Google’s Move To Increase Relevancy

Google has made yet another update to its ever-changing algorithm, and this time it is a change that will affect a whopping 11.8 percent of its search results.

Last week, Google announced its latest algorithm change will decrease the rankings for sites with a reputation for having low-quality or second-hand content. These sites are often called “content farms” or “scraper” sites, and although Google has declined to specifically name the type of site the new algorithm will be punished, they have been clear that they want the change to affect sites known for copying the majority of their content from other websites.

One concern for many sites such as eHow, which carries both shallow and deep content, is that they will be penalized for the low-quality content but not necessarily rewarded for the high-quality information. Another unfortunate result of this update is that some clearly non-spam sites were also penalized. For example, e-commerce sites that included manufacturer-provided product descriptions for their merchandise were penalized if another site used those same descriptions.

However, a good measure of the effectiveness of the new algorithm is the external confirmation that 84% of the sites affected were among the top 50 sites most commonly flagged by users as “spam”. These are the sites that typically look for the top search trends and generate a small amount of poor quality content on the cheap, and it shows. Luckily for the searcher, most of these sites are the ones you hope will disappear.

For the business owner or content writer, the concern to produce relevant, original, and quality creative is apparent. If your site generates revenue via AdSense or other online advertisements, you need to maintain rankings is all the more essential.

As your SEO agency can attest, good, original, and relevant content has long been vital to promoting your website’s rankings on Google and Bing. With this new algorithmic change, however, the quality and depth of your content become even more important. Your website’s searchable information should be clear, unique, and easy for search engine spiders to read, and if possible, should also be updated often. Long story short, without decent content, it will become harder and harder for many sites to attain, and retain top search rankings.

Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations

Big Google Algorithm Update – Rankings Drop For 3% Of Websites

Matt Cutts’ announcement at the SXSW panel in March gave us fair warning to the impending Google algorithm update that would inevitably penalize ‘over-optimized’ sites. The roll-out of yesterday’s webspam algorithm confirmed what SEO’s or any avid Google follower, for that matter, already knew was coming. While the algorithm is set to affect 3% of search results and will indeed impact many sites alike, this is a change that most industry leaders will embrace.

Old Resolutions, New Methods

Ever since there has been spam, there have been those working to fight it. Surely, this is nothing new; the only difference is that both spam and the tactics to combat it have become smarter. Google has rolled out many algorithms for this cause, with the incentive to enhance user experience and reward the websites which help them achieve it. For too long, those who have followed ‘white-hat’ methods have watched sites that manipulate the search engines rise to the top. With yesterday’s algorithm, we are glad to see websites with malicious or spammy intent get nailed, and see rewards for the websites that practice ethical strategies.

Caught in the Crossfire?

As unsurprising as this Google algorithm update was for many, there are still those who are scratching their head wondering where their rankings went. And it’s unfortunate, because many may be suffering as a result of a shoddy SEO scheme or because they had hired a company that was dipping into some ‘black hat’ methods to boost rankings. This particular update was geared towards fighting webspam, where pages intentionally try to gain higher rankings on the search engines through manipulative tactics like: duplicate content, keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, doorway pages and sneaky redirects. Learn more about Google’s definition of webspam here.

If You’re Down, You Can Only Go Up. But if You’re Up, Keep it Up!

If your website has lost rankings from this Google algorithm update, it’s time to make some changes. Aim for unique content that users would find useful. Don’t dabble in link buying and stay away from excessive advertising on your web pages. Also, avoid stuffing keywords into content, title tags or meta descriptions. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from anything that would aggravate, confuse or hinder a user’s ability to use your website. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, and have been un-phased by this update or have seen increases, good for you! -Your website is being rewarded for helping Google make search a better experience.

As for SEO…

With the initial announcement of the algorithm roll-out, Matt Cutts’ had this to say about SEO:

Google has said before that search engine optimization, or SEO, can be positive and constructive—and we’re not the only ones. Effective search engine optimization can make a site more crawlable and make individual pages more accessible and easier to find. Search engine optimization includes things as simple as keyword research to ensure that the right words are on the page, not just industry jargon that normal people will never type.

“White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines. Good search engine optimization can also mean good marketing: thinking about creative ways to make a site more compelling, which can help with search engines as well as social media. The net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to or visiting a site.

Although there will always be new agencies and new methods that attempt to manipulate the search engines for better rankings, it is a relief to know that the agencies who are doing the right thing are not in this fight alone. So to webmasters and SEO’s who are out there doing it right, keep fighting the good fight!

If you have any questions about this latest Google algorithm update or want help making your website more fit for the search engines, contact your SEO Agency.

Submitted by Erica Machin, Titan Growth

Yahoo! Search Direct.Where Have We Seen You Before?

You may soon begin to notice Yahoo!’s latest update, Yahoo! Search Direct, which, as of today, is still in beta. This new feature is very similar to Google Instant, with a few significant differences. The first thing to keep in mind is Yahoo! Search Direct is most functional for navigational searches (getting you toward the right information), or for answers on simple search queries (ie: “weather in San Francisco”). Upfront note: this feature is not on par with Google Instant’s ability to provide you with a full page of search results based on your initial query’s letters.

The first and most interesting and/or annoying change you’ll notice, depending on your point of view, happens before you type anything into the search bar. If you simply click on the search bar, Yahoo! will show you a list of the Top 10 hottest search trends. Some may find this distracting; Yahoo! is hoping searchers will find it addicting and come back for more.

Another interesting feature occurs when you type in just one letter. In the majority of cases, you will be shown a list of Yahoo!-specific sites on the lower left and corresponding links to the highlighted site on the right-hand side. For example, type the letter “K”, and you’ll be shown “Yahoo! Kids”. Type in the letter “R” and you’ll be shown “Yahoo! Real Estate”. You get the idea. This feature can be very helpful in getting you to a known website if you forgot the entire title. However, for most critics, this is simple self-promotion on Yahoo!’s part.

What happens when you type in a full keyword? When I typed the word “roses”, Yahoo! showed me the top 10 full query strings related to roses on the lower left (the list ranged from “Guns N Roses” to “Roses Bloom Twice”), and the top 3 ranked listings pertaining to the highlighted term on the right-hand side. This is very similar to Google Instant, albeit with a much smaller list of ranked websites. The downside happens when you type in a long-tail search term, such as “roses for spring”. In this case, you will still see the top 10 list of most frequent related queries on the lower left, but on the right side, Yahoo! has no suggested sites.

So again, if you want a simple navigational search, Yahoo! Search Direct lives up to its name. However, for a better built-out search experience, stick to or your search engine of choice. We expect to see some changes forthcoming for Yahoo! Search Direct after initial beta tests are complete, but for ongoing information about how the Search Direct might impact your Yahoo! rankings, talk to your SEO agent today.

Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations