Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Change and Its Implications for Blogging

Over the last two years those folks at Google have been keeping bloggers busy with algorithm changes that effectively tear up the rulebook.

I should qualify that by saying there was no ‘rule book’ as such. Google tends to be cryptic with the information it releases. The rule, as they were accepted, were those developed by webmasters and writers themselves.

hummingbird

Bloggers had a good idea of how manipulate searches a few years ago which went along the lines of – stuff copy with key words, link like crazy and set up satellite sites that interlink to squeeze the most Google juice they possibly could from a piece of writing.

Google may have been big back then but it was a lot less sophisticated than it is now. Over the last few years it has developed algorithm changes intended to punish what it saw as ‘black hat’ tactics. This is in line with the development of Google+ which has increasingly meant reviewers are no longer able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.

The algorithm changes came as a shock to many businesses which thought they were ahead of the curve. In 2011 Google came out with Panda which led to some websites being unexpectedly slapped by an extinction threatened Chinese bear.

A panda slap proved the be the death knell for some businesses which saw web traffic drop by as much as 50 percent.

In its algorithm change Google took aim at poor quality websites. It penalized, among other things, a high percentage of duplicate content, page content that failed to match search queries, high bounce rates, unnatural language, low quality in bound links, a lack of original content and so called “boiler plate” content on each page. I still encounter marketing gurus who have not caught up with Panda, who are still teaching the development of the perfect “boiler plate,” which is anchor text on each page.

Panda, pointed out Mark Nunney, was no ordinary change. Unlike previous realignments it contained very real penalties for those who crossed the “Panda Line.”

A year after Panda in April 2013, Google launched its Penguin algorithm change. It used a different set of criteria and aimed to target spamdexing including link bombing. Spamdexing comprises a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases in an  attempt to manipulate the relevance or prominence of the product you are pushing.

Search Engine Land states Google launched Penguin to “better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.”

Now Google has implemented Hummingbird  which targets key words. The message is key words are no longer important and content is key. Google will no longer even provide information to webmasters about which key words are driving traffic to their sites.

In an article about the algorithm change my former colleague Paul Hill of Content Marketing Institute writes : “Consider synonyms — the alternative words or phrases that describe what you do and that people might use, rather than focusing your content around an exact-match keyword.”

In a webinar on October 15 Tom Foster of Foster Web Marketing said the loss of key words would be a shock to some, but the overall effect would be a positive one.

“So should you panic? Is the zombie apocalypse upon us? Is this the end of SEO and web marketing as we know it? No
If anything, Google has come to the realization that people are not zombies and don’t use the internet like mindless, brain-eating, undead creatures.

“Don’t be mad at Google it’s  a natural evolution of what they are trying to do. They are trying to make a better product,” he said.

Danielle Ruderman, Director of Research and Development at Foster Web Marketing,  said the steady stream of algorithm changes highlights the importance of a diversified business strategy.

“If the majority of your business is from the search engines, you are a sitting duck. Do not rely on Google for all of your traffic,” she said.

But for now you ignore Google at your peril. Recent research shows it’s used in 67 percent of web searches. It’s not the only game in town but it’s the biggest player which means it gets to dictate who plays ball.

The fast-moving modern environment is littered with corpses – BlackBerry, MySpace and Alta Vista to name three. Google’s preeminence is unlikely to be permanent.

In running a market strategy you should always consider every eventuality and never put all of your eggs in one basket, be it Google, YouTube or social media. The next Google algorithm is unlikely to be called elephant and to trample on the rule book as we know it. But there’s nothing to stop Google doing it. Put simply Google may do it simply because it can.

David Macaulay is the marketing director of the Cooper Hurley Law Firm and the founder of Veritas Legal Media – veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

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Enforcement of Pot DUIs Remains Hazy for Police Departments

Marijuana is now legal in some U.S. states but the issue of enforcing pot-DUI cases is proving a legal minefield.

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported on how lawmakers are “struggling to create rules” for how to identify drivers who are under the influence of pot.

It seems identifying pot impairment is not as easy or straightforward as testing for alcohol. “There is no broad agreement over what blood level of THC – marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient – impairs driving,” stated the Wall Street Journal.

pot

The breathalyzers that police use to detect alcohol are unable to detect marijuana levels. The issues inherent in pot-DUI cases are important in states that have legalized the use of marijuana.

In Washington State which legalized recreational marijuana use last year, voters decreed that drivers with five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood are driving under the influence.

Colorado has the same limit but provides a chance for drivers to prove they are not impaired while there is a similar test in Montana, which allows medical marijuana use.

R. Andrew Sewell, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine told the Wall Street Journal the THC compound may quickly leave the system and regular users of marijuana may be impaired little due to their higher tolerance levels. It raises the potential problem of many impaired drivers being missed and innocent people being arrested, he said.

States are also experiencing something of a headache in sorting out punishments for drivers who are found to be high.

In Washington, for example, drivers convicted of alcohol or drug related DUI offenses must install a device on their car which will prevent it starting if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The problem is the ignition interlock can’t detect marijuana or any other drug for that matter.

The ambiguity of testing for marijuana raises a number of troubling questions. What is, less ambiguous is the potential of drivers under the influence of pot to kill and maim.

At the end of 2012 CBS pointed out how five of the eight deadly car crashes in Santa Cruz County in California involved drivers who had smoked pot before getting into their cars.

 

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Lawsuits Often Follow America’s Mass Shootings

By David Macaulay, Veritas Legal Media

America is once again gripped by the enormity of another shooting tragedy : this time the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Over the next few days and weeks, the shooter’s motive will be carefully examined. So too will the question of whether school authorities could have done more to avert this tragedy.

In the wake of mass shootings lawyers often step in, although the enormity of the tragedy does not always have a direct bearing on the issue of liability.

In the wake of the Aurora shooting on July 20, 2012 which saw James Eagan Holmes charged with the shooting deaths of 12 people in a Colorado movie theater, Torrence Brown Jr., one of the survivors, said he was planning on suing the theater.

Brown was friends with 18-year-old AJ Boik, one of the shooting victims. He said he is seeking therapy and is emotionally distraught after the shooting. The shooting left 58 people injured.

According to reports, Brown plans to sue the Century 16 theater, which is owned by Cinemark, for having an exit door that was not equipped with an alarm or guarded.

Lawsuits often come forward in the wake of mass shootings.  After the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Colorado which 12 students and an adult were killed, some families of the victims attempted to sue gaming companies for $5 billion.

The class action alleged those who carried out the massacre, were influenced by a number of violent video games, in particular one called “Doom.” However, a federal judge dismissed the suit.

There were also a number of unsuccessful lawsuits filed against the school. Some of the impacted families won a settlement against the shooter’s parents and against friends who helped provide guns to the young men.

A number of wrongful death suits were filed in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.

In March 2012 a jury awarded $4 million to each of two families who filed a suit. The families’ lawyers argued the school should have notified the students sooner after learning that two other students had been found shot dead in a West Ambler Johnston dormitory room on the morning of April 16, 2007.The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho went on to massacre 30 other people, including the two victims whose families sued – Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson.

At a later hearing Judge William Alexander II set the jury’s award at $100,000 for each family, the highest amount allowed under Virginia’s cap on damages against the state.

The state settled with some other family members, in the wake of the tragedy.

In 2009, more than 50 relatives of the victims of the Fort Hood massacre sued the federal government, claiming authorities ignored warning signs that the accused killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was dangerous and violent.

Although lawsuits are common after tragedies plaintiffs face many obstacles. To prove negligence authorities should have known about a risk or have been expected to know. Suing local governments can be difficult even when plaintiffs are successful, issues such as caps often come into play, as demonstrated by the Virginia Tech lawsuits.

Contact Veritas Legal Media at veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

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Court Rules Marijuana Use is Not Protected Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

By David Macaulay, Veritas Legal Media

Recently voters in Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The two states are also among 18 that allow the use of the drug for medical use, as well as Washington DC.

