Category Archives: search

The Google Search Secret

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.

New Google Privacy Policy

So the end of all internet privacy began just one short day ago, at least that’s what the legions of (over concerned) privacy advocates and public would have you believe. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google’s new, single privacy policy, went live yesterday.

It’s actually a very simple idea, Google took all of it’s privacy policies on all of it’s services (which numbered somewhere north of 60), and unified everything under one policy. It’s a step to make using Google tools and websites a little slicker for the end user, and to deliver a more personalized web and browsing experience. And yet, as early as this morning, 36 U.S. state Attorney Generals weighing in with a strongly worded letter, and a pan-European privacy commission starting up an investigation into the new privacy policy.

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.

Best Kept SEO Secret

Brace yourself, because the biggest, crazeist, most incredible kept secrets of SEO is going to be discussed today. Are you ready to hear what it is: there are SEOs out there who don’t know what SEO is, and there are those who even think that AdWords is SEO.

Shocking I know, but it’s unfortunately true. There are hundreds of people out there, even just in Winnipeg who call themselves SEO experts. And when you sit down and speak with them, it becomes quickly apparent that they may have an idea as to what search engine optimization is. They just don’t quite have the tools, experience, or connections to make the magic happen.

Being an SEO expert is more like a blanket statement as opposed to calling yourself a professional shoe salesman for example. And even if you were an expert shoe salesman, there are still dozens of different styles of shoe which can be worn for any sort of activity, so even in as what may seem as mundane a job as shoe sales, there are intricacies. When it comes to search, there are many different aspects to the game. There are copywriters, who help you generate unique, compelling content for your website. There are people with a skill set in helping you work out site usability issues. Having a high bouce rate on your internal pages, an SEO with a knack for site usability is what you’re needing. Some have a knack for spotting trends as they happen, and some know only what they’ve read in a book or a blog.

Those are the ‘experts’ which comprise the majority of the profession. And at the top end of the spectrum you have the true search experts. We can break down your site and help clean up any messy coding or usability issues. We’ll help you work out your content, work out a clearer call to action and how best to leverage your desired key terms for your best results. And we’ve already picked out the next trending topic in your industry and are working out a strategy with you to capitalize on it. Careful you don’t end up on the wrong end of the SEO line, and end up like poor Dilbert here.

Social Search – Google Wasn’t First

Over the last couple of weeks people have been hacking and slashing at Google because they’ve rolled out a change to how your results pages show up when you conduct a search. They’ve dubbed the change “Search plus Your World” and the idea is you receive Google+ data while signed into your Google account and conduct a search. Personally, I really don’t see the issue with their idea and here’s why.

Number one reason, if you’re signed into your Google account, searching Google.com, why would it surprise you to find publicly available information from Google+ in your results pages if it’s relevant? And from all of the screenshots of the integrated social results, a click of a button and they’re gone. Another argument I’ve seen about Google integrating the information into the SERPs is they are prioritizing its own content instead of linking out to third-party sites, which arguably is the whole point of a search engine. Valid point to bring up, but again, you can simply shut the option off with a few clicks at most. In the online world where 800 million or so people are used to the “opt-out” model thanks to Facebook, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for another major web player to try it. Twitter and Facebook even backed a small browser bookmark of sorts to help cull out the Google+ results from your results pages. It’s outraged enough people, that bloggers are already forcasting that Bing is the new King of Search.

It’s perhaps those last two points which contributed to my puzzlement. For all of the people up in arms with Google and switching over to Bing, I can only assume two things. You were born on January 1, 2012 and you don’t have a Facebook account; amazing really considering there are so many. Here’s a brief excerpt from an article stabbing at the changes Google has recently made:

The new feature is baked right into Google and aims to personalize your search results by including Google+ data when you are signed into your Google account.

And here, is an excerpt from an article written in May 2011:

The worlds of SEO and social media were rocked the other day when Bing announced they will incorporate Facebook data into their search results for the most personal social-search integration to hit the web. What does this mean for the user? If you search for something on Bing and are logged into your Facebook account, you will see which pages, products and websites your friends Like and recommend high in the results, regardless of where that page ranks in the general SERP.

Perhaps Facebook should recite the idiom, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as Bing and Facebook have been at social search integration coming up quickly on a year of implementation.

First Algorithm Shift of 2012?

There’s been a shift in the algorithm lately, as most in search are aware of and it may have a little to do with a Google blog post recently put up. In it, Google commented on websites with heavy advertising at the top of the page, forcing visitors to search for the actual content and about how things are going to change.

