Category Archives: Bing

5 Essential Magento extensions for UK shopping sites.

I’ve been spreading my wings lately and offering low cost e-commerce solutions using Magento Community as the base for websites. Magento Community is a fine piece of software with a mind-boggling array of features and options but it does lack certain abilities that make it a truly great product. Thankfully due to the open-source nature of Magento there are plenty of extensions available to make Magento do what you want it to do.

Yoast MetaRobots
This exension by the respected Yoast (known for his excellent WordPress SEO extension) allows you to control the Meta Robots tags quickly and easily on a variety of pages on your Magento site to help direct the flow of “link juice” around the site and prevent pages from being indexed. Yoast MetaRobots allows you to set pages such as Send to a Friend, Customer Account pages, Tags and Checkout as “noindex, follow” from a simple panel in the System > Configuration  > Web section of Magento’s administration area.

MSemantic
Now that Google (and Bing to a lesser extent) are really pushing Rich Snippets as an important part of your site’s content it is imperative that your Magento site implements semantic markup for Rich Snippets for Google and Bing. The MSemantic extension takes away all the pain of marking up your site with a simple to install extension. Once installed your products and reviews contain the correct markup for Rich Snippets integration which will help with your rankings and visibility in Google, Google Shopping and of course Bing.

Google Content API for Shopping
The only way to get your products listed on Google Shopping if you use Magento. Simply install the extension, add your Account ID, Google Account Email Address and Password and then upload your selected products to Google. You can configure the extension to automatically update the product listing on Google if you change the product in any way and it’s easy to see what products you have listed and what needs adding. The extension also supports custom attributes and the full range of Google Shopping taxonomies.

Meanbee Royal Mail Domestic and International Shipping
This simple to use extension adds the current Royal Mail shipping costs to your Magento store and works out the correct postage cost based on location and weight. My 2 qualms with this extension are you can’t add the cost of your packaging materials to the shipping rates so you would have to add a bit extra on to each product’s cost or define a shopping cart rule to get a more accurate cost and the extension does not take the packet’s dimensions in to account as it’s based purely on weight. Otherwise this extension is fantastic and a really simple way to set up Shipping Table Rates in Magento for UK users.

Clever CMS
Magento’s Content Management System is a bit… well, basic to polite, but Magento is primarily an e-commerce solution not a fully featured CMS. Clever CMS extends the basic Magento CMS with some great additions that I feel are essential to any good CMS. Clever CMS allows you to assign permissions to your pages so you can decide who sees your pages (logged in customers, not logged in customers, etc.) and more importantly creates a tree structure for your pages similar to Magento’s category tree structure so you can create sub pages and rearrange your menus at will and each store view can have it’s own “tree”. You can define your own URLs and if you change them at a later date then Clever CMS will set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one.

Bye bye Yahoo! UK

Well it’s finally happened, Yahoo UK search is no more. Yahoo UK (and European properties) are now powered by Bing. Just over 2 years after Microsoft bought Yahoo for (apparently $0!) and about a year after the US and Canadian Yahoo portals, the once great search giant has finally abandoned the fight against the mighty Google and going the same way as Altavista, Inktomi and AllTheWeb (all bought by Yahoo! ironically in an attempt to use their search engine know how to bolster Yahoo’s search algorithms). Officially Bing will power Yahoo! search for 10 years but the deal also gives Bing access to Yahoo’s search technology and the right to integrate it within Bing search. Yahoo is rumoured to have laid off as much as 20% of it’s workforce so I can see no going back from this. I predict Yahoo! will be wholly owned by Bing in the next few years. Yahoo’s much loved site explorer tool will close at the end of the year and Bing are working on a replacement within the Bing Webmaster Toolbox. With Google properties now accounting for a massive 92% share of the UK market and Yahoo and Bing combined on 5.84% the future seems bleak for any competing search engines against the behemoth that is Google.

The browser wars look to be going the same way as well with Google’s Chrome browser now the second most used browser in the UK with a 22.1% market share and Firefox at 22%. Internet Explorer dropped a massive 15% to 41% in July.

So where did Yahoo go wrong and why hasn’t Bing made any in roads against Google in the UK? Personally I think the answer lies in Google’s focus on search as it’s main product. Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz (the head honcho, the big cheese) said in a 2009 interview:

“The priority was to get the fog away from the company. Yahoo got pegged as a search company and we’re not a search company. Search is only one aspect of what our customers do.”

Yet Yahoo! Search was where the majority of their visitors came from and losing focus on their main source of traffic (and therefore money) shows how little respect and knowledge the company’s top brass had of their own business. If you can’t draw visitors to your “portal” with the promise that they’ll find what they want then you won’t have any visitors to sign up for Yahoo mail or a small business listing or Yahoo shopping listings (the latter 2 are powered by a third party). Basically Yahoo just aggregates stuff that you can find quicker and easier in other places (e.g: Google). When was the last time you saw an advert for Yahoo in the uk? Yep it was probably this truly forgettable and overly long ad from 2009:

Doesn’t exactly get the pulse racing does it?

How about this one:

Better isn’t it? That advert was for the launch of Bing (formerly MSN Live Search) and does everything the Yahoo ad doesn’t, it tells you how to solve a problem.

Finally a Google advert from 2010 showcasing (almost) everything Google can do in one simple, effective advert:

Simple and effective, just like Google really.

Let the search engines do the work

Things have come a long way since the late 90’s when I first started learning SEO. Back then you’d submit to Altavista or Lycos or Inktomi and wait and hope that the search engines would spider you.

Nowadays it’s so much easier. The major players, Google and Bing/Yahoo, have their own dedicated “Webmaster Toolboxes” where you simply verify your site, submit an XML sitemap and watch as they crawl your site and give highly detailed reports on it’s progress. They’ll even help you create the sitemap! These toolboxes will then tell you how many pages the search engine has indexed, how often your site is visited, your top keywords, the number of links to your site, broken links, malware infected pages and much more, free of charge! Google even tells you how fast your site loads and how to improve.

Let’s look at each one in a little more detail:

Google Webmaster Tools

The daddy of the search engine world and probably the most useful of the lot. Google Webmaster Tools shows you your site’s top queries, where the site ranks over time for each query and a click-through rate for each position and keyword. It shows any crawl errors, the most used keywords on your site, the number of links to your site and each page that has external links, the submission status of your sitemap, allows you to quickly and easily point Google to your new domain if you are moving your site, internal links, and subscribers to your rss feeds. There’s also a section telling you how you can improve your site’s ranking, from HTML considerations (duplicate or short title and description tags), site speed performance, malware infections, broken links, robots.txt checks and adding content to your site’s sidewiki. YOu can even request removal of a plage from Google’s index here. You will need a Google account to access the tools.

Bing Webmaster Center

Bing’s Webmaster Center will become more important now that Bing owns Yahoo! and will soon be powering Yahoo! search, giving Bing a much larger share of the market. Of course you’ll need a Windows Live account to access the toolbox.

Once inside the toolbox you’ll see a range of reports on your site, from the date it was last crawled by Bing to Bing’s very own Domain Score. Bing ranks each page on your site out of 5, with 5 being the best. Now it’s not hard to get a 5 out of 5 rating for each page with a little bit of thought but the rating system is a handy way of showing you what pages you need to improve. Unfortunately it only shows you the top 5 pages on your site. You’ll also see the language of the page, it’s last crawled date and if it’s blocked by robots.txt or other factors. You’ll also see a count of the total number of indexed pages.

Like Google each site has a profile page where you fill in your sitemap address, manage verification settings and an optional email address where Bing can alert you to periodic news and updates, although I’ve yet to receive any mail from Bing and I’ve been using the toolbox for a long time!

Again like Google, you can view crawl issues, malware, broken links, etc., view backlinks and outbound links by domain and subdomain.

Where the Bing Webmaster Center fails to match Google is the Keywords area of the toolbox. Bing does not give you any reports on your top performing keywords at all and their keyword tool is shockingly bad. Basically you type in a keyword or phrase in to the tool and it returns a list of pages on your site that feature that word or phrase along with a domain rank score for each page. There is no data on click through rates, positions, the number of times your page appeared in the search results for that phrase, nothing useful in short.

