Nielsen published their latest data on US Search Providers today, showing Google far ahead of all competitors with a healthy 65.7% of all search traffic, representing more than 6.3 billion searches in the month of March. The next closest competitor, Yahoo!, had 13.4%. Guess that makes our recent SEO Tip Jar advice on making sure your release gets into Google News even more relevant!
Judging from my recent experiment, they do.
For years, conventional wisdom suggested avoiding special symbols such as ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark) in press release headlines. The assumption has been that search engines and downstream sites to which releases are pushed have difficulty digesting words with symbols attached and your release may be misconstrued.
With that idea in mind, I conducted a small experiment to see the present state of how search engines are actually interpreting releases with symbols in headlines.
Results suggest that search engines are getting smarter about handling symbols and it’s still best to leave symbols out of your headlines whenever possible. Instead, focus on including keywords in your headlines and properly formatting your release for Google News.
For my experiment I chose the two most common symbols, ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark), selecting ten releases including each symbol in the headline. For each release, I conducted two searches on Google, Yahoo and Bing based on headline content–one with the symbol and one without. Since it’s safe to assume most searchers are not including the symbols unless copy-pasting, this would tell me if the search engines treated the queries differently and how “searchable” these types of releases are. I also performed searches with ten releases from the same period with headlines that didn’t include special symbols to serve as a control group.
Here’s what I found. This chart shows whether the search engine provided the same results whether or not symbols were included in the search. For example, searching for Acme™ versus searching for Acme.
You can see that Google does the best job overall. Even the single instance when Google’s results were not the same, there was only a very minor difference that could be attributed to Google experimenting with different search result presentation. Bing is not far behind, doing even better than Google with TM symbol searches. Yahoo is the real outlier here. Yahoo actually showed zero results on 7 out of the 10 searches with TM symbols, just a handful of results on two searches, and was the same only once. That’s not to say that releases with TM symbols were not found; the lesson here is that Yahoo cannot handle people including the TM symbols in their searches.
Another way to confirm this strange behavior is by searching each search engine for the symbol alone.
Google and Bing ignore the symbol, but Yahoo seems to interpret it as the letters TM and has many disparate results on the first page.
The chart below shows the “success” of each search. I defined success as finding the release content within the first page of search results when searching for headline terms.
You can see that every search engine does an admirable job finding the releases, especially when a TM symbol or no symbols are in the headline. However, if you are concerned about performing as well as possible in Yahoo and Bing, the safest thing is still to exclude symbols if possible.
For many companies and agencies distributing press releases, appearing in online news outlets such as Google News is a significant benefit and often an important part of their PR or SEO strategy. And from their perspective, getting in may seem quite straightforward when using a wire service such as Business Wire: Write the press release, Send the press release, Appear in Google News! What could be easier?
Well, what you may not know is that we do many things behind the scenes to deliver our content in a way that best complies with standards and rules laid out by Google and monitor performance to ensure the vast majority of our releases make it in to Google News. On top of that, there are 18 reasons Google News may provide to us detailing why an individual release still doesn’t make the cut to reach their news index. Some of these reasons are quite technical and are handled automatically by our world class technical team, but others vary based on the actual content of each individual release. In this edition of SEO Tip Jar, I want to give you some insight into why Google News may reject your release and what you can do to best ensure that it doesn’t happen to you.
Before I get into it, please note that even if your release doesn’t make the cut for Google News, which in and of itself is an exceedingly rare occurrence, you will still be indexed by Google and available in the standard or “universal” search results. Also, you can find the full list of rejection reasons in Google’s support section. Of the 18 reasons Google may give, we tend to only see about five with any frequency. Without further ado, here they are, in order of most common to least common:
“Article disproportionately short” / “Article is too short”
Google does not give an exact word count to qualify for this criteria, but in my research this is most likely to occur when a release is less than 125 words. However, I have seen instances when this reason is given in error as well with releases as long as 700 words. In any case, these two errors constitute about 50% of the total errors we see, so be sure to make your releases at least 125 words to maximize your chances of inclusion.
“Page too large”
This is the most straightforward error in Google’s system. Any page larger than 256KB may be flagged with this error, and most of the offenders tend to be very detailed and lengthy earnings reports with large tables and lots of text. These releases are still indexed and available in Google Finance, which is usually the more appropriate and valuable venue for discovery.
“Title not found” (Title too short or long)
This is a deceptively named error, since it really means the title/headline of your release is too long. According to Google, “…the title is required to be between 2 and 22 words, inclusive,” and headlines that don’t match this criteria are flagged with this error. So be sure to check the word count in your headline and keep them relatively brief!
This error is very rare and only seems to occur on advisory releases with one sentence paragraphs or a very large number of bullet points. It occurs when “The article …appears to consist of isolated sentences not grouped together into paragraphs.” Avoid this error by ensuring the first paragraph of your release has at least two or three consecutive sentences.
So if you want to best ensure your release gets into Google News, be sure to do the following with each release:
- Write at least 125 words
- Keep your headline between 2 and 22 words
- Start your release with a three sentence paragraph
Within the PR world, 2009 would probably be considered the year of Social, but for many it is also the year where SEO went from yet another random acronym to a high priority for clients and agencies alike. For many web savvy PR practitioners, press releases now serve double duty as both a communication tool and an SEO tool. But now that you are actively trying to make an SEO impact, how are you tracking the results?
