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Google has created a new button that can be placed on your website to allow people to start a hangout from your web page. Here it is just one of the possible buttons. I had no idea it was so easy.
Here is one example of the code you can use to get a similar button.
<div class=”g-hangout” data-render=”createhangout”></div>
If you click the hangout button you will immediately access a live active hangout. However, right now, you may be the only one in the hangout.
Thanks Todd Nakamura for sharing this code.
Matt Cutts told us at Pubcon in Las Vegas last October that Google that they were tightening up Google Authorship. He said that Google wanted to make sure that the people they show as authors are high quality authors and that if they reduced the amount of authorship by 10 or 15% they would radically improve the quality of the search results.
Since Google quickly made good on its promise to scale back authorship snippets in the search results it might be wise to re examine what Matt Cutts had to say about Author Rank.
Cutts said that Google was looking at detecting and boosting authorities in the search results. He said that if you are an authority in a particular topic to keep writing about that topic and deepening the amount of content that you have. He said that you really want to be a resource and an authority. And if you do turn out to be an authority you are more likely to be boosted in the search results by these Google changes.
Later in his address Cutts talks about the effects of social on author rank. He says that plus ones, retweets, etc will not have an effect on ranking in the short term but left it open for the future. He said that although it’s not the case that +1′s give you a boost in the rankings right now, however in the long term having good social signals is a reflection of being an authority and the type of person that people listen to. And if social signals reflect that you are the type of person that someone wants to listen to, then search engines want to listen to you as well. His advice was not to get it backwards and strive for +1′s, but rather to become an expert that people want to listen to and attract the social signals that will also signal the search engine that you are an authority and boost you in the search results.
We’ve been reading for a couple of years what it takes to build author authority and improve your author rank. Obviously it starts with good content. Just as Matt Cutts said you need to become an authority in your field and create content that garners social signals in the form of +1′s, resharing, etc. However, although it starts with good content, if you want it to appear in the search results don’t forget good old fashioned SEO. Google still depends on keywords to determine if your content is relevant to the search query.
Also, don’t ignore creating a large body of work around your field of expertise. Cutts said to keep writing about your particular topic and deepening the amount of content that you have. This means creating original content and creating it on the web, not on Gplus, although you most definitely have to share it there. I think many people initially flocked to Gplus because they had a hunch that it would ultimately boost author rank, but it is probably not going to happen if you are just resharing other people’s content. That doesn’t make you an expert or an authority. You need your own content and I suggest creating it on a blog. It’s been my experience that unless you are a very heavy hitter with lot’s of Google juice your Google Plus posts will not rank as fast organically as a blog post in the search results. Usually the Gplus posts that you see in the search results are personal search results that only you and the people who have you in a circle can see.
See this post to get links to validate content mentioned above.
View Matt Cutts keynot address at Pubcon
Semantic search has certainly been getting a lot of buzz lately. However, I wonder if an accurate picture of semantic search is being painted. If you just read the headlines one might get the impression that keywords and the old way of doing SEO are no longer relevant.
Case in point, in a recent panel about the future of SEO, Barbara Star, who identifies herself a semantic strategist, said that keywords are an artifact of an earlier age and no longer suitable as search engines evolve into questions and answer engines. She went on to say that this is probably disturbing news to many in the SEO set.
Also in the same panel, Mike Arnesen an SEO team manager, said that it was always a somewhat unnatural process to have to advise clients to craft content so that it can match to specific keywords to get traction. “Now we can tell them to just write good content, put what you need to put on the web and it will be easier find because of semantic markup and semantic search.”
But I’m not so sure this is true. At least my research indicates otherwise. In fact, it’s my premise that keywords are just as important as ever and to ignore them could be a huge mistake.
I think the misunderstandings about semantic search might start with Google itself. Matt Cutt’s has said that Google wants to move away from a reliance on keywords in search to a semantic world, where Google tries to look beyond the keywords to the searchers intent.
