Tools Posts

Instant Search Results With Google Instant

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

In a world of instant everything we find it hard to wait even a minute for anything online. If we can’t get a web page to appear within a couple of seconds, most figure it’s probably not worth visiting.

The folks at Google are catering to that very need in our lives with ‘Google Instant’.

Now when you visit the Google home page and begin typing your search terms, Google begins searching and showing you the results. This omits the need to type in your complete sentence or search term if the correct site appears while showing you in milliseconds if your terms aren’t going to yield the results you are looking for.

They have also improved the predictions feature in the search box. So now if are typing and you see the correct finished term you can click it and see your results immediately. Google estimates that between the predictions feature and the instant search results they can save any surfer two to five second per search. For someone who works online and searches different sites, blogs, and articles all day long it can save hours over time and frustrations instantly.

There are those who would serve to question some of the prediction details. Google has created a list of words for which it will not predict or offer instant results. These words are meant to prevent promoting sexual or inappropriate websites, however the list is ‘imperfect’ admits a Google spokesperson to the media.

In the list the words “lesbian, cocaine and domination” are taboo while “gay, heroin and crack” are okay.

“It’s important to note that removing queries from auto-complete is a hard problem, and not as simple as blacklisting particular terms and phrases,” Says that same spokesperson. Presumably Google will continue to refine the search terms and results the best that they can.

For those who don’t appreciate change, or are offended by the blacklisted terms, Google has provided a ‘turn off’ option in your preferences area that allows you to search the way you always have.

5 “Must Have” WordPress Plugins

Friday, April 9th, 2010

We frequently get emails from clients asking about whether or not they should install a particular plugin for their WordPress blog. Many times the answer is “Well…it depends.” It depends on that other plugins you have installed and what your goals are with blogging. Below are 5 WordPress plugins that are a safe bet for any blog:

1. All In One SEO Pack – This is by far the most useful plugin to maximize the SEO potential of your company or personal blog. There are a number of other SEO plugins for WordPress but I’ve found this one to be the most comprehensive and easiest to configure. Some of the main features include:

  • Advanced Canonical URLs
  • Fine tune Page Navigational Links
  • Built-in API so other plugins/themes can access and extend functionality
  • ONLY plugin to provide SEO Integration for WP e-Commerce sites
  • Nonce Security
  • Support for CMS-style WordPress installations
  • Automatically optimizes your titles for search engines
  • Generates META tags automatically
  • Avoids the typical duplicate content found on WordPress blogs
  • For beginners, you don’t even have to look at the options, it works out-of-the-box. Just install.
  • For advanced users, you can fine-tune everything
  • You can override any title and set any META description and any META keywords you want.
  • Backward-Compatibility with many other plugins, like Auto Meta, Ultimate Tag Warrior and others.

2. Socialize – The Socialize plugin simplifies the task of adding buttons allowing reader to share/save your posts on social networking and social bookmarking websites. These buttons can be added manually but this requires copy and pasting code from each social networking/bookmarking site in the correct places of your WordPress template. Bah….who has time for that?! Socialize gives you a quick and easy interface to customize which buttons are included and where they appear.

3. TweetMeme Button – The TweetMeme button (seen in the top right of this blog post) is one of that fastest and easiest ways to encourage readers to tweet about your blog post. Granted, there may be some overlap with Socialize but it really depends on how you configure each plugin. One key feature that TweetMeme has over socialize is that it can be integrated with for additional web analytics. In addition to that the standard list of features is fairly impressive too:

  • Hashtag support (which are automatically taken from your post tags)
  • Ability to control the length of the tweets
  • Live count of tweets from Twitter
  • Allows you to change the source which you retweet, E.g. “RT @yourname “
  • Easily installation and customisation
  • Quicker loading times for the buttons
  • Better integration, allowing custom titles, hashtags and URL shortner
  • Removes the default “RT @tweetmeme”
  • Ability to control the length of the tweets (through the new spaces parameter)
  • Integrates with WordPress MU

4. WP to Twitter – This plugin is short and sweet. It does just what the name implies…automatically tweets about your blog post once it’s published. As with all the other plugins mentioned so far, WP to Twitter comes with a variety of options and highly customizable.

5. Disqus – The Disqus comment system is actually a plugin that’s still fairly new to me, but the more I learn about it the more I love it! Essentially it’s broken down into two platforms, Disqus Comments and Disqus Profile:

Disqus Comments is a comment system and moderation tool for your site. This service lets you add next-gen community management and social web integrations to any site on any platform.”

Disqus Profile lets you get the most out of the comments you post on sites all around the web. Take back control of what you’ve written by tracking and managing your comments all in one place. You can also use Disqus Profile to effortless follow and reply to what people are talking about, on and across sites.”

Google Analytics: Expanded Goals and Engagement Goals

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Google Analytics has always done an excellent job of helping to evaluate success or failure based on certain information that users have come to identify with. One of the most exciting new features of those recently introduced to the Google Analytics platform is that of Expanded Goals (tracking and depth).

Long story short, you’ve been able to track a few goals before via certain metrics– but now, you have 20 goal metrics by which to trigger activity within goal tracking (a very good thing). No longer just simple ‘did the user navigate to this page or not’ goals, but robust conditions such as elements within pages in script being interacted with, or even one of the new types of goals: Engagement Goals.

