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If you’ve spent any time recently in the world of SEO, you’ve probably heard about Penguin 2.0 — Google’s search engine algorithm change that was just launched on May 22nd, 2013. By the way that some SEOs were talking, you’d think it was the Zombie Apocalypse. Whatever it is, you can be sure that it will have a dramatic change on the web landscape. Here are five important questions and answers about Penguin 2.0.
What is Penguin 2.0?
To understand the 2.0 of anything, you need to understand the 1.0. The original Penguin is the moniker for Google’s algorithm update of April 24, 2012. When Google tweaked the algorithm in a big way, 3.1% of all English-language queries were affected by the update. Penguin was carefully designed to penalize certain types of webspam. Here are some of the main factors that Penguin targeted:
1. Lots of exact-match anchor texts (30% or more of a link profile)
2. Low quality site linkbacks, including directories and blogs
3. Keyword intensive anchors
The aftershocks of Penguin continued long after April 24. Several mini Penguins were released since then, which is why some SEOs prefer to call the coming change “Penguin 4.” The new Penguin is predicted to do the following:
How much different is it from Penguin 1.0?
Calling this Penguin 2.0 is slightly misleading. We shouldn’t think of algorithm changes in the same way we think of software updates — better features, faster architecture, whatever. Penguin is not a software update. It’s a change in the way that a search engine delivers results to users.
Here is a brief explanation of search engines, and how they change. Search engines are designed to give people the most accurate, trustworthy, and relevant results for a specific search query. So, if you type in “how to cook lima beans,” the search engine attempts to find the very best site on the Internet to help you cook your lima beans. Obviously, every lima bean recipe site wants to have the top dog spot on the search engine results page (SERP).
Some webmasters will cook up clever tricks to do so. Thus, a site with hordes of banner ads, hordes of affiliate links, and barely a word about cooking lima beans could, with a few black hat techniques, climb in the rankings. The search engine doesn’t want that. They want people to have their lima bean recipe — great content — not just a bunch of ads.
Thus, they change things deep within the algorithm to prevent those unscrupulous tricks from working. But the slithery lima bean site figures out a new way to slip by the algorithm. And the algorithm figures out another way to block them. And so on, and so forth.
As all of this is happening, several key points emerge:
1. Search engine algorithms become more sophisticated and intelligent.
2. It becomes less likely for sites to game the system.
At AudienceBloom, we follow white-hat SEO principles. We understand that there are a few tricks that we could use that might bump your site higher in the short term. However, we don’t engage in those practices. We want our clients to be successful for the long haul, which is why we engage in SEO techniques that are truly legitimate.
What’s going to happen?
Now that Penguin 2.0 is rolling out, one of two things will happen to your site (as Google’s data centers propagate with the algorithm rollout and your rankings are adjusted accordingly):
2. Your rankings will drop, organic traffic will tank, and your site will begin to flounder.
If, unfortunately, number 2 strikes, you may not realize it for a few days unless you are a big site with 10k+ visits with 30%+ organic a day. In order to answer “what’s going to happen” for your site, you need to understand whether or not your site is in violation of any Penguin 2.0 targets. That question is better answered with an entire article of its own, but here are a few warning signs that your site could be targeted by Penguin 2.0.
Each of the above four points are common SEO tactics. Some SEOs have become sneakier than the algorithm, which is why Google is making these important changes.
What should I do to prepare or recover?
The most important thing you can do right now is to follow Matt Cutt’s advice in his recent video:
“If you’re doing high quality content whenever you’re doing SEO, this (the Penguin update) should not be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of changes. If you have been hanging out in a lot of blackhat forums, trading different types of spamming package tips and that sort of stuff, then this might be a more eventful summer for you.”
Content is the most important thing, of course, but that’s more of a proactive preparation than an actual defense. Is there a way to actually defend yourself from the onslaught of Penguin 2.0? What if you’ve already been affected by it?
