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Monthly Archives: December 2012

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2015 SEO Not A Playbook: The Half-Decade Edition

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By Tom Schmitz

Search engine optimization shifted dramatically during the first half of this decade. I wonder how it will evolve?

Google Got Intelligent

Google has always been smart. When it launched, the PageRank algorithm changed everything, so much so that Google devoured a diverse community of now all but forgotten search engines. As smart as the early Google was, the pre-Caffeine Google was a shadow of this decade’s version.

Looking back, it seems much of Google’s quality assurance, protecting the search engine results pages (SERPs), depended on brute strength. Identify that which was unwanted — such as reciprocal links, directory links, paid text links, article repository links, etc. — and then write a program to recognize and deal with the webspam. This was even more true before the Big Daddy infrastructure update.

When the Caffeine indexing infrastructure went live in 2010, Maile Ohye of Google’s Webmaster Central said that “the entire web is expanding and evolving, and Caffeine means that we can better evolve with it.” She wasn’t kidding. After Caffeine launched, it appears Google got better at identifying what it likes.

For example, Google seeks content that contributes new information, ideas or thoughts to topics rather than rewriting and regurgitating what’s already ranking.

Yes, it has bigger hammers, too (like Panda and Penguin), but today Google feels more intelligent. It’s not just a beefed-up PageRank algorithm with add-on police routines.

Back to the early days: As smart as last decade’s Google was, the SEO community managed to isolate the important ranking factors long before anyone conducted a decent correlation study.

In some respects, the SEO community was smarter than Google. We just lacked the processors and storage capacity to systemize what we knew or thought we knew.

Later, Moore’s Law caught up and the cloud arrived. Companies like Majestic and Moz started crawling enough of the web in order to lift the veil and reveal big chunks of Google’s secret sauce.

You might argue that the height of SEO knowledge coincided with the launch of Caffeine. I cannot recall any mega revelations that were not announced by Google during this decade.

Is the period of discovery is over? Today, we SEOs refine what we already know and listen for Google’s announcements. At the same time, Google shares less and less.

In October, Google told us to say goodbye to PageRank – not that we were using it. They took away our keyword analytics and dumbed down the keyword tool. I wonder, as a ratio of knowledge vs. impact, do we know less now about SEO than we did at the start of the decade?

So where, after a half-decade, is SEO headed?

The Death Of SEO

When it comes to SEO, there are three types of website owners:

  1. Those Who See SEO As A Marketing Channel. They pursue SEO as a means to drive traffic. They create content, optimize pages and build links for the sake of SEO.
  2. Those Who Consider SEO Traffic As A Reward For Doing Everything Else Right. While they still chose their keywords and optimize their content, they focus on using content, social media, and promotions to drive engagement and awareness. They figure if they do everything else right, organic traffic is sure to follow.
  3. Those Who Don’t SEO. Whether they admit it or not, this group is focused on having their content their way. They will not let SEO best practices influence the design, architecture or content on their web pages. I’m going to include those who hope SEO will follow but do not prepare for it in this group.

I see a growing number of the third type and for various reasons. Some are so caught-up in new HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript design tricks that they don’t want to do anything that could require change. Others have given-up, believing they cannot compete against well-funded brands.

Many SEOs are leaving the profession. Several are becoming content marketers or inbound marketers. They still include SEO in their work, but they’ve broadened their scope, because for them SEO is too limited.

Yes Virginia, there are still dedicated SEO specialists, but the profession seems to be in retreat.

Because Google gives brands such a huge advantage, mid-sized and small businesses find it increasingly difficult and hostile to compete against their larger competitors, especially small companies that sell nationally. Even at the startup and enterprise level, many companies are folding SEO into other positions.

Dedicated SEO professionals are definitely out there, but new opportunities for employment are shrinking. Today the dedicated SEO is pretty much an agency, independent or enterprise position.

The Death Of PageRank

Google’s announcement that it would no longer update PageRank was anticlimactic. What took them so long? More importantly, this is another example of Google removing information.

