SEO – becoming a victim of your own success

If you succeed, others copy you. Some say that this imitation should be seen as flattery. Those who are being imitated may just think you are being plain darn rude.

This is a story of how I had an idea, and that idea trued into an overnight success – with yours truly receiving nul points for it.

Okay, I am over dramatising things here.

SEO

Quite ironically, one of the toughest industries to succeed in is SEO, as the market is hugely over saturated with literally tens of thousands of people and firms, offering their services to help you “reach top of Google” or rank “on page 1 for your keywords” – believe what you will. Food for thought: Google the term ‘SEO’, and there are (to quote Google) “About 224,000,000 results“. Who is top? No, not the best SEO agency, but Wikipedia – naturally!

My Success

Anyhow, the story goes that I had an idea, an idea to make a new image for an article. One of our writers had contributed a guest post, and in that article they talked about SEO. I thought that an interesting image to accompany the article would be an upward pointing arrow (to demonstrate improvement) and the word ‘Google’ balanced on top.

I found an image off the internet, and took Google’s logo for the text, and set about making a large, high quality version of my idea.

The image I created can be seen below.

SEO Graph - GoogleQuite a good image I thought. Apparently, other people like it to. After just 4 months being live on the blog, many other people have found it in Google, and the image now ranks in the top 25 images when you Google Image Search the term ‘SEO’, and the top 10 when you type ‘Google SEO’.

Okay it ranks on an image search, not a ‘web search’, however I still got an image of my design and [part] creation, very high in the SERPs for a very difficult keyword.

The Problem

The problem was the aforementioned popularity. As I opened: “If you succeed, others copy you” – it’s true.

After just a few weeks of the image being live, it had been copied, and Technology Bloggers (the image source) was no longer the site that showed up with the image, as other sites with higher reputations (in Google’s view) stole our limelight.

As the images creator, I believe that when people find the image in Google and then click on it, they should be taken to our site, as without this site, there would have been no image! However we don’t show anymore.

Stealing Images

This lead me to think about stealing images. I was unhappy that other people were taking my work and passing it off as their own, and benefiting more than me because of it.

However who am I to moan, as I steal images too. If I like an image I will use it in an article. Is this right? Possibly not.

Ideas lightbulb

The ‘light bulb’ image I used in my post yesterday.

That said, when using images, I tend not to lift the image straight off a website and put it in my post, I will usually modify it in some way first, so that the image is different from the creators version. I feel this is slightly more justifiable than just ‘stealing’ another’s work.

Take the image in my post on Monday, the idea light bulb, that wasn’t my image, but I resized it and added some text to it – therefore making it a variation, not a copy.

In my Google SEO image, the SEO graph image was an origional image, as was Google’s logo; neither of these images belonged to me, but I still used them.

Right and Wrong

I feel that straight out lifting and pasting images is wrong, and anyone who has ever suffered because of my use of their image, I apologise, get in touch and I will see what I can do.

If you modify an image in some way to make it your own, then I feel you are in a slightly different position.

The Fight Back

As you have probably gathered by now if you are a loyal reader, I [sometimes] have a mild case of perfectionism and am one to constantly tweak, change and improve.

After a while I started to dislike the image I had made; the letters were a little skeewiff and the shadow at the bottom finished a little abruptly.

So I went back the the drawing board and remade the image, but better.

I knew if the last image was successful, and this one was better then it would probably be more popular and therefore shared even more, so I hatched a plan. I decided to watermark the image, very faintly, with Technology Bloggers web address. I don’t really like watermarking much, but it seemed to be the only option I had.

Below is the new image.
Google SEO ChartNotice that there is no watermark on the smaller version of the image, however if you click on the image, the big version does bear the watermark. If you want to use a small version, fine, no problemo. If you use the big version, you advertise our site – simple. That way, if the image is stolen, all credit is not lost, and hopefully, Technology Bloggers should show in the search results for the image, as we have the biggest version hosted on the site.

UPDATE: I have updated the SEO image again! Click the link to view the new version. πŸ™‚

Do you make use of Google Webmaster Tools?

Everybody knows that if you want to run a successful website, Google is one of the most important factors to consider.

How Google understands, interprets and indexes your site, is crucial to where your site appears in the SERPs, and how well your site preforms in the SERPs (specifically the Google SERPs) can be a big determinant how much traffic your site receives, and ultimately how popular/successful your site it.

Google Webmaster Tools is a very useful tool which is often underused by site owners, in order to improve the quality and quantity of traffic that your site receives. In this article I will outline some of the key features I find useful, and some of the main reasons why I use Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools

Why Google?

Google has a monopoly on the search market, with more than 90% of all searches being done through Google – according to StatCounter Global Statistics. Therefore the chases are the majority of traffic your site receives through search is from Google. It would be naive to ignore Bing and Yahoo’s search tools available to webmasters, however if you plan on just focusing on one, Google is probably the wisest choice.

Google is renowned for its major updates, with Penguin and Panda just two recent examples. Webmaster Tools can be a great aid in helping you understand how your site has been affected by the changes and why, so you can either keep doing things the way you are, or change your strategy.

See how well you are doing

The most recent Google Webmaster Tools update has divided the dashboard into five easy to understand sections: configuration, how your site is set up (locality, URL preferences, sitelinks etc.); health, how Google crawls your site and any errors, or malware it detects, and the URLs Google is denied from crawling; traffic, how do people find your site, which search queries do you appear for, who links to your content with what keywords and how does Google+ influence your visitors; optimization, tips and tweaks on how you could adjust your content and sitemap to improve your search position; labs, the latest tools Google are trailing that may be of use.
Webmaster Tools Options - Dashboard, Messages, Configuration, Health, Traffic, Optimization

Find crawler errors

One of the main reasons I use Google Webmaster Tools is because it lets me see how Google views and interprets the sites I administer. Therefore should there ever be an error, I am able to understand what Google is struggling to read/crawl, and therefore try to address the issue. Google lets you view and test specific URLs your robots.txt file is blocking Google from indexing and crawling – there is a difference. If you are denying it access to something by mistake you can then rectify this.

Google also lets you see any pages it cannot find. If you run a content management system based site (like one powered by WordPress) it is common that you will change things using the system, and unforeseen errors will be created leading to pages not being found where they either should be, or once were. Google lets you see when it can’t find pages, along with when it is denied from accessing pages, and when inadequate redirects are in place.

If you don’t use Google Webmaster Tools and don’t reduce the problems Google encounters when crawling your site, the likelihood is that your site will suffer in the SERPs – there isn’t much debate about that.

Labs

Google say that:

“Webmaster Tools Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.”

however this doesn’t mean that these tools should be ignored, in fact I think they are probably one of the most overlooked resources that Google provides webmasters with.

One of the current ‘Labs’ tools that I think is very useful is the ‘Site performance’ tool. Google may not have generated any information about your site, however if you are one of the lucky ones to be analysed, this can prove a very interesting tool. In Google’s own words:

“This page shows you performance statistics of your site. You can use this information to improve the speed of your site and create a faster experience for your users.”

As page load time becomes more and more important to users and therefore search engines alike, this page is of crucial importance for many people.

Improvements

You might not expect it, but in the ‘Optimization’ section, under the ‘HTML Improvements’ section Google will actually suggest areas where you could improve your code to ensure that your content is the best possible. Common errors Google suggests for correction include missing or duplicate title tags, (in most cases, and SEO no, no) and meta tag issues.

Traffic

The tools in the ‘Traffic’ section are probably the ones I use the most. ‘Search Queries’ gives you a fantastic incite into where your site is appearing in search results in all different locations across the world. If you pair Webmaster Tools with Analytics, this can become a lot more useful.

Links to your site and internal links lets you see your post linked to content, and the keywords that are linking to it. Generally speaking, if you want to rank well for a keyword, you need to have some links (internal and/or external) using that keyword.

