Category Archives: Penguin

The State of SEO- Pillars and Changes

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing and ever-growing field of expertise. To add to the complexity of this vast topic, there are so many unknowns – even by the people who are closely linked to implementing some of these major changes (we’re looking at you, Google).State of SEO

While the Internet is responsible for producing these constant changes, it has also become a great source of information to stay in the know. Let’s take a look at the latest predictions for 2016’s pillars and trends as they relate to SEO.

Pillars and Predictions – What Will Shape the Face of SEO?

Mobile searches will surpass desktopMobile searches will finally reach the point at which the majority of spend, organic traffic and paid clicks come from mobile devices rather than desktop and laptop searches.

Voice searches will change how we advertise Voice searches are on the rise from mobile devices and even in vehicles. When you think about how people phrase a search, it changes based upon whether they’re typing it into a search engine or simply speaking it. SEO and keyword advertising will need to be mindful about these differences and adapt their ads accordingly.

Everything must be mobile and search friendly – This is not necessarily new for 2016, but will certainly maintain its importance into the New Year and beyond. Everything you do needs to be mobile and search friendly. This means your website, apps, content and advertising need to be optimized for the user who is likely finding you via search on their mobile device.

Quality is still king – One pillar of SEO that will not change in 2016 is the emphasis on quality content that is foremost written for the reader and not a search engine. Google’s continual updates (we’ll touch upon this next) have one overarching theme in mind – reward good content and punish the bad (i.e. spam). Don’t take shortcuts! Keep your content top quality.

Changes and Updates – Why Worry Over a Real Time Penguin?

On January 8, 2016, an unnamed core search ranking update took place impacting many websites’ rankings. The internet was abuzz with people speculating over this “massive update” and how it may be related to Penguin.  Google has since confirmed that this was indeed a “core algo update,“ but not a Penguin update. However, the details and full implications of this latest change remain mostly unknown.

While Google strongly maintains that this is not the highly anticipated Penguin update, it’s important to note the concern of so many SEO gurus and businesses who initially thought it was. What could a Penguin update do and why should businesses care? Here’s what we know:

A real time Google Penguin (as opposed to the current Google Penguin that only rolls out every 8-12 months) could result in more link spamming and ultimately hurt the power of links in search engines, which have always been a top metric when determining search ranking.

When it first came out, Google Penguin aimed to clean up spam links and punish websites (via search rankings) who used them. Because Penguin only comes around about once a year, if you are caught, you are punished for quite a while before your site starts to properly rank again.

A real time Google Penguin, which would update constantly instead of every once in a while, decreases the penalty for trying to “game the system” with bad links. As you can imagine, websites with good links that follow the rules would prefer to not have the real time Penguin update and leave things just as they are – hence the apprehension over this looming update.

Looking at the pillars and changes of SEO in 2016, which one do you think will have the greatest impact? Do you anticipate any other significant changes and when? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

~Stephanie

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Filed under Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What Are the Projected Benefits and Drawbacks to the New Google Penguin Update?

This October will be the one year anniversary since the release of the fifth update to Google’s Penguin algorithm. In case you’re not already familiar with Penguin, this update was created to improve Google’s ability to catch websites that were spamming its search results. For example, websites that buy links or obtain them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.Penguin Update

The reason why so many websites are anxiously awaiting this update is because when a new Penguin update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links may regain some of their rankings. For any business that heavily relies upon web traffic and SEO to draw in customers, this can be the difference between success and failure.

So what can we expect from Penguin 3.0 and will this update offer a substantial improvement over the last version? Here are a few highlights as to what the experts are saying.

The Benefits

Penguin 3.0 is expected to make major changes to the algorithm with the main goal being to make it capable of running more frequently so that those whose websites were impacted wouldn’t have to wait so long to see a refresh. Cue sighs of relief from businesses everywhere.

Google has admitted to the fact that their current algorithms don’t reflect webmasters efforts to clean up the issues that caused them to be penalized by Penguin in a reasonable time. It’s expected that the new update will attempt to resolve this issue. With Penguin 3.0, Google claims that websites that have “sanitized” their backlink profile and replaced spam links with real links will finally see a lift in SERPs.

