Things are changing pretty fast now. Google continues to make one move after another – launch of Google Plus, quicker algorithmic updates, roll out of Panda and Penguin. You can stay tuned as more exciting pieces of news come your way. However, here’s one that should attract the eyeballs of all local business owners. Yes, Google’s newest move is the launch of Google+ Local.
If you thought Google+ (the search giant’s social network) won’t stick, you need to think again. Though Google Places is not closed completely yet, millions of these pages have been converted into Google+ local pages. According to Google, this step is taken to improve how people discover and share local business information within Google+. Google, therefore, makes this effort to help local businesses leverage the potential of the Google Plus community.
Now, isn’t that a sensational change?
What one can really wonder is how this dramatic transition of Google Places pages to Google+ is going to impact business owners who have products or services to sell locally.
As Google Places pages are replaced with Google+ Local pages, Google Plus now features a new local listing tab (towards the left of your Google+ page) for businesses. That means your local business pages will become more socialized with the launch of Google+ Local.
Here’s how it happens –
Connect your local business with millions of Google+ users
Let people find your business via Google search, maps, mobile and Google+
Make it easy for customers to recommend your business
Now, users can use different ways to find a local business. The recent transition of Google Places pages to Google+ Local widely increases the visibility of your company information by making Google Plus a new search destination with all its highly user-friendly features and functionalities. Imagine what happens when all the social features of Google+ are implemented into your business pages. This will certainly add new life to your business by making it more interactive for both existing and prospective customers.
Definitely, the benefits that you have now as a local business owner far outweigh those that Google.com provides at the SERP level.
One of the best things about this roll out by Google is that it changes the way reviews were done until now. Since all the reviews will now be linked back to the reviewer’s Google+ page, there will be no anonymity. And it will highly discourage those that intentionally leave fake negative reviews on company’s business pages. Additionally, it will create a tough situation for companies that indulge in leaving bogus or non-legitimate reviews on their pages.
In the midst of all these changes taking place, business owners also need to pay careful attention to how it changes the local SEO requirements. You should be informed that all the Google+ Local pages will be indexed. Whether it’s about creating more Google+ votes and social signals or optimizing your local pages for increased visibility in Google search results, this transition also creates more opportunities for doing SEO.
What to Do Next!
Now that Google Places pages are moved to Google+, local businesses that aren’t yet familiar with how this social network works need to increase their knowledge and learn more about the same. Eventually, all the social functionalities of Google+ (i.e. hangouts, sharing, voting, and circles) will be added to your local business pages. That’s why it’s really vital that you become well-versed with all that Google+ has to offer.
How do you see this transition? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
Many startup companies put SEO last on the list because you can “fake it.” A business absolutely has to have a finance department and an IT department because these are such specialized fields, and many see paid search as beneficial because you can see the results of your campaign immediately, but many assume that SEO can be figured out by anyone. It’s a long process and it takes a while to see results, so that can just be put on the back burner for a little while, right?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to discover that SEO is not easy to figure out and SEO does need to be part of the initial strategy for a startup company. However, many small startup companies can get away with implementing SEO strategies without enlisting the help of SEO marketing services. This then begs the question: How do you know when it’s time to hire an SEO marketing service?
Top 5 Clues You Need SEO Marketing Services
For those who are unfamiliar, SEO marketing services can come in two forms: In-house or agency SEO services. No matter which route you decide to take, an SEO marketing service is in charge of your organic search rankings. Below lists a few clues that tell you when it’s time to stop attempting SEO on your own and begin searching for SEO marketing services:
1. If you’re so overwhelmed with social media that you are only sharing your own content.
Social networking is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of SEO and user experience. In fact, Google+ is now beginning to integrate social and SERP rankings. This makes growing your social media communities extremely important although it can be time consuming. You must try and build a community of strong followers and industry leaders on at least LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. With the new Facebook Timeline layout and the new social media analytics tools, social media is becoming more and more overwhelming. If you are finding that your company cannot manage building these different communities and sharing others content, it’s time to get help.
2. If you find that you can’t understand the Google Panda/Penguin algorithm changes.
Seeing that your rankings are dropping is one thing, but understand why they have dropped is quite another. Google is constantly changing their algorithms that determine where a site will rank on a SERP, so it’s important that your company is able to keep up with all of these updates and really understand what they mean. If you’re finding this is too much to handle or you don’t understand the terminology, you have your second clue.
