The Search News Round Up: Panda 22, Google’s Webmaster Tools SNAFU and Things You Should Already Be Doing

After weeks of greedily keeping the SEO news to ourselves, we’ve invested in an extra bank of typewriters and generously offered a new home to a team of unemployed monkeys in order to bring you the Search Engine Optimisation news of the week. Read on to ensure those monkeys remain fed.

Panda Update 22

The presses were stopped for this one: the social buzz and the numbers seem to indicate that Google has rolled out its 22nd major Panda update. Spikes in the middle of the month were wrongly diagnosed as a major update: Google informed us otherwise but told SEOs to look out for an actual update in 7 to 10 days. Search Engine Roundtable reports that the update hit on 21 November and that 0.8% of queries in English have been impacted.

Scramble to check those positions, folks. Are you celebrating rewards for months of hard work, or just crying into your keyboard at the unfairness of it all?

Webmaster Tools security bug embarrasses Google

Whilst Panda steams onwards, somebody else at Google’s main mill must have leant on the wrong lever this week, as reports surfaced of a major security bug that saw many Webmaster Tools accounts re-verified for legacy accounts. This meant that for a brief time on Tuesday 27 November, SEO companies and other webmasters suddenly regained access to the websites of companies they no longer had dealings with, giving them temporary access to critical optimisation controls – with the power to disavow links, de-index pages and diddle with your account details (the following image from this article from Dave Naylor).

The November Webmaster Tools Bug in Action

Google swooped in to reassure site owners after a quick rollback: “For several hours yesterday a small set of Webmaster Tools accounts were incorrectly re-verified for people who previously had access. We’ve reverted these accounts and are investigating ways to prevent this issue from recurring.”

Nonetheless, vigilance is recommended: by Google’s own admission the rollback hasn’t squashed the bug, just reversed its effects. Keep a close eye on activities on your Webmaster Tools account for any suspicious activity!

Motor industry benefits from mobile search boom

A joint report by the US-based agencies xAd and Telemetrics has revealed the importance of mobile search in the automotive industry: approximately one third of all search traffic for terms within the sector comes from mobile devices. Key findings include the fact that around half of smartphone searchers are looking to purchase a car within a day and that growth has been rapid: in June 2012 15% of motoring consumers were using mobile search, now it’s more like 30%.

What this means for our readers in the Automotive industry is that now is a critical time for moving mobile sites and SEO up the priority list. Manufacturers, dealerships, review sites and other motoring resources need to serve up properly rendered sites for smartphone users and start chasing mobile-relevant terms, (“year-make-model” searches are highlighted as being especially popular). Check out the full report (with plenty more colourful graphs like the one below) here.

Location during use of auto websites and apps

LinkedIn ad interface opened up with new API

Everybody’s third favourite social network (sorry Google Plus) has launched a new API, allowing brands to bypass their self-service advertising route. This will allow development of custom tools so that campaigns can be run on a larger, more efficient scale. Considering that LinkedIn is a repository of targeting variables, anyone who has been trying to leverage the service’s professionally focused database will be excited by the possibilities this opens up.

LinkedIn will also operate a premium support service for approved developers “who will have access to LinkedIn’s online operations and sales team, developer marketing programs, as well as a direct line of communication with our product management team.”

Google AdWords quietly adds performance report columns

With little fanfare, Google AdWords has added report columns for approval status, disapproval reasons and ad policies. These pretty much do what they say on the tin, giving you easier access to at a glance information about the approval process. This is especially useful if you’re juggling a larger campaign that targets areas that may occasionally clash with AdWords policy (including matters of transparency, legality, user experience and the like).

Google reassures that short content can be good content

Google’s Panda updates are still causing a great deal of consternation about having “quality” content onsite, but there’s still plenty of confusion as to how Google makes such a judgement, (Google has either developed the finest literary critic in history or it’s just winging it like anyone else with a Literature degree). It’s easy in the circumstances to assume that quantity will compensate for quality (leading to plenty of fascinatingly complex diatribes about product categories on zealously optimised sites). Describing the problem as “thin content” probably didn't help.

Google’s John Mueller has tried to inject a little sanity: “Googlebot doesn't just count words on a page or in an article, even short articles can be very useful and compelling to users.” Nonetheless, he muddies the water a little by suggesting that you should use small content to trigger discussion: “Sometimes a short article can trigger a longer discussion - and sometimes users are looking for discussions like that in search.” As ever, the final port of call is to mention that unique content remains critical “one recommendation that I'd like to add is to make sure that your content is really unique (not just rewritten, autogenerated, etc.) and of high-quality.”

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