April Search Updates

Welcome to our monthly SEO update for April 2010. This update highlights key news in the SEO industry during April 2010, key blog posts from our bloggers in the US and Australia, key articles covered in our global newsletter, and key podcasts from our Webmaster Radio show.

1. SEO news

Key news items for April:

a) Google officially announces page loading time as a factor in their algorithm

Google has kept a promise it made last year (and something we have suspected for some time): Site speed is now a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, and is already in place for U.S. searchers. But Google also cautions website owners not to sacrifice relevance in the name of faster web pages.

Implication: Use the site performance overview feature in Google Webmaster Tools to see how quickly your site is loading and use the suggestions by Google to speed up your page. If your page loads very slowly, you may be sacrificing ranking positions. Here are some recommendations to improve the speed of your website:

  • Make Fewer HTTP Requests
  • Use a Content Delivery Network
  • Add an Expires Header
  • Gzip Components
  • Put Stylesheets at the Top
  • Put Scripts at the Bottom
  • Avoid CSS Expressions

b) Results from Bruce Clay Australia Universal and Blended search test

Des Odell, one of the directors of Bruce Clay Australia recently spoke at SMX Sydney on the subject of Universal and Blended search. In order to make the presentation as accurate and interesting as possible we did some in depth research into the occurrences of Universal and Blended search within the SERP’s and the outcomes were intriguing:

  • 86% of all searches from our sample set returned a Universal Search result
  • 74% of all searches had a search result above the fold
  • 36% of links on page 1 are Universal Search items
  • More ranking opportunities (16 links per page – 10 text, 6 other)

A more in-depth investigation will be carried out of this research on the Bruce Clay Australia blog shortly.

Implication: You need to optimise your digital assets to have more ranking opportunities, add engagement objects (non-text elements such as images, videos, Flash objects, audio, maps, news, books) to important landing pages and leverage traditional SEO strategies to do this. You need to do this ASAP as the impact of Universal Search will continue to increase.

c) Google: Now recommending brands for searches

First Google rolled out recommendations for “pages similar to” earlier this month, now they also appear to be testing brand recommendations in response to certain queries. As reported at the Search Engine Roundtable, some users are seeing “brands for” recommendations for searches such as [digital cameras], [cheap laptops], [label printers], [fishing rod] and others. This has mostly been observed on Google.com but the brands have been seen on Google.com.au.

Implication: Google has previously indicated that brands may receive greater significance in sorting the internet. This started with the Vince update and the trend looks like it will continue. Building web signals (mentions of what your keywords + brand) may help Google identify you as an authoritative brand and get you into the brand recommendations.

d) Google Sitemaps Gains Image Support

The Google Webmaster Central Blog announced that you can use a Sitemaps extension to provide image data to Google. In the Sitemaps file, you can specify the following properties of the images; image, location, caption, geographic location, title and license details.

Implication: Placing images within Sitemaps gives them a better chance of being indexed and at a faster rate. This is particularly true for images that are only accessible via JavaScript forms, or for pages that contain many images but only some of which are integral to the page content.

e) Google CEO Eric Schmidt says “mobile should be a priority”

During a recent interview, Eric said, “What’s really important right now is to get the mobile architecture right. Mobile will ultimately be the way you provision most of your services. The way I like to put it is the answer should always be mobile first. You should always put your best team and your best app on your mobile app.”

Implication: Google obviously see’s mobile as the future of search, so you should ensure that all your web pages are rendering for mobiles correctly. You should also start ensuring that any new websites or new pages are optimised for mobile views and mobile search engines.

e) New keyword data in Google Webmaster Tools

Google is now providing more detailed data for each individual search query. Google previously only reported the average position at which your site’s pages appeared in the search results for a particular query. Now you can click on a given search query in the Top Search Queries Report to see a breakdown of the number of impressions and the amount of clickthrough for each position that your site’s pages appeared at in the search results.

Implication: This report shows you a large array of key phrases your site is coming up for in the SERP’s. It then shows you how many impressions Google has given you for those phrases. And then, finally, it shows you how much traffic you’ve gotten for them. This can help webmasters see what pages are converting and which ones need some modifications to the title and description tags to increase the % of clickthroughs.

2. Blog

Key blog posts in April:

3. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in April:

  • Do 301 Redirects Result in PageRank Decay
  • Tackle SEO Web Content Writing with Ease

4. Webmaster Radio – SEM Synergy

Key shows in April:

5. SEO Training

The next one day training date is the 9th June in Sydney
Further dates for 2010 will be released shortly. The SEO training page has further details.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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