Archive for the ‘SEO’ Category

How a Recent Change In Google Made Wikipedia A Crucial Part of Brand SEO

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The Knowledge Graph, it’s been all the rage with Google over the last couple of years, but a minor change made last week by the search giant might make businesses take the Knowledge Graph a bit more seriously, and more importantly their Wikipedia listings.

Last week Google announced a new feature in it’s search results to help searchers better identify if a search result is really what they are looking for.  If it’s available, Google uses data from the Knowledge Graph to add a small dropdown with the name of the entity associated with the page in the search results, giving the searcher more details about that particular website.  I’ve seen it in the wild for a number of queries and if you have a strong, accurate Wikipedia presence it’s a nice little addition to your ranking listing.  But what happens if you don’t have an accurate article, or no Wikipedia article at all for your business?  Yesterday, I found out.

Google search results featuring incorrect Knowledge Graph information

What you see above is an actual search result for an agency client I work with.  You’ll notice that instead of having information about the brand that controls the website, it is about a particular product the company makes.  If this were appearing on a page that features this particular product type I might be a bit more ok with this result, but what I uncovered was that this particular entity is associated with every page of the website that appears in Google’s search results.

After doing some digging I discovered that the company I am working with has somehow never had their company and brand information established on Wikipedia, despite being a major cosmetics brand.  Instead, Google was displaying this data based on a mention of the brand in an article about makeup primer on Wikipedia.

St. Louis Cardinals Knowledge Graph result featuring a gay slurThe cool thing about this is that it shows how powerful Google is at associating websites with brand names even when a link isn’t involved.  But sadly, it also shows that Google still hasn’t perfected the art of connecting entities using the knowledge graph.  As Google rolls this feature out to more websites, it is going to be increasingly important for businesses big and small to ensure that they have established themselves on Wikipedia and more importantly, that they are being properly represented on Wikipedia.  After all, Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph have inappropriately represented a brand before in Google’s search results before.

Last October a Knowledge Graph incident featuring the St. Louis Cardinals showed just how vulnerable the Knowledge Graph can be.  During their World Series appearance against the Boston Red Sox pranksters rewrote the team’s description using gay slurs on their Wikipedia entry.  Despite being live on Wikipedia for only minutes, the slurs appeared in Google’s Knoweledge Graph results for days.  Needless to say, there are worse words that could appear next to your search results listing than “Primer.”  Regardless, now is a better time than ever to ensure that what Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph say about your business are as accurate as possible,

What You Need To Know About Google’s Latest Link Guidelines: AKA How Google Is Ruining the Web They Created and What You Can Do About It

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Matt Cutts - Nofollow All the Links!!!

The last few years have been rather painful for some SEO’s when it comes to links and link building.  In 2012 many were hit by Google’s “Penguin” algorithm that went after manipulative linking schemes.  Many others have been hit in its subsequent refreshes or the infamous “Penguin 2.0” update. But in the wake of all the recent algorithm updates, Google has recently made some changes to the way it defines “link schemes” and many practices that have been used by businesses and marketers to build authority in websites have many SEO’s and small businesses wondering where they should turn to next.  Here’s what Google is saying and some ways you can continue to reap the benefits of these methods, while remaining on Google’s good side.

What Are Link Schemes?

In Google’s eyes, link schemes are basically any means of gaining links unnaturally.  In other words, if you’re “building links” you’re technically engaging in a link scheme.  That said, its obviously not that black and white and working to build links to your website is obviously not going to get you in too much trouble if you go about it the right way.  But what has businesses and marketers nervous is the changes Google has made to classify certain practices as “link schemes.”

Guest Blogging

Over the last few years guest blogging has been a popular way for people to earn new links to their website.  It gave them the ability to promote their product or business and also score some decent backlinks to their website because they could control the anchor text.  However, the recent updates to Google’s link scheme guidelines call out article marketing and guest blogging as link schemes.

