Clean up your backlinks or face off with Google Penguin

The Penguin: ‘Please, don’t hurt me! I didn’t mean it!’

It wasn’t all that long ago when getting as many links as possible pointing back to your site was top priority and it didn’t really matter too much where those backlinks were coming from. The goal of course was to position your website on the first page of Google and other top search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.

The quantity of backlinks was extremely important and many websites were rewarded with good search engine rankings and as such were placed at the top of the list when anyone carried out a search query.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on which side of the fence you were on at the time), the bubble burst as the major search engines started to evaluate the quality of the links pointing back to your site.

This switch from quantity to quality caused all sorts of problems for those websites that were originally set up with “quantity over quality” link building methods.

Google penguin

The Penguin: ‘You don’t really think you’ll win, do you?’

Google first released their algorithm, code name Penguin, back in April 2012. Rankings quickly fell and many sites were penalised for having backlinks from sources now regarded as black-hat link building tactics. The latest update, Penguin 3.0, was released on 17 October 2014.

As a result, many of today’s SEO specialists need to deeply audit client websites and remove the offending backlinks. This is probably one of the most painstaking and time consuming tasks in SEO and yes, I’m speaking from experience as we have been called in many times to clean up toxic link profiles that have been built by other companies. I almost called this task unrewarding as well but that’s not quite true. The reward is the recovery from a Penguin penalty, or watching a client website start to improve in page rank, traffic and authority in their niche because you’re actually doing your job. So it has become a critical SEO task to clean up your backlinks regularly.

The Penguin: ‘I believe the word you’re looking for is “Aaahh”!’

If you want to use Google as your search engine of choice (and why wouldn’t you – Google is still the most popular search engine in the world with almost 70% market share?), you really have little alternative but to do your best to stick to Google’s rules of engagement. You only need to look at Google’s webmaster guidelines to see for yourself the types of penalties you could incur should you choose not to adhere to them.

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20 top web marketing posts – The Weekend Wrap Vol 22

Boom! Matt Cutts from Google drops a bomb that shifts the SEO world on its axis!

How does this affect your web marketing strategy?

And that’s just the beginning – this roundup of the best from the web includes my nomination for the content marketing “post of the year” to date, as well as a scathing analysis of the fall from grace that Facebook is experiencing with B2B marketers.

Plus it’s that time where the SEO experts gaze into their crystal balls and tell us what Google is likely to do this year (good luck with that!).

As a bonus we have some very cool User Experience examples, the lowdown on both meta descriptions and introductions, the best in content marketing tools, a very useful technical SEO plan, and why you might consider jumping from Facebook to Google+ and much more.

Enjoy…

Ohope Beach New Zealand

Ohope Beach looking a bit moody – much like many link building scalers after Matt Cutts’ announcement…

 

Search Engine Optimisation

Keep Writing Quality Content: SEO Bloggers React To Matt Cutts’ Claim “Guest Blogging Is Dead”

The big news in SEO this past week has been Matt Cutts – head of Google’s Webspam Team announcing on his blog that “guest posting for SEO is over”. Although the spammy end of guest posting has been in Google’s sights for some time now the way it was announced was a little surprising. I know we are all sick of those barely coherent offers of guest post junk but this announcement angered a lot of top marketers as well with its broad sweeps. Cue this post from Search Engine Land which asked several top SEO bloggers for their views.

Matt Cutts Declares Guest Blogging “Done” … Are We All Screwed?

This one from Copyblogger responds to Matt Cutts comment in his post:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.

So the responses and debate flew and many larger media organisations felt the need to counter the inference that all guest blogs are spam… not happy!

Time for Guest Blogging With a Purpose

This response from Jen Lopez on Moz points out the differences between what Matt Cutts was actually talking about and high quality multi-contributor blogs. Guest post with a purpose other than gaining a contextual anchor text link in the body. Think about branding, credibility, traffic, visibility, authorship. And Jen also gives a few tips to help your strategy stay on the right side of any future algorithm update.

