The Search News Round Up: Google vs. Fake Reviews and Spammy Phone Numbers, Unannounced Penguin Updates, New Bing XML Sitemaps and More

This week, it’s a 4:1 ratio of Google to Bing news. We’ve got thrills, spills, spam battles, unannounced Penguin updates (possibly), new XML sitemaps and so much more. Welcome to the Search News Round Up!

Google fights fake online reviews

Worried about spammy reviews on G+ Local Pages? Don’t worry, Google’s on it. Google has made an official statement in the Google Product Forums regarding improvements to its review spam detection algorithms. Briefly, in terms of G+ Local Pages reviews, business owners were advised:

  • Don’t use companies that promise to generate glowing reviews
  • Don’t expect Google to take down negative reviews for no reason
  • Third parties don’t know how to remove reviews from Google, even if they say they do
  • Don’t set up a device in your place of business for people to leave reviews on
  • Don’t bribe your customers to leave positive reviews

Everyone was also advised that if they see a review that violates Google’s guidelines, they can report it. SEOs weren’t left out of the mix either, being advised that ’digitising’ paper comments cards accepted by a client is a big no no. While this might be tempting, says Google, only first-hand reviews are allowed and reviews can’t be posted on behalf of others.

While this is undoubtedly good news for honest SEOs everywhere (we love telling the truth), these guidelines are not without their difficulties. It’s now more important than ever that we keep on top of reviews and clearly communicate best practice to clients to ensure all reviews are genuine and adhere to Google’s guidelines.

See the full list of recommendations in the original forum post here.

Google against phone number ‘keyword stuffing’

We love a good video from Matt Cutts and this week didn’t leave us disappointed, as he took to YouTube to answer the question: “Does Google take action on sites that do keyword stuffing with phone numbers?”

The short answer is, yes it does. Apparently Google gets a lot of complaints about this issue both internally and externally. It takes the view that those pages with just a list of phone numbers adds very little or no value, and views cookie cutter pages which list multiple phone numbers as keyword stuffing.

Neither good news nor bad in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another thing to look out for. Make sure any of the sites you might look after don’t contain these sorts of spammy pages and you’ll be keeping the Google gods happy (or showing you’re trying, at least).

Check out the video for yourself below:

Unannounced Penguin updates?

Although the last confirmed Penguin update was back on 5 October 2012, questions have been raised as to whether regular Penguin updates are being rolled out unannounced.

In a recent Google Hangout, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Switzerland, John Mueller, was asked a question about disavowed links being crawled and a Penguin penalty being lifted. In response, Mueller seemed to infer the Penguin algorithm may be updated on a regular cycle but not always announced.

As we’ve discussed before, SEOs need to be aware that disavowing links is a viable option for getting a site’s link profile back to a healthy state, but it takes time. We also need to be aware that Penguin is more than likely getting regular unannounced updates, highlighting the need to be vigilant about the quality and relevance of links pointing to a site. Constant vigilance, my friends!

New Bing sitemap plugin to help webmasters create XML sitemap files

Bing Sitemap Plugin Download imageGood ol’ Bing – we can always rely on it for good news. Bing’s new server-side application will work on both IIS and Apache servers and will allow webmasters to create a comprehensive sitemap of all URLs as well as a secondary sitemap, which is dedicated to storing URLs which have been recently updated.

Senior product manager at Bing, Duane Forrester, said:

Having both comprehensive and delta sitemaps provides you with significant benefits, as you will always have a full, up-to-date list of all URLs on your website that search engines can use for deep crawl, as well as a concise sitemap of URLs that were modified recently, which search engine crawlers can prioritize. This can help in keeping bot traffic bandwidth down. In addition, the sitemap Plugin automatically adds values to your sitemap, and generates values to the sitemap based on how popular your URLs are.

So, the bandwidth of bot traffic will be reduced thanks to more comprehensive sitemaps, while the ‘most recently updated’ sitemap will help signal new content to search engine bots, and hopefully get it indexed more quickly.

Google releases official guidelines for moving a business on Google Maps

For those businesses that have moved to a new location and have been wondering how they go about changing their address on Google Maps, the wait is over. In a post on the Google Product Forums, Jade W filled us in:

“Verified business owner of a page, and is your business moving locations? Here's what you do:

  • Edit your address in Google Places for Business or in the Google+ page admin area, whichever you are using to manage the page. This will either make a new page or edit the address on the existing page. It may take a week or two after editing your address before you see an update. At this point, you may need to go through a verification process again. Don't worry – this is normal.
  • If you see a page that's still got the old address, click on ‘Report a problem’ and mark that location as closed. Provide the link to the new address or information about the new location if possible.
  • You can find more instructions on closing a location here:

And there you have it, that’s this week’s news. Tune in at the same next week for the latest instalment of the Fresh Egg Search News Round Up!