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SEO shifts for Google

5 Jan

In the past 12 months, Google has made notable shifts in the generation of its search results.

Most noticeably, the search engine seems to be putting more emphasis on the value of local search results. In some way, searches are now partly determined by where you’re searching from.

If this trend will continue in 2011, it will change the search engine optimization (SEO) playing field. Not to mention, it will boost the value of mobile SEO. If you combine that with time-based searches, the possibilities would be limitless.

Imagine walking in the mall and browsing the internet from your smart phone. Typing in a query from Google, like “clothes,” will bring back time and location based results. This means that the search engine can bring you links to the clothing stores in the mall, particularly the ones that have sales and promos.

Source: lastclicknews


How Will SEO Evolve in 2011?

16 Dec

The big news in SEO recently was the revelation that social media signals affect natural search rankings, from interviews with people at both Google and Bing — although no indication was given to how much they affect rankings.

To be fair, if you were a search engine and wanted to know what brands, websites, and general content people wanted to interact with online, where would you go first? It has an added benefit for those who think that the SERPs are a bit spammy (I’m not one of them, for the record).

One way of reducing the number of arguably lower quality websites would be to look at who the popular brands are in the social media space and try to reward them with more authority.

How can SEOs take advantage of what seems to be a clear shift toward sentiment as an extra factor in achieving better rankings?

A growing number of SEO techniques can be undertaken with SEO, and specifically link building, in mind — from PR and advertorials to advertising on relevant industry websites.

In 2011, I expect this to become more closely tied with clients’ overall marketing campaigns. The best way to explain this is with an example:

Client A is a retailer, looking to boost sales of a specific range of camping equipment products. Special offers, promotions, and TV advertising is all planned and will revolve around a creative execution involving a character who will appear in their ads.

The opportunities for SEO here are endless, and need to be part of the initial planning, not an afterthought. For example:

•TV ads to be backed up with a strong PR campaign, aimed at increasing the number of brand and URL links to the client’s site.

•The specialist nature of the goods is such that a blogger outreach campaign can be undertaken, looking for product reviews, advertising opportunities, contextual links, or at least deep links from these relevant sites.

•The ad campaign’s character will have a Facebook and Twitter presence. If it is an engaging campaign, they will get a lot of followers and their profile will have strong social signals, which can then add value when linking back to the site.

•Key influencers for this market on Twitter and Facebook can be contacted and encouraged to review products, follow the main character and will retweet, “Like,” and re-post special offers or product insights.

•A campaign to win a free camping stove can be run as an “online game” (like the “throw the penguin” game, for example) and embedded on blogger sites to increase usage. It can also contain backlinks.
This gives us a “natural” balance between followed and no-followed links, contextual versus brand and URL links, from a variety of highly relevant sources, and also leverages the social media “buzz” metrics as further opportunities.


Google Places will be essential for SEO in 2011

16 Dec

Google Places is what used to be called Google Local Business Center, and companies who were pro-active with their SEO were able to add a listing for their business to Google via their Google Account, including information such as the address, opening times, photos, a logo and even payment types accepted. These listings would then ‘sometimes’ show up when people searched for businesses in a particular geographical area, but this was not always the case and the listings were separated from the main search results.

Google Places SEO

Google Places Ellesmere Part of SEO in 2011

Google however has recently changed Google Local Business Center into Google Places, and has placed more emphasis on the data it contains. Searches for products or services in local areas, such as ‘SEO in Ellesmere Port’ for example, now show almost exclusively those businesses that have a Google places listing – meaning if you’re not listed with Google Places, you’re not ranking for geographical searches.

This doesn’t happen for every type of business at the moment, but we believe it will – and it will mean more businesses will either have to list their websites with Google Places, or miss out on the traffic brought by geographical searches.

This isn’t much of a prediction to be honest, but if you’ve never heard of Google Places, or if you have heard of it but haven’t bothered to add your business, you’d best act now before your traffic plummets from local searches.


Google introduced Instant Previews

10 Nov

Today Google introduced Instant Previews, a new search feature that helps people find information faster by showing a visual preview of each result. Traditionally, elements of the search results like the title, URL, and snippet—the text description in each result—help people determine which results are best for them. Instant Previews achieves the same goal with a visual representation of each page and where the relevant content is, instead of a text description. For our webmaster community, this presents an opportunity to reveal the design of your site and why your page is relevant for a particular query. We’d like to offer some thoughts on how to take advantage of the feature.

Google Instant Previews

Instant Previews

First of all, it’s important to understand what the new feature does. When someone clicks on the magnifying glass on any result, a zoomed-out snapshot of the underlying page appears to the right of the results. Orange highlights indicate where highly relevant content on the page is, and text call outs show search terms in context.

Many of you have put a lot of thought and effort into the structure of your sites, the layout of your pages, and the information you provide to visitors. Instant Previews gives people a glimpse into that design and indicates why your pages are relevant to their query. Here are some details about how to make good use of the feature.

