Archive for Search Engine Optimisation

Brighton SEO 2012 – 10 Key Things To Take Away

Brighton SEO 2012 was held on the 13th of April and attracted upwards of 900 people (although it should have been 1000, many people didn’t turn up). Rather than do a huge write up I wanted to list just the key things that I have taken away from this years Brighton SEO. Links to the currently available slides can be found at the bottom of this post.

Ask the Engines – SEO Panel

Pierre Far, Dave Coplin, Martin McDonald, Rishi Lakhani & Tony Goldstone

1. Bing uses Social Signals and the rate that information / content is shared as a large part of it’s algorithm. Having hundreds of thousands of followers and “sharing” something does not give that shared item a greater benefit to its target.

2. When discussing reconsideration requests (not re-inclusion requests as Pierre stated), Rishi mentioned that a record of everything should be kept including a log of all the emails sent to site owners requesting link removals. In the event that no response is given or the web site owner refuses to remove the link you have clear proof that you have tried and been unsuccessful, this should be included in the reconsideration request.

3. Bing is openly happy about giving away a little more than Google when it comes to questions regarding ranking factors. Google’s representative consistently went on the defensive whereas Bing’s representative was clear, top the point and helpful in his answers. Although it was said that SEO is not a checklist it does help that knowing what is good or bad.

Microformats and SEO

Glen Jones

4. Microformats are currently the better schema for Rich Snippets in the Search Results due to them being somewhat simplified over Microdata & RDFa. That being said there are situations which may call for a specific Microdata or RDFa schema format to be utilised and when required they should be.

NB: Not in the numbered list but, Glen mentioned that Schema mark-up is not just beneficial for rich snippets, it helps the search engines find and extract structured data to build better user experiences in the future.

How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites

Lexi Mills

5. Lexi told the crowd that following three twitter hashtags will enable us to find potential PR oppurtunitiues. These hastags were; #prwin#prfail and #journorequest, having been following these for a few days now I can see how beneficial this can be, specifically the #journorequest hashtag.

6. Lexi also went on to mention that if BusinessWire is a site used for press release distribution, dont’t fill in the site URL and Blog URL boxes, this allows you to achieve followed links within the press release itself (loving this tip!).

7. Use the phone! Emailing just doesn’t cut it in todays big business link building, contact the Journalists themselves and if they cant help you ask for their superior’s number and call them.  Being confidant and happy (smile!!) can get you a long way with journalists.

Maximizing your SEO Agencies

James Owen

8. This tip seems somewhat foreign to me, I have long been a believer of being absolutely transparent to clients and I felt that providing an average ranking position to clients is somewhat covering up the truth but James puts a positive spin on this.

Average Keyword Rankings can benefit the client if the worst case happens on the last day of the month. Position 1 for 29 days and then position 5 on reporting day, reporting on the average or graphing the monthly ranking by day can show the client that its potentially a blip and you that something needs investigating.

Searchbots: Lost Children or Hungry Psychopaths? What Do Searchbots Actually Do?

Roland Dunn

9. Roland’s talk was by far the most interesting at this years Brighton SEO, working with Server Log files is something that I have been, slowly, looking into doing for a while now. I wanted to see what the correlation between what Webmasters Tools Crawl Rate said and what I could assertion from the logs and wether it matched up.

Roland went one step further and showed us that sometimes Googlebot gets lost and spends more time indexing unimportant, less visited pages than it did the important “big hit with the users” pages.

I firmly believe after seeing this talk that understanding what the search engines are doing behind the scenes of your site is somewhat more important than what information you put on your site! If Googlebot, or any other search engine, is not finding the content it is a waste of resources / misinterpretation of the website and these would need to be addressed!

I Believed Authors are the Future

James Carson

10. James’s presentation was part of the 20×20 sets and was somewhat pressure filled however, James delivered and brought up some great points. When using the rel=author tag only write about one topic is by far my favorite tip. If Google recognises that you are a leader in SEO and suddenly you pop up while writing about the carrot farming industry you cannot reliably be delivered in the search results as a rich snippet for SEO.


Below I have linked to the currently available slides:

And there you have it, will try to update as more slides come available.


New Sitemaps Options in Google Webmasters Tools

Google have updated the Sitemaps Site Configuration section of their webmasters tools service.

Although its a minor change I really like the new style, its a lot easier to visualise everything. Hopefully Google will start updating more of the config options in Webmasters Tools. Bringing up to Googles current style guidelines would give it a well needed revamp!



How to Create a Google News Sitemap

Google News Sitemaps are specifically designed to allow you to control what news is submitted to Google. More specifically they allow Google to:

  • Identify specifically which are news articles
  • Spider and Index your news article faster
  • Identify the article titles, as well as the publication date for each article
  • Find each articles unique metadata to display
  • Specify article content with unique tags

Additionally Google states that you should only include news articles that are less than two days old (48 hours), this ensures that the content is fresh. A Google News Sitemap can contain no more that 1,000 urls, to add more you can utilise a sitemap_index file (which I have previously described how to create: The how to guide for Sitemap Index XML Files).

Google News Sitemap Structure

Included below is an example of a Google News Sitemap structure which includes some of the unique tags that can be applied:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns=""
        <news:name>Sam Osborne SEO</news:name>
      <news:genres>UserGenerated, Opinion</news:genres>
      <news:title>How to Create a Google News Sitemap</news:title>
      <news:keywords>google news, sitemaps, xml</news:keywords>
      <news:stock_tickers>IAMASTOCK, SEOSTOCK</news:stock_tickers>

Google News Sitemap Tag Information

Each of these tags has specific requirements and not all of them are needed, for example:

<Publication> Tag

The publication tag requires a name and a location tag as children, For example, if the name appears in Google News as “Sam Osborne SEO (registration)”, you should use the name, “Sam Osborne SEO”. The language tag is pretty simple, its the language of your publication in short format, en for english, fi for finnish and it for italian as so on. This tag is required.

