Category Archives: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization tips and strategies and information, from SEO by the Sea, to help make web sites easier to find.

Son of SEO is Undead (Google Caffeine and New Product Refinements)

Some changes to search, and search engines are easy to spot and see and understand. Others are highly visible, but their actual impact is less transparent. Still others are somewhat mystifying, and there’s little information about them published by any of the search engines. Some others aren’t very visible, and the search engines are fairly silent about them.

Last week, Google launched a new feature on search results pages called Google Instant Previews. If you click on the magnifying glass that shows up next to a search result, you’ll see a preview of the web page in the right column of the results.

In some results, where snippets are taken from the content on the page (as opposed to those from meta descriptions), the area where that snippet text appears on the page is highlighted, and magnified for viewers.

A number of reactions online note that these previews will harm SEO and Web Design, or will transform both in ways that are burdensome to SEOs and designers. The opposite is probably more likely true – sites that follow good SEO and Design practices stand a good chance of getting more click-throughs because of Google’s Instant Previews.

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SEO is Undead 1 (Links and Keyword Proximity)

“SEO is Dead,” is something that you may have seen grace the headlines of a blog post or news article in the past few years.

Some have pronounced SEO as being dethroned by Social Media Optimization (or Social Media Marketing). Or that Personalized Search, or Google Instant, or Universal Search, or Google Caffeine, or some other search update has changed around search so much that SEO no longer has value.

I responded to one of those “SEO is Dead” posts earlier this year with a post about Good SEO. The author I was responding to questioned whether creating great content, using standards-based HTML, and sharing that content with friends should sufficient for your site to rank well in Search Engines without SEO.

SEO isn’t dead, but it is constantly evolving as are searchers and search engines and the Web itself.

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Should You Rely upon Search Spiders to Rewrite Your Web Addresses?

Every web page has at least one unique address that people can reach it by. Sometimes a web page has more than one address, and that can be a problem.

For example, if I look for a digital piano on the web site, I might find one at the following address:

  • “”

If I remove each of the following parameters (parts of the address) or combinations of parameters, from the Target URL for the piano, and place what is left of the URL into my browser’s address bar, I still get the same page each time, but with shorter URLs:

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The Expertise of Google Custom Search Engines vs. the Wisdom of Crowds

This is the third and final (for now) part in a series on Google Custom Search, and how information from custom search engines might be used in Google’s Web search.

In the first part of this series, SEO and Assumptions behind Web Searches, I described some assumptions search engineers often make that are challenged by a recently published Google patent application, Aggregating Context Data for Programmable Search Engines.

Quickly, those questioned assumptions are:

  1. Search Engines should avoid using information from external sources in learning how people search
  2. User data collected about a searcher’s past searches and browsing behavior can help identify the intent of that searcher during new searches
  3. User data collected about specific searchers, queries, and web sites can also be aggregated to help understand the intent behind a search

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Is Google Custom Search Influencing Google Web Search?

This is the second part of a series on Google Custom Search Engines.

Why spend so much time looking at Google Custom Search? Here are a few reasons which I’ve written about in previous posts:

  • Google Subscribed Links, which can be created in Google Custom Search, sometimes appear in Google’s Web Search even if you don’t subscribe to those links.
  • Google’s patent describing their Trust Rank approach explores how the kind of labels used as annotations by trusted sources (such as some Custom Search Engine builders) might influence web search results.
  • Another patent application from Google explains how labels, which can be created in Google Custom Search, might affect the classification of Web pages by Google, and help to define query refinements that appear above Web search results, as does an additional granted Google Patent describing how Google might be Filtering search results using annotations.

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Assumptions behind Web Searches

This is the first in a series of posts on Google Custom Search Engines.

If you’re interested in how search works on the Web, you may want to spend some time exploring Google Custom Search. It enables you to create a site search for an individual site, or a customized search engine on specific topics that may focus upon a number of sites that you can select.

There’s another reason to start looking at Google Custom Search Engines, or CSEs. A recently published patent application from Google describes how the Search Engine may use information from CSEs to influence what we might see in Google’s Web search. This post is an introduction to the topic, and it covers how search engines attempt to identify the intent behind queries and web pages.

The patent application, Aggregating Context Data for Programmable Search Engines, includes a fairly well written statement (for a patent application) about one of the difficulties that search engines face when trying to come up with results to show searchers in response to queries. I thought it was worth sharing here, and it provides a nice introduction to a longer exploration of how Google CSEs might be used to improve web search.

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Improved Web Page Classification from Google for Rankings and Personalized Search

Last week, I wrote about a patent granted to Google which described how the search engine may use categories as a search ranking factor to decide whether or not to include some pages in search results for specific queries. The patent was originally filed back in 2004, and focused primarily upon classifying documents based upon things such as the contents of web pages and anchor text in links pointing to pages.

A few days ago, a new patent application was published by Google which focuses upon classification of documents based upon a wider range of information, including user behavior data. Instead of a simple matching of weighted classifications between web pages and queries, the patent filing describes a way of creating profiles for pages which include classification information, and spreading that classification information to unclassified pages through query profiles for queries which both types of pages rank for in search results.

This kind of user-data based profile information could be used along with more conventional ways of ranking pages to improve the quality of search results, and to provide more personalized results to searchers. The patent application is:

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How Google May Use Categories as a Search Ranking Factor

Does Google determine categories for pages and for queries, and can those play a role in how it ranks pages in search results?

Almost everyday, I receive visitors on a query for “bookshelf plans,” on the strength of a past post about Google’s plans for virtual bookshelves in Google library. Most of those visitors probably aren’t surprised that the page is about an online library given the title and snippet appearing for the post, but most of the search results preceeding it describe wooden rather than virtual shelves. My page really doesn’t fit within the same category as the others.

When a search engine determines whether a page is relevant for a certain query, it does more than try to match the text of the query with a page that contains that text, and looking at the links pointing to the page. A Google patent filed in 2004, and granted today describes how the search engine may try to associate web pages with categories, and queries with categories, and come up with a category score for each, to use to rank those pages for categories.

We are told that this kind of category matching addresses a couple of different problems.

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