Saturday, March 07, 2009

Obituary: Google Search API

Google Search API
Born: April 29, 2002
Retired (depricated): December 16, 2006
Death: August 31, 2009

Survived by AJAX Search API.
In attendance will be Yahoo! Search Web Services, Yahoo Search BOSS, and Live Search API.

For several years, we've been happily using Google Search API to track search results and get well structured web information. Google stopped issuing access to this API in 2006 and while our applications were grand-fathered in, the GS-API was treated like an old version of Windows 98. GS-API allowed us to obtain a lot of information that would otherwise be very time consuming to get. But now, that party is officially ending:
From: Google Developer Team [mailto:soap-notification@google.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 11:23 AM
To: XXXXX@XXXXX.com
Subject: Changes to the SOAP API product

Hello,

My name is Adam XXXXX, and I'm a product manager at Google. I see that you signed up for a key for the Google SOAP Search API some time ago and that you have an application still making use of that key.

As you may know, the SOAP Search API was deprecated in 2006 and we're now planning to end support for it as of August 31st, 2009. It has been steadily declining in usage over the last couple years and we believe that the majority of the use cases are sufficiently handled by the AJAX Search API. Please refer to the AJAX API documentation and Terms of Use for more details.

Our recent blog post has more information:
http://googleajaxsearchapi.blogspot.com/2009/03/google-code-labs-and-soap-search-api.html

I'm sorry for the inconvenience this is sure to cause you, and I hope that inconvenience isn't too great. Please use this discussion group if you have questions about migrating to the AJAX Search API:
http://groups.google.com/group/google-ajax-search-api

Thanks,

Adam XXXXX
Product Manager
Google Developer Team

Email preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to the Google SOAP Search API.
Bye-bye Google API. Well miss you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dynamic Websites - Promote a Single Permalink URL

Website may allow for multiple URLs to retrieve the exact same content. A common example is:
http://www.localsplash.com/local-seo-services

Which might also be found as:
http://www.localsplash.com/local-seo-services?utm_source=djrblog-sl&utm_medium=pfi&utm_campaign=dir
http://www.localsplash.com/local-seo-services?sort=name

Notice that the only difference between the above URLs is the addition of website traffic tracking parameters and sorting parameters. There are also more complicated examples such as sub-folders and alternative page extensions.

These duplicate URLs, if indexed by the search engines, will dilute the ranking value of your website pages. To prevent multiple versions of the same page from being separately indexed; the big 3 search engines now support a header link to reference the primary URL:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.localsplash.com/local-seo-services"/>



Search engines and their crawlers will interpret that directive in allowing the primary page to take precedence as well they will likely attribute page ranking factors to the appropriate page.

This should be applied to all dynamic pages (ASP, PHP, etc) as a
general publishing practice since most of these pages commonly support query string parameters for sorting and tracking and 301 redirecting usually isn’t practical.

For more information see:
Google - Specify your canonical
Yahoo - Fighting Duplication: Adding more arrows to your quiver
Microsoft - Partnering to help solve duplicate content issues
http://searchengineland.com/canonical-tag-16537 - Google, Yahoo, Microsoft unite…

David Rodecker
Founder & CTO
RelevantAds
getting local business online

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Google: Everything is Local Search

In a major advancement to embrace local business information, Googles search engine is starting to consider all searches as local oriented. Historically, the search results would respond with local business data only when the query explicitly contained geographical terms such as a city name or zip code. This improvement now allows for any basic search term to trigger the top 10 pack of local business results.
google local results for users location
Queries such as Dentist (image) or Plumber (image) now display local business listings among the traditional web page results. The functionality is driven based upon what the user has provided as their default location in the Google Maps. The top 10 pack seem to always rank in 4th position, which incidentally is the same position for subscribed links.

Activating Local Search in Google

To activate this feature, users can lookup their location in Google Maps and then specify that as their default location. (Example specifying location as 92708). Subsequent searches done on Google will show the local top 10 if the query is relevant to business listings, such as Chiropactor search. The default location setting can easily be changed (or even removed for those who are privacy insecure) at a later point from within the search results by selecting “change location”.
google local location default set

Local = Search

This functionality isn’t new. In fact, similar location profiling and caching techniques have been done at search engines such as the one we developed at Local.com. The fact that Google has incorporated this logic into its universal search algorithm is indicative of the overwhelming user desire to obtain local search results as well as the pervasive nature of local business listings, or in other words: “Everything is local and local is everything”.


David Rodecker
Founder & CTO,
RelevantAds

“getting local business online"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Google Business Listing Loose Search Optimization

Google Local underwent a few modifications in the last week. There are some notable changes that impact SEO and internationalization.

Tracking URL -
Business listing have a primary URL that is shown and linked from the business profile page. The website link used to directly refer to the URL, which produces a link value. A change was done such that the link is now points to a tracking URL and then redirected to the destination website. So instead of going directly to http://relevantads.com, the users browser will first hit Googles tracking URL and then be redirected to the RelevantAds site.


