5 Common Misconceptions About Search Engine Results

The following are some common misconceptions I’ve noticed that non-technical people tend to have about search engines, and the process of gaining search engine exposure for their business. Clearing these up prior to any project is essential in order to realistically set expectations.
SEO Misconceptions

1. Misconception: Getting on Page One of the search results is a matter of having my website built by someone who knows SEO.

Reality: Even if a website is properly optimized for the correct search terms, it will always take some amount of initial and ongoing promotion to rank and bring in traffic. The primary effort in search engine promotion occurs in off page activities such as link building, and social networking.

2. Misconception:The secret of getting on top of the search engine results is knowing the SEO tricks.

Reality: There is certainly a lot you need to know in order to effectively market a website, however like any endeavor; results are achieved as a result of a lot of hard work. The conception that ”it is easy if you know how” is an idea nurtured by scam artists to turn a quick buck.

3. Misconception: Once my website is published to the internet, it should show up in the rankings right away.

Reality: It can take from 2 to 4 weeks for your site to show up in the search engine index, and another 4 to 8 weeks for it to be completely crawled and included in a way that you will achieve optimum results. If you are looking to compete with established websites, it could take months or even years before your ultimate ranking goals are achieved. This is because search engines “trust” established websites and “mistrust” new websites as potential sources of spam.

4. Misconception:Getting my website on Page One of Google will gain my website traffic and increase sales.

Reality: Getting on Page One of Google for an obscure search term like “Used car with red paint in Hayward California” is easy, but will not gain you any traffic or make you any money. On the other end of the spectrum, getting on Page One for the term “Car” is just not going to happen for a small or even medium size business. All “SERPs” (search engine results pages) are not created equal. The first step of any search engine promotion program is keyword analysis; finding the SERPs that are not only valuable, and also achievable given your marketing budget.

5. Misconception:If I’m on top of the search results for the terms I have chosen, I’ll be getting traffic and making money.

Reality:Many business owners choose keywords they think are valuable based on a feeling, perceived status, or some other superficial factor. As previously mentioned, keyword analysis as the first step of any search engine marketing campaign is essential, and will ensure that effort spent is the subsequent steps will be efficiently focused.Secondly, getting on Page One for the right search will not get you anywhere if your website doesn’t convert. Optimizing traffic conversion on an ongoing basis is an often overlooked task in maintaining search engine promotion campaigns.

The common thread in all of these misconceptions is the idea that there is a “magic pill” or a “free lunch” (or free search engine traffic). The reality is that it takes not only knowledge, but a considerable amount of hard word and patient effort to gain valuable internet traffic. So get to work!

Google Algorithm Changes for May 2012

May Flowers

May Flowers

By far the most significant change Google has made in their algorithm since the now infamous Panda Update of February 2011, has been Google Penguin(which hit the SERPS on April 24 of this year).

The biggest change brought by Google Penguin was that it penalized sites for what was, up until it was unleashed, the common practice of using target keywords in anchor text. It has always been a good practice to vary anchor text to show Google a natural link profile, put Penguin made the practice an absolute necessity. In fact, for some websites that had done significant link building using the same anchor text over and over, it made more sense to start over from scratch, rather than trying to go back and edit or remove each link, one by one.

May 2012 Updates

In the wake of Penguin and its continuing updates, last month Google announced an additional set of changes that were implemented in May of 2012 and announced on their blog.

Extensive list

  • Deeper detection of hacked pages. [launch codename "GPGB", project codename "Page Quality"]
  • Autocomplete predictions used as refinements. [launch codename "Alaska", project codename “Refinements”].
  • More predictions for Japanese users. [project codename "Autocomplete
  • Improvements to autocomplete on Mobile. [launch codename "Lookahead", project codename "Mobile"]
  • Fewer arbitrary predictions. [launch codename "Axis5", project codename "Autocomplete"] Improved IME in autocomplete. [launch codename "ime9", project codename "Translation and Internationalization"]
  • New segmenters for Asian languages. [launch codename "BeautifulMind”]
  • Scoring and infrastructure improvements for Google Books pages in Universal Search.[launch codename “Utgo”, project codename “Indexing”]
  • Unified Soccer feature. [project codename "Answers"]
  • Improvements to NBA search feature. [project codename "Answers"]
  • New Golf search feature. [project codename "Answers"]
  • Improvements to ranking for news results. [project codename "News"]
  • Better application of inorganic backlinks signals. [launch codename "improv-fix", project codename "Page Quality"]
  • Improvements to Penguin. [launch codename "twref2", project codename "Page Quality"]
  • Trigger alt title when HTML title is truncated. [launch codename "tomwaits", project codename "Snippets"]
  • Efficiency improvements in alternative title generation. [launch codename "TopOfTheRock", project codename "Snippets
  • Better demotion of boilerplate anchors in alternate title generation. [launch codename "otisredding", project codename "Snippets"]
  • Internationalizing music rich snippets. [launch codename "the kids are disco dancing", project codename "Snippets"]
  •  Music rich snippets on mobile. [project codename "Snippets"]
  • Improvement to SafeSearch goes international. [launch codename "GentleWorld", project codename "SafeSearch"]
  • Simplification of term-scoring algorithms. [launch codename "ROLL", project codename "Query Understanding"]
  • Fading results to white for Google Instant. [project codename "Google Instant
  • Better detection of major new events. [project codename "Freshness"]
  • Smoother ranking functions for freshness. [launch codename "flsp", project codename "Freshness"]
  • Better detection of searches looking for fresh content. [launch codename "Pineapples", project codename "Freshness"]
  • Freshness algorithm simplifications. [launch codename “febofu", project codename "Freshness"]
  • Updates to +Pages in right-hand panel. [project codename “Social Search”]
  • Performance optimizations in our ranking algorithm. [launch codename "DropSmallCFeature"]
  • Simpler logic for serving results from diverse domains. [launch codename "hc1", project codename "Other Ranking Components"]
  • Precise location option on tablet. [project codename “Mobile”]
  • Improvements to local search on tablet. [project codename “Mobile”]
  • Internationalization of “recent” search feature on mobile. [project codename "Mobile"]

