Archive for the ‘SEO Research’ Category

What Does Direct Traffic Mean in Google Analytics?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 |

Since I’ve been looking this up for my own reaons, I thought I would share my findings. Direct Traffic means of course that there’s NO referrer when the visitor came to the site.

This could be because someone:

  • typed in the URL directly in their browser
  • used a bookmark in their browser
  • clicked a link from an email  with a non-web-based email client (like Outlook)
  • clicked a link in a document (PDF, Word)
  • clicked a link from within a secure site (https://)
  • used a mobile app (which could come from twitter, stumbleupon, email, etc.)
  • some JavaScript redirect links may not set a referrer
  • some corporate intranets may strip out referrers
  • if the user has browser plug-ins to mask their referrer
  • some banner/PPC campaigns may not pass a referrer correctly
  • The IE browser can sometimes be problematic & not send a referrer under certain conditions


Has anyone heard of any other reasons traffic would be identified as direct traffic in Google Analytics?

Top Generic Keywords or Longtail? Which Should You Go After? (Part 2)

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 |

Longtail Keywords

The less competitive and more specific ‘longtail keywords’ are the epitome of opportunity. There is almost endless amounts of longtail traffic out there and if optimised in the right way, sites can capture a great deal of them. But is it worth spending time creating lots of content and optimising it to pull in longtail traffic?

Firstly, websites don’t necessarily need to be all that powerful to rank for longtail keywords. This means that if you have new or weak site and you cannot compete for the top terms yet, you can always tap into the longtail search at some level. It is very difficult indeed to rank well for a whole host of generic terms as well, whilst there isn’t really anything stopping you ranking for many thousands of longtail terms. This post shows that in order to pull in more longtail traffic, 50% of the work you need to do is onsite work, compared to only 5% onsite work for the top level keywords. With this in mind, if you are not proficient in link-building, but can look after your onsite optimisation and copy, you can still perform well under your own steam, rather than having to outsource any offsite work. The most important thing to say about longtail search terms though, is that they convert much better. As mentioned earlier in part 1, longer keyword searches perform better than short, and so even though traffic might be lower with longtail, sales can still be higher.

Longtail search terms can be something of an unknown entity when it comes to predicting just how much traffic they will provide. To a large extent we know that generic keywords will provide a least some traffic if we rank well for them, but there is no guarantee that longtail search terms will do the same. In order to get anywhere will longtail search, you need to have good amounts of unique copy on your site. You often play a law-of-averages game with longtail – the more content you produce, the greater the chances someone will search for longtail search terms found within it. Not everyone has the time or ability to produce large volumes of content though, and it can seem like a risky investment in resources if there is no guarantee of traffic. Lastly, long tail search habits tend to change more frequently than the large generic terms. For example a certain range or style of dolls house might be popular on month and then receive no search the next, but people will always search for the generic term “dolls houses”. This means that you might spend lots of time optimising for keywords that your research shows people are using, only to find they are redundant before your pages even get crawled.
So what is the answer then?

Annoyingly this really depends on many factors specific to your site. For example, how powerful is the site? What are you selling? How competitive is the market? Etc. What I have found from experience however is that a happy medium is often best. By all means go after the top terms if you think your site has a chance of ranking, but at the same time, make sure you site is positioned to capture as many longtail terms as possible. What I can tell you though, is the worst thing you can. That is, blindly throw all your efforts in one or the other month after month, without considering where your best ROI might come from. Unfortunately, I see many SEOs do this very thing all the time.

Duncan is a search and online marketing specialist in the UK. He is also passionate about travel and blogs for an Oceania cruises company.

Top Generic Keywords or Longtail? Which Should You Go After? (Part 1)

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 |

There is a tendency in SEO to go blazing after the most competitive “glamour keywords” in an attempt to get them ranking high in the SERPS. This is certainly not a fool’s pursuit as there are benefits to ranking for such terms. However, more SEOs these days are waking up to the potential power of longtail search terms and some are even finding they give a much better ROI. So which should you be going after, the head or tail of the search term beast?

Top Generic Terms

The competiveness of top level terms within each niche varies. Trying to rank for “fishing equipment” for example, is likely to be a lot harder than trying to ranking for “tree surgery equipment”. However, as the SERPS become more competitive each day, it can require a lot of time and effort to reach the first page in even the smallest markets. So should we really be investing our blood, sweat and tears in trying to rank a few measly keywords.

First of all, the most generic keywords tend have the highest search volumes. Therefore, if you can get into a good position in the SERPS, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some traffic from them. Also, by going after the top level terms and building links using these terms in the anchor text, you’re likely to pull in a number of the longer-tail keywords at the same. For example, if you do a lot of work on the term “car insurance” and you see movement up the rankings, you’re likely to see some boost for terms such as “car insurance quotes” or “buy car insurance”. Additionally, ranking for top level terms often helps brand awareness and credibility. When most people see a site ranking highly in the SERPS for competitive terms, they are more likely to assume that site has quality and is trustworthy…if only they knew!

