David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

THE HAPPY GUY MARKETING

 

Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Google Authorship – the 3 reasons why it failed

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Google intended Authorship photos in search results to convey trust. The average Joe didn’t buy it. Here’s why.

There are so many theories floating around the Internet about why Google Authorship was canned, but let’s begin this article by quoting right from the official announcement:

“Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”

In other words:

A) people were not clicking more on search entries with little author pictures attached, and;
B) in some cases people were clicking away from search entries with little author pictures attached

And this was predictable from the start. Hindsight is 20/20 vision, so let’s put on our hindsight goggles and review the three reasons.

  1. Trust and authority differ for different types of searches.
  2. People trust institutions more than strangers.
  3. People select between news and opinion.

The 3 reasons Google Authorship failed

Trust and authority differ for different types of searches

To really discover how the faces in the search results affected the average Joe (not us webmasters and online marketers), we have to reverse engineer it back to the actual searches and their intent. There are various reasons people search

  • They search for something to buy
  • They search for entertainment
  • They search for information

Let’s look at each of these three searchers one at a time.

THE BUYER is looking for a product.  In most cases, the only “authority” on that product is a known brand name.  A face next to a search result means nothing to a buyer.  If he pays any attention to it at all, it is to skip over somebody’s opinion of the product or somebody’s report on how they used the product to play a prank or make Thanksgiving dinner.  Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog post as unhelpful, so that people could skip over it. The buyer is looking to buy.

Unless, of course, the buyer is looking to first research the product, which is the case sometimes when:

  • The product is fairly unknown
  • The product is fairly expensive
  • The buyer is picky or indecisive

The fact is that most people won’t even research a real estate agent before trusting her with their most valuable possession.  Most shopping searches are not looking for reviews.  But some are.  Are they looking for one guy’s opinion, or are they looking for several people’s opinion in one place?  Yes, the big LAZY in all of us searches for a forum thread or a review site like TripAdvisor or ePinions where we can quickly see what several people have to say.  All those search entries with a single face next to them look like a whole lot of extra work for nothing. Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog for people to skip over and save time.

But wait!  What if you saw a trusted face that you recognized?  Someone you knew to be an expert on that product?

Exactly.  How many trusted experts on birdhouses or cookware or hose extensions or bedding or winter boots do you know?  I suppose if you saw Oprah’s face or Martha Stewart’s face or Consumer Reports face…  But two of those are true celebrities, and the other is an institution.  People don’t know your face, so your opinion means nothing to them.  The average blogger’s face in Google search results means nothing to 99.9 percent of searchers.

STOP THE PRESSES!

Who qualifies as a trusted source that most people would click on?  At very least it needs to be someone they know.  Here is a good first triage step: if their name is not in Wikipedia, most people don’t know them.

But even if their name is in Wikiepdia, that does not mean the average person knows them. How many country music stars are listed in Wikipedia? Now how many of them would you recognize if you saw their face in passing among the search results?  (If you are a big country music fan, feel free to replace the words “country music” above with “gastric bypass” or “LEED certification” or “contract negotiations”.)

You see?  There are very few people who are so famous that they are universally known outside of their field, and even fewer whom people might consider to be an authority on a given subject.

RESUME THE PRESSES!

Nobody cares what some blogger or journalist has to say, except those few people who actually know that blogger or journalist. Google Authorship kindly flagged those blog posts for people so they could skip over them.

THE RELAXER  is looking for a video, for humor,  for something to entertain her and help fill some down-time.  She does not want to think.  She does not want to read about entertainment.  She wants to be entertained.  If the faces next to a post are not Lady Gaga or Jimmy Fallon or Scarlett Johansson, it’s just some irritating blah-blah-blah clogging up the search results.  Nothing irritates someone in the mood for a party more than somebody who wants to just talk about partying. Google probably had to dump Authorship just to avoid being called a party-pooper.

THE RESEARCHER is looking for information.  There is some overlap with the other two categories here.

She might be researching to buy something, in which case (as I have already mentioned), she wants good, solid information from the company itself, from a trusted source like Consumer Reports, or from a review site where there are multiple user reviews at once. She couldn’t less what some unknown blogger has to say, and Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog so she would not waste any time clicking on it.

The researcher might be looking for information about entertainment.  Perhaps he loves watching Jimmy Fallon, but right now he wants to know the latest gossip on him.  If that gossip is coming from another well-known entertainer or from Perez Hilton, the face might stop quite a few searchers, and they might click through.

But if they don’t know you (Remember the Wikipedia test?), your face in Google’s search results just flags for them that this is something they can feel free to ignore, since they don’t know you and therefore don’t give a hoot what you have to say.

Many people doing research are not seeking information about entertainment or about products.  Many people just want information, and they want the most accurate and quickest information they can get.  Typical searches for information, and this list is far from complete,  might be:

  • for a recipe
  • about symptoms they are having
  • about nutrition
  • for fitness tips
  • how to build, repair or maintain something
  • for translation or definitions
  • for the latest in a current event (such as a war or a natural disaster or proposed legislation)
  • to fix a computer or software issue

If I am looking for a specific recipe or a recipe that combines certain ingredients or what spices go well with something, I want a recipe site, where there are multiple options all in one place.  I do NOT want to go through a dozen blogs about different people’s personal experience with the ingredients.  Google Authorship kindly flagged those pages, saving me the time I would have wasted clicking on them.

I will skip the one-by-one review of searches about medical information and how to build or repair things and updates about current events, etc.  I assure you that it will get repetitive.  People want solid information that they can trust, and to understand how Google Authorship repels researchers, let’s get straight to the second reason that Authorship failed…

Does a stranger's face convey trust?

People trust institutions more than strangers

You can say that you distrust institutions.  Most people do.

They say don’t trust government.  Yet, they are more likely to believe government information than information from an unknown source.

They say they don’t trust the media, that you can’t trust something just because you read it in the newspaper or see it on TV.  But if they do read it in the newspaper or see it on TV, most people will just automatically assume it’s true.  In fact, there is a whole “As Seen On TV” retail sector based on this simple premise.

They say they don’t trust big business, but ROI on advertising proves them wrong.

On the one hand, people distrust big institutions because they suspect there might be a hidden agenda.  And there often is. On the other hand, they assume that anything big institutions say is based on testing and experiments and scientific proof. And it often is.  At the same time, they assume what some random person says is not based on science or fact, but just some fool mouthing off.

Here would be an interesting experiment (Google, are you listening?):

Imagine a split test in the search results, for a few articles from USA Today or The New York Times. Half of searchers are served up results that include the journalists’ faces.  The other half are served up results with the New York Times or USA Today  logo next to them.  Everything else is random; the actual search queries, time of day, geography, etc.

I wonder how many more people would click on the logo article than would click on the face article.  Remember – it’s the same article, only the visual image would change.

Back to Google Authorship and how people reacted to it, let’s look at an example from the list of information searches in the section above. For medical information, whom would I trust?  I’ll bet you some people would recognize Doctor Weil. Or Doctor  Oz.  Or Doctor Phil.  And many of those people would therefore trust them. I’ll bet you that more people would recognize each of their names than their faces (so the picture probably doesn’t really help increase clicks to their own named websites).   And I’ll bet that many people would not clue in even on their names, much less their faces, so the picture might even detract from them.

As for anybody else, like some health blogger or health reporter for a daily newspaper, would you trust the unknown face over:

  • The Mayo Clinic?
  • A government department with the word “health” in it?
  • A university site with the word “health” in it?
  • A site with the word “doctor” in it?
  • A site with the word “clinic” in it?

Most people will look for some sign of authority, and an unknown face just doesn’t count as a medical authority.

People select between news and opinion

The same goes for other searches, such as updates on current events.  It might be very handy to pull up the results of that New York Times research project I suggested in the previous section. Although I am quite sure I know which of the two identical entries would get more clicks, the important question is who would click more on the entry accompanied by the New York Times logo, and who would click more on the entry accompanied by the journalist’s face?  And, lucky for you, I look into my crystal ball and I know the answer.

Drum roll please….

  • People searching for the latest news – the hard facts – of what happened, will click more on the entry accompanied by the media outlet’s logo.
  • People curious about what the latest developments mean, what the implications might be, what political slants there might be – opinion and analysis -  will click more on the entry accompanied by the journalist’s face.

How do I know this?  Because we have decades of training on how to read newspapers.  The Internet might be a new medium, but we take online our assumptions passed down in the offline world. We have always looked to newspapers to deliver us the news, and we will read the headlines and some of the articles to get the information we want.

There are never any faces attached to those articles.

But there are faces attached to regular columns on politics, international affairs and other topics.  We expect a less”journalistic” style when we read these.  We expect to be challenged to think about the news, not to just read it and accept it.

Flash forward to 2014 (before Google canned authorship, of course) and people searching for news would be predisposed to click on an entry that appeared to be from a trusted news source, such as CNN or BBC or The Globe and Mail. People searching to dig deeper – those prepared to invest some effort thinking about what it all means – will be predisposed to click on an entry with a face.

Big caveat: there are many other factors that will lead people to click through to a given result, including the title and the domain/URL of the article.  But in aggregate, Google authorship would have helped people choose between news and opinion.  Whether it would have done so accurately, I cannot tell.

And whether more people would have chosen to click on news, without the faces, I cannot tell (although I suspect that more people would search for news from a trusted media outlet than opinions of people they don’t know, even if they are interested in opinions).

If my suspicions are correct, Google would have incorrectly seen this as a failure of Authorship.  They likely assumed that faces are not helpful if fewer people click on articles with faces, rather than seeing this as a means of triage helping both news-seekers and opinion-seekers better find what they want.

The Future of Authorship

The real future of Authorship, should there in fact be one, lies in Google better understanding how people view authority for different types of sources.  You and I do NOT have authority beyond out limited niches and networks.  But some people do.  And many institutions do.

I did say a short time ago on a UK marketing blog (My Online Marketer) that:

“Unless Google creates a new “Opinion” search (like the News, Videos and other searches), I suspect that authorship is dead. “

I might not have been completely accurate at the time. If Google can harness this understanding of what “authority” means for various searches and flag individual author expertise and institutional expertise accordingly, it might still be able to help people find the most trusted authorities for a given search.

