Thursday, December 5, 2013

Google Snippets in Search Results

Google Snippets in Search Results

Snippet Discovery

I recently discovered a unique occurrence of Google snippets that appeared in a Google search engine results page (SERP).  It happens to be one of my portfolio pages, so naturally, it peaked my interest.
A Google snippet is a description of or an excerpt from the webpage.  A snippet refers to the description portion of a Google search listing.
Take a look at the SERP snippet below:


Note, the snippet is made up of an element count (40+ items), the meta description, and four excerpts from the page.

Page Rendering in Browser

Here's what the portfolio page looks like when rendered in the browser:


Underlying Page Code

In this case, it appears as though the Google bot has gone into the page code, and parsed out the top four image descriptions.  What's interesting is that the page contains an html table with alternating rows.  Images, followed by the company name and location.

Consistency and Stability Rewarded?

Other than minor updates consisting of adding new rows (images, links, and text) which follow the same pattern, the overall page structure has remained very consistent for 5+ years.

My Conclusion

Having established web pages with consistent code patterns must be easier for Google to understand.  I guess using html tables is not always bad thing. :-)

Have you come across similar snippets? If so please let us know.

Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Social Media for Small Business

Social Media for Small Business - Don't Over Complicate Things!

Social Media for Small Business


I get a lot of questions from customers regarding social networking. The majority of them feel it is something they should be doing.  But many have a fear of taking the plunge... due in part to concerns with not having enough time.

Being active on social media doesn't have to be overly complex.  A few minutes a day can get the job done for 99% of the small businesses out there.  Here are some thoughts on how a small business can benefit from being "social".

What Is Social Media?
According to Wikipedia, "social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. It introduces substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals."

Why Small Business Should Incorporate Social Into their Marketing Efforts
Audience Reach + Relationship Building = Establishing Authority
"Social media give us the opportunity to create relationships, foster communication, & build trust."
Which Social Networks are Best Fit?
  • Facebook - Business pages on FB are a way to connect with folks on a personal level.  
  • Twitter - Good for promoting events, news and specials (i.e., restaurants).
  • Pinterest - Pinning is a simple sharing tool for retailers/manufacturers whose brands lend themselves to images.
  • Google+ - A way to reach a professional or technical audiences that might shy away from the other social networks. Myself included ;-)
  • LinkedIn - B2B companies who cater to the professional market.
     
Managing Content Doesn't Have to be Time Consuming
Of course this depends on how often you want to engage with your audience.  But a few updates per week, to show that you are active, can go a long way.  You should always be listening and responding to questions and comments.

Time saving social sharing tools such as Hootsuite, can help you author once, and publish many.  A single post can be shared across all of your social networks, with the click of a mouse.

Measuring ROI
You can measure "social signals" (likes, plusses, favorites, comments and shares).  Don't be afraid to ask customers how or where they found out about your company.

How To Get Started
  1. Claim and Verify - I recommend, at minimum, customers claim their business pages on all of the major social sites listed above.  They should be reviewed for accuracy and consistency.  Things like phone number, address, hours of operation, should all be verified.
  2. Publish - Post updates or share links a few times per week...industry news, tips and tricks, product announcements, etc.  This will help establish credibility and authority on a particular subject matter.
    For example, if you sell or fix widgets, let folks know about innovations, trends, and success stories.
  3. Listen - Social networks are set-up to notify you (email or SMS) when someone sends you a message, leaves a comment or replies. It's important to respond in a timely manner.
  4. Adapt - You may find that your target audience is more active in one particular stream. If most people are engaging with you via Google+ or Pinterest, then you might want to focus more effort there.
Summary
Most small business owners (like myself) are juggling numerous tasks. Adding social to the mix can sound daunting.  But social media doesn't have to consume hours of your day.  A few minutes per morning is often enough time for you to stay connected with your "followers".

A successful social media campaign doesn't happen overnight.  It takes time to build trusting relationships.  However, if you OFFER your target audience VALUE, being "social" can help bring in a completely new channel of business.

Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Google Sites Not Indexing? Try This SEO Fix

I recently received this question from a client needing SEO help:
"I have a website for my company XYZ...the site is a Google Site. For some reason, my site is not indexed at all. Can you help?"


Diagnosing the Problem

Using Google Webmaster Tools, it became quickly apparent that Google was aware of the website (site was verified and an XML sitemap was uploaded).  But for some reason the search engine was not indexing it. The first thing I looked at was the robots.txt file to make sure no-follow wasn't blocking the Google bot.  Seemed OK.  Next I took a look at the page's source code...here's what I found:

Page Source (Before):
 

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
X-Robots-Tag: noindex, nofollow, nosnippet
Last-Modified: Wed, 06 Nov 2013 19:27:23 GMT
...

This is a problem!  Digging deeper...when I looked at the Google Sites Sharing and Permissions settings, it was set to "Anyone who has link can view". This was causing the website to be invisible to the search engines.

Google Sites Permissions are set to "Anyone who has link can view"


How to Fix the Indexing Problem

It's a simple fix, the Google Sites permissions need to be set to "Public on the web - Set Google Sites Permissions to "Anyone on the Internet can find and view".

Set Google Sites Permissions to "Anyone on the Internet can find and view"



Here's what the page source looked like after applying the change:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
X-Robots-Tag: noarchive
Last-Modified: Thu, 07 Nov 2013 13:18:23 GMT
...

I then toggled back into Webmaster Tools and asked Google to re-fetch the website.

Fetch as Google


Results: Google SERPs Now Showing the Client's Website!

It took 3 days, but after making the change to permissions, Google has successfully indexed the Google Sites website, and it is ranking 3rd when searching for company name XYZ (beneath their LinkedIn and Facebook business pages).

Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Google Web Designer Review


Quick Review of Google's New Web Designer

Google Web Designer user interface
Yesterday, Google announced the launch of Web Designer, a new tool for building interactive HTML5 sites and ads.  The beta version is available for download here.

I have kicked the tires a bit.  Overall, I am excited with Google's foray into the world of HTML5 editors. Here are my initial thoughts:

The Good:
  • Cost: It's free to download, at least the Beta version is.
  • Animation Timeline: Keyframes are used to "tween" animation points on the timeline. (Size, rotation, XYZ coordinates, etc.). It reminds me of an old Flash animation app called Swish
  • Hooks: Using the Components menu, you can link to external iframes, galleries, maps, tap areas, and videos.
  • Preview: Ability to preview the ads directly within the UI.  You can also preview in local browsers.
  • Publishing: Quick process with "zip" option (contains all related files for easy upload).
The Bad:
  • Flexibility: The workspace is not very customizable.  For example, the side menus cannot be undocked or hidden.  They are collapsible, but scrolling is still required to access all options.
  • Editing: It can be difficult to select/modify specific elements on the stage without changing into "Advanced" animation mode.
  • File Imports: I have not found a way to import PNG files with transparent backgrounds.
Summary:
Years ago, I produced ad banners for AOL YP using Adobe Flash and Fireworks (animated GIFs).  Google's Web Designer is much easier to use, but doesn't have the equivalent graphics prowess.  It's a Beta drop, so hopefully we'll see improved file importing and editing capabilities in the future.

All in all, this is a great start!
Demo File:
This simple demo is a 3 page ad with simple animation loop (page 1), a embedded YouTube clip (page 3), and a link to my G+ page (page 3).

Embedded iframe below... non-iframe version can be viewed here.


For more Info: Visit the official Google Web Designer website: http://www.google.com/webdesigner/

Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CMS Site Launch: Advanced Technical Solutions - DNN 7

NEW WEBSITE POWERED BY DNN 7

ATS

The Brief (i.e., Requirements):
  • Internet showcase for local IT services
  • Reach new customers via Web search
  • Define Online brand identity
  • Establish credibility and authority and in IT space

The Method:
  • Design: Modified skin with custom graphics and CSS tweaks
  • Platform: DNN 7 with add-on extensions (Blog, JotForm, Nivo Slider, JQuery)
  • SEO: Author unique page titles/descriptions, XML sitemap, Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics
  • Social: Integrate blog, add hooks to Twitter, add links to Google+, Facebook and RSS

The Result:
  • Marketing vehicle will reach potential clients in local area
  • Clean UX parallels the feel of client's print collateral
  • Content is managed via DNN 7 cloud hosted CMS


Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Summary of Webmaster Tools Search Appearance Overview pop-up

A look at the new "Search Appearance Overview" pop-up window that appears in the updated Webmaster Tools UI.

I didn't catch this until recently, but Google has added a nifty little tool to help explain search results elements, and how we can influence the data they contain.

Next time you login to Webmaster Tools, look for the Search Appearance interactive pop-up tool. It's accessed via the information (i) icon located in the left-hand menu:

Webmaster Tools Search Appearance Overview
Webmaster Tools Search Appearance Overview

When you hover over and click specific elements, a bubble will reveal helper text along with clickable links over to Google's Webmaster Tools help screens.

Source: Google Webmaster Tools

Title Element
  • Write informative, relevant descriptions in the HTML title tag for each webpage.
  • In Webmaster Tools use the HTML Improvements feature to help optimize the title tags on your site.
Snippet Element
  • Provide an accurate, succinct summary of the page’s content in its meta description tag. Write informative and relevant content for the page's body.
  • Use the Webmaster Tools HTML Improvements feature to help optimize the meta descriptions on your site.
Sitelinks Element
  • Sitelinks are generated algorithmically depending on the website and the user query. You can’t “activate” sitelinks.
  • If you don't want a page to appear as a sitelink, you can demote it in the Webmaster Tools Sitelinks feature.
Search within a site Element
  • The search box is triggered algorithmically based on the website and the user query — Google displays it when they think it might help the user refine their search.
URL Element
  • How to influence - Organize your webpages in a logical structure.
  • You may also want to consider using breadcrumbs.
  • The Webmaster Tools URL parameters feature allows you to give Google information about how to handle URLs containing specific parameters. 
Event - Rich Snippet Element
  • Mark up the relevant parts of your webpages to help us understand your content.
  • Use Webmaster Tools Data Highlighter to tag your event data. Check the Structured Data dashboard to see if your marked up content has been crawled.
Breadcrumbs Element
  • Mark up the content in the body of your webpages.
  • Check Webmaster Tools the Site Navigation Element part of the Structured Data dashboard to see if your marked up content has been crawled.
Product - Rich Snippet Element
  • Mark up the relevant parts of your webpages to help us understand your content.
  • Check Webmaster Tools Structured Data dashboard to see if your marked up content has been crawled.
Author Information Element
  • Verify authorship of your content by associating it with your Google+ profile.
  • Check Webmaster Tools Author Stats to see which author profiles are associated with your content.

It's a great interactive teaching aid, and hopefully the first of many to come.

More information can be found here:
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/3187759?hl=en&ref_topic=2576876

Patrick LaJuett
Patrick LaJuett manages a website design agency: + LaJuett.com, where he supports clients as a Web technology consultant and search marketing strategy advisor.

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