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The Beanstalk 2010 Year in Review

As another year winds down, the “Year in Review” lists start gearing up. As we celebrate this joyous season, whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, Festivas or Kwanza, our gift to you is better than another tie that you don’t need – It’s our the Beanstalk 2010 Super Awesome Wonderfully Spectacular 2010 Year in Review. And no…you cannot return it for a refund.

Instead of just focusing on one area, I thought I would cover a few areas of interest and recap some of the highlights from the year.

The Internet:

The year seems to have been another one of global Internet dominance by the uber-mega-giant Google. I had thought about naming the post the “Year of Google” but there are others that deserve our attentions as well.

  1. Google Places
  2. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/introducing-google-places.html
    This new service from Google allows business owners to update and manage their physical business location information. This information can be used to update their business listing so that it appears correctly within Google Maps and associated Google properties and search and Display Network sites.

  3. The Google-Groupon Deal
  4. http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/2010/12/google-groupon-goopon/
    Google offers a staggering $5.3 Billion (yes…pinky finger poised at the corner of your lip “billion” dollars) for the Coupon-per-Day Marketing giant Groupon, who later snubs the offer.

  5. Google Instant
  6. http://www.google.com/instant/
    http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/2010/09/google-instant-analysis/
    Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. It is pushing the limits of Google’s technology and infrastructure in an effort to get you better search results, faster.

  7. Google Chrome OS
  8. http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os
    A forthcoming Linux-based operating system designed by Google to work exclusively with web applications and based on the open source Chromium OS project. The expected launch date for retail hardware featuring Chrome OS has slipped since Google first announced the operating system on July 7, 2009: from late 2010 to early 2011 to, by some reports, mid-2011.

  9. Google Caffeine
  10. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/our-new-search-index-caffeine.html
    From Google: “Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered. Whether it’s a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before.”

  11. HTML 5
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML_5
    According to the W3C timetable, it is estimated that HTML5 will reach W3C Recommendation by late 2010. However, the First Public Working Draft estimate was missed by 8 months, and Last Call and Candidate Recommendation were expected to be reached in 2008, but as of July 2010 HTML5 is still at Working Draft stage in the W3C….so it look as though it will be next year then.

  13. Cloud Computing
  14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing
    What is it? It is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, Service-oriented architecture and utility computing.

  15. Wiki Leaks
  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks
    Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has dominated the news, both because of its steady drip feed of secret documents, but also because of the dealings of its enigmatic front man Julian Assange. Assange, is also accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.

  17. Gawker Hacked
  18. http://www.longislandpress.com/2010/12/16/gawker-hacked-twitter-linkin-ask-users-to-change-passwords/
    A group hacked Gawker and posted the details of 1.5 million users, including their passwords, email addresses and usernames online. Since many people use the same password for the different sites they frequent, spammers were able to log into users accounts on other sites like Twitter, where they posted tweets about acai berries. In response, Twitter has told users to change their passwords.

  19. Net Neutrality
  20. http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/2010/08/why-google-needs-to-stand-up-for-themselves/
    An ongoing contentious issue that seems to divide so many people. Should the Internet be treated as a utility? Where everyone gets the same service and connection? Or should we pay for preferred levels of service?

    Beanstalk CEO Dave Davies sums it up like so:

    “Net Neutrality is, at it’s core, the idea that the Internet is a mandatory service and that complete equality is required in the way packets are treated as they flow across it. The idea that the Telco’s should have the ability to charge more for preferential treatment of certain packages (say …YouTube videos if Google slipped them a few extra bucks) violates this idea. Well who can argue that? Don’t I have the same rights to the Internet as everyone else?”

    ** Look for an update on the Net Neutrality Debate from Dave Davies coming soon to our Beanstalk Blog.

World News

…and in the news…on a more serious note; 2010 saw earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts kill at least a quarter million people, making 2010 the deadliest year in more than a generation as well as the hottest ever on record

  1. Canada annihilates :-P the US in 2010 Winter Olympic Games Men and Womens Hockey
  2. Time Magazine’s Person of the year: Mark Zuckerberg
  3. December saw the First total lunar eclipse occurring on the First Day of Winter in 372 years!
  4. Leslie Neilson dies (1926-2010) (“Surely you can’t be serious?”….sorry too soon?)
  5. Betty White is named Entertainer of the Year by the Associated Press
  6. Lady Gaga is MTV News Woman of the Year
  7. 7.0-Magnitude Earthquake Devastates Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Jan. 12)
  8. Obama Unveils $3.8 Trillion Budget (Feb. 1)
  9. Chilean Miners Rescue (Oct. 25)
  10. BP Oil Rig Explosion (Apr. 20)

