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Less than a year ago, Google unleashed an update called the “webspam algorithm” that seemed innocuous at first, until experts began to notice how widespread its effects were. The impact of the update was so large, Google eventually gave it an official name more in line with their other update, Panda. The “webspam algorithm” became Penguin.

The original name for the update was an accurate description for what this update did. It was aimed to demote sites violating the Webmaster Guidelines for Google, specifically sites full of webspam. These sites used manipulation to improve their rankings in the search engines, but some innocent sites were affected, and more have been affected by each subsequent update to Penguin.

These “black hat” methods such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, and purposefully using duplicate content had been around on the internet since SEO has existed (pretty much as long as the internet has been widely used), and Penguin sought to finally deal with the spammers, but with it a new set of rules for SEO were created.

Pratik Dholakiya has collected these rules into “The Definitive Guide To Penguin Friendly SEO” which explains which methods have been shunned and what new techniques are favorable for SEOs.

If you were actively using black hat techniques, you won’t find new ones to continue spamming in a different way, but for any SEO looking to legitimately improve their search performance with good content and practices, this list will help steer readers away from any bad methods.

With all of the changes Google made in the past year, it is easy to get mixed up as to what changes affected what areas of a site’s SEO information, and what was penalized by which algorithm updates. Combine that with a disavow links tool which most don’t seem to understand, and it is a wonder anyone can keep up with Google’s updates.

Pratik Dholakiya, writer for Search Engine Journal, recognized how confusing this all must be, and sought to explain which types of updates affected what, as well as all of the misconceptions surrounding these updates. He breaks them down into three basic types of updates, and each focused on different aspects of SEO.

EMD Algorithm Update – The September update targeted sites with exact match domains (EMDs), or sites named after keywords instead of brands. This change didn’t so much penalize most affected as it removed a special boost they were receiving due to the name of the website.

The only people really penalized by the update were those who had over-optimized their site around the keyword. There is also a misconception the EMD updates were Panda or Penguin related, but Matt Cutts has put that idea to rest.

 

Panda Updates – The main area the Panda updates looked at was your on-site content. Google was trying to weed out low-quality or duplicate content, and they’ve been churning out constant new versions of Panda all year.

Penguin Updates – Despite the close association with Panda, Google’s Penguin updates are actually their own beast, formerly known as the webspam algorithm update. They are targeting all of the spammy sites out there, and unless you’re a spammer, the only penalties you may have seen from these updates were from links.

If you have seen any penalties from these updates, Dholakiya explains how to help fix the problems. The Disavow Links tool can help with that, especially if you’ve seen penalties from the Penguin updates, but it isn’t a magic solution.

Andre Weyher worked on Google’s Search Quality/Webspam team for two years, according to his LinkedIn profile. Recently, he spoke with James Norquay, a digital/search marketer from Australia, offering insight that possibly could help search marketers and web marketers understand Google’s SEO strategies.

Since Matt McGee published his initial report on Weyher’s comments on Search Engine Land, Google has released a short statement denying Weyher worked on webspam engineering or algorithms, but Weyher stands by his statements.

According to Weyher, everyone on the search quality team covers a specific “market” and his was content quality and backlink profiles.

Speaking about the Penguin update, Weyher says, “Everyone knew that Penguin would be pointed at links, but I don’t think many people expected the impact to be as large as it turned out to be. At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago.”

He emphasizes the shift to anchor text ratios, which has been a frequent piece of SEO advice following the Penguin update. His statement could confirm Google’s perspective on anchor text ratios.

If Weyher’s statements are to be believed, they could be a source of great insight into Google’s SEO strategies. However, even if you take Weyher’s words as truth, he would have been just one member of Google’s huge team, which he confirms when he says in his defense of the original interview, “No one within Google knows the entire picture apart from maybe 1 engineer, 1 level under Larry Page.”

