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On Jan 27, Google promoted its social searching algorithm from the laboratory to “beta,” which means it’s now a regular search option. Reactions so far are mixed. Social searching has been praised by those who care what their friends on Twitter think of the new iPad, and criticized by those who wonder how anyone could care what their Twitter friends thinks of the iPad.

To partake of this new morsel on Google’s search buffet, you need to sign into your Google account and update your Google profile to include links to your accounts on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. But the Facebook link is a little deceptive. The only thing Google can index from Facebook are the public parts of people’s profiles. There isn’t a way for Facebook users to make their status updates available to the entire web.

So Google won’t be searching it to see what relevant things you have to say about a topic one of your Facebook friends has researched as of now. But if there is something relevant in the public part of your Facebook profile, it can use that. Somewhat ironically, FriendFeed, which is now owned by Facebook, is geared toward public information sharing, so if you are on FriendFeed and modify your Google profile to reflect this, that content will eventually become available.


Google Merchant Center is for those who want to submit products and sell them through Google. It used to be called Google Base. Google Merchant Center is where you upload feeds, check item status, and get information about how well your listings are doing. Your products uploaded to Google Merchant Center feed the searches that other people do for products they want to buy. For example, suppose someone wants to buy some dog toys. Starting at Google’s home page and clicking on “Shopping,” they’ll see a page like in the first screen shot. After typing “dog toys” into the search box and hitting enter they’ll be taken to a listings page like the one in the second screen shot.

Google Base still exists, but Google Merchant Center is optimized for product listings, and it is where Google will concentrate on adding features and improving the tools needed for uploading product listings and managing them. If you already used Google Base for listing products, your existing data feeds, FTP settings, and other items will still be there. Your account will have already been transferred to the Google Merchant Center, and you will sign in using the same account you used on Google Base. For most users the transfer will be transparent. There are, however, a small fraction of users who have been uploading product listings and other items on Google Base. They will need to sign on to Google Base to create new FTP settings to be able to upload non-product feeds to Google Base.

Google Merchant Center has a new dashboard page that contains an overview of your product listings, and feeds, and performance graphs, making them more accessible than before. There is now a blog you can visit, for news and tips for using Google Merchant Center effectively.

If you sell items over Google Merchant Center, the Google Checkout is the secure web application that lets you process orders, which includes tasks like charging credit cards, specifying carriers and tracking numbers, canceling or refunding orders, reviewing payout summaries, and updating Google Checkout settings.

To process orders in the Google Merchant Center, you sign in, review the order, and charge the buyer’s credit card. Google will then authorize 100% of the order amount. You are required to charge the order within seven calendar days to be guaranteed the funds. After the order is charged, you automatically initiate the payout process. You have to ship the order within a specified time frame that you agreed to when you confirmed an order so that you will be eligible for the Google Checkout Payment Guarantee. You’ll notify the buyer that their order has shipped. There are ways of automating order processing using the Google Checkout API.

If you sell services or goods that don’t need to be physically shipped, you have to mark the order “shipped” in order to send the buyer a confirmation email. Some transactions involving digital goods might not be covered under the Google Checkout Payment Guarantee policy.

In processing orders, Google uses automatic fraud risk modeling to alert them to possible fraudulent transactions. If a fraudulent transaction is detected, it is immediately cancelled. In order to protect you and other Google Merchants, active orders from the same fraudulent credit card will be cancelled. Google Merchant also uses industry sources like worldwide fraud blacklists to block fraudulent shoppers from using Google Checkout in the first place.

For example, if Google detects suspicious activity related to one of your orders, it will flag the order with “customer review in progress” status and will perform fraud detection tests on the order to keep your risk as low as possible. Google usually completes their reviews in four to six hours.

You, as a Google Merchant, are able to review credit verification information on each order you receive. You just sign in to Google Checkout, click the order in which you are interested in your “orders” box. At that time buyer credit verification information appears below the buyer’s shipping information, including whether the transaction is covered by the Payment Guarantee, the Address Verification System check, the Card Verification Value, or CVV, and Account age shows how long the buyer has been qualified to buy through Google Checkout. If you are concerned about an order, you do have the option to cancel it to avoid the risk of a fraudulent transaction.

Fees for Google Merchants vary by the dollar amount of monthly sales and are reset every month on the 5th. For monthly sales under $3,000, the fee is 2.9% + 30 cents / transaction. For sales between $3,000 and $9,999.99, the fee is 2.5% + 30 cents / transaction. For $10,000 to $99,999.99 per month, the fee is 2.2% + 30 cents / transaction, and for sales over $100,000 per month, the fees are 1.9% + 30 cents / transaction. Orders that ship to buyers in a country different from the Merchant’s country will also have an additional 1% processing fee.

If you plan to sell apps in the Android phone market, your transaction fee is 30% of the application price. In other words, if you sell your app for $10.00, your transaction fee is $3.00 and your payment will be $7.00.

Google Merchant Center is an answer to those who want to sell products through Google Products searches. This can be a real sales booster for those who have shops online at places like Etsy. Google Merchant Center is now split apart from Google Base, with the goal of making online product searches more fruitful and online sales easier for merchants and shoppers.

Google Website Optimizer is a free Google tool made to help you get better conversions on your website, whether that means signing up for your email newsletter, or buying your product or service. You test different versions of your content to determine what is going to attract the most users and get them to stick around long enough to convert. Suppose you are using click tracking and conversion tracking to try to figure out what visitors are doing when they visit your pages. Maybe you’re getting visitors a-plenty but very few buy products or subscribe to your newsletter. This is where Website Optimizer helps.

You choose what parts of a web page you want to test, whether it’s promo text, a headline, or whatever. Then Google runs an experiment on part of your site’s traffic in an attempt to figure out which content on your site is most attractive to visitors. Once Google has amassed enough data on your site’s experiment, they will send you reports and suggestions for optimizing your site.

If you’re not the webmaster or administrator, you will need that person’s help to put the experiment code onto your site to enable the optimizer to track traffic to different versions of the page. You’ll end up with two kinds of reports from Google. One is a combination report and the other is a page section report.

The combination report shows results for all page combinations that were made from the variations in page section you created when you set up your experiment. This report will show how well a particular combination does compared with the original site and other combinations. The estimated range of conversion rates gives you the main snapshot of overall performance. You’ll get the actual numbers, in case you’re into hard statistics, but you’ll also get simple bar graphs that show red for underperforming content and green for better performing content.

Google advises that website owners not make major site changes unless a large quantity of data has been collected, because the more data gathered, the more likely the results are to be accurate.

Your page section report is focused on the variations on each page section that performed best. It is possible, however, that by your simply picking the best-performing variations may not be optimal, since there may be interactions among certain variations that the algorithm cannot capture. In other words, the page section report is not a magic bullet that you can use to get rid of all the bad pages and implement all the good pages, so that suddenly your site will take off.

You’ll also get relevance ratings on each page, which tell how much impact a particular page has on the test that Google Website Optimizer is running. The higher the number for a given page, the more important that page is for getting conversions.

Conducting Tests With Website Optimizer

When you go to the Google Website Optimizer page, you’ll see something like what is in the screen shot. When you click on the “+” sign, you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll be asked what type of testing you want done: A/B testing or Multivariate Test (See second screen shot.). A/B testing is simpler and works best with new sites and sites that don’t get much traffic. The multivariate tests let you test multiple sections of a page simultaneously, such as the headline, a picture, or promotional text. In order for multivariate tests to work well, they need to be done on sites that get plenty of traffic.

Suppose you have more than one conversion page. Google Website Optimizer tests can track more than one goal. All you do is place the conversion code from your experiment on each of your conversion pages. The caveat is, Website Optimizer only reports one conversion per visitor. Suppose you get a really enthusiastic visitor who buys something and signs up for your newsletter. Website Optimizer will only count one conversion. That way you see which test page gets the most conversions regardless of conversion type.

If you’re doing an A/B test, you’ll make different page versions. They can be totally different if you want. The Optimizer will test their performance to see which one works best. If you’re doing multivariate testing, however, you won’t be able to change the layout of the different sections on your page.

If you already use Google Analytics, you can use Analytics and the Website Optimizer together. If you have customized your tracking scripts for Google Analytics, you’ll most likely want to customize your website optimizer tracking scripts in the same manner. The help center for Google Analytics will show you how to change your Website Optimizer tracking scripts.

There are a few other things to know before using the Google Website Optimizer. For one thing, you have to set up  a Google AdWords account. This does not mean that you have to create an AdWords campaign or buy advertising. It’s just that the Optimizer is part of the AdWords interface. You can set up AdWords with a few keywords and some random ad text. When you get to the part where you enter payment details, leave it empty. At this point, you’ll have an AdWords account and will be able to do Website Optimizer tests without buying AdWords ads.

With the A/B test, you are not limited to only two test versions of a page. You can test almost an unlimited number of versions at the same time. The actual number will depend on how many sites you’ve already set up Google Analytics on. All you do is specify more alternative pages when you set up the test. And though you technically can test very different web page designs at the same time, this isn’t recommended. Suppose one page clearly out-performs the other. You won’t know what caused the big change: was it a graphic? headline? something else? You won’t know what to do to other pages to get the same jump in performance. If you take the time to test one-by-one changes, you can see which changes are going to make the most difference.

Google Webmaster Tools is a free service provided by Google to help new and experienced webmaster check on their indexing and raise the visibility of their website(s). Among the tools in Google Webmaster are those that check the crawl rate, list sites linking to the user’s site, determine what keyword searches on Google bring the user’s site into the search engine results pages (SERPs), determine click-through rates of SERP listings, show statistics on how Google indexes the user’s site, create a robots.txt file and submit sitemaps.

