As our own Chris Countey reported just moments ago, Google’s Matt Cutts announced at #PubCon in Las Vegas earlier today that the world’s most prominent search engine is releasing a “Disavow Links” feature within Webmaster Tools.
Formerly, the removal of damaging, low quality links from Google’s consideration was a tedious and often difficult process. Going forward, removing such links (once they are located) will be a much less complex procedure and the tool is expected to be one of the most useful resources in the digital marketing industry.
The Disavow Links page, which is now live within Webmaster Tools states:
“If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site.”
The tool will utilize a new “disavow.txt” file, which will work similarly to the long-standing “robots.txt” and specific pages containing links (or even entire domains) can be added to the file and subsequently eliminated as a ranking factor.
While this tool has been rumored for quite some time and even hinted at by Cutts since July, the official announcement and debut of the new resource is a major leap forward for SEOs and is certainly going to impact the industry for the foreseeable future.
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, announced at Pubcon that a new tool: Disavow Links within Webmaster Tools.
If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. If you get this message, we recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future.
Link (Use the disavow tool with caution!): https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
In Webmaster Tools, select a site you control:
Google Disavow Tool Case Studies
SEOWizz.net recently posted some real examples of success stories using Google’s new Disavow Tool: http://www.seowizz.net/2012/10/the-disavow-tool-works-real-sites-real-recoveries.html
It doesn’t take an online marketing company with a decades’ worth of experience to see that the relationship that SEO service providers have with Google is a complicated one. Of course much of this is owed to the recent string of Penguin and Panda algorithm updates (of which we discuss quite often), but there are also several other key aspects of the world’s biggest search engine company that makes our jobs equally challenging and exciting. Take for example the constant addition and removal of network features for Google’s numerous services.
Feature Report and Secrecy
Just this week, in fact, Google announced several changes will be made in the near future to a host of network functions. While these features include only a few select aps that generally aren’t being used all that often (don’t expect to see Maps go away, for example), this is still part of an ongoing trend with the company. It’s also a habit of Google’s that Microsoft even openly mocked earlier this year.
Aside from the constant adding and dropping of support for its applications, Google also tends to be incredibly secretive with everything it does. This is especially true with anything regarding the inner workings of its search engine. Although we shouldn’t expect the company to unveil how its algorithms work lest a new age of black hat SEO emerge, it still makes understanding what Google’s search engine deems worthy of high page rankings quite the task. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of its webspam division, does offer vague advice from time to time on his blog and on the Google Youtube account, but what constitutes a perfectly optimized page is still mostly conjecture at the present.
The SEO Back-and-Forth
Between Penguin and Panda, the apps, and the vague demands made of SEO companies, there are many ways that Google consistently impacts what we as online marketers and SEO consultants day-in and day-out. These days, the top SEO companies around are those that continue to hang on the company’s every word and attempt to predict its actions. While no one can know for sure what Google intends for the future, most of us do realize one important thing: staying ahead of the competition means constant innovation and revision.
On September 4th, 1998, two Stanford University students named Larry and Sergey formed a privately-held company called Google, named after the Internet search engine they had begun developing more than two years earlier. Today, that company celebrates fourteen years of innovation and success.
As Google continues into its second decade, ongoing efforts have been made by the company to ensure an even more successful future. Developments such as Gmail, Google+ and Chrome have made the brand relevant beyond search and important algorithm updates such as Panda and more recently, Penguin, have established quality and relevancy as key components of the brand’s patented Web search functionality.
For Internet marketers, Google’s longevity and consistent dominance of the search market has made the brand a focal point of many campaigns and initiatives. Since the early days of search engine optimization, Google has been instrumental in virtually every campaign. Going forward, the online marketing industry will continue to construct campaigns with an emphasis on Google and utilize its proprietary tools such as Analytics and AdWords to create more effective campaigns.
Google’s innovations are certain to be ongoing and SEOs will subsequently need to strive to design campaigns that remain effective against future algorithm updates and other critical changes. Today, as Google begins its fourteenth year, SEOs should evaluate their strategies and enhance their focus on quality in order to remain in the SERPs for years to come.
Happy birthday, Google.
