Google Summer Updates

google penguin

Search Quality Highlights
There’s been so much Google news lately, that it’s hard to pick a starting point. First off, Google released search quality highlights for June and July. Out of the 86 updates, here are some changes that caught our attention:

– “ng2. [project codename “Other Ranking Components”] Better ordering of top results using a new and improved ranking function for combining several key ranking features.” Could it be any more vague?
– “Lime. [project codename “Freshness”] This change improves the interaction between various search components to improve search results for searches looking for fresh content.” Highlighting the importance of consistent updates!
– “Challenger. [project codename “Snippets”] This is another change that will help get rid of generic boilerplate text in Web results’ titles, particularly for sitelinks.” Just another example of how Google hates spammy sitewide links and boilerplate anything.

Next Penguin Update
In a keynote at SES San Francisco, gave SEOs everywhere quite a scare when he mentioned that the next Penguin update will be big. Online, Matt went on to later clarify that he meant that Penguin updates will take longer (as opposed to the almost monthly Panda updates) because it will incorporate “additional” signals. As we mentioned the vagueness of these additional signals, the overall goal is to create a more noticeable impact that will improve user experience.

7 vs 10 Results
Have you noticed less results in your searches? Google has been testing 7 results per page, as opposed to 10. On these certain searches, you’ll probably see more sitelinks for branded terms. Less results on a page means more clicking and more opportunity for paid ads… interesting. On the other hand, some proponents believe that Google is sending them higher quality results for their queries so that they’ll have to do less digging around for what they want. Any thoughts on either argument?

Panda 3.9.1 Refresh
The latest Panda refresh was unleashed this past Sunday. Again, Google has been criticized for releasing these updates on the weekends as webmasters have a hard time analyzing data that usually naturally trends downwards because of cyclical search behavior. This update supposedly only affected less than 1 percent of queries and it will take a few days before all the dust settles so that webmasters can properly analyze their rankings.

For now, that’s it for Google but don’t expect things to slow down after summer! What are you worried about and what would you like to see addressed?

What’s the Worst SEO Advice You’ve Heard?

It’s not unusual to come across questionable advice when combing for SEO news. Having different theories, ideas or conspiracies is fine… but some things are just plain ridiculous. Here are a few bad ones that I’ve seen lately and if these are part of your online organic strategy, it should be time to reconsider:

1) Don’t worry about search engine updates – In other words, keep doing what you’re doing and everything will be just fine. Right… Google Panda updates have consistently been rolled out within weeks of each other. In what world does it make sense to ignore these important updates? (Keep in mind that this isn’t a change in the algorithm, just a refresh). The idea is there but there’s no way you can completely ignore these updates and expect stable rankings.

2) All you need to worry about is creating great content – Preaching creation of great content is great but there’s more to online marketing than just that. Links are an essential part of helping readers find your content. This involves on page SEO, external linking and social factors. In the wake of all these Google updates, there are many proponents who believe that “less is more” and that can be a good thing. But it’s important not to leave out the basic aspects of optimization.

3) If your competitors are outranking your business, copy their methods – From copying link sources, website design to anchor text, I’ve heard it all! Copying a competitor is not a great idea as you might not understand everything that they’re doing to achieve those high rankings. You might think that it’s one thing but there is a lot of behind the scenes work that could make all your hard work ineffective… or even worse, it could tank your site! Lastly, how are you ever going to differentiate and have a clear brand voice if you’re getting all your ideas from someone else? It’s fine to get inspiration but in the end, you have to make it your own and make sure that it fits in with your long-term goals.

4) More content/links will help me rank better – I recently came across a case studies page of an internet marketing firm. Their “success” stories went a little something like this: Before: 78 web pages / After: 395 web pages. Before: 254 backlinks / After: 3764 backlinks. Since when did quantity become more important that quality? If you come across a company like this, it’s ok to question it. Let’s say you have 10 pages on a niche area and are still not ranking well – it’s time to ask WHY and not ask for MORE content. If you can’t rank for desirable phrases with that much content, something is seriously wrong.

Let us know of any bad or questionable advice you’ve heard recently.

Google’s April Search Quality Highlights: What Stands Out For You?

What a month it’s been! Google has released 52 search quality updates over the past month and it’s felt like non-stop changes in search results.

While you can check out the entire list here, these are a few that stood out:

Smoother ranking changes for fresh results. This update is meant to help users easily find fresh, breaking news stories. For example, if you search “Google Panda Updates” you can expect stories about the latest update (Panda 3.6) to be at the top of the search results. This is slight factor plays a minor role in ranking changes and you can expect more to come as the algorithm is tweaked to be more sensitive to fresh stories.

Keyword stuffing classifier improvement. Google has designed a keyword stuffing detector so that they can better seek out sites that are participating in this outdated and ineffective practice. As we can assume, this was one of many signifiers used in the Penguin update, which solely targeted “webspam”.

Less snippet duplication in expanded sitelinks. It’s a well known fact that Google is averse to duplicate content and content that is used over again site wide. With this update, Google is working on reducing duplicate snippets of expanded sitelinks. This means that you’re less likely to see the same content summary of related topics that you’re searching for. In another related update, Google also worked on displaying the beginning of the content on each page for snippet results to give users a better idea of what they’re about to click on.

More authoritative results. This is a vague mention of an important update. Google has updated a signal that they use to find more authoritative content. Perhaps this is related to the PageRank update, although it technically occurred in May.

What do you think of last month’s search updates and do you think they’re helping you prepare for changes in the upcoming months?

Takeaways From Google’s Penguin Update

penguinYet another “surprise” for SEOs?

Google’s Penguin Update officially launched on April 24 and the overall consensus is that it’s the worst update yet.  The official word from Google is that this update is an “important algorithm change targeted at webspam” that is meant to “reward high-quality sites”. Then why exactly are so many people so upset?

As you can see from the influx of comments in related forum threads and news articles, webmasters are NOT happy with this update. The story is similar – sites with #1 rankings for months (or even years), have all of a sudden taken a drastic drop or have even disappeared. The infuriating thing is that many people are finding that spam sites, sites that haven’t been updated for years or even plain un-optimized sites are now out ranking their site. How exactly is this “rewarding” high quality content?

SEOs aside, looking at the user experience is not a pretty picture either. Imagine that you’re looking for affordable or cheap auto insurance, only to find spam at the top results. When Penguin first rolled out, some users pointed out how people would have to scroll past a couple pages before getting to a reputable, brand name auto insurance company. They argue that this update isn’t aimed completely at spam (since it is still prevalent in SERPs) but any site that is remotely optimized. Whether this is true or not, is a different story. Even one that we may not fully understand since Google hasn’t officially made a response to these reactions.

This is only day 3 after the update rollout, so we can hopefully see the changes settle down and smooth out. Whether it’s all just a coincidence or theory, Google is finding themselves in controversial waters, so get ready to read more about Google’s evil ways. Many people are commenting about Google’s motives and after reading about all the businesses that have been affected, it isn’t hard to see things from a different light. Perhaps, Google is trying to prepare their algorithm to take into account more social factors (especially Google Plus profiles.) This may make sense if you’re up to speed with the Facebook search engine news. Others feel that Google is putting less revelency into their organic search so that businesses will turn to paid ads. After all, this is where Google makes over 90% of their overall revenue…

On the less pessimistic side, the Google engineers are probably (and hopefully) taking all this feedback into consideration as they tweak the update or make note for the next update. We can’t expect algorithm changes to roll out so seamlessly and it’s important to remember that there will be some winners and losers with each new wave. It’s too early to tell how things will end up as results may take awhile to settle down, but definitely expect something to happen soon!