Weekly Marketing Update: Rich Snippets, Rankings & Online Piracy

Google takes center stage in this week’s digital marketing news as it gets flooded with 7.8 million link removal requests by copyright owners within a week, and marks its 10-year IPO anniversary with its top 10 search milestones over the decade.

In other news, BrightEdge looks into the SERP volatility reported earlier this month, AJ Kohn investigates disappearing rich snippets in search results, and Google’s “HTTPS Everywhere” campaign comes under fire.


Content from the Bright Ideas Blog

”Did Your Rankings Change in Early August?” by Seth Restaino

Did your site experience some SERP turbulence earlier this month? As Seth Restaino reported via the Bright Ideas blog, Algoroo and several other SERP monitors “reported significant volatility and flux in the search engine results pages (SERPs) starting August 7 and continuing through Friday, August 15.”

Screenshot of Chart

BrightEdge researched its data, he said, but failed to find evidence of a major Panda refresh (as some SEO analysts had speculated). Rather, Seth reports, the BrightEdge analysis indicates Google was likely performing “aggressive testing.” He noted that Google hasn’t confirmed nor denied a major update to its Panda algorithm.

BrightEdge will continue to track the issue, he writes, concluding, “The results of this analysis aren’t to say something isn’t on the horizon, but we’re not seeing a pattern or evidence of exactly what that is yet.”

In-Depth Articles from the Marketing Community

”The Rich Snippets Algorithm” by AJ Kohn

“There’s been a tremendous amount of chatter recently about rich snippets vanishing from Google search results … what we’re really talking about are changes to the rich snippets algorithm,” writes AJ Kohn at Blind Five Year Old.


“That’s right, we need to go deeper,” he continues, “there’s an algorithm within the algorithm.”

AJ then outlines some of his theories “on how Google might be replacing many rich snippets with Knowledge Graph panels and carousels” in its SERPs. He writes that while it was initially resistant to rich snippets – being the last search engine to embrace the feature, when Google finally did incorporate the feature in 2009 it was “all-in,” launching Schema.org mark-up in June 2011.

Relating his own experimentation with rich snippets in Google’s search results, AJ sums his observations:

The Rich Snippets Algorithm Got Smarter: The new rich snippets algorithm clearly draws on site quality signals and may also be looking for topical expertise. Sites impacted by Panda will see both a reduction in rank and a suppression of any rich snippets.

Query Syntax Changes Search UX: Google is adopting new user interfaces for query syntax that indicate specific intent. The number of rich snippets and other visual elements change based on certain modifiers. Knowledge Panels in particular serve to de-dupe, curate and aggregate user intent.

Rich Snippets Are Linked To Knowledge Panels: In some instances rich snippets are being deprecated in lieu of Knowledge Panels (such as music) while other times rich snippets provide access to prime Knowledge Panel real estate.

He concludes: “So while the landscape continues to shift beneath our feet, I believe implementing structured data is one of the smartest moves you can make given Google’s clear and continuing efforts around entities, the knowledge graph and Knowledge Panels.”

”Google’s Push For HTTPS Is More About PR Than Search Quality” by Daniel Cristo

So, is migrating your site to a secure (HTTPS) URL really worth the time, effort and expense? As Daniel Cristo writes for Search Engine Land: “Earlier this month, Google announced that its search ranking algorithm will now consider whether a site is HTTPS. Does this mean you should now go out and make the switch to HTTPS, or is this just political jousting with no real search relevance on Google’s part?”

Lock Illustration

Daniel likens Google’s HTTPS search rankings announcement to its site speed directive of 2010, when it said that a website’s speed would be considered a ranking factor – which of course sent webmasters scurrying to improve their site’s load time. He writes: “While users certainly appreciated the speed improvement, hardly anyone noticed a direct impact to their rankings. Why was that?”

Daniel explains that page speed is a “modifier,” meaning that in the rare case where two Web pages are otherwise considered equal in terms of their quality and relevance scores, Google will confer a higher ranking to the faster site.

He says that HTTPS also appears to be a modifier: “If used at all, it will always be a very lightweight signal used on a very narrow set of queries, acting only as a tie breaker between two identically ranked pages.”

So what is behind Google’s push for “HTTPS everywhere” Daniel says Google’s proclamation that it is for a more secure Web is a “red herring”:

HTTPS only protects against a very limited number of site vulnerabilities, specifically wiretapping and man-in-the-middle type attacks – in other words, spying. It makes the NSA’s job of tracking and spying on internet users more difficult, but it doesn’t protect against hackers, denial-of-service attacks and scripting, server or database exploits.

He then asserts that Google’s HTTPS drive is not about search quality, rather “it’s about Google trying to get back at the NSA for making it look bad during the PRISM scandal, and it is doing this under the guise of a social cause – Internet privacy under the ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ banner.”

So what should you do? Daniel advises that sites that collect and transmit user information should be encrypted using HTTPS, specifically mentioning e-commerce, financial, search and social networking sites.

For other sites that don’t gather user information, he says migrating to HTTPS is not recommended: “It costs money; it takes resources to implement; it slows down your site; it’s not needed; and it won’t hurt your rankings.”

Search Marketing News

Google’s Amit Singhal on its Top 10 Search Milestones

Shortly before the 10th anniversary of Google’s IPO (August 19), its senior vice president of search, Amit Singhal, posted his own “Top 10” version of its most significant search milestones since 2004:

  1. Autocomplete
  2. Translations
  3. Directions and traffic
  4. Universal search
  5. Mobile and new screens
  6. Voice search
  7. Actions
  8. The Knowledge Graph
  9. Info just for you
  10. Answers before you have to ask

He writes, “the heart of Google is still search … in the decade since our IPO, Google has made big bets on a range of hugely important areas in search that make today’s Google so much better than the 2004 version.”

Noting that Google has “made more than 890 improvements” to its search within the last year alone, Amit concludes, “We’ve come a long way in 10 years – on Google and so many other general and specialized search apps, it’s now so much better than just the 10 blue links of years past. In 2024, the Google of 2014 will seem ancient, and the Google of 2004 prehistoric.”

Google DMCA Notices Reach Record High With 7.8 Million Link Removal Requests Filed In One Week

Citing a recent article by TorrentFreak, Search Engine Land’s Amy Gesenhues reports Google is inundated with link removal requests from copyright owners battling pirate sites in search results.

TorrentFreak claims the number of takedown requests sent to Google hit an all time high of more than 7.8 million links last week, up 10 percent from the week before, she reports.

According to TorrentFreak, Google is now processing an average of more than a million takedown requests a day, and within the past month it has received more than 30 million requests – “a staggering jump from the number of URL removal requests it was receiving just two years ago,” Amy writes.

The graph from Google’s Transparency Report below shows the overwhelming increase in requests over the past three years:


TorrentFreak notes that the number of takedown requests has increased dramatically since Google started making the data public in 2011.

So Many Social Users, So Little Trust

Citing data from June 2014 research by Harris Interactive, eMarketer reports that “among the US adult Internet users polled, 66% said they were concerned about their privacy on social networks such as Facebook – the top response.”


eMarketer notes that the Harris Interactive study “broke out platforms that many consider social networks into their own categories,” distinguishing among mobile apps, instant messaging apps, microblogging sites (such as Twitter), photo-sharing platforms, etc., as shown in the graph above.


Share 14 Recap

BrightEdge’s Share 14 wrapped up today (August 22). Look for a recap of our live reporting next week!