Whilst reading Animal Farm in school, my English teacher at the time had a reasonably poor memory, and as a result we would reread chapters several times, and we never actually finished the book. I did however get to see a (very impressive one-man) theatre production of the book, and I have seen the 1999 film – who’s idea was it to have a happy ending!
Anyway… today, in a BBC article it is reported that according to Fairer Finance, many car insurance policy documents are longer than George Orwell’s Animal Farm. One of the longest of the documents they found was Danske Bank’s terms and conditions which contained almost 70,000 words – that’s more words than Animal Farm put together with Of Mice and Men – which was incidentally another book I read at school.
Of UK financial services companies, HSBC came in top with 34,162 words, whilst LV was the lowest with 6,901 – 27,261 fewer words.
For financial institutions legal jargon is important. Terms and conditions provide organisations with legal protection and are in some ways a measure of credibility and assurance – would you place trust in a bank which didn’t have any terms and conditions? I understand that they are important, but why do they need to be so long and full of technical jargon?
Do you think companies are aiming to dissuade people from reading their terms by making them so long-winded? If so, what could a business put in its terms? Could a social media site claim ownership of your face? Don’t be silly.
Do long, wordy terms of service not discriminate against slower readers, and people who have a life? Sometimes I struggle to keep up with my university reading, so how/why on earth am I expected to read a novel length script of jargon each time I open a current account?
Help is out there!
Facebook, Google and Twitter are no angels either, many websites also have ridiculously long terms of service. There is however consumer help for judging these sites, thanks to Terms of Service Didn’t Read. I use their browser extension for Firefox, and it is helpful.
Fairer Finance have started a petition to try and bring down the small print and force organisations to be more concise and consumer friendly. Visit the campaign page and you can also send them any examples you have of annoyingly pointless small print.
JibJab always cram so much into their year reviews. Here are some of the things I picked out… there was the Egyptian uprising, the US shut-down, government spying (on the public and other governments/countries), YouTube’s most watched videoWhat Does the Fox Say? Toronto’s ‘unconventional’ mayor, the ISS got damaged (or maybe it was a reference to the film Gravity), there was a change of pope, the Philippines typhoon, gay marriage became accepted, there was a royal baby, Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, the release of the iPhone 5S, 5C and iOS 7, Miley Cyrus wrecking ball, Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post, famous deaths including Thatcher and Mandela, Blockbuster’s final shut down and the Harlem Shake craze.
I know I missed a few and there were some things the video didn’t feature, but I think it was a pretty good summary of 2013.
It’s that time of year again when our content starts to become more fun. To continue the tradition of the last two years, I am going to take a look at which videos attracted the most attention on YouTube over the last year in the UK. Scroll to the end for the global list.
Sneaking in at number 10 this year is Learn the Alphabet with Peppa Pig! a video which teaches the alphabet the help of a family of pigs. Interestingly the video has a very high percentage of dislikes – around 10,500 likes to 9,000 dislikes. If you have forgotten the alphabet and want a quick refresher, I recommend you check out the UK’s 10th most visited video of 2013.
In at number 9 is a music video by the band Hadouken! The song is accompanied by a video of people doing all sorts of amazing, thrilling stunts and is well worth a watch. It proves to you what us humans are capable of.
The eighth most watched video on YouTube for the UK this year is Francine Lewis’ Britian’s Got Talent Interview. Francine is an impressionist who shocked and humoured the audience, naturally getting 4 yeses from the judges. If you want to follow her story (and have a laugh) check out the video, Francine Lewis with her many impressions.
Having been watched over 10 million times across the world Tom Daley: Something I want to say… comes in at number 7 on this years list. The Olympic athlete announced he was in a relationship with another guy via his YouTube channel and the video instantly went viral. The media as a whole were very respectful of Tom’s bravery and many congratulated him on helping to break down still prevalent social boundaries. With a 20:1 like to dislike ratio, I think it is fair to say the public is behind Tom and value his openness.
Remember that video by the Norwegian army that made Internet history earlier this year? No. How about if I say the words Colo Terorita… ringing any bells? Watch this then.
That’s right, a Harlem Shake parody comes in at number 6.