3. If you’re still ignoring your competition and keyword research.
Those who don’t have a lot of experience in SEO generally just plug in a few keywords here and there and try and track the results. While this is a good strategy, it is only a fraction of the things needed to create a successful SEO campaign. It’s important that your company understands how to complete keyword research for SEO and look at the competition to determine where improvements can be made.
4. If you’re getting hit with Google penalties and you can’t understand why.
This is one aspect of SEO that a small business can probably figure out on its own, but it would likely be time consuming. SEO marketing services, whether an agency or an expert, can usually tell right away what needs to be changed on a site—Meta descriptions, content being copied, authorship tags, etc. Google penalties need to be tended to right away to ensure that you don’t get banned from the search engine, so if you realistically don’t think that you have time to figure out why you’ve been penalized, an SEO marketing service is probably a good idea.
5. If your website is designed for aesthetics and not user experience.
Many websites begin by trying to look nice. Although this is a big plus, this isn’t always best for SEO and user experience. You want your site to be easy to navigate for users as well as search engine bots. If you’re unsure how navigation changes between the two or if you created your website without any consideration for either type of navigation, you’re likely due for a redesign. An SEO marketing service can help.
Usually an SEO marketing service can come into your company and tell you quickly what needs to be changed and what needs to be added to your current strategy. The practice of SEO is now a full-time job, and as businesses get larger it doesn’t make sense to continually assume you’re doing SEO correctly and effectively. If any of these clues are popping up in your business, it’s a good idea to at least get a consultation by an SEO marketing firm.
Photo Credit: culpwrit.com
Rolled out over a month ago, the Penguin update keeps causing a stir in the SEO community. Some webmasters are removing links and keywords in panic, others are sharing tips on how to overcome the Penguin’s grave aftermath.
Whether you’re new to SEO or have been driving websites to Google top for years, listen up.
There’s nothing new nor drastic about Penguin – it’s just another Google’s quality-related update. There were many updates before Penguin, and many will follow.
Whatever the update is, you’re on the safe side if you craft your SEO strategy in line with Google guidelines and don’t fall into “SEO is dead” panic.
Wondering if your SEO strategy meets Google’s search quality expectations? Want to stop sweating about Penguin, adopt a positive outlook and a broader perspective on the current state of search?
Learn why your site’s rankings won’t be affected by the Penguin update:
10 Reasons Why Your Site’s Rankings Won’t Be Affected by Penguin
1. You ensure sufficient anchor text variation
Aggressively used exact match anchor text is the most widely reported Penguin-related risk factor. You’re on the safe side if you’ve developed a link building strategy which combines relevant keywords and decent amount of anchor text diversity. 
2. Your backlinks are relevant and diverse
As with all Google updates, previous and coming, quality of your backlink portfolio was, and is to remain important (unless Google redesigns its PageRank algo).
Your site’s rankings are unlikely to be affected by Penguin if your inbound links
- come from thematically-relevant sites
- are diverse by type: guest blogging, valuable forum posts (not profiles), media coverage campaigns (newsworthy press releases and such), social media shares
- point to various pages of your site, not only the home page
3. You’re not involved in link manipulation schemes
You have nothing to worry about if you’re NOT into any of these: building link wheels, submitting spam links (e.g. automatic submission of forum posts and blog comments) and other types of links intended to manipulate PageRank and search results. 
4. You work hard at social media engagement
In the search world today, social media engagement is a must. Make sure you include rich, interactive element types on the page e.g. video, images, social media buttons, moderated comments, PDF downloads, etc, to increase your visitors’ engagement. 
When targeting social networks, pay special attention to Google Plus. Google is said to be creating an influence metric that will impact how content is ranked within search, and Google Plus might well be the center of this effort. 
5. You have enough compelling and unique content
What your website covers should be just the opposite of “thin” content.
Take a hard look at what value your website is providing: ultimately, it’s those sites that provide that something extra that Google wants to showcase on the first page of search results. 
6. You shun abundant on page optimization:
- You don’t build internal links with your main keyword stuffed all over the place, be it site copy, your site’s header and footer, h1, alt and <b>/<strong> tags.