These new goal metrics are based on thresholds that a user may meet or exceed, such as time on site ≥x amount of time, or user has viewed ≥x amount of pages. It can quickly be seen how useful these types of goals can be, especially if you’re running an ad hosting site– quite marketable to suggest that a significant percentage of the visitors to the site not only idle, but navigate numerous pages of the site’s architecture, being exposed to more and more of your sponsored messages. It also is indicative of page build that works well; lackluster results can spur improvement, and of course variations on a theme that allow the designer to ascertain what constitues more or less advantageous elements of their layout and presentation.

New tools to track success are always welcome, particularly when they are this flexible and powerful. Being able to derive insight from the implementation of routine analysis is one of the practices that can set one apart from the rest in a world where information enables advantage over competition.

Google Analytics: Analytics Intelligence with Custom Alerts

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The first of seven new features rolled out in Google Analytics recently is known as Analytics Intelligence. Long story short, a newly automated system has been implemented that parses the data related to your Google Analytics account(s) and will report when and if anything anomalous occurs. This can be something like the bounce rate abruptly rising, traffic flow to a landing page suddenly dropping, or any other system-wide ‘red flag’ that might otherwise not be caught without the aid of a meticulous eye and some degree of effort in reviewing analytic data, and even then– Analytics Intelligence is on the job 24 hours a day. Alerts come in the form of messages sent to the controlling account’s registered email address, making worries about awareness regarding internet traffic a thing of the past.

Another wonderful aspect of Analytics Intelligence is that the end user doesn’t need to set any kind of sensitivity or threshold for normal functionality. There is an advanced algorithm at work that interprets not only daily/weekly/monthly data when determining whether an event is exceptional, but also historic and cyclical data that allows AI to better ascertain the significance of movements and changes in traffic flow. Even better is that, if an end user did so desire, they can create custom metrics that can alert them if any number of conditions take place.

Custom Alerts can be set up to notify you if, for example, you wanted to know when you’ve reached x number of visitors from a specific geographic location. Or, to know when and if the percentage of traffic from a specific advertising campaign comprises a certain amount of total visits from all sources. Information such as this allows you to more quickly determine the effectiveness of advertising in a number of media and more effectively budget your internet marketing dollars, among other insights.

Check out the wonderfully produced Google video on this feature @ Google Analytics Intelligence. In the next installment, more hands-on with new Google Analytics features!

Google Analytics: Seven New Tools

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Google has recently announced an update to their robust web analysis tool, Google Analytics, that brings with it seven new and powerful features: Analytics Intelligence (with Custom Alerts), Expanded Goals and New Engagement Goals, Expanded Mobile Reporting (for non-JavaScript enabled phone traffic and usage), Unique Visitors Metric, Multiple Custom Variables, the ability to share Advanced Segements and Custom Report Templates, and new Advanced Analysis Features (Pivoting, Secondary Dimensions, and Advanced Table Filtering).

Over the next few installments, I’ll cover what each of these new and exciting features has to offer in terms of improving search engine optimization intelligence and how it can enable improved decisionmaking that in turn prompts actionable change. Using the additional data provided by (or better identified by) the use of the new features to improve marketing throughput can result in quicker reaction to market changes and user preferences and the ability to seize opportunities that might not have otherwise been apparent. One other wonderful benefit provided by a number of the new tools is the ability to dig deeper into data already collected to discover areas for improvement in future cycles, particularly for businesses or entities that operate with great fluctuation from season to season.

Knowledge is power, as it always has been. These new additions to an already powerful tool for divining insight from the site(s) surveyed are nothing short of excitingly intriguing, and will lead to higher yields, less overhead, and more sound decisionmaking for those that can effectively take advantage of them and what they have to offer.

Parameter Handling in Google Webmaster Tools

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Many websites have multiple URL’s that display the same content, especially e-commerce sites. Often times this is simply from various URL paramerters attached to the URL. This may be to sort the products in a different order, track session ID’s, or to note the source of a referral. There have been quite a number of ways to prevent search engines from indexing all of these URL’s in an attempt to avoid duplicate content penalities. A combination of ‘nofollow’ tags in the internal site navigation and regular expression ‘disallow’ rules in the robots.txt file are common solutions. Unfortunately, this requires a thorough analysis of your internal site navigation as well as some knowlege of regular expressions and the proper logic to block only the duplicate URL’s.

Fortunately, Google has recently added a feature in Webmaster Tools that allows for an easier, simpler solution to blocking duplicate content URL’s due to numerous parameters. The ‘Parameter Handling’ feature in Google Webmaster Tools is located by going to ‘Site Configuration’ and then ‘Settings’:

Google Webmasters Parameter Handling

Google’s explanation of the parameter handling feature is as follows. *Note that there’s no guarantee that the GoogleBot will accept your suggestions. 😉

Dynamic parameters (for example, session IDs, source, or language) in your URLs can result in many different URLs all pointing to essentially the same content. For example, might point to the same content as You can specify whether you want Google to ignore up to 15 specific parameters in your URL. This can result in more efficient crawling and fewer duplicate URLs, while helping to ensure that the information you need is preserved. (Note: While Google takes suggestions into account, we don’t guarantee that we’ll follow them in every case.)”