September 2012 Search Engine Recap

LOCAL SEARCH
The major news in Local this month comes from Apple's newest operating system for mobile hardware. Apple created its own mapping software which replaced Google Maps on their new OS 6 for mobile devices. Apple probably thought having its own mapping software would be a great idea, distancing themselves futher from Google in the process. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be a PR nightmare for the release of the new iPhone 5 and anyone upgrading to the new OS 6.

There were actually so many complaints about the new mapping software that Apple sent users to the App store to download a competitor's product - Google Maps. I think Apple underestimated the effort it took Google to create their great mapping product (they currently have a staff of more than 7,000 people working on maps alone).

Google didn't escape all this unscathed. It appears Google didn't know their maps application was going to be dropped from Apple's products so Google was not prepared to offer an effective Google Maps app. As a result, Google has been running around trying to create this app to fill the void Apple created.

I wanted to revisit a topic we discussed back in February - an update Google made to the algorithm called "Venice". The influence of this update is still being felt today in local search.

Before "Venice" Google had two distinct algorithms providing organic and local/maps ranking results. This update attempted to improve the universal local results by incorporating more of the ranking factors from the main organic algorithm. As a result, organic ranking factors like the authority/strength of your website, the number of pages you have indexed, the quality of content you present, the user activity on your site, etc., etc. are now impacting your rankings in local search.

Consequently, if your website is deficient in any of these areas, your local search efforts will also struggle. This is something to consider if local search rankings are slipping. Ask yourself, how effective is your site's content compared to competitors? How deep is your back linking profle? How engaging is your site to users visiting your site (how many pages do they see on average...how much time do they spend on your site...what's your bounce rate...)?

SEO
Two major updates occurred during September that you should be aware of. The first, and most impactful change, is targeting low quality, exact matched domains. Exact matched domains are domains that are worded to exactly match a keyword search query. If I sold blue widgets and owned the domain name www.bluewidgets.com, that would be an exact matched domain.

This does not mean sites with keywords in their domain are doomed. This update is targeting low quality sites that are rarely updated and have poor content, depending on the value of the URL to "game" the system.

The second update this month focused on improving the diversity of websites shown in natural search. What Google hopes to achieve is more variety in its search results instead of, for example, Wikipedia showing 4-5 results on the first page. This is certainly a good change for the majority of websites since first page real estate will free up in the process.

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