While most marketers were waiting for the first major Panda update of 2012 from Google, the company stole headlines this week with a new algorithm adjustment aimed at a different issue within search. The update (slightly) changes the focus of marketers concerned with SEO and simultaneously introduces a whole new animal into the search marketing lexicon – Penguin.
On Tuesday, Google rolled out its first Penguin search update with the specific goal of targeting websites the company believes exploit white hat SEO practices. Matt Cutts, distinguished engineer at Google and point man for all things search, wrote on the company’s Webmaster Central blog that countless websites have abused SEO to boost their search ranking without delivering relevant content to its users. As is the case with Panda, the first iteration of Penguin is designed to bring website’s that focus on informing and engaging users to the forefront of search results.
Cutts highlighted the case of a website that created content with irrelevant keywords linked to other pages within the site. This tactic offers little value to the visitor, instead focusing on tricking search crawlers into shooting the website up SERPs for certain queries.
More than anything, this update, which is likely just the first of many related to the new Penguin algorithm, is another step in changing the paradigm of what SEO really means. Websites that over-optimize in hopes of appealing to search crawlers without offering readers any valuable content will be penalized by Penguin, as Brafton reported.
While Penguin was this week’s biggest news from Google, Cutts also mentioned that a Panda update struck on April 19. Using his Twitter account, Cutts said that the data refresh was rolled out without much fanfare from Google.
Like most other updates this year, Brafton reported that this latest appearance of Panda was little more than a data refresh. Dubbed Panda 3.5, it was not the major change many were expecting after a series of minor alterations in the first quarter. Penguin provided that first significant change in the way Google assembles its rankings.
Actually, the first big change for Google search in 2012 came with the rollout of Search, plus Your World in mid-January. The move inserted Google+ data into search results for the first time, meaning Google+ activities, such as sharing content and +1′ing different pages throughout the web, would lift them up rankings.
The +1 has been one of the few elements of Google+ to make any substantial progress. However, the action seemed to leave some confused as to what +1′ing content actually meant. With this in mind, Google rolled out a new Share option on Wednesday. Before, users would see the a pop-up box that asked them to share the content they had +1′ed, and perhaps many failed to understand that they had to take that final step to solidify their action. The addition of the Google+ Share widget is aimed at eliminating these mix-ups, Google announced in its Google+ Platform blog.
Companies using Google+ for social media marketing can still use the +1 widget on their websites. However, this will not result in the page’s link, its thumbnail and excerpt appearing on the profile of the user that who +1′d the content.
Brafton reported that businesses with the +1 widget throughout their websites can leave it as is to collect +1s, which will likely still help in powering search rankings and informing trending topics on the platform. However, the Share widget will now act as the method for placing content on a user’s account.
An active Google+ presence is increasingly important for companies hoping to boost visibility in search, which should increasingly be a priority as more people use search for a growing number of tasks.
BIA/Kelsey reported this week that search as a whole will continue its rapid growth through 2016 at least. According to the company, there were nearly 55 billion search queries conducted from desktop and laptop computers in 2011, with an additional 19.7 billion on smartphones and tablets. Each of these figures are on pace to maintain steady growth moving forward, signifying an increased importance in SEO campaigns.
Brafton reported that BIA/Kelsey’s numbers contain a particularly interesting forecast for search. By 2015, the firm estimates that mobile search will surpass desktop search as the most frequently relied upon method of finding information on the web. Based on current growth rates for both smartphones and tablets, BIA/Kelsey suggests that there will be 85.9 billion queries sent from mobile devices in 2015 compared to the 84 billion it projects from desktop and laptop computers.
The current landscape of mobile search became a little more clear on Wednesday when Chitika revealed the various operating systems contributing the most to mobile search. According to the report, 54 percent of all web activity from devices running iOS, the iPhone and the iPad, is dedicated to conducting mobile searches. For Android, the most popular smartphone OS in the United States, 43 percent of all mobile web access is used to search the web.
The local element of mobile search presents an interesting future for SEO-driven content marketing campaigns, Brafton reported. Ensuring that a website contains all of the relevant information related to location along with geo-friendly keywords.
Other channels that could benefit from an increased focus on mobile include social media marketing. The sheer volume of people using different social channels is reason enough to adapt to these considerations.
Facebook, for example, announced this that it has surpassed the 900 million-user mark. In its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company detailed its massive growth in recent years. Moreover, it pointed to rising activity on the platform. Brafton noted that the users generate 3.2 billion Likes and comments on Facebook on an average day.
The growth of Facebook and the implementation of the Share widget for Google+ could result in an interesting year in social, as the search giant hopes to make its social thread a legitimate competitor to Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
In the short term, not much can be predicted, but with so much happening in the social space and seven months left in 2012, it’s clear that this year will grow increasingly interesting for social and its place within internet marketing.