Natural Search Blog


Link Building Tactics That Influence Search Engine Ranking Factors

Today’s post dwells on the discussion of link buillding tactics that influence search engine ranking factors in 2009. Link acquisition is a key component of the ranking algorithms. The number of external links pointing to your site and the anchor text contained therein can certainly propel your site to the top of the search results pages.

I will be discussing only the top 4 factors under each section with a mention of the value score allotted by the SEO professionals . This biennial survey by Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz picks the brains of the top 72 SEO professionals from all over the world and their collective wisdom is presented in this post.

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Google Image Search – Second Only To Web Search In Size

This post is based on the interview between Eric Enge and Peter Linsley, Google’s Product Manager for Image Search. It reveals some interesting aspects of image search which is growing at an accelerated pace.

A recent survey by Hitwise in February 2009 shows Google Image Search as part of the troika of top web properties owned by Google in terms of traffic and revenue.

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Can NearbyNow Escape The Fate of Local Shopping Search Engines?

NearbyNowGreg Sterling points out that a number of companies are attempting to build out inventories of local brick-and-mortar stores and expose this info via search capabilities. Greg notes that NearbyNow has just raised $11.75 million in additional funding, and that there are compelling reasons to believe that local product shopping search satisfies a lot of user needs and conforms to existing shopping behavior. Greg states:

Every shopping engine that doesn’t have this local store data will suffer at the hands of those that do. The significance of this and its potential impact on online shopping (and by extension mobile) cannot be overstated.

My initial gut reaction to NearbyNow is along the lines of: “I’ve seen this during the era of dot-bombs, and it didn’t work — why should it work now?” (more…)

Travel Searches, Local & More Searches Turning Case-Sensitive in Google SERPs

Some of us at Netconcepts have been noticing that keyword rankings in Google search engine results pages (“SERPs”) have been turning case-sensitive for some queries lately. Search Engine Roundtable highlighted that the case sensitivity issue had been reported for queries seen in the UK, but we’ve been seeing it for queries committed from the US as well.

For instance, search for something like “fossil watches” and compare with “Fossil Watches”, and you’ll see that a few of the listings in the SERPs trade ranking positions:

Google SERPs Case Sensitive - Fossil Watches
(click to enlarge)
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Google Maps Now Allows Custom Categories For Businesses

Search Engine Roundtable notes that the Google Local Business Center is allowing businesses to enter their own, custom categories. While this new functionality has been around for a few weeks now, it is an important one and addresses a major need that both Mike Blumenthal and I have highlighted previously — I recently spoke about this issue again at the SMX West session on Local Search & Blended Results. Previously, businesses could only select business categories from an unusually short list of categories. Exacerbating the issue, some businesses achieved other category associations outside of Google’s sharply limited taxonomy when their listings found in other yellow pages providers such as Superpages were absorbed into Google Maps, including the more comprehensive categories found in those other content sources.

Under the new functionality, businesses may type in custom business categories, and the interface also provides helpful potential term using the Google Suggestion Tool:

Choosing Categories in Google Local Business Center
(click to enlarge)

Free-form categories is a slightly unique way to address the need of businesses. Yellow pages companies have traditionally offered businesses the option of categorization under many thousands of unique categories — on the order of twelve thousand to fifteen thousand categories in some cases. However, YP companies have also carefully considered and turned down requests for additions of completely new categories in some cases, mainly due to how yellow pages are constructed — if there are too few businesses in a category it won’t make monetary sense to add it into a directory. And, if the category name is too esoteric, consumers won’t search for it anyway.

With Google’s local search operating more closely as a straight keyword search tool, businesses could associate categories with themselves that are as specific as they desire without affecting usability or cost.

In other, related news, Google has announced that YouTube videos are now integrated with Google Maps, allowing businesses to add video info to their listings.

Fantastic Linkbait: Google doesn’t need to find Chuck Norris for you!

