Spring has sprung, and as digital marketers look toward the rest of the year, they can learn a lot from this period of blooming flowers and multiplying bunny rabbits. Just in time for the seasonal shift, search engines are also rapidly evolving, keeping SEO marketers on fertile ground.
Here are the three most critical search updates we’ve seen from Google so far this year:
The Doorway Page Penalty Algorithm
In mid-March, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog announced the search engine will put a tighter lock on what it calls “doorway pages.” Google defines these pages as sites that are created to maximize a “search footprint,” while offering no clear and unique value.
“We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience,” wrote Brian White of the Google Webspam Team. “For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site. So if a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.”
According to Google’s Quality Guidelines, one example of this practice is when webmasters create many regionally targeted domains that funnel users into the same page.
Another example is pages that direct visitors to a portion of a site that is more relevant to the searcher’s query. Google identifies these as intermediate pages that provide low value compared to the final destination, hence the new move to penalize this practice.
Google announced it will soon create a ranking adjustment to address these types of pages, and warns “sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.”
How can you tell if your site will be viewed as a doorway page? Here is a handy list of questions to help you peek through the keyhole and determine if you are at risk.
The Mobile-Friendly Search Update
On April 21st, Google will finally make official what digital marketers have been sensing all along – the future is in mobile.
The update marks the first time that a site’s mobile-friendliness will be considered as a ranking signal for SERPs appearing on mobile devices. The update will also allow for more relevant app content in mobile search results.
According to the announcement on the Webmaster Central Blog, the update “will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
The move is a logical step for Google, which has conducted a great amount of research data on the growing influence of mobile. In its “Our Mobile Planet” series of national reports, Google discovered that 56% of the American population uses a smartphone, and 67% of those users go online with their smartphones every day. The survey also found that 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone, and 84% take action as a result.
So what does the new update mean for SEO and digital marketers? It means if you haven’t optimized your site to be mobile responsive, there is no better time than now to get hopping. Spring is a time for new beginnings, and if you want your website to be the highest sunflower in the field, make sure your roots have the right coding for a mobile-friendly world.
Here are some links to Google tools to determine if your site is mobile-friendly:
- Google’s Guide to Mobile-friendly Sites
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test for specific pages
- Search Engine Land’s news coverage of the Google Mobile Usability Report
The Expansion of the Knowledge Graph
Since its launch in Spring of 2012, Google’s Knowledge Graph has been a tool to help people find answers, not just links. The feature has served as an important back-end component, helping Google improve its search relevancy. But for the average user, the value of the Knowledge Graph is on the front-end. Knowledge Graph boxes appear prominently in SERPs, providing quick answers to common questions.
For digital marketers, this development poses several challenges as the Knowledge Graph continues to expand its reach. Whereas once Wikipedia was the main source for the answer boxes, Google is increasingly starting to scrape long-form content from branded web sites.
According to Search Engine Land columnist Nate Dame, these developments beg many questions, such as “Do I want my content showing up in answer boxes?” The implications are many for SEO: Google answer boxes might “steal traffic.” Even worse, competitor content might be scraped and presented at the top of the page.
Google doing what it does, it is very likely the tendrils of the Knowledge Graph will continue to grow this spring. In a recent study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting, “rich answers” from Google appeared in 1 out of every 5 search results.
So what’s a marketer to do? Dame advises you optimize content to try to get scraped, but also concentrate on attracting traffic that will convert. In other words, continue your rigorous and best practice efforts toward SEO.
Looking for more in-depth tips on how to future-proof your search rankings?
Sign up for our April 7th webinar, “3 Critical Google Search Updates You Can’t Afford to Ignore.”