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Google Isn’t Cheating … It’s Beating The Competition

Bing is DownYesterday’s news was sprinkled with references to Federal anti-trust regulators looking into various aspects of Google’s business.

Some arm of some agency was looking into Google’s purchase of another software company while the Feds elsewhere were pondering the fairness of Google’s search results.

I was listening to the almost gloating radio news reports about Google’s woes as I was trying to help a couple clients gain visibility on the Internet.

I had no problem adding my clients to Google’s places and on Yelp.  But, as I was listening to moaning from Google’s competitors who suspect Google of improper market control, I was having my own problems with Google’s most formidable search competitor, Bing.

Adding the first client to Bing seemed to be going well.  I spent several minutes going through screens adding location details on this page, opening hours on another page, and service details and firm history on following pages. I uploaded a couple of photographs and was getting pretty happy about what my client’s Bing business listing was looking like.

Then I hit the submit button to post the entry.  I expected to be told that I would have to verify ownership through a phone call or other method of providing my rights to speak for the business.

Instead I received a message from Bing that they were sorry.  Their database was down for maintenance.  After letting me go from screen to screen entering my client’s saga, Bing wasn’t going to let me save and publish what I’d done.

I worked on Bing for a while longer, resubmitting my last page in the hopes that Bing would come back to life while my work still existed. No luck.  In fact, when I accessed Bing in other browser tabs, I discovered that in addition to the business database’s lifelessness, Bing’s search customization program was also down. The search customization screens also let you enter your preferences, but when you attempted to update your account, you were told that the page you were looking for was not available (see graphic, above).

Throughout the Bing FAIL, the news radio talkers would hype the headline of the Google’s Federal troubles.

I just wanted to scream at the radio.  It’s not Google’s fault that they are dominant in the marketplace. Their stuff works!

By |2011-04-06T10:23:55+00:00April 6th, 2011|Google|0 Comments

Has Google Manipulated Search Results to Calm Fears?

If you hear about killer fallout from the Japanese nuclear plants coming to the US,  it isn’t.  The story, complete with maps, is a hoax.

Fallout Map from Japanese Nuclear plant radiation leaks

Bogus Fallout Map

One of the best discussions on a phony map was published two days ago on Blogotariat.com.

One of the more interesting bits mentioned in passing in Blogotariat was their observation that Google is manipulating results to help quash the rumors spawned by the map. Despite an hysterical number of posts and Tweets, Blogotariat claimed that Google put on the top of the search results sites that calmed rather than inflamed.

Indeed, I just did a Google search for “nuclear fallout map”.  The #1 web page result was one posted yesterday from the rumor control site, Snopes. The picture of the map on the right with the clear label of “FALSE” is from Snopes.

Google regularly claims that it does NOT manipulate search results.  It says that automatic algorithms determine the order information appears in its results.  Google uses the “software defense” against all claims of bias and commercial manipulation.

Up to now I have believed Google’s claims that no humans are involved.  But, now I wonder.

  • For a page put up yesterday — as Snopes’ was —  to be number 1 for a popular topic is unusual.
  • When I checked the Page Rank (a measure of how popular Google thinks a page is) for the Snopes page, the page shows as “unranked”.  For a page without ranking to show up high in search results is unusual… although the home page at Snopes.com is a very highly rated 8.
  • There were also no backlinks to the page, according to the Google toolbar.  Backlinks indicate to Google that a page is used as an authority by other sites and therefore should show up higher in results.

So, although I haven’t done a thorough search engine optimization review for the Snopes.com debunking page, it seems to be possible that human intervention helped the Snopes rumor control page snag #1 position.  Especially since:

  • Google’s company policy is to do no evil.  Helping spread panic would be doing evil.  Taking steps to keep popular — but false and inflammatory pages — lower in search results would prevent Google from doing evil.

The possible changing of search results  means that in the future I am going to be a bit more skeptical of Google’s claim that all search results are automatic.  While Google’s motives in this case are benign — or at least in concert with my instincts and morals —  manipulating results is worrisome.  Could Google modify results to eliminate political views/commerical products/competitor information they don’t like?  Do they already? Will they?

Yep, something to worry about.  But, Google’s possible manipulation is a much smaller lump of worry to have than the worry lump I’d have if I had believed the faked fallout map.

So thank you, Google.  But, I’ll be watching you.

And, of course, everyone can calm their friends about this — and other Internet rumors — by referring people to responsible places like Snopes.com!

By |2011-03-15T17:38:35+00:00March 15th, 2011|Google|0 Comments

How to Spend Lots of Money on Google Ads and Get No Clients

Google AdWords and the advertising programs of other search engines can be immediately effective tools to drive potential customers to your web site. (If you’re not familiar with AdWords, it is Google’s program that lets web site owners put ads next to the results Google displays in response to searches. You bid for your ad to appear when searches are made for specific keywords. The higher you bid, the higher up on the page your ad will appear… more or less. You pay only when people click on your ad and visit your web site, an approach called Pay Per Click, or PPC. More information is on Google, and other search engines have similar programs.)

AdWords should be a low-risk venture:

  • You’d think it’d be difficult to waste a lot of money on Pay-Per-Click ads since, well…, you’re paying Google (or Bing or whomever) only when someone clicks on your ad and visits your website.
  • You’d think that people who see your ad would only click if they thought that your product or service would be valuable to them.
  • Therefore, you’d pay Google only when a genuine potential client clicked to your site after seeing your ad.

But, I recently fixed the AdWords campaign that had been racking up hundreds of dollars a month, getting visitors, and no clients.

How did my client waste his money?

  • He did not limit where his ads appeared
  • He bid on keywords without including his location in the phrase.
  • His ad text didn’t give his location.

Let’s say he was a San Francisco accountant (the profession and the keyword have been changed for this example!)  He bid on terms like “income tax preparation”.  His ad text was “Tax Preparation by Professional Accountants.”

Because there was no geographic limitation, Google users throughout the United States and Canada were seeing his ad, clicking on it, and visiting his site.  We could tell where people were coming from by the hit tracking report we used.  Very few came from within 100 miles of his business.  Some visitors had actually searched for terms like “Income tax preparation in Corpus Christi”.  My client’s ads had come up offering tax help, the the poor user in Texas was taken to the site of a San Francisco accountant.  And, my client was paying over a dollar for each of these misdirected souls.

What to do?

  1. AdWords Map

    Google AdWords Map Limiting Where the Ads will Appear to the Area in Blue

    Allow your ads to be displayed only by users who are browsing from specific geographic areas. Google lets you specify countries, geographic areas (San Francisco – San Jose Bay Area), and even lets you draw the boundaries for your ads on a map.

    Limit all your general keyword ads to the area you serve.

  2. Start a second campaign that you allow to run country- or world-wide.  Use the same keywords you use for the geographically targeted ads above, but include the geography as part of the keyword you bid on.  In the example case, you’d bid on “income tax preparation San Francisco”.

    By specifying that a user has to include your location in his search, you can get business from people who may not be in your area now but who specifically want service in that area.  In the case of the CPA, maybe a businessperson is on trip to Boston and they want to find an accountant back home in San Francisco to set up an appointment next week.

Specifying a location for your ads works.

My client is now able to bid more per click, and is showing up higher on the ad lists.  His ads are truly being clicked on by potential clients. And, he seen results walk in his door.

By |2011-02-22T12:52:11+00:00February 22nd, 2011|Google, Marketing|0 Comments

Get Ranking Juice for Your Business from the “News”

The Hearst Corporation’s San Francisco Chronicle has found a way to make money from its news service web site which I’m recommending to my clients. Here’s the program and why I like it.

First, let’s remember how Google looks at the universe of Internet sites .  Google knows that the Chronicle has developed one of the most popular news websites, SFGate.com.  Because that site is very popular and contains a lot of quickly updated news, Google crawls the site frequently and considers it an authority.

