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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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 9 – Is SEO Dead? Penguin & Panda Updates, Landing Page Infographic

In the Weekend Wrap this week we see how some SEOs grapple with Google’s big recent updates, a humorous infographic that expands on the old cliche that SEO is dead (and what the agenda is for those that are saying this), treating your landing page like a recipe for smart results and some new techniques that show you how to get retweeted more often.

This week’s photo – our two woolly boys – Willie Bobo and Paco waiting to be sheared (shared).

Two male alpacas

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

Google Penguin Refresh Completes Trilogy of Search Terror for SEOs

Well, what a couple of weeks it has been for Google! First they rolled out the new Exact Match Domain update then a few days later they announced “Oh yeah we ran a major Panda update at the same time…”, then just when everyone was scrambling they rolled out Penguin 3! Hold onto your hats everyone!

Is SEO Dead?  Yes, But Only to Some People…

Love this infographic! Is SEO dead? Has Google’s aggressive update schedule made SEO impossible? Some would have you believe this and this funny post identifies the key protagonists and their errors and agendas. Check it out!

Search quality highlights: 65 changes for August and September

Here is Google’s official version of what changes they have made in the last 2 months – 65 changes mentioned here. It is interesting to note some SEO commentators are finding some quite obvious omissions from this list. Now why would Google not give us the full story? What happened to transparency?

What’s New & Important With Google’s New Webmaster Guidelines

This quick overview of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines changes points out some very interesting additions. One that really stands out is that it is now considered a guidelines breach if you send someone a free product hoping to get a review and a link back to your site. Hang on, isn’t that how PR has worked forever in the offline world?
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Weekend Wrap 8 – Google Slams EMDs, CTA Wisdom, LinkedIn Infographic

In this Weekend Wrap we’ve got more Google changes guaranteed to upset some Webmasters, valued link building  information on how to recover from Panda and Penguin updates, how to run an SEO audit using Google Webmaster Tools and a cool infographic that shows why content marketing is the new branding… and lots more!

Enjoy the posts…

This week’s photo – the magnficient very showy Hippeastrum that graces us with it’s beauty year after year.

Midge's Hippeastrum

SEO / Search Engine Optimisation

Google’s EMD Algo Update – Early Data

Finally… Google addresses the common search engine hack of buying an Exact Match Domain and using it to rank a poor quality website. There will be some pretty angry SEOs and affiliates out there who have been relying on this dubious technique.

How to Make Your Ecommerce Site Link Worthy

How do you get links to an ecommerce site if your products aren’t very exciting? This comprehensive post outlines some mistakes sites are making and gives tips on how to attract those valued links.

Finally: An Easy-to-Understand Link Building Plan to Help You Recover from Penguin and Panda 

Was your website hit by Google’s Panda or Penguin updates? Neil Patel from Kissmetrics and QuickSprout outlines a few valuable strategies to help you recover your ranking and your website traffic..

Technical SEO Audit with Google Webmaster Tools

Very useful post on how to run an SEO site audit using Google Webmaster Tools. This step by step tutorial is worth tucking away for future reference. Comprehensive stuff!
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7 critical SEO blunders agencies are still making

Darren Woolley discussed recently on the TrinityP3 Blog the poor digital efforts of Strategic Marketing Consultants.

And agencies are as guilty as these consultants with their poor online performance.

It never ceases to amaze me when I am creating keyword competitive analysis projects the woeful Search Optimisation execution of many large advertising agencies.

These same agencies are advising on digital strategy for some of the largest brands in the world yet they consistently fail in SEO basics for their own sites.

 

Search engine optimisation is no longer simply a technical exercise. It is definitely not an IT task and Design and Development are usually pretty lost as SEO is much more about marketing than code.

There have been some major shifts in the world of search recently.

Google has been extremely aggressive with a number of major updates to its algorithm in 2012. It is critical that any online strategies take into account the intent of updates such as the Panda Update, which is a monthly refresh, and the Penguin update which has had two roll-outs thus far.

Panda targets a number of content based techniques whereas Penguin is related to link profiles and the quality and natural appearance of back-links.

Without going into too much technical detail, Google is indicating what they see as being their core business value proposition. This is to deliver the best possible search results for their customers by eliminating spam or any borderline manipulative techniques including some strategies which were seen to be compliant in the not too distant past. And the jury is out on whether they have improved results or not.

So how do you achieve high page results without resorting to risky strategies?

  • Create great content – content that will be shared, linked to as a reference, newsworthy content that will inspire discussion and inspire further new content
  • Get social – social signals offer proof of brand authority and popularity and are factored into ranking algorithms. The more active you are socially, the better your SEO results
  • Ensure technical compliance – get familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or at least ensure your digital team have a comprehensive understanding. Conduct a site SEO audit to eliminate any potential search penalties

There seems to be a lot of talk about the value of search strategy, social media implementation and content marketing yet many of the same agencies which are doing the talking are falling down badly when it comes to their own efforts.
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Is Google Adwords the new snake oil target?

The last couple of months has been a rough ride for many website owners due to the frequent punitive Google Updates and now I am seeing new serious risks appearing for business owners who are not completely up to date with how websites and search engines work. Please use the share buttons above and let your business connections know about this new scam so they can avoid a really costly mistake!

Panda Updates and Penguin Updates

It had to happen really!

Let’s look at the last few months of Google updates and the repercussions felt by a large number of websites both good and bad.

First up, the Panda was tough… and very necessary!

The first Panda update was more than a year ago and I outlined the reasons for it here.

Each of the following Panda updates seemed to be even tougher and there was some serious collateral damage as even a number of high quality sites with tons of great content were punished!

And then came the Penguin… wow!

There will be a large number of web design and development companies who add anchor text based site wide footer links to every client’s site who will be feeling the pain right now (and probably wondering why).

And it seems from the various SEO based forums that SEO companies, web development, bloggers, Internet marketing services and more in the tech services field were hit disproportionately.

But it was not just this field that were hit. Many sites who historically had work done by low cost SEO companies to “boost search ranking on Google” also noticed disturbing trends in their analytics reports after Google’s aggressive targeting of non-compliance.

And because of the close dates of the various Panda and Penguin updates it can be difficult to analyse which particular update has afflicted many sites. Duplication issues, site errors, anchor text repetition, unnatural link profiles, overuse of keywords, over optimisation, comment spam links, thin content, too many links from a particular source, links from unrelated niches? And I could go on.

Google really came out with guns blazing! They hit every possible webspam or manipulative technique they could think of in short succession.

Here is the list of some of the recent Google updates:

April 19, 2012 – Panda 3.5

April 24, 2012 – Penguin

April 27, 2012 – Panda 3.6

May 25, 2012 – Penguin 1.1

June 8, 2012 – Panda 3.7

June 25, 2012 – Panda 3.8

So, Google has decimated webspam. Nice one Google!

Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s webspam team), take a bow.

You have made the Internet a better place…

Or have you?
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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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