Tag Archives: SEO


LEARN INBOUND: Getting the BIG Links – using creative campaigns to win in SEO

LISA-MYERS-LEARN-INBOUND2Last week I was presenting at the Learn Inbound conference in Dublin, Ireland – needless to say, it was great craik!

Learn Inbound is a relatively new quarterly event which launched in January 2015, and is proving to be hugely popular. The fact that it’s held in the evening makes it much more accessible than some of the bigger full-day conferences. I was in great company, with the likes of Ben Norman, CEO and Founder of Koozai, and the wonderful Stacey MacNaught of Tecmark, who is also a fellow Woman in Search. Plus, Dublin makes for a perfect place for us SEO-geeks to convene, network, eat, drink and talk Search and Content Marketing.

My session on ‘Getting the BIG Links – using creative campaigns to win in SEO’, was the last of the evening. Here’s my presentation from the event:

The conference finished with a session where all speakers were invited back to the for a Q&A, followed by more networking. By the end of the evening several things became clear to me :


  1. Even after a few Guinness’, SEO’s are so passionate about their craft. I feel privileged to be a part of a community which is so open when it comes to asking questions and sharing ideas.
  2. SEO isn’t the male dominated arena it once was. It was refreshing to be on an agenda where two-thirds of the speakers were women (ok, there were only three of us, but still, this is progress!). Similarly, looking out into the audience, and reading some of the #LearnInbound tweets, it was fantastic to see to many women in search adding value and insight to the conversations.
  3. Learn Inbound is likely to become one of my favourite conferences. There is a real buzz about the event before, during and after. It’s well organised and the quality of the content means everyone leaves with actionable advice and practical tools to take back to work.
  4. The Irish loves a Yoda impression.

The next Learn Inbound event is on 21st October, and is set to be the biggest yet, with some truly awesome speakers including: Gianluca Fiorelli, Bas van den Beld, Will Reynolds and Rand Linkwalker (ehm I mean Fishkin).

You can watch the presentation here.

Here are some of my favourite pictures and tweets from the evening:





Everything really IS awesome!

Do you ever have one of those days where you go online and everything just seems so downbeat? It can be a faceless world where anyone and everyone can broadcast their opinion, whether it’s positive or negative, without any concern for the impact their words have on others. To be quite frank, we’ve had enough of it…

iggy-britney-spears-everything-is-awesomeHere at Verve HQ, we believe a happy team is a more productive team, so we wanted to do something to make the web a more awesome place to search and surf. Inspired by the song ‘Everything Is Awesome’ from the Lego movie, we built a browser plug-in for Google Chrome which trades swear words and profanities for the word ‘awesome’ – written in rainbow letters. Obviously.

We love working on small side-projects whenever we have the time; they help test our capabilities and allow our creative juices to flow in all kinds of awesome directions. Besides, we’re all huge fans of Lego…come to our offices if you don’t believe us, you’ll find piles of colourful bricks and creative constructions. Having said that, we’ve actually had to put a ban on the humming of the ‘Everything Is Awesome’ tune – it’s just too addictive.

https://www.vervesearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/everything-is-awesome-kate-moss.pngSo far, this little gem of a plug-in has gained us some truly awesome coverage from publications including Mashable, The Huffington Post, and The Express, amongst others. We were also delighted to see that Apple Marketing legend, Guy Kawasaki, is a fan!

This free plug-in was designed with you in mind. We hope once you’ve downloaded it you’ll find the internet to be a happier, much more awesome place to browse.





Verve Shortlisted at The Drum Search Awards

Drum_Search-Awards_FINALISTSWe are thrilled to announce that Verve Search received a special commendation and two additional nominations at this year’s The Drum Search Awards, including the highly prestigious Performance Agency of the Year award.

‘Idioms of the World’, a global campaign that we created for our client, HotelClub, received a special Commendation Award in the Best Use of Content (SEO) category. The same campaign also received a nomination in the Best Use of PR (SEO) category.

