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Google Knowledge Graph: Why This is a Good Thing
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Google's Knowledge Graph has been rolled out to many, and will be coming to a SERP near you in the very near future.  On May 16, 2012 Google has changed their search offering from being based on keyword recognition to a more semantic based search based on related attributes.  The purpose?  To provide the “best”, most relevant results to a given user.  As Ben Gomes from Google states, Google is essentially switching “from strings to things.”  The search results will become tailored to deliver information that best related to the initial search result/query.

What is Google's Knowledge Graph?

Google's Knowledge Graph is tapping into resources such as Wikipedia, Freebases and their own Google products such as Google Local, Maps and Shopping to create what they refer to as a Knowledge Graph.   The Knowledge Graph is a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they're connected to one another.   Google is referring to the Knowledge Graph as the next frontier in Search.  (They are always making reference to Star Trek and the need to build an automatic, richer search experience.  They are right as this does involve a significant change in how certain results will be displayed in their web results.

Semantic search rolled out from Google where Google tries to serve up relevant results based on related objects, facts and relationships around a search query.  This is a switch from traditional keyword recognition and is an early phase of Google switching from an information engine to a knowledge engine.  Google is using the Knowledge Graph to enhance a user's search results.  As Google puts it,

"...The words you search with can often have more than one meaning. With the Knowledge Graph we can understand the difference, and help you narrow your results to find just the answers you're looking for."  If you have had the chance to try it out, it is pretty cool as you get a panel of additional information based on your search query.  You can see key facts about your search with the most useful and interesting information for that particular topic, based on the questions other people have asked.

Let's say you searched for one of your favorite bands or artists.  I performed a search for "Van Halen" and I get a brief bio a list of popular songs, albums and the year that they were released and some "people also searched for" alternatives.  It is a richer experience, but it is not unlike what ASK was doing a few years back with their ASK 3-D experience.

Or try a search for a famous person say "Julius Caesar" and you get some additional information about the Roman general.

As a user, I like these enhanced results providing that the data is accurate.  As a marketer, the Knowledge Graph panel results tend to take up advertising space and may have an impact on click through rates.  Should Google display information such as a phone number or menu listing that perhaps resulted in users having to click through to your site to find, then you may lose some of these clicks.  Now when users perform a search for generic terms, ambiguous terms or famous person searches such as for “Leonardo da Vinci” you may get Wikipedia results, personal facts such as date of birth, date of death, education, works of art, and related Renaissance painters through an additional panel of results that takes you to related items.  Users will find answers to their questions but may now explore more than they were originally looking for.

Overall I think this can provide a richer experience.  It is an evolution of search and I am all about experiencing relevant results and being able to find information that is accurate and having the ability to find the information I am looking for quickly.

Additional Resources on Google's Knowledge Graph

Official Announcement from Google

The Knowledge Graph for Mobile and Tablet Search

Google Launches Knowledge Graph to Provide Answers, Not Just Links

Google Search Just Got 1,000 Times Smarter

Google Launches Knowledge Graph, 'First Step in Next Generation Search'

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 29, 2012  
11 Ways to Effectively Interlink Your Site's Content - the Zappos Way
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
So many people have used Zappos as an example of the right way to do things from a digital marketing or SEO perspective that you are probably tired of hearing about Zappos.  Well not me.  Zappos have a great SEO and online marketing team that continue to be ahead of the typical online marketer out there.

In the light of all of the discussions about over-SEO and about Google's recent algorithm changes such as Penguin and Panda, we thought we would revisit a fundamental function of site optimization... interlinking.  Interlinking is simply the process of linking from one page on your site to another.  The purpose is to direct the user to a relevant piece of content.  From a site owner's perspective you will want to interlink your pages to:
  • guide the user to a relevant piece of content - navigation
  • guide the user through to a conversion - conversion optimization
  • help the search engines find your content - crawling and indexation
There are a number of ways that you can interlink your content which is really the purpose of this article.  Let's evaluate the various forms of interlinking that is used by Zappos.

11 Ways to Effectively Interlinking Your Website Content - the Zappos Way

  1. Top Navigation - probably one of the most common ways of interlinking your website content is through your top navigation.  Typically this is via a "navigation bar" that runs across the top of your page under your main banner section of the site.  Zappos leverage their top navigation to communicate their product categories as well as their "Alphabetical Brand Index".  A very smart move to insure that users can drill down to their area of interest by either product type of brand name.

  2. Search By Options - even above their top nav, Zappos provides the user with four key "search by options" that interlink key ways to search their site, either by size, narrow shoes, wide shoes or by popular searches.  Makes sense doesn't it?  Again Zappos is making it relatively easy for their users to drill down and find the product that they are looking for.

