Browsing articles tagged with " Google"

How to Deal with a Google Manual Penalty and What to Do Once It’s Been Removed!

May 1, 2013   //   by Sandy Pardal   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  10 Comments

serp-penaltyGoogle search penalties have become so frequent, right? The worst part about such penalties is that your site can face the heat even if it has a single page of spam. I’m sure you heard about the manual penalty levied on Mozilla. After Google detected user-generated spam, they sent Chris More (Web Production Manager at Mozilla) a notice about the manual penalty.

There are several cases like these.

It’s not just small business websites or blogs that face manual penalties from time to time. Even big brands around the globe are hit with manual penalties by Google. Though you make every effort (most importantly after Google’s Panda and Penguin release), manual penalties are sometime unavoidable. Many times, you won’t even be able to know why you got into trouble.

Google search penalties can be broadly categorized into –

  • Manual Penalties
  • Algorithmic Penalties

However, in both the cases you are sure to lose keyword rankings for some or all of your site’s content, which had good rankings earlier.

You may be ready to deal with a manual penalty by Google when you know the reasons (i.e. you get a notice). But what to do when you don’t have the slightest idea as to why your website was penalized?

It happens many times.

This is what you should do when you have no idea what’s gone wrong with your website or blog – go to Google’s Webmaster Central help forum.

If you are not sure what might have gone wrong with your website, the first thing to do is to figure out why you’re in trouble. According to Matt Cutts (the head of web spam team at Google), Google’s webmaster help forum has plenty of experts who will provide you adequate help. You can submit your site there are post your questions or ask for recommendations.

Many times, the answers that you get on the forum will be excellent, golden pieces of advice. However, sometimes these volunteers might not be able to cite the exact reasons as to why a site was penalized.

Though this is an excellent web forum to seek help, you should also keep your eyes and ears open before arriving at a decision.

Filing a reconsideration request is yet another way of collecting more details of the manual penalty imposed by Google. If you are not satisfied with what you are advised on Google’s Webmaster Central help forum, you can file a reconsideration request so Google itself can provide you more details. If you know the problems already, you can fix the issues first and then file a reconsideration request to get your site back into the Google search results.

After the Manual Penalty is Removed …
Since you already faced a manual penalty, you wouldn’t want to get into the same trouble again. Therefore, it’s important to take a microscopic look at your website and take the safer route.

Once the penalty has been removed, it’s high time to get the basic issues with your SEO fixed as quickly as possible. For example, your website’s internal architecture should be in order. The source code must also be clean. Duplicate or low quality content should be removed, even if it’s in the least quantity.

At the same time, you should quickly launch a link building campaign in order to generate top quality backlinks for your site.

Even if you were able to recover from a Google manual penalty first time, it may not be the same with a second penalty. Worse still, you may not be able to get rid of a second Google manual penalty at all!

Here is a short video where Matt Cutts talks about manual penalties vs algo updates.

Please feel free to share your opinions.

Sandy Pardal

An avid blogger, Sandy Pardal leads the team of creative people at WebStartToday, which is a free web builder. Online marketing comes to him as a deep passion. He likes to experiment with websites, track their performances and share his insights with readers.

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Ways to keep the big G happy and not get slapped!

Jan 3, 2013   //   by Sophie Eagan   //   Google, SEO Blog  //  21 Comments

Getting slapped by Google can be very painful for the webmaster and of course the rankings! A Google “slap” is a term that is used to label a website as Spam. One way to find out whether you have been slapped is by checking your PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns to see if the bids have gone sky high and has become next to impossible to locate your ads.

It is such a horrid feeling to know that a site you have worked hard on for a very long time is labelled as Spam, and been pushed out of the biggest search engine on the face of the planet.

Image By Stuart Miles

Image By Stuart Miles

Tips to help after the sting of the slap:

Don’t become a Spam site – The worst thing you can ever do is get your site labelled as Spam in the first place, try to avoid this entirely by not stuffing your pages full of keywords in

strange places, try to make the content look as natural as possible! All you need to do is provide good quality content and have 23 keywords in each article if nessacary.

Post fresh content – Google LOVES brand new and origional content, you will always put a smile on the bots face if you feed him fresh food! If you don’t update often he won’t return at all, think of it as a hungry dog, if you do not feed the dog he will run away in the other direction!

Build your site – If you are creating a brand new site try not to open it fully to the search engines until you have at least 10 pages of content, the reason is there is obiously no point in opening a website with just one page, it’s boring, it’s plain, you did not start a website to create just one piece of information, did you?

Narrow down your content – Try to narrow your niche down and not create a massive wide variety of topics, if you can narrow it down for example the health niche to “Exercise”. You are then telling Google exactly what your site and subject matter is about. If you are wanting to create authority website on health then by all means go ahead, just make sure you are VERY clear in every single piece of content what it is about.

Contact forms – Always make sure your website has that personal touch and has a bit of “you” in it. Put up a contact form for questions or for people to contact you, Google likes it when you make the effort to be a socialite! Just be careful of those darn spammers, if you are using wordpress use a quiz plugin so they cannot spam.

If you stick to these simple little rules nothing can go wrong, well at least on-page anyway.

Sophie Eagan

Sophia and I love Internet Advertising, I have been in the industry for around 10 years. I hope you enjoy my articles and informative posts.

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CASE STUDY: How to Attract More Blog Traffic via YouTube (Even If You’re No Good with Videos)

Searching for ways to increase the number of your loyal audience/subscribers and daily earnings for your blog? Well, I continuously get more and more targeted viewers for my blog and keep it at the top of search engine results using the power of YouTube marketing.

As a result, my earnings increased a lot. You may ask me: Isn’t it that YouTube marketing is already an Internet buzzword or one of the most common ways of promoting/advertising various products, services and stuffs like that? Definitely! However, there are other ways of doing things the other way to get the results you want, and this blog post is just all about that.

