Posts Tagged ‘ Search engine optimization

Google & Bing Disagree On Rel=Canonical Implementation

Google vs Bing Rel=Canonical

Bing recently posted an article:  Managing redirects – 301s, 302s and canonicals

As someone that works with Enterprise level sites on a regular basis, I deal with duplicate content & the canonical tag a lot. What really jumped out in Duanne’s article is this (emphasis added is my own):

Something else you need to keep in mind when using the rel=canonical is that it was never intended to appear across large numbers of pages.  We’re already seeing a lot of implementations where the command is being used incorrectly.  To be clear, using the rel=canonical doesn’t really hurt you.  But, it doesn’t help us trust the signal when you use it incorrectly across thousands of pages, yet correctly across a few others on your website.

A lot of websites have rel=canonicals in place as placeholders within their page code.  Its best to leave them blank rather than point them at themselves.  Pointing a rel=canonical at the page it is installed in essentially tells us “this page is a copy of itself.  Please pass any value from itself to itself.  No need for that.

This surprised me as it contradicts what we’ve been told by Google, and also contradicts my opinions on best practices for the canonical tag. I have a deep respect for Duanne, so I’m only raising this as an issue because the rel=canonical tag is supposed to be jointly supported by Google & Bing, yet we’re getting very different direction on how it should be used.

For instance, in this Google Webmaster Help video (H/T to James Constable for the link), Matt Cutts says “it doesn’t hurt to have this on every page of your site.”

Likewise, in the Google Blog, Maile Ohye of Google says “Yes, it’s absolutely okay to have a self-referential rel=”canonical”. It won’t harm the system and additionally, by including a self-reference you better ensure that your mirrors have a rel=”canonical” to you.”

Further evidence Google says its okay to have both a self-referential rel=canonical tag as well as to use the canonical tag site-wide can be found in this SEOmoz post, as well as another Google Webmaster Help video from Matt Cutts saying its okay.

I asked some of the top SEO minds on Twitter as to their opinion, and they all seem to support the notion that is okay to use the canonical tag site-wide and include self-referential canonical tags. Here are their responses:

 @Thos003: I use rel=canonical on it’s own page to deal with URL strings. I find this article disturbing

@rbucich: of course you can! Either I don’t understand the question or the person who said no doesn’t

@ajkohn: Yes. I think rel=canonical is a safeguard for HTML barnacles that might attach themselves to the canonical URL.

@james_constable: YES it needs to for all ad tracking, parameter non sense you need to avoid dups.

@dannysullivan: i wasn’t aware this was a problem. i guess i don’t see that it is. google said it wasn’t bit.ly/pxoxwx

@halvorsen I do.

So, it seems were at an impasse – what are your thoughts – is it okay to use the rel=canonical tag sitewide? Is it okay to use the rel=canonical tag on the canonical version of the page?

Will you change your recommendations to clients (or your own sites) on how they should use the rel=canonical tag based on Bing’s latest blog post?

Your comments are appreciated.

**Update @MattCutts chimes in:

@nickroshon certainly it won’t mess things up with Google to do it on every page. Can’t speak for MSFT/Bing, of course. (link)

@nickroshon self-loops on canonical pages are fine. Otherwise you’re stuck doing per-page logic for every page; not fun. (link)

Matt Cutts tweets back

**Update 2: This post has gotten some great conversation going, and also picked up by a few other sites, so I wanted to link out to that as well. It appears the SEO community finds this to be an important issue, and it’s obvious duplicate content is the thorn in everyone’s side…thanks to all that have shared my post!

I’m not a Google Hater…

I’ve had a few posts about Google recently that were somewhat critical. I think it surprised people given how highly I’ve spoken of Google in the past…one friend even went as far as to call me a “Google Hater.”

I thought I’d clear the air – I’m not a Google hater. 

On the contrary, I’m still a Google lover. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • They have the best search engine bar none
  • They have the best advertising product/platform
  • Gmail is great (although I also use Hotmail)
  • Chrome is a pretty slick browser
  • Google Maps is light years better than MapQuest or Bing Maps
  • I’d love to get a Chromebook
  • I use an Android phone and think its a great product, although it’s no iPhone
  • Their story & company mission are admirable & inspiring

I have plenty of love for (most) Google products. 

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Jalopnik’s Cruel April Fools Joke

Autoblognik

Today is a April Fools – and the joke played by Jalopnik “Say Hello to Autoblognik and Goodbye to Me” struck a chord with me. It’s actually a decent premise for an April Fools joke – they claim they were acquired by Aol. (who has been on an acquisition binge of mainstream blogs) and that Aol. was going to re-do the site. The problem with this joke is that many formerly loyal readers of Jalopnik like myself would LOVE for this to happen.

