Here’s How You Get Penalised By Google

We’ve been hearing news that a huge Penguin update on its way!  Alongside the expected Panda update, we’re heading for an important month in SEO.

For those people new to our SEO Liverpool blog, who don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about, here’s a little info…

From time to time, Google likes to update its algorithm (the process Google uses to rank websites). As more people report web-spam (websites/organisations that try to artificially fool Google), the responsible team at Google look at the common factors and alter the algorithm accordingly. It’s all about updating to improve search quality.

Penguin Updates

These updates target websites that use keyword stuffing, cloaking and most importantly Link schemes.

Panda Updates

This update has traditionally been about measures of quality, including design, trustworthiness, speed. Google’s new Panda machine-learning algorithm will look for similarities between websites people found to be high quality and low quality. It’s also thought to have a human side, meaning actual people rating aspects of websites.

Although you’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, sometime you can receive a penalty without trying to artificially game the system.

Here are some thoughts and questionable techniques that will/could earn you a penalty.

Thousands of rubbish Links

It really doesn’t take a genius to work out, if you go from zero to five thousand links in a week, you’re spamming (or you’re a viral genius). The simplest play for Google, is to look for unnatural link profiles, this leads to large scale link exchanges that will incur a penalty. If you’ve been in correspondence with an Indian web company who for $40 can get you ten thousand links (not only should you no better) you deserve to be penalised.

Hidden Links in Templates

We think that web companies who hide links in their clients websites, could soon be hit on this one. Time may also be up for the hidden link, one that isn’t seen and hides inside the template. If you’ve commissioned a website that has a link back to their site on each every page, could also see some sort of penalty. We think that the same tidy anchor text, saying Web Design Liverpool in the Root of 200, 30 page sites, will also cause you a headache.

Unrelated Languages

If you’ve got links from sites in foreign languages and their isn’t a reasonable explanation, you’ll be on the naughty list.

Not enough external links

If you don’t have enough external links, you no-follow or try to sculpt your PageRank, could mean you’re in trouble. The simplest explanation is, make the site look natural. One hundred links from PageRank Seven websites and not one from a zero or a one… smells funny. You’ll get hit with a penalty eventually.

Content that is low quality.

Poor text, do you have virtually the same page 30 times? Is their only a sentence on each page?. It’s simple, if a user wouldn’t find it useful, why would a search engine!

Site Adverts

Too many, not a good indicator of quality, especially if they’re just full of links to worthless affiliated websites. Google really, really wants to get rid of these sites from the top pages of its index.

These are just my thoughts on the next update….Good luck.

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Content Strategy…. What Should I Write About

If you’re an established SEO or if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll no doubt be aware that every website needs to satisfy the content freshness part of the Google algorithm. I say every site, but some business by their very nature already create reams of new content.

If you fall under this category, then congratulations! You’ll just need to make sure your new pages, products, video’s or documents are correctly indexed. The meta-data is up to specification and you’re not at the mercy of dynamic urls or pagination.

For the rest of us unlucky souls here at SEO Liverpool, we need to come up with ideas for a content strategy.

We hear this phrase rather a lot…

My business is so boring to most people outside our industry, no point in writing anything.

So what should you write about?

Firstly, stop thinking that people are going to read your content particularly your weekly blogs. The chances are, they won’t. At this stage you don’t need them too. What we’re saying is, you’re initially only trying to satisfy that part of the Google Algorithm.

Once you’ve an established readership, then you should worry more about what you’re writing.

Let your keywords do the talking.

e.g If your keyword research has thrown up the phrase ‘conveyor belting’ then you should write around that subject. It’s good for general SEO so you’ll be ticking more than one box.

This would seem like a difficult task, as surely everything that has ever been discussed, written or thought about could be placed on the 2 sheets of A4. This SEO agency Liverpool knows that you’d be wrong!

Firstly, their is nothing wrong with digging up bit’s of content that already contains the phrase. You can always re-write from a different perspective. You can always credit the original source. Why not write about certain machines that use the conveyor belts and their purpose.

Secondly,  Look for content that could become viral, or is at least important. Health and Safety laws, famous factory workers and top ten lists. These are generally your best bet for link-bait.

