In this day and age, you pretty much can’t ignore mobile users. The rate at which consumers are accessing the web via mobile devices is growing rapidly, largely thanks to the increasing popularity and production of smartphones.
Just having a mobile site isn’t even enough. Sure, it’s a great start, but you have to start thinking about a mobile site just as you would a regular site. Can people find it? Just because you have a good ranking in Google does not mean that your mobile site has a good ranking in Google’s mobile search engine, or is even indexed at all.
Google recently shared a few important tips for making sure your mobile site is being indexed in Google’s Mobile Search.
1. Create a mobile sitemap and submit it to Google so Google knows it exists. This can be done using Google Webmaster Tools, just like with a regular sitemap.
2. To make sure Googlebot-Mobile can access your site, allow any User-agent to access it.
“You should also be aware that Google may change its User-agent information at any time without notice, so it is not recommended that you check if the User-agent exactly matches ‘Googlebot-Mobile’ (which is the string used at present),” says Jun Mukai, a software engineer on Google’s mobile search team. “Instead, check whether the User-agent header contains the string ‘Googlebot-Mobile’. You can also use DNS Lookups to verify Googlebot.”
3. Check that your mobile-friendly URLs’ DTD (Doc Type Definition) declaration is in an appropriate mobile format such as XHTML Mobile or Compact HTML.
If you run both a regular site and a mobile version of it, there is a possibility that the wrong version will show up in the wrong search results. There are ways you can prevent this.
“When a mobile user or crawler (like Googlebot-Mobile) accesses the desktop version of a URL, you can redirect them to the corresponding mobile version of the same page,” explains Mukai. “Google notices the relationship between the two versions of the URL and displays the standard version for searches from desktops and the mobile version for mobile searches.”
If you do use a redirect, you should make sure content on the corresponding URL matches as closely as possible, because Google finds sites that abuse the practice in order to try and boost their rankings. Google says this should be avoided at all costs, so you can probably expect to be penalized for such an action.
Another way you can make sure a user is pointed to the right version of your site is simply to provide a link. In fact, that is what Google itself does. If you access the mobile version of Google, you will find a link to the desktop version.
Another way still, is to switch content based on the User-agent, so mobile users automatically see the mobile version and desktop users see the desktop version, even though both are accessing the same URL.
Google warns, however, that if you use this method, there is a chance that if you fail to configure your site correctly, it could be mistaken for cloaking, which you can be penalized for.
“To remain within our guidelines, you should serve the same content to Googlebot as a typical desktop user would see, and the same content to Googlebot-Mobile as you would to the browser on a typical mobile device,” says Mukai. “It’s fine if the contents for Googlebot are different from the one for Googlebot-Mobile.”
Have you taken the necessary steps to ensure you are being indexed in Google’s mobile search engine? Have you been left out due to cloaking-related confusion? Discuss here.
Posted by R.W. Casandra Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
All of the search engines are rushing to incorporate more social media elements into their interfaces. Examples of this are evident in things like Google and Bing’s deals with Twitter and Facebook. You can see it in Yahoo’s new Twitter tab for news results. You can see it in Google’s Social Search lab. Really you can see it in everyday search results.
Do you consider a social presence an important element to your search campaign? Discuss here.
A lot of Internet users spend a great deal of their time socializing or using social media sites in one way or another, whether that is to connect with others or simply to obtain information. Information is a key component of social media that often takes a backseat to communication in discussion of social media tools.
The fact of the matter is that more and more people are getting more and more of their information from social sites. That could be in the form of following a news publication on Twitter, following company updates on a blog or a Facebook page, or something as simple as a friend sharing a link.
Given that people are getting more info from social media sites, of course search engines want a piece of that, because their whole reason for existence is naturally to help users find what they are looking for on the web.
So, it stands to reason that if you want people to find information that you are producing, it can help a great deal to publish information and participate in conversations on social media sites. Never mind that users of those particular sites will have access to it. The general public will as well by way of search, regardless of whether or not they are a part of any particular community.
In an interview with WebProNews, Vanessa Fox, who used to work for Google, talked about reasons that businesses should be thinking about social media with regards to search. It’s about visibility. If you are having discussions out there about relevant topics, they could appear in search results not only in real-time search, but further down the road as well.
In other words, if you have a conversation with a peer on Twitter about some topic related to your niche, there is a good chance the resulting tweets of that conversation could appear in search results for that topic on Google, even a year from now, if that tweet happens to be relevant enough. That’s just an example (note: it’s hard to say at this point, just how tweets will impact search once the Google-Twitter deal starts showing results).
There are a variety of ways in which a social campaign can contribute to your performance in search engines, regardless of what these recent deals might produce. Like Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing recently discussed with WebProNews, you can optimize your social content.
The web went blog crazy a few years back. Marketers found out that blogs were great for achieving search engine visibility because of the content and links that can come from them. It’s not that different with social media now. The web has largely moved into a social media-heavy phase, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Search engines obviously know this and care about it.
As Fox says in her interview, it’s getting to the point where more businesses are starting to realize that they need to be involved with social media. However, surveys still frequently suggest that many are reluctant, and even if they do engage to some extent, they are still holding back, and not reaching the potential they could be.
