3 localised SEO tips

Local SEO tips

Location-based searching contains 4 main technologies: georeferencing; geotags; GPS; and an internet connection. Today other signals are also used to enhance this data, for example, Yelp or other localised web application services, least not forgetting, social media profile information, such as, Google Plus location data, for instance.

To begin a localised campaign a blended approach is required. Google Places, for instance, are key to helping you rank locally yet Google Places are, strictly speaking, not going to help your traditional SEO ranking because social media is not used, so far, for search algorithm rankings.

Search engine optimisation

What elements are involved in SEO? Copyright free image.

Localised SEO became stronger with Google’s Venice update. Together with Hummingbird, Google now has the capacity to regularly construct a universal SERP and, in particular, localised SEO results.

A thorough 2003 case study analysed localised search engines with global search engines and found that global search engines were more effective and sophisticated than specialist, localised search engines. Search engine market share is much higher on global search engines than it is on localised search engines, therefore, focusing your localised SEO campaign on large search engines is key to gaining the largest audience.

Local analysis

In 2000 half of the UK population had a mobile phone now that stands at 94%. Mobile search is different to desktop search because we generally search for broader keywords and we use 2 types of keywords: explicit and implicit. So a mobile search for [restaurant] is an implicit search because it does not state a location. Therefore local SEO is mostly based on implicit keyword intent. With the increase of devices also comes an increase in mobile web search: 16% to 25% of all Google searches are now on mobile meaning that more and more people are carrying out implicit searches. Local SEO is also more important than ever before.

Name, address and telephone (NAP) numbers are key to local SEO. These should be reflected, rather like your digital brand, on, for example, social media accounts. On your site you should include your NAP details on the footer of each webpage too. This is now noted on search engine’s 3D indexes.

Another localised SEO tip is to review your structured data rather than simply focus on your NAP details, above. Think about your UX as you do this. Maps, text, photographs all help to shape up your contact page and structured data.

Reviews, trust and authority also help localised ranking. Reviews are an effective tactic to increase the click-through rate of your site, as well as, boost your trust and authority. Search engines particularly favour popular, voted, sites because it shows a reliable source of information.

Localised information is not, however, anything new. 50 years’ ago for instance businesses used local information to determine the location of their new store or relocation. Local services are always valuable and, arguably, help you to obtain an added layer of research to your target audience data: Market research is key to localised SEO campaigns.

Ranking locally using SEO

  1. Review your Google Analytic data and use this data to make a localised SEO conclusion. This will narrow down your locations and make a local SEO campaign realistic. Target larger cities, initially, and think of strategic ways to implement the information above.
  2. Take a blended approach. Use NAP, structured data, social media, hyperlinks and think devices for your localised SEO campaign.
  3. Target, primarily, global search engines because localised search engines are a very small percentage of the total market share and global search engines are better at ranking localised web sites.


Smith, A.G. (2003) Think local, search global? Comparing search engines for searching geographically specific information. Online Information Review. 27(2) pp. 102 — 109

Computer attacks: How to prevent cookie stealing, sniffing and redirection?

Common types of computer attacks

There are 4 main types of cookies (session, performance, functionality and targeting). In the EU web sites must, by law, display a cookie banner to ask for a person’s permission before cookies are used. Everyone has the right to allow or deny cookies. But if we accept and use computer cookies then is there a risk of cookie misuse?

Cookie stealing

A reflected XSS attack executes a script on the client that can be read by the client’s cookie. This cookies’ contents can send its value to the attacker (reflection) and the attacker can impersonate the client without obtaining the cookie by sending a XMLHTTPRequest. Such commands usually use “get” or “post” to obtain client data.

The best way to overcome a reflected XSS attack is to: utilise the browser’s security settings and policy by using permission zones and setting them accordingly, secondly, use a cross site request forgery, meaning cookies must be sent from the same origin policy from the client.

Web vulnerability

Today internet service providers literally provide you with an internet connection, however, surfing the web on the “naked” internet opens you up to even more vulnerability. You should therefore make use of virtual private networks (VPN) and proxy servers. Surfing safely allows your data to be more secure.

