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SCOTIA SYSTEMS BLOG




Google Search and Circles

July 26th, 2011 admin

Having played with Google Plus and Circles, one of the features missing is good search function.    You can search for people to follow by name, but that’s about it.

The missing feature is even more surprising given that this is “Google” we’re talking about.   If anyone can do search properly, it’s them!

Did you know however, you can use the standard www.google.com search engine to search through user profiles?

You can use the “site:plus.google.com” operator to return search results from user profiles.

For example – to find profiles of people who’ve lived/are living in Halifax Nova Scotia:

image

 

You could even set up a Google alert based on the search to email you when someone nearby signs up for Google+

It’s not just location you can search for – it could be people with similar interest too.

 

Get searching!





Google Adds Instant Preview to Webmaster Tools Labs

May 19th, 2011 admin

When Google added Instant Previews to user search results, there were questions as to how and when the images were created:

preview

 

Google have now added an additional feature to the popular Webmaster Tools (under Labs) to help website owners find issues which may be affecting the preview image generated by Google.

The tool gives you the option to specify any web page on your site and then generates a preview on the spot.   It compares the preview to the actual site side by side:

 

image

 

As you can see above, there are some small discrepancies (some borders/menu elements are missing), however this appears to be fairly random?  

Repeatedly hitting the compare button gives different results – possibly indicating a bandwidth issue when downloading pictures?   Maybe because so many webmasters are hitting the new tool at the moment!

Below the comparison, the tool provides a list of errors encountered when processing the site.    In the above example, the missing bitmaps are listed as “fetch failure”, which is odd as the images download fine for normal browsers.

This also raises the question – if the image on the left of the actual site is also generated in real time for the comparison – how come it succeeds to download all the pictures, whereas the instant preview doesn’t?

Google states that the image preview is generated using a WebKit engine which doesn’t support flash or Silverlight which may account for differences between the real site and the preview.

 

Check out the Google webmaster central blog for the official Google announcement.





Google Rolls Out Rich Snippets for Recipes

February 25th, 2011 admin

As promised, Google have now rolled out Rich Snippets support for recipes in the search results.image

Anyone using Google to search for a recipe can now use the filter tool to show only recipe based results.

Google have been crawling and analysing microdata, RDFa and microformats for a while, however this is the first time they’ve given the user the ability to filter on these results.

So as an SEO, what are microformats and how can you use them?

Well, microformats are basically HTML tags which give the search engines context around keywords and content.  

Using these tags, you can tell the search engines more about the content on your page

Now that Google have SERPs dedicated to recipes, using microformats is your opportunity to improve ranking within these results.

So let’s start by having a look at some HTML code for an example recipe:

 

   1:    <div>
   2:      <h2>Recipe for Disaster</h2>
   3:      <img src="/images/disaster.jpg" />
   4:      By Scotia Systems<br>
   5:      Published 25th February 2011<br>
   6:      A recipe for disaster<br>
   7:      Prep time : 5 min<br>
   8:      Cook time : 20 min<br>
   9:      Calories per serving : 0<br>
  10:    <br>
  11:      Ingredients : <br>
  12:      2 tsp cement<br>
  13: 
  14:      Directions:<br>
  15:      1. Stir vigorously and leave to set<br>    
  16:  </div>

 

Recipe for Disaster

By Scotia Systems

Published 25th February 2011

A recipe for disaster

Prep time : 5 min

Cook time : 20 min

Calories per serving : 0

Ingredients : 2 tsp cement

Directions: 1. Stir vigorously and leave to set

 
 

Now when Google crawls this, they’re able to analyse the content and extract keywords, but knowing what the keywords actually mean is incredibly difficult and would require a lot of processing.   You’d need to look at the context of the page in general along with surrounding keywords to make a guess.

Microformats lets you tell Google directly what each part of the recipe relates to.   

Let’s now look at the above code with Microformats applied:

   1:  <div>   
   2:      <span class="item"><h2>Recipe for Disaster</h2></span
   3:   
   4:      <img src="/images/disaster.jpg" class="photo"/>   
   5:      By <span class="author">Scotia Systems</span><br>   
   6:      Published <span class="published">25th February 2011    
   7:      <span class-"summary">A recipe for disaster</span><br   
   8:      Prep time : <span class="preptime">5 min</span><br>   
   9:      Cook time : <span class="cooktime">20 min</span><br>   
  10:      <span class="nutrition">
  11:      Calories per serving : <span class="calories">0</span  
  12:      </span>
  13:      <br>  
  14:      Ingredients : <br>  
  15:      <span class="ingredients">
  16:      <span class="amount">2 tsp</span> 
  17:      <span class="name">cement</span><br>  
  18:      </span>
  19:      
  20:      Directions:<br>  
  21:      <span class="instructions">
  22:      1. Stir vigorously and leave to set<br>      
  23:      </span>
  24:  </div>

Now as Google crawls and analyses this, they can instantly tell what the ingredients are, the how long it takes to prepare etc.    None of the additional information is visible to the end user, just the search crawler bot as you can see below:

 

Recipe for Disaster

By Scotia Systems

Published 25th February 2011

A recipe for disaster

Prep time : 5 min

Cook time : 20 min

Calories per serving : 0

Ingredients : 2 tsp cement

Directions: 1. Stir vigorously and leave to set

 

There’s a good post over at Google’s Webmaster Central which goes into more details on the different microformat standards and how you can use them.

 

Google have also provided a “Rich Snippets Testing Tool” which you can use to see how your code will appear in the search results.