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.
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;
The average position is now up to 8.3, from 10.3 (which is a -19.4% improvement, if that makes sense!)
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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;
You will be able to ask a question, such as “what is the best nightclub near me?”
In VR you will then be shown the top nightclub dance-floors, with people dancing and enjoying themselves.
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:
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.
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 🙂
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:
The big update was Gary Illyes’ announcement that Google is switching to a mobile first index. This is big news as previously Google’s index was desktop only, rather than splitting into mobile and desktop. “If the content on your mobile page is the same as desktop, those sites will be fine” – however, reading between the lines that indicates that if your mobile page isn’t the same as desktop, you could suffer from this. I would also see this as another reason for pushing towards a single responsive website, which is accessible across all platforms and devices. As opposed to using “m.” subdomains – this consolidates link equity, without the need of redirects or canonical tags which helps to lessen the crawl budget used on your site.
If penguin sees signs of manipulation, they can algorithmically decide to discount all links –this is something we suspect they have done for a long term, although I haven’t heard this directly from Google before – so it’s interesting to confirm. Gary Illyes also stated that he has seen no signs of negative SEO working, and that in some cases it actually helps more than it hinders…
Google are working on providing more historical data in Search Console – this was very well received and although the date-range isn’t confirmed, it was rumoured to 12 months worth of data – which is a big improvement over the current 90 days.
CTR isn’t a direct ranking factor, but serves to check the other ranking factors to make sure they put out good results – suggests Gary Illyes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keyword Trends: (a) ‘Near me/Nearby’ terms are up 100% YoY (b) ‘How to’ terms are up 70% YoY on YouTube, says Craig Paddock.
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.
Focus your content on pain points – Shahid 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.
iPhone launch next Christmas is huge for VR – also it won’t be called an iPhone 8 and it’s likely to be a plain sheet of glass. The last iPhone updates have been pretty uneventful on the whole, but some of those updates are gearing up to this, which will be massive. This is well worth a read for more info on what they have planned.
“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-sets – highlighted 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.
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 Medium.com profile which now explains it! Thanks Julie Ewald 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 @jabezlebret.
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 @jabezlebret.
LinkedIn groups kind of suck now – I would agree with this comment from @jabezlebret, 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.
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!).
Overall, a great trip and hopefully we’ll see you at Pubcon 2017 🙂