It’s no secret that Google tweak their algorithms on a daily basis. Some algorithm changes are minor tweaks most people would never notice, others are huge humdingers that set the search world on fire.
There have been 2 recent algorithm changes that have done just that.
Exact Match Domain
These are domains rank for the exact keyword search query, for example greenwidgets.com. We use these types of domains regularly in local search to target locations, e.g bluewidgetswidnes.co.uk
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team tweeted the warning last week
Personally, I haven’t noticed any major changes in local search with exact match domains (but then I don’t sit online watching closely either – just the ones that affect me or my clients!). If you have seen a change, let me know in comments.
On a wider scale, the search world lit up with discussions on who’s affected, why and exact match domain use going forward. Just to muddy the waters, Google later announced a Panda update had rolled out at the same time
Google Panda 20
The Panda algorithm looks at website quality. Are you providing a useful and user friendly experience? Having low quality pages can affect the search rankings of the whole site.
While Google hasn’t come out and said, “Do x, y and z and you’ll create a quality website” they have provided questions you should be asking yourself on their Webmaster Central blog in the past. Leaked Quality Rater Guidelines provide further insights, I found this image on Cognitive SEO.
Panda 20 started rolling out on 27th September, this is what Matt Cutts told Search Engine Land.
“Google began rolling out a new update of Panda on Thursday, 9/27. This is actually a Panda algorithm update, not just a data update. A lot of the most-visible differences went live Thursday 9/27, but the full rollout is baking into our index and that process will continue for another 3-4 days or so. This update affects about 2.4% of English queries to a degree that a regular user might notice, with a smaller impact in other languages (0.5% in French and Spanish, for example).”
Other Google Algorithm Updates
Google also announced 65 algorithm updates for August and September. There are several that directly impact local search:
LTS. [project “Other Ranking Components”] We improved our web ranking to determine what pages are relevant for queries containing locations.
nearby. [project “User Context”] We improved the precision and coverage of our system to help you find more relevant local web results. Now we’re better able to identify web results that are local to the user, and rank them appropriately.
#83406. [project “Query Understanding”] We improved our ability to show relevant Universal Search results by better understanding when a search has strong image intent, local intent, video intent, etc.
#81360. [project “Translation and Internationalization”] With this launch, we began showing local URLs to users instead of general homepages where applicable (e.g. blogspot.ch instead of blogspot.com for users in Switzerland). That’s relevant, for example, for global companies where the product pages are the same, but the links for finding the nearest store are country-dependent.
What does it all mean?
Here in the UK, Google dominate search – for many people Google IS the web. Between Google uk and .com they currently provide over 90% of the search volume in the UK. This year they have turned search on its head with the number of major changes to how search results are provided.
Search is changing. We have little choice but to play nice with Google and that means playing by their rules. We all need to switch our thinking:
- Have a website that provides information for users rather than bots
- Encourage trust with transparency, include your contact details don’t hide
- Instead of Google rankings, think online visibility and PR
But most of all, never rely solely on Google search traffic for your business – search is great but eggs in one basket isn’t a good business plan. Search, even local search is just one small part of good marketing mix.
Over to you…
Has your website been affected by any of the recent changes? Are you still using old techniques to rank your website?