Search News - 10/14 - Digital Marketing Agency

Can You Over-SEO Your Website?

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Matt Cutts, the Google employee who regularly speaks on SEO and the Google algorithm, has released yet another Youtube video answering questions from the public.

The question was basically – can you over-optimise a website? The example the questioner gave was excessive use of No-follow tags.

I thought the question of over-optimising was a great one, and was excited to hear Matt’s response. But like many of his video’s before, the answers were vague, not giving away corporate secrets, which is of course understandable, but didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

His one concrete statement was that you can put as many no-follow tags on your own site as you want – this will incur no penalty.

As for other SEO practices, he only seemed to discuss a couple.

The first was keyword stuffing – which is certainly an SEO strategy, but not a highly regarded one. Keywords are almost a necessity on a page, if you want it to rank highly. Some people take this to the extreme, and ‘stuff’ their keywords on there. Which means, that they put excessive amounts in – more than necessary for a human reader. As Matt said in his video, this can render a page spammy, make it unreadable or unpleasant to read, and does not make for a good user experience. He did not say though, that Google will penalise a site with keyword stuffing.

The other strategy, which is related to keyword stuffing, is to cloak keywords, or make them the same colour as the background. This means that human readers can’t see the keywords (and therefore their user experience isn’t affected by them), but the Google robot can. Surprisingly, Matt didn’t dwell on this for more than a second and didn’t say that it was a bad thing to do. Which is so wierd, because it is widely considered a black hat technique.

There was zero discussion of offsite SEO or structural SEO in his answer. Offsite SEO in particular is a huge one, and there are so many pitfalls, and ways in which you CAN over-optimise, that I actually thought this would be an obvious part of the answer.

Matt’s discussion seemed concerned solely with the user experience, insinuating that we webmasters could do whatever we liked to the site as long as the user wouldn’t be adversely affected. SEO practitioners would know that this hasn’t seemed to be true in the past, with black hat SEO techniques occassionaly being punished.

Bing – The Love Affair Continues

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I still love Bing. Even though it is very different to the promo’s. I really didn’t like the ‘online-shopping’ appearance of the Bing Promo’s but the Beta Bing has turned out to be not much like what that portrayed, and I love it.

Why?

I love the cheery background pics which change everyday. They got me on Day 1 with Santorini – the most beautiful island on earth. I felt national pride when they had an Echidna on the weekend. Yesterday I think it was Huang Shan in China, and when I landed there I just felt a familiarity, I have been there! And finally, today, it is a pic of two super-cute otters. For a travel-lover like me, who also has an appreciation for all things nature, the new background pics are a simple but intriguing addition. A lot more interesting than the boring white background of Google.

But lets get off the aesthetics – what about the search results? I love them too. They don’t seem to be as spammed as Google, (and I am not just saying this because my clients are totally smashing it on Bing). The top 10 seem to me to be invariably relevant, and high quality sites.

In Google lately, there seem to be more than 10 entries, sometimes up to 12, because of blog, news and video entries. I don’t like them being all mixed up in the top 10. If I wanted those, then I would do a Youtube, blog or news search. Bing seems to keep it to a simple top 10.

Yes the layout is similar to Google, but it is prettier, simpler and less spammy. Taking all the best features of Google, and improving on it.

But I have been so institutionalised by Google, I feel that if I Bing something, I might miss out on something in Google. I need to break this dependence.

Bing – First impressions

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Well, I posted last week on my impressions of Bing from their trailer, and now I am going to post on my initial impressions from half an hour of use.

First of all, unlike Wolfram Alpha, my initial impression is that this could pose a serious competition to Google – if only people could cure their Google habit. I wonder if I feel this confidence in Bing because the interface is very reminiscent of Google?

Bing

(They even knew I loved Santorini?? I don’t know why that is the background for Bing.)

Now a quick comparison with Google, and you can see how similar the search options are:

google

However, I am not sure where a lot of the features are that were promoted in the video. Perhaps they are being rolled out separately – a search for mobile phones and swine flu got me no special shopping or health pages.

As for the other features I mentioned in my last blog post (which I didn’t make up, I got them from Bing’s own promo video) – I couldn’t find the tabs, I couldn’t find a video or image to view straight from the listings, and I couldn’t find ‘best match’ (which I thought was an aberration anyway).

What I did see that was new was the advanced search option, which allowed you to refine your search if you weren’t satisfied with the initial results. But on second glance, it wasn’t that advanced, just letting you add extra keywords, choose a domain, area and language. Not that groundbreaking.

Despite Bing not matching what I expected from the promotion, I think it is quite good. The userfriendly (and familiar?) interface could be what they need to help them compete with Google.

I mindlessly use Google myself, so not sure if Bing will be my next big thing, but I might compare results over the next little while to see if either has results that I prefer.

Just before I sign off, I will do a quick search for the term ‘best search engine’ on Bing, as I have previously with other search engines – just to see who it recommends:

Result: no one on page one. Similar to results seen on Google, it just has entries for blog posts and stories discussing search engines – it isn’t going to give a recommendation! However, unlike Google, it did not mention Dogpile (the aggregator search engine).

What it did do at number 15, was list Google Linus.

MSN Live Replacement – Microsoft Bing

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Next week, Microsoft will unveil its new search engine, Bing (which wasn’t on the list of predicted names), the long awaited replacement to MSN Live.

Bing isn’t aiming to be a Google replacement, they are actually providing some things which are a bit different to the current search facilities available. Microsoft is calling their new release a ‘Decision Engine’.

Looking at the video preview on their site, I find it a bit confusing. Some pages look like tripadvisor, and some look like some kind of Amazon. It is obviously aiming to be a lot more comprehensive and more of a resource than the average search engine.

A Sydney Morning Herald article reports that the new engine will use an algorithm, keywords, and semantics to determine what searchers mean, which is similar to other search engines online currently. However, the USP is that the search engine is supposedly targetted specifically at online shoppers, which is not the whole search market, but certainly the part of the market in which businesses are interested – and advertising is certainly a main driver of web content.  The initial version (Microsoft intends to keep throwing money at this), will help shoppers make decisions, plan trips, research health matters and find local businesses (apparently).

Some features mentioned:

  • Specific shopping pages, with reviews and price comparisons –  actually looks a lot like the site, Trusted Reviews.
  • Travel pages- kind of like a combination of Trip Advisor and flight/hotel aggregator sites
  • A health advisory section (a strange addition) – provided to ensure you get ‘trusted’ information for all your health queries – it is providing information from the most respected American institutions to answer these questions.
  • There will be a “Best Match” feature that identifies and gives high priority to answers that seem to best fit queries.  I am not sure what this means, shouldn’t they be listed in order of the answers to best fit queries anyway?
  • Some of it looks quite similar to Google – e.g. listing a short index under a site linking to the main areas of that site. Providing a local area map with pushpins, which is what seems to have been appearing in Google search results lately for things like ‘hairdresser’
  • “Quick Tabs” will appear automatically on search results pages with recommended query refinements. For example, searches on cities could trigger tabs for information regarding weather or tourist attractions. Restaurant searches might provide information on reservations and parking.
  • Documents or videos can be previewed without clicking through to links.
  • And like all its contemporary competitors, predictive text will be used to pre-empt your query.

It is an ambitious project, which seems to have been limited to just a certain few sections. It will be interesting to try it out next week and see if it could be a potential cure for the worlds Google habit.

Check them out, they are already on Twitter and Facebook

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