Tag Archives: seo

Why ‘links’ will die by 2017

Death of gaining natural links

Links will ultimately disappear because of the increasing popularity of mobile devices [1], coupled with our user behaviour this will kill links: We do not link out to other web sites on mobiles, as such, search engines are beginning to place more weight on other ranking factors apart from links and on-page signals. Google, for example, are improving their page speed test tool to include UX metrics. Matt Cutts has also said that link data was removed in an internal Google experiment which suggests Googlers are actively reviewing their algorithm in light of mobile user behaviour.

In March 2014 Yandex gradually started to remove link data for commercial queries claiming over 800 ranking factors are reviewed because user behaviour is a much clearer and natural signal.

3 links, what and why?

  • Internal links are connected with UX because they encourage page views; thus increasing engagement and viewing duration, for instance. An increase in mobile device use will not impact the number of internal links by 2017 because web developers and content management systems will continually be used on desktop devices.
  • Out-going, like internal, links are also followed by search engines but out-going link data is analysed to assist search engines to determine and improve relevance and authority. If, say, for instance, HandmadeShoeStore.com linked out to QualityLeather.com then this site’s authority will increase. Out-going links will not change in 2017.
  • Incoming links are going to be most affected by increased mobile use because the majority of your mobile users cannot link back to your site’s content. Google’s current best practice states that links should be earnt but by 2017 most users will be using mobile, and starting to increase wearable device use, with a technical inability to link out. For this reason alone search engines will have changed their ranking tactics because they are aware that the SEO industry will be the majority of active link builders therefore not neutral; thus unsuitable to use in an algorithm.
  • Always about mobile?

    An eHandwriting device, Telautograph, was patented in 1888 by Elisha Gray. The theory and discussion goes back much further than one initially thinks.

    Google’s new engine, Hummingbird, has the power to process social media data but due to it’s fast-paced, spam-like nature social media links will not soley replace current links. Social links could be used as quality indicators but not the only method. Is an article that get lots of mentions, favourites and likes a great article to rank?

    Can links be saved?

    It is possible that browsers could be redesigned to include an easy link building tool but since it would be a new feature getting existing users to regularly use it would prove difficult because our behaviour is difficult to change. Mobile device use, furthermore, is usually much shorter than desktop or laptop so time and ease of use would be key to such a tool.

    Search engines will simply move towards UX and write a comprehensive algorithm to rank web sites rather than relying heavily on link metrics. Will the new anchor text be social media messages in order to get contextualised keyword data? Is this why search engines are pushing their own social media platforms? How will search engines overcome bot traffic which can negatively increase bounce rates, negatively impacting UX, thus rankings, in 2017? There are still a lot of search engine developments to be made; in the meantime keep link building in 2014.

    [1] globally 3G smartphone has 25% penetration (2% for 4G) and some countries have high 3G penetration. Japan, Italy, USA and the UK, for instance, have 88%, 91%, 71% and 73%, respectively

Keywords and web search engines

The number of keywords used varies for a variety of reasons, for instance user intent and what our information needs are, but some studies have found interesting keyword statistics.

How many keywords are typed?

One study looked at the number of keywords used for website search engines, such as Wall Street Journal, and found that keywords are between 2.9 and 3.7 words. Another study found that we use, on average, 4 terms for normal searches but up to 6 terms for advanced searches. The exact number of keywords varies from search engine to search engine, let alone from person to person.

Another user behaviour study found that people generally type 2.7 terms or 13.6 characters. Further analysis also found that 17% have not been able to return to a webpage they once visited. This shows memory and search engines go hand in hand. Striking websites, however, are more likely to be remembered since it triggers an interest. Great content, catchy logos and effective designs make striking websites.

Looking specifically at search logs from file-sharing websites, equivalent to transactional queries on web search engines, one study found that keywords were usually between 5 and 6 words. User intent heavily influences the number of keywords we type.

Fewer keywords are more popular and competitive.

Photo showing fewer keywords are more popular; thus competitive. Source.

There is less competition, from an SEO perspective, for longer search terms. Some scholarly articles have argued that long tail queries were associated with poor search success. It is not a good idea to only target long tail queries.

Importance of long tail searches*

Easy to rank
More conversational and natural
Long tail searches work well with content marketing
Especially if you are creating an informal content marketing campaign or using actual questions.

*Modified from (The Marketing People no date: online).

User behaviour and algorithms

One thorough study of Yahoo log files found that 88% of repeat clicks occurred if search engine rankings did not change whereas 47% clicked on new websites if rankings changed. Searchers’ like new websites by exploring a range of results on a search engine results page.

How many keywords do you type into a search engine? Tweet Gerald.

Posted by


  1. Graphic, Visualization, and Usability Center. GVU’s Tenth WWW User Survey. October 1998.
  2. Lau, E.P. and Goh, D.H.L. (2006) In search of query patterns: A case study of of university OPAC. Information Processing and Management. 42[Issue number missing] pp. 1316–1329
  3. Ruthven, I. (2003) Re-examining the potential effectiveness of interactive query expansion. Proceedings of the 26th Annual ACM International Conference on Research and Develpoment in Information Retrieval. New York: ACM Press pp. 213–220
  4. Teevan, J. Adar, E. Jones, R. and Potts, M. (2006) History repeats itself: Repeat queries in Yahoo’s logs. SIGIR. pp. 703 — 704
  5. The Marketing People. (no date) 6 reasons why long tail searches are important too [Online] [Accessed on 09th September 2013]

Are hyperlinks good or bad?

Hyperlinks, websites and users

On the whole hyperlinks help a user to navigate from page-a to page-b but if there are too many links on a page it can cause a lower attention span causing users to jump around. Hyperlinks, from a web accessibility viewpoint, take a blind user longer to view a webpage because screen readers will read aloud the actual text, as well as, metadata within those hyperlinks. So limiting the number of hyperlinks on a website is very important for everyone.

Simplified photo showing that hyperlinks are complex.

Simplified photo showing that hyperlinks are complex. From: FastCodesign

What to include in a hyperlink?

Having full hyperlink data is very important, and good practice, so everyone can benefit. All hyperlinks should make use of metadata (e.g. alt=”…”, title=”…”). Write call to actions rather that “click here”. Check that your hyperlinks are not broken, the most common reason for changing a hyperlink, and remember to be informative when writing links.

W3C have a good example of a good call to action hyperlink.

Hyperlinks, SEO and rel=”nofollow”

Hyperlinks are important for ranking because links count as votes, if you like, which allows a search engine to know whether or not a website is a good quality website. It is highly unlikely that website-a will link to website-b if they did not like the content. But it is possible that a poor website may have an excellent image. In this case you should consider using the rel=”nofollow” command just before the title=”…” tag. The rel=”nofollow” tells search engines not to go onto that link; thus this link will not be counted as a vote. So all links, strictly speaking, do not boost a website’s ranking.

There is lots of detailed information on hyperlinks online, for instance rel=”me”, if want to find out more after reading this post. Is there anything you would like clarification on? Do you have good examples of hyperlinks you would like to share? E-mail or tweet Gerald.

Posted by Gerald Murphy


  1. Gunter, S.K. and Valade, J. (2008) Master Visually. Canada: Wiley Publishing Inc.
  2. Mohamed, M. Rahman, R.A. Tin, L.C. Hashim, H. Maarof, H. Nasir, N.S.M. Zailani, S.N. Esivan, S.M.M. and Jumari, N.F. (2011) Reading behaviours of students in Kolej Datin Seri Endon (KDSE). International Journal of Educational Management. 26(4) pp. 381 — 390
  3. W3C. (no date) [Online] Don’t use “click here” as link text

Easy ways to optimise your website

Overview: Optimising your website*

Appearance of search results
Create excellent titles, use a descriptive content-focused domain name and file name structure
Use the alt=”A photo of…” attribrute alongside short captions for every image
‘Content is king’
Focus on creating quality, up-to-date and unique content.

*Adapted from (Schwartz 2013: online).

For more tips read what can I do to improve my SEO.

The future of search*

  • Augmented reality
  • A variety of search engines
  • Mobile, localised search

*Adapted from (Mashable no date: online).

It is clear that search engines are becomming human-like programs. They can identify quality, relevance…. Optimising your website will allow you to rank well and allow your users to have a good user experience. Search engines still have a long way to go (i.e. identifying infringed copyright and displaying correct and maintaining up-to-date localised search results).

(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”


  1. Mashable. (No date) Future of Search Series. [Online] [Accessed on 27th March 2013] http://mashable.com/category/future-of-search-series/
  2. Schwartz, B. (2013) Google’s 3 Steps To Optimizing Your Web Site (One Page Cheat Sheet). [Online] [Accessed on 27th March 2013] http://searchengineland.com/googles-3-steps-to-optimizing-your-web-site-one-page-cheat-sheet-151619

Page content and text

Sometimes organisations’ do not think that content is a high priority because it is not directly related to the bottom line profits (Anon no date: online). Having said that excellent content does lead to more hits which allows more products to be sold on an e-commerce website, for example. Thus content is related to profits, let alone an excellent user experience.

SEO: The role of page content

Effective content, comprised of keywords which flow freely through sentences and heading tags, plays a large part in any SEO campaign. Term frequency is determined by page content: The more times a keyword appears on a page the more likely that page is about that keyword. For this reason page content identifies what a webpage is about which, in turn, allows a searcher to find your website by using a search engine: SEO and page content are closely related.

Excellent page content also adds to the overall user experience. Excellent page content, for instance, can help a user find out key information or answer a question they wanted an answer for. So page content is vital for SEO.

Image of 'content is king'. SEO, references, blog posts and images help with excellent content.