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while – I saw this mentioned on John Battelle’s blog. Type “find Chuck Norris” into Google’s search form, and then hit the “I’m feeling lucky” button, and you’ll get this:

Finding Chuck Norris
(click to enlarge)

The result is a Google search results page with no listings and the message at the top states:

“Google won’t search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don’t find Chuck Norris, he finds you.”

But wait! This result page is actually a hoax, only pretending to be from Google! It’s actually produced by Arran Scholsberg. Arran is a student at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and is a web designer and photographer. (more…)

Zvents Launches Federated Local Search

Zvents announced today their launch of a new, blended search results page for local content. Now, when you do searches on their site, they’ll bring back results for various businesses, events, performances, movies, store sales and more in your local area. Here’s a screengrab of the newly-blended results page:

Zvents - New Federated Search
(click to enlarge)

You can see little icons to the right side of the listings which indicate what type of listing each result represents.

Google’s move to Universal Search in the past year and their recent move to expand out the local one-box results from a few listings to ten would indicate that user-testing is showing blended results to be a very popular item among search engine users. Zvents move to provide blended results makes them a very strong contender as a provider for local search and content technology. As Greg Sterling mentions, Zvents is a provider for syndicated content for third parties like newspapers, and they’re clearly positioning themselves as a potential backend for other local content sites wanting to have functionality similar to Google’s.

From trying out Zvents’ new functionality, (more…)

Build Your Own Local Search Engine

Quite a few bloggers out there have clued-in to how using Eurekster’s Swickis on their blogs can be a cool feature enhancement, providing custom thematic search engines for their users. If you have a blog that focuses on particular subject matter, inclusion of useful links and other features like these custom search engines can help to build loyalty and return visits. But, for webmasters who build local guides for small communities, Swickis are also an ideal way to rapidly provide robust, location-specific search functionality.

Eurekster

Over time, I’ve looked at a lot of small community guides, and many of the people who create them are masters of finding free widgets to provide functionality for things like weather forecasts, news headlines, and local events. But, many of these sites are missing even simple search functionality to help users find the local info on their site as well as elsewhere on the internet. (more…)

SES Session on Universal & Blended Vertical Search

I’m busy attending this year’s Search Engine Strategies Conference (SES) in San Jose, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to pause for half a minute in the flurry of sessions and networking to mention a couple of interesting things I heard from Google in yesterday’s session on Universal and Blended Vertical Search.

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New Breed of People Search Engine Launches: Spock.com

A little startup called Spock.com has moved into public beta today for their official public launch – previously they were only available to a handful of invite-only beta-testers. Spock is to white pages what Google Maps was to yellow pages – Spock is a sort of people search engine that pulls data from many different sites together to automatically form personal profiles of individuals. The service also allows one to search for people who match up with certain criteria like celebrities, kidnapped children, billionaires, sudoku fans, “journalists killed in Iraq”, “Baptist women who love to travel”, etc.

Spock logo

Spock is one of a new breed of people search engines which pulls data in from a variety of online sources including MySpace, LinkedIn, My Yahoo!, Wikipedia, company websites, blogs, and other sources to compose these composite profiles which include photos, descriptions, links to people related to the person in question, and tag lists of common keywords. Check out this search I did for “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan search results in Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

And, here’s the profile Spock generated for the search engine marketing “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan's profile on Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

This automatic generation of profiles from other data sources, similar to a meta search engine, is not all that new, of course – ZabaSearch has been touted for doing similar stuff to compose info on people out of various public records, sort of like a poor man’s background search. And, ZoomInfo has worked to build a directory of searchable business profiles of individuals. IceRocket also used to have a metasearch engine that pulled in data from a handful of various singles/personals sites.

What makes Spock a bit different is how they’re actively composing these profiles from sources that really haven’t been associated with one another previously, and making them publicly available, for “free” (eventually paid for by ad revenue, of course). While the general public likely hasn’t been aware of it, the CIA or NSA has actually also been working on a similar sort of search engine system which automatically composes secret dossiers of information on individuals from a multitude of sources including credit card information, criminal databases, as well as many of the same online sources used by these web services like ZabaSearch, ZoomInfo, and Spock.

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