Google

It was recently reported that the European Parliament is looking at ways to break up Google. Indeed, a draft motion is likely to be passed asking for the European Commission to “unbundle” search engines, splitting them up from other commercial services. This would be a way to stop Google from truly dominating the world. However, it is not entirely clear whether this is actually possible.670px-googlelogo

Andreas Schwab, German MEP, has long been a firm critic of Google. He is sponsoring the motion itself. He said that the motion is now in place and that the practicalities still have to be ironed out. Another MEP is taking part in the consultation and he actually took the time to speak to Google and find out what a possible break up would mean.

Basically, if the service is unbundled, then things like Google Shopping and YouTube would find benefit in the dominance in search of the company. The real focus, therefore, is in the utilities, as was explained by Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister for Germany.

We must give serious thought to the possibility of “unbundling” the Internet market, in a similar way to the electricity and gas networks.

A number of European companies have had to go through similar processes. For instance, British Telecoms (BT), used to hold a service monopoly in the United Kingdom. They owned the entire network of copper wiring. However, new legislation meant that the wires had to be made available to various other telecom companies in the country as well. The result is that BT is still a single company, but it is made up of different, completely separate divisions. Although this has been a benefit to the competitive telecoms market, some say that BT continues to be dominant and to abuse this position. They do this by ensuring their retail division has its profits squeezed to breaking point. On the other hand, it is this EU legislation that has ensured other companies were able to gain new broadband customers, as this does not involve any copper wiring.

Another example is seen in Deutsche Telekom, the German equivalent of BT. They are, interestingly, one of the biggest complainants in the current case against Google. The worry for Google, therefore, is that they will have to comply with this type of approach as well. However, their main defense is that this would lead to customers have separate data and search behavior, no longer linking in to any of their other online activities. According to Google, this would not benefit the ease of use of the internet.

If Google does have to get unbundled, some new and complex legislation would have to be developed, according to Joaquin Almunia, the European Commissions outgoing competition commissioner.

Google cannot be broken up into smaller companies without new EU legislation, the European Commission said, after detailing two potential new antitrust investigations into the internet giant.

However, a number of other sanctions that could be imposed on Google have been developed already. Ramon Tremosa, Spanish MEP, and Mr Schwab, have suggested that there should be some sort of rotation mechanism. This would mean that Google’s competitors and its commercial services will have equal prominence on the search results page. This move has been seen before, after the Microsoft investigation. It is the result of that investigation that allows users to now have a choice of browsers, rather than having to stick with Internet Explorer.

According to some, the biggest issue here is politics. The move, whether supported or not, shows that Europe is exasperated with Google. Indeed, Mr Almunia’s successor is now the competition commissioner. It is his decision to decide where to go from here. However, it is an anti-trust investigation, and this has to be taken very seriously.

Google has been in the process of developing Internet transmitting balloons and they will soon start testing these in Australia. Some 20 balloons will be launched in the west of Queensland next month. Google has partnered up with Telstra in order to make this project possible.

The company announced plans to use balloons to bring the internet to disconnected areas last year, and after semi-successful trials in New Zealand, Brazil and the States, it’s teaming up with a local carrier (Australia’s Telstra) for the first time to launch Loon’s biggest test flight to date.

The project, which is known as “Project Loon,” is part of a plan by Google to ensure that everybody, even in the most remote parts of the globe, would be able to access the Internet. The balloons will be filled with helium and will use stratospheric winds to circle around the globe. Each balloon is equipped with an antenna that is able to send 4G signals to phones and homes up to 20 kilometers below. In order to test the balloons, Telstra is providing base stations that will allow for communication with the balloons. Additionally, they will allow for access to the radio spectrum.

Tests have already taken place in New Zealand’s Christchurch in June of 2013. Google chose this area because it has excellent stratospheric conditions. The goal is to ensure that a ring of balloons always circles the planet. If successful, two thirds of all people who currently do not have any online access will finally be able to go online. Additionally, the balloons have the potential to provide Internet access to those areas that have been struck by natural disasters. Project Loon has been described very well by Google itself:

Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.

Project Loon was first started in the middle of 2011. Scientists employed by Google X, which is a top secret lab, started working on it. They also developed the driverless cars and Google Glass. The Loon technology is of interest particularly in developing countries because it means that they could access the Internet without having to lay expensive fiber cables underground.