Image of ‘content is king’. SEO, references, blog posts and images help with excellent content.

The search engine results’ page (SERP) viewpoint

Recently the SERP has started to by-pass the typical page description tag by opting for a snippet of text from the body of the text. In other words the search engine now ‘reads’ your webpage and makes note of the important terms on that page: Knowing what words appear and where (term location) allows the search engine to build up a picture of what your page is about.

How can I have excellent page content?

Content will vary, and should vary, to suit your target audience. Adapting the language you use is very important because it allows you to become a hit for a specific group of searchers. Excellent content is written to make complete sense on its own (i.e. sentences are clear and well-constructed), as well as, being comprised of suitable and specific keywords. Excellent page content allows the target audience to find out about a topic. Good research is vital to include specific details. You should consider asking (and answering) the following questions are you write (and read) the content you have just wrote:

  • What age range is your audience? Does the language/choice of words reflect this age range?
  • What are the most relevant keywords for [your topic]?
  • Are the sentences well-constructed?
  • Are the written paragraphs clear and well-constructed?
  • What is the point of this sentence / paragraph?
  • Would it be better to include an introduction, body of text and identify conclusions? Can any of these points be referenced?
  • Have you utilised HTML tags (e.g. heading 1 – 6, strong…) to allow the search engine to ‘read’ all your text?

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”


  1. Anonymous. (no date) Content is King for SEO. [Online] [Accessed on 03rd April 2013] http://tinyurl.com/cl9qtou

Responsive Web Design: Alternative and important views

Challenges with Responsive Web Design*

Time and effort
Designer sketches, such as wireframes, need to take designs into each application. Clients on a tight timeline may not have the time to wait for RWDs
Devices will always be different
“…there will always be one of two devices which won’t translate”.

Is it the right choice?
If a site uses and relies on flash, clients may wish to limit all the content on all mobile devices. RWD does not allow for this to happen.
Media queries
Media queries allows the device to know what screen size and resolution is being used. If the web browser, however, does not recognise media queries then the page will be incorrectly displayed.

*Adapted from (Elle 2012: online).

SEO and responsive web design

The connection of SEO and RWD is clear but it is important to be aware of the alternative, if not negative, viewpoints because an SEOs job is to ensure they give the searcher, and user of technology, the best experience to obtain the highest possible rankings.

Some problems with RWD

Many, not all, responsive websites: have poor information architecture (e.g. Microsoft and Disney); are slow and don’t delight users with mobile only features (i.e. creating an app-like experience). Some of Meunier’s (2013) work, however, is not accurate. Mobile specific keywords, for example, are the same for desktop/laptop users. Arguably the only difference is that mobile searchers do not search for a lot of specific searches on their mobile devices because they carry out broad informational queries.

RWD is still in the early stages

RWD is approximately three years’ old: RWD is still in the early stages of the systems lifecycle and it still have a long way to go (i.e. becoming the fastest browsing experience).

I hope you realise that this post has not been intended to give RWD a ‘bad name’ or put someone off a RWD but I do hope you think about the negative viewpoints whenever you are thinking about what is best for your user.

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”

It is hoped that this post will help answer the following question: Are there any negative aspects to responsive web design? This post is, therefore, not saying RWD is poor. Knowing the disadvantages allows you to make the right decisions for your client/s.


  1. Elle [No surname] PS Print. (2012) 4 CHALLENGES WEB-DESIGNERS FACE WITH RESPONSIVE DESIGN. [Online] [Accessed on 30th March 2013] http://is.gd/TNtooy
  2. Meunier, B. (2013) How Common Are SEO Problems With Responsive Web Design? [Online] [Accessed on 04th April 2013] http://tinyurl.com/d9ggyma

Simply put: Keyword searching

What is keyword searching?

Keyword searching can be summarised by (Rowley 2001:359):

  • The searcher is presented with a form that contains a text entry box
  • Keywords may be typed into the text entry box and the “search” button can be pressed
  • A HTTP request is triggered once the searcher presses the “search” button which copies the text box keywords into the URL of the search service’s web server
  • Once the server processes these keywords the results are displayed in place of the text entry box
  • Results are usually ranked by relevance and are presented ten at a time
  • Each record has a hyperlink which can be clicked on by the searcher
Picture of Google's search box.

Picture of Google’s search box.
Tom’s Guide.

SEO’s relationship with keyword searching

Having an understanding of how search works allows an SEO to develop an understanding of why we search for information.

Why is it useful to know about keyword searching?

(i) shows the importance of keywords in search even though keywords are not used as a SEO ranking factor, (ii) gains an understanding of how we search for information, and, (iii) explains to a client how keyword searching actually works when they type and hit the “search” button.

Would you like me to write a post on a specific search engine topic?

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”


  1. Rowley, J. (2001) ‘Knowledge organisation in a Web-based environment.’ Management Decision. 39(5) pp. 355 – 361.