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 a main point that needs to be kept in mind when working with your website and search engine optimization. Your top priority needs to be your consumer, whether you are looking for sales, sign ups, etc. When you sit down to have a look at your website, your content, your print ads, you need to always know, you are not creating content for yourself. You’re creating this content to be digested by people you wish to attract.
Between the trillions of webpages, the thousands of television commercials, or the billions of pages of print advertising available, it may seem like a lost cause to try and be noticed. But no matter how daunting the obstacles might seem to be, there are ways to tackle the mountain of being found, and turn it into a simple bump in the road. A general rule of thumb to always have in mind when working on your brand, website or advertising – keep it simple. The more complex your imaging is, the more convoluted you make your content, all equate to putting up road blocks for your consumer. Often times, complexity is found in simplicity, keep your images crisp, clear and to the point of your brand, Coke and Pepsi are great examples of this. If you see a billboard painted completely red with a simple white wavy line drawn on it, you almost immediately think ‘Coca Cola’.
The same can be said of your written content you deliver, whether on your website or in print advertising if you still use newspaper adverts. Being cryptic, or non-descript in your text is more likely to hurt your advertising efforts rather than reward them. Think of your target demographic, the consumer which you wish to attract and even those who might see your advertising and be curious enough to search for you. Stay away from using strict industry only terms if you’re trying to improve awareness of your product. Having a clear, and concise call to action on your website is one the larger issues to over come when working with new clients. It is too easy to become caught up in trying to sell your company or products, and never get to the point of actually saying ‘Buy now!’.
Google recently wrote a blog about re-imagining some of the more influential advertising campaigns in the past 50+ years. One of the advertisers made the most relevant point, that covers every advertising avenue you could explore. “No matter what media you’re in, think about the content. Content is what matters.” – Amil Gargano
Often times, you’ll read blogs, reviews, forum posts and editorials about the search engines. Almost in every instance that there is a complaint, the perpetrator is none other than the big guy on campus, Google. The company is no stranger to scrutiny being that it is the search engine with the largest index, and what they feel they can’t develop in house, they search for, and obtain the technology to meeet their ends.
They’ve purchased Youtube, Motorolla, and a slew of other companies in order to meet their goals. But the top skill set that the company is known for of course, is search. The company has been around for nearly 20 years now and what started off as a simple exercise to build an index, has grown into a multi-billion dollar empire. With the real juice behind the company being their famous search algorithm, techs, SEO professionals, even black hat practitioners have tried to work out just what it is that makes it tick. In the end, Google isn’t talking, and we can all just speculate on how close, or far, we are from ‘solving’ it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if even the techs who work on the algorithm itself, don’t entirely know how it all works. Google is famous for saying that the actual search mechanism is comprised of hundreds of different ranking factors. Ranging from content, quality of content, quality of the site, off site factors etc. There’s no telling just what it is exactly that’s a part of that machination, but there is however a small secret, shared amongst the search industry elite. It’s a simple phrase, and it’s a technique that none truly share; those who know, know. It’s short, simple, cryptic, and while only a handful, born with the search industry on the web truly know the loops and kinks in the algorithm, they’re not talking either. If you should happen to find yourself in the company of one such individual, pay very close attention, as you may, and will, still miss it. I know I have.
Branding, it’s what makes your business and it’s purposes widely known, usually by mention of name and reputation only. It’s like when someone mentions the name Pepsi, or Coca Cola, you know immediately what is being talked about and can picture the products.
There’s a bit of a razing argument going around lately about how if you’re a “real brand” that you shouldn’t, or won’t have to worry about the search engines. The argument is basically online shoppers don’t search for brands nearly as often as they Google generic categories and phrases. Which is somewhat true, and the article goes on to argue that ‘everybody’ automatically knows that Amazon sells online books and knows that eBay is the number one online auction site. The problem with this argument, is that the average online user doesn’t strictly use a search engine to search for a single term. Most of the time users are searching for an article or they’ve seen a product or service which they want to research.
Even when a user is searching for a specific brand name or service, it’s typically typed directly into a search engine to quickly find their desired destination. It’s a fallacy to think that the only time a person uses a search engine is when they have no idea what they’re looking for. Small business, large business, branded and not branded all need to recognize that search engine optimization is more and more becoming a required marketing tool. To believe that your company, name and brand will be easily found online only because of your brand, is a misinformed position, typically trumpeted by old media advertisers. Do not get trapped in the idea that your name, your brand and your company are too big to fail in search, because more often than not it’s the little guys who rank better than the brands because they embrace the high return on investment where search is concerned.
