Some of us (but not all) catch a cold.

Caffeine is the code name Google has given its latest update. It started rolling out at the turn of the year and along with a major tweak around May 1st is seeming to cause a few traffic issues for some. Overall 5-15% reductions in traffic are reported by many – (but some are reporting improvements.)

This was not supposed to happen. Ostensibly this major upgrade was billed as a ‘behind the scenes’ upgrade a ‘under the hood’ improvement in indexing speed to help with the ever increasing volume of new pages Google has to find and index. However, the Google monster now has a life of its own and even with the most careful planning aberrations occur.

What can we do if we get infected?

If your site adheres to best practice SEO you probably needn’t worry too much, the standard advice used to be ‘ignore it, it will sort itself out over time’ just like dealing with a standard cold or manflu. I suggest a couple of pills below though which may ease the discomfort.

Many people are seeing less pages getting spidered and indexed, something which will lead directly to fewer, particularly ‘long tail’ phrases driving traffic. One thing you can do here to ensure you have a really effective sitemap in place via Webmaster Central. If you havent already, use our guidlines here to register your site with Google Webmaster Central (GWC), and take time to use the sitemap facility to set up a really effective xml sitemap then at least you have done all you can to conform. You can also through GWC monitor your indexing and through the diagnostics to identify any issues. That’s the easy thing to do but what follows requires a bit more effort.

We have noticed that customers whose sites are well structured dont seem to be suffering at all – by that we mean all the important pages being withing 2-3 clicks of the homepage and good anchor text based links in place within the site. In short if the site architecture conforms to best practice SEO chances are you’ll see less issues. This isnt always an easy thing to correct though, but if you can you should at least ensure important pages have html, keyword rich links to them directly from the homepage to feed through some page rank equity. Also creating some keyword rich links from inner pages to important target pages will help.

This is about all you can do, other than letting time take its course. In the interim another option would be to (dare I say it) do some pay per click to plug the gap.

Is Google’s new layout having an impact already?

We overviewed Googles new layout in detail in a previous post. The forums are awash with all kinds of opinion on this – many positive but also some negative in terms of the impact this will have on SE traffic.

Probably we wont know for a while yet what impact this will have on your traffic, however if you look at the options searchers now have for filtering results, see below for the full range of options in the left hand column…

They have options to see more images, video sites, shopping sites and so on. Its essentially a manually controlled ‘Google Universal’ where users have the option of filtering in the sort of content they want. So, another good reason why you should optimise the most important and common options…

Specifically for images you should:-

-Ensure you ‘alt’ tag all images with a keyword rich description

-Set up a image site map – Google Image Sitemaps

A previous post discussed video SEO in detail

For shopping sites ensure your products are included in Google Base

Google Base – product submissions

Doing these simple things will almost certainly ensure you are maximising your visibility when people exercise the filter options they now have.

Is Pay Per Click Affected by this?

Some German folks did some research on this and produced the following ‘heat maps’ which seems to show that the top PPC positions are now getting more emphasis with a de-emphasis on the right hand column ads…..

Here’s the full article on this from the searchengine watch blog – Googles new layout and PPC

So, as ever, more turmoil and changes in the SEO business and more changes to make to our SEO course material.