A lot has been happening this year regarding the major search engines and internet marketing.  Google launched the Panda aka “Farmer” update that affected many websites attempting to increase their organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  While these changes did not directly affect Broadvox (we actually saw organic PageRank boost), Panda did affect quite a few of our partners, VAR’s, and even some of our competitors.  Sites influenced by Google’s update saw varying punishments ranging from temporary lower search engine results, temporary bans from the results pages, or in some harsher cases permanent bans of domains by Google.   If you have seen substantial drops in web traffic or leads over the last 3 months, I highly recommend auditing your search traffic to insure you were not affected by the major changes Google has incorporated into their search algorithm.  Additionally, Google offers free valuable resources to monitor search data including Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster tools.  Both of these cloud applications provide daily granular traffic information that can be used for BI and marketing purposes.

While the Panda Update is a substantial shift in the way Google plans to process their future search engine results, it has recently taken the backseat to two major changes to their social strategy.  At the end of March, Google announced the Google+1 Button.  This new feature had immediate impact on both social and organic marketing because it allows users to directly affect how the search engine results are affected within their network of contacts.  In a nutshell, if you have a Google account that is signed in, you will now see a +1 button after every search result displayed.  If you click that button you have shown Google your affinity for that link.  If a colleague does a search that would garner a result you have +1’ed, that result would get an automatic boost by Google to assist your colleague in finding the most valuable information for that search.  While this new feature doesn’t bolster +1’ed items to the top spot within the results, it does provide some lift.

The next major announcement is the Google+ Project, not to be confused with the previously mentioned +1 Button.  Google Plus is the first viable competitor to the dominant social network Facebook.  While it is unlikely this new network will take any real market share in the short term,  the increased privacy settings and revolutionary ability to group friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family, will more than likely be imitated by other social networks in their next major updates.  Plus is still very limited in its release and Google has specifically asked that businesses refrain from creating accounts for the time being, so we must take a wait and see approach on this until more information is available.  It will be interesting to see how a business can influence search or paid results with a Plus page.

The final shifts that occurred were more tweaks than major rollouts to Google Adwords.  While these changes aren’t fundamental, they are important because this is where ad dollars are being spent.   The first Adwords change focuses on integration between Analytics and Adwords accounts.  It is now seamless to see your Adwords data within your Analytics accounts.  Through this process, you can now easily measure funnels and conversions from your paid search efforts along with your organic keywords.  This data helps show how ad dollars are being spent and exactly what people are doing while on your website.  You can now track precisely how much money you’ve spent to get someone to download a pdf or fill out a form on your website.  Other changes include new Geo-targeting algorithms for more precise local campaigns.

Last but not least, Google launched Call Metrics in the 1st quarter of 2011.  This new feature allows Businesses to make phone numbers readily available to potential leads through ad campaigns.  These numbers are included within Adwords campaigns and you can see how many calls have been generated, along with the length of the call.  In doing so, you can measure with even more granularity how your ad dollars are being spent on the internet.

As you can see, the internet marketing world is an ever changing landscape with constant shifts and innovation.