Do you sometimes wonder why your website is indexed highly one day and almost nowhere to be found the next day? Or why Google has subtle changes one day to the next? Don’t worry, you are not alone and for the most part it will be a recently introduced Google algorithm change from Matt Cutts and his team at Google.
In most cases Google doesn’t announce a change to their algorithms and there is generally no prior warning, but it doesn’t take a good search engine optimization company long to undertake some speedy research in internet land to find out what changes have been made. Often followed by a large panic by their clients wondering what went wrong with their SEO plans. Depending on your relationship with your search engine optimization consultant, you should be advised of a Google algorithm change that will affect the indexing of your site – before your monthly report arrives in your inbox!
Why Google makes changes and improvements to algorithms
Google wants to have a search engine that works for users that allows them to find what they really want to find – the first time. Before Google makes algorithm changes they put in a huge investment into understanding what works for users. Every year Google will implement over 500 improvements to its search algorithms to make sure they achieve the best results for each user. Scott Huffman, Engineering Director at Google says “we really analyse each potential change very deeply to try and make sure that it’s the right thing for users”.
The process for changing algorithms
If Google sees a set of motivating searches that are not performing as well as Google would like, the engineers will then come up with an hypothesis about what signal or data can be changed in the algorithm.
A change or improvement to the algorithm may also start with a creative idea, but it always goes through a testing process. “All ideas are tested through rigorous scientific testing” says Amit Singal, Google Fellow.
After a change has been made to the algorithm the first test is with “Raters” who are external people trained to judge if one ranking is more relevant and of a higher quality than another. These results are laid out side by side on the screen for queries that the engineers’ experiment might be affecting.
Once this has been tested Google then uses what they call a “sandbox” which is where they send a small fraction of actual Google traffic to the sandbox and are then able to compute lots of different metrics. In 2010 Google ran over 20,000 different experiments. Amit Singal says “if scientific testing says this is a good idea for Google users, we will launch it on Google”.
The importance of an optimized website
Taking all of the above into consideration it’s not difficult to see why SEO companies have to work extremely hard to keep your site optimised and why SEO companies really need to be on the ball. With over 500 changes to the algorithms each year it shows how important a continued relationship with your SEO Company is!
I am continuously asked by clients about whether they should register domain names with their target keywords within them. Many are given advice by providers to register tens or hundreds of domain names that are laden with keywords to create multiple websites or to 301 Redirect those domains to the primary domain.
Our usual advice at Keyword Intent is that creating multiple websites under keyword domains is not as effective as building the authority and trust of the one website. Redirecting multiple keyword domains back to a primary domain also does not provide any benefit. It does not transfer the word signals from one domain to another and therefore is wasted effort.
Matt Cutts, a leading spokesperson at Google shared in his video post on YouTube (March 7th, 2011), that Google has tweaked it’s algorithm to ensure that keyword laden domains are not given as much weight as they used to.
Matt recommends using “brandable” names like Twitter, YouTube, Digg, etc as it ultimately helps you stand out amongst all the other players that use generic keywords within their domains. He states that it is possible to succeed without keywords within the domain name.
Having said that though, it is basic marketing advice that if you do not have a large advertising budget, then using words within the business name to describe the activity of the business can be useful to communicate clearly to potential customers what you do. A balance between brand names and keywords is recommended.
It is also important to seek legal advice around brand names that can be trademarked. In many cases, generic keywords can not be trademarked.
Cooking enthusiasts are in for a real treat with Google’s Recipe Search functionality. “Recipe View” has just been rolled out across the US and Japan to allow users to search for recipes and narrow search results by ratings, ingredients, cooking time and calories.
You’ll see in the example above, that the following components are displayed within the search results for “butter chicken”.
Ingredients selection (yes or no)
Cook time (less than 15, 30 or 60 mins)
Calories (less than 100, 300 or 500 calories)
Number of Reviews
Average recipe rating stars (as voted upon by users on the website)
Ingredients listed within Rich Snippet display
Calories listed within Rich Snippet display
Being based in Australia, I am still able to view and use the Recipe View function on Google.com, although it is not available on the Google.com.au and Google.co.nz domains as yet. This is an easy function to roll out by Google once they confirm feedback from users in the United States and Japan.
Food related websites need to understand how this new search functionality works and optimize their recipe content to gain visibility in Google. Even if you’re website is not based in the US or Japan, I recommend that you implement the optimization process as outlined below as quickly as possible to get a jump start before it is implemented in your country.
Google is using their Rich Snippets structured data approach for Recipe View website content. Rich Snippets is based upon a data structure method using one of microdata, microformats or RDFa. Google has provided specific instructions for Recipe content on their webmaster support site, although they state that their code markup is not part of the official hRecipe draft specification as published on Microformats.org.
