There’s a new Google search results page being tested out in the wilds of the internet. Varying reports have been given at present, but there seems to be a central theme to the different layouts discussed. The most consistent trend that is being reported in the new pages is.. more white space in the results.
It doesn’t sound like a search game changing shift, but in reality it very much is. There are millions of people using the internet every day do a myriad of things. Searching, playing games, writing stories and blogs or researching who knows what. Almost all users use a 17 inch monitor or larger and the resolution to match. As strange as it may seem, monitor size and resolution also play into the new search results page and how it may affect your search ranking.
Simply defined, white space is literally just the amount of blank space between elements on a web page. By adding more white space to the search results pages, Google has effectively lengthened the page, meaning to get to number 10 of the top 10 results, you have to scroll down on the page. Just as in the real world, location is everything when it comes to search results. If you’re not in the top 10, you’re not betting the views you need to be competitive as a very high percentage of search users don’t click on page 2 let alone page 5 of their search results. It’s been seen in demographics as well, most users don’t even scroll down to the bottom of the top 10 of their searches!
At present most users see the top 5 or 6 on their search results page. If Google were to decide to go live with this change of adding more white space, you would only see the top 4, or 3 even depending on your monitor and resolution. If you were happy and content seeing that you were sitting at number 5 or 6 in your niche, it may be time to take a long hard look at your current site to see if you can kick start some forward gains. The top 3 when it comes to being found is becoming more and more important.
The Panda update has been out for a little while now and while some users have reported a rankings decline it seems that for the most part if your site wasn’t being scraped of content, you’re doing just fine. But the underlying point is, Google is going to adjust the algorithm again. They’ll tweak, tune and make mistakes. They have thousands of employees, it’s difficult enough when you have a team of 10 working together let alone a small town of people making adjustments.
So what is next on the chopping block for the Google bot? Only Google can tell you, but there are definitely points to be considered which are up for grabs. One of the most likely candidates for being demoted in search, are the bogus blog posts full of anchor text going out to different sites. We’ve all run into them at some point, usually when you’re looking for information on how to change a sink tap or what type of air conditioner to buy this coming summer. You arrive at a blog post with a dozen different anchors in it, that doesn’t really tell you anything concrete about your search topic. They still come up rather prominent on the SERPs, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them culled in the next big update however.
Other points which I’ve seen discussed are adding links into the footer of websites and site stat counters. Both of these as of this current writing, have had their link weight devalued already, but that doesn’t mean that the search gods won’t turn them down some more. Footer links are great to use as internal site navigation, and if you’re honest with yourself having a visible stat counter on your website is gawdy at best.
The last point of issue seems to be that some website owners are reporting vast amounts of erroneous links pointing to their websites from domains of ill repute. Using back links as part of their evaluation method, the search engines are tied to this as one of the metrics with which they rank websites in search. The issue stems from the issue that you can’t fully control who links to your website. You can actively search for the backlinks pointing to your website, and if you don’t like where they’re coming from you can merely ask for them to be removed. It’s a double edged sword which needs to be monitored, no one is immune to the Google ban hammer. Just ask JC Penny..
There are risks and rewards to be found for your business in any advertising avenue, when you get to the bottom line you need to weigh the costs versus the return on the investment. And while some of the oldest marketing tricks in the book still work, like television, radio and newspaper. The simple truth is, less and less people are buy newspapers, watching television or listening to the radio.
Consumers are beginning to PVR their favorite shows, skipping the commercials and spending their time watching the content they want to see. Newspapers, once one of the largest staples of information, readership has been steadily dropping as more and more people get their news from an online source whether it’s via their computer or even a smart phone. Radio is starting to show some declines as commuters plug in their portable music devices and tune into their own music libraries. Online advertising is still in its infancy here in Canada especially and it’s painful to see when businesses and organisations just flat out refuse to listen to the evolving market.