<Access> Tag

The access tag describes the accessibility of the article, if the article is accessible to Google News readers without a registration or subscription, this tag should be left out.

<Genre> Tag

The genre tag is a comma-separated list of properties defining the content of the article, such as “Opinion” or “UserGenerated.” See Google News content properties for a list of possible values.

<Publication_Date> Tag

The publication_date tag displays the date the article was published. Google will accept any of the formats below:

  • Complete date – YYYY-MM-DD (e.g., 1997-07-16)
  • Complete date plus hours and minutes - YYYY-MM-DDThh:mmTZD  (e.g., 1997-07-16T19:20+01:00)
  • Complete date plus hours, minutes and seconds – YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD (e.g., 1997-07-16T19:20:30+01:00)

<Title> Tag

The article title tag should only include the title of the article as it appears on your site, try not to duplicate any information such as the author, the date the article was published. This is something that is recommended to include but is not required.

<Geo_Locations> Tag

The geo_locations tag is added to help Google identify the geographic location of your articles. This can be great to use if you have sections of your site that cater to different locations around the world. Again this is not required but is generally recommended.

<Keyword> Tag

The keyword tag can be used to specify relevant keywords for the article, there is no limit but its generally recommended to keep the individual word count to less that 10 as not to appear spammy in the Google News algorithm.

<Stock_Ticker> Tag

The last tag that can be added is the stock_ticker. So if you had written an article about Admiral Car Insurance and wanted to include the Stock Ticker for them you would include “LON:ADM”.

In my next installation of XML Sitemap guides I will be writing about how to include images within a Google News Sitemap. This will hopefully be shorter that this post!



Title Tag Optimisation – Search Engine Optimisation Guide

There are many elements that make up part of the Google Ranking Algorithm, some more obvious than others. For me the title tag is a great place to start, it should be relevant to the page content and written for the user. Over optimising this tag or diluting it with too many keywords may mean that the page you are writing it for simply targets too many items.

Title Tag Optimisation

Lets assume that the web page that you are writing the title tag for is targeting “SEO services London”. Firstly we should research the term and identify suitable key phrases to use, this can be done multiple ways but my first port of call would be the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

Firstly ensure that you are researching keywords within the correct region, this can be selected in the drop down list shown below:

Adwords Keyword Tool External Region Select

Search for “SEO services London” and you will be presented with a list of key phrase ideas. I would also suggest selecting Exact Match on the left hand side, this provides a much more accurate estimate of the search volumes within the selected region.

Now we have a list you need to select the ones you want for that selected web page, what we are looking to achieve is something along the lines of:

  • Primary Key Phrase – Seconday Key Phrase
  • Primary Key Phrase – Seconday Key Phrase | Brand Name
  • Brand Name | Primary Key Phrase – Seconday Key Phrase

Optimised Title Tag Example:

SEO Services London | Search Engine Optimisation Consultant London

Due to the length of the primary and secondary key phrases it was not suitable to include the brand name in this example. It could be added but it would make Google display a parenthesis (…) on the end and the above title tag may end up looking like the following:

SEO Services London | Search Engine Optimisation Consultant Lon …

Title Tag Approximate Lengths:

Google will display anything up to approximately 70 characters but its good practice to keep it slightly shorter, I tend to aim for around 67, this allows for a little variation and plurals to be added as title tags should still be written for the user. Trying to include too many keywords will end up diluting the value of the title tag.

The main terms SEO services London has been included first as to increase specific relevance for the title tag. There has also been studies that have shown that including keywords towards the beginning of the title tag provides slightly higher authority in regards to the ranking factors.

To Brand or not to Brand:

It is also common practice to include the brand name at the end of the title tag, in some cases the brand name is just not appropriate to use within the 70 characters, instead the main key phrases are used but kept relatively short, up to 55 – 60 characters, the brand name can then be added to the end.

Title Tag Optimisation Recap:

  • Research the correct terms for the web page
  • Ensure title tag length is at a maximum 70 characters
  • Use the main keyword for the page at the start of the title tag
  • Where possible include the brand name at the end of the title tag


The How to Guide For Sitemap Index XML Files

If you want to utilise Google News Feeds or simply split out a specific section of your site into smaller sitemaps you can use sitemap index xml files to aid you. Sitemap Index XML files are a handy way to keep your sitemap.xml’s organised. Similar to the structure of a normal sitemap.xml file but with different tags, this allows the search engines to identify them as such.

The Sitemap index file uses the following XML tags:

  • <sitemapindex> – the parent tag surrounds the file.
  • <sitemap> – the parent tag for each Sitemap listed in the file (a child of <sitemapindex>)
  • <loc> – the location of the sitemap (a child of <sitemap>)
  • <lastmod> – the last modified date of the sitemap (optional)

These must all be matched with the closing variations of them, for example:</sitemapindex>.

Sitemap Index Structure

The structure when used to its fullest will look like the following example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
   <sitemapindex xmlns="">

When you’ve created your Sitemap index file uploaded it to your webserver, following this submit it to Google, Bing or Yahoo. You don’t need to submit each Sitemap individually as the search engines will figure this bit out. Just submit the Sitemap index file and you’re good to go.

Adding sitemap index files to robots.txt

It can also be good practice to include a link to your sitemap index xml file and other sitemaps in your robots.txt file, this can be done with the following line:

User-agent: *

Google Webmasters Tools allows up to 500 sitemaps to be submitted for each website in your Google Webmasters Tools account.

For more information on submitting your sitemap index to the search engines check out the following links:

Google Webmaster Tools
Live Webmaster Tools (MSN)
Yahoo SiteExplorer