This is a lot of information to dig through, and I will be posting explanations on selected items in future posts. By scanning the list you can get an idea of where Google has its priorities. The emphasis I see is on serving fresh events, international search, search “suggestions,” and Mobile search. Of those, I think mobile is where the focus of small businesses, web designers, and web marketers needs to be now, and in the near future.

Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Google has reportedly named it’s latest algorithm update. Google “Penguin” is aimed at over-optimization. Here are the key points to consider:

1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.

3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.

4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.

5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.

7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

These guidelines are nothing new, which makes you wonder if something else has actually changed, or if they have really just implemented a way of better enforcing these guidelines.

As with Google Panda, the actual results of the update appear to be that spam sites have been promoted and many quality sites have been smoked. The assumption is that a lot of blatant spam has been removed from the index, and additional tweaking is needed. We’ll see if that’s the case as things progress.
Troy Philis

Google Over-Optimization Penalties – Announcement Pending

Google PenaltiesThere’s been a lot of talk recently in the SEO world about over-optimization penalties that Google has apparently been rolling out over the last month or so. Many sites have already lost ranking or have been de-indexed altogether. Google hasn’t announced anything officially yet, but announcements from them generally come shortly after a major change has been completely implemented.

Rand at SEOMOZ put up a great summary of six really spammy things that webmasters and SEOs should stop doing in anticipation of the over-optimization penalties full implementation:

1. Use of unnatural Page Titles

Bad: A list of  keyword phrases, then “your brand” tacked on at the end.

Good: Your brand, and then a natural description of your services, which will include the most important keywords anyway.

2. Manipulative Internal Linking - Linking every instance of a keyword with identical anchor text in body of your content or in a side bar  to same the page. Only the first instance will count and the rest will tag you as a spammer.

3. Keyword stuffed footer links. Don’t use  keyword link lists in the footer of your website.

4. Keyword stuffed content blocks.  If it has no value other than the keywords in contains, get rid of it.

5. Backlinks from penalty-likely sources. (Check out this detailed article on how to monitor your backlink profile for penalties)

    • Link Networks
    • Comment Spam
    • Automated Software
    • Forum Signature Links
    • Reciprocal Links
    • Article Marketing

6.  Similar pages targeting different keywords with only slight differences in content. Instead, optimize a single page for the multiple keyword variations.

Making these changes may be a hard pill to swallow, especially if your success has been based on some of these shady tactics. It will be better in the long run to take a small hit right now than to get completely pulled from the SERPs by a Google penalty that is just around the corner.
Troy Philis

No. 10: Improved ranking for queries using “site:” operator – Google’s 40 Search Quality Updates

diceIn late February, Google gave webmasters a rare treat by supplying a detailed list of updates to their search engine algorithm. Continuing with item-by-item analysis:

10. “Site:” query update [launch codename “Semicolon”, project codename “Dice”] This change improves the ranking for queries using the “site:” operator by increasing the diversity of results.

The “site:” operator is a handy advanced search tool you can use on Google Search to see the pages that Google has indexed for a Website.

Judging by the description it appears that Google is now more carefully selecting URLs to display for this advanced search query. This would help the display for larger websites that have many URLs, as well as many different types of pages. Rather than displaying page after page of results of a similar type up front, you should now be getting a more diverse mix of pages that will better help you understand the website more quickly.

google webmaster tools ad

When using the “site:” operator, Google will also display an ad encouraging you to set up Webmaster Tools. What you, as a webmaster, will gain from Google Webmaster Tools is not an improved version of the “site:” operator, but other data that will help supplement it.


