Little more than a year ago, Google introduced what was then one of the biggest updates to its search algorithm. Originally dubbed the “Webspam Update”, it rocked the SERPs, knocking a considerable amount of websites reeling, causing their rankings to drop faster than you can say “p-p-pick up a Penguin”. This was obviously serious news for us here at eSterling, as we pride ourselves in our ability to consistently achieve and maintain good results in Google for our clients using strictly white-hat techniques. However, despite our dedication to good practice in our optimisation work, we still saw the websites of a few clients suffer.
Fast forward 12 months to where we are now, and the Big G is at it again. Matt Cutts (Google’s guru on all things search) announced last Friday that “Penguin 2.0” is on the way. We know a few things about this update – the most important being that it’s coming soon, and it’s going to be big. Big enough to disrupt the SERPs again, probably on a much larger scale than last time. Whilst the guys over at Google like to portray the penguin updates as cute, wide-eyed little penguin characters, here at eSterling we like to think of them as being more similar to Danny Devito as “the Penguin” from Batman Returns:
But never fear! As always, our SEO team of caped crusaders are here to bring justice to the search engine results pages with our words of wisdom and cutting edge strategies. Here’s our rundown of the information we have gathered so far concerning the new update:
1. It’s Just Around The Corner
In typical Google fashion, we don’t have a date for the implementation of the new update, but head of all things search at Google HQ, Matt Cutts, has helpfully informed us that it will be “sometime in the next few weeks.” Thanks Matt!
“Advertorial” creation (or native advertising) is an advertising method which disguises paid adverts and links as part of a site’s content, and passes link juice (and PageRank) on to the site being advertised. Google is clamping down on this, as it is a violation of their “quality guidelines” – attempting to hide the adverts and also passing on link juice to the advertised site. As we already know, Google doesn’t take kindly to paid links of any kind, but Matt Cutts is keen to mention that there is no harm in advertorials or native advertising, provided that the advertorial carries a clear disclaimer and there is no link juice being passed on (i.e. the link has a “nofollow” attribute).
3. Spammy Search Queries
For as long as people have been using SEO techniques to maximise their rankings, there have been certain niches which have been plagued by webspam from SEO practitioners using unscrupulous tactics such as keyword stuffing, doorway sites and hidden links. Some of these niches include “payday loans” and various adult-orientated areas, such as pornography and adult dating sites. Whilst this doesn’t apply to any of our clients, it’s nice to see that the Big G is starting to clamp down on these webspammers, as the advancements that are made in this area are sure to trickle down into the more above-board SERPs, helping to combat webspam across the whole internet.
4. Link Spam
Furthering their efforts to clamp down on webspammers, the new update will see Google once again penalising sites who have built unnatural links portfolios that comprise of paid links, links from sites with the sole intent of manipulating rankings (such as doorway sites) and any other dodgy link building or traffic boosting tactics. Think of this as the real “2.0” part of Penguin – this is basically what the last Penguin update did, but on a larger scale.
5. Rolling Out A System For More Advanced Link Analysis
Penguin 2.0 will introduce a more comprehensive link analysis procedure. Matt mentions this is still in early days, but this could potentially turn the SEO industry on its head if Google makes large changes to their link analysis algorithm.
6. Looking To Improve Communication With Webmasters
This is an almost out of character (albeit very welcome) move from Google: we are told that they will be increasing their efforts to provide useful support and information to webmasters, especially concerning hacked sites. If all goes according to plan, Google will be providing us with a “one-stop shop” to diagnosing hacked sites, providing useful information to webmasters straight from Webmaster Tools.
7. Looking To Reward Authority Sites In Niche Directories
Authority sites (sites which are deemed to be the best source of information in their specific niche) have become an important part of Google’s search algorithm. The new update will introduce new systems to identify these authority sites in a more appropriate way, and make it slightly easier to become an authoritative site if your site is exhibiting the requisite characteristics by “blurring the edges” of what makes a site authoritative.
8. Looking To Minimise “Domain Clusters” In SERPs
“Domain clusters” are a phenomenon of search in which a group of results from the same domain will be “clumped” together on the search results pages. This obviously occupies a considerable chunk of SERP real estate, pushing other domains further down the page. As the domains that tend to create this kind of “cluster” tend to be the big boys of the internet (Amazon, eBay etc), Google’s action to minimize these groups of results is good news for small to medium businesses, as it gives them more of a chance of squeezing into the first few results pages.