Google dumbed down the AdWords Keyword Tool. In Analytics, Google stopped reporting keyword referrals (old news). And while Google may beef up Google Webmaster Tools from time to time, the company hardly treats it like a serious software project with frequent, meaningful iterations.

Today’s mantra seems to be that any effort that does not contribute to Google’s ROI, or that might lessen PPC spend, is ripe for the guillotine.

Authorship not working out how you thought it would? Don’t fix it; drop it. Google+ +1 votes not as good an indicator as you hoped? Bye. Look for Google to find new ways to provide less.

The Death Of Keyword Targeting

Thanks to Hummingbird (and the general concept of entities), the new way to optimize web pages is to include all related keywords and variations on one page.

Prior to this development, SEO teams typically created a different page for every keyword. Google is forcing us to put lots of eggs in one basket. If you get it right, you can rank for lots of keywords, key phrases or variations. Get it wrong, though, and you sink.

At the same time, Google tells us to create new thoughts, not repeat what’s already been said. This creates a high bar for generating effective SEO content. What used to be many pages must now be one, and it has to be full of original ideas, not just original text. Ugh!

By the way: SEO agencies, take note. Google handed you a gift. Converting pre-Hummingbird content into entities is ripe for productizing. It goes hand-in-hand with Panda recovery. However, be careful not to mess up websites that continue to enjoy rankings and traffic.

The Death Of Link Building

Is link building more important than ever, or dead? Google seems to have cracked the code to enforce rewarding earned links while ignoring or penalizing placed links. (Hello, Penguin!)

People really ought to revisit Todd Maicoat’s link bait tutorial. (If it helps, ignore the phrase “link bait.”)

Google wants you to build an audience that rewards you with links and social media shares. If your content doesn’t drive activity or conversations, don’t expect it to drive links.

Pay attention to indicators like comment activity on blogs and to social media sharing. Keep in mind, not every article, post or page will go viral. If two in ten articles drive links you’re doing well. Three in ten will put you in the hall of fame.

I do think there is a place for link builders… not the type who cold call web admins to ask for a link, but rather the winning link builders – networkers who can bring together groups that will help each other.

Even when such groups cannot move the needle alone, they can get the snowball rolling so their readers and followers become motivated to comment, share and link based on the activity they see.

The best network will trump the best content. The best link builders will influencers who belong to a social network of fellow influencers.

The Death Of Matt Cutts

I’m not giving Matt the 21-gun salute just yet. Hopefully, after a well-deserved respite, Matt will return to his role as Google Guy, their SEO community spokesperson. I’ll hold my breath but only in one lung, as I give it 50/50.

The info Matt provides helps non-enterprise sites more than it does Google’s enterprise PPC advertisers. And because it is far more difficult to build a small business into a big advertiser today than when the wild, wild web was young and in flux, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to provide SEO help beyond official announcement and updates.

Also, independent, agency and small business SEOs are more apt to ask pointed questions or gripe than are enterprise SEOs. By not showing up, Google gets to avoid all those awkward moments.

Does Google even need to answer questions? Google’s been largely supplanted as the Google expert by other companies. Companies like Moz, thanks to their tools and research, provide more data and answers to questions about SEO than Google ever did.

Other Google employees are online and answering questions, but they’ve been doing this for some time. No one is stepping up to fill Matt’s spokesperson shoes. We haven’t seen Adam Lansik recording Webmaster Q&A videos. Don’t be surprised if we see more pullback away from public speaking by Google engineers.

Final Thoughts

Lots of questions; few good answers. I think by the end of the decade, Google will have largely finished its transition from a PageRank or link-based search engine to one that recognizes quality over authority.

However, Google loves brands; this will not change, which means large companies will continue to expand across the SERPs and make ranking more difficult for smaller businesses. Most SEO professionals will have left the field and it will really be just a line in the job descriptions of web developers, designers and copywriters.

The post 2015 SEO Not A Playbook: The Half-Decade Edition appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Search Engine Optimization Experts

Learning SEO From Google Employees

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By Chris Marentis

As should be the case with any SEO professionals, we’re constantly on the lookout for new information and ideas that can aid us in helping our clients improve their results. While at a recent event, we had the luxury of speaking with Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far.

The conversation sparked us into looking further into Google itself as a source of knowledge for how best to “win” at the local SEO game.

From live conversations to published tips, blogs and videos, we’ve gleaned some useful insights from a variety of Google employees. While each person looked at local SEO from a different angle, there were two very consistent themes that emerged over and over again.

Following is a summary of these two themes with some specific ways to achieve them.

1. Be Findable

This might sound like a “duh” item, but it just cannot be stressed enough, in part because there may be so many different ways to ensure that a particular business is actually findable online. Some things that should be utilized to increase findability include:

Create Schema Markup

Pierre Far pointed out that schema markup itself is not a ranking factor but that it is critical for its ability to affect other ranking factors, namely the crawlability of a site.

Schema markup makes content easier for search engines to parse and index, therefore improving the chances that it will get noticed appropriately.

Leverage XML Sitemaps and Atom/RSS Feeds

Similar to schema markup, these sitemaps and feeds optimize sites for search crawling. Google Feeds Team member Alkis Evlogimenos recommends adding the URL of any new or significantly changed page to these, along with the time that a modification was made. To disseminate information broadly and efficiently, he recommends using the PubSubHubbub protocol to indicate that a feed has been updated.

Look Beyond Websites

In a six-video series, Google Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye reminds us that local SEO is not just about a website. Things like reviews, local directory listings, social media and networking sites possess great power to aid in local SEO results.

In her videos, Maile also discussed the importance of being found on mobile devices, something that we consistently hear from Google if we are paying attention.

John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst, recently made a post about the new Mobile Usability Features in Google Webmaster Tools and the importance it can offer to businesses looking to boost mobile SEO results.

2. Be Usable

Traditional logic might tell us that step #1 is to be found online and step #2 is to offer usable information once found.

However, you could argue that offering that usable information is really step #1, because your site content is a huge part of what determines your search engine rankings (and thus your “findability”).

No matter which way you look at it, the need to provide the right information — complete information and consistent information — across all channels is a must. This includes NAP data (Name, Address & Phone Number) at a minimum.

Consistency of information should be thought of in two ways: consistent for the customer and consistent for search engines.

According to Pierre Far, NAP information can be displayed “normally” on local business pages, social sites, websites and other customer-facing vehicles. However, within schema markups, phone numbers should consistently be entered in full international format beginning with the country code (1 for U.S. numbers) and then the rest of the phone number.

From a customer perspective, businesses are urged to consider the full customer journey in Maile Ohye’s videos. Even with sales channels that may be initiated by word of mouth, online sources are commonly used as the means by which potential customers verify the credibility and trustworthiness of businesses before they actually solicit them.

This research can take a customer from a Google+ page to a review site to a Facebook page and then maybe to a website. At all stops along the way, the customer should receive a consistent view of the company with all information needed in order to proceed to the next phase in the journey with that business.

Once again, a special word about mobile here is needed. Google would not have released special Webmaster Tools targeted at mobile search if it was not an important factor.

These new tools give insights into valuable customer experience metrics such as the presence of Flash content, the placement of clickable elements, font size and viewports. Weaving these into the analytics and planning mix should be standard procedure.

Final Thoughts

From technical tips like how to create schema markups to marketing philosophies involving the customer journey, Google’s employees are urging us to help our customers take the steps needed to make it easy for crawlers to find them and easy for customers to contact them.

The post Learning SEO From Google Employees appeared first on Search Engine Land.



SearchCap: Google Knowledge Graph Gets Social, Scrollable Google Answers & Google News Suggested Stories

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By Barry Schwartz

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

  • 20 Ways B2B SEOs Can Leverage Markup

    Structured data markup can improve search visibility, yet few websites use it. Columnist Derek Edmond provides tips for B2B marketers on how to get started.

