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Google Local Search “Pigeon” Update

local seo for lawyers

On July 24, 2014, Google released an update to improve its local search algorithm. This new update is intended to leverage traditional web ranking signals in order to provide more accurate and relevant search results for the user. Though Google has not officially given this local search update a name, Search Engine Land has decided to title this update “Pigeon.”

What have we noticed from the Pigeon update so far?

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It’s been a little over a week since this update rolled out, and in that time, webmasters and search experts tracking local search results have reported a noticeable change in the local “pack” results, or the map results displayed for a given search. In the graph below, you can see the days that were most heavily affected by Pigeon, as well as the stability that resumed on July 29, 2014.

The following are some of the most significant changes that webmasters have noticed from the Pigeon update:

  • An apparent decline in the number of local map pack results for a huge number of search queries – from 6-7 local map pack results to only 3
  • An increase in exposure and rankings for local business directories such as Yelp and Zagat
  • An overall improvement in search results according to distance and other location ranking factors

What should your business expect for the future?

  • A lot of change in rankings while this algorithm rolls out, especially for small, local businesses
  • More directories appearing in the search results
  • A better mobile experience for users that are shopping or looking for near-by businesses

Like other Google algorithm updates, it is difficult to understand the entire purpose of these changes during the early phases of the algorithm roll out. Here at The Search Engine Guys, we will be keeping an eye on the Pigeon update and will provide more information when it becomes available.

If you have questions about how this update may have affected your website or business in the search results, please contact us today at (512) 806-7955.

Nancy Tran  August 4th, 2014 – Posted by to Search.

To contact the author, emails can be sent to: ntran@thesearchengineguys.com


Quarterly SEO Update: What Has Google Changed in 2014 So Far?

lawyer seo news

With the first quarter of 2014 behind us, we wanted to take a quick look at some of the biggest news on the SEO / Google front so far this year.

January:

  • Webmasters speculate that an unconfirmed algorithm update occurred between January 8-10 due to shifts in placement and traffic drops.
  • Google punishes a large French blog network called Buzzea.
  • Google tests a knowledge graph snippet overlay, meaning a snippet pops up when you hover over a search result. (Note: I currently do not see this feature happening, so the test may have already ended)
  • Matt Cutts personally addresses guest blogging on his personal blog. He writes this message “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”
  • Matt Cutts posts a video about not posting to article directory sites such as ezine.com.
  • Google announces a “page layout algorithm improvement,” which could potentially penalize any website that has excessive advertising above the fold.

February:

  • YouTube videos are enlarged in the SERPs. If someone is searching for a specific music video, the results page will show the YouTube video at the top of the page, making it more accessible for the user.

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  • Google punishes a German agency and link schemes.
  • Google updates the “page layout algorithm” for the third time. This was only a refresh and had little impact in the SEO community.
  • The Google Panda update celebrates its third anniversary.
  • Google Analytics rolls out a new user interface to make it cleaner and easier for users to access data.
  • Google’s OneBox answers become more detailed. Google uses knowledge graphs and authoritative websites to answer questions typed into the query box. Below are two examples of how Google answers these queries:

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March:

  • User interface in the Google SERPs has been updated several times over the past few months. Some of the most recent changes include:
    • Google Ads are now labeled “Ad” in a yellow box instead of being highlighted in a light peach color
    • Underlines in each search result have been removed
  • Due to the redesign in the SERPs, the font size for title tags has increased, resulting in a decrease in characters displayed on the page. Moz has released a title tag preview tool that can help webmasters choose the length of their title tags.
  • Google continues its attempt to fight spam by penalizing link networks in Spain, Germany, and Italy.
  • Matt Cutts announces that Google is working on the next generation of Panda updates that will soften the algorithm.

