Friday, August 30, 2013

Keyword loading URLs and search ranking - an SEO case study

In the last couple of months we have rolled out some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) changes across key sub-sites. Our goal being improving the ranking of these sites in Google search results based on keyword searches. Below is the benchmark and current search ranking performance on Google for the School of Environment, Science and Engineering site at Southern Cross University for comparison before and after URL change results.

Back in June 2013 I did some benchmark testing on Google by searching with the following keyword term "environmental science engineering" which served up the following top 3 results:
  1. Griffith University
  2. Wikipedia
  3. SCU
So in this case our SCU website was coming up in 3rd place in the search results. In my analysis, I noticed that Griffith aren't utilising the Description or Keywords metadata fields which we are. All other SEO aspects are reasonably even. This lead me to assume that their advantage is the use keywords in the URL and probably more overall visitor traffic. I concluded that making a similar change to our URL should make us more competitive and improve our ranking. 

In July 2013 we proceeded to make the following changes to our site loading keywords in the the URL.

Of course this transition had to be carefully managed to make sure that all current shortlinks and redirects we diverted to the new URL, that all pages had new redirects placed to catch traffic and send it to the new page locations and that sitemap.xml files were updated and re submitted. We also carried this same process out with our other School sites.

Fast forward to the end of August 2013. Now when searching on Google for the terms "environmental science engineering" we get the following top three results:
  1. Griffith University
  2. SCU
  3. Wikipedia
So climbing one position in one month is encouraging and demonstrating that the experiment was successful. Of course it will be interesting to compare other likely keyword combinations that prospective students are likely to use and measure their success.

Looking at visits to this School home page in Google Analytics we can see that for June the site was received 222 visits, fairly typical in the months leading up to the changes, while in August it has already received 380 visits, an increase of 158 visits or 67%.

Other before and after data:

Pages/Visit 5.63
Average Visit Duration 13:38
% New Visits 33%
Bounce Rate 27.48%

Pages/Visit 5.74
Average Visit Duration 10:26
% New Visits 32.37%
Bounce Rate 22.63%

At this point our strategy has helped the site climb one place in the ranking to second for that particular site and increase overall visits by 67%. Other improvements are a reduced bounce rate meaning that visitors are of a higher quality.

In comparing our page to Griffith Uni's there are some more SEO improvements we can make Eg. making in content keywords links to course or discipline pages, though I believe our main obstacle in gaining number 1 ranking is going to be traffic. Traffic is a very powerful metric in SEO ranking and I have the feeling that Griffith Uni is probably getting a lot more traffic to their page at this point. However, the increase that we are already seeing could build up over time and, with a few additional SEO tweaks, eventually give us the edge. 

Other factors that my benefit our site could include targeted digital campaigns to drive more traffic from other website sources that Google.

Conclusion, while not gaining that coveted number 1 ranking at this stage, this exercise resulted in significant improvements.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Raising the Fun Tax

Have you heard of the term the "Fun Tax"? Why is it the people who drink, smoke and gamble the most, pub people, also complain the loudest about paying tax when in all likelihood they are probably paying more because of their personal lifestyle choices. Why would anyone choose to pay more tax?

What is this "Fun Tax"? Its a general term that refers to the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gambling (currently not affecting the average Australian). These taxes introduced by previous governments have been increased by current Australian government in order to raise more revenue and fund campaigns to reduce smoking and alcohol participation for health reasons are being described as "draconian", "unfair" and impacting on "our freedom of choice". Are they?

Its no secret that this mix of tax are major sources of revenue for governments in this country, but how does this revenue generated compare to the actual cost in addressing the associated long term health and social problems caused by these "fun" lifestyle choices.

Looking at alcohol it’s estimated that in 2010 the Commonwealth raised $7.075 billion in from alcohol taxes, excise and GST revenue. In comparison researchers  at Griffith University discovered that the total cost to society from alcohol related problems was estimated at $14,352 billion. It doesn't take a degree in economics to realise the cost is more than double that raised in tax. Are you shocked? There's more.

Tobacco in Australia is the number one cause of preventable death and disease causing 12% of the national disease burden, up to 20% in Indigenous communities, while costing society $31 billion a year in health and social costs. This is 4 times the tax raised from tobacco products. Are you more shocked? There's still more.

