Over the past 12 months, the search marketing landscape has seen many changes. Let's take a look at the biggest developments that all digital marketers need to know.
The slow and final death of Yahoo Site Explorer
These aren't your father's search engine bots
What does this mean for SEOs? It means that the pillars of SEO -- relevance, accessibility, and authority -- still remain foundational. But we must work closely with design, information architecture, and user experience folks to assure the user experience we build is positive, persuasive, and aligned with our conversion and revenue KPIs. Above-the-fold page layout, content, links, and rich media locations all need to be carefully considered. If we want to stay ahead of the curve as internet marketers, we can't work in silos.
For SEOs, a critical announcement is that more detail will be provided to webmasters submitting reconsideration requests. We will now be informed if a suspected penalty or filter is due to manual or algorithmic action. The engine's new monthly series on algorithm changes represents another commitment to transparency by Google. That's more welcome news to help us filter out a bit of the noise in the industry and keep our sites in line with the trends.
What does this mean? Well, according to Google's Matt Cutts, we will see "(not provided)" as the keyword referrer from Google in analytics reporting in place of the actual keyword used. He also said that "(not provided)" would not exceed single digits in the percentage of terms affected. Unfortunately this isn't the case. In some cases, a significant chunk of data is lost, which can punch holes in informed optimization efforts.
Curiously, paid search traffic queries aren't hidden, nor are queries from logged-out users, which begs a few questions around whether this change was solely to protect users' privacy, or to make SEOs guess while maintaining status quo for the paid search guys. Google suggests using Google Webmaster Tools as an alternative to view the lost data, though historic data is lost after 30 days and only the top 1,000 search queries are reported.
In June, Google launched the Google+ social network, complete with circles, sparks, hangouts, and more. The platform gained quick momentum with 10 million new users in two weeks, and the numbers keep growing. It's yet to be seen how the Google+ Project will impact search, but it's clear that the search giant will incorporate what data it can from its social network to advance search results.
At the end of February, a massive update from Google, officially dubbed "Panda" after an engineer at the company, began an incremental rollout. The SEO community called this update "Farmer" since it had a significant and immediate impact on sites with thin content, often referred to as "content farms." The first update and the six subsequent ones have changed the definition of a quality site in the eyes of Google and SEOs that are paying attention.
The update essentially combines research around the opinions of a human quality rating panel with user data gathered by the Google's automated search technology. Google leveraged advances in machine learning to combine these human quality ratings around whether a set of sites is trustworthy, likeable, and other subjective elements against the myriad of data points already gathered for these and similar sites. It then applies machine learning to essentially "predict" whether people will trust other websites based on the seed research. It sounds complicated because it is.
The takeaway here is that SEOs must now look at their work through a holistic lens that takes into account all elements of a site. Things like design, user experience, and truly engaging content are now all considered by Google in algorithmically measurable ways. User metrics are critical as well.
If this boils down to a few specific points, it is that testing and consideration of all elements of a site's performance and quality are now critical to strong, lasting rankings. Simple adherence to best practices for traditional SEO elements might not be enough to help your site rank better in the long run.
April 22, 2013, 5:55 am UTC
April 4, 2013, 5:21 am UTC
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March 15, 2013, 7:02 am UTC