When Google rolled out its first Penguin update about 2 years ago many SEO agencies were left in the dark as to how to properly recover from it especially those whose clients had received algorithmic or manual penalties.
We are told by Google to reach out to those webmasters whose low value/spammy websites contain backlinks to our clients' sites, and ask them to kindly remove them. At the time though, we were not given clear guidelines as to what was deemed a 'toxic link' by Google, causing alot of confusion over what needed to be removed.
However, over time and many hours spent removing these links it soon became clear what these toxic links are that will cause loss in ranking from Penguin updates.
What Is A Toxic Link
A toxic link is a link that has been placed onto a website (directory, blog, press release, etc.) with the sole purpose of manipulating Google's search results.
Where To Find Toxic Links
It soon became clear that 'low value directory listings' were seen by Google to contain toxic links, and any backlinks to our clients' sites found on these directories should be removed.
Quantity Over Quality
Pre-Penguin, it was pretty much about quantity over quality of links that determined your ranking position in Google, and web directories provided am easy source of getting backlinks to your site. You could even pay directories for backlinks, especially for those that had a good page rank. This method of obtaining links now will cause you problems with Google, and could see your site penalised or even banned.
How Do I Know What A Bad Directory Is?
Spammy low quality directories are quite easy to identify, as they generally allow you to pay for links which is now regarded as manipulation by Google. They are generally thin on content too. If you look at Yelp for example (good directory) you can see that there is quite a bit of good informative upto date relevant content on the home page, especially in the footer section. Another indication is that all the links contain no-follow tages too. Compare Yelp to VMoptions for example. Immediately you can see a change in quality and also a suggest site link which allows you to pay for a link. Google quality guidelines document specifically says:
"The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link"
How Do I Remove These Links
The only way to remove backlinks from low value directories is to email the webmasters and request that they remove your link. However, these webmasters are notoriously impossible to get hold of. They have either jumped ship and left the directory to die a natural course, which could take years, or they refuse point blank to respond and help us (SEO experts) out with our feeble link removal requests.
Other Low Value Links
We are then left to consider what other backlinks are deemed unatural by Google.
Press release submissions using outlets such as PRWeb, PRNewswire, etc. used to be a great way of obtaining links, however Google now requires that all links from press releases should be nofollowed. Most but not all Press Release websites have added nofollow tags, therefore it is important to go through all press releases checking which are ok or not.
Gaining links from forums, especially those that contain linked signatures is bad practice and should be avoided. Go through all your forums and manually remove these linked signatures and any other 'dofollow' links.
However, it is ok to use forums to -
discuss topics of interest
participating in the community
answer questions to help other people, especially if you can add value to questions
Articles in blogs are slightly more tricky to identify. My advice is only leave those links that contain the brand name or the website url. For all other links again contact the owner and request adding 'nofollow' tags to your links.
Blogrolls/Site Wide Links
Site wide links should definitely be branded links or url based. Again remove or add nofollow tags to links in generic low value articles by contacting the authors where possible.
Once you have identified all the links that you cannot remove then this is the time to use the 'Disavow tool'. Great!! Or is it?
This is where you really need to think carefully about what links you add and the frequency you keep updating the file. Use one master disavow file that contains all the links you are working on. This will avoid any confusion when you edit this file in future iterations.
When Does Google Reference The Disavow Tool?
In my experience the only time Google will ever look at your disavow file is during an algo update. It is at this point when you need to make sure you have listed all the toxic links that you haven't been able to remove to show Google that you have made every effort to clean up your link profile. The only exception to this rule is if you have received a manual penalty when Google will manually go through your link profile and decide whether you have disavowed enough links or not and then decide if your manual penalty is lifted or not. Click here for more information on manual penalties - https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2604824?hl=en
When Google rolls out a refresh of Penguin's algorithm and you have submitted your disavow file containing all your toxic links say a month beforehand then you will be fine and you should then see a recovery of your website and your website's penalty is lifted.