Google's motivation is probably not to stifle SEO link value; but to track user activity. When a user clicks on the tracked link, it provides Google a lot of information such as the search query, business listing, coordinates, type of link that was clicked and other encoding facets.

USA Joins Google Maps Globally
Business listings now are added with a county code prefix. For US listings this means that a "1" is prefix to the added to listing if it doesn't already exist. This is apparent from within the GLBC.
While this seems like a trivial change, it allows Google Maps to be consolidated to a single global index rather than several country segments. And a consolidated index is a faster, more stable and more rapidly updated all of which we've seen in Google Maps over the past few months.

David Rodecker
President, RelevantAds
“getting local business online"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google Local now with YouTube Video

Google Local silently launched a new feature today in providing a way for businesses to integrate video with their local business profiles.

This makes Google the only top-tier search engine to allow businesses to integrate video in their local business listings. While several 2nd tier local search destinations, such as SuperPages and CitySearch have provided video production and publication for some time; Google Local is focused on giving control to integrate the existing videos. This is similar to RelevantAds business profile. Because RelevantAds also syndicates business listings, videos will now be distributed to Google Local Business Profiles (announcement to follow).

The Google Local Businesses profile page allows for up to 5 YouTube videos to be integrated with the listing. Each video is verified and content approved (presumable to not allow banned or adult content) and retreivd from YouTube along with its title.

Perhaps the more impressive change with Google Local is that the video is shown on Google Local Business Profile within minutes. Previously, it would take several weeks for the Google Local index to be updated with any content changes.

Yahoo Local Enhanced Business Profile, which is a premium product, doesn't even allow for video integration. I would expect to see that upgrade in the months to come.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Google Local Drops Fixed Classification of Businesses

Today, Google Local has changed the way that local businesses are classified. The new method is a free-form text field that dynamically offers recommendations as well as allowing for a custom value to be entered.

This is a big change compared to the prior way that Google local categorized businesses, which was based upon a proprietary list of about 500 categories (12 top level and 500 sub-classification). The newly recommended choices are inclusive of the legacy list, but provide greater granularity in product and services classification.

Google Local search uses categories in two ways:
1) The category will be displayed under a business listing
2) A category can be explicitly searched such as
category: Attorneys Adoption, Divorce & Family Law

It will be interesting to see how this will impact Google Local search results. One major implication is keywords could effectively be given as categories, but that could change going forward. Based upon our historical analysis, a businesses category hasn't been shown to greatly impact the ranking of search results on Google Local as it does with Yahoo Local and many other search engines.


One call to action sure: if you already had your business in Google Local, it might be worthwhile to review or update the category classification.

David Rodecker
President, RelevantAds
“getting local business online"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Search Results: Accelerated vs. Standard ad delivery

There are several advanced targeting options when configuring listings on Google adwords . These optimizations affect where and when ad groups are triggered. One commonly overlooked setting is the Delivery method.

Delivery method has 2 settings: Standard and Accelerated.
Google describes these as:
Standard: Show ads evenly over time. Standard delivery distributes your budget throughout the day to avoid reaching your budget early on. Your ads will show periodically throughout the day.
Accelerated: Show ads as quickly as possible. Accelerated delivery displays your ads as often as possible until your daily budget is met.
Accelerated Difference
Google touts that the main difference is that the advertiser is more likely to spend their ad budget. The functional difference is that once Google has shown a sponsored listing it will tend to not show it again to the same users. This comes into effect when a user performs another query or refreshes the page.

Why go accelerated? Usually this is necessary for a psychological affirmation. Businesses need to see their own ad listings in order to believe that their ads are working. The accelerated setting accomplishes this goal by repeatedly showing ads even when the user has already seen them. Another justification is for brand advertising when it is crucial to ensure that a brand name is placed in all relevant areas.

With Standard ad delivery; a sponsored listing may likely not be displayed upon clicking refresh.

Marketing Comparison
However more detailed analysis gives light as to the expectation of differences. Here are two identical campaigns with the exact same settings, ads, keywords and values that were run during the same time period (approximately one month). Here are the statistics:


Max CPC Clicks Impressions CTR Average CPC Total Spend Position
Accelerated $2.00 395 24,598 1.60% $0.95 $374.20 5.6
Standard $2.00 414 13,426 3.08% $0.90 $371.56 4.9


Accelerated ads are shown much more often, and shown multiple times to the same users. The click-through-rate is decreased and as a result Google is penalizing this campaigns' ads. The keyword quality score is shown to be the same across both campaigns, however we experience a 5% higher average-cost-per click with a lower average position.

Bottom Line
The benefit of an accelerated campaign is that your listings are more likely to be shown; however it will come at an increased cost and lower average ranking. Unless you have a compelling reason to display your ads, even when a user has already seen it, this setting should be set to Standard. Brand name advertisers can justify the added expense and exposure.

David Rodecker
President, RelevantAds
“getting local business online"