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Google+ larger improved posts

It seemed that Google+ is slowly catching up with Facebook when it comes to improving the visual experience when it comes to sharing great content on Google+. Below is the current and old style post that you see when you share content on Google+ with a small thumbnail image, the page title and a URL.  This is really not a great experience if you are trying to capture your fans/followers attention.

old-posts

But good news, below is two screenshots of the new and improved Google+ posts that include a massive 505×306 pixel image with a larger font for the title along with Google+ page link and short description if available.  You can see the difference between the two is quite substantially and likely to vastly improve engagement and click-thru-rates for content with great feature images!new-posts-2

new-sharesSo what do you think about the new style large impact posts, they don’t seem to be retroactive at this point but if you are not sharing posts with great enticing images you will likely now be missing out on making a great impact to your followers.

Feature Image Photo Credit: Alejandro Mallea

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USDA interactive Food Results

As part of Google’s expansion of knowledge graph and building out interactive modules to keep users within their SERPs we now have knowledge graph built around USDA data on food. Matthew Barby first noticed it earlier today and in tests I did it was consistently showing so I thought I’d explore what other search queries it would show up for and was surprised to see how many search queries it was showing up on.

It seems to work on slang terms as “Booze low in Sugar” activates the interactive knowledge graph seen below.  You can select type of food, quantity and all the nutritional facts on the right hand side will change and you don’t have to refresh the page or click through to any website to get the data you want and it seems About.com misses out on that traffic and revenue from onsite adsense banners.

booze-low

 

Also if you search for “alcohol low in sugar” and once again About.com seems to miss out on that potential traffic and again misses out on a heap of revenue they previously received.

alcohol-low

The USDA data also works for “vegetables low in iron” and this time SFGate.com misses out on that potential traffic and the user stays in Google. These types of results are painful for sites like SFGate.com that have created interesting ever-green pieces of content and have long benefited from a large share of organic traffic until now.vegies-low-iron

If you search for “vegetables low in carbs” and once again About.com seems to miss out on that potential traffic and adsense impressions and clicks.
vegies-low-carbs

If you search for “milk low in iron” and once again KidsHealth.org a health focused non-profit website run by Nemours seems to miss out on that potential traffic which is possibly not ideal long term.
milk-low-iron

If you search for “fruit low in sugar” and once again About.com seems to miss out on that potential traffic and a huge amount of valuable adsense clicks.
low-sugar

So What does this mean for website owners?

You can see from the sample heat-map test with Feng-GUI.com that a majority of the users focus is just on the Google knowledge widget and not on the organic search results. This means many industry, government and media sites like About.com will now miss out a huge amount of organic traffic.  I wonder when Google might try and start to monetise these results and without more context and details around these types of results are users really getting the complete picture and best advice?

Heat Map Test

Google+ Page Smart Links

It seems Google+ is starting to emulate some Facebook & Twitter features by trying to promote the original owner of the content being shared which is potentially great for content creators, but maybe not so much for the user/page sharing the content. As I couldn’t find a feature name in the HTML code I’ve decided to call this feature Google+ Smart Links.

Almost exactly 12 months ago Facebook started promoting anyone clicking like on a post if they “Want to see more from this FB Page” to drive more FB fans for the brands page. This feature seemed to be only offered in a limited rollout and seemed to be focused around Facebook’s big media partners that they were trying to win over.

Facebook Offers You to Keep up with The Sun?

Facebook Offers You to Keep up with The Sun?

Twitter has had their Twitter cards which they rolled out in June 2012 that allow for a rich snippet but also allow users to easily follow the Twitter account linked to the official owner of the content. The process did require the website to add in Twitter meta tags and then have their account verified before they would show it but has worked quite well for driving increased engagement and better CTR from Tweets.

Twitter Cards

I noticed last night when doing some research for another Google+ post that Google has quietly also rolled out an enhanced Google+ status update with a link to the content’s owner as you can see below for VentureBeat post.

VentureBeat

Lee Jarrat over on Google Plus Daily seems to be the first site to post about the new Google+ smart links thanks to a tip from Sebastien Defrance. What is interesting is that Lee has correctly pointed out that this new Google+ page link replaces the websites URL which is part of Google’s general move in Search results away from showing the websites Domain/URLs and towards just showing Names/Brands.

So how do Google+ Smart Links Work?