Dominate a Niche with Long Tail Pro

Using LTP, I was able to dominate a particular niche by. It helped me discover topics for my online YouTube marketing video. What I often do with LTP is enter multiple seed keywords, and soon enough, I find exact match domains with low competition yet profitable keywords.

 

 I use both domain and keywords, and as a consequence, I get more and more subscribers as well as increased page rank for my marketing video. As a more specific example, using exact domain names and long tail keywords is much better than competing with the fiercest (or most competitive) keywords for YouTube videos.

This way, my YouTube video made it to the second page of search engine results within 5 days, that is, I was able to dominate a particular niche about driving traffic to my site. I simply cannot ignore the power of LTP marketing for my YouTube video marketing.

Do Things the Right Way Using Video Marketing

I am now getting more targeted traffic, higher/massive views and a larger number of subscribers with my YouTube marketing video: entitled, Drive Traffic to Your Site by Offering Irresistible Gifts. My Youtube visitors get hooked on watching the video in order to learn more about the offers.

The video is all about driving traffic or unique visitors to blogs through social media sites, guest posting, and a lot more (as you can see later as you continue reading this post). Also, it tells people how to avoid failing Internet marketing by using the step-by-step strategies for increased targeted traffics.

In addition, it mentions about the importance of blog traffic within the first 24to72 hours for visits to be counted as unique ones. As my YouTube viewers keep on watching the video, they are able to understand better what is in store for.

With the YouTube marketing video, I was able to direct my audience to my blog. When they do visit it, I get unique pageviews. They may read the rest of the article or explore more of it. Since their primary objective is to obtain a free copy of the e-book, they are required to subscribe first.

After they sign up, they would receive a message stating that they have to confirm their subscription. When they do confirm their registration, they will have to check their email again for the actual download of the eBook to take place.

This is actually what email marketing is all about, that is, getting long term customers with their email addresses added to my list of contacts where I can then forward them with weekly SEO tips – just as it was promised to them prior to their subscription.

I then visit problogger.net as a guest blogger. It is where I would post something like, ”Build Keyword Density the Right Way.”

This is where I recommend using search engine optimization techniques and adding appropriate keywords for high-quality persuasive copywriting. There I advise the use of naturally sounding keywords for everyone’s copywriting needs.

I gave illustrations such that video marketers would be able to learn the appropriate ways of shortening, lengthening and/or using keyword phrases with the product/service copy that they are describing.

I also added that writers have to write a copy first, go back with the keywords, and place them suitably in the copy itself (which definitely would prove very useful to them). As for my part, I was able to make a copy that really flows naturally and that appeal to a larger number of viewers and search engine sites.

Furthermore, in less than three weeks, I already gained more than 20,000 views. This is because I used referral social media multipliers and emailwire.com, a SEO press release distribution site that provides guaranteed results.

For instance, with the social media freetweettube.com, there is always an influx of tweets for my Youtube marketing channel while with emailwire, my press release about SEOArticleWriteService got the chance to be published and distributed to thousands of journalists, trade magazines, newsrooms, online news sites, major newswires, RSS feeds and major news search engines. With these strategies and tools that I used, you sure can get the results you want to achieve to make your site viral in no time.

My YouTube marketing, as of this writing, proves viral although it has just been uploaded three weeks ago. It has ranked well too considering that the other videos in the ranking were uploaded less than a year or about five years ago. You can also see for yourself that my video is only about 3 minutes compared to the other two: which are approximately 15 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. My video is a proof of getting your videos viral too.  You only have to follow the steps or by visiting the sites that I mentioned above.

Now that you know how to precisely attract more blog traffic via YouTube marketing, it is time to present a summary of the most important lessons in this post. First, the importance of using simultaneously free exact domain with long tail yet profitable keywords for your video for you to earn more.

Second, the use of strategies and tools (such as irresistible gift offers, guest blogs, email marketing, pro-bloggers, social media networks, press releases and a lot more) for you to cash in more money.

Luckily for you, with this post, you sure can turn your viewers into loyal audience/subscribers, powerful pool of online community, or simply, target market for your blog and its updates.

Bill

Bill Achola is on a mission to help small business people get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his Affordable SEO Service for Small Business that will drive targeted traffic to your website. Be sure to follow him on Twitter

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10 Reasons Why Your Site’s Rankings Won’t Be Affected by Penguin [Infographic]

May 29, 2012   //   by Aleh Barysevich   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  27 Comments

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:



Infographic transcription:

10 Reasons Why Your Site’s Rankings Won’t Be Affected by Penguin

Off page

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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4]

On page

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. [5]

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. [6]

Common sense

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. [7]

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. [8]

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.

Aleh Barysevich

Aleh Barysevich is a Marketing Director and Co-Founder of Link-Assistant.Com, the company that makes SEO PowerSuite website promotion toolkit for bloggers, webmasters and online marketers.

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Google Webmaster Tools You Should Use Today

Apr 25, 2012   //   by Kaila Strong   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  12 Comments

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.

Crawl Errors
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.

Search Queries
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.

+1 Metrics
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. 

Kaila Strong

Kaila Strong is an avid tweeter (@cliquekaila), and marketer in the Phoenix area.

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Getting to Know Search Operators

Apr 4, 2012   //   by Kaila Strong   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  2 Comments

Are you an expert researcher online? The average online user over time has become better and better at finding the things they need online. The use of advanced search operators is commonplace. While search engines work to combat spam everyday, there are still many sites you wish to avoid in your search. Advanced search commands can help you sift through billions of websites quickly and easily by narrowing down your search with operators or commands.

There are many options when it comes to advanced search commands. One of the more common commands is phrase search operator (“”). When you put quotes around a keyword or phrase, you’re telling the search engine to look for that exact match phrase online. They’ll serve up results with that exact phrase, or tell you that none exist. I use this one all the time when doing link building activities or trying to find out the name of the song stuck in my head at any given time. When you only know bits and pieces of the information you’re looking for use this operator to narrow down your search.

Don’t want to see a result in the SERPs? Use the exclude search operator (-). Exclude words from your search and websites too. Example: Command -.edu will take out all instances of .edu domains in your results. You’re also able to exclude specific domains simply by putting that web address after the operator.

Use what Google calls the fill in the blank search operator (*) if you’re really in need of finding a great site. This operator is a wildcard, or placeholder, for a term that you aren’t aware of. Additionally you can use this operator to find other websites on the same type of topic. Google gives this example query: Obama voted * on the * bill. The query will show results on different votes for different bills, with the unknown being a placeholder for what you want to include.

Trying to find a similar set of URLs but not on the same domain? Use (inurl) search operator and you’ll find similar keywords in a file path. Many webmasters name pages similarly – contact us, about us, blog, etc… Use command (inurl:resources) along with your query to find a list of resource pages. This is one I’ve used to find link opportunities or even content opportunities. Find a great resource list? What type of content is linked to? Create that type of content and ask the site to add you to their resources list.

Sometimes you might be looking for keywords that appear in the title of the page. Use (intitle) search operator. Using this type of search command is common in advanced SEO research. Looking for sites with specific keywords that appear in their backlinks is also a common advanced tactic. Use (inanchor) search operator.

Know the file type of the page you’re looking for? Use (filetype) search operator. For example, if you were looking for PDFs you’d want to use filetype:pdf as your search operator. What types of pdfs are on your competitors website? Find out and get ideas for your next whitepaper or free guide.

These are just a few of the many search operators currently in practice. Not only can many of them be used on search engines you’d usually think of like Google and Bing, they can also be used in Twitter search. See a tweet go by and then not know where it went? I do this all the time because of the Twitter fire hose effect. But with search commands I can find the tweet pretty easily using bits and pieces of information.

These are just a few of the search commands available for you to use. Many more resources exist that give examples and practical application for each of the commands listed above as well as new ones to try out. Please visit the below resources for additional information on search commands.

Additional Resources

Google Search Help

Guide to Bing Query Language

The Professionals Guide to Advanced Search Operators

Finding Link Building Opportunities With Advanced Search Queries

4 Advanced Search Commands for Smart Webmasters

Search Features Chart

Have additional resources we should add to the list? Let us know! 

Kaila Strong

Kaila Strong is an avid tweeter (@cliquekaila), and marketer in the Phoenix area.

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SEO, Google Algo Changes and Your Website’s Organic Results

Feb 13, 2012   //   by Obaidul Haque   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  25 Comments

Google is fast revolutionizing the face of SEO. It has almost vowed to take strict action against duplicate content and different types of web spam. The last year witnessed a range of Panda algorithmic updates, both major and minor. If your website gets its maximum share of traffic from Google, you should keep yourself abreast of the ongoing changes in the search ranking algorithm.

Most of the webmasters suffer from a feeling of apprehension, as to whether they would be able to survive the next algorithmic update by Google. They start shouting at even a slight indication of change in their website’s SEO, as an algorithmic update is announced.

Gear Up
Google only seems to expedite the process of algorithmic updates with the passage of time. If you paid some attention, you can easily remember the updates that Google launched last month. ‘Search Plus Your World’ rolled out on January 10. It updated its Panda algorithm with version 3.2 around January 18 while the ‘Page Layout Algorithm’ was announced on January 19. Such algorithmic changes show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

All you need to do is pay careful attention to every announcement that Google makes about a new change in its ranking algorithm. Don’t forget to confirm an update by checking out official resources (Google blogs).

SEO isn’t Spam, and It’s Not Dying Either
Officially, Google has always claimed that SEO is not spam or bad. After Google started the socialization of its organic search results, webmasters thought it was the death of good-old-fashioned SEO. No, SEO is not dying! All it means is that you can’t limit your SEO efforts to previous traditional tactics or best practices alone. You’ll now need to focus on many other things. It’s just the beginning of an era where SEO and social media marketing are getting intertwined intrinsically. But, does that weaken the title of SEO or make it only broader?

What to Do
SEO is continuously evolving. Since Google won’t miss to update its ranking algorithm at least 500 times every year, it only makes sense to plan out an effective strategy so that you can shield your website against any kind of sudden algorithmic update or a Panda smack down. Here are a few quick tips you can follow.

Don’t Panic – If you start to get panicky at each ranking algorithmic update or announcement by Google, you won’t be able to focus on the big picture.

Live up to the Expectations of Google – Get a clear idea of what a high quality website should look like or include. For more guidance on how to enhance the overall quality of your website, you can go through this post (published on Google Webmaster Central Blog).

Analyze Organic Traffic Trends – Analyze the organic traffic on a month-to-month basis. Most importantly, check out those periods where Google didn’t roll out any algorithm update. If your website’s organic traffic was impacted during that no-algorithm-update period, you might have some usability or other technical issues to focus upon.

Think Before Taking an Action – Don’t rush, as it won’t help. Whenever you notice a change in your website’s SEO, give it some time. Relax. Take all possible aspects of your website (including on-page and off-page) into consideration before arriving at any significant SEO decision.

Do you love Google’s Panda or Fear it? Please feel free to share your views on the changing face of SEO and how it impacts a site’s search rankings.

Obaidul Haque

Obaidul works as an SEO manager handling client projects. He focuses heavily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). Also a passionate blogger and freelance writer, he shares his insightful views regularly on HelloBloggerz . You can follow him on Google Plus or Twitter.

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Using JavaScript to Hide Content: Advanced White Hat SEO?

Oct 18, 2011   //   by Darren Slatten   //   Contests, Copywriting, Google, SEO  //  28 Comments

If you provide some kind of SEO-related services, there will come a time when your client or boss looks you in the eye and says something like this:

“Yeah, so about those page edits you recommended…

We’re actually quite happy with the current design of our landing page, and our tests have shown that adding text to the page actually decreases conversions. So…um…is there any way you could optimize this page…like…without adding all those words to it?”

To most SEO’s, the idea of achieving top rankings in a competitive niche–without putting keyword-rich content on the page–is unrealistic if not downright ridiculous. But from a design perspective, we also have to acknowledge that text and keywords are not always what’s best for Users. Sometimes, the best User experience comes from a simple, minimalistic interface with no distractions.