But if you are a federal or any other employee you may not be entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even if you live in a state that allows marijuana use, a recent court case has ruled.

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While Colorado and Washington passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use on November 6, 2012, the drug is still banned under federal law where it is presently classified as an illegal schedule 1 drug.

Marijuana has been used to treat a large number of medical conditions including cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently considered the issue of protections under the ADA in November, 2012 and found that California residents using medical marijuana permitted by state law but prohibited by federal law, constituted an illegal use of drugs under the ADA of 1990.

In the case of James, et al. v. City of Costa Mesa, residents of two California cities were recommended the use of medical marijuana to ease their pain. The drug is permitted to be used for medical purposes in California.

However, the cities in which they obtained marijuana sought to close marijuana dispensing facilities. The residents sued the cities under the ADA Title II. They claimed that by interfering with their access to medical marijuana, the cities were preventing them from accessing public services.

They sued but were ultimately unsuccessful. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of preliminary injunctive relief, stating the ADA defines “illegal drug use” by referring to federal, not state, law. The court ruled federal law does not authorize the residents’ use of medical marijuana.

The judges said it was “unlikely that Congress would have wished to legitimize state-authorized, federally proscribed medical marijuana use” in what it said was an ambiguous ADA provision.

The issue of medical marijuana use did not arise in the employment context in this case but the terms analyzed by the court are the same ones as used in ASA’s employment provisions. It’s, therefore, reasonable to believe the same provisions apply if an employee with an illness seeks ADA protection to use medical marijuana. An experienced employment attorney can advise you on your rights.

Contact me at veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com ; 757-582-1836

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Why a Day Spa Visit Can Lead to Months of Misery

By David Macaulay, Veritas Legal Media

Spending a few hours at a day spa may seem like a relaxing way to unwind but recent lawsuits have revealed a your day out may lead to months if not years of misery.

Although accidents at day spas remain rare, a rapid growth in both the number of day spas and the range of treatments available has increased the risk factor.

 

In a disturbing recent case in Florida Edna Viviana Ayala, the 39-year-old owner of a day spa, the Viviana’s Body Secrets Spa in Doral, was arrested after allegedly inject­ing customer Isabel Gon­za­lez with a sub­stance that left her face badly infected and deformed, the Huff­in­g­ton Post reported.

The report suggested Gon­za­lez paid $890 to the beau­ti­cian for two rounds of what she thought were vit­a­min treatments.

What happened to Gonzalez demonstrated that just because a treatment is high end doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Just a week after the second round of treatments, Gon­za­lez started to realize all was not well. Her symptoms included itch­ing, swelling, red­ness and infection.

Soon her con­di­tion became so grave she was admit­ted into an emer­gency room. Her face ended up badly deformed.

The Huff­in­g­ton Post reported public safety offi­cials later learned that Ayala was not licensed to per­form the injec­tion, which is con­sid­ered to be a med­ical pro­ce­dure. She was arrested last week on charges of aggra­vated bat­tery, prac­tic­ing med­i­cine with­out a license and caus­ing seri­ous injury by prac­tic­ing as a health care pro­fes­sional with­out a license. Her attorney insists the day spa did not inject Gonzales with anything.

Although this may seem like an extreme case, it illustrates the potential problems in the fast-growing day spa sector.

Although day care staff may wear white coats and look professional, it does not mean they are medically qualified. While this may not be a problem in the case of a facial, a manicure or a pedicure, more day cares are offering invasive treatments that may be considered medical procedures.

One of the best ways to safe­guard your­self at the spa is to make sure you are receiv­ing ser­vices from a licensed and cer­ti­fied indi­vid­ual. Check out his or her medical credentials before your visit.

You should also check a provider for any public health violations. A report published in 2004 sug­gested that more than half of all pub­lic hot tub spas in the U.S. had recorded a public health violation. Of about 5,000 spas inspected, 57 per­cent vio­lated at least one safety vio­la­tion. Poor water qual­ity was the most com­mon rea­son for a violation.

