Google Caffeine Update – Energy Boost For The Brain

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Many use Google almost as a second brain, so it may be good news to hear that it is getting a caffeine boost.  The Google Webmaster Central Blog was somewhat more low-key in inviting developers to Help test some next-generation infrastructure.

For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google’s web search. It’s the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits “under the hood” of Google’s search engine, which means that most users won’t notice a difference in search results. But web developers and power searchers might notice a few differences, so we’re opening up a web developer preview to collect feedback.

Matt Cutts gave it more of a marketing push in giving More info on the Caffeine Update.  In fact it is not one of their typical ongoing updates but it may produce very different results.  The word caffeine comes up only in their method of getting feedback.

Here’s how to give us feedback: Do a search at http://www2.sandbox.google.com/ and look on the search results page for a link at the bottom of the page that says “Dissatisfied? Help us improve.” Click on that link, type your feedback in the text box and then include the word caffeine somewhere in the text box. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

From the checks I have done, results often seem very similar but what was done fast is now done even faster. Others like Dave Naylor seem to be finding few differences either.

The only case where I saw a marked difference was for a recent blog post (only 3 days old). That was a BPWrap post entitled, Stop Your Email Newsletter Being Junk – A Case Study.  In a regular web search for ‘ip reputation email junk’, among the first 100 entries (of a total of 158,000 entries), the BPWrap blog post was there but preceded by a ca.loadedweb.com item and a digg.com item that related to that post.

In the ‘caffeine’ search, the other two did not appear in the first 100 (of a total of 181,000 entries).  The actual blog post was included and a new item referring to the blog post appeared later in the list.  That was a Squidoo page entitled Opt-Out! Freedom From Junk Mail and Phone Calls.  To my mind, this is a more useful item than the directory type entries that had appeared in the regular search. 

It would be wrong to make any inferences from only one result but perhaps others can use this finding as a hypothesis to be tested.  Oh and I did give Google my caffeine feedback.

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BWelford’s Monthly Round-Up For June 2009

This is the online version of the SMM Newsletter. It offers a highlights summary and a selection of the most popular posts written by Barry Welford (online name BWelford) during the past month.

Monthly Highlights

The Google Bombshell

The biggest news item this month was the bombshell that Matt Cutts delivered in an SMX conference in Seattle that rocked the SEO world. Danny Sullivan described why SEO experts were so incensed in signaling that Google Loses “Backwards Compatibility” On Paid Link Blocking & PageRank Sculpting. The key points that emerged were:

  1. Google for over one year had not revealed that it had reversed a significant search algorithm policy which it had previously recommended.
  2. Non-of the major SEO experts had spotted this feature was no longer working (and apparently had missed others according to Cutts).
  3. Clients had therefore paid for SEO effort that was without effect.

A new domain for BPWrap

andy capp

The blog BPWrap has now been transferred from a subdomain of the Cre8asite Forum’s website to its own domain, www.BPWrap.com. Using a 301 permanent redirect, visibility and ranking in Google keyword searches have been maintained without interruption. The toolbar page rank indicator is updated infrequently so does not yet show a rating for the new domain.

If you have linked to BPWrap posts, it would be appreciated if you would update the URLs. If you wish to transfer a WordPress blog to a new domain successfully, then please contact us.

A new domain for Local Business Online Smart Tips

This SMM mobile website is now to be found at www.lbost.com. The Internet world is increasingly going mobile. In some parts of the world, the mobile web is now much more active than the traditional Internet. Your traditional website is almost guaranteed to be unsatisfactory when viewed on some mobile device. If your most savvy customers might be checking you out via their iPhone or Blackberry, then you should carefully check your mobile presence. Contact us for assistance on this.

Top Twelve Posts

We hope you will find this round-up of a dozen of the most popular posts instructive and in some cases thought-provoking. You can receive an e-mail version of this if you prefer. In that case, please subscribe via the field in the middle of the right sidebar.

