What’s New in Search for 2016?

After a busy January, keeping clients updated on all the latest search activity, I’ve returned to Casey Markee’s excellent set of predictions for 2016 over at Search Engine News. It seems that he is definitely on target: already 2 of his 7 are already close to being proved right.

Although Google tends to be the search engine we all focus on, Bing is still an important force but Yahoo is looking shaky. Casey questioned Marissa Mayer's tenure and, as Yahoo has cut 10% of its workforce last week, it's hard to see her finishing the year as the MD of this business.

Casey earned his other "tick" with his prediction that Panda would become part of Google's Core Algorithm. This happened last month and confused lots of people (including the team at Branchout) because we all assumed it was the long-awaited Penguin update. What does all this Google jargon mean for businesses?

Google Panda is designed to rate the quality of a website. There is a comprehensive set of questions which Google Quality Raters use which is available in the Webmasters’ Guidelines but the key pointers are: publish Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy content; avoid duplicate content which is copied on other websites and don’t try to trick Google.

Make Use of Online Reviews

As it says in Casey’s article, SEOs are expecting a lot of change from Google in 2016. Already some themes are emerging and one of these is that reviews of your business are important. This week, Google has cleared up a lot of review spam so, if you monitor these things, you might have seen a number of reviews disappear. If you have been encouraging illegitimate reviews they will not come back. I’ve shared some interesting links through social media about the way independent reviews create trust in your business. Manipulating reviews is a really bad idea! It will be interesting to see what falls out of the suspect review building activity from JC Penny which was spotted by Mike Blumenthal - nothing good for JC Penny, I imagine. Messing with Google AND messing with your customers sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

John Mueller also talked about reviews in his recent Google Webmaster Central Hangout. He stated that the number of reviews on a page is not a ranking factor. He also added that if Google picks up other content on that page, the reviews could have a bearing; which makes his comments a little hard to interpret. We know that bounce rates, visit duration and time on a page do affect rankings so if your reviews encourage people to stay on your pages and click through to other pages; then there will be an indirect ranking benefit. With all this in mind, we are going to keep on encouraging our clients to work on getting reviews for their businesses.

SERPs showing structured data for reviews and price

What Else is there to say about Search Engine Optimsation in 2016?

Some of last year’s themes are gaining strength. Whether it’s the latest set of tests from Google for their AMP project or the latest mobile algorithm being tested, there has been some volatility in mobile search rankings this week. Whatever is going on the search results pages, you should definitely be monitoring your mobile warnings in Search Console and in PageSpeed Insights as some pages that have passed previously are now failing.

The move to SSL is becoming a pressing priority for website owners, with Google Chrome browser displaying warnings of insecure content and Search Console also showing warning messages when your SSL/TLS certificate does not exactly match your domain name. The signs are strong that you should get a plan to switch. The good news for anyone who is worried about losing existing social shares is that you can use Social Warfare to salvage them, or you can make a change to the hard coding the share buttons if your site doesn't support this WP plugin. Social Warfare looks well worth the $24 price tag if social shares are important to your site.

Google and Structured Data

Another trend that is changing the way we work our work with our clients is the growing support from Google for Structured Data. An analogy for the non-techies is that it’s a bit like sticking up a flag that says “Now I’m going to tell you my company name”, or my product name, or my location etc. Because there’s always someone out there who will take a new technique and abuse it, it’s no surprise that Google is adding the strongest support for a form of structured data called JSON LD. The reason for this is that we use JavaScript to mark up content which is visible to humans looking at the page. You can’t mark up hidden content and deceive your visitors.

What Should You Do with Structured Data?

In practical terms, Branchout will be advising our clients choose websites which readily support JSON mark up (as is often the case, we come back to WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin); we'll be adding JSON mark up to their sites; we’ll be watching for errors in their Search Console reports and we’ll be making full use of the Structured Data Testing Tool. If you’re still sceptical about its value, we’ll leave you with this final thought from Mary Bowling: “Google wants to use Schema if it can trust it.” She went on to say that Google is running a trial right now where it pulls information from some big brands and puts it straight into the Knowledge Panel. If you want your business to look good in the search engine results, shouldn’t you be adding JSON structured data to your site?

Throughout the month, I share useful articles through my social networks so feel free to follow me if you’d like to see what I find interesting. In the next month or so, I’ll be writing about Local Search so just sign up to our mailing list and I'll send you an email letting you know when that’s ready for you to read.

Throughout the month, I share useful articles through my social networks so feel free to follow me if you’d like to see what I find interesting. In the next month or so, I’ll be writing about Local Search so just sign up to our mailing list and I'll send you an email letting you know when that’s ready for you to read.

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What's New in Search for 2016?

