Just Google Me – A Good Additional to About Me Page?

Mitchell Harper raised an interesting question on his blog by asking whether people with online credibility should be leveraging the power of their name’s Google search results to inform prospects.

He explains that the 3rd party content found on Google will likely build a more credible picture than anything you say about yourself on your own blog:

For more information about me, just Google me.

Someone else’s opinion of you or your products will always hold more authority and trust than you bragging about yourself. By having the balls (excuse my french) to tell people to Google you, and even providing them with the link directly, you allow them to read about you from the perspective of other people, and assuming you don’t have any sour deals in your past this could be a great way to get the trust you need to close a sale, convince a prospect to give you time for a meeting, etc.

I think Harper may be on to something here. Google search results do build credibility, so if you’re experienced and credible online, the search engine results for your name should help tell your story in a very compelling manner.

For my name, I’m fairly satisfied with the results. However, I’ve been an active participant on the web for much longer than average. It also helps to have an uncommon – but by no means unique – name. This adds up to around 90% of the top-100 results having something to do with Ed Kohler as in me rather than some other Ed Kohler like my father.

With that in mind, what do your search engine results look like? Are you comfortable pointing your prospects to Google for confirmation?

Robots.txt Sitemaps Discovery is a Time Saver

You can now use your robots.txt file to point search engines to your site’s sitemap file. This saves time because you’ll no longer have to register with each search engine and submit your sitemap’s URL. Just update your robots.txt file with the location of the sitemap, and search engines will figure it out for themselves.

Here is the line of code to add to your robots.txt file:

Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/yoursitemapname.xml

That’s it.

And your robots.txt file should be in your site’s root directory, at www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt

There are still plenty of reasons why you’d want to register with the webmaster services sections of search sites, but this is no longer one of them.

Where Web Search Fails Today: Local Convenience

Seth Godin explains on his new book blog, The Dip, that the web has changed the face of purchasing by providing more choices and competition than we’ve had in the past:

The Dip by Seth Godin: The Best in the World imperative

ACCESS: Because of the web, we don’t have to limit our choices to the Yellow Pages or who’s nearby or who was recommended by a friend. As a result, with far more choices, we can pick the very best choice, not the most convenient one.

However, one area where the web is still behind the curve is local convenience. When you’re making a significant purchase, choosing between competing products or professionals can make a huge difference in price and quality. But what about times when convenience and speed are the top priorities?

What if I’m looking for a more commodified service, like a towing or locksmith? While there still may be differences in price and quality, the key factor isn’t price but speed in situations like this. Can the web help me quickly figure out who will arrive quickly to solve my problem?

Or, local product searches. More than once, I’ve forgotten something important while traveling such as a phone charger. Again, price isn’t the key factor, and the product is comparable from any store, so I just need to know where I can find an emergency replacement as fast as possible.

Things are getting closer faster for retail than professional services. For example, Google can plot cell phone retailers based on distance from a zip code:

Eventually, I’d like to be able to search by product rather than retail category and see results of stores with the charger I need in inventory. We’re not there yet.

Put another way, the best choice isn’t always the best quality or cheapest, but simply the most convenient. Web enabling this type of choice is still far from done.

Yahoo Search Marketing’s New Look – A Rough Transition

An analysis of Yahoo Search Marketing’s transition to 70 character character limits on ad descriptions.

Can you imagine an army general telling his troops during a battle that they’re changing course, but some will stay on the same course, and he may change his mind about the new course at any time? It’s inconsistent and doesn’t give the troops a vision they can rally behind. That’s the kind of message Yahoo Search Marketing sent today to their 100,000+ advertisers when they announced that they’re changing the display of their ads.

Yahoo has announced plans to shorten the number of characters they display on pay per click ads within search results. Is this because shorter is better? That’s not entirely clear.

From today’s Yahoo Search Marketing’s newsletter to advertisers:

A new look is coming to the Yahoo! search results pages that will translate into more clicks for your listings. On January 18th, Yahoo! will debut a streamlined design that will make the search results displayed on Yahoo! even easier for consumers to read. Our research has shown that by improving the search experience in this way, advertisers can generally expect to see an increase in clicks, while maintaining their conversion rates.


Great opening, but things get muddy in the details:

  1. Yahoo states that their syndication partners plan to continue displaying full ad descriptions. If shorter descriptions receive more clicks, thus revenue, why would their syndication partners stick with the status quo?
  2. Should advertisers now write 70 character descriptions, followed by bonus copy for Yahoo’s partner sites?
  3. Transitioning thousands of ads to the new 70 character limit could be a tedious task for advertisers. Should they let Yahoo crop their current ads or spend the time rewriting their ads?
  4. Complicating things further, Yahoo states that they will, “fine tune the exact character count that we believe works best for advertisers and search users.” How is an advertiser supposed to write creatives for a moving target?


Takeaways:

I think Yahoo Search Marketing is moving in the right direction, but the transition announcement lacked the leadership and decisiveness I’d expect from a company of Yahoo’s stature. Yahoo’s advertisers are their troops, and are looking for direction on how they – in partnership with Yahoo – can reap the best return on their ad spend. Tell them what works. They’ll do it.

Questions:

Is Yahoo Search Marketing really doing this to make their system compatible with Google Adwords? As more advertisers use the Google Adwords API to manage their campaigns, wouldn’t it make sense for Yahoo to make it as easy as possible for advertisers to push the same ad copy to both ad networks? Does Yahoo consider accommodating Google AdWords advertisers a winning business strategy?

What do you think?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Google Local Search is Broken, and It’s Not Their Fault

Takes a look at local searches on Google, and why the quality of results is sorely lacking.

I have found myself becoming increasingly underwhelmed with the quality of search results I encounter while running searches for local businesses and services on Google. For example, try running a search for [Minneapolis plumber] or [Minneapolis electrician] to get a feel for what I’m seeing. When I run searches like this, I’m expecting to find results from local businesses. However, I tend to encounter a search results page dominated by national lead aggregation services who provide little to no information about the local services I’m trying to research.

In my perfect search world, searches like this would bring back links to actual local businesses who will explain their services on their own web sites so I can decide who’s an appropriate fit for me.

I don’t want to see yellow page results at the top of the rankings that provide nothing more than a list of phone numbers. If that’s what I wanted, I’d just grab a YP book, or go directly to a YP site.

I’m not looking for leads aggregator sites like respond.com, servicemagic.com, or findaplumber.com that simply want to sell my name to the highest bidder rather than letting me select the business that’s the best fit for my needs

I don’t want to link to the homepage of national chain companies, only to be asked for my zip code after clicking from a geo-qualified search result.

Should Google be blamed for poor local search?

I’m been giving this some thought, and I think the answer is no. In my opinion, the biggest reason we see poor local results is the poor job local businesses have done marketing themselves online. Because of this, national companies who understand the web – but don’t necessarily know a thing about plumbing or electricity – are becoming gatekeepers for online leads. I’m convinced that Google would love to show more interesting results for local search than they tend to do today, but it’s up to local businesses to provide quality relevant content, and take at least some basic steps needed to make sure their sites can be found.

What do you think?

Are local businesses missing the boat? How satisfied are you with local search results on Google today? Why do you think more local businesses haven’t realized the value of web marketing?

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Online Competitive Research

Five tips on how to efficiently conduct online competitive research.

Are you interested in keeping tabs on your competition, but just can’t seem to find the time? Here are a couple competitive intelligence time savers we use and frankly can’t live without. Here is a concise summary for those of you who are too lazy to read all five tips: Subscribe to search results using RSS readers. If you don’t know what that means, buck up and read on to improve your competitive research efficiency.

  1. Use Google Blogsearch: Search for your arch nemesis’ name on Google Blogsearch to find the latest dirt on the blogs about him. Here’s an example search for Google employee, Matt Cutts.  (In this case, I’m searching for someone who usually has something interesting to say rather than for an arch nemesis). Imagine if there was famous rugby player by the same name. That would lead to a lot of false positives in my stalking efforts, so I’d add a negative for the term [-rugby] (without the brackets) to the search to filter the other Matt Cutts out of the results. [Trivial side note: As of this writing, Matt Cutts has only been mentioned once on a blog post that incluces the word rugby: 3,173 vs 3,174 mentions.]
  2. Use Persistent Searches: Too lazy to run that search on a regular basis? Subscribe to blog search results by clicking one of the Atom or RSS links at the bottom of the results page. Paste the resulting URL into the RSS reader of your choice. A few popular readers today include Bloglines, News Gator, My Yahoo, and Google Reader. Here is a link to Matt Cutt’s blog search RSS feed’s URL. [Note: If you want to to straight to the source to find out what makes Matt Cutts tick, check out his blog at: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/.]

  3. Use Technorati: Who is linking to your competition? There are quite a few tests for this, but Technorati is particularly interesting because it reports what blogs have recently (we’re talking minutes here) linked to a given site. For example, this search for www.technorati.com on Technorati reports 118,022 links to Technorati.com as of this writing, including 17 new links in the past 10 minutes. Discovering who is linking to a site, and clicking to read the associated commentary is a great competitive research technique. You can also use it to measure how “important” your site is vs. your competition based on Technorati’s link metric.

  4. Use Technorati Watchlists: Too lazy to run the same search twice? That’s not laziness. That’s a sign of efficiency. Simply click the Add to Watchlist button on Technorati’s search results page to save it to your personal watch list.
  5. Subscribe to News Search: Too lazy to read blogs, but have time for news stories? Search Yahoo News or Google News for your favorite newsworthy term, then subscribe to the results. Google currently lists their subscribe options on the left column of their site, and Yahoo’s are on the right. Yahoo’s recently added blog search results to the right column of their news results page, so they have a 2 for 1 search offering.

Enough already. Congratulations on reading this far. Maybe you’re not as lazy as you thought?

Feeling energized? Give the above tips a try, or share your own online competitive research tips in the comments below.