It’s an easy assumption to make based on who is showing up that this feature is only available to verified names or those pages that have verified their link to the website. It seems that the Google+ Smart Links are showing in feeds for both personal accounts and if acting as a Google+ page.  So I decided to shift through both feeds and these are the pages that I noticed were showing Smart Links:

  • Thomas Cook UK (verified/linked)
  • Tourism Whistler (verified/linked)
  • SurveyMonkey (verified/linked)
  • VentureBeat (verified/linked)
  • SocialMouths (verified/linked)
  • Storify (verified/linked/not-active)
  • MediaPost (unverified/linked/not-active)
  • SEO Chat (not-linked/unverified)

What was interesting is that I found that the common element was usually that the page was a Google Verified Name and they were a Linked website but I also found that this was not always the case. So there is obviously something else that is triggering if Google+ decides to show these for your pages.

SEO Chat was the interesting example where they did not have a verified name, had not yet verified the link to their website and their page and unlike the other examples they only had a small amount of people that had them in circles. I did check their website and the SEO Chat Forum does have their Google+ publisher link embedded on their page so maybe that is enough?

SEO Chat Forum

This made me wonder if the new Google+ Smart Links had some link with the amount of URLs shared on Google+ or the authority of the admins running the page? The reason why I wonder this is that both MediaPost and Storify have not posted once on Google+ yet are included in this test experiment.

Doesn’t Relate to Circles

The initial thought was that the Google+ Smart Links were similar to Facebook’s follow this page feature but if you look at the example below when I was using Google+ as a page Thomas Cook UK was showing these.  But if I mouse over the link you can see that I already have Thomas Cook UK in my circles so maybe these Smart Links are being used for more than just growing follower numbers?

Thomas Cook UK

Downside to Google+ Smart Linking

What are the downsides to Google+ Smart Linking can be seen below where a random user Kerry was looking for people to complete her SurveyMonkey quiz.  But as you can see in the screenshot  her Google+ post is now also promoting the SurveyMokey Google+ page instead of the URL of the survey.

SurveyMonkey Google+ Link

What is the upside to Google+ Smart Linking?

The potential upside is expanded branding for content owners/creators that are having their content shared on Google+ and have created a Google+ page. The other point I’ve noticed is that because this feature is controlled by Google it seems to be retrospective for old posts.  The other upside is that it appears unlike Twitter cards brands/pages don’t have to do anything onpage to have this feature enabled so it’s probably something that is going to be more attractive to big brands and large websites.

Active Google+ Post Discussions About it

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Google+ Pages Authorship?

One interesting item I noticed tonight was that one of my shares about the “Olympic Charter” on two of my Google+ pages was actually showing up in my Google SERPs.  I began to wonder if Google+ authorship has finally started to be rolled out for Google+ pages?

Google+ Authorship

I did a test with incognito and while the authorship icon did show for “Claire Carter” on the 3rd page of results I couldn’t find the authorship showing for “SEO Meetups” or “The Lost Agency”.  After playing about and having a think I quickly understood how it was working, these two pages were linked to my Google+ profile as I had them in circles but it did make me feel sad as it was a step further down the path towards further personalisation of search results.

I did a quick test with Chrome incognito with a different post shared on another page I managed but initially I did not have this page in my circles, so I didn’t see any posts ranking with it’s Google+ page icon.  But I then added that other page to my circles and almost instantly when I refreshed the results I could now see the result showing with that Google+ page icon. I was surprised how fast this personalised search results showed up once I added this page to my circles.

So it seems that Google+ Pages Authorship is starting to show but unlike standard Google+ authorship it only shows their updates higher and with thumbnail if you have them in your circles.

The interesting thing is that I haven’t seen this too much for any other pages I have in circles but could force it to show with a search for “Whiteboard Friday” and you can see Roger from Moz showing but didn’t see too many others on some trial queries.  http://jsbb.lostpr.es/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Moz.png?08db6f

This change does offer a huge advantage for brands that can build a large audience of people that have them in their circles as they now have just as much control of influencing your followers search results as Google+ personal pages. The question is now how long it will take until Google+ page updates will start to show as authorship currently does even when you are not logged in?

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Will Google Flights Result Finally Kill SEO & UX?

I know that every once in a while Google plays with the organic UX for it’s new Google products such as Google Flights but I was shocked when I saw this version on Friday night. While it looks like a basic result for this generic query https://www.google.com/search?q=flights+to+new+york as shown below.  You can still see that the city search module takes about 1.5-2.0 organic positions and pushes the organic results further down the screen so that #7 is shown below the fold on a 27 Inch monitor.  The impact on CTR on smaller Laptop screens and mobile devices is far more drastic. I’ve included a full sized screengrab so you can see the size of the widget in relation to the other elements shown on the search result page.

Google Flights to New York Result

What Happens if You Click one of the City Links?

