When you’re working in the online marketplace, there needs to be some understanding as to how the web likes to work it’s mojo. If you’ve owned a business, you’ve probably heard a hundred different pitches about ranking your site at #1 for multiple terms, and all in about a week for the low, low price of only $250. Hopefully for your sake, you didn’t take that offer, because if you did you’re likely going to have a tough battle with the search engines fairly soon.
The thing with working online is it’s a skilled profession, much like being a designer is, or being a mechanic. Anyone can draw a stick man or change a flat tire, but busting out your tool box and rebuilding your engine from the engine mounts up is likely out the question for the majority of us out there. As for the level of expertise that is required to properly optimize your website and it’s contents, that would depend on what you’re looking to rank for, and what you would love to be found for. As unlikely as it may sound, the terms you would like to rank for do play a pivotal role in the time that is required to get you listed properly in the search results.
As internet marketing professionals, we’ve consistently ranked our clients for the terms that they’ve wanted. Sometimes it takes months to rank for the larger, national terms, and there are times when we get lucky and the interest is only in the local marketplace. But it always takes some amount of time, a couple of weeks here, a few months there. We don’t control the search engines, we can however, make you and your website highly relevant for your needs. When we provide you with a time frame for success, it’s not a solid time frame, but it is a very educated and practiced guess. Where search is concerned there is no quick and easy fix, we have tried and true methods which, when allowed the time we advised to work, will lead you in the direction you desired when joining us. The process will work, the steps we put in place, will work, sometimes the hardest ingredient in the mix is a little patience and a dash of temperance.
An interesting point to notice about a search engine, is just how many results are returned when performing a search. Google and Bing have indexed trillions of pages if you mixed them together, an always increasing amount. Some written articles have called it a problem, but Google and Bing rarely display any results passed the 1000 range, even if it says that it found 25,000,000 results for your query.
It isn’t so much a problem that they don’t display a value larger than 1000 results, the question should really be ‘Do they need to?’ The search engines like to pride themselves on delivering the most relevant results, based on what you’ve searched for, your past history and so on. If you’re a fan of having a no strings attached type search, using a search engine like DuckDuckGo may be more up your alley, but the first point still remains. What point does it serve if a search engine tells you it finds millions of results, and doesn’t show you them.
Let’s take the following quick search from Google, for ice cream. We’re in Winnipeg, so we were returned the results for the Wikipedia entry, and then we got into the local restaurants and dessert places that purvey ice cream. But when you look at how many results are returned, 463,000,000.. is that entirely relevant? I don’t need that many results about ice cream, it’s not that wide of a variable product, but Google has said they have that many results. This is where some written pieces have said that there is a problem, even though it says that it has 463,000,000 results, I can’t browse passed the first 1,000 results even though there’s been so many returned. It’s more a personal preference, but some very basic math (default search results pages show 10 results) says, why would I be looking on page 46 million to see what has been indexed about ice cream?
Where online marketing and your brand are concerned, you shouldn’t worry about what is showing in terms of how many pages have been returned that have been indexed. There are some sites and pages from the early 90s that can still be found, which are horrid where aesthetics and usability are concerned if you’d really like to find them. The vast majority of search users don’t go to page 2, let alone page 3 or 4, chances are if their result hasn’t been found on their first search they’re going to revise their terms and try again. Focus on your content, focus on being relevant, and focus on the basics. Don’t worry about the other 463 million results.
Typically when you want to learn the answer to a question, or you want to find the name of that actor in the show you saw, you turn to the internet. Most of the time you have an idea on what site you need to visit to learn your answers, but when you’re not entirely sure where to start you always go back to the beginning of the web. While it’s not really the beginning of the web, search engines do a great job of being a front page, which you can use to access the information you’re looking for.
The web, the way that we interact with it, websites, and search engines have all changed a great deal since this whole thing began. At first the web was just some random websites, that in order to access you needed the IP to get to them. Primarily text based and only informational, it was no where near what we have today. Search engines, Google especially so, have caught the attention of the world. Privacy issues, defamation cases, anti-trust lawsuits, all of them pointed at the largest web index out there, mostly because they’re number one. There is absolute truth about the way Google shares your account information with any devices you use while signed in, it’s how the service learns to deliver you results which you might be interested in. Anti-trust suits are growing mostly for the same reasons that they did against Microsoft a while back with their Internet Explorer browser and how EU users felt they weren’t given a choice with the Windows OS (largely paraphrased). And defamation suits may pick up steam with the recent ruling in Australia, that Google can be viewed as a publisher of the search results page, making them liable for the links they post. In all of these cases the thinking is fairly basic, if you can make the biggest fish in the sea change the way it operates, everyone else will likely follow suit.
A point it seems that lawyers and judges seem to forget however, is that the web is a much bigger place than it was even a few years ago. With somewhere in excess of 2 billion connected users, websites, search engines, and every online resource has had to rapidly change to serve their visitors needs. Search engines like Google and Bing, developed an instant answer service which immediately displays results based on what you’re searching for, based on the most searched terms currently. Instant results vary a fair amount every couple of weeks and often more frequently, but the key point that seems to be ignored: the terms used in autocomplete are the most popular terms that have been searched so far. Your autocomplete searches will vary greatly depending on your search history, the top search trends and the your local search activity. Unfortunately for Google and any other search engine that uses a results page of any kind, the mantra of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ is still largely unheeded in current court cases.
There was a birthday today, were you aware that this technology has reached the ripe old age of 20? It was born from a need to communicate snippets of conversation in a quick, simple fashion, so Vodafone birthed the first text message in the UK. It was a huge step in the way the world communicates, and it was good 10 years before anything like it happened in Canada.
It’s not the sending of the first text message that was the point of todays blog, it’s the point of fact that it took 10 years for that same technology to reach our side of the pond. Since Jerry took up roots here 5 years ago, he’s been trying to teach the business community on moving forward, about embracing the technology and methodologies that he’d been using in the UK. And Winnipeg has been resistant, it’s been a difficult uphill battle that’s only been starting to allow us some traction. It is a poor showing on our part, Winnipegs part, to allow our past business dealings to dictate our future online.
Winnipeg needs to move ahead, in a much quicker fashion if it expects to keep up in todays business world. We have a handful of the local business owners who have seen the light and are enjoying the fruits of our labor in the online world, which translate to very real, very tangible results on their bottom line. The real question that has been asked of those who don’t want to grow online, is what are you waiting for? The web and online tech isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up and as a city we’re already behind by at least 5-6 years. We’re ready to help you here at Fresh, the question is are you ready to grow?
There’s a lot of noise being made lately from the Bing side of the web about how Google isn’t playing by the good old search rules and they’ve coined their term ‘Scrooogled’. I find the term a bit of comedy, as Scroogle used to be an anonymous way to search via Google by blocking cookies and not using log files, but instead of focusing on a service that no longer exists I had a read of Bings press release on the matter.
The title: “Don’t get Scroogled: Bing Launches Campaign for Honest Search..” I shortened it a bit as it’s rather long, but it sounds like they want to help search engine users find relevant results. It didn’t take long for Bing to get into the numbers of things, a projected $96 billion in online shopping this year, but perhaps a little generous when saying half of that comes from search engines. That number is likely lower than that, but, let’s disregard that for the moment – most online shoppers use a site like Amazon to find their deals online. It didn’t take very long for Bing to start comparing apples to oranges though, because very quickly in their blog posting they talk about how the Google Shopping results are based partially on paid inclusion – much like you would do with running an profitable Adwords campaign. For those who have never seen the admin side of the Adwords platform, once you’ve set your bid and ad, Google gives you a projection of where they think you’ll place within the results. They’re by no means set in stone and change day to day based on bid, competition on your terms, and so on.
Why I use the apples to oranges comparison however is because Bing is comparing search results, to shopping results, and saying that Bing is playing by the “old search rules” where Google Shopping is not. you can’t really compare Bing web search to Google Shopping search, as it would be like comparing Google web search to Amazon shopping search, they serve different functions and as a result, function completely different. In May of this year Google Commerce published a blog describing how the change to the shopping side of their product was going to begin to use a paid metric to help build on the relevance of the results, because a retailer wouldn’t pay for an ad to list a fake product. It is like advertising using billboards or radio ads to try and reach more consumers, it’s just another marketing medium to get your product out there. So to skip ahead just a little, Bing is comparing their organic web search, to Google’s Shopping search results – an apples to oranges comparison.
In the interest of fairness, I decided to have a look at the Bing shopping results, versus the Google shopping results. Being that we’re now comparing apples to apples, if there is a disparity it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. I searched for the likeliest top sellers for the holiday shopping season, and was surprised at every turn. Not by the results that Google served me, but by the lack of results Bing returned. Each results page was sorted by relevance, and I’ll just let the screenshots speak for themselves.
There’s been a number of news worthy topics which occured today, one of the biggest in the search sphere would have had to be the glitch with the Google Webmaster tools. It created a bit of drama, thankfully it has been addressed so it’s not an issue anymore. There’s Larry Page who is sitting down with the FTC, extending the cycle of litigation against the search engine that it is biased in it how it displays search results, favoring it’s own products over others. The other tid bit of news which caught my eye was around DuckDuckGo, the crawl frequency it has and how it seems like it runs on it’s own set of rules.
