Brits don't understand search engines

Almost all of us use search engines, but most Britons “either have no idea or an inaccurate view of how online search results are determined,” according to the Online Search Matters Survey produced for FastHosts, the Web hosting company. The main findings are:

Nearly 1 in 4 Britons (24%) believe that the order of the search listings they use cannot be influenced by the publishers of websites listed, whilst a similar proportion (22%) suspect that results are ordered entirely according to how much has been paid by the websites listed. 1 in 5 consumers (19%) have no idea at all how results are compiled, and 5% believe that search listings are arranged completely at random like a lottery.

To be clear: the major search engines do not charge for listings, but their results are influenced by Web site publishers, partly through the use of SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques.

Men (33%) understand how search engines work a little better than women (26%).

Britons also trust organic results more than the “sponsored listings” that often appear above or alongside them. Fasthosts says:

1 in 3 (33%) believe these listings to be ‘less worthy’ and ‘less useful’ than main search results. Two thirds of web users (66%) report that they always pay attention first to main results, and some 40% of women and 34% of men will consciously ignore sponsored links whenever they appear.

The survey is based on 1,636 UK adults interviewed by Tickbox.net in November 2008 via electronic feedback forms.

Of course, if you started compiling a list of things that lots of Brits don’t understand, you’d be busy for some time. It’s also not clear that understanding how search engines work has much practical value if you just want to find sites, rather than promote them. However, if I ran a search engine, I’d be looking for ways to make it clearer that organic results, unlike sponsored links, are not paid for.

SEO could benefit non-profit organisations it is

The online marketing strategy of search engine optimization [SEO] could prove to be an asset for those working in nonprofit organisations,according to researchers.

A team working at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management discovered that search marketing can prove to be a cost-effective strategy and therefore useful for non-profit groups.

It also suggested that using keywords to boost SEO could attract the attention of potential benefactors, which could provide a welcome boost during the economic downturn.

The researchers stated in their report: “The compilation, selection, and evaluation of search engine keywords are vitally important to any Search Engine Marketing campaign.”

Last week, ITV released the results of a poll, which discovered that respondents claim prefer overlay advertisements to pre-roll advertisements.

Canada's Most Googled Words – Canadians are Googling

Today the U.S. Internet titan will take the wraps off its first-ever Google Canada Zeitgeist, a yearly ranking of the most common Web queries made by Canadians through the company’s search engine.

The results are as surprising as they are curious.

The most common keyword Canadians punched into Google this year was “Facebook,” the popular social-networking site. Google’s own video-sharing site YouTube came in at No. 2, and music-loving Canucks pushed “lyrics” into the No. 3 slot. The Top 10 also contained more mundane terms such as “map” and “weather.”

Until this year, the list only included U.S. search data, but for 2008, Google is taking the Zeitgeist international for the first time by publishing the top queries from 36 countries, including Canada.

If the federal election were to be decided on the basis of which party Canadians spent the most time Googling in 2008, then prime minister Elizabeth May would be unpacking at 24 Sussex Dr.

“Obama” was the keyword that saw the greatest increase in Canadian search queries between 2007 and 2008.

But on a global basis, no search keyword showed greater growth than “Sarah Palin.”

TOP SEARCHES

1. Facebook

2. YouTube

3. Lyrics

4. Weather

5. Games

6. Google

7. Hotmail

8. Yahoo

9. Maps

10. Canada

TOP POLITICAL PARTIES

1. Green Party

2. Liberal Party

3. Conservative Party

4. NDP

5. Bloc Québécois

TOP CELEBRITIES

1. Britney Spears

2. Jessica Alba

3. Heath Ledger

4. Lindsay Lohan

5. Angelina Jolie

6. Kim Kardashian

7. Megan Fox

8. Tila Tequila

9. Zac Efron

10. Pamela Anderson

TOP PERSONAL ELECTRONICS

1. Palm Treo

2. BlackBerry

3. Sync

4. HP iPAQ

5. Slingbox

Zeitgeist Canada 2008

Canadians Google Facebook more than anything else

Canadians have Googled the social-networking site Facebook more than any other website this year.

For the first time, Internet search-engine giant Google released its most-popular and fastest-rising Canuck search queries for 2008.

Google says Britney Spears topped the list for most the sought-after celeb in Canadian cyberspace and the Green party as the most-searched political party.

The California-based company ranks the massively popular Facebook first overall.

It also says the search word “Obama” rose in popularity more than any other term between the end of 2007 and November 2008.

Yahoo! Canada released its most-searched items for 2008 earlier this month.