Business Wire users may already be familiar with our Press Release Measurement features included in our NewsTrak reports, but in this edition of the SEO Tip Jar I want to introduce you to some free and paid reporting tools that can supplement your existing efforts by helping you track your historical page rankings for specific URLs and keywords on your own sites. These tools will likely evolve as we enter the era of more real-time and personalized search, but as long as measurement is important they will continue to be some of the best indicators of SEO success.
SEOMoz Rank Tracker
Cost: Free to monitor up to 5 rankings, $79/month to monitor up to 50 rankings as part of SEOMoz Pro account
The SEOMoz Rank Tracker refreshes rankings weekly by default and can update more frequently with manual requests. It also includes very pretty historical graphs and can export historical data to CSV for use in Excel.
This tool is only available for limited use as a standalone utility, but is well worth it as part of the SEOMoz suite of web-based tools and resources.
Raven SERP Tracker
Cost: $79 as part of package of tools. Monitor up to 1,000 keywords.
Raven’s SERP (“Search Engine Result Page”) Tracker works in much the same way as the SEOMoz Rank Tracker, but automatically tracks across each major search engine (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) rather than having to add each search engine individually.
It also provides historical data as charts and CSV format for easy export.
Raven’s SEO suite also offers a large number of tools and resources that help you with your SEO efforts.
SEO Rank Monitor
Cost: $19/ month, monitor up to 100 keywords on a single domain
This standalone web-based tool features the same sort of functionality as the SEOMoz and Raven tools, and also features Google Analytics integration.
SEOBook.com Rank Checker
Cost: Free Firefox plugin, requires SEOBook.com account
Unlike the other tools I’ve mentioned, this free Firefox plugin runs within your web browser rather than a dedicated server, so you can only collect data from a single computer. It doesn’t produce any fancy graphs, but does feature CSV export for the Excel set.
Also, with its myriad of customizable options this tool is probably geared more towards the geekier among us.
All of these tools feature either free options or free trials, so what are you waiting for? Get started tracking your site’s rankings today.
PR practitioners — the good ones — know that having a crisis communications plan in place for their companies or clients is a key part of best practices. And, as with pretty much every aspect of communications today, social media is making an impact here as well. Thomas Crampton of Ogilvy PR’s 360 Digital Influence recently moderated a panel discussing both the effect of social media in creating a PR crisis, and the use of those same tools to manage, mitigate and recover.
As an indicator of how quickly things change in the web and social media worlds, take a look at slide 17, which shows “Search” as a factor in spreading buzz in hour 24 of a crisis. That was accurate at the time this panel was conducted; as of Monday, with the announcement of Google real-time search results, “Search” has moved from hour 24 to hour 1.
The implication here is pretty clear: If you aren’t out in front of potential (or actual!) bad PR, someone else will be, and they’ll be doing it online where the results are searchable. Dialogue and transparency are crucial, as is an official statement from your company that reaches customers and potential customers everywhere.
Check out the whole slide show for some more insights and a great framework for creating your own crisis communications plan.
To create the latest edition of their now biannual Search Engine Ranking Factors report, SEOMoz.org conducted a survey of more than seventy top SEO experts from around the world and compiled the results on a single information rich webpage. The report is an essential read for anyone even slightly concerned with how their company’s sites rank and where they should focus their efforts to improve performance and I highly recommend reading it.
Interestingly enough, three of the top five factors from 2007 have simply bounced around this year’s top five. Perhaps things don’t move quite as fast we think they do in the world of search? Of 2007’s top factors, only domain age has dropped off the map in terms of importance, moving from the top five to barely a factor at all, with the more sophisticated measure of trustworthiness taking up the slack.
Here’s how the top five shape up:
1. Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links (#3 in 2007)
While Google’s official opinion of SEO practitioners seems to range from ambivalence to antipathy, optimized anchor text is clearly a more important factor than ever. Descriptive anchor text (think “free press release podcast” rather than “click here“) acts as a signpost to readers and robots indicating what they should expect at the tail end of each link. There’s no time like the present to start being more mindful in the words you choose for your hyperlinks. In the case of press releases, Business Wire clients can use our keyword tool within the Press Release Builder to discover and optimize for relevant and frequently searched keywords in news searches. Other popular tools include the Google AdWords keyword tool.
2. External Link Popularity (#2 in 2007)
3. Diversity of Link Sources
The more links the better! Building links from a wide range of quality sites can be very effective to help you climb the search mountain and outrank competitors. This is a marathon, not a sprint. A sustained linkbuilding effort may not always pay immediate dividends, but should reap rewards over time. A periodic press release distribution can be a key component of your campaigns.
4. Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag (#1 in 2007)Much like anchor text, page titles benefit greatly from the inclusion of keywords and phrases that are important to your company. Though not mentioned specifically in this section of the report, it’s widely considered a best practice to ensure your keywords are also within the first 60 or so characters of your page titles to ensure they show up to readers on Google, Google News, Yahoo!, Bing and elsewhere. Also worth mentioning is that your release’s headline will also serve as your page title in the world of press releases.
5. Trustworthiness of the Domain
Trustworthiness refers to a site’s mozRank, which is a “10-point measure of global link authority or popularity . . . very similar in purpose to the measures . . . used by the search engines.” The trustworthiness of a domain casts a wide net of influence across its rankings instead of a narrow range of search keywords.
Personally, my main takeaway from the report is that how you link and where you get links are as important as ever in helping you to achieve your search goals. As always, press release distribution can be an essential component of your marketing-pr mix. Where else can you create compelling and keyword rich webpages, links with custom anchor text, and push your message out to a broad mix of authoritative sites?