Sunday, December 23, 2012

Influencing Google's "Modified Titles"

Using Google's "Modified Titles" to your advantage.

Google's "Modified Titles" is an aspect of their ranking results where they push content via their snippets that is tailored to the search query.  This means that although you don't have a Meta Description or you have a Title tag already filled in, that they may include a snippet description to fill in for your missing Meta Desc tag and they can even re-write your Title based on how your page's content relates to the specific user query!

Take this quote from their Webmaster Resources page: Site title and description

If we’ve detected that a particular result has one of the above issues with its title, we may try to generate an improved title from anchors, on-page text, or other sources. However, sometimes even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different titles in our search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. There’s a simple reason for this: the title tag as specified by a webmaster is limited to being static, fixed regardless of the query. Once we know the user’s query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user, and it also can help your site. Users are scanning for their query terms or other signs of relevance in the results, and a title that is tailored for the query can increase the chances that they will click through.
                                                                                                           [emphasis added]
If you’re seeing your pages appear in the search results with modified titles, check whether your titles have one of the problems described above. If not, consider whether the alternate title is a better fit for the query. If you still think the original title would be better, let us know in our Webmaster Help Forum.

Well, how can you influence what Google's going to modify your Title to if you don't know what the specific query will be?  The answer is easy... know what the specific query will be!

Well, in the real world we can't guess every query that people are going to put into Google but we can get an idea of them and if they're even close to the actual query that's being used, Google will likely go off of that.

You see this whole movement of Schema Microdata Markup is allowing for more concise targeting of content based on topic and allowing for the definition (to the engines) of your site's relevance to that specific topic.   You're able to tell them what you're relevant to.

So here are some tricks to finding out what queries are being searched for in Google that relate to the content of your webpage:

Google Analytics - Navigate in GA to Traffic Sources > Sources> Organic (and Paid if you're doing a paid campaign) and you'll see the keywords, keyterms and keyphrases that people used in Google to find you.

Let's start with the keyphrases (i.e. actual long search strings that appear as sentences or questions like "safest car seat for 3 month old baby" or "who is the best golfer in the world?").  Separate these out into a spreadsheet under a column entitled "keyphrases".

Next pull in the keywords and keyterms (keywords are just words put in to help define to Google what you're looking for like "car, audi, black" while keyterms are strings that logically go together as in everyday usage, though they may not be complete sentences, such as "long-haired dog" or "basketball players").

If you find that you're getting a lot of traffic for "best golfer" then take this and add it to your spreadsheet under a column entitled "keywords/terms".

Then the next step is to create questions or phrases out of these top terms based on the keywords that people are using.  If you see that people are searching for "best golfer", "top golfer PGA",  and "world's greatest golfer", etc then you can create questions based on  these and incorporate them into your content.

Create questions like:  "Who is the world's greatest golfer:  Well that honor goes to..."; "which golfer won the PGA tour last year?:  Joe Shmoe won by such and such...".  By actually including search phrases and questions in your content as opposed to just keywords and terms then you will be allowing Google to pull from those and present your answers as potential answers for their users who are searching for them.  Separating the question from the answer with a ":" might help Google grab just the question for the Title and the answer possibly for the snippet (which is often pulled from the Meta Description tag).  Google recommends that you use Microdata to markup the content to help them define that part of the content as likely the best for the snippet.  (Click here if you want to know more about Microdata)

Another great tool is Google Webmaster Tools which gives you actual queries used in Google where your site came up (whether clicked or not) and what your average position is. 

I also use Google itself by doing a keyphrase search (either statements or questions) and either check out the Google suggest dropdown or look at the bottom of the 1st page results for suggested related searches.

Another awesome tool is the Contextual Targeting Tool in Adwords.  Put in a keyphrase and see what it recommends as related.

Go to some of the bigger answer websites like or and do some searches for questions.  They'll show you a list of related questions that they're being asked.

If you want you can also create a topic-specific FAQ at the bottom of a relevant page.  If your page is about the PGA Tour and you want traffic based on that then create a little FAQ or trivia section and include some of the more popular search questions.

Remember to mark-up your content with Microdata.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Co-citations Using and Microdata

Confucius say: Link without linking

As I've mentioned before you can link to content without linking.  This means that you can tell Google that the citation your making is relevant to a particular website and Google, seeing the URL of the relevant page, will know that it's a URL and will look at it as being relevant to the topic of the citation.

Google doesn't need an <a> tag to determine a link.  Well using's Microdata Markup you can let Google (and Yahoo, Bing and Yandex) know that it's a link without having to include the <a> tag.

From's Introduction page:

"Links to 3rd party sites can help search engines to better understand the item you are describing on your web page".

This is the basis behind citations and Google's PageRank Citation Rank in the first place.  The link is not just a "vote" cast in the favor of the relevance of the site which is being linked to it also specifically tells the engines (and you) that the content of the destination page is specific to the topic wherein the link is anchored.

Again from

"However, you might not want to add a visible link on your page. In this case, you can use a link element instead, as follows:

<div itemscope itemtype="">
  <span itemprop="name">The Catcher in the Rye</span>—
  <link itemprop="url" href="" />
  by <span itemprop="author">J.D. Salinger</span>

This allows you to link to create a link to the page that the engines can see that doesn't require an <a> tag or physical link.

If you haven't gotten into Microdata markup then you should definitely get going.  It's one part of the future of SEO.

You will be using this to optimize sites from event sites to business client sites to ecommerce and brick and mortar sites.

It offers SEOs a lot of opportunity to target the relevance of the content of websites.

SEO Prediction:

My prediction is this... using the markup will lead websites to super fine-tune content in such a profoundly focused way that you will have sites that are so narrowly targeting each page that it will cause a massive growth in overall site page counts,highly stress categorization, and greatly decrease content on each page.  You'll have an increased targeting of relevance to any additional content you have on detail pages that is not of primary importance (i.e. it's not about the product or topic that the page exists for) but is about additional, similar or related content.  Citations and backlinks to these deep pages will have to be extremely targeted in relevance (speaking of course more for SEO's doing the citations and linkbuilding).

The web will become more clear and focused which will allow much easier search and retrieval of information...but then again..that's the point, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SEO using the Contextual Targeting Tool

The wonders of the wonderful Wonder Wheel.

The Google Wonder Wheel disappeared some time ago but thanks to this article
It’s Official: Google Wonder Wheel is Back, and It’s Called the Contextual Targeting Tool [Tutorial]
by Glen Gabe at G-Squared Interactive writes a great piece introducing the Google Contextual Targeting Tool and mentions that the Wonder Wheel has become the Contextual Targeting Tool in Adwords. 

How to Optimize Citations using the Contextual Targeting Tool:

Glen gives a great intro on how to drill down using the tool so I recommend reading his article for that aspect.  Once done with that click back here and continue reading.

Once you've drilled down into the keywords that you're targeting you'll see that many of the related keyterms don't quite fit what you do specifically but here is the trick... Google finds them relevant!

Remember the Wonder Wheel, which gave a visual interface, is now only textual (which for me was ideal as I'm a visual person).  It showed citations and if any of you drilled down further into Wonder Wheel you would have seen that there didn't need to be a link with anchortext but also a quantity of citations and relevance.  So if the same engine runs the CTT as ran the Wonder Wheel then we're looking at the same results... not all of those keywords are based on links but on citations. 

So taking keywords that are suggested as relevant means that you can do the following:

  • Take those keywords, whether directly applicable to you or not, and use them (in addition to the main keywords) in off-site content (posts, articles, etc) that link back to your site or mention your site/brand.
  • Use that content on your site by making it fit into what you do somehow.  By using those really relevant keywords (according to Google) on your site you're increasing your relevance to the target keywords.  Remember my example using Pet Shop Boys?
  • Post on those types of sites:  Take those keywords that Google finds most relevant and feed them into Google's Search and find sites upon which to post and contribute along with your site/brand's mention with/out link.
  • Link to those posts from your site:  Find highly relevant sites and cite them with a link to them.  Outbound links are incredibly relevant and helpful and most people think you need to just obtain inbound links... this is not true.  Outbound links with relevant linktext to relevant pages (and highly cited pages) mean that you're showing Google that you're relevant to the destination page's subject matter.  Click here to read about Outbound Linking for Co-citation Optimization.
So, who says you you need to obtain backlinks and stuff the anchortext with keywords?  Now you can find keywords that are relevant according to Google and use those.  You can include those keywords in your site's content and on off-site comments and you can link to resources that focus on those keywords.

It's all about building a web of relevance and keeping your site as the spider at the center.

Happy SEOing and don't forget to cite us! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Co-citation: From Google's origins to SEO today.

Contact Meteorsite for help with SEO Co-citations

Hello and welcome to this blog dedicated to Co-Citation and how it applies to SEO and the world of Google.  Please feel free to email me and contribute and of course feel free to cite what you see!  

What is "co-citation" and what does it mean for SEO?

First let’s define co-citation:

Here is a description of Co-citation (The artist previously known as “Bibliographic coupling”) fromWikipedia. Although I don’t find this to be the best description it will provide you with some basics.  I will present other descriptions, points of view and examples of what co-citation is and how it applies to Search Engines, SEO and Google specifically, especially PageRank.

Here is an excellent, though scientific and dry, explanation of co-citation from a great paper on the subject.

“In published journal articles, there are always some papers or books that are cited as references
for the concepts or ideas presented in them. These cited references are used to refer the reader to
the relevant papers for further reading on the concepts and ideas that are introduced in the source
paper. They reveal how the source paper is linked to the prior relevant research on the assumption that citing and cited references have a strong link through semantics. They provide a valuable
source of information and directives for researchers in the exchange of ideas, the current trends and the future development in their respective fields. Therefore, citation indices can be used to facilitate the searching and retrieval of information”.

Many SEO’s will think that this is some new aspect to Google; a new trick to take advantage of to further the needs of their clients.  Most people don’t realize that co-citations are a fundamental part of Google since the beginning. 

Larry Page, co-founder of Google and the “Page” of PageRank says it best himself by originally calling PageRank  “The PageRank Citation Ranking” way back in ’98.  He went on to say: “The citation (link) graph of the web is an important resource that has largely gone unused in existing web search engines. We have created maps containing as many as 518 million of these hyperlinks, a significant sample of the total. These maps allow rapid calculation of a web page's "PageRank", an objective measure of its citation importance that corresponds well with people's subjective idea of importance”. [emphasis added]

You see, the PageRank concept is fundamentally based on citations.  When a scientific paper is written (many of you will remember this from high school, undergrad or grad studies) you quote or “cite” other works.  Those other works obviously are of the same subject matter of which you’re writing (or you wouldn’t be citing them) and therefore to be honorable about using someone else’s work in your own, to give props to that person, and to lend credibility to what you’re writing, you refer specifically to where you found that delicious bit of information. 

Now, back when we had to go to school up-hill both ways in a blizzard and in shoes made of cardboard (you know… pre-Internet) – all of those papers, scientific journals, etc, were just on paper or microfiche or some other antiquated form of record keeping (stone tablets anyone?).  Once we started going online we started pulling these papers and journals and documents online (stone tablets too).  Now imagine the web, which is literally all documents, images, sound files, etc, as being a mega library.  With any library you need a card catalog or essentially a way to categorize the content.  Well, one paper can be relevant to a lot of other categories… and this is exactly what is the key behind Search Engines… the magic word… relevance!  What makes something relevant is usage and when you use, quote or cite another’s work in yours you’re creating a relevance association with that work.  You’re telling people that it’s relevant to what you’re writing. 

Therefore when you create that association and someone else halfway across the country writes a paper and quotes the same source in a similar way then they also create a relevance association.  Now you both have just made that cited work relevant to what you’re writing.  The person you’re citing doesn’t even need to mention what you’re writing specifically to be considered relevant… you made them relevant by associating them into what you’ve written.  Imagine now that 5,000 people also cite that same source in a similar way, in the same subject matter… it makes that source highly relevant.  Well, backlinking should not be looked at as link-popularity but citations as it’s not a matter of popularity or simply usage but relevant usage.  That was the concept behind PageRank, balanced with a number of on-page aspects from font attributes to location, quantity of keyword usage, etc. 

How does this affect SEO?

Well, Google didn’t expect people to be able to manipulate their Search Engine… in a paper they co-authored Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote “This allows for personalization and can make it nearly impossible to deliberately mislead the system in order to get a higher ranking”.  This we know was completely wrong and has in fact created a massive industry called SEO.  Well, since backlinks were pretty easy to manipulate, on-page aspects were easy to manipulate, even the quantity of content is easy to manipulate so how does Google cut through the manipulated junk to provide truly relevant results?  Well we need to go back to the card-catalog question.  How do you manage so much content and determine relevance?  Linking is a great way and you’ll still see linking as a part of Google but it’s more than that.  Google has copies of billions of webpages in its indices and it can go through that content at will.  So think about it this way… Google doesn’t really need hyperlinks to link things together as relevant.  It just needs mentions.

It comes back to usage!   This makes it actually much easier for quality whitehat SEOs to generate rankings for their clients as you won’t need to spend so much time and their money to get backlinks… now you can push content!  Go out there and talk about your client!  Get people to talk about your client!  Get your client’s brand associated (physically) with their keywords.  Social is ideal for this (including Blogs!!!) as it spreads buzz and gets people using your client’s brand and keywords.  So now, instead of spending so much time and money just getting backlinks… you can focus on getting the word out… link or not.  When people mention your client’s brand and keywords, they’re citing them.  That’s what Google’s looking for!  And getting 1,000 mentions will be far easier and effective than getting even 50 quality backlinks.

To prove my point that mere usage does work- one of my favorite examples for the last 14 years is this:

Google the term “pet shop”.  Up until about 5 years ago, you would always see the top results for the term being the band The Pet Shop Boys.  Why?  Because you never saw any other word USED in association with pet shop more than the word boys.  You don’t say “pet shop dogs” or “pet shop cats”.  Although now other terms are used such as “pet shop games” and “pet shop movie” and Google has modified its algorithm to account for the fact that someone putting in Pet Shop is likely looking for an actual pet shop and not the band (as the quantity and usage of those terms like "food", "dog", etc are being caught by Google), you can still do a Google search for “pet shop” and find the band’s site in the top 3 search engine results pages.  The best way to use that to one’s advantage is to use text such as “In our pet shop boys and girls find the pet they’re looking for”.  This is truly relevant to the site but also takes advantage of an established semantic association.   No harm – no foul.

Now the thing to do is to look into the science behind the process and how to position your mentions (citations) as best as possible so that they work best for you and your clients.

Google’s Wonder Wheel… whatever happened to you old friend?

Google launched its Wonder Wheel back in 2009.  Wonder Wheel showed the contextual relevance between a site and others but many didn’t realize that it was actually simply just a co-citation cluster tool.  The following image shows a screenshot of Wonder Wheel while the second image shows a screenshot of a co-citation cluster system.  See any similarities? 

Co-citation clusters as seen in Google's Wonder Wheel

A co-citation clusster system

More on this on my next post.  See you soon!

~ Jeff Chance