One of the most popular (and widely abused) methods of SEO is links. For years, the number of inbound links to your website weighed more heavily than your own onsite content in getting your site found online.
Because of this, many sites (possibly even yours or your competitor’s) engaged in the act of buying links. On the surface, this doesn’t sound too bad since other services cost money as well, but unfortunately there were too many companies that were placing quantity over quality and Google frowns on that. Some businesses were buying links by the thousands…including many irrelevant links.
Since the very essence of being found through the search engines is based on relevance, Google had to do something. And they did.
At the end of April, Google’s Penguin update changed the game when it comes to getting links to your website. Not only are they now not nearly as important as they once were, you will now be penalized for having too many links from the wrong places. This includes too many affiliate links, irrelevant links, etc.
Many businesses lost their ranking completely as a result of this update, and once that happens you’re basically starting from scratch again. If you’re buying links in huge quantities for your website, just stop it. You will regret it as the search engines continue to de-emphasize links and penalize you for having the wrong links.
Now, that doesn’t mean to stop link building completely. It is still an important part of the equation and, done properly through article writing and guest posting, can help you build a stronger online presence.
Penguin & Panda updates: we’ve heard all about them but just in case you haven’t here’s a quick recap.
Google Penguin is a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others
Before Penguin Google released a series of algorithm updates called Panda that first appeared in February 2011. Panda aimed at downranking websites that provided poor user experience. To identify such websites, a machine-learning algorithm by Navneet Panda was used, hence the name. The algorithm follows the logic by which Google’s human quality raters determine a website’s quality. In January 2012, so-called page layout algorithm update was released, which targeted websites with little content above the fold. The strategic goal that Panda, Penguin and page layout update share is to display higher quality websites at the top of Google’s search results. However, sites that got downranked as the result of these updates have different sets of characteristics. The main target of Google Penguin update is to check webspam. Credit Wikipedia.
Add to that the Over Optimization Penalty and, well…
The good ‘ol days of SEO were pretty simple, stay away from black hat… Write some good content for your site, and get more (better quality) links than the #1 ranked site in Google. While that is an extremely abbreviated synopsis you get the point.
We’ve been extremely fortunate to get a plethora of new clients coming to us after the penalties, trying to get back the rankings that they lost with other SEO firms. Let’s face it, the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” has never rung more true as it pertains to link building, than it has in the last few months.
SEO now with Added RDFa!
Rather than droning on about what SEO is and isn’t… (will save that for another day) Let’s jump into RDFa! What does it mean, what does it do, why is it important to SEO post Panda & Penguin?
What is RDFa? (or Resource Description Framework – in – attributes) is a W3C Recommendation that adds a set of attribute level extensions to XHTML for embedding rich metadata within Web documents. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RDFa
Back in November of 2011 Google announced that they’d start supporting RDFa Lite 1.1 with OpenSchema. What this means is we can now start adding RDFa code to our sites and Google is crawling it even including it in the SERP’s! You’ve probably seen some of the results here in the last few months.
Microformatting / RDFa tags can be used for:
Business or Product Reviews
Businesses Address Information
They even put up this handy little tool so you can test your RDFa code and see what it looks like to Googlebot. You’ve no doubt seen results in the SERP’s with the 5 gold stars based on X number of reviews, or maybe someone’s avatar next to their article (like this one should eventually have my Dr. Evil avatar).
While it seems that Google hasn’t quite made up their mind yet – We’ve seen some SERPs showing the Red Zagat results, some without the red and others still with the yellow stars. The only thing we know for sure is at this point it’s something we can add to our markup and have shown in the SERP’s – What we’re not sure of is where the Google Gods will decide to end up (stars or red zagat squares)?
Reviews (prior to the Zagat purchase by Google) with the 5 gold stars, were showing promising CTR’s according to some of the plugin creators at Magento were claiming 30%+ CTR improvements!
The choice – We’ve decided to not build links anymore. I know it’s a strange concept coming from an SEO – I will say there’s still some other great ways to get those inbound links pointing to your site.
Write quality content that others want to link to. (Google’s been preaching this for years)!
