Useful Blog


Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, involves affecting the visibility of a website or page in search engine results. When you’re searching on Google the top few results demonstrate “good SEO”; these websites and pages are well optimised so they rank first. Ranking first, or at least in the top 3, can significantly boost a business’ leads, revenue and customer base. Search activity is ubiquitous. Searches represent interested, targeted prospects who are often ready to book, buy or subscribe. SEO is reportedly a billion dollar industry. A billion dollar industry headed for an enormous upheaval.


Google’s forthcoming update, dubbed ‘Penguin 2.0′, will affect search results across most industries globally. It will potentially impact search results for your business. And it will abruptly destroy a long-running snake oil SEO industry. According to Google this dramatic change is a “few months” away.

Listen up. When Google throws the switch search results will dramatically change. Leads and revenue will be re-distributed. For some businesses, this will be like having your product range removed from the shelf at the supermarket and thrown out the back. They’ll no longer be visible to passing traffic. Listen to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, talking about the changes or read on to learn why this change is happening and what it means for you.

Broadly speaking, there are two parts to SEO – onsite SEO and offsite SEO. For the sake of simplicity let’s just say onsite SEO is mainly concerned with the quality of your website structure and content. If your website is well designed, well built and well written for your target audience you’re probably doing a decent job of onsite SEO. Particularly if you regularly publish useful content like blog posts. Offsite SEO can be shrouded in mystery; a black art that involves link building and other tactics.

Agencies and internet marketers who build links for offsite SEO may be using link schemes, which have long been a violation of Google’s guidelines. In Google’s words, here’s a suggestion of what ‘link scheme’ means:

Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.

If you’re buying links, or links are being bought on your behalf, and your site is benefiting from those links, you’re in violation of Google’s guidelines. Put it this way – if you’re paying for links, and you’re being flowed what Google calls PageRank, you’re breaking the rules. It’s been against the rules for years and it’s been going on for longer. It’s about to be strictly penalised. If you’re buying links, it’s time to seriously re-think your SEO strategy before Google imposes these penalties:

We do take this issue very seriously, so we recommend you avoid selling (and buying) links that pass PageRank in order to prevent loss of trust, lower PageRank, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google’s search results.

Yeah, you read that right. Removal from Google’s search results. Link schemes have always been against the rules, but link scheme detection and penalties are getting serious. Google’s ‘Penguin’ update in April 2012 made the first move to start penalising link schemes. While it only affected a small percentage of the Internet, ‘Penguin’ and subsequent minor updates gave a strong warning. ‘Penguin 2.0′ is Google’s next major update, and according to Google’s Matt Cutts, it’s cracking down on people paying to manipulate search results.

The days of snake oil SEO are over. If you’re currently paying for SEO, I recommend asking your agency or internet marketer what the offsite SEO strategy has been. You might like to ask: “Can you show me a chart and list of all of my backlinks and linking domains?” (A ‘linking domain’ is the top-level website address for websites linking to you – it’s a good summary). If you engaged them in February 2013 your backlink chart might look something like this. Dramatic spikes are usually bought links:


The above chart is a typical link scheme pattern. Hundreds of links are bought initially, then bursts of link buying – usually in the hundreds – continue to enhance a site’s profile over time. Once a site is performing well in search results, the link buying usually tapers off into a low volume maintenance pattern to “keep the site up there”. Agencies, internet marketers and businesses partial to snake oil have been doing this for years. It’s quick, easy, cheap and until now it’s “worked” to an extent. It’s also been publicised by Google as being against the rules.


Until now you probably haven’t cared where your links are coming from. Hint: if you’ve been buying them, your backlinks are likely to be coming from places including Russia, India, Poland or China. The mysterious black art is being executed by guys like this, jammed into rooms filled with other guys like this  →

It’s time to start caring. There’s traffic and revenue on the line. If link schemes have been the offsite SEO strategy you need to know the size of the damage and start counteracting it. You can work with your agency (or a new one) to prepare for the change and minimise the fallout.

This is a big deal. If you’ve done any sort of offsite SEO activity you need to check the state of your backlinks. High quality directories are within the rules – even if they’re paid. High quality, relevant links are within the rules. Low-quality, bulk link buying is against the rules and people doing it are about to be exposed.

So, what’s my take on all of this? Should Google be penalising people for cheating the system? Of course they should, I’m stoked this change is coming. It’s overdue. Search results shouldn’t be determined by who’s buying the most links and outspending the competition. Google should reward the best websites and results determined by their relevance and usefulness. The snake oil era is over. The Internet will be a better place for it.