What to Expect for the Summer:

  • Fewer announced updates from Google
  • More user interface changes, especially in the knowledge graphs and Google cards
  • More intuitive answers and results from queries
  • An increase in mobile site optimization

Google has kicked off this year with a whirlwind of changes and will only continue to push more updates in order to improve and evolve into a better and more user-friendly search engine.

If you have questions about Google updates and how they may have impacted your website, call us at (512) 806-7955 for more information.

Nancy Tran  April 1st, 2014 – Posted by to Search.

To contact the author, emails can be sent to: ntran@thesearchengineguys.com


Google Hits June With A Heat Wave

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Ever since Matt Cutts, Google’s head engineer in charge of web-spam released a video in May about what to expect in the next few months in terms of SEO, there have been noticeable fluctuations in the search results for many website owners.

The MozCast Google weather tracker is a tool designed by the highly regarded web-marketing company Moz. Recently, their “Mozcast” site displayed what many SEO experts consider to be alarming temperatures in the month of June. A “regular” temperature reading is usually somewhere between 50 to 80 degrees, but two readings this month have shot up over 100 degrees, breaking records in the weather chart. In fact, June 27, 2013 yielded a 120 degree reading, the highest ever seen in the history of MozCast. Overall, changes in the Google algorithm have shaken up the search results a few times this past month, including roll outs such as:

  • 10 Day Panda Monthly Update
  • Payday Loan Algorithm
  • Partial-Domain Match Update
  • Multi-Week Update

10 Day Panda Monthly Update (Panda Dance)

In March, Google mentioned that they will stop publicly announcing Panda updates, as the algorithm will continue to roll out monthly. Google is currently pushing out Panda updates over a 10 day period every 30 days.

What does this mean exactly? Google pushes the update on a specific day, so from that start day, the algorithm will continue to push out over a 10 day span. The push will continue to repeat itself every month.

Google has been working on refining the Panda algorithm to help sites that are lingering “on the border” of being impacted by the update. Cutts mentioned that they are “softening” the Panda algorithm by adding signals to search for quality metrics on these types of websites. It is unclear as to how soft these roll outs will be or how much change will take place in the search results.

Payday Loan Algorithm

Cutts also mentioned in this video (at 2:30) that there will be a new search update targeting “spammy queries.” Roughly a month after the video was posted, Cutts sent a tweet out confirming his statement in the video.

Certain industries, one being payday loans, are infamous for abusing Google’s algorithm by using automated software to build quick backlinks within a short amount of time. Of course, these websites do get caught after some time and lose their rankings once detected. Once the website gets flagged by Google for their unfavorable link building tactics, these companies then toss the old website, start over with a new website, and repeat. This “churn and burn” method is considered illegal and has been on Google’s action list to clean up.

This algorithm update is aimed to target link building and spam tactics globally. Other affected search terms include “car insurance” and pornographic related queries.

Partial-Domain Match Update

On June 25th, the MozCast reached 113 degrees, ousting the previous high of 102 degrees set on December 13, 2012. In this blog post by Dr. Peter J. Meyers from Moz, he discusses case studies monitoring de-personalized and de-localized queries.

Meyers conducted two different studies on the search terms “limousine service” and “auto auction.” Both cases showed similar patterns that indicate a partial-match domain update.

Multi-Week Update

While the temperature in MozCast is experiencing high levels of fluctuation, Cutts also threw a Multi-Week update into the mix. Details on this update haven’t been confirmed yet, but there have been speculations as to what kind of update this will be. Will it be a follow up to the Payday Loan Algorithm or is this PMD update just a trigger to something of greater impact?

Cutts announced the rollout was happening on June 21, 2013 and will continue to affect the search results until the week after July 4, 2013. We’ll keep an eye on this while this update keeps rolling out through the month of July.

Why does Google push out algorithm updates so often?

Google strives to improve the quality of search results for the user by keeping quality sites ranked high and devaluing sites that prove to be harmful or untrustworthy. To assure that Google users have the best matching results for their queries, algorithm pushes are necessary to keep spam and questionable websites off your results page.

What should you expect for July?

There will be constant algorithm fluctuations this next month, considering the turbulence that occurred in the last week of June. If the pattern continues with the Multi-Week update, we could be approaching a few more stormy SEO days. Look out for:

  • Advanced spam detection as Google is constantly fighting off low quality and irrelevant websites
  • Google working on improving malware detection
  • Due to the consistent Panda roll outs, Google will be working on improving this update by adding new metrics and quality signals

What does this mean for you?

If your site has lost placement recently or has been moving around in the SERPs, the high number of algorithm changes that rolled out in June may be the reason. While we expect things to start settling down soon, the effects of these updates are likely to continue for a little while longer.

Nancy Tran   July 3th, 2013 – Posted by to Search Engine Optimization.

To contact the author, emails can be sent to: ntran@thesearchengineguys.com


Google Introduces New Gmail Search Options

Google launched new search features for its Gmail inbox this week.

Google introduced a new feature that enables users to search their Gmail inbox from Google.com on the desktop or their mobile phones. New search operators announced this week will allow users to search their inbox for specific types of information. Gmail previously allowed users to search flights by using [my flights]in the search. New queries are now available such as [my purchases], which will allow you to find your latest Amazon orders.

The new features also allow users to serach for various reservations. New search parameters like [my hotel reservation] or [my restaurant reservations] will bring up travel plans or bookins made through OpenTable. In addition, Google announced a [my events] operator that will show “information from Ticketmaster or Eventbrite about your upcoming concert, sports game or other event.”

According to the Google Blog, these new features are only avialable for users with @gmail.com addresses in the United States. The features are only available in English at this time. Google emphasized in its announcement that these features are still being tested. Gmail users are invited to sign up for a trial.

The new features are similar to the search giant’s existing Google Now product, available on Android 4.0. The product uses personal information to alert users of flight delays and check out times. The trial features are also similar to Microsoft’s Quick Views, released in 2010. Quick Views was integrated into Hotmail inboxes with search operators highlighted in the sidebar. Google executives, however, pointed out that Microsoft’s email service cannot be used to retrieve event updates and restaurant reservations.

Bing Attacks Google Shopper in New Ad Campaign

Microsoft launched a holiday themed ad campaign attacking Google on Thursday. The smear campaign is aimed at online shoppers and promotes Microsoft’s Bing search engine over Google’s for holiday bargain hunting. The “Scroogle” campaign, as it’s known, focuses on Shopper, Google’s product search engine. With the tag line “Don’t get Scroogled,” Microsoft hopes to bring attention to Google Shopper’s inorganic search results. The search engine only displays results from products and merchants that pay the company a fee.

Google introduced plans to change it’s product search on May 31, 2012, in what Microsoft calls an “under-the-radar announcement.” In that announcement, Google stated it was transitioning Google Product Search to “a purely commercial model built on Product Listing Ads.” The new Google Shopper went live October 17, 2012. Microsoft claims that when a search engine limits choices and ranks them by payment “consumers get Scroogled.”

According to Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz, Bing Shopping results are based only on relevancy. “Bing results incorporate top deals from merchants across the Web and the rankings you see aren’t dependent on which advertisers paid to have their products listed.” Weitz added that Bing provides a number of tools to assist online shoppers, such as “aggregated expert and consumer reviews, product specs, related products, and many other filters.” He says shoppers can use bing to “get a great deal without having to dig through a ton of advertisements.”

Critics of the “Scroogled” campaign call it hypocritical. Bing also partners with merchants, the most notable of them being Shopping.com. The two announced a partnership last year with the search engine stating that paid offers would be “highlighted throughout Bing Shopping, including search results and product pages.” Weitz claims this model differs significantly from Google’s as Bing Shopping “includes millions of free listings” and ads are “listed separately and labeled clearly.”

