From our assessment, both March & April were anti-spam months at the Googleplex. It’s been said that April is “the cruelest month”, but for spammers, the cruelty started in March as Google rolled out a variety of changes to their search results and algorithm, specifically targeted at eliminating spam.
Here is a summary of what we have identified:
- The importance of high quality, relevant inbound links has never been greater. Google is continuing to work to reduce the effectiveness of irrelevant link building. During this timeframe they:
- Announced, via their monthly search updates recap that certain factors by which they measured links had changed.
- Deindexed some large paid blog networks that allow users to buy huge numbers of links from blog rolls and low quality content spinning.
- Alerted webmasters via Google Webmaster Tools to potentially unnatural inbound linking to their sites.
The long and the short of it? Non-paid, high relevance, best practices-oriented links have been and continue to be the only valuable strategy for the integrity of your domain. If you cut corners with link building, it will catch up to you, eventually…
- The “Penguin” Update. On April 24 Google released an algorithm update aimed at “over optimization”. Sites participating in overtly spammy techniques like keyword stuffing and over-optimized link building were the hardest hit. Though some claim they are innocent and not intentionally over-optimized, Google’s intent with this algorithmic shift is to remove some of the junk from the search results pages (SERPs).
Separately, in May, Google announced it would soon be launching a new update to its search interface. The update revolves around information that has been collected and harnessed to help summarize and explain over 500 million words, facts, relationships, etc. centered mainly around: people, places, and things. The Knowledge Graph, as it’s called, is an extension of Google’s continued focus on semantic search and delivering the best possible results to users based on their intent.
- Answers at a Glance. With Knowledge Graph, users will get a basic summary of biographical and statistical information for their queries directly in the sidebar of the search interface, rather than having to click through a ranked link. These summaries will include all the pertinent stats about the query at hand and provide for a deeper, more nuanced exploration by the user as needed.
- Clarifying Nuances.Google wants to know what you mean when you search for words with multiple definitions and interpretations. With Knowledge Graph they will provide options for you to narrow / filter your results directly in the SERP. So, for example, if you are querying a word that is a band name, a local restaurant, and a type of activity, Google will offer those three filters for you to pick from and get better results.
- Find Out More. Not only are the answers are at a glance in the summary information within the SERPs, but they are also interactive. Curious about a famous philosophers most important published works? Narrow your initial biographical search by clicking on a picture of the book at hand and learning more about it and other content related to it. Think of it as the search equivalent to going down the rabbit hole.
One of the most amazing parts is that Knowledge Graph is a learning engine that will expand as it’s used. Over time it should become more able to accurately answer queries. A concern, however, is that it will limit click through from Google to publishers’ sites. Hopefully, though, it will:
- Produce enhanced user engagement – meaning more searching – and therefore, increases the likelihood that users find and click through to the most relevant results, thus increasing conversion rates.
- Create a better understanding from Google’s perspective of how content is interlinked and related – thus improving the quality and relevance of the pages that rank within the SERPs.
- Offer new opportunities for websites to provide useful offerings within the in-SERP summaries. These offerings could help people actively get (not just read about) solutions to their queries and have a direct line toward conversion from the SERPs.
And, of course, only time will tell how the Knowledge Graph UI and results updates will impact search query behavior and keyword strategy, but rest assured we’ll be watching, anticipating, and adjusting accordingly. Ultimately, if the first part of 2012 is any indication – this is going to be an eventful year in search with tweaks to these new updates and even more new changes to come around every corner.