Search

Blinkyproducitons – Quick things that will help

Made a new friend on Twitter, who made a drink rooted in my geekiness.

In return, I offered some SEO suggestions for her site, blinkyproductions.com. Now, there’s a ton more that could be done for the site to help it get more traffic. But these are the really easy and highly effective first things you can do to get more search visibility. Really.

1) Move your site to a hosted version of WordPress instead of the free version. There are a ton of great apps that can help you optimize your pages there.

Bear in mind, I’m totally guilty of using the free WordPress solution for myself – but that’s only because I’m not really using this blog to run a business from. So I don’t need all the bells and whistles you get from the paid version.

2) Let pages break. If the page scrolls down and down and is one big, long page, you’re missing out on getting other pages indexed. The more pages you have, the more pages you can optimize.

3) Don’t mask the domain over every page. Right now, every page of the site is “www.blinyproductions.com.” If you let every page be found individually, like http://www.blinkyproductions.com/services, again, you’ll have more pages that can get indexed. The more pages indexed, the more potential searches people will do to get to your site.

4) Optimize your pages. Look at what they’re “about,” pick the keyword or keyphrase that represents that page, then use that word or phrase in the page’s Title, Description, URL, and a heading on the page – usually marked with an <H1> tag in the page’s code. Use that word or phrase to name and alt tag any images you use on that page. The idea is to think of how people do searches for the products or services you offer.

So for blinkyproductions.com/services, you might optimize for the phrase, “video production services.” In that case you’d change the title of the page to something like, “Video Production Services – BlinkyProductions.com,” the title to, “Binky Productions offers multiple services that are sure to satisfy your requirements as well as respect your budget’s needs,” and the URL to http://www.binkyproductions.com/video-production-services. And that bold “Services” on the page could just be changed to “Video Production Services.”

5) Set up an e-mail subscription services. This is crazy easy to do. You can go to Feedburner, which is free, or spend a couple of dollars for something like feedblitz.com, which gives you more options. Either way, sign up. Plug in the information from your RSS feed, and it will give you code to put on your site so people can sign up for e-mails whenever you post something new. Each time you get people to subscribe to your blog, that’s more people reading. You can actually get more Facebook “Likes” from your e-mails than you ever could from a Facebook business page, just because subscribers would share stuff on their own.

Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”

Google vs. Facebook? No. Google vs. Bing

We love the horse race in America. Whenever there are two choices that even appear to be in competition, we choose sides. Such is the case this week, now that Google has unleashed what everyone (except Google) is calling a Facebook killer, Google+.

In this case, picking a favorite to “win” isn’t really the point.

There isn’t any point (read as: money) in Google killing Facebook. Google makes their money from their search network. Facebook makes their money from… well, no one’s quite sure of that yet… maybe venture capital sources that don’t ask too many questions?

Anyway, the most likely point of Google+ is to keep people on Google, performing their searches on Google, which include their paid search ads, which makes Google money. If people continue to search with Google, they aren’t doing it somewhere else.

So Google+ isn’t about beating Facebook, but beating the Bing/Yahoo junta.

Google has been the absolute leader in search for years because they developed a better search algorithm than what already existed. This meant better search results, and a better product.

The methodology they created is now used by sites like Bing and Yahoo, and to many the variations in results between the three aren’t important. If that were to continue, Google might not be able to prove that they are better than their search rivals.

Enter Google+, something that will keep people close to their search product. They could actually trump Facebook with this. Personally,  I doubt it’s really their goal.

Can Facebook and Google+ both be popular at the same time? As long as Google+ members find their way to ads via their Adwords program, I don’t see how Google could possibly care.

Schema.org – A new, bright way of informing search engines

Exciting news this week for SEO junkies: Google, Bing and Yahoo are all backing a new standard for web page meta data, schema.org. More than simply adding keywords into the existing title, meta keywords and meta description, this new markup gives the tags you used a context that helps search engines find results.

For example, if you wanted to rank for “golf bags in Arizona,” you might include that phrase in the meta keywords, the page title, and in a sentence or two in the description.

With this, however, you can include information that helps search engines understand why ranking your page for “golf bags in Arizona” makes sense.

Also, the placement of these tags inform the search engines where this relevant information can be found.

<div itemscope itemtype =”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”&gt;

This tag informs the search spider what kind of tab is being employed. Schema.org has several different definitions you can use, depending on the information you’re trying to call out.

Then you add similarly focused tags to call out the information that shows this as a “local business,” which you told them was coming in the line above:

<h1 itemprop=”name”>Sam’s Golf Shop</h1><span> itemprop=”streetAddress”>1212 W. Dobson</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Tempe</span>
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>AZ</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>85284</span>
</div>

In a way, this is a step back for search engines. For years they have endeavored to create algorithms that could read the page, and make decisions themselves about what a page was, and what it meant. Since these programs cannot actually read and understand a page yet, they call on the webmaster to include context that makes the tags make sense.

Because of that, I have no doubt these tags can and will be abused by smart-yet-nefarious SEOs.

However, this now also gives all of the good SEOs a way to qualify those tags. That way, we can both start getting better search results.

Beware Web Listings Inc Scam

I recently bought a domain name from GoDaddy. As a result of my registration, I got what looked like a bill from some strange company called Web Listings Inc. – and rather than give this shady outfit a unique inbound link, which they may or may not know is what really helps search, I’ll point you instead to all of the other negative reports of Web Listings Inc on Google.

So why is this company a scam? First off, the letter they sent refers to:

“DOMAIN NAME SUBMISSINO TO 20 ESTABLISHED SEARCH ENGINES

UP TO EIGHT KEYWORD / PHRASE LISTINGS

QUARTERLY SEARCH ENGINE POSITION AND RANKING REPORTS”

First off, “20 established search engines” is meaningless. What does established mean here? It doesn’t matter. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and to a lesser extent Ask are the only search engines that are important to anyone, because they are the only ones that have traffic. You don’t need to be listed on multiple search engines, you just need listings on search engines that have a lot of users.

Secondly, submitting listings to a search engine does not mean you will then get listed for keyword searches. It only means you submitted your site. Submitting your site to Google or Bing is just slightly easier than falling out of bed. The link to do so is easily found, and takes roughly 20 seconds to do. If you don’t know anything about the web, this might sound attractive – but then if you are new to the web, you’re just the kind of people this Web Listings Inc company is interested in: An easy mark.

The most insidious part of this e-mail, however, was the way it was presented: As a bill. When you first start reading the thing, it looks like something that got tacked on when you purchased your domain. Mine seemed to say I owed $85.00, a tear-out to send in with my check, and a return envelope.

Upon closer inspection, however, I saw the joke was on me! It also says,

“THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED ABOVE UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER.”

That is, the poor suckers who thought they owed someone money just sent it in, meaning they accepted an offer they didn’t know they could get out of. Some others who weren’t ever going to pay for something they didn’t know they bought would look into them…

And what, Web Listings? Look you up and decide your product is worth buying after all? Anyone who sends money to you without reading the disclaimer is a fool, granted – but so is anyone else who would send money to a company that sends what looks like an attempt to trick money out of them.

Just a few easy searches for your company turns up a lot of people complaining about black hat SEO, the aforementioned “scam” nature of your business, and some others who, like myself, were galled at similar letters.

As a professional SEO, this kind of thing makes me wince. There is real work involved in getting search engine rankings. Every time someone is burned by an outfit like this, that person assumes there is nothing that can be done to get their website ranked. After all, they parted with $85, or more, and despite being listed with “established search engines,” there wasn’t any further traffic to their site.

If you see ANYTHING from Web Listings Inc, please throw it away. You can submit your site on your own for free. If you want to see how you rank, just running some searches will tell you how you’re doing. If you want reports, there are companies like WebPosition that, while they do charge, will let you run as many reports on your rankings as you’d like – they won’t simply send you something every three months, from “search engines” no one has ever heard of before.

You don’t need these people, and they have no claim on your money – no matter what they tell you.

Finally, really, how good of an SEO company can they possibly be if they’re trying to get business using snail mail?

What’s wrong with Bing’s front page

By now, you’ve likely seen the front page images for Bing.com – here’s one:

Personally I love this. It’s something different every day, and it draws you in to learn more about whatever they’re showing. The images have square links on them with bits of trivia, and invite you to click through to learn more.

The problem is what they link to. In this case, the link for “What do Windmills do?” just loads a search page for “windmills.” Sure, I can probably find out more about the pangolin’s tongue if I continue to some of these resulting pages, but there isn’t a clear answer waiting for me on the other side of the first link.

If effort has been put into getting me interested in the question asked, not giving me a clear answer is a betrayal. The moment I see I’m not going to get more useful information, I will back out. It’s a strangely bad mistake for a search engine to make.

Similarly, if you have links on your site or ads that promises to provide specific information, you need to give your answer to it immediately. Paid search ads that read, “How will you lose 30 lbs by Summer?” must have that specific answer on their landing pages, since that’s a big reason people clicked on the ad.

If people don’t see it, they’ll bounce out and possibly find someone else who has that answer.

Why Social is Sexy and Search is not

Back in 2006, when “social media” was still “social bookmarking,” search was king. People were rushing to do the things necessary to get first place on Google for anything that had to do with their business. (And paid search budgets were through the roof.)

Four years later, things seem to have cooled for search. Sure, there are still a lot of smart marketing managers who realize they need to be found on Google in order to keep money coming in, but the talk has turned rather sharply towards how to use Facebook, Twitter and sometimes Linkedin to gain customers.

This despite the fact that social networks don’t convert customers very well at all, and search does.

Search engines vs Social Networking

The reason is simple, but deceptive, in my opinion: Search takes work, and time, to do well. If you want to get first place for your product market, that means writing content that contains keywords, keeps visitors from bouncing off your page, and getting other web sites to create quality links to it.

Like I said, work. If you’ve ever tried to get just a single inbound link with anchor text from a PR7 website, you know it can take years off your life and cost you a pint of your own blood to make happen.

The payoff, though, is being found by people who specifically want what you’re selling. They likely aren’t just cruising around killing time. If someone searches for “golf bag sale,” they’re looking for golf bags. On sale. And if you sell golf bags, and have a discount sale, how much business do you think you’re going to do ranking #1 on Google for that phrase?

On the other hand, social media is EASY! (It isn’t, but it’s easy to do incorrectly, anyway.) All you have to do with social is connect a feed to your Facebook page or Twitter account, let it post for you, follow a bunch of people to get them to follow you back… then sit back and count your money, right?

Of course, it isn’t right. Have you ever used Twitter or Facebook for your own enjoyment? How willing are you to break away from a conversation with your friend in order to follow some company’s link to their latest sale? Maybe you will keep the company’s name in the back of your head, but if they bug you enough you’ll remember them as, “those idiots who keep ruining Twitter for me.”

“Top of mind” isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

A lot of marketers have been fooled into believing that social is important, but for the wrong reason. It isn’t important because it’s easy to blast people with messages, it’s important because it’s an easy way to get in touch with individual customers. That entails a lot of difficult work actually talking to them.

Search remains important, because that’s where quality leads really are. Yes, more people use social sites to screw around. But that’s why they are NOT quality traffic: They’re there to screw around! They are not necessarily in the market for anything. If someone wants something, they can easily go looking for it, and likely will.

Pestering people will not make them suddenly want what you’re selling.