Google Answering Questions in Autocomplete

Well this is something I haven’t seen before, Google answering questions in the autocomplete. 



I find it quite strange how Google is showing these types of answers from only typing in 3 characters. While the conversion calculator is very useful on Google, I wouldn’t have thought that it would be one of the top searches to warrant showing in the autocomplete. 

Has anyone else spotted this before or seen any similar examples of this in action? 


WordPress Hacking Attempt With Visualisation

Well Tuesday was a fun evening watching someone relentlessly try and hack into the blog. Thankfully, they didn’t get in. Seriously though – why? Go & waste your time somewhere else instead of trying to actively cause harm. Anyway, I thought it was worth covering what this looks like on a WordPress blog and how it could quite easily have turned into a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) due to the way it was being done. And I guess the most important bit, how you can prevent this type of attack on your WordPress blog with the help of a simple plugin, which thankfully I had installed already. 


The Cool DDoS Hacking Attack Visualisation

While I’m sure all of the information in this post will be useful, by far the coolest bit is the fancy visualisation that I was able to create with some handy software. Feast your eyes on this;



The above video shows the attack trying different passwords/usernames on wp-login.php by attempting to force access by guessing the password. The video is just a small snapshot of the attack which was happening for almost 9 hours on and off, I guess someone had the afternoon off work then…


The Data

 Being a bit of a data geek, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to dig into this a little deeper. Below shows the number of requests per minute between the time the attacks started to when they finally gave up. 


(click for larger graphic)


While these figures aren’t enormous, when the blog isn’t on enterprise class hosting this can slow the website down and more than anything it is just a bit annoying. 


Why A DDoS?

Why is this attack different than someone just simply attempting to guess a password? Well, this person is clearly well equipped with a bag full of IP addresses. I’ll explain about how to prevent your WordPress blog being hacked via this method a little later, but what I can say that if it wasn’t for the plugin that was installed, this could have been a lot worse. 

Another beautiful graph showing the number of attacks per IP address (this is only a selection);


(click for larger graphic)


I’ve not posted the IP addresses fully as, unlike the people doing this, this isn’t right as they could be hacked computers where these requests were coming from. In total there was 268 IP addresses used during the attack, which is quite considerable! The average number of attacks per IP address was at 12.38, which was no doubt limited by the plugin that was installed to stop people attempting this type of hacking attempt. 


How to Prevent a DDoS Hacking Attack on Your WordPress Blog

Do you have a WordPress blog? Then I seriously suggest installing a plugin called “Limit Login Attempts”. What this plugin does is, well exactly as you an imagine, it limits the login attempts based on the users IP address. If someone guesses your login details incorrectly for 2, 4, 8, 12, whatever, number of times then the IP address will be blocked for a set period of time. This type of plugin can further block IP addresses longer term, all automatically, if the same IP address keeps coming back and trying again. 

Had this plugin not been installed, I can’t imagine how many requests all 268 IP addresses would have tried during this period. While this was an interesting experience and has produced a cracking visualisation, I hope it doesn’t happen again either to me or anyone else. 



Google Auto Suggest Listing Websites You Have Never Visited



I don’t think I need to say anything other than that and show the screenshot below – where the auto suggest on Google is listing websites that I have never visited before;



I’ve seen this before where Google shows websites that you have previously visited, but never for websites that you have never actually visited before. 

Anyone else seen this before? Another Google test?


Google Testing Grey Navigation Bar

Just spotted that Google are testing a grey navigation bar instead of the usual black one. It makes the browser look a lot more like what you would expect to see while using your computer’s file system opposed to an internet browser. Maybe this is Google’s way of getting people used to interacting with the web in this fashion, which should make the move to ‘The Cloud’ / Google Drive a smoother transition. 

Grey Navigation Bar



Usual Black Navigation Bar





Do you think this will stick around?



My Top 10 Most Popular Posts from 2012

We are now well on our way into 2013, but looking back at 2012, what were the most popular blog posts on the website during this time? 


Top 10 viewed pages in 2012

The list below shows the pages which were top viewed throughout the whole of 2012;


  1. The Ultimate Guide to the Google Panda Algorithm (March 2012)
  2. HTML5 SEO Best Practices (March 2012)
  3. How to Create an Embed Code for your Infographic (January 2012)
  4. 3 Essential Excel Plugins for SEO (January 2012)
  5. The 200 Signals Used in Google’s Ranking Algorithm (January 2012)
  6. Online Payment Methods in China (January 2011 – I know, technically not posted in 2012! But still one of the top read – after all that time – Evergreen content FTW)
  7. How to Create an Interactive Google Map (January 2012)
  8. Google Panda 3.3 – 15th February 2012 Update (February 2012)
  9. SEO Checklist for Website Redesign (January 2012)
  10. How to VLOOKUP Using Partial Match (August 2012)


The above list is a little bias as this doesn’t take into account that the earlier posts have had more time to accumulate additional traffic to them – hence why a lot of the posts are from earlier in the year, but there are some interesting ones in there like the VLOOKUP post in August which is creeping in at #10. 


Top 10 socially shared posts in 2012

The list below shows the pages which were most shared socially throughout the whole of 2012;


  1. HTML5 SEO Best Practices (March 2012)
  2. Ultimate Guide To The Google Panda Algorithm (March 2012)
  3. Google’s Business Plan: Steal Content and Screw Publishers (June 2012)
  4. Google’s Anti-Competitive Social Search Results (May 2012)
  5. How to Identify All External Links on a Website Using XPath (June 2012)
  6. Why Keyword Density Is Still Important For SEO (June 2012)
  7. How to Analyse Traffic from Link Building Work (August 2012)
  8. Dear O2 – Wiping My Phone Is NOT Acceptable (September 2012)
  9. How to Count the Number of Occurrences of Text in a Column in Excel (July 2012)
  10. Thanks for the Swagga Trip Advisor! (July 2012)


Again, this list is also a little bias as I have an automated Twitter post plugin installed which tweets out a random post from the past few months. So in times when I wasn’t blogging as frequently, certain posts will have gained additional social shares to skew the results. 

Overall though, it is interesting to see what type of content is working well and what content people are interested in reading about and sharing. 


17 Of My 2013 SEO Predictions

At the beginng of 2012 I made some quite accurate SEO predictions so I thought I’d have another go this year and see how accurate they are again at the end of the year. Here are a few predictions that I think/hope will happen at some point in 2013. 


1. Restricted API Access

On a couple of occasions in 2012 there has been issues with API access for some large services which have put pressure on businesses to make changes if using these services. The main ones include the Twitter API where their terms of service changed back in August 2012 to make it more restrictive for people using the service. 

Another change was how Google cracked down on the usage of the AdWords API by revoking SEOmoz’s access in November and threatening removing AdWords API access for Raven Tools if they didn’t  remove their scraped rankings data. 

API access with any service makes it extremely easy to utilise their data by creating more integrated products, services and data intelligence systems. I predict that in 2013 we are going to see a lot more API access restricted throughout 2013 as more people begin to take advantage of this technology, with Google specifically having a large list of APIs they offer. 



2. Cross-Device Tracking Becomes a Reality

2012 has been the year where more people are using multiple devices during their purchasing process than ever before. Tracking this behavior is extremely difficult to do accurately due to the technologies all being cookie based for users who aren’t logged in to your website. Access by multiple devices then, in terms of analytics tracking, you are classed as two separate users with no connection at all. 

What I would love to see in 2013 is for someone to come up with a solution to this issue and for it to be possible to track across multiple devices during the purchasing funnel. This would enable marketers to fully understand how customers behave and provide data to backup why people need a mobile website, why responsive design is important, how and when people convert, what the assisted conversions are, and all of the other interesting metrics that come along with this type of tracking. 

With more and more people being continually logged into Google and Facebook while browsing the web maybe there is a solution to this here to at least provide some useful data across devices. While this is certainly not perfect (and I doubt that any system would ever be!) this could be an interesting step towards understanding the multiple-device purchasing process. 

I think this prediction is unlikely to come true, it is more of a ‘fingers crossed’ wish instead! 


Image courtesy of Search Engine Land


3. Big Businesses Gain a Deeper Understanding of SEO

Often  larger organisations don’t fully understand the bigger picture with SEO. It is often seen as something that is either a one off piece of work or something that you can simply bolt on to projects/websites. A bit like magic really. 

With updates like Pengiun and Panda forcing SEOs to look towards the higher quality side of SEO I predict that this will in turn translate into bigger businesses gaining a much deeper understanding of what is involved with SEO. And this is only a good thing. 

The better larger organisations understand SEO the more it can be integrated throughout their whole processes to get the best results possible. 



4. Google Launches an Integrated Travel Product

With the speed that Google is moving in the travel space I predict that they will launch an integrated travel product which joins up all of their products/services that they have launched over the past couple of years. 

Initially it started with purchasing several key businesses in the travel space. This was then used as the basis for creating their own travel products (which were pushed to the top of the SERPs!). The next logical step is to integrate these into something much more useful and that spans across the whole process of booking a holiday or a hotel. 

Currently Google have;



I have posted a lot about how Google is entering the travel market over the past couple of years;



I would be extremely surprised if something like this didn’t launch in 2013. Whatever they launch, I predict that it will be a cross platform device with some kind of social element integrated throughout (Google+ of course!)

 Here is what it could look like (okay, I may have gone a little overboard with the ‘book’ buttons…)





5. Google+

I predict that Google announces further spurious statistics about the failing social media platform, Google+. A while back when I attended the Google@Manchester Event they mentioned that;


“Google+ as a social network has a total of 400 million users with 100 million of these being active every month.”


According to Wikipedia (so it must be true…) Google has 53,546 employees which would certainly account for around 0.053% of that user base (if my math is correct!). Not quite sure who the rest are though…. For pure amusement and pointless-ness sake, I am going to make up estimate that each Google employee has convinced 10 of their family/friends to use the social network, of which they have then convinced 2 of their friends to do the same which gives….

  • 53,546 Google employees have convinced
  • 535,460 of their friends/family to join Google+ who have then convinced a further 
  • 1,070,920 people to give it a go too. 
  • This leaves us with a total of, 53,546 + 535,460 + 1,070,920 people who are (in some way) related to Google employees which gives us 1,659,926 people who are using Google+ each month – or 1.65% of the user base are Google ‘related’


As you can see…these figures are based on extremely scientific and accurate data sources so cannot be questioned in any way :-) I also imagine that Google came to those figure it announced in a similar scientific way as well..




6. Forget ‘Big Data’, Businesses Begin to Understand ‘Small Data’

‘Big Data’ – one of the phrases being thrown around throughout 2012. I love data, I am a total geek and love spreadsheets but what I have found is that most businesses struggle to understand small data, let along big data (i.e. think Tesco’s data warehouses for their Clubcard). 

I predict that in 2013 businesses are going to get a better understanding of the ‘small data’ that is already available to them and about how this can inform business decisions. There is always so much information available within the data when you are asking ‘it’ (the data) the right questions. 




7. Google Jobs Launches

One vertical that Google has left largely untouched so far is the Jobs market. This is a place that is rife with aggregators and, to be fair, a lot of spammy and low quality websites (don’t get me wrong – they aren’t all like that – but there is a lot of junk out there..). This could be an area where Google launch a new Snippet markup to help Google better understand the jobs that are available. 

The next step generally after this happens is that Google create their own vertical to compete against the people who have just handed them the structured data on a plate. While I think Travel and Social are areas that Google is more interested in at present, I wouldn’t be surprised if they begin making moves in this area. 




8. Integrated SEO

As I mentioned a little earlier in the prediction for how big business will gain a deeper understanding of SEO, this one follows on from this in the sense that as a greater understanding comes the more integrated SEO becomes throughout the whole organisation. From integrating TV campaigns online, integrating social with other areas of the marketing work and working closer with the PR teams. 

I predict that we are going to see much more integrated SEO throughout 2013. 




9. Google Monetises More Previously-Free Services

Google currently has a large list of their APIs that are available for people to use. This list has shrunk significantly over the past couple of years which has been due to Google deprecating those APIs or starting to monetise them as they have done with the Google Maps API. 

I predict that in 2013 we are going to see Google looking to monetise more of their previously free APIs. It is difficult to say which these could be but some of the more prominent ones could be the YouTube API, Google Webmaster Tools API (this would be a contender after threatening persuading companies such as Raven Tools and SEOmoz to remove scraped data. I imagine next they will be informing them that they can pay to use the rankings data within the Google Webmaster Tools API!). 



10. Bing Integrates Search into Other Products

Bing is still one to watch. Last year I predicted that they would gain search engine market share and they did by a small amount. I predict that Bing (or Microsoft specifically) will being to be integrated more and more into other products such as the Xbox and other Windows based devices such as mobile, Surface and other tablets. 

Bing has created strategic partnerships with Facebook in the past and to grow further I believe this will be key for them. If Facebook launch their own search platform though, I reserve the right to scrap this prediction all together as this will have a reasonable impact on Bings market share :-) 



11. SEO Role Expands

In the past the SEO role can often be quite isolated  and looking at things from an SEO point. With Google updates making old skool SEO much harder to game I predict that the role of an SEO will expand further. While I can’t imagine the role will by hands on in the new areas, I believe the additional responsibilities will be to gain deeper understanding of different business areas which will help the SEO team integrate better within an organisation. 

These additional understandings could include PPC, Email and Offline Advertising. This can only be a good thing as a better understanding helps people to think more creatively about how to get the best results possible.  



12. Businesses Test AdWords for Non-Commercial Keywords

While not traditionally SEO, but according to the above prediction it could well become a bigger part of the role, I predict that in 2013 Google is going to be pushing people to bid on non-commercial keywords within Google AdWords. 

Why? Because it is an additional revenue stream for Google that is largely untapped, with the exception of the Google Grants for non-profit organisations. This will likely be pushed more as multi-touch point analysis becomes easier to track. Imagine if you placed an advert for the keyword “Best places to visit in Bangkok” and landed the person on a travel guide style piece of content. Then if you are also advertising for things such as “Bangkok Hotels” then is this user more likely to purchase the product with you as they have come across your brand before? Or not? 

The cost per click for commercial keywords is always growing as more people start to bid on them, so I predict that we are going to see more people testing this type of advertising to generate a higher return on investment. 



13. Links Become Even Harder to Game

While Google has been making a lot of changes in relation to links over the past 12 months, I predict we are going to see an even greater change for links throughout 2013. Matt Cutts has already mentioned about how Google ‘may’ target infographic websites as these aren’t really endorsements for your website. While I disagree with this for high quality infographic websites, I can understand where he is coming from as there are a lot of junky infographic websites out there. 

Google has also mentioned about how guest blogging trend hasn’t been the highest quality in the past and has been done more for the link value than anything else. With working in SEO you certainly come across enough websites while trawling the web to fully understand what he means. I predict that we are going to see a lot less value passed from these types of websites in the future as often they are a bunch of niche websites owned by the same person who is charging for posting. Ultimately, this is just a glorified link wheel with content and no real added value to anyone. 

Overall in relation to links I predict that Google is going to crack down on medium quality links and really push people to think about real world and valuable links. 



14. Google’s Pet Panda Goes to Sleep….for a while

I predict that in 2013 Google Panda will become a thing of the past, everyone who has been hit has been hit already for low quality content. Instead this algorithm update will simply be incorporated into the normal search engine algorithm. While I don’t think this is the last we will see with Google targeting low quality content, it will be less prominent  throughout 2013. 

Who knows what the next big algorithm update will be called, I’m going to hedge my bets on…..The Google Puffin Update. (Black & White = Check. Animal = Check. Begins with P = Check.)



15. Delayed SEO Becomes a Reality

Back in August Bill Slawski did a post about ‘Transition Rank‘ which is a new patent owned by Google which is about delaying the algorithm to make it harder to understand what is happening. I predict that in 2013 Google will announce the implementation of their ‘delayed response’ algorithm that they applied for a patent with earlier in the year. 

This will make it much harder to track direct results from specific pieces of work that has been undertaken. This type of change could also contribute towards the SEO role becoming more diverse as it turns more into a marketing role. 




16. Web Analytics Tools Become Even More Inaccurate

I predict that in 2013 we are going to witness analytical blindness as (not provided) reaches insane levels. Analytical blindness, not in the sense that there is too much data, but in the sense that there simply isn’t anything we can see there! Some reports are showing (not provided) data anywhere from 40% to 60% of traffic. I know on my blog the levels are currently at around, 60% of organic traffic is (not provided) and while this is going to be higher based on the content of the blog, but it is a signal to where things are heading for everyone. 

In addition to Google’s (not provided) data scandal, there are also issues with iOS6 users on the iPhone with their data being automatically encrypted which means… guessed it….more (not provided) data. 

Tracking results accurately is becoming a joke and being made harder and harder. I predict that in 2013 things are only going to get more difficult. 



17. Increased Focus For User Generated Content

I predict that in 2013 user generated content will become a priority as brands struggle to keep up with the requirements for on-going high quality unique and relevant content needed to help sustain rankings. It is clear that several top brands are starting to understand this and have begun engaging a lot more with their customers in better ways than just having a conversation over social media, instead people are starting to use those brand advocates in a way to generate content for them – usually after some kind of incentive. 

User generated content can be such a powerful thing when there is simply too much information for one team of people to write about. Content creation is a large resource which is extremely important to have and if you can use your audience as an addition to this work then it is a winning combination. I predict that we are doing to see an increase in this type of content creation through 2013. 





 Happy 2013 Everyone! :-) 



How To Return Multiple Nodes Using XPathOnUrl

XPathOnURL is an amazing function within the amazing SEO Tools plugin for Excel that can scrape specific pieces of content that you need when entering in a URL and the XPath of the content that you want to retrieve. This post isn’t going to be a quite to XPathOnURL, nor is it going to be a guide to XPath – instead what it is looking at is a way to retrieve multiple pieces of data when using XPathOnURL. If you are interested in playing around with XPath then download the XPath Helper plugin for Google Chrome that will help you get the XPath of the items you want to scrape. 

