GOOGLE ALGORITHM CHANGES TO KNOW
Search engine, digital
advertising, and now
emerging social media
powerhouse Google has
always played its cards
close to the chest in relation
to the factors that influence
search result positioning.
In the past few months, however, the
company has made very public efforts
to educate and inform the Web community
about the hundreds of algorithm
changes and tweaks it makes on
a yearly basis.
November and December saw the
first of these public notices, and while
there is a great deal of room left for interpretation
for search engine optimization
professionals, few would
disagree that many of the insights
shared are actually quite actionable.
Let’s take a peek into Google’s black box and analyze what
these changes mean for digital marketers.
■ Google indicated that it is now more likely to pick text
from the actual page content, and less likely to use text that
is part of a header or menu, for use in the snippets that appear
on search results. While Google has long disregarded
most page meta data (meta keywords, titles and description),
this change indicates to many that spending more
time optimizing page content and sitewide experience will
yield better results on the search results pages.
■ Perhaps most significant, particularly for those responsible
for link building, Google indicated that it has begun
deprecating the value of anchor text within inbound links
in the influence of search result page titles. This means that
all of the work SEO professionals have put into varying the
anchor text used in their link-building campaigns may ultimately
be for naught. Instead of concentrating on the variations
of relevant keyword anchor text, perhaps it is best to
provide more in the way of strong calls to action.
■ As applications for mobile, the desktop and even the
browser continue to become popular, Google has made
strides in helping developers provide an additional layer of
information. By extending coverage to include applicationrich
snippets, consumers searching for different applications
will begin encountering information about the apps
such as reviews, ratings, offers (where it can be found), cost,
date published, OS required and more, including file size,
format and even the features provided.
■ In another very important change, Google indicated
that it has added “new signals” to indicate which page is
“original” and which is not. While Google obviously won’t
reveal what those individual signals are, over time consumers
can expect less duplicate content in the search results. Many search engine optimization professionals believe
that the change may be as a result of the introduction of
authorship markup (specifically the rel-author tag — read
http://wsm.co/j7JfsD) which was introduced in June 2011.
■ A modification (and additional processing) on the top
set of results ensures that Google won’t show too many results
from one site (called “host crowding”). Expect a more
fair and balanced search results page.
■ Results for related queries have also apparently been a
focus as well. A refinement has been made that will ensure
that sites/pages which only “partially” match the original
query are seen less often. Why Google was in some instances
returning only partial matches to a user query is up
for debate, but expect a more relevant group of listings as a
result. This may also have something to do with the notification
that Google has made a change to make more longtail
content available in its index.
■ Recency is another issue that seems top-of-mind at
Google. In addition to indicating that it has improved its
handling of date-based search results (specifically when a
user has chosen a date range), Google also noted that its
blog search index is now more comprehensive and will feature
fresher results in the natural search results. The takeaway?
If you are not publishing new content regularly, you
most certainly should be.
Remember that hundreds of changes are made each year
to Google’s algorithms and those mentioned above are really
just the start — but they are likely the most important.
The search engine has also deprecated the value of citations
(references from multiple documents on the Web) in image
search; made modifications to better determine image freshness,
offering up more autocomplete predictions; released
a new algorithm for automatically detecting placeholder
sites (focusing on parked domains), and made several layout
changes to improve usability on tablet devices.
Keep in mind that it is still pretty dark in Google’s black
box. Translated, that means that much of this may just be
speculation. Monitoring the changes and modifications you
roll out for your own SEO campaign will provide a more
accurate view of the changing search landscape as it relates
to your website property.
About the Author: Peter Prestipino is the Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine. A long-time
Internet marketer with over twelve years of experience, Prestipino is the
author of Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success.