Posts tagged Google
Posts tagged Google
Earlier this year Google’s Official Blog posted Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings. I missed it at the time but I’m glad I discovered it eventually.
The essence of the change is a move away from purely matching lists of words in the search string with words on web pages. Now the intent is to recognise the things referenced by those words. This will enable Google to make more meaningful connections between objects and search results will be richer for the effort.
What is not clear at the moment is how this will impact on organic search results or for that matter on the sponsored links (i.e. the ads). For now at least, these additional “objects” have forced a bit of a redesign of the standard results page. The “object” results are displayed on the right side of the page. They look different and are unlikely to confuse searchers. Distract is an entirely different matter.
Google’s long term objective for search has always been to deliver the best results possible. The better the results the more people use and re-use search. More searchers using the services means the more chance of getting ad revenue. So this change is quite in keeping with that objective.
Has anyone else noticed the rarity of old-fashioned, unadorned organic results anywhere near the top of Google search results these days? It’s harder than ever to get a direct link to our websites in the search results.
I’d like to clarify the expression “above the fold” for anyone unfamiliar with it. It is a newspaper term, typically associated with the broadsheet format. Most newspapers are folded in half when they leave the publisher. This is often the way the newsagent or coffee shop stack them for display and how a paper seller hands a paper to you. What you first see is the top half of the front page. This is the most sought after real estate. This applies also the pages inside the newspaper. The top half of the page shows the headlines and photos that are intended to draw you into the story. This newspaper term is often applied to website designs. The size of the browser window determines what is first visible when a page of search results first loads. In the web world, this is “above the fold”.
For a long time the holy grail of SEO has been the top 3, and to a lesser extent the top 5 results in the first page of the results. This is the real estate most likely to be viewed and hopefully clicked.
Given the evolving nature of search, the simple listing of a couple of ads and 10 organic results has changed. There is a range of extra results included that are intended to enhance the user experience. This “enhancement” is driving the organic results below the fold, and in some extreme case off the front page.
What’s getting in the way? These are some of the extras provided by Google ..
How do we get around this situation? We may not be able to entirely. And not all of these extras are necessarily a problem. As long as it is your Local or Directory listing, searchers can still reach your website, even if it takes an extra click or two to get there.
The results vary for different keyword combinations. Search strings that include a location (e.g. “mattress sydney”) or are run on a mobile phone giving geographic data are much more likely to include Local listings. Search strings involving products (e.g. “coffee machines”) are more likely to include Shopping results. The impact seems seems lower with highly targetted searches (e.g. business name, or lots of keywords).
Given this background, it is critical to claim these secondary references to your business and make sure the information is correct and complete. Make use of any facilities provided to enhance the listing. Here are some of the typical options:
At least in part, we rely on searchers ignoring irrelevant results. It also confirms the need to diversify our marketing efforts. Complete reliance on any one channel is dangerous.
While preparing the post, I came across two articles that are relevant. They help prove this is not just a personal conspiracy theory. The articles are:
I don’t think this will be the last time this issue will be discussed.
In an earlier post ( Facebook search - another reason to get involved), I raised the issue of search in the context of Facebook. Some time after that I read a post (Consumers Say No to a Facebook Backed Search Engine ) that made me stop to evaluate my earlier comments. Have my ideas changed? No. Let me explain.
My first concern is the survey on which the recent post is based. It only surveyed 500 people, which is not a significant percentage of the Facebook population (measured in hundreds of millions). I also notice they refer to those surveyed as “people” not “facebook users”. That could be massively significant.
My second concern is the concept surveyed. It focusses on the idea of an standalone Facebook search engine (like Google or Bing), rather than an integrated or internal search facility. A standalone search facility would be a direct assault on Google and a slap in the face to Bing, who provides much of the current internal search facility. This approach seems very unlikely. Even if this is the preferred Facebook concept, I’m not surprised it was not well supported in the survey. Why would a user be interested in a new search facility outside Facebook? There is no motivation for change unless the new search provides better results than the user’s current search option. However, improvements to the existing internal Facebook search facilities, such as incorporating Facebook specific and external results, is a much more interesting proposition. That could really put a cat amongst the pidgeons.