You can see below that any click on the links just takes you to another search result that offers the sponsored Flight results widget.  So it seems that this unit is actually an organic Google widget that drives more queries that are showing the Sponsored Search Widget. So this is is a huge list of 212 text links that just point to Google search results, what the hell…

Google Flight Search

What Happens if You Click More Cities Link?

I was interested to see what smart solution Google might have employed to deal with how to display 212 cities that are offering non-stop flights to New York?  But the actual result when I clicked the expanded list was shocking to say the least, it seems like a half-baked solution and the worst possible way to display this information.  I have included a full-sized screenshot below to show the 7489 pixels that the expanded widget and organic results now takes up.

Even if you remove the organic results shown at the bottom of the flights widget the screen it still comes to 6221 pixels which is about 6 standard screens high.  I really struggle to think how Google can think that this is even close to a decent UX when displaying flights information within organic results.

Google Flights to New York Result Expanded

Do we really need to ask any questions?

Do you really think the “more cities” expanded link is really the best user experience? What do you think the organic CTR might be if any user decides to click the “more cities” link and expands the whole module as shown above? Do you think that this is an acceptable way for Google to visualise this information that is basically just a huge list of text links to other Google search results.

Why can’t I block Google+ Help community?

This post is in response to an issue I’ve for a while with an official Google+ community posts.  The problem is that I just don’t seem to be able to get rid of the damn community posts in my feed no matter what I do.  I have been manually muting individual posts as there seems to be a constant stream of the same questions asked over and over by different people.  I have included the screenshot below to show how many of the damn Google+ Help posts flood my stream because they have around 143,000 members the community is producing a heap of posts on a regular basis.

Google+ Help Community

But what you cannot see here is that if you goto the Google+ Help community page you can see that I’m not actually part of the community and I’ve even tried blocking the community yet I can’t escape the damn posts.  You can mute them but there are hundreds just waiting to pop-up in your feed next time you refresh or login to your account. They are far more annoying on your mobile device as you have to scroll past this Google+ Help spam.

Google+ Plus Community Blocked

Does anyone know is this a problem that once you have joined an official Google+ community that you can’t escape their posts forever? This is really really an annoying part of the Google+ platform and one that I don’t seem to be able to find a solution for, is anyone able to offer some tips or have you seen it with other community posts that you can’t escape?

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Google enables Shared Endorsements

Google has finally switched on it’s version of Facebook Ads and no surprise that it’s powered by it’s Google+ platform, but so far have been careful to allow users a little more control over if they choose to be part of the “shared endorsements” platform. You can see below how Google will start using your name and photo to show in Google Maps/Places, but also includes AdWords & Play Store.

 shared endorsements

Google’s terms of service which you are opted-in by default were changed today (11th October) and go into effect from the 11th November 2013, which gives you 1 month to opt-out of shared endorsements. Google offers a very strict opt-in or opt-out which is surprising I thought they might have made it possible to only show your name, your first or last name or only show your face.

You can easily opt-out to Shared Endorsements by visiting here and un-ticking the box and pressing save. The point that annoys me is that Google is being sly about opting-out as you can see the guilt message below to remind them your friends will suffer without seeing your name and face.

When you disable this setting, your friends will be less likely to benefit from your recommendations.

Google Apps Users are Different!

I got an email about the update to Google Consumer Terms of Services just before.

One of these changes describes how a user’s Profile name and photo might appear in Google products (including in reviews, advertising, and other commercial contexts). For example, a user who visits the Google Play music store may see that a friend has +1′d a new album by her favorite artist. When a user searches for a restaurant, he may see an ad including a 5-star review by another friend. These recommendations are called shared endorsements. The user +1 personalization setting has been updated to to control whether the user’s Profile name and photo may appear in shared endorsements that Google displays in ads.

This change does not affect Google Apps users today. Users will see messaging throughout Google properties (including the Google+ notifications box) about the update to the Terms of Service, and they will be able to update the related user setting. However, the features associated with this change will not be available to Google Apps domains until a later date. At that time, there will be a control through which domain administrators can prevent their end users from appearing in shared endorsements that Google displays in ads. When it becomes available, this administrative setting will be defaulted to off.

Would Opting Out Impact Future Features?

It will be interesting if Google makes the penalty for opting-out more serve at some point in the future such as not allowing you to write a review if you have elected to not be part of Shared Endorsements.

Some of the things you need to know about Google+ Shared Endorsements is that you may see pictures of friends/connections that have left a restaurant review, +1 an item on Google Play store, if you share a link or follow a Google+ page and more…

So my advice is go and opt-out now before the 11th November and it’s too late and you become part of Google’s advertising platform…