The only real issue between Google and the FTC is that they really don’t want to be negotiating at this point. With Page sitting down with the FTC over the antitrust talks, there doesn’t seem to be any common ground where the two are even attempting to meet. The FTC won’t give in unless Google allows them enforcement authority over the results it serves, and they’re not very likely to be giving that control up anytime soon. The disappointing part is that it is likely that neither party wants the case to go to litigation, as it’s just going to increase the time it takes to make any kind of progression on the claims by fairsearch.org who believes that Google is guilty of search results bias and serves it’s own web properties over others. Soon enough, someone will have to buckle somewhere, it is just a waiting game at this point to see who it is.
As for all of the drama surrounding the Webmaster Tools accounts with Google? Well someone must have plugged in an old verification server because there was a glitch where by it was noticed that people who no longer had access to some accounts, once again did. Thankfully the error has been repaired, it does however leave a bad feeling about the verification process and about how it was skipped with just a glitch in the system. Hopefully it’s not an easily repeatable error, as having access to site information you’re not supposed to have can likely be a chargable offense.
The small story about DuckDuckGo has some interesting implications for the still somewhat small search engine. DDG has prided and formed itself around the idea that it does not collect user data and as such, you get “clean” results each time you search. The idea being that the most relevant should be able to always nab the top spots, regardless of your online activities. It was noticed however, that DDG was crawling under it’s UP, but it wasn’t coming up as displaying it’s own useragent – a way for site owners to determine who visited their site. The answer from the horses mouth was fairly basic, but depending on how it’s information that it returns is interpreted into it’s index could have some interesting SEO implications.
What you’re seeing is not a crawler, but a parked domain checker. We don’t believe it needs to be identified as it only makes one request very infrequently and doesn’t index any information”
There’s been a case of defamation in an Australian court where it was claimed that Google (knowingly) defamed someone by tying him to organized crime, both in organic and image search. Google was found guilty by jury, and has been ordered to pay a fine of what amounts to about 30 seconds of work for them ($200,000), but it’s not the fine that has the company a bit worried, it’s the precedent that it would be setting. Google is currently in the process of appealing the decision, we’ll all have to wait to see what happens.
The case was launched off of the search results for both organic and image listings which showed the claimant with ties to the local crime scene. Google responded that they’re not in control of the results page, that they merely list what has been observed as being popular search terms for the area. It sounds like a weak argument, but you can see how Google tracks their top trends by looking at Google Trends, you get a very brief glimpse into what the top searches were for the last day or so.
Back to why this is a bad idea however, to hold Google accountable as a publisher, and not as an information provider. The jury in this particular case decided that Google was guilty as a publisher and created the page which delivered the false information, and the images pages that are served up when you search are Google specific creations. As anyone who has any experience working with images online can tell you, there is the alt tag which can be used to give an image a text like value, which can then be indexed by the search engines. The image results page is actually the most recent target by black hat manipulators the last couple of months, not only because of this feature but it helps them get listed much quicker than pushing for listings in the center of the page.
Google being declared a publisher of the search results pages makes them accountable for the comments that came up in search, even though they never actually created the content themselves. It’s happened a handful of times that have made the news in recent years, with Rick Santorum being the most recent victim of results page manipulations by spammers and some other unscrupulous methods, but the results pages were driven by the users and by the most frequently used search terms. Blaming any search engine, not just Google for the aforementioned issue is like blaming your mechanic for your bus being late getting you to work. Once something is on the internet it’s also notoriously difficult to try and remove, ask anyone of the stars out there who have unflattering photos which pop up from time to time, once it’s online, it is forever. This also brings up the point of online brand protection, and the importance of a positive relationship in the local scene, with proper brand management mistakes like this can be captured and stopped before they begin.
The ruling sets a scary precedent in a way, as if it stands then it opens the door to an increasingly censored internet. Add into the mix that the ITU will be meeting in just a couple of weeks and the issue of net neutrality and freedom of use and access starts to become a threatened point.
The US Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it Black Friday, the occasion when everyone tries to find the best deal. But the limelight is slowly turning to focus on the new comer to the shopping scene – coined Cyber Monday in 2005. We’d written about the date in early August, as with the internet and the search engines working the way they do, it would give you time to put yourself in a commanding position. Did you take advantage of the forewarning? Or did you just settle for where you are, and lean on your in-store sales? If you did the latter, you’ll likely soon be kicking yourself as the predictions and the numbers are starting to come in.
Cyber Monday was first used in 2005 after the increase in online spending had suddenly jumped. Since then, the industry has climbed to being such a huge business that some stores are reporting that nearly 40% of their yearly income is from this singular online shopping day. And that number will only continue to grow. This year it’s estimated that on this one day alone Americans will likely spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion dollars in 24 hours, and that’s up a good 17% from last years online spending. With more and more people having more connected devices, from phones to computers, iPads and laptops, the lure to shop online is growing rapidly. The best quote about from comScore came would have to be the following:
Of all the benchmark spending days, Thanksgiving is growing at the fastest rate, up 128 percent over the last five years
That’s a huge portion of income that you could potentially be missing out on just by not taking advantage of the online branding advice we hand out freely here on our blog. The number of 17% growth, year after year needs to be taken with a grain of salt of course, as some industries can expect consistent sales, but as a business owner you need to take stock. What could you achieve with a better online position, what improvements could you make with a 5% increase in income? What about 8%, or 10% for that matter? When you’re ready to find out, contact us here at Fresh and we’ll help you answer those questions.