In the past Google would parse through each word in a search string looking for relevant keywords in the vast warehouse of content across the Internet. Often, this returns useful search results as most of us have experienced over the last several years. However, it’s not always perfect. If Google looks at each word in a conversational search string and then tries to match up the keywords in the string to keywords in the content, the content may not answer the searchers query.
It became Google’s goal to shift from looking at each word in the search string as a keyword and instead look at the entire search string as a composite and analyze what it was the searcher was actually asking. However, this new semantic analysis of the searchers query still results in specific words, keywords, that should be reflected in the content. When a person enters a semantic conversational query into Google search, Google analyzes that search string and condenses it into specific words, (words are all it has to work with) and still looks for content relevant to these keywords. If the content contains those keywords all the better. So for the content creator, traditional on page SEO is still very relevant.
All we have to do to see what is really happening with semantic search is do a few searches.
We’ve been told that semantic search is now an answer engine, so I thought I would ask Google a few off the wall questions.
I asked Google, “Is there proof of worm holes”
This question has two important words, wormholes and proof. Below are the search results.
The first search result is from Wikipedia. It comes from a Wikipedia page with the title Wormholes. Keywords really at work there.
We also see the semantic characteristics of Google at work. Google knows that I’m not talking about fishing worms and Google knows that my question for “proof”, another keyword, can also mean “evidence”.
Google, in this semantic search snippet does us the favor of digging into the Wikipedia article and finding the exact excerpt that answers our question and contains our keywords. Google even shows the keywords in bold print.
The second search result from Yahoo answers is even more keyword connected with my exact search query highlighted in the rich snippet of Yahoo answers.
Neither of these search results would have appeared in the search results if they weren’t relevant to the keywords of the query. These search results appeared because the had the keywords in the content.
Now I’m sure many people are thinking of possible searches which do not contain the primary keyword. I tried one of those as well.
I know there is a museum in a neighboring community that has a fantastic collection of antique cars and also has a Christmas show with stupendous pipe organ music. My wife wanted to get tickets to the Christmas show but I couldn’t remember the name of the museum. So I conducted a search, “What’s the place in Sylmar that has a car collection and Christmas show.”
Below are the search results.
My answer is the Nethercutt Museum. Google was able to retrieve this information because of the keywords in my query. My query included the keywords, Sylmar, car collection, and Christmas.
The search results included the content Sylmar, place, classic cars and vintage cars. Google may have made the association of classic and vintage to the word museum. Again, this content would not be in the search results if it wasn’t for the match of keywords.
No matter what convoluted search string we enter into search, Google will translate this to a search string that it thinks is the answer to our question and that search string has keywords that should be reflected in our content if we want it to appear in the search results.
And you are going to still see this connection of keywords in the search and in the content for almost any semantic search that you do.
I know, simple and obvious. But yet we have a whole host of people telling us that keywords are no longer as important. The truth is they are. An SEO type may tell their client not to worry about keywords and to just write good content. And that’s cool if they just want to write something. But if they want that content to appear in the search results, they better be thinking about the potential queries that people will be searching and make sure that their content has the keywords or synonyms that answer those questions.
One suggest is that people should create content that just answers questions. That will work and will in fact work well. If a common question is your page or blog title and the content reflects the title you have excellent chances of ranking high in the search results. But that’s always been the case in SEO.
However, you don’t have to confine yourself to just this question and answer approach. You can write content and optimize it just as you always have. But make sure that your content is rich with as much relevant information as possible.
For example, someday a person is going to speak into their Smartphone, I’m looking for a house for sale in Victorville with a pool and a detached garage. Try this or similar search. If your content has this combination of keywords anywhere on the page,
house for sale
and if your content has strong reliability signals, there is a good chance you will see your content in the search results. Many semantic searches are very similar to long tail keyword searches presented in a conversational question.
So when it comes to semantic search you may not be able to gain an advantage by black hat keyword stuffing, but you still need the keywords that are represented in the searcher’s query if you want your content to appear in the search results.
