WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Don’t be a pirate – Google will punish you

Google regularly makes changes to its algorithm in order to shake up which sites are getting sent to the top of search results. And it’s just made a big one.

The internet giant will now take into account the number of copyright infringement notices a site has received when calculating where it should sit on the search results page. The more notices the site has received, the likelier it is to appear lower down in the results.

Obviously, any type of movement within the Google algorithm is something SMEs should pay attention to. But this time, it may not be as important.

For many businesses this won’t affect them because they’re not producing any type of material that would warrant taking copyrighted material. The only likely element that could fall into this territory is YouTube videos – and Google says they’ll probably be exempted.

If you’ve heard something about Google attacking pirates, don’t worry. Just make sure you’re not using any copyrighted material, especially copyrighted material that’s likely to get a notice slapped on your door, and you should be fine.

Give customers as many shipping options as possible

One of the biggest problems with online retailing in Australia right now is the concept of “failed delivery”. Packages make it to the door, but because people aren’t at home when they arrive, they’re either rushing to pick them up at the end of the day or waiting until the weekend.

This is why some companies, including TZ Limited and Toll, are starting to offer parcel pick-up services to give people more choices on where to pick up their goods.

This is a key opportunity for business that many don’t even realise.

You may not be able to afford to provide these types of services yourself. But you at least can refer customers to these services – after all, it may convince them to buy something.

Those Google algorithm changes keep coming

The other major change in Google this week has been the rolling out of its new feature, the Knowledge Graph.

Although this was announced several weeks ago, the update has started rolling out to English speaking countries, including Australia.

Essentially Google is just making it easier for people to find more information about their search queries. The biggest change is in a box that you’ll see on the right-hand side of the screen whenever you search for a person, place or thing. You’ll see some summary information on the right-hand side. If it’s a person, for instance, you’ll see a picture, their name, age, and a short description, and maybe some relevant information as well.

While this isn’t going to be a huge worry for small business, it does mean that you need to get all the information on your website squared away and easily accessed by Google.

And if you haven’t got any information on there, now’s the time to start. Put as much as you can in there about your history, the key people involved and some more information on products. You never know when Google might want to stick your information in a summary box.

Keep an eye on those online sales

There’s been an interesting trend in the corporate results so far this year – many of them are earning lots of money from online sales.

Officeworks is earning $150 million a year from online sales. JB Hi-Fi confirmed its online sales reached 1% this year, representing $50 million. And yesterday, Domino’s Pizza confirmed its online sales represent more than half its revenue – and the company is forecasting 80% of its sales will come from the internet by 2015.

No doubt we’ll see more of these results as the reporting season continues. But it’s an interesting trend that confirms businesses may just be taking online reporting more seriously than ever this year.

As a result, you should be paying attention to these types of results and consider whether you’re keeping up with what the bigger companies are doing. As smaller, more nimble organisations, you should be ready to respond.

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