Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - November 2013
Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends.
In the first article this month, we take a look at the introduction by Google of the significant new ‘Hummingbird’ search algorithm. This is the largest change that has been made to its search algorithm for a number of years and one in which all businesses with websites should be interested. So, we discuss what this is, how it may have impacted your rankings and what the best SEO policy is to get the optimum results for your website from it.
Next, we take a look at the recent introduction of demographics and interests reports into Google Analytics, how to enable these reports and what useful data is available from them.
In the final article this month, we examine Facebook’s Edgerank for Business Pages because it will influence how often followers see your posts. So, we provide details about what it is and how can it be used.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.
On to this month's edition...
Google Introduces The New 'Hummingbird' Search Algorithm
At the end of September Google announced that it had been using its new search algorithm since the end of August. This is important for any business owner who is at all interested in their site's Search Engine optimisation, as it is a very significant change in Google's search engine.
As a result, there are a number of questions that curious business owners may like answered in relation to this change and this article serves to address those:
1. What’s a “search algorithm?”
That’s a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.
2. What’s “Hummingbird?”
It’s the name of the new search algorithm that Google is using, one that Google says should return better results.
3. What type of “new” search activity does Hummingbird help?
“Conversational search” is one of the biggest examples Google gave. People, when speaking searches, may find it more useful to have a conversation. For example, “What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.
Before Hummingbird, your results might have been generally related to your topic or question, and Google may have pulled pages that only had one or two words from your search question. But with the Hummingbird update, Google should be able to understand the entire meaning behind your searches; it will be paying attention to each word in the search, so the full extent of the conversation is considered when displaying your results.
4. What does it mean that Hummingbird is now being used?
When Google switched to Hummingbird (which it did so quickly that no one really noticed) it’s as if it dropped the old engine out of a car and put in a new one. Google says — it's built on both existing and new parts, organised in a way to especially serve the search demands of today. So although it’s a new engine, it continues to use some of the same parts of the old one, like the Penguin and Panda updates to it.
5. When’s the last time Google replaced its algorithm this way?
In 2010, the “Caffeine Update” was a huge change. But that was also a change mostly meant to help Google better gather information (indexing) rather than sorting through the information. Google search chief Amit Singhal told me that perhaps 2001, when he first joined the company, was the last time the algorithm was so dramatically rewritten.
6. Does this mean I’m going to lose traffic from Google?
The very subtle introduction of Hummingbird hasn’t sparked any wave of consumers or website publishers complaining that Google’s results suddenly got bad. If you didn't have problems with your rankings since the end of August, then you came through Hummingbird unscathed.
Google's saying this is very much a query-by-query effect, one that may improve specific searches (particularly complex ones), rather than something that hits “head” terms that can, in turn, cause major traffic shifts.
7. What's Google's response if I lost traffic?
Perhaps it was due to Hummingbird, but Google stressed that it could also be due to some of the other parts of its algorithm, which are always being changed, tweaked or improved. There’s no way to know for sure, unfortunately.
8. What’s the best on-going SEO strategy for Hummingbird?
Google says there’s nothing new or different SEOs or website publishers need to worry about and the main thing is still to have original, high-quality content on the site. Hummingbird just allows Google to process it in new and hopefully better ways, which mainly involves understanding the full meaning of a search query.
Since Hummingbird is focused on getting rid of irrelevant and unimportant results, this change should actually allow you to rise above your competition. If you’ve already been busy creating content and building links from trustworthy websites, the Hummingbird update will allow you to continue ranking high since Google is looking for those types of sites i.e ones that provide valuable answers to their searchers’ queries.
9. In what ways can I improve my site's content and back-links?
Focus upon creating articles that contain a “How to” approach and that present definite answers to user queries that will help them, especially ones that aren't widely known.
(A tip for webmasters is to use the revolutionary Schema mark vocabulary with rich snippets like ratings and reviews, recipe preparation time etc. This is the best way to allow Google to clearly understand the content displayed on your site).
Hummingbird has especially adapted itself to serve the needs of mobile users. Catering to a mobile audience by creating a mobile version of your site with a faster loading time, fewer images, easy navigation, etc. Users hate sites that are slow and Google always panders to its users.
The best way to let Google identify you and move from the anonymous web to the named web is by using Google authorship. People tend to click more often on search results displaying an author image as opposed to anonymous search results.
Following an ethical natural linking strategy through building relationships is preferable to acquiring links using the old methods of article syndication and cheap content marketing. Earn links by serving your customers well and increasing your brand value is the strategy to follow for the long term.
You can read more about these five recommended ways to improve your rankings with Hummingbird here.
10. So what's the summary of all this and what does it mean for my business website?
Google has simply replaced its engine and made searches more on target with what users want and need in today’s world by improving its understanding of more complex, conversational search queries. So when it comes to Hummingbird, your SEO priorities should remain mostly the same, although creating valuable content for users has never been more important.
For more information about how we can ensure your SEO policy is optimised for Hummingbird, please contact us now.
Google Analytics Introduces Demographics & Interests Reports
In a recent development that will be interesting to many Google Analytics users, it now includes data on your users' demographics (age, gender) and interests (affinity categories, other categories). These useful new reports provide details on who those users are that visit your site, and how their behaviour varies by attribute (e.g., male vs. female).
In order to make data available in these reports, it's firstly necessary to make a simple, one-line change to your tracking code, more details about which can be found here.Then simply set the enabling options in Analytics from within these categories of reports in the Audience section:
- Overview (overview of traffic by age and gender)
- Age (traffic by age ranges)
- Gender (traffic by gender)
- Overview (overview of traffic by affinity and other categories)
- Affinity Categories (behavior by affinity categories)
- Other Categories (behavior by other interest categories)
This data is also available in custom reports, and they can be used as the basis for segmentation, which lets you evaluate how your users' behaviour varies by demographics and interests; for example, do males interested in automobiles convert more frequently or read specific types of content more than females who are interested in athletic apparel?
Since these are the same demographics and interest categories that are used to target ads on the Google Display Network, it’s possible to build segments using these attributes, apply them to any of your Analytics reports, and use that analysis to refine campaign strategies.
Information for these new reports is derived from the DoubleClick third-party cookie. When that cookie is not associated with a user, Analytics cannot conclude demographics and interest categories, and so these reports may represent only a subset of your users and not the overall composition of your site traffic. In addition, some data in reports may be removed when thresholds are applied to prevent inferring the identity of an individual user. You can find out more about these thresholds here.
If you'd like more details about how we can help you set up and interpret your Analytics data to provide you with useful feedback on your site's performance and visitors, contact us now.
Understanding Facebook Edgerank for Business Pages
If you're using Facebook Business Pages as part of your marketing activity, you need to be aware of the 'Edgerank' system used by the site, as this will have a bearing on how often your posts will be seen by your followers, and how the interaction with your business page will be affected. So, what is it, and how can it be used?
Facebook's Edgerank system is an advanced algorithm developed by Facebook, which ensures relevant and important content related to the user’s interests are displayed throughout the news feed. Edgerank analyses user behaviour through likes and other forms of interactions between the user and company pages or other pages in general. The algorithm focuses on time decay, showing greater importance for recent interactions between a user and company page, in comparison to older interactions.
Edgerank is based on two other components known as Affinity and the Weight System. Affinity deems repeat interactions between a user and a company page as more important than a single interaction between a user and a company page. This respects long term customer and business relationships and ensures when competing with each other, long term affinity will out rank short term affinity, provided there are even interactions between the user and both company pages. The weight system is another important component, which judges what interactions are the most important. The weight system views a comment as being more important than a like.
When you have a business page on Facebook, you can see analytics for this page and the posts that have been added. The main figure of note here is 'reach', which refers to the number of interactions per single post based on likes, comments and shares. Maximizing reach and interaction levels are important for effective Facebook Business Marketing campaigns as these will influence the Edgerank score and show your posts to more people.
Ideally Facebook Business pages want popular users to like and interact with posts. Through having ten popular fans with over five hundred friends each interacting with the page, the reach could potentially be as high as five thousand. By having one hundred unpopular fans that have ten friends each interacting with the company posts, the potential reach is only one thousand. So while all likes are beneficial it is important to target popular customers or fans to help content become more visible to a much larger audience.
Therefore the role of Edgerank can be governed by the type of posts being made to your Facebook Business Page, so that you develop followers who are relevant and interested in your content, and also posts should be designed to encourage interaction, whether it's clicking a link, Liking the post, or sharing and adding comments. The more this can be achieved, the more often your followers will see your posts and hopefully interact with your Page.
If you'd like to know more about the Edgerank system, and how to use Facebook Business Pages as part of your online marketing, please contact us for more details.
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We hope you've found this month's newsletter useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.