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Beanstalk's Internet Marketing Blog

At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.

July 18, 2013

A Panda Attack

Google today confirmed that there is a Panda update rolling out. I find it odd that after telling webmasters that there would no longer be announcements of Panda updates, that they made this announcement and one has to wonder why.

The official message from Google is that this Panda update is softer than those previously and that there have been new signals added. There are webmasters who are reporting recoveries from previous updates with this one. I would love to hear some feedback from any of our blog readers as to changes you may have noticed in your rankings with this latest update.

I’ll publish a followup post to this one next week after we’ve had a chance to evaluate the update.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:42 am



August 31, 2011

Google+ and the Potential Impact on SEO

Although you can only join by invitation at this point, you’ve no doubt heard of Google+, Google’s latest attempt to join (or, in time perhaps, completely overtake?) Facebook and Twitter as a must have social networking tool. In the months before Google+ was launched, Google also began implementing the “+1″ button as a usable option for users to signify that they enjoy a particular site or page in an attempt to gather as much raw data as possible about the popularity and social value of sites and content before Google+ was rolled out for the masses. Preceding the Google+ and +1 button was the introduction of real time search, which was able to incorporate search results from Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Google, it would appear, is realizing the immense value of social media and the impact of social media on web search.

Search will continue to have a social element infused into it as the addition of the +1 button will change search results, as will live feeds from Google+ pages, much like Facebook “likes” and Twitter “tweets” are currently affecting search results by influencing user decisions due to their value as endorsements of certain sites and content.

Google definitely wants websites to implement the +1 button in their pages so that they can track and measure changes in click through rates. The +1 button will also be included on all SERPs as well as all Google+ feeds. What this means is business owners and marketers must ensure that a positive customer experience is, perhaps more than ever before, their primary focus in the hope that as many users as possible will +1 their site, and in doing so, endorse their business (and by association, reputation).

While it is plain to see that the introduction of the +1 button was merely a precursor/trial balloon for Google+, the potential impact of the +1 button on search could be the bridge between all of the social oriented sites and tools and ways of doing things on the web and the subsequent influence on search results.

Recently, Rand Fishkin, head of SEO Moz, decided to test some theories on the subject of social sites influencing search results. He shared a number of un-indexed URLs via Twitter both before and after Google had unceremoniously aborted the real time search results feature. Fishkin repeated the process, only this time he used Google+. He then requested that his followers on Twitter and Google+ to share the post, with the only caveat being that they were not to share it outside of the originating site.

What this yielded in terms of hard data was that even though Google has dropped the real time search, re-tweeting and tweets are still assisting page indexation. As for Google+, Fishkin’s test page ended up ranking #1 on Google within a few hours. This illustrates the fact that Google+ can also help pages get indexed, if not quite as quickly as Twitter.

But perhaps the most interesting concept presented by Google+, and one that could potentially have a significant impact on SEO, is the “Google Circles” feature.

The “Circles” feature is interesting because it grants users the ability to share whatever they choose with specific groups, or Circles, of people. As Google+ users build their Circles, they will subsequently be able to see the sites that users in their circles have +1′d in Google’s SERPs. This has enormous potential – users will be far more likely to make a choice or purchase based on the recommendation of people they have invited to their Circles – people who they know and whose opinions they trust. Most users are going to be far more likely to trust the recommendation of someone they know rather than the recommendation or review from a stranger. Over time, Circles will become much more defined as more available user data is integrated into them – using that data to effectively market could be potentially powerful SEO strategy.

Basically, Google has taken the ideas behind some of their social media competitors more influential and successful features in an attempt to make search more about real people. Google+ and the +1 button are enabling users to influence online activity, and, as such, they will have an effect on search results. Many experts are already proclaiming Google+ to have no impact on SEO whatsoever, citing Google Wave and past attempts by Google to get in on the social side of the net as indicators that this new attempt will also fail. While it is far too early to make any kind of definitive statement as to the long term usefulness or impact of Google+ and the +1 button on SEO, citing past failures as the basis for an argument as to why Google+ is going to fail as well is short sighted at best. The fact of the matter is, social factors are already intertwined with search, and this is likely only going to become more prevalent as these sites are expanded and the way we interact on the internet continues to evolve also, not less so. Whether or not Google+ ends up revolutionizing or merely co-existing with established SEO methodology remains to be seen, but the enormous potential of these features and their long term impact is fairly clear – site ranking methods are changing thanks to the +1 button and this will likely end up creating an altogether new method of SEO in the future.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:02 pm