Movies

In no particular order, or preference, here are some of the movies we went to see this year:

  1. The Social Network
  2. Kick-Ass
  3. Iron Man 2
  4. The A-Team
  5. Inception
  6. Salt
  7. Scott Pilgrim v.s. The World
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
  9. Tron 2
  10. Robin Hood

You Tube Videos

No Year in Review list would be complete without a list of the top YouTube videos of the year (Canadian Version):

  1. Bed Intruder Song
  2. In the strangest transformation of the year, the Gregory Brothers took the quirky television interview Antoine Dodson gave after his sister’s attempted assault (itself a viral video) and turned it into a chart-topper.

  3. Tik Tok Kesha Parody
  4. The pop music parody loomed large in 2010, thanks to Barely Political’s take on Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and the popularity of Key of Awe$ome, a weekly musical comedy show that’s been seen over 100M times.

  5. The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
  6. Old Spice’s Super Bowl ad was an Internet sensation, but a few months later, it spawned something else: a real-time, social media campaign that generated over 100M views in a week.

  7. Giant Double Rainbow
  8. Paul Vasquez’s emotional response to a rainbow in Yosemite National Park took six months to go viral, but once it did — after Jimmy Kimmel Tweeted it — “double rainbow all the way” became an essential part of 2010’s pop culture lexicon.

  9. Greyson Chance Singing “Paparazzi”
  10. When Greyson Chance’s sixth grade performance of “Paparazzi” hit the web, it drew a massive audience, the attention of Lady Gaga herself, and ultimately led Chance to sign to Ellen DeGeneres’ new music label.

  11. Double Rainbow Song
  12. The Gregory Brothers took another of the year’s biggest viral videos, “Double Rainbow,” and transformed it into an auto-tuned sensation.

  13. 3-Year Old Crying Over Justin Bieber
  14. A toddler bawls because she adores Justin Bieber: “I love him,” “I don’t get to see him all day,” “I want him to be one of my family.” Later, Jimmy Kimmel brings her face-to-face with her idol.

  15. Oh…Canada
  16. Classified turn the Canadian anthem on its head with this viral music video about the country’s unique character and culture. Shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  17. Tom Browkaw Explains Canada to Americans
  18. With all eyes on Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, a clip explaining the difference between the U.S. and its northern neighbour took off.

  19. This Too Shall Pass
  20. In 2010, OK Go severed ties with their label and went independent, joining the YouTube Partner Program. Meanwhile, their endless pursuit of creative music videos delivered this ambitious homage to Rube Goldberg.

As we say goodbye to another year (depending upon your calendar of course!) and prepare to welcome in the new one, let us remember those who have departed and to welcome those that have joined us.

Let us reflect upon those events and happenings that define our experiences and shape our world. And let us all find happiness in those that make us laugh and in those that bring us joy.

From all of us here at Beanstalk, we would like to wish you all the very best from this holiday season.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:59 pm on December 23, 2010

Categories:beanstalk

 

“As the Groupon Turns” – Groupon Snubs Google Buyout

Since the first rumoured whisperings of a buyout offer from Google to purchase the “Fastest Growing Company in History” (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0830/entrepreneurs-groupon-facebook-twitter-next-web-phenom.html), the web has been abuzz with speculations as to how much Google would offer, what this would do for Google, and what it will do to Groupon. The deal has had as many twists and turns as a tired television soap opera.

The fact that Groupon might actually decline the offer of $5.3 billion never really occurred to anyone. With gross revenue of $800 million, Google’s buyout price seemed a more than substantial offer to make it worth their while. Groupon’s rejection of Google shocked many in internet business and blogging communities alike who thought Andrew Mason (CEO of Groupon) must be daft to reject such an offer. This has lead to even more scuttlebutt with the rest of us scrambling to figure out what happened.

Some speculations are that Groupon may still be at the negotiating table with Google. Marissa Mayer, (Google’s VP in charge of search and the user experience) was heard to remark at a conference that “the larger the company, the more complicated the deal is” …and the longer it takes.

Some were not surprised at all by Groupon’s decline of the offer. Tech insider, Ron Conway, wasn’t shocked. “No, not really,” Conway says. “Andrew is a powerful entrepreneur.” And on those lines Mason stated that “What we’ve done so far at Groupon is just the beginning.” Implying that with Google out of the picture, the company is free to continue its unprecedented growth. Where it will stop is anybody’s guess.