As mentioned earlier, trying to rank for competitive generic terms often requires a great deal of time and effort and can be a little like trying to climb a mountain without actually knowing how high it goes. Whilst SEOs can make informed guesses about just what it will take to move up the next slot in the SERPS, no one can really know for sure and so a term you are plugging away at for months might not even budge an inch. Also, by narrowing your focus on such specific terms, it is very easy to ignore a whole load of terms on the next level down that can also provide good traffic in their own rights. Lastly, the more generic (often single-word) terms do not convert as well as longer-tail terms. Ignoring brand terms, this report shows that conversion rate increases with the number of words in the search query, all the way up to four-word phrases.

Tomorrow we’ll post part II of this this article.

Duncan is an SEO engineer from England. He is also passionate about travel and blogs for a river cruises agent.

Checking a Webpage for SEO Quality (According to Google)

Friday, October 17th, 2008 |

My colleague, Will Paoletto, wrote an excellent post about using logic to prove that directory submission was still a valid SEO tactic, despite what you may have heard from other SEO companies. I thought I would take this a bit further and help you decide if the directory submission is really worthwhile by showing you how to judge the quality of the placement page your site would be listed on in the directory.

We’ll start out with idea that you  have an accounting site and you are looking for quality directory submissions.

While a directory may have a decent PR ranking (3-5) you also want to check to make sure the page your listing will be placed on is a quality page. You can use this method for any potential page you are requesting a link for, but this is especially helpful when deciding whether a page within a directory is worth your money.


4 Easy Steps for Discovering Longtail Keyword Phrases

Friday, August 1st, 2008 |

Long Tail Keyword Development Strategy

To make things easier for you, I’ve broken down the procedure of finding and developing your long tail keywords into a simple five step process. By following this strategy, you should be able to effectively grow the amount of search traffic you receive daily.

  1. Enter your core keywords in the Google’s Keyword Suggestion tool. Download the entire list in a text or excel format.
  2. Perform competitor analysis manually or through SEO Digger.
  3. Compile in one list, all the longtail keywords from both of the above steps.
  4. Start to create webpages or blog posts and include at least one keyword + a phrase in the title. For WordPress users, install and use the SEO Title Tag plugin.

This is a snippet of an article by Maki at I can recommend this strategy whole-heartedly.

Google Launches Trends for Websites

Friday, June 20th, 2008 |

Google launched Google Trends for Websites today and I’m excited.

Not a lot of time today, but if you are a linkbuilder this is great news for you.

Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land, makes a good point that I agree with:

Now, if you think like a link builder – you can use this tool to find sites that are within your “neighborhood” or industry. So if I want to find link partners for the Search Engine Roundtable, I enter in, look at the related sites and ask all of them for links. Then I go to all of those sites and see who is related to them. You can, theoretically, keep expanding that list, as far is it makes sense.

Our best tool so far has been Alexa and Compete with Yahoo Site Explorer thrown in. This could change things drastically. And I personally like the price: FREE. If it is half as good as Google Analytics it will be a very helpful tool for SEO companies. Competitive reporting for the masses, so to speak. Give it a look and start thinking of the awesome power of knowledge.

Google appears to Change Algorithm: Using Capital Letters Creates New Keywords

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 |

Keyword research tools may be in for another overhaul.Google’s algorithm now appears to be viewing the capitalized versions of keywords as separate from the lowercase versions.I came across this while searching for the lowercase and uppercase versions of the keyword “engagement rings.”Look at these screen shots from the datacenter.

Screenshot of Google results with a lowercase “e” in engagement rings. Click for larger image.

Lowercase E

Screenshot of Google results with an uppercase”E” in Engagement rings. Click for larger image.


Searching with a capital “E” gives different results than searching with all lowercase letters, and I also noticed discrepancies between lowercase and uppercase letters with that keyword at the datacenter.

Now, look at the differences in the SERPS at the datacenter for the lower and uppercase version of the keyword “dog tags.”The results change after the second search result.

Screenshot of Google results with a lowercase “d” in dog tags. Click for larger image.

dog tags lower

Screenshot of Google results with an uppercase “D” in Dog tags. Click for larger image.

Dog Tags upper

Assuming this isn’t a temporary glitch, the SEO landscape will undergo another transformation.If this reflects a real change in the algorithm, keyword research tools such as Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery will have to be adjusted to compensate.They currently don’t differentiate between searches with lowercase and capital letters.Since the Google search results were believed to be identical for each, they had no reason to.

