Google Offline Shopping Experience

While not wishing to start a trend of video blog posts, this video from Google Shopping simply says it all;

Don’t let your shopping experience turn into something like this.

Best Practice for Next/Previous Pagination in Search Engines

Most developers will come across a need for paged content; perhaps for products on a website, or for long articles; but how is this best done for search?

Google have recently announced more support for previous/next pages, and have offered two options;

  • Using the <link> tag in the <head> container, to ‘Canonicalise‘ the individual pages to a ‘View All’ page.
  • Use the same <link> tag in <head>, with the ‘rel’ attribute to point to the previous and next pages.

 

The decision of which method to choose depends on your needs – if you’d prefer visitors to arrive at your ‘View All’ page, or perhaps you use a ‘Configurator’, such as one for choosing the make and model of your laptop; you may wish your customers to land there.

Although; you may prefer also customers to land on the page the search keywords the user arrived on; rather than having to look through tens of products.

However, there’s a few other points to consider. With a view-all page, particularly one with a simple list of all products; this may not be the best experience for your visitors. It may also mean a higher latency and page load time, causing visitors to get bored – and also isn’t best for search engine ranking.

But, if customers land on a particular page number, the spidered content may be outdated, and mean the customer lands on the wrong page; and has to search for their product. This commonly happens on forums, but may equally indicate slow spidering.

It should be noted that these only act as ‘hints’ to Google; but particularly if your site is struggling with many paginated pages, especially with outdated content, it may be worth considering these alternatives.

We’re always happy to help anyone who would like some assistance; and Google have also put together some information on both the ‘Rel=Next’ and ‘Rel=Prev’ attributes, and well as using a ‘View All’ page.

Googles changes the operators

If you’re a regular user of Google, I’m sure you’re familiar with the plus operator. It’s used as a tool by power users to narrow down results to ensure words will be in the search results.

If not, you’re probably familiar with Google rewriting your query to try and help your results; most commonly this is seen with misspelling; but often a word or two may be dropped from your query to assist with search terms you may have meant.

As Eric Schmidt once said, “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about”. They also know you can’t come up with the best search terms for the results you want.

Sometimes things go wrong – often, the wrong word is dropped. Previously, adding the + operator; e.g. [winlirc +audiocapture] would solve this, now it requires quote marks – e.g. [winlirc "audiocapture"] to give useful results.

If you make a search on Google using the + operator to ensure a word is used, you’ll now receive the following message;

Showing results for google +replaced plus with quotes
The + operator has been replaced.
To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks: google “replaced” plus with quotes

Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot of Google error - replaced the plus operator with quote marks

Google have replaced the plus operator with quote marks

So what’s going on? Google are changing some of the operators; they’ve updated their documentation on their help page. The negation operator, ‘-‘, still works as expected; as does the double-quote marks for both phrases, but now also for words too.

We’ve certainly noticed that over the last few weeks, for longer search queries some words are dropped that are seen as, in Googles own words; ‘evidence might come from language analysis that Google has done or many other sources’. However, in our experience, the search results have been mainly to give popular results, rather than more specific results that the search terms imply.

As an aside – as always, the underscore is treated as a special case – and is another reason why it should be avoided in URL structures, always use hyphens instead!

So what does the ‘+’ operator do now? For now, it seems very little.

Why has it been replaced? Nobody seems to know, although both the plus and quote operators were probably very similar in code.

What’s the problem? Well, it’s a minor gripe, but it now takes at least four key presses (and navigating both sides of the word or phrase); instead of just two. Google also seems to being less ‘choosey’ on keywords entered by the user; instead intending to match more popular results.

Of course, real expert users can continue to use the nfpr=1 querystring to disable most of Google’s corrections.

Since Google haven’t made an announcement, if anyone else has any more information about this change, please let us know in the comments.

SSL Google won’t be sending you queries

In a fairly unexpected report, Google have announced that SSL will be enabled for a number of users by default. Along with GMail, secured by default last year, and Twitter and Facebook providing secure versions as an option, Google will be introducing secure searches to users over the coming weeks.

Google have provided a secure search at https://encrypted.google.com/ for a while, more information on it is provided in their help, but it ensures that no third-party can see your searches.

It also means that webmasters will not receive the query that the user has searched for. This was done by parsing the referer* in the HTTP request. For example, url= was the url clicked on, the q= represented the query, and cd= as the position the link was in. An example script, in PHP, can be found on this site; but could apply on any landing page in any language.

This is a major blow to webmaster who use this data to analyse keywords; and it will break those sites that automatically generate content based on your search query. This was often used for analysis – but also for link farms and advertising sites for gathering keyword information and misleading users. This hopefully will reduce some of the link farms that use this technique; but some webmasters do use this to highlight search terms on the landing page.

So what does this mean? Webmasters will still know users came from Google, but not any of the information about the search. Users who encrypt their search will not be passing on their keyword terms via the HTTP header.

You can however, receive a list of the top 1,000 search queries through Google Webmaster Tools, and presumably will still continue to receive keyword and other information from Google Analytics.

The official announcement can be found on the Official Google Blog.

* referer is spelt here with one ‘R’ as defined in the HTTP spec.

 

SEO Exploit via DNS “piggybacking” found in the wild

A recent report out from the ISC (the ‘Internet Storm Center’, a program of the SANS Technology Institute) warns domain owners to check their DNS records.

We offer a DNS Records tool on frag.co.uk/tools/ that may be some help to our customers.

The report details around 50 organizations that have had new machine names added to their DNS zone information. These were then pointed to sites used to boost the search engine positions of pharmaceuticals, personals, and adult web sites.

A good explanation, and some other sites that are affected can be found on the ISC Diary – What’s In a Name blog post.

For example, the Federal Commission of Taxation in Argentina at www.cfi.gov.ar have a subdomain they presumably were unaware of, at “buy-viagra.cfi.gov.ar”, thankfully now suspended.

We run our own internal DNS servers here at frag.co.uk, and can proudly announce that all our domain owners are unaffected, secured and safe from this attack. Please feel free to contact us for more details.

Do you outsource your DNS? Would you ever catch something like this?

We may be able to help. One of our totally free tools on frag.co.uk/tools/ offers a “DNS Records” tab that allows you to keep an eye on your DNS records. Do let us know how you get on.

eMail: web@frag.co.uk
Phone: 07739 315821

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