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Matt Cutts Answers “Will backlinks lose their importance in ranking?”

In the latest video published on Google’s Webmaster Help channel, Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) weighs in whether backlinks will lose their importance as a ranking metric in the near future. The answer? Ideally, overtime, yes.

While Mr. Cutts  states that links still have many years left in them,  Google has made no secret that quality content and resource creation will be the way of the future. There is no denying that backlinks will still hold value as a metric of measurement for quality resources, but as Google shifts focus towards furthering it’s ability in understanding conversational language in search we may see their influence take a back seat as a ranking factor.

Matt Cutts has stated:

“As we get better at understanding who wrote something and what the real meaning of that content is, inevitably over time, there will be little less emphasis on links. I would expect that for the next few years we will continue to use links to assess the basic reputation of pages and of sites.”

So while backlinks may be safe for now, it may be wise to begin investing in a good resource and content strategy that will encourage organic linking and set your business as a resource, before the hammer falls.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:30 pm on May 6, 2014

Categories:Google,link building


Matt Cutts: Link Building Is Not Dead

Alright, I completely skewed what Matt was actually saying but the conclusion is right.  In a video put out by Google Webmaster Help today he answered a very interesting question.  The question was, “Is there a version of Google that excludes backlinks as a ranking factor?”  Great question and it would be interesting to see what the results looked like.  Unfortunately there isn’t one, at least publicly.


Google does test this out internally and as it turns out the rankings are, as Matt puts it, “much much worse.”  He goes on to note that links add value to the results and while they have to combat spam in the area (Really?  I had no idea !) that the use of links as a ranking signal adds significant improvement to the way results are calculated.

So …

Let’s all keep in mind then that links are important and will continue to be into the foreseeable future.  As long as it adds value to the results and Google continues to become better and better at determining which links should and shouldn’t carry weight link building will continue to be a necessary and important part of SEO.

This is (as you can tell) a brief post but important for people to remember with all the talk about link building being dead, the rise of content marketing as sometimes the only focus of SEO and which strategies are under attack.  A good, ethical link development strategy is critical to rankings.  And that’s from the horses mouth. :)

Don’t believe me?  Here’s the video:

SEO news blog post by @ 11:56 am on February 19, 2014

Categories:link building


Now Think About What You’ve Done: Rap Genius Explains Itself

Last week we looked at Rap Genius’ phenomenally dumb SEO strategy which landed them with a smackdown Google penalty and virtually removed them from the search results. Now, after ten days, the website appears to have cleared the penalty, and are ranking for their own name (hey, it’s a start). They’ve also uploaded a lengthy blog post to come clean as to exactly where they began, and what went so wrong. It’s a classic tale of the young upstart, growing up from nothing, riding high on the waves of success, and then blowing it all on a stupid, lazy move because of a mistaken belief that the rules no longer applied.

In short, Rap Genius has lived a 10-day version of Wall Street, give or take a few Sheen family members.

SorryAs they explain on their website, the Rap Genius founders started out small and their attempts to reach out to major music sites had minimal success. But their innovative contribution-focused layout—which allows users to annotate any lyrics to add comments and explanations about what the lyric might mean—was a draw, and their early users often had music blogs of their own. As they began using Rap Genius as a resource, linking to track pages in their posts, the site saw some good growth and an increased social media presence. Bloggers linked to Rap Genius’ track pages, because they became the go-to source for good rap analysis; in return, Rap Genius linked and talked about the blogs that had become part of their everyday communication cycle.

Greed is Good?
Rap Genius has been in the headlines before, for both good and bad publicity. They began to collaborate with publications like The Atlantic and the Huffington Post—sometimes on a piece about using rap to teach science, and sometimes on the wild and controversial behavior of the site’s founders. All the while their blog network would link to Rap Genius—often in the context of their post, but occasionally a writer would include the links for a whole album at the bottom of a review. Rap Genius made it easy to do this by creating an embed function on their album pages, so that bloggers could instantly grab all the links to the tracks with a simple copy-paste.