Here in however, also lies a problem in and of itself. When you’re making that step online, who do you turn to for help? There’s no SEO club, there’s no secondary education available in a formal schooling to teach people how to effectively code online for optimization. We don’t carry cards, we don’t have a monthly news letter and we most certainly do not all fit into the same basket. So what is there you can do to ensure that the “expert” that you’ve hired is the real deal?
You can start at the beginning, asking for such things as previous clients and how their rankings were affected. You can search for their website using keywords you would expect them to be optimized for. Touting themselves as a PPC expert? Google them. Search for them on Bing, Google, Yahoo, pick your engine and scour away. If you’ve found that you’ve hired someone selling themselves as an expert and all they do is build you a Facebook account and a Twitter account, then don’t worry you still have time to get into the game. But don’t be fooled, your competitors are playing the same game as you, and if they started before you, they have the lead however temporary. To catch up, you’ll need to play harder, faster and better than everyone else.
There’s a million and one ways to make yourself found online, local, mobile, social, organic, ppc and within each of these there are countless other methods to work on. Let’s start with the assumption that you’ve followed all of the best practices when it comes to building your website.
You’ve used CSS and XML to create a uniform and attractive look. Used even simple things such as a doctype to tell your browser what it is that it’s reading. Creative, compelling content with a strong call to action which drives your visitors to buy your product, sign up for your news letter or forum and continue visiting your pages. Your images are tagged, your categories are tagged, you’ve worked hard at being the best in your niche market and are steadily enjoying the growing fruits of your labor. And then you learn, there is more which you can do to increase your traffic flow, visibility and as a result, improve your bottom line.
There’s always more which can be done in marketing yourself online, more steps which you can take to become more visible. That step you’ve taken to tag all of your images on your website properly? Congratulations, by taking a very simple step you’ve helped increase your visibility in the image searchs in both Bing and Google. With properly tagged and titled images, it helps your customers reach your site when you have clear pictures for your product to be seen.
Another strong step is issuing news about your company consistently. Whether you’ve closed that massive new merger which will allow you to double production or support, or even if all you’ve done is decided to hold a spring cleaning sale. It’s important to remain active in the eyes of your customer. This is where a blog is an amazing tool for your business, both small and large. It’s an ideal space for all of the aforementioned releases, as well as a location for your clients and customers to reply to your posts and even suggest improvements if some are needed in their eyes.
If you’ve cornered your niche market, and created your very own brand image offline, it’s extremely important to continue that leverage online. As an example, it wouldn’t do Pepsi or Coca-Cola any good to have direct queries for their brand name, direct users to competitors websites. It’s lost revenue and a lost avenue for income.
And if you provide a product or a service which has many steps or intricacies, it only helps your case to develop your very own how to pages on your website. If you provide a specific style of door knocker as an example, providing clear and concise directions on your website on how to install and care for your product can help instantly transform a curious searcher, into a new customer.
There are some interesting threads around the web at the moment around the recent global Panda roll out. Some websites are noticing that when the initial introduction came out a while back and they were dropped from the engine, their traffic is starting to return to previous Panda metrics. It would have been frustrating for sure to have to deal with the not knowing if you had in fact been in breach of scraping content, or been penalized for it when you hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s an anxiety which Google could have eliminated with even just a quick little post along the lines of “We’re addressing your concerns in an upcoming roll out, please be patient with us” as opposed to staying quiet.
Anyhow, the global roll out has occured and it looks like for the moment the farmers have been hit with a drought. The initial numbers have started to appear on various communities online and there are some familiar names in the list with some big losses in ranking. And what seems to be a long time coming, ehow.com has received their penance. Long touted as one of the worst offenders for aggregating content, the site was left virtually untouched in the preliminary Panda roll out. It seems however, that what ever loop hole they slipped through the first time, it snagged them on the second pass. Initial reports are showing a drop of over 80% representation in search results for the site. Other sites which were hit hard were live123.com, findarticles.com and associatedcontent.com. No real surprises there.
