For those who are not aware, Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with a mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.  Glass is a truly amazing technology and years before its time.

Google Glass 2

After unknowingly trying out Google Glass 2 several weeks before it was announced, I was sold and could not wait to get my hands on a pair.  I jumped at the opportunity to be part of Google’s Glass Explorer program and have been using the latest version of Google Glass for several days.

New Google Glass Rear

Unlike the first iteration of Google Glass, which had to be picked up in person from one of three locations, the latest version can be shipped or picked up. According to the information provided during the checkout process, Glass orders may take up to 48 hours to process.   I ordered Glass at 7:03 PM EST on Monday, it shipped at 11:10 PM EST Monday and arrived at my front door at 9:56 AM EST on Tuesday.  I could not believe how fast my shipment arrived.  I don’t think anything has ever arrived so fast.  You can bet Glass fulfillment is something currently being tested and monitored.

Google Glass 2 in box

In addition to new shipping options and awesome packaging, the latest iteration of Glass includes several new accessories. According to Google, “Each Glass comes with a protective pouch to store your Glass. To store, simply slide Glass in so that your display is snug within the hard protective housing at the bottom of the pouch.”

Glass Pouch
Google Glass Pouch

The pouch is soft, high quality and well designed except for the fact that my Glass does not seem to fit inside with the Shade accessory attached.

Glass is larger than pouch with Shade attached

Google Glass 2 also includes a detachable glass “Shade” by Maui Jim and Zeal Optics. “Shades” appear to be very high quality, custom made for Glass and include a custom made protective case with Glass logo. Attaching Shades to Google Glass is easy.

Google Glass Shade
Google Glass Shade

As shown in the video below, attaching Shades to Glass could not be easier:

In addition to the Pouch and Shade, Glass 2 also includes an earpiece which attaches to the same micro-usb port used for charging. I can hear Glass fine and have not used this accessory yet. Contrary to a number of reports I have read, using the new earpiece is optional.

Google Glass Earpiece
Google Glass Earpiece

In addition to these new accessories, Google Glass 2 also comes with a charger. The charger is solid, high quality and features the Glass logo.

Glass Earpiece

Setting up Glass 2 and syncing it with my Motorola Moto-X only took a few minutes. That said, I did accidentally take a photo and somehow post it online without having any idea that I had done so while setting up Glass. Note to self, use caution when setting up Glass. It probably is not a good idea to setup Glass in the restroom or similar situation.

Photo taken with Glass

Contrary to claims I have heard in the past, Glass does not get in the way of seeing the world around you. Walking into poles, parking meters or other things is not really a problem. In reality, Glass is actually really small and in some ways even difficult to look at for extended periods of time. People don’t look at you weird on the street when you are wearing Glass. Some folks will try to stop you to ask questions about Glass. Several strangers have even asked to try on my Glass. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before thieves start using this approach to steal Glass. As a result, it is probably a good idea not to wear your Glass in some locations and/or to have a good excuse ready.

All in all Google Glass is an amazing piece of technology and seems to have almost unlimited potential in terms of apps, covers, cases and other accessories. I can’t wait to see proximity based Glass apps or apps like night vision, thermal imaging, range finders, compasses, altimeters, pedometers, activity monitors and the like. I have never use a Bluetooth headset before but, anyone who does will absolutely love Glass.

Designed By Google

As much as I hate to say it, so far I’m more than a little mixed on the latest version of Google Glass and I have even considered returning it. In the past when I have tried out Glass, it was always a Google test device that I was told was “not fully enabled.” As a result my expectations appear to have been a little out of line with the reality of the current device.

Google Glass Explorer Card

While trying out Glass in the past, I don’t remember ever seeing a phone. When you see folks jumping out of airplanes wearing Glass but no phone, you don’t realize how dependent Glass is on your phone. My expectation was that Glass would be more of a replacement for my phone than an amazingly souped up Bluetooth headset. I can’t wait to see 4g integrated into Glass.

Battery life is another issue. According to a number of reports, battery life was supposed to be addressed in the latest version. I am not sure it has been addressed. My new Glass takes 2 hours to fully charge but the battery dies after an hour and a half of use. Because of the position of the charger, wearing Glass while it is charging is not really an option.

Google Glass Battery

From a search marketing / web design perspective, Glass clearly illustrates the importance of responsive design. Sites (like this one) that are not responsive are an absolute nightmare to navigate on Glass. Instead of scrolling through search results like you can on most mobile devices, Glass uses black and white cards that remind me of unix. On Glass you scroll from side to side rather than up and down. Interestingly there are no ads in search results on Glass.

New Google Glass

For those who are interested, the user-agent for the new version of Google Glass is "Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Glass 1 Build/IMM76L; XE10) AppleWebKit/534.30 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/534.30."

More photos of Google Glass...

According to the White House, search engine optimization is a priority for US Government websites. Given the White House mandate and staggering number of Americans that search for health related information, you would think the new HealthCare.Gov website would be search engine friendly. Unfortunately the NEW site is not search friendly, due in part to the OLD site not being cleaned up properly. Until issues with the new version of the site are resolved and the old version of the site is cleaned up, users will continue to experience issues. Expert developers are usually focused on development and not technical search related issues.  As a result, technical search issues usually go unnoticed and continue to frustrate users.

Technical SEO site assessment is difficult to teach in a public setting because of the risk of potentially offending site owners.  Since we all own HealthCare.Gov, offending someone is not a problem.  As a result, I took a few minutes to check out the site and have documented a few critical issues below.  Please note, the list of issues outlined herein is by no means comprehensive and only took a few minutes to compile. Please feel free to post additional search related issues in the comment section below.  The objective of this post is to educate others and lend an extra set of eyes to the “A-Team".

