Google Serves Even More Keyword “Not Available”

Fellow SEO fanatic and fiancé Brian Brown, director of product management at Covario, was the inspiration for this post. One of our many SEO over dinner conversations.

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Google’s Secure Search Squeezes SEO Planning and Reporting.”

Google’s secure SSL search protects users’ search results and the keywords they searched on. Unfortunately, it also poses a growing threat to data-driven search engine optimization. Firefox recently joined Google Chrome — and, for logged-in users — in defaulting to secure search. This has the side effect of increasing the number of “Not Available” or “Not Provided” search keywords in web analytics reports.

In the past, SSL search was too slow and cumbersome to use as a default. Web analytics programs could easily pick out most of the keywords that referred traffic to the site from Today, with SSL search the default on for logged in users as well as the default on Chrome and Firefox browsers, a growing number of referral strings are coming into web analytics with no keyword information associated. Consequently, if a site optimizes a page for a certain keyword phrase, its ability to measure how many organic searches were referred from Google via that keyword phrase is diminished.


In 2011, Google reported that it handled 143.5 billion searches a month. Google represents 66.4 percent of the search engine market share, according to comScore’s February 2012 report. The Chrome and Firefox browsers together represent 39.8 percent of the browser market share, according to Net Market Share’s February 2012 reporting. Consequently, 26.4 percent — 66.4 x 39.8 — of all searches last month were conducted on Google in Chrome or Firefox. If this trend holds, 26.4 percent of all searches going forward will be stripped of their keyword data. And this doesn’t include the searches conducted by users logged in to Google properties and searching Google from any web browser.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Rich Snippets Add Eye-Catching Bling to Organic Search Results

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog: “Using Rich Snippets to Attract More Search Customers.”

Top rankings can be hard enough to achieve sometimes, but the battle for organic search clicks doesn’t stop with high rankings in Google and Bing. Search result bling, more commonly known as rich snippets, draws searchers’ eyes by adding visual flair to the plain blue link and black description that usually make up a search result snippet. The most commonly seen rich snippet adds yellow reviews stars next to some search results, but recipes, music, software applications, mug shots, videos and more can all be incorporated into search results as rich snippets.


For example, which of these search results for Jessica Simpson’s Evangela shoes grabs your eye? tops the organic search results with a video rich snippet at position 1, and Zappos is dead on their heels (pardon the pun) with a video snippet of their own. The number 3 result is a plain snippet for that gets lost in all the visual competition, and Google claims the 3.5 position for its own visually enhanced Google Shopping results.

Find out more about rich snippets and how to implement them. Read the article in full at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Cautiously Psyched for Google’s Planned Over-Optimization Penalty

I’m excited to see what google pulls out of it’s algorithmic bag of tricks next. The pre-announced over-optimization penalty should theoretically align SEOs more tightly with information architects, usability experts and professional content creators to produce sites that are great for users and great for driving users to sites via organic search. At least in theory. Of this happens, everyone wins but the spammers. If it doesn’t … It could be a bumpy ride for sites that rely on organic search traffic.

More on this topic from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Google Plans SEO Over-Optimization Penalty.”

Google’s head spam cop Matt Cutts announced the impending launch of a new over-optimization penalty to “level the playing ground.” The disclosure came earlier this month at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas during an open panel — entitled “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” — with Google’s and Bing’s webmaster and web spam representatives. Google’s goal for the penalty is to give sites that have produced great content a better chance to rank and drive organic search traffic and conversions.

Pretty much all site owners can point to the search results for their dearest trophy phrase and point out at least one site that just shouldn’t be allowed to rank. Competitive ire aside, sometimes sites have poor content but focus extra hard on their search engine optimization efforts. These sites are easy to spot. They usually have a keyword domain, lots of keyword-rich internal linking, and heavily optimized title tags and body content. Their link portfolios will be heavily optimized as well. But their content is weak, their value proposition is low, they’re obviously —to human observers —only ranking because of their SEO. The upcoming over-optimization penalty would theoretically change the playing field so that sites with great content and higher user value rank above sites with excessive SEO.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Why Google & Yelp Are Eating Your Store Locator SEO Traffic

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog: “Can Searchers Find Your Store Locator?

Can searchers find your store locator pages in the organic search results? Probably not! But Best Buy’s customers certainly can. Why them and not countless other retailers?

BestBuy's Store Location Page

Store locators, those online features that pinpoint a company’s physical store locations, are essential tools to enable customers to make their way from a website to the brick-and-mortar world to make a purchase or handle the merchandise. Ironically, many store locators are not optimized for organic search. Instead, local branded searches bypass the brand’s site and land on Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch or one of the many yellow pages sites.

If you have a store locator, you’re probably in the same boat. That local branded traffic belongs to you. It’s your brand; you deserve to win those branded searches! Don’t you? According to Google and Bing, not really. Frankly, Google’s and Bing’s own results are a lot more optimized than most store locator pages, and a lot easier and more self-serving for the engines to rank well. To beat them at their own game, your store locator needs to very well optimized.

Read the article in full at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Google Webmaster Tools: 5 Reasons to Start Using It Today

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce, Top 5 Reasons to Use Google Webmaster Tools.

There’s a common misconception that registering with Google Webmaster Tools somehow enables Google more access to information about a site. In fact, just the opposite is true. Google Webmaster Tools provides site owners access to data available from no other source, data every ecommerce site needs to manage its organic search channel.

  1. Organic Impressions: A critical metric to paid search campaigns, impressions have been painfully absent for organic search programs. Google, however, gives search engine optimization professionals a glimpse into impressions in the “Search Queries” report under “Your Site on the Web.”
  2. Real Ranking Data: In the very same Search Queries reports for top queries and top pages, Google also provides average ranking data. This is a fantastic metric to have, with so many ranking tools falling prey to personalization biases.
  3. Complete Backlink Reporting: Reliable backlink data is becoming increasingly hard to find. With Yahoo! Site Explorer’s sad demise and Bing’s refusal to honor the link: query, Google has become the only major U.S. search engine to give any information on backlinks.
  4. +1 Metrics: Google offers a trio of Google +1 reports, including “Search Impact,” “Activity” and “Audience.” The search impact report details how many impressions were annotated with a friend’s +1, and how many clicks those +1 annotated search results drove.
  5. New Crawl Error Reports: Just this week Google expanded their crawl error reporting in an attempt to make it more actionable. This report has always been somewhat problematic because it lists errors that sometimes have a very valid reason for existing.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce with more detailed descriptions of the features and illustrations »

BONUS 6TH REASON: Robots.txt Testing: Test changes to your robots.txt files before posting them live and discovering you disallowed your key product lines. You can find this indispensible tool under “Site Configuration” and then “Crawler Access.” Never update a robots.txt file without testing it with this tool first.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.