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Google +1If you ask some marketing professionals, they may acts as if it is common knowledge that Google +1’s help raise your rankings on the search engine results. However, that “knowledge” is more an assumption based on a few correlation studies such as those done by Searchmetrics and Moz. These studies found extremely high correlation between Google +1’s and high rankings, but as you should know, correlation does not equal causation.

In fact, Google’s most prominent mouthpiece and Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts has openly debunked the theory that more +1’s lead to higher rankings. But, that only sparked more debate. Whether or not there is a causative link between these two is much more fuzzy than many might tell you.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this question, Stone Temple Consulting decided to conduct a real study of the effect Google +1’s have on search rankings. The difference is this study would be a real examination of causation, not correlation. The result: “Google Plus Shares did not drive any material ranking changes that we could detect.”

Eric Enge, leader of the study, did admit there were some possible limitations to the study. One of the biggest issues is the potential amount of links not showing up in the monitoring tools used in the study. In Enge’s estimate, the cumulative links found by Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs is at best 50 percent of the total links to a site. It could even be as low as 30 percent of the links.

There was also a fair chance that general ranking movement and algorithm adjustments that are always occurring might not have been noticed in the study. In general, all studies of this sort are also very vulnerable to Google’s general complexity. There are so many factors involved which are not fully disclosed that any number of things could not have been taken into account.

Enge admits to these issues early, but he still stands by his study and the findings. He published a full review and report of the study and its methodology on Stone Temple Consulting’s website earlier this week. You can find all of the dirty details there, but the simplest conclusion is that Google shares are not driving up rankings. There will of course be many who still don’t believe this, and the debate will go on, but this tilts the scales away from what was considered conventional wisdom by many.

Google is great for searching for quick and concise information, such as what you might find on Wikipedia or IMDB. If you have a simple question with an objective answer, the biggest search engine is the perfect tool. But, as anyone who has tried to do actual research for academics or work will tell you, Google is not so great with providing lots of in-depth content.

You might find news, or maybe a couple books and articles on Google Scholar, but the main search results on Google can be limiting. You are getting the results for the people with the best short answers for your questions. Now, Google is trying to change that as they recognize roughly 10% of searches and people (their estimate) are looking for more comprehensive information.

Google has announced that over the next few days they will be rolling out “in-depth articles” within the main search results. Now, when searching for broader topics that warrant more information such as stem cell research or abstract topics such as happiness or love, Google will feature a block of results in the middle of the page like below.

In-Depth Articles Screenshot

Source: The Official Google Search Blog

This is yet another way Google is forming results intuitively tailored to fit the type of information you are searching for. As a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “Our goal is to surface the best in-depth articles from the entire web. In general, our algorithms are looking for the highest quality in-depth articles, and if that’s on a local newspaper website or a personal blog, we’d like to surface it.”

If you’ve ever doubted the importance of SEO and high rankings, a new study from online ad network Chitika shows the higher the rankings, the more traffic sites get. And the differences are drastic. First place rankings pull in 33 percent of the web traffic from search engine results pages. Second place can receive as much as 18 percent of the visitors, and traffic steadily drops off from there.

The recent study has very similar results to one the team ran in 2010, which suggests that there is little expected change in how users are interacting with search engines and highlights the importance of SEO in receiving web traffic.

Chitika Search Analysis

 

 

Chitika said in their announcement, “While being the number one result on a Google search results page is obviously important, these numbers show just how big of an advantage websites of this type have over any competitors listed below them. The importance of SEO for online business is seemingly quantified by these latest statistics, which, judging by their similarity to those observed as part of the 2010 study, are not likely to change significantly in the near future.”

Another expected find of the study is the drop off of traffic from Page 1 to Page 2 of results pages. The search engine result page users see gets 92 percent of all traffic, so getting stuck a couple pages back can result in practical invisibility for your site. However, if you aren’t showing up on the first page, it appears gaining the top spot of whatever page you are on will get you higher rankings than the others on that page.

If you’re interested in Chitika’s methodology for the study, you can see their full report, and Jessica Lee provided further analysis over at Search Engine Watch.

Google is always fighting to maintain diversity on their search engine results pages (SERPs). It has proven difficult over time to walk the line between offering searchers the content they want in easily browsable form, and keep the big established sites from completely dominating the results.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recently used one of his YouTube videos to talk about how Google is managing this, and highlight an upcoming change that will hopefully keep you from getting pages full of essentially the same results. No one wants to see eight results from Yelp when they are looking for a restaurant review.

The change Google is making is aimed at making it harder for multiple results from the same domain name to rank for the same terms. Basically, once you’ve seen three or four results from a domain, even over the spread of a few results pages, it will become increasingly harder for any more pages from that domain to rank.

If you don’t quite get what this means, it is easier to understand in context. In the video, Matt walks us through the history of Google’s domain result diversity efforts. It also shows how Google tries to manage bringing you the best authoritative and reputable search results without allowing bigger brands to form monopolies on the results.

You can see the full breakdown of the domain diversity history at Search Engine Land or in Cutts’ video, but basically when Google started out there were no restrictions on the number of results per domain. It was quickly apparent that this system doesn’t work because you will get page upon page of results from the single highest ranked domain. Then came different forms of “host clustering” which prevented more than two results per domain to be shown in the search results, but this was easily worked around by spammers.

More recently, Google has used a sort of tiered system where the first SERPs for a term are as diverse as possible, allowing only a few results from the same domains, however as you progress into the later search result pages, more and more results were allowed from repeat domains. Now, Google is tightening the belt and making it harder for those repeat domains to even get onto the later SERPs.

It can be hard to notice, but Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) are constantly changing. Sometimes it is a result of new algorithms or updates to Penguin or Panda, but often it is a result of Google’s non-stop tweaking of their formula. If you weren’t consistently studying and analyzing SERPs, you probably haven’t even noticed.

SearchMetrics does just that type of analyzing of SERPs, and they just released their study of last years result pages, and there are some interesting points for all search marketers wanting to know what Google is favoring in their results. The highlights of the study, as pointed out by Search Engine Journal, are:

  • A small decline in video integration
  • A significant increase in image integration
  • A sharp decline in shopping
  • A large increase in news integration

The decline in video integration is one of the most surprising, as I’ve heard more than one analyst predict video will be one of the most popular mediums for content marketing this year. If they’re predictions are true, video makers will have stiff competition getting their content onto the SERPs.

Similarly, eCommerce pages are on the rise, and the data suggests business owners should be considering paying into the Google Shopping network to have their products seen by more people.

On the other hand, the big increase in news shows big opportunities for content creators reporting on events and doing news worthy journalism.

SearchMetrics made an infographic to go along with the release of their study, which you can view below or here.

rsz_universal-search-in-the-google-serps

Anytime a new website owner starts looking for an SEO, they always want to get to that precious number one spot for searches on Google. It’s hard not to want it, especially when quite a few people don’t even scroll down the page when they search for something. However, you shouldn’t be measuring SEO success by rankings.

There are plenty of SEO metrics to measure site success with, and rank isn’t near as important as you might think. Nick Stamoulis pinpointed three reasons you shouldn’t be focused on rank when you start using an SEO service.

Search is Personalized – Search engines are getting more advanced with their searches, and Google has a huge amount of user data they can take advantage of to craft search results that are personalized for every user. If you manage to show up in the number one spot for one searcher, you likely won’t for another. Rankings aren’t a concrete list of sites anymore, but a fluid collection of sites based on what you have shown interest in before.

Rankings Fluctuate – Aside from the differences in search results from user to user, Google is constantly updated their algorithms and finding new content. The web is in a continuous state of change, and the rankings evolve to match this. While Google’s big algorithm changes may make drastic differences to results, the smaller continuous updates going on can change a couple rankings for any keyword every day. Search engines also favor brand new content, so sites that have slacked off start to fall down the rankings.

Ranking for the Wrong Term is Useless – No honest SEO company will promise to get you a specific ranking. Some markets are more competitive than others, and you can’t control what Google does. That doesn’t stop some less reputable SEO services out there from promising they can get you the number one rank. The problem is, they will get you the number one rank for a keyword no one is searching for. If no one is searching for it, no one will notice that your page is the first result.

Google’s making some changes to their standard search results, to include a left hand nav bar.  This has made some people (including Business Insider) wonder if it’s to imitate what Bing already has in place – a side panel to have different links for images, videos, etc.

This change will affect how people view results in general, although Google’s advertising approach will likely not change heavily.  We’ll have to see what the response is when they go fully live with these changes.

You can see Google’s words on the new SERPs here:

The search engines evolve, as does most modern technology.  The latest revision in search engine result pages is the “universal search”.  This is the displaying of results for searches in not just web site links, but images, maps, videos, blogs, and more.

The universal search allows a large breadth of information to be given that is relevant to any search done.  For SEOs, this means adjusting approach on how to get relevant information out onto the web.

When trying to publicize information about something you want people to discover, to make sure you can be found by different areas within this universal search you’ll want to make sure you go across multiple areas with your information publication.  This can be done through audio, video, blogging, social media – or getting creative and doing it in unique ways.

It all comes down to doing good marketing, just online.  As the web evolves, so must our online marketing.  For more good information on the universal search, check out this article by Ron Jones at Search Engine Watch.