Search is a finicky thing on it’s own, let alone when you start throwing all sorts of (seemingly) random variables to serve the results pages. Both Bing and Google have their own set of checks and balances which they use to deliver the results page based on your search terms. As varied as the internet is, there will be metrics that both of the algorithms use, and the differing ones are those that make the search results unique in their own way. These algorithms that are in use have developed and grown over time, as has the search market and the way it functions as a whole.
The search market started out in a very basic way, you typed in the terms you wanted to find information on, and the spiders searched through their index that they’d built and tried to return to you the results they felt best matched your request. The query you used was taken by the spiders and they searched for the exact terms and anything that matched it, search began as a relative function. As the definition goes, relative means in relation to, so if you searched the term ‘red rose’ as an example, you’d not only get images and descriptions of flowers, but you’d also likely end up with pages of the baking flour as well. Both items are relative to the search term you’ve entered, so it would make sense to a bot to show you both, as it couldn’t discerne what you were searching for.
Now the web has grown up a lot, it’s started to mature and has developed some, almost scary, tricks. It’s a term which has been thrown around a lot in the last 6 months especially, but it’s regarding the growing nature of semantic search. The simplest way to describe it would be with that same term from relative search – ‘red rose’ – with the way the web and search is evolving the bot would act intelligently. It’s being seen more and more often in Google, Bing and the social networks out there, because you’re an avid baker, the bots would likely serve you results pages more populated with the baking flour, and associated websites with recipes on it. Now it won’t bet the farm on you wanting the baking results, so you’d also receive some of the flower on your page, but it’s a best guess situation.
Semantic search, and likely presumptive search is the way we’re heading. Soon you won’t even really have to search for an item or a website, the bots, or whatever technology it is running things at that time, would know what you’re looking for within your first few terms you type. It might seem scary, it may even seem intrusive at this point in the way the world works and how people think. The simplest truth however is, this is where the web and search is going. It also means that from my point of view, the job of online branding and branding online will become vastly more important than it is today.
When we build a website for a client, whether they’re in Winnipeg or anywhere else in the world, we make sure that any kind of forward thinking marketing is covered. And since we’re in the business of online branding and internet marketing, we try and make sure that each website we develop has the capabilities to become a leader in their niche, so long as they decide they want too. We didn’t just come up with some arbitrary stats which we settled on, there are some very specific points that we look for. We’ll go over a handful of the options this time around, if you’re involved in the industry in any way, you’ll probably recognize some traits in the platform you use.
One of the very first points that is a necessity, is being ablt to customize page titles, and the meta tags of each page. If it’s a properly built website, and you’re following the best practice guide that both Google and Bing have readily available, then you should know already that having an identical title or tags on all of your pages is a big no-no. You should at the very least be able to customize each page title, meta data, and your header tags, if you can’t manage these very basic snippets of information on your site, then you’ve already started off on the wrong foot and we haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet!
I’ve touched on this point several times, but when you’re building your site you need to think about the navigation menu. And I’m not referring creating a singing and dancing menu that thanks a visitor for being a part of the website experience, I’m looking more at a navigation menu that uses CSS to control the display elements. You can have an impressively interactive navigation menu just by using CSS elements, which are easily indexed by all of the search engines and are much more responsive than a java or flash equivalent. Besides being responsive and a solid display method, it also allows you to control the contents of the menu, so if you happen to make a spelling mistake, don’t be surprised to find it indexed if you’re not paying attention.
It is an often overlooked feature, as a normal site owner doesn’t usually think about the website link beyond the main address, but being able to control how your URLs are created is a major point where best website development practices are concerned. If you’ve ever been on a major online shopping site like Ebay for example, if you’ve ever copied and pasted a link of a page to an email you’d notice the link contains a mess of letters a numbers (=item20cdb2380c&_uhb=1#ht_599wt_1139). These letters and numbers aren’t there for users, they’re definitely SEO unfriendly, and need to be avoided at all costs if possible.
These are only a couple of the very basic best practices that you’ll find discussed in any of the website development guides out there. If you’ve got the time, you should work your way through your site and if you have it, your CMS backend and ensure that you have all of the above listed functionality. If you’ve learned that you don’t have these capabilities, get in touch with us here at Freshtraffic as soon as possible and we’ll get that taken care of for you. The longer you wait on necessary changes like the above, the deeper you could be lost in the results pages.