First Link Priority – Does Google Only Count the First Link for SEO?

First Link Priority – Does Google Only Count the First Link?

One of my favorite things about search engine optimization, or SEO, is the constant experiments that must be done to try and figure out exactly how the algorithms of the search engines work. Google has stated publicly before that there are over 200+ factors that are in the algorithm to determine a website’s ranking, but they keep the actual algorithm secret. They also constantly test and make tweaks to their algorithms so what works today may not work tomorrow. That’s why SEO professionals have to stay on top of the latest changes in order to not be left behind.

One of the most important factors that Google uses is the anchor text of text links pointing to a specific URL. Every link is counted as a”vote” for that website, and if a certain webpage has a ton of links pointing to it with the same specific keywords in the anchor text, Google assumes that “huh, all of these other websites are linking to this page for “keyword whatever” so that must mean it’s relevant for that keyword phrase and thus should be ranked higher in the search engine rankings.” This seems somewhat obvious nowadays but this shift to focusing on links from other sites rather than actual keywords appearing on a page is how Google separated themselves from the other primitive and spam-ridden search engines in the early years. Anchor text in links is still extremely, extremely important but the search engines are always looking for other signals to consider since putting too much importance on just anchor text in links is an easy way for webmasters to manipulate their search engine rankings.

Even though links from external sites are more important than internal links, internal linking is still a very important piece of any SEO strategy. What I mean by internal linking is simply using optimized text in your text links that point to other pages on your same site. So instead of using “click here” to visit a page about electric guitars, that link text should say “electric guitars” instead. This helps the search engines determine what that page the link is pointing to is about and “electric guitars” obviously makes a lot more sense than “click here” does.

But what happens if you have more than one link pointing to the same URL on a webpage? For example, if you wrote a blog post about guitars and the first link you used to link to a specific URL was “guitars” and then in the next paragraph you linked to that same URL with “electric guitars” and then in the last paragraph you used “click here to view our wide selection of guitars and guitar accessories.” You would think that because you had 3 links in your blog post, that you would be giving 3 “votes” to that URL to rank for all three of those keyword phrases. However, this is apparently not the case, at least not in Google. There have been plenty of experiments done by other SEO professionals and most of them have come to the same conclusion – Google only counts the first link that appears on that webpage and more specifically, the first link that appears in the source code. Which means Google completely ignores the other two links. This has come to be known as First Link Priority.

Now you might not think this is a big deal, but it definitely is, especially in ultra competitive industries. Oftentimes a seemingly small factor like this is what separates 1st place and 2nd place, when all else is equal. And in these ultra competitive and lucrative industries, ranking #1 instead of #2 or lower can mean millions of dollars in revenue every year.

One of the most commonly neglected areas of a website is its navigation. Most of the time the navigation shows up at the top of a website or on the lefthand side, and because this is the case, most of the time the navigation shows up first in the HTML source code of a webpage. You might not think twice about linking to your homepage with the text “Home” instead of “Electric Guitars Online” but now that you know that Google only counts the first link, then you’ll probably want to reconsider how you link to your internal pages. You can have the sexiest webpage design and the best content on the web, but if the search engines are only counting the first time you link to your internal pages then your SEO results may be limited.

Don’t believe me? Fine, here are some links to some of the experiments that other people have done to test out the First Link Priority hypothesis:

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/results-of-google-experimentation-only-the-first-anchor-text-counts

http://seofirstlink.info/

http://seanseo.com/seo/first-link-priority/

http://www.noblesamurai.com/blog/market-samurai/website-optimization-first-link-priority-2306/

and  a nifty tool to check your links for First Link Priority – http://www.firstlinkchecker.com/

GMail Manager 0.6.4.1 for Firefox 6 Stops Working

GMail Manager Not Working – Update September 10, 2011

It seems that every time Firefox updates to a new version, my favorite plugin GMail Manager stops working. I use the plugin multiple times a day to check multiple email accounts and switch Google User accounts with a click without having to type in my password each time. Anyways, I updated to Firefox 6 today and then of course GMail Manager 0.6.4.1 stopped working because it is not compatible with the new Firefox. I tried multiple solutions on https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/gmail-manager/reviews/by editing the .XPI file (pasted below which may work for you, but not for me) -

1. Browse to C:\Users\YOUR USER NAME\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\A RANDOM CODE IS HERE.default\extensions\
2. Locate the file {582195F5-92E7-40a0-A127-DB71295901D7}.xpi, rename it to {582195F5-92E7-40a0-A127-DB71295901D7}.zip and extract the files to a temporary location.
3. Open the components folder, look for the file gmServiceGmail.js and use a text editor to modify these 2 lines:
this._loginURL = “https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLoginAuth”;
should be changed to this
this._loginURL = “https://accounts.google.com/accounts/ServiceLoginAuth?service=mail”;

this._loginURL = “https://www.google.com/a/” + this.domain + “/LoginAction2″;
should be changed to this
this._loginURL = “https://accounts.google.com/a/”+ar[1]+”/LoginAction2?service=mail”;
4. Save the file, overwrite the existing gmServiceGmail.js
5. Open the file install.rdf with a text editor and change the line:
<em:maxVersion>4.0.*</em:maxVersion>
to
<em:maxVersion>6.0.*</em:maxVersion>
6. Save the file, overwrite the existing install.rdf.
7. Rezip all files you extracted in step 2 and name it {582195F5-92E7-40a0-A127-DB71295901D7}.xpi
8. Replace the old {582195F5-92E7-40a0-A127-DB71295901D7}.xpi for the 1 you just adjusted and restart FireFox

However, this did not work for me but I eventually found a way to fix it. Here is the link to download GMail Manager Version 7 – http://minus.com/mNLgH8BrL/. Just download it and choose to open it with Firefox, Install, Restart Firefox and bam! it should work exactly as expected.

GMail Manager – Google Changes How They Handle Cookies

GMail Manager – Google Changes How They Handle Cookies

Just yesterday I noticed that I am no longer able to switch from Google Account to another Google Account via the GMail Manager add-on for Firefox. I can log into one account, but then when I try to switch to another account, I am redirected to a Google Accounts page that says I have to clear my cache and cookies before switching accounts. So obviously there has been some kind of change in the way Google handles cookies. Hopefully they’ll either switch it back or the author of the GMail Manager plugin will update it so that it works again, considering it is my favorite Firefox add-on!

Outer Banks Mile Marker Map – Milepost Map OBX

Outer Banks Mile Marker Map – Milepost Map OBX. I have gone to the beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina for summer vacation at least ten times throughout my life, but I always seem to forget exactly everything is. Obviously, Corolla and Duck are north of the bridge, and that the mileposts or mile markers begin as you travel south. We are researching houses to book for a big family reunion this summer and were trying to figure out which location was best – houses at Milepost 10, Milepost 12, Milepost 16 or Milepost 18. I attempted to search for a mile post map of the Outer Banks on Google and surprisingly was not able to find one.

Eventually we decided on a house in South Nags Head, just beyond mile post 18. Apparently anything after Mile Post 16 or so becomes a lot more residential and less commercial. This is perfectly fine, but it would have been helpful if I could have found an OBX mile marker map somewhere just in case any of the other locations were a lot closer to the restaurants and activities that we may want to experience.

Anyways, this just goes to show how Google and other search engines still have a long ways to go. If I somehow come across an image of the map, I will post it in this entry just in case anybody else looking for it will actually be able to find it!

Google’s WebP Image Format to Kill JPEG?

Google has announced today the WebP image format that they hope to kill the JPEG file format on the web. The WebP file format is lossy, just like JPEGs, but up to 40% smaller than a comparable JPEG image. And since images make up 65% of the web, a decrease of 40% for that 65% is significant, and will make the overall web that much faster, which is obviously something Google wants to help make happen. Like Google’s proprietary open source WebM video format that they hope will become the standard video format with HTML5, I strongly believe WebP will eventually make the JPEG obsolete.

This article on Mashable brought this up to my attention and asks the question whether Google will have enough clout to make it happen. Just as Google will be sure to convert all YouTube videos to WebM, you can be sure that they will push to make WebP the standard on their own properties such as Picasa, even if it isn’t as popular as Yahoo’s Flickr. Yet!

Google’s Customer Service Sucks

Google’s customer service sucks so much. Apparently they can ban any website or domain name from their search engine index and they never have to tell you why. Simply because there is actually no possible way to contact a human that works at Google who can give you an answer. All of the Google “customer service” websites and FAQs point to asking questions in the Google Webmaster Help Forum where other helpless non-Google employees try to help each other out even though nobody actually has the real answer. There is no customer support phone number that you can call or Live Chat services or ticket system or even just an email address that a real human actually uses.

Yes, I know that Google is a huge company and they would need to hire thousands of customer support staff to handle all of the questions. Well, newsflash, the majority of other huge companies offer customer support so why should Google be any different? They literally make billions of dollars and can easily afford a call center. I don’t care if it takes 2 months for a real person to actually respond, as long as it’s a real person that doesn’t give me a vague non-automated answer. Ugh, so fucking frustrating!

/rant

How Much Does Google Know About Me and You?

How much does Google know about me and you? I think it’s pretty safe to say that Google probably knows more about us than most of your closest friends and family members do and certainly more than any other website on the Internet. Obviously, Google stores its search engine query history in their massive data warehouses for up to 18 months. So while you may have never told another soul, Google doesn’t forget about that mysterious ailment that you were searching for “how to cure embarrassing rash” a year and a half ago. They can easily tie a specific user to a specific query with cookies and/or IP addresses.

And if you think you are out of the clear because you don’t use Google as your primary search engine, chances are that Google still knows pretty much everything about you because you most likely have used these services or come across websites that use these services and thus enables Google to track your activity:

- GMail - As of December 2009, Gmail had 179 Million users log into their site at least once monthly. Even if you don’t use Gmail, I’m willing to bet that you have emailed somebody who does. And thus, your conversation is tracked by Google.

- Google Analytics – By far the most popular website analytics service on the Internet. In fact, I just wrote a separate post about how many websites use Google Analytics about this. It is estimated that Google Analytics tracks 80.4% of websites on the Internet. So unless you only visit the same 20% of the Internet, you can count on the fact that Google Analytics has tracked your usage across several different websites.

- YouTube – Already the world’s second most popular search engine, YouTube is the premier destination for the red hot online video market. In fact, YouTube said they serve OVER 2 BILLION video views each and every day. That is insane!

- Google Maps – It is reported that Google Maps gets 55 Million unique visitors each month in the United States, which is significantly higher than MapQuest’s 38 Million unique visitors.

- Google AdSense – I can’t seem to find any statistics on exactly how many websites use AdSense to monetize their sites, but I think it’s safe to say that if it isn’t the most widely used website advertising network, then it is definitely in the Top 3. Anytime you view a website with Google AdSense and/or banner ads displayed by DoubleClick, you are being tracked by Google.

- Google Chrome – Google Chrome is already the third most popular web browser, behind only Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, with its 7.16% marketshare of the worldwide Internet usage.

- Google Docs – More and more users are moving from desktop software such as Microsoft Office to using cloud-based document software, and Google Docs is the most widely used in this market.

- Google Android – Google’s mobile OS has already taken over the top spot from Apple’s iPhone. And as more and more Android-enabled cell phones continue to flood the market, the more popular Google’s mobile OS will be.

- Google Toolbar, Google Earth, Google AdWords, Blogger, Picasa, and on and on and on…

Basically Google dominates the Internet and most likely your online life as well. And since Google is tracking your online activity, keep in mind that anything you search for or visits to any websites can potentially one day be made public!

Google AdWords Enhanced CPC is Announced to Increase Conversions

Google AdWords just announced a new bidding option called Enhanced CPC, which will automatically adjust your Max Cost Per Clicks for keywords that historically generate conversions. Of course, you will need Google Conversion Tracking turned on, which you should have already had on in the first place. This is certainly an intriguing bidding option, but I would definitely be cautious about using it without exhaustively testing it simply because the more you let Google’s automated system control, 99% of the time it means the less targeted and less profitable the campaign will be. So I would certainly encourage trying it out, but I would definitely keep an eye on it. The video below explains more about the Enhanced CPC option:

How Does Google Make Money?

In case you did not already know, Google makes almost all of its money (about 97%) from selling advertising space through Google AdWords on the top and sides of search results and Google-owned websites. The Google AdSense network only amounts to a small piece of the overall pie. In 2009, Google reported $24 Billion in gross revenue and net revenue of $18 Billion. That is a nice chunk of change. The website Silicon Alley Insider put the revenue data in a nice graph so it is easy to visualize.

Google Revenue Chart

I will soon follow up this post with an explanation of some of the questionable practices Google uses within their AdWords system in order to make their massive profits.

How to Track Google AdWords Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

If you do a lot of work with Google AdWords and Google Analytics, you’ve probably already realized that Analytics does not accurately report traffic data for broad match keywords from AdWords. For example, let’s say I run a website that sells guitars and I bid on the following broad match keywords:

guitars
buy guitar
guitar
guitar for sale

I run the AdWords campaign for 30 days and get 1000 total clicks for those keywords. Google Analytics will show 1000 clicks for only those four keywords. However, since they are broad match keywords, the AdWords campaign likely generated clicks for other “similar” keyword phrases such as:

guitar picks
guitar tuning in richmond, va
free guitar lessons in arkport, new york

Google Analytics will only report traffic coming from the 4 broad match keywords that we bid on in the AdWords campaign.  So if we only sell guitars and don’t offer guitar lessons or guitar picks, we are wasting money on those clicks. There are several ways to get this data, such as by adding custom filters. However, those solutions only work if the traffic is being tracked as AdWords traffic. In some cases, the AdWords traffic will be counted as Organic traffic in Analytics and another solution must be used. You’re in luck because I will write about that in my next post. :)

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