This Week In SEO 13
Google Manipulating the SERPs, Spammy SCHEMA Penalties, and More
Lucky #13 Update! Google isn’t having the best week ever with a pretty damning study that was published by some pretty smart researchers indicating they are manipulating search results for their own gain. Schema penalties are a thing now, and we’ll look at whether or not “click-through rate” is a ranking factor.
But first, this week’s Quick SEO Video Tip: Using Screaming Frog SEO Spider for Website Analysis.
Google Manipulates Search Results
A study has come out, sponsored by Yelp, claiming that Google is manipulating its search results to favor its own web properties, presenting users with a poorer end product.
“The easy and widely disseminated argument that Google’s universal search always serves users and merchants is demonstrably false,” the paper reads. “Instead, in the largest category of search (local intent-based), Google appears to be strategically deploying universal search in a way that degrades the product so as to slow and exclude challengers to its dominant search paradigm.”
And here’s the best quote from the report that was published:
The results demonstrate that consumers vastly prefer the second version of universal search. Stated differently, consumers prefer, in effective, competitive results, as scored by Google’s own search engine, than results chosen by Google. This leads to the conclusion that Google is degrading its own search results by excluding its competitors at the expense of its users. The fact that Google’s own algorithm would provide better results suggests that Google is making a strategic choice to display their own content, rather than choosing results that consumers would prefer.
I don’t have to point out that Google is possibly getting… “penalized” …for manipulating the search results, do I? Because, that’s kind of hilarious…
Amid the antitrust suit in Europe, Google is not having the best time right now.
Structured Data (Schema) Penalties
So this is a new thing. Having “spammy” structured markup can bring you a penalty, like how keyword stuffing used to work really well, until your ass got wiped off that face of the web.
Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marketing up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.
The Search Engine Land article goes into how to prevent this and some thoughts on recovery. Definitely worth a read.
The Recent Google Update was NOT Wikipedia Related
Last week we linked to a Dr. Pete article on the recent SERP shakeup, and how it probably wasn’t strictly Wikipedia related. Here’s a quote of the part that relates to that:
On June the 17th, 92.54% of all the URLs we’re tracking changed their rankings. One third of all these URLs got shifted by more than 10 positions.
Although Wikipedia is at the top of the list of domains who changed their rankings, their URLs account for only 0.34% of changes in our data set. That means that at least for this set of data, the giant website is not responsible for the entire movement in SERPs. While it may have caused other URLs to shift as well, it would be nevertheless very unlikely that 0.34% of changes have shaken the entire SERPs by themselves.
So what was it?
No one is ENTIRELY sure (as Google have only said that it was a tweak to their core algorithm, vs. a new penalty), but this about sums it up:
With that many changes and hundreds of HTTPS URLs dropping out of top 50 results, the hypothesis of a Google update focused on HTTPS becomes extremely plausible, regardless of Google’s contradicting statements.
Is Click-through Rate A Ranking Signal?
What ISN’T a signal these days?
This is a pretty thorough look at something SEOs have been poking at for a few years now with some fairly inconclusive results.
Read this article. It’s really well done, and very in-depth.
It gets more difficult to make the case against Google using click-through rate as a signal when you get confirmation right from the horse’s mouth.
Google confirms watching clicks to evaluate results quality. FYI Google still won’t say if clicks used as rank signal pic.twitter.com/jzNGc5reQk
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 25, 2015
That seems pretty close to a smoking gun doesn’t it?
Now, perhaps Google wants to play a game of semantics. Click-through rate isn’t a ranking signal. It’s a feedback signal. It just happens to be a feedback signal that influences rank!
Call it what you want, at the end of the day it sure sounds like click-through rate can impact rank.
So what do you think? Is CTR a ranking signal yet, unofficially or not?
Bing to Power AOL’s Search
Here’s your token Bing post for the week.
Is Bing relevant? AOL probably isn’t, but AOL generates about 1% of US search traffic. With Bing recently crossing the 20% mark, every percent gained matters to them.
Google’s still sitting happily at 65%.