SEO Tips Based on Recent Google Search Quality Guidelines

December 30, 2015

Google has recently given search-engine optimization pros a lot to consider, we learn from “Top 5 Takeaways from Google’s Search Quality Guidelines and What They Mean for SEO” at Merkle’s RKG Blog. Writer Melody Pettula presents five recommendations based on Google’s guidelines. She writes:

“A few weeks ago, Google released their newest Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which teach Google’s search quality raters how to determine whether or not a search result is high quality.  This is the first time Google has released the guidelines in their entirety, though versions of the guidelines have been leaked in the past and an abridged version was released by Google in 2013. Why is this necessary? ‘Quality’ is no longer simply a function of text on a page; it differs by device, location, search query, and everything we know about the user. By understanding how Google sees quality we can improve websites and organic performance. Here’s a countdown of our top 5 takeaways from Google’s newest guidelines and how they can improve your SEO strategy.”

We recommend any readers interested in SEO check out the whole article, but here are the five considerations Pettula lists, from least to most important: consider user intent; supply supplementary content; guard your reputation well; consider how location affects user searches; and, finally, “mobile is the future.” On that final point, the article notes that Google is now almost entirely focused on making things work for mobile devices. SEO pros would do well to keep that new reality in mind.

Cynthia Murrell, December 30, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Overhyped Science Stuff

December 30, 2015

After Christmas, comes New Year’s Eve and news outlets take the time to reflect on the changes in the past year.  Usually they focus on celebrities who died, headlining news stories, technology advancements, and new scientific discoveries.  One of the geeky news outlets on the Internet is Gizmodo  and they took their shot at highlighting things that happened in 2015, but rather than focusing on new advances they check off “The Most Overhyped Scientific Discoveries In 2015.”

There was extreme hype about an alien megastructure in outer space that Neil deGrasse Tyson had to address and tell folks they were overreacting.  Bacon and other processed meats were labeled as carcinogens and caused cancer!  The media, of course, took the bacon link and ran with it causing extreme panic, but in the long run everything causes cancer from cellphones to sugar.

Global warming is a hot topic that always draws arguments and it appears to be getting worse the more humans release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Humans are always ready for a quick solution and a little ice age would rescue Earth.  It would be brought on by diminishing solar activity, but it turns out carbon dioxide pollution does more damage than solar viability can fix.  Another story involved the nearly indestructible tardigrades and the possibility of horizontal gene transfer, but a dispute between two rival labs about research on tardigrades ruined further research to understanding the unique creature.

The biggest overblown scientific discovery, in our opinion, is NASA’s warp drive.  Humans are desperate for breakthroughs in space travel, so we can blast off to Titan’s beaches for a day and then come home within our normal Earth time.  NASA experimented with an EM Drive:

“Apparently, the engineers working on the EM Drive decided to address some of the skeptic’s concerns head-on this year, by re-running their experiments in a closed vacuum to ensure the thrust they were measuring wasn’t caused by environmental noise. And it so happens, new EM Drive tests in noise-free conditions failed to falsify the original results. That is, the researchers had apparently produced a minuscule amount of thrust without any propellant.

Once again, media reports made it sound like NASA was on the brink of unveiling an intergalactic transport system.”

NASA might be working on warp drive prototype, but the science is based on short-term experiments, none of it has been peer reviewed, and NASA has not claimed that the engine even works.

The media takes the idea snippets and transforms them into overblown news pieces that are based more on junk science than real scientific investigation.

 

Whitney Grace, December 30, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

RankBrain, the Latest AI from Google, Improves Search Through Understanding and Learning

December 23, 2015

The article on Entrepreneur titled Meet RankBrain, the New AI Behind Google’s Search Results introduces the AI that Google believes will aid the search engine in better understanding the queries it receives. RankBrain is capable of connecting related words to the search terms based on context and relevance. The article explains,

“The real intention of this AI wasn’t to change visitors’ search engine results pages (SERPs) — rather, it was to predict them. As a machine-learning system, RankBrain actually teaches itself how to do something instead of needing a human to program it…According to Jack Clark, writing for Bloomberg on the topic: “[Rankbrain] uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand.”

