Is The New Google AdWords Ad Format Too Sneaky?

There are new Google AdWords ads that are starting to show up with different formatting that I’ve seen before. Essentially, the background does not have a color: which in the past has distinguished Google AdWords ads from the regular organic search results. I bet these new ads are going to get a lot more clicks than before.

Here is a screen shot of the new ads that are showing up:

google adwords ads

Click on the image to see a larger version.

This was posted on Imgur, and I’m not sure if it’s just Google testing a new ad format or it’s now being shown to most users.

Do you think these new ads are too sneaky? When I say sneaky, I mean that the ad doesn’t look like a traditional ad, which might cause the typical end user to think that the ad is actually part of the organic search results.

Google Penguin Recovery: Did Your Site Suffer from the Google Penguin Algorithm Update?

How can you tell whether or not your website has suffered a traffic loss or some sort of penalty as a result of the Google Penguin updates? And if your website actually did suffer a traffic loss, you actually might not know it: especially if you are looking at your Google Analytics. Recently, I took a look at a site’s Google Analytics to see if the site suffered from Google Panda, Google Penguin, and if my intervention into the Google Penguin recovery process was needed.

First, I took a look at the Google Analytics for the site as a whole. At first look, it actually appears that the site’s traffic has gone up (not drastically, but actually it is on an upward trend). Take a look at this website’s overall traffic from all sources:

google analytics traffic google penguin, all sources

If you look at the above screen capture (you will probably want to click on the image in order to see the larger version), then honestly it does look like the traffic is just fine. After all, one of the last “key” Google Penguin dates was around the beginning of October according to the Google algorithm update history. I even outlined this during my Google Penguin and Panda update when I spoke at the Pubcon Conference in Las Vegas during late October.

So let’s dig a little deeper into the Google Analytics for this particular website. Same website I mentioned above, but let’s look at the Google organic traffic to the site during the same period of time.

google analytics traffic google penguin, organic traffic

Again, the same thing. Although, there is less of a change in the traffic over time. This normally would look like the site has NOT suffered any sort of penalty on organic traffic because of Google Penguin.

But, here’s where you have to dig even deeper. Don’t just trust the Google Analytics traffic to show you what’s going on. In fact, I wouldn’t fully trust Google Analytics at all after seeing what I found today, by looking at the Google Webmaster Tools data:

google webmaster tools search queries google penguin

WOW, what a difference! If you look at this chart, you’ll clearly see that around the first week of October the site DID receive some sort of traffic loss. Turns out that I ended up digging into the site a little bit more with some additional analysis (which took some additional time) which I won’t go into right here. But, there were certain keyword phrases (the “money” type of keywords) that the site really converts well for and has a lot of traffic. And it appears that the site was really hit by Google Penguin, which this latest update. There were some previous losses in traffic, but not as drastic as this latest round of updates from Google.

So, why is Google Analytics showing that the traffic wasn’t down but Google Webmaster Tools shows that the site suffered a loss? There are several reasons why this can happen, which could include the GA code not being installed on all pages, or it could be that the site lost rankings for certain keywords because of “over optimization”, or it could be a combination of certain keywords who anchor text links are now deemed to be “over optimized”. In this particular case, it looks to me like there are certain keywords phrases that the site has targeted in its past linking campaigns–and that link text appears much more than the actual brand phrases that are pointing to the site. The only way to tell for sure, though, is to have a real expert review all of the data and, only based on experience, make an informed opinion.

Google Thinks Domain Names Are Like Guns

no 1and1 domain-names

So, here’s an interesting question: when are domain names like guns? Well, apparently if you are searching Google, then domain names are so related to guns that Google shows a popular domain name registrar along with search results related to, you guessed it: guns.

I have to admit that in the past I’ve been quick to “pull the trigger” when I see what I think is a good domain name. (Yes, pun intended here!)

But this really has to be pretty ridiculous. I thought that Google was supposedly providing BETTER search results now, especially since they have all these all-new, fresh, fancy algorithms. Like the Google Hummingbird algorithm, and the Google Penguin and Google Panda updates. Let me show you exactly how good Google’s search results are, folks:

Take a look at the search results for this search:

Get Your FFL

For those of you who aren’t familiar, FFL stands for “Federal Firearms License”. As in (in the United States) the Federal Firearms License (FFL) that you have to have if you are going to buy and sell guns. Many are getting their FFL so that they can buy guns for themselves and ammunition for a cheaper price.

When you search for “get your FFL” at Google, you get a search result that includes 1and1.com, and popular domain name registrar:

Get Your FFL

Apparently Google thinks that the “get your” part of that particular search query is related to “Get Your” that appears on the homepage of 1and1.com, which is CLEARLY related to domain names, and NOT guns. Let’s see. The first 30 search results are about getting your FFL, related to guns, and then whammo! domain names. How appropriate.

All I can do is shake my head on this one. And then go on over to Bing to see if the search result is any better:

Yep! The top 50 search results are all about guns. Now, I’m using Bing from now on.

Google Image Mismatch Penalty: What is It?

There is a new manual Google penalty called the Image Mismatch penalty. What exactly is the Google Image Mismatch penalty, and how can you prevent from getting penalized by Google for issues related to your images? Barry Schwartz first reported about this new penalty.

This particular penalty is a manual penalty action by Google, and not an algorithmic action. Manual penalties by Google are different than algorithmic penalties, such as Google Penguin and Google Panda. So, if you are penalized by Google, then you need to take care of this issue and then use Google Webmaster Tools to get in touch with Google to tell them that you have taken care of the issue.

Search Engine Land describes this penalty:

Image mismatch is when the images on your website do not match what is shown in the Google search results.

This is really a form of cloaking, where you display certain information to Google (or Googlebot, their crawler) and different information to your website visitors. Cloaking can also result in penalties, and even can get your website banned in the search results if it’s too severe.

In the case of the image mismatch penalty by Google, most likely it’s going to only affect certain sections of your website, where only the parts of your website that have to do with the issue are penalized.

Search Engine Roundtable has posted a screen shot of the warning a website owner received.

Google image mismatch penalty

Bottom line? Make sure your site displays the same image in Google search results as it does on your site. And if you get one of these penalties, don’t take it lightly or ignore it. You need to fix the issue and respond to Google, telling them that the issue is fixed.

Google Hummingbird Algorithm Fail: What is the Current Twitter Stock Price?

Google recently launched the new Google Hummingbird algorithm with a huge amount of fanfare. They even announced it in the original Google garage, at a birthday event. Part of what Google is proud of is that we can now ask Google questions and they will understand what we are asking.

Twitter stock price

But frankly, I am extremely disappointed with what seems to be one simple query, that Google cannot answer properly.

Let’s take a look at my search query today:

What is the current Twitter stock price?

What is the Current Twitter Stock Price?

On a day when Twitter is going to start trading on the stock market, Google cannot even understand a basic query. Instead, Google delivers search results that are essentially news about the Twitter IPO, some from even a day ago. All I want is the current Twitter stock price, as in the price right now.

This seems to me that it would be reasonable enough, given the query, that Google would return the actual stock price, just like they do for Google:

Google stock price

Apparently the news about Twitter’s stock price is much more important than answering the question: What is the current Twitter stock price?

Google Hummingbird algorithm. #FAIL Simply because a question about the current Twitter stock price doesn’t in fact bring up the current stock price.

UPDATE: – Once Twitter started trading on the NYSE, Google changed the search results to display the actual Twitter stock price, but only if you search for “Twitter stock price” rather than asking Google something like:

What is the current Twitter stock price?

twitter stock price

Is Google Penguin Recovery All About Cleaning Up Links?

A while back I wrote about how many SEO companies and so-called SEO experts have been offering a Google Penguin Recovery Service. I mentioned that you really need to be very careful when choosing someone who offers to help you recover from Penguin, because they really can do more harm than good. They are, in fact, going to do things that will change your website’s link profile which could do serious damage to your overall website search engine reputation. You actually gain search engine reputation over the years, and your domain name has a history.

Take a look at my presentation about the latest Google Algorithm Updates, paying particular attention to the section on Google Penguin:

Google Penguin is entirely about links to your site, right?!? Wrong! Below, I’ll detail why Google Penguin is not all about the links that are pointing to your website. In fact, if you read the original (official) blog post from Google that describes Google Penguin, they describe Google Penguin as an algorithm targeted at webpam. Google states specifically in the blog post announcing Google Penguin:

Here’s an example of a webspam tactic like keyword stuffing taken from a site that will be affected by this change (referring to Google Penguin):

keyword stuffing

Of course, most sites affected by this change aren’t so blatant. Here’s an example of a site with unusual linking patterns that is also affected by this change. Notice that if you try to read the text aloud you’ll discover that the outgoing links are completely unrelated to the actual content, and in fact the page text has been “spun” beyond recognition

link spam

Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.

Reading the above, honestly it is (and was) the same old drivel that we get from Google about webspam tactics that are trying to manipulate search engine rankings. Links schemes are mentioned, but not as prominently as what it shown in the actual screen shots that I’ve posted above that Google referred to in the actual blog post.

There are a lot of SEO experts out there who are saying that they can do Google Penguin Recovery but when you start talking to them they start referring to low quality links and how all of those need to be disavowed using the Google Disavow Tool. Their focus is cleaning up the links to your website.

No doubt, cleaning up low quality links pointing to your website as well as cleaning up the anchor text of the links pointing to your website is important. And that absolutely needs to be done (well, at least your links need to be thoroughly reviewed). An SEO expert such as myself, with 10 plus years of looking at links and knowing the history of link schemes, should review the site’s link profile.

