It seems that almost every week there is a new or anticipated update from Google. Whether it’s an algorithm update for hummingbird, penguin or panda – or changes related to their many ‘products’ – one thing is for certain, Google’s practices are always changing.
The last 6 weeks has brought a variety of changes to many of the services we use at Google – and there have also been announcements for upcoming changes. So this is the first of many blog posts, to keep you up-to-date in the ever-changing world of Google’s practices and what you can do to protect your organic search rankings.
Google My Business
- A little over a week ago, Google launched My Business. A much easier way to manage Google Search, Google Maps and Google+ business accounts, which previously were managed separately under Google Places for Business and Google+.
- Now updating summer business hours, reading and responding to reviews, or posting photos on Google+ can take place from one dashboard. What’s even cooler is Google now provides insights and a snapshot of analytics right in your main dashboard, making it a great place to regularly check how many people are finding and engaging with your business on all Google properties.
In the name of user experience, Google is looking to improve on Google Shopping by enforcing and adding new feed specifications that will become mandatory, September 30, 2014. Here is what’s new:
- Google is moving to make their Shopping Feeds much more mobile-friendly by allowing ads to link to a separate mobile landing page.
- The Image Quality Recommendations are getting a refresh and Google is providing more tips and details on how to create images that will catch visitor’s attention.
- Google Shopping is expanding their support of Merchant-Defined Bundles, making it easier for merchants to specify and display products that are sold together as a bundle.
- To help make posting easier and more straightforward, the feed specification, coming September 30, will specify how many characters can be used for most attributes. Taking the guess work out of Google Shopping Ad writing.
- Google also has used this opportunity to update their Landing Page Content Policy giving users more background details, examples, explanations and guidelines for landing page URLs.
For more information about the 2014 Google Shopping Feed Update, you can visit https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/3097504
Algorithm Updates: Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin
Although this algorithm update was released almost a year ago, it is still incredibly relevant and important to keep in mind when optimizing content and sites. Since hummingbird is all about semantics – or the meaning behind what users are searching for – the key to optimizing for hummingbird is creating great content that your audience is searching for; finds useful; and enriches their overall experience.
Panda 4.0 was release around May 20, 2014 and has been getting a lot of buzz in the last few weeks, most notably because of the alleged 80% drop in organic visibility for Ebay.com after a speculated algorithm update. Since this update is relatively new, experts and the SEO community are still analyzing why certain sites are being hit and what to do about it. One aspect of Panda is penalizing sites that have duplicate content in an overall attempt to be vigilant against spam. Unfortunately, this penalizes both the sites that are the true authority and original publishers of content as well as the sites that “steal” and reuse another website’s content. Panda also targets sites with ‘thin’ or poor quality content and does its best to make sure these sites don’t rank highly in search results
What to do to make sure your site isn’t affected by Panda:
- As with hummingbird, create content your audience is searching for and will be useful to them
- Always create unique content. If you are aware of another site using your exact content, consider reaching out to them and asking them to remove the duplicate content for the sake of both site’s rankings.
- Create rich content. More content doesn’t always mean better. Make sure that you are covering your topic and it’s laid out in a way that is useful for the visitor. Use visuals – photos, videos, graphics and infographics enrich the user’s experience.
- Use appropriate terminology for your topic. This is one of the ways to how Google you are the authority on a topic and should be ranked accordingly. Don’t repeat the same keyword over and over, broaden your keyword focus to capture long tail searches that are relevant to the topic.
The Google Penguin algorithm targets sites trying to boost their search results by unauthentic and unnatural link building. Although many in the SEO community have been buzzing about the effects of a possible Penguin update in May, Google maintains there was no update. Nevertheless, being aware of this algorithm is very important when creating link building strategies. It’s been 9 months since the last Penguin update (October 2013), and at the recent SMX Advanced conference Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, teased that they were overdue in releasing an update. Stay tuned!
What to do to avoid getting penalized by the next Penguin update:
- If you’ve engaged in questionable link building tactics, reach out to those sites and ask for the links to be removed. At the same time, continue to create quality, link worthy content to increase your percentage of good links.
- If you hired someone to build links for you and aren’t sure where they are coming from, or if they are good or bad, use one of the many SEO tools to catalogue all your backlinks. Go through them and look for any domains that are obviously sketchy and would trigger a red flag from Google. Reach out to those sites and ask for the links to be removed.
- To disavow or not? SEOs are split on this question, but if you find that you have a large percentage of sketchy links and can’t get them removed with direct outreach, you may want to proactively disavow them to avoid being hit with a penalty, as explained by Matt Cutts in the video below: