Submit Express Newsletter #78 (May 2011)
elcome to the latest edition of the Submit Express newsletter! It's been a while since the last publication of our free newsletter, but we're back with more search engine news and tips on search engine optimization, Internet marketing, and social media. We will be sending new issues once a month, so be sure to check your inbox. If you're not currently a subscriber, visit www.submitexpress.com/newsletters to become one. Subscription is free.
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In this issue read about:
Google's Panda/Farmer Update: How to Embrace the Change
by Pierre Zarokian
In February, Google launched a major change in its algorithm that significantly impacted countless websites across the board. Known as the Panda or Farmer update, the new algorithm update aims to decrease rankings for low-quality sites that offer regenerated content or duplicate content and give better rankings for sites with high-quality, original content and information.
Although Google has made changes to its algorithm before, the Farmer update is one of the biggest improvements to date. The initial launch (which rolled out to U.S. Google users in February) affected 11.8 percent of Google search results in the U.S. Then, in early April, Google rolled out the change (along with a few other updates) to its English-language users worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 percent of U.S. searches.
On the announcement of the Farmer update, Google said that it can't make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. But just which websites will be most affected? And how can sites avoid being penalized by the search giant, if they haven't been already?
Obvious targets of Google's algorithmic improvement are content farms. Large content farm sites such as ezinearticles.com, Associated Content, Suite101 and eHow have all felt the repercussions of Google's crack-down. Scraper sites are also doomed. Most of these sites copy and paste content from other sites, whether intentionally or through RSS feeds.
It is safe to say that Google's goal is to discipline any website with irrelevant, low-quality content. In short, if your site doesn't meet Google's very own Quality Guidelines, it will drop in rankings and may have already since the launch of the update on February 24. In fact, large and small websites alike including online businesses and retailers have all noticed dramatic changes in site traffic graphs due to the Farmer update.
Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid being penalized or, worse, being removed entirely from the Google index! Instead of trying to fight Google's methods, consider a proactive approach. Evaluate and update your website to meet the standards of a high-quality ranked website.
Review and Revamp Your Content
Quality content is, and always will be, King. Whether you're a clothing retailer or construction company, Google suggests developing a "useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content." And sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to hire a professional Web copywriter or content writer.
Regardless of who is writing the content, Google offers the following guidelines:
- Write quality content intended for readers, not the search engines. While this means writing content that is error-free and grammatically correct, it also means that your pages need to have the most valuable results for searches, i.e. content based on original research and authoritative information.
- Write descriptive and accurate <title> elements and ALT attributes.
- Include organic keyword phrases throughout the content. Think about the terms your users would type in Google to find your website, and pepper these terms throughout your content.
- Don't cram pages with irrelevant keywords.
- Avoid duplicate content across multiple pages, subdomains or domains.
- Provide original and relevant copy for affiliate program pages.
Follow Google's Technical Guidelines
Google does not claim to have a complete list of quality guidelines. In fact, the search giant warns that websites can still be penalized by committing "deceptive techniques" not listed in its Quality Guidelines. However, it does offer a few specific rules that should be followed:
- Do not use hidden text or hidden links.
- Avoid cloaking and redirects. Cloaking is when the site intentionally deceives users or presents different content to search engines than is displayed for users.
- Do not develop pages with malicious behavior. Phishing, installing viruses, Trojans and other badware should be avoided.
In the end, the best way to restore your site's traffic in Google is to follow the rules and write with your users in mind.
Does Google Rate Site Bouncing?
Google's search engine runs a series of complex algorithms to help users find what they are searching for through metrics, hits, and a variety of other means. One feature the search giant chose not to use was bounce rates. This was reported by Google's Matt Cutts, who said a little over a year ago that "to the best of my knowledge, the rankings team does not use bounce rate in any way." That, however, might have changed thanks to Google's Panda or "Farmer" update in February. In the update, websites with high bounce rates, meaning visitors who clicked on a link only to jump back to Google's search engine a second later, fell drastically in the search engine results.
In fact, SearchMetrics can confirm that after the release of Panda in the UK, "It seems that all the loser sites are sites with a high bounce rate and a less time on site ratio." Google on the other hand has not stated whether the Panda update uses bounce rates to determine its search engine results. All that can be speculated at this time is that Google is using something similar to the tracking of bounce rates to determine which sites have low-quality content.
It used to be that one of the best ways to overcome a Google update was to have better quality content. Now sites affected by Panda are trying to find ways of keeping their visitors on their web page. This is just one of the new ways sites have been trying to climb back up on Google's search results. However, this can be a difficult task because even one low-quality page of content that does not keep users engaged can cause them to bounce back adding bounces to one's domain and possibly lowering a site's ranking.
