Can We Please Ban In-Text Advertising

In-Text-Advertising, the two double blue linesMy fellow bloggers, website owners and editors. I understand we all need to make a living and money is the key driver to more freedom to do what you want. But can we please drop In-Text Advertising as a way to make our living? It's a bad user experience, click throughs are very low on these annoying pop-ups, and you make peanuts on the clicks.

Kontera In-Text Advertising

Years ago I tried In-Text Advertising myself. I singed up with Kontera, one of the largest platform providing the in-text advertising to webmasters as a plug-and-play model. The only implementation is a small piece of javascript on your pages, which will match keywords in the text to keywords of their advertisers. The java script places a link on the keyword, with the double blue line as displayed in the screenshot at the right here.

From one side, as a user I can easily understand these double lined links are different than the normal links on the website. However, the double lines on these make my mouse hover over the links almost automatically. You know, I'm really easily distracted from anything, where a different patterns in the normally designed CSS of a website will draw my attention.

A mouse over will open up the pop-up for the advertisement, which slows down my ability to read the full article.

Kontera In-Text Advertising pop-up

Your Advertisement Pop-Up Distracted Me

Great, now you have me focussed on something completely different than the article I was reading. I will have to move my pointer to the little cross in the upper right corner, click your pop-up away, and try to find where I was in the article to continue reading. As a metter of fact, I probably will have to re-read the paragraph your ad was in, which annoys me. Most of the time, I will just leave the website, and forget what I was reading.

And most of the time, the ads are not even that relevant to the article I'm interested in. The fact you are able to research keywords and target these in an editorial context does not necessary make the advertisement relevant to what I'm doing at that exact moment. I can see that in a search environment, where I'm specifically type in a search query to look for information around those keywords. If an advertiser is prepared to pay for traffic around the keywords I'm typing in in my search for information, that's great. However, when I'm reading an article, I have a completely different objective: interest in the full article!

But it's Relevant Advertisement

Really...? Case in point, in the above screenshot of the Kontera In-Text advertisement pop-up I was reading the following article: Dutch Company Turns Google Street View Into A First Person Shooter. As the title speaks for itself, I'm not going to explain what the story actually was about. If you would like to read it, I suggest to click on the embedded link.

But what I would like to point out here is the question I raise how the advertisement for a Lexus car, Car Navigation equipment or the ad for a Samsung Smart Phone are relevant to the story of a Dutch advertising agency called Pool Worldwide has turned Google Maps into a first-person shooter. Seriously, as a marketeer I even question if I would allow my brand to be promoted next to a controversial projects like the one described in the article here. Next time a shooting happens which might be inspired by violent first person shooter games, there might be a backlash for the advertisers promoted next to any of these articles.

In-Text Advertising Slowing Down Your Site

Next to the annoying pop-ups which make up for a bad user experience, and the unrelated advertisement, there is a third dis-advantage for any website serving these In-Text advertisements; an external server call to match keywords in text with the keywords advertisers are buying. This external call will slow down the site, which will impact the user experience for both humans as also for robots. I have not done any testing of the impact of the total page download time. But this would be something to consider.

Ultimately, every webmaster, website owner or editor should decide by themselves how they would like to monetize their content, how they make a living and how to please their readers. For me, it would be better if the in-text advertisers would disappear altogether as I would finally be able to finish some of the articles I would like to read, instead of getting distracted all the time by a non-relevant pop-up!

Speaking at Evo Conference

Yesterday I spoke at the EVO conference in Park City. The conference is focused on the evolution of women in social media. I was invited to speak at the conference because of my SEO workshop I did last year for the eBay blogger ambassadors. Rachael Herrsher from Todaysmama.com is one of the people who started EVO, and was at eBay.

It was the first time I did such a long session on SEO. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk for hours, maybe even days about the subject, however, doing a workshop for 3 hours also meant I would need material to fill the time. Based on the opening night, I spent the whole morning prior to my workshop creating new slides. The opening Ignite speakers really  raised the bar, where I found myself short of great materials. Getting up at 5 am to put more together was hard, but I finalized a 130 page deck. (will later be added to this post!)

All the resources I used in the presentation can be found down here, for easy reference for the attendees and anybody else who is interested.

2 Most Important Aspects for SEO

  1. Discovery; If your content cannot be discovered or extracted by the search engine crawlers, you will not get any Search Engine Traffic.
  2. Relevancy; If your content is not relevant to the searchers users are looking for, your website will not rank high in the search engines.