- Your pages’ titles and descriptions vary from one page to another and sound as natural as possible (with user in mind).
7. You avoid keyword stuffing
For your pages not to trigger Google’s keyword stuffing penalty, you need to either forget about keyword density and write as naturally as possible, or spot the ideal keyword density which works for your competition. 
8. You don’t panic and don’t fall into SEO asceticism
Even if you’ve spotted warning signals of poor SEO practices on your part, don’t panic, i.e. don’t take pseudo-appropriate actions like removing backlinks and keywords. Learn your lessons, and work out a new comprehensive SEO strategy.
Guilty of using only one anchor text variation? Perform an additional round of keyword research to add more diversity to your anchor text list.
Building links of one and the same type and linking only to the home page? Research more advanced link building opportunities and analyze which pages of your site (other than the home page) are worth linking to.
9. You know Penguin is neither the first, nor the last Google update
Florida, Jagger, Real-time search, Panda, Search+ Your World – since 2003, Google has implemented several quality-related updates, wreaking havoc in the SEO community and causing “SEO is dead talk”. Yet, none of them proved to be fatal for SEO. Neither will this one. 
10. You realize that there are SEOs who survive any update
Here and there in search results, we see examples of websites ranking despite any much-hyped-over update. 
Without favoring any of the SEO techniques used by the webmasters, let us bring these cases to your attention to show that Google search quality updates are not worth your agony.
Although WordPress is still amongst the most popular program to create a website, Joomla is gaining speed. Joomla sites allow for easier customization and are considered easier to use than WordPress, so more and more websites are beginning to get creative and try something new. Unfortuately, while Joomla may have content management and usability down, it lacks when it comes to SEO. WordPress does a good job of helping users customize a website for search engines right at the start, but Joomla requires users to install a plugin.
Joomla plugins work in the exact same way as WordPress plugins—you download the plugin and then click “install” once you are in the admin section of your blog or website. It doesn’t take long to download a plugin, but there are quite a few different choices.
Most Popular Joomla SEO Plugins
Joomla plugins are not nearly as discussed as WordPress plugins, so it’s important to really do your research before making your decision. Different plugins work well with different SEO skills and different SEO levels. Below lists five of the most popular Joomla plugins:
1. Smart SEO is all about the Meta data: Great for Beginners
This is probably the most well known plugin for a Joomla site. The plugin is great for beginners because you can navigate around your website and make changes to titles, descriptions, and Meta tags right there on the page. A bar will appear at the top of the screen and let a user know which fields still need to be filled in; thus helping walk a beginner through the process.
2. SEO Pagination is all about page titles: Great for Beginners
This plugin puts a focus on creating unique titles for pages. Being that duplicate content is one of the most important things to avoid when it comes to SEO, this is a great plugin for beginners who aren’t used to creating unique titles. It’s easy to use and great for websites that have a lot of different categories.
3. Joom SEO will help you save time automatically: Great for Beginner to Intermediate
If you think you might know a little bit about SEO but are not sure, this is a great plugin. This plugin will automatically create your Meta data for you to help save you time. Most SEO experts will recommend checking this data, which is why it helps to understand a little bit about SEO, but in general the plugin has good reviews and seems to automatically create great Meta data for a website.
4. Sh404SEF incorporates Google analytics and social sharing: Great for Intermediates
This plugin takes things a step further by offering Google analytics and social tracking to help make SEO decisions. It’s important that you understand how to read analytics and reports in order to take full advantage of this plugin, but it is said to have great customer service.
5. Unicode Slugs SEF is for the person who loves fancy features: Great for the Advanced
This plugin allows a user to add in punctuation and different types of characters to a URL, which can help make sure your site is unique (and these types of characters are just as easy for Google to fine!). Definitely a plugin for someone who really understands SEO.
Although creating a Joomla site may be overwhelming if you are used to WordPress most find (myself included) that it is actually very intuitive. However, it needs some help in the SEO department. Installing SEO plugins should be the first thing that you do when you get create to publish content on your site.
Do you use any particular Joomla plugins? Which have worked for your website and which have not? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: blogohblog.com
It might be that you are a new startup with a limited marketing budget (and thus want to avoid the costs), or maybe you feel that yourself or an in-house employee will do a better job of capturing the right tone and feel of your company.