By default the XPathOnURL function within the SEO Tools plugin only brings back the first occurrence of the item within the DOM (Document Object Model – i.e the HTML of the page..). As an example lets take my blogroll;



When using the XPath Helper plugin for Google Chrome, and tweaking the XPath a little to get what I need, you can see that the XPath present is showing that there are four links present within the blogroll;



All sounds good right. Well not quite, since when you copy this XPath into the XPathOnURL formula as part of SEO Tools then you will only get back the first URL instead of all four of them. Note, you cannot simply copy the exact XPath as shown in the screenshot above since you need to do something slightly different to scrape the HREF attribute using XPathOnURL – luckily I wrote a blog post just about that a while ago!

For the purpose of this blog post, I will use the XPath version for use with XPathOnURL without further explanation about that – read the previous blog post if this doesn’t make sense. 

Anyways, back to the point. So when trying to scrape all four of the blogroll links using XPathOnURL you would think it would be as simple as entering the correct formula right? Unfortunately not. Blow is what happens when you try and do this;



While it is useful to get something back, it isn’t quite what I wanted. Instead I wanted all of the links to come back with this query which is more useful than just the first one. Depending on what you are scraping this can be a bit of a pain if there are quite a few pieces of content you want to scrape. 

Luckily there is another function within SEO Tools for Excel which is the StringJoin(“,”, “……”) function (information) which helpfully joins together data and separates them by whatever you want – in this case, I have chosen a comma to separate the results by. 

How this function can be used in conjunction with XPathOnURL is that you simple wrap it around the previous formula shown above and tell Excel to separate the results using a comma as seen in the example below;



This is a little more useful! So now we have all of the scraped data that we need. From here you can easily count the number of occurrences of a comma in the cell which will tell you how many pieces of data you have scraped. Or alternatively you could use the handy text to columns tool that is built into Excel by default to split out the data into separate columns (if you would prefer it in Rows instead then use the Transpose tool)

On a small scale like this it is easy enough to do this manually. But recently I had need to do this for around 500 URLs each with an unknown amount of ‘bits’ on that I needed to count. Life is too short to be doing that kind of stuff manually so found a nice quick way of doing this using a few formulas and a bit of Excel magic. It turned out that the results were over 6500 ‘bits’ which would have taken me an awful long time to count manually!

So hopefully this formula can help save you some time when trying to return multiple nodes using XPathOnURL. 


As a final note, as I was writing this post on another computer (and creating the formulas and screenshots for this post etc.), I noticed that the latest version of SEO Tools for Excel actually does this out of the box automatically. So if you don’t want to be doing all of this work manually then maybe it is just easier to upgrade to the latest version of the plugin :-) Below is what it looks like when using the latest version with all of the pieces of data you have scraped separated by a semi-colon ;



Thought I would carry on writing the post anyway as it would have saved me a bit of time earlier if I came across this post as I didn’t realise I wasn’t running the latest version! 


How Accurate Were My 2012 SEO Predictions?

Back at the start of 2012 I predicted 13 things that would happen in the world of SEO over the next 12 months, looking back on these let’s see how many of these came true.

1. Social Signals Gain Importance

Back in 2011 when Eric Schmidt announced that “The social signal, the people you ‘hang with’ is actually a ranking signal” but has this actually manifested itself into anything with a little more value throughout 2012? 

Well I’m not too sure. While there has been tests undertaken to see how well social signals correlate to high rankings, this is certainly not conclusive or likely to be the cause of the high rankings alone. 

Then during Matt Cutt’s keynote at SMX Advanced in 2012, he said that while social signals are important they are still nowhere near as important as links. Watch the full video below for what Matt Cutts has to say about social signals compared to links. 



So all in all, I don’t think that the social signals have really increased that much in importance throughout 2012 purely for their standard SEO benefit.

That said, in my opinion, I believe that social signals are an extremely important factor for long term success for the simple reason that the more social mentions and shares that you get then the more real people are being exposed to your brand online and this can only be a good thing as these are the type of people who are going to be linking to your website on from their blogs and other communities they take part in online. 


2. High Quality Content is Imperative for SEO Success

I think this goes without saying that this is one of the areas that has grown the most throughout 2012 within the SEO community. With further roll outs of the Panda update  throughout the year to an almost monthly update then high quality content cannot be more important.

There have even been company specifically re-branding theirself as content marketing companies opposed to traditional SEO companies. Companies such as Blue Glass UK after they acquired Kev Gibbons company Quatro in November 2012. 

I have seen first hand on many occasions how important quality content is for increasing rankings for both non-competitive and competitive keywords. Write content –> let Google index the new content –> see increased rankings as a result. 

