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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Google Caffeine Real-Time, Fresh, Fast,

Matt Cutts discusses the new Caffeine Sandbox with Michael MacDonald at Search Engine Strategies Show in San Jose. Good stuff to pay attention to, since Cutts suggests that "power users" might notice differences in the rankings between the current default search and Caffeine.

Here's a suggestion I'd like to make for your testing if you do decide to check it out - play with the "Filter by Date" option in the left rail which appears on the current page if you click "options" on Google's current results page. For that matter, I'd like to suggest that many of the "options" may find their way into the standard results you get from that new SandBox.

I think they may have already released many of the tweaks in that recently released UI, but found few people using them in that form. So rather than requiring everyone to make choices (or maybe making some of the most "popular" choices already ranked from testing) the Caffeine option may represent choices made based on testing so far.

Now they want to see if you like those choices once they are baked into the default product. That's my take based on reviews and my own testing. Your mileage may vary and I may be way off base, but it's a good story.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Boondoggle SEO - Jill Whalen Stirring up Bad SEO's

Jill Whalen, one of best SEO's in the industry, stated the obvious last week - that there are bad SEO's working away with unknowing, uneducated clients - and suddenly there's an uproar due to the great (link bait) title for her Boondoggle SEO post at SearchEngineLand. Not surprisingly others interviewed Jill because she stated the obvious (with that great link-bait title), causing another wave of blog posts and a bit more controversy.

I have a lot of respect for Jill, and also for a few of those she disagrees with. But the disagreements all come down to differences in opinion on minor issues that can turn bad SEO's into evangelists for their pet techniques. (They've gotta protect their image and justify what they just sold to the clients who may question their recommendations after hearing of Jill's position.)

My opinions have ebbed and flowed on ingredients off the secret sauce of SEO for a dozen years, but we are all acting on a single method - deconstructing search results.

Google doesn't tell us how to make sites search friendly, we have to figure it out by doing searches and looking at the results. Some are lucky enough to be in a position to do large-scale testing, some may rely a bit too much on some carefully stated pearl of wisdom from Google insiders uttered at a conference or in a video. Some build vast technical tools with carefully crafted algorithms meant to figure out the machinations in Mountain View, and still others do nothing but adopt the latest technique they heard at some forum or in a newsletter.

Sometimes new things are discovered that work to adjust search rankings upward which may work only temporarily because the engines are working on stopping it from becoming the next search engine spammer tool. But at the end of the day, the fundamentals matter most, some things stop working because the search engines see that they are too easily abused, and we SEO's keep struggling to make sense of it all.

Kudos for gaining the attention of the industry Jill and thanks for re-focusing our attention on best-practices and fundamentals. You can count on BAD SEO's to attempt to rip your statements to shreds because it upsets their business model. Count on some disagreements from some and some supportive rallying cries from others - while we all keep doing our best for our clients and employers at honing our skills and keeping up with industry trends and new developments.

I do love this job - but sometimes it gets ridiculous how dramatic the obvious can become.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

SEM or SEO? No Both for Most Search Teams

At the MediaPost Search Insider Summit, I got the opportunity to join a panel on social media and search with Darrin Shamo of Zappos and panel moderator Bob Heyman of MediaSmith (and co-author of the book Digital Engagement). I'm not going to discuss that panel here and will leave that to another post. But an interesting thing came up during my presentation...

The event is pretty heavily weighted toward SEM and I asked what turned out, to those in attendance, to be a bit of a dopey question. I asked "How many here are interested purely in SEM?" then when only a couple of hands were raised, I was encouraged to think it may be more of an SEO crowd, so I asked "How many are interested purely in SEO?" and saw only another sprinkling of raised hands.

So, based on one of my previous experiences at a major company where the team was half SEM and half SEO, and my current position, which is entirely SEO team with no SEM - I assumed a similar situation would be true of most in-house teams at substantially sized companies.

My assumption was apparently skewed. It seems that most do double-duty on in-house teams. When I asked "What's the balance here?" a few people said, (a few with emotion) "Both!"

That surprised me, based on what I knew before asking that question. But now I know that, at least among the crowd attending Search Insider Summit, that the oft joined SEM/SEO label applies to most. Well I suppose that was a gaff then, but...

Later in the day, I overheard a conversation on a shuttle bus which makes me wonder if SEO is being best served by in-house SEM/SEO's. After two strangers from the conference exchanged greetings & pleasantries, the inevitable "What do you do?" came up from one.

The answer, "SEM and I've been tasked with learning SEO for our team." (emphasis mine) Then the response from an ill-informed questioner was short-sighted and probably simplistic thinking from those who THINK they understand SEO - "So you're learning about meta tags and H1's?"

I'd like to argue that the two disciplines should be divided and I'd wager that many SEM's who love what they do will agree. The skill-set is completely different. Both SEM's and SEO's deal with keywords, and target search engine results pages, but that is where the similarity ends.

Having recently worked day-to-day with an SEM team in-house and being separated only by a cubicle wall for 18 months. I recall the SEO team only dealing with the SEM team during our bi-weekly online marketing group meetings.

So if someone who loves SEM is "tasked with learning SEO," (like that overheard conversation I mentioned above) they are not likely to understand or fully invest themselves in truly learning an important aspect of the Search Marketing business. They'll learn a couple of things and not all aspects of the work. They'll continue to do a great job of SEM and start doing a poor job of SEO.

I'll also argue that if that role is reversed and an SEO is "tasked with learning SEM for the team" then they will learn a few things, but not all of the elements of good SEM and not do a complete and thorough job of SEM but will continue to do a good job of SEO.

I recall a couple of job interviews about 5 years ago where in both cases, I was talking with an SEM manager who had convinced their boss that they needed a full-time SEO on staff to handle things they weren't able to continue doing as the company grew. Rather than evenly split SEM and SEO tasks among two staffers, they were dividing the two. That's the smart way to go.

I didn't take either of those jobs, and I'm quite happy about that now. I also walked away from a job that would have required me to significantly sharpen my SEM skills so that I could handle both. I didn't doubt that I could do it, but love SEO and very likely wouldn't have done as well with the SEM piece.

So I'd like to ask the question of those SEM/SEO dual purpose people - are you doing both because you love both or are you doing both because you were "tasked to learn" one of those pieces because your company won't increase the budget enough for a new head on the payroll? Would you rather focus on one or continue doing both?

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Canonical Tag Ends Dupe Content, Consolidates PageRank

Big News in an SMX West announcement by search engines last week! There is a new tag to place in the "Head" section of your web pages which can resolve forever the problem of duplicate content in search!

Something many SEO's have fought for years are things such as session ID's, tracking ID's, referrer tags, clickstream data, and variable formatting and source strings in URL's. As of this day in SEO history, those are no longer a problem.

Google's Matt Cutts, in the WebProNews video below announces that the three top search engines have each signed on to support the "Canonical tag" concept, which allows webmasters to post the canonical source for all potentially duplicated URL's. (Those URL's that vary, but produce the same content.)

That new magical tag (shown below) is a godsend for those of us who have fought for years against "Print page" URL variations, "Marketing tracking URL's," database strings which tell servers how to display everything from page formatting to custom logos and that dreaded "Session ID" problem.

I'd started to dread speaking with engineers and developers to request a new 301 redirect, and now I can simply ask for a site-wide application of this tag to tell search engines to redirect everything that varies that URL string.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

That way, if we have a marketing campaign running with an URL like this:

That Canonical tag above simply tells search engines to consolidate PageRank and more or less treat any variation in that URL with added appendages as a single headed beast, rather than the many headed Hydra it can turn into on some sites.

I intend on continuing the fight against splitting pagerank among many tracking coded URL's, but the search engines have just made it much easier to solve for this problem in cases where 301 redirects are not practical. Thank goodness for this little SEO godsend.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

SEO Accessibility for Visually Impaired Visitors: OdioGo

For years I've been interested in SEO as it related to web accessibility issues. After doing some initial research into how SEO was tied to accessibility, I wrote an article (linked above) suggesting that they are so closely linked they should be married. So far I've found little interest among clients in making their sites fully W3C Compliant for Accessibility, due to the low volume of blind visitors to their web sites.

Visually impaired web visitors often use special screen readers to allow them auditory access to web page text content. But today I stumbled across a tool that makes text content accessible, not only to visually impaired, but to anyone who'd rather listen than read. So there is actually little to no SEO benefit to the audio option discussed here.

This makes "Accessible" have another meaning - as in accessible to those who prefer auditory to visual content. As a matter of fact, you can subscribe via iTunes if you like, among others.There is a great audio subscription page hosted by OdioGo, which gives visitors the option of listening to a stream of all posts or downloading individual MP3's.

As you may have noted, there is a "Listen Now" link right below the post title above, which plays an automated "Text to Speech" version of this blog post. I doubt there is any SEO benefit to that and since it is displayed using javascript, it won't work for those who surf with javascript turned off. That's a bit ironic, since accessibility is often opposed to content displayed using AJAX or javascript.

I've been interested not just in accessibility though - I'm interested in availability to all who might be interested, including those who don't happen to speak my language. I've recently installed the Google Translate widget on several of my websites for the benefit of those who seek my content in other languages (in the left shoulder on this blog).

