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Future Proof Your SEO Strategies In 2015

November 20th, 2014 by

Probably the most important question for SEO’s or Site Owners in 2015 is going to be– “Can my website survive a manual or algorithmic Google penalty?”

Over the past two years, as Google’s Webmaster Spam team gets better at identifying tactics, we have seen the number and frequency of algorithmic updates and manual penalties increase. This looks set to continue over the next couple of years.

So, how can you adjust your tactics to get results without risking everything?

Here are some ideas for content, link building, technical, offline, local, social and mobile considerations to create an overall picture of what search engines see as a ‘good’ site and help you renovate your SEO strategy for 2015. Just to let you know, we have been working successfully and carrying out the majority of these strategies since last year.

Content Using content as the foundation of your SEO strategy is not a new concept, but the definition of “good” quality content is ever-changing. Although the Panda update punished sites with thin content, there still are sites that use such content to rank higher. It might help temporarily, but will definitely have an impact in the long run.

Good content:

  • Drives traffic through searches related to your industry.
  • Builds authority in the eyes of users and search engines.
  • Increases engagement with your brand on social media.

So what can be termed as good content?

Content in 2015 will not be just limited to the pieces of text you will add to the website or blog. You will need to think outside of this and make sure to develop a range of varied media like videos, presentations, whitepapers, info-graphics, how-to’s etc. These become your assets and can be one of your best sources for links. Basically, you have to provide content, which is useful to the end user.

Link Building Link building is still the mainstay of how major search engines rank websites, but the interpretation of link data has changed ever since the Penguin update was launched.

Bad link building is one of the easiest ways to get penalized, but good link building can be the hardest part of your job (even more so in certain niches).

So, what can definitely be considered as a bad link or a link that should be “disavowed”?

  • Site wide footer links / multiple links from the same domain.
  • Blogroll links.
  • Forum posting / profile links.
  • Many free directory links.
  • Links from same class C IPs.
  • Links from spun content.
  • Links to different industry websites from the same article / content.
  • Links from link-farm directories / pages.
  • Links from many non-English sites (for example – .ru, .jp, .cn, etc.).

It is advisable to get rid of such links either manually or by disavowing the links via Google Webmaster Tools.

From our end, we use the following techniques for building links.

  • Backlink Analysis – Balancing of followed links to nofollow to have a natural profile. Check backlinks and traffic of sites from which we are getting links to find and weed out sites that are themselves hit by this update.
  • Link Velocity – The first and most significant observation that stood out among sites which were affected by the Penguin update was link velocity. We have reduced our link velocity since the update. Getting too many links quickly will be flagged by Google.
  • Anchor Text Diversity – Continue to vary anchor text and lower the % of specific key terms focus. We have been doing this since 2012 and will continue to work the %’s.
  • Link Diversity – Sites performing well have good link diversity including links from Guest Blog Posts, info-graphics, videos, local business directories, presentations, coupons submissions etc. Since Google prefers a diversified link profile. We recommend getting links from these sources. Most of these sources are also now part of new deliverables.
  • Reviews – Get clients to get reviews for their sites. They should make this a part of their daily business.

Apart from this, to get quality links you can also consider link reclaiming. Link reclaiming is the act of finding sites that mention you, your brand or a related story and simply asking for a link.

There are a number of ways to find opportunities for link reclamation:

  • Web Mentions – Google Alerts is the most popular tool for monitoring mentions on the web, but Moz has also just released an alert function for their Fresh Web Explorer. Set up an alert for your brand name and when a site mentions you without linking, send them an email.
  • Images – Use Google’s Search by Image tool to find out where people are using your images and ask for a link credit, this works a majority of the time.
  • Videos – If you are hosting videos on YouTube you can use their analytics platform to see where your videos are being watched on external sites. Visit those sites and ask for a link to your website to supplement the video.

    Local Something that we have personally seen develop over the past two years is the influence of location on search results. Google is actively expanding the number of searches that trigger a local result as they understand which searches are relevant to a location.

    You need to be clear about the locations your business really serves and try and make sure you don’t look more broad than you really are.

    Schema is one way to show search engines where you are based and which areas you serve. Apart from this, you can also look at some local on-site changes like creating GEO based landing pages for each location you serve, optimizing your Google Places page by filling out as much information as you can and getting genuine reviews from your customers, implementing rich snippets and obviously altering the page titles and meta descriptions to feature the service and areas you serve.

    Mobile Mobile data has almost overtaken desktop. Results are starting to deviate more from desktop as search engines try to improve the quality of results by presenting results that will work well on mobile. For example, a site that is created in flash will not rank if the searcher is using a device which does not support flash.

    If your site is not mobile friendly that doesn’t mean it won’t rank, but it’s always best to give the user the best experience. Google has officially declared in a blog post that having a responsive design is the best way to move forward. Having a responsive design also has its own benefits from SEO perspective.

    Social Media The final piece of the search puzzle is social. While there is still no absolute direct link between social and ranking, search engines are increasingly adding social elements to search results. Google uses Google+, Bing uses Facebook and both show reviews. Social proof is a great way to encourage searchers to click through to your site.

    Social is also the best way to promote new content immediately to encourage shares, links and engagement.

    We already have social media integration as a part of our deliverables. In addition, to improve social signals, instead of doing social bookmarking of the articles submitted we are getting social signals to those articles which will include (either of) Facebook likes, Tweets or Google+ Votes. Client participation is encouraged.

    We hope this post has given you something to think about for 2015. Start planning your strategy for next year and get ahead of the competition.

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How To Regain Trust In Google After A Manual Penalty

November 15th, 2014 by

We came across a Google Webmaster Help thread that has a story of a webmaster who is trying to disavow and remove all the bad links pointing to his site.

The webmaster simply has to remove the manual action, but Google’s John Mueller tells him, the site also has algorithmic trust issues. John mentioned –

“Looking at your site’s history, it looks like you’ve done quite a bit for quite some time, and it looks like our algorithms have picked up on that too. So, while resolving the manual action is a good way to start, you need to keep in mind that it can possibly take quite some time for our algorithms to regain trust in your site even after that.”

We have typically seen this happening a lot – We notice a drop in rankings, we review the backlinks and come up with a list that needs to be manually contacted. After this we come up with a list that needs to be disavowed and finally disavow the links / domains. However, even after months, we do not see an improvement in rankings. The only reason could be the algorithmic actions taken on the site. According to Google –

The algorithms seem to have lost trust over time. The manual action is a “good way to start”, but the algorithms need to “regain trust” in the site for there to be an improvement – which may take some time.

How we are helping your site regain trust after we disavow the links?

  • We build good quality links – There is no denying the fact that links are here to stay. We build links from highly relevant sources that include guest blogs, videos, info-graphics, local business directories, coupons, etc. making it a diversified backlink profile. We also make sure to diversify the anchor text by lowering the percentage of exact match anchor texts and getting more links for naked URLs, branded terms, and variations.
  • We improve your On-site SEO – With the rebalancing of some off page SEO factors, the importance of on page SEO has to be respected. We continue to focus on more on-site optimization techniques which include correcting all possible 404 errors, fix duplicate (thin) content on the site, implementing rich snippets, etc.
  • We write good quality content for your site – We understand that having relevant content on the site is vital for its success. The content is written by professional content writers who write with search engine standards in mind. Apart from this, we feature informative content on blog posts (added on the website blog) to benefit the Hummingbird update as well.
  • We recommend implementing Google Authorship – Since Google has given clear indication that Authorship will be used as a ranking factor in near future, it’s better to implement it right away and take advantage. It also helps to improve click through rates as well as protects your content.
  • We improve social signals – Instead of doing social bookmarking of the article URLs, we get social signals to those articles, which will include things such as Facebook likes, Tweets or Google+ Votes. Client participation is encouraged. We have also included Social Profiles creation as part of our strategy.
  • We recommend getting reviews on your Google+ local page – This has been mentioned many times earlier, but customer reviews are of the utmost importance to rank a local website higher. We always recommend getting genuine reviews from your customers.

What Will 2015 Bring For Local Search?

November 12th, 2014 by

As opportunity grows for businesses to connect with customers via search, so do the challenges of determining the best approach. Here are a few local search happenings to expect in this year.

National to Local Approach for Brands The idea of a coordinated national to local strategy will become a reality for more brands and local businesses in 2015. Many local markets (and vertical industries) are very competitive and keyword saturated, making it difficult for national and regional brands, as well as for independent business owners to win the online visibility game on their own.

National marketers that depend on the success of independent business owners (franchises, dealers, contractors) will find they can create a platform effect with a coordinated national-to-local approach to SEO, social media and content marketing.

Mobile Optimized Websites Making sure a business’ website is mobile optimized might mean the difference between being found by customers on a mobile browser or not. With more consumers shopping via mobile, it is clear that site traffic is moving to mobile. So, being mobile-ready is a must.

In 2013, we witnessed Google giving prominence in mobile SERPs to local businesses that properly configured their websites for mobile devices, and this will be a growing trend in 2015.

Google may even devalue some websites as well as the other major search engines if they’re not optimized correctly. Also on the mobile front, strategies like click-to-call will become even more interesting as they play a larger role in the digital lead generation strategy for many business verticals.

Google will Focus more on Ratings & Reviews In 2013, Google focused on ramping up its local ratings and reviews. It will continue to try to gather this rich, hyper local content from local consumers to grow Google+.

In another sign of this effort, businesses with verified Google listings will continue to reap benefits including having the ability to see customer ratings and reviews in their Places for Business dashboard and the ability to reply to those reviews.

This means: 1. It will be important for businesses to encourage their loyal customers to write reviews. Businesses must verify their local search listings appropriately on Google and the entire search ecosystem.

Social Media & SEO Continue to Converge Impacting local search, social media channels will continue to help drive traffic to a business’ website, building valuable links along the way and driving significant referral traffic. In general, this traffic is very valuable as time spent, number of pages viewed, and bounce rate numbers are comparable to organic traffic and other (more traditional) sources of referral traffic like directories.

Social signals will also continue to impact search algorithms since search engines now weigh “people links” higher than other links that can be “managed” or paid. Businesses successfully connecting with customers via social media channels will build more loyalty, positive ratings and reviews, natural backlinks and these websites are more likely to have higher conversion rates.

Google Adds Reviews Section in Places for Business

November 10th, 2014 by

Google announced that Google Places for Business has added a new section for business owners to manage and respond to reviews left on their Google Maps business listings.

According to the post –

“Today, we’re introducing Reviews in Google Places for Business. Now you can learn what your customers are saying about your business on Google and across the web, in one place. If you have a verified business listing, you will now see your customer ratings and reviews in the easy-to-use review inbox.”

To get started, go to the dashboard you use to manage your business information, click the listing you’d like to manage, and choose Reviews from the left hand navigation menu.

You’ll see a Reviews inbox listing any reviews Google users have left for your business as well as snippets of reviews written about your business on other websites. The Reviews analytics tab includes information detailing where users have evaluated your business and the average score of reviews of your business.

Should Blog Comments Be Your Link Building Strategy?

November 8th, 2014 by

If you are still using Blog Commenting as your primary source for link building post the Penguin era – Beware!

Matt Cutts released a video giving his advice in regards to using blog comments as a link building strategy.

Make sure you –

  • Do – Use your real name, instead of your business name; be sure your comments along with the links you’re including are relevant to each other.
  • Don’t – Use blog commenting as your PRIMARY link building strategy.

Our Take: If you plan to leverage this technique just be smart about it. If this is one of your main link building strategies then you’re setting yourself up for failure. As far as our strategy is concerned, we do not do blog commenting for our clients and have always advised our clients to stay away from such techniques.

Apart from blog commenting, we have come up with our own research about what should be considered a bad link or a link that should be “disavowed”.

  • Site wide footer links / multiple links from same domain
  • Blogroll links
  • Forum posting / profile links
  • Free directory links
  • Links from the same class C IPs
  • Links from spun content
  • Links to different industry websites from the same article / content
  • Links from link-farm directories / pages
  • Links from non-English sites (for example – .ru, .jp, .cn, etc.)

It is always advisable to get rid of such links either manually or by disavowing the links via Google Webmaster Tools.

However, disavowing should be done with care as there is a chance that amateurs might disavow the good links, which can cause more harm in the long run and can negatively affect your positioning. As always, if you need any help getting this done by professionals, contact us.

Anyone Can Send Emails Through Google+ With Gmail’s New Feature

November 3rd, 2014 by

From video technologies to Google glass, Google is now all set to roll out a new feature wherein Google+ will allow anyone to send you an email on Gmail. But wait a minute; don’t you think that will bring in more of spam/creepy emails? Well, there is an option on Gmail to opt out of this feature too.

How does this work? As you begin typing in the “To” section of the email, a drop down menu will appear with the Google+ contacts as well. A user can send you an email, but the real email ID won’t be visible to the sender until & unless you respond to that particular email. However, if you prefer to opt out of this feature, just head towards privacy settings, then move onto “Email via Google+” & change the default settings (Anyone on Google+) to extended circles, circles or no one.

Emails from any of your Google+ contacts will appear in the “Social tab” rather than “Primary tab” only if the tab interface is enabled in your Gmail or else you are likely to receive all the emails in one section. Looking at the positive aspect, this feature will be mainly useful to people who want to connect with their long lost friend or an unknown person, but on the other hand it might create havoc for users who are not so tech savvy. This will be particularly frustrating to the recipients.

Google+ will first enable the settings before introducing the new feature so that it doesn’t become compulsory to all the users. There are a lot of people signing up for Google+. Though many are still inactive, it’s surely a win-win for Google+ if it gets traction.

Google Organic Click-Through Rates In 2014

September 25th, 2014 by

Advanced Web Ranking has released a study showing fresh data on the click-through-rate from Google’s organic search results. The data was taken from Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries reports from large accounts back in July 2014.

google-roganic

On average, 71.33% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. On the first page alone, the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.

google-organic

Here is a chart showing the click through rate by exact position:

position

The study was first presented at SMX East by Philip Petrescu of Caphyon, who has written a more detailed write-up on our Search Engine Land sister site:

The full details of the study break down desktop versus mobile click-through rates, branded versus non branded search queries, and more. You can download the full study as a PDF over here.

Google Authorship Is Dead

September 10th, 2014 by

After significantly scaling back Authorship in June by dropping author photos from search, Google’s John Mueller finally announced in a Google+ post on August 28 that all authorship functionality would soon come to an end, including the tracking of any rel=authorship markup data.

September-2014-Newsletter-for-Hibu---Finalll

Authorship, which was started as an experiment by Google three years ago to connect authors with their content, now joins the ranks of the dozens of other discontinued products and services that have been sunset by the company over the years.

So what happened? According to Google, and their ruthless internal testing metrics, Authorship failed for three major reasons:

  1. Low Adoption Rate: Even after three years, Authorship was not widely embraced by influencers, SEOs and the regular Google user. The major complaint was that it was “too difficult.” Google attempted, starting in 2012, to help “spur” the adoption of authorship results by implementing auto-attribution but this resulted in many instances of incorrect attribution, some quite hilarious.
  2. Low Value to Users: According to Google’s internal testing, authorship snippets reported no discernible increase in CTR over other results on the page. This caused a lot of consternation in the SEO community since many believed just the opposite: results with profile pics were getting clicked more in relation to non-authored results.
  3. Dilution of Mobile Experience: Google believed that authorship snippets took away from their goal to optimize for the mobile user. Mobile devices have both limited bandwidth and screen size making it difficult to display full authorship snippets. And even with Google, there exists processing limits that require prioritization of internal resources.