Lately Edward Snowden has revealed that NSA and GCHQ (UK) have been working on cracking a VPN’s secure setting. This is a complex task but it is possible because encryption is simply a bunch of complex numbers that, once cracked, can be analysed for any purposes. As technology progresses so too does misuse.

Hackers invented Firefox

“Hackers are not criminals”. Copyright of Jonathanmh Devintart. Reused, unmodified.

Main computer attacks

Sniffing refers to those who use their “naked” online connection sent by internet providers. To do this hackers sniff mentioned network devices if using URL based session IDs. Recently Google started encrypting their searches, and other search engines followed, which meant that HTTP became HTTPS (secure) and thus can reduce search engine sniffing.

Redirection occurs whenever information is sent back to a web server, as well as, redirecting it to the hacker. Redirection can occur from HTTP REFERER or CSS.

Would you like to add to the main types of computer attacks above? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Gollmann, D. (2008) Securing web applications. Information Security Technical report. 13 [volume number missing] pp. 1–9
  2. Morgan, D. (2006) Maintaining state in web applications. Network Security. [volume and issue numbers missing] pp. 16–18

Web search engine user behaviour

Search engine behaviour

Age matters when searching. Young people, for example, have 7 types of browsing behaviour:

  1. Power users tend to make use of advanced search features.
  2. Developing users display unplanned search paths
  3. Social users share links with friends using social media accounts.
  4. Specific users focus on specified topics of interest.
  5. Rule-bound users are influenced by rules, for example, trust and are likely to revisit specified sites over and over again.
  6. Visual users love pictures and videos to find information.
  7. Nonmotivated users only search when necessary. Emotions are low, for example, excitement and contentness.

We generally read SERP results in an F shape. Each SERP result snippet’s title tag (top part of the F shape) is read first followed by the URL and the description tag. More broadly we also scan sites using an F shaped pattern so top left to top right, middle left to the middle of the screen, then top left right down to the bottom left. This F shaped pattern is a dominate behaviour across a lot of digital products. Put your navigation menu, for instance, on the left hand side or along the top of your screen to increase its visibility.


Hand drawing of Google’s homepage. Copyright of Robo7, resued, unedited from a creative commons licence.

User behaviour analysis

Young, or more specifically inexperienced, search engine users place more weight on SERP cues, for instance, keywords being highlighted in bold than their older counterparts. Age however does not determine how good of a search engine user you are (i.e. a 50 year old is not a better searcher than a 25 year old).

If the search engine user knows the topic they devote more time to analyse the document’s contents. This directly impacts keyword formulation, as such, topic knowledge means we are likely to search this topic more than others. So if someone is interested in fashion, for example, they are likely to search a lot of fashion-based web sites because they know a lot of keywords related to fashion (the topic).

Title pages alter SERP scanning and click-through rates. If an exact match has been returned then this search engine user is also likely to click on this document because it directly matches their query. It is, however, worth noting that most search engine users are not good at formulating keywords in the first instance. This is one of the main limitations of web search: Human beings are complex computer users.

When we examine search engine results we constantly try to make sense of the results. Although on most occassions we tend to make the correct relevant judgement at times our quick scanning can create a false positive. We do sometimes do not click on some results because our brain has literally processed that specific link as being irrelevant or, conversely, useful.

When we look at web search engine results we also integrate our own lives in to that search. As our “real life” changes dramatically so does our search behaviour this, therefore, explains why we sometimes carry out more in depth searches than others (i.e. our search behaviour changes with our environment).

Returning users practice “selective disregard” when it comes to toolbars, search and menus. This localised learning allows our brain to ignore specific regions of a site but we know they are there. This partly explains why organic traffic is higher than pay per click (PPC): Some people have selective disregard for PPC and therefore mostly look at organic traffic.

The number of tabs opened also influences user behaviour, in particular, initial scanning of web sites. The more tabs we have open the less concentrated we become. Tabs also influence user selection behaviour, for example, clicks which can cause us to jump around from site to site, or, as Peter Morville calls this, in web search, pogosticking between the SERP and individual results (back and forth).

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Google Hummingbird: Tail queries

Google’s Hummingbird update

If we use a search engine and get relevant results we are likely to use that search engine again and again. What causes people to switch search engines?

  • The most influential cause of search engine switch is due to long tail queries (so 6 or more keywords).
  • If a search engine processes a long tail query and returns low relevant results then this user is likely to switch search engine.
  • The processing of long tail queries equally distinguishes search engines and good search engines are those that can return relevant results for long tail queries

Popular search engines have recently adapted to this. Google in September 2013 announced a new engine known as Hummingbird. The new engine does not make Google a semantic search engine but it does improve the processing of long tail queries. In light of Google Glass and mobile devices conversational search is going to be the next big thing for web search. Hummingbird is essential to improve long tail queries.

Google and Microsoft’s Bing are not semantic search engines, however, they are getting better at returning relevant results. If you were to carry out a complex search, for example [picture of blue flower with 6 petals with sea front background], on Google you will soon find that the results will not be highly relevant. Search engines are beginning to see value in improving the relevance of long tail queries because irrelavant long tail queries causes search engine switch, often permanently.

There are several wider reasons that directly influence search engine switch. They include: localised learning of the system; advanced search features; culture; previous encounters; presentation of results; precision and recall (see below).

Photo of a hummingbird

Image of a hummingbird. Photo reused, unedited, copyright of Commons Wikipedia.

Why search engines give lots of results?

Search engines can be evaluated using 3 metrics: precision; recall; and speed. Precision is all about returning relevant results. Recall examines the number of results and matches them to the actual query. Speed, thirdly, is all about getting lots of relevant documents that match our query in a quick manner. Search engines incorporate these metrics into every search. This explains why we get pages and pages of relevant results for our search queries (precision and recall).

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  1. Zaragoza, H. Cambazoglu, B.B. and Baeza-Yates, R. (2010) Web search solved? In Proceedings of the 19th ACM international conference on Information and knowledge management — CIKM ’10. pp. 529
  2. Zhou, K. Li.X. and Zha, H. (2012) Collaborative ranking: Improving the relevance for tail queries. CIKM ’12. pp. 1900–1904

Is the internet a human right?

The web since its inception, circa 1990, has: grown quickly; reshaped shopping; and is going to continually change our lives for generations to come through the internet of things and, for example, wearable technology. Is web access a human right? Do we have the right to access the internet?

The internet, a human right?

Moral principles are human rights and are protected by various laws, such as, for instance, the US Constitution or the Human Rights Act (1998) in the UK.

International human rights include: right to life; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; the right to liberty; right to self determination; freedom of expression; right to work; right to an education; minority rights; group rights; and looking to the future. Not everyone, however, has these rights, for example, North Korea or more recently reported — Syria.

International human rights don't exist

Photo text reads “Human rights are not upheld in many countries”. Copyright of Atom.Smasher.com, reused, unedited with citation through Creative Commons Licence.

The internet and human rights

Arguably the internet allows us to express views and political debate through freedom of expression so the internet may be seen as a human right. On the contrary we cannot freely search for information on, for example, search engines because personalisation technology heavily influences results and restricts us in filter bubbles. We are therefore not completely free on the web.

In real life, so to speak, we have the ability to wear what we want and for the most part live where we want to. This is in part freedom of expression. Our clothes are in fact an expression of ourselves. This is not the case online because technology itself influences and controls everything. We are not free on the web.

Wicker and Santoso (2013) examined whether or not the internet was a human right. Despite their work being flawed and inaccurate, since it did not analyse technology itself leaving out, for instance, how personalisation technology restricts us from freely accessing information, or, more broadly, the fact that web search engines are not global search utility programs because we each search for localised or, at least, country specific pieces of information. Their work, however, did make 2 good points:

  1. A Google employee compared the internet and our human right to have online access is not a right because it is rather like a horse years’ ago: Horses were required to make a living but that does not mean that horses are a human right in themselves.
  2. The internet provides a platform in which user’s can effectively particapate in political debate and choices, as well as, practice free speech itself. This is not true since Chinese citizens, for example, cannot access a range of material or have free speech on- and off-line.

The UN passed a motion in Geneva to state that the internet is a basic human right that should be guaranteed by various countries. This does not mean that the internet is a human right, just as the example of the horse above is not a human right. The UN also claim that global warming is real but in fact global warming does not exist because ice caps, for instance, are getting bigger as supposed to shrinking and fading away in the global “heat”.

Look at the whole NSA scandal and you will see that the internet is simply a recording medium that is widely adapted by millions of people within society but this does not mean that the internet is a human right. In fact governments would, arguably, want the internet to be a human right globally to monitor and track even more people online.

The internet should facilitate the right to freedom of assembly. But other laws make such public sphere meetings illegal, for instance, anonymous embraces the right to freedom of assembly, however, this does not make computer hacking, through unauthorised access, a legal activity.

Do you think the internet is a human right? Should human rights only be human rights if the whole globe can express them? Tweet Gerald.

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  • Lederer, A.L. Maupin, D.J. Sena, M.P. and Zhuang, Y. (2000) The technology acceptance model and the World Wide Web. Decision Support Systems. 29(2000) pp. 269–282
  • Smith, R.K.M. (2007) Textbook on International Human Rights. 3rd edition. United States: Oxford University Press.
  • Wicker, S.B. and Santoso, S.M. (2013) Viewpoint: Access to the Internet Is a Human Right. Viewpoints. 56(6) pp. 43–46

Mobile coupons and digital marketing

The biggest reason for mobile success is due to our personal connection with the device: Mobile devices are an extension of oneself. Mobiles are successful because human beings “see” a mobile as being a part of them. Mobile coupons are also popular. How can you make coupons even more successful?

  • 47% of mobile customers want retailers to send coupons to their devices if they are near the store*
  • 34% of smartphone shoppers use their devices for mobile coupons*

*Statistics taken from (Factbrowser) who also found that 23% of mobile shoppers used direct retailer coupons moreso than deal sites, such as, GroupOn, for example.

Pros and cons of mobile marketing

There are 4 main advantages to mobile digital marketing: convenience, there is no need to cut out a mobile coupon and take it with you; locality, further enhances information; relevancy; and timeliness. Mobile coupons can be significantly improved, in terms of redemption, if coupons are relevant and timely.

Perceived risk, what a customer’s loss might be, is the sole disadvantage of mobile coupons and they include: financial; physical; product; performance; and transactional. If we, for example, examine a product’s price and think it is too expensive (a perceived risk) then we are not likely to buy that product. However, if this high priced product is marketed to be useful and, for instance, easy to use then we are likely to re-examine the price. If financially possible the client will pay the higher rate only if they see the product as being useful and easy to use.

Mobile coupons are redeemed 10 times more than traditional, paper based, coupons.

Advantages of online retailers directly selling to customers

Communication, the first advantage of a company directly selling to a customer, easily occurs because information is quickly exchanged. Transactional, for example sales, secondly, improves visibility and creates a larger customer base, increasing profits. Distribution, thirdly, refers to the exchange of products, shortens the supply chain. eCommerce web sites should consider selling to the general public because the advantages are strong.

Distribution can be further enhanced by using just in time (JIT) systems. JIT orders products in smaller batches which reduces storage costs and, for example, rent. JIT systems cannot take advantage of economies of scale, the ability to buy bulk products at a much cheaper rate, or cheaper production costs if the company manufactures their own product.

Mobile phones

Old and new mobile phone. Copyright reused, unedited, from Wikipedia.

The key to making mobile coupons successful is to positively impact a customer’s attitude towards a product because attitude directly influences perceived control, such as, the fear of spam or invasion of privacy. How can mobile coupons attitude be positively increased? The first aspect is to offer an opt-in or opt-out clause any time. Secondly, protect privacy and communicate this message clearly to the customer, for example, by precisely outlining what data you collect and for what purpose. You should also be aware of the laws within your jurisdiction. In the UK, for instance, the Data Protection Act (1990) protects any personal and sensitive information. Do you also protect any personal and sensitive information? Explain how you do this to the client in simple English.

