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SEO Articles

Google’s fluctuating page rank

rick errington : April 15, 2013 2:02 pm : news, seo

Your new site or page might rank well initially but, after a week, it begins to drop, declining over time to a middle-of-the-pack slot. Why?

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recently put together a video to explain the phenomenon.

Cutts said Google’s algorithms can, initially, have a hard time figuring out the original source of new content. Time changes that, however.

“Writing a search engine is kind of a complex task,” Cutts said. “You’re trying to make sure you return the best quality result but you also have to do that with limited information.”

Cutts likened the ranking process to the reporting of breaking news during an earthquake.

For instance, he said, one minute after an earthquake occurs there is limited information about what happened, ten minutes later there is slightly more information and an hour later a lot more information.

“With any event that has breaking news, it can be hard to know (what is accurate) even if multiple people are saying the same thing,” he said. “One person might be the original author another person might be using an RSS” feed to relay information.

“It can be difficult to try to suss out … where this content was appearing originally. And, over time, over the course of hours, days or weeks, that gets easier. But it can be hard after just minutes or hours.”

Cutts said initial rankings are often Google’s “best guess” on how relevant a page or piece of content is.

As more information becomes available, Google incorporates its new knowledge into the mix and, “typically, things settle down into a steady state,” Cutts said. “When there is a steady state, we’re better able to guess how relevant something is.”

Armed with that information, Google can then determine if the page or content would be better served by QDF (queries that deserve freshness) or evergreen.

QDF is a component of the Google algorithm for queries that need frequent updating, such as breaking news stories.

If Google determines the best results for a particular search will change daily, or even hourly, it will designate the search QDF. Such designations means new and relevant content will make its way to the top of the search results. It also means, however, that content will quickly be bumped as newer relevant content is posted.

Evergreen, on the other hand, is a term Google applies to pages or sites that are frequently updated and are likely to attract both first-time and repeat visitors.

Watch the video below

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Another Month – Another Panda update

rick errington : March 16, 2013 12:22 pm : news, seo

Google Panda Update 25 Seems To been launched

There are many webmasters and SEOs believing right now that Google has released an update to their Panda algorithm late yesterday although we have seen little impact of this update.

It would not be surprising if this was indeed a Panda update since Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, did say at SMX West that a Panda update will be rolling out this Friday through the weekend. Matt then said although an update is expected this weekend, don’t be surprised if you don’t notice it because the Panda updates are going to be more integrated and less noticeablegoogle-panda in the future.

I am not sure if this last push was the last manually updated Panda refresh or if it is already fully integrated into the normal Google indexes process. I think this was Google’s last manual push and they will, from now on, most likely not do manual pushes of the algorithm in the future.

The last Panda update we had confirmation on was Panda #24, so this one would be coined Panda version 25.

Here are all the releases so far for Panda:

  •     Panda Update 1, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
  •     Panda Update 2, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)
  •     Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011 (6-9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)
  •     Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 8, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)
  •     Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011: (less than 1% of queries; announced)
  •     Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)
  •     Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)
  •     Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)
  •     Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)
  •     Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  •     Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)
  •     Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)
  •     Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  •     Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)
  •     Panda Update 20 , Sept. 27, 2012 (2.4% English queries, impacted, belatedly announced
  •     Panda Update 21, Nov. 5, 2012 (1.1% of English-language queries in US; 0.4% worldwide; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 22, Nov. 21, 2012 (0.8% of English queries were affected; confirmed, not announced)
  •     Panda Update 23, Dec. 21, 2012 (1.3% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  •     Panda Update 24, Jan. 22, 2013 (1.2% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  •     Panda Update 25, March 15, 2013 (confirmed as coming; not confirmed as having happened)
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Matt Cutts Awarded Patent On Detecting Hidden Text & Hidden Links

rick errington : March 7, 2013 10:31 am : seo

There have been unscrupulous SEO’s trying to take advantage of search engines to try to get their web pages to rank higher. It’s not unusual to see within many SEO site audits a section on negative practices that a search engine may not like, and Google lists a number of those practices in their Webmaster Guidelines. Linked from the Guidelines is a Google page on Hidden Text and Links, where Google tells us to wary about doing things such as:

  • Using white text on a white background
  • Locating text behind an image
  • Using CSS to position text off-screen
  • Setting the font size to 0
  • Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph

Those are some of the same examples described in a patent granted to Google today at the USPTO:

Systems and methods for detecting hidden text and hidden links
Invented by Fritz Schneider and Matt Cutts
Assigned to Google
US Patent 8,392,823
Granted March 5, 2013
Filed: August 25, 2009


A system detects hidden elements in a document that includes a group of elements. The system may identify each of the elements in the document and create a structural representation of the document.

The structural representation may provide an interconnection of the group of elements in the document. The system may also determine whether one or more elements of the group of elements are hidden based at least in part on locations or other attributes or properties of the one or more elements in the structural representation.

Unsurprisingly, one of the co-inventors behind the patent is Google distinguished engineer Matt Cutts, who has spent a good part of his long career at Google exploring the many different ways that people might try to spam the search engine, and find some solutions.