The Drawbacks

While this update will certainly have its benefits, it also brings several drawbacks and concerns of which you should be aware. Just as previous updates jarring and jolting to thousands upon thousands of websites, we should expect the changes associated with this new update to be just as significant. If you’ve taken the effort to clean up your bad links, this is good news, but if you have not, this could mean even more penalties and negative impact on your SEO. Additionally, over the past year Google has been working on improving their ability to catch “spammy” link and many that may have flown below the radar of the last Penguin update are once again at risk of getting caught.

One final concern to keep in mind is even if your own website doesn’t get caught in the Penguin filter, other “spammy” websites can still negatively impact your SEO by linking to your website. Google’s official position on negative SEO is that “Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.” Essentially, it’s on you to resolve this issue with the other website, which can be no easy task. Worse yet, you may not even know these links back to your website exist until it’s already hurt your SEO.

How to Bounce Back From Penguin 3.0

If your site has been hit by Penguin, you should immediately perform a link audit to be sure that each and every backlink in your profile conforms to Google Webmaster Guidelines. It’s a small price to pay now compared to getting caught by the new Penguin update. If you do, you may need to wait another year before until a new update provides a chance to recover.

Additionally, if your site hasn’t been hit by a past Penguin update, you are still not safe. If you have any “spammy” links in your profile, remove them now. If you have done any automated link-building or hired shady, offshore link-building services, you are likely at. Non-penalized sites should still perform a thorough link audit to be safe. Failing to do so will make you the next website anxiously awaiting a Penguin refresh.

Once you have sanitized your backlink profile, it is time to permanently end the bad practices that may worked well in the past, but represent risk, today. Instead, focus on post-penalty marketing activities that conform to Webmaster Guidelines.

Just because you are under penalty, doesn’t mean that you have to wait for a Penguin rerun to get organic traffic. In addition to replacing the bad links with good ones, you should spend time and resources on generating traffic that does not require Google organic search- possibly through creative marketing services.

The final takeaway is that every single website should perform a link audit on their website. If you have any bad links, now is the time to correct them – before Penguin 3.0 is unveiled. Furthermore, end the bad practices with spam links one and for all and conform to webmaster guidelines. Also focus some of your marketing efforts on various other tactics that do not involve Google organic search just to be safe. Finally, keep a keen eye on other websites that link back to yours to ensure they are not negatively impacting your SEO. ~Stephanie

What are you most looking forward to or are worried about when it comes to Google’s Penguin 3.0? Share your thought and insights by commenting below!

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Filed under Algorithms, Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What should web writers know about content creation?

Strong content is a must-have to make your sites not only user-friendly but highly-ranked in search results. These tips will help you find a strong balance of readability and SEO.

Move Beyond Keywords

With each change to the Google algorithm, the role of keywords becomes more sophisticated. Keyword density higher than 2% can actually hurt your ranking. Just looking at keyword data will no longer work for generating high-ranking content. Additionally, the implementation of encrypted searching will make keyword data less reliable. Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Watch suggests continually building your content and refreshing pages to signal that your site is alive and growing, rather than focusing strictly on search terms.

Write Like People Think

When you do use keywords, the new secret is to instead use search terms in a way that more naturally reflects how the word is used conversationally or the way people think about the words. For example, instead of using shorthanded terms in your meta titles and keywords, use phrases or concepts. As search engines begin processing natural language more frequently, the change may become a hindrance to ecommerce and business sites that use keywords less conceptually. For example, rather than using a title like “Find the Best Writing Solutions,” which emphasizes keywords like writing and solutions but doesn’t sound much like an inquiry someone might ask a search engine, you might try “How to Write Better” or “Best Ways to Improve Your Writing.” Whereas older algorithms focused on keywords, the new algorithms are looking more for phrases and concepts that reflect real people’s language use.

Engage Your Audience

Since you’ll be writing more like people think, it’s important to think more about for whom you’re writing. As content becomes more prevalent in search algorithms, so do different ways of assessing the quality of the content, such as authority and audience engagement. Quality content is frequently updated, helpful, and targeted for your audience. Aim for content that will get the audience to comment, bookmark, or share. End your posts with questions or prompts to encourage audience participation and use reader feedback to help you assess who your audience really is. Not only does engagement with readers boost your SEO rank, it also helps you better address your readers in a way that makes them feel connected to your site or brand. Pay attention to signals that let you know what language, examples, and other trends are most engaging for your readers. Building a relationship with your audience is more complicated than analyzing keyword results, but it provides the biggest boost to your brand and content quality.

Use Social Media

While all social media is a huge means of generating traffic, you can’t underestimate the use of Google+ in developing your rank and content. Link your blog or website to Google+ and make sure that you generate content that crosses over well. Think eye-catching pictures, engaging questions, and sharp summaries that encourage users to click from your Google+ page to your blog or website. That linking builds your presence and authority in the Google algorithm.

Creating a broader social media strategy is an important part of getting your content seen and of generating more engagement and authority. When using social media consider your audience and which sites offer the best reach. A social media strategy must do more than simply sharing links and hoping they’ll get reposted. Introduce content with thought-provoking or click-worthy leads. Ask questions. Use visuals that grab attention. Many social media platforms use a lot of white space in their design, so visuals really pop. Meet your audience where they are and draw them into your content.

~Kasey

More Posts:

Content Improved Our Client’s Keyword Reach and Searchlight’s Data Proved It

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

A Writer’s Insight into Google’s Hummingbird

Seven Helpful Apps for Social Media Marketers

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Filed under Algorithms, Content, Hummingbird, Keywords, Panda, Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media

A Beginner’s Guide to Penguin 2.0

by My Web Writers

You’ve heard of Penguin 2.0, but you feel like you’re living on an iceberg as far as understanding it. What exactly does this Google algorithm update do to your site?  We’re here to give you an overview of the latest on Penguin 2.0, which was launched May 22, 2013.

A Brief History

Penguin 1.0 was launched in April 2012. It targeted sites with inappropriate and/or questionable link profiles and poor anchor text that was too keyword-rich. The goal was to serve Google users with better, more relevant search results. Simple SEO was a great idea at first, but people began to manipulate the system. Google stepped up and created Penguin 1.0 to weed out the good from the bad.

Penguin 2.0 Targets Links

Penguin 2.0 differs from Penguin 1.0 in that it’s more comprehensive. It takes a look at the internal pages of a website and targets inbound shady linking behavior.

What are some common forms of shady linking?

  1. Paying another website to link to yours.
  2. Commenting on blog posts just to leave your exact match anchor text link.
  3. Posting your content on questionable blogs with links back to your blog.
  4.  Creating thin, run of the mill articles with links that get posted here, there, and everywhere.
  5. Receiving malicious, inbound links.  Check your link profile in Webmaster tools to find these.

Content is Still King

It’s simple, really. Your site needs stellar content. Remember, as you’re creating content, to not get “link happy.”  Mix up the anchor text in your links.

A few years ago, SEO’s would match link anchor text with the keyword associated with the link’s page.  Today, too many exact match links flag Google that the site might be over-groomed by spammers.  Penguin is sometimes known as the “over-optimization” penalty because of this action to make content less mechanical.

It is not a contest to see how many times you can link to your site- quite the opposite actually. Linking should occur naturally.

Penalties and Rewards

Google penalizes shady behavior like buying mass links, spamming social media or blogs, or displaying paid advertorials. Sites that follow the rules are rewarded with higher, overall search rankings.

You’ve been penalized. Now what?

If your site has been penalized and dropped in the overall rankings in search, don’t worry that all hope is lost forever. Find out why you were penalized, and fix the problem. Google’s Webmaster tools can help. Make sure your links are relevant.  In some cases, you may need to disavow or content site owners to ask them to remove the links.

