Caution: The opinions in the following blog post represent my own as a guest blogger—not necessarily Search Engine Marketing Group’s or Gerald Weber’s. Just sayin’…
Okay, I’ve got to get something off my chest here. It’s been building and building and if I don’t scream it from the mountain tops, my chest is going to explode. So here it is. Are you ready.
GO TO HELL, GOOGLE PLUS!
Wow. There. I said it. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares. Big deal, so you hate it. You’re a Facebook groupie. Or a Twitter Tweeter. Or whatever. Big deal, join the club.”
Ah, but see, it’s different for me. Why? Because I’m busy trying to pull my foot out of my mouth. Not sure what I’m talking about? Checkout this post I made on my blog a few months back, in which I said that Google Plus was basically going to murder Facebook.
Here’s the deal. I wanted Google Plus to be our savior. You know, the one to topple the world system (i.e. Facebook) and bring revolution to the social media world. I prayed that it was true. I hoped with everything within me. In fact, I wanted it to be the case so badly that I wrote a post daring people to argue otherwise with me.
But here I am, a few months later, barely even blinking when I see my Google Plus notifications box pop up. Why? Here’s what I’ve narrowed it down to:
- My friends aren’t into it. Well, a couple of them maybe. But most of the updates I’m reading are from people I barely know. And quite frankly, I could care less what most of them have to say.
- People keep adding me and I have no clue who they are. Not sure what the deal is, but I sear the last million people to put me in their circles—I don’t know them. No clue at all. And let’s face it, I don’t really feel like getting to know them.
- I’m in too deep with the other social networks. My worst fear. I’m too tied into Facebook and Twitter to quit. I’m an addict. Sad, yet so true.
Now, am I saying Google Plus won’t beat them out in the end? Not necessarily. When you compare Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus you can definitely put together a solid argument in Google Pluses favor. But as for now, as for me…sorry Google Plus. I just don’t have the time or the patience.
If you provide some kind of SEO-related services, there will come a time when your client or boss looks you in the eye and says something like this:
“Yeah, so about those page edits you recommended…
We’re actually quite happy with the current design of our landing page, and our tests have shown that adding text to the page actually decreases conversions. So…um…is there any way you could optimize this page…like…without adding all those words to it?”
To most SEO’s, the idea of achieving top rankings in a competitive niche–without putting keyword-rich content on the page–is unrealistic if not downright ridiculous. But from a design perspective, we also have to acknowledge that text and keywords are not always what’s best for Users. Sometimes, the best User experience comes from a simple, minimalistic interface with no distractions.
The Google home page itself is a perfect example. Arguably one of the most valued resources on the Web, and certainly one of the most visited, google.com currently displays a total of 25 words.
But what if Google was your client, and they wanted you to optimize their home page to rank for keyword phrases related to search engine…
Would you recommend something like this instead?
Hmm…no, that’s not going to work. So it’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it? On the one hand, you’re trying to satisfy your client and their Users by providing a slick, clutter-free interface…and on the other hand, you’re trying to be mindful of Google’s relentless addiction to plain text content. So what do you do?
But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could fill your landing pages with SEO-friendly content…without it getting in the way of your Users?
Luckily, there’s a solution. It’s called hidden content.
* GASP! *
That’s right, folks…if you’re trying to improve your website’s User experience without hurting your search engine rankings, then you need to start hiding some content–ASAP. But you can’t just hide it anywhere–you need to hide it somewhere where search engines will see it for sure…but Users won’t.
Wait... isn't that SPAM?
That depends on a number of variables, but the short answer is:
No, it’s not spam. It’s not even gray hat SEO. Hiding content is perfectly acceptable, as long as you do it right.
Which brings us to the million-dollar question…
What is the right way to hide content?
Unfortunately, Google isn’t likely to provide a useful answer anytime soon. So you know what? I’m going to take a crack at it. Seriously. I’m going to make a genuine effort to lay down some technical guidelines for all the aspiring content-hiders out there, and I’m going to do so without pretending like “your intent” has anything to do with it.