Again, no value to SEO there, and there are no cached versions of those pages to get indexed in foreign search engines, but it does make the content available and useful for more people - who may use the AddThis "Share" button to bookmark - which leads to more external inbound links and higher rankings.

I guess it's a great illustration of the concept "Just create great content" and your audience will find you. In this case, those who speak other languages, and those who would rather listen than read your blog.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Demand Media @ Web 2.0 Conference 2008

The video below is Richard Rosenblatt at the Web 2.0 conference presenting on Demand Media Social Media tools. Pluck on Demand discussed and explained.

Full disclosure: I work for Demand Media.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

SEO Salaries, SEO Jobs & In-House Survey - More Data!

In October of 2006, when I was first interviewing for in-house SEO positions, I wrote a series of articles on SEO job searches (listed below) and incorporated my own research on Salary ranges for SEO.

Here's a chart I created at the time showing in-house SEO salary ranges from data. If you are currently looking for an SEO job, I invite you to use the Google Custom Search SEO jobs Search Engine To Find Search Marketing Jobs I created this CSE back then when Google first introduced the tool.

I also shared a list of articles on SEO jobs both from myself and others which I'll include again here:

If you are interested in more SEO salary data there is the November 2006 post from Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz.

Then there is this Top 30 Cities to Earn a Big SEO Salary chart from Reilly O'Donnell at Onward Search.

Here's a great tool from SimplyHired which can show SEO Salaries by city if they have appropriate income data based on past job posts.

Director Of SEO Salaries in San Francisco, CA | SimplyHired

Then there is this Manoj Jasra interview with SEMPO's Duane Forrester which is short on actual numbers, but gives some good surrounding data. Curiously, I couldn't fine the actual SEMPO data from that salary survey on their site which was released right before the interview. Perhaps it's not public?

Below is an SEO survey from Jennifer Mathews (or SEO Goddess) which I'd love to see results. Jenn promises to share results if you provide an email address. Thanks for this Jenn!

There's nothing wrong with more data on SEO so please chime in and offer your two cents.

If you are looking for a great SEO Job now, good luck with your search and please share your current salary range in the survey above.

If you are attending SES San Jose this month and have between 7-10 years of combined SEO/SEM (both organic & paid search) experience and are looking for a great Director Level job in San Francisco, leave a comment here and I'll hook you up with an interview. ;-)

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Tag Clouds & SEO - Tagging Engineers & Developers

Saw this great tag cloud cartoon on ReadWriteWeb (RWW) today and it prompted this blog post. I've got a mini-rant on this topic due to my constant advocacy for tag clouds and resistance from everyone I recommend them to.

Why? OK, it's because it requires a custom build, I admit that. But I truly believe the reason tag clouds have hung in the margins (literally) is because everyone wants an "off-the-shelf" solution to tag clouds. I just haven't found one already built that both works for SEO and makes sense to users.I see a huge SEO value in them if implemented in a completely different way than everyone seems to be doing it.

That cartoon above seems to be suggesting tag clouds have died. I really don't care if they have or not - because they've never been done right for SEO purposes. I argue for tag clouds on a relevance model - not popularity models as they are most frequently used.


Let me back up a little for the uninitiated, and we'll go through the basic concepts here. The intent as designed in the popularity model seems to have been to display the most frequently used keywords that people apply as tags on a given site or blog or photo-sharing site. The more popular or frequent a word or phrase is on that site or for a particular photograph or article, the larger the font those keyword phrases are displayed in within the cloud. Larger words mean they are more popular and are more often used as tags on the site.

While the above is a fun graphical representation, it's not what "real" tag clouds look like, so to be thorough, here is an example from Wikipedia page on tag clouds.

Image:Web 2.0 - Wikipedia, tag clouds

Those individual tags are then linked to a page bearing a list of articles or photos tagged with the word or phrase you click on. While this blog is not using tag "clouds", it is using tags. If you click on the "yahoo" tag, you'll end up on a page which includes all posts I've tagged with "Yahoo" from among my blog posts. (Go on Try It!).

Most off-the-shelf tag clouds are done in javascript or AJAX or flash - all bad for SEO purposes.

Most custom build tag cloud solutions fail to use the tag microformat which would be favored by search engines and instead - they simply link the tags to an internal search function which does a site-level search for the word linked in the cloud. This is horrible for search relevance, user experience (due to poor results), and for SEO.

I want tag clouds that group only topically relevant words. This requires a different mind-set than most apply to tagging. I want all RELATED words and phrases in a cloud, then I want each word or phrase hyperlinked the way the tags used on this blog are linked - by going to a page which includes all articles tagged with that particular phrase.

