About John Campbell

I live in London working in SEO at Steak Digital, I'm a huge Blackpool FC fan and a keen traveller.

You might have read this morning Google ran another test with Google Instant Preview running on PPC ads, see http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/110420-173720. Also it seems that Google have upgraded the bot taking the preview snapshots to execute flash.

In a post a while ago I took a screen shot of Fiat’s home page instant preview.

Today we see the preview shows the home page of the site loaded.

The Samsung page also loads up which is rich in flash.

However, some pages with flash will not execute and still have the grey jigsaw peice e.g. Anyone know the difference, how it’s encoded? the version??

Even with flash being executed you still face the problem of when the screen shot is being taken, for example a page on the official pokemon (strange example to use) website the screenshot was taken straightway before the counter loaded up to 100%.

So points to take away.

  1. Flash is being executed by the preview bot
  2. Not all types of flash is being executed — more to come on that.
  3. Make the opening frame the flash include your product, not just number or bar saying loading.

From around 10:00am GMT yesterday the Google Keyword Tool seems to be no longer outputting monthly data. Great for looking at seasonality of search data you would download a csv with a monthly search figure. E.g.

From that data you can graph easily to see when search volumes are to peak, allowing you to link build ready for the key months. You can see this data in Google insights but you won’t be able to download into a csv from Google insights.

Over at the adwords forum there’s a few posts discussing the issues http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=4c7cb60cb3650b7d&hl=en&fid=4c7cb60cb3650b7d00049f4afdbb923a and http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=5c267a93386d6d6a&hl=en and http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=764de08bfc286a17&hl=en

Anyone else not getting any monthly data? Anyone else use this data often for search campaigns?

Whiles searching along tonight I’ve noticed that google profiles are now showing up in the SERP’s with an image, a snippet of where you live, where you work and three links to external sites. Meanwhile and twitter profiles apear with a picture and one last tweet. This is testing on chrome with incognito mode.

For example for Me

John Kell – Twitter


John Mueller – Google Profile


Matt Cutts – Twitter


Pete Cashmore – Google Profile


Anyone see this before? Or seeing it now, Monday night 22:57…

Edit some more example from people I follow on twitter.





Edit : Nadeem also noticed this a little back but with Google profiles on http://www.searchnest.co.uk/blog/google-profiles-getting-more-real-estate-in-search-results-738

Use JavaScript to generate SEO Friendly Title Tags – errr that doesn’t work. Well it looks like it does, and you can also use labels to improve the SEO in your site, this from White Label Reviews that offer services for this.

As we know Google doesn’t generally execute all JavaScript, one that Google will is when you amend the title tag using JavaScript .

My SEO Company working on many projects I’ve been limited by a CMS’s ability to change title tags, either the title tag is generated by the name of the page in the CMS or there is no control on a page by page basis.

SEO is made up of multiple different elements, and knowing what they are and how they work is key to understanding why SEO is so important. In short, SEO is significant because it makes your website more visible, and that means more traffic and more opportunities to convert prospects into customers, Link Digital, an SEO company in Hertfordshire advise writing quality content.

When working on large sites that maybe have have 5, 6, 7 month waiting list for development work this JavaScript work around could be used as often you will have access to edit the content on the page or place a tag in the footer / header of a page. You can then get on with your link building campaign, and for this using services as Facebook Ads Agency could be really useful to help and create marketing campaigns in your website.

The code is simple:

So the standard title tag can be used and appended onto the new title title tag, or a brand new title tag could be used.

When you look at the title tag in the HTML source code you’ll see the one hard coded in the head and not the amended JavaScript.

However in your browser title bar you’ll see the JavaScript amended title tag.

Now the important check, if the title tag is picked up when Google indexes the page? Yes

And now for search for the text that the JavaScript adds to the title tag.

Above is a test but I’ve found one or two side who have title tags generated by JavaScript ranking for competitive key phrases.

A few points to note :

  • Doesn’t work with Bing or Yahoo
  • Google may start to not execute this JavaScript
  • This should be last resort, always try to get title tags as a critical change for developers before resorting to this method.

Anyone else testing this? Anyone thinks this is a bad or good idea?


I noticed Google has recently upgraded the Google Profiles design layout, just a little tidy up at the moment. However they’ve done this redesign on a different domain to your old profile.