How Does It Work?

A pile of inflatable balloons. First of all, base stations that are connected to the internet bounce signals to the balloons. The balloons are floating on the stratospheric winds, twice as high as what a passenger jet would go. The signals then hop between the different balloons. Each individual balloon also transmits online signals, with each balloon being able to connect an area twice as large as Canberra. The balloons are filled with various on-board gadgets, including solar panels as large as a card table. This allows each balloon to stay in the air for around 100 days. The stratospheric winds, which flow in a westerly direction, should be able to carry a permanent ring of balloons.

 

It is hoped that the test will be an overwhelming success. It is not know what the next stage will be, or how the 20 balloons will be brought down. Indeed, although there is now significant knowledge about the project itself, a cloud of secrecy still remains over it. The previous tests have been semi-successful, although it is not clear which elements were seen as most successful, or which parts needed rethinking. It seems that Google is still somewhat on the drawing board, and the world is looking anxiously towards new developments.

 

 

 

A little while ago, Google brought in a new algorithm update, known as “Pigeon.” The goal of this algorithm is to make sure that local results are more relevant and useful. This is done by ensuring traditional web searches and local searches are more closely related. Whenever Google releases an update, however, people in the world of SEO and internet marketing panic. What are the implications of this update? How will they need to change their current practices to keep up with new rules? Indeed, the new update, although described as “generous” by many, does have a number of strong implications for brands. The biggest factor that matters is that the local listing has to be attached to a very strong domain. But what does it all mean?

The Goal of Pigeon

A Pigeon

 

Pigeon has been designed to reward good behavior and quality.

 

Feedback from various sectors suggests that Google has chosen to reward authority sites. Established directories, such as Yelp, have benefited. Industries reporting an overall increase in results shown via Google Places include hospitality, food, education, law, transportation and fitness.

However, there are many rumors flying about in the SEO world as well, including the idea that there are multiple Pigeons and that each of these will be looking for different things. This is why, at the present time, the recommendation is to stick to your current strategies, including having a strong social media presence, asking customers for reviews and making local references in any content you produce.

Watch Out for Over-Optimization

At the same time, it is important not to over-optimize your site for local results. With the preliminary data that is available, it is shown that those businesses that are located inside city centers or just outside of it are having the best search results, with the largest and most significant drops happening for those businesses more than 20 miles away from that center. However, this still doesn’t mean that you should over-optimize for location.

Without question, optimizing your content remains a sound practice on local sites as it does for any website. That said, it appears that the over-optimization dial has been turned up significantly with the Pigeon update.

Indeed, the current recommendation is to take some of your postcodes or areas away to check whether your traffic and conversion rates will increase. It is far more important to be attached to a strong domain. However, once again, you must realize that Pigeon is still incredibly new and a lot of changes may still be on the horizon. If it is true that there are multiple Pigeons flying about, you will have to work on trial and error. If you do not see an increase in traffic and conversion by removing some postcodes, for instance, then simply put them straight back.

Experts throughout the industry have all stated the same: so far, Pigeon is only being tested on the US market, but this does not mean international sites aren’t affected, as they often try to get in on the local market. Additionally, although many industries have seen an increase in their traffic, some industries (job searches, cinema, real estate and insurance) saw a very significant drop. All of this means that, at the minute, you need to see the world of online marketing in terms of business as usual.

Just continue to use standard white hat SEO practices: write for humans, not robots. Pay attention to your keyword spread and density, and make your URL structure transparent. Now, more than ever, it’s also important to make sure your business is listed on local results databases in order to take advantage of a potential new business relationship.

So Far So Good?

Whenever there is a Google algorithm update, people panic. Google may give them cute little names like “Panda” and “Hummingbird,” but what they actually mean is tons of work for website owners, who suddenly have to rethink all of their SEO and content marketing strategies. However, at the moment, it looks as if the new Pigeon algorithm is actually working and that this effect is positive for people who are involved. This is particularly true for local website traffic.

While the SERPs were definitely shaken up, the reduction of local packs actually resulted in more traffic to local websites when we were expecting it to be less.

