SEO Monthly Update – April 2011

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

1. SEO News

a) High-quality sites algorithm goes global

At the beginning of April, Google Webmaster Central announced the global roll-out of the algorithm change now commonly known as the Panda Update. Initially the update was released within, but with this global release, rankings in are now being impacted.

The purpose of the Panda Update was to reward websites with good quality content by removing websites with poor quality, non unique content. For more about the search engines push to improve search quality, see the article titled “Search Quality on the Rise” on our blog.

Also around this time Google released a search feature which may provide insights into how they determine the quality of the content on a page. The “Reading Level” search feature displays the level Google has assigned to indexed pages. This is activated on the “Advanced search” page and once the feature is working the reading level is displayed at the top of the organic search results via a bar graph which shows the percentages of all results at each reading level.

Implication: Google stated that the update will affect many sites, in almost 12% of all Google queries where impacted, so it is possible that your website was affected. To determine if impact has been negative or positive look at your rankings and SEO traffic before and after the 11th April announcement. If you see significant decreases it’s probable that Google has determined your website contains low quality content. In this case there are a number of things that you should do; with the key being ensuring that you have original, high quality and high user value-add content on your website

b) Facebook + Twitter’s influence on Google’s search rankings

As part of his involvement in SMX Sydney last month, SEOMoz CEO Rand Fishkin presented a talk on the influence of social signals on search engines rankings. During his presentation he referenced testing SEOMoz had been conducting on this. Shortly after the conference, he wrote a blog post detailing the findings from these tests.

Social signals were announced last year as ranking factors in both the Google and Bing algorithms. Since then many people have been questioning what social signals are being counted and how much influence they have on rankings. These questions were the focus of the testing.

The SEOMoz testing analysed the top 30 ranking results for 10,217 searches performed on Google in late March. It compared the top ranking results against the lower ranking results and looked for regular patterns that could illustrate how social signals are incorporated in the ranking algorithm.

The key takeaways from the data are:

  1. Social metrics are connected with higher rankings
  2. Shares may be more important than Likes
  3. Twitter may be less powerful than initially thought

This data is consistent with what we are seeing across our clients. In general clients with a strong online brand presence are those that are ranking higher.

Implication: Key social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, should be used to help improve online brand presence and thus the search engine rankings of a website.

c) Bing launches Bing Business Portal

Bing has launched the Bing Business Portal to replace the Bing Local Listing Centre.

The new portal comes with many additional features including:

  • The ability to create mobile sites and QR codes
  • Facebook pages and Twitter accounts can be linked to from the business listing
  • Businesses can create deals and coupons to promote on the Bing Business Portal
  • Management of the business listing can be assigned to other accounts
  • Business owners can choose to hide the business address, giving home businesses the chance to remove their home address from the listing

Implication: Claiming and completing your business listing, whether in Google Places or Bing Business Portal, is very important to a comprehensive search strategy.

d) Jumbo sized Google Sitelinks

Search Engine Round Table has reported some Google users are seeing larger than usual Sitelinks.

Sitelinks are extra subpage links below the first ranking website. Generally Sitelinks are shown for brand search results and provide links to important subpages as determined by Google.

The past has shown that Google likes to test new features for a short period of time before a full roll-out.

As the screen shot below shows, these larger Sitelinks take up a significant part of the search results page. If they were to be fully implemented, brands would no doubt welcome it, especially those with negative content ranking for brand searches.

Google also allows webmasters to block subpages they don’t want used for Sitelinks in Google Webmaster Tools thus ensuring the preferred links are shown.

Implication: Consider how these larger Sitelinks can be used in relation to online reputation management and manage the Sitelinks appearing to ensure they are optimum for your business.

e) Organic click-through rate

A recent study by Optify has provided some interesting insights into user behaviour on the search results page and provided some useful updated information on click-through rates (CTR).

The study touches upon a number of different findings, but the key takeaway is the CTRs the top ranking pages receive in comparison to the lower ranked pages. The study reveals the first ranked webpage receives an average CTR of 36.4%, the second ranked webpage receives 12.5% and the third receives 9.5%. The averages continue to fall off with the tenth position receiving just 2.2% CTR.

The interesting statistic is the first position in relation to all others. The drop from first to second position is a whopping 23.9% and the 36.4% CTR the top ranked page receives is more than the sum total of positions 2 through to 5.

Implication: Aim for higher rankings with head terms, but also remember to have a holistic SEO strategy based around all relevant keywords for your business. Often longer tail keywords are less competitive and thus easier to rank in the top positions. Also, generally these longer tail keywords convert at a higher rate than the head terms.

2. Blogs

Key blog posts in April:

3. Newsletter

Key newsletter articles in April:

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

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