Since this post identified the Data Protection Act (DPA) it is worth noting that, since the publication date of this post, the DPA is moving towards a unified General Data Protection Regulation law which means that the DPA law will be reviewed and agreed, possibly within the next year or two, for the whole European Union. Protecting personal information is not only a legal requirement but good practice to follow since it puts the user at the forefront of what you do. Furthermore, you increase your brand’s privacy.

Have you used a mobile coupon recently? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Dickinger, A. and Kleijen, M. (2008) Coupons going wireless: Determinants of consumer intentions to redeem mobile coupons. Journal of Interactive Marketing. 22(3) pp. 23-39.
  2. Factbrowser. (no date) Facts Tagged With Mobile coupons.
  3. Im, H. and Ha, Y. (2013) Enablers and inhibitors of permission-based marketing: A case of mobile coupons. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. [Volume and issue numbers did not print out properly] pp. 1–9
  4. Kiang, M.Y. Raghu, T.S. and Shang, K.H. (1999) Marketing on the Internet — who can benefit from an online marketing approach? Decision Support Systems. 27(2000) pp. 383–393

3 things an interface does

The interface starts on an output device, for example, a monitor or projector. Interfaces are solely designed for us humans because computers do not require interfaces to compute calculations. What does an interface do?

An interface impacts memory
  • Pleasing designs
  • Functional designs
  • Emotional designs
Memorable interfaces are ones we share with family and friends since they make us think differently. Who uses an excellent interface and stays silent about it? Memorable interfaces spark conversations.
An interface allows us to remember functions. Interfaces are not just about looks, they help us learn and, even better, interact with a system.
Fantastic interfaces cause us to have emotional responses with that interface and, thus, specific web sites. If you use a beautiful site that is easy to use, functional, and designed with accessibility and usability factors that site will evoke positive emotions, for instance, joy or interest. If the site also uses fun elements the site further enhances the positive emotional state because it is fun. Who does not like fun? It is, however, worth noting that some sites require a professional tonality and fun is therefore unsuitable. Your audience is key to triggering emotional states.

Emotional wheel. Copyright of Wikimedia Commons.

An interface enhances relationships
  • Accessibility
  • Functional
  • Usable
  • Trust
  • System interaction
All interfaces are designed to establish interactions. Building relationships with your audience increases user interaction. Designs at their best are interactive relationships.

Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another.

Interactive effects can be direct, for example obtaining a useful piece of information, or indirect by, for instance, subconsciously thinking that a design is usable and pleasant to look at.
Interfaces communicate
Interfaces allow user’s to communicate, for example, the menu element enables users to press a button to go to another web page. Small buttons affect communication. The size of interface elements is vital to aid communication.
In the last few years interfaces have started to hide and disappear. It is now accepted to hide details, for example, an address might be hidden but activated once a mouse hovers over a specific region, such as, a small arrow, for instance. User’s love to learn hidden interfaces.

Values of hidden interfaces

Users love hidden interfaces because: hidden commands help with efficiency; they evoke emotional responses, for example, learning a new shortcut triggers happy emotions since hidden commands lead to a sense of achievement; users like to show hidden interfaces to their friends and family, thus hidden interfaces give a sense of social value. Embrace hidden commands. Users react positively to finding hidden commands.

At first, however, hidden commands can be mistaken for a mistake. Those users who are willing to explore will re-encounter that “mistake” and link it to a hidden interface. We love to learn. Hidden interfaces facilitate learning.

Just as humans look very different, we each learn differently too. Some users will be quicker than others whenever they learn hidden interface commands.

An example of a hidden command

If you have Twitter’s mobile app, long press the “compose new tweet” button to bring up your draft messages. Alternatively if you have more than 1 account go to your “me” section and drag your photo all the way down to the bottom. This triggers a command allowing you to switch user accounts. Each of these functions are not new sections of the app, they are simply different ways to communicate with the system.

Have you found a new hidden interface or command recently? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Lee, M. Kim, D. Kim, H. and Nam, T. (2012) Understanding Impacts of Hidden Interfaces on Mobile Phone User Experience. CHI ’12. pp. 45–48