google authorship comeback

Is Google Authorship Coming Back?

I remember those days… the good ol’ days of G+ Authorship.

Your picture would show up next to your website/blog, if you set it up correctly, like mine did:

before google authorship change

 

A Little Google Authorship Background

google authorship comeback

Introduced in 2011, Google Authorship was a service that allowed for the connection of multiple pieces of content with a single author. The idea behind it was to provide a sort of scoring system by which authors could be ranked based on their authority and trust signals. This, in turn, would allow Google users to find content that had been written by the same writer and would help that writer establish legitimacy and credibility.

Although it was introduced as a shining star that would allow writers to stake claim to their own content, it was a short-lived affair. After an extensive series of changes, Google pulled Authorship support from its services in August 2014,, although it threw audiences a loop by telling them to keep Authorship source code alive.

That left many SEOs wondering if Authorship was coming back and, if so, when?

To answer that question, let’s take a look back at the past.

Why Google Authorship Died

When Google pulled support for Authorship, webmaster John Mueller stated that there were two main reasons that Authorship was chopped.

Those reasons were as follows:

  • Low adoption rates

To put this simply, people simply weren’t using Authorship. Google caught on to this the first year Authorship was launched and, by 2012, Google had made attempts at auto-attribution that would allow content to be attributed to its rightful author even if that author didn’t participate in the Authorship platform. Immediately thereafter, however, it became clear that mis-attribution had become a problem. It was such a problem, in fact, that the service attributed Truman Capote (then dead for 28 years) as the author of a New York Times article. Whoops!

  • Minimal value to users

In its original inception, Google Authorship didn’t perform and the Google team noticed that the service was producing little difference in click behavior on Authorship and non-Authorship pages. This, combined with the service’s mis-attribution problems, were enough to bury it in a shallow grave in 2014.

Is Google Authorship Coming Back?

Despite its original failings, Google seemed to have a soft spot for Authorship and the team provoked much curiosity when they killed Authorship but told audiences to leave the authorship source code live.

Some people, when asked if Google Authorship is coming back, would argue that Authorship never actually went away. Sure, the author images disappeared from the SERP’s but Google has never stopped their mission to interconnect information.

Since Google seems increasingly hesitant to confirm updates, however, it seems unlikely that they’re going to say anything definitive about Google Authorship until it’s here, or not.

Conclusion

The one thing we can say is that Google Authorship seemed like a promising service. Although it ran into its fair share of trouble in the beginning, it’s not impossible to imagine that the Google search team may choose to resuscitate the platform and use a renewed version of Authorship to do everything from determine author rank to displaying in depth articles in SERPs.

Until we receive further clarification from Google, though, all we can do is wait and wonder.

 

How to fix any Google penalty

The Basics Of How to Fix Any Google Penalty

It’s not surprising if you’ve encountered a Google penalty at some point, if you’re a website owner. Google only represents the most popular search engine in the world today.

On average, over 1.17 billion unique searchers use Google to find what they’re looking for on the net. And recently, Google has realized the need for streamlining the results it gives to users. This new user-centric program deals with helping users get more relevant results out of their search.

In order to do this, Google has started inspecting the things that make up a website and comparing them to what it considers a useful website.

How to fix any Google penalty

Here’s a complete guide.

Understanding Google Penalties: How To Fix Any Google Penalty

In keeping with the model that Google is aiming to perfect regarding relevancy of search results, a set of guidelines were given to webmasters for them to understand what Google looks for in order to rank a site well.

How Do They Happen?

Penalties occur when a webmaster ignores one or more of these guidelines, either willfully or inadvertently. If your site is hit with a penalty, it becomes quite obvious when you look at your recent web traffic. At one point you’ll see your web traffic decline.

What Makes Them Really Bad?

If the decline is significant enough then you may have a really big problem. This can put a damper on your lead generation and significantly curtail it. 57% of B2B marketers state that search results make up a majority of their leads, so you can see how damaging a penalty is to a site or domain.

The thing is, the penalties are supposed to be damaging. They’re aimed at managing and preventing abuse of resources while at the same time trying to keep website owners honest in their dealings with searchers. They try to balance searches to deliver the most relevant results but in order to do so they might hit sites that might be perfectly above board, except that they break one or two rules that Google has said delineates a site as good. It’s a matter of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it’s true, but until there’s a better, more efficient algorithm, it’s a chance the search engine giant is willing to take.

Hockey referree demonstrate boarding penalty. Ice rink on background

“Hold on there, sir, you got yourself a penalty.” – Google

Major Signs You Got Penalized

One of the key things you need to understand before we go any further is this: just because you had a decrease in traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that you were hit by a penalty. Many webmasters give in to their confirmation bias and jump to conclusions about their site being hit by Google for not conforming on some little detail when it really wasn’t Google’s fault at all that the numbers were just bad for one particular week due to some obscure technical detail such as:

  • issues with crawling
  • poor redirects
  • issues with the server
  • bad robots.txt configuration blocking access

These are a few of the more common reasons why a site’s traffic may be affected through non-Google means. Decrease in traffic is one of the ways you can tell that your site MAY have been hit with a penalty. Other telltale signs of a penalty occurring may be:

  • traffic drops on individual pages or regarding specific keywords
  • A significant number of your pages get de-indexed
  • Your entire site becomes de-indexed

There is no surefire way to tell if you’ve been hit with a penalty just from looking at your traffic. That’s why, to ensure that you’re dealing with a penalty, you need to employ other means.

Looking At Algorithmic & Manual Penalties

In the penalties category, Google can hit you with one of two types of penalties. Manual penalties are usually given if your site obviously operating as though it’s a suspicious site. They can curtail quite a lot of your traffic. Most webmasters won’t ever get hit with one of these, unless they’re knowingly doing something underhanded and get caught by Google. Algorithmic penalties come from algorithm updates. As Google upgrades its algorithm from version to version, some users get hit with a penalty if they don’t conform to what Google expects to see when it runs its algorithm on the site. Algorithmic penalties are much harder to find than manual penalties, and usually requires you to do a bit of digging.

Detecting Penalties

If you assume you have a penalty of some sort, the simplest method to figure out if it’s true is to log in to Google Search Console (which was formerly Webmaster Tools). Once there you can unroll your messages to see if Google detected something untoward about your website. Alternatively you can check the Search Traffic Heading under Manual Actions and you will see if you were hit with a manual penalty.

Algorithmic penalties are a bit harder to put your finger on. There’s no flagged message or heads-up in any console screen that tells you that you’ve been penalized by the algorithm. One of the more effective methods of testing to see if your site was hit by an algorithmic penalty is to determine when your traffic dropped and manually determine if any important Google update occurred on or near that date to mess with your traffic. The Penguin Tool is an automatic method of doing that that saves you time in the long run. It is also important to remember that this is not a 100% effective method of determining if you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, but only serves as a rough guideline.