The Google home page itself is a perfect example. Arguably one of the most valued resources on the Web, and certainly one of the most visited, google.com currently displays a total of 25 words.

+You Web Images Videos Maps News Gmail More Sign in Google Search I'm Feeling Lucky Privacy Change background image About Google Advertising Programs Business Solutions

But what if Google was your client, and they wanted you to optimize their home page to rank for keyword phrases related to search engine

Would you recommend something like this instead?

Google home page with Wikipedia-style text

Hmm…no, that’s not going to work. So it’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it? On the one hand, you’re trying to satisfy your client and their Users by providing a slick, clutter-free interface…and on the other hand, you’re trying to be mindful of Google’s relentless addiction to plain text content. So what do you do?

Well, if you don’t know how to code basic JavaScript (or you’ve seen how bad Google sucks at reading JavaScript and thus avoid it entirely), then you probably pick content over User interface, pollute the page with stacks of keyword-dense garbage, and hope that the potential increase in search traffic eventually makes up for the immediate loss of conversions.

But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could fill your landing pages with SEO-friendly content…without it getting in the way of your Users?

Luckily, there’s a solution. It’s called hidden content.

* GASP! *

That’s right, folks…if you’re trying to improve your website’s User experience without hurting your search engine rankings, then you need to start hiding some content–ASAP. But you can’t just hide it anywhere–you need to hide it somewhere where search engines will see it for sure…but Users won’t.

Wait... isn't that SPAM?

That depends on a number of variables, but the short answer is:

No, it’s not spam. It’s not even gray hat SEO. Hiding content is perfectly acceptable, as long as you do it right.

Which brings us to the million-dollar question…

What is the right way to hide content?

Unfortunately, Google isn’t likely to provide a useful answer anytime soon. So you know what? I’m going to take a crack at it. Seriously. I’m going to make a genuine effort to lay down some technical guidelines for all the aspiring content-hiders out there, and I’m going to do so without pretending like “your intent” has anything to do with it.

So here we go. First I’m going to suggest the guidelines; then I’m going to provide a working example that incorporates all of these best practices.

Basic Implementation Techniques for Content Hiding

  • User Friendly – Hidden content implementations should improve the User experience and must not impair the User experience.
  • Dynamic – Hidden content elements must have a visible state–a set of conditions under which the hidden content is visible and readable by Users. The visible state must be capable of being activated by a browser event. The event should be automatic (e.g., document.onload) or it should be triggered by Users’ actions (e.g., element.onclick). In the case of Users’ actions, the trigger element should be conspicuous and intuitive.
  • Accessibility – Hidden content should not be implemented in such a way that it causes the content to be inaccessible to Users with disabilities or Users who rely on screen readers or similar devices.
  • Progressive Enhancement – Hidden content must default to a visible state when rendered in a browser that either doesn’t support JavaScript or doesn’t have JavaScript enabled. A document in which all hidden content elements are in the default visible state should provide a User interface that is functional, cohesive, and reasonably intuitive.

A Perfect Example of Hidden Content

If you don’t really understand the BITCH, don’t worry–I have an example for you. And this isn’t just any ol’ example; this is my attempt at creating a perfect example.

Let’s say you have a news blog with the 10 most recent stories showing on the home page. For whatever reason, you decide that the home page should include the full text of each post. The problem is…your Users are overwhelmed by all that text, and all they really want is an easy way to scan the latest headlines before they choose a story to read. The solution…hide some content!

This example has two versions: the original plain text version and the modified “hidden content” version. As you can see, the User experience is much better in the modified version, simply because it’s easier to navigate (especially on a mobile device that requires swipe scrolling). But the real magic is in the code, so take a few minutes to view the HTML and JavaScript source. Before you go check it out, I’ll leave you with some questions/concepts to think about:

  • Compare the HTML source between the two versions. What differences do you see?
  • What happens to the Hidden Content version when JavaScript is disabled?
  • What is the likelihood of Google flagging the Hidden Content page as suspicious or deceptive?

Plain Text Content

Plain text content example

Hidden Content

Hidden content example

 

Download the Hidden Content Example

The live examples linked to above are hosted on GitHub. This means you can easily download the source code files for your own personal or commercial use (files are released under a non-restrictive free software license). And for the truly advanced SEO’s out there: you can even fork it or suggest improvements via pull requests.

Download the Hidden Content example source code files!

Darren Slatten

Darren Slatten is one smart mofo. Some say he's the World's Greatest SEO. When Darren isn't studying SEO or web programming, he's usually busy developing online marketing strategies and web hosting solutions for local small businesses. Darren also likes to use keyword-rich anchor text in his guest blog bio links, but only when it makes local SEO for small business sense to do so.

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How to Optimize 7 Popular Social Media Profiles for SEO

Oct 10, 2011   //   by Kristi Hines   //   Contests, SEO, Social Media  //  248 Comments

If you want to strengthen your personal or business brand’s visibility, then one of the top things you will want is to have strong social media profiles that rank in the top results for your name along with your website and blog. Having a strong online reputation that is comprised of nothing but content that highlights the best about your personal or business brand will allow you to keep undesirable results at bay, such as bad online reviews or mentions.

You’ve probably read lots of posts talking about how to properly optimize your social media profiles for search, and they’ve probably all sounded a little like this.

  • Be active – Yes, this is true. Just like Google loves regularly updated blogs and websites, they equally love regularly updated social profiles.
  • Optimize photo filenames – This only works on some networks, which I will mention below. It doesn’t hurt to upload photos with your name or keywords in the filename, but networks like Facebook rename the photo filenames anyway, so for some networks, it’s useless.
  • Engage with your followers, fans, and connections – This is a good thing to do regardless of the SEO value of it. Engaging with others will keep your profile updated often, and being helpful will also lead to other’s recommending you to their audience. Search #FollowFriday to see what I mean.
  • Vanity URL – From what I can tell, the URL does not count for anything but branding except on specific networks. For example, my Facebook fan page name is Kikolani, and the username for the URL is artofblogging. The fan page does not rank for art of blogging, but does rank for Kikolani. But again, it all depends on the network.

