Current SEO: SOPA, Bing Bot, Google Algorithm Changes
Our recap and analysis of some of the biggest developments in SEO and search.
SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act
If you are not familiar with the acronym SOPA, it stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and is currently creating a lot of anxiety for many people. It is a bill that is built upon the Pro IP Act of 2008 and it was introduced earlier this year with the intention of stopping the piracy of intellectual and copyrighted property in order to help protect American jobs. Or as the House Judiciary Committee put it: “the bill modernizes our criminal and civil statutes to meet new IP enforcement challenges and protect American jobs.”
A hearing was held this week within the U.S. House of Representatives to disseminate the details and arguments of the bill.
The intentions of the act are valid, however the bill is a bit general and allows the blocking of domains that could be considered as copyright infringement, altering the way the Internet is presented within the U.S.
Matt Cutts from Google, among many high profile protesters, threw himself into the controversial act, asking his Twitter followers to call their member of Congress to help stop the bill.
Bingbot IP Range Update
For those of you handling search engines by IP, one of our favorites, Barry Schwartz, called out a Webmaster World thread speaking to the fact that the IP range of BingBot may have changed.
Google Algo changes
In a recent post on Google’s Inside Search blog, Engineer Extraordinaire Matt Cutts teased us with a tasty little list of ten recent algorithm changes. Sure, most of the changes listed were fat worth cutting and Cutts went on to caution SEOs by saying, “please remember that this is only a sampling of the hundreds of changes we make to our search algorithms in a given year, and even these changes may not work precisely as you’d imagine,” but we see a few of the items on the list as morsels worth chewing on.
Here’s the meat of the post (with Matt’s original description) and our brief take:
Snippets with more page content and less header/menu content
Matt Cutts (MC): This change helps us choose more relevant text to use in snippets. As we improve our understanding of web page structure, we are now more likely to pick text from the actual page content, and less likely to use text that is part of a header or menu.
RKG: Two thoughts here. One, make sure your core keywords are prominently positioned within copy blocks on the page so that Google has something to pick up for snippets that will actually make sense to a user when they see it in the SERPs. Second, pay attention to schema.org
Better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors
MC: We look at a number of signals when generating a page’s title. One signal is the anchor text in links pointing to the page. We found that boilerplate links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant, so we are putting less emphasis on these. The result is more relevant titles that are specific to the page’s content.
RKG: Our take on this change is that Google continues to de-emphasize inbound links using the same exact anchor text. We consistently recommend anchor text variation as a link building best practice and this is just another example of how important that is.
Fresher, more recent results
MC: As we announced just over a week ago, we’ve made a significant improvement to how we rank fresh content. This change impacts roughly 35 percent of total searches (around 6-10% of search results to a noticeable degree) and better determines the appropriate level of freshness for a given query.
RKG: This change especially affects the results seen for queries related to events. What is yet to be determined is exactly how much of an impact this will have on users searching with the intent to buy products. Something to keep your eye on for those of you in the e-commerce world creating content around and selling new products.
This week’s SEO food for thought:
Refining official page detection
MC: We try hard to give our users the most relevant and authoritative results. With this change, we adjusted how we attempt to determine which pages are official. This will tend to rank official websites even higher in our ranking.
RKG: We think there could be a lot at play here. Fresh result related? Authorship markup? What do you think?
The Week Past: 11/10/11
Last week had its own share of big SEO news that we didn’t get around to posting about, but we’ve righted that wrong below. Beware: Google-centric curves ahead!
Google SSL / https Encryption
Reports are surfacing this week that sites are seeing a higher percentage of affected search results than the projected 10%. With the recent Google push of + pages for businesses, this number can be expected to grow.
Keep in mind that the SSL change does not affect overall organic traffic numbers, only the referral keywords (who cares about those, right?).
*Side note: Matt Cutts told the PubCon crowd that Google is considering providing 2,000 queries or past 60 days of data. Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal took a poll of their seminar attendees and they voted 60-40 for 60 days past data over 2,000 fresh data queries. What would you prefer to see?
PubCon 2011 Las Vegas
SEO…so HOT right now. PubCon, a biannual search and social media conference, was held in Las Vegas this past week. While RKG could not be present, we kept up with the fresh news coming out of Sin City. Below are some interesting nuggets of information from one of our top pick seminars, “Hot Google Topics and Trends” (as displayed by SEORoundtable’s live feed) hosted by SEO celebs Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal.
Matt jumped into his discussion with a slide comparing current SEO to ten years ago, providing a snapshot into what Google finds important to search today. The slide seems very telling because it represents seven top influencers in current search that coincide with speculative ranking factors.
Matt defined mobile, social and local search as “long-term trends” and touched upon social optimization, saying that it cannot be optimized for search because Google and other search engines are blocked from Facebook and Twitter and cannot see what is behind their registration walls, only landing pages or what is on the open Internet.
This is true and something to keep in mind. If a website has a registration wall for users to sign into before accessing content, then search engines will not be able to access that content without signing in first, which obviously does not happen.
Continuing on, Matt broke into mobile, projecting a slide with the header, “Long-term SEO Trend: Mobile.” We all know mobile is crazy important for any company’s online presence but Matt’s quote “your cell phone is a computer you carry with you everywhere” drives it home and reinforces the need to spend resources on proper mobile presence.
Matt finished up and warmly introduced Amit Singhal for Q and A, and apparently there was some bromance PDA happening onstage with exchanges of admiration and appreciation for each other. Below are some keynotes from the Q and A portion of the presentation:
- Google is focused on quality and authorship in order to provide spam-free, relevant content. Microdata comes to mind and the importance of implementing Schema.org markups (look for an RKG blog post very soon).
- Link building is important but “None of the tools show you which links Google actually trusts. So keep that in mind.”
- The Google SSL change was a movement in the direction to make search more personal. Matt confirmed that Google is solid with the SSL change and is considering moving forward and developing it further.
Here is what Google suggests you do NOW:
1. Sign up for Webmaster Tools
2. Sign up for email alerts
3. Set up “fat pings” when you publish: pubsubhubbub.appspot.com
4. Subscribe to:
· Webmaster Blog
· Inside Search Blog
· Webmaster Video Channel
Mustache + November = Movember!
This week’s SEO food for thought:
Matt Cutts spoke out about ad heavy content at PubCon, warning that too many ads may penalize a section or an entire site. Google’s algorithm is looking at how much content is above the fold and how much of what is above the fold has ads “obscuring” content. This is raising concern for an additional Google update, separate from Panda, down the road.
If your site has a heavy ad-to-content ratio, you should be reconsidering the amount of ads or adding quality content or both! And keep all quality content above the fold.