Blog / Google

The latest & greatest news you’ll want to follow. Seriously. SRSLY.

Visibility_14: The Search (R)Evolution

Searchmetrics Visibility14

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Visibility_14 conference hosted by Searchmetrics in Chicago. This post features a presentation titled "The Search (R)Evolution" by Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics. Marcus went through a very intriguing presentation showcasing the past year’s SEO ranking factors based on their own primary research. Here’s a rundown of conclusions taken from a wealth of data, graphs, and advanced statistics. Read More...

SEO Changes Google Has NOT Made

This week’s online marketing blog post focuses on SEO specifically and on things that Google has not changed over the years as most of the press and attention is put on things that are changing rapidly.  The inspiration for this post came as a colleague asked me for my perspective on last week’s Moz Whiteboard Friday (6 Changes Google Hasn’t Made) where Rand provided detail and commentary on six areas of SEO that have not changed.  As I was typing a response, I realized that I was creating a long-winded blog post reply rather than an email, thus I’m sharing it here on the Voltage Blog as well. Read More…

Google Partners Pumpkin

We just received a fun gift from Google and would like your help.


We of course want to thank Google for making this the big challenge for our Friday afternoon.  If you have any ideas for us, please share them in the comments of this post or hit us up through social media.  Hurry, we aren’t going to wait long to start cutting into this beautiful pumpkin (that closely matches our brand colors, by the way).


Google is officially taking site speed into account when assigning search rank.

Something we all knew is now official policy:

You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests…

…If you are a site owner, webmaster or a web author, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:

  • Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
  • In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We’ve also blogged about site performance. finds its UI roots.

r is for return

Yesterday, Google rolled out a new home page design. Or rather a new homepage design element, but it’s such a structural change that it could be considered a whole new design. (Their home page is so sparse, it doesn’t take much.) All shows now is their logo, the search box and the submit buttons…

Google home page before fade.

…until it detects mouse movement, then the rest of the GUI elements fade in.

Google home page after fade in.

I like it. It gives Google the sheen of the sophisticated tech company they really are, without screwing up their minimalist design; no rounded corners, “Apple Reflections” or web 2.0 gradients thank-you-very-much.

But wait, this looks familiar. Here’s a shot of the original Google home page in 1999, when they were still in beta:

Google's (Beta) Home Page in 1999

It looks like the big G is returning to its roots. And I for one, think it really works. Not that it matters what I think, just as you might suspect Google tested the hell of this thing before making it live:

…the variant of the homepage we are launching today was positive or neutral on all key metrics, except one: time to first action. At first, this worried us a bit: Google is all about getting you where you are going faster — how could we launch something that potentially slowed users down? Then, we realized: we want users to notice this change… and it does take time to notice something (though in this case, only milliseconds!). Our goal then became to understand whether or not over time the users began to use the homepage even more efficiently than the control group and, sure enough, that was the trend we observed.

The fade-in happens quickly enough that by the time you get your mouse to where you’re going, the control you were seeking is there. And since the search input field is auto-focused when the page loads, you can just type your query and hit enter if you don’t need/aren’t interested in this other stuff.

I love this UI decision. It lets Google have its cake by un-encumbering search users; and eat it too, by still providing for the other subset of users that visit as a jumping off point for their secondary service offerings.

As Bing shows signs of actually mounting an effective assault on the behemoth, and the Newspapers threaten to take their ball and go home find a business model that works without Google, they make a stylish return to what made them great in the first place: search, and that’s all.

BBC: Google to limit free news access.

The concession follows claims from some media companies that the search engine is profiting from online news pages.

Under the First Click Free programme, publishers can now prevent unrestricted access to subscription websites.

Users who click on more than five articles in a day may be routed to payment or registration pages…

…BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the concession was relatively minor but Mr Murdoch might see it as vindication of his decision to take on Google.

Now seems like a good time to revise and extend my remarks… Not really, I stand by what I said not 12 hours ago: Rupurt Murdoch and Newscorp are underestimating a lot of lean content producers. The less old media that’s available online the more new media there will be to fill in the blanks. (And I suspect this more about Bing than newspapers for Google.)

"Google" is not a strategy, it's a channel.

Google isn’t a strategy, or even an e-marketing strategy. Google is a tremendously robust search partner for marketers, but it’s one partner in the tactical execution of search, where search may be one of the channels used in an overall e-marketing strategy.

Considering how popular and succinct the “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” cautionary tale is, it’s surprising how many people don’t get it. Google is a basket, not the basket.

Rupert Murdoch & Newscorp are making 3.1 mistakes when it comes to search.

m is for missing

Rupert Murdoch/Newscorp are threatening to block Google from indexing their content, and it’s looking like they have a real incentive to do so, since Microsoft might pay them for it. (It’ll be interesting to see the zeros on that check since Google currently provides ~25% of traffic to Newscorp’s sites such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post.)

