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New Top Level Domain Names for Web Addresses

Published on January 14, 2011
Tags: Web Hosting

If you’ve ever used the internet in any capacity at all, you’re more than likely to be aware of top level domain names. These are basically what allow you to view web sites and, for a long time, they’ve been relatively static. You’ll be aware, of course, of the most common domain suffixes such as .com, .co.uk, .gov, .net and .ac.uk. Most of the suffixes currently refer to countries or types of organisation (such as .org for nonprofits).

The issue here is that the current domains are getting crowded due to the massive expansion of the internet - both the number of websites that exist and the number of people who use the web, whether it’s for business or pleasure. This overcrowding of existing domain names makes it harder for web design companies and others to make the most of their search engine optimisation strategies, as all the best web addresses get snapped up really quickly.

As part of measures to combat this overcrowding, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is now beginning to introduce brand new top level domain names. ICANN is a private sector, not for profit organisation set up in 1998 that acts as an internet enabler, helping to keep the web free and democratic as well as maintaining those all important domain names.

The new top level domains are designed to allow web designers and businesses to include more specific key words in their web addresses. For example, the new web address for Hilton Hotels could be www.hilton.hotel. This allows web designers to be more specific and include key search terms within the web address. This is important, as search engines are currently being redeveloped to prioritise the new domain names, so, following the above example, hotel websites ending in .hotel would take precedence over those ending in .com.

Similarly, if someone types in a Google search for ‘New York City’, the first results to show up would be those ending in the new, specific top level domain of .nyc. The aim here is to make the search results more relevant as well as making the addresses more specific. It means that website addresses will fit more closely with common search terms in their related field and will thus yield more results, as well as benefiting the individual web users who will enjoy better tailored search results. It will also make it easier for smaller websites and businesses to stand out through specialised web addresses in an environment where they might otherwise be overlooked by search engine algorithms.

You can read more about the new top level domains from ICANN here.

By Chelsey Evans

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Google Uses Facebook and Twitter to Rank Web Sites

Published on December 21, 2010
Tags: SEO

It's official. In the latest of a series of Webmaster videos, Google has confirmed that it does use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to rank sites. Of course, it's just one of a large number of ranking signals, though, so don't rush out and just focus on building up only your social presence. We know that Google's been using social sites for ranking some live results, but this video confirms that this is now being extended to the wider search results.

There is a caveat though. In the same way that Google can identify if you're artificially building large numbers of links, they say they can identify if you're buying up Twitter and Facebook followers too. This is quite possible, because if your followers are indexed and followers of your followers, it would be possible to build up a pattern of interest and identify if the people following you have any real interest in what you do. This could also be confirmed on how regularly your posts are retweeted or shared to followers of your followers.

So, as always, it is back to basics.

  • Start by making sure you have something on your site worth reading, and that's unique. Google isn't interested if someone's said it before, unless you can say it in a different way
  • Make sure when you tweet or post to Facebook that you include a link back to your web site, such as to a relevant article you're referencing
  • Contact your clients / customers, your suppliers, your friends and encourage them to follow you. Of course, people sometimes need a reason to do that, so make sure that what you're offering will be of interest
  • Join interest groups where you can post updates (including automatically) or include links to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. in your profile; sites such as LinkedIn or UKBusinessForums.
  • Post and tweet regularly to keep your followers' interest, but don't overpost to the point of spamming them
  • Be patient. Unless you're really famous in your industry it's unlikely you'll have thousands of followers overnight. Social media takes time and effort to be effective.

You can view the webmaster video below:


By Chelsey Evans

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Google Analytics not showing statistics data for 2 November 2010

Published on November 3, 2010
Tags: SEO

On 3 November 2010 when site owners went to Google Analytics to view their statistics they probably had something of a shock to find that on 2 November 2010 they had no site visits... not a single one ... zero ... none ... nill ... naught ... zilch....

Initially questions from our own clients arose such as whether we'd removed the tracking code or done something to prevent either Google Analytics from working or blocking the site so nobody could view it. Of course, that hadn't happened and some Internet searches later we realised that we were not alone with the Google stats problem as chat forums were buzzing with reports of the same problem.

Meanwhile, and as with our previous report of perfectly good pages vanishing from Google, the Internet giant has so far remained silent.

So, what could be the potential causes? Here's our top-5 selection... let us know if you have more!

  1. Someone's pushed the wrong button at Google and the entire Analytics system has failed
  2. The guy at Google who pushes the button to generate out Analytics stats every day is still out voting in the mid-term elections, or perhaps still partying if he (or she) is a Republican
  3. Google's decided that a day of mystery and guesswork will add some excitement to our lives
  4. We've all been moved to a parallel universe where nobody browses the Internet
  5. Google's winding down it's business and trying to wean us off it gently, service-by-service

Of course, maybe they're all wrong. Maybe we did just disable all of our client's sites for a day because we didn't have much else to do on Tuesday. I'm not sure the world's ended just yet, but it does make you realise that as a business owner just how much a part of your life Google really is when you're trying to work out your ROI's, CTRs, CPCs and other important acronyms.

Come on Google - let us know what's happening....

03/11/10 UPDATE: Just a couple of hours after writing this article, Analytics is back. The world is saved and we can all sleep easy in our beds tonight knowing our web sites are actually being visited.

By Chelsey Evans

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Google UK Testing Location-Based Search Results

Published on October 29, 2010
Tags: SEO

We noticed this morning that Google UK may be testing location-based search results based upon the location of the user. Presumably, Google is identifying the user’s location from their IP address and is then showing a mix of results from Google Places and the normal search results. This is good and bad for site owners as our article will go on to explain.

