Month: July 2014

Google’s Pigeon Update Solves Yelp Problem, Boosts Local Directories

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As the analysis continues on yesterday’s Google local search algorithm changes — that we’re calling the Pigeon update — one thing appears to be clear: Local directory sites are getting better visibility in Google’s search results.

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More specifically, it looks like Google has fixed its “Yelp problem” and is now showing Yelp pages at the top of search results when queries specifically include the word “Yelp.”

You might recall Yelp’s recent accusations that Google was manipulating its search results to show Google’s own local listings and content ahead of Yelp pages even when users specifically included “Yelp” in their searches. Yelp’s report specifically looked at the search term “gary danko yelp” (Gary Danko is a San Francisco restaurant) and showed how Google listed the restaurant’s official website first, along with several links to Google+ content such as reviews and its Google+ page.

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Today, that “problem” is fixed.

The Yelp page for this restaurant shows up first when the query includes “Yelp.” Two other Yelp URLs also show up ahead of the official website.

The same thing is visible on searches for other restaurants, although sometimes it’s one Yelp URL showing up ahead of the official site. Consider these searches for three Seattle-area restaurants with “yelp” included in the query:

Not Just Yelp: Other Local Directories Boosted

It’s not just Yelp that seems to be benefitting from Google’s local algorithm update. A search this morning for “seattle restaurants” shows individual eateries up in the carousel, but the organic listings below are nothing but well-known directory-style sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable. There are even lesser known directory pages from Seattle newspapers and magazines on page one. (You can click to see a larger version.)

 

On page two, an article from The Guardian (based in the UK) about the top 10 Seattle restaurants is showing up, as is a restaurant guide from the small (but excellent) West Seattle Blog. In fact, on that search, outside of the carousel results, an individual restaurant doesn’t appear until page three.

Similar things are happening on other search queries — but not all:

  • A search for “miami hotels” shows individual hotels in the carousel, followed by nothing but directory-style pages in the organic results below — URLs from Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak and even a list of hotels from Marriott’s website. Individual hotels don’t show until page two.
  • A search for “chicago pizza” shows individual restaurants in both the carousel and almost completely through the first page of organic results.
  • Searches for “dallas dentists” show several individual practices in the organic results, but “dallas restaurants” shows nothing but directory-style pages outside of the carousel.

Overall, though, it looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefitting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have. For those businesses and websites, local search has just gotten a lot more difficult.

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Pigeon: Search Engine Land’s Name For The New Google Local Search Update

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Last night, Google released a pretty significant local search algorithm update. Google told us there was no internal name for the update, but now that we see that it was fairly significant, we decided to give it a name: Pigeon.

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Pigeon is the name we decided on because this is a local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home.

When the Google Panda update launched, there was no official name from Google, so we named it the “Farmer” update. A few days later, Google told us they internally named it thePanda update. So we switched names from Farmer to Panda to avoid that confusion.

Since this update was nameless at Google, we named it the Pigeon update so that we have a name to reference in the future.

For more details on this update, see our story from last night.

10 Lies You Should Never Believe From SEO “Gurus”

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1. I Can Get You The #1 Position On Google.

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Why this lie continues to perpetuate, I’ll never understand. Hear this, and hear it well: no one can guarantee rankings on search engines. Except maybe Google, but you’re not Google, and neither is that guy you hired to work on your SEO.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state very clearly that you should be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Be very skeptical of anyone who promises you top positioning.

2. Every Industry Is The Same In The SEO World. I Don’t Need Specific Experience In Your Field.

This is in response to your question, “Do you have experience helping companies in my industry?”

Ideally, the SEO professional you work with will have expertise in your field. The truth is that all industries are not equal in the SEO world. Some, like business services, are much more competitive for top keywords — others, like manufacturing, are less competitive and therefore easier to dominate.

Unless you’re in a very small niche that no one will have experience in, keep looking until you find an SEO expert who has a proven track record in your field.

3. Duplicated Content Is Fine.

The person or firm you hire to help with SEO may or may not also be a content marketing expert. It helps if they’ve got skills in both areas, because content is essential to your SEO strategy.