Similarly, I applaud YouTube (owned by Google) for stripping Universal and Sony of 2 billion fake YouTube views. I’ll be relieved when Twitter finally penalises people and brands for buying fake Twitter followers. This can’t be far off. Ever wondered how an account has so many followers? Chart it with Twitter Counter and look for spikes and big increases. Spike = buying followers, which is no more ethical than buying links. (The only other explanation for a spike is promoted tweets, which due to cost is mostly the domain of big brands).

Man, enough with deception already. Let’s turn off the smoke, smash the mirrors, and execute genuine digital marketing founded in the power of ideas and utility of brands. I admire Google for taking action. Penalising cheats is true to their “do no evil” mantra. Google is trying to make the Internet a better place.

Back to SEO. Our fundamental approach to SEO for our clients is as per Google’s best practices. Our clients will be affected by this change – they’ll be further rewarded for their high quality websites and might see a few competitors fall away. We employ sustainable SEO entirely within the rules. All digital marketing and customer acquisition at the Village is ethical, sustainable and strategic. The way it should be. And it works.

If your business has been unknowingly participating in link schemes, that sucks. I hope this is a useful heads up. All the best for the Penguin 2.0 update, it’s about to get real. Good luck.

A new campaign from Dove titled Real Beauty Sketches has done a powerful job of extending the long running campaign for real beauty.

The much discussed real beauty platform has been in the market for many years now and was perhaps made most famous by their fantastic spot from six years ago,’Evolution’;

This latest iteration of the idea makes a really interesting and emotional exploration of women’s self image. It studies how women describe their own appearance versus how others describe them. The results show that the women shown are surprisingly (to them) over critical.

The campaign has obviously struck a chord as the clip from the campaign was uploaded one week ago and has already received over 16 million views.


Photography: Peter Stoop, Newcastle Herald

Our client Harrys Schnitzel Joint was awarded Australian fast food business of the year last weekend. We’re super proud of them. Victory tastes so schnice!

You may have seen the Harrys LA-style food truck at events around Newcastle, including Surfest. Not long now and it’ll be on the streets. Follow the truck on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to stay updated on locations.




Has your business tried a remarketing campaign yet? It’s a great way to drive additional sales and bookings. Here’s how it works.

Remarketing shows ads to prospects who’ve previously visited your website as they browse the web. You can specifically target people who didn’t perform a certain action on your website, like buying a product or making a booking. It’s a high-performance conversion tool and gives you a ‘second chance’ – people have already found your website and made a connection with your brand, and remarketing gives you an opportunity to serve ads to them and bring them back for a conversion.

Up to 96% of people who visit a website leave before taking the action marketers want them to take. Up 70% of people abandon an online order before completing it. (Source: Forrester). Remarketing lets you reach these people.

You may have noticed remarketing serving ads to you as you move around the web. Maybe you were looking at flights or hotels, and before booking you left those websites to do more research on holiday destinations, flights or places to stay. As you browsed around online publications, Tripadvisor and comparison sites, you may have seen ads from the airlines and hotels you were previously looking at. That’s remarketing in action.

We recently ran a remarketing campaign for a service-focused brand that included remarketing. In 19 days we achieved the objective of 100 bookings and the campaign achieved an approximate 160% return on investment.

If you’re interested in a remarketing campaign, give us a shout. Let’s bring your prospects back.

Here’s a 2 minute video with a remarketing example.

L.L.Bean unearthed genuinely interesting customer stories for a recent advertising campaign celebrating 100 years of reliable outdoor apparel. One story is about Steve, a customer who was given a L.L.Bean backpack during college that became a catalyst for the next 15 years of his life. Steve hiked with the backpack in numerous countries, 12 states and 14 national parks. He hiked 104 mountains with the L.L.Bean pack on his back and wrote a letter to L.L.Bean sharing his adventures.

Subsequently, L.L.Bean made the ‘Discover Something with Steve’ film to tell Steve’s story as part of their centenary campaign. The company also featured Steve and his tales in a centenary book. Humbled, as a gesture of thanks Steve reached out to his personal network with messages about L.L.Bean’s initiative to donate to the National Park Foundation; the custodian of national parks Steve has visited and loves. His messages were heard and knowledge of L.L.Bean’s initiative spread. By listening to a customer, valuing their brand experience and acknowledging their story, L.L.Bean turned a customer into a devoted (and effective) advocate.

