If you have a website, you need a good SEO plan. But how do you keep up with the whims of Google? With EverSpark Interactive’s What’s New In The World of Google weekly meetup, your search for the latest Google goings-on and SEO tips and tricks is over.
Please join us at our next meeting on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 from 8am – 9:30am. Space is limited — so be sure you RSVP to get your front row seat to what’s always a lively discussion. Even if you’re not positive you can make the meeting, you can always play a little catch up with our blog recap posts. This is also a great way to review previous meetups you may have attended, and investigate some of the issues covered further.
The meetup takes place at EverSpark Interactive’s offices located at:
6 Concourse Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30328
What’s New This Week:
More From The 6 Hour Audit
Auditing a website is a job that’s actually never “complete.” As Google requirements change and your website grows, the need for additional sections will grow right along with it. For example, looking into issues that are happening outside of your site, such as backlinks, can be a huge factor in your site’s performance. This is particularly true if you’ve ever engaged in link building practices such as guest blogging, or if you might have used an SEO company in the past that could have used strategies that are now looked upon unfavorably by Google. Some to look out for are:
- Anchor text over-optimization. This is where you have key phrases or exact match keywords linking back to your site.
- Lack of branded keywords.
Depending on how bad the situation is, you may just need to start over — particularly if your site already has a penalty levied against it. This would require you purchasing a new domain and essentially starting from scratch. While you may be able to preserve some of your content and links, this option is sometimes the only solution for websites that are too far gone to try to disavow everything.
Other Things To Look Out For On Your Audit
When you take the time to sit down and dissect your site, you’ll generally watch your “to do” list start to grow. Depending on the age of your site, you may notice that some of your pages are over-optimized. While this was common practice several years ago, they’re now a major red flag for search engines and penalties. For example, do your pages appear natural? Is your text clearly written with relevant links?
Spammy Link Practices
Again, many SEO practices that were perfectly fine up until even a year ago are now major no-no’s for search engines like Google. If your site looks like it’s engaged in spammy practices, or appears to be manipulative, you can easily end up with a penalty that’s hard to shake. Some of the things to investigate include:
- Possible use of paid links.
- Press releases with use of keyword rich anchor text.
- Profile spam techniques (this is where you create profiles for comments sections just to link back to your site).
- Guest blog posts.
Guest blog posts are a major and somewhat recent sticking point for Google. In January 2014, Matt Cutts wrote a post on his blog denouncing the use of guest blog posting for links. This signaled a major shift in how sites could go about getting links without looking spammy. Sadly, it also meant that multiple posts and sites that weren’t being spammy at all were swept up in the movement. Case in point is post from Moz.com where someone had a link from a post and was issued a warning. The self-titled Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin, responded with a post that underlined how links from YouMoz did not in any way violate their quality guidelines. Essentially, the source of the link should not be the issue. It’s the attempt to manipulate that’s the problem.
So are there any dofollow links that are safe for blog posts? Branded links, or links where you are using your brand name, should be fine. However, you need to be careful that the site themselves isn’t spamming their other guest blog posts. As mentioned in previous meetups, with Google, you truly are judged by the company you keep. When it comes to your own blog, linking out is fine as long as you’re linking out to the same kind of thing 80% or more of the time. For example, if you’re a dog groomers and you’re frequently linking to kids toys or other sites that are irrelevant to what you do, that could attract the wrong kind of attention from Google. “Essentially, you need to ask yourself if you would want this link if there were no search engines,” says EverSpark SEO Manager, Steve Miller. “Would you want to be associated with this site. You only want links that put you in a good light and are highly relevant.”
What Else Should I Look Out For?
- Are you linked up with any spammy directories or directories that have little or nothing to do with your particular market?
- Do you currently have any foreign links that are outside of your geographical target? For example, if you are a Georgia lawyer, a link from a Russian site will be highly suspect.
- Have you left your comments section open? It’s important to moderate that so you don’t get bombarded with spammy links. Be sure to read them as well, checking where the links go.
What Exactly Can Get My Site Penalized?
At the recent SMX Advanced Conference, SearchEngineLand‘s Danny Sullivan hosted a You&A with Google’s Matt Cutts (you can read the recap and watch the video here) where he asked if it would be easier for Google to tell sites what was actually OK to do rather than constantly coming up with new items which were not. It’s certainly a question that’s been playing on the minds over at EverSpark, and Steve Miller and his team are currently running a case study on the subject. What exactly does it take to get a site penalized? When asked what he suspects the results will be, his top three were:
- Links that appear “rented” or paid for will be the fastest to get penalized.
- Mass comments spam with exact match keywords will be red-flagged.
- Mass press release spam with exact match keywords will also be penalized.
It will be interesting to see what the research uncovers. Stay tuned at future meetings for the results.
Google Certified Photographers: What You Need To Know
If you’re looking to improve your look on Google and boost your site on local searches, getting citations is one of the most important things you can do. One of the best citations you can have is by using a Google Certified Photographer, who will come in and photograph your business. This confirms to Google that you actually do exist and can be trusted. You can read more about it from our June 25th meetup recap here. Take a look at EverSpark’s most recent client for Google photography, Write2Market, to get an idea of just how it works. You already know it’s a good idea to have a certified photographer come to your business — but what are the exact benefits?
- You’ll give your customers the ability to see your premises before they even come through the door. This is particularly useful for restaurants, medical centers and real estate.
- You will see greater promotion on Google, as Google is looking to promote their products. When someone searches for your company or brand name, you will get a “see inside” button on your listing.
