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Is Search Going in the Right Direction?
Monday, March 28, 2011
I have been thinking a lot about a comment I read recently suggesting that the Google Panda algorithm update was created as a result of Google's Caffeine update from late 2009 and early 2010. For those of you who may not be familiar with Google Caffeine, it was an infrastructure update from Google that according to Google "... provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it's the largest collection of web content we've offered. Whether it's a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before." The fact is perhaps Caffeine was a little too efficient.

Could it be true that Google could not keep up with all of this new content that they were indexing? With all of the syndication and scraping of content out there, Google's index grew immensely. So much so that in case you've been using a different search engine, Google's search results began to suffer. If you think about it, the timing seems right. Google soft launched Caffeine in August 2009, the full roll-out was complete in June 2010.  This "soft launch" allowed Google to obtain feedback and test out their new index.  Many suggest that it was launched in part to allow Google to provide quicker more real-time search results.  It makes senses as in early 2010 saw Google release their real-time search which consisted of a lot of tweets and Facebook updates.  Fast forward a few months and we began seeing some questionable search results in Google.  This, no doubt a direct result of Google's now even more massive index of pages.  With all of this additional "content" out there, how could any search engine return a list of the ten "best" results?  How could Google continue to effectively list the most relevant results for a given search query?  How could Google determine the originator of a page of content?  How could Google deal with over-optimized web pages?   As the premier search engine out there, you have to think that Google realized with great power comes great responsibility and they have a major responsibility to ensure that the best information is ranking the highest and not just the most optimized.  Perhaps a major component of their ranking algorithm, link popularity, needed to be revisited.  Regardless, Google Caffeine changed the playing surface which has had a dramatic impact on Google results as we knew them.

Enter the "Google MayDay" update targeted at sites that had successfully been optimizing for long-tail more obscure phrases.  For online marketers it had become fairly easy to "game Google" with long-tail optimization.  Google realized this and launched an algorithm to deal with this.  It is no secret that sites that were optimizing for long-tail were performing very well in Google's search results.  This provided some nice qualified traffic for many sites, and you did not have to be a major brand to place well in the results.  Which may have been one of the factors as to why Google started giving additional attention to large brands with subsequent updates.  In fact, Google continues to roll out multiple placements for a single brand domain where we now see four, five or even more results from the same domain for a given "branded" search query. Another fluctuation in Google's results.

In recent months, Google results have become cluttered with lower quality sites.  Link and content spam have started to take over.  Google's web spam team have been said to have been working on the "Panda" update since January of last year.  Part of the reason for this update is due to Google Caffeine.  Along with a more effective and larger index of pages comes more web spam.  I have seen it with my own searches (both professionally and personally).  There are sites that sneak through the index and quite honestly have no business ranking as high as they do.  Of course there is cause and effect.  For every spam page that places in top spot means that the true or at least more relevant result is displaced.  I don't know about you, but when I perform a search for "apple iPad 2"  I expect to see http://www.apple.com/ipad/ in the top spot. Depending on your search query you may or may not be getting the results that you were expecting.

Search is definitely changing.  The results are continuing to change and the days of "ranking in top spot" for your main keywords are becoming a thing of the past if you are not able to adapt to the ever changing algorithms.  Google does not owe any site the right to rank #1 for <insert keyword here>.  Just because you have ranked for <insert key phrase here> for two years, five years, ten years does not mean that you will tomorrow.  Google makes hundreds of algorithm changes per year.  They are now factoring in social signals and are looking to provide the most timely and relevant search results.  This is not an easy task and dare I say that Google has been struggling with this as of late.  There has been some interesting thoughts on where Search is heading, and I have to agree with Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing Search when he says:
“This idea of a universal notion of relevancy worked really well in the earlier days of the web. We had a smaller web, we had a more static web and we had a web that really was a web in the true sense of that term.

That was the way PageRank was constructed and that algorithm was quite brilliant. I still think that it’s quite brilliant. But it does seem a bit chaotic that we’re using that same notion. If I’m looking for the best hospital to treat cancer, just think about how ridiculous that model actually is. We’re now relying on popularity and in links to determine that? That doesn’t make any sense.”

I have said it many times before, the link popularity of the search algorithms needs to be adjusted.  People are frequenting social arenas because there is trust in a community.  We value the opinions of friend and family.  Social spam is much more difficult to game than that of content or web spam.  Searchers are smarter.  They are demanding more relevancy in their quest for information.  Searchers may not even use a search engine.  Perhaps they will visit a forum, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to find their information (yes I know YouTube is a search engine).  We desire richer experiences and Search may or may not always provide that experience.  Results from Google's Panda update have not yet delivered this richer experience that I am looking for.  The idea behind the update was a good one and that is to clean up web spam.  I applaud Google to provide me with the option of blocking sites from my results that do not deliver a richer experience.  I want the most relevant content for my query, so I have been blocking sites at will.  The fact is that I should not have to do this.  An effective search engine should do this for me.  It is no wonder why people are using longer search queries to find the information that they are looking for.  The search results are not returning what we need.  Anyone else wonder if Google or the other search engines monitor the bounce rates of their SERPs? 

There is more to search than relevancy however.  As one commenter noted, "What if I want my search to bring up items not based upon my own narrow assumptions; results that may surprise, delight or even educate me about other perspectives?"  Search engines have a difficult job in returning results accordingly.  You cannot please all of  the people all of the times.  Search as we have known it has undergone a huge transformation in the past twelve to fifteen months.  Look for more changes to come.

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posted by Jody @ Monday, March 28, 2011  
3 Reasons Why Bing's Search Results Are Better than Google's in 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The past year in Search has been probably the most interesting of the past ten years. We saw Caffeine updates in Google, numerous major algorithm updates by Google, the marrying of Yahoo and Bing results, the launch of Google Instant, and most recently a controversial algorithm update from Google known as Panda.  Needless to say there have been unprecedented change with the major search engines in North America.  Going back 12-14 months ago, Microsoft's Bing had about a 9-10% market share in the North American search business.  Fast forward to early 2011, and if we factor in the fact that Bing is serving up Yahoo search results, Bing now has nearly 30% market share in the US  (Excluding Yahoo results, Bing has gained about 5% market share in the past fifteen months).  Perhaps we may continue to see this rise and searchers become increasingly frustrated with Google's search results.

I personally have found Google's search results have been suffering during these past fifteen months.  Since the Panda algorithm update I am finding Google's results even more suspect.  I cannot help compare Charlie Sheen's recent activities/"meltdown" similar to what we are seeing with Google.  Something is afoul at Google.  There has been drastic change with their search results which I find interesting as it wasn't that long ago that Google's Marissa Mayer said that Google had no plans from moving away from their plain white results page that we have become accustomed to seeing.  Yet in recent months we have seen the additional of real-time search results, testing of the various buttons and links on Google's results page, the addition of Google Instant (Google's search prediction functionality) and even the addition of Google's Instant Preview.  For me, the Google results are reminiscent of how ASK.com results  appeared a few years ago.  For the record I was a big fan of the appearance of ASK's old results, but Google's recent changes to their results tend to be lacking quality and depending on the query are well... odd.

I have to say that Bing's results are truly looking to be better than Google's (again depending on the query) but for an increasingly growing number of the searches that I conduct, Bing results are getting better and better.  Here are three reasons why Bing's search results are better than Google's thus far in 2011.

3 Reasons Why Bing's Search Results Are Better than Google's in 2011
  1. Bing's results have #tiger blood - that is Bing results are getting stronger and have less and less spam showing up.  Bing presents a nice diverse grouping of results somewhat like Google used to display.  Let's say that I was thinking of attending a culinary school and wanted to find out more information about Culinard.  Chances are I might perform a search for "Culinard".    In this case Bing returns Culinard.com as the top result along with eight relevant site links.  Also within the top ten are a wikipedia result (which can be hit or miss, in this case a hit),  a relevant result for trade-schools.net for Culinard and a second Culinard.com link to an information page for Culinard Culinary Institute.  All in all a nice diverse sample of links.  Over at Google, four of the top ten results are for culinard.com (a little overkill if you ask me) including the Dean's bio page.  I'm not sure if this the most relevant set of results or not.  Personally I like Bing's results better.  Google is displaying too many results from one domain.  Bing offers a more diverse set of resources.  Advantage: Bing.
  2.  Bing has enhanced results / Google serves up an instant preview - if we use the same query as above, we see that Bing serves up some great functionality when you hover over a result and get a fly out that serves up "More on this Page" and "Popular Links" for that site.  Google gives you a preview of what the page looks like.  Personally this "instant preview" is not something I find a lot of value in, bu with Bing's additional information, I might be more inclined to click through and gather the information that I am looking for.  Advantage:  Bing.
  3. Bing's Blended Search Results are better - I have noticed that Bing's blended search results have continued to improve so much so where I think that they have become better than what Google has been serving up lately.  Bing's blended results are more consistent.  Hovering over videos allows a sneak preview (again something that ASK first rolled out) something that Google does not yet offer.  A search for "Japan earthquake" in Bing provides timely news results, horizontal video results, updated images, key blog posts and relevant related results.  Google in turn offers similar results but not to the extent of Bing's results.  Google serves up news results, two video results (compared to Bing's four video results), image results and some related searches.  Bing's results offered some additional blog posts as well.  Overall Bing provided a richer user experience for me.  Advantage:  Bing.

Quite honestly Google's recent updates have left me confused.  Depending on my search query, I find myself questioning the results more often.  The Panda algorithm update has not enhanced my user experience, at least not yet.  Google displaying more branded results from the same domain. I've seen many SERPs in Google display as little as two or three domains within the top ten.  I like variety, so I can appreciate Google showing two results for a domain but having 4, 5 or 6 results from the same domain is a little overkill.  Google is still the dominant search engine in North America, but people are becoming increasingly frustrated.  While Bing may not be a Google killer, it is becoming more of an attractive option.  People may just need to give it a chance.  Google itself may become it's own worst enemy.  For me Google feels broken.  I like Google but lately it has become increasingly difficult to find the information that I am looking for.  Thus far in 2011, Bing's results are "better", whereas Google's have become worse.  If you do not agree, why did Google need to create a Chrome extension for users to block sites within the Google results?  Why did Google roll-out the option of blocking sites within the results themselves?  The reason... Google is struggling to provide relevant results.  Their perception of quality sites is different than your perception or mine.  Google has been taking more and more heat from webmasters, site owners, search users and the media for their results.  An algorithm update that destroys a number of small businesses simply communicates that Google is struggling with their results.  Reports suggest that Google has been working on the Panda update since January 2010.  Really?  Then why have some many quality sites been impacted?  I am still seeing a lot of spam, scraped content and low quality content farms dominate Google results.  I get that this update may not be over yet and that more are on the way, but for Google to play Almighty with so many sites, makes you wonder if this will be enough to get people to start using Bing more.


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posted by Jody @ Thursday, March 24, 2011  
Google's Panda Update: Are We Better Off Yet?
Sunday, March 20, 2011
First let me preface this post by saying that I applaud Google's attempt to crack down on spam content and spam sites. The verdict on whether Google's Panada Update has taken a step in the right direction remains to be seen. A lot of quality sites have been impacted. I happen to work on one of those sites. Google has been hammering this site since the rollout of Caffeine, the MayDay update and the recent Panda updates.  As a result we have taken measure to improve the quality of the pages on our site.  A couple of tactics that we have been working on include:
  • removing AdSense heavy pages (which quite honestly were not really overwhelming)
  • removing lower quality pages or what we perceived as "placholder pages" if you will
  • blocked pages that we felt may be considered "low quality" by Google until we can revisit these pages and improve the "quality" of them.
  • we have enhanced the "quality" of pages that we felt required it (we will continue to do this as required)
  • we have been going after sites that have stolen our content (and there a a large number of them)
So this past Thursday I thought that I started to begin seeing some of our placements come back (and I have) but our traffic has taken a serious hit since the first algo update of the year in late January.  My question asking are we better off with these new results is one that is quite perplexing to me.  Many of the sites that have replaced us in the results are no where near as content rich  as ours.   We have a talented team of writers who have produced great content over the years, and while I get that Google has no obligation to rank a site in top spot year in and year out, you would think that a site that has placed in top spot for a given phrase for 8-10 years is probably a highly relevant resource.  The results are not better, at least not yet.  And we are not the only ones who are seeing this.  There have been no reports of sites that have regained their traffic post Panda update.  Or at least none that we have come across.  People are not happy with the results.  In fact one of our readers commented:
The fact that Google has this much power to influence the success or failure of websites is scary. They are too big - and the little webmasters got them to this point. And the same people who made them rich are the ones that Google is ditching.

