How Voice Search Will Forever Change SEO

Search Engine Optimization is not one of my favorite subjects to talk about. But I think this article is worth the time.  It explains some of the challenges with voice search in very simple terms, and shows how voice search is growing and affecting the web.

Voice search is the fastest growing type of search, according to the keynote speech given by Behshad Behzadi at SMX West in March, Principal Engineer at Google Zurich. Already, 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis, and that number is only growing. The allure of voice chat is undeniable—it’s faster, it’s hands-free, it lets you multi-task, and (especially among millennials) it’s considered cool.

Voice chat is also becoming increasingly reliable as technology improves. In fact, two years ago word error rate was over 20%, but current speech recognition word error rate is as low as 8%—a huge leap in a short amount of time.

It’s Official: Google Says More Searches Now On Mobile Than On Desktop

Search Engine Land reports:

Last year we heard informal statements from several Google employees that mobile search queries would probably overtake desktop queries some time this year. Google just confirmed this has now happened.

The company says that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” The company declined to elaborate further on what the other countries were, how recently this change happened or what the relative volumes of PC and mobile search queries are now.

[…]

Google groups tablets with desktops. So this is just smartphones and does not include tablets.

There’s also an interesting misalignment of this report with some Comscore reports.

HTTPS availability affects website’s Google ranking

Google has been pushing for wider HTTPS adoption for a while now – converting its own services, working on the SPDY/HTTP 2.0 protocols, etc.  Now, it seems, they want other people to start adopting HTTPS too.  And what’s better way than add it as a signal to Google Search rankings?

[…] over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

Nice!  Especially for those selling SSL certificates…

WordPress plugin : Google XML Sitemaps 4.0 significant changes

One of the most popular WordPress plugins – Google XML Sitemap – has recently been upgrade to version 4.0, with some significant changes.  Here is the quote from the changelog:

New in Version 4.0 (2014-03-30):

  • No static files anymore, sitemap is created on the fly!
  • Sitemap is split-up into sub-sitemaps by month, allowing up to 50.000 posts per month!
  • Support for custom post types and custom taxonomis!
  • 100% Multisite compatible, including by-blog and network activation.
  • Reduced server resource usage due to less content per request.
  • New API allows other plugins to add their own, separate sitemaps.
  • Note: PHP 5.1 and WordPress 3.3 is required! The plugin will not work with lower versions!
  • Note: This version will try to rename your old sitemap files to *-old.xml. If that doesn’t work, please delete them manually since no static files are needed anymore!

Quinico web insights

Quinico web insights

Quinico is an open source web application designed to help you easily improve your website’s performance, reduce errors and optimize for search engines (SEO).  Quinico can constantly monitor your websites and alert you when there is a problem that requires attention.  Using Quinico, you can automate the continual tracking, reporting and alerting of the following:

  • Google search engine rankings of all of your important keywords (supports all google domains and languages)
  • Google Pagespeed metrics including suggestions for improvement (mobile and desktop strategies)
  • Page weight breakdown (mobile and desktop strategies)
  • SEO url metrics (utilizing SEOMoz)
  • Webpagetest performance metrics (including first and repeat views)
  • Google webmaster metrics (keyword impressions/clicks, crawl errors, top search queries)

Website traffic, the learning curve

I’ve built plenty of websites over the years.  Some – from scratch, others – mere customizations and adaptation of someone else’s work.  But when it came to web promotion, I’ve usually handed it over to someone else.  Don’t get me wrong – I have a pretty good idea about how these things work, but I didn’t keep up and I haven’t practiced in a long while.

Currently, I am involved in the project, where the web promotion bit is my responsibility.  Until the project grows and earns enough to hire a professional.  So I’m using it as a platform to refresh my knowledge, catch up with current trends, tools, and techniques, and to try out a few ideas of mine own.  It is an interesting experience.

One thing I like is that the website is brand new on a very young domain with no previous history.  The A/B testings and statistics cuts are very clean.  There is an opportunity to measure the effects of this or that campaign with a lot of precision and no interference from any other traffic sources.

A lot has changed since I did it the last time.  One thing that amazes me is how dirt cheap the web traffic is these days.  I mean that when I first went in to buy some, I had a price in my head.  I paid less and I got more than I expected.  Then I studied it for a few days and got a way better price.  Then I tried something else and got an even better price.  I’m sure I’m not at the end of the tunnel yet either.

Of course, this is a random, not targeted, pretty much not convertable traffic.  But it does have its pros this early in the game, and given the price – it’s well worth it.  Even with that I’ve got more conversions than I hoped for.

Let me mention it once again – I am pretty much a newbie in the practical terms of this.  If you have any advice or any resources that you think might help me out – please share and let me know.  Once I get a better hand of it, I’ll share my thoughts and experiences too.  Right now though it’s too embarrassing to do so.

Content authorship is a new cool

Here is a quote directly from Google’s Inside Search blog:

We now support markup that enables websites to publicly link within their site from content to author pages. For example, if an author at The New York Times has written dozens of articles, using this markup, the webmaster can connect these articles with a New York Times author page. An author page describes and identifies the author, and can include things like the author’s bio, photo, articles and other links.

If you run a website with authored content, you’ll want to learn about authorship markup in our help center. The markup uses existing standards such as HTML5 (rel=”author”) and XFN (rel=”me”) to enable search engines and other web services to identify works by the same author across the web. If you’re already doing structured data markup using microdata from schema.org, we’ll interpret that authorship information as well.

[…]

We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.

In simple terms, this means that you should make sure that all your content – no matter where it is published – identifies you as an author.  This will help link all your content together, create your author profile, and use that as yet another criteria in ranking and searching.  Those of you publishing with WordPress shouldn’t worry at all – adding authorship is either already done or will take a minor modification to the theme. WordPress provided both author pages and XFN markup out of the box for years.

