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October 13, 2010

SEO Update – September 2010

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It’s October already? In that case, it’s time again for the Bruce Clay monthly SEO update! Today’s rundown will focus on some key happenings in the SEO industry throughout September 2010, the must-read posts and articles from our bloggers in the U.S and Australia, and we’ll also touch on the most important podcasts released from the team at SEM Synergy throughout the past month.

1. SEO News

Key news items for September:

a) Google Instant

Google Instant was rolled out in early September and was covered in our August update. Please read this post on our blog for further information on the impact of Google Instant on search behaviour, rankings and SEO traffic. One important fact to note is that this is a change to the user interface and not rankings. Google states explicitly that the change will not impact ranking of search results.

b) Rich Snippets for Local Search

Local search is an important facet of search engine optimisation for businesses big and small. In late September, Google announced that the use of rich snippets can help searchers find web pages that reference a specific place or location.

The announcement explains that by using structured HTML formats to markup the organisation described on the page, you are giving Google a much better understanding that the on-page content is about a particular place. Marking up your site like this will help Google display your organisation’s information more accurately in Google Places.

Implication: Rich snippets for local search will improve the accuracy of business and organisation information in SERP’s. This is important for small to large businesses that want to ensure they are utilising the full potential of local search. If you aren’t marking up your pages already, see this handy post on rich snippets and how to implement them properly for SEO.

c) New Weighted Sorting Algorithm in Google Analytics

Analysing website metrics in Google Analytics is a vital component of understanding what is and isn’t working with your website. A handy feature that Google Analytics boasted was the fact that you could sort data based on individual metrics by clicking on the title of that column, such as Visits or Avg. Time on Site. This was a useful feature, until real data points were obscured by the fact that two metrics would sometimes become commonly associated with one another from visitor behaviour. In the example below, Bounce Rates of 100% are often linked with Visits of 1, because a bounce results in exactly that, a single visit.

The end result was data in a table that was useless to an analyst wanting to take action to improve their website’s performance. To address this, Google recently released Weighted Sort. In the example below, see how the data changes if Weighted Sort is used:

Implication: Weighted Sort is a new sorting algorithm in Google Analytics that allows you to analyse data in more detail and improve the quality of conclusions. In the example above, weighted sort has weighted the computed value bounce rate against the number of visits, bringing to the forefront the important data that can be used to improve both search engine and conversion rate optimisation. Weighted sort is also available across other metrics in Google Analytics such as Goal Conversion Rate and % New Visits. Try it now in Google Analytics!

d) Google Refines Keyword Tool Accuracy

Google’s Keyword Tool search volume accuracy is often debated by many in the SEO industry. Assessing search volumes across a variety of different search marketing tools has become somewhat of a standard practice for webmasters to gain a truer indication of the amount of people searching for which topics and what products.

In the early days of September, Google refined the accuracy of their keyword tool, bringing about big swings in search volume numbers, and a host of confused webmasters questioning the search engine giant as to what was happening. Google never officially made any comment on the matter; however around the same time this was reported, we noticed some slight changes to the interface, with keywords now bolded within the displayed list of search queries. This gives us good reason to believe there had been some tinkering with the tool. It was reported that the change had only affected exact match search volumes; however, some tests that we ran on broad match queries, using some old data from August, indicated some significant swings in figures (see below).

Implication: We have now have access to  supposedly more accurate search volumes but we believe search volume data still needs further refinement until it can be considered accurate.

e) Bing Introduces Rewards Program

With Bing continuing its efforts to shake up the search market, they’re now offering users rewards for getting involved with their search engine. In a bid to get more users to make the switch to their services, Bing is now rewarding loyalty through a new program that gives people the opportunity to earn credits that are redeemable for prizes.

The initiative is said to be similar to other loyalty programs that regular grocery stores, credit cards and frequent flyer programs implement. You can earn credits by installing a Bing Rewards toolbar on your browser and conducting regular searches on Bing, trying new Bing features, and setting Bing as your default home page. You can then put your credits to use by visiting the Bing Rewards Redemption Center and exchanging them for cool items like Microsoft Points, gift cards, electronics, movie tickets and even donating to charities.

Implication: We see no immediate effects on the search industry with the introduction of Bing Rewards. However, if the initiative is properly developed over time and excites people enough to switch from other search engines, Bing may see a slight increase in their share of the search market.

1. Blogs

Key blog posts in September:

2. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in September:

To receive copies of this monthly newsletter, please subscribe at http://www.bruceclay.com.au/web_newsletter.htm.

3. Webmaster Radio – SEM Synergy

Key podcasts in September:

4. Bruce Clay Training Courses

The next training dates are as follows:

For more information on training, visit our SEO training page.

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