Microformats and SEO

If you have not yet heard of microformats, chances are that you will not only hear more about them, but also be using them in the very near future.  Microformats, while not necessarily a transformation technology has a very good chance of being a staple for web developers and those that practice SEO.  While microformats have been around for several years, they are now building up stream and the big search engines such as Google and Yahoo have taken notice.  Below, you will find a quick review and some tips on how to use this simple, but promising technology to your advantage. What is a Microformat? While web developers today primarily use html code to create web pages and convey data from a website to an end user and search engine robots, for those looking to make the information on their web pages more easily readable, better understood and more relational, one web based approach that is quickly becoming popular is the microformat. A microformat is a basic, but effective way to create a semantic markup.  Meaning, a microformat is a snippet of code that a browser or search engine can read and actually understand what it is- instead of simply displaying it.  A microformat can easily convey all types of information that can be collected, read, understood and automatically processed by a wide range of software.  The types of information that microformats can currently convey include contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, reviews, products, social relationships (XFN) and more. Microformats Help Structure Your Information Easily When a search engine robot views your webpage, it might fully be able to read and display the information on it, but it doesn’t necessarily understand the information or relationships within this information.  Microformats help to parse information located on your website.  A microformat is a snippet of information that not only offers content, but also a relationship which search engines are now able to understand. For instance, Google currently understands and can utilize the hProduct microformat for publishing details of a product as part of their Rich Snippets tool.  Below is a sample of a hProduct microformat: <div> <span >ACE</span> <span >Power Tools</span> <span >Rechargeable Drill</span> <span >$39.99</span> <span >Hands Free Rechargeable Drill for all types of home improvement jobs.</span> <span >http://ace-rechargeable-drill.example-website.com</span> </div> As you can see from the above sample there is plenty of information included in this hProduct microformat.  It includes the brand, category, fn (product name or title), price, description, and URL.  However additional information is optional including image, review, identifier, etc.  This way, when Google’s robots view your web page, they just don’t see an entire page of possibly unrelated information, they now are able not only to read the information quickly and easily, but understand that this is a microformat snippet and that all the information within it relates to each other. Now, Google understands that the $39.99 in the above snippet is not just a random number, but the actual price of the Ace rechargeable drill.  This way, Google will index this information differently so that it can be displayed in search results more effectively.  For instance, if you do a search in Google for “Sony TV”, you will see up at the top, a group of listings of Sony TV sets, that also include the price and reviews.  This information is structured with the help of the hProduct microformat. Other Key Uses for Microformats Besides the hProduct microformat, one of the most basic and possibly useful microformats is the hCard.  The hCard microformat makes it easy to structure contact information about a person or business.  This way, an end user along with the search engines can easily find this info, recognize it easily and for search engines use it appropriately for a wide range of services.  For instance, Google Maps, can use your hCard info when doing a search for a specific location, the same is true with the geo microformat. Using Microformats and SEO There are plenty of benefits for using microformats and for those that practice SEO, you should definitely keep track of how the search engines are integrating this technology and using it to rank and share this info with the end user. Just some of the benefits of using microformats is that it helps not only the search engines, but users find and parse information about your website, business, products, etc (anything within the microformat).  For businesses that are looking to optimize their site for a local area, microformats can possibly increase results found in local directory listings for all the big search engines.  Microformats also help the search engines understand your website better.  A microformat can offer precise information to a search engine helping you rank quickly and more effectively. As you can see, microformats are a relatively easy way to convey specific information in a snippet that search engines and end users can instantly understand the relevance of.  With more and more web developers implementing this technology on their pages, you can be sure that the search engines will expand on how they use this information.  Already, Yahoo, Google and others big search engines and websites are using microformats in a wide variety of ways which will make the web much more semantic and ultimately give the end user a better search experience.  As far as implementation, including microformats on web pages is fairly straightforward and definitely worth the effort, especially if you are selling products (hProduct), offer reviews (hReview), would like to offer contact information (hCard) or planning an event (hCalendar).  The microformat has definitely shown its value and you can be sure that the search engines will be looking for more ways to use it and integrate it into their services.  

