Is the Internet Picture Perfect?


Couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the huge advances in image rendering capabilities in search on Google+. I know we all know the value of an image in our content from an engagement perspective. But 2015 is going to be a big year for images in SEO, too.

The post to which I was referring was a study of a heat-map of SERPs by Brafton. It concerned where surfers look when they’re viewing search engine results pages:

heat map of users viewing SERPs

The post led to an aside comment, well, two questions, really, from Jason Telford. Since my original response, more layers to the semantic web have surfaced, which is why I’m posting the snippet, along with the additional insight, here:

Jason Telford:

I have a question for you +Jason Darrell after reading you post; well two actually.

Q1 » Do you think the internet has become too commercialised?

A. The Internet has always been a commercial highway. It’s just that today, more people are aware of the fact that if you click on a display Ad, someone somewhere will get a commission.

There are more:

  • businesses using paid ads;
  • streams for those ads;
  • internet/social users to target;
  • people aware of the fact that what they’re seeing is an ad;
  • clearly defined ads in search than ever before.

Nothing much has changed, other than the transparency of ads, their delivery media and their volume.

Addendum:

Over Christmas, I’ve seen a few adverts for sites advertising ‘cashback’ on UK TV screens.

They’re sites offering money back on the everyday goods folk are buying. This is affiliate marketing gone mental!

I have to take my hat off to the guys and gals behind these sites. They’re selling products at full retail price, but offering people a small return if they buy the stuff through them.

Okay, they’ll maybe not have shopify and amazon quaking in their boots just yet. But with the right angle, the potential is huge.

I rest my case, yer ‘onour.

Q2 » Whatever happened to the days when you went online to have fun and do you think that the march of the .com and online marketeering has killed the net for the average user who just wants to play around and share their content without caring about becoming rich or famous??

A. My guess is that there are more people just having fun on the web than marketers. People sharing their life, their families and their dreams, with no aspiration to become famous or rich. Or oblivious to the fact that they could.

The problem is, if they’re not optimising for search, they’re not going to be found other than perhaps by using their name.

Search would be a damp squib without optimisation

Search engines want to deliver the best results to its customers – the searcher. To do so, it needs signals beyond what it understands itself about the content to rank any web page with confidence.

With mark-up language (schema.org, RDFa, etc.) a key component to clearly define concepts within someone’s content, the chances of people ranking who can’t give the search engines defined signals are slim to none.

Semantic search changed everything

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm and subsequent progression in semantic search is making huge strides towards understanding context as well as content.

This is especially true if you’re signed into your Google account when you search. Google already knows a heck of a lot about you, your habits and your online (and offline) activity and relationships.

If you want to be able to use the Internet for fun, in theory, you should be able to do this more than ever.

Instead of typing in/saying specific keywords like we used to, Google is learning to understand us better if we add context.

As well as improving desktop search, this is very much tailored for mobile search, whereby we tend to use a string of words rather than one or two specific keywords.

The downside of ‘signed-in search’ is that if you’re a marketer, Google will return results connected to what it knows about you from your online activity. You’ll see results from your influencers (people whom you follow or engage with), your locale and related to all the content you’ve posted.

We believe that social signals are much more important to Google than they let on; in fact, Bing updated us with its guidelines this week and social signals were categorically stated as a signal they use.

We also believe that links will play a less important part in ranking in the future.

Your Knowledge Graph status – what Google knows about you and your circle of influence/reach – will have a huge bearing as Artificial Intelligence is more closely realised.

But is Google knowing you a downside, really?

In order to give Google as much information about us as to make its service relevant (and add to what it knows about us on its Knowledge Graph), our online presence/activity should not be one-dimensional.

The key to a better Internet experience, whether you’re using it for fun or in your profession, is to engage with people across all spectrums that interest you.

In real life, we don’t just talk about work – our loves, lives and laughter come into play, too.

As we engage more with people in those topics – be it football or baseball, search engine optimisation or politics – Google gets a much more rounded view of us.

The search engine can also determine how authoritarian we are in a subject, our acumen, our “persona” and deliver the most relevant results.

It’s the same principle of Siri, Cortana and Android – they learn about us as we go. The more we give them, the more intuitive they become and the better the real life experience for us.

Addendum

Okay – two things have happened in the fortnight since this conversation occurred.

First, Google Hangouts has been widely reported to be drawing upon and implementing semantic elements.

What that means is that every YouTube video you upload gets put under the semantic microscope. This translates into the second thing. Social signals extracted by search algorithms are inevitably going to affect SERPs.

Bing, as alluded above, confirmed that social signals are included in their ‘version of Panda’, filed under A for Authority.

Do people like this content? Share it? Engage with it? If so, that’s good enough for Bing.

