Although it is virtually impossible to keep up with every tweak that Google make to their algorithm, some are easier to identify than others and have more relevance to things that webmasters need to be aware of to keep their site optimisation up to date.
The most recent batch of changes is related to Google’s most recent ‘Freshness’ update in November this month. Below are the main highlights which are relevant to almost all websites:
Google’s announcement claimed a significant improvement to the ranking of fresh content, impacting on approximately 35% of total searches and equating to 6-10% ‘noticeably.’ The intended result was to ‘determine an appropriate level of freshness for a given query.’ In plain terms, the algorithm has changed to make new information online appear faster in the SERPs.
SEO Takeaway: The need to have an up-to-date XML sitemap, regularly updated content/blogs and submission of RSS feeds to aggregation sites.
Another part of the Freshness update involves upgrading date-specified search queries. This is intended to ensure that the search will return the most relevant results for the date range entered.
SEO Takeaway: Highlights the need for relevant content being added to all the pages of a website on a regular basis. It may be worth increasing the frequency of blogs on this basis.
Snippets displayed by Google in the SERPs are now more likely to be picked from actual page content than from menus or headers, based on the fact that it would be more relevant to the user. Furthermore, ‘rich snippets for applications‘ have been introduced, meaning that searches for software would also show results for useful things like product reviews.
SEO Takeaway: Once again, this emphasises the importance of up-to-date relevant content and well-written product descriptions [good tips for e-commerce orientated websites].
Google’s explanation of its intention to refine official page detection is to offer users the most ‘relevant and authoritative results’ = meaning that it has changed the way in which ‘official’ pages are determined.
SEO Takeaway: It will no longer serve any useful purpose to multi-post the same article hoping to achieve several inbound links from different places. It will now be better to post excellent content on a website and have it linked back to from other blogs and/or industry experts when it is cited.
The last is best explained verbatim, exactly as Google has said it. This is with regard to ‘better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors’: “We look at a number of signals when generating a page’s title. One signal is the anchor text in links pointing to the page. We found that boilerplate links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant, so we are putting less emphasis on these. The result is more relevant titles that are specific to the page’s content.”
SEO Takeaway: It will no longer be effective to wrap links in anchor text with a limited number of keywords. In-depth keyword research will become of paramount importance.
The algorithmic changes detailed above go a long way towards confirming that organic, white hat methods and a well maintained website are becoming essential for a good ranking. The changes are also proving that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to ‘get one over’ on Google through unscrupulous means!