SEM Holiday Wish List 2009

Sometimes you ask for something and you get it right away. But that doesn’t happen in SEM (define) too often. But SEM is an impatient business, and we sometimes have to wait a while.

Two holiday seasons ago, my wish list requested something I called “more canonical control to reduce duplication.” In that article, I said:

For example, you might have pages such as: and Typically, these URLs contain exactly the same content, but due to inconsistent linking throughout the site (and coming from third-party sites), both URLs become independently indexed and attain independent link popularity values…One great tool would be a way to introduce some “logic” into the equation…

Likewise, greater canonical control at the subdomain level would be a welcome improvement. Google Webmaster Tools already has a prototype for canonical subdomain selection in its “Set preferred domain” tool. This is a great start, but further enhancements would add even greater benefit. For instance, imagine the headaches eliminated in load balancing when you could tell an engine that www, www2, www3, and so on should be treated as identical subdomains.

Today, I couldn’t be happier with the way the canonical link element addresses nearly all of those concerns, as I discussed earlier this year. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all came through on this, and it’s been a major help to publishers.

From this you can draw two possible conclusions. One is that the engines read my wish and immediately set to work on a group effort to tackle my problem. The second is that the canonical issue was something they’d been focused on already and my request timed up fairly well with their release of the canonical tag specs.

For now, my last canonical-related request is for the tag to start working cross-domain. In other words, if you own three separate domains that are all identical, and they’ve all accrued various inbound links over time due to separate promotions, you can still keep all three sites live but choose a specific site in which to consolidate your search engine authority. Google recently said that it expects this to happen in late 2009, but we haven’t heard much since.

Expanded Search Insights

Among my wishes for the coming year is a way to use one of Google’s popular keyword tools to help guide mobile content development.

Alongside tools like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery, Google Insights for Search has become a must-have in my keyword research toolset. Early additions to the tool included ways to filter keywords within specific categories, such as automotive, health, business, lifestyles, science, and so on. This is important in many cases, such as making sure that your “tundra” searches are properly categorized correctly as either a Toyota pickup truck or a vast, frozen terrain.

In addition, you can filter your search by queries performed in the contexts of Web Search, Image Search, News Search, and Product Search.

My specific wish is that Google would share the data that it has accumulated to further segregate the data into queries performed from mobile devices. Currently, a big question for publishers is what sort (and quantity) of mobile content users want and expect, and at what point they’ve had enough. Just like you can contrast user demand for Pepsi and Coke by separating them with a comma in the query line, I would love a way to contrast mobile and desktop demand for a single term or group of terms.

Final Wish

My final wish is that Yahoo and Bing, in whatever combination they eventually become, continue to innovate and compete. Bing is especially impressive in its ability to index (and perhaps more important, rank) Twitter content, and I think this type of work has gone a long way toward inspiring Google to release its real-time search capabilities so quickly.


Perhaps the greatest gift that SEM offers is that it’s never dull. Between the competition and frequent algorithmic changes, tools, and offerings, it requires an 8-day week to remain current. And while that might not sound like a gift, in this economy, you should take it.

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