And, yes: Matt and the Google Webspam team defer their answers, saying that there’s no special algorithm to directly extract social signals. But they are far too ambiguous for us to rule social signals out of Google’s algorithms…”to the best of my knowledge”. 😉

Variations on a theme: trust, relevance, authority repackaged for 2015

As David Amerland puts it on his Google+ Post, “Semantic Connections”:

There are several layers of assessment each node (i.e data point or Entity, if it’s verified) goes through in order to assess its importance and impact on the semantic web.

One of these layers looks at each of four attributes:

  1. Directionality – where did the connection come from? Was the vicinity domain relevant? Was it from a bad neighbourhood or from a domain not usually associated with the current interaction?
  2. Temporary or Persistent – was the connection haphazard, or by design? Did it lead to a real connection or was it a miss?
  3. Transivity – does the current connection stand alone or are there shared friends and interests? If yes, what level are they at?
  4. Priority – Was the connection one that resulted in a response and further engagement? Or was it ignored?

So, there you have it. For sure, there are going to be naysayers who stand by Matt Cutts, et al. But…

…to me, social signals are as big a factor as images for 2015. You want to rank in search? Get busy with your images – and get people sharing them!

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How can I rapidly get a huge amount of traffic to my newly launched website?

Young Man With Empty Pockets

Answer to the original Quora question by Jason Darrell:

You don’t want “a huge amount of traffic”. You want relevant traffic.

Unless, of course, you just want the adsense to pay your way. But if you don’t have quality content on your site when your audience gets there, you’re forever going to be driving traffic, as you’ll get few return visitors.

Don’t be fooled by numbers, either; they mean zip. It’s conversions that count.

Get out there, embark in social listening, find people whose pain points your product/service can help cure and help them; here’s a 12-step guide to developing a social strategy I posted to another question; maybe it’ll help: How should I stop my self-promoting on social media?

Other ways to win trust by listening first

Be a thoughtful commenter on high traffic blogs. Sign up to RSS feeds and get in there first; any further traffic to those blog posts will see your comment first; if you’ve got something worthwhile saying, they’ll likely want to find out more about you, too.

Follow hashtags – Hootsuite is good for following Twitter threads/chats, NOD3x is great for Google+, Facebook and many other platforms.

What you must not do is spam potential audiences with links back to your content. If they like what you say, they’ll find a way to get to you through your correctly marked up bios on your website’s representative social media platforms.

Build your authority first, give your audience a reason to trust you, and only then will you become relevant to them and those that stick around relevant to you.

Paid traffic may be the answer, but be prepared to dig deep…

Young Man With Empty Pockets

As some of the guys have said, there are ways (mainly paid) that you can get unqualified traffic to your pages. But your ads have got to match your content and that content has to be worth visitors coming to check out.

If you pay for traffic and your site does not deliver what your ads promise, you’re going to need deep pockets to fund the amount of traffic you think you need.

And whilst I agree in theory that pitching high-traffic blogs that your competitors guest blog on, as Brad Gerlach alludes in his answer, is an option, I have concerns about whether it’s suited to your situation.

Given Google’s tightened criteria over links and guest blogging, unless you have:

  • an established niche reputation, or
  • an absolutely must-have product that will go viral, or
  • can create amazingly unique, quality content that will add value to and compliment your host’s site,

it’s unlikely that those webmasters are going to give a site without any age to it a dofollow link or present you to their audience, which is the whole point of this tactic.

If you have time on your side but little budget, consider hiring a social media professional on Fiverr/Fivesquids who can blanket cover the social platforms and help raise your brand awareness.

However, do be prepared to do a little work yourself, as the old adage,

you get what you pay for

is never truer than in that situation. And that goes for the content on your site, too. Don’t skimp – give Google every reason to show it in SERPs, and no reason not to show it.

Hope that helps.

image credit: Ambro, Young Man With Empty Pockets Stock Photo

How can I increase the SEO of my application on the Play Store?

App Share - Android Apps on Google Play

The best way to optimise for Google Play store? Build your brand off-site, first »

Answer by Jason Darrell:

Hi, Usman Khan.
I really can do no better than point you to a couple of authoritative articles on the topic for the specifics:

However, for the name of your app and by your question, I think you need to go beyond relying on the PlayStore alone for adoption of your app.

Let me explain? Cool.

The first problem I think you have – and probably the biggest for your specific issue – is that the two words that make up the name of your application are very generic. More about branding below.

But, if you want to leave the name as it is, try a different tack on your description. Rather than bombard the user with hypothetical questions, I’d go into specific detail about what the app does.

Leave the hypothetics for your off-page promotion (again, more below) and leave the ‘sales pitch’ out, as your content reads at present.

I’ve read the description three times and I’m still not entirely sure what your app does (or the purpose of it), if I’m honest. Sorry.

The reason your app may not be ranking highly, apart from its generic name, is this clause I spotted in the SEJ article and its connotation with your current description/app title:

Special Note: Google clearly states that any “Repetitive and/or irrelevant use of keywords in the app title, description or promotional description can create an unpleasant user experience and can result in an app suspension.” Tread carefully here.

 

Branding – less of the generic engineering, please

If I were you, the first thing I’d go is go back to the drawing board and think of a name that separates your app from all the other ‘sharing apps’.

As it is, without a known brand behind it, ‘AppShare’ gets gobbled up in the stream of queries for ‘sharing apps’. Enter ‘cola’ into a search engine and you could get a number of results first. Enter ‘Coca-cola’ and there’s only going to be one website in first spot, right?

That said,  you do probably want to include the term ‘sharing apps‘ in your PlayStore description, at some point.

image/publicity credit, from your link: Android Apps on Google Play

Another element you might want to build in, as this is Android, is the ability to log on with your Google account, too. Just a thought. ☺

Anywho, once you’ve decided on a real kick-ass name, next, think of all the reasons someone would want to share their app list, i.e. use your product.

Why would someone view a list of recommendations from others when most Android users have a shortcut to the PlayStore on their device, where the search facility is usually pretty good? I mean, it is Google we’re talking about, after all.

And, assuming that the facility to log in with Google is made available, Google will have a pretty good suggestion list of its own, based on what they know about the user.

These are tough questions, but by answering them and highlighting their benefits, you will attract more relevant customers.

Beyond Google Play SEO

Once you’ve branded it and come up with an utterly unique but concise and relevant PlayStore description, start promoting your product beyond the PlayStore.

A great idea would be to tell your story – on a blog, Facebook/Google+ page, wherever – of why you felt the need to create the app in the first place, including:

  • What was it about the existing apps that didn’t do the job you were trying to do?
  • Which scenarios are best suited to potential users of the app?
  • Where and how will they get the benefits of using it?
  • What prize does ownership of your app bestow upon those who download it?
  • and include examples of you using the app with your friends IRL situations – photos, screenshots, you out there using your app.

Also…
People in the real world don’t just rely on Google for business (although some businesses seem to think that attracting Google traffic is the only marketing they need to do???).

Those who succeed find people whose problems their service or product can help, highlight the benefits and gauge their feedback/interest/reaction.

It’s really funny. I was just reading an article on projectmavens about authors who think that once their book’s finished, that’s the work done. It’a so not.

With so many independent publishers, in today’s hyper-connected world, most creatives have to be their own marketing engine, too.

You could say the same about apps. Yes, it’s a different medium, but I think  you’ll see the relevance and find the read inspiring:
Developing Natural Audience – A Correspondence with Rachel Thompson

In addition, here’s a blog post about ‘getting known’ on social media:
How do I get known or promote my online profile?
which includes a link to a 12-step ‘how to do social media’ guide right here on Quora:
Jason Darrell’s answer to How should I stop my self-promoting on social media?

I’d love to say that it will be easy. But as a writer to a digital audience myself, I’ve learned the hard way that the work is not complete once the product is ready and the publish button is pressed, it’s only the beginning. All the very best.

The full answer on Quora is here » How can I increase the SEO of my application on the Play Store?

Are there any SEO tools to check if a web page is using some hidden text trick (CSS, display hidden, etc.)?

META SEO Inspector - Tools - Hootsuite Dashboard Screenshot

Is there a simple Chrome Extension that allows you to check a web page’s coding and other SEO elements? You betcha »

Answer by Jason Darrell on Quora toAre there any SEO tools to check if a web page is using some hidden text trick (CSS, display hidden, etc.)?“:

Here’s a neat little tool to check what’s going on in the background of a webpage.

It’s a simple extension, which lives in the Chrome browser: META SEO inspector (« link includes download link on Chrome Webstore).

It’s fast, responsive and gives you a ton of information with the click of a button:

As you can tell by the patched together screenshots, I’ve had to scroll down to get all the info in one image.

The screenshots themselves contain information about the Hootsuite dashboard. Mine’s the Pro version, so information may differ from the standard dash in the free tool. It could also differ, depending upon which apps you have installed in Hootsuite, I guess.

In addition to the page coding, there’s a whole host of sites listed in the second “online tools” tab that will enable you to test for SEO specifics:

There’s everything from Ripples for signals about a URL shared on Google+ to Wayback Machine to Keyword Density Analyzer to Copyscape Premium – the list of web page information you can check through these third party sites is quite exhaustive.

The third ‘options‘ tab simply enables you to highlight any nofollow links pink.

