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Does W3C Markup Validation Help With SEO?

Friday, October 27, 2006
Does W3C Markup Validation Help With SEO I have had about three discussions with various webmasters and SEO's lately regarding whether W3C validation helps with SEO, Some of these discussions become fairly heated, Though most were civilized and polite (my preferred method of discussion). So what i thought I would do is make a post about whether W3C Validation helps with SEO or not.

My personal opinion on this is that No, It doesn't. I have various reasons for thinking it doesn't, The main reason being that Google doesn't care about styling, They only care about content and information. So even if your site has broken tables and a layout that looks like something out of Texas chainsaw massacre why would google care? If it has the information that the searcher wants then it's the ideal site to send them to. We have to remember, Google aren't quality control, they are simply people we go to when we want to know what sites contain certain information. We don't go to google and say "show me a site that has the menu on the left and a blue background.".

Another good reason to think that W3C validation doesn't help with SEO is the fact that Matt Cutts, Google engineer who specializes in SEO, has said it doesn't in one of his grab bag videos. Matt Cutts said "Google have no signal for validated code". I read this as "Not only does Google not use validation as part of it's ranking algo, But it doesn't even have a way of telling if a site contains validated markup or not".

I figured you probably wouldn't be too interested in my opinions regarding W3C validation and SEO so i decided to do some research. I done a Google search for some of the more competitive keywords such as casino, Cheap flights, Hotels and web hosting to see if the sites that appear #1 in these results do in fact have markup that validates according to W3C. Here are my findings.
  1. A Google search for "casino" returned www.casino.com as the #1 result. This site failed validation. In fact, It failed because it didn't even have character encoding labeling.
  2. A Google search for "cheap flights" returned www.cheapflights.co.uk as the #1 result. This site failed validation because of a Character Encoding mismatch and 9 markup errors.
  3. A Google search for "hotels" returned www.hotels.com as the #1 result. This is my favorite, It failed validation because it contained No Character Encoding, Contained No DOCTYPE and contained 298 markup errors.
  4. A Google search for "web hosting" returned www.fortunecity.com as the #1 result. This site failed validation with 128 markup errors

As you can see, Having markup that does not validate according to W3C has not stopped these sites appearing top for some very competitive search terms.

Having said all that, if you were to ask me the simple question "Should i use W3C to validate my site?" i would say yes, you should. But not for SEO. Having a Validated site may increase your end user optimization and may mean more people visit, more people keep coming back and may even mean more people link to your site. But while these are beneficial to your site optimization and end user optimization they aren't SEO related issues.

When i make a site i simply check the site in various browsers to check the sites cross browser compatibility, But as for spending a day validating pages i just don't see the point. People are human and humans make errors. Google knows this and it's not in their interest to punish you for making tiny errors when your site has quality content or provides a great service.

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Google Add Blogs To Google Alerts

Google Add Blogs To Google AlertsThere was a new post on the Google blog informing us that Google have now added the ability to get alerts only from blogs from their Google Alerts service.
If you don't know what Google alerts are, It is a service that lets you type a search query into a box and Google will then email you whenever there are new results for that search term.

originally Google Alerts were only available for news items, Google groups and a general web search, But i guess Google have learned something that we all knew a long time ago, And that is that bloggers tend to get the best news fastest, Bloggers keep their ear a lot closer to the ground and sometimes even have inside information, they are also less legally bound to keep secrets, So if you want to know it fast you should ask a blogger.

So many interesting blogs and so little time! If you're anything like me, you like to pick and choose what posts you read on any given blog. You may only want to read a post about a topic of your interest, or perhaps you only want to read blog posts by a particular writer or two. Hence the new Blog Alert, which notifies you about new blog search results. We've also added a Comprehensive Alert, which can show results from multiple sources (including Google News, the web, and blogs) so you get fuller information whenever your favorite topics appear online.

Examples of creating Google alerts.
You want to know when anyone blogs about global warming.
You like to track all Google mentions on Slashdot.
You're a bit obsessed with chocolate recipes on food blogs.
You need to know when RottenTomatoes covers Will Ferrell.
That well-known search pundit John Battelle seems to have a lot to say.
And now, it's your turn to make some of your own.

Google seem to be taking some very active steps towards making blogs more accessible for people. This news about google alerts for blogs comes just after they announced that they have put a link to blog search on Google news. We just have to sit back and see what effect these changes have on the traffic the blogosphere.

Create Your Own Google Search Engine

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Create Your Own Google Search Engine with co-opThe Google product launch department have been earning their money this week. First we had the launch of the Google website optimizer tool over the weekend, And now google have announced the launch of their Google Co-Op custom search engine.