One important thing you can do right now is to analyze your site’s link profile to ensure that your site is free of harmful links. Then, you should remove and perform disavow requests on the bad links to keep your site’s inbound link profile clean. This is the equivalent of a major surgery on your site, and it could take a long time to recover. Here’s what Matt Cutts said about it on May 13:
Here are the steps you need to take to recover from Penguin 2.0:
Step 1. Identify which inbound links are “unclean” or could be hurting your rankings (ie, causing you to be affected by Penguin 2.0). To do this, you’ll need to perform an inbound link profile audit (or have us do that for you).
Step 2. Perform major surgery on your site’s link profile in order to make it as clean as possible. This includes removing links identified in the link profile audit, and then disavowing them as well.
Step 4. Establish a content calendar to keep pushing out high-quality content, engage in social media, and avoid spammy techniques of any kind.
If you’re looking for SEO help, AudienceBloom is prepared to help. One of our major efforts in the wake of Penguin 1.0 was helping sites to recover their rankings and clean up from their past. If you’ve been hit by Penguin 2.0, now is the time to take action to recover your rankings and search traffic. Contact us for a complimentary assessment and action plan.
Interested in getting help growing your website traffic? Contact us.
With more than 200 million registered users in over 200 countries, it’s easy to see why LinkedIn is the top social network both for business to business (B2B) marketing and for making professional connections. If you sell products or provide services to businesses, LinkedIn is where you should focus your social media lead gen efforts.
A good LinkedIn lead generation strategy focuses on several components. Your profile and activity on the site need to demonstrate your expertise, offer insight into your business, and build your “know, like, and trust” factor. It’s also important that you leverage the tools and features of the site to get the maximum value out of your network. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get networking on LinkedIn wrong. Here are the top 7 mistakes that users make with LinkedIn, and how to avoid them.
1. Approaching LinkedIn like a series of transactions, rather than building relationships
LinkedIn is about creating relationships. If those relationships lead to business opportunities, potential jobs, or other leads for you, that’s terrific. But it’s important to remember that LinkedIn is a network – not a marketplace driven by transactions. This has direct implications for how you need to behave and cultivate connections there.
People using LinkedIn have what the team at Social Media Examiner have called a networking mindset. “People typically visit LinkedIn with a purpose to make connections, gain insights about their industry and anything that can help them get smarter.” As a marketer working to develop leads, this is the best potential customer mindset for you to tap into and get real results.
Yet making the most of this opportunity requires that you enter relationships on LinkedIn focused on the long-term. You want to create a connection that lasts for years, and that starts with you creating genuine value for people now. Have you taken the time to introduce yourself properly? Do you ask contacts smart questions? How frequently do you go out of your way to introduce contacts that could help each other out or share valuable information? The more you invest in a relationship without asking for anything in return, the more likely your network will yield the results you want.
Tip: With every LinkedIn interaction you have, ask yourself “how can I create value and improve my relationship with this person” before you ask for anything in return.
2. Treating your profile like a dead resume
At its inception, LinkedIn might have functioned a lot like a resume site. But its capabilities, intentions, and reality have evolved far beyond that. Not only is treating LinkedIn like a resume leaving valuable potential on the table, it also makes you look bad.
Let me give you some examples. In the worst-case scenario if your LinkedIn profile is out of date, your entire network is stuck in the past in their knowledge of what you’re working on. If your contact info, skills, and jobs aren’t current, people can’t send you referrals, hire you, or get in touch.
Another common mistake is failing to bring your entire professional network online. The more people you’re connected to, the bigger your reach. Getting all your contacts in is as simple as uploading your email list and sending them invites (more on that in a minute). It doesn’t have to be an intensive process. Make sure that your colleagues, clients, and friends are connected to you via LinkedIn. It’s also a great way to keep track of leads and contacts you make at networking events. Instead of throwing business cards you collect into a folder, consider sitting down immediately after events and sending follow up and invites through LinkedIn. It’s a great way to get the most value from each connection you make.
Does your profile have a pulse? Much like Twitter and Facebook, it’s now possible to give status updates your LinkedIn profile regularly and with ease. One of the simplest ways to do this is to connect it with your posting software (for example, Hootsuite). Another is to simply share a link to something interesting you’ve read or a relevant bit of your work, such as video footage of presentations you’ve given. Keep people engaged with what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be every day, but make sure you’re checking in weekly.
Finally, explore some of the more up to date features of LinkedIn. Are you participating in social sections like Q&A or LinkedIn Answers? Have you added video to your profile? Look into using one of the apps to showcase your portfolio or videos of you speaking. LinkedIn is offering a number of tools that allow you to differentiate your presence and really highlight what makes you unique.
Tip: Spend 30 minutes a week updating your LinkedIn profile, adding content, sharing status updates, and finding new contacts.
3. Not optimizing your profile for target keywords
If you’re using LinkedIn to connect with new business, you want to ensure that your profile is the first one that pops up when people search for your name or for a target keyword. The principles of good SEO on the web also apply on LinkedIn. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the steps you need to take to make sure that your profile ranks well in LinkedIn’s search results:
- Personalize your URL: Your public profile is housed at a default URL that LinkedIn assigns. Take the time to claim your URL. Ideally, this should be http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. If you’re unable to get that, consider modifying it with your industry, job title, or location. For example, /johnsmithwriter or johnsmithsandiego. To adjust your URL, go to your profile in edit mode and then select “edit” next to the public profile link.
- Link to your company site from your profile with custom anchor text: LinkedIn allows you to create up to three links to outside sites on your profile. When you’re entering the URL, selecting “other” allows you to customize your anchor text. For example, instead of the link appearing as “My Company” it will appear as “Starbucks.” This professionalizes your profile, reinforces if people are searching for your company name, and gives additional link power to your external sites.
- Target and add your keywords: It’s also important to add target keywords into your profile. For example, if you’re a WordPress designer it’s key that you work those terms into critical places in your profile. You want to avoid “keyword stuffing” but make sure that the terms flow naturally in your profile. Ideally your target terms will be present in your headline, summary, job experience/job titles, and skills.
- Avoid keyword series headlines: The best headlines integrate your target keywords in a way that makes sense to a reader by answering the question “what do you do and for whom?” In the WordPress designer example above, a good headline might be “Experienced WordPress Designer for Lawyers in Seattle and Portland.” A less effective headline might read “Web Design – WordPress Designer – Small Business Design – Graphic Design.” Think about whether you’d want to click on your own headline before hitting publish.
Tip: Choose your most critical keyword and make sure that it’s in your headline, summary, and job experience at least once. This will take less than five minutes and go a long way toward optimizing your profile.
4. Failing to personalize your networking requests
When you reach out to a potential contact on LinkedIn, the system gives you a default message. It’s the dreaded “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” In an informal study of pet peeves on LinkedIn, generic invites rank in the top three. Here’s why:
If you met a potential customer at a conference and then later met them at another event, how would you introduce yourself? Chances are good you’d go up, shake hands, and remind them of how you met. “Hi, I’m Helen, we met last year through John Smith at BlogWorld in New York.” If your connection wasn’t as clear, you might opt for something like “Hi, I’m Helen, a financial blogger. I love what your company is doing. Do you have a few minutes to chat?”
The basics of good behavior for networking are the same in the world of LinkedIn invitations. If it’s someone you’ve met before, include a polite greeting and remind them of where you met. Have some specific follow up, such as someone asking you to get in touch? Here’s a great place to remind them. If you are trying to connect with someone you don’t know or don’t know well, at a minimum introduce yourself, what you do, and why you’d like to connect.
Tip: Always take the time to personalize your invites. Many people will treat unpersonalized invitations as spam, and it can hurt your carefully crafted professional image.
5. Not using the Get Introduced feature to warm up your cold calls
LinkedIn recently upgrade its Get Introduced feature. This may be your most powerful tool for getting introductions to warm leads that are already in your network.
For example, let’s say you sell a software product for marketing professionals. With the Get Introduced feature, it’s possible to search your network and see which first and second degree connections (your direct connections as well as their networks) fit the bill. You can search by company, title, industry and more. Once you find a person you want to connect with, click on their profile. LinkedIn will show you what contacts you have in common and you can use the “Get Introduced” featured to request an intro. It’s easy and efficient.
It’s also possible to search more broadly by turning off filters. While ideally you would be able to get an intro to someone through your network, sometimes the information gleaned from a LinkedIn search is enough to warm up your prospecting. For example, are you trying to get the name of a VP of Sales at a company that’s cagey with staff names? A LinkedIn search can help you quickly identify the right person to contact.
