Posts in SEO
Penguin 2.0 (It's Here Whether You Like It Or Not)

So it begins, the great algorithm update of our time.Late yesterday evening Matt Cutts, head of Google's webspam team, confirmed that the much anticipated Penguin 2.0 / Penguin 4 update had been officially pushed live. Thanks to early warnings, the vast majority of webmasters knew several weeks ago what was coming. This is the first time the Penguin algorithm has been updated since October 2012 and promises to usher in a new era of spam-fighting techniques to demote rankings for websites using spammy tactics to climb their way to the top of organic search results. Early reports are showing that some of the biggest losers of this refresh are exact-match anchor text links and blog network link spam. Consequently, some of the early winners look to be branded terms for many sites that continue to follow Google's guidelines of building quality content for the user.

Many speculated that when Google launched the Disavow Tool last October, they would utilize the collected data to better combat certain types of spam, such as link networks & exchanges. Given the assumingly large amount of data at their disposal with 9 months full of disavow submissions, it would be an unimaginable waste of good resources to simply ignore said data. I believe that this data was definitely taken into consideration, to some degree, for Penguin 2.0 and will continue to be a "crowd-sourcing" method to assist Google in the ongoing fight against webspam.

After a few weeks have passed and the true repercussions of this update have had time to sink in, we will be updating our AlgoSleuth Tool for Penguin 2.0 so that you can check to see if your site was negatively affected by this latest Google Update. Stay tuned!

Three Things to Consider about Penguin 2.0

We all know and have come to expect changes in Google’s search algorithms. From the past evolution of Panda and Penguin updates we know poor SEO tactics have moved many sites to the bottom of the food chain of zoo animals and are crippling businesses everywhere (enough so that we created a tool to help you out). So it’s no surprise when Matt Cutts, the chief webspam marshal at Google hinted at an upcoming Penguin 2.0 update in the next few weeks, the SEO world went into a panicked frenzy. panic-google-panic!

So with all this talk of the impending killer Penguin 2.0 attack should you be concerned? Maybe, and here’s why.

It’s Going to be a Big One

While Google’s process to updating algorithms is complicated it’s simple to understand that some updates (like those we experienced from Panda before it was integrated into the algorithm itself) tend to be refreshes that effect a small portion of SERP’s online. What Cutts is making very clear is that this one’s going to be a doozie and will go “deeper, with more impact than ever before”.

Link Building Will Continue to Get Harder

Brands of all sizes understand that good meta tags, site architecture and links are a must for getting on the playing field in SEO. It’s the quality links that make the difference. Google’s made it very clear that subject matter experts that drive quality, natural traffic to valuable areas on site will be rewarded.  It’s likely Penguin 2.0 is going to set the bar higher than ever on quality links, which we all know can be hard to get. Now it’s likely the difference in a quality link, an “ok” link, and a poor link is going to be very clear and make link building a lot harder for everyone.

There May Still Be Hope

The bright spot of all of this Penguin 2.0 apocalypse may well come in the form of recovery for some businesses. If you were penalized by the original Penguin update in April 2012 or the two smaller updates that followed (May and October), it’s likely you haven’t recovered.  With a large scale update like what’s being suggested, it’s possible your cleaned up back link profiles and hard work to repair the damage could be rewarded. Recovery may be a very real possibility.

Regardless, if you’re a business owner or webmaster this update should be taken very seriously. If not, then, the best of luck to you!

AlgoSleuth Updated for Panda 25

It's been a little over a month now since the launch of our free SEO tool, AlgoSleuth. AlgoSleuth utilizes the power of the Google Analytics API to provide a powerful analysis of your site's organic traffic and highlights all major Google Algorithm updates that may have affected you over the past several years. AlgoSleuth was recently updated so that it now includes traffic data spanning Google's most recent Panda 25 algorithm update. We will continue to update it well into the future as new algorithm updates are pushed out by Google. The next planned update will also include some new features we've been working on. If you haven't tried out AlgoSleuth yet, just click below to grab a copy and test it on your site!

