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SEO Newsletter | Vol 89 | March 17, 2011
Search and Social Media Responses to the Japan Earthquake
SMX West 2011 Takeaways - The Changing Face of Online Marketing
Universal Search Research Update
THE USUAL: Coverage of this month's
hot topics, shuffles, shindigs, attaboys and word on the wire.
  FEATURE: Search and Social Media Responses to the Japan Earthquake
Author: Jessica Lee
In the wake of the natural disaster that affected residents of Japan on March 11, 2011, one resource was immediately available to help organize and carry out emergency information and rescue: The Internet.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter provided platforms for people across the country - and world - to communicate and connect during times of need. These resources can be life-saving when time is of the essence, and when other forms of communication aren't available or simply aren't as effective.

Many of us understand the power of the Internet, but its impact on our lives is becoming more and more evident as it continues to play a major role in the way we carry out important tasks.

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SMX West 2011 Takeaways - The Changing Face of Online Marketing

Author: Jessica Lee

Last year at SMX West, it was all about site speed, the Microsoft-Yahoo! merger and new platforms for online advertisers, including Facebook and mobile. Looking back, it's no surprise that site speed was a major topic of conversation in 2010, as it led up to the launch of Google Instant last year.

This year at SMX West, attendees saw just how much search is changing. From local and social influences on the search engine results pages (SERPs), to mobile search and applications to location check-in services, SMX West speakers talked about new and emerging platforms that presented more opportunities for businesses and advertisers online.

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Universal Search Research Update

Author: Christian Thurston

As part of the work that we perform for clients, we closely monitor the number of Universal Search results appearing in the search results. We have not noticed many recent large changes but have updated our testing from last year to gather some real data to determine what is changing in the search results.

In 2010 we started this research to test what Marissa Mayer, the Google VP of Search Products & User Experience stated in November 2009. In the interview, she noted that when Universal Search launched in 2007 a Universal Search item appeared in 4 percent of search queries, whereas in November 2009 a Universal Search item appeared in 25 percent of search queries.

As in the prior year we selected a sample of different search results in (searched from an Australian IP and eliminating the impacts of personalised search) and recorded the occurrences and types of Universal Search results. We gathered this data across a number of different keyword groups including brand, high volume, mid tier, long tail and celebrity/news related keywords. Please note that these are based on a sample size and are based on an average across the sample set.

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  Hot Topics

Google's Panda Algorithm Update and Web Spam

In last month's SEO newsletter, the Back to Basics article was all about creating quality content for the Web. This was after Google announced an algorithm update that targeted low-quality sites, but before it announced the latest algorithm change affecting up to 12 percent of the index, dubbed the "Farmer/Panda" update.

"Farmer" because those in the search industry suspected it was geared specifically towards content farms. "Panda" because that's what it was called internally at Google.

Through an interview on, and sessions at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West this month, the goal of the algorithm update has become clearer: its mission is to target low-quality sites with "thin" content.

The Farmer/Panda update has been called by many as the most impactful change that Google has made to its algorithm in years. In a interview with top engineers at Google, reporter Steven Levy (who also happened to be a keynote speaker at SMX West this year) found out more details about what the algorithm was looking to accomplish.

In the interview, Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team, confirmed what one of Bruce Clay, Inc.'s senior SEO analysts suspected in a recent post on Google spam: The "Caffeine" update that was made to the algorithm in 2009 allowed Google to index more pages, and therefore, more spam appeared in the results.

Google engineer, Amit Singhal, said the spam that was now showing in the results shifted from random gibberish to content that was written almost in prose. At SMX West this year, Cutts gave an example of spammy content written in prose; the lesson was that Web content like that may try to say all the right things to the search engine bots (through text and keyword stuffing), but does not add value to human visitors.

In an effort to allow users to block certain sites they don't want to see in the search engine results pages (SERPs), Google offered a downloadable Chrome extension shortly after the Farmer/Panda update.

In the second week of March, Google announced this site-blocking functionality would be available to everyone straight from the Web.

In the Wired article, Google said it cross-referenced the sites people were blocking with the extension against the sites that were affected by the Farmer/Panda update, and it had an 84 percent overlap, so it seemed the algorithm was doing its job.

So, what sites are affected by this update? There's still speculation about why some sites are impacted and not others. For example, Wikipedia looked as if it was safe from penalties, according to a comment by Cutts in the Wired article.

While Google admits the algorithm isn't perfect, it says it can almost always group low-quality sites together and quality sites together. Turns out, Google defines quality through a testing process that garners human feedback on Web pages and implements it algorithmically, according to the Wired article.

