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Top Ten SEO Developments of 2009, and a New Year’s Resolution Suggestion for Google

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Top 10 SEO Developments of 2009Hey look, 2009 is over! How about that! The apparent custom in the media is to push mostly useless year in review top ten lists at the world, so why should SEO be any different? So here you go. Welcome to my very unscientific “Top Ten SEO Developments of 2009”, posted countdown-style in honor of the holiday. I’m even throwing in a bonus: What I think Google’s New Year’s resolution should be.

10. The profile of mobile search rises sharply, and the author uses it to find a pub. An Irish one.

Since I got my Droid (♥!), I’ve been playing with the voice search and navigation, but never did I have actual need of it until yesterday when, on my way to a family Christmas-ish dinner, I had to find my relatives’ favorite Irish pub without knowing the name or how to get there. All I knew was that it was in their immediate area. I told the Droid to search for Irish pubs in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It obligingly gave me a map of Irish pubs in the neighborhood. I only half-recognized the name of one, and confirmed that it was the one I was looking for by looking through the photo gallery on the pub’s website.  Then I asked the Droid for directions and it took me there. Landsdowne Arms. It’s one of my family’s favorite spots.

9. Google’s canonical support rocks my world, and cross-domain canonical support rocks bigger than Christmas.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s pretty darn spiffy. I may have to declare my love for it. Now please, Bing, please hurry up with the catching up to Google on this one.

8. Yahoo! claims to have stopped supporting the keyword meta tag, even though it apparently still does.

The internet is old enough to see things like meta tags come and go. How freaky is that? Probably not so weird to some of you younguns out there, but to a thirtysomething who learned HTML in PICO and Elm by raiding page sources before there was any such thing as an editor, it’s somewhat startling to think about it. Dammit, now I feel old.

7. Google announces that rel=nofollow no longer works for pagerank sculpting, even though it apparently still does.

Hey, is that a pattern I see here? That the search engines, whose job it is to hide the magic formula from us might mislead us is disappointing, but not surprising. It certainly threw us all off the scent for awhile, eh?

6. Yahoo! Site Explorer is slated to shut down, thereby leading the SEO community to sound a collective FML.

It’s hard to find solid info on this one, but when Rand Fishkin speaks it’s probably a good idea to listen. If he’s getting insider gossip on this one, it’s that much more likely to be true. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a nice, traditional New Year’s theme. So the hunt for a reasonable replacement begins.

5. Michael Jackson breaks Google and Twitter. Real-time search gets pushed to the front of the line. Jeff Goldblum breathes a sigh of relief.

When MJ died suddenly in June, perhaps the best measure of his impact on the world – the ENTIRE world – was the fact that he then brought the entire internet to a screeching halt as an entire planet full of people dropped whatever they were doing to read and talk about it online. The result was that Twitter broke down. Google thought it was under a denial of service attack. The news results available were clearly not up to date. And Jeff Goldblum, poor Jeff Goldblum was collateral damage as rumors of his untimely demise ran unchecked since the search engines were too crippled by the flood of Michael Jackson mourners to cough up any verifiable news results about it. Jeff got the last laugh when he appeared on The Colbert Report to spoof his own death rumors and Google and Bing began to push hard to get real-time search live. Alas, real time search is painfully easy to manipulate, as Natalie Portman can probably attest. With or without real time search, celebrity death rumors will always find their way to the mainstream.

4. Google’s pending Caffeine update gives panic attacks to SEOs worldwide.

Seriously, this is the SEO equivalent of being stuck circling over Iowa because there isn’t a runway available for you in Chicago. Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything. Truth be told, Caffeine will probably be a very good update, and we’re all probably hyperventilating over a bunch of nothing. But let’s just admit it – the SEO community thrives on its own panic. If it wasn’t Caffeine, it would be something else, like the recent updates to Google’s personalized search methodology. Oh wait…

3. Personalized search wreaks havoc on traditional SEO metrics. Big Brother snickers softly.

While my fellow SEOs are breathing into paper bags and privacy advocates are steaming about involuntary information tracking, I’m cool. Sure, rankings have been the traditional easy metric on which to base your invoicing, but it’s really just a proxy for conversions. Conversions are the whole point. If you’re a Purple Potato Broker in Kalamazoo, and people in Kalamazoo are looking for purple potatoes, Google is MORE likely to list you in its search result because it’s working to deliver results that are relevant to both the subject and the searcher’s location. In the end, this is a true benefit to the client. If I’m optimizing my Kalamazoo client’s site from my office in Denver, my search results are not going to be what the Kalamazoo searcher sees, and that’s okay. Their results are probably better than mine anyway. Therefore, the client benefits.