  • Google News Displaying “Suggested For You” Stories Customized To Match Your Interests

    Google News founder Krishna Bharat used his Google+ account to announce a new “Suggested for you” feature in Google News. According to his post, Google News will now include a “Suggested for you” section of news stories to match your interests. Bharat says suggestions will change along with the news, “…to keep things fresh and […]

  • Google Knowledge Graph Carousel Gains “Breadcrumb” Navigation Links

    Google has quietly added a small but important feature to their Knowledge Graph Carousel – a breadcrumb navigation link. If your search brings up the carousel and it references back to a higher-level knowledge graph panel, Google may show a link to the knowledge graph panel details. For example, searching for [paypal founders] shows a […]

  • Google Adds New Shopping Campaigns Tools: Auction Insights, Diagnostics Tab And More

    Strange things happen during the holiday shopping frenzy — search queries sky rocket and inventory fluctuates as demand surges on certain days. Managing spikes in search volume on brand and product queries and ensuring product feeds accurately reflect inventory pose particular challenges. Today, Google announced updates to help retailers keep their Shopping campaigns running smoothly. […]

  • Google Testing Scrollable Google Answers In Mobile Results

    Google is testing a scrollable version of their answers box within the mobile search results. Mitchell Haw from Ignite Visibility spotted this and posted a screen shot of it on their blog. The new answer box has various pages of answers for your query. You can slide through the answers, based on the number of […]

  • Thanksgiving Recipes: Searches Peak Thanksgiving Day, Making November Biggest Month For Recipe Queries

    ‘Tis the season for too many cooks in the kitchen, and many of them started searching for Thanksgiving Day recipes all the way back in September. According to Google Trends, every holiday results in a spike for recipe search queries, but Thanksgiving drives the largest volume of recipe related searches. Last year, 44 percent of […]

  • Google Shopping Merchant Promotions Roll Out To More Countries

    Just ahead of the holiday frenzy, Google is expanding Merchant Promotions to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and India. Launched in the U.S. in 2012, Merchant Promotions allow advertisers to show promotion code offers alongside their product listing ads in search as well as their listings on Google Shopping. Merchants interested in launching promotions […]

  • Google’s Knowledge Graph Finally Shows Social Networks Not Named Google+

    Years after a controversy over a decision to promote its own social network, Google+, in search results, Google has begun linking to other social networks in its Knowledge Graph. As first spotted by Bernd Rubel and reported by Search Engine Roundtable, Google is now showing icons for social sites including Facebook, Twitter and even MySpace […]

Recent Headlines From Marketing Land, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Internet Marketing:

Search News From Around The Web:


Local & Maps

Link Building



SEM / Paid Search

Search Marketing

The post SearchCap: Google Knowledge Graph Gets Social, Scrollable Google Answers & Google News Suggested Stories appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Veteran’s Day Google Logo Honors The Men & Women Who Serve In Our Armed Forces

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By Amy Gesenhues

Today’s Google logo is in honor of Veteran’s Day, paying homage to the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

Along with an illustration depicting men and women in uniform and a red, white and blue Google logo, Google has included a link on its homepage to a career recruitment site for veterans.

The “Veterans: Your next mission could be with Google” link leads to a page that reads, “Veterans make great Googlers.”

Take it from us, Google is a great place to be a vet.

Before becoming a legal holiday, Veteran’s Day was recognized as Armistice Day – a day celebrated around the world to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918. Seven years later, on May 13, 1938, Congress enacted a law to make it a federal holiday, striking the word “Armistice” and creating Veteran’s Day in its place.

While the holiday began as a day to celebrate World War I veterans, in 1954 the legal definition of the holiday was expanded to honor American veterans of all wars.

Search Engine Land thanks all U.S. veterans for their service.

