Google's testing new SERP layout

So there’s been talk about a new interface Google is testing. It focuses on taking away the underline from their search result links and making the titles a little bit bigger. Above is an example of the new Google SERP page interface. (The left is me signed in, the right is incognito mode).

So I finally experienced it and I thought it would be helpful to list some of the changes I see:

changes

The Ad changes. This isn’t a new one but it’s still a difference. before google advertisements had a background a light beige color. Some fun facts – as Google’s ad program began to evolve the background color began to slowly become more translucent and harder to see (also depending on your OS and monitor) However after some legal actions and the law getting involved they were told to make them distinct ad’s. So their solution was more of a loophole in taking away the pretty much branded background color and making it a small “Ad” text with a prominent color. Ha.

No more underlines in Google SERPs. Well then. Cleaner display. I kinda like it. Doesn’t seem to change to much on the SEO front though. We’ll see how long it takes bing to change their fonts.

Bigger font on the title takes the highlight them on both the advertisements and natural search results. This is more interesting. It attracts the eye a little bit more and probably will require a call to action on each search result. We’ll see how this plays out

Less characters showing due to the bigger fonts on title tags. This will be interesting because most SEO’s try ot make the most out of their pages with their optimizedtags. The more interesting part about this though is

a new Google Mobile SERP display with bigger fonts Mobile devices already get the short of the stick on title tags in Google. With bigger fonts, this could descrease the length of the title tags even more than desktop. Leaving little room for a call to action or a long-tail keyword.

How does this affect Ecommerce SEO?

Ecommerce websites are very difficult to scale. So when Google changes their interface to lessen the character counts or change font sizes it could potentially throw a bunch of an SEO’s hard work out the door.

The problem with this is that there is a drop in a couple characters depending on the device you are using. This isn’t too big of a deal – but in rare, long-tail cases, this can kind of affect how your title tag looks.

A solution to this might be to remove call to actions in your title tags or better target your keywords for a little bit shorter tail key phrases. Me though? Keep things the way they are and trust that consumers can understand what our results mean and why they should click through 🙂

Conclusion

This isn’t going to affect SEO much so it doesn’t matter too much there. But it does make the page look much cleaner and more modernized. The biggest affect being the lost of a few characters on both mobile and desktop devices.

I would suggest keeping your current meta tag strategy going for now. Unless Google decides to slowly up their font to size 18 Arial. Then I would probably start using Bing. Oh please don’t let me use Bing.

Time for everyone to go secure – https?

In October of 2011 the search king Google went secure.
In 2012 – 2013 Safari, Mozilla, and Bing did the same.
In January 2014 Yahoo finally joined the club to make 99% of the worlds digital information completely secure.

Well, that’s awesome! But not for SEO’s. Secure searches mean keyword data, referral data go out the door and that leaves us in the dark with a flash light trying to find our way. With Yahoo going secure they’ve taken away our batteries and now we only have an empty tool to defend ourselves. Nevertheless we will prevail!

I work for an enterprise level ecommerce website and the news of losing data comes at a large loss. It’s hard because our SEO numbers have been on the uptrend without paying much attention to Yahoo.

So why does this matter you ask?

Well ~6% of our traffic comes from Yahoo and with the new secure search, our Yahoo referral data will become direct load (according to omniture). In short direct load is someone coming directly onto our website without coming through any type of marketing channel. So that box in your web browser, someone types in the exact domain address, that equals direct load.

This means we lose 6% of our SEO traffic to direct load by the time Yahoo goes 100% secure (which is aimed at March 2014). The problem is with high level reporting direct load is such a large number that 6% of our traffic attributed to it doesn’t look like much of a dent. When you get more granular you notice a little dip in our allocated traffic which might not look to good.

It’s ok don’t panic. I’ve got a solution.

And I found it on Danny Sullivan’s post on searchengineland.com here I knew about most of the information before getting this article but there was one quote/tweet thread I read that I found very useful.

By the way, when it comes to searches that lead to secure servers, Yahoo appears to be following standard protocol and passing along full-referrers. However, as most sites are not secure sites, most publishers won’t receive this information.

