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Browsing "internet news"

Calling Foul on Google

Mar 3, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   Google, internet news  //  Comments Off

In the last few days there’s been a small problem for some Gmail users, as we’ve mentioned here. And Google has come out and said “Oops, our bad” and are working on correcting the error. In the last couple of weeks in addition, the search algorithm driving the Google machine was tweaked to try and clean up the search results.

The tweak, nicknamed “Farmer” is basically designed to begin weeding content farm, scraper sites and spam sites from the search results. These websites typically abuse the current hot trends on line to drive false SEO campaigns to themselves and/or their clients for visibility. The coding change however, has had a rather unwanted side effect as well however. There’s a handful of sites which have been mistakenly affected by the new algorithm change. And again, Google is saying “Oops, our bad” and manually correcting any mistaken rankings changes. So if your site has been affected recently, say the last 2 weeks or so, by the algorithm shift, it may be worth your while to hit your webmaster tools and submit for a reconsideration.

In a recent case of the big kid throwing their weight around, Yelp has spoken out against Google Places pages, saying that it’s in direct competition with Yelps services. Now in the past, Google tried to snatch up Yelp for a cool $500 million, and after they declined Google went out and voila! Google Places makes it’s appearance. The way it works currently, is on Google Places you’ll find Yelp reviews, properly linked back to their site and Yelp hasn’t said anything about it. But Google as of late (according to Yelp) has decided that it’s not enough and have decided to invoke the playground rule of “play my way, it’s my ball”. So as of this writing Yelp faces the possibility of being taken from the index, Google Places listings and all, unless they bow to the Google Giant. The most troubling part about the whole affair however I think, is with everything considered Google will be completely crushing it’s own mantra of “Don’t be evil” by kicking a valid competitor from the index. Here’s hoping they actually decide to take the high road and get that stick out of their you know what.

J.C. Penney Currently Being Punished

Feb 17, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   Google, internet marketing, internet news  //  332 Comments

J.C. Penney has had their hand slapped obviously since they were caught breaking the good guy rules, as they should have. But it’s like there’s a white elephant in the room, that topic that no one wants to talk about. The ‘but how couldn’t they know’ side of the equation of their online marketing strategy.

It’s a dangerous loop to become trapped in when there are too many channels for information to pass through. And just like the game of Telephone when you’re a child (the passing of a phrase down a line of people), the message becomes lost in the end. The higher ups in the J.C. Penney organization deny that they knew of any shady business from their search engine marketing company and because of the way information travels it’s (unfortunately) probably true. The most unfortunate part of their whole marketing debacle is it’s just going to encourage the chain to bring all of their SEO efforts in house.

There’s two sides to this issue of course, and both have their pros and their cons. Bringing all of the tech and knowledge in house provides an exceptionally high level of control over the execution of their SEO strategy and much faster implementation of any changes they may desire. Out sourcing has the added benefit of not having to add to your staff and the cost can be offset to marketing, or worse, place the hands of your companies SEO into someone who thinks they can handle it. The very real, and unfortunate result of placing SEO into the hands of someone already within the company who only has an idea as to how best proceed is the likely outcome.

JCP is having their website manually checked on because they broke the rules of the search game. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on their website for some time to come I would imagine. But the violation which put them into this position, would have a very real chance to happen again if they should go the route to bring all of their SEO in house only and delegate it to a current employee who has an inkling of an idea.

Because when you take it down to brass tacks, the real SEO experts aren’t for hire by one company to stake their claim in one place. And a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing to have.

J.C. Penney and Google – An example in the making

Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.

The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.

Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.

JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.

In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.

Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.

Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).

A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.

Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.

Google courting Twitter?

Feb 12, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   Google, internet, internet news, Media, twitter  //  75 Comments

The newest hype to hit the tech wire would have to be the talks which have been occuring with Twitter, Facebook and Google. Rumor has it that the seriousness of the talks hasn’t reached a fevered pitch as of yet, but that Twitter is courting the two giants is enough to make the industry ears twitch.

The current evaluation of Twitter is somewhere in the $10 billion range, a solid improvement from it’s worth last year being tagged at just short of $4 billion. Whether or not the search, or social media giant will actually pay this amount is in doubt. Twitter has tried only a handful of money making schemes, but on the whole the media which Twitter introduced to the world doesn’t have a lot of marketing punch. It’s a useful tool for some industries and aspects of day to day interaction, but with having to reduce your world to 140 characters at a time, it can leave you short on the information side. Speculation around the talks has been springing up which supports the idea that because Twitter is running out of ideas to market itself and make it’s own money, it’ll instead sell it’s idea and worth to continue on.

Which giant could benefit the most from the purchase of Twitter isn’t a question, as Facebook already has it’s own micro-blogging idea built in in status updates. Google most definitely would have the most to gain with the purchase of the site, it might even provide the search giant with the social boost it needs to begin carving it’s own tiny niche in the social arena.

Search Engine Optimization and You – Driving Qualified Traffic

There’s a massive amount of information on the Internet on absolutely everything, the downside of this of course is the (seemingly) even larger amounts of mis-information. This holds true in any industry, but when it comes to the topic of search engine optimization, it often seems that it’s not so much the fact and fiction mixed up. It’s more akin to the information being tossed in a blender and spread in a mess.

The most antagonizing part of all of the information out there, is that people who partake of what makes the most sense to them, claims to make them experts in the field. It’s from these same sources that the newest experts don’t even learn how to properly 301 a website, or are unable to tell the difference between paid links and paid advertisements.  Some of the latest crop have seemed to be of the belief that building websites to rank for obscure long tail terms, is the same skill as being able to rank a client for their desired and preferred terms.

The whole idea about marketing your business is about driving qualified visitors to your website, where hopefully your SEO company has advised you on how to build your site to facilitate conversions. Whether it’s convincing visitors to sign up for your news letter, or to buy your product, or sign up for your discussion forums, the idea of pushing and marketing your site is to increase your bottom line, what ever it may be.  Say for example your business is in making shoes, and your website has a built in shopping cart so your customers can buy custom footwear direct. Along comes the newest ‘expert’ in SEO and builds your site around a long tail search along the lines of ‘custom designed walking equipment’. You may shake your head an scoff at the idea, but it happens, and happens far too often.

No, this doesn’t mean that long tail searches are dead in any way, there are users out there who don’t use the Google Instant feature, or simply type out their entire query. But the point of my description was to drive home the idea that search engine optimization isn’t about tricking the search engines, isn’t about spamming on blog comments and posts and it isn’t about tricking visitors into visiting your website. It’s about driving qualified traffic to your site with the decision to purchase your product, or sign up for your newsletter or become involved in your community. Real SEO performed by the real SEO experts drives measurable, qualified traffic to your website to make your bottom line better.

Choosing a side in Bing vs Google

Feb 9, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   bing, Google, internet news  //  6 Comments

The drama between Bing and Google is dieing down, it seems that both sides have thrown the punches at each other and the name calling is dieing down. There’s been shots fired across each others respective bows, the evidence however is still rather difficult to deny.

Google setup some search results in order to determine if their hunch was correct about Bing skimming reseults. It can be construed as underhanded to setup a competitor, realisitcally though it proved their point. What Google found was that when a user searched using the Google engine, in the IE8 browser those results are (allegedly) being used as data to build the Bing search results. Bing fired back with the examples of the image search, search results layout and a few other technological upgrades that Google has incorporated into their search.

You can find more than enough information about the row between the two search giants anywhere online with a quick search ironically. Everyone has an opinion on the matter of course, but I think the white elephant in the room has to be mentioned. Tech companies always borrow, beg and steal ideas and methods from each other, especially if those methods work and draw an audience. Google realized from a visual perspective, that the elements Bing had incorporated into their results pages were popular to users. On the other side of the fence, Bing used user data and click throughs from the IE8 browser and use of the Bing bar to help build their results pages.