John Doherty did a post a post back in October 2012 on SEOmoz which looked at what type of content gets links in 2012 in which one of the interesting pieces of correlated data was that the longer the content, the more links were generated. While this isn’t a specific guide to say that longer content will always generate more links, but it is an interesting correlation non the less. 



3. Rich Media Becomes More Important

This one kind of follows on from the previous mention about high quality content, as high quality content to me is going beyond the traditional couple of hundred words on a page to explain the topic. Instead it is about creating high quality content in whatever format is best to get the message or information across to the user.

Another interesting piece of data within the post what type of content gets links in 2012 was that posts with images generate more linking root domains compared to those without. The graph of this data is shown below;


So overall I would say that rich media has become a lot more important throughout 2012 than it has been in the past. More people are producing a wider range of content with Infographics becoming a favourite in the SEO world. While Matt Cutts has announced that;


“I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.” 


Personally, I believe this was just a bit of a bluff. People love infographics and they communicate data in a way that is very easy to digest and understand. So while there may be some tweaks into targeting lower quality infographics in the future, this is not specific to infographics but more in line with targeting lower quality content overall. What I took from Matt’s statement was that you shouldn’t be producing low quality infographics purely for links but you should be producing high quality ones because they are genuinely useful for people.


4. Google Providing Answers Directly Within Search Results

 Well…where to even begin with this one. There has been so many changes within the search results with Google directly answering questions that there is quite a bit to cover here! 

Back in June 2012 Google launched Knowledge Graph to the world which started to answer questions directly within the search results for an enormous amount of queries which ultimately lead to less traffic being received for the websites where this information was scraped.  



Since then there has been more and more of this type of content showing up directly within the search results including when you search for “things to do in Paris” which shows a huge list of different points of interest in Paris;



I would hate to think how much of an impact this has had for companies such as Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor as they are some good sources of this type of information, but I imagine they are getting much less traffic now these types of queries are being answered directly within the search results. 

Here is another example of this huge bar when searching for “Bruce Willis Films”;



I’m guessing IMDB has had a bit of a hammering from the loss in traffic from this too.

This has been such a huge change within the search results for 2012 I dread to think of the impact this has had on some of these businesses. If anyone has any statistics about websites where their traffic has been hit hard from these introductions then let me know as it would be great to see some actual numbers. 


5.  Google Gets Slap On Wrist

 Finally….finally…well almost. Lots and lots of things happening in this space with Google being sued for countless different issues around the globe. Just to name a few but Google are being investigated for their tax avoidance schemes they have set up and actually appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee in November (which was a rather amusing viewing if you saw it!). 

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land also wrote a letter to the FTC about how search engines need to disclose more in relation to paid inclusion although nothing has been received back unfortunately. 

 And lets not forget about Barry Adams’ amusingly titled Google’s 2012 Clusterfuck Countdown which lists a huge amount of issues where Google is simply being held accountable for different things and generally messing up with things they are doing. 


6. Mobile SEO Gains Traction

At the start of the year I predicted that Google would announce some kind of meta tag that would help them understand what the mobile version of a website is and what is the equivalent version on the desktop websites.

And I couldn’t have been more spot on with this. In June 2012 Google announced exactly this information which is outlined in their official mobile website guidelines.  

Google recommends;

When building a website that targets smartphones, Google supports three different configurations:

  1. Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.

  2. Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.

  3. Sites that have a separate mobile and desktop sites.


This is a really good improvement that Google have made as it ensures there are no duplicate content issues when displaying different content to people on different devices along with removing the potential for penalties when re-directing users based on the ‘User-Agent’ in the header. 


7. Less Importance on Number of Back Links

Need I say anything more than the word, Penguin? Back in April 2012 Google let another one of their black and white animals out of the bag with the Penguin update

The quantity and quality of backlinks used to be extremely important, and while they are still and extremely important area to focus on it needs to be treated carefully. With the Penguin update actively penalising websites with a high quantity of low quality backlinks then we need to ensure that the links being built are good quality to avoid being placed into this category. 

Previously low quality backlinks simply didn’t pass much/any value at all but this update followed by Google announcing that they are sending out warnings to webmasters which state they have got lots of low quality links pointing at their website and they need to do something which is insane

After which Google then announced a Disavow tool in October 2012 which is even more ludicrous as it expects webmasters to do Google’s job for them. Absolute non-sense. 


8. Only Google Reviews Are Used

No surprise again here with Google deciding to screw over everyone else who previously provided reviews to their products. Instead now Google have built up enough of their own reviews of their own to not have to worry about external reviews. In additional to this Google purchased Zagat back in September 2011 and have begun to integrate these reviews into Google’s services as well now. 