Google and Bing: Recent Search Engine Innovations

[ October 10, 2009 ] With all the hoopla surrounding Microsoft’s Bing introduction over the last few months, Google has been recently flexing their muscles as well, letting the surfing community know that they are still relevant.  Actually, everyone knows that Google is quite relevant, but you can surely bet, that they want to continue to be the top dog and continue to have the momentum of being the search engine brand that is most innovative. Google has continually been perceived over its relatively short existence as the media’s sweetheart by constantly creating innovative, interesting and sometimes more effective ways to search the web.  However, now with MS’s Bing actively (and aggressively) trying to steal market share from Google, the spotlight now doesn’t shine as bright on Google as in the past.  But, Google is determined to keep the spotlight, on itself and to be honest; the competition between these two corporate behemoths should reap many rewards, many of which will benefit the casual along with advanced search engine user. Here are just some of the ways that both search engines (Google & Bing) are competing with one another, which will hopefully bring a better search experience to the web community. Bing’s Visual Search Function With the recent release of Microsoft’s Bing, many users and critics have been equally impressed by the relevance of the results, the comprehensiveness of their search engine and the many bells and whistles that add value not only to ordinary web surfers, but for those that require powerful tools for advanced search queries.  Microsoft Bing is widely viewed as a high quality search engine, and while maybe not on par with Google – it does offer enough to give Google a run for its money.  While there are a wide range of features (which I discussed in my previous MS Bing article), recently as the search engine wars have heated up, Bing has released its Visual Search tool. Visual Search While most people are used to searching for items or information by simply typing in select keywords, searching visually has always been a dream of many.  For those that are looking for certain images and information that matches these images, searching contextually can take time and be frustrating.  However, with Bing’s Visual Search, this task has just gotten much easier. How Visual Search Works Visual search is definitely an innovative way to search and it is a welcome addition to the surfer’s search tool box.  Using Bing’s Visual Search is quite easy.  You visit their main Visual Search page: www.bing.com/visualsearch and you will find that you can enter a keyword into a search box.  Many articles that I have read about Visual Search use the example of someone searching for a breed of dog using an image.  So for instance, one would enter the keywords “dog breed” into the search box and click enter. Now is where the fun begins, Bing’s Visual Search returns the results of images that are interactive and highly intuitive.  A huge gallery of images that are categorized by breed is now available and by hovering over each image with your mouse or by using the sort functions on the side of the page, one can easily view and search a wide range of dog breeds visually with ease. It should be noted that currently there are over 100 visual galleries available at Bing and you can be sure that there will be more to come in the future. Google Fast Flip While Bing has recently announced its Visual Search, Google also has been creating waves with its new product- Fast Flip.  While Fast Flip is still in its experimental stage, currently part of Google Labs, it is interesting to see the many products that Google puts out there in order to test the waters.  This product is no exception.  While Google already has its wildly popular Google News and Google Reader, the new Fast Flip, does offers something a little bit different than these other two services. Google has received plenty of flack from many publishers regarding its Google News service.  The issue mainly is that those that use Google News to browse headlines (effectively reading about a paragraph or less of content) sometimes don’t visit the publisher’s site (resulting in lower revenue for publishers).  With Fast Flip, Google is trying to offer a possible incentive (along with making a profit) from those surfers that like to browse headlines or stories. For instance, you can visit the main page for Fast Flip at http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/ and you will see the general layout which looks like several rows of images of a front page or main article of a newspaper or magazine.  Google has made it quite easy to browse many of the top stories or pieces of news, plus you can even search using keywords in the search box at the top.  In addition, you can also rank your results by most recent, most popular, recommended, headlines and more.  From my experience browsing the many images, it looks like Google is trying to deliver in-depth articles and coverage of news issues instead of the breaking news type snippets currently offered on Google News.  Once you flipped through the results, you can easily click on any of the images and you will be sent to the homepage of the article or headline. Currently, Fast Flip is in its test phase and consists of 39 print and online publishers.  Some of these publishers include The New York Times, NewsWeek and several popular blogs.  Google believes the benefits of this service will allow those that like to browse or scan many of the major news organizations and magazines to enjoy a more efficient experience.  For many, it might seem as though they are flipping through a magazine instead of clicking through web pages. Visual Search, Fast Flip and SEO While these two products offered by MS and Google are in their early stages, they can prove highly successful and affect the SEO industry.  For instance, as Bing’s Visual Search gallery grows in categories, more and more people will experience and seek out visual search tools, obviously optimized images can play a part, as for Google’s Fast Flip, it is really too early to tell whether this will have any affect on the way in which many choose to search for news and information.  Right now, the testing phase consists of only 39 publishers- and in some respects it has a lot to do with driving revenue rather than offering relevant search tools to the public, however if this type of search does become popular and Google opens it up to a wide range of publishers, it may definitely grab the interest of the SEO industry.  

What Does the Bing/Yahoo! Deal Mean for SEO?

[ August 3, 2009 ] Well, you have probably heard the news that Microsoft and Yahoo!, finally after years of fighting one another have come to a substantial agreement to partner together on Search and online ads.  While the reaction from many in the SEO community has varied, after a few days of the news being out and more and more information coming forward, most search engine optimizers are starting to see the dust settle and are beginning to realize what this partnership between these two search and advertising behemoths might look like.  So, here are just some of the items that those in the SEO industries should consider. Key Points of the New Deal It’s important that before we start discussing the possible affects of this new partnership may lead to, we should reiterate, the key points of this new agreement.  Here just some of the items that one should be familiar with: First off, this deal has a term of 10 years, which is literally an eternity in search. During these 10 years, Microsoft will have an exclusive license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies.  This is important, because MS would love to try to integrate these technologies into Bing’s platform.  This deal also means that when it comes to algorithmic search and paid search, Bing will be the exclusive provider.  And while Bing will become a beefier search engine with Yahoo!’s help, Yahoo!, on the other hand will be the exclusive sales force.  Yahoo! will handle sales for premium search advertisers.  However, while Yahoo! will be the sales provider, it will utilize Microsoft’s ADCenter platform and Microsoft’s ad prices- which are currently automated via its auction process. In addition to the above points, it should also be noted that both company’s respective display advertising will continue to be maintained by each company, also Yahoo!’s other properties such as email, etc will continue to be run by Yahoo!, and while Yahoo!’s search website will have its unique online persona- it will be powered by Bing.  One last point, Microsoft will compensate Yahoo! for traffic acquisition costs (TAC) to Yahoo!.  During the first five years, MS will pay out 88% of the search engine revenues generated on Yahoo!. It is especially important to note that this partnership will be fully implemented once and if the US government gives its regulatory approval.  The timeline that MS and Yahoo! have set up is from about 18 to 24 months that full implementation of the above partnership should occur.  So this is important- we are talking about 18-24 months for full implementation if and when this new partnership is given regulatory approval- and don’t forget to expect some legal maneuvering from search giant Google. What this Deal Means for SEO? While this deal will no doubt have affects on SEO, don’t expect huge changes overnight.  It will no doubt take some time for MS and Yahoo! to get its bearings and start working together as one. Secondly, for those that already optimize for Bing, this is an excellent time to put some more resources into it.  Bing and its earlier search engine carnations (Live) were definitely capable search engines, however since they lacked market share, many SEO’s tended to focus on Google and Yahoo!.  So with Yahoo! getting pushed out of the picture and Bing taking over its share, it’s now a good time to acquaint yourself with Bing. Bing is a smart, efficient engine, even though most would agree it doesn’t reach the sophistication level that Google has achieved.  However, what it has shown is that it definitely has the right stuff.  I would focus on the basics and industry best practices for now including fresh content, decent keyword density, productive link building and a focus on keywords in titles including possibly your URL or sub URL and blogs that you create.  And by the way, just as Google has Blogger.com, take advantage of Microsoft’s Spaces (http://home.spaces.live.com), which offers users the ability to create blogs and manage friends, contacts, etc. Wait and See It’s important to be prudent when it comes to figuring out the melding of both Bing and Yahoo!.  Besides, the possibility of a 2 year implementation process, it is important to consider that optimizing for Bing does not always mean also optimizing for Google or vice versa.  In fact, many in the SEO community are concerned about the possibility of using strategies that may be beneficial in Bing, but may be disadvantageous in Google. The 800 Pound Gorilla While we all may be looking for some big changes to come in the near future, let’s never forget that not only might this deal never come to fruition due to regulatory approval, but that Google is sure to make sure its presence is known and will defend its market share and revenue.  Expect Google to put up a fight and defend itself at every possible turn. For Search Engine Marketers While this article focuses on the optimization aspect of this new partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft, it should be noted that this deal will have huge implications regarding search engine marketing.  For those in the industry, it will be important to keep up to date on how exactly this partnership will affect paid search.

