If you’re reading this then you’re probably an SEO, and a frustrated one at that. I know I am a little frustrated I have to say. Having said that, it’s probably an important process to be frustrated otherwise the antithesis would mean that I / you had given up, please don’t do that.
There’s a great deal of chatter in the Twittersphere about SEO and how much it’s changing. One such individual probably caught the brunt of it from me last night, being maybe a tad over defensive about SEO. Not in the sense that he was speaking poorly about SEO, but just a reassurance from myself that transparency from an organisation get get confused with effective marketing and PR. What I mean by this is that often a company can actively make changes (whether they are positive or negative) and go un-noticed due to the general awareness of these changes (through traditional marketing).
Here’s the conversation:
It may be a good time to backtrack a little and get to the grassroots of this issue, the infamous Penguin update from Google.
“In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”
Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.
So Google intend to reward high quality sites, again.
To stop you weeding through the blog post above to try and summarise the event in detail, here’s a few key points that are most important, in my opinion.
- A higher value proposition
- Well written content
- Social and community stickiness
- Signals which support a logical company
- Naturally built inbound links
Let’s address them one by one:
A higher value proposition
Google is in a position now where it rewards quality. What defines quality? Apart from the obvious remarks about grammar, use experience, design, dev and so on, no one really knows, not even Google. I’d like to think this anyway, because quality can often be subjective, like a piece of art. Quality is defined (in this instance) as a constant, forgoing other variables such as cost, intelligence, design, detemination, contacts and so on. Yes, these are important factors!
A very crude example, could be my father’s silversmithing website . The poor old chap is coming up for 70 and has been a silversmith all his life. He trained at some of the best institutions in the UK and now teaches rather than creates pieces.
I think you’d agree with me, that his website is poor. I know for a fact that it’s created with Frontpage (no, I’m not linking to you Frontpage.. yuck) and has no SEO value whatsoever apart from the URL, which is his highest ranking factor.
I would say that this site defines quality. It is not forced in any way, nor is it built with SEO in mind. It’s also a very important website because he is (no, I’m not biased) the leading silversmith in Essex and possibly the home counties.
But he does not and will never get found for terms such as ‘silver smith Essex’, or ‘silver classes Essex’. Not even close.
This is issue 1 that I believe Google need to address. Not everyone has money to spend on SEO and paying a professional design / dev team to create a website, this is a massive issue that needs to be addressed.
Onto the other hand..
What are the top 3 profit websites on the net? I’d pull this little list out of the bag and stick to these:
The websites listed above are BIG they generate 35% reach each according to Alex ranking statistics
The reason why these are included is because they are the absolute polar opposite of my old man’s website. These are the few who have unlimited resources, time and everything else in between. It’s impossible for them to get it wrong, sometimes they do, but there’s no excuses if / when they do.
I’m presuming that they are like every other business, they do things to scale. So if they are huge, then their online marketing teams will also be huge. This makes a better experience for users, ticks all the boxes for Google and kills off the competition. In this instance, the competition is anyone small than them, but in the same / similar industry.
Simply, the small competition cannot add value when Google is awarding more benefit and authority to the larger sites they appear top 5 for everything like Amazon, Wikipedia and so on..
Well written content
This one is actually one that I agree with, but it it an ambiguous comment? Unfortunately yes. ‘Well written’ is again subjective. Google are (again) assuming that content is just one level deep and one size fits all. I’d agree that a well written piece needs to be grammatically and functionally correct with a beginning middle and end, but I’d always sway towards rewarding a piece that is unique, original and real insight than a ‘run of the mill’ piece that is grammatically perfect in every way. Where is the balance to be struck?
Social and community stickiness
More social signals affecting search.. I’d say this is another instance of Google playing catchup with the world of Facebook and other gargantuan social sites to affect change in Google’s arena, rather than theirs. Adding value through social content is something that Bing has been doing for some time now, and also Google, but Google less so. A measure of stickiness can be defined as to how many users have retweeted, shared, liked, commented on (and other signals) over a certain amount of time. The longer the time period that these interactions continue to occur, the further benefit can be seen in search results pages. I’d be willing to bet that you can forget and nofollow and dofollow (Certainly from social sites) after these updates – in the traditional sense anyway.
So the key to gaining benefit from this ranking chance is to build content that is going to be shared, interacted and influence online.
Wait, did I just say that? So in essence these are the types of (video) content that are going to determine brand engagement, position and effectiveness?
YouTube notable mentions.. (shed loads of views and longevity)
WAIT! Don’t dwell on these videos for ages, yes they are awesome, but they have no place in the marketers world.
Furthermore, according to the same logic then we should be listening to these people online and watch for their influence across the web and hand on their every word. I thankfully follow none of them, and never will.
