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Posts tagged google

Feeling let down by Google Alerts? 5 alternatives to try

google-alerts Google Alerts is a great tool but only when it’s working reliably. Most are reporting that it’s stopped completely. Considering how Google Reader was dropped, it won’t be long before it gets closed too.

The replacements…

If you love the tool and need a replacement, here is our small list of alternatives…


Mention offers three pricing tiers,

  • Free – up to 500 mentions a month
  • Pro plans starting at 50,000 mentions a month at €19.99 a month

Talkwalker Alerts

Talkwalker Alerts appears to be free and fairly flexable

  • Free service
  • Basic filtering – blog, news, discussions, everything
  • Selectable languages
  • Basic control over frequency, once a day, once a week, as it happens


Topsy on the face of it seems restricted, it can only search Google+ and Twitter. But as the two social networks evolve they may be the most important ones

  • Free to use
  • Good selection of languages
  • Better than basic selection of search types, links, photos, videos, experts
  • Able to refine search before committing to creating an alert

Social Mention

Social Mention carries the most comprehensive set of filters and controls. Easy to use and lots of features, such as;

  • sentiment indications
  • keywords
  • top users
  • hash tags

At the time of writing, alerts is down but due to be available again within a week

Notification Control

Notification Control provides links to the settings page on various social media sites where you can then change the alert settings. If you are happy with visiting sites individually then this site is your control panel.

Which one to use?

Most of the sites, except Notification Control, offer free and paid services. The pro versions offer history, stats and more detailed reports. For most of Us, the free versions should be enough.

Have you tried any of them? Which ones do you use? Please leave a comment below

Sunday reading, Google manual penalties and more on G+

Sunday Reading

This week, several news stories got my attention. Not quite worth blogging about on their own but still worth mentioning.

The first comes from SEOMOZ, Lifting A Manual Penalty Given By Google (Personal Experience)

On the 15th of August 2012, our agency’s website (which was in the middle of a complete redesign) was hit with a manual penalty by our friends over at Google. This came completely out of the blue to us, as we’re a fairly small agency that has never taken part in any unorthodox link building techniques. We offer link building services to our clients and pride ourselves on carrying out only high quality and white hat work.

There is a positive outcome to this story thankfully. However the details of how they resolved their problems gives us insight on what not to do.

Other stories from Google relate to G+, We start with SEMRush, How to Get Leads with Google+

Some business owners balk at the thought of adding Google+ to their social media marketing mix. But as the saying goes, they may be cutting off their nose to spite their face by doing so. The truth is, Google+ has some distinct advantages over Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a marketing tool. And if you get started now, you will have the edge over your competition when they finally see the light and start using this service.

Two of the features that enable Google+ to stand out over its competition, and help companies to generate leads, are Hangouts and Communities. Hangouts are essentially online video chats that are limited to 10 people. Companies can also automatically record and broadcast their video chats on YouTube with Hangouts on Air, opening the potential audience for your video chat exponentially.

We continue with Search Engine Land, Google Upgrades Its Google Places Dashboard With Google+ Local Integration

Google has begun a staged upgrade of its Google Places Dashboard — the backend tool that allows local businesses to manage their business information that appears in Google’s search results. A new dashboard that looks much more like the current Google (and Google+) aesthetic, and also offers some new functionality, will be available “over the coming weeks.”

It’s the latest step in Google’s (very) slow process of updating its business listings management from Google Places to Google+ Local. The consumer side of that switch happened last May, when Google’s local search results and listings became Google+ Local.

If you have any suggestions for Sunday Reading then please get in touch

Clarifying Google Places, which ‘plus’ service should you be using?

google-places The Search Engine People has published a useful guide to Google Places. Now that we have G+, it has become confusing to know which service is for what. Along side Places we also have Google Plus Local, Google+ Business Page and Merged Google+ Local Page/Verified Local Google+ Page. It’s important to know as local search is great way to pick up new clients and customers

From The Google Service Formerly Known As Places: Clearing Up the Confusion

There has been a lot of change in the local landscape ever since Google rolled out Google+ in 2011. From Google Maps, to Google Places, to Google+ Local and Google+ Business Pages it seems near impossible to keep tabs on what exactly local SEO’s and small businesses are dealing with when it comes to managing their local presence on Google. It all started with the conversion of roughly 80 million Google Places Pages into 80 million Google+ Local Pages and its all been downhill from there. Small business owners and local search geeks alike have spent days scratching their heads trying to make sense out of it all, but by the end of this post you should be able to look at the various listings in Google’s local landscape and know exactly what it is you or your business is working with.

Get your profiles ready – author rank is coming

Author rank

We already know that Google (Yahoo as well…possibly) is using MicroData to help identify authors. We know that Google is using it to adjust search results along with G+ button clicks. Before long, we will have ‘author rank’!