How To Guest Blog Moving Forward

  • Become a regular contributor – Instead of creating one post on dozens of sites, become a contributor that creates dozens of posts for only a handful of sites. This can help to build audience, authority, and is ultimately safer than traditional guest blogging since you become an author on the site. As an example, I am a contributor at both Search News Central and Search Engine People and earn links in the body of my content as well as my author bio.
  • Scale it back – One of the overlooked elements of Google’s update about guest blogging is the use of the word “Large-scale” at the start of the guideline.  Many communities have popped up over the years allowing you to accept/pitch guest posts at scale. Instead of finding every opportunity to post, identify only the most relevant, authoritative sites to post on.  This will keep the scale smaller and offer greater rewards.
  • Keep it natural – One of the biggest issues with unnatural links is the anchor text used to link back to a website.  Too many links with the same anchor text can set off spam signals at Google. If you are doing larger scale article marketing or guest blogging, stay away from exact match anchor text and keep your links a bit more natural.  Find modifiers that can be added to the keyword you’re targeting or better yet, incorporate branded links in place of exact match anchor text as part of your efforts. The key is to shy away from creating linking patterns that can trigger the algorithm, or even a manual penalty from Google.

Press Releases

Historically, press releases were used to help alert the media of newsworthy announcements from your business or organization.  Fast forward to the digital age, and businesses and marketers found an opportunity in the links provided by press releases.  Not only would you earn keyword rich anchor text links from press releases, but every site afterward that picked up the release.  Because of this, Google is now warning against the use of “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.”  In a Google+ hangout following the update Google’s John Mueller recommend nofollowing links in a press release to be safe.

Press Releases Moving Forward

  • Drop the spammy low quality press releases – One reason I believe this guideline came to light is because of the amount of pure crap that is distributed as “news.”  Only submit press releases that are truly newsworthy and might actually be of interest to a news outlet.  Not only does this cut back on the amount of spam in Google’s news results, bu it might actually earn you some decent media coverage that could earn you some even stronger links.
  • Keep it natural – Again, like in the case of guest blogging try and keep your anchor text as natural as possible.  If you really want to play it safe consider using brand or just your url as the anchor text and hopefully earn the more relevant links on the backend when a reporter reaches out to you to cover your story.
  • Nofollow where you can – While in most cases you won’t have any control over this, if you have the option to nofollow your links consider doing it where possible. Again, the goal of a press release is not the link, but the exposure and the hope that it may earn you some separate press coverage.

Infographics

If you’ve been online at all these last few years you’ve probably seen a few hundred, hell maybe even a few thousand infographics. They’re a great visual means of displaying data and if done right they can earn you a ton of links.  Hell, even I’ve written on ways to get more links for your infographic, but in SEO, as in life, too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Google and the SEO industry has had its eye on infographics ever since Google’s Matt Cutts commented on how they may lose their value in an interview conducted by Eric Enge.  Then earlier this week Matt Cutts mentioned in the below webmaster help video that perhaps now is a good time to start nofollowing your infographic links as well as links embedded in widgets.

Infographics Moving Forward

  • Rely on the value of the page your linking to – If you’re not quite ready to nofollow those awesome infographic links consider keeping your anchor text a bit more generic when you link back to your website and then link from the page on your site using strong anchor text and hope some of the value of the links funneling in to that page will help fuel your efforts.  I did this with a project a while back and we had the infographic link back to the blog post that first shared the infographic and then in the blog post we added keyword rich anchor text links within the page about a month later. It may not have had the same impact, but we still saw a bump for the efforts in the end.
  • Nofollow your links and hope for the best – Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday infographic links are going to most likely trigger some sort of penalty or manual action on a site.  I alluded to this in my post on how to do infographics right.  In the end if you have a solid infographic that people are actually interested in it can earn you links naturally and even earn you some love in the social media realm.

This is the Web That Google Weaved

Despite its best intentions the mess we face as digital marketers and business owners is a product of the exact company that is trying to stop it.  Links are the life force behind rankings in Google’s search results and as such SEO’s and business owners have sought any method possible to drive links to their website in hopes of earning that coveted spot at #1 in the search results.  What was “ok” in SEO a year ago is quickly becoming an SE-no and could potentially harm your website.  As such, its time for SEO’s and businesses to really start thinking about how they are going to build, or even earn links in the future.  The above are just short term fixes to a long term problem.  In the end how SEO’s and businesses get links to their content is going to get harder and harder unless you start investing time and effort into things that will drive not only links, but an audience and eventually profits.

Infographics: You’re Doing It Wrong

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

With sites like Piktochart making infographics easier for marketers and businesses to produce, there continues to be a strong interest in infographics for building brand awareness as well as backlinks.  But as infographics continue to be a popular means of content marketing, I see a lot of problems with the direction this type of content is headed and how the content is being promoted.

