Since November of 2011 Google has been releasing a monthly blog post summarizing the major changes they are (or will soon be) rolling out. Their February post stands out in both size and scope. The 40 changes represent a record while impacting everything from local and image search to Panda.
Search Engine Land recently published a helpful synopsis of what they viewed as the most important of Google’s 40 changes, however I walked away from this article without a good sense of the implications these changes could have for marketers and webmasters.
If you take the time to read through Google’s full post you will see how vague the summaries are for each change. This is intentional as they have to strike a delicate balance between transparency and not providing too many clues to potential spammers. As a disclaimer, what follows is purely my interpretation of three particular changes listed in Google’s post.
More accurate detection of official pages. We’ve made an adjustment to how we detect official pages to make more accurate identifications. The result is that many pages that were previously misidentified as official will no longer be.
If you’re not already, make sure to integrate language like “official site” along with brand and product names accompanied by clear copyright and trademark notation. These are among the terms that engines look for when judging authority and credibility. About us and press room pages are great places to highlight other digital assets like videos, press releases, white papers, interviews and articles.
Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search. We launched a change to expand the corpus of results for which we show images in Universal Search. This is especially helpful to give more relevant images on a larger set of searches.
Google Image Search will continue to be a growing traffic source, especially for sites with compelling, high-resolution image content. Over the past year, Google image search has steadily grown as a traffic source for all our clients and we don’t expect this trend to change anytime soon. It’s widely known that keyword-rich image alt tags are a great way to get your images indexed, so consider auditing your site’s existing image assets to ensure they are search-friendly.
Improvements to ranking for local search results. This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
This is a tough one to decode, but it’s worth mentioning because local search optimization is a topic with very little documentation. This update seems to convey is that if your site has a high rank on Google.com then your local listings (Google Places) are likely to see a boost. We have a particular retail client who wanted to improve their store’s presence on properties like Yelp!, Citysearch and Google Places. In addition to optimizing their profiles and encouraging user reviews, we incorporated locally targeted terms into their main website. What we saw was a boost in local search as well as Google.com results that was clearly the result of a two-pronged approach.
One thing I know for sure about this round of Google search updates is that they won’t be the last. A multi-channel, white hat SEO strategy remains the best way to enhance any site’s presence in search.