After a busy January, keeping clients updated on all the latest search activity, I've returned to Casey Markee's excellent set of predictions for 2016 over at Search Engine News. It seems that he is definitely on target: already 2 of his 7 are already close to being proved right. Although Google tends to be the search engine we all focus on, Bing is still an important force but Yahoo is looking shaky. Casey questioned Marissa Mayer's tenure and, as Yahoo has cut 10% of its workforce last week, it's hard to see her finishing the year as the MD of this business.

Casey earned his other "tick" with his prediction that Panda would become part of Google's Core Algorithm. This happened last month and confused lots of people (including the team at Branchout) because we all assumed it was the long-awaited Penguin update. What does all this Google jargon mean for businesses? It means that there may still be time to review your backlinks and update your disavow file before the Penguins march into town (read more). The Panda bit of the story is more complex.  Google Panda is designed to rate the quality of a website. There is a comprehensive set of questions which Google Quality Raters use which is available in the Webmasters’ Guidelines but the key pointers are: publish Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy content; avoid duplicate content which is copied on other websites and don’t try to trick Google.

Make use of online reviews

As it says in Casey’s article, SEOs are expecting a lot of change from Google this year. Already there are some themes that are emerging and one of these is reviews. This week, Google has cleared up a lot of review spam so, if you monitor these things, you might have seen a number of reviews disappear. Some may come back but if you have been encouraging reviews through illegitimate means, you shouldn’t expect to see those reviews return in a hurry. Through social media, I’ve shared some interesting links recently on reviews and the high levels of trust that reviews engender so, my view is that manipulating reviews is a really bad idea. It will be interesting to see what falls out of the suspect review building activity from JC Penny which was spotted by Mike Blumenthal - nothing good for JC Penny, I imagine. Messing with Google AND messing with your customers sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

John Mueller also talked about reviews in his recent Google Webmaster Central Hangout. He stated that the number of reviews on a page is not a ranking factor. He also added that if Google picks up other content on that page, the reviews could have a bearing; which makes his comments a little hard to interpret. We know that bounce rates, visit duration and time on a page do affect rankings so if your reviews encourage people to stay on your pages and click through to other pages; then there will be an indirect ranking benefit. With all this in mind, we are going to keep on encouraging our clients to work on getting reviews for their businesses.

SERPs showing structured data for reviews and price

What else is there to say about search engine optimsation in 2016?

Some of last year’s themes are gaining strength. Whether it’s the latest set of tests from Google for their AMP project or the latest mobile algorithm being tested, there has been some volatility in mobile search rankings this week (https://www.seroundtable.com/google-testing-mobile-ranking-algorithm-21607.html). Whatever is going on the search results pages, you should definitely be monitoring your mobile warnings in Search Console and in PageSpeed Insights as some pages that have passed previously are now failing.

The move to SSL is becoming a pressing priority for website owners, with Google Chrome browser displaying warnings of insecure content (https://support.google.com/gsa/answer/2688801?hl=en) and Search Console also showing warning messages when your SSL/TLS certificate does not exactly match your domain name. The signs are strong that you should get a plan to switch. The good news for anyone who is worried about losing existing social shares is that you can use Social Warfare to salvage them, or you can make a change to the hard coding the share buttons if your site doesn't support this WP plugin. Social Warfare looks well worth the $24 price tag if social shares are important to your site.

Another trend that is informing the way we work our work with our clients is the growing support from Google for Structured Data. This is a method for telling the search engines what your data is about which is nicely described by the Squarespace blog.  An analogy for the non-techies is that it’s a bit like sticking up a flag that says “Now I’m going to tell you my company name”, or my product name, or my location etc.  Because there’s always someone out there who will take a new technique and abuse it, it’s no surprise that Google is adding the strongest support for a form of structured data called JSON LD.  The reason for this is that we use JavaScript to mark up content which is visible to humans looking at the page. You can’t mark up hidden content and deceive your visitors. In practical terms, Branchout will be advising our clients choose websites which readily support JSON mark up (as is often the case, we come back to WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin); we'll be adding JSON mark up to their sites; we’ll be watching for errors in their Search Console reports and we’ll be making full use of the Structured Data Testing Tool.  If you’re still sceptical about its value, we’ll leave you with this final thought from Mary Bowling: “Google wants to use Schema if it can trust it.” She went on to say that Google is running a trial right now where it pulls information from some big brands and puts it straight into the Knowledge Panel. If you want your business to look good in the search engine results, shouldn’t you be adding JSON structured data to your site?

Throughout the month, I share useful articles through my social networks so feel free to follow me if you’d like to see what I find interesting. In the next month or so, I’ll be writing about Local Search so just sign up to our mailing list and I'll send you an email letting you know when that’s ready for you to read.

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