You know search is important to marketing on the web. Really, it’s important to marketing, period. If you operate on the web or off, your customers are on still online, as Fox noted. Social media is growing increasingly important to search. And search is only one aspect of online marketing. There are many more benefits to social media than that.
How important is social media to search? Share your thoughts.
Posted by R.W. Casandra Date: Monday, November 23, 2009
In the past many SEOs have called organic search results the results on the left side of the page and the pay-per-click / AdWords results as the results on the right side of the page. As Google has grown more aggressive with promoting vertical/universal search I think a better way of defining the portions of the search result page are ABOVE THE FOLD and BELOW THE FOLD.
As recently as yesterday Google stripped the phone numbers off of non-sponsored map listings, even if you were doing a navigational search! And that shows that the primary goal of the maps is as filler content (rather than utility).
Update: it looks like Google claimed the phone number removal was a bug, but weird timing that the bug appeared at the same time they started selling premium local ads that appear on the regular search results.
So lets redefine these search result pieces as they are…
- AdWords Ads: the ads at the top of the search results and those which run down the right rail of the search results.
- Universal Search Results: filler stuff to put in the search results to a.) drive the organic search results lower down the page, while b.) driving additional incremental click volume to other Google properties which display ads.
- Organic Search Results: the results on the search result page that are determined algorithmically and appear below the fold. On some larger monitors a listing or 2 from this category may appear above the fold, at least for the time being.
In the future A LOT of verticals (movies, music, books, news, ecommerce, travel, etc.) are going to look more and more like local, where Google in some cases has at least 15 ads above the fold AND filler pushing down the organic search results…quietly building a backdoor portal that sends Google the second click if they were not able to monetize the first one.
To me this screams the importance of working the tail of search, because the more obscure a search query is the greater the risk to Google if they pollute it with junk from vertical search databases.
As Google gets stingier with their traffic that will increase the importance of relationship development and lead capture, as well as developing distribution channels outside of Google.
This new search result layout also highlights the importance of being #1 for your most important keywords…if only 1 result is going to show above the fold then there is little point being #2. So that will really help/force you to decide which words are practical to target and which words are not. If you have some valuable #3 or #4 listings you better start marketing them today before they end up below the fold tomorrow.
The last important thing this search result signals is the importance of increasing conversion rates and lifetime customer value…if/when search becomes pay-to-play in your market, will you still be able to compete? If not, what can be done to help bridge that gap?
Posted by R.W. Casandra Date: Monday, November 23, 2009
Yahoo discussed the future of Yahoo Search today. They are launching a new search design that goes along with the new look of the Yahoo Home Page, which was recently launched itself.
The new search has a three-column layout (Search Engine Land has a bunch of screenshots), with most of the changes occurring in the left-hand column. This is where filters and search applications reside.
One interesting aspect of the new Yahoo Search is that they are going after Google (apparently calling them out by name) with regards to searching for people. When you search for a person you will get their Facebook, Twtitter, LinkedIn, and FriendFeed profiles when applicable.
“When we launch this, you’re going to come to Yahoo to search for people,” Larry Cornett, VP Search Products and Design is quoted as saying. There appears to be a heavy focus on personalization with the new Yahoo Search.
As you are probably well aware, Yahoo has a deal in the works with Microsoft that will have Bing delivering the search results for Yahoo searches, should the deal get through regulators. Yahoo says it will still compete on the front-end. They want to give users the best front-end search experience, which they will build themselves, based on Bing’s back-end technology.
When asked how different search results will look on Yahoo from those on Bing, Yahoo said, “We are not a version of Bing. We are the Yahoo search experience.” They also said that they will have freedom on the advertising side, but that some would be provided by Microsoft as well. That’s interesting.
Yahoo also announced the new version of Yahoo Messenger today with a focus on social networks and video. Read more about that here.
Here’s some more on the new Yahoo Search from the press release:
Demonstrating its commitment to continued innovation in the search experience, Yahoo! is testing a new search results page, aligned with the design of the new Yahoo! homepage and aimed at making Web search more personally relevant. The test, available randomly to millions worldwide, delivers a differentiated search experience that lets people better explore the things, people and websites that matter to them most. New functionality being tested includes:
- Results Filtering Options – The page provides new tools for refining search results including exploring related concepts, displaying only results from popular Yahoo! and third-party sites, and narrowing results by different types of content such as people, videos and discussion forums.
- Intelligent Search Results – Enhanced assistance creates a more personally relevant experience that better understands what people are looking for based on prior searches. It is powered by search session science that detects intent by looking at search behavior over time. For example, a search for “Paris” followed by searches for “flights” and “cheap hotels” helps Yahoo! Search understand that someone is seeking travel-related content versus gossip about a Hollywood heiress.
- Easy Access to Search Controls – The new site provides quick access to Search Scan/SafeSearch, which helps protect users from viruses, spyware and search spam, and Search Pad, the personal research assistant that lets people capture, organize, save and share information they find while researching online.
- Search Assist Expansion – Yahoo!’s popular real-time query suggestion engine, Search Assist, has been introduced to the search box on every Yahoo! page in the U.S. with the launch of a new universal header. This new header unifies key design and navigation elements, with links to popular Yahoo! destinations such as My Yahoo!, Finance, News, Sports, Mail and the Yahoo! homepage.