Category Archives: Search Engine Rankings

Google Wonder-Wheel Missing

What happened to WonderWheel on Google search?

For those of you webmasters and bloggers who like using Google’s WonderWheel tool, there was an unexpected surprise that came with the new Google Instant search rollout. It seems that Google thinks that the functionality of Wonder Wheel is handled by the ever changing search results and suggestions that appear on Google.com when you search using Google Instant search functionality. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case.

google-wonder-wheel-missing The Google WonderWheel tool was a great way to not only find useful and relevant information on the web, but also for web developers and professional writers looking for ways to make money writing online to figure out how OTHER PEOPLE might search for the information being written. For example, if I were writing an article about how to make homemade snowshoes, I might search for something like “homemade snowshoes,” but maybe that is not how most people would search for the same topic. Maybe most people would actually search for something like “handmade snowshoes” or “make your own snowshoes” or maybe even “building snowshoes.” Any of those searches could be made by someone looking for the same information.

Unfortunately, despite all of its success and acclaim, the Google search engine is really nothing more than a text pattern matcher combined with a link counter. If your text does not match what is being searched for, your article will not show up in those searches, no matter how great your content might be.

Again, using the example above, if I titled my article Homemade Snowshoes Made Simple with my H1 tag and used a title tag of Snowshoes Homemade, the article would never show up in any Google searches for “handmade snowshoes,” unless there were virtually no other webpages on the entire Internet about making your own snowshoes.

In other words, as a writer looking to earn money writing online, it is critical that your articles contain the phrases used by searches in order to generate high-ranking web content that drives search engine traffic to your webpages. In fact, it is so important, that as a professional writer, I frequently use misspellings, incorrect grammar, or redundant phrases, deliberately in order to be sure that what others type into Google will match something in my well-written web content. Then, I try elsewhere to apologize and point out that it was done intentionally so that potential freelance writing clients who are trying to judge my work know that it is not just sloppy writing, but rather that Google makes you write poorly in order to succeed.

The Google WonderWheel tool helped with this problem by allowing a web searcher to type in a search, and then by clicking on Wonder Wheel in the sidebar under More Tools, see a graphical tree of other related search queries. The new Google Instant search feature does that part just fine. What is missing is that with Google Wonder Wheel you could click on the bubble with the related search term and get a new Wonder-Wheel that showed a tree of search queries related to the clicked keywords. In this way, I could have entered “homemade snowshoes,” saw that “handmade snowshoes” was a possible related search keyphrase and then clicked on it to see what search phrases might be related to handmade snowshoes as well.

(Did you see that? I used three different ways of writing wonderwheel so that people who search with a space or hyphen can still find this article online by searching.”)

Turn Google WonderWheel Back On

Fortunately, it is possible to turn Google WonderWheel back on. To re-enable Wonder Wheel, you have to go into Google search settings and turn off Instant Search. Doing that takes you back to the old search interface, which includes the Wonder-Wheel tool.

Unfortunately, since Instant Search looks like the future of Google Search, there is no telling how long this functionality might be left on. Hopefully, Google decides that there is certainly no harm in keeping the WonderWheel tool in the sidebar even if Instant Search is enabled. After all, users who find that the new Instant search feature meets their needs will simply not click on WonderWheel, while those of us who depend on the tool to help correct some of Google Search’s inadequacies can continue to use it.

I wonder if there is an online petition somewhere?

Do you use Google WonderWheel? How have you reacted to WonderWheel being removed from Google due to Instant Search?

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Google Gets Serious About Webspam and Advertising Tricks Finally

For all of it’s talk, sometimes it seems that Google does very little to stop the continuous rise of webspam and SEO tricks aimed at drawing in the unaware user to a webpage filled with advertising (or worse).

However, recently, Google has finally taken a concrete step in the direction of improving the average user’s search results, and in the process, knee-capped certain webspammers and black-hat SEO or gray-hat SEO gimmicks, depending upon your point of view. In the process, it has improved the quality of the Internet, or rather, its move will have the affect of making the Internet a more accurate and reliable source of information over time. As junk websites and their “made for AdSense” (MFA) pages have their traffic dry up, the incentive to keep them going and to continue creating more low quality, but high search result ranking, junk sites diminishes. This also increases the ability of quality writers to make money writing online with AdSense.

How did Google finally achieve the goal of actually hurting webspam and garbage websites? Was it a secret improvement in its oft vaunted, and overrated, ranking algorithm? Did new duplicate content monitors, or an improvement in detecting low quality websites come online? Did the company finally start taking seriously, the numerous reports of garbage search results?

Nope. Instead, a simple change in the way a common search error is handled will end up making a huge difference.

Misspelled Searches Cash Cow Killed

misspelled-google-search-engine-results-rankings For years, it was a dirty secret that by targeting misspelled searches, one could make lots of money online.

An exploitation of webpages and webmasters who were honest and focused on quality caused legitimate websites to lose out to sham websites, and caused search engine users to end up reading dubious information about their search keywords, that is if they could find their way past the abundance of ads.

It was a relatively easy exploit. Social engineering is a way of hacking computers, or scamming users. The idea is to simply do something in such a way that most people would make an incorrect assumption about what what going on and therefore, hand over valuable information without knowing a mistake was being made. The best part (worst part?) of social engineering tricks is that they circumvent carefully constructed security systems, firewalls, and policies, that might have otherwise stopped the hacker from gaining access to anything valuable.

One common example of social engineering hacking are emails pretending to be official communications from a bank, company, or even another person in which they as the user to verify their username and password. The average user makes the incorrect assumption that the only way they would get such an email was if it was legitimate, and being good people, try and be helpful by following the instructions to click a link and enter their personal account information. Upon doing so, the website, which looks exactly like the real company’s website, says thank you and that everything is find now. The user goes on about their day, while the crooks empty their bank accounts.

Although much less nefarious, the most common (until recently) hack of search engines and searchers was to target keywords that were commonly (or not so commonly) misspelled. When the searcher typed keywords into Google’s website, the misspelled words made a better match with misspelled words on the scam webpages than they did with the correctly spelled words on legitimate websites. As a result, the search engine results pages (SERP) would show the junk webpages above the real websites’ pages.

For example, if a searcher was looking to buy a new computer monitor they might go to Google and type in “computer moniter” in an effort to do research or check prices. Quality websites, including those of the companies that make and sell computer monitors, would spell “monitor” correctly. Junk websites would create webpages with “moniter”. Google’s ranking algorithm would, not unexpectedly, rank the pages with the “same” word as the search (the misspelled word) higher than those with the close, but not exact, word monitor.

For the last year or two, Google has tried to help searchers in this situation by including a note at the top of search results saying, “Did you mean monitor?” However, the search results were still displayed based on the misspelled word. Many users, MOST users in fact, would just scan down the the results and use them instead of clicking on the link to take them to the real word.

The same tactic generated another issue for Google. Ads purchased through the AdWords online advertising program of Google typically targeted properly spelled keywords. Those bids were often not extended to misspellings which means that there was a double problem for Google. First, the search result accuracy on which its livelihood depends was compromised. Second, the lower number of ads targeted at misspelled words means that those ads were displayed at the top of search results for less money than they would be if the automated ad auction included all of the properly spelled words.

Google eliminated both problems with one tiny change in the way it handles misspelled search queries.

Now, instead of just trying to notify users that they misspelled a word, the search results now display, by default, the results for the correctly spelled word, and instead, the results notify users that if they really meant to spell the word the other way that they can click a link to take them to those results. In other words, Google now does the opposite of what it once did to display search rankings of incorrectly spelled keyword searches. By default the correct spelling is displayed and the incorrect spelling is listed as an alternate search, instead of vice versa.

The result?

Higher quality websites now show up even for average users who misspell their search words and the lower quality sites thrown up by those hoping to make a quick buck on a little bit of user ignorance have seen their traffic dry up. Additionally, Google has increased its advertising income by ensuring that the full gamut of ads participates in the computerized ad auction that determines which ads show up on top of those same search results.

This change is a win-win for honest webmasters and quality vendors, as well as for Google. The only ones hurt by this action are the underworld Internet marketer community, and frankly, most people are glad to finally have even a small whack made at them.

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Relevant Backlinks vs Unrelated Backlinks – Does It Matter For Improving Google Search Engine Ranking?

related-links-unrelated-links-comparisson-graphic A lot of information floating around the search engine optimization world is either old news. A lot of the so-called accepted wisdom is based on flimsy, or even non-existent, research. And, much of the search ranking conventional wisdom repeated, again, and again, on websites and blogs isn’t actually relevant to the most common scenarios.

So, when a disagreement between colleagues regarding the importance of relevant backlinks versus backlinks from sites that are not relevant arose, we looked around at trusted resources and found that they all said the same thing. In order for links to be worth counting toward a website or page’s Google PageRank or toward its search engine ranking, they had to come from relevant sites. However, we realized that, oftentimes, this bit of information came coupled with SEO strategies and tips that we knew were no longer true; if they were ever true.

Thus, the question remains. Does it matter that a page’s incoming links come from other websites or webpages that are related to the subject matter that they are linking about?

Google Search Ranking Algorithm

To understand why this question matters, and to be able to use the data found in the answer, it is important to have a basic understanding of Google’s search algorithm that ranks those results you see listed on the page after doing a Google search.

The search results page, or more specifically, the order that links are displayed on the search results page is sometimes known by the acronym SERP or Search Engine Ranking Page. The order those links are displayed in can be very important depending upon what is being searched for, and what the goal of the website on the other end of that search link is. Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine’s blog says that in researching how people use search, they found out that people stopped looking in much detail at the results after #5, and in many cases, after looking at just the top 3 results.

In the online advertising world, Internet marketers claim that the #1 position on a Google search can be worth anywhere from three times as much, to ten times as much traffic as the #2 position. They will also tell you that anything below #10 isn’t worth having, since it won’t be on the first page.

Whether any of this is true or not, is irrelevant to out question here. However, what is important is to know that the results that appear on any given SERP are not listed at random, nor are the listed alphabetically, nor by date, or any other non-discriminatory method. Rather, pages are listed in order based on how well they match up with the term entered into the search box on Google’s home page. These terms are known as keywords, even when they are actually a key phrase.

More accurately, the webpages listed high on Google search results pages are ranked based on how well they score on a secret algorithm that Google uses. The intention of that algorithm is to determine which one of all the webpages that match the query is most likely to provide what the searcher wanted to find. The reality is that a very small number of easily manipulated parameters determine the order from top to bottom of every Google search query.

One of the most important of these parameters is how many links point to a given website using the exact words entered into the search. This is by no means the only criteria, but it is very important.

Obviously, this evaluation can be very easily gamed. A determined webmaster or online ad salesman, need only create a million links on a dozen of his own websites to earn the #1 ranking over more legitimate websites.

Fortunately, the raw number of incoming links, or backlinks, is not the way rankings are scored. In fact, since the paper with the original ranking strategy that led to the found of the Google company and its famous search engine, much time and resources have been devoted toward determining which links should not count, which links should count more, which links should count less, and so on.

Thus, our million link creating Internet Marketer will get nowhere with his strategy.

However, the core of every search ranking improvement effort, or SEM engagement is building more links. They just can’t all come from your own websites, or from just two or three websites, or all from the same article.

Theoretically, one of the criteria for determining how much a link should count for is how much the site providing the link is related to the site receiving the link. The idea is that a website about Credit Cards would be more likely to provide "good" links on topics related to credit cards, like banking, loans, credit scores, and credit card reward programs. On the other hand, a website about plumbing would not be a good source to get information about financial topics.

Whether or not this concept is valid is open for debate. However, virtually any SEO consultant or SEM consultant (or whatever else they call themselves) will tell you that Google believes it, and thus related backlinks count for more than unrelated backlinks.

Do Related Links Count More Than Unrelated Links?

It is technically impossible to ever say with 100% certainty that something does or does not count at all in the Google ranking algorithm. However, what can be demonstrated is what features have so little value that they are easily pushed off of what determines the rankings of webpages under real world conditions.

In this case, it seems that whether or not a link comes from a related webpage or website is of so little value that its affect cannot be replicated in the real world! Instead, a host of other factors carry so much more weight that restricting oneself to only related backlinks is foolish.

That is not to say that getting links from spammy or MFA (Made For AdSense) sites is good. These sites can pass some of their negative marks on to your site, especially when they form a large number of your incoming links. However, a link to your home mortgages website from a legitimate site about Mickey Mouse collectibles will end up being worth every bit as much to your website’s PageRank and search engine rankings, that you shouldn’t bother finding related sites. Instead, just collect all the links you can.

Add those incoming links up with your other SEO optimization efforts, and your site’s rank will increase faster. Soon your website could be a high-ranking Google search result.

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Keep Traffic Up and Make More Money By Keeping It Fresh

heavy-traffic One of the easiest ways to keep traffic up at your websites is by adding new content on a regular basis.

Google search results, as well as the search results of Yahoo, Microsoft, and Bing, are all influence by some degree by the freshness, or recentness of the data and information on a website and how recent a webpage was published or substantially edited.

Blogs are one of the easiest types of websites to setup and maintain thanks to publishing platforms like WordPress, and to a lesser extent, Blogger.  These platforms take care of much of the day to day work involved in things like webpage design, website linking, and formatting. 

They also offer a way to schedule your content to be published at a later date which you define in the interface. This allows you to keep your content fresh without having to actually work on your website every day or even every week.

Instead, write 10 posts all at once and schedule them to be posted over a three or four week time period.  Your site will be considered fresh and new the whole time even though it may have been weeks since you actually did anything for the site.

The goal of keeping your content fresh is to move up in SERP, or Search Engine Results Pages.  The higher your ranking, the more traffic that will flow to your websites and webpages.  More traffic equals more chances to make sales, or more chances to display advertising.  Either way, ranking higher almost always means more income.

So, keep it fresh.

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