Why A Search Engine Googopoly Is Bad For The Internet

Google has been the number one search engine for many years with Yahoo! and the rest, not trailing behind, but languishing. Because of Google’s dominance, search engine optimisation has centred around the algorithms that go into Google’s organic search rankings. To a degree, this has made life easier – it has also made life more difficult.

Because Google is so far in front, spammers concentrate on its search rankings. Every now and then, Google makes a change to its algorithm, perhaps decides to penalise certain habits (like paid links several years ago) or to boost other areas (such as social media). Now that’s fine except that often the little players get caught in the cross fire and suddenly find their hard work coming undone.

There is talk that Yahoo! is on its last legs. It seems to me it has been ‘on its last legs’ for many years now. Perhaps Bing can finally kill it off. The end result will not be a better internet – if anything, it will become poorer – not because of Yahoo! disappearing, but because of the lack of competition.

If we had four or five strong search engines, the competition would be much better. More importantly, spammers would have a tougher time. Five strong search engines means five different sets of algorithms. I am not sure that spammers would have such an easy time. An even bigger issue are the search results themselves.

I am not sure if many searchers have noticed the changes creeping into the search results these days. I have mentioned it before; if you actually look at search results, they are becoming compartmentalised. You have image results grouped together, likewise video, news, products and local business (local search). What’s next? Will blogs be removed from organic search and get a little compartment of their own? Commerce, articles; where does it stop? Search results will become a page of compartments each dedicated to a particular segment.

That could be good for the user, it may be good for some sectors of the web, but I am not sure it is going to be good for the web as whole. Competition has proven to be the best innovator and the only way to provide a quality service. Monopolies rarely have the interests of anyone except the self – and Google is becoming a large Googopoly. What are your thoughts – is a single all powerful search engine good for the internet?

February 20th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Blogging For The Sake Of Blogging Is Not Blogging

Blogging is one of the most popular activities online these days and the lines are becoming blurred between social media, social bookmarking and traditional blogging. There are bookmarking sites like Tumblr that allow ‘blog’ entries and there has been a suggestion that Facebook incorporate a blog feature as well. I see nothing wrong with this; in fact, the more outlets there are for people to blog, the better.

However, when it comes to a business, blogging for the sake of blogging could be a negative. I can only see two reasons for a business to incorporate a blog. One is to open communication with customers and the second is to provide SEO benefits. For either one, blogging has still got to provide a worthwhile experience.

Customers, or potential customers, won’t hang around or return to your blog if the content is useless to them. Likewise, if search engines see nothing but keyword-stuffed blog posts with links to all your important pages, they won’t give it the authority it needs to build those pages.

It is not difficult to create content that is both useful to your visitors and of value to develop authority. Well written content will, over time, develop natural inbound links. These links are an essential part of that authority development.

Rather than blogging without direction, put together a game plan for your blog. It can work for both visitor satisfaction and SEO purposes. You can then incorporate some of the social blogging platforms that are developing that can act like funnels, first bringing traffic to your blog then channeling that traffic to your site’s ‘money’ pages. Get it right and everyone wins – get it wrong and blog for the sake of blogging, with content that is really worthless, and no one wins, least of all your business.

February 19th, 2010 by Editor | 1 Comment »

How To Create An Effective Social Marketing Tweet

Twitter is all the rage these days although I think there is far more hype than there is substance to it all. When you look at the raw numbers, Twitter is a long way down the list of ‘most visited’ sites. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful when it comes to social marketing. What you should bear in mind is that sites like Facebook still receive 7-8 times more visitors – so apportion your social marketing time appropriately.

If you are intent on using Twitter, the least you can do is learn to write an effective Tweet. Jennifer Horowitz has provided a good post on how to write Tweets and is worth a read. In short, writing a good marketing Tweet is no different than writing a short advertisement. Consider the following basic marketing tenets:

  • Provide a hook – a reason to listen to you
  • Provide a benefit – why I should act
  • Be clear, concise and to the point

Add to these Twitter specific tenets:

  • Keep below 140 characters (120-130 characters is best)
  • Use a shortened URL
  • Include a request for a re-Tweet (Plz RT)

Why 120-130 characters? It allows for the re-Tweet. If you use the full 140 characters then the re-Tweet is likely to cut off the end of your message. Otherwise, these are standard marketing approaches that happen to fit in very well with Twitter.

Twitter can be a very effective marketing tool, particularly for those running small to medium sized offline businesses. You can quickly announce price changes to undercut competitors or offer special limited time prices.

Social media marketing is one tool that web site owners will need to embrace this year. Many businesses are entering in to it – if you don’t, you could be left behind.