Has there been a year when Tom Ska hadn’t had a video in the UK’s top 10? Probably not for a while. Okay so in at number 5 is asdfmovie6, a continuation of the asdf sketch comedy series. asdf7 is now also out, but since it was only released in October, it hasn’t made the top 10 for this year. For a little more comedy, check out asdf6 below. 🙂
Number 4 this year a BBC video from the Graham Norton Show where Graham is surprised by Will & Jaden Smith. The video has been viewed nearly 20 million times, and sees Alfonso, Will and Jaden and DJ Jazzy Jeff do the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air rap.
So, to the top three!
This year Britain’s Got Talent has two videos in the top 10, stealing slot number three on the list too with Attraction’s audition video. Attraction are amazing, they stunned and moved the nation with their fantastic shadow performance. Check it out.
In at number 2 this year with over 200 thousand likes to less than 2,500 dislikes is the 15 minute long My Wedding Speech by Mcfly drummer Tom Fletcher. The video is a brilliant song thanking all those involved in making Tom’s wedding. The song is a very entertaining tribute and is worth 15 minutes of watching, do take a look.
So now to number 1. Comedy seems to have been a common theme over the last three years, so it is fitting that this years winner is a comedy video. Ever wondered how animals eat their food? Well you wouldn’t be alone, it appears over 90 million other people have too. Take a look.
The Global Most Watched
Here is a list of the global top 10 most watched videos on YouTube.
Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)
Harlem Shake (original army edition)
How Animals Eat Their Food
Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball (Chatroulette Version)
baby&me / the new evian film
Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme
YOLO (feat. Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar)
Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise
THE NFL : A Bad Lip Reading
Mozart vs Skrillex. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2
That’s it for another year, but do be sure to stay tuned for next years YouTube top 10! 🙂
On the surface Internet living seems to bring a great deal of freedom to many different parties. Last month for example I posted from the USA, Italy and the UK, we can work from home, buy direct and have access to all kinds of information.
This might make us feel that the web itself creates freedom, or that it is free to operate as we wish. I am not so sure that this is the whole story however, and others agree.
Last week Security technologist Bruce Schneier gave a talk as part of the TEDx Cambridge series. Schneider is very interested in security and perceptions of security as this previous TED video shows, but last week’s talk was different.
He took the problem of Internet freedom as his topic, and raised some very interesting arguments. The following quotes are taken from his speech as reported on our local Boston.com website:
“Which type of power dominates the coming decades? Right now it looks like traditional power. It’s much easier for the NSA to spy on everyone than it is for anyone to maintain privacy. China has an easier time blocking content than its citizens have getting around those blocks.”
We can see that there is some evidence to support this case, if we look at this article that appeared in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. It recounts the tale of Google pulling out of China because they no longer wanted to censor their searches. Google chose to redirect users to their non censored search engine based in Hong Kong. The Chinese government managed to block the results anyway, so users were left in the same position as before, no access to the information.
If we take a broader look though we find that it is not just China but other countries that are making repeated requests for Google to censor their content. CNN report the revelations of the recent Google Transparency report, where Canada, France, the UK and the USA feature strongly in the league of requested censorship. The report is here, easy to follow and a 5 minute thumb through might change your ideas regarding freedom and regulation on the web.
Just yesterday Linkedin announced that they challenging the US government over data requests. US organizations are allowed to publish the total number of data requests, but cannot break the figure down to reveal the number made by security services. Linkedin say this legal situation makes no sense, and many other companies agree. Read about it here.
“Cyber criminals can rob more people more quickly than real-world criminals, digital pirates can make more copies of more movies more quickly than their analog ancestors. And we’ll see it in the future. 3D printers mean control debates are soon going to involve guns and not movies.”
Just this week The Independent ran a story about Europe’s criminal intelligence agency that is fighting unprecedented levels of crime across several fronts as gangs capitalise on new technology. We are not talking about a few individuals hacking into the odd bank account here and there, we are looking at the new form of organized crime. A multi billion dollar industry in Europe alone.
The gun reference is of course to the distribution of plans for a 3D printer manufactured gun. Read about it here.
