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SEOToolSet® Training Comes to You

We're very pleased to present Bruce Clay, Inc.'s famous SEO training course with new East Coast style. That's right, we will now be holding our SEOToolSet Training in New York! All of Bruce Clay, Inc.'s normal SEO goodness, now with tastier bagels!

And as always, there is Bruce Clay, Inc.'s SoCal search engine optimization training sessions. You can register for the standard SEOToolSet Training here in sunny Southern California. Our next class takes place May 11-13 for the Standard class, and May 14-15 for the Advanced, so make sure you sign up soon as space is limited.


FEATURE: Branding, SEO & The Vince Update

Over the past couple of months there has been a lot of discussion in the SEO world about Google’s “Vince” update. Although the change occurred in the second half of January, the discussion in the wider SEO community did not begin until Aaron Wall posted a blog entry on February 25th about Google seemingly placing “heavy emphasis” on branding in their search results. Google, through Matt Cutts, confirmed that an algorithm change did occur. However, Matt stopped short of calling it an update, labeling it instead a “simple change”.

Regardless of what you call it, a change did occur in January to Google’s algorithm and it did affect the rankings for some queries. But what changed? Does Google prefer branded sites now? And most importantly, is there anything that you should do differently for SEO?


BACK TO BASICS: XML Sitemaps Defined, Part One: Pairing Traditional Site Maps with XML Sitemaps

At Bruce Clay, Inc., one of the things that we struggle with in our everyday client work is getting the pages that we consider important into the search engines. In order to provide the search engines the most complete look at what is in a site and give those pages the best chance to be indexed, it's necessary to create maps of your site's pages. There are two ways of doing this. The traditional way is to create an HTML site map but in recent years search engines have developed the XML Sitemap protocol to assist in spidering. Google in particular has embraced the format and created several variations that enable them to easily discover all manner of content varieties.

The first part of this two-part series merely outlines the basic differences between HTML site maps and XML Sitemaps and gets you started on creating your own XML Sitemaps. The second will tackle the variations that Google has created in order to better help you serve them content.


Hot Topics
Local Results Coming to Your SERPs

This month Google began showing local business results even when users had not specified a location. Queries that suggest a local intent, such as restaurants or dry cleaners, are now being served up with a local 10 pack. Google Software Engineer Jim Muller explained that the new feature is available to users across the world and that when no local modifier is included in the search terms, the local results are shown toward the middle of the page rather than in the top spots.

How It's Done

Google determines the location of a user by matching the IP address to a broad geographical location. Users can also specify their location by selecting "Change location" from the top right hand corner of the local business results. According to Muller, Google has targeted more than hundreds of terms to trigger the local results. He also explained that the results may display in a number of configurations - including groups of ten, groups of three, in a stand-alone format or without a map - with the display determined by what the algorithm finds most useful.

Matt McGee's observation of the local results indicates that triggering may depend on whether the term used is singular or plural. Furthermore, commercial terms are not alone in triggering local results.

How It Affects the Search Industry

As McGee points out, this development may lead to a change in searcher behavior. Where we previously saw a move toward longer search queries, we may see a return to shorter queries as generic terms bring up more relevant results. He also explains that because results are based on a searcher's IP, a site's ISP may have an effect on the order of local results.

In her post on Search Engine Guide, Miriam Ellis says that public awareness of local data will increase as the 10 pack appears more often. Spammers will also take advantage of the newly exposed platform in the shape of increased mapspam. And of course, those businesses ranking well in local results will see incredible growth in search traffic. As Greg Sterling points out, through this new feature Google has acknowledged that geomodifiers aren't required for a query to be inherently local.


Shuffles

There's a lot of movement in the search and Internet technology industries this month. Microsoft has reported that its Live Labs group has been cut in half with the remaining team focusing on search. Microsoft's Encyclopedia Encarta was also bid farewell.

At Yahoo, the loss of two toolbar deals threatens to cost the search engine up to 15 percent of search traffic. Time Warner may be considering the sale of AOL.

Google announced the launch of a venture capital fund, Google Ventures. Dennis Woodside was named as Google's senior vice president and president of American operations. Meanwhile, the company's president of Asia-Pacific and Latin America operations, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, left to become the CEO in residence of venture capital firm Accel Partners.

Google's lead designer Doug Bowman left the search engine to join Twitter. And Web designer Matthew Inman left NextC, announcing his plans to launch an entertainment Web site.

This month, Facebook's membership climbed to 200 million. Following CFO Gideon Yu's departure, speculation spread on why senior management is short-lived at the organization. At the third-largest social network, hi5, 50 percent of the 100-person staff was laid off.

Wikia Search ended its user-generated search engine service this month after founder Jimmy Wales decided it would be years before it could be used by the public - an unprofitable trajectory in this economy. Video site Veoh replaced CEO Steve Migang with founder Dmitry Shapiro and laid off about a third of its staff. Silicon Valley's former bellwether Silicon Graphics Inc. was bought by Rackable Systems for just $25 million.

IBM and Sun Microsystems were in merger talks that failed this month. IBM also made headlines for its new strategy of sending employees overseas.


Sound Bytes

If you like what you've read in the SEO Newsletter, there's more Internet marketing expertise where that came from. Check out SEM Synergy every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern and Noon Pacific on WebmasterRadio.fm. Bruce Clay and the other hosts discuss industry news, SEO tactics and marketing trends, while expert guests share their insights on methods, best practices and upcoming events. Check out the show schedule below for a look at recent shows and upcoming topics.

