Late in March 2012, Google rolled out over 50 algorithm changes. The volume of changes coming from the search engine giant in recent months has been unprecedented. For those who don’t follow every algorithm announcement with extreme diligence, understanding the impact of these changes can be daunting. Continue reading to identify the changes that actually impact your SEO efforts. Learn how to tweak your SEO strategy and stay on the cutting edge of Google algorithm changes.
Changes to Anchor Text Interpretation
“Tweaks to handling of anchor text. [launch codename "PC"] This month we turned off a classifier related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links). Our experimental data suggested that other methods of anchor processing had greater success, so turning off this component made our scoring cleaner and more robust.”
“Better interpretation and use of anchor text. We’ve improved systems we use to interpret and use anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and website.”
What It Means: These changes are related to the recently announced “over optimization penalty” which every SEO blogger on the planet has been talking out. Google’s algorithm has always heavily relied on the anchor text of links to determine relevance. As a result, SEOs have built exact match anchor text links both internally and externally. Finally Google has realized this can be easily abused to “manipulate rankings” and is taking action with the above changes. The context surrounding links will become increasingly more important. Search engines will be relying on contextual signals of the linking page rather than pure anchor text. You site may also be dinged if your anchor text is too “artificial”. For example if you have a landing page about “basketball sneakers” and every internal link to that page contains the exact match anchor text, this page may have a harder time ranking. Same rule applies to external links.
How To React: Make sure to vary anchor text when building internal links. Exact match anchor text should still be used in key areas such as your top/side main navigation or HTML sitemap. Other internal links NEED to contain derivatives. This is important when linking contextually or in non-essential areas. When link building, include as many derivatives as you can. It is also important to build “natural” links which contain generic anchor text like the URL of the page, “website”, “click here”, brand terms, etc…
Identifying Site Quality Factors
“Improvements to processing for detection of site quality. [launch codename "Curlup"] We’ve made some improvements to a longstanding system we have to detect site quality. This improvement allows us to get greater confidence in our classifications.”
What It Means: SEOs have always focused around 2 key concepts: on-site and off-site. Over the last year and a half, Google has quietly put more emphasis on a third concept, site quality. Most misinterpret “site quality” and confuse it with site authority. When Google crawls your site for “site quality” they are looking for particular site elements which are associated with their definition of quality. If your site doesn’t have the majority of these features, it will be harder for you to rank.
How To React: Make sure your site has the elements Google is looking for to increase your “site quality”. Seems obvious, but what are the elements? Two sets of features exist depending on if the quality is being determined algorithmically or by a human. Google will always start with an algorithmic review of your site. The quality elements, or “trust elements”, are as follows:
- Clean Site Navigation
- About Us Page
- HTML Sitemap
- Shopping Cart (if E-Commerce Site)
- Contact Us Page with email and phone #
- Author Page (if Blog)
If a human is reviewing your site they are looking for the above elements plus a few more. “Trust Badges” signal your company or website has been legitimated by a third party. These include TRUSTe, Better Business Bureau, BizRate, or other such logos and accreditation. Antivirus logos are also a plus. Google can technically crawl for links to these sites so technically this could happen algorithmically as well. In addition to these logos/links, these part time human editors are also looking for a phone number. Every real business has a phone number. If your site doesn’t have one visibly displayed, this will hurt your “site quality” if under human review. Click to chat functionality is also a huge quality indicator for human review. This is optional, but if you have it you will pretty much pass right away. Finally for E-Commerce sites, accepted payment method logos visibly displayed are also important.
Social Bookmarking Profile Indexation
“Better indexing of profile pages. [launch codename "Prof-2"] This change improves the comprehensiveness of public profile pages in our index from more than two-hundred social sites.”
What It Means: No rocket science here. Profile pages for users on identified social sites will have better indexation rates regardless of internal linking. In the past SEOs have had to invest additional time in getting these profiles indexed – either through link building directly to the pages or other indexing tactics like meta indexing, rss feeds, etc… The perhaps overlooked hidden gem of this update has to do with link building. A large demand for natural external links combined with this update means one thing: GO build social profile links.
How To React: Build natural links by creating social profiles. I’ve compiled a list of the top social sites in terms of PR and Alexa rank. The large majority of these should be included in the 200+ sites Google referenced. All the sites below offer do-follow links, but keep in mind building a few no-follow links won’t hurt.
Do-Follow – High PR Social Sites
- Technorati – PR 9
- Youtube LiveJournal – PR 9
- Blogger – PR 8
- Last.fm – PR 8
- Vox – PR 8
- Propeller – PR 8
- Acrobat Users – PR 8
- My Blog Log – PR 7
- Hi5 – PR 7
- Blurb – PR 7
- Squidoo – PR 7
- Viddler – PR 7
- Naymz – PR 6
- Twellow – PR 6
- HubPages – PR 6
- Kirtsy – PR 6
- Gather – PR 6
- Spoke – PR 6
- Aviary – PR 6
- Anobii – PR 6
- Amie Street – PR 6
- Biz Sugar – PR 6
- Design Float – PR 5
- Quarterlife – PR 5
- Know Em – PR 5
- Amplify – PR 5
- Active Rain – PR 5
- Blippr – PR 5
- Agency Scoop – PR 4
- Blog Interact – PR 3
Some of the above social sites enable you to provide custom anchor text along with your link. Remember to keep things natural. Try to vary the anchor text with keyword derivatives as well as brand and generic terms.
If you have any additional sites to add, leave a comment!