Infographics are a great way to not only get your message out there, but with a little RDFa every time it’s posted on another site it can work as a backlink for you!
Press Releases done properly can bring in major linkjuice!
Guest Blogging / Guest Posting is about the only way to go after links en masse (although my crystal ball says this may become overrun by SEO’s quickly).
Paid Directories (there’s still a list of important paid directories like yahoo, business.com, & BOTW)
Yahoo Answers is a great way to help people in need and get some schweet link juice at the same time (just be sure not to over do it)!
Your best bet is Great Content… and don’t be afraid to ask for a link when you’re done! ahem, if you enjoyed this article you could link to it
While there are still other acceptable ways to get links to your site just be careful right now it’s easy to overdo it and it’s much easier to move up the first page a few spots than it is to recover from a penalty.
“How exactly do I go about staging them [images] so that Google image search can parse it all apart and figure out that a particular image is covered by a particular license… The simplest way to do this is by using RDFa.”
The New SEO + RDFa
Ok so it’s not new, but the industry is changing. My prediction is we’ll watch the W3C bring in Web 3.0 or the Social Semantic Web by mid-August 2012 (I could be wrong, it’s happened once before). What does this mean for those of you trying to recoup from a Panda, Penguin, or Over Optimization penalty.
Well for starters, if you’ve been considering updating your site, now’s the time to do it! HTML5 along with CSS3 are both a necessity to hop on the SEO + RDFa train! It’s also not a bad idea to move your site into the 21stCentury, either.
Linking Open Data cloud diagram, by Richard Cyganiak and Anja Jentzsch. http://lod-cloud.net/
It’s more and more important that the code that makes up your site is written properly — while there are hundreds of ways to get a site to look right or function properly, you have to remember that bots crawling your site don’t see pages the way you see them in your browser, they just parse the code. Semantics, accessibility, and validation are key points to keep in mind when you’ve got a developer cranking out markup and stylesheets. Using proper tags according to their semantic meaning and not for design purposes – that means you, people who use an H1 tag just to increase font size.
Each site will have a different set of needs when it comes to RDFa and what to implement. Each library has different protocols and while not new, we still have a LOT of testing to do, maybe even building our own dataset to submit to the CKAN open registry. There’s a lot out there and a lot of data to sift through – If you’d like to see a 30,000 foot view take a look at the Linking Open Data Cloud Diagram.
When you’re done there check out the Data Hub and search around all the data sets now available. What would you like to see happen next in the field? Are you already using RDFa on your site? Is your competition?
In case you haven’t heard, Google has recently launched Google+, their social networking site that is trying to succeed where previous efforts have failed.
You remember…Google Buzz and Google Wave?
Yyyyyeah, they didn’t work out so well for Google. Truth is, Facebook has really become to social networks what Google is to search engines, which is a hard thing for even Google to compete with. To you and most business people trying to make the best use of their web development and web design efforts, the main question is what features does Google+ have that Facebook doesn’t?
More importantly, do those features really matter to you and your business enough for you to add yet another social media forum to your network?
Here are some of the new features that are getting some buzz:
Hangouts: Probably the biggest element Google+ has that Facebook doesn’t is a feature called “Hangouts” that gives users a way to join group video chats. It’s basically a chat room with video. Any user can create a Hangout and others can then join. As well as video chatting, users can also watch YouTube videos as a group.
Sparks: Sparks is the Google+ newsfeed, and it’s different from the Facebook news feed in that it’s focused on specific topics and on news: you won’t find information on where your friend was today or what they had for dinner, but you will find highlights from blogs, newspapers, and other media outlets sorted by topic.
What Strangers Are Saying: Whereas on Facebook the only posts and status updates that appear in your news feed come from people you’re friends with, Google+ lets you see posts and updates from people you aren’t yet following, but who are following you. You can follow them if you choose by putting them into one of your “circles”.
Chat with Strangers: Facebook Chat requires you to be friends with someone before you can chat with them. Google Hangouts, for better or for worse, are much more open: up to ten people can join a Hangout video chat, and they need not be in each others’ Circles to do so. Maybe nothing negative will come of this, but you’ve got to admit Google is taking a risk with a really loaded Pandora’s Box here.
