How Should You Vet A Referral?

I was recently approached by someone who immediately had that demanding vibe that so heavily annoys me and makes me get more frown lines, and that encounter has caused me to rethink how I vet a client, both for my own business and to send out as a referral. You see, I feel like I am wasting someone’s time if I know I have no room to take them on, so I immediately tell them that and try to help them find someone who can help them. Usually it goes well and people are thankful that they don’t have to go trawling for someone with half a brain but sometimes it blows up in my face.

There was the guy (a lawyer, naturally) who flipped out on me when I said I had no room but that a friend of mine was very good at working in that niche so I’d be happy to make an introduction. He told me what he was looking for in the initial email so to me, that was enough info that I felt like I could just pass it on if he wanted. I did ask his permission, of course, but still he started insulting me for not spending more of my unpaid time in order to better suss out his exact business requirements. He called me unprofessional and it’s not like I was using smiley faces in my email signature so really, that bastard offended me quite a bit. :)

There have been the people who have followed up on my referrals but found them lacking and then emailed me to complain that I hadn’t given them enough info, or enough names, or basically done enough to help them find someone to help them. X company that I referred them to didn’t respond to their email and it had been at least 4 hours so damn it Julie, get on the ball and find someone who is faster at answering emails. Is that my job? No.

clocky clock











I don’t charge a referral fee to the SEOs that I send business to, and I’ve never had a referral where the referring SEO asked for one. I’m very, very lucky in that, so I feel like if I do know some good qualified people who have room for some new work, it’s just the right thing to do.

What exactly do people expect in terms of being helped to hook up with the right people though?

I will say that if someone is nice and appreciative, I will go above and beyond for him. I will personally ask around and see who does have room and I’ll follow up to make sure things are being taken care of, but still, that is unpaid time for me that takes away from everything else. It’s my choice to do it of course but lately it’s been more common for people to almost demand it, to expect it. Can you imagine calling a dentist who said sorry but we don’t have an appointment that day and you’d say well damn you, you silly cow, give me the names of 5 other dentists who DO have an opening for that day?

Take my latest encounter with a company who not only demanded that I immediately hop on a phone call in the middle of a weekend afternoon which would have severely impacted my time spent on the couch watching Luther on my iPad, but who then proceeded to ask me the kinds of questions that I answer in an extensive SEO audit, and who then proceeded to get extremely uppity and rude when I said I simply do not have the time to do this unless you want to pay me for my time. I recently had asked the Julia Sugarbaker of SEO, Debra Mastaler, how to handle situations like this as Debra has 1000 times the business sense that I do, and she told me to just give out a fair figure and say if you want me to dig in, this is what it’s going to cost you. Digging in, whether it’s to find the cause of a problem on the site or simply to figure out who might be able to help, all costs time and money. Right after this conversation, I decided to try it out, thinking that the person would bail but lo and behold she didn’t. She paid me to dig in and spend some time trying to help her figure out what to do. She didn’t expect me to take a couple of hours of my time and do it for free.













So why do people keep thinking that we should be happy to work for nothing like this? Maybe because some of us keep doing it.

I can’t be the guy below if this keeps on.

no money man











And how much of your time should you spend vetting and helping a person that you can’t take on as a client? As I’ve said, some people are incredibly nice and gracious but some are 100% users. I’ve had someone try to get me to write up a presentation for him to present as his own in order to get a job and when I said no, he got very nasty. I’ve had someone try to get me to look at how they build links and tell them exactly what I would do differently. I’ve had several people try and get me to diagnose their problems and tell them how to fix everything, and all of this was expected for free, with none of these people being my clients or even prospects. I certainly don’t want to send worthless and time-wasting referrals to anyone and I have, sadly, and that’s something that really pisses me off because I feel like it’s rude on my part. Some people really are just absolute users though, and unless I spend my own time figuring that out, how am I to know?

So what do you do to vet someone that will only be a referral to someone else?

Guardians of the Galaxy Preview – Is Gamora An Homage to SEO Chicks?

Green for Gamora – green for SEO Chicks. I see a direct correlation to the ass-kicking female lead from Guardians of the Galaxy and all the SEO Chicks rolled into one. There’s the brains, the sass, the dexterity, the resourcefulness, the do and the green. It wasn’t clear from the clip if she would be able to increase the visibility of a site online however I get the sense she’d be able to do it by sheer force of will. Much like Lisa ;-)

Gamora was still green after she was sprayed with orange goop on being taken to jail withoug the garish yellowing you might expect. Stylin’ the SEO Chicks look to the end. She’s part of a band which *seems* to be led by a raccoon. On her own she is feared and known far and wide – much like Lisa and Julie you might think. She’s pretty kick ass, killing guards and I think ripping one apart to get a device she was after. They didn’t show the gory parts in the 17min I saw.

But the 17 minutes did provide some other nuggets – Gamora is strong and independent and when it is suggested she use sex to achieve an end, she doesn’t just refuse – she gives the kind of withering look I imagine Julie could give anyone who crosses her ;-) Our SEO Chick in the flesh so to speak is the best traits of each of the SEO Chicks rolled into a killer on a galactic scale.

Is this movie awesome? Well, the 17min I saw in 3D demonstrated that 3D could be used to great effect to enhance a movie rather than be a gimmick. The clip of the prison scene was engaging and interesting and left me with a positive feeling towards seeing the full movie.

Will Guardians of the Galaxy teach you a new approach to SEO – possibly. The idea that a criminal can also be moral I am sure will strike a chord with some SEOs (but none of the SEO Chicks of course). That something you did for one reason can take on a life of its own and come to be something else is absolutely relevant. That someone who seems to be bad can actually be good will also have meaning.

Will you enjoy this film? Absolutely. Is this a bit silly? Sure but it is a bit of a break from me talking about SEO… sort of!

SES London 2014 – Day 1 Takeaway: 52 Stats, tips and quotes from #seslon


I’mma keep this to the point…

Keynote - Bruce Daisley of Twitter: Running In Real Time: Bringing Campaigns to Life by Marketing in the Moment

  • Superbowl 2013 – 25 million tweets yet Oreo managed to be timely, current and humorous and stand out with “you can still dunk in the dark”.
  • 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile – 70% of which at home
  • 25% audience purchased via twitter,
  • 50% use twitter to give them latest news, personalised news
  • 15.2 million tweets on the #grammys hashtag
  • •#pharrellsHat was a talking point
  • Mobile click stream analysis – 94% of twitter users shop on mobiles,
  • 56% of twitter users are influenced in what they purchase by what they see on twitter
  • •37% visit twitter before and or after shopping on their mobile
  • 1 in 3 say that twitter has a direct influence on their purchase decision

Session 1 – Building B2B: Judith Lewis and Krista LaRiviere

First Speaker – Judith of Decabit Consulting

  • High sharers convince low sharers to buy your product
  • 43% of people in the UK are prompted to purchase after online interation
  • If using multiple accounts, keep a uniform look to retain company image and to be recognisable as a single entity
  • Free your teams with a centrally governed set of rules, empower them with structure

Krista, CEO of gShift labs

  • 58 million tweets per day
  • 18 minutes is how long a tweet lasts (average lifecycle)
  • Content industry is $44BN dollar yet people are producing a lot of crap on this basis
  • Smarter content is based on data

Session 1 – Big Data Uncovered: Dixon Jones and James Murray

First speaker is Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO

  • According to Twitter on an average day approx. 500,000,000 tweets per day.
  • Compare that to Majestic who crawl 2,000,000,000 pages a day, but see 7,700,000,000 a day
  • Storage, CPU and bandwidth (transporting the data) are the scaling problems
  • “Only collect what you need and crunch it quickly.”
  • Average page size 320 KB = 600 terabytes of data
  • Approximates to 600,000 hours of video
  • Hadoop – becoming opensource option of choice. Used with R and MongoDB – good tools of choice for data crunching in cloud.