Tip: Spend 15 minutes during your next prospecting exercise to explore LinkedIn’s Advanced Search and Get Introduced features. See how much information you can gather on a priority target – from background data to common networks – and determine if it’s helpful to your outreach campaigns.
6. Spamming your network with email blasts
In 2013, basic social media etiquette dictates that we should know not to spam our entire contacts list on the most valuable business social network out there. And yet, it’s worked its way onto my list.
Think about it like this: you’ve worked hard to develop your contacts, create a great profile, and be active on the network to demonstrate your knowledge. So treat those connections with the care that they deserve.
Bluntly, LinkedIn should never be used for mass emails. It’s a violation of the site’s Terms of Service and it’s also just a bad idea. If you have a message that you want to reach your contacts with, get in touch individually. And remember: don’t just email to blind pitch your services. Always customize every communication you send through LinkedIn.
Tip: If you’re ever tempted to send a mass mailing via LinkedIn – don’t. Instead, find one to three individuals that are uniquely qualified to connect with over whatever you’re working on and send them an individualized message. Your chances of a positive response just increased dramatically.
7. Selling yourself in all the wrong places
One of the best ways to make connections on LinkedIn is to raise your visibility through some of the site’s more interactive features. For example, LinkedIn Questions and Answers (Q&A) allows people to ask questions and gives anyone the chance to respond.
Typically these questions are related to a specific issue or industry and are a great way to show your expertise. A colleague or potential client might ask about the best way to have a case study developed or how case studies have been effectively used in their industry.
If you’re a case study writer, this can be a great way to engage. Consider sharing your expertise by providing a thoughtful answer on case study best practices. If you’re familiar with case studies in their industry, this is a great time to share those as well. Interactions get awkward when users respond to questions with a one line answer that you’re a case study writer and that they should contact you for more info.
Remember, these interactive sections are highly visible. This is where you want to demonstrate your expertise, not shill. If you think it’s truly appropriate, follow up with a potential contact by inMail after you create some value.
A similar set of rules governs interactions on the LinkedIn Groups you join. How do you resolve this with the ever-constant call to have a call to action, always follow up, and sell sell sell? It’s a fair question. The best advice is that you have to strike that balance. Present yourself powerfully, create a ton of value for your contacts, and you’ll start the kinds of conversations that will sell.
Tip: Find a group in your industry or in your clients’ industry that’s relevant to you and join. Observe the flow of the group and find ways to contribute by asking good questions or answering when other people do. Try this for a month and see if you find it valuable. If you do, it’s easy to scale from there.
LinkedIn is the critical network to be active on when you’re in B2B sales or just looking to broaden your own professional network. It’s important that you have a sound strategy, treat the network with respect, focus on creating value for others, and take advantage of the tools LinkedIn has to offer. If you engage with others on LinkedIn this way, it can be your best source of lead generation in the social media space.
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A common question I hear from customers is, “How many links will it take for me to reach the number one position in the search engines?” While this question is common, it’s impossible to answer without knowing a bunch of variables that are extremely difficult to ascertain.
However, I think what the customer really wants to know is, “How much will it cost my company before I rank and start making money?”
Know Your Competition
Before you can estimate how many links that’ll take, you really need to understand your competition. As most of us know, keyword competition can make the difference between ranking in a few weeks or years (or possibly, never). You can find out the strength of your competition by auditing their inbound link profile.
To start this process, do a quick search and take note of the top 10 websites ranking for that keyword. Once you have the list, use a tool like ahrefs.com to determine the quantity and quality of their backlinks.
While you are working on your backlink analysis, take note of any particularly high-quality backlinks that you can obtain as well. For instance, if your competitor attained a link from VentureBeat.com by doing a guest blog post, that tells you that VentureBeat may be willing to entertain offers from guest bloggers. Reach out and see if you can become a contributor there as well.
Now that we’ve discussed great ways to get a few extra high-quality links, why not round it out by looking at cheaper, easier alternatives?
What about $50 Link Packages?
