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.
So unless you’ve been living under a rock, 2012 is set to be an immense year in the mobile search industry. There was some talk at the recent Mobile World Congress event to shed some light on mobile usage, both in European countries, the US and Japan.
And out of a survey of 1,000 respondants the answers are still, quite surprising. First off there’s the point that using a smartphone to search has made nearly 100% penetration in the market, and most of those search at least once a week. And according to StatCounter Google browser based mobile search accounts for 97% of that share. If that isn’t enough of a spur to work on your mobile site, how about when you consider the social side of the mobile web. Particularly in the US, it was found that over 90% of smartphone owners sought local information in their searches, and that smart device owners were heavy social networking users. Taking that 90% of local searches, 25% of them made a purchase based upon their findings and more than half of them contacted the business they found.
That’s only the US numbers, and already it’s easy to see that the numbers are quickly climbing. Some of the other discoveries made can be found here, but some of the highlights contained within I’ve pasted below.
Half of mobile shoppers make a purchase on their device, and 20% of those (US) make a purchase daily.
More than a third of consumers admit to carrying a smartphone in order to compare prices while they shop.
More than 1 billion people (globally) will use mobile devices as their primary internet access point.
There’s only some of the data reflected by the study, are you and your website ready for the mobile web?
Have you noticed any shifts over the last couple of days in your search results? As a site owner or an SEO for a client, have you noticed any changes as of late? You wouldn’t be alone in taking note, and you would be correct. It has recently been confirmed that Panda had been unleashed on the web again, making it even more accurate and more sensitive to changes online.
Some site owners are noting huge gains in their organic results, perhaps because they’ve attended to any issues that cropped up when Panda first passed over their site and erroneously booted them. On the other hand, some sites were hit harder than they have been previously by the update, and continue to flounder in the search pool. It may be a good, or a bad point, but Google also came out and said that the entire update hasn’t finished yet, it probably will only do so tomorrow. As well, there are still some high numbers being reported on forums, about being dumped in the results by Panda, but if you’ve been on your game and following the good practices guide you should be sitting just fine.
For all of the updates that are done to the various search engines, for all of the tweaks they do to their algorithms there remains a very simple truth. Stick to the basics and it’ll work. It may take longer than trying to work out every single step of the algo, but so long as you concern yourself with sticking to the best practices guides provided by the search engines, your site will list. And will continue to list, so long as you haven’t done anything naughty that is, to get yourself kicked out of the SERPs.
So I guess it stands to reason, that Google would jump at the new privacy bill being pushed through the White House. Regarding the new online privacy legislation, Google decided to get behind “Do Not Track,” technology that lets users opt out of tracking by websites and online advertisers. So what exactly did Google just agree to do? It will add support for Do Not Track to its Chrome browser. The way the technology works is fairly basic, it sends a Chrome header signal to the website to tell the website and it’s advertisers to not track that visitor. In browsers that already support Do Not Track, a user only has to set a single option. In Firefox, that’s done through the Options (on Windows) or Preferences (Mac) pane by checking a box marked, “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked.”
When Google was taken under the leadership of Larry Page, he quickly and decisively pointed the sights of the Google machine on the social target. And in the last few months there have been a few, hiccups, with Googles changes in policy.
So it’s no secret that Bing and Google aren’t the best of friends, but with Microsoft behind the Bing machine, it was a shock for the web to suddenly find Google labelled as malware.
You may think it’s really not that big of a deal, but it only takes one red flag to turn many novice users away from using any service or website. The mistake has since been ironed out on Microsoft’s end, and Google is no longer labelled as a security risk. Malware is a rather generic term, basically covering any kind of code or software which either steals your private information or messes up your computer enough that you can’t really use it effectively. Unfortunately for those same novice searchers and computer users, malware has another, more inconvenient side.
It should be no surprise that scripters and hackers who work to develop malware, are also tied to the black hat side of the SEO world. Search is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, and being able to sit atop the search results for highly competitive terms for even a few days is a million dollar industry. Many times this is where you’ll find a specific type of malware usually known as ransom software. What happens is when a user clicks on the address of what they innocently think is their top results choice, instead they’re greeted with a popup message usually along the lines of “Your computer is infected – click here to protect your data!” And once that user clicks the button, they’ve been hooked. Once that back door has been opened, it is nefariously difficult to shut. It often leaves you open to backdoor access as well, which the scripter can use to steal your information, or even use your own computer to attack other unsuspecting searchers.
The first step to defending yourself is to have a proper anti-virus product, even a basic one will stop the majority of malware. The second step is to know what you’re seeing when you search. A proper website url will be www.this-is-a-real-site.com/yourresults.html, shown in green below your search results. A strong indication of a hijacked site or possible malware trap is when that address looks like so: www.possibly-malware.com/?p=23466. If you find an address which begins with a query string, there’s a good chance you’re not going to necessarily end up where you’ve hoped.
Valentine’s day, not really a holiday, but people are still out there shopping for that special someone. Some bought their gifts early, or if you’re the average guy you’re out there this afternoon picking up a few last minute things. But whether you’re shopping today, even if you’ve already finished your shopping, have you taken measures to capitalize onthis spending day?
It’s estimated that this year in the US they’ll be hitting the highest in the past 10 years in terms of spending. That includes everything from cards, candy, and flowers, to jewellery and ‘casual’ attire. The biggest spenders – ladies doting on their men who’ve been shopping since January and comprising more than 150% of the search volume. Men haven’t totally been out of the game however, and have even stepped up their play – jewellery and flower delivery searches have grown 10% and 20% respectively. The big step for this year though has been couples massage with 50% growth.
Now numbers are good to see and everything, but how does that break down as a business owner in the real world? On average Google handles 400 million searches per day, and during a shopping holiday like Valentine’s Day, search volumes are temporarily boosted. So if you’re in the jewellery market for example, you’d want to ramp up your SEO at least a couple of weeks before the big day, just to pump up visibility. The days do seem to fly by while you have your nose to the grindstone, but you need to observe how trends are shifting online. Being able to correctly and accurately predict the shifting trends online can mean the difference between lost income, and capitalizing on a gold mine in search.