An authoritative site’s pages generally are put above those of non-authoritative sites in search results.  So, the pages of domain sfgate.com are likely to show up high on Google result pages. Google will check sfgate.com pages frequently because the contain changing news. Finally, links from an authoritative site to your web pages result in your pages showing up higher in Google search results. After all, Google figures, an authoritative site thinks your web pages are valuable.

Now, the Chron has created way for businesses to appear on sfgate.com. They’ve created a sub domain, local.sfgate.com.  The homepage there is a directory of businesses, and you’re able to buy a page for your business in the directory.

SF Gates's Business Directory

SF Gate's Business Directory

I doubt that many people will search this directory to find their accountant,  lawyer, or care repair service. Maybe some people will interrupt their reading of news to click on tiny link at the bottom of the front page of SF Gate that says : “Advertising services…. Local Business Directory”. But, not many.  And, that’s the only way I see to get at this directory.

That’s the problem with directories (online Yellowpages and their ilk): no human uses them.

Google Listing for a Local SF Gate Page

Google Listing for a Local SF Gate Page

In the case of SF Gate, though, I don’t care.  Google reads the SF Gate directory and loves the pages in it.  Each business gets its own page in the sub domain local.sfgate.com with search engine optimized text and other unique content, and Google eats it up.  Google is placing pages in SF Gate’s local business directory at the top of web sites in search results.

The example search SF Gate’s sales staff is telling people to run is “San Francisco auto smog”.  One of their pages shows up in Google’s results right after the map pages.  Pretty good.

In addition to showing up in Google results, each business’ page has a link to the company’s own web site. This means Google is being told by an authoritative site that there’s something important going on on that web site.  This vouching will help the main web site’s pages to rank more highly in search results.

But, wait!  There’s more!

One package of services which the Hearst folks are selling includes the writing and distributing of of press releases for your business via PRWeb.  That’s another news source read by Google, and properly written press releases are both search engine optimized AND have links back to pages in your main site.  Both good things in helping your main web site gain visitors.

I am recommend a trial of the Hearst Corporation’s services to my clients.

Of course we’ll need to watch the ROI and we’ll also need to watch for material changes in the program.  Google could decide suddenly to treat the “local.sfgate.com” sub domain as worthless instead of treating it as part of the valuable news site.  Too many businesses could crowd into a directory category making the too much competition for attention. Or, the Hearst folks may prove impossible to deal with.

We’ll see…  I’ll report more in a couple months after a client goes live.

By |2010-11-22T08:27:52+00:00November 22nd, 2010|Google|0 Comments

Google Instant Preview is Live!

Have you ever wanted a quick preview of a web site in Google’s results list? Just a glimpse before you clicked and committed yourself?

Google has just turned on its new instant preview tool that let’s you get your sneak peak. Beside every listing in web search results — including local listing results — Google has inserted a magnifying glass icon Magnifying Glass icon from Google.

When you click on the icon, Google will display the top of the page it’s pointing to. Here’s an example of the instant preview showing Ozdachs’ home page.

Google Preview of Ozdachs Web Site

Google Preview of Ozdachs Web Site

When you move your cursor through the results list, you’ll get previews of the pages under your cursor.

Nifty instant gratification, eh?

Of course, the preview feature increases the need for your home page to be attractive and informative.  You want people to want to see more!  We’ll also have to explore the effect instant preview will have on hit tracking.  Maybe there will be fewer people who “bounce” (go to just one page and leave) on your site.  Maybe your overall number of visitors will decrease because folks will decide not to explore your site when they see a preview.

Lots of questions, but this Google feature is just out the door.  So, for now, try it out in your browsing and see how you use it.  When you have a feel for the power of the instant preview you can talk intelligently to your web designer about any changes you may want to make to your site.

By |2010-11-12T17:22:04+00:00November 12th, 2010|Google|1 Comment