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Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, 2011 is just about over. Thank you to all our clients, colleagues, and friends for making it one fantastic year!

Our offices will be closed on Monday January 2nd, and we will be back into the full swing of things on Tuesday Jan 03 to kick off another great year.

We at StepForth want to wish everyone a very safe and happy New Year!

Google LogoWhen people are searching for a business in their local area, more often than not they are going online rather than flipping through the traditional Yellow Pages.  Local businesses can use this to their advantage by creating a well optimized Google Places page.  Google Places gives your prospective customers the convenience of getting to know you in much less time than it would take to explore your website. It provides them basic information about your business including phone number, address, hours of operation, etc…

A Google Places listing is claimed and filled out by your business. However,  in order to fully optimize your profile, you need to acquire reviews from your past customers.

Read more…

Today Google’s Engineering Director Scott Huffman released the first of (hopefully many) monthly updates announcing the changes Google has implemented in its algorithms. Here is a run down of what was announced along with my thoughts on each and how they will/may effect the average website:

Related query results refinements:

Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are similar to the actual search you type. This change makes it less likely that these results will rank highly if the original query had a rare word that was dropped in the alternate query. For example, if you are searching for [rare red widgets], you might not be as interested in a page that only mentions “red widgets.”

What this means to you: theoretically this improvement in search quality would minimize unqualified traffic to your website if you happen to be getting some. For example, using the example above if you were selling “red widgets” but not “rare red widgets” (what the person searched for) then the traffic your site may received before this update would have had a high bounce rate or at least a nearly non-existent conversion rate. On the flip side, if you were making sales by selling users on another product while they searched for a competing product then your sales could be negatively impacted by this algorithm update.

More comprehensive indexing:

This change makes more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.

What this means to you: this is excellent news for websites with Read more…

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Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Google is Getting a Redesign

The Google we know and love is getting a significant navigation overhaul. Introducing the new Google Toolbar which has Google’s CEO, Larry Page rather excited:

A screenshot of Larry Page discussing the latest changes to Google and the Google Toolbar on Google Plus

In short, the bulk of the navigation will now appear in a drop-down menu which will appear whenever you hover over the Google logo. The area which once Read more…

A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on why I felt so strongly the rel=”author” attribute would play a large role in the future of search rankings. In order to answer his question I felt I needed to take this a step further and explain how rel=”author” appears to fit into a much grander plan Google is implementing around personal profiles. Please note, what I have shared with you below is merely my opinion based on experience, analysis, and  discussions with some of my fine colleagues in the SEO community; not the least of whom is John Carcutt (my co-host on SEO 101 Radio).

First consider what we know:

  1. Google is taking into account the personal blocking data (the block site option in results) from users that have a long and trusted profile; confirmed by Matt Cutts in his September 21st Q&A (the first answer on the linked page).
  2. Right now, if you have a highly trusted profile and you have authorship markup (rel=author) on your articles/copy you will get representation in Google search results – by having your photo show up next to the article.
  3. In order for this markup to work you need to have a Google Profile and it must be correctly associated with the sites you write on and your author page on the site has to connect back (a few hoops are necessary) to your Google Profile to finalize the association.
  4. Google is integrating Plus into most (if not all) of their products – this was confirmed by Vic Gundrota on a recent Web Summit 2.0 interview with him and Sergey Brin.
  5. In order to be on Google Plus you have to have a Google Profile.
  6. Your Google Profile prompts you to connect all of your social profiles so Google knows your social fingerprint and can highlight content in search results that your friends have socially shared/liked.
  7. Links are an important part of Google’s algorithms but they are heavily gamed and likely cause the majority of spam found in Google’s results.
  8. If Google sees that others like your content then it has a better chance of appearing at the top of relevant searches.

Next, let’s connect a few dots and make some educated assumptions:
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A screenshot from a live video feed of Matt Cutts answer Google questionsThe head of Google’s webspam prevention team, Matt Cutts was kind enough to conduct an impromptu 45 minute live Google questions and answers video chat on YouTube in September which I decided was so chalk full of content it would make a great article; it just took me a lot longer than I had expected to get done! Anyway, I tie it up with a fun ode to a future Movember Matt.

Also you can listen to some discussion on this Q&A on the Oct 3 2011 episode of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM which I co-host with fellow SEO veteran John Carcutt; you can find the show on iTunes here.

The Prelude to the Google Q&A

Before he did the Q&A Matt wanted to cover a few points which I outline below along with direct links to the most pertinent section of the video where he explains each point; so you can hear it in his own words (and I don’t have to write them all down). After these points you will find his Q&A where my short-hand should give you the answers you need; if not you always have the video!

Pagination: Matt mentions the use of rel=next and rel=previous to aid in the improved indexation of paginated pages. This is not a light topic so he understandably does not get into great detail but watch Matt’s short explanation on pagination here.

Reconsideration Requests: Matt discusses an article by Tiffany Oberoi and Michael Wyszomierski from the Google Search Quality Team called “Reconsideration requests get more transparent“. As the title aptly describes the Google will now be much more open about whether your site has been penalized or not should you submit a reconsideration request. Here is Matt’s description of the changes to reconsideration in his own words.

Requests for Crazy Ideas: if you have “crazy ideas” for how to search which Google has not done they invite you to add your ideas on Matt’s blog where he posted a request for those ideas recently: What cool new websearch ideas should Google launch in 2012? 

 

Matt Cutts Answers Google Questions

NOTE: each of the linked titles below will take you directly to the relevant segment of the video – in case you want to hear it from Matt directly. Otherwise I have done my best to paraphrase his answers; a shorter version of the actual transcription. Read more…

Google announced earlier in the month that they will be making some changes to their quality score algorithm. They say that overall relevance and the quality of your destination URL will contribute more to your quality score than in before.  For the last 5 or so years Google has been making many changes to their quality score algorithm in regards to how much weight is appointed from the destination URL. The more relevant the landing page, the better the quality score resulting in a better performance from your account.

What will this do for My AdWords Account?

As long as you have been using relevant and quality destination URLs for your display ads, you should have nothing to worry about regarding your paid search account. Google says that relevant landing pages may even see a ‘strong boost’ when it comes to your display ads quality score. Read more…

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Friday, September 30th, 2011

How Well is Your Website Performing?

One of the most important parts of online marketing is to know what the traffic on your site is doing, and finding out what changes can be made to help the performance of your site. In order to maximize the performance of your site you need to know some things like; where your traffic is coming from, what pages are the surfers visiting, how long are they on the site, where and/or why are they leaving the site, etc.

The Google Analytics LogoGoogle Analytics is one of the best web statistical programs available on the net, and the best part about it is that it’s free to use. Google Analytics has been around for years now and has seen many changes in its lifetime. In the last few months the Dashboard of your analytics account has had an upgrade to a new version which many people are very excited about. Google is up to it again with another major update to their Analytics program offering Real Time analytics data about your site.

How is Google Analytics Changing?

In the past the data you could see was only for past performance of your website whereas you could try to click on the current day to view your statistics but all fields would yield zeros. Now you do have the option to see your statistics in Real Time, which is great for testing new campaigns, watching a new source of traffic, troubleshooting your site, etc. Read more…

Clickable Phone Numbers with Mobile AdWords

If you are one of those mobile internet enthusiasts you should be thrilled that Google AdWords has clickable phone numbers displayed with their ads (launched in January). Since the change you have had the option to allow users to call you directly just the same way as if they were to click on your ad to go to your site. By setting this up in a separate part of your Google AdWords account, you can give the option for the system to make this functional. Read more…

I don’t usually write about scams, but had a fun phone call this morning and thought I would just put out a warning for the 1 or 2 readers out there who may fall victim to such a scam.

I got a phone call from an unknown-name, unknown number. Well, actually my wife answered the call, and when I overheard the conversation I quickly asked for the phone before she hung up – I knew immediately what the call was about and I wanted to have some fun.

The caller starts off by identifying himself as working for Microsoft, and that the reason he is calling is that he wants to protect my computer from viruses. You see, apparently my computer has been sending him error messages, kind of an SOS message, and his job is to respond to these messages and help fix the problem. Its awfully nice of Microsoft to be looking out for me like this without having to even ask. Read more…