Google Changes Search Syntax

I just noticed Google “going all Ajax” in their search results.

Whatever they are doing, the net effect is that NO keyword data will be available in third party analytics tools. Indeed… it probably won’t appear in GA either if GA is genuinely using Javascript to do its tracking.

The Old Way

The New Way

The Effect

[EDITOR NOTE…. THAT’S ME… IT’S A PERSONAL BLOG: Beyond the next chart this post has been updated Thursday Morning. Comments prior to that may refer to previous (incorrect) interpretations.]

I originally suspected that they had been testing this for  few weeks, judging by the search term on brand drop in PIWIK analytics integrations:

But then that goes to show what happens when you write up a blog post in a rush. The chart above was not filtered to show Google traffic only and whilst that drop looks interesting, when I DID look at the traffic properly filtered, Google seems to still be happily tracking at least some of the brand keyword at the same level at the moment:

So either it was early checking, or something else was happening to still let my analytics track, because usually anything after a hashbang would get lost, So next I did a search for a tool/script which checks the referrer URL when you land on the page. I found one on so did THIS search to get stardrifter in the hashbanged results:

Clicking on that referrer test should show the referrer URL in the URL bar at the top, yes? But infact Google is redirecting and showing a different (more expected and normal) referral URL – as can be seen when I click on the link:

So… the Hashbang has gone… but then again, so have the keywords. Just a parameter “&q=” with no content. I tried to log out and do a similar test and did not generate an instance where the keyword data was parsed. Maybe someone else can.

Random Domain Generator for Excel

Ever needed a list of Random Domains in an Excel Spreadsheet? If so, feel free to use mine in this post… just thank when you use it in a blog post please.

Recently I have been seeing innumerable SEO posts that claim to be scientific, then show you data either for a single site and suggest this is fact or worse – for sites that the author won’t name and pose as fact.

If you plan to put up research:

  1. you need to let the research be open to peer scrutiny. The results need to be replicable.
  2. Your research is only good if your data is unbiased. Finding a random set of domains is remarkably hard to do.
I found a site that creates random words, but this is only part of the challenge. I then created a list of valid TLDs. Then I took a random word and attached a random TLD. My TLD list is just the common ones for me – but you can add more. Only thing I suggest is not to use non English speaking countries with a list of English random words.
The resulting Excel file shows you an example of creating 100 random domains from a list of 2700 or so random words. You can always play on the theme if you want – but if you ever see someone using a biased list of sites for some research… please send them over to here in the comments to get them to do the test again with something approaching objectivity would you?
Now this is not TOTALLY random, but should create an unbiased sample set for most SEO testing.

Download the Excel random domain generator file.


Mantras to live by

I thought I’d write down a few random thoughts. I don’t THINK I plagiarized them, but I am sure many a philosopher has had similar thoughts before. These are the sorts of things I try to keep in the back of my mind when I get up in the morning.

“If I do seven things in a day and three of them didn’t work, I still achieved more than the guy that did one thing well.”

“Empires are built on Towers. Knowing why they work is a key element in building my own Marketing Towers.”

“Don’t rely on one thing going right. It’s the one thing that won’t.”

“Success is a state of mind. Donald Trump thinks he is a success… with four bankrupt companies under his belt. Donald’s mind must be in a state.”

“Links are just relationships. Some are good. Some are bad.”

“Whatever marketing philosophy you live by – I bet you lived by another one last year.”

“I see my life as pieces on a chess board. Every action I take is aiming to advance one piece, one space. I am not looking for Mate in four, I am looking for a good game. Then occasionally I get bored and start again.”

“There’s no point in the goal, unless you enjoy the journey. The goal passes by in a minute… the journey often takes a lifetime.”

(c) Dixon Jones. 2013.

A Global Twitter Strategy?

I just noticed Twitter has a load of new (to me) suddomains:

But not (as yet):


So What’s Happening Here?

Ay the moment, the content on each of these looks identical to me, but Twitter must be planning a bit of a roll out of something which – I can only assume – will mean Twitter streams differ by more factors than just timeliness. Facebook has EdgeRank and LinkedIN have their own algprithm (which SEOs would be wise to analyse). So Twitter may be wanting to shake things up a bit.

How Might That Impact your own International Strategy?

This may or may not put a hole in the planned strategy I was about to deploy for Majestic and would love feedback on opinions. As many will know, Majestic is now in three languages and it’s not a secret that we have a few other Ambassadors fighting our corner abroad. The Blog has now similarly started taking on an Intermational feel, and the result has been @MajesticSEO Tweeting in German one minute and English the next. The Italians want their share and the Brazilians are about to rule the world… so surely I need to adapt the Tweets or alienate the English speakers.

I WAS thinking that I should set up handles on Twitter for each language and… instead of suddenly letting a Tweet slip out on @MajesticSEO in a foreign language, rather have a planned strategy that Tweets every (say) 19 hours saying: Follow us in YOUR language: URLA, URLB, URLC, … etc. Thus we move users towards their language over a period of time.

Anyone got any thoughts or success stories on Tweeting multilingually? I don’t think Americans will warm to non-English Tweets over time.



I was privileged to win an award last night.

I was honoured last night. Literally!

UK Search Personalty of the Year Award

I was given what I consider to be a great honour – UK Search Personality of the Year. Now as women will testify, I think my “personality” has limitations in many areas – but when it comes to search, I do seem to get around! I absolutely had no idea that I had even been nominated, so it was fortunate that I was still just about sober enough at the Black Tie event to collect the award! Thank you truly to the UK Search industry for the recognition, it really is a pinnacle of success for me to date. I know it is in some ways a closed industry – but anyone is welcome and there was a huge attendance at the awards.

I can also now hold my head up high when I am with Alex – the founder of Majestic SEO – who won the European Search Personality of the Year earlier in 2012. Majestic SEO has pretty much had a clean sweep and the agency I helped found in 1999 – Receptional – has also done well:

More Search Awards

The four awards above are:

  • UK Search Personality of the Year 2012: Dixon Jones (MajesticSEO / Receptional)
  • European Search Personality of the Years 2012: Alex Chunovsky (MajesticSEO)
  • European Best SEO Software 2012: Majestic SEO
  • UK Best SEO Software 2012: Majestic SEO / Receptional
Before all these, the best thing I ever won in search was a Bath tab foot from Vintage Bath and Tub:


Thank you everyone… here are just a FEW of the many tweets…

Taking Risks in Business

I’ve been running Internet Businesses since the nineties. Before that I set up my first business writing and running Murder Mystery events just in the middle of Thatcher’s recession. Some would say I have succeeded… others would say I have a way to go yet.

I can confirm that I indeed have a way to go yet… but many other good friends fell along the way…

But if everything I had tried had gone well… I would have been knighted. If more of the things I tried had gone wrong, I would be pushing shopping trollies. I think I have played the game by taking considerably less risk than most on the Internet. I feel the Internet has in general been akin to the wild, wild west frontier – where the only two weapons were faith and guns and neither of these have much of a place in business.

Sure – I took a big risk when I left university, choosing to start a business with less than £1,000 borrowed from a friendly bank manager. But I had no money to lose anyway… so how big was this risk compared to six or seven figure VC funding for an unproven P&L model? Very little. If I had failed, I could – at that age – have picked myself up and the damage would have been less than if I had written off a motorbike. It FELT like  a risk at the time, but it really wasn’t great.

Then when the Internet came along, I was learning about search engines – or rather how I might influence the algorithms – and found myself going to a group called “First Tuesday” It was an alien world to me, where VCs and entrepreneurs met in what Bob Geldof – the night’s speaker- observed was a “Sea of Greed”. He was right… so I set up a smaller consultancy, with about £30,000 worth of cash as I recall, shared between my mortgage and my business partner’s cash. Hardly a king’s ransom. By contrast, Bob Geldof”s Internet business – worth £30 Million at its height – was eventually sold for £150,000 in just 2003. I may have risked my house – but my risk was nothing compared to the guy that thought the others in the room smelt of greed. I have to wonder how spectacularly some of the others in that room must have risked and lost compared to me.

Now I have again taken a risk – by working with some incredible people trying to crawl the Internet. You would think that there are some other pretty spectacular companies already doing this rather well, with Google and Bing leading the field. But as you grow older, you learn to better assess risk. I don’t believe we have risked anything like Microsoft risking the farm with $1 trillion. Now I would happily sell out for that $1 trillion – but I think that the point is that I saw innovation and commitment in the guys at Majestic and thankfully they saw some kind of value in me. Majestic IS successful and I am convinced will continue to be so, but the risks are far from Casino like in nature. Sure, when you play a game you want to create a winning strategy, but try not to leave your back door open… a Fox will come in to take your first born.

Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.

I am also rubbish at Poker.


Google, Education and Mediocrity

This evening, I searched for “how to take your GCSE exams early”.

My daughter is 12. I know that GCSEs are designed for 16 year olds, but she is ambitious and inquisitive. She wants to know her options. For those outside the UK… GCSEs are exams kids normally take at 16. (The rest of this post is country agnostic.)

I was surprised to find Google’s responses pandered to what can only be described as mediocrity. A character trait to which I felt Google has strived to avoid at all costs. The overwhelming message in the results was to suggest that taking GCSEs early was detrimental for children.

