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Google Killers and Chasing Phantoms: Weekly Forum Update

Sounds like the opening to a pulp detective novel, eh? Well, that’s what living in the SEO world feels like sometimes!

Rumors are swirling everywhere about Google’s recent “Fred” update.

Since there are so few concrete details, though, we’ve brought a group of more technical, deeper discussions this week.

WebmasterWorld has been extremely busy, and we have threads about Google killers, Phantom updates, SEO weather and climate, fake information in Google snippets, and more.

We’ve also got some curious threads from SEO Chat and Cre8asiteforums about issues that your everyday webmaster is sure to relate to. Let’s dive in!

Whatever Happened to the Google Killers?

The so-called “Google killers” were search engines that hoped to “revolutionize the Internet and end Google’s supremacy,” as WebmasterWorld member Dimitri phrases it.

“Randomly, I remember all the buzz…about Teoma, WiseNut, Grub, and more recently Wikia Search.”

These rival search engines never were able to reach their goals, as you can tell by the fact that Google still reigns supreme. But there are things that are still aiming to surpass Google – they just aren’t your traditional search engines. Martinibuster posts that the Internet of Things has,

“No screen. No Google Search. No Google Ads. Amazon Echo is the new browser monopoly. Need something? Buy it through Echo,” and that mobile apps “allow websites to circumvent Google altogether. That’s why many sites aggressively encourage you to use their aps, tehy want to free themselves from Google.”

Was the SEO Industry Wrong About Phantom?

Google’s Phantom updates have long been accepted as “quality updates” by the SEO industry. That means that they seem to have targeted things like user experience and content quality, rather than external factors like links. But on WebmasterWorld, martinibuster is challenging this interpretation.

HubPages were impacted by a Phantom update in 2015, but the way that they were impacted has never seemed to fit with the way others were impacted. It is possible, martinibuster writes, that external factors could be a part of the Phantom updates.

“What if the pages that contain low quality user experiences also share this (currently unknown) off-page factor? That would mean that the SEO Industry is in one of those correlation is not causation situations.”

Could “Fred,” a jokingly named algorithm shift, be the missing link that will help us understand Google’s Phantoms?

Are Shorter Titles Better?

On Cre8asiteforums, forum members are wondering if shorter title tags have an impact on SEO and rankings.

“One thing is being succinct in a title as a strategy to ensure that what you want to communicate gets communicated, but another is whether this actually impacts on the ranking of the page,”

writes glyn. Earlpearl writes, anecdotally, that

“I see shorter titles ranking better for the shorter more competitive terms.” What do you think?

Online Advertising: “Craft or Crap?”

WebmasterWorld’s administrator, engine, writes that

“John Wanamaker once said, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.'”

One would imagine that with targeting and new data gathering tools, there would be a lot less waste and crap in the digital advertising space. But major advertisers and publishers are seeing the opposite – the crap stack is growing. Iamlost writes that

“…to put the cherry on top, the leading third party networks have, from day one, encouraged, even practiced, all sorts of ‘mischievousness’. And what is most telling in all the hullaballoo is the silence of the major agencies for they were anda re often complicit.”

Iamlost gives a thrilling run-down of recent events that seem to indicate that all the sparkly social media and digital advertising we have at our disposal is…well, just not good! Give this thread a read.

SEO Weather vs SEO Climate

We hear the weather metaphor for SEO rather often. When an update is hot, the weather is said to be active.

“Weather is a snapshot of what you see outside on any single day. Google’s SERPs are a good example of today’s SEO weather,”

writes WebmasterWorld member goodroi.

“The overall weather pattern is the climate…When making SEo decisions be smart and don’t overreact to Google’s SEO weather…”

This is an excellent thread, with lots of advice from the pros, about how to take day-to-day changes in stride and measure them against long-term trends.

Directories: Fight or Join?

An SEO Chat member with a small local business site has been seeing more and more directories taking over the SERPs for their search terms.

It raises an interesting question – should a small site try to compete with these directories or join them and ride the wave? DMOZ will be closing in March, and directories really seem to be dying left and right. What do recent trends mean for the future of the directory?

Android Comes Close to Challenge Windows for Top OS World-Wide

Shove over, Windows! According to Statcounter, Android might soon be the king of the operating systems. It’s no surprise to the members of WebmasterWorld. More and more often, data shows that people are browsing the web on their (often Android) mobile devices.

“My impression is that the entire population of India uses Androids, so that’s a billion right there,”

writes lucy24. It’s true that in the US, we have a habit of not looking outside of our bubble. Windows may be popular here, but there’s a whole wide world that is growing up with a different preference of OS. Member londrum makes a good point about the downfall of Windows:

“I very nearly bought a Windows laptop the other day, but was put off when I found out they’ve started inserting adverts for other apps and products all over it – even inside your Start menu.”

Google’s Ranking Factors May Not Always Be Constant

Here’s an interesting bit of news that a Threadwatch member has highlighted for us! Google’s ranking factors may not be the strict units of measurement that many webmasters think they are.

Different factors like location, on-page content, and more might weigh more or less heavily depending on the context surrounding the site.

Google Featured Snippets Gets Grief For Spreading “Fake” Information

It isn’t Google’s fault that misinformation exists. But when Google pulls misinformation out of the SERPs and frames it in a knowledge graph or direct answer box as the defacto answer to your query…that’s a problem. On WebmasterWorld, MrSavage writes,

“If you are going to present it as your own content (complete with an image) then you should own it. Better idea. Google can create the content themselves and display that just like the rest of the content creators.”

You can read some examples of bad direct answers from Google on Threadwatch.

U.S. White House Forbids Social Media to EPA and USDA

The members of Cre8asiteforums are talking about President Trump’s new restrictions on some government employees. These restrictions prevent individual officials and organizations from communicating on social media.

“It got me to thinking…for marketers, has anyone been issued new limitations on what information can be released? Is this a new trend or hinting at one?”

asks Kim. Other members are discussing why the ban is in place and what it means – join the conversation!

What Effect Does Deleting a Disavow File Have?

This SEO Chat member received a shock when a disavow file was randomly uploaded to a new client’s Search Console.

“Obviously this was extremely confusing but now I am worried that this is the previous agency trying to wipe out the site’s backlink profile,” they write.

Thankfully, if such a thing happens to you in the future, generalhaan has some great advice in post number three of this thread. Give it a read, it could save you one day!

Uniregistry Increases Price of Some New gTLDs by 3000%

Hip and trendy gTLDs have always seemed like a bit of a scam. The folks who sell them are constantly trying to push the notion that a new gTLD alone can boost your rankings, often without much concrete evidence. In a very strange move,

“Uniregistry is to massively increase the price of some of its under-performing new gTLDs in an effort to keep them afloat.”

The members of WebmasterWorld suspect it will have the opposite effect.

“That is way overboard, and is holding registrants to ransom. Seems to me like a good reason to avoid using the new TLDs…”

writes admin engine. Forum member graeme_p expands on the idea of ransom:

“I think they expect that they have enough people heavily committed to these domains to be able to profit from them,” they write.


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