Category Archives: Search

Google Profiles Become More Prominent

Back in 2007, Google released the first incarnation of the Google Profile. Back then the functionality was quite limited but it served a clear purpose – Google were looking to consolidate down all of the profile data that users had entered into the various Google services into a single location.

During 2009, Google Profiles received an upgrade which allowed users to choose a Google Profile vanity URL for their profile in lieu of a number which provided no context. In addition, Google stated that Google Profiles would begin showing up at the bottom of search results for searches they identified as a name.

Fast forward to 2011 and Google are at it again with another user interface overhaul in March. In addition to that, not only do Google Profiles show up in standard web search and not just at the bottom of a page now, they are displayed prominently using a Google OneBox if a user is logged in to their Google Account.

The following two images show what I see currently when searching for my name, logged in first and subsequently logged out of my Google Account. As you can see, when logged in I’m presented with my Google Profile first,  which until today would have displayed my personal blog.

Google search for a name showing a Google Profile OneBox when user is signed in
Google search for a name showing a Google Profile OneBox when user is signed in

 

Google search results for a name when a user isn't signed in
Google search results for a name when a user isn’t signed in

Google Webmaster Tools Displaying PDF & Word Document Links

Google Webmaster Tools has the ability to explore the internal links and external links or backlinks information for a given domain, instead of relying on the infrequently updated and wildly inaccurate link: operator within a Google search. Traditionally the link information within Google Webmaster Tools has displayed links, that were sourced or crawled from, what would otherwise be considered standard web formats such as HTML.

For a long time, Google has been indexing numerous non-web specific file formats such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Adobe PDF and Macromedia now Adobe Flash file formats. While they were indexing and ranking those documents to show up in search, I have never seen anything to suggest that Google was counting either links or plain text URLs within those documents as a ranking indicator specifically. However, while viewing backlink data for a domain recently I noticed that Google Webmaster Tools was reporting backlinks from Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word documents.

If you’re in the business of generating a lot of documents to provide to third parties, a certain number of your clients will put the document on their web site for their users. If that happens, you’ve just gained additional inbound links to your site using the link text of your choice. If it turns out that Google is counting PDF, Word and other file format links as a ranking indicator – a savvy marketer might even recommend to third parties that they upload the document to their site – for any number of reasons, least of which is search engine optimisation.

Google Local Business Centre Receives Upgrade With Humorous Outage Message

The Google Local Business Centre is currently undergoing maintenance for approximately 60 minutes and instead of a standard maintenance notice, Google engineers have gone for something a little more light hearted:

The Google Local Business Center is unavailable for the next hour

We appreciate your patience as we perform some routine system maintenance.

More specifically, we’re updating ‘the backend’ (to employ that catchy, catchall moniker coined and lent to us by engineering folks who work on all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes but know we communications folks can’t very well say ‘We’re updating all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes’ and expect you, an enlightened Google user, to take us seriously or at least not wonder aloud ‘ Wait, what sort of bits were those again?’).

So please check back in sixty minutes. Maybe less, considering the time you’ve invested in deciphering this message.

[Screenshot]

Google Search Options Enhanced

Google Search Options allows the user to refine their search to target a subset of the normal search results, such as only showing video, forum or news results in addition to date and time filtering.

Today the search options have been enhanced further to allow a user to remove shopping sites such as Amazon from the search results or to see more shopping sites in the search results. By choosing to add additional shopping sites, the layout of the search results changes slightly to be more price focused for comparison.

I came across new category filters that I haven’t previously seen, such as restaurants, retail, apartments, for sale, parking and so on. In this particular example, the additional category filters are contextually relevant to the search – in this case Circle on Cavill.

Circle on Cavill Gold Coast is a residential high rise located in the heart of Surfers Paradise and is of comprised of two towers and complemented by a retail precinct located at the base. As a by product of the type of facility, it offers restaurants, retail shopping, apartments for holiday letting, apartments to purchase to live in, secure under ground car parking and an enormous outdoor big screen hanging between the two towers which plays sport, movies, news and life style shows and much more.

The additional categorisation filters available within the search options are fantastic, allowing a user to see the different types of information that Google knows about a particular search term.

How To Get Your Google Profile Indexed

In December 2007, Google released the first incarnation of the Google Profile. This was the beginning of a continued effort from Google to refactor numerous services to have a more modular architecture, so that key pieces of information were held in one place only.

In a recent upgrade to Google Profiles, the vanity URL was introduced. A vanity URL is a label or string that a user can associate to their account so that other people can find them more easily. Some services allow a user to enter anything they like, other services derive the vanity URL from the account user name – which is the tact that Google have taken.

While a user can provide quite a bit of information about themselves within their Google Profile and also link or consume data from other services within it – it did not automatically mean that the profile would be visible within Google Search. Users are required to check a box, with the label “Display my full name so I can be found in search” – before the profile is visible within search engines.

After checking that box quite some time ago, I was confused that no matter how many pages I went back through the search results for a vanity search – that I couldn’t find my Google profile listed. I had assumed that by checking that box, that it’d trigger Googlebot to crawl the profile and place it into the search index. Failing that, I had thought that since Google were publishing the Google Profiles into XML sitemaps, that would have also sufficed to get my profile within Google Search – both of which were incorrect assumptions.

It would appear that Google Profiles are subject to all of the same indexation restrictions and issues that a normal web page is. If you’re struggling to get your Google Profile indexed, the sure fire way is to link to it from a page already indexed or somewhere that you know will get crawled by search engines shortly.

Google Account Canonical URL Failure

Search engine optimisation consultants world wide have been pushing the URL canonicalisation wagon for quite some time. URL canonicalisation ensures that a given internet resource can only be reached by a single URL.

That might seem like a relatively straight forward task, however poorly configured web servers and the wide ranging quality of modern contentn management systems has meant that it isn’t as simple as first throught.

If there was ever going to be a company that you’d think would nail URL canonicalistion right across the board, it’d be Google. However while searching for the signup URL for a new Google Account [google account], I found something rather interesting – the first search result was https://google.com/accounts/.

There are two things wrong with that result:

  1. as a general rule of thumb, all Google products live under the www sub-domain and not the root domain
  2. more importantly, the SSL certificate is valid for http://www.google.com and not http://google.com

A couple of other slightly interesting bits about that result:

  • a Google cache check for the www and non-www versions of that URL show the exact same crawl time
  • a Google link check for the www and non-www versions shows the same number of links into both URLs
  • based on the first point, it would appear that Googlebot is happy to crawl an secure page with a broken SSL certificate

Search Engine Optimisation Via Dead Trees

I thought I’d undertake some professional development surrounding search engine optimisation, ironically in the form of a paper back book, named Get to the top on Google written by David Viney.

As I work my way through the book, I thought I might share some thoughts on the content covered – see what ideas I like about his search engine optimising techniques compared to what I already do or potentially what I don’t do.

If nothing else, having a competing train of thought surrounding optimising for search engines has to be healthy. It could reinforce solid ideas that I already had, disspell what I considered good advice as nothing more than a myth or offer completely new optimisation strategies and techniques.

We’ll find out how that all pans out in the next week or two as I complete Get to the top of Google.

Ask.com Deceptive Advertising Practices Is A Grab For Cash

While doing a little research this morning, I stumbed onto a paid advertisement within Google for Ask.com, informing me that I could booking BreakFree hotels & resorts from within the Australian localised Ask.com portal.

Being the curious kind of person, I followed their advertisement and was quite shocked by how deceptive they were with their ad and also the page it took me to.

Instead of Ask.com providing some sort of useful service inside their portal, they provided 10 Google advertising results front and center which were displayed as though they were organic results, followed by actual organic results (click the image for an expanded screenshot of their handy work).

I don’t necessarily have a problem with then doing paid advertising within Google for services that they offer (though in this case, they don’t have a service relating to my search results which was very deceptive). However, I do have a beef with the way they frame or lack there of, of the paid results from Google within Ask.com search results. If they had placed the same 10 results in the right hand side gutter or boxed them with a different background colour – then at least the user would have a chance of knowing the difference.

I wonder whether or not that sort of behaviour falls within the Google terms of service? It actually reminds me of when Microsoft were advertising on Google for MSN Messenger and taking the user into more search results within Live Search.

Changing Temporary (302) To Permanent (301) Redirects

It’s common place to register multiple variations of a domain to protect the brand or product that the domain is related to. At some point, a web master must choose what he or she is going to do with the variations, the normal choices are:

  • Do nothing, simply owning them is sufficient
  • Set them up, alias them so the site content is accessible via any of the variations
  • Set them up and redirect the variations to the primary domain

This post is going to discuss the third option, as I have recently seen what I’d consider strange results in that space.

Setting The Scene

Imagine you sell Product A and you have a web site at http://producta.com. For three years http://producta.com has been used as the main web site, however in an exercise for brand consistency – you opt to move the web site to http://brandproducta.com.

The change of domain is handled using a temporary redirect and is successful. Soon after the move, http://producta.com is no longer visible in the search engines and has been replaced with http://brandproducta.com.

Weirdness

As a clean up exercise, I recently went through and updated the redirects on the domain variations (including http://producta.com) to use permanent (301) redirects. At the time, I didn’t think I’d see any changes in the search engine result pages, as http://producta.com hasn’t been in use for quite some time and all that was changing was a temporary (302) redirect into a permanent (301) redirect.

What has happened is that a brand+producta search term which would have returned http://brandproducta.com as the first listing, is now sharing that space with http://producta.com. Since that domain hasn’t been in use for such a long time, Google are using the results from DMOZ for the title and snippet.

Explanation

I’ve read through the information that Matt Cutts provided when he discussed 302 redirects back in January 2006. There is a lot of good information on that page and also the previously linked article about URL canonicalisation – however nothing that I felt described what I have outlined above.

What I think has happened is that the temporariness of the 302 redirect has kicked in. Google have been seeing the 302 redirect from http://producta.com into http://brandproducta.com for quite some time and have been checking it periodically since it was temporary. When something changed (hence temporary) – Google kicked back into gear and displayed the results from http://producta.com.

Since it is now showing a 301 permanently moved redirect, I suspect that within a short amount of time Google will remove the listing for http://producta.com and it’ll be replaced by http://brandproducta.com.

I’d love to hear from someone if they have a more comprehensive answer on the results I’ve seen.

Non-English Languages & Whacky Domain Names

Asian language glyphs from the web sites of James Holderness While doing a little research for an upcoming article tonight, I revisited the web site of James Holderness. If the name looks familiar, it’s because I linked to him in January regarding detecting duplicate items within RSS feeds.

When I stumbled onto his site, I couldn’t believe the domain that he was using:

  • http://www.xn--8ws00zhy3a.com

as it seemed completely unmanageable for a normal person. At the time, it seemed so unmanageable for a normal person that I thought James must have been participating in some obscure SEO challenge; today I realise that isn’t the case at all.

The image shown above is displayed on James site beside his name. It turns out that those three glyphs some how translate into the obscure domain listed earlier as can be seen by the following screenshot from Google Search:

Non-English written characters or glyphs displayed within a Google Search result as the domain name

For those that are interested, Yahoo!, MSN and Live search all showed the English translation of the foreign language in the domain name and not the glyph based version – though were more than happy to display the glyphs within the title of the web site.

Does anyone know how a glyph is translated into the standard English alphabet and more so, what within the domain name delineates one glyph from the next?