While these are great tips for your overall social media strategy, they are not the end all of SEO for your social network profiles. Certain networks use specific elements of information that you supply in your profile to optimize each profile on their network. The following will guide you to the right fields to optimize for the best possible search optimization of your social networks. The best part is that all customizations noted are using each site’s free accounts – no need to upgrade to Pro if all you’re looking for is optimization!

Quick and Dirty Onsite SEO 101

Before we get started, here are some key things to keep in mind about the following mentioned SEO elements of your social profiles. The order of importance is generally SEO Title, Meta Description, header tags (H1, H2, H3), image ALT tags, image filenames, and bolded text. Also, when it comes to search results, the typical result will look like this with the SEO Title as the linked information and the Meta Description as the details beneath it:

But what if you don’t care about the SEO?

That’s ok – this post still has some great information for you! Usually the parts of your profile that are used for search optimization are also used for the network’s own search results. So if you don’t want to think of it as SEO work, think of it as simply social optimization!

Google+ Profiles

Let’s start with the hottest new social media network of them all – Google’s own Google+. Whenever you are filling out your Google+ profile, be sure to note the following areas of information that will enhance the search optimization of your presence on this network.

Google+ Profile Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Name – Google+

Google+ is all about the personal branding, and they insist that you use your real name for your profile. So don’t try to stick keywords or business names in your profiles – not yet at least!

Meta Description: Your Name – Your Headline + Your Occupation

The Meta Description for your Google+ profile is a combination of different pieces of profile information, starting with your name followed by your headline (the line below your name), your occupation, your first employer listed, and then your introduction text. So make sure that the first 160 characters count by writing a great headline and occupation title. Also make sure those areas are set to be seen by anyone on the web.

Extra Search Tidbits: Your Links

From what I can tell, the links within the introduction content as well as the ones under other profiles, contributor to, and recommended links are all dofollow. So don’t shy away from anchor text as this is a prime Google property!

Facebook Pages

Assuming that not much changes when Facebook decides to revamp the fan pages as they have recently with the personal profiles, the following areas of information contribute to your fan page SEO.

Facebook Fan Page Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Page Name | Facebook

If you didn’t consider keyword optimization when you created it, and you have less than 100 fans, you’re in luck. You can still change your page’s name. What you will want to keep in mind is that your branding may be more important than your keyword rankings, especially if you want people to be able to find you if they are searching your brand.

Meta Description: Your Page Name + Your About Description | Facebook

To edit your About information to make a great Meta Description, go to your page and Edit Page > Basic Information, and fill in the About field with a 140 character description like you would with any website Meta Description.

Extra Search Tidbits: Your Fan Page Updates Have SEO Value

Did you know that each of your status updates on your Facebook fan page have a page of their own (click the timestamp of one to see). If you’re posting a standard status update, the SEO Title for the individual page of your updates will be pulled from the first 18 characters (though sometimes it is a bit less). If you’re posting a link to your fan page wall, you’ll have an option to “Say something about this link…” – the first 18 characters of what you enter in this field are going to be the SEO Title of that status update.

If you’re concerned about optimizing your updates while considering them as individual pages under the umbrella of your fan page, then you might want to consider sticking some keywords right at the beginning of your comment. So if you’re posting an update about keyword research, just start the update with keyword research. It is a simple, effective way to keyword optimize each update.

Twitter Profiles

Twitter doesn’t have much in the way of traditional SEO elements for your public profile, but it has a few important things to keep in mind.

Twitter Profile Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Name (username) on Twitter

On Twitter, your name under the Profile Settings and your username are the title tags for your profile. So keywords in your username might just be worthwhile if they are still available.

Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag

When it comes to your profile image, be sure to optimize it by using your name as the filename. Twitter will automatically use your name under the Profile Settings as the ALT tag for your profile image as well.

Extra Search Tidbits: Keywords in Your Bio

While they may not come up in the standard SEO elements for your profile, your bio information is key. Services like Klout pull your Twitter bio information as your Klout profile description. FollowerWonk, Formulists, and other Twitter search engines use keywords in your bio in search results when people are looking for similar tweeps to follow. You can also include a link or another Twitter handle if applicable.

LinkedIn Professional Profiles

LinkedIn, the leading professional social network, has the most user-controlled SEO elements out of any other network I’ve checked out. Here are the areas you can customize!

SEO Title: Your Name| LinkedIn

While some people suggest adding keywords to your name field, the LinkedIn terms of service discourages this practice. Be confident that your personal branding is strong enough not to need the extra keyword stuffing that you can do later in your profile.

LinkedIn Profile Social Media SEO Optimization

Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag

Just like Twitter, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. LinkedIn will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.

H3 Tags: Your Job Titles

Are you ready to get some keywords into your profile? Make sure your job titles for current and previous positions include some great keywords and those keywords will be in your profile page’s H3 tags. Mine include freelance writer, blog marketing expert, photographer, and guest blogging contributor.

Extra Search Tidbit: LinkedIn Search Optimization

According to the LinkedInfluence program by Lewis Howes, if you want to rank well for keywords searched within LinkedIn’s people search, you will want to include your targeted keywords in the following:

  • Your Professional Headline
  • Summary
  • Specialties
  • Skills

I also think that belonging to some industry appropriate groups that are publicly listed on your profile can add to extra keyword usage on your profile. So choose your groups wisely!

YouTube Channels

YouTube offers a lot of great SEO options, from the channel to the videos. Here is what you’ll want to make sure you include in your profile.

YouTube Channel Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Username’s Channel – YouTube

This is one of the cases where your username which doubles as part of your URL counts in terms of the search optimization, so make it count – just be sure you do so with your branding in mind more so than keywords. It will be a lot harder for people to find you if they search SEO company vs. Your Uniquely-Named SEO Company.

Meta Description: Your Channel Description

Whenever you are setting up your channel, pay extra attention to the Channel Description which is under the Profile > Edit settings. This will be your channel’s Meta Description!

Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website & Your Videos

Ever wanted a backlink from a PR 9 domain? Then your search is over – whenever you create your YouTube channel, be sure to fill in your website link. Granted it has no anchor text, but it’s a dofollow link sitting on a strong Google property.

When it comes to videos, the reason they do so well in search is because the video title doubles as the SEO Title and the video description doubles as the Meta Description. And even though Google doesn’t supposedly care about Meta Keywords, they do use the video’s tags in that space – just group multiple keywords in quotations. My search story uses the tags “kristi hines” “freelance writer” “online marketing consultant” scottsdale arizona. Keep these fields in mind to rank well in both the YouTube and Google results.

Also, be sure to get your video-specific keyword ideas using YouTube’s own keyword tool. It looks at what is searched the most on YouTube itself.

Biznik Professional Profiles

Biznik, another popular professional social network, has some areas that you can customize to optimize your profile for SEO.

Biznik Profile Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Job – Your Location – Your Name

The SEO Title for your Biznik profile combines three important parts of your profile – your current job title, your city and state, and your name. It’s perfect for keyword optimization, local search optimization, and personal branding!

Meta Description: Your Google Summary

Unlike most profiles where you have to condense your About Me information into 140 characters, Biznik allows you to have a What You Do description for visitors and a separate, optimized Google Summary for your Meta Description.

H1: Your Name + Your Job

In case the SEO Title and Meta Description are not enough, Biznik also uses your name and job title as your profile’s main H1 Tag. Nothing like a little extra optimization!

Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag

Just like Twitter and LinkedIn, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. Biznik will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.

Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website

Your Biznik profile allows you to add one website link with your preferred anchor text (you can have two if you go Pro for $10 / month) . It’s dofollow, so don’t miss out on adding it for visitors and for search engines!

Quora Profile

Quora, one of the hottest question and answer networks, offers a little SEO optimization for users who join their community.

Quora Profile Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Name – Quora

As is the trend for most networks, Quora uses your name in your profile’s SEO title.

Meta Property: Your Long Bio

Quora is a bit unusual in the sense that they use the Facebook Developer’s Meta Property=”og:description” instead of the traditional Meta Description for search results. For this, they pull the information that you include in your Long Bio which should be one to two sentences long. If you search your profile in Google, however, you will see that it pulls your name, your Short Bio, and then your Long Bio as the actual Meta Description snippet.

H1 Tag: Your Name + Your Short Bio

The H1 Tag for your Quora profile will be your name plus your Short Bio. It unfortunately cuts off your tag at 50 characters, so be sure to get your main keyword into your short bio first.

Extra SEO Tidbits: Including Your Websites in the Long Bio

Although the links are nofollow (and mashed up into some crazy looking code), one thing I have noticed about Quora is that you can generate a lot of views and followers fast by answering questions. So SEO value or not, be sure to include your main website links in your Long Bio box. Just type out the URL – it will automatically hyperlink.

About.me Profile

About.me is one of my favorite online business card sites. It allows you to compile your social profile links, blog, and a short description all on one page. The nice part is that it is a well-optimized page!

About.me Social Media SEO Optimization

SEO Title: Your Name (Your Username) on about.me

About.me is another network where both your name and your username count heavily in the optimization of your profile.

Meta Description: Your Biography

Although you can write as long of a biography as you want on your profile, remember that the first 160 characters count for your Meta Description. This also means if you use a link in your biography, it will be counted as part of the Meta Description, so try to save the links until after the first 160.

Extra SEO Tidbits: Website Links

There are two ways to add website links to your About.me profile. One is through the biography mentioned earlier. The other is through the Services as Flat URL’s. I prefer adding them in the biography because not only are they dofollow, but the coding within the biography is cleaner than the coding used for the Flat URL’s. It may not make much of a difference, but since every bit of link juice helps, it doesn’t hurt to use the most cleanly coded HTML possible.

Bonus: How to Check Your Profile’s SEO

Curious about more networks than the ones listed? Check out your social profile’s SEO by doing the following in Google Chrome using the SEO Site Tools extension.

Google Chrome SEO Site Tools for Social Media SEO Optimization

  • Logout of the network. You want to see your profile like a search engine sees it with whatever information you have made public and accessible to anyone, not just those logged into the network.
  • Click on the SEO Site Tools magnifying lens button and look under Page Elements. Here you will see your SEO Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords.
  • Scroll down through the Page Elements for additional information such as Img Tags, H1 Tags, H2 Tags, H3 Tags, and H4 Tags.

Chances are you will see elements in your social profiles that you can control in those tags – be sure to optimize your profile accordingly from there!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please be sure to share it with others so they can also reap the benefits of a SEO optimized social media profile for better personal and professional branding! If you’re curious about the SEO optimization elements of other social networks, feel free to ask in the comments and I will check them out for you! And let us know what profiles rank the best for your name or brand!

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Don't miss her Web Domination Review on Kikolani. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!

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Social Media Suffocation: Why I’ve Had Enough Of Networking Online

Sep 29, 2011   //   by laustinseo   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog, Social Media  //  25 Comments

This is a guest post from Lewis Austin. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

I don’t know about you, but I believe that all those one-time satisfied social networkers are FINALLY beginning to stem the hysteria that’s been surrounding the craze for a number of years now.

The original concept of social media is dropping dead, partly because more and more people are beginning to pick holes in its design and influence. Those who were quick to jump on the social bandwagon have found that the fast-growing phenomenon can only plod along for so long until it hits a big, brutal brick wall.

A lot of web users wouldn’t even have been interested in the launch of Google +, even though it is supposedly a revolutionary platform that will change the social media landscape irreversibly, because it’s automatically been compared to every other network of its kind (*coughFACEBOOKcough*). The reality of it all is that none of the features behind the best-loved social networks are new. Everything in the social media world has been done before and I’m clutching at straws trying to find anything that’s blown me away recently. If you look at the major networks and question what sets them apart from the rest, you really start to find more similarities than differences. And often the underlying reasons causing the introduction of each feature are much more flawed than you, being a fierce social networker, would care to admit.

DOOR-KNOCK POLITICS

The new features that have been released are simply expansions on what we already had. Take, for example, Facebook Places. Essentially, Facebook Places has just ripped off Foursquare and Gowalla. And for those who don’t know, Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social networks that revolve around their ‘check-in’ feature. This means that if you’re meeting up with friends you can announce your new location to a select list of friends. Facebook decided to kill their app off, as they realised that only 6% of users had actually bothered trying it, so now the Places feature has been integrated into status updates. Which in itself is just irritating.

I’ve got a couple of burning problems with this system. Firstly, there is no need to dish out your latest physical location on a digital map for everyone to see. What purpose does it serve? Facebook makes all sorts of personal information available to others anyway, so essentially any nosy soul is set up to become your stalker; they can already look up your email address and phone number but now have the opportunity to track your current location too.

This feature is obviously raising concerns for safety of the younger generation of Facebook profilers. Despite the rules there are a lot of kids on Facebook who are clearly under 13 (a whole separate issue for a whole other blog!). Although some may argue that FB can’t be responsible for those who break FB law, these fledgling users have created a danger for themselves because their entire list of friends has full access to all of their information. It’s all too easy to imagine how less-than-scrupulous members of society would go about getting in touch with those who are slightly more impressionable.

You need to ask yourself if you want all of your Facebook friends to know exactly where you are 24/7.  This isn’t a trust issue but more of a case of TMI. Quite frankly, being constantly bombarded with details about someone’s whereabouts is dull.

Anyway, the crux of the matter is, Facebook Places was not an original idea. Fact.

Now here’s one you may have spotted. Google Circles is just a developed version of Facebook’s Groups. This Google+ feature allows you to organise your contacts into particular groups, or Circles, and lets you choose how you share your data. Basically, this means you can separate dignified posts from slightly less savoury updates and distribute different types of information to different groups of people in your life. But, however well Circles took off initially, once I waited for all the Google+ hype to die down it became clearer to me that there was definitely a primitive version of Circles already available to app-starved socio-lites.

Facebook Groups were clearly the inspiration for the big G’s ‘pioneering’ feature. It must be said that Google has used this idea as a crucial building block for its platform and developed the initial idea significantly, which is highlighted in comparison to the lacklustre reception of Groups – in fact, it has to be said that many Facebook users did not really know about the feature and found no valid use for it. (…Myself included).

THE TWITTER-PATTER OF TIRED FEET

Twitter is the micro-blogging social network that has acquired 200 million users since its launch and it is safe to say that in terms of popularity, this site has literally exploded. The whole concept of Twitter is just a squished-down version of Facebook, taking all of the good qualities that Facebook offers to networkers, simplifying them and condensing them all together to create the hassle-free conversation platform that we all know and love. The process of befriending one of your peers consists of the click of a button and once you’re deemed a ‘follower’ you gain access to their status updates as and when they happen.

There is a bare minimum of information that is actually shared between users. All that’s required is a profile name, your general location and a paragraph about yourself. One of the most appealing things about Twitter is the simplicity of it all, I suppose. Updates are only 140 characters long, so all information that is shared is short and to the point (a concept that Facebook never really understood right from the beginning, with their fancy lists and whatnot). You don’t need to read through a novel of uninteresting information to find something useful. However, what is happening on Twitter is not new – the idea of ‘following’ others and checking out their updates is practically a simplified RSS Feed.

There is a mentioning feature which allows you to let someone know you are talking to/about them, but again this is a meeker version of the status tags on Facebook where you can tag someone in a post. The recent addition of the promoted Tweets feature leaves a lot to be desired, too. Allegedly set up to give businesses the opportunity to stick a short ad up alongside their relevant search terms, the idea is a spin-off of Facebook paid search advertising, which itself is an adaptation of Google’s highly successful Pay Per Click model. Despite its good intentions (for the profitability of businesses if nothing else), the feature seems to have slipped right under the radar and remained so unobtrusive to the point that many users have wondered whether its introduction was worthwhile.

THE MARRIAGE OF FACESPACE AND MYBOOK

Yet the classic case of feature-swapping is best explained by the rivalry between Myspace and Facebook. These networks were both possibly the biggest international social networks going at any time. I remember when Myspace was big. Myspace drew in the younger generation of networkers through its clear focus on custom pages and entertainment, but the novelty soon wore off as users began to migrate over to Facebook. I had a lot of fun on Myspace myself but when all of my friends began flocking to Facebook I had no choice but to join – after all, what is a social network without any friends? You’re just talking to yourself on a pretty little platform.

In an attempt to win back some users, Myspace introduced the same features that helped Facebook win users, such as photo tagging and of course the infamous like button.

We do need to remember, however, that this brutal method of prising users from the arms of the musclier, more exotic newcomer is not uncommon. Resorting to copycat tactics has always been a last ditch effort to win people back.

IT’S BUSINESS TIME

More and more businesses are flocking to social networks in the hope of building brand awareness and generating leads, but this trend isn’t a new one either. In the past, businesses simply had to go it alone. There was a distinct lack of professionalism and strategy behind social media management, with companies stabbing users in the dark with half-arsed promo campaigns, but now social media management has expanded into an actual occupation. Proof of this is that SEO companies and the like employ dedicated social media marketers (such as myself!) to manage the successful manipulation of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We handle everything, from the basic layout to the select information we share with fans. Companies will invest in this service because, as long as their chosen social marketer knows their stuff, social networks are the equivalent to free advertising – it just takes some time to determine the methods that will work best. But despite starting every social campaign with the best intentions, we have to ask ourselves this simple question from time to time: have those very users we’re looking to influence cottoned on to our efforts? Are they so used to being ‘sold to’ that they simply shake off all our attempts to amaze them? Social networks weren’t set up to cater for big money-hungry brands.

