Due to the way that the search engines deliver their information to users there has been a standing debate about who is actually responsible for those results. Some say it’s the search engines themselves that control the results pages and the response from Google and Bing for example is that they don’t control the results, they merely display them.
Last month the EU put forth a rule that everyone has the right to be forgotten, a method which users can submit to have urls removed from the results pages that they feel are unacceptable. It opened the doorway to the SERPs being hand curated by it’s users and the end goal being the removal of defamatory information from specific searches. It’s not something that you can just request willy nilly, you need to be either the person who is directly affected by the term, or be the authorized representative of said person.
The form requires submission of a photo ID of the individual the request is for. So even if a third-party is doing the submission for someone else, they need that person’s photo ID as a way to prove they have some type of approval by them. This implementation is only available currently in the EU however, and as of just a couple of days it was unknown if the trend would follow over to the US side of Google. As it turns out, the right to be forgotten form will remain an EU only feature of search, and it doesn’t completely remove web addresses from the index it merely removes them from the EU results pages.
But as the saying is for every door that closes another one opens, it seems that Bing as they were affected by the decision as well, has decided to try and work the system in across the board. At last count Google was taking in around 10,000 requests per day from the form process, so it’s clearly going to take some time for the SERPs to reflect all of the proposed and accepted changes, there hasn’t been any mention how Bing is faring in the requests department.
When you’ve finally gotten your website online there are a million steps that you need to take in order to be ranked at the top of your niche market on the results pages. Instead of trying to explain each point, we’ll take a different tack this time around, how about a list of things of what not to do on your website.
If you’re not managing your site yourself, hopefully the person or agency you have contracted is on the ball and has a clue about how not to run afoul of the rules. If your site gets hit by a spam penalty, whether by the algorithm automatically or if you’ve been flagged manually, it isn’t the end of the world it can be fixed. But let’s get started so you can have a cheat sheet for yourself to check on your agencies efforts where your website is concerned. A note just before we get into things, these are not hard and fast rules, the internet isn’t even remotely a black and white entity, so take everything you read below with a grain of salt.
Misspelling words is an every day thing, everyone does it billions of times per day. But one way that you can run on the wrong side of the web spam team is if you happen to register a domain name with a misspelled version of a highly notable brand name in your niche with the idea to try and generate traffic off of the misspelled term. This is a good example of the web not being black and white, anyone can register any domain name so long as it’s available – but that doesn’t mean that the search engines don’t have a say in where it’ll place it in the results pages.
Having a meta refresh in your homepage, effectively locking visitors into your website by messing with their browser control. It’s not uncommon that when you arrive at the wrong website you hit the back button or the backspace key to return to the page you were at. But using a method like a meta refresh in the header of your websites home page removes that option to a visitor to your site. The basic sequence of events with this type of refresh is when a visitor lands on your page, it refreshes itself a time or two so that when they press the back button, they don’t actually leave the site. Instead they’ve just refreshed the page again and they’re back where they don’t want to be. It’s a frustrating experience in general for users, and a no-no with the search engines.
Having your website encoded entirely in Flash, Java and even some versions of Ajax or Silverlight which require specific browser plugins to function correctly. While this isn’t a negative with the search engines specifically, using entirely visual only coding effectively hides your website from the search engines. Being that Google, Bing and other engines look for text on a website, the text on a Flash and even sometimes Java scripts isn’t readable by them so they assume it’s a blank page. They are getting better at digging the text out, but they’re not all the way there yet so keep that in mind when a designer approaches you with a flashy visual display that has no real text elements. Along the same line of thinking but this time where users are concerned, more and more people are accessing the web with tablets and phones. iPads and iPhones take up a sizable share of the mobile marketplace and they can not display any Flash and some Java, your site would literally be invisible and unusable to an iPad user if you had an entirely Flash built website.
When you think of search results you often think of the biggest names in the game, Google being the biggest of them all. Bing sometimes shows up of course and they’re upping their game lately which is a very good thing for the internet as a whole.
The latest improvement that Bing is working on is actively leveraging the power of other search providers as well. The preliminary shots of how this is playing out is turning out to be handy to find local results and help you make a decision quicker than having only a single list of results in front of you. As an example, you may be looking for an dinner option for the evening, and if you use Bing for your search now you have the option of seeing additional results from sites like Yelp. Having more options in your search results page may seem counter intuitive but for everyone involved it’s an improvement. This follows somewhat in suit with how Google has had to open up their results page in the EU anti-trust settlement.
As a user, more options to make a decision is always a good thing. Not only does it allow you to possibly read some reviews and see personal experiences from other patrons, but you may get a handful of different results as well with which to base your decision.
As a business owner, having your name out there for even more potential terms than you’ve originally targeted can help grow your customer base. Making sure you have positive reviews and experiences will help your reputation with the other sites like Yelp or OpenTable, and also helps to reinforce your position in the organic results as well while growing your local customer loyalty.
Change is a great thing to be happening with the search engines and hopefully the inclusion of the other forms of providers only increases the quality of results as a whole.
Time for a little bit of free advice for you and your website, especially if you happen to be an affiliate or a licensed dealer for a larger company.
