Sunday, September 13, 2009




Google How-Tos:

Listen to the Googlistas

You want Google to love your website. This search engine alone accounts for 46% of all searches so when you consider that there are virtually thousands of search engines (granted, many topic specific), controlling a 46% share of all search engine users makes you “the cat that everybody’s rapping ‘bout.” And they are.

The webmaster community and Google don’t always get along and that’s understandable. For most webmasters, Google is a prime source of site traffic but if there are too many obstacles to Google success, of course there’s going to be feuding between search engine and those professionals who rely on search engines for their livelihoods. Every time Google tweaks an algorithm, some sites gain, some lose ground – and the reasons are rarely clear.

So, Google put together Webmaster Central, a blog for site owners to post gripes, offer suggestions, identify glitches and otherwise interact with the people behind the search engine. (We can only assume there are people behind Google. Verifiable proof is slow in coming. The entire company could be bot-run for all we know.)

The Google Webmaster Blog and You

Google knows it must keep site owners happy and who or whatever is running the company recognizes the need to interact with professional SEOs, SEMs, coders, designers, graphic artists and every new technology that takes a giant leap forward such as remote site syndication (RSS) that changed the way information was distributed over a weekend.

So, this is where you go to ask questions and get answers from other site owners. Google answers. From regular users like you – the owner of a small, once active site that has mysteriously disappeared from Google SERPs overnight. What happened? And how are you going to pay the rent if your e-store has disappeared from Google’s ever-expanding index?

Posting to the Webmaster Central Blog is a good place to go for quick answers from real people. And that usually means you’ll get an answer you can actually understand rather than an earful of techno-babble from some chip head.

This is also the place where Google introduces new features for webmasters. Just a while back. Google let loose improvements to iGoogle Gadgets for Webmaster Tools.

Here’s how the Googlistas explain it: “After our initial release, we saw clear interest in the gadgets, and plenty of suggestions for improvement. So we've spent the past several weeks working on various areas. The biggest improvements are probably for those of you with more than one site: when you add a new tab of gadgets, your gadgets will now default to the site you were viewing when you added them to your iGoogle page. Additionally, gadgets now retain settings as a group, so if you change the site for any gadget in a group, the next time you refresh that page, all the gadgets will show data for that site. And gadgets now resize dynamically, so they take up less room.”

Functionality has also been improved with the addition of Top Search Queries for your site, very helpful in refining a keyword list. “The data from the Top Search Queries allows you to quickly pinpoint what searches your site appears for and which of those searches are resulting in clicks,” according to Google.

Other new features that improve site performance analysis include a smart, geo-targeting function. This enables you to create several site skins for regions around the world if you choose. This geo-targeting gadget also produces a map overlay of where your visitors are coming from – right down to street level if you’re only seeking local business or referrals. Your site may be hot in Australia but bombing in the UK. There’s got to be a reason. This Google gadget helps isolate what’s working where, by region, with incredible specificity.

And if you’d like Google’s opinion of your numbers and your conclusions, click on Analytics Help Center for a ton of Google-centric info. All good in determining what Google likes and dislikes about your site.

Another tool from Google is the URL Remover. You log on to your administrator’s console over coffee and scan through your stats for the overnight, and you discover that your “Content by Title” section – a back office only function – has been inadvertently Googled, indexed and displayed on Google SERPs, giving anyone (including competitors) more than a quick peek at your business. They can read everything because it’s been spidered and indexed.

Using the new URL Removal Tool, you can quickly remove those private pages from Google’s index and tell spiders that this information is off limits as in DO NOT SPIDER.

Google Webmaster Help

This is one very cool tool. One that is certainly bookmark-worthy.

Google Webmaster Help provides tips and suggestions for improving your site in the eyes of what Google calls “benevolent Googlebots.” Hey Boys, those bots ain’t so benevolent if they mis-index my site because of your messed up classification taxonomy. Even so, when you have as much influence over online success as Google does, you get to call your bots “benevolent” even if they are mindless snippets of programs that chew through letter strings.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good, useful information here from the people who make the algos. So, it’s worth a visit just to see what’s new, what’s working and what you should do about your precipitous loss of PR when you changed the home page text. Something Happened. And this is the place to find out what.

The Google Webmaster Help section also has a very robust, informed community able to answer FAQs from other site owners. You don’t have to wait for Google to get back to you. Ask an SEO or other web professional using the Webmaster blog for fast facts fast.

Today, there are 107,738 messages, questions and answers on crawling, indexing and ranking; 14,019 posts on the new Google gadgets listed above, so you see that these help pages see a lot of activity and should be a part of your daily web scan.

Go To the Source

Google sets the rules and no matter how strongly these rules are debated among site designers, SEOs and other web professionals, the rules are the rules. One way to stay current is by joining the regular online discussions that Google offers. You can check the schedule of upcoming discussions and mark them so you don’t forget. It’s a great way to meet the Googlistas and your counterparts who are trying to figure out how to perform better in the search engine sweepstakes.

Visit webmaster blogs like the one you’re reading now, especially targeted at those just venturing into ecommerce. Some webmaster blogs are highly technical (more for coders than site owners, actually) while other webmaster blogs provide information on everything from digital selling to site design tips.

But if you want the skinny – the unvarnished truth – go to the source. Go to Google and become a member of the Google webmaster community. Download the free Google analytics and join in with companion site owners to let Google know when a problem arises.

With Google controlling almost half of all searches, it’s good business practice to learn what Google wants.

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