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Some time ago, we fell asleep at the switch. Search engines are now “evaluating the merit” of
our content and are not entirely clear about the criteria that they are using.




                                                                                                1
This presentation is about Google’s latest updates, Panda and Penguin, and how they impact
the content that is retained by the search engines and presented in search results. We will
look at:

1. What has happened with search engine technology over the years and what it is today
2. Why we should care. How search engine technology impacts what we do. How what we
   do can impact the performance of search engines.
3. What we can do about it.




                                                                                              2
Search engines came first. They have been around for over 70 years, since the their early
days of “information retrieval” when text began to be electronically transformed in the late
40’s. However, information organization and retrieval goes back even further than that…




                                                                                               3
An argument could be made that “search engine” optimization came first with the
early great care was taken to present information in a “findable” fashion…e.g. great
care by a designated few to make information available in limited format to the
limited few who would consume and make available to the masses. People optimized
text for people.




                                                                                       4
Then came the beautiful places where the information was organized in a standardized way
so that people could find it. And helpful people to ask for help finding information if we got
lost.

Early search engines used traditional information retrieval concepts and structured content
repositories that were mediated by human generated metadata. Dialog & ProQuest where
SQL queries rules, thought-processing bipeds associated tags, categories and abstracts to the
content item. dB methods of linear query construction delivered most success.




                                                                                                 5
First web page can still be found here http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-
hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

Then came the World Wide Web, altruistically developed by Tim Berners Lee so that the
military, industrial and scientific complexes could communicate with each other, be on the
same page and save money in the long distance exchange of information.
This worked well until the medium was made available to the rest of us.

The result….




                                                                                             6
Then limitless growth, questionable quality and zero governance with no end in sight
• 1997: 15 million pages
• 2010: Google announces its 100 billion+ page index
• 2012: rumored 1 trillion URLs found




                                                                                       7
© Tefko Saracevic




          Source: Saracevic 1997, Information Today

          One thing that did not change was information retrieval (IR). Despite the technology
          advancements, the IR process remained the same.




                                                                                                 8
Slide from LIS 544 IMT 542 INSC 544 by Jeff Huang lazyjeff@uw.edu and Shawn Walker stw3@uw.edu

1. Documents were selected from the index based on the presence of query terms in
   document text.
2. Documents containing more of the term(s) scored higher
3. Longer documents discounted
4. Rare terms weighted higher




                                                                                                 9
The environment, devices, participants and content has changed. What does that
mean for IR? Search Engines?




                                                                                 10
IR’s locked in legacies are centered on
• text deconstruction
• the capacity for sequential instructions to derive meaning,
• its reliance on systems that do not scale well and while incorporating human
   behavior, do not fully understand it

Search engines today believe that it is perfectly natural for them to abstract the
whole based on the nature of a small subset = “digital Maoism”




                                                                                     11
Using Google’s Latent Semantic Indexing, a machine-learning technique that manually
maps relationships, a search for ~vacation turns up results for: hotels, rentals, travel,
tourism, resorts…

Machines know only what they are trained to know. Rules are based on an analysis of
a subset and applied to the content corpus writ large. Machines have no sense of
accountability when things go bad.




                                                                                            12
Stanford research project that was once greeted as a savior due to the simplicity and seeming
incorruptability.
Both creators PHD students in data mining
Standard IR with introduction of 2 human elements
        1. Random Surfer model
                  •At any time t, surfer is on some page P
                  •At time t+1, the surfer follows an outlink from uniformly at random
                  •Ends up on some page Q (from page P)
                  •Process repeats indefinitely
        2. Link = vote

Unfortunately, flaws in this system were soon revealed:
1. Those who were able to build links dictated relevance for the rest
2. The cottage industry of SEO started building links for reasons other then endorsing the
   merits of site content




                                                                                                13
Google goes public around this time and the cash infusion enables expansion
Starts acquiring top computer scientists
Google purchases technology (Kaltix – personalized search, context sensitive search)

This is the first step away from the PageRank model, not entirely though as PageRank
is part of Google’s locked-in technology foundation.

And the response from us thought-processing bipeds?




                                                                                       14
We’re constructing worse queries but feel that we’re getting better results.
Which canary in what coal mine just died?




                                                                               15
Using the Internet: Skill Related Problems in User Online Behavior; van Deursen & van Dijk; 2009
Pew Internet Trust Study of Search engine behavior
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Search-Engine-Use-2012/Summary-of-findings.aspx

In January 2002, 52% of all Americans used search engines. In February 2012 that figure grew to 73%
of all Americans. On any given day in early 2012, more than half of adults using the internet use a
search engine (59%). That is double the 30% of internet users who were using search engines on a
typical day in 2004. And people’s frequency of using search engines has jumped dramatically.

Moreover, users report generally good outcomes and relatively high confidence in the capabilities of
search engines:
91% of search engine users say they always or most of the time find the information they are seeking
when they use search engines
73% of search engine users say that most or all the information they find as they use search engines is
accurate and trustworthy
66% of search engine users say search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information
55% of search engine users say that, in their experience, the quality of search results is getting better
over time, while just 4% say it has gotten worse
52% of search engine users say search engine results have gotten more relevant and useful over time,
while just 7% report that results have gotten less relevant

And Google’s response…




                                                                                                            16
Location on the page = good quality content
       “The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that
       provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also
       want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see
       their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changes that
       successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this
       year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that
       don’t make much content available “above the fold.”
       Matt Cutts http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/another-
       step-to-reward-high-quality.html

UX run Amok: if not enough content appears above the fold, the page will be seen as
less relevant? How many are dictating this for the rest of us? Where did they get this
from?
        “As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if
        they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t
        happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of
        ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much
        content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a
        website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of
        visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial
        screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites




                                                                                             17
may not rank as highly going forward.”
http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-
improvement.html




                                                                  17
Panda 1.0: Google’s first salvo against “spam” (shallow, thin content sites) in the form of content duplication and low value
original content (i.e. “quick, give me 200 words on Brittany Spear’s vacation in the Maldives”) – biggest target was content
farms – Biggest Impact: keyword optimization and link building

Keyword optimization: Shift in focus from text on page to user experience makes optimizing for keywords counter
intuitive. Biggest impact: shift from developer/shady SEO influence to usability/user experience focus – average loss in
positioning (% of KWs falling out of top 10 search results) – 70 to 90% for sites like merchantcircle.com, find articles.com,
buzzle.com, mahalo.com and ezinearticles.com (SISTRIX)
Link building: PageRank does not scale well to a 1 trillion page Web. Google cannot calculate PR fast enough to rerank
sites. PR now devalued as strongest influence behind ranking. Biggest impact: link building for higher PR = “what’s the
point?”

Panda 2.0: Changed rolled out to all English language queries English speaking countries , UK, Australia, etc., and in
countries where English Language results are stipulated. Ranking incorporates searcher “blocking” data (from Google
Chrome feature).

Panda 2.1: Having unique content not enough – quality factors introduced (some below)
                   Trustworthiness: with my credit card information
                   Uniqueness: is this saying what I’ve found somewhere else
                   Origination: does the person writing the content have “street cred,” do I believe that this is an
authoritative resource on this topic
                   Display: does the site look professional, polished
                   Professional: is the content well constructed, well edited and without grammatical or spelling errors
Panda 2.2: Google going after site scrapers that repurpose content not their own or those who “outsource” content
development and maintenance
Panda 2.3: Bounce rate (whether the user engages with the page at all) – Click through - Conversion



                                                                                                                                18
And sort of blames SEO for it (not outright but in a passive/aggressive) kind of way

2007 Google Patent: Methods and Systems for Identifying Manipulated Articles (November
2007)
Manipulation:
• Keyword stuffing (article text or metadata)
• Unrelated links
• Unrelated redirects
• Auto-generated in-links
• Guestbook pages (blog post comments)
Followed up: Google Patent: Content Entity Management (May 2012)




                                                                                         19
February 2011: algorithm focused on content quality - originally thought to be aimed at content
farms
June 2011: update to identify scraped or duplicated content
October 2011: unannounced update to rectify site “unfairly impacted” by original updates
January 2012: sites with too much ad space above the fold are devalued

The slide lists approximately 10% of the changes that Google told us about and what they tell us
about likely represents .10% of the changes that they actually make. (source:
http://insidesearch.blogspot.com)

Re: freshness bug fix: “This change turns off a freshness algorithm component in certain cases
when it should be affecting the search results.”
Will serve up the newer document when choosing between two (from a given site)




                                                                                                   20
Where’s Heidi Klum when we need her. Google’s quality content bar is higher and more
subjective than Project Runway.

Google: Arbiter of Content & Relevance http://www.stonetemple.com/matt-cutts-and-eric-
talk-about-what-makes-a-quality-site/
“Those other sites are not bringing additional value. While they’re not duplicates they bring
nothing new to the table.”

Google’s advice to site owners:
“If it is already a crowded space with entrenched players, consider focusing on a niche area
initially, instead of going head to head with the existing leaders of the space.”




                                                                                                21
The Penguin update is a bit different because it is an aggressive move on Google’s part that
starts with an algorithmic review. If a threshold is crossed, a human review takes place and
most sites are then significantly demoted in rankings or removed all together.