Can you handle the popularity?

Looking around the blogosphere, I see more and more bloggers who work really hard on promoting their sites.  They optimize their themes for Google, submit blog to all sorts of directories, share links to their best content via social networks, microblog, and comment all around the web.
Well, that’s all fine.  But here is the questions – can they handle the popularity?

I’ve been thinking about it before, but it came all to me suddenly yesterday and today.  One of my recent posts got submitted to reddit.com and it somehow it went through to the main page of the site, and from there got aggregated via RSS to a lot of other places.  Within 24 hours, my blog received more than 20,000 views.  Compared to an average day, which brings much under a thousand, that’s a lot.

This sounds like a dream come true for any blogger, no?  Well, it is, sort of.  But.  Consider the other side of the story, which is not so obvious from the first glance:

  • My hosting company handled the spike really well – no complaints or disconnections.  Not all hosting companies are created equal.
  • Commenting form on my blog was broken at the time of the spike.  It was down the whole spike duration.
  • There were about 500 comments posted in the reddit.com thread.
  • I’ve received almost 100 emails.
  • When commenting form got fixed, I got another dozen or so comments, plus another SPAM wave along with it.

If you imagine for a moment all that coming upon you in the middle of the working week, you’ll see a problem.  Who and how should respond to all that?

I’ve spent half a day today talking with my hoster about the commenting form.  Gladly it got fixed (the problem was session misconfiguration on the hosting company side).  Then I needed some time to respond to all those emails. In the meantime I quickly reviewed and approved all comments in the moderation queue.  That pretty much ate my day, together with some things I managed to slide in at work.

Later in the evening, when my family went to sleep, I actually read all the comments and responded to a few.  I also read through most comments at reddit.com .  Can I reply to any of those?  Nope.  That’s out of my resources.  I can’t handle all the traffic that came in.

Can you?  What will happen to your server if you’ll get digged or slashdotted?  How can you moderate all the comments?  How can you handle replies?  What about comments at other places – blogs, forums, and social networks that brought you in the traffic?  Do you have any moderators on standby?  Do you have any monitoring setup (Google Alerts, coComment, etc) for remote discussions about your content?

If you aren’t thinking about those things while promoting your blog, you are in for a big surprise…

Cyprus web hosting? Really? Think again …

I’m far from honest myself, but at least I don’t charge for my lies. Plenty of people do, however. One of the commonly told lies that I come across rather often these days is the one of Cyprus web hosting. Some companies are telling lies out loud, others are just being overly silent about the truth. But the fact of the matter is that Cyprus web hosting is almost non-existing. There are only just a few companies providing web hosting in Cyprus (PrimeTel and CytaNet, for example), and in most of the cases, their offerings don’t make sense financially. That’s one of the biggest reasons for most of Cyprus web sites being hosted outside of Cyprus, in countries like USA, UK, Germany, and Netherlands.

Still, most of the web design and development companies in Cyprus offer “Cyprus web hosting”. Here is just one example, that I found (ironically, I found it through AdSense block on my own blog) – CyprusWebSpace.com . Here is a partial snapshot of their front page.

CyprusWebSpace.com

If you are using Firefox browser with Flagfox plugin, than you will immediately notice the United States of America flag in the bottom right corner of your browser window. If you don’t have the plugin or don’t trust the information that it provides, or use a totally different browser, here is how you can arrive to the same results:

  1. Go to DomainTools.com
  2. Type cypruswebspace.com in the Whois Lookup form at the top of the page and press the Search button
  3. Scroll down the resulting page to where it says “Server Data”
  4. Find the line with the American flag and a description “Texas – Dallas – Theplanet.com Internet Services Inc”.
  5. Bonus point : look at the map, provided by GeoTool. The area you see is pretty far from Cyprus.

Now, there is always this argument, that the web hosting company runs its own web site on a different server from the one that it uses for its customers. It is a theoretically valid point, but the one I haven’t seen in practice just yet. Most of the web companies offering web hosting in Cyprus only have a single server (usually it is a shared or dedicated server, or a VPS account), which they use for all of their hosting needs.

There is also another argument to this point – what exactly is a Cyprus web hosting? Is it hosting on the web server which physically resides in Cyprus, or is hosting on a web server, which is assigned one of the Cyprus IP addresses? And it is, in fact, an interesting point. There is significant difference between the two. If the server is physically located in Cyprus, then chances are, that it will have a lower latency, meaning that web sites on such a server will appear to respond much faster to visitors who are also in Cyprus. This is what matters for many site owners. On the other hand, Cyprus IP address of the web server might be more important to other site owners, since some search engines use this information in scoring their search results (that is considering, for example, that web sites residing on servers with Cyprus IP addresses are more relevant to Cyprus related queries than web sites residing on other web servers).

Technically, it is quite possible for a web server to be physically located in one country, while carrying the IP address, which belongs to another country. But situations like this, aren’t so common, and that is specifically the reason why search engines (and other tools) utilize the information of IP address location.

So, back to the issue of Cyprus web hosting. How bad is it? Let’s see. Examine the first 10 or so results for each of these queries at Google, using the method above:

Impressed? I am. Results:

  • Companies with web sites physically located in Cyprus: 0 (zero).
  • Companies with web sites hosted on a server with Cyprus IP address: 1 (one).

How do I know about this one company with Cyprus IP address that it doesn’t have the server physically located in Cyprus? Because I am an employee of that company (disclaimer and blah blah blah). And even if I wasn’t, finding this information is rather trivial with any traceroute tool (here is one, for example).

So, keep this stuff in mind before you pay for you Cyprus web hosting next time. Maybe this Cyprus offering is not so Cyprus after all. But then again, maybe you just don’t care…