BING is Here!

[ June 15, 2009 ] Since the end of May, there has been quite a lot of chatter regarding a new product being released by Microsoft.  No it’s not Windows 7 or a high tech Zune player, but it turns out that something called Bing is Microsoft’s newest search engine.  As anyone who has followed Microsoft over the last couple of years knows there have been several search engines that have come to market. The first was MSN Search, which tried to keep the millions with dial up internet access using the Microsoft Network for search.  A couple of years ago Microsoft renamed this search engine and called it Windows Live Search which over the next couple of years was renamed again to simply Live Search.  While definitely a quality search engine, Microsoft didn’t exactly set the industry on fire and now Live is ultimately being updated and again renamed to what is now being called Bing. On June 3, 2009 Bing finally went live.  This search engine is definitely different than its predecessor and with an $80 to $100 million dollar ad campaign, Microsoft is very eager to get the word out.  So for us in the SEO and/or SEM industry, how does Bing stack up to their earlier releases and how will it affect the search environment now and in the near future, here are just some of the possibilities.  While, it is obviously a new product and its implications won’t be known for some time, here is some insight into Bing and how it might ultimately affect our industry.

What’s New in Bing?

There are plenty of features that make Bing not only a powerful search engine, but also stand apart from both Google and Yahoo.  While earlier versions of Live Search were modeled after Google with a plain white background with minimal text, Bing offers a background image that changes daily.  In fact, when you roll over your mouse on this image, you can read and learn more about it.  Besides a background image, searching in Bing is not only easy, but made to be convenient and logical.  Bing is extremely quick in responding to the user’s queries, but the search results are definitely a high quality and after several searches, I found it either on par or close to the quality that one would find at Google. In addition to its high quality search results Bing offers a few surprises that are quite useful including its video thumbnail preview.  When you do a search and results come back that include videos, it is easy to preview the thumbnail of the video simply by hovering your mouse pointer over it.  It’s also easy to find all your content neatly organized, which is classified by sections including map, local weather, fan-sites, wall paper and much more.  When results are shown to the viewer, instead of the normal two column format we are used to in Google where the results are shown on the left and paid contextual ads are on the right- Microsoft uses a three column format with your normal results in the center, paid results to the right and relevant links to the left.  Other features include an easy way to scroll through images with a variety of ways to adjust the settings of the images for the size, layout, color, etc.  It also makes it easy to search for videos depending on length, resolution, source, etc.

Bing For SEO and SEM

With Microsoft being one of the big 3 when it comes to search, many SEO’s and SEM’s obviously need to keep a close watch on how Bing will affect their campaigns.  There has been a lot of chatter and since Bing has only been out for less than a month, it is still way too early to tell, if there will be any big changes in how Microsoft conducts search. However, it is clear, that with its roll out, Microsoft is making sure to update its search as often as possible and it is extremely likely that with its roll out Microsoft has been tweaking its search algorithm.  For instance in the beginning of June, there was plenty of chatter going on that the search results were in flux and that every day results for first page rankings were changing- obviously this is to be expected, and it will take at least a few months to see how everything settles.  While this can be frustrating for SEO and SEM professionals, there are plenty of things that are surely to stay the same with little if any disruption.

Optimizing for Bing

It should be noted that with all the fanfare of Bing’s launch and the expected state of flux due to possibly a new algorithm and constant updates, those optimizing or marketing for the long term shouldn’t switch any of their strategies just yet.  In fact, throughout all the evolutions of Microsoft’s search products, they have always relied on the many aspects of optimization that has made Google and Yahoo continually return quality, relevant results.  Best practices such as freshly updated content that for the most part is unique, quality link backs- especially when receiving quality link backs from an authority site, on page optimization utilizing meta tags, errorless coding- making it easy for their crawlers to read and decent keyword density to ensure crawlers realize quickly keywords that are targeted on page. In addition, Microsoft has always put a tad more emphasis on specific keywords located in a URL.  So whether you are creating a new blog or domain name, choose its name wisely trying to include a keyword or keyword phrase in its URL.

Possible Advertising Benefits on Bing

Microsoft has stated that it would like to move into second place behind Google within 5 years and while this goal is feasible, it is also making a big push in helping advertisers get a better ROI.  Instead of simple search text ads, it is trying to maximize a web searcher’s intent to buy by utilizing richer and more relevant results.  For instance, Microsoft will be focusing heavily on geographical and demographic ad targeting and will be putting in place an easy way to search and purchase a product directly from search (think Amazon’s one click, except on Bing).

Google vs. Bing

It is natural to match up Bing against its competitors and obviously there is a lot of talk about Bing trying to be a “Google Killer”.  However, most would agree that Microsoft is well too realistic to think they can steal enough market share away from Google to be #1.  As far as search goes, Google does a great job and there hasn’t been any kind of product that is so revolutionary to drive users away from it.  So even with plenty of bloggers typing away on their sites (remember Wolfram Alpha) trying to create a juicy buzz that Bing is the next Google Killer- don’t believe the hype.

Bing vs. Yahoo

While Bing definitely is not a Google killer, Yahoo was surely on Microsoft’s radar.  In fact, since the Yahoo and MS search merger went bust, Microsoft has been trying to come up with a way to achieve its goals by circumventing Yahoo.  Bing may finally be the product to do the trick.  In the first few days, it was reported that market share for Bing topped Yahoo.  And while Yahoo is now back in the second place spot, I can guarantee you the folks at Yahoo are quite concerned. So for the most part, while Bing is a solid performer, it will definitely take some time to see if Bing is here to stay, if it will continue to grow in market share, if Microsoft is extremely serious about having a world class search engine and how well they innovate it so that Bing becomes a top draw for advertisers- which is what ultimately all search is about to Google, Yahoo and MS.

Is Twitter for SEO & SEM Companies?

[ May 12, 2009 ]   If you are remotely interested in the web, you probably already hearing daily about a Web 2.0 site that has been experiencing exponential growth.  Twitter- the micro-blogging site has taken the web by storm over the last couple of years and today it ranks third in its membership (right behind MySpace.com and Facebook.com).  For those in the SEO and SEM industry, you are probably asking yourself how can Twitter benefit my business and clients.   And while it is important to note that Twitter is a different beast than both search engines such as Google and social networking sites such as Facebook.com, there are tremendous opportunities available.

What is Twitter?

Even if you have heard about Twitter, you are probably like many people that are scratching their heads and wondering what this new technology is that has taken the world by storm.  Twitter is a micro-blogging site first and foremost.  A person or company creates a free account at Twitter.com and is able to create what is called a micro-blog.  Unlike a regular blog site where a person can rant and rave or create posts that are thousands of words long, Twitter keeps it very short- only allowing a post of up to 140 characters. 140 characters is hardly enough to write anything meaningful you might say, but just like SMS on a mobile phone, many people are able to exchange quite a lot of meaningful (and yes utterly useless) information with this micro-blogging format.

The Social Networking Aspect of Twitter

To understand how to use Twitter for SEO and SEM, it is important to understand the social networking aspects of this technology, it is here that Twitter can accomplish things that most technologies can’t touch.  While a website is generally static, sometimes being updated weekly or monthly and blogs being more dynamic being updated possibly daily, Twitter takes the cake with its micro-blogging format- being able to be updated by a user minute by minute, or at least several times per day. There is a lot of little events that go on in life between blog posts and daily or weekly updates and this is where Twitter can really help you connect with an audience that cares or is at least interested in your life.  For instance, when you sign up for a Twitter account, you can start finding friends, co-workers, family and those that share the same interests or hobbies as you.  By building a network of friends that either are updated by you daily or in which you read their posts on a daily basis, you form a stronger bond with them and learn much more about their lives than could be possible with other types of technology. For instance, by simply posting things that you are currently doing such as reading a book, listening to music, going on a trip, taking a walk, etc, you are able to convey your true personality and interests to others.  Many of your social network contacts will find you absolutely fascinating, while others could be bored to death, but the connections you do make can be quite strong- stronger than connections one can make with email or a web site or blog.