April 1
(Listen Now)

Interest-Based Ads

David Szetela

Interest-Based Search

April 8
(Listen Now)

The Vince Update

Jayme Westervelt

The Vince Update

April 15
(Coming Soon)

IM Spring Break

Danny Sullivan

Industry Conferences

April 22
(Coming Soon)

Social Media Links

Jordan Kasteler

Social Media Dos and Don'ts

April 29
(Coming Soon)

SEM Recession Trends

TBA

Value-Added Service

Got something to say? Contact the SEM Synergy team and share your thoughts, comments and questions. You might even hear your question answered on the show.


Shindigs

From April 21-23, ad:tech will take place in San Francisco, featuring a new SMX @ ad:tech track on the second day. SMX Advanced is scheduled for June 2-4 in Seattle.

PPC Summit will be held in Chicago April 22-23 and in New York City May 13-14. San Jose hosts eMetrics Summit May 4-7.

Forrester's Marketing Forum takes place in Orlando April 23-24.

Online Marketing Summit will be held at a number of cities across the country, including Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Dallas, and many more, throughout the month of May.

SEOToolSet Training courses are scheduled around the country. Next up:

  • April 28-30 (standard) in Long Island, NY
  • May 11-15 (standard and advanced) in Simi Valley, CA
  • June 9-11 (standard) in Long Island, NY

Attaboys

Giving business owners a voice, business review site Yelp will soon let business owners publicly respond to reviews. Also raising his voice, Jeremy Schoemaker of Shoemoney.com has filed suit against a Google employee who is wrongly using Schoemaker's trademark within AdWords copy after accessing his account to gather competitive data.

Microblogging site Twitter made several changes this month, among them: adding advertisements, adopting a new layout and including a "Save this Search" feature. Social news site Digg launched an improved search engine with filtering capabilities.

A new BlackBerry app store, BlackBerry App World, was unveiled this month, featuring free and paid apps for RIM devices. Mobile ad network AdMob launched Download Exchange, a program that lets developers promote their apps in exchange for running ads for other apps.

Improved analytics and reporting were added to the Google TV Ads and YouTube Insights services. YouTube, Picasa, Flickr and Yelp content can now be previewed in Gmail.

Google search results are now showing the local 10 pack for a number of broad, non-geo-specific queries. Google local news was also expanded to the UK, India and Canada and Google Suggest went international with 51 languages.

This month Google announced a partnership with the pharmacy chain CVS, allowing customers to import their prescription history into Google Health and contribute to the comprehensive pharmacy history being collected.

Google Image Search released a new feature that lets users filter results by color. Yahoo Image Search was updated this month with a friendlier interface displaying larger images in search results and a preview page that gives users a better idea of how the image is used on the page. An array of new filters for image search such as size and color were also released.

Yahoo's open-source search technology, BOSS, announced three new capabilities: Delicious content, additional languages and news sorting.

Ask.com has partnered with Autism Speaks in an effort to raise funds and awareness during April, Autism Awareness Month. The search engine also announced support for Sitemaps autodiscovery protocol.

Microsoft Virtual Earth added interactive capabilities that allow businesses to add images, video or text content to locations on the map. The company will also allow Windows 7 users to downgrade their operating system if discontent with the new OS.


Word on the Wire

New statistics were released over the last month regarding online advertising. According to one survey on social network ad engagement, 74 percent of young consumers reported clicking on social network ads infrequently and 36 percent said they didn't click on social network ads at all.

The number of online network viewers who reported they would welcome ads in exchange for free video content rose from 67 percent in 2006 to 80 percent this month. Sales of YouTube ads grew 50 percent, from placement on 6 percent of videos in 2008 to inclusion on 9 percent of videos this month.

Meanwhile, Google AdSense dropped its video ads program, citing poor earnings. Online TV viewing site Hulu has seen a growth in viewership and a decrease in advertisers. In a year-over-year analysis, online ads grew at the remarkably slow rate of 2.6 percent in Q4.

Twitter began preparing a revenue model based on charging for enhanced commercial accounts. According to comScore, Twitter's user demographics skew older, with the 45-54 year old age group making up the largest segment, followed by 25-34 year olds. It was reported that CEO Evan Williams wouldn't let go of the company's independence for less than $1 billion. Later, however, rumors surfaced that Google and Microsoft were fighting over a Twitter acquisition.

In an interview, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that the company's underdog status in the search arena allowed Microsoft to be more experimental than Google in developing new technologies and features. It was also reported that Microsoft planned to spend up to $100 million in order to take search market share from the two top-tier engines.

The release of Internet Explorer 8 was met with protest due to its adoption of Web standards unlike previous versions of IE. There were also reports that Yahoo and Microsoft were in discussions on a search and advertising partnership.

Google redesigned the Sitelinks shortcut feature as One-Line Sitelinks. Google Maps Street View is now available in 25 new cities in the Netherlands and the UK. And Google News officially revised its URL policy, no longer requiring that numbers be included in URLs. Eric Schmidt responded to publishers' cries for preferential treatment by explaining that trusted brands already see a rankings boost in Google News.

Privacy advocates are making noise about the dangers of cloud computing. In New Jersey, lawmakers are considering legislation which orders social networking sites to police for offensive posts. A European Union directive mandating the archival of Internet traffic for 12 months has been put into effect in the UK.



If you have any questions or comments on any of the above Internet marketing news items or if you would like to suggest topics for future search engine optimization articles, please contact us at Bruce Clay, Inc.

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