Thursday, February 24, 2011

Google Penalizes Overstock.com for Search Tactics

Saw this article in today's WSJ - Google penalizes Overstock.com website for its link acquisition strategy.  Apparently, Overstock sought out links from educational institutions (.edu), which some claim that Google treats these links with higher reverence.

Overstock was appearing high in search results for terms like "laptop computers" and "vacuum cleaners."

According to the WSJ, "The Overstock incident is the second move by Google in two weeks against a large retailer for allegedly violating guidelines. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Google lowered the ranking of links to J.C. Penney Co.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Google's MayDay Update is a Winner

At the recent SES Toronto, Mike Grehan interviewed a Google engineer on the MayDay algorithmic update.

According to Maile Ohye, Tech Lead at Google, MayDay update, which took place on or about May 3rd, 2010, was a significant update, in that it impacted long tail terms.  Because some users (enough) were using automated tools to leverage long tail terms, Google sought to eliminate the spam results that often resulted from those actions.  Eliminating spam is a huge priority for Google.  And frankly, I am glad for it.

Now, long tail queries will be treated just like other queries.  You have to have quality content that goes along with the long tail phrase you are trying to rank for, not just a list of long tail search phrases on a page.

A lot of webmasters and SEO industry folks, included this one,  are pleased to see that Google is continually striving to provide high quality search results, and now, in the long tail search arena.  Some say it's long overdue.

Keep up the good work, Google!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Changing Face of Social Networks

Back in 2008, MySpace.com was the undisputed leader with 61 million users.  March 2010, it's only 42 million, down 31%.   Popular networking sites LinkedIn and Classmates have both reported declines of 12% and 30%.  So, if they're visiting these sites in smaller numbers, where are they going?  Facebook and Twitter, the new social sites de jour.

Facebook is enjoying new heights as the social media leader with 117 million unique users for March 2010, showing a 69% growth year-over-year.  That's quite impressive, but being in search and analytics arena, I have yet to see client brands and sites generate significant growth in leads or link referrals from Facebook.  It just ain't happening, yet.  For business purposes, I have yet to be convinced of it's marketing influence.  I'm not ruling it out just yet, just discounting it's business value for the time being.  The jury's still out.

To me, Facebook is still a cutsey platform, a diary of sorts for friends and family to leave short (and I mean really short) comments on each other's photos and pages, instead of picking up the phone or writing an email.  I find it to be a narcissistic medium of sorts for those who can't be bothered to actually communicate with friends and family at length, a way to keep them at arm's length.  Sorry, but that's just my take on it.  Plus, all the cutsey games and apps everyone plays -- seems to be more of a place for the Facebook page owner to play games--a sandbox of sorts.  I'm also not sure how one gets lots of followers on Facebook aside from advertising on other mediums.

Twitter has also grown in stature.  From a measly 500,000 users just 2 years ago, Twitter boasts more than 20 million users, 45% growth year-over-year.  It happens to be my favorite form of social media.  Why?  Do you have a few minutes?

Twitter lets you have a say in things.  You can follow those who share your interests, or become an expert with a following of your own.  And, it's easier to find like-minded folks, just by searching on a word or popular topic, and way easier to build a following.  I have found it much harder to do so on Facebook (due to too much page clutter).  On Twitter, you can categorize your followers, or follow others' lists.  I have found that I have far more reach and influence on Twitter, whether it be by speaking as an expert, or quoting experts or commenting on breaking news, I can share information with like-minded folks very easily and very quickly.  To me, Twitter is an influencer's dream.  And having been a copywriter, copyeditor, news journalist and blogger, Twitter is also a disciplinarian.  It teaches you to get to the point in 140 characters.  It's really quite brilliant, I have to say.  I only wish I had invented it.  In a few short months, one of my Twitter accounts has more than 2,200 followers - just from tweeting (no other advertising).  Imagine having an audience of 2,200 listeners who want to hear what you have to say.

From a business perspective, a Twitter account can inform cutomers of new products, specials, features, sweepstakes, etc. and links are encouraged!  Given that Google Caffeine has added real-time search results to its SERPs pages, you never know when your Tweet will appear in Google!

I apologize for the digression - but getting back to the subject of the changing social media landscape, Facebook and Twitter are growing, while other sites are fading or trying to re-invent themselves, like Digg.  Later...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

301 Redirects Do Not Pass Full PR and Link Value

Just read an interview with Matts Cutts of Google wherein he verified that “301 redirects do not pass full pagerank and Link Value.” Essentially, every time you “redirect” a URL, there will be some degradation of PageRank and Link Equity.

