With the addition of the Google +1 button to the social world, an old question has been starting to make advertising agencies take notice again. Is the social ranking element of search, beginning to shape where you show up in the SERPs?
It has been long known that when you “Like” a topic via the Facebook button, you can generate a fair amount of traffic just with a simple click of a button. It’s only recently been entrenched in the Bing results now though that those “Like”s are beginning to shape your personal results pages. When you’re signed into your Facebook account and you perform a search for model racecar in Bing for example. You’ll be able to see mixed within your search results if any of your friends are involved in the same model racing scene as you are. It can create a good deal of traffic if your site is catering on a social level. With the addition now of the Google +1 button, it’s assumed we’ll begin to see the integration of the same types of results in Google as you would see in Bing and the Facebook “Like” button.
Part of the idea is you can determine which of those people on your friends list, you may have more in common with that you didn’t already know. It’s really a personal preference at this point in the game, as you need to be signed in to both services to view your friends likes in your search results. It’s going to be an interesting shift in the search game depending on how heavily your friends connections are valued as opposed to the organic listings as they are presently.
If there is anything in the world of search which can change the performance of your site ranking overnight, it’s being tagged as being a malicious site or having malware links on your pages. Searchers get warned when your site is displayed in the SERPs that visiting your site may harm their computer, it’s not hard to imagine that searchers would choose to stay away from your site as a result.
Being flagged as a malicious site or having malware links on your page can happen a number of different ways. In the serious end of things your site and/or server may have been hijacked and your pages could have been rewritten. You could have been picked up with an iframe attack, a clever hacker could have written a code injection on a page comment or link, or you could have just been repoted as such by a jealous competitor. There are a great many ways you can be flagged as a malware/malicious site.
There is a story circulating in the search world today about one such website owners dilemma. Their website, a Yahoo based store, was flagged as being a malicious website contianing malware links on their site. This is a web based business whose CMS is sandboxed after a fashion, by Yahoo controls and Bing has labelled them as malicious. Being flagged is a terrible thing, but seeing as the diligence has been done and there’s been found to be no fault, the owner submitted a ticket for the flag to be removed from their site as it had been applied in error. Now here’s the big problem, after submitting his help ticket and noticing that no change has been made they made a help ticket with Bing. The response they received, has to be no less than shattering; malware re-evaluation with Bing can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks to become resolved and for the flag to be removed. When your business is primarily generated through online presence, losing 3 to 6 weeks of business due to an error on a search engines part is devastating to your lively hood.
It’s always warranted to search for yourself online, to ensure you’re placing where you’re aiming and you’re displaying the information you want to be known for. What you definitely do not want to see is the malicious website warning to be tied to your site, as it takes Bing a minimum of a month to remove it, maybe as long as 6 weeks. At least on the upside, Google only needs 24 hours to remove a misplaced tag.
There are some general misconceptions about SEO which crop up from time to time and often come up when going over the process with clients. Some points are extremely valid questions to bring up while others receive ambiguous answers as it changes every day.
Some discussion points like “Why do we need to wait in building back links to our site?” for example tends to come up. To build up quality back links to your website takes time first of all, secondly if you were to go the shady route and buy thousands of links to boost your Page Rank, it’s a very quick way to get the search engines attention. And not in a good way!
“Why should I pay you every month when this other guy says he can do the same for a one shot job?” This is probably the largest misconception about the SEO industry and one of the hurdles which we are met with in dealing with new clients. The biggest reason that you can’t do just a once over and expect the results to carry on forever is because the internet doesn’t shut off. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t sleep, it’s always changing. And in order to compensate and keep up, the search engines do exactly the same. The change their algorithms, tweak the results and shift the rankings on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. Upkeep is absolutely essential to remain competitive in search engine optimization and someone telling you they can plant you firmly at the top for a one time cost of $200 is yanking your chain.
