Google has officially secured (pun intended) a deal to buy Postini, an Internet security and compliance software maker.
It’s a necessary step if Google wants to have any realistic chance of breaking into the enterprise space with their Google Apps packages — security is a major concern for any business; and some specialized knowledge to find and fill those security holes will be very welcome. This acquisition is a huge step towards serious competitiveness with local applications.
All right, this may not be precisely your main goal online. Nonetheless, there are many web sites out there which give the distinct impression that this was they’re specific purpose in creation.
Yet there are, for what it’s worth, very valid reasons to block pages some times. The trick is to make sure you’re only blocking the right documents.
One of the yet-to-come interesting features for stopping Google is the
unavailable_after meta tag, announced by Google’s Director of Crawl Systems, Dan Crow at a Search Marketing New England event this week. This is one of the most potentially useful document meta options, although the value may not be immediately apparent.
The point of the
unavailable_after meta element is to inform Google that a page should not be indexed after a certain date. This could be used in situations such as:
- Job Postings with expirations
- Sale announcements
- Special offer deals
- Expired auction listings
Basically, this would be great for any document which expires. From a user perspective, it’s incredibly dissatisfying to arrive at an expired sales page as the result of a search. From a business perspective, at best you’re providing no value; at worst you’re angering the customer. If you remove the page altogether, it may take months before the search engine catches up with you — leaving you with a hefty share of 404 responses. If you could inform the search engine right from the start that your page would cease to be valuable as of a specific date, you could avoid this whole problem.
For when and how the tag will be implemented, of course, we’ll just have to wait and see.
This is one of the basics among basics in SEO: use text on your site, and search engines will happily find it, index it, and send visitors to your site using the terms in that text. It’s a very straightforward concept, in it’s most basic realization — but the failure to complete understand it nevertheless encompasses a huge variety of errors. This is, to some degree, a bit of a rant on the topic.
At the top of the list is the failure to actually use basic descriptive language in the text. You may think that it’s bloody obvious that your website sells socks, since the site is plastered with pictures of socks of all sizes and colors. (Normally, that statement would be “of all shapes and sizes,” but I’m electing to assume they’re all generally foot-shaped.) You need to realize, however, that Google is blind. You can help it, by providing appropriate alternate texts to the images, but why not just describe the socks? A simple description is what people are likely to search for. Unless you’re very lucky, searchers don’t know your brand name, they don’t get your inside jokes, and they won’t find you unless you’re using their vocabulary.
Even web sites which have been designed perfectly to be search engine friendly can fall down hard in this respect. Except in rare circumstances, it’s just not the designer’s job to write your content for you. Somebody who really knows their job and is invested in your success will absolutely advise you on word selection and these kinds of concepts, but they can’t make it happen without your help. You know your product better than anybody else.
One horrible example of this kind of problem can happen with sites where (I’m speaking hypothetically, of course) the consultant has been hired to build a search-engine optimized site which can then be maintained and edited by the business owner.
However much time you spend documenting what needs to be done, where the client can write unique page titles and meta descriptions, and what kinds of concepts need to be incorporated into text, it doesn’t mean that it’ll happen.
Yes, it’s frustrating.
The technical issues which can cause search engine marketing problems are many, but in the end your content is what needs to be present. You can remove every possible barrier to indexing and design the information to be perfectly navigable, but if the content is empty of your key words and phrases (or at least, empty of your key words spelled correctly) and you neglect to author any kind of usable title or meta description, you’ve lost the battle.
It’s not that you need to “write for the search engines.” You need to write for the people using the search engines, and be aware that if you aren’t using the terms those people are entering in the search engine, they won’t find you.
The concept of a long tail of keywords is hugely important. It is, however, still based on the idea that the phrase permutations people use to search include certain base keywords. In the above example, if you haven’t used the word “sock,” you have thoroughly emasculated your keyword tail in both the long form and the short.
Just a simple piece of advice: read your content. Read it in isolation, without any reference to your website or any contextual images. Does it make sense? Does it name and describe the product? If the answer is “no,” get rewriting. Now!