My SEO Blog

My creative writing and journalism has been published in the New Statesman, Bonafide, Vice, Mental Health Nursing, Blueprint, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies etc. 

I've written online ad copy for Crowe Clark Whitehill, Cubiks, TAG Hotels, Berg Kaprow Lewis etc and I've blogged on a professional basis about experiential marketing for the agency Hot Cow: .

Here are some highlights of my writing on this site and elsewhere:
  1. Is There A Major Hole in the Adblock Plus EasyList Filter?
  2. Beyonce & the Diamond Marketing Machine
  3. The beginnings of a new prejudice

  4. What do people search for with their voice using Google Now / Assistant?
  5. Are the top 10 UK PR agencies able to make their own sites rank on Google?

If you'd like me to write for you get in touch!

Case Study: How To Identify a Negative SEO Spammer

posted 27 Feb 2018, 08:33 by C Byrne   [ updated 28 Feb 2018, 09:37 ]

Note I have redacted certain details from the below article.

   I have a client who has seen evidence of someone building links to negative coverage of them online to make this content more visible online. 

   By examining the backlinks to this negative coverage (using Ahrefs backlink tool and the Wayback Machine) I was able to identify the entity in question with some certainty.  '
Negative SEO' is generally considered to be 'activities aimed at lowering a competitor’s rankings in search results', but I'd argue that building links to negative coverage of competitors to make this content more visible online to affect their online reputation (and thus the click through / conversion rates) amounts  to the same.

    We had earlier decided that in terms of the wider & more urgent business goals around this issue, identifying the culprit would be of little / no value with my limited time budget after having spent a short time on it. 

    However, a few months later I spent a little more time on it (15 mins-ish!) and I looked for other UK based websites linked to from blog comment links that linked to negative coverage of my client to see if I might be able to identify the SEO agency or entity behind this activity . I quickly found a link to a site (with certain details that identified them as a 'suspect') on the next page of blog comments to a link to negative coverage of my client on a popular forum. By following their online footprints I was able to identify the entity in question with some certainty… 

    These blog links would both have been created by blog commenting software (
rather than by a human being) for SEO purposes by someone who was reasonably 'SEO savvy' at the time  they were built - there are 10’s of page of spam comments on the blog page in question.  As to what the next stages will be relating to possible action based on this information I will need to discuss with my client. 

In short, by examining blog comment links in detail it is sometimes possible identify the SEO agency or entity behind negative SEO with a degree of certainty.

How popular are smart home devices using Google Home?

posted 22 Nov 2017, 04:38 by C Byrne   [ updated 24 Nov 2017, 02:39 ]

Google Assistant is a virtual personal assistant developed by Google. Unlike Google Now, Assistant can engage in two-way conversations. Assistant initially debuted as part of Google's messaging application Allo, and its voice-activated speaker Google Home. It is possible to control over 1,000 smarthome devices including lights, switches, plugs, thermostats etc using Google Home. Google's Nest home automation system appears to be a worldwide failure, so let's look at other devices e.g. the Phillips Hue lighting system.

Looking at worldwide English language search data from Google Keyword Planner, smart home devices using Google Home would appear to be a worldwide failure at time of writing looking at search volumes for related Google Home commands.

For the following Google Home commands with / without the following prefixes 'ok google' / 'hey google' (used to activate the device) the only ones with a search volume of 10 or above per month globally on Google are 'turn on all of the lights' & 'dry my clothes' with 30 & 20 respectively:

  • Turn on all of the lights 
  • Turn off all of the lights 
  • Start vacuuming 
  • Stop vacuuming 
  • Start washing my clothes 
  • Do the laundry 
  • Stop washing my clothes 
  • Is the laundry clean? 
  • Dry my clothes 
  • Stop drying the laundry 
  • Are the clothes dry? 
  • Wash the dishes 
  • Stop washing the dishes 
  • Are the dishes clean?

