What we searched for in 2013

Google has shared what we searched for in 2013, especially useful if like me you have a short memory.

Among the highlights – the royal baby – equal marriage – Pope Francis – the death of Paul Walker – Nelson Mandela.

Funny how a year can be condensed into 1 minute and 31 seconds.

Creating content that Google search will love

So many people still believe with the web that build and they will come, they wont. Build with great quality content, they might. Build with great quality content promoted via an integrated search, social and email strategy then you are more sure of success.

This is a great infographic that shows that investing in original quality content is essential for SEO and how ‘social is SEO and content is social’.

It also includes a great quote from Google’s Matt Cutts ‘Try and make your site so fantastic you become an authority in your niche’. A goal that should become all of ours mantra if we want to be successful in this space.

Why content is so important for SEO

Christopher Wellbelove

What happens in 60 seconds on the internet

This infographic shows what happens in 60 seconds on some of the most popular domains/apps. Some stand out stats include the fact that in 60 seconds there are 278 thousand tweets, 20 million photo views on flickr, 2 million searches on Google and 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. Rising social stars such SnapChat and Pinterest feature as well with 104 thousand photos shared on SnapChat and 11,000 active users on Pinterest.

What happens in 60 seconds on the internet

Christopher Wellbelove

Winning elections on-line

The US elections are continuing to demonstrate how the internet is playing an increasingly important role in engaging with voters. Research in the US has shown that 7% of on-line searchers may change their votes. In a close election what political parties do on-line could make the difference between winning and losing.

Democrat Barrack Obama has been heralded as changing the future of political campaigning. Michael Cheney, from the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, who studies online campaigning says that Barack Obama elevated the Internet’s social reach from novelty to necessity after Obama used it to build online grassroots support that helped fuel his rapid rise. Cheney believes that the use of social media has to be part of campaigns in the future and that candidates who don’t use this model aren’t going to be as succesful.

Google recognises this and has appointed a ‘head of elections and issues advocacy’ as sales of sponsored links go through the roof. For Google this is a huge opportunity to make money, for politicians looking for votes pay-per-click advertising is an easy way to reach potential voters.

It is no longer sufficient to build a website and upload press releases about how good you are and how terrible the opposition is. Messages have to cross multiple platforms in multiple formats. Supporters need to monitor and respond to discussions on-line. Candidates need to be taught not to be phased by the on-line chatter which could be disproportionally influenced by opponents who utilise the power of social networks such as Facebook and the many elections forums that grow in the run up to polling day.

Campaign strategist, plotting the progress of their campaign, need to use services such as Hitwise, to monitor traffic and searches for political websites which can give an indication of who is gaining ground in a campaign and the subject matters that the electorate are most interested in.

In the UK by the next general elections, and london local government elections in 2010, the internet will play a bigger part than ever before. And especially where the vote is close an election really could be won (or lost) on-line.

Unleashing the power of wikipedia

Powerset is a powerful search engine for Wikipedia. Once used I would argue that you will never want to go back to the in-site search on the Wikipedia site again.

This is how Powerset describes itself and what it does:

‘Powerset’s goal is to change the way people interact with technology by enabling computers to understand our language. While this is a difficult challenge, we believe that now is the right time to begin the journey. Powerset is first applying its natural language processing to search, aiming to improve the way we find information by unlocking the meaning encoded in ordinary human language.

Powerset’s first product is a search and discovery experience for Wikipedia, launched in May 2008. Powerset’s technology improves the entire search process. In the search box, you can express yourself in keywords, phrases, or simple questions. On the search results page, Powerset gives more accurate results, often answering questions directly, and aggregates information from across multiple articles. Finally, Powerset’s technology follows you into enhanced Wikipedia articles, giving you a better way to quickly digest and navigate content.’

Great features

Especially useful is the ‘article outline’ that appears when you are within the article and floats down the page as you scroll. Within this you can click links and jump straight to the section you select.

The results are excellent, reacting to your search keywords or question showing you the title together with an extract including highlights of the words that match your search. If there are lots of results you can further drill into the results around particular words, with these results rendering within the same page so there is no need to wait for the page to reload with new results.

As a regular user of Wikipedia for research Powerset has now been added to my Flock search bar.

I have discovered that Powerset has been purchased by microsoft so it will be interesting to see how this technology is incorporated into Live Search.

Creating a site map for Google

With more and more people finding sites through search engines it is essential that your site is search engine friendly. One way you can improve your ‘relationship’ with search engines is the creation of a Google sitemap.

Google sitemaps help Google to crawl your site, telling it where all your interesting content is, which done properly can help improve search ranks and provide you with useful insight into how people are finding your site.

A Google sitemap is different from the sitemap you may have on your web site. A Google sitemap is an ‘XML’ file placed where your site is hosted for use by a search engine crawler rather than a human user of your site. Using the sitemaps does not guarantee that web pages are included in search engines, but provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job of crawling your site.

To tell Google where your sitemap is you will need a Google account where you will then get access to Googles webmaster tools. Creating an account is easy and free.

To add a sitemap to Google you first have to prove you are the owner of the website. You do this by placing a file on your site which Google then uses as proof the site is yours and that you are authorised to view statistics about it.

There are several tools available to create site maps. G Sitemaps is free without restriction. I haven’t used it extensively however it seems to do the job on first look.

Google’s advice on producing sitemaps for a large site

‘You can provide multiple Sitemap files, but each Sitemap file that you provide must have no more than 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 10MB when uncompressed. These limits help to ensure that your web server does not get bogged down serving very large files.

If you want to list more than 50,000 URLs, you must create multiple Sitemap files. If you anticipate your Sitemap growing beyond 50,000 URLs or 10MB, you should consider creating multiple Sitemap files. If you do provide multiple Sitemaps, you can list them in a Sitemap index file. A Sitemap index file can list up to 1,000 Sitemaps.’

Video Sitemaps

If your site has video the content is hidden from the search engine except for what you write about it within the page. To improve your listing of video content and get your content listed in Google video search you need to create a video site map.

Here is an example, provided by Google, of what a video sitemap would look like.

Here is a sample of a Video Sitemap entry using Video-specific tags:

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
        xmlns:video="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.0">
<url>
   <loc>http://www.site.com/videos/some_video_landing_page.html</loc>
   <video:video>
      <video:content_loc>http://www.site.com/video123.flv</video:content_loc>
      <video:player_loc allow_embed="yes">http://www.site.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123</video:player_loc>
      <video:title>My funny video</video:title>
      <video:thumbnail_loc>http://www.site.com/thumbs/123.jpg</video:thumbnail_loc>
   </video:video>
</url>

<url>
   <loc>http://www.site.com/videos/some_other_video_landing_page.html</loc>
   <video:video>
      <video:content_loc>http://www.site.com/videos/video1.mpg</video:content_loc>
      <video:description>A really awesome video</video:description>
   </video:video>
</url>
</urlset>

The Cuil new search engine… but how Cuil is it?

I noticed a large number of ‘Tweets‘ from my Twitter feed about a new search engine called ‘Cuil’ which has been created by former employees of Google, and for some a possible threat to Google’s dominance. The Google association has without doubt helped feed the publicity for what otherwise could have just passed as just another search engine hopeful. With Google demonstrating that there are huge revenues to be made out of search it is not a surprise that others want a piece of the action.

So how should we cope with all these new search engines, each with different algorithms to define what is relevant and displaying results in different ways?

Whilst recognising Googles dominance and focusing a majority of energy and investment in influencing natural search and the largest proportion of budgets invested in Google pay-per-click, we need to constantly monitor where traffic is coming from and industry trends.

For global organisations the challenge is even bigger monitoring the search engines influence in different countries and regions eg: Baidu in China.

