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Producing a High-Quality Site According to Google
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Earlier this month, Google released some additional information about what site owners can do if they feel that their site was hit by recent algorithm updates most notably the Panda Update. While many question the guidance, or lack thereof that Google has given, at the heart of all of this is improving the results that are out there. Seriously do you think that Google will provide specific information as to how to improve your site if you have been hit by Panda? They simply cannot, even if they wanted to, because every site would then try to game the search results.

I find it frustrating when site owners think that they can game the results.  That is not what it is about.  People are still placing too much emphasis on individual rankings.  Why not focus on the traffic that you are getting?  Improve the conversion process on your site?  Strive to improve the content on your site.  Factor in the relevancy to your core business.  Worry less about the algorithms and more about your users.  You might think that your site is optimized, but frankly optimizing for 2005 and 2011 are two entirely different practices.  Ah but I digress.

So as mentioned, Amit Singhal posted some thoughts as to what Google might consider makes a site a high-quality site.  I have added some commentary in green to some of the points that were referenced.
  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? – Read: Avoid filler pages or placeholder pages on your site.
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? Often found in geo-pages of directory-like sites. Content will need to be enhanced so that it is unique from other site pages.
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? Site/Brand Authority.
  •  Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? Quality content that has been edited.
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? Read: Avoid over optimizing your site’s content. Focus on providing the information that your users are looking for and producing content that is highly engaging and not readily found on other sites.
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? Read: Avoid replications of content; add detailed analysis or opinion and avoid aggregation of content.
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? Are your pages the most authoritative on the given topic that they are being optimized for?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? Again brand and site authority come into play here.
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? Is the content genuine and does it enhance/support the theme of the site ? Avoid producing high volumes of content and launching it at the same time (the exception might be with a site redesign).
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? Quality control is important for producing quality content.
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? Trusted site vs. makeshift blog or directory?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? Emphasis on brands and social popularity?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? In-depth content with details. Think of the difference between a good FAQ and a poor FAQ that lacks information or does not answer the question. Longer pieces may be better in some cases? Not to focus too much on word count, but 800+ words as opposed to 2-300 words might help ensure that specific details or a “comprehensive description” is included.
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? Avoid reproducing what is already out there. Provide somewhat unique content and avoid syndication of something that has already been produced. Duplicate content comes in many forms.
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? Social engagement signals are and will continue to be used as part of the ranking algorithms. How people engage with your content may determine, in part, how well your site places in the search results.
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? Avoid shallow content that has been optimized for all of the wrong reasons (i.e. to generate ad revenue). The ad to copy ratio can be a clear signal of the quality of a page.
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? Again avoid placeholders and content that serves little or no purpose.
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site? User engagement (time spent, bounce rates) may suggest that your content is simply not satisfying the visitor. There is traffic and there is qualified traffic. If you push out content that is lower quality and not very engaging, so not expect this traffic to return. Have you checked out Google’s results lately? Just because you have the top spot for does not mean that you are the “best” result or the most relevant result.
With the launch of Google Caffeine, there is no doubt that Google’s results have become worse, however Google is working on improving the quality of their results. It is not easy task. With so many aggregators and all of the various means of syndicating content, Google’s index has grown greatly (for better or worse). Hence, all of the algorithm updates, Google’s search product is broken and they are trying to repair it as best they can. Tips such as these, while you might not agree with all of them, can help improve the quality of the content that Google places in their Index.

In the earlier days of Search, I remember Google sharing updates of how many millions…then billions of pages they had in their Index. It was like hey look at us, we’re Google and we have crawled X number of pages, which compared to the other search engines at the time seemed pretty impressive. However now with the trillions of pages indexed, it is not about the quantity of pages indexed, it is about the quality of the pages that are being returned. Quite honestly, Google Caffeine did open the floodgates up for a lot of spam or low quality pages, but with that comes more quality content as well. We just need to be able to access it.

