We live and breathe by the Google algorithm. There’s no better way to get us to sit up and listen than to shake things up just as we’re getting comfortable. Algorithm updates are typically shrouded in secrecy, although as any wannabe Hollywood starlet will tell you, there’s no such thing as a secret on the Internet. Of course that’s not to say a few things don’t try to sneak past quietly, so just in case you were looking the other way at the time, here are a few Google-related items you should be aware of.
SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: http://t.co/KKSXm8FqZW Visible to outside world on ~Feb. 6th.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 10, 2014
As of February 6th, Google’s Page Layout Algorithm got a spring cleaning. Known as Top Heavy, this arm of the algorithm looks at where advertising is placed on the page. Too much on top, and you’ll sink to the bottom.
Originally this update came in response to customer complaints of being bombarded with advertising and loosing sight of the content they were looking for when they came through to a webpage from a search.
This is a tricky one, as ads placed above-the-fold are generally the most effective, simply because they’re the first thing a viewer sees. What this algorithm is doing is making sure we focus on user experience as top priority. Are they getting what they came here for or are we shooting ourselves in the foot with too much distracting advertising?
It’s by no means a major update, but you’ve always got to watch the quiet ones.
Just before Christmas, Google confirmed that they were starting to cut back on the amount of rich snippets in SERPs by about 15%. Of course the thinking behind this is all about relevancy, as always. Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google, hinted that it would be typically lower quality sites that take the hit in a bid to give higher ranking authors, well, higher rankings.
Of course, where does that leave authors just starting out? We can’t all have been blogging since blogging began. We don’t all write for high profile websites. Well, thankfully, the basic principles of authorship remain. Quality and originality still reign supreme when it comes to content creation.
With this in mind, it couldn’t hurt to give Google+ a little extra love, especially when it comes to comments and circles, as this allows you attribute some witty industry back-and-forth to your name as well as your carefully crafted weekly articles.
Much rumoured, much speculated and much forecast, the so-called “Zebra update” to the Google algorithm has been refuted as nothing more than hear-say. Phew. Rumours arose after Matt Cutts made a reference to merchant quality at a conference and from there it spiralled.
Thought to be targeting e-commerce, it acquired the nickname Zebra, given Google’s penchant for monochrome animals. However it seemed the doomsday preparations were in vain, as Google have no such update in the pipeline.
Although that’s not to say e-commerce merchants are off the hook. Many are seeing their rankings take a hit as the bots re-crawl the sites through Panda-tinted glasses. Duplicate content is the target of the day, particularly keyword stuffing; unintentional repeat offenders often include verbatim product descriptions, and therein lies the problem. While necessary content duplication such as terms and conditions are unaffected, maybe this scare was enough to get people focused on their rankings again.
It’s not an official end, but there is some practices that we’d be better off without. While the trend is going strong, and it has long-been a legitimate link-building tool, like all nice things the Internet has only gone and spoiled it for everyone.
In a recent post on his personal blog, Matt Cutts, detailed what he described as “the decay and fall of guest blogging”. Again, this comes down to a case of quality versus quantity. It’s Cutts’s opinion too many posts have been reduced to spam masquerading as content, with many of these “guests posts” being revealed to be nothing more than paid page ranking escapades that hold no tangible value.
On a whole, however, the benefits of guest blogging far outweigh the, albeit rare, potholes. The proclamation that guest blogging was “dead” turned out to be an overstatement on Cutts’s part. He was quick to clarify his position on the topic; as always stressing quality and honesty in blogging and not just trying to cheat the system. In the end, it was more about how spammy guest posting has had its day, while genuine guest blog posts still reign supreme.
Moral of the story – if the opportunity arises to pen a thought leadership piece in your niche area, by all means jump at it!
Have you noticed a change in your rankings since these recent updates? Have you any theories as to what Google has planned for the future? Be sure to let us know in the comments or on Twitter.