Saturday, January 31, 2009

Google cocks up SERPS

Today was a bit weird. Whilst searching for things using Google, all the websites were flagged as potentially harmful to your computer - even Google's itself.
Barcelona SEO - Google logo
I thought it was just me at first, but then the BBC website also reported on it later on in the day. Here's Google's explanation:

"What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs.

I know it's not a hugely news-worthy story, and maybe a bit off topic on this blog, but it did happen to me, and I was a bit stumped. I suppose it just goes to show that even the big guys have "human errors" sometimes, too!

Like what you're reading? Contact me at Barcelona SEO for ways I can improve your conversion rate and maintain those website visitors as real customers, too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Website Optimisation - Eye Metrics

As I've previously mentioned, 2009 is going to change the way Search Engines provide their results.

Some things however, never change. You may have heard many times of the importance of page navigation, but what does this actually mean?

Page Navigation

Page Navigation or good page navigation, in a nutshell, means that visitors to your site should not have to move around and find the right places to click links to get to where they want to go. Once upon a time, all links used to be blue (because most browsers are programmed to see links as blue by default), so it was easy to see which parts of a website could lead you to other pages. Certain research suggests that this is still a great way to go - but, more and more, modern websites choose different methods of guiding their visitors to where they want to go. This could be call to action buttons, clickable images, offer buttons ("get 25% off now", etc.)

Barcelona SEO - Eyetools

There is one thing however, that hasn't changed in at least the last 10 years, just that recently technology has been able to explain and justify why. This is what people look at when they first see a page.

Eye Metrics

The funny image above is actually a snapshot of a SERP from Google but with clever eye metrics information super-imposed on top. This basically shows where exactly people looked on this page and for how long (the colours are self-explanatory) and works the same for almost any website - regardless of the content. Website users (normal people like you and I), have been conditioned to view pages in a certain way. The same way that when you pick up a newspaper, you scan the pages and don't necessarily read the whole newspaper as if it were a book. This same principle applies to a website, with a remarkably high percentage of users focusing on the top left hand side of the page, then the title of the page and then back to the navigation bar which is almost always at the left, just below the first thing the user saw (maybe the logo, for example). No surprises, you might say, that's what I do. OK, so how can this information help me on my website?

Well, first of all, make sure your most important information is at the top of your page. Make this your unique selling point. This sounds obvious, but there are many websites out there that give an introduction to their company, or a history lesson with regards their sector.

Above the fold.

Note that expression. Most successful websites have a single column navigation, because this controls the way that your user views your site. The same as a sales pitch decides when and where to drop the sales techniques, a single column web structure is easier to control in terms of what you want your visitors to see.

However, many visitors will not scroll down below the first part of your site which appears in their browser, and will click out or hit the back button. Imagine your site as one long piece of paper, but each time the screen reaches the end of the browser, then that is a "fold". You need to keep all of the important information "above the fold", so you ensure that your website visitor is seeing your unique selling point as soon as they hit the page.

This post goes hand in hand with some of my other recent posts regarding How to keep visitors on your website.

Like what you're reading? Contact me at Barcelona SEO for ways I can improve your conversion rate and maintain those website visitors as real customers, too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Twitter for SEO?

There's no doubting that Twitter is huge, and is going to get even bigger in 2009. When recent troubles broke out in Gaza, CNN used Live Twitter reports from people inside Gaza to update their newsreel, and the recent plane that crashed in the Hudson river in New York had another Twitterer sending minute by minute reports of the rescue mission. Micro blogging sounded like it would never work, but it's working incredibly well.

However if you ask me, Twitter for SEO is a bit of a no-goer. At least in my experience so far for my site and clients. Part of the reason is that it's a bit like Facebook, but quicker, and Facebook is used primarily for social interaction - keeping up with friends, checking out thier photos, etc. There are many company pages you can become "fans" of, but those pages with the most fans that aren't people, tend to be funny niches like comedians, or films, etc. Twitter is much quicker, even if I do seem to find error pages almost all the time I'm on there?!
Barcelona SEO - Twitter Error Page
With regards SEO, you can drop links (via tools such as tinyurl) all day long if you like, and build up your home page to gain a decent PR (Page Rank). Then you also have a url on your home page which would technically be a great 1 way, high PR link.

There's just one problem. All the links are nofollow. So for all the hard work and "original content" that you're making, same as your blog, there's no SEO benefit. I can see twitter being highly addictive, and there are some great add-ons which make it possible to become even more addictive, but I think time spent on Twitter with regards link-juice is a waste.

Where I think Twitter would really work, would be branding and gaining real customers, if you have something really interesting to say about your company. If you simply follow people so that they can see your tweets of links, in the hope that one might click, then that's spam for me (which is why Matt Cutts, and the Google Spam team decided to add the nofollow attribute, I guess). This was also highlighted in a article a while back (sorry, can't remember the link). The article highlighted how good Twitter would be in a specific location, due to it's speed. It used Barcelona as an example, and said that if someone was visiting Barcelona, and had a PDA/Iphone, etc. they could tweet people about Barcelona and receive real-time replies about places to go, events on that particular day, restaurants, etc. The author made the analogy that if you searched "Barcelona" on Twitter, there was a few random posts of people in Spanish, and then one particular agency (who I won't name) that replied to everyones tweet with spam messages about their Barcelona apartments.

For me the jury is out, as I think time could be better spent commenting on dofollow blogs, article writing or other such activities. I'd love to hear some positive stories about your Twitter experiences however, so please feel free to comment.

Barcelona SEO Training from Barcelona SEO tackles all types of social media and the possible impacts on your business. Please contact me for more details.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Google Site Maps

Creating a site map for your website is not something absolutely necessary, but it does help the search engines crawl your content quicker. Your content will probably end up being crawled and therefore indexed into the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) in any case as long as you have a good site structure and inbound links, but telling the search engines exactly how to look through your site via a site map ensures that this process is a lot quicker, and that any fresh content will be immediately available for inclusion in the SERPS.
Barcelona SEO - Google sitemaps

Up to now, a site map hasn't been particularly difficult to make, but at the same time it's not ridiculously easy either. Sitemaps are almost always in XML format, and if you have limited knowledge of the technical side of websites then it might be something that is a little daunting. Up to now there have been many free web-based applications and sites which will create a site map for you but recently, Google itself launched it's sitemap generator. What better way to start than from the root ?

I think this is a very positive mood, and Google is trying hard to "help" websites and website owners to make available their information in an attempt to improve search results. As always, there will be people who will try and exploit the system, but I have a sneaky suspicion that if this is something internal of Googles, then it might make spam detection that little bit quicker.

If you'd like to know more about website optimisation in Barcelona, or would like some in house Barcelona SEO training please contact me.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pay Per Click Panic?

Most people are familiar with the idea of Pay Per Click advertising, at least to an extent. Maybe you have never personally tried it, but at least people understand the concept behind it. Within the results of a Search Engine's Page Results appear paid or "sponsored" results, usually at the top and on the right hand side, and often with a background colour to distinguish between the "organic" or real results.
Barcelona SEO - Mouse click
There is a certain percentage of internet users (admittedly a small percentage) that have no idea that these results are paid for, and often click on these results first, simply as they are the ones at the top.

Every small busniess should consider a Pay Per Click campaign, as it has the ability to drive traffic directly to your website, and promotes branding, as well as saving time in having to wait for "organic" results in the SERPs.

However, a recent survey by Microsoft seen here shows that 59% of small businesses have never even contemplated the thought of a PPC campaign, and of those 70% said they would rather file their own tax returns (surely a thankless task) than try a PPC campaign.
Barcelona SEO - Microsoft Logo
I suppose the idea of embarking on a PPC campaign may be daunting, and must have a certain stigma attached to it, which slams the breaks on flipping into this potential gold mine of advertising. Make no mistake about it, a well crafted PPC campaign can bring quality traffic to your site. You are targetting clients within your field and at the right moment - when else can that be said about other forms of traditional advertising? Sure, you can go for classifieds, year-long magazine or editorial ads, but these have the disadvantage of being written at the beginning of a campaign, and cannot be changed.

A PPC campaign can be (and more often than not needs to be) tweaked, preened and honed into your specific market niche or sector. At Barcelona SEO we can help you to set up and monitor such a campaign,and we also offer Pay Per Click Training in Barcelona if you want to do things right and have more control for yourselves.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Vertical Search for 2009 - 17 reasons why you need to re-think your SEO strategy

2009 is going to see a change in SEO with regards Vertical Search. The last quarter of 2008 saw Google introduce some new tools, such as Custom search, Google Wiki and improved Universal search.

Vertical search basically means looking at a slice of a pie. Don't think I'm going mad, it's just the best analogy I can come up with.

Barcelona SEO - Vertical Search slice of pie

Up to now, all SERPS provide a list of websites when any search term is introduced. This is basically a long list of similar sites, one after another, in a horizontal format. Nowadays, however, any search string could throw up results ranging from books to videos, blogs to images, news stories to Twitter well as your normal website list. This is what's been dubbed as a vertical search, as it's like a slice through the search term and aims to offer as broad a spectrum of results as is possible, therefore giving a perfect user experience (one of the main goals of a search engine).

Never before has it been more important for a business to gain exposure across the whole stream of the Internet. Simple optimisation of your website is no longer the key to a successful online business. You need to be sure to cover as many bases as you can, so that your company can appear in as many of those results the search engines could throw (it's alleged that there are 17 different parameters to a vertical search).

For more information about website optimisation and e-marketing in Barcelona please contact Barcelona SEO and we'll be happy to help.

Friday, January 2, 2009

How to keep visitors on your website - Part 4

Sometimes adding new content to your website is not something you will do on a regular basis, simply because your particular website doesn't need a lot of information. If you only sell one product then it's no use adding lots of pages about the same product in an attempt to make your site bigger, as it will have a negative effect and do nothing for the user experience.
Barcelona SEO - Microphone
One of the main things you need to maintain is the voice within your website. Blogs, like this one, tend to be in a conversational manner and much less formal. With your website, although this is not a general rule of thumb, I think you should avoid the really stuffy, corporate style of writing, as this just creates distance between your company and the viewer of your website. Talk less about we and more about you (the reader of your page).

It's great to have achievements in your field of expertise, but think about relaying that to your website viewers and how they can benefit from that. There is a big difference between feature and benefit. Feature can be what sets your company apart from the competition, and Benefit is what your clients will take out of it. Try not to dwell on the features so much. Consider these two examples:

"In 1999 our company was awarded with the new enterprises small business award and we have continued to achieve renowned status in our current field."

With this:

"Allow our award winning team of professionals to guide your company to new heights and together create a worthy status within your sector."

This is the first example that popped into my head, but you get the idea.
You could always * the award, and leave details at the bottom if you so wish, with a link to details of the prize, etc. which is being concise but not showing off.
Barcelona SEO - Typewriter
The most important thing about your web copy is to be consistent. If you are going to be adding pages when you really do have something to say about the benefits a user can gain from recruiting your company services or buying something from you, then don't change style to a stuffy, corporate style, or don't become too friendly or casual - unless that's what you've based the rest of your website around. It's of vital importance to remember that your content should be natural, and read for the end user, not the search engines.

Like what you're reading? Why not find out more about our SEO Training in Barcelona from Barcelona SEO? We'll be happy to help with your website and company.