Mobilegeddon – Guide To Survival On The Internet (Checklist)

The Webmasters Guide To Survival On The Internet Post #Mobilegeddon Era (21st April 2015)

mobilegeddon-act-now

If your business heavily relies on Mobile Traffic, it would be wise to act fast! The Clock is ticking.

 

———————————————————————STOP PROCRASTINATING!—————————-——————————————

If you are reading this blog right now, then chances are that you have a website(s) or you are responsible for the online presence of your company/client’s websites. Back in February, Google announced an upcoming update that will take the Internet by storm. This update will target websites that are not fit for mobile viewing – So if your website is not mobile-friendly (now is the time to take action). Here is all the information and resources that you might need to make your website “Google Quality Compliant,” when the clock ticks into 21st April 2015. Make it or you will break it! No puns intended.

 Contents:

  1. What is Mobilegeddon?
  2. Scope of the Update
  3. Why did Google Take This Move? (Trend Analysis)
  4. Estimating Your Present Mobile Traffic with GA
  5. How to Avoid Getting Bitten By Google Mice?
  6. Detailed Checklist of Things to do
  7. Print-ready Checklist
  8. Comprehensive List of Resources for Mobile-fixing
  9. Verdict

 

#1 What Is Mobilegeddon?

The trend of mobile surfing has seen such an upward slope since the past few years that come 2016 – 60% of people who will surf the internet, will do so from their mobile phones and other portable devices. If you are not aware of what I am talking about, then you can check your Google Analytics to see how much mobile traffic your website is experiencing. Even without looking at it, I can state that any website today will at least be getting 30% of its user base from people surfing through portable devices. And it is safe to conclude that if your website is not user-friendly, you may be losing out on tons of cashing opportunities.

Mobilegeddon – is an informal term coined by SearchEngineLand in March 2015, to spread awareness about the impending Google epidemic that’s going to hit the web in April. Through this update, Google is going to give more importance to websites that are mobile-friendly, which means better rankings for responsive and user-friendly websites.

Web

NO-MATTER HOW CLEAN YOUR BACKLINK PROFILE IS AND NO MATTER WHAT THE QUALITY OF THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE – IF YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN ANY MEASURES TO MAKE YOUR WEBSITE MOBILE-FRIENDLY – THIS ONE IS GOING TO HURT YOUR BUSINESS, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.

On 21st April, Google will unleash the Algorithm which is going to scan each and every website on the web, and drop those websites from mobile SERPs if they are not “mobile-friendly.”

So what does mobile friendly actually mean?

In technical terms, “mobile friendly” demand websites to size their content to the viewport of a user and encompasses everything even remotely related to responsive designing. Speaking in layman’s terms – it basically means that if a user has to scale your website down to viewable size on mobile-devices (apparently because the desktop version of your website is opening on their mobile). Then your website is not “mobile friendly” or “mobile ready.”

Keeping up so far? Don’t be morose if you are not prepared for it. There are still a few days to go and you can work a solution these days!


#2 Scope of Mobilegeddon

This update is going to be Larger than PANDA!

THIS UPDATE IS GOING TO BE LARGER THAN PENGUIN!

ZinebAitBahajji – a renowned member of Google’s Webmaster Trends Team quoted at SMX Munich that this upcoming mobile-friendly update from Google is going to impact the search engine ranking of even more websites than what the Penguin and Panda have done in the past.

Ziteb's Tweet on her official Twitter profile!

Ziteb’s Tweet on her official Twitter profile!

Let me give you a clear view of this scene – if you are still confused.

[blockquote photo=”” author=”” company=”(Panda 4.0) SearchEngineJournal 21st May 2014″ link=”http://www.searchenginejournal.com/hit-hardest-panda-4-0-answer-may-surprise/106461/” target=”_blank”]The past 24 hours have been a wild time for those who either work in, or follow the field of SEO. Google confirmed the rollout of two major updates, one of which was Panda 4.0, an update projected to impact roughly 7.5% of english search queries.[/blockquote]

[blockquote photo=”” author=”” company=”(Penguin 3.0) SearchEngineLand 11th Dec 2014″ link=”http://searchengineland.com/google-algorithm-changes-210285″ target=”_blank”]“I believe that the indisputable truth about Google’s updates belongs to Google only, and for all that we know, Penguin 3.0 impacted less than 1% of the English language queries. However, as with anything related to SEO, we can only take what we have and work ourselves out of the dark.” [/blockquote]

As you may be aware off, Google has its very inconspicuous ways of shedding light on its upcoming Algorithms. But, from whatever information it has given out on the Webmaster’s blog, the Internet is brimming with speculations as to how the update will impact websites and what measures can be taken to avoid it.

We are still unclear about what other factors would Google be looking out for during this update, and it is impossible to claim how drastically these factors will be able to change the website’s search visibility. From what Zineb commented at SMX, we can safely conclude that most of the non-optimized websites will be taking a blow from the ‘Google Mice’ a.k.a Armageddon … oops Mobilegeddon.


#3 Why Did Google Make This Move? Trend Analysis. 

Statistics show that more than 60% of the searches performed on Google are now executed on mobile devices – so this only helps emphasize Google’s motive to take advantage of this traffic to ensure the best user experience for web surfers.

Let me explain the scenario better with the help of a few graphs. (Courtesy to ComScore.com for aggregating this data based on U.S. Demographics). This information is priceless.

comscore-mobile-stats-4

Compared to digital time spent in 2010 – Look at the growth in mobile usage for Web surfing in just 4 years. Do you think this is going to ever seize?

Comscore-mobile-stats-2

The Smartphone Penetration Of Mobile Phone Market – Beautiful upward curve that needs no explanation!

Comscore-mobile-stats-3

In addition to the upcoming algo, Google has already started rolling out some ranking changes that are based on information collected from indexed applications of Signed-in users. Though this appears to be a small change, it will have a large impact on the way search results are displayed on Google. Businesses that are really catering well to their mobile users will have the best benefits from Google this time.

Gary-Illyes-google-webmaster

Gary Illyes

ICE BREAKER

There was a short Q&A round with Gary Illyes (Google Webmaster), in which he revealed quite some information to break the ice, on what we can expect from Mobilegeddon.

  1. Responsive websites will not experience any major benefits in ranking.
  2. Googlebot must be able to crawl CSS and Java in order to pass the upcoming mobile-friendly test.
  3. Tablets and larger devices will not be affected by this update. Only mobiles and feature phones will.
  4. Google is presently working on making a dedicated mobile index – Crazy isn’t it?

#4 How to estimate your present mobile traffic? Google Analytics.

mobile-traffic-extreme-seo

Screenshot of traffic distribution from Google Analytics

In order to understand how much traffic you could possibly lose from Mobilegeddon, it is important to understand how much organic mobile traffic are you actually getting?

If you do not know how to check your present Mobile traffic from Google, it’s fairly simple. All you have to do is log into your Google Analytics account:

  1. Click on Reporting on the Top Bar.
  2. Select Mobile under Audience in the Sidebar.
  3. Click on Overview.

Tada, you have all the mobile traffic information that you could possibly want.

So, once you are inside your Google Analytics, you can scrutinize the number of visitors that you are getting from mobile phones every month. Observe the image below, the upward shift in organic mobile visits is a clear signal of the increased use of mobile phones for surfing the web.

mobile-traffic-extreme-seo-2

I am dealing with hundreds of websites every month, and 90% of this kind of upward slope is common for all these websites. This trend is so obvious, that I call in on some of my careless and lazy clients to observe their mobile trends and act accordingly in order to stay ahead of the competition all the time.

