Information and advice for healthcare consumers.

More Strange Analytics Behaviour

Google Analytics over-reporting visits

Google Analytics was recently updated to change how it calculated when a visitor’s session ended. We were told this should have only a small effect, around 1% on average, on how our visitors were being counted. The change went live on Thursday August 11th. If you look at the graph above you can see on Friday the 12th our reported visits increased by over 40%. This trend continued for nearly a week.

Now a 40% increase in traffic would obviously be welcome, but our unique visitors report told a very different story. Nothing had changed much at all!

Google Analytics unique visitors

So, what was going on? It turns out there were some bugs in the Analytics update that created new sessions for users when they should have had only one. Full details are in the update to the announcement of the original change. It would seem that in our case visitors who clicked the back button in their browser to go back to the landing page they arrived on were being counted multiple times.

Google pushed a fix to this problem on Tuesday the 16th of August and everything seems to be back to normal now, but I’m sure we’re not alone in having spent some time trying to work out what was going on and what changes we’d need to make to be able to compare reports from before and after the change. Thankfully it looks like that’s not an issue anymore. Still, it seems like a pretty big bug to slip through the net for such an important product.

Google Gets More Colourful And More Local

small new look SERP

There’s a new look to the search results on, on my computer at least, and it points the way to potential new look for their search results in general. Compare the new look above to the current look on below:

small old style google serp ie

The most obvious changes are:

  • Search text is bolded
  • The Google logo is bigger and brighter
  • The search options on the left have icons now
  • SERP’s are permanently indented by the search options
  • Search: The Web / Pages from Ireland has been replaced by Set Location

The search button also gets a new look and is integrated into the search box:

new google search box

The new look is certainly clean, and the icons do help identify the different search options much better that the text only links of old. The most notable new feature to me is the “Set Location”, which says to me the Google are clearly going after even more the of the Local Business market, a point which is backed up by the inclusion of Maps in the search options.

The last Google test that we noticed here in the office involved breadcrumbs in the search results, and that has since been rolled back, at least for now, so there’s no telling how long this new look will be around for, but in general I’m in favour of the changes.

Are you seeing this new look on any of Google’s sites? What are your thoughts on the design changes? Let us know in the comments below.

What Did Google Do In 2009?

It’s often said that bad news travels fast, and so it is with Google. The company that uses the informal motto “Don’t Be Evil” has found itself under a lot a scrutiny in the past year especially from privacy groups. Recently there have been reports that the Google Toolbar continues to send browser information even after it’s been disabled. The company has also faced a lot of criticism from publishers and copyright holders for its Google Books venture.

At the same time though, they do continue to roll out useful – and usually free – new tools for people to use. The video above is from their Webmaster Central video series and contains a good recap of some of the positive things that Google has done for users, developers and webmasters over the last year, some of which might have passed you by.

Unfortunately, the one that is of most interest to me right now, Social Search, is a Google Labs experiment that I can’t get access to yet.

[On a side note, it's interesting that the video is available in 360P, 480P, 720P and 1080P, so YouTube are definitely going for TV integration at long last.]

So, where do you stand on the Google Are Good / Google Are Evil debate? Do you mind that one company knows so much about you and your habits, or do you just enjoy the benefits of their services? Let us know in the comments below.

Site Hierarchies Now Included In Google Search Results

Google Search Result For Cosmetic Surgery Ireland

Google Search Result For Cosmetic Surgery Ireland

Google have started to add extra information to their search results in order to give users a better idea about what section of a website they’re about to click through to. This makes more sense in some situations than others. For example, in the search result pictured above the new site hierarchy link “Plastic Surgery Clinics” which appears after the “ >” in green doesn’t really add any information, seeing as the same text is included in the main link to the page.

However, imagine if the page title (and Google’s main link text) was “Dr. Michael Smith, 4 Main Street, Crosstown”. In this case the site hierarchy link would probably be something like “Dentists”, which would give you a good context about the type of page you were going to click through to, telling you Dr Michael Smith is a dentist rather than a GP or a surgeon for instance.

Google Search Result For Dentists Ireland

Google Search Result For Dentists Ireland

These site hierarchy links have only started to appear in the last week, and so far only for some of our search results. It will be interesting to see how common these become and how they’ll evolve. Have you seen these for your site yet, and are they any help?

[Additional information direct from Google here: Site Hierarchy Links]

Meta Keywords and Google

We often get asked about our experiences with SEO, usually about what worked for us and what didn’t. Keywords are a topic that come up again and again. The video above comes from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, and it neatly summarises the fact that when it comes to Google’s main search product, meta keywords are completely ignored.

That should be the end of that then. But it isn’t.

A lot of people seem to get mixed up between keywords and meta keywords, thinking they are exactly the same thing, so the video above might be taken by some people to mean that ALL keywords are ignored by Google. That just isn’t the case.

The word “keywords” can mean many things interchangeably, but for the purposes of this blog post, let’s  refer to a set of keywords as the most important words, phrases or acronyms that your potential visitors will use to find a particular page of content on your site.

For these potential visitors to find your page, the keywords they use, or their synonyms or related keywords will have to appear on or pointing to the page somewhere. These keywords can  appear in:

  • the body text of your page
  • the URL of the page, including the domain name
  • the page title of the page
  • the meta description of the page
  • the H1 tag on the page
  • the alt text of images on the page
  • the links to the page

And that’s just off the top of my head. They can also still appear in your meta keywords, even if Google currently chooses to ignore them THERE.

You should still be doing your keyword research for each page (or set of pages) and using those keywords you identify as being the most important in the page elements listed in the paragraph above. Google even offer some good free tools to help you find out what keywords to use. I’d recommend Google’s Search Insights, Google Analytics, their free AdWords Keyword Tool, and even Google Trends. Add your own favourite keyword research tools in the comments below.