Infographics for the Sake of Doing Infographics

Many of the infographics I see being produced these days are being created solely for the sake producing them and hopefully reaping some of their benefits in the process.  Unfortunately many of the graphics being produced are unrelated to the businesses producing them.  While this technically could have been added to my five reasons your infographic sucks post, I think it has a place here simply because it shows the direction the practice of creating infographics is headed.  If you’re going to produce an infographic make sure the data or at least some aspect or theme to the graphic ties back to your business.

A while back I came across a fun graphic called TV Living Rooms We Grew Up In, the graphic was a fun look at TV families over the years with some random facts about each of the shows they were a part of.  But at the end of the graphic I was surprised to discover the graphic wasn’t from an entertainment news site or the like, but a custom rug company. Sure, perhaps each of those TV living rooms had rugs, but once I looked at the graphic I had no desire to learn more about the company nor did I remember the brand.

TV Infographic by MyCustomRug

If you’re going to create an infographic, make sure it serves a purpose for your business and can be tied back to data that is important to your business or its customers and will help associate your brand with the data and the product or information it represents.  Ask yourself, if search engines and social networks didn’t exist would I spend time putting together this kind of data for my customer base?

The Rise of Infographic Submissions

There was a time when directory submissions were all the rage in SEO.  You paid anywhere from $10-$100 and some poor webmaster would review your website and then if you were approved your site would be listed within a relevant section of their directory.  Sites like these were a dime a dozen and were the goto for SEO link building in the early days.  Over time most directory links were devalued by Google, the sites that sold them were often penalized, and ultimately SEO’s more or less walked away from directory submissions as a means of getting valuable links for websites.

But while directories may be dead, the business model that surrounded these directories has found a new life in the world of infographics.  I realized it first when I read Paddy Moogan’s post early last year that featured a huge list of infographic sites that accepted both free and paid infographic submissions.  Since then many of the sites that have the most authority surrounding infographics now require a fee to review the graphic before it will be featured on the site or blog.  Sound familiar?

When Google’s Matt Cutts came out last year and said he anticipates infographic links will eventually be devalued, it is these sorts of infographic links that came to mind.  Submitting your infographic to a number of websites for the purpose of links and nothing more is essentially the same practice as the directory link building and in time I anticipate this will lose all of its value, or ultimately hurt you in the form of an unnatural links penalty.

Doing Infographics Right

If you want your infographics to succeed be sure to produce content that offers value to your business and your customer.  Remember infographics represent your brand, put the same effort into your infographics that you would any other piece of marketing or branding material.  Infographics that get the most shares and exposure are informational, provide value to the consumer, are visually appealing and are many times entertaining.

A lot of people feel that infographics are dead, but the slew of infographic pinterest boards, websites, and even a recent project from Google suggest otherwise.  Good infographics are here to stay and if distributed with the correct audience in mind and through the proper channels can be highly beneficial to a business and its SEO.  If you’re stuck creating junk graphics and distributing them to random sites across the net, chances are you’re going to be looking for a different strategy in the next six to 12 months.

The Rankings Trap, Or Why That Number One Ranking Obsession Could Kill Your Business

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Rankings. They’re the sole reason SEO ever came into existence, yet it has gotten to the point that businesses are so obsessed with rankings that they have a tendency to ignore greater opportunities.  In my years in internet marketing I have dealt with a number of different clients who have varying degrees of obsession with rankings.  From the “All I want from you is to rank me for these five keywords” to the “I know traffic and conversions are up, but why am I not rankings for this keyword?”   As an internet marketer its frustrating.  Yes, rankings can be a useful metric, but they can’t be your only metric. In fact, if they’re the only metric you’re paying attention to, you may be setting your business up to fail.

Not All Rankings Are Created Equal

Personalization; its everywhere.  Regardless of whether you use Google or Bing your search results are being personalized.  Using things like search history, you social connections, and your location, your search results are being influenced.  The biggest issue with focusing on rankings is that no matter what an SEO tool says your position in the search results is, chances are what someone else is seeing is very different.  In a study I did for Plastic Surgery Studios following the release of Google’s Search Plus Your World, we found four different sets of search results for a query, all on the exact same office network, in the exact same location and using the exact same browser.  Now think of the variation you might see across cities, states, personas.  Rankings are a nice metric to have in the background, but you have no way of knowing if what you are seeing is the same thing your potential customers are seeing.

Don’t Lose the Forest for the Trees

Oftentimes the obsession with having a site show up somewhere within those first ten links in a search engine consumes all SEO efforts.  Businesses obsessed with top rankings will oftentimes put so much effort into earning and sustaining rankings for a particular core set of terms that they never look at the big picture.  It gets to the point where they tell their internet marketing experts just to focus on those core terms and not to bother with anything else.

Unfortunately efforts like this are very short sighted. First, as I mentioned before, even if you’re seeing your business in the top ten for your priority keywords, chances are the rest of the world might not be.  Second, it offers no room for growth. Once you’ve established rankings for those core terms you are only going to reap whatever rewards those terms bring in.  If you refuse to generate new opportunities your organic search traffic will most likely flatline and your website will see little growth outside of what you’re earning by sustaining those efforts.  Rank for “exterminator?”  Great, now lets explore “pest control,” “termite control,” and the like.  If you’re ignoring these other opportunities your online efforts are only going to be as good as the keywords you’re targeting.

Google Is Not Your Friend

What business owners often forget is that Google does not exist to help their businesses.  In fact, its the exact opposite.  Yes, Google gives you a number of tools such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google+, and Google+ Local to help establish your business on their search engine, but at the end of the day the data you provide through those outlets is actually fueling Google’s business. Google is in the business of information and ultimately they choose whether your information is worth enough to their audience.  If it is, you just so happen to reap the benefits.  But if its not, or if you try and game the system and make it look like your information is important to their audience when it might not be, Google can choose to stop delivering your website to visitors for your keywords and nobody at Google will be losing any sleep over it.

A single algorithm update can be enough to bump a site out of the search results for a particular set of keywords.  If you are only focused on a select few keywords and those terms get hit, how will potential customers find you?

The rankings obsession has a number of motivational drivers behind it; ego, traffic, ignorance.  Regardless of what drives the behavior it’s important to realize that your priority keyword list is only going to drive so much traffic.  There are other metrics you can measure besides rankings that can help you better understand how SEO is helping your business and your website.  After all, at the end of the day your business won’t need SEO if its not making any money.

 

Why Google’s Data Highlighter Shouldn’t Be Used As a Replacement For Structured Markup

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Schema structured markup

Last December Google released Data Highlighter.  The tool was designed to allow webmasters a means of easily letting Google know about structured data on a page, without having to add any additional code to their website.  In its initial launch it was only available for events, however last week Google announced updates to the tool that expanded its use to products, local businesses, articles, software applications, movies, restaurants, and TV episodes.  But as I pointed out in my post last week, SEO tools can be dangerous, and Google’s data highlighter is no exception.

Google’s Data Highlighter is a great tool, in fact I used it to teach Google about the content in the event calendar on my hyperlocal blog Life In Corona because the event calendar plugin I was using didn’t provide a means for me to hard code it myself.  However, what I have seen many SEO’s and even small business owners do with the tool is use is as a shortcut to get their structured markup in front of Google.  And while this is definitely a quick point-and-click solution for teaching Google about structured data on your website, it’s perhaps a bit short sided.

While the Data Highlighter can quickly communicate to Google about patterns of structured data on a website, the problem lies in the fact that it only communicates with Google.  By using Data Highlighter you are only helping Google understand the context of your content and not other search engines or machines accessing your content.

The tool was designed to help website owners who may not be able to implement structured data on their site, but want to benefit from the enhanced search results Google is providing for certain queries.  Like in the case of my blog, I had exhausted all means available to me to code the structured data myself, and in the end I couldn’t.  The Data Highlighter was the only way I could provide Google with structured data recommendations for my website.  Sadly, many SEO’s and small businesses aren’t using it this way.  Instead they are using it as a replacement for applying structured markup to their website, ignoring the other engines and other machines accessing their website.

Making Structured Data Implementation Easier

For many, the reason to rely so heavily on the Data Highlighter tool lies in the fact that structured markup may just be too to implement.  Fortunately, along with the Data Highlighter updates, Google launched another tool to help you in the process.  Along with support for new structured data types, Google launched the Structured Data Markup Helper.

Like Data Highlighter, Structured Data Markup Helper is a point-and-click tool that allows you to highlight to key properties of the relevant data type, but in the end Google provides you with an HTML output that includes the microdata markup.  This code can be downloaded and used as a guide as you implement structured data on your website.

As search engines and the web continues to evolve, the use of structured data will grow in importance. Even Pinterest is enhancing its experience with the help of structured data as a means of providing more useful pins.  Appeasing Google is great, but why stop there?  Do the work and ensure that your content is found and understood by anyone who wants to better understand it.