Much has been written about how Facebook and other interfaces have the power to democratize society, and their potential to promote revolution. The so-called Arab Spring is often given as an example, but as well as dissidents using Facebook to organize protests, the Syrian and other governments also used Facebook to identify and arrest dissidents.
There are plenty of examples. Here is an article about 3 Moroccan activists who were arrested for their comments criticizing governments at that time. One used a Wikileaks type platform, another Facebook and the third Youtube. They were all arrested and charged with various and sometimes unrelated crimes.
Monday (April the 1st) saw hundreds of high profile April Fools’ Day jokes hit the internet, but which were the top April Fools spoofs online?
At number 7 this year, is Virgin Atlantic’s glass floor planes. On his blog, Richard Branson posted on how Virgin Atlantic Airlines (in which he owns a 51% stake) are planning on launching a glass-bottomed plane. Branson commented on how he was “thrilled to announce that Virgin has created another world-first with the introduction of the technology required to produce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane.”
Virgin Atlantic also posted the jape on its official blog, stating that thanks to private funding from Richard Branson, the technology had now been developed to give passengers the experience of a transparent floor.
The floor of a plane couldn’t really feasibly be made transparent though; the luggage and engine have to go somewhere!
One of the first articles I came across this April Fools’ Day was the Metro’s April Fools’ Day 2013 round-up. The Metro had taken screenshots of all the top April Fools this year, including Goolge’s, Facebook’s, YouTube’s, Tesco’s, The BBC’s and more.
I only realised when I got to the end of the post that they were all spoofs! The Metro’s April Fool was to Photoshop loads of fake April Fools. Tesco’s 3D food printer, YouTube’s $1,000,000 giveaway and the BBC’s story of how Curiosity rover had joined Twitter, were all very well designed, believable, and well worth a read!
5. The White House
As we the above pranks show, April Fools’ jokes aren’t just limited to a personal level, companies and the media like to play them too, but what about government? Well the US government tried to fool its Twitter followers this year, posting a ‘special video from the president’ – watch it below.
4. Technology Bloggers
Okay, my post on Monday which informed readers how the Higgs boson has been found wasn’t true. The Higgs is thought to hold the key (or at least part of it) to help us better understand the origins of the universe. I did also mention in the post how the particle could potentially make time travel viable, and also be the key to ultimate power, enabling us to use nuclear fusion as a power source.
Last month scientists thought they were closer than ever to identifying the Higgs particle, and this is true. However it is still yet to be proved to exist, and it might not be the miracle particle that I made out it could be. Most of my post was made up, as an April Fool – I hope nobody minded.
April Fools from Technology Bloggers! 🙂
Google is becoming famous for its April Fools. This year they played several. The most high profile was probably Google Nose, which had the strapline “Smelling is believing.” This April Fool claimed that Google could bring uses the smell of things they were searching for, by “intersecting photons with infrasound waves” they can “temporarily align molecules” to make your screen smell like what you are searching for. Clever stuff – if it were real!
The search giant also created a treasure map version of Google Maps. Google claimed it had found some old treasure maps which once belonged to an infamous pirate Captain Kidd, and it had scanned them and added them to its online mapping service.
Another April Fools joke that Google played was seen in the launch Gmail Blue. Gmail wasn’t blue enough, so they made it all blue, because blue is better! It doesn’t make any sense, but is very comedic – watch the video below for more.
On Monday, when checking Technology Bloggers Analtyics, it turned out that we had 41 visitors from the International Space Station. I took a screenshot, this is no joke!
Okay, maybe it was a joke, yet another Google April Fool.
These are just a few of Google’s 2013 April Fools jokes.
In third place is Twitter. Twitter’s fool was to trick users into believing that they would soon have to pay for vowels!
It was a half believable story that the social network published on its blog, and it did show innovative ways that people were trying to get around having to pay the five dollar a month fee so you can “use our premium “Twitter” service which also includes vowels” as opposed to having to use the free version: Twttr. Some people substituted o’s (owes) for 0’s (zeroes) whilst in an example in the blogpost, Joan Rivers used the partial/semi vowel ‘y’ to replace all vowels!
