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Irrelevant Results: Google Algorithm and PageRank Update

Last month I noticed that Google updated the pagerank number that displays in the toolbar for some of my clients' websites. Although I didn't see changes for my own websites, my clients' websites, particularly the newer ones, showed an increase as they claw their way out of the sandbox, and their promotion efforts work to increase their link authority.

Of course, this toolbar pagerank display is just a snapshot, and may or may not reflect the pagerank that Google is actually using in their algorithm.

Another thing I noticed, which was troubling to me, was that when I typed my own name in, I only received the number one listing. From number two down were "mispellings" of my name. My name, Troy Philis, is a pretty long-tail term, and normally I would get at least two pages of results. Now, listing number two is a completely irrelevant result. This seems to me to indicate a big potential problem with this new algorithm.

 The advantage of Google used to be that you could find anything easily, compared to the other search engines. Now it appears they may be losing that advantage. This one example is certainly not definitive, but it does indicate something is awry. I will be monitoring this issue and post my findings as I make them.

More irrelevant Google search results

Google Adwords Quick-Start

The first thing you should do before starting your Adwords campaign is to read the Google Adwords Help section. There are a number of concepts that it's good to understand before throwing money at Google. This can shorten a potentially expensive learning curve.

Having said that, here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Set up a campaign. If you're just starting out, promoting to the content network will be over your head, so don't include that in your campaign.

2. Set up an ad group targeted to the content of one page on your website. That page should obviously be optimized for a set of keywords. Use those keywords in the adgroup, as well as in the wording of your ad. Link the ad to that page. Don't link to your hompage.

3. Set up ad groups within the campaign for each page you want to point traffic to. I'd recommend starting off with phrase match keywords, which is your keyword or phrase enclosed in quotes. If you use broad match (no quotes), your ad could show up in non-relevent SERPS because one word of the phrase could take it out of context.

 UPDATE: 3/14/14

Here are some related articles with more information on Google Adwords

Pay Per Click (PPC) Adwords Campaign Management

Adwords Conversion for Dummies

 

OpenSocial - Silicon Valley Web Guild Meeting

Location: Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Building 43, Mountain View, CA

Panel:

Chris Schalk, Developer Programs, Google
Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect, Plaxo
Akash Garg, Co-Founder/CTO, Hi5 Networks

This meeting was packed, as were the last few meetings I've been to at Google. At $20 bucks a pop (for Web Guild members, such as I) and on such a marginal subject, that's something. Maybe it's because Google is a big, big, big deal. Maybe because all of the Facebook/Microsoft related stories in the news lately.

OpenSocial is an open social network web application platform being developed by companies such as Hi5 (think monster myspace espanol) and Plaxo, and stewarded by Google. The future of OpenSocial is pure open source, or so they say. In that future, users of social networking sites will only have to enter and maintain one set of data, that can be used across all the sites they would like to be part of.  A win-win proposition for social networking sites, OpenSocial offers the possibility to share users. With current proprietary models, people are less likely to enter and maintain multiple sets of profile data. When one site gains users, another loses users (or uses losers, as Joseph Smarr freudian slipped).

Why OpenSocial? Universal standards that allow developers and marketers to do it once, rather than once for each website, as it is now with myspace, facebook, friendster and so on. So, to go back to an earlier comment, I described this subject as marginal, because developing widgets for, or marketing on social networking sites is not what I do. It's always possible that I'll get a call tomorrow from someone looking to do just that, so for that reason I feel the need to develop a basic understanding.

OpenSocial is an API (application programming interface) for social networking sites that is hosted by Google, or a number of other "container partners" such as Hi5 and Plaxo.

Here are some links of interest:

The code: http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial/
Testing environments:
Orkut Sandbox - Need to be approved first
Hi5 Sandbox - sandbox.hi5.com

Bad Internet Advertising - AT&T Yellow Pages

Like most people, I can be susceptible to the hard-sell. That's how I got involved in ATT Advertising. I had a free Yellow Pages listing on http://www.yellowpages.com/, and got a call on that fateful afternoon, about 6 months ago. When the salesman told me that I could expect a 70% conversion, I immediatley knew that he was full of it, or didn't know what he was talking about. I had been considering an ad in the printed Yellow Pages, and I guess that was what ultimately lead to my descision. That and some very relentless telemarketing chops. I did insist on the six month contract, even though I could have had a whopping $2/month discount by going for the 12 month contract.

About a month later I got a call from a gentleman who said he was getting phone calls from people looking for my business. We had similar phone numbers, and someone had obviously made a typo. He was, however, unable to get AT&T advertising to make the correction. I called, and after some very confused and confusing conversations, things got straightened out.

 Six months, and no additional business later, I called the AT&T Advertising phone number I had been given, to cancel my listing. All I got was a message telling me that the voicemail box was full and that I should call back later. Big red flag, but things weren't as bad as they seemed. I did have another number for billing, and calling that number got me a real person. As I had expected, the records showed I had signed up for the 12 month contract. Luckily they couldn't find the recording of the original conversation to prove I had signed up for 12 months, and they gave me the benefit of the doubt.

For the final cancellation, I was transferred to another salesperson, who tried to talk me into signing up again. When it was apparent that I knew something about Internet advertising and promotion, she gave up and cancelled my account.

AT&T Internet advertising is obviously geared towards small business people who don't know much about Internet promotion, but know the AT&T Yellow Pages name. I could talk about ethics, but the bottom line is that their service is not worth the money. Look into Google Adwords or Microsoft Ad Center for a better dollar value.

Don't just take it from me. Here's an article from and ex-insider:http://getonthemap.us/why-i-dont-recommend-yellowpages-com-an-insiders-view

 

CitySearch WebConnect Advertising and Click Fraud

There are many ways to spend your internet advertising dollar, and pay-per-click advertinsing is probably the most popular and most effective way to get immediate ROI. The pioneering program was Google Adwords, but now that the pay-per-click (PPC) channel is mature there are many other choices available. CitySearch is a website specializing in local business searches, so it would seem to be a perfect venue for drilling into those untapped local markets.

I received a free voucher for CitySearch WebConnect Advertising, so I thought I would try it out. First problem I noticed is that there is a minimum monthly buy-in of $99. You don't find that out until the end of the sign-up process though. There's also a $10 setup fee. Neither of these is true for Google Adwords.

After signing up I went to the Manager page. My first thought was "Is this a joke?" Less than impressive, to say the least. Not the powerfull interface I'm used to with Adwords:
Image

Rather than keywords, your ad shows based on the region and categories you select. The user searches for your type of business within the selected area. Being part of the CitySearch WebConnect Advertising gives you a featured listing, and you pay only when the visitor clicks on it. In this way it works more similarly to AT&T Yellow Pages advertising than it does other pay-per-click advertising programs.

Once up and running, I was disappointed to get no clicks for most of two weeks. On Friday, I received 3 clicks, but could find no sign of them in my Google Analytics reports. On Saturday I received 10 clicks, but again, no sign of the visits in my analytics program. Click-fraud immediately came to mind, and the marked lack of sophistication of their front-end interface made me wonder about their methods of filtering bad clicks.
Image

An email to my account manager, communicating my displeasure, questioning the clicks, and asking what they did to combat click-fraud got my account closed in short order. Not that I had asked for it to be closed. So my impression, correct or not, was that they did not want to delve into the subject of click-fraud.

CitySearch WebConnect Advertising is probably good for a larger company that's not too concerned with exact accounting of their pay-per-click advertising budget, but rather seeks to saturate the market. For smaller companies where every dollar counts, I'd recommend sticking with Google Adwords, Overture and Microsoft AdCenter.

 

Website Promotion - Search Engine Optimization vs Pay Per Click Advertising

>> View our natural search engine optimization and pay per click advertising services

In a recent request for a quote to design and produce an Ecommerce Website, I was asked if I offered a refund if no visitors showed up. I think this question highlights the confusion that a lot of small business people and entrepreneurs have with exactly how the Internet works. Granted, it can be confusing, especially for non-technical people.

Those of us who have worked with it on a daily basis for a number of years may forget that its structures and processes are not really naturally intuitive. That's the reason that good information design and interface design is so important in translating the reality of the Web into a good user experience. In this article I will try to explain what Website promotion is on a basic level, assuming little knowledge of the secret inner workings of the Internet.

For the purposes of Web only promotion, you have two main avenues:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and
  2. Pay-per-click(PPC)Advertising

The way people find things, including your Website, on the Internet is by typing a word or phrase into a Search Engine. The major search engines used are Google, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask Jeeves. There are many other search engines, but if you show up high on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of these, your going to meet your marketing goals.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines are in business to deliver relevant results. If you continually don't find what you want after typing your search terms in to a search engine, you are going to try another.

Search engines do three things to deliver you results:

  1. They crawl all the Websites they can find using spiders and record the resulting text found in their index.
  2. When you type a search term into the engine, they search the index using their "algorithm." This is a proprietary formula designed to give you the most relevant results for your search.

    The main characteristics of a page addressed by the search algorithm are a) keyword relevance - how often, where, and in what overall word ratio your search terms appear on the page, and b) link popularity - how many pages are linking to the indexed page and how popular those pages are.

    Webmasters are constantly trying to figure out a search engine's algorithm, and devising tricks that will get high ranking for their Websites. Search engines, on the other hand, are constantly changing their algorithms to neutralize these tricks, because they feel that the best results are based on good, popular content, and tricks just undermine the relevance of their search results.
  3. They display search results on the SERP or Search Engine Results Page. In addition to the natural results (products of the algorithm) they also display sponsored results. These are paid ads, which segues us in to the next section:

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)

As mentioned in the previous section, search engines sell space on their SERPs to advertisers. These ads are usually prominently displayed as sponsored results and get slightly less traffic than do the natural results. However, provided the ad meets the search engine's editorial guidelines, the advertiser gets to choose the keywords that trigger the ad, choose how much they pay per click, how much they pay per day, and so on. This creates a kind of auction for the top position in the sponsored results, as the advertiser who pays the most per click wins the highest position.

Pros and Cons

So which should you choose, SEO or PPC? Well, that depends on the competition.

  • How many other pages on the Web contain your targeted keywords or phrases?
  • How popular are the Websites that contain them compared to your Website?
  • How many advertisers are targeting your keywords in their campaigns?
  • How much are they paying per click?
  • What kind of ROI do you need for your campaign to be successful?

In general, when considering these questions, remember that SEO is a longer term solution, and is less reliable than PPC. It can take months for the search engine to find your Website, or notice changes you've made to try to improve ranking. Also, without constant attention your page one ranking will undoubtedly drop off the SERP as others compete for your position.

PPC can be pretty expensive, depending how competitive the market is. If the ROI isn't there, it may eliminate itself as an option for you.

Most succesful Internet businesses use a combination of SEO and PPC to promote their Websites. Even with top ranking in natural results, eliminating a space for the competition and plastering the SERP with your name on a PPC ad can be a winning strategy.

Let me help you start getting traffic to your Web site immediately! Call (925) 485-0050 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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