Penguin Update – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!

Almost a month after the fact, some of the noise has died down, some of the pain has become clear, some of the successes have been celebrated, and a new greater danger has surfaced!

This post describes what I have observed as an SEO consultant based in New Zealand.  I have noticed some major impacts to search results while researching keywords for clients – post Penguin.

Please feel free to share this post via the social buttons at the top or with any business that has a website or has paid an SEO provider in the past or is currently doing so.
Google penguin update
Wow! Firstly, it has been a hell of a big year for Google so far! 

They have clearly signaled their intentions to rid their search results of any spam, any borderline SEO techniques and any “black hat” stuff.

In the last few weeks we have had Blog Networks de-indexed (my post about the massive effects of this one here) and penalities dished out, a free parking  bug, two Panda updates in quick succession and to top it all off Google rolled out the nukes on April 24th…

The Penguin Update!

This one has had a remarkable effect on search as we know it. The idea behind it may have been noble but…

Did it work?

What really happened?

What are some of the shocking repercussions of this update?

Google’s Penguin Update was a direct and aggressive assault on the rise of black hat SEO, manipulative search practices, spam, poor quality websites cluttering the top positions in search…

And who would berate them for cleaning up this frustrating and time consuming (and revenue sapping) annoyance? After all, the success of Google relies on delivering the best possible results for any search query.

But, you know what? Penguin was never only about improving search results. It was a more punitive roll-out.

It was about webspam pure and simple!

So, let’s take a look at who won, who lost, who was destroyed and a major new threat to online business.

Maybe we should start with the positive stuff:

The Good:

White hat SEO

Ever typed a phrase into Google then been frustrated about the results you are getting?

Yes, the first one is a government site, or Wikipedia, or Amazon… not quite right

Then the next couple are not really what you are looking for…

Then you hit position 4 and BAM! It is a crap site with no relevance to what you are searching for and it is a cheap-ass landing page to get you to click on some lousy banner or to purchase something you don’t want!

And that is a mild version of how spam and black hat SEO pollutes search results.
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Social Media Marketing Experts Or Amateurs?

Why should you care about social media?

The rapid rise in social media over the last few years has given business owners some pretty exciting tools to connect with their customers.  Social media presents huge opportunities for dialogue in a global market where discussion, sharing information and exchanging ideas contributes to building better and longer lasting relationships with customers.

Who can you trust?

It has also produced a whole new wave of ‘social media marketing experts’ (SMME) or ‘social media managers’ (SMM) willing to be the voice of your business and take control of your social media strategy.

Social media manager with gag

While some SMM’s will prove themselves adept in managing your business campaigns with social cohesion, it still remains intangible for them to become the ‘voice’ of your business.  There has been a lot of debate over this as business owners scream long and loud “You’re crazy if you think I have time to twitter all day”.

With changes in the Internet happening at the speed of light, finding a SMM today is an interesting proposition. There is no code to follow so you need to be sure when casting your eye around to fill this role that you ask the right questions to ensure you get the right answers.  It is essential you confirm they are fully up to date with the increasing speed of changes in the social media landscape…

Beware the amateurs and the damage they can do!

Take a look at how this ‘voice’ of the business went seriously wrong:

You may be willing to hand over the “voice” and reputation of your business to a SMM company who knows nothing about your business.  Within a matter of hours your business is  let loose in the hands of some rookie sitting somewhere in a room full of thirty or forty people in their early 20’s working on commission and claiming to be versed and trained in the art of social media – its bollocks!

Is it a good idea to outsource social media?

How they can even start to get a handle on how your business or any other business operates is beyond me when you are one of hundreds of companies being offered a monthly package with a ‘one size fits all plan.’   You don’t have to look far on any of the social media platforms to recognise some of the accounts they handle and what a dismal job they are doing.

It may seem like an easy option to hand over the tricky job of understanding and using social media to a SMM company.  However, at best you will be ignored, at worst you will effectively damage your online brand and reputation by looking inept!

So… back to square one then?

You can’t afford to ignore the mighty social media giants because you don’t understand how social media works or because you won’t invest the time to learn this stuff.
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New Zealand SEO Companies Punished For Dangerous Link Building Strategies!

When SEO companies go bad!

After you have read this post please share it with anyone who currently employs a company to do search engine optimisation for their business website. What is outlined in this post could have a major negative impact on the future of their website and their online business prospects. You can also share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn using the buttons at the top. Here we go…  

Something big has happened at Google… really big!

