seo offpages

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.

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?
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SEO Techniques for Better Rankings

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2. Page titles, description and formatting

This is SEO 101 but very important as well. When search engines are reading your pages among the things they check includes the page title, the description of the page, the major headings and images. They do so because they need to understand what the page is all about and then based on other factors as well (off page SEO, domain authority, competition etc.), they will place your page in a position in their index.

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Page titles – Each page must have a unique title that will help both search engines and users understand what the page is about. A page with title “On Page SEO Tips” is better than a page with title “index.html”.

Descriptions – The page description is what the searcher will see in the search engine results page. So it has to be descriptive, up to 150 characters and unique for each page. It’s your opportunity to advertise your page and convince the searcher to click your link and visit your website rather than selecting one of the other links.

Formatting – A page needs to be properly formatted. Think of it like a report which needs to have a heading (h1) and sub headings (h2). Important parts of the report are highlighted with bold, underline or italics.

Do not just throw text on the page but make sure that it is readable as well. Besides the formatting practices explained above you also need to use a good size font (at least 12px) and split the text into small paragraphs (max 4-5 lines).

Images – Images are important but these should not increase the loading time of the website. Best practices for using images:

1) Use original images. If you need to use an existing image from the web you need to reference the source.

2) Optimise the size of the images – the smaller the size (in bytes) of the image the better. Use yahoo smush it to reduce the size of an image without sacrificing the quality.

3) Use ALT tag to describe the image – This helps search engines understand what the image is about.

4) Use descriptive filenames – Don’t just name your image ‘image1.jpg’ but try to use descriptive filenames, for example ‘Man doing push-ups’.

5) Use a Content Delivery Network – If you have a lot of images in a single page you can use a CDN service (from Amazon or Google) that will make your page load faster. In simple terms your images will be hosted and served by a number of servers and this speeds up the loading process.

You can also read my seo tips for beginners article for more examples of optimized titles and descriptions and for best practices about the use of images.

3. URL Structure

The URL structure is an important part of on-page SEO. Whenever I talk about URL structure, I prefer to split it into 4 major parts:

1) Permanent links – Permanent links are the URL’s of each page. Good URLs should be less than 255 characters and use hyphens to ‘-‘separate the different parts.

For example a good URL is:

https://onlinepagetraffic.wordpress.com/seo-tips-for-beginners/

A bad URL is:

https://onlinepagetraffic.wordpress.com/p?165 or

https://onlinepagetraffic.wordpress.com/seotipsforbeginners/ or

https://onlinepagetraffic.wordpress.com/123131/publish/data2/seo_Tips.html

2) Categories – Group your pages into categories to help users and search engines find what they want faster. It’s like having a warehouse with lots of uncategorised items versus a warehouse with all the items assigned to a dedicated category. You can have sub-categories as well but my advice is not to go over one level. For example a good category structure is:

Reliablesoft > Social Media > Facebook and not Reliablesoft > Social Media > Facebook > Tips

3) Breadcrumb – A breadcrumb is also important for all your pages because it allows users to navigate your website in a structured way since they always know where they are and how deep below the home page.

4) User Sitemap – One of your options in the main menu should be the User Sitemap. This is an html file that represents the structure of your website. Visit my sitemap for an example.

4. Internal linking

Linking to pages within your website is very important for SEO because:

1) It’s like building your own web: If you watch the nice tutorial by Google on how search works, you will see that the first step a search engine spider will do is follow the links they find. So when they arrive at your page, if you don’t have any other links within the text they will read your page and go but if you have links pointing to other pages within your website they will take those into account as well.

2) It’s a way to let search engines know about your other pages: As explained above when search engines find a page with links, they will go and read those pages as well so you can use this technique to tell search engines about pages of your website they have not yet discovered.

3) It’s a way to tell search engines which are your most important pages: Every website has some pages that are more important than others. Internal linking is one of the ways to pin-point the most important pages by sending them more internal links.

4) It’s a way to increase time on site – A user that is reading your post is more likely to click on a link to read more about a certain subject and thus increase both the time spend on your website and the number of pages per visit.

Best practices for internal linking:

1) Don’t use keywords only for your internal links

2) Add internal links when they are useful for your reader

3) No more than 7-8 internal links per page (this is my opinion and not based on any research or studies)

4) If applicable you can also use ‘related posts’ at the end of each post for internal linking

5. Speed and authorship

Last but not least, 2 SEO techniques that are becoming more and more important especially after the release of penguin 2.0 (or 4.0 as some people like to say it): Speed and authorship.

Speed: Google is investing a huge amount of money to make the web faster. In every Google I/O someone will talk about the importance of speed and their desire to include the fastest websites in their index. In order to ‘force’ web site owners to take speed into account they have officially added speed as one of the ranking factors.

So, we know for sure that web site speed does matter when it comes to SEO and ranking. As a webmaster your job is to make sure that your website loads as fast as possible by taking into account Google’s recommendations.

Google authorship: Google is preparing for the next generation of Search and their effort is to rank higher webpages written by people who have authority on the particular subject. One of the ways to establish authority is by correlating the content you publish on the web with your Google+ profile. Then depending on how many followers you have and who follows you, your ranking may change.

Google authorship is still at its early stages but it’s gaining ground fast so you have to create a Google+ profile and bind the profile with your content.