I don't care about popularity in this model - I want relevance in my tag clouds. I'm convinced that a) search engines would love this model, b) users would love this model and therefore c) clients who take this advice someday will love the relevance model of tag clouds because of a) and b) bringing search referral traffic that loves the utility of those tag clouds which deliver them to EXACTLY what they are searching for - in plain HTML - not in javascript, flash or AJAX.

The pages grouping tagged articles listed could take excerpts of the articles to avoid duplicate content penalties. The headlines from articles could be linked to the full page versions.

If anyone knows of a script or utility which could generate effective, relevancy model tag clouds in a plug-n-play way that I can hand to clients - I'd be happy to become a reseller - since I'm not a developer. Sometimes I wish I had the skills to do SEO engineering, but oh well - I'm an idea guy who does SEO strategy.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Flash SEO Coming: Spammer Exploits Follow?

Flash SEO may soon be a service offered by search marketing firms and in-house teams will be scrambling to learn and leverage the latest tricks of SWF optimization. Adobe says:
We are releasing technology to Google and Yahoo that enables them to crawl and index SWF files. They are now searchable. This will open up millions of Flash files to search.

Google claims they developed the technology, but either way, it's clear that Adobe doesn't want the public to know what is in that technology made available to "Google and Yahoo" (What? No Microsoft?). I believe I'd like the opportunity to make technology available to Google and Yahoo to effectively search my own sites and those of my clients so I could sell more products to the public.

OK, Adobe owns web video format and isn't likely to sell Flash Optimization tools to the public that just happen to help optimize Flash which work well with that tool they released to Google and Yahoo as a part of their Flash Studio Suite - are they?

Enough cynicism - let's look at the effect this may have on SEO for Flash. White text on white background keyword stuffing in SWF files will be a lot harder to discover without that proprietary tool released to the search engines - but do you think anyone will attempt to game that?

Sorry I meant to drop the sarcasm - it snuck up on me again. Well now search engines will be able to "see" the text in Flash files and index it as though it were plain HTML on the page. Most SEO's know how hard it is to get their clients to actually USE the phrases they want to rank for on the page in plain text on the page (Sorry no javascript, no image based text, no AJAX, no "display=none" in CSS).

Well how likely is it we can get those same clients, now freed from the "No Flash" restriction we handed to them in regard to their navigation links and body text - to actually use their keyword phrases in indexable text in Flash? We'll have to have long conversations with Flash developers about best practices for Flash SEO, one group we didn't need to train in SEO previously.

Sorry to say, SEO's will all now need to purchase Adobe Flash Studio to deconstruct the text inside those flying, bouncing, twisting, spinning, turning letters, only to find out there is very little readable text in those files anyway. The links may be crawlable, but how does the custom Adobe algorithm treat hypertext embedded keyword phrases in Flash versions of image files?

Adobe, I see higher sales in your future.

Google and Yahoo, I see a lot of indexed spinning text under hyperlinks exposed to your flash indexing tool from Adobe.

Fellow SEO's, I see a lot of silly discussions with clients AND their flash developers about Flash SEO best practices and how they don't apply to image based text or double spaced spinning letters or white text against a white background in those Flash files. And I have to buy new software to have those conversations.

I have a headache already!

Adobe Press Release Here

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Twellow People Search for Twitter by iEntry

Interesting concept from iEntry Network appears to be a search engine for Twitter people which categorizes Twitter profiles and shows their last tweet, along with when it appeared (23 hours ago), your city, number of followers and that all important link to your site. That logo though, why does the smiley face (the "O" in Twellow) appear to have a wide-eyed embarrassed appearance, almost as though he were caught doing something inappropriate?

I'd argue for a winking Trickster characterization - who might be saying, "You are only as good as your last tweet." I guess since they now have the name and color scheme suggesting some kind of tie-in with the "Yellow" - it's gonna stay a yellow happy face, but that startled "Oops! You caught me!" look seems to almost suggest people say things they shouldn't on Twitter.

I had to laugh at my categorization too, it appeared under "Food" as well as SEO, I think because I say in my Twitter profile "Eat, Drink, Dream SEO" and it must use your self provided details to categorize people.
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

iEntry is promoting the site through a house ad in their emailed newsletters, or at least that's how I found it. The database seems to have been building since April as that is when most long-time Twitterers were added to the Twellow site. So the inevitable question of why - or "How do you monetize this?" We have Summize to search tweets, now we can search people at another place.

The site is still being crawled by Google as it only has 288 pages indexed as of this writing - if the entire catalog of users is indexable, it would exceed that little "315,795 people, and counting" in number of pages displayed in the upper right corner and would include more than just the current categories showing in a Google "site" limited search. Could use some SEO as well, since "User Profiles" are currently not showing title tags to match - simply "". At least they aren't putting "NoFollow" on the links to your site at this point. ;-)

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

SEOBook Firefox Rank Checker Extension - Free

Aaron Wall of SEOBook is offering a free Firefox Rank Checking plugin which may come to replace many paid services or software! At only one day old (introduced publicly on March 31st), it's got some significant buzz going - at least on his own site - with over 75 comments already.

