This is how Google is conditioning us to click on Ads!

Today, I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It was an odd experience. It was one of the moments when the light bulb suddenly went off.

I had a package to track. As a user of Google Chrome, I simply highlighted my UPS tracking number and right clicked to do a Google search for the tracking link. For those who don’t know, Google recognizes a lot of numbers, codes, etc. Enter a tracking number from any of the major shipping companies and Google is likely to place a simple link to the tracking page for the carrier. In this case it was UPS. Google makes things easier for me by knowing. In fact, you can find a cheat sheet that includes many of the functions recognized by the Google search box.

Google is doing a better job than anyone else at determining my intent. They knew that I wanted to track a package, so when I searched on a UPS tracking number they returned a result that linked directly to the UPS tracking page. If I were to head to UPS directly, I would have had to type into the browser, select my location/country, paste my tracking code into the box and click track. Not a big deal, but a simple copy, click, click, click from Google has become much easier, faster, and pleasing to me.

Back to the conditioning to click on ads part. When I select the tracking code and then conduct my search, I then see the following page (blacked out tracking number for privacy)

Google conditions users to click in ad space
Google conditions users to click in ad space

The result of my search displayed in the same format as a text ad from Google. This convenience search (using a UPS tracking number directly) is part of a grand plan to condition me to click in that ad space with those familiar colors and format.

Take a look at a typical search result page.  You can see that the primary difference between the convenience result (tracking link) is formatted in the same way as an ad result (below).

Google conditioning me SERP
Google conditioning me SERP

Genius, Google.  I love it and hate it at the very same time!
Link to Video: Google Conditioning Users

On Site SEO – 12 Rules to Follow

As with many endeavors, the devil is in the details. Small things make a difference, large things matter. Stack them up and you are suddenly carrying some weight. Let me explain. As someone who has been involved in marketing and online since 1996, I probably take a lot of practices for granted. It isn’t until I am having discussions with others who are managing their own web sites and asking a few questions that some of the best practices come out.  There may be hundreds of factors that can have an impact on a pages rank and applying the best practices at the time the page is built should help in the short and long term. For those who are new to managing their own web site, or are new to the concept of search optimization and search marketing, you will soon learn that a pile of small details make a huge difference in your web site ranking results.