Understanding the 5 Major Google Penalties

There are quite a large range of penalties that Google can possibly hit you with. These include, but are not limited to penalties that deal with spam, weak content, backlinks and a hundred other small algorithmic updates that can affect your traffic to varying amounts. The most common penalties you’re going to encounter can be classified into a few major categories such as:

1. Unnatural links: Unnatural links come in one of two flavors:

  • Links To your Site: These links originate outside of your domain and direct traffic to your site. Google sees this as suspicious and although it doesn’t actually affect your search results, it might raise questions as to why shady sites are linking to you. If there is a large enough volume of these links then it will force Google to change your site’s profile to “untrusted” because of the nature of these links.
  • Links from your Site: Outgoing links from your site that head to suspicious locations or spam sites can get you hit with a penalty. Be careful of where you’re linking to and how you’re linking to them.

2. Thin or Duplicate Content: We already know that Google penalizes content that it deems to be duplicate of existing content. The exact statement Google gives to sites that have thin or duplicated content is that the site has “little or no added value”. Google’s aim is to be user centric and part of delivering this promise top users is to make sure the pages that it gives them is unique and helps the user answer their problem. Penalties for this problem may vary depending on how much of the content on the page can be termed valueless.

3. Spam: Spam is a wide category. It encompasses everything from automatically generated and/or “spun” content to malicious cloaking and scripting that run automatically from sites and could possibly harm your computer. Penalties such as “User generated Spam” can be tracked down to spam in comments sections and can be cleaned up easily, although this process may be time consuming. The “Spammy Freehost” penalty comes from an entire web domain being penalized because a large number of spam sites and mirrors are hosted on their free domain. It’s less likely you’ll get a problem like this if you had your own domain.

4. The Panda Algorithm: In 2011, Google made waves with the Panda algorithm, effectively shutting down a number of sites that relied on keyword stuffing and other underhanded SEO methods to increase their page rank without actually providing value to the searcher. Panda updates about once a month and deals with the quality of content on a site. What Panda does that is a bit illogical is penalize the entire site for problems on one particular page. All your pages must conform to Panda or else your entire site may suffer. Painting with this wide brush does manage to cause some problems in the long run for website owners.

5. The Penguin Algorithm: Another algorithm developed by Google, this one focuses on the quality of a site’s backlinks and will penalize you based on the quality, diversity and amount of links that exist within your site. First released in 2012, it formed a deadly tag-team combination with Panda, hitting low-quality sites hard and putting many of them out of business. Penguin is a bit more discerning than Panda, as it is page-specific and will give you penalties based on a page’s backlinks, not the entire site’s backlink information. Penguin usually takes a couple weeks to run, so after an update it may be quite a while before the algorithm gets around to running on your site and penalizing you for infractions.

Ready to make a hole-in-one with Google? Let's fix your penalty.

This is how you’ll feel when you fix your penalty.

Fixing the 5 Major Google Penalties

So now we’re aware of the penalties that may or may not face our site, what do we do about it? Well, there’s a number of actions we can take in order to fix these problems and ensure that they don’t come back. In a logical fashion, here’s how we go about dealing with the penalties that Google saddled us with.

1. Unnatural Links: Unnatural links incoming to your site is one of those penalties that is horribly time consuming to deal with. If you want to get rid of that penalty and regain your traffic, however, it needs to be done. It is possible to catch many of them from SC, if you want a complete list you’re going to have to employ tools like Ahrefs or Majestic. If you’re trying to fix a manual penalty, a complete list is a must.

After getting that list of links, you can then export them for use in a link checker tool such as Linkquidator or Link Detox. These methods are not cheap, but considering the volume of traffic you’ve lost, they’re worth it. After you determine which links need to be removed, the next step is getting rid of them. If you own the linking site it’s simple. Most times you won’t own the site and need to track down the owner and ask them (politely of course) to remove your link on their site. If all else fails and the links aren’t removed you can submit a disavow file to Google which will inform them that you have no control over those links and that their future checks should ignore them.

2. Thin or Duplicate Content: The best way to deal with this is to do a content audit and get rid of all duplicate content on your site. After the duplicate content is removed you can deal with crafting content that is much more substantial and adds value to your site. You don’t have to remove all your thin content pieces, some can be easily reworked either by yourself or by a professional content creation company.

3. Spam: Fixing a “Spammy Freehost” requires you moving your domain. Paid domains are the best option, but not everyone can afford to maintain a website. If you can’t, then try to find a free host that doesn’t allow spam blogs on their server since this will affect your website’s search results in the long run.

4. Panda Penalties: Panda penalties can be fixed in much the same way that a duplicate/thin manual penalty can be fixed. You need to audit your site to figure out where the fixes need to take place. Content removal is optional in some cases (where rewrites are a viable solution). Do not become attached to weak or thin content however. If you need to throw out a piece because it brings down the quality of your whole site then so be it.

5. Penguin Penalties: Penguin looks at backlinks, so performing the same sort of checks on your links that you would do for a manual “Unnatural links” penalty should be done to deal with a Penguin penalty. If you purchased links in the past or were the victim of a hack, then Penguin will penalize your site and there’s nothing you can do about it. Probably the best way to deal with a penguin penalty is to attract more high quality backlinks to balance out the low-quality links you already have on your site. Links tend to decay with time so eventually those low quality links will pass out of rotation. High quality links are the currency Penguin deals in and the more of those you have, the less notice Penguin will take of you.

Reconsideration & Avoiding Repeating The Offenses

After you fix a manual penalty, you can ask for a reconsideration from Google. This will inform them that you think you’ve taken sufficient action for your site to conform to Google’s standards and would like them to reconsider your site to remove the penalty. It can be found in SC, under Search Traffic -> Manual Actions -> Request a Review. In the email-layout box that follows, outline how you fixed your problem and how you’ll prevent it from happening again.

Preventing a penalty from happening again is the most important thing that you can do from a webmaster’s viewpoint. Keep your content of a high enough quality, your backlinks above board and your SEO up to date.

Don’t be afraid to audit regularly in order to weed out bad or thin/duplicate content.

All of these things are minor annoyances, but they add up to keeping your site in Google’s good graces and at the end of the day that’s where your leads come from. It’s best to keep them satisfied for now.

Yep, even Google is hiring for an SEO expert to help them with their own rankings. No, that's not ironic...at all...

Google Needs an SEO Guy! How Even Google Struggles With Ranking

It might seem impossible that Google, the king of SEO, needs help with SEO or that Google needs an SEO guy at all. But, according to a recent posting on the Google Careers job board – it’s true. The job board calls for an SEO project manager and describes the job like this:

“As a Program Manager for Technical SEO, you will work with cross-functional teams across Marketing, Sales, Product Development, Engineering and more to help drive organic traffic and business growth. You will take part in website development and optimization, help shape blog and social strategy, improve website code hygiene and define web architecture for international websites.” (Source: google.com/about/careers/search#!t=jo&jid=120105001)

Yep, even Google is hiring for an SEO expert to help them with their own rankings. No, that's not ironic...at all...

Yes, even Google is hiring for an SEO expert to help them with their own rankings. No, that’s not ironic…at all…

Google Needs An SEO Guy: Why Even Google Needs Help

Regardless of whether you run the system or not, the process of increasing organic traffic is tough. Google’s lucky new SEO will be responsible for everything from developing web code to advising, collaborating with and synthesizing feedback from departments like Product and Engineering and Marketing.

Although Google employs a large team of technical developers, designers, writers and engineers, it is possible that the addition of a new SEO would indicate that, in a sea of content, Google has trouble standing out – just like everyone else.

For years, Google has been a business shrouded in mystery and intrigue – it seems larger than life, its updates are secretive and it seems to literally rule the Internet. This job posting, however, may provide a well-qualified SEO with a look behind the curtain.

What the New SEO Will Need to Qualify for the Job

It’s fair to say that whoever eventually fills this job description will be the envy of many SEO’s across the web. Being the SEO guy for Google is a little bit like being a member of the Kardashian’s camera crew – it’s an exciting role that offers plenty of behind-the-scenes intel and a fair amount of excitement. In order to be that lucky SEO, though, you’ll need the following qualifications:

  • BA/BS degree in Computer Science, Engineering or equivalent life experience.
  • 4 years of experience developing websites and applications with applications and software such as SQL, HTML5, and XML.
  • At least 2 years SEO experience.
  • Experience working with Google App Engine, Google Custom Search, Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.
  • Experience creating and maintaining project schedules and extensive experience utilizing tools within project management systems.

How the New SEO Will Boost Google’s Rankings

Even if you are Google, there are no free lunches in terms of SEO.

In order to boost the company’s rankings and drive more organic traffic, Google’s SEO will have to focus on content rather than simply relying on technical SEO.

In addition to being vastly more evergreen than technical SEO, content is the #1 ranking factor these days and is the only sure way for a company, any company, to boost its rankings.

Although SEO is and will always be an important factor to understanding rankings and boosting a site’s position in the indexes, it’s clear that Google’s new SEO will have to focus on a bit more than SEO alone.

Why Content is King

Not much has changed since Bill Gates used the term “content is king” way back in 1996 and, today, it rings as true as ever. Cliché though it might be, content is king, and there’s really no way to get around that in the world of rankings.

While SEO is a pivotal piece of the structure that creates great rankings and high-quality, high DA websites, content is the crème de la crème of digital marketing, far beyond technical SEO.

The reason for this is that content is essentially the only thing that deems a page worthy of a search engine result. Keep in mind that it would, of course, be almost impossible to rank a blank page with SEO alone. That said, creating great content is integral for any company that wants to boost rankings in the long-term.

Content Meets Consumer Demand

Content is a product and it meets the consumer demand for information. Great content will quickly be passed around the web in order to satisfy the demand of a certain community of consumers and will be the subject of potentially infinite links and backlinks.

There is a huge abundance of content on the web and, in every niche far and wide, there is great content and there is poor content. The difference between the two is that great content satisfies a thirst while poor content simply clogs SEO indexes with badly written junk.

Great Content Provides Links

One of the most important purposes great content plays in creating natural traffic is driving links. Great content is optimized for linking and will quickly be shared across the web, driving traffic back to the home site and boosting its rankings in Google.

Regardless of what Google’s new SEO does, it is obvious that organic traffic comes, first and foremost, from content and all the technical SEO in the world isn’t worth much if there is not a great platform of content from which to spring.

A Suggested SEO Strategy for Google In 3 Steps

To give Google’s new SEO a leg-up, we’ve laid out a simple SEO strategy that helps drive organic traffic and boost ranking:

1) Begin With a Site Audit: Site audits are an important tool for anyone who wants to rank in search engines. Many sites have duplicate content hanging around that may damage rankings and even Google isn’t immune. Cleaning this up will go a long way toward producing better rankings and driving more traffic.

2) Conduct Some Keyword Research: Determine what keywords to start using and working into the new content you’re going to create. Keywords are a large factor in overall rankings and can help a page show up in Google’s indexes according to search terms and links.

3) Start Blogging and Creating Original Content: Remember – there are no free lunches and content is king. Start blogging and creating great, linkable, shareable original content and you will go far.

Creating organic traffic and ranking well is a process for any website and even giants like Google aren’t immune.

For now the SEO job position is still open but we trust that, once Google finds that special someone, the new SEO will spend a great deal of time focusing on content rather than technical SEO. As always, we wish them well.

google quality update

Google’s Phantom Update is the Quality Update: No More Thin Content, Quora Quality & More

Remember earlier this year when Google once again shook up content ranking as we knew it with some mysterious update they wouldn’t even admit to? Now it has a more official name, and we have a lot more information.

The Google Quality Update: Formerly Known as Phantom

Out of the blue last May, sites suddenly started seeing mysterious drops in their Google rankings. This was especially true for how to and hub based sites.

Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but they knew it was clear, despite Google’s denial of its existence, that Google must have once again changed up its algorithm. Since it had no other name and had appeared out of seemingly nowhere, it was coined the phantom update.

Since that time, Google has admitted that it did make a change, and we have learned more information about what happened and what it means for content marketing.

Because the change is no longer cloaked in as much mystery, Search Engine Land coined a better name for it: the Google Quality Update.

Search Engine Land’s Vigilance

Search Engine Land, the leading daily publication on all things search marketing, has been on top of Google about this update. When it was first reported, they got in contact with the search engine giant and asked if there had been an update. Google denied it.

After continued requests for information, they finally got an answer. There had been an update to the algorithm. But they were quick to point out that it was not a spam-related update, such as Panda and Penguin. Instead, it was a change to the core algorithm.

No matter how you word it, though, there was an update, and it has made obvious changes to page ranking.

What the Google Quality Update Is

While more information is now known, there is still a lot that needs to be determined. Right now, it is unclear just what the quality update has done.

When it was first examined as the phantom update, the trend seemed to be that whatever had been done hub-type pages, such as HubPages, and how to sites, such as WikiHow, were being hurt the most.

There were many theories about why this was. One was that Google had decided to disfavor sites of this nature. However, that was soon turned with the realization that this was a domain change instead of a page change meaning that the updated algorithm looks at the site as a whole instead of at each individual page.

Google was punishing sites with poorer quality content by lowering their rankings across all content on the site, even good pieces. In other words, it didn’t matter that you also created great content if you still had poor content on your site.

It was affecting how to and informational type content because many such sites, while offering a lot of great content, also tend to have lesser value stuff. But the update was not designed necessarily with them in mind.