Bottom line: Google has always been RELENTLESS about testing search quality. And with Authorship, at least at this point in time, the value is not there for Google to devote the resources necessary to keep it going.That being said, as of this writing, Google Authorship snippets are still fully viewable when logged-in to Google+ personalized search.

If you have claimed authorship or had placed a lot of resources in advising your clients to set up Authorship markups we certainly DO NOT advise you remove them. It’s always possible that Google circles back around to authorship in the future. Further, it’s never a bad idea to provide Google every possible signal they can to determine identity and authority, beyond just simple bylines.

Facebook Launches Awareness Ads For Local Business

September 8th, 2014 by

Great news advertisers! Facebook has now launched something that a local business really needs. We introduce you to the awareness ads for your local business / business page.

fb-intro

With local awareness ads, businesses can locate new customers with ease by displaying ads to groups of people who are in the business’s vicinity. Local awareness ads are more appreciated as they are more cost-effective compared to traditional advertising channels as newspapers, offering more focus and greater customer reach. That’s the reason ‘Facebook’ introduced a new way to enhance advertising for local businesses with ease and optimum effect — local awareness ads.

We think they’re the best channel for local businesses to reach people in the business’s vicinity, and the best way for Facebook users to discover more beneficial & useful things in their area.

 

Creating an ad wasn’t this simple before. To get started:,

  • Head to the Ads Create tool and select “Local Awareness”.
  • Then select the Page of the business you want to promote. (Advanced advertisers can also access this feature in the API.)
local
  • Next, enter your business’s address (if it’s already provided on your Page, the address automatically populates), and the range of area around which you want to target your potential customers (for instance, an area covering 1 mile around your business). The rest of the steps remains the same, as every Facebook advertiser is aware of.

When it comes to driving in-store sales, an ad’s reach is given more emphasis over the engagement it receives (such as clicks, comments or likes). So, Facebook has designed its local awareness ads to help businesses reach most people in an area.

They also maintain a relatively higher privacy level. Advertisers select locations, not specific individuals, for local awareness ads.

Local awareness ads will be introduced to advertisers in the US over the coming weeks, and globally in the coming months. Give them a shot and see what they can do for your business.

Google Launches “Website Call Conversions” For Adwords

August 24th, 2014 by

Seventy percent of all mobile searchers have called a business directly from search ads. AdWords click-to-call ads, call metrics, and calls as conversions help you connect with these customers and gain insight about those calls. However, many customers also call your business after clicking through a Google ad and learning more about the products and services you offer on your website. That’s why Google has launched what’s likely to become a popular new feature for many AdWords advertisers. Website call conversions allow advertisers to track calls that occur after a user arrives on a web site from an ad click.

googleadward

Clicks that Lead to Calls Let’s say your Google search ads send people to your website where they research and learn more about your business. Website call conversions dynamically inserts a Google forwarding number on your website that measures the calls made by these customers. Whether they click on the number or dial it directly from their phone, you can attribute the call conversion and conversion value back to the keyword and ad that drove the customer.

 

How Does it Work?

To start measuring these website calls, place the snippet of code on your desktop or mobile website and a unique Google forwarding number will be generated for each AdWords ad click. These numbers will continue to display for up to 90 days to capture future call conversions. To ensure this experience is seamless, you can customize the look and feel of these numbers to match your website, including: color, font, and size.

 

Maximize Call Value and Volume

With website call conversions, you can understand which keywords and ads are driving the most phone calls from your website and which are resulting in more valuable calls. You can also assign different values to calls originating from different pages of your website.

You can also automatically optimize your keyword bids to drive more calls or more valuable calls by using Target CPA or Target ROAS respectively. These flexible bid strategies factor in signals like device, location, and time of day to make auction-time bid adjustments that maximize website call conversions and conversion value respectively, while reaching your business goals.

Website call conversions can be used in conjunction with other call tracking solutions as well as with AdWords click-to-call. Note that you won’t be able to see whether an actual sale or transaction occurred by using this solution in AdWords.

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