Google Propaganda, SEO and Why Marketers Need to Wake Up

This last one which takes the Google announcement and really runs with it is a great piece by the often provocative Rae Hoffman.

And now, we’ve added sites who allow guest posts to the chopping block. And if you think webmasters aren’t running around – right as you’re reading this post – disavowing legitimate sites where they have legitimate, useful guest posts (I’m not talking “made for guest posts” sites here people) then your head is buried in the sand.

A scathing missive on Panda, Penguin, bullying tactics and hypocrisy. Don’t miss it!
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Impending Google updates and what your business needs to know

Matt Cutts – head of Google’s search quality team (and as a colleague commented the other day – one of the most powerful people on the planet) has made a new video. This outlines in his usual friendly, noncommittal manner what Google is doing in the next few months as far as the hugely influential search algorithm goes. (Google seldom pre-announces anything!)

In other words…

Things are about to get very rocky in the website sea!

Hold on to your hats everyone!

Google has “pre-announced” a number of areas where they are going to seek out and punish sites that are using “black hat” SEO techniques to artificially push sites up Google’s search results. Again.

The unfortunate thing is that your site might very well fall into this category without you even being aware of it.

We do have sympathy for the cause…

No one likes cheats and no one likes lazy people gaining big returns for very little effort (or if you are Black Hat – being smart enough and entrepreneurial enough and technically brilliant enough to subvert the biggest business in the world to make money)

The problem with black hat is that it is not a long term business proposition. Awesome for quick buck hacks but scary for real businesses and reputations.

To be honest I think it is amusing that these guys think they are smarter than a couple of hundred of the world’s top engineers…

But, back to the impending Google updates.

The importance of the Penguin Update

No one expected the first Penguin update to be as game-changing as it was.

The SEO world shifted on its axis – any manipulative “link building” was suddenly at best almost worthless and at worst a huge detriment to a client website and business.

I won’t go into Penguin 1.0 detail here as it has been very well covered elsewhere.

But the major outcome from our perspective has been the elimination of a huge number of cheap, automated, low quality SEO services offering the world’s riches for tuppence.

And there have been real benefits for great websites that are technically sound, that offer great user experience, that have high quality, well structured content, that have a commitment to fresh, high value information and a social sharing strategy. These benefits can be profound as I documented in this ROI/website visitor growth case study.

And true to his word Penguin 2.0 has just been rolled out. It is too early to make any judgements around whether it has been more effective, more punitive and whether the desired outcome has been achieved.

We will track this closely as the next days and weeks pass.

I am sure there are a lot of very nervous people out there right about now…

Before I digress further let’s get right down to what Mr Cutts is promising in the next few months.

Here’s the video:

And for those of you (like me) who are way to impatient to wait for a video to slowly roll out here is a helpful transcript (thanks Ross Hudgens)

So what are the big takeaways from the announcement?

My first thought is that like an iceberg only a small portion will ever be visible above the surface. Google seldom gives a warning of impending action and if it does you can guarantee it will be big!

Forget the platitudes and forget the cuddly Matt Cutts persona.

This will be a rocky road for many.

Impending Google updates and what you need to do

Penguin 2.0 – Now live

In my opinion this is the biggie. This has been telegraphed as far back as SMX West in early March and it has been built up as an update to be deeply concerned about if you have ever strayed across the line.
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Weekend Wrap 19: SEO predictions, social proof, renegade content marketing

There’s been a lot of talk, controversy and opinions shared on where SEO is heading for 2013.   The first post in the Weekend Wrap for this year is from Eric Enge at Search Engine Watch where he gives his SEO predictions for the ever changing world of search.  We follow that with the essential SEO elements of keyword research – is it the most important part of SEO?

If you have ignored Google+ in the past, it might be a good time to read this post from Dejanseo where they explain the difference between authorship and author rank and whether author rank will be factored into Google  in 2013.