According to a recent article on Search Engine Watch, Want to Rank in Google? Build Your Author Rank Now

In “SEO Revelations for 2013″, I wrote this about rel=author: “This will be the big new ranking signal for 2013″. A mere 19 days later, a very interesting excerpt from “The New Digital Age”, the upcoming book authored by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, made some headlines:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Irrelevance? Wow! That’s a strong statement.

Here is the message: If you want your content to rank in Google, build your author authority (“Author Rank”) now. Google hasn’t taken this position solely to create a binary signal (got a profile, you’re good; no profile, you aren’t). How much authority you have as an author is going to be a big deal.

I have already mentioned a similar quote by Larry Page and discussed it’s importance. If you are not already taking steps to state your authorship and authority, then you better start on it now.

One thing that has not been mentioned but you can bet the dog on it that it’s coming – brand/business authorship. Even if it’s worth less than personal authorship, they will soon have to deal with it.

Take this as advanced warning – bad merchants will be penalised

Google, via Matt Cutts, has said that they plan to take bad merchants to task. Poor customer experience and I guess bad online customer service, will be taken in to account and effect rankings. How this will be accomplished has not been revealed.

From Bad Merchant? Google May Drop Your Rankings Later This Year

Had a bad experience purchasing from an online merchant? Google says it wants to protect searchers from that, and it may crackdown later this year with changes intended to prevent bad merchants from ranking well.

The news came during the “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing”session that I moderated yesterday at the SXSW conference in Austin. Google’s chief web spam fighter Matt Cutts responded to concerns one merchant had about bad competitors outranking him.

Cutts said:

We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little bit sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.

One way they might implement this check is via fake reviews. What ever method they use, time to re-examine how you deal with customers…

Microdata: The content, the business and the author

Microdata markup allows Us to lay claim to our content and websites. Google is using it for authorship and a few other things but it is also being used by other search engines like Yahoo.

This means we now need to rethink the ‘about pages’. With Microdata we can consider that there are three parts; the bio for the content author, the about page for the business and the about page for you and any other author.

Part one: The author – content link

The content that is posted on your business blog can be connected to an author. Each blog post written by you should have a small ‘bio’ at the bottom. My own bio contains links to my Google+ profile page as well as others. The coding looks like this…

<div itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Person">
<span itemprop="name">Bob Toovey</span> has been active on the Internet since 1998,
 a <span itemprop="jobTitle">blogger/writer</span> since 2006 and started dabbling
 with programming when he got his first Sinclair ZX81. He loves to blog about social
 media, marketing and food. You can find him on 
<a itemprop="url" title="”Follow" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/115455121760764873658" rel="me" name="google_profile">Google+, </a>
<a itemprop="url" title="Follow" href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobtoovey" rel="me" name="linkedin_Profile">LinkedIn</a> 
and <a title="Follow" href="http://twitter.com/bobtoovey">Twitter</a></div>

It’s not really that complicated, copy it if you want and change it to point to your own profiles.

By doing this, you are identifying that the content on the page was written by you. So make sure it does not appear on guest posts! I have hard coded my ‘bio’ to only appear on content that I have written, until I have found a suitable plugin or have written one myself

Part two: The about page – for your business

This page should only be about your business. The aims, goals and the reason it exists. It should be a page by itself and not include anything else.

The code to link is simple…

<a href="https://plus.google.com/[yourpageID]"
 rel="publisher">Find us on Google+</a>

And you can find out more about it on the Google+ page support section.

Part three: The about page for your authors

While the bio is a snap shot, the about page needs to be fuller. It’s the page that explains why you are an authority. Your credentials as it were. The links in the ‘bio’ can be reused and perhaps expanded. Make sure it is only about you and not about the business.

Microdata and SEO

By implementing these three ideas, you are not just giving Google more information but you are also implementing good SEO. As the information will be used to adjust search results for your friends and in the case authorship – include an image against the result, we could actually call it Social Optimization. Perhaps we will see more of this in the future?


Google+ authorship – the importance of Microdata

Microdata markup results

We all like to be identified with the content that we write, most of the time.  As Google+ makes itself felt through out the Google empire, this identification will become more important.

When we conduct a search for something, if one our G+ friends (those in your cirlces) has written something relevant, their ranking in the search results will be made higher. But that only happens if you are logged in to G+, you will get ordinary results otherwise. Read this great article about the full implications - Your Google Plus Network Is More Powerful Than You Know

You might seem something like this, a picture of the author along side the result…



One of the many tools Google provides is the ability to declare your authorship. This is achieved using Microdata. It makes use of existing HTML and provides extra information about a page. So far Microdata is used for a few things; recipes, events, people, authorship etc.

When it comes to authorship though, Microdata is very handy…

  • Declare your ownership of the content you have written
  • Link your website to Google+ business pages
  • Get your image associated with your content in search results (as per the example above).