Yahoo! says Canadians queried the online multiplayer adventure game RuneScape more than anything else this year.

The company also says Miley Cyrus surged ahead of last year’s most-popular celebrity, Britney Spears.

Marketing Lessons from Google

1. Under-monetize to buy mindshare. (almost every category Google is in)

2. Offer a free version to make sure everyone who may want to has a chance to experience your product and/or service. (almost every category Google is in)

3. Offer something that forces people to keep coming back to your website. Alternatively, bundle your stuff into the browser. (the Google Toolbar is huge.)

4. Invest heavily in distribution deals and public relations. Keep making small changes and talking about how important they are so you stay in the media. Maintain that your success is because superior products even while you are buying marketshare.

5. If a business model competes with your model, try to guide the conversation and get market participants to attack each other to your own benefit (this, above all other reasons, is why it is not smart for “professional” SEOs to publicly endorse outing each other…nobody wins but Google).

6. Offer free or low cost versions of cash cows of competing services to distract them and/or force change upon them. (Google Docs)

7. Even when you have a market leading position, keep investing heavily in complimentary markets to reinforce your position as the default. Become ubiquitous. Become a verb. (mobile operating system)

8. When you tap out the potential of your product or service look for ways to make it deeper is select high value verticals. (onebox, universal search, site search)

9. When you have enough leverage and a large enough lead, change the market to put yourself at the center of it. (the Omnibox in Google Chrome)

Use free tools from search engines

If your site hasn’t added a Google Sitemap page, consider doing so. Google and other major search engines share a common feature that allows Webmasters to tell them about each page of their sites available for crawling and how often it changes and how important it is to the site. “You’re actually producing a page to have the search engine come to you,” he says.

Another free tool especially useful for small companies with a local clientele is Google Maps, a free local business-listing service, which displays an address, hours and description, sometimes at the top of a search-results page.

“It’s hard to pay for that kind of advertising

Make your site easy to navigate

It should be friendly not only to the human eye, but also to search-engine spiders—programs that crawl the Web looking for up-to-date information.

A site’s structure can make a big difference in how easily a spider can crawl it. Web addresses that use keywords related to the content of the page generally help a search engine better correlate them with the site. For example: www.yourwebsite.com/keyword/filename.html. The closer the keyword is to your homepage in the Web address, the more relevant a search engine will consider the page to be for that keyword, and the more likely the search engine will be to give your site a better ranking.

Another consideration is where content is placed on the page. Spiders read pages starting at the top left corner of a page, so pages, keyword links to content that’s especially important for search engines to see should be moved there.

Focus each page on one theme.

The keyword or keyword phrase you choose for a page should directly reflect the page’s content. Headlines, subheads and formatting, such as bold and italics, also should be related directly to this central subject. These indicators will signal to search-engine spiders that the keyword or keyword phrase is more prominent or prevalent than other words on the page, increasing the likelihood of a higher search ranking.

Study your traffic data for trends

Web-site hosting services and search engines have tools offering an array of statistics about what pages were visited on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, the Web pages that visitors used to reach your site, how long they stayed and other data. Sit down once a day or week to see how people are using your site, so you can learn what’s working and what isn’t.

SEO Tricks That Will Lower Ranking

So, the time has come for you to consider, or more likely than not, to reconsider your SEO strategy. Perhaps you’re new to the game, and don’t even know what SEO is. Don’t worry, we’ll explain it. We’ll also explain some tactics that seem at first glance to be good ideas, but really aren’t. Best of all, we’ll show you how to spot these bad ideas so your site doesn’t pay the consequences.
For those of you who have been living on an isolated tropical island paradise, or have been in prison, for the last few years and do not know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This term is a kind of a rubric, that rather than referring to one or two things that you can do to improve your listing, covers a wide range of possible actions and behaviors that can help you to grow your site in popularity and make you untold amounts of money. Essentially these are the actions that a site takes to cater to the searching algorithms that search engines use to determine which sites get a high ranking, and which ones land on the bottom of page 17 in the listings.

These tools can be a great thing. They can help you get your site straight to the top and bring you scores of readers, and if they are done well you can get the site to the top of the search engine results pages for several sets of related keywords, and not just one set. The name of the game here is popularity, and despite the fact that we had all hoped to get away from that when the senior prom was over, being popular still matters when you are online. The bottom line is popularity means ad revenues and that means power.

Since the world of search engines depends on algorithms, some of which, despite sounding very vague, are actually quite advanced, you have to be very careful what you do when you play with SEO tricks. Sure, some of them can raise your site up to the top spot, but others can drag you down without so much as a second thought. Choosing not just the right principles, but the right way to execute them, becomes the chief task of those people who choose to practice SEO.