Obviously, as we exclusively employ white hat tactics here at eSterling, the majority of our client’s sites should see no negative repercussions from these updates – in fact, you may notice a positive outcome as competitors who have used less legitimate SEO agencies get stung by the update and their rankings drop. However, the inevitable truth is that some sites will be undeservedly penalised, as has happened with previous algorithm updates, but rest assured we will be keeping a close watch on all client’s rankings over the coming months and striving to continue to provide all of our clients with our usual first-rate SEO services.
Well, that was a pretty gloomy blog post! In the interest of brightening things up a bit, here’s a little something you can try in Google image search:
1. Go to Google image search
2. Type in “Atari Breakout”
3. Hit search
4. Play the Atari classic “Breakout” with your image search results!
See if you can beat our office high score!
If you’ve ever been curious exactly how Google works, you might have found it a bit difficult to get your head around – which is completely understandable, as it’s not exactly simple being the most powerful search engine in the world!
However, the generous guys at the Big G have taken time out of their hectic schedule to let us know exactly how they do it – in simple terms, of course.
It’s no secret that our SEO team here at eSterling are gurus with Google (and search engines in general). Whilst we spend most of our time here pushing your websites to the top of Google’s rankings, every now and then, we like to have a little fun with the big G too.
Here’s a few neat little things you can do with Google that you probably didn’t know about:
The introduction of Google Authorship into Google’s ranking algorithms could seriously shake up the SERPs – We take a look at why, and how you can start to prepare!
In-bound marketing techniques have made quite a large shift in the last few years, as I’m sure regular readers are aware by now – the importance of inbound link building has subsided to make way for a content and usability-based ranking system known as TrustRank.
This shift has, however, brought with it a new breed of unscrupulous strategies – poorly generated content with no real substance, article spinning (the chopping-and-reforming of articles in order to make them appear unique – often with less than perfect grammatical results) and article directory sites full of worthless content that is read by no one, created solely for the purpose of manipulating positioning on search engine results pages.
The Authorship concept was conceived a lot longer ago than you may first think; the relevant patent was approved way back in 2007. Originally dubbed Agent Rank, the patent has now undergone two continuations (the first in 2009), but the most recent continuation is the most significant.
This is the first claim in the most recent update:
“1. A computer-implemented method comprising: evaluating a document that is hosted on a site, the document including a content item to which a maker of the content item has applied a digital signature; determining whether the digital signature is portable; if the digital signature is portable, using a reputation score associated with the maker in calculating a quality score for the document; and if the digital signature is not portable, using the reputation score associated with the maker in calculating the quality score for the document only if the digital signature is fixed to the site.”
(I know, it made my head hurt too!)
The most important bit is the mention of a “portable” digital signature. This allows the author to create content for various blogs, websites and article directories, whilst carrying through their reputation from their other online content. The name of this portable digital signature? The big G’s very own social network, Google Plus.
This allows you to associate all the content you personally produce with your own Google account. Google can then use this to determine how useful your content is, by judging how well received your previous content has been. If you continue to write good, useful articles with meaningful content, then you can expect to see your Author Rank increase, and as a result, your articles will reach higher positioning in search results. If you write rubbish articles with spammy content that are of no use to anyone, then you can probably expect the opposite to happen.
Authorship works by utilizing a new tag introduced in HTML5: the rel=author tag. This tag can be added to any <a> tag to denote that the link refers to the author of the content. Using this tag in conjunction with your Google+ URL allows you to link your content to your Google+ account, et voilà! You’ve claimed your first piece of content.
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. In order to verify your authorship of the article, you must first add the URL of your blog to the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile, in order to prevent people from claiming their content was written by any Google+ user that takes their fancy.
Being able to verify your content with your Google+ account will help your content rise above the sea of poorly written junk-content of the black-hat SEO practitioners and article spinners.
