Category Archives: News

How recovered from the Google Panda update

April 2011 is a month that few people in the internet marketing community will forget.

Google’s Panda Panda-Jerkupdate wiped out what it deemed to be ‘thin’ content, removing millions of pages from it’s search results virtually overnight.

One of the biggest casualties was voucher code site, with an estimated 99% reduction in search visibility.

In this post, I caught up with the team to discuss how they have recovered from the update and how they use content marketing to engage their audience.

Q) Can you share some insight into what it was like when Panda hit? How did you go about planning your recovery?

A) Wow, it was tough and is still tough! First of all our MD Steve Barnes asked us to create a project called ‘Operation Bamboo’ and to focus on what the “Panda” loves. Initially we looked at on page content with a view to rewriting thin content, adding rich media like video, purging some poor pages.

We basically did everything Google told us to do. Unfortunately nothing much made any difference. It wasn’t until we made drastic cuts to the number of pages and adding even better content to pages we wanted to keep that we started to see any form of recovery. You really need to look at your site objectively. If a page is there purely to try and rank for a keyword and the content isn’t great then bin it. Remember unique content doesn’t mean great content so make sure every page has a point in being there. Then get all the old pages out of Google’s index before the next update (410ing a page is the quickest way to get it removed from Google’s index). Be drastic, make a huge change but most importantly wait until the next Panda refresh (usually towards the end / beginning of the month) and measure any changes. Don’t expect improvements straight away.

We have disavowed a whole bunch of links that our former SEO company had built. Even though they were supposed to be one of the most reputable, white hat SEO companies in the UK they did an absolutely dreadful job for us and we have had to undo most of their work.

So some advice there is don’t trust anyone when it comes to your backlink profile. Make sure you have the skills in-house to be able to determine whether the work you’re paying good money for is Google friendly. We have stopped all external SEO work now and just concentrate on great PR.

Q) What does your post-Panda team look like?

A) The team is a select group of people who each bring their own expertise and skillset to the whole business. Whilst we have different departments, each with their own team, we work cohesively as a whole with aligned strategic goals.

Our data input team, content team, seo team, sales team, content team and to some extent our IT team all work in conjunction with each other on marketing and promotional activities that span each of their respective functions.

The NetVoucherCodes Team

The Team

Q) How do you come up with the ideas for the content that is produced?

A) We use a range of techniques for content ideas, such as monitoring the news and listening to our readers. One method we have in place is that anyone within the company knows that they are able to come to us with an idea and we will listen to them. Some methods are obvious, especially if they fall into the seasonal calendar. Generally we work several months in advance of calendar events, so that everything is done and ready to go at the appropriate time whilst also allowing for any content that is reactionary, such as news items.

Q) With such a diverse range of products/services to cover, how do you decided which areas to focus on?

A) In terms of our blog – Live Life For Less – the main aim is to help our customers live life to the full but for less, so we make sure that we have articles that meet the needs of our audience. For example for our student section we would have articles that will give them advice on managing their student loans whilst also giving them tips on the best discounts for students. Fashionista would have a range of fashion related articles, together with news about codes and sales.

The content for the main NetVoucherCodes site is based upon the codes and discounts that we have secured with our retailers, together with articles that give information for the customer about the retailers.

'Live Life For Less'

‘Live Life For Less’

Q) How do you plan and schedule the production and deployment of content? Are there any tools that you use?

A) Content for the blog is planned several months ahead of actual publication to allow time for all the relevant departments to play their part. We have several planning stages which allows us to allocate work to other departments and also to request their time if we are working on a collaborative piece. We use a cloud-based system that each department can access and see the progress of a particular piece of work.

We ensure that each item progresses through the stages until it is completed, before it reaches publication stage.

Q) How do you measure the effectiveness of the content you produce? What metrics do you look at?

A) We use Google Analytics to measure the amount of traffic to the site and also to individual pieces of content. The data is analysed on a weekly basis, with monthly comparisons.

Q) All of your contributors have Google Plus accounts. Do you have any data that reveals a positive impact of this integration on rankings and click through rate?

A) Currently there is no data to say whether it has an effect or not, though many in the industry suspect it does. G+ is a social channel which could, potentially, help with brand awareness.

Q) In terms of social engagement, are your audience more engaged with content shared on Twitter or Facebook?

A) Facebook and Twitter are two of the main social channels with which we engage, but we also find that we have a lot of engagement on both G+ and Pinterest as well.

Q) Do you have any tips on how to increase social engagement with content?

A) Play games with your fans, ask them who they would love to share something with (a holiday, or an amount of money). They will inevitably tag their friends into the comments and their friends will like what their friend has said. It’s a great way to improve your edge rank and appear on more peoples wall.

Competitions/games drive social engagement

Competitions/games drive social engagement

Q) Do you have any tips on how to structure content successfully for maximum impact?

A) We feel each piece of content needs to meet a certain criteria – firstly it needs to get your audience’s attention, therefore the correct title is important. But it’s no good having an eye-catching title if the content of the article doesn’t match. Images are very important too, content needs to be visually pleasing – many people don’t have the time to read a large portion of text so if the images match the content then they will stop and read. We ask ourselves questions, such as “Will our readers be interested in this?” “Will this be of benefit to them?” If the answer is “No” then there is no point in doing it.

Q) Are there any particular sites that you model yourself in terms of content?

A) We like to view ourselves as the Money Saving Expert of the voucher code industry. Unlike some of our smaller competitors who just list codes & deals, we put lots of effort into value added content through our blog personas.

Q) Finally, do you have any content marketing tips for those with limited time and budget?A)

A) Anywhere you can find content ideas is going to be a time saver. There are plenty of tips online for content creation strategies in particular formulas for a perfect link bait article, places to browse the most successful marketing campaigns etc. Join relevant sites for free like

Basically, don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at what’s worked in the past and redo it better, with a different angle.

Key takeouts

  • Unique content does not necessarily mean great content.
  • Look at pages objectively – Ask whether your audience will be interested in content. If not, remove it.
  • 410ing a page is the quickest way to remove it from Google’s index.
  • Be patient – don’t expect ranking improvements straight away.
  • Be careful when outsourcing link building, closely monitor all external activity.
  • Use games/competitions to engage your audience on social media.

Been affected by and recovered from Google Panda? Share your experience below…


Ask an SEO – Paul Delaney on managing clients and their expectations

Managing expectations is a vital part of any SEO campaign, and a good account manager will be adept at doing this, by balancing realistic targets with the resource available to them. I caught up with Paul Delaney, SEO Account Director at MEC Manchester and asked him how he goes about this.

Paul Delaney

Paul Delaney

Q) Hi Paul, could you maybe start by giving me some insight into what a typical day in the life of an Account Director looks like?

A) A typical day consists of reviewing campaign activity for the clients I’m responsible for. This consists of keeping up to date with communications between internal and external teams, dealing with any queries from clients, operationally as part of the senior team we look at planning and product development to ensure that MEC are continually keeping up with market trends and that our product remains best in class.

Q) Tell us about your firm MEC, what does the team and setup look like there?

A) MEC is an all service media buying agency, we have core groups for each discipline and the structure is generally what you’d expect from any agency, an example for my clients would be myself, a Senior Account Manager, account manager and an Executive with touch points from the content team and the wider areas of the business.

Q) When you’re pitching for a new account – what do you hang your hat on, what are MEC’s USPs?

A) The ambition of MEC is “To be our clients’ most valued business partner – famous for inspiring people & exceptional results.” with this ambition, when pitching SEO/organic performance we pride ourselves as a best in class enterprise service and we are also the highest ranked media agency for the last 3 years in The Sunday Times best 100 Companies to work for.

Q) MEC are a media buying agency, does that mean that you can leverage relationships with publishers for links? If so, do you have any insight into this process and how perhaps those without these relationships could go about this?

A) Being a large media agency we do have the benefit of contacts throughout the business, from a link POV it’s not something we go for in isolation, as part of wider campaign activity we ensure that any SEO value is looked at when campaigns are being planned and executed.

Q) Could you share with us some insight into how your SEO campaigns are set out in terms of targets, are these focused on rankings or traffic? Are there any PRFs involved?

A) Each campaign is very different to the next, a typical campaign is set out to ensure the client KPIs are continually measured against be that rankings, traffic, sales, ROI. We ensure a site is critiqued for top to bottom and all angles covered from a technical viewpoint including audits, research as well as the on and off site activity.

Q) Is it easier or harder to do SEO in a full service agency, as opposed to one that simply focuses on SEO?

A) It’s a bit of both to be honest, when solely focusing on an SEO campaign in isolation it can be easier as the tasks in hand are very specific and managed accordingly, with clients with multiple media disciplines co-ordination with wider teams is key in terms of planning and communications.

Paul is involved in Salford University's Search & Social Media Marketing Course.

Paul is involved in Salford University’s Search & Social Media Marketing Course.

Q) Do you outsource any elements of your SEO campaigns, or is all work carried out internally?

A) We have a very experienced and strong team for our content creation and outreach that means we don’t need to outsource our work, as part of a wider company we can reach out to other parts of the business to co-ordinate anything that doesn’t sit within our team.

Q) My experience of agency-side SEO has been something like this – sales promises the earth to get clients in the door – SEO team then struggles to meet these expectations. How do you prevent this from happening?

A) As an all service media buying agency the process to win new business is a long and thought out one, multiple rounds of pitches take place and all teams involved work together to plan for resource to ensure that new clients are serviced to the full ability.

Q) As an in-house agency copywriter, I was often handed some pretty unrealistic deadlines due to account managers with a lack of understanding of how long things actually take. Does having been at the coal face in terms of actually working on SEO campaigns help you to avoid doing this? How hands-on are you in terms of campaign delivery?

A) Yes indeed, having worked in SEO for 5+ years I fully understand how long things take to produce and part of my role is to ensure that campaign delivery is managed through our content team and ensuring both expectations of the client and internal teams is co-ordinated, so very hands on managing the process.

Q) Prior to joining MEC, you looked after operations for Latitude Express, an SEO service aimed at the SME market – how does that differ to your current role where you are presumably working with much bigger brands? Do you have any tips for SMEs with limited budgets on what to focus on in relation to SEO?

A) Yes the role differs greatly in terms of the size of clients, the pressures are still the same, ROI. With the ever changing face of SEO it’s important that SMEs with limited budgets ensure that their site is in the best shape possible and also ensure the correct agency is chosen if partnering that the advice given is correct.

Q) How do you deal with the issue of getting buy-in and SEO recommendations implemented by your clients?

A) When working with large clients it can be challenging and therefore it’s imperative that any recommendations the team and myself are giving to clients is discussed and the relevant stakeholders are engaged, my role is to ensure that a clear and concise strategy is delivered and maintained, generally a marketing manager is the day-to-day contact and they understand the values of what we are trying to achieve so good communication is important.


LinkRisk – one of Paul’s favourite SEO tools

Q) Some more general SEO questions now – one of the SEO tactics frequently used in the past is press release syndication, has your approach to this changed recently following Matt Cutts’ recent comments?

A) I still use press releases post Matt Cutts’ comments, a press release can be used to not just gain links but to be used for visibility and get important client information out there, I believe that traffic can be gained as well as any declining link value, a press release generally should be as it’s named and not just created for links.

Q) Who would be your dream client and why?

A) Good question! There are so many brands that would be great to work on it’s hard to say, I suppose brands like Apple and Sony stick out for the range and quality of their products. They would be good to work on from an all-service point of view as the creative options would good.

Q) What are your favourite SEO tools?

A) There are so many out there but my go to tools are Search Metrics, Majestic SEO, Linkdex, LinkRisk, I also develop my own tools for some tasks as well as using proprietary tools we have built.

Q) Who are your favourite SEO rockstars?

A) I don’t really like using the term ‘SEO Rockstar’ but good industry people I follow and trust are Martin MacDonald, Bas van den Beld, Kevin Gibbons, Joost de Valk to name a few. I also engage within the Manchester Search and Social community so the likes of Shane Jones and the 3 Door Digital guys.

The importance of pulling the plug

While fresh out of uni and only just embarking on my first ‘proper job’, I’m already becoming acquainted with the onset of fatigue that comes with working in an online environment. If you work in the field I’m sure you’ll know the feeling – staring at a computer screen all day is bound to leave your brain at least a little frazzled.

If you’re in the office now I’m sure you can glance around and pick up on the tell-tale signs. The getting up to make that umpteenth cup of tea. The compulsive hitting of refresh on Gmail and Tweetdeck on the off chance that something has happened in the last two minuets. The surreptitious checking of Facebook when you think no one’s watching. Did you know that low productivity directly correlates with the level of mush your brain has been reduced to due to over-exposure to the Internet? Fact.

Not that there’s any respite from the toxic and hazardous reach of the Internet. Thanks to the latest technological revolution there is virtually no escape from the Web – the latest figures show that the number of Internet users worldwide has risen from a paltry 360,985,492 to 2,405,518,376 since the year 2000. That’s over a third of the earth’s population.

While this growing migration online has had a huge impact on many of our working lives, revolutionising industries left right and centre, worse still is its effect on our personal time. I bet you couldn’t look me in the eye and tell me you’ve never been the even a little bit addicted to your smart phone at one point or another, the insatiable Internet fiend inside you ever hungry for the latest meme or cat video (the beauty of the Internet being there is always something you haven’t seen yet).

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

So we’re online at work. And let’s face it, we’re always online at home. So when do we get to unwind properly? It seems we can’t enjoy anything – lunch, the theatre, a holiday – without constantly letting our hundreds of vague online acquaintances know HOW MUCH FUN WE ARE HAVING. LOOK. (The upshot of this of course being serious life envy – ‘why aren’t I in Corfu?’)

Even on my recent holiday it seemed impossible to simply switch off and experience my time there through anything other than an iPhone lens.

