Top Seven SEO Concerns for Online
Marketing in Google's March 2012
Google’s March updates have released an
interesting 50 changes. They are mostly focused on content and good search results. If you can believe the
scuttlebutt around, there is a lot of confusion about the updates as they are claimed to be essentially vague. I
am not so convinced that these updates are so vague, they look to be realistically providing a good overview of
what Google is trying to achieve (don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating Google but I do admire some of the
changes they are able to make).
If you look carefully at the March updates, you
should be able to see it in groups of SEO affected, improved search results, a little for sports nuts, a bit for
mobile users and some social media stuff.
I’m most interested in the SEO affected, there
are probably 14 changes that may impact on your website ranking and have online
marketing implications. Even though keywords are important, some changes reveal exclusions that could
possibly break down a keyword string into more than one category. If this is so, it could also mean that there
is an added dimension for choosing long-tail keyword searches so that you can appear in two places at once. Now
that would be exciting.
The remaining SEO-like changes reveal more of
Google’s goals than ever, that is to improve the search experience for as many searchers as possible. This is
important for all SEO managers who have started to use good-quality content and are preparing to update pages
regularly (where necessary – now there’s another story) they are going to remain in good stead with the Google
Searches. Let’s now look at what I believe to be the top 7 groups affecting SEO decisions. I have shown the
Google reported update in italics.
For a complete list of updates check out the
1. Anchor Text
Tweaks to handling of anchor text. [launch codename "PC"] This month we turned off a classifier
related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links). Our experimental data suggested that other methods of
anchor processing had greater success, so turning off this component made our scoring cleaner and more
Better interpretation and use of anchor text. We’ve improved systems we use to interpret and use
anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and
In combining these I expect the reason why
Google has improved their efficiency in analysing anchor text is to streamline the analysis of a page, thus
making room for more refined analysis. With refined analysis Google can look at the surrounding information to
determine the relevance of content (seems this has been their goal for some time). Some tinkering that will
benefit those with relevant content on their pages and that to which they are linking.
2. Detecting Site
Improvements to freshness. [launch codename "Abacus", project codename "Freshness"] We launched an
improvement to freshness late last year that was very helpful, but it cost significant machine resources. At the
time we decided to roll out the change only for news-related traffic. This month we rolled it out for all
Improvements to freshness in Video Universal. [launch codename "graphite", project codename
"Freshness"] We’ve improved the freshness of video results to better detect stale videos and return fresh
More precise detection of old pages. [launch codename "oldn23", project codename “Freshness"] This
change improves detection of stale pages in our index by relying on more relevant signals. As a result, fewer stale
pages are shown to users.
Improvements to processing for detection of site quality. [launch codename "Curlup"] We’ve made some
improvements to a longstanding system we have to detect site quality. This improvement allows us to get greater
confidence in our classifications.
High-quality sites algorithm data update and freshness improvements. [launch codename “mm”, project
codename "Panda"] Like many of the changes we make, aspects of our high-quality sites algorithm depend on
processing that’s done offline and pushed on a periodic cycle. In the past month, we’ve pushed updated data for
“Panda,” as we mentioned in a recent tweet. We’ve also made improvements to keep our database fresher
The focus on “freshness” should be taken
seriously, considering the amount of resources and the improvement of efficiency that put into resources by
Google to make queries show the most timely results. This is a site quality issue that has proven to give Google
what they want. The detection of stale pages is separate from relevant content so you need to consider both
along with the possibility of designing your site like a blog to remain or improve its ranking. In the best case
just having a blog page on your site would maintain authority. Videos need to be “Fresh” as well, you will need
to ensure they show signs of user engagement and I imagine YouTube will have heavy Google
Also, another Google Panda update. This is very
important for marketers trying to maintain high rankings. It will impact more on lowering the quality of sites
that are going “stale” (ie not regularly updated), and are not of much value to searchers. This means that the
work put into maintaining visibility on authoritative sites only remains of value when the searcher finds it of
value. So if your historical information is no longer of value to the searcher then it must be updated to remain
high in the searches.
Sitelinks data refresh. [launch codename "Saralee-76"] Sitelinks (the links that appear beneath some
search results and link deeper into the respective site) are generated in part by an offline process that analyzes
site structure and other data to determine the most relevant links to show users. We’ve recently updated the data
through our offline process. These updates happen frequently (on the order of weeks).
Sitelinks are the links that Google selects to
appear under the search results for a page. They are determined by Google and reflect the vote for authority
that Google bestows on a site. If you want the user of your site to get that good experience that Google look
for, then take a look at the internal linking that directs users to different part of the site. If there are any
parts of your site that would be considered not a good experience then you should block them.
This is of particular relevance to web site
owners where they maintain a high ranking. If they are showing sitelinks then they will want to continue if they
have close competitors as those under their site ranking are pushed further down in the search results (a sweet
spot for marketers).
4. Image Search
More relevant image search results. [launch codename "Lice"] This change tunes signals we use
related to landing page quality for images. This makes it more likely that you’ll find highly relevant images, even
if those images are on pages that are lower quality.
Improvements to Image Search relevance. [launch codename "sib"] We’ve updated signals to better
promote reasonably sized images on high-quality landing pages.
If your image is important to attracting
business, then make sure it is optimized (eg descriptinve file names, ALT tags etc.) to gain the brownie points
you are after. It’s a great opportunity to get display your image high on the results page even when the page
the image is displayed on is of low quality.
Also, I think that “reasonably sized” images
will add value to the quality of a web page. Either way, if you want your images to be of value you need to look
at optimizing your them regardless of the value of that web page.
5. Blog/Forum Page
Improvements in date detection for blog/forum pages. [launch codename "fibyen", project codename
"Dates"] This change improves the algorithm that determines dates for blog and forum
A natural part of the marketing mix –
promotion. Perhaps backdating your posts will no longer be possible. This will put more pressure on site owners
to perform through upating their site for press releases, company updates, product updates, pricing updates,
news and industry updates.
6. Indexing Symbols
Improvements to handling of symbols for indexing. [launch codename "Deep Maroon"] We generally
ignore punctuation symbols in queries. Based on analysis of our query stream, we’ve now started to index the
following heavily used symbols: “%”, “$”, “\”, “.”, “@”, “#”, and “+”. We’ll continue to index more symbols as
Now here’s another winner. The use of the “@”
symbol is important to email names as well as Twitter usernames. Google is getting better at social media
searches, +’s anyone?
7. Navigational Queries
Improvements to results for navigational queries. [launch codename "IceMan5"] A “navigational query”
is a search where it looks like the user is looking to navigate to a particular website, such as [New York Times]
or [wikipedia.org]. While these searches may seem straightforward, there are still challenges to serving the best
results. For example, what if the user doesn’t actually know the right URL? What if the URL they’re searching for
seems to be a parked domain (with no content)? This change improves results for this kind of
Better handling of queries with both navigational and local intent. [launch codename "ShieldsUp"]
Some queries have both local intent and are very navigational (directed towards a particular website). This change
improves the balance of results we show, and helps ensure you’ll find highly relevant navigational results or local
results towards the top of the page as appropriate for your query.
This is great. It can provide more relevant
results. However, relevant may not be interpreted well by Google, but looks in this case some improvement is
being made by showing results that make more sense to the searcher. Anyway if you deliberately change your
search from say one town to another the search can be greatly improved by providing results that relate to the
greater number of “relevant” searches in that region. Something local marketers will need to consider as it may
not mean high ranking sites would receive the brownie points on some searches.