From their post it reads that there are complaints about having to basically search for results twice on the web. When a user clicks on what they deem the most relevant to their search and they’re greeted with a website which is heavy with advertisements on the top of the page; they’re needing to search the website again for their content. Top heavy advertisements on websites were mentioned as being so heavily populated with ads, a user has to scroll to even begin to find content. Google also mentioned that for going forward, those websites which are advertisement heavy, ‘may not rank as highly as before’.

Now don’t fret if you have an ad block on your website, you’re not going to be kicked into the basement of search. This change is going to affect less than 1% of searches conducted globally. So unless you’re in the business of having tons of spam on your webpages, you should be just fine. As usual when there are any kind of algorithm changes, no doubt in a few days the ‘end of SEO’ will be heralded online for the beginning of the year. But those who have been playing the game from the beginning, who helped shape just how search works and hammer out the rules, they should be the ones you watch. Until it comes from one of the real search experts that SEO is dead, I’ll just keep on plugging along.

SEO What they don’t tell you.

An optimized website

What they say: Even if you don’t actually sell products online, a website gives potential customers and investors the opportunity to find out more about you and your company. For a website to be effective and bring new customers and investors to your doors it needs to be seen. Search engine optimization can help position your website on the first few pages of the search engines which means it’s much more likely to receive visitors.

As well as ensuring the copywriting on your website is optimized with keywords, you need to make sure your web developers or designers have created an SEO friendly website.

With 65,000 new websites coming online every day, not including new pages and blog added to existing websites daily the chances of you ever seeing high traffic and rankings without a BIG cost is near on impossible. Nobody ever mentions the cost do they.

Fact: Investment for marketing the website from approx. $1500 – $20,000 per month depending on size and your competition.

Active social media channels

What they say: Having a profile set up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (plus the numerous other social media networks) isn’t enough. For your social media campaign to be a success you need to continually interact with your network.

And to be honest who gives a crap what bus stop or pizza shop you’re at or what you have just eaten, Your top score on a farm game or flirting teens pretending while the parents are out. Get a life. Limited for business unless very local.

Fact: A full-time job to do it properly along with a full-time salary approx. $30,000 – $50,000 per annum.

An up to date blog

What they say: Blogging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to forge an identity for yourself online. Blogs allow you to share your expertise with your visitors and it encourages them to see you as a leading authority in your industry sector. As you build up your blog with opinion pieces, news stories and reviews you will create an online resource for your blog visitors.

Fact: Takes your time and money, time is money or employ someone to do it, another salary.

While there is a lot of information and help out there to get you started, do not be taken in by all the BS that people and company’s shovel out. Sure Google also has SEO guidelines which cover what you should and should not be doing in order to create a well optimized website. Check it out  Rand at SEOMoz have a multitude of free blogs, videos and podcasts on their website to help people understand the basic (and more advanced) SEO techniques too, but the cold hard facts are it takes time, money and knowledge to be a real player. As I have said many times, pay peanuts and you will get monkey’s.

As a small business if you don’t have at least $20k a year to throw at marketing your online presence, forget it, you will never even scratch the surface, if some company gives you bullshit about the must have Facebook, twitter and rest accounts, run for the hills, these usually are the wannabe online marketers, with sharp tongues (usually forked) and snappy suits. You can get business from social, but it’s limited, search is and has been #1 from the start and will continue for a very long time.

Ask yourself what you do when you want something, whether on your phone, laptop or desktop, you search first.

Opinions are those of the writer.

Google’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox

google-chromeGoogle’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox as the second-most-popular browser, according to one Web statistics firm.

Data provided by StatCounter, an Irish company that tracks browser usage using the free analytics tools it offers websites, shows that Chrome will pass Firefox to take the No. 2 spot behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) no later than December.

As of Wednesday, Chrome’s global average user share for September was 23.6%, while Firefox’s stood at 26.8%. IE, meanwhile, was at 41.7%.

Next Google Competitor?

So in the world of search there’s a handful of true search engines, those little boxes of which you type in your current question or conundrum and off you go into the wild internet. We have Bing, which holds onto somewhere around 27% or so of the search market, Google who holds onto the lions share of search at just over 65%, and all those little crumbs in the bottom are search engines like Ask.com etc.

It’s not difficult to find press about how Bing is making massive inroads into Googles share of search, or how last year Bing grew by over 90%.. blah blah blah. When you boil the numbers all the way down however, all you’re really left with is Google and Bing, and the only way Bing is going to make positive growth in search is to take it from Google. So using misleading titles to the tune of Bing overtaking Google, or Bing Grows 90% over the year are nearly wholely misleading. Even with all of this “incredible growth”, with all of the addins and marketing strategies Microsoft throws at Bing they’re left with a fairly large problem. Despite owning more than 25% of the worlds search volume, Bing doesn’t make any money for Microsoft.

