Weekly SEO news: 25 January 2011
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

Google is going to fight spam sites stronger than before in 2011. What are Google's anti-spam plans for 2011 and what do you have to do to make sure that Google doesn't classify your website as spam by mistake?

Also in the news: there's an unnecessary PageRank update, Google's John Mueller talks about reconsideration requests, Google prefers its own content and a study about local consumers.

Table of contents:

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Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. How Google is going to fight spam sites in 2011

A few days ago, Google announced that they are going to fight search engine spam stronger than before:

"We're evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others' content and sites with low levels of original content.

We'll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites."

What exactly is Google going to do? Could Google consider your website spam?

Farms1. Google might downrank content farms

Websites with low quality content that has been created to get clicks for AdSense ads might have a hard time in the coming months:

"As pure webspam has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to content farms, which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. [...]

We hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content."

If your websites mainly exist to display Google AdSense then your site might lose its rankings on Google. Google makes it clear that running AdSense ads won't help the sites to remain in the index:

"One misconception that we've seen in the last few weeks is the idea that Google doesn't take as strong action on spammy content in our index if those sites are serving Google ads. To be crystal clear:

  • Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google;
  • Displaying Google ads does not help a site's rankings in Google; and
  • Buying Google ads does not increase a site's rankings in Google's search results."

tag2. Google might enable you to tag other websites as spam

In an online discussion a user asks about the possibility for personal domain blacklists for Google accounts? Users might be given the option to remove sites from their own search results.

Google's Matt Cutts indicates that this might be an option for the near future:

"We've definitely discussed this. Our policy in search quality is not to pre-announce things before they launch. If we offer an experiment along those lines, I'll be among the first to show up here and let people know about it."

Clones3. It will be more difficult to get high rankings with clone sites

Many spammers clone the content of websites to get high rankings for the long tail keywords that are listed on these pages. For example, some people scraped the contents of Google Groups and actually got higher rankings than the original Google Groups pages in Google's search results.

Matt Cuts also comments on that issue:

"I've been tracking how often this happens over the last month. It's gotten much, much better, and one additional algorithmic change coming soon should help even more. I'm not saying that a clone will never be listed above SO, but it definitely happens less often compared to a several weeks ago."

What can you do to make sure that your website won't be downranked?

If you have a regular website with regular content then there's nothing that you have to worry about. As long as your website has good content and good backlinks, Google will give it high rankings in the search results.

You should not try to game Google's algorithm with scraped content and you should not take any optimization shortcuts. Optimizing your website for users and search engines takes some time. If you want to get lasting results, you should use ethical search engine optimization methods.

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week

The PageRank in Google's toolbar gets an update

In an online discussion forum, some webmasters noticed that Google has updated the PageRank in Google's toolbar (the first update since 9 months). Remember that the PageRank in Google's toolbar is not important. Even Google confirms this:

"We've been telling people for a long time that they shouldn't focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it's the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it."

John MuellerHow Google processes reconsideration requests

"In general, reconsideration requests are processed within a few days, and if you do not see changes, then it's possible that you have not remedied the issues (or, in some cases, it's possible that the site does not have anything specific that can be affected with a reconsideration request).

It's fine to sometimes reuse content from elsewhere -- as long as that's not the bulk of your site and provided it's blocked from crawling and indexing appropriately."

Google prefers its own content about 19% of the time

"Some search engines promote their own services significantly more than others. [...] Google's algorithmic search results link to Google's own services more than three times as often as other search engines link to Google's services. [...]

A significant fraction [of the first page results] – 19% – came from pages that were obviously affiliated with one of the five search engines. (For example, we classified results from youtube.com and gmail.com as Google, while Microsoft results included msn.com, hotmail.com, live.com, and Bing.)"

Matt Welsh Does Google do "research"?

"From what I can tell, Google takes a very different approach to research. We don't have a separate 'research lab.' Instead, research is distributed throughout the many engineering efforts within the company.

Most of the PhDs at Google (myself included) have the job title 'software engineer,' and there's generally no special distinction between the kinds of work done by people with PhDs versus those without. "

Local consumer review survey

"70% of local consumers have used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months. Younger consumers use the internet more frequently to find local businesses than older consumers. 67% of local consumers have consulted online customer reviews of local businesses.

Younger consumers are more influenced by positive online reviews that older consumers. Female consumers are more likely to select a local business that has positive customer reviews. 69% of local consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

51% of local consumers believe that Reliability is the most important ‘Reputation-trait' for a local business."

Search engine newslets

  • The Wayback Machine has a new beta version.
  • Bing updates image search.
  • Google Maps adds a fuel cost calculator.
  • What Google knows about Google… and a few other things.
  • More compact Google Search options.
  • Google prepares a Groupon clone.

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3. Get a good start to 2011

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