Or here’s a novel idea: Google could do what it is already doing: trying to float the most trustworthy authoritative pages to the top of its results, where people tend to click through the most anyway.  The face, or the logo, would not give the entry authority – it’s ranking would (and does).

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

What if Google doesn’t rule the world?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

While getting your site burnt to the ground in Google search is undeniably a huge setback, it is not the end of the world. Before abandoning your website, consider the alternatives to Google search traffic.

When most people think of the word “search engine”, they think about Google. Just “Google it” is even considered a verb by most people. While Google is the number one search engine, and mighty convenient much of the time, it is not the only search option. That is really good news for bloggers and small business owners who have been devastated by the recent Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird blitzes.

In fact, when done right, you can find the other search engines so useful to your business that you might not have to rely on Google search for your business ever again.

Alternatives to Google search

First, Google is not the only search engine. Surprisingly enough, other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Ask, Blekko and DuckDuckGo exist to help you find whatever you are looking for online. These smaller search engines make up approximately 26 percent of searches around the world.

While nowhere near Google’s dominance, over the past year Google has slipped to 67 percent of searches. What that means is that Google’s lead while strong is not infallible to a disruptive search technology – remember when Alta Vista ruled search and Netscape ruled browsers?

Where else do people search?

Second, you could also start searching through directories.  Remember how directories like DMOZ , Aviva and JoeAnt used to be how people found things before search engines took over? In fact, that’s how Google used to find websites.

Niche directories can still be more useful than search engines, such as local city directories (I’ve used Ottawa Start for certain searches.)  You can sometimes find more detailed and categorized information in these directories, and you don’t have to wade through irrelevant results from similar-sounding searches.

Niche directories like Aviva and Technocrati even have blog directories, where you can search for peer bloggers in your niche. This is a superb resource for blog research and blogger outreach.

Third, you might find what you want in video format. Have you ever considered that video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo are just large video search engines? Video is not just for music and old TV shows anymore.  You can find almost any information you want on YouTube.

While YouTube is a Google product, they have their own search engine on the site specifically for videos. Also, Vimeo is a great place to find specific channels with quality information, since they have standards on who is allowed to post content.

Fourth, use Amazon search for your product needs. Amazon can help you find almost any book, electronic, MP3, or product on the planet. With millions of their own products, plus Amazon stores with millions upon millions of additional products, this truly is the search engine of shopping.  Oh, and eBay.  And Kijiji here in Canada.  And Craigslist.  Lots of great places to look for products, new and used.

If you are a retailer, setting up an Amazon store and getting found on their search engine could be more important than being found on Google. Think about this for a second? Would you rather have your clients searching on Google, going from site to site, or on Amazon where they have one click processing for registered users?

Fifth, welcome to the era of social search. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have very dynamic search features. Twitter invented hashtag searches, which are now standard also on Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus.

Facebook has recently been updating its search recently to try and compete actively with Google search. Its graph search not only takes in the words you are looking for, but also incorporates your own social network in the results. That way, you can search for information that people in your network already provide.

Think about this example for a moment. You write a blog post about “Real Estate Investing.” While that might be a crowded term on Google, you know that a number of your friends on Facebook regularly search for this keyword to build connections.  The next time they do a search on Facebook for real estate investing, you have an increased chance of showing up in their search. What we are talking about here is targeted prospects learning about what you do, and coming to see your content.  So it matters who you know on Facebook.

Google Plus is beginning to use this approach, but it is too early to tell if it will catch on.

Twitter search, while a bit more limited, works in a similar fashion if you want to see who has spoken about specific topics. You can do twitter searches for specific keywords, and find out who is talking about your product and/or industry. This is a great way to prospect for new followers and blog subscribers – much better than using a search engine.

Sixth, industry search engines are also used for business to business searches.  You have to pay for your place in Thomasnet, but it can bring in  a lot of business.  Many companies search for suppliers in busines-to-business search engines. Even if you cannot be found in Google, your listing in a niche search engine can be found when people search Google.

More than one way to be found

As you can see, while Google might rule traditional search, there are still a lot of ways for people to be found via other social networks. The key is to figure out where your target market is, and how they search. Then you can augment your strategy to be found on multiple search engines. My question for you is where do you want to be found online?

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

How to become a Google Plus rock star with Circle Shares

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Circle sharing is taking over Google Plus like wildfire because people can quickly expand their network. Let me show you exactly what steps to take.

Two weeks Ago, I was in the circles of 600 or so people on Google Plus. This morning, I am in over 3000 people’s circles. Welcome to the magic of “Circle Sharing”. If you want to grow your Google Plus following, I will show you exactly what to do, exactly what steps to take.

How to do cirle sharing in Google Plus

But first, let me explain why circle sharing is so powerful and warn you about why there might be a risk.

READ ALSO: Why Google Plus might be more valuable than Facebook.
READ ALSO: Who uses Google Plus these days.

Circle sharing is powerful because everybody who saves the circle follows everybody in the circle. So if you are in the WowAnotherCircle circle, everybody who saves the WowAnotherCircle circle becomes a follower of yours. In order to get into a circle share, you need to be a circle sharer.