Why should you only optimize for mobile because of the oncoming Google update? Isn’t the whole idea already beneficial without having to take #mobilegeddon as a catalyst to fuel your interest?

So by studying the number of visitors your website is experiencing day after day, month after month – you can clearly estimate the number of visitors you may end up losing if your website is not effectively and timely optimized.

Here is a neat Case Study – Search Engine Land conducted on Moz.com to explain the process of estimating Mobile Traffic for a website that you do not own.

Say hello to “Mobile-friendly” Tags

If you haven’t noticed this before, take out your smartphones and type any keyword into Google. You will notice that most of the first page entries have a “Mobile-Friendly” tag attached to them.

Just for the fun of it, I performed a quick search on Google with my Mi4 (Awesome Phone – [email protected]$%Missing affiliate link). The keyword I selected is “Music Quotes” and here is a partial print-screen of the results.

mobile-friendly-tag-serps

Now you may notice that the first 2 results have a Mobile-friendly Tag, but the 3rd and 4th results don’t have a “Mobile-friendly tag.” Come 21st April, 2015 – I can say that these websites are going to be in trouble because they have not been optimized for mobile usability. (You can also keep it as a test and check on these websites when the day comes)

Write down the keyword – “music quotes”

Website No1 in trouble – quotegarden.com

Website No2 in trouble – musicmasterclass.com

Or do this experiment with a number of websites selecting a keyword from your industry.

Now, I am not saying that the first 2 websites are completely safe and prepared to face the upcoming update. But they may as well be in trouble for their other pages – You never know.

What you can do is, perform a few Google searches which your website is already ranking for and check if your website is getting the “Mobile Friendly Tag.”

Don’t just check your homepage, search “keywords” that display your Inner pages in the SERPs and see if you are still getting the “Mobile Friendly Tag.”

Perform the same check for your competitors and see if their pages are getting the “Mobile Friendly Tag.”

If they are and you are not, then you better buckle up your seat belts as they will get a massive advantage over you after 21st April, which they will enjoy for quite a long period of time. And if it’s the case vice versa, then Congratulations! You are prepared for the post #mobilemadness days.

Don’t just stop after you see the “Mobile Friendly Tag” for your website in the Google SERPs.  This detailed guide will give you a clear view edge over your competition for many more days to come. There is lots of work to be done and there are only a few days – so keep reading!


#5 How Can You Avoid Getting Bitten By Google Mice This Time?

Before we jump into the Checklist of how to make your website mobile friendly, it is wise to brush along the sides of the subject (just the way Google like’s it).

  1. Allow Googlebot to access the JavaScript, CSS and Images files of your website.
  2. Don’t use any kind of unplayable content – Especially Flash.
  3. Avoid Faulty Re-directs. This can happen when you inappropriately redirect your desktop URLs to Mobile URLs.
  4. Don’t harass users by blocking them from viewing content with too many intrusive download links and messages or advertisements.
  5. Avoid cross-linking blunders. This can happen if you have multiple versions of the website and you redirect users to the wrong mirror page.
  6. Enhance your mobile site speed with Google PageSpeed Insights.

 This is just the way Google likes it. Now head over to my all encompassing Checklist of To-Do things to dodge the April 21st Update and prepare your online business for the future.


 #6 Checklist for Mobile Friendly Website (~Avoid Google Nerf)

Mobilegeddon Checklist 2015

With Mobilegeddon on the loop, and not many days for it set the Internet crazy – Here is my detailed checklist of things that you must take into consideration if you are a website owner or are responsible for the good health of your organization’s website.

Look at the image above, this is a screenshot from the Google Analytics of Prime One Global. You can clearly see that we receive a steady inflow of footfalls through organic mobile search. Now, if we were to ignore this figure and not bother about mobile optimization before the 21st of April – you could call us sheer foolish (but, thankfully it is not the case as we are already up and ready, and we help others optimize their websites too).

You can be a designer, developer or another SEO company, or even someone managing a website, and this detailed checklist will help you with making your website mobile friendly. So even if you are in the website development phase or are planning to design one in the future – you can use this checklist to make your website Mobilegeddon safe.

1. GOOGLE QUALITY COMPLIANCE CHECK

With all the #mobilemadness #mobilegeddon hype on the web, it is easy to get swayed and puzzled about what you should do to make your mobile, website friendly, err… website – mobile friendly before the 21st of April. Before you even jump into the nitty-gritty of mobile optimization it would be wise to check if your website is already “As mobile friendly as Google wants it to be.”

Check the individual pages of your website with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Tool, which will help you with detailed information regarding optimizing your website. And if most of the pages of your website are passing the test without a twitch, you can be rest assured that nothing too dramatic is going to happen to your online presence after the onset of 21st April 2015.

With this said and done, you can also read what the search giant has to say about mobile optimization in their Webmaster’s blog. There is another useful read which Google published back in November last year about helping users find Mobile friendly websites.

2. Determining your INVESTMENTS AND RETURNS

If you are reading this checklist, then most probably you did not pass the Google Mobile Friendly Test or you are just hunting for more information. Planning to optimize your website for mobile can call in for an enormous investment, especially because the algorithm in question is going to do a full-site scan and not just a site-wide scan. Even if you are ready to go all-in on mobile optimization it is crucial to determine the amount of investment you need to make – both in terms of money and resources. Don’t rush to a conclusion – Plan your moves and execute them one by one, to reap the best benefits in the long run.

It’s important to understand how much organic traffic you are presently experiencing from search engines. If you haven’t done this yet, now would be the ideal time to log into your Google Analytics (I hope you have integrated your website(s) with GA) and determine whether there has been an upward shift in the amount of traffic you have been receiving in the past few months. If you notice that your business is receiving less than 10% traffic through mobile devices, it could mean one of the following things:

  1. Your website has poor SEO, which is resulting in poor organic traffic.

or

     2. Your website has poor Mobile Optimization and that is why it’s receiving less traffic.

or

     3. your business model doesn’t call for mobile viewers (9  out of 10 times this will not be the case)

Now if you are already experiencing very little traffic from mobile, I would suggest taking the slower route for this process as you may have more time than you really think.

But.

Let’s say, 30-50% of your organic traffic is from mobile phones, it calls for a faster and effective mobile strategy implementation.

How do you determine what amount of money and resources to invest?

The safest bet would be to allocate the same amount of money and resources that are available to you, to equal the share of mobile to desktop traffic that your website has been experiencing over the past few months.

3. BUILDING A MOBILE APP TO ENHANCE USER EXPERIENCE

facebook-app-serps

Even though Google introduced the App indexing feature to display applications in search results back in October 2013, it’s still a powerful way of enhancing the overall user experience of your brand.

It is not rocket science, we know that Google is driving these updates with a strict motive to give users the best search experience possible – Thus, if your business model can support an App for the users, it would be one of the best times to plan this out.

You may be wondering how on earth will you plan and execute an App development campaign before the 21st of April. Well, you don’t need to hurry about this; you can take your time and scale this into one of your marketing projects for the future.

Obviously, everything boils down to your capacity to invest/allocate (money and resources) at the moment, but again – you can keep this in mind for the future.

4. RESPONSIVE / DYNAMIC / PARALLEL

There are rumors that Google loves Responsive designs more than Dynamic URL Segmentation or Parallel URLs, but this is completely untrue. I have run quite a few tests in the past weeks, especially after Google’s  Feb 4th Update, and I can assure you that if your website is mobile-friendly there is nothing to worry about.

