Google has acquired the UK financial price comparison site BeatThatQuote for £37.7m.

The acquisition, which took place yesterday, suggests Google’s desire to strengthen its position in the financial services market. Previously, it has tested mortgage Comparison ads in the UK, allowing searchers to use Google itself in order to compare mortgage rates.

BeatThatQuote, which was founded in 2005, offers loan, mortgage, credit card and insurance comparison services and is in direct competition with major aggregator sites such as Confused.com, Moneysupermarket.com and Gocompare.com.

This development must be worrying for UK financial comparison sites – made up of some of the biggest and most successful sites in the UK – who may be concerned that Google could promote BeatThatQuote’s or its own stature on its search engine, with a greater bias over competing sites. Although Google has most likely acquired the comparison site for its software, which it can then use and fine-tune to better its own Comparison Ads, The Guardian reports that Google may continue to run BTQ as a “standalone brand,” before steering the comparison site towards “increasing tie-ups with the search engine itself.”

Perhaps one of the more interesting and unusual aspects of the acquisition are the observations made by Aaron Wall of SEO Book, who – through conducting some SEO and link analysis – has identified that BeatThatQuote is actually currently violating Google’s guidelines, through grey and black-hat SEO techniques, including buying links that pass PageRank. Was Google aware of this before the acquisition? Will it now penalise its own site? Only time will tell.

We recently saw a job vacancy being advertised on one of our clients' websites. It caught our attention because even though it was a great role and one that the company really needed filled, it was hardly noticeable on the web. The company did not want to spend money on advertising on a job board, so the only way this job opportunity could be found was via the search engines.

We have been interviewing graduates for a number of trainee positions at Liberty over the last year and many of them have expressed their difficulty in finding a job advert that didn't have a horde of other candidates interested in the role. Just looking at reed.co.uk today, a search for marketing jobs in Cardiff displays vacancies that have had 50-100 applications already.

A search query to find rare jobs

Many people use search engines when looking for jobs, particularly when trying to find those that are relevant to their career and in their desired or current location. This is when we had the idea to create a customisable search query to assist job hunters in finding those vacancies that are hidden away:

[location1 OR location2 OR location3] [type1 OR type2 OR type3] [job OR jobs OR vacancy OR vacancies OR role OR roles OR career OR careers]

Simply copy and paste the above search query into Google and replace each instance of "location" with suitable locations and each "type" with the types of jobs you are interested in. If Google thinks a web page contains relevance to at least one of the locations, one of the job types and one of the words in the third set of brackets then it will appear in the results.

Here's an example for someone looking for jobs in and around Cardiff relating to search engine optimisation and online marketing:

[cardiff OR "south wales"] ["online marketing" OR "internet marketing" OR seo OR "search engine optimisation"] [job OR jobs OR vacancy OR vacancies OR role OR roles OR career OR careers]

For the above example, for a web page to appear in the results, it has to contain relevance to at least one of the two locations, at least one of the four job types and at least one of the following words: "job", "vacancy", "role", "career" or one of their plural forms. The words do not have to appear in that order - as long as they appear somewhere on the page, they will show up in the results. So in the above example, possible web pages that could show up include:

- cardiff + seo + jobs (e.g. "Cardiff SEO Jobs"),
- cardiff + "internet marketing" + vacancy (e.g. "Vacancy: Internet Marketing, Cardiff"),
- "south wales" + "online marketing" + role (e.g. "We have an online marketing role available. Based in South Wales, the company…"), and so on.

A few points to take into account

- The square brackets aren't necessary, as Google will show the same number of results whether or not they are there, but it makes it easier to keep track and make sense of each part of the query.

- If one of the locations or job types is longer than one word (e.g. "online marketing"), put quote marks around it, otherwise the query will not function properly and the words might be searched for separately rather than together.

- The search query is likely to bring up a lot of results, some of which might not be relevant, useful or current, but don't be afraid to dig deep and scan through numerous pages of results. Page 1 of the results might contain the most relevant results according to Google, but you might find something more suitable a few pages on.

- Other ways to reduce the number of results are to take out some of the location or job type criteria, which will also narrow it down more specifically, and to select "pages from the UK" below the search bar, which will also eliminate international jobs that might match closely to your location (e.g. South Wales, UK and New South Wales, Australia).

- It may look complicated but it's really a way to simplify the search process. Referring to the above example, it would save the user implementing individual searches for "seo jobs cardiff", "seo vacancies cardiff", "seo careers cardiff" and so on, as all of these and more would be covered in just the one search query.

This is completely customisable, so don't be afraid to experiment. We have only included a few examples of synonyms of jobs and have not taken into account words and expressions that might differ depending on one's career type (e.g. internships and apprenticeships). If you lose track of what you've done, just start over with the original search query and add, delete and amend as appropriate.

We hope that it helps in your job search. At the very least, you might find a new job board or recruitment agency site to keep an eye on or to send your CV to. However you could also find a job advertised on a website that very few people have noticed and applied for, like the one we found on our client's website.

Best of luck with your job search!

