Google Instant, SEO and Big Brother

Sep 08, 2010 Comments Off

(Nothing to do with the reality TV show – in case you’re wondering)

Google Instant was released this evening (Wednesday 8th September 2010) – but only for some users with Google accounts, who are signed into Google, and using particular browsers – which means don’t panic if you’re not seeing it yet.

The only way to explain Google Instant is to compare it to your stored browser history. You know when you start typing a web address, have you noticed that the autocomplete comes up with websites you’ve already visited? Clicking on one of them just makes things easier and quicker.

But rather than rely on where you’ve been before, Google is trying to predict where you want to go. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt explains it as taking searching from “syntax to semantics, from what you typed to what you meant”. It does this by bringing up not only your search history but also related searches while you are typing.

Google InstantHere’s an example. Click the image on the right to see a screen shot of a search for NM Consulting. I started to type

nm consu

and Google not only suggests search terms that I might be looking for but it also shows the results for the first prediction. There’s no need to click on the search term and click the Search button, the results automatically change as you type. (Very glad this site is #1 out of 3.5m results for “nm consu” by the way!)

You can see if you are one of the chosen millions by signing into your Google account (or set one up) at google.co.uk. Then start searching and see what happens.

Google says that each search typically lasts 25 seconds: 9 seconds of typing; 1 second for the query to reach Google, process it and return the results; and 15 seconds for the user to find which search result to click on. Google reckon between 2 and 5 seconds will be wiped off the search time at least. This reduces the time Google servers process requests by up to 11 hours per day.

So what is SEO and why are some people worried? SEO is a TLA (three letter acronym) for Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or unpaid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. There is a myriad of ways to improve your SEO – see NM Consulting’s eMarketing Tips for 10 of them!

With its automatic live updating of search results through changing queries, it will be more difficult for SEO specialists to work out how their results will appear depending on how many letters of a query have been typed in – because the results will keep changing. There are also the ne’er do wells that believe it will be near on impossible to analyse the results.

The latter is untrue as Google Analytics shows that the predicted search term results (as seen in the example above) is shown correctly in the visitor source as having “nm consulting” as the referring search phrase, even though “nm consu” was only typed.

The former, however, is much more frightening: If you are reliant on somebody finding you regionally, you may have optimised your website selling widgets to make sure that you came top if someone searched for “widgets in London”. With Google Instant, long before they get to click the search button that would have found your website at #1, they will be shown all the search results for major widget suppliers as soon as they have typed the word “widget”. It’s more likely that a national company (with a huge marketing budget) that supplies London will get their business, rather than the user continuing to type “in London”.

Another thing that is worrying is the need to be signed in. This is sending out alarm bells throughout the web community only an hour after its release. For now, nobody knows whether this is to control the release to a few chosen million in a few chosen countries, or whether this is a further spread of Google monitoring.

Every time you visit a web page that has Google Analytics embedded (and every one should), your IP address, how long you are on the website, which pages you viewed, how you got there, etc. is already sent and stored on the Google servers. Same goes with Google Ads, embedded YouTube videos, Google Maps and other Google applications.

When is too much data, too much?

10 eMarketing Tips #10: Beware of Hits

Aug 10, 2010

If I had a dollar for every time a client asked: “How many hits have we had?” – I’d already be retired on my own desert island!

There is something that is very important that you need to know – and millions of Sales & Marketing Departments around the world would prefer if people did not know this!

To the average person, hits mean absolutely nothing – what my clients actually want to know is “How many Unique Visitors have I had?”

A hit is generated every time a file is downloaded from the website – so if you imagine that ABC Company’s Home Page has a header banner image, 10 menu images, 2 photos of the factory, 3 other smaller images and a form submit button – 1 visitor going to their home page will register:

17 hits – but only 1 Unique Visitor

Times that by 5,000 Unique Visitors per year – then, just for their Home Page, they will register:

85,000 hits from 5,000 Visitors

If they have 10 web pages that include one page with 20 photos of widgets, then their annual web statistics would be something like:

1.1 MILLION hits from 5,000 visitors

Surprised?

When the ABC company CEO sees this, he orders his Sales Department to increase their advertising rates for banner adverts on their website. Their sales pitch quotes “over a million website hits a year” – which is actually true – but advertisers would be much more interested to know that only 5,000 actual people are visiting a year.

Any good web hosting company will offer free graphical statistics with your hosting package – and the statistics MUST record Unique Visitors as well as hits – so check your Hosting Package!

The other term that is usually interchanged is Page Views. These are the number of pages that a visitor looks at one your website. If your website is interesting and relevant then you should be able to manage an average of 3-5 page views per visitor per visit. Over 7 is excellent – 1 or 2 is generally a sign that things need to change.

NB: If NM Consulting hosts your website, then you already get free graphical statistics, which include Unique Visitors, Page Views – and yes, hits.

10 eMarketing Tips #9: Use Useful Meta Tags

Aug 09, 2010

META tags are code which is read by Search Engines – you can’t normally see them when you view a web page. But here’s how you can:

In most browsers, you should be able to right-click a page and then choose View Source.

This opens up the actual HTML code for the web page. Somewhere near the top, close to where it says <HEAD> or <head>, you should find the META tags for that page.

These 2 META tags are the most important:

  • Description – this is the short ‘tag-line’ that describes your site on search engine results
  • Keywords – These are the important keywords that search engines index so people can find your website

If you’re using WordPress then I highly recommend downloading the All in One SEO Pack plugin as it allows you customise your META Tags specifically for WordPress.

The META tags for www.nm-design.co.uk are:

<meta content="Web Hosting, website hosting, web site hosting, host, internet,
nm-hosting, plans, hosting plans, hosting plan, low cost, basic, silver, gold,
platinum, ecommerce, e-commerce, web commerce web-commerce, sql, access,
server, Web, Design, Web Design, Web Designers, Web Designs, Intranet, Extranet,
Internet, Web Application, Website Design, Website Changes, Website Development,
Database, Integration, Domain Name, Purchase, Hosting, Email, E-marketing,
consulting, technical, support, software">
<meta content="NM Design is part of NM Consulting and specialises in Web Design,
Wordpress, Hosting, Intranets, Databases, Internet Marketing and Web Consulting">

It has to be noted that there has been much speculation that META tags are less important to search engines nowadays, which is right, but if you can add them, then you might as well.

One more thing – if you can, customise your META tags for each page. For example, if a page on your website is an article about the design and engineering of a widget – then be sure to add the words design and engineering to your META tags.

Relevance in e-Marketing is King. Keep it relevant to the page or site you’re marketing!

10 eMarketing Tips #8: Have Multiple Domain Names

Aug 08, 2010

Why would you want multiple domain names? Isn’t one enough?

No!

The first thing that search engines do when they visit your site is to log your domain name – they’ve logged it even before visiting your website!

So, if you supply widgets and your domain name is abc-company.com then you’re going to be off to a slow start for people to find companies who manufacture widgets!

What if you also registered the following websites and had them as domain aliases (i.e. replicas of your site and settings without having to duplicate the data):

  • abc-widgets.com
  • widgets-manufacturers.com
  • supply-widgets.com

Not particularly pretty domain names, but do you care what other domain names your website has? Google does!!

10 eMarketing Tips #7: Register Your Website

Aug 07, 2010

This might sound like pretty obvious advice – but you’d be surprised at how many people upload their new website and wonder why it’s not appearing in any search engines!

There are 2 main website directories that you have to be included in:

  • DMOZ (www.dmoz.org) – the Open Project Directory – Google™ finds most new websites here
  • Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com or www.yahoo.co.uk) – another major supplier to search engine spiders and other search engines

Targeted Reciprocal Links will help you get into the Search Engines even quicker!