So, what’s the problem?
Nothing, if you haven’t been massively over-zealous about how well optimised your website is. Being vigilant and up to date isn’t a problem, the issue Google is trying to fix relates to those link-fiends who have over-used their ‘white hat’ so much so, that is has turned a miserable shade of grey (In case you’re confused, I refer to this post).
Okay, so what is ‘over-opimisation’?
In a nutshell, it’s the act of doing everything that is possible to optimise your website, in a non-human and bot-like way.
Sure, over optimisation can include (and will probably be identified by inclusion of ) any of the following:
- Scraped, copied web content
- Too many ads on the page & not enough original content and copy
- That fact that your website loads faster than the speed of light
- When all links that are inbound and have identical anchor text
- Infinite forum links
- Hidden text (in a colour that matches the background, so it can’t be seen)
- Sites linking to you that are dodgy or malicious in any way
This list is not exhaustive as there are many more examples of things Google might suspect & then penalize you for.
Below, I’ve included a helpful video from SEOMoz’s very own Rand Fishkin that does well to explain what changes should be made to save your site from dropping in the ranks and possibly fading into obscurity online after Google’s next update:
March 7th, 2012.
Barry from Search Engine Roundtable posted an interesting find from a Google Webmaster Central forums post. The OP pointed out that PC World (a leading electronics chain in the UK) is ranking with “Mothercare” (a leading baby/parenting chain in the UK) as it’s title in search results for the term ‘PC World teeside park’:
I’m still very intrigued as to how this happened, but after some digging around I think I’ve found a reason why (which I posted on Barry’s post).
1- It’s showing up for ‘mothercare teeside park’ as well (suggesting it’s not ‘one way’). Both results show a Google Places result with the same address and a phone number: 01642 618325
2- A quick search for ’01642 618325 pc world’ returns http://uk.wowcity.com/hartlepool/?what=digital+camera+consumer+products
3- On this page the first result for Mothercare links through to PC World’s homepage (although the details are correct for Mothercare). Note this passes through an internal tracking script and isn’t a direct link.
This looks to me like an error in Wowcity’s listing as the cause of the problem, and probably isn’t anything to do with the folks at PC World or Mothercare (or the agencies they may be working with), but is an interesting fine nonetheless.
If my theory is correct it begs the question- Does Google Places trust it’s citation sources too much? Would love to hear your comments (particularly if you work for PC World, Mothercare and Wowcity!) below.
Those rascals in Europe have really done it this time. They have dreamt up the most insane law that will render any complicated website practically unworkable.
Their intentions were probably honourable but as the law is a mess but they are happening and YOU DO NEED TO TAKE NOTICE.
The law comes in on May 26th 2012.
There is a £500,000 max fine for non compliance.
It”s all about cookies
Why do cookies always come with consequences? If it isn’t calories you’re trying to avoid it’s breaching someones privacy – you just can’t win!
What are cookies? In short they are a method for tracking what you “do” on a website and where you go afterwards, how you got there etc. Most cookies are essential for a website to work. Some admittedly are a bit suspect and it’s not entirely wrong to be doing something about them but the sledgehammer approachby the EU is not the solution we feel.
The new shiny piece of legislation is being enforced as a solution; a way to protect you from the prying eyes of the web owners.
We’re not going to rewrite all the great articles out there already so here are pointers to finding out more about the Cookie Law
- Here’s the official ICO site http://www.ico.gov.uk/
- Here’s a nice well written PDF Click here to read the PDF on new EU Cookie Law’s
- Just in case the above PDF is too much to bear, you can check out this informative video that breaks the new rules down in just under 3 minutes:
- Here are some examples on how to comply with the law and implement solutions on your site http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/9202-eu-cookie-law-three-approaches-to-compliance
- Make the pain go away: For a small price these guys will tell you what to do and how to do it, and you don’t have to learn anything legal. I think they will be busy this summer http://www.cookielaw.org/
Biting of more then they can chew?