The range of tools offered on Google Webmaster Tools can help webmasters significantly raise their profile by search engine optimization (SEO), and traffic generation. To make Google Webmaster Tools work with your particular site, you have to install a snippet of code into your site. Google Webmaster Tools make a great partner to Google Website Optimizer as far as getting your website as prominent as possible.

If, for example, your site has a page in which you offer your visitor some free report or software in exchange for their email address, you could use the Google Website Optimizer to test two versions of that page to see which one converts best. This lets you streamline your SEO efforts and cuts back on some of the trial and error part of it.

Google Webmaster tools was launched in 2006 to help webmasters create sites that are friendlier to search engines. There is also the Google Webmaster Tools Access Provider Program. It lets domain hosts use Google’s application programming interface (API) to get their customers up and running with Google Webmaster Tools.

There are many steps you can take to help Google find, rank, and index your site.  They can be classified as Design and Content Guidelines, Technical Guidelines, and Quality Guidelines.

Design and Content Guidelines

Every site needs a clear hierarchy and text links. Each page needs to be reachable from one or more static text links.
The sitemap should give visitors links to the important pages of your site.

  • Make sure your site has good content, and make sure pages accurately describe the content.
  • Think of the words visitors probably type to find your site and include those actual words in your content.
  • Important names, links, or content should be in written text rather than pictures. the Google crawler doesn’t “see” text contained in images.
  • Have <title> elements and ALT attributes that are accurate and descriptive.
  • Look for dead links and improper HTML
  • Keep links per page under 100
  • Give images descriptive filenames and surround them with descriptive text.
  • Text embedded in images is “invisible” to the image bot.

Technical Guidelines

  • Try out a browser like Lynx to look at your site. Most search crawlers “see” your site like Lynx does. If your site is overloaded with JavaScript, session IDs, Flash, or cookies, the search crawlers may not find your site very navigable.
  • Check that your web server allows the “if-modified-since” HTTP header. It lets the web server tell Google whether or not content has changed since the last crawl. It saves you valuable bandwidth and overhead.
  • Make sure the robots.txt file on your server is current so it doesn’t block the crawler. You can test your robots.txt file using the robots.txt analysis tool in Webmaster Tools.
  • Check your site’s appearance in different browsers to familiarize yourself with what your visitors might see.

Quality Guidelines: A List of Don’ts

Before listing the specific practices to avoid, don’t assume that just because a particular practice isn’t listed that it’s OK. If you’re using trickery like registering common misspellings of popular sites, Google might well penalize you in the search engine results pages (SERPs) or ban you altogether. Ultimately, looking for loopholes and technicalities may not serve you well.

  • Don’t use cheap tricks that might improve your SERP ranking. How would you feel about your competitor doing the same?
  • Don’t participate in paid link systems or link farms in an attempt to increase your SERP ranking or PageRank. Avoid
  • links to “bad neighborhoods” on the web. It could adversely affect your ranking.
  • Don’t use hidden text, hidden links, “cloaking” practices or questionable redirects.
  • Don’t use automated queries with Google
  • Don’t cram pages with keywords that aren’t relevant to your site.
  • Don’t create a bunch of pages, domains, or subdomains that all have basically the same content.
  • Don’t create pages with malware like viruses, trojans, and phishing.
  • Don’t make doorway pages just for the search engines that have no real content.

    When you believe your site is ready and follows all the design, technical, and quality guidelines (especially the latter), then you can submit it to Google at You should also use Google Webmaster Tools to submit a sitemap. A sitemap helps Google cover your webpages more effectively.

    Starting up a website can be hard work, particularly if you’re new to the world of style sheets and HTML. It isn’t enough to simply create a great looking site filled with interesting content and wait for people to discover it. Particularly if you have an e-commerce site or a blog from which you want to earn money, you need to make your site as friendly as possible to search engines. Google Webmaster Tools are specifically for this purpose: getting your website the notice that it deserves.

    While it may be tempting to take shortcuts like buying a bunch of back links, it can be bad for your site in the long run. The best way to build your site’s following is to submit a sitemap, and follow the guidelines listed above for proper ways to promote your site. And, of course, the ultimate “tool” for getting your site popular and keeping it popular is to provide fresh, rich content on a regular basis.

    Statistics from early 2009 claimed that iPhone users accounted for some two-thirds of all mobile browsers. Now, while that particular statistic has been questioned and debated, there is little doubt about the effect of the iPhone on mobile browsing. The advent of the Google Android phone will only make mobile web surfing more mainstream than it already is. When it comes to optimizing your web content for Google Mobile Search, there are a number of things you can do.

    Some people say that you should make a mobile version of your regular website, while other say that you should optimize your existing site for mobile browsing. But whether it’s your normal site optimized for mobile, or a new mobile version of your site, there are steps that anyone wanting to rank high in mobile search results should do.

    Step one is to make sure that your website is mobile compliant. This means that your pages are formatted for people browsing the web with their phones. Mobile browsing implies a lack of time to complete a search. Perhaps instead of mobile “browsing,” the term should be something more like mobile “hunting.” But since mobile users are also short on screen space, the pages should be designed to cater to this reality. Do you know what your site looks like on a mobile web platform? If not, do a mobile search to see. You’ll notice that a lot of your site’s goodies are unavailable. But this makes some choices all the more obvious.

    • The most important information on your site should be at the top.
    • Your site needs to be easily navigable from a mobile platform.
    • Font sizes need to be usable
    • Your page should look attractive on a mobile phone browser screen.

    If these things don’t check out, then you need to make some changes to get your site ready for what many experts see as the coming tsunami of mobile searching.

    Why should you go to the trouble? The current industries seeing the most growth in mobile searches are business, entertainment, and travel. According to the Mobile Optimization Association, mobile searchers tend to be young, high income professionals with promising careers, or, to put it more bluntly, people with more disposable income than usual.

    Web pages for mobile browsing are created in XHTML or WML. They must be W3C compliant. W3C stands for “World Wide Web Consortium” and sets guidelines about how a web page should be structured. They publish best practice design principles for webmasters. Without going into the nuts and bolts of getting your site to be W3C compliant, you should know that there is a W3C Code Validator at that anyone can use to ensure that your site renders on all the major browsers and platforms in a similar manner.

    Before deciding exactly how to optimize your site for mobile, there are a few things to know about the people who use mobile browsers. First of all, they tend to use the same search engine on their mobile device as they use on their PC. Even though there are 234 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., only 10% use mobile search (which is still 23 million people). Adoption rates of mobile browsing are much higher in Europe. Finally, mobile searchers are goal-oriented: they want to get the info and get out. They don’t tend to browse or surf.

    A few general practices for optimizing your site are:

    • Keep your content brief
    • Use brief, custom titles
    • For mobile stats, check out
    • Mobile sites need to be as simple as possible to ensure compatibility among all mobile browser software.

    There are two main opinions when it comes to optimizing your site for Google Mobile: 1) Optimize your existing site; and 2) Create a new mobile-only site. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll go into next.

    Optimization of an Existing Site

    If you want to optimize your existing site, make sure that in mobile search your pages are independent of device. Search results on mobile devices use a different data set than web browsers do.

    Use external CSS style sheets because they limit how much code has to be downloaded and are helpful in scaling up or down for different screen sizes. You can have a separate style sheet for hand held devices.

    Use text links rather than images. Images may not download at all and will increase page loading times. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for optimizing an existing site for mobile search.

    • Put navigation buttons below content. People don’t like having to scroll down every time a page loads.
    • Don’t use flash or frames on your pages. They’ll either be unsupported by mobile browsers, or they’ll slow everything down.
    • Avoid pop-ups
    • Advertise your site as mobile compatible and get links from directories and mobile sites
    • Put the prefix tel: before a phone number in a link so that the mobile device can call it with one click
    • Put your business into your Google Local index so it will automatically be listed in Google Voice Local Search.
    • Since most users don’t scroll on mobile browsers, ranking in the top three results is a very big deal, so do what you can to optimize your site in the result listings
    • Google allows you to submit a separate XML sitemap for mobile. It’s a good idea.
    • Optimize for mobile ASAP to get into the results early on. One report says that a search for “McDonalds” on Google mobile has a mobile-friendly page from the BBC as the top result.

    Creating a Mobile-Only Site

    The argument for doing this is that mobile users are goal oriented rather than simply browsing. Some sites have taken to using a subdomain approach rather than using a separate domain like .mobi. That would give your mobile site a name like It allows you to retain the “brand” of the top level domain rather than having to rebuild branding for a new domain name. Here are some tips for optimizing a mobile-only version of your site.

    • Information should be three clicks or less from the home page.
    • Organize navigation logically for mobile users: place likely popular buttons first, using text links. Put navigation buttons underneath content to keep users from having to scroll each time they click a new page.
    • Make word links short to keep them from taking up too much valuable screen space.
    • Have a sitemap for your mobile-only page.
    • Use optimized heading tags, just like with your standard web pages.
    • Test and validate your mobile site using simulators like Skweezer and validators like .Mobi Validator or W3C Mobile Web Validator.
    • Have a link-building campaign specifically for your mobile-only website.
    • Have social book marking and tagging functions on your mobile site.
    • Use the tel: prefix in phone number links so users can call the phone number in one click.

    SEO for Images

    If you have ever used Google Image Search then you are already indirectly familiar with search engine optimization for images. You type in “stainless steel gardening fork” to Google Image Search, and you get a page full of pictures of stainless steel gardening forks. There are a number of reasons to optimize your website for Google Image Search.