Notwithstanding the recession there has been a rapid growth in day spas in the United States. As of 2008 there were about 21,300 day spas and the number of providers has grown at an annual rate of 21 per­cent in the last five years.

If you receive a serious injury at a day spa you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

Contact David Macaulay at veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

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A Guide to Herniated Disc Injuries

By David Macaulay, Veritas Legal Media – veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

Many back injuries sustained in car crashes will clear up over time, with the exception of severe spinal injuries caused by high impact crashes.

But herniated disc injuries can be caused by low speed rear-end crashes as well as high speed wrecks. They can cause the victim serious pain and may require costly surgery in some cases.

A herniated disc

The discs are round cushions that separate the vertebrae of the spinal column. They act like spinal shock absorbers. in the court room, attorneys  often compare them to jelly doughnuts when describing them to juries.

The stress caused to the spinal column by the impact and jolting of a serious car crash can cause the disc to rupture or to move out of place. These injuries are sometimes also referred to as slipped or ruptured discs. Herniated disks are often very painful because the displaced discs can protrude out into the spinal channel and push against the spinal nerves, causing severe pain that radiates into the back, neck, legs and even the hands.

Herniated discs can be a serious medical condition the accident victim will face for the rest of their lives. Many sufferers make the mistake of believing they will go away. If you suffer from an injury like this you should immediately see a doctor and also talk to a personal injury lawyer.

Common Symptoms of Herniated Discs

Back Pain: The pain associated with a herniated disc will appear suddenly and will usually be very intense. Lower back pain is the most common symptom because the most disks most likely to herniate in a car or truck accident are the bottom two in the spinal column.

Numbness in legs, back or hands: A loss of feeling or sensation is a common symptom of a herniated disc. In some cases the victim will experience difficulty walking or performing everyday tasks.

Invasive surgery may be required  in cases of herniated discs. It can be costly and complex, leading to potential complications. Insurance companies will seek to minimize the effect of back injuries that are not catastrophic. If you have suffered from a herniated disc, you will know it’s no small deal.

These kinds of cases often result in six figure settlements if another party is to blame for the accident, that party has good insurance cover and the victim had no preexisting condition.

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Disneyland Segway Ruling May Have Implications for Disabled Access to Businesses

By David Macaulay – veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

A court ruling in California tackles head on the question about how far a theme park must go to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and could have wider implications for businesses.

The issue at stake was Disneyland’s prohibition on the use of Segway scooters. The answer given by the court suggests equal access doesn’t go far enough.

“Technological advances didn’t end with the powered wheelchair,” the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week.

Disneyland has a prohibition on Segways but it’s unlikely to last after the case brought by Tina Baughman, who suffers from limb girdle muscular dystrophy. It’s a condition that makes it difficult to walk or rise from a seated position.

Baughman wanted to celebrate her daughter’s eighth birthday at Disneyland, and asked the theme park if she could use a Segway. The two-wheeled transportation device would have allowed her to tour the park in a stranding position.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses such as stores, restaurants or theme parks to provide equal access to disabled people.

The Ninth Circuit ruling suggests it may go even further than that.

As well as offering equal access, business owners must also take “reasonable steps” to make the experiences of disabled visitors “less onerous and more akin to that enjoyed by its able-bodied patrons,” the Ninth Circuit held, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Unless Disneyland’s lawyers can prove Segways represent a serious threat to safety at the park, the ban looks set to be overturned.

“We have every confidence that the organization that, half a century ago, brought us the Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln can lead the way in using new technology to make its parks more welcoming to disabled guests,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, according to Mercurynews.com.

The Disneyland Segway ruling could prove problematic for business owners who believe they are compliant with the Americans with Disability Act but have not kept up with the latest technology.

Business owners who believe they may be affected by the ruling should consult a disability rights lawyer.

David Macaulay – 757-582-1836

 

 

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