Face to Face with Google, Bing and Yahoo
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What would it feel like to be face to face with Google, Bing, and Yahoo? I know, I know, it’s every Internet Marketer’s dream – and it was a dream come true for me when I attended the SMX sponsored SEO/ SEM conference just last week. This was held at San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California.
3 distinguished people showed up to represent the biggest search engines today. Frank Palmieri (Manager Creative Strategy) and Hobson Powell (Senior Director Optimization Services) were there to represent Yahoo, Duane Forrester was Bing’s spokesperson who helps manage their Bing Webmaster Tools, and Google sent their Webmaster Trends Analyst named Gary Illyes.
Gary is a tough nut to crack. He wouldn’t tell me Google’s exact algorithm but he did give me some tips!
Frank & Hobson from Yahoo were only there on the first day, so we didn’t really get a lot of information from them. But that’s really okay, because Google and Bing are dominating the search engine land these days. Especially Google!
Bing shared a lot of interesting data with us. You might be surprised to hear that not everyone uses Google, even though most people do. Bing has over 29% Market Share. They get 5.6 Billion searches in the retail space. So if you are in retail and not advertising on Bing then you are missing out on a huge portion of people searching for your product!
Bing gets even more market share in the travel and telecom space with 85% market share! So if your business is in that vertical make sure you are not missing out on all those new customers hanging out over at Bing!
As Internet Marketers ourselves, we should know how the major search engines are working inside so that our SEO and SEM efforts are not wasted. Our marketing campaigns will only run in full performance if we know what we’re doing, right?
So I took down A LOT of notes during the 3-day conference and made sure that I will be able to share with fellow Internet Marketers everything I learned there.
Oh, and feel free to share too in your comments below!
Google’s Send Feedback Link
According to Google, they take the Send Feedback link on their homepage VERY seriously. They therefore encourage users to use this link when they want to reach out to Google.
You can basically use this option for anything (and that’s what Google wants). So if you find something wrong with the Google search engine or any of their products, then let them know by clicking on the Send Feedback link in the footer.
Google really wants to provide the best customer service to their users, so they even encourage sending them suggestions. If you want new features added to their services and apps (Gmail, Drive, whatever), just fill out their feedback form.
Markup Your Content with Schema
Both Google and Bing suggested that Schema should be a part of every Internet Marketer’s SEO strategy. Sadly, even if Schema and other structured markup systems have been around for years, very few people know it and are using it.
Schema is a microdata format that makes it easier for search engines to understand the content of web pages. Adopting the system will therefore result in more relevant results for Internet users when they input their queries in search engines.
Schema.org functions as the website for the Schema project which is actually a collaboration effort of the top search engines today – Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex (a Russian search engine). Schema aims to regulate structured markup for the interest of users and search engines alike.
The whole Schema system works by defining exactly what a web content is all about and how search engines should interpret said content. This is done by directly adding elements or attributes to the HTML code. For example, you can add “movie” or “event” attribute to the HTML code of an article so that this can show up in relevant searches.
Note that using Schema markup is not a black hat SEO technique, that’s why all the major search engines are actually encouraging webmasters to use it. It’s a practice that can help search engine crawlers better interpret the content of your site, so your site’s visibility can greatly improve as well.
Can using Schema influence your site’s ranking? According to Google, using Schema to markup is not considered a ranking signal at the moment. But it’s still highly recommended so as to make your site appear prominently in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). It will help your CTR (Click Through Rate) As in more people will click your listing if you have a nice looking snippet. Rich Snippets https://developers.google.com/structured-data/rich-snippets/
Google and Bing agree on one thing… they both say: “Do the Markup!”
The Rise of Mobile Customers
All their Data shows that mobile clients are steadily rising. Although PC users still make up most of the people searching on the Internet, mobile users are building up by the minute.
Because of this new data, customizing websites for mobile use is no longer optional – it’s a must! A mobile-responsive website is what we should all have if we don’t want the users to have a crappy experience while they’re on our sites.