Twitter and SEO

For those search engine optimizers that are for the most part looking to create links and rank higher in the SERPs, Twitter will be of little use to your business and clientele.  First off, Twitter links are NoFollow, meaning no link juice will be passed along when you post links on Twitter.  Secondly, any URL that is longer than 30 characters is usually shortened to fit- meaning longer URLs will be compressed so that even the keywords won’t be visible to the search engines.  So for those that are looking to take advantage of link building or receiving link juice from Twitter, this technology is not worth the time and effort.

Twitter and SEM

For certain marketers Twitter can be a dream come true- the ability to build a close relationship with those interested in your products and services that cater to hobbies and interests of a specific audience.  For instance, if you operate a restaurant in a city, you can easily draw plenty of business using Twitter.  For instance, building an audience within your community and for people that are interested in cuisine, cooking and nightlife might be a great start.  However, the important thing to note about Twitter is that it can’t be faked.  Twitter is different from the typical web marketing that many of us do. Unlike sending a well written email with the daily specials for the week or sending out a monthly magazine with free coupons and an article or two about fruits or vegetables in season, when a person Twitters on a daily basis, it’s got to be real and legitimate- otherwise people simply unsubscribe to your feed (unsubscribing, as well as subscribing to members is very easy).  This means that every post can’t be spam, it can’t be about a constant soft sell.  Instead, what members that have signed up to your tweets want to hear about real life- your life.  It could be about shopping for food at the local farmer’s market, or about taking a wine tasting trip during the week to find new local wines.  Not only will your audience see you personally as a real, approachable person, but you can build up a loyal following and a loyal customer base that would be very difficult or at least very expensive without Twitter.

Tips on Using Twitter for Your Business

It’s not easy to market using Twitter, not only does it take a lot of time to build an audience, you have to tweet messages that are interesting.  This is why for many businesses, Twitter can be a waste of time, especially if you are not willing to put yourself out there and be authentic about it.  One spammy message can turn your audience off.  This technology is really for people that are able to connect with others or have a desire to share their life with others on a daily basis.  In fact, this is why those that are most popular on Twitter tend to be celebrities, professionals with interest jobs (such as a journalist covering the President, a musician playing a musical festival or a scientist working at CERN).  However, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have millions or even thousands of followers, using Twitter in the beginning can lead to a wide variety of contacts that you would never dream of making. Since Twittering won’t help you with link building or Google for that matter, what Twitter will help you with is with live traffic to your site.  For instance, if you created a video that would like to go viral, Twitter might be a great way to spread the word.  If it’s good a few dozen of your close Twittering audience will watch it and pass it on to others- hopefully in the process the video will go viral.  If you are a small contractor or freelancer, Twitter might help you connect with an opportunity or others that can help you further your goals and business. So, to recap, Twitter while a new and interesting technology is not a useful technology for building links used for Google and other search engines, but can drive lots of live traffic to your site (ultimately raising your Alexa ranking in the process).  And while this technology can be used to create a community, marketers looking for an easy way to spam or even soft sell their audience should be aware that unsubscribing to your feed is extremely quick, easy and effective.

Is Google Promote an SEO Killer?

[ April 1, 2009 ] Google has been quite busy this past year developing and offering a wide range of new products.  This year included Android, which is an operating system for mobile phones, Google Chrome, which is a new browser and a host (and we mean plenty) of features and small apps to ultimately increase the user experience.  One such feature that Google has added which has received plenty of attention from the SEO and SEM community is Google Promote.

What is Google Promote? Google Promote is a simple way for Google users to instantly rank web pages to their own preferences.  In order to utilize this option, you must be a registered Google user and be signed in. When you conduct a web search for any keyword the results will be listed as usual, however next to the result there will be three boxes with icons.  The first box has an up arrow to “promote”, the second box has an X to “remove” and the third box when clicked offers the ability to make a comment on the listing.  So, if you do a search and you like the listing you see, you can easily promote the listing to the top of the page, if you have visited the webpage and seen it to be lacking or the listing seems out of place for your search term, you can easily remove the listing from your results.  Essentially, it’s a way for a person to customize their search results- or as some have stated instant page rank!

