Duplication Solution Announced With Canonical Tag

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft announced a joint agreement today at the SMX West conference in Santa Clara to support a new protocol which is intended to assist webmasters in reducing duplicate content issues on websites. All three are issuing blog postings about this, and Matt Cutts presented the new protocol in a session just a few minutes ago at SMX.

Matt Cutts explains the Canonical Tag at SMX West

This is a really exciting addition to the SEO’s toolbox! Duplicate content often occurs when webmasters accidentally create alternate URLs for the same content across their sites. The larger the site, the more likely it is to have serious duplication issues. This was one of the most difficult issues I used to work upon when I was in charge of SEO for Superpages.com — nearly any site which uses dynamic URLs with querystrings to specify how content is delivered end up with some level of duplication.

Here’s just a few examples of duplicate URLs:

The solution the search engines collaborated upon to solve canonical and duplicate content issues is very straightforward — one can add them within the HEAD tags of a document:

<head>
<link rel=”canonical” value=”http://example.com/page.html”/&gt;

</head>

Matt provided a number of caveats and advance clarifications about use of the tag:

  • It’s a hint to the search engines. Not a directive/mandate/requirement.
  • Far better to avoid dupes and normalize URLs in the first place.
  • If you’re a power user, exhaust alternatives first.
  • Does not work across domains.
  • DOES work across subdomains.
    (The example Matt gave was from Zappos’ new design subdomain: zeta.zappos.com vs. http://www.zappos.com)
  • Pages do not have to be identical.
  • Can one use relative / absolute urls? Yes, but we suggest absolute!
  • Can you follow a chain of canonicals? We may, but don’t count on it.

Matt added a further disclaimer about how search engines may not be able to handle some extreme cases, so don’t push the envelope too much. He said:

  • Point to a 404?
  • Or create an infinite loop?
  • Or point to an uncrawled URL?
  • Or www/non-www conflict?
  • Search engines will do the best they can.

Then, he jokingly quoted Ghostbusters in context to this: “Don’t cross the beams!”

"Don't Cross the Beams!" Ghostbusters

This whole protocol is really interesting and a great tool for webmasters to use. However, the caveats and strong suggestion that webmasters try to fix duplication content issues before resorting to this canonical tag would make me prefer to try to solve such problems instead of using this. It’s good to have the option, though!

Here’s the top announcement articles about this Canonical Tag protocol:

Vint Cerf Keynote at SMX West

Chris Sherman interviewed Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and VP, Vint Cerf in a very interesting keynote interview this morning at the SMX West conference in Santa Clara.

Vint Cerf & Chris Sherman at SMX Keynote

Subjects touched upon included Cerf’s work on the Interplanetary Internet with NASA. It is a new standard to communicate from planet to planet, using radio/laser communications that are highly tolerant to signal degradation.

Cerf also talked about search marketing, the tolerance/intolerance of users to advertising, and the high level of importance that Google places upon internet privacy.

It was a very interesting session!

KeyRelevance Search Marketing Professionals Share Expertise at SMX West

SMX West Conference SpeakerKeyRelevance is honored to have two members of their online marketing team presenting in four sessions at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West Conference in Santa Clara California February 10-12, 2009.

KeyRelevance President Christine Churchill will take the podium on the first day of the conference in a solo presentation entitled SMX Boot Camp: Keyword Research Tools and Techniques. “Keyword research is the critical first step in any online marketing endeavor. Keyword research can make or break a company’s success in online marketing,” states Christine.

During the keyword session, Christine will be providing insider tips on how to conduct keyword research, a review of keyword tools, as well as the best ways to evaluate keywords. She will also be demonstrating advanced techniques for extracting vital information out of keyword tools.

“Today’s economy demands that online marketers know exactly which keyword phrases produce the best results,” Christine explained. “Now more than ever, smart marketers need to arm themselves with sound keyword research to make better marketing decisions.”

The SMX Boot Camp sessions offered at SMX West are designed as teaching sessions for attendees who desire to get a better foundation for search marketing. During the conference, there will be five Boot Camp sessions covering different components of online marketing including Keyword Research, Copywriting, Paid Search, Link building and Search Engine Friendly Design. Attendees who complete all five Boot Camp Sessions will receive a Certificate of Completion signed by Search Industry Guru Danny Sullivan.