“SEO doesn’t seem so bad I’m sure our techs can do it here” This is perhaps the most closed minded statement to be encountered. I’ve written of it here on the blog before, but pick the right horse for the course. When you’re building a new website, contract a web designer. When you’re adding basic information to your site or updating information, use your techs. When you want to bring your brand and website up in the rankings, use a search engine optimization expert. Saying that your tech who does your database scripting will do your optimization for you is basically money lost at best. At worst, they try and shortcut your site and you get kicked from the index for breaking a rule or two.
There’s a million and one ways to make yourself found online, local, mobile, social, organic, ppc and within each of these there are countless other methods to work on. Let’s start with the assumption that you’ve followed all of the best practices when it comes to building your website.
You’ve used CSS and XML to create a uniform and attractive look. Used even simple things such as a doctype to tell your browser what it is that it’s reading. Creative, compelling content with a strong call to action which drives your visitors to buy your product, sign up for your news letter or forum and continue visiting your pages. Your images are tagged, your categories are tagged, you’ve worked hard at being the best in your niche market and are steadily enjoying the growing fruits of your labor. And then you learn, there is more which you can do to increase your traffic flow, visibility and as a result, improve your bottom line.
There’s always more which can be done in marketing yourself online, more steps which you can take to become more visible. That step you’ve taken to tag all of your images on your website properly? Congratulations, by taking a very simple step you’ve helped increase your visibility in the image searchs in both Bing and Google. With properly tagged and titled images, it helps your customers reach your site when you have clear pictures for your product to be seen.
Another strong step is issuing news about your company consistently. Whether you’ve closed that massive new merger which will allow you to double production or support, or even if all you’ve done is decided to hold a spring cleaning sale. It’s important to remain active in the eyes of your customer. This is where a blog is an amazing tool for your business, both small and large. It’s an ideal space for all of the aforementioned releases, as well as a location for your clients and customers to reply to your posts and even suggest improvements if some are needed in their eyes.
If you’ve cornered your niche market, and created your very own brand image offline, it’s extremely important to continue that leverage online. As an example, it wouldn’t do Pepsi or Coca-Cola any good to have direct queries for their brand name, direct users to competitors websites. It’s lost revenue and a lost avenue for income.
And if you provide a product or a service which has many steps or intricacies, it only helps your case to develop your very own how to pages on your website. If you provide a specific style of door knocker as an example, providing clear and concise directions on your website on how to install and care for your product can help instantly transform a curious searcher, into a new customer.
There are some interesting threads around the web at the moment around the recent global Panda roll out. Some websites are noticing that when the initial introduction came out a while back and they were dropped from the engine, their traffic is starting to return to previous Panda metrics. It would have been frustrating for sure to have to deal with the not knowing if you had in fact been in breach of scraping content, or been penalized for it when you hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s an anxiety which Google could have eliminated with even just a quick little post along the lines of “We’re addressing your concerns in an upcoming roll out, please be patient with us” as opposed to staying quiet.
Anyhow, the global roll out has occured and it looks like for the moment the farmers have been hit with a drought. The initial numbers have started to appear on various communities online and there are some familiar names in the list with some big losses in ranking. And what seems to be a long time coming, ehow.com has received their penance. Long touted as one of the worst offenders for aggregating content, the site was left virtually untouched in the preliminary Panda roll out. It seems however, that what ever loop hole they slipped through the first time, it snagged them on the second pass. Initial reports are showing a drop of over 80% representation in search results for the site. Other sites which were hit hard were live123.com, findarticles.com and associatedcontent.com. No real surprises there.
And just to mention something which is a little of a pet peeve of mine, the over thinking, or sensationalizing of somewhat arbitrary numbers on the internet. It was a thread I had been following for a few days in which the discussion was centered around the idea of what could be considered Google’s biggest threat to their online presence. The top three came back at no real surprise with Bing, Facebook and Google themselves, all being the threats to the giant.
The part of the discussion which really made me question the reading comprehension of the poster, was that because Facebook is most likely going to become public, that automatically makes them the biggest threat to Google full stop. Their resoning was based around an online tool in which they showed that Google had dropped 2.5% in their yearly traffic and Facebook had grown by 15%!! That clearly said to them that Facebook is the winner in the dominance race.
