Google Authorship: SEO Secret Sauce or Boring Ketchup?

What authorship looks like for this blog

Authorship in action

My geek friend Chris recently wrote a post about Google Authorship that suggested that the use of Google Authorship tags (e.g. rel=author) gave inconsistent results in the SERPs and was possibly not the SEO secret sauce that it’s all cracked up to be.

This surprised me, because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Authorship, including claims that use of the rel=author tag can speed up the indexing and rankings of a brand new site.

In his experiments, Chris tried searching for a specific phrase using google.com and google.co.nz from an NZ IP and then both from a US IP. He was scanning the SERPs for instances of his own blog post containing the phrase, specifically noting when his rel=author tag would kick in to show his Google Profile next to his post. All searches produced different results, with his authorship profile pic only showing up sporadically, even when his blog post appeared in the top 3 results. This was in contrast to blog posts on his employer’s site, where Authorship hasn’t been implemented, rel=author tags are not used, but posts almost always show up in the SERPs featuring author profile pics.

Chris found that subtle changes to his search query (even the addition of a STOP word like *on*) had a profound impact on whether Authorship would kick in. Clearly, semantic indexing is at play when it comes to whether rel=author has an influence on SERPs. Which means that specific keyword order and word-stemming considerations should be high on the priority list for any on-page SEO undertaken.

In my experience, it seems that the authorship tag is given more prominence in some data centers than others and almost always when searching google.com. My guess is slightly different versions of the algo have rolled out on each data center, some with the *new* (July) Panda and some with the old. Authorship relevance has been tweaked in this last update, I’m sure of it, but I haven’t seen this acknowledged anywhere.

Of course, author trust / author rank is also at play – where the profile of a particular author is given more relevancy weight than others due to how prolific and widely syndicated they are. Posts from authors with more trust rank built up are pushed higher up the SERPs and are more likely to have their profile pics featured.

So have you noticed a change in SERPS relating to use of the rel=author tag since the latest Panda update? Have you observed more or less authorship profiles showing up in generic SERPs on Google.com than before Panda? Please let us know in the comments.

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Yahoo! Tops Google for Web Traffic

Yahoo beats GoogleWow. I’d never thought I’d get to type this in 2013: Yahoo! has ousted Google to become the number 1 source of US web traffic.

The comScore Top 50 US Web Properties report for July 2013 reveals that Yahoo! owned sites attracted more unique visitors than any other networks, including Google. The numbers are pretty close – Yahoo! traffic only beat Google traffic by less than 300,000 visits, but this win is a significant one for Yahoo!, given they haven’t been at the number #1 spot since 2008, according to Greg Sterling.

You might think these numbers were influenced by Yahoo!’s recent purchase of Tumblr, however Tumblr is ranked separately in the report, way down at position #28. Which makes me think that the hard work put in by Marissa Mayer and her new management team over the past 12 months is finally starting to gain traction.

It must be a sweet victory for ex-Google executive Mayer, who took over the top job when Yahoo! was in crisis – struggling from years of poor leadership and financial mismanagement. Despite an overall revenue dip of 7 percent compared with this time last year, Yahoo!’s latest financial figures reveal solid income growth for the past quarter – up 150 percent on the previous year.

The upshot of this for webmasters is: you simply CANNOT continue to put all your eggs in the Google basket. I say this until I’m blue in the face: Google is NOT the Internet. Both Yahoo! and Bing are major players in the search industry with the potential to provide as much – or in Yahoo!’s case, more – traffic than Google.

If traffic from Google dominates your site stats, take action now:

  • Optimize your sites with ALL the search engines in mind. Learn what content / tag structure ranks well on Yahoo! and Bing. Optimize your pages accordingly.
  • Study your analytics and learn what keywords convert better on Yahoo! and Bing. Better optimize your content for those keywords.
  • Observe how much traffic you get from Yahoo! and Yahoo! partner sites. Compare conversion rates for this traffic with the traffic you get from Google and other sources.
  • If you haven’t already established a Bing Ads account, create one and start experimenting with paid advertising on the Bing and Yahoo! networks.
  • Verify your web site/s via Bing Webmaster Tools and start observing your site performance via that account.
  • To encourage indexing, upload your XML sitemap to Bing and Yahoo! via Webmaster Tools and keep it up to date.
  • Monitor your performance in all search engines to reduce your reliance on Google traffic.

Taking action now will mean that you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors and more importantly, if your Google rankings suddenly plummet – *cough* Panda, Penguin *cough* – you’ll have traffic from other sources to catch your fall.

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Balloon Powered Internet: Has Google Gone Loony?

If it was 1 April, you might think it was just another of Google’s cheeky little April Fool’s Jokes, but Project Loon (launched today) is an actual experimental project from Google to make Balloon-Powered Internet a reality.

What? Balloon-Powered Internet? Yes. Internet access, powered by weather balloons in the stratosphere. Let me explain. We think of the Internet as a global community. But as Google points out, two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access.

project-loon

Google’s idea of Project Loon is to create a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.

What better place to launch a Beta test of Project Loon than in an area prone to natural disasters? Google has chosen New Zealand, specifically right here in Christchurch, as their launch site for specially-designed solar powered balloons to test Project Loon. As the location of thousands of devastating earthquakes in the past 2 years, which knocked out power and Internet connectivity for weeks at a time, Christchurch was a natural choice to test the project.

Today a total of 30 balloons were launched a short distance from here, to travel up 20km above the earth and beam Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The experience of these pilot testers will be used to refine the technology and shape the next phase of Project Loon.

I jumped at the chance to become a Beta tester so hopefully, I’ll be one of the first people in the world selected to test balloon-powered Internet. If I am, you can bet I’ll be reporting on the experience right here :-)

 

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Google Gives the Gift of Panda for Xmas

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the web, people noticed their site traffic was at a low ebb.’

Yes, just in time for Christmas, Google has decided to rollout another Panda algorithm update, this one affecting 1.3% of search queries. According to Search Engine Land, this is the 23rd Panda update since the original Panda rolled out in February 2011.

You can see a handy timeline of all Panda updates on the Search Engine Land site.

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Google Delights Trekkies with Interactive Star Trek Doodle

Star Trek anniversary Google doodleAs soon as I laid eyes on today’s Google Doodle I knew it was going to be my favorite so far. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, so my heart started racing when I typed in Google.com and recognized the familiar uniforms from the Starship Enterprise adorning the letters in the GOOGLE logo. But it’s a far cry from your regular doodle. Today’s Google Doodle is a fully interactive game of sorts.

To mark the 46th anniversary of the iconic TV series Star Trek, Google has put together a really fun commemorative doodle. Ryan Germick, Google doodler and keen Trekkie, led a team of animators to create the multi-scene Star Trek animation to celebrate the show’s launch 46 years ago.Google Doodle Star Trek anniversary

My initial delight in spotting the doodle grew as I discovered the incorporated interactive elements. Clicking on highlighted areas of the Google logo triggers a series of tributes to iconic Star Trek episodes, including “The Trouble With Tribbles” and pilot episode “The Man Trap”, which aired on Sept. 8, 1966. Various letters from the Google logo play the crew of the starship Enterprise. Captain James T. Kirk is played by the central “o” in Google.

There are a few different scenes with various highlighted areas you can click on to make the scene play out. My favorite is the tribbles hiding in the ceiling of the Transporter Room. How many others can you find? After the final animation plays out, Google redirects you to search results for Star Trek the Original Series.

I declare this to be Google’s Best Doodle Ever!  You can watch a full video of the interactions below :

 

 

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