The Search News Round Up: Google User Experiments, YouTube Annotation Links, Black Hat Webmaster Messages, AdSense Makeover and IS Reporting Changes

It’s been a week of overhauls and experimentation in the SEO sphere, with a number of the online world’s biggest players making changes that could prove to have a significant impact on search for years to come. Without further ado, then, let’s dive in.

Google users may see up to a dozen experiments

In a Google Tech Talk on 22 October 2012, Google’s chief economist Hal Varian let slip that “any time you access Google, you are probably in a dozen or more experiments.” The search engine giant supposedly does around 5,000 experiments a year, also confirming that it releases about 500 search-related updates in the same time period.

While it’s certainly good to know this (after all, it’s never nice being in the dark), it also means the SEO savvy have definitely got to stay on their toes. As long as no changes are made that inadvertently devalue quality sites or allow negative SEO to thrive, we should be okay. However, it’s still a good idea to keep eyes peeled and forums well monitored in order to detect any rumblings of change.

YouTube officially launches associated website link annotations

Until now, any links located on YouTube had to be placed in the video description. Now, however, YouTube has made it so that links can be placed directly into YouTube videos as annotations. The opportunities presented by these annotations are huge: your calls-to-action can lead viewers directly to your website, where you can sell your own stuff, offer exclusive content and, perhaps most importantly of all for some, not be inhibited by the rules of YouTube.

Google said that the change “provide[s] verified partners who are in good standing a way to annotate to their associated websites directly from their videos.”

90% of Google Webmaster messages are regarding black hat issues

If you have received a message in your Google Webmaster Tools, chances are you have either been involved in some black hat tactics yourself or you have been targeted with them by someone else. According to Matt Cutts, only about 3% of messages sent were about having unnatural links, with 90% pertaining to “black hat spam”.

This sobering figure is definitely a good way of helping SEOs realise that it’s not just poor links that can affect their site. Thin or duplicate content, keyword stuffing and poor site structure can all have a negative effect on the quality of sites in the eyes of Google, so be aware of what constitutes black hat SEO and be sure to steer clear of those tactics.

There’s also been a couple of shakeups as far as PPC is concerned.

AdSense text ads get biggest makeover in recent memory

In case you haven’t already noticed, Google AdSense has undergone a huge a makeover. There’s a new clickable arrow icon as well as a number of slight optimisations to font size, spacing and text layout.

Google said of the changes: “These enhancements are among the largest that we have made to text ads, and our experiments indicate an uplift in clicks across publishers on the Google Display Network.”

Impression share reporting changes

Google recently announced several changes and improvements to the way it reports AdWords impression share (IS). The following new columns will be available for account, campaign and adgroup performance reports:

  • ContentImpressionShare
  • ContentBudgetLostImpressionShare
  • ContentRankLostImpressionShare
  • SearchBudgetLostImpressionShare
  • SearchExactMatchImpressionShare
  • SearchImpressionShare
  • SearchRankLostImpressionShare

These are likely to be implemented in the second week of December, while old IS columns will be phased out in February 2013. Google is also claiming to be improving the accuracy of how they calculate IS data, with historical IS reporting data now only available as far back as 1 October 2012.

What do you think of these latest changes to the SEO landscape? Please submit your thoughts in the form of a comment below or subscribe to our RSS feed in order to keep abreast of further key developments in the online world.