Links from the show:
- Facebook creates a Messenger plugin for business websites
- More seamless Street View imagery
- Twitter expands to 280 characters per tweet for everyone
- Google promises to improve accuracy of Tweets shown in search results
- Google adds product comparison feature with a “highlight differences” toggle
- Links to an image don’t help pages where that link is embedded
- Yelp is cracking down on companies that ask for reviews
- Password managers: LastPass, 1Password, DashLane
I know a guy, a business consultant that does something interesting. If you click on the contact page of his site, it goes immediately to Facebook Messenger and starts a private conversation with him. We can debate the merits of that, but more and more companies are using Facebook Messenger to talk to their customers, and Facebook is working on a great enhancement to help streamline that communication.
Before we get into that, though, I’m Mickey Mellen, and this is A Brighter Web episode number 25, 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 strategies, 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.
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Today we’ll talk more about Facebook Messenger for business, improved Google Street View imagery, longer text on Twitter, and lots of news from Google. Let’s dig in.
As I mentioned at the top of the show, more and more companies are using Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers, and now it’ll be a lot easier. You can start a conversation directly on a website with the new Messenger plugin that’s coming out soon, and then that conversation will be part of Messenger all across the web, mobile, and tablet devices. Users can keep that conversation going wherever they are, but they can start directly from your site with a little chat box that connects directly to Facebook Messenger. Now the feature’s in closed beta for now and no word on when it will roll out, but I suspect it’ll be very popular once it does and we’ll keep you posted on that.
Google Street View is awesome but if you’ve used it you’ve probably seen the stitched effect that happens with Street View images where the different cameras that they capture from the car kind of stitch things together and it gets a little chunky on the sides. Google’s now working on some tools that’ll make that imagery much more seamless and should be awesome but what I really like about this is just it’s further proof on how hard Google’s working on photos. If you use Google Photos you know how great it is and some of the weird almost creepy things they can do with it that are really quite awesome. You should check that out if you haven’t. Really, my favorite feature of Google Photos is for people that are low on space in your phone where Google can capture all the images from your phone, save them in Google Photos and then clear them off your phone to save you space. So people that are low on space totally should check out Google Photos but regardless Google’s doing awesome things with photography and this new enhancement to Street View is just further proof of how their investing in that space.
Most of you have probably heard by now, but Twitter has now doubled the number of characters you can tweet at least in the English language from 140 to 280, and that should be live for everyone so much longer tweets will be coming your way. In addition, and not talked about as much is your usernames can now be 50 characters. Now your actual Twitter handle is shorter but the name you put attached to it can be much longer and actually say what you want say without having to truncate that as much as it used to be before, so Twitter is making everything a bit longer to make it more clear on what you’re doing, but there’s kind of mixed reactions to how people are taking that.
Related to that, Google’s working to improve the accuracy of the tweets they show on their search results. After the shooting in Texas recently, a lot of misinformation surfaced at the top of Google based on Twitter. Now, Google ranks tweets using similar algorithms to the normal pages so if they see a lot of tweets that say something similar they’ll take that as being the truth even though it often isn’t, so they’re working hard to show authoritative information for that kind of thing and they say they’re working very hard to make that better, so we should see improved tweet accuracy from what Google surfaces in the coming weeks and months.
If you’ve ever searched on Google for products and seen the little product comparison widget pop up, they’ve added a few new features to that that are pretty nice. The new one compares not just pricing but also various other specs such as color and capacity and that kind of thing, and it now has a highlight differences toggle at the top that you can toggle on and quickly determine what is different between the two products, so if they’re the same size, same weight, but different colors, you’ll see it highlighted in that right there. Screen shots of that can be found in our show notes so you can see for yourself how that works.
Google’s also come out with more news that we thought we already understood, but they said it very clearly. Google’s John Mueller said “You can do a lot of things but it doesn’t make a good strategy for all sites. Often a few strong pages are better than many weak ones.” So, again, this is something Google’s said for a while. They want quality content and it is good to have a lot of pages on your site in theory but only if they’re all high quality pages. If you have to make a choice between having 20 soft pages or 10 great ones, you’re much better off to have 10 great pages and Google’s confirmed that.
This one was kind of interesting and not something I’ve heard before. Someone named Dan asked, he said “SEO theory: Quality external links to image files embedded on quality pages will help the quality page rank in a normal Google web search.” So what’s he saying, if you have a well written page with an image on it and other sites link directly to that image, he’s thinking it may help the page itself rank better, and Google tends to disagree. John Mueller says “Why would links to an embedded image be a sign of another web page embedding that image being more relevant?” So again, this is John and Google always saying their main goal is to find signals of relevance for a sites, and this isn’t necessarily one. The conversation continues though with Dan saying “that’s not what I’m saying. I’m suspecting that external links to your image file URL can help your page that embeds the image rank better. Yes or no?” And John again says “that seems unlikely. Links to an image aren’t links to the page which is kind of the main point,” but he said “it’s also hard to tell which page an image really belongs to such as a logo.”
So on most web sites his example, your logo file is a single image file on the server, so if someone links to that one, which page are they linking to in a way? They’re linking to the image but that image is on every page. Google can’t really figure that out, and John says Google doesn’t even want to figure that out because it doesn’t really matter. They want to see links to the pages to show that the page is interesting and that’s as far as they take that.
Yelp is cracking down further on companies that ask for reviews. Yelp and Google have long said you shouldn’t be soliciting reviews for your business but Yelp seems to be cracking down harder on that. As a business owner, it’s usually good to ask for them but don’t go too far. To look at their policies quickly, Google says “reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer to accept money, products or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.” So Google’s I can pretty much agree with. That seems pretty logical and I agree those are pretty fair rules. Yelp’s takes it a bit further and you’ll notice in the first part here, they’ll have a thing that says “don’t ask” which is something that a lot of us do, so let’s look at Yelp’s policies real quick.
They have four bullets. The first one is one, don’t ask customers, mailing list subscribers, friends, family or anyone else to review your business. Two, don’t ask your staff to compete to collect reviews. Three, don’t run surveys that ask for reviews from customers reporting positive experiences and four, don’t offer freebies, discounts or payment in exchange for reviews. It will turn off savvy consumers and it may be illegal. Yelp has a consumer alerts program to let people know about businesses that engage in this sort of activity. So it’s noteworthy that Yelp has that “don’t ask”, They say don’t ask customers for reviews. I kind of disagree with that and Google doesn’t mention that either. You don’t want to entice customers with gifts or discounts or anything like that or even really encourage them to write a good review, but you should be encouraging people to leave reviews and you know who your good customers are, and so you certainly should be asking for that I think to some degree but Yelp’s really cracking down on that, so certainly be careful, especially with anything you publish on your website regarding asking for reviews and that kind of thing.
And lastly, for our tip of the week, try using a password manager. I’ve used LastPass on and off for years and I’m getting back into it again and the new LastPass Teams has something pretty compelling that all of us at GreenMellen are now using. So what LastPass Teams does is let’s you synchronize your personal LastPass account with a team LastPass account. If you’re not familiar with a password manager, what it is is just a application for your computer or in the case of LastPass, you can install just into Chrome that when you go to websites and type in your password, it will remember the password for you so you don’t have to remember it in the future. The idea being you can have long complex passwords that are different on every site versus using the same one over and over again which can be pretty dangerous. LastPass is very affordable and the Teams feature is great for us. So where that works is that I can use LastPass for all my personal sites to get into Facebook and Twitter and Gmail and all that, but also the team stuff in there so we can get into client sites and other things and keep client’s credentials very, very protected under LastPass’s encryption.
So this makes it where any of us can log into a client site for the first time, save that information in LastPass in the team section and then if anyone else at GreenMellen goes to that client site they can get in but the credentials are completely protected. The cost for LastPass teams is $2.42 per user per month so about 29 bucks a year per user which is not bad. 1Password’s also very popular and they have a team feature, and DashLane is another one that’s popular and they’re all worth checking out and you can decide what’s best for you.
And that’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter at mickmel or learn lots more at greenmellenmedia.com and you can find out 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. If you’re not in the Atlanta area, we post recaps on the site soon after each Meetup. Either way you can learn more about that at abrighterweb.com/meetup. Thanks for listening.