Recent(ish) News on Google, Bing, SEO/SEM

Google Logo I have written many times here about SEO/SEM and how so much of it is sold to organizations by scam artists (though I recoil at the thought of calling them “artists”). Too often it includes demonstrably false claims, like how meta keywords and descriptions will help your site and that you should invest in the SEO vendor to do just that.

I also try hard not to spend too much time addressing the ever-changing landscape of the search engines, let alone focusing on just one of them. However, sometimes it’s worth wrapping up some of the more interesting developments because they can genuinely affect my clients who aren’t trying to game the search engines.

Content Farms and Site Scrapers

If you’ve spent any time searching through Google you may notice that sometimes you get multiple results on your search phrase that look the same in the results, but when visiting the site you find they are just ad-laden monstrosities with no value. Sometimes one of these spam sites would appear higher in the Google search results than the site from which the content was stolen.

Google has now taken steps to not only push those sites back down to the bowels where they belong, but also to penalize those sites. These changes started in late January and went through some more revisions at the end of last month.

I think it’s fair to expect Google to keep tweaking these rules. Given all the sites that offer RSS feeds of their content (along with other syndication methods), it’s likely that many sites integrate content from external sites into their own. The trick here will be for Google to recognize a site that has a original content that also syndicates third-party content from a site that has nothing but content taken from elsewhere. If you do syndicate content, then you should be sure to what you site stats and your ranking in the search results to see if you are affected at all.

Additional reading:

Page Titles

Perhaps you have spent a great deal of time carefully crafting your page titles (specifically the text that appears in the title and which displays in your browser title bar). Perhaps you have noticed that in Google the title you entered is not what appears on the search results page. This isn’t a bug, doesn’t mean your site was indexed improperly, and doesn’t necessarily mean your page title had some other affect on your page rank. This is done intentionally by Google.

This does imply, however, that your titles are unwieldy. Google does this when titles are too short, when they used repeatedly throughout a site, or when they are stuffed with keywords. If you find that your title is being cut off (implying it’s too long) then you may want to limit your title to 66 characters, or at least put the most important information in those first 66 characters.

Additional reading:

Social Media

It wasn’t that long ago that Google and Bing said that links in social media (think Facebook and Twitter) will affect a site’s position in search results (PageRank for Google). Some people may even be tempted to run out and post links to every social media outlet they can find, hoping that the more inbound links, the better for their site. Thankfully it’s not that simple.

Both Google and Bing look at the social standing of a user when calculating the value of an inbound link. This can include number of followers (fans/friends on Facebook), number followed, what other content is posted, how much a user gets retweeted or mentioned and a few other factors. In short, those Twitter accounts that come and go in a matter of hours that tweet a thousand links into the ether aren’t doing any good. A good social media strategy that is garnering success, however, should also give a boost to the sites it links.

What is not clear, however, is how URL shorteners (and which ones) affect the weight of those links.

Additional reading:

Random Bits

These are some random articles I collected for posts that never happened. I still think there’s good stuff in these and warrant a few minutes to read.

Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results and Bing: Why Google’s Wrong In Its Accusations should be read together. The accusation from Google that Bing is stealing its search results is fascinating on its own, but reading Bing’s response demonstrates a host of things Bing also does differently. For me it was an entertaining battle, but that’s about it.

HuffPo’s Achilles Heel discusses how Huffington Post relies on questionable SEO techniques, which I equate to spamming, and wonders how long the site will be viable if AOL isn’t willing to keep up the SEO game as the rules change. It could be a great purchase for AOL, or a dead site full of brief article stubs.

Is SEO Dead? 1997 Prediction, Meet 2009 Reality is a two-year-old article dealing with a twelve-year-old argument. And still relevant.

When A Stranger Calls: The Effect Of Agency Pitches On In-House SEO Programs should be particularly interesting to people who are charged with some form of SEO within an organization. Too often the unsolicited call or email comes in making grandiose promises and citing questionable data and results. This article provides a good position from which to push back and make sure you and your employer aren’t taken to the cleaners.

A 3-Step SEO Copywriting Confession almost sounds like an admission of wrongdoing, but instead talks about how to structure your content for SEO without completely destroying it.

Additional reading (that I wrote):

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