Google launches new effort to flag upsetting or offensive content in search

Google is undertaking a new effort to better identify content that is potentially upsetting or offensive to searchers. It hopes this will prevent such content from crowding out factual, accurate and trustworthy information in the top search results.
“We’re explicitly avoiding the term ‘fake news,’ because we think it is too vague,” said Paul Haahr, one of Google’s senior engineers who is involved with search quality. “Demonstrably inaccurate information, however, we want to target.”
New role for Google’s army of ‘quality raters’
The effort revolves around Google’s quality raters, over 10,000 contractors that Google uses worldwide to evaluate search results. These raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that Google sees. They then rate pages that appear in the top results as to how good those seem as answers.
Quality raters do not have the power to alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular result as low quality will not cause that page to plunge in rankings. Instead, the data

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Google: No comment on possibility of a Feb. 7 algorithm update

Last Tuesday, Feb. 7, there seems to have been a Google algorithm change that adjusted how many sites rank — both for good and bad. I’ve been tracking the update since Feb. 8, and over time, more and more webmasters and SEOs have been taking notice of the ranking changes at Google.
This seems to be unrelated to the unconfirmed link algorithm change from earlier in February. This new update seems to be more related to Panda, based on such things as content and site quality, versus link factors.
Google has not confirmed the update and would not comment on what webmasters and SEOs have been noticing over the past week in the search results. So we cannot confirm if this was a content quality shift, link quality change or something else. But what we can say is that webmasters and SEOs are very busy noticing these ranking changes, through looking at ranking reports or their traffic from Google

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SEO in 2017: Mobile optimization as a competitive advantage

In 2016, the inevitable happened, and mobile overtook desktop as the primary device used to access websites. This didn’t come as a huge surprise because, as far back as 2015, Google reported that more searches were conducted on mobile than on any other device category.
In many industries, this may be conservative and, at the agency I head up in the UK, Bowler Hat, our B2C clients are seeing up to 85 percent of all site sessions conducted on mobile devices.
Suffice it to say, mobile has well and truly arrived. Yet, while responsive design has been around for a while now and is fairly well-established, the majority of sites tend to fall down on usability. That is, the majority of sites are still built for desktop and then dialed back for mobile. That form-fill that was mildly annoying on desktop is an absolute pig on mobile. Even if it is responsive.
This is not good enough in the mobile-first world we are

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Study shows Google’s Possum update changed 64% of local SERPs

In the local SEO community, Google’s recent Possum update was a very big deal.
To those of us who regularly track the search results for local businesses, it was obvious there were massive changes on September 1. The SEO community as a whole has been relatively quiet about this huge update, and I believe this is because this update primarily impacted the Local/Maps search results and not organic.
SERP trackers like MozCast and Algoroo do a fabulous job of tracking changes in the search results, but this algorithm update didn’t seem to make any massive impact in the charts. I believe that is because local queries that trigger a 3-pack are only a fraction of what these programs track. In all likelihood, the majority of the SERPs they track would not contain a 3-pack — and therefore, big changes in the 3-pack wouldn’t necessarily show on the radar.
I wanted to know exactly how much of a shake-up this algorithm was when it came to

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A Penguin’s Tale: Responding to the latest update

For the last four-plus years now, we’ve heard a lot about Penguin. Initially announced in April 2012, we were told that this algorithm update, designed to combat web spam, would impact three percent of queries.
More recently, we’ve witnessed frustration on the part of penalized website owners at having to wait over a year for an update, after Google specifically noted one was coming “soon” in October of 2015.
In all the years of discussion around Penguin, however, I don’t believe any update has been more fraught with confusing statements and misinformation than Penguin 4.0, the most recent update. The biggest culprit here is Google itself, which has not been consistent in its messaging.
And this is the subject of this article: the peeling away of some of the recent misstated or just misunderstood aspects of this update, and more importantly, what it means for website owners and their SEOs.
So, let’s begin.
What is Penguin?
Note: We’re going to keep this section short and sweet — if you want something

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Penguin 4.0: Necessary and positive improvement

Penguin 4.0 was announced on September 23, and I couldn’t be more excited. I believe Penguin 4 will be a boon for (legitimate) SEO companies everywhere.
We had to wait over 700 days for the newest iteration of Penguin; it was a long time coming, but now that it’s here, it’s more than I hoped. There a few reasons I welcome this new Penguin with open arms:

The algorithm now devalues links rather than punishing sites.
Penguin is baked into Google’s core algorithm, updating in real time.
The feasibility of negative SEO is greatly diminished.
The new Penguin is more granular.
Penguin 4.0 pushes SEO closer to real marketing.

