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Fall 2013 Brings Potentially Scary Tricks and Treats to SEOs

Thom Craver

September brought a round of early tricks (not treats) for SEO professionals.

Both Bing and Google capped off a month of major changes for their respective search products. And these changes will impact the SEO community in a big way.

Google Encrypted Search Means 100% Not Provided

Sometime around September 23, Google seemingly flipped the encrypted search switch to full-tilt, making it the default for all search users. Previously, only users logged into their Google accounts when searching used encrypted search.

Encrypted searching means no keywords. When a user clicks a blue link in the search results, Google will no longer pass the query the user searched to the resultant site. For marketers and Web analysts, this now means a complete lack of keyword information in their analytics reports, and a complete change in procedures for those trying to report it.

Masquerading as user privacy, this is certainly not a treat SEOs wanted in their bags this season. If you really need to correlate keyword search data to pages, you'll need to use another tool. SEMrush provides great insight to which pages are ranking well in organic search.

Not Provided Graph

Hummingbird: The New Algorithm You Were Already Using

Google has stepped up their core search technology that will affect most of the planet. In what the search giant called the largest update since Google Caffiene, Hummingbird will allow search to handle more complex questions, concepts and relationships between the concepts.

Amit Singhal, Google's Senior VP, made the announcement on the 15th anniversary of Google's launch. Hummingbird is a treat for searchers, but requires new tricks to those trying to optimize. Hummingbird as an algorithm affects 90% of all searches and was in place for at least a month before Google announced it. If you saw your rankings drop in September, it wasn't Hummingbird. Hummingbird was already in place earlier in the summer.

In a nutshell, the Hummingbird algorithm brings:

  • Conversational search. Ask a question. Google answers. This works exceptionally well in Google Now and mobile devices with voice search.
  • More focus on semantic knowledge. The algorithm focuses on user intent and tries to find pages with solutions, not just the search query words on a page.

Bing it On — It's Not a Trick

September also meant big changes for Bing. The first big change was actually with Apple's launch of iOS 7. With the new Apple mobile operating system release, Bing became the back end to Web searches performed by Siri. This meant an expanded audience and reach for Microsoft's search engine.

If you thought it wasn't relevant, think again. Between Microsoft's agreements with Facebook and now Apple, Bing results will become a bit more plentiful. (SEMrush tools also show you Bing rankings and keywords!)

Next up for Microsoft was a redesigned search engine and new logo. The logo, a yellow symbol that loosely resembles a lower-case "b" aligns the search engine more closely with Steve Ballmer's "One Microsoft" vision.

New Bing Home Page

The biggest change, however, is the search box. Being dubbed "Page Zero" search, the search box not only offers suggestions as you type, it also provides action buttons with links to help the search user really skip over the search results lists and go right to an actionable result.

September was a busy month for both search giants. As the world of search grows, so does the user's expectations. Both engines are highly focused on actionable results. As an SEO, this means you need to continue to grow your content. Don't be scared. Drop your black hat SEO tricks, and your content will be rewarded with high ranking treats.

Author bio:

Thom Craver is an international speaker, digital strategist, author and adjunct professor. He specializes in SEO and Web analytics. His last article for SEMrush was "How to Get Started with Keyword Research."

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Thom Craver is an international speaker, digital strategist, author and adjunct professor. He specializes in SEO and Web analytics. His last article for SEMrush was "Getting Started With Local SEO."
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