Google Realtime search is officially dead in the water with the expiration of the agreement with Twitter. But is it truly finished with the beta testing of Google+ social site going on in the background?
It’s no surprise that when Facebook rolled out their version of search some months ago it did worse than bombed, it was a terrible smattering of Facebook pages somewhat related contextually to your terms. Where as when Google made their first in roads into social with Buzz, they really messed up with pretty much everything where privacy was concerned. Facebook hasn’t really rehashed their search algorithm or modified it to be any kind of a competitor in the search arena, but Google is making a play on their turf.
By all accounts Google+ so far in it’s beta testing is a fairly decent product. With the ability to essentially sort your friends into your own personal groups and the ability to turn the privacy knob up to 11 has the newest offering on some solid ground out of the gate. Google has an immense suite of products already on the table with documents, calendar etc which could even make the social site a place of productivity as well. And with their Realtime search now defunct, having their own social site gives the search giant the tools to use their own posters to fuel that engine. Google+ also has a group video chat they call Hangout, that with some tweaks (rumor says it devours bandwidth) could be a great way to collaborate with friends and even colleagues. Facebook in what could be construed as a response to the Hangout feature released the integration of Skype into the social sites chat features.
At this moment it looks like Google+ beta testing is going to be a solid competitor in the social arena, it just remains to see what they can continue to plug into it. Being able to say, completely migrate all of your Facebook friends into the Google+ site would be a good start.
When you logon to your computer, fire up your browser and start your internet trek for knowledge, entertainment or what ever it is that has your mind occupied, are you going to be able to find your answer? It’s a question which has been gaining more and more traction in the last year or so, and DuckDuckGo, a new start up search engine has been shaking the search cage in an effort to forge it’s own path.
Recently they have put up a page detailing how when you perform a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo, you’re not getting a true results page. The screen shot of the search results clearly shows that different people will receive different results searching for ‘Egypt’ as a search term. Without reading the link text, it’s clear that the results pages are vastly different. But why are they different comes down to dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons. It can be as simple as your location in the country, the time of day or the trend in the news lately. The short pictorial provided on the DuckDuckGo page details essentially how search engines, Facebook, Twitter etc are all delivering pre-packaged results based on your web usage and they also contend that this shouldn’t be happening.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t save your search results, doesn’t pass your search terms onto referred websites, has a nifty red box they call zero click info (handled by Wolfram Alpha) which appears on some searches and after all that, is throwing their hat into the search engine ring. Being a new player at an old game is a tough market to break into, and DuckDuckGo is performing search in a way that is attempting to deliver a filtered *and* unfiltered internet. It’s a noble idea and does have some merit if you’d like to perform somewhat private searches on sensitive matters it may be an alternative for you. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer however both offer a cookieless browser which accomplishes the same result so you don’t really have to give up the engine you know and are familiar with.
The only real way to test if you genuinely live in a “search bubble” is to perform the same search, with 0 clicks on multiple computers. If you begin seeing that your results are significantly different than other peoples then perhaps you have a case. Personally after viewing the screenshots, when you look closely at the how many pages were fetched for each search term, there are tens of millions of pages of difference, so of course the results are going to be different. Part of Google, Bing and Yahoo’s success comes from the fact that they pass some search data to the referred website in the form of the search term, it’s what enabled the search engines to build their ad programs for web users. There are dozens of different variables when you receive your search results after you click that search button and even a simple variable like which data center sends you your results influences your page. If it happens to be running with an index which is a few hours older than others, you can very easily get different results when performing the same search multiple times.
The founder of the newer engine DuckDuckGo has recently discovered that he’s being hit with tons of spam queries for all sorts of seemingly random searches. He’s made note of the fact that while he can block these botnets from spamming his servers for the same query over and over and over again, he’s formed a question about this traffic.
In his own words from his blog:
“if other search engines include this errant traffic in their query counts. We work hard to keep them completely out because they would overwhelm our real direct queries #s and therefore distort our perception of progress. “
And while Gabriel makes a solid point and brings up a great question as to the quality of the searches and query numbers being generated, I think he’s missing the simplest answer. The founder of DuckDuckGo has managed to block the botnets at the firewall level to prevent them from skewing the query numbers and influencing the search numbers. And being that the other search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo respectively, have been around far longer, it would lead to the assumption that they’ve already dealt with the issue about the false searches. As far as SEO is concerned, this kind of activity can be seen as a quality spam, as it can be seen as bots that the websites in question have received hundreds of thousands of queries and results from these malicious users. A game and method which was dealt with years ago by both Google and Bing, so it’s almost completely a non issue.
I think the more realistic reasoning behind the botnet traffic on the new search engine is a very simple problem that anyone with a website that has an input box and no validation can relate to. It’s just spam, either looking for an exploit or a kink in the code to be able to exploit the website software that’s been picked up. It’s argued that the small search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo offer a better quality of search due to the fact that they are smaller and less bloated than their big brothers. In time however, I can see it being realized that the larger and larger these small engines become, the more increasingly difficult it will be to deliver incredibly fast results (less than half a second) while maintaining a complex directory of hundreds of billions of pages. Google just last year reached the 3 trillion pages indexed mark, a number which would cripple most data centers in existence.
The folks over at Search Engine Land developed a great chart which details SEO and used properly, may even be able to pinpoint issues in your current website and campaign.
It has several areas which layout a basic SEO checklist, beginning even from the coding of your pages, all the way up to the off page SEO tactics used. As well it has a section labeled as Violations, which starts with the very light errors of having poor content and keyword stuffing, up to methods which can grant severe penalties like using paid links and cloaked pages.