However, if you have missed the refresh (last one Penguin 3.0) then you will have to wait until the next Google Penguin update/refresh. In the meantime keep the Disavow file logged with Google, add to it, delete links if they have been removed but don't delete it completely otherwise you will miss out on the next update too.
I was recently fortunate enough to spend a day out of the office at BrightonSEO – the UK’s top SEO conference. I thought it would be good to share with you some of the key insights I gleaned from the excellent speakers and workshops I attended throughout the day. With SEO there is a constant source of new inspiration and I came away feeling excited about a host of new concepts and ideas.
So without further ado; here are my four biggest takeaways from BrightonSEO.
Act Global Think Local One of the biggest oversights in modern SEO is to avoid international marketing and outreach entirely. After all – we are trying to get UK customers so why would we outreach to non-English speaking countries?
72% of the world’s internet users do not speak English.
Yet nearly every country in the world has English speakers.
English is STILL the language of business.
Great content appeals to everyone – not just specific nationalities
The point here is that we should be trying to reach these people with our content and our marketing. Even if they are not our target market, even if they do not speak our language, we are missing an incredible number of opportunities if we fail to look at the international appeal of our highest quality content.
Don’t read the news be the news In every company there are a myriad of people who keep up to date with the latest industry trends and events. Every industry has a daily flow of important information. What companies need to capitalise on is that customers also want to know the news that affects them.
This creates a great opportunity for us to be part of the news; increasing our presence and increasing our brand authority.
In order to be successful in news you need to make sure;
That you respond to new news items quickly.
That your news is relevant to your target markets
That your news creates an emotional connection with your reader
That your news is attention grabbing
When it comes to news content the takeaway is that we need to have systems in place to effectively be part of the news if we are going to increase our reach.
Turning Negatives into Positives Over the last year the SEO world was rocked by a huge swathe of algorithmic and manual penalties that forever changed the landscape of online marketing and link building.
Many sites that had performed healthily for years were penalised as Google sought to improve user experience by making it harder for sites to game the algorithm.
As a result we all now need to be more careful with how we create backlinks. However, we also need to monitor our existing backlinks regularly. Old links can suddenly become bad links and a ranking penalty is a headache we’d all like to avoid.
So what can we do?
Perform a link audit to identify “bad” links.
Take action to clear any potential threats by asking for the links to be made no-follow, removed or to use the Google Disavow tool.
Set up a regular monitoring schedule to track link health.
Monitoring our links is incredibly important to maintain our site health. Thankfully there are a swathe of tools that can help to track our links available, e.g. LinkRisk
Change is Inevitable As a final thought I wanted to share some of the interesting concepts we are being exposed to from Google. Google is now the world’s largest data holder – they have more information on web-users than any government agency, company or international body.
Their business model is one that is increasingly moving towards data – whether it is targeted advertising, customer use or direct sales. They want to use as much information as possible to deliver better targeting, more personalisation and increase the user experience – whilst increasing their bottom line.
We’ve already seen Google Plus, Google maps, Google Glass, Google everything. What we are likely to continue to see is a move towards CONTEXT over content. Google will use its consumer data to target websites and customers.
As a result we need to be prepared for more changes – we need to become more fluid in our ability to market and we need a more integrated approach to marketing and SEO. We need to be targeting our audiences more carefully and using contextual data to shape our marketing and SEO programs.
It has been a difficult year for us here at Go Mungo SEO who have had to battle with Penguin's algorithm updates. Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel when we found out on Monday morning that Penguin 3 had been rolled out by Google last Friday 17th October 2014.
(1) This is a worldwide update, impacting all versions of Google (2) The rollout is not complete yet, it will continue for the “next few weeks.” (3) It impacts less than 1% of English queries but may impact other languages more or less (4) Google confirmed the roll out began on Friday (5) Pierre Far specifically called this a “refresh” (6) It should demote sites with bad link profiles and help sites that were previously hit that cleaned up their link profiles
"Like any algorithm refresh, some sites that were previously hit would see a ranking increase because they are no longer negatively impacted by the algorithm. While other sites may see a ranking drop in the search results because they were just picked up as sites that should be impacted by the Penguin algorithm" says Google.