  • Keep your pages clearly laid out and structured, with a minimum of distractions or extraneous content. This is always good advice, since it improves the experience for visitors, and the simplicity and clarity of your site will be apparent via Instant Previews.
  • Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.
  • Many pages have their previews generated as part of our regular crawl process. Occasionally, we will generate screenshots on the fly when a user needs it, and in these situations we will retrieve information from web pages using a new “Google Web Preview” user-agent.
  • Instant Previews does not change our search algorithm or ranking in any way. It’s the same results, in the same order. There is also no change to how clicks are tracked. If a user clicks on the title of a result and visits your site, it will count as a normal click, regardless of whether the result was previewed. Previewing a result, however, doesn’t count as a click by itself.
  • Currently, adding the nosnippet meta tag to your pages will cause them to not show a text snippet in our results. Since Instant Previews serves a similar purpose to snippets, pages with the nosnippet tag will also not show previews. However, we encourage you to think carefully about opting out of Instant Previews. Just like regular snippets, previews tend to be helpful to users—in our studies, results which were previewed were more than four times as likely to be clicked on. URLs that have been disallowed in the robots.txt file will also not show Instant Previews.
  • Currently, some videos or Flash content in previews appear as a “puzzle piece” icon or a black square. We’re working on rendering these rich content types accurately.


How To Allow Google to Crawl your AJAX Content

28 Oct

Today we’re excited to propose a new standard for making AJAX-based websites crawlable. This will benefit webmasters and users by making content from rich and interactive AJAX-based websites universally accessible through search results on any search engine that chooses to take part. We believe that making this content available for crawling and indexing could significantly improve the web.

While AJAX-based websites are popular with users, search engines traditionally are not able to access any of the content on them. The last time we checked, almost 70% of the websites we know about use JavaScript in some form or another. Of course, most of that JavaScript is not AJAX, but the better that search engines could crawl and index AJAX, the more that developers could add richer features to their websites and still show up in search engines.

Some of the goals that we wanted to achieve with this proposal were:

  • Minimal changes are required as the website grows
  • Users and search engines see the same content (no cloaking)
  • Search engines can send users directly to the AJAX URL (not to a static copy)
  • Site owners have a way of verifying that their AJAX website is rendered correctly and thus that the crawler has access to all the content

Here’s how search engines would crawl and index AJAX in our initial proposal:

  • Slightly modify the URL fragments for stateful AJAX pages
    Stateful AJAX pages display the same content whenever accessed directly. These are pages that could be referred to in search results. Instead of a URL like we would like to propose adding a token to make it possible to recognize these URLs: . Based on a review of current URLs on the web, we propose using “!” (an exclamation point) as the token for this. The proposed URL that could be shown in search results would then be:!state.
  • Use a headless browser that outputs an HTML snapshot on your web server
    The headless browser is used to access the AJAX page and generates HTML code based on the final state in the browser. Only specially tagged URLs are passed to the headless browser for processing. By doing this on the server side, the website owner is in control of the HTML code that is generated and can easily verify that all JavaScript is executed correctly. An example of such a browser is HtmlUnit, an open-sourced “GUI-less browser for Java programs.
  • Allow search engine crawlers to access these URLs by escaping the state
    As URL fragments are never sent with requests to servers, it’s necessary to slightly modify the URL used to access the page. At the same time, this tells the server to use the headless browser to generate HTML code instead of returning a page with JavaScript. Other, existing URLs – such as those used by the user – would be processed normally, bypassing the headless browser. We propose escaping the state information and adding it to the query parameters with a token. Using the previous example, one such URL would be . Based on our analysis of current URLs on the web, we propose using “_escaped_fragment_” as the token. The proposed URL would then become .
  • Show the original URL to users in the search results
    To improve the user experience, it makes sense to refer users directly to the AJAX-based pages. This can be achieved by showing the original URL (such as!state from our example above) in the search results. Search engines can check that the indexable text returned to Googlebot is the same or a subset of the text that is returned to users.


Google to Offer Free SEO Review, Analysis, and Advice for Your Website

26 Oct

It is not uncommon for Google staff to provide advice about how best to organise a website to assist you with your Google rankings. After all they want the best websites up there. Until now though, this only really happened at live clinics and conferences and for some people that get a little over excited at the latest Matt Cutts video. Now though, Google have issued a call via their Webmasters Central blog for people to submit their site to get a free once over with their SEO advice scrubbing brush.

“Eh…what?” …said every SEO professional on the planet…

Google Site Clinic

Google Site Clinic

Don’t worry, there are rules. You can only submit your site if it is a strictly non-profit or government site and they will be posting all the advice with screen shots of the websites etc so that all can benefit from their analysis and advice. Plus the offer is aimed at helping ‘beginners’ so will probably not uncover anything professionals don’t know already. Google has in fact already held a few of these clinics in Spain, India and Norway. Plus they have been providing similar SEO advice through a number of mediums for years so this really shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

If you have the right category of website then you can submit your site for the clinic by filling out a form. To be eligible you must:

  • Be a registered non-profit organisation
  • Must verify that you own the site via Google Webmaster Tools
  • Make sure you site meets the webmaster quality guidelines.

If you fail to meet any of these points and you just have to get some inside SEO advice, you might want to try kidnapping Matt Cutts. Although he is a ninja so watch out…