by Andrew Rodgers on 2011/04/20

Meta Keywords - A Ranking Factor?

So this post is part informational and part test.

I noticed a certain poor quality website was ranking for my client’s brand name and because this particular website was new to me, I looked into why this was happening. The site in question had no inbound links and from what I can tell, no social mentions.

There is simply my client’s brand name in their meta keywords. Nothing in the title tag, nothing in the copy or the meta description etc etc…

And I have it on good authority from a colleague that an ex-Goog told him that meta keywords have always been a ranking factor.

So yeah, pretty sure many will have tried before but this post will include some Googlewack –esque meta keywords. I may even throw some in the meta description, you never know, if I throw enough shit at the wall, some might stick.

Ignorant Journalism To Search Engine Ranking Factors

Ignorance is unforgivable by people who abuse their position of authority.

I understand sometimes mistakes are made but the articles I have read recently have show clear ignorance and quite despicable.

Danny Sullivan writes a great article tearing apart the paper released by US Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. I don’t need to ad anything to Danny’s article – so I won’t.

One piece of ignorant journalism I read yesterday by titled “Google and Others Embrace Vile Attack on Santorum”. I won’t link to it for reasons that will become obvious later in the post.

Dan Savage’s great piece of work ranking a definition for the word “Santorum” over Rick Santorum’s official website has caused a storm of publicity.

What many journalists including Dan Gainor writing in don’t understand is SEO and the ranking factors that effect search engines. Dan writes that the sole reason that ranks for the search term “Santorum” is thanks to an extensive lefty campaign to discredit opponents of gay marriage. What Dan makes the mistake of is linking to the website in question with no less than a followed link with the keyword in question “Santorum” within the anchor text.

That’s a nice little high authority link from a global news corporation.

And they wonder why ranks so damn well? You are just adding to very reason you are writing the article.

Back to the drawing board Dan.



So I’d thought I’d tweet Dan Gainor and invite him to read my post and offer him a SEO 101, for him to broaden his knowledge on inbound marketing. Unfortunately after reading the post he chose to block me from Twitter.

It isn’t the biggest surprise. I would be likely to do the same.

But Dan, the offer is still open to guide you through some of the basics to enhance your knowledge and therefore the quality of your journalism.

Dan Gainor


My Branded3 Adventure

First of all, this post has been a long time coming. I originally began this post some months ago when my employer was still Branded3, a super awesome digital agency based in Leeds, UK. On the 15th August (yes, it’s that late) I joined super awesome digital agency Reprise Media as an SEO consultant based in their Melbourne office. So now I look back and reflect on the great time I had within the past two years with Branded3.

In my time there I saw our SEO team triple in size. It is a great agency with sound ethics and an ambitious outlook; in fact the company has expanded so rapidly not even the internet has been able to cope (a little internal joke there guys).

Branded3 owes it all to the positive, imaginative and motivated mentality of each and every individual sat in their crowded Aberford office. It is not often you work in an environment where every employee shares the same view of the determined leadership figures at the helm.

It would be lazy of me not to show some individual love to my ex colleagues, so here it is in no particular order:

Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft – SEO guru extraordinaire, nuff said.

Tim Grice

Tim Grice – SEO sage, mentor, co-conspirator, lunch fiend, Wing Chun master.


Vin Chinnaraja – Inspirational hands on leader, chief skylight closer.

Matthew Jackson

Matthew Jackson – Skilled SEO, excel king, general of Branded3.

David Smith

Dave Smith – SEO prodigy, Hung Gar sensei.

Mike Auty

Michael Auty – Internet warlock, head of meme & troll.

Julian Kay

Julian Kay – Lead software developer, fellow mechanical pencil lover, keeper of the cool list.

Phil Broadhead

Phil Broadhead – MotoGP expert, SEO Groover.

Douglas Radburn

Douglas Radburn – Web developing deity, principal pub lunch coordinator.

Ben Jones

Ben Jones – Branded3′s right brain, strategic social SEOer, worry to society.

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw – Dev leader, chief designer/excavator of bear costumes.

Max Shearer

Max Shearer – Web design engineer, owl lover.

Andrew Radburn – Talented SEO architect, games master.

Emma Barnes – Search artist, gaming reviewer, head of Mum jokes.

Mike Jeffs – Search poet, guitar hero.

Liam Stilgoe – PPC protégé, fantasy football novice.

Fiona Dunphy – Creative starlet, social/copywriting pro.

Steve Creek – Creative genius, tennis champ, vegi.

Mark Bowering – Writing divinity, amateur soccer fan.

Andrew Parker – Budding SEO master.

Craig Surtees – Keeper of the internets, chief rambler.

Sanjay Zalke – Technical magician, head of cake.

Felicity Crouch – SEO copywriting goddess.


Andrew Machin – Design champion, award winner.

Scott Mason

Scott – Copywriting god, pedal assassin.

A special thanks to Emma for the amazing drawings of all the Branded3 peeps.

And congratulations to Branded3 on a whole for their fantastic DADI Award win.


It was emotional.


Mega Site Links - Meta Description Character Length

Mega site links as we all should know, recently launched on the 16th of August.

It launched with an 8-pack but was quickly reduced to a 6-pack on the 2nd September midday EST time.

Since the launch of mega site links I have done many brand searches and witnessed many un-optimised meta descriptions. Google now only shows a small number of characters for each mega site link meta description. The number of characters is 34 for every mega site link meta description. I believe it is important to optimise the mega site link meta description length to optimise conversion.

I would suggest to include a call to action in the first 34 characters. For example I have a large insurance company as a client here in Melbourne and I drew up a quick document tweaking their current mega site meta descriptions.

It originally was:

[BRAND NAME]: Insurance at a competitive price….

I changed it to:

Get a [BRAND NAME] insurance quote. Insurance at a competitive price…

The red text represents the first 34 characters. [And quite luckily it is 34 characters]

I would doubt that Google would change the mega site links character length again but I wouldn’t put it past them.

NB, One important thing to consider is that Google allows you 34 characters of compete words. It does nor show part words. So if your meta description had a word ending on the 35th character it wouldn’t consider that word in the SERPs.

Does that make sense? Possibly not but it’s late Friday and I’ve nearly just finished my third beer in the office. So I don’t care. Enjoy SEOers.


Google Crawls Wordpress CMS

An interesting one here…
As I’m having a fiddle in analytics I notice traffic through an odd keyword ‘brandi passante panty size‘.

Obviously being a very meticulous thorough individual, I did a bit of research and found  that Bandi Passante is an American TV host from a show called ‘Storage Wars’. Now to my knowledge I haven’t been making any late night drunken blog posts for me to be ranking for this term.

So I checked my many spam comments, still pending in my WordPress CMS. Low and behold I found a very polite spam comment that read

I’m sorry,  want to  eat
Ellen Muth nude
Tamil sex
Carol Huston Actress
…followed by hundreds of other linked phrases including ‘Brandi Passante hot’ ‘Brandi Passante Storage Wars’ and ‘Brandi Passante sexy’.

These comments have never seen my live site and have always been pending and/or spam. So I know for certain that the Google spiders were crawling all over my internal content management system.
Excited of the prospect of finding a possible new ranking factor I did a test by commenting on my own posts with a certain keyword that I am keeping my eye out if I rank for.
A few days later, unfortunately I stopped ranking for the Brandi Passante keyword and no signs of test keyword.

If anyone has noticed their pending comments ranking for them, then please get in touch (@Seo_Livewire).

I never did find out Brandi Passante panty size.


Google To Remove 'I'm Feeling Lucky' Button

Google are testing a new simplified search screen.

New Simpler Google Search On Chrome

Seen above’s new simpler search homepage was passed to me by Branded3 colleague Julian Kay in Chrome Incognito last night Sunday 26th June 2011.

The new simpler search layout does not include the following:

  • ‘Google Search’ Button
  • ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ Button
  • ‘Advanced Search’ Link
  • ‘Language Tools’ Link

The remaining link such as ‘Advertising Programmes’ ‘Business Solution’ etc… have been pushed down to the bottom of the page along with the personalisation option ‘Change background image’.

Interestingly the links at the bottom of the page are in a different colour to those in the header bar. This colour is normally seen when Google remembers what link you have clicked but this page as you can see from the screengrab is in Incognito which would not remember past clicks.

So why do we think Google may be testing this more simpler search hompage. Could this be the end of the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button?

Google is a for-profit commercial machine which suggests any amendments or tweaks are for monetary purposes. Discussed back in 2007 the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button is thought to cost Google in the region of $110 million per year as discussed here by Sergey Brin. Those clicking on the button are not exposed to Google profit making tools such as Google Adwords and in parts of the world Google business directories.

I would predict it is only a matter of time before we say goodbye to ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ for the last time. It is thought that less than 1% of Google searches are through the button. But this amounts to a large loss of revenue to Google.


Google Instant Pages To Increase Bounce Rates?

Two day ago I posted how I believed the launch of Google Instant Pages would effect rankings.

The general jist of post was that it would improve conversion and bounce rate as a reader would be more likely to convert deeper within the site if the page loads quicker. It makes sense, a slow loading page would in most cases have a higher bounce rate.

However it seems that I may have got it totally wrong. Polar oppositely wrong in fact.

Wednesday morning there was a slightly buzzier buzz around the Branded3 office. Julian Kay (resident software developer at Branded3)  made a very valid point that Google prerendering the most relevant result would class as a visit in webmaster tools. The server would be accessed and therefore return the page just like a visit.

So each time a site appears No.1 of Google, if Google Instant Pages does what it is supposed to do it will prerender the site which classes as a visit. Then we know 65-70% of those searchers won’t click on your site. Hence massively effecting bounce rate. wrongly state that this would reduce bounce rate.

As bounce rates effect rankings, will this then be a disadvantage to rank no.1? Surley not, this would be counter productive for Google.

But it seems so, this could be detrimental to top ranks – Google spokesman told WebProNews:

“Although only issues the prerender hint when it is confident that it knows where the user will click, in some cases it will mispredict, resulting in a page that has appeared to load but was never actually shown to the user.  Although this will happen relatively rarely, in some cases it is important for the webpage to know.”

What Google can’t control is that close the 70% won’t click on the first result so I am perplexed at how Google is going to safeguard bounce rates.

I think this calls for some testing.

Want to try Google Instant Pages for yourself? Try this Prerendering test page

Google Instant Pages To Effect Rankings?

Today Google announced the launch of Google Instant Pages, a prerendering functionality to be rolled out firstly in versions of Google Chrome – they like to keep things in-house to begin with.

The announcement was published on the Official Google Blog which first announced Google Voice Recognition already available through the Google Mobile App (for Iphone).

I must admit Google Voice Recognition for desktop and for mobile look pretty cool but realistically it is not going to catch on across a wide audience and it has no real SEO ramifications.

Google Instant Pages however could very well have an impact on SEO.

Firstly it would have a clear impact on conversion. It it takes less time for a page to load then readers/customers would be more likely to convert.
Secondly we already know that page  load speed as well as bounce rate effects rankings, so therefore a webpage that Google already prerenders according to Google themselves would perform better in the rankings.

The Chrome Dev Version is available to download for you to test the functionality for yourself.

Is Standalone SEO Enough?

Anyone with an ounce of online knowledge knows that ‘SEO’ and ‘link building’ are not interchangeable phrases. It is commonly known that link building alone will not cut it in today’s competitive markets.
My question is that is standalone SEO enough?

Here at Branded3 we have implemented a number of techniques to achieve rankings in the SERPs for competitive keywords. However there has been a few instances where we have found that if SEO isn’t integrated and a part of a diverse marketing strategy there is a ceiling that can be reached in the rankings.

Case in point – Voucher Client
We had been working with a UK voucher site that came to us after being penalised by Google for a number of reasons, nothing sinister, just a few shortcuts that backfired. The contract originally was two pronged to recover rankings wiped by Google and to protect from further penalties such as Panda.

After some fantastic ranking results, progress slowed down to a rate that the client wasn’t overawed with (which is mostly down to our success early in the contract). After reviewing activity it was decided that the main issue holding the site back was the lack of diversity in the overall marketing strategy.

The site, unlike its competitors did not have an extensive mailing list providing security against penalties or downtime, nor did it have a social following in particular Facebook and Twitter. It has no blog, news section or any other different source of traffic other than organic search.

As we know, tweets and other social aspects are a ranking factors, so you just have to think, if you were Google who would you rank?

Would you rank a site with a diverse source of links and a significant social profile or would you rank a site that only receives traffic from the organic SERPs?

To get SEO right for competitive keywords, SEO to be integrated as part of a varied and extensive online marketing strategy. Anything else is cutting corners.

Google Reveals Super Injunction Celeb Names

I hope I am not in danger of breaching any laws pertaining to the newsworthy UK super injunctions here but surely Google could?
Below are two screen grabs taken today from showing Google Suggest revealing two names rumored to be the celebrities behind the much talked about super injunctions.
Ryan Giggs
The super injunctions stop the press and recently social networking websites from publishing the names of the celebrities involved.

So the injunction pretty much stops anybody from publicising the names. This I do not understand, even this must go against the right for free speech? Surely you would be allowed to shout it from Speakers Corner in Hyde Park – but maybe the video of this would be banned from Youtube?

I am not a lawyer but surely Google Instant is breaching this law by ‘suggesting’ names of the individuals involved?

Any lawyers reading – Hey, I aren’t outing these guys just observing industry trends. (Ryan, Hugh – Shame on you!)

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