There are definitely some positive aspects when you work as a dealer or an affiliate for a larger business or brand. You gain the instant recognition and the branding power built by the advertising dollars that have already been spent. You also usually have access to their marketing teams and some of their infrastructure in order to help develop and grow a web presence for yourself. Oodles of content, images, videos and more marketing materials than you would likely know what to realistically do with. Usually the conversation with the branding team consists of them telling you that as you build your site and use their assets, consists of being advised to just go ahead and copy what they’ve written and if you have any issues just link people back to their website.
Please, if you’re an affiliate or a dealer for a brand don’t do this.
Having all of their promotional materials, text content and images is an amazing start to your website and being able to promote their product but the last thing you want to do is follow that type of marketing advice. Instead what you want to do is use their text content as a guide and recreate it in a way that benefits your business and it’s location instead of copying it word for word. The images are less of a concern, as you can’t really edit them without losing the quality that some branding companies put into their photos. When you copy and paste your dealers content you’re basically telling the search engines that you’re selling their product – see my content is the same and I have the affiliate links and everything! And the search engines will promptly drop you down the page for that branding term as well, for precisely those points. Regardless of who you are, how large your brand is or how much money you make, if you try and skimp on the rules of the search game then you’re going to lose. Just ask BMW, Teleflora or JC Penny, they all had their own problems of course, but they’re multi-billion dollar brands and the search engines had no qualms about doling out penalties when they were necessary. Remember that with your small business when you’re ready to bring your site online, take the time to rewrite the content to make it relevant for you and your business. Cheat at your own peril.
The internet is a pretty big place and with Facebook throwing its hat in the search ring with their trillion of connections made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a search engine doesn’t immediately deliver exactly what you’re looking for with your first search.
Google is often placed under the microscope when complaints about the web or search quality come up, but it seems exceedingly rare that anyone actually talks about how big a job it is to be a search engine. Using Facebooks example of having an index of a trillion connections made using their social software alone, it should be clear that the web is a huge place. An estimate of the size of the internet is somewhere over 100 trillion web pages and users and complainers are often quick to pass judgement on the search engines when they couldn’t find what they want. Google is the largest and most widely used search engine on the web, still holding onto more than 2/3 of the audience out there and even they don’t even try to get close to curating that massive amount of pages.
When you factor in that many pages on the web and an algorithm that sorts, ranks and tries to properly place every one that it crawls <em>and</em> that it can deliver your results pages in less than a half second it should really be amazing that it can be done at all. Constant updates and improvements to the algorithm that does the bulk of the work can alter the pages you see when you search, and even sometimes appears to completely break the results pages as was the impression when Panda and Penguin were integrated into the algorithm. As an exercise in just how massive an undertaking this can be, and how Google and the other search engines aren’t out to get you and your site specifically give this a go. Imagine you have 100 pennies in your possession all with a different year on them, after shaking them all up in a can pick out the one with the year of your birth on it, if you don’t pick out your year it goes back into the can. You might get it in the first few or it may take you 30 – 40 tries, now repeat that experiment 100,000,000 more times and you’ll have a sample of how much work the search algorithms do every time they perform your search.
As always at this time of year we give our predictions for SEO for the following year, this year we have gathered some help from our friends & other search experts in the field who have given there twist on things to come.
In 2013, the SEO Role must go above and beyond. For example, a basic SEO strategy would obviously include some amount of reporting (for keyword rankings and traffic numbers at the least); however, I find myself analyzing the data to help my client better understand their demographic. Where are visitors accessing the site from, when do they access the site, and what are they specifically looking for when they are on the site?
All of these questions—and more—are in hopes of helping them identify new ways to effectively reach their customer base and ultimately make them more successful. It is SEO’s job to provide meaningful help.
Rand says links and rankings are just means to an end, not the end itself.
What clients really want is not better rankings and more links; they want to make more money.
The SEOs who understood and understand where Google is going and what their clients really want are the ones who are still in business and doing well. For them, the job of a SEO is content relevancy (public relations), user experience, web design, conversions, traffic segmentation, call tracking, research, writing, and anything else that sells products and services and leads to more profits for the client not just short-term, but long-term as well.
Most of all, the job of an SEO is to see the future. Those who can’t will go out of business and take their clients with them.
In conclusion, each of these experts—coming from multiple perspectives–agree that SEO will become a much broader and more complex function in 2013. Yet it will also become more vital than ever before, as it converges with every variety of online presence and marketing.
SEO 2013 predictions
Okay so the search world has ended for some website owners out there with Googles latest algorithm update, Penguin. The update which was designed to cull spammy websites from the search results, had an (un)expected side effect on websites which had usually hired less than stellar SEO companies. There have been multiple threads posted on the Google forums, about how each website was wrongly infracted; in their view.
Google has made some drastic changes in their algorithm in the last year, the majority of which were implemented to help clean up the results page. Pandas, Penguins aside, the goals to clean up the results has started to shine a light on an SEO trouble spot. Search engine optimization is a greatly discussed, debated, and lucrative topic online. Because it’s such a high margin of profit enterprise, it’s seen as an added value feature for, mostly web development firms, and even for some who just like to ride the trend wave. The trouble begins, when you, as a business owner, begin to be taken in by a few buzz words in the market. Backlinks, social media, videos, all of these are definitely avenues to explore and work with to help raise your organic search worth, but they’re far from what matters the most to the engines. There are certain keywords that you should keep in the forefront of your mind, when discussing hiring an SEO for your firm.
The first of which is quick – proper, organic optimization is anything but quick. Part of the reason that the organic listings are so desirable is because, for the most part, they can be trusted as being authoritative. You don’t become listed in the top 10 of your niche overnight, and definitely not in the top 3 within a week unless you’re trying to rank for a 5-6 term, specific long tail search phrase; then you have a shot. But again, that’s not true search engine optimization, that’s a clever marketer, gaming the organic results by searching for a sentence on your website.
Another term you need to be wary of, is Google Partner – namely because Google doesn’t have partners. They’re Google, they buy and assimilate what they feel will improve their core product, search, and anything else they have cooking in their tech kitchen. If when you meet with someone trying to sell themselves as a Google Partner, it’s best to just bite your tongue, thank them for their time and then, instead of using the phone book to find an SEO, here’s a thought – use a search engine! You don’t have to be clever, you can type in exactly what you’re looking for, like search engine optimization Winnipeg, and from there you begin your phone calls. You find a plumber, or perhaps a local mechanic in the yellow pages, you should be looking online for SEO experts.
And in case you were wondering, here’s what your traffic looks like when you don’t play by the rules.
Often times, you’ll read blogs, reviews, forum posts and editorials about the search engines. Almost in every instance that there is a complaint, the perpetrator is none other than the big guy on campus, Google. The company is no stranger to scrutiny being that it is the search engine with the largest index, and what they feel they can’t develop in house, they search for, and obtain the technology to meeet their ends.
They’ve purchased Youtube, Motorolla, and a slew of other companies in order to meet their goals. But the top skill set that the company is known for of course, is search. The company has been around for nearly 20 years now and what started off as a simple exercise to build an index, has grown into a multi-billion dollar empire. With the real juice behind the company being their famous search algorithm, techs, SEO professionals, even black hat practitioners have tried to work out just what it is that makes it tick. In the end, Google isn’t talking, and we can all just speculate on how close, or far, we are from ‘solving’ it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if even the techs who work on the algorithm itself, don’t entirely know how it all works. Google is famous for saying that the actual search mechanism is comprised of hundreds of different ranking factors. Ranging from content, quality of content, quality of the site, off site factors etc. There’s no telling just what it is exactly that’s a part of that machination, but there is however a small secret, shared amongst the search industry elite. It’s a simple phrase, and it’s a technique that none truly share; those who know, know. It’s short, simple, cryptic, and while only a handful, born with the search industry on the web truly know the loops and kinks in the algorithm, they’re not talking either. If you should happen to find yourself in the company of one such individual, pay very close attention, as you may, and will, still miss it. I know I have.
Branding, it’s what makes your business and it’s purposes widely known, usually by mention of name and reputation only. It’s like when someone mentions the name Pepsi, or Coca Cola, you know immediately what is being talked about and can picture the products.
There’s a bit of a razing argument going around lately about how if you’re a “real brand” that you shouldn’t, or won’t have to worry about the search engines. The argument is basically online shoppers don’t search for brands nearly as often as they Google generic categories and phrases. Which is somewhat true, and the article goes on to argue that ‘everybody’ automatically knows that Amazon sells online books and knows that eBay is the number one online auction site. The problem with this argument, is that the average online user doesn’t strictly use a search engine to search for a single term. Most of the time users are searching for an article or they’ve seen a product or service which they want to research.
Even when a user is searching for a specific brand name or service, it’s typically typed directly into a search engine to quickly find their desired destination. It’s a fallacy to think that the only time a person uses a search engine is when they have no idea what they’re looking for. Small business, large business, branded and not branded all need to recognize that search engine optimization is more and more becoming a required marketing tool. To believe that your company, name and brand will be easily found online only because of your brand, is a misinformed position, typically trumpeted by old media advertisers. Do not get trapped in the idea that your name, your brand and your company are too big to fail in search, because more often than not it’s the little guys who rank better than the brands because they embrace the high return on investment where search is concerned.
As a daily user of the web, Google, Bing, Yahoo and a vast majority of their tools and services, I’m having trouble with the issues that are being brought up with regards to the new policy. When Google first introduced the idea, one of the first terms which needs to be satisfied in order to glean your personalized information was: sign into your Google account. If you don’t sign into your account, anything you search for via the search enging, any videos you view, will just be dumped into that already existing cache of trends and web usage. If you happen to be signed into your account, using Gmail, Docs or some other tool, then your search will possibly (likely) be used as an advertising tool at some point down the road.
I would have to admit, the confusion for me exists where users are calling it an infringement of privacy of what they are doing on the internet. But as someone so eloquently put it in a discussion I’d had about the new policy: Unless you’ve been living in the hills, hunting for your food and clothes and being completely cut off from *everything* in this techno world, you have a web history, it’s been recorded, and it is used to deliver advertising to you.