We’ll have to wait for an official word from Google (if they give one), but right now this is looking at lot less like a glitch and a lot more like a real shift in the algorithm. And it would be a significant one.I would guess that people search with different forms of capitalization as often as they misspell words or use theplural form of words.But it’s just a guess, as there is no keyword research data to back that assumption up….yet.

We’ll have to keep our eyes on this one.

The Alexa Ranking Myth

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 |

alexa-logo.gifUpdate: 4/20/08, Of course as soon as I post on my blog about Alexa’s inaccurate ranking system they decide to update their system. Time will tell if it is an better.

SEO companies are at the front lines when it comes to educating customers and potential customers about what is important when looking at web statistics. I guess I’ve hit my breaking point, which is usually when I start blogging, about Alexa rankings. We have clients that ask why there Alexa ranking is so high (which is bad) and even though they are ranking in the top 5 for their most treasured keyword phrases. They have high traffic that is converting above their industry standards, but still they Alexa ranking rears its ugly head too often.

So I want to put this issue to pasture and definitively state that we do not care about Alexa ranking and do not monitor Alexa rankings, other to see estimated trends for pure entertainment value. They are of little importance an not worth the time to view them. Not only are the extremely inaccurate, but they can also give a false sense of security when they inflate your importance. You must remember that unless you have the Alexa toolbar on your site, your web visits won’t be counted in the Alexa stats. What does this mean for the numbers that Alexa shows you? Well, think about who would have the Alexa toolbar installed: mostly people involved with Internet marketing such as SEO people, webmasters, consultants and other people whose job it is to track statistics. These aren’t your normal site surfers and they skew the traffic numbers higher for Internet-related sites. If you have been reading this blog long enough you know I’m a big believer in actual case studies and real data to prove a point. To that end I have done some research to show the Alexa Ranking Myth and break its spell.

The first chart shows stats from Alexa for this site (, a Internet marketing site) and a smoothie recipe site (, a non-Internet related site) and you can see that Alexa shows the Big Oak site with more than double the traffic of Smoothie Web. If you were to view or stats on Alexa it reports our site as being in the top 100,000 sites on the web, specifically we are ranked at 94,204. My, aren’t we so important! Now,don’t get me wrong, we have a nice number of visitors, but to think we are in the top 100,000 sites is a bit much. While, a highly trafficked site is only ranked at 310,192.

Alexa Graph

Now that we know what Alexa is reporting, let us look at actual site statistics as reported by Google Analytics. If you look at the graphs below you can see the dramatic difference from Alexa’s reported rankings in traffic over the same 3-month period. has 20,311 visitors which is a very respectable number for a B2B site. But when compared to’s 210,190 visitors you can easily see that Alexa rankings are highly skewed towards technical and Internet-related websites. had 10x the visitor traffic according to Google Analytics but less than half according to Alexa’s estimates.



The site obviously pulls traffic from our competitors, webmasters in charge of finding a honest SEO company and research types for our informative SEO blog. And these users are more likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed, if only to inflate their own Alexa ranking by visiting their own sites daily. And before you ask, no, I do not have the Alexa toolbar installed and neither does any of the staff at Big Oak.

To sum up, do not look at Alexa rankings with any more than an passing curiosity, for that is all it is. Instead look at your site’s analytics and try to see where you are getting traffic and what traffic is converting. Look at the keywords your site is ranking for and how the visitors from those terms are using your site. In short, look at all the data you can around your actual visitors and leave the estimated numbers based on a toolbar installation to those who need the ego stroking of a high Alexa ranking. And if anyone asks you about your Alexa ranking, please refer them to this post.

Twitter – Waste of Time or Useful Tool?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 |

twitter.pngI’m not going to write a review of twitter, mainly because I have only started using it recently and I’m undecided about its practical uses. If you would like to see what others think of twitter you can read a review here or here. I did include two videos in this post so you can get a quick idea of what it is and how it works.

What is Twitter? Twitter is a social messaging tool for staying connected in real-time.

I do find it very cool that I have access to other SEO Experts and even cooler some of them have been kind enough to read what I’m twittering about. If you are interested in what I am doing you follow me at Is anyone else twittering. Please pass along any thoughts on this social media tool.

Update: I was amazed to find the Google pulled an alert for me from a Twitter comment I made. I had made a comment about our newest SEO Comic and my alert pulls any mention of “SEO Comic”. So Google is caching my twitter page. The link are all nofollow, but we know Google follows nofollow they just don’t apply an link popularity from them.

The following videos can demonstrate the genius or madness of Twitter. I am yet undecided.

Or you can watch this video.

Google Advanced Search

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 |

Google has updated its advanced search page. While most people probably don’t look at the advanced search page very often, it has some nice features, especially for an SEO Expert. One of the best features is the ability to see 100 results at a time rather than the usual 10. Add the CustomizeGoogle Addon for the Firefox browser and you can view numbers beside your listing-now you don’t have to count to find you are at position 67, there will be numbers beside each listing to show you.