So....this algo update - what Google is saying is that they provided low quality search results for over a decade.

Honestly, this is a shock and awe tactic by Google for their new CEO. They want everyone to come and look at the NEW GOOGLE. Well, the new search results are horrible. Most lead to websites selling products - and who wants to click on ads when this is the case? I predict a substantial decline in Google revenue.

And all the people who got Google to where they are today - Google is stomping them to death. They don't need them anymore.

Google needs to take a good look at their motto 'don't be evil'.  As to the best search engine - it's now Bing...

Feel free to read others' take on the update via the thread that Google has set up in order to obtain feedback.

In the past year, Google has:
  • scrambled to keep up with real-time search results by releasing their Caffeine update
  • made an attempt to clean up web spam by focusing on sites that were "optimizing" for long-tail with their "MayDay Update"
  • tried to help people search better by launching Google Instant
  • given more attention to brands by displaying more search results from the same domain for a given search query.  I have seen examples where one site has the first eight placements and basically has 80% of the SERP coverage.  Is this really the best user experience?
So Google has made unprecedented change in the past 12-15 months with more to come.  Something is definitely going on at the Googleplex.  Even thinking about how the whole Eric Schmidt transition was communicated.  Has Google gone too corporate?  Have their forgotten about their motto of "don't be evil"?  Barry Schwartz has had a number of great post over at SEO Roundtable.  In one of his recent posts he suggests that  people who have been hit hard by the Panda Update and who have taken corrective measures are not seeing any improvements although Google engineers have hinted that once you have addressed the issues you can/may expect to see rankings come back with Google's next crawl of your site.  In Barry's post he states:
I feel like I have talked and written about the Google Farmer/Panda update way too much, but the truth is, about 40% of you were impacted by this update in a bad bad way and even though you are making changes none of you are really seeing any improvement in your rankings.
This goes along with what I am seeing as well.  Our team has been working non-stop on cleaning up the quality of our site's content.  We have not done anything that goes against Google's webmaster guidelines (that we can tell), and we have taken drastic measures to abide by Google's rules.  However as I always state, we are always at the mercy of the algorithm.  Google has caused a lot of stress in my life in the past month.  Now if I was a black-hat SEO I may not stress, but the fact is that our team is by the book.  Yes I am an online marketer, but I am trained not to manipulate Google's results but to provide a successful experience for the user.  I acquired the majority of my skills at Enquiro where I spent nearly seven years in dealing with some of the largest brands out there.  We  were well versed in how people search.  Our eye tracking studies have been quoted throughout the industry.  I have a great understanding of how people search and about usability.  Yet with a Google Update all of this goes out the window.  Google is the dominant player.  For any web-driven business, you have to play by Google's rules.  This does not change our approach.  We are looking to provide the best content for our users and the best experience.  However Google, we need your help.  We need people to find our content.  We are not trying to create webspam, quite the opposite actually.

With Google's Panda Update, I'm not sure that we are better off.  There were a lot of innocent sites that have taken a major hit.  One of the sites that I work on just happens to be one of these.  Google I applaud your efforts to fight webspam, I just trust that you can correct some of the damage that has been directed at some of the "innocent bystanders" out there.

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posted by Jody @ Sunday, March 20, 2011  
SMX West 2011: Tweet Topics
Friday, March 11, 2011
SMX West wrapped up yesterday and there were some great discussions, many surrounding Google's recent Panda algorithm update. I was trying to follow along via Twitter where I compiled a list of some interesting thoughts via tweets.  Here is a sample of what people were tweeting about over the past couple of days.

SMX West Tweet Topics

@reelseo: YouTube search makes about 1/4 of Google's total search volume #smx

@MoCR521: 65% of Facebook users only access the FB when not at work or school - typically early morning or evening @tydowning #smx

@dannysullivan 44% searches on google have more than 3 words

@dannysullivan: 20% of Google queries not seen before in past 3 months #SMX

RT @adCenter 3 SEO takeaways for big sites: fast site speed, rel canonical works, and avoid pagination issues.

RT @dannysullivan: 64% of Google searches have pages without exact matches to all query terms

RT @dannysullivan: Mike Cassidy of @Google says social connections to you can boost rankings if friends make or share pages #SMX

The State Of Search Marketing at SMX West http://budurl.com/mtey #smx

spam fighters for Google give warnings to those registered with webmaster tools #SMX

 @mattcutts Today we're adding the ability to block sites directly to Google's search results: http://goo.gl/bLPOq Yay! #SMX

Rich @blekko announces they have blocked 1.1M sites for spam. Good work. #smx

@mattcutts RE: the Panda/Farmer update: "No algorithm is 100%." Absolutely true. Create great content & you should be OK. #smx

@Mattcutts comment: Panda update is algo change only. No manual action involved.

"Ajax is good for cleaning your toilet", not SEO says @gregboser at #smx

@AlanBleiweiss: Starting this week Google Algo may give boost 2 links that have been tweeted vs those w/o tweets #Quote #MattCutts #SMX

"The Klingons never showed up with good intent" (Bing on white hat cloaking) #smx

Does traffic help rankings? @mattcutts says no #SMX

"If you can't do a 301 use rel canonical" #SMX

@mattcutts said Google will be looking at ways to push up original content (vs scrapers) this year, as well as the Panda/Farmer topics.

Google trying to help websites/blogs receive credit when they create original content that is eventually duplicated on the web

Some interesting thoughts from the folks who attended SMX West down in San Jose.  Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media has had some tremendous coverage via live blogging various sessions including one on The Spam Police.

Day One Recap of SMX: http://searchengineland.com/smx-west-2011-day-one-recap-67525
Full Day Two Recap:  http://searchengineland.com/smx-west-2011-day-two-recap-67669

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posted by Jody @ Friday, March 11, 2011  
Dealing With Google's Panda Update
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Ok we are nearly two weeks into the Farmer/Panda Update from Google.  (I prefer the name "Panda Update" so I am going to stick with that for this post).  There are still a number of Webmasters and site owners moaning and groaning as reports continue to come in that sites have lost anywhere from 20-70% of their traffic from Google.  With SMX West taking place this week in San Jose, I expected (and hoped) that we would get some additional insight from Google themselves as to what one can do to deal with any negative impact of this update.  While Google started a thread to obtain feedback on the update, they have been pretty quiet.

Here is what we do know.  The Google Panda Update occurred in two stages.
  1. Wednesday, January 26, 2011 – aimed at sites referred to as content farms and sites with low quality content.
  2. Thursday, February 24th – larger update where focus appeared to be on site with advertising (AdSense?) above the fold and on sites with low quality content, duplicate (scaped content?) and on sites that lacked quality links.
*For the sites that were hit hard nearly all of them are experiencing traffic declines in the range of 30-70%.
There are a number of theories as to what Google is targeting.  More on that coming up.

Former Googler Vanessa Fox has been providing some great insight into Google's recent algorithm update.    She mentions that according to Google ways to avoid being negatively impacted by this (and other) changes are to have a site with:
  • Original content and original research (not aggregated or syndicated from other sources)
  • Authoritative information (deep and useful content, not simply words about a topic; content that answers people’s questions and that they find credible)
  • Compelling added value (if the content isn’t unique, does the page add significant value over the original source?)
  • Significant user engagement, including links and social sharing
  • Valuable content across the entire site

These areas are similar to the items that I included in my seven areas to address re: Google Panda Algorithm Update post from yesterday.

