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Posts Tagged ‘SEO and Google’

2012: March of the Penguins (& Pandas)

Business owners keeping track of their website rankings in Google this year no doubt noticed some changes. For one, the Penguin update in April targeted websites considered spammy. Subsequent updates to Penguin and Panda targeted duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and links from untrusted or non-valuable sources.

While it’s become easy to blame the search engine for drops in rankings and traffic, it’s a good time for site owners to evaluate their on-page content and the off-page work they’ve done. Since the hits just keep on coming, here are a few tips on how to keep your site in tip-top shape against the march of algorithm updates.

Duplicate Content

Sites with duplicate content took a big hit this year. Even if you’ve combed your site making sure no two sentences are the same, there is still a chance that you’re being hit for duplicate content. One of our clients is meticulous about content and posts a few times a week. This much original content usually helps a website, but their site was heading the other direction in the rankings. After going through the clients Webmaster Tools, we found that the issue was in the blog. While the content was original to their site, some of the paragraphs were being taken from other areas of the web, which confuses search engines as to which content is the real source.  The solution was adding rel canonicals to the pages of the blog to alert the search engines to the source of the content. Since we were dealing with a WordPress site, there is a handy plugin called “Canonical Urls”, free to download, that we installed to fix the issue. Duplicate content is a target for these recent updates, so start with Webmaster Tools and see if your site is at risk for a hit, and take care of it before you get nailed.

Link Sources

A big part of traditional link building over the last few years has been finding the balance between strategic keywords and  the official business name in anchor text in links across the web. These updates have made this balance even more delicate. In fact, an excess of links with keyword anchor texts can actually harm the site now. Sites that have taken a hit are sites that have a ton of links pointed to their homepage exclusively, with link anchor texts containing the keywords they were trying to rank for. So if this was your strategy before, hopefully you’ve already adjusted it. It’s a better practice to have anchor texts read the business name, and as a rule, have links pointing to other pages of the site. Your website will benefit from stronger inner pages.

Of course, the Google algorithm is constantly changing. The SERP looks completely different today from how it looked a year ago. You can learn about each of these changes here. Evolving Interactive does our best to stay ahead of each change by following best SEO practices, which makes these changes less jarring when they happen. If your site needs an SEO makeover, contact an analyst today at 312-454-4550. And stay tuned for more news from the Evolving Interactive blog.

Google Plus – How it Effects Your Search World

Last week, Google announced that its new Social Network platform, Google Plus, will now effect search results.  The buzz spread like wildfire across the SEO industry. How much of a game changer will this be? Will search engine optimization still matter if search results are now personalized instead of taking the most relevant and trustworthy sites and ranking them accordingly?

It’s no secret that Google’s main goal for the past year has been integrating their new budding social network with their search results. Anyone logged into their Google account with a Google Plus profile will see a different set of results than a searcher not logged in. Google Plus users will have the option of personal or worldwide results. There is an icon at the top right of the SERP that shows a silhouette of a person or a globe, and the Plus user can toggle between the two sets of results.

Clicking on the person icon, the top results for a search will be based on recommendations, or Plus 1’s, that you and the people in your circles have made, or info that others have shared with you. Results with reviews and pluses will have higher ranking then those without. By switching over to the globe, you will see the natural results without these social signals affecting them as directly.

Google has used social signals as a part of their algorithm for years, with personalized results getting a boost.  Twitter follows, Facebook likes and shares, and Yelp reviews have factored in to results; companies have used this buzz to crawl up the rankings. Facebook and Twitter have criticized this change, citing that Google will give preferential treatment to its own social signals, a claim Google has denied.

Other features to Google Plus, like the fact that users must opt-out of the personal search and not opt-in, have led to concerns among users and SEO’s. However, it is easy enough to switch the results back to the global, impersonalized results. There is even a way to permanently remove the personalized results in the search settings. Concerns about privacy are also prevalent, as anyone with access to private information can share it publicly. It is ultimately up to the user who they share info with, but the receiver can post it at their whim, so know your circles. As with anything on the internet, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you wouldn’t want your content on the web, don’t upload it to begin with.

As Google Plus fixes the issues and bugs that are inevitable as it gains in popularity, it will be important to make the most of its features. As the social signals for sites that have “Plus 1’s” will affect their rankings, it will be essential to have your customers, friends, and followers take the time to “Plus 1” your website. While there are already business profiles in Google Plus, expect them to take an even bigger role in the coming year. Add your business and website to the Google Plus universe, and interact with as many people as you can. While you will undoubtedly hear a fair amount of back and forth criticism as this new platform gains traction, the fact is this is a product of Google, the search engine that typically dwarfs all competition. Even if it is never as popular as Facebook or Twitter, it will have an impact on your rankings, so you’ll want to get on board.

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Why Can't We Be Friends? – A White Hat's Thoughts on Google Places

I guess it’s a good thing for the industry that the letters S-E-O are seeing an influx in news articles, especially in heavy hitters like the New York Times. In the last few months, I can remember reading several articles about the dark side of our otherwise under-the-radar industry. There was the article about the terribly negative reviews benefiting a sunglasses salesman / customer service pariah. Then there are the articles about link schemes that put the big businesses at the top of every search result, until they got caught.

I guess it’s a better thing that Google also reads these articles, because that seems to be the only time white hat SEO’s see results they’ve been clamoring for.  The most recent article was again posted by The Times, and brought to light Google’s shortcomings in their local search section, a section Google has been actually been placing more value on in recent months. In an effort to keep listings as up to date as possible, Google allows searchers to request that a business’ status be updated to “reported to be closed”. After a couple of clicks on this link, the listing will begin to show that the listing is in fact “reported to be closed”. With more clicks, and a supposed review, that listing can be updated to “permanently closed”. One of Google’s responses here is that it also places a “Not True?” clickable text next to these closed reports, in case the listing is actually open. However, honest local businesses trying to re-open their never closed business have had varying, if any, success.

Not long ago, I read how one of the good guys – Mike Blumenthal – was leading the “fight” against this problematic system. He went right to Google’s places page and reported it to be closed, inviting followers to do the same as part of his experiment. In no time, Google’s listing was reportedly closed. It’s nice to know they don’t play favorites.

For how long Google remained closed is not the main issue. The problem is that a stand-up SEO has to resort to these creative and relatively drastic measures to get noticed and bring attention to a problem that local businesses feel is pretty serious.  Google recommends businesses claim and fill out their local profiles to enhance their ranking in local search. This makes it extra disheartening to know that local businesses have little to no support from Google itself when their listing is victim to a competitor or an upset customer.

Businesses will benefit from Google’s effort to localize search, especially as more, and soon all, people turn to their smartphones for nearby results. But this benefit will be equally damning if an open business shows up closed, removing honest competition and preventing potential customers from making their own choices. Google often responds with numbers about how long it would take to respond to every claim or complaint filed, and the man power it would take. This is true. We do ask a lot of Google. But Google has dominated the game, and will continue to do so, so small businesses are at their mercy.

The underlying problem is the relationship Google has established with SEO’s. For every shady black-hat firm or tactic, there are ten more honest white hat SEO’s just trying to do right by their clients and the search engines. SEOs are the best way for Google to learn about bugs and shortcomings, but are kept at arm’s length with no direct answers or support. Instead of SEOs and SEs working together to make the S better. for everyone, it’s still Google’s world. I just prefer we not have to read about it in The Times.

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