And just to mention something which is a little of a pet peeve of mine, the over thinking, or sensationalizing of somewhat arbitrary numbers on the internet. It was a thread I had been following for a few days in which the discussion was centered around the idea of what could be considered Google’s biggest threat to their online presence. The top three came back at no real surprise with Bing, Facebook and Google themselves, all being the threats to the giant.
The part of the discussion which really made me question the reading comprehension of the poster, was that because Facebook is most likely going to become public, that automatically makes them the biggest threat to Google full stop. Their resoning was based around an online tool in which they showed that Google had dropped 2.5% in their yearly traffic and Facebook had grown by 15%!! That clearly said to them that Facebook is the winner in the dominance race.
My issue with their reasoning, besides the point they were spouting their opinion as fact, was they never compared the metrics used to reach those percentages. Problem number 1, Google and Facebook are two different online tools. One is social, one is search. Only if and/or when Google becomes more social, or Facebook focuses on search, can comparisons begin to be drawn. Problem number 2, in comparing apples to oranges the numbers will always be skewed, yet that was ignored. Problem number 3, Bing was unfairly ignored in the comparison. Throwing Bing into the mix really tosses a monkey wrench into the comparison, as they experienced a 44%!!! growth from April 2010 to February 2011. In following with comparing apples to oranges, I contend that Bing is actually Facebook’s largest competitor, excluding the fact that they have an online partnership.
Yesterday was an interesting introduction for Wall Street, Larry Page made his first appearance as Google CEO. It wasn’t an unexpected move for him to be in this position, in fact we knew about it months ago, what was a surprise though was how just how the market reacted. The market shunned Google at present, dropping the stock by 5% of it’s value. But what was it that happened?
Page didn’t pull up stakes on the company, he didn’t outline a plan in which everyone will be living in tents in 5 years. What he did do however in his short time at the helm, is to steer the megolith at a very huge target, the social audience. When you think of anything social on the web, it’s near impossible to leave Facebook out of the equation, so is this the first (real) volley of fire in the Google versus Facebook battle?
It’s starting to look like it at least. Page increased overall spending, and hired more employees for Google, and has challenged all of the engi-nerds to “integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products” A.k.a – lets get social.
On the whole, even though the marketers may be fretting how things look initially for the search giant, on the whole focusing the company in a new direction is a positive move. Change is good in general, and competition feeds innovation. With Larry Page pointing their guns at a specific prize it leads me to the conclusion we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride.
So they’ve said they’re not in it for the money, that its relevance that counts and when you boil it all down content is king. But a judge who heard arguments in class action lawsuit versus Google, has handed down judgement that the giant needs to reveal the metrics behind some of its AdSense pages.
To clarify a little, the data in question is part of the parked domain, or error page “websites” which have only ads on them and no real content. The issue it seems stems from the problem that these never ending looping AdSense clicks rank better in the AdSense network than some legitimate ad placements. And as per the court order, Google must reveal the “conversion score value of the property source” — defined in the court order as “a metric Google uses to price clicks from Web sites contained in its network.”
This entire chain of events began a few years ago in 2008 when some advertisers noticed and complained that their ads were being placed in a specific AdSense category, AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors. These specifically return search results with typos in them, most often visited by accident and left as soon as you notice. The complaint argued that because of the low quality, their ads weren’t generating the revenue and sales which were due, and were unlikely to actually make back their placement cost.
Perhaps part of the reason Google is being told to turn over the data, was their counter argument that the ads served on those pages performed just as well as ads placed on proper sites. Previously Google tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but they lost that bid as well as the actual case. It’s time for the AdSense giant to please stand up and provide the answers. This should get interesting I think.
Since Mr.Page has taken hold of the reins of the Google ship, he’s made some clear moves to date. Appointing 7 executives who he can deal with directly in order to steamline any changes in their products, and to serve up a Google wide memo to prove just how serious they are about getting social.