So it’s like everybody shaking hands and agreeing to follow each other.  You have a lot of people building huge followings, all sharing their followers with each other…well, it’s one big happy circle family.

How people react to circle shares on Google Plus

So is there a risk? Well, yes actually. People are following each other in order to get followers.  Not because they have something specific to offer or because they know them or because their posts are somehow relevant.  If this was link-building for SEO purposes, Google would ban everybody doing it. But instead, it is follower building. Why doesn’t Google ban the users who do this on its own network?

I think I know why.

All this circle sharing is increasing engagement on Google Plus and increasing loyalty to the site. Circle sharing is helping Google Plus catch up to Facebook as the top social networking website.

 

But what if someday that battle is over? What if someday Google Plus is the top social network, just like Google is the top search engine?  What happens when Google no longer cares about pulling ahead of Facebook and starts to care about quality?

Google has shown that it is not above penalizing websites for perfectly normal activities they did years ago, but which now are considered spammy. Could the same thing happen to circle sharers? Maybe. My advice to hedge your bets is to actually engage with your followers, with all of them. Whatever you do, don’t just post marketing messages, for example. Nobody likes the guy who wanders around the room handing out business cards while everybody else is talking about the weather, sports and the mating habits of the Southern Prickly Porcupine.

Post really cool stuff. Post personal stuff. Be real.

Be interesting.

For now, I’m having fun, and I really don’t expect Google to cut people off from building connections on their site as long as no users find it intrusive.

For now.

Words of wisdom from a champion Circle Sharer

Michael Q. ToddBefore I provide the formula that increased my network by 500 percent in just two weeks (yes, I am giddy about it), I would like to share with you some words of wisdom from Michael Q Todd who happens to have the single biggest Circle Share of all time, Megaball.

He began the circle share to connect like-minded people, something you might consider doing even if you don’t want to get into the huge, huge networking numbers: “I did my first circle share to better connect Empire Avenue members about 2 and a half years ago…”

Then he got addicted, eventually realizing that, as with anything else, success is about perseverance:

Justin Matthew got me into circle sharing with his snowball circle shares about 1 year ago. I dabbled in them but then appreciated that success would come from being regular and consistent and branding my circle share. I learned this from Scott Buehler and Daniel Stock.”

Who gets included in the really big circle shares?  Those people who share the circle shares and their sponsors’ other content (no surprise there, right?):

“As far as ‘criteria’ the pages and profiles included will probably have given +1 and publicly shared the #Megaball for the past 2 weeks in a row and will have made an effort to promote it outside G+. I can see this on their post when they share. If they have had no reaction to it it probably means that they have not made such an effort. I also take into account people who make ripples with their shared posts of my other content during the week. I am looking for influencers who like connecting people basically.”

Here is how you can start circle sharing.

Get invited into an already phenomenal circle.

Here are a few already going on.

Start by following their instructions, but also make sure to follow these 4 critcal steps (if they are not already in the circle founder’s instructions).  That really is how I began to be included in several of the bigger circle shares. It shows their sponsors that you are happy to help out. “In order to get into a circle share, you need to be a circle sharer.’

    1. +1 the post
    2. Comment on the post
    3. Include the circle among your circles (add friends that are worth sharing)
    4. “Share this circle” publicly (make sure to “Include yourself in shared circle.”) Here is how to add the circle to your own, and then share it:

How to Save a Circle on Google Plus

How to save a circle on Google Plus

How to share a circle on Google Plus

Include yourself in shared circle on Google Plus

 

Please add me in the circle you share. My Google profile is https://plus.google.com/u/0/112928640804164819202/

Start your own circle share.

Create a circle specifically for sharing. Include the people you engage with the most (and please add me, too!). Or the most interesting people you follow. You can put up to 500 people, but even 50 is fine to start with. Then share the circle publicly, asking your friends and readers to share the circle.  Once again, here are the instructions you can put in the post for your friends to follow.  You can also point them to this post for instructions.

  1. +1 the post
  2. Comment on the post
  3. Include the circle among your circles (add friends that are worth sharing)
  4. “Share this circle” publicly (make sure to “Include yourself in shared circle.”)

Share the circle once, and maybe again the following week, updated with new folks who comment their way in.  You might find yourself updating it each week.  That is how some of the big circle shares got started, and their original sponsors are in over 50,000 people’s circles .

I would like to do a BlogPostCircle share based on the people who read this post.  Yes, that’s you. If you want in, leave your Google Plus URL for me in the comments below, and I’ll put it together in January once I get past the time challenges of the Christmas season.  make sure to put me into your circles, too.

Just for fun, I happened to be visiting my Google Plus profile page just when this lucky number appeared, so I thought I would leave you with a capture of that moment:

David Leonhardt in 2,222 circles on Google Plus

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

Do as Google says and get penalized

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Over the years, Google has been telling webmasters to avoid manipulating their content and links to try to gain higher rankings. The advice has usually been along the lines of, “Do what is good for your readers.” In other words, we should ask ourselves, “Would I do this if Google did not exist?”

Of course, spamming has worked, at least in the short term. That is why people have continued to do it. And Google has waged a guerrilla warfare with spammers over the years.

