A couple of days ago Google released a list summarising 52 changes which they implemented during April which are now affecting search results. This has nothing whatsoever to do with penguins, pandas, or indeed any other monochromatic animal. These are just simply run-of-the-mill algorithmic changes which have been implemented without any formal announcement.
I have carefully gone through this comprehensive list of changes and have identified 8 which I believe offer some value to those of us who take a keen interest in our site’s performance and optimisation. In today’s blog post I’m going to go through those 8 points, explaining briefly what the changes are that Google has introduced, and what the implications are for online marketers, as well as offering relevant advice to those who wish to adapt their strategies.
1. Paginated Documents
If you have a very long document in your website, perhaps a tutorial, or in-depth guide, you may find that rather than serving this on a single rather bloated page you paginate it. This means splitting the documents across multiple pages, including navigational links which allow the reader to move forwards or backwards through the document.
What Google has identified is that in some cases highly optimised paginated documents can end up dominating some search results. So if you have a tutorial on left-handed bath plugs which has been divided across 10 different pages, it is possible that anybody searching for left-handed bath plugs would find that the first 10 results, in other words the whole of the first page, only lists the 10 different pages of your tutorial.
Clearly this would be good news for you, less so for anybody else trying to deliver relevant or useful information. Certainly from Google’s point of view it is not ideal to serve results which include such a poor level of diversity. Their algorithmic change means that searches will now generate a more diverse selection of results in such cases.
So the message here is that if you have been investing a great deal of time in deliberately splitting up documentation across multiple pages in order to have multiple chances at having those pages listed in the results, this may be time wasted. Unless the document is so long that it deserves to be divided up across multiple pages it may be more advisable to have more quality content per page.
2. Individual Webpage Localisation
We all know that for some time now Google has been serving results which it believes are likely to be more relevant based on localisation. So if you’re searching for information related to train timetables it is more likely that you will receive results which are either predominantly for your country, or possibly even more local than that.
However, what Google has tended to do in the past is to assess the localisation of a website at the domain level, or at most, sub-domain level. This isn’t always ideal, and what they are now doing is to assess individual pages for localisation in cases where content is at least in part user generated. So if you have a web page within your site which includes user generated content which may be specific to a particular town or country, this page may be assessed differently from other pages within your domain, or indeed different from the entire rest of the domain.
I have mentioned in previous blog posts the importance of optimising for localisation, and I think that whilst this algorithmic change may not affect a wide number of business websites, it does underline the importance of making sure that such opportunities are taken advantage of as fully as possible.
3. Domain Diversity
Google is aware that sometimes searches can result in a high number of listings appearing from the same domain. This is less likely to happen now though, as they have made algorithmic changes which should see a more diverse set of domains served for each search. Clearly this means that if you have been seeing your website listed multiple times within the first page for any particular query, you could find that you are now only appearing once. Don’t take this as a warning that you are losing your rank, since it is simply likely that you are being affected by this change.
Perhaps the message here is that it is now more important than ever not to rely on appearing multiple times within search results, but making sure that the listing you do have is optimised for the user as much as possible. I’m talking here about making sure you have highly relevant and appealing titles, as well as descriptive text or rich text snippets.
4. Text Snippets
On the subject of rich text snippets, or at least text snippets, a change implemented during April means that it is more probable now that Google will be taking text snippets from the beginning of your page rather than elsewhere. Although I would not go as far as to suggest that this means you focus more on the text at the beginning of your page than at the end, it is perhaps important to think about getting those soundbites and key messages early on in each page.
5. Fresh Content
We all know that Google is very keen to promote content which is fresh, relevant and up-to-date, and a minor algorithmic change they made during April means that the search results are more likely to prioritise content which appears to be fresh. I have been writing quite a bit recently about the fact that it is now more important than ever to make sure that the content on your website, and in your blog, is regularly added to, expanded and updated. This change simply underlines the importance of having fresh, relevant content on your site as often as possible, even if only to hold on to your search results page position.
This is perhaps a warning from Google in case you feel that simply adding any old content will count as fresh content. They are introducing a modification to a classifier they use to promote fresh content. This modification does not simply prioritise high-quality fresh content, but actually excludes fresh content which has been identified as being low quality.
Just make sure you saw the word ‘excludes’ in that last sentence. Yes, it is now vital that you ensure your website is regularly packed full of fresh, original content, but sticking any old rubbish in there is not just going to be a waste of time and money, but could well see your content being actively excluded.
7. Query Interpretation
I was amazed when I read this line from Google. In one very buried, very brief sentence Google has basically said that it is now likely to adapt and respond to your queries based on the most recent searches you have carried out. Effectively I see this as being the case that Google will be monitoring the sort of thing you are looking for, and use this to predict what you might be wanting in subsequent searches.
I don’t think this particularly means that in terms of SEO we could, or should, be doing anything different. But it is important to be aware of the fact that when you are searching on Google it is possible that the results you see for identical searches may change based on interim searches you have carried out. I haven’t carried out any specific testing on this, but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind that it is a possibility, especially when looking to assess either your own site’s or your clients’ sites’ ranking.
8. Concise And Informative Titles
Again, I have mentioned the importance of good quality titles in previous blog posts, but a change implemented by Google during April seems to mean that they are now looking at a wider range of factors when determining what to show for the title of each result. It seems that what they are after is to ensure that titles are always as concise as possible, and as informative as possible.
Get rid of those boilerplate titles, titles which include your business name unnecessarily, keyword stuffed titles, duplicated titles, overly long titles, and titles which don’t really inform as to the content or purpose of the specific page.
If you found this blog post useful, please consider sharing it through Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. If you have any comments on any of these algorithmic changes, or feel that they help to explain any changes you have already been noticing, please leave your comments and thoughts below.