On February 27th, Google posted an update to their official search blog announcing that they had made 40 search quality changes to the Google search engine that month, including an update to Panda, last year’s game changer.
40 updates in one month is actually a new record for Google, and there’s been some buzz about it, but don’t panic just yet. Google making changes, even numerous changes, isn’t anything new. Google is constantly tweaking, changing, improving and updating all of the products that they offer, and those changes don’t always make a huge impact.
With this latest round there’s plenty to sift through, but what likely matters most to businesses can be easily summed up in two parts.
Google indicated that it would be making a change to the way it evaluates links. Specifically, how they evaluate a link as a means of determining the topic of the page being linked to. Unfortunately, Google was characteristically cryptic in exactly what that change is.
Google did say that they are “turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years.” Since we don’t know which method that is, we can only speculate for now how that will impact rankings.
So let’s speculate!
Back in January I gave a little presentation on Google and some of the big changes of the previous year, and in it I caution business owners to be on the lookout out for updates to Panda. Specifically, I stated that Google is likely to refine how it evaluates backlinks. My advice was to ensure you have plenty of backlinks from quality sites, and to taper off dependency on a high volume of low quality, low relevance links.
That strategy used to work shamefully well, and in many cases it still can, especially if your competition isn’t doing anything. But if Google is “turning off” an old method and trying to improve how it delivers results, then associating your site with low quality sites via backlinks is probably not a sustainable strategy.
Typically, if users want local results, they might add their city in along with their search phrase, and this would likely produce relevant local search results. Recently though, Google has been working hard on improving local search functionality to produce local results for all search phrases, including those without a city or location added.
Google is able to accomplish this by using your location information and matching that with webpages that feature compatible location information and are also relevant to the search phrase used. To be clear, local search results may come in the form of a webpage with a geographically relevant address, a homepage of a local business that mentions its city, a Google Places listing, or a combination of those. Essentially, Google is working towards providing relevant local results to a user without requiring the user to explicitly state their desired location in the search phrase.
What does this mean for businesses that want to ensure they show up in local search results?
Well, as always, creating, claiming, and optimizing a Google Places listing is crucial. Beyond that, there’s plenty of optimization that should take place on-site. Add the business address, use the city name in content, or even create a location specific landing page. The latter is basically required if your business has more than one location.
Ultimately though, the specifics of how best to optimize for local results aren’t clearly defined, and they probably won’t ever be (Google wouldn’t want that). What’s important to keep in mind as a business owner, is that it’s crucial to do more things correctly than the competition.
Google wants to deliver the best results for search phrases, and will always be working towards that goal, constantly improving on how it delivers what it thinks are the most relevant results to the user. In order to rank highly and beat out the competition, your business needs to actually be the best result.
Is it?Filed under: Articles & News, Search Engine Marketing
It’s a tall order — get thousands of small businesses online and help them all succeed.
Today, hundreds of small business owners and representatives from across New York are getting together for the first of two trainings in the state aimed at helping them break into the online world.
Almost all Americans search for local products and services online, but more than half of small businesses in New York don’t have a website, according to Google.
The company is teaming up with Intuit Websites and a couple dozen business development groups from around the state to offer companies a three-page website, domain name and website hosting free for a year (along with free email support for 30 days).
Companies will also get a walk-through for claiming their Google Places listing as part of New York Get Your Business Online.
If it’s free, how do you calculate ROI?
Here at IntelliSites, we think this a great idea. But if you attended this event (or even if you missed it) there are some things you might want to think about down the road, if not much sooner, for improving your “free” Google website.
Unlike a brochure that’s printed and can’t change, the best part about a website is that it can. Most of the people who set up their site through this Google program will never touch it again once it’s live. Just like having a store, no one will come back if things don’t change from time to time. Additional products and improvements incentivize people to return to your site.
You need a plan for your site and beyond.
Here at IntelliSites, a division of Burst Marketing, we have created a unique Blueprint process that allows us to know the client and brainstorm the best ways to cultivate leads and bring in business.
Your site needs to have a clear strategy so someone coming to your site knows exactly what to do when they get there.
Speaking of getting there, how will anyone know you exist on the web? Google is not promising to highly rank your site just for using their service. Just ask our search engine marketing clients about our proven results.
Taking the free route
If you do decide to take the free route, even for now, here is some advice: Think about your audience.
The typical business does not spend enough time thinking from the perspective of their customers. You start this process by asking who your customers are. How does your website (and other marketing materials while you’re at it) help turn members of those specific groups into leads and sales?
If you’re not sure, perhaps you’d like to have a conversation?
Sure, template sites allow you to claim real estate on the web, but when it comes to return on your investment, remember you usually get what you pay for.
The program’s advice that “getting online is now easy, free, and fast” is great for now, but when you’re ready to step up your online presence with proven results, let the experts at IntelliSites and Burst Marketing help.Filed under: Lead Capture, Marketing Your Site, Web Design
Facebook and Google. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve gotta admit that together they make up an enormous part of the internet as we know it.
But it’s probably not surprising that the two giants tend to bump heads. The websites may have had separate purposes initially, but as each site gets more and more complex, their functions have started to overlap. And this, of course, makes them rivals. Then, the fact that both companies also collect mass quantities of info about the people who use their websites fuels the rivalry because it also puts them in competition for this information. And then there’s the fact that internet marketing has taken off big time, and every day everywhere, businesses are deciding whether to send their advertising dollars to Google or Facebook. In short, these companies are becoming more the same than different, which actually makes them less likely to hold hands and frolic through the playground of cyberspace.
What the Rivalry Looks Like
The beef between the two rivals made the news in the spring when Facebook hired a public relations firm to get the word out about privacy concerns relating to Google’s Social Circles feature. Not surprisingly, this move didn’t improve the relationship between Google and Facebook, and ultimately it brought negative publicity to both companies – Google, because of the allegations, and Facebook, because of the way it went about publicizing them.
Meanwhile, despite the drama, both Facebook and Google are still growing and changing. And as they do, it seems that both companies are moving toward the idea of a hybrid between a search engine and a social network. For Facebook, this meant partnering with Microsoft’s Bing to incorporate recommendations from one’s Facebook friends into one’s Bing search results. (Check out this PC World article for the details.) For Google, that meant rolling our Google+, the hot new Google social experience (think Facebook, but with the Google look and feel) But whether you use Google or the Bing/Facebook tag team to conduct your web searches, you’ll find that your search results might incorporate some feedback from your acquaintances. Or in other words, that the idea behind Google and the idea behind Facebook are merging to create a new idea – “social search.”
Regardless of how things play out for these two, it’s a fun time to be an Albany web designer and overall computer nerd. We get to sit back and enjoy the play by play of how these gargantuan internet forces change the average guy’s internet experience. One day Facebook starts using facial recognition software to help you tag your friends in photos…one day Google makes voice and image search possible…and little by little they make that internet of ours bigger and smarter and more powerful. If competition is going to keep these companies experimenting and growing and moving forward…then by all means, guys, keep that rivalry going strong.Filed under: Experiencing the Web
Google’s latest idea is good enough to sink your teeth into.
Next time you’re in search of a recipe, look no further than your pal Google. You may already use search engines to look for recipes, but Google has gone ahead and made the cookbook of the world wide web even easier to navigate.
Let’s say you’re in the mood for a chicken pot pie. Type that into a search engine, and sure, you’ll get some recipes. But you’ll probably also get some other random, less useful stuff…like a Wikipedia article about the history of chicken pot pies, for instance.
But now if you type your keywords into Google and want to limit your search to only recipes, you can click the “Recipes” tab located on the left hand side of your screen. If you do that, then any page that isn’t going to hook you up with a recipe is not going to be included in the results. (It’s just like clicking “Images” if you only want to search for pictures.)
But even more handy are the ways you can then tailor your list of recipes. Once you’re in recipe mode, Google gives you options that will allow you to find just what you’re looking for. Do you have a specific ingredient you want to include? A certain amount of prep time? A number of calories you don’t want to exceed? With a few clicks, Google will rearrange your list of recipes to help you find ones that meet your needs exactly.
Thanks, Google! Now searching for recipes can really be a piece of cake. (Or, a piece of chocolate cake that is 300 calories or less and that also contains zucchini, if you prefer.)
Unfortunately, Google Recipes only works with food. If you’re looking for a recipe for a good site design, you’ll have to contact the Albany Web Design team at IntelliSites.Filed under: Experiencing the Web
It goes without saying that Google is a force to be reckoned with on the internet (and a frequent topic of discussion at IntelliSites’ Albany Web Design Blog). It’s an enormous corporation with tons of resources and lots of creative minds contributing to its big picture. And it comes up with some pretty amazing new concepts. But did you know that the Google folks have worked on a number of technologies that never quite took off? I caught an article by Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land the other day that celebrated some of Google’s “failed attempts.” Here’s my take on a couple of Google’s best worst ideas.
Google Wave – This was invented as a form of communication that blended the best elements of email, instant messages, and wikis. It could have taken over as a new and improved version of email. Even though Google Wave didn’t make it, I think its debut pointed out that email as a form of communication has some widespread issues and that there are things that new technology could do to make it better. Wave’s short life also suggests that email is so widely adopted that even with its flaws, people don’t know how to make sense of a replacement for it.
SearchWiki – This function allowed people to tailor their list of results when they used Google’s regular search engine. You could delete sites from your results and rearrange the order of results so you’d have an ideal list the next time you made the same search. But somehow, in this era of customization, people didn’t like changing their search results. Do people feel there’s a sanctity to Google results? Do people feel that Google knows what’s relevant to their searches better than they, themselves, do? Based on how this idea flopped, I guess so.
Dodgeball – Dodgeball is the ancestor of what we now know as Foursquare. (For real. As Sullivan’s article mentions, the guy who invented Foursquare used to work for Google). Based on Foursquare’s success, it seems like sometimes, Google would benefit from sticking it out with a product before killing it. Google’s attempt at spreading Dodgeball also makes it clear that Google is ahead of its time in many ways. They were thinking about location-based stuff even before everybody had smartphones.
So maybe the world just wasn’t ready for these “flops” when they came out. And maybe cousins of Google Wave, SearchWiki, and Google’s other technologies will make someone else rich someday.Filed under: Experiencing the Web