I've always been in favor of keeping URLs constant, but unfortunately, in today's online marketing space, business owners need to compete via microsites with temporary URLs, which end up eventually in the 201 Redirect heap.

Bottom line – use redirects only as a last resort.   Also, remember to only use absolute URLs in your XML sitemaps.  A URL that has been 301'd will kick out the XML sitemap.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Yahoo Drops Keyword Tag

It's official.  This morning at SMX East  Cris Pierry, Senior Director, Search, Yahoo said Yahoo no longer uses the Keyword Tag for purposes of determining ranking for a given search term.  However, they did mention that if you are still using the Yahoo paid placement (Yahoo! Search Submit) program, to keep using the tags, although I'm not sure why.  Perhaps future buzz will leak out and explain it more fully.

The only reason I still continue to use the keywords tag, is to add synonyms or misspellings to the list.  So, what I'm getting is that while search engines still look at the tag, it is no longer used to determine rank.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good Keyword Selection Depends on Good Tools

With Bing traffic up to 10%, Yahoo at 16% and Google still holding a 64% share, we have three viable players in the search traffic market.  And, with 68% of searchers clicking on page one listings in search results, and the Bing/Yahoo relationship nipping at Google market share, we should be seeing more search innovation in the future and perhaps more tools to measure that innovation.

So how can we stay competitive on all three search engines?  For starters, good keyword selection.  So let's review ways to do good keyword research:

(1)  Analyze your own data to see what keywords visitors are already using to find your site.  This will give you a basis of current search traffic drivers.  If your site is not using any web analytics like Omniture or Coremetrics, get Google Analytics installed for free.  You will need some way to measure your progress.

(2)  Do a competitive analysis by analyzing the sites of your top 2 or 3 competitors to see what keywords they are focusing on.  Also, pay attention to the paid keywords they are buying for additional clues.

(3)  Know your customer's terminology.  Getting customer feedback, talking to your customers, and reading reviews or forum posts related to your product or service will give you hints as to what is important to your customer base.

(4)  Use keyword tools.  My favorite is the Google External Keyword Tool which will give you tons of keywords ideas and approximate monthly search traffic on Google.  For competitive analysis, check out SpyFu which looks at at competitor's website for clues to natural and paid search keywords.  For for those more adventurous, Google has developed a visual tool, the Google Wonder Wheel.  Just type in a search term and see what other ideas pop up.  I'm not certain of the technology or how they derive the keyword options, but it's really fun to use, and may offer keyword suggestions you haven't even thought of yet.  To use it, go to Google and type in a search term or phrase, click on "Show Options" below the Google logo, and in the left column nav, click on Wonder Wheel. 

Most importantly, have fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Social Media Still Not Viable Commerce Platforms

According to the recent Consumer Internet Barometer report from The Conference Board, while social media sites are experiencing dramatic growth, users of these networks don't see them as drivers of sales or conversions. They are still primarily being used as a method of communicating and interacting with one another.

43% of users now participate in a social site, e.g. Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. That's a 16% increase over a year ago. Read the entire report at MarketingVox.

We know that Social Media does not directly affect SEO link equity or search results to any large degree (due to NOFOLLOW tags on most social media sites). However, I was thinking that perhaps Social Media is a precursor to search. In the past, if you wanted to find something on the Internet and didn't know where to find it, your first stop would be a Search Engine. But now, people are interacting and conversing about all sorts of things...including being exposed to others' likes, dislikes, opinions on a variety of products and services (albeit indirectly) on these Social sites.

So what I'm thinking is that Social Media can peak a person's interest, or expose them to a new product or service, much like TV ads used to do - and that peaked interest leads them to do a search on Google et al. So some incremental search visits to sites today, may be attributable to social "buzz."

And with more of the population moving away from television and moving towards the Web and interactive social sites, Social Networks are not only fast becoming a new medium in which to introduce products and services, but also are creating a new way for a business to interact with potential customers and even get feedback from them, something traditional media outlets are incapable of doing. Also, let's not diminish the effect of driving direct traffic to a business web site.

So, maybe we should start thinking of Social Media as: (1) a driver of direct traffic to business web sites; (2) a way to interact and get feedback from potential customer; and (2) as a precursor to future search engine queries. Expanding how we look at social media, and what it can and cannot do, we can begin to appreciate it's value and start incorporating it into our online marketing mix.