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July 1, 2010

SEO update for June 2010

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1. SEO News

Key news items for June:

a) Google gets Caffeinated

Back in August of 2009, Google announced their plans to super charge their indexing structure by pouring a mixture of hot coffee and Red Bull over all their servers, thereby making them faster and more efficient in the mornings (I kid, obviously). In June Google announced the completion of the rollout of Caffeine. For the Googlized explanation of Caffeine, here is their blog post.

Reflections in a coffee cup

There was plenty of speculation about what would happen when Caffeine went live, some ludicrous, some logical. Exactly how your website will be affected still remains to be seen, but here’s a quick summary of what Caffeine is, isn’t, what to expect and what to do.

Caffeine:

  • is an update of the indexing system
  • is an attempt to make the index up to 50% fresher than before
  • is an update that allows for a larger index
  • gives Google the ability to associate a variety of attributes to a website
  • is not an algorithm change
  • does not affect crawl rates of websites (just the speed at which crawled pages enter the index)

Impacts on rankings:

  • rankings may be affected simply because more pages will enter the index faster and there will be more pages in the index

What to do:

  • Start out by monitoring your rankings
  • If you have been negatively affected, then develop a plan
  • Consider how to freshen up your existing content
  • Check the speed at which new content is added – is it often enough?
  • Keep on working on website speed optimisation

Implication:

Rankings may be impacted due to the speed at which the Google index can now be updated and there being more pages in the index. Monitor your rankings and SEO traffic to assess impact on your site before considering a course of action.

b)  Universal Search in Australia is on the rise

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that SEOs can no longer afford not to act when it comes to Universal Search strategy development and implementation. Search results, formerly occupied by only blue links, are being pushed below the fold by the newer, more attractive neighbours that are image, video and slick real time sliders.

Earlier this month Bruce Clay Australia resident search engine optimisation guru Des Odell spoke with Phil Dobbie at BNET Australia on the subject of digital asset optimisation as a means of optimising for Universal search. Some key takeaways from the interview:

  • Optimise all digital assets (video, images and web pages in particular)
  • Add Engagement Objects to landing pages – if the page is important, make sure it has some images or video to engage your audience
  • Use digital asset optimisation and distribution to improve online presence and visibility – the more mentions of your company on the internet, the better
  • Leverage traditional SEO strategies

To listen to the interview see Four Ways to Make Pictures and Video Boost Your Ranking and for all the stats on Universal search appearances in Google.com.au, check Des’ blog post: Universal Search Occurrences and Types in Google.com.au

Implication:

Universal Search is here to stay and its presence is decreasing the visibility of the standard blue link rankings. Remember that traditional ranking monitors do not take Universal Search elements into account, so if your traffic is down for a previously hot keyword, check your results manually (and without personalisation) – you may have been pushed below the fold by an image, video or map.

c) Google Webmaster Tools reporting more backlinks

Right at the end of June, and as a direct result of the release of Caffeine, Google Webmaster Tools began showing large increases in the number of backlinks it reports. In some cases, increases from several thousand to several hundred thousand were noted. Googler, JohnMu (John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst), took part in a Google Webmaster Forum thread and announced that the update was made to keep the data as fresh as possible. Some folks noted that while the increase in link visibility was a welcome change, not all the data can be exported for full analysis.

Implication:

In most cases, the more data there is, the better. This update will allow SEOs’ to more accurately analyse and assess the value of links and gain a deeper understanding of which pages in the website are attracting the most links.

d) Soft 404 error reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

Yet another Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) update, perhaps not as significant as the previous point, but an update of note none-the-less. As of early June 2010, GWT began reporting “Soft 404″ errors for some websites. Google defines a soft 404 as an error that occurs when the webserver responds with a 200 OK HTTP response code (i.e. the page has loaded correctly) for a page that doesn’t exist, rather than the appropriate 404 Not Found response code.

This kind of error can be found in the Crawl Errors section of GWT Diagnostics.

Implication:

Simply put, Soft 404s waste crawl time and may result in expired pages remaining in the search engine index.  If there are pages on a website that for one reason or another do not exist anymore but still load something with a 200 header response code, the Googlebot will crawl them and GWT will report on them. Since those pages are no longer of use, the time spent crawling and reporting would be better spent on a page of content that hasn’t been crawled yet.

2. Blog

Key blog posts in June:

3. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in June:

Click to  receive copies of the monthly SEO newsletter.


4. Webmaster Radio – SEM Synergy

Key podcasts in June:

5. SEO Training

The next training dates are as follows:

  • One Day SEO Training – Sydney – September 15

For more information, visit our SEO training page.

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