To anyone that works in the search, and most of us in the even broader web development industry, this sounds absolutely ludicrous. There must be some fundamental misunderstandings of the mechanism (search) at play for this to even be considered:

1. Misunderstanding What People Are Searching For

Murdoch thinks that people are using search to look for Newscorp sites, but they aren’t. People use search to look for information. When we type in the topic of a late breaking news story we don’t try different engines and key phrases until a source we recognize pops up in the results. That’s optimizing our information intake and it’s hard, we went to Google in the first place so we wouldn’t have to do this. Instead of optimizing our information intake, the majority of us will satisfice.  We click through on one of the results that’s provided; the one that looked like it might solve our problem in the three to five seconds we cared to spend scanning the page. We do this because the penalty is low and we know it usually works.

2. Underestimating The Quality Content Supply

Taking Newscorp’s content out of Google will only strengthen Newscorp’s rivals. As a content provider myself, I would love for Newscorp to remove themselves from Google’s index. And I’m not alone. There’s an army of new media publishers that have been doing a good job of slaying the print media dragon over the last few years and they would be overjoyed if a monster like Newscorp just took itself out of the online content provider gene pool.

Thousands of people will fill that void left by all the Newscorp results disappearing. Yes, a few loyal followers will follow the Wall Street Journal and New York Post content to Bing. (Or will they-if a user is specifically searching for a New York Post result, why not just search directly on the site itself? Why keep querying various third parties until you receive a result from the site you want?) People will keep using Google because it’s what they know, they deliver high quality results and they’ll keep clicking on the relevant search results that Google has always delivered, but non of them will be Newscorp results, and that’s a lot of clicks – people that are knowledge-hungry and primed to discover new information sources, ones that will replace Newscorp sources. It’s an opportunity that many online content creators will jump at.

3. No One Will Pick You Over Google, Even If You’re Google*

People trust Google. People trust Google so much that when a competitor’s search results are compared with Google’s and the brand names are switched, people pick the Google-branded results. No one thinks that Google is bad at search. When something is not included in Google’s search index, users don’t go looking for it or wonder, “gee why isn’t that Wall Street Journal article in Google, Google must be broken.” They think that the article in question is what’s broken, or that the website is down, or that it’s not included because it’s poor quality. This could be partially remedied by a traditional media marketing blitz, but that kind of marketing doesn’t work so well with the search savvy crowd that makes a conscious decisions about the engine they use; which makes that an incomplete solution at best, and at worst, an expensive waste of time. Either way, there will be serious damage to Newscorp’s various brands. (Damage to the tune of 25% of their current audience.)

*Yes, this brand bias will go away eventually, but that’s a long road; combined with the other factors above, Newscorp may never see the end of it.

Whither Bing?

This is a raw deal for Newscorp, but what about Bing? It would be great publicity for them and help keep the momentum they’ve generated, but it’s definitely not the high road. Paying 3rd parties to remove themselves from competitors’ search results isn’t a sustainable strategy and smacks of desperation.

It’s also a credibility issue with web developers and tech industry insiders: some prominent people are complaining that this is the start of a sky-is-falling scenario for the state of the current web. Microsoft is already much maligned in these circles because of the havoc that their deliberately non-standards compliant browsers continue to wreak on the web. This will just be one more notch on Microsofts let’s-piss-off the-community-we-operate-in-and-hire-from. Not that Microsoft cares, or at least they haven’t in the past.

3.1 The REAL Reason Newscorp Should Be Scared

You can take all of the above as biased rambling (I do work in search), but the real reason that Newscorp should be extremely concerned about the success of a search pullout is that Google’s response has essentially been, “we don’t care.”

“Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organisations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute… Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose not to include their material in Google News and web search. But if they tell us not to include it, we don’t.”

And there isn’t anyone who knows more about the internet, or making money from the internet, than Google. Yes, they could be* are bluffing, but my money says they’re just looking at the future instead of the past, along with most of their users.


Google just announced it’s First Click Free program, allowing publishers to limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing.

How to use Twitter lists to create online reputation management problems.

…could the fact that’s new list feature lets users create arbitrary lists with free text descriptions expose the potential to damage somebody’s reputation?

The answer is a resounding yes. As an experiment, Michael Gray (SEO expert) created a Twitter list titled People who bought links, a big SEO no-no, and populated it with a single Twitter user; Matt Cuts. (Har-har, Matt Cutts is currently head of Google’s Webspam Team.) Then it got interesting…

That Twitter list ranked 1st for the keyphrase “people who bought links” within 48 hours. (It’s since been taken down.) Is this a problem? You bet. Appearing on the wrong list could definitely lose you a job interview or a first date, if not even more serious things.

There is a simple solution for this: block the person that has set up the list and your listing disappears. But this means constantly monitoring what Twitter lists you are on. One more opt-in solution of online reputation control is not what any of us need. We need simpler solutions, few of those are coming, however.