WOW. LOTS of Google news to report to Squidoo users this week: it’s piling up faster than I can digest it. Let me start with the most recent, since it’s the easiest to tell, though it will take you more time to use:
Squidoo Has Added Google Analytics
Finally. If you have Google Analytics, go to your profile right now and edit it to add your tracking number. If you haven’t a clue what Google Analytics and Squidoo is about, see How to Track Lenses With Google Analytics by theFluffanutta. Also see SquidHQ’s official announcement: What Is the Advantage of Using Google Analytics Over regular Squidoo stats?
But wait! Don’t go yet! There is more Google news for Squids.
Google Panda Update News
SMX (Search Marketing Expo) is the big online search convention where all the experts line up to catch pearls of wisdom from Google Spokespundit Matt Cutts. (There’s even a term for his groupies, Cuttlets. Lordie.) A rough transcript of webexpert Danny Sullivan’s interview with Matt Cutts is posted on Searchengineland. Takeaway lessons:
- Google Panda is an algorithm run less frequently than Google’s daily indexing. Panda re-evaluates sites occasionally for spamminess, content quality, etc, and then the regular Google algorithm uses Panda’s site ranking to boost/lower pages found on that site.
- Google Panda has yet to be implemented on non-English-based Google (Google has a different search engine gateway and database in each country, so for example, search results by someone using Google in France do not match the search results for someone using Google in England).
- Expect a Panda 2.2 soon. No word on what it will entail.
- ALSO, the “web spam team” is implementing a tweak to cut down on scraped content outranking the original. Huzzah.
Google Pushes Rel=Author Tag
Also from the Matt Cutts interview: Google has implemented two new voluntary tags, rel=author and rel=me, which allow you to link to an author profile page you’ve set up and back.
I was fussing with this post for several days because I’m still not 100% whether to implement the rel=author tag based on this news. But let me try to explain what it means and why it matters, and then you can ponder along with me!
10-word summary: Using rel=author might boost traffic for some sites. Maybe.
[[UPDATE: See Giltotherescue’s comments below. Based on what he says, I suggest you skip this discussion unless you’re interested. I do NOT advise using rel=author on Squidoo at this time.]]
But if you’re curious…
How to Use Rel=Author
Searchengineland explains how the “author” tag works, based on the Google webmaster help page for rel=author. Summary:
- Use <a href=http://www.example.com/somepage “rel=author”> to link to a member or author profile page. This author page is an “about me” type page.
- Right now, Google will only count the rel=author tag when the article and the author page it points to are on the same domain.
- Use <a href=http://www.example.com/somepage “rel=me”> to point from the author page to content or other profiles which do NOT have to be on the same site.
During the interview, Danny Sullivan asked if there were plans to extend the rel=author tag across multiple sites, so that you could set up an author profile in one place and have your content around the web point to it. Matt Cutts said, “That’s the hope… The concept is that if an author is trustworthy, why does it matter what site the article appears on?”
Why to Use Rel=Author
Google is looking for ways to judge content quality. One traditional way of judging content in the printed medium is to ask, “who wrote it?” If the author has an existing body of work, you have a rough idea whether future work will be worth reading/checking. Google has already started ranking some links more highly depending on who’s shared them: links Tweeted by certain highly-respected Twitter members appear to be getting a modest rankings boost. Google might use rel=author in a similar way.
A Potential Problem
If Google starts using rel=author as a ranking signal, competitive black hats might start writing spam articles and dummy author profiles, and slapping them with bogus rel=me and rel=author tags to make you look bad. So for now, Google is only counting rel=author on the same domain, where it’s likely to be legitimate (your content pointing to your profile).
The Big Picture
The rel=author tag sounds simple, but it’s part of a more complex and evolving online discussion: how to share structured data. Structured data means labelling information so that it can be sorted and searched: names, dates, birthplaces, songs, etc. It’s already happening: Facebook collects, collates and uses certain pieces of information, while even Squidoo has its tags and categories and usernames and links in your profile. But these are in-house, single-site labeling systems. As the web grows, we’re seeing more cross-site structured data, like for example Amazon product names and prices that can be displayed on any site.
The advantage of structured data is that it allows more intelligent search, and it lets you organize data in new and useful ways (see: the Amazon info fed into a Squidoo module, or SquidUtils gathering all the publicly-available data from Squidoo and organizing it for you). I was working on structured data all the way back in 1993, with a precursor to HTML called SGML, so I’m pretty excited about it. I discussed it in layman’s terms in my Semantic SEO lens last year.
AUTHOR is one of the most useful pieces of information that structured data tags are trying to label. As I noted above, authorship can help you find good content that you’re liable to want. Unfortunately, the weberati haven’t settled on one standard tag for indicating authorship.
The HTML5 way is to put this in the HEAD tag of a webpage’s code:
<meta name=”author” content=”Jane Doe”>
HTML5 is agreed-upon by all web browsers, so this is (I think) the best way to do it. Unfortunately, as Squidoo users, we are not privy to the HEAD tag of a Squidoo page. If you happen to use WordPress and have a recent upgrade, it’s doing it for you automatically if you filled in Users > Your Profile nickname and full name.
Another way to indicate authorship is to use the somewhat complex way devised by the thinktank schema.org, which all the major search engines and most of the big web movers and shakers are contributing to. I think this is what I should be doing for blogs and serious work. Unfortunately, the schema they’re using is complex. I am lazy. I haven’t done it.
As a third way to indicate authorship, Google is pushing the non-standard rel=author and rel=me tags, which are dumb-as-dirt easy. Or are they? Should we use them on Squidoo?
rel=author and rel=me on Squidoo
On Squidoo, our lensmaster profile page could be our author page. It’s not marked with the HTML5 name=author tag, nor is it marked with schema.org’s authorship tags. It does add the rel=me tag to the links you fill in for your Twitter feed, Facebook page, etc. I’m not sure if that’s enough to help Google figure out it’s an author page without the <meta name=author> stuff in the header.
So we could treat our member profile as our author profile and link accordingly. Alternatively, many of us also have an “About Me” lens where we showcase our work, ourselves, our goals in more depth. For example, I’ve created what I call a “business card gateway” page. I’ve got the URL to it printed on a business card with my name and photo, so I have something to give people who ask me about my work. That page is specifically tailored to introduce my work to people who don’t know Squidoo. So, should I put rel=author in links pointing to it. But what if Squidoo decides to add rel=author to the link from our Bio Box on each lens pointing back to our lensmaster profile? Then entering them manually to a different author page would cause a mess!
So maybe not for Squidoo (I’ve revised this post since first posting it; thanks, Gil). But we should keep our eyes and ears open for news on this, as it may become important down the road.
…Okay, now go add Google Analytics to your Squidoo Profile (see top of this post again for links walking how through how and why).
One of the great things about writing platforms like Squidoo is that we try to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible, so that lensmasters are free to share their passions instead of getting bogged down in SEO schemas and markups.
Just wanted to let you know that we are constantly researching and evaluating things like rel=”author”, schemas, and rich snippets. We regularly roll out new SEO tweaks and these new concepts are on the list.
Gil: thank you VERY much for the comment. I thought you might have an eye on that, since I’ve seen Squidoo’s rich snippets and breadcrumb tweaks. I very much appreciate your work on that end of things. So I’ll sit tight and study this for my own edification and not muck with this yet. It’s especially thorny since it’s a non-standard tag.
I’m drawn to this whole topic because it’s related to the first professional work I ever did: my first task as a grad student grunt was to develop a schema and mark up some texts for the Perseus Project website in 1993. Perseus’ data was coded in SGML, a very early precursor to XML.
GreekGeek: a quick update to let you know that Squidoo have added rel=”author” to the link to profile pages from lenses.
COOOL. This is nice.