Bam. There it is. By making your website secure itself (https) Yahoo will pass referral data because it follows standard secure server protocol’s. The twitter thread that explains most of it is located here.

So there you have it. search referral data becoming direct load can be offset by making your own website secure. Might even be some good PR around it (that’s a shout out to my old manager) 🙂

If you’d like to find out more feel free to contact me, or tweet me. I’m here all day folks

How The Hummingbird Update Affects Ecommerce SEO

Hummingbird vs Ecommerce SEO

How does this affect your ecommerce website? Well chances are if you haven’t seen any drops in natural search over the past month you should be ok. However there are a few things you should be aware of with the new update Google decided to ninja on us a little over a month ago. We’ll begin with an overview of the general changes I’ve read about and seen.

To me, it seems like the main focus of it was purely for users. Unlike Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird put the focus on the user as opposed to the algorithm. Some examples of this is the focus on conversational searches, kind of like a siri that responds with search results. For example: Here are some results for “conversational searches”

who is miley cyrus?

what does miley cyrus do?

what does miley cyrus sing?

what is a twerk?

A big part of the Hummingbird update was a large focus on the knowledge graph as well, They continue to add in top rails to push the organic feed lower and keep users on the website. For the same conversational searches above, the results are below

who is miley cyrus?

Who is miley cyrus

This shows a mini about section including family members, birthdays, what she’s done, movies she’s been in, related searches.

what does miley cyrus do?

what does miley cyrus do

Her occupations, what she is best known for

what does miley cyrus sing?

what does miley cyrus sing

A scrolling rail that when you click changes the search result to the “Miley Cyrus + [song]” it also keeps you on Google much longer.

what is a twerk?

what is a twerk

It should never be spoken of again.

So what does twerking have to do with my ecommerce site?

Well, with the conversational searches becoming more prominent and people stepping away from short tail keywords, long-tail keywords are becoming more and more important, and that’s where ecommerce sites can thrive. They have sites built for long-tail and through common internal linking strategies, and proper on-page optimization – your website can be built for the future of Google, and step away from the “computers” “laptops” “sports” search queries that are slowly fading away.

Some things to think about

Schema.org. I’ve been vying for this since I’ve joined the company I currently work at. It’s know that microformats and rdfs’ are still very readable by Google, even data-vocabulary has been seen still working. But if there is something you want to be ahead of the game in, it’s schema.

In ecommerce schema implementation can be a huge win. You can increase your click through rate on serp pages by including breadcrumbs, price, reviews, authors – and further tell Google what your pages is about adding item types to organize your content. Implementing can be a large work order for your IS team, so have the code ready for them and take an hour to explain on to implement it.

Mobile. 12% of Google’s search now come from a mobile device, and presumable around 25% in the year 2020. That’s a lot of cheddar. Optimize your website for mobile browsing as a separate experience as a whole, or develop an app and market users towards buying that. B2B Markets have less to worry about, however this is yet another win for the future of internet marketing. Don’t sit around while another Amazon is being built up.

Ecommerce mobile is definitely one of the toughest things to properly implement. Especially if your integrating marketplace. Weighing the priority would be your first bet here. If mobile currently makes up 5% of your total website revenue – it might not be very important, however as I mentioned before being ahead of the game is never a bad investment.

Content. Back to ye’ old content is king quote. With the prominence of long-tail keywords being the central focus – targeting those deeper levels might be the new primary focus for your website. “Laptops” may bring the 100,000+ traffic, but “hp pavilion laptop computer with intel core i3 processor” will convert much more.

Ecommerce content is probably more difficult to scale that ecommerce mobile is to create. Some unique pieces of content to thing about or reviews, features, images, about, description, colors, related items, cross-selling – these are all things that should be able to be dynamically generated as well as internally linked from all levels of your website. Example: Your hp pavilion laptop computer with intel core i3 processor could definitely link to your hp officejet pro multifunction printer. Get creative with your content and utilize of your assets.

Conclusion

So if you work in-house or for an agency on an ecommerce website, some major changes the Hummingbird update presents are conversational changes, knowledge graph designs, and long-tail keyword targeting. Some things you might want to encourage the company to invest in are mobile optimizations, schema.org microformats, as always – content.

Feel free to contact me to talk about ecommerce seo @andrewliwanag, andrewliwanag@gmail.com, and connect with me! linkedin.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of best practices and strategies to increase your websites health, relevance, and organic search ranking (organic & natural are the same). The top search engines in the world (Google, Bing) have around 2 trillion searches a year (2,000,000,000,000!) equaling out to about 250 searches per human world wide (7,000,000,000) per year. Now that’s a market to dive into. What’s organic search though?

this

Organic Search Results
The top red box is the search query, the bottom red box are all natural results.

People search for thousands of different topics on search engines. From trying to find out how old George Clooney is, to where you want to eat the next day – search engines will provide you with on-the-go information. For further simplicity and the sake of not having to explain the thousands of different queries a search engine sees, we’ll focus on shopping & information.

When was the last time you bought something online without doing research? Why not? All it takes is typing in your question and Google will find it for you. Simple. Think of something you’ve been wanting to buy for a long time. Like that brand new computer – but you don’t know anything about computers? Well, type it into Google and watch the magic happen.

natural-search-results-example

  1. The search query you were interested in
  2. The advertisements that companies bid on when you search that query
  3. Google Product Listing Ads
  4. Organic search result #1 for your search query
  5. Google Maps for your search query
  6. Trending News for your search query
  7. More organic search results
  8. Local companies that have the query you searched for
  9. An onslaught of product pages, companies, reviews, and articles
  10. The right rail paid search ads

Keep in mind there are over 70 types of search results that vary depending on the search query. Here is a small sample of 8 of the most profound I’ve seen. Search engine optimization comes into play by making your website a user-friendly and search engine friendly website. This is done through onpage optimizations, offpage optimizations, and technical implementations.

From local listings to ecommerce websites, reviews and information to when Star Wars VII is coming out, search engines have changed the way we find information and I fully expect the trend to continue. Looking back at the past 10 years of Googles search queries, the trend has grown well into the trillions. And SEO will grow as long as the market grows.

If you’d like to learn more about Ecommerce SEO or give me your version of what Search engine optimization is – feel free to contact me here. Always stay connected.

@andrewliwanag
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Creepy Web Crawlers

They crawl their way into your system. They sneak around without you knowing. You never feel them coming. They are evil. Click here to be frightened beyond belief.

Gotcha.

Alright that was blown just a bit out of context, and has nothing to do with this post. I just hate spiders. Recently, I met with a co-worker to discuss how we were going to attack a specific category SEO wise. I nearly finished the entire conversation when they finally said “You keep saying spiders are on my webpage, I haven’t seen any, but there were some cobwebs behind my computer.”

From her perspective I can understand her confusion in not knowing what they do, I didn’t explain it so I was at fault here. Making robot spiders a reality just never seemed to cross my mind (and I now realized how terrifying that sounds). After shuddering at the visual of that, I explained what spider crawlers are as follows – Crawlers are bots that sweep through a website in the blink of an eye while feeding information to search engines to give your website relevance.

What Does It Do?

A web crawler scans through websites providing search engines with a high amount of information. It tracks links, content, site architecture and relevance towards your websites target. This directly influences how you are ranked on search engines, making crawlers a very important part of organic search. That being said websites are built for great user capability, not to appeal to crawlers. Optimizers make the websites more crawler friendly and help eliminate bad practices that crawlers see as a violation.

How Do They Work?
Crawlers are basically information gatherers. They are constantly surfing the web in search of new information and are extremely up to date. They gather a websites information through internal and external links, <meta> tags, <h1> tags, <title> tags, and most importantly content. They can also see how popular the websites are to gain a better understanding of relevant and user-friendly content

Do I Need Them?

Yes spiders suck, I believe both species have come to an understanding that we don’t like them, they don’t like us. Unlike those terrifying 8-legged creatures, website crawlers are a good thing. If you want to be indexed and increase your organic traffic, being crawled is a positive.

I Hate Spiders Too, Can I Step on Them?

This was actually asked to me. This was my exact response. “Yes, but if you have the technology to virtually place your foot onto a program and crush them, I would like more information for a potential investment.” In actuality, using a robots.txt file actually gives the crawlers directions for the website. If you don’t want them sneaking around there are specific instructions you can place in your robots.txt, for more information and instructions list click here.

Now that you have a better understand of crawlers, you know how search engines gather information on your website. They check tags, and content, as well as links. So be sure to have constant monitoring of your Google Webmaster tools and analytics to see if you are being penalized or have duplicate content that Google frowns upon.

Just for kicks:

AHHH!

If you have any more questions feel free to comment, or a great spider destroying story email me directly, I would love to hear it.

Proper Website Hierarchy Structure

I finished my first week at Company X (I just realized I never asked permission to blog about them so I don’t want a billion dollar company suing me, doesn’t seem efficient. Call me naive, or too cautious but I’d rather play it safe). I’ll give you some background information on the situation so you aren’t lost throughout this post. Awesome company is an enormous eCommerce site. We have no Brick and Mortar retail stores, it is purely catalog, print, and online business. It’s a billion dollar company and organizes its hierarchy by the standard Supercategory > Category > Department > Class > Skuset > Sku. Here is a visual example of the companies hierarchy.

hierarchy-example

Example of Hierarchy – Credit to Invisible Children

WAIT! Don’t leave yet! Yes this seems to be entirely way off topic but it shows a great visual of ecommerce hierarchy. It also gives you awareness to what Invisible Children is running and an inspiring video that James Russell created and went viral and raised awareness through social media. But that’s another story. Lets break it down.

SuperCategory Example

Supercategory is the most general description of a section. For example “Office Supplies” is a super category that gives you a generalized overview of what that section will hold. For a visual
Category Example
Category is slightly more descriptive. This gives the user a way to distinguish by more categorical choices ie. filing supplies, filing storage, office accessories, dry erase boards.

Department/Class separates the categories into different categories. Yes it’s confusing, think of these two as taking a pile of oranges and separating them according to size, and/or tint of orange. Very confusing – for all intensive purpose and making life easier, lets imagine these are part of category.
SkuSet Example
Skuset is a highly rounded down group of items. This is where branded items becomes more specific, or
Sku Example
Sku is the main selling page. The use gets all the information on the product including reviews, pricing, other options etc.

Expand this into thousands and thousands of webpages built through an ecommerce hierarchy and you get something like this:
HIERARCHY EXAMPLE

Now that you have a small insight of an ecommerce site. It would be a great idea to go through what I had learned in my short time here and the process its going to take to get there. To do this we can put it in the form of a simple case study (without the end results) that still lacks the results part.

Problem (so far)

Awesome Company was very far behind in their SEO practices. In a market dominated by big names like Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, and Amazon, The Company maintains its competitive edge through high customer service, and experience in the industry. This would be our value proposition I suppose. Just this year, SEO began to really gather in the minds of the executives and they began to give SEO a budget alongside paid advertising, display advertising, and affiliates. This makes up the digital marketing team. So this should be a breeze, eh?

Wrong. So wrong.

The amount of things that could use optimization varied from the basic SEO practices such as creating a large master keyword list, as well as tracking them. To advanced practices like information architecture and site architecture. Believe it the architecture of this site nearly gave me a stroke because it was so much to take in. Ok, that was a little hyperbolific but the site needed a lot of help that I can’t even fully list.

Solution (for now)

Currently I have been put on keyword research duties. Yay. The current list they have is over 9,000 words long and they aren’t organized at all. So my amazingly boring job of organized the keywords into Supercategories and Categories will take up most of my time. So naturally to make this much less boring – I’m going to blog in the middle of it.

Review

So I understand I didn’t provide too much insight on my time here, but I did give a visual of an ecommerce hierarchy. A company this large has over 40,000 pages, so understanding how it is organized is a vital starting point. Now onto more keyword research/organization. Yay!