March Search Updates

Towards the end of last year, we started to summarise the month’s SEO news and sent these updates to our clients. Now we are going to be publishing them on the blog too. So without further procrastinating, here are the March search engine optimisation updates.

1. SEO news

Key news items for March:

a) Matt Cutts reveals some SEO truths

On the 14th of March, Eric Enge interviewed Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) providing some great nuggets of information, including the following useful pieces of advice:

  • Duplicate content might negatively affect how much of your site gets indexed, but the number of links to your site can positively influence indexation
  • 301 redirects pass some, but not all pagerank
  • Low quality, non-unique pages can reduce your indexation
  • Google will make some new calls for people to report linkspam in the coming months

Matt has also released some new webmaster help videos on some SEO related topics. One interesting titbit that come out of that this month is that Google shouldn’t treat “brandname” and “brandname®” differently. The difference between the two is a little trademark symbol on the second example.

Implication: Try to avoid duplicate content within your site as much as possible, not only will it not ‘count’, it may harm how many pages Google will index within your site. In addition, the more links your site has, the more pages will be indexed.

Use 301 redirects only when necessary not just because it is the easiest way to solve a problem.
Buying links is going to get you into trouble pretty soon, so migrate your link building policy to a more ‘white hat’ method of garnering links.

b) You can’t control what Google uses as the Meta description tag

Another video from Matt Cutts states that you cannot always control what Google shows as the description beneath your entry into the SERP’s. Google may use content from your site or from the ODP (also known as DMOZ, a web directory that Google occasionally uses for information) if they feel your description tag isn’t relevant. This is a carryover from when unscrupulous sites used false Meta descriptions to trick users.

Implication: If you have a good Meta description tag, Google will use that, so make sure all your meta description tags are relevant, unique and useful, as they will encourage click-throughs.

c) Google updates their search suggest feature

The Official Google Blog has announced enhancements to the Google suggest interface (as you type into the search box on Google Web Search, Google Suggest offers searches similar to the one you’re typing). Enhancements include:

  • Boldface search suggestions to make it faster to scan the list of suggestions and find what you’re looking for
  • Adding the “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky” buttons to the box so they’re still accessible even when the Suggest box is open
  • Removing the result counts, which previewed the number of results for each search, to simplify the experience

Google has also rolled out Google Suggest to 50 languages across all 170 domains where Google Suggest is available.

Implication: It seems that Google is trying to push searching from within the Suggest interface. This might mean that a user may not even use their initial query but a suggestion from Google instead. Google will be providing search suggestions based on the popularity of phrases searched for, so more obscure, long tail terms are far less likely to appear when you start to type. In addition, for short, regular keywords, it’s going to be important to see what Google Suggest puts out there and consider optimising for those within your niche.

d) SEMPO’s State of Search Engine Marketing Report 2010

The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) has released the results of its latest survey of more than 1,500 client-side and agency search marketers from 68 countries, and has the following good insights:

  • Around half the companies (49%) are reallocating budgets to search engine marketing from print advertising. More than a third (36%) are shifting money away from direct mail, and almost a quarter are moving budgets from conferences and exhibitions (24%) and web display advertising (23%)
  • 97% of companies pay to advertise on Google AdWords. Nearly three quarters of companies (71%) pay to advertise on the Google search network, while 56% use the Google content network (keyword targeted)
  • Personalisation of search results is having an impact, with over 75% of companies calling it a ‘significant change’. Agency respondents felt the “rise of local search” was the most significant emerging trend with 38% saying this was “highly significant” with 47% labelling it as “significant.”
  • The number of companies who engage in search engine optimisation (90%) has remained steady since 2007, while the proportion of companies carrying out paid search marketing (now 81%) has increased from 78% in 2009 and 70% in 2008.

Implication: More companies are re-allocating traditional marketing budgets towards search marketing, with the major victim being print advertising. Google is still dominating the search engine marketing landscape. Clients and agencies feel that personalisation and local search are having the biggest impact within the SEO world.

e) Yahoo! Search Update

The Yahoo! Search engineering teams are rolling out updates to the crawling, indexing, and ranking algorithms.

Implication: Similar to previous Yahoo updates, you may notice some ranking changes and page shuffling during the process.

2. Blog

Key blog posts in March:

3. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in March:

  • Building a Brand with Your Online Voice
  • The Case for Page Speed Optimisation
  • The Value of SEO Training

In addition, during the month a special edition of the newsletter was released covering SMX West.

4. Webmaster Radio – SEM Synergy

Key radio shows in March:

5. SEO Training

The next one-day training dates are:

  • 12th May – Melbourne
  • 9th June – 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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