  3. Side Navigation / Additional Categories - Zappos flikns to heir main categories and sub-categories from their side navigation that exists on the left side of select pages.  From here users can shop for women's clothing, shoes, swimwear and dresses.  Or you can shop for Specialty items such as new arrivals, couture brands, or gifts.

  4. Suggested Products - while still on the homepage, Zappos link to key products via their "Suggested Products" section in the main portion of the page.  From here they link to a variety of products including shoes, watches, skirts and hats.  This content is updated frequently and entices the user to check out some of their suggested products not to mention communicates the fact that Zappos is more than just shoes.

  5. Testimonials / Ratings - as we scroll down the homepage, Zappos does an amazing job of incorporating testimonials and reviews of products.  Not only does this help build trust with site visitors, but it also presents a keyword rich text link to an associated product page.  What a great way to link to deeper site pages from the homepage.

  6. By Demographic - as part of the side navigation featured on the homepage and other select pages, Zappos does a great job of segmenting their audience so that users can search by demographic (male, female, kids etc).  This allows them to link to demographic related product categories and product pages again helping direct the user to the content that they are most interested in.

  7. Product Criteria - if we examine a product page on Zappos, we see that they interlining their content  via defined product criteria such as size, width, styles, color, brand, material etc.  Users can narrow their search and Zappos can lik to related search results pages specific to the criteria selected by the user.

  8. Product Cross Reference - Zappos have incorporated the old Amazon "..if you liked this, you may also like this" cross merchandising idea with their "Products" in other categories" links.  This is a great way to cross promote additional products and potentially get an upsell by simply linking to a related product.

  9. Alternative Products - similar to the previous form of interlinking, Zappos also link to relevant products via their "Alternative Products For You" from their right side navigation on their product detail pages.  Again another form of cross merchandise promotion and form of deep interlinking from with the product pages themselves.

  10. Product Showdown - Zappos is known for their creativity.  Their product showdown, illustrates this as they again perform some deep interlinking to product pages by doing a product comparison or "showdown" as they call it.  Users can actually vote for their product of choice These pages feature great content and information about the product itself with ratings, reviews and even video descriptions.  From both a content and interlinking perspective, the Zappos team are doing it right.

  11. Themed Footer - Zappos like many site make use of a themed footer that is used to link to important sections of the site including categories, demographics and other criteria such as size.  The Zappos footer is a little over the top containing most likely more than 100 links but in this case it just makes sense.  Why wouldn't you link to the key areas of your site from the footer.  While many people keyword stuff the links in their footer, there is still an opportunity to include relevant keywords in the anchor text and link to your main categories and sub-cats.  Zappos are not excessively linking from their footer to game SEO (well maybe a little) they are linking to key areas of the site that may be of use to the user.  their footer acts like a mini-sitemap if you will and makes it one step away to get to the deeper content and products that a user might be looking for.

Interlinking your site is important for two main reasons:
  1. Navigation / Conversion Direction
  2. SEO - relevancy of links
Be smart when you interlinking your content.  Avoid linking to pages from the same page multiple times so that you do not dilute the page rank that is being passed.  Link for the user, and not for the search engines.  Effective interlinking will help the engines crawl and fin your content, but ideally it is the site visitor that you want to find your content and engage with that content.  Sites like Zappos have got it going on when it comes to interlinking their content.  Check them out and experiment with some of the options that they are using.  

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, May 09, 2012  
Google Penguin: Secrets to Help Prevent Algorithm Updates from Impacting Your Site
Friday, May 04, 2012
Just as it happened last January and February when Google's Panda algorithm update was launched, there appears to be more outrage at Google for releasing yet another algorithm update with Google Penguin. The Penguin update was launched on April 24th, but Google had given lots of advanced warning that it was coming.

I am still amazed at the people who "freak out" after being hit by an algo update from Google.  I would suggest that eight times out of ten, sites that are devalued by Google post algorithm update probably deserved it.  Remember people, Google owes it to no one to keep your site ranked on the first page year in and year out.  Think about it, you don't "own" your rankings, you are "renting" this space.  Are you so naive that your site is the most authoritative for <insert key phrase here>?  People are creating content everyday, the competition in the online world is fierce.  For those sites and businesses that are totally reliant on organic traffic from Google your days are numbered.  This is a flawed business model so you had better establish a plan B and put it in place soon.  There is no doubt that there are more Google algorithm updates on the way.  Both Panda and Penguin were pretty large updates.  Both are designed to help Google clean up their index.

