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A round up of some of the most interesting Google updates and industry news for April 2012.
Google has finally made an announcement regarding the update that Matt Cutts hinted about a few weeks ago at SXSW. The update is likely to target unnatural link profiles and will go live for all languages at the same time, affecting approx 3% of search results.
"In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can't divulge specific signals because we don't want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics."
“The ‘Penguin Update’ targeted SEO’d websites, however there are claims that it has specifically had a negative effect on smaller content publishers. For the first time we’ve actually seen webmasters start a petition asking Google to turn the new algorithm off: http://www.change.org/petitions/google-please-kill-your-penguin-update-l"
"To be frank I can’t believe that sites still produce content in the style of the examples that were given (finance links in spun fitness related content?). On the surface this seems like a perfectly legitimate update, targeting websites using black-hat webspam tactics however the amount of backlash from smaller publishers is concerning. I’d hoped we would hear the same from larger, made-for-content sites."
Traditionally YouTube videos embedded on a web page have often linked to the YouTube page where the video was hosted instead of the page on the publishers website. Publishers have had to resort to using their own videos hosted on a CDN or Vimeo in conjunction with a well optimised Video sitemap in order to get them indexed and shown as coming from their own website.
That’s all changed recently!
All that is now required to get a YouTube video thumbnail associated with the host page is embedding a YouTube video using the iframe method (which is now YouTube’s default embed option). John Mueller from the Google Webmaster Support team said in a hangout that “as long as Google can identify the video embedded in your webpage and thinks that's where it should be linked to, then that's the target they'll choose”.
Neither an XML video sitemap or Schema markup is required. Google can now index the videos.
Apparently it is possible to get any video from YouTube associated with a webpage and Google engineers have gone on record stating that there is still no way to absolutely make sure this doesn’t happen, so we should keep an eye out for video spam.
“Although this is a welcome improvement in terms of getting YouTube videos rendering thumbnails, it does open up the potential for duplicate video content across the web and spammers trying to game the system. Having said that it’s still early days and Google may very well tighten up this loophole in the coming months”
“Youtube has always had great potential as a media hosting and delivery platform, however there was a lot of confusion about whether it was possible to get YouTube videos linked from search results to the page they were embedded on, which is clearly how a media hosting platform should work. Some early Google articles had said that it was possible, however no-one could get it to work reliably, and then recently Google admitted that it didn’t actually work:
“Currently if you host videos on YouTube and embed them on your site, when those videos appear in our search results they'll link to the YouTube page where they're hosted, not to the page on your site where they're embedded (contrary to what's implied in this blog post: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/12/sending-video-sitemaps-q-holiday-cheer.html).”
Google recognising the web page where the YouTube video is embedded, and then linking to it as the display page URL from the search results - instead of linking to YouTube.com - is a huge leap forward in the usefulness of YouTube as a video delivery platform.
I hope this will encourage a lot more people to host their videos with YouTube.”
"Fantastic news for smaller publishers who can’t justify the expense of setting up the infrastructure to deliver content as well as YouTube does. They now gain the benefit of being available in the second largest search engine in the world, with the massive CTR increase of having video thumbnails indexed."
“We’re changing the design layout of our hotel, flight, credit card and bank account results, which help users complete actions such as booking flights quickly and easily,” a Google spokesperson told us in a statement. “We’ve always disclosed that Google may be paid when a user completes such an action; we want to be clear and consistent in how we do that.”
“This modification makes the sponsored comparison ad unit look a lot more like the top organic search result, and definitely gives it much more standout on the page. Lets see if this is a precursor to Google launching more comparison services in the UK soon.”
“The first major use of beatthatquote’s expertise, powering Google’s recommended financial products using the same system that beatthatquote use to power their comparison. Definitely can see Google getting further involved in financial comparison in the UK. Yet another step over the line in regard
to paid encroaching on organic search.”
Wal-Mart Stores said it has nominated Marissa Mayer to the company’s board, a signal that the company is thinking very seriously about its online technology services. Mayer was Google’s first female engineer when she was hired in 1999 and is currently vice president of Local and Maps for Google. Mayer also previously oversaw the user interface and user experience for Google.com. This is likely aimed at helping Wal-Mart improve their online experiences possibly as part of http://www.walmartlabs.com an internal incubator set up in April 2011
"The competition in the retail space looks set to become even more fierce as retailers such as Walmart and Tesco now look to innovate within the online space in order to get ahead of the curve. Multichannel retailers could be set to out-perform pure-plays such as Amazon given the rapid growth and importance of both mobile and localization in natural search."
"Marissa Mayer has a great deal of experience in the specific digital product areas that will be very important to Walmart in the coming years. The proposal for adding her to their board although it seems strange at first, makes good sense and clearly shows Walmart is taking multi-channel, search and local extremely seriously."
In December of 2011, to make it easy for webmasters to enable the SPDY (pronounced "SPeeDY") protocol on their websites, Google released an early beta of mod_spdy, an Apache module that adds SPDY support to the Apache HTTPD server.
Enabling SPDY for your site improves performance in several ways:
To install mod_spdy on your Apache 2.2 server, simply download the appropriate mod_spdy Debian or RPM package for your platform, or compile from source
“As a result of our latest round of spring cleaning, we'll be removing the Subscriber stats feature, the Create robots.txt tool, and the Site performance feature in the next two weeks.”
Google states low usage as the reason for the removal of these features however the average site performance feature will be missed for webmasters that don’t have Google analytics accounts.
Google also offers its PageSpeed online service and there are many other site performance analysis tools available like WebPageTest and the YSlow browser plugin.
Facebook buys Instagram (photo-sharing app for mobile devices) for 1 billion USD in a combination of cash and shares.
“For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.” Mark Zuckerberg