SEO Monthly Update – July 2011
Welcome to our monthly SEO update for July 2011. This update highlights key news in the SEO industry during July 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) Google+ pages for businesses
It has now been over a month since the launch of Google+ and a lot has happened in that time. On 15th July Google CEO, Larry Page, announced that Google’s social network had reached the 10 million user mark, with over 1 billion items being shared and received in a single day – some pretty impressive figures just a couple of weeks in.
One of the key areas continuing to generate speculation is when Google+ pages for businesses will be available. Unfortunately, we still don’t have the answer to that one; however, Google is currently developing a platform and have assured us that it will be up and running within “the next few months”.
Not surprisingly, a number of people created Google+ personal pages for their business upon launch, a practice which Google has asked businesses to hold off on. They also threatened to remove any non-user profiles created by companies and they definitely weren’t lying. Google has started removing pages, including those of Sesame Street, Mashable and Search Engine Land.
Implications: It’s definitely a good idea to hold off on business pages for Google+, as Google has requested. They are actively continuing to remove accounts using personal pages as business pages, which results in a loss of all of your content and followers.
The only way around this, which Google has deemed acceptable, is to have a person represent a company on Google+. However, the account must be in their name, not that of the business.
b) New changes to Google Place pages
At the end of July Google announced changes to Google Place pages, with more improvements to come in the near future. Amongst the seemingly minor ‘tweaks and adjustments’ (Google’s words, not ours), there are four major takeaways to make note of:
- Google is making it a whole lot easier for users to review Places. One of the more obvious changes is the addition of the two red ‘write a review’ buttons. You’ll also notice the slightly less prominent ‘upload a photo’ buttons.
- They’ve also made changes to encourage bookings directly from Place pages. Hotel pages, such as the one below, include a ‘book now’ feature from Google’s Hotel Ads program.
- Third party review snippets and citations have been removed. Previously on Google Place pages, snippets of reviews from third party sites such as TripAdvisor and Eatability would appear near the top of the page. Citations are often considered the links of local search and their disappearance from Google Place pages led many to believe that their local SEO would be dramatically impacted. To date there is no evidence of this occurring and the new look pages still feature links to third party reviews below a number of Google user reviews.
- Google is continually working on making Places more personal. Many of the changes taking place are either directly or indirectly contributing to Google’s long term goal of making Places as personal to the user as possible. Most of these changes aim to make sharing, reviewing and discovering new places as simple as possible for the user and Google will continue to update Places pages with these goals in mind.
Implications: It has never been easier for users to review Places and upload photos. It is important that you claim and verify your Google Place page (if you haven’t already), update it with all relevant information and photos and optimise for local search.
The removal of third party reviews and citations highlights Google’s desire to be the ultimate ‘go to’ source for reviews and as a result is increasing the need for owners to update and optimise their Place pages. On the plus side, with the removal of review snippets it makes reputation management on Google Places a whole lot easier.
c) Google launches Page Speed Service
Google has announced the launch of Page Speed Service; a service that does very much what the name suggests – speeds up the loading of your web pages. For the moment, Google is offering this service for free to a limited number of webmasters (here’s the link to sign up if you’re interested) and insists that prices will be competitive when it is available to everyone.
Boasting page speed increases of 25% to 65%, the Page Speed Service process goes like this:
- Sign up to use the service
- Point your site’s DNS entry to Google
- Google will crawl and cache content from your servers and rewrite pages based on best practices for web performance
- Web pages are delivered to users via Google’s servers across the world (this step has caused many to describe it as a hosting service in disguise, even though you’ll still need your current web hosting provider to make updates to your site)
Implications: As Google’s Page Speed Service is still brand new, the implications for webmasters are not entirely clear just yet. However, there are some important factors and concerns to take note of.
Some questions have been raised over privacy and control of sites. The fact that your web pages will be served by Google’s servers, not your web host’s and that Google will have access to all of your content and will tweak pages if necessary has raised a red flag for many webmasters.
Thom Craver of Search Engine Watch has slammed the service in his latest blog post, “What Google is now offering is tricked-out hosting, not a page optimiser. You have to set your DNS to point to Google instead of your current Web host. This means when someone types in your website, Google’s servers will answer, not yours.” However, Google has responded (via eWeek) to this concern, stating “We don’t use the information collected from serving these websites toward improving search results or targeting advertising to users. We may, however, use the information collected to improve the quality of Page Speed Service itself, including making pages serve even faster.”
As the service is still brand new it will be interesting to learn the full implications for webmasters and SEOs’ as more sign up and it becomes more available. For now, the page speed browser extension from Google still does a pretty good job at telling you how to improve your site’s page speed. Remember that page load speed has direct implications for rankings, bounce rates, time on site and user engagement, so you should be doing all you can to improve this area of your site.
d) Google Panda 2.3 update is live
Google has confirmed to Search Engine Land that the Panda 2.3 update is now live. A spokesperson at Google has also clarified that Panda updates are still being pushed out manually and are not rolling updates, as many suspected.
The good news is that many sites may be ranking higher than they previously were due to Google incorporating new signals into the latest update. While the exact date is not known, this update was rolled out around 23rd July, further confirming the trend of a Panda update occurring every four to five weeks.
Implications: As stated above, Google is continuing to roll out new Panda updates on a fairly regular basis, so it’s not over yet! A decrease in your website’s rankings may still occur if Google considers it to be low quality. It’s more important than ever to work on improving site and content quality as Google continues to fine-tune the algorithm.
If you’re unsure why your site is being penalised, read More guidance on building high-quality sites, written by Google’s Amit Singhal. Take note of the rather large list of questions you should be asking yourself about your website.
e) Launch of Visual.ly – the new information search engine
In mid-July Visual.ly, a new search engine just for infographics, launched. It’s no secret that everyone (probably) loves infographics – they look good and they get the point across without us having to read a whole article about it. And of course they’re great for SEO as effective, generally low effort link magnets.
Visual.ly has a submission feature, which allows users to easily upload their infographics. Additional features, including an infographics creation tool will be available in the future.
Visual.ly returns search results based on information from the submitter, including title, description, tags and sources. Currently there is still a lot of work to do in this area as many people may use the description fields incorrectly, whether intentionally or not. One of the best features is that users can add links for ‘published by’, ‘designed by’ and ‘sources’. However, the embed code does not include these links, which would have been a good feature.
Implications: There’s no telling if Visual.ly will take off or fail or if a more established search engine such as Google or Bing will add the same feature to their search results, but there’s no harm in uploading an infographic to see how it works for you. Remember to optimise the title, description, tags and sources fields for search.
Key blog posts in July:
- How to apply some basic usability to improve our SEO work
- Competitions for Social Media – the dangerous waters we carelessly tread
- How high quality topic pages can boost your SEO traffic – New York Times case study
- DIY Internet Marketing Education: Where to Start
- Google+ Profile Optimisation: Branding, SEO and Social Media Marketing
- Dethroning the King: Why Great Content Won’t Beat Your Competition
- 10 Image Optimisation Tips For Local SEO
Key newsletter articles in July: