Archive for August, 2008

Empowering users to map their worlds

In countries like India, great maps and comprehensive local data are hard to come by. And traditional mapping approaches are stretched to the limit in such environments, where infrastructure and local businesses are evolving at a furious pace.

This need inspired them in Google India to design and build Google Map Maker, which enables users everywhere over to create rich, deep maps and fresh local data. People can mark their favorite spots in their cities and hometowns, add features such as roads, parks, and buildings, tag small businesses to help users find them, and collaborate to map neighborhoods of interest. This product is motivated by the spirit of information democracy, where people can create information that are moderated and consumed by their peers.

Today(8/28/2008), they are bringing home this innovation by launching Google Map Maker in India, which has already been deployed in 57 other countries.

Google Map Maker will result in rich local data which will benefit Google users both on the web and on mobile. The creation of base maps where there were previously none will encourage many mashups, mapplets and other cool applications that make use of this data. We’re also excited to see Google Map Maker create a new breed of local map experts who bring their passion for their neighborhoods and communities into the online world, adding to local commerce, tourism and investment.

I will leave you with a map of IIT Bombay, the alma mater to many of them in Google India. When I spent a few hours mapping IIT Bombay — the place I lived in, the school I went to, and the streets I played on, it turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying experience that reconnected me to a place that is home to many of my memories. We hope you will find the Google Map Maker experience as fun and fulfilling as we do.

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Making Money on Youtube with Content ID

Late last year, Google introduced newest tool for YouTube’s content identification and management system, Video ID. While theye have long provided copyright owners with similar content policies and tools, Video ID was revolutionary because it provided real choice and control to content owners by combining a sophisticated policy engine with cutting-edge video matching technology. With the other tools in their content ID system, Video ID helps content owners decide exactly what they want done with their videos, whether to block, promote, or even—if a copyright holder chooses to license their content to appear on the site—monetize them.

They’ve been curious to see what copyright holders would choose. Would the vast majority of partners block user-uploaded videos? Or would they embrace Video ID as an opportunity to generate revenue and exposure for their content online?

As it turns out, their partners are choosing the latter, monetizing 90% of all claims created through Video ID. This has led directly to a similarly significant increase in monetizable partner inventory, as their Video ID partners are seeing claimed content more than double their number of views, against which they can run ads. This means that if a partner has, say, 10,000 views of its content, leaving up videos claimed by their system will lead to an average additional 10,000 views of that same content. We call this “partner uplift,” and for some partners we’ve seen uplift as high as 9000%.

Access to their copyright management tools is open to all rights owners, regardless of whether they choose to license their content to YouTube. But it’s clear to our 300+ Video ID partners that our technology has created a framework that allows copyright holders to sanction the creativity of their biggest fans. These partners now have a new way to successfully distribute and market their content online, and with the help of our users, they are finding Video ID critical to discovering such opportunities.

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5 Reasons Why Rankings Are A Poor Measure Of Success

Are you still measuring your SEO success by the rankings you obtain? If so, you need to stop—right now!
Here’s why:

1. Rankings are constantly fluctuating. You might check rankings one minute, then check again a few minutes later and see different results.

2. Search results are sometimes geotargeted. The search engines know where you’re located by your IP address, and if they want they can (and I believe they do) sometimes point you to pages that are closer to where you are searching from, as they assume those results might be more beneficial to you.

3. Personalized search. If you’re logged into your Google or Yahoo account, you may very well be getting search results that are specifically targeted to your own preferences. It’s called personalized search, and it is a reality these days. As people use Gmail, Google Analtyics, Google AdWords, or any other free Google toy, Google learns more about you and may make specific recommendations based on this knowledge. Think about how Amazon is always making personalized recommendations for you. It wouldn’t surprise me if Google and Yahoo become more Amazon-like with their recommendations in the near future. The end result is that no two people will see the same rankings, making them an even more worthless measurement than they already are.

4. Rankings don’t equal targeted traffic. Heck, rankings don’t always even equal un-targeted traffic! If you or your SEO company optimizes your pages for keyword phrases that nobody’s searching for, your optimization efforts will all be wasted. And if you’re measuring success by how you rank for those useless keywords, you may be thinking you’re successful when you’re really not. This is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book for unscrupulous (or incompetent) SEO companies to use. They fulfill their end of the bargain—get you rankings—and you’re left scratching your head wondering why your website is still a ghost town.

5. Rankings don’t equal conversions or sales. Along the same lines of #4, all the high rankings in the world won’t matter if they don’t increase your bottom line somehow. If you receive lots of untargeted traffic, or no traffic at all, your sales will remain static.

The things that matter, of course—the targeted traffic, but even more important than that—the conversions and sales. Yeah, it was nice in the old days when we could say we did our job by running ranking reports each month and pointing out all the increases to our clients. But that’s simply not going to fly these days. Today, you have to be able to show your clients a positive return on their SEO investment, or you’re just not doing your job properly.

Get with the program and start measuring the things that matter.

Educate your clients or your CEO as much as possible. It can certainly be a difficult concept for some of them to grasp, as rankings are often a vanity thing for them. But once you convince them of the lack of merit in measuring rankings, you’ll be free to throw your rank checking software out the window once and for all and be on your way to true search engine success!

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New Enhancements on the Google Content Network

Google announced a new feature that are coming to content network. These enhancements are the latest result of our integration with DoubleClick and thier commitment to making advertising on the Google content network more efficient and accountable. The new enhancements that will be available in the coming months are the next step in their integration and in enabling standard industry functionality on the Google content network:

1. Frequency Capping: Enables advertisers to control the number of times a user sees an ad. Users will have a better experience on Google content network sites because they will no longer see the same ad over and over again.

2. Frequency Reporting: Provides insight into the number of people who have seen an ad campaign, and how many times, on average, people are seeing these ads.

3. Improved Ads Quality: Brings performance improvements within the Google content network.

4. View-Through Conversions: Enables advertisers to gain insights on how many users visited their sites after seeing an ad. This helps advertisers determine the best places to advertise so users will see more relevant ads.

Google is enabling this functionality by implementing a DoubleClick ad-serving cookie across the Google content network. Using the DoubleClick cookie means that DoubleClick advertisers and publishers don’t have to make any changes on their websites as we continue our integration efforts and offer additional enhancements. This also means that with one click, users can opt out of a single cookie for both DoubleClick ad serving and the Google content network. (If a user has already opted out of the DoubleClick cookie, that opt-out will also automatically apply to the Google content network.)

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AdSense For Feeds Is Now Available To All Google Publishers

Google Operating System reported they are now seeing the Google AdSense for Feeds option in their AdSense account set up screen. I noted at the Search Engine Roundtable that many folks are buzzing about the new feature at several discussion forums. It appears to me that this beta offering is now open to all, if not most Google AdSense publishers.

In short, Google AdSense for Feeds allows publishers to add AdSense ads within their RSS feed distribution. In fact, Google has been making it easier for those with FeedBurner accounts to easily integrate AdSense for Feeds in their published RSS feeds. The other day, I broke the news at the Search Engine Roundtable that FeedBurner is not accepting new publishers into the FeedBurner Ad Network. A few days after that, Google pushes out the AdSense for Feeds to virtually all AdSense publishers.

Google’s AdSense for Feeds has been in beta since May 2005. I was one of the early beta testers. In any event, here is a screen shot of what the set up screen looks like for publishers:

Google AdSense for Feeds by rustybrick.

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3,000+ Hours Of Olympic Video: Can Search Engine Users Find It?

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, NBCOlympics.com is streaming 2,200 hours of exclusive live Olympic video, as well as over 3,000 hours of replays. This content is housed exclusively on the NBC site. Users can search NBCOlympics.com to watch their favorite highlights or catch something they may have missed. But can hungry Olympic video fans find their way to this mass of popular NBC content? Like the number of gold medals Michael Phelps will win, this remains to be seen.

According to the New York Times, NBC expects to generate $1 billion in ad revenue from their exclusive rights to the Olympics, which they spent $900 million for. So let’s take a look at NBC’s Olympic online video distribution strategy. NBC owns the rights to the Olympic video content and hopes to drive consumers to their Web site in order to provide advertisers with the eyeballs they promised and maximize ad revenue. Currently, they are running TV commercials, as well as a paid search campaign, to boost awareness for Olympic video content at the NBC site. MSN.com carries live video streams, so MSN users are most likely finding their way to the NBC Olympic video site without even using LiveSearch. Also, AOL Video displays NBC content in its search results, re-directing users who click on the NBC listings to the NBC Olympic video site.

YouTube, on the other hand, which is likely witnessing heavier search traffic for Olympic video than AOL Video/Truveo, is not showing any of the exclusive NBC content. NBC has made the business decision to bypass a YouTube channel in hopes that consumers go to the native NBC site for the content. YouTube is streaming Olympic content to users in territories not controlled by NBC and other sponsors. This includes South Korea, India, and 75 other places where exclusive broadcast rights have not been sold.

The biggest question is whether searchers on Google and Yahoo! are able to find the NBC video when searching for Olympic video content. It appears as if both Google and Yahoo! are indexing this content. The problem is, just because Olympic videos are in the index doesn’t mean that they are ranking well. For instance, I performed a Google and Yahoo! search for “Michael Phelps arrives in Beijing,” the title of one of the videos on the NBC site. Although the title of the video isn’t in the title tag (all the NBC videos have the same title tag), the NBC Olympic video is ranked number one. On Yahoo!, it’s ranked number three. A little further down the Google search results page, I see the same video, this time from AOL Video, which will redirect me to the NBC site. Both search results do not show embedded videos.

