Q and A: Do I need to use rel=canonical to tell Google my preferred domain?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve been a reader of your blog for many years but have never submitted a question. Until now!

With Google’s recent changes to the algorithm, we have noticed a drop in traffic and rankings for our site (we sell ready-made crafting kits for kids). I suspect it might be related to duplicate content as I’ve been reading how Google will penalize sites that can be loaded with www and also without www. Our site loads for both addresses and I’m worried this means we have been penalized.

I also read that you can fix this issue by using coding called rel=canonical or something like that? I have looked into this briefly, but to be honest, although I’m responsible for the content of our site, I’m a sales and marketing person, not a programmer and I don’t think I have the coding knowledge to use this tool.

Is there a more simple way I can remove the duplicate pages or have our site load just with the www? Or will I need to pay our original web designers to fix this?

Thanks for any advice

Sally

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Hello Sally

Sorry to hear of your traffic drop, but I highly doubt it is due to your site loading for both www and non-www versions of your domain. The algorithm changes over the past 18 months have been related to more complex issues than domain versions.

Even if Google has indexed both versions of your domain, the algorithm is almost always able to distinguish content that loads on both as one and the same. In this situation, Google will usually choose one version and consistently show that version in the search results.

But if you want to instruct Google which version to use in the search results, you can do this from within your Webmaster Tools account by setting the Preferred Domain (sometimes this is referred to as the canonical domain). The Preferred Domain tool enables you to tell Google if you’d like URLs from your site crawled and indexed using the www version of the domain (http://www.example.com) or the non-www version of the domain (http://example.com).

Simply click on the gear icon at the top right when viewing your Webmaster Tools dashboard and then choose *Site Settings* and the Preferred Domain option will come up as per the image here:

Setting-Preferred-Domain-Screenshot
The recommended use of rel=canonical is on a page by page basis, to indicate to Google which version of a page URL to use, if there are several URLs leading to the same page content.

For example, imagine if these URLs all led to the same page content:

1) http://www.blog.com/blue-suede-shoes/
2) http://www.blog.com/blue-suede-shoes&id=72
3) http://www.blog.com/?p=12890

Now imagine that you only wanted 1) to be shown in Google search results. You could achieve this by adding the rel=canonical link element to the < head > tag of each of those pages, specifying http://www.blog.com/blue-suede-shoes/ as the preferred URL.

However, in your situation, the easiest thing would be to use the Preferred Domain tool in Webmaster Tools.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: Can you recommend some global keyword research tools?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’d like your advice on keyword research please. I generally use the Google Keyword Tool to research keywords to use in our web site, but these are generally skewed to show just US results.

As the UK, Canada and Australia are also big target markets for us, we need to know what keywords people in each of those countries are searching for.

Can you recommend some global keyword generation tools and also suggest some unique keyword research ideas to help expand our keyword focus?

Thanks in advance

Michael

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Hi Michael

Keyword Research is a tricky business and if you target different geographic markets, you’ll understand why.

The search terms that your customers in the UK enter into search engines are often not the same search terms that your customers in the US use, even when looking for the same product!

So using keyword research tools that can provide search trends for different geographical markets can really help you to develop more effective SEO and other marketing campaigns that will appeal to each of your target markets. It’s fine to use the Google Keyword Planner, but remember that it is primarily designed for AdWords advertisers and shows data related to the advertising platform.

Here are some of the keyword research tools that I use most often and I’ve indicated below which ones provide geo-centric data:

  • Raven Tools  – Raven is always my first stop on the keyword research journey, simply because their Research Central interface combines data from Majestic SEO, Moz, Calais and Google AdWords in one easy to use tool. During the research process, you have the option of drilling down to country-specific data to compare local and global search trends from AdWords and even see what domains are currently your biggest competition for your target keywords.
  • Keyword Discovery  – This tool was built by Trellian, based out of Perth, Western Australia, so their data is definitely international in flavor. The interface is a little clunky to use, but once you get the hang of it, you can generate some impressive country-specific keyword data very quickly and export it in various formats, ready to populate your marketing campaigns.
  • Word Tracker  – Allows you to drill down to keyword search popularity in different countries. You can also buy stand-alone keyword reports of up to 100,000 keywords that are segmented by country to show keyword search history for the date ranges you select.
  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner  – The Keyword Planner has replaced the Google Keyword Tool and is a research tool designed to help AdWords advertisers build new campaigns or expanding existing ones. You can use the tool to search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics and see how a list of keywords might perform. The tool is useful for general keyword research, as long as you keep in mind that the data is skewed to show performance on AdWords, rather than organic search.
  • Google Trends – If you’re looking for a unique source of potential keywords to target, look no further than Google Trends. Google Trends analyzes a percentage of Google web searches to determine how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered compared to the total number of Google searches done during that time. You can use the tool to track the historical popularity of a particular keyword, phrase or topic and compare that performance across a range of countries or dates. It’s a marvellous way of narrowing down which search terms to target. For example, if you aren’t sure whether to focus on *cell phones* or *mobile phones* in your specific target market, you can conduct a search and Google Trends will show you which has been the more popular search term over time.
  • Keyword Eye – Another tool that takes a unique approach to keyword research, Keyword Eye uses a visual approach that adds a new twist to keyword brainstorming. You can use Keyword Eye to discover what keywords your competitors have a presence on within organic and paid search. This is done by analyzing the on-site keyword trends within the content of top ranking pages on Google and then displaying them in tag cloud format.
  • Soovle – This tool also uses a visual approach to keyword analysis, this time displaying a range of related keyword searches and word-stemming options relating to your original search term, sourced from a range of search engines and portals including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube and Answers.
  • Ubersuggest – This free keyword tool can instantly suggest thousands of keyword ideas from actual user queries. Enter your original search term and use the resulting search queries to get more keyword inspiration.
  • iSpionage – A must-have for those of us in highly competitive markets, iSpionage allows you to see which domains are targeting your keywords and out-performing you in Google and Bing/Yahoo. You can drill down to US, UK or Canadian data and isolate both PPC and SEO keyword data.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: What are some typical daily tasks of a SEO business?