So here we go. First I’m going to suggest the guidelines; then I’m going to provide a working example that incorporates all of these best practices.
A Perfect Example of Hidden Content
If you don’t really understand the BITCH, don’t worry–I have an example for you. And this isn’t just any ol’ example; this is my attempt at creating a perfect example.
Let’s say you have a news blog with the 10 most recent stories showing on the home page. For whatever reason, you decide that the home page should include the full text of each post. The problem is…your Users are overwhelmed by all that text, and all they really want is an easy way to scan the latest headlines before they choose a story to read. The solution…hide some content!
- Compare the HTML source between the two versions. What differences do you see?
- What is the likelihood of Google flagging the Hidden Content page as suspicious or deceptive?
Download the Hidden Content Example
The live examples linked to above are hosted on GitHub. This means you can easily download the source code files for your own personal or commercial use (files are released under a non-restrictive free software license). And for the truly advanced SEO’s out there: you can even fork it or suggest improvements via pull requests.
This is a guest post from Shannon Evans. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
Being in the SEO business now for a couple of years, I have read many articles on SEO. Countless posts discuss how SEO is both an art and science. I agree on both these points, however I also think a little bit of luck also goes into the mix.
Even though no one but a few people at Google (cough Matt Cutts cough) know exactly what the SERPs are going to generate, we can do enough experiments to figure out a few things.
We know how to search relevant keywords, links from high ranking sites give us juice and what worked last month may or may not work this month. We may not have white coats and work in a lab, but SEO specialists are scientists of the Internet. We do experiments constantly and try to get our sites on the coveted first page of Google.
Keeping strict records of all link building efforts and analyzing all of the data you keep is a must in the SEO industry. Are certain keywords not preforming like they used to? Did you do something different? If not, you need to move your strategy in a new direction. In the SEO world Excel and other tools are your best friend.
There is also an art to SEO. Sometimes you know a keyword may not be highly searchable, but if you play around and think of similar words you could hit SEO gold. It takes a very analytical person to be a great scientist, but in SEO you need to be analytical and artistic.
Take guest posting for example. We know guest posts help with link building, yet if you can’t write a great article chances are you won’t get your link on many blogs. Now not all SEO specialists write guest posts. However, when looking at all the data you collect on a monthly basis, you need to be able to think outside the SEO box. How can you take your efforts to the next level. That is something your tools or Excel won’t tell you.
Ok, I might be going out on a limb here, but I think some of SEO is luck. Maybe not all the time, but there are those rare occations you just figure out something on accident—or as I like to put it luck. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does its fantastic.
It’s not to say that you didn’t implement an idea without an educated guess. However, I am a believer in luck. Maybe it’s the optimist inside me, but I think sometimes you take a leap of faith and it works. Sometimes the word luck gets used negatively, but in this instance I think sometimes when you stumble upon something that works, it’s luck.
Are you still struggling to regain your pre-Panda traffic levels? Then following these five steps may be just what you need to get back on track:
Understand That The Panda is a Different Kind of Animal
Many of Google’s big algorithmic changes are related to off-page elements. When a site is impacted by one of these changes, they can commonly fix it by attracting more quality links. From holding a blog contest to putting real effort into guest blogging, there are plenty of ways to tackle this challenge.
But the Panda update does not fit into this mold. This change is about the content and structure of your website. It’s also different because any changes you make may not have an immediate impact on your rankings. Although Google has rolled out at least 5 versions of Panda, it can take some time for any changes you make to be registered.
The good news is while you may have to wait for any changes you implement to sway Google’s opinion of your site, the improvements themselves don’t have to take a long time to make.
Find Where People are Leaving
Although there are shortcomings to using bounce rate as a metric, it can provide valuable insight into areas of your site that are falling short.
You should pull up your analytics data and sort your content by bounce rate. For your pages with the highest bounce rate, you need to ask yourself whether or not people should be leaving that page.
For example, a landing page that sends visitors to a third-party payment processor probably won’t have a low bounce rate. However, if it’s an article or blog post, you want people to engage with it and then continue exploring your site.
Bring in Visitors with the Right Headline
A strong headline is an extremely powerful tool. In addition to including your keyword phrase so Google knows what a page is about, you want to grab searchers’ attention when they see your listing on a SERP.
In addition to not being dull, you also want to ensure your page delivers what the headline promises. If you have a killer headline but lackluster content, people are going to hit the back button, which is not something Google wants to see.
By sharpening the headlines of your worst performers and adding any needed polish to the content of those pages, you can provide users with a top notch experience.
Add Related Links
Have you ever gone to Wikipedia to look up a single fact, only to then glance at your clock and realize you’ve been on the site for over half an hour?
The reason it’s so easy to get sucked into Wikipedia is the site does an excellent job of interlinking. You should do the same with your own content. One reason people may be quickly leaving your blog posts or articles is because you don’t give them anywhere interesting to go.
Look at your pages that are performing the worst and make them more interesting by adding relevant links in their body or at the end. If you’re using WordPress, the Related Posts plugin can help make this change extremely easy to implement.
Add Relevant Videos
There’s no value into pulling a bunch of random videos onto your site. However, a video that relates to the topic of a post or article can make that content much more engaging.
By browsing around YouTube for just a few minutes, you should be able to find at least a couple of videos that will increase visitors’ engagement with your content.
If you or your clients were impacted by Panda but have since recovered, let us know what change(s) were most effective!
On Friday, Search Engine Land confirmed that Google is testing frames for search options and results. If this becomes a permanent change, it will give searchers even more control over finding exactly what they want.
Because of Google’s push towards giving users even more control over searches and the fact that SERP CTR can influence your rankings, it’s more important than ever to ensure your SERP listings are as appealing as possible.
To accomplish this important goal, here are effective options you can implement today:
Have a page that includes reviews? What about dates? Since Google supports 5 different microformats, you should be able to incorporate this option on quite a few of your pages.
Because microformats can add rich details like stars or dates directly to your SERP listings, they can make your listings stand out from others and attract clicks from interested searchers.
SEO Effect did a study in June to determine the impact of the Google +1 button. In addition to their other findings, the study determined that “the Google +1 button saw a 20% increase in rankings which led to a corresponding lift in Clickthrough rate (CTR).”
Even though the exact measurements of this study are likely far from perfect, the bottom line is it’s well worth taking the time to install this Google feature on your blog or site.
Include a Price
While this won’t apply to every page of your website, it is relevant for listings tied to products or services. If a page is showcasing something that a visitor can purchase, include the price in your title or description tag.
Although including a price in your title tag can provide the biggest boost, there is a potential downside. According to RedFly Marketing, “if you’re not the cheapest, your CTR will suffer.” To minimize the potential for this problem, you probably want to stick with including the price in the description.
Entice Searchers to Click
Your title tag isn’t only for including a relevant keyword phrase. It’s also the perfect opportunity for you to entice searchers to click.
You should put the same amount of effort into writing a title for each page of your website as you would for writing a blog post or newspaper article title.
If you don’t have much experience writing persuasive titles, Copyblogger has a great crash course that will show you how to craft juicy ones for your SERP listings.
The world is positively buzzing with talk of the latest and greatest ‘Cloud Based’ offerings from the tech giants, but what is it they are really after?
A lot of hype surrounds vaporous services such as Apple’s iCloud, Google’s Chromebook, Cloud Music and multitude of web-apps, the Amazon Cloud and even poor old Microsoft’s Office 365.
We could be forgiven for thinking something innovative was afoot.
But what’s new, really? The act of using a search engine was one of the first manifestations of cloud computing. Rather than every internet user needing 5 million Terabytes of data storage in their basement, we sensibly share the resources of servers in remote data centres. Without needing a name for it consumers have been enthusiastically embracing other ‘cloud computing’ concepts – and feeding the data collectors – since the early days of webmail in the 1990’s.
Google was the first company to realise the full potential of storing and indexing our data when it successfully monetised the nominally ‘free’ function of search provision.
Through Gmail, Google Analytics, the verging-on-compulsory nature of various Google accounts, YouTube accounts, blogging services, Google Apps and even News distribution, most web users can’t really live or do their jobs without feeding Google enormous amounts of invaluable data about themselves. The towering technological achievements of Google Earth, Streetview, book-scanning projects, self-driving cars – and who knows what else – are all part of this data feast. Even where the end-use of data is not yet clear, Google collects it anyway.
Of course, it’s definitely not all doom and gloom. Providing open, global access to much of this information is to be applauded as real libertarian progress, and the attempts of oppressive regimes to cut people off from web resources are a testament to their social power. The more idealistic among us can still argue that ‘the Google plan’ might actually amount to an empowering, egalitarian information philosophy of share and share alike which benefits us all.
But hang on – scrape away all the insubstantial talk of ‘cloud-based innovation’ drifting gently across the technological horizon and witness the big players competing to own even more of your data.
What do you mean your music?
With iTunes, software, and the iPod series, Apple has succeeded in taking the lion’s share of the global music market. What I’ve always hated about these services is the way Apple makes me feel like they own my music collection. Half the fun of music has always been the sense of discovery; that rare 45 in a charity shop record box, an awesome mix-tape from a friend, or things like the unknown Jimi Hendrix tapes discovered in a New York rubbish skip. Aficionados of any style are still happiest hanging out, listening, learning and buying with a like-minded and knowledgeable friend in the local record shop and taking a physical object home. If we let the tech giants have their way, all this will be impossible in the near future.
If Apple’s iCloud takes off, you won’t actually have music on any of your devices and ‘buying’ an album will be reduced to owning the right to stream it. Apple will effectively still own and control the data you have paid for, so any issue with hardware or internet connection and there’s no music for you, dear customer. How long until they charge extra to ‘distribute’ your music through loudspeakers instead of headphones?
As many observant journalists, bloggers and media pundits have been quick to point out, another very odd thing about the cloud storage offering is that there really is absolutely no point for most of us. I can buy a Terabyte of storage round the corner for less than fifty pounds. Even the most voracious video downloader or digital content producer can now afford to store and backup their data across multiple locations. What I need to share is easily emailed, drop-boxed or just transferred wherever via FTP.
Everything I do, I do it for you
Google’s Chromebook concept takes all this data-grabbing even further and looks like a premature and probably doomed attempt to absorb information from every computer interaction you perform.
The Chromebook isn’t a computer in the traditional sense, but what has been known in IT virtualisation circles for years as a thin client. The Chromebook is less than a computer, less even than the iPad; nothing more than an interface which allows you to interact with websites and online apps. Pre-loaded with the Chrome browser ‘OS’, loaded with bookmarks to Google web apps, devices like the Chromebook probably could replace your desktop, laptop and smart-phone. But imagine not storing anything locally, and handing everything to Google on a plate.
Everything you type, every document you create, every email you send, every search you make, every video chat, phone call or IM, every film you stream, every TV show you watch, literally every single computing, social, working or leisure action in your day will be captured, stored, analysed, and eventually monetised by Google – or whoever they sell the data to.
Even if you don’t see a problem with the philosophical implications of data control, see it in practical terms;
Most people stand to gain nothing from these services, while the companies launching them will be in the enviable position of being paid to gain the data they want.
One of the most frightening aspects of website ownership is the constant threat of being penalized by Google. This morose uncertainty is like living with a cloud over your head. Not everyone is entirely certain causes the “Wrath of Google” to come down on them. A lot of honest webmasters often times think they are being penalized and sometimes this is just not the case.
What is the reason for this confusion? Basically no one knows form day to day exactly what will result in a penalty. The actions that will cause one to incur a penalty are changed and updated without much warning. Using only the “White Hat SEO” practices is one way to ensure that you never have to worry about a penalty. If this were to happen only those who are not honest or legitimate would incur Google’s censure.