For all the content that I write and that appears on my sites, I have now included a ‘bio’ that includes the Microdata markup.

Bob Toovey has been active on the Internet since 1998, a blogger/writer since 2006 and started dabbling with programming when he got his first Sinclair ZX81. He loves to blog about social media, marketing and food. You can find him on  and Twitter

Each link has extra data that identifies it as being a profile. So for example, this page you are reading has links to my social networking profiles.  Therefore Google now knows that I am the author, if this page appears in my G+ friends search results then my G+ profile picture will be included. Even Google Analytic’s has a labs section on author stats.

This all sounds like a Google special and to get the benefits you need a Google account. Not true, Schema.org states that…

Search engines including Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.

You could consider the inclusion of Mircodata markup as G+ enhancements. However, if it’s seen as a way of, “making it easier for people to find the right web pages.“, then it’s also SEO.

If you are a user of Google+ then you really should consider using Microdata. It could give you the edge you have been looking for!

You are free to choose which ever social network you want!

I came across this blog post, claiming Google is trying to cheat it’s users, The Great Google+ Swindle. I’ve read it a couple of times now and come to the conclusion it’s one big whine.

Do you use Google+? I don’t mean “do you have a Google Plus profile?” I mean, are you a regular user of Google’s social network.

The answer is almost certainly “no”. You’ve probably decided against it. You don’t need another social time sink. Especially not one that just won’t deliver any business your way.

Your decision was “thanks but no thanks” to Google. Plus isn’t for you, but the app is rather nice looking.

Well, tough. You’re going to use Google+ whether you want to or not. You’re going to be bombarded with pro-Plus propaganda, and outright threatened with expulsion from the search engines. Welcome to the great Google+ swindle.

That’s right. We’re all being swindled. By Google, and by supposedly trustworthy bloggers. We’re being coerced and cajoled into wasting our time.

And why? Because while Google know how to build a search product, they have no idea what a social product even is.

I have never felt any compulsion to use Google+, or indeed Facebook or Twitter. I use the social networks that fit me, where my potential customers are. The post goes on to say that Google+ is a ghost town, well that’s not true. According to Search Engine Journal in January this year, Google+ passed Twitter to become the second biggest social network - Google+ Surpasses Twitter to Become Second Largest Social Network.

The post author also complains about Facebook…

Facebook doesn’t have a good website. Facebook’s Android application is one of the worst things I’ve had the misfortune to use. And Facebook chat is a glorified MSN messenger that’s straight out of the 1990s. Yet Facebook has over a billion users, while Google+ is a comparative ghost town? Why?

Because Facebook understands that the social product isn’t the website. It’s the network.

I’ve just loaded up my Facebook page now. Here’s the last five people to post in my feed:

  • A man who promotes a number of local bands in his hometown
  • A woman who runs a hair salon
  • A hotel manager
  • A self-employed poet
  • My mother

Four of those people, I can sell my services to. And the other has invited me around for Sunday lunch next week. In comparison, the last five people who posted on Google+ are all in online marketing. As were the five before that.

Is Facebook really that bad? Ever taken a look at Craigs List?  That site has no design as such.

I really hate to pull another bloggers post apart, I am sure he means well. However, I have said this many times before and I am sure many times in the future – Go to where your customers are!

It doesn’t matter which social network you are on, go where your customers are. Social Networks are made of humans with something to say, they have wants and needs. Choose who you follow, control your updates and most of all, do your research!

What I am trying to say is that, in business you need easy access to potential clients, go to which ever website/social network/forum or what ever site they are on. Do your research and use the tools, many of which are free. It’s never been easier to make contact with interested customers. It’s just a matter of doing it in the right place.

Will your marketing plan cope if Google dropped your business website?

Tumbleweed What would happen to your business if Google removed your website from their index? You would have no traffic from that search engine. For far too many, that would mean no visitors, no customers and no sales. Too many rely on Google to bring in traffic.

If your marketing tactics solely rely on Google providing a steady stream then you are in error. They often change the way in which their algorithms work, to try and improve on quality. That means at any time you could get more visitors but you could also lose them too.

Try creating a plan that doesn’t rely on what the search engines can do for you. Test it by imagining that Google has dropped your website. What other tools can you use to bring in visitors?

Now consider what to do to keep them coming back. One of the best ways is a mailing list, a regular reminder that you still exist and that you are offering things that will interest them.

Keep testing and measuring your plan to ensure it’s doing what it should.

Google Analytic’s: What Bad Web Practices Look Like in Real Life

Google Analytic’s has recently published a set of videos to show what bad web practices would look like in real life. These humorous videos bring to life what visitors may go through once they arrive at a website.

Do these videos get their point across? Leave your comments below…