Penguin Recovery Case Study I

dead-penguinPost-Penguin Update Case Study I: Is a spammy site outranking you while your site has been moved to page 5 or 6? Think it’s a Google error? Think it’s not fair? Well, the truth is that it may not seem fair but there turns out to be very valid reasons for Google to do this. There are no ghosts in the machine nor human error, instead, this annoying Penguin update seems to be functioning just as Google intended.

In an effort to better explain the new Penguin update, I am posting the results of my first Penguin Recovery Analysis from a colleague that lost almost 90% of his traffic. Two of his sites that were affected the most were pickuplinestouseongirls.info and cutepickuplines.info both of these sites were ranked #1 in Google and were receiving over 1000 clicks per day. Now they have been all but completely removed from Google and get around 100 clicks per day.

The Diagnosis, Panda or Penguin?

panda-or-penguinThe first step was to look at the traffic stats to see if the decline in traffic correlated with the Panda 3.5 update which was released on April 19th and 20th or if the decline happened on or around the April 25th release date of the Penguin update. In his case, the traffic actually increased between April 19th and April 24th and then on the 24th, it when from over 1000 clicks per day to around 10 clicks per day. This was obviously an effect of the Penguin update, an easy case to diagnose, however, complicated cases can easily be misdiagnosed and could require looking at other metrics.

Now that all the signs point to the Penguin being the culprit, I started looking at the backlinks that are pointing to these sites. This is because the Google Penguin update only targeted webspam which boils down to off-page SEO and link building practices, while the Panda 3.5 focuses more on the on-page SEO attributes of one’s site. I first did a Google search for “pick up lines to use on girls” and found www.pickuplinesgalore.com/cheesy.html ranked number one!

Initially, I was appalled to see this spammy site outranking my colleague’s site. I did a CopyScape check and I found that most of his content was copied and even poorly spun and identified on several other sites, the code is very unfriendly to the SEs like it was coded with Microsoft Frontpage back in the mid 90s, the site has too many ads above the fold, on top of that, it had only a handful of low quality backlinks. This site should be on the 10th page of Google or just de-indexed altogether. Just like what so many people are reporting, Google Penguin failed because now spammy sites outrank mine but on further inspection of the backlinks, via my favorite Backlink Explorer Tool, I started siding with Google on this one.

The Prognosis

penguin-prognosisPickuplinesgalore.com has very few links but they seem to be aged and for the most part look natural. My colleagues sites have thousands of backlinks. Unfortunately, I found many problems in his backlinks.

  • Multiple links from the same few sites. Too many links from one domain can look spammy and unnatural.
  • Site-wide links from other sites he owns. Links within the body of a page look more natural. When link building, especially stay away from blogroll and footer links.
  • Many links were reciprocal. It used to be that reciprocal links just canceled each other out but post Penguin, these are a clear sign of what Google considers to be a linking scheme and can hurt your site’s ability to rank.
  • Lacking anchor text diversity in the backlinks. 90% of the anchor text contained the exact same phrase and this makes it look like the result of an automated posting software or some other form of unnatural link building.

The Cure

Unfortunately, recovering from a Penguin slap down is not easy. Sometimes the best thing to do surprisingly is absolutely nothing; Just carry on with your regular publishing and make sure you don’t participate in any link schemes. Furthermore, do not participate in any communication with Google through a reconsideration request or their meaningless Penguin feedback form. They will not reply unless manual actions were taken and instead, Google just uses the data they collect to further damn you and other SEOs.

Always wait at least 1 week for Google’s algorithms to recalibrate before taking any drastic measures but after this grace period, the algos would have set in and will not correct themselves automatically. Of course in due time you may naturally recover by doing nothing but this could take a year or more for the algorithms to reset. This only works if you have time on your side and you do not rely on a steady cash-flow to keep your business going.

Otherwise, you try these actions to correct the errors and recover from the Penguin attack:

  • First, remove the spammy links.
  • If they came from 2.0 sites then log in and edit them or if it was from spun content, just delete the posts/articles and close the accounts.
  • If they were bought or traded, then contact the webmaster and ask for the link(s) to be move inside the <body> tag instead of in the header, sidebar, footer or blogroll.
  • Make sure to use a wide variety of keywords and employ synonyms in your anchor text.
  • If you cannot remove all your spammy links then you may need to change your URL structure without using 301 redirects to the new pages. This will effectively break all the links pointing to every page of your site except for the homepage and should only be used as a last measure.

If removing the spammy links doesn’t cause your site to bounce back then you may need to take more drastic measures to reset the algorithm or to completely re-index your site. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • First, try moving to a new host server or change your IP address.
  • If you didn’t already change your URL structure in the previous steps then try doing that now and this time you can use 301 redirects as long as the spammy backlinks were removed.
  • Change registration of the domain name and change the IP again to emulate the site being bought and sold.
  • Move your content to a new sub-directory or several sub-directories based on category, author or content matter.
  • Erase or rewrite all of the content on the site.
  • Hopefully, you won’t get this far but as a last ditch attempt, park the domain for a month of two and start all over from the drawing board. We’ve tested this and the site actually bounced back to regain most of its first page rankings. Domain history and authority was not lost.

In the end, this case study provides the opportunity to test and identify actual causes and effects of the new Penguin update. I will be posting the results of the recovery as soon as the corrections are made.

 

The Worlds First Adult Search Engine

It’s time we address the effectiveness of Google, Bing, and Yahoo’s effort to deliver high-quality adult search results. With the ever increasing pressures from internet censorship and the new .xxx domains, the future of adult content on the net is under attack! In this article I will discuss the following.

  • Adult contents online supply and demand
  • Internet censorship against adult sites
  • Adult Search Engine Reviews

Just How Popular is Adult Content on the Web?

There is an overwhelming demand for adult material on the internet. In fact, the world actually owes the porn industry for inventing E-commerce as the very first online credit card transaction was for pornographic content in the year 1995. In less than 1 month the same website was making over $200,000 per day and ended up processing around $1.5 billion dollars per year in their prime! Their story was beautifully illustrated in the Hollywood movie Middle Men.

The First Online Credit Card Transaction

This huge influx of business fueled one of the biggest gold rush of the information age. As a result, adult content still takes up an overwhelming majority of all content published on the internet today. Here are a few stats to check out:

  • More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month
  • Google’s Keyword Tool reports 618,213,105 searches per month for the word porn
  • Adult content takes in around $57 billion annually
  • Almost 1/3 of all search queries are for adult content
  • Over 1/3 of all internet downloads are for adult material
  • $3,075.64 per second is spent on online porn

Escort Search Engines

Companies like BackPage.com, Rotci.com, and Eros earn millions of dollars each year on escort traffic. But they have made it very easy to Find escorts in your city no matter where in the world you may be.

Google Crawls Facebook Comments

Google Announces That They Can Now Index Facebook Comments

Surprise, surprise, Google can now crawl JavaScript and AJAX based Facebook comments straight out of a <iFRAME> on your website. This means that finally comments being made using plugins like Disqus and Facebook Comments for WordPress are being crawled and indexed! The implications for this are massive. Not just for the ability to refresh your pages with user generated content, (which, Google loves, by the way.) but also because AJAX, JavaScript and <IFRAMES> have long been considered the dark abyss for Googlebots as it was unable to index the content within. The battle between search engines and SEOs will never be the same!

What Does Google’s Ability to Crawl FB Comments Mean for SEO?

Google inches even closer to running more of a Social Search Engine where SEO techniques should favor freshness, social media, Web2.0 and user generated content. Not only is it time to get more serious about social media integration with your own site but if you haven’t already, it’s high-time to get more aggressive practicing social media optimization techniques. SMO was always considered SEOs little sister but I have a feeling she might pack an increasingly strong punch as our search engines evolve to a hyper-social web. Most of the top optimizers in the industry already agree that social media optimization is a MUST in a post panda world. To sum it up in one sentence, Like is the new link.

The implications go far beyond social search. Being able to index AJAX, JavaScript and <IFRAMES> means that APIs and rich media integration across different websites just became search engine friendly. This could usher in a new era. What will we call it? Web2.1 lol.

SMO Outsourcing

social media optimization outsourcingSocial Media Optimization Outsourcing a.k.a. SMO Outsourcing makes the world of sense. The reason for this is because it’s just not feasible to pay American salaries to have an employee stumble around on his or her Facebook account all day but if the employee is based in Romania, India or the Philippines you can pay pennies on the dollar and actually make a nice return on your investment!

Everyone agrees that social media is where it’s at. You can thank Mark Zuckerburg, the world’s youngest billionaire because the average internet user spends most of their time on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, Blackplanet and yes even Myspace, which still brings some good link juice. That being said, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine how this can benefit your company.

