Links from the show:
- Google paying as much as $3b/year to remain Safari’s default search engine
- Google’s “Landing Pages” mobile assessment tool
- Google to run silent 6-second video previews in search results
- When canonicals conflict, Google just picks one
- AdWords searches card to help spot search trends
- Businesses can let customers ask them questions on Google
- Pebble 2 se watch on Amazon
By most standards, Google’s search engine is the best around. As Apple updates the iPhone every year, it just makes sense for them to include Google as the default search engine since it’s the best around, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
Before we get into that, though, I’m Mickey Mellen, and this is A Brighter Web episode number 14, brought to you by all of us at GreenMellen. Our goal with this podcast is to give you quick weekly insights for news, products, and ideas so we can all make the web a brighter place to be. These might be actual web tips, talking about strategy, search engines, WordPress plugins and UX, or it might be productivity ideas to help you get more done and free up your time to do great things.
We also want to thank our sponsor ClickHOST.com. ClickHOST provides top-rate web hosting at prices as low as $5 a month. Visit ClickHOST.com/abw for an exclusive 20% off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web. Today we’ll talk more about how Google’s keeping themselves on the iPhone, a new tool to assess the quality of your landing pages, six-second video previews in the Google Search results, Google picking canonicals from your site, AdWords searches cards, and asking business questions on Google Maps. Let’s dig in.
As we said at the top of the show, Google is still the default search engine on iPhones and inside of Safari. It kind of makes sense to keep them as the default, but Apple’s not doing it for free. In fact, reports say that Google’s paying as much as $3 billion a year to remain that default search engine. It must be making sense for Google to pay that with all the Apple users out there, certainly drives a lot of traffic and revenue to Google’s properties, but the price is going up year after year, and it’ll be interesting to see if Google sustains that.
If this ever changes, the logical result will be to go to Bing, or if Apple ever develops their own search engine. In this case, it means it’s important to keep your site optimized for every search engine out there, not just Google, because it can change drastically very quickly. Thankfully, most optimizations that you make for Bing or Duck Duck Go or any other search engine is essentially the same as the things you do for Google: have links coming to your site, have good-quality content, don’t duplicate things, load quickly, be secure, all that kind of stuff. But it’s worth paying attention to other search engines just to make sure you’re ranking well and getting indexed properly.
Google’s long had a mobile assessment tool for your website so they could tell you what they thought of the mobile friendliness of your site, and they’ve just tweaked that tool a little bit to allow you to assess the mobile friendliness of specific pages on your site, rather than the site as a whole. You can still do a full-site test, but now if you have a specific page you want to look at, you can have Google check out that page, typically a landing page, I would think, see what they think of that, and get a score, and you make optimizations from there. We have a link with details to that in our show notes.
We talked a few weeks ago about how Google might be adding video previews to the search engine results, and it is going to happen. This isn’t the best news around, however, they did solve the one issue that had us concerned, and that these video previews will be silent. Having the results silent is certainly awesome for users, but it’s another sign from Google that you need to have video as part of your marketing outreach. Having it on YouTube is probably your best bet in terms of search engine rankings on Google, but really just using video anywhere and making sure Google can index it properly will do a lot for your site, and apparently will do more and more as time goes on.
Google gave a quick answer this week on Twitter to some questions people had about canonicals and how Google handles multiple canonicals on a single page. Now if you’re not familiar with the term, a canonical is a bit of code you use to tell search engines what the real address of a specific page is. For example, you might have a page on your site at /products. When someone sorts that page by price, though, perhaps it becomes /products?sort=price. It’s two different addresses for the page, but really, it’s the same page. You use canonicals to tell Google and other search engines that those two separate pages are really the same one, so only index the main products page, and don’t worry about indexing these separate sort=price kinds of pages.
There’s been some question over what Google would do if two different canonicals were specified for a single page, and Google’s given us the answer. They simply pick which one they think is the winner and go with it. Now this isn’t a problem you’ll have very often if you have a well-written site, WordPress handles this well, most SEO plugins handle it well. You won’t have multiple canonicals on a single page, but if you do, that’s what Google’s gonna do with it. And really, the lesson here is this is why you shouldn’t use multiple SEO plugins because they may both write canonicals for a page, but they don’t agree what it is. You’re kind of taking that control off your site and letting Google decide which the real page is. You always want to keep that kind of control. So I’d say stick with whatever SEO plugin you want, and just go with it.
Google’s just added a small new feature to AdWords with a new tool called Searches Cards. Using these, you can see which words people are using to search for you on Google.com, and then you can refine your keywords for better performance. You can find these new cards in the overview page of the new Google AdWords interface after you click on a search ad campaign. We’ll have a link with details to that in the show notes.
Those of you who that Google Maps often, particularly on Android, may have noticed Google asking you a lot of questions lately about businesses, about hours of operation and types of food and atmosphere. And now Google’s taking it a step further, and they can let you ask questions directly to the business owner. If you have Google Maps on Android, and you set up your business listing, Google will send you push notifications of new questions so you can answer them instantly. So if someone’s in the search results, sees your business and asks a question and you use Android, you’ll get a push notification immediately so you can answer that question and engage with them. I assume this is coming to iOS as well, but Google’s not said for sure.
Taking it further, you can take your top responses and highlight the ones you want to showcase on your business page, and even add them to a special FAQ section of business listings, so a lot of neat things you can do with the question and answer section of Google Maps.
The tip of the week this week is to be open to inferior technology. Let me explain. A few years ago, before Apple and Google made smartwatches, Pebble introduced a watch that was pretty awesome. I have one, but long ago gave it up for a few different Android Wear devices. I really liked Google’s approach to building smartwatches. They kept it very clean and simple, while Apple tried to make their watch do everything. There’s advantages to both sides, but I prefer the clean and simple approach.
The problem is that Google feels like they need to catch up to Apple, so they’ve been adding a lot of stuff to their software. As a result, it’s no longer great for just getting notifications and handling simple tasks. As I’ve grown with that frustration, I dug out my old Pebble, and it’s great. It’s dead simple, instant notifications with just enough features, things such as archiving emails from the device and sending simple text message responses to make it worthwhile. It’s fast, simple, and the battery lasts nearly a week.
Now, you may be aware that Fitbit bought Pebble not too long ago, and they’re essentially killing off the Pebble brand. This may mean something great in the future from Fitbit, but we’ll see, but it also means that Pebble watches are harder to find, not warrantied, and may stop working some time next year. In the meantime, though, they’re super cheap. The “Pebble 2 se” is what I consider the most useful watch, and you can get it for 55 bucks on Amazon right now. They also have a version of the Pebble 2 with a heart rate monitor for $30 more, but the SE doesn’t have the monitor and really, Pebbles aren’t great for fitness. There’s other good fitness trackers, so the Pebble 2 SE saves you 30 bucks, doesn’t have the heart rate monitor, and it’s a pretty good device.
The lesson here is that by any metric, Apple, Google, and Samsung all have watches that are much, much better. For my needs, though, for now at least, Pebble wins the day. I tend to be a sucker for shiny new technology, but it’s wise to keep your eyes open to what really works best for you instead of what the hot new gadget is.
And that’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter at MickMel, M-I-C-K-M-E-L, or learn lots more at GreenMellenmedia.com. And you can find more about the podcast, including show notes and links as well as video tutorials and many other resources over at abrighterweb.com. If you’re in the Atlanta area, come check out our Meetup held three times each month. And if you’re not in the Atlanta area, we post recaps on the sites soon after each Meetup. Either way, you can learn more about that at abrighterweb.com/meetup. Thanks for listening.