Category: Google

What Is Google’s Fred Update About?

This month has seen temporary mass hysteria spread throughout the SEO community, as the beginning of March brought with it a new mystery update from Google. Within 24 hours, rankings started to fluctuate significantly enough for most experts to agree that a major algorithm update was upon us.

However, the distinctive thing about this new update was that Google was even more vague than usual when commenting on the subject. Not only did Google employees refuse to confirm an update, there is no official word on what it concerns, and it wasn’t even given a nickname. A sarcastic tweet from one of their technicians, calling all future updates “Fred”, is all anyone has to work with.

The general consensus on Fred, however, is that it concerns the quality of written content on websites. In the last few weeks since the algorithm started to incorporate the new patch, many different sites have seen their rankings plummet (or increase, in a small number of cases). There are few correlations between the affected sites, although most of those sites that saw their rankings drop were also found to contain content with could be described as advert-heavy or sales-driven.

In other words, Fred seems to be an effort on Google’s part to fight against spam and push it further down the rankings. Although it’s not yet clear exactly what parameters Google is using to decide what content counts as low value, we know that some indicators could include the following:

  • Keyword-heavy content purely written for SEO purposes
  • High numbers of obvious external links or affiliate advertisements
  • Text-heavy articles without additional media such as videos
  • Content not focused on answering search queries

Some have suggested that Google may be starting to understand what pages look like to real users, instead of simply interpreting them in code form. This would theoretically allow for layouts without much visual appeal and a heavy focus on adverts to be picked up by Google and ranked lower. Although there is no evidence of this being the case, and it’s not known how it would be possible, this is a logical next step if the search engine is not already factoring this in.

Overall, whether things are happening now or in the near future which could compromise your site’s rankings, it’s important to take action fast. The main point to take away from the Fred roll-out is that high quality content is more important than ever, and the details really do matter when you want to entice users as well as search engines.

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The Most Common Google AdWords Mistakes

Although it’s not technically part of search engine optimisation, paid advertising is often considered an important part of digital marketing for websites that can usually work in conjunction with an organic traffic-based strategy. There are some similarities with SEO and PPC (pay-per-click), although there are many key differences too. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when starting out in the world of paid Google listings.

1) Not bidding high enough

Some people are overly cautious about spending too much on clicks, and they limit their spend too much which allows their competitors to get ahead of them. Higher bids mean higher positions, so if you’re saving money on bid amounts you’ll probably be too low down to see good results. If you set your maximum bid above what you are really willing to pay, this will give you a competitive advantage in terms of ad impressions, and you will rarely have to actually pay that much for every click.

2) Lacking focus in AdGroups

A single AdGroup should only apply to people searching for one specific solution. All ads within a group need to be close variations on a theme in terms of what they are promoting, even if the wording is totally different. With organic SEO, you want to have specific landing pages so you can optimise them for particular keywords. The same is true for paid ads, as you will get better results with a narrow focus.

3) Using search and display network together

By default, when you set up a campaign Google Adwords will assign the setting “Search network and display network” automatically. This is never the best solution, because your text ads on the search network will be aimed at people who are currently searching for your keywords, while your display network ads will be targeting people who are browsing other sites at the time. Since these users are at totally different points in their search, how could you possibly optimise ads for both of them? The answer is you can’t! Run separate campaigns for best results.

4) Ignoring AdWords features

If you are spending time optimising your campaign and you’re serious about getting the best results, you really need to commit to learning about all the additional tools and features on offer beyond the basics. You are very unlikely to get the best possible conversion rates from your paid listings if you only use the traditional text-based ads, while your competitors are exploring other options such as sitelinks, callouts, call-only adverts and so on.

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Google Bans Payday Loans from PPC

If you ever use organic search to look for financial help, you may see results popping up for what we commonly refer to as payday loan companies. However, anyone paying close attention to the paid ad listings at the top and bottom of those pages would have recently seen such websites disappear entirely. That’s because Google has decided to put a blanket ban on these companies advertising on their massive pay-per-click network, which could be expected to have a huge impact on traffic to these sites.

After all, Google has been making its ads stand out from the organic results less and less. In the last few months it has taken away the distinctive yellow colour of the “Ad” labels, for example, which means they are sometimes almost indistinguishable from organic results. It is perhaps for reasons like this that misleading or predatory advertisements must be taken more seriously than ever, otherwise Google could be seen as complicit in encouraging search users to make poor financial decisions.

The morality of some of these companies may be debatable, but clearly Google is sending a message here about what kinds of business practices it is willing to be associated with. It has set certain standards to decide what is not permissible on its advertising network, including companies that offer interest rates in excess of 35% (for US advertisers) or require repayments within 60 days of borrowing money from them (applying to advertisers in any country worldwide). These characteristics are typical of so-called payday loan companies offering short term cash for people who are struggling to make ends meet between pay cheques.

The terms of use for AdWords have now been updated to ensure things like this will be used as reasons for disapproving ads on its system. Of course, many ads will still be running that advertise these kinds of companies and were previously approved. It is unknown how long Google will take to contact these advertisers and disapprove their ads according to the new policy changes, or if they have some kind of automated system to help them do so.

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Are Keywords Still Important?

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Google is always trying to improve its algorithms, so it can more accurately judge the relevance of a particular webpage when someone enters a search query. The algorithm allows Google to instantly and automatically make an informed and calculated decision about what order to display thousands of results in. It’s pretty impressive that it can understand all the information on your website to make this judgement call, right?

