Top 5 New Google Features That Influenced SEO in 2011

If you want to achieve a higher return on your digital marketing investment, it is important to stay up to date with the latest Google feature updates and releases.  It can mean the difference between driving the best results to move your business ahead of the competition or fall behind the curve.  According to McKinsey & Co., advertisers achieve a 7:1 ROI on investments in search-based marketing.  To capture these same results for your company, learn about the new Google features born in 2011 that will impact your SEO efforts in 2012.

1.    Google Social Search Update – Feb 17
Google is constantly improving algorithms to provide the best search results.  Googlebot crawls through billions of websites providing the most relevant answers, but that’s not enough.  The opinions and suggestions of our family, friends, and colleagues matter the most to us, and Google listened.  In 2009, Google Social Search was introduced to allow the integration of social networking and Google Search.  But for Google, there’s always room for improvement.  An update was released in 2011 to further improve Google Social Search.

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Some of the highlights include:

•    Placement:  Social search results will now be mixed throughout the page results.  In past years, social search results only appeared at the bottom of the page.  Now, Google is factoring social activity into organic result listings.

•    Annotations:  When one of your connections publically shares a link, an annotation will be visible displaying their profile picture, profile name, and name of the social media site used to share the content.

•    Control:  Google has given you more control over how and which accounts you wish to connect to your Google Account.  You can connect all your social media accounts to Google and still have the advantage to choose which ones you’d like to make publically available.

How does it influence SEO?  Your social media results have been prioritized, and therefore they occupy more space on Page 1 of the search results page.  Consequently, some website links that may have ranked on Page 1 in the past are now ranking on Page 2 or beyond.

What should you do about it?  Create unique and captivating content that encourages visitors to share and create links in social media.  The more material that you share within social communities and make available outside of your site, the likelihood that your website will rank closer to or on Page 1 increases.


2.    Google Panda – Feb 24
Google released an update to Google Farmer, now known as Panda.  Google Panda rearranged a number of search results pushing websites down in rankings and others up the page.  Some of the factors that influenced the change in rankings include:

•    Content:  There are many factors that can discourage search spiders from crawling your site as often as you would like, resulting in a ranking sink.  Some of these mistakes are created by:

1. Displaying too many advertisements on your website that distract from your main content and value proposition
2. Compiling a vast amount of content for the sole purpose of overly repeating keyword iterations for ‘easy’ site optimization

•    User Experience and Usage Metrics:  Metrics, such as Bounce Rate, Click-Through Rate, Page Views, Average Time on Site, and Site Loading Speed will now influence your ranking.  Google has established this algorithm change as an effort to reward websites that offer an outstanding user experience.

How does it influence SEO?  Panda is weighing a great amount of emphasis on website content quality, user satisfaction, and user engagement.  If you purposely make some of your site pages full of high quality content to demonstrate engaging performance, and others are clearly not as of high quality, Google will reduce the entire site’s ranking as a penalty.  Google’s algorithm is trained to recognize any type of ‘work-around’ you may try to make to affect its ranking logic.

What should you do about it?  As suggested for Google Social Search, creating content that is unique, fun, anecdotal, and entertaining will encourage others to share it and in turn, will improve your ranking.

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3.    Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Change: Option to block all site results – March 10
Just when you thought that Google couldn’t further personalize your search results page, they did.  Meet the new feature which allows you to “block all example.com results”.  When clicking on a search result and then returning to Google, you’ll find a new link next to “Cached” that reads “Block all example.com results”.  Once you click on the link to block the results from that particular website, a confirmation message will be displayed as well as an option to undo your action.

If the block is approved, that site will no longer appear in any future search results that individual makes on Google.  All the blocks are saved in the user’s Google Account, making it easy for the user to log in and undo any blocks that are currently activated.

How does it influence SEO? If your site appears as a result under a search term that is not relevant to your business or product offerings, not only are you optimizing the wrong keyword but you are also inviting your site to be ignored and worse, blocked from all future searches.

What should you do about it?  Integrate 3-5 keywords naturally into the content of each web page. Conducting this process of keyword mapping across different pages of your site will create cohesive content silos to organize into your navigation structure.  Making your site optimally SEO-friendly will guarantee that your visitor is landing on a page that answers their original query.


4.    Google Analytics 5 – Apr 20
Google Panda’s attempt to emphasize user experience also influenced Google Analytics’ ability to make new metrics available.  Analytics users are now able to view and analyze those metrics in order to make changes necessary to improve their ranking.  Some of the new features include:

•    Multiple Dashboards: Google Analytics allows you to choose from 4 types of widgets (metric, pie chart, timeline, and table) to easily create customized dashboards to get more insights from your Analytics data.

•    Event Goals:  This feature allows you to track and measure each activity goal.  For example: who paused or fast forwarded a video, who downloaded an eBook, who clicked on an ad, and more.

•    Site Speed Report:  Site speed should never be ignored.  By adding one line of code to your site, you can track the average load time, page by page.  A slow landing page will influence your Adwords Quality Score or your organic rankings.  Consequently, Analytics includes a Site Speed report in its newest version.

•    Enhanced Analytics Intelligence:  A new section called “Intelligence Events” includes 4 new reports for refining your analysis: Overview, Daily Events, Weekly Events, and Monthly Events.

How does it influence SEO?  It is crucial to stay up to date with all updates to metrics that influence your rankings. Not being aware of Google Analytic’s new features will not only set you back from your competitors, but it can also damage your SEO campaign.

What should you do about it?  Using Google Analytics is not a competitive advantage, it’s a norm. Familiarize yourself with Google Analytic’s new interface and features; learn and use all the tools that are available to you.


5.    Google Verbatim – Nov 15
Some of us aren’t the best spellers.  As a result Google introduced the “Did you mean: …” function suggesting the correct spelling and showing search results for that suggestion.  But sometimes, searchers type just what they mean and don’t wish for Google to show any other type of result. For example, you may have a friend whose band name is a play on words such as “Horrorscope.” When searching for that name, Google will suggest “horoscope” and give you results you are not interested in.  For this, Google introduced the Verbatim Search Tool.  It uses the literal words you entered without making normal improvements such as:

•    Spelling corrections
•    Including synonyms or similar terms
•    Personalizing your search by using information of your search history

How does it influence SEO?  When a searcher runs a misspelled branded search for your business and the Verbatim tool is on, Google will not suggest your correct business spelling.  Your website will not rank on any of the SERPs.

What should you do about it?  Optimize for a variety of keywords including common misspellings.

In the world of Google and the ever-changing digital landscape, it is your task as an online marketer to keep up with the latest news and developments in future search engine updates.  Suited with deep knowledge of the features that will impact or influence the success of your marketing initiatives, you will have the right tools at your fingertips to lead your business in the right direction.  There is no sleep for SEO, try to keep in step with the tips and tricks that Google freely offers to soak up the full benefits for your business.