In the research process, Web pages would be sent to a test group followed by questions such as: Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids? Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card?

But defining low-quality, spammy content has been a hard job for many, including Google - especially as it becomes harder to identify it objectively.

To expand on this discussion, one of the hot topics at SMX West this year was spam. In The Spam Police session, Cutts and representatives from other search engines helped audiences understand the definition of spam and what it looks like tactically.

In another SMX West session on content farms, defining quality content and the impact of the Farmer/Panda update was further debated by industry pros.

All in all, it seems that the Farmer/Panda update and the fight against spam will likely target those sites that truly don't live up to quality content in the minds of online users; however, no algorithm is perfect, and when mixed with human perspective, can leave many areas of gray.

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Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has backed online and mobile payment solution Jumio, putting up nearly half of the total $6.5 million raised in this round of venture capital.

Google has informed customers of Gizmo5 that it will be shutting down the VOIP service on April 3. Google acquired Gizmo5 in 2009 and integrated its technology into Gmail and Gtalk.

BlueGlass announce March 16 that they will be partnering with Australian search firm Ireckon to open BlueGlass Australia.

Google lost another employee to Facebook this month. Amin Zoufonoun, a director of corporate development at Google, joins Facebook as part of its mergers and acquisitions efforts.

Google upgraded its Docs product by incorporating elements of the previous Google Wave technology. As a standalone product, Wave was considered a flop and was shut down in August 2010.


The end of March brings SES New York. If you want to attend, register using code 20BRU for a 20 percent discount. Bruce Clay will also be presenting our One Day SEO Training at this conference as well. Register for a great class and receive access to the new SEOToolSet V5.

SMX Sydney will be held on April 14 and 15 for anyone in the online or search marketing field.

Canadian SEOs should look forward to SMX Toronto on April 28-29 and everyone should register as soon as possible for SMX Advanced in Seattle on June 7-8, as it is selling out quickly. Register using code smx10bruceclay for 10% off.

In the U.S., the newly updated SEOToolSet® standard and advanced training and certification dates for 2011 are as follows:

California Training 2011

  • May 16-20
  • July 11-15
  • September 19-23
  • November 14-18

The first-ever Bruce Clay, Inc. corso SEO on March 1 and March 2 in Milan, Italy was a huge success. The course, taught in English by Bruce Clay and co-hosted by Bruce Clay Italia, was open to all international students. For information on future events in English, French, Italian, Russian or Spanish, contact the Bruce Clay Italia offices at +39 02 3809 3525 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. GMT +1 Berlin time.

Bruce Clay Australia will be holding the next 3 Day SEO Training in Sydney:

  • April 4th, 5th and 6th, 2011 - Taught by Bruce Clay

Catch One Day SEO Training in Australia:

  • Sydney - June 15th, 2011

Bruce Clay Australia released their 2011 SEO Factors & Trends Report. The twenty-six page report covers the key SEO factors that changed in the search engine marketplace in 2010 and the key potential SEO trends in 2011. The objective of this report is to help you identify the key factors that could affect your SEO strategy, and ultimately your search engine rankings. The report also includes recommended actions to align your SEO strategy with the factors and trends identified. It's a great resource for SEOs and business owners alike.

Download the SEO Factors & Trends Report.


March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The quake and subsequent tsunami wreaked untold havoc, including critically damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor.

Social media and search once again showed its power following the Japan earthquake and subsequent disasters. Celebrities like George Takei used Twitter to promote donations to the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

Google set up a location tool for missing persons and Twitter was heavily used to provide information about survivors and conditions in the country.

Bruce Clay Japan employee Taku Amano started a website and Facebook campaign to aid in boosting the signal for news and updates. All of this is covered in this month's Feature story.

  Word on the Wire

A court decided this month that the SEO firm, not just the retailer, was responsible for online sales of counterfeit golf clubs.

The White House has asked Congress for Do Not Track legislation. Any such bill would expand the powers of the FTC in order to enforce the new laws.

Twitter celebrated its 5 year anniversary this month. Last month, Twitter started cracking down on third party apps for policy violations including banning UberTwitter and Twidroyd.

A report by Edelman Australia shows consumers are using search engines first when sourcing information about an organisation, followed by online news outlets and company websites.

Microsoft search engine BING has appointed BMF to pick up its marketing in attempt to challenge the market dominance of Google in Australia. According to Experian Hitwise, Google has over 90% of the Australian search market share, with BING at 4%.


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If you have any questions or comments on any of the above Internet marketing news items or if you would like to suggest topics for future search engine optimization articles, please contact us at Bruce Clay, Inc.

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