Okay so the search world has ended for some website owners out there with Googles latest algorithm update, Penguin. The update which was designed to cull spammy websites from the search results, had an (un)expected side effect on websites which had usually hired less than stellar SEO companies. There have been multiple threads posted on the Google forums, about how each website was wrongly infracted; in their view.
Google has made some drastic changes in their algorithm in the last year, the majority of which were implemented to help clean up the results page. Pandas, Penguins aside, the goals to clean up the results has started to shine a light on an SEO trouble spot. Search engine optimization is a greatly discussed, debated, and lucrative topic online. Because it’s such a high margin of profit enterprise, it’s seen as an added value feature for, mostly web development firms, and even for some who just like to ride the trend wave. The trouble begins, when you, as a business owner, begin to be taken in by a few buzz words in the market. Backlinks, social media, videos, all of these are definitely avenues to explore and work with to help raise your organic search worth, but they’re far from what matters the most to the engines. There are certain keywords that you should keep in the forefront of your mind, when discussing hiring an SEO for your firm.
The first of which is quick – proper, organic optimization is anything but quick. Part of the reason that the organic listings are so desirable is because, for the most part, they can be trusted as being authoritative. You don’t become listed in the top 10 of your niche overnight, and definitely not in the top 3 within a week unless you’re trying to rank for a 5-6 term, specific long tail search phrase; then you have a shot. But again, that’s not true search engine optimization, that’s a clever marketer, gaming the organic results by searching for a sentence on your website.
Another term you need to be wary of, is Google Partner – namely because Google doesn’t have partners. They’re Google, they buy and assimilate what they feel will improve their core product, search, and anything else they have cooking in their tech kitchen. If when you meet with someone trying to sell themselves as a Google Partner, it’s best to just bite your tongue, thank them for their time and then, instead of using the phone book to find an SEO, here’s a thought – use a search engine! You don’t have to be clever, you can type in exactly what you’re looking for, like search engine optimization Winnipeg, and from there you begin your phone calls. You find a plumber, or perhaps a local mechanic in the yellow pages, you should be looking online for SEO experts.
And in case you were wondering, here’s what your traffic looks like when you don’t play by the rules.
So Google has released a new twist in their search algorithm that it hopes will better catch people who spam the results or purposely do things to rank better that are against Google’s publishers guidelines. After all is said and done, Google says it will impact about 3% of search queries. That may not seem like a whole lot, but consider the fact they serve millions of searchers a day, 3% definitely adds up.
From their blog:
In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.
In the last day or so since their change has been online, some of the results are starting to be noticed. At the forefront, it looks like brands and genuine news sites, those that write the news, not aggregate it, are gaining rank back. At the other end of the site, we have those aforementioned aggregator sites, template sites which can be built and filled with scraped content in a matter of minutes, and news portal sites, those used to file searches into pages.
The over arching goal of this change in the algorithm is a simple one: Google wants creators of unique, quality content to get their chance to shine in the results. Up until this shift, and for the next while until it settles in to work, scraper bots and aggregators would just nab that great content and use it on their own sites, not linking back (most cases) to the original source. Just as a side note, this is not Google attacking or trying to circumvent any legitimate search engine optimization on yours, or anyone elses website. The real target are scrapers, black hat operators and those who try and game the system instead of trying to make it work for them.
There’s been a shift in the algorithm lately, as most in search are aware of and it may have a little to do with a Google blog post recently put up. In it, Google commented on websites with heavy advertising at the top of the page, forcing visitors to search for the actual content and about how things are going to change.
From their post it reads that there are complaints about having to basically search for results twice on the web. When a user clicks on what they deem the most relevant to their search and they’re greeted with a website which is heavy with advertisements on the top of the page; they’re needing to search the website again for their content. Top heavy advertisements on websites were mentioned as being so heavily populated with ads, a user has to scroll to even begin to find content. Google also mentioned that for going forward, those websites which are advertisement heavy, ‘may not rank as highly as before’.
Now don’t fret if you have an ad block on your website, you’re not going to be kicked into the basement of search. This change is going to affect less than 1% of searches conducted globally. So unless you’re in the business of having tons of spam on your webpages, you should be just fine. As usual when there are any kind of algorithm changes, no doubt in a few days the ‘end of SEO’ will be heralded online for the beginning of the year. But those who have been playing the game from the beginning, who helped shape just how search works and hammer out the rules, they should be the ones you watch. Until it comes from one of the real search experts that SEO is dead, I’ll just keep on plugging along.
Google has announced 10 search changes – a mix of algorithmic, crawling, and user interface updates. Better long-tail indexing and parked domain detection are among the announced changes. Additionally, Google has committed to writing a new post with algorithm updates each month.
The 10 Changes
Here’s a quick breakdown of the 10 changes and what they mean for you:
- “Related query results refinements.” More results will be excluded when synonyms and related terms conflict with other words or phrases in the search query.
- “More comprehensive indexing.” Google is getting better at finding long-tail documents, making long-tail optimization even more important.
- “New ‘parked domain’ classifier.” Google now detects parked domains more easily, making them less likely to show up in the SERP.
- “More autocomplete predictions.” Does what it says.
- “Fresher and more complete blog search results.” Blog content now has a faster and deeper indexing system, making your blog even more valuable and likely to surface on the SERP.
- “Original content.” Google has “added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original one.” In other words, Google has added some scraper counter-measures.
- “Live results for Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League.” Does what it says.
- “Image result freshness.” Google is now better at finding fresh images for news queries.
- “Layout on tablets.” Tablet users will see some changes in the color and layout that make Google more usable.
- “Top result selection code rewrite.” The code that “ensures that we don’t show too many results from one site” has been rewritten. While it will behave the same as before, it is now “easier to understand, simpler to maintain, and more flexible for future ex tensions.”