So far 2015 has proven to be a great year for the Verve team, with several awards under our belt already. Earlier this year, at the European Search Awards we were awarded top prize in three categories including;

  • Best SEO Agency
  • Best Use of Content (HotelClub)
  • Best Pan European Campaign for International SEO (Expedia)

We hope to have more good news to share with you over the summer!

Commendation: Best Use of Content Marketing for Idioms of the World with HotelClub

Did you know that in Russia they say ‘to travel like a hair’ to mean travelling without a ticket and, in Poland, they say ‘not my monkey, not my circus’ to mean ‘not my problem’? In this campaign, we illustrated some of the most amazing idioms from around the world – bringing to life the eccentricities of cultures globally. Working with a V&A featured artist and involving journalists in the creation of the piece, this campaign targeted huge, global coverage from the start.

Idioms of the world

It launched with a bang on Mashable and then soon went on to be covered by the likes of Buzzfeed, AOL and MSN. By the time it hit the front page of Reddit (and was viewed over 600k times in a matter of days) prominent offline coverage by the likes of the Observer were only days away. By the end of the campaign, Idioms of the World, received over 300 linking root domains, was viewed more than 2.2million times and generated over 170k social signals. Read full case study here.

How to Increase the PageRank of Your Google+ Profile

 We all know that we should be building our Google+ network but, like a trip to the dentist, most of us just haven’t got around to doing it yet. Increasing our author rank by implementing the rel=author tag is simple enough – but have you ever thought about your PageRank? That’s right; every Google+ profile – including yours – has its own PageRank, indexed separately as if it was a website.


Here is your opportunity to directly influence the search results of every person across your extended network and – more importantly – your chance to influence those that aren’t even on Google+.


Why is that so important?

This means that content, shares and links across a person’s Google+ profile that they’ve worked hard to be ranked as, say, a PR5 will have search authority over content on a profile that is ranked lower. It’s essentially another way for Google to rank your content, based on your authority as an author and based on the authority of those sharing your content, in one big, happy, authority-building circle. And it’s not just Google+ profiles; it also encompasses Google+ pages and yep, Google+ communities, all individually ranked.

So, as you build the authority of your profile and therefore your ranking position, your content can potentially be seen by anyone, even if they aren’t in your network or even on Google+ at all.


Where can we see it?

PageRank – the score by which Google ranks the authority of pages in the SERPS from 1 to 10 (I’m sure you knew that, but still…) has been rumoured to be in use on Google+ profiles for a while. However, it’s only just beginning to come to light – mainly thanks to the slow-to-be-updated nature of PageRanking. Just like a regular website, most new or sporadically used Google+ profiles will probably have a rank of 0 or even N/A, but now, using a website such as prchecker.net, you’d be able to discover profiles out there with much higher rankings. If you need to see it to believe it, Mark Traphagen – the inspiration behind this article – is ranked as a PR5, with his own examples of Justin Cutroni and Brian Gardner both ranking at an inspiring PR6.

To check yours out, simply remove the ‘/posts’ at the end of your URL, as well as the ‘/u/0/’ from the middle. For example, mine is https://plus.google.com/116924445784293921784/ and currently ranks at an impressive N/A (perhaps I should start to follow my own advice).

But how do you go about building the ranking of your Google+ profile?’ you may be wondering. Well, as did I, and so – with a little research and a lot of coffee – here’s what I found out…


1.       It’s not a numbers game

You might think that the first place to begin is to start maniacally adding other users to your profile circles. If only it was this easy! Alas, just like other social platforms and, well, the rest of the internet, it’s all about the social interaction. Sharing and commenting on other people’s content is a great way to begin to make a name for yourself and build your own hype, going way beyond half-heartedly adding them as a friend. Of course, on a very simple level, it’s still true to say that the more followers you have; the more likely it is that one of them will interact with your posts. It just might take longer.


2.       It’s not enough to follow the cool kids

It’s a similar story here, folks. Adding the highest ranked and most powerful Google+ers to your circles won’t do much for your own authority; you need to talk to them too. Again, by interacting and building relationships with the biggest players, you should be sharing others content, commenting on or +1ing their content and generally being as natural and genuine as possible – just as you would in real-life networking. And hey, do it well and they might even start to share your content without you bribing them (we don’t condone bribing).


3.       Content is still king!

You probably know this part by heart, but it’s always worth reiterating: good quality content is where it all begins! In the eyes of both search engines and other users, creating appealing, shareable content is crucial for all aspects of SEO. With regards to Google+, regularly updating your profile with interesting posts, images and videos are vital to building your authority and interacting with your target audience. It’s pretty straightforward: your content has to be good enough for others to want to share it.


So there you have it: make some great friends and create some great content and soon your PageRank will be flying up the charts.

Be careful when linking on Google+ because some links will be nofollow. To make sure that they’re dofollow, they need to be part of a rich text snippet. Instead of copying and pasting the URL, you need to click on the ‘add link’ icon and actually paste the URL into the field provided.

The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Website Development

Mobile Devices

Inspired by Search London Meetup on recommendations for smartphone sites, I decided to put a post together to clear up any doubts or myths regarding Mobile Website Development and it’s impact on SEO.

At this point, everybody should already know how important it is to develop a mobile website, and how much more important mobile optimisation will become in the immediate future.

So, let’s dig in!

Google and the top search engines currently support three different configurations to target mobile traffic:

  1. Responsive web design for mobile devices: one URL to serve the same HTML to both mobile and desktop devices but using CSS to alter the page rendering according to the device.
  2. Dynamic serving sites: one URL that serves different HTML and CSS depending on the user agent.
  3. Separate mobile URLs: every desktop URL would have an equivalent mobile-optimised URL; for example, www.example.com and m.example.com.

Myth Busting Alert: if you want to use a mobile URL, you don’t have to use a m. subdomain. If it suits you best, you could use any subdomain, subfolder (example.com/mobi) or TLD (example.mobi) you want.

Despite Google’s recommendation for responsive design, each of the above configurations have pros and cons, and need to take into account costs and gains.

1.    Responsive Design Websites

Responsive web design uses CSS3 media queries to look at the capability of the device and re-architect the content. Amongst the others, you can use the screen’s width and height, resolution or orientation.

A CSS3 media query Google recommends is:

CSS3 Media Width Query

In-between the curly brackets goes the alternate CSS for small width devices like iPhones. This section should be at the bottom of your CSS, so that it overwrites any rules set earlier for desktop browsers.

Setting the max width at 640px, the orientation of the device doesn’t affect the style. In fact in portrait mode, iPhones have a pixel width of 480px, 640px in the landscape. Hint: these pixels do not correspond to the actual pixel density of the device, but to CSS pixels.

If you want to go more granular, you can also set min-width and max-width intervals, so that you target different devices accordingly.

In order for Google to detect responsive web design, its bots (Googlebot and Googlebot Mobile) should be allowed to crawl a website’s CSS, Javascript and images. So, please do NOT disallow the bots in the robots.txt file!

Rearranging content according to the screen size is amazing, but what if your pages had sidebars? That would make pages far too long! Don’t worry: you can use display: none for the HTML block that needs to be hidden. And this IS NOT cloaking.

Responsive Web Design Example

For more info, have a look at this amazing resource for responsive design.

Responsive design normally requires a certain level of technical knowledge, unless you go for the quick solution. If you are running a website on WordPress, you may want to use WP Touch, a free plugin that serves a very simplified mobile theme to smartphones. It does the job pretty well but it’s very standardised, so I would only recommend it for blogs with a small readership.


  • A single URL is better for the users, as it’s easier to share and interact with
  • No need to redirect users using user agents, therefore less margin for mistakes
  • The bots need to crawl the pages only once, and not for each user agent. This saves crawling resources, helping them index a website more efficiently and more often


  • Less differentiation of mobile content
  • It may take more time and technical resources to be implemented than other configurations. And time is money!

Myth Busting Alert: even though this is Google’s recommended configuration, choosing one of the alternatives will not hurt your rankings in any way!

2.    Dynamic Serving Websites

In this scenario, user agent detection is used to serve different CSS and HTML according to the user agents that are requesting them; the desktop version is the default. The server uses user agents to do this.

Keep in mind that user-agent detection could lead to mistakes, as the list of smartphone user-agent strings to be matched needs to be updated as soon as a new smartphone model is on the market. This is often not possible and the list is doomed to become stale very soon. And it’s often difficult to find out what the user-agent string is for a new mobile, at least until it becomes popular. And by that time you may have already lost precious traffic.

When serving different HTML to smartphone users, a hint should be sent to search engines to help them understand that there’s ALSO hidden mobile content.

This hint is given at the server level, by using the Vary HTTP header.

Vary HTTP Header


  • There’s only one URL
  • No need for redirection


  • Bots need to crawl pages with different user agents
  • User agent redirection is prone to mistakes

3.    Mobile URLs

Using this method, each desktop URL has an equivalent URL serving mobile-optimised content. Once again, user agent detection is employed to redirect mobile users landing on the desktop version.

Each page’s desktop version should have a rel=”alternate” tag pointing at the mobile version in the <head> section. This would help search engine bots understand that there is a mobile version and crawl it. Check the example below:

Rel=alternate Tag

On the mobile version, there should instead be a good old canonical tag pointing at the desktop version. That would make Google and the other bots understand that those two pages are just two versions of the same page, and should be considered as one entity.

Rel=canonical Tag

Whether the rel=canonical has to be in the HTML of the mobile page, rel=alternate on the desktop pages can also be done at the sitemap level. See below:


Myth Busting Alert: if the rel=canonical is implemented, having two separate URLs doesn’t cause any link dilution and hurt rankings. 

So, how you redirects users to the mobile URLs? There are two ways:

  1. HTTP Redirection, based on the device’s user-agent in the HTTP headers
  2. JavaScript Redirection, which is slower as the device has to execute the script before redirecting to the mobile URL, and some (smart)phones don’t support it

Remember to always provide a link to the alternative version; just in case the version served wasn’t the one the user wanted.


If you want to go down this route, you may make your life easier by using the JS-Redirection-Mobile-Site library. In order to get it, you only need to download the “redirection-mobile.js” file from the “dist” folder. Once you’ve done that, you can add a script tag referencing the file in your <head> tag. You can find the full documentation on how to use the library on the library’s github page https://github.com/sebarmeli/JS-Redirection-Mobile-Site.

By the way, this is their javascript file:

mobile-website-development mobile-website-development

You may have already noticed that Googlebot Mobile is not among the user-agents detected. You should not actively look for it. Don’t take my word for granted, though. Check for yourself:

Google's recommendations for smartphone sites

You know where this is taken from? Google’s own guidelines for smartphone sites.


  • A mobile URL can serve mobile-dedicated content
  • Easy to implement


  • Waste of crawling resources. The indexed content for the mobile version therefore risks not to be fresh
  • Redirection is prone to mistakes.

What About Feature Phones and Tablets?

Feature phones do not support CSS media queries, therefore responsive web design cannot be used. The other two configurations are supported. Google put together a list of possible cases here.

And in regards to tablet users, always show them the desktop version, no matter which configuration you are using.

Now What?

Aleyda Solis provides some excellent advice on evaluating your needs and setting a mobile website development strategy in her article on State of Search. Put it into practice, or you will miss out on precious traffic!


Image credit: www.verite.com/library/media/MobileWebsiteDesignBanner.png

5 Talks You Shouldn’t Have Missed from Search Love London

Search Love Speakers

I’m back to work after two awesome days at Search Love London. I have a pile of notes from the conference sitting on my desk, so I thought I would share them with the world. I guess this blog post would be too long if it contained all the tips shared at Search Love, so I will try to focus on the main takeaways.

Guy Levine – The Future of Small Business SEO

A small business cannot afford to wait for the long-term returns of SEO, so short-term immediate gains should be sought in PPC in order to drive relevant traffic to the website. However Paid Search has become incredibly competitive and keywords average CPC is hitting the stars. Therefore, you shouldn’t chase the expensive short tail but go for lower volume keywords that you can find by scraping Yahoo Answers, Money Savings Expert forum. Search what your customers are looking for, but also ask them directly. Use any piece of conversation you had had with them (emails, live chats) to see what are the recurring patterns and look for what is “hot” at the moment on social media. Topsy is a free social analytics tool that will show you what are the trending keywords out there. And it’s almost in real time, unlike Google Trends.

ResponseSource is an enquiry service that can make small businesses’ life easier. Paying a very small annual fee you would receive journalists’ requests for products and services to review, competition prizes and reader offers.

You should also try to get more traffic by increasing the CTR on the results pages by implementing rich snippets. Add hReview to your website to quickly get the star rating.

Heather Healy – Do Social Signals Actually Play a Part in Search Rankings

Heather Healy from Stickyeyes put an end (for the moment) to the continuous industry debate about whether or not social signals are a ranking factor. She studied the top 100 domains for 400 competitive keywords in different niches and came to the conclusion that in 80% of the cases social interactions with those URLs (likes, shares etc) weren’t driving rankings. However, there was a strong (0.638) correlation between social interactions and unique links. Therefore a good social strategy will not increase your rankings directly, but will eventually lead to mentions and links, which definitely have an influence on rankings.

David Mihm – The Need to Know of Local SEO

30% of searches have a local intent now, so it is not a surprise that David Mihm, one of the bst known Local SEO experts was delivering a presentation at Search Love. His slides were awesome and full of precious information, such as best practices and useful tips.

The main takeaway of the presentation is probably the importance of citations for rankings in local search. David showed examples where citations of your business name, address, phone number and website (NAP+W) have increased their rankings, even without having any links. Google has become smart enough now to recognise them as valid. One of the increasingly important ranking factors in local is reviews, and you should always try to have them from the largest amount of sources. Reviews submitted in Google + Local are weighted slightly higher, but it’s still very important to have reviews from different domains.

And do not forget to submit your listings on the major data providers in the UK. He created a map of the UK Local Search Ecosystem where you can see which ones are the major providers in the UK. Basically submitting your listing to Companies House, 118 Information, Yelp and other providers your data will be fed to dozens of other resources and ultimately in Google + Local.

Lisa Myers – International SEO: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Our CEO Lisa Myers’s presentation was on creating an International SEO strategy. There are three main pillars in International SEO:

1) Geo-targeting

2) Language

3) Link development

First of all, make sure your website is indexed in the right geographical index. ccTLDs are the most powerful signal about location for search engines and if you have an office in the relevant country and you are a growing business, it is strongly recommended that use country specific top level domains. However, you may use subfolders such as yourdomain.com/fr for sites that have budget constraints, don’t have local offices, and/or are informational in nature. Doing that you will be able to benefit of link authority of the entire domain! There is always the possibility to use subdomains, but it has more cons than pros.

In addition to this, pay attention to the language you are using on those websites (where is the point in targeting the Greek market with English content?) or you will be nowhere to be found, and try to get links from other sites in the language you want to rank for.

Lisa’s slides are now available, but you may also want to have a look at this awesome sketchnote Dave Colgate did from the talk. For more awesomeness, check all Search Love sketchnotes he made.

Phil Nottingham – The Building Blocks of Great Video

Phil Nottingham from Distilled put together a long guide to online video marketing and explained extracts from it. His all set of slides is already available online (thanks Paul!).

