Tag Archives: search

Forget The Hype Around Search Poisoning

For the last few years especially, the web has taken off as the delivery method for world news. You can get your local, or world news quicker and you can form a more complete picture quicker now than ever before. Occasionally old media methods, radio, newspaper, or television, come out with a story or report that makes me do two main things. The first I do is shake my head at how common sense the reports often are, and the second is a realization that in order for there to be a story, it meant someone had made a fuss over it.

poisonedThe news story which stuck in my mind the last couple of days came from a report that security experts were warning users of search engine poisoning, and how if you’re not careful you could hit a bad link. The security company (and I use that term loosely) even said that search engine poisoning is 3 times more likely to infect a computer with malware than opening an email with a tainted attachment. It wasn’t the report so much that makes me wonder about computer users out there, but it does shine some light on how far behind some companies are where the web is concerned.

The real problem I have with these types of reports are the hype they generate, and the disinformation they can spread. Search engine poisoning isn’t a new trend in cyber warfare, it’s been happening for years now. It’s not a new method that suddenly popped up because people stopped clicking on email attachments. The black hat manipulators out there have been gaming the search listings for highly popular terms almost as long as the web has been available. Trending topics are most often the usual suspects that are targeted, whether it’s a celebrity story, or holiday gift ideas. The search engines are getting better at catching the offenders out there, but just like the police can’t catch every bad guy out there, neither can Google or Bing stop all of the bad results from getting through.

Instead of relying on antivirus software and firewalls to protect your computer, you should take some time to practice safe search methods. And always remember, if the text of that little blue link sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.

How To Ruin Your Website

(Please don’t do anything from below!)

It isn’t difficult to find blogs or news posts about what steps you need to take with your website to try and improve your chances of being found online. What is a little more difficult to find, and what isn’t discussed often enough are the things that you don’t do to your website. These can vary from technical points, to filling your pages with nonsensical content which gives you no value at all.

There are a handful of technical points that can cause issues with your site, both with users and with search engines that you need to stay away from. Javascripts are handy snippets of code which can be applied to your website to change function or display, and can even be used to make your site highly interactive with your customers or clients. But some of the features which might seem amazing and you want to have on your site, are actually a problem, both for users and for search engines. One feature which has been gaining some traction as of late is setting up your website with a never ending scrolling pattern, much like how a Facebook page works. A couple of great reasons why this is a poor option for your website is it makes it taxing for your visitors to get through your content, and likely will make them want to leave. As for search engines, it just makes your pages look spammy with no real content or direction on them. One of the biggest pet peeves of my own while browsing, and I’m sure one of most users on the internet is abusing the auto play feature you can build into audio or video plugins. It’s an obnoxious feature which can lead to confusion, especially when the controls are minuscule or difficult to find and use.

badwebsitesAn older browsing tactic that is almost entirely disabled by browser plugins these days are using pop ups or pop under ads for your website to try and engage the user. In terms of search, they’re not the greatest idea either as any content you have within that pop window is typically lost to being indexed, and it can even hide your real content and intent. Because while a user can easily close a pop window, they don’t know the difference between a user, and a spider from a search engine. If a spider visits your site and is met with a pop up that disables the background, it’ll see an empty site at best, garbled nonsense at the worst. Following in much the same vein, you will always hear website optimization experts extoll the virtues of having and growing the content on your website. But you need to refrain from adding content, for contents sake. When you add extra content you run the risk of diluting your message, and mixing up the signals you send to the search engines at first, and that garbled message will eventually pass to your users.

Myths and Legends of Search

As widely varied as the information always is regarding search engines, the way they operate, and guesses and ideas about changes that may or not be happening, there is always someone out there who is making huge assumptions about their activity. The problem with speculation isn’t the nature of the act itself, but in how it can turn into the telephone game, and where the person in the front wrote a snippet of an article about funny page ranking activity, on the other end of the spectrum we have people telling you that they were banned from search for buying links or some such. The inception of search engine myths are a danger to the web, not for practiced experts in the field, but for those website owners and new comers to the space. They tend to run with the incredible ideas and notions, and forget that the simplest answer is likely the right one.

MythsEvery year we get some of the same myths making the rounds and they crop up year after year. At the outset so far it seems that the first myth to start us off is all about links and backlinking to your site. One of the largest offenders so far is that anchor link text is going to be at the very least a waste of time for you, at worst a detriment to your site. Now to start with, it’s dangerous to start spreading the misinformation that using anchor links on your site is a bad thing, as it is one of the simplest tools in the book to allow search engines to index your site quickly. The only danger that is associated with anchor text and links comes from ending up with backlinks coming from a less than squeaky clean site, but even then search engines have gotten much better at detecting and ignoring them. So the idea that anchor text and links are bad things, is a myth that needs to just finally go away, maybe 2013 will be the year that happens.

And I think one of the biggest myths that needs that just seems to stick around year after year along with the death of SEO, is that backlinks will no longer be the/a defining ranking signal. Anyone who has been involved in the industry for more than a couple of years will tell you, high quality, relevant backlinking isn’t going anywhere in terms of how important a factor it is where ranking is concerned. Here at Freshtraffic, we have more than 20 years of experience of working on the web and scouring the globe for high quality, relevant backlinks for our clients sites. And the number one thing we can take away with that experience is aside from upkeep on those links, is that backlinks are always important. The naysayers who are primarily calling out the death of backlinking are often marketers who are pushing fully into the social area, putting all of their eggs in a single basket. Bing has integrated social signals into their search, Facebook is coming out with their own version of a search engine, and Google has their own social angle with Google+, social is definitely here and it is here to stay. But if nearly two thirds of average online activity is done while not signed into a social account, it shows how much are those marketers losing by focusing on the social only angle.

Online optimization isn’t a one step process, the companies who will remain successful on the web will embrace all aspects of optimizing a clients website. Social, local, on page optimization and off page back link gathering and that is only the beginning of the optimization spectrum.

Yahoo Digs In To Grow

Yahoo-HqWhat was once the most popular place on the web, Yahoo and it’s landing pages, have made the announcement they’re going to make a push into search. With an aggressive new CEO in Marissa Mayer at the helm, she made the message loud and clear that Yahoo needs to improve their search offerings if they even hope to improve their own position in market share.

Way back when the web was still young, in the early 90’s Yahoo was pretty much the premier starting point of the web. It had news, email, a search engine, a small launch pad for you to start hopping about the web. The web portal enjoyed a very strong following for a number of years, until the upstart Google entered the scene and changed the search game forever with its introduction of Pagerank and the search algorithm that went with it. It was lean, mean, and very fast, and Yahoo remained comfortable, for a short time, but before long they found themselves slipping first in search share, and then as a starting point for the web.

From the call yesterday, Mayer admitted that big investments need to be made in the companies search offering, and they’ll carry that on into their mail and homepage as well.

“We have a big investment we want to make and a big push on search. We have lost some share in recent years and we’d like to regain some of that share and we have some ideas as to how.”

It is clear that Mayer is working aggressively to try and recapture some of the lost glory that the company enjoyed some 15 years ago, and ideally to return to its own search engine instead of relying on a Bing powered infrastructure. Initially it looks like Yahoo will start with a new, improved search user interface, and look for a way to rebuild their web home page status from there.

Online Reputation Concerns

With the vast majority of the world becoming more and more digital and available online, there is so much opportunity for business growth and expansion that it’s almost dizzying. There are new areas of customers, there is no open or close time as your site can be online and selling your products or services for you 24/7. Internet marketing and proper online branding can place you and your business in the position to experience massive growth in business and in connections, all the way from the local sector to the global one.

But there is also the other side of the coin, the flip side of the web and it can be a terrible place. Not referencing black hat SEO or any of the under handed tricks that can be used to rank highly or do shady business. I’m speaking about online reviews, and online reputation management – they say that bad news travels faster than good, and that goes ten fold online.

repAny business, especially the smaller local ones face high stakes when it comes to online reviews and their online reputation. According to a study conducted last year, approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Yelp is one the more well known services which feature reviews of businesses, and businesses are beginning to encourage their visitors to use the service to rate them by offering prizes to verified posters. So where is the driving force behind that decision? A Harvard study conducted in 2011 found that a one-star increase among Yelp reviews of Seattle restaurants led to 5-9% growth in revenue.

Hitting a little closer to home, it was nearly a disastrous year downtown for some businesses as they were built and improved up around the newly returned Winnipeg Jets franchise to town. When the league was locked out and there was no hockey going on, those businesses began to falter. For any one of them to receive a bad review due to poor food, service, attitude, or what have you, it will be the death of their business. Negative reviews can happen, will happen, as not everyone is happy 100% of the time, but there are correct ways to respond, and incorrect ways. We’ll begin to cover that ground tomorrow, as it’s not a short topic.