More recently I read Facebook: No Sense “To Even Begin To Think About Doing Web Search” Now, which lead me to Search is on for Facebook’s next big thing. In this article, Lars Rasmussen, Director of Engineering at Facebook, says “I can’t predict what will happen in the future but I don’t think it will make sense for us at this stage to even begin to think about doing web search. Google does that so well.”
So it’s not off the agenda, but it seems we may have a wait before we see this option from Facebook themselves. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ramp up the allegiance with Bing.
Then this morning I read Developing Better Search A Key To Facebook’s Future. This piece introduces advertising to the search mix for Facebook. Advertising is the revenue stream that pays for so may of the “free” internet services we all use. These sentences from the last paragraph sum up its key argument …
In a way it doesn’t matter if Facebook ever does anything with “web search” if it dramatically improves search on Facebook. It will achieve the same result: getting people to use the site when they have “intent to purchase.”
Time will tell how, when and where Facebook will do search. The current search facility is woefully underpowered even with the supplemental results from Bing. If the long term strategy is for Facebook to be the centre of the average users internet world and add value to shareholders via advertising revenue, an integrated and powerful search facility must be delivered.
Have we heard the last of Facebook and search? I don’t think so.
Even if the ideas in my early post (“Does Yelp belong in your future?”) weren’t enough to convince you of the value of a listing, perhaps the latest developments discussed by Search Engine Land (“Yelp Elevated By Apple Relationship, Second Only To Google In Local Importance Now”) may change your mind.
Search Engine Land rates Yelp “second only to Google in terms of its importance — if not its equal.”
For some time, Yelp has had a minor role to play in assisting businesses present themselves to local searchers. But Yelp’s importance has grown. First, by the deal with Bing, mentioned in my earlier post. And second, by its role on the Apple platform, initially only on iPhone 4S but more recently the increased integration in the Apple operating system.
All of this means a presence in Yelp is an opportunity for exposure. Is it an opportunity too good to pass up?
Yelp is a social media service that has many characteristics of a business directory. It has been operating in the USA for a number of years but has only recently started accepting listings in Australia. I have no idea if it will be a success here. But I think it is worth registering your business with the service for these reasons:
You may find your business is already be listed. In that case it is easy to claim the listing and update any details.
While exploring it recently, I noticed below the location map on their search results page, there is an option to “Browse Nearby”. This is an easy way to search in the location displayed for a few predetermined categories, namely Restaurants, Nightlife, Shopping and Coffee & Tea. If you are in one of these categories, you have an extra incentive to ensure your business is listed and your address and contact information is accurate. What better time to connect with a potential customer than after they have been visiting a business in your location and are looking for their next activity.
Some may be concerned that their business is shown close to competing businesses and see this as an excuse to avoid a listing. Yelp will show these competitors regardless of your choice. Your details may already be listed in this and many other directories. You may have little choice than to accept the situation. Even better, embrace the opportunity to display your details and compete head on.
If you need more incentive, Bing now has an arrangement with Yelp to include their content into Bing’s local search results. [Bing Does Local Content Deal With Yelp]. We also know that, at least for now, Facebook search results are supplemented with Bing results. Bing may be the poor relation to Google, in terms of search volume, but they have a considerable following and are working hard to grow their market share.
This is an opportunity worth pursuing.
In my last post “Is it time to start thinking like a publisher?” I made the statement “the internet is an evolving phenomenon”. Today I read “The New ”. A perfect example of one aspect of this evolving phenomenon. Search: Six Changes That Rocked the SEO World
Perhaps the changes outlined in that post are not known to you. That’s OK. You rely on your SEO advisor to stay current and make recommendations based on their experience, knowledge and research.
Two other areas of significant change for Google are localisation and personalisation. They are in part a response to the rise of social media and the increasing role of mobile platforms.
Beyond Google, a myriad of other changes have had a remarkable impact on the internet in the last 5 to 10 years. The prime example that most of us see is the explosion of social media and its expansion from exclusively people-centric (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to include interest-centric (Pinterest and a range of bookmarking applications). Social was originally personal, but now it is open to brands and marketing opportunities.
This post is meant to reinforce the need for you or a trusted advisor to stay current with the changing times. To remain competitive, you need to develop a strategy to grow a web presence, that is way beyond the simplicity of a “set and forget” website.
In an earlier post, “Websites are not just set and forget”, I spoke about the need to periodically spring clean your website. I’m concerned that based solely on that post some may think a spring clean is all that is needed. It is not. It is the least.
