Search News - 12/14 - Digital Marketing Agency

Google Improves Search for Local Businesses

By | Google News | No Comments

Despite talk recently of the Vince Update helping big brands, and Google publishers trying to get their original content (from big brands) given a boost in the rankings, it is nice to see some changes being made in Google which are aimed towards helping searchers which don’t necessarily skew the results towards big business.

For the last week or so there has been discussion on the web regarding changes to the search results, which more often now show local business locations. What seems to be happening, is that more and more often, Google Maps results are showing within the search listings for many more queries – not just when they include local terms.

I first noticed this on Monday when I Googled MooMu Media, and quite near the top was the Google Maps results showing our office in North Sydney. Unfortunately, the results seem to have since been tweaked, and I cannot replicate this now -I didn’t get a screen shot back then (must remember to get screen shots when things are looking odd!).

However you can still see these with branded and non-branded topics. Here is Domino’s…

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And here is a non-branded, hairdressers.

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Only a week or two ago my colleague Tracy was complaining that she couldn’t get good results for hairdresser in Google, and now she has a list of 10 in her area to choose from.A quick quote from her on these results “Thats good if they have websites I can check out, and I guess a good lesson that you should be using Google Maps more often when looking for a local service”.

Not that you will need to go separately to Google Maps now that Google is serving this up for you on their home page.

The algorithm is hopefully still undergoing improvements, because if I use the term National Parks, the top result is Google Maps, with only one suggestion – National Parks in Tasmania…and I am in Sydney. So that is strange, considering the multiple national parks close to me here, particularly one at the end of my street.

Also, other online marketers are wondering if there will be further refinements to the algorithm to better identify local searches. Search Engine Land used the example of the word burger. They say that this isn’t necessarily a local search. However, with 9 other options to choose from on the results page, even if it isn’t a local search, searchers are still getting other options.

What does this mean for search marketers? Well, your local business listing is now going to be much more important. You should make sure your business is in there, because suddenly your small business could be getting exposure for a lot of the more generic terms which you may have thought were out of your reach.

Also, your ISP, and that of your customer, is now of great importance. It might not be a big deal when you are searching using an ISP that is quite close to you, but what about people whose ISPs aren’t? For example, in China, many people use ISPs in Hong Kong.  Their search queries are maybe going to have to improve, to include the word Beijing, or Shanghai, to make sure they don’t get given Hong Kong map results.

It will be interesting to see the Google search volumes for these terms in a couple of months  – must keep our eye on Google Trends, or record some volumes now in the keyword tool and see how they change later.

Yahoo Ahead on Search Display

By | Search News | No Comments

While people discuss the Google changes this week which show suggestions for similar searches (which didn’t seem too new for me), and longer snippets (not news worthy), I really think that in this case Google is a step behind Yahoo.

Yahoo also now has suggestions coming in their search results

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They have also taken their search predictor out of Beta and it is already in use on their general page

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As you can see below, their Search Predictor also predicts searches where the term you are typing isn’t necessarily at the beginning of the sentence. They have even gone one step further, with their ‘explore concepts’ column:

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If you click on one of the ‘explore concepts’, it will give you a list of those related only to that one suggestion.

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Although, I am not sure yet what prompts the visibility of this explore concepts list, because it isn’t always there.

And finally, they also have a beta version of a virus warning system, similar to the infamous trial by Google, where it accidentally said that every site was dangerous.

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Should Original Content Get Higher Rankings in Google?

By | Search News | No Comments

In late February, Google made some changes to it’s algorithm (apparently NOT an update), which was rumoured to assist Big Brands in achieving search rankings. Of course Google denied this vehemently, saying their algorithm doesn’t even consider brand, and that instead it is still largely based on trust, authority, reputation, high quality and page rank.

Today, Search Engine Land reports on a coalition of big brands (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Inc, Hearst, ESPN), who want Google to go further and actually explicitly help out with their rankings.

All the above brands are members of the Google Publishers network, and I suppose as they are such large members, expect to have some clout with Google. One of their main gripes is that they resent the components of Google’s algorithm, for example, Page Rank, as they think this criteria enables “parasites off the true producers of content” to benefit disproportionately.

A report by AdAge describes an example that these publishers used – When typing in Gaza into Google, apparently they were outraged that Wikipedia entries, BBC articles, The CIA Factbook entry on Gaza, a Twitter entry (bizarre) and a YouTube video ranked ahead of a Times news story on the conflict.

They were also outraged that all these results were presented in an identical manner, so that their brand could not easily be identified. Although complaining about the uniform presentation of results and the Google algorithm, (both of which aim to show no preference other than ‘relevance’ to a query), seems to be immature and displaying a lack of knowledge about the point of a search engine, the very basis of their complaint did not seem unreasonable to me. That is, that they think the original publishers of content should be rewarded for publishing it.

However, this then becomes an argument between the relative value of original and derivative content. Of course original content is necessary, because independent bloggers don’t necessarily have the clout and budget to have reporters everywhere (or even anywhere sometimes). However, derivative content often has a lot of added value which might mean that searchers prefer it to the original content. For example:

  • A derivative article might summarise and link to an original article, making it more digestible.
  • It often has differing perspectives, and could be seen as more impartial, when not associated with a big brand or politically friendly publisher.
  • Writers of derivative content have more time to consider arguments, positions and facts due to the fact that they aren’t fighting to a deadline, so have the advantage of timely consideration.
  • They are more likely able to link to many other published pieces on the subject and be an all in one resource (for example, Wikipedia).
  • Derivative articles often offer interaction, allowing comments and participation.

If Google does try to continue to develop their algorithm so that original content is given a bit more help (which of course is what they are doing), that is fine, as long as it also continues to value other aspects like those listed above, that searchers also like to view.

These Big Brands could also help themselves somewhat, by doing some more  SEO for their sites. One of the publishers listed in the Ad Age article acknowledged this through the following comment:

“They don’t owe us that we show up a particular way. They do publish a whole lot about how to make your site show up as much as possible. If people haven’t taken action on it, that’s their own damn fault.”

Google Search Results Changes

By | Google News, Uncategorized | No Comments

Google has announced 2 new changes to its search algorithm. The first doesn’t seem new to me, although perhaps there is some nuance I am missing. This is the change whereby they suggest similar searches to help you with your query. Like this…

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This is the second step in the Google arsenal to help users change or refine their query. The first is in the predictive text in the search box, where they try to complete your query (in beta testing).

I am not sure where the suggestions are coming from. It seems to be a selection of some of the search terms as per the Google keyword tool, but doesn’t seem to be just the top ones, and some of the suggestions aren’t high volume at all.

The majority of the suggestions here seem to be from branded terms. Which is strange, because if the consumer wanted to choose a brand, surely they would look at the list of search results for car insurance, rather than type in one specific brand in their query. And if they did want to search for a brand, they surely would have done that in the first place?

The technology might be better explained in this post from Search Engine Land, which goes into more detail regarding the new Orion technology which has made these changes to search possible.  While I am not initially impressed by this announcement (as it doesn’t seem useful to me, or ‘new’), I will suspend my judgement as they say they will be doing ongoing refinement which could result in something better.

The second change is that if you type a long query into the search box, Google will now offer you a longer snippet, so that you can see how all the words in your big long query are addressed on the page.  Check out this big long 4 line snippet here…blog-pic5

I wouldn’t expect that this longer snippet will have much of an impact on search at first, considering that such a small proportion of people type in search queries longer than three words. However, as the internet gets bigger, more crowded, and users become more discerning, perhaps longer queries will be the way forward, and Google is just getting a jump on that.

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