I always please to see patents like this one, which may not tell us something new, but provide a reference resource that other people, including my clients, can be pointed towards. They sometimes fill in some gaps on how a search engine might do something, and provide some history.

For example, this patent is based upon an earlier one that was first filed in 2003, and it’s not hard to imagine people at the Google of that time trying to figure out how to automate a way to identify text and links that might be hidden by being the same color as the background they appear upon, or being obfuscated by cascading style sheets, or written in lettering so small that it appears to be a line rather than actual text.

The Guidelines above mention the use of a single small character in a paragraph being used as a link, and the patent mentions that extremely small (1 pixel X 1 pixel) images have also been used as hidden links on pages.

As the patent also notes, CSS allows webmasters to mark a block of text as hidden, or to position it outside of visible areas of a page. Java script can also be used to hide text, and to modify documents to replace text.

Part of the process behind identifying hidden text or links on a page may involve analyzing the HTML structure of a page and its elements, such as divisions or section, headings, paragraphs, images, lists, and others. It looks at a Document Object Model (DOM) of pages to learn things about those different elements, their sizes, positions, layer orders, colors, visibility, and more.

The patent provides a few different examples of when hidden text might be found on a page, such as in the following:

In this example, server 120 may detect that the webmaster has overridden the value of the <h2> tag. Normally, the “h2″ tag is a heading size, in which H1 is very large, H2 is a little smaller, H3 is smaller still, etc. Here, the webmaster has used CSS to override the value of h2 to mean “for all text in the H2 section, make the text color almost completely black, and make the height of the font be about one pixel high.”

A viewer of this document would not see the text because it is so small, but a search engine may determine that the text is relatively important because of the H2 heading label. In this situation, server 120 may determine that the text in the H2 section is very small, which can indicate that the webmaster is attempting to hide the text in this section.

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Interflora back on Top

rick errington : March 4, 2013 4:11 pm : seo

Interflora, UK flower delivery service, is showing up again in Google’s search results — just 11 days after it was penalized by the search giant.

According to some tweets and posts on Google+, Chris Gilchrist was first to spot Interflora’s resurrection today.

Interflora is ranking again on searches for its company name, and its Google+ brand box is appearing again on the right side of the search results. (As Dan Barker pointed out on Google+, that wasn’t showing during the penalty.) Based on my searches here in the US, Interflora is also ranking No. 1 for “florist,” but it hasn’t fully regained all of its visibility as this list shows:

  • currently 9th for “flowers”
  • …7th for “mothers day flowers”
  • …8th for “flower delivery”
  • …9th for “flowers delivered”
  • …10th for “roses”

According to Search metrics data that Martin McDonald reported when Interflora was penalised, the company was ranking in the top three for all of those searches (and many others). So, it appears the penalty isn’t completely lifted yet.

Google refused to comment about Interflora’s disappearance from its search results, but two days after the penalty — and another penalty that lowered the visible PageRank of some UK newspapers — Google issued a warning against “advertorials” that pass PageRank.

Many Google penalties are temporary like this, so long as the offender corrects the behavior that went astray from Google’s SEO guidelines. In 2011, J.C. Penney regained its Google visibility after a 90-day timeout. Overstock eventually returned after Google penalised it for a paid link campaign around the same time as the J.C. Penney incident. Even Google’s own properties go through the same process: A year ago, the Google Chrome website was given a 60-day penalty after it was caught running a paid blog posts campaign that violated Google’s own guidelines.

In this Interflora case, Google’s timing has been particularly benevolent: The penalty took effect about a week after Valentine’s Day, and has now begun to be lifted one week before the UK celebrates Mother’s Day. Those are two of the most popular flower-buying holidays of the year.

We wonder if this short penalty period has any bearing on the huge ad spend Interflora has with Google. We hope not, but we have a feeling that some influence has come from someone somewhere.

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Chester Company! Why should we do SEO?

rick errington : September 27, 2012 9:52 am : seo

I was over in Chester the other day delivering an SEO website audit and the client asked me to give five reasons that they should invest in SEO. Here are my five answers:

  • Budget control – organic SEO does not require ongoing investment in online ads and pay-per-click campaigns. So, you’ve no need to worry about how long your balance will last and how much each campaign will cost. This gives you more control over your online budget.
  • Branding – regular appearances near the top of the Google, Yahoo, Bing or other rankings indicate you and your business are a genuine product or service provider. Being highly visible will not only have an immediate impact but the long term gain is even more important to your business.
  • Quality website principles – your commitment to organic SEO will result in a knock-on ‘quality control’ effect for the rest of your site. Sticking to quality content guidelines as recommended to you as a client of First Page On will have a hugely positive impact on your future online life.
  • Accessibility – an accessible website simply means that everybody with an internet connection, using whatever type of internet browser should have no problems viewing your site. Yes, it sounds very obvious but that can sometimes not be the case for all web browsers. With First Page On, your SEO site will retain full accessibility.
  • Return On Investment – with research showing that 9 out of every 10 visitors that come through search engines will stick with those on the first or second page, this is easily answered. Your experience with First Page On will give you a substantial ROI.

He signed up there and then especially when I showed him his current ranking compared to his competition which was unusually high for local Chester based terms and what his ROI would be if he ranked two places higher across the board.

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