This is concerning, on so many levels. It would seem that all of the results stem from a single Ofsted report which starts by saying that bright children have been successfully taking GCSEs early for years, but recent changes in behaviour are creating slightly below average results. Looking at the underlying data, I think that this ignores the aspirations of the child and their maturity in seeing that, quite frankly, they are able to retake if they do just “OK” and why shouldn’t they? But educational aspirations aside, Google has failed on so many levels on this one:

Where is the answer?

I queried “how to take your GCSE exams early”? Telling me that doing so is bad for me (or my daughter’s) health is certainly not answering my query. It is indoctrinating me and answering a completely different question which – if I was a cynic (and I am) I would say that the result on the right are deflecting my question. The results say:

1: Children lose out by doing what you have asked

2: Duplicate: Doing GSCEs are bad for you

3: Why would you want to do what you asked?

4: No. We won’t let you do thatin French

5: Why would you do what you asked? (Dupe?)

6: You are about to damage your child

7:  You are about to damage your child

8: Bright children lose out (actually… the report did not exactly say that).

9: Ofsted study referenced again

10: The actual study which the other results refer to.

That’s the results I see on the image on the right. They seem to try to affect my opinion, rather than resolve my query. If I was Google, I would worry about this result, because it doesn’t answer the question. But worse – it tries to indoctrinate me into NOT trying to excel.

Would Google be happy with Mediocrity?

I doubt it. Google is anything BUT a mediocre company. I admire them more than any company on earth except the guys at Majestic (see.. no link). For Google to be seen to subvert what is, after all, an entirely aspirational query should send alarm bells through the hollowed halls of Mountainview… or at least get the volleyball players off the pitch and back into the spam team room… because this result is the most insidious for of spam. The results are clearly wrong… but they are the Guardian, the BBC and the Independent. Are we to be dragged into the Fourth Estate by the very organisation that was looking to change the paradigm? And worse… are we being asked by Google to tell our kids to just give up?

 Why didn’t Google get it right?

This is where is gets more murky. Earlier this year I suspect that Google would have pretty much got this result right. Surely, it is not beyond Google’s ability to answer this question. “How to” is a pretty clear signal in the search query to Google to say that the user wants an answer, not an opinion. Over er the last year or two, Google has fought back against companies that have tried manipulate Google’s search rankings. On the whole they have done well, but they have – at scale – devalued websites that do not come up to their mathematical grade. In the process they have clearly damaged their objective which must remain to harness the world’s information and instead of results being influenced by spammers, results are getting influenced by authority. In this case, it is not for the best.

 And in the Meantime

Whilst writing this, my 12 year old downloaded an app which gave sample GCSE questions. She is aghast that these are the questions that 16 year olds are being asked. She looked at me at the question:

2(x+2) =………

The answer was multiple choice by the way! (If you think that’s hard, the answer was 2x+4).

So… anyone want to offer my 12 year old a Bursary? Because I don’t believe I’ll be doing my child any favors by listening to the results on Google…

One last question…

My child is in the last year of a comprehensive middle school, aged 12. This week she was berated by her English teacher when her interpretation of “clear bullet points” was to number them. She wants to achieve. She wants to do well. Does anyone know the answer to this question:

“how to take your GCSE exams early”

Answers by anything but Gmail please.


Remember what you read online

Here is a great way to dramatically improve memory when reading articles online.

This week I finally get to sit down and do something constructive with Bryan Eisenberg, the founder of the Web Analytics association (now renamed the Digital Analytics association). He’s been around forever and it amazes me that so few businesses are able to get to grips with his essentially obvious mantra that business online needs to be underpinned with good decisions based on good data. Recently, the mantra changed a bit though, as we all start to realise that some of the power within the mass of data that some companies have managed to harness, lies not in analysis – but in knowing what the “Big Idea” is that you want to get out of the Big Data.

But that’s not the full point of this post. Bryan gave me a bunch of posts he had written on the subject. As I started to read, it dawned on me that I really wasn’t taking in the words like I used to. I think ADT is growing in all of us involved on the web. Age doesn’t help and the glass of red wine was the final straw. I closed the laptop and left it for a few days.

Well I am glad to report that I have now taken in the articles and found an excellent way to aid memory retention online. I downloaded an app from iTunes onto my iPhone that turns web pages into audio. The idea for the app is that you can turn any news feed into a podcast. That’s useful in itself. But the real “deep” recall occurs when you read AND listen at the same time.

By reading and having computer generated spoken word, you combine two senses, dramatically improving recall. We all use PowerPoint (or in my case “Prezi”) to help us elaborate and communicate in different ways, because a picture can say a thousand words, but we rarely combine senses when reading online. I heartily recommend that you change that now.

Using different senses online to communicate is one of the reasons I use to broadcast My Search Kingdom Radio Show. (Next show is on Thursday). Using those senses to RECEIVE information is just as important.