Offshore SMO Outsourcing

While Google still gets more unique visitors per day, statistics show that people actually spend more time on Facebook than any other website on the web, overtaking Google for the first time in 2010. Now it’s time to put this into perspective. With social media comes social targeting and it’s just this way of thinking that got VCs to front hundreds of millions of dollars to help develop social media sites worldwide. See with social targeting you can easily identify and deliver content to a highly targeted audience and it even works for ultra specific niches.

Of course, if you are just selling online games then almost everyone is a target and Farmville is proof of that with over $300 million in annual revenues their first year. Another wide open target is muscle building products because you can target any male between the ages of 18 to 45 and see great results but how about something much more specific like b2b selling in an industry like insurance? That should be much harder, right?

WRONG, think again, SMO Outsourcing works for that too!

I have recently put this to the test by searching social media platforms to find professionals associated with the insurance industry. I easily found tens of thousands of professionals and ended up selling them insurance leads. No matter what your product or service is, SMO outsourcing can increase your revenues.

How to Outsource SMO Work

It’s a lot easier than you think. The reason is because in developing countries like India, Philippines, and Romania the younger, college-aged generation tends to be complete internet junkies, trying to reach out to the rest of the world via social media. You can go to any of these countries and it will be hard to find anyone between the ages of 18 to 25 that doesn’t already have a Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, or Hi5 account. This makes recruiting and training an SMO outsourcing team super easy because they are already familiar with the sites so all you have to do is channel their social media activities in the right direction.

I have been assembling and managing SMO outsourcing teams in Romania, India and the Philippines for years now and with great results. Some of my most recent social media campaigns resulted in hundreds of thousands of clicks to my customers’ sites and huge increases in revenues. To find out more about Social Media Marketing services or for a free consultation on SMO outsourcing, contact me directly by visiting my contact page.

Is Buying +1s Good for SEO?

+1-metricsThe Plus One service I utilize is listed here on my SEO software, Tools, and Services page. While waiting for your +1s to be delivered here’s a tried and tested guide on how to buy Plus Ones. The best way to find out the impact of a Plus One campaign is to take a look in the Google Webmaster Tools section called +1 Metrics. There you will find a glimpse of how Google collects +1 data and uses it to aid their search results.

There you will also find Search Impact, Activity and Audience and definitely check out the +1 Metrics FAQs too. Without getting too far into the explanation I can easily sum it up by saying Google’s Plus one algorithms include measuring the value of the +1 by the user’s activity.  In other words, if someone with a weak Google Plus profile pluses a page and then never comes back, it’s a very weak + but if the Google account they are Plus-ing from has many friends, followers, and activity and on top of that they continue to revisit the site, then it will boost your SERPs faster than links.

The best search engine algorithms are always the simplest. The +1 system isn’t 100% spam proof but they have found a simple way to combat it by using data that is hard to replicate or automate. In the beginning, Google floundered in the social search arena but this time they found a way to 1up (no pun intended) Bing’s social search.

Buy +1s From a Trusted Network

This being said, it looks like the best way to buy +1s is to make sure the network of Google accounts are PVA and not only look authentic but also have natural behavior in their Google Plus profile as well as other Google services. Here are a few tips of what a good +1 looks like. Many friends followers and recent posts on Plus and some have even suggested to setup blogger, Youtube, search history even email activity can build power and legitimacy to a Google account. As my colleague Dean put it, I want to get a lot of good followers on Plus that way it will increase my Plus power. I’d be a PR5 in the Plus world.

So is Buying Plus Ones Good or Bad for SEO?

buying goole plus 1sSure buying +1s can be great for SEO but only if they are coming from good Google accounts. If you are buying them from an exchange network, this will be easier to assure but if you are buying them from a company or some dude on a forum somewhere then make sure their network of Google accounts is worth a damn.

Tutorial On-page SEO Attributes

Just about every day I get asked how to Analyze On-page SEO Attributes so I figured to make things easier I would write this post in an effort to save time and breath. This is a comprehensive, super easy step-by-step, checklist of how to make sure your site is fully optimized. I am hoping that this page will serve as an On-page SEO Tutorial or at least a prerequisite to further conversations. That being said, not only have I written about it but you can also use this post as a shining example of a completely optimized page.

Keyword Research for On-page SEO Attributes

For starters, you need to pick your keywords. Use one keyword per page and when selecting the right keywords, compare the competition level with the number of monthly searches. You can use Google’s keyword tool for this. Find this tool here, keyword tool or by searching in Google, using the search term keyword tool. In case you haven’t noticed, the keywords that I have chosen for this post are On-page SEO Attributes.

Meta Content for On-page SEO Attributes

Now we have our keywords selected, here’s how we implement them.  Start adding On-page SEO Attributes by including the keywords in the page title, meta description, and tags. The title should be catchy, the description should be 250 characters and you should use around 3 to 5 tags and make sure they include the main keywords and that the other ones are relevant. Meta keyword tags are no longer read by Google but many of the other search engines still use them so you might as well include them. Lastly,  very important On-page SEO Attributes are to make sure that you do not have any duplicate tags anywhere within your site or you will see a warning in Googles Webmaster Tools telling you to uniqueify them(yes, uniqueify is a real word now).

Optimize Images for On-page SEO Attributes

Business Graph with arrow showing profits and gainsNext, upload an image or two and use the keyword as the image file name, image title, image description and most importantly the images alt text. Not only is this considered good bot food but you would also be surprised how many clicks you can get from having your image show up as the first result in Google’s image search. For an example of how I optimize images for On-page SEO Attributes, just check out this HTML image to the left. Even download this image so you can see the file name I gave it and the other attributes.

On-page SEO Attributes Keyword Density

keyword-density-visualization-sampleNow we are ready for the textual content, which is probably one of the most important On-page SEO Attributes and the HTML code that you use to format the text. Each page should have a minimum of 250 words but you should really try to at least write 500 words or more. Then make sure the keyword is mentioned around 2% of the time within the text so if you write 500 words then the keywords should be listed around 10 times. Any more than 2% and it will look very spammy in the eyes of Google, any less and the page may not be picked up by the bots at all. This is called keyword density. I like to use this online text analysis tool but when writing on my WordPress sites, I also use a cool little plugin called SEOpressor. It’s best to just write your article without thinking about the On-page SEO Attributes and after you have finished, just go back over it and squeeze the keywords in later.

After you have your article written and the keyword density at 2%, you are ready to make your keywords stand out more. You do this by adding the following formatting features. Mention the keyword in the first and last sentence of the page. Put the keyword inside h1, h2 and h3 tags. I went a little header tag crazy on this page as you can see if you view the source. The h stands for “header” which is just a type or text formatting that puts your headers in a larger font. The tag looks like this <h1>. Bold your keywords using the strong tag like this <strong>On-page SEO Attributes</strong>, don’t use <bold>! Next, underline and italicize a few of your keywords as I have done on this page.

HTML & CSS On-page SEO Attributes

back-to-the-CSS-photoAs for HTML, you can use this validation tool from W3C that will point out errors. Other than that, be sure to use <div>tags instead of tables <tb>. Tables are super old school and actually give the search engines trouble while trying to crawl and index the text within.

Next is the navigation. The bots should be able to follow your navigation so it can go to the other pages on your site but a lot of people make the mistake of creating a flash or java based navigation. The best and most crawlable solution is a pure CSS navigation using list items for all the links within. The list item tag looks like this <li>. W3C also has a sweet little validation tool for CSS so you should check that for errors as well. Another great tool that checks for clean CSS and much more On-page SEO Attributes is this Web Page Analysis tool. You want to keep the code light and clean to increase load time and crawlability.

Siloing On-page SEO Attributes

Siloing was first written about by another veteran SEO,  Bruce Clay, who claims this is one of the most important On-page SEO Attributes. You can read what he has to say about it in this article Bruce Clay Silicone but while his theory is widely respected, I personally don’t agree with everything he has to say about it. The On-page SEO Attributes of site siloing work like this. If you have a site that sells fruit, then keep all the content about apples on the apples page and all the oranges on the oranges page. You will never want to assign or optimize a page to fit into more than one category and furthermore, you don’t want to link these pages or categories together. Instead, if someone is on your apples page, then they should have to go back to the homepage to get to the oranges category. You can also prevent these silos from getting mixed up by using the controversial <nofollow> tag. This sounds simple enough but it is easy to get your sites silos mixed up.

URL Structuring for On-page SEO Attributes

Just look up in the address bar and notice that the keyword is also in my URL.  Don’t use capital letters, always separate words with the dash not underscores and especially not spaces. If you see a URL with a question mark or equals sign, it is what’s know as a query string URL which means that page doesn’t actually exist in a static form so every time someone goes to visit that page it must be generated on the fly aka dynamically. On-page SEO Attributes with URLs are critical. Since the content for this page dynamic and is actually stored in a database most search engines simply cannot index it and the ones that can index it like Google and Bing still have a hard time doing so.

On my next On-page SEO Attributes post, look out for more details on siloing, internal link structure and my new and exciting flash optimization techniques.