By doing only what is considered appropriate and safe you can avoid many of the known triggers and this will allow you to work online with peace of mind. It will also ensure that you have better results in the SERPs. (Search engine results pages)
The people who regularly incur penalties all have one thing in common. That is, they did not thoroughly read and understand the policies of Google and their terms and conditions (or perhaps they read them and intentionally ignored them). The worst possible penalty is that your site could be banned from this search engine industry leader. This is a potential revenue loss that few of us can afford. Why risk this when it is so simple touse only good search engine SEO practices.
The following are the major reasons users get banned from Google.
1) “Buying Links” from shady Web sites (or really buying links from any Web sites)
2) Participaing in link farms
3) Intentionally constructing your Web site to “trick” google spiders
4) Overlinking to you Web site too quickly, using the same anchor text
5) Cloaking your Web site and using doorway pages
6) Optimizing more than one similar Web site for the same keyword
The most minor infraction of a term of service or policy can result in your webpage losing rank in the search engine’s ranking. Of course this is relative and could possibly seem harsh to some. It may result in you falling 3-4 spots, 10-20 spots, or it could even drop you out of the first 1000 spots. It all depends on the severity of the infraction and the mood of the Google employee on the other end on that particular day.
As a webmaster it is much easier to follow the rules than to bounce back after censure. So learn what the terms are and use only acceptable SEO to avoid making Google angry. To paraphrase the Incredible Hulk, “You will not like Them When They Are Angry!”
Chrome Seo for modern search engine optimizers, search engine marketers and webmasters. Now more than ever seo is tied directly to the live web and real-time actions. Blog farms and scrapers, gave way to mass social spam and vote rigging. Brokering links was safe, then unsafe for Google whitehat seo, and everything in between. Page rank was abandoned even though its still with us. No-follow links and page sculpting turned out to be a shame, even with proof of concept.
Now oddly like once before we must track the structure and wider statistics. Serp rank, page rank, site rankings and social authority all now weigh against the new real-time focus. Links are still important but reputation global impact and social reach are just as much a search ranking factor in modern search analysis.
Google’s chrome browser has been with us now for many month but only recently opened the extension arsenal to the world. Social tools, blog extensions, seo plugins and more can all be found. That was half the problem. With so many changes happening every day in the world of search more than the same old tools were needed. With so many old idea once again seeing the light of viable search marketing use, the old tools were sorely needed.
After weeks of trolling the Google extensions directory I was able to round up a multi-layer seo toolkit of chrome extensions. Combine they can take a large chunk of dismay in your conversion to chrome, the extensions we need to assess our clients sites, links and reputation are now includable. The list includes three sections of focus, seo data, site research and technical helpers for the search marketers and seo’s trade.
The SEO ranking and Analysis Section:
The Google Chrome SEO extension provides easy access to Search Engine Optimization Tools that can help you with Competitive Analysis, Keyword Research, Backlink Checks and other daily SEO tasks. [link]
Current functions list:
- Pages Indexed on: Bing, Google, Yahoo
- Backlinks as reported by : Alexa, Bing, Google, MajesticSeo, Yahoo
- Current Traffic and Rankings as reported by : Alexa, Compete, Google PageRank, Quantcast, SEMRush, Technorati
- Social Bookmark counts on : Delicious, Digg, Dmoz, StumbleUpon,
- Cached Versions of the website from : Archive.org, CoralCDN, Google, WebCite
- Domain Details such as : DNS, IP Address, Server Location, Whois details
A friend of mine reported seeing these new options in Google and sent me this screen shot and video. Notice you now see additional search options above the search by time frame options. The new search options read, everything, images, videos, news, blogs, updates, books, maps, shopping, more.
I did not see these new search options on my end, but I have some similar options as you can see by the second screen shot below. Notice the options are similar but slightly different. In this second example you also see forums as an additional search option.
I can’t help but wonder is Google is doing split testing live? Possibly a realtime multivariant test by the king of search. Let me know what you unveil to in the comments