Co-op lets a user create a search engine with just a few websites included. Searches will return results from only those websites.

There are plenty of options for webmasters to incorporate into their custom search engine, Such as what pages they want included in the search and whether others can contribute to what appears in the index. Most importantly Webmasters can also customize what the search index looks like, which means it can be seamlessly incorporated into your site or blog.

This kind of service is not exactly new, Rollyo, Eurekster and Yahoo! have been doing this for some time. But what puts Google Co-Op at an advantage is the option they give to incorporate adsense into your search and earn money.

For bloggers, using Google Co-op may work better than the regular search. A search engine can be created that searches just a single blog, and Google search is generally better than search features included with blogging scripts and software, and with the ability to include Adsense on your custom search engine this will generate a new income stream as well.

Google Put Blog Search On Google News

Monday, October 23, 2006
At some point over the weekend google added a link to Google blog search on the Google News homepage and at the bottom of every news search results page.

For some time Google have been saying they are looking to integrate services more. They would like the Google experience to be seamless as you move through Google web search, On to Google news and then on to blogs. So putting links on Google services to related Google services is the first step.

While this is going to increase the amount of traffic directed at the blogosphere it's not going to be as good as putting a link to blogsearch on the google.com front page, Or even on search results pages. But every little helps.

Not so long ago a link to froogle was removed from the front page of Google and replaced with a link to Google Video. The effect this had on google videos traffic was enormous and increased google videos traffic by 800% in one day, Which also saw Froogles traffic plummet.

I'm just waiting to see if this will increase the traffic to my blog, i will be especially be looking at the amount of referrals i get from Google blog search. Hopefully I, And you, Will see an increase of traffic to our blogs but i have a feeling people who blog about current affairs and news will see the most benefit.

Google Launch Website Optimizer Tool

Friday, October 20, 2006
Google Launch Website Optimizer ToolAt the eMetrics summit in Washington D.C this morning Google Analytics Senior Manager Brett Crosby unveiled the new Google website optimization tool.

What the Google website optimizer tool will allow you to do is test different aspects of your site such as headers, Images and promotional text and receive reports on which layout is performing best, What encourages the most call to actions and what will potentially increase your ROI. The changes to your page will be made by the website optimizer code you place in your page, So there is no need to have to continuously edit your page by hand to test different aspects.
Website Optimizer is a tool that can help you improve the effectiveness of your website in getting a return on your investment. By allowing you to test different versions of your site content, you can determine what will best attract users and lead them to convert on your site.

While this tool is primarily geared towards Adwords users it's sure to be useful to any webmaster on any site. So if you like things like Google analytics, heatmaps or tools to track your websites performance the google website optimizer is definitely for you.

Google have put together a nice little Demo of the website optimizer tool which explains it very well, Though it is presented by a woman with a slightly annoying voice, I keep expecting her to say "And i was like, oh my god, it was so like whatever"

Is Digg Dead? Digg Fraud

Thursday, October 19, 2006

“A Bulletproof Way To Cheat Digg.”

spike the vote logoThis post might be a little far away from the usual SEO stuff you find on Pro-SEO, But we thought it was news that any webmaster should be interested in.

Getting on the front page of Digg can give your site a traffic spike of tens of thousands, So anyone serious about their site should be looking into writing content that may get that story or article onto the front page of digg via user votes, or "diggs". It's similar to being featured on Slashdot, Which we were when kbox submitted a article about Firefox usage statistics we wrote back in July.

So it's no wonder ,And was only a matter of time, Before someone started taking advantage of this flawed and easily manipulated way of featuring stories on the front page of a highly popular news site.

This is where Spike the vote come in.
Spike the vote are running a community based free website where people digg each other stories. You earn points for digging stories and you can trade these points for diggs of your own stories.
Some people may say this isn't really fair, or even unethical, But hey, This is real life, You can't trust people to play nice when there are website visitors (and money) involved.

How it works

Spike the Vote works on a point system. Each day I give you a mission with several stories to Digg. 20% of your mission involves digging stories submitted by users in this community, while 80% of of your mission is completely random. This is to eliminate footprints and keep things anonymous.

You earn 1 point for each story Dugg. Once you earn enough points, you can trade them in for Diggs on your own stories.


At present you can only sign up, You will then receive an email once spike the vote has 1000 members and then that's when the fun starts.

If digg wants to remain a favorite for millions of web users they are going to have to figure out how to combat this type of "Digg fraud" (yes digg fraud, You heard it here first:p). It will be hard though, Because as the article says, users will be making random diggs to minimize their Digg Fraud footprint. So even if Kevin rose himself joined spike the vote to see what sites are being artificially dugg 80% of the sites he has to digg as part of mission are going to be random stories.

