Articles in the Algorithm Updates & News Category

If you depend on Organic website traffic for new and returning business, it’s important to understand the effects that search engine algorithm updates can have on your web traffic. Usually run to prevent search spam and improve the SERPs, search engine algorithm updates can be confusing for web masters and interactive marketers. Learn about the latest algorithm updates and what they mean for your website.

October 7 2013

Interpreting Organic Traffic in the Age of “Not Provided”

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If you regularly use Google Analytics to interpret your organic search traffic, you may have noticed a surprising change to the platform as of late – the words “not provided.”

If you haven’t seen it, “not provided” looks like this:

not-provided

This is happening because Google has switched 100% of its search traffic to its secure (HTTPS) server. As a result, all of the keyword data for Google’s organic search traffic is cloaked beneath the “not provided” moniker.

This means that, while you are able to see search volume, you cannot know which keywords users searched to access which pages.

In other words, marketers now have a lot less data when it comes to analyzing how their target audience is finding them. This includes understanding which pages are “working,” organically, and which still need improvement.

What You Can Do

Luckily, there are a few workarounds that, although they may seem tedious at first, will help you and your overall SEO goals in the long run.

  1. Ensure that you have a strong site architecture. This way, you can easily identify and segment similar sections of your website to target specific persons / businesses / markets. These sections can then be much more easily analyzed as a group to see improvements within analytics platforms.
  2. Match keyphrases to specific pages on your site, and optimize them well. You will then be able to draw conclusions based on increases to your organic traffic.
  3. Once you have targeted the pages on your website to specific keyphrases, you can use a combination of rank tracking tools, including Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to correlate specific pages with the keywords that you have optimized for. This will help you to identify what words may be driving the best traffic and the most conversions.
  4. Utilize data in Google Webmaster Tools to identify words and phrases that users are searching on to find your site. You must have access to a Google Webmaster Tools account for your website in order to access this data. If you do not, the account is free to set up and you can find more information about it here www.google.com/webmasters/tools/‎.

What “not provided” means, as you’ve probably guessed, is that marketers will be feeling around in the dark for a while as they adapt to this change. This will take some getting used to. But there will likely come a day when the steps recommend above will be so second-nature, old SEOs will sit around and say, “hey, remember when Google used to tell us what keywords were being used to access our sites?” Ah, the good old days…

October 4 2013

Google’s Hummingbird & What It Means for Your Content Strategy

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Last week, Google announced the release of its new algorithm – Hummingbird.

Hummingbird represents a move toward semantic search. That is, it’s Google’s attempt to interpret the user’s intent in order quickly to deliver precisely what the user is searching for. To do this, Hummingbird interprets an entire string of text from a search (aka the long tail) rather than a few keywords.

For content creators, this means that if you’ve been using content best practices – creating fresh, interesting, sharable content – you have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, you’ve been relying on old, outdated content that’s optimized for search engines, rather than users, it’s time to change your strategy.

Content Strategy in the Age of Hummingbird

During client trainings, and in strategy docs, we often preach “content as customer service.” This means creating content your users want and need.

How do you know what they want and need?

1. Ask them. Turn to social media to connect with your users. What do they need? What do they want? How can you help them?
2. Read industry forums and blogs. And don’t just read the main content, read the comments. Comments sections are a wealth of information not only about the subject, but also what users are struggling with, and how they’re finding solutions.
3. Perform keyword research. Yes, keyword research is still meaningful – especially when you look beyond two and three-word phrases and toward the long tail.

When it comes down to creating that content, best practices still apply:

• Create content for users, not search engines. This means using natural language and writing for your audience.
• Create visual, sharable user-friendly content.
• Keep your website fresh by continually adding content.
• Include social media sharing options on your website.
• Share your content in relevant social media channels.

Remember that Google’s primary focus, as far as search is concerned, is delivering good content to its users. If you’re creating good content for your users, you will have a website that will withstand any algorithm change.

July 10 2013

Avoid Inbound Links from Site-wide Elements to Help Avoid Penguin

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Although many people have heard about Google’s Penguin Algorithm updates and know that they can have a large impact on their website’s presence within Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), many of those same people aren’t aware of issues that may cause a website to be affected by them. While there are many things that can cause your website’s presence to be affected by these updates, we have seen one common pain point within the SEO industry.   This is when websites have inbound links from site-wide elements that do not fall within Google’s Quality Guidelines.

Site-wide links include any link that can be found on every page of a website. These are often contained within a website’s site-wide footer or sidebar. For example, if site A has a link to a page on site B within its site-wide footer, this would create a link on every page of site A pointing to the page on site B.   When this occurs, a new link to the page on site B is created any time site A creates a new page on its site. This can result in thousands to hundreds of thousands of links being created that originate from one website and point to a single page.

In some cases, this is normal. If a corporation has multiple websites and each contains a site-wide footer link pointing back to a main privacy policy page, this is not likely to negatively affect any of the sites. However, there are many reasons that site-wide links can negatively affect a website’s presence within Google’s SERPs. The first is that site-wide inbound links are against Google’s Quality Guidelines if used improperly. Google states that websites should avoid “widely distributed links in the footers of various websites.” Although it is unlikely that linking to a privacy policy page would be problematic, there are situations in which it can be.

One common case is when a website has site-wide inbound links from partner websites. To be clear, this is not always problematic, but if the linking is done improperly it can become problematic. One of the reasons that this type of site-wide inbound link can be problematic is that there can be large fluctuations in the amount of inbound links originating from one domain. For example if site A is an ecommerce website with hundreds of thousands of pages and contains a site-wide link to site B, there could be thousands of links lost or gained each week based upon how often site A updates it’s product pages. When there are such large fluctuations in a site’s inbound link portfolio, Google’s algorithm will likely take notice.

If you are utilizing a website for your business, and especially if you are utilizing multiple websites, it is extremely important to consistently check your inbound link portfolio. You can find out more information about who is linking to your website in our blog post about Google Webmaster Tools. If you notice a large amount of inbound links originating from a single domain, it is important to take a closer look. Ensure that any site-wide inbound links fall within Google’s quality guidelines and consider having an SEO professional analyze all of the inbound links pointing to your website.

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