As long as you’ve been creating good content with trustworthy and relevant links, Penguin 2.0 likely didn’t change where you rank in search results. If it did impact your rankings, find out what you did wrong and how to fix it. Let Penguin 2.0 be your friend in figuring out what good content is and how you will present it. ~ Natalie

Other Articles about Penguin 2.0 across the Web:

Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm; The Definitive Guide

SMX West Insights

Google’s Penguin Update: 5 Types of Issues Harming Some Affected Websites

How to Identify a Link Profile Susceptible to Penguin

5 Important Link Removal Facts Post Penguin 2.0

Writer Tips for the Google Penguin Penalty

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Filed under Algorithms, Penguin, Website Linking

National Brands without Physical Stores Struggle to Rank for Local and other 2013 #SMX West Insights

My Web Writers Attended #SMX 2013

My Web Writers Attended #SMX 2013

By My Web Writers

How can You Rank for Local, if You’re a National Brand without Local Stores?

Good luck.  There are few alternatives to building physical stores.  When a user types in a qualifying term like “pants Toledo”, he or she is probably looking  for a Toledo clothing store that sells pants.  Often the user is located within 1.5 miles of the store at that time.  In many cases, it’s becoming the norm for national chains, that solely sell online, to fall below the local listings of brands with stores.

How do you get around the local problem if you’re a national chain without physical stores?  Some panelists suggested building local pages on your website, while others suggested empowering affiliates to drive traffic for local, long-tailed keywords. Local landing pages are required and must have phone tracking, pricing, transparency, an adoption plan, and ensured alignment with the national PPC campaign.

Balihoo.com, which offers a free download of going local ideas, suggested starting with 4 – 5 affiliates and empowering them with incentives in local markets.  My Web Writers also published a post on going local back in 2012.

For those businesses that do have physical stores, Scott Nickels of Home Depot shared a story of a map pin to a local store that ended up in the wrong place. Traffic kept flowing to a residential home before the resident finally called to complain about the headlights in her back yard. Store managers have to be aware of the postcard process required for validation of the physical addresses and Maps needs to better hone in on the locales.

Home Depot’s word for 2013 is “local.” Nickels suggests creating one page per store and localizing social, too. He somberly shook his head when an attendee asked, “Do you mean if I have 53 stores, I have to optimize 53 Facebook pages?”

“Yes, yes you do,” he replied.

2013 #SMX West Insights

There are already so many, insightful, #SMX West 2013 recaps floating around the web from various attendees, but here are a few more insights as well as a list of the recaps.

Random Notes from Watching Sites Get Critiqued:
  • Put Java Script and CSS in external script.
  • Don’t use disavow if possible. Don’t tell Google you have a problem unless you have a PhD in understanding linking. You don’t want to accidentally remove links that are actually working for you.
  • Submit articles to Reddit.
  • Canonicals- make sure all products are given credit.
  • PR can build legitimate page links.
  • Shopping cart pages should be optimized with what the latest coupon codes are. Remember to 301 redirect expired coupons.
  • Experiment with Google Plus to get juice for search-ability.
  • Don’t blog just to blog. Consider putting monies toward PR opportunities.
  • Schematag.org – a plugin for WordPress
  • Enrich your Google Places ranking.

Take-aways from other SMX West sessions are as follows:

  • Authorship and identity will matter more over time. False identities will be found.  Do authorities and brands have rank? Individuals have their own brands and should use authorship to maintain them.  Big brands are still struggling with this, which makes it a good time for small companies to utilize Authorship.
  • “Links still have many good years ahead of them.” ~Matt Cutts
  • Social interaction helps to determine SERP’s.
  • Mobile is going to surprise a lot of people. It’s a critical factor.  Isolate mobile in Analytics. There’s a web page test tool that @AnneCushing likes to use to watch a video of how long it takes to load a client’s page.  It helps clients to see the importance of improving site speed- http://www.webpagetest.org/.
  • “SEO is no longer about tactics, but more about strategy.”
  • “Keep the company focused on metrics that matter to the company and not ranking reports.”
  • Duane Forrester says the most important SEO factor for next year is “usability.  It’s more important than h-tags.”
  • Ann Cushing said to “focus less on keywords and more on landing pages.”
  • Matt Cutts reiterated that the “global view is the same as in other years. Give the user what they want.” Annotate your web pages with ‘about of’ markup for Chrome users. You can also disavow at a domain level.
  • Rae Hoffman encouraged SEO’s to “Let go of how easy it used to be.”
  • Greg Bowser said, “Embrace the big data.”