Here's a tutorial video Aaron Created which reviews the powerful feature set and use of the tool.

Amazing Stuff Aaron! Thanks for the great FREE tool!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

TV-SEO - Samsung Brings Search to Live Television

I never would have noticed this myself, until David Berkowitz from "Search Insider" at Media Post finds the little nugget at Engadget and starts talking about the search element to the unfortunately named "See'n'Search Set Top Box". Berkowitz suggests that

"... media companies, cable operators, and advertisers will want to discover more ways this technology can be used."
Well let me pipe up here and offer a suggested use!

TV SEO may be on the horizon sooner than expected. Samsung electronics has introduced a "Set Top Box" (Demo Video here) hardware which allows a TV viewer to search for related content on the web. (Seems like they would be better off selling their chip to Motorola, Tivo, et al to incorporate into current cable and satellite and DVR boxes.) This technology is based on television standard "Closed Captioning" which provides text transcripts on screen for the hard-of-hearing. There is also metadata available for programs listing program titles, characters, news anchors, talk show guests and movie actors, and/or those appearing on-screen during broadcast.

That information is available over the air and is rich in what it takes for search engines to determine relevance - text. Now Samsung is offering hardware which can access that standard television closed caption and metadata and use it to search relevant and related information for viewers and display web searches for that data through a scrolling menu, rather than a keyboard.

This is a disruptive way to watch television, as you may have observed from the video above. But there are options, actually two or three options - which Samsung is apparently offering.

  1. Immediate viewing of web pages or multimedia web content on-screen. Disruptive to the viewing experience.
  2. Access via externally connected devices such as tablet PC's or smart phones. Better and less disruptive to family members viewing the same TV.
  3. Access to searches via connected PC's or Laptops running an application tied to the set top box. Good solution so far.
But I have a suggested best-by-far option - DVR such as Tivo with functionality which stores and saves all that information (metadata and closed caption text) as the program is recorded, for use later by laptop or PC.

Clearly those with DVR's will recognize the value of making all of the information made available via the SamSung set-top-box accessible at a later time to use as you wish, allowing time-shifting of the search functionality as well as the recorded program.

So how long will it be before we (SEO's) are optimizing our web sites and multimedia content for TVSEO? Clearly it opens up dramatic traffic potential for sites addressing items discussed in hot news stories, or products mentioned on talk shows, or any number of authority web sites on any conceivable topic which may be discussed on television.

I see the potential there for new meta data inserted in both the closed captioning and within web sites, which facilitate find-ability of information online through this new search window on television sets. (Official TV Show web site, links to advertisers, PPC ads, actor profiles) I also see many more players entering the market to mine this potential traffic source. Those who jump in early will clearly benefit.

Kudos to Samsung for clearing the path to television search - now I hope Tivo, Google, and the television industry, as well as cable and satellite providers will see the value and offer the option of truly interactive television by linking it to the web and allowing recording of the closed captioning and related meta data for later use.

(I'll never understand why Microsoft didn't go this way when they bought WebTV for $450 Million in 1997 - they had both audiences in hand. Maybe their potential marriage with Yahoo will help them see the way to do it now? No- Yahoo had the original social media site in GeoCities and wasted that audience too. Neither company knows how to make the most of their assets.)

Here's what is available so far from Samsung on the box, beyond the video you saw above:

I've seen a secondary press release from Samsung distributed on February 14th Valentines Day all over the web, but the release below, distributed by Samsung on January 6th, the day before CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in PDF form and lost to all in the crush of new product announcements, was made available on the Samsung site (available in HTML in the Google cached copy) - when will corporations begin to understand the web?

They've introduced the "See'n'Search Set Top Box" at CES where it is buried among thousands of press releases and 187 other mentions of Samsung electronics products at the show. They distributed a secondary press release on Valentines Day, neglecting to do some sort of tie-in to attract attention to their product using maybe a love theme?

Nope, but then it's duly reported by engadget, parroted on Mashable and again repeated by Techmeme, then dropped again from notice. Samsung, in that secondary press release fails to say what they did say in the first release - that the unit will be available Q3 2008 (see below). I even saw a couple of tech blogs saying, "Samsung doesn't say when the unit will be available" and thus the problem with bloggers, nobody does any research.

Samsung doesn't make it easy to find, but there is an "About See'N'Search" page on their site.