No,  link building is not going to go away and Jon Cooper sets the record straight in this enlightening post and tells us why it’s here to stay.

Mike’s post ‘8 SEO fundamentals for marketers and agencies in 2013’ is a good read and if you’re in the marketing game you will want to be informed on how content strategy, social media and technical compliance will be critical to web marketing.

Other great posts offering valuable insights for social media proof, link building for ecommerce sites and our last post for the week comes  from John Doherty on The Future of Cross Platform Publishing.

The image this week is from our new office in Ohope Beach

High Profile Enterprises view

 

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

SEO Revelations for 2013

It’s crystal ball time and in this post Eric Enge shares his picks for what Google is likely to do this year. As Eric says – one thing is for certain – there will be many major changes this year and the first big one will not be far away.
Great post looks at the essential SEO element of keyword research. Top SEO Nick Eubanks takes you through a range of strategies from basic through to more advanced. SEO without keyword research will be a waste of your time. Check this out.
Confused about authorship and author rank? This post separates the 2 concepts nicely and shows why it is important to know the difference. What are the odds that author rank will be factored into one of Google’s updates this year? Pretty high I think. Time to get more active on Google+!
Jon Cooper nails why link building is not going away any time soon and gives examples of why actively chasing links does not have to be black hat or at all manipulative. If you have an interest in the coalface of SEO this is for you.

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The Best of SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media and CRO – 2012

2012 has been an incredible year for those of us who work online or who have an interest in search, social or any of the other variations in web strategy.

SEO in particular has seen upheaval after upheaval and Google has been instrumental in changing the way web marketing works or doesn’t as the case may be.

Anyone close to SEO will have watched as Google rolled out Panda update after Panda update, threw in a Page Layout update, an Exact Match Domain update, sent out link warnings and banished sites to the outer reaches, and generally shook  things up to such an extent that only the foolhardy would even contemplate manipulative techniques, black hat or webspam.

Best of SEO in 2012

2012 was also a year when social media really crossed over to the general business population in a big way. Even here in New Zealand most SMEs made the leap and invested time or money in their social media presence. As always the big players – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube made frequent and significant changes to their platforms. The result of all this flux in social media means that it is essential keep your finger on the social platform pulse the whole time.

The big winners in 2012 were without a doubt content marketing and blogging and this is mostly down to Google’s efforts. The benefits of an integrated approach to content marketing, technical SEO compliance and social media authority have grown significantly as the year has progressed. Any business that is not considering a content based approach in 2013 will struggle to remain competitive online. (There, said it!)

Midge has done a great job this year in finding every week the very best content published on SEO, social media, content strategy and conversion rate optimisation and has delivered in our Weekend Wrap a combination of thought leadership, tutorials, opinion pieces and even some humour.

We hope you have found the posts educational, inspiring and thought provoking – we certainly have!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Weekend Wrap up on the right here – we won’t spam… ever!

And while you are here please feel free to share with the social media buttons at the top – many thanks!

Here is my roundup of the very best of the Weekend Wrap – enjoy!

SEO

The future of SEO in 2013

Start with this great post from Stoked SEO who ask a number of the most influential SEO writers what they think will happen with Google and search in 2013.

Some of our favourite SEO people here: Jon Cooper, Jason Acidre, John Doherty, Julie Joyce, Paddy Moogan, Will Critchlow and more. Great insights!

Breaking Down the Mormon SEO Strategy

This post from Distilled was a bit of a surprise.

Who would have thought that a church would focus on an intensive SEO campaign and that they would be competing for phrases like Jesus, Church or scriptures.

Fascinating stuff and I really like the comment asking about the Mormon Church’s “conversion” rate! 🙂

An Open Discussion on the Current State of Link Building

This post stood out not only for the calibre of the SEO thought leaders taking part in the discussion and the quality of the information but also for the unique structure of the post and its informal concept.

