Cafepress Sitelinks

Paying Attention to Google

Ok, for anyone involved in the web, it is hard not to pay attention to Google. But humour me for a moment.

With all the noise generated by the antitrust brouha, Google+ and the like, it would be easy to miss stuff like this. Sitelinks, visual ads, local ads, social ads … very, very important if your business gets value from search.

Google has been rapidly changing the rules in relation to who gets attention in the search engine result pages (SERPs). In some niches, a #1 ranking in the organic search results might *just* mean you are visible below all the other stuff on the SERP. Google AdWords results, Google Places results and so on.

This isn’t exactly new. If you read Aaron Wall’s excellent blog, you would have seen his chart asking Where Did Google’s Organic Search Results Go?. That process – called out in 2009 – has been steadily progressing, and the 2011 version is not pretty for organic search … The Sales Engine.

So, if you are paying attention to Google, you might want to spend more time paying attention to all the different ways you can use AdWords to get your share.

Read it and pay attention: Ads Are Just Answers

Attention sure ain’t free.

Small Business Websites and SEO

This post provides an excellent summary of what is required for a small business website: SEO Checklist for Local Small Business Websites

If you’ve been thinking SEO is arcane and complex, the emphasis on simple and clear business thinking is really worth noting. A site put together using this approach makes sense to people – and without too much effort, will work very well for search engines.

An item I would add to the list would be this: include a blog in your website, and use it to share information about the problems that matter to your customers. If you post regularly to your blog in this way, your small business website is likely to get an increasing flow of organic search traffic.

What makes a website more credible

I really like Gary Robinson’s post: 5 ways to make your site credible and increase conversions

I’d add to Gary’s five points that people are wired to trust other people. So personalising a website can make it easier for people to trust you. By personalising, I mean associating it with the people who run the business.

Businesses should definitely consider investing in the services of a professional graphic designer. It might cost more upfront, but Gary hit the nail on the head when he identified appearance as a critical influencer in how a site converts.

If you are in a competitive market, why would you settle for anything less than an excellent designer who can help you with the following:

  • Brand: express your brand identity with clarity and consistency
  • Simplicity: make it easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for and enquire or buy from you
  • Emotion: communicate not just with facts and figures but emotion

It is often a designer’s experience and judgement that can create that elusive ‘clean and simple’ experience while improving business results through better conversion.

Coming Soon – Google Instant

Coming soon to your Google search experience: Google Instant.

There is a good left brain video explanation of Google Instant in the link to Google above.

If you prefer the right brain version, run the YouTube video below.

How Google Search works

Aaron Wall is an expert on search. And Google.

If you want to understand how Google search works, go through this diagram in detail.
This is the introductory post on Aaron’s blog: How Does Google Work

And the diagram (follow link to diagram at bottom of diagram if you want to link to it yourself).

How Does Google Work?

Infographic by PPC Blog

Writing Search Engine Friendly Titles for your Posts and Web Pages

Have you ever searched on Google for something and noticed page titles like this:

Car Polish Keywords

Car Polish Keywords

Page titles that load (or stuff) keywords into the title don’t work as well as page titles that use relevant keywords written in a natural way – for readers. You might not notice this effect where there is little or no competition for search results, but it gets a lot more important when you are dealing with competitive keywords.

Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines advise:

Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

This applies in the title as well as in the page body copy.

A good principle to follow is to write natural language titles that include your keywords within the first 60-70 characters. Avoid any temptation to load the title with lots and lots of keywords.

To get more value from your page titles, use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to research relevant phrases. When you are using this, localise the tool to your country so you can see Local search history, and also change Match Type to Exact rather than Broad if you want to understand exactly what keywords people are searching for.

Choose niche keywords in preference to ‘mega’ keywords – you’ll have more chance of ranking on them initially, and they will help you rank on higher value keywords later.

This excellent video tutorial from Aaron Wall provides detailed instructions on page titles:
Google SEO Friendly Page Titles

This is an article – also from Aaron Wall – that describes the ‘natural language’ issue in more detail:
Search Engine Friendly Copywriting – What Does ‘Write Naturally’ Mean for SEO?