Is Google's Nest home automation system a worldwide failure?

posted 21 Nov 2017, 08:25 by C Byrne   [ updated 26 Mar 2018, 03:29 ]

Nest Labs is a home automation producer of programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors, security cameras, and other security systems bought by Google in 2014.

Looking at global search data from Google Keyword Planner, Nest would appear to be a worldwide failure at time of writing looking at search volumes for Google Now Nest commands in English. As far as I can see this data is sent to Google and should be recorded & available like other Google Now searches /  commands.

Sample Nest commands like "ok google set the temperature to 68 degrees", "ok google show me my backyard", "ok google I’m leaving, "ok google show me the garage camera" & "ok google show me the front door camera" show less than 10 searches each per month. Neither / Google Keyword Planner suggest any related searches either...

However, it is possible to use Nest by switching on Google Now and then saying the commands. There are a total of 1,050 searches globally monthly on Google for "set the temperature to X degrees" commands:

Key Phrase                                             Avg. Monthly                                                                                                                                          Searches Globally on                                                                                                                                        Google
                                                                  (exact match only)                 
set the temperature to 72 degrees                390
set the temperature to 70 degrees                260
set the temperature to 68 degrees                140
set the temperature to 75 degrees                  70
set the temperature to 69 degrees                  50
set the temperature to 71 degrees                  50
set the temperature to 65 degrees                  40
set the temperature to 74 degrees                  40
set the temperature to 73 degrees                  10

Around 80% of these commands according to the data originate from the USA (e.g. 320 of 390 searches for "set the temperature to 72 degrees").

There are under 10 searches per month globally on Google for each of the following sample Nest commands: "show me my backyard", "I’m leaving", "show me the garage camera"  
& "show me the front door camera".

What do people search for with their voice using Google Home?

posted 7 Jul 2017, 01:23 by C Byrne   [ updated 13 Dec 2017, 10:58 ]

Google Assistant is a virtual personal assistant developed by Google. Unlike Google Now, Google Assistant can engage in two-way conversations. Assistant initially debuted as part of Google's messaging app Allo, and its voice-activated speaker Google Home.

Google Home helps with tasks such as controlling lights (Phillips Hue and more), playing quizzes, watching YouTube videos on your connected devices and more.

By using Google's Keyword Planner and the free data available from (a tool based on Google's Autocomplete suggestions) we can do keyword research see some of what people searching for using their voices using Google Home .

You can say “Hey Google” as well as “OK Google” to activate the Google Assistant on Google Home.

The list of phrases at the bottom of the page is a list of (voice) search phrases / commands containing with the words “Hey Google” and is not an exhaustive list of searches using Google Home on Google. It's not exhaustive as you can also start searches with “OK Google” and it's possible to switch on Google Assistant, pause and then do a search.

What might people search for with their voice on their competitor Amazon Echo might be similar... 