That may not seem like it makes any sense, but look at it from a different perspective, try and see it from the advertising angle of things. The sole product sold by search engines are the advertisements that appear on search pages, which are sold not for a set amount, but based on how many times customers click on an ad tied to the search phrase that brought the user to the page. And since Google has such a huge search market share, they’re rolling in cash right from the start because of their cost per click for their adword programs. Now the one biggest reason Bing doesn’t make money, isn’t because they have a smaller search share than Google alone, as it turns out, the cost per click tied to their advertising model is as much as 1/5 the cost of Googles cost. As bad as that may sound as a revenue model, it actually gets a little worse for the Bing machine. Less CPC looks great on the surface, but as an advertiser it brings up the issue of what is driving that low cost. Bing has less traffic than Google at the outset, the CPC to serve the same ad on Bing is cheaper than Google and in the end it translates into less ad impressions on the Microsoft search engine.

So the question in the end really, is there ever really going to be a solid competitor to the Google machine? If a multi-billion dollar a year company can’t even step into the same arena as the giant and succeed, who truly can? I say bring them all on, competition is what made the web what it is today, more will only make it better.

Panda Attack! Don’t Panic – Be Patient First

So if you’ve been tracking your sites progress on Googles search results pages, and you noticed some funny movement in the last week or so, you’re not imagining things. Google came out with it finally and admitted, yes they’ve had another regular update, but with Panda as part of the equation this time. Some have noticed that their sites have shifted a half dozen places or so, and some have noticed that for some of their optimized terms they’ve just completely disappeared.

As shocking and distrubing as it may be to suddenly find you’re not in the results where you were in the previous weeks, you may want to hold off on that complete site revamp to address your disappearance. To put it another way, Google took their search index, full of billions and billions of terms, tossed it up in the air and all of the websites are still coming down. Being filtered into all of their most relevant terms based on the current algorithm, it’s safe to wait just a few more days to see what happens through the weekend.

Google and +1

So search, it’s a funny game, moving, shifting, always changing. Facebook has their ‘Like’ button, which Bing has added their own special metric and weight to. And Google has their newer +1 button which they’ve come out and said basically ‘Yes it’s good for you to have on your site along side the Like button’. Basic fact though, the implementation of the +1 button on your site was actually bogging it down as of late, cutting your performance in half by almost half in some extreme cases.

While the Facebook ‘Like’ button is a flat blue color, the +1 button is a script or two which glows and stands out from your web pages. Definitely a hindrance to performance conscientious site owners, it wasn’t long until another disturbing trend was noticed. Visitors to pages with the +1 button, were slowly and steadily dropping. Almost strangely and on cue, Google has released a new version of their +1 button, faster, sleeker and much more in line with current web speed standards.

And just like the Facebook button, and those scandalous people making a living selling their browser clicks. It seems that because the +1 button can have a positive effect on your search ranking, some of the less scrupulous SEO companies out there are now selling their clicks. It’s not much of a stretch or a surprise really, as there are grey SEOs to be found all over the web selling all manner of SEO tricks. Selling links, scraping and rewriting content for you, Facebook ‘Like’ sellers and now +1 sellers. Just cut the SEO juice from the button and it’s true use will emerge, content promotion because it’s genuinely good content.

Don’t Over Do Yourself – Website Tips 101

Unless you’re a member of the tinfoil hat group, you’ve undoubtedly used the internet and a search engine at some point in the last few days. You may have used Bing, maybe Google, but you had that need for information. Irregardless of which search engine you decided to partake in, you made your choices based on what you learned. But if you’ve ever been curious, ever taken the time, the results from Bing and Google can sometimes completely differ for the exact same search.

Effective searching is, strangely enough, a skill that everyone who is online should have, yet few do. It’s actually difficult sometimes to explain to clients, both existing and prospective, that the more complicated you make search in your head, the more frustrating your SEO campaign will be to you. The first problem as a business and website owner that you need to overcome, is the idea that when people search for you online, they use niche or specialized terms as they work. Unfortunately however, this is where things begin to go over the top in complication. If you own a website and business which fixes vacuums, then it’s in your best interest to optimize and build your site around that theme. The wrong approach to take would be to try and optimize your site around all of the different brands you deal with, instead of using an all encompassing term.

Different search engines display their results differently as well, and you’ll show up for different terms in them. Some of the points which will influence where, when and how you appear are things like your content, your url structure can even influence your positioning some what as can the lack of content. There’s no such thing as too much content, provided of course it’s relevant to your business and website. Keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and before you know it you’ll be showing up in the SERPs for all sorts of terms and phrases relevant to your business.