Personally I am not sure that twttr.com would ever really have taken off. Wh-t 1s thy p01nt 0f – Tw1ttyr w1th n0 v0wyls? 😉
This year, I think that YouTube had the best April Fools’ joke. YouTube claimed, in a video post, that the website was no longer accepting submissions. That’s right, submissions, like entries. This is because the website was simply a massive competition; who could submit the best video?
That’s right, the competition of YouTube is over, and over the next ten years, the winner will be decided, and on April the 1st 2023, the site will relaunch with just one video on it. The best video. The winner of YouTube’s 8 year video contents!
A pretty good April Fool, but that isn’t why it wins this year. The reason YouTube is number one, is because of the time and effort they put into their April Fool.
The video above shows the initial video YouTube put out for the April Fool, but what many people never saw was the 12 hour live stream they did! That’s right, YouTube got two presenters to stand in front of a camera and read out video after video, videos which have been posted on the site and are ‘up for nomination’ to be the ‘winner’ of the YouTube contest. Click on this link to see the video, and check out this link to read more on the official YouTube blog.
Which was you favourite April Fools’ Day joke this year? Was it one you played, or had played on you? Do you think that smaller April Fools’ like putting salt in the sugar are no longer that significant, when companies like Google, (who own YouTube) Virgin and Twitter are playing jokes on millions – maybe billions?
For some reason, many of us internet folk seem obsessed with internet memes.
What are internet memes?
Okay, if you don’t know what an internet meme is, then my opening line probably didn’t mean that much to you. Who better to ask than Mr Oxford? A meme is “an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means” – basically something which becomes a phenomenon, usually in a very short space of time.
Recent examples of internet phenomena include music video Gangnam Style, the Harlem Shake dance (and its parodies) and all those songs that have been given the goat treatment.
Probably the most well known historical internet meme is Rickrolling. In April 2008 the BBC reported how “an estimated 13 million internet users have been tricked into watching the video for Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up” in the space of just a few weeks. The number of users online and the size of the internet has grown significantly since then, so when put into perspective, 13 million is a lot of people!
Rickrolling is when you go to click a link, believing it is going to a certain resource, website etc. when in reality you are diverted to a video of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. Basically, rickrolling is a simple bait-and-switch, which is (usually) just harmless fun.
If you find yourself on Rick Astley’s video, (when you didn’t intend to visit it) then you are said to have been rickrolled.
It isn’t thought that Rick Astley attempted to create the internet meme, or in any way endorsed it, however some argue that it the meme played a large part in reviving his musical career!
Some rickrolls were just done in a humorous style, with no harm intended, whilst others would cause more havoc, some making it very difficult for users to turn the video off, and others even using it as a way of installing malicious software on users computers.
This is an amazing achievement for the social network/video sharing site. Earlier in the month I reported how PayPal has around 110 million active users, which seemed like quite a lot, but it’s only 11% of YouTube’s figure!
YouTube is [arguably] the biggest beneficiary from internet memes, as more often that not, the memes are video based.
Probably the most famous internet meme that didn’t really involve YouTube was planking. Planking involves taking pictures of people lying face down in unusual places. Flickr and Tumblr benefited from planking much more than YouTube. Planking has a slightly more sinister history than many internet memes however, as there were deaths caused by people planking in dangerous locations.
It is a goat?
Last year Jonny wrote about mistaken identity, and how when something is adopted by the press, or the internet and becomes widespread, then it is hard to stop, even if it is wrong.
One of the current internet phenomenon is giving songs the ‘goat’ treatment. As I am sure you already know, this involves replacing parts of a song with a screaming goat. One of the first songs to be given the goat treatment was Taylor Swifts ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’. Have a watch.
Humorous right? You can see why there is a goat based internet meme! 🙂 But it isn’t a goat!
The animal in Taylor Swifts video – and many of the other videos in the phenomena – is a sheep! One person posts a video, calling it a goat, and everyone else blindly copies. I too was a victim of this mistaken identity, and would talk to people about the goat video, that is until I was corrected by a Animal Behaviour Studies student!
The funny thing is, the original upload of the screaming sheep was named exactly that, ‘The Screaming Sheep (Original Upload)’.
Gangnam Style, the Harlem Shake, The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger, The New Old Spice Guy ads and LOLcat pics are also all internet memes.
So, what do you think about internet memes. Do they have a purpose? Should we all endorse them as we do? Your thoughts below 🙂
Did you use Wikipedia in 2012? Probably a silly question, as according to Alexa, 12.80% of all web users yesterday visited the online encyclopaedia, as part of their online day. The 3 month average reach of Wikipedia.org is 12.575%, so yesterday’s figure was no anomaly.
I usually visit Wikipedia multiple times a week.
The fact that Wikipedia is open source is good, as it enables it to use the help of millions of people around the world to build its massive online encyclopaedia. Open source does however also leave it open to vandalism, as on most articles, nobody needs to verify your changes. Many Wikipedia articles are very accurate though, and they are getting better year on year.
In 2012, what was it you Wikied? A few days ago, Wikipedia released a list of the most popular pages visited on its site, segmented by country. The statistics make interesting reading, if you get some time.
For all of the top 10, I think you can understand why they were such popular searches. As Facebook becomes evermore a global brand, more and more people want to know what it is, and those using it, want to know more about it. A logical big winner.
With Wikipedia the 6th most visited site on the net, searching for what Wiki means, is probably not unexpected. One Direction, the 2012 phenomenon, The Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers were all popular 2012 trends online and off, hence their Wikipedia fame. Like Facebook, with growing web usage, and Google’s top spot on the web, that page you would naturally expect top have a big viewing.
The list isn’t limited to 10 pages though, Wikipedia have released the top 100 pages for many of the languages the site is published in.
The 100th most visited English page is Stephen Hawking, the page about the British scientist, which had just over 7 million views in 2012.
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, lecturer, defier of motor neurone disease and now 100th most visited English Wikipedia page 2012, what a career the 70 year old (71 tomorrow) has had!
With an extra 53,106 views, Albert Einstein just beat Hawking, claiming 98th place. That said, neither of the scientists had anything on Psy, who saw the page for Gangnam Style hit the 21st spot, with over 13 million views!
Many of the top 100 spots were claimed by websites (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Google etc.), countries (United States, United Kingdom, India, Australia etc.) and trends (Katy Perry, 2012 Summer Olympics, Skyfall, Downton Abbey etc.).
The stats for other languages are also interesting to look at. Facebook appeared in most of the lists, topping the Spanish list, claiming 10th place in the German list, 3rd in the French and Turkish, 4th in the Portuguese etc. Wiki was also very popular, appearing in the top 10 list for eight languages, as was Google, appearing in three languages.
What did you Wiki search for in 2012? Can you even remember? I know I searched far too many pages to recall them all, but looking down the English list, I recall visiting most of the top 100.
Do the amazing figures behind this list (Facebook getting 30+ million on its English page alone) worry you sightly? Do we trust Wikipedia, which is potentially a very unreliable site too much?
As there are now just a few days left in 2012, this is going to be another fun/festive post 🙂
Last year I explored YouTube’s most popular 10 videos in the UK for 2011, and it turned out to be an enjoyable post to write, (and hopefully also to read/watch) so I thought I would do the same again this year!
In the UK, the 10th most popular video was the BBC video posted as part of their coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games, which featured James Bond escorting the Queen to the games. The video is entitled James Bond escorts The Queen to the opening ceremony and is a must see – hence why it is below 🙂
In 9th place, is the The Nick Clegg Apology Song, as created by The Poke. Mr Clegg (leader of the Liberal Democrat party) made a political party broadcast in September of this year, apologising for breaking his promise about not raising university tuition fees. The Poke then used Autotune along with some video editing, to make a very funny apology song out of Mr Cleggs speech.
Pop/Opera duo Charlotte & Jonathan, came in an impressive 8th place, with their video which has received over 25 million views since March this year. The video is a recording of their performance on the TV show, Britain’s Got Talent, a show which they untimely finished second. Check out their video here.
The 7th most popular video in the UK this year was Felix Baumgartner’s jump from space. Felix broke world records as he jumped from over 24 miles above the earth, landing safely after a reaching a maximum speed of 833 miles per hour!
