Archive for the ‘Search Engines’ Category

If All Else Fails…Check the Cache.

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Javascript, Flash, and (God forbid) tables may look cool.  You might even get them to work the same in every browser.  Admittedly, that is half the battle – making your site appealing to people, that is.  But the other half is building a website for search engines.

One way to see exactly what the search engines see is by looking at your code (or viewing the page source).  If you can’t read HTML, then checking out Google’s cache is your next best option.

There’s a few ways to do it.  One of my apps (SEO for Firefox) gives an option to look at the cached version of the page.  Or, when making a search, you can see the option next to each result; in this case, a holiday appropriate search:

Then, when selecting “Cached”, you see exactly what Google sees.  Be sure to choose the text only version:

As you can see, Google will highlight the keyword you searched for.  This way, if pressed, you can make a decision: be it a really cool flash intro or just some great content.

Nicki Hicks
Happy Halloween!

Twitter, Search, and the Presidential Race

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Social media has a thing or two to say about politics and the two major presidential candidates’ stake in the race.  Putting aside Facebook, MySpace, and other indicators of who is winning the internet war, Twitter has proven to be an interesting gauge of this race.

Obviously Obama’s staff stays far more up-to-date on his Twitter profile.  Not only that, but take a look at the difference in followers.  Needless to say, I think this proves a fundamental difference between Democrats, Republicans, and their web use (or maybe just Twitter use).

Nevertheless, a cool tool called twInfluence shows exactly how much influence a Twitterer (or is it Tweeter?) has on fellow Twits/Tweetees (sorry, getting carried away with all of the names I can make).  BarackObama is #1 on this list, while JohnMcCain doesn’t show up in the top 50.

At first, this doesn’t seem all that fantastic or interesting.  You may be thinking: “So what, Obama supporters like Twitter more. Big deal.”  The interesting part comes in when Googling both of their names (and by the way, I turned off my personalized settings when I made these searches).

Barack’s profile turns up #10:

McCain’s profile took a little longer to find, down on the 5th page, #58:

Oh wait a second.  That’s not John McCain’s official Twitter account.  Guess I have to keep looking…oh here it is! 8th page, #82:

Whether Twitter has a significant role in this race, I highly doubt it.  However, search may very well have a large part in it:

Nicki Hicks
Vote for Twitter

SEO is NOT a One-Time Deal

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Online trends are changing constantly, just look at the new Google Insights for Search to find that out.  What’s especially interesting about Insights is their “rising searches” element – showing you what the “hot” new searches are.

While performing a single keyword analysis and optimizing a site is great (and i obviously highly recommend doing it), it’s also important to constantly optimize your site.  SEO is an ongoing process.

Change for the sake of “hot” keywords

There is a “myth” in the SEO world that says copy which is constantly updated and changed will rank higher, simply because Google’s spiders have to crawl the site more often.  Whether this is true or not isn’t the point.  There is no reason to change copy just for the sake of change.  That being said, copy can and should be updated and molded over time to follow keyword trends.

For example, if I own a business where I breed and sell Labrador Retrievers, and today the hot keywords are for yellow labs and black labradors.  (NOTE: I have not done the research, and in fact, have no idea if people are searching for those words.)  But in a month or two, I find people are search for labrador retrievers, I might add the word “retriever(s)” into my title tags and copy a few more times.

The key, as always, is to make your changes naturally, without stuffing keywords.

Change for experiment’s sake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: while we have an idea of what causes high rankings, we’ll never know for sure.  That’s why experimentation is helpful.

In my dog selling business, I might optimize something (say, my title tags) for my geographic location.  Then, a few months later, maybe I’ll optimize for the fact that we have every color labrador (yellow, chocolate, and black).  Or perhaps, I will update my robots.txt file, adding my contact page.  Then, I could also add a new page about how to train puppies, because I found in my keyword research that “How to Train Your New Puppy” was a hot keyword phrase (again, I have not done the actual research).

What’s the point?

The point is that you need to constantly be optimizing and follow keyword trends.  Continuously looking for opportunities for backlinks is also important, but a topic for another time…

Also, remember site changes take time to be recognized by spiders.  It can take up to six weeks for Google to update their index, and even longer for rankings to change accordingly.

Nicki Hicks
Yes, Labs are my favorite

Does Duplicate Content Hurt You At Google?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

(Geez, I hope not. I’ve now posted this same article in three places!!)

