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Be sure to check out Steve Souders's latest blog post. In it, he stresses the importance of deferring JavaScript until after a pages have rendered and all the work that still needs to be done when it comes to high performance JavaScript.

Google made "asynchronous" the new marketing industry BUZZ word for 2010 when they rolled out an asynchronous version of Google Analytics. Asynchronous scripts are still just scripts after all and not bulletproof. Asynchronous Google Analytics isn't an open license to do as you please. Over the past year, I've noticed a major increase in the number of "mavericky" asynchronous Google Analytics implementations. When implemented properly Google Analytics is a great tool but implementation is critical.

Simply adding ASYNC attributes doesn't "make" scripts asynchronous. "_gaq" is actually what makes Google Analytics ASYNC syntax possible. Unfortunately, few browsers support the ASYNC attribute. Either way, ASYNC scripts are executed upon response arrival and not deferred which can result in blocking. DEFER attributes on the other hand, can block the onload event and also decrease PageSpeed. Another point to consider when trying to get content in front of users more quickly is, "If asynchronous scripts arrive while the page is loading, the browser has to stop rendering in order to parse and execute those scripts."

Bottom line, "mavericky" implementations can actually have a negative impact on user experience. Even worse, this data can be missing from both analytics and the Google Webmaster Tools site performance tab depending on how onload event firing is impacted. Oh yeah, and don't forget rankings! Matt Cutts said, Google Analytics doesn't impact rankings because when properly implemented it waits to load scripts until after the onload event but, that may not be the case if improperly implemented. Maile Ohye has confirmed that one of the ways Google calculates performance is via the onload event. According to Google, "To ensure the most streamlined operation of the asynchronous snippet with respect to other scripts," the asynchronous snippet should either be placed just before the close of the HEAD tag or just before the close of the BODY tag in your (X)HTML document. I'd suggest not taking any chances this Holiday season because this year speed is more important than ever before and testing.

I'm constantly amazed by the number of "industry professionals" who either don't know their craft, or do and are just willing to risk their reputation for a quick buck. Don't get me wrong, if "Black Hat" is your business model and your clients know it, no harm no foul as far as I'm concerned. This post is directed at companies offering services known to be sub-optimal and potentially even harmful. In this post, I'll provide a two examples of what to look out for when buying SEM tools and services. The examples herein are real but, the names have been changed to protect the SHADY.

Automatic SEO - I was recently introduced to a company selling something they called "Automatic SEO." First of all, "Auto" anything SEO should raise flags because site optimization should focus on unique content that is of value to users. Without going into great detail, what this company proposed was simply the creation of site search results for relevant keywords and misspellings of relevant keywords. The company then links site search results from hidden pages via a trick JavaScript hidden in the footer.

Testing - Before purchasing anything, be sure it works as represented. Be sure that what you are buying was tested scientifically, where it lives, according to industry best practices and under rigorous conditions, just like any other reputable product. Believe it or not, it's not uncommon for folks to make claims about things they've never even properly tested. As a buyer, it's important to think critically, be sure testing is scientific and ask questions, to avoid being scammed.

Google Instant Event Live blog, please excuse typos and spelling errors.

According to Marissa Mayer 11 hours can be saved for every second spent searching thanks to Google Instant. Google Instant revolutionizes how users interact with Google. This new search feature has 3 main components:

  • Instant results - Results appear instantly to the user.
  • Predictions - Google is able to predict what users search for as they search.
  • Scroll to search - This feature offers users options for their query. Google Instant is a better, faster, cleaner experience but like riding a bike... you never forget how to ride.

google instant efficiency

Google Serps

Google Incremental Search

All of these new features render the "search" button almost useless. Google is still seamless users just have additional options. Google Instant provides feedback that users can use find what they are looking for online. Feedback from Google Instant is also used via mobile but this feature won't be available until Fall 2010. Google "Trusted Tester" video illustrates testers interaction with Google Instant which will roll out later today.

Up next is Ben Gomes to talk about technical challenges with Google Instant. According to Ben, Google Instant had to be efficient. To do this Google focused on user interface design, search as an application and efficiency to scale. In order to test all of this Google tested more than 100 testers in their usability lab. These "Trusted Testers" were monitored using eye tracking technology.

Google Autocomplete

In the past Google has relied on (X)HTML but Google Instant is AJAX based. To do this Google first sends autocomplete search requests, autocomplete predicitions and then receives results page. In addition, Google detects when the system breaks.

If Google returns search results with every letter and there are 20 characters per query on average, how can Google do this and not melt down their servers.

When it comes to scale and efficiency Google can maintain low cost per query by anticipating the query. Google does this because efficiency matters to users and users matter to Google. For that reason Google has already rolled out 500 updates this year. Today is the biggest change to hit Google in terms of user interaction in years. Google Instant makes search available to users.

According to Marissa Mayer, Interaction, Comprehensiveness and Understanding (users, web, squared) are the future of search. Google Instant is first step into the future of search. According to Marissa, users will save 350 million hours a year.

The event is closing with a video by Google's creative lab inspired by Bob Dylan.... Results as you type, no clicks, search on!

Q&A
Does this change PPC? No change in how ads are served or ranked.

Are 20% of queries still unique? Not sure but if you make search easier and faster more folks search

@Wired asks how Google Instant ties into search history? Marissa Mayer, fields and says the inputs remain unchanged.

How much personal data is required for speed improvements? How much does this tax data centers?
Marissa Mayer says personal data requirements are the same. Google is using prediction not personal data. Johanna answers the data center question and confirms the cost has increased but engineering has been able to maintain.

Sergey Brin fields "human computer interaction" question in terms of speed of advancement in this area. According to Sergey techno advancements and openmindenesss are resulting in major advances that will change the way you interact with these kinds of devices.

What impact will Google Instant have on SEO? According to Ben, there will be little impact in terms of SEO.

When will this be available in China? Marissa says Google's goal is to roll out on Google.com.hk

Do you believe users want faster search? YES By speeding up search Google expects more traffic and more queries. Marissa says as users adapt to Google Instant the won't go back.

Question from author of "Inside Larry and Sergy's Brain" asks about privacy and what impact Instant has. According to Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Google spends lots of time focused on privacy and Google Instant is no different.

BBC asks how Google Instant will change behavior? According to Ben neighboring queries become more important.

During testing how many users didn't want to use Google Instant? How does Google Instant relate to caffeine. According to Mayer, few didn't like. Ben follows up by saying the two have an indirect conncetion.

How does this impact SEM (SEO &PPC)? Little...

Next question, "Sergey did you ever think you would reach this point". Based on Moore's Law of Computation is has been amazing and a tribute to people who work on computing everywhere.

How is Google getting folks to contribute content? Sergy, great question. That has been one focus for a long time, for example AdSense. For more user gen content Google has worked on projects like Blogger, Google Docs. In addition, there are lots of places where users gen content.

Are there plans to make faster? Ben says we are going to enjoy the speed but you "ain't seen nothing yet".

Ad Age asks about brand impact and rankings in terms of page 2? Ben says user intent doesn't change no matter what predictions are going on behind the scenes. Johanna points out the Google Instant gets users to results faster. Google totaly focuses on users and that is good for ads.

Will Google server less ads? No

Will this change result in more searches and more adds clicked? Ben says focus on user and all else will follow.

When will Google release Google Instant in Japan and China because characters can cause problems? Marissa Mayer, says expect all these in addition to mobile in a few months.

Is this part of a bigger plan? Mayer, yes... In fact we look at queries from years ago. Ben says we are always working to make things better.

ONE FINAL QUESTION, oh who could it be? Danny Sullivan asks about what happens when results are not correct? According to Google, users learn how to pull things up from the top except for Danny's Dogpile question. Google asks Danny, why he is using Google to search for [search engines] :)

Google Instant Meetup later today at 111 Minna in SFO

According to the Site Performance feature in Google Webmaster Tools, your pages load reeeeealy slow but, other external tools or monitoring services tell a different story.

What should you believe?

First, it's important to understand the differences between these tools, the data they capture and how it's measured.

Page Speed evaluates the performance of a specific web page and individual elements in the browser. As a result, this type of testing may not accurately reflect latency experienced by users. Page Speed is for testing and improving speed for individual pages.

Tools like webpagetest.org and monitoring services often test latency for a specific URL at various times of day and locations around the world. As a result, these kinds of tests may not reflect latency as perceived by users in the region the site targets.

Google Webmaster Tools Site Performance data is collected from actual Google Toolbar users in the same geographic region as the target audience of the site. This data can be measured in several ways. One being, time between when the user clicks on a link "until just before that document’s body.onload() handler is called." If for example, if a user clicks on a link, is then redirected and then redirected again, that delay should be recorded and reflected in Google Webmaster Tools Site Performance data. These are the kinds of delays that impact users and Googlebot and that are totally missing from other tools including analytics.

Speed doesn't currently have a major impact on rankings but, slow pages deter users and hamper crawl efficiency. Crawl efficiency can be a major factor for pages with lower PageRank because " the number of pages Google crawls is roughly proportional to PageRank".

With @andersoncooper in New Orleans, LA "keeping them honest" it appears as though nobody is at the wheel at CNN.com. CNN recently started including ads on their world famous, PageRank 10 homepage but, all seems to have run amok. I wonder what Anderson or Ford Motor Company for that matter, would say about fully clickable sidebars, possible cloaking and hidden links? I'd suggest avoiding all three...

CNN ad with fully clickable sidebars

Fully clickable sidebars like CNN's help artificially inflate ad revenues and other metrics by increasing the number of accidental clicks.

CNN ad as seen by users

As you can see there is a large Ford ad covering most of the page.

Google's cache of CNN homepage shows no ad.

As you can see there is no Ford ad.

According to Google, cloaking is "serving different content to search engines than to users." Other sites serve ads in similar ways so, it will be interesting to see what if anything happens in this case.

UPDATE: Since my post CNN has fixed their site, removed the fully clickable sidebars and resolved possible cloaking issues or at least for now. That is what I call keeping them honest!