SEO companies try to fool search engine robots

And so far the new Google initiative has mostly gone under the radar (note I said “So far” )

But this will change very quickly once businesses realise that:

  • the phone is not ringing as often this week compared to last week
  • or maybe the email volume from the Contact Page seems a little more manageable
  • or sales seem to be down this week
  • or any of the other conversion targets your business has for the company website don’t seem to be firing the way they were

Sure, there are seasonal fluctuations, there are even weekly and daily fluctuations which seem sometimes to have no logical cause.

But, this is a bit different!

What has happened that could cause such a sudden drop in traffic and sales?

The major international SEO blogs have been abuzz with this latest initiative for a week or more now.

And it is looking like it cuts a bit closer to home and has more serious consequences  than Google’s now infamous Panda Update!

What is Google up to and how does this affect business SEO?

Google signaled quite clearly at the recent SXSW (Annual music, film, and interactive conference in Austin, Texas) that it intended to level the SEO playing field a bit…

No, actually, a lot!
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Panda Update | One Year After The Google Bomb! [Infographic]

It has been a year now since the infamous Google Panda update was covertly rolled out.

Now is probably a good time to do a bit of analysis on whether it has achieved what it set out to do.

Panda Update on Google

How has Panda altered the way people approach search engine optimization?

Did it succeed with what Google set out to achieve?

First of all…

What exactly is the Google Panda Update?

The Panda Update could be described as a clip-on rather than a change in the Google algorithm. The algorithm itself is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world and it is amended and updated more than 500 times a year.

The Panda Update is run periodically to improve the quality of a searcher’s experience by providing search results that are as relevant as possible. It does this by penalising sites that appear to have thin or low value content.

The Update has been run ten times that we are aware of – the most recent one on January 18th of this year!

Who was the Panda Update targeting?

There had been a major build-up of poor quality content over the last few years. A huge number of Internet marketing programs were and still are being sold to new online marketers. The potential to make a ton of money by teaching people how to manipulate search engine results in order to make sales of products, businesses or services is just too attractive to resist for some people.

And the organic results were free!

A couple of years ago you could research a keyword, write an article, create a press release, make a video, post on a Web 2.0 site and publish a blog with almost identical content and you would end up with 5 or more positions in the search results on Page One for the keyword!

Wow!
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Marketing With Twitter! It’s Not All About ROI

Twitter marketing is about giving and sharing information2012 will be the year for businesses of all sizes to seriously acknowledge social media.

Business owners now have an exceptionally powerful and proven marketing tool to add to their portfolio – Twitter!

As we all know Twitter is one of the largest social networks in the world and if you take the time to create and shape a strategy that integrates with your other marketing methods you will certainly reap the benefits.

To understand how marketing with Twitter brings business success can be a daunting prospect if you are not familiar with the nuances of Twitter and it definitely pays to get it right.

Unfortunately most companies are missing out on this opportunity simply because they have not taken the time to understand how Twitter can work for their business.

In his book  “The Tao of Twitter” Mark Schaefer says “I have studied, observed and written about hundreds of different success stories through Twitter and the social web and they all have one common formula running through them.  This is truly the path, the way, the Tao of Twitter.”  

He goes on to describe the business benefits of Twitter as being created through three elements  – one of these is “Authentic Helpfulness.”

In the case studies below I demonstrate how all of these connections have occurred through ‘authentic helpfulness’.

In all cases there was never a pitch for business and no sales page to convert leads.

The connections were made through the genuine desire to offer valuable information to educate and help other business owners understand how they too can reach out to find potential business and partnerships using social media.

As Schaefer says “Content is the new currency of the social web and sharing valuable information is the catalyst to forming new relationships and business partnerships”.
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The Social Media Benefits Of Telling Tall Tales!

What are some of your most cherished childhood memories?

…your most loved activities as a child you have grown up with and continued to love as an adult?

Most of the activities and pleasures we love as children change as we mature and become immersed in adulthood and all the trappings of maturity – career, travel, marriage and families of our own to start the cycle over again.

There does however seem to be one aspect of our childhood that never loses it’s appeal – and that is storytelling.

Tall tales bring social media benefits

 

Just think about it for a minute, at any given time you are either listening to a story being told, you are regaling one to a friend or audience, you are reading someone a story or reading one yourself.

Some smart educators and trainers use storytelling to teach new programmes, managers use them in resolving conflicts, addressing issues and facing challenges and many games are based around stories often in an outrageous form with hyperbole gaining the highest points!

Even your best kept secrets destined only for the most private ears – are stories!

Our existence is one big story made up of thousands of tales that weave together the fabric of our lives, chapters that inspire, sadden, excite, rejuvenate, sparkle, enthuse, bring a delightful end to a long day, evoke buried memories and bring joy and laughter into our lives.

Stories can also frighten, agitate, cause discomfort, scare to death, unnerve, disappoint and make you sad.

You will at some time have come across brilliant raconteurs who can recount their anecdotes and experiences with a talent that leaves you feeling the pain or pleasure of their tale, as if it were your own!

You are probably wondering how this relates to the title of this article: ‘The Social Media Benefits Of Telling Tall Tales’ but before I get to this point I want to indulge you just a little bit more.
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A Stupidly Simple Secret To Power Up Your Inbound Marketing!

Got your attention?

Good!

There is ONE single factor in your inbound marketing efforts which, if you get it wrong you can forget about success for your website or business in the Internet world.

Inbound marketing strategies

A quick explanation first:

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a phrase originally used by Hubspot (Love Hubspot!) to describe a range of integrated online strategies. Hubspot describes inbound marketing as “Any marketing tactic that relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it”.

So forget about email blasts, forget about advertising, PPC, or cold-calling – these are all outbound marketing strategies.

Think instead about social media, blogs, search engine optimization (the natural or organic results, not the paid ads). These all generate visitors to your site from content you have posted online and these are people who are already interested in you through relationship building or because they are already looking for whatever you are selling.

That’s the quick definition done – now to the really important bit…

What is the crucial “win or lose” facet of your inbound marketing strategy?…

Drum roll please…

Your Titles!

Yes it’s that simple and here I am going to take you through a range of ways to gain high impact and great click-through for:

  • Your website and onsite content – eye food for scanners
  • Your Blogs – rise above the competition
  • Your Twitter efforts – get noticed, get visitors and get retweeted
  • SEO – the powerful Title Tag and why you must master this

 

What should you be aiming for in a title if you want to get the sort of results I am talking about?

Well, it would have to be compelling, interesting, wacky, different, thought provoking, unusual, irresistable, controversial, intriguing…

You get the idea!

Here we go…
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Social Networking Etiquette Hits Rock Bottom!

Picture this!

You are at a social gathering at a friend’s place – people are dressed for an occasion, large platters of delicate finger food are being passed around, a very nice groove is playing on the sound system and there are lots of interesting people to look at and meet.

Your hostess introduces you to a small group of people you have been itching to get to know all evening (just because they look interesting to you) and now, you have the opportunity to initiate conversation and find out more about them.

Social Media EtiquetteWhat would your conversation be about?

Well if it was me, I may begin by extending a compliment, or perhaps I would share something of interest that happened to me recently that I think might be entertaining, or I may mention how the hosts have a knack for throwing a really great party…

…or some other social banter.

And I would certainly ask them about themselves in an attempt to know more about these interesting people that caught my eye…

But I would never, never, never, thrust my business card at them, criticise them or make a comment that would offend or upset them, delve into their personal lives or ask a whole lot of boring questions that would certainly make them want to leave our conversation and move on somewhere else.

My intention here (remember I find these people interesting and want to get to know them) is to befriend them, have some light conversation and see if we have anything in common.

Isn’t that the way friendships start?

It may be news to you, but this is exactly the same way you want to approach anyone in your social networking circles.

After all, don’t you want to present yourself in your best possible light – friendly, warm, entertaining and gracious?

Attributes that will make others want to engage with you and together offer small insights as to the kind of people you are and see what each other has to offer? Remember, the objective here is to engage in conversation (not dominate) in the hope they will come back for more.

I am continually amazed by some of the conversations I see on the various social media platforms, particularly on Twitter.
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Lists on Twitter – Experienced Marketers Use This Small Trick To Get Big Results!

I am a lists person, I love making lists – some would say it was an obsession…

It’s  a common trait that a fellow Aries will instantly recognize.  So I can’t wait to share with you my new favourite list for 2012 – it’s Lists on Twitter – and it has become the crème de la crème of my social media tools.

There are so many reasons why I love this – it keeps all my favourite Twitter users in one place, gives me easy access, saves time, cuts out out all the noise on Twitter I don’t want and it gets me to where I want to be – instantly.

Using lists on Twitter to save time

Lists on Twitter is the most incredibly helpful tool in many ways and once you start using it – you will wonder how you ever got on without it.

As we all know Twitter is a microblogging service and it has become a social media phenomenon with more than 250 million users.

Twitter is changing the way we communicate!  It has rocketed into the mainstream and has vastly modernized the way customers view products and brands, so there is no need to reiterate here the power of this social media giant.

To get to know your way around Twitter and leverage it’s power for your business is not only smart, but to be quite honest – imperative! There is no doubt about it, Twitter is here to stay.  By implementing great Twitter techniques like Lists you can really start to recognize and measure Twitter’s impact and value.

Let’s talk about Twitter lists – you will see how easy this feature is to use.

Twitter gives you the capacity to create up to 20 lists and to follow as many lists as you want that others have created. As an example, you could put your friends in one list, your closest collaborators in another, your social media favourites in another, your gardening friends in one, your best bloggers in another and so on…

The Lists feature enables you to compile a list featuring all your favourite Twitter users. The really cool thing is once you have got your lists established it will provide you with a huge amount of information right at your fingertips for you to read and share.  Just by creating lists you have freed up the time you would have spent hunting around for valuable information from blogs and publications online.

It’s this easy:
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The War Against Blog Comment Spam And How To Gain The Upper Hand

Blog comment spam… What exactly is it?

How do you know whether you have become an easy target?

How do you stay ahead of the comment spammers?

Spam in blogsI decided to put this guide together for two reasons which I will outline below but first let’s look at what blog comment spam is and why it has become such a major issue.

Blog comment spam is sometimes called spamdexing, comment spam, spam in blogs and a number of other variations on the same theme.

The reason why it exists is purely because of the value of links in SEO. One of the most important aspects of gaining good results in the search engine results pages is having a large number of back-links pointing at your website. These are seen as votes for your site by Google and the other search engines and are therefore counted as a powerful factor when allocating positions.

So, obviously the more links you can get the better your site will do (I have used an over-simplification here to avoid a full search engine optimisation explanation – you can read a fairly comprehensive explanation here)

Unfortunately when it comes to working online many people prefer to find ways to circumvent the safeguards which have been put in place to protect the integrity of the search results. By using “black hat techniques” many marketers break most of the compliance regulations in order to avoid the large amount of manual work and the patience required in implementation of “white hat SEO” techniques.

By sending massive amounts of automated spam out across the web with the attitude that some of it will “stick” these cowboys become the nuisance that we all have all grown to seriously dislike…

Google made a major change way back in 2005 to address this issue. By adding a nofollow attribute to links from comments and trackbacks the theory was that this would discourage automated blog comment spam as there would no longer be any SEO benefit from the comments. Google’s post is here:  Preventing Comment Spam.

Unfortunately there are millions of blogs which do not have the nofollow attribute (we voluntarily set our comments as dofollow in order to reward real comments but understand that we need to be more vigilant about spam because of this decision).

Blog spam software launches millions of comments per day at the web and the main problem is with the number of blogs where the owner auto-approves any comment. It is not unusual to find a blog of very low quality which has thousands of spam junk comments per post… Uggh!

Fortunately Google seeks out websites which have a disproportionate number of these low quality comment based links and penalises or even bans the websites which are using these techniques. Frustratingly though, it can take a while for them to identify some of the perpetrators and so ethically SEO’d websites can be relegated below the cowboys for periods of time.

The two reasons why I have created this guide?
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Oh No! SEO Fail Causes Search Engine Ranking Disaster in Australia!

It seems a large number of New Zealand and Australian businesses are seeking answers to search engine ranking difficulties between the two countries.

In a previous post “The Great Geographic Divide – Google Splits New Zealand And Australia” I talked about geographic modifiers and how many businesses are unaware of how important location is to search engine results.

Search Engine Ranking in Australia and New ZealandI also discussed how tough it can be to get traction in Google in the other country and how it seems to be easier to get US placement than Australian placement if you are a New Zealand business.

This post is based on my research into the poor performance of a local company who also has representation across the Tasman and who felt like they had tried everything without success to improve their Australian search engine ranking.

Here is how the websites are set up.

There are two sites on two different ccTLDs (country code top level domain). So one is website.co.nz and the other is website.com.au. The New Zealand site is hosted here in NZ and the Australian site is hosted in Australia.

So far, so good.

The sites are both optimised for a range of keywords and each page of the site has unique meta data. Yes, good as well.

I am afraid that is the end of the good news though.

The New Zealand site performs reasonably well on Google for most of the keywords on several of the site pages. Traffic figures for the main keywords in New Zealand I would describe as average. However, when I use Google Australia ( http://www.google.com.au/webhp) to search for the same keywords the Aussie site is nowhere to be found.

So, what is going on here?
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