My issue with their reasoning, besides the point they were spouting their opinion as fact, was they never compared the metrics used to reach those percentages. Problem number 1, Google and Facebook are two different online tools. One is social, one is search. Only if and/or when Google becomes more social, or Facebook focuses on search, can comparisons begin to be drawn. Problem number 2, in comparing apples to oranges the numbers will always be skewed, yet that was ignored. Problem number 3, Bing was unfairly ignored in the comparison. Throwing Bing into the mix really tosses a monkey wrench into the comparison, as they experienced a 44%!!! growth from April 2010 to February 2011. In following with comparing apples to oranges, I contend that Bing is actually Facebook’s largest competitor, excluding the fact that they have an online partnership.
If you think of the internet as the wild west, then it’s safe to make the correlation of there being good guys, bad guys and everyone else.
Using this basis of comparison, who fits into what category is a completely arbitrary decision that changes between people and organizations. The search engines for example, Bing, Google, Yahoo etc, are they the good guys because of the services they provide? Or are they the bad guys because they can provide you with a basicly clear window to the internet? What about the RIAA, FCC and those of the same ilk. Are they good or bad because they want to be able to monitor online content, filter it according to rights and punish all who may dare to break their rules.
It’s a new age of content creation, distribution and monitoring, so I find it a little strange that the policy makers are pointing fingers at the big guy, Google. Their claim as a part of the proposed Web Censoship bill, is that Google (in a nutshell) is responsible for policing the internet and what their searches turn up. A spokesman for Google, Kent Walker was plain in his answer in saying that if this bill were to pass, then private companies will have a tremendous amount of power over Google and it’s behaviour. He also pointed out that there are flaws in any system, and that the bad eggs are out there specifically working on gaming the system and that just because a website has a link to content which may not be hosted by them, they shouldn’t be punished.
Because let’s be honest, as any web designer can tell you, a site can be created in about 20 minutes and uploaded and active online in 30 total. That site will then be crawled and placed in the index as appropriately as possible. Now the people trying to game the censorship system, all they have to do is create site after site, after site. The pages will be up and indexed faster than they could ever be taken down, any one with even half of an idea as to how the web works knows this.
If the bill should pass, it will mean new stringent guidelines to be adhered to and that god forbid you post something that becomes unliked by someone in power because you may just find yourself invisible in search no matter what you do. It’s an authoritorian rule, managed by those with the most power. And Scarface said it best:
In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.
For further information and reading, you can find both sides of the argument at ArsTechnica. Both sides of the argument are discussed, those for the bill, and those against the bill.
Sometimes a discussion crops up about how the search game is dead, or about how the next amazing search engine will change the way the world searches. It’s a great idea, and one that should be pushed continually to it’s limits, it’s competition which develops innovation after all. In the end however, there are some elements of the game which just won’t change. At least not for the fore seeable future.
As a metphor, think of a wheel. Round, helps carry a vehicle of sorts to it’s destination. There are core elements which make up the ‘whole’ of the wheel. It’s shape, it’s internal to external strengthening in the manner of spokes of some kind and connected to a point to which it can spin. If you change any of those variables, then what you’ve created is no longer a wheel right?
The same core intricacies exist in the world of search. Google helped define what those core principles are, and while some of the players make their own additions or variations to them, they’re still part of the whole. Just like 1+1 will always equal 2, when you boil down the search algorithm used by the search engines out there, they all break down to the same basic structure.
When a user types their query, check the database. Do we have a match? Display the list.
From there is where it gets complicated, that’s where the refining comes in, the positive and negative values associated to all sorts of terms. Gambling, sex, government, medical etc.
The core of the game has never changed and won’t be changing for the immediate future. I don’t have a crystal ball in my possession, but until a company can come forward with a faster, more complete, and intuitive version of a search engine, the game will always be as it has always been.
The implements which are used by a trade expert or even a novice user to reach the end goal, the tools of the trade are most often key to the process of creation or discovery. It’s extremely rare when a person gets in trouble for using their tools to do their job, and it’s even rarer when they’re penalized heavily for it.
And yet, that’s exactly what an Italian court has decided to do, well sort of. Their first ruling this year was in regards to Youtube and their decision that the website is effectively a television station and as such needs to follow the same rules on them. Pinning the responsibility on Google to monitor the content being delivered to the country. Okay, so a couple of ip filters (very basic example) and they’d be good to go with Youtube maybe.
The Italian court however, has recently handed down a verdict on the realm of search. In one case in particular, Yahoo was found guilty for containing links which the court determined allowed copyright infringement. The same case however, was not brought up to Googles legal team, so that’s a little odd there. Also somewhat interesting, Yahoo doesn’t power it’s organic search anymore, it’s handled by Microsoft Bing. So if Yahoo (rightfully) passes the responsibilities to Microsoft, and they don’t take care of it, then does Yahoo get left out in the rain? Too broad a decision at best and leaves too much interpretation to the imagination. But then, things really get strange.. you didn’t think it stopped there did you?
Back to my tools to do the job analogy, Google, Yahoo and Bing all share near identical traits. The greatest of which is being a search tool for users to find their destination. Whether it’s a purchase, research, gaming or what have you. Search engines don’t create websites, they don’t create videos or publish webpages, they gatherm collate, and provide information as it’s requested by it’s users.
On to the weird stuff. This same court decided that users of AdWords platforms, could not be held liable for bidding on copyrighted terms for their ad spaces. Paid search advertising will not be held accountable for the terms used to place in search. Clear as mud then. Organic search results however, can be penalized under this new ruling. It’s not like Google, Bing and Yahoo are hiring massive development teams to create pages full of trademarked or copyrighted terms just to screw up the results and businesses. By this Italian court ruling however, they’re saying essentially that. Personally, I’ll be surprised if the ruling on search holds any water for more than a few days at most, it’s almost like the court has never used search to understand that it’s just a tool, not a content creator.
It’s another case of the copycat, not that it should be any surprise online, but Bing Deals has broken into the realm of online deal makers.
I guess it’s kind of a stretch to throw them in with the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial, because what Bing is doing is actually a little different. The way they said it, would probably be the best way to share:
“The value is that we’re aggregating these for you, bringing these all together so that you don’t have to go to all of these other places”
So Bing has taken the time to write the lines to mash all of the deals together in one place for thrifty shoppers out there. No need for an account to use the service, no spammy emails about deals locally, just a big old coupon book for you to browse. To pay, your information would be used on the vendors site. Simple enough really.
And to make things a little spicier and enticing again, Bing partnered up with a company called The Dealmap, which bills itself as the best place online to find local deals with over 200,000 unique offers across the US on your mobile device.
“The Dealmap is a leading source for people to find and share the best local deals, so naturally it made sense for us to team up with them to bring you the best experience.”Andy Chu, director of Product Management for Bing Mobile.
So it’s not quite copycat, but it’s Bing bringing to bear their own take to online shopping and local search incentives. A good idea which will attract a fair share of attention as it grows in offerings and popularity.
It shouldn’t be any real surprise that Charlie Sheen is a member in the trending topics of the day much like he has in the last few days. There’s also the trending topic of the Dior designer who’s being dropped by the fashion icon for their ranting of Jews and love of Hitler. It’s never a large surprise personally to find strange topics dominating the trending lists, but there are some news topics that surprise me from time to time.
Take for instance, the news from Statcounter that Yahoo has fallen to last place in the search wars, overtaken by Bing. At just under 4% search share, Yahoo reportedly fell to Bing who came in with 4.3% search share. Statcounter showed Google’s search dominance flying at it’s average of 89.9% of the search market. These are global search numbers, so they’re talking in the billions of queries. When you get a little closer to home, Yahoo is still leading Bing in the US.
The reason why all of these numbers don’t mean a thing, is there are really only 2 players now in the search market; Bing and Google. In 2009 Yahoo announced that Bing would power it’s search results and that they were going to join forces to try and take on the Google machine. Currently Bing is giving Yahoo results in the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. It’s Bing search pages and results, with a bright shiny Yahoo wrapper on it. It doesn’t matter how you try and portray it, it’s Bing and Google in the search game now.