• Overly repetitive anchor text (“manipulative, repetitive anchor text”)
• Blog comments filled with spam (reviews/comments that contain links to “spam”) –
  Google’s definition of spam similar to Supreme Court for
• Porn, no explanation of what this is. The search engine spiders just know it when they see
  it
• Obscene content
• Web “clusters” – multiple Web sites on the same host, from same domain owner, linking
  to article in artificial way




                                                                                               22
Targets “exact match” keyword-ed links or aggressive anchor text to google
        • sites penalized had “moneyed keywords” in 65% of their incoming links
        • Obviously aimed at the long standing practice of outsourcing link building to 3rd
           world countries and the weed-like growth of useless directories (i.e. link farms)
Too many links from “related sites
        • Same niche
        • Same domain host
        • Same domain owner
Standard SEO signals
        • Stuffed <title> and metaDescription
        • Hidden text
        • Unrelated links on and pointing to the page
        • Computer generated text (i.e. dynamically rendered product pages)




                                                                                               23
24
The search engines think that we’re superfluous because we don’t “get search” That’s what
I’m here to end. I want you to “get search.” We are information professionals, not mice!
We’re going to use every neuron, synapsis and gray cell to fight back.

We will shift from trying to optimize search engine behavior to optimizing what the search
engines consume, move from search engine optimization to information optimization
• We will Focus
• We will be Collaborative
• We will get Connected
• We will stay Current

Because we are user experience professionals, not Matt Cutts, Sergey Brin or Larry Page.




                                                                                             25
26
Tools:
Core Metadata: 20-30 terms that represent intersection between client objectives and how
their customers search for the product/service
Content analytics: top pages, bounce rate, visitor flow
Content audit: keep/kill/revise based on thorough review using manual audit or tools
available through resources those from @content_insight




                                                                                           27
Stronger G+ profile = more organic search traffic
http://www.portent.com/blog/seo/google-plus-will-build-your-search-traffic.htm




                                                                                 28
If it barks, sings, dances, plays, changes whatever, annotate with something the
search engine can crawl, deconstruct, associate with surrogate and store in the index

• Relational content model: Next Steps as well as More Information using: guided
  tours, Best Bets, produced view, etc
• Best Bets: editorially assigned result that may not be chosen by the search engine
• Guided Tours: built on analysis of other user pathways and knowledge of corpus
  Produced Views: page of assembled content items focused on a single subject
• Task List Drop Downs: “I Want To…” links to pages of assembled content focused
  on single common task




                                                                                        29
30
This is a team effort.




                         31
It is not too soon to get started.




                                     32

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Optimal SEO (Marianne Sweeny)

