There is a saying that goes something like “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck”. It seems however, that contrary to the aforementioned saying, that even though everything pointed to an algorithm shift late last week, there wasn’t one. All of the signs were there, and the search results pages reacted in such a way that it seemed clear there was one.
Some of the signs that you can look for on the surface are fairly obvious, but some of the shifts need a long term history to double check information against. One of the first things you see as a user, when your results page comes up and you find you don’t recognize any of the returned values, that would be your first clue that there is activity within the algorithm. These shifts don’t often drastically affect the long term results, but an example of a large shift would be when Panda, Penguin, and the EMD (Exact Match Domain) were implemented.
Getting a little more in depth with examining the results page, a fairly common result of the algorithm making any kind of a shift is having a page built of mainly internal pages. To explain, instead of seeing a results page with addresses of www.abc.ca, you see internal pages, www.abc.ca/our-story.html. It is a change that is less noticeable than having a page of results that you don’t recognize, but it is this change that those who work in the realm of search optimization will look for first.
A much more in depth analysis can take place with the SERPs if you have the historical data for a website you manage. This information is one of the larger metrics that we will use as SEOs to determine if there has been a sudden change. Using the historical data we’ve compiled monitoring your website while helping you improve your online rankings will enable us to give a clearer answer to any questions you may have if you’ve suddenly found you’re no longer on the front page.
There is a new player in the mobile search world, one hoping to possibly take on the incredible domination of Google on the mobile front. Facebook has retooled one of their previous features to function as a local search technology, with a catch or two. The function which has been updated, “Previously Nearby” showed you where your friends had checked-in. With the recent update to the feather, it now shows where your friends have checked-in but more importantly, it will also show you local businesses, it has become a local search tool.
You can use the feature to search or browse the listings based on ratings, friend check-ins, as well as the amount of Likes and recommendations. The first filter your search has to pass through is your friend network, but if your friends haven’t visited any of the local businesses the the larger Facebook network will act as the first line of ordering. The idea behind the change is to likely have more people use the check-in feature, as you won’t be able to rate a business if you do not. The basic service idea would be to show you where your friends have been, and how positive, or negative, their experience was.
As a business owner, there are a few hurdles you need to overcome in order to grow, or maintain your position. First and foremost, you would need a Facebook Page to even be inducted into their search service, no Page, no listing. Some of the social media branding advice from Facebook includes:
- Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
- Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
- Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place
At present the feature isn’t prominently on display on mobile devices, it is buried in one of the menus effectively rendering it invisible, but that is only the temporary setting. Facebook doesn’t have the massive database of customer reviews that Yelp has, or even that Google has in their database, but with the sheer amount of mobile users that Facebook has on a monthly bases (600 million active) it won’t take long for it to grow. The only one other catch that exists within the new Nearby app, is the use is currently only on the mobile platform. It is a sensible move, as users have to have a mobile connected device to use the check-in feature as it is, but it will likely make it’s desktop debut should everything go well on the mobile front. We may be seeing the first stages of Facebook making a play into the search world with this iteration of local reviews and results pages.
Not that it should be any great surprise, but when comScore released the the search data they’ve compiled for the November 2012 search volumes, Google was at the top of the pack. The search giant is still sitting neatly and strongly at the head of the marketplace with more than two thirds of the monthly search volume, with Bing and Yahoo (powered by Bing) search taking up just over a quarter of the search market.
It should be a rather pointed argument against the hype Bing enjoys conjuring up in the news, both search and technological, that even with their Bing it on challenge and the fuss that they made about the Google shopping services, public usage of Google actually went up from Octobers numbers. It doesn’t sound like much, it was 0.1% increase, but when you’re talking about billions of searches, even that small of a number means a massive amount of search data.
Last month there was somwhere in the neighborhood of 17 billion searches performed, and that was just in the U.S., so where did you and your website come up? If you find that you’re not able to easily answer that question without talking to your website administrators, there are a few basic steps you can look into. You won’t end up with a definite numbered position where you ranked in search, but it will give you an idea as to the kind of chances you’ve given your brand online to rank.