Additionally, local search strategies are improving, which can only be a good thing. The problem is, however, that people seem to think Pigeon is temporary. Naturally, Google tweaks its algorithms some 500 times per year (yes, that is more than once a day), but the big ones tend to be few and far between. Pigeon is classed as a big one, not in the least because it has a fancy, cute name. However, the effects on SEO activities seem to be too limited as of yet, so most experts are now sitting on tenterhooks, in the expectation of something bigger showing up all of a sudden. We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, there is a concern about how the algorithm will affect small- to medium-sized businesses and there is a significant worry about whether or not Google cares at all about the fate of these smaller businesses. It is certainly true that the mega-directories, like Yelp, are being favored massively through this new update, when it is these very huge directories that actually need the least amount of help. However, this is where the story goes back to a potential other Pigeon flying around the internet without people even knowing it. Indeed, it does not sound like Google will trample all over the smaller people by focusing on the bigger players. Luckily, however, help is being provided to smaller businesses who feel that they have been negatively affected by Pigeon.

If you are no longer included in the search radius you have several choices (besides opening another office). The one that makes the most sense is learn what geographic areas you are showing in and emphasize those AND find the less competitive categorical searches where you can compete to get some visibility.

 

Since websites and applications like WebMD have arrived on the scene, the world has been trying to understand their symptoms and diagnose themselves without having to leave the house to visit a doctor. While in some countries, like the United States, this might seem to save on doctor’s bills at first, the concept that an untrained person could diagnose a medical condition is simply improbable. This may lead to wasted time, misdiagnosis, and in some cases, missing the treatments that could save lives because the symptoms were misread. For this reason and many more, Google has announced their launch of a test version for an online instant chat with a physician.

 

Avoiding Potential Misdiagnoses

A physician performs a routine checkup on a pa...

It appears that Google has always had the right idea about searching the Internet and how best to do so, and their latest addition to the search engine seems to agree with this. A quick search for headaches or knee pain can now give you the ability to chat with a doctor about the symptoms that you feel. This is currently in a test phase, which means that the future setup of the application, including costs and methods will change, but at the moment it’s a free service being paid for by the company as they are the trial period. Techtimes explains:

 

An element that gives Google’s health care venture legs, besides the convenience of video chats, is the service’s HIPAA compliance, which the company is said to have established back when it worked with the One Medical Network to deliver medical consultations over Helpouts.

Google is trying to decide if this could be useful now and in the future. A video chat capability will also be included in part of the Helpouts platform which will connect users online with medical professionals through a live video feed. In the future, these experts may charge a fee in some cases, while some question answering could remain free of charge depending on the expert being consulted.

Taking A Chance On Telemedicine

While this latest medical platform may be exciting to Google users, it certainly isn’t the first time that telemedicine has become available for the at home patient. In fact, telemedicine companies have been around for quite some time now, working through video chats and the telephone. Naturally, these services have a price. One such company called Spruce provides dermatological treatment plans 24 hours a day, with many appointments costing around $40. Other companies like Better may charge less depending on the type of diagnosis and treatment being offered. Mashable.com states that:

 

Whether Google plans to build out the service into something more akin to Better and Spruce remains to be seen. As the Google spokesperson mentioned, the company is looking at usage statistics during the trial.

This could be a whole new way of using the internet for the average user, because while telemedicine isn’t brand new to the online community, many users have yet to hear about it or understand how it works. At the very least, Google’s new take on the system could bring a better understanding to online patients and give those who can’t leave home or who live in rural communities without large hospitals a chance to take better care of themselves and their families.

 

Making It Easier For Doctors

Believe it or not, this new method of diagnosis may actually be approved by most of the medical community as many physicians have become more than a little fed up with their patients misdiagnosing themselves over the Internet. It’s one thing to read up about a certain condition out of curiosity, and another thing entirely to check your symptoms of one of these famed medical sites and then diagnose yourself with diabetes or cancer. It’s always best to check with a trained physician about symptoms and have all of the facts before deciding what the best treatment might be. CNN reports:

Doctors are famously frustrated by patients who search for symptoms online. While there are quality sites out there, such open-ended searches can convince people they’re sicker than they really are, and more dubious sites can offer sketchy advice about how to treat the symptoms.

 

Images that have been leaked to a few resources show how the different diagnosis tactics now work, and how the chat will appear on screen. This is a very interesting and unique application for Google to take part in, and the future is bright in regards to how far this could go if the trial works out.