This article from Michael Gray provides excellent detailed guidance on how to prepare page titles, headings and permalinks. Optimizing WordPress Page Titles, Post Titles and Page Slugs

Twitter vs Google for business websites

When it comes to sending traffic to business websites, Google is the 800lb gorilla.

A recent chart post from eMarketer looks at the loyalty of visitors from social media sites: Loyal visitors but small share from social sites. But in the same post, it quotes some information sourced from Chikita about the overall volume of traffic.

Most Referrals are from Search (Source: eMarketer)

Most Referrals are from Search (Source: eMarketer)

The company looked at the top sites sending traffic to the publishers in its network and found that Google alone accounted for 76.13% of referrals.

Taken together, search engines made almost 98% of all referrals, while social networking sites made up just 0.55%.

Running an active marketing campaign using Twitter is time intensive. Think of all that time spent reading tweets, tweeting and participating in conversations.

Can it lead to conversions? I’m sure it can. But marketing involves focussing your scarce resources (mainly time) on the actions that deliver the greatest outcomes. And what this chart shows is that when it comes to traffic, Google is the 800lb gorilla.

So for a small business with limited resources it is going to be hard to get the same results from a Twitter campaign that can be achieved from a search marketing campaign.

How Search Engines See Links

If you are putting some effort into building up the number of links to your website, you may be interested to learn more about how search engines see links.

Not all links are created equally. In some cases there are technical reasons why search engines may not pick up on a link that you might think they should. Applying the nofollow tag to a link is one reason, but there are others.

This article by Gyutae Park explains how it all works: How To Confidently Build Links that Pass SEO Value.

Note: the article is quite technical in places – but so are search engines.

Writing titles for AdWords advertisements

When you are running an AdWords campaign you get to display a short ad that is triggered when specific keywords are searched. The amount you bid and the Quality Score assigned to your ad determine where your ad appears and how much you pay for each click.

An AdWords ad has limits on the number of letters you can use for your ad:

  • Title: 25 characters
  • Line 1 and Line 2: 35 characters
  • Display URL: 35 characters

Writing effective copy that fits within the limits is not easy.

There are heaps of expert advisors who will take your money to tell you how to craft a brilliant ad. But then again Google themselves provide five important tips for writing ads:

  • Include a call-to-action.
  • Clearly describe what is unique about your product or service.
  • Place your business name in your ad text.
  • Put your most important keyword in the title.
  • If you sell to a precise location, name the location.

In the course of launching a new campaign, a client asked me why using the keyword in the title was important.

There are several reasons. When someone is searching on red roses, if your ad has red roses in the text, those words will be bolded. And if the keyword happens to be in the title, the keywords are large and bold.

The bolding of the keywords is a big benefit for your ad. If your ad has a bolded title, you are more prominent than your competitor ads that don’t have bolded keywords.

And keep in mind what is being bolded – exactly what the searcher is looking for (which has a pretty good chance of getting their attention).

But using the keyword in the title has other benefits. The ranking of your ad and the price you pay is affected by the Quality Score assigned by Google, and using the keywords in the title may help improve your Quality Score.

The calculation of your Quality Score is pretty complex, but if you want to know the knitty gritty then read these articles:

So there are a few ideas on writing titles for AdWords advertisements. And if you only remember one thing, remember this: if you can, use the keyword in the title of the ad!

Bing off to a good start

I haven’t been paying much attention to Bing, Microsoft’s new entrant in the search engine race. After all, taking on Google in search …

It does go Bing

It does go Bing

But a curious thing has been happening.

I get to see analytics for quite a few different websites. I’ve noticed that for a lot of sites, Bing seemed to have either caught up to Yahoo or overtaken it. A check of about 70 sites revealed Bing equalled or exceeded Yahoo in terms of traffic sent 48% of the time (according to Google Analytics).

When I had a look at Bing’s search results, they were fast and correlated closely to stable rankings I knew from Google.

By co-incidence, Google just started running a regional one box (map with 3 pack of related sites) on a moderately competitive search term that I monitor. Google has got it utterly wrong, and is displaying a map from a totally different place. On exactly the same search term, Bing is displaying accurate, relevant results.

This is a micoscopic sample, of course. But from my perspective, Bing is off to a much better start than anticipated.

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