The Fresh Egg blog
Latest digital marketing news
May was a particularly busy month in SEO as Google decided to up its search quality game with a refresh of its Penguin update, a significant change to Google Places results and the US introduction of Knowledge Graph. Oh, and among all of this there were 39 additional search quality highlights thrown into the mix. Let’s get into it.
Google released the first update to the Penguin web spam algorithm during May. Head of Google’s search spam team, Matt Cutts, took to Twitter to state that this data refresh would approximately affect <0.1% of English searches.
As a large number of Penguin hit sites were already planning strategies for recovery, there was a particularly interesting case study from Ross Hudgens (of Full Beaker Inc) [source] who worked hard and fast with WPMU.org owner, James Farmer, to improve the backlink profile of the site, after being hit by the first iteration of Penguin.
Here's a snippet of what Ross had to say on the study:
“In that respect, it may leave some to think "is a Penguin recovery even possible?", or "should I just start over with a new domain?". These are real questions that will come with edits to links and strategy, a refresh and no changes to our rankings. To that end, I don't have absolute answers, nobody does - just strong suggestions about the data points we know about what survived, what didn't, and how Google has treated penalties in the past. What I do now know, though, is that a Penguin recovery is possible, and possible in a short amount of time - because I've seen a big, seemingly complete recovery from the update at the first refresh. This recovery came for a website that felt a previous, critical impact from Penguin at the first iteration - that website being popular Wordpress portal, WPMU.org.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO Engineer at Fresh Egg says, “The update to Penguin was undertaken in a similar fashion to Panda. As with Panda, it is likely we are going to see monthly or regular iterations of Penguin. Crucially, it’s important to act as quickly as possible: in the case of Penguin, being too slow to make active attempts to improve your backlink profile may also mean that you mistakenly confuse negative impacts of future updates as lack of progress. In fact, you may be making progress, but just not fast enough, meaning that future Penguin iterations are still going to cause fluctuations to your rankings. Commit to thoroughly assessing and cleaning up any bad links from your site as fast as possible. Recovery is always possible unless you are de-indexed!”
Google Knowledge Graph
On 16 May 2012, Google’s Knowledge Graph was introduced by Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering via a blog post [source] on Google’s official blog. The Knowledge Graph is the next step in Google understanding deeper meanings for search queries and return more relevant results with detailed information on the SERPs page.
“The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about — landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO Engineer at Fresh Egg says: “The next generation of search is a huge statement to make, and Google’s intent on making this work is also highlighted by the fact it is rolling this out immediately to US English mobile devices too. At this stage, it’s far too early to tell how this will impact upon SEO in the long term. My immediate thoughts as a Google user are that this is going to both help me save time and waste time. As an SEO I am interested in the fact that more ‘estate’ on the result pages is up for grabs, and I want to be the first to find out just how to take up this space.”
Right at the close of May, Google announced the launch of Google+ Local [source]. This is essentially the development of Google Places which will now be integrated into the Google+ platform. Google+ Local owners are able to provide up-to-date information via their Google + Local pages, and customers are able to provide reviews and contribute to Google+ Local scores provided via Zagat.
Avni Shah, Director of Product Management at Google said:
“Your friends know what you like, and they probably like the same things you do. That’s why the opinions of people in your circles are front and center. If you search for [tacos] on Google+ Local, your results might include a friend’s rave review of the Baja-style taco stand in your neighborhood. And if you’re searching on Google or Google Maps for a great place to buy a gift for that same friend, your results might include a review from her about a boutique she shops at all the time.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO Engineer at Fresh Egg says: “Everyone is aware that Google is keen to inject more value into its new social platform. I’ve always felt that Google Places listings were a little thin and that there was huge potential for making these pages more interesting and engaging. Google+ Local might just help do that and this could end up being a particularly useful platform for mobile searches. I’m interested to see just how the Zagat scoring comes into play in respect of whether they influence search result positions for local listings, which presumably they will. Some might be concerned that this also takes users one step deeper into the ‘Google bubble’ with the emphasis of personalised results based on your Google+ interactions over new discoveries through search”
Google News Updates (US)
During May, Google launched a new real-time freshness coverage update for the US edition of Google News with the aim of returning news articles quicker than ever. The update was listed as one of the 39 search quality updates for May and is now further integrated into Google+.
Speaking about this particular update over on Search Engine Land [source], Matt McGee said:
“Not sure if fresh content and fresh search results are important to Google? I’m pretty certain that every monthly update Google has published (they began back in November) has included something related to trying to make search results fresher. Keep that in mind.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO Engineer at Fresh Egg says: “As a user of Google this is a welcome update. I’ve got no complaints about being able to access news more easily and I’m happy to see news results from people within my Google+ circles. From an SEO standpoint, I am interested to know which news sources Google is scraping. Fresh content is the phrase you’ve probably been repeating to your clients over and over again since Panda, but for me it’s about something I call ‘breaking content’. To really ride the freshness updates in style you need to be the first to the news, or the first to put your own spin on the news.”
An Ex-Google Employee Slams Google+
Spencer Tipping, a former programmer at Google, took to his personal blog to speak about the pros and cons of working for Google [source].
Tipping had particularly interesting views about Google+, saying:
“I think Google+ is an effort that does not deserve the engineering minds at Google. This is mostly a personal bias. I see Google as solving legitimately difficult technological problems, not doing stupid things like cloning Facebook. Google, in my opinion, lost sight of what was important when they went down this rabbit hole.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO Engineer at Fresh Egg says: “Some would agree with Spencer’s statement above. I didn't know what to expect from Google+ and that’s what Google should be about. At first glance, Google+ offers nothing different to Twitter or Facebook and it's fair to say the platform has struggled to find an audience and identity outside of the SEO community, who know that Google will persist in integrating Google+ heavily into search.”
Google Product Search becomes Google Shopping
Danny Sullivan covered Google’s move to a new paid inclusion model for Google Product Search [source] to the newly renamed Google Shopping in detail over on Search Engine Land.
Danny Sullivan summed up the move with the following:
“The fact Google considered paid inclusion evil in the past is an embarrassment that some will have a good chuckle about. But companies do change stances. The bigger issue in all this is whether the shift is good for searchers and publishers.”
Scott Colenutt, SEO at Fresh Egg says: “It's certainly a sharp U-turn for Google, but as Danny points out, companies do change stances and Google could never have predicted the enormous growth it's experienced in the last eight years. The simple fact is, it is a business like any other in the world and it will do what it can to make money. As long as the search experience is enhanced for searchers, there will be no complaints from me. You’d assume that smaller businesses may struggle to compete with larger companies so I am interested to know exactly how the bidding works. My initial thought is that this lends greater importance to small businesses investing more in organic search, particularly if they are no longer able to compete in the paid model of Google Shopping.”