Author Archive

Why we’ve made our BlueGlass culture book public

At BlueGlass, we’ve put a lot of work into defining, protecting and communicating our culture and in the spirit of transparency, we have decided to make our company culture book completely public:

In the early days we didn’t need this – but as we’ve grown, the culture book has become an important part of how we collate, document and communicate our vision, mission and values to share with new starters…

That said, we’re far from being a corporate company. It’s not about being formal, or pretending to be something we’re not – it’s about trying to showcase who we are, how BlueGlassers’ can thrive in their careers and to be honest about the challenges. If this isn’t the best fit for someone, that’s also fine – it’s best for everyone to know this early.

As with any agency, the people in our team are the most valuable asset we have. In order for us to grow and improve – the challenge is clear, we need to attract talent and for our team to innovate and improve with us.

We also believe that great content marketing should be about telling your brands story to your target audience, and in this case we thought what better way to do that, than to be completely transparent about who we are and where we’re going as an agency.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this, and by the way – we’re recruiting too 🙂


Removing disavow file test = 37.31% increase in organic traffic

You may remember, but following a number of recommendations at Pubcon 2016, I decided to run an experiment to see what would happen if I removed a disavow file from a previously penalised domain:

At the time, it seemed to me that there were a lot of opinions on this, but no-one had actually tried it – or at least they hadn’t publicly shared the results…

So that was my goal, to run a controlled experiment where everyone could learn from the findings.

I picked a website I’ve had for a long time:

  • The domain had previously received a Google penguin penalty in May 2012
  • This recovered in October 2013 following disavowing links and reconsideration requests
  • The site generated a reasonable amount of traffic ~40,000 organic visits per month
  • And from the penalty removal, still had 977 domains actively disavowed

Early learnings:

Digging deeper into this, we found that because a lot of the links were historical, 28% of the links were now dead, with a further 3% as domains listed for sale – that meant that 69% were still active (674 unique domains in total):

Of course, some of the link penalties could have expired too (after-all, the penalty had been removed for 3 years by this point).

In which case because of the time period involved, that would indicate that perhaps the disavow was now unnecessary.

The early results saw positive, but inconclusive signs…

After 1 week, this showed that the average position had dropped slightly, then increased slightly – but nothing out of the ordinary and overall across the week has dropped from an average of 10.2 to 10.4.

In addition to this, the daily clicks has increased by 1,982 to 2,181:


(Google Search Console report)

After 2 weeks, the average position of rankings has dropped after my last update, but quickly rose back up – from an initial starting point of 10.2 (13th October), the average position dropped to a low of 11.6 (19th October) and then rose to a high of 9.8 (25th Oct) before returning to 10.2 (26th Oct):


I kept a close eye on this throughout, but the early conclusion was potentially that these are positive signs, but overall, it was too early and inconclusive at this stage to be recommending that removing your disavow file is a sensible move.

Fast forward to month 4… and results still seemed relatively static in Search Console:

In which case it’s becoming safer to say that perhaps removing the disavow file had no impact.

There’s still other factors to consider, like the age/potential expiry of links, but in this particular case it’s starting to look like removing the disavow wasn’t as crazy an idea as it may have initially sounded.

Month 5 organic traffic has increased by 37.31%!

Having now given this 5 months since the disavow file was removed, I decided to take another look back at progress.

I want to make it clear that no other activity has taken place on this site, in terms of on-site optimisation, publishing new content, PPC/other channels, or the active addition (or removal) of links…

Obviously there may have been other factors at play, Google’s algorithm updates being the big one, or competitor activity. But of the factors in our control, the disavow file removal was the only thing that changed.

Firstly looking at Google Search Console data for the last 90 days vs the start of the test, you can see that;

  1. The average position is now up to 8.3, from 10.3 (which is a -19.4% improvement, if that makes sense!)
  2. Average CTR has increased from 6.75% to 8.26% (22.3% increase)

Both of these are significant performance improvements – but what does this mean to traffic?

Here’s where we are today (highlighting the week before the disavow file removal):

Looking back at this, although I didn’t want to get too carried away with an early uplift – it’s pretty clear to see that the impact to organic traffic was fairly immediate and it has been sustained since.

The peak of the traffic in mid Feb, saw 16,151 sessions (44.7% increase vs the Oct benchmark) – and last week saw 13,911 sessions (24.6% increase).

