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Well, you can’t say nobody warned them. Not long ago, Matt Cutts clearly stated that Google was planning on penalizing large guest blogging networks, and yesterday Google followed through. It was widely assumed Google would be targeting MyBlogGuest, run by Ann Smarty, brand manager of Internet Marketing Ninjas, though Ann continuously defended her site, claiming they would be safe because MyBlogGuest didn’t sell links and wasn’t a “network.”

It turns out everyone but Ann Smarty was right, as Cutts announced on Monday that the guest blog network had been taken down, and MyBlogGuest vanished from the rankings, even for branded terms. Eventually Smarty even confirmed the penalty through Twitter.

MyBlogGuest has been running since 2009, and estimates they were averaging 256 articles posted per day at their height. But, the big problem is that MyBlogGuest had a very open policy on linking and refused numerous times to make it possible for links to be nofollowed.

Jennifer Slegg refers to MyBlogGuest’s true purpose as a “well-known secret” in the industry. Numerous agencies were using MyBlogGuest to promote their clients, while supporting writers who would sell links openly. The website community embraced both, making the more questionable actions wildly obvious to anyone paying attention.

Smarty is still defending her site. Since the take-down, she has spoken to multiple news outlets. She told Search Engine Watch “There are lots of networks that openly abuse the concept and promote paid guest blogging (I won’t list any names; I am not as bad as that!) but they choose to hit the oldest, best-known brand first – does it make sense? Instead of setting a good example, they make it obvious that no one is safe even such good guys as us.”

Notably, it seems that MyBlogGuest isn’t the only entity being punished in this action. Even sites that were only benefiting from the guest blog network’s policies are being struck with manual action penalties.

When Cutts made the announcement that Google had penalized the guest blog network, many speculated that sites who had been heavily using the network would also get cut down to size. Then, many sites began to notice manual actions appearing in their Webmaster Tools, but there was no clear confirmation the two were related. That is, until Cutts cleared up the situation somewhat by tweeting that Google is acting against sites that benefited from any spammy behavior on the site, which could range from running blogs hosting guest posts or benefiting from the bad links.

I could almost feel sorry for the owners of the associated sites being penalized for these behaviors, but Google has been warning about penalties for months without taking action. There has been plenty of time to cut away from questionable guest blogging practices and platforms, but many like Ann Smarty believed they could circumvent the rules. In the future, it is better to just follow the guidelines, rather than becoming the face of a new spammy industry’s downfall.

Twitter has become an undeniable force in modern culture. Even if you aren’t signed up for the social media platform, you can hardly turn on the television without being bombarded by tweets and hashtags.

Every major news network solicits tweets from their viewers in order to get real-time responses to issues, and any new episode of a show is bound to have at least one hashtag hovering in the bottom corner of the screen.

But, those TV hashtags highlight one of the biggest problems with Twitter: few people actually understand hashtags or how to use them efficiently. Sure, we all know how to tag Instagram photos with them, or we slap a silly hashtag on the end of tweets to add a little more information, but the number of people actually using hashtags to organize and sort through the constant tidal wave of new tweets is actually quite low.

It isn’t that Twitter’s users aren’t smart enough to use hashtags more efficiently, but it is difficult to make hashtags a very useful sorting device without going through a middleman. Twitter’s search engine can let you broadly search hashtags, but if you want to actually make sense of the mess you most likely need an extra tool to help you out.

Ann Smarty from Search Engine Journal pulled together five such tools to help Twitter users everywhere turn hashtags into a vital part of their information consumption every day. If you want to be smart with your hashtags, these tools are the best place to start.

1. Twitter Chat

twitter-chat-tool

When Twitter began using hashtags, it didn’t take long for users to figure out that the tags can be used to create a conversation between numerous people. Rather than directly messaging an individual, you are able to put a topic or “chat title” in the form of a hashtag so users are able to create a real discussion. But, the conversation was still cluttered and not well laid out for the average reader.

TwChat allows you to take those hashtags and monitor them in real time. It also lays the tweets in a more cohesive way, so that you can more quickly read and understand the conversation. Best of all, it is super simple to use, free, and doesn’t require downloaded software.

2. TagDef

TagDef

Originally, there was an unspoken rule that hashtags should be easy to understand at a glance. Obviously, this rule has fallen apart over time. Hashtags tend to be a combination of slang, inside jokes, and promotional material that makes no sense without context.

With the help of TagDef, you won’t have to worry about not being caught up with the latest American Idol hashtag or the slang younger people are using to keep up with the meaning behind hashtags popping up in your feed. The tool lets you search a hashtag and get the meaning instantly. You can also edit and add your own meanings. TagDef acts like Urban Dictionary exclusively for hashtags (and potentially a little less focused on profanity).

3. Hashtags

Hashtags Tool

Hashtags gained its reputation as the largest hashtag database on the web, but there is much, much more there. The site includes analytics, how to articles, blog posts, a chatroom, a forum, a hashtag dictionary, events, trending hashtags, popular hashtags (long-term), and even more.

4. Tagboard

tagboard

Of course, hashtags aren’t limited strictly to Twitter. The history of hashtags goes all the way back to IRC chats, but they have spread to nearly every major social networking platform out there. Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Vine have all implemented the organizing tool. Tagboard takes hashtags from across all those different platforms and displaying them all on one page. You can even use it as a social network dashboard, allowing you to like, share, or retweet as you desire without ever having to leave the site.

5. Hashtagify.me

hashtagify

There is no rule you have to use only one hashtag per post. In fact, many add three or more hashtags on a large number of their posts, but it can be hard to see how they are related from Twitter’s site. Hashtagify helps you see how different hashtags are related and their usage patterns, as well as offering in-depth analysis in their pro version. They also have active breakout alerts, so you can always be the first to know about the new cool hashtag.

Would you like the increase in your audience and the thrill that only comes from a retweet? Of course you do. Ann Smarty, of Search Engine Journal, has seven ways for you to get retweeted more.

1. Read Expert Opinions

Reading this article is a good start. Now, go find more opinions on getting retweeted and become an expert yourself.

2. Find Peak Hours

Use available analytic tools to find when your desired demographic uses Twitter. Then, tweet so you’re near the top of your audiences timeline.

3. Use Viral Content Buzz

It’s a free social media platform you should look into. There’s an option to get you more retweets while you retweet other users. Maybe it’s a bit of a cheat, but it gets the job done.

4. Twitter Chats

When you participate in Twitter chats, you gain the ears and eyes of a large audience. Suddenly, you’re a familiar name to many more users.

5. Get the Scoops

Follow news outlets or other streams that break news first. Then, spread the word about breaking stories or tweet about stories you just find interesting. Links get more retweets and links to news no one else has heard makes you a desired follow.

6. Name Drop

Pay attention to those that follow you that boast their own impressive number of followers. Mention them by name in some of your tweets. Hopefully, they’ll retweet you occassionally. If not, at least you may capture part of their audience by showing up in their feed.

7. Repeat Yourself

If you have success with a particular tweet, don’t just forget about it. Use it again, as long as it is still relevant, down the road. It will be new to a big chunk of users.

Guest blogs are a new area of content creation becoming more prevalent in the blogsphere nowadays.  Is this something that is good for SEO?  Or is it worthless for link building?

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You may have noticed on Google lately that some of the listings are starting to show slightly different details on the results.  They’re putting breadcrumbs in, to help people see exactly what categories those results fit into.  How can you tell?  Instead of showing the blatant web site address, they’re putting greater than signs (“>”) between categories in that space.  That way, you know what site the page belongs to, but you don’t know the specific address, you know the categories the subpage that has shown belongs to.

This is one way Google has adjusted their algorithm to help users navigate the search engine results pages, but how else can you use breadcrumbs, in your own site?  One of my favorite internet marketers Ann Smarty has a detailed explanation on Search Engine Journal.  The key is to make sure you use them to help the user, not to help the search engines (a good rule to follow in general).