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How Rich-Snippets for Apps Increase CTR

Yesterday Beanstalk Blogger, Ryan Morben introduced a list of 10 New Changes to the Google Algorithm. One of the new updates that he mentioned was the use of "Better Snippets." I thought I would take this opportunity to elaborate on these further.

In September this year, Google introduced rich snippets to be used for reviews, events and music sites. This was an effort to help users determine if a particular website had the relevant information they were searching for. The snippets allow you to get information about the applications, reviews and pricing within the actual search results before you download the app.

These rich snippets are becoming increasingly important for not just sites offering mobile apps, but for all software applications available to be downloaded. These rich snippets are becoming increasingly critical for software developer sites, software publishers, download portals and review sites to standout from the rest of the SERPs.

This new rich snippets has two additional attributes that help to specify which countries are currently supporting the new app, and which ones are not. However at this time, there is no formal standardization for the format specifications on schema.org.

Sites that have utilized this new snippet, specifically those with large review sections, or downloadable content, show much larger images in the SERPs than the author rich snippets. These larger images inevitably lead to larger CTRs and ultimate help to increase conversions.

serp pic 1
serp pic 2

Google will also inevitably prefer those sites using rich snippets/microformats that have more complete and detailed meta data. For this reason, it is imperative to provide meaningful data in all the available attribute areas and not to only fill in the required ones. You should always test new rich snippets and apply to Google to clear the new extensions in the SERPs to help boost your CTRs.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:12 am on November 16, 2011


 

10 new changes to Google algorithms

New features from GoogleYesterday, over on the Google Inside Search blog, Matt Cutts shared 10 recent changes to the Google search algorithms from the last few weeks.

As always these posts can get a bit technical, and anyone subscribed to the feed can just get it from the horses’ mouth. The goal of this post is to put the changes into clearer terms from a SEO perspective:

Translated search titles:
When searching with languages where limited web content is available, Google can translate the English-only results and display the translated titles directly below the English titles in the search results. This also translates the result automatically, thereby increasing the available web content for non-English searchers. If you were selling products that appealed to a global market, but hadn’t yet invested in translations/global site structure, this could drive fresh traffic to your sites/products.

Better Snippets:
Google’s mantra is always ‘content, content, + more content’, and now the snippet code is focusing on the page content vs. header/menu areas. Because of the way sites use keywords in the headers/menus, coding the snippets to seek out body content will result in more relevant text in search snippets.

Improved Google generated page titles:
When a page is lacking a title, Google has code in place to assign a title to the page using various signals. A key signal used is back-link anchor text pointing to the page. If a site has a ton of duplicate anchor text in the back-links, Google has found that putting less emphasis on those links creates a far more relevant title than previously. In this way the titles in the search results should be much less misleading.

Improved Russian auto-complete:
Languages are a constant headache for search engines, and new features like auto-complete can take a very long time to mature in languages outside of English. Recently the prediction system for auto-completed queries was improved to avoid overly long comparisons to the partial query to make auto-complete function much better in Russian, and closer to how well it works for English queries.

More information in application snippets:
Last week Google announced a new method of improved snippets for applications. The feature’s pretty technical and looks like an entire blog post is coming on just this topic. Here’s an example image that hopefully gives you a gist of how the snippets are giving details, like prices, ratings, and user reviews.

Example of application snippet from Google search results.

The feature has been very popular and Google recently added even more options that will elicit a full blog post soon here.

Less document relevance in Image searches:
If you look up search engine optimization in Wikipedia and look at the entry for Image search optimization you will note that there’s really nothing to say about SEO tactics towards images. This hasn’t been true, there are signals that Google has to look for when deciding what image to show for a particular keyword.
Previously, an image referenced in PDF or other searchable documents multiple times would get higher placement in the results. Google has done away with this signal as it wasn’t giving improved results and could easily be abused. *Innocent whistling*

Higher ranking signals on fresh content:
Consider if you will, how Google would look if they never gave new sites/fresh content a shot at the top, or a moment in the limelight? By default most ratings systems will show you the ‘best of the most recent’ by default just to avoid older content dominating the results. As a person on the phones taking SEO leads I can tell you there’s always been a ’10 mins of fame’ situation on Google where the explainable happens in the search results with fresh sites/content, only to return to normal later on when the dust settles. Google claims the recent change impacts roughly 35% of total search traffic which could be a significant boost for sites that take the time to publish fresh content, or for new sites looking for a chance to be seen.

Improved official page detection:
We’ve blogged recently about the importance of the rel=author attributes, tying your content to a G+ profile, and completing the circle with a back-link from the profile to your site. Google’s added even more methods to establish ‘offical’ pages and is continuing to give ‘official’ pages higher rankings on searches where authority is important. If you missed our article on this topic from last week, here’s the link.

Better date specific results:
The date a page is discovered may not always be the date the information is published. Google has the difficult task of sorting out the ‘date’ relevance for search results, and they keep improving on this where possible. A good example would be using duplicate matches to avoid showing you a 3 year old article that was posted two days ago if you specify that you only want results from say ‘last week’.

Enhanced prediction for non-Latin characters:
You’d think it’s hard enough to get a predictive query straight when the character set is limited to Latin, and you’d be right. When it takes several keystrokes to complete a single character in non-Latin, a service like Google’s auto-complete would be hard pressed to know when to start guessing. Previous to this update predictions in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew were giving gibberish results as the user was forming characters.

These are 10 changes out of 500+ made so far this year. We try to document the most important changes for you but there’s lots of times where Google can’t release info because of exploits/cheating. When that happens you’ll see us chime in with experiments and our personal experience when we can. So while I’d normally suggest folks interested in this topic subscribe to the inside search blog, we know that you’ll only be getting part of the story by doing so. ;)

SEO news blog post by @ 1:16 pm on November 15, 2011


 

Google+ plus company profiles, plus company page, plus site link?

Pleasing plus is presently proving to be a problem with the plethora of possibilities. Confused by all the Plus linking options suddenly available? Here’s a round-up of what it looks like right now.

  1. Create a Google+ page for the company.
  2. Create employee G+ pages.
  3. Add your employee G+ pages to the company.
  4. Add a link or badge from your website to the G+ page for the company.
  5. Add rel=author links between content on your site and your employee pages.
  6. Add +1 options to the homepage and content/product pages.

Here’s a very busy illustration of the process:

URLs and Code Pages
Create Google+ Pages
Link your website to the Company G+ page
Add rel=author links between your content pages and the employee G+ pages.
Make sure your site’s landing page, content (blog), and product pages have +1 buttons.

I’d put your content/blog posts on your website first, and then follow up with a share to the G+ profile page of the employee/author responsible for the content.

That’s the whole process for G+ interaction between a website, staff pages, and the company page. Doing this properly will tell Google your content is legitimate and maximize the potential ranking signals for your site as it pertains to Google Plus.

Last step is getting folks to follow your Google+ page, hit the +1 buttons, and interact with your Google Plus postings/profile. We’ll have some ideas for this and followers other social networks as the excitement over recent Panda updates quells and we have more time to get back to addressing followers/traffic. Don’t forget that past articles (of which we’ve had a few) may still apply or at least offer some ideas.

Hope everyone has a good long weekend!

SEO news blog post by @ 3:22 pm on November 10, 2011


 

Why Great Content Is Seldom Seen

milk carton

The post-panda Internet has left many website owners desperate to regain former rankings. The main directive of the new algorithm was to force websites to produce higher quality, relevant content on their websites if they hoped to remain competitive and to keep or increase their SERP rankings.

With the advent of social media en masse, Google (and the web in general) began using the public sharing of a website’s content across social networks as a predominant search engine ranking factor.

While this was a wonderful idea from a user perspective as it forced sites to produce better quality content for their visitors, many content developers found that their rankings were still suffering due to an apparent inability to generate interest in the wonderful content they were developing.

"Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases."

Often we produce what we feel is great content only to find our efforts falling upon deaf ears. In most cases it is not the content that fails but is more often the result of what we do (or do not do) once the content has been created. Great ideas do not simply propagate themselves into the collective consciousness of the public. Viral web content is the reward of a well devised promotion and a carefully planned implementation strategy. The deployment of your content marketing strategy is crucial to its success.

Most of us rate how "great" content is by the number of page visits, tweets, or likes that the post receives; but what makes good content and more importantly, what can you do to ensure that it is distributed by as many visitors as possible?

Credibility

The best content comes from writing about topics that you know about. Those subjects that you have intimate knowledge about or are derived from your own experiences will always make for more credible content and will be considered higher quality content from a reader’s perspective.

Good content takes time and effort to develop. Great works (in any media) rarely come on a whim or spontaneous inspiration. If you have taken the time to prepare your piece by researching the subject and can offer something that is new, fresh or can communicate it in an especially novel or exciting fashion, it is much more likely to be shared by your readers. If you are particularly passionate or verbose in your delivery, your content becomes an effective vehicle for instilling confidence in the readers mind and generates credibility thereby allowing you to be considered a "specialist" in your area of expertise.

Actionably

Effective content should illicit an emotional response, or create a call to action for the reader. Try to make your content actionable. Leave your readers with the sense they have gained wisdom from your piece and give them something they can take away from it. Content will be shared more readily if it speaks to your readers directly in a more actionable way. A particularity well written piece of content will almost share itself. If you can be proud of the content you have developed and are excited to share it with others, chances are that your readers will want to share it as well.

Marketing

Once you have taken the time to do your research and have composed a wonderful piece of content, how do you get others to read it and share it? While great content is more likely to be shared virally, it is utterly useless without the uses of proper exploitation and a comprehensive marketing strategy.

The first distribution base for your content can be to the friends, coworkers and acquaintances in your email contacts. Remember that it is probably okay to ask your close contacts if they would mind redistributing your content as well. Customer newsletters are still a viable option to use if you have one in place.

"Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty."

Effective syndication relies on your company having a strong social media presence. Reach out to your online community, through your social media profiles that you have setup. While there are a myriad of social networks you can share your content with, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular and are the best places to start syndicating your content. Don’t neglect other niche market social networks that may be closely geared towards your industry as well.

Delivery

Timing is everything. You will need to ensure that your content is not being syndicated at ineffective times. Plan to release your content on a Monday morning rather than on a Friday afternoon or on the weekend. Statistics show that most people check their social accounts at the beginning of the work day and after lunch. A 9-5 Monday through Thursday deployment strategy will typically be more effective, with Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays being the most effective days. Remember that it is okay to tweet your content in the morning and again in the afternoon. However, over-using this tactic can quickly annoy your followers.

Plan your content publishing as you would plan a product launch. If it is a particularly large story or news item, you can pre-announce its coming as well. This is an effective way to build consumer anticipation. Consider using a press release with a noteworthy online content syndication service such as PRWeb for your press releases.

Promotion

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons marketing content fails to attract views is due to the lack of follow-through and ongoing promotion of the piece. You need to continue with the promotion of your content long after it has been initially syndicated. Develop a promotion plan that includes reminding people of your content via your social networks and actively work to build links to your content on relevant sites through press releases, your website, guest blogging, online advertising or online radio shows. Any medium where you can gain exposure to your content will be beneficial in securing views.

Any online content takes time to develop traction and get noticed. The Internet has caused most of us to believe success happens overnight. Careful planning and implementation over the course of a well planned promotion, will always yield better returns.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:48 am on November 9, 2011


 

Get your own Google+ Page

Today Google announced they are ready to let users claim pages on the G+ domain. It’s a bit busy over here: Create a Google + Page

Stampede to get Google+ pages.The servers over at Google+ must feel a bit like this?

… but you may want to bother with the line however because this is where you claim your name, brand, trademark, for Google+ pages.

Since I’m waiting in said line-up, I can’t demo the experience and relay first hand info, but I can share what I do know:

- Pages are ‘private’ right now.
- Only the creator has access, so for a company, use the company account
- Access on company pages for other users is coming
- Expect page invites to be a bit excessive on larger profiles to start with

Oh joy my page is waiting for me to setup! Are you folks still reading this? Go!

SEO news blog post by @ 11:55 am on November 8, 2011


 

Do iframes count for SEO?

Great question!

I swear I’ve seen iframes crawled before but even if I haven’t seen iframe data in search indexes, it’s not something that we should just count on and forget about, especially with the growing competition in the search engine market. I’m looking at you Blekko.