The great thing about Google Webmaster Tools is that it integrates with many other Google programs, in order to improve your total control and visibility of your site. AdSense, Analytics, YouTube and AdWords are just some of the other Google products that Webmaster Tools integrates with.

That is just a quick overview of what Webmaster Tools has to offer. If you own a website, I strongly recommend that you explore it further to help improve your sites visibility in the search results, and to enable you to weather algorithm changes (like Penguin and Panda) that little bit better.

Do you use Webmaster Tools? What are your favourite features?

Technology Bloggers adopts post authorship

Until recently I haven’t been as aware as I probably should have been of the Google update, which allows authors to claim authorship of their posts in the SERPs.

I was recently talking about the blog in the (Google) Webmaster Central Help Forum, when someone suggested that we should use Google Authorship. I had heard of it before, but wasn’t 100% sure what it meant, or why we should take the time to adopt it.

So after a little research, I am here to present my findings to you πŸ™‚

What is Google Authorship?

Google Authorship is a relatively new part of search results, whereby Google shows the (Google+ profile) avatar of a person next to articles they have written in the SERPs. This means that people know who wrote something, even before they visit the page.

Google will not only give an avatar which it fetches from the writers Google+ profile, but it will also link to that persons profile. It might also provide additional information like how many circles the person is in. See the image below for more of an idea of how it looks.

Examples of authors Google+ profiles in the SERPsHow Can I Claim My Posts?

If you run your own blog, and you are the only person who ever writes on it, it is dead easy. Just add a link to your Google profile page withΒ ?rel=author after it, and with the text being the same name as your Google profile, to your profile, or just every page of the blog.

The code would look something like this:

<a href="https://plus.google.com/114686389155717038852?rel=author" rel="author" title="Christopher Roberts on Google+">Christopher Roberts</a>

What if I Run or Am Part of a Multi-Author Blog?

If you are part of a blog with multiple authors, it can get a bit more complicated. Basically, the admin needs to make sure that there is no sitewide Google+ profile link, as that could mess things up. Each individual author will need to either link to their Google+ profile with the tag rel=”author” on every post they write, or link to their profile page on every page they write with the tag rel=”author” and then on their profile page link to their Google+ profile with rel=”me”.

It may sound a bit complicated, but it does make sense. If you don’t own a site, don’t worry about it. If you do and need some help, ask me in the comments, or send me a message πŸ™‚

How Do I Claim Authorship of My Posts on Technology Bloggers?

Recently I have been very busy tweaking bits of WordPress’s code, in order to make it as easy as possible for you to claim authorship of the posts you write on Technology Bloggers.

There are three really simple tasks you need to complete. The first is to go to your Google+ profile ‘About’ page and under ‘Contributes to’ add Technology Bloggers – http://www.technologybloggers.org. The second step is to copy your Google+ profile URL and paste it into the ‘Google+ Profile URL’ box on your WordPress admin profile page. Finally in the box below (‘Google+ Name’) add your name as it appears on your Google+ profile. That is it! The blog does the rest of the work for you, and adds a link to your Google+ profile to your writer profile page.

Screenshot Technology Bloggers Admin Profile - Google Authorship

A screenshot of the data you need to fill in on your profile, in order to claim authorship of your posts on Technology Bloggers.

If you don’t have a Google+ profile page, your link will just direct to your WordPress profile page. Not sure what I mean? Don’t worry, if you don’t have one, nothing bad will happen!

I have updated the post guidelines to include a section about how to link to your profile, however this article probably has a more detailed explanation!

A Final Word About rel=”author” and rel=”me”

If you are still confused about rel=”author” and rel=”me”, look at it this way: rel=”author” lets search engines know that the URL with that tag in is pointing to your author profile, be that WordPress, Google+, about.me or another; rel=”me” lets search engines that the URL with that tag in is another website/profile/blog etc. that is yours.

To see the Google Authorship in action you will have to wait a while for Google to index the pages and register the authorship. To check that your code is working okay and that Google can find your authorship, try using Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool.

For more information on Google Authorship, please check out Google’s help article on it.