Whatever the motivation, there are pros and cons to both approaches. This content will discuss the advantages of both options, and then (hopefully) help you make the right decision for your company.
Writing Press Releases Yourself
After reading through this blog post, you should have a clear idea of what is required to write a press release. In short, you need:
- A good story.
- Good writing skills (specific to press releases).
There are distinct advantages of writing your own press releases, and I would fully encourage you to do so if you can consistently write well (or have an employee to write for you). If you are unwilling to invest in an employee, or unsure of how eschewing a professional PR service can help you, read through the following reasons:
A professionally written press release can cost you anywhere from $200 to $500. Considering that this is just a 1-page document, which will eventually contain information that you will provide, this seems an exorbitant price.
While press release writing services make every effort to personalize every press release, there is a distinct style for each writer and for each company as well. Personalized ‘style’ of press or media releases. A powerful example of this is Google – check Google Press for a sample of effective personalized press releases can be.
Be warned though. This is not something easy to accomplish. As press releases are terse, 1-page news items with a very big emphasis on content, it is difficult to establish a style.
Practice will help you improve, and if you feel that the identity and image of your company will be better served by writing the press release yourself rather than outsourcing it, then make sure you read many different press releases from other companies to get a feel of how to build your unique style.
Being directly involved with your industry, you are in the best position to highlight the advantages of your ‘news’ to your potential consumers and competitors.
You will be able to provide relevant, current information and your insight into your industry will also help you to pinpoint which news hook will be most successful.
Matching the expertise of a professional press release writer is a difficult task. On the other hand, in-house press release writing, especially if done by an employee, can be ‘good enough’ if due attention is paid to getting the details right.
Professional Press Release Writing
Despite the obvious advantages of writing your own press release, a professional press release service gives you specific, money-valuable benefits:
Professional press release services have the advantage of having working in this field for a lot longer than you – they have written (hopefully) dozens of press releases, and know the industry inside out.
As such, they are well placed to avoid mistakes that beginning press release writers might make and are likely to produce good, reliable press releases.
Of course, there is also a chance that the press release might not be what you are looking for – maybe the writer gets the tone wrong, or underplays certain features that you wanted to give prominence to.
The added experience will also ensure that the writer will be able to judge better whether the information you’ve given him is enough, not enough or too much. In addition, there is the value of having an ‘outside’ perspective. Outsourcing your press release to an independent PR service will:
- Allow them to present the news in a more realistic light.
- Discourage you from making a press release without having effective content.
Be careful about putting too much faith in the press release service to tell you what is right or wrong, however. The responsibility of ensuring that there is enough ‘newsworthy’ information in your press release is yours, not of the service.
A press release can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a day to write, revise and get just right. If you are part of a fast-paced company where you measure your time in hundreds of dollars, then spending that much time on a press release might seem expensive especially since you can get better results by outsourcing the press release.
Do not underestimate the time required to write a press release – for your news to be a full-blown success, every little detail has to be just right.
It’s just a 1-page document. Why does it cost so much?
I’m faced with that question every day. Considering that you will still have to provide a lot of the information to the press release service, it seems ridiculous to pay over $200 (and up to $500) for a press release. But in the end, it’s the results that justify the costs.
A professionally written press release will always have a better chance of being accepted for distribution, and the experience of a professional PR service will serve you will in making your press release successful.
Another factor working in the favor of professional press release services is their ‘package deals’ – a promise to distribute your press release at a discounted rate if you have your press release written by them.
Costs vs. Expertise
I’ve been saying this throughout the content, and I say it again:
Your press release is (almost) worthless without newsworthy information. Keep this point in your mind as you make the choice between writing the press release yourself (using the advice in thisblog post) and outsourcing it to a professional press release service. Where will that newsworthy information come from? From you.
In fact, even if you outsource the press release, the bulk of the information put in the press release will come from you, either as part of the original specifications presented, or from the questions that the writer will ask you to help him write the press release.
So what are you really paying them for?
Their experience – press release writers have considerable, battle-field knowledge of writing press releases – the kind that only comes through time. You are also paying for their language and marketing skills, as writing a press release requires a specific writing style that does not fit into traditional sales copy.
