This Week In SEO
Buy Now Buttons, Site Quality, Phantom Algorithm Updates, and More

In reading every SEO article I can find each week, I sometimes start to see patterns emerging.  This week, as Google penalized more sites for “thin content“, they also published a web page on how frequent and popular “how to” video searches were on Youtube. I really think there’s a common thread that connects these two, that ties in with Google’s next steps.  Check that out in detail at the end of this update.

Before we get into things, here’s this week’s Quick SEO Tip Video: “Identifying Sites to Research Using”


Google to Add “Buy Now” Buttons in SERPs


Look out Amazon and Ebay, Google is making its way into the online marketplace space with a new move that will introduce buy now buttons in the SERPs when users search for specific products.  This should only affect a small number of searches, at first, but if successful, it’ll be a game changer.  Clicking the button will take searchers to a Google product page to complete the purchase.

Though the products will not be sold by Google, many companies spoke out (anonymously, of course) that the move would shift them from retailers to order-fulfillers, turning Google from a valuable traffic source to an Amazon-like transactional business.

As for the “why” of this move, it comes back to ad revenue.

Smaller phone screens have less space for ads. On top of that, mobile ads often fetch lower prices than similar ones on desktop computers since they may lead to fewer sales.

One reason: it can be a bigger hassle to navigate a retailer’s page, and enter credit-card and shipping information, on small smartphone screens with error-prone keyboards.

You weren’t thinking of getting into ecommerce, were you?

On a side note, I think Google was really forced into this move. As someone who is super active in the Amazon SEO space I can tell you that Amazon is really Googles #1 threat and they know it. There is so much traction there right now it’s crazy.

How Google May Calculate Site Quality Score:

SEO + Patents = SEO by the Sea.  In this post, Bill Slawski digs into a Google patent that may shed some light on how Google assigns a quality score to a website.  I don’t have to tell you-an-SEO’er why this is a big deal.

The patent, applied four years ago but recently granted, is co-authored by Nanveet Panda, a Googler who specializes in site quality (and how the Panda update got its name), discusses how Google calculates a site quality score to help determine rankings.

To sum it up (which isn’t easily done, as this info isn’t for the casual SEOer), I’ll use a fictitious site–

Value is assigned to a site when that site is searched for by name or URL (for instance “ Nirvana”).  Value is also assigned to a site where a generic query is searched for, such as “Nirvana album review,” and is clicked/visited.

The system determines a site quality score for the particular site, and might be determined by computing a ratio of a numerator and a denominator, where the numerator is based on the count of unique queries that are categorized as ones that refer to the particular site, and where the denominator is based on the count of unique queries that are just associated with the particular site, just don’t refer to it in the same kind of way.


The post itself may be a bit tough to wrap your head around, but I highly recommend you go and study it.

Google “Phantom Update” Targeting “How to” Content

While you were worrying about whether or not your site was mobile friendly, Google slipped another algorithm update in that is much more dangerous.  It’s being dubbed the “phantom 2 update,” and it’s a baddie.
HubPages published a blog post on May 11th that basically says on May 3rd, Google hit them hard with an unnamed, announced algorithm update that cost them 22% of their traffic. According, to NBC and SearchMetrics, the algorithm targeted thin and low quality “how to” topics.  According to HubPages, the penalty was site-wide, hitting sections of their site that were high-quality and produced by professional editors.

From the HubPages blog post:

sites that gained and lost rankings

Glenn Gabe, from G-Squared Interactive had some really interesting observations to share regarding this update:

Thin, Click-Bait Articles, Low Quality Supplementary Content
Another major hit I analyzed revealed serious content quality problems. Many of the top landing pages from organic search that dropped revealed horrible click-bait articles. The pages were thin, the articles were only a few paragraphs, and the primary content was surrounded by a ton of low quality supplementary content…

…I checked many pages that had dropped out of the search results and there weren’t many I would ever want to visit. Thin content, stacked videos (which I’ve mentioned before in Panda posts), poor quality supplementary content, etc.

The trend seems pretty clear: thin sites of overall poor quality + a bad user experience are begging to be penalized. I personally always hated these sites with a passion, so no tears are being shed on my end.

Search Engine Land is now reporting that Google has confirmed a new algorithm update.  This update is not targeting spam, rather, it is an update to its core algorithm and how it “processes quality signals.”

It’s not your imagination. Google’s results have changed since the beginning of this month, and Google’s officially confirmed to Search Engine Land that this is due to a change with how it assesses content quality. Call it “The Quality Update,” if you will.

Check out the update here:

“How to” Videos Up 70% year over year”

In light of the recent “phantom” algorithm (see above), it seems like Google is starting to take presenting “how to” information to searchers very seriously.  It’s easy to see why, though.  “Millenials” (specifically) are turning to Google and Youtube whenever they want to learn, solve, or fix something.

Staying relevant during the rise of this “how to” movement will no doubt mean millions of page and ad views for Google.  It’s intersting to try and connect the dots here with Google cracking down on sites with thin “how to” content, and hearing about important “how to” content is in the lives of Millennials (aka the largest and most tech savvy share of the US population).

If you’re in the business of trying to make Google love your site, focusing on relevant “how to” content may be the way to go…

Searches related to “how to” on YouTube are growing 70% year over year,1 and more than 100M hours of how-to content have been watched in North America so far this year.2

The most popular how-to educational searches show a range of interests—from the practical (“how to tie a tie”) to the creative (“how to draw”), from style (“how to curl your hair with a straightener”) to cuisine (“how to make a cake”). And although we see these searches across age groups, it’s most pronounced among millennials. In fact, 67% of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn.3

I really recommend you read the entire article Google published on how the “how to” content is being consumed, popular searches, and more.  Shout out to my high school history teacher: this is some legit primary source reading.

On another note, my man Alexej just opened up beta signups for his new tool focusing specifically on question-related queries at I’ve tested it out and it’s rad. More on that in the future I’m sure.

WTF Is A Doorway Page?

SE Roundtable published a short but super helpful article outlining what exactly doorway pages are (and FYI, if you don’t know, having those on your site is a quick trip to the penalty box by Google, so avoid).

To sum it up:

An example of doorways is when you have a website with 200 pages on it, all of which have the same basic text but with place names switched out on each page (“Find a taxi in London”/”Find a taxi in New York City”). The pages are designed to rank separately, catch keyword searches, but funnel all the traffic to one destination.

Now you know.



High Quality Signals, Google/Twitter, Technical SEO, and WMT Renamed
This Week In SEO: Apple & Facebook Search Engines, New Penalties, and More

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Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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