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All I’m Going To Say Is …

Alright, no it’s not.  For those of you who are watching your PageRank using one of the myriad of tools available (SEO Quake, Search Status, etc.) you may have noticed that the bar is grey.  Google has not discontinued PageRank, they’ve just moved it’s reference URL and most tools have yet to adapt.  You can expect updates soon from most of them I’m sure.

This issue was first spotted by (go figure) Dave Naylor.

So rest easy, we’ll all have a little green bar to continue to stare at. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:14 am on October 7, 2011

Categories:Google

 

Rest in Peace Steve Jobs

 

Steve Jobs was a hero for me as a child. I have stacks of old Macintosh magazines from back when I was a deep fan of everything Apple. Steve Jobs, even back then, was someone people would look up to and respect, and reading interviews with him was always a pleasure.

Even Rob Janoff, the logo wizard that fashioned the Apple logo, Fedex, VW, and more, working with leaders at the top of all those companies, made a special comment about working with Steve Jobs and how much of a visionary he was.

I’m sure there’s some SEO discussion to be had surrounding the passing of such a man/contribution to the world of computers, but all I’d like to do is say ‘Thanks’ for everything he shared with us and hopefully Steve’s finally getting some well deserved rest in peace. You won’t be forgotten Mr.Jobs.

Dave’s note:

And just to put an exclamation mark on the impact Jobs had on culture, here’s the revolutionary video that aired at the Superbowl in 1984:

SEO news blog post by @ 10:18 am on October 6, 2011

Categories:Misc

 

Google Analytics Features SEO Reports

Google has just announced a new service feature to use in you Google Analytics. The popular analytics utility now offers a set of reports called "Search Engine Optimization." This feature is now out of beta testing and is available for public consumption.

The Webmaster Tools section contains three reports based on the Webmaster Tools data that Google feels will offer a better understanding of how your site performs within search results.

Google has created a new section for these reports called Search Engine Optimization that will live under the Traffic Sources section.
You will need to have a Google Webmaster account before you can use this feature and will have to connect your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts. Once you are setup, the data is displayed almost immediately, although data metrics from the last two days is not available. Following is a brief summary of some of the features offered in the new reports.

seo reports.jpg

The reports you’ll find there are:

Queries: impressions, clicks, position, and CTR info for the top 1,000 daily queries. One point to keep in mind here is that Google is showing the "average position" and is not actually displaying your true "rank." Google is not displaying rank, but instead they record the position of each impression.

Landing Pages: impressions, clicks, position, and CTR info for the top 1,000 daily landing pages. The Landing Pages report shows how many times your top landing pages were shown in search results, again along with average position and CTR.

Geographical Summary: impressions, clicks, and CTR by country. This is useful when you are targeting other countries in your SEO strategy. There is also a Google Property Report which is useful for seeing how your site performs among different search results like image, mobile and video searches.

It seems in this instance that Google is trying to play catch up to Blekko but both companies have some fine tuning to do on their SEO reports features before they are fully functional. The new SEO reports does make Google a little more transparent which many feel they have been severely lacking for some time.

Once the rough spots are smoothed out with the new reports they will undoubtedly offer some very insight into how your site is performing but some very good insight into how the Google SERPs actual function in a reality.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:29 am on October 5, 2011

Categories:Analytics,Google

 

Early October SEO Shakeups at Google

New panda updates that target tag clouds and forum links? New paid adwords seems to be diminishing the quality of the free service? Landing page quality score improvements to be had with latest AdWords updates? What’s not changed over at Google this month?

Seeking change

Tag Clouds and Forum Links?

For some time now it’s been easy to add tag clouds to blogs and websites, most of them are even dynamically built so they reflect the ongoing topics of your pages, and the really clever ones make each keyword a link.

The result of all that effort leaves a typical tag cloud looks something like this:

.. and that’s a LOT of keywords + links for a crawler to ignore! Word from some of the worst hit sites seems to place a common factor on keyword clouds as the likely component that is now the target of this most recent Panda update over at Google. We’re a really aggressive source of content with a high level of trust, so I doubt one instance of using a tag cloud will tank our blog, but I did debate making the above example an image only.