Vanessa Fox has another great post on the topic where she discussed potential ways sites may be able to regain their rankings and traffic.  She summarized the following quite nicely:
  • Substantial low quality on a site can cause the rankings for the entire site to decline (even for the high quality pages)
  • Evaluate your web site for poor quality pages (not useful, poorly written, non-unique, or thin) and remove them
  • Overall user experience is likely important: design and usability, ad-to-content ratio, brand perception
  • Look at both content and page templates (do the templates overwhelm the pages with ads? Provide a poor user interface?)
  • After ensuring all content on the site is high quality, focus on engagement and awareness (through social media and other channels)
  • Diversify into other channels and even within search, look beyond web search at Google News and “one box” style results such as blogs, images, and videos
  • We can potentially learn from content farms, particularly in how they pinpoint what audiences are interested in and what problems they are trying to solve as well as how they harness crowdsourcing.
She goes on to add:
This algorithm specifically targets sites (not necessarily content farms) that are low quality in a number of ways, such as:
  • Shallow content (not enough content to be useful)
  • Poorly written content
  • Content copied from other sites
  • Content that’s not useful
In addition, low quality content on part of the site can impact the rankings of the entire site so it might be worthwhile to remove the low quality pages of the site to increase rankings of the high quality pages.

Of course you know that the Panda Update was going to be the most discussed topic at SMX West (which I now regret not attending).  Matthew Brown of AudienceWise had some great thoughts on the update as well.  According to Vanessa's post, Matthew stated:
  • user experience and brand likely contribute to a site’s overall perception of quality.
  • a quality vs. quantity ratio on sites. Even the ratio of low quality content is high enough, it could bring the entire site down. (Which Vanessa points out that this aligns very closely to Google’s latest statement.)
  • content farm-like sites that seemed not to lose rankings had common factors such as brand awareness and credibility
  • design and user experience play a part as well
Matthew recommends:
  • Getting rid of poor quality pages entirely (redirect them if it makes sense, otherwise 404 them)
  • Building out brand signals
  • Working on promotion and engagement
Are we seeing a theme yet?   Folks on Twitter were tweeting similar thoughts:

Panda signals: quality vs quantity, big sites rely domain authority, small sites with few quality pages, sites w/ overload of ads/links

Mike Cassidy of @Google says social connections to you can boost rankings if friends make or share pages

 @dannysullivan: Low quality to quantity ratio? Might be reason you were hit by Farmer/Update: Matthew Brown

Lisa Barone, who has been doing some excellent live blogging from SMX also had a nice post re: fixing issues with the Panda Update.  Some smart tips include:

    * Followe eHow’s template. No ads above the fold, good content
    * Clean up your site.
    * Build out brand signals
    * Channels/domain
    * Tighten editorial controls
    * Scale promotion

Also from SMX, Paul Yiu from Bing shared some thoughts to consider as search engines become more social.

    * Make it easy to Like and Share content. Include links in Tweets and Updates.
    * Trust-worthy people sharing your links or tweets, avoid spammy clumps.
    * # of people RTing or Liking what you said/shared in the last minute, hour, day week.
    * Be prepared to turn on a dime, and for the flash mob.

So we are starting to see some useful information come out about how to deal with Google's Panda Update.  I think that this was a huge algorithm update perhaps the largest one in Google's history when you think about the dramatic impact it has had and all of the controversy and passion that it has stirred up.  For better or worse, the update is causing an impact and forcing people to look at the content that they are putting out there.  To me that is a good thing.  I do feel however that Google has damaged a lot of innocent sites and sites that are good resources that have now been bumped down in the search results.  Probably one of my favorite quotes came via (I apologize as I'm not sure who originally tweeted this) Twitter:
Hey Google, Altavista from 1997 called, they want their algorithm back" re: irrelevant listing
Ha ha too funny.  I for one have been critical of Google's results over the past six months.  From my experience the Panda Update has not yet improved the results.  In some cases it has definitely resulted in poorer results.  However I applaud Google for their attack on webspam as there is simply too much fluff and not enough stuff on the Internet.  There is a lot of pollution out there and while it is not solely up to Google to clean up the Web, each and every site owner needs to do their part to ensure that the content that is uploaded is useful and not ripped off from an existing resource.  It is things like content farms, auto-blogs, scraper sites and poor syndication that can pollute the Web in a hurry.  Google's Panda Update is just an ongoing step in cleaning up the webspam in their index.  We can expect more updates and changes soon.  The SERPs are no longer as static as they once were.  For those of you banking on retaining your #1 position in Google, be realistic.  Just because you have been number one in Google for <insert key phrase here> does not mean that you will be number one tomorrow.  We are all at the mercy of the almighty algorithm.