Google scientist Greg Corrado spoke of RankBrain actually exceeding his expectations. In one experiment, RankBrain beat a team of search engineers in predicting which pages would rank highest. (The engineers were right 70% of the time, RankBrain 80%.) The article also addresses concerns that many vulnerable brands relying on SEOs may have. The article ventures to guess that it will be mainly newer brands and services that will see a ranking shift. But of course, with impending updates, that may change.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 23, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

New Patent for a Google PageRank Methodology

December 18, 2015

Google recently acquired a patent for a different approach to page ranking, we learn from “Recalculating PageRank” at SEO by the Sea. Though the patent was just granted, the application was submitted back in 2006. Writer Bill Slawski informs us:

“Under this new patent, Google adds a diversified set of trusted pages to act as seed sites. When calculating rankings for pages. Google would calculate a distance from the seed pages to the pages being ranked. A use of a trusted set of seed sites may sound a little like the TrustRank approach developed by Stanford and Yahoo a few years ago as described in Combating Web Spam with TrustRank (pdf). I don’t know what role, if any, the Yahoo paper had on the development of the approach in this patent application, but there seems to be some similarities. The new patent is: Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a Web-link graph.”

The theory behind trusted pages is that “good pages seldom point to bad ones.” The patent’s inventor, Nissan Hajaj, has been a Google senior engineer since 2004. See the write-up for the text of the patent, or navigate straight to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s entry on the subject.

 

Cynthia Murrell, December 18, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Business Intelligence Free Trials. Do Not Forget Great Free Trials

December 8, 2015

Want to dive into next generation business intelligence without spending several hundred thousand dollars? If I were younger, I would think about diving. I might even think about business intelligence.

Navigate to “7 Great Business Intelligence Software With Free Trials.” You will learn about software, which the write up describes as “great”, like these:

  1. BIME, a data warehouse
  2. Cyfe, an all in one business analytics dashboard
  3. Decibel Insight, a Web analytics software
  4. SalesforceIQ, a system to analyze customer relationships
  5. Sisense, an “insightful Big Data analysis tool”
  6. Wave Analytics Cloud, visualization to help you understand your customer base
  7. Zoho Reports, a “simple business intelligence app”

I knew about Cyfe and Zoho, and these are useful tools. I did not know about the other products.

The use of the word “great” might be a bit of an overstatement, but when it comes to business intelligence hyperbole seems to be part of the standard marketing tool kit. Great. The write up may do some annoying. The links to the companies mentioned point to the article itself. Content marketing done with the care of a fast food cook listening to an iPod, watching other workers actually work, and dreaming about the weekend.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2015

Google and Search Quality Guidelines

November 21, 2015

You want your Web site to be found despite the shift to mobile devices. You want your mobile site to be found as more than half of the world ignores the old school approach to Web surfing. You want, no, you need traffic now.

The pathway to traffic heaven is explained in more than 150 pages of Google goodness. The Google Search Quality Guidelines may be downloaded for now at this link.

What will you learn:

  • How to conform to Google’s definition of “quality”
  • What to do to produce higher “quality” Web pages
  • What to do to signal Google that you are into mobile.

Does the document explain the thresholds and interlinkage of the “scores” generated by the layers of code wrapped around PageRank.

Nope.

If you implement these actions, will you experience traffic like never before? Nah. Buy Adwords. The Google wants to shave time off its processes. The guidelines may have more to do with Google’s needs than webmasters?

