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Free Ranking Reports on Google!

I keep seeing people ask for their rank, asking what the best free ranking tools are, etc., like it’s so darn hard to ask Google where your website is in terms of it’s keywords.

First of all, Google Analytics has an ‘Average Position’ column for popular search queries that tells you a lot of great info about your site’s keywords.

Google WMT Search Queries chart
This is an example of Search Queries sorted by Average Position

 
The link to this area is:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/top-search-queries?hl=en&siteUrl=
+ your URL.

Our website link would look like this:
…earch-queries?hl=en&siteUrl=http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/

You can also click at the top of the position column to sort it, or tack this onto the end of the URL:
&grid.sortBy=8&grid.currentOrder=2d

If you aren’t getting enough data from this, first try out the download options, and load them up in a spreadsheet so you can sort/filter the data.

Most folks are surprised what a little bit of filtering and grouping can accomplish to provide you with a fresh perspective on data.

Still not enough? Well there’s a zillion free tools that will gladly trade your URL and keyword targets for a limited ranking report.

This is valuable data, so why not trade something free for it? Google does!

Indeed there’s enough free tools, that I won’t even bother mentioning one. Why don’t we just make one?

It’s not ‘hard’ to get your rank really, lets break it down:

  • Make a list of phrases you are trying to rank for
  • Do a Google search for your first phrase
  • Keep searching until you find your site
  • Take note of the position
  • Repeat

So how does the average person do this? It’s gets pretty technical, but all the resources are out there, and free!

To break that down in simple terms:

  • Setup a server or install XAMPP
  • Setup a database/table to store your rankings by date
  • Make a page that CURLs for your keywords
  • Setup a schedule to execute the php page regularly

Bingo, you now have your own ranking reports tool, and nobody is the wiser, besides Google, and they are usually too busy to care that you’re extra curious about your rankings.

Nerd reading a book

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of fine details to explain and not everyone is comfortable installing programs like this or scripting, but I am going to look at getting permission to make this a step-by-step how-to guide with full downloads so even novices can give this a try.

A final point to make is that excessive/automated queries on Google is a breach of their TOS, and could result in annoying blocks/complaints from Google if you were to attempt to use this method for a large set of keyword phrases, or wanted the reports updated constantly.

If you are a ‘power user’ who needs a lot of data, you’ll end up paying someone, and either you pay to use someone’s API key at a premium, or you get your own API key from Google and only pay for what you use.

Seems like an easy decision to me!

SEO news blog post by @ 1:03 pm on January 24, 2013


 

Oracle is meddling with search results?!

Like most headlines, there’s some leaping between facts going on, but we’ll connect the dots in short order, don’t you fret.

Scooby Doo Cartoon with additional logos
We want our Google results, not some Mystery Machine!?

 
Have you noticed how much/often Oracle has been updating Java on your machine lately?

You’d think, with all those security patches they are fixing, if you turned on a PC that has been dormant for 6 months it would be instantly hacked by it’s outdated Java upon loading nearly any web page?

Well that’s not exactly true, so what is true?

Here’s a list:

  • Oracle gets page traffic with each update
  • Ask.com pays for each install of the Ask Toolbar
  • By default the Ask.com toolbar is installed
  • Each update is a risk you won’t opt-out and click next
  • The Ask.com install waits 10 mins to install
  • Delayed invisible installs are a malware tactic
  • The Ask.com toolbar intercepts and modifies searches
  • Removing Ask’s toolbar won’t restore your search settings

Those are facts, and it doesn’t take a silver-tongued writer to get the reader to acknowledge how they all connect.

It’s so bad that IE, FireFox, and Chrome are all delivering UI changes to make these installs a LOT more clear to the end user..

.. and Ask.com has already started adding ‘helpers’ to make the new UI’s less likely to halt an installation where the user is just clicking along.

So it’s a back and forth struggle to keep your web browser free from unwanted clutter that pretends to be of value but actually alters your search results and steers you towards paid sites/links vs. organic search results.

How can you opt out of the war for your clicks?

