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Archive for September, 2010

When Web Pages Actually Hypertext

September 17th, 2010 No comments

(Or: something funny happened on the way to getting a backlink)
Backlinks are one of the core weapons in anyone’s SEO arsenal. Like so many webmasters, website owners or search marketing specialists, I have never been a big fan of acquiring backlinks. It’s a genuinely painful process for the most part. And it gets harder all the time to get legitimate backlinks from other sites. They want money (I don’t do this; I’m rightfully scared of Google whacks), they think you should link back to them (nope, same reason). Or you comment or participate in a site that nofollows your link or doesn’t allow the link to be active (I’m looking at you, Yahoo Answers).

In the early days of

In the early days of "hypermedia" relevant content would be easily and freely linked

Recently I answered a question on a forum by pointing the questioner to a site I work for, adding an html link. You know, those things the Web is supposed to be made of? Oddly, the forum’s owners allow links to be active, no questions, no nofollow, no problem. The backlink probably helped the ranking of my client’s site a little… but what else happened was a bit unusual. The link referred scads of traffic to the client’s site. As in, noticeable amounts. In fact, nearly as much as the site currently gets from Google for generic search terms.

Pretty cool.

….But then again that’s what good backlinks are supposed to be really about. I mean, right? If a link is relevant to the rest of the content on the page and useful to the page’s visitors it ought to improve the rank of the page linked to. Right? Yet, I doubt that this is accounted for in Google’s algorithm. A link is either nofollowed or followed and that’s probably as sophisticated as Google gets. I’m speculating but with good reason.

Anyway, what’s sadly surprising is that I’m surprised.

How did we get here, I wonder? How did we get to the point where a backlink that actually directs traffic is noteworthy and out of the ordinary? Why do some sites refuse to allow links that ought to drive web traffic (yep, you again, Yahoo Answers). Is it all Google’s fault for over-determining links and not coming up with a way of better grading them algorithmically?

Maybe.*

But anyway, for now, I’m happy that my client is getting so much traffic from a legitimate link to their site.

Do you honestly think Google grades links algorithmically in terms of how effective they are at driving traffic to the target site? Incorporating things like bounce rate, time on (target) site, etc? How much weight do you think they put on any of those variables versus plain old, easy-to-understand follow vs. nofollow?

*Off topic: but some people who I don’t agree with think that links are bad. (This is a whole other argument, of course.)

Four Quick Insights Into the Mobile Web for Small Business

September 10th, 2010 No comments

We all know how the mobile web has exploded this year and how it is still exploding. Over the past few months I’ve had numerous experiences with and conversations about designing applications and websites for the burgeoning mobile market. Here are four broad ranging insights you can take or leave.

usability for mobilePeople expect security
Don’t be afraid to create a login for your application or ask mobile users to login. Make this easy (say, ask only for a user name) but protect user security while they are mobile. Mobile usability consultants are sure that users like this or at least don’t mind it.

Don’t worry about iPad applications
The iPad is still running along nicely on all the hype it has had this year but you need an iPad app like you need a hole in your wallet. Seriously, if anyone tells you about their expertise in designing for the iPad, start walking away. Web browsers work fine on the iPad and as long as your website works well on a laptop it will work fine on the iPad.  (Update Oct 27, some confirmation from eMarketer: “mobile device users appear to think browsers offer the better user experience” even beyond the iPad.)

Get listed locally
This ought to be your number one SEO concern when it comes to mobile and it may be the only one you’ll ever need. Most SEO best practices for mobile are the same as they are for desktop but local (e.g. Google Places) has gotta be hu-u-uge for mobile.

If you think about it, there’s every reason to think that Google created local listings partly in anticipation of mobile’s growth. If Google’s local listings are not already generated based on your GPS signal, Google will be rolling this out soon, you can bet.

Quick tip about Google Places: If your company or chain has multiple offices or stores, be sure to list the office or outlet closest to the city centre. There are a number of SEO people who advise that local listings are ranked to some degree based on proximity to city center. I’m not saying this will help your ranking in Google Places but I’m 100% sure it won’t hurt.

One more thing: I’ve had to tell this to a number of people lately: Google Places is free. Free, no cost, I’m 100% sure of that. Oh, and you should also list locally with Bing and any of those other guys, too.

This is a very young demographic
That doesn’t mean you only focus on trendy 2.0 graphics and all that. This means that you understand that this group behaves fundamentally differently in many ways.

They think differently. Here’s one example: younger users are much less likely to want to use a call center and if they do they are going to be ashamed to have to do it. Make help available and make it easy for them to help themselves and figure out how to do it on their own.

Note that a significant portion of this demographic is using their parents’ money. They may need their parents’ approval to buy certain things or do certain things. Figure out how to use this in your mobile site or application without it being intrusive or embarrassing.

Ensure usability if you’re serious
The best way to be sure that your site or application is mobile ready is to hire an experienced mobile usability company

Categories: search marketing, SEO Tags: ,

Google Instant Brings Ideal Search Closer

September 9th, 2010 No comments

From the search engine that first brought you millions of search results in under a second comes instant results – that is, results that dynamically change as you type. This brings us closer to the ideal of search that many of us have in mind… I mean the ideal that we will never need to search for any information as it will all be (instantly) right in our minds.

That ideal and others (e.g. the Star Trek scenario of being able to yell out at a ‘Computer!’ that waits for us to address it, inside the ceiling) are all still a ways away. Still, it’s an exciting step forward.

Matt Cutts, meanwhile, was quick to add that SEOs will still have jobs (presumably assuring himself simultaneously that there will always be a need for a Google spam cop).

Update: there’s a dev site where you can try Google Instant.

Update (Sept 11, 2010) :It has not yet rolled out to Google.ca but Google.com is Instant.

My opinion? It is freaking cool – and a useful, completely worthwhile improvement.

Categories: SEO Tags: ,