Yahoo Site Explorer

The Yahoo! Site Explorer is probably on it’s way to the scrap heap now Bing are in charge yet Site Explorer can still provide some useful information in the meantime. You will need a Yahoo ID to access the full features of Site Explorer. Like the other two you can manage yor sitemap feed here, view the number of indexed pages and crawl errors. Site Explorer also shows you the number of domains that link to and from your site and like Google shows your top performing keywords although in far less detail than Google. Like Google you can request page deletions.

Where Yahoo! surpasses the others is in it’s reporting of backlinks. Yahoo seems to list every single link to your site and you can filter by domain, subdomain and page. Yahoo also lists every single page on your site that it has indexed.

What about Ask?

Ask is the only one of the big search engines that have yet to roll out a webmasters area but it does support xml sitemaps and allows you to ping the sitemap so they know of any changes.
http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http%3A//www.the URL of your sitemap here.xml

So take the hard work out of the basics, submit your site to these webmaster toolboxes, wait whilst they gather some information on your site and follow their suggestions and your search engine traffic will start to increase. The toolboxes take away some of the guesswork of improving your rankings allowing you to concentrate on writing quality content and gaining links.

New features from Bing and Google

Bing have rolled out more features as part of “Bing Wave 2”. These include:

Integration with Wolfram|Alpha in the diet and fitness category allowing you to work out your BMI and other useful things.

Improved “hover preview” (where you hover your mouse over an icon and see a preview of a website without actually clicking through to the site) which adds customer service phone numbers, search within this site, a Google Site Links style list of deep links, a screenshot of the webpage and for Facebook accounts you’ll see a picture of the account owner, who is in their Facebook network and send them a message or friend request.

Weather / Event results which brings together news, events, xRank results, Twitter feeds, images, Best Match results and content from trusted sites for the Weather / Events results.

Share Search Results on Facebook and Twitter, email to a friend or print results.

The Travel tools have a makeover as well. If you hover over Travel on the homepage you’ll see options to search airfares and hotels. Going into the travel category will bring up an Instant Answers box where you can enter your travel dates, starting point and destination and narrow your search to sites that can match this data. City results now include events listings.

Health has received a makeover to make it more organized.

Of course all these options are on the US version of Bing, looks like the UK users will have to wait.

Google’s new features include:

World Bank public data such as GDP of Indonesia, internet users in the united kingdom and more. This data is available on Google US and UK (and probably worldwide).

Locking Safe Search in Google Images. Stop your young ones from seeing things they shouldn’t by locking Safe Search on which includes a handy graphical clue so you can see from across the room is Safe Search is on. See the video below for more info.

More images Universal search. For example search for digital cameras in Google.com and you’ll see a range of images of digital cameras so you can see the variety of makes and models on offer.

“On broader queries, this helps you get a sense of the range of products available to you for the query.”

says the Official Google Blog. This feature is not currently active on Google UK.

Google Music Search. Again not available in the UK but I’m sure we’ll get it soon. It’s probably due to copyright and licensing issues. This feature lets you enter an artist’s name, lyrics or song title into Google and you’ll be able to preview the song from selected media partners of Google.

There’s also a whole host of updates to the Movies search feature, see the Official Google Blog for more information. Again this doesn’t work in the UK.

Google have also updated the keywords tool in the Webmaster control panel.

“We’ll now be updating the data daily, providing details on how often we found a specific keyword, and displaying a handful of URLs that contain a specific keyword. The significance column compares the frequency of a keyword to the frequency of the most popular keyword on your site. When you click on a keyword to view more details, you will get a list of up to 10 URLs which contain that keyword.”

The World Bank data looks to me like Google missed out on a deal with Wolfram|Alpha to Bing so went for the next best thing. Safe Search locking seems like an excellent idea to me and will be very useful in schools and to parents. Personally I can’t wait for Google music search to be available in the UK but I imagine the amount of paperwork and feet-dragging by the major labels may delay this for a long time until they can work out how to make a quick buck from it. The improvements to Bing show they’re finally serious about search but until UK users get similar features then Google will remain number one in the UK.