    The  main reason is that Google Image Searches can bring your site a lot of traffic, particularly if your image shows up on the first page of results and is heavily searched. So, having your site on the first page for “stainless steel gardening fork” won’t get you the boost in traffic that, say, a first page hit on “world cup 2010” would. In fact there are some sites get most of their traffic through Google Image Search.

    A second reason to optimize your page for Google Images is that it helps to define the overall look and feel of your page. Optimization helps you rank higher in regular search engine rankings and display more relevant AdSense ads if you participate in AdSense. Optimizing involves arranging things so that the Google Image Bot can easily interpret what your site is all about, since it can’t “see” your images.

    It is important to note that the Google Image Bot crawls the web to index images like the regular Google Bot indexes pages. The Google Image Bot is slower, however, and doesn’t visit sites as frequently as the regular Google Bot indexes sites. It could take as long as one year for the Image Bot to visit your site, which means that optimizing a site for Google Images takes a long time.

    But it’s still worth it. Go ahead and optimize your site for Google Images so that when that Image Bot finally does pay a visit, you’ll have the best chance of ranking high in the Image Search results. Once you look in your server logs and see “,” you’ll know that your site has been indexed for Google Images.

    Optimizing Image Tags

    To help make your visit from the Image Bot go as well as possible, you need to know that it relies on several factors to figure out what an image is about. Those factors include: the file name, the alt text, the surrounding text, the page title, the page theme, and links. The alt text and file name are the most important in the Bot’s determination of what an image is about.

    The alt text is what shows up when you hover your mouse over an image. In your image code, you use this bit of html:

    <img src=”filename.gif” alt=”Alternative description goes here“>

    You should be descriptive, but you don’t have to go overboard with it. Choose a description that represents what you would be searching on if you were looking for that image. Leave out words like “the, or, and, are, we” and similar ones. They’ll do little but take up space that better descriptors could be using. In other words, you should use something like “horseshoe crab Seabrook Island South Carolina” rather than “the horseshoe crab I found that time.”

    The same principle applies to your image file name. Don’t call it pic081204.jpg. Call it horseshoecrabseabrook.jpg. Keep the file name either the same as or similar to the alt text. Cramming different keywords into the alt text and file name will not help you rank higher. It will only confuse the Image Bot.

    The path to your image should be logically themed as well. It should be something like “” rather than ““. On your page, if you put a paragraph of descriptive text just above and just below your image, and the text contains the key phrase from your alt text and image name, you have a much better chance of your image being indexed well.

    If you can (and sometimes you just can’t), put your keywords into your page title and your page meta description. The more consistent the data that Google gets concerning your image, the better the indexing will be. This applies to your regular page optimization as well as that for images, and it will also result in more pertinent Adsense ads if you participate in AdSense.

    When it comes to images and to your site’s pages in general it’s best to keep every page relevant to its own theme. In other words, leave your images and text about wildlife photography techniques on its own page rather than mixed in with your image and description of the horseshoe crab.

    If you have a page for each topic and optimize each page, you can then use the trick of placing Adsense ads on the page to see if Google “gets” what your page is all about. Even if you don’t want to participate in AdSense, you can try this as an indicator of what your site is perceived by Google as being about.

    As with your regular pages, back links help your image rank higher as long as they were obtained in an organic and honest manner. If you use text links with anchor text, use your key phrase as the anchor. In other words “click here to see horseshoe crab from Seabrook” is much better than “click here to look at a cool picture I took”. And, as usual, the more descriptive your URL, the better.

    One final tip is to be aware that Google wants to provide unique content in image form just as it does with web pages. To do this it tries to match up the image file size, dimensions of the image in pixels x pixels format, and the image file name. Therefore, if you get an image from another site (with permission of course), you should alter the file name, file type, file size, or image dimensions so that Google doesn’t flag it as duplicate content. As you can see in the screen shot, all these front page results are different.

    Former U.S. Representative Tip O’Neill’s famous quote that “All politics is local” can in some cases be applied to internet searches. What it means is, never lose touch with your constituents, or in the case of a business, your customers. If you have a bricks and mortar business and don’t sell online, then in your case, “all search engine optimization is local.” Local customers often search for local listings, whether for simply the phone number, store hours, or just to find out more about local businesses. If you don’t optimize your site for local searches, you could be losing more business than you think.

    Google Local Business listings usually only show up when the user types in a category of business and a city. When that happens, Google Maps shows up along with anything up to 10 URLs listed next to their phone numbers. You don’t want your competitors to show up on that map with their phone numbers if you aren’t showing up there. If you are, for example, a cosmetic dentist in Atlanta, you want local people to find your practice in as many ways as possible: from offline ads, yellow pages, or online searches.

    Look at the screen shot for this very search, “cosmetic dentists atlanta.” As you can see, several practices are listed, their locations are shown on a map, and their phone numbers are right there. There are plenty of things you can do as a business owner to get local people to find your website and your actual business. For one thing, you can ask for back links to your business from other prominent sites.

    For an example in keeping with the cosmetic dentists in Atlanta theme, suppose you, the cosmetic dentist, were to type in “cosmetic surgery atlanta.” You’d get a page like this second screen shot. Suddenly you see, in this case, seven local cosmetic surgery practices from whom you could possibly solicit back links and offer your own back link to their site. Back links aren’t everything, but they are important in the world of search engine results.

    Tips For Optimizing Your Site For Local Results

    List your business and website in as many free online directories as possible. There is evidence that Google may use your business’s phone number to boost your local ranking, so any time you write a description of your business on a third party site, include the phone number. Also, make sure that all your business listings are as complete and consistent as possible.

    If you can include images, coupons, or even a video along with the basic name, address, phone number, and business hours information, so much the better. Use good keywords in your directory listings too. For example, in this instance, good keywords might include “veneers, laser whitening, dental makeover” while the keyword “teeth” would be too broad and vague to help you much.

    And there’s nothing wrong with looking at those local businesses that rank at the top and looking at what they’re doing in their local listings. They may be doing something you hadn’t thought of, like offering a coupon on their website. Another important factor in optimizing your site and listings for Google Local is customer reviews. Put a link from your site’s home page to a directory listing and encourage customers to review your business. The more reviews you get, the better.

    In your website itself, include your business name in the title tags, description, and content. Make sure that your site contains the  address and phone number on every page as well as city and state in content, titles, headers, and descriptions.

    Claim and verify your business in the Google Local Business Center, and ensure that the information is correct in data providers like YellowPages, Localize, Acxiom, and InfoUSA. These data providers supply many online business directories. If your business has recently moved or changed its phone number, make sure inconsistencies in all listings are fixed. You want all your listings to contain the correct and up-to-date information about your business.

    Be sure to claim and verify your listing in directories. You would be surprised how many businesses don’t do this. Gain the upper hand by getting there first. Proper categorization of your business in Google Maps can make an enormous difference to the success of your local business listing. Make the mandatory category describe accurately what your business does. Reserve a few of the fields for custom categories that might be unique to your business. Keep your categories from overlapping to get the most mileage from them, and keep categorizing consistent in directory listings and anywhere else on the web such information is found.

    With Google Maps, the description field should state what it is that sets your business apart and makes it the one people should trust. You only have 200 characters in which to do this, so you have to be brief: do you have a patent on a technique you use? is your business the oldest of its kind in town? Capitalize on what sets you apart.

    You are allowed to add 10 images and 5 videos to your listing, and you should take advantage of this. Pictures that work well for your listing are your business logo, brands you carry, pictures of your business, and logos or badges of associations you belong to, like the local chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau. You can even include videos of your commercials or interviews you may have done on local television!

    Put your business’s name out there on as many internet yellow page (IYP) sites, niche directories, local business directories and other trusted sites as possible. Mentions of your business information on several places on the web will help optimize your Google Local listing. If you haven’t taken these steps toward optimizing your Google Local listing, take the time to do so. Chances are you’ll see a real improvement in both web and real-world traffic to your business.


    Google Insights

    In August 2008 Google launched its tool called Google Insights for Search. It’s like Google Trends on steroids. There are many new features designed with advertisers and marketing professionals in mind to help them (and anyone else who is interested, such as the average website owner) understand search behavior.

    Google Trends displays how frequently a search term is queried in relation to the total search volume throughout all regions of the world in different languages. Google Trends produces a graph where the horizontal axis shows a simple timeline (which goes back to 2004), and the vertical axis is how often a term gets searched for devided by the total number of searches worldwide. It also produces popularity broken down by location and language.

    Google Insights is a more sophisticated tool to help people gauge interest in relevant search terms. For example, Google Insights can help you figure out which messages go over best. Suppose you make high-end espresso machines. You can use Google Insights to determine whether your advertising should highlight money savings over coffee shop coffee, taste test results, or performance and features. Google Insights can also be used to determine seasonal variations in search behavior and to help advertisers and marketing professionals create more effective brand associations.

    As just a quick example, typing the search terms “espresso,” “home espresso machine,” and “gourmet coffee” in the category “Food & Drink” for 2009 yields the data you can see in the first screen shot. when you look at the graph of “Growth Relative to the Food & Drink Category” you can see that it takes a big jump in December that is most likely due to Christmas shopping. Looking at the terms by region, you can see that Greece, Netherlands, and Germany are the regions that searched most on “espresso.” The only blip at all for the term “gourmet coffee” comes from the United States, and it’s very small.

