So on a Google Webmaster hangout that took place yesterday, John Mueller (a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) talked about site quality and architecture, specifically whether the Panda algorithm took these into account when evaluating pages.
When asked if Google takes site architecture into account and if improving the site categories would make a difference to search engine performance, John said:
“We see (Panda) as something that is more like a general quality evaluation of the website that takes into account everything around the site…That is something where, if we find issues across the site where we think this essentially affects the quality of the web site overall, then that is something that might be taken into account there”
You can watch the hangout here:
Whilst, as far as statements go, this is a little woolly, it does go some way to confirming that Google’s looking at a far broader set of factors than most companies typically focus on – and that investing time getting your site architecture and categorisation right upfront will pay dividends in the long term.
This time, they’ve said that Google will soon prioritise mobile websites as the primary source of information for their search index.
What does that mean?
Google works out who to show in search results by ‘spidering’ the Internet – following each link within a website and seeing where it leads and, as a result, building up a picture of the whole web.
Until now, Google has always done this by browsing around at the full version of websites. What Google is now saying is it will now also browse using a smartphone – and treat those results completely separately – using them as its primary source of information for decision making for the Google search index.
This is significant because some mobile versions of websites don’t include some of the pages on the main site, or they hide some sections of the page to make them easier to read on a phone.
Why ANOTHER algorithm change?
There’s a really good reason for this change. The percentage of people browsing the Internet on their mobiles has exploded over the last few years – to the point where most people now are browsing the Internet on their phones.
As it stands at the moment, it’s possible that users might see a snippet of content on a Google search results page, that might not be there when they actually click through to the mobile site.
By updating it’s index to look at and evaluate the quality of the mobile versions of websites, Google is basically looking to make sure that it’s search results reflect the needs of the majority of it’s users.
When is this going to happen?
Basically, this change has already started happening.
Google are testing the effects now and as they become more confident in things working as they want, they’ll start to roll it out more widely. They expect the whole process to take a few months.
What’s does this mean for me?
If you’ve got a responsive mobile friendly website where the markup is the same across the desktop and mobile versions (& if you’re a Curious client, this will be the case for you), you won’t need to change anything.
Google will likely see your site in exactly the same way, as it does now.
However, if you have a separate mobile site, that is different than your desktop site, then you should start to think about making changes to your website.
Very often, a separate mobile site will contain a subset of pages of the main site; it might hide certain bits of content – in particular sidebars that include additional links; or it could exclude some of the metadata – the technical information about the website that sits within the HTML.
In this case, you’re likely to find that over the next few months, the effectiveness of your website in attracting traffic from search engines, starts to reduce – particularly for those searching on mobiles.
If you do have a separate mobile site, the key things to focus on are making sure all content is available when browsing with a smartphone and that any structured markup is present on both the desktop and mobile versions.
If you find you need to make changes though, the most important thing is DON’T RUSH.
Google will continue to index desktop sites and it’s better to have a working desktop site than a broken or incomplete mobile version!
Is your website ready for a separate mobile index?
For advice on how to prepare your site for the change to Google’s index, or how we can help you better optimise your site for mobile, get in touch. Call us on 0330 010 9000, or just fill in this form.
UPDATE: Google announced that the Penguin update went live on Friday 23rd Sept, and that Penguin is now real time and has been incorporated into its main algorithm.
In October last year Gary Illyes, a trends analyst that works at Google, let slip that a new Penguin update would appear in 2015. It never arrived – but all the evidence points that it’s still on its way.
This is good news for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies and marketeers that are optimising their websites for search engines the ‘right way’ (basically, following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines). For those that have been taking a more unethical approach to SEO though, the news might not be so welcome!
What Is Google Penguin 4?
Back in April 2012 Google made an update to it’s algorithm that it named ‘Penguin’. It was designed to identify websites that were spamming it’s search results by buying links (or getting links through link networks created to boost search engine rankings).
It had an immediate and significant effect. Sites that weren’t playing by the rules suddenly disappeared from search results, and many websites were notified of manual penalties that had been applied to their search engine rankings – either demoting them many pages down, or removing them entirely.
Since then, there have been a number of further ‘Penguin’ updates made. Each time the there are significant changes to the search results – with generally, the sites that are approaching their marketing fairly seeing positive results and those trying to game the system being negatively impacted.
Penguin 4 is the name that’s been given to the next big update that’s will focus on combatting ‘spammy’ linking.
With Penguin 4 changes become real time
Each time a new Penguin Update gets released, websites previously penalised that have worked to remove bad links (for instance through the Google disavow links tool) can regain rankings and, equally, sites that have not previously caught might get trapped.
The downside of this, is that it takes a fairly long time for the effect of changes to a website (whether positive or negative) to reflect in search results. Sites that have been penalised (whether fairly or unfairly) have to wait a long time before they can recover, and some companies are still finding quick wins by using spammy techniques in the gaps between updates.
Penguin 4 is rumoured to look to address these problems by introducing a real-time element to the algorithm – effectively meaning that the Penguin portion of the algorithm will always be “on” and updating, processing information about new links in real time and making adjustments accordingly.
This should mean that Google will catch spam link profiles more quickly and allow companies that have identified and resolved issues to recover faster.
When’s Penguin 4 coming?
Well, we’re still waiting right now, but the signs are its imminent.
After the news broke last year that Penguin 4 was coming, the SEO community, have been watching carefully for the effect of it hitting. After being questioned when Penguin 4 didn’t appear in 2015, Gary Illyes reported in January that we were “weeks away” from seeing the next iteration.
@mrjamiedodd I'll go with weeks. We're aiming for launching penguin this quarter, but we don't have a more precise timeframe.
However as of today, there’s still no sign and Google have confirmed it’s not live yet. Gary’s said he’s now not giving out any more dates for fear of being wrong should it be missed again because it’s not quite ready.
Why the delay? Well, we’re not sure, but the general consensus is it looks like Google’s taking it’s time to get it right – which, given the wide ranging effect these updates have, is a good thing!
What does this mean for me?
If you run a website, you might be wondering what a real-time Penguin algorithm means for you, or what you should be doing to prepare for the update.
Firstly, if you’re not already doing it, rather than trying to game search engines, focus on creating quality content. Earn links and don’t buy them. Focus on providing the best user experience you can and, rather than fixating on your rankings, allow them to improve naturally.
Secondly, it’s worth making sure that there aren’t any problems with the links that you’ve already got pointed towards your website (and if you’ve ever purchased links on Fiverr or have engaged the services of someone who emailed offering cheap SEO services – this is ‘must do’).
Checking and cleaning backlinks
Making sure that the links to your website from other sites across the Internet aren’t going to cause you a problem is fairly straightforward:
Once you’ve got your list of links look for indicators that unnatural practices have been used. This could be the same Anchor Text repeatedly used, similar dates that backlinks were created, or the same IP address being used.
3. Remove or Disavow suspect links
If there are websites that are suspect, its time to remove them. It might sound painful, but it’s better to remove low quality links before anything happens, rather than after you’re penalised.
Start off by asking site owners to remove or ‘nofollow’ the links, sending messages via the sites’ contact forms or their registered owner (you can find this out through Whois).
If you’re concerned about your site being impacted and want some expert help, get in touch. We’ve got tons of experience with helping companies that have run into trouble and can give you clear advice and assistance to get things fixed quickly.