One such test was ‘car parking controls’. This is a non-geographic based search (for example, we’re not searching for ‘car parking controls in London’) so should return results from throughout the UK - and indeed this is exactly what it used to do. This morning, though, we noticed that Google UK has mixed in the map results from Google Maps (now called Google Places) as well as showing a map on the right hand side. Additionally, a new shortcut to Places is shown on the left hand side, which when clicked will only show the Places results. Each of the embedded Places results are highlighted with a marker, showing they are the results local to the user (our search was conducted from Kent). The image below demonstrates this:

Example of Google Search with Google Places

What this means for site owners.

  1. First off, Google may only be testing this feature so it could be removed quite quickly, or it could be rolled out to more keywords and eventually all of search in due course. At the time of writing it appears to be limited to a few of Google’s search servers and a few selected keywords.

  2. If you haven’t already claimed your Google Places (formerly Google Maps) listing, do so now. If you’re not sure on how to do this, contact us for assistance.

  3. Make sure you build up inbound links to your site that are relevant to your local area, and get listed on local directories. This will help to boost your local presence.

  4. If you trade nationally and have relied on non-geographic keywords for your listings, there are going to less spots available in the top-10 for natural search as some will be taken up by Google Places listings. This means that you need to work harder and aim to get into the top-5 to ensure your listing isn’t bumped to page 2 of Google’s rankings.

  5. If you trade locally then this development is extremely beneficial to you – so long as you can optimise your listing on Google Places. This is because for searches taking place locally to you, Google is going to pick Google Places listings in your area and mix them in with the natural results. If you are listing well for Google Places, then you could then start to appear well for more non-geographic searches too.

  6. If you currently pay for Google advertising, you may find your click through rate (CTR) drops if your average position is greater than 3. This is because the map now pushes the advertisements below the fold on the right hand side. This, in turn, could create a bidding war for positions 1, 2 and 3 so pushing up your advertising costs (note that Google varies the number of advertisements appearing above the natural listings).

Our advice at this time is to focus on optimising your local presence using the steps above, and in conjunction with a good optimisation team that knows how to optimise for Google Places effectively and ethically.

Right now it’s too early to say if Google will keep this format. Google likes to experiment and this could be another test to see how this format performs. The format may not stay exactly as it is, not least because Google’s paid adverts are also getting pushed below the fold on the right hand side and this could decrease advertising revenues – time will tell though, as it may be that increased revenue from positions 1-3 at the top of page actually balance the decreased revenues for the lower-placed paid advertisements.

Contact us today if you would like more information on our optimisation services, and in assisting with your Google Places listing.

By Chelsey Evans

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Google drops pages and positions on 22 October 2010

Published on October 27, 2010
Tags: SEO

We noticed that on 22 October one of our clients, who has held top-5 listings on Google for many keywords for many years, suddenly had a random batch of pages removed from Google. Our client's site was carefully not over optimised, had unique content, unique meta data, unbiased website reviews - basically, everything Google looks for in a site. Most of the random batch of pages were completely removed, others lost positions whilst other pages maintained their existing positions without problem. To further complicate things, pages with a lower 'value' to Google started appearing near the top of their rankings in their place.

This left us baffled. Why has Google suddenly dropped pages and positions for a perfectly good site? A bit of research suggests that we're not alone and there are webmasters and SEO specialists around the globe scratching their heads asking exactly the same question having experienced exactly the same problem.

Then we started to look a bit further. Could this be down to another co-incidental issue? An error at Google?

On 22 October, reports started to emerge that Google wasn't indexing brand new content. CNN was one site flagged as an example. On 24 October Matt Cutts of Google reported via Twitter 'Just fyi, the right people on our indexing team are resolving the issue that people have reported', which suggests the problem was still apparent two days later. Which then led us to think that perhaps this is all a bit coincidental; Google admits an indexing problem around 22 October and good web sites around the globe suddenly start losing rankings at the same time.... hmmmmm...

Our theory leads us to believe that what might have happened is that Google's indexers failed (this we know), however not only for new content but also for existing pages being reindexed (this we can't confirm). If that's the case, what could have happened is that the pages went to be re-indexed, the indexers failed, which led Google to 'believe' the pages being reindexed no longer existed so they were pulled from the Google search results. Now, for sites like CNN that are indexed almost in real time we'd expect any missing pages to re-appear pretty quickly after the indexing technology is fixed. But, for those of us with sites that aren't quite that big, that will be indexed perhaps every few weeks, that could mean that it will be a few weeks before those 'missing' pages are reindexed, rediscovered and added back in to the indexes.

To us, this theory backs up with the timing of Google's own admission, as well as the random nature of the page removals our client experienced.

The other theory, of course, is there's been a large-scale algorithm update as happened in May / June 2010. Although, this doesn't seem to follow through quite as well, as we would have expected to see different results to those we saw with our client as well as with other sites we've seen reporting the same type of problem. At this stage, there doesn't seem to be a pattern that would back this up. We might be wrong of course, and if we are time will tell!

So, for webmasters, SEO experts and site owners what's our advice? Don't panic! As with all things Google, first sit tight for a few weeks and see what transpires. If our theory is right, then everything should return to normal in the next few weeks. If the algorithm change theory is right, then in the next few weeks it will become more evident who the winners and losers were, and how you can adjust your site to get back into favour with Google. Either way, action now wouldn't be prudent - hard as it is, take a deep breath, relax, and see what unfolds.

By Chelsey Evans

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