As a daily user of the web, Google, Bing, Yahoo and a vast majority of their tools and services, I’m having trouble with the issues that are being brought up with regards to the new policy. When Google first introduced the idea, one of the first terms which needs to be satisfied in order to glean your personalized information was: sign into your Google account. If you don’t sign into your account, anything you search for via the search enging, any videos you view, will just be dumped into that already existing cache of trends and web usage. If you happen to be signed into your account, using Gmail, Docs or some other tool, then your search will possibly (likely) be used as an advertising tool at some point down the road.
I would have to admit, the confusion for me exists where users are calling it an infringement of privacy of what they are doing on the internet. But as someone so eloquently put it in a discussion I’d had about the new policy: Unless you’ve been living in the hills, hunting for your food and clothes and being completely cut off from *everything* in this techno world, you have a web history, it’s been recorded, and it is used to deliver advertising to you.
So unless you’ve been living under a rock, 2012 is set to be an immense year in the mobile search industry. There was some talk at the recent Mobile World Congress event to shed some light on mobile usage, both in European countries, the US and Japan.
And out of a survey of 1,000 respondants the answers are still, quite surprising. First off there’s the point that using a smartphone to search has made nearly 100% penetration in the market, and most of those search at least once a week. And according to StatCounter Google browser based mobile search accounts for 97% of that share. If that isn’t enough of a spur to work on your mobile site, how about when you consider the social side of the mobile web. Particularly in the US, it was found that over 90% of smartphone owners sought local information in their searches, and that smart device owners were heavy social networking users. Taking that 90% of local searches, 25% of them made a purchase based upon their findings and more than half of them contacted the business they found.
That’s only the US numbers, and already it’s easy to see that the numbers are quickly climbing. Some of the other discoveries made can be found here, but some of the highlights contained within I’ve pasted below.
Half of mobile shoppers make a purchase on their device, and 20% of those (US) make a purchase daily.
More than a third of consumers admit to carrying a smartphone in order to compare prices while they shop.
More than 1 billion people (globally) will use mobile devices as their primary internet access point.
There’s only some of the data reflected by the study, are you and your website ready for the mobile web?
Have you noticed any shifts over the last couple of days in your search results? As a site owner or an SEO for a client, have you noticed any changes as of late? You wouldn’t be alone in taking note, and you would be correct. It has recently been confirmed that Panda had been unleashed on the web again, making it even more accurate and more sensitive to changes online.
Some site owners are noting huge gains in their organic results, perhaps because they’ve attended to any issues that cropped up when Panda first passed over their site and erroneously booted them. On the other hand, some sites were hit harder than they have been previously by the update, and continue to flounder in the search pool. It may be a good, or a bad point, but Google also came out and said that the entire update hasn’t finished yet, it probably will only do so tomorrow. As well, there are still some high numbers being reported on forums, about being dumped in the results by Panda, but if you’ve been on your game and following the good practices guide you should be sitting just fine.
For all of the updates that are done to the various search engines, for all of the tweaks they do to their algorithms there remains a very simple truth. Stick to the basics and it’ll work. It may take longer than trying to work out every single step of the algo, but so long as you concern yourself with sticking to the best practices guides provided by the search engines, your site will list. And will continue to list, so long as you haven’t done anything naughty that is, to get yourself kicked out of the SERPs.
So I guess it stands to reason, that Google would jump at the new privacy bill being pushed through the White House. Regarding the new online privacy legislation, Google decided to get behind “Do Not Track,” technology that lets users opt out of tracking by websites and online advertisers. So what exactly did Google just agree to do? It will add support for Do Not Track to its Chrome browser. The way the technology works is fairly basic, it sends a Chrome header signal to the website to tell the website and it’s advertisers to not track that visitor. In browsers that already support Do Not Track, a user only has to set a single option. In Firefox, that’s done through the Options (on Windows) or Preferences (Mac) pane by checking a box marked, “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked.”
When Google was taken under the leadership of Larry Page, he quickly and decisively pointed the sights of the Google machine on the social target. And in the last few months there have been a few, hiccups, with Googles changes in policy.