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Google algorithm changes include advertorial scrutiny, Google+, Klout Factors

The one thing that never changes about Google is that everything always changes at Google. It’s like a kid who grows up to be a world-class athlete because her parents never exercised a day in their lives. Google seems to almost have an almost neurotic fear of
calcifying into a company that becomes inadaptable and rests on its laurels.

In Google’s mind, when things are going badly, it’s time to change. When things are going well, it’s time to change. If it’s a Tuesday, it’s time to change.

Sometimes these changes are beneficial, sometimes they’re less so, and sometimes they’re just headscratchers. But Google just announced a new crop, as usual, so here are the highlights:

Advertorials: If you’re not familiar with the term, an advertorial is essentially an advertisement disguised to appear as editorial content. This technique has been growing in popularity on websites over the past couple of years.

The problem with advertorials is that most are not clearly disclosed as being paid advertising, a common issue in the digital age. Back when print media ruled the world, publishers took great pains to clearly delineate the difference between advertising and
editorial content.

Online, it can be much harder to tell whether someone writing a review of a service or product, for example, is providing an honest, objective opinion (true editorial content) or is being paid to promote that service or product (advertising).

It’s especially hard to tell the difference when the website where the advertorial appears doesn’t clearly label it as advertising (or a “sponsored post,” one of the more common nicknames for an ad).

Sometimes any disclosure is done in such an unobtrusive way that it’s virtually invisible, a type of “fine print” technique. People who read the post don’t know the author is getting paid to present a particular viewpoint, making it a deceptive practice.

One thing that’s always been impressive about Google: It doesn’t like deceptive practices, and it’s quick to drop the hammer on websites that employ them.

Google knows it has incredible influence with its search engine results pages (SERPs), and it wants those rankings to benefit sites that are providing honest, useful services, not those seeking to trick visitors.

Here’s what Google announced about advertorials: Ads should not flow page rank and there should be a clear and conspicuous discloser so that the users realize that something is paid and not organic or editorial.

What that means in basic English: Google doesn’t care if you have advertorials, but they must be clearly disclosed as being advertisements, and they must be coded in a way that doesn’t trick the Google spiders (elements that crawl your site to determine its importance) into treating them like standard links to improve your page ranking.

Industry leaders: Another algorithm change relates to what Google is calling industry leaders, meaning individual or sites it determines to be “an authority in a specific space.” Which means that if your site is considered particularly authoritative on a particular subject, Google will try to detect that and give your site a rankings boost.

If you believe your site meets those criteria, there are a few ways to help grab Google’s attention.

One is to add what’s called authorship markup to your site’s content and link it to your Google+ profile. (At Ring Ring Marketing, we can help you understand how to make that coding addition to your site if desired.)

This actually can be a great SEO tool regardless of whether your site is necessarily authoritative on a subject, because it’s great for pumping up click-through rates.

Another useful way to convey authority is by gaining Google+ followers. Even though this social platform has been slow to catch on compared to others, Google is committed to it, and how many people follow you on Google+ is becoming a bigger factor in Google rankings. If it’s important to Google, believe us, it’s important to you.

Finally, your Klout score will play a role in how authoritative Google considers your site. Check out the Give Your Klout Score a Big Boost item later in this newsletter for more on this topic.

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