Don’t hire a sales letter writer to write your press release until you are sure they have experience in writing successful press releases.
However, if you are willing to learn and apply the knowledge from this content (or have an employee as a suitable candidate), in-house press releases can be just as successful as those from a PR service. The key is to do two things repeatedly:
- Ensure that you are fully prepared.
- Differentiate between traditional sales copy and press release writing and make the effort to write ‘in a reporting, unbiased style’.
Choosing the Right Service
While this content goes a long way towards helping you write your own press releases, the primary aim is to guide you into preparing the best press release for your company, each and every time.
And sometimes, a company does not have the time, or the technical skills, to dedicate resources towards in-house press release writing.
In such cases, outsourcing your press release requirements becomes necessary. This section, although concise, will help you in picking the right service for your company.
Hiring a PR service
If you are looking to hire a professional press release service, make sure that you complete the following checklist.
- Does the service have a portfolio or a client’s list? Make sure that you can see visible results, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
- Compare costs and services between different PR companies to make sure you get the best deal.
- Understand the fine print. Some PR firms may not allow for more than 1 revision, and some also don’t allow for free consultations – which essentially means that if the PR firm decides that your ‘story’ is not newsworthy, you would have ended up paying for nothing.
- Don’t automatically jump for combined packages (press release writing and distribution). Make sure the investment is worth it, and that you see a list of the media contacts (at least their names, if not their contact information) that your press release will be distributed to.
- Themed distributions are very different in impact to generic distributions, so don’t fall into the trap of paying less and actually getting something that is worth nothing to your company.
- If you like the company’s portfolio, try to negotiate a discounted package in return for bringing all your press release business to them. PR firms would normally not refuse long-term business relationships, and the promise of continued business can possibly lower your long-term costs as well.
Hiring a freelance writer
Of course, if the cost is a really serious issue, and you cannot have the press release written in-house (for various reasons) then you may be better served by outsourcing to a freelance writer.
There are several online freelance websites from where you can hire good writers – Elance and RentACoder are the most popular, and most effective.
With freelance writers, there is the advantage of saving on money – a good press release can be written for $100 or less. On the other hand, there is a risk of not getting what you really want.
I’ll not go into the details of how to ensure that you don’t get your money’s worth as there are many ”freelance hiring”guides on the Internet (some good, some bad, and some bad copies of good guides).
Just make sure that you follow the same pattern as you would when hiring a PR service – check their portfolio, and do your best to provide them with complete information.
RentACoder has many safeguards that prevent buyers (like you) from projects that go bad, so trust the system and follow their advice.
However, one bad apple does not make everyone else incompetent. Freelance websites are full of hard-working individuals wanting to earn good money – make sure that you find someone who is capable of doing the job, and then enjoy the benefits of a well-written press release for a fraction of the price.
What is your opinion on DIY vs Professional writers?
It’s not just the Googlebot that crawls images on your web properties. There’s also an image-specific robot for indexing images – Googlebot-image. And the best idea to attract maximum attention from Google is to get your images (and pages) crawled by both Googlebot and Googlebot-image. Properly optimized images can prove to be a source of additional traffic. As internet passes through a phase of ‘visual boom’, it’s vital to make sure all the images on your website and blog get quickly indexed by Google, so they can appear in Google image search.
While publishing images, one thing that should always remain at the top of your mind is that it enhances the experience of users. Image search and web search are like the two sides of a coin. Even when it comes to searching images, Google strives to return most relevant results to users.
Google-Supported Image Formats
If you really want to help Google index your images quickly, you should always remember to use only those formats that it supports. On its official blog, Google mentions its supported formats including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP and SVG. Therefore, you should always avoid using those image formats that are not supported by Google.
According to Google, it can index images of almost any size. Though size does not matter (it depends on your specific requirements), images formats must always be paid careful attention.
Googlebot vs Googlebot-Image
As mentioned above, both Googlebot and Googlebot can index your site’s images. But many times, webmasters notice that their images are only crawled by Googlebot. When there’s some confusion regarding the image URL, the image is first indexed by Googlebot. Once Googlebot is sure that the URL leads to an image, Googlebot-image re-indexes the image.
