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Is Google’s ‘Search Bias’ Better for Consumers?

Google LocalResearchers at Harvard Business School and Columbia Law School as part of a collaboration with the Yelp data science team recently concluded that Google was harming consumers by giving preference to their own services. Would consumers be better served by getting a list of directories to choose from?

The study particular targets the local results wherein Google displays listings from Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local) ahead of the organic website results. Yelp’s claim is that this practice gives priority placement to a Google service (Google My Business) that directly competes with them. They also claim this practice leads to inferior results.

While the quality of local results is certainly up for scrutiny, Google has yet to adequately address high-ranking local listings that are keyword stuffing and getting rewarded for it. We are taking the position that the listings that appear under the local results is better for consumers than directory sites. (more…)

Google Shuts the Door on Doorway Pages

youtube one channelThere has been speculation for a number of years that Google would have to include mobile factors when it ranks websites/pages. While not a surprise, the actual implementation of mobile factors is bound to have a large effect on many sites, including law firm websites. If you do not have a mobile-friendly website, this could cost you points in terms of how your law firm ranks on mobile Google searches. It may also cost you new clients. But that’s the only change hitting the search giants legendary algorithm.

Google’s other algorithm modification involves doorway pages to improve user experience. This announcement has come as a surprise to some as these pages were frowned upon years ago and many people stopped doing them. There are still people who create these pages specifically to garner search traffic only, not for user interest. Or as Google said in its Webmaster Central Blog: “We have a (more…)

A review of Google’s 2014 algorithm changes – Part 2

searchIn our last post, we reviewed the algorithm changes Google released during the first half of 2014. Here, we will take a look at the changes in the second half of the year, as compiled by Moz:

August 6, 2014 – HTTPS/SSL Update
Google updated their algorithms to give a boost to secure sites. According to Google’s announcement, the initial boost in rankings started out small, but may be increased in the future depending on the results.

August 28, 2014 – Removal of Authorship
After dropping authorship photos on June 28, Google completely eliminated authorship in August. Authorship bylines were completely eliminated from search engine results pages (SERPs). According to John Mueller, Google’s research found that removing authorship did not cause a reduction in site traffic.

September 23, 2014 – Panda 4.1 (#27)
Google updated the Panda algorithm, which filters out low-quality content, in mid-September, affecting 3-5 percent of queries. According to Google, the update was (more…)

Authorship Dropped from Google Search Results

authorshipWebmaster trends analyst John Mueller announced in an August 28 Google+ post that Google search results will no longer display page authorship, also known as rel=author markup.

Mueller stated that Google tests found that taking authorship away did not reduce traffic to websites or increase clicks on ads.

Regarding the display of authorship information, Mueller wrote, “Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”

Google Authorship was implemented in 2011. The goal of authorship markup was to was to connect pieces of content to author profiles on Google+. The schema.org standards, which are still used in rich snippets, were used for this and other aspects of structured markup.

The end of authorship follows two recent reductions in authorship in recent months. Last December, Google decreased the number of author photos shown per query. In June, Google removed all author photos, (more…)

Google Pigeon to reshape local listings

Google layoutOn July 24, Google released a new algorithm, nicknamed Pigeon by Search Engine Land (SEL), which alters the way local search results are generated in Google Maps and Google Web. The Pigeon update is designed to make the local search results more accurate and relevant.

Google told SEL that the new algorithm relies more heavily on their hundreds of traditional web search ranking signals. It also draws on features like spelling correction, synonyms and Knowledge Graph. This change will make local search results align more closely with organic search rankings.
The algorithm is also designed to improve distance and location ranking parameters.

Currently, the algorithm affects only U.S. English results. Google has not confirmed whether or not Pigeon will be introduced in other countries or languages.

The Pigeon algorithm is still new, and it will take some time to get a feel for its full implications, especially since it’s possible that Google is still smoothing (more…)

Google Author Removes Your Picture, Retains Author Credit

profile picturesThose photos of you and your staff that once displayed next to your search engine listings has been removed. Google has removed everyone’s pictures with the author still retaining credit for their work, although some author photos may still appear on Google+ based on relevancy and level of interaction with others.

This move caught many lawyers by surprise as no one foresaw Google completely removing pictures from their Google Authorship program. There had been indications prior to the June 2014 announcement that Google was revisiting their position on author photos and how they affected content quality. At one time, author photos appeared in approximately 21 percent of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This change has dramatically affected the visual impact on SERPs but there is no data to suggest it has reduced click-through-rates.

When Google Authorship was first introduced in 2011, the intention was to “highlight authors and rank search results.” Over (more…)

Google+ Custom URLs Make It Easier to Find Your Firm’s Profile

Google Plus URLStrings of numbers have long plagued Google+ Pages. Recently, Google+ introduced custom URLs to make advertising your Google+ Page a little easier.

Since offering Pages, Google+ has issued a long string of numbers for the URL. This practice was certainly acceptable for linking to your profile from your website and email footer, but it caused limitations when promoting your Google+ Page offline.

While you could place your Twitter profile on your business card or your Facebook URL in a print advertisement, it would not be effective to share a profile URL such as “https://plus.google.com/118003559483403504374/,” requiring someone to type out the string to reach your Page.

You may be familiar with the custom URLs offered by Facebook. Google+ custom URLs come with slightly different rules.

Number of Fans and Followers — Facebook allows you to choose a custom URL after attracting 25 fans. Google+ only requires 10 followers to qualify for (more…)

8 Ways to Get the Most our of Your YouTube Channel – Part 2

Part one in this two-part series can be found here.

youtube one channelLike most social networks, your ability to benefit from YouTube One Channel relies heavily on the level of involvement to which your firm is willing to commit. At a minimum, you should brand your channel and fully fill out all meta data, like titles and descriptions, so your videos will be correctly categorized and easy to find. YouTube is now using the title of your channel rather than your user name to display in search results, so make sure it is simple and relevant (and please, no keyword spam).

Here are some additional things you can do to maximize the benefit of your channel:

Take advantage of YouTube Analytics. Google has made a real effort to make YouTube’s analytics more useful by, among other things, adding charts that help you visualize how well your videos are performing. For smaller publishers, the charts (more…)

Google+ Adds Automatic Authorship and Post Embedding

authorshipGoogle Authorship is a method for attaching a specific author to online content so that the author can be associated with his or her work across the Internet, no matter where it is published. Google advertises Authorship as a good way to validate content, help get discovered and attract more readers.

The little pictures you see next to some search results are displayed because of Authorship. If you see those images, it means Google has determined, through both markup and a linked Google+ account, that the person shown is responsible for the content being presented. There is still much discussion in the SEO community about whether or not adding Authorship helps with search marketing, although many people have reported positive results in terms of both ranking and click-through rate post implementation.

Google recommends using Authorship as one method of building reputation and establishing trust. At the March 2013 Search Marketing Expo (more…)

Google Looking to Review Under-Performing Small Business Websites

submit siteGoogle is giving small business owners a chance to have their sites personally reviewed by engineers on Google’s webspam team. If you have a smaller site that you think should be ranking better against your larger competitors, this is your chance to plead you case.

Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts put out the call on Twitter for owners of smaller websites to submit their information via a simple Google form.

If you choose to submit your url, you will be asked to provide details about why you think your site is better – or higher quality – than others that rank more favorably and why you think you should outrank other, perhaps larger, sites.

Google has made it clear that submitting your site for review will not affect your rankings. This is purely an exercise in collecting data, but it could be an indication that Google is taking seriously the complaints of (more…)