Monday, November 26, 2012

Understanding SEO: How Google searches and indexes data.

Lovely Infographic which explains what happens when you search Google and some of the statistics behind the amazing feats of engineering they've cobbled together to give split-second search results from a 100,000,000 GB database.

Most of Google's search results are based on Indices. Each Index is a list of keywords, locations and pages that they relate to. When you search using a keyword (keyword is plural in search lingo - and a keyword can be one or more keywords, also known as a keyphrase), Google returns the results of an index or the results of pages in the indices your phrases matches.

So in essence, the index is pre-built. Google just applies rank order and geo-location to filter the results. So in most cases, if you're searching from Ireland, pages from the same country are given higher priority. Results priority are given in the order that suits the query, not necessarily the site or page with the highest PageRank.

To assemble this index, Google stores all of the relevant data with the keyword and web address. This is what makes it tick so fast. It doesn't really have to search, most of the computational mathematics have already been performed.

When Google processes each page, it determines what keywords on each page are strong or relevant enough. It also looks to see how popular it is and then gives it a score. It also decides which countries that its relevant to.

Google also has to then do the same keyword matching with its AdWords database as well as its Google Local (Zagat/Places) database. It also pulls relevent data from its news feed (especially for QDF) and from YouTube and Images. This data is then compiled into the search results you see.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a marketing term to describe a day of discounted ecommerce trading, and comes after Thanksgiving Thursday and "Black Friday." Black Friday is one of the biggest consumer discount retail days in the US and is similar to post-Christmas Boxing day sales in the UK and St Stephens Day sales in Ireland. Coined in 2005 as a way to convince people to spend online, #CyberMonday is due to see a $1  billion splurge online.

Essentially, its a marketing gimmick - not unlike creating Valentines Day or De Beers' famous "A Diamond if forever campaign" - which created a market for diamonds that didn't previously exist!

This figure though is massively overshadowed by the recent news that Taobao, the online Chinese retailing behemoth, closed $3 billion in sales in one day!

If you haven't taken advantage of it - its probably too late. A quick Google search reveals that hundreds of online marketers already have a head start, which included securing EMD for cybermonday2012.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hello Blogger - its an end to 2012 but not to Blogger!

I set up this blogger blog in 2008 and I've been an avid blogger ever since. As we saw the greatest expansion and growth in 2012, we decided to move the blog to our WordPress version on Primary Position, to consolidate our traffic and web infrastructure in one place.

This was a mistake. A big, big, big mistake.

This is the complexity of the times we live in. The right decision isn't always the best one. The correct decision can also be wrong. Blogger is free - much in the way are hosted sites. And with that, comes the inability to move away properly. You can ditch it. But you can't move it easily.

I picked Blogger, not because its free, but because its fast. And I found myself in a catch-22. First off, I'm a big fan of multiple domain name strategies and I always have. I have more domains than almost anyone I know, bar Michele Neylon for example,  and a few other serious domainers. I also have a number of websites. They act as backup plans, reputation managers and displacement ranking sites.

But backup mostly. You see, most companies have just one domain - and that's dangerous. What happens if your hosting goes down (for multiple reasons, which I'm not going into) or you accidentally ban yourself from Google (for example, by blocking your site in Robots.txt) or if you "steal" your own content.

When we wanted to move from here to there because we wanted to be on WordPress. There were lots of reasons, and they were good ones, and here are some:

  • Better control of the theme
  • Its our content on our domain
  • It gets harder and harder to leave here
  • More control over hosting, technical configuration
  • We'd be all grown up and 'using' a 'proper' blog cms
  • Traffic and SEO effect to our own domain would work harmoniously
  • Except it didn't
I take full responsibility for the decisions and the support I got from our team was unanimous. It was the right decision and we all had a role to play.