That’s why, getting your images and pages crawled by both Googlebot and Googlebot-image is a good idea from SEO point of view. Getting your pages indexed by both these robots is a way of attracting maximum attention from the search engine giant Google.
Ranking Algorithm for Google Image Search
Earlier, it was believed that PR played the biggest role in the search ranking of an image. Though the PR of the page (where the image is published) also plays some role, there are a host of other criteria that Google uses for ranking an image in its image search results.
Here’re some of the most important ones –
Placement of the image in a page
Image Alt tabs and filename
Image content (identified via the optical recognition system)
Domain authority of the website the image belongs to
Authority of the page that contains the image
Text surrounding the image
Though there are many other criteria that Google may use, these are the most important ones. Therefore, you should optimize your images by using appropriate filenames, alt tabs and the surrounding text. In addition, you should consider submitting an image sitemap to help Google know more about your images and rank higher in image search results.
Don’t Forget to Optimize for Social Sharing!
If you plan to increase the visibility of your images across the web, it’s a good idea to optimize your visual content for the social media as well. Social signals carry a lot of weight in terms of textual content. The same goes with the images that you publish. Always use superior quality, inspiring the relevant images. However, you should also remember to protect your images by making them available under an ‘attribution license’ so that those who share those images can attribute you (link pointing back to your domain) as the source.
Please feel free to share your thoughts.
Anchor text has long been the SEO trump card. However, the last couple of algorithmic updates have turned things around quite a bit. On the one hand, Google’s Panda is targeting low quality sites (low value for the user, copied content). On the other, Google’s Penguin update is hitting those sites that engage in web spam (keyword stuffing, link spam). All these updates clearly signal that you can no more loophole your way to higher search rankings in Google.
The golden era of ‘exact match anchor text’ is finally over.
Thanks to manipulative link building techniques, exact match anchor text is fast losing its importance. In fact, Google is trying to close all the loopholes one after another. A lack of natural links is all you need to see your site fall apart.
Though Google had already been targeting sites that over-optimized their anchor text (for higher rankings overnight), its attack is now more intense than ever. The recently rolled out Penguin update has taken all the webmasters by storm. You can no more blast a site to the top of Google search results by getting tons of links with an exact match anchor text like ‘best seo company’.
According to recently conducted study by Microsite Masters, it’s come to light that sites that were negatively hit by Google’s Penguin update had used ‘money keyword’ in their anchor text as much as 60% (or above) of all linking text. Such a high percentage of money keyword in all inbound links of a site sent manipulative signals to Google. And that’s why these sites with aggressive exact match anchor text were negatively hit. Sites whose money keyword percentage in anchor text was below 50% were not affected by Google’s Penguin update.
Exact Match vs Partial Match Anchor Text
The fact that sites that had a money keyword as their anchor text below 50% were not impacted negatively also clarifies that exact match anchor text hasn’t lost their weight entirely. Yes, it definitely means one thing that you should quickly quit obsessing over exact match anchor text linking. Instead of focusing too much on similar anchor text, it’s a good idea to use partial match keywords.
If you want to rank for keywords ‘article marketing software’ for example, you can use partial matches like ‘the best software for article marketing’, ‘make your article marketing easy’ and ‘article marketer’s software’ among others.
Link Relevance & Diversity
Most importantly, you need to focus on two major elements of anchor text linking – relevance and diversity. When a search engine crawler crawls a link, it also tracks the degree of relevance. A good link value is, therefore, passed when the crawler verifies that links pointing back to your sites are from credible and related sources (both linking page- and domain-wise) . Apart from focusing on link relevance, you need to use different variations of anchor text.
Variations may include your brand name, the URL name, short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords and partial match keywords as anchor text. The more diverse your anchor text linking profile is, the more natural it will look to search engines.
This is What You Need to Do
The first step is to take a closer look at your internal or on-site anchor text linking (over which you’ve all control). Make sure you’re not over-optimizing. Second, you need to analyze the anchor text links pointing back to your site from external sources. If you notice a higher exact match anchor text pattern, you need to take action. If it’s in your control (in case you know site owners personally), you can tweak the anchor text with different variations. If this is beyond your control or doesn’t sound practical, you should start building links with different variations of anchor text to balance out things before it’s really too late.
