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In this first session of the brilliant Brighton SEO, we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to hear some ex-Google employees answer questions posed by the audience.
Hearing details about Google's processes straight from the horse's mouth is like gold-dust to SEOs but for an up-to-date understanding of the direction that the industry is headed, you can't beat our Mobile SEO Course!
Google Team Structure
First up they were asked about the structure of the teams at Google.
The teams are split into algorithmic and manual search engineers. The algorithmic side take a big-picture approach while the manual side (in which our ex-Googlers were working) take a more detailed and case-specific approach.
These rumours included Facebook Mobile & an external search engine, but the most popular rumour turned out to be spot on - Facebook has radically overhauled their internal search function in a move that should frighten other social networks, traditional search engines and privacy advocates alike.
There are already tons of posts about the new search function and very few people have access yet (you can sign up for beta here), so instead we are going to focus on how brands (and individuals) can optimise to appear higher and more frequently in search results. One of those lucky few to get early access was Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, so head over there for a full run down of how Facebook Graph Search works.
It's very interesting that Facebook is the first social network to bring out a search engine like this. On our SEO courses and social media workshops we emphasise how you can use social media to help rank better in search engines, maybe now we'll have to include a section on using SEO to rank better in social networks!
How Does Visibility Work with Facebook Graph Search?
Mark Zuckerberg may claim that Graph Search isn't a direct competitor to Google, but it's still a search engine and so there will always be ways to rank higher. Facebook have managed to produce something that Google have been working on for a while - an Internet of Things. Instead of a database of web pages, they have a database of information on things - likes, photos, businesses, people, jobs, locations and many more - and can distinguish between these items.
Your visibility rests on how your business is connected to searchers - the more of their friends have connected with you, the more visible you are in their search results. But this can be just one of many factors affecting your visibility, including:
- Total number of likes
- Total number of check-ins
- The level of engagement on your page
- How often people talk about your business
- The frequency that people check in/ engage
- The recency of check-ins/ engagement
- Your location
- Your potential reach (are your likes/check-ins just local or are people coming from further afield?)
There are likely to be many more I haven't thought of, and the impact of each is determined by the type of search performed.
If a searcher is looking for businesses their friends like, then that will be the major factor. If they're looking for businesses in their area then total likes and of course location will have more of an impact.
But it's not just friends! You can search using an overwhelming number of factors. My favourite example of this is again from Danny Sullivan - "Search for Restaurants run by employees of a particular cooking school". So it's not just about number of connections, but about the type and value of those connections.
Exact Match Domains (EMDs) have always been an easy way to rank quickly but may have met their end thanks to Google's latest algorithm update.
The update was announced on Friday in two tweets by Google's head of webspam Matt Cutts:
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
Cutts didn't say when the update was due but early data from SEOmoz shows that it happened on the same day:
As you can see this is a big update, but why are Google after Exact Match Domains?
Then print out the Google Webmaster Guidelines and stick them next to it.
Read the guidelines.
If your site(s) aren't sticking to those rules, then look back to the first print out - "Google doesn't own you anything". Read the first few lines very carefully:
"Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the "Quality Guidelines," which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action."
If you break the guidelines, you risk a penalty.
You may be wondering why we've chosen to publish such seemingly obvious advice, especially as the guidelines have been around for years and years. It's something we teach on our SEO courses, and seems to be common sense.
Read through the other comments on that second post to get an idea of the anger felt towards Google by large portions of the search industry. So why is everyone so angry?
UPDATE JULY 2014: Google has now withrawn authorship photos from SERPs. With this in mind it is unlikely that publisher info will start showing. We still recommend implementing authorship & publisher markup as results will still have a byline and your content will rank better for your Google+ connections.
This will be a familiar sight to those who have marked up their blogs with rel=author already, which we highly recommend. Author info in SERPs is highly visible and many sites (big and small) are seeing a marked increase in click through since implementing author markup. Pages with author markup look similar in the testing tool but usually show the author info on the left of the result in SERPs:
As yet, I haven't found any example of Publisher information appearing in SERPs but if Google is showing it in Rich Snippets previews it can only be a matter of time before they go live.