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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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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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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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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The Great Geographic Divide – Google Splits New Zealand And Australia!

This could rattle a few cages out there!

I am about to give away a little secret which many local SEO exponents would probably rather I didn’t…

But here goes!

When you type in your business keyword into Google you are only seeing what someone in your immediate location will see. This can be as precise as your town or city.

So, you were given those amazing global search volume figures for your keyword but after a search engine optimization campaign you were left wondering where the thousands of new customers were…

I have a bit of bad news for you!

If you are based in New Zealand, you are more than likely only ranking in New Zealand. And if you are in Auckland you are possibly only showing front page in Auckland results. Even the websites you have visited have an impact on what shows up on your front page Google results…

but that is for a separate post!

If you are based in Australia, you are more than likely not showing anywhere else in the world… just Google Australia!

Why?

Geographic modifiers are a major influencer in search. If you are based in a particular country then it is way more likely that you will be trusted by people in your own market, culture, ethnicity than some one who is across the ocean.
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Is Your Business Website Struggling Without Search Engine Optimization?

Let’s first of all clarify what SEO services are all about – here is a definition from Wikipedia

“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.

In general, the earlier (or higher on the page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.  SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a website web presence.”

SEO Search Engine OptimisationThis sounds like a foreign language if you have never ventured into the world of online marketing. If you are a business owner who is considering having a website built – read on…

You have thrown the idea around about getting a website for some time now and you’re a bit skeptical and possibly a little nervous about it.  However, you are reluctantly coming to the realisation that you need to have a website.  So you ask around and see what it will cost you.   Anything from $3,000 – $10,000 (and often more) is what you hear.  That’s a lot of money to invest!

Here’s what usually happens.

You contact a website development company and immediately enter a strange world where people speak a different language.  After much discussion with the website developer and a lot of “techie” talk that makes you feel uncomfortable and completely out of your depth, you take the plunge and commission your website and hope like hell that the developer knows what he or she is doing.  The $7,500 you have just spent seems ludicrous and irrational, but you tell yourself “I have to have it – all my competitors have – and it will really grow my sales!”.
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