SEO

That Magical Word in Search Engine Optimization

Keywords.

Mention keywords to anyone who has a website and they start getting a glazed look in their eyes. It is the expression that drives thousands of dollars into SEO businesses, drives people mad in an attempt to insert just the right keywords in their website text so that they can be number one in a search engine result.

In the early years of the Internet of Things, there was a specific website code you would put into your website called a metatag labeled “keywords”. When it was realized that this one metatag could boost your website to the top of the pile, many started inserting every word or phrase into that one little space to the point where it became pages upon pages of “words”, most of which were not relevant to anything on the website. It worked for a time, until the Google search engine came along.

Then in 2000, the Google algorithm kicked in. In the 16 years and several hundred changes to the algorithm, Google said, “meta tags for keywords will no longer be used”. Note that Google did not say keywords would not be used, just the meta tag.

Suddenly everyone panicked although even now, many technical and non-technical people believe the metatag is still used.

The algorithm continued to be fine-tuned and then the word finally sank in that if you wanted your website to be at the top of the search engine results, you had to have quality related content on your website. What does that mean?

Obviously if you are in the business of selling shirts, you aren’t going to have your website talk only about pants, except you could write it in such a way as to how the specific shirts matched specific pants. Then you have two major keywords, shirts and pants. They go together, “naturally”. That is rather a strong point to all of this – naturally.

To figure out search engine optimization can be very complicated if you try to learn everything there is to know about SEO and weed out all of the hype from people trying to sell you their services.

To some degree it is rather simple. We’ll keep the analogy about shirts for a while longer. If you want to be found in your area so that people come into your shop to buy shirts, then you want to do a number of things:

  1. Tell people who you are. Given all of the scammers in the world today, people want to know who you are before they will do business with you. Frankly, if your shop is 15 miles from where I live, I do not want to waste the time and gas to go somewhere to be disappointed.
  2. Tell people specifically where you are. If they don’t know where you are, how will they find you? As an example, run a search for “Seattle shirt stores”. You can get over 77,000 search results. Which one are you?
  3. Description is key, or in this case, the keywords. Write your descriptions so that people will know specifically what you are selling. If I search for “Seattle blue shirt”, I get over 10,100,000 results. When I add “checkered”, I get 8,900,000 results. I add, “long sleeve” and the results dropped to 6,520. See how this works? Remember to write the text naturally, not with the sole intent of SEO, because there is no magic formula. The better the content search, the better the results you get because the website page has better content. Note that I used website page. That is because you have to look at every page on your website to make sure there is good solid content.
  4. Contact information is key as well. If I search for something and I think I found what I want, I might need to call or email you with questions. If I can’t easily find contact information, then I might suspect your website as being one of those that is just trying to get my money with little or no support with problems (Customer Service, right?).

This is just some of the pieces that go into search engine optimization. There are more, of course, but this will get you going in the right direction. Keep in mind that you need to keep your website current. The search engines like change but current relevant change, not just for the sake of change.

Google’s Alphabet Move and What it means for you

If you have been following tech news within the past couple of week you may have heard something about Google and Alphabet. Without getting into the specifics from the business perspective, all you need to know is that Google has reorganized itself into a parent company called Alphabet in order to spur innovation and work on ambitious tech projects. The Google search engine that you’ve been using for years still exists, but now projects like Google’s self-driving car, mobile divisions, etc. belong to Alphabet as opposed to Google. The move is meant to please shareholders more than consumers, but there are some details that might have an impact on how you interact with Google or Alphabet in the future.

When you think of Google, you probably think about the search engine as opposed to the other wonky tech devices and programs that they are trying to force down your throat (Google+ anyone?). You can breathe a sigh of relief because the Google search engine will remain exactly as it has been for years. Google as you know it has just become a small cog in a much larger company. Alphabet is now the company, and Google is more like sub company within Alphabet. Again, this won’t do much to your day to day experiences with Google, but you may start to see more autonomy over time when using Google. The types of ads you see will alter slightly depending on whatever projects are going on within the other Alphabet companies, but you won’t be forced to connect your Google+ or YouTube account together just so you can function online. Details are fairly limited as of right now, but with a little more breathing room, Google can now focus and innovate itself into becoming a better search engine for you the consumer.

Transitioning from Google will allow Alphabet to develop their more experimental projects, which may also impact you if these projects ever come to fruition. Take Google’s self-driving car for instance. While the project was initially under Google’s leadership, it has now become an independent project under Alphabet. With more independence comes more innovation, including the ability to purchase other startup companies in order to help develop the self-driving car quicker than before. Even projects like Google Glass, which by the way has not been cancelled for whatever reason, will now be freed from the consumer Internet market, giving them the power to take wing even faster. Projects like these are a few years off sure, but the likelihood that they will come to fruition for consumers is even more likely now that they have become independent companies under Alphabet.

Google has been such a well-known brand for years, so completely rebranding and reorganizing their entire company is an ambitious move. If everything works the way it’s supposed to, we may see innovation in transportation, urban planning, medicine and social networking, all thanks to the new Alphabet. It’s a huge risk for Google to take, but Google has never been a cautious company. As of right now, we can say goodbye to Google and hello to Alphabet.

What are your thoughts on the new rebranding of Google? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Web Searching

As of January 2015, Google had 88% of searchers using its search engine, with Yahoo! and Bing trailing at 4% and 4.5% respectively, according to Statista.com. With more and more users, particularly millennials, making searches from mobile phones, a greater percentage of market share is coming from phones and tablets. Google on average takes in over 5.5 billion search requests a day, from laptops and mobile devices alike. That’s a lot of searching. But given the expanse of the internet, how do most users navigate through the troves of information brought up by these search engines? From psychology to basic preferences and familiarity with the web, many factors shape the web searching experience. So if you’re curious as to why and how you might be searching the web, and how to perhaps make more efficient and relevant searches, read on.

Human Wayfinding: Getting right into the science of information searching, let’s take a look at something called “wayfinding”. Wayfinding happens when you travel, browse the web or Facebook stalk someone. You rely on local knowledge, things you know and that are in front of/around you, to get to where you need to go or get the information you want. You take steps to get from place to place in order to reach your final destination. For example, in Wikipedia, you can click on links to different articles. If you start on a page about fruit and want to get to pesticides, you might click on “agriculture” which takes you to “farming tools” and then finally “pesticides” (I just made this up, so if these articles don’t exist in that order, don’t blame me!). Based on research from Bob West at Stanford University, a person tasked with reaching a particular article when started on a particular page was able to get there with an average of 3.2 clicks, and a maximum of 9 clicks. Through some analysis, it was found that people use two techniques when searching: navigating to “hubs” and looking for similarity to the topic. Hubs of information are more general pages that may contain lots of information able for perusing – sort of like a search engine or a website that is about the topic you are searching for, with many pages on specific information. Once you navigate to a hub, then you look for familiar and similar information to what you want. A search engine may try and do this for you, but ultimately people have their own filter for looking at relevant websites. That’s more of a personally cultivated taste, so we’ll get into that in the next section. In the end though, people are pretty good about filtering and searching for information. They’re willing to click around a few times to get where they want to go, although less clicks are usually better to keep younger searchers’ attention spans.

Website Relevance and Credibility: Search engines show web page titles, the website name and a brief description of the page (if there is one). Using these three pieces of information, people go about a careful filtering process when deciding whether or not to click on a site. The familiarity of the page title being presented does a lot – if a web page title matches the user’s search query closely, they are more likely to click on it. Next, people scan the website title and description. If the website domain name is something relevant, people will continue to read the description of the website; otherwise, it’s pretty easy to dismiss a site that sounds irrelevant or spammy. Finally, when reading the description of the page, people again look for matching of their query to the information. The more overlap with the searched topic and more specific a page may be, the more likely people will click it.

Tips for Searching: Now that you know how people search, how can you search more effectively? One way is to limit the kind of information you get back after a search request. If you need academic material, try using Google Scholar. If you want to locate a particular nonprofit, look only for websites that end in .org, using advanced search features that all major search engines have.

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If you have a very specific search term you want to match, put it in quotes in the search bar of your preferred browser, and you’ll get back results that only have the exact keywords you typed in. Exclude a word by putting a hyphen (-) in front of it, if you know that it may show up with your search terms. Don’t be afraid to click through a few websites to get information (who knows what you’ll find along the way!) but don’t click more than 5 times, otherwise the chances of you finding information that you want goes down dramatically. And if you really don’t like the results you’re getting, try a different search engine – they have different algorithms that provide different results!