Hey everyone! I’m Cat and I’m the latest member of the Copify team.
As a content delivery manager I will be moderating and editing content. I’ll also be helping to address client and writer enquiries.
I was born and raised in Lancaster, so I know all about the area around Copify’s office. However, I have spent the last six years away from home.
First I headed down south to study Business and Japanese at university. As part of my studies I spent one year on exchange in Tokyo, which quickly became my favourite city on earth. I loved it so much that I went back immediately after graduating to teach English.
While in Tokyo I became interested in startups and found a position as a web project manager for a Tokyo city guide website. After a couple of years in Japan, I was determined to continue my startup career, so I moved to Berlin, to do a content marketing and marketing intelligence internship for erento.com – an online rental marketplace.
Between years at university, I spent a few months in Los Angeles, doing an internship at a subtitling and dubbing company. This was where my interest in editing started. This interest grew when I worked on the Tokyo city guide website, where I was responsible for website planning and content management. The best part about it was coordinating freelancers and editing articles. I’m excited to develop these skills further at Copify and use my existing content management knowledge.
In my spare time, I’m a huge fan of electronic music, so there’s nothing I love more than seeing my favourite DJs at festivals and events. This goes well with my passion for travelling; catching a music festival is a great excuse to see a new place. If you’ve never been to a music festival abroad before, it should definitely be on your bucket list. I’m also a bit of a foodie, so I’m always looking for new and interesting restaurants and recipes.
I love writing about new places and experiences. I enjoy sharing my insights and recommendations for nightlife, food and must-see destinations.
A few weeks ago we received a request from an SEO firm requesting that we remove a link to their client’s site from our blog. The post in question, a roundup of an SEO event I attended 3 years ago had a number of links in it, all of which were genuine and pointing to relevant resources which had been referenced at the event.
I linked to the page of my own volition as it was relevant and gave context to the article. I had no communication with the client prior to placing this link and no money changed hands.
So why was I asked to remove this link?
Over the past few years, Google has been cracking down on those who have been acquiring links in a way it deems to be unnatural. Those affected suffer penalties which can see their rankings drop, or in extreme cases, their domain drop out of Google’s index altogether.
One high profile casualty of this action was Interflora, who saw their entire site disappear from Google searches for not just generic terms such as ‘flower delivery’, but even the brand term ‘Interflora.’
Unlike copyright, libel, or trademark cease and desist letters, there are no laws stating that you must remove a link on request. That said, however, unless you are receiving a high volume of these requests and they are difficult to remove, you would be well-advised to action any removals.
If the link isn’t removed, it could ultimately lead to a Google disavow request, in which the webmaster will instruct Google to ignore the link and no longer associate it with his or her site. It’s not yet known what impact this has on a site, but it’s reasonable to assume that numerous sites carrying out this activity will not reflect well on your site.
What to do if you think you may have been affected by unnatural links
As I’ve already mentioned, the only definitive way to know if your site has been affected by unnatural links is to receive a warning like the above in Webmaster Tools. If this is the case, you would be well advised to consult with an SEO agency that specialises in Google penalty recovery.
If your site has seen a drop in rankings, this can be caused by multiple factors, not necessarily spammy linking practices. Don’t panic. Calmly carry out an audit of your links using the export function in Webmaster Tools. Add an extra column to the sheet that is exported, and mark each page you review as either suspicious or not. Once you have this data, you can begin the process of contacting webmasters.
Moving forward, if you outsource your link building, ask for regular updates on the links that are being built and audit these to make sure they comply with Google Guidelines.
Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater
Wholesale link removal requests are likely to do more harm than good in the long run, and could undo a lot of very valuable work. Before you make a link removal request be as sure as you can that removing the link is the right thing to do.
Most SEOs have a particular specialism, a secondary skill. This could be content marketing, PR or social media. In this piece, I caught up with Jason Dexter. Jason’s specialism is good, old-fashioned technical SEO.
I asked him about all of the technical issues we should be looking out for, as well as life at his agency Prototype SEO.
Q) Hi Jason, could you start by telling us about your background, how did you get into SEO?
A) My interest in web marketing started during my final year of college, where I developed a website for a business that sold number plates. The design was made by a friend of mine, but I worked on a system where you could type in your reg number, it would update the number plate in the correct format, you could change the style, overlays, at country flags etc. This sent it to the printer and it would be sorted there. We launched it and….nothing. Barely any orders or use of the system. I’d never considered HOW to get people to the website. Here I had a website I was proud of but nobody saw it. Moving onto university, I created a website that was an amalgamation of various social networks. Nice website, it worked, launched it on a domain and hit a stumbling block; no traffic. So I read up about how to get people to the website through social media, paid advertising, SEO and blog writing.
So over a few months, I’d got this passion (albeit with a small amount of knowledge) about search engines, how they work and how you could drive traffic to a website. My SEO skills weren’t setting the world alight but I’d optimised my website for some crazy long tail phrases that drew no traffic. But I was proud! Over the summer, I got a job with a a national paintball company, looking at their national websites and the websites of over 27 owner-managed websites across the country. Whilst I wasn’t experienced in commercial search optimisation, my job was overall management; image uploads, articles on the website, social media and SEO. The knowledge I gained from this job was huge and didn’t just focus on SEO. Working with 27 owner-managed venues, I essentially had 27 clients to look after, helping me build knowledge of client needs, management, relationships and internal politics. Things rapidly progressed, I contracted and freelanced for 3 years until became Head of Search for a design agency, rapidly building up their digital marketing clients and working alongside the social media department the create a multi-faceted search company.
Q) Tell us a little bit about your company, Prototype SEO?
A) The company is made up of 11 staff members, a mix of designers, developers, social and search. We’re an awesome team land theres some great talent here. It’s a relaxed environment and everyone is self motivated. We get our heads down, we get results. But because of the range of talents, there’s some crazy development work going on, or stand alone design. We’re based in South Yorkshire so our approach to work is no-nonsense, no-fuss and no-BS. Because of that, we’ve got some huge brands and companies on our roster.
Q) If you could advise an SME with little time or budget on one single task they can undertake SEO performance, what would it be?
A) Never underestimate local keywords. Ever. With that in mind, I’d look at Local Business on Google Plus. I’m cheating as it’s not a single task as such, but having a verified local listing can be incredibly powerful for a SMEs.
Q) What does your typical client campaign look like in terms of activity?
A) Generally speaking, we have two entry points into our search campaigns; we’ve built a website for them or we haven’t. If we’ve built a website, the search and social teams are involved from the very beginning. The heads of Search, Dev and Design sit down and go through a brief. My involvement here is usability, conversions and search optimisation. Every website that is built by these guys is in the best shape it can be pre-launch.
Typically, a campaign is segmented into content, technical and marketing. So whilst we could say duplicated content problems are related to content, it’s usually a technical fault with page management. Doing this also helps us create a 3 pronged approach, each having it’s own set of KPIs. Content could be user engagement and conversion increases through split testing, revenue increases. Technical could be lowering page load times and the lowering duplicated content issues. Marketing KPIs could be brand mentions, inbound traffic and (although I should say this and not focus on it) links. Each one is then split even further; content is then optimisation AND article generation AND conversion rate optimisation. Each of these subsets have their own KPIs and mini campaigns within them We try to be as granular with these campaigns because it makes management a gazillion times easier and we can see which areas need slightly more focus, which areas are performing the best and simply become much more proactive.
Q) How do you work with clients in terms of fees/KPIs?
A) Set fee. We have an extremely stringent checklist for anyone looking to pay for performance related or ranking-based KPIs and we’re yet to work with a website any other way. Without wanting to offend people, it doesn’t attract the right clients either. Search optimisation is a risk, much like any other marketing channel. We typically find that if a client is happy with work, they ramp up the spend. If they’re not, they’ll tell us and we sort it out.
Q) If you could name 5 things on a technical SEO checklist, what would they be?
Internal linking structures
Q) Following Panda 4.0, what technical issues should we be looking at?
A) Duplicated content. There are a lot more issues at play with Panda, put talking purely technical then I’d duplicated content. We recently sat down with a website and ran a crawl analysis on it and it came back with 86,000 pages. Around 60,000 of those were duplicated. We found urls duplicated through variables in the URL and poor management. We’ve added canonical tags on every page and used rel=next/prev to manage pagination. The number of pages indexed plummeted and their search visibility is climbing. We’re still waiting for the next ten day roll out of Panda to see the full affects but it is a great way of showcasing that more pages isn’t better. More quality is better.
Q) What are your favourite SEO tools?
A) DeepCrawl – Amazing and powerful crawl data. The reports could do with a better design, but overall this is a bit of kit I couldn’t live without.
SEMRush – Great monthly overview of search traffic, great for competitor analysis and keyword research.
Ahrefs – Backlink analysis. Pretty self-explanatory but great for link building.
SearchMetrics – Their search visibility tool is awesome and it’s my favourite. Doesn’t always pick up keywords a client is ranking for, but a top-level view is solid and is essential to our reporting.
Q) What metrics in Webmaster Tools should I be most concerned with from a technical standpoint?
A) Index status and crawl errors. The first allows you to compare to your site map and diagnose problems there. 100 pages in a site map and 10,000 indexed shows a huge problem. Crawl errors is not only a great way of finding issues with your website, but can be powerful for link building; pull off a list of 404 pages, run a back link check on those pages and work your way through the list starting with the pages with the most powerful links. 301 them to relevant pages and you’re not missing out on the link equity.
