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.


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