LOCKING YOUR DOORS AND LEAVING NETWORKS THE KEY

Privacy is an issue that’s constantly niggling at the back of our minds. It’s simply human nature to want to keep our information safe and secure; hold our cards close to our chest. The on-going disputes about each user’s right to confidentiality are going to eventually determine the way in which we communicate. We need to understand that the net was made for sharing, yet still have some say in the way in which our personal information is used. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that’s not going to get resolved anytime soon, and here’s why.

Google caused uproar with its real names policy. Even though Plus was still in its beta stages, if Big G believed you were posing as someone else, you got promptly kicked off. Such was the case of Violet Blue, a renowned author and blogger who’s so highly regarded that she once appeared as a guest on Oprah. Violet was invited to the network by Big G itself, yet once the fake names policy was put in place, her account was suspended. Work that one out.

Teething problems, perhaps? I don’t think so. The Google+ team have stuck to their guns and are of the opinion that you need to pay for the privilege of joining their network by surrendering your identity. Using fake names makes it impossible for your closest friends to find you and therefore goes against the entire principle behind SOCIAL networking. But for many, the issue is this: if you’ve been using a make-believe persona throughout your entire cyber life, why should you need to disclose your true identity now? Many enjoy venting their frustrations or meeting other like-minded tech-heads completely anonymously. This ‘real name’ palaver caused problems for many and turned G+ from a convenient communications platform to a definite hassle within a matter of weeks. I reckon all the effort put into restricting usage should have been put into creating a safer, more secure environment for all networkers.

FB-I

There are hugely popular conspiracy theories related to Facebook and its privacy policies. Many believe that the CIA use Facebook as a data mining system, which sees them flaunting the fact that many of us have become dependent on it and will happily choose convenience over security any day of the week.

The well-known ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous have warned that they’re planning to take down Facebook sometime around November 5th. This group of free radicals is being targeted by the FBI and have already infiltrated many government run websites that they consider against their cause. Better back up your favourite pics just in case then, hey. Targeting Zuckerberg’s crowned jewels is no coincidence, though; group leaders were furious after sussing out that Facebook will desperately hold on to your personal information, no matter what you do. If you decide to throw in the towel and delete your profile, FB will ‘hold on’ to your info, just in case you decide to return with your tail between your legs. They won’t just cling to your name and email address; they’ll make sure they store all of your activity history. If I’d have known this when I first set my profile up, I would have avoided joining completely!

Surely, the only move that will truly ‘revolutionise’ social networks would be giving users full control over their own privacy settings. Not just the ability to decide who’s allowed to tag you in their album or who’ll be able to track down your late-night video-sharing – proper, true control of your online footprint. Finding a way to make it harder for close friends and complete strangers can dig through a past that they weren’t involved in. My personal opinion is that having that information available is practically advertising it to be read, so I guess the best way to fight FB’s policy is to be extra careful about what you release.

PROFIT ABOVE PRIVACY

So, keen to overturn this dismal perception of network privacy, Google+ launched with the admirable intention of making sure everyone was upfront and honest about their identity and used their profile for the right reasons. What they fail to tell you is that, once you’ve set up a Gmail account, the bots crawling their servers can pick out keywords from your messages and use what they find for targeted advertising. They’ll pick out frequent topics from your conversations and send you useful (*cough*) ads and tailor-made discounts from relevant companies. Now, if we received our post already hacked to pieces by an over-eager mail man, we wouldn’t be best pleased, would we? So in terms of the way your account is manipulated, is this purely a case of ‘what I don’t know about can’t hurt me’? One step forward, twenty gigantic strides back, big G.

Microsoft actually took a stab at Google’s prying eye and created the GmailMan video to promote their new, slightly more ethical email service. It’s an exaggerated stab, granted, but the root of the problem is clearly raised.

REALITY AND WEB-ALITY

There used to be a clear line drawn between reality and web-ality. In real life you pop off down the pub for a pint and a catch-up; in web-ality you connect with those you never would have met were it not for the internet. Yet it seems that as time goes on the web still strives to become as realistic as possible. It’s important to remember that once you’ve ‘friended’ someone on the web, they’ve generally got unlimited access to your online movements. This isn’t like real life. In real life, if you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about you. Some things they just won’t want to know.

With each ‘convenient’ update released, with each development launched, we’re told that we become closer to the ‘ultimate’ social networking experience. These platforms were set up to make it easier to connect with people, but what if we’re just victims of a communication overload?

This could be said of the latest changes that have been proposed for the Facebook layout (which, by the way, haven’t been received particularly well). The design updates, which were revealed by founder Zuckerberg at the annual F8 convention, include plans to encourage each user to share as much media as possible, allowing each of your friends to watch your online life almost in real-time. To replace traditional profile interfaces, Zuckerberg wants to roll out a vis-audio timeline of your activity, replacing streams with a mish-mash of videos, photos, audio and statuses. Facebook has received criticism from the masses – many have protested by describing the new look ‘too cluttered’ and ‘too complicated’ and are of the opinion that the site has become ‘too difficult to use and enjoy’. There’s too much going on, quite frankly, and users have been put off by the inability to easily shut off particular aspects of their life from certain friends.

The Likely Aftermath

Trying to tie together all these issues in what was supposed to be an upbeat article has been a mammoth task. But at the end of the day, I feel that many of us are still blinded by networking’s glory days and refuse to accept that the networks’ foundations are crumbling. Unless we can break down the barriers that stop social media REALLY progressing, we’ll simply keep getting fed the same ideas over and over until we fall off the wagon completely.

Listen and learn, social networks. Your users don’t want real life, they want freedom, optional anonymity and, above all, choice – three aspects of social media that are quickly slipping out of their reach. Major turn off; major brick wall.

But what do you think? Are you still enjoying social networking as much as ever, or do you feel the concept has been exhausted too?

laustinseo

Lewis Austin lives in Chelmsford, England, and is the Social media Marketer for SEO Positive Follow his blog on Twitter

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