Well, the answer to that is mixed. Yes, Google is making an extremely fast decision (and as you’ve probably noticed, it always loves to brag about exactly how fast that decision was by displaying the time it took to show your personalised search results). However, it is not taking everything on your webpage into account the same way a human does. It’s looking at particular things, which we normally refer to as ranking factors. We know that keywords have always been a very major ranking factor, which is to say, the text content on the page you’ve created needs to contain some words which match the query a user typed into Google in order for that particular page to be shown on a search results page for that particular person.

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Google still heading towards semantic search

Google, the world’s largest and well-known search engine, is soon to be undergoing yet more changes that will affect the way results will be organised in the SERPs. This may wreak havoc among the SEO community, because many of the webmasters have already been adjusting their websites to the recent updates that Google has released. On the other hand, this is something we have heard many times. Is everything really going to be turned on its head?

In fact, the answer is probably not. Google has made its intentions obvious for several years now, presenting more facts and direct answers relating to the search query that the user performs. More and more different features have been added to the main search page so users are presented with a plethora of different displays when they search for queries that Google has a lot to say about. This was marked some time ago by renaming“Web” search to “All”, which reflects the fact that images, videos, maps and other interesting snippets of information tend to be displayed above organic text-based listings.

This system is making the keyword-based algorithm gradually redundant and less useful. The direction that Google is heading towards is called “Semantic Search.” With old priorities like PageRank becoming almost entirely irrelevant, Semantic Search uses the science of language and context to “understand” (albeit in a clunky, robotic way) queries and produce relevant, intuitive search results. The aim is to get to the desired answer in as few steps as possible, improving user experience and securing Google’s massive market share for the future.

Rankbrain was a major step for Google’s “artificial intelligence” development plans when it was rolled out in 2015, focusing on less literal interpretations of queries and attempting to understand context to provide answers that are not directly related to the words in the question. Rankbrain was built with the intention of feeding it historical information in batches and monitoring the results to ensure accuracy, so it’s still one step away from actually learning dynamically without the help of human test subjects. However, Google’s intention is to delve ever deeper into the field of semantic search and we can only expect this to go further in the next few years.

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How To Use Google’s Link Disavow Tool

If you are by any chance a directory editor, you probably receive many communications from directory submitters that would like either their directory listing updated or removed altogether. A lot of the removal requests are due to historic Google algorithm changes that prevent linkspam, which has led to a lot of confusion among webmasters in the past. To help clear up the issue, as well as providing a timely way for website owners to de-associate their site from another, the search giant Google added a “Disavow Tool” to their Webmaster Tools interface. If this is something you didn’t know about, you might find it extremely useful.

The reason why Google released the Link Disavow Tool has been explained in the paragraph below from this Google Help Centre article:

“If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.”

Even though this is a great tool from Google to help you remove unwanted links, it is highly recommended that you still proceed with the various processes that you would use to normally remove a specific link, such as e-mailing the web administrator to take down the link or by manually taking the link down yourself if you are provided the option to. Only use this tool if you are really sure need it, because it won’t always be as effective as completely removing an unwanted link through the proper channels. Also, be sure to not disavow links from your own website.

In addition, it’s good to note that it may take some time for Google to disavow the links. It is highly recommended that you should wait approximately two to three days prior to submitting a reconsideration request after an original disavow request has been submitted. The information that Google uses from this tool will be incorporated into its index as it continuously recrawls the web, ensuring if everything is done properly your website won’t suffer any penalites or ranking issues as a result of links you no longer want as part of your strategy.

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Gmail adds more search functionality

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Gmail, the search engine giant Google’s web-based e-mail system, has always included features that you can use to textually search to find specific messages within the various folders of your e-mail account. The unique search features that Gmail includes makes it easy for users to navigate around their e-mail messages.

Earlier this month, Google announced on their Gmail blog that they have added even more search features to their quality e-mail service. Christian Kurmann, a Software Engineer for Google, announces these changes:

We’re always looking for ways to make it faster and easier for you to find your messages using search in Gmail. So starting today, you can now search emails by size, more flexible date options, exact match, and more.

One of the new implementations that Gmail has added to the search functionality is the option to find e-mail messages by filesize. For example, if you want to find an e-mail message 4MB or larger, you can input “size:4m” (without quotes). You can also list e-mails older than a specific date by using the older_than: operator.

What do you think about Gmail’s e-mail text search functionality? Does it help you find e-mail messages in a more organized and timely fashion? Please leave your feedback in this post’s comments section.

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Google Improves Local Search

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Recently, the search engine giant Google published a list of 65 changes that they have implemented during August and September to help improve your search experience on their search engine. These changes span from various aspects of how searching the web affects you, such as: page quality, knowledge graph, autocomplete, freshness, and local.

The aspect of “local searching” on Google is a big concentration, because of a lot of us perform searches looking for local people, places, and events. A list of the local-related improvements that Google has implemented and updated are provided below:

  • #83659. -project “Answers”- We made improvements to display of the local time search feature.
  • nearby. -project “User Context”- We improved the precision and coverage of our system to help you find more relevant local web results. Now we’re better able to identify web results that are local to the user, and rank them appropriately.
  • #83377. -project “User Context”- We made improvements to show more relevant local results.
  • #83406. -project “Query Understanding”- We improved our ability to show relevant Universal Search results by better understanding when a search has strong image intent, local intent, video intent, etc.
  • #81360. -project “Translation and Internationalization”- With this launch, we began showing local URLs to users instead of general homepages where applicable (e.g. blogspot.ch instead of blogspot.com for users in Switzerland). That’s relevant, for example, for global companies where the product pages are the same, but the links for finding the nearest store are country-dependent.

What do you think about these search aspects that have been worked on by Google? Please let us know below in this post’s comments section.

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