It’s important that you don’t devalue your brand, or say anything that is untrue or controversial but I encourage you to have fun with your blogs… you’ll get better traction.

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Google Help – Keyword Research On For Existing Sites Part 2

The second part of our SEO Liverpool blog on existing site keyword research. Have a look at part 1 before you go ahead with information contained in this post.

Creating The Definitive Keyword List

Firstly, all keyword lists are working documents! Your keyword list will give you Google search data based on the previous months searches, but is that the everything? What if you’re business is effected by a seasonal uplift or worse a downshift. You need to be aware of error margins, not just the ‘exact’ versus ‘broad match’ search. I’m thinking more about the dreaded vanity searches (People checking their own results in Google and therefore compromising data).

Tip 1Basically, you should revisit this as a working document every quarter and more so if your products or services are seasonal.

Secondly, from the previous keyword list, drill deep, pick up all the keywords based around the services or brand (you won’t need them all but you should have data on them).

Thirdly, break the list up dependent on search volume and prioritise it – I like to colour code. You should then have a list with the following columns….

  • Keyword – Your selected keyword
  • Local, National or Worldwide Searches  – Local has a geo-specific element, e.g. Liverpool. National is Google.co.uk properties.
  • Related Page  -  Insert the actual page URL to which the keyword is appropriate e.g. www.mysite/Camera
  • Blogs – How many internal blogposts have you placed this keyword in?
  • Links – How many links have you built using this keyword as anchor text (the actual keyword as a link)?

Choose 3 main keywords for each page of your site and two ancillary (keywords that will generate revenue and competition isn’t that high). If you have more then you need create different pages to reflect them.

Note… if you have lots of great keywords with good volumes, you need to have pages that relate to the product. If you don’t, you should build more webpages. Keywords need to be naturally reflected in the content!

Working example.

www.mysite/Camera -

  • buying cameras,
  • cheap cameras,
  • expensive cameras.

www.mysite/Camera/Cannon - 

  • Cannon cameras,
  • cheap Cannon cameras,
  • expensive Cannon cameras.

www.mysite/Camera/Cannon/DX432 - 

  • Cannon dx432,
  • Cheap DX432 camera,
  • DX432 camera accessories.

If you sell this product, have just one page, but have search data for lots of keywords that would generate sales… build more pages and incorporate them!

Recap

We now have our keyword list – prioritised by search volume, competitiveness and colour coded. This is broken down by product/service and the URL of your related webpage. Once you have this list you can create a competitor analysis. You’ll be able to gauge exactly who you’re competing against and if you’re smart, evaluate why they’re in the top positions and how you can overtake… but that’s for another post.

 

 

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Keyword Research For Existing Sites Part 1

In response to a recent enquiry we had through our SEO Liverpool blog, today we’re looking at keyword research for existing websites.

Keyword research is arguably the most appropriate starting point for any search engine marketing consultant. We know that our Keywords direct the searcher to the website, therefore our primary aim is to create a list of keywords that a searcher would desire.

So how should we start to generate the list…

Identify The Websites Key-pages

We need to find the appropriate pages that a searcher would need to make a conversion or buy a product or service. Obviously the home page should always be treated as a key-page. I would always choose individual product pages and probably add a ‘convincer’ to that list e.g. testimonials, case-study or accreditation page.

Rough Keyword List

For each page, you should write a quick list of potential keywords. It’s always good practice to ask potential or existing customers, especially those with different persona’s. Remember it’s just a rough list based around the products or services and possibly locations so you may need to be clear on Geo-specifics e.g. SEO Liverpool, Search Engine Optimisation Manchester.

Different persona’s look like this e.g. If I was to buy a camera, I’d know the brand name and some basic features, a professional or hobbyist would know more technical information such as model numbers.

Quick tip -  As a starting point find a competitors website, that ranks number well for your product or service. View their page source from your browser tab. Look for the keyword meta tag, as this should give you ideas relating to your keywords. As in the previous post, the title tag will have the most sought after keywords (shown at the top of the browser once you’ve opened the website).

<meta name=”keywords” content=”Sony Camera, Sony 4567×4, professional Sony camera cheap” />

Check Keyword Popularity

For this you’ll need either your own keyword software such as ‘Wordtracker’ or use the ‘free Adwords keyword tool’ (just type this into Google)

For the purpose of this post we’ll look at the free Adwords Tool.

  1. Insert your draft keywords into the ‘Word or Phrase’ box
  2. Un-check the following boxes, ‘Only show idea’s closely related to my search terms’ (This will generate other keywords that will be useful)
  3. Un-check ‘Broad’ under the ‘Match Types’ on the left hand side column (Otherwise you’ll include keywords, in any order and with extras – this is a problem)
  4. Check the ‘Exact’ box (Only shows the exact keywords in that order)
  5. Click the ‘Keyword ideas’ tab

You’ll then generate a list by selecting each keyword, which you can download.

Notes. high search volume and low competition is good, high search and high competition not so good. Keyword volumes under the ‘Local Monthly Search’ look at Google UK, but if you enter a Geo-specific, you’re laser targeting.

From this list we can generate suggestions and you’ll have the ability to drill down to find a lot more keywords around your products and services.

Export the results, arrange them in priority for each specific key-page. You’ll then have a solid draft list.

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The Law Of Diminishing Returns

90% Is Good Enough

I discussed this with a variety of SEO Liverpool clients, and in the past I’ve devoted entire talks on this topic. The focus is usually in relation to link-building vs. on-page SEO, but the message is the same.

What we’re discussing in this post is the need to get everything absolutely perfect and concentrating your efforts on a tactic that just isn’t worth the fuss of hitting 100%.  People naturally get comfortable with one aspect of the search marketing mix (link-building, on-page, social, etc.) and then want to ‘perfect’ it, but at best they hit diminishing returns fast.

Why focus your resources on attaining the last 10%, when you’ll get a much higher return by concentrating those efforts on other tactics that will provide much more SEO benefit.

I’ve seen sites with spotless on-page SEO that have been stuck for months suddenly leap through the rankings because they’ve acquired a few good links. On the flip-side, I’ve seen sites that were a total mess but had solid link profiles miraculously improve when their on-page problems were fixed.

We understand the perceived value that optimising each aspect of your SEO to 100% efficient, but often, you focus a vast proportion of your time on just one aspect. If the focus was to shift to another related to the central pillars of SEO, the rewards would be much greater.

Be Tough and Patient

Our SEO Agency Liverpool can only stress patience. This could be the toughest skill any good SEO eventually has to learn. There are times when you’ll need to react quickly to a problem, especially a technical problem (like a bad redirect or site outage). There’s a fine line between reacting and over-reacting, though.

The common technical SEO mistake we see is when organisations and SEO’s make a change, if it doesn’t immediately improve their rankings 24 hours later, and so they revert it or make another change on top of it. Even if it doesn’t make the problem worse (and it usually does), you’ll never be able to measure which change worked. Make sure your changes went live, that Google has acknowledged them (i.e. crawled and cached), and that you can measure the impact or lack of impact. Don’t change your strategy overnight based on bad information (or no information).

 

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Update Negative SEO Is Possible

At SEO Liverpool we’re always testing, reading blogs and talking with others inside our industry about current optimisation issues. In previous posts we’ve discussed negative SEO. To clarify what we mean by negative SEO, it isn’t devaluing your own site through black and grey hat techniques that end up with small penalties, which may affect your rankings. We’re discussing factors outside of your control that could get you de-listed.

Many years ago, I was made aware of certain techniques that a skilled SEO could use to actually ‘burn’ another site. It was possible to go against influence Google’s search algorithm by pretending to be part of a particular site and through various, difficult and laborious techniques actually get a site delisted from Google. This would take a very long-time and was extremely difficult, more so to hid your tracks. We would never do this and just to be really clear we’ve have never heard of anyone actually trying it.

Google has pretty much always denied this is a possibility and has stuck to the belief that search engine factors that are outside the website owners control, can’t harm you.

The recent update to webmaster tools with their link disavow tool suggests their stance has changed!

How about a theoretical example.

We have a webpage that competes pretty well on page one for a particular key-phrase lets say ‘Halloween Masks’

They’ve a good content strategy, and link building is continuing at a steady pace. They’ve a good mix of both semantically linked websites and personal blogs with low PageRank.

It seems to me, that if Google have created a tool where you can disavow any link, then some links are deemed to be detrimental to website health. Therefore, if a competitor contacts a disreputable link-building agency and asked to place a few thousand links from a disreputable sites, link-farms and porn-sites, using our desired keyword, then the site in question will be penalised. Eventually and with continual bad link partners this particular site would not only be penalised but also eventually be removed from the Google index.

This would happen quickly and without the knowledge of the website owner, particularly if they haven’t yet signed up to a webmaster tools account.

You will get a warnings for inappropriate links, but thousands pointing at your site, from poor value web properties and link-farms will surly harm you.

There you have it. As an SEO in Liverpool, we’re convinced that negative SEO through no action of your own is now possible.

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Google Updates & Help

Anybody involved in the SEO industry will know that the recent ever-present updates to the Google Algorithm have been thrown at us with ever increasing regularity.

Today we’re going to discuss two updates that I feel small white hat SEO’s may have had some trouble with.

We’re not taking about the very recent Penguin #3 — October 5, 2012 or the Panda #20 — September 27, 2012. We feel these have been sufficiently covered by the majority of blogs.

Today at SEO Liverpool we’re discussing;

Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update — September 27, 2012

Officially this relates to ‘a change in the way it was handling exact-match domains (EMDs). This led to large-scale devaluation, reducing the presence of EMDs by over 10%. Official word is that this change impacted 0.6% of queries (by volume)‘.

So if you’re domain name is the same as the major keywords you’ve been trying to rank for.

e.g. if your domain is ‘www.low-cost-insurance.com‘ and you wish to rank for ‘low cost insurance’… then you’ll lose some value. Not a huge amount but enough to lose a position or two dependent on the keywords competition.

Should I panic

Absolutely not, all these algorithm changes are not set in stone, quite often Google tweaks the algorithm or even totally reverses it. So please don’t try and change your domain name. You’ll lose the value of domain age and possibly the value of incoming links if not properly managed.

I’ve seen this happen!

What Should I Do

The answer is nothing. Any attempt to change will, without doubt cause you more harm than good. It’s swings and roundabouts with updates. The next could catapult you back to your previous positions. The best course of action is to concentrate on the fundamentals – More unique content, more links (Good Value) and Social. Think of the Google Algorithm as a score next to each individual aspect related to a webpage. That devaluation will, more often than not be pushed to another aspect or shared out amongst a group of others.

If you concentrate you’re efforts in content, social and links, then you’ll claw it back. If you choose these particular aspects then it is unlikely you’ll receive any penalties or devaluation in the near future. As I’ve stated above, this change could be reversed and then your hard work will certainly pay off.

Page Layout #2 — October 9, 2012

If you have been penalised with this one then you’re in trouble… ‘Google announced an update to its original page layout algorithm change back in January, which targeted pages with too many ads above the fold. It’s unclear whether this was an algorithm change or a Panda-style data refresh.’

If you understand the implications then it’s easy to understand the solution.

Why Have I Been Penalised?

Google generates the majority of its revenue in search via Pay-Per-Click. In order to generate PPC monies it’s search needs to be trusted. If organically your website ranks high and doesn’t show a good amount of useful content above the fold or a even small area e.g. http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/ then you’re not that useful. This is irrespective of what your site is about. Importantly if any website has sponsored links or even worse Ad-sense all over the valuable real-estate above the fold on the website… from the search engines perspective, you’re not useful.

What Can I Do

Personally, and I can only answer this personally, you need a website update. Get rid of ad-sense… I mean unless you’ve got a serious amount of traffic you can only be making pennies! Reorganise the site so you’ve good content in the key areas and look sensibly from a UX point of view at your offer. You can still keep them but place them down the page or on separate pages.

I don’t think Google will reverse this one, so make the changes quickly. 100% of nothing is still nothing, so if you reduce your advertising by 50% and get those top positions back you’ll still generate revenue.

Hope this helps

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