What’s in your anchor text? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
As you are probably well aware of, Google released their latest Panda / webspam algorithm update this week in order to reward high quality sites. What they specifically targeted was “black hat webspam” including keyword stuffing and link schemes. By devaluing sites that participated in these black hat techniques or anything against Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines, they are hoping to provide better user experience for searchers on the web.
Was Your Site Affected
According to Search Engine Land’s Winners & Losers post about sites affected by the latest Panda update, losing sites could be summarized as those which use databases to aggregate information, press portals & aggregators, and heavily templated sites. The top sites that lost the highest percentage of SEO visibility included familiar names like:
So how can you tell if your site was affected? Start watching your Google Analytics, particularly your Organic search traffic.
If you start to see the graph significantly dip after April 24th, then there is a good chance your site was affected.
You might also want to check your Google Webmaster Tools if you have set it up for your websites. Google has been sending notifications to webmasters in the last month about unnatural link activity.
Don’t freak out right away if you have new messages – Webmaster Tools also notifies you if you need a WordPress update!
What to Do If Your Site Was Affected?
So what do you need to do if your site was affected? You’ll need to be on the lookout for two things: over-optimization with your on-site SEO and unnatural, spammy links. Over-optimization usually boils down to keyword stuffing – too many keywords on a page in the title tag, meta description, and within the content. Unnatural, spammy links usually boils down to too much exact match anchor text and links in unnatural places. SEO.com has a great post on red flags to look for in your link portfolio.
If possible, you will want to remove any over-optimization on your website and try to have any spammy links taken down, then contact Google and ask for reconsideration back into their good graces.
How to Prevent Your Site from Getting Penalized
If your site wasn’t affected by the latest update, and you want to keep it from getting penalized in the future, be sure to do some preventative work like making sure your on-site SEO isn’t overly-optimized. Translation: have more quality content than keywords.
Also, don’t participate in unnatural link building tactics including, but not limited to:
- Over-used anchor text: Yes, it’s ok to use anchor text, but don’t build every single link to best SEO agency. Mix it up with different keyword phrases, your business / website / brand name, and other variations. Remember that the point is to look natural, and Google knows that 500 sites won’t link to the same exact keyword phrase every single time.
- Spamming: This includes crappy comments, crappy forum posts, and crappy article directories using crappy spun content. Again, all unnatural looking elements.
- Link exchanges: While it’s OK to link to someone with a similar website and have them link back to you, it’s not OK to link to just anyone’s homepage and have them link back to you on their link exchange, resources, or other sites of interests pages. Especially if those pages on other sites are linking to a ton of different websites that has nothing to do with yours.
- Paying for links: If you are following a competitor’s backlink trail and buying blogroll links on the same sites they are, then you will start creating a noticeable “pattern” that Google might detect one day. Think about it – if they bust Site A for buying links, and they see that Site B and Site C have links on the same exact sites that Site A has links on, they’ll make the connection.
Was your site (or a favorite of yours) hit by the latest algorithm update? What are you doing to prevent your site from being penalized?
Whether you have a large site or a very small site, having a Google Webmaster Tool account set up is essential. In GWT webmasters can see the inner workings of a website as it relates to Google. That information can be extremely valuable when evaluating your sites performance and tailoring your efforts to achieve your goals faster.
In GWT users can see what errors were encountered by the Googlebot when crawling and indexing your site. Errors with crawling sitemaps, HTTP errors, pages not found or broken links, URLs not followed, URLs restricted by robots.txt, URLs that take too much time to load, and pages that are unreachable can be seen in the “Crawl Errors” section of GWT. This information is extremely helpful if you have a large site to manage.
Errors may indicate an issue with innumerable items on your site. Each error should be examined in detail by an expert to determine its accuracy. Servers can often act strangely and not perform correctly for search engines. Some have even found Googlebot has crashed their sites, but offer solutions in many posts available online. Look at the error reports and determine the cause. Attempt to fix the issues you find because a site that can be crawled without error is certainly a good thing.
Meta Descriptions & Title Tags
I find the meta descriptions and title tags section to be very useful in GWT. Duplicate pages are shown in this section and errors with title tags or descriptions are shown as well. Any duplicates should be examined for accuracy. Inaccurate data should be further researched as it may showcase an issue.