If you don’t need Java, just don’t install it to begin with. If you hit something that needs Java then go ahead and use it; But don’t just install Java because you think it’s crucial.

You also don’t want to confuse JavaScript with Java; For some folks the Oracle Java installation can be completely avoided.

Use a clean installer without the added Ask.com payload. Since Oracle isn’t publishing any recent versions of the Java installer without the Ask.com toolbar components, this requires you to trust an outside 3rd party’s assistance, or use a risky/outdated version of Java.

Ninite icon
Ninite.com

What can I say about Ninite.com? In my nerdy travels online I’ve yet to discover an easier method of installing apps without the added payloads.

Not only that, but Ninite allows you to bundle up a ton of installs into one package with zero ‘next’ clicking as the packages install. Heck, you can even save the package URL for later, or share it with friends to help them install a specific set of apps!

Since Ninite grabs the source from the actual websites, you will get trusted/current code, without the bother of carefully installing each app and side-skirting all the additional packaged software/malware.

Plus as a one-stop reference to the most popular free installations, Ninite is also great for folks that want to stick with mainstream applications and avoid trying out some ‘less popular’ choices.

I hope this helps our readers avoid some hassles, get honest search results from the search engine you’ve selected, and perhaps even gives folks the motivation to try uninstalling Java completely to see just what the heck is using it anyways.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:31 pm on January 22, 2013


 

Missing Authorship Photos?

If you’ve become accustomed to seeing your charming mug in the SERPs when you are Google’ing your keywords, it might be rather unsettling to see those images suddenly disappear.

Rich Snippet SERP example

Fear not! This isn’t something you have done, or not done, this is actually kicking up a bit of fuss on the SEO forums/discussion areas today and clearly looks to be an issue on Google’s end.

In fact if you were in need of reassurance, all you have to do is hop into your Webmaster Tools account, and visit the ‘Rich Snippets Tool‘ to get a preview of what your SERPs would normally look like.

If you are sure that you’re not part of the current issue, or you’re just curious what we’re talking about, the Troubleshooting Rich Snippets page is a great resource to tackle possible problems.

Google invests another $200,000,000.00 in renewable energy..

I could have written .2 billion, or 200 million, or even 200 thousand thousands, but why play with such a large sum of money?

Google certainly isn’t playing around; With this latest investment Google’s grand total in renewable/clean energy is over $1 billion US and growing.

This isn’t just charity either, some of these investments are just smart business because the returns are very fixed and low risk.

Illustration of power saved by using GMail vs. Postal Mail

Being honest about pollution is brave, and bragging about your low footprint is begging for trouble, but Google marches on stating:

“100 searches on Google has about the same footprint as drying your hands with a standard electric dryer, ironing a shirt, or producing 1.5 tablespoons of orange juice.”

You can read more about Google’s efforts to reduce, eliminate, and assist others with power consumption/carbon footprints, over on the Google Green Pages.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:57 am on January 10, 2013


 

Google Maps is Back on App Store

Lost without directions.

Afraid of the iOS 6 upgrade because you love Google Maps? Well the waiting is over, and Google Maps is back on the App Store for Free!

Not only is it still free, they upgraded the App to included all the latest features from the current Android version:

  • Turn-by-turn driving instructions
  • Live traffic information
  • Train, bus, subway and walking directions
  • Transit schedules for nearby stops

Which, when you compare the newer, fresher UI integration of the latest iPhone App vs. Android, makes the iPhone version ‘slightly better’ than the current Android version!

On top of all that, Google’s new Maps App adds API support for using the Maps App in other applications so that developers have the option of integrating Google maps into their Apps.

Google also mentioned that indoor maps support, and an offline maps option are currently in the works.

Stay tuned!

Google is also making certain things harder to find..

I cannot lie, Zazzle.com has some funny T-Shirts.

In other news, Google Image search just got an update that makes finding porn images more difficult, or at the very least, less accidental.

A young asian.