That is right, you understood me just fine. You can use the right principles and still find yourself with a bad idea on your hands. This, in addition to being quite maddening if you think about it for too long, also means that you have to be extremely careful when you screen your ideas. Something that sounds like a great idea to begin with and is even based on a sound principle, can be a big no-no if you want to keep your site’s rankings up. That careful consideration is, of course, a sound practice in most areas of your life, but you should be sure that you don’t get suckered in.

That is not to say that I expect you to become an expert in the field overnight; even a seasoned professional would have to take a look at the details of the execution before deciding if this is a good plan or a bad plan. To help you get some judgment under your belt, we will talk about some of the techniques that have already been identified as a bad idea, despite the good principles that are behind them. Then we will talk a little about how to identify a bad idea on your own, because the bad ideas will always pop up in new forms now and again. So you will have to be ever vigilant before you try out anything new.

Link Building Via Service

When done in a genuine way, building links between sites is a great way to raise your listings. When you hire a service to do it, you have a problem, because you lose control. Unless the service that you use is extremely professional, very discrete and amazingly well connected, it is an absolute certainty that you should pass it by without a second glance.

When you give up control, especially to a service, you run the very serious risk of finding yourself linked with a site that is considered to be in a “Bad Neighborhood,” which means that being linked to them will actually lower your rankings seriously. If you want to build links, you should do so in a controlled environment, and with sites that are relevant to your site’s content. Don’t go crazy and don’t get lazy.

When you ad a keyword to your site, whether it be in the META tags or, if you own a blog, in the visible tags, then those tags should always be relevant to your content, and never be just a random listing of words that you think will send search engines to your site. To be honest, you always want to keep these words short, sweet and non-repetitive; while many of the search engines have stopped using these words to place sites into the top section of the results, they have not stopped using them to rule sites out.

If your site’s META tag list seems like it came from the dictionary, then you will find your brilliant strategy to increase your rankings has lowered them instead. A similar trick is done with titles on a site. This technique, more commonly known as “Title Stacking,” is another way of adding more keywords for the search engines to index, and they have caught on. Avoid both of these like the black plague.

Doorway Pages

This one sounds like it may be a good idea. You can make a lot of sub pages that direct to the information that your user wants to know, they get the information, and you get a lot of pages that can help to increase your rankings on a multitude of sets of key words. But this technique just makes most search engines upset, because these gateway sites have very little content on them, and their primary goal is to re-direct. I would suggest that you avoid this at all costs.

Borrowing Content

If you own content from another, similar site, or you are just getting content for the site from an article bank, you can run into these serious problems. Sites that are deemed to be using nothing but copy and paste content will run into problems with the engines right away, so if you are going to re-use content it should only be a small percentage of your site, and never on the main page. Also, as a side note, if you steal someone else’s content, you can end up getting your site removed wholesale. You also run the risk of getting sued.

Now that you have an inkling of some of the bad ideas, founded on good principles, it is time to talk about how you are going to learn to spot these ideas as they come up in the world of online content promotions.

To do this, you need to open up the hood and poke around at the idea’s mechanics to see if everything is in order, by asking some questions.

Question 1. Does this topic sound like any known bad practices?

Remember how I introduced title stacking as a sub-set of META tag abuse? That is because they have a set of similarities which make them sibling ideas. If you run across a sibling idea to one of the ones that you already know is a bad plan, then you should pass it by. No hesitation and no further questions needed.

Question 2. How does this serve the readers or the searchers?

If the only benefit is to the site, then the odds are that it will get you lowered. Search engines and sites are supposed to exist for end users. If the tactic causes an impairment to their finding what they want, then it will be used as a reason to knock you down. Search engines know where their money comes from, and it is not from you.

Question 3. Does this seem like spam?

If it is the kind of tactic that you would be annoyed to encounter, either while searching or in an e-mail, then you should probably skip it. No one likes a spammer, and the search engines are no exception to that statement. So if you have the distinct odor of spam in your nostrils, you should pass up this idea and go on to the next one.

Question 4. Does it just feel wrong?

Even if you can’t quantify the why of it, if an idea feels wrong for your site or for your conscience, then you should not use it, wither or not it will be treated negatively by
the search engines. You have to trust you instincts and err on the side of caution.

Now that you know, you can be vigilant to keep your site from having its rankings lowered by an honest mistake that makes you seem like you are trying to do something that is evil — even though we both know that you would never, ever do a thing like that.