The blogs in which the posts appeared are indicated by the following abbreviations after the date: BPW = BPWrap; SGL = StayGoLinks; SMm = Senior Money Memos; SSc = SEO-Scoop, a Search Engine People blog; SEP = Search Engine People blog; TOBB = The Other Bloke’s Blog
SEO Clients Deserve NoFollow Discounts – 06/24/2009 SGL
Google now say PageRank Sculpting and the use of the NoFollow tag on hyperlinks is ineffective. SEO clients have paid to have such work done.
A URL Shortener For Maximum RTs (ReTweets) – 06/22/2009 OBB
StumbleUpon has introduced a new URL shortener that displays the blog post within a frame that maximizes the possibility that the post will be retweeted.
SEO Gets Simpler In 2009 – 06/19/2009 BPW
PageRank sculpting has largely been downplayed as a useful technique by Google. This still leaves important issues to address in SEO.
10 Reasons For Editing Your Published Blog Posts – 06/18/2009 SEP
Editing previously published blog posts is very effective in improving the value to readers and optimising search engine visibility.
Canada Text message rates have huge markup – 06/17/2009 SGL
Testimony before the US Senate suggests that Canadian text messaging fees are way above the cost. This has stifled the demand for these services.
Blog Comments And Google – 06/15/2009 OBB
Based on recent discussions on pagerank sculpting and the nofollow tag, the wisest course seems to be to limit the number of comments on a blog.
Google Mobile gives search by voice whatever your accent – 06/15/2009 SGL
Search by voice and transit directions comes to Google Maps with a whole host of new features. You can now search Google Maps for Android using your voice,
Retirement Planning – Pensions Galore – 06/14/2009 SMm
While UK pensioners, particularly those abroad with frozen pensions, have a hard time making ends meet, the politicians have all the pensions they could wish for.
Tweet Tips For Max ReTweets (RTs) – 06/11/2009 SGL
By carefully crafting the tweet signaling a new blog post with hashtags, the number of retweets can be significantly increased.
PageRank Calculation – Null Hypothesis – 06/09/2009 BPW
PageRank as it applies in the Google search algorithm may possibly be calculated in two phases. Phase 1 calculates PR for all URLs: Phase 2 applies filters and tags.
Avoid WordPress Duplicate Content Problems With Google – 06/03/2009 BPW
WordPress is an excellent blogging software but can produce many web pages with duplicate content. This can be avoided by using the right robots.txt file.
With A Little Help From My Friends – 06/03/2009 SSc
By establishing a good reputation in social media, it is possible to have friends assist in publicising new blog posts.

If you need creative help or ideas for important blog posts for your own blog, why not check out the new SMM Title-Plus Service. You will be amazed how little it costs.

Barry Welford

Footnote: If you are looking for more information on how to run your business more effectively, why not check out these Top Selling Business Books from Amazon. This is an affiliate link but if you do buy a book the small commission does help to underwrite a small part of the cost of providing these newsletters and blog posts.

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Blog Comments And Google

Summary

Given recent Google pronouncements with respect to the nofollow tag and PageRank sculpting, it is prudent to limit the number of comments that blog posts receive and methods are discussed to do that.

Introduction

Blog authors often agree to differ on the subject of comments.  Some feel it is essential to have a dialogue going with their readers through comments.  Others are turned off by all the spam comments that can often be added and so avoid comments.

An additional issue with respect to comments is whether comment authors should be allowed to have a link back to their own websites.  WordPress by default inserts a nofollow tag on such links, given the risks of spam entries.  Those who feel commenters should be allowed to have a link can use a WordPress Dofollow plug-in which removes that nofollow tag.

Google has then made this subject more complex by suggesting that paid links should be flagged with a nofollow tag since they should not influence search engine rankings..  Some SEOs have then decided they would use the nofollow tag to modify the PageRank flow within their website: this was labeled as PageRank Sculpting.  A Google comment at the SMX conference in Seattle ten days ago has now further thrown everything into confusion.

PageRank On Comments May Evaporate – Matt Cutts

The Matt Cutts comment that sparked this discussion, as reported by Lisa Barone, ran as follows in the You&A With Matt Cutts session:

It seems like you supported PageRank sculpting a year ago and now it seems like you don’t support it anymore. Why is that and will it become a negative indicator?

No, it won’t hurt your site. You can do your links however you want. You can use it to eliminate links to sign in forms and whatnot, but its a better use of your time to fix your site architecture and fix the problem from the core. Suppose you have 10 links and 5 of them are nofollowed. There’s this assumption that that the other 5 links get ALL that PageRank and that may not be as true anymore (your leftover PageRank will now “evaporate”, says Matt.). You can’t shunt your PageRank where you want it to go. It’s not a penalty. It’s not going to get you in trouble. However, it’s not as effective. It’s a better use of your time to go make new content and do all the other things.

Andy Beard has clearly stated what is needed.  In asking Can Comments Kill Your PageRank?

I do have some thoughts though:-

1. I think we need a strong statement that external links with nofollow would not cause PageRank to evaporate.
2. Nofollow is a simple solution for user generated content and comments, but if it has any effect of PageRank disappearing, we are going to lose the links on tons of blogs totally.  It would be a sad day that an action by Google reduced the interlinking of the web.

5. Links that lead to pages blocked with robots.txt and other hanging pages really need to be nofollowed. I think we need to know that in that situation PageRank wouldn’t normally evaporate, but I can understand why that might not be confirmed.

As yet, there has been no clarification on this issue from Google.

Webmasters Handle Comments Differently

It is interesting to note that Webmasters do handle Comments differently.  Michael Gray with his latest entry, The Big Fat RSS Lie, adopts what seems to be his normal policy in displaying, Comments on this entry are closed.