Before we talk about the "secrets" that can help prevent your site get devalued by Google, let's quickly touch on the latest algorithm update from Google, Google Penguin.

Google Penguin Algorithm Update - targeting over-optimization

Who:  Google
What: Algorithm updates focusing on over-SEOing a website specifically via keyword spam and “unnatural” link building practices.
Where:  Google Search Results Pages (SERPs)
When:  Started in February 2012?  Officially launched on April 24, 2012.
Why:  To clean up web spam results in their Index; to prevent sites from artificially optimizing their websites.

Rumors began to surface in February and early March 2012, that Google was preparing for another major algorithm update that would continue to address web spam in their search results.  This particular algorithm would be focusing on over-optimized or over-SEO’d sites, that is sites that violate Google’s guidelines via tactics such as keyword stuffing and questionable link building efforts.  On April, 24th Google released their Penguin Update which devalued “over-optimized” sites (keyword spammed, link spammed, sites that used cloaking etc.).  Judging by the impact, many are suggesting that the Google Penguin Update is as large as the Google Florida Update from 2003 or Google’s Panda Update last year.  Google suggests that the Penguin algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English.  (Panda was said to impact 12%).

Quite often with major algorithm updates from Google, there can be collateral damage whereby innocent sites are impacted.  This is what it means to be at the mercy of the algorithms so establishing a plan for driving traffic to your site from other channels such as social, mobile, or referring sites is a great approach.

So what can you do to prevent algorithm updates from impacting you?  Well first off you should not be chasing the algorithms, you should be focusing on creating the best website that you can, focusing on your audience and your target demographic.

Secrets to Prevent Algorithm Updates from having a Negative Impact on Your Website

The fact is there are no "secrets" per se.  Google has set fourth their Google Webmaster Guidelines and have stated that "...strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the "Quality Guidelines," which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action..."

Secret #1: Google's Webmaster Guidelines

There are a number of guidelines that Google has outlined.  Herein lies the secrets.  While there are claims that abiding by all of these terms can still result in your site being devalued as a result of an algorithm update, perhaps as part of collateral damage, for the most part following these guidelines will help ensure online success.  Remember you have to work at it.  You have to keep your site relevant for both users and the search engines.  Having said that here are some of the guidelines to pay attention to:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."

  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

  • Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

  • Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

  • Don't use cloaking or sneaky redirects.

  • Don't send automated queries to Google.

  • Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords.

  • Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

  • Don't create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.

  • Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

  • If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

  • Secret #2:  Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

    Again keeping in mind that you should create your site based on the needs of your users and not necessarily on the search engines and algorithms, Google has provided a starter guide to, as Google puts it, will help make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand (i.e. rank) your content.  I am not going to post a link to the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (c'mon it's a secret.. well it's actually not) as if you search hard enough you will find it.  I will however share some of the fundamentals from the guide.  You may already be aware of these items.

  • create unique, accurate page titles - as page titles are displayed in the search results and can entice clicks from a SERP
  • make use of the meta description tag but do not stuff with keywords
  • improve the structure of URLs - why is it that site owners have so much difficulty with this?  If your content management system cannot accommodate your architecture needs get rid of it.  Clean, static, user friendly and search friendly URLs are the way to go.   An organized site structure will do wonders for you.
  • make your site easy to navigate - don't bury important content where users cannot find it.  Navigation is important to search engines but probably more important to users.  Use things like breadcrumb navigation and base your navigation starting out from your homepage.
  • create sitemaps and HTML-like sitemap for users and an XML sitemap(s) for the search engines.
  • write easy to read text
  • do not stuff content with keywords - it should read naturally
  • vary your anchor text when interlinking site pages
  • support text with optimized images and videos
  • use heading tgs properly - they are meant to add structure to your page - avoid excessive use of headings, avoid using heading tags only for styling and not presenting structure.
  • notify the search engines of your mobile sites - think mobile sitemaps
  • avoid cloaking - an attempt to boost search result rankings by serving different content to Google than to regular users
  • promote your site smartly - do not artificially inflate your link inventory 
Secret #3:  It is All About Your Content

Do you think that your website should perform well in search if it:
  • features thin content
  • features more ads than content
  • creates duplicate content
  • syndicates large volumes of content
  • scrapes content
  • features old, inaccurate content
I'm not sure if these are in fact secrets. To me they just make sense.  If you want to avoid being hammered by the search algorithms, prepare your site to be of high value.  Of course understand that what is of high value to you may not be of high value to your users, site visitors or the search engines.  Keep working on your site and perhaps you can begin to ignore or forget about the algorithm changes that have happened and will continue to happen.

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posted by Jody @ Friday, May 04, 2012  
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