Ongoing Updates from Google Put Spotlight on SEO

Just a few weeks ago, many retail businesses would have noticed fluctuations in how they appear in Google‘s natural search rankings, potentially due to updates to Google’s Places. Now Google’s Head of Search Spam, Matt Cutts, warns that more changes are on the way.

Not only were many recently affected by whatever changes to Google’s Places occurred, websites that evidenced ‘spammy’ link profiles also appeared to be penalised. StewARTMedia‘s CEO, Jim Stewart, said the changes felt like a “local Penguin”.

Google itself had little to say on the issue, other than send through a rather bland statement regarding the nature of their updates program.

“We make over 500 improvements to search each year to make search results as relevant as possible for our users,” a Google spokesperson said.

Of course, that just led us to wonder, what other significant changes will these ‘improvements’ instigate? Luckily, Cutts has supplied some fairly comprehensive answers via this video:

In summary, Cutts essentially addresses concerns for SEOs and businesses hoping to gain visibility via search, most of which have serious implications for anyone practicing ‘black hat’ techniques. Here are a few that will be of most interest to online retail webmasters.

  • Penguin Updates – The next generation of Penguin updates are expected to launch in the next few weeks (we may have seen a localised precursor here already), bringing greater penalties for websites that are trying to appear more authoritative than they truly are.
  • Spammy Queries – Google may well be ramping up its focus on less-than-legitimate-looking search queries, thereby cutting out another way that webmasters are able to ‘game’ the search engine.
  • Going ‘Upstream’ – The search giant wants to tackle the issue of link spam by going to the source. We can expect more link networks and black hat SEOs to be targeted and penalised directly. Any businesses that are still connected to link networks should quickly attempt to remove themselves.
  • Improving Link Analysis – Cutts says Google is continuing to get better at analysing the quality and relevance of links, which it is developing new software specifically for. This should also have a marked effect on sites with spammy or irrelevant links.
  • Hacked Sites – Previously, Google has been known to flag potentially hacked websites in search results, sometimes even removing them from search completely, before warning the site’s webmaster regarding the hack. These features are also in line for further upgrades, Cutts explains.
  • Authority Boosts – Is your website very content-heavy? Do you receive lots of traffic that is attracted by your quality and breadth of content? Cutts says websites that demonstrate authority for a specific subject can look forward to a rankings boost. Time to ramp up your content marketing strategy!
  • Softening Panda’s Blow – Many websites were hit hard by Google’s Panda update, but Cutts admits that some of these were borderline cases. Google is now improving its ability to soften the penalty for websites that may have been unfairly targeted by the raging Panda.

Have you seen anything strange happening to your rankings recently? Leave a comment or feel free to contact us directly.

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