Christine will also be presenting on the Advanced Keyword Research Tactics panel. In this session, Christine will be exploring ways for companies to intelligently pursue the long tail strategy of keywords and additional keyword tools. Also on the Advanced Keyword Research panel are Marty Weintraub, President of aimClear and Bryson Meunier of Resolution Media. Gordon Hotchkiss will be providing insights and order as moderator of the session.

Key Relevance’s Director of Optimization Strategies, Chris “Silver” Smith, will be a featured speaker at the conference on two sessions. Chris will be demonstrating local optimization techniques in the “Up Close with Google Maps & Local” session on the first day. Chris will also be demonstrating image optimization techniques in the “Tapping into Image Search” session on day two.

If you haven’t registered for SMX West, you can sign up at http://www.searchmarketingexpo.com/west. If you attend, come with questions in mind that you would like to have answered, and make sure to introduce yourself to others. Look over the Agenda and plan ahead on which of the sessions you would like to attend – most sessions have a question and answer session, and there will be ample opportunities to talk with experts in the Conference halls and many networking activities planned with the conference.

Glad to Join KeyRelevance!

Hi, folx! I’m Chris Silver Smith, and I’ve just joined KeyRelevance as their new Director of Optimization Strategies. I thought I’d provide a brief post here on the group blog to introduce myself.

I previously worked for Netconcepts on development and management of their automated search optimization software, and while there I also provided search marketing consulting for some of the top Internet Retailer 500 brands as well as other Fortune 500 company sites.

Prior to that, I was head of the technology department for Verizon’s (now spun off as “Idearc”) Superpages.com where I headed up teams that worked upon taxonomy, map based search development, mobile applications, city guides, weather systems, RSS and APIs, and more. I worked there for over a decade and have around five patents pending for some of that work, involving local search and user-interface technologies.

I’ve worked in search engine optimization from the very early days to present, and I really enjoy it. I used to play with Rubik’s cubes when I was growing up, and SEO work often feels like I’m still solving puzzles, only I now get paid to do it!

I’m looking forward to working with the folx at KeyRelevance I’ve known both Christine and Li from the search marketing conference circuit, and I’ve always been impressed with the level of expertise combined with ethical commitment I’ve seen with this firm.

Anyways, greetings to all of you regular readers of this blog as well as past, present and potential future clients! We have a very strong team of experts here who all have a dedication to providing a high quality of work I look forward to working with you, and to providing some occasional observations and search marketing advice through this group blog.

Key Relevance Review of eMetrics: Hotels.com’s Joe Megibow Keynote

Joe Megibow of Hotels.com - eMetrics KeynoteI don’t know if I’ve ever seen a keynote be so insightful and revealing about a major internet website as I did when I attended Joe Megibow’s Keynote at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington DC. Joe is from Hotels.com and the audience was certainly treated to some great insight into listening to the voice of a customer as well as testing and being fanatical about “getting it right”.

Hotels.com is quickly approaching its 1 millionth user review. Through reviews and feedback they have learned to both listen and learn to provide what their customer really want, not what what they think their customers need.

Two years ago, Hotels.com was at a crossroads, they were known as the “low cost, cheap operator”, but they wanted to be more. At the beginning of 2008 they launched a re-branding which included re-branding their website. A few weeks ago, they relaunched their search engine which is faster and easier for customer to use.

Hotels.com does a lot of analytics through Ominiture. They are fanatical, analytics drives almost everything on their site. However, over the last year they wanted to listen to their customers a little more, but they really had no context. Their good sales were masking the problems that were really happening on the site, so they needed to find another way. They combined “voice of the customer” with analytics in a usable way.

They installed OpinionLab, they got a lot of feedback. What’s even more important, every OpinionLab entry is tied to TeaLeaf. They also installed over 700 phone numbers so that they can measure all of the channels that sales and feedback comes from. All of this transforms Hotels.com.

Executives at Hotels.com get feedback everyday, and they use it, they read it. They click on what happens in different issues watch it in TeaLeaf and send their own feedback to the different teams within Hotels.com. Everybody has buy in to fix things on Hotels.com. They’ve acted on 200 site conversion issues over the last 6 months. The thing to remember is that mistakes are common, everyone has them. But not everyone realizes they have them and on top of that not everyone acts upon their mistakes to correct them.

