March 2011 Monthly Update

Welcome to our monthly SEO update for March 2011. This update highlights key news in the search industry during March 2011, key SEO-related blog posts from our bloggers in the US and Australia, and articles covered in our global newsletter.

1.  SEO News

a) Google announces the +1 button

Google’s ongoing effort to create more relevant search results has been reinforced with the announcement of the +1 button.  According to Google, ‘+1’ is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out”.

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s very similar to a Facebook ‘Like’. The key difference (and it’s a big one) is that users will be able to view recommendations while they’re actively searching for this information. Consider the impact of booking a hotel and seeing that three of your friends have also stayed there and recommend it. The +1 button appears to the right of a Google search result and shows the user how many of their friends and other people have +1’d it.

In order to see the things that your friends or the wider online community have +1’d you’ll need to be signed in to your public Google profile.

Initially, the +1 button will appear next to organic and paid search results; however, Google has plans to eventually feature them across many other Google products and sites.

Implications: The +1 button has only just been launched in the US and may take some time before it is rolled out internationally. At this stage it is difficult to predict just how big +1 will be, as Google’s past attempts to break into the social media realm have not been successful.

If you haven’t already, update your Google profile by linking your other social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See Google Announces the +1 Button from the Bruce Clay Australia blog for more information about updating your Google profile.

b) Google’s Panda algorithm update: Winners, losers and implications

Last month we reported on Google’s impending Panda algorithm update. This month we’re examining the impact it has had throughout its short time in the US index.

Just two days after Google announced the algorithm change, Sistrix released a report detailing the clear losers, with Ezinearticles, Wisegeek and Suite101 ranking among the top. SEOBook did the same for winners, with YouTube, Ebay and Facebook scoring well.

Implications: When announcing the Panda update Google stated, This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”. So, what does all this mean? Basically, ensure that you have original, quality content on your website to avoid being penalised by the Panda update. If you’re submitting content to third party websites, go for the winners such as YouTube to get more value.

Note: On 11th April Google announced that this change was rolled out to all English language Google users. The latest on Panda is covered in this Search Engine Land post.

c) How important is it to have keywords in a domain name?

During March, Matt Cutts took to YouTube to tackle the question of keyword rich vs. “brandable” domain names.

He states that there are two different paths to go down when choosing a domain name:

  • Go for something catchy, memorable and “brandable” – for example, Twitter, Facebook and Google are all successful brands that don’t use keywords in their domain names.
  • Choose a “keyword laden” domain name, which is not memorable, however, can often rank well due to people linking to the site with keyword rich anchor text.

Matt Cutts stated that the weight given to keyword domain names is something that Google may be working on decreasing in the future: “…we have looked at the rankings and the weights that we give to keyword domains, and some people have complained that we are giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains. So we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm, so that given two different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain name with a bunch of keywords in it.”

Implications: While Google has not yet stated that they’re working on these changes, if you’re considering purchasing a domain name purely for the keywords, it may not be worth your while. Instead focus on building your brand, which will pay off long term.

d) Google allows users to block sites from personal search results

Google have announced yet another feature to support their ongoing campaign for more relevant and personal search results. Users are now able to block certain websites from their personal search results when signed in to Google. Users can also manage, add and unblock domains from within their account settings.

Google stated “…while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future.”

Implications: Google is serious about providing users with a better search experience and is now giving them the power to do so. Webmasters should focus on improving their website for user experience, which includes creating only high quality and relevant content. While Google is not currently using the blocked domains data as a signal in ranking, they have not ruled it out for the future.

2. Blogs

Key blog posts in March:

3. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in March:

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

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