Follow us on Twitter @marketing_jive.


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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, March 09, 2011  
7 Areas to Address Google Panda Algorithm Update
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Webmasters and site owners are still scrambling in the aftermath of Google's Farmer/Panda algorithm update.  There has been a lot of backlash as some are reporting traffic losses as high as 80%.    While some people are, to put it mildly, pissed off, others suggest that this update is long overdue.

While I think that Google is still tweaking this update, (I have a feeling March 24th might be an interesting day for some --> First roll out of Update Jan. 26, second roll out - Feb. 25, third major rollout - March 24?) I have compiled a list of seven areas that may have been part of the recent algorithm update. 

7 Areas to Address Google Panda Algorithm Update
  1. Low Quality Page Clean Up
    • Block low quality pages with traffic
    • Remove low quality pages that hurt overall credibility for the site.
    • Enhance existing content with additional content
  2. Removal of Ad heavy pages
  3. Clean Up of duplicate content
    • Analyzing stolen content and requesting removal
    • Reporting blatant offenders to Google
    • Leverage Google Chrome Extension – blocklist?
  4. Improve Inbound Linking – an indication of significant user engagement in the eyes of Google
    • guest blog posts
    • social media channels
    • discussion forums where your topic area is being discussed
  5. Social Engagement - is your audience actively discussing the topics on your site? Are they sharing the content on social media sites?
  6. Lower Click through rates – re-optimize titles and meta descriptions
  7. Too many internal links? – reports suggest that this may have been a small part of the algo update.
Regardless, these are items that you might want to revisit anyway.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, March 08, 2011  
Backlash from Google's Algorithm Update 2011
Thursday, March 03, 2011
In case you have been hiding under a rock or away on vacation, Google has launched another algorithm updated that started in late January and continued last week as webmasters and site owners are becoming increasingly frustrated with Google. The update which right or wrong was dubbed the "Farmer Update" by Danny Sullivan was meant to clean up web spam and sites with low quality content. Well Google has a lot of people up in arms over all of the changes being experienced in Google's search results.

I do applaud Google for taking this initiative to clean up web spam, but this time it looks like they have made some mistakes. I, like many have been critical of Google's results over the past couple of years and more recently the past six to twelve months. There is no question that depending on the search query, Google results are suffering and at times are simply irrelevant. Last fall, one of the changes Google made was serving up multiple listings, for a given search query, for the same site. I'm not sure that is a better experience for me as a user. I really do not need to see six or seven different pages from the same site dominating the top ten search results. Sorry Google I would say #fail.

I would also say #fail with the recent algorithm updates.  As I mentioned there are a lot of innocent sites that are suffering as a result of this algorithm update.   The problem with this update is that Google is playing God with some people's business as some of these sites seriously rely on traffic from Google to generate revenue.  People are voicing their opinions about the algorithm update across various web forums out there.  Here is a sample of some of the comments from a number of disgruntled webmasters and site owners.  (Some comments have been condensed to allow for additional examples).  Full commentary can be found here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=76830633df82fd8e&hl=en&start=80

We will start with my favorite quote of the forum:  "... I get the feeling this is Google's equivalent of New Coke, an attempt at something new and different that failed miserably."

Here is what others are saying:

  • Last Friday I saw a 40%+ drop in traffic. To say I'm upset would be an understatement.

  • For approximately the past eight years, key pages of my site have always appeared on the first or second pages of search results.  However, within a day or two of the latest algorithm change, for example, my once-popular and heavily-trafficked government grants page (www.proposalwriter.com/govtgrants.html) moved from page 1 to page 12 to page 10 of the search results.

  • PLEA to Google - Our 13 year old site, with several million monthly pageviews and thousands of pages of original content for K-12 educators has seen a massive drop in just the last week of 40% traffic and 50% ad revenue.

  • I am so devastated.  My main site and my life's work, cure-back-pain.org was drastically affected.  I am not a learned webmaster, I am a back pain patient and someone who writes to help others recover.  My site is 5 years old and has often led in the rankings for my topic, back pain and back pain treatment.  I was let go from my "dayjob" in the economic decline of 2008 and found a savior in the fact that I could make a living helping those who needed it most, so I turned to my site full time and found it very rewarding.  I write all my own content and work my site 80 hours a week+. I do everything myself.  I do not syndicate or outsource anything...First, with the terrible downturn in rankings, I am most likely going to lose my house.  This is not an exaggeration.  My wife and I are in free fall now, as we are both casualties of this economy.  This is a very sad to me, but I am not here to cry about money.  Just as important is the fact that I spent 5 years building a safe haven for back pain sufferers to find honest info and help without feeling like they have to spend all their money doing it.  1100 original content pages and now most are not even being read by those who need them most!  This is a tragedy to me.  Worse yet is that the sites which are now top ranked are all commercial companies selling bogus cures ( I tried many of them...) or general health sites with generic and regurgitated back pain info which helps no one.

  • A consumer review site I started almost 11 years ago.  We lost about 50% of our Google traffic from this update.

  • My site Healthhype.com is dedicated for health in general. Every one of our article cost us $100+USD to produce. Healthhype.com only publish high premium written by 10+ years of clinical experienced doctors. We are a premium publisher with Google which assigned us an account manager for our site. We lost 50% of our US traffic across the board on all the keywords during the content farm cleansing experiment.

  • According to Sistrix, I lost 71% of my keyword rankings.

  • Since the update, we've seen a massive drop in rankings and traffic (down more than 50%). I believe we were caught in the cross hairs of the "farmer" update but we are not a farm!!

  • Probably not necessary for me to specify which site I represent, since it appears that nearly every QA site (with the conspicuous exception of Yahoo Answers) took a big hit - in the range of 40-50% traffic loss after the update.

  • On February 28, 2011, we experienced a massive shift in rankings for our website. We plummeted over 50 spots for most keywords in Google.com. The plummeting was a result of the Farmer Update as it has been loosely coined.

  • We have seen a drop of around 65 to 70 percent on Google US search traffic.  We are now being outranked by scraper sites for our own content...

  • Hi, I'm Tim Carter, Founder of AsktheBuilder.com. I'm a smoldering cinder from last week's Napalm Strike - better known by many as the Farmer Update. I've lost at least 50% of my traffic because of the algorithm change.  Here's what's so troubling. First, Google for years has held me up as an example of stellar content - high quality that others should strive to achieve. Don't believe me? Go here: https://www.google.com/adsense/static/en/AsktheBuilder.html
    My content is as original as can be. It doesn't try to sell products. It tells real stories about home construction and remodeling that helps homeowners get things done the right way. Using AdSense to bolster the content, my visitors can often click through to find the exact products or services that I write about. It was a win win win win. Can a Google Search Engineer *please* explain to me why the algorithm would need to be adjusted to change that situation?

  • Our retail site that used to have over 500 top 10 rankings in Google and has been a leading supplier of products in the ergonomics industry for over 11 years has been impacted heavily.  We lost 160 of those top 10 rankings with the latest update for most of our top revenue categories.  Over a 30% reduction in traffic since last Wednesday.

  • I own a site about netbooks and mini laptops, active since 2009. All the content on it is 100% unique and on this niche, including news and tons of guides, previews and thorough reviews (with self made pictures, videos, etc). The site had been constantly cited by authority tech blogs and has over 2000 subscribers.  After the Farmer Update lost around 50-60% of its US traffic and can't seem to understand why, never thought a Google update could impact my site.

  • You know Google has massively screwed up when they're nuking sites like AskTheBuilder.com.  They've jumped the shark. 

Of course everyone thinks that their site should be number one for their top keywords.  There can only be one number one listing.  Google's results as of late have been questionable.  I do feel for some of these sites that are suffering traffic losses of anywhere from 30 - 70%, but there are a number of sites that have been affected that should have been affected.  It just seems that there are a lot of innocent bystanders in Google's line of fire.  Hopefully Google will straighten things out sooner than later.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, March 03, 2011  
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