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Keeping search fresh

When I read Jill Whelan’s excellent High Rankings Advisor newsletter last night, she had a surprise from Google: a way to tell search engines when your page is out-of-date and should be removed from the results. Don’t know why you would use this? For many search marketers, it is a godsend.


Here’s why.
Many Web pages are time-sensitive. For example, your company may be sponsoring a Webinar on July 27. There’s no point in showing that page on July 28, right? So you remove that page. Simple, right? Well, no. That page is still in the search indexes generating search results which result in “page not found” on your site.
That’s a bad experience for searchers and doesn’t do much for you either.
You get the same problems for the page for your March Madness sale. On April 1, it’s April Fool’s for the search engines, because your page is found but can’t be displayed.
Anytime you have a time-sensitive page, merely removing it from your site doesn’t help until the search spider comes back to your site and sees it’s gone. Only then will it come out of the search results—days or even weeks later.
Google wants to solve that problem by giving you a new tag to use on time-sensitive pages that alerts Google to throw away the page after a certain date. Called the “unavailable_after” tag, Google has not yet announced when it will be supported and no other search engines have followed suit with their own support.
For some marketers, it’s a good idea to use that tag. The marketers who will benefit are those that would still retain that search result position, but get a better page in there (one that still exists). That way instead of showing a page that will not be found, Google will bring in another page from their site that might get customers to buy something.
But what about when taking your page off the results screen results in some other company’s page going up in its place? Why would a search marketer want to cede that space? I don’t see why savvy search marketers would want to do this, personally.
A better approach would be to change the content of the page to something that is still a good answer to the question, but is currently valid. So update your Webinar page with a podcast of the completed Webinar, or with a schedule for when that topic will be done again. Update your sale page to show your “everyday low price” for your product or show your current sale. Sometimes there isn’t a good match, but often there is—don’t just take down the page.
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Do you have a success story for how you did it wrong quickly? Enter my latest contest and win a copy of my new book, called (wait for it) Do It Wrong Quickly, coming out this fall.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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