Q) Content marketing, short-lived fad or here to stay?
A) Here to stay. The name will change, like everything else in SEO. Just like conversion rate optimisation is now called growth hacking by most. The concept will be around for a very long time and I’m happy with that.
Q) Who would be your dream SEO client and why?
A) Paddy Power or Brew Dog. Their brand personalities are awesome and they’re not scared of trying anything completely insane, it’s part of their culture. The level of traffic they’d get also means we could work wonders on conversion rate optimisation as well.
Q) Who are your favourite SEO rockstars?
A) Rand Fishkin – That beard.
Dr Pete @ Moz – His tweets range from laser-focused research to his wife questioning why there’s dinosaurs on his presentation. He seems a great guy.
In this month’s feature, I caught up Shruti M Krishnan to discuss her plans to disrupt the £3bn market research industry with Startup Powr of You.
Here is Shruti’s story.
Q) Can you tell us how Powr of You got started, where did the idea come from?
A) My brother and co-founder, Keshav Malani, actually thought of it right outside the Baker Street station We had been exchanging emails about value of social data, value of our connected lives, and the constantly changing consumer trends. He sent an email as soon as he was out of the station and I still remember the subject line said Idea: get paid for your data.
The rest is the amazing journey over the past year…squeezed in between a crazy amount of work and learning as we’ve brought our platform live.
Q) Can you explain your business model in very simple terms?
A) Simply put, our platform allows users to be an active part of the online data economy, while remaining anonymous, and earning rewards along the way. Simultaneously, brands are able to get a deeper understanding of their consumers through natural data.
How do we do this… we aggregate, anonymise, and generate insights from user data, with user permission, and create market research reports. We then sell these reports to brands looking to understand their consumers better. The money generated here is shared back with our users. Furthermore, when users login to their account – they are able to see personalised insights about what their data says about them, fun things to better understand their friends and social networks along with their habits.
Q) What does your team look like?
A) Currently, the core the team is just the two founders: a brother/sister duo. We have 3 developers working with us full-time and a data scientist as well.
Q) Do you outsource any work, if so what, how and why?
A) We outsource our development (backend, frontend, and mobile) to India due to the costs of hiring in-house in London. Finding the right talent is quite a challenge in the UK, especially London when trying to balance out costs.
Q) How have you funded the business?
A) We are self-funded at the moment. We are exploring investment opportunities that align with our business goals though.
Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved?
A) Moving from idea to product has required and continues requiring an incredible amount of project management. From managing the outsourced development to managing the bazillion events and meetings, all the while being able to get some work done – all this has required meticulous tracking of tasks, constant check-ins between the co-founders, and love for what we are doing.
It’s a good thing both of us come from a fast-paced consulting environment.
Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out?
A) There is only one direct competitor to our business model in this space who is also in its nascent stages of development with its private beta phase. But Market Research as a whole is a very established industry with major players such as – Nielsen, GFK, Kantar, etc.
Q) What does your typical customer look like?
A) Given our two-sided business model, we technically have two customers:
Consumers – individuals looking to understand their quantified self through visualized insights, e.g: Travel Map, Social Trip Planner, War of Words, etc.
Brands – a company looking to leverage social media, understand their customers more deeply, or giving back to their consumers
Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?
A)The major hurdle we have faced is explaining the entire model to consumers given its complexity. It’s an ongoing exercise but we have to continually simply the message to be easily digestible. We work to share our tenets of transparency, privacy, and empowerment through all our messaging and branding. It’s an iterative process and we’ve gotten some good coaching along the way through the London Business School Incubator as we’re a part of the program. We’d also been lucky to be selected for other programs that have helped us hone in on the art of branding through a program called BrandAmplifier run by a talented team at JP Creative in Lambeth. They did various workshops with us to coach us on various media tools we can use to get our messages across and engage our audiences. This is a great program and came just in time as we’re starting to develop and execute our marketing plan.
Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?
Web Development – Axosoft Bug Tracker – can be used for all development for early stage companies and very affordable!
Email and Calendar – Gmail (Google App Suite) for small businesses is incredible for this and easy integration with phones, chat, google drive, etc.
File sharing – Dropbox: Great for sharing files with developers given it’s accessible anywhere.
Finding freelancers – Elance: Incredible way to source small projects and compare easily.
Software – Microsoft BizSpark Program: Free software, support, and visibility for startups.
Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?
A) We haven’t started tapping into any defined recruitment channels just yet. We are working to hone our product and messaging before starting a multi-channel outreach. We believe this will provide a better bang for the buck.
Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?
A) There are quite a few paths for us to take for the long term but we are working towards the goal of being able to provide our users a package of benefits, both financial and a service offering for them to understand their data and make the most of their social networks.