Google Finally Updates it’s Penguin Algorithm (Penguin 3.0)

Penguin

Photo by Anne Frohlich – Flickr CC

According to Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable, Google has confirmed that they have finally released the long-awaited Penguin update over weekend (started rolling out on Friday).

Google originally launched Penguin in April of 2012. It was designed to identify and penalize sites that were acquiring unnatural links – i.e. buying links, link networks, etc – in order to improve their search rankings.

To recover from Penguin, websites that were penalized had to try to identify the bad links, contact the linking site requesting that they remove the link, disavow remaining bad links, then wait for the next Penguin refresh, the last of which was a over a year ago on October 4th, 2013.

Each new update could potentially clear those sites that were previously penalized but have since cleaned up their link profile, and identify and penalize offending sites that have so far escaped the Penguin penalty.

Although we are still awaiting details, it has been expected that this update will allow Google to run more frequent and regular Penguin refreshes like they do with Panda.

Have you noticed any traffic or ranking changes on your site, or those of your clients?

 

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Google’s Testing More Mobile Ranking Signals & Displays! Is your Mobile Site Ready?

Women checking a moblie site on smartphoneGoogle looks to be preparing to more aggressively identify sites that don’t offer users a good mobile experience.

Already sites that don’t offer a mobile friendly site/pages suffer in those search rankings, and mobile sites that load too slowly are demoted. Now it appears that Google is preparing to take their mobile search ranking criteria up another level.

In two separate articles this past week, Barry Schwartz of the Search Engine RoundTable reported on mobile search related ideas Google is working on.

1. User Experience: Google would like to be able to evaluate user experience and rank those mobiles sites that provide a poor user experience lower. The following Google statement is from  Search Engine Roundtable

“According to our studies, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site that they had trouble accessing from their phone. That includes sites that use fonts which are illegible on mobile, or sites where users have to zoom in or pan around excessively. Mobile is a very important area; the mobile device penetration is over 50% in the USA and most users use their device for browsing websites. Because at Google we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device, we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle. We want users to be able to enjoy the web wherever they are.”

2. Displaying “Not Mobile Friendly Icons” in Search Results: Google has been testing icons in the search results that identify both “mobile friendly” and “not mobile friendly” websites/pages. Images from Search Engine Roundtable.

Mobile “Friendly” Icon:

Google Mobile Friendly Search IconMobile “Not Friendly” Icon:

Google Not Friendly Search Icon

Update (10/14/14): Google’s also testing a text version of the “Mobile-Friendly” signal: Google’s Text Version of Mobile-Friendly Web Pages In Search Results by Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable

Test Your Mobile Site

Not sure if your Mobile Site is sufficient. Try these tests.

1. View your Mobile Site: Many business owners are content to know that they have a mobile or responsive site, but don’t bother checking it. Open it up on your smartphone and/or tablet. Make sure it’s easy to navigate and displays what is important to your business – name, phone number address, etc.

2. Fetch and Render as Google: Google Webmaster Tools allows you to see what Google sees when it crawls your site.

Google Web Master Tools Fetch as Google

  • Choose the “view” you want to fetch (i.e. Desktop, Mobile: Smartphone) from the drop down menu, and select “Fetch and Render”.

GWT Fetch and Render

  • Click on the “Fetched” Results to see what Google sees

Google Webmaster tools fetch results

Google Webmaster Tools Fetch and Render Mobile results3. Check your Mobile Site’s Loading Speed:

  • From GWT select Resources > PageSpeed Insights

Google Page Speed Tool

  • See Results: Green is good, yellow needs work, red is poor

mobile site speed test

 

Note: Check your site speed regularly. Last time I checked, both the desktop and mobile version were rated Green. Looks like I have some work to do!

Thanks for reading! As always your questions, comments, and shares are welcomed and appreciated!

4. Check Your Mobile Site’s User Experience (UX):

  • Scroll down from your Site Speed test.

User Experience

 

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Triberr Top 100 Blog Contest for 2014

Triberr Top 100 Blog ContestI’m very excited to announce, with the blessings of Dino and Dan, the Triberr Top 100 Blog contest!