In case anyone missed the memo, the internet is an evolving phenomenon. There has been a continuous procession of new facilities that have made differences to our personal lives and to our businesses. Even businesses not suited to online trading are exposed to scrutiny via the web as potential customers research their buying options.
Many of the perceptions of the internet relied on by some businesses were established in the early ’90s, when email first impacted our lives or later in the ’90s when the World Wide Web started its inexorable climb in importance. Any business that thinks these rules are sufficient to cling to is gravely mistaken. These businesses could pay the ultimate price if they fail to see the risk of clinging to the past or are slow adopters of newer strategies.
The first task is to acknowledge change is needed.
If you rely on traditional tools like Yellow Pages and local newspaper ads as the core of your marketing, you may have noticed a drop in their effectiveness over time. This may have reached the point where you are wondering if the price is worth it. But more concerning is the decision about what replaces them. If you have reached this point you may not need much convincing it is time for a change. So now the issue is what do you need to do instead, or in addition, to grow your revenue.
Clues to where I’m headed with this topic appear through the rest of this blog, but I’m not sure I have stated it explicitly. My suggestion is Content Marketing (sometimes called Inbound Marketing), which is the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases.
It doesn’t matter which channels, how much you publish material or how often as long as it is customer focussed and related to the core of the business it will be valuable. Any of the typical social channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a few others, are suitable platforms. They each have particular benefits and constraints. Choose a platform, determine a publishing strategy and give it a try. The objective is to think like a publisher (nor a marketer) and produce information for those interested in your business and industry,
The content should be produced someone who understands the business and the customers it serves. For many small businesses that is the owner. I recommend you do NOT delegate the generation of your content to an outside resource or the lowest paid employee of the organisation. This is acceptable for the mechanical aspects of publishing but not the generation of the material.
If the content published is too generic, without a strong connection to your industry and your customers it is likely to fail.
I’m not the only one pushing this line of thought. One of the most coherent voices on this subject is David Meerman Scott. I really liked this recent post on the subject Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell.
I came across that text on a website of a company that designs and builds websites. I found it visiting the website of one of their clients. Unfortunately, what I saw at both of those websites undermines the credibility of that statement.
“Today’s Internet” is an evolving entity. A website built and optimised today may not be competitive tomorrow. Anyone unfamiliar with the rate of change on the Internet in general and Search Engine Optimisation in particular could be misled by this statement.
For those familiar with optimisation, it should be unnecessary to explain that links from relevant, external sites are a key component of optimisation. However, for a typical small business owner, this fact is not obvious. To imply a website is optimised without ensuring sufficient and appropriate links are available is misleading.
How about the phrase “fully optimised”? I think that’s a tough ask. That means that absolutely every optimisation factor available (and there are hundreds) has been tweaked. How is that possible for an included service when building a website? It’s not, unless the website has a very large price tag.
One piece of free advice to both the design company and their client … change the hosting of your websites to an Australian provider. Search results are becoming progressively more localised. The location of the hosting server is a key signal in this process.
There isn’t much room in the middle.
Recently, I came across SEO related quotes from two different sources, that made me stop in my tracks wondering if I’d stepped into an alternate SEO universe. Here are the quotes …
.. What about the “duplicate content penalty”?? This is where Google does not display more than one version of the same copy in its results. BUT – Google still indexes the content AND it still counts for backlinks!!
“Some SEO experts still believe that Google plus is not going to make drastic changes in search results. The reason is that several other social networking components are already working much before and hence Google’s recent entity cannot make a substantial impact at present. The Facebook and Twitter are well established and their presence cannot be ignored very soon. Therefore an early prediction on the effect of Google plus on SEO is not possible now.”
Let’s see if I can clarify my position on these issues.
Duplicate Content Penalty
Duplicate content is any significant block of text found on multiple web pages, possibly the same domain, but more typically, on separate domains. Google seeks out and respects unique content, as this is most likely what searchers are looking to them to provide. The last thing Google wants to present is multiple sites displaying identical content. As for the penalty for this offense, I think the suppression of one of the duplicate pages from the index is the minimum penalty possible. Other options at their (Google) disposal is removal of both offending pages from the index and the removal of one or both sites from the index. I think it would be a brave or foolish person to assume Google will pass link value from any page or site removed from the index.