So my old profile is at http://www.google.com/profiles/johnpcampbell1985 with my new profile over at https://profiles.google.com/johnpcampbell1985/about


Currently 246 pages have been indexed on the new profiles subdomain with 4,210,000 profiles indexed in the old version.

Not a major problem as a quick 301 will sort everything out. But, if Google  are going to use your Google profile as the hub page to set up social search (which had a update recently) they need to start taking more care.  Imagine if Facebook or Twitter suddenly moved everyones profiles to another domain and kept old profiles live.

Without users linking their  social accounts to their Google accounts social search will never take off, unless they buy the data somehow…

One of the core services of any SEO campaign is to report back to the client on search rankings. Over the past five years reporting has shifted more to sales and conversion tracking, we now see another shift with reporting on touch points of user journeys. No doubt in the next five years we’ll see more changes in reporting SEO campaigns, however reporting on key phrases positions will always be a key aspect of SEO reporting.

I’m my last role I was part of a team that developed a web ranking tool that scraped search engine results, calculated rankings and reporting back to a client interface. Having your own tool has it’s benefits but for me will also be restricted by the need to have internal resource to initially create such a tool and the continues work to maintain. How many companies are able to pull programmers off paid work to work on internal projects, it doesn’t happen often!

According to Phoenix SEO often costing at companies for programming time is calculated by an hourly or daily rate. A quick estimate to make a ranking tool could be calculated as:

£70 per hour * 7.5 hours a day = £525 per day.

You may need around 6 days of planning time, requirement gathering and meetings to get things started. – £3,150

3 week of development time. – £7,875

1 day of testing – £525

3 days of tweaks – £1,575

So your looking at around £13,125 just to create the tool.

Your alternative is to buy a tool already, for that I would go with Caphyon’s Advanced Web Ranking.

To start the cost is minimal compared to building your own tool, $399 which is about £257 will buy you the Enterprise version. Even with an annual cost it’s still cheaper over many years than building your own ranking software.

As for features it has everything, different types of reports, no limit on key phrases, every search engine you could need is on there to record a site ranking, scheduled reports, scheduled ranking checks, upload reports to ftp, save locally, email to a client, reports come out in multiple formats, reports can be customised and so on and so on everything you could think of from an seo software package.

There’s even a keyword research tool which uses the webmaster tools API and SEMRush API to generate key phrase suggestion lists. That list then can be easily imported into a project.

Everything and anything you can think of the tool has that feature, proxies – yes, multiple users – yes, graphs – yes, on page reports – yes.

As for scalability I’ve had it running 24/7 for 7 months with not one crash on a dedicated server, just under 1000 clients and around 10,000 key phrases.

If you have your own client log in center you can easily feed into that by having csv or txt reports sent to a server, your server then grabs the data adding into your client center. This is a set up I’ve used in the past. Advanced Web Ranking grabs the data, sends it off, your own software displays that data directly into your own reporting suite. There’s even a export rank data feature which will export all the data in a friendly format which then can be uploaded into your own tool.

Accuracy is spot on, and most importantly if Google changes their interface an update will be on it’s way pronto.

Once concern if your planning on changing to the Advanced Web Ranking is the time taken to migrate over from an old system. Features such as the import key phrases from a txt list makes the process quick and painless.

There’s a 30 day trail with no commitment to buy, so give it a try!

Google Instant preview launched recently and many sites should be in the process of making changes to major landing pages, if people actually use the new feature ( see a small study from Simple Usability ). Crawling over some serps here’s a few lessons to be learnt about landing page design now that Google have unleashed instant preview.

1) Flash

Everything about flash is pretty much a negative when it comes to Google. Currently a flash site or a flash object in a page will be displayed as a grey box with a little jigsaw in. For example Fiat.

But, Google have said they are working on being able to render the Flash to display in in the preview, so it might not be a problem…. however this brings us onto point two.

2) Timed Elements

If you’ve been good and not used flash but used either HTML 5, or some slidy wizzy JQuery then your little animation will show up in the page preview as the bot that takes the screenshot has JavaScript enabled (see the preview for “xmas clock”).

But, the screen shot is taken after a certain period of time. There are two options for Google to when this screen shot is taken.

A – screenshot after the page has loaded


B – Take the shot after a certain time e.g. 5 seconds the average time for a page to load.