What is Triberr?

Not familiar with Triberr? It’s a free platform for bloggers. Members can form or join tribes to connect with like-minded bloggers.  Tribe members help each other by sharing and supporting each others content.

Why a Contest?

1. To highlight great tribemates: Triberr is more than a place to get shares and grow traffic to your blog (although it will definitely help with that), it is truly a supportive and helpful community. I’ve met and learned from many great people through connections on Triberr.

2. To highlight Triberr: I encourage everyone that I work with to join Triberr. We all benefit from it’s growth.

3. To highlight Great Bloggers: There are some seriously great bloggers on Triberr. I’m familiar with some of them in the marketing and business areas, but I know that there are many I’ve not met or read yet. This contest is open to all Tribes and subject matter. It hopefully will allow bloggers from different verticals to get to know each other, or at least know of each other, and will maybe lead to greater exposure for some deserving bloggers.

How will the Contest Work?

There are 4 stages to this contest:

1. Nomination (10/9 – 10/31): nominate your favorite tribemates (or your own blog)! You may nominate as many blogs as you want, but please only nominate each one time. Nominations will also count as votes.

2. Vote on the Top Blogs (Dates TBA): Those blogs that receive at least two nominations will be included in the contest list for further voting. Vote for as many blogs as you feel are deserving (only one vote per blog).

3. Grading: The Top 25, based on votes, will be objectively ranked based on a formula that will include their Moz Domain Authority Score, Klout Score, etc.

4. Judging: The Top 15 will then be judged and ranked by our judges.

The Top 100 will be announced!

Who Should You Nominate?

The only criteria is that they must be a member of Triberr. After that – you decide. Nominate the best writer, most informative, or most helpful and supportive community member.

Meet our Judges

I’m incredibly excited to announce our judges panel! Although I follow and admire many marketers/bloggers, these three have, by far, been my greatest influencers! I’m very grateful to all three for taking the time out of their demanding schedules to help with this contest.

Gini Dietrich1. Gini Dietrich: Gini is the seemingly tireless founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, author of the Spin Sucks blog, the books Marketing in the Round (May 2012) and Spin Sucks (March, 2014), and a frequent speaker at PR and marketing events.

 

Ana Hoffman2. Ana Hoffman: Ana is the hostess at, and the force behind, the Traffic Generation Cafe where she shares her hard won insights and wisdom about blogging, traffic generation, and traffic conversion on her blog. I highly recommend the Weekly Marketing Skinny – her weekly round-up of the marketing world (to subscribe, click here and scroll down).

 

Marcus Sheridan3. Marcus Sheridan: Marcus shares his vision and passion on The Sales Lion blog, as host of the Mad Marketing podcast, through his Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy eBook, and during his frequent presentations at inbound marketing events. Marcus learned the trade while growing his pool and spa business by successfully transitioning it from traditional to inbound marketing.

Our Top 100 list will be published in December. The Top 100 will be invited to participate in the Triberr Top 100 tribe and will receive a website badge.

A special “thanks” to the amazing creators and hosts of Triberr – Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo –  for allowing this contest, and for all that they do for all of us!

To Nominate a Blog:

To nominate a Triberr member, please fill out and submit the contact form, or add their Triberr name to the comments section of this blog. All nominators (that fill out the form) will remain anonymous. You can nominate multiple blogs/bloggers on one form.

Please include YOUR Name and Email address (they will not be added to any list), then list your nominees in the “Message” portion of the form.

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How to Decrease Your Bounce Rate [Infographic]

man bouncing

Photo by Ahmed ElHusseiny – Flickr CC

I’m not usually a fan of infographics, but I found this one by Neil Patel to actually be very informative :-)

The one strategy that seems to be missing is good internal linking, which of course is paramount to visitors finding their way to another page. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

How to Decrease Your Bounce Rate
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout
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“The Friday Hangout” on Google+: SEO Myths, Social SEO and Content Marketing

The Friday HangoutI’m very excited to be joining Janet Fouts (@jfouts), Adam Helweh (@secretsushi), and Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology) on Google+ Hangouts for The Friday Hangout this week (Friday, September 19, 2014 at 11:00 am PST)!