Recognizing Your Client Type

You work long enough in the world of online marketing and you begin to recognize a handful of different client types. You can eventually group them into about 5 or so different client types, some more difficult to work with than others.

1) Believes they know your job because of a post client
This type of client is usually the type of client who may recognize that they need help online, but will continually question every step or change that you’ve made. While not entirely a negative client to have in your portfolio, it can lead to some difficulty if they enjoy tinkering with their website because they read something on a forum one time.

clients2)Needs to control every aspect client
This client, while more than happy to help increase their search positioning, is very tight fisted with the keys to the kingdom. They often are very slow with providing proper access needed to perform all of the tasks which can make your life as an SEO much easier on a day to day basis. When you need to make a change to their sites code, or heaven forbid, their content, you might suddenly find that you no longer have the required access with whish to work. Once you’ve touched base with the steps you need to take, and why, you normally receive the required access, but still extremely bothersome none the less.

3)Very helpful client
The dream client, fully recognizes that they need help online, has provided any and all access needed for you to complete your work and is more than happy to put you in touch with the people you need to reach. This is thankfully becoming more and more the norm in the industry, and while still a rare occurence in the wild of the internet, they do exist, do not give up hope!

4)Helpful, but uninformed client
These clients, while helpful in providing all of the access you require, are almost as troublesome as the client who needs to control every facet of your work, the troublesome part is they truly don’t understand they’re inhibiting your job by working on their website during or after you’ve made changes to their site. Or they have mistakenly uploaded an old backup of their website. Most of the time you just need to contact this client and let them know what they’ve done wrong, and why it’s a bad idea for them to make that type of mistake.

5)Disinterested, disillusioned client
This type of client has often been burned in the search arena, and while understanding of the fact that the world is going digital, really doesn’t believe that the work you do can impact their business. Often slow to pay for their services, or slow to provide you the contacts or access needed for you to truly excel at your work.

Google Has Been Judged

The decision was handed out yesterday from the FTC with Google versus everyone else basically, and while some people were happy with the decision, others obviously were not. In case you’ve missed any of the news surrounding the case, the very basic gist of what the complaint was that Google was controlling their monopoly of online search and marketing using anti-competitive practices.

There were a couple of good points made in the ruling, the main point being that a monopoly in a given market is not, by itself, illegal. In order to make a monopoly illegal, you need to gain, or maintain that hold using anti-competitive practices. This has been a long ongoing case in which the FTC poured over 9 million pages of documents after the charges were initially laid. And after all of that work, all of the discussions and meetings – Google has not violated any U.S. antitrust law.

googleisIt’s no real surprise that Google would be the target of such a case, they’re supremely dominant in the search industry. The Mountain View based giant accounted for 74.5% of all U.S. search advertising revenues in 2012. Microsoft on the other hand took in a significantly smaller share at 8% in the past year. The argument has long been that Google has been demoting or removing it’s rivals in their results pages in order to drive users to their own properties. And yet, after an investigation that nearly lasted for two years, and after what FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz described as “an incredibly thorough and careful investigation,” the FTC concluded unanimously that the evidence was lacking to charge Google.

While Google is going to make some changes in the way they do business, they’ve been cleared of any wrong doing where search is concerned, as it turns out they’re just better at it than the other options. From Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

America’s antitrust laws are designed not to punish companies for growing too big or too unpopular, but to ensure no company stifles competition itself… The thriving Internet sector — a bright spot in America’s otherwise lackluster economy — shows no signs of suffering from too little competition.

2013 Search Probabilities – Search and Semantic

There seems to be a fair amount of change coming on the search horizon, all of the previous updates over 2012 helped clean up the search results and with the growing acceptance of Google+ as a social network online marketing is set to make a transition. What exactly that transition will be, no one knows for sure in the search market, aside from the search engines that is. Just what Google and Microsoft have up their sleeves is anyones guess.

There have been the prediction blogs of what is to come in 2013, there have been the blogs reminiscing lost, or gained search rankings for 2012. But on the whole there seems to be two facets which are greatly worth considering for the coming search year. The first would be the social arena, if you don’t have a presence already it’s not too late to get in, but it will be a good bit of work, and the second is in the semantic side of search.

facebooksnippet

Social is easily described, having a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter page, as well as a blog all helps to draw your customers to your website. You can use the social side of the web in order to introduce sales, specials, or even the addition of a new product or service that you never previously offered in your business. The immediate benefit to using the social web is viewership, anyone and everyone who has subscribed to your feed has your new information the second you press that share button, instant traction. The barrier for entry as well, is extremely low, it’s your time. The more time you are able to put into your social pages and sites, the more potential traffic and news you can generate as a result. Google and Microsoft (Bing) haven’t fully taken on social signals as a heavy ranking factor, although they’re slowly getting there. Just how they will decide to leverage the social signals with other SEO efforts is yet to be seen however. 2013 could be another year of swings up and down the search results.

The other topic which bears some consideration is in the semantic side of search. Using proper markup in your webpages allows the search engines to easily and rapidly generate rich snippets for your website, increasing organic visibility and as a likely result generating more traffic to your site. One of the most basic forms of a rich snippet for example are the breadcrumbs which can be generated by search engine bots visiting your website. Take the search result for Facebook as an example, with only 10 results displayed on a search page, when the top 20% of the page is dominated with internal pages to your search query it definitely helps influence your clicks.

The Non-Existant Update

There is a saying that goes something like “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck”. It seems however, that contrary to the aforementioned saying, that even though everything pointed to an algorithm shift late last week, there wasn’t one. All of the signs were there, and the search results pages reacted in such a way that it seemed clear there was one.

Some of the signs that you can look for on the surface are fairly obvious, but some of the shifts need a long term history to double check information against. One of the first things you see as a user, when your results page comes up and you find you don’t recognize any of the returned values, that would be your first clue that there is activity within the algorithm. These shifts don’t often drastically affect the long term results, but an example of a large shift would be when Panda, Penguin, and the EMD (Exact Match Domain) were implemented.

no-pandaGetting a little more in depth with examining the results page, a fairly common result of the algorithm making any kind of a shift is having a page built of mainly internal pages. To explain, instead of seeing a results page with addresses of www.abc.ca, you see internal pages, www.abc.ca/our-story.html. It is a change that is less noticeable than having a page of results that you don’t recognize, but it is this change that those who work in the realm of search optimization will look for first.

A much more in depth analysis can take place with the SERPs if you have the historical data for a website you manage. This information is one of the larger metrics that we will use as SEOs to determine if there has been a sudden change. Using the historical data we’ve compiled monitoring your website while helping you improve your online rankings will enable us to give a clearer answer to any questions you may have if you’ve suddenly found you’re no longer on the front page.

 

New Local Search Results Coming

There is a new player in the mobile search world, one hoping to possibly take on the incredible domination of Google on the mobile front. Facebook has retooled one of their previous features to function as a local search technology, with a catch or two. The function which has been updated, “Previously Nearby” showed you where your friends had checked-in. With the recent update to the feather, it now shows where your friends have checked-in but more importantly, it will also show you local businesses, it has become a local search tool.

You can use the feature to search or browse the listings based on ratings, friend check-ins, as well as the amount of Likes and recommendations. The first filter your search has to pass through is your friend network, but if your friends haven’t visited any of the local businesses the the larger Facebook network will act as the first line of ordering. The idea behind the change is to likely have more people use the check-in feature, as you won’t be able to rate a business if you do not. The basic service idea would be to show you where your friends have been, and how positive, or negative, their experience was.facebook-mobile

As a business owner, there are a few hurdles you need to overcome in order to grow, or maintain your position. First and foremost, you would need a Facebook Page to even be inducted into their search service, no Page, no listing. Some of the social media branding advice from Facebook includes:

  • Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
  • Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
  • Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place

At present the feature isn’t prominently on display on mobile devices, it is buried in one of the menus effectively rendering it invisible, but that is only the temporary setting. Facebook doesn’t have the massive database of customer reviews that Yelp has, or even that Google has in their database, but with the sheer amount of mobile users that Facebook has on a monthly bases (600 million active) it won’t take long for it to grow. The only one other catch that exists within the new Nearby app, is the use is currently only on the mobile platform. It is a sensible move, as users have to have a mobile connected device to use the check-in feature as it is, but it will likely make it’s desktop debut should everything go well on the mobile front. We may be seeing the first stages of Facebook making a play into the search world with this iteration of local reviews and results pages.