Thumbtack Hit With Manual Action… Penalty Dropped a Week Later

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Last week, it was confirmed that Thumbtack – previously backed by Google Capital – was hit with a manual action for having unnatural links. However, only a week later the penalty has been dropped, leading people to speculate that Google may be giving the company preferential treatment.

Thumbtack had “unnatural links” to their site, which led to a manual action that caused “a huge decline in Google referrals, ultimately impacting the leads that professionals in their network are receiving”, as reported in Search Engine Land.

The penalty allegedly occurred because of a post suggesting that Thumbtack paid for links, which they denied, saying that “We have always strived to work within Google’s guidelines”.

However, numerous people have reported Thumbtack asking for links to sections of their website in exchange for progress points. Which counts as buying links.

Once hit with the penalty, Thumbtack apparently saw a drop in rankings, with numerous users voicing the issue on Twitter.

In response to this, Thumbtack emailed all of their businesses asking for the link to be removed or nofollowed. This may seem a little weak, and it appears that they did not disavow any links or take any other additional measures to remove the links.

Nevertheless, however, a week after the penalty was issued, Thumbtack are back in their original position.

Their bounce back to the same position implies that nothing more than the email asking for removal of the link was done, which to some implies that Google has let them off lightly. Additionally, manual penalties usually take weeks or months to recover from, but this happened in less than a week. Is this more evidence Google treat Thumbtack differently? Many SEOs seem to think so.

If you would like more information, or advice from a search engine optimisation company, talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Research Says Users Search in Diverse Ways

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Analysing keywords in a SEO campaign is vital to ensure you are using the correct keywords to target your users. If research is carried out thoroughly then the success of the keywords should help you rank higher and increase traffic to your website, increasing conversion rates. However, we cannot accurately define why a user visits the site through keyword analysis alone, it is important to analyse your target audience also.

A research study, ‘Psychology of the Searcher: Patterns in How Searchers Formulate Queries’ by Nile Research found that users searched in two particular ways, either in full queries or fragmented, shorter queries. The full queries are usually longer in length and show that the user is looking for a specific answer to their search. Whereas fragmented, shorter queries show the user prefers speed over specifics.

However, when analysing the number of words in a query, no individual number represented more than a third of the searchers, suggesting users search in varied, distinct ways. These results conclude to marketers that a deeper knowledge of their target audience is vital to ensure keywords in a campaign are correctly used to target their audience.

Because of these findings it is important to analyse your campaign and invest in thorough market research to benefit a business’s campaign. By analysing user search methods it is possible to gain a thorough understanding of your users as well as keyword analysis. These methods ensure you gain a higher insight to a business’s audience and ultimately use keywords that increase traffic to your website.

If you would like any help or advice on keyword research for your target audience, or would like any other help with search engine optimisation, then talk to somebody at Search Marketing Group today.

Google-Twitter Deal Live

In February, Google and Twitter made a deal allowing Google access to Twitter’s Tweets stream to show in their search results. Then, in April, Google began experimenting with showing Tweets to mobile users. Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo also announced in April that we should expect to see changes in May. Well, we are seeing those changes.

This week, the deal between Twitter and Google finally came into force, with Google showing tweets on mobile device searches. Tweets should also begin to show on desktop searches soon.

On Tuesday the 19th May, Twitter announced “Starting today, U.S. users searching in English will see relevant Tweets in their search results within the Google app (iOS and Android) and mobile web. The desktop web version is coming shortly, and we have plans to bring this feature to more countries in the coming months”.

Similarly, Google announced “Starting today, we’re bringing Tweets to Google Search on mobile devices. So now when you’re searching on the Google app or any browser on your phone or tablet, you can find real-time content from Twitter right in the search results… To start, we’re launching this on Google.com in English in the Google app (on Android and iOS) and on mobile browsers, rolling out gradually. We’re working on bringing it to more languages and to desktop, so stay tuned.”

So, by the sounds of things, we should see the feature in the UK too soon. If you’re eager to see the feature in action, however, then Search Engine Land have some screen shots of searches for #izombie.

At the moment, it is not clear why some Tweets show and others don’t, although it seems to be related to what is trending or in the news. It is also not clear why some Tweets appear at the top of the page and others closer to the bottom.

If you would like help with search engine optimisation, such as setting up your own social media accounts or making your website mobile friendly, then talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Expedia Experimenting With Emojis

Last week, we reported that emojis have begun showing up on desktop as well as mobile searches. We also mentioned potential problems with this, in that spammers may begin to make use of emojis to attract users to their sites. Now, it seems that Expedia is experimenting with them.
Expedia.com is part of the Expedia, Inc. company dealing with global online travels. As such, it evidently is not a spammy site. It has, however, begun using emojis in title tags to increase visibility, which – when abused – can be seen as spammy.

Whilst Expedia have only used one emoji per title tag, they are nevertheless attempting to manipulate the search results in a way that could lead to search results filled with spam. Say, for example, that another well-known travel site also wants to stand out – so they ‘one-up’ Expedia and use two emojis. Say, the next webmaster uses three, then four and so on. Before we know it, the SERPs are filled with title tags overloaded with emojis, causing trouble understanding titles and general frustration.

What will be interesting to see is how many other sites follow suit. How many will snap up the opportunity to manipulate user behaviour without jumping up the ranks? How many will sit and wait to see how this new ‘feature’ fares? After all, it probably wouldn’t surprise any of us if Google ditch it before long. It’s asking for spam.

If you would like more information, or help with search engine optimisation, then talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Google Desktop Now Shows Emojis

Mobile searches have shown emojis for years – since 2012 in fact. They’re a popular feature of mobile communication where ideograms or smileys are used to express meaning.

Originating from Japan, the word emoji literally means ‘picture’ (e) + ‘character’ (moji) – picture character. It’s no surprise really that the use spread from Japan – much like the conventional smiley, people like expressing themselves through images. What better way to show sadness without seeming too sincere than with a sad face? Or to add a little more emotion to a statement that otherwise seems flat. ‘Nice to see you’, for example, seems a lot more genuine with a smile on the end. Emojis work on the same principle.

Now, it seems that emojis have begun showing up on desktop searches too. As reported by Search Engine Land, however, searching using emojis does not work on Google as it does on Bing.

A quick search for ‘emojis’ should now display the little symbols, and if you perform the search yourself you should begin to see where the problems may lie. They’re everywhere. Admittedly, the first two results are for sites dedicated to emojis so it’s no surprise that their titles and meta descriptions are full of them.

However, if other sites begin to show similar amounts of emojis then we have a problem – spammy emojis. What if spammers decide to use them to make their sites stand out above the rest? Anyone remember the overuse of MSN Messenger emotions? Imagine that, but in the SERPs.

Google, help us.

EU Filing Anti-Trust Charges Against Google

It has been reported recently that Google may face formal anti-trust charges this week, and not get out of the situation by settling. If this is the case, and Google do face such charges, it could cost them billions.

What’s it All About?

Five years ago, the European Union launched an investigation into whether Google had violated its antitrust laws. It was previously reported that the European Commission and Google may settle, however political objections and lobbying have destroyed virtually all hope for Google.

The anti-trust charges against Google focus around the way in which Google presents itself and competitors in its own search results, with accusations that it favours its own results above those of competitors even if they are not always the most relevant. This is especially in reference to its seeming preference of its own Google Shopping results.

What are the Potential Consequences?

Margrethe Vestager – the antitrust regulator said of the matter, “If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe,”. Those consequences could, it seems, be a fine of around 6 billion dollars – that’s around 10 per cent of Google’s annual revenue.

Google are, of course, defending themselves, stating that people can find such information in various ways – not just through Google.

That’s Not All

The European Commission is also launching an investigation into Android. Similarly, this case again revolves around Google giving itself an unfair advantage. This investigation, put simply, is into whether Google is discouraging companies from using rival applications on Android phones.

With Google having such a huge influence over consumers, it comes as no surprise that Google have come under some scrutiny for preventing fair competition. If you would like more information, or help promoting your products or services through search marketing then talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Google Mobile Search Results Getting Some Colour

Earlier this month, Google began rolling out a feature in the mobile search results where each result is separated by a different coloured line, and there seems to be a slightly larger gap between results.

As reported by Search Engine Land, it was noticed by many mobile searchers on both iOS and Android in February that Google seemed to be testing the feature. Instead of the usual grey line between search results, the new line colours alternate between the colours in the Google logo – blue, red, yellow and green.

At this moment in time, it is unclear what effect this change might have, if any, on user experience. In the screenshots from what we presume to have been the testing period, however, the new interface seems to take up more space on the screen, so it may result in less results being displayed, especially if the user’s phone is relatively small. Some users/webmasters may also argue that the different colours may have an affect psychologically due to the associations we hold with colours – we may, for example, be more likely to avoid the one with the red colour since we associate this with danger.

This week, Google also began adding colour to mobile knowledge graph cards. As reported by Search Engine Land, searching for queries which might produce the knowledge graph now might produce a coloured one. This was first spotted by Alex Chitu from Google Operating System, and the results have been replicated by Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, but it is not clear yet whether this has been introduced in the UK. Likely, it will come sometime in the future.

