Blog Lessons from Dead Tree Authors and Cereal Boxes

I don’t know who said that novelists read the novels of others only to figure out how they are written. I believe it’s true. We aren’t satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page: we turn the book around to find the seams.

In a way that’s impossible to explain, we break the book down to its essential parts and then put it back together after we understand the mysteries of its personal clockwork.

- Gabriel Garcia Marquez Meets Ernest Hemingway

I’m told that if you want to be a good photographer, you should look at a lot of photos. If you want to be a good painter, you should look at a lot of paintings. I believe that the same holds true with being a blogger, and seeing how other bloggers present their messages, tell their tales, and report their news.

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Author Markup, Schema.org and Patents, Oh My!

Google, Yahoo, and Bing have joined forces to enable web publishers to include additional HTML that adds more structure to their pages, and possibly makes those pages easier to index and may provide them with a little more control over what may show up in search results for pages. There’s some controversy over the approach, some questions about the impact of related patents that all three search engines have been granted, and web publishers should be paying attention to the possible impacts of this initiative from the search giants.

Google’s Author Markup

Yesterday, Google announced that they were introducing a way to add HTML code to a page to indicate who the author of the page might be. This code would appear as part of a link pointing to an author’s page on the same site, so that a search engine might associate the content of that page with the author who wrote it. The announcement was made in the Google Inside Search blog, in the post Authorship markup and web search, which told us how Google would use rel=”author” and rel=”me” to learn about who may have authored what on the Web.

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Searching in Google’s Book Search (The SEO of Books?)

Unlike Web pages, there are no links in books for Google to index and use to calculate PageRank. There’s no anchor text in links to use as if it were meta data about pages being pointed towards. Books aren’t broken down into separate pages that have a somewhat independent existence of their own the way that Web pages do, with unique title elements and meta descriptions and headings. There isn’t a structure of internal links in a book, with file and folder names between pages or sections that a search engine might used to try to understand and classify different sections of a book, like it might with a website.

An image of a boy reading

A Google patent granted today describes some of the methods that Google might follow to index content found in books that people might search for. It’s probably not hard for the search engine to perform simple text based matching to find a specific passage that might be mentioned in a book. It’s probably also not hard to find all of the books that include a term or phrase in their title or text or which were written by a specific author. But how do you rank those? How do you decide which to show first, and which should follow?

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Will Social Networks invade Your TV?

Maybe a better question is when will TV set top boxes give people the ability to interact with others on their TV screens when watching? A patent filing published at the end of May shows one possibility that we might see in the future for making TV more social.

A screenshot from the patent showing a TV screen with an image from a movie as well as a chat interface, a request for an incoming video conference, an online status, and other social options.

In addition to enabling television and social networking to be available via a real time interface, the set top box might allow people to preconfigure access to different social networks based upon channels on the television or certain time ranges.

For instance, you might associate ESPN with a Twitter Red Sox Fan Group at @Rdsxfans, as seen in the user interface screen below, or chat access to a specific person on Facebook between the hours of 7-10pm:

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Looking Back after 6 Years and 1,000 Posts

Almost 6 years ago, SEO by the Sea was born in a thought inspired by the sight of sails bobbing up and down on waves where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

The town is a sleepy historic place, which comes alive during weekends, when many visit the antique shops and docks and bed and breakfasts. Most of it burned down during the War of 1812, when nailmaker and militia lieutenant John O’Neill attempted to singlehandedly hold off British ships intending to sail up the River after their attack on Baltimore (the attack that inspired Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner).

O’Neill was eventually captured, and in retribution, the British set the buildings of Havre de Grace afire. Little of it remained unscathed, but the residents rebuilt the town, which originally got its name from Marquis de La Fayette, who called it Havre de Grace, or the “Harbor of Grace.”

Concord Point Lighthouse, which sits at the mouth of the Susquehanna River in Havre de Grace.

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How Google Might Choose High Quality Reviews to Display for Products and Businesses

If you want to write a review that more people might see, and that might be selected by a search engine as a “representative review” to display for a business or product or service, there are probably a few things that you might want to keep in mind while writing. At least according to a patent filing from a couple of Google employees. It isn’t officially assigned to Google at this point, but it lists a Google patent application that I wrote about last November on Reputations for Reviewers and Raters as a related filing.

The patent is filled with descriptions of “quality” signals that describe the ideal review, and it provides some good advice regarding what Google might look for in a review.

Run your review through a spell checker and grammar checker – chances are that Google will.

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Google Research Paper on Online Reviews for Merchants and Products

People often search the Web for reviews of products they might buy and merchants from whom they might purchase goods and services. It’s easy to lose track of time reading reviews on sites like Amazon, where people seem to enjoy sharing their opinions about almost anything. It’s not so easy to find online reviews of merchants surrounding me in a somewhat rural community.

Reviews are interesting when it comes to how they might be treated by search engines, how they could possible impact local search rankings, how a search engine might identify review spam, and the potential impact of those online reviews upon word of mouth and the reputations of businesses and the sales of goods and services.

For instance, Google Rich Snippets allow snippets to show the number of stars a place might have received in reviews from a particular resouce such as Yelp:

A screenshot of Google search results showing results for two different restaurants in a search for [pizza] in New York, indicating a number of starred reviews.

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Google Quality Scores for Publishers: The Carrot and the Stick?

Google’s Panda update has web publishers concerned about how Google is ranking their pages based upon features found on those pages that Google might use to “measure” the quality of those pages. A Google Webmaster Central blog post published earlier this month from Google Fellow Amit Singhal, More guidance on building high-quality sites, tells us:

Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find “high-quality” sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content. The recent “Panda” change tackles the difficult task of algorithmically assessing website quality.

The blog post includes a large number of questions that publishers might ask themselves about the quality of the content and the user experience on their websites, to give them some ideas on how they might improve both the content and the user experience. In some ways, this reranking of lower quality content has been a stick from the search engine, but what if Google used a carrot instead?

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines