June SEO Update: Penguin Who? and Prism Impacts Search

penguins-prism-300Last month Google released Penguin 2.  We were all waiting for this update, Google made a big deal about this update (“It’s probably going to be the biggest update of the year.” – Matt Cutts), and some people were pretty nervous.  So, what happened with it?  What have we learned about Penguin 2.0 in the past month?

We’ll discuss Penguin 2.0 a bit and look at how the secret government program, Prism, is impacting search as well as look at some other changes that happened in the past several weeks in this month’s SEO Update.


Hi, I’m Kurt Steinbrueck, director of marketing services with OurChurch.Com, and I’m here with this month’s SEO update so you can stay informed on what’s going on in the world of search. We’ll go straight to Google since they launched their Penguin 2.0 update and I’m sure a lot of people are still curious about what’s happening with that.

Penguin 2.0:
Two penguins
Well, it turns out that Penguin 2.0 wasn’t really that exciting. A lot of people were nervous about it.  Google really built it up saying it’s going to be the biggest update that we do all year.  But in the end, it didn’t really have that big of an impact. It impacted about 2.3% of English-based searches which is significant, but not huge.  And as we look at who was hit and the things that are going on with those sites, it really looks like this is just Penguin 1.0 with maybe a little more oomph behind it.

So, maybe they got a little better at detecting some of the spammy link building techniques and there’s also some indication that they’re looking more at individual pages than sites overall, but in general this really wasn’t that much of a difference from Penguin 1.0.  So, not a whole lot talk about there.

Google Maps Flatten Results:
Google has made some other updates, though. Last month, we mentioned that they are doing a beta test for their maps and in this beta test they removed the listings from the side of the map, right. So, you have just the map and on the map are the listings with the little pushpins and things like that, but there’s no listings which means there’s no more ranking. You’re not number one.  You’re not number 10.  You’re just on the map.

So, this is going to be an interesting thing as we watch as it rolls out to the public, whenever it does.  You might expect that there’s going to be some shift in traffic.  Sites that were at the bottom of the list before, they might get more traffic because there’s no longer list. They’re just on the map like everyone else.

Similarly, sites that were at the top of the list before, they might be getting less traffic now, because they’re on the same footing as everyone else. This will just be something interesting to keep an eye on. You just want to make sure that you’re on that first page, of course, so that you’re getting that traffic.

Google Update for Mobile:
Firefox Mobile
Google also announced that they are updating how they’re dealing with mobile sites. They’re actually talking about lowering some rankings for sites that are not dealing with mobile devices very well. The two things that they noted were…

  1. Errors for mobile devices.  If you serve up an error page from mobile devices, you’re probably going to see a rankings drop at least in mobile searches. And it makes sense; you know, they don’t want to serve up broken sites to people.
  2. Redirecting all mobile traffic to one page.  At the same time, there’s one that’s a little less obvious and you might, actually, want to look into whether this is an issue for you. If you have a mobile site, there’s several sites or a good percentage of sites that actually redirect their mobile traffic to a single page. Sometimes it’s because they only have one page that they actually optimized for mobile and they send everyone there, but more often it’s that they send everyone to the mobile home page and expect them to go to the site from there.

Well, Google is saying “No mas!” They don’t want to do that anymore. Instead, they want you to actually have the people go to the pages that they are ranking; because they are actually ranking individual pages, not just your site. So, if they’re trying to get to the “About us” page, they want you to send them directly to the “About us” page.

And this makes sense, too; because if you redirect everyone to the home page, on some sites it can be very difficult to find the individual page that you were trying to get to.  That’s just a bad user experience and really you would want this for your own users because they’re not going to like it if they’re trying to get to a product or specific information page and, now, they’ve got a hunt through your site to find it. That’s just not going to be a great experience.

So, this is something to look into if you do have that mobile site and you do want to make sure that at least your site is able to be viewed on mobile devices.  You may not need your own version of it for mobile, but you want at least make sure that they [your web pages] can be viewed on mobile devices.

Yahoo Updated Their Search Results Page:
Outside of Google…Yahoo updated their search results page. This didn’t change how people are ranking, but just the appearance of the search results.  This, really, is nothing too big, but they gave it a cleaner look. They’ve added some new features. They’ve taken some of the old features away.  Things like that.  If you haven’t seen it might want to go check it out to see what you think of it.

Bing Maps has New Features:
Bing also announced some new features or at least some updates to features that they have in their Bing maps.

  1. More Birdseye Images: For example, they have more the Birdseye view images. I don’t really use this very much, but some people do so that will be a good thing for you.
  2. More Venue Maps: They also have more venue maps and this can be helpful. If you’re not familiar with venue maps, they are maps of actual locations like amusement parks or malls and things like that, where the venue is large enough that someone might need a map to find a way around it.  So, they have more of those venues mapped out there, available right there in Bing maps.
  3. Report a Problem: They’ve also added a report a problem feature. So, if you see a business that’s out of business or it’s moved or something, you can report that directly within the Bing maps feature right there.

Government Spying!
And that’s just about it. The other thing that I wanted to mention, which is going to be interesting to keep an eye on…You may have heard of the of the scandal that is going on with the data that the government is getting from search engines as well as other big sites. I don’t want to get into the politics of it or what data they were actually getting and all of that. What I want to talk about is something that we’ve noticed.

Search Traffic Shifting:
All of a sudden, some of the smaller search engines, especially search engines that really focus on privacy of their users, are seeing the biggest months of their lives or the biggest days of their lives. They are getting more traffic now than they have ever gotten, and it seems to be that people are getting a little nervous about what the government is doing and they are now moving to other sites to do their searches to protect themselves, especially sites like DuckDuckGo.

Search Engines That Focus On Privacy Growing:
I mention them (DuckDuckGo) not to promote them, but because they actually make a big deal about the fact that they don’t save people’s information. So, if the government were to go to them, and say, “Hey, we want all this information.” DuckDuckGo would have to say, “Sorry, we don’t have it. We don’t keep that information we have nothing to give you.” So sites like that and I’m sure there are others other than DuckDuckGo, they’re actually seeing more people come to use their searches.

It’s not a huge thing. We haven’t seen a mass exodus from Google and Bing or anything like that. And it may not develop into anything. These things tend to wear off, the impact of them at least.  We’ll see.  As more people learn about it and as we learn more about what’s being gathered, you might see a shift and it’ll be interesting to keep an eye.

Either way it goes, people are still going to be searching, so it’s important that you stay strong in the search engines so that you can achieve your goals and mission online.

God bless!

Share Your Thoughts:

  • Were you impacted by Penguin 2.0?  If so, share your story.
  • Are you concerned about the government spying program, Prism?
  • Would you move to a new search engine because of government spying?

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