Google’s New URL Shortener: Goo.gl

Everyone needs to shorten a URL sometimes.

Whether it’s to prevent long URLs wrapping in emails, to hide affiliate links or to make links look neater in newsletters or on web pages, a URL shortening service comes in handy. These are simply tools that take long URLs and reduce them into fewer characters to make a link that is easier to share.

First into the market was TinyURL, a service that we didn’t even know we needed until it suddenly became vital. With tweets set at 140 characters, use of TinyURL went into overdrive as Twitter became more and more popular.

But after a while, TinyURLs weren’t tiny anymore and we started looking elsewhere. A couple of small players hit the market and then an outfit called Bit.ly started offering link shortening with built in click through stats and that was enough for most of us to ditched the competition.

Bit.ly became king of the URL shorteners in May 2009 when Twitter announced they were formally abandoning TinyURL to make Bit.ly their preferred shortening service. This wasn’t much of a surprise, given both Twitter and Bit.ly shared common startup investment partners. But the move meant that links from alternative URL trimmers started throwing errors if used in tweets.

Now Google has jumped into the URL shortening pool, with the launch last month of Goo.gl . At this stage, Goo.gl is only available for use within Google Toolbar and Feedburner, but it’s expected to rollout for general use eventually, complete with full link tracking.

As TechCrunch points out in their post about the service, it’s the link data that will win the war between the URL shorteners. But I have a feeling that if and when Goo.gl rolls out as a stand alone service, Twitter will need to rethink their relationship with Bit.ly.

Q and A: Is Google PageRank Dead?

QuestionHi Kalena

Just wondering what your view was on PR being dead – it’s what a lot of SEO professionals are saying.

I guess I’m curious also because it seems it’s the only way to be able to track any kind of progress with our linking campaigns. What are your thoughts? Is PR dead?

Sarah
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Hi Sarah

Regarding the death of PageRank, I wouldn’t go that far. It might be true that webmasters don’t need to obsess about the little green bar that is the Google Toolbar PageRank score, but the influence of links in Google’s PageRank algorithm is alive and well.

Just take a look at the results of the 2009 Ranking Factor survey that SEOmoz gives to 75 top SEO professionals worldwide (me included) every two years.

You’ll see that 4 of the Top 5 Ranking Factors (as agreed by the world’s busiest SEO practitioners) are link related.

So while Toolbar PageRank scores may not be as indicative as they used to be, link building is still absolutely vital as a way to boost search ranking for a page. Measurement now though is via observation, individual search query rank, number of pages indexed and number of backlinks achieved.

Of particular importance is the flow of linkjuice between inner pages on your own site and the achievement of external links pointing to those inner pages rather than all pointing to your home page.

Kalena

Twitter Adds Local Trends Tracking Tool

Twitter quietly rolled out a new feature today that enables users to choose a regional preference for viewing trending topics.

Called Twitter Local Trends, the new functionality gives users the option to set their regional location and view trending topics happening in their part of the world. For example, one of the screenshots pictured shows that the topic “Trafalgar Square” is trending for users that have United Kingdom set as their region (because it relates to a well known London icon), but not for users that have set their region to Worldwide.

At this stage, only seven countries and 15 cities in the US are available for selection (see screenshot below) but more will be added soon.

According to a post on Mashable, the feature has only rolled out to around 1 percent of Twitter users, but there’s nothing official on the Twitter Blog about it yet. I noticed it in my account this afternoon so I’m not sure if I’m part of the lucky 1 percent or whether it has rolled out to a larger audience since it went live this morning.

Regardless, when it does roll out to everyone, it will make a huge difference to how we use Twitter to target a regional audience. The benefits for geo-based mobile apps like Four Square and Gowalla should be immediately apparent. Add to that the ability to pinpoint regional trends in real time search and this becomes a social media game changer.

Everybody knows a business that is still sceptical about using Twitter. But when they see they have the power to follow and influence social media conversation in their specific target markets using Local Trends, I think even the sceptics could be convinced to start using Twitter as a full time marketing channel.

Q and A: Is it absolutely necessary to remove parameters from a URL?

QuestionHi Kalena

Is it absolutely necessary to remove numeric parameters from a url such as: www.site.com/keyword/category213.html to ensure the page is indexed and if so, why?

Thank you
Lana

Hi Lana

The URL you provided doesn’t contain any parameters. It’s a flat HTML file so search engines shouldn’t have any problems indexing it.

It’s URLs that contain “query strings” that generally contain parameters or variables. For example:

www.site.com/product.asp?productid=2

The question mark indicates the page is dynamic and therefore requires some type of server computation to display. The page URL above contains only one parameter (productid).

See more about how Google defines dynamic vs static URLs.

These days, most search engines can index pages that contain a single parameter. It is generally when multiple parameters are used in page URLs that search engine indexing problems occur.

As Google says in their Design and Content Guidelines:

“If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few”.

Multiple parameters are often needed for large sites with multiple page templates and dynamically generated content for each section of each page. Multiple parameters are separated via an ampersand (&), for example:

www.site.com/product.asp?productid=2&producttype=large

The URL above is instructing the template for the page product.asp to query the database and load the page content for product id number 2 AND specifically the data for the large version of this product whenever anyone accesses this web page.

This type of URL is more difficult for a search engine to index because they can’t identify what the multiple parameters mean or whether the URL is a unique page.

So in this case the webmaster has the option to re-write the URLs at the server level to remove the parameters or else block search robots from indexing URLs containing multiple parameters.

But if you’re in doubt, I wouldn’t worry too much about your dynamic URLs. Google and the other search engines are pretty good at parsing and determining what parameters to ignore.

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More Not For Profits to Receive Free SEM Training

You may remember that Search Engine College launched a free search engine marketing training initiative last year for charities and not-for-profit organizations worldwide.

If you missed it, we’re offering 25 charities per year the opportunity to learn search marketing skills at no cost, to help them make the most of their limited marketing budgets.

Our 3 latest recipients of free search marketing courses are:

1) UK Connect – the communication disability network, works to promote effective services, new opportunities and a better quality of life for people living with aphasia. UK Connect want to improve the marketing of their training and consultancy with a view to setting up more services around the UK. This will allow them to have a wider impact on those living with communication disability.

2) Christchurch Women’s Refuge -New Zealand’s first and foremost social change agency dedicated to preventing violence against women, young people and children. Their mission is to create a society where all women, young people and children live life free from violence.

3) The Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Society – PARS is a not for profit assisting prisoners and their families with reintegration & rehabilitation issues throughout New Zealand. Prisoner reintegration is an area that can be difficult to market effectively. A Search Engine College marketing course offers PARS the chance to maximise their publicity and positive social message.

Those are three very worthy not-for-profits and we are delighted to be able to offer their staff a free course.

If you know of a charity or not-for-profit that might benefit from a pro-bono course, please encourage them to get in touch and spread the word by linking to this post.

Thanks!

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