Tag Archives: google

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.

Django Internationalisation (i18n) Statistics

The Python web framework Django supports internationalistaion (i18n) for nearly 30 different languages already.

While reviewing the changesets flowing through the Django source repository, I often notice amendments to the internationalisation code and it got me thinking about how ‘complete’ the i18n status is for the languages that Django is attempting to support.

Enter a visually simple but very informative web site built using Google App Engine which polls the Django subversion repository periodically and compiles a table showing the percentage completion for each of the different languages.

I’m impressed that with nearly 30 different languages under their belt that the majority of them are reporting very solid percentage completion numbers, no wonder so many non-English speaking developers are using Django.

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.

Improve Your Site Using Live Search Webmaster Center

Virtually every webmaster has heard of Google Webmaster Tools and use it regularly to check on the health of their site, unfortunately very few know of Live Search Webmaster Center which complements Microsoft Live Search.

Recently I wrote about the significant improvements that Live Search Webmaster Center has gone through, which has really boosted the product. To put the new enhancements through their paces, it seemed like a good idea to compare what it was displaying versus what Google Webmaster Tools was showing.

Live Search Webmaster Center showed that I didn’t have anything wrong with my robots.txt file, nor was I suffering from long and complex dynamic URLs – however I did have a handful of 404 errors through the site. Live Webmaster Center had picked up that I had linked to another site without the http:// in the href attribute, like:

  • <a href=”www.domain.com/important/article/”>important article</a>

which when clicked, was delivering a 404 error on my site with a URL like:

  • http://ifdebug.com/article/my-article/www.domain.com/important/article/

To my surprise, when I explored that same information within Google Webmaster Tools – they had not picked up that I had linked that article incorrectly.

Moral of the story, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While Google hadn’t picked it up or had just compensated for my mistake – simple mistakes like that may have an adverse effect on less capable search engines.

Google Analytics Mostly Streamlined Login Process

Google Analytics streamlined login buttonThis week Google Analytics received a small upgrade – specifically related to the login process.

Until now, no matter how often you use Google Analytics, as a user you were forced to login every time you returned to the site. It frustrates users so much that if you use Google Analytics quite a lot, it became a habit to leave a window open with Google Analytics logged in just for the simplicity.

With the latest update, the Google Analytics team are saying that you no longer need to login and that the process has been streamlined. I’d argue that only part of that statement is true, you do not need to authenticate – however it isn’t streamlined.

The majority of other Google services, once you’ve authenticated once and subsequently return – it reads in your Google Account information and you immediately have access to the service. For some reason, the Google Analytics team have chosen against a consistent authentication progress that is common amongst many other Google services and the user is forced to click a button to enter.

The process won’t be streamlined until it functions like Google Mail, Google Reader and so on. I welcome the improvement – at least I no longer need to type in my account information all the time – however since they already know that I’m authenticated, I shouldn’t need to click again to re-enter the application.

Sun Java & Bundling Google Toolbar

Sun are now bundling Google Toolbar with the Java installerToday the automatic update kicked in for Java on my notebook, which it does quite regularly. I love the fact that different products implement a relatively unobtrusive upgrade to their software to keep it up to date, I know if they didn’t – all of my non-critical software would quietly go out of date.

During this particular update, I happened to notice (not sure if it was there before) – however Sun are now bundling (optionally of course), Google Toolbar with the Java installer. I’m all for providing the automatic update, however I don’t believe they should be bundling additional software, optional or otherwise with an automatic update.

I have no issue if you just installed Java for the first time and you have chosen to install the additional software, however adding it into an update and having it enabled by default is just a little to slimy for my liking.

Google News Algorithms Get It Wrong

Pamela Anderson image mistakenly being associated to Northern Territory council mergers on Google News AustraliaGoogle News is a great service, probably the single best feature of Google News is that it aggregates news stories from numerous sources into one place and then condenses them, so as a user you don’t need to be bothered by or read the same story more than once. As with everything else Google related, its driven by clever algorithms in how it decides what to collapse/consolidate, the snippets to show and images to associate with a given topic or news item.

When viewing the Australian Google News page today, I stumbed across something that I thought was quite funny. In a moment of algorithms acting badly, they had managed to associate an image of Pamela Anderson against a collapsed set of news items related to regional council mergers in the Northern Territory. Clicking on the Pamela Anderson photo took you to the appropriate story, so that part of the system was behaving correctly – just that she was being associated to Northern Territory council mergers wasn’t!

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.

Google Analytics Benchmarking Verticals

In March, Google announced a new feature for Google Analytics named Benchmarking. One of the most compelling reasons to opt-in to the benchmarking component of Google Analytics is to compare how your sites perform against other sites.

Once the data from your sites has been analysed by Google Analytics, it is then possible to compare the following metrics against other sites:

  • Visits
  • Pageviews
  • Pages/visit
  • Average Time on Site
  • Bounce Rate
  • Percentage New Visits

Google Analytics allows the user to choose which one of a number of industry verticals to place their site into for comparison; telecommunications, travel, business and news are but just a few. This industry specific targeting allows for comparison against sites which are similar in theme – vitally important, as you wouldn’t want to compare the statistics of a heavily ecommerce driven site against that of a social networking site.

To make sure that the first two metrics above make sense to each site, Google Analytics automatically places a site into one of three categories based on the number of visits – small, medium or large. When viewing benchmarking data about a site, only the data from other sites within your size category are visible. As such, if you have a small but up and coming site – it isn’t possible to see what the market leader may potentially be doing.

So far, we can compare six simple but very useful metrics against similarly sized web sites within the same industry vertical, though specifying a vertical for comparison is completely optional. While very useful, having a better unerstanding of exactly what you’re comparing against would be handy. I’d personally like a little clarification on the following points:

  • What is the boundary in visits per time period for small, medium & large?
  • How long does a site need to sustain the number of visits per time period to officially be moved between size categories?
  • If a site does move between categories, as a user – am I notified that it has happened?
  • If I use a country specific domain, am I comparing only against sites of a similar size within the country specific domain name space or is it a global comparison? I find this point quite important, as users from different countries have different usage patterns.
  • Does placing your site within a country via Google Webmasters have an impact on the previous point – in case you use a top level domain such as a .com/.net?
  • How are sites placed into an industry vertical and is it possible to see what vertical a given site has been placed in? The latter part of that question is important, as if your site has been placed into the wrong sub-category list and as a user you are nominating a different category (which you feel is the correct one), it could be providing you a different skew of the results.

The benchmarking service from Google Analytics has only just been launched and is still marked beta. I expect as more people start sharing their information with Google, more and more questions will get raised, more will be answered and the product will continue to evolve as do most Google products.