1. Linking Penalties
April 2012 marked the beginning of an updated Google algorithm, Penguin, which sought out websites that had low-quality inbound links, affecting SEO factors. Penguin identified websites that had purchased links or spam that could result in an automatic penalty. Initially, Penguin penalized sites that had more than 80 percent of low-quality inbound links, but this standard tightened to allow 65 percent, until it reached 50 percent by October 2012 and continues its allowance descent.
Since Penguin’s release, awareness has increased and options have become available that can prevent your website from being penalized given the current guidelines. In addition to Penguin, Google released their disavow tool that allows webmasters to tell Google which links it can ignore, either by domain or page. Avoid keyword stuffing, purchased links, and be sure to utilize Majestic SEO, a backlink checker, to remove unnatural links.
2. Exact Match Domain Names
Google’s Exact Match Domain (EMD) update was implemented in late September of last year. The update was the beginning of the end for superfluous sites topping Google’s sought after search page due to keyword stuffed content. Before the update, sites had the ability to jump to the front of the line due to keyword usage rather than relevance and quality. Google’s EMD update remains positive as to avoid penalties site owners simply need to deliver what their domain name suggests. When considering a new domain, however, a keyword goes a long way so don’t be threatened by EMD guidelines, just be sure to deliver.
3. (Not Provided) Keyword Data
“Not Provided” are two simple words that when read, make webmasters cringe. In October 2011, Google began to make significant changes to the way they manage and report their user’s data. As a result, Google adopted a new system, making their users referral data hidden as to protect their privacy. This change had enormous impact on data retrieval, effecting keyword searches that now show up as “Not Provided”. Before Google’s sudden privacy update, website owners could use Google Analytics to search keywords to determine trends and visitor behavior on their site. The privacy now extends to users logged into Gmail or Google+ as well as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari iOS6 browsers, aka a huge chunk of user information.
Since the market that includes private search behavior is so large, “Not Provided” keyword searches have increased to as much as 50% of site’s keyword search. To combat this large gap in data, workarounds have been created but still do not reclaim the entirety of search results. Other data is also always attainable to make up for lost data such as clicks, and are accessible along with other options in Google’s Webmaster Tools.
4. Local Results
Advertising and owning your local area is beneficial for not only your business, but your Google Ranking. Since various updates, general listings paired with locations can pin local businesses to the top of the search engine due to relevance and content. The pinned businesses may even pull up photos and general contact information as well as the link. According to Google estimates, 20 percent of searches have local intent while mobile searches have 40 percent.
This leaves nothing but good news for local businesses. There are number of ways to stay active and important within your community; claiming your address on Google Maps can be achieved by adding your business to Google Places, include up to date contact information, and have your address clearly visible on your website. Localizing your business and mission statement, using region-related keywords, and being listed in online directories are all ways your business can be found easily through Google Search.
5. Google+ Local
Google remains generous with its local business presentations and has extended their services to Google+ Local. By creating a business account with Google+ you can monitor your success through easy to read review ratings, a 5-star scale, and depending on your business, Zagat rating. Businesses can connect with friends, include photos, videos, and posts. Google+ services are also integrated into various Google products as well and also accessible on mobile phones. Google+ Local caters to the business, allowing users to establish profiles, add members, and grow through reviews, recommendations, and overall exposure.
6. Responsive Design for Mobile
With solid increases in mobile searching, websites need to have “responsive design” that can connect fluidly and easily to computer and mobile devices. Mobile searching is increasing due to advanced technology and has actually replaced computer searches for some users. Given this increase and wide market, it is imperative that websites work just as effortlessly on mobile devices as they do on computer screens. Google recommends using CSS to alter page rendering but maintain a consistent URL. Having a responsive design that is recognizable, consistent, and that coverts easily is essential. Remember to test your site on smart phones of different styles, as well as tablets and other handheld products.
7. Page Layout Update
To avoid unnecessary user search, Google has updated its algorithm once more, this time to target sites that are “Top Heavy”. These sites are those with advertisements above the fold, the webpage that can be seen without scrolling down. Top Heavy sites found by Google were subsequently downgraded or removed. This became necessary as developers could alter HTML coding to re-position advertisements to the top. Be sure that your website has substantial content above the fold for user ease and to avoid assuming a Top Heavy title.
8. Knowledge Graph
Google has become a domineering staple for the modern world. Google’s algorithm does much more than provide results, it links and matches the keywords the user chooses to give appropriate and relevant links. Consistent updates to the algorithm ensures its growing database is accounted for and that Google is becoming more than just a search engine, but a mind-reader. The knowledge graph is just one of the ways that Google is providing an easy-to-use service. When provided with a well known search, relevant information is now available on the search results page without users even having to click a link.
This is nothing but good news for marketers. The Knowledge Graph is an easy way to ensure businesses relevancy and accessibility. Setting up an account with Google+ is the first step to becoming part of the growing service, making sure your website provides answers rather than cataloging, and sharing your website with friends, associates, and related business partners strengthens the presence of your business.
9. Social Media Reports
Social Media is an easy, cost-effective way of creating a heavy impression in your industry. Despite the opportunities that lay within this expansive network keeping track of your various sites can be difficult to prioritize but Google has stepped up to the plate again with their addition of Social Reports within Google Analytics. With this tool, you can input your social media sites and view charts and statistics on their success and traffic. Through different options such as the Activity Stream and The Conversions report, users can track their visitors path, links clicked, and who shared what with whom. Using these social media tools can increase the awareness of your business and the Social Media Report may even aid in ideas for social media events or contests catered towards
10. Rich Snippets Updates
All text on Google is crucial, especially when it comes to your own listing. Google has offered yet another way to improve relevancy and provide users with quick, additional information about the site they are about to enter. On the search results page, Google has added supplementary data underneath the blue link and may include ratings, reviews, or prices. The list of information acceptable for these Rich Snippets is growing and software is now available to test sources and create a demo scenario. Depending on the nature of your business, catering to your area of expertise is an efficient way to get instant recognition or satisfaction with your audience. Webmasters can control what information is provided and can expand on it, ensuring up-to-date results and importance.
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