The extent of the penalty will probably be determined by the extent of the transgression. It seems unlikely, a single instance of a cloned page will be seriously penalised if detected. An automated process to send content to multiple domains is much more likely to incur a site wide penalty. What’s not certain is which site will be penalised.
The page that caught my eye proposed automated posting across platforms. Specifically cloning posts from Posterous to Tumblr and possibly other hosted blogging platforms.
For the record, I don’t think there is any risk in sending an excerpt from a blog post to a Facebook page or tweeting the post’s title to Twitter, and incorporating a link to the full post. This is one of the valid ways of utilising these platforms. Nor do I think there is anything inherently wrong with the use of those specific blogging platforms or any of the alternatives available. Quality content on any platform is always rewarded once indexed.
Perhaps the writer has modified his / her views since publication (August 2010). If that’s the case, it’s a pity an update wasn’t included.
Impact of Google Plus
Yes, Google Plus is young and other social platforms definitely have a head start and significant numbers of regular users. But to think Google will ignore the social signals emanating from this source that they built is foolish.
This not to say Twitter and Facebook will fall in significance or that the value of social signals they generate will lessen. However, Google Search has a fast path to the Google Plus data. One of the first voices I can recall talking about the impact of social signals on search results was Christopher S Penn back in June 2011. At that time, G+ was not generally available, so it’s not surprising he didn’t mention Google Plus specifically. However, the role of social signals was clearly in the sights of this thought leader, as it has been for many other significant voices in the intervening period.
Does this mean everyone should immediately jump on board, perhaps at the expense of other social media channels? Every enterprise has to make that decision for itself. The decision will come down to effort versus reward and where the majority of its target audience found.
But choose wisely. Search traffic is a lifeline for many businesses. Any opportunity to increase ranking needs consideration.
Perhaps I’m misinterpreting the statements on these sites. Maybe these opinions are pushing the boundaries of SEO thinking. A reasonable objective. But that’s not my impression.
The ideas expressed do not sit well with me. SEO is black magic for some, and misunderstood by many. Most website owners rely on SEO professionals to guide them through the maze. I’m concerned someone will take these opinions as mainstream views and attempt to implement them to their detriment.
A recent post by Valerie Maltoni (aka Conversation Agent), http://www.conversationagent.com/2011/11/googleplus-pages-for-brands-and-businesses.html. started me thinking. Her discussion addresses Google Plus specifically, but the same logic applies to the already established major social platforms - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
A lot of her logic on the need for a Google Plus presence is based on the existing relationship most of us have with Google (it is still the dominant search platform) and the leverage that provides to Google Plus. The increasing importance of social signals in influencing search rankings in the continuously moving landscape is not something we should ignore. Google Plus gives Google Search easy access to this set of signals.
Google has enormous strength, vision and resources and they may well make Google Plus a significant social platform. Even if this doesn’t happen, Google is leveraging a change in the social landscape as both Facebook and Twitter make changes to their offerings to compete with some of the innovations that Google have introduced. None of us are well served by major entities who operate without significant competition.
I am not attempting to argue the case for the long term survival of Google Plus or offer an opinion about the need for businesses to create a presence on it. I am more interested in the broader discussion of why a small business would make an effort to participate in any, some or all of these platforms.
At the micro level, most businesses with an effective website might be safe enough for now without proceeding to social media provided none of the competitors break rank and join the social party. An early adopter may gain a significant advantage if they implement a strategy that connects them with a large portion of their market pool.
More generally, we know social signals and social content are playing an increasing role in search results, and not just Google’s. While the relative positions of local, small scale competitors may not vary significantly in the search results, those same results may be infiltrated by largely irrelevant social noise or larger competitors with well developed strategies. This could make it difficult for an individual business to be found.
Google has demonstrated an interest in localising results. This may give some protection to small local operators, but it may be insufficient. Even the ultra small businesses, the so called mum and pop stores, may need to develop a social strategy to hold their market share. They also need to ensure their location signals (e.g. Google Places) are loud and clear.
How that social strategy will look for these small entities is unclear and will be constrained by their capacity - time and / or revenue - to participate. However, it seems increasingly important to start planning for that eventuality.
So to answer the question in the title - your business may be at risk if you don’t.