Following is the range of property data that can be applied to segments of a recipe. You need not provide all properties, however markup elements that relate to recipe content you have published on your website.
Users will be able to search for property attributes within Google such as ingredients, cook time and calories. The more comprehensive your recipe content is, the more likely you are increasing your website pages within Google search results.
Required. The name of the dish.
The type of dish: for example, appetizer, entree, dessert …
The length of time it takes to prepare the recipe for dish, in ISO 8601 duration format. Can use min, max as child elements to specify a range of time.
The time it takes to actually cook the dish, in ISO 8601 duration format. Can use min, max as child elements to specify a range of time.
The total time it takes to prepare the cook the dish, in ISO 8601 duration format. Can use min, max as child elements to specify a range of time.
Nutrition information about the recipe. Can contain the following child elements: servingSize, calories, fat,saturatedFat, unsaturatedFat, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, protein, cholesterol. These elements are not explicitly part of the hRecipe microformat, but Google will recognize them.
The steps to make the dish. Can contain the child element instruction, which can be used to annotate each step.
The quantity produced by the recipe (for example, number of people served, number of servings, etc).
An ingredient used in the recipe. Can contain child items name (name of the ingredient) and amount. Use this to identify individual ingredients.
Creator of the recipe. Can include nested Person information.
For those of you who are not coders, the following html code may not make sense. Take the time however to examine some of the property attributes within the code such as <span class=”cooktime”> and <span class=”ingredient”> to understand how content is marked-up within your content html.
<divclass="hrecipe"><spanclass="item"><h1class="fn">Grandma's Holiday Apple Pie</h1></span><imgsrc="apple-pie.jpg"class="photo"/>
By <spanclass="author">Carol Smith</span>
Published: <spanclass="published"> November 5, 2009<spanclass="value-title"title="2009-11-05"></span></span><spanclass="summary">This is my grandmother's apple pie recipe. I like to add a dash of nutmeg.</span><spanclass="review hreview-aggregate"><spanclass="rating"><spanclass="average">4.0</span> stars based on
Prep time: <spanclass="preptime">30 min <spanclass="value-title"title="PT30M"></span></span>
Cook time: <spanclass="cooktime">1 hour<spanclass="value-title"title="PT1H"></span></span>
Total time: <spanclass="duration">1 hour 30 min <spanclass="value-title"title="PT1H30M"></span></span>
Yield: <spanclass="yield">1 9" pie (8 servings)</span><spanclass="nutrition">
Serving size: <spanclass="servingsize">1 medium slice</span>
Calories per serving: <spanclass="calories">250</span>
Fat per serving: <spanclass="fat">12g</span></span>
<spanclass="amount">6 cups</span></span><spanclass="ingredient"><spanclass="name">White sugar</span>:
1. Cut and peel apples
2. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Use additional sugar for tart apples.
For some websites this will be a large undertaking. If you require assistance with the mark-up of your recipe content, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui Jones at Keyword Intent.
Google announced today they launched a large change to their algorithm in order to substantially improve rankings. They say it is a noticeable impact of 11.8% which will affect rankings for many websites. Many website owners will not be happy, although the algorithmic change has been a long time coming with much discussion on the Internet over the last year to provide prior warning.
Google believe in a healthy web ecosystem and therefore want to reward high quality content websites. This particular algorithmic change is being rolled out in the United States first, however it will be implemented around the world within time.
So what is a low-quality website?
Provides low-value add to users
Content is copied from other websites
Sites that are not very useful
Google is interested in displaying high quality sites that possess the following criteria…
Provides content as research
Thoughtful analysis, etc.
Although Google have listed “original content” as being high-quality, what other factors will be used within their algorithm to determine the most relevant, authoritative and “best quality” content to display within search results? Does length of copy determine high quality? What about choice of words? Or use of contrast and comparison? Number and quality of comments and number of times shared by influentials?
Time will tell as SEOs around the world examine, test and report ranking results.
We have always known that site speed affects search engine spiders from crawling websites. If your website is too slow, then search spiders give up trying to crawl and index pages of your site. This is usually an indexation problem that ultimately affects rankings of a website.
However, on Friday, Google officially announced that they are using site speed in web search ranking. Site Speed is another signal that Google is using within their criteria to select the most relevant web page to users’ search queries.
Google’s rationale is that through their own research that faster websites create a better user experience. Users spend more time on a website if it is fast and less time if it is slow. Faster websites also reduce operating expenses.
Google hasn’t disclosed exactly how they are calculating response times of websites, but has said it is using a “variety of sources”. Within Google’s Webmaster Tools under the Labs tab on the Dashboard, “Site Performance” provides a level of reporting of how fast your website is responding to user requests. It provides site speed trends for the last year and the speed of several pages delivered from your website.