2. Social media, social media, and social media. Did I mention social media?

I think it’s the overall consensus that 2009 was social media’s coming out party. The question has evolved from “What is Twitter?” to “How are you using Twitter?” My Mom got a Facebook account and harasses me daily about when I’m going to get around to posting the latest photos of my niece. How do you know when a technology has truly arrived? When your Mom has it.

1. Bing goes live, and there goes the neighborhood.

And suddenly Google may have a worthy competitor. I’ll be honest, I like Bing. I like the look and feel of it. The maps are better, the local info more accurate, and the travel forecasting for airline ticket prices is rather nifty. Are the organic search results better than Google’s results? Meh. Judge for yourself, and throw Yahoo in there too for good measure. They all look trustworthy to me. I think SEOs grump about Bing’s results because they’re less sure about how to manipulate it since it’s just too new to have the years and years of history we all have with Google.

A New Year’s Resolution That Google Should Make

Cue the dropping of the shiny crystal ball! YAY! Now it’s the new year and it’s resolution time. And, dear Google, I think it’s time we had a little talk about local business search.

I have a client, a wonderful pediatric ophthalmologist, whose local listing has the wrong address and phone number, and no matter what I do, no matter how many times I’ve tried to claim it, Local Business Center will not let me do it. It pretends to let me claim it, then spins off a new listing with the updated info instead of updating the one that’s bad. I’ve submitted community edits and, well, nada.

Did you know the “LASIK Surgeons” category that you have preprogrammed into your category list is a joke around here since LBC berates us for excessive capitalization when we try to use it?

And please, the forced aspect ratio on pictures is hopelessly antiquated.  Who wants to click on a thumbnail when your uploader has distorted it so that our smiling client resembles a blurry version of the guy whose face melted in Raiders of the Lost Arc instead of the really nice professional portrait that he gave us?

Yes, while Google releases amazing products and gadgets and widgets and whatnot – did I mention how much I adore my Droid? – its local search is ridiculously broken. Fixing it needs to be Google’s top priority. Local and social media are on a collision course, and it’s frankly hard to build a strong product around that when its base is a crumbling mess.

Please, please, for the love of not being evil, Google, please fix local search!

And with that, I’m signing off. Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2010.

I Got Google WAVE! Now What?

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Ever since I first heard of this new, magical thing called Google Wave, I coveted it. I wanted it. Bad. I needed an invite. I submitted myself to the pain of not having by watching the I/O preview over and over, reading lots of articles about it, and generally complaining to anyone who would listen that the almighty Google had purposely left me out of the fun.

But, folks, wishes do come true.

My wish for a Google Wave invite came true on Halloween morning, when I logged into my email, groggy and slurping down a bowl of cereal (Special K, for those keeping score). There it sat: An email invitation to the product intended to end email. Irony at its best. I screamed, and my poor fiancee came running to see what was the matter. “Oh, nothing, except I JUST GOT GOOGLE WAVE!”

Somehow the concept was lost on him. No problem, I’d show him just how awesome it was and how my messages would show up real time and how this new thing would obliterate email…except I couldn’t really until he had it. That’s okay, I’ll just see if I can coordinate something with someone at work…except no one else really has it either.

You see, having Google WAVE is a lot like having a fax machine; I can get waves and send them, but I don’t really have anyone to send any faxes to or get any from. I don’t even have nominations, since this time around, the WAVE team didn’t give the newcomers nominations due to some reason or another. So what now?

I know a grand total of 1 person who I can Wave with. Yay? I can’t help Google sort out bugs and make Wave better when I don’t have any reason to use it. So, at the moment, my review of Google Wave is going to have to be a solid “Meh.” Until I have a reason for it to replace email, I’m going to continue to use email. At this point, I have a better chance of sending a fax to my friends and them receiving it than them receiving a Wave.

International Domain Names Coming Soon

Friday, October 30th, 2009

The internet is built pretty much on Latin characters. Sure, you can have text on your site that is in your native alphabet, but domains have always been restricted to Latin letters.

This is because the internet is built in something called ASCII code, or the American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It represents text in a format computers recognize. In order to seamlessly allow different language characters aboard the internet train, there will have to be some sort of conversion from the alphabet back to ASCII.

To learn more about the technical side of this, check out the CNN article about this topic. Since this is an SEO blog, I think it’s more appropriate to leave it there and touch on how this can affect your site and SEO, going forward.

The most obvious thing is that companies are now going to be able to target their audience internationally with their native language. This will most likely be very useful in gaining the attention and business of less web-savvy computer users who are not as familiar with the Latin alphabet system. It could also give websites an automatic boost in trust, as in a website that caters to you in your native tongue is likely to be more credible.