When you approved your site design, did you make sure to stay away from an all graphic, or highly graphic website with little to no textual content on your home page? Your home page is your primary bait which you use to display yourself online. Is your information relevant to your business, and are you an authority in your space? It’s incredibly important to make sure you have your content well written, and at the same time try and stay away from industry specific terms as you can cut yourself off from potential leads. Occasionally it’s a good idea to just read your website through, clicking on all of your navigation points to see if everything is in order and makes sense. Sometimes, you might give your own content a once over and realize that some information you’ve included is no longer applicable to your niche and instead of helping your visibility online, it’s hampering your position. Lastly, talk to your online branding associate and try and keep an open line of communication. Nothing can slow down your online growth like leaving emails and phone calls unanswered.
Online branding and marketing techniques will always be changing and evolving to match the ebb and flow of the web and those who use it. This year especially saw a wide range of changes with the search industry and how Google in particular indexes the web. Major changes such as Panda, Penguin and the EMD (exact match domain) update put some webmasters in the unsavory position of having lost rankings and traffic. Depending on how badly they were affected, some still haven’t recovered lost traffic and potential income.
It hasn’t been all bad though, it’s been a good year in the sense that the word has spread of the differences in the quality of service that some companies can provide you. It’s a fairly safe bet for example, if a search marketing company has pitched working on your companies site, while extoling the dangers and pitfalls of Panda and Penguin, that they’ve been caught and penalized by the system. Call it once bitten twice shy, but it’s safe to say thhat they’ve been shown they’re not doing things quite right, and have have been slapped with a penalty as a result. With the growth of awareness where the quality of your site and how it’s constructed overall, a fair amount of the fly by night experts have disappeared from the playing field, and as an added bonus, there has been an all around increase in online marketing budgets for the coming year. So as we have written in the past, the wheat has been separated from the chaff and as an added bonus – budgets have increased!
Hopefully the changes in the search industry haven’t scared you off from building or promoting your website, the key element we’ve always focused on helping our clients with is by focusing on the content. While a great deal of pretenders have lost position and relevance in the industry with Panada and Penguin, working the quality content angle as we always have proved to be a strong element to remaining at the top of the results page. Going forward into 2013 we’ll continue to deliver strong positioning for our clients, and help them dominate the SERPs for their desired terms. With the loss of some of the local ‘experts’ it’s only made our job easier in the coming year.
Using the web to find the information and services isn’t a difficult task, most of the time it can be a mundane process to tell the truth. You visit your preferred search provider, type in your terms and go from there. So why such the big deal about who stole what idea from whom, and the fuss over having social results in our search results when they’re entirely different pieces of information?
Because after all, that’s all the web is, a cluster of information which you cherry pick what you want from it. Google has their knowledge graph, which is like looking at a Coles notes version of what you’ve searched for, and Bing has recently adopted the idea and called it Snapshots. It provides the same brief information delivery niche, and likely doesn’t get noticed a good 70% of the time. It’s not because Googles version is just that much better, they’re virtually identical in how they display and offer data, and it likely gets passed over just as much as the Bing variation. It’s just another method to getting the information out there when you search.
How about the social side of the web, there’s Facebook, the dinosaur of Myspace and Google+. Facebook is the monster on the web, with more than a billion accounts passed this year, if they can just figure out what to do with all of the noise that the site generates, perhaps it can come out with some useable information at some point. Because Facebook doesn’t really have a way to generate money, it has it’s few ads that it runs and preferred postings, but that’s been done before and as much as people on the web like change, the ad spaces on Facebook don’t get used anywhere near the same level as the spaces on Yahoo, Bing and Google.
Bing and Google both have their own ideas for meshing the social side of the web into the informative side, but neither has found that magic formula that delivers what the users of today are looking for. On average when someone completes a search, they’re already 50% of the way qualified, either as a buyer or a subscriber – they were prompted by something outside the web in the first place. Facebook doesn’t have the search fomula nailed down to provide any kind of search results page, and the search engines haven’t worked out how to weave the social side of the web into the informational. Yet.
We’ve seen the web grow in leaps and bounds over the last year, the search algorithms have taken the results pages through dips, dives, ducks and doges, and 2013 will likely continue more of the same. The year is likely going to start out fast and who knows, maybe the world will finally see the ideal implementation of a social and search mix on a results page.
I am writing this article in response to the recently posted “Google Quality Rater Guidelines 2012″ document, seemingly leaked, speculatively injected into the market. Before I dissect the specimen, let me start with a general Google overview first. For all practical, technical, scientific, and artistic purposes, Google is not a search engine, at least not for me. Google Search is an advertising engine – period. It is so simply because all the top results it brings are information served to you from rich people, people who have enough SEO money to be on top, or at least enough money to advertise at the top of search terms. In this search mechanism, neither you nor I have any choice for seeing anything other than what other people have decided for us to see based on their financial power. This is not a definition of a search engine in my book, nor should it be in anyone’s. Read the full Story here
When you’re working in the online marketplace, there needs to be some understanding as to how the web likes to work it’s mojo. If you’ve owned a business, you’ve probably heard a hundred different pitches about ranking your site at #1 for multiple terms, and all in about a week for the low, low price of only $250. Hopefully for your sake, you didn’t take that offer, because if you did you’re likely going to have a tough battle with the search engines fairly soon.
The thing with working online is it’s a skilled profession, much like being a designer is, or being a mechanic. Anyone can draw a stick man or change a flat tire, but busting out your tool box and rebuilding your engine from the engine mounts up is likely out the question for the majority of us out there. As for the level of expertise that is required to properly optimize your website and it’s contents, that would depend on what you’re looking to rank for, and what you would love to be found for. As unlikely as it may sound, the terms you would like to rank for do play a pivotal role in the time that is required to get you listed properly in the search results.
As internet marketing professionals, we’ve consistently ranked our clients for the terms that they’ve wanted. Sometimes it takes months to rank for the larger, national terms, and there are times when we get lucky and the interest is only in the local marketplace. But it always takes some amount of time, a couple of weeks here, a few months there. We don’t control the search engines, we can however, make you and your website highly relevant for your needs. When we provide you with a time frame for success, it’s not a solid time frame, but it is a very educated and practiced guess. Where search is concerned there is no quick and easy fix, we have tried and true methods which, when allowed the time we advised to work, will lead you in the direction you desired when joining us. The process will work, the steps we put in place, will work, sometimes the hardest ingredient in the mix is a little patience and a dash of temperance.
An interesting point to notice about a search engine, is just how many results are returned when performing a search. Google and Bing have indexed trillions of pages if you mixed them together, an always increasing amount. Some written articles have called it a problem, but Google and Bing rarely display any results passed the 1000 range, even if it says that it found 25,000,000 results for your query.
It isn’t so much a problem that they don’t display a value larger than 1000 results, the question should really be ‘Do they need to?’ The search engines like to pride themselves on delivering the most relevant results, based on what you’ve searched for, your past history and so on. If you’re a fan of having a no strings attached type search, using a search engine like DuckDuckGo may be more up your alley, but the first point still remains. What point does it serve if a search engine tells you it finds millions of results, and doesn’t show you them.
Let’s take the following quick search from Google, for ice cream. We’re in Winnipeg, so we were returned the results for the Wikipedia entry, and then we got into the local restaurants and dessert places that purvey ice cream. But when you look at how many results are returned, 463,000,000.. is that entirely relevant? I don’t need that many results about ice cream, it’s not that wide of a variable product, but Google has said they have that many results. This is where some written pieces have said that there is a problem, even though it says that it has 463,000,000 results, I can’t browse passed the first 1,000 results even though there’s been so many returned. It’s more a personal preference, but some very basic math (default search results pages show 10 results) says, why would I be looking on page 46 million to see what has been indexed about ice cream?