If you are unaware of which configuration option you should select for your website, then here is a description for a clear view:

  1. Responsive Design: This configuration serves the same content to desktop, mobile, and tablets by using CSS3 elements. So, the contents of your website will automatically resize for perfect display according to the device it is being viewed on. This configuration is the best because there is no duplication of content and there is no need to handle multiple mirrors of the same content. You just have to manage one single website. The only disadvantage of this configuration is that you cannot segregate Mobile only content nor have different content for different platforms.
  2. Dynamic / Adaptive Design: This option is almost the same as responsive design as you will be working on a single URL but, different HTML and CSS codes will be presented to users depending on the device they are viewing your website from. The only con of this configuration is that you will have to re-write the code of your website every time a new mobile device is released.
  3. Parallel URL Websites: Even though this is one of the most strenuous of all the options available, it still has its perks for those websites which need to laser focus on the mobile experience of their visitors. Opting for a Parallel URL website is like having a separate subdomain for example (m.yourwebsite.com or mobile.yourwebsite.com). Its cons include having to manage the mirror image of your website and dealing with duplicate content etc. Every time your website is updated, the changes have to be reflected in the other domain as well.

5. USING USER INTENT FOR ENHANCED VISIBILITY

It is not an unknown fact that most of the searches that are performed on the move are done via mobile phones and other hybrid devices. According to research, more than 80% of the searches performed on mobile are with local intent.

This means that people are most often looking for local addresses, telephone numbers, stock availability, and other business-related information via mobile phone. With this in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do customers come to my shop or office?
  2. Do I have a helpline to deal with customer inquiries?
  3. Do I sell goods and services that have the tendency to out-stock?

The answer to all these questions will mostly be a yes, and thus it may be a crucial business booster if you can place your Contact and Stock Information like (Map, Address, Contact Numbers, Email Id, etc) before the other information on your website, it will greatly boost conversions of your mobile site.

6. CREATE A MOCKUP FOR YOUR MOBILE WEBSITE

Before you jumpstart your mobile optimizing or website development journey, it is crucial to have a simple mockup of what you would like your website to look like in the end. You can use different mockup creation tools like Adobe In-design, Photoshop, etc., but just don’t trade the comfort of your users for elements that make your website too heavy to load or don’t appear properly on all devices.

Also take into consideration that some of the aspects of your desktop website will be difficult to convert to a mobile version, for example, the navigation menus or mouse hover menu reveals. These features never adapt to mobile websites, so you must look for better alternatives. Now let’s take a detailed look at the creation of your mobile website wire-frame.

i. Development: Remember to put the meta viewport tag on top of all your pages. If you took time out with the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, then you must have already fixed this up.

ii. Readable Fonts: Is your content legible for mobile viewing? If viewers have to constantly pinch the screen to change the size of your font, this does come as an obstruction in fluid visibility. Google recommends 16 CSS pixels and a line height of 1.2em.

iii. Distance Between Touch Elements: Ensure that all touch elements of your website have a considerable gap between them, or users may end up clicking the wrong button. This is the primary cause of increased bounce rates, low sales, and possible frustration or agitation among mobile surfers. Make sure that your Call-to-action button is clearly visible and accessible on all devices. You can also check if Google has picked any element of your website for being inaccessible in the Mobile Usability section of GWT.

7. AVOID HORIZONTAL SCROLLING IN MOBILE SITE

Even though this one is obvious, it wouldn’t hurt to have it in the checklist. Mobile surfers are used to vertical scrolling to view hidden aspects of a website, but if users have to scroll horizontally to read between the different sections of your website, then it may cause problems in user experience as they will mostly have to pinch the screen to resize it for a complete view.

This problem is also easily traceable through the Google Webmasters Tool.

NOTE: You can avoid getting this error in GWT by using relative width and position values in the CSS and also making sure your images are scaled properly.

8. OPTIMIZE FOR FASTER PAGE LOADING ON MOBILE

Again, this is a no-brainer.  The user’s type of device and data connectivity also plays an important part in the mobile surfing experience. Even though the world is blessed with 4G connectivity, more than 60% of people who are surfing the internet, do so through 3G connections. You wouldn’t want to properly optimize your website in all aspects and then lose out on precious leads or sales because your website was not able to load completely on slower devices, would you? There are variable controls that can be tweaked to achieve the best results but the first thing you should do is to head over to Google Page Speed Insights Tool to see what Google says about your website load time.

NOTE: You can do things like compressing images, minifying codes, and leveraging browser codes to enhance the load speed of your website(s).

9. AVOID FLASH AND DON’T BLOCK CSS, JAVASCRIPT, AND IMAGES FROM GOOGLEBOT

If you are using any flash elements on your website, now would be the time to get them removed. HTML5 is one of the best alternatives to flash elements on a website. We say that flash is not good for the mobile experience because Flash is not readily available on all mobile devices. Due to this, it may cause an erroneous mobile viewing experience for your users.

And the first thing that Googlebot will check when it crawls your website is for blocked CSS, JavaScript, or images. If it finds that any of these elements are blocked from crawling, then it will mark your website as “not-mobile-friendly.”

10. DISPLAY RELEVANT KEYPAD FOR FORM FIELDS

This is one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to mobile optimization and I have personally seen a 30% growth in opt-ins and leads from mobile visitors, when websites optimized their forms do display the right keypads. Check out your existing forms and see what the users will have to fill in separate fields. Check if the respective fields are displaying a relevant keypad. Having a ‘number keypad’ displayed in the contact number field and an ‘email-keypad’ displayed in the email form field will greatly enhance the mobile experience or your viewers and is worth tweaking.

11. CONTACT NUMBERS TO OPEN IN DIALER APP

My dad is not aware of how to copy and paste things on mobile phones and so are the majority of the people in this world. You must take this into consideration when optimizing your website for mobile because having to copy the number and paste it in the dialer or even write it down on a piece of paper makes the whole process cumbersome and messy. Sometimes, it may even result in people leaving your website without contacting you. Ensuring that clicking on your contact number opens the dialer app will get you those visitors who might be stuck on the fence just because they are unable to call you without leaving the screen or memorizing your number just to forget the last few digits when they are frantically typing into the dialer pad. Think about it.

12. HAVE YOUR WEBSITE TESTED INHOUSE OR HIRE PEOPLE

During the development phase of your website, it might be a good idea to constantly see how well it is performing on variable devices. This can be done through various emulators available online or you can manually do it on various devices (Borrow from your colleagues or family members).

Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, both have this nice ‘Inspect Element’ feature that lets you view your devices as seen by other devices – This is a very handy feature that I sometimes overuse.

Alternatively, you can also hire a bunch of testers or even organize an in-house event where the members are asked to surf your website in various mobile devices and give their inputs after 10-15 minutes of wading through your pages.

After the demo run, you can the testers to pen their individual feedback and collate them later on to pick up bits and pieces that need enhancing. Sometimes, it is just better to have someone else analyze your website because they will only think from a user’s perspective and tell you very obvious things that you may overlook, just because your brain is clustered with lots of plans and ideas.

Ending Note 

This is my all-encompassing checklist of website mobile optimization. I have helped a lot of my clients cope up with their mobile optimization needs, so if you need any help you can always ask for assistance on the Facebook Page or even in the comment section below. If you have any questions or want me to add something to this checklist, again, the comment section is a few blocks away.


 #7 Print Ready Extreme Checklist for MobilegeddonHandy-Mobile-Optimization-Checklist

Here is the download link to the print-ready version of this checklist for your convenience. Don’t forget to pin this checklist if you found it useful.

 

#8 List Of Useful Links And Resources Related To Mobilegeddon!

  1. Google Algorithm Database – List of all Algorithms updated will date.
  2. Google App Indexing Service – Want to get your app featured in SERPS? This is the door.
  3. Google Mobile Friendly Website Guidelines – Self Explanatory
  4. Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool – Check if your individual pages are mobile friendly.
  5. Google Mobile Usability Report – Get instant reports on mobile usability issues.
  6. Google Webmaster’s Help Forum – Ask Google for help!