One company borrows visual elements to a search page, the other company borrows the actual contents of the search results pages. Apples and oranges in my opinion, but as I said earlier we all have one.

The End of IPv4

Feb 5, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   bing, facebook, Google, internet, internet news, search, search engine, Winnipeg  //  Comments Off

The internet is running out of IP addresses, Bing is copying Google, Facebook can’t handle your data and locally we’re resisitant to change. The loss of IPs online has been broached in the last few days, and the as the last block allocations are doled out I’m certain that the naysayers will be heralding the end of the world (wide web). At least on some level of course.

Bing copied Google’s search results on a really obscure search term, as Bing cries foul over Google copying some of their display methods. It’s one thing to copy a snippet tool to display where on a page information was located and a change in how images are displayed. It’s an entirely new bag of snakes when you literally build your results based upon the users actions on another search engine. Bing has cried foul as well over being setup in Google’s honeypot action and well, that was the point. Google noticed a trend of Bings top 10 searches bearing much the same results as Googles. A hypothesis was formulated as to why and how this could happen, and a test was executed. It just so happens that the test came back positive, and Bing has been caught red handed sneaking results. Deal with it, learn from it, for Gods sakes admit it and carry on.

Facebook is no stranger to drama, what with randomly changing privacy permissions and alalowing app developers to scrape user information. But the newest slip up from the social networking giant is perhaps not so much their fault directly, but indirectly. In a showcase as perhaps the biggest reason to maintain control over your information on the web, 250,000 Facebook profiles were scraped to build a dating website. While the act of scraping data is malicious, and Facebook has promptly leapt to legal action to have the site blocked and removed, it bears mentioning that identity thieves don’t care about terms of use on websites. Is it Facebook’s fault directly? Not exactly, but a campaign of information, clearly outlining how to control your information and keep it under lock and key should you so desire is long overdue. As well as refining again the security features and controls, and make them more obvious; perhaps even going so far as to include a big button that says: I want my information to be private!!

And just to switch things to a local, Winnipeg front for a moment. A downtown restaurant, long heralded as an icon in it’s uniqueness, the Paddlewheel Restaurant is to be closed and renovated. In the story I’ve most recently read about the eatery, the vast majority of the comments and content were unhappy with the coming closure, citing their memories of past visits with friends and family as evidence of enduring success. “It doesn’t need to change” and “It shouldn’t change” were the over lording tones of the piece. There was a video accompanying the story, and while it was somewhat saddening to hear about how a visit to the restaurant with their mother and grandmother for a plate of fries and a coke would be gone with the change, change needs to happen. By the way, the aforementioned visit with family, the fries and coke cost 15 cents to purchase. The video was filled entirely with elderly visitors, no doubt the frequenters of the establishment with the exception of one gentleman interviewed whose thoughts were simply “I understand it’s popular among those with a history of coming here”. The idea that change is bad needs to leave the collective thought process of this town, change is anything but bad. Scary, exciting, turbulent and it can even be smooth, safe and uneventful. But it’s never a bad thing. Change is inevitable, it’s when people, places and the environment they exist in cease to change that they wither and die. Take a clue from one of the oldest businesses still in operation today, in order to survive, they need to change.

Brave New World of Search

Feb 4, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   bing, Google, internet, internet news  //  161 Comments

In the midst of the unrest in Egypt, the name calling and hand slapping that’s been going on between Google and Bing. There’s only one other interesting point of note that’s about to occur within the online tech industry.

The world wide web, is about to run out of IP addresses. Just like back when the toll free system ran out of 800 numbers, it won’t be the end of absolutely everything, or anything for that matter, it’s only an eventuality that was expected. The speed at which it’s happened however was a surprise to the web watchers out there. IPv4 has been touted for a long time as being an outdated system, and a backup has long been in the works, there’s only one small catch. At it’s present state, the new standard of IPv6, isn’t compatible with IPv4. One of the biggest issues with compatiblity however is simply an issue of age. A lot of the older software and hardware isn’t quite ready to be compatible with the 64bit addressing system due to come into play. The world of business and productivity has long been overdue for an overhaul in technology, and as the newer IPv6 comes more and more to the forefront as the addressing system of the web, the change will become mandatory.