We’ll be talking about the always exciting and sometimes controversial subject of Search Engine Optimization – some of the myths surrounding SEO, Social Media and SEO, Content Marketing, and more.

The Friday Hangout is a weekly show on Google Hangouts. Janet, Adam and Steve invite a guest in for an informal discussion about various digital marketing subject areas. The guest list for past episodes is impressive and includes:

  • Jason Falls
  • Gini Dietrich
  • Viveka Van Rosen
  • Joe Pulizzi
  • Robert Scoble
  • Lee Oden
  • Ted Rubin
  • Danny Brown
  • Michael Brenner
  • Dino Dogan
  • Geoff Livingston
  • Mark Shaefer
  • and many others

Meet the Hosts

Janet FoutsJanet Fouts: is the Founder and CEO of Tatu Digital Media in San Jose. She is the author of 4 social media and marketing books, and blogs at JanetFouts.com and Tatudigital.com.

Adam HelwehAdam Helweh: Founder and CEO of Secret Sushi Creative. Adam is co-host of the #1 syndicated social-local-mobile podcast – The SoLoMo Show. He blogs at SecretSushi.com and is a regular contributor at SocialMediaExplorer.com.

Steve FarnsworthSteve Farnsworth: a Demand Generation Content Marketing Strategist at the @Steveology Group. He has been listed as a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer twice, and cited as one of the most influential people online by Fast Company’s “The Influence Project”. Steve blogs at the @Steveology Blog.

Hope you’ll join the discussion!

Updated: The Friday Hangout

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Google Drops Authorship

“. . . we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”

~ John Mueller, Google, August 28, 2014

the end (of authorship)

Photo by peddhapati – flickr CC

If you’ve had “set up Authorship” on your to-do list (you’re apparently not alone), you can cross it off. Yesterday, in a G+ post, Google’s John Mueller announced the end of Google Authorship markup.

First introduced in June of 2011, Authorship was designed to connect authors to their content with the goal of identifying industry authorities, and eventually influencing search rankings.

According to a detailed article on Search Engine Land, It’s Over: The Rise & Fall of Google Authorship for Search Results, Mueller gave two reasons for the failure of Authorship:

  1. Low Adoption Rates: Many authors and webmasters either didn’t bother setting it up, or set it up incorrectly when they did.
  2. Low Value to Searchers: the addition of author markup in the search rankings didn’t significantly affect searcher click through rates – apparently searchers saw little additional value in the listing that displayed authorship.

In his announcement, Mueller did say that searchers will continue to see G+ posts from people in their circles when the post is relevant to the search query.

Is this the end of authorship? Probably not. The idea of Google identifying area authorities, and using that as a search signal is too intuitive. I would expect to see another iteration on authorship from Google at some point in the future. For now . . .

“Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”

~ John Mueller, Google, August 28, 2014

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Computer Vs. Mobile Search for Financial Advisors

mobile seaarchEarlier this year, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, and defacto public face of search, said that he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see mobile search queries surpassing desktop search in 2014.

He of course was referring to overall search patterns rather than specific industries – but it made me curious as to what the mobile search patterns for the Financial Planning industry are?

Following is the search breakdown (Computers, Mobile Device, Tablets) for 5 broad Financial keywords.

Financial Planning: Computer Search

Advisors search by device

Investment Management

Investments search by device

Retirement Planning

Insurance searches by device

Tax Planning

Tax planning searches by deviceEstate Planning

Estate Planning searches by device

Desktop search makes up between 60-75% of searches for these broad financial services keywords.

Summary

Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Financial related mobile search lagging general mobile search trends, there is little doubt that the mobile search will continue to play an increasingly influential role in search marketing for financial advisors.

In order to meet this opportunity, advisors need to be sure that their websites have been optimized for mobile search. This means that you need to have created a separate mobile site, or that your website is responsive (adjusts for optimal viewing for all screen sizes – computer, tablet, or smartphone). Responsive design is still relatively new. Any site built prior to two years ago is probably not responsive.