 

I recently wrote about the release of Google’s Disavow Links tool, but there are some more questions popping up that need answering. So, let’s cover a little bit more about the tool.

First off, the tool does not immediately take effect. This is one of many reasons Google suggests publishers try to remove questionable links first by working with site owners hosting links, or companies that they may have purchased links through.

Instead of disavowing the links immediately, “it can take weeks for that to go into effect,” said Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team at a keynote during the Pubcon conference. Google also has reserved the right to not use submissions if it feels they are questionable.

It is important to be accurate when making your file to submit to Google. Because of the delay in processing the file, it may take another few weeks to “reavow” links you didn’t mean to discount.

Once you have submitted a file to Google, you can download it, change it, and then resubmit.

The tool is mainly designed for site owners affected by the Penguin Update, which was focused on hitting sites that may have purchased links or gained them through spamming. Before, Google ignored bad links, but now they act as a negative mark against the site.

This change prompted fear in some of the SEO industry that site owners would create bad links pointing to their site, or “negative SEO.” This tool helps to ensure that negative SEO is not a worry by allowing you to disavow any of those types of links.

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land has even more information about the tool, and Matt Cutts has a 10 minute long video answering questions.

 

It is way too common for people in SEO to forget to align their SEO strategy with social media activity. Often, the two teams work completely disconnected from the other. This is in no way a comprehensive, efficient marketing plan.

SEO must be integrated into social media activity. Here are some suggestions for specific strategies you can take to bump up the effect your social media activites have on SEO performance.

1) Using Social Media for Link Development – Since search engines have begun incorporating social signals into their ranking algorithm, it has become essential for SEOs to pay attention to social media. Now Google+ has become a part of Google search, and Bing uses Facebook data to personalize what people see in their search results.

While all of that is practically common knowledge, Ray Comstock at Search Engine Watch believes “link development is the most important benefit that social media can bring to the SEO table.” Google’s Panda and Penguin updates has made using social media to foster relevant link connectivity has become as important as they could be. The most effective way to market content online is through social media.

It is critical for SEO professionals take advantage of the activities of their social media team to gain relevant links through marketing quality content.

2) Aligning You Blog for SEO and Social Media – If you can create consistently quality content, blogging is easily one of the more efficient ways to build links and authority. It attracts links within your industry, but it also becomes keyword focused content that tends to rank highly in the long-term. Most often, bloggers forget to create relating internal links from a company’s blog to their main website content. Blog posts are an opportunity to direct people to other relevant content, especially your own.

3) Aligning Your Blogging Team for SEO & Social Media – Blogging is an important part of an SEO strategy, so you want to make sure your blogging team is trained on the best SEO policies and practices, as well as giving them the most important keywords and landing pages on your site. If you do that, your team will be more likely to create content based around those keywords, and creating internal links within the blog assists with your SEO goals. Plus, it is always nice for visitors to be able to find more content on your site.

Bloggers should also be interacting with the authoritative blogs in your area of expertise by contributing in intelligent and thoughtful ways which will build relationships with other experts in your field. It builds your reputation as well as making valuable connections that can lead to guest blogging.

By making sure your SEO and social media efforts are alligned, you both streamline the process in an effective way, as well as boosting SEO performance from a link building perspective.

 

 

While building links is a common strategy for gaining exposure, focusing less on link building can actually earn you more links. Content marketing produces links, but it also improves your brand image and can make key connections that will net you more exposure than before.

These four content marketing advantages all naturally make links, which means less time focusing on link acquisition.

  1. Creating Large Amounts of Targeted Traffic: Producing great content that gets posted to popular websites gets you a large amount of traffic and exposure, but what good is exposure when it’s aimed at the wrong people? Since Google Penguin, the links of real value are those that make you visible to your market demographic. You can do this by understanding what trustable websites look like, considering audiences when evaluating a Web site, working with publishers before creating content and working with the most influential contributors to a site.
  2. Engaging Social Media: Sharing your content on social media sites helps you gain wide exposure as well as allowing you to fit your product to the needs of niche audiences. If you can get your content repeatedly shared, you can help establish your brand and its value. This can be achieved by optimizing your content for social media.  Allow visitors to link to social media sites with appropriate but non-distracting buttons on your content. Consider how the content will look when shared, and use eye-catching images. You may even consider buying ads on social media sites where your target audiences gather.
  3. Create Immediate Conversion Opportunities: By distributing content with positive brand information, you can create easy opportunities for conversions. Remember, all content you create draws people closer to your brand. Be sure to make it easy to subscribe to your RSS feed or email list and collect email addresses by making users give them to receive more content.
  4. Encourage Brand Advocacy: All content creates an opportunity to connect with your audience. The larger the audience you get, the more people you need to share your content. By getting people to repeatedly share your content, they are improving your brand’s reputation. This leads to more potential customers, which in turn leads to more potential advocates. Create advocates by always responding to feedback – positive or negative. Make it easy for people to get involved. Allow the community to help create content. If they believe in the content on your site, they will share it.

Content marketing is a sustainable strategy with long-term rewards. You always want to stand out. Unique, valuable and exciting content helps distinguish a brand in a way linking campaigns can’t.

To read more about content marketing, look at Loren Baker’s article at Search Engine Watch

While infographics are often a great way to attract attention, there are times when they are not the proper solution for a client. Here are six instances where infographics don’t provide a good return of investment for the client and shouldn’t be used.

  1. Sites with Questionable Links – All SEO experts know about the huge shift created by Google’s Penguin and Penguin algorithms. Owners of penalized sites will often ask if infographics can solve their problems. Infographics can assist in varying backlinks, but it can’t solve all of the issues. Before recommending an infographic, you need to know about the specific penalties.  Also, many sites with “grey links” haven’t been penalized. Infographics can cause these sites to be identified and then get hit by penalties. Investing money for an infographic (which can cost thousands of dollars if independent research and design is needed) is not a wise recommendation when a website may be already on the edge of penalties.
  2. Under-developed Sites – So, you have a brand new website. Wouldn’t an infographic be a great and easy way to advertise your site to the world? Probably not. They don’t just bring links. They also help place your brand in front of the proper audience. By publishing on an under-developed site, clients may get the impression that you are sloppy or lack experience. Also, like is commonly found in SEO, the ROI relies on how you leverage the assets you already have. Infographics may help leverage your Social Media status and RSS subscribers, but you’ll want to make sure that these are all up to date beforehand.
  3. Lack of Social Media Plan – A real social media plan is not just having a Facebook or Twitter. Infographics are designed to be viral and attract tons of social-media savvy people to your website. If your social media accounts aren’t updated or lack content, these visitors are unlikely to become an audience. Before you use an infographic you need to update your content frequently, court a number of followers and have a stategy for identifying members of your demographic.
  4. Lack of Mailing List – Using an infographic without a mailing list means missing out on a massive opportunity. Having 10,000 unique visitors sounds wonderful initially, but is not likely to provide a long term audience. However, having just 50 people sign up for your company’s mailing list is an essential part of converting visitors to leads.
  5. No Budget – While numerous places offer infographics for relatively cheap, they don’t allow you to rise above the clutter of the internet. According to Topsy, in 2012 17,000 tweets included the word “infographic”. That means a mediocre infographic will not capture the attention of the biggest markets. Making an infographic requires a skilled team and usually costs over $1,000. If you can’t afford that much, you’re more likely to see a return on your investment with link bait articles or guest postings.
  6. You Don’t Understand Infographs – Infographs are for good content but that content may not always be what you personally enjoy. It is aimed at your demographic and the online sources that focus on that market. Trying to squish a long detailed report may seem like a great idea, but it is unlikely to go viral. It may be visually appealing, but it won’t convert potential customers.

To see the original article by Danny Ashton:
When NOT to use an Infographic: 6 Examples