Google recently integrated their Panda algorithms into their normal indexing process, and this has sprung up a whole new batch of questions from webmasters. The most common question is specifically how site owners will know if their site has been hit by Panda. Really, it was only a matter of time before Matt Cutts, the noted Google engineer and head of Webspam, addressed the issue.

And that is what he did earlier this week, when Cutts used one of his Webmaster Help videos to respond to Nandita B.’s question, “how will a webmaster come to know whether her site is hit by Panda? And, if her site is already hit, how she will know that she has recovered from Panda?”

Now that the Panda algorithm is a part of the normal search indexing process, finding out if you’ve been affected by Panda won’t be near as easy. You can’t just compare your analytics reports with recorded dates for Panda rollouts. But, Cutts does have some suggestions if you think your site has been affected.

Cutts said, “basically, we’re looking for high quality content. So if you think you might be affected by Panda, the overriding goal is to make sure that you’ve got high quality content.”

Of course, high quality content in this context means sites that offer real value to users. It appears integrating Panda was actually one of the last steps in a shift towards a high focus on high quality content. They’ve been suggesting focusing on value for a long time, and now it is officially a large part of the normal search algorithm.

Google AdWords New Style Test


Over the next few days you might notice some changes to the way Google displays their mobile AdWords ads. Search Engine Land reports Google is currently testing out a new look which simultaneously makes the entire result page look more cohesive while keeping ads clearly labeled.

The first change you will likely notice is the way Google is using color. Google have been using lightly colored backgrounds to signify ads, but with this test they may be moving towards placing both ads and organic listings in white boxes in front of a gray background. Similarly, the gray background that has been behind the Google logo and search box is gone.

Instead of identifying ads with colored background, there is a new eye-catching yellow ad icon directly next to the display URL. The icon is significantly more attention grabbing than the old small “ad” that was previously to the right of the headline.

You can see the new style being tested above, while the current version is below.

Google AdWords Test Style Old

Mix and Match Typography Example

Typography has become more important in web design than ever before. Technological advancements have made it possible and practical to use nearly any font that you want on the web.

With the rise of interesting and well-thought out typography in web design, we have also seen new trends popping up in how people are using this typography. The first and most notable instance of this is the wave of retro typography on vintage style websites that is still prevalent across the web.

A newer trend we are starting to see has been around for a while in other types of design, but it becoming very popular for websites who want to establish their brand in bold and visually interesting ways. This “Mix and Match” typography relies on the designer’s ability to choose the right fonts to complement not just the message, but the other typographic styles in use.

Some designers opt to use subtly different fonts that are only minutely unique from each other to establish a visual hierarchy of interest while maintaining cohesiveness. Others opt to go all out and harshly contrast fonts against each other to create a visual friction and energy.

Marcin Treder collected 15 examples of this “Mix and Match” typography so you can get some inspiration to try out the style yourself. The rule of thumb for using fonts in web design has long been to never use more than three fonts in a design. It is clear that modern designers are finding ways to break that rule while creating classy and attractive designs.

AdWords violations can throw a massive wrench into your advertising plans and completely derail a campaign. Any good marketer tries to avoid making the mistakes that can get your text ads disapproved or suspended, but many will still encounter the fearsome email from the AdWords team warning you about violations.

In an effort to further explain exactly how Google decides who to punish and how these violation systems work, three Google employees posted a video hangout to the Google Adwords Help Forums, as Search Engine Roundtable reported.

The 10 minute video was posted by Google’s Courtney Pannell, with the majority of the presentation coming from Ly and Joshua. They discuss the most important AdWords violation topics including:

  • How Sites are Reviewed by Google
  • Why Sites Are Disabled
  • How to resubmit Sites

If you encounter a warning from Google about AdWords violations, you will definitely want to watch this video.

SEO Magnifying Glass

Source: Flickr

Startup companies have a lot to take care of just to get going. You have to deal with staffing your company, outreach, paperwork, testing, financing, and a thousand different things with little time. It is either sink or sail, and success relies on managing a multitude of problems.