Many of us have seen the cheap backlink packages on certain forums. There are a number of different packages, but most of them have a set number of backlinks of various types for a price. How good of a deal are these backlinks?
When researching this article, I took a close look at some of the popular link packages that you can buy off of well-known forums. Many of them offered similar deals. Some examples included tiered backlink packages while others claimed to be “high PR” backlinks. Here are the results of my analysis:
Package #1 – Tiered Backlinks
In package number 1, you have a multi-tiered backlink package. The first tier had 2,000 article directory backlinks, 50 social bookmarks, and 50 web 2.0 links. For the second tier, they create 10,000 blog comments that point to the first tier. To avoid duplicate content and save money, all content is spun. You can have all of this for less than $50.
But what are you really getting when you buy these packages? Let’s assume for a moment that the vendors are legitimate and give you several hundred article backlinks all spun from the same text. I know from testing and experience that only a small percentage of those backlinks will actually get and stay indexed (links don’t benefit you if they aren’t indexed).
Furthermore, these types of links are exactly what Google targets with its Penguin and Panda algorithms; buying these types of links is like setting ticking time bombs on the foundation of your SEO initiative.
Package #2 – High PR network links
In package number 2, I found a different approach. This package claims to allow you to purchase backlinks on the homepage of a website. These types of backlinks are typically more expensive and start at $130 per month.
The demise of the BuildMyRank (BMR) link network and many others like it should teach us that these types of links are dangerous, untrustworthy, and should be avoided. In April 2012, Google deindexed almost every site on the BMR network and continues to deindex entire new networks as well.
Now you may be thinking, “How could they possibly know about this network when there are so many?” The answer is fairly simple when you consider the new Google Disavow Tool. Every time a webmaster gets scared and disavows all purchased links, what happens to that list of sites? It’s possible that if enough people disavow purchased links then maybe they will be next on the deindex list.
Even if that doesn’t happen, with Google’s stance on web spam, these backlinks are more likely to cause harm than good, at least in the long run.
While we’re talking about buying link packages and dumping tons of backlinks in a few days, let’s discuss link velocity.
Link velocity is the speed at which your website is gaining (or losing) backlinks. Many SEOs believe it to be a major factor that Google uses to determine web spam.
If the search engines see that your link velocity is going up and down because you’re buying link packages and getting 5,000 links one day and then none the rest of the month, it’s going to look very suspicious.
Can We Risk Link Spam in 2013 and Beyond?
As of May 2013, Matt Cutts, head of the Google web spam team, said Google is working diligently to deny the value of link spam. According to Cutts, they are working on ways to “go upstream” and deny the value of spam links. They are also using new and different ways of performing link analysis to uncover these link schemes.
While some methods of link spam may still work today, it’s obvious from Cutts’ comments that Google is working diligently to remove any benefit. Some of these changes will come about in the new version of Penguin (2.0) which will be released “within the next few weeks” according to Cutts.
Give Google What It Wants
If you’re like most people who have done SEO for any period of time, you’re sick of hearing the old ‘quality over quantity’ argument when it comes to backlinks. Even so, many of us have seen that the right types of contextual links can prove to be the most valuable.
In general, the best way to get contextual links is to use sites that are in the same niche that you are in. These sites should have authority and will transfer some of that to your site.
By now, you probably realize that buying cheap link packages is not a good idea. One size does not fit all, and you need a plan that not only includes the right types of links but also takes into account proper link velocity.
The days of creating spun content and thousands of spammy links to achieve high rankings are over. However, you may not have the time or know-how to run your own successful campaign. Should you consider getting help?
What should you expect when you hire an SEO service? Will they deliver the same 5,000 backlinks that you could get from a forum?
When you start with a professional SEO agency, one of the first things they will need to know is how your current on-page and off-page SEO is set up. Once a site analysis is done, you can then start making tweaks to your site and creating a link building plan.
Professional SEO audits typically start at around $2,000 depending on the size of your website. However, it can be beneficial to learn what you need to do in order to beat your competition in the rankings.
A typical white hat link building budget is going to cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. This range depends upon the quality and quantity of the links given.
So, How Many Links to Number One?