It is no secret that Google is growing from strength to strength, not only improving its own search engine but also investing in video (YouTube), blogging (Blogger), browsers (Chrome), mobile phones (Android) and so much more.

In an editorial piece, The New York Times makes the argument that Google - in a position to place its fingers in many pies and look after its own invested interests - could potentially manipulate its own search results to its advantage, showing its own interests above those of the competition.

Whether Google decides to play completely fair or help itself is a contentious issue. Revealing its algorithm will force Google to do the former and play fair. This piece offers some possible solutions:

"Some early suggestions for how to accomplish [a fair editorial policy] include having Google explain with some specified level of detail the editorial policy that guides its tweaks. Another would be to give some government commission the power to look at those tweaks."

It is true that revealing elements of Google's secretive algorithm would clear this. For example, if YouTube were to rank higher than other video-sharing websites, it would be noticeable whether the ranking appears naturally or forced by Google.

However, there could be other wider implications of revealing the algorithm. Google's success so far is because its algorithm is a secret. Even so, as Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan points out in his take on the New York Times piece:

"Google constantly speaks at search marketing and other events to answer questions about how they list sites and how to improve coverage... Google is constantly giving interviews about its algorithm..."

Although the algorithm is a secret, Google helps webmasters, not by telling them outright what the algorithm is, but by telling them how they can help themselves with regards to how the algorithm operates, and why it displays the search results it does.

After all, what if everyone knew the algorithm? Google's Marissa Mayer explains (originally printed in the Financial Times but reproduced on Google's Public Policy Blog):

"If search engines were forced to disclose their algorithms and not just the signals they use, or worse, if they had to use a standardised algorithm, spammers would certainly use that knowledge to game the system, making the results suspect ."

We are reminded of an incident last year when a Google search for "ugg boots" displayed seven spam/fraud websites within the first page (top ten) results. In this instance, the websites used suspect, black hat SEO techniques to get to the top of Google for that keyword. Surely revealing the algorithm would only encourage such practices - both good and bad; white hat, black hat and everything in between - affecting the quality of the search engine results shown, and in turn damaging Google's reputation as (mostly) showing the most natural, "neutral" results. Otherwise, Google would have to invest much more heavily in moderating the results and weeding out those websites manipulating the algorithm, which is likely to be a larger number if the way Google operates is disclosed.

All of this is without even considering governmental intervention, as mentioned in the second half of the above quote from the New York Times piece. Some of the bigger sceptics on the WebmasterWorld forum have expressed their fears that, amongst other things, the government may suggest changes to the algorithm from which they themselves could benefit.

Whatever the outcome, although Danny Sullivan believes the First Amendment and the fact that Yahoo survived a similar incident will save Google from such a fate, it will be interesting to see what - if anything - transpires, whether such action would be seen as a necessity as Google continues to grow and dominate the search engine world as well as other industries.

A few days ago, Google announced that they would be launching their new social media service: Google Buzz. It’s currently being rolled out across the world, with some users still waiting to receive full access to the service, while others have already been able to try it out.

How does it differ to other social media platforms?

Google has worked hard to differentiate Buzz from other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which it does in a few different ways:

1. Integration with email

Google has integrated its successful email feature Gmail into Buzz, giving it an advantage over even the most popular social media platforms, whose email functions – if they have them – tend to be poor. Google is confident that Buzz users will see the advantage of not having to log into both a social media platform and separate email account.

2. Fast, full screen photo presentation

Buzz offers a photo viewing feature, which allows its users to view large, high quality photos that fill the screen and can be scrolled through at a high speed.

3. Buzz places high emphasis on location

Google believes that location is an important indicator of how relevant information is to you. Buzz can work out your location and is even able to ascertain the name of the building you are in.

4. Only shows posts which will interest you

Google has used it extensive knowledge of algorithms to create Buzz and shows this off by claiming that it will filter out posts that are not of interest to you – even if they are by your contacts – and vice versa: interesting posts by people you don’t already know. Then, depending on which tidbits you choose to approve or hide, its algorithm will attempt to gear more relevant and interesting results your way, personalised to your tastes.

Can it rival Facebook and Twitter?

What’s interesting is Buzz’s integration of other social media platforms, including Flickr and Twitter, but not with Facebook. Perhaps a deal is in the pipeline between the two, but until then it almost suggests that Google is content to live in harmony with Twitter (after all, Google recently paid $25m to index Twitter’s content), but with Buzz containing similar features to Facebook, it seems like Buzz’s main intention is to topple the current social media king.

It’s no secret that Facebook is currently dominating the social media market, with an official blog post on the site recently reporting that it had reached over 400 million users. While a completely fresh and unknown social media platform may struggle to compete with such a giant already in place, Google’s advantage is in its brand, which is already popular and established in almost every other aspect of the Internet - if anyone is going to compete with Facebook and Twitter, it’s going to be Google.

What should businesses do?

It’s too soon to tell whether Google’s new venture will take the world by storm or end up as a failed attempt, but at the very least, it’s certainly worth taking a look at and registering a profile, even if simply to get to grips with the interface and reserve your company name. For those who already have a Gmail account, getting started is easy, with current contacts automatically becoming friends/followers and therefore eliminating the registration process - not every social media site can claim to start off with millions of users raring to go.