February 18th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Internal Linking – Don’t Be Afraid Of The Long Tail

One of the most important on-site optimisation strategies is your internal link building. Internal link building serves several purposes. The most obvious is to lead visitors to more content and, hopefully, to conversion, be it a sale or sign-up.

Internal link building also helps to lead the search engines deeper inside your web site. More importantly, it can lead the search engines deeper while helping to build the search engines’ overall view of those deeper pages. This is done through the anchor text used in the links.

The problem with many web site owners is the use of that anchor text. It needs to be varied, not concentrating on the same text every time. If your link page is about ‘blue widgets’, you only need a couple of links for the search engines to get the message.

That internal page is not just about ‘blue widgets’. If it’s about ‘installing blue widgets’ then use that as anchor text as well. In fact, you should ask yourself what subsections you have on the page. Is there is a section on ‘installing blue widgets for WordPress’? If so, then use that as anchor text. This is what we call long tail anchor text and it can be quite powerful.

This is becoming the type of phrase that searchers are likely to use to find information. If you have used that phrase as anchor text, you are providing the search engines with more information about that target page. If your page is associated with that search phrase then you are quite likely to gain traffic if you rank for that phrase.

If you have any doubts about long tails and longer search phrases, check your web analytics. You will be surprised when you see some of the search terms that have been used to find your pages.

February 17th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Adding Your Scotland Based Local Business To AOL

Here in Scotland we need to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. We have focused in the past on the local search services of the major three search engines, Google, Yahoo! and Bing, but what about AOL?

While it might now be a minnow in the search wars, AOL still has a presence here in the UK, and its local business search service still draws 4-5 million searches each month. That is still a sizable amount of traffic and for local businesses, represents an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. AOL delivers their general search through aol.co.uk – however, my focus today is on their local search vehicle – Touch Local.

According to AOL, Touch Local is the “UK’s fastest growing online business finder”. If that’s the case, your business should be listed, and it’s not hard to do. Touch Local offers two forms of listing, free and paid. Their free service offers the basic information that can be found on other local search services; that is, name, address and telephone. You can also add business, product and service information.

Their paid service – called Touch LeadFinder – offers more although some of the features are already available for free with the major search engine local directories. For example, a link to your web page is only available through the paid listing. AOL will promote your listing on the other search engines if you use the paid service.

Local search for regional Scotland can provide a decent flow of traffic to both your website and your business. Registering on as many local search entities as possible is the only way to compete with your competitors.

February 16th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Don’t Be Too Quick To Dismiss Google Buzz

Google Buzz, Google’s foray into social media, has been released and the comments generally are pretty much in the negative – but then, this is Google – everyone’s favourite kicking post. I have to agree with a lot of what has been said, however, the critics do seem to have missed a few important areas with this new feature.

The biggest ‘miss’ for Google is the limitation of the service to Gmail users. There are millions of people who use social media yet never have and probably never will have Gmail accounts. If they do use Gmail, it is only so they can access Google services like AdSense.

This does narrow one’s ability to communicate in a real social sense. However, there are times when you need to look at some features with a different pair of glasses – in this case, not as a social media outlet, but as an advertising opportunity. Google are pretty good at capitalising on advertising revenue. In fact, there are many small businesses that concentrate their advertising through the content network and Gmail.

Advertising through Buzz could be just as lucrative for those businesses that have been well branded. In fact, Buzz may well beat Twitter to an income generating model, not that Twitter is keen to go down an AdSense style of advertising path.

Google Buzz may not do a lot for a business when it comes to social media marketing, but don’t dismiss it yet. It may prove to be another option when it comes to online advertising.

February 15th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Are Guest Posts A Bad Link Building Strategy?

Danny Wong on Search Engine Journal has posted (a guest post at that) 5 reasons why we shouldn’t use guest posts as part of our link building strategies. His five reasons are fair enough, however, I believe there is a counter argument to each reason. If you look at them one by one:

Expertise vs. True Relevance

Guest posts don’t prove any real expertise or offer true relevance unless you are writing guest posts on highly relevant sites and the guest post itself is relevant to both your site and the host site. Bridge posts – that is, posts that bridge the gap between the two sites work well. However, relevance is the key.

Website Semantic Irrelevance

Danny Wong offered the example of an SEO post linking back to a men’s clothing site. Obviously, there is no relevance, not even a loose relevance. But then, why write a guest post on a site that is not relevant to your niche? The idea of a guest post is to provide some link juice and to deliver relevant traffic – relevant traffic will only really come from a relevant web site.

Page Semantic Irrelevance

The argument here is that keywords in the post are not always optimised for the keywords you want to rank on. Since you are writing the post yourself, you can optimise for your keywords – if you haven’t then it’s poor writing on your part.

It’s a Cheap Tactic

And what is wrong with cheap? Cheap doesn’t mean anything. In fact, most link building tactics could be considered ‘cheap’. Does Google see this as a cheap link building tactic? I think Google looks at content (quality) and relevance. Sure, that SEO post linking to men’s clothing will score low on relevance, however, link that post to an SEO site and relevance jumps.

Duplicate Content Complications

Duplicate content is not that big an issue, especially if you are only looking at the resource box at the end of the post. However, as Danny points out, this can easily be rewritten for each guest post written.

Danny does go on and suggest that guest posting does have positives and does deliver some value. To increase the SEO value of guest posting, the answer is fairly simple. Write high quality content that you only post on websites that are relevant to your own. You will gain a little link juice, a flow of traffic, and a reputation for being an authority. There is more to guest posting than just link building.

February 14th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Can You Overdo SEO?

Here is a question that will have many people arguing both sides of the issue – can you overdo SEO? I would suggest the majority would come down with a ‘no’ answer. I am not so sure. Of course, it depends on whether you count some issues as SEO or web design.

I will rephrase the question just a little. Have you ever been to a web page that is so busy you are not to sure where to look first? Every title is in large bold print; there are images scattered everywhere that catch your eye and draw you away from the text; and videos just begging to be clicked and watched.

Everything has been optimised correctly, there is just so much of it. Why? Often it’s because the site owner has read that images are good for SEO; videos are good for SEO; H tags are good for SEO; and I could go on.

The reality is that you cannot overdo SEO. You can create a lousy page that no one really likes or feels comfortable with – but you see, that means you have not performed the best SEO possible on that page. Content and design are a part of SEO. If the page looks too busy and uncomfortable to you, how will it affect your visitors?

Creating web pages that are functional, easy to navigate and that provide a valuable user experience are part and parcel of good SEO today. Including the right keywords and link building rely on that page of content. SEO is always going to be a positive – not a negative. If it is a negative then you are not practicing good SEO.

February 13th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

Review Sites And SEO For Scotland Local Businesses

If you have a local business here in Scotland then you really should have a listing in the local search engines. If you sell products then a product listing would also be of use. Local search and product listings both make use of reviews. However, you need to get your reviews on sites that Google uses to retrieve data. These sites include:

  • ciao.co.uk,
  • dealtime.co.uk
  • pricegrabber.co.uk,
  • reviewcentre.com, and
  • shopzilla.co.uk,

This list is not comprehensive but they are amongst the biggest review sites servicing the UK. When it comes to product search, positive reviews can help your products climb the ladder of results. Like all search results, the higher your listing the better.

By the way, reviews are not the only data used in product search listings. Having your product at a cheaper price than others is one sure way to get to the top. However, if your product is the same price as a competitors’ then having a swag of positive reviews will help boost your listing above your competitors.

SEO is not just about link building and keywords. When considering what optimisation strategies are needed to promote a web site, you often need to think beyond organic search. Product search and local search are two areas where a good optimisation campaign can see results in significant boosts to a site’s search placement.

It should also be remembered that local search and product search results are now being shown within dedicated windows in organic search results where appropriate. I discussed in a previous post how a web site could appear multiple times on a single search results page – you can add product search to that list. How can you use review sites as part of your SEO strategy? There are many ways. Sometimes the easiest is to simply ask your customers to leave a review with the link pointing to one of the review sites.

February 12th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »

What Effect Will HTML5 Have On Web Design And SEO

HTML5 will introduce quite a few changes with several oft used attributes and commands deprecated. It will also see an introduction to several new commands that effectively bring HTML up to Web 2.0 standards. Will they impact on SEO and do we need to be concerned with current programming?

There are some aspects of HTML4 that we probably do need to rethink right now as we design and write code for new web pages. Bloggers that intend on being around for a long time may also need to rethink how they manipulate text and images within a page. Commands like [center] and [font] will not be supported.

Other common attributes that won’t be supported include image manipulation such as [hspace] and [vspace], [align] and [border] and general commands such as [div align=]. These will all impact on future browsers if HTML4 is dropped completely.

Will it effect SEO? The inclusion of commands such as [video] and [audio] will make it easier to add these functions to a web page so you can expect to see an increase in their uses. Where I think there may be a change is in anchor text and inbound links.

The preference in HTML5 will be the use of the [cite] command with the [blockquote]. If users take to this then an inbound link could have anchor text that is not really relevant to your web page’s keywords.

It’s far too early to tell what effect HTML5 will have on SEO. It will impact on web design with a new set of commands to use along with easier inclusion for video and audio. Do we need to worry? I think not yet – but the time will soon come when we will have to address the issue.

February 11th, 2010 by Editor | No Comments »