Yahoo snubs Armistice Day

Today is Armistice day, marking the end of the First World War. Google, Bing and Ask all have commemerative logos / layouts whereas Yahoo has nothing. No poppies, no special logo. Now I don’t know if Yahoo had something on Remembrance Sunday but considering this marks the end of one of the bloodiest global conflicts in human history I expected something.

The logos for Google, Ask and Bing are below.

If you mouse over several parts of the Bing image it presents you with facts about Armistice Day, Poppies, World War 1 and related poetry.

The meta keyword tag is dead.

Yahoo! has publically announced it no longer uses the Meta keyword attribute for ranking sites. Apparently they stopped using is a few months ago but today at the SMX East conference’s “Ask the Search Engines: Best Practices” seminar, Yahoo Search’s Senior Director, Cris Pierry, let slip that Yahoo no longer uses the keywords tag when ranking pages.

So is that it for the keyword tag? Is it now just a part of Internet history? Google has never used it, Bing does not support it and now Yahoo doesn’t. Of the major players that only leaves Ask and I can’t find any recent concrete evidence that says they use the tag either. The specifications for HTML 5 don’t include the keywords name although it has been proposed as an addition.

So should you ignore keywords from now on? Yes, unless you’re optimising for a custom search engine for your site or Intranet.

New look Yahoo! goes live worldwide!

Although we’ve already had access to Yahoo!’s new look here in the UK and in the US, the redesign and new features are now live worldwide.

At first glance basically everything is purple instead of red. It has a choice of skins or colour schemes to choose from, switch to “compact view” (change the page size so it fits on 800 x 600 monitors by getting rid of the left hand “My Favourites” column) and “Move News To Top”, which moves the headlines from Yahoo! News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Mail to the top of the page. According to the BBC the new look is now “the second-largest source of online traffic to the newspaper’s website”. Of course Yahoo! are taking a share of the revenue the traffic generates.

Hovering over on of the “Favourites” in the “My Favourites” list brings up a list of headlines from the site if it’s a news site, you can watch your eBay auctions from the Yahoo front page, see customized sports results and more. Of course most of the content that appears on the portal page is customizable too, but it seems like an awful lot of effort to set up. Personally I go to Yahoo! for search, not to organize my life. According to Yahoo’s senior vice-president for Europe, Rich Riley, surveys suggest that 60% of Yahoo users in the UK want a one-stop shop to organise their life on the Internet. But that’s a survey of Yahoo users, not the general public or the average user. Whilst I applaud Yahoo! for listening to it’s users I think they should be catering for the mass market rather than the 1% of UK search users who use Yahoo. In a word that means fixing it’s search engine rather than investing in skins and customizable home pages.

The new look isn’t powered by Bing yet, as the tie-up between Microsoft and Yahoo is still being scrutinized by the regulators. Even if Yahoo! does begin to use Bing, will it bring back the visitors?

There are some nice features about the new Yahoo search. As well as the list of search results you can also search for related MySpace sites and Wikipedia articles from the left hand column, see related searches (like Google has at the bottom of the page), and of course there are sponsored ads. The search suggest tool is still clumsy and shifts the whole content of the page about which I dislike immensely.

Finally we come to “Search Pad”. I have absolutely no idea what this does at first glance. I can type notes in it. What these notes do I really can’t say. I can re-order them by dragging them but that’s it. I have to have a Yahoo! account if I want to save them, although it does seem to remember your search pad entries as long as your session is valid. After watching the tutorial videos I’m still at a loss to explain why I’d need “search pad”, surely I can just bookmark the results that interest me?

On the plus side, Yahoo! search retains it’s tie up with McAfee Safe Search so you know if a site is safe to visit or not. Unfortunately Safe Search is off by default and you have to enable it in the preferences. Again you need to be signed into your Yahoo! account to make sure the option stays on. I tried to turn Safe Search on, without signing in, and the default preferences say it’s already on yet the icon in the search results says it’s off. Safe Search also relies on user submissions to tell you if a site is safe or not, unlike Google’s malware warnings which are automatic.

So in summary it’s all very pretty and purple, but it’s still not as fast, relevant or as good as Google and all the bells and whistles aren’t going to change that.

A review of Bing

Microsoft’s Bing is live and in beta and seems to have completely replaced Live Search across the Microsoft network of sites. MSN still sports a “Live Search” graphic next to it’s search box but entering a query takes you to Bing.