Keyword Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only on Google globally)
ok google (for comparison purposes) 30,400,000
hey google 246,000
hey google how are you 4400
hey google what's up 3600
hey google tell me a joke 2900
hey google what time is it 1900
hey google now 1300
hey google hey google 1300
hey google ok google 1300
hey google what's the weather today 1000
hey google what's the weather 1000
hey google what song is this 880
hey google take me home 880
hey google what's your name 880
hey google what's my name 720
hey google google 720
hey google where am i 720
hey google what's the temperature 590
hey google what's the temperature 590
hey google play 480
hey google play music 480
hey google how old are you 390
hey google facebook 320
hey google youtube 320
hey google call 320
hey google play some music 320
hey google app 320
hey google assistant 320
hey google search 320
hey google is it going to rain today 320
hey google device 320
hey google do a barrel roll 260
hey google flip a coin 260
hey google how's the weather today 210
hey google make me a sandwich 210
hey google open facebook 210
hey google how's the weather 210
hey google find 170
hey google turn on flashlight 170
hey google open 170
hey google go to youtube 170
hey google i m bored 170
hey google look up 170
hey google are you better than siri 140
hey google stop 140
hey google maps 140
hey google when is easter 140
hey google voice 110
hey google translate 110
hey google speaker 110
hey google open youtube 110
hey google are you stupid 110
hey google how old am i 110
hey google commands 110
hey google do you know siri 110
hey google voice 110
hey google you suck 110
hey google do you love me 90
hey google do you like siri 90
hey google listen 90
hey google take me to youtube 70
hey google do 70
hey google turn on my flashlight 70
hey google download 70
hey google send a text 70
hey google are you connected to the cia 70
hey google video 70
hey google amazon 70
hey google what's up man 70
hey google can you talk 70
hey google what's up man 70
hey google play pandora 50
hey google news 50
hey google music 50
hey google hello 50
hey google iphone 50
hey google games 50
hey google is it going to rain tonight 50
hey google on iphone 50
hey google open gmail 40
hey google craigslist 40
hey google call home 40
hey google earth 40
hey google find my phone 40
hey google are you gay 40
hey google ebay 30
hey google get me home 30
hey google commercial 30
hey google flashlight 30
hey google machine 30
hey google restaurants near me 30
hey google i need directions to 30
hey google for iphone 20
hey google you re an idiot 20
hey google directions to 20
hey google google maps 20
hey google play spotify 20
hey google put on youtube 20
hey google you re an idiot 20
hey google open up 10
hey google open my calendar 10
hey google best buy 10
hey google go to amazon 10
hey google buy 10
hey google let it go 10
hey google update 10
hey google video song 10

See also:

Do you rank for your own name on search engines?

posted 8 Jun 2017, 08:35 by C Byrne   [ updated 8 Jun 2017, 08:37 ]

In a discussion with a new client the other day I stated that generally speaking you have to be doing a bad job of your own Search Engine Optimisation to not rank for your own name.

For example, the Garrick Theatre in London appears to be be doing a bad job at the moment! For the search 'garrick theatre' on, https://www.londontheatredirect .com/venue/32/garrick-theatre.aspx (not the Garrick's online ticketing partner) & https://www.nimaxtheatres .com/garrick-theatre/ (the Garrick's parent company site) are both ahead of www.garricktheatre .org which is 3rd. See .

Without a doubt they are losing ticket sales to!

Internet Marketing Podcast: The State of Online Ad-blocking in 2017 with me

posted 1 Jun 2017, 09:14 by C Byrne   [ updated 5 Jul 2017, 07:52 ]

Listen here:

How To Select A 'Social Media Expert'

posted 19 May 2017, 09:00 by C Byrne   [ updated 20 Jun 2017, 04:07 ]

23+ Questions To Help Select A 'Social Media Expert'

I've seen with my own eyes an agency using Twitter (the microblogging service) followers as a KPI to indicate success to a client, but these followers can be bought or just be Twitterbots (a program used to produce automated posts on Twitter, or to automatically follow Twitter users).

These questions can help you find a social media expert. They should know about how social media and PR / SEO interrelate, and how to show the Return on Investment on their work (including the use of web analytics to illustrate this).