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Pigeon Droppings: Keeping Up with Local Search

Pigeon

Photo by ZeroOne – Flickr CC

Late last month, Google announced an update to the Local Search algorithm – unofficially dubbed the ‘Pigeon’ update – that significantly impacted Local Search results and optimization strategies.

However disruptive the changes were to some industries, what has become apparent during the past month is that more changes to Local Search are likely on the way.

Google continues to experiment with different options, many of which seem to be related to an improved mobile search experience, and/or increased revenue opportunities for Google.

Pigeon Recap

The impact of the initial Pigeon update on Local Search was to:

  • add some industries to the Local Search Results (website design, SEO)
  • remove some industries from Local Search Results (real estate, DUI Lawyers)
  • increase the visibility of online directories (Yelp, Craigslist)
  • decrease the number of searches that result in a 7-pack (list of 7 listings), instead returning more 3-packs
  • tie Organic ranking signals more closely to Local Search results (i.e. keywords, backlinks)
  • shrink the radius from which they draw data, making the results more relevant to the user’s location

Pigeon Sightings

In the month since the Pigeon announcement, accounts of changes to, and experiments with, local search continue to be reported.

Serving Multiple Communities from One Location

Greg Stewart of 15miles Local Marketing, reported  seeing local search 7-pack results that included listings for a plumber not physically located in that town.

Although this occasionally happens when the market is small and there are not enough “local” options to fill the 7-pack, in this case the “local” market listed more than 100 plumbers. In addition, the plumber started showing up in the local search results for other surrounding communities as well.

A review of the plumber’s website revealed a “communities served” list in the footer.

Greg took it a step further, testing a “communities served” list in the footer of his website, and a different “communities served” list in the “introduction” section of his Google+ Page. The result was that he started showing up in Local Results for terms from either list.

Google Targets Local With Latest Algorithm Update

Local Search Ads

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable found local pay-per-click ads under the heading “Stores for gas grills near you”, that resembled the organic local listings – including the Google Map!

New Google AdWords Local Format Test

Local Listing Get More Mobile Friendly

Mike Blumenthal of Understanding Google Places & Local Search, and Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide both shared images of 3-pack local results that included little text, lots of white space, and images – similar to the look of the mobile display.

Mike Blumenthal noted that the new display was apparently in place of the Carousel results.

Google Testing Carousel Replacement by Mike Blumenthal

Google Local Desktop SERPs Continue to Get More Mobile by Andrew Shotland

Recommendation:

Although most of the more recent pigeon sightings appear to be tests rather than actual algorithm changes at this point, if you do serve surrounding communities, it make sense to add a “communities served” list to your footer or sidebar, and to your Google+ page.

These are very interesting (and volatile) times for Local Search, with apparently more changes on the way.

What changes have you notice in local search since the Pigeon update?

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Seasonal Search Trends for Financial Advisors

leaf on ice

Photo by Dawn Ellner ~ Flickr CC

In many industries, including Financial Services, seasonality will affect your search data.

A client recently noticed that his keyword ranking has been improving and that his link profile was growing, but he was not seeing the expected increase in search traffic volume.

However, as we looked into the data, we found that the search volume had increased when compared with the year over year data for the summer months, rather than comparing the summer months to the seasonally higher volume of the winter season.

The following graphs represent the Search Volume Trends for some of the broad categories associated with Financial Planning. The data is from Google Adwords.

Financial Planning

Financial Planning Search by MonthFor general financial planning terms (i.e. financial advisor, financial planner, financial adviser), search starts building in October, peaks in the new year and is strong throughout the winter and into the spring. It falls off in May, and is lowest during August and September.

Investment Management

Investment Management Search by MonthInvestment management, although about half the total volume of “Financial Planning”, follows a similar seasonal pattern.

Retirement Planning

Retirement Planning Search by MonthSearches around Retirement Planning peak in January than decrease through the year, until starting to build again in September.