Jalopnik used to be my favorite blog on the internet. I’d visit it 4-5 times a day, chat with my car buddies about it (“did you see that post on Jalopnik today? OMG it was awesome…”), and I was generally what you could call a Jalopnik fan-boy.

When the redesign of all Gawker Media sites launched a few months ago, Ray Wert pleaded to readers to be patient and try to get used to it – I did my best, visiting each day and trying to force myself to like it, or at least try to understand why they did it.

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Email Template for Requesting Permission to Link to a Site From Your Blog

An (unnamed) friend recently asked me if I had an email template he could use to proactively contact any blogs or websites he wanted to link to, and ask their permission first before placing the link in their post.

Here is the template I sent him:

Dear Webmaster,
Is it okay if we link to your website from our PageRank 6 domain that ranks in the top 5,000 most highly trafficked sites on Alexa? If you say no, I’ll assume you’re unfit to make decisions on behalf of your company and just place the link anyway, as you’d have to be certifiably insane to say no. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Your Name

Blogs are meant to be creative, interpersonal, casual, and collaborative.

Blogs are social media.

Do you ask permission before retweeting someone? Or liking someone else’s Facebook post?

Why ask permission before linking to someone? Is there a difference?

The Google Instant Announcement Parody, Xtranormal Style

Below is a parody-style recap of the Google Instant search announcement yesterday as recreated using Xtranormal. The gentleman sitting behind the desk is a fictional Danny Sullivan, and most of his quotes are lifted from tweets he made throughout the day (e.g. See, Google knows I’m not a teenage girl). The other fellow is a random “Search Noob” that pokes fun at all of the twitter commentators who kind of freaked out before fully comprehending the announcement…and lastly, the reference to Steve Rubel at the end is referring to a tweet he made that said “SEO is irrelevant” during the announcement, which definitely ruffled a lot of feathers. The “pistol whip” comment is also a subtle nod to one of my favorite movies, Super Troopers, in which Captain O’Hagan vows to pistol whip the next person to say Shenanigans, which prompts Mac to ask a leading question he knows Farva will answer with “Shenanigans.”

This is by no means meant to be disrespectful to anyone involved and is merely adding some humor to the situation, so if this offends you I am sorry in advance. To the rest of you, enjoy!

The First Three WordPress Plugins You Should Install

WordPress Admin Panel

I’ve recently started yet another WordPress blog (just like the default tagline says), bringing my total count up to four active blogs that I control. Now that I’m starting to get the hang of this, here are the first plugins I recommend installing right away on your new WordPress blog to kick things off on the right foot:

  1. Akismet – this blocks comment spam. If you don’t have this plugin, or one like it, you probably spend all day moderating your comments, or your blog is so new even spammers haven’t found it yet – but trust me, they will. Install Akismet and 99.9% of your spam problems will go away.
  2. WP Security Scan – after getting hacked last year, I realized WordPress has some pretty significant security flaws – since its open source, anyone can read the back end code and figure out how it all works – and everyone shares the same basic platform, which means that once you learn to hack one WordPress blog, chances are you can hack just about any of them. WP Security Scan both scans and fixes your WordPress blog for most common vulnerabilities, which will make it much harder for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your blog compared to the average WordPress install. This plugin takes seconds to install, but will save you hours of headache if a hacker every targeted you.
  3. WP Minify – a fast loading blog is a healthy blog. WP Minify compresses Javascript and CSS files to improve page load time. It’s well known within the SEO community that Google uses page load speed as part of their ranking algorithm, so every second you can shave off that loading speed can only help.

Of course, this list would be incomplete without mentioning two other things you should do as soon as you start a new blog:

  1. Sign up and verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools – this will alert you of any issues Google has crawling your site, as well as a wealth of other data like inbound links, relevant keywords, and much more. It will also get your site crawled by Google sooner rather than later, so you’ll start showing up in the search results.
  2. Sign up and implement Google Analytics, either using a plugin like Google Analytics for WordPress or manually inserting your tracking code into the footer. This will help you monitor site performance over time, and find referring networks that you can interact & engage with to grow a loyal base of readers to your blog. And since Google Analytics is completely free, there is no sense not collecting this data, even if you don’t plan on using it right away – in a few months, you’ll probably be interested and wish you had been tracking your site since the beginning.