Forum Links are Worth-Less?

One site that’s been taking a beating from Panda over and over again (eh! rocko!) is DaniWeb. They have been acting as a lightning rod during the storm of over 500 changes Google’s made this year alone to ranking algorithms. In a recent video post from the CEO and Founder of DaniWeb on WebProNews the topic of diminished return of value from forum posts begs for testing:
(Video removed – no longer available)

New AdWords Pro and Language improvements?

This is a topic we can’t just lump into a big multi-post and we know needs in-depth discussion. Many SEOs are discussing how the professional offerings from AdWords coincide with ‘improvements’ to the free service that have actually been viewed as setbacks by the users.

Right now we’re still working with the free version that all our clients are using, but I’d bet we’ll give the pro-service a trial by the years end and will have some input on how valuable we think the upgrade is. I doubt we’ll extract enough value to cover the monthly fees Google is currently asking for, but we would have to try it and see to be sure.

The recently improved AdWords language support means that targeted ads are improving the quality score of landing pages. This could be a bit of a change depending on where your competition is based. If you are a local US market you probably won’t see much if any competition change, but if you’re an international your customers for other countries could be looking at a fresh set of SERPs. As a result, SEOs, and people watching their stats closely would do well to note this factor.

Expect to hear more about these changes, and really any changes that effect SEO in a way that matters. It’s one thing to mention things as they happen it’s another situation entirely to have tested these things first hand and have intimate experience to share. Soon!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:41 pm on October 4, 2011


 

Why Article Spinning Has Spun its Last Spin

Anyone who has been involved with SEO for any time will undoubtedly be familiar, or know of article spinning. If not, article spinning is a "black hat" tactic where you write a single article and submit it to hundreds of article submissions sites.

article spinning toilet.jpg

Spinning software is typically used to spin the content of the article and replace specified keywords with synonyms but keeps about 90% of the content the same. Some spinner software employs automation functionality that can help bypass websites CAPTCHA codes to further streamline the submission of the spun articles. As with all grey or black hat tactics, sites may experience temporary gains in rankings or traffic, but it is only a matter of time before they incur the wrath of the Google Panda and are penalized.

Before the release of the Panda algorithm update at the beginning of 2011 and its subsequent updates, this was a widely used tactic amongst less-than-reputable SEOs and website owners as a method of garnering backlinks and rankings for their sites. This is now one of the worst tactics any legitimate website can utilize in the post-panda web. It is and one that gives the rest of the SEO industry a bad name.

Article spinning was a major contributing factor for inundating the SERPs with webspam with garbage and spammy search results. Not only did it make it difficult to conduct proper searches at the time, but it pushed legitimate search results further back in the SERPs making good results and sites hard to find.

Many site owners and SEOs used article spinning as an easy road to improve their rankings; and for a time they were very successful. However, one of the main prerogatives of Panda was to attack duplicate, low-value content and spun content on the web in an effort to clean up the SERPs from the garbage; and Panda has become exceedingly efficient in doing so. Even large corporations and many business leaders have incurred severe penalties by utilizing these practices. Panda forced websites to produce higher-quality, well written content for their readers and not for rankings per se.

Duplicate content is never useful. It is as useful as going to a library only to find that all the books are the same.
Syndicating the same duplicate, spun content repeatedly with the same anchor text sends up huge red flag to the search engines and informs them that you are trying to spam the system which will lead to substantial penalties.

It is vitally important to vary the keyword anchor text between every unique article that you write and syndicate. It is no longer worthwhile to submit your quality articles to hundreds of article sites. Choose no more than five of the most relevant, high trust sites to submit your article to as Google will only give credit to the first one it finds.

If you are still using these tactics and are using software to spin and distribute your content; stop. Now. There is no place for kind of low-quality, duplicate content in a post-Panda internet. Especially when there are so many other legitimate and organic tactics that will improve your rankings and drive traffic to your site.