Insurance

Insurance Searches by MonthInsurance search volume, although more stable, does reflect a higher volume in spring, and fewer searches in November and December.

Tax Planning

Tax Planning Searches by MonthThe search trends around tax planning are more narrowly focused.  While somewhat flat May through December, Search volume jumps in January, and peaks in February – obviously inline with the coming tax deadline.

 Estate Planning

Estate Planning Searches by MonthEstate Planning search volume peaks in the September, drops at the end of the year, then is pretty solid throughout the winter and spring.

Marketing Implications:

1. Take into account seasonality when evaluating the results of your marketing initiatives.

2. Depending on your areas of focus, you may want to plan your editorial calendar around the few differences that do occur in the seasonal pattern (i.e. Estate Planning in the early fall). Remember that it will take the search engines some time to find and index each article (or piece of content) so plan ahead.

3. As search traffic volume is higher in the winter months when you’re most busy, you may want to stockpile content for those months so that you can continue to publish during that time.

4. The periods leading into the peak search volume months may be a good time to consider adding a Pay Per Click advertising strategy. This will help insure that you’re appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages for your important keywords.

5. There is strong search volume around all of these broad-terms. Make sure that optimized for all of your important keywords. Search Engine Optimization can help you be found for multiple services and in multiple geographic locations.

Do these results reflect your experiences? Do they match up to your busy and slow times of the year? As always, questions and comments are welcomed and appreciated.

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Real Estate Listings Removed From Google Local Search Results

Real Estate: family looking at house by For Sale sign

Photo by Mark Moz 12 – Flickr CC

Google’s recent Update to the Local search algorithm, unofficially known as Pigeon, has dramatically affected local search results – adding new local categories, reshuffling existing rankings, and removing some categories altogether.

Perhaps one of the most surprising and hardest hit industries has been real estate.

Seemingly a natural fit for “local” search, the real estate 7-pack (local listings associated with Google Maps – there are usually 7 listed) have completely disappeared.

Realtor’s Web Traffic Drops 70% After Pigeon

Yesterday I received a call from a frustrated Jacksonville FL realtor. In a competitive market, he had been consistently showing up at the top of the local listings for most of his keywords. Now he appears at the bottom of the page – for one term. His search traffic has decreased 70% in the past week.

Prior to Pigeon, you could search a number of real estate related keywords and get results similar to this:

Local Real Estate search results prior to Pigeon update

Results from Google.ca

However, today a search of “Boise Real Estate”, or other real estate terms, results in only Organic or Pay-Per-Click listings.

Boise Organic real estate search results

Additionally, most (if not all) of the listings are directory style listings (Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, etc.) rather than real estate companies or individual realtors. The first traditional realtor company appears at the top of the second page of the search engine results for Boise.

 Marketing Implications for Realtors

1. Organic SEO: change your focus from Local optimization to Organic SEO with the goal of appearing in the organic listings.

Recommendations:

  • On-page SEO: keyword based SEO that informs search engines about search terms your website is relevant for.
  • Off-page SEO: Due to the competitive nature of the real estate market, and the fact that you’re currently competing with so many directories, an organized backlink development strategy to build your site’s authority is probably necessary.
  • Consider starting a blog. Blogging allows you to optimize your website for more keywords (each blog acts as a new webpage), provides more opportunities to gain backlinks, and signals Google that your website is an active hub, rather than a stagnant brochure.

2. Pay Per Click Advertising: Although I don’t consider this a long-term solution for most, it is a way to quickly get to the top of the search engine results pages while your SEO is working. Additionally, it can be used to supplement your SEO for the more competitive search terms.

Summary

We haven’t seen the last of the Pigeon updates. Google will continue to adjust and modify the algorithm in the future to meet the needs and feedback of the searchers. I believe, that over time, we’ll see more Real Estate Companies and individual Realtors on the first page of organic listings in place of the directories. Perhaps the Real Estate Local Listing will one day reappear in Google’s Carousel?

In the meantime, if you have any questions or need any help with your Search Engine Optimization please feel free to contact us.

How has Pigeon affected your search results, website traffic, business?

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