Before you get collared by the EU police you can refer them to their own website which is used to announce the legislation and has been criticised for breaking the very same laws they intend to enforce as pointed out (and illustrated with pretty pictures) by the good folks at Code Blog here: “UK Government ‘break’ the law they imposed“.
So, to summarise: This legislation will apply to nearly everything on the web, will probably reinforce the much dreaded “pop-up” and seems to be an overall nuisance.
In conclusion, you can choose to do the following:
- Implement the new functionality to comply with the law ASAP
- Delay the implementation as long as possible
- Ignore the law
What do you think?
February 15th, 2012.
The star ratings that you often see in Google ads are known as seller extensions. These are now likely to appear in the paid, organic and shopping results. These ratings are generated when product reviews are submitted either on 3rd party sites such as ReeVoo or TrustPilot, or when Schema.org mark-up is used to tag internal/on-site reviews.
It is often cited that these star ratings can improve click-through rates by as much as 30%, which will not only increase both organic and paid visitors, but an increase in PPC click-through rate is also likely to reduce your overall cost per click.
Now, while the effects of these are obviously positive when dealing with generic searches, consider the impact on organic brand traffic when seller extensions appeared for one of our clients brand searches.
As you can see, organic brand traffic fell by around 49%. Overall brand traffic remained around the same level, the client was now just paying for a much larger proportion of it via their own PPC ads.
The obvious solution in this case is to turn-off the PPC ads for brand search terms. However in this specific case the situation is compounded by other (legitimate and non-legitimate) companies bidding on their brand term, this includes Amazon, an approved distributor who also benefit from seller extensions in their own PPC ad, so turning-off the client brand ads would probably result in a large share of their own brand traffic diverting to the Amazon result.
So what can be learnt from this?
- Seller extensions have a dramatic uplift in click-through rate
- Protect your brand/trademark results from unauthorised bidders
- Prevent affiliates from bidding on your trademarked terms
- Google are making a lot of money from selling companies their own brand traffic
December 6th, 2011.
A few weeks ago we asked a few folks on Twitter to complete a short (okay, maybe not that short) 22 question survey, looking specifically at the business side to working in SEO. We asked the all important questions, including:
- Where are you based?
- What kind of business are you?
- How many people work in the business?
- What other services do you offer besides SEO?
- How many clients do you currently manage?
- Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
- What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
- Your average charge per month for SEO services?
- Typical client retention period?
- Biggest issues facing your business today?
- Biggest barrier to sales?
- Biggest source of leads?
- What activities are included in a typical campaign?
- Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
- Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? ;))
- What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
- What keyword tools do you use primarily?
- How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
- What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
- How did you get into SEO?
- What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
- Have you ever had a site penalised?
The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:
We’ll be releasing the source data as promised in the next few days. Let us know how your company compares to these averages in the comments below!
October 27th, 2011.
Earlier this month Google announced changes to the importance Google AdWords places on Quality Score, which is likely to affect a number of advertisers. Based on tests carried out in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Google’s Adam Juda announced that the update will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.
The update places more importance on the relevancy of a landing page when calculating Quality Score- a component in the formula which determines where your ad displays in search results and your cost per click when competing with other advertisers. Essentially- it’s now more important than ever to ensure that landing pages used for PPC are as relevant and optimised as possible- rewarded by higher positions with lower cost-per-click costs.
In an interview with Search Engine Land’s contributor Pamela Parker, Google’s Director of Product Management- Jonathan Alferness suggests that the current user experience for AdWords users could be improved:
What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction… This means the user experience isn’t what it could be…
In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.
How will this change affect you?
With added emphasis on landing page Quality Score, it’s important to be aware of this change and now is the time to assess your current landing pages. We can expect to see an initial change within AdWords as this change initially rolls out to the rest of the world:
As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance.
Past this, sites with lower quality landing pages may expect to see lower quality score values, lower ad positions, and possibly higher cost-per-click prices when competing against advertisers with better quality landing pages.
October 24th, 2011.
Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first. 450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?
Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.
It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.
As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!
Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.
October 20th, 2011.
Trusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.
Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.
When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.
With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.
While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.