Whilst it is not yet clear if there are reasons for the colours used (or not used), the examples shown so far by Chitu and Schwartz of Tori Amos and Breaking Bad and by Schwartz only of Neil Young do seem to have some connection. The knowledge graph card for Breaking Bad, for example, is green like the Breaking Bad logo; the knowledge graph card for Tori Amos is red, the colour of her hair and lipstick in the pictures; the knowledge graph card of Neil Young is grey, matching two of the pictures of him where the photos are in black and white.

If you would like more information about search engines, or would like help with search engine optimization, then talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Webmaster Tools New Blocked Resources Report for Crawling Issues

Webmasters use JavaScript, CSS and linked image in order to make their site function well and look good. However, if these features are blocked from crawling, then Google cannot see your site as a user would and it therefore cannot render your site properly.

Any linked images, CSS, or JavaScript files that are blocked from crawling will, therefore, cause problems for your website. But how do you know if you have these issues?

Before now, this would have been slightly more difficult to answer, but last week Google announced that Google Webmaster Tools now includes a Blocked Resources Report so you can easily find any of these issues and resolve them.

Google have said that the Blocked Resources Report “starts with the names of the hosts from which your site is using blocked resources such as JavaScript, CSS, and images”, then you can click on the rows for “the list of blocked resources and then the pages that embed them”, so that you can “diagnose and resolve” any problems.

Google also announced that they have updated Fetch and Render, which now shows you how the user sees your page alongside the usual screenshot of how Google sees it, so you can get a better idea of the issues causing Googlebot to see your site differently.

In terms of how to move forward with this information, Google recommend “starting with the resources that make the most important visual difference when blocked”.

If you would like more help and information regarding search marketing and your search marketing campaign, then talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

DuckDuckGo Adds More Languages to Instant Answers

DuckDuckGo, “The search engine that doesn’t track you”, has added 9 million answers in French, German, Czech and Polish to their Instant Answers.

The Instant Answers feature allows users to see the answers to thousands of queries without clicking through to any other websites. This feature includes the answers to queries regarding people, places and words. For example, searching for a word preceded or followed by the word ‘rhyme’ instantly brings up a list of words that rhyme with that word. Other interesting instant answers include the ‘related words instant answer’ feature, which brings up a list of synonyms for a searched word. It also has an instant strong password generator, stopwatch, and weather forecast instant answer.

Around a week ago, DuckDuckGo announced that over 9 million articles from the French, German, Czech and Polish Wikipedia are now part of the instant answers database.

The examples they gave were as follows:
• Notre Dame in French
• Carl Friedrich Gauss in German
• The UN in Czech
• Nicolaus Copernicus in Polish

A quick search on Carl Friedrich Gauss produces the instant answer from the German Wikipedia as follows:
Carl Gauss German
The text underneath his name translates as “Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß was a German mathematician, astronomer, physicist and geodetic”. The text in the box on the right is headed ‘Related Topics’ (Verwandte Themen) with the topics below translating roughly to ‘Carl Friedrich Gauss category’, ‘Honorary citizen of Brunswick’, ‘Honorary Citizen of Göttingen’, ‘Statisticians (19th century)’.

Interestingly, when the search is modified with the addition of ‘English’ to the search, the instant answer differs quite significantly, with details of his birth and death in the right-hand box, instead of related topics. See the screen-rip of the English answer below:
Carl Gauss English

To see these new answers, simply change your language on the DuckDuckGo settings page if your web browser is not already set up to prefer one of the languages in question.
DuckDuckGo are reportedly adding further languages in the coming months, with Spanish and Russian coming next. They also said that if you wish to request a language or give feedback, you can contact them via Twitter or by email.

For more information about search engines or how to best optimise your website, talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.

Google Improving Health Information in Knowledge Graph

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We all know we shouldn’t Google health-related questions – what’s a simple common cold or tummy bug can become something terrifying and life threatening when we trust our self-diagnosis before visiting a doctor. Nevertheless, we all do it anyway. Whilst we should all go to a doctor regarding our health concerns, searching for our symptoms can be a helpful start to figuring out what’s wrong with us.

However, if you’ve ever searched your own symptoms, then you’ll know that the web is full of information that’s untrustworthy, contradictory, and sometimes quite simply wrong. Google have responded to this by improving the information available in their knowledge graphs relating to health, so that users can quickly access credible health information.

To do this, Google have reportedly consulted doctors, medical illustrators and the Mayo Clinic to gather quality in-depth information on over 400 medical conditions. This information will reportedly include “typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more”.

The idea of this new feature is for people to be able to find accurate information quickly, so that you should then “find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.”

This feature is in the U.S. only at the moment on the Google app and desktop, but Google reportedly plans on extending its availability. Will this feature cause publishers to see a decrease in click throughs? Will it lead to more accurate information being posted online? Only time will tell.

For more information about search, talk to someone at Search Marketing Group today.