Pages memo is quoted as: “strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products. If we’re successful, your bonus could be up to 25% bigger. If not, your bonus could be up to 25% less than target.”
So it’s time to take that 20% free initiative time and develop the next social step stone at the Google Plex. It’s interesting, and a little scary to see Page directing so much development power towards a single goal with the Google engineers, it’s going to be an interesting year in the social market I’d bet.
And as if not to play any favorites, the Department of Justice has decided that yes Google can have ITA, but we get to watch what you do with it. Oh and also, you need to share it with everyone. And development? You can’t put anymore money into it than ITA already has.
Those may come across as negative points, but on the whole they’ll help foster a more powerful travel search feature across multiple platforms. Everyone is a winner, Google gets what they want, and the travel industry gets to share on the level of innovation that is developed from becoming part of the Google machine.
If you think of the internet as the wild west, then it’s safe to make the correlation of there being good guys, bad guys and everyone else.
Using this basis of comparison, who fits into what category is a completely arbitrary decision that changes between people and organizations. The search engines for example, Bing, Google, Yahoo etc, are they the good guys because of the services they provide? Or are they the bad guys because they can provide you with a basicly clear window to the internet? What about the RIAA, FCC and those of the same ilk. Are they good or bad because they want to be able to monitor online content, filter it according to rights and punish all who may dare to break their rules.
It’s a new age of content creation, distribution and monitoring, so I find it a little strange that the policy makers are pointing fingers at the big guy, Google. Their claim as a part of the proposed Web Censoship bill, is that Google (in a nutshell) is responsible for policing the internet and what their searches turn up. A spokesman for Google, Kent Walker was plain in his answer in saying that if this bill were to pass, then private companies will have a tremendous amount of power over Google and it’s behaviour. He also pointed out that there are flaws in any system, and that the bad eggs are out there specifically working on gaming the system and that just because a website has a link to content which may not be hosted by them, they shouldn’t be punished.
Because let’s be honest, as any web designer can tell you, a site can be created in about 20 minutes and uploaded and active online in 30 total. That site will then be crawled and placed in the index as appropriately as possible. Now the people trying to game the censorship system, all they have to do is create site after site, after site. The pages will be up and indexed faster than they could ever be taken down, any one with even half of an idea as to how the web works knows this.
If the bill should pass, it will mean new stringent guidelines to be adhered to and that god forbid you post something that becomes unliked by someone in power because you may just find yourself invisible in search no matter what you do. It’s an authoritorian rule, managed by those with the most power. And Scarface said it best:
In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.
For further information and reading, you can find both sides of the argument at ArsTechnica. Both sides of the argument are discussed, those for the bill, and those against the bill.
The internet is an amazing place, it has pretty much anything you could possibly want on it. It has examples of every facet of humanity and culture, it will be somewhat a wonder what it’s going to look like in the next 15 years considering the leaps and bounds it has changed in the first 15 of becoming widely accessible.
You can find essentially anything online. Recipes, songs, programs, services, information, the list is inhibited only by your own imagination. But does that make what you find true? A court in Italy has recently decided that just in case it is, Google needs to filter and censor their auto complete data.
A little bit of background is probably in order. Basically someone searched for themselves on Google, and the autocomplete feature offered suggestions such as con man and fraud.
Defamation and slander will always exist in some form or another in the open world. Auto complete within Google searches is a relatively new feature, so when I read of the decision that was upheld in the Court of Milan I somewhat echoed Googles disappointed response.
It’s not up to the search engine service to censor the entirety of the internet, after all the pages which the terms were a part of still exist, are indexed and can be found when you look. This is where brand and image management come into play, if someone messes with your online image, it’s dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps this is just another strong example for anyone with prospective web ideas. Always go with the option to opt-in as opposed to opt-out. The web is experiencing it’s own version of growing pains, when you’re ready to make your tracks online just be sure you have the search experts on your side.