Many have speculated that Groupon walked away from Google because the Chicago company wanted to preserve its own culture, continue building its own story and pursue its own IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 2011 and was also concerned about its employees keeping their jobs with the acquisition.

One site (http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/tech/Googles-Ring-May-Not-Have-Been-Shiny-Enough-for-Groupon-111595789.html) suggests that it may have been Google’s overpowering personality that forced Groupon to walk away from the negotiating table. But some analysts are beginning to wonder if there is any truth to the report that the much rumoured Google takeover of the hyper local coupon site was foiled by a cash promise if the relationship went south.

Still another thought permeating the blogosphere is that the deal was cancelled due to Google’s unwillingness to offer enough security to help offset potential legal antitrust issues that could arise from such a purchase.

A Silicon Valley source told Forbes (http://blogs.forbes.com/christophersteiner/2010/12/08/why-groupon-dumped-google-is-the-government-to-blame/?boxes=Homepagechannels) that Groupon was likely asking for a breakup guarantee from Google that the search giant would have to pay Groupon if, in the end, a Justice Department or FTC inquiry broke up the acquisition. Google simply may not have been willing to potentially sacrifice up to $1 billion for nothing. But there’s nothing stopping Google coming back to Groupon’s board with a bigger breakup fee to sweeten the deal either.

So what happens now?

Will Google find happiness with another partner (perhaps livingsocial.com or buywithme.com) and continue with its plans for local market domination?

Will Groupon hold out for more money? Or will they lead us to believe that business can have the morals and ethics to stand against the almighty dollar to become a shining beacon of hope to the world?

And what about the mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows called “Yahoo”?

SEO news blog post by @ 6:34 pm on December 13, 2010

Categories:Google

 

Google + Groupon = Goopon?

Hopefully they’ll come up with a better name than that …

Ask around the techie water-cooler what the hot topic of the day is and you will hear about the apparently imminent move by Google to acquire the online mass coupon vendor, Groupon.

The deal could be worth a staggering $5-6 billion USD and could happen as early as this week. While the buyout amount is a matter of some debate, leading analysts are considering it a good move given the potential of local advertising revenue. Earlier this year, Yahoo was rumoured to have offered over $3 billion to acquire the company.

For those of you not sure who/what Groupon is, they are a “deal-of-the-day” website, localized to major geographic markets in the US and Canada. The company offers one “Groupon” per day in each market that it operates in – up to a set number of coupons purchased. Naturally, Groupon takes a cut of the deal from the retailers. This business model is attractive for any size of business as it reduces the risk for retailers as the coupons can be regarded as “quantity discounts” and also makes for very effective marketing and sales promotion tools.

Current CEO Andrew Mason launched the site in 2008 after acquiring several similar companies such as MyCityDeal, Qpod.jp, ClanDescuento, and Darberry.ru. After only two years in operation, the company has over 20 million subscribers, projected revenue of $500 million for 2010 and is currently valued at over $1.35 billion.

While nothing has been officially announced as yet, all one has to do is to look at the recent implementation of the recently launched “Google Places” service. The service is designed to promote and attract Google users to geo-specific markets for products and services. It would appear that perhaps Google has been planning the acquisition of Groupon for some time. Taking a look at the Google Places launch page, you can see that they already have a “coupon” area, making the implementation of the “Goopon” very seamless.

What does this mean to you and me? This writer sees it as another business-savvy step by Google to keep providing its users with value-added services. This is the reason why Google are the corporate giants they are, and will continue to dominate the market for many years to come.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:44 am on December 1, 2010

Categories:Google

 

Making The Most Of The Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching and with them the short window of vast opportunity for many online retailers. As an SEO we get inundated with panicked requests for rankings before the holidays. Of course that’s not going to happen at this point (at least – I wouldn’t start organic SEO campaigns now for the holiday season) so what can you do to make the most of what you’ve got this holiday season? Improve your conversions.

There are of course ways you can increase your traffic flow using PPC and other, more instant traffic strategies (eBay, shopping engine inclusion and placement, etc.) but in this article I’m going to touch on a few very simple resources and tools to help you make the most of your current traffic. Some will cost you – some are free but all these strategies, tools and resources are ones I’ve used myself or on client sites with great success. So let’s begin with the conversion-enhancing tools first and then we’ll get into resources:

Trust Symbols & Testimonials

Everyone from conversion expert Tim Ash to your aunt will tell you one of the things they base a buying decision on is trust. Would you buy your new iPhone from the guy standing on the corner? Why not? Trust – that’s why. The web is the same – only more-so as the assumption is generally that you are the guy on the corner and it’s up to you to prove otherwise. Trust symbols and testimonials can go a long way to helping people feel comfortable with giving you their credit card number, sight unseen.

