How to check your position (or ranking) on Google

This sounds fairly straight forward, but not only do most business owners make the mistake of pulling out the wrong ranking, but so do many beginner SEO’s, web developers and designers. Please read all of this article, the good stuff is towards the end!

Avoiding Personalisation

It’s a bit more complicated than it may seem. The problem is that Google personalises the results for you, whether you are logged in or not. So to get round the personalisation, you need to use a “cookieless” browser. Rather then clearing your history I suggest you use Google Chrome “Incognito mode” to rank check manually in Google.

What if it’s not in the top 100?

The next problem you have is that rank checking is a pain in the backside if you are on page 46 – I’m guessing you don’t fancy going through 46 pages to find that you are rank 456. So here is another little trick. Disable Google Instant and do another search then add “&num=100″ to the URL at the end or alternatively do an advanced search with 100 results. Then you can use the CONTROL+F keyboard shortcut to find your domain name on the page. This won’t show the correct ranking yet, you’ll have to work out roughly where it is and then go back to searching by 10 results per page to find it, but at least you’ll know roughly where what page it is and it will save you a bit of time.

Well, what a pain all that is, isn’t there an easier way?

There is an easier way – three in fact. Option 1 is using Google, option 2 is using Advanced Web Ranking and option 3 is using Raven Tools.

Option 1: Google Webmasters Tools

If you register your website with Google Webmasters Tools you can use Google’s built-in facility for finding out what keywords you are getting impressions for on Google. Here’s a screenshot:

If, however, you are #100 and aren’t getting any impressions you won’t find the keyword ranking on here. Also, it only shows the average ranking, taking into account language settings, location and personalisation – so this isn’t the most accurate of indications.

Option 2: Advanced Web Ranking (Starts at £61.50 / $99 per year)

The best way to rank check (apart from hiring a developer to write and maintain an online system, which is pricey) is to use Advanced Web Ranking (affiliate link). Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

AWR was first recommended to me two years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s great because you can keep a history of your rankings and you can rank check your competitors. The basic package is reasonable at £61.50 – it will save you hours of time, it lasts you a year and it’s the one major purchase I view as a necessity when carrying out SEO for websites.

< h2>Option 3: Raven Tools (Starts at $19 per month)

I’ll level with you, I’ve not used Raven Tools much (I’ve trialled it twice – I don’t like paying out monthly fees), but if you prefer an online solution rather than downloading the software to your computer, then Raven Tools (affiliate link) is a better option than Advanced Web Ranking. The $19 per month version only tracks up to 100 keywords, where as with Advanced Web Ranking, theoretically, there is no limit (obviously if you track the whole dictionary it may take years). But it does come with a few other features which you may find handy. They have a 30 day free trial, so you can check it out for yourself and if it’s not right for you, you can cancel!

Option 3: Authority Labs

Authority Labs has a free version as well as a cheaper alternative, to find out more check out my blog post on Authority Labs.

4 Easy Link Building Strategies

Link building is probably the hardest part of promoting your website, what people don’t realise is that there isn’t an easy, quick way to get good links. Link building is hard, it’s very hard (unless you buy links, in which case your setting yourself up for a whole World of pain if you get caught by Google). I’ve picked up one or two really good strategies working in the industry for the past few years, here are some of the easy ones:

1. Ask Your Friends/Family

This is the easiest one to do, and guess what? It’s often the best, you can get some amazing links. Most of my friends and family get a link from me, so if you have a friend who likes playing with websites (and most of us do) ask them for a link!

2. Ask Your Suppliers

Hell, you’re buying their stuff you may aswell get a link out of it! Offer a testimonial they can put on their website in return, then you can get a link underneath the testimonial – this is a very good technique.

3. Ask Your Customers

This is a great way to get links, especially if you are offering a value added service or a premium product. For example if you sell high quality meat to restaurants, get yourself a really snazzy looking banner that your customers can put on their website – kind of like a stamp of approval. The idea is that your customers (in this case the restaurant) will get the benefit of being able to show off their quality, probably improving response rates – whilst you get a link out of it! Ok so you have to put a bit of work into this, but it’s worth doing – even if you just use your logo with a bit of text.

4. Blog Commenting

This is very hard to do right, mainly because 99% of people come across as spammers. The trick is to actually read the article you are going to comment on. Also many comments don’t pass any value because of a tag called “nofollow” – but that doesn’t mean the comment isn’t useful – on some articles they get so much traffic that you’ll get referral traffic from people clicking on the link. It’s worth going through a particular search on Google and commenting on all the articles with useful comments.

Another reason for you to have a blog, as you can write an article which is related to what other people are talking about and then comment saying something like “I [agree/disaagree] with what you are saying I think [opinion]. You can read more about what I’m saying here: [URL]”. That should usually get accepted. It builds links, it gives traffic and it starts valuable relationships with bloggers, so give it a try.

Duplicate Content, The Ultimate Guide

Not ranking high in Google? Chances are its duplicate content…
SEO Moz - SEO tools to help you rank higher
Contrary to what most people think, I think the most common cause of websites not ranking is duplicate content. Nearly every single website I ever have to do SEO for has some kind of duplicate content problem. It is so common that nearly all SEO’s have difficulties with it sometime, whether it is missing something such as a duplicated website on a development server, or the client copy and pasting text. I should also admit, I come up against this problem nearly every time and sometimes I do miss it, I’ve yet to find a super tool for detecting duplicate content – if anyone knows of one, then please let me know in the comments.

Removing duplicate content is so important as the effect can be huge, I see countless web pages being link built to all the time, but remaining stuck on page 3 or 4 – many people think that if they just get more links it will go up, but this usually isn’t the case.

The Most Common Causes Of Duplicate Content

This isn’t a complete list, I’ll no doubt add to it as time goes on, if you think of any other examples then please add them in the comments.

1. www vs non-www

Probably the most common problem is websites resolving with and without the “www” at the start. For example www.david-whitehouse.org and david-whitehouse.org showing the same website – this would likely cause a duplicate content problem. Instead one should 301 redirect to the other.

2. Multiple TLD’s

Another common cause is the two TLD’s showing the same website, for example www.duplicatecontent.com and www.duplicatecontent.co.uk – instead one should 301 redirect to the other, this problem can be made even worse when combined with the “www” problem above.

3. Multiple Domain Names

Two separate domains both showing the same website, a great example of this would be www.theolddeanery.co.uk and www.theoldeanery.co.uk, if both websites show the same website then you have problems, again this can be made worse combined with the “www” problem above. Instead one domain should be chosen and all other domains should 301 redirect to that one.

4. Copy and Pasting

Copy and pasting – this is a real bug bear of mine, and it is hard to track down. One of the biggest reasons you should be careful when outsourcing content writing. If someone copies a phrase around 8 words long or more from another website and puts it on your website, you’re going to get penalised. If you copy content that isn’t part of the template design from one part of your website to another, again you are going to get penalised. Don’t copy and paste anything, always write stuff from scratch.

5. Copy and Pasting… and Rewriting!

Copy and pasting, but rewriting – Ah yes, you thought you could get round the duplicate content problem by copy and pasting what someone else put and then re-writing it. Genius. Google can determine synonyms, so if you have the exact same sentence structure but with synonyms replaced, guess what. That’s right, duplicate content penalty. As I said above, don’t copy and paste anything, write everything from scratch, no rewriting.

6. Poor Categorisation By Software

This is quite comment, an example is on WordPress, by default the blog posts you write are displayed on the blog’s front page, the category page, the tag page the archive page and the blog post itself! This naturally causes problems, the best solution for this is to follow Yoast’s WordPress SEO guide.
Another example is on Magento, I created a website in Magento last year for a friend of mine, the problem arose when I noticed that an identical category could be displayed under a number of different URLS. Look at these two (Philips 4300k bulb, duplicate) for example. It has the REL canonical tag, but I’m not sure if this solves the problem – I’ve made recommendations to get this adjusted.

7. Poorly Implemented Search Engine Friendly URLs

Sometimes you get websites that implement search engine friendly URLs, but they do it so you can access the same page with multiple URLs. The problem with this is that you can end up changing the search engine friendly part to anything, as long as you keep part of it the same – this naturally causes a duplicate content problem. Instead you should include a default URL for each ID and if it’s not the correct one then it should 301 redirect to the original.