Looking for additional #SMX 2013 Recaps and Insights?  Read these excellent posts:

SEO Success in 2013 & beyond: Matt Cutts & others’ insights at #SMX

Matt Cutts, Duane Forrester talk ‘Adventures in SEO’ at SMX West

SMX West 2013: Top Tips, Tools & Takeaways

Insights from a Conversation with Matt Cutts about Google Authorship

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day Three

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day Two

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day One

My SMX West 2013 Takeaways- Sugar Rae’s blog

What ideas do you have for national brands that want to rank for local search terms? Is there a #SMX 2013 blog post that I missed that you like?

~Jean

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Filed under Algorithms, Analytics, Business Strategy, Conferences, Content Marketing, Facebook, Google Plus, Keywords, Marketing, Panda, Penguin, Queries & Articles, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Twitter, Website Linking

Writer Tips for the Google Penguin, Over-Optimization Penalty

By My Web Writers 

If there’s one quality needed to be an effective content writer, it is probably flexibility. Just when you think you’re stellar at finding and using keywords in copy, headings, and titles, Google makes changes.

Throughout 2011, My Web Writers made quality content suggestions for Panda and Google’s Knowledge Graph .  We summarized Google’s Quality Rater’s Handbook and shared tips for the 2013 savvy e-tail writer.  We owe you some concrete content suggestions for Penguin.

Penguin Basics for Content Writers

Penguin is actually a series of algorithm changes.  In March 2012, Matt Cutts pre- announced the first iteration at SXS West (and you can listen to the audio here).  Updates continue to this day.  Penguin prefers quality content and penalizes over optimization and too perfect anchor text.  If you’re simply a good writer with some SEO knowledge, you can create a website that performs well with natural sounding sentence structure and word choices.  Link buying and keyword stuffing are taboo.

Keyword stuffing is the overuse of keywords.  In the “old days”, a piece on Kate Middleton would include her name as a keyword in the article to the tune of 7 – 8 percent density.

That’s not a good tactic, according to Penguin.  An article today should refer to Kate in subsequent mentions as Duchess Catherine, Prince William’s bride, and the Duchess of Cambridge.  While Kate’s name can still appear in the article, avoid ad-nauseam usage.

Imagine a friend who speaks to you, but repeats a certain phrase over and over in conversation. This would become really annoying pretty quickly, as does keyword stuffing.  Basically, write copy you’d enjoy reading.  Be creative and fresh.

We also suggest examining your inbound linking profile.  Questionable links need to be removed, if possible.   Also, don’t over-link to your website from your blog, lead gen site, or affiliates.

Penguin’s Dislikes

According to John Doherty of distilled.net, Penguin does not like the following:

  • low quality sites (sites with a low page rank),
  • exact anchors,
  • over optimized exact anchors,
  • too many exact anchors over branded terms.

Penguin Prefers Natural Sounding Anchor Text

Don’t over optimize anchor text with exact meta titles. You’re a flexible writer, so you can do it.  Use synonyms, plural or singular forms, or conjugations.  Anchor text that falls within a sentence needs correct usage and grammar.

Keep content engaging and interesting.  In short, write what you, as a potential customer, would benefit from reading.  Write content that doesn’t knock buyers over the head with sales pitches. Your customers will thank you, and it’s likely that Penguin will show his or her pleasure by ranking your site high.

Keeping up with Google’s frequent algorithm changes can seem like a full-time job, but reworking your content for Penguin is worth the investment.

~Susan and Jean

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Filed under Algorithms, Keywords, Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Website Linking