  1. Name pages in a logical way When naming a page you should use the content of the page to determine the page name. When you are viewing search results at Google, your eye will catch the URL.  If the URL reinforces the focus of the page you will be drawn to it visually. In addition to that, a logical page name will tell a search engine what that page is about. If I am writing a page about Buffalo SEO, I am not going to name my page page3.htm.  Instead, I will name the page buffalo-seo.htm.  The reason is two-fold.  Higher click through rate (CTR) when listed in the search results and adds weight to the keyword or phrase you are optimizing for on that page.
  2. Separate page names with hyphens rather than underscores This was debated for quite some time a number of years back. Search marketers would try to get an answer from the search engines regarding what the best separator to use between words when naming a web page. Well, a few years back, Google chimed in and said hyphens are better.  That became the standard once Google indicated a preferred separator.  It always seemed logical to me that the hyphen was a more natural word separator, but the underscore/hyphen separator debate went on for a number of years.
  3. Never use a space when naming a file Have you ever seen a page that included %20 in the name?  That would be due to the fact that the person naming the file had a space in their file name. When naming a local file (one sitting on your own PC) a space has always been fine. However, as everything moves online (to the cloud) spaces should be set aside. A separator should be used. As discussed above, use a hyphen. It is a natural separator that tells the search engine that these are separate words. A page on search marketing might be named search-marketing.htm.  This will help the engine (and your site) much more than search_marketing.htm or searchmarketing.htm.  In fact, in the past, certain browsers couldn’t even render files with spaces in the name.
  4. Name your images based on what is in the image For example: If I have a picture of Matt Cutts, I am not going to stick with an image name that was assigned by my camera.  P102314.jpg doesn’t do much for me. matt-cutts.jpg just might.  The more you can do to help the search engines deliver a result that their visitor expects to see, the better off things will be. Don’t try to game it. Name things logically.
  5. Alt tags When you have an image on your web site, you should include a value for the “Alt” tag of the image. Alt tags also help the search engine (and users such as those with image display turned off) to discover what an image is about. As with the image name, your Alt tag should describe the image. Rather than just the name, you could expand slightly. For example, for the image matt-cutts.jpg, your alt tag might be “Matt Cutts from Google” or “Matt Cutts Google engineer”.
  6. Title The title of your page is one of the more important elements to focus on.   When I refer to the “title” of your page, I don’t mean the name, or a visible portion of the page that your visitor will see, but rather the title that is encoded in the page.  Look to the bar (or tab) at the top of your browser. Do you see the words in the bar (or tab)?  That is the title.  This should be the area where you focus on what the page is about. If you are writing a page about Search Marketing, your title should reflect that. Your title should be descriptive without excessive use of “stop words“.  Many people, and companies, make the mistake of simply including their company name as the title.  It is the easy way out and doesn’t do much for boosting your ranking for a targeted search term.  Be descriptive in the title and be sure to stay on focus with the content of the page.
  7. H1 Tag (Heading) The H1 tag is often misused.  Often times, folks will use the tag to markup text because they want it to be BIG.  The real function that the H1 tag serves is to tell the search engines what the most important topic on your page is.  This topic should echo (but not duplicate) the topic used in your page Title tag.  H tags are H1 through H6.  They are sized based upon the number. 1 is the largest and carries the most weight. The main thing to remember is to hit your main page topic in this page
  8. Paragraph Content Your opening paragraph on a web page should be the area where you pick up on the topic of the page. Remember, we hit the topic in the “title” and in the “H1”, now we are going to reinforce that topic with our paragraph content.  Your writing should be as natural as can be for your first draft. Be sure you are writing for the user when you create the copy for your page.
  9. Canonical (non www) This may be an issue that eventually goes away but, for now, we still recommend that you redirect all visits to either the www version of your site ( or the non-www version of your site ( I have always been a proponent of the www version (dub-dub-dub / triple dub for short). You can also utilize tools such as Google’s webmaster tools to let them know that you prefer a particular version.  There is even a MAJOR sin with regard to the www issue.  There are still sites that exist in which there is no redirect to the www version if you go to the non-www version.  You are giving up a lot of traffic by being lazy and changing a simple setting with your host (or on your own server) to be sure that both versions resolve to the same site.  One thing to keep in mind is that you must do your redirects to the preferred version of your site via a 301 redirect. Any other is frowned upon and might hurt more than helping.  Here are a couple of resources regarding the 301 redirect.
  10. Related words (lexical) Google suggest | Keyword sandbox There are some who believe that supporting your content with words that are related to your core word, or phrase, will help support the topic of the page. I am a firm believer of this idea.  An example that I always use is one where I describe an article about car insurance.  I might include other words related to car or insurance. However, you should do so naturally. If I am writing the car insurance article, I might include phrases such as “it is our policy to allow for…”.  In this case, the word “policy” might add some “insurance” related weight to the page with an entirely different meaning. Don’t force it though. It still must be natural and the copy must be written for the user.  One of the best methods that I find to allow for the natural inclusion of related words is to read a list of the related words prior to writing my copy.  I typically use a site like to find a list of related words.
  11. Misspellings Done properly, not to deceive.  One of the more common methods that I can recommend to help capture a bit of the misspelling traffic is to make it clear that this is the misspelling. When referencing a name, I might state some of the more common misspellings are…  This one is a bit of a reach, but it can help to capture a visitor who is looking for something in particular and would be assisted by your reference.  Remember, at the end of the day, it MUST provide a better user experience and not try to “trick” the visitor or the engines.
  12. Pages supporting pages In my opinion, this is the one area where you can take a term up the search result page. Supportive content can do a lot to move a page up the rankings.  One of the ways that I will consult clients to understand when a supporting page fits is when they are writing copy and they don’t feel like something was described thoroughly enough, or that a section was to wordy for the page it was on.  This is a flag to create an entirely new page based on that sub topic.  This sub page will support the primary keyword or phrase and will provide a better informational source for your visitor.

The above list simply scratches the surface of optimizing a page. However, they are rules that you should put into practice on your web site anytime you are adding content to your site or revising existing content.  Following these basic rules will start you down the correct path and will do so in a way that will provide the best result for the visitor and will help a search engine to easily determine what your page/site is about.

Wow! Google is Pitching Nexus One in Maps

I know that Google wants to get the Nexus one out to the masses, but this surprised me.  They are pitching the Nexus one from within a map search in my browser.  Nothing wrong with using your real estate wisely, but this is a bit aggressive for Google.

Nexus One pitched in Google Maps

It isn’t often that you see Google pitch a product as much as they are with the Nexus One.  In fact they are using home page ad space that they don’t often touch. In fact, Eric Schmidt believes they are giving up billions by not doing so.  I wonder if he had to twist Marissa Mayer’s arm to push the Nexus One on the home page and in the slots within other Google products.

Think we will see a pitch within Adsense or Adwords soon?

Matt Cutts on SEO

This video has been getting a good deal of press in the SEO community.  Matt Cutts is certainly the most visible and well recognized Googler in the webmaster community.  Officially, he is head of the webspam team at Google.    Matt is an early on Google employee who loves what he does.  If you have the opportunity to see Matt speak, you will usually take something away from it that you can use, or stop using.

If you have 45 minutes….

Google Voice = Click to Call Platform

Google Voice = click to call?
Google Voice = click to call?

Google does some interesting things.   Some might think that Google is  pulling an Ebay (the Skype purchase) and rolling out Google voice, but they are not. I have been playing around with Google voice for a couple of days and have quickly come to realize that this is a fantastic platform for a click to call campaign.  I am running a click to call campaign that runs at DirectoryM and I couldn’t help but feel that the campaign management interface has many similar features with Voice.

