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The Chinese communist flagAccording to TechCrunch today it appears that China is hijacking traffic that is meant to go to Yahoo and Google and transfering it to; China’s banner search engine rife with legally (in China) ripped music and thick with communist party censorship.

Out of interest I tried surfing China’s network using a Chinese-based proxy. I tested the network and definitely found many websites that were “unavailable” but Google, Yahoo and MSN were not being redirected on my tests… I guess the Chinese filters are playing favourites intermittently.

Harvard posted an interesting study on Internet censorship in China they conducted in 2002 called an “Empirical Analysis of Internet Filtering in China“. I find this topic fascinating and disturbing so it stole a little more time out of my day than I had expected. In the report they listed a sampling of sites banned in China along with the regularity in which they were blocked during their study. The list shows 126 websites including:

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Dogpile Outranks Google

J.D. Power and Associated rated Dogpile with the highest rank in customer satisfaction among search engines for the second year in a row.

Based on 1,000 points, Dogpile earned a score of 818 this year, up 14 points from 2006. Google fell in second at 794, with Ask filling in the top 3 at 784 points.

Dogpile users report that they are particularly satisfied with the limits placed upon paid advertising within search results.

This study is in its fourth year and looks at overall consumer behavior, experience and satisfaction within a number of search functions.

While Dogpile has a long way to go in the major search engine race, it is nice to see an underdog (no pun intended) holding its own against the major search engines.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Minor Updates to Yahoo's Panama

Yesterday, Yahoo announced in the Yahoo Search Marketing Blog, a few updates to the Panama platform have been released making life slightly easier.

Custom Reports
Yahoo now allows advertisers to create custom reports and set up a report scheduler. These reports are available in XML, TSV, CSV or Excel. This is a feature that has long been a part of Google AdWords and is a welcome addition to YSM.

Lateral Navigation
Before whenever you wanted to switch from one AdGroup to the next you had to jump back to the main campaign page. Moving from one to the next was quite inconvenient. Now with the new previous and next links at the top right, moving from one item to the next is much easier and faster. This feature works on the campaign, ad group, and keyword levels. It would be also nice if Yahoo could take this one step further and simply provide a dropdown menu visible on the campaign and ad group levels that would allow you select the specific group desired.

Calendar Date Range
Under the calendar drop down when selecting a date range, “Today” has also been added as a preset option. Often the results for the current day are incomplete, but if you want to see where you stand this does make it much quicker then entering a custom date range for the current day.

While there are still many features needing improvement within the YSM interface, these few adjustments are certainly a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Google Losing Ground in China

In most places Google dominates search over rivals Yahoo and MSN, however, in China it’s a different story.

Google has been investing heavily in search for China, however, despite this; is up 7.6% this year reaching a 69.5% market share in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Google’s share fell 1.1% down to a still respectable 23 percent.

Yahoo China also saw a sharp decline with its share cut by more than half, down by 2.9% to 2.3% market share.

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

How to Optimize for Yahoo!

With a reported 22.1% of search traffic Yahoo is second only to Google’s 64.4% (src: Hitwise) for search user volume so it is extremely important not to forget that attaining a top ranking in Yahoo can be a big boon to the bottom line. As a result, I decided to write this update on how to attain superior rankings in Yahoo using today’s useful tools and tactics.

OVERVIEW: Optimizing for Yahoo!
Algorithmically Yahoo is Google’s much younger sibling. I say this because many of the requirements for a successful ranking mirror Google’s requirement about 4 years ago and they sum up to one distinct fact; optimize your content boldly on Yahoo and you will be rewarded. When I say “boldly” I do not mean use SPAM; by nature SPAM and optimization do not mix… they are two entirely separate concepts (black and white in fact).

The following are the current generalized specifications for achieving solid rankings in Yahoo.

SEO tactics have not changed a great deal over the past 10 years I have been an SEO. In general terms the only effect time has had on SEO is to vary the intensity of the optimization for particular page elements. That is the rub of course; some search engines appreciate the optimization of particular page elements over others. In the case of Yahoo, this old property with a relatively young algorithm tends to favour the following elements:

Title Tag: Keep your title tag as short as 5 small-medium sized words and include one complete incidence of your keyphrase. Yahoo! blatantly favours sites that include the keyphrase in the title tag. For an example check out “car sales” or for that matter any phrase. Within the top 10 results you will notice that the majority of sites listed will include at least one incidence of the keyphrase or a crucial portion of it (i.e. “cars”). The ones that do not include the keyphrase tend to be sites that have are extremely popular so even basic title tag optimization is not required to attain a top ranking.