Rae did a wonderful job at explaining what’s going on with links related to Penguin, and the whole “algorithmic versus manual” link penalties. I get that, it’s an awesome post. But one thing that she totally forgot about was the fact that Google Penguin is not totally about incoming links from other websites pointing to the site that got hit by Google Penguin.

Again, I go back to the original blog post from Google that announced Google Penguin. Right there on the Google Webmaster Central blog. In the post, Matt Cutts does mention link schemes which are, I believe, a part of Google Penguin and recovery.

So what’s the bottom line here, really? Google Penguin not just about cleaning up anchor text, cleaning up the links pointing to your site, getting rid of low quality links from other websites. Those are link schemes, and need to be taken care of. But it’s about the bigger picture here, cleaning up everything that has been done to a website (even outgoing links could potentially be a problem), and just about anything else, like keyword stuffing, that is deemed to violate Google’s quality guidelines.

Google Updates Search Results, Removes Bing from Search Results

On Saturday, I wrote a post about Google that showed that a Bing.com search results page was showing up in the search results for a search query on Google. Not exactly the quality search results you would expect from Google.

The search results at Google looked like this:

bing-page-ranking-google

I reviewed the Bing.com robots.txt file and it appears that Bing is, on purpose, disallowing all search engines from indexing their search results: but it appeared for 2 days that Google was indexing one of their search results pages anyway.

A search today, 48 hours later, shows no Bing search results pages appearing in the Google search results. So, this actually begs a few questions, though:

Was this an “accident” that the Bing search results page was ranking in the Google search results?

Even though Bing tells all search engine spiders not to index their search results, did Google index the search results anyway? Well, it appears that was the case.

How is it that only 48 hours later the search results changed for this particular keyword query, “Fort Lauderdale Carpet Cleaning”? It seems rather odd that all of a sudden, with 48 hours, Bing.com’s search results page suddenly disappears? On a local search query that isn’t an ‘ultra competitive’ keyword phrase? I wouldn’t think that the search results for that keyword phrase would change that often.

Google Now Showing Bing Search Results in Google Organic Search Results

Google’s search results keep getting better and better, no matter what type of algorithm changes they make. Yes, I’m joking. Google’s organic, natural search results are so good now they’re actually indexing and ranking Bing search results in the Google search results. That’s right, Bing.com is now showing up in Google’s search results.

Let’s look at a specific example:

carpet cleaning fort lauderdale bing search

Since when is it appropriate for Google to show Bing’s search results page? I seriously thought that Google had some sort of filter for this, that they would not rank or show search results from another search engine or other “low quality content” in their search results.

Really, Google? Showing Bing in your search results is appropriate?

Here’s the actual page that is ranking:

bing-carpet-cleaning-ranking-google

And here is the search result in Google:

bing-page-ranking-google

How to Stop Google from Using Your Photo in Ads

google shared endorsements ad-sample

Google is updating their Terms of Service on November 11, 2013. There are several updates to their TOS, and notably one of the changes has many people in an uproar. If you follow a business on the Google+ social network, there is a chance that your endorsement could be used in an advertisement for that business, elsewhere on the web. You can read about the changes to the Terms of Service< here.

Your image could be used in ads, just like this:

google shared endorsements in ads

This setting lets you to limit the use of your name and photo in shared endorsements in Google ads. Note that it applies only to actions that Google displays within ads; the “Summertime Spas” example above shows a shared endorsement appearing in an ad on Google Search.

What’s important to know, in short, is that:
- If you use Google to post a review, +1 a business page or make a comment, Google has the right to use that information as a “endorsement” of a business. They can use your photo (avatar) or your name in an advertisement for that business.

I actually liken this to what Facebook has done (and is doing). If you go to certain web pages, just like my blog, you will see that I have embedded my Facebook updates in the sidebar. Well, if you are logged into Facebook there is a good chance that Facebook will show you some of your friends that have also liked my Facebook page.

But in this case, if you have “liked” or “follow” a business page on Google+, then Google has the right to use your image or photo in an ad for that business.

Here is what Google says what is important to note:

We’ve made three changes:

– First, clarifying how your Profile name and photo might appear in Google products (including in reviews, advertising and other commercial contexts).
— You can control whether your image and name appear in ads via the Shared Endorsements setting.
– Second, a reminder to use your mobile devices safely.
— Third, details on the importance of keeping your password confidential.

Of course the “using your mobile device safely” notice is a no-brainer. And we always keep our password confidential, right?