The approach towards search engines needs to be similar to browser usage. I will be testing a new site on the Safari browser which has a usage of just 2.6% [June 2008]. Though this is a relatively low number, it is slowly growing and we need to ensure our sites are suitable for as wide an audience as possible.

In the same way various browsers display pages differently, search engines will pull different informaion from sites to deliver search results. Searchme provides screenshots of pages, making the size of keyelements of text on you site important as a signpost to the user they have reached the right place.

Cuil takes an extract of your site including, where available, an image which it displays with the result. Different search engines take into account different aspect of your site (including links to and from your site) to decide what makes a site relevant to a search request.

As part of the process of design, how the site will appear in the various key search engines will become increasingly important in the same way as we do now as regards to how a site appears in different browsers. This is not just the positioning of the result but how the site is represented.

You can not please all the search engines all the time, and for now Google remains a key focus for both natural and paid-for-search. Therefore, for now, a majority of time, money and energy should remain with Google, Yahoo and MSN.

From a design and marketing viewpoint things just keep getting more interesting [harder] as the number of different variants to take into consideration keeps increasing.

Google asks are you in the Knol

Google have launched Knol, trumpted as a potential threat to Wikipedia, though for me more another source of information (as part of an information mix) and opportunity for individuals and organisations to demonstrate and share their knowledge and specialities.

For companies, organisations and individuals, Knol offers a huge opportunity. A chance for them to show that they really have expertise in their subject matter. Knol refers to a “unit of knowledge” and people with a vast array of skills and knowledge can demonstrate that they really know what they are talking about through Knoll.

To deal with Knol many organisations policy on contributing to social media, which are often restrictive, needs revising. Where there are fear biased policies prohibiting participation in social media – companies needs to change to a more positive attitude of encouragement, guidance and training. Only then will an organisations people be free to really show off what a talented group of people are.

Many suspect that Knol will be favoured by Google, given it has created it, in search listings. Even if this was not the case the fact is that with the Google brand behind it Knol has all the possibilites of becoming as big if not bigger than Wikipedia and therefore the potential of Knol being somewhere else that you just cannot afford not to be is high.

Five Social Media must do for politicians

There are thousands of social media sites, which for someone who hasn’t even got a Facebook profile must be overwhelming. Whilst I have written about creating a profile network I realise that to start with many politicians will need to take a few ‘baby’ steps into the realm of social media and enabling their constituents to find information about them and their work on-line.

The reasons for doing this is to both ensure that when users of a particular social network search for you they find content that you have produced and control. Additionally search engines will crawl these sites frequently so when a constituent searches for you they will be offered several options to gain access to your content.

I take for granted that you already have a website. If you do not I no longer think this is as essential as it once was and a well formed blog can actually do the same if not better job than any website.

Five Social Media must do for politicians

If you do nothing else, you should do the following now:

1) Write your social profile, this will be invaluable when you add your details to any social networking site as all you will need to do is copy and paste the same details into the description or about me box. Think about how you would sell yourself in a couple of hundred words. Remember to ensure that anything you write is as non-time specific as possible as you may not revisit the content for a long time if at all.

2) Set up a blog, use the social profile that you have created to create an about page. Include a contact page with details of how constituents can reach you. Don’t write ‘Welcome to my blog I will update this frequently’ and then don’t. Pointless introductions are a waste of both yours and the readers time – get straight in there with the content and add periodically.

3) Set up a YouTube page, recording at least three short videos about key local issues. A good example of this would be the Val Shawcross YouTube Channel. Enter details from your social profile into the description section.

4) If you have not already create a Facebook profile that is publicly viewable. If you already have a profile and wish to use it for both personal and professionals reasons ensure that you utilise the Facebook privacy features. Whilst you are at it create a Bebo profile as well. Bebo is bigger among younger people and if you are not in this environment you will miss this key audience. Bebo also often performs better on Google for search results with the whole of your profile visible to the search engine where Facebook only provides full details when you are signed in and therefore not seen by the engines crawler.

5) Start Twittering. Twitter is a microblog which is quick and easy to update with messages about
you. This is a very effective and easily manageable method of keeping constituents informed about the work you are doing.

Is Bebo better than Facebook? Creating a profile network

As part of my research into social networks I recently joined Bebo, a social network popular in the UK and in particular among younger people.

After being an avid Facebook user for some time I wasn’t overwhelmed by the service, however added my profile details and added a link to the page to my homepage at wellbelove.com.

Being a regular egosurfer I was surprised that despite the fact that my Facebook page has been available for much longer my Bebo page was appearing higher in the Google results for a search of Christopher Wellbelove. This has since switched, however it is telling of the importance Google places on Bebo that my Bebo page has appeared on the first page of Google results so quickly.

Whilst I realise it is difficult to maintain profiles on so many sites, the benefits are clear. If Google places a high importance on Bebo then having a profile here that points to your main website, together with your pages on other social networks, by creating a profile on Bebo you will increase their rank and ensure that for users who choose the Bebo network they are still able to access some information about should they search in that network for you.

My Squidoo page, set up at a similar time as my Bebo profile, today appeared above both my Facebook and Bebo profiles in my Google egosurf. You can discover more about services like Squidoo in my article ‘Bringing it all together’.

In short, if you want the widest audience to find you, you need to invest time in placing content where the audience is – on the networks they know and trust. If you want search engines to focus on content you own, you need to invest time in creating these pages, interlinking them so that search engines will trust your profile network as an authority on information about you.

YouTubing made easy for politicians

There are many benefits for politicians using YouTube. Videos are quick and easy to create, many digital still cameras include video recording facility, and with millions of YouTube users of all ages and backgrounds your messages will reach a whole new group of people and possible voters.

Benefits for search
You already have a website, you may have a Facebook page, both of which will help the public find you on search engines such as Google and Yahoo! However without content on YouTube, YouTubers using the YouTube search box will either find no content about you – or possibly worse – only content created about you by your opponents. Once you have created your YouTube Channel you should link to it from your website which will help ensure it will be picked up by search engines and very soon could result in your videos appearing in the main search results on the key search engines.

Where do I start?
To start adding video’s to YouTube you need to create a channel. To create a channel you simply sign up to YouTube. When doing this it is important to note your YouTube username cannot be changed after it has been created. It will appear on your channel so think carefully about what you use as a username.

Do my videos have to be high qualitiy?
The most important issue with creating YouTube video’s is ensuring the viewer can hear the message. Beware of background noise when recording the videos. The quality is not a major priority – in fact if your video is too polished it would look out of place in the YouTube environment. There is a limit to the size of your videos on YouTube which is a maximum of 10 minutes in length and a file size of 1024 MB (if you keep you video to 2 – 3 minutes you will not have to be concerned about file size, you will need to use the multi video uploader for videos over 100MB ). You could customise your video’s using video editing software, adding titles etc. this could be something you go on to at a later date and should not be a barrier to starting your channel.

Adding videos to YouTube
After you record your videos, select ‘upload videos’ then enter a title, description and ‘tags’. The content of these fields are important as this will help influence where you appear in YouTube searches. It is essential that you set up the ‘sharing options’ selecting for comments and video comments to be allowed after you approve them. Whilst you want to get responses from viewers you will want to filter any messages that are purely abusive without any substance.

For step by step guide to uploading a video to YouTube visit their how to pages.

How many videos should I add?
There is no limit to the number of videos, I would start with at least three video’s. Keep your video’s short, creating separate video’s for each video.

What next?
You will be able to monitor how many times your video’s are viewed, see who is linking to your video or make it a favourite on their YouTube account. YouTubers can subscribe to your channel, where any new video’s you add will appear when they log into their homepage.

You can help visitors to your YouTube Channel find related content by finding related content on YouTube and selecting these as your favourites and subscribing to other channels.