The question “how many links will it take to reach number one” is impossible to answer with a specific number. All links carry different value; one link from Mashable.com is probably worth 1,000 l inks from lesser-known websites. Sure, you can look at how fast your competition has obtained links in the past, but what about the future? Don’t worry about it.
All you need to do is get the highest-quality backlinks you can, at a quicker pace than your competitors. This, combined with a robust social media marketing initiative that includes a solid onsite content strategy, is the key to success.
Let’s face it folks, the days of buying a few random link packages and getting first page rankings as a result are over. The search engines have gotten better at ignoring these link schemes, and in some cases, are lowering the rankings of sites that still use them.
Getting high-quality links is now the name of the game. While some people will still buy link packages in the future, it’s the wrong path to establishing a solid future SEO foundation.
Interested in getting help growing your website traffic? Contact us.
We’re all familiar with businesses that promise to fix your online reputation; many of them are totally above board, completely circumspect, and do a fine job. There have been criticisms, however, based on ethical considerations. But are such firms your only option if you find your online presence is threatened by bad publicity? Actually, it turns out that you can do quite a bit on your own to fix your reputation and save your e-Commerce enterprise.
As e-Commerce evolves at dizzying speed, it spins off new acronyms and even new fields at an amazing rate. A new subdivision of Public Relations, largely the offspring of SEO, is the field of reputation management. This new type of public relations activity addresses the matter of negative search engine results, which can be devastating to e-Commerce success.
Many sites ask for feedback in the increasingly interactive arena of cyberspace, and of course feedback can be positive or negative. Any e-Commerce vendor wants to publicize its positive feedback and hush up negative responses. E-Commerce sellers thrive or wither on the basis of customer feedback after purchases.
How do you deal with bad ones?
Your first step is to correct the problem that the bad review is complaining about. This is just common sense and applies to a brick and mortar business just as much as to an e-Seller. If you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one, he or she may remove the negative feedback item, and perhaps even submit a new review gushing over your responsiveness to feedback. If posted information is simply incorrect, it may be sufficient to point that out, and the slur may be removed. Legal challenges of libelous sites are even a possibility.
Another corrective measure might be garnering positive references on authoritative third party sites. Press releases are a time-honored tool of public relations, and they can be used in this way. Like any other tool of public relations, reputation management can involve abuse. Sellers have been known to offer discounts as rewards for positive reviews.
John Morgan of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, with his colleague Jennifer Brown of the same university’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, studied feedback processes in connection with selling activity on the best-known site for e-Sellers, and found that positive feedback was being bought and sold through discounting practices. Items were being sold for as little as a penny, simply in order to generate a positive feedback blip, thus raising the positive feedback percentage, a crucial matter for an e-Seller.
Astroturfing – Or The Art of Masquerading
Fake reviews and even fake bloggers, talking up a product or service, are sometimes employed. Of course the ethical boundaries are very fuzzy here. Just what constitutes a “fake” blog? Not every hired blogger is misrepresenting the truth, but some are.
The new term for this type of activity is “astroturfing,” taking its cue from the way astroturf masquerades as real grass. An astroturfing site strives to hide its connections to the individuals that produce it, and particularly to hide its basis of financial support. Astroturfing can be used by competitive rivals who upload fake reviews trashing other suppliers in the same field.
Strong-arm techniques are not unheard of. A spam bot can harass a site so seriously that it has to leave the web entirely, or submit to demands to remove content.
Effective Solutions For The Long Run
After all, what’s the best solution for the small time e-Commerce entrepreneur, who may not want to pay top dollar for a Reputation Management concern? Here are some possibilities that can be part of a do-it-yourself portfolio:
With a combination of the new techniques of Reputation Management, used ethically, and the time-honored techniques of garden variety public relations, you can keep your e-Commerce entity in the clear with a good online profile and healthy search results.
Interested in getting help growing your website traffic? Contact us.
Infographics have established their place in the Internet marketing community as an effective tool for building brand awareness, authority, and media buzz. But infographics have been around much longer than just the age of the Internet. Did you know that the first known use of infographics dates back to 7500 B.C.?
Infographics have also been used in business meetings since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, classrooms since formal education has existed, and books since the printing press was invented.
Here’s a look at the history of infographics, along with some surprising facts.
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