Mining Social Graphs to Accomplish Location Prediction
Will an app come along that has the ability to predict where you want to go—or where you will go—as you make your way through the living, physical world? Google already has prediction integrated into its search engine and the feature has become progressively better at figuring out what you're trying to search for. That same technology has even been used to improve speech-recognition programs by providing cleverer ways to divine what's actually being said.
Social media developer, and founder of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley now wants to join prediction with location and off-screen search -- meaning that oracle-like app is almost here.
Sounds a bit weird but it's actually genius. In an interview given to the San Francisco Chronicle, Crowley describes the technology as developing "hunch[es]" through data analysis of social graphs and user histories to garner, in his words, "serendipitous encounters." He also envisions the successful use of the emerging technology as a person engaging with the outside world by wondering where to go next and using a tech device that can ever-so-helpfully say: "'Oh, this is that place. This is what's important. This is what's interesting about it.'"
Using his own inherent, and human, oracular powers, Crowley proclaims this to be the future for the "way that people start exploring the world."
Google Acquires Flight Information Software Company
Google announced last week that the U.S. Department of Justice approved its acquisition of ITA Software, a flight information software company. While the search giant announced plans to acquire the company nearly a year ago, it will finally begin bringing its teams and products together to make it easier for users to find better flight information online.
Have you ever wanted to type "flights to Tropical Island for under $1,000 in July" and find what you're looking for? According to Google, the ITA acquisition will make it possible for users to type such as query and get practical information such as flight times, fares and a link to sites where they can purchase tickets quickly and easily. Users will also have the opportunity to compare flights and airfares.
In addition to benefiting passengers, the acquisition will also benefit airlines and online travel agencies. According to Google, the deal with ITA Software will drive more potential customers to airlines' and online travel agencies' websites.
Although it will be taking over ITA Software, Google reassures the public that the deal will not change existing market shares. In fact, as part of the terms of the acquisition, Google plans to honor ITA's existing contracts; existing ITA customers can extend their contracts into 2016.
"We've also agreed to let both current and new customers license ITA's QPX software on 'fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms' into 2016—along with related commitments aimed at making ITA's technology available to other travel sites," wrote Jeff Huber, senior vice president of Google Commerce and Local, on the Google Blog.
LinkedIn's Hitting the Big Times Now
(New Bells and Whistles Also on Deck)
Commonly mischaracterized as Facebook's stodgy cousin, LinkedIn's more sterling attributes have recently undergone some newsworthy polishing.
Milestone of milestones, the career-smart professional's social network surpassed 100 million users this year on March 22—really just a little over two weeks ago—and its popularity is spreading fast, most especially among the international crowd: 56% of LinkedIn's users live outside the United States. Brazil, Mexico, India, and France (descending order, here), account for the countries with the most users.
And even earlier this year, near the end of January (the 27th), the company submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission the paperwork necessary to get underway its initial public offering. Big Times, indeed. The IPO is expected to happen soon but there's still no immediate numbers about when the offering will occur, how many shares will be available, or how much everything will cost.
Somewhat surprisingly, LinkedIn first became profitable in 2010 by earning $10.1 million. Its gains came from job listings, marketing solutions, and premium subscriptions.
As for the site's new trimmings, users are apparently in for a treat. There's many: a "cooler" resume builder, a tool to create a colorful picture of your network, and another to see—by year—who in your network has switched jobs. If you need a tutorial on these new tricks, you can always go to: http://learn.linkedin.com/.
To add some perspective, Facebook reached 500 million users last July and though it's made gestures of IPO preparation, there's still no official word about when.
Friendster's Getting a New Identity
In an email to its registered users, Friendster let the world know that in an attempt to forge a new identity, it's soon to undergo an extensive revamping. Many are saying it's more than a little too late. Perhaps, in tacit agreement, if the rumors are to be believed, that's why Friendster may decide to shed its coat of many profiles and emerge from its reinvention as a "casual gaming destination," in the words of CNNMoney.com's Julianne Pepitone. Friendster itself has yet to give out specific details about the coming changes.
The same email alerting users to the changes underway also let them know that most of the data on the site will be deleted. In an apparent attempt at serviceableness, Friendster is pointing the way to a data transfer app for those wanting to safekeep a few -- or all -- Friendster mementos.
Right now, Friendster is owned by MOL Global, an internet company based in Malaysia. It's believed that MOL Global paid $26 million in 2009 for the site. In any case (and for a different sum), MOL Global sold to Facebook the intellectual-property rights to Friendster "inventions like connecting users within social networks, linking relationship information with outside databases, and compelling users to upload and share their own content." That means the patent portfolio was handed over. Some believe Friendster's road to ruins was paved through its inattention to active and constant information-sharing tools, like newsfeeds, a la Facebook.
Get your Friendster information saved by May 31. Only your list of friends and a limited profile will remain.
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