 

AlgoSleuth -  Now Updated for Panda 25

The New New Thing

Are you guys familiar with the Technological Singularity? The basic premise is that machine super-intelligence is an inevitability - that computers will become more and more intelligent until a point at which they surpass us by many leagues. Right now you may be saying to yourself, "Self, what does the Technological Singularity have to do with search engine marketing?" Well, Self, the answer is kind of a lot.

The algorithms and processes used by Google and other search engines are only getting more advanced. "More advanced" is of course a hopelessly general term. But let’s look at the effects it’s already having on the world of content writing.

In the beginning you could stuff your meta data full of keywords and get the undivided attention of the adolescent search engine. Later you could simply optimize your meta data and write thousands of meaningless sentences to draw their juice. More recently, you could still write thousand upon thousands of careful, sensical sentences with careful keyword ratios and internal linking to get attention. But those days are gone.

Content has always been king, but now that the search engines are smarter and more aware than ever, you cannot cheat. You have to write real content that is actually useful - that people would actually like and benefit from reading. Sounds hard doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

At Delegator we’ve always insisted on writing content in the best way we can. But now even we need to start making some changes. The days of 10,000 word orders are fading, and the days of the perfect 300 word product description are at hand. Now you have to be more than present - you have to shine.

Don't 301 Your Robots.txt

Delegator has a client we'll call the Widget Company. In September 2011 they decided to make a switch from Brand-keyword-stuffed-domain.com to Brand.com AND do a complete site redesign and restructuring. However, being a forward thinking company that relies on a lot of search traffic, they wanted to make the change over as smooth as possible.

Good Intentions

Leading up to the new site launch and domain change over hours were spent manually choosing 301 redirect paths for the category pages and product pages. Then, not wanting to overlook any straggler pages, Widget Co. created a universal URL rewrite rule to cover any pages they might have missed in the manual redirection effort. Everything not already on the list would be automatically redirected from Brand-Keyword-stuffed-domain.com to the shiny new Brand.com homepage.

Robots.txt

Normally, that would be a pretty good strategy. BUT they didn't account for their robots.txt file.

For almost a year now, Brand-keyword-stuffed-domain.com/ robots.txt has been 301 redirecting to Brand.com/robots.txt and Google has been using it!

That means for every change made to the robots.txt file on the new site over the last 9 months the same has been applied to the old domain.

Nightmare Scenario

Why is that so bad you ask? For some reason, during development, there was a need to block the /shop/ directory in robotx.txt on the new site. Sadly, that also happened to be the same directory on the old site that contained....wait for it....all of their product and category pages!

Months later, these same URLs on the old domain, thousands of /shop/ URLs were still in the index. The Googlebot was applying the Robots.txt instructions to the old domain!

Unable to finally die or pass link juice these URLs laid for months, stuck in the oblivion between a 301 redirect and a Robots.txt while organic traffic steadily declined.

Result

All of the painstaking work of manual redirect checking and keeping link juice was lost. Although all of the 301's for these pages worked properly, Googlebot was being stopped via the robots.txt. Therefore, Googlebot could never crawl these pages, discover the 301, pass the link juice, de-index the old site, and rank the new site well.

Moral of the story

  1. Be very careful with blanket redirect rules
  2. The Googlebot will follow a 301 redirect to a Robots.txt on a new domain and apply it to the original domain.

Photo Credit: Mark Strozier

(Not Provided) Keyword Data to Rise

On May 7th, the Mozilla Privacy Blog announced that Google Secure Search has become the default standard in the Aurora build of Firefox. Aurora is step 2 of 4 in the development cycle of the Firefox browser. This feature was announced weeks ago, but at the time was only in the Nightly development version of Firefox, a place where experimental changes are often tested and discarded. The move to the next development stage signals that Mozilla does intend to roll out this change in a future version of Firefox. You can read more about that, but the short version is, we can expect this to be the default search in the stable version of Firefox in 12-18 weeks

What does this mean for site owners and SEO's? It will almost certainly mean a dramatic spike in (not provided) keyword data as Firefox is one of the most popular browsers in the world, with 35-38% of usage share in the US.

Many site owners are already seeing 15 or 20% of the search referral data as the dreaded (not provided) "keyword". It is difficult to guess, but this number could be as high as 50-60% on some sites, when combining (not provided) data from logged in Google users as well as anyone using Firefox.

When the (not provided) referral data was introduced in October 2011 some site owners and SEO's suggested that Google might be motivated purely by profits because all PPC keyword data can still be accessed anyone using Google Adwords. With the news that Google is paying the Mozilla Foundation $300 million a year to be the default search engine in Firefox, some people are questioning the Mozilla Foundation's real motives with this move.

Feb. 14th, 2013 Update: Just as many analysts predicted, Google Chrome was not far behind in moving searches to SSL. iOS6 also jumped on the bandwagon now bringing the global averages for (not provided) keyword data to almost 30% of all organic traffic.

Google Annouces Global Roll Out of Product Rich Snippets

On April 17th, Google announced they were rolling out updates to Rich Snippets that includes support of product rich snippets globally. For any webmasters out there that haven’t implemented this simple HTML markup on their site, this should be your last call.

(If you’re unfamiliar with Rich Snippet Markup, here is the 60 Second Intro from Google)

Fortunately for all of us, Google, Bing, and Yahoo have agreed to support a common standard in micro data formatting. The http://schema.org/ resource outlines most of the various tags that can be added, and provides clear documentation.

Google has also provided a Rich Snippet Tool to allow developers to test exactly how their markup will appear in the Google SERP’s before pushing it live.

On Ecommerce sites rich snippets can include price, reviews, star ratings, brand, categories, and breadcrumbs. One study showed a 150% improvement in Organic CTR.

Content Based Websites aren’t left out though. You can add the rel=author tag to show your picture and name in the search results next to the article. Barry Swartz at SearchEngineRoundtable outlines how authors are getting a better CTR simply by changing their picture!

If you still don’t appreciate the value of rich snippets, SEOMoz produced a definitive Q&A on the subject that’s worth a read. It might convince your boss to let you get started!

What The Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 2 of 2

(In case you missed it: Part 1 of 2)

“All in the game, yo. All in the game.” - Omar Little

Omar Little - All in the Game, Yo

At the end of the day, SEO is a kind of game. It’s a very serious game with billions of dollars riding on it, sure, but it’s a game nonetheless. There are rules and strategies that work - that have been proven to work for years. Even when the rules change (aka Google gets a big idea), smart players simply work to familiarize themselves with and exploit the new playing field.

There will be bumps in the road (there may also be a few boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and bags of cash dropped from on high), but dogged and intelligent pursuit of organic power using the rules that search engines created and SEOs have trail-blazed is a surefire route to success.

“I want my corners.” - Avon Barksdale

Stringer Bell believed in a new kind of game - the game beyond the game as he memorably put it - and he stopped believing in the importance of territory. It was a classic case of vision becoming unmoored from reality. Yes, in a perfect world Stringer’s strategy might have worked, but in the real world it was always going to be a flop. Owning the corners was a fundamental building block of the drug trade in Baltimore - you couldn’t divorce them from the rest of your strategy. The same idea can be applied to SEM; you’ll never get anywhere unless you execute on fundamentals. You’ve got to have your corners.

There are dozens of aspects of SEM that all contribute to a better organized and optimized web presence. There are a hundred ways to make your online presence more visible, more effective, and more profitable. But there are a few rock solid fundamentals that absolutely every SEM effort will fail without.

  • Content
    • Without it, you don’t exist to search engines.
  • Site Structure and Speed
    • Without it, you don’t exist to Google.
  • Analytics
    • Without it, you are flying completely blind.

Without those basic building blocks in place, nothing else you do is going to work the way it should, or the way you want it to. There is a game beyond the game, there surely is - but you’ve gotta have your corners.

“‘Failure to properly identify myself as a police officer.’ Sounds like what I was guilty of most of my career, actually.” - Detective Roland Pryzbylewski

Prez was not natural police. He got on the force because his father-in-law was a higher up in the department, he was unable to control his fear in the field, and he consistently failed to take his situation as seriously as he should. He just wasn’t a good cop - he wasn’t cut out for it.

But he was a fantastic teacher. After being drummed out of the force he ended up working in Baltimore public schools and making a real difference. It was a match for his skill set - it was his calling.

We see this happen a lot with e-commerce sites. They can get carried away chasing rankings and traffic for terms that aren’t their real strengths. If you’re a company that makes vacuum cleaners, then focus on selling vacuum cleaners! Don’t waste time and money trying to rank for other items that are insignificant in the larger scheme of things, and which are inferior products to your main offerings. Know thyself, and do what you do when you do what you do.

“A man got to have a code.” - Omar Little/Bunk Moreland

Perhaps the most quoted line from The Wire. It expresses the moral center of the entire show - that a man must have a personal code of conduct that transcends the law, and any traditional or makeshift authority or set of rules. It’s an acknowledgement from Omar that there is indeed a “game beyond the game” - but it’s not about what Stringer thought it was. It’s about integrity.

We would argue that’s the primary value of an SEO company as well.

At Delegator we don’t do black hat SEO - while it may pay off in short term results, we know it’s a losing strategy in the long game and a threat to the businesses of our clients.

We track and keep our clients apprised of their organic and PPC results at all times - good or bad. That keeps us accountable.

We assign an account manger for each client so that communication never breaks down, and there’s always someone looking out for your best interests with skin in the game.

We believe in comprehensive packages that keep us flexible, rather than monthly draws on your bank account for services you might not need anymore or that may have become less important to your business.

It’s all in the game, yo. All in the game.

What the Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 1 of 2

The Wire is everyone's favorite show for a reason. A deep well of characters, a sprawling narrative that felt intimate and alive, a searing critique of the drug war and a top to bottom post-mortem on the heart of a once-great city. It could only be described as, well, "Dickensian." Sorry, Gus! The Wire was one of those shows that kept you on the hook with long-developing plot lines (investigations, mergers, a series of major news reports) that typically extended over an entire season. It also delivered incredible quotes and moments of drama and comedy on a weekly basis - sometimes both in the same scene. It's what gave the show its weekly entertainment punch to go along with its historical level of sophistication and "reporting."

Here at Delegator we're big fans, and we even started using some of those quotes around the office to reference some of the things we were doing for clients related to AdWords, SEO, Analytics, and more. With a recent upswing in attention on the show (thanks Grantland!) we thought now might be a good time to share with our clients and readers what we've been talking about for years. Search Engine Marketing - As Explained by the Cast of The Wire. Sheeeeeeee...

“When you take a shot at the King, you best not miss.” - Omar Little

Omar Little

Taking aim at the number one Google ranking is a formidable task. That’s especially true when you happen to be going up against another entity that a) has a clearly more relevant relationship to the keyword than you do or b) can spend you under the table. Unfortunately for most companies, it’s not a realistic goal.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn't try, or shouldn’t at least set it as your goal. Sometimes toppling the king is easier than you thought (just ask Marlo). But more often than not, as Wee-Bey found out, you end up eating chicken salad across from Bunk and McNulty. What is realistic for most companies is getting a few corners of their own - corners the big boys  might not know about. The way to do this in SEO is by investigating and then investing in long tail keywords. Maybe Huge Company X has the market cornered on "The Wire Posters," but you could get a real foothold in "Michael K. Williams Posters," "Omar Little Wire Posters," or "Omar Little Season 5 Posters." You won't get quite as much traffic as you would for a generic term, but the traffic you do get will be specific, and motivated to convert.

The only way to achieve a ranking like that for a competitive keyword is perfect preparation, determination in the form of time and money, and luck.

“Look the part, be the part.” - Proposition Joe

Proposition Joe

Joe came in for some ridicule from Avon when he showed up to the annual East/West showdown in full “Pat Riley” suit and tie regalia, but his commitment to looking like a “real” basketball coach helped him coach with more authority and confidence. In other words, getting the look right helped him get the job right. That, and a hired ringer. This is a lesson that can be easily applied to SEM.

Everything starts with your site design. A newcomer to your site should immediately be able to understand what you’re about and trust that you can deliver the goods. Building that initial trust element and creating a homepage that effectively funnels users to the pages you want them to hit is a complicated, multi-faceted process, but it’s a time and design investment well worth making. When you look like a “real” site, you’ll see yourself start to perform like one.

“Our job is to report the news, not manufacture it!” - Gus Haynes

Gus Haynes and Scott Templeton Season 5 of The Wire was about the breakdown of professional ethics within the main character, Detective Jimmy McNulty, as well as the august offices of the Baltimore Sun (where series creator David Simon began his career as a journalist). McNulty, frustrated with the lack of institutional support for his wire investigations, (SPOILER ALERT) fakes the presence of a serial killer by “adjusting” bodies post mortem. Scott Templeton, a hotshot up and comer at the Sun, began his career making up innocuous stories about wheelchair bound children going to Orioles games, but he eventually begins to stretch the truth about the serial killer case - he is the only reporter the “killer” ever contacts.

In the end McNulty loses his badge and Templeton wins a Pulitzer.

When you go with “black hat” SEO - SEO that attempts to get around Google standards and practices through any one of a dozen illicit strategies - you’re taking the same chance. Maybe it will work, you won’t get caught, and your business will go up, up, up. But maybe you’ll get caught, blacklisted, and penalized indefinitely in the organic results, crippling and even killing your business. Is that really a chance you want to take?

At Delegator we only do “white hat” SEO. Be very careful before getting in bed with any firm that doesn’t, and make sure that if you’re running your own SEO operation you don’t cross the line. It’s not worth risking your entire business.

“If Snotboogie always stole the money, then why did you let him play?”

“Got to. This America, man.” - McNulty and Man on Stoop

Anybody can play the AdWords game. Doesn’t matter if they don’t understand it, try to cheat it, or run their accounts into the ground. Because it depends on the quality of your site much less than the value of your dollar, it’s as open as it gets in the land of SEM. The only thing you need to play is money - Google allows you to set up your account and start spending faster than you can run down to your neighborhood game of bones (though your ROI is likely to be higher with Google). You will almost certainly need an expert to guide you through the weeds with no pain and plenty of profit.

Active AdWords management is the best way to navigate the choppy waters of paid search. Active management means going in every day and making changes, re-organizing, raising and lowering bids, and identifying and exploiting new best practices. That's the only proven way to consistently stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the wide open AdWords game.

Come back for more Wire action next week!

Part 2 of 2.

The Top Ten Ways to Optimize Your Wordpress Blog and Make It More Powerful than Ever - Part II

Welcome back campers to the exciting conclusion of our two part mini-series on juicing up your Wordpress blog. Hopefully you've had enough time to lay the groundwork with our last round of suggestions - now it's time to blow the roof off. Enjoy!

6. SEO Packs

Okay, most of the things on this list are good for any blog anywhere. But Wordpress has a few major advantages when it comes to SEO. One of the best is the All In One SEO Pack, a nifty plug-in that allows you to create meta data at the same time you write and post your blog entry (and you don’t have to mess with code at all). There’s a whole world of great plug-ins at Wordpress - take the time to dig through them and find the ones that are the best for you. (Hint: The ones that are the best for you are the ones that make running the blog easier and more efficient!).

7. Posting Regularity

Self-explanatory, but here we go for the back of the class - if you don’t post with regularity your readers will not keep coming back to see what you have to say. Even if no one is commenting, no one seems to be reading and you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall, post with regularity! It’s vital to your success. New folks won’t want to read through a blog started in 2010 that has four posts.

8. Posting Volume

Regularity is the most important thing, but volume is essential as well. Once a month is fine if that’s the best you can do, but the most successful and popular blogs post daily - usually many times a day. Do your best to write as much as you can. Remember, it’s okay to be a little bit unfiltered, or even occasionally wrong on a point of fact - your community will correct you, and a blog is a living document. You can always correct the record.

9. Comments

We’ve touched on comments earlier in the post, but they’re so, so important to your success. Allow them, and read them, and post and promote them if they’re worthy. When you listen to your readers they tend to listen to you, stay engaged, and keep your blog on their roster of daily reading. Yes, sometimes comments can get annoying. But they're an excellent way to engage.

10. Blog to Blog Partnerships

This is a fun and productive way of keeping up your volume and regularity, gain access to new and larger communities of readers, and of course make friends. When you can have online conversations with other blogs, go back and forth and mix and mingle your content, you spread your message. Go forth and befriend.

And now, go forth and conquer. Huzzah!