I like the “proprietary and confidential” statement too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2015

An Early Computer-Assisted Concordance

November 17, 2015

An interesting post at Mashable, “1955: The Univac Bible,” takes us back in time to examine an innovative indexing project. Writer Chris Wild tells us about the preacher who realized that these newfangled “computers” might be able to help with a classically tedious and time-consuming task: compiling a book’s concordance, or alphabetical list of key words, their locations in the text, and the context in which each is used. Specifically, Rev. John Ellison and his team wanted to create the concordance for the recently completed Revised Standard Version of the Bible (also newfangled.) Wild tells us how it was done:

“Five women spent five months transcribing the Bible’s approximately 800,000 words into binary code on magnetic tape. A second set of tapes was produced separately to weed out typing mistakes. It took Univac five hours to compare the two sets and ensure the accuracy of the transcription. The computer then spat out a list of all words, then a narrower list of key words. The biggest challenge was how to teach Univac to gather the right amount of context with each word. Bosgang spent 13 weeks composing the 1,800 instructions necessary to make it work. Once that was done, the concordance was alphabetized, and converted from binary code to readable type, producing a final 2,000-page book. All told, the computer shaved an estimated 23 years off the whole process.”

The article is worth checking out, both for more details on the project and for the historic photos. How much time would that job take now? It is good to remind ourselves that tagging and indexing data has only recently become a task that can be taken for granted.

Cynthia Murrell, November 17, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Predictive Search Tries to Work with Videos

October 14, 2015

Predictive search is a common feature in search engines such as Google.  It is more well-known as auto-complete, where based on spelling and keyword content the search engine predicts what a user is searching for.  Predictive search speeds up the act of searching, but ever since YouTube became the second biggest search engine after Google one has to wonder if “Does Video Enhance Predictive Search?” asks Search Engine Watch.

Search engine and publisher of travel deals Travelzoo created a video series called “#zootips” that was designed to answer travel questions people might search for on Google.  The idea behind the video series was that the videos would act as a type of predictive feature anticipating a traveler’s needs.

“‘There’s always push and pull with information,’ says Justin Soffer, vice president of marketing at Travelzoo. ‘A lot of what search is, is people pulling – meaning they’re looking for something specific. What videos are doing is more of a push, telling people what to look for and showing them things.’ ”

Along with Travelzoo, representatives from SEO-PR and Imagination Publishing also agree that video will enhance video search.  Travelzoo says that video makes Web content more personal, because an actual person is delivering it.  SEO-PR recommends researching keywords with Google Trends and creating videos centered on those words.  Imagination Publishing believes that video content will increase a Web site’s Google ranking as it ranks media rich pages higher and there is an increase in voice search and demand for how-to videos.

It is predicted that YouTube’s demand as a search engine will increase more content will be created for video.  If you understand how video and predictive analytics work, you will have an edge in future Google rankings.

Whitney Grace, October 14, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Woof: Mobile Search Is the Big Dog

October 12, 2015

Tiny screen. Lots of eye balls. Many opportunities. What happens to the old school business model of the Alphabet Google thing? One wizard read some posts and did some Googling to provide some insight into this potentially annoying shift into the way pesky humans do information.

Navigate to “Worldwide, More Than Half Of Google’s Searches Happen On Mobile: Google Also Says It Has Indexed 100 Billion Links within Apps.” Okay, big numbers. Maybe rounded a bit, but let’s look at the beef, not the ersatz crunch in the search taco:

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that desktop searches have diminished. Stats on desktop search from comScore routinely show the overall amount has risen from month to month. Rather, it’s that mobile searches have been a growing new segment that have caught up and now overtaken desktop search. On the whole, desktop search has grown. As a percentage, it has dropped. That’s because we’re living in what I’ve called an “always-on search world,” where we’re always able to search.

Yep, I like that always on angle. Very 24×7.

Several thoughts:

  1. The Google remains dependent on online advertising and that seems unlikely to change.
  2. The mobile environment seems to be Google’s new Comstock lode
  3. The management shifts at the Google may be more about revenue than they appear
  4. Alphabet Google continues to chug along. No flashing yellow lights for the Google fans.

Here in Harrod’s Creek I sense some Google fatigue particularly by mobile users who don’t know where online information comes from. Just a few short years ago, the answer was Google. Now, there might be a different perception of search brand power. SEO professionals, start your engines.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2015

Search Engine Optimization: Get Out Your Checkbook

October 5, 2015

No traffic? Low traffic? No mobile traffic? Can’t find your site on Bing or Google?

If these questions poke your marketing nerve, you may consider hiring an “expert” to help you out. Most of the traffic and “find you in Google” specialists are doing business as SEO experts. Personally I would skip the SEO baloney and just buy traffic love via Google Adwords.

Search engine optimization is a catch all to address expensive Web sites which no one visits. Yikes. Considering that most traffic on the Web flows to five percent of the billion plus Web sites, traffic to a personal or small business Web site is terrible.

What’s the fix?

The SEO crowd wants you to spend money with them, not Adwords. Google’s approach is different. The company wants to sell you traffic. The two ideas are intertwined, but you would not know this by reading “How Much Does Good SEO Cost?”

The write up summarizes a number of ball park costs; for example:

  • Hire a full time employee: Maybe $50,000 to $100,000. How’s that fit your budget, gentle reader.
  • Hire an agency: No cost given. Use your imagination.
  • Hire a dedicated SEO firm: No cost given. Use your imagination again.

But the way to go is to set aside money for an expert consultant / practitioner. At each stair step, the customer gets more SEO goodness. Exactly what the payoff is, is not clear to me. But here are the suggested price levels spelled out in the write up:

  • Put folks on a monthly retainer. Less than $500 per month. Cheaper than a daily Starbuck’s coffee
  • A retainer for $1,000 to $5,000 per month: This is SEO hog heaven for an outfit with 10 clients, the SEO wizard may generate more free cash than your business
  • $5,000 to $10,000 per month: “Ambitious goals”. You bet
  • $10,000 to $20,000 per month: The owners will retire early if their customers pay their bills.

The canny business owner in search of SEO love can sign a contract. This is interesting. Here are the price points from the article which I assume are based on thorough research in fees charged by a statistically valid sample of SEO firms. (Somehow I question the rigor of the information gathering process.) Let’s look at the benchmarked fees:

  • Link profile audits: $2,500 to $7,500
  • SEO / Web site audits: $2,500 to $7,500 or higher, gentle reader
  • Link building: $250 to $2,000 per link. Wowza
  • Per page optimization and implementation: $100 to $250. (Fascinating since some content management systems make per page operations pretty darned exciting for a skilled programmer. For dabblers, think about downtime, gentle reader.)
  • Copywriting: $0.75 to $1.00 per word.

If you are on a budget, you can hire a consultant for an hour; for example, a $100 to $300 fee seems to be normal. Keep in mind that there are roughly 2,000 billable hours per year, so this fee range is designed to compensate an expert in SEO at a minimum of  $200,000 per year. Ready to abandon your day job, gentle reader?

Now these costs spark several thoughts in this addled goose’s mind.

First, exactly what is the payoff from SEO versus spending the money for Google Adwords?

Second, what specific changes the SEO expert makes results in “more” traffic, likes, or whatever? How is an SEO action tied to a payoff?

Third, what happens to the client’s Web site if the SEO activity gets the site down checked, blackballed, or less traffic?

Dear old Google wants folks to make Web sites so it takes Google as little computing time as possible to index the site, extract data, and do all the Googley things which makes me love the company so darned much.

My experience is that making a change to a site or putting up a new site leads to a bit of Google love. After a couple of indexing cycles, the traffic declines. Desperate site owners embrace SEO. After that doesn’t work, the road leads back to buying traffic via Adwords.

Thus, the Google likes anything that does not work as well as buying traffic.

Perhaps the SEO crowd should just sell Adwords? But that may not be as lucrative or create opportunities for the client to engage in the “Why isn’t your work producing traffic meetings?” I bet those are fun and inevitable too.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2015

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