Category Archives: Intermediate SEO

Rank improvement by changing URLs

Back in December 2011, almost one year ago, friendly URLs were introduced in order to improve CTR. The old parameterized URLs were indexed, but even when ranking highly, the CTR was far from impressive.

The switch to URLs with clear and appropriate keywords to provide a logical structure has helped encourage additional visitors to click, and there has been a corresponding increase in rank. Of course, whether this is a causal relationship is up for debate – but either way, the statistics are interesting…

The following graph shows the steadily improving position in SERPs for the friendly URL since their introduction at the start of the year:

Rank improvement from friendly URLsThe chart shows a starting rank of around position 50 in Google back when the URLs were changed. As of last week, the URL is in the top 20 and has featured in 5th position regularly in recent weeks.

This positional change is not due to link building to the page:

No new backlinksThe backlink chart above suggests that no new links are being built in easily discoverable parts of the internet. The total number of backlinks reported has remained zero throughout the period of the rank improvement.

Similar improvement in rank is seen across other friendly URLs.

One explanation is that Google tests URLs for CTR. Those exhibiting favourable metrics e.g. low bounce rate, time on site before returning to search again could be used to indicate results that are the most valuable to search. Those results should be promoted to better positions. This promotion in search results takes time.

Even before Penguin, there have been alternative approaches (beyond simply building keyword rich anchor links) to improve rank. Improving the appearance of snippets to increase CTR is one of those techniques.

 

Is link building dead ?

The appearance of fresh links may provide a useful signal to Google – to test a URL higher up in the SERPs – but if that URL doesn’t engage the visitor, then other metrics will be poor and the URL is more likely to slip in the ranks than climb.

Heavy linkbuilding may simply hasten the decision to demote a poor performing site, based on the engagement metrics of the URL targeted.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment below.

 

 

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Schema.org examples showing search result snippets in Google

Schema has been big news for SEO for quite a while now, yet very few people are using it. Whatever the project I’m involved in, I make sure schema forms part of the basic on-site recommendations. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of improved snippets, especially when all that is required are simple html decorations.

 

This post shows a few examples of the impact of using schema for improvements in search result snippets in Google.

Example MusicRecording Schema

Music Tracks in search results
Music Tracks in search results

The MusicRecording schema has been used to enable the rich snippet above. The code for the MusicRecording schema was as follows:

MusicRecording Schema
MusicRecording Schema

 

Example Recipe Schema

hrecipe is currently the most popular mark-up method, however the schema.org recipe can help dominate the SERPs.

This is how the common hrecipe microformat appears in SERPs:

Using hrecipe and appearance in SERPs
Using hrecipe and appearance in SERPs

In contrast, using the recipe schema can help occupy more space, the more ingredients you add…

SchemaRecipe helps dominate SERPs
SchemaRecipe helps dominate SERPs

The code used to achieve the result above is as follows:

Code for SchemaRecipe with several ingredients
Code for SchemaRecipe with several ingredients

It’s easy to see how schema could be used for tactical snippets.

Example Movie Schema

Movie Schema in SERPs
Movie Schema in SERPs

The code to create a snippet for movies as above is as follows:

Code example for the Movie Schema
Code example for the Movie Schema

The movie SERPs show the beginnings of how decorated data can be used to create readable text. ‘Directed by xxx, starring xxxx’ is the first step towards producing content created entirely automatically from an enriched data source.

Example of TV Series Schema

The TV Series schema offers ratings information:

TV Series in SERPs
TV Series in SERPs

To create the TV snippet above the following code was used:

TV Series Schema code
TV Series Schema code

If they’d included the optional TVSeries schema information above, then the snippet could have been better still.

 Example Event Schema

Events and news get special treatment in Google (fresh content), so if you want to get ahead in SERPs, then add a properly marked-up events page to your site.

Using vevent, the search results will look like this:

Using vevent in serps
Using vevent in serps

The code for vevent to create the snippet above:

The vevent html code
The vevent html code

Very few sites currently use the schema Event markup, here’s an example from the SES site:

Schema Event in SERPs
Schema Event in SERPs

and the code used to create the snippet above is the result of a minimal implementation. Schema.org offers many types of richer event markup, so this entry could have included much more information.

Code to create Event Schema
Code to create Event Schema

 

Sites are still not using schema.org to its full potential, despite the major search engines announcing that they support this format as the standard. There is substantial scope for all sites to incorporate pages with schema in order to improve appearance in SERPs and encourage the click.

Why is this taking so long to catch on?

 

 

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SEO Colour Experiment Update

The Google images experiment has been running for 4 days, and so far, just two of the ten images published in the previous post (laying out the details of the experiment) have been indexed; namely the purple image and the gray image.

Getting images indexed in Google
Getting images indexed in Google - purple preferred

Getting Google to own up to indexing the gray image requires advanced search options, it is revealed for searches of black and white and gray images:

Indexed images revealed using black and white filter
Indexed images revealed using black and white filter
Indexed images revealed using gray filter
Indexed images revealed using gray filter

 

There are some early takeaways from the experiment so far:

  1. Google chose to index just two of the available images in the post, a purple image and a gray image. This might suggest that galleries of images are not a good idea for SEO, as some of those images might not make it into the index. This could have been caused by the naming convention I used in the test – most images had very similar filenames – so perhaps the indexing of just two of a page full of test images is to be expected ? Galleries may cause Google to make a choice about which image to index and relate to the content…
  2. Looking back at the number of results in Google for different coloured images, it is interesting to notice that there were only 55k purple results and 61k gray results… perhaps this is why those two images were chosen and indexed by Google, to boost the number of available search results for those colours (purple and gray)? As with keyword research for universal search results, picking under-competed image types could provide quick wins…

What else is interesting so far ?

Searching using the keyword ‘experiment’ and then filtering for ‘large’ images and selecting ‘purple’ images shows our test image in #1 as might have been predicted ! After all, it was a large purple image with ‘experiment’ in both the filename and alt text.

Results for search 'experiment'
Results for search 'experiment' with large/purple filters set

The other images in the search results had the following filenames:

#2 http://i259.photobucket.com/albums/hh289/LynnViehl/Experiment2.jpg

#3 http://www.eu-atp.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/experimento-1024×768.jpg

#4 http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_34x_4u4wgM/TzBW2aQ0SzI/AAAAAAAAAp4/yr-2nm5TeXI/s320/the%2Bgolden%2Blight%2Bexperiment%2Bpurple%2B%2526%2Bhay%2B%2528preview%2529.jpg

#5 http://www.tablix.org/~avian/blog/images2/2012/02/two_spectrograms_recorded_at_the_crew_munich-t.jpg

So the obvious difference is that the test image had the keyword ‘purple’ as well as well as the word ‘experiment’ in the filename.

What about the gray image ?

It appears in position #4 in SERPs when using the same filters:

Keyword experiment and filters 'large' and 'gray'
Keyword experiment and filters 'large' and 'gray'

The competitive images for this search have the following filenames:

#1 http://jn.physiology.org/content/103/6/2938/F10.medium.gif

#2 http://www.sns.ias.edu/%7Ejnb/JohnphotosHtml/images/John%20Bahcall%2C%20Homestake%20mine%2C%20Cl%20Solar%20Neutrino%20Experiment%2C%20SD%2C%20%7E%201964.jpg

#3 http://arkansasagnews.uark.edu/Eason_rdax_250x345.jpg

#4 http://www.seoeditors.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/gray-seo-colour-experiment.jpg

#5 https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2006/images/mat-celina_nr.jpg

So, on closer inspection the images at the top of the SERPs are all from authority sites… Journal of Physiology, two .edu sites and a .gov

The test image from this blog for the keyword ‘experiment’ performs quite well given the competition here !

By searching specifically for ‘gray experiment’, the image performs better and is returned in #1:

Search specifically for gray experiment
Search specifically for gray experiment

Positions #2 and #3 discuss the YouTube ‘gray’ channel theme.

At this stage, not many more insights are possible so I will return to this experiment in a few days time when more of the original set of images may have been indexed.

 

 

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