On the other hand, the Daily SEO Tip blog actively seeks comments from as many as possible, as with the latest post:Let’s Create the Ultimate List of Keyword Research Tools by Ann Smarty.  This seems to be the approach that most blog writers adopt.

PageRank Null Hypothesis Suggests Limit Comments

What is the best policy given what Matt Cutts had said.  One possible line of reasoning is set out in a post on a PageRank Null Hypothesis.  This would suggest that all links are included in a first phase PageRank population.  This means that the more links one has from a blog page (including comments), the lower PageRank contribution that each outlink carries.  This argument might suggest avoiding comments to limit the number of outlinks.

Conversely, comments often add useful content that is of interest to readers.  The resulting post and comments then has more content which may rank better in keyword queries.  This suggests that it may be better to have a balance allowing a number of comments but cutting these off after a certain time.

Avoiding PageRank Comments Problems

Given the above, the Comments Policy on the SMM blogs has been changed.  To capture worthwhile comment content while avoiding the more spammy comments, comments are now closed off after 21 days.

In order not to lose the possibility of useful comments after 21 days, the Google Friend Connect Social Bar has been added to the bottom of every SMM blog post so that visitors can comment there.  Such comments would not be part of the Web page content for search engine ranking terms but it does mean that other visitors can read the further comments.  Hopefully this gives the best of both worlds.

Here is a short video introduction to the Google Friend Connect Social Bar:

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The business case for excellent customer service

Customer service is more than Goodwill.

The title of this post sprang instantly to mind on seeing the latest post from Matt Cutts of Google. His was entitled “The business case for goodwill“.

I will come back to goodwill later but first let us explore customer service. Perhaps everyone in Canada is currently much more aware of customer service given the lamentable Customer Service from the Canadian Cell Phone Companies. Currently it seems to be getting even worse with the oligopoly of Bell, Rogers and Telus braving the wrath of many customers as they squeeze every customer for as many dollars as they can. They are clearly acting against their own best long-term interests and some government control is essential if government is to reflect the will of the people. It’s no surprise that Canada is seriously falling behind on the mobile Web but that is another story.

Some companies realize the importance of excellent customer service. One of the best case studies is that of Portakabin in the UK. Portakabin hires and sells permanent and relocatable buildings. Its clients include hospitals and schools, government ministries, universities and major business players such as Sony, Vodafone and Tesco. It is the leading brand in this market with 16% of the UK market.

Portakabin has unique Customer Charters for its sales and hire customers. These set out, in detail, the high levels of service that customers can expect. They include:

  • completion of every project on time and to the agreed contract sum
  • a service response within 24 hours from the customer services team
  • picking up the phone within four ‘rings’ – and by a person, not an automated system
  • a response or visit within 24 hours of a request
  • to be included in the customer care programme.

For Portakabin, good customer service is vital. It is aware that satisfied customers return to the business and ensure that healthy profits are made. They also help to build a good reputation. It knows that if customers receive good service ‘This time, next time, every time,’ then they are more likely to return.

Matt Cutts refers to a blog post by Carolyn Y. JohnsonHurry up, the customer has a complaint. She cites examples where firms monitor the Internet looking for dissatisfied customers. If you blast a gripe about Comcast on the social network Twitter, then Frank Eliason who is ComcastCares will likely be in touch to try to fix the problem. Dell is also listening carefully to what customers have to say on its DellIdeaStorm website. .. and they are are not the only ones.

Surprisingly Matt Cutts did not refer to customer service but rather to goodwill. As he questioned:

The fly in this ointment is how to make a business case for listening. What are the metrics that argue for having someone engage with a community, listen to feedback, and push for changes? Any smart person intuitively knows that good community relations are a solid idea, but how do you prove that? In a company of size X, how many people should pay attention to or be dedicated to community relations? Id be interested if other people have thought about the business case for goodwill, or know of resources that discuss this.

Perhaps the reason why a Googler would talk goodwill rather than customer service is that Google may feel it does not have customers. It provides its search results for free and its real concern is for its advertisers. That may be a somewhat short-sighted view of reality.

Sometimes public corporations go for short term results to please the stock market. However such short-term results are often achieved at the expense of long-term growth. Kaplan and Norton in their Balanced Scorecard approach suggest that other factors are important for long-term success:

The balanced scorecard retains traditional financial measures. But financial measures tell the story of past events, an adequate story for industrial age companies for which investments in long-term capabilities and customer relationships were not critical for success. These financial measures are inadequate, however, for guiding and evaluating the journey that information age companies must make to create future value through investment in customers, suppliers, employees, processes, technology, and innovation.

Satisfied customers can represent an important long-term asset. Short-changing customer service is a false economy that will be paid for by much bigger losses of revenue in the longer term. For graphic examples of this, just watch the progress of Rogers, Bell and Telus in the Canadian telecom market in the months and years to come.

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