They had issues with logins. They thought they only had 2 ways to login, but through the customer feedback and watching the sessions being replayed in TeaLeaf, they were able to see that they actually had a third way to login that they never realized they had. This third way was what was creating a big problem. Because of this they added a “book without registering” option. Immediately half of all the customers chose this option!

Hotels.com realized by installing the “book without registering” option, they were making it hard for their customers to book. Not only that, customers were not getting any kind of value out of registering with their site. There was a disconnect between how the marketers were thinking about customer conversion. They really needed to give customer a reason to register, a reason to care about their accounts. They introduced – book 10 nights, get 1 night free – “the loyalty program that doesn’t require too much loyalty”.

Joe Megibow of Hotels.com - eMetrics KeynoteThe loyalty program exposed issues they didn’t realize that they had. A customer had an issue with logging in. Joe called her and talked to in detail about what happened. He actually turned her into a fan of Hotels.com. But from the conversation Joe also gained valuable insight, apparently something was happening with the loyalty program after booking many nights and getting a bunch of free nights. A certain field was getting wiped out. They looked into this and found thousands of profiles with the same issue and as time was going on, it was getting worse. They fixed the issue within a week.

Customers do not repeatedly make this stuff up. They were getting random reports of issues of their Terms of Service. It was not allowing users to accept it no matter what they tried. It was about 1 person a day, but they were having trouble recreating the problem. When they started looking deeper, they found 40-50 people a day were having this problem, and it had to do with IE. It took a few months of investigating but they fixed it, and now that issues gone and 40-50 more people are converting and booking.

Minor updates can create major issues! One of their updates created issues with the SSL and how cookies were handle. People browse in different ways, a lot of people use the back button. Apparently a lot more than they realized, combine that with the fact they use 4 different servers to service up Hotels.com, when customer were backing out of the SSL are to regular HTML pages, the update was dropping their cookies, and then they had a 1 in 4 chance of getting back to where their were before, if they didn’t hit the right server, their information was dropped. This was very frustrating to their customers, they listened, they used TeaLeaf and corrected it.

Hotels.com is fanatical about getting this stuff right. Everyone inside Hotels.com is dedicated to it. Internally they have people just wanting to create mashups, tools and applications to help them make it easier to listen to the customer and fix things that aren’t working right. They built an in-house iPhone application for monitoring the Voice of the Customer since most of their staff was on the iPhone. Over the past months, they’ve seen a substantial increase in conversion because of their efforts. They’ve created a ton of good will and they are winning the cultural shift within Hotels.com internally of doing good by the customer.

eMetrics: Google Analytics 6 New Features & Improvements

I think Google’s outdone itself here. Seriously!

I already had a sneak peak this morning at something I knew Google Analytics was changing. I figured “that” was the announcement at the 2 p.m. special session in the ballroom here at eMetrics Marketing Optimzation Summit. Early this morning, I was surprised to run into my friend Avinash Kaushik in front of the WAA booth, because he told me back in August he wouldn’t be here at eMetrics. I had a feeling something “big” was onhand.

I mentioned to Avinash, about the change and asked if that was the announcement. He smiled in his “coy” way and just said “Li, make sure you are in the ballroom at 2!” Needless to say, Avinash doesn’t have to say anything to me twice, I get it. So I was there.

Not 1, not 2, not even 3 features or improvements, they announced 6!

So here’s a quick rundown:
1. Interface changes
2. Adsense Integration
3. Visualization Charts (these are way cool looking)
4. Custom Reports
5. Segmentation
6. API! (this got huge cheers from the audience)

I’ve got video on three of the announcements, I’m working on getting them up to the web, so you can hear Avinash explain it in his own words.

eMetrics & Google Analytics a Key Relevance Review of Day 1

Google Conversion University - ProfilesYesterday was the first day of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization in the Washington DC area. The conference runs until Thursday, and I’ll be posting some highlights from the eMetrics conference.

Google was one of 4 special sessions yesterday that eMetrics hosted on this first day. The other three sessions were eMetrics Industry Insights Day, Web Anayltics Association Base Camp sponsored by Omniture and Intelligent Research, Targeting & Measurement of Interactive Ads & Audience. In the all day session on Conversion was focused upon Google Analytics for about 95% of the time, and some focus on current and upcoming tools Google is working on.