Personally, when I am at work, say making a blog post that needs an image of cigarette ‘butts‘, or a ‘young asian‘ person, when I don’t include enough search terms, I can appreciate that Google puts less priority on the more abundantly available/popular pornographic images.

… at least for the .COM site.

If you load those URLs and change the .com to a .ca?

Well lets just say that I hope you aren’t at work! ;)

SEO news blog post by @ 12:55 pm on December 13, 2012


 

Thinking of making an ‘App’ for the Apple Store?

You may want to re-think that decision, perhaps even focus on a ‘mobile’ provider for your site, or an Android app instead of one for Apple’s store.

Rotten Apple with bite mark

Why? Well lets list the reasons:

- Android OS is shipping on more phones currently than any other mobile OS
- 2013 should be the year that Android overtakes iPhone in subscriber #s
- A mobile ‘face lift’ should load on any phone/browser
- Apple is cracking down on all ‘Apps’ that generate revenue outside their store..

The last one is a real kicker, especially for Microsoft who is currently unable to update their SkyDrive app after Apple realized it was handling in-app purchases without going through the Apple Store.

Essentially Apple is rejecting all Microsoft app updates and 3rd party apps that communicate with SkyDrive until Microsoft has a solution to Apple’s need for a 30% cut of all transactions done through it’s App Store.

So if you made an Apple Store ‘App’ for your site, all you can do with the ‘App’ is browse information and provide free resources, since any attempt to engage in a financial transaction would require the Apple App Store to participate, at a 30% margin.

That’s just.. wait for it.. rotten.

Making Easy Money by Ignoring Copyright Infringement

A North Korean Won with Park Jae-sang's face.

On the surface, it may seem counter-intuitive to your profit margin, but not letting people steal your content could be what’s stopping you from getting rich.

PSY, the chubby Korean behind the most popular YouTube video to-date, is raking in the profits from his ‘Gangnam Style’ video, and it’s all because he didn’t censor his own work by chasing copyright violations.

If you look at TV commercials, ad revenue, product endorsements, and other direct revenue from his popularity, PSY is making over $8 Million in 2012 alone.

Clearly there’s a trade off between copyrights and profits that doesn’t favor always locking down your content.

I’m wondering though, once fame has taken hold, if next year we’ll have a story about PSY suing people for copyright infringements?

SEO news blog post by @ 12:59 pm on December 11, 2012


 

The Karaoke Web Standard

KWS Side bar image

Well Microsoft has finally managed to get a leg up on all the current desktop web browsers available today with it’s new Karaoke Web Standard.

KWS Logo

To quote the KWS wiki entry:

This specification defines a new API, focused on semantic language processing for two-way communication with a remote host. Eschewing typical binary protocols, this new interface creates a system-to-system forced sonic recognition on the receiving party.

The KWS definition page goes on to discuss key points like pending API access to the libation ES codebase, and encourages modification from the base parameters noting that each user has unique aptitudes in variety of related skills.

Indeed while some users, such as myself, have a low threshold for personal embarrassment (regardless of how many times a week I write these posts), I could possess high vocal aptitude that would mitigate a fond user experience if I were to stick with preset templates.

The spec deals with concerns such as bitrate, throttling, error mitigation, audio auth rights, P2P connectivity, and semantic packet delivery, but fails to touch on less favourable issues like hackers that implement auto-tuning modules.

Included with the announcement were two YouTube videos, one that explains the need for the new standard:

[iframe width="550" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/lD9FAOPBiDk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen][/iframe]

 
And a second video that focuses on presenting the new KWS:

[iframe width="550" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/dAecpAcyFCw?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen][/iframe]

 
Oddly the videos came along with a link “thebrowseryoulovedtohate.com” that’s got an extra ‘d’ in every instance?

Come back with my imaginary horse!
The theme is apparently along the lines of “Have you tried IE Lately?”, with the assumption that you’ll like what you see.

 
I’m personally assuming that next week someone on the IE marketing team will get a phat bonus for a spike in downloads that doesn’t correlate to actual user shift.
 

FireFox 64bit?

Waterfox Logo

In related news, FireFox has given up on 64bit development for now, listing a number of issues that make it a very wise decision, regardless of the folks that were ‘enjoying’ the struggle of maintaining a 64bit browser with very little 64bit extension support.

While a 64bit FireFox could theoretically run faster, the added expense of development was taxing the coders and holding back the progress of the browser vs. it’s competition.

If you MUST have a 64bit FireFox there is a build of FF with 64bit support, it’s called ‘WaterFox‘ and you can get it from Sourceforge.

Since I already had FireFox installed I grabbed the portable copy of WaterFox and it runs great, picking up most, if not all, of my FireFox profile/settings.

Personally? I’m using Chrome, and I am writing plugins for Chrome because I feel it’s going to win the browser war thanks to Android, Apple, and many other systems that use the WebKit engine by default.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:50 am on November 29, 2012


 

Google Image Optimization

Image optimization for Google can mean several things, from image compression, to image resolution, or even referencing Google Image Search optimization.

Worry not, the topic becomes broad but we can tackle it section by section, and along the way we’ll be pointing you to actual Google tools in order to ensure you’re getting the best results.

Image Compression

The biggest gains you can get with the least effort typically come from looking at the wasted bytes (often kilobytes) when images aren’t compressed properly.

Here’s a comparison of JPEG image compression:

Max size Max size
5,899 bytes
Poor Compression
3,493 bytes
Quality Compression

And now PNG compression:

Max size Max size
5,590 bytes
Poor Compression
4,769 bytes
Quality Compression

Now honestly, if I had hidden the image sizes and descriptions, could you tell me which was the 3.5kb image?

Google could tell you in a flash, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights scores your page speed by how optimized your images are.

An observant reader may wonder why the PNG with ‘poor’ compression is smaller than the JPG? The answer is that it’s transparent, and the PNG is only saving image data (compressed losslessly) for the visible pixels vs. JPG which has to save the additional information that ‘these pixels are white’.

Also keep in mind that we used really small images to keep this page loading quickly, the larger the image, the more of a difference compression quality can make.

Image Resolution

The phrase ‘resolution’ has so many variable definitions that I would need to resolve the idea of this as a post vs. an article.

For the context of this discussion I’m speaking of the image dimensions, not the pixels-per-inch.

As an SEO blog I’d have to be really lazy to not mention the issue of image placement/size on a site when we know that Google has a clear concept of what’s most visible to your audience.

When I say ‘your audience’ it is not just a buzz-word, I really mean that Google looks at it’s analytics data and the browser window size of your traffic and actually knows when a site is delivering the right content for the majority of it’s user base.

So if your website is plastered with images that force the user to look for your content, and your content isn’t images, then that’s actually a problem in terms of SEO Optimization.

In fact Google’s just in the middle of moving it’s ‘Browser Size’ tool into the Google Analytics suite.

As you can see in this example of jQuery Mobile in the Browser Size tool, the existing results are generic and dare I say “unprofessional” looking?

Example of jQuery Mobile in the Google Browser Size tool
In the above image we can see what % of general web users can see the elements of the page.

I would show off an example of the same page using the new tools, but Google Analytics is only for sites you own, and the new version is still in beta, throwing out ‘Not a Number’ (NaN) errors regardless of your choice of browser.

What you want to end up with, regardless, is a site that fits the screen size of your audience. So if you are running a forum that reviews ‘apps’ you probably want to aim for a design that will fit you most important content above ‘the fold’ with mobile browsers (at least the current generation of mobile browsers).

Image Site Maps

Site Maps are typically an XML format document that explains your website’s pages to Google in a more technical manner.

An image site map is specifically for explaining the images that are on your site.

Google does a great job of finding pictures you’ve linked to, but if you use JavaScript to create galleries, without using <noscript> tags, then Google could have difficulty indexing those images.

An image sitemap’s XML structure lets you clearly spell out each image with options like:

  • loc: The full URL for the image
  • caption: Description of the image
  • geo_location: Physical location ie: British Columbia, Canada
  • title: Title of the image
  • license: URL pointing to a license for the image

Since each entry is related to a <loc> URL if your image is remotely hosted that’s fine, Google understands the need for CDNs, but that remote site needs to be registered in Webmaster Tools for proper indexing of the images.