- You will see a boost in your position in the organic listings (i.e. the A-F buttons on the Google Maps). For example, one company that EverSpark recently did a session for wasn’t even on the A-F location buttons. One month later, they are now in the A position.
- It’s fast. You can see results from it in as little as one month from uploading.
- For smaller businesses, it’s a sound investment. For less than $1,000, you can easily see a boost in your search rankings.
There are a few things to note in order to make the use of a Google photographer work for you. For example, you should have a minimum of 8 panographic photographs. Additionally, if you have multiple locations, it’s important that you do them all so you can truly see the benefit. Depending on your business, it’s clearly a worthwhile option to investigate.
How Do They Do That? Case Studies For Ranking
Recently, EverSpark has started a Lunch & Learn program for professional marketers who want to know more about how to get their sites to rank. This session featured case studies from Best Buy and Home Depot. For example, how has Best Buy consistently top ranked for the term “laptop?” Additionally, how have Home Depot’s “How To” videos helped them to climb to the top of the search rankings?
Case Study #1: Best Buy
For quite some time, Best Buy has essentially become the “browsing shop” for deciding what you were going to buy online. After all, online prices were generally cheaper and if you were already a Prime subscriber, shipping was free through Amazon.com. So how has Best Buy become the online leader in the search rankings for the term “laptop?” Currently, they rank for the following:
- lap top
- lap tops
- lap top computers
- cheap lap top
- lap top bags
- lap top computer
- laptop computers
In just those 9 keywords alone, there are over one million people searching for them in any given month. If you take the percentages, that gives them over 477,000 unique visitors per month. With an average conversion rate of approximately 2.85%, this sets Best Buy’s monthly e-commerce transactions at over 13,000 per month. When you consider the average cost of a lap top is approximately $984, this can equate to a monthly income of over $13 million.
So how do they do it?
Currently, Best Buy has three products on the paid side complete with reviews, which puts them right at the top of the page. As discussed in previous meetings, site expiration dates can have a lot to do with how you’re viewed by a search engine, and Walmart, one of their main online competitors, currently shows that their site is expiring in September 2014. While Matt Cutts has said this isn’t a variable in their determination of what should rank higher organically, it can hurt you. “Having a registration that says you’re expiring in 5 years is a lot better,” says Jason. “However, it’s actually worth it just to spend the extra $50 and extend it for 10 years. There are even 100 year extensions available now.”
Indexed links also have a huge impact on your relevance for a search engine. As Walmart only has 2.5 million links indexed on the web, Best Buy has over 26 million. Because of this, Google will look at the two sites and determine that Best Buy is more relevant and deserves to be higher in the search engine results.
By using the Advance Search Query on Google, you can also determine how often a site is being updated. While both Walmart and Best Buy are both updating approximately every 30 minutes, Walmart is utlizing a lot of user-generated content where their users can ask questions and other users can answer. This might be a strategy that Best Buy will want to look at in the future.
As mentioned before, your links are also hugely important for determining where you end up in the SERPs. If you are using a huge amount of exact match anchor text, then you’re more likely to end up with not only a penalty, but lower in the results. Best Buy’s links look fairly natural when studied, whereas Walmart has 44% of their links with an exact match anchor text of “laptops.”
Case Study #2: Home Depot
Video is becoming a hugely important part of smart SEO plans, and this is particularly true for sites such as Home Depot. When it comes to educating your consumers, showing them, rather than telling them, can have a huge impact on how they trust your brand and interact with it. With Home Depot, they’ve found a huge source of traffic by putting up “how to” videos. For example, home repairs and do-it-yourselfers frequently look online to find out how to re-tile a bathroom, install a toilet, or even fix basic household items. Additionally, they’ve utilized their customer service representatives both on the phone and on the floor to feed back with what their customers are currently asking. When a representative gets a question they haven’t heard before, they’re given an incentive to log it and feed it back. This makes it easy for Home Depot to develop content that’s relevant and important to their customers. “It’s not a matter of having just a video, it’s a matter of having a video that’s engaging,” says Jason. “Ask yourself, does the video actually solve something that someone might be searching for? If the answer is no, then it might be time for a re-think.”
While companies like Home Depot have thousands of representatives to help them tailor their videos to what their customers want, how can smaller companies come up with compelling video content? A few ideas might include:
- Use Google Autocomplete (where you start typing into the Google search box) to see what Google suggests for certain questions.
- Try using Clever Gizmo’s Keyword Researcher. Use the Wildcard search tab to have it scrap through Google’s autocomplete database for ideas.
- Make a note of common questions you get from your customers or clients. Be sure to get your staff to feed back any questions they’re regularly getting.
What makes a great video? Firstly, they should be short and to the point. Think about the “how to” videos that you regularly watch, and you’ll find that many of the top ranked ones run between 3-6 minutes long, depending on the topic. They don’t need to be high tech with lots of bells and whistles, but they should be professional. Some of the most simple videos often have the most impact. For example, every SEO worth their salt tunes in for Moz.com’s Whiteboard Friday videos, which feature just an expert and a whiteboard. Additionally, take a look at the short video from EverSpark explaining a cool new trick for how to embed video into a Gmail email.
What else is important when you’re using video? Firstly, keep it to your website for the first two weeks. You can do that by using a hosting company like Wistia. After you’ve had the page cache and you’ve gathered the links and traffic to your own site, you can migrate it over to YouTube. Secondly, be sure you’ve got your coding correct. By doing this, you can ensure that the Google crawlers understand you have a video and can mark it as such. Thirdly, be sure that you’re not using your transcription as your description, as that can lead to the dreaded duplicate text that Google can frown upon. Lastly, don’t forget to share it through your social media and blogs.