Moving on to Facebook
MY opinion is the same with the top 5 liked Facebook pages (Autumn 2011)
Signals that support a logical company
Logical company, signals. Google are trying again to gauge the actions of a company are within their boundaries, TOS, guidelines or code of ethics (off the record). It’s important to understand that Google believes they are the start and the end point. If you wish to be included in their service and reap the benefits of being a ‘partner’ then it’s important to follow the same ethics code as them. In doing so, some of this can be translated and some can be dropped. What the important thing to remember is that, like before, your company should show a beginning, middle and (hopefully not too soon) an end. A company is a company, not a website, so it’s important to appear in channels that other companies appear to gain any benefit of being ‘logical’, for example chambers of commerce, the basic social media platforms and other group accreditations awarded to your business.
Logical means “according to the rules of logic or formal argument”.
Rules and argument are the only words that stand out to me that Google are trying to convey..
Naturally build inbound links
For me, this is the biggie. This is what separates the men from the boys and the SEOs / marketers of the new generation. Remember back in the day where you could employ a few overseas workers to spend more time than you had to create link after link? Back then it was about ‘engagement time to SEO’, which no longer can happen. Today, that will have the reverse effect and your site will be penalised.
Today, the exact polar opposite is the act of compliance for us and other fellow SEOs, create content and value to create links. These days it is bad practice to create links, I wouldn’t ever bother. I’d work on a site that is so beautiful, magical and perfect in every way and hope that users and search engines pick up on this and rank accordingly.
I have personally spent days and days reverse engineering links and wishing that we had tools in place from years ago to ‘bounce’ inbound links to the great white yonder.
Before moving on, here’s my idea. (happy to collab with a dev if they wish to move on this)
A system whereby we can add advanced parameters to any URL (which in fact make static URLs) where we can point inbound links to. These inbound links will rank the page with or without advanced parameter in URL, but if we find that the URL pointing to our site 404s or 500s then we can reforward that link into the great white yonder and away from our site. There must be something like this our there already, please let me know if there is.
As part of the post ‘Penguin’ SEO it’s important to remove all links to your site(s) that may be dead, hold some sort of error, coming from a spammy site, blog network or a poor quality link that may match 101 other poor quality links heading to your site.
Head over the all of these tools, export all the inbound links, trim all to root and check each one to make sure they are not 404, 500 errors. If they are, then contact the webmaster and remove the link to your site.
- -site: search in Google and extract with SEO Quake or other
Go through each link and check using the following criteria (and your own rule set) to source the bad URLs that are doing more harm than good to your site and get them removed.
- Ads Above the fold
Any type of Ad Sense or other ads in the top half of the page. If there’s one advert and an authority site, then it’s worthwhile leaving it. If there’s 3-4 placements of ads then the chances are that it’s a site that will hurt your rankings and setup for advertising purposes only. With Google’s March ’12 updates there’s 50 new ranking signals to take into account for your site.
- Thin content
Spun or thin content. A native language speaker can tell instantly whether content is original or not and whether it has been written by a speaker of that language. Content that has been ‘produced for SEO’ is always short, imageless, not even worthy of being published. If it’s the absolute minimum, then it’s for SEO. A great content marketer Ann Smarty will be able to advise you on this. Don’t forget to sign up to My Blog Guest for content and more publishing options.
- Loooong keyword in URL
URLs with hyphens and long keyword variations should be avoided like the plague. Here’s a few examples (I made up, to give you the idea)
Sorry, but these will not work anymore. If you’ve bought a URL like this within the last 30 days and are telling me ‘It is working so there!’, Google has no reference point. Once your 30 days is up, they will and I’m willing to bet that it’s only 30 days worth of glory you’re going to get. Avoid like the plague, don’t waste your money or time. Remember, if you host this sort of domain on a server that you own with other sites being hosted there also, you may find that Google (being as clever as they are) will find your other sites via their IP and slap them also, watch out.
Here’s a few real life examples of sites that I’m actively removing from one of my client’s backlink profiles as they are having a negative affect for sure.
A word about Google..
- Google released recently that it makes up to 20,000 tests each year. Not all of these come to fruition, but you can probably knock off a zero to get the number of changes that are actually commissioned.
- Google was founded in 1998
- Google’s market share is 65.3%
- Google owns a monopoly on search on the Internet today and has done for many years
- Google’s biggest strength and weakness is that it BIG.
- Google is constantly making changes to it’s algorithm and more and more each day. This is a sign of a company that is struggling to keep up to date with change. The more changes that a company makes, the more transparency is revealed about larger issues regarding the longevity of the company.
Just to get things into perspective, there’s a few constants in this world, which are as solid as the laws of physics and cannot be changed, no matter who you are. One of which is the Product Life Cycle (PLC) curve, listed below. I feel it kind of speaks for itself and I’d 100% guarantee that Google is on the decline stage and has been for the second half of the companies life.
This company was built in the 90s, for the 90s. It’s now three generation later and we’re still doing the same thing we were doing almost 15 years ago. Like the great Sean Parker said at the recent Le Web technology conference, ‘plan for 3 years from now, not now’. Google, please read this..
Further reading and sources: