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.

Bill’s Most Excellent Top 10 SEO Rules

Somehow, in a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure crossed with Michael Pollan’s Food Rules moment, I found myself typing out the following. No patents or whitepapers were involved in the creation of this post.

One URL per Page

In an ideal world, your site architecture should be set up so that search engine crawlers are only able to visit each page of your site at one web address, and no more. You may be laughing, but when Google sends you the “I give up, your site has too many URLs” message in Google Webmaster Tools, you won’t be then. Seriously.

Keep Colors and Sizes Together

If you create multiple product pages where the only thing different is offering the product in red or green or blue, or small or medium or large, you are creating too many pages. True when you decide to let “email a friend” pages get indexed, and “Add to my wishlist,” and “Compare Products” and other pages that Google doesn’t want in its index either.

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Category Relevant Search Results, Query Suggestions, and Advertisements Based on Location?

A couple of days ago, Mike Blumenthal of Understanding Google Places & Local Search asked a pretty timely question with the post Google Local: Are Mobile Signals Actively used in Ranking Local Results? Mike mentioned a post I wrote about Google research on using driving directions as a local search ranking signal.

Mike can add another example of how location may play a role in the rankings of local results.

Street cars in San Francisco.

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Google Authorship Markup Patent Applications Published

On September 8, 2011, Google filed a patent named “System and Method for Confirming Authorship of Documents,” (U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/532,511). This provisional patent expired on September 9, 2012 without being prosecuted. A day later, on September 10th, Google filed two new versions of the patent, using the same name for both of them. Google’s Othar Hansson’s name appears on both as lead inventor, and the description sections are substantially similar, with a couple of very small changes.

The claims sections of the two patents are different, however. The first patent application (US20130066970) describes a link based approach to claiming authorship of a site, or being a contributor to that site. The second patent application (US20130066971) describes an email based method of claiming authorship (or of being a contributor).

The approaches described in both patent filings appear to be substantially similar to the instructions that Google describes in their help pages starting at Author information in search results

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How Google is Generating Query Refinements the Orion Way

In 2006, Google battled Yahoo! and Microsoft for an algorithm developed by an Israeli Ph.D.student in Australia. The algorithm had a semantic element to it, and advanced Google in an algorithm arms race between the search giants (one of which doesn’t even have a search engine of its own now). We’ve seen the technology described in terms of how it is displayed in search results, but not how it does what it does. Until now.

Google was awarded a patent this week that looks at search results for specific queries and the entities that appear within them, to produce query refinements. This invention is from Google, but the lead inventor behind it was part of a bidding war between Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. In 2009, the breakthrough was made public on Google in the form of Orion technology.

The Orion approach involved both extended snippets for queries (three or more lines of descriptive snippet instead of two for some longer queries), and “more and better query refinements.” How this technology is displayed is described in a Google Official Blog post from March 24, 2009 titled Two new improvements to Google results pages.

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Why Google May Change Search Result Snippets

It doesn’t do any good to rank well in search results if no one clicks through.

If you go to Google Webmaster tools, and see the list of queries a page of yours might rank well for, you might see some query terms or phrases that you want to show up in search results. Webmaster Tools will show you how many “search impressions” your page might receive, as well as how many people have clicked on it when they have seen it. So what if your page has received 10,000 search impressions for that term or phrase, but only 50 clicks?

One question you should probably ask yourself is if the term or phrase is one that is satisfied by your page.

Sometimes a query term has more than one meaning, and most people searching for it might be looking for a different meaning. For example, you create a page about Java the drink, and most searchers may be looking for the programming language.

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How Google Might Generate Snippets for Search Results

When you perform a search at Google, and you have a set of search results in front of you, how do you decide what to click upon? How do you judge the page titles, the snippets, and the URLs that you see. How does Google decide what to show you? A little more than a year ago, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog a post titled Better page titles in search results. There he told us that Google might sometimes rewrite the titles for web pages when showing them in search results. The post told us that Google might do some changing of titles when those had generic titles such as “home”, or no title at all, or:

We use many signals to decide which title to show to users, primarily the <title> tag if the webmaster specified one. But for some pages, a single title might not be the best one to show for all queries, and so we have algorithms that generate alternative titles to make it easier for our users to recognize relevant pages.

Before we consider how Google might decide when and how to change page titles (in a follow up post to this one), there’s another question about search results that needs some exploration.

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Does Google Search Google? How Google May Create and Use Synthetic Queries

When someone searches at Google, their query might not express the informational or situational need that they have. It might be too broad, too ambiguous, or vague in some other manner. A well-formulated query instead might contain terms returing resources addressing the searcher’s intent, which might be measured by performance metrics. For vague queries, search results that satisfy a searcher’s need for information might not be highly ranked, and may not be presented on a first page of search results.

Well Performing Queries as Search Suggestions

A search engine may identify well-performing queries from queries entered by users. This is especially true in cases where many searchers have selected results from those queries. These well-performing queries may be suggested to searchers when similar queries are presented to a search engine.

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Ranking Webpages Based upon Relationships Between Words (Google’s Co-Occurrence Patent)

My last post, Not All Anchor Text is Equal and other Co-Citation Observations, was a response to a White Board Friday video posted a couple of weeks ago at the SEOmoz Blog, Prediction: Anchor Text is Dying…And Will Be Replaced by Co-citation. I didn’t expect my next post (this one) to revisit that post and its observation that the way certain words might co-occur on pages might be a possible ranking signal that Google may be using.

Rand noted that first page rankings for three different pages, which didn’t seem very much optimized for the queries they were returned for, might be ranked based upon a ranking signal that looks at how words tend to co-occur on pages related to those queries. My post in response explored some reranking approaches by Google that also might account for those rankings, including Phrase Based Indexing, Google’s Reasonable Surfer Model, Named Entity Associations, Category associations involving categories assigned to queries and categories assigned to webpages, and Google’s use of synonyms in place of terms within queries.

Google’s Phrase-Based Indexing approach pays a lot of attention to words (phrases, actually) that appear together, or co-occur, in the top (10/100/1,000) search results for a query and may boost pages in rankings based upon that co-occurrence, and seemed like a possible reason why those pages might be appearing on the first page of results. The other reranking approaches that I included also seemed like they might be in part or in full responsible for the rankings as well. Then I found a patent granted to Google this week that seems like an even better fit.

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