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Wil Reynolds, Reddit, Content Over-Creation, and More: #StateofSearch 2014 Day Two Recap by @wonderwall7

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By Kelsey Jones

Day Two at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Search Engine Marketing Association‘s State of Search conference was just as great as Day One: Sessions on social media, SEO, marketing, and PPC, plus a morning keynote by Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive and a closing keynote by Duane Forrester. Below is a brief round-up of some of the sessions I had the opportunity to attend today. Morning Keynote: Wil Reynolds Wil is the founder of SEER Interactive and is a compelling speaker. The main topics he covered were focusing on the bare bones “old school” concepts of advertising and marketing from as far back as […]

The post Wil Reynolds, Reddit, Content Over-Creation, and More: #StateofSearch 2014 Day Two Recap by @wonderwall7 appeared first on Search Engine Journal.



Twitter Plans To Introduce A Timeline That Resembles Facebook’s News Feed by @mattsouthern

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By Matt Southern

Twitter recently announced some changes that are coming soon to the network, with one in particular that’s already not sitting well with longtime Twitter users. Twitter’s timeline of real-time updates may instead by replaced by an algorithmically-controlled timeline that’s more akin to Facebook’s News Feed. There’s no question that all social networks need to evolve in order to stay relevant, but is this evolution or devolution? I’ll let you decide. Here’s a quote from Twitter’s announcement: “… we’re experimenting with better ways to give you what you come to Twitter for: a snapshot of what’s happening. We can use information […]

The post Twitter Plans To Introduce A Timeline That Resembles Facebook’s News Feed by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.



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For The Holidays, Google Breaks Its No Updates Rules, Gives Out Fresh Penguin Updates

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By Barry Schwartz

Since Google’s “Florida” Update of November 2003[1], the search engine has kept to an unofficial promise not to mess with its ranking algorithm during the holiday season. That’s changed this year with a flurry of Penguin Updates.

Penguin is Google’s filter to fight spam that gets past its regular spam fighting defenses. It is used periodically, and when sites are hit by it, they retain a massive penalty until they clean up their spam problems. Then they have to wait until the next time the Penguin filter is run. If Google’s filter likes what it sees, the sites have their penalties lifted.

Publishers put in the Penguin penalty box by the Penguin 2 update in 2013 had to wait a full year until Penguin 3 was released last October, for a chance at escaping. But since then, there have been at least three further Penguin updates by the way Search Engine Land counts. And most important, these have happened from Thanksgiving onward — violating the “no updates during the holiday shopping season” rule.

Again, on multiple occasions, Google has said it tries to avoid updates during holidays, such as in 2011 and 2013.

Search weather report: no major Panda updates until the new year. Context:

— Google (@google) December 14, 2011

@Bessian Actually, we try to minimize major updates right before the holidays.

— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) December 18, 2013

But there’s no question that many people who were hit by Penguin 3.0 saw changes on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, there have been three other major (in our opinion) changes, this Saturday, then last Friday and last Tuesday.

Google called the Thanksgiving Update part of the Penguin 3.0 rollout, suggesting that this was part of the process that was still continuing. However, updates rarely take so long — in this case six weeks — to launch. And they rarely cause fluctuations toward the end of a rollout. That’s usually the hallmark of a change to the filter, of a new update happening.

That’s why we’re giving all of these point numbers. We’re also trying to get Google to confirm the last two and will update, if we hear. Meanwhile, here’s the current Penguin Update schedule:

  • Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
  • Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
  • Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.1 on Oct. 4, 2013 (impacting around 1% of queries)
  • Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014 (impacting around 1% of queries)
  • Penguin 3.1 on November 27, 2014 (confirmed by Google, no impact given, Google considers part of Penguin 3.0)
  • Penguin 3.2 on December 2, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)
  • Penguin 3.3 on December 5, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)
  • Penguin 3.4 on December 6, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)

The post For The Holidays, Google Breaks Its No Updates Rules, Gives Out Fresh Penguin Updates appeared first on Search Engine Land.