We are still waiting for a ranking increase on some of our clients' sites, and forever hopeful that the first rollout targeted only those sites that had just been picked up as sites that should have been picked up with by the last Penguin algorithm. Suggesting that over the coming weeks thoses sites that have cleaned up their backlink profile by removing links and disavowing those links left over will see a ranking increase.
We shall wait and see!
20th October 2014
UPDATE 27th October 2014
Last Friday 24th October 2014 we did see a positive shift in Google's search results for some of our client's who had been hit in the past by Penguin. This is exactly a week after Penguin 3.0 update.
The best SEO techniques or practices change as Google’s guidelines evolve, but the thing that remains unchanged is the significance of links. Besides the existence of other basic concerns like crawlability, indexation, architecture of the site and duplicate content, link acquisition or link building needs to be a primary consideration.
Links are still considered as the strongest signals that we can give to Google and other search engines about the importance of our content and site. With Google’s war on spam links and key messages taken from various conferences I've attended, I have a few significant messages that should be addressed within SEO. These messages are as under:
Links are still the central part of Google’s search algorithm.
Link building and content marketing are different from each other fundamentally.
Content marketing is not easy to do in the right way.
Link building can boost your Content Marketing efforts.
You can build links even if you don’t have great content.
Links are still the central part of Google’s search algorithm: Links are extremely powerful but we all are aware of the Google’s recent clampdown on link building activities. We need to make sure that our link building strategies are effective, safe and for long term. This clampdown has led most of the SEO professionals to search for new ways to create powerful and safe links. This has led several people toward Content Marketing, with links as a primary concern.
Link building and content marketing are different from each other fundamentally: There are many people right now, who think that content marketing is the new way for link building and have titled it as “link earning” or “link acquisition”.
But, the truth is that content marketing is neither link building nor even SEO. There is no surety that your content will be visible in search or in fact creating more content will guarantee your site becomes more visible in search.
Both Content Marketing and link building (SEO) are different from each other. Content Marketing is about creating powerful and valuable content that is worth sharing, and link buidling (SEO) is about creating search visibility.
While creating the content, your primary concern should be providing valuable content and engaging with your target audience. Sounds easy, but it’s not.
Content marketing is difficult to do in the right way: Valuable Content creation requires:
Content Marketing needs the support of people with diverse skills. Without any investment to ensure that the content remains valuable, unique and engaging, you are simply wasting your time, money and other resources. Thinking that a single person can create a valuable and engaging content is wrong, he/she will just create a draft which is not at all beneficial.
Link building can boost your Content Marketing efforts: SEO should be done on every content Marketing campaign. Creating a valuable or amazing content is not enough; you still have to market it. SEO can help to increase the visibility of the content.
Below I have mentioned the advanced link building strategies according to the latest Google updates: -
Find Relevant websites for Linking
Links from quality content based Websites
Build links on Long tail Keywords instead of exact anchor text linking.
Brand Name and Homepage URL Promotion
Social Sharing of informative relevant articles.
Participate in on-topic Question and Answer websites.
If you are investing in content, then it is important to invest in visibility also. Without intelligent content marketing you are leaving the precious opportunities on the table. A good SEO can boost your content marketing efforts.
You can build links even if you don’t have great content: It is not important that for building links, you need to do the content marketing. Yes it is true that both content marketing and link building can do wonders or act as a flywheel but content marketing doesn’t make sense for all. There is no single size that fits all internet marketing solutions.
You can build the links using:
Summary: Appropriate and effective link building has always been an innovative and powerful attempt at demanding added value. Content, therefore is not the only method of adding value to the internet.
I am becoming more and more convinced that Google wants to utilise all the data collected in Google Analytics and utilise it to determine page rank.
When you look at all referrals for example, if you are lucky enough to have a large amount of inbound links collected and listed by google, then look at these links and see how much traffic they are returning for you. If Google has listed theses links then I am pretty convinced that they must hold a certain amount of value and therefore must be used by google to help calculate ranking.
There are other many other data capture functions that I believe are or will be used more and more as metrics by google to determine page rank. Bounce rate, flow control, etc.