I did a few comparison tests with the beta version of Bing on some of my recent Google queries and compared the results. Overall Bing performed well. Not quite as on the money as Google and unsurprisingly Microsoft owned sites ranked better for some searches than on Google. For example a search for “HTML 4.0 doctype” returns the W3C site first in Google but the MSDN site in Bing with the W3C coming in a lowly tenth place. Bing does give a nice pop-up snippet box next to each result showing the relevant text from the the search result so you don’t have to click through to the site. I can see this ticking off a lot of webmasters if the general public realise this feature is there. It’s not immediately obvious and took me a few searches to spot it.

Bing still has a way to go on blended results from first glance. Using my search history again for an example search I typed “blackberry way” into both Google and Bing. Both return the wikipedia article for the song as the top result but Google then shows stills and links to videos on youtube whereas Bing just shows one standard link in it’s results. Bing’s video search does return a variety of versions of the song though and to my eye is more visually appealing than Google’s by a large margin.

Book searches seem to return far too many Amazon results in Bing. For example: a search for “Shadows of the empire” (a Star Wars novel and video game) returns results for the book, the game, the cast list, videos and reviews from the game in Google but 3 results from Amazon in Bing, 2 from the Star Wars wikia and 2 unrelated results.

Results times seem fairly similar, both engines return their results extremely quickly. I imagine Bing would be slower to load on a slow connection as it uses more images but in these days of super fast connections hardly anyone will notice. Search suggestions on Bing is a bit more limited than on Google but I’m sure that will change as more people use Bing and Microsoft have more data to feed into the suggestion box.

So in conclusion, Bing may look prettier than Google but Google is still king of the castle, for now… Bing is a good step forward by Microsoft and given a few more tweaks and a bit more work may yet challenge Google’s dominance.

Introducing Bing!

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer revealed Bing! to the world tpday at the D: All Things Digital conference earlier today and now the Live Search Blog introduces the rest of us to the sound of found: Bing!.

“Today we’re introducing a new kind of search that goes beyond traditional search engines to help you make faster, more informed decisions. It will do this by combining a great search engine (with powerful new features to improve your results for any query), more organized results, and unique tools to help you make important decisions. We think of Bing as a Decision Engine.” says the blog entry.

“Bing is rolling out internally to Microsoft employees worldwide today and will be available to you and your friends in the coming days.”

Personally I’ll be interested to see if it produces relevant results, is easy to use and helps me find things quicker. In other words all the things Live Search doesn’t do!

SEO News round up

It’s been a hectic week here at Denial Towers so I’ve not been able to blog about this week’s stories so I thought I’d do a quick round up of the SEO news headline.

Microsoft will unveil their new look search next week at the D: All Things Digital conference before going live at the SMX Advanced conference a week later. Developed under the codename “Kumo” there has been speculation as to what Microsoft will call this new search technology. Will it use an existing brand like Live or MSN Search or even it’s codename, Kumo? Or something else entirely new like Sift, Hook or Bing? Sift.com is owned by someone else and Microsoft’s Sift seems to be a mobile search platform, Hook.com is also already taken which leaves us with Bing. Bing.com is owned by Microsoft but Google’s Matt Cutts posted on Twitter that the US Trademark Office rejected the application due to the fact a similar mark is already registered to Bing Mobile Inc.

Yahoo is also getting ready to revamp their search. Apparently they want to get rid of the “10 blue links” and change to a system they are calling “WOO”, or Web Of Objects” instead of the current “Web Of Pages”. WOO is an attemopt to return “a better representation of the “real world” in search results. In other words: more closely aligning user intent with search results and mapping those to real-world tasks.” and will include multi-media elements.

Yahoo have also been singing the praises of BOSS (Build your Own Search Service) and SearchMonkey (which is now 1 year old).

Google are changing the way Google Suggest works (the drop down that suggests queries as you type). See the Official Blog for more information.

And finally Google founder Larry Page is at today’s Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix as a guest of Vodafone (and by extension, Ferrari who Vodafone sponsor). Maybe Google are looking at some sort of deal with Vodafone or maybe Mr. Page is just trying to score a new Ferrari!