Pillar Three: Under The Bonnet

Three Pillars of SEO

In the final part of my series called ‘The Three Pillars of SEO’, I am tackling ‘under the bonnet’, or the more technical way to influence SEO.  There are a lot of areas that could fall into this category, so I am not going to cover all of them: I will just deal with just 4 of these that I think are pretty important.  You probably have a different view, but remember: – if we knew how search engines prioritise elements of SEO, we would be wealthy people!

Case sensitive URLs: very few people actually capitalise a web address into their browser, but when you go to sites which have been managed by non-digital experts, you will often find capitalised URLs.  Google may think that even though the words in the URL are the same, the capitalisation denotes something different – which means that you may have a duplicate content issue, which you really don’t want.  Most developers would be able to sort this problem out pretty quickly.

Site Speed: this is one of the most over-looked areas of SEO and general website user experience.  In the modern age with high speed internet, a slow pay load may really kill off your chances of conversion.  47% of consumers expect a page to load fully in 2 seconds, so the window is small.  Solutions to page load speed can get a little technical, so consult and expert who knows your site.

Upload an XML sitemap: you are able to upload a sitemap of your website to Google to ensure that when Google are crawling your website, they are looking for every page.  There are free tools which you can use from the web to generate a sitemap, and they can be uploaded via Google Webmaster Tools.

Keep tagging: When you read about search engine’s sophistication in 2013, it is easy to forget how much information they still need to be told.  This information is told to the search engines in the shape of tags – small pieces of data which tell a search engine what the page is about.  This is the information which should go into your meta descriptions, as well as your alt tags for images.

The Three Pillars of SEO hopefully illustrate to you that SEO works best when there is activity happening with all three pillars – a website that is not technically sound will remain problematic even with some amazing off-page activity, and vice versa.  And SEO is a moving topic – there will always be updates from Google and other search engines which means that great SEO practitioners will have to continually adapt.

Facebook Graph Search

Graph-Search

Graph-Search

It has been three months since Facebook started to roll-out Facebook Graph Search, but there is still little known about what it does, and even less known about what the implications of it are.  This blog post aims to shed a little light on this new and potentially game-changing tool.

What is it?

Facebook has a huge database of information that it collects from its one billion users.  With last year’s IPO, it is under pressure to turn this big data into revenue, and Facebook Graph Search is a means of achieving this.  It is a semantic search tool, meaning that it looks for the context of your search, not just the words of your search (e.g. if you searched for boiler, it will try and work out if you are looking to purchase a boiler, or looking to find an engineer to service one). 

The first port of call for Facebook Graph Search is the user’s network of friends.  It will then look to information shared by users who are not listed as friends, but whose privacy settings are set to public.  And finally, it will supplement the search results directly from Microsoft’s Bing search engine.  In the future, it is likely that Instagram photos will appear in search results, but I think this is something for 2014.

What does it mean?

I think that it would be wrong to think that this is a threat to Google’s dominance of search.  For me, I think they are different tools – Google uses the whole of the web to search for matching page results relating to user keywords (although it is becoming stronger with semantic search, it is still keyword-based).  Facebook Graph Search uses a network of data which is driven by your Facebook friends to find semantic search results.  So, what should you do to prepare for Facebook Graph Search?

  • Check your personal privacy settings – if you have a personal Facebook page and your privacy settings are set to public, you may appear in search results from people that you don’t know.  You have been warned!
  • Update your Company page – make sure that your company page categorises your business correctly, so that you appear only in the most relevant searches
  • If your business has a physical presence, encourage fans to check-in using Facebook Places – this will be viewed as an endorsement of your service and will help you in search results

Facebook Graph Search may level the playing field of search.  A small business with a Facebook page which has loyal fans can compete with companies whose huge budgets help them score highly in SEO and PPC. 

What do you think about Facebook Graph Search?  Game-changer or just the next fad?