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Search Quality Highlights: Recent Changes on Google Search

Posted by Avasoft Team | Posted in Site Traffic, Website Technical Issues | Posted on 19-07-2012

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Google is constantly making improving the results it generates for users, and every website owner must stay on top of these changes to make sure that their website continues to perform well in the rankings.  In February there were 40 different changes implemented by the search engine giant.  Here are the highlights:

  • A new data source has been created to build a section called “Searches related to…”  This creates new opportunities for increased coverage so that it will show up in more queries.  This new section on Google includes related searches that can help users refine their searches and find the results they are looking for.
  • Users are seeing more relevant site links because Google has adjusted a signal that’s used to locate snippets that are duplicates.
  • Adjustments have been made to the way official pages are detected so that previously mislabeled “official” pages on any subject will no longer be labeled as such.
  • The algorithms for Google’s autocomplete feature have been adjusted, particularly those relating to inappropriate or offensive terms.
  • A new update to the “site” query has resulted in better ranking for queries that use the operator “site:” so that the diversity of results is much greater than it was previously.
  • Sites using more synonyms of keywords are ranking higher in results.  This update was applied previously for search results in English, and now it also applies to searches in other languages.
  • Sites with fresher content will automatically rank higher in search engine results than sites that have not been updated recently.
  • The ranking for local search results has been improved and adjusted according to the rankings from the main Google search results.
  • Google’s spell correction feature has been improved so that it recognizes more misspelled words and can make better suggestions.
  • Signals have been added to shot when a topic suddenly increases in popularity.  Now these searches are tracked in real time so that Google is always aware when a topic starts to spike suddenly.
  • The account settings page in Google has a fresher look that’s a lot more consistent with the rest of the company’s design.
  • Last year’s Panda updates have been refreshed in the system so that they are much more responsive to all of the recent changes online.
  • The way Google evaluates links has changed quite a bit, which is important because they use link characteristics to try to figure out what a linked page is actually about.  The search engine has turned off an old method they once used to analyze links and reengineered how these links are analyzed.
  • Weaknesses in protection against spam have been fixed.
  • A new system helps users be able to find local results for their searches a lot more easily than they could previously.

As you can see, probably the most common theme relating to Google’s updates this time around have to do with local search results.  This is critical right now as more and more small businesses are going online.  In order for small businesses to be able to thrive, customers in their own neighborhoods must be able to find them, and with Google’s recent updates, this is becoming easier than ever—if you know how to optimize your site appropriately.

Of course these are just the highlights of February’s updates to the Google search engine.  There are a few others, but these are the most important ones that will apply to most website owners.  It is essential that you keep these changes in mind when creating new content for your sites.

Contact Avasoft for more details on all of the latest Google updates and watch your website finally begin to rise through the search engine rankings.

Google’s Latest Algorithm Change: Page Layout

Posted by Avasoft Team | Posted in Content Writing, Site Traffic | Posted on 19-03-2012

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Google is constantly looking for ways to improve their users’ experiences, and the way they do this is by changing the algorithms.  Of course owning a website and understanding exactly why your site appears (or doesn’t appear) in Google searches are often two different things.  With many website owners, you toss out words like “algorithms,” and their eyes start glazing over as their mind begins to wander.

Algorithms are the mathematical equations and codes that determine whose website appears where on Google’s search results when certain keywords are typed in.  In the past, the algorithm changes were largely about the text and content on the page, but as of January of this year, Google has begun weighing other features of websites more heavily when deciding where to rank sites in their search results.

According to webmasters at Google, they had been receiving many complaints from users about sites that made it too difficult to find the content they were looking for.  Users would say that sometimes when they clicked on a site with a description that really sounded like what they were looking for, they were unhappy because there were so many ads on the page that they could not find the information they were looking for.

Internet users don’t generally want to scroll down a page to look carefully for the content they want.  If they don’t see it right away, they’re going to click the back button and go to another site that makes it easier to find the information they are looking for.

The biggest culprit of users not being able to find content is advertising, and many website owners have ads that are, as Google terms them, “above the fold.”  This latest algorithm change by Google now penalizes websites that do not have a lot of content above the fold.  This means websites that don’t have much written content that’s visible on the page without scrolling when you click to it.

Of course it is quite common for some website owners to place advertisements above the fold, and it’s easy to see why.  Most people who own a website have monetized it, and the ads that make them the most money are usually those that are located on the page above the fold.  However, Google’s recent change is targeting those sites that have too many ads above the fold.  This means that sites which use their space wisely and have few ads above the fold should not be affected by the latest algorithm change.  It is certainly normal to have some ads above the fold, but all of your relevant content should be easily accessible without the user having to scroll to find what he or she is looking for.

Google does not believe that this latest update has changed search results drastically.  They believe that less than 1 percent of searches worldwide would be affected by this change.  Website owners who believe that their site has been affected by this recent algorithm change should take some time to look at their site’s overall layout.  They should look at how the space located above the fold on their website is used.  If the site’s real content is too hard to locate, then it probably is time for an adjustment to the layout.  Google has a browser size tool and other tools you can use to see how your website looks on other screen resolutions.  This is an important thing that is often overlooked by website owners.  It is too easy to get caught up on how the site looks on your own screen and forget that other people don’t have the same computer or monitor as you.  Many people don’t even use the same browser you use.  So these are all things to take into consideration when trying to determine precisely where the fold of your website falls.  If you do decide to change your page’s website, Google’s algorithm will automatically process the change and reorder search results accordingly when they crawl your site the next time.

Duplicate Content – Harms Your Search Engine Rankings

Posted by Avasoft Team | Posted in Content Writing, Site Traffic | Posted on 17-02-2012

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Duplicate content, a.k.a. plagiarism, is never something you should tolerate on your own website.  In internet terminology Google defines, “duplicate content” as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that other completely match content or are appreciably similar.”

It’s important to understand that duplicate content refers to pages that are exactly the same.  Even pages with quite a few similarities usually don’t cause alarm bells to go off with Google and the other search engines.  Avoiding duplicate content can be as simple as changing the order of the paragraphs around, but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want a lot of duplicate content on your site because it will harm your search engine rankings.

Of course avoiding duplicate content is about more than just making sure that your website does not have articles and content copy and pasted from another site.  There are some forms of duplicate content that most website owners don’t even think about, such as:

  • Discussion forums that have both a regular and a mobile version of the same site
  • Pages with items for sale in your retail store that are linked with multiple distinct URLs
  • Web pages that have printer-only versions of the same content on the page

When Google indexes pages, the filter will essentially choose one version of each page to list.  Sometimes the pros at Google will see that there is a lot of duplicate content within a search engine listing that was meant to take over the majority of traffic for a particular keyword.  The search engine then adjusts and lowers the rankings of sites that seem to be a copy of earlier sites.  Sometimes these sites are completely removed from the Google index so that they will never show up in search results.

Assuming you’re not just out to copy the work of others, here are some things you can do to protect your site’s search engine ranking:

  • Canonicalization and site indexing – tell Google which version of your website or duplicate content you want included in the listings, whether it’s the printer-only version or the main page.  This can be done via the Google Webmaster Tools.
  • 301 Redirects–You can redirect the search spiders and users to the right version of the page via .htaccess files or the administrative console.
  • Consistency – Internal linking among your pages should be consistent rather than utilizing more than one version of the same page.
  • Top-level domains – Make sure the URLs you use for your site have country specific extensions, like .uk for the United Kingdom or .ca for Canada, etc.
  • Proper syndication – When syndicating your content on other sites, include a link back to the original article and ask those who use your article to use a no index meta tag so that their site won’t be indexed in the search engines.
  • Cut down on boilerplate repetition – You don’t really need copyright information on each page.  Just link the copyright mention to a separate page that has complete information.
  • Don’t publish pages until you have content for them – Publishing placeholder pages before they have content creates a lot of duplicate blank pages on your site.  If you must do this, use no-index meta tags to prevent web crawlers from indexing them.
  • Adjust your content management system.  Remember that blog postings may appear in more than one place on your site, depending on how your content management system works.  You may be able to make adjustments to minimize this, thus reducing the amount of duplicate content.
  • Combine pages that have similar information – If you have several pages with content that is similar, look at making those into one page instead of having separate pages with similar content.

You probably won’t be able to get around all of the issues relating to duplicate content, so for the pages you can’t do anything about, you can mark them in a way that lets the crawlers know they are duplicate content.  In the past, Google recommended blocking crawlers from actually finding the duplicate content, but this can be damaging because it causes the crawlers to treat them as separate pages.  Instead, use the rel=”canonical” link, a URL parameter handling tool, or 301 code redirects.  You can also use Webmaster Tools to change the crawl rate setting for your website.

If in spite of your efforts, your page is still removed from search engine rankings, read over the Webmaster Guidelines to find out exactly why.  Once you fix the problems, you can submit a request to have your site included in the rankings again.

Sometimes you may find that another site is actually copying your site in some way.  If this happens, it’s likely nothing to worry about with your search engine rankings.  However, if you do notice the duplicate content causing problems, a DMCA request will allow you to attempt to get that content removed by claiming that you own it.

Avasoft will take care of all your website needs and help you make sure that there’s no duplicate content lowering your search engine ranking.