Penguin 4.0 is the relief many sites have waited over two years for. As an SEO, I’ve never anticipated an algorithm update as much.
Note: Non-graph embedded tweets are paraphrased quotes from a conversation between Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes and Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting at Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas.
The algorithm now

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How Google uses machine learning in its search algorithms

One of the biggest buzzwords around Google and the overall technology market is machine learning. Google uses it with RankBrain for search and in other ways. We asked Gary Illyes from Google in part two of our interview how Google uses machine learning with search.
Illyes said that Google uses it mostly for “coming up with new signals and signal aggregations.” So they may look at two or more different existing non-machine-learning signals and see if adding machine learning to the aggregation of them can help improve search rankings and quality.
He also said, “RankBrain, where … which re-ranks based on based on historical signals,” is another way they use machine learning, and later explained how RankBrain works and that Penguin doesn’t really use machine learning.
Here is the audio file:

Here is the full transcript:
Danny Sullivan: These days it seems like it’s really cool for people to just say machine learning is being used in everything.
Gary Illyes: And then people

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Google looking at how to measure brand awareness for search

In A conversation with Google’s Gary Illyes (part 1) podcast at Marketing Land, our sister site, Gary Illyes told us that Google is looking at ways to measure brand awareness in search.
Gary Illyes said this when we asked about how Google sources featured snippets with Google Home voice assistant. Gary explained that measuring brand mentions, without links, is hard, but the user experience team at Google is looking at ways to do this.
In context, Danny Sullivan asked Gary what publishers get out of Google Home saying the name of the site. Is there any ranking benefit to it? Does it lead to any traffic to your site? Gary explained that he first discovered Search Engine Land through brand mentions in forums, not through a link. He then goes on to explain that the Google team is looking at ways to measure “brand awareness.”
Here is the snippet of the audio where Gary Illyes said this:

Here is the audio

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PPC + SEO = match made in marketing heaven

It has been quite a year for the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
We’ve seen numerous algorithm updates, including a final Penguin update and the introduction of Possum. We also saw major changes to the way ads are displayed on desktop SERPs. Google continues to tweak how online consumers receive content through organic and paid listings.
In order to meet the demands of today’s search landscape and connect with more qualified consumers, strategists need to create campaigns that treat SEO and PPC as a unified silo, as opposed to separate disciplines.
Google’s never-ending quest for SERP perfection

The ongoing adjustments to the SERP layout are meant to help Google better align with consumer objectives by improving the content quality and relevance of listings.
While this certainly allows Google to become a better service provider for online consumers, it also presents new challenges for SEO strategists. Each adjustment requires strategists to develop new methods for ranking within prime search listings.
Integrating SEO with PPC
Developing digital marketing campaigns that

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Don’t let your business play possum with local search

For brick-and-mortar businesses, proximity to the searcher’s location has become even more important as a ranking signal thanks to a Google algorithm update nicknamed Possum. With the Possum algorithm change, Google is continuing down a path it has been traveling for quite some time, which is the merging of local and organic ranking signals.
Google is now applying filters to reward certain businesses that are not only physically closest to searchers but that also are optimizing their location data and content for search far better than anyone else. To understand the impact of Possum crawling into our lives, let’s look at the following scenario:

Before Possum: Let’s say Jim, a resident of San Mateo, California, requires orthopedic surgery and is doing a search for orthopedic specialists in the area. An area hospital, Hospital A, that publishes location pages for dozens of orthopedic surgeons might dominate the local pack results — not necessarily because Hospital A optimizes its content better than anyone else, but because

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