Thanks for the Swagga Trip Advisor!

A while ago I spotted a glaring error on Trip Advisor’s Bangkok Hotels page as outlined in a post I did about how Trip Advisor was assuming I could speak Thai. All of my blog posts are promoted on Twitter to my followers and since the title of the blog post contained the phrase “Trip Advisor” they spotted this as they are monitoring social mentions for their brand online. 

All large brands should be monitoring social media mentions for brand terms as an absolute minimum – if you aren’t then shame on you, you are missing an enormous opportunity!

So they thanked me for spotted the error etc. and offered to send me some of their nice Trip Advisor swagga as a bit of a ‘thanks for spotting’ which was a nice gesture. 

Hat’s off to Trip Advisor as they have actually got the error fixed, which is more than can be said with other large companies who would ‘take the feedback on board’. 

Here is a nice picture of what they sent me through which includes a cap, couple of bottle openers, couple of pens (with moving airplanes on the top which circle the globe!) and a document wallet – all branded.



While I doubt I will be wearing the cap any time soon (I like to think I have a little more style than that – no offence Trip Advisor! :-) ) it is a nice gift from them and I can certainly use the beer bottle openers!

Thanks again Trip Advisor! :-) 


How To Get Personalised Images On Blog Comments

Recently I have had a few people ask me about how to get your own personalised image when commenting on blog posts so I thought I would write a bit of information on how to do this, as it is extremely simple. Below is a screenshot of what your blog comments will look like once you have completed the simple steps outlined in this blow post. 



All you need to do so that your image will show next to all blog comments is to sign up to Gravatar (aka Globally Recognised Avatar – see where the name came from?). Within Gravatar you can personalise the image you would like to display and it is as simple as that!

Then next time you leave a comment on a blog post, the email address you have to enter when submitting a comment will be referenced with Gravatar and your image pulled in from there. Simple. 


This technique works when commenting on all WordPress blogs and many other large blogs around the web. Great for branding yourself when commenting on blog posts. 

So there you have it, a quick process which shows you how to get personalised images on blog comments. 


Let Me Share Your Content!

One of my pet hates about websites is when they make it difficult or impossible to share their content on social media. Please webmasters & companies, come into the 21st century and understand how important sharing content is. Lets take a look through a few different websites and what sharing options they have on their site. 

Websites With Poor Social Sharing Options

PC World

Looking at the product pages on PC World, the only options for a user are either to print or email the page. They are missing a massive opportunity by not including some of the more social buttons such as AddThis, Facebook Like button or the Tweet button. 




Expedia do a little better than PC World since they offer the ability to Like / Send buttons from Facebook, although what about if I want to share the content on Twitter or StumbleUpon? 

JJB Sports

JJB Sports have a better implementation of social sharing buttons than the previous websites listed as you can see below. They have included the AddThis button, Tweet button, Google Plus One button and the Facebook Like button. It doesn’t appear to have gained much traction so far since most of the products I viewed had no social shares, although I did only look through a handful of random product pages. 


With Google having recently launched their own social media platform, Google Plus, their Plus One button has been showing up everywhere and almost forcing people to begin to Plus One different websites. Here is an example of one of their Google Webmaster Guidelines posts and you can see that they have actually been nice to the other platforms (for a change!) and given users the ability to share the content on a range of platforms. 

They have also integrated the Plus One button into the search results to try and get more people to use it, although more recently this has disappeared and will only appear when you mouse over a listing. 

Whether you agree with how Google is pushing their own services or not, this is a good implementation of social sharing. 

Website With Great Social Sharing Options


Now we can take a look at some websites who have nailed social sharing on the site, so much so that the number of shares their content gets of phenomenal. 

SEO Book

SEO Book do a fantastic job of making social sharing buttons very visible, which is one of the reasons why their content is shared a lot. Below is an image of their recent blog posts and you can see it has had over 700 social shares, and likely many more which aren’t directly listed. 


Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land do a good job of social sharing buttons as well, with the main sharing buttons placed above the story then additional sharing buttons offered by Share This at the end of the article. This way, the most frequently used buttons are easily identifiable without cluttering the page and the additional less used ones are still available. 

Main social sharing buttons;

Other social sharing buttons at bottom of page;

Search Engine Round Table

Search Engine Round Table also do a great job of social sharing in a very similar way to how SEO Book implement it. They also list the main social sharing buttons with the additional option to share more content via the Add This button. The screenshot below was taken approximately 6 hours after the content was put online, so not bad to generate 60+ social shares within that time. I certainly couldn’t build that many links manually in such a short space of time!



Over at we have recently introduced some fantastic (if I do say so myself!) social sharing options so a user can easily see how to share the content throughout the site. The image below is a toolbar which is always visible at the bottom of every page and allows customers to create nice friendly shortlists and view recently viewed hotels. Go check it out, its ace :-) 

We also have the Add This button installed throughout the site in prominent places which allows the user to share via other popular social services. 

Why Add Social Buttons?

If you website doesn’t excel at social sharing or you are still in doubt about why you need to be using social sharing buttons then here are some obvious tips about why you need to be promoting them;

  • Social sharing helps promote your brand to more people FOR FREE. When a user shares the content on Facebook or Twitter, this content (and your brand) is then seen by all of their friends, family, followers and fans. Imagine the cost of trying to advertise to all of these people…
  • By allowing people to share your content, they are likely going to come back and visit your website again. I personally use Twitter as a ‘read later’ list when I re-tweet random things that I spot. Other people will email things to their self for reading later at, generally when they spot something interesting (such as a nice holiday!) in works time and don’t want to get caught by their manager browsing this. 
  • Social signals help your SEO efforts!
  • Social involves real people in the real world who are going to share and talk about your brand with other real people. The more real people you can get involved with your brand the better. This will ultimately lead to more sales, as long as people are talking about you for the right reasons!
  • When someone has just purchased a product, left a review or commented on some content then they like to brag about it. Let them tell their friends about it, it will ultimately result in more people coming to your website.

Here is a great example illustrating the last point. The example is when you have purchased an item on Amazon.


When it comes to link building, there are a couple of options

Option 1: Manually build low quantity and quality of links

Option 2: Build and promote great content which will attract natural links. 

I certainly know which I would prefer to do. Get the great content and promote well, since this starts the ball rolling for content to be seen by many more people when it is shared over social media. 

I hope this gives you something to go off and some good examples about the different options available. Most importantly is just getting something there at least, you can always improve on it later. For example, the Add This button takes literally less than 5 minutes to set up and install site wide. Just get it done. :-) 



Stop Spamming My Tweets Please Twitter!

Twitter is really annoying me at the moment by automatically with automatically appending links within my tweets and this caused an invalid and inappropriate link within one of my recent tweets

As you can see there is a link to, which then redirects to Barnes & Noble. This is not the website that was meant to be linked to, it was Here is the original tweet I sent via the tweet button on SEOBooks amusing Google slating post 


I decided to play around with this to see if it was either an advertising reason why the tweet was being hijacked, whether it was something to do with SEOBook or Barnes & Noble. 

Yea, did it with the one above

And Twitter also linked through to a website that blatantly doesn’t exist, (spot the typo :-) )

So all in all, this is not advertising based nor is it something is doing. It is Twitter thinking it is smart enough to automatically generate links. Note to Twitter – If I wanted some text to be a link in one of my tweets, then I would include the http:// section! Please stop hijacking my tweets. 

Also a note to – may want to tweak the code for your tweet button so avoid lots of links to an unrelated book website instead of your own :-)



Promoting Local Businesses via Social Media

Local businesses in Manchester are taking full advantage of social media to help promote their selves and services. There can be a lot of businesses who try this and fail tragically, but for certain business this makes full sense. I always get a lot of random people following me on twitter purely to get me to follow them back, albeit mainly people promoting their SEO services / blogs etc, but more recently I have noticed a lot of bars begin to follow me on Twitter (@MickCropper). 

I think this is a great idea for bars and events to follow local people on twitter, purely to promote their event since good places and events can be difficult to find when not always mingling in those circles. 

A couple of bars who have started following me are @FabCafeManc and @TheTigerLounge, both of which I haven’t been to before. They are always places on my “to drink at” list but I have just never got around to it, so I may just be going to these places a little sooner than I planned now they are back in the forefront of my mind. 


If you are looking to promote your local business via social media then Twitter can be a good place to start by using Twitter’s Advanced Search and finding tweets for people in your local area. 


In addition to this, another option for finding new customers for your local business is seeing who your competitors are following and who are following them. One thing I certainly noticed with the bars who began following me is that once one started following, others soon followed on so this is already happening. If you aren’t stalking your competitors then you are missing a trick, since they will be doing it with you. 


How To See Competitors Social Media Link Statistics


An interesting way to monitor how successful your competitors social media channels are is based on how many people are actually interacting with links and information they are sharing. This can then be compared with your own statistics to see how different your fans and followers are to that of your competitors.

It can be extremely easy to increase fans and followers on social media by linking up your current customers who are visiting your site using the various ‘follow me’ on social media buttons that are available these days. Along with running engaging competitions that will make current fans and followers entice their friends to join up.

But back to monitoring competitors click statistics.

When people are using the service for shortening URLs, via any of their domains or a custom URL shortener that has been set up, then you can easily see the statistics on that link simply by adding a + to the end of the URL.

For example, here is an old link that I have shared so you can see some statistics

Similar statistics are also available when using URL shortnener, for example here is a recent URL Google shared

The above link shows lots of cool information which shows you how successful competitors links are and how much influence they really have from their thousands of followers.

I haven’t tried all URL shortening services to see if similar statistics are available, but since these are two of the main ones I thought I would just cover those for the time being.

There may be a way to automatically pull all of this data into a Google Doc Spreadsheet and automatically compare how followers and fans behave on the links that have been shared, although with twitter now using “” for all links contained within tweets (at least via their API that is how everything comes back) then I am not sure this will be as easy to generate. Although if anyone does know of a way to do this, then please do share.

In summary, this piece of information to find out how engaged fans and followers are can be very valuable in addition to just monitoring the number of people following you on social media. This should provide some additional information into your competitors.


URL Shorteners for SEO

Different custom URL shorteners behave differently and can either help or hinder SEO so I have put this guide together for reference. I will be looking at both HootSuite and in this article to show how the different options behave.

HootSuite &

HootSuite has 4 different options when shortening URLs with their service. Each of the shorteners behave slightly differently, all have a use, but the only one that passes any SEO benefit is the one that 301 redirects the user to the page on your site.

This URL shortener will automatically 301 redirect visitors to your website and passes all of the SEO benefit to your site which is what we all want.


This URL shortener will 302 redirect visitors to your site although with it being a 302 redirect then there is no SEO benefit passed through this link. This may be a good option when linking out to websites other than your own if you don’t want to be seen as endorsing them in the eyes of Google.

Example: &

Both of the URL shorteners above actually display the content of the page on your site, but on their URL which is no good for SEO. This has been implemented via an iFrame, which Google find difficult to index correctly. This page does have it’s benefits though, mainly being that these pages include lots of social sharing buttons at the top of the page. So even though the pages do not pass any direct SEO benefit, they could still be beneficial if they result in more people sharing the pages with their friends. Although personally, it is not my choice.

Example: and

Now looking at how shortens URLs, they also have several options which all 301 redirect and do not have the variety that HootSuite have.

I am a little confused as to why there are 3 different URLs that all behave in the same way, maybe it is due to the limitations of custom URL shoreners – The fact that you can only have a maximum number of possible short URLs using 6 alpha-numeric characters (which is into the millions mind!).