I have also noticed that since there is less demand for keyword density (it’s a factor even if Google says it isn’t a ranking signal) there seems to be a heavier demand on reliability signals. Most of the results that I am now seeing for semantic searches are on very authoritative pages with high page rank.
Google has stated that it is not using Author Rank and many academic pundits agree. However, there’s a few working SEO’s that think they see evidence of author rank, or at least anomalies is the search results that seem to point to some kind of scoring system for authors, similar to page rank, that gives some authors a boost in the search results. It is not the intention of this post to either prove or disprove the existence of author rank. However, I would like to just have a conversation about the likelihood of author rank.
Most people who use Google Plus are familiar with ripples as depicted by the graphic on the left. A ripple tracks the viral activity of a Google Plus post. At the center of the ripple is the creator of the post and each circle represents somebody who shared the post. Emanating from the first set of circles are other people who shared the post, and it ripples outward showing everybody who share the post. As a result a quick glance at a ripple can tell you how viral a post is or stated another way how popular a post is. One might assume that if a post shared again and again that it is a great post that people like.
Now, I’m not presenting this as a proof of Author Rank, but if you were Google and your Google algorithmic bot was looking at two pieces of content with nearly identical keywords and other ranking signals, and Content A demonstrated healthy viral activity and Content B showed practically no viral activity which content would you think was of higher quality and deserved to be ranked higher in the search results.
It’s always been my opinion that if Google is tracking something it is doing so for a reason. And if Google is tracking the virility of a post, it just seems feasible that Google could use this data as one of the more than 200 ranking signals that it uses when ranking content in the SERPs.
Now add to the formula, that the creator of Content A had a long history of creating quality content on this specific keyword that frequently goes viral whereas the author of Content B has written very little about the keyword and what is written is rarely shared.
Since Google is so adept at measuring technical signals it really isn’t much of a leap that Google could be creating a score for everybody that has established an authorship profile. The score would obviously measure more than ripples. It could also look at the other social signals like +1′s, comments, and of course sharing demonstrated by the ripples above. The author’s score could function much like a page rank and give the author the same kind of credibility that page rank lends to content. It’s a vetting process that allows Google to determine the reliability of content that is relevant to a keyword search.
Many of the leading SEO pundits will tell you that Google says Author Rank hasn’t been implemented yet. However, I think, Google is parsing words like a politician. We all know Google took out a patent to rank authors. And it is quite possible that this author score that I described above doesn’t perform as described in the patent.
Nevertheless, I would like to implore a little common sense. Google wants to provide the absolute best search results as possible. In the past they have used page rank as a signal to determine the reliability of content. They have over 200 ranking signals. Why wouldn’t the collective score of an author be another ranking signal. Why would they take a patent out on it, score it, and post the results on the author profile? Why are they tracking ripples.
Argument Against Author Rank
The latest argument against Author Rank is based on John Mueller of Google, Switzerland stating that authorship is currently uses as a ranking signal. I think this is another case of parsing words. We’ve always known that the mere act of establishing authorship would not improve search rankings. Authorship is just a mechanism to track an author’s content and the social signals that content generates. It’s this score that could function like page rank and give an author credibility in Google’s eyes. Also, when John Mueller was asked if he could definitively say there was absolutely no author influence on content he would not say yes or no. Instead he made a vague reference to meta descriptions being used in ranking content.
For those not close to SEO a meta description is a paragraph you can enter into the html code that summarizes the content. At one time this may have been an active ranking signal but Google has recently said that it is no longer a ranking signal. However, although Google has said it isn’t an active ranking signal if you use optimize a meta tag it still can influence the search results.
The easiest way to see the impact of a meta description on the search results is by doing any search and reading the snippets of text that accompany the search results. In most cases this snippet is the meta description and you will see your search words in bold in this snippet. So to help Google find your content for a search word it just makes sense to have your keywords in the meta description.