Click to call is something that has been talked up for years.  Imagine that you could include a call icon in your Adwords ad to capture the person searching for your product or service.  With Voice, Google has a platform, the phone numbers and the ability to track campaigns. One of the beauties of Voice is that Google does not have to ask you to change anything that you currently do.  They can assign a random phone number, connect to the line of your choice and charge you for that customer action.  In the end, everyone wins…maybe.

Is this why Google bought up dark fibre a few years back?

In the end, Google wants to continue to grow search share and is always looking for avenues to display more ads.  With Voice, they are probably moving toward the front of the line of a potential shift in ad models.   I would expect that we will soon hear about the ability to add a click to call icon in an Adwords ad.

The Google PC

It is getting closer and closer.  A Google PC.  Competition is good!

Android gains fans. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is considering whether to use Google’s (GOOG) Android operating software for some of its computers. The software, which is free and open-source, could be a viable platform for netbooks, posing a direct challenge to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows system. Although no PC maker has yet publicly committed to using Android, many in the industry, including Microsoft, consider an Android-run laptop just a matter of time.

This is the most direct move into the space yet.  Gears followed by Chrome went a long way, but a light (and free) OS is a giant leap.

Google Shutting down Radio Ads

Google jumped into the radio ad market with a small amount of fanfare back in 2006. If you were someone who gave their radio ads a shot, I would bet that you might have had the same experience. Terrible audience. Well, the radio ad experiment is shutting down.

Radio advertising is like real estate. Location, location, location. If you aren’t tapping into the heart of a market, you aren’t going to provide a good product to the end user. In my market (Buffalo NY) the station mix was very poor. Fringe stations to say the least. Some test campaigns were virtually useless. Advertisers can continue using Google Audio Ads until May 31st.

Google is getting back to its roots and focusing on what comes from that. They are retreating certain fronts (selling radio ads and selling newspaper ads) and continuing to build on search and Adwords and the audience that it brings.

They need to focus on their core for the coming battle in the OS/desktop space.

Let the Traffic Shaping Battles Begin!

Traffic shaping is the practice of a broadband provider determining what data packets, if any, deserve priority. This is at the core of the battle with net neutrality. If providers are allowed to shape, then they will be able to put a throttle on traffic of their competition.

Let’s say that you have a Vonage VOIP service. What if Cox Communications decides that those packets deserve the lowest priority. What do you think would deserve a higher priority? Packets for the Cox VOIP product? Packets for the VOIP product who is paying Cox for the “fast lane” on their network? You bet and of course.

The first public volley was lobbed today (not sure why). Cox announced that they were going to experiment with aggressive traffic shaping. I have assumed that there has been experimentation with less “aggressive” traffic shaping for quite some time now.

This was followed hours later by a release that Google is going to provide tools, in partnership with Measurement lab, to let you check if your broadband connection is being ‘shaped’. This could get interesting. In my opinion, the politicians would love to throw this one to the cable and phone companies who line their pockets. However, the outcry from the public, and the market should be loud enough to slow this practice.

Why do these battles generally mean bad news for consumers?

Google Chrome, IE Killer, Nah. Firefox, look out

I am a web developer who uses IE and Firefox. Google Chrome will do more short term damage to Firefox than to IE.

I was very excited to hear about Google Chrome the other day (surprised). I downloaded as soon as it was available and began using. It has a couple of nice features. The import tool worked well and the page rendering was solid. The V8 Javascript engine that Google built certainly makes things faster on a couple of the sites that I visit on a daily basis. There are some simple features that let you modify a form on a web page to make the chore of filling things out a bit easier (You can resize a textarea box to make things more readable).

One of the biggest reasons that I jumped on Chrome was due to the fact that each tab is in its own process and can crash without crashing the entire browser. Of all things GMail doesn’t play nice with Firefox in my setup. It will crash the entire browser. If Chrome can eliminate this, it will make my day a little more productive.

Overall, things aren’t much different than what I am used to in Firefox. By midday, I found myself with Chrome and IE open. No Firefox. Other than the plug ins that I have installed with Firefox, I didn’t miss it. I still had IE open for various reasons but my expectation is that Chrome will replace Firefox once there are sufficient plug ins to make the browser as functional.

Short term, this could put Firefox out. My guess is that Firefox will see this occur and will jump into Google’s (GOOG) arms. Google will be oh so pleased to bring that development team in house.

Long term, Chrome should be able to get some footing when the price of a Windows PC is $70 more than the price of a Google PC. Heck, the $100 PC? Give away the razor to sell the blades (give away the PC to get the Searches)?

This is an interesting play and will force MSFT to once again jump through hoops. Will Bill make a triumphant return? Did he actually ever leave?

Chrome is nice. Not ready to drop IE yet (because Microsoft doesn’t play nice with standards). I expect that the browser market in the next year will be 70% IE, 10% chrome, 12% Firefox, 8% other. We’ll see how this one plays out.