Detecting Unfair Linking Practices … by Whose Definition?

Each of Google’s recent algorithmic updates shares a focus on improving the quality of search results by detecting and removing factors that give some sites unfair advantage over others in the rankings. The criteria for fairness in search results are highly subjective, but Google and the other engines consider content and behavior from “real” people who act without personal gain the most valuable.

For example, imagine that two sites sell the same brand of widgets online. Each site has 100 links from 100 other sites pointing in to it. The first site has attracted 100 links from media sites, bloggers and other people who write unique and relevant content about shoes simply because they’re passionate about them.

The second site wants to get ahead fast, though, and builds links in all the directories, article sites, wikis and blog comment sections they can find. They don’t focus on building the content and relationships necessary to earn links naturally. The second site has the same number of links, but the quality and topical relevance of those links are much lower because they’re manufactured artificially by the company to improve rankings. To the extent that the search engines can detect these lower value links, the second site’s ability to compete in the search results will decrease.

Why is this “fair” in Google’s eyes?

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Press Releases Officially Made Google’s Web Spam List

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Google Devalues Another Link-building Tactic.”

Google’s search result quality mission stands seemingly opposed to the search engine optimization practice of link building. For years, SEO professionals have worked to increase the number of external in-bound links to a site in an effort to build authority and trust, thus boosting organic search rankings. One by one, Google has been devaluing these tactics, and press release distribution is the latest target.

Until recently, optimized press releases were a legitimate if increasingly overused link-building strategy. Press releases are written as part of a company’s normal course of business, and links are naturally included in the body of the press release as they would be in any piece of content on your site. So far, no problem.

Then eager marketers realized that optimized links in press releases would pass link value back to their site when distributed via a press release syndication service like PR Newswire. Sites all over the world receive feeds from these distribution services and repost them on their own sites, typically with links still intact. Next came the spam: overabundant linking within the press release coupled with over-optimized anchor text.

According to Google, press release distribution for SEO benefit is just another source of paid links. You pay for the distribution service, and the result is (was) SEO benefit. In fact, PR companies openly listed SEO among the benefits of using their service. As with other forms of paid linking, Google is devaluing these links now. They’re also asking webmasters to nofollow links in press releases in the same way that links from advertisements should be nofollowed…. Read more at “SEO: Google Devalues Another Link-building Tactic.”

Read my articles in full at Practical eCommerce » Jill Kocher

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Google’s Recent Quality Algorithm Updates

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical Ecommerce: “SEO: 2 Months of Algorithm Updates.”

If your organic search metrics have been fluctuating more than usual recently, you’re in good company. Google rolled out four notable algorithm updates in the two months between May 21 and July 15, including a Panda update and the much-anticipated Penguin 2.0 update.

Each of the updates shares a focus on improving the quality of search results by detecting and removing factors that give some sites unfair advantage over others in the rankings. This summer’s updates focus on low-quality link signals, content quality and domain advantages. In each case, Google’s intent is to combat the low-quality or spammy search results that can gum up its search results and lead to poor searcher experience. The updates discussed include:

  • Penguin 2.0: Next Generation Link Spam Weapon
  • Payday Loan Algorithm: Spammy Queries
  • Partial Match Domain Update
  • Panda Detuning

Keeping track of Google’s algorithm updates and deciphering which may have had an impact on your site can be very challenging. The Panguin Tool is one of the easiest ways to look for correlations between your Google Analytics and the Panda, Penguin, and other Google updates. Just log in with your Google Analytics account and Panguin Tool shows your organic search visits overlaid with a timeline of algorithm updates. Moz also offers a handy list of algorithmic events with links to relevant articles describing each. Read more at “SEO: 2 Months of Algorithm Updates.”

Read my articles in full at Practical eCommerce » Jill Kocher

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner for SEO

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Using Google’s New Keyword Planner.”

Keywords are the foundation of search engine optimization. They’re what searchers type into Google’s search box, and what marketers incorporate into their web pages to attract searchers to their sites. Google recently launched a new tool that changes the way we research keywords: AdWords Keyword Planner.

Intended for use by paid search marketers, the Keyword Planner replaces the AdWords Keyword Tool I’ve often recommended using and merges it with the AdWords Traffic Estimator. In essence, the Keyword Planner is designed to simplify keyword research and campaign planning for paid search marketers.

Despite its AdWords focus, the Keyword Planner can still be used by SEO professionals. The core of the toolset revolves around keyword volume, a measure central to both paid and organic search.

For those familiar with the Keyword Tool, the new interface will take some getting used to. Where the Keyword Tool offered a single interface to accept keywords and return keyword data, the Keyword Planner gives marketers three choices for how to proceed.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter which we prefer, the old Keyword Tool or the new Keyword Planner. The Planner was launched in mid-May, and the AdWords Keyword Tool should be discontinued sometime this month. Since the Keyword Planner is here to stay, get used to the interface before the Keyword Tool disappears and you’re left scrambling for data.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Back from Maternity Leave


After 12 weeks off, I’m back to work today. I’ve missed SEO and the challenge and satisfaction of working with committed clients. I will miss spending the day with my sweet baby Hamilton. But we have to work to keep him in Google onsies! Actually, keeping him in Google stock would be a better idea….

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.