Trusted or Authority Sites – What are They?

Every month or so, Google quietly releases a blog post that outlines the updates they made to their various algorithms.  This month they rolled out a list of their June & July updates.  There was definitely a theme, the buzzwords were “High Quality Content” and “Trusted Sources.”

Now – how does Google find “High Quality Content?”  Honestly there are probably more ways than we’ll ever know, but what we DO know is that shares and links are an indicator. I think if we combine what they say about High Quality Content and Trusted Sources, we can extrapolate that “Shares of high quality content from trusted sources” are golden.

Identifying those trusted sources is tricky.  Trusted sites are Continue reading

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Every marketer who handles multiple aspects of online presence will tell you, we change gears so much, and have fingers in so many buckets, that having tools to help us monitor and keep track of campaigns is essential.  That being said, there are a ton of tools out there to choose from, and everyone has an opinion on what the best ones are.  I generally talk from experience when it comes to tool selection.  I don’t recommend that which I don’t use, and I am pretty picky about usability when it comes to software.

My favorites are the ones that I can figure out without reading a manual.  I’m terrible about instructions.  I want things to be intuitive and easy to use, so multi-step screens and

Continue reading

12 Steps to Great Press Release SEO & Usability

Are you writing regular press releases?  Are you hustling enough to have reason to write regular press releases?  Not only does a press release act as a great brand advocacy tool, if done correctly it can help you create some great SEO results as well.

Press Release Tips and Tricks

Optimizing your press release as you create it is an important step you cannot leave out.  Make sure your PR department is  talking with your online marketing department and either implemeting your Press Release SEO rules, or letting you touch the press release before it’s sent out.

Here are some rules for creating great SEO within your press releases Continue reading

Tracking PPC Traffic from Bing and Other Sources in Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics in conjunction with Google AdWords is a useful way to track visitor behavior beyond the click. But what about Bing/Yahoo PPC visitors? By default, Google Analytics tracks all Bing or Yahoo visitors, but does not discriminate between paid and organic visitors. If you want to track PPC visitors coming from Bing, you need to add some additional parameters to the landing page URL for the Google Analytics system to decode and track.

As an added bonus, this same technique can be used to track other advertising efforts (e.g. newsletters, site sponsorships, and banner advertising).

How to Track Bing PPC Visitors in Google Analytics
Tracking other PPC/CPM/Advertising campaigns requires setting a couple of additional Continue reading

Defined: A Healthy Link Profile

Since the penguin update of May 2012, I’ve gotten quite a few questions about links, specifically incoming links, and their quality, quantity, and acquisition.

Here’s the scoop – good links are earned, not bought, traded or given.  We need to change our thinking from a “linkbuilding” mentality to a mentality of “Engagement and Education.”   I think linkbuilding has completely changed, and we’re looking at a new era and set of definitions that surround the link.  Here’s what I think – stop linkbuilding.

Stop looking for link placements and start writing great content and building relationships.  

Be helpful, guest blog with relevant content, don’t make every link you get on a guest blog or traffic-driving directory say “spammy keyword phrase” and above all, if your website visitor would never click on it, need the content, or remotely care, don’t bother linking to it, or getting a link from it.

Here is what we look for when evaluating an incoming link profile and a healthy link building strategy. Continue reading

Competitor Comparisons – Metrics to Measure

We’ve all been in that situation; you know the one – the keyword that you just can’t seem to get ahead with. That competitor that should not outrank…and its driving you crazy.

It took me quite a long time to realize that chasing competitors can be a waste of time. There’s so much work to do to improve your own website – wasting energy on a competitor that dogs your every step takes time away from actions you can perform to increase your conversions and make their presence a non-issue. Constantly obsessing about a position that flip flops with someone else or where you can’t Continue reading

Save The Date: Google’s Juiced-Up Freshness In Rankings Underscore Dates, Too

Paying Attention To Page Dates for SEO? Dates and Freshness as Google Search Ranking Factors.Last week’s announcement that Google has tweaked algorithms to rank fresher content higher in many cases (purportedly 35%! more often) isn’t a complete surprise for those who follow SEM Clubhouse. I previously wrote some on how Google may rank pages with dates higher and many of us in the SEO field have already known that freshness is an important factor for blog posts, news articles, and some other types of content such as images. But this current announcement indicates that the search engine views recency to be more important for a wider variety of content and topics than it was previously.

So, what does this mean in terms of displaying dates on pages as I earlier explored? Does the recent algo tweaking change my earlier recommendation that displaying dates on webpages may help rankings?