    But you can also learn that the top three searches of related terms are “coffee espresso,” “espresso machine,” and “cafe espresso.” The top three rising searches are “espresso on line” (popular in Italy), “espresso apparaten” (tops in Netherlands), and “cowgirl espresso” (the most popular in the U.S.). With this information I could zero in on Greece, Italy, and Netherlands and try to get to the heart of the popularity of the search terms there.

    Researching With Google Insights For Search

    You are not limited to Google web searches. You can also analyze results from Google News, Product Search, and Image Search. You can break the data down even further from there. For example, you could look at hot Google News searches over the past week, month, or quarter. Queries can be broken down by region into individual metropolitan areas. This is a tool that news journalists find helpful in gauging interest levels in different subjects among their readership base.

    One researcher gauged the interest of the U.S. college basketball tournament known as “March Madness” for a period of one week during March 2009. The results showed that interest was highest in the states of Kentudky, Iowa, and Kansas. In 2010, journalists could gauge popularity of search terms related to the World Cup in South Africa in various regions around the world. In a nutshell, what Google Insights does is help anyone who is interested (webmaster, ad agency, small business owner, academic researcher, or otherwise interested party) measure interest in search terms relative to their particular area of research.

    Suppose, for example, you have a seasonal business, perhaps a surf shop in Torquay, Australia. While you know that your peak business will occur in January through March, maybe you want to know when people start querying about surfing holidays in Australia. If you plug “surfing Australia” and “surfing holidays Australia,” you’ll discover that with the exception of 2004, there are peaks of interest at the beginning and end of each year as one might expect. This can be seen in the second screen shot.

    But scroll down further and you can see that the rising searches include “rip curl australia,” “asp surfing australia,” and “surfing in australia.” Further probing shows that Victoria is the state with the most searches, and Melbourne is the city with the most searches on “rip curl australia.” So as the theoretical owner of a Torquay surf shop, I may decide to pitch my advertising especially aggressively in Melbourne.

    You can use Google Insights to flesh out keyword ideas and perhaps tweak any Adwords Campaigns you’re running. You can download the results to a spreadsheet for convenience. To download data to spreadsheets you will have to sign into your Google account. Google Insights is available in 39 languages, and will soon add a forecasting feature that will be available for some queries. An Animated map function will allow Google Insights users to see how interest changes with time and location.

    Google Insights is a flexible enough tool that users can think of countless ways to use it. Beyond just expanding your keyword lists or looking at economic trends, you can use it for things like satisfying your curiosity about why some other site ranks higher in the search engines than yours. Even historians of the post-2004 era will find a wealth of information about how search queries evolve over time and across world regions.

    Small business owners, ad agencies, and marketing specialists can use Google Insights to compare brands in real time over real markets. If there is a clear indication that a particular ad campaign is working well in a particular region or city, they can more accurately target offline advertising and even promotional events. Research using Google Keyword Tool has shown that search volume estimates are reasonably accurate, particularly in terms of relative value. That means that you can have a healthy amount of trust in the results you get from using Google Insights.


    Google Ad Planner

    Online marketers and media planners know that there are a lot of challenges involved with creating a web advertising campaign and making sure that your adds are placed on relevant websites. It is important that you scale your ad campaign’s reach and keep it relevant to your target audience. You know there must be millions of sites out there that are prefect for your campaign, but how do you find them?

    Google Ad Planner lets you research and locate websites with target audiences closely matching your ad target audience. This gives you two advantages: you will get a higher response rate for your ad campaign, and you’ll waste fewer marketing dollars on ads placed on irrelevant websites. Before going into detail about how to use Google Ad Planner, let’s review what a media plan is. To put it very briefly media plan is used to choose the ideal combination of media, reach, and budget for targeting ad placement.

    Google Ad Planner hooks up advertisers and publishers. To use Google Ad Planner, you enter demographics and sites that are associated with your target audience, and you’ll get back information about sites your audience is likely to visit. Those sites don’t have to be part of the Google content network. If you want, you can obtain more details on demographics and related searches for a given site, or you can add a number of sites to your media plan and get aggregate statistics for those sites you’ve chosen.

    All this is very useful information for search engine optimization (SEO) as well. Once you find out demographics and related searches for a site, you have a better idea of what keywords are landing certain sites at the top of the search engine results. All you have to do is plug in the information you learn about related searches for a site, and then see which sites end up on top. That gives your site designers and content writers valuable information they need to help bring your site up to the top of the search engine results.

    You can also use Google’s keyword tool to search top websites for keyword ideas. For example, the site ranks at the top of a search on “home improvement ideas.” By plugging the site’s address into Google’s keyword tool, you can get back a list of keywords based on information on that site, as you can see in the screen shots.

    Google AdWords can also help you decide which keywords to concentrate on, and which ones probably aren’t worth your while. As soon as you put a keyword into AdWords, it gets a Quality Score based on that keyword’s performance for other advertisers. This first Quality Score is your keyword’s “base score.” If your keyword performance is better than this baseline, your Quality Score will go up. But if your keyword has a lower click through rate, your Quality Score will go down. A Quality Score of 9 or 10 indicates a very successful keyword for other advertisers, so you want to give these keywords more attention in using them in ad groups.

    Google Ad Planner now includes Google Trends for Websites, a resource designed for media planners. With Google Ad Planner you can create media plans and export them to .csv files (openable in many spreadsheet apps). You also have the option of exporting to DoubleClick’s MediaVisor, an app that lets you manage your other media campaign and buying activities.

    Here are the basic steps in making an ad plan to drive traffic to your website.

    1. Look at your website analytics software (which might be Google Analytics or something else), conduct surveys, or research your competitors to learn your website’s target audience by age, education, gender, geography, income, and any other demographic markers you choose.

    2. Sign up for Google Ad Planer if you have not done so.

    3. Login to your Ad Planner account, and with the information gleaned from Step 1 on the type of person you want to target in mind, identify websites that are good fits and add them to your plan. You do this by clicking the “Ad to Plan” button.

    4. Once you’ve chosen the sites you are interested in, you can export the data to your media planner app or spreadsheet so that you can contact publishers for advertising information.

    You should keep in mind that Ad Planner is only for research and planning, the statistics they provide are estimates, and that you can’t use Ad Planner to buy advertising.

    Here are a few more basic facts about the current version of Google Ad Planner. Its data comes from Google Search, Google Analytics, Feedburner, Adsense, Adwords, iGoogle, Toolbar, Maps, Blogger, Gmail, and Orkut. Some analysts believe that the data that is purchased by Google’s competitors may be more accurate than the stats that Google collects from its sources. Google’s data is estimated based on automated analysis of millions of queries and site visits and contains data from a 30-day window. Sites included in Ad Planner have to meet minimum threshold traffic criteria and other guidelines. Right now, Ad Planner is only available in English

    Other tools you might be interested in include Google Trends for Websites ( This is what might be called a “lite” version of Ad Planner that can be used to help you plan your focus in Ad Planner. While it’s made for non-advertising users, it contains accessible demographic data in a less detailed form than Ad Planner.

    Recent upgrades to Google Ad Planner can give users a more specific view of where to find their target audience. For example, subdomain data is now available and helps media planners refine their plans with statistics about specific pates on a site. You can search for subdomains, find out the top subdomains based on total domain traffic, and ad subdomains to your media plan.

    Another recent upgrade is information about ad placements. This lets the advertiser know what sections of a website are selected for advertising (such as right hand column, under heading, etc.) This information is available for sites in the Google Content Network, and is available for some sites outside the network that use Google Ad Manager. You also get an interactive graph that lets you see which sites in your media plan give the best relevance and reach. Sites with the most reach are shown in the top left quadrant. Sites in the top right quadrant have the best combination of reach and relevance. This graph can be further customized.

    Another useful development is that site owners and publishers can use Google Ad Planner to share more Google Analytics data points like page views, total visits, average time on site, etc. This gives media planners a better picture of how the demographics apply to specific sites so you can make better decisions about which sites to include in your media plan.

    From the point of view of the publisher or site owner, this is a great development because it allows sites to be indirectly “pitched” based on the reader demographics. The Publisher Center lets site owners and publishers showcase their sites to advertisers. Publishers can now claim subdomains to give advertisers a more in-depth view of their sites for media planning purposes. Site owners can now share page views, unique visitors, average visits per visitor, and average time on-site. Publishers can now display badges for advertisers to click on. Advertisers can click on a badge to go directly to a publisher’s Google Ad Planner site profile, where there is a wealth of traffic and demographic data available.

    Overall, the reviews of Google Ad Planner are good. The service is fast, free, and uses detailed filters. It doesn’t, however, filter results well sometimes, and will offer up sites that are not good fits and would probably not be top choices for specific advertisers. However, site targeting for media planning is young compared to data on television, newspaper, and other media. Google hopes to score another win for free information by bringing together advertisers and publishers in such a way that both sides benefit.

    News Corp Vs Google

    News Corp Vs Google

    An epic battle is brewing between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Google, as early as next month we could see News Corp controlled websites disappear from Google’s search results. It all started when Google began to index News Corp websites such as the Wall Street Journal / Fox news and returns to the minute results in Google News Search.

    There has been a lot of commentary and discussion between the News Corp supporters and Google supporters, the case has been made by News Corp that Google is stealing content from their websites and basically not paying them for it,  Google has not provided an effective business model for these websites to benefit from having their content on Google News.

    What has baffled a lot of people is, why doesn’t News Corp simply block access to its websites from Google? Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineland describes in this great post.

    Any webmaster worth a decent salary should know how to implement robot.txt and rel=noindex, I can not believe a large corporation like News Corp can’t just set this up. The reason? because News Corp doesn’t want to loose out on the massive free traffic from Google!