For example, I’ve seen sites that showed thousands of duplicated meta titles and descriptions but the duplicated pages weren’t suppose to be seen. They had 301 redirects in place but Googlebot was still finding the content. These errors in GWT notified us of an issue which required additional research. In the end the issue led us back to their website’s load balancers and cache server settings. GWT can hold valuable information so make a point to examine this particular area often.
Find the top queries and top pages drawing in the most impressions and clicks on Google. With the limited data available in Google Analytics due to encrypted search, users can use GWT to see additional data as it relates to specific queries. Average position of a search query is available in this section along with percent increase and decrease over the course of a set period. A little over 30 days of data is available at a time and is available for download on demand.
Some webmasters have discovered their sites were hacked by examining this section in GWT. Search queries that contain pornographic terms, drug terms, or gambling terms are obvious signs you have an issue in the innermost workings of your site.
While the effect and popularity of Google + is still being determined, I’ve started to examine the +1 Metrics section of GWT to see if I can start to discern any patterns or growth. For certain sites with a high tech male demographic, Google + is performing quite well. GWT will show you +1 annotated impressions, CTR without +1 and CTR with +1.
Activity and audience data is also available, so you can see popular posts as they get +1s and grow over time. As the site grows in popularity, examination of this data will be important to your efforts with content marketing and social media marketing. Have a post that is seeing a decline? Repromote on Google+ and push renewed strength into the content piece. There are many ways you can use the data, the first step is actually looking.
These are just a few of the ways I use Google Webmaster Tools to help examine issues with a site and stay on top of all the moving parts involved in managing a website for search.
How do you use GWT to help you with your website? Share with us in the comments below.
Last few updates by Google have made it quite obvious that social signals will play a major role in ranking content. Five to ten years ago, ranking at the top of search results was all about algorithms. To rank at the top, all you needed to do was to optimize the content copy for a set of targeted keywords. Now, search is also about people while social is just about people. That means, social media and search are highly intertwined today.
Major search engines like Google have begun to understand people (and relationships). That’s why you need to create as many social signals for your content as possible for higher search rankings.
When it comes to creating social signals for your content, titles have got a major role to play. Apart from creating content that’s really useful to your audience, you also need to make sure that your content is shared by a large number of people. The more shares your articles get, the better social signals you send to search engines. And, titles have a huge impact on shareability.
Usually, sharing is instantaneous. Great content with average titles may get a good number of shares. But it’s actually harder. Many people would share an article only because the title grabbed their attention immediately. That’s a clear signal that titles can make a great impact in terms of social sharing.
Great Titles = More Social Sharing = Better Search Rankings
Writing great titles is also a good practice from SEO point of view. Today, post titles have far outweighed meta keywords and meta description. As SEO continues to evolve, major search engines are placing more value on top quality content and downgrading over-optimized ones.
Titles are more important today than ever before.
Those few words that you use in the title will decide whether your content will be shared by thousands of people or barely noticed. Well-crafted titles can spread your content like wildfire across the web.
In their book ‘Made to Stick’, the Heath Brothers state that any good news or editorial writer may devote 80% of their time to writing the title. The time that’s left will be used to put together the body of the content.
Since social signals are vital to enhance your SEO, it’s high time to pay some careful attention to crafting titles. Some of the most important elements that make a title attention-grabbing include emotion, expectation, curiosity and benefit among others. Titles that are short, descriptive and eye-catching carry high viral potential. Though a title is just a group of few words, it’s the real game changer in the world of social media. In any case, you should never compromise on the overall quality of the article.
There are multiple ways to assess the effectiveness of your post titles. One of them is using a URL shortener. A URL shortener like bit.ly can help you a great deal in this regard. It can tell you the CTR and the number of shares for each of your links posted to different social networking websites. Using such URL shorteners, you can also A/B-test your titles.
You can get started with it by creating two different shortened links for the same article. Next, you can use two different title versions to post the article. The bit.ly stats for those links will tell you which title version made the most impact.
I would also recommend the use of Most Shared Posts WordPress Plugin. Once installed on your blog, this plugin will inform you which of your posts received the most social sharing on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. This data will help you analyze the effectiveness of your titles.
How much time do you spend crafting the title of your post? Please feel free to talk back in comments.