Google’s “New” Over Optimization Penalty May Not Be So New

Google’s So-Called “New” Over-Optimization Penalty Google has been in the news recently for an announcement made by the webspam team regarding a new algorithm update that they say will include penalties for over-optimization. This does not seem like new news to me. Sure, maybe they are adding some new tricks to their arsenal, but from what I have seen, Google has been penalizing sites for over-optimization for some time. A few obvious examples include the recent very public penalties applied to JC Penny and Overstock.com for link manipulation. In both cases their sites were devalued for a few weeks to a few months then returned fairly strong not long after.

The more serious questions in my mind will be, Is Google opening themselves up to negative optimization tactics if they take this too far? and how will they differentiate between someone who is over-optimizing their own site, and someone who is a competitor trying to get someone else’s site penalized? It seems to me that when it comes to over-optimization it would be very easy to do on someone else’s site. There are a lot of blog directories and article directories where one can post links to a site in a very spammy way for very little money. How is it that Google thinks they can determine what is being done by the site owner versus what is being done by a rogue competitor?

Sure, maybe if you mix in some on page factors such as high of keyword densities or linking off of your site to bad networks, but those are obvious and should have been penalized all along. So what is it Google, are you really changing things as significantly as you are implying or are you simply trying to put some fear into website owner and try to scare people off of SEO? I am starting to wonder if their announcement was more intended to do the latter.

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Thoughts on Google’s Announcement that they will be targeting over-optimized sites

Really Google, you’re going to be targeting over optimized sites? Wow, that is big news (insert sarcastic expression here). That is about as breaking a news story as possibly “Brazilians are good at soccer” or “Barry Bonds may have been on steroids during record breaking season”. Seriously Google, maybe you can announce that you are increasing penalties, or maybe changing the way you target over optimized websites, but it is obvious to most in the know that this is something that you already have been doing for years. So why the announcement, my guess is that it is intended more as a deterrent to keep websites from optimizing at too high of level. In Google’s perfect world, no sites are optimized, and everything is natural. That would make Google’s algorithms much more effective, and it would make Matt Cutt’s job along with the web spam team’s work so much easier. However, in the real world where we live, and where Google lives whether they like it or not, websites will continue to be optimized for search engines and with Google as the dominant search engine for Google in particular.

What could Google specifically be cracking down on?

There are a number of well known over optimization techniques that Google as long cracked down on. Such techniques include obvious on-site spammy tactics as keyword stuffing (the act of repeating or using the target keywords frequently within a page), or invisible text. But what I think Google will be going after more is what is commonly referred to as link spam. That is the act of a webmaster or SEO going out and getting lots of links back to a site using specific keywords in the links. The problem Google will always have here is it can be difficult to tell the difference in many cases between legitimate incoming links and link spam unless the SEO or webmaster over does it. In many cases where Google has already penalized sites for link spam, I suspect that they use an algorithm to determine some factor that they consider out of whack, such as too many links coming to a site at one time with the same link text, or too many links pointing to only one page of a site, or too few links with natural elements such as URL or name of the company, or links from too many sites that Google deems low quality. It is also likely that they are looking at some combination of these factors. The thing that puzzles me is that they have been doing this for years.

So back to my original question, why do they make this announcement now? I think it is simply a matter of trying to scare site owners and webmasters to discourage SEO in an attempt to make the job of fighting link spam easier.

What do you think?

The article was provided by Chrispowell.net


How to Dominate Local Search

While local search and general organic search have their similarities, it is also important to understand that they are primarily unique from one another. It is possible to do well at one, while not doing well in the other, and vice versa. The following are a few keys to doing well in local search. Do them well and chances are you will dominate for your local keywords.

Claim you Local Listings on the Big Three:
It is essential that you claim and optimize you local listings for Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is not only so that you can control your listings, but it is also essential to make sure that your listings don’t get hijacked which is a surprisingly frequent occurrence. To claim the big three use the following urls:

Google: http://www.google.com/places/

Yahoo: http://listings.local.yahoo.com/basic.php

Bing: http://www.bing.com/businessportal/

Use appropriate keywords and categories in your listing

This aspect of local search is very  much the same as organic. It is essential that you include the keywords that you wish to rank for in the descriptions, titles, or categories in your local listings. There are a number of places that you can include these, ranging from the main description to the attributes. Just like with organic SEO, you should attempt to do so in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and makes sense to the user.

Add your Business to as many local sites as you can

In addition to Google, Yahoo and Bing, there are hundreds of other sites that offer local business listings, ranging from social sites like Yelp and Insider Pages to local directories and yellow pages. The more of these you can have your business listed in the better.

Be Consistent and Include your Website

It is important to be consistent so that the big three search engines can connect all your listings and realize that you are everywhere. I generally recommend using your business name, then city and state in your listing title. It is essential that your vital information such as phone number, address, email and website are the same through all listings. It is especially important to include your website if you want it to rank in local rankings.

Develop a strategy for getting positive reviews

Reviews are an essential component of your local rankings. This is one of the places where social media and SEO become the most interconnected. If Google, Bing or Yahoo see your local listing getting a ton of positive reviews, they are likely to include it highly in the local rankings for the keywords that are mentioned on your site, or in your local listings’ titles, descriptions, or additional text. How to go about getting positive reviews can range from business to business. While search engines say that you are generally not supposed to solicit positive reviews, odds are that some of your competitors are doing just that. If you are a restaurant, you may offer a discount, or free drink/appetizer/desert for anyone that comes in with their positive review printed. If you have a retail store or offer a service, you may offer a coupon, credit or discount. It is important that your reviews come from real people and are consistent across your listings sites.

We wish you luck with your local search, and as always, if you have questions or need help, we are here for you. You can get more information on local  search at chrispowell.net.


Be Aware of Fake Top SEO Lists

As someone who works in the SEO profession, I find that It is very important to keep up on the latest happenings in the search engine optimization industry. As such, I generally begin each day by doing a review of any articles about SEO, Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Marketing in the news, as well as browsing a few popular forums for interesting tidbits.

I recently noticed a large number of press releases coming in via my Google Alerts making me aware that this company or that company had been named the #3 or #4 on the topseo list by topseos.com and it was published in the International Business Times. Since I had never heard of the topseos or the International Business Times I looked them up and signed up for topseos.com. I have to say, it seemed like a good, free link and listing for my site. It is relevant and on topic.

Shortly after I signed up however, I became aware of the scam that they were pulling. I received an email from topseos.com mentioning that my company had been pre qualified for their list of Top SEOs even though they knew little to nothing about us. If I were to pay $5,000 I could be listed as the #1 site  on their list. For $3,000 my site could be #2, and for a measly $2,000 we could be listed #3 or below .

It did not specify any other requirements. What a bunch of baloney! This list of so called Top SEOs has nothing to do with how good of a job a company does at SEO for their clients. The rankings simply came down to how much you were willing to pay. What is more of a concern is that they make it look legit by attaching it to a newspaper that also is probably a sham.

Take my advice, if you are looking for an SEO company, don’t base your decision off any list unless it is from a relevant source that you know to be legit. You are better off asking for references from existing clients, looking up the firm in the BBB and asking questions related to the SEO of your site. If all of the above meet your requirements then you are probably in good hands. If someone is merely paying $5,000 to be included in a list, I am not so sure that is the case.


What does it take to build an effective SEO team

I recently spoke to a former employee who has been working for quite a few years for Kaplan International Colleges, which offers a series of schools throughout the English speaking world that focus on teaching English, and English courses. He mentioned in amazement that they now employ in the range of 30 people that work on SEO for their site, and that he was basically blown away by how important SEO had become and how many of their leads come in directly via their website, primarily due to the SEO.

Kaplan is a great example of a company that has done SEO right. They employ managers for each language or country that they target, their site has a ton of great content, and they have the site properly translated with SEO elements included for each target language or country. The site is full of unique content and actually has nearly 7,000 pages indexed in Google many of which rank very well for competitive terms.

This leads me to ask the question: Is it better to create an internal team to do your SEO, or does it make more sense to hire a consultant or company to do it for you? Obviously the answer varies from company to company. The following are a few thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

A few advantages to creating an internal SEO team include the following:

-The SEO team is 100% dedicated to your site and you have access to what they are doing at all times, and know they are working on your site at all times.
-The SEO team and other teams such as marketing or web development are in close proximity and can easily communicate.
-Over time, the SEO team should become experts marketing your specific industry.
-If you hire the right people, or provide proper training they can be as knowledgeable as a consultant.

A few disadvantages of hiring an internal SEO team would include the following:

-Hiring employees with specific SEO knowledge can be expensive.
-Your SEO team may require multiple employees each with full time salaries.
-If you hire someone without specific SEO knowledge, there will be a learning curve and you may put your site at risk.
-Multiple full time salaries can be very expensive.

Building an internal SEO team is not easy. It requires putting together the right type and combination of people. You will need people who are sales and marketing focused, technology focused, customer focused and analytically focused for different tasks of the SEO puzzle.  Depending on the budget, you may need to find a single individual that can wear each of these hats.

In the case of my friend’s company, it seems to have worked out very well, but they have been at it for some time, and who knows what kind of growing pains the company may have gone through while learning to do it right. Maybe there were few, but they also may have wasted tens of thousands of dollars in the process of learning to do it right before it actually worked out.

The other option is to hire an SEO consultant or an SEO company. I pretty much consider them one in the same. In general, you are going to save money outsourcing your SEO work, and the odds are, at least in the short term, they are going to be more knowledgeable than creating an internal team, but a big question remains, are you going to get the same level of dedication from them as you would from an internal team. In many cases the answer is likely “no”. There is also a chance you strike out on your hiring and end up with someone that does poor work or uses out of date or black hat techniques.

Ultimately, there is risk either way, but I feel that small to midsized companies are often better off going the consultant route. This way, they can set the budget at a rate that is affordable for them, and if something is not working they can easily go in a different direction. Larger companies, especially those where web leads are a major component of their marketing might be better either hiring a specific SEO team or SEO manager, or implementing the job into an existing employees responsibility and giving them proper training so they can properly handle the task.


Not Surprising that Yahoo Share of Search Market Continues to Drop

A month after falling behind Bing to become the number three search engine in the U.S. market, Yahoo’s market share has dropped once again, and in my opinion this was so predictable. The only thing that surprises me is that it did not happen sooner.

According to Comscore, the market share for the top five search engines in January 2012 were as follows:

Google – 66.2% (65.9% in December 2011)
Bing – 15.2%(15.1 percent )
Yahoo 14.1% (14.5% in December 2011)
Ask 3% (2.9% in December 2011)
AOL –  1.6% (same as last month)

The reason I suggest Yahoo’s loss of market share does not surprise me is that back in mid 2010 Yahoo stopped providing its own organic search results and switched to using Bing’s results. Let me point out that Yahoo did not technically use their “own” results to begin with. They actually used a company called Inktomi, but the difference was the Inktomi did not provide direct search results and was not a direct competitor. Bing is as direct of a competitor as you will ever see.

While the average person may not have been aware of this at the time (it was more relevent to search engine optimization experts), it is something that over time has proven to have an effect on the way people perceive the two sites. “If Yahoo is using Bing, then Bing must be better.” After all, why would you go to a third party source for something that you can get first hand. Apparently the geniuses at Yahoo did not see it that way, and as a result they have gone from once being possibly the biggest name on the Internet to slowly becoming insignificant.

Unless Yahoo does something drastic, I would expect to see their share continue to go down in the coming months and at some point I expect to see them down there with Ask and AOL (also at one time an important component in search).


Google Algorithm Changes January 2012

The following are Google’s list of algorithm changes for the month of January and my thoughts on each:

Fresher results – In my opinion, fresher results are good for SEO and good for Internet marketers and users. In the old days, Google would not update there algo for 4-8 weeks at a time, and when an update happened it stayed for the remainder of that time. If the results were bad for a site it was screwed, and that was also bad for users. The fresher the results, the better for everyone. I am all for this.

Faster autocomplete – This is not overly relevant to SEO. It is more related to usability of Google.

Autocomplete spelling corrections – This will not have a major impact on SEO.

Better spelling full-page replacement – Same as above.

Better spelling corrections for rare queries – Rare queries will not have significant impact on SEO and therefore this is not big news.

Improve detection of recurrent event pages – This will affect how Google determines the date of a document. This could affect news search, or searches related to time based queries. It may also impact attempts to fake freshness.

High-quality sites algorithm improvements – This appears to be related to the Panda update that devastated a number of sites back in April 2011. There is room for improvement here on an ongoing basis. While the original update did wipe some low quality sites from the top of the rankings, there were some good sites that got hit as well. Continued improvement is a good thing for white hat site marketers and users.

Cross-language refinements – This will mostly affect those searching in a Google site that is not default in their language. Google will detect that and make suggestions in the language of the users queries.

English on Google Saudi Arabia – I do not currently do any work in Saudi Arabia, but this could be helpful for English speaking users of google.com.sa.

Improved scrolling for Image Search – I don’t see this having an impact on SEO.

Improved image search quality – This update is supposedly going to give an emphasis to images with high quality landing pages in image results. This could be good if Google is able to detect redirects or image spam better as a result.

More relevant related searches – This is related to the “Related Searches” that pop up at the bottom of the page after you do a search. Many people aren’t even aware that these are there and I don’t believe they drive a ton of traffic, still it is important for SEOs to monitor and see what queries they are showing up for and what sites are showing up for queries related to their business name. Studying these results is a good way to broaden your target keywords.

Blending of news results – Universal search continues to blend results from different areas of search. It is important that your campaigns are broad and encompass multiple areas of search, and not just organic. It is important to be in Local, Shopping, New, Images, Video, Social, etc…

Automatically disable Google Instant based on computer speed – While I am not so concerned personally about this based on speed of Internet or computer, I say thank goodness that they are making it easier to opt out of instant search. I find it incredibly annoying and find no benefit to it. To opt out you can go to search preferences.

Compiled by Chris Powell