A common mistake is to place the trust symbols and testimonials below the fold. Let’s face facts – you have about 5 seconds to grab somebody’s attention when they first visit your site. You have 5 seconds to gain enough trust that they’re willing to spend time looking through your site. We’re all busy – if you don’t have my trust quickly – I’m gone. Place your trust symbols and testimonials where they can be quickly seen. Trust symbols can range from the logos of major brands who’ve used your services or shopped at your store to the symbols of your security certificate provider, organizations or security seals. Here are some of my favorite trust symbols:

McAfee Secure

I started using the seal back when it was HackerSafe (who was purchased by McAfee) and I, along with a number of clients, have seen double digit percentage increases in conversions after adding it to our sites. The interesting part is that it’s even useful with non-ecommerce sites. Our site for example is not an ecommerce site but our forms filled goes up when the seal is there and the phone rings more often. It’s just a matter of trust. Our ecommerce clients have more dramatic results obviously.

Organizational Seals

If you’re a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau or other well-known organization why not show the world? These seals imply an ethics and commitment to certain standards and also give the visitor a feeling that there is a recourse if you treat them incorrectly.

Payment-related Seals

We all recognize the major credit cards, we all recognize Verisign and the other major security certificate providers and we all recognize PayPal. People may not know why these things matter – but they know they do. People may not know what encryption is but they know they don’t want to enter their credit card without it. Make sure that at the very least you have these seals clearly on the purchase pages.

Testimonials

Hearing about experiences from past clients can go a long way towards bridging the gap between you as a website and you as a client-conscious human-run business that happens to have a website. So much of the online world is faceless and cold – let your visitors read about the experience of people “just like them” and how you helped those people.

Just Some Other Tips From The Water Cooler

Before we move into some helpful tools and resources you can use to help increase your conversions here are a few other very simple steps I’ve found can instantly improve conversion rates:

  • Put your phone number in your header. Call volumes will increase your sales significantly but your non-call in sales will increase too. Your phone number is a sign of trust. It is a sign that people CAN call you – even if they don’t. Even when I’m building affiliate sites I’ll often put in the product manufacturers phone number. Yes I’m losing sales from direct call-in orders but I gain more in online sales than I lose. At the end of the day I’m ahead – imagine what happens with sites where you’re answering the phone.
  • Make it a toll-free number. At Beanstalk we used to have a standard telephone number and had it up on the site. The week we switched to a toll free number the call volumes increased significantly. It’s funny as people were about to spend hundreds and thousands on our services and a long distance call these days would have cost them a whopping 50 cents or some such thing but the switch made a sizable impact on inquiries.
  • Put links in your copy and draw the eye to them. If you’re talking about blue widgets on your site, link to your blue widgets page where they can enter the buying cycle. Sure it’s an SEO strategy as well (2 birds, 1 stone … excellent) but more to the point here is to help your visitors get into the buying cycle before they realize they can look elsewhere. “Oh heck, I’m already here and how much could I save looking around really?”
  • Don’t put up barriers. I’ve been on a number of sites (and even had a client with one) that have a warning on their shopping pages to the affect, “If you don’t trust online shopping give us a call!” Well, they probably trusted online shopping until you told them not to.
  • Build information into your site. One of the worst things that can happen is that you have an excellent site, you’ve displayed your products wonderfully and got the person ready to buy. Unfortunately they just don’t know what some term or another means or what they might need to go with it and since you don’t have the info on your site – well they’re just going to quickly Google it. Oh, there’s the info – oh, and that site offers free shipping !!! Ouch.

I don’t want to give you too much to work with. Do that and of course one runs the risk of becoming paralyzed with information. If you get through this set and are looking for more little tweaks I recommend reading Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization”. To reinforce my earlier point – notice the McAfee logo to the top right of their site. :)

Widgets & Tools

As with virtually every area of Internet Marketing – developers have built tons of widgets and tools – many free – to help you. Generally they’re to show you what they can do (sort of a “if we’ll give you this free imagine what you can pay for” kind of angle. And sometimes it’s just for links (which, since I’ll link to them from this article – is working well for them). :)

Here are some of my favorites that can help you over a very short period of time:

Attention Wizard

Most of us can’t afford to have full eyetracking studies done for our sites. To help us out the SiteTuners folks have created a heatmap system that will scan an image of your page and show you a heatmap version of it tracing what they believe the eye will do (based on an algorithm – not human interaction so it’s not 100% accurate but it can give you a good idea of where some failing points may well be. They offer a free account so hey – can’t beat the price.

As a note – the first time I used it I wasn’t thinking and fed in an image of my whole page. The eye was drawn to the footer according to the heatmap. Make sure you only input an image of the portion visible on the most common resolutions of your visitors. If you don’t know how make an image of your site – the easiest way is with the Firefox extension Screen Capture Elite.

ClickHeat

ClickHeat is a very cool heatmap generator that uses Javascript to track visitor clicks and then will allow you to view your page with a heatmap overlay of the clicks to see what people are REALLY doing on your site and how they’re navigating from one place to another. We’ve found this invaluable in maximizing our real estate but it required high traffic levels to be effective quickly.

Website Optimizer (now Content Experiments)

A lot of people like to make changes to their website in hopes of increasing conversions but do they test the new pages? Google created Website Optimizer to allow webmasters to test 2 landing pages and get statistics on which page converts better. We tested a new services page and the one I liked most …. lost. Know what I like better than the losing services page? Conversions. If you’re planning on applying any of the changes noted above (or others you find elsewhere or just dream up yourself) be sure to do some A/B testing. Website Optimizer is a simple way to do this.

Conclusion:

There are tons more tools and resources out there but there isn’t much time left before the holidays. Start now and get to work. And of course – once the holidays are over keep going, no matter how optimized your site is for conversions there’s always a weakest point. Keep watching your stats and keep thinking about conversions.

Oh – and happy holidays. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 1:53 pm on November 27, 2010

Categories:Articles

 

Increasing Website Conversions For The Holidays

As we watch the holidays fast approaching many (if not all) only retailers are trying to find ways to increase their sales.  Unfortunately it’s now too late for any major organic SEO initiatives but that’s not to say there aren’t things you can do to help you profit from this season of frenzied buying.  Published this morning is my latest article on just this subject.  It focuses on some simple ways to improve your website conversions.  Of course – it’s also going to be important for you to look at other traffic streams such as PPC, shopping engines, etc. but I’ll leave that for another author – I wanted to focus on ways to profit more highly from the traffic you do have.

If you read the article you’ll find some very simple-to-implement ideas and links to some of my favorite resources and tools for conversions optimization. Enjoy and happy holidays. :)

You’ll find the article on our website at http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/articles/design/holiday-conversions.html.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:21 pm on November 22, 2010


 

Happy Birthdays All Around !!!

Taking us into the weekend (and a long weekend up here in Canada on top of that) we’ve got two big happy birthdays going out.

John Lennon – Jon Lennon would be turning 70 tomorrow and Google has a video logo to celebrate.  I’m not even going to get into the significance the man had on 60′s/70′s culture – if you don’t know you’re probably too young to care but I will post the Google’s logo:

Mario – And our little friend Mario will be turning 29 on Sunday.  On October 10, 1981 he was born of Nintendo as Jumpman in the arcade classing Donkey Kong.  Still an awesome game today.  He wasn’t named Mario until Donkey Kong Junior.  Also a classic. :) And now, a little fun to take you into the weekend …


Online Games

SEO news blog post by @ 6:53 pm on October 8, 2010

Categories:just for fun

 

20% Off BOTW Submissions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Best Of The Web (BOTW) is having a 20% off directory submissions sale.

For our regular blog readers – you’ll know that rarely do we tout the wares of others.  I don’t make recommendations lightly and I rarely stick my neck out on the offerings of others.  You’ll also know that every time BOTW offers a discount – I’m one of the first to blog about it and one of strongest proponents of signing up.

Since DMOZ basically died, BOTW has become my favorite directory.  Yahoo! is obviously a good one but pricey.  For the same price (or 20% less right now) you can get a permanent listing on BOTW as an annual listing on Yahoo!  If you only want to commit to a year – you can get an annual listing on BOTW for less than half the price of Yahoo!

So my recommendation to you is to get yourself a listing on BOTW – but only if you have a good site.  They will decline you if you don’t.  If you do however you can get a good trusted vote/link with BOTW.

The promo code to use is: SAVE20

Alright, I think you know my opinion now. :)  Good luck and happy ranking. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 5:26 pm on October 5, 2010

Categories:directories

 

Learning SEO: Five Site Design SEO Faux Pas

No one ever said that designing a website was easy. If they did, they were probably trying to sell a CMS (content management system) to you. Some of the biggest web design/seo faux pas are listed below. Not only are they problems from an end-user experience, but from an SEO perspective as well.

Granted these are just the tip of the iceberg, but many of us who have been involved with site design for any length of time have probably been guilty of at least a few of these practices ourselves. In my opinion these are five major ones that should be avoided:

  1. Splash Pages: Nothing says the year 2005 like a large graphic on a useless page. Typically these are graphically intense; textually-light pages that only have a few links in to your site. Not only do these large graphics (and usually Flash animations) slow down load times, but they also keep people from getting immediately to the information they are looking for.
  2. Frames: In a perfect world (or perfect Internet), frames would have been outlawed many years ago. Despite the logical organizational benefits, this archaic practice looks to bots as multiple pages and cause very difficult problems for them trying to parse the linking structure between them.
  3. Bad Code: This one can’t be stressed enough. Keep things light, clean and simple and semantically defined ( http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/ ). What is valid code? Any html document should be able to pass through the validation service provided by the W3C ( http://validator.w3.org/ ). This ensures that Google’s bots will have the easiest time possible parsing your website data. It also helps to ensure that the page will load as quickly as possible due to the fact.
  4. HTML Tables: An increasingly outdated practice is the use of tables to format the layout and structure of html documents. At this point in the game, everyone should be using only CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for all page layouts and formatting of text.
  5. Flash: Flash created a revolution in terms of site design. No longer were we destined to look at boring static html pages. Now we could have animation, lights, glam and pizzazz! It was a web design trend that many wannabe web designers got caught up in (including this writer).

The Sad fact is that Flash has next to 0% SEO merit. There are times and places were the interactivity of Flash aids in site flow or user experience, but use it sparingly. Even though the user feels they are browsing a site of many pages, the truth is that Google only sees it as one big page, devoid of content.

Surprisingly, many people still incorporate many of these design/seo faux pas today. Most of these practices are out of antiquated and have been replaced by better technologies and practices. Yet much to my chagrin, I still come across many newer sites using these practices.

Remember to always ask yourself: “WWGD?” (What Would Google Do?)…or more importantly, “WDGL?” (What Does Google Like?).

SEO news blog post by @ 10:06 pm on September 30, 2010


 

Google Gives Away $10 million

Reminding us that one can dominate marketshare and seek higher-and-higher returns for their investors and still keep their soul – Google has announced the winners of Project 10100 (Link removed – no longer available) have been announced.  To be considered for the project, organizations and individuals submitted their projects – the only specific criteria being that it had to help as many people as possible.  Google sifted the entries down to what they deemed to be the 16 best and allowed the world to vote.  The world voted that the top 5 will split the prize.  They are:

Project funded: The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.

Project funded: FIRST is a non-profit organization that promotes science and math education around the world through team competition. Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers and scientists. We are providing $3 million to develop and jump start new student-driven robotics team fundraising programs that will empower more student teams to participate in FIRST.

Project funded: Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

Idea: Drive innovation in public transportProject funded: Shweeb is a concept for short to medium distance, urban personal transport, using human-powered vehicles on a monorail. We are providing $1 million to fund research and development to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting.

Idea: Provide quality education to African studentsProject funded: The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences(AIMS) is a center for math and science education and research in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS’ primary focus is a one-year bridge program for recent university graduates that helps build skills and knowledge prior to Masters and PhD study. We are providing $2 million to fund the opening of additional AIMS centers to promote graduate level math and science study in Africa.

Congratulations to the winners, the world and a big thanks to Google.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:52 am on September 26, 2010

Categories:Google

 

Google Instant & SEO

From the moment Google Instant was announced back on September 8 there have been forum chats, blog posts, articles and podcasts discussing the ramification of this new technology. Some have called it the “Death of SEO” which others (myself included) have proclaimed this a step forward and an opportunity for SEO’s, not a threat. And then of course there’s those who don’t even know there’s been a change at all, let’s call them “the vast majority”. In this article we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of Google Instant as it pertains to SEO’s and to website owners as well as cover some of the reasons that this new technology may not have as large an impact on search behavior as some may fear/predict.

But first, let’s cover the basic question …

What Is Google Instant?

Google instant is a technology that allows Google to predict what you are looking for as you type. They are referring to it as ‘search-before-you-type” technology (catchy). Essentially – as I type a phrase (let’s say “buy shoes online”) as soon as I get to “buy sh” I start seeing results for “buy shoes”. As soon as I’ve entered “buy shoes “ (with a space after shoes indicating I want more than just the 2 word phrase) I start seeing results for “buy shoes online”.

Technologically this is genius. Google is now serving likely billions of additional search results pages per day as each query has multiplied results that apply to it. Well … I suppose we all wondered what the Caffeine infrastructure update was all about didn’t we? But what does this do in the real world?

Why Google Instant Isn’t A Big Deal

Alright, obviously it is a significant technological enhancement in search but the way some react you’d think the whole universe was about to be turned on it’s head. There are two reasons why that’s not the case.

    1. I find it unlikely that many will notice right away that the change has occurred and further I find it even less likely that the majority will use the feature. You see – the major hindrance of this enhancement isn’t in the technology – it’s in the users. Only those who touch type and can do so without looking at their keyboard will be affected. If the user looks at their keyboard while typing then they wouldn’t even notice the results coming in ahead of their actual search.

 

  1. This will only affect users who are searching in instances where the shorter or predicted terms match the users end goals. For example, if I am searching for “buy shoes online” and get as far as “buy sh” the top results are sites which clearly suit the needs of a searcher for “buy shoes online” and thus – this may work to the detriment of sites who rank well for “buy shoes online” as they may well lose traffic. In the case of a site targeting, oh – I don’t know – “seo consulting” there will likely be little affect if any. The searcher, looking for an SEO consultant, will find once they’ve entered “seo” that they are presented with Wikipedia and Google – sites that, while informative, don’t offer the services (or results) desired and thus – the searcher would be less affected. Once they proceeded on to enter the “seo c” the searcher would be presented with the results for “seo company” but I’m prone to believe that if the searcher wanted those results – they would have searched for it. For this phrase I’m confident we’ll see little in the way of negative affect from Google Instant.

So we’ve discussed why Google Instant isn’t a big deal, now let’s discuss …

Why Google Instant Is A Big Deal

On the other side of the coin lies the reasons why Google Instant brings forth a revolution in search technology. Followers of the Beanstalk blog or my radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm (Webcology) will know I’m not one to love everything Google does but in this case the immediate affects and long terms affects may well be significant and at the very least – one has to appreciate the brilliance behind the effort. In this section of the article we’re going to cover the three important perspectives involved with the launch off this (or any) Google product. They are:

The Searcher – we’ll look at the pros and cons from a searcher perspective. It’s this aspect that will dictate whether the feature will matter at all.

Google – we’ll look at the positive affect on Google. Of course – this aspect is of paramount importance for this feature to be kept.

SEO’s – I’m of course incredibly interested and have spent much of my analysis time determining the pros and cons to SEO’s (admittedly – there’s more than a bit of self interest here).

So let’s begin …

Google Instant And The Searcher

This is sort of a win-win for Google from a searcher perspective. One of two things will happen for the searcher. Either they won’t notice the change or won’t be affected and thus – Google will be exactly where they are now OR they will notice the change and will select results quicker and find the feature helpful. As I noted – it’s a win-win. There isn’t much of scenario from a searcher perspective where the searcher will be negatively impacted and if they are – they’d simply revert back to past searching patterns. From the perspective of impact on the user – Google has it made with this feature. Their worst-case scenario is that they’re exactly where they are now.

Google Instant From Google’s Perspective

Any feature added to any corporate system must serve a single primary function – it must make it’s developer money. We’ve already seen that the feature itself can’t really negatively impact the searcher but can it make Google money? There are two ways that this can happen:

    1. Improved loyalty and marketshare, and

 

  1. Increased revenue directly from the initiative

Fortunately for Google – they’re going to win on both fronts here and when we see the Q3 earnings and moreso in the Q4 earning Google reports we’ll begin to see how significant an impact this change will have for them – mainly in the second of the two monetary reward methods noted above. And here’s why …

We’ve already covered the improved loyalty this can have on the searchers. Anything that makes my life easier and makes my quest for information faster will make me more loyal. At worst – Google will see my behavior stay the same but for many, the search experience will become faster and more effective – especially once the technology is improved by user behavior to a degree that people trust it more. Overall there will be a net gain in the experience – we’ve only to wait to see how large that net gain is and how it translates into marketshare. The big win is in the second point.

For anyone who’s every bid with AdWords you’ll know that for the most part – bids for generic terms are more expensive than bids for very specific terms. If I’m bidding on “shoes” I’m going to pay more than I would for “shoes online”. So let’s view the world where I start showing the results (and paid ads) for “shoes” while someone is searching for “shoes online”. And what if that person sees the ads that was written and bid on for “shoes” but relates to their query and they click on it. Google just made more from the paid ad click. Maybe only pennies but multiply that by billions of searches per day and you’ve got a significant increase in annual revenue.

The move is a huge win for Google but it does come with a theoretical downside and that is annoying the businesses that are paying for the ads. The argument I’ve heard is that if businesses find that the cost of their campaigns is increasing higher than the ROI that they might get annoyed. Fair enough BUT I would argue – what are they going to do about it? As long as Google maintains the first consideration (the searcher) then the advertisers have no choice. They can drop their bids but at worst – they’ll level off to what they were paying for the longtail phrases. Again – worst case scenario, Google will find themselves where they are today.

Google Instant From The SEO’s Perspective

So let’s assume for a moment that Google Instant is here to stay. Based on all the ways Google and the searchers can win and the limited situational permutations by which they could only come out even I’d say that’s a safe assumption. Given this, what’s happens to SEO’s and those optimizing their own websites?

For one thing – we can’t assume that research we did up to and before the 8th will be relevant down the road. I have already scheduled to redo keyword research in a couple months to see what industries and search types have been most (and least) affected by this change. The main reason for this is that I have a strong suspicion that specific industries will be more prone to being affected by the change based mainly on search types (such as the “buy shoes” vs “seo consulting” example above) and demographics. A Linux developer site is more likely to have a demographic off touch typers who can type without looking at the keyboard than say a life insurance site with a more scattered and thus less technically proficient overall demographic.

So in the short term – life is going to be very interesting for the SEO and website owner while we figure out which industries and phrase types are most affected. In a few months when we see the trends and which phrases are being affected and how we’ll likely have to make adjustments to many campaigns. The downside for may business owners will be that for those who’s campaigns focuses on searches for longtail phrases – they may find the search volumes for their phrases decrease and a shift to more generic (and generally more expensive to attain) phrases is necessary. Only time will tell what the best moves are there and we may not know what exactly will shift and how for a few months yet and even then – we’ll then know the trends, not where things will settle (if anything in online marketing can be referred to as “settling” anymore).

If there is a segment that should be concerned about the situation it is small business owners with limited organic or PPC budgets. Google Instant – because it puts preferences to more generic phrases – clearly favors businesses with larger budgets. How much so we’ll know after we’ve had a chance to see how the search volumes shift. For SEO’s this presents two opportunities and for business owners who do their own SEO – it offers one. And here’s the good news for those.

For SEO’s you’ll find two new opportunities, The first is that there will be a shift to more generic terms in search volumes. This means that there will be stiffer competition for more competitive phrases. If this sounds like a bad thing it’s not. If you’re a skilled SEO who knows how to get the job done it means you’ll have more access to larger volumes of traffic without the added efforts required to rank for a wide array or phrases. Rather than needing to rank for 10 or 20 phrases to get traffic you’ll be able to focus in more and reap the same rewards in the way of traffic. On top of that – SEO’s will be able to charge more for the rankings as fewer phrases have a higher value. A win-win for SEOs and a win for business owners who either do their own SEO or have talented SEO’s on staff.

The second opportunity will come in the form of improved clickthrough rates though I’ll admit – at this point that’s just a theory (noted with a hint sent to Gord Hotchkiss to run eyetracking tests on this theory). If I type while looking at my screen and I’m entering in “buy shoes online” and I rank organically or via PPC for both “buy shoes” and “buy shoes online” I would hypothesize that searchers who complete the phrase “buy shoes online” who had the site (or ad) for “buy shoes” appear and then the same site appear for the full query will have a tendency to click on the familiar. This same principle has been witnessed in sites appearing in both paid and organic results who have an increase in their organic clickthrough rates. This will present opportunities for both PPC and organic marketers to improve the traffic to sites by ranking for specific phrases meant to both attain traffic on their own but also to improve traffic for the other. I would suggest that down the road we’ll be hearing of this phenomenon when conducting and discussing keyword research.

Conclusion

There isn’t much to conclude that hasn’t been discussed above. Virtually every party wins or at worst, breaks even with the introduction of this technology. The only victim appears to be small businesses without the budgets to compete for the more generic phrases but even they may win with a shift away from these phrases by the larger companies. It may well occur that while the search volume shift heads in favor of large companies with larger budget – that the lower hanging fruit, while reduced in it’s search volume, may fall too in the competition levels making it more affordable. Larger business may focus like snipers on larger phrases and smaller business may well be presented with the opportunity to go after more, less search phrases that aren’t worth targeting for larger companies – at least organically.

But only time will tell and of course – we have much data to collect and many algorithmic updates to come between here and there.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:32 pm on September 21, 2010

Categories:SEO Articles

 

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