Rob D. Young
“From destruction comes opportunity…”
Most people panic and throw in the towel when Google makes updates. That’s why so many “amateurs” never make it in the marketing game.
On the other hand, professionals are prepared. They constantly push forward and test everything to see what works. Also, when the amateurs get wiped out, that makes more room for professionals like us to rule the landscape.
So, are you an amateur or professional?
“What works in the aftermath…”
Surprisingly, the same tried and true, quality promotion tactics are still the best. (We can say this because we have over twelve years of experience living through all these updates)
But, the difference is HOW you do it. It’s the PROCESS and the FLOW that has changed. The promotional steps change, and the timing changes. See, you can’t just randomly promote your sites and build links anymore. You have to time everything properly. Otherwise Google will not reward you.
So, the frequency of your promotions has to change. And the order of your promotions has to change. Listen, we’ve been dealing with updates like this from Google for over a decade. And it’s really not that scary when you understand what Google wants.
The problem is that Google always modifies what they want, and when they want it. What’s more, is they aren’t very good at telling you what they want. That’s where it gets confusing. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes they’re extreme. The good news is we’ve always come out ahead and now so can you! Call us Today for help.
Here is a great pictorial from Aaron at SEO Book & Jess Net. Click to make Larger
Infographic by SEO Book
Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.
The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.
Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.
JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.
In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.
Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.
Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).
A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.
Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.
There is due a shake up in the Google management tree, it’s been spoken of at great length since it was announced last week. This past Friday as well, a couple of what I’d consider large announcements also came from the search giant.
Their own implementation of a Groupon discount shopping site, and the admission via Matt Cutts that yes, they know there’s an issue with spam in the index.
When news of the discount shopping branch was put out on Mashable, a lot of the ruckus I found pertained to the failed bid to buy Groupon. And while it’s been said it’s just a copy cat of the successful sale site, it’s more a copy of the very successful Groupon formula. There’s a dozen other sites out there which have done the same, and Google being Google, they’ve put their own twist on it. Groupon for example pays out 50% of the amount to the business providing the deal advertised. Google, will pay out 80% of the amount immediately, and hold the remaing 20% of the income for 60 days, to assist dealing with returns and what not, and pay the remaining amount out to the advertiser. Google it seems, will survive on interest alone. There’s no initial cost to setup an ad, and just being able to accomodate your offer is often costly enough.
The other big news to come out last week was the blog post from Matt Cutts admitting that yes, spam is starting to populate the search results again. It’s been long speculated, and now that it’s confirmed, we can all wait for the out come. Spam can be characterized as link farms, content farms, content scrapers and aggregating news and information websites. While the latter aren’t technically spam, they’re still not the original creators of the content they may be hosting. With the arrival of Caffiene as the driving force behind the SERPs, Google’s results pages have been devoid of the quality results that many had come to expect. The spam of the internet didn’t go away, it’s worth mentioning, Google merely provided a filter for it. Expect a strong algorithmic change and for your sites to shift in the coming months.
With how compact, powerful and convenient todays smartphones are becoming. The rise of the netbook and tablet pc, it’s not a surprise at all that mobile search, search using the aforementioned techonologies, is growing in leaps and bounds. A very general breakdown of Googles numbers were posted in their blog this past week:
Over the past two years, Google’s mobile searches have grown by more than five times. Furthermore, in the third quarter of 2010, Google mobile searches jumped 130% year over year.
Percentages are amazing to look at and all, but they should also be taken with a some thought; they can make the actual results seem much larger than they are. But onto mobile search! Google, like Bing and other search companies, have their own keyword search tool. They have however, recently added the ability to check which terms are being used in mobile searches.
The Keyword Tool now helps you build a better keyword list to target mobile users. Under “Advanced options,” you can now search for keywords for devices with mobile WAP browsers, mobile devices with full Internet browsers (think iPhone and Android phones), or all mobile devices.
So your site, which by now is hopefully mobile friendly (it is 2011 after all), can be optimized with the mobile market in mind. With the billions of dollars in revenue this past holiday season which were made via mobile techonology, it’s well worth the investment.
What is the greatest guessing game you ask? It’s the game which has made Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other search engine start ups and even failures, piles of money just by mention of the word. Search, is the greatest guessing game.
What happened when Google took the game and applied it’s own rules, was dominate the online community as it propelled itself forward, clawing and fighting for all of the infomation it could find. There are various illustrations of the web which come to mind when it’s pictured. Firstly as a web of course, of interconnecting websites and pages, all of which the search bots, spiders naturally, navigate their way around and build up this interconnectability between them. I’ve seen pictures of the internet visualized as planets in galaxies and solar systems, as continents on a map and even as a DNA strand at one point. The best visualization I can come up with is that of an ocean, and all of the websites and pages of the internet are just kind of floating around. People are like little fish, darting around from point to point, sometimes finding what they want, sometimes not. But it’s a fluid environment, never the same from day to day and always on the move.
An article written about which search engine is better at delivering relevant results was the inspiration for today. It tried to demonstrate that by using identical results in different search engines, that one could clearly deliver better and more relevant results than the other. The reality is I believe, much murkier than that. Google is absolutely a brand name, and used extensively in all walks of life. Bing is working hard on branding itself as a decision engine and not a search engine, but in the end both algorithms do primarily the same thing. They guess at what you’re looking for, they guess that they’re delivering you what you want to see and they guess mostly correct only because you’ve already told them what you want to see. Whether it’s via your search history, cookies saved on your computer or even your directly typed search query. Search is still just a game, and for now Google still plays it best. The internet and online technology being what it is, we’ll revisit the topic in a year and everything may be upside down.