 

Current Restrictions And How This Application Works

At the moment, this capability is being offered to a few online users, as it would be impossible to have enough medical staff available to treat the world population at a moment’s notice, but as the trial period continues, the success of the project may give this option to more users, making it either a North America-only feature or a worldwide application. Google has said that their goal with this project is to provide users with the most information possible while keeping that data relevant. They want to help patients to better comprehend what is wrong with them by keeping that information realistic and from the mouth of an expert rather than a write-up on a website. CNET quotes Google in saying:

When you’re searching for basic health information — from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning — our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.

 

When the full roll-out occurs, Google has stated that patients may be charged using the Google wallet feature. It is understood that doctors won’t be physically performing these tests and won’t able to touch the patient to check for pain and other possible symptoms that would be performed through a standard hospital test, so the price may be much lower compared to an actual visit to a clinic.

Whether this will be as useful as Google expects it to be is yet to be seen as the probability of getting an accurate diagnosis every time without a visit to a physical doctor is rather low. Nevertheless, it still has many positive benefits for users and could prove to be very helpful in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are making use of Google’s site links you are probably already on your way to dominating the search results for your niche. If you are not, then you should be pleased to know that if you do, you can actually increase online trust for your website and send more targeted traffic to your site. So how do you get them and what do you do with them? Let’s take a look.

What Are Site Links?

Site links are a format for listing in SERPs. They show your website’s main page and some of the other internal links that have been targeted. They are organized into two columns in the SERPs.

Generally speaking, these only show up for navigational or branded search queries. So when a user types such a query in, they are shown the main page as well as some internal pages of the site, to offer quick access for where the user may want to go.

What Makes Site Links So Important?iStock_000016999835_Large

Well if you have not guessed it already these site links are really important because they enable a user to navigate to and around your site quickly and easily. They allow a person to find what they need with minimal effort. From your point of view, they can also get a visitor to the most relevant content in the fastest time possible. According to Google:

We only show site links for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good site links, or we don’t think that the site links for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.

So What Is The Bad News?

Well actually, site links cannot be created, they are auto generated by Google. You cannot choose which links appear and when they show up. The only thing you can do is to let Google know when an unnecessary link is included that does not need to be there.

And The Good News?

The good news is that having site links makes pages other than the home page busy and active. And while there is a chance that the bounce rate may go up, there are also other benefits, as explained here by Moz.com:

Arguably, the bounce rate on pages appearing in site links will increase but at the same time site links should drive higher quality traffic, potentially increasing user engagement and conversion as more users will be able to quickly land on the pages they desire.

Better news is that, while you may not be able to demand site links for your website, your chances of being given them increase if you employ best practice guidelines while you are building your website. Okay so Google does not publish a guideline on how to create them, but if you do follow and adhere to the rules, your chances of acquiring them will increase.

One way to improve your chances of getting site links is to get a strong brand or company name, which is easily distinguishable from keywords for your website. You need to rank quite well for navigational search in order to do this.

Another way to improve the chances of getting site links is to ensure your website has a clear and solid site map. Your navigation should be intuitive and easy to use. It should follow a navigational sequence and include the basic elements: home, about, contact, blog and news.

You should also have an XML site map for your website. This makes it easier for the search engines to crawl and, you guessed it, easier for them to allocate site links too.

If you are just getting started with your company’s social media presence you have your work cut out for you. Once considered “new” media, social media has evolved tremendously in just a few years. The good news is that it has been around for long enough, that there is research and insight available to help you create a strategy that makes a difference to your bottom line. And, to help you out, we have handpicked our very best tips to ensure you get off to the best possible start.

 

Patience Is A Vital Skill. Practice It

If you jump in the deep end and give yourself too much to do you will probably end up overwhelmed straight away. Pick one network at a time and learn it properly before moving onto the next. Be selective with your channels. Question whether there is real business value in your investing time and resources into the channel before you actually do it.

Have a look at the networks that your customers and potential customers make use of. These are the sites and channels you need to be active in and seen on.

 

Learn Where Your Industry Hangs Out Online

Conduct some research into what your industry competitors are doing. Do they have blogs? Are they active on LinkedIn or Twitter? As Social Media Examiner points out:

 

Do they have social media icons? Look for the f, g+, in, P, bird and camera logos (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, that is) and click through to their social media pages. Do they have sizable followings on particular social channels? Is there a lot of activity there or do things look a bit static?