If your website already has various languages offered, why not go one step further and get the corresponding domain in the correct alphabet? I expect to see large website such as Google jumping on that train, if they can figure out how to translate “Google.”

Local search will be heavily impacted by this, because now, sites will be reaching their target audience in their own alphabet. Local news and businesses will be able to communicate to local people in a way that their audience understands.

The best thing to come of this will be the ability for internet users across the world to access the internet in their own language. Over 50% of the world does not use Latin characters, and now that portion of the world will be able to connect to the internet in their language.

ICANN is voting today on whether to include Internationalized Domain Names.

What is your vote?

Taking On Google: Newer, Edgier Search Engines Try to One-Up Google

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A few months ago, a few ex-Googlers tried to steal the limelight from Google by announcing their newer, better, bigger, more powerful, and more relevant search engine: Cuil.com (pronounced as “cool”). As the Internet world awaited the big unveiling, we were met with an anti-climatic half-baked search engine that didn’t live up to the hype. After my own trial, I decided that the multiple columns of results were messy, confusing, and, well, just not as relevant as Google.

Cuil, of course, is not alone in its hunger for Google’s glory; there are plenty of start up search engines trying to squeeze a bit of the market share away. This is the first blog of a multi-part series, that will test, try, compare, and dissect these search alternatives. Tune in for a regular update and to learn more about the different search engines available on the internet. Part 1 will cover Cuil, and we will move on from there. (If there’s a search engine that I haven’t covered but you’re dying to hear about, leave a comment and I’ll bump that one up the list.)

LinkedIn Groups for SEO

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

LinkedIn groups are great for keeping up with industry news and sharing valuable information. Here are a few of my favorite:

Digital Marketing: A group for Internet marketing professionals who want to share information and engage in debates on topics ranging from SEO to social media. This group has nearly 20,000 members.

SEO Secrets: This is another group intended for sharing information related to SEO. It has approximatley 2,000 members.

SEO Expert: This group is for professionals looking to learn and share SEO techniques and information. There are approximately 1,700 members.

Search Engine Land: A “hub” for news and information regarding SEO, PPC and more. This group has over 7,500 members.

And for our local Colorado readers:

Colorado Internet Marketing: A group focused on connecting Web marketing professionals throughout Colorado. There are over 600 members in this group.

Did I leave out your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

Manage your Online Reputation!

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

It is a well-known fact that the Internet has forever changed the way people Search, Find and Buy.

One of the most important aspects of the change is that with social media and review sites, information is transmitted and shared very qiuickly among large groups of people. Consumers have begun playing an extremely important role with their opinions and reviews and can make or break the reputation of a business very quickly.

As part of a sound Search Engine Marketing strategy, it is necessary to ensure that your business has a listing on major Review sites, the most important ones being Yelp.com, CitySearch.com and JudysBook.com. These review sites tend to rank at the top of the SERPs and they could greatly impact your ability to attract new customers online.

Make sure your listing is accurate and consistent across the different sites. If it’s not accurate then claim it and update the information.
Monitor reviews that you receive and respond to postive and negative reviews as soon as possible.

Taking steps to resolve an issue with a customer in a fair and professional manner will give potential customers more confidence in your business. Similarly, thanking those who leave positive reviews and providing incentives such as discounts or coupons is a way to encourage customers to visit your business again. Recently, Yelp made a change allowing business owners to provide direct feedback to any consumer review, positive or negative.

Online consumer review sites are just exposing businesses for what they are and for everyone to see.
Businesses that want to have an edge over competitors should make every effort to protect and enhance their Online image and reputation.

Optimizing for bing

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

With the arrival of Bing, there has been a keen interest in knowing if it will require updating optimization techniques that had been used for MSN.

Initial research is showing that Bing’s search algorithms are not very different from when it was MSN, though the results are being presented differently.

While SEO strategies for Bing will be similar to the ones being used for the major search engines, webmasters are watching closely for any major changes in rankings which may necessitate some additional updates in optimization.