Tactics to Improve SEO ranking aspects

Below you will find the screenshot of the framework I used in my presentation of the tactics how you can improve the SEO for your site. These make a nice acronym: LUMPS

  • Links; Internal and External Links
  • URL
  • Meta Tags; Page title & Meta Description
  • Page Content & Elements
  • Sitemaps

WordPress Plug-ins

  • SEO for WordPress by Yoast; WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview that helps you optimize your page titles, meta descriptions and keywords to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
  • SEO Smart Links; SEO Smart Links can automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog.
  • SEO Slugs;  SEO Slugs plugin strips common words like “what”, “you” or “can” out of your post slug to make it more search engine friendly
  • WordPress Redirect plugin; Redirection is a WordPress plugin to manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have. This is particularly useful if you are migrating pages from an old website, or are changing the directory of your WordPress installation.

Other WordPress plugins I use on my site, which were not featured in my presentation:

  • Dagon html sitemap generator; This plugin creates a sitemap for your WordPress powered site. This is not just another XML sitemap plugin, but rather a true sitemap generator which is highly customizable from its own options page in the WordPress admin panel. Here is my sitemap
  • Enhanced WordPress contact form; You can simply set up a contact form on your blog using this plugin.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress; Google Analytics for WordPress is the most complete Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. Of course, you could just copy the tracking code into your theme and be done with it, but then you'd miss a whole lot of features that this plugin has to offer you. All the extra data this plugin can add to your tracking is what makes Google Analytics for WordPress into the most powerful tracking tool you've ever seen.
  • Simple Taxonomies; This plugin allows you to add taxonomies just by giving them a name in the backend. It then creates the taxonomy for you, provides a widget you can use to display a "taxonomy cloud" or a list of all the stuff in there, and it allows you to show the taxonomy contents at the end of posts and excerpts as well.
  • WP-Cache; WP-Cache is an extremely efficient WordPress page caching system to make your site much faster and responsive. It works by caching Worpress pages and storing them in a static file for serving future requests directly from the file rather than loading and compiling the whole PHP code and then building the page from the database. WP-Cache allows to serve hundred of times more pages per second, and to reduce the response time from several tenths of seconds to less than a millisecond.
  • WordPress Compression; This plugin allows your WordPress blog to output pages compressed in gzip format if a browser supports compression.
  • Cache Images; Cache Images is a plugin that gives users option to sideload images that are hosted on other domains to their own site. Sideloaded images are added to WordPress media library so you can use all tools related to images that you can use with images uploaded through WordPress. Image will be added as an attachment of first post where it is found, and every post where original URL is occurring will be updated with new URL. User can select from which domains to sideload images, including Blogger's domains.
  • WP-DBmanager; Allows you to optimize database, repair database, backup database, restore database, delete backup database , drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up, optimizing and repairing of database.
  • Thesis OpenHook, if you are using Thesis as your theme, I can highly recommend the Thesis OpenHook plugin for extra functionality and flexibility
  • Genesis Simple Hooks, if you are using the Genesis framework as your theme, I can highly recommend this plugin for extra functionality and flexibility

Resources

Tools for researching the links on your website

Tools for Analytics, keyword research and free site metrics

Guidelines from the Search Engines

The highlights of the Google Webmaster Guidelines which were displayed in the slides are:

What To Do

•Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link
•Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content
•Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it
•Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate
•Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site
•Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server

What To Avoid

•Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users
Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank
•Avoid hidden text or hidden links
•Don't use cloaking or sneaky redirects
•Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords
•Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content
•Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value

Blog Posts featured in my presentation

Where you can find me

The slides are included below here:

Spam Comments – Do You See Comments About Pills

A couple of days ago, my buddy Hugo wrote about the comments spam on blog and how this works from a spammer perspective. Just days after this post, my inbox is overflowing with comments full with spammy links, trying to sell pills for any kind of disease. Even if you have no-follow tags on any link dropped in the comments, and Akismet is trying to prevent spammers writing comments on your blog, there are still automated comments placed left and right. Below you see 4 comments which were placed within the time-span of just 2 hours!

And these comments are not pretty, as you can see from the screenshot below. (click on the image for a larger picture)

Still, it's pretty easy to delete all these comments through the WordPress Admin panel.
spam comments deleted

Massive Tag cloud


“Want to see my massive tag could?” or “My tag cloud is bigger than yours!”

Imagine you overhear this comment from somebody. I just spotted the following tag cloud on a site which carries massive trust in the search engines based on early success. I guess if you have the domain trust on your side, you can try to push the envelope more.