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How To Submit A Reinclusion Request To Google

Friday, October 13, 2006
In this post i am going to go through the steps you should follow when sending a reinclusion request to google.
Firstly, What is a reinclusion request? A reinclusion request is something you have to do if you find your site has been banned from google and removed from the index. It may happen because yourself, your webmaster or your SEO has used some shady SEO tactics or blackhat SEO when promoting your site. When submitting your reinclusion request to google remember that Google need to know that whatever caused you to be banned has been removed and that it isn't going to happen again.

The procedure to submit a reinclusion request has changed some what. Where it used to be an email address you would send your request to, It is now a form located here

Steps to submit a reinclusion request

  1. Ensure your site has been banned from google. You can do this by searching for your domain name in Google, If you don't appear anywhere (after being indexed) it's possible you are banned.
  2. Figure out why you were banned. There is no point asking to be reincluded in google if you haven't rectified the problem. Reasons for being banned include hidden text, Doorway pages, using automated methods to get backlinks or scrape content from other sites.
  3. FIX IT! You must now fix the problem, This might be anything from removing a JavaScript redirect to deleting all scraped pages.
  4. Once you have made sure you have fixed the reason you were banned from google you can now look into contacting them. Go to google.com/support/bin/request.py and select "I'm a webmaster inquiring about my website" and then select "Why my site disappeared from the search results or dropped in ranking." Click Continue, and on the page that shows up, make sure to type "Reinclusion Request" in the Subject so it gets sent to the right people.


What not to do

  1. Don't tell them you done nothing wrong
  2. Don't tell them you will boycott google
  3. don't tell them you are an adwords advertiser


Good luck with your reinclusion request.

Google Has Just Acquired YouTube For $1.65 billion

Monday, October 09, 2006
google buys youtube
Moments before writing this post the news broke that google have now successfully purchased YouTube for the sum of $1.65 billion in an all stock transaction.

According to some sources it has become known that Yahoo! were also in talks and were also bidding on the purchase of youtube.

Google is hosting a conference call and webcast to discuss the deal. It is just starting now. You can hear it live at investor.google.com/webcast.html. If you miss it live, a replay of the call will be available until midnight Monday, October 16 at 888-203-1112 domestically and 719-457-0820 internationally. Confirmation code for the replay is 2260624.

This deal went from rumor to reality in a very short space of time, In fact within a few days people have gone from saying "Have you heard, Google might be buying youtube" to saying "Google now own youtube"

This is a great deal for all involved, Including the youtubers who enjoy the site on a daily basis. And it's just another step in Googles dream of organizing all of the worlds information.

Google Blog WAS Hacked

Sunday, October 08, 2006
Google blog logoEarlier today we reported on a possible hack on the google blog. At the time we were speculating that the mystery post was the result of a hack, It turned out our speculation was correct.

A bug in Blogger enabled an unauthorized user to make a fake post on the Google Blog last night, claiming that we've discontinued our AdWords click-to-call test. The bug was fixed quickly and the post removed. As for the click-to-call test, it is progressing on schedule, and we're pleased with the results thus far.
The Google Blog.

This raises a few questions, How secure is the blogger software? Like all software it is inevitable that there are going to be flaws, holes and vulnerabilities. But as the blogger software is not open source it makes finding these holes a lot harder for an attacker, but it also means spotting potential flaws is a lot harder for a patcher.

If an attacker was able to make an unauthorized post on the official google blog, What does that mean for the rest of us? How many other blogs have had unauthorized people make posts on them? In a way Google were very lucky that all this attacker had in mind was a fake news story stating AdWords click-to-call was being scrapped, They could have put anything they wanted on there, The mind boggles.

Google say the "bug" (read as critical vulnerability) was "fixed", But i guess it's only fixed until the next one is found.

Official Google Blog Hacked?

Google blog logo A number of people noticed a very strange post that appeared on the Google Blog last night. The post was claiming that Google were canceling their click to call service because it was a "monopolistic approach that would damage small companies in the CRM area".

While this post was quickly removed a lot of people saw it on the blog and in RSS readers, Some even took screen captures of the post before it was removed. (see below)

The post flagged suspicion because it was very poorly written and contained numerous spelling and grammatical errors, Which is unlike the typical posts you would find on the google blog.
It also contained the curious line at the end which read "message has been translated using Google language tools."

While this hack is embarrassing for the Google blog, It doesn't even compare to the time they deleted their entire blog. It's ironic that this should come just after Google made a post on their blog about how they put security first when designing applications.

So was the google blog hacked? Is this a system wide vulnerability in blogger? Or was it one of the lesser intelligent google employees getting his own back for a pay cut?

google blog hacked
(image courtesy of John Resig".)

Google To Buy Youtube?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rumors are circulating now on a number of blogs, Including TechCrunch, that google are preparing to make a purchase attempt on youtube for their predicted value of $1.5 billion.

Youtube have been in many talks with companies interested in buying them, Usually the issue that got in the way of a sale is probably youtubes predicted future problems with copyright infringement issues, Something im sure will not worry google in the slightest.

A quick phone call to a VC confirmed that the rumor is circulating (he also confirmed the price), but that is far from confirmation that this deal is happening.


I will keep you posted on this as more information comes out.

Update;
The Wall Street Journal run a story stating Google are "in talks to acquire popular video-sharing site YouTube Inc. for roughly $1.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The discussions are still at a sensitive stage and could well break off, this person says."

A purchase of YouTube could give a big boost to the online video efforts of Google. YouTube commanded 46% of visits to U.S. online video sites in August, according to market research firm Hitwise. That compared to a 23% share for the video activities of News Corp.'s MySpace social-networking site, and 10% for Google Video.

Google Blog Search Ping Service

Thursday, October 05, 2006
Google Blog Search Ping ServiceGoogle have launched the beta blog search ping service for blog owners and publishers to submit their blog to. Though im calling this the Google blog search pinger, I'm not sure that is what it actually is, I was unable to find any official documentation about what this actually does.

If this is nothing more than the Add URL service that google has for the regular search i would advise against using it, Let google find you on their own. However, If this is a way of letting google know when you have added fresh content it would useful. On the page google do call it a "Ping service".

We all know google likes fresh constantly updated sites, And as an extension of this they love blogs. Bloggers tend to have the best, most impartial news and they tend to publish it quicker than any other kind of site.

Update
I just found the blog search ping about page which says it is a pinging service and google recommend you ping google blog search every time you update your blog.

I don't think this will mean your blog will automatically and instantly be included in the google blog search results, But may mean google find your updated blog a lot faster. Would be nice if it didn't need to be done via a web form (which it doesn't, I just found out) and it would be nice if blogger done this automatically through blogger.

Googles SearchMash For Testing

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Googles SearchMash For Testing Google have created a brand new search page that contains none of the usual google branding or logos in order to test new concepts, user interfaces and features without the google brand skewing peoples opinions on it.

Some of the searchmash features include being able to move results up and down by clicking and dragging the number on the left and by clicking the green URL under the result you are able to select various options, such as.
  • open the listing in the current window
  • a new window
  • to see more pages from that web site
  • to find similar pages.


You will also be able to see image results on the right hand side, Though the layout is broke in firefox for me and it displays images underneath. I really doubt the automatic image search will be pushed over to the regular google search page as images tend to throw up some fairly fruity images no matter what you search for.

Danny Sullivan, From searchenginewatch sent google a few questions about their new search page;

Q. When did this go up from Google?

  • Very recently.
Q. Why are you doing it?

  • SearchMash is an experimental search site operated by Google. The goal of SearchMash is to test innovative user interfaces in order to continually improve the overall search experience for our users.
  • The site does not include Google branding to help us gather more objective data about user response to new interfaces.
  • There is no guarantee that the features tested on SearchMash will be seen on Google search. As with all of our experiments, one of the main factors we will consider is user response to the feature and how well it addresses their needs.
  • This site is only a test and has traffic limitations so may be unavailable at times.

Q. Why is it not on Google Labs?

  • Google Labs continues to be a great site for Google to launch new products that may not be ready for prime time yet, frequently and quickly. In this case, one of the important factors we wanted to address was the influence that may come from Google branding. Creating a separate site will help us gather more objective data about user response to new interfaces.

Google Stop Showing Adverts To People Who Don't Click Them

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Google are testing out a new way of displaying adverts on their search results pages. It turns out, According to a post at webmasterworld, That if a user makes multiple searches, But clicks no adverts, The adverts that would appear at the top of the page in the blue box are moved to the right to make more room for the organic results.

This is a pretty good move by google. It means if a user has no intention of clicking an advert they will not be shown them. Advertisers will also like this because it means they wont be paying for visitors who have clicked out of frustration of not being able to find what they want.

At present i believe this feature only exists on a few datacenters, I tried earlier by searching the term "SEO" and after 5 searches of the same term the adverts at the top of the page were removed.