It’s important to remember that at present, authorship doesn’t offer any actual boost to your search engine rankings (although studies have found that the “rich snippets” that authorship can generate can increase your CTR by 30-150%, and there’s another hidden benefit of authorship too!); it is simply just a way of claiming credit for your work. However, Google have frequently voiced their intentions for a method of distinguishing and validating content in search results, so it is extremely likely to become a deciding factor in search engine rankings in the near future. Whilst the introduction of Authorship as a factor in deciding rankings isn’t likely to penalise sites, and it probably won’t have anywhere near the SERP-smashing effects we’ve seen from our furry friends Panda and Penguin, it’s going to carry some sort of weight, and it makes sense to begin preparing for it to come into swing now, as those that don’t are putting themselves at a disadvantage already. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
Google has been given a deadline of “a matter of weeks” by Europe’s antitrust chief to explain how it will end concerns about abusing its dominant position. The search engine giant has been criticised favouring its own products in the search engine results pages over those of rival advertisers.
The investigation was sparked by complaints from several companies; British shopping comparison site, Foundem; Microsoft-owned Ciao, the French legal search engine justice.fr, and the German maps company Hotmaps. These companies complained that their services appeared artificially low on Google’s general search results – an indication that they were being penalised for being competitors.
The European Commission commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, has warned Google that if nothing is done in response to his letter, the EC will begin a formal investigation which would lead to large fines amounting to billions of pounds. Google disagreed with the commission’s conclusions, but responded that it was happy to discuss the issues further.
With Google controlling 86% of the EU search market; it will be an interesting battle should a formal investigation take place. Rival companies will certainly be hoping that Google’s search engine monopoly will be broken during the fight and that balance will be restored to the market.
Some of the whistle-blowing companies aren’t particularly popular rivals (I hadn’t even heard of Foundem before today!), so is this just a case of sour grapes? Or could it be argued that ‘penalisation’ by Google could effectively end a brand before it’s even started? Either way, it shows that Google has a power which generates fear among its rivals – and is this really healthy for the internet?
Penguin is the latest algorithm update from Google designed to eradicate spammy websites from appearing in the search results. Essentially another step forward from 2011’s Panda, Penguin’s main targets are out-of-date content and backlinks from bad neighbourhoods.
In the past, a website could get good rankings from using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques, such as spammy content, keyword stuffing and buying poor quality links from questionable sources. This resulted in a bad experience for Google users, who often found that sites using unreasonable SEO techniques were filling up the search engine results pages with nothing but spam.
Since these early days subsequent algorithm updates such asFloridaand Panda have attempted to root out these bad practices. The changes in Penguin aim to penalise any remaining offenders that are still lurking in web space.
In my previous blog post; ‘Why does Google update its algorithm?’ I discussed how Google updates are ‘for the greater good’ when it comes to improving the quality of search engine results. Penguin isn’t anything to fear as long as you are prepared to make any necessary changes.
No update is perfect and like its predecessor Panda, Penguin has had its fair share of criticism over the last few weeks. The teething problems have included complaints from legitimate companies that had been removed from search rankings. However, these issues have already been addressed by Google and the majority of eSterling clients have had no major problems with Penguin.
So what can you do to avoid your search engine results dropping as a result of Penguin?
- Update your content. Re-write old or keyword-stuffed content on as many pages as possible. You can read some guidelines for this here.
- Get a blog. This really is the easiest method to add fresh content to your site on a regular basis and is also a great way for your visitors to find out more about you.
- Source links from reputable websites. Build your own links by submitting to online directories, or signing up for quality online advertising. Link building services from eSterling have shown no adverse reaction from Penguin as we source only quality links.
- Remove anything that could be regarded as spammy – invisible text or keywords stuffing has been a huge no-no for a while now.
These points will come as no surprise to regular readers of the eSterling blog. A successful website is about providing fresh, relevant content to the user and adhering to Google’s guidelines on links. As long as you focus your attention on this, you will survive the Penguin update and many more to come. Who knows, you may even benefit from the next update…
‘It’s not fair!’ is a familiar phrase that many people utter when Google dares to update its algorithm. Their website had been ranking well and has now suddenly disappeared after the unleashing of the Google update. But is it really so unfair?
Chances are, if a website is penalised it’s for a good reason. The latest cutely named Google update is Penguin and it has been designed to root out bad SEO practices such as spammy content and poor quality links. In punishing one set of sites that have gotten seriously out-of-date or have flouted Google guidelines, Penguin rewards another set of sites that have been providing a good experience to the user and sticking to the rules.
The only reason Google updates their algorithm is to bring benefit to the billions of people that search every day. Remember the days when searches brought you irrelevant websites that used ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques such as invisible text and keyword stuffing? This has largely gone away as search has got better – and that’s thanks to Google continuously updating its algorithms to root out bad practice. So has Penguin achieved this? In the words of Google’s Matt Cutts; “It’s been a success from our standpoint”.
The Penguin update is just another step along the road to more accurate, relevant search results. There will be many more updates along the way, so how do you avoid getting penalised? The answer is simple. Ask yourself ‘Does my site provide fresh, relevant content to the user and stick to the rules?’ If you can answer positively, I’m sure you will survive a good few updates to come…
For more details on the Penguin algorithm update, see ‘How does Google Penguin affect my website?‘
The cloud storage space is now feeling a little more cramped as the big boy of the web sidles in for a piece of the action. Announced yesterday, Google Drive aims to tempt over those enamoured of the likes of Dropbox by offering server space to store your files. Other than the fact it’s backed by the web giant the other benefits Google is touting are integration with their other services such as Gmail and Google Docs. One very interesting differentiator is the ability for 3rd parties to use an API to access Google Drive through Chrome browser apps. This allows these 3rd parties to effectively write a web based file system that ties into Google’s Chrome browser and ecosystem. Clearly Google has been learning lessons from Apple’s vertical integration methods.
By signing up you can get 5Gb for free and the paid upgrade offerings are priced very competitively in comparison to Dropbox among others.
Of course as with all things there are grumblings from the side lines the most major of which are concerns over privacy. After all, what is to stop the big G from having a quick peek at the files you are storing on their servers and add to the profiles they are cheerfully building up on you. All the better to show you more targeted ads. Others more amusingly point out that this all sounds rather like Gdrive, Google’s cloud based storage system which was, according to Steven Levy’s book ‘In the Plex’, shelved after lobbying by a certain Sundar Pichai. Strange indeed then that the very same Senior Vice President of Chrome & Apps is the one making this very announcement.
Sorry to sound bossy, but if the content hasn’t been updated on your website for a while, make sure you do it now!
The reason for my urgency is the latest update from Google. This mini amendment to the search engine’s algorithm is rooting out out-of date or spammy content. This means that if you haven’t updated the content on your website for a long time, you may see your keyword rankings drop, or even disappear altogether.
Before you panic at this news, it’s important to remember that Google (usually) makes updates that benefit the user – i.e your customers. No customer wants to read outdated content on your site, so why should Google rate your site if your copy is old?
The most successful websites add fresh content regularly, so you should therefore get into the habit of updating your content often. The easiest way to do this is to start a blog and write posts regularly. This doesn’t have to be a huge job – just a couple of paragraphs weekly would be a good place to start. You can talk about anything you like – industry opinions, company news, new orders, business trips etc – just make sure it’s relevant and well written.
As part of your content overhaul you should also re-write the text on your homepage and about page (plus any other pages that have text present). I have lost count of the number of websites I have seen that display the names of long-gone members of staff, old addresses; or information about an event that happened years ago! Make sure you amend these details as soon as they happen to keep your website fresh and relevant for your customers – and Google will be happy too.
Last month, I shared my thoughts about paying for search engine results with you. We established that the answer to the question ‘Is everyone paying for search engine rankings?’ was yes, yes and thrice YES.
So how on earth is Google currently using its great algorithmic capability to work out search engine results?
I am not going to list every factor for three reasons:
1) I want to concentrate on a big factor here, rather than fill 135 pages and bore you readers rigid!
2) I probably would run out of breath (and brain power!!) to list them all.
3) I don’t every single factor of the algorithm and it’s weighting – nobody does, not even the team at Google!
One thing is for sure, I don’t always agree with the way that the Google algorithm works when it comes to one particular element – links. Google’s official guidelines mention that links should not be bought, or sourced from spammy sites.
However, in practice the opposite often applies…
- The website with the greatest number of links is ranked highest – IMO this is WRONG
- The links do not have to be from a relevant site – IMO this is EVEN MORE WRONG!
This shows that links can be bought easily and utilized to help rankings, despite Google saying that they should not be bought. So does Google have any real way of finding out? – I DON’T THINK SO