New Years Resolution

Keeping Rankings Intact in 2012

While most are breathing a sigh of relief that rankings will remain unscathed by Google updates over this holiday season, the calm before the storm only reminds us that Panda will inevitably return. The good news is, this hiatus gives webmasters the opportunity to gear up for the new year and with some preparation, rankings will remain intact even after any future Panda updates.

2011 Recap

January – Google publicly penalizes Overstock.com & JC Penney for shady SEO tactics, no doubt inspiring the Panda update we experienced in February.

February – The first of many in the Panda series came with a vengeance, affecting around 12% of U.S queries. The infamous Panda/ Farmer update nabbed sites with low quality content, duplicate content, & excessive ads.

April – Panda 2.0 rolled out the update globally to all English language Google users. In addition, 2.0 incorporated user feedback signals, like the ability to block sites,  which would help Google deliver more meaningful queries.

May – Panda 2.1 originally caused a panic for webmasters, thinking that ‘Panda 3.0’ was going to be another devastating update, but 2.1 was relatively minor in comparison. Google kept pretty quiet about the updates they made, but some minor changes were noticed.
July – Another minor update was acknowledged; whether it was a new update entirely or just another change within the Panda series was unclear.

August – Panda 2.4 was rolled out internationally to all non-English queries with the exception of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese languages.

August – Expanded sitelinks were improved for a better user experience by reducing link duplication and helping Google determine which section of sites were most popular. Originally a 12 pack, Google reduced sitelinks down to 6, which still remains today.

September – Panda 2.5 again left webmasters in the dark on what changes took place, but many speculated that excessive ads may have been a defining factor.

October – Panda ‘fluxes’ were a series of minor updates in October and into November, affecting less than 2% of searches. As tweeted by Matt Cutts, “Weather report: expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks, but will have less impact than previous updates (~2%).”

October – Encrypted Search causes an outcry in the SEO industry as Google adds secure search for users, causing some organic data to turn up as ‘not provided’ in Analytics and tracking software.

November – Freshness update resolved to bring newer content to users in search queries. Although Google said the update affected 35% of search queries, it only noticeably affected 6-10%.

November – Matt Cutts revealed 10 minor algorithm updates on the Google blog that took place around November, including the Freshness update. 

December – Another 10 updates were reported on the Google blog in December. Google claims these ‘search quality highlights’ are becoming a monthly series that will be published every month.

There’s a lot to reflect upon over the last year, with many sites taking a dip in rankings as a result of the Panda updates. It’s important to not let history repeat itself and also to keep an eye open for new trends in the upcoming year.

What to look out for in 2012

Duplicate Content: Trying to eliminate duplicate content has been worked into the algorithms for a while now and continues to be a factor that can slash rankings. Kick off the new year with fresh original content and give the boot to any duplicate content.

Thin/ Sparse Content: Search engines will continue to deliver the most informative pages to searchers. Websites that have quality content will provide more information to the search engines and users, and will likely be rewarded in rankings. No need to write a novel, but content on each page gives webmasters the opportunity to show what each page is about and can help boost rankings in the SERPs.

Excessive Ads: We’ve seen Google crack down on web pages with excessive ads above the fold in previous Panda updates this year. Search Engines prefer clean websites with few advertisements, if any, in order to create a better user experience.

Up and Coming Trends

Social Media: Social Media has been a hot topic for a few years. While this year did not show significant impacts in rankings for Social Media, next year most likely will. We saw some impact on rankings from likes, tweets and +1s, but expect it to become more prominent in 2012. If you haven’t jumped on board with Social Media already, 2012 is a great time to start.

If you have any questions about past or upcoming trends, or how to help your website increase its standing in the new year, contact your SEO Agency.

The New Face Of Twitter

Twitter has just announced the redesign of their popular Social Media site; they will be rolling out the changes over the next few weeks. Now featuring four new tabs, Twitter has outdone themselves in creating a streamlined and user-friendly way to stay connected.

Home Tab

Like the default page on the previous version, the home tab is a constant feed for tweets by the people you are following. The difference is, now images, videos and conversations are embedded within the feed so you have a comprehensive view of the current stories that matter most to you.Connect Tab

The connect tab lets you see how other users are interacting with you. View who is following you, mentioning you, retweeting or favoriting your posts, all in one place.

Discover Tab

Discover is a customized tab showing all news and trends according to your interests. The discover tab will automatically pull up news related to your location and who you follow. You can also customize your own news feeds by searching a #hashtag to see related posts and tweets about that subject.

Me Tab

The me tab is a way to introduce yourself, with a new streamlined look that incorporates a bio, photo, interests and a feed of your tweets. This tab also shows direct messages, so you can stay on top of direct conversation.

Tweet Tab

Now it’s easier than ever to share your thoughts with the world. Send tweets instantly from any location on Twitter. Now with more advanced features, you are able to do things like tag your location or upload media like images and videos directly from your computer or phone. A new auto-complete feature will pull up a list of people you follow when you want to @mention someone.

While the new redesign will be rolling out to all users over the next few weeks, you can get a sneak preview on mobile apps for iPhone and Android.
Download for iPhone
Download for Android

If you have any questions about the new version of Twitter or how to leverage Social Media to benefit your website, contact your SEO Agency.

Submitted by Erica Machin, Titan Growth

40 Google Updates For February

Google released this month’s search quality highlights, revealing 40 algorithm changes in February, with a handful rolling out today and tomorrow. Among those, are tweaks to the spam, SafeSearch, link evaluation and Panda updates.

While most of the changes are fairly minor, we have highlighted the ones we think are most important.

Panda – Much like the 3.2 update, this update is simply a refresh of the data used in the algorithm and isn’t expected to create any major fluctuations in traffic. (Unless you have an ad-heavy site or a site with duplicate content)

Link Evaluation – Google has decided to ‘turn off’ a method of evaluating links that they have used for years to help determine what the linked page is about. However, their vague response doesn’t give much insight into their new method for evaluating links.

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

Freshness – Google has applied new signals to help retrieve the most current and relevant results even more quickly.

Local Search – Local search has been playing a bigger role in search results over the last few years and this month’s tweak determines that local results will now be triggered more so through the main search ranking factors.

This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

In addition to these changes, fresher images, update to the Google bar, improvements to travel-related searches and improved snippets for videos were some of the other changes seen for February. A complete list of all changes this month can be found here.

If you have any questions about updates and how they can affect your rankings or want to know how to keep your rankings intact in 2012, contact your SEO agency.

Submitted by Erica Machin, Titan Growth