Google's new algorithm changes

There have been some recent changes creeping into Google’s search results over the last few weeks. We should be used to algorithmic shift on Google by now. Since the Florida update in 2003 and the many filters, penalties and updates since then, things have never really stood still. So what’s new?

Since the turn of the year, more and more big brands are appearing in the top 10 results for highly competitive generic search queries, without making any noticeable changes to their SEO or linking strategies.

There are so many questions that come to mind when you see a change like this.

Why did it come about?

The three main components of change we have seen on Google’s results since 2007 have been the use of the no follow tag (originally developed to prevent blog spam), social media and universal results. Collectively they have created an awareness of what is trusted, engaged with, and what is talked about, across a number of channels. Google’s Chrome browser has the ability to track engagement time and interaction across all of its channels including activity on You Tube and Doubleclick. What we are seeing is a slow but sure increase in the understanding what a search query means, not just what it said or even linked to. Over at Microsoft, they have been doing similar things with their BrowseRank program monitoring the usage of anyone using Internet Explorer 8. And Yahoo!, they’ve been hand picking parts of the top 10 for years!

Does it make a more relevant search experience, with what seems to be less affiliates and more big brands? And who benefits from it?

The sceptics amongst us may say, this is part of a bigger picture. Google investors have just been crushed from the economic depression from their more traditional interests. A large surge in organic traffic, reducing marketing spend and increasing profits is just what the doctor ordered if your key investors are needing to stay afloat. But weren’t these the guys that needed to spend all that money in PPC results in the first place? My guess is wise brands will continue to spend to extend their market share, and others just won’t be able to afford to under the current climate.

So what about the mom and pop sites, the affiliates and the smaller players? As far as we can see at Ambergreen, there seems to have been somewhere between two to five new big brand additions to the top 10 generic results for competitive, key search terms. All of which, have had a reasonable amount of media coverage through social media, news and buzz marketing in one form or another. This suggests that the ever growing long tails of universal and paid search options are left to play for. We’ve already seen a steady increase of DIY Online PR services on the web, so there should be plenty of opportunities for small brands with big ambitions.

What the affiliate and review sites have the ability to take advantage of is the big brand’s fear of what the public have to say about them. User Generated Content is a great way of having fresh content updated on your site on a daily basis. It generates engagement, honesty and opinion. Until big brands address this, it will still be their Achilles heel. An additional opportunity to exploit will be the board room legacies that restrict the 360 degree thinking necessary to properly survive in todays climate. Too many board rooms decisions fail to see the importance of how PR, Marketing and Technical Resources all contribute together towards a good ROI on their most profitable channels.

And as far as the search experience goes. I think it’s improved and an important step nearer to the semantic web we all aspire to see. The game is nowhere near over; it’s just beginning to grow up a bit.

What does this do the Digital Marketing industry?

This surely ties in the bonds between Online PR and Search Marketing to the point where you can hardly have one without the other. Let’s face it, getting a link just for the sake of it died a long time ago. However, creating a piece of link bait that engages thousands of users, that just so happened to be released on the right site at the right time is worth its weight in gold, and this will now show in your search positions. This of course needs to be planned, manufactured, executed and supported. And this is where the all round marketing, journalistic, PR and techie stuff all comes into play together. Digital Marketing agencies will need multi disciplinary function to them to survive in the future.

Thinking On A Different Level

Grant Whiteside

Technical Director

Ambergreen Internet Marketing

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