The Hypocrisy of Google. Don’t be Evil? Don’t Believe the Hype

Is it just me, or do we see more and more blog posts being published questioning the good, the bad and the evil of Google? Where the Mountain View search company has been a long time darling for so many, where they couldn't do any evil, I see more critical posts about Google these days than any other company in our space. It's like Google has become the Microsoft of the decade!

Today, Martin MacDonald published a long article around the account management sales teams at Google which make critical mistakes, and even break Google's own terms and conditions. Followed up by Barry Adams at StateofSearch, with even more explanation what is wrong at Google for such a long time already. Read both of these here: #GoogleGate, Can you trust Google? and Google Account Manager Caught Breaking Terms of Service on Voicemail. Although these two describe the paid pat of the house at Google, more posts are describing the way Google is handling the organic results. Here described by Michael Gray; How Google Continues to Kill Organic Results. Or here, where it is described Google Tells Court You Cannot Expect Privacy When Sending Messages to Gmail by Consumer Watchdog. And when it comes to a trial, because Google was spying on UK users in Safari, Google Lawyers just request the trial will be moved to the US... Guess why they would request this..? Argument; Google cannot be held accountable under UK privacy laws.

Google believes that U.K. privacy laws do not apply to the company, and so British consumers that want to take the tech giant to court are facing a losing battle, or should book their tickets to the United States.

The last couple of weeks, the tweets I shared which got the most clicks and retweets were tweets critical about the Google practices described in posts like these mentioned above.

Google Gmail No privacyGoogle killing organic resultsWhy are these tweets getting shared more often? Because people agree with the sentiment of the content!

Let's just look at another example of Google hypocrisy. Link schemes and paid links... The war on links which is changing the true nature of how the Internet works.

  • Guest posts, No PageRank for You
  • Widgets, No PageRank for You
  • PR messages, No PageRank for You
  • Blogger Reviews, No PageRank for You

Google is beginning to resemble a character of one of my favorite shows; Seinfeld's The Soup Nazi.

Where we cannot manipulate search rankings with any link we get for our websites as stated in the Webmaster guidelines;

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

Google is pushing the work downstream to the webmaster to police their backlink profile, which results in a flood of link removal requests. Isn't it Google's job to optimize their algorithm for relevance? Why are the webmasters put to work to put a no-follow on all those links. Majority of mom-n-pop webmasters don't even know what a no-follow link is!

So if all those links are so evil for Google's search algorithm, where we as webmasters are supposed to no-follow all the links, why is Google still taking ads on search queries like these below here? Soon we will be begging for one more Soup, but there is No Soup for You..!
But text links for SEO SERP with crap SEO ads
Is it just me, or do we see more and more blog posts being published questioning the good, the bad and the evil of Google? What do you think?

Local Tree House SERP’s

With my new found love for tree houses, I just found myself a new favorite query to check out changes in the search results. Where I used to try stuff like Canon Digital Camera or Diaper Bag to stay aware of the latest changes in e-commerce SERP's, I now want to know what's happening in the latest adventure and vacation rental space. And what better to close off the week with some great rich snippets on Airbnb tree houses at the top of the Google Search results;

Google SERP San Francisco Treehouse with Airbnb Rich Snippets

Given that Google has automatic IP targeting, I know I see the most relevant results for my area. No wonder the list with San Francisco tree houses is ranking so high, with the other two tree houses around it, one just outside of San Francisco, and one tree house right here in San Francisco, in The Mission. So as curious as I would be, I was wondering if I would see the same results as somebody with the location set to New York. See screenshot below; Yep, as the location is included in the query, we see the same listings from Airbnb at the top of the search results.

treehouse San Francisco Google Search result from New YorkNow let's see how my posse in Amsterdam sees this specific search in their version of Google.com. Let's see if we can change the location to Amsterdam... Nope, on Google.com, you can only set your location to places within the US zip code system..

No EU location search possible in Google.comSo what would happen if you would exclude the keyword "San Francisco" from the query? We don't see any Airbnb tree houses anymore for the people in New York. WTF, why can't the folks in the Big Apple enjoy an adventurous night in a tree house? Time to get some tree houses build in Central Park...

Treehouse search for folks in New York

Doing that exact same search with the location set to San Francisco, the Treehouse above San Francisco, which is the one I stayed at in January, pop-ups again on #2 for me, with the rich video snippet. I can live with that! Just would love to see more tree houses on Airbnb in general, as I made a promise to the kids to go to a different tree house every year...! Time to work on a better ranking for our wishlist of tree houses.