1. What makes you a “social media expert”?
2. Can you spell?
3. Is sales outreach via social media likely to be just social media “experts” talking to each other? What are the best site for social media news?
4. Can you show me some examples of your creative writing / journalism? How can I teach myself social media marketing?
5. What are the top social media sites in the UK / USA? How? Why?
6. Can Social Media help improve a website’s rankings on search engines?
7. Who are the most influential people in the social media industry?
8. What will be the next big social media app or site to die a miserable death like Myspace (despite the best efforts to revive it)? Why? When?
9. Who are the most influential people on social media? Do followers and likes = influence? What tools do you use and for what purpose?
10. Can you give an example of how the spread of certain types of digital devices influence the rise of certain social media (e.g. arguably the rise of the smartphone paved the way for the popularity of Instagram)?
11. What are the up and coming social media sites in the UK / USA? How? Why?
12. What’s changed in social media over the past few days, months (or years)?
13. What is social media? Is it the same as PR? How so PR / SEO interrelate with social media?
14. Does your site rank on Google for anything?
15. What sort of activities should a B2B company engage in online / on Linkedin?
16. Are blogs social media?
17. Why (in the UK at least) are sites like Myspace, Bebo (and Friends Reunited) no longer popular? What (if anything) took their place?
18. Would you recommend Facebook for a B2B company? If yes, why?
19. Do you have case studies / testimonials? What are the laws governing social media marketing (in the UK) - how does this impact your work?
20. What is your view on measures of social media influence e.g. Klout? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these different measures, and how do they differ?
21. How do you measure return on investment on your work? What are your standard KPIs? Has your social media work improved SEO for your clients?
22. Do you use ‘soft metric’ KPIs to judge success like “likes,” comments and follower counts? If so, why?
23. How can I use web analytics to show the effectiveness of social media activity? What’s the difference between a Contributed Social Conversion & a Last Interaction Social Conversion recorded in Google Analytics?

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. If I may, let me ask you to do at least 1 of 2 things (it will help me a lot and I thank you in advance):

1. Please share it through Twitter, Reddit or whatever works for you.
2. Add a comment

Follow me on Twitter:

Listen to me talk about SEO on Brooklands Radio - Weybridge, Surrey

posted 24 Apr 2017, 09:31 by C Byrne   [ updated 30 May 2017, 03:29 ]

Starts at 30 minute mark...

Will Futurelearn Become The Just Eat of Education?

posted 8 Apr 2017, 05:13 by C Byrne   [ updated 4 May 2017, 02:57 ]

Some have theorised that fast food ordering app Just Eat's 'end game' is to sell and deliver their own food (and potentially no longer having 3rd parties on the site), like some argue that taxi app Uber's end game is the self-driving taxi (getting rid of their casual worker drivers). It's arguable that Just Eat's major competitor Deliveroo has already begun the process of disintermediation (aka 'cutting out the middleman') in food delivery by creating their own kitchen infrastructure.

Something similar may also be happening in the world of online education. (FL) offers free online courses created by their partners including the likes of the University of Reading. The University of Reading's paper leaflet promoting it's courses on Futurelearn lists the FL site, not Surely a missed opportunity for the site currently ranking 14th on for 'free online courses'!

Institutions like University of Reading all link to the FL site, and FL's offer of free online courses from these institutions has earned them many many (from over 12k domains according to links from many of the world's most popular sites (like,, – also arguably some of the most trusted sites in Google's eyes too), boosting the visibility of the FL site on Google etc. At time of writing FL is ranking 6th on for the phrase 'university of reading'...

What if (theoretically) FL went bust and sold the domain? What if (theoretically) FL were to delete all partner content from the site and then create new content with paid content from themselves & new partners?

A sensible strategy in the medium / long term for FL partners in my view should be disintermediation (stopping the use of intermediaries like FL between producers like University of Reading' and consumers like the free online course students) along the lines of Open Courseware from MIT. With intermediaries you may always be vulnerable to their actions!

My Competitors Offering SEO Services Never Cease To Amaze

posted 5 Apr 2017, 02:19 by C Byrne   [ updated 4 Dec 2017, 06:38 ]

Along with the day to day stuff they do my competitors in the SEO industry never cease to amaze. By the way, this is no claim to ever having been 'whiter than white'! I think (with over 14 years of inbound link building experience) inbound link building often quickly becomes 'grey hat'.

  1. An agency in Brighton using stock images to create a fictional staff member . They could hide from Google Images, but not from
  2. A Google Map listing for an agency in Leeds where ¾ of the reviews were from their own staff (I confirmed this via Linkedin) :)
  3. A SEO 'company' in Reading, Berkshire (appears to be just a 'one man band' sole trader) who gave himself a testimonial on his own website! He used the same photo as on his Twitter... 

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