When you’re busy at your computer, or even just taking some downtime and cruising around on Facebook connecting with your friends and family, have you ever wondered how the one of the two largest online properties continue to operate? They offer their services for free access, and you don’t even need to sign up to use it, at least in Googles case. If you’ve found that when you think about it, you really don’t know where their money comes from, you’re not alone.
In a survey conducted in August of last year it turns out that just over a third of internet users out there believe that search engines sell their data to marketers. Another third thought that maybe other companies pay annual dues to use those websites and even 20% of respondents thought that the sites offered premium features. While Google is somewhat transparent about how they make their dough, adwords and ad placements via adsense, Facebook is still working on fleshing out a clear revenue model. They have ads that are on every sidebar and profile page on the site, but with metrics showing that interaction on those ads being rather low, and with costs still high, it hadn’t fleshed out as reliable as of yet. At least in Googles court they’re not selling your information to marketers, still haven’t seen a clear answer from the Facebook side of the web however.
It’s been a number of years now, I think most who work full time on the web have stopped counting, but Google is the dominant force in the search world. Globally rocking somewhere around an 80% share with desktop users and where mobile is concerned, there really isn’t anyone else in the game. It’s no wonder that with the way the last year has gone with Panda/Penguin updates that some businesses have found themselves floundering, as it looks like they put all of their eggs into one, big, Google basket. Most analytic software can tell you where your traffic came from, whether it be Google, Bing, Facebook, or even from a referral link of sorts from a community driven site like Reddit. Using that information you can build a chart of sorts to get an idea of where your traffic is coming from. It’s likely you’ll find that a high percentage of your traffic, 65% and up does indeed come from Google, but if it starts getting higher than that you need to take a look at your website, and about diversifying your online position. In an ideal world, you’ll be getting almost an equal share of traffic from different sites, with Google making up the largest portion of the pie, say 50% or so, and the rest from other online sources. Because just like those who found themselves at the mercy of Panda and Penguin, if you’re relying too heavily on Google traffic, you’ll be in the dumps if you break any rules.
So not such big of a news announcement as it’s all over the social and even some news channels, but in case you missed it the prophecy was wrong. The interpretations of the Mayan long calender proved false, as most people with sense knew it would, and the world did not end.
But while the physical world didn’t end overnight, Google was busy pushing out yet another update to the Panda algorithm, just in time for Christmas. This is the 23rd update since Panda first came into the search scene on February 24, 2011. The latest update affected nearly double the amount of queries, but if you consider that accounts for only 1.3% of results it’s a rather small sampling. There was also the non-update from last week, where the web acted like there was an update running, but Google said there was no such event. Perhaps it was a precursor to what we’ve seen over the last day or so with the new algorithm shift.
With all of the algorithm updates it can leave some of those who are uninitiated in search caught floundering without knowing that they’ve done anything really wrong. It happens fairly often that we have a very small business contact us for search engine optimization of their site, when all they really can afford, is to take the time to use the AdWords platform effectively. Adwords is the paid version of search results, often referred to as pay per click or search engine marketing, as you’re directly paying for position on the search page. The other large difference between PPC and SEO is the way the ads are displayed, AdWords results are listed as ‘Sponsored Listings’ and have a place on the far right of the page. The major limiting factor that directly contributes to your success in the SEM market, is your operating budget. There is no such thing as an unlimited budget, as every time a viewer clicks on one of your ads it will cost your business money.
There are some very simple rules you can thankfully assign to your ads though, which can help save you some much needed budget. You can schedule specific time frames where your ads are used in the bid system for example. If you sell sleeping pills for example, you could have your ads run only from 6pm until 6am daily, trying to appeal to your target demographic. It’s a very rough idea, but clearly shows the intent. One of the other very powerful tools you can use to shape your traffic and your views, is to use the negative search feature to block your ads from displaying on searches which don’t fit your business. A basic example would have to be if your business sells house slippers, you don’t need your ads to be showing for people who need or want outdoor foot wear. Two very simple, basic tools that already exist within the platform that allow small businesses to handle their advertising for themselves. With a little diligence, and careful crafting you can ensure your visibility with the biggest companies out there.
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.