The numbers for the past month in search came out, and while seeing Google on the top for the majority share, what was somewhat disheartening was the continuing slide of the Yahoo position.
There’s been no real shift in the overall numbers, Google is still sitting at just over 2/3 of the search share, and Bing is following up with just 15% share. Yahoo slipped even further than the previous months, to just around 12%, giving the combined search engine just shy of 30% of the market. Yahoo was one of the primary search engines and one of the first to roll out a paid search marketing platform so to see them slip further out of the limelight of relevancy. Change however, is inevitable and is always a good thing for all parties involved.
The search share numbers aren’t terribly surprising in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps it was the additons of Panda and Penguin to the equation, but the number crunchers are at it again. On the webmaster forums there is discussion going on what the current algorithm may contain and how it might use analytics to help rank the sites in the index.
Some interesting theories are coming out of the discussion, mainly because no one outside of Google really knows the process for ranking the sites within the index. Google has mentioned previously that they don’t use any search data from their Chrome browser, and the running theory so far is the idea that the search giant is using click data from ISPs. In the end it’s only the team at Google who really knows how the engine ranks it’s results.
There’s been a small surge of malware reports coming from the searches via Bing and Google, which really isn’t news in and of itself as they’re always buried within the results somewhere. But what is different, is that more than 90% of image results were found to be malware related on some terms.
The most targeted term this time around happens to be “Emma Watson”, whom McAfee has named their most dangerous celebrity search of 2012. Of the two engines, 30% of Googles searches had malware warnings attached and more than double that came out of Bings results. Malware take overs happen in a couple of different ways, one of the most frequent are websites built with little to no security written in, and then there are throw away websites and urls used purely for the spread of malware on the web.
Black hat SEOs typically go after the hottest search terms and poke around the web looking for websites which have loop holes in it’s security. They actively work to hijack the website and it’s url, to help lend false authority to what ever term they’re wanting to spam. And because uneducated or hasty users tend to automatically trust the top results in the search engines, the spread of malware will continue.
Because of the recent discoveries that image results are getting slammed with malicious results, where the text results pages are beginning to be left behind, Bing has been unofficially dubbed (currently) the most poisonous search engine. The only reason that the moniker has been attached to the search service is due to the recent report about malicious websites being targeted at image searches now as opposed to the text results pages. Not to fret however, as Bing and Google will take steps to close those holes which have been opened in the image results, and in the meantime just be a little more cautious before clicking that top image of your favorite star.
There’s merit to the web search team and the tidbits of news they put out everyday. Sometimes they talk about the changes to the algorithm, and about how to expect a shift in the search rankings or placements.
It’s not uncommon for sweeping changes to be made to the web which leaves old code irrelevant, if every little bit was always left as part of the formula, then the search algorithms wouldn’t be the few hundred factors they are now, it would be in the thousands. The search industry would be substantially slower moving, both in use and as a business. Building a website would be an absolute nightmare if you still had to worry about table construction for a half dozen different browsers, and if the flash menu you’ve built with fancy fly away modules would even start up in others. Thankfully, none of that is an issue, as old coding techniques get replaced with much more up to date methods.
One of the basics of web development, that we’ve always made sure to mention to web developers and clients, is to make sure they utilize the metas keywords and description tag. For a number of years, the search engine optimization industry has said that the tags no longer bear any relevance or importance, and that the engines themselves will more often than not choose which they like to use anyways. Putting time and effort into even writing the few lines of code it takes to put them in, is a few lines too many. Fair enough, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do offer an example of what can happen when you let the engines decide what to publish as your websites description in search.
SEARCH. <div> <div > </div> <div> <div templateType=”C1″> <ul role=”listbox” class=””> <li role=”menuitem”> headline </li>
Just a couple of points to note, this is from a multi-million dollar company, with strong rankings in search and in traditional media, and this is the description that was pulled to use in the results page. This mix up won’t hurt their positioning online, or offline, but it proves that skipping the basics isn’t always a good idea. Skipping adding a description tag on the premise that it’s an out dated step, would be the end for a new site online with that type of description pulled.
An odd job that every site owner should make sure to take the time to do for themselves, is to always be on the lookout for new, or soon to be opportunities. The way these opportunities can manifest themselves for your business vary, you could see increased foot traffic at physical stores, or if you have a strictly online position that your conversion rate on your site has improved.
Be aware of any of the changes in your city and target demographics. Whether your aim is to make sales, or to have people sign up for a news letter, your first hurdle to get over is the one of visibility. If you can’t be found for the newest gizmo in your niche, then you may as well not even sell them. Google and Bing both have a handy tool which you can use to get a feel for how your niche tracks. Bings Keyword Tool allows you to discover search trends over the last few months, and allows you to see how trends which initially move slowly, can suddenly fly up the rankings.
The tool that Google has available is their Trends Tool and it’s a different version of the Bing one. Trends has recently been merged with one of their other tools, Insights for Search, and has become a research gem. You can conduct research on as small an area as a few weeks, or as far back as 2004, you can get readings from a much larger base and it paints a larger picture for you to make decisions on.
Historical tools and data are amazing in helping you make clearer decisions where your market is possibly heading, especially now that we’re heading into the Christmas shopping season. As an example, in 2010 in the US alone there was $30 billion spent in online shopping, and in 2011 that number rose to $35 billion. You don’t need a large sample picture to guess, that number is only going to increase again. This is where Freshtraffic comes in, research your niche, decide on your target and come to us as soon as possible. We’ll help you reach the commanding position you need to take a bite of the (possibly) $40 billion+ online shopping pie.
There’s another minor change coming shortly with Google Adwords campaigns, it’s not exactly something new, but it’s a change that will affect those who are less diligent in the campaigns.
Google has always been a stickler for content, no matter how you feel about the company or the way it conducts it’s search business, that’s always been the case. With the trillions of web pages out there, sometimes the job of finding the most relevant results per search can be difficult, but they do their best. The advantage they have with the Adwords platform however, is they’re able to monitor if you’re actually following the rules they laid down. One of the bigger rules that the search engine has finally decided to become tough on, is just where your ads point too. From the Adwords blog:
Our existing policy has required each sitelink in a campaign to link to a different landing page. That means a user would have a meaningfully different experience on the landing page from each sitelink.
The reason that the company is going to start laying the smack down? They’ve done some checking and noticed that multiple ads are all heading back to the same page, a no-no in their guidelines.
What is going to happen moving forward is basic, initially the Adwords team will focus primarily on the new ads and campaigns that are created, ensuring that the landing pages are unique. If your link matches an existing page, your campaign will only list one of the two, the other will be restricted from showing up. The idea of the enforcement is obvious, they want to give everyone the chance to appear on the results, the best way to do that is to make sure everyone is following the rules they’ve set out. Now don’t fret, and exclaim that you need to tear down all of your campaigns and rebuild them from scratch. The folks over on the Adwords team realize that this isn’t a small effort to take care of your sitelinks so enforcement for existing links will be a few months out. This will affect all new sitelinks going forward at first.
It seems as though the walk into the past isn’t quite over yet, as it seems that just like the keywords tag making a comeback, so is another old search term, the Google dance. The folks over at Search Engine Land have been commenting, and there’s already been a handful of stories about the old two step.
If you’re new to the search world, or perhaps you are a site owner who monitors your overall performance in the results, there are some points we’ll go over about how the dance used to function. Summarized over on Marketing Land:
The Google Dance took its name from how the results at Google seemed to “dance” around when it unleashed a new search algorithm — Google’s recipe for ranking web pages — on the world. A search for a particular topic suddenly brought up a set of first page listings different than from the previous day. The listings might continue to change for a series of days until stabilizing around a new set.
So that crazy shifting of positions that had site owners shaking in their boots a few years back wasn’t just imagination kicking it, it was really happening. But this was also back when Google pushed site rankings every month manually as opposed to the auto updating that happens now.
It makes it seem like the efforts that we as search marketers put into building your site and it’s positioning aren’t worth it, but the truth is the dance actually proves the methods of search engine optimization. Just like sifting flour when baking to get the best possible cake mix, the dance leaves you better results all around. The only real question we have at the moment where online branding is concerned, is which dance are we going to be subjected to, the Panda version, or the Penguin version.
There’s always some sort of change in the way that search is handled, whether it’s Bing changing the way they handle images, Google with changing their total displayed results from 10 to 7 and continually testing different methods. Even tablets and mobile devices have their own unique way of handling searches and results, and Apple is no exception.
What Apple is doing however, is completely unique in the search world, mobile or otherwise. Bing displays ten results on a page and Google users sometimes see only seven results on a page, and Apple has decided to go with a single search result per page. It’s a strange move for any search provider to use only a single result per search, and puts a hurt on the mobile display market for the iOS 6 system. It’s just another new feature I’m guessing of the iOS 6 upgrade, to go along with their own version of the maps feature. Probably a good thing that Google is already posting their own map app on their store, maybe there will be an alternative for their search display soon.
And with the end of the week we’ve almost entirely completed moving the site to a new look and platform, hopefully you haven’t noticed the hiccups too much. We’ve made the move to an updated look and feel in order to bring the looks of the blog and the website together, and overall change is a good thing. Or as can be sometimes overheard when Sergei Brin is talking about the Google Glass project:
You either continue to evolve or you go extinct
There’s been a couple of Google updates in the last week, which has had a visible change on the results pages. One of the updates was fairly simply, it was a Panda update which according to the available information impacted less than 1% of searches. And the other update was in how the results page returns your search results.
The Panda update was another in a long string of updates designed to improve the overall search quality, and with the change affecting such a small sample if you’re following the rules then you shouldn’t perceive any issue. If you’re the numbers type of person, you can compare the less than 1% affected from this last update, to the 12% affected when Panda made it’s initial break out onto the web. One of the points to bear in mind as well with this news coming straight from Google, there may be some surprises in store under the hood of this latest update.
Maybe the extra they put into the Panda update has something to do with the tweet from Matt Cutts earlier this week?
Just fyi, we rolled out a small algo change this week that improves the diversity of search results in terms of different domains returned.
Diversity in the search results is a great growing point, as it gives more opportunity for optimization to show it’s mettle. It’s possible, to have an entire first page of results completely dominated by a single website, if your optimization is that strong and your competitors are that weak. While the change was added only this week, reports are that it hasn’t yet been noticed in the bulk of the results.
And it’s a bit of a throwback to the beginnings of the web, but according to a recent posting, the keywords tag has returned. According to Google News Product Manager Rudy Galfi:
The goal is simple: empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.
Similar in spirit to the plain keywords metatag, the news_keywords metatag lets publishers specify a collection of terms that apply to a news article. These words don’t need to appear anywhere within the headline or body text.
A small difference in the way the news_keywords tag works, is you’re limited to 10 terms, likely to stop users from cramming as many terms as they like. It’s a new way to use an old tag, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the use plays out.
It’s been long clear that a search engine is a search engine, and there are a handful online that receive the majority of the traffic out there. Google, Bing and Yahoo are the usual methods which are used to search, with other sites like Blekko, Duckduckgo, and Ask also being used by those desiring a different experience. Facebook however, is one of the largest websites online, and with what is approaching a billion users, the world has been waiting to see if Facebook is going to try and enter the search arena.
Ever since Facebook has gone public, the stock has been a sort of tepid pool, with no real revenue model the online mutterings often go to the topic of a search engine. And when Mark Zuckerberg throws around statements akin to “Facebook is doing a billion searches per day without trying” the mutterings pick up some volume. In a recent Techcrunch interview, Zuck made it clear that the company realizes that there is a huge opportunity for a search engine with Facebook, but tempers that by also talking about how the way that users search is ever evolving.
“Search engines are evolving” to “giving you a set of answers,” Zuckerberg said. ”Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of questions people have. At some point we’ll do it,” he went on. “We have a team working on search.”
There are some real concerns about just how Facebook could leverage their massive user base as a search engine however, and it has less to do with spidering capabilities than it does privacy. The system as he briefly described and envisioned, would mean taking the opinions of your friends, family and contacts and trying to form a result for your query. Searching for terms like ‘best burger’ or ‘new batman movie reviews’ wouldn’t necessarily be informational, but would deliver you a list of opinions from your contact list. At any rate, it’s not happening today or tomorrow, or even soon for that matter. But (if) when it does, it will be introducing change into the search landscape and the online experience as a whole, and change is very, very good.
A search engine seems like a rather simple tool on the surface. Whether it’s Bing, Yahoo or Google as your flavour, when you arrive on their page you’re greeted with an empty text box and a search button. It’s not difficult to work out that with a few keystrokes you can be off and searching for what ever you fancy. But for as simple as it seems, it can be used as a much more powerful piece of equipment, if you take the time to learn what you can do to leverage it’s power in your favour.
Google has been stepping in this year with offering a class on how to use their search engine to discover what you’re looking for. It’s a free, online course whose goal is really just to improve the user experience, both for you and for them. From one of their Google blogs: “The community-based course features six 50-minute classes along with interactive activities and the opportunity to hear from search experts and Googlers about how search works.”
One of the Google representatives likened it to always driving a vehicle in first gear, it will definitely get you where you’re going, but there’s always a faster, better way to do it. The Google search engine offers a whole host of methods to construct a query, whether you want to do basic calculations, learn a time zone or zip code. Even if you’re having trouble describing what it is you’re searching for, you can even drag the image directly into the search bar and conduct your search that way. Add into the couple of tips here all of the conditional arguments you can use ( “” + or – etc) and the possibilities begin to multiply. I guess the question is, how’s your Google-fu?
Yesterday afternoon, for around 4-5 hours GoDaddy suffered an issue with their DNS servers. Some reports have it tied to a hacking attempt which resulted in complete shutdown of (projected) hundreds of thousands of websites. Only GoDaddy really knows how large the affected number is, but where you did lose traffic yesterday, you can rest easy on your rankings and position; at least with Google. John Mueller had this to say about the outage: “In this case (the service outage), assuming it was just the DNS that wouldn’t resolve, we would treat it similar to how we treat other temporary crawling issues, and just retry at some later point.”