Also, selecting the Language as English will more realistic results. (You can also select the English language in the preferences.)

For example searching for ‘big oak seo’ returns 77,900 English pages with results when English is selected language. If you search with Any Language selected the results return 88,100 pages. Not a huge difference, right? It gets worse with more generic phrases. Searching for ‘search engine optimization’ with English shows 1,900,000 and without shows 36,900,000. These number will fluctuate, but using English as the language will get you more accurate resutls, especially when you are trying to factor the level of competition for a key phrase you may be targeting.

Of course you can filter your searches through the Advance Search form in a variety of ways and that’s for the for the power user as well as the Mom looking for the best place to groom her pet. Getting familiar with the advanced features can help you do research for keywords as well as finding information about how to grow an avocado plant or a video on growing an avocado seed.

For the SEO enthusiast or the small Internet business owner you can search by date, usage rights and even where the keywords show up on the page. All helpful information when trying to create your SEO plan. Google provides a wealth of information you just have to know where to start digging. The Advanced Search page by Google is a great place to start.

Create an Wonderful Super Awesome Resource Directory – SEO Tip 52

Friday, December 28th, 2007 |

Update 6/18/08 - We created a human resources directory for a client and provided links to their main site. So it was a external directory site, but if you notice in the screen shot the directory is the #1 result for the term “hr directory” and has Google sitelinks. This site is a great one-way link for our client.

If you have been playing the SEO game for long you know that using directories are one way to build links. How effective this is to your SEO campaign is debatable nowadays. But I’m not talking about submitting your site to other directories, I’m recommending you start your own directory. I can practically hear the moans and protests through the Internet now. Let me explain my modest proposal. Here are some ideas for creating your own wonderful super awesome resource directory.

Build the directory on your current site. Do not start a site just for the sake of being a directory. There are thousands of unsuccessful directories and we shouldn’t be adding to the overcrowded market. You can see an example of a resource (vendor) directory we have created for F. Curtis Barry & Company. The directory was created as a subsection of their business site so it resides in their main domain.

Be selective. This directory isn’t supposed to be all-inclusive, it is being created to be a resource for your customers. It should have perceived value so only include vendors that are recommended by you or your company.

Be opinionated. This is YOUR directory, right? Well, say what you want but back up what you say. Give your opinion. Why was this vendor or company selected for placement in this directory? Let your audience know.

Be verbose. Make the directory worthy of being read. After all, you aren’t including many companies. Remember, it is a privilege and only the best get included so you won’t have to write about a large number of companies or products, but you should write enough to be helpful about each one. Each listing should have its own detail page – often the company selected will give you all the text you need. If you don’t like what they have written or the tone of writing ask for edits. More than likely they will accommodate.

Be Greedy. The point of creating this directory is to build links. This can be accomplished in two ways. The first is through reciprocal linking (more on the other link building method later). Your directory is free or at least it should be. You don’t want your directory listings to be paid, it would reduce the validity of the listings. If you are gong to provide a link to outside companies with content and a recommendation, then asking for a link in return seems reasonable. At the least, they should link to their own detail page.

Be Proactive. This isn’t a “build it and they will come”scenario. You will have to solicit companies you want to include in your directory. After you have set up your categories (if needed) and have added a few companies you may start receiving requests at some point, but be vigilant and only let in the top companies that you would recommend. You don’t want to compromise your directory’s integrity with low-quality listings.

Reap the benefits. Here is the second way to build links. Now that you have a selective and high quality directory, other sites will be more inclined to link to it of their own accord. You have created “link bait” and will attract links pointing to you industry resource directory.

To wrap this up, here is the main idea to keep in mind. The directory should be considered useful by all parties. You should request links and use the directory as a link bait opportunity. The directory should represent only the best, recommended companies in your industry and should be focused.

This will require some work but you will also have created a useful tool that will attract attention. The time you use to build this directory will be well spent. You may even show up in the search results for the companies you list.

Good luck on your wonderful super awesome resource directory.

52 SEO Tips
I also want to thank everyone who reads this blog and has been here for my year long commitment to creating a new SEO Tip every week. This is the final tip out of 52 SEO Tips for the year 2007. It started as something I thought I could in a few minutes once a week, but turned into a much bigger effort as I tried to create tips that were more than just writing “Do keyword research.” It has been fun and frustrating and I’m glad to have completed my goal. There will be more SEO tips, but not every week. I’ll also be attempting to write more commentary now that I can focus less on SEO tips. So keep coming back and keep commenting and maybe we can both learn something.

Big Oak SEO Blog

This SEO blog is provided by Big Oak SEO, a SEO Company. Most blog posts are related to search engine optimization, short reviews, SEO tips and increasing site conversions. Email us at or give us a call 804-741-6776 to see how we can help your company. More

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