The update is intended to rank any site with poorer quality content lower as opposed to just the sites it has most obviously affected.

The Knowledge Graph

Furthermore, as Ari Levy pointed out in his CNBC article, how to sites are also being affected because of Google’s new search display. If you search for “How to … “ the information will generally appear on the top of the page though it is the content of another site.

For example, if you Google “how to boil eggs,” which was the first thing to pop up when I Googled “how to,” you will immediately see directions that have been taken from Martha Stewart.

google how to

Similarly, if you ask a question or search for anything with information housed in Google’s knowledge base, it should pop up at the top of the research. This is all part of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which was first released in 2012.

This system is intended to save users a step in the search process. Instead of cutting out the middle man, though, which in this case would have been Google itself, it opted to turn the middle man into the source of information.

While this is useful to users, it is not as useful to owners of the information. Since this means that people less often need to click on the actual website, it also results in lower traffic on these sites. In combination with the other updates, the results can be brutal.

Quora & The Quality Update

Now that we know a little bit about this new update, let’s look at how it affects sites such as Quora.

What Is Quora?

Quora is a question and answer site where users may ask a question and, as you might have guessed, get an answer. The idea behind this site is that people not only get answers to their questions, but that the answers come from vetted, knowledgeable users.

It allows users to pick the topics they are interested in and those topics show up in the users feed.

quora main

The Effects of the Quality Update

Because of the type of information found on Quora, which is “how to” in nature, you would think that it would be negatively affected based off of the update. However, instead of falling in the rankings, Quora actually jumped.

What sets it apart from other, seemingly similar sites? As Contently points out, a big reason for the jump is that Quora consistently enforces high quality standards.

Google does not like content that is self-promotional or generic. It wants to promote detailed content that actually adds value to the searcher. And Quora is clearly doing a good job with this.

The site works through an upvote system wherein readers vote for helpful answers. Some answers, like this one on “Overcoming Procrastination: How do I get over my bad habit of procrastination?” have received over 30,000 upvotes alone.

site works

Since an upvote tends to mean that an article has been well-received, it goes to show that the site is a good source of content that adds value to the searcher, which is what Google wants.

The Next Steps

While we do not know everything about the way the Google Quality Update works, there is a lot that we do know. For instance, take a look at the update’s unofficial name.

While Quality Update is not the most original of names, it is very telling. Search Engine Land did not come up with the name out of thin air. The update, like changes before it, is intended to promote quality content.

Thomas Smale, an Entrepreneur contributor, discussed many of the things that people should be doing in order to keep high rankings even with the new algorithm.

  • Do not use duplicate material (e.g., do not post the same or similar article in multiple places in an effort to seem like you have more content than you do.)
  • Create high value content. Make your content more detailed and helpful. If you are explaining why the sky is blue, for example, don’t just say because of science, go into it. Really teach people about the subject. Basically, be a place that meets the users’ needs.
  • Be credible. Prove that you know what you are talking about. Use sources to back up your points. Basically, make people, and thus Google, trust you.
  • Make the site all about the user. While ads on your site may be an important part of your website’s revenue, they should never take away from the user experience.
  • Do some quality control. Make sure your content is informative and free of errors, both factual and grammatical.

Quality content has been growing in importance for a long time. Because of this, most of your content should already be high value. This means that hopefully you will not have to do a lot to get yourself up to Google’s new standards.

And if Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers is right, you may not have to worry about another one again.

Final Thoughts

In the end, this update, like the ones that came before it, shows us one very important thing. Google really likes good content. Hence the Google Quality update.

It cannot be stressed enough. Do not just throw up content for contents sake. If you don’t have time to do it right, don’t bother writing it at all. Content is important, though, so if you don’t have time to write quality content, then get someone to do it for you.

While bad content will not get you ranked very high on a Google search, no content means you won’t get ranked at all.

To get that great content without having to sacrifice your valuable time, try out our content marketing services.

Photo courtesy SearchEngineLand

Screenshots taken June 2015

google phantom algo update

What Does Google’s New Phantom Algorithm Update Mean For Content?

Google really wants you to mind your P’s (though I guess they care nothing about your Q’s.) First there was Panda and Penguin, and now there is the Phantom.

The Ms. Manners of web traffic has secretly updated its algorithm (again) and made havoc for many content creators out there. Let’s take a look.

What is Google’s Phantom All About?

Earlier this month, HubPages, which as its name suggests is a huge hub of pages on informational content of all sorts, saw its traffic drop by 22 percent seemingly overnight. Other sites, such as WikiHow and eHow saw drops as well, though not as significant.

What had happened? No one was sure because Google is keeping tight lipped, but we do know it has something to do with what Glenn Gabe, a search engine expert, coined “the phantom” or, since this is not the first time Google has so covertly turned Internet searches on its head, “phantom 2.”

Basically, as far as the experts can tell, Google made a change to its algorithm that has the potential to hurt many websites who rely on Google to get traffic.

But what does this mean for you and your website as you try to create a Google-friendly body of content?

What All the Google Updates Have In Common With the New Phantom

I have talked about this before: you have to write good content. Forget for a second the fact that readers want good content and if you do not give it to them, they are not going to read what you have to say. So who cares if you pop up on Google or not? Let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s focus on Google.

What do Panda, Penguin, and Phantom have in common other than they all start with P and they were all Google updates (and they are all nouns)?  They were all created, at least allegedly, to weed out weak content.

  • Panda. This update was created in order to make low-quality sites or weaker content rank lower on the Google totem pole. What this meant was that higher-quality sites with strong content got bumped up in the rankings and made it to the top of Google searches. And let’s face it, who is going to page 10? The higher you are, the better your chances of someone clicking on you.
  • Penguin. This update was created in order to punish “link baiters.” Link baiters are the websites that post links back to themselves all over the Internet in order to appear like a quality site. (If you have ever wondered why someone would take the time to leave a comment on a post about, well, pretty much any topic, in order to mention their completely unrelated and often gibberish sales pitch with a link back to their site, now you know the reason.) Google was not fooled by this scheme and fixed their algorithm to reduce the success of these link impersonators.
  • Phantom. Now, there is the phantom. At first, Google was not commenting on the update, and so we were all left to speculate. What was pretty popularly decided was that Google was targeting informational sites and How to sites that had lower level quality content. However, we have since found out that this was a little misleading. According to a press release by ASEOhosting, Google is not targeting informational and How to sites. Instead, they are simply targeting sites with poorer quality content, which happens to include some informational and How to sites.

What this tells you is that the content game is survival of the fittest. If you create strong content, you are going to beat out weaker content. And the stronger your content is, the less you have to worry about Google. If everything they do is done in order to make life easier for quality content, you know that you are going to remain on top as long as you keep creating the best content.