Once again I’ve gone a bit too far on the topic for a first round, but I will return with a deeper look beyond the surface of the issue in a part 2 post.

For now if you wanted to start working on an image sitemap (or adding image references to your existing sitemap) look at this answer in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:32 pm on November 1, 2012

Categories:Coding,Google

 

Windows 8 / IE10 and Flash Certification

Windows 8 is a tablet OS, and like any modern OS focused on tablets/touch/mobility options, there’s compatibility concerns with content not specifically written for a tablet/mobile device.

Apple’s famous for their certification process and using it for more than just the sake of ‘quality’ or ‘compatibility’ controls.

Indeed Microsoft has had certification for drivers, and applications in Windows for some time, but never to the point where something cannot be used without their certification.

If you wanted to install something that isn’t certified you’ll get a spooky warning, but I’ve never seen something completely fail to work due to a bad/missing certification on Windows.

Enter Windows 8 and IE10, a whole new ballgame, with two browser modes, one for normal use and a ‘desktop’ integration mode which has to play nice with the new Windows UI.

If you wish to publish web content that leverages the new ‘desktop mode’ you’ll want to visit Microsoft’s ‘developer guidance’ page for information on new meta tags and HTTP header codes that help flag such content.

In a nutshell they explain that either the header:

X-UA-Compatible: requiresActiveX=true

OR the meta tag:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="requiresActiveX=true" />

… work to create a handy little prompt explaining that the content on the page requires the page to be viewed in ‘desktop’ mode, and even gives a single-click shortcut to switch over:

IE10 desktop warning

The same page also deals with ‘Compatibility Verification’ and the steps to test/certify that your flash content is compatible with the extra features of a tablet OS.

Of particular interest is the option of a single registry entry that allows testing of your site for ‘debugging’ to see just how broken your flash content is.

The key is located here:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Flash\DebugDomain
.. and if you wanted to make a .reg file for easy access the contents would be:
REGEDIT4
**Blank Line/Carriage Return**
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Flash\DebugDomain] @="www.mywebsite.com"
**Blank Line/Carriage Return**

At that point you could right-click the .reg file you made and click on ‘install’ from within the pop-up menu.

Passing this .reg file to your developers would be fine, but since only one site can be specified, this is NOT a solution for your end users.

Obviously the best advice we can give, as SEOs, is to ditch your Flash content completely.

HTML5 with all it’s perks can replace almost anything you’ve done in Flash and Google’s even willing to help you make the switch by offering the Swiffy Flash -> HTML5 Conversion Tool.

If you feel your content is too sophisticated for Swiffy, or you haven’t tried the tool recently, you should!

Here’s an example of how well the tool works on a flash game with keyboard and mouse controls:

[iframe src="https://swiffypreviews.googleusercontent.com/view/gallery/example3_swiffy_v4.9.html"][/iframe]

SEO news blog post by @ 12:07 pm on October 11, 2012


 

You may need an EMT after the EMD Update!

Last Friday Matt Cutts tweeted about Google’s latest update, which focuses on penalties for ‘low-quality’ Exact Match Domain names, hence the EMD TLA.

Twitter posts from Matt Cutts on the latest EMD Update

While Google is never big on giving us the details lets digest this together!

Using a relevant keyword in a domain has been a very long-standing ranking signal.
ie: A consulting site for financial companies using ‘financial-consulting.com’ as a domain would be seen as relevant

Over the years this has lead to people grabbing up domains with keywords in them for SEO purposes.

JACOBS BY MARC JACOBS FOR MARC BY MARC JACOBS ETC..

Having your keywords in your domain name didn’t mean overnight dominance of the web, thankfully. Indeed, there was usually some trade-off between desirable keywords and a reasonably short domain name.

In fact, no organic/white-hat SEO would suggest you use something like:

‘best-value-online-financial-consulting-company-with-proven-results.com’

Why? Because the gains in SEO wouldn’t match the losses in user trust/conversions.

Would a good organic SEO/White Hat tell you NOT to purchase those types of domains for 301s to your main site?

I’d like to think so, but this was clearly a strategy for a lot of sites competing for top rankings.

Regardless of your SEO ethics, the practice of domain parking/selling because of search ranking signals is clearly an unnecessary burden on the internet.

While the ‘domains for sale’ issue would still exist without search engines, search engines honestly should be making your choice of domain name MUCH less relevant.

Ideally fresh internet traffic should occur as match between the searchers needs and the services/information that your site provides.

And with this latest update it’d appear that Google agrees with the idea that book should found by more than what’s on the cover.

As of this last update you can expect sites with nothing but some keyword dense 301′d domains to now face a penalty instead of a positive ranking signal.

We didn’t see this coming!

EMD Update Results

I’m already seeing people post sad tales of the deep impact this update is having on certain sites, and I’ve had a laugh at a few ‘professionals’ claiming they never felt this day would come.

Personally, while I’ve watched some very good presentations on SEO and web ranking strategies, the one thing that helps me most as an SEO is Matt Cutts’ breakdown of the real philosophy behind ‘good SEO’ which boils down to:

Never do something for the sake of search engine rankings alone.

If you like ‘Lord of the Rings’ then look at this as:

‘One Rule to Lead them all, one Rule to be found by…’

..and you should never have to fear a Google update!

In fact you should look at each Google update as a chance for your rankings to improve as other sites are punished for their ‘clever’ attempts to game the system.

Another Google Easter Egg?

And finally, to end the post with a chuckle, here’s a Google search phrase for you to test out:

I was hoping this was more than just an ‘Easter Egg‘ in Google’s search, but alas Google hasn’t yet licked mathematical artificial intelligence. :p

SEO news blog post by @ 12:01 pm on October 2, 2012


 

Mmmmmm Bacon..

Did that get your attention? Some crispy fresh smoky bacon?

It’s a pity then that the story isn’t about hot pork but instead about degrees of bacon.

Degrees of Kevin Bacon to be exact.

Google has given us yet another nerdy Easter Egg, not unlike the StarCraft inspired ZergRush or StarFox inspired BarrelRoll, Easter Eggs. (Shame on PCWorld for their typo this morning!).

If you add ‘bacon number’ to an actor’s name in a Google Search, Google will tell you the degrees of separation between the actor and Kevin Bacon.

Heck it even works with actresses!

Try a Google search for: “Oliva Wilde bacon number

..you should get a Bacon Number of “2″!

This is because Oliva worked with Ryan Reynolds in ‘The Change-Up’..

Ryan Reynolds is working with Kevin Bacon on the action/comedy film ‘R.I.P.D.’ that’s coming out in early 2013.

Thus Oliva Wild’s ‘degree of separation’ with Kevin Bacon would be a 2.

All Oliva needs to do now is add her Bacon number to her profile page like so:

 
Since you’d need to be pretty famous to have a Bacon Number I expect that it will be *the* thing to have, if you’re a movie star.

Fat Hacker – Cosmo the God & UGNazi

This is not my best segway(seguay?) between stories, but I was simply blown away by the tale of a chubby 15 year old hacker in California who is in jail for widespread hacking and mischief.

This inventive teen, with poor supervision, has managed to hack a wide cross-section of some of the worlds biggest companies including:

Amazon, Apple, AT&T, PayPal, AOL, Netflix, Network Solutions, and Microsoft

`Cosmo`, as he is called online, likes to point out that none of these hacks were particularly tricky, and is calling on companies to fix their easily exploitable systems, while he sits in a juvenile detention center after admitting to many of his `hacks`.

The story I read on Wired.com was so well written I’m not even going to try and do any excerpts, I’m just going to drop the link and insist you give it a read.

 
Nicely done Mat Honan, from a victim to a sympathizer, all in one interview. This is great investigative journalism, and we need more like it.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:01 pm on September 13, 2012


 

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