But Rap Genius got greedy, and they began to promise to promote any blog whose owner linked to an album, regardless of the post’s content. And, to their credit, Rap Genius acknowledges that they were completely stupid about the system; “The dubious-sounding ‘Rap Genius blog affiliate program’, the self-parodic used car salesman tone of the email to John, the lack of any discretion in the targeting of a partner – this all looked really bad. And it was really bad: a lazy and likely ineffective ‘strategy’, so over-the-top in its obviousness that it was practically begging for a response from Google,” they say in their explanatory blog post.

The blog post also outlines (in a lot of detail) the method by which Rap Genius removed as many of the problematic links as possible; in the interest of total openness, it’s actually pretty nice to see them give some insight into their situation, realize that they broke the rules, and apologize to both Google and their fans. While getting a penalty is pretty humiliating, it’s always better to cop to it, fix it, and promise to do better in the future, rather than trying to dance around the issue or lay blame elsewhere. If you’re going to get caught, be honest about it; in the end, at least for me, Rap Genius looks a little bit smarter for how they responded, and hopefully they’ve learned their lesson.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:58 pm on January 7, 2014

Categories:link building,Rankings


Google Goes Network Hunting

Last week, I reported on Google’s takedown of AngloRank, a supposedly solid link network used by black hats to boost their sites. It was amusing to follow AngloRank’s sales thread on BlackHatWorld, because Matt Cutts’ proud Tweet announcing the torch was actually seen as free publicity and the network saw an increased interest in their packages.

Well, it seems that Google is making network-hunting into a bit of a sport; last Friday Cutts reported the takedown of another link network, This service was yet another “undetectable” link buying program; they offer “2 types of text links: Standard text links which display a simple text link of up to 30 characters and Content Links which display a text link and additional surrounding text of up to 120 characters.” You can also sign up to sell text links from your website, for which you will receive 50% of the revenue generated. Like AngloRank, if you work with white hat SEO tactics it’s a little bit of a shock to realize that these sorts of networks are still around—it’s sort of like seeing someone walking out of the Apple store using a first-generation brick-sized cell phone. has a far more professional-looking website than AngloRank, which seemed to do most of its advertising on the BlackHatWorld forums, where SEOs largely knew exactly what they were getting into. The network hasn’t commented on the penalty, and Search Engine Watch reports that, in fact, they started a promotion on the same day as Cutts’ tweet which offered 3x the number of links for the same price. Whether they’re desperately bailing out as much cash as possible or simply puffing out their chest in the face of a challenge is unknown.

duckdogsI headed over to the BHW forums to see what they thought of this latest takedown, and again the response surprised me; while I didn’t expect them to be mourning the loss of their links, they were quite critical of Matt Cutts for announcing the takedown with such pride; one user compared it to “a top cop reporting about petty theft. Just sad and disgraceful.” It’s quite the difference in impact between Google and the black hats; while the white hats celebrate another bad guy biting the dust, the black hats roll their eyes and complain—not that their link networks have disappeared, but that Google shouldn’t even be going after them in the first place because they should have bigger fish to fry. To them, Google is ruining a person’s business, and trying to win an endless game of cat-and-mouse. It’s not unlike the dog character in the classic NES game Duck Hunt, who pops up to giggle at you when you’ve missed a shot.

So, to reiterate, again: do not buy links from a network. Just don’t do it. AngloRank proudly reported a spike in sales after Google announced they’d caught them, and its owner claimed that a scant handful of sites had been penalized and that customers would not feel the impact; this week, the service has ceased taking orders from new clients, and many current users have reported getting penalty warnings from Google. The network’s claim that they were untraceable has been pretty well debunked by this point. Matt Cutts, cheeky as always, won’t confirm that Google is specifically going after link networks one by one, but now that two major services have been taken down in as many weeks it definitely seems like a pattern is emerging. But the question now remains: out of Google and the link networks, who represents the target shooter, and who is the dog who pops up to laugh in the face of a loaded gun?

SEO news blog post by @ 10:53 am on December 18, 2013


Google Busts Anglo Rank, Anglo Rank Keeps Trucking

On December 6, Google’s Matt Cuts sent out this cheeky tweet: “’There are absolutely NO footprints linking the websites together.’ Oh, Anglo Rank.” This was effectively an announcement that Google had busted the paid link service; when Search Engine Land’s EIC Matt McGee theorized that the network was “torched,” Cutts confirmed that Anglo Rank had indeed been penalized and that Webmaster Tools would be sending out a lot of penalty notifications in the near future. He also told Barry Schwartz that Anglo Rank was far from the only network that was being targeted by the latest raid and update.

This isn’t the first link network that Google has gone after in the past year, but they’ve been taking them down with greater speed and frequency as their algorithms increasingly demand high-quality, honest link strategies from sites in order to get them anywhere near the top 10. In contrast to all of the quality, content-focused work that we SEOs have been doing in the wake of Hummingbird, Anglo Rank’s listing on Black Hat World appears almost delightfully quaint; it promises English-language links from high-PR sites on top-level domains, and boasts that the network builds enough anchor and link diversity to ensure that Google won’t flag the links as spam. Cutts quoted a piece of their sales pitch in his tweet; Anglo Rank promised that there was no way that Google would see that you were participating in a linked network of sites. Clearly, that’s no longer the case.

What I find personally fascinating is that the report of Google’s bust has done anything but shut Anglo Rank down; its thread on the Black Hat World forums has reported Cutts’ tweet, but the requests for sample links and packaging prices have only increased as a result. The sellers have actually reassured interested webmasters that the network has barely been touched, and any attempts to warn potential new customers away have been met with hostility and accusations of being a Google spy.

It’s actually a little amazing to see the black hat side of this story; while most of us would assume that having a link network busted would result in a mild scramble to rework strategy, it seems that Anglo Rank is still running under business as usual, and webmasters see Cutts’ announcement as more of a challenge than a threat.

For dedicated black-hatters, things like this are just dust in the wind; it’s all a part of the game, and there are plenty more churn-and-burn sites and underground link purchase networks to exploit. But it’s also a potent reminder to everyone with a good website that they can’t afford to lose; never trust someone who promises quick results and bulk link quantities; while the black-hatters may know exactly what they’re doing, if you are their client then you may end up bearing the brunt of the penalty. Good SEO requires patience, hard work, and a lot of give-and-take; Anglo Rank isn’t the first network to get busted by Google, and it won’t be the last, but we are in the final days of these Wild West tactics and they are not going to produce good long-term results.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:59 pm on December 10, 2013

Categories:Google,link building


Dear Clients: Links Have Left the Building

I rarely mention my job title in my personal social media circles. This is for a few different reasons: first, if you say the letters ‘S’ ‘E’ and ‘O’ together, you are just asking to be followed, retweeted, replied to, and generally overwhelmed with auto-responses from eager SEOs who are just waiting to pounce on any mention of the industry. Second, it’s because I was originally hired to be a linkbuilder, and that’s not really the case anymore.

Elvis StampWith the Hummingbird algorithm swinging into its second month of life, we in the SEO industry have had to change – sometimes radically – the way we provide our services. It’s not entirely unprecedented; the Panda and Penguin updates killed a lot of the old bad mass linkbuilding tactics (thank you, Google). But a lot of clients are still thinking in terms of link quantity; there have been many times where our monthly updates to clients have been met with dismay from their end because we haven’t provided a quantifiable number of new links that month. But just ‘grabbing’ links is an exercise in futility in many cases, and the most successful campaigns are those in which the client embraces a more esoteric, long-term plan.

While you can try to keep up with hints dropped by Matt Cuts or analyses from the top search engine commentary websites, the jargon is enough to make your head spin. The crux of it all is this: when you come to an SEO, you are trying to solve a problem. You don’t have as much traffic as you’d like, so you enlist the aid of people who have a specific skill set in that area of communications and marketing. We want to show people that you are a fantastic resource to help them fill a gap in their life. You, as the business, have a solution; your potential customers need you to help solve a problem in their lives. Our role as marketers is to facilitate communication between the two parties, putting your name out there to new markets and ensuring that you stand out from the crowd.

For a long time, I feel like SEO stood apart from other marketing specialties because it required so many fiddly mathematical things – it was all about the number of links you got, their PageRank, their relevance, and how to mathematically game the system. With Google’s increasing restrictions on old-school SEO tactics, I think we still stand apart from the ad departments (a la Mad Men) and traditional marketing agencies, but for a different reason. The guys making billboards and TV commercials are still, mostly, relying on manipulation, clever psychological tricks, and memorable catch phrases. On the internet, people have the power to navigate away with nothing but a click, abandoning your business forever. We still want to accomplish the same goal: to get you in front of a larger audience of potential customers. But our tactics are no longer jargon-heavy and link-based; I find the most rewarding, refreshing campaigns are those where we assess your business’ strengths, build solid tools and resources to back those strengths, and approach the desired demographic with open palms and genuinely useful reasons for them to visit your website. No tricks, no gimmicks, no falsehoods. Links are still acquired, but the means by which we get them are much more based on the human connection.

Links were once a major metric by which we measured a site’s success; the right combination would result in high search engine positioning. However, the best tactics nowadays are more honest, long-term strategies, utilizing a business’s strength and going forth with honesty. It’s a brave, big new world, and it’s intimidating, but it’s also a lot of fun.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:08 am on October 31, 2013



Matt Cutts On Interlinking Domains

Matt Cutts put out a good video today answer the question from Kenichi Suzuki of Tokyo, Japan when he asks, “Suppose I have a site that covers fishing overall (A) & I make another fishing site that solely focuses on lure fishing (B). Does linking to A from B violate guidelines? I’ll make sure both have high quality content & I disclose that they’re both owned by me.”

Essentially the answer is what you’d expect, if there are only as many sites as you can count on one had, and if they are good quality and thematically related, then it makes sense.  Any more than that and it starts to look like a link network.

I know I’m going to use this video to reinforce to folks what I’d said before but without Matt’s voice behind it. :)

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the full video (a whopping 2 min 24 sec):

SEO news blog post by @ 10:44 am on April 24, 2013

Categories:link building


50% Off Best Of The Web

Best Of The Web, one of my personal favorite directories, is offering 50% off listings for today only (that’s Monday the 22nd of April).  To get the deal all you need to do is use the promo code PRO50 when you visit their site

Here are a couple reasons I’ve always liked BOTW as one of the very general directories I submit to:

  • They’ve been around for ages.  They started in 1994 making them the oldest decent directory on the web (even older than the Yahoo! Directory).
  • Over all those years they’ve held their PageRank and users’ respect.  No small feat these days.
  • They’ll say “no”.  If your site sucks, they’ll turn you down so make sure it’s decent before you submit.
  • They’re reasonably priced.  An annual listing is $149 and if you decide to pay their one-time fee it’s just $299.  Essentially, for the same price you’d get a year at Yahoo! you’ll get a permanent listing on BOTW (unless you take advantage of the 50% off in which case it’s half the price and still permanent.

And following my own lead, I’ve currently got one of our staff checking all our newer clients for listings and if they don’t have one yet, we’ll be submitting them today.  Hey, you can’t beat 50% off. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 9:08 am on April 22, 2013



International SEO

We’re all interested in expanding our marketshare.  For a lot of businesses with a solid SEO strategy and success that means either expanding into new marketing efforts or expanding your reach outside of your core market.  Yesterday on my weekly radio show Webcology on by co-host Jim Hedger and I decided to host a 2 hour special episode with some great guests on techniques for expanding your reach internationally.The show was divides into 2 episodes.  The first hour was spent discussing international SEO from the perspective of marketers located outside the US and the second hour we brought in some new guests to discuss the challenges from the perspective of marketers inside the US.  You can listen to both episodes below with a summary of the guests.

Episode One (SEO’s outside the US chat international SEO):

Guests – David Harry and Terry Van Horne from SEO Dojo, Mikkel DeMib Svendsen, Chris Adams from gShift Labs and Tony Hutchcroft from 1st On The List

Episode One

Episode Two (SEO’s within the US chat international SEO):

Guests – Aaron Aders from Relevance, Frank Watson from Kangamurra Media, Dave Snyder from Coypress and David Portney from Portent Interactive

Episode Two

It was a great show with some great guests and a couple heated debates (special thanks to Terry and Mikkel for that).  Enjoy.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:31 pm on April 19, 2013

Categories:link building,SEO Tips


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