  • 1. Some time ago, we fell asleep at the switch. Search engines are now “evaluating the merit” of our content and are not entirely clear about the criteria that they are using. 1
  • 2. This presentation is about Google’s latest updates, Panda and Penguin, and how they impact the content that is retained by the search engines and presented in search results. We will look at: 1. What has happened with search engine technology over the years and what it is today 2. Why we should care. How search engine technology impacts what we do. How what we do can impact the performance of search engines. 3. What we can do about it. 2
  • 3. Search engines came first. They have been around for over 70 years, since the their early days of “information retrieval” when text began to be electronically transformed in the late 40’s. However, information organization and retrieval goes back even further than that… 3
  • 4. An argument could be made that “search engine” optimization came first with the early great care was taken to present information in a “findable” fashion…e.g. great care by a designated few to make information available in limited format to the limited few who would consume and make available to the masses. People optimized text for people. 4
  • 5. Then came the beautiful places where the information was organized in a standardized way so that people could find it. And helpful people to ask for help finding information if we got lost. Early search engines used traditional information retrieval concepts and structured content repositories that were mediated by human generated metadata. Dialog & ProQuest where SQL queries rules, thought-processing bipeds associated tags, categories and abstracts to the content item. dB methods of linear query construction delivered most success. 5
  • 6. First web page can still be found here http://www.w3.org/History/19921103- hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html Then came the World Wide Web, altruistically developed by Tim Berners Lee so that the military, industrial and scientific complexes could communicate with each other, be on the same page and save money in the long distance exchange of information. This worked well until the medium was made available to the rest of us. The result…. 6
  • 7. Then limitless growth, questionable quality and zero governance with no end in sight • 1997: 15 million pages • 2010: Google announces its 100 billion+ page index • 2012: rumored 1 trillion URLs found 7
  • 8. © Tefko Saracevic Source: Saracevic 1997, Information Today One thing that did not change was information retrieval (IR). Despite the technology advancements, the IR process remained the same. 8
  • 9. Slide from LIS 544 IMT 542 INSC 544 by Jeff Huang lazyjeff@uw.edu and Shawn Walker stw3@uw.edu 1. Documents were selected from the index based on the presence of query terms in document text. 2. Documents containing more of the term(s) scored higher 3. Longer documents discounted 4. Rare terms weighted higher 9
  • 10. The environment, devices, participants and content has changed. What does that mean for IR? Search Engines? 10
  • 11. IR’s locked in legacies are centered on • text deconstruction • the capacity for sequential instructions to derive meaning, • its reliance on systems that do not scale well and while incorporating human behavior, do not fully understand it Search engines today believe that it is perfectly natural for them to abstract the whole based on the nature of a small subset = “digital Maoism” 11
  • 12. Using Google’s Latent Semantic Indexing, a machine-learning technique that manually maps relationships, a search for ~vacation turns up results for: hotels, rentals, travel, tourism, resorts… Machines know only what they are trained to know. Rules are based on an analysis of a subset and applied to the content corpus writ large. Machines have no sense of accountability when things go bad. 12
  • 13. Stanford research project that was once greeted as a savior due to the simplicity and seeming incorruptability. Both creators PHD students in data mining Standard IR with introduction of 2 human elements 1. Random Surfer model •At any time t, surfer is on some page P •At time t+1, the surfer follows an outlink from uniformly at random •Ends up on some page Q (from page P) •Process repeats indefinitely 2. Link = vote Unfortunately, flaws in this system were soon revealed: 1. Those who were able to build links dictated relevance for the rest 2. The cottage industry of SEO started building links for reasons other then endorsing the merits of site content 13
  • 14. Google goes public around this time and the cash infusion enables expansion Starts acquiring top computer scientists Google purchases technology (Kaltix – personalized search, context sensitive search) This is the first step away from the PageRank model, not entirely though as PageRank is part of Google’s locked-in technology foundation. And the response from us thought-processing bipeds? 14
  • 15. We’re constructing worse queries but feel that we’re getting better results. Which canary in what coal mine just died? 15
  • 16. Using the Internet: Skill Related Problems in User Online Behavior; van Deursen & van Dijk; 2009 Pew Internet Trust Study of Search engine behavior http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Search-Engine-Use-2012/Summary-of-findings.aspx In January 2002, 52% of all Americans used search engines. In February 2012 that figure grew to 73% of all Americans. On any given day in early 2012, more than half of adults using the internet use a search engine (59%). That is double the 30% of internet users who were using search engines on a typical day in 2004. And people’s frequency of using search engines has jumped dramatically. Moreover, users report generally good outcomes and relatively high confidence in the capabilities of search engines: 91% of search engine users say they always or most of the time find the information they are seeking when they use search engines 73% of search engine users say that most or all the information they find as they use search engines is accurate and trustworthy 66% of search engine users say search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information 55% of search engine users say that, in their experience, the quality of search results is getting better over time, while just 4% say it has gotten worse 52% of search engine users say search engine results have gotten more relevant and useful over time, while just 7% report that results have gotten less relevant And Google’s response… 16
  • 17. Location on the page = good quality content “The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changes that successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold.” Matt Cutts http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/another- step-to-reward-high-quality.html UX run Amok: if not enough content appears above the fold, the page will be seen as less relevant? How many are dictating this for the rest of us? Where did they get this from? “As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites 17