I’m guessing that Google uses a combination of the two, screenshot if the page is loaded, if it’s still loading at 5 seconds then take the screenshot. This would stop Google wasting time on pages that would never load or take too long to load.

This page (http://www.java-scripts.net/javascripts/Countdown-Timer.phtml) counts down from 30 seconds, and on the instant preview the time of 24.6 seconds is shown, so the screenshot was taken after 5.4 seconds.

If you have an animation or a change of divs being displayed think about what is displayed after 4-5 seconds, but there are no guarantee that the screen preview will pick up the animation you want.  For example http://www.bensky.co.uk/ has a sliding div, on this example the Trails UK site was displayed this time, it could change from week to week.

or the xfactor Talk Talk page, which features a fade in it’s taken it mid fade.

So having changing elements on your page is risky as you can’t predict when the page preview is taken, so keeping flash may be a risk.

3) Questionnaires / Site Survey / Age – Pop ups

If you have a site survey or questionnaire or age verification running on your site it’s going to be picked up on the preview. Often the question box will pop up in the middle of the screen, with the surroundings faded away.  You could try to add an exception so it’s not show for the googlebot IP. For example Carling has the age verification.

On money saving expert the background fades for the subscribe to newsletter to be highlighted.

4) Advert pages / Home page takeovers / Splash pages

The majority of the football team pages in the UK all have a offer page before getting to the main site, you may employ something similar for a temporary home page take over or offer. Or for some bizarre reason you may have a splash page, either option they don’t tend to look great in the preview. E.g. blackpoolfc.co.uk

5) Geotargeting Redirects / Messaging

The bot that takes the screen capture comes from Google, so it has a United States IP (see the page preview for whatismyip.com). If you have any redirects or message pop ups for US IP’s they will be displayed in the search results. Some examples include the BBC where the American version is shown with banner adverts, here for DHL.

Clarks have a similar problem where a pop up box asks you choose location, this only happens for a non UK IP.

So in conclusion watch out for:

  1. Flash
  2. Timed Events
  3. Questionnaires / Site Survey / Age – Pop ups
  4. Advert Pages / Home Page takeovers / Splash pages
  5. Geotargeting Redirects / Messaging

As for designing for site Google Instant Preview… thats another blog post.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed more title tags and meta descriptions using different types of characters to stand out in the search results. PPC has led the way with uses of planes, bullet points, trade mark symbols. Problem is many adverts get disapproved by Google.

If you had this trouble in the past a Digital Advertising Boost might be needed to add some balance and get your business where you want

Organically it’s about testing what can and can’t indexed. So below I’ve made a list of characters that will get indexed in a title tag and display in the search engine results. Before the list a few interesting points from this experiment.

  • Using the intitle: command doesn’t work, for example try “intitle:£” in Google and it returns nothing. Yet there are plenty of title tags with the £ symbol.
  • A symbol can be hard-coded into a title tag but when you use a CMS it may try to convert it. Thus meaning to get some of the symbols into titles you’ll need to bypass your CMS or change the way it works.
  • If you have a symbol in the title tag that Google won’t index they’ll skip the character when displaying the title tag in the search result.

To conduct the test I:

  • 11 pages linked to sitewide on another site of mine
  • Each page linked to each other
  • Title tag contacted the special characters, as did the meta description.
  • Waited for all the pages to be indexed and then viewed using a site command with inurl:test as the file names were test1, test2, etc

Here are the valid symbols with screenshots of them in the search results.



←↑→↓↔⇐⇑⇒()[]{}〕〔›‹〉〈«»⎛⎞⎡⎤⎧⎫⎬⎨⎥⎢⎟⎜⎝⎠⎣⎦⎪⎪⎩⎭ – Note – WordPress won’t display the characters, see screenshot below.







Theres were plenty that didn’t work including symbols of scissors, aeroplanes, hearts, clubs, spades etc. I’ve noticed some sites already use the trademark and copyright symbols, for example. GHD hair straighteners and Sony. What can you do with symbols above? Here’s a few mock ups that I’ve firebugged

888.com using the numbers 8 to stand out on the term online casino.

My own site using characters before and after the text.

Use the half price for cheap flights offers.

The Church of england using little crosses.