[Microsoft statement:
"There have been no major changes to the MSNBot crawler during the upgrade to Bing," "However, the Bing team is continuously refining and improving our crawling and indexing abilities. Note that the bot name hasn't changed. It will still show up in the web server access logs as MSNBog. Ultimately, SEO is still SEO. Bing doesn't change that. Bing's new user interface design simply adds new opportunities to searchers to find what the information they want more quickly and easily, and that benefits webmasters who have taken the time to work on the quality of their content and website design
Bing website ranking is completely automated. The Bing ranking algorithm analyzes factors such as webpage content, the number and quality of websites that link to your webpages, and the relevance of your website's content to keywords. The algorithm is complex and is never human-mediated. You can't pay to boost your website's relevance ranking. However, Bing does offer advertising options for website owners.
That said, MSN offers quite a few Web sites and tools to help site owners ensure their sites are well positioned for indexing within the engine. Bing Webmaster Center provides lots of helpful documentation and tools, including technical and content guidelines similar to Google's Webmaster Tools.
"]

In summary there are some points that seem to be important:

  • Just like other search engines, Bing places a lot of importance on good content. In fact, high quality content seems even more important on Bing, given the way that it organizes and presents information in the SERPs.
  • Authoritative inbound links are essential. Bing places high value on inbound links, particularly those that are from sites that also have a high number of links.
  • Keyword placement is also of importance. Ensure that keywords are present in titles, H1 tags, and anchor text.
  • Domain age seems to be of importance to Bing.
  • Focus optimization around one key phrase per page.
  • Add a detailed site map and Robots.txt to the website.
  • Use a flat Web site hierarchy.
  • Ensure that the MSNBot can crawl your site.
  • Validating code, fixing broken links, and employing appropriate redirects are strongly recommended by Bing. It also recommends static URLs over dynamic URLs, suggesting HTML content is preferable.

More on Google Maps — Enhanced Features on Google’s Local Business Center dashboard

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Contuining with the updates on Google Maps, Google is really stressing on websites maintaining a consistency in the way they list their contact information. This makes it important for optimizers to update existing listings in directories and also to ensure that going forward all contact information is kept consistent.

With location-based information and services becoming increasingly important and with an increased presence by Microsoft (Bing) on the search front, Google has gone a step ahead and enhanced its Local Business Center dashboard. This looks to be the first of a series of steps that Google is taking to stay ahead of competition and to reassure users that their requests for more accurate and detailed data are being fulfilled.

The new interface is designed to provide registered Local Business Center customers with new data on where website traffic is coming from and what search terms are being selected by users. The dashboard provides such information as the number of times a listing appeared as a result for a query on Google.com or Google Maps over a given period.

The website owner can get information on how many times consumers interacted with a listing, and the nature of the interaction such as clicking through to the business’ Web site or to get driving directions.

There is information on top search queries that led customers to the listing. For example, the data might show us that “internet marketing” and “website design” are two top terms that led users to the Page 1 solutions website

There is also Zip code related data that shows where users are coming from when they request directions to a business listing.

According to a Google representative, registered listing owners can customize the data provided for a specific view or data range. The data is rendered anonymous and is updated daily.

The reaction to the enhanced features has been favorable as businees owners can use the “Google Analytics like” tool to get important data from the Business Listing itself. It also make it essential for us to ensure that our clients have verified Google Maps listings that have accurate and complete information about the business.

Internet Marketing – Missed Opportunities

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Recently a friend of mine came to me with a link opportunity. He offered two free ad placements on an extremely niche, local directory for one year, after the first year it would turn to paid – awesome deal right?

So I look through my clients, and find one that practices in the locale and advertises for the niche. I figure I’ll be a nice guy and email him the free opportunity.

Two days later I receive a reply from the client that he will “let the offer marinate”. I’m flabbergasted – I re-read it several times to be sure I understood correctly – Yep, let the offer marinate. Ha-um,ha.

Any person worth their salt in internet marketing knows this – offers don’t marinate in the online environment, and an opportunity for free ad placement in a local niche directory is virtually non-existent.

In retrospect, I guess if you can’t convince them with common sense, try a marketing spiel:

LIMITED TIME OFFER!!!!

For a limited time only, you, yes YOU, can have free ad placement in a targeted local directory:

- Bring customers right to your virtual door!!!

-Conversions in MINUTES!!!

-TOP google position!!!

Opportunities, especially online, are very often here one day and gone the next, a simple shrug of the shoulders is enough to have the opportunity pass you by.

Microsoft to Google: Bing it on.

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Microsoft has officially unveiled their plans for Bing, a new search engine that they are hoping will compete with the biggest of boys in Internet Search, Google. The company does not refer to their new pet project as a search engine, but rather a “design engine” that they claim will help consumers make better decisions by providing the most relevant results on the Internet. Sounds great in theory, but how exactly do they plan to knock Google off their thrown? By throwing money at it, of course.

Microsoft is planning on spending over $80 million on their marketing campaign for Bing, more than quadrupling what Google spent on advertising in 2008. They will be creating a hype to be reckoned with, and Google may just be given a run for their money – literally. If nothing else, Bing will get plenty of initial traffic, but I’m not sure if people will have the power to break the Google addiction. If Bing can perform like Microsoft claims they will, I think Google may finally have found a worthy competitor (at least until Google responds with something bigger and better).


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