But people could always get ahead as long as they made it look like they were doing things just for their readers. In other words, as long as it looked natural, and not automated.

  • If they were careful to vary the link text.
  • If they were careful not to have a thousand identical articles with the same resource box.
  • If they avoided link-exchange scripts.
  • If their content was “technically” unique (not the same content with just a couple words changed or synonyms substituted).

All that changed in what I call Google’s “Zoo Period“. Google unleashed pandas and penguins on the world, two black and white animals we usually associate with the words “cute” and “cuddly”.  But Google’s penguins and pandas are anything but cute and cuddly.

These two algorithms are delivering a hard strike at spammers.  The problem that everybody notices, however, is so much collateral damage of innocent websites and in particular that the small guy seems to be hit more than the big brands.

The problem that few people are talking about openly  is…

Webmasters are doing stupid things to please Google

Google’s advice that we should be creating web content for our readers, not for Google, is wise – at least in theory.

The problem is, that Google is now penalizing those very activities that we should be doing to make great websites for our readers.  Here are a few examples that I have noticed.

Content stuffing

Once upon a time, keyword stuffing was a big problem.  This was when people would just cram their keywords into their pages at an unnatural rate in order to gain an advantage in the search engines.  It made for hard-to-read pages.  People don’t do this too much any more; it no longer is considered effective.

Instead, they do content stuffing.

It seems that early results show that “thin content” (not many words on a page) can get a page into trouble with Google.  Worse still, several pages of “thin content” have been shown to drag down an entire domain. So webmasters and bloggers are rushing out in droves to beef up thin content pages, which typically would be any image-heavy page or blog posts with fewer than 100 or 200 words.  On one of my blogs, I have deleted a lot of old posts that were incredibly small.  Those posts were small for a reason, but they are gone now.  Others I have beefed up.

The problem that any writer worth her salt will immediately recognize, is that you cannot equate quality with word count.  In fact, a good writer seeks to streamline her content and use only those words that are absolutely necessary to convey the message.

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” So says William Shakespeare.

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” So says Friedrich Nietzsche

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” So says Thomas Jefferson

“Stuff it!” So says Google?

 

So the Internet is being again polluted by low-quality content, just to keep it all above Google’s word-count penalty threshhold.  Will this finally be the end of all those Wordless Wednesday blog posts?  Will I have to add a whole lot of extra verbiage to posts like this, where the video pretty much says it all?  Or to posts like this where a picture is worth a thousand words (if only Google could read pictures)?

Retired shotguns

In any marketing campaign, you have three choices.

1. You can use the rifle or sniper approach, narrowly defining your target audience and delivering a message directly to them, for their eyes only.  If your market is very small and very well-defined, such as if you manufacture street signs or oxygen dispensers for hospitals, this is usually the best choice.

2. You can use the shotgun approach, spreading your message as far and wide as possible hoping to reach the largest possible market.  This is ideal if you are selling a consumer product that appeals to a wide section of the population, particularly if it has appeal across all ages, genders and income levels.

3. You can use some combination of the rifle and the shotgun.

Once upon a time, before Google was a household name, people used to do article marketing that encouraged syndication.  The idea was the more websites published your article, the more people would see it and the more potential visitors you would get.

If you could blast your article to 1000 websites for the same amount of effort as to one or two websites, who cares if nobody saw the article on half the websites.  What counted is that some people saw it on some of the websites some of the time.  If the article was rubbish, it was just web pollution.  If the article was riveting, the shotgun would pull in traffic.

If you’ve been around long enough, you might recall ads to “post your ad on 1000 websites”.  Again, the shotgun approach.  You have no idea which of those websites are actually worth posting on.  Maybe 10 of them will bring you traffic.  But if the cost is $25 and you end up making more than that from just one of the sites, already you have positive ROI.  This has nothing to do with search engines, by the way.  And this would never have made you rich.  But it is/was a legitimate part of a shotgun approach to marketing.

You can’t do that anymore.

No more syndication

Even before the Penguin, people were panicking over “duplicate” content and “spinning” their articles so that each instance of the article would be “unique”, at least in the sequence of words it would use.

But now, the matter of spinning versus duplicate content is a moot point.  Now the Penguin will bite you for all the low-quality websites linking back to your website.

Google has plugged the shotgun, so that now it backfires and injures webmasters!

What a mess!

The problem is that if you have an amazing article, it makes perfect sense to get it syndicated as widely as possible.  If posting it to one article directory brings in five great leads and posting it to another brings in three great leads, good business sense dictates that you should syndicate it as far and wide as possible.  You want to include instructions on your site saying, “Please copy my articles, with attribution and a link.”

The problem is that Google will get you for the duplicate content.

Then the Penguin will stomp all over you for the poor quality links.

Verbose blog comments

What’s next?  Already I am hearing the chatter about blog comments.  People are asking whether we have to make sure our comments are long enough?  I know that a lot of spam comments are short: “Nice site”.  But other spam comments are long-winded, such as this drivel I just pulled from the moderation queue:

“I actually wanted to type a brief word so as to express gratitude to you for some of the pleasant guidelines you are writing at this website. My extended internet look up has finally been rewarded with wonderful tips to go over with my guests. I ‘d assume that most of us visitors are unequivocally blessed to dwell in a very good place with so many perfect individuals with helpful secrets. I feel very much privileged to have encountered your entire web site and look forward to some more cool times reading here. Thanks once more for everything.”

