Saturday, May 31, 2014

SEO News Round-Up: Algorithm Updates, eBay's Big Loss, and Layoffs at MetaFilter

Google recently launched two algorithm updates, including a new version of the Panda algorithm: Panda 4.0. Google tweaks its algorithms daily without any sort of notice, but these latest updates seem to be significant enough to warrant announcements--or at least tweets from Matt Cutts, the head of the Webspam Team at Google. 

Changes to the algorithm effect search in many ways, but this recent Panda update, especially, has had a significant effect on some sites. As Peter J Meyers reported in Moz, eBay has taken a big hit, falling out of what Moz calls the "Big 10"--the site's "metric of the ten domains with the most 'real estate' in the top 10":

"Over the course of about three days, eBay fell from #6 in our Big 10 to #25," Meyers writes. "Change is the norm for Google's SERPs, but this particular change is clearly out of place, historically speaking. eBay has been #6 in our Big 10 since March 1st, and prior to that primarily competed with for either the #6 or #7 place. The drop to #25 is very large."

For an in-depth view of how the algorithm updates influence rankings, even for major sites, we recommend reading Meyer's article in Moz.

You might also read WebProNews recent article about MetaFilter, another site that seems to have been "hit" by algorithm updates:

"Sites fall victim to Google’s algorithms all the time, but this week, one in particular is getting a great deal of attention. MetaFilter, which was a popular web destination years ago (it claims to have still had over 80 million readers last year), was hit by a Google update (possibly Panda, but it’s unclear) a year and a half ago, and has been unable to recover"

MetaFilter has been in the news on the heels of a post from its founder describing its sudden downturn--and need for layoffs. A few writers have spoken glowingly of the site's usefulness, bemoaning the unfortunate downturn, yet, as the WebProNews article explains, few experts have been willing to say, precisely, why the algorithm changes have harmed the site so much. Inorganic links, perhaps?

Nevertheless, Chris Crum, writing for WebProNews, offers an intriguing speculation:

"If it weren’t for the whole inorganic links thing, I’d wonder if it had anything to do with the overall appearance of the site. The site has been around for a long time, and frankly it looks like a site that came out a long time ago. That’s not a knock. Just a fact (okay, an opinion, I guess)."

We happen to agree with Crum. The appearance of a site obviously influences a browser's perception of the content, and if a site does not evolve over many years, the template may begin to look "stale." As Crum notes, Matt Cutts essentially said this in his Webmaster Comments a while ago:

As Cutts notes in this video:

“The advice that I’d give to you as the owner of a site that’s been around for fourteen years is to take a fresh look at your site. A lot of times if you land on your site, and you land on a random website from a search result, you know, even if they’ve been in business for fifteen years, fourteen years, sometimes they haven’t updated their template or their page layout or anything in years and years and years, and it looks, frankly, like sort of a stale sort of an older site, and that’s the sort of thing where users might not be as happy about that.”

The implications of Cutt's comments as well as the recent news about eBay offers fair warning to all website owners: "To Compete You Must Evolve."

This recent news, especially, speaks to the importance of website design. What does your website look like? Have you updated the look and feel of the website recently--or ever?

If your site looks like the equivalent of Pong, you might consider a new design.

 Why is design so important? As we've written before:

"Website design covers the “front-of-the-house” appearance and usability of a website. In order to make sure your website can be optimized, you should choose a website designer who can not only build a beautiful website, but one that is very easy to navigate. The easy-to-navigate element is an example of a crucial design element.

Many designers can build beautiful websites, but...a beautiful website is pointless unless it can actually attract visitors. Of course, your visitors will appreciate the fact that your website is easy to navigate, but more importantly, perhaps, search engines like Google pay special attention to design elements like ease of navigation when ranking websites."


Does your website look like Pong? Has your website's performance recently taken a hit? Perhaps its the new algorithms. Our blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, can answer these questions for you! Just take advantage of this limited time offer: For a limited time, Stepmans PC will perform a FREE Organic Website Optimization Audit* for the first ten people to take advantage of the offer (details here).