If you want to look at the iPhone App I have started using, it’s called “Speakably”. It looks new, so not perfect yet, but it does the job. What’s more, you can speed up the speed of the spoken word. Going at double speed won’t work just by listening alone, but it is pretty easy to read fast with the audio running at the same time.

It turns out this is especially effective. A few months back I was at the Glasgow Science Museum. A great day out by the way. In there, in the top floor, is a whole interactive experience about sound. One exhibit let’s you hear something spoken very fast. It is hard to understand. Then you hear it at normal speed and of course it make sense. The “Wow” moment comes when you hear it fast a second time. Now your brain has a pattern to follow and this time it all makes sense at the faster speed.

Put a computerised audio over web pages when you want to read fast and take in the content. You’ll be amazed at how much faster… And effective… Your reading will be.

If you want to read the posts Bryan sent me:

Pass the word. Please share the post if you find it useful.

At SES, Bryan and I are heading up the “Big Data” Meet the Experts table at lunch in San Francisco. This year I have been pushing Majestic SEO within a new but growing conference circuit based around Big Data and Predictive Analytics and along the way I have found some great ways to mine Big Data.

Leveraging Empire Avenue for Social Marketing

Some of you may have heard me mention Empire Avenue as a potentially great way of Gamification of your own social media marketing efforts. I only ever put it out there as a “fun idea to think about when you have time”. But as I woke up at 5:00 AM this morning, here is a little idea I am experimenting with in the game’s “Missions” which you might like to try.

I have TWO missions on the go… One is open to anybody that is playing Empire Avenue and visits this web page. Well done if you are one of them – but read on…

The SECOND mission is only open to shareholders… so anyone buying share on Empire Avenue in me will currently effectively get 500 Eaves cashback (Eaves being the currency of the game) just for subscribing to a Youtube channel.

So how is this interesting for social marketers?  Well the point is that Empire Avenue is a game where users invest in other people’s social equity! That mean that the people in the game are interested in increasing their activity in social space, but not for the same reasons as marketers. They want money, shareholders and generally stuff that makes them do better on the game. In short they need to “do” stuff in social to succeed.

Marketers in social – it seems – are trying to persuade people to “Do stuff of their own accord”. Well that – to me – sounds like a match made in heaven ( or hell, depnding on your point of view).

By linking a few of the tools in your social toolbox together, it isn’t too hard to see ways in which gamification and social media marketing can come together effectively. Just play someone else’s game!

Are you using Empire Avenue?

So… if you just came here from Empire Avenue – please go and buy some shares in me and if you are in the next 30 shareholders to take note, you’ll find a mission in your mission tab after buying that will give you 500 eaves back. (Since my shares were only around 44 Eaves when I posted this, you could even make a profit.)

If you DON”T use Empire Avenue – here are some thoughts as to why you might…

1: These people win by being socially active

2: You can search their profiles to find socially active people that can help YOU

3: You can help THEM by spending virtual money and buying shares in them

4: You can speak to your shareholders without having to send emails

5: You can see their blogs in their profiles and help them by checking them – which you need to do anyway if they are a blog in your space.

I have always said that links are about relationships… and they are… so be careful not to go too far outside your sphere of influence though. Only shareholders can see the link to the YouTube channel in their missions – so that hopefully there is a layered effect and I only get the people interested in me (and my videos) subscribing.

Interesting times eh? 🙂

Flow Metrics vs Moz Metrics vs Page Rank

MajesticSEO have launched a new set of link metrics, based on iterative flow of data through links. I know I am not fooling anyone in the know that I am impartial – as I am Majestic SEO’s marketing director, but I’m also a MozPro user as well.

So I asked one of our team to go to a random Wikipedia article, take every third word, put the word into Google and select the third result 50 times. I then asked him to record the following data for every URL in his list, so we could all start comparing the new metrics with Moz metrics and with Page Rank. Here’s the resulting list with the following:

Correlation Tables with Page Rank summary:


Domain Authority .787
Moztrust .119
MozRank .014
Citation flow .814
Trust flow .746


The strongest correlation is Citation flow in our study, even though Citation flow does not try to emulate Page Rank. Domain Authority comes in a close second, but at a URL level there really is no competition. Trust flow is not aiming to correlate with Page Rank but it is interesting to look for yourself to see sites with a high Domain Authority or Citation flow but with low Trust flows. Trust flow is something new – and very enlightening.

(Download the full URL list in this Word document)

In actual fact – Citation flow is in several regards a stronger metric than Page Rank because:

  1. It updates daily – not once in a blue moon
  2. It is “pure” in that it is not affected by manual penalties in Google
  3. It can be calculated at the URL, subdomain and root levels – whereas Page Rank is only per page.
  4. Links are not created “equal”, because it lets page strength flow over multiple iterations

(Download the full URL list in this Word document)

page rank comparison < Here it is in Excel with Page Authority added.