Here's the January 6, 2008 Press release from the Samsung web site promising delivery by Q3 of this year:

Samsung Electronics America
Phone: (201) 229-4752

Colin Ruane
MWW Group
Phone: 212) 827-3742


New Technology Eliminates the Need for a PC, Keyboard or Special Content Programming, Bringing Targeted Media Content Directly to the Living Room


LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2008 – Samsung Electronics, a global leader in consumer electronics and digital technology, today is changing the way consumers enjoy the Internet in the living room with the introduction of its See’N’Search technology. Using just their TV’s, users can directly pull up Internet information and media-related content onto the screen program without the need for a PC/keyboard and or special content programming.

Where previous attempts at bringing the Internet to the TV have faltered due to the need for a keyboard or the overhead of special authoring through a content ecosystem, Samsung’s See’N’Search technology automatically suggests existing Internet media and information related to the programs users are already watching.

“See’N’Search technology will revolutionize how consumers will see and use the Internet in the living room in the next few years” said Alan Messer, director of connected consumer technologies of Samsung’s U.S. Research and Development Center. “By greatly minimizing the need to manually search for related content and special interactive content authoring, this technology enables consumers to directly watch or surf Internet content that is relevant to them.”

Just as a consumer would search a channel guide to see what’s on and when, Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box uses the same information, in addition to the closed caption metadata that is present for most programming, to scour existing Internet content (HTML coding, Web video, etc.) and make recommendations that would appeal to the user. To do this, the system monitors the contents of the program being watched, using lightweight natural language technologies to determine the topics that are being discussed. When the user presses the “More Info” button, the See’N’Search UI appears on-screen with related information or media that the system found on the Internet. The consumer simply selects a piece of content from any particular topic, and See’N’Search takes them directly to that content.

What’s more, See’N’Search information can also be transmitted from the TV or set-top box to any connected devices in the living room, such as Wi-Fi enabled phones, tablets or laptops. This enables users to personally surf related Internet content without disturbing the family.

“Samsung’s See’N’Search technology gives a whole new way of getting to the Internet without turning the TV into a PC,” said Victoria Coleman, vice president of Samsung’s U.S. Computer Science Laboratory.

Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box will be available in Q3 of 2008.

About Samsung Electronics America, Inc. Headquartered in Ridgefield Park, NJ, Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (SEA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., markets a broad range of award-winning, advanced digital consumer electronics and home appliance products, including HDTVs, home theater systems, MP3 players, refrigerators and laundry machines. A recognized innovation leader in consumer electronics design and technology, Samsung is the HDTV market leader in the U.S. and is the only manufacturer that produces all four major digital television technologies. Please visit for more information.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Universal & Blended Search at SES San Jose

The Search Engine Strategies session on Universal and Blended Search was the highlight of the day at SES on Monday. A great panel made up of a cross section of industry luminaries made for stimulating and varied discussion of one of the biggest things to launch in search for years. Panelist Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR suggested that Universal search is a huge development and rivals the Google Florida update.

Jarboe showed some screenshots including recent phrases in the news done NOT at Google News, but at Google standard search. A half dozen examples brought up in various combinations - news story results (with photo thumbnail), videos, photos, blog results, maps, images and onebox results. The position of each of those in the rankings varied, but news and maps were usually nearer the top or at the top, with video results hovering around the middle of the page and blog results, photos (from image search) at the bottom of the page.

While we've heard the term "Google Universal Search" used quite often, this is the first time I've heard it shortened to "G.U.S." Sherwood Stanieri of Catalyst Online followed Jarboe and discussed how universal and blended search affects video in the rankings. In researching how positions in the top 10 results change but show inconsistencies in how their rank was determined by relating those results to pagerank, number of views of those videos and numbers of comments to those videos on social sites and finally, the popularity of the topic searched on.

In Universal search it appears that Google "Hot Topics" (formerly Zeitgeist) is a part of the algo since those topics spiking in popularity will bring up video results more often if they are on that list (and likely photos, news and relevant blog posts).

Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea was up next and pulled his expected studious dissecting of search patents into the discussion. While I'd love to say I did follow a few of his examples and agree with his conclusions and assertions - I can't outline them effectively here as they seemed to bounce around a bit, pulling bits and pieces out of published patent here and there and back to his own findings, then to search results.

Google engineer David Bailey leads the Universal Search effort and summed up his thoughts on what Universal Search means to SEO by saying "Business as Usual". OK David, I happen to agree, but couldn't you expand a bit? Tim Mayer of Yahoo briefly how Yahoo's Blended search intent was to improve user experience, but to me it appeared that Yahoo intends to do all they can to keep searchers on the Yahoo site, with pop-up windows, shortcuts to the giants of ebiz and exclude all but their own pages from click-throughs. Eric Collier of Ask talked about their new 3D search, and how fewer users moved to page two of results, suggesting better relevancy of page one results.

