Avoiding Algorithmic Pandas and Penguins

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Avoiding Penguins and Pandas.”


Google’s recent penchant for naming major algorithmic updates after animals has the world of search engine optimization sounding more like a zookeeper’s dilemma. But with rumors of an impending Penguin update right around the corner, ecommerce marketers need to know their Penguins from their Pandas, and how to avoid the ire of both.

In both cases, Penguin and Panda are algorithmic updates. Each represents updates to the hundreds of signals that Google uses to analyze and rank web pages for its search results pages. Penguin and Panda are primarily associated with negative impact on organic search traffic. Algorithmic updates are different than a manual penalty, in which human members of Google’s Web Spam team manually identify violations to Google’s webmaster guidelines and assess penalties on those pages. Because Penguin and Panda act algorithmically, if a site that has been demoted can identify and remove the issue, the site should be able to rebound algorithmically as well.

Most algorithms are being constantly tweaked and updated within Google’s main index. As a result, the impact of these continual updates isn’t felt strongly or suddenly as the algorithms evolve. Interestingly, Penguin and Panda are processed outside of the main index. Consequently, the updates to the rankings that these two algorithms produce are experienced in sudden bursts of change to rankings and traffic, lending Penguin and Panda their fearsome reputation.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce for more detail on Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates. »

PS: For lots of interesting details on how Google instructs its human quality raters, see Search Engine Land’s article from 9/7/12: “Google Search Quality Raters Instructions Gain New “Page Quality” Guidelines.” I guess this topic is on a lot of minds lately.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

XML Sitemaps, an SEO Primer

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Understanding XML Sitemaps.”

XML sitemaps serve a very niche purpose in search engine optimization: facilitating indexation. Posting an XML sitemap is kind of like rolling out the red carpet for search engines and giving them a roadmap of the preferred routes through the site. It’s the site owner’s chance to tell crawlers, “I’d really appreciate it if you’d focus on these URLs in particular, thanks.” Whether the engines accept those recommendations of which URLs to crawl depends on the signals the site is sending.

Simply put, an XML sitemap is a bit of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a standard machine-readable format consumable by search engines and other data-munching programs like feed readers. XML sitemaps convey information about one thing, the URLs that make up a site. Each XML sitemap file follows the same basic form.

Read the article in full, including examples and a Q&A at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Understanding XML Sitemaps“»

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

SEO Report Card: MotoGP Store, Part 2


Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO Report Card: MotoGP Store, Part 2.”

The MotoGP Store volunteered for an SEO Report Card. This is the second installment of my analysis of that site. In “Part 1,” I reviewed the home page and category pages, internal navigation, HTML templates, title tags and keyword choices on, again, The MotoGP Store. Now I’ll look at URLs and duplicate content, indexation, internal linking, inbound links and the store’s international SEO aspects.

I’d love to see this site implement some of the best practices discussed here, measure the impact, and write another “SEO Report Card” in a year or so. While the site is dominating the major phrases, it doesn’t seem to be doing as well on the long tail phrases for risers and specific products. It’s likely that SEO best practices around navigation, category landing pages and internal linking could improve the long tail while retaining the strong hold the site already has on the trophy terms for the MotoGP merchandise niche.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Migrating Your Site? SEO Checklist

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO Site Migration Checklist.”

Migrating a site to a new platform or domain, or implementing a major redesign, are some of the most stressful situations in search engine optimization. The potential for massively impacting organic search traffic and sales is higher during these launches than at any other time. With planning and priority on the SEO impact of the launch it’s possible to actually improve SEO performance after a major launch event.

However, most sites neglect to include an SEO professional in the planning, design, development and launch phases of the project, typically resulting in a loss of SEO performance post-launch. While an experienced SEO professional can certainly come in afterwards to guide the team through a strategy to revive the site’s SEO performance, this process typically takes three to six months of planning, rework from the design and development teams, and a loss of traffic and revenue in the interim.

Speaking from experience helping clients through many platform changes, redesigns, domain moves and other assorted SEO pitfalls, these are my best tips for arriving at the other end of the launch with your SEO safely intact.

Read the article in full for 2,000 words worth of SEO site migration tips at Practical eCommerce »

Migrating a site is always a complex process and should always include an SEO professional. Just as a marketing team wouldn’t dream of replatforming or redesigning without information architecture expertise, the same logic needs to apply to search engine optimization. The stakes are too high in terms of organic search traffic and revenue to risk cutting corners on SEO.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

10 SEO Geotargeting Tips Plus a Webinar

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog: “10 Tips for Sending International SEO Signals.”


Search engine optimization for multinational sites isn’t all that different than SEO for a single U.S. site. It all boils down to the same three pillars: getting indexed, being relevant by using the most popular keywords and being popular by acquiring links and social mentions. That said, the specifics of those three pillars are different for multinational sites versus a single U.S. site.

Each country has its own language, languages or even dialects within a language. Each country has a different mix of search engines that are popular among its citizens. China has Baidu, Japan still clings to Yahoo and most of the Americas, Europe and Africa prefer Google. In addition, international SEO multiplies the challenge of optimizing a single site by the number of countries targeted. A site for a single country with a host of SEO issues will likely have 10 times the issues or more when multiplied across 10 countries and languages. International SEO is an incredibly complex challenge, but these 10 geotargeting tips will get you started.

1.    Site Structure: Where to host each country’s content is the first critical question. The best option for SEO is a subdirectory such as www.site.com/en-uk/ and www.site.com/fr-ca/. Hosting content on a single domain enables each country to benefit from the links acquired by the other countries and the domain as a whole. Register the ccTLD—the top-level domain for each country—as a defensive measure and for promotion, and redirect that ccTLD to the content at the subdirectory. For example, site.co,uk would redirect to www.site.com/en-uk/. Country content can also be hosted at the ccTLD or a subdomain, but each comes with its own drawbacks.

Nine more geotargeting signals to come! Read the article in full at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog »

International SEO WebinarIf you’d like to see a webinar on this topic, head on over to Practical eCommerce for my recent presentaton on International Search Engine Optimization. The archived presentation is free, but you’ll need to log in to Practical eCommerce (also free) to view it. Enjoy!

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.