How to turn promotional content into journalistic news

Posted on October 11, 2019

At Engage Web, we write a lot of news for our clients. Sometimes, that means taking something that’s being widely reported and writing our own article about it, but other times, it takes a bit more to root out a story.

Any upcoming event – be it a festival, play, concert or sporting event – can be a news story, but the challenge here is (more…)

Posted by John Murray

Google tests hiding URLs from search results

Posted on October 9, 2019

Search giant Google appears to be currently testing the removal of URLs from the results pages of its search engine, instead displaying only the name of the websites appearing in the results.

The test was initially spotted by a Reddit user earlier this week, who shared a screenshot of a search for ‘mortgages’. The image shows that the top results came from Money Supermarket, Halifax and Barclays. Each of these is listed by just the name of the company instead of the URL.

Below is a screenshot of the usual way Google displays its search results, which shows the URLs.

If you compare this to the screenshot from Reddit, you will notice that although the URL is no longer there, you will see the company name, and the page name. For example ‘MoneySuperMarket > mortgages’, ‘Halifax > uk’ and ‘Barclays > uk > mortgages > mortgage calculator’. While the actual URL is hidden, you can see the pathway needed to find the content. This is known as a breadcrumb and more information can be seen about this here. This may be more visually appealing, but is it more useful?

Google has been in the process of moving away from displaying the full URL within the search results pages since it introduced breadcrumbs a couple of months ago. As a result of this, Google now seems to be testing what the impact may be of removing URLs completely and not showing the domain of the site ranking for that particular search query.

The Reddit post has had a fair bit of interaction, with those contributing raising concerns about being able to verify how legitimate the website being shown on the page is, as the domain is not there. How would users be able to distinguish between a genuine site and a phishing site?

Other users do not believe that this will have a significant effect on SEO and may even alter the way people perceive top level domains, such as the authority of a .com over a, .org or .net.

What this could have an impact on, though, is a site’s click-through rate. Google is now showing more information than ever in the search results to make the user experience much easier and faster. This will be one more approach that Google is trying and will only be permanently introduced should it be deemed a successful test with no negative impact on websites.

Posted by Alan Littler

Is Boris’s wine box painting hobby an SEO strategy?

Posted on October 3, 2019

Back in June, the then prime minister in waiting Boris Johnson explained to Talk Radio about his unusual hobby of painting wine boxes to create model buses. It seemed a typically quirky admission from a politician who has always been a little out of sync with the rest of Westminster, but a theory has emerged that his comments could be an attempt to influence Google search results relating to him.

Some observers have suggested that Johnson is trying to ‘game’ the news by dropping in words connected to negative stories about him in the hope of creating irrelevant, oddball stories that edge out less desirable ones. This theory was suggested by such sources as the Scotsman at the time the wine box bus story was making the news, but has reared its head again this week after Johnson described himself as a “model of restraint” during the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ on Sunday.

What is the theory?

When asked by Talk Radio what he did to relax, Johnson’s exact words were:

“I like to paint. Or I make things. I have a thing where I make models of buses. What I make is, I get old, I don’t know, wooden crates, and I paint them. It’s a box that’s been used to contain two wine bottles, right, and it will have a dividing thing. And I turn it into a bus.”

There are three words in this answer that all relate to an existing controversy to do with the prime minister – ‘buses’, ‘wine’ and ‘model’.

A Google search for ‘Boris Johnson buses’ now brings up several stories to do with this hobby, but using Google Image Search, we can see multiple images of him giving a speech in front of the now infamous bus proclaiming that the UK should fund the NHS instead of sending £350m per week to the EU. Did he deliberately create another, much more innocuous story about himself and buses simply to quiet the fuss over the Brexit bus?

Similarly, only a few days before he spoke to Talk Radio, Johnson was at the centre of a police incident relating to an alleged disturbance at his house. Reportedly, a recording of the row included comments about red wine being spilled on a sofa, so was this also an effort to bury negative news in a ‘Boris Johnson wine’ search?

Johnson is also the subject of ongoing speculation over his relationship with former model Jennifer Arcuri, and whether she was granted favours during his time as Mayor of London. Is this why he’s dropping in the word ‘model’ in some of his public appearances? If so, a Google search for ‘Boris Johnson model’ suggests it has had little effect.

Reputation management?

The idea of Johnson trying to ‘play’ Google and the British media in this way might seem far-fetched, but the practice of online reputation management (ORM), often carried out as one arm of a search engine optimisation campaign, is well-known. Usually, it relies on creating and encouraging the publishing of neutral or positive stories about a person or organisation to cancel out negative ones, but few have the power to so easily focus such authoritative news sites on these stories. Only Johnson and his advisors know for sure whether this is an elaborate online reputation management strategy or just an insight into his offbeat personality.

Posted by John Murray

Google to let site owners customise search result previews

Posted on September 26, 2019

Search giant Google is now going to grant site owners the ability to edit and customise how their site content is previewed within the search results.

Google has always generated its (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler

Should numbers be written as words or numerals?

Posted on September 24, 2019

We formulate our writing with letters, but there are times when we need some help from numbers too. Aside from the fact that we often need to indicate quantity, consider how many common sayings use them, such as:

– Back to square one
– Three’s a crowd
– A five-star performance
– At sixes and sevens
– On cloud nine (more…)

Posted by John Murray

An introduction to Google penalties

Posted on September 16, 2019

The term ‘penalty’ is thrown around a lot in some SEO circles, and sometimes it’s not the most accurate word to be (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler

New attributes could change how Google treats links

Posted on September 12, 2019

Google has announced an interesting development to its ‘nofollow’ attributes, allowing webmasters to advise the search engine on what type of links they are inserting into their content.

What is ‘nofollow’?

The nofollow value was introduced in 2005 in an effort to tackle spamming on blogs and forums. By applying it, webmasters could add hyperlinks to (more…)

Posted by John Murray

The four “don’ts” of travel writing

Posted on September 10, 2019

At Engage Web, we won’t deny that there are some briefs that our writers tend to respond to more excitedly than others. One that always goes down well is the opportunity to write for travel agents and airlines.

Reading and writing about desirable places to visit allows you to indulge in your digital wanderlust, but that’s not to say (more…)

Posted by John Murray
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