Recently we published three posts about SEO and online marketing jargon (read them here). In this post, we take a look at some of the more unusual SEO slang that you may have come across.

Algoholic - Someone who pays close attention to search engine algorithms in order to improve and optimise their website(s) accordingly.

Bad neighbourhood - A phrase made popular by Google, linking to “bad neighbourhoods” can have a negative effect on a website’s search engine rankings. Known web spammers and link farms are examples of bad neighbourhoods, which the search engines recommend avoiding.

The Big G - A nickname for Google, which highlights its importance and relevance as the biggest search engine and also as the main rule-setter in the SEO world.

Caffeine - The codename given to the latest version of Google’s search engine, which is due to be launched after Christmas. Previous other codenames Google has given its updates include Vince, Big Daddy and Florida.

Dofollow - When the nofollow attribute was introduced in 2005, the term “dofollow” started to become synonymous to regular, followed links, those that pass on a SEO benefit to the search engines.

Google Bowling - The act of sabotaging a competitor’s site by intentionally trying to incur them a penalty and therefore banning them from the search engines. For example, if Site A is aware that buying links from a dodgy site is bad practice, rather than buying the links for themselves, they might buy them  for Site B - a direct competitor - in order to get them into trouble with the search engines. A major worry years ago, Google now claims to have ways to find out how links are acquired and even who has acquired them on your behalf.

GYM - The initials of the three main search engines: Google, Yahoo! and MSN (although MSN’s search engine has recently been renamed Bing).

Keyword cannibalization - An issue with a website’s architecture whereby a number of pages on a site are competing for a single keyword term or phrase. This can be confusing for the search engines as they will not know which of the pages to show in the search results for the relevant keyword.

Link condom - The method of providing a outbound link but purposefully not passing on an SEO benefit. For example, a website might reference a link that it knows to be dodgy for the purpose of a research article, in which case it could add a link condom to it (such as the nofollow attribute) so that the search engines do not think the linking site is willingly acknowledging a dodgy site in order to help its rankings, otherwise the linking site itself might get into trouble.

Link juice - The passing of trust and authority from one site to another.

Link love - The effect that a website will rank better in the search engines if it has numerous high quality inbound links pointing to it.

Spamdexing - The method of deceptively modifying web pages to increase the chance of them ranking higher in the search engines. The term is a combination of spamming and indexing.

Spider trap - A set of web pages that cause a spider, crawler or robot to get trapped. An example of an intentional trap would be one that stops spiders from collecting email addresses from a website for the purpose of sending spam emails. Also known as a crawler trap.

Splog - A spam blog, which has little to no use to human visitors and has been created solely to spam the search engines. Not to be confused with “spam in blogs”, which might concern a genuine blog with human readers that occasionally receives spam in its comments sections.

Stickiness - The act of reducing a website’s bounce rate and therefore improving its “stickiness”, meaning that a visitor will be more inclined to stay on the site and access other pages before moving on, rather than leaving straight away.

This is a follow up post to Confusing search engine marketing and SEO jargon made simple (A-F) and More confusing search engine marketing and SEO jargon made simple (G-N).

Outbound link - Hyperlinks leading out of your website to other websites are known as outbound links.

PageRank - The value given to a web-page by Google. Ranging from 0 to 10 (with 10 being the best), the rank is primarily made up on the basis of in-bound link quality and quantity.

Paid link - When a website pays another website, search engine or directory for a link. Although not a black hat SEO technique per se, Google frowns upon such practices, however commercial sites must pay in order to appear in the Yahoo! Directory. Also known as Pay For Inclusion (PFI).

Pay Per Click (PPC) - The advertising system where businesses pay for each click their advert receives. The adverts are mainly displayed on search engine pages and once clicked, the user will be sent through to the website belonging to the advertiser.

Reciprocal link - When two websites exchange links with each other, this is known as reciprocal linking. An activity that used to be more popular than it is today, since the search engines started discounting the value of reciprocal links. Also known as link exchanging or link partnering.

Robots file - The robots.txt file is stored within a website and tells search engines what they can do with the website, such as the pages not to show in the index and links not to follow.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - The process of improving a website’s rankings in the search engines and therefore its traffic volume.

SERPs - Stands for Search Engine Results Pages and is simply the results you see when you perform a search query.

Social media - A term used to describe a variety of websites where people meet to share information and often express their opinions. Blogs, forums, video hosting sites, user review sites and wiki's, are examples of popular social media sites.

Sitemap - A page on a website that lists and links to all of the other accessible pages on that website. Useful not only for users but for the search engine spiders.

Spider - A search engine robot that jumps from website to website, via hyperlinks, for the purpose of scanning information to add to the search engine’s database.

URL - The Uniform Resource Locator, or more simply, the address of the webpage.

White hat SEO - Techniques used to improve website rankings that confirm to best practice guidelines and do not try to manipulate or trick the search engines into ranking a specific site.

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