In the Conversion University presented by Google Analytics session, things started off pretty basic with a basic overview of where Google Analytics came from, as most online marketers know, Urchin was acquired by Google back in March of 2005. Urchin itself, was started back in 1997, so it had been around measuring website analytics for quite a while. After the acquisition by Google (shortly after Urchin launched its Urchin on Demand product), Google launched its analytics in November 2005. It’s amazing to me it has been nearly three years since that launch – wow does time fly.

From the history we dove into a lot of different things with Google Analytics. From filters, to exclusion of parameters, to profiles and making them for special groups, subdomains, blogs, etc., there’s a lot of ways that small businesses can make Google Analtyics a powerful resource for gaining insights into what can improve their conversions. The most surprising thing to me, is that there is a lot more than I really ever thought.

I’ve been using Google Analytics since the inception of Search Marketing Gurus, but I’ve never taken the time to dive deeper than what is at the surface. Now that I’ve been introduced to the more powerful features, you can bet I will be utilizing them. Sometimes reading a book can inspire you, but for me actually sitting in a class, and having the tools demonstrated live, works even better to motivate me.

Discussing Google Analytics\' ProfilesThe class went on to work with hooking Analytics up to your Google Adwords account, how you can track down to the finest minutia of what is working and what isn’t working in your online marketing campaign with Google Adwords. It’s rather easy for small businesses to do, and easy if you are someone who is managing the PPC campaign yourself.

The end of the day was dedicated to Google’s Website Optimizer. Talk about a powerful tool, that FREE. Anyone can now take advantage of website optimizer, you no longer need to have a Google Adwords account to do so. So if you want to do A/B testing, multi-variant testing or split testing, Google’s Website Optimizer can handle them all. It’s really a neat tool, and you can use it to test colors, buttons, banners, text on the page and just about anything that you think would enhance or detracts from the visitor converting on your site. Remember conversions isn’t just buying something, it’s subscribing or commenting too!

The last part of the full day session went over other Google tools such as Google’s Webmaster Tools, Inisight and the currently in beta AdPlanner. AdPlanner is some very powerful stuff, and the representatives in the room with the instructor, Justin Cutroni of EpikOne, told us that the data that AdPlanner uses does not come from Google Analytics or Google Accounts.

Overall, I’m really glad I picked the the Google Conversion University. Sometimes as marketers we take for granted the “top level” of tools and don’t dig deeper, either because of time, or resources, or maybe that’s someone else’s responsibility. It’s great to get this kind of in-depth perspective, and it’s definitely a great reason to come to this conference. For some quick insights, hop over to my “A Morning at Google Analytics University” review on SMG.

Omniture Seminar in Dallas Oct 14 – Free

Our friends at Omniture are hosting a FREE seminar on Tuesay 14 October in Dallas. In the half-day seminar they will be covering both their SearchCenter and Test & Target tools. The event will be in Dallas on October 14th at the W- Dallas Victory Hotel. Here’s an overview of what they will present:

Automate Paid Search

Set up and manage campaigns across all search engines from a single interface
Create automated bid rules to improve return on ad spend without daily, manual intervention
Adapt keyword bids according to strategic success events beyond simple click-through rates
Correlate paid keywords with your internal on-site search to expand and refine keyword lists and optimize destination URLs
Improve unaided brand awareness through search engine marketing

Improve Relevance

Improve your conversion by using A/B and multivariate testing on your landing pages, banners, forms and any other Web site content
Geo-targeting– how to target content based on the location data you already have in your Web analytics tool
Segment targeting– how to create segments that make sense for your business
Email testing– improve the results of your email campaigns by determining which actually convert best in real-time

Space is limited so register today to reserve your seat. Here is the direct link to register with the schedule: http://events.omniture.com/register/seminars/us2008/index.html.

SMX East 2008 – Great show, great people, great content

SMX East logo Great conferences don’t happen by accident. That said, the recent SMX East show rates as fabulous. Danny Sullivan, Chris Sherman and the rest of the Third Door folks did an incredible job of putting together a first class show.

How they do it is an art form. First, they entice the best keynotes and speakers in the industry to come and openly share their knowledge. (Looking over the list of speakers, I feel privileged and humbled that I’m even allowed to participate.) Then Danny and Chris develop a killer agenda that has broad audience appeal yet is balanced enough to offer something for everyone from the novice marketer to the advanced expert.

Throw in sponsors and exhibitors to help finance the show and provide the attendees cool stuff like wireless connections (thanks Rand), tee shirts, and light-up promotional items that max out the geek meter.