Maybe Dave is dead?

After 8 hours on a plane flying to America, we’re all suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms. You need us to keep our phones turned off so we don’t disrupt the plane’s equipment? Screw the plane – I need to Instagram this stunning picture I took of the sun setting on the clouds as we flew over Sweden, and Twitter is currently being deprived of my witty commentary on airline food. #whatISthedeal?



As soon as we landed, the screech of the tyres on the runway was met almost immediately by the sound of two hundred iPhones booting up. But what were we really bothered about? It’s not like anything exciting is happening – like Dave getting engaged.

Saying that… what if he is? Him and Katie have been pretty good lately. Or what if he died? Is Dave dead? Dave is definitely dead. People will never forgive me if I miss the funeral.

I wonder if Helen’s had her baby yet?

And so on.

Before we know it, the holiday’s over and we’re back at Manchester Airport feeling like we’d never left. A huge waste of time.

Cut the wire

Once a year at Copify, IMAP is disabled, smart phone is confiscated and your laptop is locked in the office safe (I’m not sure where the safe is, but I’ve been told there is one).

We not only unplug, but we cut the wire completely. You have taken the red pill and are out of the matrix.

You’re then sent away and left to your own devices for two weeks. Cold turkey.

When you work in a small team and the “brain frazzle” happens at regular intervals, unplugging once in a while to maintain long term productivity is wise. For your health, it’s vital. Think of it as a cleansing detox – for your mind.

The first two days are hard. You may never know the latest news on the royal baby. How can you fully appreciate your lunch without anyone else admiring it? Your normally over-active brain is now forced to think about things that don’t fit in to 140 characters. Can I really do this? Will my fingers stop fidgeting?

Frankie says relax

After a week of craving, your brain is close to full reset. As a test, try and do some simple arithmetic in your head, or count the number of people you’ve actually spoken to in person that day. Feels good, huh?

Unplugging can seem scary, impossible even. But give it a go, and take comfort in the fact soon you’ll be back in the office, three monitors blazing, obsessively bashing the “Get Mail” button and dominating Candy Crush in your lunch break.

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 12.18.36

Ask an SEO roundup

A quick roundup of the Ask an SEO features we have run so far:

Ben Fox

Ben Fox


Ben Fox – Appliances Online

Ben discussed content and how he deals with the usual difficulties of ‘getting SEO stuff done’ in a multi-fascia, multi-stakeholder environment.


Ryan Gibson

Ryan Gibson


Ryan Gibson – AsiaRooms

Ryan Gibson, Link Acquisition & Outreach Manager at AsiaRooms shared some incredible insight on how to do blogger outreach successfully.


Patrick Langridge

Patrick Langridge


Patrick Langridge – Screaming Frog

Patrick has a background in traditional PR and talked about how to utilise this knowledge and experience for SEO success.


Matthew Platt

Matthew Platt


Matthew Platt – ineedlinks

Link building expert Matthew Platt told us how to build quality, under the radar links at scale.


Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor



Matthew Taylor – SEOptimise

I asked Matthew about SEO & design issues, and the challenges and opportunities of responsive web design.


Yousaf Sekander

Yousaf Sekander


Yousaf Sekander – RocketMill

RocketMill and Social Crawlytics founder Yousaf Sekander talked about social media and how to successfully utilise it for SEO.



Sam Applegate

Sam Applegate


Sam Applegate – SEO Consultant

Creating content is one thing, creating content that gets shared enough to get traction is another. Sam discussed how to go about this, and how his new startup Flauntt is aiming to help.

Tara West

Tara West


Tara West – Koozai

I asked Tara why there is such as male dominance in the internet marketing industry and what needs to be done to redress the balance.



Anji Ismail

Anji Ismail


Anji Ismail – Doz

Can an SEO campaign be outsourced from end-to-end?



Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne – Firecask

Everything you ever wanted/needed to know about WordPress and SEO.



Stacey Cavanagh

Stacey Cavanagh


Stacey Cavanagh on building brand signals

Stacey Cavanagh of Manchester agency Tecmark on creating ‘brand signals’ in the form of useful, interesting and insightful content.


Alan Gregory of Monkey Face

Alan Gregory


Alan Gregory of MonkeyFace on starting an SEO agency

We caught up with Alan Gregory of MonkeyFace SEO to talk about the trials and tribulations of setting up an SEO agency in the current climate.



Matt Beswick

Matt Beswick


Matt Beswick on automation with APIs

With Google seemingly cracking down on any form of scalable, relatively easy form of link building, is it still possible to automate tasks by using APIs?



We are constantly on the lookout for SEOs with a story to tell. If you would like to feature, drop me an email.