Meta Description Tag: Start this tag with an incidence of your keyphrase and then produce a short 15 – 18 small-medium sized word sentence clearly describing your site. Include one more incidence of your keyphrase in the sentence. Keep in mind that the description tag is often utilized as the description for any rankings you achieve so it is best to make it alluring.

Meta Keyword Tag: Keyword tags have long been considered ineffective and no longer have any importance on Google; however Yahoo does still consider the keyword tag so it cannot hurt to include it. The keyword tag should start with the keyphrase and then all following words or phrases should be ordered according to their relevance to your website; place the most important ones up front. The max size of a keyword tag should be 250 characters – comma-delimited. Do not over repeat words; no more than 3 repetitions of a single word within the tag.

Keywords in URL: Create keyword-based filenames that closely represent the content within the file. Yahoo rewards keyword-based filenames a small amount – perhaps enough to push past your competition.

Headings: Heading 1 and 2 tags should be applied on every page where appropriate to embolden the relevance of the page. In other words, use the page’s keyphrase within a Heading 1 tag to further enhance the visibility of the keyphrase on the page.

Alt text for images: Don’t forget to provide appropriate ALT text for each image on your website. The ALT text must not provide information that is already written on the website. ALT text is supposed to provide a clear and concise description of what the image is. Fortunately this means that adding an incidence of the keyphrase or a portion of the keyphrase is totally appropriate which can add slightly more credibility to your page score when Yahoo’s crawler (Slurp) indexes the page.

Inline Links: In the midst of your page it is beneficial to include links to related pages from related content. These links will apply relevance to the linked page; which is optimized for the same keyphrase you linked from.

Site Structure: Site structure is a vital component to ranking success on Yahoo; especially in competitive marketplaces where every advantage is required to reach the top. One method that would be successful at Yahoo (and happens to work as well on the other major search engines) is a tried and true technique that revolves around the linear progression of related content throughout the website; it is commonly known as Themeing. The following example should shed some light on this subject:

Your site is a car sales site focused on Audi. In order to create a linear site structure you would focus each section of the site on an individual relevancy. Say you pick “Audi A5” as the relevant topic (see Figure 1.0). As you move deeper into the Audi A5 section you only see A5 relevant content. The search engine spider and your users will not be distracted by links to other vehicles – only information on the A5. This progresses as you proceed deeper into this arm of the website and because this section of the site is utterly focused on the subject “Audi A5” the odds of achieving a ranking for that term increase considerably.

When building links for Yahoo concentrate on quality not quantity. Quality links would be one way links from sites that specialize in content directly relevant to the content on your own website. Building these links can be done by creating content and syndicating it to your own industry for link love and to build credibility. In addition, if your website is a worthwhile resource it is entirely reasonable to tell the world about your site in order to build links; hopefully they will link to you because they like your site so much.

Finally, there is another tactic that has mixed results; send out press releases once a month using PRWeb or an associated press release agency. A good press release can easily build the links you need in no time at all. Unfortunately the mixed results I noted occur when press releases inevitably become archived, at which point the link relevance will fade. As a result, link building with press releases is only useful as an ongoing practice and should be considered a small facet of a robust link building campaign.

Yahoo’s Site Explorer is a fantastic tool for monitoring your website(s) and running basic link reports. If you have not already done so you should create an account at Site Explorer and then validate your website (prove you own it) so that you can manage the information Yahoo has for your website. Once you have validated your website I have noted some Site Explorer functionality that may help your website perform on Yahoo:

  • Make certain to create a sitemap and submit it to Yahoo:
    If you haven’t already done so use a XML sitemap generator to create a sitemap for your website and then submit it to Yahoo using the “Add Feed” form within your website’s Site Explorer profile.
  • Removing unnecessary dynamic content from your URLs with new add-on within Site Explorer:
    Does your URLs content session ID’s or other dynamic content that is unnecessary within the URL? If so, this information can be indexed by the search engines and ultimately can cause havoc with your rankings. Thankfully Yahoo has implemented a new tool within the Site Explorer domain management section called “Dynamic URLs Beta”. Here are the instructions to use the Dynamic URLs tool.

After reviewing our notes from current and previous Yahoo promotions and taking a look at a variety of top 10 results the following points appeared noteworthy:

  • Ensure open indexing by using Robots.txt wisely
  • A lot of our client’s older content appears to be sticking to top rankings with little or no monthly tweaking. As a result, I think it is fair to assume that fresh content is not currently gaining much weight in the Yahoo algorithm.
  • In many cases top ranking sites have pushed the envelope and their sites border on SPAM. Considering the top ranking these sites have it appears Yahoo’s SPAM filters are far less sensitive than Google’s. I expect Yahoo will change this in the near future but then again I have been surprised how long this has been the status quo.
  • One common claim throughout forums is that achieving a placement in the Yahoo Directory provides an instant boost to Yahoo rankings. Unfortunately we have not seen conclusive evidence that the annual $299 fee will increase rankings dramatically in the short term. That said, I strongly believe that a Yahoo Directory placement is a very reputable incoming link that does pay dividends in the long run at any search engine that weighs incoming links (the ones that count).
  • Yahoo Search Submit was re-introduced back in February 2007 to significant criticism due to the potential favouritism to those who pay to get into the Yahoo index. Despite the negative feedback there appears to be some potential benefits to paying for submission. For one, in July I noted an interesting story where a website was banned from Yahoo and the webmaster got the site back into Yahoo’s index by paying for inclusion (“Banned from Yahoo?”). A second reason Search Submit may be worthwhile is the guarantee that your site will be indexed. Furthermore, the Yahoo’s Search Submit Pro service allows you to recommend your own title and description tags for each page submitted and to submit pages that may not normally be indexed by Slurp.
by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Celebrating 10 Years of Web Marketing Excellence

On Tuesday Sept 4th Yahoo announced an agreement to acquire BlueLithium which is one of the few remaining top Internet ad agencies. The $300 million move will increase the technical capabilities and reach of Yahoo’s global ad network by adding BlueLithium’s impressive toolset for data analytics and its significant advertising inventory.

Just how big is BlueLithium’s network? Quoting Yahoo’s press release: “According to comScore Media Metrix, BlueLithium is the fifth largest ad network in the US and second largest in the UK with 145 million unique visitors each month.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Yahoo has edged out Google by 1% for customer satisfaction this year: Yahoo 79%, Google 78%.

The rating system the ACSI uses is complex and listed here and their source for data is noted here. Essentially their scoring focuses on: customer expectations, perceived quality, perceived value, customer complaints and customer loyalty. Read more…

Friday, August 10th, 2007

Will Yahoo Offload to Google?

An interesting story currently highlighted at Techmeme discusses Yahoo’s shakeup over the past year and the potential that Yahoo’s new CEO Jerry Yang might make the tough decision to fork over some of its search monetization business to Google. The well written article by Kara Swisher also discusses News Corp’s recent MySpace profit hype and how it might just be trying to look pretty for potential buyers.

The thought that Yahoo might go for MySpace was also mentioned but I have to say… that is unlikely. I can’t imagine making a big buy during a house cleaning would be a move taken by anyone as smart as Jerry Yang but I guess Swisher felt it worthy of stating.

Yesterday Danny Sullivan posted an interesting walkthrough on a new technology that Yahoo is currently testing called Yahoo Search Assist. Throughout the following I will give a quick rundown and explain why Search Assist may help sites found in the bottom 5 of the top 10 search results.

What Do I Mean by Search Assist? First Some Background
You may have noticed over the past couple years that whenever you search for an item in Google or Yahoo you were provided with word completion suggestions. For example, if you typed in ‘boat’ then the suggestions that appeared in a drop-down (which you can select from to complete your search) might be ‘boating’, ‘boat sales’, ‘boat magazine’, ‘boating tips’… or something like that. These suggestions came from the search engine’s analysis of the most common searches related to what you are typing in. This functionality is useful but Yahoo Search Assist promises a more intelligent search experience. Read more…

The latest figures from comScore are in and Microsoft is picking up speed.

While long standing search leader Google continues to dominate by a large margin, comScore reports Google losing some ground in June, while MSN saw a noticeable increase.

Latest figures for Google show a drop to 49.5%, down 1.2% from May. Yahoo also saw a decline of a little over a percentage point down 1.3 to 25.1%. Meanwhile Microsoft had a significant gain, up from its low 10.3 to a higher low of 13.2%. Ask remains unchanged at 5%.

In June Americans performed 8.0 billion online searches, which are up 6 percent from May, and up 26 percent from June 2006.

Interestingly enough, while both Google and Yahoo both saw a decrease in their percentage share for the month of June both search engines actually saw an increase in the actual number of searches conducted. With Microsoft’s nearly 3% jump, along with an increase in American searches, Microsoft experienced a spike in search volume up 36% over May, a substantial increase by any means.

Microsoft’s increase is partially credited to the introduction of the Live Search Club launched in late May, a program created to reward users of Live Search. Using their Windows Live ID and logging in to play games, and completing puzzles that involve searches users earn tickets which can then be redeemed for rewards.