Archive for May, 2011
We have a question from Matt in California. This is not me Matt, this is some other Matt in California who asks “Is Google doing anything different when it comes to serving up Twitter results?”
And the answer is no, we are not doing anything different. We have our web search results and if lot of people link to a particular tweet or if particular message that someone did on twitter then we think that’s really relevant and we see the content of that page or that status message and we’ll just return it within our normal scoring. So we look at the content of the page which is probably pretty short 140 characters or less for the core of the message we look at the people that link to it or and what they said when they linked to it. But it’s not as if we do anything different for our scoring for twitter or we do anything strange or anything like that. We treat them just like normal web pages so we crawl the web and as a part of crawling the web we end up at lot of different tweets or twitters by different people on twitter and so they just get ranked normally. So there’s no special sauce or anything different going on within our search results for just showing twitter.
It’s time for another round for Grab Bag questions. We record all these questions on one day and send them out on the course on many different days. Last time everyone complained they saw the same red polo shirt for 30 – 40 days in a row, so I actually brought a bunch of different shirts so we’ll just sprinkle it up and mix it up a little bit. So you’ll get a little more variety in your shirt. So let’s start with the first question from Deepesh in New York. Deepesh asks “What impact do site load times have on Google rankings?”
The short answer is, none, right now. Now let’s give it a little more color. Of course if the site takes so long to load that we can’t even fetch it, Googlebot can’t get a copy of it then that will have an effect on your rankings because your site is essentially timing out. So if your site is taking 20 or 30 seconds to respond to request that could be a problem. But if your site takes 1 second versus 2 seconds that has no difference what so ever on Google’s rankings. So that’s the short answer. Now let’s give a little more color. If you haven’t heard Larry Page has talked about how he wants the web to be. He wants the web to be really fast, almost as fast as a magazine like as soon as you turn the page you are ready for the next page. And so chrome was built with that philosophy, we want to make the web really fast make it a really good experience so currently site loading times have no effect on Google’s rankings. What might happen in the future, I don’t know. I can certainly imagine Google saying while we like the web to be faster, what can we do to encourage people to make their sites faster and how can we get the word out, that if your site is faster people will be happier and more likely to come back to your site or use your site more often. We’ve seen that on our own site. So it is interesting that we want the web to be fast and we want sites to load quickly. Right now it’s not at all affecting our rankings. For the future who knows what might be involved, personally I think it’s a great idea if you can look at some other ways to make your site a little faster. For example don’t include 40 different java script files. You can compact those all down into one java script or one CSS file. Don’t include huge images when your image size is only set to something tiny. There are lots of ways to minify or compact your pages to make them return faster for users. You can Gzip pages for example. So there’s a lot of ways to look at that’s really good for user experience. Don’t worry about from the search engine ranking perspective right now but it probably can make a really big difference for your users.
Kevin from Marseille, France asks “Will SEO still exist in five years?”
Four people liked that question 45 didn’t like that question I’m still going to answer it. Yes! I think SEO will still exist in five years. Google tries to make it so that you don’t need to be an SEO expert. But SEO in some sense it’s almost like a resume. In the same way you polish your resume you figure out how to put your best foot forward, SEO tries to figure out how to put the best foot forward for your website. So SEO is not spam, there are many many white hat ways to do SEO; canonicalization, something that we’ve been talking a lot recently can help make sure that all of your URLs get the back links that they deserve you don’t have a lot of duplicate content. And so there’s a plenty of great things that you can do as a developer or as an SEO to make sure that your site is well represented it makes the right impression it’s really useful for the visitors, those are all the great things that you can do. So I think that as a practice will definitely still exist in five years. The hope is that the black hat or sometimes the illegal stuff, crap hat or whatever you want to call it, the stuff that is really kind of annoying if you are the site owner, the stuff that pollutes or clogs up the web that will not be as productive. So my hope is more and more people keep switching to white hat, more and more people learn about SEO but don’t necessarily have to become an expert and they could use self service tools like the Webmaster Council or other search engine’s councils to help them out on SEO but we provide a free SEO starter guide it’s a 20 page PDF and we wouldn’t do that if we didn’t think there was some value to that if we didn’t think there was some value to SEO. So SEO doesn’t have to be spam SEO doesn’t have to mean black hat SEO can help you put your best phrase on your website just like you polish your resume. So I think it will be around in five years and I don’t think that that’s a bad thing.
A question from West Virginia, Frank asks “If I’m looking to hire an SEO agency, which one do you recommend?”
I’m not going to say which SEO agency I personally recommend because, you never know things can change; people change their policies you never know exactly what different agencies might be doing. I’ll give you a general answer to the question. If you search for Google SEO Guidelines or something like that, we have an entire page on our Webmaster help centre. This sort of says here’s something to look out for and says some things to look for in an SEO. So things like references, they should be able to tell you exactly what they are going to do like if they are going to wave some magic smoke and not tell you what they are doing be a little worried about that. You might find what they say boring but they should be transparent about what they are doing. I’m going to change the site architecture, I’m going to do all this, they should be completely upfront about all those sorts of things. We’ve changed our SEO guidelines so they used to be a little more controversial now they are much more focused on here are some great ways to identify them so it’s a really good page I recommend you to check it out. There are lots of great SEOs out there. If an SEO gives you sort of a queasy feeling or they seem a little shady or fly by night there are lots of SEOs out there. So don’t go with anybody where you are worried that you can’t leave them or you just get a bad feeling from them because there are lots of good SEOs out there.