Link building has definitely changed substantially in 2012.

We Can Do Better Than This

This is one of the standout posts of the year.

Jonathon Colman put together this epic piece which challenges many SEO writers to up their game with their content and to be more creative and inspirational with what they are producing and with the conversations they are having online.

2012 Year In Review: Important Shifts In Google SEO

This post by Tom Schmitz on Search Engine Land is a nice summary of some of the more important SEO changes from 2012.

He covers online reputation and trust, Google and webmaster notifications, over-optimisation penalties, Panda, Penguin, Pirate updates and lots more.
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Weekend Wrap 18 – SEO in 2013, loving Panda, social media experts challenged

Everyone wants to know where SEO is heading in 2013 and the first post up this week gives valuable insights from 30 of the industry’s most enlightened SEO thought leaders.

This is followed by a very interesting look at the Mormon SEO strategy! Surprising stuff!

Love Google Panda or hate it – here’s a different point of view on how Panda actually works for us…

A controversial post from Darren Woolley at TrinityP3 that has certainly rattled some social media experts’ cages with its challenging honesty and an insightful interview on content marketing with Kristina Halvoson author of “Content strategy for the web”.

Lots of other great posts in between and we wrap it up with a post from Kissmetrics demonstrating how high conversion websites improve their results.

Photo this week – my favourite flower white hydrangeas hydrangeas in flower

 

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

As 2012 draws to a close the race is on to see who can create the definitive offering on what SEO in 2013 will hold. It may be difficult to go past this one – a comprehensive breakdown of what to expect from 30 of the most highly respected SEO thought leaders in the industry. A must read for SEO fans.
Who would have thought that the Mormon Church would have such a highly evolved SEO strategy? In this post Distilled offers a fascinating breakdown on how the church has nailed SEO to rank for phrases like church, scriptures and Jesus Christ. This is really interesting!
A refreshing take on Google’s Panda update on SEOmoz. In this post Ruth Burr goes against the flow on most SEO sites and instead of berating Google as a greedy, controlling monster gives her view on how Panda has improved search experience for everyday users. Not surprising to see the black hats hitting the thumbs down sign as their own sites have all been hit with these updates.

Real Relationships Lead To Search Marketing Success

The 2012 move toward relationship building and away from link building has become a key strategy in SEO. This is covered here on Search Engine Land with real examples of how building a powerful network brings top website results and then shares ways you can become more social and improve your online networking. 

 

Social media/content marketing:

3 ways to make sure that social media expert is really an expert

From our client TrinityP3 comes this thought provoking post by Darren Woolley. This proved to be a controversial one and it certainly raised the hackles of a number of “social media experts”. Darren expresses dismay at the lack of experience or authority of many presenters at social media events in Australia and offers a 3 step process to check if the speaker has any authority. (check out the comment thread too)

Weekend Wrap 17 – Growth hackers, top social media tools and how to increase blog traffic

A brilliant line up this week and we kick off with an “oldie but a goodie” from Rand Fishkin – an incredible resource for bloggers to tuck away, followed by another great post about “growth hackers” from Distilled and what constitutes an effective SEO strategy.

And Forbes have a post which looks at the 20 most social CMOs in the Fortune 100 – surprising how difficult it was to find 20 who actually use social media. How does that work?

Also see what happens when you take some of the top SEO  industry players and debate the current state of link building  in an informal setting – very interesting and a fun post for those of you who follow SEO – there’s a few gems here!

And also from the Social Media and Content Marketing section we have Content,  Confusion, Clarity – a look at content and SEO from Search Engine Watch, a post from Mike Morgan demonstrating benefits and the dangers of using social media tools (includes a few horror stories) and the epic post of the week is from Jonathon Colman – a brilliant piece which questions content quality in the SEO space – must read this one…and lots more to keep you up to date and up late at night!

Photo this week Bobo the alpaca relaxing in the carrot grass!

