Part 2 – Changes to the Search Engine Factors & Google Localization
There have been a number of changes introduced by the search engines in the last year or so – some algorithm-based and many tool changes. In this article, we’ll sum up some of the more significant ones (mostly from Google of course) and provide some high level reasons why these changes are important for you to keep your eye on moving forward.
This is the Second in a series of posts about Search changes that you should be aware of (Read Part 1 – Latest Changes in Organic Search here). This post talks about recent changes to the Tools provided by the Search Engines, what they are and why you should care about them.
Social Indicators affect Search Ranking
What is it?
Google and Bing both officially admitted that some Social indicators will actually be able to affect ranking – yes you heard that right – Social affects Organic Search. Essentially they have admitted that there are certain factors in Social that will affect your site’s ability to rank just like so many other factors in the algorithms (such as keyword use, backlink factors etc. etc.).
Why you should care…
Besides, the fact that this is yet another reason that every business out there needs to get control of and begin working the essential Social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. etc.) and flesh out their entire Web Presence; This also means that having a million followers (Automated follow apps do not help you folks…) will not necessarily help you and might actually hurt you. Just like the quality of backlinks is important, the quality of social mentions is also now important – meaning that someone mentioning you from a highly influential source (or relevant source at least) will have more bearing on your site/presence than someone less influential. Again, just like building backlinks, building followers and fans naturally and at an acceptable pace (i.e. Not automated) is going to work better for you in the long run.
The other big factor that can be monitored here (although no one has claimed this yet to my knowledge) is the interaction / communication that your social presence provides to it’s fans / followers. Unlike backlinks which is generally a 1 way interaction, social is meant to be a 2 way interaction and can very easily be tracked as such. So brands that have social presence and lots of followers, mentions, but do not communicate with their social circles would likely have a much lesser chance of social helping their ranking versus a brand that communicates often (and transparently).
Click-Through-Ratio (CTR) on Search Results Count for Bing (and possibly Google too?).
What is it?
Google and Bing both track CTR (you can see yours in the Webmaster applications for each) but the new (and often speculated) aspect is Bing admitting that the CTR actually counts as a factor for ranking.
Why you should care…
The search engines looking at CTR is a huge revelation (and a scary one) which suddenly includes the “popularity” of a site as a factor for ranking. Not only do you have to be a top result, you also have to be popular enough to entice more folks to click on your your page than the other results (which has always been the case from a content perspective) and now you’ll also have to have a higher CTR than your competition.
This might be another reason as well to make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your site. We definitely aren’t suggesting that Google might potentially look at traffic patterns to and on your site to determine relevancy, authority or trust……but it’s likely a good idea to have GA installed “just in case” – cause you never know… Don’t forget that using CTR or Social as factors was something that people speculated would never actually happen as well.
What is it?
Organic search is meant to display the most relevant result for a particular search and as such Google has made several changes in the recent past to attempt to target results based on location (including Google Maps / Places results and Google Account Login result skewing). The most recent changes present users with additional location-based controls on the left (you might have to click the more link in order to show these) for showing “All Results”, Nearby and Custom Location. “All Results” should theoretically show all possible results for the version of Google you are using (i.e. google.com vs google.ca), while Nearby makes some assumptions of where you are based on your IP (and a few other factors with IP being the major one). Custom Location is the most interesting change since it allows you to actually type in a state/province or city and receive targetted results based on these locations (Great for things like checking movie times or restaurant reviews in a particular city etc.).
Why you should care…
The biggest reason out of the gate is that results are increasingly being skewed to where you are located while doing a search. As a business owner, the location you are searching from is a different location that where your site visitors might be coming from then it’s going to be much more difficult for you to tell how you are ranking. For instance, you are located in New York and your “Nearby” search is obviously bringing up the result set for New York (which maybe your site is ranking high for). Your site on the other hand, is targetting visitors in Seattle and most visitors will be located there – when they do a search, their “Nearby” results will be for relevant Seattle sites (and the result set is very likely going to be quite different from the same search in New York). Now the default settings are still “All Results” which should theoretically show you a pure (non-location skewed) result set which give you a good idea how you are ranking generally – but from what we’ve found lately, these results sets seem to be slightly different regardless (always slightly skewed to location – which might be a result of where your IP is located when doing the search).
So now the bigger question is also how do the search engines determine where your site is from and who should see it (don’t forget we are not talking about Google maps or Google Places “Local” results but rather “standard” Google SERPs with Localized selections). If your site is hosted in the Southern US (thus has an IP from Southern US) does it negatively affect your ability to rank for a term in Seattle and should it? We had all thought that the inclusion of these tools (and Google Maps / Places / Local) were implicitly provided so that users could choose to have localized results or generic results but so far it does not seem to entirely be the case.
You need to be able to evolve your web presence
This is just a taste of the changes that have happened in the last year or so in the SERPs alone. All are all well worth researching and keeping your eyes on moving forward.
There are certainly ways to continue to optimize and evolve your site structure and content in order to take advantage of these new factors and surely in the next year there will be many new items (and changes to these items) to watch and optimize for.
That’s it for Part 2. The next part of this series (Part 3) will talk about some of the Search Engine Tool changes over the last year from Google, Yahoo and Bing….Stay Tuned!
Read Part 1 – Latest Changes in Organic Search here if you missed it!