Here is a list of Big G’s Guidelines for optimizing various leading CMS or similar platforms:

  1. WordPress
  2. Joomla!
  3. Drupal
  4. Blogger
  5. vBulletin
  6. Tumblr
  7. DataLife Engine
  8. Magento
  9. Prestashop
  10. Bitrix
  11. Google Sites

Here is a list of guides that can be used to change your not-so-responsive website into a “Responsive website.”

  1. Design a Skeleton Website
  2. Bootstrap Website Downloads : CSS/Java/Fonts + Source Code Rails/Compass/Sass
  3. Responsive Grid System Website Toolkit
  4. Advanced Responsive Website Designing Tutorial – Advanced HTML and CSS.

Extra Resources:

  1. List of different options for mobile navigation menus.
  2. Mashable’s list of top online wireframing tools.

google-mobile-friendly-websites-mobilegeddon-update

In the end, it depends on what your website is focused on and what business models you are following. There are a few things however that need no excuse not to be followed and doing the basic mobile optimization checks is one of them – After all, who doesn’t like an extra influx of visitors from mobile phones.

Unless you are from the underworld, in which case you will be using the .htaccess file – a few people will get what I mean and #5MinutesOfSilence for the people who don’t. Haha.

My apologies for such a lengthy post, but again I love to keep all the information in a single file so that you don’t have to run around from blog to blog, hunting for more information. If you like what I write or if you have any suggestions or need help regarding Mobile Website Optimization, you can also shoot a comment below or contact me at our official Facebook page and I will get back to you at the earliest. Hope you found this Guide helpful. Have a Good day! 
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Beware Online Pirates, Google’s New Pirate Update Is Infallible

Google Pirate update Rolled out

Pirates have existed for triggering copyright infringement in every possible manner on the vast Caribbean of the World Wide Web. This has always forced the different industries online, especially the entertainment industry since a past few years, to ask Google for coming up with its anti-piracy policy or tool. Well, as expected, these requests have fallen on the carefully listening ears due to which the search engine giant has managed to respond by implementing different anti-piracy measures safely.

Google has kept making changes in its search engine algorithms to demote the most wicked pirate sites. One of the most renowned changes is an improved effort to make such sites less visible in search results, directly indicating that they will not appear in the initial search pages. Since 2012, Google has been running a down ranking system but is reported to lack effectiveness as per the copyright industry groups such as RIAA and MPAA.

Just last week, the giant has announced of the improved version that aims to address this comment/issue. With the updated version of ‘How Google Fights Piracy’ report that was originally introduced in 2013 for defending the claims by film and music copyright holders, Google seems to give an overview of all the efforts for fighting piracy as well as reveal the importance of responsibility of copyright holders for making the content available. The 26-page report delineates the following anti-piracy principles of Google:

  • Defense against abuse
  • Generation of better and more legitimate alternatives to keep piracy at bay
  • Provision of transparency
  • Funds monitoring, as Google believes that the most effective way to fight against online pirates is to reduce their money supply while prohibiting rogue sites from its ad and payment services
  • Guarantee of effectiveness, efficiency, and scalability

Introduction to Google Pirate Update

dmca-googleEstablished in August 2012, the Pirate Update refers to a filter designed to disallow sites with several copyright infringement filings through the Google’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) system to rank well in the search engine results. Because this filter is regularly updated, the formerly influenced sites can manage to escape in case they have rectified the mistakes or made improvements. Well, at the same time, the filter is also capable of sensing new sites that managed to escape before as well as releasing ‘falsely caught sites’.

The update is just as other updates such as Penguin and allows processing all sites to catch any site appearing to be in violation. Once caught, the site is then stuck with a downgrade until they tend to get fewer or no complaints to get back into the race. However, since its day of introduction, the filter has never been rerun, which means a real pirate site along with new violators during this two years, which  need to be punished, might have managed to escape. This has perhaps made Google to finally update its Pirate Filter after two years!

Sensing Pirates

A smart way exists for Google to guess whether copyright infringement is happening, which is of using the DMCA ‘takedown’ requests. Due to these requests, the pirated content can be removed from Google. It is just a matter of filing a request and that pirate site can be easily thrown out from search results. Although this is not an evidence of copyright infringement, it acts as an allegation that can be challenged. Keeping this in mind, Google assesses each request and removes the content only after it deems valid.

It would not be wrong to say that filing such a request was a painful task, because each request only addressed one Web page. This was true in case the target Web site is big. However, today, the anti-pirate game’s target has changed from page-by-page to site-by-site basis. A guide to most likely to be affected sites is available on online transparency report showing the rank of sites according to the total number of takedowns obtained.

Therefore, if your site has received too many DMCA ‘takedown’ requests, it is high time to look out. This is because a new penalty is out to lower its rank in Google’s search results. Further, it is applied in conjunction with other penalties or updates such as Penguin and Panda.

Valid Requests: How Much Valid They Can Be?

Request-validation-exception

However, what if someone files a request or complaint that seems to be true even if it is not? Yes, chances are high of such an incidence to occur. A request filed needs to be ‘valid’. The definition of ‘valid’ is simply that a filing with right paperwork has not received a counter-comment.

It is a fact that only copyright holders can determine whether something is authorized and only a court can confirm whether a copyright was infringed or not. The search engine giant itself cannot find whether a specific page violates the copyright policy or not.

Well, while the new filter continues to influence the ranking order in search results, Google shall not remove any page from the results until it receives a justifiable copyright removal notice from the owner of the rights. Further, it will continue to offer counter-notice tools for reinstating the content that is believed to be wrongly removed.

According to a digital rights group called The EFF, it is particularly worried about the false positives problem. For instance, it is common to spot the government wrongly flagged sites that genuinely can post the supposedly infringing material under suspicion. The EFF, therefore, asserts that without knowing on how Google’s is planning to combat with piracy, it is not wise to assume its successful prevention of such similar mistakes.

It is also often argued that the takedown requests are only accusations of infringement of copyright. Neither Google nor court confirms about the validity of accusations although copyright owners might be hold accountable for bad-faith accusations. Downgrading search results only means telling the visitor that these are the most irrelevant sites to check out, which simply ends up giving more control to the copyright owners based on accusations alone.

A blog post by Public Knowledge that is an online rights group has raised fair concerns with reassurances. It believes that the filter is a winner in case the new policy helps in spotting legitimate sources, averts penalizing the lawful sites, and defends the legal interests of copyright holders. However, a new system such as this one has risks as well as accidental consequences, apart from the danger of being misused. Public Knowledge knows that Google is aware of this side of the coin but it is waiting to see how it will tackle such problems and whether it will go on to give top priority to the interests of users or not.

The Upcoming Update 2014

Upcoming-google-updates-For-2015

 

Keeping the above facts and controversies in mind, Google has planned to make it next update such that the pirate sites become harder to find, instead of dropping the sites from the search result pages. These sites will have lower visibility for common terms in use, such as a song or movie name.

The new tweak will ensure that a few most ‘notorious’ pirate sites are less likely to appear on result pages when searchers use keywords related to films, music, and other copyrighted content. However, the fact remains that those who know to search smartly and rightly will be able to see the pirate sites, at least their pages that have not been caught or removed through DMCA filings. Nevertheless, the update is likely to come with improvements and new efforts as follows:

  • Ad Formats: Katherine Oyama, Google’s senior copyright counsel, revealed about testing new ad formats showing links to authorized digital video and music services when search is made for keywords including ‘free’, ‘watch’, and ‘download’ and discarding terms from its auto complete facility in case the return results consists of several DMCA demoted sites. This will surely help in finding the legitimate media sources. The legal sites are likely to flow on top of the page. Apart from testing new formats of ads in search results, Google is also testing other ways of exposing legitimate sources of media, especially through the right panel on the search results page. Right now, these results are shown only in the United States but this will be expanded internationally.
  • Better DMCA Demotion Signal: Google has refined the signal to affect the visible rankings of a few most notorious sites coming up early on result pages for a targeted keyword. This will help down rank the truly violating sites.
  • Utilizing Autocomplete: The new update also aims to removing more terms from the well-known feature of autocomplete, which will done strictly on the basis of DMCA removal notices. Google has actually started demoting autocomplete predictions that fetch URLs on result page, which demoted by the DMCA.

This update is perhaps an essential move to allow the entertainment giants to get the most out of the Internet. With this update, no brand in the industry would continue to blame Google instead of its outdated distribution models. In fact, the MPAA has already admired this move of Google.

According to a post at The Guardian, Michael O’Leary who is the senior executive vice-president at the Motion Picture Association of America praised the entertainment industry. He is quite optimistic about the fact that this update will guide visitors to the several legitimate ways for accessing media online without stealing the hard work of innovative people.

Even RIAA has praised this update and believes it to better prioritize licensed music. It believes the update to be a potentially significant change that can prove to be truly meaningful to the creators by ranking the copyright violating sites lower in results than before. Well, this in turn, should ensure better rankings for licensed media services that not only deliver the best music but also pay to the creative artists. RIAA has affirmed the update to be a vital move in the right direction, something that all media players have been willing to see.

It can be concluded that most entertainment brands consider this update as a rational step, which treats copyright in a consistent manner. Certainly, Google has triggered an innovative willingness to treasure the rights of creators, considering that the digital marketplace on the Web for licensed digital services is far better than it was before few years.

The Reason behind Two Years Delay in Updating the Pirate Filter

While the algorithm updates are there since quite a time, piracy check has been a recent introduction. The reason for this is perhaps the recently recognized need of partnerships by this content distribution company.

It, therefore, has finally concluded to tackle the upsetting situation of pirate sites showing up higher in the result pages. However, one needs to think that why only Google is enforced for such anti-pirate policy while this happens even at Bing, about which anyone is hardly concerned.

Breaking the silence, Google has asserted that the anti-piracy change is happening now because it has all the required data that was lacking before. Because it introduced copyright removals in 2012, it has received much data about online content infringement by the copyright owners.

Today, Google is obtaining and processing more notices of copyright removal on daily basis than in 2009. It will now take this data for ranking pages in search rankings. According to the updated ‘The How Google Fights Piracy’ report, Google obtained more than 224 million DMCA requests in 2013 for search results. This means that the average time consumed for tackling these requests is below six hours. Google also revealed that it removed 222M, which indicates 1% rejection due to lack of additional information, false infringement, or inability to find the page.

At present, by gaining praises from the entertainment industry and digital rights groups, Google is also deepening its partnership with them. Recently, it has collaborated with Paramount Pictures for advertising their new movie ‘Interstellar’ through a highly interactive site. While strengthening the relationships, Google continues to strive hard for overcoming piracy across diverse services.

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Google’s Latest HTTPs as Ranking Factor – A Marketing Ploy or Tech Revolution?

Google’s Latest HTTPs as Ranking Factor – A Marketing Ploy or Tech Revolution?

 

A week back Google Announced that it will be using HTTPs as a ranking signal which means that, websites using HTTPs will be getting a slight advantage in Google SERPs. However, this could soon be a thing of the past. For now, let’s find out what this change could really mean for eMarketers? How does the small padlock in the address bar change your online experience? 

Google has already migrated all of its products to HTTPs security and now it seems to be on a mission to save the entire world. In this zeal it claims to be offering to use the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPs) as a site ranking signal. One must understand that this is not a significant algorithmic change like Hummingbird and it has nothing to do with the Panda, Pigeon or Penguin for that matter. It is a stand along change and will rule its guidelines according to the patterns set by Google. It is estimated that Google uses around two hundred such signals. Now, HTTPS would just be one more signal to rank websites. So the question is how important is this? More importantly, how does this concern ordinary users and website owners? Let’s read further to find out.

What is HTTPs? Does it make a huge impact on SERPs?

HTTPs is nothing but adding an SSL 2048-bit key certificate on a website that makes it more secure. The recent changes implemented by Google will give a minor boost to the sites. Some say that they have already started seeing the changes in effect while some claim that this migration is going to be a hell of a process. What HTTPs really does is – It uses additional measures to secure data transferred over the internet. While using the HTTP protocol, browsers and web servers exchange plain text data, leaving it vulnerable to spying, data theft and hacking as a potential attacker would be able to see and intercept your data, and use it for unauthorized access into websites or other such illegal activities. However, when the secured HTTPs version is used, the exchanged data gets protected by several other methods such as:

  • Advanced Data Encryption — Encryption of the data during exchange keeps it secure from getting snooped. This maintains the privacy of users over the internet at all times till they are under the protection of the HTTPs padlock. In other words, while a user is browsing a website, no one can see their conversations, or track their online activities or steal their data in any way.
  • Veracity of Data — Under the protection of HTTPs protocol, no data can be edited or dishonored during transfer – intentionally or unintentionally. Even if someone tries to invade your privacy, their efforts shall be detected and blocked immediately.
  • Advanced Data Verification — Under the protection of the HTTPs padlock a user can be sure that they are under complete supervision. It prevents manipulation and rules out the possibility of hacker attacks.

 

Who uses HTTPs?

If you have read all the way through this article it wouldn’t be a difficult choice in making the decision to HTTPs transition. If you really care about the integrity of your website and its visitors, making the shift would definitely be a major contribution to the online society, not just your website. In practice, the HTTPS protocol is used by companies and sites where logging in and account security is of paramount importance and sites involving financial transaction like online shopping, banking sites. Credit and Debit Card Transactions are usually done via the HTTPs protocol.

How do i know whether it is important to make a shift for my website?

In all cases, transitioning to HTTPs will provide your website with immense security and protection. But, not all websites really need to make the change to HTTPs. If your website falls under any of the below-mentioned categories, it is advisable to talk to an expert immediately to the shift to HTTPs.

  • If the site is making financial transactions – If your website is more of an e-commerce store where there are constant credit and debit card transactions, you must have already shifted to HTTPs long time ago – If you haven’t, then do your customers a favor and quickly get on with it.
  • If the website is collecting personal data – If your website is a PII (Personally Identifiable Information) collection hub – For example, if your website collects the private information of visitors like account login, passwords, commenting, and subscriptions through email etc, having HTTPs is a safe and reputable practice.
  • For purely informational websitesMigrating to HTTPs is not mandatory in this case, but still having HTTPs protocol will ensure that your users are protected from phishing attacks of hackers and other scam practices.

Will HTTPs help bolster my Internet Ranking?

Yes! Simply put, HTTPs will help boost the ranking of your website but as we all know Google uses 200 other such signals in calculating the ranks of a website, the changes will be strictly minor.

Frankly speaking, the HTTPs Signal is not as strong as compared to other signals for chalking the ranking benefits of your website. It is only a very lightweight ranking signal. According to the tests conducted by the Search Giant, there is an impact of less than 1% for total global queries. This should not be taken as an excuse to not make the change if your site needs it as Google plans to strengthen the signal in the near future. I would urge all websites that need to get a shift to do it fast as this small change will be a significant contribution to your users, as well as for the wellbeing of your site in the future.

In a recent post, Google added that the tests conducted over a period of months have yielded positive outcomes. They have assured that however minute, the HTTPs signals have made a difference in the overall ranking of the websites.

Google has added that their tests have yielded positive results in the past few months. They claim that the HTTPS signal has showed itself to be relevant in terms of rankings for Google’s search results. In fact, this announcement comes less than five months after Google’s head of search spam Matt Cuffs said that he would love to make SSL certificate a factor for search rankings.  So does this mean that unless my website is secure, it will not rank high on Google search? As of now, not really (given HTTPS is only one of several signals) but in the future, given Google’s zeal, perhaps yes.

Google has also run this ranking signal in real time. This is a shift from the erstwhile Panda or Penguin algorithms. The moment Google indexes a new HTTPS URL, that URL will immediately witness a tiny boost to its ranking because it is using the HTTPS URL. Of course that does not mean that one will see his/her site’s rankings increase prolifically. Like, for example, say the resulting number will not jump from 5 to 4, but it will, unobserved behind the scenes, have a small, increment in the overall ranking algorithm.

One also has to keep in mind that Google’s HTTPS rankings are on a per URL Basis. This basically means that if your website has some pages which have migrated to HTTPS protocol while the other pages have not, Google will give the ranking boost to only those pages which are on the HTTPS URLs and not to the other pages. Thus, the signal is on a per-URL basis, and not on a sitewide (full site) basis. This means that Google basically wants users to migrate the whole site to HTTPS but if one wants to do it in stages or try it out, one can do it technically on a URL by URL basis.

Thus, the shift will be more gradual than revolutionary. And do not expect that simply using the HTTPS will immediately revolutionize your site’s rankings. As stated before, quality of content remains the primary factor in adjudging the rankings. Moreover, the change in the rankings will only be applicable to those pages that have the HTTPS protocol.

So, is the shift to HTTPs really worth it?

This is one question that is coming up in everyone’s mind, and you were probably going to ask me the same in sometime. Interestingly, I do not have a definite answer to this yet, as there is not much news about this Ranking Signal, which we can bank on. I tried to weigh down the subject-scope with whatever little is known so far to help you make a decision yourself. Regardless of the conclusion to this question, I believe that the answer is going to vary from person to person as not everyone will face the same problems others are facing, and not everyone is ready to invest into this matter so soon.

Let’s see what we have here,

In terms of security, HTTPs wins the case as it will protect clients, visitors and moreover all users from third-party breakthroughs and other types of illegal prying and data tampering.

One major setback of the HTTPs migration is the costs involved. Switching over to HTTPs is definitely not free of cost (It looks like more of a marketing ploy now). One needs to pay for SSL certificates renewal and maintenance from time to time.

HTTPs is the standard for all eMarketing businesses that use their customers card based information for website transaction and security. Using the HTTPs complies with Payment Card Industry Data Security Services. It is MANDATORY for all websites that do financial transactions.

One needs to have a separate IP address for every SSL certificate that needs to be bought. How many IPs will a person need to make his entire website SSL protected? There is however a dodge to this situation if you can opt for a Shared IP – but that is only if your server supports Server Name ID. There is a problem with SNI as well. It is not recognized by old browsers in Windows XP.

Speaking of Conversion, security breach and online fraud are the biggest concerns of netizens nowadays. With growing awareness about theft of PPI from less secured websites, user’s just do not transact or even communicate with HTTP sites anymore. Thus, it is a good symbol for establishing trust amongst customers that their data will always be in the right hands.

While some claim that HTTP’s migration has significantly boosted their website speed, most people are saying that their website has become slower than ever. This may be due to that the slowdown is caused by the extra-processing power involved in Encryption and Decryption.

The Padlock icon has become a symbol of security and trust in the eyes of the entire world today. This small padlock icon will build great brand reputation and boost the popularity of the brand as a genuine and trustworthy business.

If you do not have much knowledge of handling server configuration, the process of migrating to HTTPs maybe an intricate one, best left to a professional. During the transition, all HTTP URLs must be permanently relayed to HTTPs with a ‘301 Redirect.’ All absolute internal links in your website need to be edited into HTTPs URLs or relative URLs.

And, there is always a chance of getting rewarded in the future. Even though the changes in the ranking may seem to be insignificant at this time, but if Google maintains the same zeal that it has for website security, we could be looking at a greater boost in the future for HTTPs websites.

This is one of the major setbacks of HTTPs migration; all your hard earned Social Signals will be lost.

Many external applications in your website will either stop working or malfunction when you transition to HTTPs from HTTP. To avoid this mess, it is best to check the compatibility of all your applications and plugins installed on your page before shifting.

Any external HTTP content will be blocked. This will result in external content from non-HTTPs resources showing error messages. Always ensure that your HTTPs page contains content from HTTPs websites only and that your Content Delivery Network will support it well.

Another devastating setback of the HTTPs transition is that your AdSense revenue will drop significantly.

This is what Google stated in their official blog – 

HTTPS-enabled sites require that all content on the page, including the ads, be SSL-compliant. As such, AdSense shall remove all non-SSL compliant ads from competing in the auction on these pages. Thus, ads on the HTTPS pages might earn less than ads on your HTTP pages.

SEO concerns over HTTPS?

Should one be concerned when switching over from your HTTP to HTTPS site as far as SEO purposes are concerned? The answer to this question is a plain and simple no. Google has been asking people to transition to HTTPs from many years ago. I personally remember Matt Cuffs (Head of Spam), Google, say in a conference in 2012 that Google should induce SSL Certificates as a ranking factor. (I am trying to find that PR, but its lost somewhere on the Internet). Even though SEO is not a concern, one still has to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the traffic does not suffer in any way. One must maintain proper communication with Google about their HTTP to HTTPs transition. Google has promised to release more documentation in the future in Webmaster Central, but for now there are a few guidelines provided which one must keep in their mind while making the switch:

  • Do you need a single domain certificate, multi-domain certificate or a wildcard certificate?
  • Always use the 2048-bit key certificates
  • Remember to use relative URLs for all relative resources that reside in your protected domain
  • Always use Protocol relative URLs for other domains
  • Google has published a Website Move article which has better and in-depth guidelines.
  • Don’t prevent your HTTPs website from crawling using robots.txt
  • Let your pages be indexed where ever possible. Remember to avoid using no index robots meta-tag.

Google has also updated its Webmaster Tools to handle HTTPs websites.

Another wise thing to do would be to make sure to track the HTTP to HTTPs migration carefully using analytics software.

The Final Verdict

Thus, we see that while switching over to HTTPS is a very safe option for oneself as well as for the entire internet using community, it is also a cumbersome process. To come out with a clean yes or no verdict seems to be rather problematic and the answer is also relative depending on who the reader is. If you are the owner of a shopping site or something, then it would be a resounding yes. On the other hand if you have a site that does not handle much of financial transactions or personal information then it is perhaps a better option to take the back seat and watch the action from the sidelines now. As time unfolds there would be better options available and the picture would get clearer and perhaps a time will emerge where it would be possible to make more informed decisions.

Do you agree with us? Have you already migrated to HTTPs? Dont forget to share your experience with us, in the comments section below.

