Google – Important Updates…

So is Google "caffeine" the caffeine hit that you need in the New Year?

Recently Google has announced and launched several important changes to their user interface, search index and infrastructure.

These include the rollout of “personalization” to ALL searchers (whether you are logged into a Google account or not), “real-time search” to include instant social comments such as Twitter tweets, Google “social search” which will include reviews by your “friends” and a technical infrastructure update called Google “caffeine” due to be implemented after the Christmas/New Year break.

So is Google “caffeine” the caffeine hit that you need in the New Year? SEO Works spills the beans on the launch of the new search index from Google as well as explaining what all these changes (and more to come) mean to you, your website and your traffic. Find out more below…

This is good news…

The good news about the following major Google enhancements to the search results means that high quality, well-designed and well-built websites with rich, original content and a sound link profile will continue to perform even better…and these are the three criteria that form the core of our services to our clients.

We aren’t seeking to alarm you…all the Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu and many more) are continuously fine tuning their Search Engine results and how they are displayed…we just want you to be informed because these innovations by Google may well change the playing field, or at least move the goal posts…for one thing, we certainly know that ranking measures will become less of a benchmark…and as we have always said, great Search Engine Optimisation advice and consulting is about delivering quality traffic that converts into opportunities.

Please read on…we’ve deliberately kept the notes brief…and feel free to contact your SEO Works Business Analyst if you would like to know more…

Personalized search…

From this week on, when you search using Google, they believe that they will be able to better provide you with the most relevant results possible through what they are calling Google Personalised Search.

“Personalized search” uses your web searching and viewing history to deliver search results based on the things you’ve searched for on Google and the sites you’ve visited. Essentially this means that two people sitting next to each other and searching for the same keyword phrase are likely to see a different set of search results.

Previously, Google only offered “personalized search” for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on their Google Accounts. What they are doing now is expanding “personalized search” so that they can provide it to signed-out users as well.

Here is a link to the announcement by Google:

What does this mean for you and your website?

More than likely, this will be a good thing. High-quality sites with rich, original content will continue to do well and your traffic and especially conversion levels should improve. However, if you sell luxury watches but were in the past reaching people who were also searching for “cheap watches” then it’s likely you will start to appear less for cheap watches if the person has a history of visiting budget watch sites. On the upside, if the person searching has a history of visiting luxury shopping and luxury travel websites then you may well start turning up for more “luxury watches” searches for that kind of searcher.

Our call is…be patient…we see this as a “swings and roundabouts” feature that will be slowly rolled out and one that we will continue to adjust your SEO to over time as we normally do.

Real-time search…

091209 Real-time-search-150Google Real-time Search updates almost instantly with “stuff” that is happening around the web “right now” – for example, live tweets, Yahoo Answers, news articles and new web pages now stream in on the actual result pages for your query.

For some time, it’s been clear that search has been moving to real-time, but until now, Google was seemingly falling behind Twitter, and even perhaps Bing (who inked its own search deals with Twitter and Facebook earlier this year).

What does this mean for you and your website?

Now, with one sweeping stroke, Google has grabbed the lead in the real-time search space, and it appears that Facebook and Twitter have both conceded that they aren’t going to outbuild Google when it comes to search.

And it means that finally “social media” has become mainstream.

We have been anticipating “social media” becoming mainstream for a year or so and have been quietly preparing for this moment…and in January 2010 we will be launching Social Media Works [] with access to dedicated research, social media packages and custom social media marketing programs to help you tap into this new medium .

Social search…

Most people on the web today make social connections and publish web content in many different ways, including blogs, status updates and tweets. Google Social Search helps you find more relevant public content from your broader social circle…your Facebook friends, people you follow or follow you on Twitter or other “social” media.

Once you have granted permission, you will start to see at the bottom of the search results such things as restaurant reviews made by your friends if you search for “best New York restaurant” or car reviews from your friends if you search for “new cars”.

All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is publicly available on the web… you could find it without Social Search if you really wanted to. What Google has done is provide that content in one single place to try to make your results more relevant.

You can discover more here:

What does this mean for you and your website?

In simple terms it means that reviews, recommendations and reports from “trusted” sources such as your friends and business acquaintances will become more readily available…and if you run a business, managing your online reputation will become much more important. Now, every former customer that provides feedback online and all those reviews  will carry the same value, whether from a gastronomy critic or someone who ate at your restaurant yesterday. With this change, personal reviews will now find their way to a broader audience.

Apart from you actively encouraging positive feedback, it is more important than ever to be effectively managing any poor commentaries or reviews – this is now of paramount importance…keeping track of online comments through alerts, managing your responses with a positive spin and using these as an opportunity to improve your service or product quality is about to become the norm rather than the exception.

Google “caffeine” update…

Google “caffeine” is the name given to Google’s next index update. Back in August Google announced that this update will be going live soon after the Christmas/New Year holidays.

Different to Google’s regular updates, our research has indicated that it will be an overhaul of the physical infrastructure and calculations that Google uses so as to speed up the Google system…and not necessarily not a major change to the Google ranking algorithms.

What is going to change?

Of course, Google hasn’t revealed the details of Google “caffeine”…they just don’t do that. However, the new index has been live on some test servers and some Google employees also talked about the change. Our research indicates that the following factors will play a larger role in Google’s next index update:

  • Website speed: if you have a slow loading website, it may not rank as highly on Google.
  • Broken links: if your website contains many broken links, this might have a negative impact of the position of your web pages in Google search results.
  • Bad neighborhoods: linking to known spammers and getting a lot of links from known spammers isn’t good for your rankings in Google’s current algorithm. The negative impact of a bad neighborhood will be even worse with Google “caffeine”.
  • The over-all quality of your website: Google’s new algorithm will take a closer look at the over-all quality of your website. It’s not enough to have one or two ranking factors in place, you will need all your little SEO ducks lined up

As always, your site needs to have good original content, a good website design with a clear navigation, good inbound links, a low bounce rate, etc…same as always but the level of scrutiny and quality expectations bar may be raised higher. Factors like the age of a website, its past history, authority etc. will still play a role however, the “weight” of the different algorithm factors that influence your rankings may shift.

Our advice?

Don’t be too concerned… we think a large part of the new structure is already live and has been live for some time now in preparation for Google Personalised Search which requires more “grunt” from the Google data centers. There may be some short-term jumping around of the data but things should settle back quite quickly to delivering similar traffic levels and growth patterns as they always have.

Remember, you are not alone…

SEO Works has one of the largest and most experienced “organic” Search Engine Optimisation teams in Australia. Every week we review, discuss and test the latest trends, research and announcements by the search engines to ensure we are at the leading edge of SEO innovation.

Your website content and search engine visibility is in the safest of hands. Please feel free to contact your SEO Business Analyst to discuss these important updates and the implications in more detail.

So don’t panic…

Before you start reaching for the Panic Button, please remember that Google, Bing and Yahoo are continuously refining their Search Engine algorithms and that these particular changes, although significant, are aimed at improving the overall search experience.

The Search Engines want to deliver quality, original content that is highly relevant to the keyword phrases being searched for…which is exactly the content that SEO Works develops for your website.