QuestionHello Kalena

I have read a handful of your blog posts and LOVED THEM. I’ll get to the point. I was looking to see if you could write a post on daily tasks of an SEO business if you had ONE client (to keep it simple).

I have about 60 domains that I use to test SEO techniques, I own two businesses with I SEO myself, I attend many webinars, buy books etc to keep my SEO skills sharp. I pretty good with SEO and running a business.

My problem now is I’d like to run an SEO business but I don’t know what a client wants from me on a day today basis for results. Could you possibly email me or write a post about what I would do day-day for a client. Almost like a checklist. Of course I would have to do many other task that randomly come at me (problem solving).

My brain gets a little jumbled when it comes to organization. Since I’ve never run an SEO business yet, I have no idea what my days would look like. I have my web/graphic design business down perfectly!

I understand you are very busy but if you could give me a little boost I will definitely pay it forward.

Thank you!

Chris

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Hi Chris

You might be interested to know that our SEO Advanced course includes a whole bonus lesson dedicated to setting up your own SEO business, including recommended tools and checklists.

In the meantime, I actually wrote an article a couple of years ago that might help you. Although it might not be quite be written as the day in the life of a SEO, it IS written as a diary of typical SEO tasks that you need to perform over several weeks. It’s called The 10 Week SEO Diet and there is even a video version.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: Why doesn’t Google index my entire sitemap?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve submitted my sitemap to Google several times, and it doesn’t spider more than 57 pages even when I add more pages. I can’t figure out why and would really appreciate your help!

My website is [URL withheld]. The sitemap I submit to google is called sitemap.xml. I’m working on the site currently, and I want google to find the changes and new pages.

Thanks!
Greg

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Hi Greg

I’ve had a look at your sitemap and your site and I’ve worked out the problem. I think you’re going to laugh :-)

Yes, you have created a XML sitemap containing all your site URLs. Yes, you have uploaded it via your Webmaster Tools account. However, the robots.txt file on your site contains disallow rules that contradict your sitemap.

There are over 30 URLs in your robots.txt with a disallow instruction for Googlebot.  Essentially, you are giving Google a list of your pages and then instructing the search giant not to go near them! Have you re-designed your site lately? Maybe your site programmers made the change during a large site edit or testing phase and forgot to remove the URLs after completion?

All you need to do is edit your robots.txt file to remove the URLs being disallowed and then resubmit your XML sitemap.

All the best.

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Q and A: Is it legal for my competitor to use my business name in AdWords ads?

QuestionHi Kalena

I took your Google Analytics 1 day course last year through the Institute of IT Professionals (and loved it)!

I’ve been getting a few curly questions from our members (physiotherapist business owners) that I don’t know the answer to so I was seeking your help. Here’s one that I had from one of our members, just on the off chance that it’s a super easy one to answer! If not I will continue on my googling quest to find the answer.

He says “I’m a physio business owner and a competitor is using my actual business name in their Adwords – not in the keyword search terms but the actual ad. IS this illegal and can I make them take it down?”

Kalena, from my research through Adwords policies it looks as if the answer is no, this is not illegal. Using a trademarked term “Gmail” in your ads is illegal – but I couldn’t find any mention of just using a business name.

Appreciate any insight you might have! And will hopefully see you at another course this year.

Thanks
Claire

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Hi Claire

I do remember you, lovely to hear from you.

It just so happens that I researched this very topic not too long ago :-)  It all started with a question submitted to my blog: Can competitors use my company name in their AdWords ads?

After some more research, I ended up writing a more detailed article about it for SiteProNews: Making Sense of Trademarks in AdWords.

The short answer is that it depends on the region of the advertiser. Google may also have changed their policy since publication of that article, so make sure you check for the latest policy wording.

Hope this helps!

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