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Archive for the ‘sticky seo’ Category

Google Lets Evil People Block Your Domain

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Yeah, I thought that title would grab you.  Google announced a new extension to its Chrome browser, an extension that could truly rock the SEO World.  The extension does two things:

  1. It enables searchers to block domains from search results.
  2. It tells Google what domains have just been blocked.

chromeSays Google anti-spam spokesman Matt Cutts, ” If installed, the extension also sends blocked site information to Google, and we will study the resulting feedback and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results.”

This blog post will tell you exactly how to preserve and enhance your search engine rankings in a world where users can send explicit feedback (this Chrome extension is neither the first tool for explicit feedback, nor will it be the last; but it might just be the most powerful, so far).

I should make it clear that I was always a big believer is both explicit and implicit user feedback.  The search engines would be fools not to pay attention to which sites please their visitors when serving up sites to new searchers.

It was just over two years ago that I released Sticky SEO, essentially detailing how you can keep more visitors longer on your website, going deeper into the site.  For the most part, this means pleasing more visitors even more than you already do, since that is what Google looks for.

So what do you do with this Chrome extension?  Well, you want to please your visitors so that they don’t swear, curse and block your domain.

PROBLEM # 1: FREE LOADERS

Searching for free tattoos?  Probably not.
Searching for free tattoos?
Probably not.

There are a lot of people searching for free stuff on the Internet.  You don’t give your stuff away free, but the “free loaders” show up at your website.  “What?  They want a million bucks to dig a hole to China?  I want someone to do it for free.  Bloody rip-off scammers.  Block, block, block.”

There are probably not too many people searching for “dig a hole to China” and expecting free service.  Nor are there many people expecting to get new shoes for free.  Nor gourmet coffee or gift baskets.  Nor metal buildings or intercontinental pipeline installation.  Not even free tattoos or body piercing. But there many niches that include freebie searchers,  for example…

  • website templates
  • resume help
  • music downloads
  • ringtones
  • online games
  • learn Spanish

How do you make sure that people searching for freebies don’t block your website when they discover that you are one of those evil profit-seeking cannibals who wants to feed your family?  You give them what they want, of course.  You add something free to your site.  You give them a free option, or you link to a free option.  Somehow, you make sure you please them.  Remember what your mother said?  “You can never go wrong being nice to someone.”  Well, she should have said that.

PROBLEM # 2: GENERALISTS

Let’s say you sell a very specific item or service that is part of a bigger niche, but people don’t search all that specifically.  In Sticky SEO, on page 14 (until I eventually get around to updating it), I tell the tale of a client who wanted to revamp its website back in 2006.  They sold commercial fitness equipment, but their clients would search just for “fitness equipment”.  The problem was that ten times as many people looking for home gyms also searched for “fitness equipment”.

Life would be easy if people searched for “home fitness equipment”  or “commercial fitness equipment”, but life wasn’t meant to be easy.  What would they do about all this traffic from generalist searchers?

Please them, of course.  Remember what your mother said?  “You can never go wrong being nice to someone.”  Like I said, she should have said that…especially if she knew Google was going to give all those people an easy way to block your domain and tell Google your site sucks.

How to please those generalists?  No point in reprinting page 14 here.  You can read it for yourself.  (Hey, it’s a free download.  Did you think this was a sneaky sales pitch or something?)

Your evil competition wants to eat you.

Evil competitors want Google to eat you.

PROBLEM # 3: EVILDOERS

Yes, the world is an evil place if you look at it right.  Google’s motto is “Do no evil” (or something like that.  But they never said anything about not arming your competition to do evil, did they?  How much do you want to bet that across the Internet’s freelancer markets there will be an SEO arms trade: “100 domain blocks for $15 – from separate IPs in over 20 countries”?  Maybe for $25, who knows?

So how do you deal with that?  No inbound link is supposed to hurt your rankings, so that your competition can’t spam you out of the search results.  But what if a coordinated group of offshore outsourcing in China and India and Greenland gang up on you?

Sorry, I don’t have an answer for you on this one.  But I am sure Matt Cutts will be asked about it sooner or later, and maybe he will have an answer.  Hopefully.

 


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Google Leaves Questions About Bounce Rates

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Regular readers will know that I have been in a somewhat involved debate on this blog and over at Sphinn on the issue of bounce rates as they might now or later on apply to SEO.  I maintain that is a matter of business necessity that search engines would try to more precisely measure user satisfaction with each result of each search phrase, and that bounce rates would be one metric they could use.  Frequent readers will also know that I do not view “bounce rates” as a simple number or as a static pass-fail type of calculation.  It would be a ridiculously simplistic algorithm that calculates bounces using such simple calculations, in my humble opinion. 

Recently, Web Pro News  reported that Google answers bounce rates questions.  In fact, two separate answers were provided, one that relates to SEO and the other that relates to Google Analytics.  Many webmasters will confuse the two and we all know that’s how false rumors get started — the kind of false rumors that years from now will be reported as fact by many people calling themselves “SEO expert”. 

It is possible that Google Analytics and SEO are related or will be related, but don’t bank on it.  Here is what Adam Lasnik of Google has to say specifically about bounce rates and SEO.

If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google Analytics, I’m afraid you probably know as much as I do. I love the product, but don’t know the ins-and-outs of it very thoroughly.

If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google web search and webmaster-y issues, then we really don’t have specific guidance on bounces per se; rather, the key for webmasters is to make users happy so they find your site useful, bookmark your site, return to your site, recommend your site, link to your site, etc. Pretty much everything we write algorithmically re: web search is designed to maximize user happiness, so anything webmasters do to increase that is likely to improve their site’s presence in Google.

The bottom line is that you want to do all the things that we talk about in Sticky SEO to keep people on your website, to engage them in your website, to send Google and other search engines signals that they found your website to be useful.  And, of course, you want to reduce the number of visitors who send the search engines signals that your website is useless.

Just for information, here is my post on objections to ranking based partially on bounce rates.

 


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Bounce Rate SEO Fallacies

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Of late there has been a lot of discussion about bounce rates and whether or not the search engines count these in their algorithms.  A few days ago I posted some pros and cons on this issue.  Today I would like to share with you 9 common objections I have seen to using bounce rates as part of the search engine algorithms, and refute 8 of those.

 

As far back as late 2007, there were reports that webmasters were seeing a difference in their rankings for major keywords within a few weeks of drastically changing their bounce rates.  However, none of the tests and reports seem to be complete enough or repeatable enough to constitute “proof”. 

 

As a result, there are plenty of naysayers who believe that such things as bounce rates are not now and probably never will be part of the search engine algorithms. 

 

I am of the opposite view; bounce rates will certainly be a major part of search engine algorithms and probably already are to some degree.  That is in large part – but not completely – the premise behind Sticky SEO.  Let us not forget that Microsoft has been spending a fair amount of energy on what has been called BrowseRank, which is in part based on bounce rates.

 

Objection 1, there is no definition of “bounce rate”. 

 

Response. This is the flimsiest of arguments.  A bounce is when someone leaves a website, going back where they came from.

 

Objection 2, I don’t like how Google Analytics defines a bounce.

 

Response.  Sadly, Google doesn’t ask me for advice, either.  But cheer up, the bounce rate in Google Analytics might not be the same as they use in their algorithm, just as the little green bar is not necessarily the PageRank they use in their algorithm.

 

 

Objection 3, many sites don’t have Google Analytics turned on, so Google would have very incomplete data.

 

Response (scratching my head in confusion).  What does Google Analytics have to do with anything?  This is about Google (or Yahoo, or MSN, or Ask, or some other) tracking their own traffic and how their own users move about and – most importantly – how their users return to their website.

 

Objection 4, what is the threshold for a bounce?  After 5 seconds?  After 10 second?  After 15 seconds? This is a mess!  (This is often part of the how-do-we-define-a-bounce debate.)

 

Response.   A bounce is a bounce, whether it takes a person one second or one hour to bounce back, it is a bounce.  How the search engines choose to treat bounces with varying lag times is another matter.  Let’s be clear; they won’t tell you, just as they won’t tell you how many links on a page they index, how many they follow and how many they count in their ranking algorithms.  Furthermore, it is a moving target.  Just like every other algorithm input, bounce rates and bounce lag times will not be treated in the exact same way one day to the next.

 

Objection 5, what if people quickly click on an external link and leave my site?  They found the site useful because they found a useful link on it, but they bounced.

 

Response.  That is not a bounce, that’s a referral.  A bounce is when someone hits the back button.

 

Objection 6, what if the user quickly closes the window?

 

Response.  That could be any number of things, but it is not a bounce.  Who can guess how the search engines might treat that, or even if they treat it at all?  However, it need not be considered a bounce unless the search engines believe it should be.

 

Objection 7, doesnt a bounce mean the person has found what they want?  Cant a bounce sometimes be good?

 

Response.  Sometimes, perhaps, but rarely.  After 5 seconds, a person has no time to read a page.  After 30 seconds, they might have found something useful.  So lag times matter.  More importantly, the search engines can determine what a person does next.  If a person returns to the search results and clicks on another link, that is a sign they did not find what they want.  If they return to the search results and conduct a similar search, that might also be a sign they did not find what they want.  If they return to the search results and conduct an unrelated search, that might be a sign that they found what they want.  Search engines can weigh various bounces in light of the user’s next action.