Phelps Olympics

As expected, we see the NBC Olympics search result come up for a long-tail search that directly matches the copy on the page. But what if I try a different search? Perhaps a search that sees a lot more volume, such as “Michael Phelps video.” In this case, I don’t see any NBC Olympic video results (or AOL Video directing to NBC results) in the first 10 pages. I do see four embedded Michael Phelps videos on the first page (two from YouTube), along with an older AOL Video result not from the NBC Olympics site.

It’s possible that things may change on the Google search results page once Michael Phelps wins more gold medals and NBC posts more Phelps-related video. But unless the NBC Olympics site shows up embedded on Google for high volume keywords, NBC is going to miss out on a lot of traffic from search. It’s in the best interest of both Google and NBC to have the freshest and most relevant video appear embedded on the first page of results above older YouTube content. It would be best if the video were embedded, like most of the YouTube video results generally seen on the search results page. The fact that AOL Video is showing the NBC Olympic results may help in getting the content ranked on Google. However, with AOL redirecting users to the NBC site, the video will most likely not get embedded on the search results page. This is because an embedded result generally leads a user directly to the video.

So what can NBC do better to distribute their in-demand Olympic video content? Unique title-tags with targeted keywords for each individual video will help the videos rank better in search. Posting a limited number of Olympic clips on an NBC YouTube channel, or perhaps the Universal Sports YouTube Channel, would also be an effective strategy. These clips can serve as a type of “teaser” that give people a taste and then directs them to the NBC Olympic video site for more content. This also gives NBC a much better chance of Google and Yahoo! spidering their YouTube content, ranking it higher, embedding it on the search results page, and getting it in front of Olympic video-hungry searchers.

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6 Common Website Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Here are 6 common website mistakes that could be costing you money:

1. JavaScript or other crawler-unfriendly navigation that may impede indexing. Most newer sites don’t have this problem, but there’s almost always at least 1 site we review in every class that has its main navigation pretty much invisible to the search engines. If your navigation basically doesn’t exist as far as Google is concerned, then it’s very difficult to get all of the pages of your website indexed.

2. Navigation that buries important pages within the site architecture. The deeper that pages are buried within the website, the less importance they are given. For SEO, as well as usability purposes, it’s often helpful to showcase important sections of the website up an additional level in the site’s hierarchy. This can usually be achieved via a search-friendly CSS mouse-over menu.

3. Duplicate “pages” getting indexed under multiple URLs. While Google has, for the most part, worked out many of their canonical issues of the past and now generally realize that www.example.com/index.php is the same as www.example.com, many content management systems (CMS) take things a step further and provide a whole array of URLs for any one particular page of content. Sometimes this is done purposely for tracking reasons, as with session ids or tracking links appended to the end of URLs; but other times, it’s simply done because the CMS was never designed with search engines in mind. This is not a good thing, as it can cause the spiders to be so busy indexing the same content that they miss the more important stuff.

4. No keyword phrase focus in the content or conversely, keyword phrase stuffing. It never ceases to amaze me when people claim to have optimized a page, but there are no keyword phrases anywhere to be seen within the content. I suppose this might happen because they’ve put them in the keyword meta tag and assume they’ve optimized. (It’s a good thing they’ve come to our class when this is the case!) On the other side of the coin, there are those who seem to think that 4 instances of a keyword phrase in one sentence must certainly be better than just one! The fix, of course, is to provide a balanced focus on the optimized keyword phrases so that a trained SEO would know what the page is optimized for, but the average reader wouldn’t find the copy repetitive.

5. An optimized home page, but that’s it. While optimizing just the home page is better than not optimizing anything, it’s not going to increase the website’s search engine traffic by that much. Without fixing all the issues on inner pages and optimizing a number of them for their own set of keyword phrases, the site will basically be leaving money on the table.

6. Additional domains owned by the company are not properly redirected. In the old days, it was fine to park any additional domains that the company owned as an alias of the main website; however, today it’s much better practice to 301-redirect all additional domains to the main website. This enables the company to control which domain is the one that the search engines index, and avoids any splitting of link popularity between the different domains.

These 6 are by no means the only website mistakes we see. When going back through the sites we reviewed, I found tons of additional mistakes which I’ll save for a future article. My hope is that at least one of these may ring a bell to you as something that needs to be fixed on your own website. Once you take the time to correct the issue, you should find that your website will start gaining a lot more targeted search engine traffic, and ideally start making you more money!

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