When I leave comments, sometimes I am long-winded.  And sometimes I am short-winded.  Here are three examples I left on three different posts of the same blog, over time.

 

 

 

How long a comment depends on how complex a remark one wants to leave.  It is not a sign of quality but of complexity.  Hopefully this will never be a concern, but if current trends continue, it won’t be long before the next black and white animal comes charging out of the Googleplex to cause mayhem on the Internet.

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

How Google reads your backlinks

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

People spend a lot of time scratching their heads, trying to understand how Google reads their backlinks.  They want to know what links they should seek to their websites that are still “safe”.

With all the turmoil over unnatural links and Penguin penalties over the past year or two, ever more people are sorting through their backlink profiles trying to understand which links to keep and which to try to cull.  What confuses many people the most is why some links would be valued over others.  “Why doesn’t Google like the links I worked so hard to build?”

The problem is that people are used to assuming that:

  • Every link is good.
  • High PageRank is what counts the most
  • Automation is good, because more is better.

These are wrong assumptions.  Remember that Google looks at each link to your website as a vote of confidence or a recommendation.  And not all recommendations are of equal value.  For instance, suppose you need headache medication…

 

Add the Infographic above to your site!

 

If one person recommends a headache medication, you might be inclined to try it. But if several people recommend a different headache medication…yes, exactly.  More is better.

But wait!  What if a doctor recommends a different headache medication.  Yup, authority trumps quantity.  And if several doctors recommend a completely different headache medication…exactly!  More is better, after all, especially when it comes with authority.

Now, what if the drug pusher around the corner offers his recommendation?  No thanks.  But what if a dozen drug pushers all recommend the same headache medication?  Of course you’ll take their advice, because more is better, right?

No way!

And Google is at least as smart as you are.  If hundreds of spammy sites link to your website, that is not a better recommendation than if one spammy website links to yours.  The more “drug pusher” websites recommend your website, the more likely Google is to label your website…

So, just as you would not want a throng of drug pushers recommending your product, make sure there is no throng of spammy websites recommending your website. Google will see more value in your website if inbound links come from trusted or – even better – highly trusted sources.

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

Does Google think it’s God?

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Something occurred to me as I sat in church the other day.  For those readers who worship in synagogues or mosques or some other temple, I suspect you will relate to this just as well.

I was watching people enter and file into their pews.  I was noticing how well they were dressed.  Most people dress up to go to church.

They will tend to wear better clothes than for a day around the house or even to go shopping.

They will make sure their hair is just right, almost as if preparing for a date.

They tend to shave just before the service.

Looks are important.  Outward appearance is important.  This might be to honor God, but of course it is not for God’s sake that we do this.  We do this for each other and for ourselves.  People dress well for people.

When God looks at us, it is not through ocular vision.  If God notes our color coordination, it is not on that basis that we are judged. (at least, I hope not, or I am in deep, deep trouble!).

If God notes our hair to be clean or greasy, it is not on that basis that we are judged.

If God notes that we have shaved or failed to do so, it is not on that basis that we are judged.

Nice people can look scruffy.  Evil villains can look sharp.  God looks past the external looks. He ignores the hair, the clothes, the cologne.  He sees what we are really made of.

What does this have to do with Google?

What does all this have to do with Google?  Well, many people do grumble that Google has a God complex, that it is so powerful that one wave of its hand can smote a business.  And to a great degree, that is true.

Is Google God?

But sitting in church, it occurred to me that Google plays God in another way, too.  Google looks at your website on the Internet that same way as God looks at you in church (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Google might note that your website has a flash presentation, but no matter how fancy it is, it is not on that basis that your website is judged.

Google might note that your website has several images, but no matter how elaborate they are, it is not on that basis that your website is judged.

Great websites can look boring, even amateurish.  Trashy splogs can be dressed up fancy.  Google looks past the visual. Google ignores images and layout for the most part.  Google sees what our websites are really made of – the code, the content, the information.

The Google Sermon

You don’t need me to tell you that you should be a good person – patient, generous, forgiving, nice to other people, to animals and to the planet.  I don’t need to repeat the Sermon on the Mount

It is fine to dress up nicely.  Nothing wrong with that, so long as we make sure our inside is nice, that what really counts is attended to.

It is equally fine to dress up our websites nicely.  Pay attention to white space, to fonts, to images, to layout.  Make the site look pretty, professional, inviting.

Nothing wrong with that, so long as we make sure what is behind the external image is nice.  That the code is clean.  That the structure makes sense to Google and other search engines.  That the information is all there, easy to find, easy to understand.  That there is plenty of content, on-topic, not playing with hidden text or keyword stuffing or any of those unforgivable sins of SEO.

Of course, Google is not God.  But clearly Google is trying to emulate God.  So make sure that your website is emulating the faithful worshipper.

Now let us take a moment to pray for those websites that have fallen from grace…

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

Google is not fair (and is not meant to be)

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

I was asked the following question recently about Google: “I still don’t understand how other sites post articles that are not original yet they do not get penalized?”

I am sure you have been asked this question many times.  Maybe you have asked it yourself many times.  I have certainly heard it posed in many different ways, why one site gets Panda slapped or Penguin slapped and not another.  As an SEO consultant myself, I have been amazed at how one site with a fairly good link profile, but with some “unnatural” links can get Google’s dreaded “unnatural links letter“, while another site with a much more questionable link profile doesn’t.

But sometimes you have to hear a question posed in many ways, many times before you get that Aha! moment when The Obvious Answer is revealed.  This was that moment.

The Obvious Answer

The Obvious Answer is actually a question: Why do some smokers live 100 years, while others are struck down by lung cancer at 43 or 47 or 54?

It’s just not fair.

Which bring us to the second part of The Obvious Answer: Life is not fair (as I keep telling my kids every time one of them screams out “It’s not fair!”)  And neither is Google.

Let’s review what Google’s ranking goal is, which I can assure you has nothing to do with fairness.  Google’s goal is to provide searchers with what will be most useful to them.  We use search engines to find what we want; Google does its best to deliver.  It does not always succeed (although it obviously does well enough, or we would all be using some other search engine).

My brother, the human search engine

I am reminded now of the purchasing habits of one of my brothers.  Once he takes an interest in buying something, he does endless research.  He is determined to find the best price.  He is determined to find the best features.  He is determined to find the most durable option.

But most of all, he is determined not to discover six days after buying something, that there is could have been an even slightly better option that he missed.

As a result, he often gets better deals than I do.  It’s not fair.

But even with all his research and delaying, he still might not get the very best option.  It’s not fair.

Which means that a vendor or manufacturer with something slightly better might still have missed a sale.  It’s not fair.

And that also means that a vendor or manufacturer got a sale he might not have gotten.  It’s not fair (but they are not complaining, right?).

And when Google ranks web pages, it’s not fair.  And it is not meant to be.  Google’s job, to once again restate the often overlooked or ignored obvious, is to provide searchers with what will be most useful to them.

What SEO is all about

So the job of SEO practitioners is…

Come on, what is the obvious answer?

You can do it.

To make sure our websites are the most useful to searchers.

Now I know that you will say that it is the designer’s and programmer’s jobs to make sure the website is most useful, functioning well, converting well, etc.  True enough.  But it is the SEO’s job to make sure that, for a given search term, the site actually delivers.  Obviously there is some overlap and cooperation required with the designer and the programmer on the technical front, but mostly the SEO needs to make sure the content is what searchers are looking for.

Relevant.

Important.

And, above all, useful.

And the SEO consultant has one additional job, besides making sure the content is most useful – and this is key – making sure the search engines know the content is the most useful.  It is about writing.  It is also about promoting. Yes, all the “content is king” and “quality over quantity” and “avoiding bad neighbourhoods” and “backlink strategies” can be distilled down to this very simple goal.

But what happens if Google doesn’t notice the right things?  What happens if Google does notice the wrong things?  What happens if somebody else is shouting louder?  What happens if someone else makes a more useful web page?  What if Google disagrees that your perfect page is best?

Like I said, it’s not fair.  It’s not supposed to be.  That is The Obvious Answer.

The Practical Answer

Of course, if you’ve been hit be a penalty, such as the “unnatural links letter” or just been demoted by a Penguin slap or hit by Google’s brand new EMD (exact match domain) artillery, and find yourself grumbling that it’s not fair, you will probably find “It’s not supposed to be.” a less than satisfying answer.

It is also a less than practical answer.

The practical answer is to avoid doing anything that the search engines might one day decide is spammy.  Yes, that is a whopper.

And quite impossible.

Once upon a time, you could not be penalized by who linked to you, only by who you linked to.  This made sense; it kept competitors from building piles of spammy links to your site – “negative SEO”.  But with Google’s Penguin and the “unnatural links letter”, times have changed.  Despite Google’s protests to the contrary, I cannot see how negative SEO can be stopped right now.

Not long ago, any publicity was good publicity.  If you could get a mention in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, that was amazing.  Still is.

But if you couldn’t get that kind of coverage, you could still spread your message through blog networks, article submissions, etc.  Much less targeted, much lower quality, much more of a shot in the dark.  But 100 percent legitimate.  Sometimes you market with a rifle, sometimes with a shotgun.  Fair enough?

But now if you market with a shotgun, Google will look at all those low quality repetitive links and down the sink goes your website.  No, it’s not fair.  Especially since it is retroactive, penalizing your site for doing in the past what used to make sense back then (and still would make sense if you don’t care about Google rankings).

So it is not always possible to predict what will get you in trouble, but it is pretty clear that quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb.  Stay away from anything mass-produced or mass-disseminated.  Avoid any get-rich-quick (get-links-quick) tactics.  Take the time to create original content – truly original content, not just rehashed repetition.

You still might get tripped up by suddenly changing algorithms.  Watch how Infographics get treated in a year or two. You still might find yourself at some point in the future grumbling “It’s not fair.”  But your odds of being on the winning side of the not-fairness will be much, much greater.

