ShareThis + Google Analytics = Bad for SEO?

The issue of duplicate content (i.e. multiple URLs for what’s really a single page of your website) have been well documented across the web for a few years now. Sebastian’s Pamphlets has a nice write-up of the issue here. I stumbled upon this issue by accident today. Here’s how it happened.

1. I received an email promoting EWG’s 2011 safe sunscreens report (side note: It’s awesome you should check it out!)

2. I clicked through to the report. The URL contained Google Analytics tracking tags as follows:

http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/?inlist=Y&utm_source=2011sunscreen2&utm_medium=email&utm_content=header&utm_campaign=toxics

Nothing uncommon about this.

3. I wanted to share the report on Facebook, so I clicked on the Facebook button provided. Notice the URL in the screenshot:

Facebook ShareThis widget on EWG

The URL with the Google Analytics tracking variables is now passed to Facebook and is shared among your friends. As you can sell from this Google search, pages with the Google Analytics tracking tags are already in Google’s index for this site.

Update: I’ve just noticed that Search Engine Land is using the same combination (Google Analytics with tracking tags and the ShareThis widget) but the GA tracking tags aren’t attached to the shared URL. I wonder what they’re doing differently?

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Two thoughts on JC Penney’s return to Google’s Index

JCPenney.com has returned to the Google search index with about the same rankings as it had before. (Some nice details from Search Engine Land here.) My takeaways from this:

1. Google manually returned JCPenney.com to its previous rankings, once again showing favoritism to a big brand. I highly doubt they’d do the same for a small website that got caught doing the same thing.

2. Other big retailers competing in the same space such as Kohls.com missed a window of opportunity to accelerate their own SEO programs and grab rankings.

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Adobe Systems releases digital marketing survey

Adobe Systems has just released a new study, “Digital Marketing in the Next Decade.” The entire report is 101 pages. If you’d prefer not to read the entire study, Media Post Publications has an excellent summary. I did find a shocker in the study – only 51% of the respondents have deployed analytics on their websites!

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Increase your Facebook page engagement with Questions

After a few months of beta testing, Facebook recently launched their Questions app, offering a free and simple way to survey your fans (or friends on your personal page).

Page owners can post a question with a list of answers and also allow fans/friends to add additional answers. Additionally, when a fan/friend responds to a question, it appears in their profile which allows their friends to respond as well and broadens overall reach

Some well-known brands have already begun adding Questions on their pages. A great example is the Buffalo Wild Wings Facebook page, for which you can see an example question above.

To start using Facebook Questions on your pages, follow these steps after signing into Facebook:

1: Go to the “Account” tab at the upper-right side of your Facebook account and click “Use Facebook as Page.” Click “Switch” next to the page you would like to be signed into, which should be the page where you want to add the Questions app.

2: Go to the Facebook Questions page, which both outlines the product and is where you add Questions to your Page. Once there, click on the bright green button that says “Get Questions Now.”

This should add the Questions app to your personal page and for all pages for which you’ve got admin privileges. If not, repeat step one and two for the specific Page in question. A pop-up box will open confirming that Questions have been added to your Page.

3. Start asking questions!

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A modest proposal for effective hashtags

Twitter Hashtags serve two purposes – to categorize tweets and as a tracking mechanism to see how far a particular tweet and tweet theme spreads which can be measured using tools such as TweetReach. An effective hashtag should be as unique as possible.

You can quickly see the problem with non-unique hashtags. For example, various Oregon State and Ohio State Twitter accounts both use the hashtag #OSU, so their tweets are always categorized together, even though they shouldn’t be. While it’s not as short, I recommend that each university use a more unique hashtag. Perhaps #ORESTATE for Oregon State and #OHSTATE for Ohio State?

Consider this for your own tweets. If you want to track them later, using generic hashtags such as #monday isn’t going to help.

 

 

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New Ohio 529 Plan domain name fails to follow simple rules for success

When I advise clients on selecting a domain name, I consider two factors – offline memorability and potential impact on search engine rankings. Success in both areas is usually achieved by adhering at least two of the following simple rules:

  1. Make it as short as possible – think Amazon.com, Facebook.com, Google.com.
  2. Make it unique – see above examples.
  3. Make it dead obvious and related to the core topic – Weather.com is a great example.

The domain name for the recently redesigned Ohio 529 plan website, makefriendswiththefuture.com, fails to follow any of the rules. It’s too long and about as un-unique as a domain name can be due to its overuse of generic words and absence of words connected to either the site’s focus (college savings) or the “brand” (Ohio’s college savings plan). Data suggests that it’s failing:

Domains like this will almost always fail because domains aren’t designed to be branding exercises, they are tools to reach a website. My recommendations would be:

  • Ohio529.com (if it wasn’t already taken)
  • Ohio529.org (still available!)

A domain like Ohio529.org isn’t sexy, but would be highly effective.

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Video: Me discussing social search at the Columbus Social Club

Here’s me in action at the November meeting of the Columbus Social Media Club discussing a top trend for 2011 – Social Search:

Comments? Fire away! Be sure to watch the other videos also. The lunch was packed with dynamic speakers providing great insights for 2011.

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Major Google Update – Local results now mixed with organic

Google has released a huge change to how search results are displayed for searches that include a local qualifier (e.g., “pizza columbus ohio”). No longer will you see a map above the organic search results – Now,  Google is integrating the local results into the main organic results and placing the map to the right.

The impact of this change seems to be any website that doesn’t have a physical address in the location that people are searching for will probably no longer be able to rank for local based queries. To state it another way, if a website ranked highly on the old map listings, it will probably rank highly in the new organic listings.  Check out this search for pizza Columbus Ohio – note the absence of national pizza chains:

Check Google results for your website. Is it time for some changes?

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