Lesson: Do Not Write Bad Content

I am not repeating myself here. Write good content and do not write bad content are not synonyms. You could write good content and bad content if you wanted to. I would advise you not to, though. Google does not reward good content, it simply punishes bad content.

Ari Levi discusses Gabe’s, the search engine expert’s, assessment of the phantom in a CNBC article. What Gabe found was that even informative, well written pages were being ranked lower. In other words, an entire domain was being hurt because of its bad content even if it also created good content.

Basically what this means for you is that it does not matter how good some of your content is if the rest is awful. It is not enough to start writing good content, you have to stop writing bad content.

How Do You Write Good Content and Avoid Bad Content?

It is easy to say that you will get rid of your weaker content and start churning out good content. It is a lot harder to actually do it. With everything else you have going on in your career and business, how are you supposed to start over from scratch if you have not already been creating strong articles?

As difficult as it may seem, there are some foundational easy ways that you can do this.

  1. The first, and perhaps easiest, is to outsource. Hire someone else to write your content for you. Professional writers know what they are doing not only because they are good writers with a passion for words, but because they have to stay on top of things. Their job is to research what makes good content, how to properly use SEO, and what Google wants. They get training and alerts when the rules change. They make a living by consistently giving you good, quality content. So you might as well take advantage of them.
  2. If you do write your own content, whether entirely or even just some of it, do your research and perhaps get some training. Make it a point to keep up with these changes. Follow some blogs that talk about web writing. Maybe even take a training course on content creation.
  3. When you write, write for a human being. Yes. Make sure you know and use important keywords. Yes. Think a little about what Google might like. However, do not write for Google, write for your audience. But more about that in a second.
  4. Never write something just because you want to post something. Always have a meaning and a purpose behind your words.
  5. Be trustworthy. Back up your claims with research. Don’t just say, “Buy us because we are the best.” Say why you are the best and convince your readers that you really are.

Worry a Little Less About Google, a Little More About Your Readers

I mentioned it above, but it is important enough to merit its own section: worry more about your readers than about Google.

Google is smart. Google is kind. Google is important. But in the end, your readers are more important. Who cares if Google thinks you should be number one on people’s search results if the reader does not agree. They might click on you, but they won’t click back on you if you do not convince them to stay.

When you write, think about your readers. What do they want to hear? What do they want to know? Base what you write on those facts. In the end, it is the readers’ opinion and thoughts that will make a sale or conversion. So focus on them, and you will not have to focus as much on what Google is plotting in its secret lair hidden away from prying eyes.

Here is the thing, though. If you write what your readers’ want to know, then not only will it make your content better, but it will make you fall right into their searches anyway. That list of keywords your SEO guy sends you did not come out of thin air. It came from data about what your potential audience has been searching for.

If you write what they want, then they are going to be searching for what you write. It’s simple logic. So ultimately, if you write for your readers, you are going to rank higher in Google anyway. Win, win.

Cross Your Fingers and Hope for the Best

In the end, you can do everything I am writing, and Google can change the game again tomorrow. Even Gabe, who is a well-respected expert, admits to being at a loss as to what should be done and how to handle Google.

A lot of your web writing life is trial and error, guess and predictions. However, if you consistently create good content, you do not have to worry about all that. Google wants readers to find you, and even without searches, readers keep the very best websites bookmarked.

So what should you do about the phantom? Give it what it wants – high quality content that readers can trust. And you should be doing that anyway with or without Google.

mobile-content

Should We Create Shorter Content For Google’s Mobile Update (Or Not)?

Today is the big day: Google’s mobile algorithm update is rolling out!

Or, D-Day this week—for webmasters to have their sites up to par with accepted mobile optimization standards.

Since this announcement from Google came out in February 2015, professionals that use the internet have been trying to figure out exactly how much of a change we’re likely to see here. Whilst the regular desktop users won’t notice any difference in the way they see the world, this mobile update makes it easier for mobile users to access content on the internet and read it comfortably in miniature screens.

The Mobile Content Update: What’s The Extent of Change?

The last time Google announced algorithm changes so openly was when the first anti-content-farm update (nicknamed “Panda”) came out and changed the game for SEO in general. Based on the amount of time Google gave before their scheduled algorithm change, we can be fairly certain that we’re going to see some pretty major changes as far as internet-based business is concerned. Google has realized that vast numbers of users have forgone the traditional method of access through browsers and are now looking at web-pages on miniature screens such as tablets and mobile phones. In order to help these users out, Google has instituted a checking system that will determine whether the page is mobile-friendly or not (there is no grey area here, it’s either-or) and let the user know beforehand.

What The Google Update Means for Content

The crux of the matter for content production teams and content marketing professionals is that we need to rethink our content game when it comes to Google’s mobile update. A few of us already have mobile-friendly sites (You can check if yours conforms here), but there are many of us that aren’t mobile-friendly and don’t create content for that audience. It’s about time we changed that. With the burgeoning mobile internet market entering the big leagues with this update, we would be making a serious misstep to overlook these users. How can we go about creating content that meshes with this new update?

  1. Make it Short and Snappy: The key thing to keep in mind here is that mobile users will most likely be consuming much more bite-sized content than regular web users. Short, sweet and concise are what you’re aiming for. Long content (such as a few thousand words of length) still has its place on a web page, but not one geared towards mobile users. Just like how regular web users are daunted with walls of text, mobile users will probably take one look at a massive post and run for the hills. Keeping it concise and to the point is important to maintain your reader’s interest.
  2. Build your Home Page Differently: Home pages usually have a large amount of copy to go with them because they aim to draw the user in and make them click on to other linked pages. With the new mobile update, we’re going to have to start considering our home page differently. Typically, we’re going to have to revamp the homepage to make it more suitable for viewing on a small screen by getting the copy more concise than it currently is. For a mobile user, you should be considering your homepage as ad copy in a limited space. Your mobile-search compatibility will not affect your regular desktop rankings (according to Google).
  3. Consider the Look & Feel of your Email Campaigns: The sheer amount of users that check email on their phones has gone up tremendously since the early 2000’s. I, personally, check email on a bi-hourly basis and many other professionals do it far more often than that. Google’s integration of Gmail with the Android operating system makes it even easier for users to stay connected via their phones. To this end, when we design our email marketing campaigns, we should give a thought to those users that are accessing our emails through the phone and develop the look and feel for our marketing content around that.
  4. Hard-Hitting Headlines: Writing content for a web browser means you have a whole lot of screen real estate to work with. For a mobile platform, that screen real estate comes down to nearly nothing and you’re going to have to be creative about how you fill that space. Your headlines have to attract and tease, but they only have a handful of characters in which to pique the readers’ interest. Professionals that use Twitter will shine here since they are already used to getting their message across in one hundred and forty characters. This just gives them an extension of that particular skill, shortening headlines down to the very minimum so that they can be easily transferred to a mobile platform for viewing.
  5. Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Space: Probably the largest challenge we will have as content creators is maintaining the value of our message despite having to deliver it to our audience in a reduced space. This is where the true marketing professionals will shine. Someone who truly understands the audience will be able to explain to them in the least amount of words possible the things that the audience needs to know. Concise explanation is exactly what we want for our post-mobile content, because it gives us value without sacrificing content for it. At the end of the day, content drives our business and for it to do so with success, it must be good content.