Become an expert in your field and write for your audience. Use compelling subject matter and well written content to entice your readers to not only read what you write, but to keep them coming back for more. More importantly, create the type of content that your readers want to share with their friends and colleges.

Speak with your SEO Company for ideas on how to appeal to the market you are trying to reach and how to create the type of content that will keep your readers wanting more.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:23 pm on October 3, 2011


 

Google Screwed Up

When Google+ reared its neonatal head from the nether regions of mother Google, everyone danced around like a new dad on 18 cups of coffee.  There was excitement, wonder, curiosity and just a little bit of fear for what was to come.  And, just as every new father predicts their child will be a physicist or world-class athlete, the opinions on the future of Google+ began to fly all over the web.   Anyone with a respected author profile (or not) gave their predictions for the future, and was promptly smacked down by scores of commenters.  For every post outlining the reasons Google+ was a Twitter killer, there were three more predicting the demise of Facebook.  In hindsight, it all seems rather amusing.

It has been just three months since the plus was added on to the Google, and yet only recently have we begun to figure out the purpose behind it.  In the October 2011 issue of Wired magazine, Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz shines a 1000 watt floodlight on the grand purpose of Google+.  He says “…every single Google property acted like a separate company.  Due to the way we grew, through various acquisitions and the fierce independence of each division within Google, each product sort of veered off in its own direction.  But Google+ is Google itself.”  The devil himself probably heard every reader exclaim ‘oooohh NOW I get it…’.  Google+ IS Google, not the other way around.

The plus really does mean ‘in addition to’.  Google+ is intended as the new umbrella brand to all the other Google properties, and it wasn’t until someone actually put that into words that we all got it.  Which begs the question:  why didn’t we see that before?  Whose fault is it that web users and experts didn’t understand the gravity of the plus?

In the humble opinion of this wide-eyed writer, Google screwed up.  They supposedly have some of the brightest minds in the world running the treadmill for them, yet the marketing plan for the plus was vastly understated and misunderstood.  Now to be fair, maybe they didn’t know this was the plan and through the evolution of usage the plus evolved into something bigger with more potential than originally planned.  Or maybe they screwed up.

Of course the other side of the coin is that we, the users, saw the plus with blinders on.  Were we so used to pegging our social, professional  and personal online activities into separate holes that we didn’t consider everything could be under one brand?  Maybe that notion was a little too scary to consider.  Or Google screwed up.

Why does it matter?  Because if Google+ is their brand, then they have a mountain of work to do in the area of marketing and re-organization.  As Horowitz said in his Wired interview, all the Google properties acted separately past a certain point.  It doesn’t take an MBA to figure out that is probably the reason most products failed.  Now they will bring everything together under the plus and fortify the artillery.  Stay tuned, the next year is going to be exceedingly interesting when it comes to the plus.  If they don’t screw up again.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:17 pm on September 30, 2011

Categories:Google+

 

Blech to Blekko

One of the biggest SEO stirrings this morning is over the 30million that Yandex just invested in Blekko. If you haven’t heard of either one, don’t sweat it, my spell check is painting red squiggly lines under both of them too.

Blech to Blekko Search

Why so negative? Well Blekko is trying to ‘get started’ in a game that’s already been in play for some time. When you look at the competition’s investment in search engine work it’s a bit like France suddenly saying they’re ready to join WWII. In this case ‘better late than never’ really doesn’t fit the situation.

Why is a new contender such a bad idea? Take a moment to compare search results on Google, Bing, Blekko, and Yandex for a major site, something that’s been around for some time, had some serious competition and SEO efforts.

This site (Beanstalk) in particular is a great example, we’ve had thousands of our pages duplicated over the years, so try a search for ‘seo services’ or a keyword we really should be at the top of the rankings for. Blekko won’t show us in the top 20, heck even if you search for “beanstalk” we’re #4 because of ‘duplication’ penalties. To Blekko, crawling the web with fresh spiders, all the duplication looks the same, they can’t tell who owns the content or who published it first, they would have to use Google or some really well developed search engine to get that data.