More recently, Steve’s been selected for the company’s ‘Discovery Project‘ – a pilot program consisting of 18 carefully selected customers to test 4 different outdoor kits over the course of a year. The brand receives useful ‘beta’ feedback from a passionate group of brand advocates, and the advocates have new messages to spread about the products L.L.Bean is working on.

100 years on, here’s a company doing things right. Where are your stories and how are you telling them?


Responsive design is a web design approach aimed at providing an optimal viewing experience across a range of devices from desktops to mobiles.

Providing an optimal experience on all devices creates a better user experience and results in higher conversion rates. After implementing responsive design:

  • O’Neill Clothing grew iPhone/iPad revenue by 101.2%, Android revenue by 591.4% (yes, nearly six hundred percent) and non-mobile revenue by 41.1% (source).
  • Skinny Ties grew iPhone revenue by 377.6% and total revenue by 42% (source).

Interested in going responsive? It’s a great investment. Let’s talk.

If you’d like to know more about how responsive design works, check out the video below.

If you’re responsible for a website you’re probably tracking your website’s metrics with Google Analytics. Are you also tracking how many people achieve your website’s goals and ‘convert’?

Conversion could be signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, making a booking, downloading a catalogue or watching a video. By measuring conversions you can understand how many people are achieving your website’s goals and what’s preventing others from achieving them.

Goals measure how well your website is achieving its objectives. Goals can be based on a destination, event or type of engagement. They provide valuable intelligence on how well your website is performing, and when the funnel leading up to a goal is visualised in Google Analytics you can identify opportunities for improvement and increased conversion. Watch the video above to understand the difference types of goals and how you can use them. Then, watch the rest of the videos in the series to learn about “goal flow”, improving conversion and making the most of your website traffic.


qantas passbook

Passbook is Apple’s digital-coupon storage app. It launched as part of iOS 6 in September with the promise of storing boarding passes, movie tickets, event passes, loyalty cards and coupons. Sensitive to time and location, it’s potentially really useful for marketers and customers – and with more Passbook-ready apps now available in the Aussie app store it’s finding momentum here. (Haven’t heard of Passbook yet? It launched with a whimper, you’ll be hearing more about it soon). Australian passes include:

Passbook provides a useful platform for loyalty cards, gift cards, tickets and coupons. A recently filed patent hints Apple is planning to update Passbook with Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, which means relevant passes could be displayed as soon as someone is near a known store. Passbook is already location-aware, but NFC would make it more relevant and useful.

How can you use Passbook to be useful to your customers? Let us know if we can help.

Unwanted gifts of pets is always a problem after Christmas.Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats get dropped at animal shelters in countries all over the world. Finding a home for all these animals is obviously a huge challenge.

DraftFCB in New Zealand has used a really powerful thought to create demand in shelter dogs. The idea is that if they could prove how smart SPCA dogs are, more people would want them as pets.

Aside from creating huge awareness in New Zealand, The campaign made it onto Letterman and news shows around the world – which is great news for shelter dogs everywhere as the idea should be as powerful in finding dogs good homes anywhere it’s seen.

Useful Tapas

We hosted a small celebration at the Village last night. A collection of friends, clients, partners and people who’ve helped us along the way came in for a celebration of, well, everything. It’s our birthday, it’s December, and we wanted an excuse to say thank you to everyone for a great year (and a great first year).

Along with great company, canapés and champagne we threw in a little bit of usefulness as well. ‘Useful Tapas’ provided our guests with bite-sized pieces of usefulness they could learn and take away. Here’s some more about each item on the menu.

Making better lists

Action Method by Behance is an intuitive task management methodology for people and teams. There’s a set of useful best practices for writing action lists and tools to manage lists on paper, online, mobile and iPad.

On the right: a better list about to happen. Styling and photography by Tim Neve.

Taking better iPhone photos

When you use your iPhone to snap a picture of an object up close, did you know that you can adjust for camera shakes and a moving subject? Check out these few small tips on taking better iPhone photos.

Google effectively

To Google more effectively and search specific sites, include related words, exclude keywords, restrict searching to date ranges and look for certain authors, check out this ‘Get more out of Google’ infographic.

Reading body language

Can someone’s feet reveal how honest they are? For an honesty reading from feet, to give your confidence a boost or stimulate good feelings, check out these simple and powerful body language tips.

What colour should you wear?

Wearing a colour that suits your skin tone and hair colour helps you look your best. Check out Color ID, an iPhone App for finding your complementary colours.

Memory tips

Visualisation, the name game and chunking are handy methods for accurate recall and memory enhancement. Here’s ten ways to improve your memory.