Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

A Search Box Within Google’s Search Engine Results Page?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Searching this afternoon led me to an interesting discovery: a search box, located right in the Google Search Results Page:

site search google serp

I can definitely see the power of having a function like this – especially for large, robust websites.

Performing a search for “maine” in this search box would surely return a search result page from the US SBA website, right? Wrong.

site search results

A Google search result page of the website is served up.

Having neither seen nor heard anything about this, I started looking around for an article about it. No such luck.

Has anyone else seen anything like this?

Update: Shines and Jecker was kind enough to point me in the right direction.

Nicki Hicks

Is Google Too Suggestive?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

In May, Google announced they’d be adding more to the “Suggest” function. Up until now, I hadn’t noticed; but perhaps that’s because I rarely search from

Yesterday, I found it helpful:

google suggest links

However, if, as Search Engine Land suggests, there will be AdWords included Suggest, I can only imagine this space will be overcrowded in no time.

That begs the question…

Isn’t less more?

Time and time again, seemingly simplistic interfaces seem to become complicated. Look at Facebook and Twitter…

Facebook added a news feed, which has more recently become a real time news feed. Certainly, there are reasons for such changes; but at a certain point is evolving for just evolution’s sake?

Twitter recently added a retweet function from its website. Seemingly helpful, it’s done nothing other than muddle up the simplistic interface they had going. This function, in particular, received nothing but bad reviews.

Certainly Google couldn’t be the next monopoly to be pressured to overcrowd in an effort to be cutting edge. Dearest Google, simple is good. Simple is why you are king.

Fortunately, more often than not, Google will test ideas relentlessly before they leave Labs. But it’s something to think about.

Nicki Hicks
Website minimalist

8 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Google Webmaster Tools Like the Plague

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

webmaster tools logoAlmost a year ago, I wrote about 9 Reasons Why You Need Google’s Webmaster Tools. After looking over the post, I soon realized that while it speaks to all that is fantastic about Webmaster Tools, it’s very out-of-date due to the most recent design revamp.

As such, I thought I’d redesign my original post. But what fun is a revamp if everything is the same? That said, here are 8 reasons why you probably should just steer clear of Google Webmaster Tools:

1. It’s so damn difficult to install.

You have the choice of adding either a meta-tag or an HTML file to your website. Bam. Can you think of anything closer to rocket science? A client of mine once installed it while we were talking at a meeting; it wasted all of 30 seconds.

2. How will you ever know if something’s wrong with your site?

Sneaky, sneaky Google. Those guys sit in their ivory tower and laugh as unforeseen 404s and inexplicable robots.txt files overcrowd our websites. Wouldn’t an interface that actually showed you these things be nice?

crawl errors webmaster tools

3. If it’s not on my smart phone, it doesn’t exist. mobile webmaster tools

Does my website come up on iPhones, Blackberrys, and countless other mobile devices? Who knows – guess I’ll have to check every page by hand (or touch, rather) on my iPhone, thanks.

4. SEO assistance

Non-SEOs rumor that Google’s out to get all of us SEOs and SEMs. Well, maybe they’re right! It’d be nice if they gave us some sort of optimization direction, would it not?

html suggestions webmaster tools

5. Top Search Queries

Why would I want to know how people are finding me? “Organic impressions”? Whoever heard of such a thing?

6. Anchor text

Fantastic. I get to see what other people use in hyperlinks to my website. What, like that matters?

7. Pages with External Links

I’d actually rather not know who’s linking to me. I’d rather just guess.

8. Remove a URLremove url webmaster tools

Page no longer in existence and 301 isn’t an option? You may get rid of it, but Google still sees it. What gives?

Google Webmaster Tools won’t change your life, but it will give you some really great statistics and let you know what’s wrong (if anything) with your website. While you’re at it, make sure you don’t use Google Analytics either.

Nicki Hicks
Just messing with you

Is it Time to Spice up your Titles and Copy?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

spicesWhen’s the last time you revamped the copy on your website?

The leaves are in the midst of falling, and now might be the perfect time to rework your website a little.

