Google+: The Beginning of a Revolution?

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.


The pieces are rapidly falling into place for Google’s increasing integration of “social signals” into its search algorithms. With the oddly isolated “+1” button launch at the end of March and the seemingly abrupt end of its agreement with Twitter in early July — see “Google Loses Access to Twitter Stream, Suspends Realtime Search,” on Mashable — it seemed that Google was dropping the social ball yet again.

Instead Google surged forward with Google+, its month-old social network based on sharing specific content to specific circles. From the users’ perspective, it’s like Gmail and GTalk combined with Facebook, but far more engaging. From Google’s perspective it’s the missing piece that connects the social dots between its products and provides a unique source of social-signal data to feed its ever-growing algorithms. Assuming Google+ realizes its potential, Google has the beginnings of a revolution on its hands.

Read more »

Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Rel=Canonical Consolidates Google +1’s Too

While researching how to add the +1 button, I came across this interesting tidbits on using rel=canonical to consolidate +1’s to the canonical version of a page. This bit from the FAQ is interesting because it mirrors advice on canonicalizing URLs to consolidate link juice, which points to a possible future in which +1’s enjoy a similar level of algorithmic importance as links do. Otherwise, why bother to worry about canonicalizing for them, hmmm?

From Google’s +1 FAQ:

However, your site may make the same content available via different URLs. For example, your site may have several pages listing the same set of products. One page might display products sorted in alphabetical order, while other pages display the same products listed by price or by rating. For example:

If Google knows that these pages have the same content, we may index only one version for our search results. As a result, +1’s for the other versions may not appear in search results.

You can make sure Google displays +1 annotations for the most search results possible by adding the rel=”canonical” property to the non-preferred versions of each page. This property should point to the canonical version, like this:

This tells Google: “Of all these pages with identical content, this page is the most useful. Please prioritize it in search results.” Now, when a user +1’s a page with a non-canonical URL, Google will associate that +1 with the canonical, preferred version.

Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

As Seen on GKT: Disneyland Bar

Google Keyword Tool is a window into the world’s innermost desires. Often the keywords reported are mundane and predictable: [hotels at disney], [disneyland restaurants], etc. Some days, however, I’m struck by a particular phrase and the intent behind it. To the keyword phrases that brighten my days I dedicate this “As Seen on GKT” column.

Today’s As Seen on GKT: [disneyland bar] and [club at disneyland]

People go to Disneyland to have a good time. For some people having a good time is synonymous with partying, and for others it means photos of the kids with Snow White. These two search phrases show different sides of the “having a good time” coin, which is what fascinates me most.

  1. Bars: It’s hard to mistake the intent here. People looking for bars in or around Disneyland are either there to party, or there with the whole fam-damn-ily and in need of something to dull the edge. The [bars near disneyland] query caught my attention first and got me thinking about the parents who just wanted to wander off and drown out the shrieking scene with a stiff drink or five. But who am I to say. Last time I went to Disneyworld with my then-princess-obsessed daughter Hazel I had a glass of wine or two and quite enjoyed myself. But I didn’t feel the need to tie one on or search out the available bars nearby. There’s a difference and it puts a pretty big downer on the whole “Happiest Place on Earth” thing.
  2. Clubs: While bars have a more depressing connotation in my opinion, clubs have a celebratory connotation. You go to a club to dance and have fun, not to sit on a stool and stare into your cups. When I happened upon the search queries for [club at disneyland] and the like, I realized there’s another side to drinking at Disney — the fun side! I could especially recall all the 20-somethings I saw at Disneyworld and the great fun they were having. Of course they’d seek clubs as part of their trip. OK, that’s less depressing.
  3. Secret Club: But what’s this? A secret Disneyland club? Keyword research exposes you to some of the coolest stuff you never knew existed. Like a secret members-only club in the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland. If you’ve got a couple extra grand lying around and love Disneyland, check out Club 33 for the elite experience. Apparently.
What I found interesting overall is that “club” keywords associated with “disneyland” outweigh “bar” keywords 14:1. Some of those “club” searchers may be looking for travel clubs, fan clubs or book clubs, but if that was the intent it’s more likely they’d search for the “disney” brand overall than the “disneyland” theme park. We’ll just agree that there may be some intent contamination in the “club” searcher data set, but even so it appears far more people want to find clubs than bars at Disneyland.
Which frankly cheers me up more than it should, really. It’s rather life affirming to think that there are more celebratory intent searches than “I can’t bear my family vacation” searches. So let’s all have a drink to Mickey and the crew.

Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Google URL Removal Snafu No Big Deal?

Barry Schwartz broke the news today on Search Engine Land that Google’s URL removal tool has allowed you remove URLs from ANY domain, not just domain you own and verify.

Yes it’s a faux pas on Google’s part and clearly needs to be fixed, but how is it much more than an annoyance? Google’s guidelines for the tool state that the URL requested for removal needs to either 404 or be restricted using meta robots noindex or a robots.txt disallow either before or soon after you submit for removal.

To ensure your content is permanently removed, you must do one of the actions below before or soon after you submit your URL removal request. If you don’t, your site may later reappear in search results.

So unless the site owner you’re trying to sabotage has kindly already sabotaged himself using one of these methods (404, etc.) the removal from Google’s index should be temporary, especially for sites that are crawled frequently. Which makes sense because the same Google Webmaster Tools help page also states that the tool is for emergency URL removal. If it’s that big of an emergency then it should be removed from the site as well. Google recognizes that you can’t always do that immediately, but if after several crawls that URL is crawlable and there happily serving a 200 OK, it’s fair game again for indexaion.

Still, Google had wisely disabled the feature for now.

Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

XML Sitemaps: Dexy’s Midnight Runners of SEO

Yesterday on the train, Brian R. Brown and I were chatting about orphaned pages, XML sitemaps and indexation without benefits. Brian referred to XML sitemaps as the “one hit wonder of SEO.” Brilliant! XML sitemaps, like Dexy’s Midnight Runners, are one hit wonders.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners, for those of you who missed the 80s, are famous for their one hit “Come on, Eileen.” XML sitemaps are famous for inviting the crawl. And just like Dexy’s Midnight Runners don’t have any other great songs, XML sitemaps really don’t provide anything other than a way to request that search engine spiders crawl your site. This comparison just begs for a Weird Al-style lyrics mod:

Come on Crawl Me,
I swear (well he means)
At this sitemap
You’ll find everything…

Actually Blondie’s “Call Me” was screaming for a “Crawl Me” spoof, but you can hardly call Blondie a one-hit wonder. Anyway, back to XML sitemaps.

What XML Sitemaps Do

  • Invite search engines to crawl specific URLs

What XML Sitemaps Do Not Do

  • Guarantee crawling of URLs included in the XML sitemap
  • Block crawling of URLs not included in the XML sitemap
  • Guarantee indexation
  • Improve rankings
  • Drive traffic or sales
It reminds me of  the horseshoe nail proverb:
For want of the crawl indexation was lost.
For want of indexation rankings were lost.
For want of rankings the visitors were lost.
For want of visitors the site was lost.
And all for the want of a crawl.
I’m taking a few liberties, but the premise is the same. No crawl, no organic search visitors. End of story. In this regard, XML sitemaps play a role in the initial discovery of your URLs.


The XML sitemap rolls out the red carpet and invites search engines to crawl and index the URLs you’ve so thoughtfully included. This, in turn, can increase indexation for large, complex sites that contain of thousands of pages. On such sites it could take even a committed bot (like Googlebot) many visits to crawl the whole site, especially if it keeps encountering duplicate content. Less thorough bots (I’m looking at you Bingbot) might take even longer to discover new content. A conscientiously updated and autodiscoverable XML sitemap helps bots find new URLs, which should speed time to indexation and rankings if the content is valuable.


Learn more about XML sitemaps at Google Webmaster Tools.


PS: “Come on, Eileen” makes me involuntarily dance like Elaine. It’s not pretty but I love the song anyway.

Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.