You know how that feels like, right? Have you ever checked out a website on your mobile device only to find out that it’s not mobile friendly? If you’re like me, I just hit the back button irritatingly and try to find another site that I can look at on my cell phone or tablet without any trouble.
Optimize your mobile website if you don’t want your site visitors to leave as soon as they see your non-mobile friendly design. Do it now before you lose more customers! Make sure to use a responsive site design.
Important Revelation from Bing Data
According to Bing data, most users check their cell phones and visit websites through their mobile devices after work. So Internet users utilizing their phones and tablets begin to increase at around 4 in the afternoon. This is when people start to get off from work, are already using their phone on the train, or on the bus home.
The trend actually peaks at around 7PM and consistent usage lasts throughout the evening. When people are already at home using their tablet on the couch or on the go while out on the town looking up what to do or where to eat. High Internet usage using mobile devices can stay up to around 10PM as people surf on the net for entertainment purposes, shopping, and other stuff.
One thing they do know for sure is that for RETAIL, the data shows mobile devices are constantly looking at retail all day long! That means no matter what time it is, people are shopping from their phone consistently. (as opposed to more searches for stuff to do or places to eat around 4PM peak)
Take note of this data, because this is important in your online business. By capitalizing on the 4PM to 10PM trend, you can make a lot of sales, clicks, or whatever during said time frame.
Also, note that this data came from Bing. And we all know that a large percentage of users indeed use Google in searching and buying things online. But don’t forget about Bing.
More Revelations from Bing
Yes, Bing revealed a lot of information from their end. The same holds true for location-based queries, there are lots of Internet activities during the day. People search for things based on location after work or late in the afternoon. This often leads to purchases in brick and mortar establishments.
Note, too, that PCs are mostly used during weekdays and mobile devices are more used during weekends. Consider this and the time when Internet searches take their peak when working on your bid modifiers.
To use this technique even more effectively, you can design your campaigns with week and time of day targeting. Moreover, it would be good to turn on the location and call extensions. Use location, zip code and radius targeting for your marketing efforts. You can also combine some of the targeting methods according to your specific plan.
Bing Uses IED Re-Marketing Tags
It’s interesting to know that Bing uses IED re-marketing tags. This allows you to narrow down to 1 mile or 1 kilometer when you use this technique. In fact, according to Duane of Bing, just having a phone number makes a big difference.
Displaying URLs on Mobile Devices
If you already have a mobile site that is a non-responsive design then in your PPC ads, you can display your website’s URL on mobile devices by highlighting this using m.yourwebsite.com. You can also use yourwebsite.com/mobile. However, be aware that “m.” doesn’t exist in a responsive design and your website can look awkward when you employ this technique if you do have responsive.
Importance of Testing Stuff in Your Website
These days, it’s super easy to test the things that are going on in your website. By using Google Analytics, for example, you will be able to determine what people are doing on your site.
So if you find that a certain page has a high bounce rate (which doesn’t look good in the eyes of Google and other search engines), it could mean that there’s something wrong with the content. Maybe it’s hard to read; and if that is the case, you can simply chop up the paragraphs to make the content easier on the eyes. Increase the font if it is too small. You can also add strategic images to make the pages more appealing.
Installing analytics will allow you to test different methods of marketing on your website to see what works and what doesn’t. Really, with just this one tool, you can test stuff and solve problems easily. There’s literally no excuse for any webmaster or Internet Marketer to miss out on making sales and profits because of problems on their sites.
Follow the Rule on 404
For those of you who don’t know what a 404 is, it’s when you arrive at a page by clicking on a link and there’s nothing there. When Googlebots and other Internet crawlers see such pages, the pages can get de-indexed. This is especially true for Google (their representative Gary said so); and when a page stays on 404 status for 2 weeks, Google will consider it dead and purge the page from their index.
So, the best thing to do is to get a software called Screaming Frog. You can use this to check the http statuses of your web pages and fix those that have 404 statuses. You can do that by adding a new page there.
Also, keep in mind Google’s internal policy of purging 404 pages from their system after 2 weeks. So if your page’s 404 status has been like that for more than 2 weeks, consider it dead and just re-publish the webpage under a whole new URL.
Make Your 404 Fancy
When I say that you should make your 404 pages fancy, it means that your site visitors should still have the option to choose where they’re going next (since the page is not there). This should be done in a natural way, by making their options clear.
You can make a customized 404 page to serve this purpose. By putting a search box on your 404 page, your site visitors can look up terms or keywords that are related to their original queries.
You can also provide links and access to popular posts and relevant articles on your site or blog.
It could be a good idea to add a sitemap to your 404 pages so your customer can choose where to go.
If you redirect your site visitors to other web pages by forcing it and not making it clear where the links are going, this could prove to be scary for the users. You should avoid that situation at all cost because if they don’t come back to your website, that would look bad in the eyes of search engines.
Effective Way is to 404 the Bad Pages on Your Blog
The bad pages on your website can give your visitors a really baaad user experience. And as we all know, a bad experience will really give your site or blog a bad reputation (we don’t want that).
Bad pages on your website include web pages with error messages. Pages with unnatural links also look bad to search engines. In both cases, you can simply put these bad pages in 404 statuses to somehow fix the problem.
You see, search engines are not at war with 404 pages, so these won’t harm your site as far as ranking is concerned.
404 is actually a friend of webmasters. If your site has errors on certain pages, just put these bad pages in 404 status.
The Removal Tool
Another way to get rid of bad pages is to use the Google Removal tool. Using this feature in the Google Webmasters tools is like de-indexing a certain page manually (with Google’s approval, of course).
You can use the Removal tool to remove photos, videos, and web pages that contain sensitive information from the search results in Google (e.g. an image of your signature, bank account number, etc.). Just fill up the form and wait for Google’s approval to remove them.
Note, however, that Google can only control the appearance of said confidential information in their search results. The actual web pages and links to photos and videos are still accessible through URL search and social media sharing. These can also appear in queries on other search engines.
Here’s a note of advice: don’t use the removal tool indiscriminately if you don’t want to waste your time. While Google typically approves the removal of content that can put you at risk of identity theft and financial fraud, it will not approve the removal of other personal information on the Internet (e.g. your birthday, address, phone number etc.).
So use the Removal Tool only in emergency cases such as when you accidentally posted something confidential on your site or blog. Still, I encourage you to be VERY careful to what you post on your site because once it’s out there, it’s out there – and things can be very hard to take back.
Google deals with Removal requests on a case to case basis, so you really don’t know if your request is going to be approved or not. So better safe than sorry!
Effective Use of Webmaster Tools
Google and Bing highly recommend that their webmaster tools are used by site owners, especially those who are running online businesses. You can get data and accurate diagnostics of your site’s health and overall standing when you use these tools and your site ranking and visibility will increase accordingly too.
Using Google webmaster tools will allow you to monitor your site visitors’ behavior so that you can make strategic plans in making them buy from you, subscribe and opt-in to your list, or whatever it is that you want them to do. According to Google, they are also working on getting their tools better.
The same holds true for Bing. When you go to the Bing Webmaster Tools Website, you will find that there are also a number of tools there that will help webmasters become more visible in their search engine.
Content Changes Based on User IP
Each and every computer on the Internet has its IP address. This unique address identifies one computer from the rest of the computers on the World Wide Web.
An IP address lets you know about the general area from which your site visitors are coming from. This is really important in targeting your audience and specializing in your site’s content.
According to Bing and Google, if the content changes based on the user IP, they will be able to see the content. But this feature is only launched in some countries.
It can be concluded that search engines like it better if websites use different URLs for different locations (e.g. .com, .ca, .uk, etc). When in doubt, use .com.
Use Link Alternate for Mobile
According to Bing and Google, it is important to use link alternate on websites that are serving mobile devices. Aside from having a responsive web design, webmasters should also configure their sites to make them mobile-friendly.
Adding annotations in the form of link alternate will help in the algorithm processes of determining the relationship of web pages that are targeted for different devices.
302 Vs 301
Let’s get one thing straight – both 301 and 302 are redirect statuses. While 301 refers to permanent redirection, 302 implies temporary redirection status.
Use 301 if your webpage has moved to another location permanently. When web crawlers see this status, they will use the new location when indexing your site’s pages.
For temporary redirection, use 302. This tells search engine robots that the page is just temporarily located on another URL. The bots will therefore keep coming back to the original URL to check for updates because the redirection is not permanent.
According to Bing, when they see a page with 302, their crawlers will still keep on going back to the original page. Bing will hit a 302 5 times and will then assume it’s a 301 after that.
302 is a quick process of redirecting your site’s visitors to another page. But if you want a 301, just explain it to the developer properly.
Should You Include Dead Pages in Your Site Map?
According to Google’s representative, Gary – yes, it is ok to include dead pages in your site map.
But wait, according to Bing’s Duane – it’s a no. Bing wants to see clean site maps. So if a site has dead links, they don’t want to see those in a website’s site map. Your rankings depend on it so clean up your sitemap! Make sure all the links in there are working perfectly. Make sure there are no errors on those pages etc.
What if you have a retail store and the Offer is Gone?
Ok, sometimes, you have offers that are no longer available. So what do you do? If you are in that situation, take your site visitor to a page where it says it’s not there anymore.
Don’t redirect them. Using 301 or 304 redirect is like a gray area where you risk pissing off the user, so use it wisely. Remember, if the user doesn’t come back or go to another page, it would look really bad for you.
So, if you don’t have the color blue, for example, give your customers other choices. Tell them you don’t have blue but provide them with links that point to similar colors like royal blue, sky blue, navy blue, etc. Don’t just redirect them to aqua and assume they will like it. It is better if they searched for blue, and you don’t have it anymore, tell them you are out but maybe they would like these colours instead. Apply this to offers that are expired and all your products as well.
Should You Decide for the Customer?
According to Bing, it’s risky if you don’t give your site visitors options when they end up in 301 and 304 pages. Remember, if you decide for your customers and they don’t come back, it still looks bad for your website. The search engines will think that your site is not worth ranking after all.
Bing’s Explanation: 404 Vs 410
404 and 410 statuses both mean that a specific webpage is removed. According to Bing, they consider a page with a 410 status permanently removed, so it will never be re-indexed by their search engine. And in this case, a do-over will prove to be useless.
If a webpage has a 404 status, Bing looks at this as something very similar to 410, but they are not considering it as a permanent thing. A consideration is given to the site owner, such as if a mistake was made unintentionally. And in this case, the search engine will give the webmaster a cushion and not consider the page or link dead.
Google’s Explanation: 404 Vs 410
For this particular blog post, let me just say that when I say “Google,” I am referring to what Gary said when we asked him questions. He is, after all, Google’s representative.
So anyway, the announcer asked Gary if Google treats 410 the same as 404. And Gary said, “no.”
Hmmmmm…. Just so you know, it is stated in the Google website support that “Currently Google treats 410s (Gone) the same as 404s (Not found).”
So, I don’t know… should we believe Gary’s answer or the one in the Google website? Gary Seemed surprised when the announcer showed him the published page on his ipad. He said “we published that?” and said that needs to be changed. So either Google is lying to us or they are not that great at updating their own website.
Security is Important
Heads up! This one is really important!
According to Google, these days, everything site-related should be secure. If Googlebots see that your website is secure, they will give you a ranking boost.
Therefore, you need to change to https:// from http:// to make sure that everything is secure. Yes, everything must be changed to https.
Google is currently favoring secure sites, so you want to really focus on this security thing, ok?
As for Bing, they are not very particular at site security right now. But we can be sure that they will consider this as one of their metrics in ranking sites in the future.
Crawling and Indexing
According to Google, as soon as they process the web pages of a site, they index those pages. Your website and pages will then show up in relevant queries on their search results.
Thank You, Google, Bing and Yahoo
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, fellow Internet Marketers! Those are my notes from some of the session of the 3 day conference I attended on SEO and SEM.
I hope you learned something and use your newfound knowledge in building better websites and more profitable online businesses.
Till next time….. Cheers!