2 days

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PostHeaderIcon Thoughts on the Impact of Google Instant

Google Instant is a very clever move by Google but I don’t see it having a visible effect on most websites.

The reason Google has done it is the same reason they implemented the automated search suggestions that appear when you are typing – so that they can direct you to more commercial & profitable search queries.

By teaching people to use the right search queries they are able to show better search results with more targeted ads which attract higher cost per clicks. Google wins and so do searchers.

We’ve not seen any impact from Google Instant so far and the chart below from Conductor shows that the impact in search query length has been minimal.

Google Instant impact

I don’t understand how people can say that it affects SEO in a negative manner because people still search and still see the same results in the end even though they might end up using a slightly different query than they intended.

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Thoughts on the Impact of Google Instant

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PostHeaderIcon Did Google give Digg a penalty?

Buried in the middle of an otherwise fairly uninteresting New York Times article about Digg is the following piece of information, emphasis added by me:

According to Quantcast, an online audience measurement firm, Digg’s domestic traffic has dropped sharply in recent months, from 27.1 million unique users in April to 13.7 million in July. By contrast, Facebook had 145.2 million domestic users in June, according to comScore. While not giving specifics, Mr. Desai of Digg attributes the decline in domestic traffic to changes in Google’s search function that resulted in fewer Digg stories showing up in Google searches.

Yet a more pivotal reason that Digg is falling behind, analysts say, is that users are simply spending more time on Facebook and Twitter than they are on Digg. Instead of Digging, many social media users know that they can post a story they like on Twitter or Facebook.

When was the last time you saw a story page from Digg ranking? Now I think about it I’ve not seen one for months. In 2008 Digg used to outrank the original piece of content on quite a number of occasions even though the page added no value aside from a few dozen inane comments.

Some background in a 2009 post from Danny about social media sites. Google is quite right to do this but if Digg wants the traffic back they need to start trying to add some value to the pages rather than just keeping doing something that Google clearly sees no value in.

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Did Google give Digg a penalty?

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PostHeaderIcon Impact of malware on Google traffic

Some of you may have noticed that Blogstorm was subject to a malware hacking a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to everybody to contacted me to point the issue out – Google sent an automated email to alert me to the problem which is very proactive of them.

I’m just back from 2 weeks holiday so my involvement in fixing this was pretty much zero however it was a tough hack to track down and it took a few days to get the issue resolved.

As you can see from the chart below Google Organic traffic went from the average 1300/day mark down to around 10 visits per day. Pretty bad news when it happened for 5 days in a row.

Malware traffic

Getting malware is a nightmare, I have no idea how the average person without a team of developers would be able to fix things. We still don’t know what happened however it seems that the prototype.js file was the one modified.

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Impact of malware on Google traffic

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PostHeaderIcon Branded3 SEO team is hiring

Due to continued expansion Branded3 is on the lookout for somebody passionate about SEO to join our growing team based in Aberford, near Leeds. Working with some of the UK’s largest brands on cutting edge natural search campaigns this is a great opportunity.

I’m not going to put a full job description here but if you are interested please email patrick @

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Branded3 SEO team is hiring

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PostHeaderIcon The impact of brand & conversion rates on SEO

We’re very lucky here at Branded3 because a good percentage of our retained SEO clients are household brands. The fact we work with non-brands as well gives us a pretty good insight into the impact of “brand” on an SEO campaign and this post will hopefully convince a few people to start investing in brand campaigns again.

There are loads of reasons somebody might start a branding campaign and as long as you correctly track and monitor everything then each one is perfectly valid – as an SEO I’m mainly interested in two things:

  • Increased traffic
  • Increased conversion rate

Across our client base it’s very clear that brands have a much larger conversion rate than non-brands. They have more of the high-converting direct and branded search traffic but they also convert better from non-brand traffic too, purely because customers have heard of them and trust them a bit more. If you can replicate your campaign messages on the site with imagery and appropriate multi-variate testing then the results can be quite impressive.

Conversion rates are correlated somewhat with brand perception and the graphic below sums the theory up nicely. If you replace the words “reputation” and “stock” with “conversion rate” and “sales” then you get the idea.

So the main point of this post is to illustrate the difference that brand, and conversion rates, can make to an online business. Let’s look first at the example of 3 businesses wanting to invest in SEO at a price point of £4000 per month. The three businesses have conversion rates of 1%, 2% and 4%.

As you can see from the chart below, at this price point the 1% conversion rate business will break even on the SEO campaign in month 19, the 2% business in month 14 and the 4% business in month 8. The cumulative net profit difference between the 1% and 4% business after 24 months is nearly £600,000. If this business was to re-invest some of the profits in months 8-18 for example then the difference by month 24 could be even bigger.

We’ve based the chart on a number of assumptions such as average 20% month on month traffic growth and revenue starting at £500 for the 1% converting site, £1000 for the 2% site and £2000 for the 4% site.


One of the most exciting things about sites with higher conversion rates is the ability to monetise smaller keywords. If a brand with high conversion rates wants to target a low volume keyword they can probably make the SEO campaign profitable whereas a smaller site with lower conversion rate wouldn’t be able to manage that.


Investing in building your brand and improving conversion rates are perhaps the most important things you can do outside of SEO and PPC. Put them all together and you will be pretty unbeatable.

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The impact of brand & conversion rates on SEO

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PostHeaderIcon Advanced Web Ranking: the most accurate way to monitor rankings

Over the years we’ve tried dozens of ways to monitor rankings on the major search engines and none of them have ever been able to deliver accurate results, apart from Advanced Web Ranking.