Alpaca at Muriwai farm

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic (Updated 2012)

This one is from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz fame and comes from WAY BACK in January. Amazing how all of this is still totally relevant despite the huge updates by Google almost every month this year. This is one to keep as a reference – put as many of these into practice as you can and note how effective the copywriting and structure of the post is..

SEO’s Are Growth Hackers

John Doherty of Distilled adds another great post about “growth hackers”. In his words growth hacking is all about data driven marketing and relates to not only growth but also customer retention. Being creative, implementation, measurement, repetition – as he says these are all part of a well executed SEO strategy. A good read!

An Open Discussion on the Current State of Link Building

Get half a dozen SEO thought leaders together (online) and get them debating the current state of link building. The informality of the structure offers real insights – five starting points are given then it is up to the participants to share their opinions and the conversation develops from there. Great idea!

What [insert random topic] taught me about SEO

This is the lighter post for the week. If you consume a lot of SEO blog posts like we do you will identify with what this post is poking fun at. “What Whitney Houston taught me about SEO?”, “What waterless urinals taught me about SEO” and many more gems that should have gone nowhere near the publish button!
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Weekend Wrap 16 – Google 2012 Review, Small Business Link Building, Fake Social Media Experts

So much insightful information this week it was hard to choose – but we think we selected some of the very best.

Starting off with a 2012 review of all Google updates which will definitely inform and a WordPress theme change SEO check list which is invaluable.

If  you are a small business owner looking for a link building strategy that works – you can read it here.  Also an epic post you will  want to tuck away and read over and over again from Jason Acidre – it’s everything you need to know about inbound strategy and is a fantastic resource.

Our light-hearted post this week gets stuck into social media experts – it’s very amusing and we also feature a post from one of our favourite bloggers Mark Schaefer – he shares his wisdom on great titles for blogposts – always valuable and interesting.

Photo this week – Okiroto Stream Muriwai Beach

Okiroto Stream west coast Muriwai

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

Wow! 2012 has been a huge year for Google and SEO and this blow by blow summary covers Panda, Penguin, Google notifications, trust and reputation, exact match domains, the Pirate update and a lot more. This yearly summary is in early like the malls and their Christmas decorations.
In this post 5 top US SEO/content strategy experts are asked about the increasing role of content marketing in SEO, measurement of content marketing results, the cost to business and some great examples of companies getting the combination very right. Some very useful insights.
This one is perfectly timed – we are gearing up to move to a new WordPress theme ourselves. Distilled always gives great value and this is no exception. A nice, easy to follow check-list to make sure you don’t lose ground when you move to a new theme. Watch this space for our new design over the coming weeks.

There is always a ton of stuff around link building when you are a big industry player like Kissmetrics or SEOmoz but often these tactics just do not work for a small business. A small local business is unlikely to have the budget, time resources or social reach for a combination of epic content, infographics and linkable, shareable content that goes viral. This post gets real about what works for the little guys.

Weekend Wrap 15 – Google Insider Secrets, Evil Link Building, Epic Content

Some real goodies this week from our search for the best around the Web!

See what Google are  really doing (!!) in this in-depth interview with an ex-member of the elite search quality team, the current state of SEO from those who know and where to from here… how to rid your e-commerce website of those errors that hinder your ranking, a humorous, refreshing post on evil link building methods, a look at the views of 35 powerhouse social media personalities on how to be influential on Facebook, a great post on how epic content or long-form posts in content marketing get big rewards and much, much more – plenty here for your week’s reading to keep you up to date.

A little bucolic scene this week – visiting family enjoying feeding the alpacas

Alpacas eating from buckets

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

What better way to get insights on what Google is really doing than to interview an ex-member of Matt Cutts’ search quality team. The first interview caused a bit of a storm with Google saying that this ex-Googler didn’t really work for them and disputed some of his claims. This follow-up is just as interesting and contradicts some of Google’s public inferences.

