Welcome to our new series of monthly blogs which will be looking at the major news and movements in the world of search over the last month. The aim is to pick out the news stories that actually mater to real companies, rather than the more geeky news such as Google giving a wider range of link examples in their webmaster tools link profile or confirmation that no follow links will not hurt sites, unless you are spamming on a huge scale.

Massive ranking changes observed
Google watchers started reporting major movements in Google on 4th September and 17th September. Yet despite some of these changes being as wide as some Penguin updates no announcement of any algorithm update was made by Google, not even a wink and a nod.

However Google have recently announced that two major link networks were removed recently, including Ghost Rank 2.0, which would account for this movement.
Although a good SEO firm would never directly use a link network, “good” websites that have authority may be getting links from them (or the sites that link to them are linked to by Ghost Rank…. There is a reason it’s called the World Wide Web!).

These “good” sites not only look completely fine but really are good sites, they have high authority, properly curated content and maintained on a regular basis. For example: Site A, a Ghost rank network site is linking to Site B which is linking to the “good site”. Now that Ghost rank has been removed, site B has lost authority which in turn has made the “good site” lose authority. Even though the “good site” has no direct link with the ghost rank network it has been effected indirectly.

Although frustrating, it is a good example of why “white hat” is better for long term SEO success than “black hat”. However it also shows how interconnected the internet is and that even when you make every effort to remain within Google guidelines (white hat SEO) it is still possible to be negatively impacted by old SEO techniques.

Fake Reviews
Several SEO companies based in New York have been fined between $2,500 and $10,000 for writing and posting fake reviews, while exposing bad SEO practices it is also another demonstration that there are no short cuts anymore. If you want good online reviews (which you do) then you have to engage your clients and interact with them.

Hashtag Search
Google has introduced “hashtag search” in to its search engines. This means that when you do a hashtag search in Google, it will show more results from social media websites including Google+, twitter and Instagram and less results from standard websites.
This reinforces the importance of making sure that you and your company engage with social media, by not taking advantage of social media you will start to lose out on traffic from hashtaged keywords.
Well that’s all for this month folks, but if you have any questions or would like more information about anything mentioned above please get in contact with me via twitter or leave me a comment on our Google+ page.

As is always the way, once I hit publish on this blog post Google then announce that they have been working on a new update for the last month called “Hummingbird”. Although Hummingbird is a major change in how Google interprets the intent of your search query. So rather than just giving you exactly what you asked for (even if that may not have been what you were after) now they are trying to understand the intent of what you are looking for.

So for example if you were searching for “Restaurants in Brighton” at eight in the morning, in Newcastle, they would present you with one set of results. But if you did the same search at 5pm, in Brighton, on your mobile, Google would present you with a different set of results. The assumption is that your intent would be different even though the search query is the same.

So what does this mean for SEO? On the face of it nothing has changed. The key areas of a page still have to be optimised in the same way, pages still need links and the page still needs high quality, unique content. The change comes when writing the content. It is more important than ever that the content focuses on answering a user’s intent and looks to answer questions that they may have, rather than just focusing on getting the keyword in to the content several times.

It’s hard to know what this means for the future of SEO but with more and more keywords being hidden in Google Analytics it would seem that the authorship mark-up and Google+ is going to be used more and more in building up “trust” metrics for content, and the more trust Google places in you the higher you will rank.

Google have long said that “content is king” – maybe these changes are the first steps in actually turning this in to a reality.