I hope this was helpful – let me know if I left off any good suggestions in the comments section below!

10 Things I Learned at OMS Phoenix Yesterday

Online Marketing Summit Phoenix

I attended the Online Marketing Summit in Phoenix yesterday, and wanted to share a few insights & tips I learned. It was a great conference and it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and learn some new things. Thanks to everyone that made it possible! We covered a wide range of topics including SEO, Social Media, Conversion Optimization, Content Strategy, and everything in between. In no particular order, here were my favorite takeaways:

#10: Create a Search & Social Media Center for Excellence: Create a central repository for best practices, keywords, social media engagement guidelines, etc, for all employees. This will benefit everyone involved by:

  • Leveraging synergies across all of your digital channels – search, social, PR, web development, email marketing, and display.
  • Getting PR & Social Media people the proper URLs and anchor text for Press Releases & Social Media messaging, as well as tips for optimal distribution
  • Allowing more people to get involved with responding to complaints or questions via twitter & message boards by posting engagement guidelines. Phone support people can respond to complaints on twitter during downtime if they have training & knowledge base.

#9: A Cheaper Press Release – WebWire.com

  • I submit a ton of online press releases for clients through PRNewswire, Marketwire, and PRWeb – but they cost several hundred bucks a pop. It doesn’t look like the distribution network is as robust for Webwire, but for $20, that’s a cheap backlink at the very least…thanks @fionnd of Elixir for this tip!
Adwords Suggestions for the brand iCrossing

Adwords Tool Keyword Suggestions for the query iCrossing

#8: Search your brand & competitors & Adwords Tool – See what suggestions Google has for your brand name, and your competitors brand names in the Google Keyword Tool and Google Search Suggest.

  • This can be helpful to: find interesting keyword ideas for brand pages, find new content ideas & content gaps, and discover reputation management issues. Check out the image to the right for suggestions google had for the word “icrossing” – very on target!

#7: Some Cool Stats & Quotes

  • #1 position on SERP gets 43% of the clicks – Arnie K of Vertical Measures, a link building company
  • “Rankings are something you can influence, not something you can control” – Arnie K – good perspective
  • If you have a website, you are a publisher – Mike Corak
  • .The BEST time to post a blog is Tuesday morning, while the WORST is Friday afternoon. – Dan Tyre  of hubspot
  • “Brands must behave and enage like people do…” ~Brian Haven of iCrossing
  • Blogs are the unsung heroes of SEO
  • Do not neglect your blog child
  • If you talk to people the way advertising talked to people they’d punch you in the face – Steve Groves

#6: Check out your backlink diversity – diversity of backlinks has increased in importance in the past year or so – those with unnatural backlink profiles do not get the same benefits they used to. Don’t overdo one method of link building (e.g. directory submissions) if you’re not going to do others.

#5: Use Social Media Profile Pages for Quick & Free Backlinks – it’s easy to get links on many social networking sites, and even if they’re nofollowed, it’s still a great tool for reputation management and probably still pass along some SEO value as well. Examples: Naymz, 123People, BusinessWeek.com, Google Profiles, LinkedIn…

#4: The Real SEO Value of a No Follow Link? There was some discussion that a rel=nofollow link has been shown to influence rankings and has SEO value. Something to consider – don’t dismiss a link just because it’s nofollowed! In my personal experience I’ve seen evidence that there is some SEO value here as well, although I haven’t seen any conclusive case studies to prove it.

The last three tips were from Jeff Eisenberg, a famous conversion optimization expert who wrote “A Call to Action” along with his brother Bryan. This was the best presentation of the whole summit in my opinion, the whole presentation was captivating and inspiring – check him and his brother out at: http://www.bryaneisenberg.com/

#3: Analyze Every Word & Image on your Money Pages

  • When Dell changed “Learn More” to “Help Me Choose” on the computer configuration page, they saw an increase of MILLIONS of dollars. Why? When customers are ready to check out, they don’t want education (Learn More), but they do want help making sure they picked the right accessories & upgrades (Help Me Choose).
  • Another Example: Overstock.com had horrible conversions on their DVD page, something that should sell well. Turns out an image talking about Childrens Movies turned off users, thinking they were on the wrong page. They changed the image to something generic, and generated a $25m sales jump
  • The takeway? Understand the mindset of the customer, and talk in their language.