Security:

It is widely known that HealthCare.Gov has a number of potential security issues and several of these are search related.

HealthCare.Gov security issues

Findings: Without going into detail for security reasons, it is currently possible to search and get results for “public and secure content” at HealthCare.Gov. Please note, this is an internal HealthCare.Gov IT issue, not a web search issue and has already been reported to HealthCare.gov.

Recommendation: Ensure access to content not intended for public consumption is password protected.

Accessibility:

"If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site."

According to Google and Bing, websites should be tested with a text browser. Text browsers make it possible for webmasters to "see" sites more like search engine crawlers. This kind of testing will also reveal issues experienced by individuals with disabilities when accessing the site on an assistive device.

HealthCare.Gov accessibility issues

Findings: Individuals with disabilities and search engines may have difficulty accessing and interacting with portions of the new website.

Recommendation: Ensure that fancy site elements don't interfere with the delivery of important textual content across platforms, even when images and JavaScript are disabled.

Searcher Intent:

When users search for [healthcare.gov], chances are they want to navigate to HealthCare.Gov the US Government health insurance market place.

HealthCare.Gov search results

Findings: Currently when users search for [healthcare.gov] they are returned Google search results above. Clicking on the top result in the site link section takes searchers to finder.healthcare.gov which "is not the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Recommendation: Demote the Sitelink in question via webmaster tools.

Version Issues:

When the same text content appears on different webpages, it is considered duplicate content by search engines. There is no penalty for duplicate content but it can thin certain ranking signals. As a result, search engines recommend that webmasters specify the preferred version of each page.

HealthCare.Gov search results

Findings: www.HealthCare.Gov includes the same content as well as different combinations of content from various versions of both the old and new website. For example, Spa.HealthCare.Gov , www.HealthCare.Gov, Finder.HealthCare.Gov and LocalHelp.HealthCare.Gov just to name a few. As a result, it is possible that searchers will arrive at the unintended subdomain and the site will appear not to work.

Recommendation: Use rel=canonical attributes to specify which page version is preferred and return 410 HTTP responses for pages at additional subdomains.

Soft 404 Pages:

Usually, when someone requests a page that doesn’t exist, a server will return a 404 (not found) error. This HTTP response code clearly tells both browsers and search engines that the page doesn’t exist. As a result, the content of the page (if any) won’t be crawled or indexed by search engines.https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/181708?hl=en

HealthCare.Gov soft 404

Findings:HealthCare.Gov errors do not redirect to a dedicated 404 landing page or return a 404 HTTP response. As a result, URLs for pages without content will be indexed by search engines when posted online. In addition, versions of older pages like http://finder.healthcare.gov/404.html return a 302 HTTP response which is a temporary redirect. As a result, site error pages will continue to be indexed and frustrate users.

Recommendation: Create a dedicated 404 page which returns a 404 HTTP response and redirect error requests to the dedicated 404 URL.

Development Platform Indexing:

Findings: The new HealthCare.Gov website appears to have been developed at the subdomain Test.HealthCare.Gov. This subdomain does not appear to have been password protected and as a result was crawled and indexed by search engines. Currently 100s of pages from this subdomain are indexed in search results. In order to help prevent searchers from going to the developer version of the site, Test.HealthCare.Gov now returns a 503.  Disallowing via robots.txt or returning a 503 will not prevent pages from appearing in search results.  The only way to prevent content from appearing in search results is to add the noindex meta tag or password protection.

HealthCare.Gov development platform

Recommendation:  To have this content removed from search results return a 401 HTTP response.

Breadcrumbs

"A breadcrumb trail is a set of links (breadcrumbs) that can help a user understand and navigate your site's hierarchy." In order to understand information in a page, searchers need to know where they have landed in the site architecture.

HealthCare.Gov development platform

Findings: When users arrive at the page above from search results there is currently nothing to indicate where the user is within the site architecture. For example, if a users arrives at the page above from search, there is nothing to indicate whether this information applies to business or individual health care plans.

Recommendation: Implement breadcrumb navigational elements in each page.

Webmasters need to take action to resolve any of the manual action notification messages listed below if they appear in Google Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic > Manual Actions.

Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects

Some pages on this site appear to be cloaking (displaying different content to human users than are shown to search engines) or redirecting users to a different page than Google saw. Learn more. Learn more.

Hacked site

Some pages on this site may have been hacked by a third party to display spammy content or links. You should take immediate action to clean your site and fix any security vulnerabilities. Learn more.

Pure spam

Pages on this site appear to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Learn more.

Thin content with little or no added value

This site appears to contain a significant percentage of low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide users with much added value (such as thin affiliate pages, cookie-cutter sites, doorway pages, automatically generated content, or copied content). Learn more.

Unnatural links from your site

Google detected a pattern of unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links on pages on this site. This may be the result of selling links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. Learn more.

Unnatural links to your site

Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. These may be the result of buying links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. Learn more.

Unnatural links to your site—impacts links

Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. Some links may be outside of the webmaster’s control, so for this incident we are taking targeted action on the unnatural links instead of on the site’s ranking as a whole. Learn more.

User-generated spam

Pages from this site appear to contain spammy user-generated content. The problematic content may appear on forum pages, guestbook pages, or user profiles. Learn more.

If you have the Spammy freehosts message, Hidden text and/or keyword stuffing message, additional messages or other messages from the Google Webmaster Tools Manual Action Viewer since August 8, 2013 please forward, send screen shots and/or submit in comments below.