When determining what a good link is have a look and dig around in your own backyard first before looking at page rank, moz rank, semrush rank, etc. Google analytics is nice and scalable. As time goes by your google account will continue to evolve and become more and more useful as a resource to measure good links. This will also tell you a bit about the links that don’t appear in Google analytics. In my opinion these links won’t carry as much value.
As things have changed recently in terms of quality over quantity, what I mean by this is that it is not so much the amount of links that you have pointing to your website but how important each and every link is becoming. For Google it must be easier to use google analytics to help it determine this metric by using the tools mentioned above.
Google has also made a lot of changes to its dashboard and also to the look and feel of the Google account. These changes are strong indications that Google is developing and improving its search algorithm to take into account of analytics and webmaster tools.
I am finding myself using Google’s webmaster tools and analytics more and more as part of my ongoing SEO strategy than I have ever done previously. Although this has evolved mainly out of determining bad links in the aftermath of Penguin and Panda algorithmic updates, using the linking most feature but also I find myself carrying on using it to help my SEO campaigns.
Here is a great article about guest blogging - “Guest blogging”, or “guest posting”, as a method of generating links has come under a lot of scrutiny lately. This is largely a result of a method but not a mentality shift from article marketing to guest posting. In my previous post I wrote about how SEOs were treating guest posting as an opportunity to get lots of high-PR, anchor-rich links and rank a site that way.
To be found in the wilderness when referring to the Internet has changed a lot recently. The days of over optimising and keyword stuffing your paged in order to rank higher in the search engine results, are now long gone. Gone too are the days of building tons of links with only one anchor text to get a page to rank for that keyword. Sadly, however many digital marketing providers still advocate link building as the best form of getting quick rankings. Quick, maybe? Sustainable? NO.
These days getting ranked can be hit or miss if you don’t know what you are doing. It involves getting three key elements right. They are On Page SEO, Off Page SEO and Content Creation.
Having great content is an often forgotten piece of the search engine puzzle. Many people sort these elements in the wrong order. The norm is to put up a few pages of poor content, then start blasting all sorts of links at them, in a bid to get the page ranked. The correct sequence should be to create epic content, optimize it (On page SEO) and move on to creating more content.
What is Good Content
Your content can be in any form. videos, podcasts, running an active forum, infographics, or writing blogs. Writing great content involves research and some creativity, whilst maintaining a high level of quality. Remember, Google is about ”...providing what’s best for web users, by encouraging web masters to create original, high-quality content..“
Hence your primary focus should be on creating the best content you can.
Depending on the niche/market/vertical/industry that you are creating content for, you may have to create excellent Pulitzer prize winning content or a few informational graphs will do just fine. Some industries may require really technical writing, others may use a lot of specialized terms in their content.
The Role of Good Content in Search Engine Rankings
Now that you know what good content is, how can it help you? The best content: · Educates them, · Assists your visitors make important decisions · Solves a problem for visitors. · Is Easy for visitors to understand and connect with · If it can entertain them at the same time, you are on to a winner.
If your content can achieve all these, visitors who have visited your site before and had a great experience through your content, will return again and again.
The long term effect of this is that you don’t need high search engine rankings to be found. Your visitors become ambassadors of your brand. They spread the gospel of you on social media and in forums. Your site naturally attracts links and the multiplier effect is a higher ranking in the search engines.
How to Create Good Content
The key to excelling at marketing with the right content is to really know your market. The people who visit your site are the ones who will take the actions that will keep you in business. In the light of the newest Google update dubbed Hummingbird; Google is moving towards understanding more conversational search queries and providing correct results.
While the announcement of an update scared many SEOs, it shouldn’t. If content is being created by a knowledgeable individual and it is easy to understand for the visitor, questions and queries will naturally be built into the content.
Your articles and blog posts should be trying to explain a concept to someone else without you coming across as talking over their heads.
Like Neil Patel, founder of QuickSprout noted, ”..content marketing is the new SEO..”
Writing good content is a key part of getting found in the SERPs. It is a strategy that is the backbone of the Internet itself. Creating content is something that should be taken more seriously than building links. It Is more difficult to do, but worth much more.
Too busy to create your own content? Hire a company providing SEO services to help you craft content that your audience will connect with. They can then repurpose your content in many ways to get the most bang for your buck
While many people think that writing does not require much skill, it is what is largely required to come up with a good copy. It is difficult to imagine how to communicate a product or service to different markets and media if the ability to convey is lacking. It can only result to dismal copy that is not only stale, but also vague and irrelevant. In copywriting, a copy that does not directly connect cannot remain for long.
The most advantageous copywriting skills to be possessed by people dreaming to become copywriters must include a knowledge in composition, grammar, vocabulary, and adeptness in the mechanics of language. In fact, these are the vital elements in writing a copy conveying clear and terse message easily understood by the clients. If there is one mistake in copywriting then it is probably being unoriginal and predictable.
The skilful manner of constructing words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs to create a solid concept dictates the impact a copy can make in persuading people to patronize the product or service. With the use of the right jargon and language, a copy that campaigns even for a relatively unknown product stands the chance of being noticed even by doubtful customers. On the contrary, the absence of creative writing skill can result to nothing but a copy that falls flat regardless of how good the product is or how strong the messages are.
Perceptive Salesmanship Copywriting is trying to make a sale in print and not persistent telemarketing calls or nuisance salespersons knock on your door. Genuine selling involves knowing the right product to offer that can make customers feel good. It is in understanding what people need and giving them reasons to buy what you offer.
Effective copywriting is having the acumen to feel for the customers and know exactly what they desire. It is guiding them through the process of choosing the product by means of a proposal that suggests the best benefits. However, one mistake to avoid is to become too assuming and forceful in getting people to accept the bid immediately. Although creative copywriting can persuade people at the first instance, it's different with clients who take time to decide and who have the convenience of just clicking no.
It is easy to spot a copy oozing with copywriting skills possessed by a creative copywriter. It is truthful, credible, and containing information that enlightens the ever-changing mind of potential clients. Most importantly, it is powerful enough to trigger the right response and motivates the reader to do the required action. It is also very important within an SEO company's strategy who provide seo services.
For online marketers, SEO is a non-negotiable. SEO or search engine optimization is important in any internet marketing strategy. This is the reason why big and small businesses devote resources in hiring professionals from the best SEO London has to offer. As there are plenty of these companies, it could be expected that not all of them would be able to provide the same quality of services. Some professionals are just more experienced, more creative, and more innovative than others. In all these, the cost factor has not entered the picture yet. This is because cost should not be the primary consideration for choosing a SEO consultant. Your primary consideration should be your needs and how the services of these SEO companies would be able to address them.
Take the following steps to find the best SEO company for your needs:
1. Evaluate your needs. You cannot skip this step. This will lay the foundation for your search. The type of online marketing activities and strategies you have should influence your criteria for searching for the right SEO consultant. There are professionals that specialize in specific SEO techniques. When you know which techniques would best serve your needs, you can narrow your search to only those who are experts in these fields. Websites of these SEO companies have descriptions of the type of businesses they serve best. Browse through these sites and find out if they offer the services that you need.
2. Check out your options. Evaluate several options. Compare their services. Read reviews. Find out about the experiences of their past customers. You would likely find samples or actual stories about successful optimization projects. List down a couple of these options and then trim it down according to the best fit to your needs.
3. Have a go-see. Schedule meetings with the SEO consultants. Alternatively, you can send them your questions via email and see how they respond to your inquiries. You need to have a feel of how they treat their clients and how knowledgeable they are in what they are doing. There are some consultants who can pitch packages that they feel best fits your needs. Based on these interactions, you can already make a decision on which SEO company to hire.
4. Negotiate for the best package. This is another part that cannot be skipped. Once you have made your choice, you can discuss the cost aspect of SEO project. Negotiate for the best service packages possible. Be willing to work in phases if you have a limited budget. Once you get results from on phase, you can reinvest your profits into the succeeding phases of your SEO project.