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Google Pigeon Algorithm – Most Significant Changes To Ranking Signal

Google Pigeon Algorithm – Most Significant Changes To Ranking Signal

 

The recent Google pigeon algorithm implemented by Google on July 24th provides practical, precise and relevant local search results that are of greater help to users than the previously generated organic search results. The change in Google’s Pigeon Rank Algorithm has affected the local search listings, and this is visible on the Google Web and Google Maps Search Results page. Major changes have been made behind the curtain, and the ripples are beginning to show on the surface. Due to this change, local businesses might have noticed slight amounts of increase or decrease in the leads generated, website referrals and online business. The latest Google Search Engine Algorithm shares deeper roots with their search results capabilities, consisting of the numerous ranking signals that are used every day in web search along with search tools such as spelling correction, Knowledge Graph and synonyms, etc. In addition to these factors, the latest Google Algorithm Updates improve on their present distance and location ranking parameters. Even though Google accepted that a new algorithm change has been implemented, they declined to name this update. Barry Schwartz, the News Editor of SearchEngineLand, named this the Pigeon Update, since the changes affect local listings only. Three factors played an important role in this nomenclature.

  • Most of Google’s prototype devices or pre-production products/services are code named after animals or birds. For example, their previous algorithm updates were the Panda and Penguin, while the upcoming Google Nexus 5 is known internally as the Hammerhead. Hence, Pigeon seems apt!
  • Since the names of the earlier algorithms started with the alphabet ‘P,’ it was customary to do the same this time around too. Once again, the name Pigeon stuck on!
  • Google’s Pigeon Update Affects Local Search Listings only and we know that the pigeon is a domestic bird that likes to fly home at the end of the day. Hence, the name makes sense.

 

 

What is the Google Pigeon Algorithm and what are its Functions?

 

I want you to get the basics clear right from the beginning as Google is very strict when it comes to implementing guidelines and penalizing websites for playing with the Rules. When Google sets up Rules, these Rules are legit, and when they say that your website’s ranking on their Search Engine depends on 200+ factors, Google is not faking it. Finding out what these factors are and studying them in detail could take up to a few years, as a major part of these factors are constantly upgraded. Most of these upgrades are on-site, commanding greater focus and attention. A complete SEO Audit can help you figure out the missing aspects from your website, like Meta Information, content and the navigation, etc. You website’s search result rankings are bound to improve once the suggested corrections are implemented, and Google conducts a thorough research before implementing a new algorithm.

 

I . Changes to Local Listing Packs and Keywords Go Missing

In the pre-Pigeon era, the top-three search results tab would have been hogged by Pizza Hut, Dominos or any other reputed business franchise. However, in the post-Pigeon era, local businesses are getting priority. Their menus, photographs and reviews will be added to Google Plus (G+), which will then feature on Google’s SERP. Local business owners can make use of this situation and share the content of their business or improve business activity on Google Plus, to further enhance their visibility. The latest update from Google is undoubtedly quite large. Even though we do not have the official statistics, it is large enough for Webmasters and SEOs to report major activity and fluctuations. While some were happy with the changes, others were complaining. Even though this is a common phenomenon every time Google introduces an update, the sheer scale of the fluctuations is what sets things apart this time. There was a lot of activity, claiming that the quality of posts had fallen by 60-% since the new update came into effect.

MozCast-Feature-Graph

Image 1: Local Pack Data

This image borrowed from Mozcast indicates a drop in the Local Pack for queries after Google Pigeon was introduced. Similar results are seen for the various other images, depicting Google Images and Carousel, etc.

MozCast-Feature-Graph

Image 2: Google Images

MozCast-Feature-Graph1

Image 3: Google Carousel

The major change that was witnessed right after the Pigeon update came into effect was the lower number of queries including the local listing packs. According to the SERP Feature History from MOZ cast, the number of queries reduced from 12.1% on 23rd July to 3.3% on the 27th of July, as showcased in Image 6.

Google-pigeon-update-date-check-the-guide

Image 4: Drop in Queries

If your website were affected within a similar time frame, it could be a result of the Penguin Update. In order to cover for the losses within a short time frame, you could opt for a PPC campaign while a viable long-term strategy would be to get Web Search Listings for your targeted keywords. Another interesting addition that was made to enhance the local listing experience is showcased in Image 7 below.

Have You Seen This Before?

I have experienced a new feature in Google when I was looking for hotels in the search query. Google asked me whether I was looking for local results in the United States. This feature is currently available only in the USA and should soon be introduced globally. This looks like another potent addition, all thanks to the Pigeon update, which is aimed at enhancing the local listings pack. Yelp!, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon and Many Other Local Directories Get the Best from Google’s Pigeon.

New-update-that-has-popped-up.-When-you-look-for-places-restaurants-or-hotels-Google-is-asking-for-Zipcode-It-will-remember-prefrenece-for-all-future-uses

Image 5: Zip Code for Local Results

Here is a detailed analysis on Yesterday’s Google Pigeon Rank Algorithm, which set the local directories free. From this analysis that I put forth, it can be clearly seen that local directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon are getting the better off other web-pages after Google let the Pigeon out of the cage. Google fixed one of the major problems ‘Yelp!’ was having with their SERP’s. Yelp had accused Google of manipulating their search results to display their local listings before the listings of ‘Yelp!’ even when the search queries included the term ‘yelp’.  After the update was leashed on the 24th of July, webmasters noticed that when search queries included the term ‘yelp’ the SERP’s were filled with local listings from the directory of Yelp! And for some queries the entire first page SERP’s listings included links from directories of Yelp!

Hotel-mulberry-Google-Search-without-tripadvisor

Image 6: Hotel Mulberry Search Result

When “hotel mulberry” was used as a search query in Google, SERP’s displayed the chief website of “Hotel Mulberry” at first followed by listings from all other local directories like TripAdvisor, Booking, Yelp, Hotels etc. (See Above Image)

When the same keyword was followed by this format (Keyword + directory) it displayed this result. In this case, I used “Hotel Mulberry (Main Keyword) + TripAdvisor (Directory).”   (See Below Image)Hotel-mulberry-tripadvisor-Significant-boost-in-rankings-after-Pegion-Update

Image 7: Hotel Mulberry TripAdvisor Search Result

The results displayed the listing from TripAdvisor followed by the main website of “Hotel Mulberry” and then listed other leading directories like Hotels, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Booking etc. Similarly I conducted a search for “Swissotel” and the SERP is displayed below.   Swissotel-without-tripadvisor

 Image 8: Swissotel Search Result

The results displayed the main website of “Swissotel” followed by links from Wikipedia and TripAdvisor. Again local directories are getting a lot of preference after the Pigeon Update.


swissotel-tripadvisor-Google-Search-Look-at-the-ranking-of-swissotels-website

Image 9: Swissotel TripAdvisor Search Result

 

When the same keyword was used along with “TripAdvisor”, it can be seen that the entire first page is filled with listings from TripAdvisor.

Local Directories Have Also Benefited

Not only is Yelp! And TripAdvisor benefiting from this update, but all local directories are also getting the best of the latest Google Pigeon Rank Algorithm. Though it may look like these two directories and similar styles are profiting from the Pigeon update more than other directories, but the ‘other-directories’ are also not lagging behind. The Google Update clearly mentioned that it will tie local results more closely to standard web ranking results. The reason that Yelp! And TripAdvisor are dominating the SERP’s is not because of this update, but simply because these websites have a far superior SEO framework than any other directory website.

What Point do I Want to Prove

From the aforementioned examples, I want to prove this point that though the Pigeon has only flown over United States, it will hit the global environment soon. The best measure to make sure that your local business does not get a piece of the Pigeon dropping is to enlist your business in as many local directories as possible. Give your website / business an authority in terms of Geographic location and Identity. This will be a boon for companies with local establishment and limited resources who have forever suffered the blow of the Major MNC’s and Silicon Valley Organizations.

II . Google Local Carousel – What is it?