A Changing Paradigm of Digital Content

Now would be a good time to batten down the hatches and perform a mobile content audit to determine if your site will be able to survive the oncoming algorithm change. We won’t know for certain exactly how significant a hit sites will take until the algorithm goes live, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. One thing we know for sure is that the face of content marketing is changing yet again, undergoing an evolution that ensures that our field of expertise delivers the best it has to our audience at all points in time. The only other professions that have such massive, seismic shifts that change the layout of the whole field are geography and seismology. Are you ready to take your content into the mobile-based internet of the twenty-first century?

mobile content

11 Ways To Get Your Content Ready For Google’s Mobilegeddon

4/21.

“Mobilegeddon.” The biggest Google update since Panda and Penguin.

There is a new Google update arriving on April 21, and this time around it is a large one that’s pretty important for every website owner to know about. This particular update focuses on mobile content and mobile access for searchers, and if your website is not mobile-friendly, it is likely to suffer some serious consequences.

In this blog, I’m going to look at the top ways you can prepare your content for this mobile update, helping you stay on the good side of Google so your site doesn’t get de-ranked in this big major update.

11 Ways to Make Your Content Ready for Mobile Users

Here are the top ways to make your mobile content phenomenal for your readers AND satisfy Google’s new update.

1. You MUST have a mobile friendly site. This is also called “responsive” or “adaptive design.” If your designer or developer hasn’t done it yet, I’m serious: pick up the phone and dial them right now. You, my friend, need a mobile site.

Why?

First, because Google is claiming to de-rank ALL sites that are not mobile with their update. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Next, let’s actually think of the viewer’s experience. When people view content on their mobile devices, they don’t want to have to squint when reading it. You don’t want to make your font overly large from the beginning, but you do want it to be a decent size to be viewed on a mobile screen. However, you should also make your content easy to make larger. If you have a smartphone or tablet, think about a time you needed to see the page clearer – you use your fingers and zoom in to make the font and content larger. This is what you want your content to be able to do, and it needs to be able to be easily zoomed in without distortion of images, videos, or text. Your webmaster should be able to make your site mobile-friendly.

2. Responsive Vs. Adaptive: Two Options For Your Website. A great way to prepare your content is to make sure you already have a conversion plan in mind and use one that will benefit your site. There are two different ones, adaptive and responsive design. Adaptive can help figure out which device a client is using, and adapt to that format, and responsive can help adapt to all sizes of mobile screens. Doing my research, it looks like responsive seems to be the better method. It is cheaper, and Google also prefers it, according to Search Engine Land. Responsive design allows for you to use proper SEO for your mobile site, and gives you the opportunity to reach a wide range of people no matter their device or screen size. While adaptive seems like it would be preferable, HubSpot does point out that responsive will immediately adapt to future devices. You can find responsive design plugins on some hosting sites or you can find mobile site professionals that can help you make the switch.

3. Always Monitor that Your Website’s Navigation is Easy and Stress-free. This is important whether it is on your desktop site or mobile. Navigation is a big part of user experience (UX), and you want to make sure UX is top notch. Google has already implemented UX into its algorithms, and it will be even more important once the mobile update is live. UX incorporates many facets from the usability of your site to the content you’ve written, and navigation is a big part of usability. Make sure it is easy for your customers to navigate on your mobile site to help make a better UX for all involved. This will help rank with Google and help you keep bringing clients back to your site from their smartphones or tablets.

4. Create a Mobile App for Your Business and Website. An excellent way to get your content to adapt to mobile and have an excellent mobile presence is to not only update your site, but also to create a mobile app. Mobile apps are a great way to get your company out there and make it more visible to your clients. Once they download it, it will be there on their phone, being a constant reminder of your business and services. It can also help you stand out from the competition, especially in industries that don’t focus too much on mobile marketing. There is an excellent article on All Business Experts that details how you can create your own mobile app from scratch to help leverage your company and get more results from your mobile campaign! Don’t get too overwhelmed about a mobile app, take a bit to sit down and think it over because you don’t want to miss out on this awesome opportunity.

5. Consider Using QR Codes for Products. You know those funny looking square, pixelated boxes you see on products and coupons? Those are QR codes and are great ways to link offline content to a mobile device. It can allow people to access deals on products or share information about a product after they’ve received it. QR codes are excellent for marketing, and you can do many things with them from engaging your clients to giving more product information, and many other awesome marketing ideas.

Now, let’s look at actual mobile content improvements you can make:

6. Create Different Lengths of Content. When it comes to the content length wars, longer content is always the best idea for your long-form blogs and resource pages. Research shows that people prefer longer content because they love getting in-depth information and often feel a longer piece is more trustworthy.

However, when it comes to mobile content, you want to have varying lengths especially on your main pages to let people choose the length they want to read. Short content is easier to consume on mobile because many people are reading while on the subway or bus for their work commute or while they are on lunch.

You don’t want to make all content short, though because readers might still read a longer piece on their mobile device, and you will still have desktop traffic.

7. Repurpose Longer Content into Mobile-size Bites. Obviously, you will want to keep writing your lengthier content, so what can you do to make it easier to consume for mobile users? A great way is to repurpose larger content into smaller pieces. This can be in a series of shorter blog posts, breaking the larger piece down point-by-point, creating infographics, podcasts, or making video content based off of it. If you want to go the blog route, you can always start a blog series that aims to focus on shorter content. This can help direct your mobile users to those blog posts and your desktop readers to the lengthier piece if they prefer. Giving people options is a great way to help broaden your reach, engaging more people than ever.

8. Focus On Using Images and Videos for Mobile Users. Images are a big part of web content , whether on social media or your website, and they are just as important for mobile users. They can help provide a connection for the reader, and, if you use infographics, can help create excellent content. Videos are much the same and provide people with the ability to watch a story or idea while on break instead of reading. Make images and videos available to your clients, giving them a better chance at consuming your content while on smartphones and tablets.

9. Make it Easy to Share Your Content on Social Media. The one thing about having mobile content is that it is much easier for a person to share on social media. This is simply because they are already on their mobile phone and just a finger-tap away from accessing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social channels. Because of this, you need to make sure you have social sharing buttons clearly defined for your readers. This will make it significantly easier to share your content as soon as they’ve read, listened, or watched it.

