SEO News Recap – September 2015

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The September edition of the SEO News Recap is here!

It’s time to catch up with the latest industry trends, opinions and surveys. Here’s this month news categories that we’ll cover:

GOOGLE EXPERIMENTS

This month the Snack Pack still restlessly reflects one Google experiment after another:

  • Review on!– Once again mobile users are granted the opportunity to leave a G+ business reviews. For how long this feature will help us attract more G+ customer reviews though, that still remains a mystery.
  • To call or not to call?– The SEO community cheered for the September’s re-inclusion of the business phone number in the Snack Pack listing details. The change lasted for a few days only before the local pack got stripped again from these essential contact details. It makes you wonder if User Experience is the prime goal of Google’s constant updates of the local SERPs.
  • Google test one-page SERP– Infinite scroll is a formula well-accepted by the private search engine DuckDuckGo, but it’s hard to be applied to Google’s business model. The 10 organic results per page has been the status quo for ages, but the rumor has it the things will change. Are Google really trying out a more modern layout and if yes – how will they adapt their top and bottom page ads, are the questions we all are so impatient to learn the answers of.
  • Home Service Ads backed by a Snack Pack– when the Home Service ads were first introduced in July (for San Francisco Bay Area only), it was pretty obvious that those will substitute the snack pack for the given verticals (plumbers, locksmiths, cleaners, builders, etc.) Today we see that the case might not be such given that both HSA and local listings show for search queries related to local service providers.

As Mike Blumenthal concludes after reporting on this test: “Thus the only offense is a good defense. Diversify, diversify, diversify.”

  • Automatic Manual Penalty Recovery? – Google’s beta testing on automatically revoking a manual penalty for hacked sites that have cleaned up their profile. The idea to revoke a manual penalty without having to file a reconsideration request is quite tempting. If only that procedure and the immediate Google Team reaction could apply to all manual penalties…
  • Google My Business Team will no longer offer phone verification – whether to cut on valuable resources, to prevent random spam attacks, or to make it more difficult to get listed in GMB, this local listing verification process update is quite a disappointment. The help of the GMB team has been priceless in a number of cases including incorrect page merges, page ownership and login issues, multiple account problems.

The postcard verification process has proven to have many flaws, let’s hope that Google My Business Team plans to both speed up and perfect it and      thus      minimize webmasters’ discomfort when claiming their business in GMB.  In case you never receive your verification post card, you still have an  option to contact GMB team and request their help.

  • Harsher sanctions than Manual Penalties? Google are warning that sites, which repeatedly violate their guidelines, will face a harsher reconsideration process.

Lifting a manual penalty has been a nightmarish endeavor for some businesses, but, obviously, not enough of a trouble to make them forget about spammy practices. With the more durable Manual Penalties introduced, the chances are that people would either stop repeating their mistakes or will be obliged to move to a new domain when finding it impossible to recover their twice-penalized one.

  • Google Hotel Ads with Book a Room Button – under the Google Hotel Ads Commission Program a number of US small independent hotels are offered inclusion in Google Hotel Ads. They will be charged a set industry commission fee instead of CPC-based ongoing fees. This innovative approach was backed up by adding a Book on Google button for desktop and tablets (the button was introduced on mobile since 2013).
  • book a room

  • Google suing an SEO company – a Southern California SEO company is just one of the many businesses out there that claim to be a “Google Subcontractor” and offer 1st page placement when cold calling consumers. Google seems to have finally decided to pursue further this issue and filed an official claim, listing in detail how the search engine’s rights were violated by the given company:

“Defendant’s sales agents have made statements such as: “We’re a Google subcontractor,” “we’re working for Google,” “the $100 fee [to initiate Defendant’s services] goes to Google,” and Defendant’s customers’ webpages “will show up multiple times on the front page and get what’s called ‘Front Page Domination.’”   

INDUSTRY SURVEYS AND STUDIES

  • The secret formula to viral content out in the open? – As part of the Hubspot team Matthew Barby conducted a survey on what makes a post “shareable, linkable and popular”. He examines 6,192 blog posts and depending on their varying features (word count, titles, etc.) he draws conclusions on their popularity (inbound links, shares, comments). The study shows some intriguing insights like:
    • “Articles with the word “Template” within their title are shared 114% more on Twitter,” or
    • “Posts with 300+ links generate the most organic traffic and social shares.”

As creative an idea was to conduct this study, I find that it is missing some essential cross-correlations, making the final conclusions a bit misleading. For instance the study draws a conclusion that: “Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic.” What if it is a specific author that people prefer reading and that author never writes a piece under 2,250 words in general? Details like that would definitely skew the results.

  • The Local Ranking Factors for 2015David Mihm’s annual survey was published this month. The 7th edition of the study takes into account the highly turbulent changes of the Snack Pack and concludes on the most important ranking factors for Local. On-site factors were considered to be the top influencers in the Local Ranking algo, followed by Links and other external signals like citations, clicks, calls, etc. Seems like Local ranking factors are getting closer to Organic ones with each day.
  • The Local Trio on the Local Ranking Factors SurveyDavid Mihm, Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal comment on the 2015 Local Survey and conclude that:
    • Earning local links is a game-changer.
    • The links should be rather event or article-driven instead of paid and sponsored.
    • Behavioral signals (e.g. click-through rate) are gaining weight and will become more important in the future.

WHEN WORK MEETS PLEASURE

  • Mobile app & free beer gets Heineken a vast number of new fans – Heineken’s latest local ad campaign should definitely been a success if judging by its creativity, reach and tempting treats offered. Using Twitter and Facebook for ad channels, Heineken connects with their target audience (21+) in four US cities and offers it free beer. When the mobile user agrees to share his location with the advertiser, he is presented with the addresses of the nearby bars where he could claim his cold Heineken for free. A shortcode sent to his phone will prove that Heineken actually “wants” to buy him a beer.

Heineken FB and Twitter campaign

  • The most handsome man in the world is an SEO! – Many believe that SEOs are pure wizards who play with Google rankings for living. The copywriter Joel Klettke proves those far-fetched illusions to be … true actually. He managed to rank for “the best looking man in the world” even though he is a self-proclaimed candidate for the given title. Cool experiment that also made up for a good TED Talk speech by Joel.

INNOVATIONS

  • Google introduced a new compression algorithm – The so-called Brotli open-source algorithm offers up to 20-26% higher compression ratio over its previous version, Zopfli. Brotli is designed to cut on loading times and to improve UX for mobile users.
  • Map Spam patent granted to Google – Bill Slawski diligently monitors the latest patents that Google continuously ads to its “library”. This month Bill shared an interesting news related to the Local SEO industry. The latest patent awarded to Google ensures against keyword stuffing spam in business titles. It basically makes sure that third party hijackers don’t “include words associated with prominent businesses in a title of a less prominent business associated with the third party in order to have the less prominent business displayed more often in search results for the prominent business.”

INTERVIEWS

  • Gary Illyes: Panda is not a penalty! – Among the most interesting industry interviews, conducted this month was the conversation between Bruce Clay and Gary Illyes. Gary touched upon some important issues regarding Google penalties like:
    • Panda is not a penalty, but a general ranking update. It demotes highly prominent sites in the SERPs that don’t have the quality or valuable content they rank for.
    • Penguin refreshes will eventually have real-time roll-outs.
    • Among the major problems of today is that people are trying to rank for keywords they don’t have quality content for.