Local Carousel’s were introduced back in April 2013 (or around that time). This was one of the most significant changes Google made to its Search Result Displays around that time. A Google Local Carousel is just like you can anticipate; a carousel (Image bar with links) at the top of the display results. If you are still wondering about what a Google Carousel Looks like, here is an image for a better picture.   English-Movies

Image 10: Google Carousel -List of Johnny Depp Movies

As you can see above, the Carousel was a great addition to search results, it makes the entire process of query hunting much easier and it is ‘definitely’ worth optimizing for. Even though at the moment Google Local Carousel is displayed only for 1% of the search queries, it is still worth optimizing for your business page.

What Happens in Google Local Carousel?

Just like I mentioned before, the Google Local Carousel is only shown for 1% of the keyword entries in Google, it is the right time to optimize your business page for Local Carousel as very soon SERP’s will start displaying them for most incoming local searches – At least, as much as it would be possible.

How Does the Google Local Carousel Work?

The time is soon to come, when Google will display Local Carousel for most incoming searches. It has already received so many positive feedbacks for Google Local Carousel, and I am sure it is working towards inculcating it in an in-depth pattern. For now local restaurants and hotels are the most to make appearance in Google Local Carousel. There are also different filters that can be customized in the carousels and they will change the search results according. Something that people forget to mention or that I do not find in any other blogs is that the Carousels can also come up for other “not local” searches – This is the reason why I have uploaded below the pictures of Google Carousel for “List of Horror Movies” (To show the difference). There are lots of customization options for these searches, just like for the below search, there is an option to search by “Year” and “Genre”.

Additional Details on the Google Carousel

The carousel was introduced to give local business an incentive to engage online, there are quite many benefits of Google Carousel:

  • The Carousel Images are attractive to look at and get more engagement by users. It is a tendency of users to click on attractive images first when they are searching for local businesses. Surveys conducted clearly show that most users always opt for businesses with a visual appeal before making a purchasing decision.
  • The Detailed listings above the SERP’s are a great relief, as there is high chance of recognizing and finding your query with an image than by reading all the (boring text) below to find out exactly what you need.
  • The Local Carousels also display a Local Map aside the SERP’s to give a more visual idea of where the local business are based – (It’s easy to spot something on a map and check out directions to reach the page, all from the Search Results page).
  • There is an added option to hover over the Carousel Images of businesses to such as Contact Information, Hours of Work, and Email-Id etc.So stop dreaming, and get talking with your SEO Consultant  immediately.

 

What I Would Like You to Do

Even though you do not have a choice about whether you want your business to show up in local carousel (not that you would have any reason against the same), there are a few things you can do to make the best of Google Local Carousel (When it hits your domain). There are a few things to follow so that you can get your Business befitting the guidelines Google Local Carousel. Keep in mind that the Local Carousel will be the most beneficial for small businesses, as it gives you the opportunity to shine, against all odds as compared to bigger and more powerful organizations. Make a difference now, as our analysis shows, that Local Carousel has won 48 percent of the clicks as compared to the first spot on first organic search. This will also give the right visibility to connect with the local users. First thing to do is remove all the Low Quality images from your website, and replace with the most high quality images. Google will randomly select a photo from your page to select a head photo (Which will represent your website in the Local Carousel). Second thing you should be aiming at is keeping your pages update with all the SEO measures (It’s not possible to be perfect, but you have to keep it as updated as possible). The rest will be taken care of by Google itself.

III . Yeah! Google Pigeon Drops the Security Bomb

Google has forever given top priority to Security and recently, it has launched the Security Bomb on search engines. All leading businesses today try to invest as much resource and energy as possible in keeping their Sites updated and fit according to the Google SEO Guidelines. Now Google has decided to reward the websites which also give priority to the security of their users along with the content that is displayed to give the users an ultimate web browsing experience that is not only result-oriented but also secure. We are talking about websites with strong HTTP’s encryption by default.

 

Google insists on making the internet a powerful set secure place for its users and is going to change its ranking algorithm in a pattern to give websites with secure HTTPS and SSL certificates more priority over the others. These changes have already been adopted by Google in its services a long time ago, like Google Search, Gmail, Google Drive are good examples of a secure connection – according to Google. This is how a website with secure SSL certificate and HTTPs looks like:

Google-Security-Information

Image 11: Example of a Website With Secure SSL Certificate and HTTPs

Webmasters who were present at the Google I/O this year should have already know this was coming as Google had launched a campaign called “HTTPs Everywhere.” Since then we have even seen various corporations adopting the HTTPs. I conducted a thorough research to see if the changes were visible in the SERP’s and I realized, though it may seem insignificant at the moment, but the results are already starting to shine for those websites which have made a change.   HTTPS-Update-Comment

Image 12: Comment Taken From Google Web Master Center

The above screen shot (was taken on 13th August) is of a comment from the Google Web Master Center. Google clearly mentions that this is a “very lightweight” ranking signal for every website; in fact Google also added that it is less regarded than the actual “high-quality” content signal. Google further mentioned that this Security Bomb will only affect less than 1% queries globally. Considering the size of the internet, that 1% grows up to be a size that can dwarf all businesses and organizations alike.

What I Would Like You to Do

You should consult with your SEO before making the migration from HTTP to HTTPs so that it does not affect your traffic adversely. Things that you need to understand in order to make the migration:

  • What kind of certificate your website needs? Single, Multi-Domain or Wild-Card Certificate.
  • Always Use 2048-Bit Key Certificates
  • Always Use Relative URL’s for resources that inhabit the same domain
  • Don’t forget to update the robots.txt file to ensure that you don’t block your HTTPs site from crawlers.
  • Avoid no index robots Meta tag as much as possible.

Don’t forget to track your HTTP to HTTPs relocation in your analytics software and also within Google Webmaster Tools.

For All Who Don’t Want to Read the Details

Checklist to Help Avoid the Pigeon Dropping

Yes! I am well aware of the fact that it turned out to be a lengthy piece of article, but I had no options but to include whatever ever changes I found significant and whatever I think might be important in the near future. If you just want to skim through the details to find out what elements of the SEO you are in control of, this is a perfect checklist for you to absorb the changes from the very start till the end.

  • In case you have noticed a significant drop in your local listings for various keywords, there is a possibility that you have been dropped on by the Pigeon. Possible solution is to run a PPC campaign for the short run, but the only effective and long term strategy will be to optimize and run more content development campaigns for those keywords.

 

  • Make sure that your website has the good authority. Check all your back links, content and other SEO metrics to find out that your website authority is in good shape.
  • Focus on enlisting your website in as many local directories as possible, as the Google’s Pigeon Rank Algorithm has been very considerate on these websites.

Final Verdict

Since Google implemented the Pigeon Update on the 24th of July, numerous changes in the Google SERP have surfaced. Unlike the Panda or Penguin updates, the Pigeon does not ban websites or flag low quality content. It is unique in its functionality, as it prioritizes local listings obtained on the SERP, helping small and medium segment businesses flourish. During the period between July 24th and 25th, a huge wave of irregularities was noticed in the page rankings. While most business owners could not recognize the surrounding changes, SEOs and Webmasters were aware of the ongoing changes. Optimized websites are not the first priority anymore, defying the laws of Domain Authority. With the help of an in-depth analysis, we see that registering your website with local directories such as Yelp!, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor, etc. is paying off for the time being. Google has also decided to reward websites that follow its security protocols while staying updated. The shift to secure HTTPS and SSL certificates will also pay off in the long run. Overall, we can conclude that the Google Pigeon update introduces a host of new features while making your browsing experience safer than ever. Website owners should make it a point to upgrade their website at the earliest to reap the benefits.

Have you started making changes to your website already? Don’t wait for the Pigeon to drop on you, and hit the chords for this new boon – Starting Today! Share your experience and problems as they come, in the comments section below.

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