No matter how awesome or well-written it may have been, re-posting an article you published elsewhere on your own blog is not a good idea. This is due to duplicate content filtering and the effects of the Panda 4.0 algorithm which launched a few weeks ago.

4. The More Links, The Better.

Just a few years ago, SEO “experts” would use many spammy tactics for acquiring links to their clients’ websites, and Google largely permitted it. Though it wasn’t officially allowed by Google, Google did nothing to penalize those who were doing it. And the sad truth is that those tactics worked extremely well. As such, SEO was mostly a popularity contest driven by the number of inbound links you had to your website.

Those days are gone, so don’t let anyone tell you differently. While the acquisition of inbound links is still an important part of any SEO strategy, Google has shifted their emphasis from quantity to quality. Large quantities of spammy inbound links can now harm your rankings — or even get you slapped with a manual penalty.

5. The More Keywords, The Better.

While keyword density (what percentage of the total copy of a page your keywords comprised) was a major buzzword a few years ago, the focus now is on using a variety of keywords and their variations (known as long-tail keywords) sprinkled naturally throughout the body copy.

“Naturally,” you will note, does not mean that every third word is that keyword. Don’t work with anyone who tells you differently.

6. I’ll Submit Your Site To Hundreds Of Search Engine Directories.

And you’ll be wasting my time. Yes, while you can submit your site to the major search engines, this will yield absolutely zero benefit. There are not hundreds of legitimate directories you want to be found on. Honestly, there never were. This tactic can actually trigger an unnatural link warning or penalty from Google, so stay far away from anyone who says they’ll do any link building or “submissions” on such a large scale.

7. My Techniques Are Too Complicated To Explain.

You may not be a tech head, but you are perfectly capable of understanding how someone you’re paying money to can improve the rankings of your site. In all honesty, it’s not complicated at all. Good SEO campaigns are the result of the successful melding of what I call the Three Pillars of SEO: Content, Links, and Social Media. Each pillar is not complicated nor difficult; it’s just a matter of having the resources to implement each, and the expertise to implement each according to best practices.

8. You Don’t Need To Worry About Google Algorithm Updates.

The truth is, we all need to at least be aware of them and how they change the industry. In general, if you’re practicing above-board SEO strategies that involve producing useful and relevant content in order to build your brand organically and naturally, you should be fine. But still keep your ear to the ground on what Google’s up to.

Here’s a handy resource for keeping track of each Google algorithm update, when it occurred, and what it changed: Google Algorithm Change History.

9. All You Need Is SEO.

No marketing plan will succeed if it’s focused on a single marketing discipline. Your website rankings can improve through your active presence on social media, consistent blog posts, and even your offline marketing efforts. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but ensure that each piece of your marketing strategy maximizes your SEO benefits.

10. I‘ll Get Your SEO Fixed In A Month For A Flat Rate.

SEO is not a “set it and forget it” strategy; it needs ongoing attention. Remember that SEO does not happen in a vacuum. Your competitors are constantly working to improve their SEO, so if you stop doing so, you’ll fall behind. Certain one-time projects can be extremely beneficial, such as initial SEO website audits, link profile audits, and professional keyword research. But these should be treated as foundations and starting points of successful ongoing SEO campaigns.

Ultimately, you need someone who’s willing to work with your company for the foreseeable future and make recommendations for improvement as you go along.

Google’s New AdWords Editor Version Offers Shopping Campaigns Support, More Display Targeting Options

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Roughly a month ahead of the rollover to Shopping Campaigns, Google has released a new version of AdWords Editor that supports the new campaign type. Google announced the old style of PLA campaigns will be shut down at some point in late August.

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Note that support is limited to editing Shopping Campaigns that are already set up, so you’ll still need to create your new campaigns and product groups via the AdWords web interface.

Other updates for display advertisers include support for more audience targeting. Interest categories and in-market audiences are now available from the “Assign Audience” drop-down.

The “Targeting optimization” drop-down now includes “Aggressive”, “Conservative” and “Disabled” options for auto-targeting on Display Network campaigns.

The new version is now available for download, though the upgrade alert is not yet showing for everybody who already has Editor installed. Keep an eye out for that in the next day or so if you don’t see it yet. Update: Scratch that, Google says there will be no alert in AWE. You’ll need to download the new version this time.

If you are still working on setting up your Shopping Campaigns, check out these these articles for tips:

Five Ways to Improve your Site’s Ranking (SEO)

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Publish relevant content

Quality content is the number one driver of your search engine rankings and there is no substitute for great content. Quality content created specifically for your intended user increases site traffic, which improves your site’s authority and relevance.

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Update your content regularly

You’ve probably noticed that we feel pretty strongly about content. Search engines do, too. Regularly updated content is viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy, so be sure to keep it fresh.

Metadata

When designing your website, each page contains a space between the <head> tags to insert metadata, or information about the contents of your page. If you have a CMS site, the UMC web team will have pre-populated this data for you:

  • Title Metadata
  • Description Metadata
  • Keyword Metadata

Have a link-worthy site

Focus on creating relevant links within the text. Instead of having “click here” links, try writing out the name of the destination. “Click here” has no search engine value beyond the attached URL, whereas “Michigan Tech Enterprise Program” is rich with keywords and will improve your search engine rankings as well as the ranking of the page you are linking to.
Use alt tags

Always describe your visual and video media using alt tags, or alternative text descriptions. They allow search engines to locate your page, which is crucial—especially for those who use text-only browsers.

These are only a few of the many methods for improving your search engine ranking. If you want to learn more, we recommend the following resources:

www.moz.com—professional blog and SEO tools
www.google.com/webmasters/tools—a great reference for understanding your Google site stats
www.google.com/addurl—add your URL to Google
http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit—add your URL to Yahoo

How to Tackle the page speed Problem?

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  • Remove any unnecessary plug-ins (if you are using WordPress) or java script from the pages.
  • Optimize the size of your images
  • Use a caching service or plug-in (I use WP Super cache and W3Total Cache).
  • Go to http://www.webpagetest.org/ and test how many seconds it takes for your pages to load from different locations, internet speed and browsers. The analysis report at the end will also tell you which components of your page take too long to load so that you can remove them.

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Go to Google Page Speed Service  to analyze your web site and get performance recommendations.

  • If you have a lot of images on your site and you cannot improve performance with the recommendations given by the tools mentioned above you can consider using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) service such as Cloud Flare or Amazon Cloud Front

I know that tackling issues related to performance is a technical issue and sometimes it’s not easy for the average user to identify and solve the problems. Nevertheless it is a very important factor for SEO and should not be neglected. If you can identify that your web site has performance issues you can either hire a developer through odesk.com for example, or  hire me to help you out.

On-Page SEO Checklist

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Content

1 Content is original – copyscape checked?
2 Content is first published on your website?
3 Content has enough descriptive text?
4 Content is well researched with references?
5 Do you have a clear publishing strategy?

Pages Titles, description and formatting

6 Page titles are unique for each page?
7 Descriptions are unique and up to 150 characters?
8 Text is properly formatted using H1, H2, Bold, Italics?
9 Text is split into small paragraphs?
10 Font size is easy to read on small screens (tablets) as well?
11 Image size is optimized using smushit?
12 All images have alt tags defined?
13 Image filename is descriptive?

URL Structure

14 Permanent links use ‘-’ as separator ?
15 Website pages/posts are grouped into categories?
16 There is breadcrumb on all posts/pages?
17 There is an HTML User Sitemap?

Internal Links

18 Pages have internal links?
19 There is a ‘Related posts’ section at the end of each page?
20 Internal links use both keyword and non-keyword anchor text?

Speed and Authorship

21 Website scores more than 90% when checked by Google page speed insights?
22 Google Authorship is implemented for each and every post/page available on the website?
For website owners that are new to SEO or simply do not have the time to deal with web site optimization, you can always hire a trusted SEO firm to do the work for you. Have a look at our great range of SEO packages, suitable for every online business, customized to your own needs and requirements and at competitive prices.