10. Use Social Media. If you weren’t sold on whether or not social media was important for your business, now is the time to realize it is. When people are on their mobile devices, chances are their browsing through their social media timelines be it Twitter, Facebook, or another social channel. This means that you have a prime chance to reach out to them while they are browsing and share relevant articles, as well as your web pages and blogs. This can increase your site engagement, as well as help your articles get shared more. Yes, people can share your content directly from browsing your site, but they might be more willing to do so if they were already on the specific social channel.

Finally, one last tip I thought I’d throw in (although everyone probably knows this by now):

11. Don’t Use Flash (Ever). Flash can be okay on desktop sites because computers are able to process and download Flash data quickly. Flash data on mobile is tricky, however. First of all, many mobile devices don’t use or support Flash for various reasons. Secondly, if the device does support it, it will still take a while for it to download on the phone. You don’t want your page to take too long to load when people access it, but especially when it comes to your mobile site. Just think about when you use your smartphone to access web pages – you probably get a little fidgety the longer it takes to download, even if it is only a few seconds longer than normal. Your clients will feel the same way. Avoid using anything that requires flash to have a better mobile site and give your clients a better experience.

Prepare Yourself: Google Wants You Mobile, 4/21

Call your developer or designer and pay them whatever they want so Google doesn’t de-rank you on 4/21: I’m serious! We only create content, so we can’t make your site mobile friendly. But once you have that done, if you are looking for excellent content to improve your rankings such as blog pieces, social media content, or infographics, then you’re reading the right blog. We offer services that can help you as you prepare your content for the mobile update, helping you get great results.

Photo credit: Prykhodov / iStock

vintage books and a cup of coffee,free copy space

The Great Content Roundup: Week 8, Ready For Google’s Updates?

Excuse the hiatus, folks – it’s been exactly 5 weeks since I wrote a Great Content Roundup!

What exactly was I doing that was more important than the Great Content Roundup?

Ha, you got me. Actually, I was moving from Corpus Christi, Texas to Austin, Texas—the land of beautiful parks, trails, lakes, creeks, and even more importantly, awesome eateries and downtown industry events.

ladybird-lake

Photo credit iStock (RoschetzkyIstockPhoto) 

Why did it take so long? Well, I do have a 9-month-old baby girl, and finding the right daycare was the biggest transition. Then, after that, I somehow caught the bug from the grave—a respiratory and stomach virus with a sinus congestion! Today, I can safely say things are finally going smoothly and my schedule is a bit back to normal, so it’s back to my curated Roundup pieces. I hope no one has missed me too badly. (All right, that was a joke.)

This week, I want to take a look at what Google’s planning to hit the web with coming up. There’s a big mobile change that’s been forecasted by all lately, and a few other updates, but what exactly is going on? I did some digging and research. Here’s a fact-based look.

Resources on Google’s New Upcoming Mobile Algorithm 

It’s a must-read: The official Google announcement that they will be finding more mobile-friendly search results came out late February 2015.

“Mobilegeddon” Is Coming on April 21 – Are You Ready?”SEW piece by Chuck Price, written March 9. One of the first pieces coining Google’s mobile algorithm update as the “Mobilegeddon.” The author reminds us of the issues of duplicacy if webmasters reflect mobile pages from desktop URLs, and gives us pros and cons of being mobile. Overall, mobile is a winner—from a ranking and user point of view.

SearchEngineLand has 3 Actions to Take To Get Ready for Google’s Mobile Search Update. These are excellent questions every webmaster should be asking themselves in preparation for the coming algorithm update.

Is your website ready for Google’s algorithm update? By Erica Tafavoti on Inman. Excellent piece with actionable steps you can take (today) on making sure you’re reading for the big Google changes.

Moz’s 9 Things You Need To Know About Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update by Cindy Krum. A very indepth piece about how exactly these mobile changes will happen and how big the change is: “bigger than the Panda and Penguin updates.”

And finally, here’s a piece we did: What Types Of Links Does Google Hate? A blog on how to stay safe with your linking strategies and to avoid the types of links Google hates nowadays.

Hope that helps! Leave a comment with any suggestions you’d like to see added to our list!

accurate content

Is Google Ranking Your Content Based On Accuracy?

Google is always updating, with an algorithm change at least every few weeks. Now, in a move to help people find great, accurate content, Google is working on a content accuracy algorithm that will help direct people to accurate sites quickly and easily.

We recently wrote a guest blog on SiteProNews about this very topic, which had a lot of traction inside just 24 hours. Because of this, we wanted to look into the topic further and provide even more data about this hot topic.

Accurate Content: Does Google Care and Why?

Social media has been abuzz lately with the latest Google news to come down the line. It is big enough that it didn’t just spark interest for businesses and SEO experts, but it also got your clients’ attention. People readily assume that content is always accurate because, if it is on the Internet, it has to be true! Or, at least, that is what many people believe. This, however, makes many people fall victim to false news from satire news sources without any verification about the particular topic. Very few people will double check by searching Google for the topic and won’t go to Snopes to see if anything has been written. Because of this, Search Engine Journal says that Google is deeming it necessary for websites to have accurate content.

One of the main reasons Google cares about people getting truthful content is that they have a strong desire to provide people with excellent, expert content and accuracy plays a big part in that. If you don’t believe me when it comes to Google wanting to give readers the best content possible through search results, just take a look at all of the various algorithms they have introduced over the last few months and years.

How Will Google Determine Accurate Content?

According to the Search Engine Journal article I shared above, Google has an interesting plan to check for accuracy. It seems complicated, but Google is planning to build an algorithm that cross checks your content against a number of verified, reputable sources. They haven’t said exactly what these places will be, but a few that come to mind could be places such as Huffington Post, or industry related websites. For the copywriting industry, this could be Moz or HubSpot. This way, Google can tell for sure if you are writing something that is truthful or if it is misleading. This doesn’t seem like it will be too much of a detriment to too many businesses, but it is wise to make sure you know what is going on and ensuring all of your existing and future content is accurate.

How Could This Impact Your Website?

If you are readily publishing accurate content already, you will not have too much to fear from this change. However, if your content has the chance to be somewhat inaccurate or completely so, this could have a huge, negative impact on your site. I don’t have any statistics at the moment as this algorithm is still in works by the Google team, but if it is anything like other algorithms, you can expect to see a few things. Some of the repercussions could be loss of rank on the search engine results page and being slapped with a not-so-fun penalty. Depending on the severity, it could take you a bit to recover. Don’t be too alarmed though! I plan on giving you some concrete ways to check your content’s accuracy before this algorithm is put in place.

What are the Perks of Accurate Content?

There are several great perks when it comes to having accurate content. First of all, it will set you up as a leading voice in your industry. If you write accurate content, you will not only look good to your clients, but also to others in the industry. Secondly, it will help you generate great, fresh content all the time. Another perk I see to accurate content is that it is significantly easier to write naturally when you are telling the truth. Writing naturally is a big part of content writing, and writing truthfully will help with that.