Nik from London asks “I’m using a template website (I’m an amateur!). The h1 tag appears below the h2 tag in the code. Does the spider still know what’s going on?”
Yeah! I wouldn’t worry about it, we can handle h1s and h2s very well don’t make your entire page h1 or h2 but you will not believe the sort of stuff that people put up on the web. There is study several years ago that said 40% of web pages have syntax errors. So having one h1 below h2 I wouldn’t sweat it. There are so many people who do broken web pages and ugly web pages and pages that are not really HTML and we still try to process that because there could be some good information on those pages. So just having out of order h1s or h2 pages I wouldn’t worry about.
BlindFiveYearOld in SF asks “When did ‘Did you mean’ search results begin to be displayed? And what is the criteria for presenting ‘Did you mean’ search results above the normal search results?”
The short answer is, it happened relatively recently; I want to say like Novemberish of 2008. So relatively recently is the first time you might have seen it. And when do we show it is when even more sure it’s something useful. Because not everybody clicks on ‘Did you mean’. They are not savvy or they didn’t see it they get blindness so they don’t click on the result which is probably going to help them a lot. So if we think there’s a high prior probability that this will be a very helpful suggestion to users not just a normal search result but really really helpful like they misspelled it badly or we think there are great results waiting for them just around the corner if only they would do this corrected search then we are willing to show this new user interface. And it’s not perfect 100% of the time, you can always use the plus sign or put a phrase or keyword in double quotes to do exactly the search you wanted to do. But if we do have bad search results we’ll try to learn that overtime and improve on the individual algorithms but we have seen a real quality improvement for the majority of users.
A question from Bangalore, Amalve asks “Are title and description tags helpful to increase the organic CTR – clicks generated from organic (unpaid) search – which in turn will help in better ranking with a personalized search perspective?”
Great question! So many people think about rankings and then stop right there. And that’s not the right way to think about things. You want to think about rankings and then you want to think about maximizing your click through which means making your title and your snippet very very compelling not deceptive but something that invites the users to click on it because they know they’ll find what they want. And then you want to think about conversion rates and you want to get good ROI. And so title and description tags absolutely can increase your organic click through rates. Try to optimize for that. Because it doesn’t really matter how often you show up it matters how often you get clicked on and then how often you take those clicked on visits and convert those to whatever you really want, sales, purchases, descriptions whatever it is you are trying to optimize for. So I wouldn’t think about it in terms of oh I get more visitors and it helps me in terms of personalized search just think about in terms of getting more visitors and they convert better. So do spend some time looking at your title looking at your URL looking at your snippet that Google generates and see if you could find ways to improve that and make it better for users because then they are more likely to click . You’ll get more visitors you’ll get better return on your investments.
Here’s a question from London Katy Bairstow asks “There seems to be very little on human visitors where in the site’s structure a given page is, so: Is it better to keep key content pages close to root or have them deep within a topical funnel-structure, eg.: food/fast-food/burgers/hamburgers.php”
Well this is not SEO advice; this is just a behavioral advice. If you can stuff fewer number of clicks from the root page visitors are more likely to find it. If somebody has to click eight times to find the page to register for your conference compared to register right on the main root page, fewer people are going to find if all that many clicks away. So it doesn’t really matter where it is in the path like is it at the root level or eight levels deep it might matter for other search engines. But at least for Google I would think about can your visitors find it and that’s not search engine ranking advice, that’s just general advice on how to improve your ROI.
We have a question from Brighton, Danny asks “What are Google’s plans for indexing the deep web? Are there best practices for form construction to optimize for this?”
Great question! We recently published a paper in VLDB which I believe stands for Very Large Databases, that talks exactly about our criteria all the ways though we tried to do it safely so if there are people who don’t want their forums to be crawled we won’t crawl them. So there are various simple things that you can do. So rather than having text that has to be filled out like a zip code if you could make it a drop down for example that’s much more helpful. If you could make it so that it’s not a huge form with 20 things to fill out but more like one drop down or two drop downs that’s going to be lot easier as well. I definitely encourage you to go read the paper there’s nothing sooper dooper confidential in it. And of course if you can make it that you are not part of the deep web you can take those pages that’s your database and have a HTML site map so that people can reach all the different pages on your site by crawling through categories or geographic areas, then we don’t have to fill out forms. And Google is a pretty good company about being able to index the deep web through forums but not every search engine does that. And so if you can expose that database somewhere where people can get to all the pages on your site just by clicking not by submitting a form then you are going to open yourself up to an even wider audience. If you could do that, that’s what I recommend. But if you can’t do that then I’ll say check out this paper from the VLDB conference where the team talked about it in more detail.
Barbeta from Buenos Aires asks “Star Wars or Star Trek?”
Star Wars! Sorry Star Trek folks, but there are like 50,000 movies admittedly cold wars, I can see both sides. I’ve always been a Star Wars fan I don’t even know all the Star Trek criteria but there’s good points to both sides.
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