I’m not saying this is going to be successful long term, it just spammy

How To Use Google Analytics to Look for 404-Errors on Your Site

Just recently I was slightly involved in the migration of a site. The migration was somewhat successful, although a lot of planning and check lists were lagging. Although I have not been involved in a lot of migrations of websites, I know what to look out for. Unfortunately I was only consulted in a late stage of the plan, and with my current responsibilities, I did not have more time to invest in the project. I guess the team had to learn it the hard way…

One new learning for myself is how to use Google Analytics Advanced segments to setup alerts for 404-error messages. The 404 ‘Page not found’ error message is the nightmare for any project lead in a site migration. The 404 means you did a particular bad job in making sure the user experience was not impacted by the migration.

So if you see something like this in your web analytics, it means you either fix the issue real fast, or start updating your resume:

Page not found 404 error #FAIL

And although it does not look that bad, only 2.6% of page impression throw in a 404 in this report, the details speak louder than words. The report above here is on a full 30 days time frame. If you isolate the days after the site migration, the error rate is on average a whooping 12%!!! WOW, talking about a bad user experience here!

Setting up Advanced Segments to track the 404 Page not Found error message

The Google Advanced segments can come in handy here to track on a daily basis how many page impressions resulted in a 404-error. This can help identifying the problem, alert you when something is going terribly wrong, and maybe most important: collect enough data and reports to hold everybody accountable for their responsibilities. Data doesn’t lie :)

In Google Analytics simply open up a new custom advanced segment to track specific pages with the title of the 404-error page you have set up on your site. This will allow you to track each functionality within Google Analytics against this specific segment. And it’s so easy to set up:

  1. Go to advanced segments
  2. Create a new segment
  3. Under Dimensions, open the Content drop down
  4. Drag Page Title to the box: dimension or metric
  5. Now type in the title of your 404-error page in the Value box
  6. Give the segment a name

image

In all the dashboards of the reports within Google Analytics you can simply choose the advanced segment as a reporting layer. In the image below you can see the standard dashboard with the traffic on the 404-error page reported as part of the total. The red –arrow and highlighted box points out where to select which advanced segment you can choose.

image

It’s fairly easy to screen which URL’s are throwing a 404 error if you know your way around in Google Analytics. Just select the Content by Title under the Content tab in the left navigation menu (Red box). Then select the 404-error page for a detailed report. The icon in front of every page which is being reported is the URL you would need to fix (here highlighted in the Orange Box).

image

These are all the URL’s on your site which throw a bad user experience for the people that try to access it. All these people will see the following message. And although their experience has already been ruined, just make sure you learn from your mistakes and fix the issues!

image

The possibilities are endless. You can slice and dice the date to see which referral sources have caused the 404-error. So if the referral is coming from a non-search engine, you even are able to harvest link juice which would have be gone forever if you didn’t fix the issue.

Or you can look for referral keywords which get a 404-error. I bet you will see high rankings on  these keywords. If you don’t take action, you will loose these rankings, and any potential traffic associated with it.

Hack It, Break It, but always Fix It

My Shared Links

As a part of my work and own development I read a lot of articles online. Per day I spend around 2 hours reading. Since I have no central place to store or keep the links which I’ve read, I started a My Shared Links section of this site, where I keep track of the most insightful, best or funny articles I’ve read.

A second reason I do this for, is to secure the link graph for the good content online. Due to the rise of social media sharing, Twitter or other ways of linking with no-follow links, the best content on the web suffers from lower number of links to these sites. A link is still an editorial vote for the efforts of the author.

As the Shared Links section is part of this site, I hope there will be some SEO value, or link juice flowing to these links. Keep the Internet alive, keep linking!

Humbling Lesson on My Own View of the World

Yesterday I highlighted the Info-graphic about the Pakistan flood. The Info-graphic was being used by a discount voucher affiliate website as a cheap way of getting more inbound links with their preferred keyword anchor tag. Although I was happy to call them out of heir shameless plug of the disaster in Pakistan, I blame myself of having an angle in my post which does not fully cover the load of this practice: The shameless marketing use of a disaster impacting millions of people in Pakistan

Instead, I highlighted the idea the use of an info-graphic in this story could be the end of info-graphics for link building. Shame on me for missing the deeper message which I intended to highlight! Andrew R H Girdwood is right when he wrote (bold pieces from me to highlight main message that made me think about my own post):

Are we horrified at this attempt at SEO?
Not quite. The title suggests the info-graphic is to blame!
The headline isn’t the attempt to profit off death. The headline isn’t the appalling unpleasant SEO approach on the back of human tragedy. No, the headline speculates on the end of the info-graphic.
Gah. I can see how this might have happened. Dennis had the info-graphic in mind as he started to write the post. He might have initially wondered why a voucher code site was writing about Pakistan at all. However, I feel, the dirt he’s dug up can be planted, fair and square, on the boots of the type of SEO that encourages the world to hate SEOs.

The comments I have seen on Twitter regarding this post better cover the load of what DiscountVouchers.co.uk is trying to do. Here are some of these comments, which obviously make much better titles for my original post:

@lyndoman: Its shameful that marketers are using the Pakistan flood to line their pockets http://twurl.nl/6ji6lc << via @wiep

@neyne a really important post by @TheNextCorner. stop using disasters for linkbuilding http://bit.ly/dmoeDh

@bitbang_search Pakistan Floodbait used to gain Links with infographic: the horrible and unethical case of DiscountVouchers.co.uk http://is.gd/eAHI4

@copestoneTeam Shameless use of the Pakistan flood disaster for search engine marketing campaign: http://bit.ly/dmoeDh via @jennysimpson #badmarketing

@stuartpt Pretty poor behaviour: http://thenextcorner.net/pakistan-floodbait-end-infographic/

@rmsimons Soulless, money-hungy, egoistic vultures. Bah. | RT @jodykoehler 'Pakistan Floodbait: The End of The Info-Graphic' http://bit.ly/dmoeDh

@robgreenseo FYI, you can contact the site that used a Pakistan Flood infographic for linkbait at @DiscVisc and press@discountvouchers.co.uk

From these reactions, it’s clear to me the majority of people who make the connection between discountvouchers.co.uk and the Pakistan floods are totally appalled from the marketing practice this company is using. Trying to get an extra push in the search engines, while even no-following the link to the charity website.

I updated the title of my original post to better cover the impact of what we see here: some marketeers don’t care on how they get traffic or customers, as long as there is growth and lot’s of them. 

It was a humbling lesson on my own view of the world. While writing the post, I was only thinking on how this company could do this. After finishing the whole post, I tried to think about a good headline which would cover the full load. With my SEO head on the full day, and still having a couple of emails open I’ve been working on, while browsing the Internet, I created the original title: Pakistan Floodbait: The End of The Info-Graphic. This title was pretty SEO related, which I know have changed into: Shameful use of Pakistan Flood Disaster to Gain SEO Links and Traffic

Universal Image Search Impact

For the last year the traffic on my Dutch San Francisco site suffered from the backlash of Universal Image search. Images of San Francisco outranked my homepage on the KW San Francisco. My listing was pushed down around end of April last year, and as you can see in the graph below, on San Francisco, I dropped in traffic.

Universal Image Search Impact

But since recently, traffic is returning. Today was the first time I checked on the actual rankings, and what you think… my site is above the images again! Hooray!

image

Happily Surprised

Sometimes you get a happy surprise. Something good happens which you did not expected. I just had such a moment after I placed a comment on a blog of one of the Mom Bloggers that visited our offices a couple of months ago, Stacey of Tree Root and Twig. It was the first time I commented on her blog, and the thank you page speaks for itself:

thank-you-page-treerootandtwig

It really made me feel special I posted a simple comment, and inspired to work on a better blog myself.

Thank you Stacey!

Huffingtonpost Ripping off Infographic

They can steal your content…

But they can never steal your creativity

Yesterday I got a nice Infographic forwarded. This Infographic was about eBay, and showed the 14 years of eBay. The Infographic was posted on the well known Huffingtonpost. (link). Here is the Infographic:

Online University
Via: Online University

The interesting thing in the post from the Huffingtonpost was the fact they made the infographic available for publication on your own site, through displaying a sniplet of html code you can use:

image

However, instead of using the code the original creators of the infographic, which is available at Online University, The Huffingtonpost placed their own link in the sniplet of the code to link to their own site. However, they kept the image location pointing at the location on the Online University server, not to eat up their own bandwidth.

This is so wrong from The Huffingtonpost. They have the larger audience, and will pick up so many free links from the fact the infographic will get displayed on multiple websites, while not spending any on the creativity nor the design of the infographic. One simple remedy to solve this is to swap the image on the Online University server with a different one, which would have the effect all the websites displaying the infographic would show something else. However, pulling a Goatse.cx on your own users is probably not something Online University would like to burn their hands on.

My respect for The huffingtonpost was already lowered after they republished a full article from bloggers without any permission to do so. Now ripping off infographics to republish, and submit to DIGG is a new form of traffic growth for The Huffingtonpost.

They can steal your content…

But they can never steal your creativity