It helps that most successful entrepreneurs are experts in their own field, and usually have at least a little bit of online business savvy. But, chances are they aren’t exactly well-versed in search engine optimization. While some of these startups might defer to a professional SEO resource or marketing team, it isn’t always required.

Getting even the most basic SEO considerations taken care of early on may seem superfluous, but SEO can take quite a while to grow. Starting early means you will start seeing the dividends later.

The most basic considerations of SEO simply ensure that searchers can find your business’s name and website fairly easily. Of course, a more comprehensive SEO plan extends that to ensuring you outrank your competitors and improve your larger web visibility, but that can be achieved after you’ve gotten yourself set up with just a little extra work.

Ashley Kemper from Search Engine Land put together a checklist for startups to get the most important SEO considerations taken care of early. Her list is a little more extensive than others you might find, but you’ll see much better rewards down the line by following her suggestions, and you’ll understand what you are actually doing much more.

YouTube Graphic

With the popularity and direct user engagement of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, many online marketers forget the potential for YouTube to improve your brand reputation and enforce your SEO efforts in a single move.

YouTube has a surprising amount of opportunity for optimization, especially for efforts focusing on local search. There is a relative lack of videos from small or local businesses aimed at informing the public and promoting themselves, leaving a wonderful widow for many local businesses to make an impact on their audience.

Of course, before you can optimize, you need to make sure you have a quality video that offers something of value to viewers beyond simply promoting yourself. Chris Silver Smith recently wrote about how local businesses can go about creating videos that will be worth their viewers time and make your audience interested in what you do.

There are plenty of options, but chances are you don’t want to just make an ad and throw it up online. A better approach would be a series of short videos exploring your industry, your brand, and what you offer to consumers. How-to videos can reinforce your reputation in regards to your skill, while explanations of your products and services can help viewers understand exactly what sets you apart from your competitors.

Smith also explored the ways you can optimize your videos to make sure they get seen, while also helping your local SEO efforts.

  1. Link to Your Business – At the beginning of your description, always make sure to include a link to your business website. These links are automatically “nofollowed”, so don’t expect it to help your link portfolio, but there is a chance local citation value is being conveyed to Google.
  2. Name, Address, Phone Number – Every video should include thorough contact information in multiple easy-to-find locations. Start by making it visible within the first few frames of your video. Google is able to interpret and “read” text within videos, so not only will your viewers be able to easily find you, Google will retain data contained within the video. Similarly, you may want to actually state your information out loud in the video, as spoken statements are converted into subtitle transcripts by Google’s systems.
  3. Take Advantage of the Descriptions – YouTube has one of the most generous description fields out there. While the initial paragraph users see should clearly state what the video is about, you can also include a statement about your company or a biography so that interested viewers can find it with a simple click.
  4. Tag Your Video – Along with including your business category name and your location names to the tags on videos, you should also include a handful of relevant tags for each video. Tags have a heavy impact on YouTube, so you’ll want to always make sure you include them, or your video will likely disappear into the ether.
  5. Associate the Video with Google Place Listings – Business listing in Google Places allow you to associate videos easily by putting in URLs. Make sure to use the full page URL.
  6. Associate the Video with Google+ Local Page – Adding the video to your local page allows you and any other employees to easily share the video on personal Google+ streams. The number of shares is considered indicative of popularity, so this is a good opportunity to boost your shares.

Stop Sign

Thanks to the big brand-named algorithm updates, Google has definitely been at the forefront of the link building discussion recently, but obviously the other search engines have their own opinions as well.

As Search Engine Land reports, Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, recently wrote a post on the Bing Webmaster Blog detailing the four worst link building techniques and why you shouldn’t do them.

Unsurprisingly, these link building strategies are largely in line with the methods Google has been fighting more publicly. Nonetheless, it is important to highlight the more spammy methods people are still using to try to boost their link profile.

  1. Blind Requests – Links aren’t something that should just be given out. Sending mass template emails to websites is about as spammy as you can get. The only people who will respond are those who won’t give you a quality link. Buying email lists to try to send out mass requests is an even bigger waste of funds that really won’t get you far, but could likely incur some penalties.
  2. Blog/Forum Comments – Some link builders will try to drop links almost randomly into blog comments and forum conversations, but these won’t improve your rankings a single bit. The search engines have been aware of the practice for some time now.
  3. Link Injection – This is a tactic used by spammers where sites are hacked and links are injected into content such as headers or footers. Some will even push links directly into the body content. Bing does encourage keeping your CMS software up to date and secure, but they also try to take precautions on their side against this tactic.
  4. Guest Blogging – This is one of the more controversial link building strategies because it isn’t explicitly bad. The problem is, if your focus with guest blogging is to build links, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Forrester explains, “if you’re going to guest blog, best to do it with the intention to buildyour brand, drive traffic, and create awareness. Doing it to bolster your SEO efforts is a #FAIL these days.”

Have you ever searched for a term only to find a page that says “we have no articles for [your search term]” and a whole bunch of ads? Most people have come across these sites with auto-generated content, often called “Made for AdSense” or MFA sites. These pages are created for the sole reason of luring people in, and hoping they click an AdSense ad to leave the page instead of hitting the back button.

The majority of these types of websites use a script to automatically generate content that takes snippets from search results or web pages with those keywords. They don’t offer real content in any way and have absolutely no legitimate value. It makes many wonder why they’ve encountered these kinds of pages in the Google search results.

One user directly asked Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, if the search engine is doing anything about the pages, such as penalties or removing these sites from the index. As you would expect, Google already has a policy in place, and Cutts encourages users to report any pages like this they come across. He states:

We are absolutely willing to take action against those sites. We have our rules in our guidelines about auto-generated pages that have very little value and I have put out in the past specific calls for sites where you search for a product – a VCR, a laptop, or whatever – and you think you’re going to get a review, and the first thing you see is ‘0 Reviews found for [blah blah blah].’

As Google sees it, even if these pages are from legitimate search engines, they don’t belong in the rankings. Users don’t really like searching for something and being sent to another page of search results. They want to be directed straight to real content.

There are very few times when search results snippets should be indexed. The only real time it might be considerable is if you have exclusive data that no one else has. But, there is no time when a supposed search results page with 0 results should ever be indexed.

To put it simply, Google is already trying to fight against these sites. They aim to find and penalize all they can, but they also want people to report them with a spam report if possible so that the lowest amount possible slip through the cracks.

When Facebook announced their introduction of hashtags in June, it seemed to be a pretty big deal, especially within the social media marketing industry. Every online marketer immediately began investigating how to make the most out of the use of hashtags, and if they are even worth the effort. A few months later, it appears the hashtags aren’t faring well.

Facebook Hashtag Graph

In late July, Simply Measured reported status updates with hashtags weren’t gaining brands any extra exposure, now Search Engine Watch reports EdgeRank Checker has similar findings.

According to EdgeRank Checker’s data, viral reach and engagement were down on posts with hashtags compared to those without hashtags. They studied over 500 pages, and then compared their data to a sample of 50 Twitter accounts from Fortune 500 brands. They found that 70 percent of brands experienced an increase in retweets when using a hashtag, indicating higher engagement.

EdgeRank Checker did have an idea why Facebook users may not be responding to the hashtags:

Our hypothesis is that not many people are clicking on hashtags. If many people were clicking hashtags, we should see an increase in Viral Reach for posts with hashtags. The data is not showing that. If anything, it’s showing a decrease in Viral Reach.

We hypothesize that hashtagged posts don’t have the expected increase in Viral Reach due to how brands are using them. After examining how hashtags are being used, hashtags are often used in promotional material. For some brands, they’ve created campaigns around particular hashtags and use them in all posts associated with the campaign. By nature, campaigns are promotional, therefore more likely to drive less engagement, less clicks, and ultimately less Reach.