The best places to gain momentum are those where the action and activity are already happening. Find these places and consider them “shortcuts.” The more you can find, the faster you can accelerate your progress.

Maybe this is participating in group discussions, commenting on blogs or just writing original content that positions the company an industry leader.

 

Put The Effort Into Your Social Profiles

It’s so surprising how so may people neglect their social profiles when it is so well known how we judge and perceive others based on the impressions we generate from their profiles.

All of the social channels give you the opportunity to create a profile, all with varying degrees of detail. Of course, the more information you put there, and the better it is presented, the greater your chances of developing attention online.

So fill in all the information spaces provided with keyword rich content that sounds good. Hire a copywriter to get the message through professionally if you have to. Then you need to dedicate some time to the visual aspects of the profile. Do you have a professional profile picture or high res logo? If you want to enrich the user experience for the people you engage with be sure to upload backgrounds and header or cover pictures to your profiles.

social media

 

Think Beyond Facebook

Yes. It may not be what you have heard, but the world is a lot bigger than Facebook these days. Make sure you know which channels suit your business. Entrepreneur.com says:

Brands on Twitter will still get 100 percent organic reach, with everything you post. If a large number of users “retweet” your content, it can dramatically increase reach.
Pinterest and Instagram can be great for retail and fashion. YouTube and video sharing sites like Vimeo are still effective for viral brand video promotion. SlideShare and LinkedIn work well for reaching a professional audience.

 

Measure Your Return On Investment

Like anything you invest in, a social media marketing drive needs to show a return. But, like this article from Moz.com points out:

 

Ultimately, we’re working towards measuring any return on your investment (ROI). But remember, in order to measure ROI you need to have an I. Without a serious investment of resources, you may never find the return you’re looking for. Measuring that ROI can look very different for different campaigns, and opening a metrics dashboard the day after you launch a social presence won’t provide any useful insight.

Fortunately, most of the social networks offer advanced reporting features, which can uncover a number of valuable insights about your audience. It also means that all campaigns and their effectiveness can be measured.

 

Create Connections Online

A lot of your success online will hinge on who you know, often as opposed to what you know. And the more people you know and engage with, the greater access you have to wider and bigger audiences. One of the most effective ways to build a following online, in social media platforms and on blogs is actually just to comment and respond to other people’s content. Try this for a set period of time and see what difference, if any, it makes to your connections.

The other big advantage to building and extensive network is just exposure. As many of the networks become fueled and controlled by their advertising platforms, brands’ organic reach is limited in terms of the audience members it gets to. The bigger your audience, the wider your reach.

 

Return The Favor

One of the quickest ways to gain a fan is to earn one. Take the time to comment, share, like, favorite, pin or plus one for someone else and they will more than likely do it for you.

 

Remember To Follow The Rules Of Social Etiquette

Understand the difference between advertising and organic posting on social networks, as most channels offer both options. If you want to sell something, go for the advertising option because the chances are that you will not get very far trying to sell outright with organic posting. You may be able to throw some in once in a while but you need to keep a balance going.

 

Most of the experts recommend an 80/20 split where self-promotional content is in the minority percentage. If you want to keep it going online, this is a good piece of advice to remember.

 

Thanks to the fact that Google has never released all the factors they base their algorithm rankings on, most of us simply speculate about the finer details. The better-known factors, such as keyword placement and URL, are both employed by most SEO experts, but did you know that there are actually over 200 signals being used by the search giant to index organic content? These range from domain and site level factors, to backlinks, on-page elements, backlinks, social signals and interaction by users.

 

English: a chart to describe the search engine...

Whether you want to improve your organic ranking to scale back on PPC spend, or simply to make sure you attract your ideal customer in the most effective way possible, you should be investing in organic SEO. Why? Well, according to Hubspot:

 

More than 1.1 billion people use Google search each month to make 114 billion searches. According to comScore, Google holds 67.6% of the U.S. search engine market share. This means that marketers looking to rank highly in organic search have to worry a great deal about what Google is looking for.

 

Let’s take a look at the most important factors used by Google when evaluating a website.

 

Factors Relating To The Domain

Domain age is important but here we’re talking about a ten-year old domain vs one that has just been reserved. If it’s a matter of a year old and a six month old website, there’s not much difference between them. What is slightly more important is the keyword appearing in your primary domain. And, what is an edge over that is when the keyword is the first word in the domain.

 

Conversely, if your domain is a known spammer it’s more likely that Google will penalize you.

 

On-Page SEO Elements

Your title tag is one of the most important classifiers on your website, so it is important for it to contain your keyword. The closer to the beginning you can insert your keyword, the more relevant it will appear to search engines. Doubling up and including it in your description (unique) is also important.

On the page, the H1 tag provides a second way of indexing for search engines, a trait that has been proven by research. You can extend the effectiveness of this by ensuring that the keyword is the phrase used most often in the piece of content you are optimizing. You need to be careful here though, as you do not want this to appear spammy and over-done.

Longer content is also known to be more effective at matching search engine criteria, as it is more comprehensive and offers readers more value, something that search engines want to make certain of.

Bing and Google have both been very explicit about the speed at which a page loads, as a ranking factor. The spiders used to index page content also read your website’s file sizes and codes, to see how quickly it will load, so it is not necessarily a real-time assessment, rather a best practice approach. It is also rumored that Google makes use of the Chrome browser to detect a page’s speed, so if you want to be really sure, run your tests using Chrome as your primary browser.

 

Frequency Of Updates

The frequency with which you update your website content, measured by Google’s Caffeine update, allows the search engines to index the time sensitivity of your information. This is more valuable for their readers, who want to see recent and relevant information.

Not only that, making significant changes is more effective than changing a word here or there. Bringing a new page or section (or removing one), will probably attract more search engine attention.

 

Quality Of Content

Well-written content that does not have lots of spelling and grammar mistakes will also achieve a better ranking for the pages you optimize. Similarly, pages with high quality outbound links (links to authoritative sites with lots of quality traffic) can also improve your ranking. Moz.com reminds us:

 

Currently, the major engines typically interpret importance as popularity – the more popular a site, page or document, the more valuable the information contained therein must be. This assumption has proven fairly successful in practice, as the engines have continued to increase users’ satisfaction by using metrics that interpret popularity.

 

Factors That Make A Difference At Site Level

So those are some of the micro elements a search engine is likely to use when ranking your site, but there are also higher level factors that will be based on to get a snapshot of how effectively your site works. For example, a contact page is essential for letting the search engines know there are real humans available to help users when they migrate from the online environment.

 

A site that has an intuitive architecture is also likely to be scored higher by the search engines. This allows them to index and organize your content a lot faster. The number of pages it has also tells them whether there is decent content available. A large site with lots of pages that are well organized is more likely to rank higher.

 

From a safety and security point of view it is imperative that ecommerce sites have an SSL certificate and that they feature privacy and terms of service pages.

 

Social Signals

Today, the SEO landscape also includes social media signals, as these are a good indicator of a brand’s popularity with online users. As this article from Search Engine Journals tell us:

 

YouTube is the second largest search engine, outstripping Bing, Ask, AOL, and Yahoo in sheer volume of searches. Twitter manages 2.1 billion queries every day. Facebook’s own search engine handles an estimated half billion on a daily basis. This. This is the new SEO. And it’s completely social.

 

If your CEO is still asking about the value of social interactions, this is one statistic you need to present. You might not be able to rank first for every keyword straightaway but you may be able to pick up the pace on your social channels of choice and this, in the long run, can only complement your organic SEO efforts.

 

Algorithms are based literally on hundreds of factors, many of which remain a mystery. However, the algorithm updates released by Google can make a massive impact on your website performance. And what we do know about them is that Google is starting to release them more regularly. Three of the most significant changes to Google’s algorithm updates have occurred in recent months: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Let’s take a closer look at how they work and how you can improve your website performance by understanding Google Logothem better. Panda Updates Launched in February 2011, Panda caused something of a sensation when it was released. Its primary objective was to promote high quality sites and demote the lower quality ones. The biggest culprits that were affected by the updates were those that duplicated or stole content from other websites to help their own search performance. At first glance, most SEO experts thought that Panda was targeting sites with lots of back links but this turned out not to be the case. This Moz.com article summarizes Panda in a few lines:

Google refreshes the Panda algorithm approximately monthly. They used to announce whenever they were refreshing the algorithm, but now they only do this if there is a really big change to the Panda algorithm. What happens when the Panda algorithm refreshes is that Google takes a new look at each site on the web and determines whether or not it looks like a quality site in regards to the criteria that the Panda algorithm looks at.