Here is the email that is being sent out by Google. I have set up a Google+ business page called Bill Hartzer, so that is why they are referring to my business page in this email:

An Update for Google+ Page Owners and Managers

October 11, 2013

Hello,

We’re writing to let you know that we will be updating Google’s Terms of Service on November 11, 2013; you can read a summary of the coming changes here. We’ve also added a new setting that gives you more control over where your Page’s name, photo and actions appear on Google and across the web.
What’s Happening?

We’ve updated Google’s Terms of Service, including changes that apply to Google’s use of your Page’s name, photo and actions.

Google+ is designed to enable your content to be discovered, for example, by surfacing contextually relevant content or actions when they might be of interest to others. We call these recommendations ‘shared endorsements’. The changes to the Terms clarify details about how your Page’s name, photo and relevant activity may appear in shared endorsements. For example, if your Page publicly follows another Page, Google may surface this action with your Page’s name and photo when relevant and helpful to users, including in ads.

You’re in control of what you share on Google. Your Page sharing settings are not affected and, as always, if you’ve shared something with a limited audience, we respect that.
What Can I Do?

The new Shared Endorsements setting lets you control how your Page’s name, photo and the actions you take (such as +1′s, reviews you write, or comments you post) may appear in advertising. This setting does not affect other places your Page’s name and photo may appear. You can access this setting from your Page’s Dashboard and may change it any time. If you turn the setting off, you may not be able to use certain features until you re-enable it.

If you manage multiple Pages, each Page has its own setting. The Pages you currently manage are listed below:

Bill Hartzer

View your pages in Google+

The changes to the Terms will be effective as of November 11, 2013. If you do not take any action, the Shared Endorsements setting will be turned on.
Where Can I Learn More?

To learn more about these updates for Google+ Pages, you can review the updated Google Terms of Service as well as the Google+ Help Center.

Please also read the updated Google+ Pages Additional Terms of Service

Thanks,
The Google+ Team

So, what’s the bottom line here? If you don’t want Google to use your image or photo or review or comments as a part of an ad, then go to the Shared Endorsements setting and don’t allow Google to use your photo. Frankly, I have no problem with it. They can use my photo all they want. But if you don’t want Google to use your photo in ads, then do this:

1. Go to the Shared Endorsements page.

2. Go to the bottom of the page. Click “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” off (make sure it is unchecked) and click “Save”.

Google Hummingbird Algorithm

First it was Google Panda, and then we had Google Penguin. For the past several years, we have been dealing with pandas and penguins. But now, we’re dealing with a whole entirely new animal: the Google Hummingbird algorithm update.

Gogole Hummingbird

So, in a nutshell, what exactly is the Google Hummingbird algorithm?

The Google Hummingbird algorithm is essentially the “back end” or “engine” of Google’s organic search results. It understands our queries better than ever before. It has an effect on the knowledge graph and advanced search queries (especially when we ask Google questions). And it’s already in place, so we really don’t have to worry to much about upcoming algorithm or ranking changes. They’ve already happened.

According to Google’s new blog post about the update, they specifically do NOT mention Google Hummingbird. However, they do mention the knowledge graph and some other changes, like how Google shows up on mobile.

At a press event, though, Danny Sullivan had it covered:

Hummingbird helps with complex queries but also impacts over 90% of searches worldwide now.

Amit Singhal of Google, at the press event said (with Danny interpreting):

How’s it different? People asking more complicated questions. So how keep results so relevant in light of these. Hummingbird impact all types of queries we get but far more effective on these long queries we get now.

So, essentially, from what I’m hearing now (as of this post), Google Hummingbird is more about Google understanding our search queries. It’s not necessarily about our websites or links or other search engine ranking factors.

Google is getting better and better at offering up direct suggestions and answers to our advanced questions. The Google Knowledge Graph is showing up more and more as results to search queries.

For the SEO community, I don’t expect much of an impact at this point. In fact, it appears that Google has already launched this new Google Hummingbird algorithm weeks ago, just right under our noses according to TechCrunch:

As for how it’ll affect results, moving forward (the ears of a zillion SEO dudes/dudettes just perked): the engine overhaul was silently put in place weeks ago, right under all of our noses. If you haven’t noticed any huge jumps or drops in your search engine placement, you probably won’t any time soon — at least, not as a result of the new algorithm.

I’ll post updates as they happen.

Update:
Search Engine Land has an FAQ that’s worth reading. Key takeaways:

- The name, Hummingbird, is because this algorithm is “precise and fast”. Like a hummingbird.

- The Google Hummingbird algorithm is a month old. They just told us about it publicly.

- The last major algorithm change was Google Caffeine.

- Google Panda and Google Penguin were parts of the old algorithm, not the new one.

- The Gogle Hummingbird algorithm is has a lot to do with enhancing “Conversational Search”, and how Google interacts to our search queries, especially when they’re spoken.

- SEO is not dead.

- There’s really not much that SEOs need to worry about when it comes to the Google Hummingbird algorithm.