Last night during a presentation I gave at TechMaine, someone asked a question about whether it was a bad idea to post the same content at multiple blogs. I said that it wasn’t; that except for your mom, you can’t expect anyone to read all of your content so repurposing that content across multiple blogs is OK.

In fact, the content of the flyte blog and my Internet Marketing 101 blog often overlaps, so I’ve placed certain posts at both blogs. Occasionally I might change up some of the language to be more specific to one of the audiences, but often there’s just not enough time in the day. Plus, I actively engage in article marketing which–when done right–gets your article posted to mulitple Web sites that link back to you.

Her question may have origins in many people’s belief that there’s a Google penalty for duplicate content, and somehow Google will punish you for having the same content in multiple places.

Coincidentally, Google came late last week on their own blog and stated that there is no Google penalty for duplicate content…although some exceptions remain.

<tangent> Google cites an example of duplicate content that mentions the book Everyone Poops; a great kids book that we have in our house. It also inspired this politically themed t-shirt over at Threadless that I love and own. </tangent>

So, go ahead and post your content in more than one place, Google’s cool with that. Just make sure you read their whole blog post first.

Found via Search Engine Roundtable.

Rich Brooks
You Can Say That Again

Google Re-allows WebPosition Gold Searches

Friday, September 5th, 2008

About a month ago, it seemed that Google blocked WebPosition Gold for good.  However, just yesterday a post on Search Engine Roundtable proved otherwise. Here is the gist of the post:

Just about a month ago we reported about the issues people were having with WebPosition Gold and other rank checking tools. We first thought Google was going after these rank checking tools but then we learned that the issues were due to Google testing out new HTML structures and layouts in the search results pages.

After reading the article, I ran a client’s ranking report on WPG and found that yes, in fact, I can get Google’s ranking results again!  At the same time, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: while higher rankings are the short-term results you want from SEO, better conversions are the long-term goal.

Nicki Hicks
Psyched About WPG

Do Search Engine Rankings Even Matter Any More?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

A few years ago a book came out called Moneyball. It was about how Billy Beane, GM of a small market team, the Oakland A’s, competed and beat teams with a much bigger payroll, like the evil Yankees and the beloved Red Sox.

The idea was that baseball teams had been measuring the wrong things when looking at players: batting average and pitching speed for example. Instead, he looked deeper into the data and found that on-base percentage (which would include walks, hit-by-pitches, etc.) and pitchers who got ground outs were much more valuable, and completely ignored by other teams. In this manner he built a successful team at a fraction of the cost of the Yanks or Sox.

Did it work? Well, some of those big market teams took his advice (why did he share that info anyway?) and the Sox have won two world series since. Now on-base percentage is viewed as an essential metric for hitters, and shown on NESN for every at-bat.

It feels like the same sort of transition is going on now in the SEO world. The leaders in the industry seem to feel that we’ve been measuring the wrong things.

  • Last week I read an article by Stephan Spencer called The Latest SEO Trends and Metrics which argues we’re measuring the wrong metrics.
  • Just now I read 5 Reasons Why Rankings Are a Poor Measure of Success by Jill Whalen, who claims she hasn’t checked clients’ rankings in years. This is an excellent article that clearly explains why rankings are more subjective than you’d like to believe.
  • A few weeks back Google blocked Web Position Gold, a tool used by SEO professionals (including flyte) to measure if and where their clients appear in the first three pages of Google.
  • When Nicki in our office manually attempted to check a client’s visibility last week Google banned her after a dozen checks! In fact, the ban affected other computers in our office as well. (Not her fault; I think I asked her to do it. Shame on me.)

For years I’ve argued that search engine rankings don’t matter, Web sites don’t matter, and even conversions don’t matter. The only thing that matters is you sell enough widgets, book enough rooms, or mobilize enough people to your cause. Of course, conversions, attractive Web sites and good search engine rankings all lead to those successes.

So, do search engine rankings matter? Yes, I believe they do. Good search engine visibility will continue to help businesses and organization bring in new traffic. However, measuring is getting tougher as personalized search and localized search continue to evolve and affect search engine results on a person-by-person level.

Perhaps we should be less worried about our search engine rankings, and more about whether those results are driving qualified leads to our sites.