Penguin Algorithm Updates Rolled out in April 2012, Penguin’s job is to undo the SEO traction gained by websites making use of unnatural back link building. That means sites that have tried to cheat Google by using black hat or unethical SEO practices are penalized. So what should you do if you think you have been hit by Penguin? This Hubspot article provides some useful advice:

Just as you do with local NAP citations, you need to start thinking about branding citations for your SEO campaign. But instead of using your NAP, you need to focus on creating and distributing quality, relevant content on reputable websites with natural backlinks to your site. Some of these links will be follows, some will be no-follows; some will have a keyword in the anchor text, some won’t.

The Hummingbird Algorithm Updates When Hummingbird showed the world its wings, it was amidst Google’s 15th birthday celebrations in September 2013. Many people believe that Hummingbird was solely responsible for the demise of their website performance but the funny thing was that it was later revealed that Hummingbird had been operational for almost a month before it was formally announced, but no one actually noticed it. If you do not know whether you were affected or not, check your Analytics from 04 October 2013. The purpose of Hummingbird was to focus on and reward sites that can match Google users’ intent. The search focuses on location / geography as well as the specifics of the search. According to Amit Singhal, SVP of Search for Google:

The second key objective is the massive shift towards mobile search. As more people ask questions on their mobile phones the algorithm has to evolve to understand these longer, more complex queries. Google will keep reinventing itself to give you all you need for a simple and intuitive experience. At some point, pulling out a smartphone to do a search will feel as archaic as a dial-up modem.

If you’re running a website now, or plan to do so in the future, familiarizing yourself with the updates and what’s relevant to Google, can help you improve your results.

Google +

If you are not yet active on Google+, now would be a good time to start getting involved. Even though there are not that many active users on the platform, which was created back in 2011, it is estimated that approximately 500 million people use and interact with Google products every month. That is a large prospect audience just waiting to be engaged with. And when you start to understand how it works, you will also start to see how this can benefit you.

Why should you get going on Google+? Let us have a look at a number of convincing reasons:

You Can Catch Users’ Attention In Different Ways

Google+ offers a number of features that enable you to make your post stand out. As this Moz.com article points out:

First things first. Unlike other social platforms, Google+ posts act more like mini blog posts, and every post needs a headline. Not only does adding a header help your post stand out, but Google uses the first words of your post in two different ways: They incorporate your headline into the title tag of the post. The headline is typically what displays in Google search results.

Google+ offers the added advantage of allowing you to format your posts too. This means that not only can you attract attention with pictures, but you can use different effects on your text, too. Using the said functionality you can italicize, bold or strike-through fonts. You can also create numbered and bulleted lists, which break your text blocks up and make your words easier to read. In short, you are creating a better user experience for others.

Compared to other social networks out there, it is pretty customizable and you can do a lot more with your posts in terms of functionality.

You Can Increase Engagement And Build Relationships

Google+ allows you to merge the SEO potential of Google the search engine with the familiarity of a community and in so doing allows authors to take credit for the content they publish online. Using Google+ you can claim authorship of your articles and receive credit from the search engines for the content you produce.

You Can Build Networks

With Google+ you can market your content, products and services to your circles and networks. You can take advantage of its collaboration potential and build online communities that know you and endorse your content.

You Can Get SEO credit

Yes, you can also score SEO credit with Google if you are part of the “plus” network. And just how can you do that?

Well, with +1’s, or endorsements on your posts, you basically indicate that you have strong social signals and support- and Google likes it when its users are happy. Hubspot explains it like this:

It is not the +1’s themselves that are causing the high rankings of posts but the fact that most +1’s on a site result in a shared post on Google+, which creates a followed link back to the post. It’s instant organic link building.

Google+ Puts Text And Images On Par

Google+ is one network that values text and image based content. And while the fact that you can format your text makes it more likely to stand out and be shared, images are also highly effective on this platform.

Not only that but the results are also show that original, self photographed images are generally more successful than stock images.

You Have Access To A Very Targeted Network

Google+ prioritizes the connecting the dots and making the important connections between great content and great authors. It also gives people within your circles and networks greater exposure to the content you produce.

