New Developments This Week in Google and Bing

by Jennifer Grappone on December 3, 2010

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about two recent announcements concerning Google’s and Bing’s ranking algorithms. We’ll boil them down for you here.

1. Twitter authority is factoring into web rankings
Google and Bing have disclosed that they assign authority to Twitter accounts, and that a person of high authority may give a rankings boost to a page by tweeting a link to that page. This is a similar concept to Google’s PageRank, in which Google assesses the strength of a web page. At this time there is no official name for Twitter authority, and no specific value that is available for the public to see.

While we’ve always known that links from within tweets are beneficial because they can drive traffic to a site, it was previously believed that tweets did not pass any ranking power. We now believe that, at least in some cases, tweets that link to a page can help improve that page’s organic ranks.

What this means to you
This revelation underscores the importance of getting your website talked about on Twitter. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, advises that website owners should think about Twitter as a form of link building.

Although this was not explicitly stated, we believe that being linked to on public Facebook venues also carries some ranking benefits in Google and Bing.

Read Danny Sullivan’s excellent article on Social signals and search rankings.

2. Merchant reviews appear to influence rankings
We are keeping an eye on a new algorithm change announced by Google this week. The official wording is ambiguous, but the catalyst for this algorithm change was a recent New York Times article about a high-ranking, highly unscrupulous online merchant. Top SEO analysts believe that merchant reviews (the reviews that users post about online stores in venues such as Google Checkout, Shopzilla, and Pricegrabber) are now factoring into Google’s determination of ranks. Merchant reviews, which reside on review aggregator sites, are different from individual product reviews, which typically reside on the merchant’s own site.

Positive merchant reviews are expected to have a positive effect on ranks, so it goes without saying that the more highly regarded a business is (as evidenced by merchant reviews) the better the potential rankings benefit.

What this means to you
We believe that any online store should have a merchant account set up in at least one venue to begin accruing and encouraging positive merchant reviews. This is something we always recommend, but it’s something that now deserves a higher priority on your list of SEO endeavors.

This is a very recent announcement, and the interpretations are still highly speculative, however we believe that this is most likely to strongly affect merchants with very poor reviews at this time. We expect this algorithmic factor to evolve in the near future.

Read Google’s announcement on their recent changes.

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