Danny Sullivan, the best known and respected SEO in the world announced today that as of December 1st, 2006 he will leaving the home that he originally created www.searchenginewatch.com.

Why is Danny Leaving? The reasons for his departure are eloquently described on his blog in Danny’s straight forward and professional manner, which I highly recommend reading. The short version is that he and Incisive Media, the new owners of SearchEngineWatch (as of 2005) , were not able to come to an agreement on the terms of his contract renewal. Read more…

Google launched a free packaged business solution for enterprises today (Sunday, August 27th) including online chat, email, calendars, and hosting. Called “Gmail for Your Domain” (a ghastly name that is only slightly better referred to as “Google Apps” within the actual admin area) this application package will allow a business owner or administrator to create a separate account per employee. Read more…

Sorry for the belated posting all but I realized that, although I had intended to, I never did post that Google Analytics has now opened its doors to all. You can sign up your site and enjoy free website analytics from friendly ol’Google here: sign up for Google Analytics.

Please note that I strongly recommend using ClickTracks versus Google Analytics. My experience with ClickTracks has been far more favorable and I believe that the statistics provided are more accurate. Indeed, keep in mind that if you go with Google there is a certain lack of transparency regarding what they do with the statistical data collected from your website. Anyway, that is my two bits but I wanted you all to know about this news if you hadn’t heard about it already.

Cheers, Ross

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Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Some Buzz on Google's New Patent

There is a low buzz in the SEO world about a new Google patent titled: “System and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results”. You can find the actual Google patent here. As far as patents go this seems to be an odd one; there are a wide variety of interpretations of this patent and from what I can tell they all have some merit.

I don’t personally have much to say about this patent now because the simple fact is that I have to give it a more thorough read. I can tell you, however, that reviewing new patents is not a priority for me because they are only *possible* indications of future updates; too much ‘if’ for me to consider it a concern. At any rate I do consider it a bit of a hobby to keep up on what the latest and greatest minds of search engine companies are coming up with and maybe you do to. Read more…

This March an online word processing startup called Writely was purchased and merged into Google. This fledgling company had one of those great ideas that Google seems to have a hard time passing up; online interactivity and document interaction. To quote Jen Mazzon, one of the creators and a part of the new Google Writely Team, “everyone told us it was crazy to try and give people a way to access their documents from anywhere — not to mention share documents instantly, or collaborate online within their browsers. But that’s exactly what we did.” (source URL). Read more…

Now located on the right side of every page of The SEO Blog, StepForth has provided you with easy access to all of the latest and greatest SEO news! This is all thanks to a new search tool called Rollyo.

Rollyo is a new search tool that allows you to create your own “searchroll”. A searchroll is essentially your own customized list of sites that you want to search. In other words, using Rollyo you can create a search option where your query is restricted to the sites you want to read.

“Search Other SEO News Resources Here”
I have to admit, I customized the Rollyo search code a bit. I changed the default search provided by Rollyo to allow users to search the “Top SEO News” immediately. This search was customized by myself to search some of the most popular SEO blogs and SEO news sites such as Matt Cutts, the Official Google Blog, The Official Yahoo Blog, Jeremy Zawodny’s Blog, and much more.

By providing this tool I hope that my users will find even more value in visiting The SEO Blog regularly. Additionally you can create your own Rollyo account and add my custom search “Top SEO News” to your own searchroll. I will be updating this “Top SEO News” searchroll fairly regularly with other timely news sites.

I hope you enjoy it and find your customized Rollyo experience effective. I must add, however, that Rollyo runs on the Yahoo! API. As a result, the search engine results that you ultimately see are totally up to Yahoo!

Webmaster tools are becoming a hot topic in the major search engines these days. It is becoming increasingly obvious to search engine companies that they need to begin listening to webmasters and provide more tools to ensure future brand integrity. It is about time! I have been waiting for the search engines to wise up and over the past couple of years both Google and Yahoo have begun to prominently feature such tools. This article is devoted to Yahoo’s Site Explorer tool and how you can harness it to help you improve your search engine rankings and improve your odds for online success.

THEN: September 29th, 2004
Yahoo! officially launched Yahoo Site Explorer (see release). This new tool was designed to promote feedback between webmasters and Yahoo search staff. Ever since Yahoo! launched and became the powerhouse it is today it has had a rather bleak reputation for responding to customer search inquiries and ranking or directory complaints; this is another great step they took to change public opinion. Read more…

Google provided a little insight into their plans for the spidering of images across the web. Over the next few years they are going to be focusing on facial, geographical and other forms of recognition within images. The plan is to improve the capabilities of their free Picasa tool but you can bet that this will spread into Google Images. What does this mean to you?

Just imagine if you could search for all pictures taken in a backwater location in your home town… say your favorite lake. Some day Google may have the ability to show you all pictures that appear to match those surroundings; I doubt it will be even 80% accurate but it is still a huge step.

You may also be able to search for pictures of your buddy ‘Bruce’ by letting Google analyze a photo of Bruce that you have on hand. Then, after some whirls and clicks, Google would provide you with additional photos of Bruce found online. Okay I may be reaching a bit here with how this might work but I honestly believe this is in our future.

With Google you can pretty much let your imagination run wild. After all, Google is the perfect example of a company with unlimited financial and intellectual resources so the sky is the limit.

Here is the original announcement.

P.S. Hmm, image SEO just might be taken to an all new level.

Yesterday the VP of Search Products and User Experience, Marissa Mayer announced a small update to the functionality of the Google home page: www.google.com.

When I looked at the page, I didn’t see much of a change… until I clicked on the ‘more’ link at the right hand side of the search options bar. Then it became clear that the search options bar had actually been totally revised (it was early, give me a break!). Google has finally made it easier to search “Books”, “Froogle” and user “Groups” directly from the search box. In addition, it has added “Video” as a main search option.

Unfortunately I don’t really find the “more” method a very slick approach. After all, how many people actually click on a link like this? In my experience (and perhaps this is just me) I generally search only what options I immediately see; yes, I am out for instant satisfaction. Hey isn’t that what the Internet is all about?

Here is the press release from the Official Google Blog

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Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Did You Know You Had Stats?

No, it is not a STD but to some they are worse. After all, stats, better known as statistics, conjure up bad memories for many who unhappily sat through this post-secondary statistics course. Hey, let’s face it; pouring over statistics is not for everyone.

Oh Yeah, That Thing!
All too often my clients say ‘huh?’ when I ask them if they have access to web statistics or traffic reports for their website(s). But the fact is that if you have a website you more than likely have access to traffic ‘stats’ that provide a glimpse into the minds of your website visitors. Simply put, I think there are some readers out there that could use a brief tutorial on just how useful those website statistics reports can be.

To Start: Get Access to Your Statistics
If you have statistics for your website open them up and check them out while or after you read this article; you just might learn something about your site that you never knew.

If you are unsure whether you have statistics just give your web hosting company a call and ask them. Chances are that you were provided access to this information when you signed up for your service and you just need to get the proper access information again. Don’t worry if you are concerned about complexity, normally getting access to your website statistics is a totally painless process.

If you don’t have access to a report right now, try using this sample I found online.

A Mini Analytics Glossary
Before you delve into the world of analytics I want to provide you with a brief outline of the more popular analytics terms that you will often encounter. Please note that these are all very basic definitions for the purposes of this article.

Unique Visitors” or “Visitors”: the number of different physical people that visited your site. This statistic is far from perfect (curious? read here for why) but it is used often.

Visits: each new visitor that has not been to your site within the last 60 minutes.

Page Views: generally known as the most accurate statistic, this information tells you how many times your pages were viewed in total.

Hits: never use this term! This term was used ages ago interchangeably (read that confusingly) to describe visitors when in fact it meant something entirely different. Here is an extreme example; a site with 1,000,000 hits per month may only have 1000 visitors per month if the only page they visit has 1000 images on it. In other words, a hit is registered every time an image loads. As you can imagine, this statistic can be very misleading.

Here are some more terms defined.

Exactly What Are Website Statistics?
Website statistics, more appropriately known as website analytics are defined as “the measurement of visitor behaviour on a website.” (see full definition of “website analytics”). In other words, the analytics are meant to provide you with insight into how a visitor reacts within your website so that you can improve your site; ultimately improving their experience and your return on investment.

How Can Website Analytics Help Me?
Analytics can provide you with information about your website that you may never have even considered possible. I find this subject simplest to explain by example:

Identify Killer Pages

One of the most common statistics that is found in any analytics program is ‘Top Exit Pages”. If you have seen an analytics report before then you have likely come across this statistic. Now what? Exit pages are an extremely revealing statistic because it shows, from the worst offender downwards, which pages are influencing your visitors to leave your website.
(TIP: See “Navigation” + “Viewed” + “Exit” in sample).

Consider this for a moment. A report that the majority of website owners have access to may actually provide solid clues as to why their website is not making them more money; but many of them have never sent these reports.

How do can you act on this information? Well that depends on the complexity of your analytics software. For the simplest of analytics solutions you will not have much more to go on other than a specific page is driving away potential business and it must be fixed! In that scenario it is best for you to examine the page closely and search for anything that might be driving away business. The possibilities are limitless but here are some common offenders:

> Low content relevancy: if your page is supposed to have tips on how to look after their snowboard and you have only 2 tips then this maybe disappointing your viewers who were expecting a better resource.

> Poor usability: can your viewers find what they are looking for? If they have to look hard, they will likely leave. Make it as simple as possible for them to navigate your site and ultimately purchase your product/service. Contact me for more information on website usability.

>The visitor is directionless: have you crafted your pages so that the next step in your visitor’s progress is clear? The content on your website is the key to your online success; if you leave your visitor without a clear path they may leave looking for a better site.

Sometimes Clients Arrive at the Back Door

More often than not there are a number of pages within a website where visitors enter; it isn’t only the home page. The “Top Entry Pages” report will outline which pages are being used as entry pages. These statistics can mean huge dividends for just about any website but especially ecommerce sites. For example, if you know that your “snowboard care” page is an entry point you may want to place your list of specials (usually reserved for the home page) on that page in order to entice viewers to check out your inventory.

Who, When, Where?

Who? = Who are your viewers? Most analytics programs will show you the geography of your visitors. This information will give you a better idea of which countries, and in some cases cities, seem to be providing the most visitors.
(TIP: See “Who” + “Countries” in sample)

When? = On average what time of day are your visits the highest? This isn’t generally the most useful statistic for the basic user but it can be a huge benefit if you are in a pay-per-click campaign; dayparting allows you to specify the time of day you want your ad to be shown and this feature is available in some PPC programs.
(TIP: See “When” + “Hours” in sample)

Where? = By far one of the most useful statistics! Where did your visitors come from? The Referrer Report is available in 100% of analytics reports. It provides you with a valuable list of the websites that are sending you traffic. Just take a moment and imagine the possibilities that this report can provide.

> Discover which search engines are providing you with the most traffic. You may be surprised when a lesser known search engine provides a decent amount of traffic. Knowing this information you can have your SEO review your rankings on that search engine and improve them where necessary.

> Discover which websites are providing you the most traffic. You might find a website that you are promoting on is providing you with more traffic than you had dreamed. In this case it would be a no-brainer to enhance your promotions on that website and potentially make a killing in additional sales!
(TIP: See “Referrers” + “Referring Sites” or “Referring Search Engines” in sample)

Which Keywords Deliver?

The keyword report will show you which keywords are driving the most traffic from the search engines. This is another great tool because it will provide you with an indication of how important a keyword is. For example, if you have a #1 search engine ranking on Google for “snowboard care” and you only receive 500 visitors per month from Google then it is an indication that something is wrong. Either the title or description found on the search engine results page is not alluring clicks OR there simply isn’t enough traffic on this phrase to warrant your time.

Conversely, if you find that you are getting a huge amount of traffic from that phrase, you can tell your SEO to fortify that ranking because you don’t want to lose it. Your SEO will also be able to research other phrases along the same lines that you should target (i.e. “snowboard maintenance”).
(TIP: See “Referrers” + “Search” + “Search Keyphrases” in sample)

Errors

If you haven’t run a broken link check on your website for a while this report might be a nasty awakening. The Error Report will show how many errors your website has logged in the last while (whatever time frame the report is set for); predominantly a result of your visitors accessing pages that are no longer available from broken links on your site. This is sure to drive traffic away from your website so fix these immediately!

In addition this report may identify pages that are no longer found under the same name but were bookmarked from other sites. In this case, be sure to provide a redirect from the old page to the new one; see this article for a quick tutorial.

Is There More?
There is much more that can be done using web analytics, even with the more basic reports that are generally provided free with hosting packages. The information that you can drag out of an analytics report is gold, you just need to know how to mine it. Here is a list of additional tutorials I was able to find online for some of the basic packages more frequently used by hosting providers.

But It Can Be Even Simpler
If you are reasonably intrigued by this whole prospect of understanding your visitors I highly recommend you check out our site at Web Site Analytics. This stats site talks about a more advanced but even simpler-to-use analytics tool that will provide you with the information you need in spades. I can’t say enough good things about ClickTracks but here are some immediate bonuses you can expect from using this program:

  1. Track where your visitors go, step by step, throughout your website.
  2. Learn which keywords people used to find any page within your website.
  3. Separately track the behavior of visitors sent to your website through a pay-per-click campaign; you can even track your return on investment.
  4. Simply and effectively track the quality of traffic that each search engine sends to you.
  5. The list literally goes on and on.

I highly recommend checking out ClickTracks.com for more information. They have great tutorials and some short but highly informative video demos.

Time to Review Your Statistics!
In closing, whatever you do please take some time to reflect on the analytics for your website; it is an absolute shame that such fantastic data is sitting untapped. If doing this yourself is not an option ask your SEO or Webmaster to do the work for you; you can even contact me for help. The fact of the matter is spending a little time with your stats can mean a world of difference for your bottom line and your visitor’s experience.

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