Mapping the influencers in Launchrock data for Graeme Obree

The Obree Way

I’m a big fan of, the (currently) free web service to create social launch pages which generate interest, shares and an audience.

In a few short steps, you can set up a page where you can capture email addresses and incentivize visitors to share your launch page with others. It’s well worth a look.

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Jeremy WebbMapping the influencers in Launchrock data for Graeme Obree
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Visualising link graphs with Google Fusion

tablesmallIf like me, you work better with visual representations of data rather than looking at columns of numbers, Google’s relatively new Fusion tool can help. It shows you the relationship between all sorts of data in a visual way, sometimes revealing previously hidden relationships.

In the following graph, which takes just seconds to make, you can get a real feel for the quality of the link graph around you main anchor text. For example, “Italian recipes” has a great, diverse incoming link graph but “great Italian recipes” less so.

With the length of the line representing the citation flow or value of the link, you can also see some useful outliers.

network analysis link graph


How can you create graphs like this? Very easily with Google Documents.

First, you need some data. Go to your favourite link data tool, (Raven Tools, Ahrefs, SEOmoz) and grab some data for your site. For a simple start, get a list of incoming links (you can use up to 10,000) and and their associated weight or PageRank, MozRank, or other metric.

Put these into a Spreadsheet thus…I’ve quickly added a first column identifying the domain that the Source URL links to. It would be even more useful to get the actual URL that the Source URL links to.


Next, go back to Google Docs / Drive and select New Table (beta.)



When asked to choose to import new table, select the spreadsheet you just created (you can upload a csv, txt or tsv file or select a Google spreadsheet.)

You’ll be asked where the column names are and what you want to call the table, and you are nearly there!

On the next screen select Experiment > Network graph. Immediately you’ll start to see a data visualisation, that might or might not be useful.

This is showing the incoming links to the target site, with the link length representing the value of the link.


By adjusting the network visualisation settings top left, you can get more interesting data such as a view on incoming link strength and source by anchor text.



With more detailed data, such as the source URL and exact target URL, you can build some really interesting and informative network graphs.

Have fun running your own visualisations, and do share your thoughts and results 🙂

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Jeremy WebbVisualising link graphs with Google Fusion
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Post Penguin – bring back the lost link love


In the post Penguin world, it seems Google is going to actively penalise sites with poor back link profiles. It’s more important than ever before to carefully cultivate and curate your backlinks. Raven Tools stepped up to the plate with some great upgrades to the Link Manager built into their great SEO toolset, but a major source of lost link juice comes from incoming links to content you have moved or deleted. I’m going to show you an easy way to reclaim these potentially powerful back links with just Google Webmaster tools and Google Docs.

The problem with a mature site is that over time, URLs change and pages come and go. Unfortunately when a URL changes you lose the value of incoming links to that page and your wider domain. On small sites you can probably keep on top of this. For larger sites, that have been active for some time, this is a tricky task. You may well have hundreds or even thousands of great incoming links that now point to missing pages!

But all is not lost! You just need to know what URL these great incoming links are pointing to, and set up a 301 redirect to a live page on your site that is as close to the now missing page as possible.

Big sites are going to have hundreds of such “lost” links, so we need to automate the process. Here’s how:

Google Webmaster tools is going to provide the list of the lost links that we are going to redirect. You get this from “Health > Crawl Errors > Not Found” which will present you with a possibly formidable list of 404s like this:


For each 404 they’ll actually tell (some) of the external sites link to it, so you can get an idea of the lost link love.


Download the entire list and import it into a Google Docs spreadsheet. Next, for each 404 URL, we need to create a 301 redirect which will be added to our server’s .htaccess file like this:

Redirect 301 /old_url.html

Doing hundreds of these would be hard work, but Google Docs can help with the heavy lifting. We just need to find a way to identify what would be a good new URL to redirect the old URL to. Luckily many sites have just this functionality built in, via a custom 404 page or search function. This one is created by sh404SEF, a component of Joomla, but many content management systems can do this out of the box or via a plugin or extension.


So what we can do is get Google Docs to fetch each of the old URLs, parse the page to pull out the top suggested new URL and then create a 301 redirect we can copy and paste straight into our htaccess file.



Column B contains this formula:


Which grabs the old URL with the ImportXML function, which contains our custom 404 page. The regular expression “//ul[@class=’results’]//li[1]/a/@href>” gets the first <l> list item from an unordered list <ul> that has the class “results.” This is the list of suggested new URLs. You would modify this for your own situation, to grab the first link from your list. I actually edited the 404 page to add the class=”results” tag to make it possible to target the correct <ul> unordered list with a simple regular expression.

Column C simply sticks the data together to make a perfect 301 redirect:

=CONCATENATE(“redirect 301 “,SUBSTITUTE(A101,”“,””),”“,B101)

Google Docs will then oblige and create redirects for you to copy and paste into your .htaccess file. You can only do 50 at a time due to a limit set by Google Docs, but this is still way faster than doing them by hand – about 100 redirects a minute!

Reclaim some link love with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Docs.


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Internet Trends 2012

it2012This report just released from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers on global Internet Trends is essential reading for anyone involved in digital business.

Mobile is on the up, eReading on the up, Mobile revenues on the up. On the down side, there is evidence that this rise in mobile is canibalising desktop traffic, and mobile revenues are lower than desktop. Games drive revenue (and engagement – consider gamification.) HUGE potential from utilising the powerful Facebook Open Graph.

There’s plenty more in the report on the reimagination of our world via technology, consumer confidence and economics. Well worth a few minutes of your time to flip through and see the trends that are going to affect your life and work.
KPCB Internet Trends 2012

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Google Penguin for negative SEO?

penguins-attackGoogle’s recent Penguin update seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers. It’s part of their continuing efforts to keep their results spam free and relevant, but it seems to have demoted a lot of high quality sites. Could this well meaning update be handing a powerful weapon to the nefarious?

The site owner forums and search engine specialist blogs are full of discussion about this topic. This most recent update seems to be focused on external factors, and in particular incoming links to your site. Having an “unnatural” link profile seems to have a significant detrimental effect on rankings – much more than was previously the case. (Useless Penguin fact – the name is derived from the Welsh “Pen Gywn” or white head, the name being bestowed upon the bird by early Welsh settlers in Patagonia. Could this be a hint that it’s to encourage “white hat” or ethical SEO behaviour?)

The sites we manage for clients have come out unaffected by this update, but we noticed a big traffic drop on a “hobby” site that we created for our friend and Italian Food enthusiast, called Italyum. This site have taken a huge traffic hit, so we thought we’d investigate. As this graph demonstrates, the traffic drop is significant and sustained, coinciding with the Penguin roll out.


So using Ahrefs and the excellent Raven Tools, we did some digging into the back link profile. Does this look natural to you?


Nope, me neither. But the interesting thing is, we haven’t done ANY link building on this site for literally years – it does just fine attracting links from Italian food enthusasts and social sites. So where did all these links come from? Reviewing the detail of the current link graph for Italyum there are suddenly a lot of spammy links, with identical anchor text – the very keywords we’ve lost all that traffic for. This is a (very) small sample:


Whilst this is interesting as it may help to confirm that penalising dodgy back link profiles is part of Google’s focus, this is really bad news for site owners as it seems with so much emphasis on external factors – you can use Penguin as a weapon.

when penguins attack


The next question that of course went through our head is – who would do this to Italyum? It’s just a hobby site! However, it did do very well in the rankings beating many high profile sites. Could Jamie Oliver have unleashed a frenzied band of spammy link builders upon us? Does Gino da Campo hate us? We may never know!

jamie oliver

Surely not Jamie? 

Advice for those hit by the Google Penguin update is to address the link profile issues and there is comprehensive guidance at Search Engine Watch. There is a fundamental problem however, that the honest site owner seems to have had much of the control over their own destiny taken away from them if the link graph has such a powerful effect on ranking.

We are lucky. Italyum is our hobby. Italian food is our friend’s passion. No business has lost money because of this traffic decline. No jobs will be lost. No tears shed. But what if this was a small business site, under attack from a competitor? If this is indeed a move by Google to re-evauate the link graph, and actually penalise sites based on factors the site owners can’t control, then this is a very bad move.

Bonus tip: Here is a link to a great article with 1500+ quality blogs that accept guest posts.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below.

Photo credits:

Penguins Nick Rusill, Flickr. Jamie Oliver, Scandic Hotels, Flickr.

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Jeremy WebbGoogle Penguin for negative SEO?
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4 Secrets of sensational Facebook timeline pages

facebooktlFacebook have now rolled out their new “Timeline” layout for all Pages worldwide and businesses, brands and causes are coming to terms with the change and their implications.

What are the changes and how can you create a sensational new Facebook Timeline layout?

Data suggests that the smart people at Facebook have done another smart thing. Early adopters of the Timeline layout saw these sorts of results:

  • Reach per post up 19%
  • People talking about a post up 25%
  • Viral reach* up 40%
  • Fan growth rate up 27%

*the propensity for a post to be shared. All data from Wildfire Apps study of 43 early adopter brands.

This should not come as a surprise. They have plenty of users to run tests on. Their hacker culture ensures that they can iterate fast. They believe that “pixels talk.” So any change they made was going to guarantee better user engagement.

If you haven’t already done it, some simple things you can do to make your Facebook page stand out post Timeline are:

Add a great cover photo – sneak in a call to action.

Heart of Scotland Tours

{jumi [pinpic.php][]}Use pinned and featured posts – ask questions, start two way conversations with your fans.


This example helps get conversation going with the use of an open, relevant question but also uses Facebook photo tagging as a sharing mechanism, as the act of tagging oneself is shared with your Facebook friends.

Use appropriate amounts of disclosure to develop stronger ties with your audience.

Not really something relevant to the new Timeline, but we just like the way are doing this.


Create apps – add useful and interesting features to your page.

The new tabs layout provide a huge opportunity. There was a lot of bruhaha about the changes that the Timeline made to Facebook apps. The main complaint was that it was no longer possible to create an app and make it your Facebook landing page. However, the big plus was that apps get a lot more prominence on the page, and this represents a big opportunity for businesses, brands and fans to extend interatation with visitors.


Apps are in effect web pages, so anything you can imagine and build online can be represented as an app. You could create interactive content that is useful and entertaining, provide an online store, mailing list sign up, or online booking. The fact that these apps can also interact with the Facebook Open Graph is really exciting as it allow automation of sharing actions on behalf of fans. More of this in a future post!

fbopen graph

We’ve built Facebook apps recently for Budgetbackpackers and Sage Brown – providing an online “Get a room” service and a mailing list sign up. (Direct email to a warm, targeted list is still a highly effective marketing tool in the new world of social!)


Embrace the new Facebook timeline and you can create a large and rich community around your business, brand or cause.

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Schema explained – the power of rich snippets

Rich SnippetsI’ve talked about the rise of schema data in 2012, and I know that this concept can seem a little confusing. Ensuring your site has the right hidden “structure” gives really useful information to search engines that they use in “rich snippets” helping your web site stand out in search engine results pages.

So here is a simple infographic from the smart people @bluegrass that details the advantages and methods of implementation of schema data for rich snippets.



Thanks for this excellent summary.

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Twitter for charities, non profits and the voluntary sector

CaptureI am an author! Well, I’ve co-authored a book, “Twitter for charities, non profits and the voluntary sector.”

Well, I wrote some bits – on how webbactivemedia used Twitter to capture Dragon (Duncan Bannatyne) as a patron for the Forces Children’s Trust, the maths behind social networks (thanks to the genius of Tom Alcott) and some bits on running competitions on Twitter and social media monitoring.

All the rest is down to the ridiculously talented Jim Byrne. The book launches on the 1st March, but you can download a sample chapter now and even get a free copy if you tell your friends about it 🙂 Do have a read and tell me what you think!

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Advertising Standards Authority rap TripAdvisor reviews

Interesting to see today that the Advertising Standards Authority have declared that Trip Advisor can no longer claim that reviews on their site are from “real travellers” such is the level of “gaming” of their review process by businesses wanting to boost their ratings, or downplay a client. Of course this is just one reason you should not trust reviews.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about why marketeers should love reviews, but customers should not trust them. There is some interesting psychology at play at both ends of the transaction, and even well intentioned reviews can mislead. For your interest here is the original article.

Customer reviews – love them, but don’t trust them!

(Originally published July 10th 2008)

Marketers are always trying to leverage this “people power” to disseminate information. Online you see it more and more in the form of Customer Reviews, where you can read comments from people who have purchased a certain product or service you may be interested in.

This is great news for the store owner, as positive comments are likely to influence you to purchase.   If you have an online product or service, it makes great sense to post up some great customer comments to try and influence the potential purchaser, and perhaps increase your conversion rate by a few percentage points. This is known as using “social proof” and can be very persuasive. It’s the reason we include quotes from our customers at the foot of this web site.

However, my colleague and consultant psychologist Jamie Miller BSc (Hons), Dip Occ Psych, FRGS reminds me that when it comes to purchasing, you need to treat these Customer Reviews with a large pinch of salt. The reason is “cognitive dissonance.” Psychologists describe this as an uncomfortable feeling or stress that comes from holding two conflicting views.   In our example of purchasing a product or service, this might be derived from buying something you thought was going to be great, and it turned out to be just good.

To ease the dissonance you feel you modify one view. Either you agree that the product is just good, and if possible change it, or you might convince yourself that it is great – after all you have invested in it, both in time choosing it, and in real hard cash to purchase it.     This investment helps you to convince you that you have done the right thing.

You then support the new view by ignoring information to the contrary, and seeking out information to support that viewpoint. Let’s say you were looking to buy a flat screen TV. In order of price high to low there is the Sony, the LG and the Amstrad. You know the Sony is the best all round, but you can only afford the LG, and you buy it.   When you get it home, you notice that the picture is really bright. The colours vivid. The picture crisp. You might even go online and find a complimentary review of your TV.

When reading customer reviews you should be aware that even the most level headed and rational of us can be susceptible to “cognitive dissonance” hence you should treat customer reviews with a large pinch of salt!

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Jeremy WebbAdvertising Standards Authority rap TripAdvisor reviews
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