  • 18. may not rank as highly going forward.” http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm- improvement.html 17
  • 19. Panda 1.0: Google’s first salvo against “spam” (shallow, thin content sites) in the form of content duplication and low value original content (i.e. “quick, give me 200 words on Brittany Spear’s vacation in the Maldives”) – biggest target was content farms – Biggest Impact: keyword optimization and link building Keyword optimization: Shift in focus from text on page to user experience makes optimizing for keywords counter intuitive. Biggest impact: shift from developer/shady SEO influence to usability/user experience focus – average loss in positioning (% of KWs falling out of top 10 search results) – 70 to 90% for sites like merchantcircle.com, find articles.com, buzzle.com, mahalo.com and ezinearticles.com (SISTRIX) Link building: PageRank does not scale well to a 1 trillion page Web. Google cannot calculate PR fast enough to rerank sites. PR now devalued as strongest influence behind ranking. Biggest impact: link building for higher PR = “what’s the point?” Panda 2.0: Changed rolled out to all English language queries English speaking countries , UK, Australia, etc., and in countries where English Language results are stipulated. Ranking incorporates searcher “blocking” data (from Google Chrome feature). Panda 2.1: Having unique content not enough – quality factors introduced (some below) Trustworthiness: with my credit card information Uniqueness: is this saying what I’ve found somewhere else Origination: does the person writing the content have “street cred,” do I believe that this is an authoritative resource on this topic Display: does the site look professional, polished Professional: is the content well constructed, well edited and without grammatical or spelling errors Panda 2.2: Google going after site scrapers that repurpose content not their own or those who “outsource” content development and maintenance Panda 2.3: Bounce rate (whether the user engages with the page at all) – Click through - Conversion 18
  • 20. And sort of blames SEO for it (not outright but in a passive/aggressive) kind of way 2007 Google Patent: Methods and Systems for Identifying Manipulated Articles (November 2007) Manipulation: • Keyword stuffing (article text or metadata) • Unrelated links • Unrelated redirects • Auto-generated in-links • Guestbook pages (blog post comments) Followed up: Google Patent: Content Entity Management (May 2012) 19
  • 21. February 2011: algorithm focused on content quality - originally thought to be aimed at content farms June 2011: update to identify scraped or duplicated content October 2011: unannounced update to rectify site “unfairly impacted” by original updates January 2012: sites with too much ad space above the fold are devalued The slide lists approximately 10% of the changes that Google told us about and what they tell us about likely represents .10% of the changes that they actually make. (source: http://insidesearch.blogspot.com) Re: freshness bug fix: “This change turns off a freshness algorithm component in certain cases when it should be affecting the search results.” Will serve up the newer document when choosing between two (from a given site) 20
  • 22. Where’s Heidi Klum when we need her. Google’s quality content bar is higher and more subjective than Project Runway. Google: Arbiter of Content & Relevance http://www.stonetemple.com/matt-cutts-and-eric- talk-about-what-makes-a-quality-site/ “Those other sites are not bringing additional value. While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.” Google’s advice to site owners: “If it is already a crowded space with entrenched players, consider focusing on a niche area initially, instead of going head to head with the existing leaders of the space.” 21
  • 23. The Penguin update is a bit different because it is an aggressive move on Google’s part that starts with an algorithmic review. If a threshold is crossed, a human review takes place and most sites are then significantly demoted in rankings or removed all together. • Overly repetitive anchor text (“manipulative, repetitive anchor text”) • Blog comments filled with spam (reviews/comments that contain links to “spam”) – Google’s definition of spam similar to Supreme Court for • Porn, no explanation of what this is. The search engine spiders just know it when they see it • Obscene content • Web “clusters” – multiple Web sites on the same host, from same domain owner, linking to article in artificial way 22
  • 24. Targets “exact match” keyword-ed links or aggressive anchor text to google • sites penalized had “moneyed keywords” in 65% of their incoming links • Obviously aimed at the long standing practice of outsourcing link building to 3rd world countries and the weed-like growth of useless directories (i.e. link farms) Too many links from “related sites • Same niche • Same domain host • Same domain owner Standard SEO signals • Stuffed <title> and metaDescription • Hidden text • Unrelated links on and pointing to the page • Computer generated text (i.e. dynamically rendered product pages) 23
  • 25. 24
  • 26. The search engines think that we’re superfluous because we don’t “get search” That’s what I’m here to end. I want you to “get search.” We are information professionals, not mice! We’re going to use every neuron, synapsis and gray cell to fight back. We will shift from trying to optimize search engine behavior to optimizing what the search engines consume, move from search engine optimization to information optimization • We will Focus • We will be Collaborative • We will get Connected • We will stay Current Because we are user experience professionals, not Matt Cutts, Sergey Brin or Larry Page. 25
  • 27. 26
  • 28. Tools: Core Metadata: 20-30 terms that represent intersection between client objectives and how their customers search for the product/service Content analytics: top pages, bounce rate, visitor flow Content audit: keep/kill/revise based on thorough review using manual audit or tools available through resources those from @content_insight 27
  • 29. Stronger G+ profile = more organic search traffic http://www.portent.com/blog/seo/google-plus-will-build-your-search-traffic.htm 28
  • 30. If it barks, sings, dances, plays, changes whatever, annotate with something the search engine can crawl, deconstruct, associate with surrogate and store in the index • Relational content model: Next Steps as well as More Information using: guided tours, Best Bets, produced view, etc • Best Bets: editorially assigned result that may not be chosen by the search engine • Guided Tours: built on analysis of other user pathways and knowledge of corpus Produced Views: page of assembled content items focused on a single subject • Task List Drop Downs: “I Want To…” links to pages of assembled content focused on single common task 29
  • 31. 30
  • 32. This is a team effort. 31
  • 33. It is not too soon to get started. 32