It’s about the title

It’ll be the first place any SEO suggests adding your best keywords, the title is the easiest way to increase your search engine visibility. If you don’t want to (or need to) do a lot of copyediting, this might be the perfect place to start. For some ideas, you might want to head over to Google Insights or Trends for what’s hot right now.


When it comes to the copy on your pages, you know your business far better than anyone else could imagine to. However, the point is to see your company through the eyes of your customers. Optimize for the keywords they’re searching for. Do you come up in a Google search for the right queries? Move through the site like they do. Is it easy to navigate? Think like your customer.

‘Tis the season

You might need a change simply due to the nature of your business. Do you notice your customer flow changes seasonally? If you run a lodging or hotel business, the answer is obvious; but for other companies it might be more subtle. Update your copy accordingly.

Blogging makes it easy

This is where a blog comes in handy. Even if you do have a blog, you should still spice up your copy and titles every so often. But with a hot topic or news, you won’t have to as often. Just blog about it! That post has the ability to rank (just make sure you funnel people from your blog to your website).

Give it a facelift

There’s no need to update every page on your website, but maybe a facelift here and there – starting with the homepage – could really do some good! Search engines love fresh, unique content. Then again, maybe your copy is perfect the way it is. Either way, pay it a visit every once and again and just read it through. Make sure everything is still accurate and up-to-date.

Nicki Hicks
Content is the Spice of Life

Photo Credit

New from Google Labs: Squared

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I recently watched the Searchology Webinar about all of the new Google products – some of which have already been released - and others, like Squared, are just now live.

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

First off – what is Squared good for? Well, topics you’d normally have to do multiple searches for. Essentially, Squared creates a spreadsheet of like information and compares similar results for your query.

For example, I did a Squared search for “large dogs”, as I’ve been looking for one of late.

google squared large dogs

You’ll see there is no Labrador Retriever – the breed I decided on – included in this Square. So what can I do? Click down at the bottom of the first column to add an item, type in my addition and bada-bing-bada-boom, there we go:

lab google squared 

Likewise: the cocker spaniel? Not a large dog. Simply hit the X and that row is gone!

You can also add and remove columns. I don’t care as much about the country of origin, but I’d really like to know more about the dogs’ coat lengths or dispositions. I simply add those columns!

How about changing values? The Collie’s weight is listed in kg, and I’d like to compare all of the weights in lbs. Simply mouse over the square, and choose “other values” and find what you’re looking for!

google squared change value

There are still kinks to work out – where some searches don’t work out well. But, for the most part, Squared helps reduce the number of searches you need to make in a given category.

Nicki Hicks
Save time and square it 

What Happens When Google Encounters a Fail Whale

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

google failsThe end of the world, as we know it.

Apparently, only a small subset of us are being affected. However, it seems the masses are having issues with everything from Gmail, to Google Talk, to Google Search.


Our saga begins when Twitter shows signs of trending, distressed Tweeps, and of course the ever popular hashtag (#gfail and #googlefail in this case).

Not to worry, I think to myself, I can live without Google for a little bit while they fix the problem.

Thinking I’m high and mighty in such a catastrophe, I soon remember I’ve been patiently awaiting an email from a client whom, I happen to know, exclusively uses only Gmail. I had to wait a solid hour for that blessed email.

still working

The ego continues to slowly chips away as I realize just how much I use my Google Docs.  Not only that, but I actually do use my Gmail, and even a basic Image search to find a picture of Earth imploding becomes utterly impossible.

transfer from gaI decided I could forget my own egotistical Google issues for long enough to pleasantly watch the most recent blogpost I’d written be tweeted and retweeted. But to add insult to injury, I found Google’s issues went deeper: to Google Analytics.  I saw that as my blog loaded and transferred traffic data, it got stuck and timed out.

Since then, the problems have been fix, per Google’s official Twitter account,

The issue affecting some Google services has been resolved. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, and we’ll share more details soon.

And here it is explained via the Official Blog.

It is amazing though, and got me to thinking: what would we do without Google? @JackLeblond jokes we might actually switch to Yahoo:

Perhaps the google servers on ebay were failed attempt to raise $$ and now they are shutting down….quick everyone optimize for Yahoo now!

At least yesterday, when Twitter shut down for maintenance, we had something to do while we waited.

Nicki Hicks
I blog while Gmail is down

Photo credit

New from Google Searchology: Search by Options and Rich Snippets

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

google search options

Yesterday, Google introduced Searchology, the newest line of Google products. Some of the technology will not be released until the end of the month, but search options and rich snippets are here!

Search Options

On Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP), click “Show options…” and refine your search by…

Results: Choose to search only videos, forums, or reviews.

Time: Choose recent results or from the past 24 hours, week, or even year.

Results View: You can choose to view images from the page or even include more text


  • Related Searches: self explanatory – suggestions for related searches.
  • Wonder Wheel: Being a visual person, I think this option is by far the coolest. Google creates a “Wonder Wheel” of related searches, and you can drill down further to refine your search, all the while viewing results down the right margin.

google wonder wheel seo drill down

  • Timeline: search archives as far back as 1920.

Rich Snippets

Local search optimizers and review junkies rejoice! Rich snippets incorporate reviews and price ranges for restaurants and other services. So far, the only reviews seem to be coming directly from Yelp; but from the sounds of it, this feature will soon be expanded.

rich snippets

Nicki Hicks
Ready to play with even more Google creations

How to Block Google Image Traffic from your Analytics

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Last time I talked about how image alt tags affect your traffic, and mentioned that you can block traffic from image searches through your analytics.

I would suggest blocking the image search domain only if you aren’t recieving qualified traffic, which would apply for almost every industry.  However, there may be some searches you wouldn’t want to block.  For example, if you run a destination wedding service and many customers find you by image searching for destination weddings, you might want to keep track of who finds you image searching.  (You could set up a special goal tracking this data.)

edit accountIn order to block Image search engines, simply go to your Analytics Settings Dashboard and click “edit”.

Scroll down and choose the “add filter” button in the Filter section.add google analytics filterThen simply enter the Filter information – a name that you’ll recognize, the filter type (from domain), and finally the domain (Google Images, in this case).

google images filterNicki Hicks
Tracking Quality Traffic

How Image Alt Tags Affect Traffic and Why You Should Use Them

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

maine seo image search for search engine differences

If you Google image search for “search engine differences”, you’ll find a chart I made as the first result for a post I did a while back.  The small matter of whether anyone is even searching for “search engine differences” (especially in the Image Search) doesn’t matter at the moment.  What does matter is that I optimized that image for that keyword phrase:

<p><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-602" title=
"search engine differences" src="
alt="search engine differences" width="522" height="511" /></p>

WordPress gives images a title tag when you give it a description, and one of the SEO plugins I use adds the alt tag you can see.

What’s the point?

You should use alt tags.  Since traffic these days comes from every direction from email newletters, direct traffic, and good ol’ web searches to blog, image, and video searches it’s necessary to optimize for every possible avenue.

So, use keywords and phrases where you can; but by effectively describing the image.  Rich talked about Matt Cutts’ video on this a few months ago.

referring sites google analytics

Why you have to be careful

When you look at your Analytics, image searches may often skew the results.  Take a look at this blogs traffic sources – Google’s image search is number 6!

But, when you take a look at how long those people spent on the site, it’s only an average of :22.

time on site from image search

If these stats are negatively affecting your Analytics, you can set up a filter like you would to block your IP address to block traffic from Google (or other search engines) Images.

Nicki Hicks
A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words

What’s Up With AdWords Markers on Google Maps?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I just noticed today a new little addition to Google Maps: markers for the paid search results!  Now, I’m not sure if I was simply late to this news; but no where in any of the major search news blogs or even the Offical Maps Blog is there any mention of this.

portland maine hotelsearchI’ve noticed the addition for nearly every industry – every one that would have AdWords ads.  This search was for “hotel portland maine”.  The top three results seem normal enough. One paid search result and the next two organic.

What floored me was on the map, the Holiday Inn now has a marker!  What’s more, is this result shows up above other result closer to Portland.  As a matter of fact, this particular Holiday Inn isn’t even in Portland, but South Portland; and as we’ve seen, results are based upon proximity to the city or (possibly) reviews.  Is it possible that now bids can help you get on the first page of local listings?

portland maine hotel google local map

Nicki Hicks
Small Business SEO

Switch to our mobile site