Many online businesses may not be aware that Google is constantly announcing changes to the way it lists websites in its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google has certainly taken great pains to improve the quality of its results in the past 12-18 months with the aim of ensuring that Internet users who use Google to find the information that they want are being presented with the most relevant and high quality results.
In our opinion, the following are 3 of the most important and long lasting changes that Google has made during that time that could affect your online business and search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy:
1. Google Panda
First announced in the early part of 2011, Google Panda (as it became affectionately known in the industry) was designed to remove search results that were clearly designed by Internet marketers to ‘game’ Google. Often, these results showed articles, stuffed with keywords and links by the ‘authors’ that provided little or no benefit to the Internet user. Poorly written, containing dubious content constructed from badly researched subject matter and often hosted on websites that were simply a hub for thousands of other similar articles all linking to businesses wanting to rank higher for those keywords – Google made the right decision to tackle this issue.
For many businesses that had invested in such poor article marketing practices and who had for years often seen remarkable results in keyword positions through such techniques then saw rankings drop when the Panda update was released. Many article directories hosting such content were penalised simply disappeared from the SERPs.
The conclusion was clear – changes to search marketing practices were inevitable if online businesses were to succeed. Google Panda was updated most recently in July 2012 (Panda 3.9).
2. Google Venice
Google Venice was first released in February 2012 and was designed to give local search results more relevancy to individual Google users. This placed much greater pressure on search marketers to ensure that online businesses were optimising their websites and that listings in Google Places and other local directories such as Yell.com were consistent and full of up-to-date information about the company involved.
It has become increasingly challenging for businesses to retain visibility in Google’s local search results, especially for those businesses which don’t have a physical presence at specific locations. Therefore, it is increasingly important to ensure that local ranking factors are taken into account for businesses of all sizes when optimising a website to maintain visibility.
For more detailed information about local search, David Mihm’s commentary on local search ranking factors is one of the most comprehensive in the search marketing industry.
3. Google Penguin
About one year since Panda, another update that became known informally as the Penguin Update (we expect the next significant update to be named ‘Google Puffin’ of course) was released in April 2012. This was designed to do a similar job as Panda – but this time by evaluating the type and variety of links pointing to a website and as a result, reassessing where to place that website in the SERPs. Link-building has been a search marketing technique for a long time, however, as with article marketing, building links that were too keyword rich in large quantities was an obvious flag that Google’s SERPs were being gamed by online businesses and search marketers. This was essentially an ‘over-optimisation’ penalty.
Investing time in removing links from poor quality websites and broadening the kinds of links being acquired, including using a variety of anchor text in the link (not just specific keywords) was the result – and much has been written about the importance of reviewing website link profiles as a result (this excellent SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday presentation by Rob Kerry examines the technical side of this more closely).
The last update to Google Penguin was in May 2012 (Penguin 1.1) with another widely being expected shortly by the search marketing industry.
The future of Search Marketing
Without doubt, whilst Google remains the number one search engine in the world, it is imperative that online businesses take advice about their SEO and broader search marketing strategy because there is no doubt that Google will continue to try and improve the relevancy and quality of its search results in the months and years to come.
Onsite optimisation through technical development and page content, relevancy and quality scoring are the cornerstones of good SEO. Google wants Internet users to get the best search engine results – after all, let’s not forget it’s in the search engine’s best interest commercially – and ignoring developments in Google’s algorithm is folly for businesses in today’s digital world.
Online marketing advice
If you’d like further information and advice about Google search and how your business could benefit from specialist SEO advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at the Floating Frog web agency.