I'll reiterate what David Bailey had to say "Business as Usual" when it comes to SEO - Google improves results and sends more searchers to relevant sites, Yahoo keeps users on their site and Ask works pretty well, but can't get a handle on a substantial market.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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SES PR Train Wrecks Don't Address Search Engine Marketing

I attended my first session of the day at Search Engine Strategies (SES) San Jose in order to learn more about bad PR as it relates to SEO. Oops, no search discussed here.

The session was titled, "Public Relations Train Wrecks in the Interactive Biz: Disaster Can Be Avoided!" I assumed we'd hear about how things like the Microsoft/Edelman PR Blooper. I figured it would address how search results can haunt a company like Walmart, that handles their PR badly. I thought it may be at least peripherally about how bad PR search results are persistent due to bloggers linking to results using the company name.

The session description says,

"Interactive marketers know that public relations and marketing are hopelessly intertwined. Yet many in the interactive space do not understand how to develop a successful relationship with key publishers. Don't just issue a release and hope for the best. Learn the difference between productive efficient contact and annoying drivel. This unprecedented and candid discussion with today's top interactive marketing editors will reveal train wrecks (no names please) and best practices for you.
I chose to attend this session thinking, since this is a search conference, that it would have to do with search. I guess I'm going to have to carefully read session descriptions to be sure they aren't talking about things that have little to do with search. Hmmm.

Rebecca Lieb of ClickZ, (sister site to SEW under Incisive Media ownership) and Brad Berens of Imedia Connection (I'm not sure whether to be embarrassed that I haven't heard of them) were the only panelists introduced by moderator Kevin Ryan (of Incisive media). The two panelists sounded as though their days are spent under a constant flurry of bad press releases, follow-up emails, and pitches from PR firms, followed by endless phone calls from annoying publicists. The session description might have been accurate, but what does this have to do with search?

Don't get me wrong and think that I'm suggesting that this wasn't a good presentation by some worthwhile panelists on an interesting topic - but I spent a good deal of my time waiting to hear the relevance to search. It never came.

Both Berens and Lieb strongly emphasized how important it is for PR representatives to "Know thy Editor" and to know the Audience of the publications they seek coverage from - that they not "waste" the time of editors (and publications) that have little to do with the topic being pitched to them.

Were Berens and Lieb told they were speaking at a search conference? Do they know the audience at SES is made up of SEO's and SEM's? "Know thy audience" might be suggested to speakers at search conferences. The session was sparsely attended, but if PR reps are lacking at a search conference - I hardly find that unexpected. Perhaps if that description were changed a bit to include a bit more SEARCH relevance, and the speakers covered a topic expected at a SEARCH conference - or even skewed this topic toward search topics, the attendance might increase just a bit.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Marriage of SEO & Accessibility Prevents Lawsuits, Increases Visibility

The WorldWide Web Consortium (W3C), in May 0f 1999, issued Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which outlined methods of making web content easily accessible to the visually and physically impaired. In those guidelines the W3C stated plainly,
"Provide content that, when presented to the user, conveys essentially the same function or purpose as auditory or visual content."

Well, one purpose is to communicate your site content to blind search engine spiders, which can't hear auditory content either. If only we would pay attention to the W3C, the web would be fully accessible to all and completely search engine friendly. Hindsight and attention to historical web developments might serve to make us aware that SEO and accessibility are interwoven. Yes, SEO, as we'll discuss a bit more below. But first, let's look a bit closer at the W3C guidelines on accessibility.

Those guidelines recommend that web developers
"Use features that enable activation of page elements via a variety of input devices."
The idea is to allow those using assistive devices, or those with javascript disabled to navigate a web page easily and without the need of a mouse, using alternate methods to move through and activate links on the page. When using text only readers, web-enabled cell phones and other small screen devices it's not always possible to easily access and activate web page content.

There have been a few high-profile cases which should have served as wake-up calls for accessibility to online business.
"In 1999, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sued America Online, claiming it discriminated against the blind because its system is not accessible to them. The federation later dropped the lawsuit when AOL agreed to make its software compatible with devices designed for visually impaired users."

The above quote appeared in a 2002 CNet News story by Declan McCullough about another lawsuit against Southwest Airlines was filed and U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies only to physical spaces, such as restaurants and movie theaters, and not to the Internet."

That CNet story was written after a law suit was filed against Southwest Airlines because the web site was not accessible to visually challenged web surfers using "screen reader" technology to browse the web. The story was titled "Disabilities Act Doesn't Cover Web"

OK, now lets jump forward another year to 2003, when attention was focused on Search Engine Optimization when Brandon Olejniczak wrote an article for Alistapart (ALA) titled "Using XHTML/CSS for an Effective SEO Campaign" and discussed the value of coding to current web standards to lighten page code and remove excessive javascript from web pages, thus improving search engine friendliness of web sites.