His focus was on showing how to make sure that video fits in a content strategy and is optimised correctly. Do not forget that video does not necessarily equal great content, as it is just another medium. It’s the creative aspect behind it that makes the difference. It doesn’t require a lot of investment and with a few hundreds of pounds even small businesses can make the most of video and bridge the gap between customers’ interest and conversion. When uploading a video, it’s important to check the best settings and format that will help it rank higher and show up in the SERPs (good “old” rich snippets) but before doing that you should decide which one will be the platform. In fact, if the purpose of your video is to increase brand awareness you should submit it to as many platforms as possible (Vimeo, YouTube etc). On the other hand, if you are seeking to increase conversion, you definitely want to solely self-host the video on your website as you don’t want to cannibalise rankings and make it hard for customers to convert, as you will struggle to send customers to your conversion page.


These two days were so packed of useful information that one blog post wouldn’t make any justice to them, so stay tuned for more blog posts in the next days!

How to Maximise Your PPC Seller Ratings (Post 04/09/11 Update)

Nothing Lasts Forever – this should be the slogan for Google and their regular updates. A couple of weeks ago Google introduced an update on the seller rating extensions. Is Google just playing with us, and what is the true motive for this update? Get your notepads out and listen carefully:

Let’s just turn back the wheels of time to the year 2009, where Google introduced rich snippets, in order to represent search results describing people or containing reviews. Until now there were minor additions of rich snippets, such as products, events, recipes and many more.

Rich Snippets

The seller rating extension rolled out two years ago and helped people/customers to identify highly rated merchants, when they are searching for goods or services on Google. Your merchant star rating from Google Product Search was attached to your AdWords ads. Consequently, these star ratings were aggregated from review sites (Trustpilot, Bizrate, PriceGrabber) from all around the web, allowing people to find merchants that are highly recommended by other online shoppers.
Seller Rating Extensions
In order to qualify for this extension in the PAST, the seller needed 30 reviews in the past history of their account and an average 4-star rating from those reviews. Moreover, if someone clicked on your review link, the click was free! Okay, not everything was free, though … Clicks to the headline were still charged!

Back to the actual update. Most things have remained the same; clicks to your review are still free and you have to meet their requirements in order to use this feature. However, the requirements have been slightly updated.

The new qualifications require the seller to have at least 30 reviews over a period of 12 months, whilst simultaneously maintaining a 4-star average rating. 

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Looking at it from a sellers point of view, the biggest impact will obviously be felt by the merchants, who haven’t paid enough attention to receiving constant reviews. The main point for online shoppers was to avoid long queues and all the people they would have to deal with. However, when this extension was first introduced, all sellers were focused on getting their customers to review their site/ prices/ quality. Once the seller received 30 reviews the ratings would populate automatically. Hence, Google might have been thinking of urging all merchants to get those reviews rolling in, again. So get a hold of your creative advertisers out there and start planning an effective strategy.

How to get more reviews from your customers?

There are many possibilities to increase your review status, but the actual work will be to maintain your seller rating extension by regularly receiving reviews. Bad luck for those who have just been focusing on their 30 reviews. Hence, you might consider implementing reminder links on the final checkout page or you could offer coupons in return for a review – a nice incentive for customers.

Moreover, if you have seen your CTRs and/or conversions increasing after the introduction of the seller ratings, you may experience a sudden decrease due to reviews and ratings disappearing. This might lead to consumers being more insecure on clicking on the link without that extension, which basically leads to a loss of a prospective review.

What’s the point in getting those seller ratings back?

According to Google, merchants with seller ratings are able to receive an increase of 17% in click through rate. Ha! – more clicks always means more sales, shouldn’t it? This line only assumes if you effectively spend time on the conversion rate optimisation and analyse the checkout procedure.

Furthermore, didn’t it used to be good business practice, and a primary goal of a company, to receive continuous feedback? You will have to adapt to the market trends and current consumer tastes, in order to maximise sales. However, you’ll only get that data if you get those reviews.

Points to remember

1) There is a possible 17% CTR increase by implementing the Seller Rating Extensions

2) You need to make sure your customers are leaving reviews after they checkout

3) Keep an eye on the conversion rate optimisation to target that 17% increase!

In the end, you only need to ask your customers politely for reviews AND keep an average star rating of 4, which correlates to good customer service/experience. Then you will be able to receive that all important 17% increase in Click-Through Rate, as well!