I have very little patience with rank checkers that don’t show accurate rankings because there is no point in reporting on incorrect information. We used to have an in-house tool for monitoring rankings but Google managed to spot all the IP addresses and started to return strange results. We also tried Raven and a few other hosted systems but none of them showed the same rankings we could see in the office. We decided that rather than try to reinvent the wheel we would just move everything onto a server version of AWR.

Advanced Web Ranking

The server version is great for a number of reasons. The first is that the data is stored in one central point so everybody in the team has access to the same data when they use AWR on their laptops. The second is that you can schedule AWR to perform regular updates and because it’s on the server you don’t need to worry about leaving your PC on overnight just to ensure the software is running.

The most important thing for rank checking is the ability to see trends across competitors and a wide range of keywords. If you just want to check your rankings for a handful of keywords each week then you can quite easily do it manually but if you want to accurately see industry trends over a period of months or even years then AWR is the best way to do it.

I’m not going to review all the features here (you can see a full list of features here) but there are a few favourites:

  • Ability to track Google Local rankings
  • Scheduled updates & backups
  • Track competitors rankings
  • Multiple users with different rights
  • Emailable reports
  • WordTracker integration

As you can see from the version list the server edition is the most expensive but if don’t want the server edition then you can pick up the Pro edition for $199 which is a bargain.

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Advanced Web Ranking: the most accurate way to monitor rankings

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PostHeaderIcon No Links on Google Local Business Results

Google Local Business listings are a huge source of traffic for businesses lucky enough to have locations in lots of different towns. Unfortunately over the last few months Google has removed a lot of links from these listings and it’s costing people a lot of traffic.

Previously if there was only one business listed on the map then it used to link directly to the businesses website, now it just links to the “place page” which is of course full of AdWords ads. This is the same for verified and unverified listings.

Google Places

Add this to the fact that Google is rolling out sponsored listings within the Local Business Listings and it all starts to look like we might be seeing a big decline in the free traffic we are used to from the Local Business Listings.

Local sponsored listings

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No Links on Google Local Business Results

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PostHeaderIcon Learning from Google Webmaster Tools Caffeine data

Some of you may have noticed that your link counts in Google Webmaster Tools have increased somewhat recently, we are seeing amazing numbers up to 1000 times higher than previous figures.

The reason for this is very interesting, following the roll out of the new Caffeine infrastructure Google is able to spider sites far deeper than before and they are now reporting this increased activity in Webmaster Tools. You can see this by looking at your internal links – if you have 50,000 internal links to your homepage then it’s a fair assumption you have 10,000 pages on your site. This number is probably a lot higher than it was last month.

When you take into account the increase in internal links being reported it’s quite clear why Google is now reporting on a lot more external links too, especially when you think about sitewide links.

This number is here to stay according to Google:

Yes, we revamped the data behind the backlinks feature in Webmaster Tools — it has started using more data from “Caffeine” for some sites and is planned to continue with a bit more data in the next week or so. The goal is to have more fresher & up-to-date data there :-) .

Another very interesting piece of data we are seeing is that although Google is reporting a lot more pages within Webmaster Tools the number of pages indexed by the site: query on Google has dropped for quite a few sites we monitor. This drop appears to be the result of Google being better able to determine which pages are worth displaying in the index.

Our observations can be summed up as follows:

  • Google is spidering big sites a lot more than before – both in terms of volume of pages and frequency
  • Google is much better at deciding which pages are worth showing in the index
  • A lot of pages that are spidered are not being indexed if they are low value (see Mayday update)
  • Pages that previously were indexed but not ranking are now not indexed (but still being spidered)

Looking deeper

One of the main impacts this has had on SEO is that the way people audit websites is now pretty much invalid. In the past people would do a site: query on Google to look through all the indexed pages and find errors and problems from there. This is not accurate anymore because Google is not allowing low alue pages to get into the index as much.

We downloaded all our clients internal links (Google lets you have up to around 100MB) and found (using Excel) that there were quite a few rogue pages that were being spidered and counted as internal links but not indexed – these pages were wasting PageRank and diluting the impact of the good pages. We would never have spotted these pages by looking at indexed pages alone.

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Learning from Google Webmaster Tools Caffeine data

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PostHeaderIcon Where newspapers get traffic & how long are search queries?

For anybody interested in news sites the interactive graphic below is an interesting breakdown and shows just how powerful some of the social news sites are. The Drudge Report especially sends a huge amount of traffic as does the BBC at nearly 2m per month.

Interestingly the BBC has committed to increasing the traffic they send to other sites:

BBC Online will be transformed into a window on the web with, by 2012, an external link on every page and at least double the current rate of ‘click-throughs’ to external sites.

Adding links to content is a time consuming business so we’ve contacted the BBC with an offer for some of our SEO team to help placing these links but we have yet to hear back from them.

UK Newspaper Website Visitors
UK Newspaper Website Visitors

In other news, Chitika has found that the most common search phrase length is 3 keywords. This is not to be confused with long tail SEO which is about search volume rather than phrase length.

To determine the optimal word count, Chitika looked at a sample of 41,103,403 impressions of search traffic coming into their network between June 13th and 19th. Within the sample, 10,710,579 impressions – some 26% of all search traffic – came from three-word searches. The next top word counts were two-word (19%), four-word (17%), and finally one-word (14%). Any query beyond five words will see dramatically lower traffic, throwing into perspective just how fragmented traffic from long queries really is.

Keyphrase length

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Where newspapers get traffic & how long are search queries?

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