When John Mueller made the analogy to the meta description to me it was like saying, well officially it isn’t a ranking signal, but in reality, it can affect the search results.
Why is Author Rank Important
So why is it important to establish if an author is receiving some kind of score or author rank that might influence the search results? In one sense it isn’t. The results are going to be what the results are. However, if you are waiting for the advent of author rank to one day be established and miraculously improve the ranking of your content in the search results you might be waiting for a long time.
Operating on the premise that some form of author rank is already here, if you are not seeing good search results now, you probably won’t see them in the future either. Most people aren’t taking the necessary steps to establish a high author rank score.
Author rank is designed to measure expertise in a topic. Just sharing everything under the sun created by other people isn’t going to cut it. An author is a person who write. If you want high author rank you need to create original content and a lot of it about a specific topic. Then that content has to generate positive social signals. Ripples or sharing is a major signal. It means somebody thought the content was good enough to share with their circles or public at large. Plus ones are another social signal. Maybe not as strong, and the pundits say that it doesn’t directly influence search results. But then also comment on how interesting it is that the content with lots of plus ones often rank very well in the search results.
The Take Away
So what’s the take away. Reasonable people could believe that there is an author score that Google uses as one of the two hundred tracking signals. In fact Matt Cutts, prominent Google spokesperson, says they are getting better at determining experts. However, whether author rank exists or not, one should act as if it does.
Rather than being concerned about being on every social platform out there, one should focus on creating content on a specific subject that is good enough to attract positive social signals. And the ripples do not have to be as big as in the above graphic. They just have to be a little better than the next guys. Often that isn’t very much. And with good content it is easy to do. Just remember to use keywords and ask yourself if your content is a good answer to likely search queries.
It’s easy to embed public Gplus posts into your blog or website.
1. Navigate to a public post
2. Open the Options Menu (arrow in top right corner)
3. Choose Embed Post
4. Copy and paste the embed code onto your website.
Below is an example of an embedded website.
I conducted a search for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and got the usual list of search results. One of Google’s great features is highlighting the keyword you searched in the snippets that accompany each search result as seen in the image below.
Google has highlighted Get Rid of Bed Bugs in both the title and the description. Google is essentially saying you searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and look, here are those exact keywords. This is nothing new.
However, as a scrolled down the list I saw something very interesting. I saw the listing below.
The relevant keywords are highlighted, but they are not my exact keywords. I searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” but the keywords that are now highlighted in the title and excerpt are “how to kill bed bugs”. This is new. I haven’t seen anything like this before.
The semantic element of Google search was able to equate “getting rid of bed bugs” to “killing bed bugs”. Google knew that if I was interested in getting rid of bed bugs I might be interested in killing bed bugs.
This is one step closer to the goals of semantic search. To be able to search the way we actually talk and get valid search results. Some people might approach their problem with bed bugs by thinking “how do I get rid of them” whereas other people might think, “how do I kill them”.
However, it is important to note that this is only the beginning and semantic search still has a considerable distance to go. When I conducted the search “how to get rid of bed bugs” the top search results had exact keyword matches for “how to get rid of bed bugs”. The search results with the alternative keywords, “how to kill bed bugs” appeared further down the list.
Also, if you search both “how to get rid of bed bugs” and “how to kill bed bugs” you will get different search results with a different ranking order. Although Google’s semantic search knows that these keywords can be synonymous the search results aren’t. The most relevant search results and top ranking search results in this case was determined by exact match keywords.
SEO for Semantic Search
So how do you optimize for semantic search. Obviously an entire book could be written on this subject matter but briefly, most of what we currently do with SEO is still valid.
- Conduct a keyword analysis. Use the Google Keyword Tool and see which phrase was searched more often; get rid of bed bugs or kill bed bugs.
- Then optimize for the most searched phrase. Google still wants to know the most relevant content that exactly matches the keyword.
- Include synonyms in your content and make your content as contextually rich as possible.