Since I’ve been away there’s been a few tools built using Google Docs using the importXML function, I’ve linked to some useful blog posts at the bottom of this post if your interested.

Anyway here’s a tool that I put together quickly that takes 25 key phrases, checks for serps that include review / ratings displayed. It’s useful if you needed to decide if implemented rating and review rich snippets would be a useful exercise, e.g. none of the serps have them = a good opportunity to be the only one.   Or if certain key phrases had a low CTR you could see if the serps are saturated by rich snippets.

The rich snippets it looks for are the ones with star ratings such as the ones below.

It’s pretty simple to use.

Add up to 25 key phrases on the first sheet, rows B2 to B26. 

That’s all you need to do, it grabs the top 10 results for each serp, and then looks for the div in the search results that contains the star ratings. The function in Google spreadsheet is,


You can change the search engine version and  language etc by changing the query URL’s in column C in the first sheet.

Another sheet tots up the numbers with percentages. It looks for all reviews, reviews that contain ratings and reviews that contain price information (used for restaurants). I’ve stuck a couple of graphs in the last sheet to show totals.


Something I learnt when using importxml –  when importxml runs it pulls back the code from the URL you supplied, in this case it’s a Google search result, and these results can be improve. When it pulls back this page it does so without running JavaScript. For example, author pictures in search results are added by JavaScript as the page renders, so you can’t see them when using importxml, also some names of divs are changed by JavaScript. When using importxml you need to look at the source code of the page you are importing to decide what element you need to grab, be sure to open that page in your browser with JavaScript turned off thus to simulate the way importxml works.

This is in no way a completed tool, it most likely will break. Please feel free to use, copy, and improve. If you make any improvements leave a comment with a link to the file URL and I’ll repost with updated versions.

Just open the link below and make a copy to use.

–> Bulk Review / Rating SERP Checker Tool in Google Docs


Note : It’s limited to 25 key phrases as you have a maximum of 50 importxml calls, I used two for each key phrase.


Have a read of the posts below to find out more information about importxml, the links open in new tabs.

12 months is a long time away from SEO. I’ve been out of the UK for a year backpacking around the world with no phone, no laptop and no SEO. It’s something that I would recommend to anybody, I pretty much at the time of my life (blogs are being posted a year on via and all the pictures are in sets on flickr).

I’ve spent the last few weeks catching up on everything SEO related thats happened in the last 12 months. A lot has changed, new tools, new google features, updates to the algorithm etc, however some things remain the same. I’ve read about 1,200 blogs that have aggregated in my Google Reader account, below are the pick of the bunch, if you think there are any missing leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list if its worthy.

But for now in a summary of points of whats changed in the past year.

  • If your buying lots of non-brand anchor text links your going to get caught.
  • Content Marketing is the “in” way to build links now.
  • Google Webmasters team is getting closer to SEO’s/Webmaster via the updates on the Inside search blog, Webmasters tools and hangouts on Google+
  • Google+ was launched, doesn’t seem that popular so Google are integrating existing products into it, Google Places and Authorship markup validation.
  • Social linking is important to Google but they don’t have access to some data, so they created Authorship markup to get their hands on such data.
  • Google still has poor results in some sections, the Venice update is serving some really poor results for local when it gets your location wrong (e.g. users not signed in) and exact match domains can still outrank authoritative sites.
  • Many people creating new SEO tools thanks to APIs leading to more ways to analyse data.

He’s the list of the blogs, videos etc.This is about 10% of all I’ve read.



Authorship markup and web search – Google Webmaster Central

Supporting relcanonical http headers – Google Webmaster Central

The importXML Guide for Google Docs – Distilled

New Google Analytics: Improvements in Mobile Reporting – Google Analytics Blog


The responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded – SEOMoz


Introducing new and improved sitelinks – Google Webmaster Central

Authorship Markup – Google Webmasters Help YouTube

Introducing Multi Channel Funnels – Google Analytics Blog

Another look under the hood of search – Inside Search


Pagination with rel=”next” and rel”prev” – Google Webmaster Central

Favourite Keyword Research Tools from MozCon – SEO Gadget

What’s Happening on your site right now? – Google Analytics Blog


Making search more secure: Accessing search query data in Google Analytics – Google Analytics Blog

Improving the look of authorship in your search results – Google Analytics Blog

Introducing Flow Visualisation : Visualising visitor flow – Google Analytics Blog


The integration of social media into search results and rankings internet summit 2011 – SEO by the Sea

Search quality highlights: new monthly series on algorithm changes – Inside Search

Some thoughts on personalization – Inside Search

Ten Recent algorithm changes – Inside Search

Giving you fresher more recent search – Inside Search

Introducing SERP Turkey: A Free Tool to Split-Test and Gather CTR Analytics of SERP Entries – SEOMoz

Duplicate content in a post Panda world – SEOMoz


How Intention May influence Search Result CTR – SEOGadget

New markup for multilingual content – Google Webmaster Central

30 search quality highlights with – Inside Search



Search, plus Your World – Inside Search

17 search quality highlights January – Inside Search

Page layout algorithm Improvement – Google Webmaster Central


How Google Evaluates Links – Dave N

Types wordpress plugin – Yoast

Search quality highlights 40 changes – Inside Search

Combine AWR and Screaming Frog to Spot quick Wins – SEO Gadget

Be careful using adwords for key phrase research – SEOMoz


The Biggest Change In SEO To Date? – Dave N

Search quality highlights 50 changes – Inside Search

Content Strategy Generator Tool – V2 Update – SEO Gadget

Creating an Editorial Calendar for content marketing – Distilled

Awesome Examples of How to Use SeoTools for Excel – Distilled

An open letter to new SEO’s – SEOMoz

Link Building Tools we use at Distilled – Distilled


Another step to reward high-quality Sites – Google Webmaster Central

Update to rich snippets – Google Webmaster Central

Search quality highlights 53 changes – Inside Search

Venice – More than just local extensions – Holistic Search

A Dramatic Surprise on a quiet square – You Tube

Link Building: Anchor Text Optimisation Best Practices in 2012 – SEO Gadget

Nichola Stott – Mobile Serendipity: How Google Plans to Send Search Results to Users, Before You’ve Even Thought to Look – Brighton SEO

Lexi Mills – How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites – Brighton SEO


Multilingual and Multinational site annotations in Sitemaps – Google Wembaster Central

Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings – Inside Search

Review Snippet Over-saturation in Google Search Results – SEO Gadget

Penguin, Panda & Links – The SEO Winners and Losers for 2012 – Branded 3

Building a better shopping experience – Google Commerce Blog

The penguin update – whiteboard friday  – SEOMoz


Search quality highlights 39 changes – Inside Search

Link building means earning hard links not easy links – Search Engine Land

Smarter Facebook pages for social success – Distilled

A look at the changes from Google Places to Google+ Local – SEO Gadget

Conduct Browser-size analysis within Google Analytics – Google Analytics Blog

You might have read this morning Google ran another test with Google Instant Preview running on PPC ads, see 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 and and

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

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 with my new profile over at


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 ( 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 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.

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 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.