Previous Articles covering Google Panda 3.3

No. 1 -More Coverage for Related Searches
No. 2: Tweak the Categorizer for Expanded Sitelinks
No. 3: Less Duplication in Expanded Sitelinks
No. 4: More consistent thumbnail sizes on results page
No. 5: More locally relevant predictions in YouTube
No. 6: More accurate detection of official pages
No. 7: Refreshed per-URL country information
No. 8: Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search
No. 9: Minor tuning of autocomplete policy algorithms
Troy Philis

No. 9: Minor tuning of autocomplete policy algorithms – Google’s 40 Feb 2012 Search Quality Updates

Continuing with analysis of Google’s search quality updates back in February with:

9. Minor tuning of autocomplete policy algorithms. [project codename “Suggest”] We have a narrow set of policies for autocomplete for offensive and inappropriate terms. This improvement continues to refine the algorithms we use to implement these policies.

Google’s search “autocomplete” is an import tool in driving searchers to more “popular” searches. Among other things, this makes the popular Adwords (pay per click) terms more competitive and more expensive for advertisers. This, of course, earns Google more money.

Google “Instant” is a heavy handed and widely hated feature with the same goal as Google Search “autocomplete.” The difference is that you can turn Google Instant off.

This particular change is aimed at removing offensive terms from autocomplete, which as been an embarrassing problem since its inception. You would think Google would take this problem as a clue that trying to drive searchers to popular searches is a BAD idea. But maybe Google is just a bad company.

No. 8: Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search – Google’s 40 Feb 2012 Search Quality Updates

Continuing with analysis of Google’s recent (February 2012) search quality updates, now referred to as Google Panda 3.3:

8. Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search. [launch codename “terra”, project codename “Images Universal”] We launched a change to expand the corpus of results for which we show images in Universal Search. This is especially helpful to give more relevant images on a larger set of searches.

You may have noticed, that images are showing up on a wider variety of SERPs. I have some blogs that get most of their traffic from image search, so selecting quality images and properly tagging them is of the uttmost importance. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Include keywords in the filename
  2. Include keywords in the img “Alt” tag (important for the visually impaired visitors as well)
  3. Include keywords in the img “Titile” tag
  4. Use microdata and create a Rich Snippet 

Google Images in Universal Search

No. 7: Refreshed per-URL country information (Google longdew and country-id Updates)

Country-Specific TLDsContinuing with analysis of Google’s recent (February 2012) search quality updates, now referred to as Google Panda 3.3:

Refreshed per-URL country information. [Launch codename “longdew”, project codename “country-id data refresh”] We updated the country associations for URLs to use more recent data.

A translation from this French SEO Expert points out that Top Level Domains (TLD) are the best identifiers of the country that the content of a website is intended for. It would follow that Google would want to keep up with the most recent TLD data.

Having worked on sites that have targeted Japan and mainland China, I can attest to the fact that getting country-specific domain names isn’t always easy if your business is not based in those places. To those of use who got by targeting those countries without the advantage of the appropriate TLD, our work might have gotten harder. Probably, though, this is just a clean-up, rather than a tweak that puts more weight on those country-specific TLDs.

I am, in fact, set to relaunch one such site in the coming weeks. I’ll update the blog with any new information I gain. In the meantime, anyone in a similar situation who is having problems as a result of this update, please comment!

Troy Philis

No. 6: More accurate detection of official pages (Google WRE Update) – Google’s 40 Search Quality Updates

Brand ImposterContinuing with analysis of Google’s recent (February 2012) search quality updates, now referred to as Google Panda 3.3:

More accurate detection of official pages. [launch codename “WRE”] We’ve made an adjustment to how we detect official pages to make more accurate identifications. The result is that many pages that were previously misidentified as official will no longer be.

Google (or at least their CEO, Eric Schmidt) sees Brands as the way to sort out the cesspool that is the internet. So making sure that the official pages, especially of big brands, are properly identified, should be a priority of Google’s search algorithm.

As this seo blogger points out, the change is probably aimed at sites that attempt to identify themselves as official pages, but aren’t, thus taking advantage of that boost in ranking that Google gives to official pages. If your site attempts this, your ranking may have been hurt, and rightfully so. Most SMBs (small or medium sized businesses) were probably unaffected by this particular tweak.

No. 5: More locally relevant predictions in YouTube – Google’s 40 Search Quality Updates

Google “Suggest” is one of the 40 search quality updates Google implemented last month.

5. More locally relevant predictions in YouTube. [project codename “Suggest”] We’ve improved the ranking for predictions in YouTube to provide more locally relevant queries. For example, for the query [lady gaga in ] performed on the US version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in times square], but for the same search performed on the Indian version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in India].

google suggest


Suggesting queries as you are typing in the query box has two main purposes

  1. For you, the searcher, it can save you time, as you may see the full search query displayed among the suggestions as you type.
  2. It helps Google direct searchers towards the more popular search queries, which are the “suggestions” it gives.

It is likely that if you see something close to what you started to type, you’ll click on it rather than complete your originally intended query. If you fail to see helpful suggestions, you’ll complete your own query.

Now the suggestions for YouTube will have a local component, and serve up suggestions that are more relevant based on the location Google believes you to be searching from. More relevant suggestions means there is more chance that you will click on one, and that is what Google would like you to do.