Lastly, you need a hard working dedicated staff to run the lights, music, microphones, registration, and all the other behind-the-scenes things that make the show the A+ event it was. Kudos to Karen, Claire, Michelle, and everyone else involved.

The week leading up to the show was tough. Employee and friend Li Evans unexpectedly lost her father. Another employee had to be rushed to the Emergency Room and spent the week in the hospital undergoing breathing treatments. If that wasn’t enough trauma, during the week, a close family friend succumbed to cancer after a long arduous struggle. While that death wasn’t a total surprise, I found myself emotionally drained. The world felt a little smaller and colder.

Arriving in NYC after such a week meant I really wasn’t in the mood for parties. I was craving quieter smaller exchanges with close friends. One positive thing about conferences is that it brings old friends together. Conference friends have a special place. They may not physically live near us but because we share time and adventures in locales far from our homes where we are without our usual support networks, there is a special bonding and closeness that develops. I have conference friends who are like extended family to me. We take turns looking out for each other and we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders on more than one occasion.

This trip my dear friend Scottie Claiborne popped up to NYC to visit our group of friends and stayed with me. A few years ago Scottie had withdrawn from the conference limelight to focus more on kids and a balanced life. Within a few minutes of seeing Scottie my spirits were brighter. Scottie has that effect on me and most people she comes in contact with. It was great catching up with her.

Photo of Debra Mastaler and Christine ChurchillOne night during the conference a group of friends assembled in the hotel bar to celebrate Debra Mastaler’s birthday. It was comforting to be in the midst of friends and I was genuinely happy to see them. Debra is a popular lady in search and a dear long-time friend. Some of the many friends who stopped by to wish her well were Jill Whalen, Scottie Claiborne, Mike Grehan, Brad Neelan, Mona Eiesseily, Andrew Goodman, Stacy Williams, Li Evans, Kim Krause Berg and her charming husband Eric, Kevin Newcomb, Simon Heseltine, and many others.

I sat in on a number of sessions at the conference and was delighted with the content. It would be hard to choose which was my favorite this conference, so many were excellent. If I was forced to pick just one, I would have to say I enjoyed Gregory Markel’s presentation on video search engine optimization the best. I’ve known Gregory a long time and consider him a friend. I have also learned over the years that embedded in his enthusiastic presentations are really great marketing jewels. You can tell he loves what he does and Gregory is very willing to share his knowledge. If you missed his session at SMX, watch for him at another show. I’ve been in the search business for ten plus years, and I walked out of the session with a few new tricks. Thanks Greg.

That leads me to another topic. The search industry moves too fast to sit on your laurels. You have to actively grow and learn new skills….constantly. If you stand still the industry will pass you by. One of the easiest ways to stay up to date of new changes in the industry is to attend conferences. Books in our industry are outdated before they are printed. Attending conferences gives you more current information and is one of the best professional development practices you can do. Sure, it costs money to attend, but if you get a couple nuggets of new information and network with folks who can help you do your job better, it’s worth every cent.

My next conference, SMX London, is 4-5 November 2008. I’m already looking forward to it. Each conference has its own flavor and the London show is a great place to learn about all things search, but especially learn about international marketing techniques.

I’ll be speaking on two panels in London. Dear friend Tor Crockatt (who is not only drop dead beautiful, but is a first class marketer) and I will be paired up in a Keyword Research Bootcamp. I’ve spoken on panels with Tor many times and it’s always thrilling to share the podium with someone as knowledgeable and fun as Tor. There is good chemistry between us. Keeping us in line (or trying to) will be moderator and conference co-chair Chris Sherman. Good luck Chris, we outnumber you.

My other speaking session at SMX London is the Paid Search Checkup panel. Paid Search wizard Mel Carson and I will interactively review paid search campaigns and provide constructive advice to improve them. Live clinics are my favorite type sessions because you never know what will be thrown at you. They are also where you, as an advertiser, can get free advice from experienced marketers. If you are already an expert marketer, it’s nice to get a second opinion if you’re looking for new ideas on marketing. The cross fertilization of tips and experience in the clinic makes for a rich exchange where everyone benefits.

Well, I’ve managed to ramble on a number of topics and even cross the globe in a very short time. You have things to do, so I’ll close by saying I hope to see you at a conference soon. And please, do come up and say hello if you attend. I’m very approachable, human, and always open to make a new search friend.

Christine

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