Google Search Engines

Search Engines — What’s In and What’s Out

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Photo Credit: laihiu via flickr

There’s lots of chatter in my industry about the future of search engines and how Google’s new algorithms are changing the landscape of how business owners work to keep and improve their website’s placement on Google. What seems apparent to me is that the following important trends are surfacing and impacting what we see in the organic results.

What’s In?

1. Search results returned by location specificity. But not only your Google.com preference location that you have set, but by your mobile search history and actual Google recorded locations over time.

2. Search results returned by click-through rate and bounce rate gathered by Google by users of the Chrome browser and Android tablet and Smartphone operating systems. Anything Google can track it is and it appears to be using this aggregate information in returning search results.

What’s Out?

1. The ability to impact search results by building links and enhancing on-site keyword density.

2. The ability to impact search results by crafting title tags and H1 tags by page to try to boost search rankings.

3. Links from social media and activity on social media. Google is appearing to devalue these types of signals, which is a reversal from their announcement that they were using them in their search algorithm more than a year ago.

My Conclusion

As social activity can be spammed just like link building, Google appears to be devaluing these items in favor of location specificity through concrete user tracking based on search history and location. Just try to turn off Wi-Fi on your Smartphone and you’ll see what I mean. In your Android system, Google keeps turning it back on as it uses Wi-Fi to track your location in order to know where you are so as to develop a better profile on you to determine what results to show you. Even if you turn it off, it will go back on.

Keep in mind that Google has now actively worked to tie your Smartphone number to your desktop, tablet and Google account so it now understands the full picture of who you are, where you live, and what you do based on your activity online and offline.

Google is using all this data on you to serve search results tailored just to your needs. It’s all about relevancy.

What Can You Do?

Based on what search engines are valuing and devaluing for organic placement what’s a business owner to do with optimizing their website to try to garner top organic search placement?

1. Build your site and create your content as if there were no search engines. Over time, organic search results will become so unique and so personalized, there will be no way to beat the system in the future. So instead, it is by far better to start now focusing on creating a winning online presence that caters to your local users and focuses on creating your business as an authority in your industry.

2. Look for more ways to promote your business and website in ways other than just in the organic search results. Consider pay per click advertising promotion, newsworthy press releases, writing articles for industry magazines and creating question and answer articles for your local newspaper.

3. Focus on location specificity in your content and on your website. Work to own your local marketplace. Make sure your phone number and address with full location and zip code are placed on every site of your website.

4. Work to connect with local resources like the Chamber of Commerce and other local business organizations. You can participate plus show a link to your website when you become a member. But remember this is way more than just building local links; this is about working your local network and building a location specific base. If you are a brick and mortar store, building loyalty programs with a Smartphone app now becomes incredibly important because Google will use the data from Smartphone users who actually visit your location to boost your results in the organic search results both in mobile and on desktops.

5. Watch the bounce rates on your website pages. It used to be a good strategy to include a lot of informational content on your website to build traffic numbers, but now that strategy may be driving a 70 percent to 80 percent bounce rate on your site which you must now work actively to lower to the industry average of about 46 percent. That may mean getting rid of articles and informational content that had been built before to solely establish industry authority.

Many of the things that search engines are now valuing to provide tailored organic search results are simply not scammable. It is becoming very difficult to garner search placement based on a strategy of serving content to please search engines. Instead, I recommend the tactic of becoming meaningful to your location specific users and supplement national visibility with pay per click advertising.

About the author

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Nancy McCord

Nancy McCord is the founder and President of McCord Web Services LLC which provides blog writing services, Twitter and Facebook status updates, and Google AdWords account set up and management. Since 2001, Nancy McCord has developed a reputation as an expert on Google AdWords and how to use social networking for business. You can visit Nancy and her firm at www.McCordWeb.com. Connect with +Nancy McCord at Google+, @mccordweb on Twitter and on Facebook.

7 Comments

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  • A quick rebuttal to your “what’s out” list:

    “The ability to impact search results by building links and enhancing on-site keyword density.”

    Keyword density? Sure, a long-debunked concept. But links? No, links are still a mainstay of Google and Bing’s search algorithms.

    “The ability to impact search results by crafting title tags and H1 tags by page to try to boost search rankings.”

    Title tags in particular continue to be a vital source of metadata to the search engines. Well-crafted title tags that contain critical target keywords for that page – correctly correlated with on-page content – will out-perform those that don’t.

    “Links from social media and activity on social media. Google is appearing to devalue these types of signals, which is a reversal from their announcement that they were using them in their search algorithm more than a year ago.”

    That’s simply false. Google has steadfastly denied ever using social signals and social links as part of their ranking algorithm (and it’s a moot point when it comes to most social links anyway, since almost all such links are nofollow’d). If you have a URL for this “announcement” by Google I’d love to see it.

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  • Where did you find this info about what’s ‘out’? Most of that stuff is not ‘out’, but may be being devalued a bit, but ‘out’? No.

    Matt Cutts at Google has recently stated again that links still count, link building is still good as long as it’s from relevant and non-spammy sites, and that links will count for ranking for ‘the foreseeable future’, despite what another SPN writer said recently, predicting that links would stop being used as a ranking factor within 5 years or maybe sooner. I WISH links would stop being used as a ranking factor, as no one cares how many links a site has to it, and it’s too easily manipulated, and for some niche sites it’s hard to get very many inbound links.

    Bing and Yahoo don’t seem to count inbound links very much, so I’m using them a bit more often, as I get more relevant/exact results sooner in the list. But few people use those S.E.’s compared to Google, at least for finding my site (which ranks well higher in Bing/Yahoo than Google for common search phrases in my genres), so Google doesn’t care what the others do.

    What does ‘enhancing keyword density’ mean? We’ve all been told for YEARS that ‘too many’ repetitive keywords on a page will hurt you, but there’s no consensus as to how many is too many or what percentage is good/bad, but from most accounts, keyword stuffing (which is what ‘enhancing’ means to me) is bad. But you must have keywords to match searches of course, so they will always count, but the percentage that’s ok may fluctuate. Your statement is just not clear about what you mean.

    Title Tags: How/where did you get this ‘information’? Did you ask any head of S.E’s? As Aaron said, having good title tags STILL counts a LOT and probably will for a long time, as they should. It SEEMS lately though, in my recent Google test searches, that MAYBE Google has reduced the importance of the title tag a bit, due to their Hummingbird update that now tries to interpret the ‘meaning/intent’ of the search, which to me is ridiculous to think a program can do that with any accuracy, and recent results have shown me it’s not working that well.

    So sometimes a site that has the search phrase in its content, but only part of it in the title tag, may show up sooner in results than a site that has the whole phrase in the title tag, even the exact phrase, probably based again mostly on the lame ‘number of links’ parameter. But title tags are still VERY important and far from being ‘out’. ‘Out’ is too strong a phrase, so you may want to reword that.

    Plus, Google now includes synonyms in the title and content results, which knocks sites further down in the results list sometimes, even when they have all the keywords in the title tag, and another site has a synonym that you’re NOT looking for in it’s title tag. Thanks Google. We can’t load our title tags with ‘too many’ keywords to adjust for this, so we get screwed by this synonym junk. Haven’t seen an article on here about that little change yet….

    Now, H1 tags ARE debatable as to how much they influence things or not. I’ve read multiple A/B tests that say H1 tags have little to no effect these days vs. marking things up with font commands, but others say H1 tags still count a little, so no harm in using them. Plus it’s less code than styling a heading with font code.

    As for the social media links not being used in the algorithms…if true, then WHY has EVERY SEO ‘expert’ on this and other sites been yelling at site owners the last few years that they MUST have a presence on some social networks sites TO GAIN SEARCH RANK? Not a week goes by on here without another SEO article that says Google et all ARE using social media presence to help rank sites. Get your facts straight people!

    Aaron’s remark that ‘Google has steadfastly denied ever using social signals and social links as part of their ranking algorithm’ may not have been true 4 years ago according to an article I saw, but Matt Cutts said earlier this year that Google does NOT use social media ‘signals/presence’ in their ranking factors. And they shouldn’t, it’s too easily manipulated too, plus all the other reasons Cutts noted. SO tired of hearing about social media affecting search ranking when the biggest search engine says it DOESN’T. I’m not the only one who can’t stand social media sites and think they’re mostly stupid and a waste of time (when will people wake up?), and many supposed biz surveys have said that only a small percentage of sales are attributed to coming directly from a biz’s Facebook or other SM page, but hard to judge that exactly since most customers don’t say WHERE they found X product before they went to the site to buy it, and most businesses don’t survey to ask. And internet surveys are notoriously untrustworthy and easily manipulated, and wrong conclusions are often drawn.

    As for what’s ‘In’, those may be true and one has been for a while (click-thru and bounce rate), but are yet another mistaken assumption on the part of SE programmers. Click-through rate and bounce rate many times have NOTHING to do with how ‘good’ a site is or whether it has what the user is looking for or not, and is sometimes based on how ‘bright’ the user is. I get hits from searches that are completely irrelevant to my site because some people (kids? new internet users?) don’t know how to read the results and they come in and don’t find what they wanted of course, so they leave after 1 page view. So that unfairly adds to my high bounce rate even more.

    A site can be well organized, with say 1 page per category of X brand or genre or topic, so if a visitor doesn’t find what they came in for, or does but it’s priced too high or they don’t want it right NOW, or they read the info they needed, they leave (like wikipedia), as there’s no reason to look at other pages. So we’re penalized for being clear and having good SEO’d pages but having a high bounce rate because of that? Yeah, that’s a fair ranking metric. Yet sites that are poorly organized and make you click thru multiple pages to find stuff get better bounce rate metrics, but waste users time, and that’s a better ranked site? Bounce rates are not a good measure to use, sorry Google. But Google won’t listen, as usual.

    “…full location and zip code are placed on every site of your website.” I think you meant ‘page’ of your website?

    And many sites are online because they have little or no local customers, so the ‘local’ optimization does no good and shouldn’t be held against a site’s ranking.

    “It used to be a good strategy to include a lot of informational content on your website to build traffic numbers, but now that strategy may be driving a 70 percent to 80 percent bounce rate on your site which you must now work actively to lower to the industry average of about 46 percent. That may mean getting rid of articles and informational content that had been built before to solely establish industry authority.”

    Geez, I wish you people would make up your minds on this ‘content is king’ stuff! EVERY other SEO expert is touting ‘content content content, add articles and info posts/pages to your site all the time (not just talking about blogs) to get BETTER RANKING!’ Now you say those things may work against us? So which is it? And I’ve read over and over that Google is or will be discounting the ‘author-rank/authority’ metric anyway. And some sites have no need or use for more fluffing ‘content’ if they’re just selling things–why be penalized or outranked for that? I for one hate seeing ‘info’ pages or info only sites come up higher in searches for things FOR SALE than sites that HAVE the thing for sale, just because the info site either has more inbound links, or more text about the item(s) and repeated keywords (so more ‘content’) and just mentions ‘sale’ or ‘for sale’ somewhere. Too much is being made of this ‘content marketing’ thing, it doesn’t work for many sites and isn’t needed everywhere, especially on selling sites. Don’t get me started on blogs either. Last thing the net needs is more blogs.

    And what’s this ‘46% industry bounce rate standard’ stuff? What industry? Is that the supposed average for ALL websites, or all business sites, or some nebulous industry, cuz that’s all different and have different bounce rates.

    That’s my $3 worth.

  • “As social activity can be spammed just like link building, Google appears to be devaluing these items”

    I’ve been saying it for a while – Google attacks any competition in an effort to increase its own dominance and advertising income.

    Google has one mission: to make itself the global leader in internet business. It knows that it has control, and it can manipulate what is “in” and what is “out”. Its first action when it had some power was to destroy link networks (competition), calling them spam and “link farms” – a term Google invented to deliberately cast aspersions on something that had BUILT the WWW.

    Since then it has destroyed most site-to-site linking, from forum sigs to link exchange. Most recently it started attacking guest blogging. You’ll notice it was sufficiently vague about what was good or bad, resulting in potentially millions of links being removed or “disavowed” (as if Google has a right to place itself as the “internet police”) All it needed to do was refuse to give details, and millions of links were removed overnight “just in case”. It was a clever move, worthy of the propagandist department of your local dictatorship.

    The next logical move is to destroy social media marketing, branding it “spammy” and encouraging webmasters to abandon it.

    What’s next? Everything you could do to market and promote your site online is going to be attacked and “degraded” by Google, until it is the last remaining avenue for promotion of your site. This is all a systematic plan to make Google the only place you can find traffic, and once there you have to compete with the corporations, with the deepest pockets, if you hope to get anywhere near enough traffic to survive.