Why I didn't want to move:
  • The SEO authority in this blogger was legendary. We could rank for anything in seconds
  • This is where we started, where people knew us
  • Do you know how long it takes to build that many links and to build that much Kudos?
  • Blogger gets better and better all the time
  • I'm a Google Fanboi (but I own an iPhone and I still love Dell!)
So here's what we did
  • We found a 'hack' to sort-of '301' this blog to our blog
  • We found a way to import all of the content to our own
  • We even got all of the comments and user data! Yay!
  • It was epic
But Google doesn't really provide a way to move. You can stay, leave, abandon. But you cannot 'move'

Google does a lot of good stuff...and a lot of bad, dumb stuff that is the product of becoming the enormous giant that it is. Bureaucratic. Stuff like how it polices (or doesn't) AdWords and Brand name infringements, libel and flouts laws on Advertising and Trademark protections. Fair play to Australian courts for dragging Google to task. Fair play to Google for rolling out some of these worldwide.

Yes, Google gave a free tool. And Google believes, that it can provide limited support, warranty etc as a result. Except there's no pay-for option. And that's kind of sucky.  Because what happened next is exactly why I evangelise to people to move away from free services ASAP.

My reason for hosting on here wasn't because it was free. I couldn't care less. I spend 1000's on hosting, because I'm in the business. In fact, just 5 years ago, my total online hosting and domain ownership bill was in excess of €900 per month. We have a technical team of two engineers who spend all day every day managing sites we work on. The cost is frightfully negligible.

One of the things Google does, which is great in principle, is that it remembers. It remembers pages you put up and take down and it remembers them for a very, very long time. Months. Years even.

Many websites get taken down for a multitude of reasons. Missed billing. Wrong billing. Hacks. Forgetful webmasters. Malware. Try ticking the wrong box in your CMS (try the Privacy Option in WordPress if you're bored and hate getting free traffic from Google - it'll soon dry up)(actually please dont!). So Google doesn't drop pages automatically. In fact, getting it to do so ranges from tedious to downright annoying.

Well, moving our content AND using our 301 was a disaster and cause a multitude of problems that made it look like had copied (and it had) from Blogger - large scale. And that caused massive issues. Even though we set everything here to draft, there's no real way to move. There's canon settings and everything but ultimately, if Google thinks you're bad, you're done for until you fix it. And no, there's no helpline or support....!

So, if you're hosting here or, then stay or go. But if you're going to go, go soon :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Google Now - available on iPhone and better than Apple's Siri!

Google Now
Google Now is a new type of everyday computer aid for those that struggle to disconnect from the web. It will tell you when to leave your house for your appointment and if you are going to meet traffic along the way. It will even give you a route to avoid traffic if necessary. Google Now is always one step ahead of you to make sure you don’t trip up.

At a new restaurant and can't decide what to eat?
Google Now is like having a personnel assistant round the clock in your pocket. One of its great features is that if you’re in a restaurant and Google has access to their menu, Google Now will help you choose what you want from preselected preferences. What makes it even better is as you wait for your meal to be cooked Google Now can keep you updated about your favourite sports teams in real time. I can imagine those functions being pretty handy when lost in Japan as the super bowl starts!

Google Now decides which is the most important or most relevant with regards to you location, the time or what your friends are up to. For example if you are in the subway Google Now will realise this and select the public transport card to appear first this way you will know what train is next and how long it will be. This new feature which was only released on the 29Th of October has made it into another great technology that makes living so much easier.

Google Now has 3 different genres to select your cards from Manage your day, Stay connected and Be a local anywhere. Under each genre there are different cards you can choose from:

Manage your day:
1.       Next appointment
2.       Weather
3.       Traffic
4.       flights
5.       Hotels
6.       Restaurant reservations
7.       Events
8.       Packages

Stay connected

1.       Sports
2.       Movie Listings
3.       Concerts
4.       Stocks
5.       Public alerts
6.       Developing story and breaking news

Be a local anywhere with data on

1.       Public transit
2.       Places
3.       Nearby Attraction
4.       Nearby photo spots
5.       Translation
6.       Currency
7.       Time at home

With all these different cards to choose from you can almost guarantee that you will never be late, miss a train or go hungry. Like all the other Google products I presume the older it gets the more it will become integrated with other Google products and into our own lives.