As you can see, seasonality is very flat – and when viewed as a year-on-year comparison, you can see that there has been a 37.31% increase in organic traffic:

Why did rankings/traffic increase?

I think the biggest impact from this would be that within the disavow file, there are likely some positive links as well as negative. So in removing the disavow, bear in mind that a large number of links have been turned back on.

When disavowing, you want to get out of the penalty and maybe need to disavow a wider net of links to get this removed. But in time, and once out of the penalty, it’s interesting to see that in this case the net effect is a positive gain.

I would still be cautious in removing your disavow file completely, especially if coming off the back of a recent penalty, or freshly disavowed links – but based on this we’ve certainly seen good reason to re-visit which domains are disavowed and looking to at least prune down the list to a limited number in stages.

Although this was quite an extreme test to remove the disavow in one go – overall, I would class this as a very positive result!

15 best content marketing books

We started a monthly book club at BlueGlass earlier this year, to build upon our office library, where anyone can buy a book they would like to read and share with the team once they’ve read it.


This has been a great way to embrace one of our core values of learning. Every new starter in our team gets a Kindle, and once a month we decide on a book to read as a group…

Here’s an example of our lunch and learn notes after reading The One Thing, back in March:


Based upon this and the favourites picked from our team, we have built a recommended reading list of books for content marketers:

  1. Epic Content Marketing — excellent overview on the importance of content marketing by Joe Pulizzi.
  2. Creativity, Inc — fascinating insight from Ed Catmull into how Pixar’s story-telling and the brain trust which quality controls and ensures that each movie can be a big hit.
  3. Delivering Happiness — content is often about working together as a team and with your client. You can learn a lot from the fantastic customer service model and culture at Zappos, which is key when trying to get deliver happiness for customers and teams.
  4. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion — make every conversation and email count, so that you can get your message across in the most powerful way.
  5. The One Thing— the power of focus is so important, no-one can do it all.
  6. Start With Why — it’s so easy to get carried away with cool ideas, but going back to WHY, can help you to make sure your ideas are focused on the messages people really want to hear.
  7. Information is Beautiful — visualise data in a powerful way to get your information across.
  8. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – sometimes you need to build up to the big blow, Gary Vankerchuk is the expert at this to make sure your content connects with a bang.
  9. Everybody Writes – make your content writing as impactful as possible.
  10. Thinking Fast and Slow – understanding how people make choices is crucial in order to create content which resonates with them.
  11. Purple Cow – if you want to stand out from the crowd, there’s no better advice to take than Seth Godin’s on how to be remarkable.
  12. Content Strategy for the Web – very detailed overview on how to create content that assists your customers through their user journey.
  13. The War of Art – really good read that can help inspire you into creativity.
  14. 1 + 1= 3 – Dave Trott has a fantastic way of thinking and storytelling, you’ll learn a ton and laugh a lot!
  15. Made to Stick – an old one, but a classic – without great ideas, content marketing is never going to succeed in the way that it could.

Let us know what your favourite content marketing book is…

Is virtual reality (VR) the future of content marketing?

I have a confession. Until recently I hadn’t really given virtual reality too much thought…

Sure it looks like a lot of fun for gamers, but for marketers? Surely not!

The novelty will wear off and it will never catch on for a mainstream audience…


Then I saw Robert Scoble talk about virtual reality (VR) at Pubcon last month, which for me was a real eye-opener.

This really got me thinking about what virtual reality means for the future of content marketing…

I asked Robert a few questions after his talk, which provided hugely valuable insight into how VR can have an impact to everyone, and what marketers need to do in order to take advantage of this.

Don’t worry, I’m sharing all of the key points with you:

1) Microsoft is betting the company on HoloLens

Definitely watch this video, it’s very cool to see what VR will be able to do. It feels a bit like Minority Report to me, but it’s no longer a futuristic sci-fi movie!

Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Sony all heavily invested in virtual reality and if these five see that the future is in VR, they should know.

They clearly intend on doing whatever they can to make that happen, push the market forward and look to take their piece of it.

2) Christmas 2017 iPhone announcement is going to be big for VR 

Robert Scoble predicts that by the end of next year most of the world will get VR through their mobile phones and connecting headset.

The iPhone 8 (rumours are it probably won’t be called that and will be a sheet of glass!) launch at Christmas next year will include virtual reality headsets:

“The camera continues the work we introduced last year with a new dual lens design, but this year we have the point cloud data from the Primsense sensor that can computationally be joined with the camera’s data so a new kind of photography is possible. Volumetric. Here, let me show you. You take a photo with your iPhone 8 and now, using the virtual reality capabilities of the new phone, you can actually walk around the image you captured. Or lay it on top, as a Hologram. Isn’t that cool?”

If this happens, this could be the big game changer. It takes VR from the gamer community into the mainstream market.

At that point, it goes from being cool to marketers, to essential. 

3) Marketing is about to deeply change

Sephora are already using VR to colour match makeup, Ford are using VR test drives.

sephora virtual reality

VR will change how you shop, work, listen to music, workout, learn & more…


As marketers, we have to provide the best experiences for the way that your  customers want to consume content.

4) If people are searching for virtual reality experiences, Google’s role is to help people find them

I’m always keen to bring it back to what this means for SEO and content marketing, so this is one of the questions I asked Robert Scoble specifically.

His response was that the future of content marketing and virtual reality beyond gaming means that;

  1. You will be able to ask a question, such as “what is the best nightclub near me?”
  2. In VR you will then be shown the top nightclub dance-floors, with people dancing and enjoying themselves.
  3. Based on your reaction, for example if you smile, VR will notice what you like and which recommendations to emphasise to you.

That’s a whole different search experience that you just can’t even think about providing via a desktop or mobile device right now.

5) As content marketers, we need to create experiences that match what people are looking for

For example, if you are in the real estate industry, you’ll likely want to view houses in order to help making a purchase decision…

With VR, you’ll be able to take people on virtual tour journeys – which is great for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s more efficient – rather than having your sales people showing each buyer around 10+ houses, why not get them viewing them via virtual reality first to filter down their list of options. Let’s say that saves 30 mins per visit, which is much more beneficial for both buyer and seller.
  2. It’s a fun memorable experience – people will talk about your brand, especially if you’re one of the early adopters and it’s a much better experience than just viewing photos which can never tell the full story.

I don’t want to get into the people being replaced by machines discussion just yet – but if you’re a real estate agent, you best be good at closing those final viewings!

6) SEO’s role is to make sure your content triggers the factors that VR is looking for

It’s no good having a great VR experience if no one can find it. The role of SEO will be to ensure that your content is shown and promoted when people are looking for recommendations.

In some ways, the role hasn’t changed at all. Understanding SEO means understanding people:

  • What type of information are they looking for?
  • How are they going to try and find it?
  • Once they find it, how do they want to see it?

The difference is in the way they look for it and the platform/devices used to get it.

As SEOs, we need to adapt to the way that people are searching for information, provide the best experience for that and find the triggers that can help us become the recommendation people are presented with.

7) Start now – early adopters have the advantage

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the future, but we’ve got bigger priorities for right now.

Now is the time to start. Build selfie tennis were one of the first VR games developed, it was cheap for them to enter the market and there’s no competition, so by doing something new and exciting they naturally generate promotion, without having to pay for advertising.

The first step is likely to be considering the skill-sets you need. If you’re currently graduating or looking for a career change (perhaps a real estate agent, see above!) – these are the skillsets that people will be looking for in order to provide the best VR experiences:

  • Unity – you’re likely to see a lot of Unity developers come onto the market in the near future, and they’re likely to be in high demand with a price tag to follow.
  • 360 degree photography – buy a camera and start playing around!
  • Video production – this is a logical step into VR
  • C# developers – java developers are likely to be moving into C# too

If like me, you thought that virtual reality isn’t going to catch-on, or you’ll worry about it when it does, maybe it’s time to think again…

In my opinion, this is no Google Glass! The iPhone launch next Christmas is potentially huge, and if you wait until it happens, chances are you’ve left it too late!

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below, I’d love to see some examples of your recent VR SEO and content marketing campaigns too 🙂

(Image credit: Cubicle Ninjas)

84 things we learned at Pubcon 2016

Last week, myself, Irma, Sam, Raphael, Nicole, Marion and Chelsea headed to Las Vegas for Pubcon 2016:

BlueGlass Pubcon 2016

We’re always keen to keep ahead of the game, and I’ve always found US conferences a really useful way of keeping up-to-date with all things SEO and content marketing. For this reason it was great to be able to go back to Pubcon with a bigger team, as it’s hugely important for our team to keep learning, innovating, networking and improving…

During the 3-day event, we’ve listed a recap of the key points we learned together across the team:





  • Optimise for 2017 keywords now – people will be thinking ahead, but the competition is low. This is a tip that I’ve used for a long-time and it always works well. It’s also effective for increasing CTR. The last thing you want is an outdated headline/title tag that is going to put someone off of clicking your listing.
  • Google Answer boxes is a great way to generate additional traffic – Rather than aiming for number one organically, you can optimise for “position zero” and leapfrog the results with Answer boxes – we’ve seen some great results with this and it’s something I’d highly recommend investing some time into.
  • SEO reporting is all about showing the money – as Ant Robinson demonstrated in his excellent presentation. He also highly recommended watching Rand Fishkin’s whiteboard Friday on tying marketing metrics to what the board values.
  • Focus on quality, over quantity – Traffic x Conversion Rate x Conversion Value = how you site makes money – this is a simple, but effective rule from Theresa Baiocco to make sure you’re driving the type of organic traffic that really matters.
  • SEO myth: ‘There’s a duplicate content penalty‘ – this one always annoys me when people talk about duplicate content penalties. As Dawn Anderson says, this doesn’t exist and Google have a ‘dupe’ server patent to confirm. I could go into this in more detail, but that would be a post in itself, will leave for another day. In the meantime, here’s a fantastic resource from Shaun Anderson and there’s no-one better to read about Google patents than Bill Slawski.
  • Page speed is important for SEO, we know… But “the real reason to make your site faster is business. Money.” says . Couldn’t agree more – he’s a Wiese man! Also check out Ian Portent’s extremely detailed presentation and guide to page speed.
  • Leverage PPC ad description data to increase organic CTRsWil Reynolds delivered an excellent presentation, in which he demonstrated a 4x uplift in traffic by doing this!
  • Little or no organic visibility on page 1? Buy ads on the pages that rank – this was a smart tip from Wil again, you can even look up specific URLs in AdWords to make sure that your brand is seen on the top pages which are generating traffic for your target keywords.
  • Fire your SEO agency if they are submitting you to article directories, private link networks, paid links etc. Hopefully this one has been a given for a while now, but sometimes you’ll be surprised suggests Scott Polk.
  • 89% of sites that ranked 7 years ago do not rank today – interesting stat from SearchMetrics.
  • 61% growth in who, what, where, how questions – this is a big opportunity, especially if you can line this up with securing Google Answer boxes for common queries.
  • Voice search has more featured snippets and longer tail queries than textual searches, according to both  and Purna Virji.
  • Schema is really important, as higher % of searches now don’t click on any listings – suggests Purna Virji. Also Rand Fishkin’s Mozcon presentation this year shows some great data behind this.
  • Build a voice search checklistPurna Virgji suggest you should; 1) analyse search terms, 2) re-visit your match type and 3) think about ad copy.
  • Big opportunity in RankBrain. What questions are people asking? Bill Hunt suggests mining your internal site search and finding out common questions which are asked in your call centre to build a list of content ideas.
  • Results with featured snippets grew +64% in the last year according to Stone Temple.
  • Don’t ever canonicalize an hreflang page to a global page, recommends Bill Hunt.
  • Large companies don’t do small well. If it doesn’t scale, they won’t do it – warns Duane Forrester.
  • Learn AMP through sample templates at  & use AMP chrome plug-in for validation – tip from Barry Adams.
  • No faster way to test what makes people click, than PPC – lots of great learnings for SEO to be had from paid campaigns, shared by Wil Reynolds.
  • Sort live links from dead ones using this tool – thanks to  for sharing.
  • Google can read JavaScript redirects as long as a ‘rel-alternate’ is in place. Google has silently updated its guidelines says Cindy Krum.
  • Keyword Trends: (a) ‘Near me/Nearby’ terms are up 100% YoY (b) ‘How to’ terms are up 70% YoY on YouTube, says Craig Paddock.

Content Marketing:


  • Create personas for every country you market to – you need to know your audience, everyone is different and must be tailor too. Michael Bonfils nails this here.
  • Track scroll depth to understand how people are engaging with your content – you can find this info in Google Analytics and view per device, so that you can assess the engagement levels before you invest more heavily in promotion. Tip from Wil Reynolds.
  • Ethics is not a renewable resource. Trust and integrity are not just recharged every now and then. Scott Stratten highlighted some big content mistakes brands have made.
  • Build lookalike audiences from your highly satisfied customersWil Reynolds suggests learning from the trends of your best customers, in order to acquire similar likeminded people to your site.
  • Focus your content on pain pointsShahid Awan is absolutely right, if you know the pain points your customers typically have, that should be your starting point for creating content that addresses them.
  • To have the greatest impact, be consistent and sustained – Kris Jones recommends creating thought leadership content twice per month, over 2 years to really start making an impact and name for yourself.
  • Be discoverable, shareable & memorable – top personal branding content tips from .
  • Email marketing is the most powerful thing you can do in your business – it starts the journey to rewarding your customers, suggests Duane Forrester.
  • Focus on E-A-A-T in content marketing says Shahid Awan. This means; Expertise, Authority (benefits), Authority (source), Trustworthy (image here).
  • When you design ebooks, always think about how you can collect leads or customer data to make it worthwhile – tip via Kelsey Jones.
  • It’s not about you. It’s about your storyRhea Drysdale saying it how it is“the media doesn’t give a shit about you unless you have a good story and they have time to cover it”.
  • Future of content: Flowing data, start stop motion, interactive video, 360 imagery, Snapchat
  • Put head terms into Quora auto-suggests to find content topics and long tail keyword ideas. Tip from Martin Weinburg.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and visuals are processed 60,000 x faster than text, says Jesse McDonald.
  • Topic clustering is something no one does in the content journey but is very helpful, suggests Jordan Koene.
  • It’s not about attention, it’s all about intention suggests Mike Grehan.

Digital PR:




  • Users are spending their time on apps, advertisers money goes on mobile ads – this is a trend that surely has to shift in 2017, based on this graph alone from Cindy Krum.
  • Mobile Optimization is not about mobile rankings or traffic. It’s all about real customer engagement, conversions & business
  • Focus on mobile because it’s your new website says Duane Forrester.

Virtual Reality: 



Agency Chris Boggs

  • Whoever pays the bill should define the communication channel” – I really like this rule from Scott Stratten to make sure that communications are client centric and not to just push people down the channels we prefer (for instance, email the car dealer rather than call them if the customer wants to buy over email).
  • It’s much easier to forecast PPC results vs spend than it is for SEO projections says Chris Boggs.
  • Build an agency dream based around common skill-setshighlighted here from Chris Boggs’ presentation – I have slightly different views on this, as I discussed with Chris afterwards, but the concept is spot on, with a mix of different skills to do what’s right for your clients and agency team setup.

Social Media:


  • Find popular content on LinkedIn – using this link & change term in URL:  great tip by . You can also do a similar search in Quora.
  • If you have a verified Twitter account, new followers will automatically follow you on Vine, Periscope & Medium too – I hadn’t realised this, but having a Twitter verified  account for the last couple of months, I have noticed an influx of new followers on my profile which now explains it! Thanks  for the tip.
  • Get your team to view your profile & all competitors – you’ll get onto their “people also viewed” list is a somewhat sneaky, but effective tip from .
  • Microsoft are buying LinkedIn for data grab – expect to see integrations into Office Suite, e.g. Shared Outlook and LinkedIn contacts.
  • LinkedIn showcase pages are biggest way to build your company profile to show products/services, suggests .
  • LinkedIn groups kind of suck now – I would agree with this comment from , it’s very hard work to keep active in engagement and free from spam now.
  • LinkedIn ad CPCs are high, so be direct in selling – if they click, you want buying intent to be high suggests Larry Kim.
  • Use LinkedIn more like Twitter – Larry Kim says he shares content 1-3x a day and connects with people you want to know but haven’t met.
  • Do old school SEO on LinkedIn pulse posts, optimising headlines & text vs topic categories so that you can become a featured article, says Larry Kim.
  • Competition on snapchat is notably cheaper than FB/Twitter/Instagram big opportunity to reach target customers cheaper.
  • Get connected with the people you want to target with ads on LinkedIn export the contacts and create a custom audience.
  • Reddit hack put /about/traffic at the end of a post to see analytics see screenshot here.

What else did we learn?

Sadly, we found out that none of us are good gamblers. As with SEO, you have to limit the downside and maximise the upside… Our overall winnings across the week would look pretty dismal (and negative) as a ROI report!

It was great to enjoy the US Search Awards, having been a judge for the event this year:


We learned that Vegas is great fun! And Chelsea doesn’t like rollercoasters… Or Jägerbombs (I haven’t posted the photos for this… yet!).

BlueGlass Sunglasses

Overall, a great trip and hopefully we’ll see you at Pubcon 2017 🙂

45 Leather Lane