Monthly Archives: September 2010

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.

Search while you type isn't a new concept, it has been around for years but, it doesn't really work for users. Predictive text on the other hand does work for users, it's really simple and extremely fast. Google's new Instant search results combine predictive analysis with instant results and a new scroll to search feature that automatically suggests predicted queries to users all in real time. These predictions are based on years of data and billions of previous searches but, Google's results are the same. What makes Instant search radically different, is speed and most of all the feedback it gives users.

For example, Instant search provides users with feedback about misspellings and provides suggested spellings for queries before users even search. This is no accident, Google knows users intend to spell queries correctly and has been working behind the scenes on spelling improvements for some time. Improvements like these have been integrated in and rolled out with Google Instant. Instant feedback about misspellings is great for users but, may come as a shock to webmasters focused on tricking users with misspellings as their SEO strategy. Google Instant is no threat to ethical, white hat SEO efforts or unique quality content that users value. Bottom line, users "aren’t going to fundamentally change what they’re looking for."

In addition to improved spelling, Google has also recently improved how they handle proper nouns. Better handling of proper nouns helps Google extract more information, especially about named entities. Proper nouns and named entities often share a common trait, they're capitalized. Google already has entity related patents and recently acquired MetaWeb a company that specializes in this field. Mapping multiple named entities to one "thing", increases data captured about each entity as well as the whole. Improved understanding of named entities, improves data about potentially vital pages and increase the quality of results even in the absence of relevant keywords. All of these help Google Instant entice users to explore more of the space around their query. Combining better spelling with better quality and better targeted results, decreases the percentage of "unique queries". These unique queries are difficult to monetize and often result in a poor experience.

The day before Google launched Instant search, CEO Eric Schmidt said, "Never underestimate the importance of fast!" When it comes to speed, Google Instant makes other sites, including Yahoo and Bing seem much slower by comparison. Google Instant is so fast in fact, it increases the perceived latency of other sites. This factor could help increase Google's market share especially, if dedicated users start leaving other engines for Google. Increased focused on site performance is no doubt more critical than ever before.

A few other notes, Instant has Google's improved triggering for realtime queries and that could tie directly into their "Social Layer" scheduled for release in Q4 2010. You'll find Google Squared technology in Instant results for queries like [inventor of airplane]. You may notice, the scroll to search feature actually pushes results down the page and the footer search box is no more. It's possible that Google Instant's GUI emphasizes images, video and highly positioned AdWords ads (colored background) more, because they flash in and out of view in certain cases.

What does the near future hold for SEO, PPC and analytics? In coming months expect to see, more data missing from analytics and fragmented with Google Webmaster Tools and/or other sources. It's quite possible Google Instant thwarts automated queries on some levels and for that reason, ranking reporting software may be even more inaccurate. AdWords impression data will be less accurate for testing and virtually worthless in terms of historical comparison.