The fact that Yandex’s CEO, Arkady Volozh, will be joining Blekko’s board is interesting. It’s notable because if Yandex could work out a deal to improve Blekko’s crawl data using the much better indexes over at Yandex, then they could make up for some lost time.

It’s not all bad over at Blekko, in fact it’s interesting to see what information they are sharing with searchers in an attempt to explain their anti-spam approach to search results. Have a look at the SEO link in any Blekko search result:

SEO Link on Blekko Search

Clicking that link will take you to a metrics page where Blekko seems to explain it’s result/ranking for that site. The tools they offer on these screens, including drilling down to backlinks by site, are fantastic:

SEO results for backlinks on Blekko Search

I’ve seen worse services from paid products pitched at professional SEOs!

If the crawl data wasn’t so poorly pulled together and had better history, it would be at the top of my list for SEO tools. It certainly is a great free way to see some SEO statistics from a fresh perspective, even if you can’t really get an accurate picture from the limited index.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:57 am on September 29, 2011


 

Blogging Trackbacks, Pingbacks & SEO

There seems to be a lot of confusion amongst newbie bloggers over the definition and use of trackbacks, pingbacks and how they can be used for SEO. If you have done any blogging before and have comments enabled, you probably realized very quickly that the amount of spam that comes from the comments of your post can be quite overwhelming.

bloghands.gif

Comments on blogs are often criticized as lacking authority, since anyone can post anything using any name they like and because there is no verification process available to ensure that the person is in fact who they claim to be.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks were implemented in an effort to provide some level of verification to blog commenting. Pingbacks and trackbacks use drastically different communication technologies (XML-RPC and HTTP POST, respectively).

Trackbacks

A Trackback shows an excerpt from an originating blog post and is editable by the trackback recipient. Trackbacks are an automated process of notifying a blog when you make a post that references it. By sending a trackback, you create a link back to your blog from the blog you are referencing. The trackback was designed to provide a method of notification between websites and a method of sharing comments on a person’s blog but having them show on your own blog as an excerpt for your readers to view.

Person A’s blog receives the trackback and displays it as a comment to the original post. This comment contains a link to Person B’s original post. The excerpt then acts as a teaser and encourages the reader of person A’s blog to go to the originating source of the post to read more.

Person B’s trackback to Person A’s blog generally gets posted along with all the comments. This means that Person A can edit the contents of the trackback on his own server, which means that the whole idea of “authenticity” isn’t really solved. Person A can only edit the contents of the trackback on his own site. He cannot edit the post on Person B’s site that sent the trackback.

When you want to use the trackback feature, you will need to use a special link provided on the blog you want to reference. Most trackback links appear just after the blog post content and before the comments and will sometimes appear as a plain text link.

Pingbacks

Pingbacks were introduced as a method to alleviate some of the issues that people found with trackbacks lacking authenticity. Pingbacks allow you to notify a blog of your entry just by posting its permalink directly in the content of your blog entry.

This leaves all editorial control over the posts exclusively with the author. This automatic verification process grants a level of authenticity which ultimately makes it more difficult to fake a pingback. No special Trackback link is necessary and the Pingbacks do not send any content. In order for Pingbacks to work, you must enable them within WordPress.

Some feel that trackbacks are superior because the readers of Person A’s blog can at least see some of what Person B has to say before deciding if they want to read more and follow the link to the orginal blog source. Others feel that pingbacks are superior as they create a verifiable connection between posts. Pingbacks are akin to having remote comments.

SEO

Many blogging platforms treat the links from trackbacks, pingbacks and comment as "nofollow" so that you do not lose any link-juice or other SEO "value" in using them. Other than the rare “diamond in the rough” link you might acquire from using these features, there is not much SEO value to Trackbacks or Pingbacks. However, it is possible that you may get some value from these tactics after linking to an authoritative site such as the Google Blog which may bring in a lot of traffic to your site.

It is good to link to others in your posts, but it does not mean you have to allow pingbacks or trackbacks. If you do decide to use these features, you should beware of sending both a trackback and a pingback. This creates two separate links on the blog you are referencing and could be considered spam. Of course you should only trackback or pingback if you actually reference the site you are sending the trackback to.

For further information, please refer to the online documentation from WordPress in their Introduction to Blogging.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:26 pm on September 28, 2011

Categories:SEO Tips

 

Google’s Sweet 13

Today is Google’s 13th Birthday! Woo! Lucky number 13 for those who are superstitious, and the day a boy becomes a man if you’re Jewish.

Custom designed Google birthday cake logo with 13 candles from Ryan Morben @ Beanstalk

For Google it’s just the official date they picked to mark the start of the company. As with most things that were born many times in concept and then in execution, the actual birthday of Google was debated:

  • Google began in Jan/1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new search engine BackRub
  • The final name, Google, originated from a misspelling of the word googol
  • Originally, Google ran under the Stanford University website, with the domain google.stanford.edu
  • The domain name for Google was registered on September 15, 1997
  • The company was incorporated on September 4, 1998

So why the official birthday is the 27th is a bit of a head-scratcher, and why some wanted Sept 14th as the official date, when the 15th was the date of registration, is another mystery.

Over the years there’s been a number of Google logos to celebrate the aging of service:

Google's 4th Birthday 4th Birthday – 2002
Google's 5th Birthday 5th Birthday – 2003
Google's 6th Birthday 6th Birthday – 2004
Google's 7th Birthday 7th Birthday – 2005
Google's 8th Birthday 8th Birthday – 2006
Google's 9th Birthday 9th Birthday – 2007
Google's 10th Birthday 10th Birthday – 2008
Google's 11th Birthday 11th Birthday – 2009
Google's 12th Birthday 12th Birthday – 2010
Google's 13th Birthday 13th Birthday – 2011

I was really enjoying the theme, and I don’t even get the 12th?

Yep it’s a slow news day for search engine related activity, but Dave’s over at the Expo so when he gets back expect some fresh topics and more focused in-depth content.

Update: Apparently Google’s mysterious selection of the 27th was actually a PR move to merge the date with a new larger index in a competitive move against Yahoo! You can read more about the official Google coporate history right here.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:34 am on September 27, 2011


 

Google announces rel=standout

I wouldn’t normally blog on a Monday, but everyone’s got the cold or is travelling, and Google just announced a very important new feature called rel=standout.

Google News supports rel=standout

The attribute works the same way as the other link rel attributes (like rel=nofollow):

  • The tag should be placed in the <head> section of the source code on the page
  • The syntax is <link rel=”standout” href=”URL”>

For example:

<link rel=”standout” href=”http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/google-announces-relstandout”>

You can use this on your own domain up to 7 times per week, but you can point to other domains as much as you’d like.

Google’s News service will consider this link as an indication of items that should be included in the ‘featured’ news feeds.

Some sites are also mentioning the importance of tying this in with the rel=canonical and rel=author tags for maximum SEO. Since this is a new feature and all these features require testing we’ll likely speak more on this later when we’ve had a chance to test things first-hand.

In the mean time, better start including the tag for maximum effect, at least 7 times per week.

(UPDATE: We have a lot of clients who use WordPress and they may want to know how we updated our blog so quickly. The patches we’ve applied to our blog require a plugin which we cannot endorse, and the code is very specific to our site, so it’s nothing we’d share in public. If the days pass and you don’t see a rel=standout solution for WordPress, or your blog, we can probably help but we’ll need to look at how your blog is setup to assist. I am working on a specific plugin solution for WordPress that applies the link to only ‘post’ headers, and only when a specific category/tag is used. If I get the kinks worked out it will be offered to all our WP enabled clients.)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:50 am on September 26, 2011


 

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