There are also lots of other URL shortening services out there which likely behave in similar ways and offer different methods of redirection, so it is just something to be aware of when pasting these short URLs around the internet. Make sure they are passing the benefit you require.






How To Create Your Own Custom URL Shortener

With the recent announcement from stating that their Pro version is now the normal version, this means that it is now possible to get your own custom short URL. But how though?

Step 1 – Register a nice short domain name

A good place to do this is as you can get a nice view of all top level domains available, with the added bonus that they are very reasonably priced too. For mine I chose “”. When looking on you will notice they offer some great advice on the restrictions certain domains have, such as where the hosting or name servers have to be based so keep an eye on this when purchasing an odd top level domain.

Step 2 – Set up the DNS A record

When you log in to your registrar (the person you bought the domain from) there will be some settings somewhere that allow you to change the DNS records (not to be confused with the Name Servers). Here is an example of what this will look like

When you see this, change the IP address which is currently in there (may be worth making a note of this in case you mess up the first time like I did!)  to the IP address “” which is for Other URL shortening services that offer this will have a different IP to enter, so check on their FAQ’s.

The “@” above, strangely, has no relation to email. It is referring to your domain in its purest form with no sub-domain. So for example that would mean mine is “”

The “www” is referring to the URL “” – but since doesn’t use this, then there is no real need to put this in – although I have done anyway for good luck.

Be aware that once you have updated the DNS settings this can take around 24-48 hrs to propagate the internet so be patient!

Step 3 – Add Custom Short Domain to

The next step is to go to (i’m assuming you already have an account at this point – if not sign up!) and click on the “settings” link from the drop down where your username is. Then add in your new URL into the box provided and go to the next step.

Step 4 – Verify Your New Domain


Step 5 – Success!


Buttons, Buttons and more Buttons!

Twitter announces the new follow button, Google announces the launch of their +1 button, we already have the ability for a Facebook Like button and we have the fantastic AddThis too.

This seems like an awful lot of buttons to me – but I do believe there is a benefit to each of them (well most) if used correctly.

The new Twitter one-click-to-follow button is a great opportunity to get more people following you on twitter as it cuts out one of the steps required to follow. Previously people had to click from your site though to your twitter page, they then had to click to follow you. This seems like a small difference but I believe it is an important one, the easier you make it for people to do something then the more likely it is that they will do it.

The Facebook Like button has been around for a while and the benefits are phenomenal when incorporating this. The summary of the Like Button means that all of your website is now part of Facebook’s social graph, meaning that your pages can be found if people search for certain things via the Facebook search box (as long as the page has been shared at least once). You then get access to lots of cool information about this user which can be used to personalise pages and show which of their friends also like this page/item/category etc.

The AddThis plugin in my opinion is the best thing since sliced bread. It incorporates all of the main social media websites, it automatically orders the list of sharing buttons based on the individual users preferences if they have use it before (or ordered by global popularity if user has never used AddThis). What a great tool and we all know as SEOs that the more shares/tweets/links generated then the better your site will rank in the SERPs.

Regardless of any SEO benefit here though, it is still the right thing to do when encouraging more people to share your content as this is the modern day word-of-mouth. This is real people sharing this content/product with their real friends and associates.

Now the only odd one in the list above is the new Google +1 button. When did Google decide this was a good idea? Why did Google decide this was a good idea? I can totally understand this from a data collection point as this data can be used to personalise a users search results based on the websites they like (which IMO isn’t likely to work as well as Google would like). The data can also be used as great information to personalise the sponsored adverts too. But I am yet to be convinced of the true value for the user behind this – only time will tell I guess.

Currently the plus 1 button requires a separate install as it is not yet bundled within the main AddThis button. When I asked AddThis when this would be available, they were unsure of a timescale for this.

In the mean time though whilst I wait for some more information about this button and how successful / unsuccessful it turns out to be, I may install it and give it a go!