Late last week, it was discovered that Google had quietly updated their ranking article help document to reflect changes that they have made in their messages of late. The change was spotted by internet marketer, Erik Baeumlisberger, and suggests that building quality websites is actually more important than building quality links, which is actually contrary to Google’s past messages, which have stated that links are important to your ranking.
Barry Swartz of Search Engine Roundtable said that the “change is to keep Google consistent with their general change in messaging that content is what webmasters should focus on, not links”. This means that it is more about increasing the number of people who will want to use and share your content, which will actually help to build quality links in the long run; the webmaster’s focus, however, should be on the content.
But what was the actual change that Google made to their article? It originally read: “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.” As of the 27th of May, however, this part of the article was changed to read: “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”
This is not to say, however, that links are not important to your ranking and that being social is actually more essential (as this is how users will share links to your content). Being social is currently not important at all, but many people believe that this will change in the future as more and more people share links and content. Instead, what has changed is the way that webmasters should think about their content, as it will not be shared if it is not interesting or engaging.
Earlier in the week, Google announced that they will soon be rolling out several ranking changes that will affect websites that have not been optimised for use on smartphone devices. These changes will effectively force owners to fix their mobile website configuration issues otherwise they will risk being downranked in search results. Website owners who have yet to jump on the bandwagon of the mobile trend will need to act quickly if they want to be spared.
A number of the ‘mistakes’ that Google will be targeting with these changes include: desktop pages that redirect smartphone users to irrelevant pages on the mobile website (usually the homepage), desktop pages that redirect to 404 error pages instead of the smartphone-friendly page, incorrect handling of Googlebot-Mobile, and many more. The most damaging mistake, however, will be the use of embedded video that does not play on smartphones, such as Flash.
If you have ever used your smartphone to browse the internet, it’s likely that you have dealt with some of these problems first hand. You do a search, tap on a result in order to read the corresponding article and find yourself staring, dazed and confused, at the website’s mobile-optimized homepage. What happened to the article you wanted to read? Who knows! As well as being annoying, Google understands that dealing with this is a waste of your time and bandwidth.
Google said that “smartphone users are a significant and fast growing segment” and that they want them to “experience the full richness of the web”, which is why they are rolling out these changes. Because Google has such a big influence on the internet – they have 83.18% of the search market share on desktops and 81.02% share on mobiles worldwide – these changes are set to change the way that we browse the web and other browsers are sure to follow.
So, how long do website owners have to make the changes that Google has said they will be trying to wheedle out? The internet mogul has yet to announce the release date of these changes to their algorithm, only saying that they will occur in the “near future”. What this really means is that website owners should be making their websites mobile-friendly as quickly as possible, especially if they want to ensure that their ranking is unaffected when the changes are made.
Image Source: XKCD
Late last week, a US District Court Judge ruled that popular search engine giant, Google, would have to comply with the FBI’s demands for customer data to be released to them. Even though Google has claimed that the demands are unconstitutional, they will still be required to comply with the ruling until they have made an appeal and the outcome decided.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 rocked the country, Congress passed a Patriot Act that allowed counter-terrorism agents employed by the FBI to begin issuing letters that do not require a judge’s approval. These letters are used to collect a range of unlimited sensitive and private information, such as financial and phone records.
Google’s reluctance to comply with the letters could be linked to the Justice Department’s findings in 2007 – that numerous violations have occurred in the FBI’s use of the letters. These included demands without proper authorization and information being obtained in non-emergency situations. Since then, the FBI has significantly tightened their systems.
On May 20, US District Court Judge, Susan Illston, ruled that Google would have to comply with the FBI’s demands. She did, however, put this ruling on hold until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could make a decision on the matter. In the meantime, the search engine will have to comply with the letters unless they can prove that the FBI has not followed the proper procedures.
The FBI has slapped Google with 19 of these letters so far; two top-ranking FBI officials have made sworn statements about the content, leading Illston to be satisfied that 17 of them have been properly issued. She has requested more information on the final 2. Whilst Google can still appeal Illston’s decision, they have refused to comment on the matter so far.