Only a quick note on the he said/he said drama between Bing and Google, this time it’s Microsoft firing back at the search giant. While the Bing team hasn’t come right out and said “no we don’t swipe Google’s searches” they’ve said that they do use 1,000 different search variables in building their results pages. Additionally, they’ve made it a point to mention that Google has copied some of the search display features which were implemented in the Bing engine. While Google did indeed copy the display of the results, they did not however, scrape results from Bing searches as it’s becoming more and more apparent that this was the tactic used by Bing.

Both of these factors in tandem are set to change the internet and the world of search. It may be time to hang on as it has the potential to be a wild ride.

Bings lack of Privacy

Feb 3, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   bing, Google, internet news  //  308 Comments

In the midst of all of the brouhaha with Microsoft and Google pointing fingers at each other, there’s a few key points that need to be brought to bear.

Yes, this is the online world where an original idea is like a spark from a fire in the night, brilliantly bright and hot and burning out in seconds. That doesn’t mean however that in working in an additional business model, plagiarism is the best route forward. The “sting operation” as it’s been called, which Google used to confirm their suspicions that Bing was directly copying their search results were based around gibberish searches. Around a search term of “mbzrxpgjys” for example. Google ensured from the get go that the term returned no search results in either engine, and when a few weeks later after setting up the trap the same results appeared, the evidence was, well, evident.

The other main argument that’s being circulated in the news and blogs around the web is similar to the first, that all Bing did was keep up the pace with the big dog in the (search) game. It’s easy to concede the point that when you see a successful business model, with room for more in the same field, that it should be somewhat free game to copy a step here and there. Take Groupon and the plethora of clones which have been springing up using the same business model. Bing however, went over the line in copying a step or two. The point which is being left out in the stories as of late, the Bing results were populated via click through data pulled from users of Internet Explorer searching via Google. Users of Internet Explorer, used Google to search for the term “mbzrxpgjys”, and that click through data was used to populate Bing results.

Microsoft Internet Explorer tracks your search query, your click through data and then uses that data from a competing search engine to build their own (Bing) search results page.

Gee, and people worry about Google keeping things private.

Bing Cheating Google!

Feb 2, 2011   //   by FreshTraffic   //   bing, Google, internet news  //  5 Comments

The internet was born out of the idea of collaboration. That you could work on an idea and have your coworker be from the other side of the globe and it would make everything seem that much closer to home and cozy. It’s not a huge surprise that technologies are borrowed and repackaged and used as companies own, but it’s rare that one gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar so to speak. And yet Bing, has just been caught.

Google has come out and said pointedly that Microsoft Bing has been cheating in their search results, and stealing Googles results pages and displaying them as their own. Normally this kind of finger pointing can be downplayed as a type of borrowing, as it’s mainly the idea that’s been used, but in this case Microsoft actually admitted it.

Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s Bing

As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry, we’re not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it. Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query.

Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This “Google experiment” seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.

How did Google work out what was going on? Aside from doing individual searches and directly comparing results, Google started noticing a rapidly rising overlap in top 10 results pages with Bing. So in order to verify their suspicions, Google rigged some searches. They created a bunch of fake searches which returned little to no results in Google and in Bing, and then placed a page at the top of those results in order to catch them with their hand in the jar. Because the pages were artificially placed in the results, it would be easy to confirm or deny their suspicions. The full fledged experiment began in mid December, and in just a couple of weeks the results began showing up in the Bing results.

In the end, Bing isn’t really really doing anything illegal, if anything it’s like they’re cheating on their math test. Google does all of the work, Bing reaps the same reward as their search opposition. Because no action could realistically be taken, the decision is in the hands of the users, and it puts a taint on all searches performed in Bing. Are they genuine search returns? Or are they just what they’ve managed to snag from the Google results pages.

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