Where online marketing and your brand are concerned, you shouldn’t worry about what is showing in terms of how many pages have been returned that have been indexed. There are some sites and pages from the early 90s that can still be found, which are horrid where aesthetics and usability are concerned if you’d really like to find them. The vast majority of search users don’t go to page 2, let alone page 3 or 4, chances are if their result hasn’t been found on their first search they’re going to revise their terms and try again. Focus on your content, focus on being relevant, and focus on the basics. Don’t worry about the other 463 million results.
Typically when you want to learn the answer to a question, or you want to find the name of that actor in the show you saw, you turn to the internet. Most of the time you have an idea on what site you need to visit to learn your answers, but when you’re not entirely sure where to start you always go back to the beginning of the web. While it’s not really the beginning of the web, search engines do a great job of being a front page, which you can use to access the information you’re looking for.
The web, the way that we interact with it, websites, and search engines have all changed a great deal since this whole thing began. At first the web was just some random websites, that in order to access you needed the IP to get to them. Primarily text based and only informational, it was no where near what we have today. Search engines, Google especially so, have caught the attention of the world. Privacy issues, defamation cases, anti-trust lawsuits, all of them pointed at the largest web index out there, mostly because they’re number one. There is absolute truth about the way Google shares your account information with any devices you use while signed in, it’s how the service learns to deliver you results which you might be interested in. Anti-trust suits are growing mostly for the same reasons that they did against Microsoft a while back with their Internet Explorer browser and how EU users felt they weren’t given a choice with the Windows OS (largely paraphrased). And defamation suits may pick up steam with the recent ruling in Australia, that Google can be viewed as a publisher of the search results page, making them liable for the links they post. In all of these cases the thinking is fairly basic, if you can make the biggest fish in the sea change the way it operates, everyone else will likely follow suit.
A point it seems that lawyers and judges seem to forget however, is that the web is a much bigger place than it was even a few years ago. With somewhere in excess of 2 billion connected users, websites, search engines, and every online resource has had to rapidly change to serve their visitors needs. Search engines like Google and Bing, developed an instant answer service which immediately displays results based on what you’re searching for, based on the most searched terms currently. Instant results vary a fair amount every couple of weeks and often more frequently, but the key point that seems to be ignored: the terms used in autocomplete are the most popular terms that have been searched so far. Your autocomplete searches will vary greatly depending on your search history, the top search trends and the your local search activity. Unfortunately for Google and any other search engine that uses a results page of any kind, the mantra of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ is still largely unheeded in current court cases.
There was a birthday today, were you aware that this technology has reached the ripe old age of 20? It was born from a need to communicate snippets of conversation in a quick, simple fashion, so Vodafone birthed the first text message in the UK. It was a huge step in the way the world communicates, and it was good 10 years before anything like it happened in Canada.
It’s not the sending of the first text message that was the point of todays blog, it’s the point of fact that it took 10 years for that same technology to reach our side of the pond. Since Jerry took up roots here 5 years ago, he’s been trying to teach the business community on moving forward, about embracing the technology and methodologies that he’d been using in the UK. And Winnipeg has been resistant, it’s been a difficult uphill battle that’s only been starting to allow us some traction. It is a poor showing on our part, Winnipegs part, to allow our past business dealings to dictate our future online.
Winnipeg needs to move ahead, in a much quicker fashion if it expects to keep up in todays business world. We have a handful of the local business owners who have seen the light and are enjoying the fruits of our labor in the online world, which translate to very real, very tangible results on their bottom line. The real question that has been asked of those who don’t want to grow online, is what are you waiting for? The web and online tech isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up and as a city we’re already behind by at least 5-6 years. We’re ready to help you here at Fresh, the question is are you ready to grow?