#2: Make your forms & check-out pages warm & fuzzy

  • Filing in Credit Card info is the scariest moment for the consumer, and where abandonment most commonly occurs.
  • Post your return policy, quality guarantees, etc, on this page and make the customer feel warm and fuzzy
  • Examples – adding customer testimonials on check-out page, always display savings (if applicable), show quality/product guarantees
  • Warren Buffet’s shoe company added a “Return-O-Meter” to their check out page showing how often a shoe is returned, and why (e.g. too wide, too small, etc). The result? Lower abandonment rate (higher confidence in purchase) plus fewer returns.

#1: Leverage Your Reviews!

  • The Eisenberg Brothers have been very successful using reviews to increase conversions.
  • With internal search on a website, allow users to search by Best Reviews/Most Reviews. When Customers Sort this way, there is a huge increase in conversions
  • Run promotions like Top Reviewed under $50. These types of categories convert much higher.
  • Another example: Vitacost – after a customer purchases something, Vitacost thanks them for the order and asks them to review – the result? Customers would go to Vitacost.com, review the product, and actually buy more products during that session!
  • Reviews have the ability to turn worthless customer (who buys very little, very infrequently, usually on sale, but leaves a review) into a very valuable customer, as their review may sway the big buyers.

PS If I mentioned something you said and didn’t properly attribute it back to you, please leave a comment and let me know and I’ll be happy to include a link back to your website or twitter profile! I was scribbling furiously on a notepad and some of the details got lost or mixed up…

My Interview With Target Marketing Mag & the AdAge Agency Report

I’m really excited about a recent interview I had for an article in Target Marketing Magazine on how to create well optimized Page Titles. As many of you know, Page Titles are pretty important for on-page optimization, yet there is an art involved with crafting them to be user friendly and encourage click-throughs as well. I think we had a great conversation and the article is a really useful piece for those interested in SEO. Check out the interview here or read the transcript below.

Secondly, I’m happy to report AdAge has recognized iCrossing’s continued industry leadership in Search. In the latest Agency Report, iCrossing was named the number one search marketing agency, number 12 digital agency, and 48th largest agency in the world. That’s quite the feat! This was our second consecutive year of being named the top search marketing agency by AdAge, and I’m proud to be a part of this company.

Target Marketing

7 Page Title Best Practices

April 21, 2010 By Heather Fletcher

Home. The word evokes feelings of warmth and comfort—a place to belong. It doesn’t necessarily bring to mind the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Yet that’s the page title the religious institution chose for its homepage.

By contrast, the page title for the green American Express card’s main page is far better: “American Express Green Charge Card—Travel, Shopping, Dining and Entertainment Rewards.”

While the page title for the Archdiocese of San Francisco could clearly use some work, the AmEx one isn’t perfect, either. This is the advice from Jeff Jones, senior product manager for Barrie, Ont.-based search engine optimization firm gShift Labs. AmEx, for instance, might want to move its branding to the end of the page title, he says.

“Titles are really simple, right?” he asks. “I mean, right off the bat, that’s your most important on-page factor.”

Below, Jones and Nick Roshon, natural search analyst for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based digital marketing agency iCrossing, advocate best practices for improving page titles and thereby aiding search marketing efforts.

1. Describe. “Think of a page title like the title of a book chapter,” Roshon says. “Your titles should be descriptive of the page’s content and communicate to users what the page is all about.”

But there’s no need to make the page title and content identical. “When writing a blog post or article, your page title does not have to match your article/post headline exactly; however, both should contain the keywords or phrases you are optimizing for,” he says. “If you are writing a post on ‘Tips for Writing SEO Friendly Page Titles,’ you will want to reuse those keywords you are targeting in the page title, such as: ‘SEO Optimized Page Titles|How to Write SEO Friendly Page Titles’ for your page title.

“Typically, you can be more aggressive with inserting the keywords in the page title than the article headline, as the article headline should focus more on grabbing the reader’s attention and convincing them to read the article once they’re already at your website, whereas the page title is simply trying to get users to visit your website in the first place,” Roshon continues. “It is very common for article headlines to be coded in an

tag, and words within an

tag are given greater importance by search engines. So having your keywords appear somewhere in the article headline will be beneficial to SEO.”

2. Keep it unique. If marketers create duplicate titles, “basically, you’re competing with yourself” for search ranking, Jones says. There’s already enough competition, so why add to it?

3. Put the most important words/phrases in front, in order of importance. “Google will only index up to 80 characters,” Roshon says. “So if you have multiple keywords you are targeting on a page and they can’t all fit within 80 characters, give some consideration to which keywords are most important to you and which keywords need the most help to rank better, and insert the keywords that best align with your objectives.”

For example, an iCrossing travel and hospitality client might use the following on a category level page featuring travel deals: “Vacation Packages, Hotel Deals & Last Minute Travel Deals | Brandname.com.” Roshon says the page title that comes in at 72 characters leaves out “some higher value keywords, like hotel specials, weekend getaways, vacation discounts, etc.,” in order to stay within that 80 character limit.

Next comes the keyword and keyphrase order. Roshon says: “The keywords that should come first should be your most competitive keywords that best describe the content of the page. In the above example, ‘Vacation Packages’ was determined to be the most important and competitive keyword, followed by ‘Hotel Deals.’ ”

4. Keep it short. Roshon mentions above that Google indexes 80 characters. Jones says page titles that long will be truncated on the search engine results page (SERP). So both suggest that marketers consider short titles. “Google will only display up to 64 characters of your page title in the search engine results page,” Roshon says. Marketers should only add characters if they “have a compelling reason to do so,” he says.

For instance, Roshon cites, the travel and hospitality client’s page title may truncate as so: “Vacation Packages, Hotel Deals & Last Minute Travel Deals …” (As a sidenote, the AmEx page title truncates on the SERP this way: “American Express Green Charge Card—Travel, Shopping, Dining and …”)

5. Leave brand words at the end. Jones says marketers are always going to rank OK for their brand names and company names. Roshon agrees, but adds: “A notable exception would be if your brand name is competitive or you have reputation management issues. So be aware of any downsides of this tactic before implementing.”

6. Keep formatting consistent. “If you capitalize every word on one page, and separate keywords with a ‘|’ symbol, then be sure your other page titles also capitalize every word and use a ‘|’ to separate keyword phrases,” Roshon says. “Consider creating a style guide with preferred formatting and tone for page titles if multiple people are writing titles, or you have a lot of titles to write.”

7. Pay attention to the analytics. Search ranking is great, but what if no one clicks through? “While it’s tempting to stuff your title with as many keywords as possible, users may be turned off when they see your page title returned in the search results if it is too keyword-rich and spammy sounding,” Roshon says. “Having nicely formatted, well-presented page titles with your keywords gently and appropriately placed will provide both SEO benefits (better rankings) as well as increased visitors (users actually [wanting] to click on your high rankings).”

DMOZ Proxy Error Problems March, 2010

UPDATE: DMOZ is now accepting submissions again as of March 30, 2010, and no Proxy Error appears. I was able to submit a few listings this morning to various categories without issue.

UPDATE 2: A reader commented below that a major overhaul of DMOZ is due to launch soon, dubbed DMOZ 2.0. I think this is a great move, because as it stands right now DMOZ is pretty irrelevant/useless, so they should either kill it off or revamp it completely. Given the traffic and perceived importance of the site, it would make sense for them to revitalize it instead of killing it off. Thanks James! Read more here: DMOZ 2.0 Rumored to Launch at End of March

Original PostI haven’t been able to submit any listings in the past three days to DMOZ and keep getting a proxy error that reads as the following: The proxy server could not handle the request GET /cgi-bin/add.cgi.

This could either be a back-end glitch, or DMOZ is temporarily or permanently no longer accepting submissions. The directory itself will load, but if you try to submit anywhere to the directory, an error will occur preventing the “suggest a URL” page to load.

I’ve seen a few tweets from others confirming this issue , and I’ve tried on multiple machines and ISPs. I’ll keep this post updated if it gets fixed or learn of further information. As of right now there is no message on the DMOZ Blog indicating they aren’t accepting submissions.

It’s probably just a back-end glitch, but with traditional web directories become less and less important, part of me kind of hopes that this is a sign of DMOZ being prepared to be killed off. The mere fact that very few people have noticed or tweeted about it is an indicator of DMOZ’s dying importance – to me, it exists for nothing other than SEO purposes (and occasionally for Google to re-write spammy page titles), and tools/tactics that exist purely for SEO manipulation have a limited lifespan before they’re shut down or rendered obsolete. Is DMOZ obsolete? Should it be shut down for new submissions? Leave your two cents in the comments!

Now Posting on the iCrossing Great Finds Blog

I haven’t been posting as much here – but still actively blogging… Check out my latest posts on the iCrossing Great Finds blog:

So, if you’re looking for some fun SEO related reading, I suggest you go check out http://greatfinds.icrossing.com or add the RSS feed to your preferred Reader. And as always, I’m tweeting away at @nickroshon as well 🙂

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