June 8, 2005

Anatomy Of An Internet Search Engine

For some unfortunate souls SEO is simply the learning of tricks and techniques that, according to their understanding, should propel their site into the top rankings on the major search engines. This understanding of the way SEO works can be effective for a time however it contains one basic flaw … the rules change. Search engines are in a constant state of evolution in order to keep up with the SEO’s in much the same way that Norton, McAfee, AVG or any of the other anti-virus software companies are constantly trying to keep up with the virus writers.

Basing your entire websites future on one simple set of rules (read: tricks) about how the search engines will rank your site contains an additional flaw, there are more factors being considered than any SEO is aware of and can confirm. That’s right, I will freely admit that there are factors at work that I may not be aware of and even those that I am aware of I cannot with 100% accuracy give you the exact weight they are given in the overall algorithm. Even if I could, the algorithm would change a few weeks later and what’s more, hold your hats for this one; there is more than one search engine.

So if we cannot base our optimization on a set of hard-and-fast rules what can we do? The key my friends, is not to understand the tricks but rather what they accomplish. Reflecting back on my high school math teach Mr. Barry Nicholl I recall a silly story that had a great impact. One weekend he had the entire class watch Dumbo The Flying Elephant (there was actually going to be a question about it on our test). Why? The lesson we were to get from it is that formulas (like tricks) are the feather in the story. They are unnecessary and yet we hold on to them in the false belief that it is the feather that works and not the logic. Indeed, the tricks and techniques are not what works but rather the logic they follow and that is their shortcoming.

And So What Is Necessary?

To rank a website highly and keep it ranking over time one must optimize it with one primary understanding, that a search engine is a living thing. Obviously this is not to say that search engines have brains, I will leave those tales to Orson Scott Card and other science fiction writers, however their very nature results in a lifelike being with far more storage capacity.

If we consider for a moment how a search engine functions; it goes out into the world, follows the road signs and paths to get where it’s going, and collects all of the information in its path. From this point, the information is sent back to a group of servers where algorithms are applied in order to determine the importance of specific documents. How are these algorithms generated? They are created by human beings who have a great deal of experience in understanding the fundamentals of the Internet and the documents it contains and who also have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, and update the algorithms accordingly. Essentially we have an entity that collects data, stores it, and then sorts through it to determine what’s important which it’s happy to share with others and what’s unimportant which it keeps tucked away.

So Let’s Break It Down …

To gain a true understanding of what a search engine is, it’s simple enough to compare it to the human anatomy as, though not breathing, it contains many of the same core functions required for life. And these are:

The Lungs & Other Vital Organs – The lungs of a search engine and indeed the vast majority of vital organs are contained within the datacenters in which they are housed. Be it in the form of power, Internet connectivity, etc. As with the human body, we do not generally consider these important in defining who we are, however we’re certainly grateful to have them and need them all to function properly.

The Arms & Legs – Think of the links from the engine itself as the arms and legs. These are the vehicles by which we get where we need to go and retrieve what needs to be accessed. While we don’t commonly think of these as functions when we’re considering SEO these are the purpose of the entire thing. Much as the human body is designed primarily to keep you mobile and able to access other things, so too is the entire search engine designed primarily to access the outside world.

The Eyes – The eyes of the search engine are the spiders (AKA robots or crawlers). These are the 1s and 0s that the search engines send out over the Internet to retrieve documents. In the case of all the major search engines the spiders crawl from one page to another following the links, as you would look down various paths along your way. Fortunately for the spiders they are traveling mainly over fiber optic connections and so their ability to travel at light speed enables them to visit all the paths they come across whereas we as mere humans have to be a bit more selective.

The Brain – The brain of a search engine, like the human brain, is the most complex of its functions and components. The brain must have instinct, must know, and must learn in order to function properly. A search engine (and by search engine we mean the natural listings of the major engines) must also include these critical three components in order to survive.

The Instinct – The instinct of a search engines is defined in it’s core functions, that is the crawling of sites and either the inability to read specific types of data, or the programmed response to ignore files meeting a specific criteria. Even the programmed responses become automated by the engines and thus fall under the category of instinct much the same as the westernized human instinct to jump from a large spider is learned. An infant would probably watch the spider or even eat it meaning this is not an automatic human reaction.

The instinct of a search engines is important to understand however once one understands what can and cannot be read and how the spiders will crawl a site this will become instinct for you too and can then safely be stored in the “autopilot” part of your brain.

The Knowing – Search engines know by crawling. What they know goes far beyond what is commonly perceived by most users, webmasters and SEOs. While the vast storehouse we call the Internet provides billions upon billions of pages of data for the search engines to know they also pick up more than that. Search engines know a number of different methods for storing data, presenting data, prioritizing data and of course, way of tricking the engines themselves.

While the search engine spiders are crawling the web they are grabbing the stores of data that exist and sending it back to the datacenters, where that information is processed through existing algorithms and sp@m filters where it will attain a ranking based on the engine’s current understanding of the way the Internet and the documents contained within it work.

Similar to the way we process an article from a newspaper based on our current understanding of the world, the search engines process and rank documents based on what they understand to be true in the way documents are organized on the Internet.

The Learning – Once it is understood that search engines rank documents based on a specific understanding of the way the Internet functions, it then follows that in order to insure that new document types and technologies are able to be read and that the algorithm be changed as new understandings of the functionality of the Internet are uncovered a search engine must have the ability to “learn”.

Aside from a search engine needing the ability to properly spider documents stored in newer technologies, search engines must also have the ability to detect and accurately penalize sp@m and as well as accurately rank websites based on new understandings of the way documents are organized and links arranged. Examples of areas where search engines must learn in an ongoing basis include but are most certainly not limited to:

  • Understanding the relevancy of the content between sites where a link is found
  • Attaining the ability to view the content on documents contained within new technologies such as database types, Flash, etc.
  • Understanding the various methods used to hide text, links, etc. in order to penalize sites engaging in these tactics
  • Learning from current results and any shortcoming in them, what tweaks to current algorithms or what additional considerations must be taken into account to improve the relevancy of the results in the future.

The learning of a search engine generally comes from the uber-geeks hired by and the users of the search engines. Once a factor is taken into account and programmed into the algorithm it them moves into the “knowing” category until the next round of updates.

How This Helps in SEO

This is the point at which you may be asking yourself, “This is all well-and-good but exactly how does this help ME?” An understanding of how search engines function, how they learn, and how they live is one of the most important understandings you can have in optimizing a website. This understanding will insure that you don’t simply apply random tricks in hopes that you’ve listened to the right person in the forums that day but rather that you consider what is the search engine trying to do and does this tactic fit with the long term goals of the engine.

For a while keyword density sp@mming was all the rage among the less ethical SEOs as was building networks of websites to link together in order to boost link popularity. Neither of these tactics work today and why? They do not fit with the long-term goals of the search engine. Search engines, like humans, want to survive. If the results they provide are poor then the engine will die a slow but steady death and so they evolve.

When considering any tactic you must consider, does this fit with the long-term goals of the engine? Does this tactic in general serve to provide better results for the largest number of searches? If the answer is yes then the tactic is sound.

For example, the overall relevancy of your website (i.e. does the majority of your content focus on a single subject) has become more important over the past year or so. Does this help the searcher? The searcher will find more content on the subject they have searched on larger sites with larger amounts of related content and thus this shift does help the searcher overall. A tactic that includes the addition of more content to your site is thus a solid one as it helps build the overall relevancy of your website and gives the visitor more and updated information at their disposal once they get there.

Another example would be in link building. Reciprocal links are becoming less relevant and reciprocal-links between unrelated sites are virtually irrelevant. If you are engaging in reciprocal link building insure that the sites you link to are related to your site’s content. As a search engine I would want to know that a site in my results also provided links to other related sites thus increasing the chance that the searcher was going to find the information that they are looking for one way or another without having to switch to a different search engine.

In Short

In short, think ahead. Understand that search engines are organic beings that will continue to evolve. Help feed them when they visit your site and they will return often and reward your efforts. Use unethical tactics and you may hold a good position for a while but in the end, if you do not use tactics that provide for good overall results, you will not hold your position for long. They will learn.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:30 pm

Categories:Search Engine News



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