As you may recall, Michael Gray and I differed on this point — he suggested that one should opt out of having dates on pages because Google displays them willy-nilly in snippets, and they may frequently prejudice users from clicking through if other content with more recent dates is available in the same search results page. In contrast, I argued that Google’s usability testing apparently found that users often prefer to see the dates in the SERP listing snippets, and that factoid makes it an element that Google’s algorithm might prefer slightly for ranking purposes. Even if the algorithm didn’t give advantage to pages with dates, their research indicates that it might still increase user CTR to the webpage, which can indirectly improve rankings over time. Both Michael and I provided caveats, however, and acknowledged that their are exception cases.

In that earlier post, I provided a decision matrix which I believe supports my general stance that having the dates is likely beneficial in more cases than not. In it, the green check marks are cases where having the date is probably advantageous, while the red exxes indicate cases where it might not be helpful: Continue reading

The Day We Closed Google: An Illustration Of The Problem With Crowd Sourced Edits

An interesting new Google Maps interface was found this past week by Daniel Hollerung, and after he tweeted Mike Blumenthal and I about it, Google Places confirmed it was an interface they are testing for verifying map accuracy. I’ve replicated an example of the interface using the listing for my friends over at Search Influence:

Google Map Correction Tool Interface

While this particular Google Places information accuracy widget is new, Google has long been leveraging similar user-generated content to try to enhance and grow map information. They have been actively crowd-sourcing map accuracy work for a while now, but it’s not without significant issues.

Obviously, one of the more serious issues involved is the fact that people will lie and cheat.

So, it’s no surprise that Google Maps help groups have instances reported where people suspect that their locations have been compromised some by malicious competitors, disgruntled former employees, or randomly psychotic customers. I’ve had clients and colleagues approach me with similar reports, and Mike Blumenthal has reported these types of stories as well.

Not only can some of the general public be expected to purposefully try to cause mischief, well-meaning people can also ignorantly make mistakes in commenting or reporting on data accuracy — just think of all the stories throughout popular culture of stereotyped representations of men who can’t find addresses while driving (and refuse to ask directions) or spatially-challenged women who can’t read maps. I’m not suggesting that these stereotypes are accurate representations of the sexes, but that the stories likely come from the fact that many people, regardless of sex, find navigation and map interpretation highly challenging.

So, there are some inherent problems with attempting to base a large percentage of location accuracy upon crowd sourced information.

What’s particularly concerning about Google’s methodology is that they’ve recently declared that they’ll sometimes use this data to override business owners’ disclosed information, or call into question accuracy in consumers’ minds. Blumenthal hilariously communicated the issue in his brother-in-law’s open letter response to the matter. An actively-engaged business owner may have gone in and verified that their address and map are correct in Google Places, but if a small handful of users claim the address is wrong, it can get incorrectly flagged as being a closed location, or that the address may be wrong — something which would clearly discourage potential customers from going to the business.

Mike organized a really humorous experiment to illustrate this issue when he asked a handful of us to go in and flag Google’s own corporate headquarters as “closed”. Continue reading

Mind Your P’s & Q’s In Quality To Avoid Google’s Panda Updates

Last week at the SMX East conference in New York, I both sat in on sessions concerned with Google’s Panda algorithm updates and spoke on one of them. One thing which really struck me is how extraordinarily unified fellow search marketing experts were about both the causes and solutions to sites which were impacted by Panda! Each marketer spoke about improving sites’ quality, usability, and overall user experience (“UX”).

Mind your Ps & Qs to Avoid the Panda Updates
Panda photo by J. Patrick Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0

For those of us who have been following Google’s evolution over time, the Panda updates actually weren’t all that surprising. For me, the emergence of Panda seemed very familiar, harkening back to perhaps as far back as 2006 when Google clamped down on affiliate sites. At that same time, Henk van Ess revealed how Google was hiring on temporary quality evaluation staff to rate search results. In Google internal documents which van Ess exposed, the evaluators were instructed to give poor ratings to spam content, porn ranking on inappropriate keyword phrases, and “thin affiliate content”. It became clear very quickly that the negative human ratings for “thin affiliate content” were related quite closely to the virtual penalization that many affiliate sites experienced at that time.

What Google was focusing upon in reducing the ratings of “thin affiliates” were instances where a search results page would be filled up with links to pages which all had virtually the same content, and where those pages often weren’t the final destinations of the people who landed upon them (obviously, with most affiliate sites one clicks-through to the actual retailer’s site where more information could be found and orders could be placed). From Google’s perspective, it was a poor user experience for there to be millions of pages indexed which had all essentially identical content and which often edged out other more-worthwhile pages which consumers might prefer.

From all of the information around the “Panda” Updates, it seems highly likely to me that Google is continuing to leverage their human quality evaluator staff, along with a number of other automated metrics which they could also incorporate in determining quality of pages. Continue reading