James Murray – Experian

  • If you were to put each individual data point Experian have, into an Excel you would be able to cover Paris
  • 2 exabytes of data created online every day
  • Customer behaviour is changing due to connected life, user sophistication and mobile tech
  • 11% of consumers are using a tablet as their main device…. Er hello retail websites???
  • 8,300 social networks and forums
  • Your customer only sees the brand. They are channel agnostic. Splitting teams by expertise creates inherent disconnect

Session 2 – Content Strategy

See here for a detailed write-up

Session 3 – Influence the Influencers – Lee Odden

Main speaker – Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing

  •  64% increase in content marketing budgets in the uk
  • Consumer publishing extends over 240 million blogs
  • 34% increase each year in companies blogging (though eveyrone is doing the same stuff, to get “more hooks in the water”)
  • 94% UK marketing function use content marketing
  • 39% highly effective use – 72% (B2B) 45% (B2C) are investing more
  • Influence is not having 50-1000 twitter friends

There are four types of content classifications according to Odden:

  • Evergreen (timeless, always relevant)
  • Curated (take whats current and input it in a newsletter > monthly eshot)
  • Repurposed: making ebooks of above
  • Co created = participation marketing, find common goals, go to your own community


Lisa Myers and Cheri Percy

Lisa Myers of Verve Search and Cheri Percy of Distilled

Session 4 – Unlocking the Secrets of Mobile Video, Cheri Percy and Jon Mowat

First speaker is Cheri Percy of Distilled

  • “in design, there are no more ‘hero sizes” – Mashable CTO. E.g. design is platform agnostic
  • By 2017 85% of the world wil have 4G devices
  • 51% of 2013 web traffic came from a mobile device (Cisco)
  • Do not neglect YouTube analytics
  • No. shares x total engaged views/1000 gives a manageable engagement score
  • Vine – explore tab for loads of trending topics
  • Share your first post on Vine with hashtag #firstpost (community convention)

Jon Mowat of Hurricane Media

  • Stories are told in narrative beats
  • Start with “the deal” and reach a “conclusion”
  • 62% of 18-32 YO prefer to check their phone in any “downtime” (as opposed to sit and think)
  • 37% say they check their phone if there’s a lull in conversation
  • Campaign need emotional and logical beats (but be careful when using together)
  • YouTube is a destination not a stopover. Only 1% click-thru to site from YT!
  • Don’t be afraid of the Pro channel and keep your brand films up to date inc. deleting old films


Enter Your Awesomeness for the European Search Awards

European Search AwardsOh yeah – The search is on for Europe’s top search and digital talent, as the European Search Awards 2014 is OPEN for entries! You know you want to get your shizzle on and show off how absolutely amazeballs AWESOME you are, don’tcha? DONTCHA???

Now in its third year, the European Search Awards attracts hundreds of entries from the leading search and digital agencies and professionals throughout Europe. Categories include Best Use of Search, Best Pan-European Campaign, Best Mobile Campaign and Best Agency. Trust me – HUNDREDS and we have to read ALL OF THEM so get creative and make sure you cover off the IMPORTANT points people! The awards, which are organised by Greater Manchester based events agency Don’t Panic, are open to companies based worldwide who are delivering work in Europe.

So come on – IMPRESS ME! Yep, that’s right, in addition to judging every UK Search Awards so far, I’m on to my second European Search Awards judging panel and I’m looking to get all judgmental and reward awesomeness!

The deadline for entries is 17 January 2014(ish), and the shortlists will be published on 14 February. But you know, it isn’t just me who is getting involved in this awesomeness… there are a HUGE number of other judges. So many that here is just a smattering of the judging panel which includes:

•       Jose Truchado, Director of SEO, Expedia
•       Judith Lewis (ME of course), Founder, deCabbit Consultancy
•       Danny Goodwin, Associate Editor of Search Engine Watch
•       Gianluca Fiorelli, Founder of LoveSEO
•       Kaspar Szymanski, SEO Consultant
•       Bas van den Beld, Founder, State of Digital
•       Bastian Grimm, Managing Partner, Grimm Digital
•       Fernando Maciá Domene, CEO, Human Level Communications

BOOYA! The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Friday 28 March 2014 after the brilliant and amazing RIMC conference (which you’ve already bought your tickets for, right?)

Don’t Panic launched the UK Search Awards in 2011 and the European Search Awards in 2012 and the inaugural US Search Awards took place in Las Vegas in 2013. Ya, the US is well behind the rest of the world ;-) JK!

And now for a word from our sponsors…
The European Search Awards are delivered in partnership with headline sponsor Manual link Building and in association with Reykjavik Internet Marketing Conference(RIMC) and SEMPO.  The PR is handled by PR Agency One.

For more information about the European Search Awards, please visit

Technical SEO Best-Practise: Slides from The Digital Marketing Show

Last week myself and my UK-based fellow SEO Chicks spoke at the Digital Marketing Show at Londons’ Excel. Our panel discussion was on Technical SEO, with each of us leading a few slides on one main topic; detailing the best-practise concerns and of course, the most common mistakes.

Here are the slides from the day and our twitter handles precede each section so feel free to tweet us if you have any technical questions.

Click-to-call Syntax and a Weird 404 Issue

For many of us working in technical SEO for an agency, the first stage of any new client win is to perform a site audit. Whilst many agencies will have their own procedures most experienced professionals will start with crawl-related checks and research. If a site (and pages therein) can’t be crawled, then they won’t appear in any search engine index and if there’s nothing indexed, then there’s nothing to optimise. (So let’s all go home and play CoD.)

As part of the checks and diagnostic procedures we make sure to cover at theMediaFlow, we have a look at any reported crawl errors in Google or Bing Webmaster Tools. I want to share with you a recent example of some unusual errors found as part of such a process; what caused these errors and how to fix them.

URLs with Company Phone Number Appearing as 404

In this part of the process I was looking to identify how many types of 404 errors were in play, (rather than instances of 404 error) and noticed that many of the thousands of total reported 404 errors followed a particular format. To refresh our memories Google Webmaster Tools reports the URL path, post domain…

Sample of 404 errors from Google Webmaster Tools




For the example site in question many of the errors appeared as follows:







The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that there’s a common theme and that:

a) all these 404 errors have a number in the path

b) stripping out %20 (which means that a space has been encoded) would leave us with a phone number format #### ### #### (i.e. four digits, three digits, four digits)

and c) that such phone number formatting used with 0800, 0843, 0845 and other non-geographical types are often used as customer service phone numbers.

So… you may know where this is going… For every URL on the site, there appeared a second version, with an appended directory – that (directory) being the addition of their own phone number.


What time is why?, taken from Know Your Meme

Given that the symptom reported (i.e. a 404 error URL for every genuine URL) logic would suggest there was an error in the mark-up around the phone number in the site header area as opposed to anywhere else it might occur, so this was my first port of call.

In Chrome and using Inspect Element to look at the isolated element (mark-up of the phone number) everything looked hunky-dory. Schema>Organisation mark-up was in place with the correct itemprop, (itemprop=”telephone”) so nothing of concern; however when I looked elsewhere in the code I found the following well-intentioned use of a href to phone number (for click-to-call) mark-up.




Now; referencing the phone number as per above was facilitating click-to-call functionality, so any front-end testing they may have done would show positively that a smart device user could click the phone number to call the company. However, due to the omission of the tel: instruction the syntax had the side-effect of creating a relative file path to the phone number as appendage to the existing URL. Hence generating thousands of annoying 404 errors that could easily be avoided, making for a much more effective crawl process.


Correct Click to Call Mark-up

To correctly reference the phone number and effect click-to-call without generating 404 URLs due to relative file path annoyingness do as follows:

<a href=”tel:+44#########” itemprop=”telephone”>

The important part here is the addition of the tel: instruction, as it is the omission of this that also creates the relative URL and thus generates our 404 errors. The addition of +44 (UK dialling code) was an optimisation so that the click-to-call would connect regardless of location. I found this piece on click-to-call links really useful background reading, particularly that there’s a list of additional native app URI schemes too!

So, not exactly a ground-breaking error or a revolutionary fix that will rocket this site up the SERPs overnight; however this was one of those weird quirky consequences of a simple code omission that could have hindered crawlers and inhibited the business progress a little. I thought it might be worth sharing as the cause of why these 404s appeared wasn’t immediately obvious.

With thanks to Joost for confirming my logic on the syntax omission and for sharing my belief in relative URLs as the root of evil