Monday, July 16, 2012

Update on Google Speed Analysis

You know, I'm pretty good when it comes to following advice (Google tells me to improve my page load time). I take advice from just about anyone I consider an authority. (Okay, there are some times that I don't follow advice and that's when I am in a little rebellious mood.) For the most part, though, it just serves me well to listen and take advice from someone I consider an authority. (Big G.)

Yes, we're supposed to all help in speeding up the web. I mean, it just makes for a better user experience. I'm like the next guy in that I hate to wait for anything and the web is just one thing that none of us have enough time for. So any increase in web speed is GOOD. You know, I love going to the Apple stores to see the latest and greatest Macs that seemingly blaze through web pages - and a lot of it is due to to the fact that they are fine tuned machines; but much of it is left to the pages and the speed of the server that is serving those pages.

These are two things we can do something about. One - the page itself is something you have great control over and two, the server, well, we can shop around until we find a place that servers up what we have and does it at the fastest speed.

So given that, I wrote on June 25, 2012, about page speed and how it might help me improve my page rank. I mean, Google has one of my sites at the bottom of the rankings after spending years at the very top _ (maybe they're just rotating stuff) - but in any event I was consistently getting bad scores for page speed and thought that was the culprit . How else did it end up at the bottom? I had made no changes to the site and the basic construction of the site had only improved over the years.

Still, I want to report today that even though I've gone from 10+ seconds in loading down two a very nice 3 seconds and less - it has had NO affect on my page rank . And it's been what?? about three weeks, right?

So there you have it in my case anyway - no gain at all. I truly believe that they are simply wanting others to get more exposure and then let the dust settle. My site offers great material and is all original. So we'll see.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Google Webmaster Crawl Errors - A Solution

Google may be known for being secretive about many things, but they have blessed us with a glimpse of what they see under the hood of our precious websites. It behooves every webmaster on the planet to make use of Google's free Webmaster Tools, a collection of data and actually testing tools you can use to improve the way Google sees your site which in the end will help your ranking in their search engine.

One of the biggest issues webmasters face are crawl errors. This is any error Google's "bot" or "spider" may find on your website - generally resulting in a "page not found" error - called a 404 error.

If you design using Wordpress, one of the most useful tools to get your Google Webmaster crawl errors clear or not found is a plugin called Permalink Finder. What Permalink Finder does is accepts the URL the bot says it is searching for and if it is not found on your website it provides the closest match based on the words in the URL.

Did I lose you?

In the image above, note how the bot wanted to crawl:

BUT, that page no longer exists because I removed the date in the URL's about a year ago. Yet, the bot is still looking for it. This is because somewhere somebody has a link to that old URL, and the bot crawls it.

The Permalink Finder handles this nicely by using the words in the URL, "playa tortugas beach cancun" and finds the current match. Look at the image below. You can click on the image to get the original size:

Above we see the correct URL and the bot goes along its merry way - no errors!

I was working on page speed recently and disabled this plugin on and you can see the results!

As you can see, the errors spiked until I turned the plugin back on. This will dramatically help you with crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools.

My suggestion is to set the plugin to recognize and work with at least two words in the URL. Anything less will produce errors.

Let me know if you have questions about how this can help you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Does Speeding Up Your Website Help in Google Search Rankings?

Where shall we start?

You're here because you're not ranking well in Google search. Maybe you think Panda or Penguin was unfair and you got penalized for something that wasn't even your own doing. Actually, you don't know. I, too, was perplexed, but the problem for one of my main sites, Three Best which is a travel sorta site about the beaches of the world, has been sinking since 2010.

Admittedly, I let the site go for such a long time because I was concentrating on other projects. But it's a cool site and deserves attention. So recently I have been working on it and I want you to see my findings which will possibly help you.

This post is all about figuring out if page speed actually does help you rank higher in Google search. So, let's start with that and we'll tackle the other findings in other posts.

Use this site to see how fast your page loads: 

Critical stuff: Well, it's all critical, but your Time to First Byte should be quick. This is the time that a browser makes a request to the server and actually gets a byte of data back. Round-trip sorta thing. And then everything after that should be quick as well.

As you can see, I've worked on getting this down to a 3.3 second page load. For a site with as many pictures and dynamic loads as this, using Wordpress, the load time is pretty good. And yes, I use a CDN (content delivery network - which means placing your files in the "cloud" and having them served efficiently to the closest datacenter to the "cloud" servers.

But it hasn't always been this fast.

Look at this graph from my Google Webmaster Tools for

There were many times that pages on my site took 14 seconds to load!!

Still, I don't believe this is what pulled my site down into oblivion. For now, I'm kinda thinking the competition, sites like and other sites that actually show a resort or hotel have taken a lot of my positions in Google search.

I really don't know. I'm guessing. Some pages are filled with assorted nonsense for key phrases that I used to rank number one for. But others are saying this, too. You have to provide what Google feels is a good experience for the end user.

So far I have noticed a very small increase in the SERPs for my site, and I'll keep monitoring, but I really believe that there are two other things: some bad backlinking and maybe Google doesn't think the site does a good job of responding to what people really are looking for. There are ways to improve that, and I'll cover them in a future post. Thanks for reading. 

UPDATE: So far, after three weeks of Super Fast Pages... ZERO improvement in ranking. See my update here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interest-based Ads Preference

If you've done any work with AdSense then you'll know that there are so many parameters that you can adjust if you're not tracking what you're doing you're shooting in the dark and IF you do hit a target, you'll not know how you got there. Make sense?

Still, there's not much help out there and a lot of hit or miss. And remember, what works for someone with a website on home schooling, might not work for your fancy website about world travel. You MUST experiment and track.
So let's move over to AdSense now and go to the Interest-based Ads Preference page. Here's the URL:

Google explains their algorithm in basic terms by saying that the user will bring with them certain predetermined parameters and this will change what AdSense ads display on your website.

Google actually claims that this can be a benefit to you because the user will have ads they like and you will most likely have an increase in your AdSense revenue.

This is exactly why when you have visited a site about sports cars and then go to a site about cats, you can still see sports car ads displaying on the cats site.

Yes, it may be something the user is interested in, but how can we really know if they want to see a sports car ad on the cat site?

I am running an experiment with my site Three Best Beaches and I'll be posting the results right here. Today, I've changed the settings to blocked. I'm not sure how long it takes to change. Most changes I've seen in AdSense happen in 30 minutes or less.

OK, other changes today on TBB include changing my main ad block from the medium rectangle 300 x 250 (as requested by the Google AdSense team when I attended the AdSense in Your City event last month in Orlando) to the large rectangle 336 x 280.

Immediately I noticed on my website that the inventory for image based ads is much lower (at least in my category = travel) than in the 300 x 250 format - seemed to be serving up almost 1/2 image based and sometimes totally image based (like a resort running a hot special or something.) For me - I dunno - I have just had more success with text only ads. More for the user to choose from (because image ads take up the whole ad while text based are three or four ads to the block - see example.)

And the colors were changed, too. I had a hit a few days ago, but crazy me, it was late night when I changed it and I didn't log it. I am thinking that the colors were more in line with my Thesis website links on Three Best Beaches, but you know, sometimes you need a little contrast to stand out.

I don't know about you, but my CTR has fallen dramatically in the last year. I really think this is from this website getting dumped from the high position it held in the SERPs since 2005 and I am working really hard on getting it back up there.

OK, so we've changed the Interest based option (and already I see that it is working - try it yourself) and the block change. Oh, and let me say that I was running the recommended (by Google) three ad blocks on each page using Whydowork AdSense (Google this Wordpress plugin for AdSense placement) to ONE. From my experience AND from talking with the AdSense team, the fewer ads blocks means the ONE block you run with have the most expensive and highest competing ads. Experiment on your own. You will see this is true. The challenge is getting the right block/colors/size/etc. And...depending on your layout, you can get more money from the ads running more blocks. It's not for everyone.

One more change I want to make and am debating this one - is to move the link block (200 x 90) running in the left hand column to within the content at the top right.

Take a look. Here we have the link block running in the left hand column. It's right below a search box - also monetized with Google AdSense - and above the main navigation for the site. 

Using free website software (, I can track where people are clicking over a given time my case, 2 and a half days. This isn't really a lot (5000 visits), but enough to give me a good idea where people are navigating the site.

I can see that through 5000 visits, not that many are clicking the left hand link block. I don't know about the right hand one - because I haven't set it up on a page that I am tracking. But I am going to implement it and will also share the result.
One thing that was interesting to me was that people were clicking a lot - I suppose they like it - on the Most Popular Beach links in the left hand column. This is done by using a plug in for Wordpress called Top 10.

And lastly, regarding clicks - I see that people are clicking more on pictures of people with bathing suits on, especially women. Sex sells, I suppose. Guys are looking for more pictures. Curiosity.

I'll update as soon as I have more info and will update this post so you can go from here to the new page - if you've landed here from another site or the search engines. Thanks a bunch!