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Google recently revamped the XML Sitemaps section of Google Webmaster Tools. They added the ability to test sitemaps before adding them and improved the interface for reviewing sitemaps. Here are the main improvements and some advice on how to use them.

Testing Your Sitemaps

The Sitemaps section of Google Webmaster Tools has always been a great way to see your indexing and spot issues with content. But you always had to wait for your sitemaps to be downloaded before you could spot errors. Google has added a Sitemap testing option to the interface, so now you can spot problems and fix them before submitting. This should cut down on the time it takes to get feedback on your sitemaps and hopefully help Webmasters and SEO fix issues before they impact search performance.

Assessing Your Indexing

The most impressive improvement to the Sitemaps section is the new way that Google is presenting information about your indexing and the assets you have listed in the sitemap.
New XML Sitemaps interface in Google Webmaster Tools

The bar graphs showing submitted versus indexed content gives you a strong visual indicator about the performance of each type content. And you get a better presentation of the page/content counts.

Notice the in-line warnings for each sitemap. By clicking the links, you can drill down and find both the URL and type of errors much more easily than with the previous version. The level of detail in the messages is also improved, making corrections much easier.

Errors and Warnings in Google Webmaster Tools Sitemaps Section

Take A Closer Look

With the new interface, you have a lot more information about your XML sitemaps at your fingertips. Now is a good time to review and correct problems.

Some things to check:

  • Are there particular sections of my site that are under-represented (few pages indexed)?
  • Is my video and image content getting indexed?
  • Are there any structural problems (duplicate URLs, missing information)?
  • Am I blocking any content that I’m submitting through the sitemaps?

Crawling and indexing are the starting points for any SEO strategy. If the content isn’t in the index, then it can’t rank. Take the time now to fix any issues and your effort will pay dividends throughout the year.

Anymore ideas about using the new sitemaps tools? Want more info about XML Sitemaps? Let me know in the comments.

Last weekend, Coremetrics performed system maintenance that kept the site offline for much of Saturday and Sunday. When I logged in on Monday, I found several additions to the Views available in the left-column of Coremetrics Search Marketing and a new drop-down menu with many of the report segments that were previously only available in Google Adwords.

Ad Extensions Reports

The addition of menus for ad extensions (Site Links, Location Extensions) is huge. These are two important tools that we’ve had little visibility on because of tagging issues in Coremetrics. We use Google conversion tracking as a secondary source, but we prefer to take client numbers for reporting, analysis and management from Coremetrics.

Being able to analyze Site links and Location extensions within Coremetrics should streamline management and analysis; and reduce discrepancies in reporting.

Search Query Lists & Geographic Reporting

2 other great additions in this update are the Google Search Query Lists and Google Geo Performance Report. The search query list is our go-to tool for negative keywords and keyword expansion. Until now, only Coremetrics’ own Keyword Suggestions tool has been available with only limited date ranges and keyword sets. Hopefully the inclusion of the Query Lists will let us build faster and find patterns/trends in keyword traffic that we can apply in Adwords and other networks.

Geographic reporting is one of my favorite areas to look at. Even with national and international accounts, we still rely on geo-targeting for tighter budget management around high-volume locations.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Right now, it seems that you can only use the data that Google has, some same session metrics and some calculated metrics. If you are using a longer window for attribution or a large set of calculated metrics, then this will limit your options but its still good to have the data available in the one place.[/box]

Here is a screenshot of all the same session metrics available (click to enlarge):

Basically, they are giving you what you get in Google. But now it’s at your fingertips as you work in Coremetrics Search Marketing.

Segments for Reporting

One of the handiest features in Adwords is being able to take any report and apply segments like Device, Network, Click Type, etc. The upgrade brings some of this into Coremetrics — you still don’t get Time or Top v Other (2 of my favorites), but network, click type and device are there.

You will find this in the middle of the top navigation bar, on the same level with the icons for filters, zoom, activating, key segments,  pausing and deleting

Note that you also get easy access to geographic segments here as well.

It’s too early for me to say how I’m going to use these different features. It probably won’t be much different than how I used them in the adwords interface. But I like that Coremetrics is trying to offer a more holistic user-interface. Adwords has a lot of tools, but Coremetrics is the primary management and reporting interface for many companies. The more closely integrated they become, the better it is for marketers.

Did I miss any other new features? Is there something you want me to talk about more? Do you already have some cool tricks with the updated interface? Let us know in the comments.

If you are still getting “punished” by Panda, then it’s time to take stock of your content and make real changes.  It’s been almost a year since the first update (February 2011) and both Google and marketers have shared a lot information to help you come back from rankings declines. So why are you still taking a hit or sweating bullets every time a new update arrives?

At this stage you have the ability to stop or at least mitigate the impact of future updates. If SEO is important to your business, then its worth it to cleanout duplication, generate higher-quality content, improve your user-experience, and diversify your link sources. If you are not doing these things, then panda is not your problem — you are.

The core issue with Panda is whether you have unique, high-quality content. That is something that you can control. It’s up to you to take stock, cut the fat, and create content worth finding. Ask yourself, “Have I dealt with duplicate content?”, “Am I writing unique posts worth reading?”, “Is my site easy to navigate and use?” If the answer to any of these questions is “No” or “I don’t know.”, then you have a lot of work ahead of you but there is plenty of help available.

Here are some resources to help you take stock and get going:

Good luck.

Image courtesy of Know Your Meme.

Feel free to tell me how wrong, annoying or awesome I am in the comments.

Mobile traffic continues to grow and it should be a key part of your marketing mix in 2012, but the performance and opportunity in mobile ppc needs to be looked at granularly in order to manage it properly. In this post, I’ll walk you through some reporting to look at as you get setup and to help you optimize.

What’s The Right Device for You?

The first step in gaining better control of your mobile traffic is to understand how different devices perform. Start by looking at the Device Segment in Adwords.

The graphic above is a snapshot of one campaign. Notice the difference in CTR of mobile phones vs computers and tablets. And then look at the conversion rate of tablets.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]I say mobile phones instead of “mobile devices with full browsers” because we’ve found that the majority of traffic comes from phones. Your own analysis may lead you to a broader perspective.[/box]

Your performance by device type may be completely different from what we show here and may vary greatly by campaign. The key thing is that you know how your numbers look in this segment, so you can figure out what to prioritize.

Which OS Works for You?

For now, Adwords can only tell you the device type but not the operating system of the device. Yet you can setup campaigns to only target a specific OS. You want to use this targeting functionality, but you’ll need to find out which OS’s matter for you before you can really use them.

The image above is from the mobile reporting section of Google Analytics. We’ve selected Operating System as the dimension to view and then used the pie chart to get a more visual clue to what operating system drives the most traffic. Notice that the IPad accounts for more than half of all mobile traffic and I-devices (IPad, IPhone, IPod) account for ~80% of visits.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]In 2011, I-devices brought in the lion’s-share of mobile traffic. But remember that the Kindle Fire wasn’t announced until September and has seem huge adoption already. Expect Android visits to grow substantially in 2012. [/box]

If your site or app only works with specific versions of an OS, then you will want to limit your visibility to those devices. Talk with your developers and also look at your site on different devices to figure out what will work. Google now gives you the ability to target specific OS versions and this could be an important tool for you.

Read this post to learn more about OS version targeting.

With OS and OS version targeting, you can ensure that your ads are only visible to people with the right technology to take advantage of your offering. If you don’t know what OS versions will work, then try doing a quick sampling of the people in your office. You will likely find several of different OS versions being used and this can give you some insights.

Who is Carrying the Traffic to Your Site?

Google allows you to limit your ads to specific carriers. We’ve left this feature alone in most cases because most of our campaigns are national or international and we see significant traffic from a large number of carriers. That said if you are focusing in local or using geo-targeting extensively, then it is worth it to look at carriers and restrict your targeting to the ones that service your area.

Here is an image of the setup area in Adwords:

 

A Note About Wi-Fi

Around the middle of the month, Google announced the ability to target wi-fi connected devices. This opens up a new level of control and a larger audience to advertisers and should be looked at very closely. We are experimenting with it in various accounts but the reporting for this dimension isn’t their yet. I say tryit, and see how it performs.

What Do You Know?

You will have a lot of useful information at your fingertips after you analyze the reports and settings shown in this post. You will know which devices and operating systems matter in terms of traffic and you will know about the additional options (carrier targeting, wifi targeting, OS version targeting) that can give you greater control over where your ads show.

In my next post, I’ll tie all this information together and give you a basic campaign structure, as well, as some variations that you can use.

Is there another report that you think is key to developing your mobile campaigns? Do you think this could be written better? Let me know in the comments.

 

Google announced today that it would be changing the way it calculated average position in the search queries reports available in both Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.

Quote from the Webmaster Central Blog post

Previously we reported the average position of all URLs from your site for a given query. As of today, we’ll instead average only the top position that a URL from your site appeared in.

What this means is that the average position numbers will either look slightly better or stay about the same depending on how many positions you typically show up in. It definitely makes the report more in-line with expectations and also means your numbers (might) look better when you report them to your boss.

My only concern is that the new way of calculating will mislead people about how well they are doing. If you are only seeing your best position, then you may not recognize that there is room for improvement.
Example of Calculation:

I’m sure we’d all like seeing that we are at position 3 instead of 7, but what if it’s the wrong page in that position? The old calculation required a little more interpretation, but it gave you a reason to take a closer look at your visibility.

What do you think? Is this a good way for Google to go? Am I making a fuss about nothing? Let me know in the comments.