I have a little spare time at the moment so I decided to participate in the Power Searching with Google Course which went live on 10th of July. Split into six classes the course is due to last till July 23rd.

I didn’t expect to learn anything from the course (I didn’t as it was pretty basic) but was more interested if it would be a good tool to point people towards who are just starting out in SEO or are in-house contacts who want to learn a little more about search. I often point people to the beginner’s guide to SEO on SEOMoz or the SEO guide on Google Webmasters Central, so could the Power Searching with Google Course be a useful teaching aid? Class 1 started today here’s a little review.

Pre Assessment

The class started with 10 questions on general Google searching to gauge the knowledge of you as a Google user. Some questions included.

Sample question form the Pre Assessment
Sample question form the Pre Assessment
Another sample question form the Pre Assessment
Another sample question form the Pre Assessment

At the end you hit submit, but you don’t get a score.

Class 1

The class is split up into 6 lessons.

Lesson 1 – Introduction

Googler Dan Russel a Senior Research Scientist runs the course, he gives you introduction about the course. The videos are short with an activity after the video, so you best be listening to the videos! It also explained that there are two tests in the course, one mid-term and one final test. Both count to an overall score.

The teacher Dan Russel
The teacher Dan Russell

Dan explained the objective of the course is to make you a better searcher, a maybe help you understand why you don’t always get the answer you are looking for.

Lesson 2 – Filter image results by color. 

Explains how to filter by colour when using the image search, pretty simple. It’s then followed by some questions, similar to the questions in the pre-assessment

Lesson 3 – How Search Works

A section from the Matt Cutts video of how search works. With some questions afterwards, I liked this one!

How Search Works Questions
PAY THEM PAY THEM!!

Lesson 4 – The art of keyword Choices

Explaining the best way to word your queries. After the questions if suggested that if the questions where too easy then to head over to the forums for some harder tasks.

Lesson 5 – Word Order matters

Explains how small changes to the search query can make a difference the results you see.

Lesson 6 – Finding text on the web

Last one, finding text on the page you have found, e.g. ctrl + f.

Conclusion

There’s nothing groundbreaking for an SEO here, I’m guessing that the difficulty will increase in coming lessons. Some bits are really simple such as the ctrl + f and therefore be a tag patronising if you sent it over to someone to complete. However, if you are just starting out in SEO or PPC then there might be a few tips and tricks to pick up, especially if your going to be link building.

You may have seen this post from Dave Naylor about the spam on the Nexus One Google SERP, one of the sites listed is a malware site.

On the SERP for “we are the world 2010” (song to help people in Haiti) 6 of the 10 results are malware sites. This has come around as the topic is trending.

we are the world 2010 Google spam

It might get cleaned up soon, but don’t click any of the listings!

If your a fan of a sports team you may have seen Google displaying the last result and next fixture at the top of the SERP. They haven’t got is correct on all searches with some team names not triggering the feature e.g. “bolton wanderers”.

For my team, Blackpool they are showing the fixtures for Blackpool FC our namesake who play in the Malawi Superleague.

Blackpool FC Fixtures Blackpool

If you try the search sometimes Google is displaying the correct date which indicates it’s mixed across data centres.

Lets hope nobody goes to see Blackpool play the Barracks on the 31st!

I’ve seen in the past scraper sites cause problems for sites in Google and this blog is currently been scraped and outranked sometimes by brokencontrollers.com. A quick spam report to google and the offending site soon goes away. But it seems that the page to report spam to google has been removed recently and you can only report spam while signed into a Google account…

The page used to be located at http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html known as the “unauthenticated” you could report spam anonymously, so no ties to your Google account which links to your site.

google-report-spam-result-form

That page now 301 re-directs to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreport?hl=en which does load up the form but only when logged in to a Google Account with Webmaster Tools.

The landing URL from the natural ranking for “report spam” takes you just the dashboard of webmaster tools which is pretty useless, guessing they haven’t added the correct re-direct.

google spam report serp

This seems a strange move by Google as this may decrease the number of spam reports.

1. Not everyone has a Google account.
2. Even if you have a Google account your might not have Webmaster Tools.
3. You might not want to report on an webmaster tools account that contains your site if you use any black hat methods. E.G. reporting your competitor may draw attention to your site.

