SEO Monthly Update – September 2011

Welcome to our monthly SEO update for September 2011. This update highlights key news in the SEO industry during September 2011, key SEO related blog posts from our bloggers in the US and Australia, key articles covered in our global newsletter and key podcasts from our SEM Synergy Webmaster radio show.

 

1. SEO News

a) Panda 2.5 Rolls Out

At the end of the month, Google rolled out the latest iteration of its Panda update. Google is stating it is just a normal one of its approximately 500 algorithm updates per year, but it seems this one is significant enough to be seen as Panda v2.5.

Although Google does not release specific details of updates, according to information from SuiteMetrics, it seems sites which host video content have received a significant boost in SEO Visibility from this update, including Google’s own properties, such as YouTube. “Brand” sites have also received a significant boost.

 

As with all updates there are winners and losers. Most of the losers appear to be in the retailing/reviewing/commentary space, in particular those sites that are viewed as being more than once-removed from their Brand cousins. Some sites, such as DaniWeb, which recovered from being hit in the original Panda roll-out, have now been hit again.

Implication: If onsite video content is king (for a little while, at least,) then delivering quality relevant video content directly to users from the owned site increases in importance. This would give additional benefits of increasing user engagement with the site, increasing stickiness for the site and is likely to decrease bounce rates. Both of these latter factors are thought to be ranking factors in the major SEs algorithms, so the benefits of onsite video content would be amplified.

b) Managing Pagination & Duplicate Content

Some of Google’s biggest bugbears are the inefficiencies caused to their crawlers and indexing engines by replicated and duplicated content. Over the last few years Google has been making every effort to remove the bloat from their index, and at the recent SMX East show, all the engines reportedly stated that duplicate content ”will” hurt rankings.

One of the main areas of index bloat is caused by content pagination. This frequently occurs on sites like big ecommerce sites with product catalogue pages broken down into different views, such as 10/20/30 products at a time. With little textual variance and little unique content on each page, this may cause Google not to display the best page the match the user’s search query, and may be at risk of being interpreted by search engines as being duplicate content.

Frequent useability studies have shown that users prefer a “view-all” page and Google tries to surface that page as the preferred result. However for ecommerce sites with 1000s of products having the view-all page displayed frequently might cause significant page loading issues.

In order to attempt to resolve this conflict between users, site owners and Google, the search engine has now advised webmasters to use the HTML link elements rel=”next” and rel=”prev”, where appropriate, in a similar way that rel=”canonical” is used.

These elements could be appropriate for any type of page which may be split over several pages but only cover one topic. As well as the ecommerce product categories above, this might include pages such as: article series; forum threads; blog posts; or news stories.

The benefits of using these new elements are that Google will “consolidate indexing properties, such as links from the component pages to the series as a whole” and “send users to the most relevant page”.

Implication:  If your site has content which is split over a series of pages, it is important to consider implementing this HTML technique. This should reduce the potential load on a server; encourage Google to display most relevant page and consolidate linking benefits. As a final benefit it may also reduce the risk of running into problems associated with duplicate content.

c)    SMX East – New York, Sept 13th to 15th

The Search Marketing industry gathered in New York recently for SMX East, one of its regular conferences/shindigs.

Bruce Clay bloggers, Jessica Lee & Virginia Nussey were present and live-blogging on the hot-topic sessions they attended, including: Facebook, Twitter and SEO; The Current State of Personalised Search; and plenty of other topics. All their posts are archived on the Bruce Clay US blog.

Some of the key snippets of information picked up during the few days of conference sessions included: significant information on the integration of Rich Snippets into SERPs and their effect on CTR; the news that Bing has a 1% error tolerance for URLs in sitemap.xml before it starts to affect their view of the site’s trustworthiness; and the unsurprising news that Google will crawl a page that has been “+1”ed in its SERPs, but which may have been excluded by robots.txt.

Implications:

  1. 1. If your site has content which would benefit from Rich Snippets, then the implementation pain appears to be worth it for the CTR & traffic benefits.
  2. 2. Make sure your sitemap.xml is a very accurate list of live URLs on your website. It’s worth checking with this with a third party crawler.

If there are indicators to Google of a page’s relevance, then it is likely to notice and index it, in spite of any robots.txt instruction.

d)    Facebook gets busy with the updates

It’s not just over-active teenagers posting regular status updates on Facebook. These last few days have seen a number of improvements (***) to the way Facebook lets you share, follow and collate your friends’ information. The Improved Friends List appears to be a way to deal with the quick uptake of Google+ and its Circles, which allow you to control who sees what when you post information.

Facebook has also introduced a Subscribe button so you can better control whose updates you follow closely and those who you steadfastly ignore. Facebook is also trying to improve the News Feed you see when you first log in to show you what it considers the “top stories”. Finally based on your posts and information, you will now be able to track your history with a personalised Timeline.

Implication: Yet again Facebook is making a significant play for online eyeball time, improving the way it manages the information you show to your friends. It is thus vital to continue to leverage traffic and engagement potential from all significant online sources. Aside from the implications of social factors being incorporated into the search results, these changes may increase the amount of time Australians spend on Social Networking sites (currently 22% of time according to comScore) and increase Facebook’s share of searches from the current 3% (comScore)  potentially at the cost of time spent searching through search engines.

(*** I say “improvements”, but as with any change to Facebook, the number of vocal detractors outweighs the supporters of the change by quite some margin – 86% according to PCMag.)

e)    Who noticed the Yahoo! redesign?

Yahoo! had a re-design of its Search Results interface recently, introducing a cleaner look with automatic tabs and enhanced filters.

Implication: Despite the above changes and this combative post from a Yahoo claiming that Yahoo! search is ready to fight, it’s a little bit like watching people shuffling the deckchairs on Titanic. The unfortunate implication is that these changes are unlikely to have any real impact on the SEO landscape, apart from some signals as to the future direction of some of the larger search engines.

f)    Mind your PDFs

Google sent out a timely post recently reminding us to optimise PDF files, as they are indexed by Google.

There are a number of technical elements to optimising PDF files for search, such as their own way of incorporating metadata, but the same general principles of being read and indexed on the basis of textual content and links apply as they do to HTML documents.

Implication: Wherever possible all content, including PDFs should be optimised, especially engaging content that people are likely to share and re-post. You never know where that content could turn up and what benefits it could bring.

g)    Bing doesn’t like link farms

This month’s non-surprising revelation is that Bing (in line with all the other search engines) doesn’t like Link Farms; or Like Farms for that matter. Put simply a Link Farm (or Like Farm) is an artificial attempt to fool a search engine into thinking that a site is popular with a wide number of other websites by creating a vast number of links. It’s usually done semi-automatically and often for what initially seems like remarkably cheap prices ($10 for 1000 links):

Beneath is a really good visual comparison of how a search engine might interpret the link distribution from a link farm (on the left), versus the link distribution from a good quality collection of completely natural backlinks (on the right). The big blobs of the unnatural link pattern are links from the same or similar sources. The smaller pinpoints from a natural distribution almost looks like a web:

Implication: Don’t be tempted to build links to your website from a link farm or a like farm – it will damage your site’s trustworthiness and your rankings or in the best case ignored, thus delivering no ROI for these tactics. The key take-away is that quality wins – meaning quality links and likes from quality sites.


2. Blogs

Key blog posts in September 2011:

 

3.Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in September 2011:

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

 

4. Webmaster Radio – SEM Synergy

Podcast in September 2011:

 

5. Bruce Clay Training Courses

The final SEO training course for 2011 is our one day SEO training course and this will be held in November 3rd 2011 in Sydney. For more information on training, visit our SEO training page.

 


 

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