So how do you test such a thing without wasting time waiting eons for the results to appear in the SERPs? Here’s how!

The text below is just an iframe:

Seems like a unique phrase that very few, if any search engine optimization companies would use, so it should work well.

After a few days if we’re never seen for the above phrase but we are seen for the below phrase, the question is answered. We’ll run the query across the gamut and see if we can’t report back on who/how quickly it’s crawled. ;)

May many Russian rockets sail past the Earthling moon and delve into many Martian delights with a souvenir to show for it.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:54 pm on November 7, 2011


 

IE – Outfoxed and Polished Off?

At the end of this month major traffic watchers and statistical houses started releasing data showing that for the first time, Internet Explorer is below the 50% market share level for internet browsers.

out·fox (out-foks)
tr.v. out·foxed, out·fox·ing, out·fox·es
To surpass (another) in cleverness or cunning; outsmart.

pol·ish (polish)
v. pol·ished, pol·ish·ing, pol·ish·es
Phrasal Verb:
polish off Informal
To finish or dispose of quickly and easily.

The Data

As anyone experienced with data will tell you, the flaw is in the details.

Data can only be as complex and smart as the sources it’s coming from, which is always a problem. So as you gaze at the various data sources, remember that nobody can really track every browser session, the best they can try for is a ‘fair average’.

To that end here’s one of the best charts I could locate:

Browser market share as of Nov 2011

First thing to note is the decline of IE, but more interesting is that Chrome, and Safari (hiding behind the others) are gaining ground while FireFox is losing some ground. Technically Safari is growing faster than Chrome, but when you consider that Safari is the default browser of all those iOS devices selling like hot-cakes, the fact that Chrome’s growing almost as fast, really tells us something.

I know there’s been some ‘landmark’ moments in browser shares before. I think I’ve even blogged on here about it before, but this is a unique moment that I don’t think we’ll see again for some time.

Short lived losses?

Windows 8 will be a really big win for IE market share.
This is how Windows 8 will greet the user by default:

Windows 8 built in IE

..notice the inception of Microsoft Bing, inside Microsoft IE, inside Microsoft Windows 8?

I’m sure milk comes shooting out of Google’s nose when they see stuff like this going on with new products that will be sold to the world.

I won’t rant on this point, I’ll just remind readers of the post I’ve already made on Windows 8 earlier this year.

In a nutshell I’m almost tempted to print the above image (here’s a larger version) and stick it on the wall because once Windows 8 rolls out I don’t think we’ll see that blue section that small for a long time.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:42 pm on November 3, 2011

Categories:Articles,Misc,SEO Tools

 

Finding Your Way With Sitemaps

If you don’t know what a sitemap is, or have never created one…read on. A sitemap is a list of the individual pages on your website displayed in a hierarchical fashion similar to a table of contents, or index. They are sometimes used as a planning tool during the developmental stages of a site design, but more importantly, sitemaps act as a powerful navigational aid by providing a site overview at a glance. Sitemaps also benefit search engine optimization by ensuring that all the pages of a site can be found by web bots.

sitemap image

At one time, sitemaps were viewed as a luxury, or at the very least, not vital. For new sites, they are especially critical as it can take several months for a new site to get crawled and indexed by the search engines. Implementing a sitemap and submitting it to search engines and web analytic utilities such as Google Web Master Tools, will greatly aid in the indexing of your site. Sitemaps do not guarantee all links will be crawled, and being crawled does not guarantee indexing. However, a Sitemap is still the best insurance for getting a search engine to learn about your entire site.

If your site is very large, has a complicated navigation system, or employs Flash or JavaScript menus that do not include html links, parts of the site may never get indexed. Even if you only have a small site, having a sitemap will ensure that all your pages are linked to and ensure that they will be picked up by the crawlers.

Users and crawlers will now be able to access deep links and nested pages much more readily. Having well named, SEO friendly urls in your sitemaps creates the added functionality for users to conduct site-wide searches of the sitemap for specific keywords that they may be looking for in the site. Sitemaps have also been shown to increase PageRank and link popularity to all the pages it links to. While it is more important to have high quality links pointing to your site, you should not underestimate the usefulness of internal links pointing to your own pages.