Additional advice? Hang on tight!

 

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

Google’s Penguin Update…

Friday, May 11th, 2012

…as experienced by more webmasters than I care to count:

Oh, yes. And this is how many of those same webmasters would like to deal with Google’s penguin (sorry, but you do have to watch the full 1:47 video to the end to see the full wrath of the webmasters).

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

How to NOT Lose Money with AdWords

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Google AdWords is the perfect way for you to reach more members of your target audience online. When you create an account, you’re immediately given $100 worth of free credits. With this amount, you can instantly post ads that millions of people around the world can view. While this is a great thing, it also means that you can easily spend tons of money on your online marketing campaign without yielding a return on your investment.

Below are a few concepts that you should know so that AdWords advertising will become more effective for your business.

Keyword Research

This is to help you figure out what search terms users are entering to find you and other similar businesses, you may use one of the many free or proprietary keyword tools out there. Utilize those tools to create a good list of short and long-tail targeted keywords that will broaden your reach.

A final tip on keyword research is to remember that AdWords is a prime space for ads. This means that you’ll have to compete with others in terms of relevancy to searches. The way to win is to set a fixed budget and look for keywords that won’t cost you so much per click. Remember, that there are other keywords that your competitors haven’t exploited yet. If you only choose popular keywords, you’ll find yourself strapped on cash.

Keyword Matching

When you input your key phrases into AdWords, you’ll be given three matching options. Let’s say that your keyword is “wooden doors.”

  • Broad Match. This tells Google to match the searches that it thinks are relevant to your ads. Don’t get surprised if Google decides to match “glass doors” to your ads.
  • Phrase Match. If you choose this, Google will match your ads to searches using your key phrase in its exact form and sequence. Using the example above, Google will match your ads with “etched wooden doors” but not with “wooden front doors.”
  • Exact Match. With this option, Google will display your ad in searches that strictly matches your phrase. For instance, your ad will only be shown if someone searches for “wooden doors” and no other words.

 Negative Keywords

 Apart from the three keyword matching options above, there’s negative match, which tells Google NOT to display your ad for searches containing keywords you specify.

Quality Score

Your Quality Score is Google’s estimate of the relevance and usefulness of your keywords, advertisements, and landing pages to viewers. If you score high, your ads will rank better, additionally, your clicks will be cheaper meaning more savings for you.

Focused Ad Groups

Grouping together highly-specific targeted words with the same theme is one of the crucial steps to AdWords success. By doing so, you can track your bids and conversions better. When you know how a certain cluster of keywords are performing, you can put them on hold in order to bring your PPC spending down.

Ads Written for Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate (CTR) refers to the number of actual clicks on your ad per one hundred impressions (i.e. number of users who see your ad regardless if they click-through or not).

General keywords definitely create a lot of impressions, but result in lower click-throughs and conversions because they won’t filter your audience. Targeted keywords, on the other hand, will have a better CTR with less impressions.

If you want to improve your ads’ CTR, you should avoid very general search terms. It’s better to focus on specific keywords that more closely describe your products/services.

Position Preferences

Before, you can specify whether you want your ad to appear at the top of the page or “other” (i.e. side or bottom). But in April 2011, Google retired this option so ad owners have to optimize their AdWords accounts manually to target a specific position. An excellent way of doing this is by focusing on ads’ quality scores in order to not only drive down your PPC costs, but also improve your ranking. But should you determine that the top spot isn’t for you, since your ads are already earning is enough, then you should stick with your conservative keywords.

Targeting Search Network vs. Content Network

When you register for an AdWords account, you’ll eventually have to specify whether you want to advertise on the Search Network, Content Network, or both. Choosing content network means that your ads will be placed inside websites relevant to your keywords. Selecting search network means that your ads will be found on Google SERPs.

It would be better if you avoided Content Network because it will only bring in traffic that’s not qualified. For instance, if your website is about coffee beans, your ad can get placed in a site that’s about a song containing the phrase “coffee beans.” Because your ad isn’t relevant to the content of that site, you won’t get any traffic from it and hence your conversion rates will suffer.

Creating the perfect Adwords campaign requires constant monitoring to make the best use of your marketing dollar. With a keen attention to what works and what doesn’t, you can drive down costs and raise your CTR to improve the bottom line for your online sales.

This is a guest post by Michael Hendsbee of Convurgency SEO Toronto.

 

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

Occupy Google (radio satire)

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Google Doodles, beware! Today I will share with you an exclusive radio interview with Rankless Jones*, live at the scene of the “Occupy Google” protests.  After all, why occupy just a street, when you can occupy an entire website?

 


 

If Plan “B” is initiated, here are some of the unfortunate Google Doodles that we believe might be at risk, and are advised to take security precautions.

Vivaldi's birthday

 

Beijing Olympics

 

Google's 13th birthday

 

Art Clokey's 90th Birthday

 

The official first Google Doodle ever

 

The unofficial first Google Doodle ever

 

You can decide for yourself which Google Doodles are most likely to fall victim to the Occupy Google protests if the demands are not met, by visiting the Google Doodle Archive.

*Rankless Jones played by Chantalyne Leonhardt in her first international voice acting role.

 


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

Close