Using a number for Radio 1, pretty cool

Joking aside, over the past few months Google have made several changes to the 1st page has made it difficult for a standard organic ranking like web 20 ranker reviews.  Product, image, reviews, local, maps listings etch all stand out more than an organic listing. If you have an organic listing in a very competitive market you need to work your title tag and description hard to increase the CTR.

If you’ve liked this post and you have a site with a decent level of traffic why not try out using different characters, use Google Webmaster Tools to see changes in CTR, positive or negative.

If you find any other characters that work, please email johnpcampbell1985 (@) googlemail (.) com or leave a comment below or send me a message on twitter.

Posted in SEO.

One of the standout features from Google Places is the review data being added into the search results. Anyone selling online in the past two / three years will tell you how much impact can be gained from positive third party review of your product or service.

But similar to search rankings you can inflate your positive reviews and …. deflate your competitor’s reviews (don’t do this as it just creates a vicious circle of fake review posting).

Looking at the listings on Google Places currently Google is displaying…

  • Thumbnail picture
  • Address and phone number
  • Finding reviews from various sources
  • Displaying a count for 3 / 4 review sites
  • Creating a total sum for all the reviews
  • Pulling our an average rating out of 5.
  • Sometime displaying a snippet of a review

All those items are optional, the majority of the examples I’ve seen feature all the above, but I’ve also seen some with just the image, address and phone number.

The review site used doesn’t even have to have any microformats data. Google will count a citation of the hotel’s address and phone number with a comment as a review. For example http://www.adoniscabaret.co.uk/ is listed as a review site for the Norwood Hotel in Blackpool. The review isn’t in any microformat, its coded in atag in a table.

So it seems you don’t even need reviews to be on “review site”, I’ve seen a hotel review located on a chef site, beerintheevening etc.

Tip 1. Make citations to your hotel on other sites, even if it’s not a hotel review site. Use the full address, phone number and then list review under a heading “Customer Review”

It appears such reviews won’t contribute to the star rating, this only appears to come from bigger sites such as Trip Advisor, where microformats are in place or Google have been willing to scrape the data.

In general it looks better to have more reviews than less reviews. E.g. a place with 4 reviews doesn’t seem as good as a place with 452 reviews.

To work out which sites are being used to source the reviews I’ve recorded and counted the review sites over 10 search terms, on average listing 6 local listings with 3 to 4 review sites for each listing.

I picked the key phrase “hotels in… Blackpool, Preston, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, London”

The below table shows the review sites listed often. In total there were 230 review sites listed.

Trip Advisor came out top with 63 listing over the 10 different search results. Booking.com and Active Hotels were also popular. Interestingly sometimes different domains of the same site are used e.g. Trip Advisor uk, com, ie, in all list as separate sites.

One site managed a list a review from the same domain??

Tip 2. Get listed on the most popular sites in your sector. Look for local listings sites, e.g. Sites with the location in the URL.

Strangely at the moment it doesn’t appear if that any of the reviews given to Google directly are being displayed in the search engine results. On each local business listing (e.g. the midland hotel) Google users can add reviews, this doesn’t seem to be used or listed as a review site.

Clicking the “xxx reviews Place page” or stars takes you to your local business listing with Google. This is going to be getting a higher level of traffic due to the link being more prominent on the page and being next to the stars. People will want to check over a couple of review before considering the hotel or making a booking.

Tip 3. Ensure you have claimed your local business listing on Google, filled out as much information as possible and respond to any negative comments in a professional and positive manner.

Most of these tips should be relevent in other sectors restaurants, services etc. The difference will be the review sites, for restaurants e.g. Tipped, Urban Spoon etc. If you looking to improve you rank I would suggest counting which review sites are being listed and start to add reviews onto those sites.

In the spreadsheet linked below the first worksheet contains the review sites in the hotels sector. So if your promoting a hotel I would suggest looking over the list and ensure your hotel is listed on the top sites. I’ll expand the spreadsheet over time adding in which review sites are referenced in different sectors e.g. restaurants, local services etc


It’s going to be interesting over the next couple of months to see more review services popping up, how the result change and more importantly how Google handle people’s problems with Google places, the official forums are notorious for being full of complaints, people pointing out errors and very very frustrated local business owners. I’ve got a feeling that a few more business owners are going to be getting even more frustrated with Google.