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.

SEO Implications
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.

Link building strategies have come a long way since the early days of SEO and search algorithm updates such as Google’s Panda and Penguin have made the process even more complex.  Formerly, link profiles existed merely to bolster the authority of pages within the SERPs.  However, the quality of those backlinks was not deemed to be nearly as important as quantity.  As the search engines have improved their functionality, quality and relevance have become crucial and certain link building strategies have been rendered obsolete.

Many webmasters find the task of building high-quality links to be particularly challenging and some may even wonder if there is still value in link building processes post-Penguin.  Does a strong link profile still matter to online businesses?  Yes.  In fact, it may be more important than ever before.

Why Links Still Work
Although Google, Bing and other search engines now consider quality to be paramount, quantity still plays a part in determining organic rankings.  Link building isn’t dead, it’s just different.  Paid links that were once effective for gaining authority are now penalized and backlinks from reputable sites have become even more valuable.

An Optimized Profile
P.R. initiatives, guest blogging and social media are proving to be effective ways for business owners and webmasters to gain high-quality, authoritative backlinks.  Additionally, these strategies also enhance overall brand awareness and visibility outside the SERPs.

The future of link building looks to be very secure.  It always has been and likely, always will be, a key component in SEO and digital marketing.  However, online businesses must be prepared to forge a new kind of link profile with quality at its core in order to retain their presence in the organic search rankings from here on out.

What are your thoughts on link building on the post-Penguin Web?  Drop me a line at brymshaw@webimax.com or follow me on Twitter: @brwebimax.

If you’re a website owner who’s noticed your site’s standings in the Google SERPs have dropped in the last 48 hours, then you’ll likely already know who (or what) is to blame for it. Back on Tuesday, Google ran a data refresh for Panda which, according to the company’s predictions, affected around 1% of its total index pages. In the time since the update, several notable SEO news networks have reported on the issue and begun asking the community about the extent of the damage.

While the overall impact of the latest Panda activity is nowhere near as significant as it has been in the past, there are still going to be at least a few webmasters who’ll find themselves scowling at the new rankings. The fine folks at Google have gotten better at informing the public of what’s needed to correct low SERP standings, but most people still aren’t quite sure how to go about improving their online properties in their entirety.

Although optimizing a website to get better traffic is a lengthy and somewhat arduous process, there are some key rules that every site owner should be following at all times that can help get the job done. Certainly everyone is familiar with the idea of having original content, high keyword-to-page relevancy, and strong outbound links, but there are also those elements of a site that are more about design than execution that tend to go unnoticed. Before you go back and start overhauling low ranking pages, consider whether you’re making good use of the site itself.

Am I Being Truly Unique?

Many business owners use their company’s website simply as a virtual storefront from which to sell products and services. While the ultimate goal of any online business page is to facilitate sales and make things more convenient for the customer, that doesn’t mean that’s all it can be. Those websites that see consistent traffic numbers and ever-increasing conversion rates are often those that offer something worthwhile and immediate to the user.

Of course, many readers would ask about how they would accomplish this. Well, as any successful SEM company would tell you, turning a lifeless site into a hub of network activity is as much as result of clever design as it is savvy SEO implementation. Many companies go about rejuvenating a stagnant domain by keeping a running blog of industry news, offering “flash sales” with limited durations on the primary landing page, and important contact information up front.

While these design choices don’t factor heavily into Google’s site crawls, they do create immediate engagement opportunities for site visitors and act as attention grabbers. This serves to boost SERP standings by naturally improving the value of the page for users.

For more information on how to go about creating a more engaging landing page, I can be contacted at jwersits@webimax.com.