Is it the End of Page Rank as We Know It? Before you start stressing out, what Google Promote appears to be on first glance and what it is actually is- are two different things.  The idea as a way to give listings instant page rank or remove them forever from Google’s SERP can and does scare anyone in the SEO industry.  However on closer inspection, there are plenty of reasons why Google Promote is essentially a paper tiger.  I am not looking to attract hubris, but in its current incarnation, there are quite a few limitations built into this feature that do make it pretty harmless in the scheme of things.  So here are just a few reasons why Google Promote is not an SEO killer.

You have to be a Google User to Access this Feature First thing you should know is that in order to take advantage of this feature, you need to have a Google account and be signed in.  So this feature only applies to those that both have a Google account and are already signed in and searching.

Conducting a Search for a New Keyword or for Sites that are not Regularly Viewed The vast majority of web users have several sites that they visit regularly, whether it is Wikipedia, CNN, Amazon, etc.  The overwhelming majority of these users never do a search for the keyword CNN, they either have the site bookmarked or know its URL and simply type it into their browser.  So for the most part authority sites or sites that are used by a user regularly will never receive the opportunity for a Google Promote.  Realistically, will you do a search for the keyword “CNN” and then rank the web pages to fit your preference- it wouldn’t make sense.

As for infrequent sites that we visit or keywords that we do input into Google’s search box, it should be noted that for the vast majority of these keywords our goal is to find the site with the information that we need as quickly and efficiently as possible and then move on.  If I do a search for the keyword “red sweater”, I think most would agree that once you see the results you will be more inclined to visit the site that looks best to you and continue your shopping experience instead of rearranging the results of a search engine ranking page that in all likelihood you will never return to again.

Does Google Take a User’s Personal Rankings into Consideration This is another important factor to consider; does Google collect data from Google Promote and analyze this data for use in its algorithms?  Google is in the business of collecting data, so the short, easy answer is yes, Google definitely collects data from Google Promote.  However, there is no evidence to suggest that their algorithms have been changed to include Google Promote into search results.  Not only is Google Promote too subjective, but as a fairly new feature it would take plenty of time to remove any deficiencies that could ultimately game the system.

Gaming the System This is what SEO’s and SEM’s are scared of the most.  Case in point, a client of yours runs a website for remote control toys.  A competing website realizes with Google Promote he or she can now not only promote his or her own website all the way to #1, but also use Google Promote to remove all of his competitor’s websites from his SERPs.  In fact, to your client’s competitor, Google Promote looks like the best thing since sliced bread.  He hires 1,000 contract employees to create 1,000 new Google accounts and to specifically promote his website and remove the keyword for the search term “remote control car”.  Well, before you get any ideas, you should note that Google is not Digg, where a relatively large group of people digging up a story up can alter the ranking on their site.  First off, Google would have to be utilizing the results of the Google Promote feature in their main algorithm and secondly, a small group of 1,000 or even 10,000 employees removing results would have to be able to have an effect. This clearly is not the case.  Throughout Google’s existence, their search algorithms are not arbitrarily based on a select few web surfers, it is based on science and mathematics.  Google’s search is not run on majority rule!

But let’s say for example’s sake that these relatively small group of people could have an affect on your SERPs, they would not only have to go after one keyword, but many.  Most SEO’s don’t spend their entire campaign optimizing just one, single keyword, but maybe 10 or 20 various keywords.  Secondly, taking the entire web community as a whole, if one million people would take the time to search for the word “remote control car” and either promote your website, remove it or make a comment- the law of averages would even it out.  Maybe half would find the content on the site sub par and remove it, others would find the site useful and promote it.  So in theory, in the long term, a decent website with relevant content would bear no effect on the web audience at large, just each individual personal user. In addition, let’s say Google (which already knows that people will try to game their system) put some controls in.  Maybe Google says that in order for a Google Promote ranking to be relevant, the Google account in which it was made must be used regularly.  Now when you hire 1,000 people overseas to create an account to game Google Promote, you have to worry about having enough money to continue paying a team of 1,000 employees to not only promote and reward sites, but use the account for 3 months, 6 months or a year.  An easy control such as “a user sandbox” would make this type of gaming the system much more difficult and expensive. Finally, the last reason which I will talk about (there are others) why Google Promote is not an SEO killer is that most web users won’t continue to use any application or feature unless it shows direct value.  There was an article recently about customers that purchased Apple iPhone applications from the App store.  The incredible revelation of this article was that of all the apps that are downloaded, less than 5% are used after only one month has passed since the initial download.  It should also be noted that doing research for this article, I have noticed several postings that said, (paraphrased- yeah, I used Google Promote for a few days or a week and then got bored of it).  So, unless this feature gives the user value which can be seen immediately, the chances that a person will continually seek out a keyword and then start removing or promoting listings that are only searched for once in a blue moon will be extremely low.

Benefiting from Google Promote While in its current state, Google Promote is not an SEO killer, there are ways that one can still benefit from this feature. First off, quality content is the key.  Make sure you continue to provide quality, relevant content to your potential audience.  In addition, optimize your content for relevant keywords and categories.  This is a no brainer, if a person searches for the term “remote control car” and receives as the first listing “diamond necklace” the user will be more apt to be peeved and remove your listing.  However, if your content is right on target for what it is optimized for, you may have a user that is so impressed with your website they not only return or bookmark it, but also promote it.

Google Promote is in its early stages and like most apps and features that Google creates, it is very difficult to know where they will lead.  Google has a lot on its plate and will ultimately choose features and applications that will not only give the web surfer the best experience and relevant results, but those apps and features that will ultimately be the most profitable and practical for Google’s business which is selling contextual ads.

SEO SERVICES

Optimize Your Website for Profits
[ July 24, 2007 ] The saying “if you build it, they will come” does not ring true for most web sites online.  Many entrepreneurs put lots of time and effort into developing and building fully functional and fantastic looking web sites only to have a handful of people visit their web site each month.  If you are looking to develop your site or have already built it and you want to make sure that your site is profitable and not ignored by the masses, you will need the help of SEO services. The SEO in SEO services stands for search engine optimization.  This is the practice of optimizing a web site and web pages so that search engines such as Google and Yahoo will find your web site easily and rank them high on their web sites.  There are many SEO services available that can help your web site attract visitors, some of them include on page optimization, link building and  even using pay per click advertising to draw hundreds or even thousands of visitors to your site each and every month. What is extremely important to remember is that without specific SEO services a website owner can not attract visitors, and ultimately create a profit from their web site. One of the most basic SEO services available is on-page optimization.  On-page optimization is an SEO service that includes making sure the content on your site matches select keywords and keyword phrases that many people use to search the search engines.  For instance, using this SEO service if you would like to attract people to your site that sells golf equipment, you would focus your content and keywords on specific words that visitors use on search engines such as golf clubs, golf balls, etc.  Besides keywords, there are also other on page SEO services that include tweaking META keywords, META description, etc. Another important SEO service to lure visitors to your site is making sure your site is linked properly.  Search engines such as Google and Yahoo calculate your web sites importance and relevance by checking which other sites on the web link to your site.  Linking means that another web site has your URL (ex: http://www.yoursite.com) on their web site.  The more links that point to your site from other sites, the importance of those sites and the category of the sites that point to your site all are calculated by the search engines to determine your web site’s importance. The SEO service of linking is crucial in making sure your site is ranked as high as possible.  The more important and relevant your web site is deemed by the search engines, usually the higher in the search engine rankings your site will be listed, the more traffic you will receive and ultimately the more you will be able to monetize your web site. If you have a new web site or would like to see an immediate jump in visitors, one of the most effective means to accomplish this is with the SEO service called Pay Per Click (PPC).  PPC is one of the most effective SEO services because it works fast and it is extremely easy to implement. With this SEO service you literally start drawing hundreds or thousands of visitors to your site within minutes of starting your campaign.  PPC requires a web master to create a small text advertisement which includes their URL link.  These small ads are tied to specific keywords and keyword phrases.  PPC is an SEO service that does require a budget; however you can manage it closely to fit your budgetary needs. If you are looking for a great way to draw online visitors and increase your profits for your new site or established site, make sure to look into the above SEO services.