With SEO so important to Google rankings, many sites are doing anything they can to boost their traffic and their rankings. However, unethical SEO practice, or black hat techniques, can actually hurt your online reputation and make your rankings fall quickly and even get your site penalized. It’s best to stay away from any kind of unethical SEO practice and keep a solid, clean reputation.
What Are Some Unethical SEO Practices to Stay Away From?
*Spun Content – This is taking a previously published article and rewording/rewriting it to say that it is original. However, it’s different than using an article as a source of information and writing your own from it; that’s okay with proper referencing and citing.
Article spinning, on the other hand, takes a well-written, informative article and substitutes words and rearranges sentences, often making the new article garbled and unreadable. If this shows up on your website, it looks a bunch of mish-mash and, though it may contain SEO keywords, will lower your ranking, as it’s basically garbage. Stay away from this!
*Duplicate Content – This one is pretty self-explanatory; it’s taking well-written material that someone else wrote, copying it, and calling it your own. Sure it has those valuable keywords, but guess what – it’s plagiarism. This can severely lower your rankings and your online reputation.
*Poor Quality Content/Over-Optimization (Nonsense Words) – Believe it or not, some website owners will fill their content with nonsense just to get their keywords in. This may have worked long ago and given them a somewhat high ranking because of the use of keywords, but not anymore. Now it will simply lower your ranking because no one wants to read a bunch of nonsense with keywords randomly stuck in. Google ranking techniques, formulas, and algorithms have become more advanced to detect this, and instead of raising your rankings, this one will put any site that does this at the bottom of the barrel.
*Invisible Text – This may be the strangest, most unethical one of all. When a site uses nonsense, keyword-stuffed material placed on their site in invisible text (using a color that blends with the rest of the site), it’s unethical. This one is a red flag to lowering ranking and penalization.
The above practices all fall under the Black Hat category, but there are other things that will hurt your reputation as well. These are some things that simply make you look bad.
*Bashing other sites – Just like your mom taught you not to talk about other people, don’t bash other sites. It just makes you look bad. It may not hurt your Google ranking per se, but it can hurt your online reputation. People may not want to do business with you or visit your site if you have a habit of talking smack about other sites – how do they know they’re not next?
*Giving False Information – Don’t say something just to draw customers in. This doesn’t help anyone, and when customers stop coming to your site, it will hurt. Don’t make promises you can’t keep or accusations that are unfounded. Keep your information up-to-date, honest and ethical, and your rankings will go up, instead of the other way around.
*Linking to Unethical Sites – Here’s another playground lesson – don’t hang out with the bad crowd. Sometimes you are judged on the crowd you keep, so if someone unethical links to you, don’t link back. Your customers should be able to trust the links you offer them, and if you take them bad places, they certainly won’t come back. Google can also detect this and lower your ranking. Your site is a reflection of you – keep it clean.
It’s tough out there in the world of ranking. Though it may be tempting sometimes to try something new, and perhaps not completely honest, don’t do it. The risk isn’t worth it, and you want your site to be something you can be proud of. You don’t want your customers to come to you for the wrong reasons; they won’t come back.
Google has become much more advanced in the way they rank and how it’s figured out, so what may have once worked will now only get your rankings lowered and your site possible penalized or even dis-banned.
Here’s one more playground lesson to go by – and this should cover it all – play nice. If you continually use original, creative, honest text and material and stay away from the unethical practices, your site will do just fine.
Ever tried to search something in the internet and ended up annoyed by the top search result’s poor content? Good news. Google has announced that it is making a way to fix that. It seems that in order to achieve the birth of a pleasant internet experience, we have to wish for the death of over optimized blogs and the extinction of over optimized SEO voodoo.
What Is an Over Optimized SEO?
It is a rat race even in the internet. Web pages compete for every view and visit. When you search the net for anything, the search responds with search engine result pages (SERP). SERP ranks web pages that are likely to give you what you need. Search engine optimization (SEO) largely influences the SERP ranking. Over optimized blogs target to get to the top of SERP and not really to help the user.
Search engines devised algorithms to determine relevance to you search based on keyword matches, popularity and authority but because these cannot really review content, users often find themselves in over optimized blogs with low-quality content.
When we say over optimized SEO, websites such as over optimized blogs are using too much key words and hyperlinks to manipulate its way to the top of the SERP.
Google: The Quality Hunter
This March 2012, Matt Cutts, head of Google search spam team has announced in SXSW panel that they are trying to work on a new algorithm that can outwit over optimized SEO strategies and bypass over optimized blogs. Google is also planning to penalize over optimized blogs by placing them last on the SERPs, or never at all.
Cutts said during the panel that they want to “make the playing field a bit more level” between those who use over optimized SEO and those who are just trying to make useful sites.
Is This the End of SEO?
Punk and metal might be dead but not definitely SEO. The Google’s banshee cries are only about over optimized SEO techniques and over optimized sites or blogs.
Cutts clarified that SEO techniques that marketers have been using will stay around because they are undeniably useful. He said they make the internet “crawlable” and they make the sites more accessible. So it seems that white hat wearers have to fear nothing at all.
Black Hat: Over Optimized SEO
White hat is good. Black hat is bad. And although some may complain that this sounds like stereotyping and racism, these are really the two categories of SEO. The former is the sort that employs no deception, sticks to a search engine’s rules, gives you what you need to know and refers you other helpful sites. The black hat is the opposite and it’s what over optimized blogs are wearing. Over optimized SEO is definitely a black hat. Soon enough this terrible faux pas will die once Google is through with its algorithm.
It seems Google is serious in playing the hero (which is the good thing) but there is absolutely no reason to panic unless you are running over optimized blogs. If what you have is low-ranking but legit and view worthy, it’s safe and sound.
How To Avoid Over Optimized SEO and Over Optimized Blogs
As mentioned earlier, SEO is an important and indispensable aspect of internet search. However, your parents are right: anything is bad when overdone. To keep out of Google’s shunning and ill-favor, here are the basic steps:
- Do not over-stuff with keywords
SEO relies on keyword density use. It means it can calculate the degree of your web content’s relevance to a search by how many times a keyword appears. An over optimized SEO or black hat (you know what that means now, don’t you?) will saturate its content with those keywords. You’ll pretty much be reading a lengthy article with little help. An ideal keyword density is said to be only between 1% to 3%.
- No link toxicity
Aside from content, search engines’ algorithms judge your web page’s rank by popularity. You are popular when you link is posted in many other web sites.Likewise, you’ll get higher in ranking when you post other links in your web site. This move is supposed to help the users over optimized SEO strategists will fill their webpage with futile, irrelevant links and hyperlinks.
- Don’t Tolerate Over Optimized Blogs
If you spot what seems to be an over optimized blog, get out of there! Some theorizes that the length of time you’re staying with a site affect its ranking. Don’t even add a link of an over optimized blog on your own site. It makes you seem like an accessory to the crime.
- Site Goodness: Mean It
It seems safer to be genuinely kind. Don’t deceive users by appearing to be helpful when all you want are views. Ironically, the more you want visits so desperately that you use over optimized SEO, the less likely you will get it.
Apparently, the more a web page concentrates on the quality and not on the visibility of its content, the more likely it will get more views and make it to the honor roll of Google’s SERP. Just go with what the users need, not with what the search engine wants. Very soon, over optimized blogs will be history but maybe now we can already start saying, ‘adios over optimized SEO, hello better and satisfying internet experience.’
Reddit has been continually rising in popularity since first emerging on the scene back in 2006. Today, it is one of the most popular social news sites of its kind, proving to be a great alternative for those who have grown tired of competitors such as Digg and StumbleUpon. Reddit often calls itself the front page of the internet to play on its growing reputation as a digital newspaper of sorts. And just like newspapers have categories and sections, this site has something similar known as subreddits, a feature that can come in handy for the savvy social marketer.
A subreddit is essentially a category or subcategory that has a community of reddit users built around a specific topic or area of interest. These categories are finely targeted and can be set to either public or private by the creator. Examples of popular subreddits, as chosen by the user community include:
- World News
These examples represent broad general interests, of course, but the subcategories on reddit go much much deeper. For instance, you can find subreddits on specific topics such as World of Warcraft, Indie Gaming, and even presidential hopeful Ron Paul. While each area of interest has its own moderator, community members are able to contribute by submitting and rating content from around the web that is related to the topic at hand. For everyday users, subreddits provide an easy way to quickly access the content that matters most. For marketers, they provide a way to generate visibility and meet business objectives.
Benefitting From Your Own subreddits
Perhaps the best thing to like about subreddits is the fact that anyone can create them. There are numerous benefits to setting up your own, starting with the community aspect. If fellow redditors share your interest, it could easily lead to a situation where users are commenting, sharing, and engaging in other ways that keep the community alive with activity. The site has millions of active users, all interested in something. What this means is that unless your area is built around an obscure topic like “overhanded Bolivian bowling techniques”, there is a great chance that you will be able to attract others who share your passion.
The big payoff to having your own subreddits is increased traffic. All that activity combined with solid content means it is highly likely that people will want to pay a visit and learn more about what you have to offer. Make sure your newly created subcategory is listed on the subreddits page, pass the word along to your connections on the site, and the possibilities are endless.
Some observers have gone as far to say that subreddits are what have enabled reddit to surpass Digg in the social bookmarking arena. This is not as farfetched as it may sound considering it is one of the platform’s most important features. Whether it is streamlining content discovery or building a community around your own, social marketers can make great strides by putting this essential element to use.
The prevailing question among marketing professionals and businessmen right now is how to effectively market their products to their target consumers through the internet. Both Organic SEO and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) give companies the opportunity to advertise their brand and products online. In this article, we will discuss whether SEO, PPC, or a fusion of both will be most appropriate for your business requirements.
Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is basically the practice of improving website traffic through White-hat SEO techniques, which allow your website to figure prominently whenever search engines turn-in the search results made by internet users. Some White-hat SEO techniques include putting more meat on content and placing more quality backlinks on the website. All of these tactics are done without violating the terms of service that the search engine has set.
One of the most popular forms of marketing done on the internet today is called Pay-Per-Click (PPC). It is an advertising model wherein companies pay website owners a specific amount of money for every click that their advertisement gets from internet users who visit the website. Advertisers would craft their own set of keywords that reflect their target market and the products that they offer. Whenever internet users would key-in words similar or related to those keywords, the website and the advertisement would most likely come up in the search results. PPC can also be used to increase traffic for a website.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Both
An inherent advantage of the use of SEO is that it comes at a lesser cost, or even at no costs at all, compared with PPC. Unlike PPC, the success of SEO fully lies on the effective implementation and execution of SEO techniques and methods to improve a website’s visibility. Furthermore, another advantage of SEO is that it becomes more beneficial as time passes. Over time, a website can continue to accumulate quality backlinks. These will have positively affect website visibility significantly and the effect would remain so long as the links are there.
However, the use of SEO also has its own disadvantages. First, it takes time for your website to become visible. A day or two may improve the ranking of a website, but such a short period of time is insufficient to push its ranking to the top spots. There is no guarantee of how long it will take for a website to become really visible to internet users, but it usually takes six months to one year. Second, there is risk in SEO. The internet is a world full of different kinds of SEO practioners and some of them use black-hat and unethical SEO techniques. You never know when they will strike, but these people have the potential to destroy your brand and credibility to consumers.
As for PPC, results and progress come in pretty fast. Rankings improve quickly. It is also pretty easy to start a PPC campaign online. Moreover, the better positions your ad gets from search engine results increases the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. Typically, ads are put on top, the right side, or below the search engine results. In addition to these, another advantage of PPC is that it allows you to focus your campaign on certain regions, countries and regions. Furthermore, PPC gives you the freedom to manage and edit the keywords you have previously set any time.
The most alarming disadvantage of PPC is that it comes at a great cost. Overtime, the costs will begin to pile up and your company may end up spending too much money on PPC. Furthermore, traffic is totally reliant on the money you pour into PPC. Once funding stops, traffic disappears into thin air almost instantly.
A thorough examination of the qualities and advantages and disadvantages of PPC would lead to the conclusion that a mixture of both would be best. Starting with PPC, then slowly switching to Organic SEO would help you maximize the results that you can achieve. Timing is always an important factor in advertising. When you need to send an important message to your consumers, it might be best to use PPC for a short period of time instead of relying completely on the slower Organic SEO. But, complete reliance on PPC may hurt your company’s resources. The use of both advertising methods also allows you to effectively manage and lessen the costs that you will incur without sacrificing the quality of the results.
Overall, internet marketing is an art. It requires crafty manipulation and employment of advertising frameworks such as Organic PPC and SEO to reach your target consumers and maximize the effectiveness of your advertising campaign.
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?
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.
Wow, a content inventory is an excellent idea! Yes, creating a content inventory helps you assess the current status of your website, how you can improve the content and what you need to do to take your website to the next level. The biggest benefit of having a content inventory is that you can use it to enhance the SEO of your website or blog. So, how do you do it?
First of all, you need to know what a content inventory is. Well, a content inventory is an information architecture which is used to list all the content (whether text-based, images or videos) on your website so that no single piece of content is hidden from your sight.
Content has been the king for a long time now. It rules even today. If you want to enhance the SEO of your site, creating a content inventory is just the perfect way to go. After you’ve created the same, you’ll become an authority on what your website contains. With this in-depth knowledge, you’ll be all set to use the SEO tactics and strategies that your website badly needs.
What Does a Content Inventory Look Like?
Initially, creating a content inventory looks like a maddening exercise. Once you get started with the same, it can be a lot of fun. A content inventory is actually a spreadsheet, which contains information about each page that you have on your website or blog. The number of columns in the spreadsheet may vary depending on the number of on-page factors that you want to optimize for.
A content inventory, meant to improve SEO, looks a little different from a standard information architecture content inventory. Such an inventory does a great job to keep you abreast of all the individual content pieces on your site as well as help you plan your SEO strategy for future.
For example, the inventory can include information like the page title, URL structure, targeted keywords (or phrases), keyword density, meta description and image file name, for every web page in the spreadhsheet.
The Process Can Be Easier If …
If you have a big website or blog, you may find the task of creating a content inventory quite cumbersome. It’s, therefore, advisable to include other people (or employees) from your company so that you can assign each one of them some specific chunk. That means you’ll first need to break up all the components of your website in smaller chunks that you can easily manage. Once everyone completes their assigned tasks, you can draw up the entire spreadsheet and start analyzing the data to work out your future SEO strategies.
So, It’s Time to Analyze!
It’s a good idea to provide everyone (who was involved in the process) access to the copy of the content inventory (spreadsheet). Then, you can all get together to analyze the data collected in the spreadsheet and share inputs and suggestions among one another. During the content audit, you can also add notes about deleting, rewriting or optimizing various pages, according to specific SEO requirements of your site.
Now you are ready to take action! You can delete the pages that have zero performance or you don’t really need. It’s a good idea to take appropriate action first on those pages that are most popular with readers. You can prepare a list of all the actions that you want to take in terms of on-page optimization. Delegate the tasks to responsible people (or parties), set deadlines and improve the visibility of your website or blog in search engines.
How does creating a content inventory for a site sound to you? Please feel free to talk back in 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.
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.
Recently I spoke with a partner in an insurance agency about his needs for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services. It was a referral, which is how I prefer to do business, because I never want anyone to think I am just trying to sell them something. We had a brief chat and he shared that he was paying $500 every month for SEO and that he wasn’t happy with the results. I asked him what exactly the SEO company was doing for the $500 per month, knowing that for an insurance agency in his city that really wasn’t a reasonable budget to see success. He said “they do SEO stuff” at which point, I realized we had another victim. A victim of the smoke and mirrors often associated with SEO, where the company doesn’t really tell you what they do for you.
I told him flat out, “if you don’t know what the company is doing for you AND it’s not working, you would be foolish to keep paying.” He asked me what I would charge and I told him I couldn’t tell him until I did an analysis and took a look at everything. The funny part was that he seemed to have a problem paying for something tangible (an analysis which would be followed by a road map) yet he seemed ok to pay someone and not get any results.
Let me take the mystery out of SEO; there are a handful of factors that make up good SEO, but for the most part it’s about good site architecture with good content that has good links to it. The architecture part is fairly straightforward; use static pages with WordPress CMS being a preferred platform. Good content means that it is unique (not stolen), reads well (not stuffed with keywords), optimized (it has a theme and does target specific keywords), and the pages are of reasonable length. That leave us with the link building aspect which is where you find out who really knows there stuff. Links can come from a variety of sources including web directories, social media sites, blogs, trusted industry websites, press sites, and the list goes on.
Now that you know what is involved, the real question is “what do you need to move your website from where it is to where you want it?” And I assume that it is ranking in the top 3 positions of Google for your keywords. The only way to know what you specifically need is to do some checking, otherwise known as an SEO Analysis. Some items will be glaringly obvious, but others should involve some analysis to see what types of links the site has, what kind of rankings the sites has, where the site is already listed, and the list goes on.
I met a local web designer who impressed me because he said he would not do any work for a company unless they allowed him to do an SEO analysis. I’d say that’s pretty impressive coming from a web designer; it says they have a holistic understanding of their craft and don’t just see it as “making a pretty digital brochure” which no one is likely to find.
When Google comes up with a new algorithm change, all the webmasters hold their breath trying to figure out if this is the one that would send their site into the neverland of the search engine rankings.
I bet it wasn’t any different with the last week’s update that focused on pushing the freshest results to the top of the search engine pages.
Google tried to make us feel warm and fuzzy, as they announced their new update:
“Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.” Source
“Relevant and recent”.
Not sure what happened to the “relevancy” part (after all, relevancy is supposed to be the cornerstone of how Google works), but we all noticed the “recency” factor.
So how would this latest update affect you and your site?
Should you start posting every day now? Are you expected to compete with websites that have full-time writers constantly churning out fresh content?
The answer is a definite NO.
Although this update will affect about 35% of all searches, its scope is quite narrow, in my opinion.
It zooms in on the following information streams:
1. Current events or hot topics:
It only makes sense that when you search for “occupy Wall Street protest”, you expect to find the latest information on the topic immediately.
2. Topics in need of frequent updates:
A good example of this type of information would be products constantly coming up with new models.
If you are on the market for the latest Volvo XC-90, you are not interested in reviews of 2010 models, right?
3. Regularly occurring events:
Conferences, political elections, sports, etc. – all these events fall under “if I am searching for them, I am looking to find the info on the latest one” category.
“Different searches have different freshness needs. This algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness you need, and make sure you get the most up to the minute answers.”
Reactions Around the Web
Barry Schwartz of SearchEngineLand.com talks about the potential problems this update might create, referring to them as “freshness spam“:
“There are potential downsides. Sometimes you do want to reward fresh content. But what’s fresh? If someone simply makes a small change to a page, does that give it a fresh boost? If someone reposts exactly the same content on a new page a day or two after initially posting it, is that fresh? Is when the page was first found define freshness, or is the first modified date used?
Does this open Google up to an even worse situation than can already happen with Google News now, where publishers file and refile stories in an effort to win the freshness race there, since the latest versions of stories often get top billing.”
Ben Wills of MarketingPilgrim.com doesn’t just talk about it, but offers 7 suggestions to rank higher in Google’s new fresh results:
- Cover Your Bases by Getting into Google News
- Use Proper Time-stamps in Your Content
- Add Forums
- Add Question and Answers Section
- Add Your Own Social Network
- Add Your Own Social News section
If you think your site might be affected by Google Fresh changes, I strongly recommend you check out his post. Even if you don’t, still take a look at it: Bill mentions a good number of tools to help you implement his suggestions above.
Well, that’s it, folks.
As it’s always the case, we’ll talk about Google Fresh for another week or two, then the topic won’t be fresh any longer and we’ll get back to business as usual.
Until then, let’s try to milk the news for all it’s worth; who knows, maybe your site will show up under “Google Fresh” search tomorrow?