Incorrect Implementation
Original: http://www.electricfirestore.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/TheElectricFireStore/_WALLMO002/369091
Modified: http://www.electricfirestore.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/TheElectricFireStore/_WALLMO002/anyoldrubbish

See the difference in the URLs?

Correct Implementation
Original: http://www.wineguppy.com/rcroft-crystal-wine-decanter-s/64.htm
Modified: http://www.wineguppy.com/anyoldrubbish/64.htm

I still wouldn’t recommend setting up search engine friendly URLs this way, but if you have to this is the correct way of doing it. As you can see, this method allows manipulation of the URLs but redirects to the correct one.

8. Development / Staging Servers

Development servers – often when your website is built there is a development server that can also be seen by the public, this is a common case of duplicate content. Instead the server should only be accessible via certain IP addresses or should be password protected to prevent this problem or you can disallow all robots access by using this piece of code in the robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

9. Scraping & Feed Syndication

If you have a blog and it has an RSS feed, often people can take that and use it to populate a website, creating duplicate content. This can really cause problems. One way round this is by only showing a partial feed or perhaps having a footer on each post with a link back to your site in the RSS feed. A great WordPress plugin for this is called RSS Footer (again by Yoast).

How To Prevent Duplicate Content

1. 301 Redirects

Got one page accessible from two URLs? Simply redirect one of the URL’s by adding a 301 redirect, usually done by adding it to your .htaccess file (if you’re using Apache).

Here is the syntax for redirecting http://www.example.com/duplicate-page to http://www.example.com/original-page:

redirect 301 /duplicate-page http://www.example.com/original-page

Or for the more advanced user, you can do a .htaccess redirect with a regular expression (usually for moving your blog about).

2. REL Canonical Tag

Realistically all pages should have a REL canonical tag on, the best place to learn about this is the Google help topic itself

Basically its a way of saying that this page isn’t the original and pointing to where the original is – it helps prevent some duplicate content problems, particularly in situations where you can’t 301 redirect something.

Example

Tag On http://www.example.com/original-page

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/original-page”/>

Tag On http://www.example.com/duplicate-page

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/original-page”/>

As you can see this would ensure Google knows that the duplicate page is actually the same as the original page and so it should not be considered as duplicate content.

Listen to this video by Matt Cutts to get a better understanding of how it works:

3. Robots Noindex Tag

Basically this is a way of telling Google not to index the current page. You can tell Google to do this in two ways.

A) Robots.txt
For example, if you don’t want Google to index your duplicate page, you would put the following in your robots.txt if you duplicate page is located at www.example.com/duplicate-page:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /duplicate-page

B) Meta Robots Meta Tag

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

This should go in between the <head></head> tags on the relevant page.

4. Unique Content

I shouldn’t really need to spell this out for you, don’t copy anything! Two things you can use to identify duplicate content, first one is Google itself, simply by copy and pasting a small sentence and seeing how many results come up. The other way is by using Copyscape (I typically use Google, I’m not sure how much you can rely on Copyscape, so do so at your own risk)!

5. Choose A Half Decent Platform

To be honest this is easier said than done, otherwise duplicate content wouldn’t be such a major issue for a lot of websites. A lot of these problems can’t be fixed on many software packages, or if they can be fixed it is normally a big pain in the ass, Magento springs to mind in particular. But it isn’t just the open source free ecommerce packages that are bad, lots of blog software is and also a lot of smaller web development companies that sell an ecommerce package out of the box also cause duplicate content. This is why the problem is so widespread and why so many websites suffer from duplicate content penalties.

Well I hope you found this guide useful, if I’ve missed anything or you want to add suggestions please be sure to a comment, also if you find some good examples of content please feel free to add them here.

11 Ways To Take Advantage Of Personalised Search

I did a post on personalised search on David Naylor’s blog some time ago, but sadly it didn’t seem to get much of a reception (I think thats because when the title is a bit confusing “search david naylor online”). I still think it is something many SEO’s are probably neglecting, so I thought it was worth brainstorming a few more ideas on how to take advantage of it. I’ve not test or tried all of these, but I have had people thinking I’m ranking better than I am in the past.

1. Build your brand – by building a brand your visitors are more likely to remember you and re-visit your website by typing in the brand name. This is one of the reasons why generic keyword domains are probably going to lose some of their competitiveness over the coming years.

2. Make sure you rank number one for your brand name.

3. If you do rank number one for your brand name, don’t put your web address on business stationery – let people find it through Google.

4. If you do a TV/radio advertisement/display ad/print ad encourage people to search a key phrase online to track the campaign, but make sure you rank number 1 (and number 2 if possible) for it and you have a few anchor text links going into it before hand.

5. If you successfully identify your demographic try targeting high volume keywords they might type in. A good example of this is Becky Naylor, who is getting thousands of visits per day for when do the clocks go back 2010 (probably of every demographic)!

6. Try and rank for related keywords that may preceed the buying process for your potential customer, so with SEO instead of perhaps pushing for UK SEO, for example, instead you go for keywords such as What is SEO? or promoting a website.

7. Use business cards with a special keyword to search with a password to a page created just for those people you meet personally – perhaps provide something free. Don’t put your web address (or even any contact details?) – this creates intrigue and ensures that they are opted in to seeing your results more in the SERPs.

8. A method used by Aim Clear was to create ebooks/guides including links to search engine results on Google that they ranked #1 for.

9. Obviously you want to encourage people to bookmark your website, you can do so by using the following Google Bookmark.

10. If you are a local business, it is worth talking about local landmarks and events, if people happen to click on your listing and read about it they are more likely to use you in future. My friend Rory at work has a few of these type of posts, including Ripon Train Station

11. Don’t PPC your brand name – if you do this people are likely to click on the paid ads, this means you don’t get to personalise their search results. Besides, if you don’t PPC your brand name you will save money – sure you may have the competitors PPCing it, but you’re competitors are always a click away anyway.

Ranking for your name vanity or sanity?

My colleague, James Slater, and I were debating over whether trying to rank for your name is a necessity or if it is purely vanity. Dave Naylor has previously told me trying to rank for my name is vanity, but I distinctly remember him looking to see if I ranked for my own name in Google when I came to Bronco and asked for a job! Plus I know full well that Dave’s name is a distinctive brand – well known in the SEO World.

I’m currently #2 for David Whitehouse, and I desperately want the #1 slot – in my opinion Google shouldn’t ever give that to me unless I become more famous than the other David Whitehouse, but I reckon if I keep on getting linked to from the SEO community I am bound to secure it.

Damn that guy above me

Damn that guy above me

In my opinion, in the SEO community, if you are applying for a job as an SEO and you don’t rank #1 for your name, then that looks pretty bad on your part, surely?

So have any of you been guilty of trying to rank for your name? Who ranks #1 for their name?

How to use nofollows correctly

Ok so today I read an article by Aaron Wall about nofollows being largely a waste of time, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about until I scrolled down on my RSS reader to find Matt Cutts had already blogged about this.

Basically, in a nutshell – no follows don’t pass page rank, but they do reduce the amount of page rank passed on by other links.

So for example, if you have a PR 10 site and 10 outgoing links, 9 of which are nofollowed, only 1 will actually pass any link juice. In this situation you might expect it to pass all 10 (minus a dampening factor), but it doesn’t it only passes 1.

So here is my advice on how to use nofollows correctly and what action you should take:

  1. Ensure you are “dofollowing” all internal links – otherwise you are just shooting yourself in the foot – don’t page rank sculpt, you are just reducing the amount of juice that stays on your site.
  2. Reduce the overall amount of outgoing links you have on your site, these might include social tagging links
  3. Dofollow all your external links, unless you see them as a direct competitor or you deem it a “bad neighbourhood”
  4. Dofollow Nofollow links from commenters – you may get a little spam, but if you keep on top of the moderation it should be fine you will be spammed!.

So far I’ve dofollowed all my internal links (that I have noticed) and removed any nofollow external links completely. I’ve also removed my social networking links on each post which were detracting the link juice through my site significantly.

On a final note, I’ve dofollowed nofollowed my blog comments – I want to encourage people to use my blog – perhaps it’ll but I don’t want to get it covered in spam (I hope not) – so feel free to comment on this post!

The plugin for WordPress I used to use to dofollow my comments is called NoFollow Free in case anyone is interested (by the way the link is dofollowed).