Guest Blogging Aint Dead Yet

Guest Blogging Is Not Dead

After Matt Cutts post about guest blogging sent a ripple through the webmaster community, I wanted to clear some of the smoke and explain why I think Matt Cutts is just trying to use scare tactics and discourage hard working SEOs.

Matt Cutts on guest blogging

As we say back home in North Carolina, If you believe this, I got some oceanfront property in Tennessee selling REAL cheap! If guest blogging hurts your rankings, that means every time someone else writes about you on their blog or site, they are actually hurting you and this just cannot be the case. It doesn’t take an SEO genius to be able to see that Google could never implement an algorithm that would effectively put a stop to guest posting.

Heres a Real World Example

When I was working at NYFA.edu I noticed hundreds of articles being written about our organization every week. Being one of the most famous film schools in the world with several thousand students and international locations, this is just bound to happen. I even set alerts to notify me of each one so I could track them down and make the most out of each posting and mention. That being said, according to Matt Cutts, this kind of activity should have killed our rankings!

guest-posting-seo-tips

How to Guest Blog Effectively

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts Guest Posting for SEO, you can be caught violating Googles link scheme guidelines via guest blogging and penalized! However, the trick is to not get caught so this means you have to do it in a way that looks natural and compliant.

Don’ts

Don’t send mass mailers– If reported as spam, it will raise red flags with Google. Manually write each email to be unique and customized to each outreach scenario.

Don’t ask– for links that pass PR in your email exchanges. That’s a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.

Don’t use EMAT– Using exact match anchor text is a thing of the past anyways and a clear signal of ranking manipulation. Less than 20% of your inbound links should contain EMAT.

Don’t post on crappy sites– Stay away from splogs, bad neighborhoods and spammy networks. Only do guest posting exchanges with high-quality relevant sites that will increase your credibility and authority not pull it down.

Don’t allow bad placement– Make sure your posts are not specifically marked as “guest post”, “sponsored post” or even put into a sponsored category or archive.

Don’t worry about even getting a link! Instead, a mention of your site or brand can be just as effective via citation building. You can also get great exposure and link juice from your Google Authorship account or from linking to your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts.

Dos

  • Think of legitimate ways to engage and collaborate with relevant sites.
  • Provide high quality content from authoritative Google Authorship accounts or known bloggers.
  • Pick up the phone or try to contact people on other networks such as Linkedin, Twitter, FB or even face to face within your business community. Relying solely on emails can be view as spam.

Matt Cutts on How to Identify Panda Penalty

Matt Cutts on how to identify Panda penalties

Matt still didn’t answer Nandita’s question in the video, How will a webmaster know if they are being affected by the Panda and I think that’s because the answer is, you will not know and you are not meant to know. Google doesn’t want to tell you the exact mechanisms of the algorithm. If your site is being affected by the Panda updates, you start by looking on-page at your site’s structure and content. The Penguin targeted off-page while the Panda focused only on your site’s on-page attributes.

To identify what Panda violations could be harming your site, you have to look at all aspects of the site to make sure it complies with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If your site isn’t ranking well, then the chances are you may have attributes or violations that are triggering the algorithms to affect your site negatively.

When trying to understand the Panda, I find its best to try to read between the lines of all Google documentation and Matt Cutts politically correct answers. It would take a small book to explain how to tell if your site is being affected by the Panda but I have given post panda tips and SEO trouble shooting instructions and here are a few Panda between-the-lines translations to get you started:

  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

Get Google Authorship or other high exposure bloggers and journalist to write your work.

  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

Avoid keyword cannibalization.

  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Display all logos and associations along with phone numbers and addresses that correlate with your local business listings.

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

Use correct grammar, spelling and a vocabulary above a 6th-grade level.

  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Avoid doorway pages that target similar longtail keywords of the same group.

  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Don’t copy or regurgitate other peoples content. Copyscape.com will get you and spinners don’t work either, the Panda is for too advanced for that.

  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

You must go above and beyond what else is posted out there. If you see a 500-word article on the same topic then you have to do a 750-word article and add more bells and whistles like I mentioned here on my post about Panda friendly articles.

  • How much quality control is done on content?

Keep a clean and organized site, instead of just having random content all over the place. It’s best to have 100 awesome pages than 1000 crappy pages.

  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?

Do in-depth research to cover all angles and even mention and link to other sources.

  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

Google gives more rankings to brands and established online businesses. You can also do high authority citations and even get your own Wikipedia page.

  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

Put the black-hat software away. Xrumer, SEnuke, and Scrapebox are all busted. Those days are long gone, Google started cracking down on that type of stuff two years before the Panda even came out but now its really over.

  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Get all the share buttons and APIs installed. Social media are more important now than ever before and the trend will continue. Google even integrated new social signal metrics in Analytics. Good content gets shared, liked, tweeted etc. I spend just as much time on social media as I do on link building and citations.

  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

Watch out for the page layout penalty.

SEO is Not an Art, it’s a Science

The Science of SEO

There’s a way of thinking that is counterproductive to solving SEO problems and it’s the old saying that SEO is an Art. Now, after 10 years of updates and algorithm changes, I have to digress because that way of thinking has to change.

Is SEO an Art?

In the early days of SEO, I was less experienced and less familiar with the actual mechanisms of how stuff worked. SEO was new and exciting but it was also was foggier and had lots of mystery surrounding it. Back then, one could make simple tweaks to their website’s code or text and get ranked but Google was just learning too, so they often made mistakes and found it hard to close the loopholes. But now, most of the kinks have been ironed out, enough to consider SEO a true science and here’s my explanation.

Science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning knowledge or to know something. The laws of science are simple, in order for something to be a fact it must be reproducible in a laboratory or a controlled test. Nowadays, SEO has evolved to the point where all occurrences and fluctuations can be analyzed with statistical data and tested to produce the same results time and time again. Matt Cutts and his team can measure the results at around 97% to 99% accuracy to the impact of billions of websites worldwide.  Just to give you a comparison, we are only about 99% sure the Atom really exists but they built the A-bomb.

seo-is-an-art

This is why when people use the expression SEO is an Art, I cringe! Worse yet, when I hear, there are different ways it could be done or there is more than one way to skin this cat.

The fact of the matter is that they are ALL mistaken. There is no more hocus pocus in SEO.  Instead, theres always a right and a wrong way to do things. The guidelines are clear as black and white and every action taken can either hurt or help your website. The effects can be measured and tested.Google brags that over 500 algorithms control the results and they are constantly being updated. There are testable, mathematical codes that are as accurate as quantum physics and therefore, factual and true. Sorry to disappoint the superstitious people of the world but SEO is a science and

Google brags that over 500 algorithms control the results and they are constantly being updated. There are testable, mathematical codes that are as accurate as quantum physics and therefore, factual and true. Sorry to disappoint the superstitious people of the world but SEO is a science and I’ve still yet to see an SEO problem that I couldn’t identify directly in either the Google Webmaster Guidelines, Google SEO starter guide and other Google resources.

Am I Wrong Here?

If you or anyone you know would like to call me out or challenge me on this statement, just send the domain name of the site and nothing more and I am sure to identify exactly which algorithms or Webmaster violations are affecting the site. One of my favorite things to do is solve SEO mysteries and I haven’t found one yet that I can’t figure out.

And remember, next time you hear, SEO is an Art it may be time to look for a certified consultant to come in and clear things up.

Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update

Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update

google-ad-layout-penalty

Matt Cutts has been in a telling mood! He made a post on Google Webmaster Central Blog titled Page Layout Algorithm Improvement where he said, sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. This is why the SEO community is calling this the Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update. Shortly after publishing his blog post, Cutts posted this tweet

Minor weather report: Update of goo.gl/OpIDL launching today. ~0.7% of English queries noticeably affected.

— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 9, 2012

What is the Page Layout Algo All About?

Basically, this means that websites that have too many ads, affiliate links, and even outbound links above the fold will be negativity by this update. The area above the fold of your website should be reserved for content and preferably the content that the user who landed on that page was looking for.

How to Recover if you Were Affected

Simple, just move your ads below the fold. It’s okay if you have 1 or 2 small ads up there but really you should put your content first and then place your ads toward the bottom of the page. You will probably have to sacrifice conversions because your ads will be less visible. That being said, Google also tracks page scrolling and will reward you if the user scrolls through the whole page so the object should be to give the user what they want above the fold and then entice them to scroll down to finish checking out the rest of the content and to check out your ads. This is a bit trickier for porn sites but I feel like this update will have a heavy impact on porn SEO.

Again, you should not have to remove all ads or outbound links that are above the fold just minimize them. Here’s what Matt Cutts said about this: This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree.

Google Algo Change Reduces Low Quality Exact Match Domains

Google Algo Change Reduces Low Quality Exact Match Domains

emd-google-algo-update

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team announced a new algorithm update that targets Exact Match Domains (EMDs). According to Cutts, this change will affect .06% of US based English search results.

Here are the two Tweets he sent out warning about it:

Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality exact-match domains in search results. — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012

———————————-

New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.

— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012

———————————-

In his tweet, Cutts used the words low-quality exact-match domains so this means if your EMD has good quality Panda-friendly content and Penguin-friendly links then don’t worry but if your EMD relies on the keywords being in the domain as a substitute for quality content, then you will more than likely be affected.

It’s not like Google is punishing EMDs instead, they are just enhancing the algorithms to remove the special privileges that EMDs have enjoyed. You used to be able to register an EMD and rank for that keyword even if the site is low quality but these days are now over.

Does This Mean EMDs Suck Now?

Not at all, it just means that having an EMD doesn’t guarantee rankings. You will now need to optimize your EMDs more and provide high-quality content just like any other domain.

Will This Affect The Value of EMDs?

Yes, they are now worth less money because they will require the same amount of optimization and effort as any other domain. The easy days of buying an EMD and ranking based on that alone are over.

Are EMDs Still Better?

Maybe even Matt Cutts himself couldn’t answer that question in absolutes but here’s my take on it. I say that they are still slightly better than a non-exact-match domain in this sense. Let’s say you have two exactly identical websites except that one is an EMD and the other is not. If all other factors were equal, then the EMD would surely outrank the non-EMD because they have just one more small factor. So EMDs are still good, they are not being punished, instead, they just aren’t being treated with the special privileges that they used to be treated with.

EMD Algorithm Update Recovery and Survival

All of my EMDs survived this update because I always posted Panda-friendly, only got Penguin-Friendly links and in addition, I think the social media integration helped to legitimize the sites as well. Things like a Youtube channel, Twitter account, and FB page helped to prevent the sites from being affected. One example is InvestinGreenEnergy.com still ranks where it did last month.

Hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the new algo updates and please let me know if I left anything out or if you have any questions or comments.

How to Recover from a Panda or Penguin Slap Down

google-penguin-updateUnfortunately, trying to get back on your feet after getting slapped down by the Panda or the more recent Penguin update, is not an easy task and almost always requires a complete remodeling of your entire website! This is mostly because the actions were taken were not manual, instead, they were caused when something triggered an algorithm alarm to devalue or remove your rankings and once that happens your site could get sucked into a black hole for a very long time or until you do something drastic to reset the algorithm. Ever since Google started rolling out their infamous Panda updates in February of 2011, site after site has been penalized and sometimes unjustly. SEOs and webmasters alike have been scrambling for answers.  In this article, I will be outlining instructions on how to recover from a Panda penalty along with actual case studies from other panda recovery stories.

First things first, before you can fix the problem you must identify the problem and this means you must diagnose the attributes that got you penalized in the first place. In doing so, you’ll need to find out if it was on-page or off-page. The earlier Panda updates only affected your site’s on-page attributes like content, internal link structure, and coding. That was until the Panda 3.5 update on April 19th, 2012 and the Penguin update on April 24th, 2012 that targeted off-page attributes like off-page content and external links. Identifying the culprit will require a deep investigation of your site’s content, code and your server configuration well as an in-depth look at the links that point to your site. Lastly, you will need to look at all the actions taken by all members of your team. This should have been tracked in a project management software and by making notes in your Google Analytics account. Identifying the problem is always the hardest part of the Panda recovery process and second opinions can be very helpful, this is why I offer a 150 point Panda Slap Analysis which takes 5 days to complete.

Now that you know what triggered Google’s algorithms to punish you, these are some of the most common practices used to recover from the Panda:

If Your Site Was Penalized for Having Copied or Low-Quality Content

Remove the content from your site or move it to another sub-directory with 301 redirects. On April 24th, the same day of the Penguin update, Google posted this guide on how to move your content. This is a very popular technique that I mentioned back in Oct. of 2011 in a post about the Panda 2.5 update. Alternative methods are changing your URL structure to force a re-indexing of the whole site at least to the URLs that lost ranking, not to the URLs that are still listed high in the SERPs.

If Your Site Was Penalized for Having Spammy Backlinks

Cancel your subscriptions to any and all link networks or link brokering sites. This especially applies to adult sites and Porn SEO.  Then work feverishly to try to build a solid foundation of white hat links to fill that empty void of links that were de-indexed. These must content based links which are considered Panda Friendly and can be very time-consuming.

Other Panda Recovery Tactics

The two Panda penalties I listed above are the most common but your site could have been slapped down for a number of different reasons so make sure you check through this list of other very helpful Panda rescue tactics.

  • Scale down on your ads
  • Hide affiliate links by using redirects in your .htaccess file
  • Integrate with social media YouTube, Plus and Blogspot, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest
  • Do more internal linking just like you see on Wikipedia.com
  • Clean up your code and optimize page load speed
  • Redesign your whole site
  • Enhance the user experience to increase stickiness and page views
  • Integrate rich snippets and microdata
  • Post regular content to the site

What Not to Do!

Do not file a reconsideration request! Firstly because Google only replies to manual penalties, not the penalties that result from an algo change. Secondly, because you most likely just be telling on yourself and fall victim to Googles Phishing Scam.

Do not use Matt Cutts Penguin tattle tale tool that he posted on Twitter or their Penguin Feedback form.

You can also use this list of past Panda updates to try to help you troubleshoot cause and effect of when your SERPs dropped.

Panda 3.5 on April 19th, 2012
Panda 3.4 on March 23rd, 2012
Panda 3.3 on about February 26th, 2012
Panda 3.2 on about January 15th, 2012
Panda 3.1 on November 18th, 2011
Panda 2.5.3 on October 19th, 2011
Panda 2.5.2 on October 13th, 2011
Panda 2.5.1 on October 9th, 2011
Panda 2.5 on September 28th, 2011
Panda 2.4 on August 15, 2011
Panda 2.3 on July 22nd, 2011
Panda 2.2 on June 18th or so.
Panda 2.1 on May 9th or so.
Panda 2.0 on April 11th or so.
Panda 1.0 on February 24th
In the end, if you are not 100% sure about your diagnosis or recovery, consult a real professional because you can easily make the problem worse.