Google has not responded to the “Scroogle” campaign directly. When reached for comment, the company issued a statement saying “Google is a great resource for shoppers to find what they need, at great prices for their loved ones this holiday season.”


Possible Settlement Between FTC, Google

A settlement may be in the works between Google and the Federal Trade Commission. Google chairman Eric Schmidt is said to be negotiating a deal that would end nearly two years of investigation by the FTC into the company’s alleged monopoly.

Larry Page, Google’s Chief Executive Officer, is trying to persuade the FTC that any agreement the company makes with the agency should not be bound by a consent decree. Google is seeking an informal “handshake” deal, not a formal agreement that could hurt its business prospects, familiar sources told Bloomberg.

Google, the operator of the world’s most popular search engine, has been in talks with FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz for the last week. The probe into monopolistic behavior by the company and subsequent negotiations have not addressed the most serious charge: that Google intentionally manipulates search results to hurt competitors. The FTC is instead focusing on patent issues and how the search engine displays comments from other internet services. According to The Washington Post, it is possible for allegations of search bias reemerge if negotiations collapse.

Google’s competitors, seeking to curtail the company’s growing power in the digital economy, have called on the FTC to be more heavy-handed with the Mountain View California-based company. Many were seeking a high-profile inquiry reminiscent of the Microsoft monopoly proceedings of the 1990’s. Some have predicted that Congress would address the issue if a settlement were proposed that did not include search.

FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan has declined to comment on the negotiations.


TSEG Contributes Small Business Tip for BusinessWeek.com

The Search Engine Guys were featured on BusinessWeek.com yesterday in the Small Business section. Every day, the publication’s web site features a tip for entrepreneurs on ways to improve how they do business. TSEG’s Joe Devine composed a tip about the benefits of search engine optimization and it was published on January 24, 2011.

Check it out here and please feel free to share with anyone you think may be interested:
Optimize Your Website for Search Engines


Google Reveals News Ranking System

Google keeps its algorithms for ranking websites firmly under wraps. However, the company just revealed its methods for choosing which news stories to publish on Google News. Even explaining the way it works, however, Google shows some contradictory rules. According to a video released by Google, there are four basic rules used to rank news stories.

The algorithm attempts to immitate consumer behavior as closely as possible. To do this, it looks for new stories with established citations. It also gives more weight to local sources but prefers trusted sources. Striking the right balance seems to be the key to a highly ranked news story. This also applies to the search engine, for which Google has not and likely will not reveal its algorithm.

If you would like to know more about search engine optimization, contact The Search Engine Guys at (512) 806-7955.


Bing Gains on Yahoo & Google – The TSEG take

According to comscore.com, Bing gained market share on Yahoo and Google. They gained .3% market share on each search engine between June and July. Most columns I have read are spinning this as a positive for Bing, and we can certainly see that angle. However, we do not view Bing as the Google Killer. In fact, we thought the initial bump from all of the hype and advertising behind Bing would lead to higher gains in marketshare.This reminds me a little of cuil.com (the so-called Google Killer), followed by Wolfram Alpha (the other, other Google Killer). A lot of hype and marketing, and then they slowly die off or become an insignificant player with respect to marketshare. We do not think Bing will become insignificant, but we do not see it gaining too much market share.

Although it is nice to see competition in the marketplace, the problem for these other search engines is that Google does a phenomenal job and returns results quickly. We personally think most of the efforts to improve search are pretty futile. When is the last time someone said something to the effect of, "Google search is terrible," or "I never find what I want?" That is the issue. We understand that everything can and will be improved, but I think that if someone is going to take on Google, they are going to have come up with a different spin on how they compete.

We think what may end up hurting Google is the fact that consumers may start to feel a little leary of the company having too much data on them, and becoming a little too big brother. If I was competing against Google, we would use the angle that we are not mining data from the individual user and that searches are private or deleted within 3 months, something to ease that worry. The battle for search in the future should be interesting and fun to watch.

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