For bulk data of this nature, you’d want a robust tool that allows you to rip the URL information in bulk. But if you’re interested in coding elements on a specific web page, there’s little more all-encompassing than this natty little Chrome extension.

Why isn’t my site crawling since 1.5 months ago?

robot spider crawling on tower building

How to optimise a website for its crawl budget and get your most important pages indexed »

Answer by Jason Darrell:

Hi, Maulik Solanki. Thanks for the invitation to answer.

One of the lesser known elements of SEO is a site’s ‘crawl budget‘. Every website has a threshold that bots will crawl. If you’ve reached that limit, your site may seem not to have been indexed for a while.

Assuming that your robots.txt files are allowing indexers to crawl your site and haven’t been accidentally switched to noindex, it could be that your website has reached that saturation point. That’s the best way I can think of describing what I mean.

Imagine you’re targeting specific search terms across your site. If the only new content you’re producing is similar to that which already exists, why would Google or other search engines reward the new content with QDF/displaying it in SERPs?

The way Google is headed is that it’s feeding spiders on awesome, quality content. The more you feed it, the more its capacity for lunch. If you’re not telling the web anything new, your site will starve.

So, if you’re adding no new value to your website, the indexers will look at the overall power of your website, deem they’ve crawled all they want to and show no signs of having crawled the deeper pages.

How to optimise your website to make best use of its crawl budget

There is a way you can point the indexers in the direction of the pages that you want crawling. That’s whether you have fresh content or not.

But if you have got new content that you want indexing, it’s imperative that you know how to send the bots there. A share on Google+ is often a quick fix for a specific page, but doesn’t serve your long term purpose for your entire website.

Here’s what Matt Cutts has to say about freshness as a signal, in the context of what I’m trying to get across:

Now, hands up, the technical aspect of implementing 304s is beyond my remit – strictly an on-page semantic copy guy.

But my CTO at SEO Workers, John S. Britsios, has  written an in-depth article about the topic on algohunters, a subsidiary site:
Building a Solid Index Presence by Optimizing your Crawl Budget

The above video is one of three in the article that help underline why crawl budget is so important to understand and to optimise for. That goes for any webmaster who wants organic traffic.

As Matt himself would say, #HopeThatHelps ☺
image credit: algohunters

Visit the question on Quora, here: Why isn’t my site crawling since 1.5 months ago?

How can I improve SEO for a very big dictionary website?

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool & Crawler Download Links

Answer by Jason Darrell, via Quora; for full context, visit the original Quora thread.

My question would be: “if my site truly "is already the biggest and official dictionary in that language", why isn't it ranking first, anyway?”

You can approach the ranking aspect from two directions:

  1. content;
  2. usability.

As Jaime J Candau suggests, try offering pseudonyms and antonyms (as per Thesaurus) and other language tools on top of your explanation of the word itself.

Also, you may want to consider:

  • is your description totally unique to the Internet?
  • does the way you describe the meaning of a word add more potential value to the user than other online dictionaries?
  • is the word offered in all tenses and formats, with examples of it being used in a sentence?

Then, as Mohit Maheshwari alludes, do you offer a way for your users to share their grammatical discovery right from your website?

Do you have the time/budget to run a word-a-day promo on social?

Are you engaging with people who want to develop or learn from scratch your language?

Of course, check all the SEO basics for every page, if you've not done so.

This META SEO Inspector extension for Chrome will help you check page-by-page. It lives in the browser as an extension and you can see what's right or wrong with a page's SEO (or mark up) at a glance.

But I guess with 2.5M words you'll want to check in bulk. In that case, Screaming Frog's SEO Spider will let you download your content in bulk.

nb – if memory serves, 500 URLs are free to extract, but you'd need a pro membership for as many pages as you need to SEO.

Your SEO priority has to be the UX.

But more than anything, what does each page contain in the way of ads, flash and widgets?

From my experience of Collins and other online dictionaries, they generate income by plastering ads everywhere. In fact, there's sometimes so much advertising it's difficult to pick out what it is you've visited the page for.

Is the information the user is looking for expressly clear and visible as soon as they land on page? Try to make the user's experience as painless as possible.

More page load speed time, the less likely it is your customer will hang around. Less return visitors for you, less authority in Google's eyes.

And Google did confirm (not that we didn't know anyway) that load speed is now a definite ranking factor at State of Search Dallas not so long ago.

And, of course, optimise your website for mobile with a responsive design.

In short, aim to provide the best service possible, add the most value and your customers will begin to bookmark your dictionary and return time and again. Word-of-mouth will earn links to your site, thus may have additional benefit because of a heightened link profile.

SEO is not an overnight process and the results – as well as the implementation – will take time. But if you do it the right way, the results will be greater and last a lot longer.

image credit: screenshot of Screaming Frog free download links