The other point to make about tobacco and alcohol is that these are seriously harmful substances not unlike class A drugs. While these two are technically “legal” in a regulated way, less harmful products are restricted and will attract a fine and even a jail sentence for even small quantities. Tobacco and alcohol are also the number 1 and 2 respectively major causes of cancer in Australia. The only reasonable justification for their continued place in the market place is their revenue raising potential. It would appear however after doing the sums that the revenue raised goes nowhere near covering the harm that they cause to individuals, families and society as a whole.

In 2012 cancer was estimated to account for 19% of the total disease burden in Australia. Both Alcohol and tobacco make up a significant portion of this statistic. Smoking alone is estimated to cause one in nine cancers, and one in five cancer deaths.

As yet the cost of supporting problem gamblers through counseling and other harm minimisation programs has not been identified due to the nature of reporting in the health industry. Unlike alcohol and tobacco, gambling is not directly taxed at the consumer end. Therefore whatever health cost there are incurring, currently there is no way of comparing to revenue raised. Based on the anecdotal evidence of the number of people seeking help to deal with gambling and associated problems, we can easily see that there must be substantial costs involved. Even more shocked?

So even though the consumers of tobacco, alcohol and gambling are likely paying more tax than the rest of us as a direct result of participating in these activities, the rest of us are significantly compensating them in order for them to receive health treatment and support as a direct result of their lifestyle choices. Who really should be complaining about the "Fun Tax"? And why isn't it higher?

Surely there are better causes that require are hard earned taxes in the community than on the self obsessed narcissists that are bleeding the system of $50-60 billion, in the vicinity of the total cost of the Governments NBN policy, EVERY SINGLE YEAR?

To top it off, some political leaders actually gauge the potential success of their policies by running them by these same people in what they call the "Pub Test". Not satisfied in being heavily subsidised, pub people get a greater share of say in how this country is run. Like there is some kind of social collective wisdom that comes from a schooner that is in some way superior.

So next time you see someone you know who has just cast a bet, ordered a schooner and is heading to the beer garden for a smoke, asks them "Are we having "fun" yet?"


Cost of Alcohol Misuse Double Govt Revenue

Tobacco is Australia's Number One cause of preventable death and disease

Cancer in Australia statistics

What causes cancer

Friday, January 18, 2013

Merging Two Accounts on Twitter

We have an interesting situation with an old Twitter handle @SCUniversity that's only purpose was to tweet posts from Facebook. Now we want to disconnect this facebook feature, consolidate the @SCUniversity account with our @SCUonline account, which is used for posting tweets related to our media releases and maintain our 1000 approx followers from both accounts.

I've researched the Twitter support documentation relating to changing @SCUonline to @SCUniversity. I've successfully tested the proposed solution below using two accounts setup expressly for this purpose. I can confirm that changing the username of @SCUonline to @SCUniversity will not affect followers of @SCUonline.

Solution Strategy Steps:

  1. Get access to @SCUniversity account.
  2. Set date for transition. 
  3. Tweet alert message to followers of @SCUniversity and @SCUonline about what is going to happen well in advance of and in lead up to transition date. 
  4. On transition date change the username account @SCUniveristy to @SCUniversityOld. Change @SCUonline to become @SCUniversity. 
  5.  Followup with alert tweets from @SCUonline. 
  6.  Final alert tweet to @SCUniversityOld before deactivation of account. 
  7.  Deactivate @SCUniversityOld. 
  8. Continue tweeting from @SCUniversity as if it is @SCUonline (which technically it still is). 

Anyhow, I'll see how it goes and report back. I hope this helps you if you find yourself in the same situation.

 Notes from Twitter documentation

 Deleting an account
"If you want to use this account's username or email address on another Twitter account, change it before you deactivate. Until the user data is permanently deleted, that information won't be available for use."

 How to Change your Username
"NOTE: Changing your username will not affect your existing followers, direct messages, or @replies. Your followers will simply see a new username next to your profile photo when you update. We suggest you alert your followers before you change your username so they can direct @replies or direct messages to your new username."

 Merging Twitter Accounts
"There is currently no way to manage multiple Twitter profiles from a single account or merge multiple accounts into one."