Top SEO Tips Straight From the Industry Experts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some of the biggest names in SEO share on Hubspot their insights and opinions on what is the current state of search engine optimisation as well as giving advice on the best approaches to take. Insights from Rand Fishkin, Darmesh Shah, Stephanie Chang and Greg Shuey.

This post on Kissmetrics is a must-read for anyone working with an ecommerce website. These errors are almost the default setting for many ecommerce sites when they are first built and they will seriously hinder your chances of ranking well on Google.

And here is one just for fun. Peter Attia has put together a follow-up of 9 nasty ways to build links (and recommends you don’t do any of them). Good to see someone having a bit of a laugh when so much SEO commentary is dead serious.

Weekend Wrap 14 – Creative Link Building, Web Copy Mastery, Social Signals

This Weekend Wrap brings more on building links from some incredibly creative people down to the foolhardy who still think buying links is a good thing…

This ties in nicely with the SEOMoz post on how to drive more visitors and more links through social media, and the heights people will go to for the most sought after link – along with some good advice on SEO practices to keep you on the right side of Google.

Everyone wants to write great copy and this week we have an excellent post which will definitely show you how – fantastic examples on getting it right and getting it wrong – a must read…

A very interesting read that digs down into the psychology of online behaviour and how it relates to blog comments, plus the mother of all posts – a whopping 7,000 words  that you should definitely make time to read and learn from this masterpiece that demonstrates effective web copy.

Lots more excellent material to broaden your marketing portfolio and learn all that is new in the online space.

Another glorious day at Muriwai Beach today – shot taken looking north towards Kaipara Heads.
Muriwai Beach looking North

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

Fantastic post chock full of creative ways to get links – “I sailed a boat, ran a half-marathon and climbed a mountain all on the same day for a link”. Innovative ideas from many of the best SEOs in the world.

 

Love this! It would be very funny except it is, unfortunately, quite true. “Why don’t we just buy some more links?” on the image is pretty good but the actual 7 phrases are worth a look.

 

SEOmoz piece that gets down to the nitty gritty of how social media affects SEO outcomes with analysis of social signals as well as insights on how social media can drive more visitors, more time on site and of course more links.

 

In the post Panda, post Penguin world it is ironic that SEOs have to look like they are not doing any SEO. This is a really insightful post on the important SEO elements that will keep you the right side of Google’s guidelines while still improving search performance.

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Weekend Wrap 13 – Content Secret Sauce, Link Building Golden Rules, Killer SEO Insights

This week we have plenty of great content marketing posts to share from some of the top authorities in this niche, more on link building and the golden rules post Penguin,  some fantastic insights from many of the big names in SEO that presented at  the recent SearchLove event in London, and your chance to learn from the Company that gets most everything right with some tips from the Apple copywriters, and the blurred lines of social media where white, grey and black hats show the good, the bad and the ugly.

We had so many beautiful sunsets over Muriwai Beach this week it was hard to decide on the best one!
West Coast New Zealand Sunset

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

This one gives a comprehensive evaluation of what makes great content. It slips into the SEO section instead of the content marketing one because it covers some of the technical needs to keep your content good for search engines (and it’s from Search Engine Land) Nice informative post!

 

Link building is certainly generating a lot of debate in the wake of the Penguin update. Google has sent a very clear message that it does not want to see any manipulation of its results. Most pieces you read take the moral high ground as if the writer has never tested other strategies in the past. This post actually tells it how it is. Everyone wants better results but what are the risks involved?

 

What sort of insights would you expect from analysis of a billion dollars worth of Adwords spend? This insightful post looks at who is spending the big bucks and what sort of return they are getting. It also looks at the role of SEO vs paid search. Good stuff!

 

Search industry conferences always deliver a massive amount of useful information. Thanks to Wordtracker for this blow by blow summary of the key learnings from the recent SearchLove event in London. Many of the really big names in SEO presented here so put aside a few minutes to absorb some of the insights.