So what’s the bottom line?
Bottom line is that yes…there is another social media forum to be considered for your Internet marketing and web development/web design efforts. Is it absolutely necessary? Functionally speaking, probably not, but the initial word is that you will do well to have a presence on Google Plus and the Google+ box (the equivalent of the Facebook “like” box) on your website will help you greatly in the search engines.
A few months ago, MIND teamed up with Andy Mathers Design for a complete overhaul of a fun site called VotefortheBest. Since then, we’ve completed a successful beta, officially launched the new site, and will now continue to improve the site in terms of usability and functionality as time goes on. Websites, like most software, are never really finished — they just get released! So what’s this new and exciting site we’re talking about?
Every year most newspapers give a “best of” list at the end of the year, spotlighting the “best” restaurants, real estate pros, plumbers, etc. Let’s face it… some of the time, advertising dollars spent helps to determine who’s actually number one in a given publication. Check out VotefortheBest.com and put your vote in on a true, untainted list of the best local businesses. Who is your favorite barber, veterinarian, spa, web developer or web designer? Take two minutes and become a registered voter at www.voteforthebest.com and then cast your votes for your favorites in any or all of the categories. Share your experiences so that others can benefit by making more educated decisions. It’s fun…and a great way to help promote your favorite businesses!
Even though web development and web design is the way we make a living for ourselves, it’s not just a means to an end, everyone who works at MIND started out in their respective fields with a passion that only fellow geeks can really understand. Now when a project comes along that excites us, we tend to get a little more involved than we ought to. A list of specifications and a few wireframes is all it takes to really get our engine going! Still, knowing that, sometimes it’s difficult to draw the line between business and pleasure when your pleasure is also your business. Even if we had great careers in a completely unrelated field, we would still probably go home every day and code or sketch, just for fun. We absolutely love that people are willing to pay us a fair wage for something we enjoy doing, and being free from the typical restraints of the corporate world (there are no pointy-haired bosses, no meaningless meetings, and no passive-aggressive coworkers in our office) is icing on the cake.
Trying to convey your passion to clients is a difficult task — on the one hand, we’re probably putting some people off by even trying humbly to point this out, and on the other, some people will see your desire to do good work as a weakness and your attachment to your work as a means to exploit you. It’s also incredibly difficult when working with people without even a vague understanding of what you do or how you do it. You know what? It’s still worth it!
The greatest form of marketing, in our opinion, is unsolicited referrals. If you rock so hard at what you do that people are falling over themselves telling their friends about you, then you must be doing an awesome job. Put yourself out there, recognize when others are doing the same, and eventually that good karma will catch up with you. Maybe it’s a vote on VotefortheBest.com, maybe it’s a recommendation on Facebook, or maybe, just maybe, you’ll land that next huge deal or get that next step up that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Last week we discussed the amazing natural camouflage effect of some members of the marine order Sepiida (marine class Cephalopoda) and how they…oh, wait.
That must have been someone else.
Last week we discussed the importance of recognizing the difference between press releases and news releases in your web development and web design efforts. This week, we’re outlining the differences for you…
A press release is something potentially newsworthy for the masses…something that could attract new interest or renewed interest in your business through content concerning an event, major change or a very strong opinion stated concerning your line of business and the effect of it on the mass population. Press releases are suitable for sending to newspapers and other mass media outlets both paper and online.
A news release is something that is important to you, people in your business, your clientele and maybe even known prospects, but not necessarily to the masses because they’re not immediately affected by the content.
While a news release may not be newsworthy for the masses the way a press release is, it still warrants reporting through a pressroom page on your website or on your blog page. Having a pressroom page or blog on your website allows news releases to help you in the search engines by giving you more opportunities to work keywords into your content (i.e. the news releases themselves) and by keeping your content fresh and up-to-date.
This will not only help you in the search engines (they index your site to see how fresh it is), but when people find your site they will see your archive and see that you are a reliable resource for up-to-date information. This is what will bring people back for repeated visits to your site and allow you to reap the greatest benefits from your web development and web design efforts.