It’s impossible to read the latest news in our industry without noticing the tone of immediate concern that so many others have. Ever since the more recent Panda updates started taking a significant toll on SERPs linked with popular trending keywords, everyone has been pointing at Google and blaming the company for the increasingly poor performance of their websites. Add to this the shakeup with Penguin and company’s ongoing silence regarding its algorithm and it’s easy to see why so many well-known voices in the SEO community are up in arms.
When the Penguin update first hit a few months back, Google was quite forward with the reasons for why we saw the rankings drop. Citing duplicate content and heavy anchor text usage as prime elements of sites that were trying to game the system, the company came under fire by many webmasters who themselves were using these disingenuous tactics. It also certainly didn’t help that the initial version of the algorithm hit several well-to-do sites and messed up their rankings for a brief stint as well. Nearly everyone in our industry was up in arms and panic was rampant.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Months after the most significant updates, thousands of link-farming directories and sites fraught with black hat SEO tactics have finally been dropped from Google’s SERPs. While not every exploitative page has disappeared from the page one results, most keyword searches now return results that have achieved their position due to smart design and ethical SEM campaigning.
Tried and True Tactics with the Best Impact
At the end of the day, it’s those SEO companies that have used and continue to rely upon transparent marketing techniques and natural linkbuilding practices that have fared the best since the Google’s updates began rolling out in full force. Google-friendly site optimization, social media campaigning, and original and interesting content generation are all methods through which the most notable online marketers are getting their clients onto the top of the SERPs these days.
Although search engine users continue to see mainstay sites like Wikipedia appear in the top 5 spots of their queries, many non-brand specific search terms have now become easier to lock down as trending keywords for clients’ brand. And, surprisingly enough, it’s Google’s Panda and Penguin updates that we have to thank for these SEO opportunities. While the constant search algorithm revisions certainly have made all our lives a little more complicated, these new challenges are being made in the name of better content for users. And that’s something we can all get behind.
Google continues to roll out new offerings with their primary product: search. Moving into the mobile market, the social space, and other areas, Google has constantly been trying their hand at new functions, growing their reach and relevance, and for their sake, an ever-increasing user-base that enjoys what they offer.
Even in the midst of a projected push from Google for mobile development by industry analysts, search remains their focus, and obviously their primary driver of revenue (ppc) and web dominance. Many of these offerings have varying direct impacts on SEO and paid search, but many influence the overall experience with Google, which does ultimately impact how people use the search engine to find what they need. With this context, we look at their latest offering impacting their search functionality – handwritten search queries.
How Relevant are Handwritten Queries?
Yes, they brought us voice and image searching, and now they are delivering a convenient handwritten search query capability for mobile devices. On smartphones and tablets, users can spell out the desired words via their own fingertips right onto the screen, and Google’s handwriting decryption technology translates it to text in the query box.
It remains to be seen how much more convenient than typing searches this features ends up being, and if it will become a preference of mobile users. Some feel this is simply a gimmick, and opinions will vary, however, there is worth to the function. Users on the go may find it easier to handwrite the desired search term or at least a few letters rather than bringing up the keyboard and typing.
In essence, the feature highlights the importance of Google Instant which will be prominently used with the handwriting feature. As seen in Google’s promotional video for the feature, often users will not type the entire word or phrase, but only handwrite a few letters and then rely on the Google Instant results to connect them to the right query. This is a connecting step, but not a large one.
Due to its sole use on mobile, local SEO for businesses serving specific markets is most directly impacted. Local businesses must be sure to optimize for the most relevant keyword that people would be likely to “handwrite” and optimize that term for their specific location. People will most likely only be writing one or two words, so when people search this one term, for example, from their handwritten search, businesses want to make sure they are represented in the SERPs in their localized market as the search engine will return the most relevant results for that term in that specific area where the search was done, unless another area was specified.
With reliance on Google Instant that this feature brings, businesses and their marketers need to be aware of what the Google Instant results are for words related to your business or keywords, and evaluate the worth of optimizing for them. Do so only if they directly relate to information on your site and the main products and services you offer, otherwise building out such content would be pointless for you (non-conversion traffic) and misleading for the user.
Otherwise, this will be fun to track how much it gets used and what else search-related it impacts. Next up…will this handwritten search functionality start showing up in secondary searches on ecommerce and search-reliant sites.
Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen(at)webimax.com and @ryanwbudd for thoughts or comments on this or other topics.