All posts by David Sewell

Penguin 2.1 update – what has changed?

Matt cutts announced on twitter that the latest iteration of the Penguin algorithm was pushed live yesterday. He states this will affect around 1% of results seen.

Back in May, Matt released this video telling us what to expect in summer 2013 – looks like the domain clustering update effect and Panda ‘softening’ have combined in Penguin 2.1:

Early investigations suggest that the penguin 2.1 update has helped clean search results from having hundreds of deep links from the same domain – known as the clustering effect.

The reduction of clustering of search results seems most noticeable in the property sector where sites such as RightMove and Zoopla previously dominated results on pages two onwards for queries such as:

3 bed house for sale” – Page 1

3 bed house for sale” – Page 2

Following Penguin 2.1, the SERPs contain a maximum of two adjacent results from the same domain. This is much better for users than before and suggests Google has tackled the issue of deep linked pages and their relevance to the query.

The UK property sites have thousands of ‘deep’ pages all potentially appropriate to the search for a 3 bedroomed house, but the latest Penguin update has helped to stop nearly every single one of these deeper pages from being shown (as was the case before).


Two results per domain
Two results per domain

This has introduced a new problem for searches looking for variety in their search results, however!

Notice that the ‘network’ of news sites shown above are all based around a common template. Each result has the same boilerplate title, and page layout, yet they are all considered non-spam and perfectly relevant results to return in response to the ambiguous original query.

Templated site structure
Templated site structure
Templated site structure
Templated site structure

This suggests that duplication of site theme and structure is not harmful to being returned in search – so long as the content is sufficiently different. In this case, each site is dedicated to a local region, and each site from the network is shown.


Ways to deal with (not provided) in Google Analytics

There is a growing problem for many businesses looking for insights from Google Analytics. Logged in users of Google products (and search bars), have the keyword referral data stripped and this is replaced with the keyword (not provided) instead.
There are several ways to gain insights from the data that is reported instead. At the simplest level, you can segment the organic data by landing page. For a more complex approach, register for the new (not provided) tool currently in Beta testing.

This tool relies on neural networks and machine learning techniques to discover the hidden keywords within the the (not provided) organic referrals.

Google suggests alternative search terms – tools to try

Latent semantic indexing has been discussed at length over the past few years and with synonyms being seen clearly in search results it is evident that search will continue to move away from the ‘cave man query’ to a more sophisticated understanding of the search intent behind the query. There is gold in these hills.

A great deal can be learned from the suggestions given by Google in response to a query. These suggestions provide real clues to indexation, classification and Google’s understanding of content, semantic relationships and search behaviour.

The following discussion shows the four major clues Google provides to understanding possible search intentions…

For this example, I have chosen ‘gelato’ – yum!

This screenshot shows how Google is addressing the intent of the search, by providing knowledge base articles in the right hand side column and another box beneath which suggests alternative search queries, entitled ‘See results about’:

Google results for gelato query


Google is trying harder than ever to understand the nature of the query whenever you search, and cynically, to keep you on Google until they have helped you tailor the query to perfection.

Here are four ways Google suggests alternative searches, saving typing and steering the visitor towards the results they seek:

1. Google suggest (drop down list)
2. Google’s ‘Search instead for’ prompt in response to malformed queries
3. Related search terms (shown beneath the regular search results, when available)
4. Results for similar searches
5. Alternative searches ‘See results about’ box


Google suggest gives clues to the most often searched queries, or content available on the web.

Google suggest


Suggested Tools:

Spelling mistakes can result in a Google prompt at the head of search results: ‘Did you mean ?’ or ‘Search instead for’

Google search instead suggestions

Related terms reflect those keywords Google most often sees – closely related terms in form and sequence and help us gain a deeper understanding of intent and information being sought.

Searches related to gelato


Suggested Tools:


Correct spellings give rise to ‘alternative’ search suggestions. The alternatives from Google demonstrate a deeper understanding of the meaning of the search term.

See results about ice cream


If the query is difficult to decipher, such as ‘how to fly gelato in space’, then Google selectively removes terms and provides search result suggestions for similar searches directly:

Similar search results

So, ‘flying a gelato’ is a reasonable query, but try to fly one in space and that’s just too crazy. These results are often fascinating, the search term suggestions made here are often wildly different from the original query too. e.g. my original query did not include the term ‘travel’, yet Google sees a strong association with the original query ‘how to fly gelato in space’ and the subsequent suggestion: ‘flying space a travel’.

Interesting leap for search kind.