Then below shows a screenshot of how Google’s own reviews and their Zagat reviews on the Places pages;



The only place where it appears that external reviews are even being mentioned at the moment (specifically for a couple of hotel searches) is right at the bottom of the Places page (below both Google’s own reviews and the Zagat reviews) which shows;



The same is happening when reviews are included within the Knowledge Graph when that appears for different searches. Whereby there are only Zagat reviews and Google owned reviews which are being displayed. 

Honestly though, this should come as no surprise as this is what Google do when rolling out all of their own products and services, they utilise key partners initially until they can build up enough of their own properties first then simply get rid of the people they were previously working with. 


9. Bing Gains Market Share

Back at the start of 2012 I predicted that Bing’s search engine market share would grow to around 20% and while it has grown this year it hasn’t quite grown by that amount. Below is the search engine market share data for the past three years sourced from ComScore;



As you can see in the above chart, Bing’s market share has actually been steadily increasing over the past few years which is always a good sign in my opinion as it brings a bit more competition to the search engine scene. Google is still massively ahead of the rest though and will continue to be in this position for quite some time. 

Below is a pie chart for the search engine market share in October 2012 which shows Bing as 16% of the search engine market. Which is actually still a very good increase for Bing as previously they were at 15% of the market. So at least they are growing;



During 2012 Bing also launched a campaign targeted at Google called, Scroogled which was a nice way to make people realise that there are other alternatives to Google. Hopefully we will see more of these campaigns from Bing in 2013.  


10. Google Gets More Personal

It was looking like there was going to be a lot more personalisation happening throughout 2012 and there has certainly been more updates of the authorship algorithm which allows more people to get their photo listed within the search results next to their own content.

There has been Search Plus Your World launched in January 2012 which has received a lot of criticism since launching but it emphasises how Google is really pushing the personalised search with linking it up with their Google+ social network which is going to be a massive focus in 2013. 




11. The Death of SEO



12. Authorship Becomes Essential For Content

With authorship being pushed quite a bit by Google as it links in with Google+  this has certainly become a more important area to focus on simply because with the added image listed within the SERPs this helps drive additional organic traffic through to your website. 

The markup hasn’t become essential though for content writers, while it is certainly an area that a lot of people are focusing on it isn’t essential. Currently there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to suggest that if a piece of content is written by an influential person on a non-influential website that this ‘Person Rank’ is passing any additional value or trust towards that website. 

Maybe Google will announce something like this next year possibly, but for 2012 while authorship is important to help you stand out in the search results it doesn’t appear to be doing anything more than that at present.  


13. Twitter Launches Analytics Platform

Well…it was a bit of wishful thinking :-) Maybe next year! 




Overall though I think some of the predictions I made at the beginning of the year were actually quite accurate;

  1. Social Signals Gain Importance: Certainly still important but haven’t quite had the direct impact that was predicted
  2. High Quality Content is Imperative for SEO Success: More Panda updates, traditional SEO companies re-branding theirself as content marketing agencies and evidence to suggest that longer content generates more links
  3. Rich Media Becomes More Important: Certainly more people focusing on richer content and I can see this being the trend for the longer term
  4. Google Providing Answers Directly Within Search Results: An unbelievable amount of changes in this area
  5. Google Gets Slap On Wrist: Multiple slaps on the wrist
  6. Mobile SEO Gains Traction: Some nice changes to avoid duplicate content and potential penalties for redirects
  7. Less Importance on Number of Back Links: Penguin
  8. Only Google Reviews Are Used: Only Google’s own reviews and Zagat reviews being used now
  9. Bing Gains Market Share: By 1% point, not quite the 5% points predicted but it still gained
  10. Google Gets More Personal: Search Plus Your World
  11. The Death of SEO: :-) 
  12. Authorship Becomes Essential For Content: Certainly not essential but it can help stand out in the search results
  13. Twitter Launches Analytics Platform: We can only hope this will come next year!


Out of the 13 SEO predictions for 2012 I am quite happy with the fact that 9 of these have come true. Now time to have a think about what could happen in 2013…


How To Get The Domain Name From a URL in Excel

Often when analysing backlinks it is important to de-duplicate rows and rows of data into some kind of useful list of domains that you can work with. Often this can be quite a tiresome tasks but with a few Excel formulas it is possible to get the domain name from a long URL. 

If you are just looking for the quick answer on how to get the domain name from a cell that contains a URL in Excel then it is;


=MID(A1, FIND(“//”, A1)+2, FIND(“/”, A1, 10)-8)





If you are looking for a bit more of an understanding then read on a little further…


Explanation of Excel Formula

Lets break down the formula into the key components the finally join them all together into the full formula. 


MID(A1, … , … )

The MID formula in Excel is translated as =MID(text, start_number, number_of_characters) and is designed to create a sub-string of the original string. This can be very handy if you know exactly what position you want to start at and how many characters you want to put into the sub-string, although domain names are different lengths which doesn’t help much for doing this on scale.

If we use the previous blog post as an example to illustrate this then we could use the formula  =MID(A1, 8, 24);



While this is great if wanting to get the domain name from lots of URLs on the same domain (although alternatively you could just type the domain out on your keyboard….) – this formula falls short when you are trying to get the domain name from different URLs from different domains as shown below;



Half of the domain name is missing…Not very useful…

Fortunately we can group this together with other formulas to figure out where the start position should be and how many characters should be included within the sub-string. 


FIND(“//”, A1)+2

The next bit to the formula is figuring out where to start the sub-string. To do this we use the FIND function which as you may have guessed….finds something. So if we take the example FIND(“//”, A1) then what this formula is doing is finding the first occurrence of the text // within cell A1 – in this case, it is finding where the http:// bit ends. Why add 2? Because the FIND function in Excel identifies the starting point opposed to the end point as in the example below;



The 6th character in the domain name in the example above is the first forward slash. So if we used that in combination with the MID formula then we would end up with something like // being returned which contains the leading slash which isn’t correct. So if we add 2 (as in two characters to the right) then the returned result ends up being instead which is what we are looking for. 


 FIND(“/”, A1, 10)-8

 The next bit is figuring out the number of characters that should be used in the sub-string. This is using the same FIND function as in the previous step but using an additional argument within the formula (the 10). The FIND function within Excel works as follows: =FIND(sub-string, string, optional_start_position). So in this example, the 10 represents where the FIND function should begin looking for the first instance of the forward slash. 

Since you cannot have a forward slash in the domain name itself and the two initial forward slashes within the http:// are at a maximum position of 8 characters along, then the first forward slash after this point has to be the end of the domain name and the start of the URI

Why -8 characters? Because the full length of http:// is 8 characters and I am not that interested in that for this purpose so I get rid of it. If you want to keep this in then just remove the -8 bit of the formula. 


Joining it all together

So while the initial formula may seem a little daunting at first, when you break it down into its smaller components it is not too difficult to figure out what is going on. If you want to think of the full function as a sentence it can be described as;


=MID(A1, FIND(“//”, A1)+2, FIND(“/”, A1, 10)-8)


Get me the domain name from the full URL which is contained within cell A1. Start the sub-string after the first occurrence of two forward slashes together and end the sub-string at the first occurrence of a forward slash after the first 10 characters. 


Real world example

An example of how this can be used is with competitor backlink analysis to quickly identify all of the unique domains that are linking to your competitors websites but not your own. There will be a blog post to follow on this as it is a little more in-depth for what this post is looking at, but the Excel functions described here about how to get the domain name from a full URL can certainly help speed up that process massively. 


How to Scrape the HREF Attribute Using XPathOnURL SEO Tools

The joys of XPath and SEO Tools for Excel. Here we are going to talk through how to scrape the HREF attribute using the =XPathOnURL function as this is often needed when you want to scrape the actual links from a website which match a certain criteria. 

If you just want the quick answer, here is how you do it;


=XPathOnURL(“”, “//a”, “href”)


Well something like that anyways, as it depends on the actual XPath you need to use to get the actual links you need. One thing to note about the XPathOnURL function is that it doesn’t work quite the same as standard XPath but this will be explained a little later.

Firstly if you want to scrape the HREF attribute then you may actually be able to do this much quicker using the Google Chrome plugin called XPath Helper, but that isn’t always the case.  



I came across an example recently when I needed to scrape one HREF attribute on around 100 pages, so the XPath Helper plugin wouldn’t quite do it. Below shows the setup that I was working with whereby there was a lot of pages where I needed to scrape some data, particularly one specific HREF attribute as is shown in the example below; 



In the example above I am wanting to scrape a link to an image file which just happens to be within the first Div on the page (in this fictitious example!). 

Normally if I wanted to do this via standard XPath then I would use the XPath of: //div/a[@href] – which is saying “get the HREF attribute which is contained within an A tag which is contained within a DIV tag. 

When using the XPathOnURL function within SEO Tools then this doesn’t quite work in the same way. Instead if you want to pull back an attribute instead of the content between the opening and closing tags, then you need to add the extra parameter within the function which is: , “href” – which is telling the function to pull back the HREF attribute instead. 

I am sure that you will come across a need for this at some point – especially if doing a lot of scraping! 

That is all of the explanation I am going to do here. Go and give it a go yourself if you ever need to scrape the HREF attribute using XPathOnURL :-)