There was still little attention paid to the connection between the two seemingly unrelated issues of accessiblity and SEO until Andy Hagans followed up with an article for ALA titled "High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization" in 2005 which pointed out that paying attention to accessibility increases search engine rankings. He said,

"I have been a search engine optimizer for several years, but only recently have become infatuated with web accessibility. After reading for weeks and painstakingly editing my personal website to comply with most W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, I have come to a startling revelation: high accessibility overlaps heavily with effective white hat SEO."

Wait, an SEO "infatuated with accessibility" - they like each other and are now flirting! What a great couple they'd make! SEO's could approach their clients with the dual promise of improved search rankings AND keeping them out of court on accessibility issues. If a company loves that sexy search and cares little about accessibility, won't the idea of having search as a good friend make them at least accept the dull boyfriend, accessibility?

So in July of 2006, Google jumps into the web accessibility fray with "Google Accessible Search" which purports to rank web sites based on how accessible they are to visually impaired visitors. This is a very interesting development as it suggests that sites which are NOT "accessible" rank differently in this special Google Labs version of the search engine than they do in the normal search. If this were true, then Andy Hagans may be off-base in his assumption that accessibility and SEO go hand in hand. (Apparently Google participated in some accessibility studies with two university intern researchers right around this time.)

One noticable difference in "Google Accessible Search" results is that multiple pages from the same site show up in those search results, where in regular Google searches, only two pages from the same site are allowed to appear in results. Still there is little discussion among SEO's how accessibility and search might be, if not lovers, then at least VERY close and getting serious.

Now we'll jump back into the halls of justice with two new lawsuits in late 2006. One in which the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) sues Target on behalf of a blind shopper over web site accessibility, and another where blind Texas state workers sue because the Texas Workforce Commission bought human resources software that is not accessible to blind workers.

Now - in December of last year - hop over to MediaPost, where Rob Garner is ruminating in "Search Insider" about "SEO 2.0 And The Pageless Web: The RIA Search Conundrum" (RIA meaning "Rich Internet Applications") and referencing asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) and difficulties gaining search visibility using (javascript links) techniques which don't require re-loading of a page to add new content.

Hmmmm. Remember my reference in the first sentence? WorldWide Web Consortium (W3C), in May 0f 1999, issued Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in which they recommend -
"Use features that enable activation of page elements via a variety of input devices."
AJAX, once again, requires use of a mouse, active javascript and visual cues not available to visually challenged visitors. Why do developers keep going there? I know, I know, because those sexy new tools are irresistible - but remember, SEO and accessibility are VERY good friends and miss SEO dislikes web tricks that insult or ignore the boyfriend, accessibility.

Now let's hop forward to March of this year, where Rob Garner comments on the Texas lawsuit and that accessibility and search are often seen together. Now Garner is on the case (or maybe two separate cases), when he says,
"If nothing is being done for accessibility or search, mobilize your developers, designers, search specialists, and accessibility specialists to assess and determine the best solution.This will likely involve the creation of an entire second site for search engines and screen-readers. If rich applications are a part of your future, get used to the idea of maintaining two sites."

Here we go again! Let's NOT have two separate sites - CSS and XHTML can accomplish the same things as AJAX and Flash (well at least similar things), remember SEO and accessibility REALLY like each other - don't separate them, bring them together.

Hold the presses, I have a great idea! Now that SEO and Accessibility have met, flirted and they clearly like each other, I propose that we get them married so that these issues stay forever together. I know it's not the norm for third parties to make marriage proposals (except in shotgun weddings), if the two are wed, won't that be enough to convince the web engineering teams AND corporate counsel that helping visually impaired web visitors (and avoiding lawsuits from NFB) WHILE ranking well in the search engines are very good business?

Pre-nuptials could be complex and it may be tough to get everyone to wrap their head around the concept of SEO married to accessibility, but it ultimately means increased web site visitors due to higher search rankings and less money lost fighting lawsuits over accessibility issues. More money, more visitors, less time in court - sounds like a marriage made in heaven.

Remember, search engine spiders are blind and can't hear. Design your pages for them and it resolves accessibility issues. SEO and accessibility are true soul-mates and should never be separated. The W3C neglected to introduce SEO to accessibility in 1999, but they did see the accessibility issues. Now that we realize search engine spiders demand accessibility and are responsible for increased search engine visibility (pun intended, sorry) let's not separate the two again. Profitability is related to accessibility, which is now married to SEO.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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