The Top Two Ways to Ensure Your Content is Accurate

Now that I’ve looked at this new algorithm some, I am going to give you something to take away. Here are the top two things I suggest to help you write accurate content, as well as making sure your current content is accurate.

  1. Do Research on Reputable Websites. When you write your content, a great way to get accurate content is to do your research on reputable websites such as Huffington Post, or leading websites in your industry. You should also always make sure to fact check your own content by comparing the research to multiple reputable sites just to be careful.
  1. Get a Content Audit. One of the best ways to make sure you have accurate content is to get a content audit. This will look over your web pages to show you what is working, what should be changed, and giving you an idea on how to tweak your future pages. You can also use a content audit to make sure that your content is accurate before the Google algorithm hits.

Don’t hesitate to check out our article on SiteProNews linked in the intro for more ways you can write accurate content.

Authenticity is the New Sexy

Creating authentic content is the best way to convince readers and clients that your business is the one to be trusted. It has always been an important element in content creating, but now with Google’s impending algorithm, the importance has skyrocketed. Take this opportunity to check and see if your content is currently accurate, and always make sure you write accurate content in the future. If you want to ensure every piece of your content is accurate, you can trust Express Writers. We provide content audits to look over content, which will help you prepare for the new algorithm. In addition, our expert team of copywriters always writes excellent, accurate content. Don’t hesitate to ask us questions about how we can help you with great content!

Photo credit: juras10 / iStock

types of links

What Types of Links Does Google Hate?

Ever since I can remember, we were taught to play by the book when it comes to optimizing web content. Google seems to be watching our every step. Therefore, saying no to unnatural links (also known as paid links) that can impact your online credibility and reputation and expose you to penalties from search engines have been a huge part of keeping Google happy lately.

Let’s face it: paid links are just another form of manipulation and bribery, set in place to support an unorthodox optimization plan. Assuming that you already know just how counterproductive it can be to rely on bad linking techniques that could threaten your friendship with Google, how can you avoid risks while building niche-relevant links?

Are We All Spammers in Google’s Book? What Types of Links to Avoid

According to a blog post published by Positionly, “everybody is a spammer now”, taking into account the fact that Google hates more and more types of links. In this case, we’re not referring strictly to paid links representing the central pieces of a black hat SEO strategy. We are actually talking about potentially problematic links that could actually be the ones that send you awesome converting traffic.

So here’s the question that is on my mind right now: could links that one has generated naturally (and without any intention to deceive Google in any way) actually work against one?

As an article written by Search Engine Land points out, even the links that add value to your content by allowing you to create a natural, positive user experience could end up sinking your current rankings.

How is this even possible? The same source provides two plausible explanations for this weird phenomenon. First of all, when it comes to using valuable natural links, some overly enthusiastic marketers tend to overdo it, eventually turning a perfectly viable method into a potentially dangerous one. Secondly, Google’s algorithm is not perfect and it can’t always decode your intentions in an accurate manner. This brings us to the next set of questions: how can you address a perfectly legitimate inbound link that is interpreted by search engines as a spammy one? Moreover, should you ditch all your link building efforts just to stay in the safe zone, or should you ignore all warning signs and use your own best judgment when it comes to linking to other pages? Here’s an idea: why don’t you take the middle course? Find out how you could keep risks at bay by complying with Google’s linking-related rules and guidelines and stay far away from optimization tactics that could be interpreted as shady and manipulative.

How Can You Use Editorially-Given Links without Making Google Angry?

Here’s the core of the problem: Google’s inability to make a clear distinction between unnatural and natural links can be interpreted as its fault, but at the same time it also represents our loss. As a small business owner, your goal is to optimize your content and link to high-authority sources without giving search engines the impression that you’re relying on spammy tactics to reach your objectives. Taking into consideration the fact that it is always better to be safe than sorry, now would be a good time to perform a link audit and upgrade your link building techniques to avoid penalties that could put you on the bench for a long period of time. Here are three additional alternatives that you can explore to make sure that your links won’t upset Google in the near future.

  1. Nofollow Links That Can Be Considered Potentially Dangerous. Google compels publishers to utilize rel=”nofollow” on guest articles, widgets, adverts, press releases, comments and various other types of content that could be listed as spammy and untrusted. According to Google’s guidelines, if you can’t vouch for the pages that you wish to link to, it is highly recommended to nofollow all these links. This simple step will help you prevent your website from transferring PageRank to one or more bad neighborhoods and discourage content spammers who may see your website as a potential target. This ample process may demand a great deal of labor and time, but at the end of the day, it may be your best chance to play by the book and avoid a feud with Google.
  2. Clean Up All Your Links. This is another option that you could choose to explore to clean up your act. However, this measure is a bit extreme and may not trigger your absolute satisfaction for a very simple reason: after your penalty from Google is finally lifted, you could lose a lot of traffic and be forced to cope with the absence of useful links that would have otherwise helped you rank higher in search engine results. On the other hand, you can and should disavow types of links that are obviously bad for your website (unnatural ones) and manage the ones that you can actually influence (the ones coming from partner websites and social profiles, for example).
  3. Measure Link Popularity. With so many tools that you can use to perfect your link building strategies, should you really be worried about the fact that Google’s judgment may not match your intentions? Instead of fueling your own obsession with penalties and wasting time and energy second-guessing your every linking tactic, take the easy way out. Use MozRank and MozTrust to guide your steps in the right direction. These two handy tools allow you to measure link popularity, and respectively link trust. MozTrust functions based on a very simple principle: the closer you are to a trusted, high-authority source, the more trustworthy you really are. MozTrust can be improved by obtaining links from such reliable sources with a high MozTrust, such as universities or government institutions. At the end of the day, safe link building techniques shouldn’t involve a lot of guesswork. You just have to make sure that the domain authority (DA) of the links that you choose to add is good. According to Moz, DA represents the best prediction of how a certain website is going to perform, in terms of search engine rankings. DA metrics are currently incorporated by a wide range of marketing and SEO platforms available online; this means that you shouldn’t have a problem choosing the sources that you can safely link to, based on their domain authority.

Don’t Blame Everything on Overly Optimized Anchor Text, Blame It on a Lack of Trust

Can you actually stop Google from hating your editorially-given links? You can definitely give it a try, by using one of the methods listed above. What you need to understand is that the overly optimized anchor text isn’t your sole enemy that has already triggered the rage of the Penguin. In the end, it all comes down to building (and maintaining) trust. Trust is the powerful X-factor that allows you to cope with Google’s constant wind of change, while avoiding penalties. Link to high-authority sources, provide trustworthy information through your content and make sure you look and act like a big, reputable brand, while keeping in mind that Google is a mere website-ranking machine that is inevitably exposed to errors.

Photo credit: Alex_Wang1 / iStock