In case you missed it, Google had another good April Fool’s Day gag with the introduction of Google Tap, which purported to replace the QWERTY keyboard with a simple Morse Code keyboard with only two keys; a dot and a dash.

And if that wasn’t cool enough, it would even let you type two emails at once with a split screen. 

It doesn’t take long to figure out this is a gag, but in case you were strung along, you should have figured it out when they popped up LL Cool J as a Google engineer. Epic win in my book!

Attention Android Phone/Tablet Users! →

If you use an Android-powered smartphone or tablet, you might want to read this article. Apparently a publisher installed some malicious code into some already-approved apps and when people updated their apps, the code started rooting through their phones pulling information and even listening for credit card numbers, etc.

According to the article, Google - which runs the Android Market - has already pulled the offending apps and banned the publisher. But, the code is still out there, so if you have any of the apps listed on this site, uninstall them ASAP.

Google tweaks search to punish 'low-quality' sites →

eHow.com … you’re officially on notice.

It’s as Simple as Being Indexed by Google and Yahoo

By Gary Cope

What a difference being indexed makes! I’m speaking, of course, about a Web site being indexed by Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN, the big four search engines. I manage several Web sites, but the biggest one in terms of traffic was not indexed and was actually blocking search engine robots from indexing the site via the robots.txt.

I’m not entirely sure why someone would do that, but my theory is that they developed the site on a live server and set up the robots.txt file (the file that tells the robots what they can and cannot look at on the site) to block the search engines because the site wasn’t ready. Then, when the site was ready to launch, they copied the site to another folder and forgot to ammend the robots.txt file.

Anyhow, since I “unlocked” the site and allowed the robots to crawl and index the site, (I also submitted an xml sitemap to Google) search engine traffic has increased nearly 500 percent! While that sounds really good (and it is relatively speaking), you have to put it in perspective. The site was only getting less than 2 percent of its traffic from search engines prior to my modifications and that’s because only the home page was visible to the search engines. Now the site is getting about 12 percent of its traffic from search engines and my goal is to have it reach 30 percent by the fall.

Screen shot of Google Analytics showing increase in search engine traffic.

Fingers crossed and I’ll keep you posted!

Google Including Ads at the Top of News Result Pages

By Gary Cope

I’ve been using Google News for quite some time and earlier this year, Google - the dominant search engine - began including ads on the right column of its news search results pages. But today, I noticed something new … at least it was new to me.

My girlfriend will be the first (of many) to tell you that I am not exactly the most observant person in the world when it comes to certain things. So, perhaps I simply overlooked the fact that Google is now including paid ads, or “sponsored links,” at the top of its news search results pages. Check out the screen capture below:

A screen capture of a Google news search result page with a paid ad at the top.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. My initial reaction is that it dilutes the credibility of the results being returned. Having worked in news (TV, radio and print) for more than 10 years, I cannot help but compare the new revenue strategy to a TV station leading a newscast with a story that was “sponsored” and produced by an advertiser.

Yes, TV is saturated with commercials, but the advertisers do not mandate, much less produce the content. They pay for ads based on the ratings of the newscast, but assuming the news director and station manager are standup news people, they won’t bend to the pressure from advertisers.

News is meant to be unbiased and while I can accept the unobtrusive ads in the right column, I think Google has crossed the line by adding ads to the top of the news search results pages. If I’m looking for news, I’m looking for trusted sources, not sources that paid to get their content at the top. If your news is relevant to my search parameters, it should show up in the results and if it isn’t, then call me and I’ll give you a quote for my SEO consulting services.

How Google Used Twitter to Fix Its Webmaster Tools

By Gary Cope

Ah, behold the power of Twitter. I’ve preached about the business benefits of using Twitter and shared examples of other Tweeple who have had problems solved when the company with which they were having issues with saw their gripe-filled Tweets and contacted them to fix things. Well, now I am one of those stories.

Last Wednesday, I wrote a blog post called My Beef with Google’s Web Master Tools detailing my frustration with their recently introduced “Link From” feature that allows you to see which external URLs are linking to non-existent URLs on your domain. The only problem, most of the time the tool didn’t work. I would get an “Our servers are busy. Try again later.”

After a couple of weeks of getting this message, I was fed up and blogged about it. I’d actually posted a couple of Tweets about it, too, but never got a response. But, my blog automatically posts to my Twitter account and later that same day, I got a Tweet from Sagar Kamdar (@skamdar) that read:

@garycope we are looking at the issue with the “Linked From” functionality. will get back to you when it is resolved.

I was floored! I could only assume that Sagar worked for Google. The next day, I got an e-mail alerting me that someone left a comment on my blog post. It was Sagar. He wrote:

The issue has been resolved. (link)

I checked the Webmasters Tools again and all but one “Linked From” function was working. I wrote back:

@skamdar Thanks! All but one of the “Linked From” links are working now for me. The first one on my list still returns “server busy” msg.

Sagar replied.

@garycope we’ll take a look.

@garycope we are unable to reproduce the issue internally. could you tell me the site and link that is ending in error.

This morning, I logged into Google’s Webmaster Tools and the link was working just fine. As a matter of fact, all of the links were working. I Tweeted back to @skamdar:

@skamdar The issue appears to be resolved. I logged into my Webmaster Tools today and did not receive any errors. Great job! Thanks!

I also told him via a comment on my blog that I would write a follow-up blog post (kinda like this one) singing the praises of Google’s development team. So, thanks Sagar and the rest of the Google Webmaster Tools team for using Twitter and actually taking the time to ready my blog and address the issue. It has been a tremendous help. All Hail Google! OK, well, let’s not get carried away. Take care everyone!

My Beef with Google’s Webmaster Tools

By Gary Cope

As a Web designer, Webmaster and inhouse SEO/SEM, I was THRILLED when Google announced that its Webmaster Tools had added a “Linked From” feature. This new feature finally allowed Web site owners to find out which URLs were linking to “not found” pages on their site.

For example, let’s say you did a redesign and in the process, renamed some of your URLs. If another Web site was linking to your old URL and you move it or rename it, the link from that other site is now broken and you’re not getting credit for that link because the search engines aren’t finding anything when they follow that link. Booo!

How do we fix this? Well, for starters, I would suggest keeping the old URLs and creating a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This preserves any ‘link juice’ your older URL had acquired and transfers it to the new one. It also prevents “Not Found” links from appearing in your Google Webmaster Tools > Diagnostics > Web Crawl > Not Found list because anyone still linking to the outdated URL will automatically be directed to the new one and you don’t have to do a thing.

The “Linked From” function was going to make my life, and the lives of many SEO/SEMs, much easier because it could save us the time of trying to find out who was linking to our “Not Found” URLs. Alas, you can imagine my supreme disappointment when I logged in to use the new feature and 95 percent of the time I get is this error message.

This kind of tool is invaluable to SEOs, especially inhouse SEOs, who are trying to make the most of their limited time and budgets. By identifying sites that have outdated links to our site, we can contact their Webmaster and provide the updated link, thus increasing our link juice. Of course, IF Google’s Webmaster Tools’ “Linked From” feature worked, it’d be even better.