 

Objection 8, for some searches, people look for multiple sources, such as comparing prices, comparing products, seeking varying opinions, etc.  Too many sites would be penalized if all those bounces were to be counted in the rankings.

 

Response.  This is an example of false logic.  If someone clicks on one website, then bounces, clicks on another website, then bounces, clicks on another website then bounces…all the high-ranking websites for that particular search query would be equally affected.  Nobody would suffer a ranking disadvantage because rankings are relative.  On the other hand, if one site typically bounces and the others don’t, the bouncy site clearly is less useful than the others and should be demoted.

 

Objection 9.  Cant I just set up a bot to visit all my top competitors and leave their site after varying numbers of seconds to make it appear that their sites are all bouncy?

 

Response.  Yes, you can.  And you can get very creative.  I have even heard of couriers in China travelling from one Internet café to another to click on a particular site as a means of increasing its rankings.  I have no answer for this, other than that the search engines will have to control for this, just as they have found ways to control for automated link-building.

 

So have no fear.  Good websites that provide what their visitors want or who help them find what they want will prosper.  Sticky SEO looks at conversions and stickiness as integral elements to SEO.

 

Cheap sites that do a lot of link-building – bouncy SEO – counting on large volumes of traffic to offset poor conversion rates, will suffer – because the search engines will stop sending them that traffic. 

 

It’s just a matter of time.  Or perhaps it has already started.

 

 

 


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Sticky SEO on Webmaster Radio

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Earlier today I was on Webmaster Radio talking about Sticky SEO. You can listen here:

Show: SEO 101



 

 


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Do Bounce Rates Really Count?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Do Google and Yahoo include bounce rates in their algorithms?  Ever since I released Sticky SEO, it seems there has been a growing debate on whether bounce rates factor into search engine algorithms, or even whether they should in the future.  I think you know where I stand; they probably already do to some degree and they surely will count for much more in the future.  And not just bounce rates, but various other user activities.

I seems that my view is not universally held, but there is a robust debate on this topic.

Some people feel that there really is not a definition of what a bounce is, so that makes it difficult to determine bounce rates.  That just means the search engines have to define what a bounce is, and I gave them some tips here.

Some people feel that a high bounce rate is a good thing –  the person found quickly what he wants and returns to search for something else.  To quote one observer on Sphinn: “If the page is highly relevant to what the searcher is specifically looking for, they can get their info and leave without going to any further pages – fully satisfied. A Big vote for relevance.”

On the other hand, some people feel that if Google is now using bounce rates to rank its PPC ads, why would it not use that same information in its organic listings?

Others have argued that it would be too easy to send robots to the competitions’ websites and create a lot of fake bounces.

This issue is certainly not over, but I simply cannot see the search engines ignoring what I believe is the ultimate measurement of customer satisfaction.  There is no way that a quick return to the search engine is a good thing.  At best it is neutral, if someone is doing research and visiting numerous websites.  But in that case all top-ranking sites would have their bounce rates affected equally, so there would be no disadvantage resulting for any of them – those bounces would not affect rankings.  One way or the other user activity has to be an important measurement the search engines cannot afford to ignore.

 


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Is an SEO’s Place in the Kitchen?

Friday, December 12th, 2008

I wrote this post as a comment on Barry Welford’s blog, and it got so long and involved that I realized it would make a great blog post right here…especailly since it really is the foundion on which I wrote the Sticky SEO ebook.

Bounce rate is a great measurement of performance, of the usefulness of a website.  It is not the only one, as has already been discussed, and on its own would be a poor measurement.  Leaving a site through an affiliate link (or any other link) should not be considered a bounce.  It should be considered an external referral. 

Whenever anybody clicks on a result in Google, there are four potential next actions. 

  1. Bouncing back to Google, especially after only 3 – 5 seconds, is a sign that Google had served up a less-than-useful result.  Not good news for ranking well.
  2. Referring to a deeper link in the site (an interior page) is as Barry says “normally a confirmation that they are finding something of interest”.  Good, job Google; keep ranking that page for the search that was just performed.
  3. Referring to an external link is also a sign that the searcher found something useful on that page, which is why for SEO the New York Times is making a wise decision.  Searcher happy, Google happy.  Keep on ranking.
  4. Closing the browser window.  Yes, that is the fourth option, which means simply that the searcher’s wife just called, “Honey, dinner is ready.”  (Hopefully that won’t affect rankings one way or the other, or else we’ll need a kitchen-centric SEO strategy in the future.

 

 

 

 

 


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Sticky SEO Imminent

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I promised a couple months ago that I would follow up the aborted series on BrowseRank with a complete ebook on the topic.  Now that ebook is imminent.  We’ll be releasing it as soon as we clear up a few server issues.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s the image of the cover…

 


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