Google’s best method of detecting spam and paid links are reports from webmasters, SEO’s and users. This move to to remove the unauthenticated / anonymously report method may have made their jobs a little harder?

Yes, yes we know that Google doesn’t use the meta keyword tag. It was mentioned in a post back in December 2007 they ignore it. Today’s video and blog post just to any that missed it.

Yoast had a great idea to get the new post ranking for meta keywords so SEO’s don’t need to answer the question from clients. We can just say “Google Meta Keyword” for an explanation.

So if you have a blog link to the post using the anchor text meta keywords. It’s at 27 in the UK rankings at the moment being out ranked by a few blogs published today mashable, searchenginejournal and malcolmcoles. So if we all link together…

I noticed at the start of the month that Google had moved about some of the links on the results pages, it hadn’t gone unnoticed as Pete Young at holisticsearch also spotted the changes.

It seems that the My Account button had now come back under the Setting link as “Google Account Setting”

google-account-setting

Google were playing around all this weekend, at one point all the search options had gone.

Although a little change it shows that people do pick it up as it’s a button that’s used often. It reminds me of the time all my door knobs at my house were changes to open the other way, took some time to get used to!

Although it’s been a little quiet recently on the whole UK SERPS issue Matt Cutts did get round to answering the question on why so many foreign sites are popping up in the UK search results. First of all it’s great that there is this platform to get a question to someone at Google but Matt’s missed the point in answering the question.

So basically, Google will now consider more .com sites in the UK SERP’s, but ones that are relevant to UK users for example .com websites based in the UK or promoting UK companies e.g. tesco.com (which ranked before all of this anyway). This isn’t the problem, the issues we are seeing are .com’s ranking when then are American or Australian companies or to the extent using a au.com domain. Maybe Google isn’t able to determine what is a UK based .com ??

An example of this was from a non related blog from Dom the Hodge who had used a screenshot of a UK SERP for the search conference lanyards. Ranking in at number 3 and 4 you’ll find two .com.au sites.

www.freshpromotions.com.au/lanyards/conference-lanyards.html
www.lanyardsandmore.com.au/

promotional-lanyards-serp

It’s up for interpretation but I don’t think that two Australian sites are relevant to a search for conference lanyards. If the search was for “Australian cooking techniques” then maybe it is relevant to show Australian sites ??

Matt eneded the video saying that if there are problems in the results then people should get in touch….. looks like i’ll be “getting in touch often” unless they do make a change.

There has been lots of chatter about a recent shift in ranking by Google with US based sites ranking in Google.co.uk, seoptimise and Search Round Table reported in articles and there was plenty of tweets about the movement. It’s caused a few problems with plenty of UK sites moving down the rankings due to the influx of US based sites.

It’s hard to quantify sometimes what has shifted in the rankings has done as you don’t have before and after data of the top 20, 30, 40 rankings.

Fortunately I have a report from January the 18th 2009 for the top 40 sites in google.co.uk on a search for “commercial laundry equipment”.

I’ve then taken the top 40 websites for the same search query today and the difference is concerning with US sites ranking in the place of many good UK sites. There is also sites from Belgium, India, Spain and China ranking in Google.co.uk.

The list is big so I have added it into a Google Docs Spreadsheet which can be seen by clicking the image.

commercial-laundry-cleaning-search-engine-results

It would be great to get someone from Google to have a look over this. If anyone has seen something similar with their clients or SERP’s post the details below in a comment. Also link to your own blog with an example of the movement of US sites in the UK rankings.

UPDATE 17/06 : Fresh Egg have an article on a similar problem with the key phrase Pet Surgery. Check out the article which has a great conspiracy theory behind the US sites ranking.

It appears that Wolfman Alpha search results are appearing Google results. This search for “search for i am” returns a number 9 position for a Wolfman Alpha search result.

wolfman-alpha-in-google-results

But the robots.txt is currently blocking search engines form the results page such as http://www46.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Where+am+I%3F
www46.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=pirates+vs+ninjas
www46.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=What+is+the+meaning+of+life%3F

User-agent: *
Disallow: /input/

So either Google is ignoring the robots rule or Wolfman Alpha have only just blocked their results as their are 71 results for a site command on http://www46.wolframalpha.com/input/.

Still not found a really good use for Wolfman Alpha… still better than tonight’s Britain’s Got Talent