October 2012: The only constant in Organic Search is change

October 2012 was another busy month for Google. The search giant started the month by announcing 65 changes they made during August and September. Google also pushed out a new Penguin Update (v3) on October 5 – these Penguin updates penalize the overuse of keywords both on a website, and through links.

We have had a few clients with really bad – and sometimes profane links. They may consider Google’s new disavow links tool, just released. But we recommend caution with the tool right now: Some SEOs are speculating Google may see this as a confession!

Information also came out early in the month about Google penalizing domains that were more “keyword rich” than authoritative. This Google update (called EMD, or Exact Match Domain) is hitting domains like cheap-flights-from-denver.com. They would have been favored in the past for searches like “cheap flights from denver”, but no longer. Authoritative sites were not hit though: ski.com still ranks #1 for “ski”.

Google also had an update to it’s penalty for “Top Heavy” sites – those with too many ads at the tops of the page.

Highlights of Google’s 65 recent changes include:
1. Changes to titles and snippets. Google is ever more treating the robots.txt directives, title and meta description tags as “suggestions” from webmasters. Sometimes this can be helpful – such as when titles have “comments on” or other generic phrases. Other times, Google’s choices may directly conflict with choices the webmaster has made.

2. Google is using more like terms, and expanding their autocomplete suggestions. A search for “telecom provider” returns results where the term “carrier” is bolded as well as “provider”. Google is sure getting smarter, and it’s a good time to diversify keywords!

The Google webmaster guidelines were also updated this month, and reflect their move away from counting low quality directory as well as low quality bookmarking sites.

There wasn’t much news for Bing this last month, but a recent report from antivirus vendor Sophos found that Bing search results contained more than twice as many malware-infected pages as Google’s search results(which is still at a hefty 30%).

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