6th place was taken by the fantastic market trader who had a ‘£1 Fish’ song. Songs seem to be doing pretty well this year in terms of trending on YouTube! The camera man asks the market trader to “Do your fish song for me…” and the trader starts a fantastic song in order to try to sell his stock. Again, this is a must see 🙂
There is also a remix done by The Poke (the same people who made the Nick Clegg apology song) which is also worth a watch.
asdfmovie4 was 7th on the list last year, and the next edition of the comedy animation was sure to be a hit too, which it was with asdfmovie5 taking 5th place on the 2012 list.
A cover of the song Somebody That I Used to Know took the bronze medal position, coming in third. The band Walk off the Earth did a cover of the Gotye song, which involved all five of the band members using the same guitar to play the song. It was very clever and a pretty good song, hence why it was a major hit.
KONY 2012, a video by a US activist group about the use of child soldiers took third place. The video is almost 30 minutes long, which is pretty impressive considering how popular it proved. Its popularity was probably due to the emotional impact it had on people.
Now for the big one, the video that was top of the UK list and top of the global list. The video which is now the most watched video on the internet. The video which became popular in the shortest amount of time. The video which had spread around the world in just a few weeks. That video is Gangnam Style. If you haven’t seen it, or heard it, you are among a select few! Earlier this month, the video by Korean artist Psy, made YouTube history, topping 1 billion views! The video has been rated millions of times, with over 6 million likes, and around half a million dislikes.
So that’s it, the 10 most popular YouTube videos of 2012. In memory of the great videos that have trended this year, YouTube have put together a fantastic compilation video, which includes references to loads of the websites popular videos this year, or as YouTube put it: “We invited some YouTubers to star in a mash-up of culturally defining moments of 2012. Can you spot all the references?”
If you have seen all of the above videos, it is great fun to watch this YouTube 2012 mash up.
Global Top Ten
If you are interested, here is the global top 10 trending videos of 2012:
Walk Off the Earth
Call Me Maybe
Obama v Romney epic rap battle
A dramatic surprise on a quiet square
Why you asking all them questions?
Freefall from the Edge of Space
What was your favourite video of 2012, and which video(s) do you feel had a major global impact?
Last week I went to a street fair in Boston. It was an interesting event to say the least, it was a celebration of local inventors and craftspeople. We made trans-music with a home built computerized digital orchestra, rode on electric motorbikes, played with robots and a large wooden catapult. Have a look at some of the photos here.
The robot collection was extraordinary, but one object really made me think. Someone had built there own 3D printer and was making objects as we watched.
3D printing has come up on this site before, but the fact that somebody could build one themselves at home had escaped me. And these types of printers have recently been in the news here in the USA for a very serious reason, somebody has claimed that they could produce a gun using only 3d printing.
Defense Distributed, a group of gun advocates, recently posted a YouTube video trying to raise money to make a printable gun. The concept is to use fast-improving 3D printer technology to create gun parts that could be assembled into a fully-workable firearm.
“As the printing press revolutionized literacy, 3D printing is in its moment,” Cody Wilson, 24, founder of Defense Distributed, said in the video clip.
Three-dimensional printers have been used industrially for years to produce plastic or metal objects, but as the prices for entry level machines have fallen as low as $500, the printers have become more prevalent among hobbyists and educational institutions.
Users can create or download a data file, then simply click “Print” and the machines will create the three-dimensional prototype.
Now this organization would like to distribute a data file for a workable gun, something that may well not even be illegal over here, the law remains fuzzy in the face of such technology.
Fortunately the printer company have taken their machine back from Mr. Wilson as it is illegal to manufacture guns without a license, but he has raised over $20 000 for his project so far so may well soon be able to buy another.
Another hobbyist has actually produced some parts for a gun, assembled it and fired it more than 200 times so this is certainly not science fiction. Have a look at this article in Gizmag.
Is this just a crazy idea? Or could it undermine any gun controls put in place and put weapons into everybody’s hands? The second is Mr. Wilson’s goal unfortunately.
This kind of unforeseen use for an otherwise interesting new technology reminds me of why I keep on battling for ethics and responsibility in innovation through my work.
Everybody knows that if you want to run a successful website, Google is one of the most important factors to consider.
How Google understands, interprets and indexes your site, is crucial to where your site appears in the SERPs, and how well your site preforms in the SERPs (specifically the Google SERPs) can be a big determinant how much traffic your site receives, and ultimately how popular/successful your site it.
Google Webmaster Tools is a very useful tool which is often underused by site owners, in order to improve the quality and quantity of traffic that your site receives. In this article I will outline some of the key features I find useful, and some of the main reasons why I use Webmaster Tools.
Google has a monopoly on the search market, with more than 90% of all searches being done through Google – according to StatCounter Global Statistics. Therefore the chases are the majority of traffic your site receives through search is from Google. It would be naive to ignore Bing and Yahoo’s search tools available to webmasters, however if you plan on just focusing on one, Google is probably the wisest choice.
Google is renowned for its major updates, with Penguin and Panda just two recent examples. Webmaster Tools can be a great aid in helping you understand how your site has been affected by the changes and why, so you can either keep doing things the way you are, or change your strategy.
See how well you are doing
The most recent Google Webmaster Tools update has divided the dashboard into five easy to understand sections: configuration, how your site is set up (locality, URL preferences, sitelinks etc.); health, how Google crawls your site and any errors, or malware it detects, and the URLs Google is denied from crawling; traffic, how do people find your site, which search queries do you appear for, who links to your content with what keywords and how does Google+ influence your visitors; optimization, tips and tweaks on how you could adjust your content and sitemap to improve your search position; labs, the latest tools Google are trailing that may be of use.
Find crawler errors
One of the main reasons I use Google Webmaster Tools is because it lets me see how Google views and interprets the sites I administer. Therefore should there ever be an error, I am able to understand what Google is struggling to read/crawl, and therefore try to address the issue. Google lets you view and test specific URLs your robots.txt file is blocking Google from indexing and crawling – there is a difference. If you are denying it access to something by mistake you can then rectify this.
Google also lets you see any pages it cannot find. If you run a content management system based site (like one powered by WordPress) it is common that you will change things using the system, and unforeseen errors will be created leading to pages not being found where they either should be, or once were. Google lets you see when it can’t find pages, along with when it is denied from accessing pages, and when inadequate redirects are in place.
If you don’t use Google Webmaster Tools and don’t reduce the problems Google encounters when crawling your site, the likelihood is that your site will suffer in the SERPs – there isn’t much debate about that.
Google say that:
“Webmaster Tools Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.”
however this doesn’t mean that these tools should be ignored, in fact I think they are probably one of the most overlooked resources that Google provides webmasters with.
One of the current ‘Labs’ tools that I think is very useful is the ‘Site performance’ tool. Google may not have generated any information about your site, however if you are one of the lucky ones to be analysed, this can prove a very interesting tool. In Google’s own words:
“This page shows you performance statistics of your site. You can use this information to improve the speed of your site and create a faster experience for your users.”
As page load time becomes more and more important to users and therefore search engines alike, this page is of crucial importance for many people.
You might not expect it, but in the ‘Optimization’ section, under the ‘HTML Improvements’ section Google will actually suggest areas where you could improve your code to ensure that your content is the best possible. Common errors Google suggests for correction include missing or duplicate title tags, (in most cases, and SEO no, no) and meta tag issues.
The tools in the ‘Traffic’ section are probably the ones I use the most. ‘Search Queries’ gives you a fantastic incite into where your site is appearing in search results in all different locations across the world. If you pair Webmaster Tools with Analytics, this can become a lot more useful.
Links to your site and internal links lets you see your post linked to content, and the keywords that are linking to it. Generally speaking, if you want to rank well for a keyword, you need to have some links (internal and/or external) using that keyword.
The great thing about Google Webmaster Tools is that it integrates with many other Google programs, in order to improve your total control and visibility of your site. AdSense, Analytics, YouTube and AdWords are just some of the other Google products that Webmaster Tools integrates with.
That is just a quick overview of what Webmaster Tools has to offer. If you own a website, I strongly recommend that you explore it further to help improve your sites visibility in the search results, and to enable you to weather algorithm changes (like Penguin and Panda) that little bit better.
Do you use Webmaster Tools? What are your favourite features?