It’s a well put together chart which gives a great starting point for the technically minded business owner interested in their websites and would like to take a peek at things under the hood so to speak. Bear in mind as well, the graphic is not the end all be all list of SEO tips and guidelines, it’s merely Search Engine Lands version of what they feel is the absolute neccesary list of pros and cons.
You can have a better look at their image here.
Search Engine Optimization, we’re in the business of driving your website to the top of the search results relevant to your industry. A lot of the time, it sounds too good to be true, that when reaching this position you can literally count yourself as a leader. So you sit back, relax and watch as the visitors pour in. And then you start to notice something you didn’t prepare yourself for, your visitors start dropping off.
Where you once were receiving hundreds of qualified visitors to your site, you’ve watched it drop off to a trickle of where you were at your peak. So what happened? Did your SEO expert fail you? Possibly, we do make mistakes from time to time. But the first rule of SEO is KISS it; Keep It Simple Stupid. With that in mind, grab your pencils and paper and let’s take a look at what are the contributing factors to dropped traffic.
First and foremost, check your content. Have you been creating fresh and compelling content for your site? Have you allowed your SEO to read it before you upload it to your site or did you just toss up what ever jargon you happened to jot down in a hurry? The search engines have always proclaimed that content is king and when your content doesn’t measure up anymore, you’re going to lose your crown. That means when you’re being creative, you need to bear in mind your visitor base. Do they understand industry terms? Or do you need to use generic terms. Will they be able to handle acronyms and specific statements about your products and services? Being hasty in the creation process can be a huge contributor to losing traffic to your site. Properly spelled, grammatically correct and most of all relevant to your site content, can drive you to the top of the mountain and keep you there like an anchor.
Another avenue to explore for you, have you done any massive changes to your website either functionality or design? If you’ve changed the way your navigation works on your site and didn’t properly relay that information to the search engines, you’ll likely slip off of search until the spiders find all of your content again.
Have you kept an open and consistent dialogue with your SEO expert? When a change is requested that needs to be completed, you need to bear in mind that the internet doesn’t stop. It doesn’t sleep, rest, eat or use the washroom. The bots are always out there, always searching, parsing and indexing. A requested change needs to happen as soon as possible. Lost time when making changes can make a huge impact on your search position.
The marketing game has changed significantly in the last 10 years with the growth of the search engines. Gone are the days of dumping a quarter of a million dollars into an ad campaign and waiting for the kick back from it. International marketing superstardom can be had with a well coded website with strong quality content created by one person sitting behind a keyboard.
So there’s this thing called the internet and people are able to create their own little slice of it to tell their story or maybe even to sell themselves! It’s an amazing tool, sadly it bears the responsibility of granting anonymity to those using it, and as such it’s becoming more and more crowded with imprudent users. Massive sites of good, bad and just plain terrible information. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you want to find, you can’t help but have dozens of trash and spam results to filter through to find those nuggets of wisdom.
Well, Google has listened to your cries for spam control. And with their recent Panda (Farmer) update, it’s helped clean up as much as 12% of the overall searches performed with the service. When you’re talking in the billions of searches per month, 12% turns out to be a rather significant number. And yet, that still leaves 88% of the searches performed which may still be plagued by spam sites, scraper sites and poor quality sites. Well, Google has listened again, and now even more control of your personal search experience has emerged.
Now as you perform a search, a new option to shape your experience, block all results has been implemented. It may sound like it’s just too simple, but it does in fact allow users to form their own modified algorithm of sorts. Not interested in E-How.com? You can now choose to block those results from your searches. After you’ve blocked a url, simply reenter your search terms and voila! Cleansed and purged from your future results.
The search engines are in the business of bringing you, the user, what you want from the web. The added amenities that they provide, whether it be maps, documents, pictures, or Facebook integrations are bonuses designed to help further shape and enhance your user experience. Just like the new feature of blocking searched sites with Google.
There’s something to be said about the myths which surround SEO as an industry. In a way it adds a layer of ‘magic’ to the processes which can drive your website to the top of search. On the other hand, it allows the cheaters and snake oil salesmen to get in the door to respectable, naive business owners who only have half an idea.
Let’s face it, the world is going digital and online, the cloud is the next major leap forward as one of it’s goal is to eliminate the need for mass amounts of software on individual machines. Every major player in industry has recognized this fact, newspapers especially which have been hit substantially in the shift to online content generation and consumption. Radio and television have both added online content distribution to their industries, even going so far to use specialty content only available on their site to drive visitors. But they all know, the multi-million dollar advertising industries are slowly shifting their budgets to include online optimization in bigger and bigger steps.
Now if all of the big boys get it, that the world and it’s people are shifting online, what’s with all of the hesitation? Because unfortunately in the end business is ignorant and resistant to change. There’s short cut takers and cheaters in every industry, not just in the SEO/SEM world, and just like every other industry, when they’re caught, they’re thrust out into the light and are left to burn. The growing pains that the SEO industry is experiencing in Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg in particular, is one of naivete. Winnipeg is a small city on the global marketplace, but with it’s geo-location it should be a significatly larger player that it is. All we need now is for the old, naive, ignorant and resistant guard to change, and let the youth take over. I’ve heard it said a number of times that once you’ve lived in Winnipeg it’s hard to really want to plant roots anywhere else. My reason why (unfortunately) is because Winnipeg just doesn’t change; at least not fast enough to be a global player.
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.
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.
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.
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.