Sitemaps are written and saved as an .xml file which is the document structure and encoding standard used for webcrawlers to find and parse sitemaps. As such they are very unforgiving and must contain only valid XML syntax. (http://validator.w3.org/ ) Sites are able to be prioritized on an sliding scale from 0.1 to 1.0. Sitemaps are also beneficial in letting search engine bots know when you last updated your website.

Even after reading this post you are still not convinced of the benefits of a sitemap, remember that Google has stated that a sitemap is a ranking factor for your site. Although it may be a small one, added together with several other smaller ranking factors, they all add up to substantial ranking factors and is considered the best practice for any website.

For further information, check out this page in the Google Webmaster Tools Help.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:52 am on November 2, 2011

Categories:Google,SEO Tips

 

New Google Reader GUI Gets Bad Press

Just in time to make your candy hangover even worse, Google’s decided to fiddle with the layout/appearance of it’s Reader product. Naturally the squeaky wheel gets the up-votes, so most of the reactions getting attention are going to be negative. Let me break that trend and explain why with this post.

Google Reader Logo getting Club'd

Over on the official Google Reader Blog, Alan Green had the task of explaining the new look and improvements. The first image posted is ideal, great use of space, very use-able and very little room for improvement:

New Google Reader Layout

Sure there’s a bit of ‘padding’ in the header, and there’s a bit of white space going on, but as you can see, a well used reader account won’t be staring at gulfs of great white spaces that most folks seem to be taking issue with.

The next common point of ‘contention’ is the display of news items, and the amount of screen space that the actual text is getting on the reader screen:

Complaint about reader space

This really seems to be coming from the ‘more is better’ camp who only have 19″ screens. If you put things for me to read stretched across my screen from edge to edge, I would take longer to read it, and my neck would get sore from panning my large displays. If I was making this observation on my home setup it’d be even worse than my work displays.

Plus there’s already a ton of CSS hacks you can apply to change/tweak the layout to fit your needs. A Google search will dig up tons of these, I don’t need to sponsor any particular solution but the first I found did a great job of tightening up the UI.

So with all the negativity aside, what was the Google Reader update all about? Well I can sum it up with one word “Google+”.

To quote the official reader blog:

The ability to +1 a feed item (replacing “Like”), with an option to then share it with your circles on Google+ (replacing “Share” and “Share with Note”).

Integrating with Google+ also helps us streamline Reader overall. So starting today we’ll be turning off friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality.

So it was a needed update, with a bit of give and take. The authors of the post knew there’d be feedback, negativity, and the usual ‘quiet riot’ around the changes. They even suggested, to anyone that doesn’t leave over the update (their words not mine), that comments and concerns would be great to hear. Plus they also gave a handy link to the import/export settings so your decision to stay doesn’t have to be marred by concerns of how to make the switch.

Now we move on to discuss the new GMail UI changes.. Does it ever end? :)

SEO news blog post by @ 12:18 pm on November 1, 2011


 

Free Press Release Distribution

It’s nice to do good things for good people and who could possibly be better than our valued blog readers? :)

Today is the last day of October and we have a surplus of pre-paid press releases via PR Web to use up and it has to be today.  This places me in the wonderful situation of giving away press releases to you … and I’m not even going to do a “so we can give it to you at a discounted rate” kinda thing.  Nope, I’m giving them away free.  What’s the hitch?  There is none other than the fact that come 5PM today I’m going to read through any submissions I get and pick the ones I like best to go out.

Because it’s free I’m not going to be able to followup with stats, etc. but better to use them than to not and hopefully karma will play it’s part and if not … well, I get to have that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that our visitors get another benefit from reading our daily blog.

If you have a pre-written release (has to be new and yes we’ll be checking) just send it to freerelease@beanstalk-inc.com.  You’re welcome to include details as to why we should pick yours but the main thing will be the quality of the release itself.  And as per our general “rules” don’t bother sending them over if they’re in the areas of casinos, adult or if you’re another SEO firm.  This isn’t any type of judgement, we just don’t work in these areas and don’t work for our competition. :)

And to all a very happy and safe Halloween.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:54 am on October 31, 2011

Categories:press releases

 

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