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July 27, 2010

SEO Hot Tub – 16th July 2010

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Our latest Hot Tub was a long one, over 2 hours of SEO goodness, so I suggest you get comfy because there’s much to discuss. The big topics that arose this session were search engine movements and testing, approaches to link building and some new features in optimising for social media.

The Big Three Search Engines: What Have They Been Up To?

It is no surprise that Google, Yahoo and Bing are consistently trying to improve their service and this means a lot of testing and changes to what we are used to. Some topics in our SEO Hot Tub raised some interesting points on recent activity by the search engines.

Yahoo
Previously, Yahoo had confirmed offline testing with Bing powered search results. This month, it was reported that Yahoo has now started live testing with Bing on both paid and organic Yahoo search sites.

Google
The big G has been busy. Testing maps results page layouts, news personalisation and even the ability to track mouse behaviour have all been on Google’s agenda for staying ahead of the curve.

Firstly, it seems some changes have been implemented by Google in how the local onebox is displayed for individual business listings. Depending on how specific the search query is, a business page will now display above the map, which features a big pin on that location only. The businesses website URL is now replaced by the Place Page, and the reviews may not even appear if there is only few.  The picture below shows the main changes.

Google has also been testing a new local display on live servers. Although they probably don’t want us to see them in testing, a sneaky screenshot of the proposed SERPs was taken this month detailing the potential changes. Bigger local listings are now mirrored as organic looking results, along with more prominent reviews and the “Place Page” link also being shown in replace of “More Info”. The map would display on the right, shifting AdWords results lower.

This isn’t the only experimentation Google has been doing with the way they display results. Another point raised in our Hot Tub showed that the search engine had continued their efforts in improving price displays for hotels, with US and English searchers being exposed to sponsored links from Priceline and Expedia.

Google has also made some interesting changes to personalising news results. It seems now that you can tailor your news to only show results from sources you agree with. If you edit new personalisation options, the top stories recommended by Google to you will be reflected by your changes.

Some suggest this is not so good, as by limiting your variety of sources for news, you limit your ability to see other sides of the story and better understand an issue.

Lastly, it has been reported that Google may track mouse movements and behaviour to help rank pages. A number of patent filings from Google suggest they place a lot of emphasis on collecting information on user behaviour such as:

  • How long does a user spend on a page?
  • How far does a user scroll down?
  • What pages will a user click on/think of clicking on?

By tracking mouse movements, Google could collect data on hovers, scrolling and “the eyes of the user” to get a better understanding of search behaviour. This data could then be used to improve their service and rank pages.

Bing

As previously mentioned, Bing has been involved with Yahoo in testing, but what else has the new player in the SE’s been up to?

Well the biggest news for Bing is that it has now entered the Japanese market. Bing representatives say that the service is designed to offer a “smarter, more visual way” for Japanese users to make their choices and that it has already received an excellent response since launch.

Bing is also testing new waters that no other search engine has before. Much like the domain registrar giant GoDaddy has done in the past with NASCAR, Bing has now committed to advertising deals and promotional campaigns with high profile celebrities such as NBA’s LeBron James and Lady Gaga to increase their awareness and target a broader market.

And that’s the biggest news from the biggest search engines!

Approaches To Link Building

Most of those involved in search engine optimisation already have their ways to go about building links, but our Hot Tub brought up some interesting topics on linking that you otherwise may not have known.

Firstly, we took a look at what the emerging link tactics of the last 12 months were. Research suggests that click traffic from twitter, guest blogging and content aggregator widgets have been on the rise for building links over the past year.

We also had a look at the criteria for the perfect link, of which should be from a trusted and important source that is likely to send lots of relevant traffic. It should also be given without financial motivation and be likely to remain in place for a long time. Obviously, this is a perfect scenario, so how do you go about creating a realistic link marketing plan?

Make sure you think about:

  • Demographics
  • Content based on customer feedback
  • Spread content via video, podcasts, blog posts and slide shows
  • Develop new content regularly
  • Create support widgets, contests and promotions – keep the buzz going. & Google Adwords.

An Innovative Approach To Link Building

The old expression, think outside the square, a phrase I think is appropriate in describing link building with widgets. A totally new way to building links, and an approach that is quickly on the rise, link building with widgets allows you to submit a relevant and optimised widget to a widget directory which gives webmasters the opportunity to embed your widget on their websites and social pages. What’s in it for you? The widget contains a link back to your website, which is most likely relevant as it was picked up by a webmaster in the same industry as you made the widget for.

i.e. In the example shown above, a pregnancy widget was made for a baby related website that guides you through the steps and progress of a pregnancy. Typically, only other baby related sites and pages would be interested in embedding the widget to add value to their site, which gives you more relevant back links. And if you aren’t a guru with code, simply search a widget directory that supports editing and create your own (you may need to pay a small fee to rid advertising on your widget).

The beauty of this, is that people are already searching for these widgets, so you could take it a step further and create an optimised page on your site based on widget related keywords.

Let’s Finish With Some Social Media Stuff

The final area we’ll cover in this post is a look at some new SMO features that you can take advantage of.

Twitter
Twitter has recently introduced a new feature in its search results. When a user conducts a search, they will now be presented with ‘name results’, which shows account information based on the query entered. This could be particularly useful for the creation and optimisation of different accounts based on popular search terms.

YouTube
It has now been confirmed that YouTube and Google are indexing closed captions and subtitles from YouTube videos. The closed captions are contained in a CC file that is automatically created by submitting transcripts with videos. These files look like the following:

0:00:07.430,0:00:11.600
with the YouTube APIs. I am
Jeff Fisher,
0:00:11.600,0:00:14.009
and this is Johann Hartmann,
we’re presenting today.
0:00:14.009,0:00:15.889
[pause]

There is now evidence that videos are ranking for keywords only found within their closed captions. So consider optimising a CC file with your next video upload.

And that’s a wrap for our latest SEO Hot Tub, so remember to stay on top of search engine changes and movements, consider new ways to build your links and get ahead of your competition with new ways to optimise your social media!

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