Google Proved Good Conversions Overrule High Rankings

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Earlier this morning I made a few searches to determine where some of our clients rank for the keywords we optimized their sites for. Needless to say, this became necessary due to a recent tiff between Google and WebPostion Gold. So there I was, minding my own business, scanning through the first few Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), when I made my final search (I’d made only 12 altogether). That’s when this little beauty of an error message showed up:

Without having to read it, Google basically told me they thought I was spam and they’d like me to verify that I am, in fact, human. I typed in the code, and again, I get a Google message of love:

I’m sorry too. I’m sorry because I’m not spyware, spam, or some nuisance of a spider. I just like to make a lot of searches…is that so wrong?!??!

Neither here nor there. I think Google was making a point. High rankings are great, yes, and speaking strictly short term, they are the major goal of SEO. However, do you get paid for ranking #1? I wish, but alas, not the case.

The long term goal of good SEO is qualified traffic being driven to your site, resulting in whatever transaction you want your customer to make (be it a text book retail purchase, newsletter sign up, or software download). That, my friend, is a conversion. When conversion rates increase, that is when you know your search marketing strategy is working.

The issue, however, is that this is not a perfect world. Like nearly every other form of marketing or advertising, when your company participates in multiple strategies at once (SEO being one of them), it’s nearly impossible to tell which tactic is making (or unfortunately costing) you money.

Let’s think positively though – with a good SEO strategy, your rankings should increase. With higher rankings (all the while optimizing for the right keywords), you should see more qualified traffic. More qualified traffic should undoubtedly yield higher conversion rates. And then the wonderful cycle of search marketing begins all over again!

So…lesson of the day? Don’t pay so much attention to where you rank as to whether or not you’re making a higher profit!

Nicki Hicks

Is Cuil Really All That Cool?

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Monday marked the release of the newest search engine rumored to overthrow Google: Cuil.  I gave it a few days to test it out.  I waited mostly because so many people were on it that I got too frustrated and stopped searching.  As far as I can tell, the SEO world is in an uproar over it, and negative comments abound.  I though giving it a solid chance would help…not so much.

Perhaps I’m just a Googler at heart, but Cuil, as for countless others, was a big let down for me.  Now that the speed is a little quicker, I’m still not impressed with the search quality.  I don’t know what is in Cuil’s algorithms, but the pages they have indexed seem to be older (when I searched for my name a search result came up from a page at my alma mater that I know for a fact was updated – where my name was removed – not less than six months ago.)

The one actual cool thing about Cuil (pardon the pun) is the image links partnered with text links.  However, this leads again to their downfall: Rich was telling me just this morning how in searching for his own name, Cuil’s search engine result page (SERP) showed a picture result of his flyte baby picture coupled with a text search result of an article about Rich Brooks, the football coach.  Further down the SERP, you’ll find a photo of the Coach Brooks with a story about my boss.  I run into the very same problem nearly every time I perform a search…not cool, Cuil, not cool.

So, Google, fear not.  I think I can confidently say you are safe through yet another newly released search engine.  Mike Moran from Search Engine Guide wrote about Cuil in this blogpost. Moran suggested that whatever site overthrows Google will not be another search engine, but a social network perhaps.  I knew one day Facebook would rule the world…or will it be Twitter…?

Nicki Hicks
Hardcore Googler

What’s the Difference Between a Directory and a Search Engine?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

What’s the difference between a search engine and a directory?

–Searching in Scarborough?

Dear Searching,

Search engines and directories are both tools people use to find information on the Web. The difference is in how they get and organize their information.

Search engines use little programs called spiders or bots that scour the Internet, follow links, and bring back this information to the search engine’s index. When you use Google you’re not actually searching the Web, you’re searching Google’s index of the Web. Search engines use complex algorithms to determine which Web pages are most likely to answer the questions you pose and return these pages on the search engine results pages (SERPs.)

Directories, by contrast, are human-powered. Site owners submit their sites to directories (sometimes for a fee, sometimes free) and human editors determine the value of the site and whether it should be included in the directory. Directory visitors can search the director or drill down to the appropriate category, i.e., Arts & Humanities > Museums, Galleries & Centers > Modern & Contemporary.

Although directories have fallen out of fashion (even Yahoo’s directory is now hidden at under the “more” tab), there are still benefits to being listed there. Being listed in an important directory helps your search engine visibility because it counts as an incoming link, which is one of the variables in the search engine’s algorithm.

Rich Brooks
Maine SEO

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