Social Media

With plenty of social advertising packages to choose from, some of the spirit that makes social media marketing so different from traditional marketing is getting lost.

If we go back a few years, let us say 10 to 12 years ago, before many of the social platforms had buy in from big businesses, there were clearly defined benefits, that are still obvious and available today. One of the biggest pull factors for a business to hop onto social networks was the fact that they were free. Aside from the time investment any company could get their foot in the door with a bit of creativity.

The other major motivator for businesses to get involved was the fact that social networks enabled people to connect with each other really easily. So the focus changed quite dramatically from not what you knew, to who you knew, and who saw you doing it.

Even though the social landscape has changed in many different ways, and there are innumerable options and possibilities today, there are still businesses using it for its core benefits, and they are doing it pretty well too. Let’s take a look at some really cost-effective strategies and how you can use them to transform your social media results, with minimal advertising spend.

Create Relationships Within Your Networks

Remember, sometimes it is not about what you know, but who you know that can make the difference between success and failure. And there are very few people who can be successful on their own anyway; in most cases, for the best results and to achieve our goals, we need to work in teams.

The most successful social networkers get to know bloggers and social media influencers to help them broaden their networks and build their contact lists. The more brand ambassadors you have out there the greater the potential exposure.

Being “good” at social media is as much about identifying other influencers to move your content along as it is about creating the content itself.

What’s In It For Your Audience?

Remember, if you want to attract an audience’s attention, or get their buy-in, you’ve got to ask: “what’s in it for them?”

Unless a person is particularly passionate about a subject or topic they are not likely to want to comment on or share a post. But tell them they could win the latest fragrance or their favorite brand of sunglasses and suddenly you have a lot more action going on.

Need some ideas? Social Media Examiner took a look at a case study done by Pick Your Plum:

Pick Your Plum is constantly giving their social media followers reasons to share. They often run promotions asking customers to tag a friend and then give away something to both the winner and the friend. Prince reports that their Facebook likes always go up dramatically during these promotions.

Set Simple, Short Term Goals

Search Engine Journal tracked their on social media strategy success by laying down a short term goal strategy. Their goal was to increase their followings on social networks by modest percentages month on month, but they ultimately ended up comparing three-month intervals.

They started out with two channels initially and were therefore able to offer them more focus. Once they became more confident on Twitter and Facebook, they decided to extend their reach to LinkedIn and Google+ and apply their short term goal strategy there too.

Since we’re a media publisher and don’t have as much visual product collateral to share, we focused more on Twitter and Facebook rather than Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re a fashion or food-related company, for example, it may make sense to do the opposite. (And although we don’t place as much focus on Pinterest, our website traffic stemming from there has increased over 500% the last three months.)

Modern Social Media Strategy Requires Recycling Too

Not all the content you produce for your social channels needs to be original, either. This article from Moz.com looks at how the most successful social media marketers today can reuse and repurpose content, as well as leverage content produced by other influencers on a network.

Not every update has to stem from original ideas of yours; you can bounce off the ideas that other people are already posting. Social media relies on conversations, so jump in and be a part of them. You can even look for Twitter chats that are relevant to your brand and dive in. (This is also a good way to get your account and brand more visibility.)

Get Clued Up About Multimedia

Sure, people want to read blogs and share memes but the research shows that the biggest movements are happening in terms of multimedia content. And if you want to adopt a progressive approach to social media marketing, you might want to think in terms of all the different types of content that technology makes available for us today.

According to Reel SEO, if you want to be setting trends, video is where you should be focusing your efforts:

Video is predicted to account for an unprecedented 84% of all Internet traffic by 2018, an increase of 6% over the video’s current slice of the online pie, the equivalent of 4.5 trillion YouTube clips. Cisco estimates that video traffic will equal 37 exabytes (EB) per month, that’s total traffic which includes sites like YouTube, and Buzzfeed Video, alongside VoD services such as Netflix, and Hulu.

Encourage A Two-Way, Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Share, comment on and post contributions and submissions from your fans. Allow them to share their fanaticism and support and then recognize them for it.

Similarly, if you want fans and followers to be more vocal about your material, lead by example. Show people you are not just interested in selling and that you are willing to contribute to the community in some aspects. This is more likely to be met with success than an approach that just expects praise and support and which focuses on self-promotion.