Remember, Google does not owe it to any site to rank your site at the top for an extended period of time if at all. Just because you have ranked number one for for ten years does not mean that you will continue to do so. Especially if your content is stagnant. You could have the best writers in the world, but so what? If people do not find your information useful and are not engaging with it, why should Google?

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 31, 2011  
Live Blogging Mediative's SEO for Website Redesign Webinar
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Liveblogging Mediative's webinar on SEO for Website Redesign.  Presenter's included Jeff Muendel, SEO Manager, eCommerce Group at Grainger and Charlotte Bourne, Senior Search Strategist, Mediative.

Jeff began by discussing three key points when preparing for your website redesign
  • Get engaged in the redesign process early on - at the the point of wireframe production
  • clarify the needs of natural search
    • document the items that make the site crawlable
    • explain why these requirements are needed
    • clarify what needs to be avoided
  • verify that your SEO requirements are understood and incorporated
    • is the architecture crawlable
    • is the content populating properly
    • is the 301 redirect plan in place
    • are XML sitemaps in place
Jeff stated that the focus should be on architecture and content.   He also stated that the redsign probably won't be perfect.  Document issues and learn from the redesign experience for future site redesigns.  He concluded with some good points:
  • the IT department is your friend
  • usability people are your friends
  • SEO is always a team effort
Charlotte was up next and began by discussing SEO and the impact on conversions if you get your usability wrong.  Website redesign is risky.  Charlotte suggests that you should think like Googlebot. The goal of the search engines is to provide the most relevant result to a user based on a specific search query.  She suggests that you need to focus on:
  1. Crawling 
    • have a redirect plan
    • XML sitemaps
    • HTML sitemaps
    • robots.txt
    • use of AJAX
    • hidding content in iFrames
    • limiting content access via JS
    • Dynamic parameters
  2. Indexing
    • consider file types - images and videos have the potential to rank.  Pay attention to blended/universal search results
    • avoid low quality pages
    • avoid duplicate content
    • monitor in Google Webnmaster Tools - indexation rates
  3. Ranking
    • domain authority
    • page authority
    • anchor text of incoming links
    • on page optimization
Charlotte touched on search vertical such as blended search, social search, local search and mobile search.  She made a great point that good UX will never be discounted.  Webnsites that provide good content to the user will always perform better today and they will continue to do so tomorrow.  Don't chase the algorithm today.

Charlotte finished up by touching on monitoring search metrics pre and post site launch.

Nice presentation.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, May 25, 2011  
Online Video Marketing in 2011: 5 Years of YouTube
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
It is hard to believe that it was about five years ago that Google acquired video sharing site YouTube for what at the time was a tremendous amount of money for a company that was roughly a year old. Google paid an estimated $1.65 billion for the company, and what an acquisition it was.  Google is said to be the number two search engine in North America.  That being said, are you optimizing for video and for YouTube?  If, in 2011, you are not optimizing for YouTube, you need to seriously consider the advantage and benefit of video optimization.  Consider this if you will:
  • in 2005, there were eight million videos watched on YouTube per day, in 2010, videos on YouTube exceeded two billion views a day
  • the average person spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube
  • every minute, roughly 35 hours of video are submitted to YouTube
  • hundreds of millions of video are watched each month via mobile devices - YouTube mobile gets over 100 million views a day
  • the number of advertisers using display ads on YouTube increased ten-fold in the past year
  • Global SEO?  70% of YouTube's traffic comes from outside the US
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
  • YouTube's demographic is broad: 18-54 years old
  • 10% of YouTube's videos are available in HD
  • Social Engagement: More than 50% of videos on YouTube have been rated or include comments from the community

If you are leveraging rich media content such as videos, as part of your online video marketing strategy in 2011 there is no question that you should be optimizing your videos on YouTube.  We all know how quickly a video can go viral, so it is easy to see how YouTube offers online marketers the ability to generate tremendous amounts of traffic to their websites.  Frankly it is not that difficult to optimize your videos in YouTube.

Online Video Marketing: Ten Tips for Optimizing Videos in YouTube

  1.  Perform Keyword Research - gain an understanding as to what people are searching for in YouTube.  You may not realize, but certain terms that are hyper competitive in Google web search are no where near as competitive in YouTube.  The ability to show up for highly search for terms in YouTube is possible.
  2. Video Content is Important - what you feature in your video is key to engagement.  If you produce a memorable video with useful information, you will have a better chance of receiving a positive rating, acquiring user comments and generating views.
  3. Length of Video Can be Key - I would suggest that most of the videos that really go viral are shorter in nature.  As a best practice strive to keep your videos within three minutes.  Be concise and communicate clearly.
  4. Leverage Keyword Rich Titles - just as with any content such as press releases, blog posts or webpages, the title of your video is a key factor in ensuring that your videos are found for specific keyword searches in YouTube.
  5. Brand your Video - optimizing your videos in YouTube is another great mechanism for creating awareness of your brand.  Brand your videos and your YouTube channel.
  6. Include a Corresponding URL at the beginning of your Description - When you post a video to YouTube, make sure you add a URL near the beginning of your description text. By doing so, even when the “more info” option is collapsed, the user will still see the link and the opportunity to click it will not be lost.
  7. Leverage Keyword Rich Descriptions -  make the description of your video meaningful and more importantly make it relevant.  Use appropriate keywords but do not try to over optimize your description.  Keyword stuffing is so ten years ago.  Create high quality content and you will be rewarded.
  8. Post Videos Regularly - fresh content will keep your audience coming back.  From a search perspective, well optimized video content may allow your video content to be displayed within Google's Universal search results.
  9. Activate Comments, Ratings, and Favorites through your YouTube Channel - Google is now and will continue to be leveraging social signals in their search results.  It is safe to say that similar social factors may be applied to YouTube ranking algorithms as well.
  10. Attention to Detail is Important - test to ensure that your audio and video quality are satisfactory before you release your video publicly onto YouTube. Tag your video properly to ensure relevancy with regards to keywords.  Ensure keywords are present in elements such as your video name, title, description and as mentioned tags.
Online video marketing in 2011 means establishing a video optimization strategy and including as part of that strategy, a plan for optimizing for YouTube.  Just because you create a handful of videos does not mean that you will enjoy success.  You need to create high quality video content on a fairly regular basis.  Each new video that you create is another potential interception point to engage with your audience.  With two million daily video views on YouTube each day, the potential to acquire new traffic to your site is great.  If you have not yet developed a video marketing strategy, you are missing out on not only traffic but another option for promoting your brand and engaging with your audience.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 24, 2011  
Some of My Favorite SEO Tools: 25 SEO Tools That Still Rock in 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
As the world of SEO continues to change, the tools that are available for online marketers continue to change as well. I find that quite often it is some of the older ans simplest of tools that provide the most value. As an online marketer, I have had access to numerous tools over the years, some good and some bad. Some free and some extremely overpriced. There are tons of great tools out there, but there are also some that leave a little to be desired.

The need for quality SEO tools is something that all site owners, webmasters and search strategists require to optimize, analyze and evaluate the websites they work on. The search engine algorithms continue to evolve and as we have seen recently with Google, search results can change with but the flick of a switch or algorithm update. The Search industry changes so quickly that any online marketer needs to equip themselves with a strong arsenal of tools in order to remain successful with their efforts. And man are there tools out there. Part of the reason for this is because the are so many different factions of SEO. If you keep it high level, there are key components of SEO that each have their own tool set. We need tools for areas such as:
  • Site Analysis
  • Technical Analysis
  • Keyword Research
  • Link Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis/Competitive Intelligence
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Content Analysis
Depending on where you are at in the organic search (SEO) maturity model, you will need to leverage a different set of tools to ensure the success of your online marketing campaigns. So what tools should you be using? Well that really depends on the complexity of your site, your business and your industry.

Here are some of my favorite SEO tools that I often use. I'm not going to get into a review of each, but links are included so that you can check them out for yourself. Of course many of you may already be using these tools, and some of you may even have better tools that you use. If you would like to share some of them, please drop us a comment and share their link. With that, here are some of my favorite SEO tools (in random order).

25 SEO Tools That Rock in 2011

  1. Google Webmaster Tools - http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/. Still one of the best tools to gaiin quick insight into how your site is performing.
  2. XENU Link Sluth - http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html. I love this tool for compiling URLs for smaller sites.
  3. Google Keyword Tool - https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Not the end-all/be-all for keyword research, but still a valuable tool.
  4. Web Page Analyzer - http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze. Great tool to use for diagnosing technical issues.
  5. Google Webmaster Guidelines - http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769. Not a tool per se, but an exceptional resource if you are interested in performing well in Google.
  6. delicious - http://www.delicious.com/. Great for saving and finding resources.
  7. Yahoo Site Explorer - http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/. Some quick and easy link analysis.
  8. SEOmoz Tools - http://www.seomoz.org/tools
  9. Majestic SEO - http://www.majesticseo.com/
  10. Raven SEO - http://raventools.com/
  11. Experian Hitwise - http://www.hitwise.com/us/
  12. comScore - http://www.comscore.com/
  13. SEObook Tools - http://tools.seobook.com/
  14. Scream Frog SEO Spider - http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
  15. Recorded Future - https://www.recordedfuture.com/
  16. Tweetdeck - http://www.tweetdeck.com/
  17. Wordstream Keyword Tool - http://www.wordstream.com/keywords
  18. Search Engine Friendly Redirect Checker - http://www.webconfs.com/http-header-check.php
  19. XML Sitemap Generator - http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
  20. Blekko - http://blekko.com/
  21. Buzzstream - http://www.buzzstream.com/
  22. Wordtracker - http://www.wordtracker.com/
  23. Google Trends - http://www.google.com/trends
  24. SEO Forums - http://seoforums.org/seo-tools/
  25. Analytics - various platforms


posted by PlanetNim Caretaker @ Sunday, May 15, 2011  
SEO Engagement Optimization
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
The past twelve to sixteen months has seen unprecedented change in Search.  With Google in particular, their index has grown enormously with their rollout of their Caffeine search index.   As part of this rollout, the number of low quality or pieces of spam content that has been produced is great.  As a result Google is continuing to update their algorithms to reduce the amount of webspam that searchers are experiencing.  Hence the rollout of major updates such as:
  • Google MayDay Update – late April 2010
  • Google Panda – also referred to as “Farmer”
    • first phase Jan. 26, 2011
    • second phase Feb. 25, 2011
    • rollout to international, English speaking countries (i.e Google.ca) Apr. 11, 2011
    • more updates to come

These recent updates have impacted upwards of 14% of all searched conducted on google.com.  This is most likely the largest impact from an algorithm update ever.  One thing that is becoming clear is that Google is trying to define (and have users define) just exactly what high quality content is so that they can display the most relevant results based on a given query.   As a result, Google appears to be adjusting their ranking factors accordingly and new elements are getting a lot more attention.  The element getting the most attention is social engagement and overall engagement with a website.

SEOmoz has done a great job of trying to dissect key rankings factors with their ranking factors survey.  (Look for an updated version of this to come out soon.)  In 2009, industry leaders suggested that top ranking factors included:

Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting has added his take on how these ranking factors have changed with the rollout of Google’s recent updates.  He suggests that Engagement Metrics have gone from 6% important to now becoming the second most important ranking factor at about 20%. 

Based on what we have seen with Google, this is not that far off.  Google has hinted that they are now and will continue to leverage social engagement and social signals as part of their ranking algorithm, going so far to create their own +1 button to act as a popularity measure (similar to Facebook’s Like button). 

In addition, Google has also rolled out a “block this site” option within their search results to allow users to block sites from their results in which they deem as not relevant to their query.  Again Google has stated that they will be leveraging this as part of their ranking algorithm.  (Note:  This element can obviously be easily abused, so some have suggested that Google was /is possibly using this data for other purposes.)  Enge goes on to update the potential ranking factors further:

Engagement Metrics to Track



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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 03, 2011  
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