Tree house search with Airbnb on #2

 

In Post Tweet Buttons; Top or Bottom

I always wondered when people are inclined to share my posts here with their followers on Twitter. Is that right after the first paragraph or is it after reading the whole piece. Now, I don't believe my writing is that inspiring that a lot of people would share it instantly, but a little test is easy to set up. So, with the post I published last Friday, Will you Work for Free, I conducted a little test. In the post there are two twitter buttons placed within the content. One right after the first paragraph, the second after the whole post. As you can configure the Twitter button manually here, you can get creative. Both of these have different text which would be tweeted out. Check this out, here you see the screenshots of the first and the second twitter button in the post:

testing in content Twitter buttons - after 1st paragraph
testing in content Twitter buttons - after full post
Now, off to the results. What works better, a Twitter button right up there after the 1st paragraph, or one after the full post?
Apparently, for my style of writing, my audience and the length of the post, I'm better off by relying on people to share the post with their Twitter followers right after the first paragraph than the whole post. 8 people shared the post using the first Twitter button, while only 5 people used the twitter button at the bottom of the page to share it. (see screenshots below)

Twitter-button-1st
Twitter-button-2nd

So these results are far from what you could expect on any blog post, however, it might give you an idea on how to test how likely your audience is willing to share your content with their followers. If you don't test your way into a viral factor sharing, why you keep trying to publish content..?

@Buzzfeed Commits Social Media Murder on @VirginMobileUSA Brand

We have seen it before, a brand which commits brand suicide on social media by reacting insensitive or just plain stupid. What usually happens, is that the brand fires the social media agency, posts an apology and is done with it. But have you ever seen a partner of a large brand commit murder on social media? Brand murder..? This is what just happened to Virgin Mobile USA. Let me explain...and let this be a lesson kids...

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Virgin Mobile USA as partner of Buzzfeed

We all know Buzzfeed, the pageview hording, social media pushing, meme aggregation website started by former founders of TheHuffingtonPost. From Wikipedia:

BuzzFeed is a website that combines a technology platform for detecting viral content with an editorial selection process to provide a snapshot of "the viral web in realtime". Co-founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti (who is also cofounder of The Huffington Post), BuzzFeed is located in Manhattan, New York in the Flatiron District.

In itself a strong concept, where the platform of Buzzfeed combines clever ways to use social network sites to get more visitors to their content. Facebook comments are very well integrated, where the comments are directly placed on people's wall. I use these here as well, so feel free to leave a comment.

Brands can partner with Buzzfeed to sponsor a page for their brand, where the right navigation bar is showing the brands latest Facebook and/or Twitter posts. This could work out for a brand, if they are in need to get more visitors of Buzzfeed to like their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter. This is what Virgin Mobile USA is doing, apparently the company is a partner for Buzzfeed, where there is a page full with articles. So far so good you would think...

The Virgin Mobile USA page on Buzzfeed

But what happens if you let the editors of Buzzfeed place any article on the brand page of their partners? And what happens when those articles are automatically promoted/sponsored on Facebook by the brand? Right, you could get a horrible mismatch between how a brand might want to be perceived by the users of its products, and how it actually portraits itself. Let's have a look at the following Facebook Sponsored post by Virgin Mobile USA I spotted today;

Sponsored Post by Virgin Mobile USA on Facebook
Yes, you are reading that right, the post Virgin Mobile USA is promoting on Buzzfeed is mocking people for not being that pretty, handsome or cool, so we hope we will never see those people to promote themselves on OKCupid. Let me repeat this, Virgin Mobile USA is promoting the discrimination of people based on how these people look like! And yes, Virgin Mobile USA is prominently placed right next to the offensive article on the Buzzfeed page, just check out this screenshot:
Screenshot of Virgin Mobile USA Partner page on Buzzfeed

Responses on Facebook on the endorsement of Virging Mobile USA of a Buzzfeed articleLuckily, this all plays out in social media world, where the brand now can get immediate feedback on their Marketing campaigns. And with this one from Virgin Mobile USA, people are for sure letting the company know they disapprove of the endorsement of the Buzzfeed article! Here are a few:

  • Anybody else think it's a little unprofessional for VM to be making fun of people? You're a phone company FFS
  • This is totally inappropriate for a nation wide company to be doing! What if one of those people was your own customer???
  • What kind of jerk company puts up insulting and degrading advertisements like this? Poor judgment...
  • I really hope Virgin Mobile has the permission of these 20 people to be bashing them publicly. Because if they don't, it's not only wrong, but VM can have the living hell sued out of them for this.
  • Screw you all. These people may be ugly, but they deserve love and they can use their money how they feel.
  • Is this a joke? Really?! How about this for a post: One Person Who Will Be Cleaning Out Their Desk at Virgin Mobile Tomorrow.

This time it was not the brand itself committing suicide, but the partnership with Buzzfeed really put Virgin Mobile USA in a bad light. Any brand should pay attention to their sponsored posts that go up on Facebook, and what kind of content they associate their brand with. Unless you want to use the "insult" hook to get people to "love" your brand, you better stay away from such insulting content!

 

 

LRR Sign of the Times in SEO

LRR stands for Link Removal Request, and some site owners are going apeshit about how they need to clean up their link profile. Personally I got one LRR so far, on a link which was completely editorial, so I didn't complied. The company did use some questionable tactics to get backlinks for a competitive vertical around voucher coupons...

As an SEO, I know how to handle these requests. Either you fight it, and get your site reported in the link disavow tool, which could have a negative side effect later on. Or you just remove the link, and be done with it. But what if you are not an SEO, and you run a successful blogger network, which has been the target for spammy guest bloggers who are trying to take advantage of your authoritative website to get direct match anchor text inserted in the guest blogger profile bio! Yes, that's been happening at a large scale, and now those companies are trying to clean up their act. I guess it was just a matter of time to see these kind of pages pop-up on websites from real businesses...

Link Removal Request confirmation page

Avoid 1 Star Reviews in SERP: Dynamic Schema integration

I stumbled on this Yelp snippet the other day. Normally you would expect to see rich snippets increase the click through rate of your result, but in this case, I doubt it.

Yelp one star review snippet

What if Yelp would be smart with Rich Snippet optimization and take it one step further. Dynamically implement the schema code based on the review score. This way you could avoid 1 star reviews to show up as rich snippets in the SERP's.

Something like:

>If AggregateRating =< 3 don't implement AggregateRating markup

>If AggregateRating >3 implement AggregateRating markup

This way, Google would most likely not show a one star review rich snippet for those places which suck...


Google Local Reviews

So this is how Google is trying to get more people familiar with their local business reviews product, and compete with Yelp; at popular events for the San Francisco Hipsters you might see a team hired by Google trying to convince people to try out the product. They actually expect you to review a couple of local businesses right there on one of the laptops. Just to make you familiar with the product. And what do you get for all the data you just entered and the time you spent, right.. a T-shirt.

 

 Google local reviews, trade a tshirt in exchange for your time and local knowledge

Google local reviews, trade a t-shirt in exchange for your time and local knowledge, write some reviews on local businesses and learn how the system works

Penguin Updates, Bring IT ON

With a lot of chatter on Twitter, it's probably safe to say that we are on track to see a large update hitting the search results just in time for the annual SMX Advanced in Seattle (from the chatter, it's most likely going to be a Penguin update). Like clockwork, Google gives the SEO's something to talk about, and since this is the advanced version of the SEO/SEM conference, it's a big update. Apart from all the discussions on the version number, it's incredible to see how SEO's stumble over each other to write "the news" what Matt Cutts have said online, and what you could expect from the next update.

Matt Cutts fro Google Tweets about Penguin 2.0

 

SEO's across the world are loosing their heads, and take the words of Matt Cutts all as a mantra. They shiver in fear on how the wrath of The Google might come down on their site, causing all kinds of trouble. But as my buddy Ryan ranted already:

We need to stop analyzing every word @mattcutts says like it’s some lost scripture and start paying attention to the meaning of what he says....

...

Remember when Matt said that Page Speed was a “all else being equal we’ll return the faster site” type of factor? That fits perfectly with the tree and dynamic weights I just talked about.

Instead of looking at the big picture, the meaning, and the reasoning behind what Matt says, we get too caught up on the literal definitions. It’s the equivalent of thinking David and Goliath is a story about how there are giants in the world rather than a story about how man’s use of technology helps him overcome challenges and sets him apart from beasts. We keep taking the wrong message because we’re too literal.

 

But I think some website owners should be afraid of what's coming down the pipeline, because if your site back-link profile looks like this, it might still works at the moment, but for how long...?


Does this look like a Penguin back link profile?

 

The funny thing is, the linking this site has done, still works like crazy. Check the sites visibility in search using the tool from Search Metrics. As you can see, the X-axes are not corresponding on the same timeframe, however, you can clearly see the search visibility of this site increased with the large jump in back-links in January of this year.

searchvisibility-spam

The next Penguin update will be larger than the previous ones. Next Penguin update will be a larger one than just a data refresh

Next Penguin update will be a larger one than just a data refresh

 

So, if you are already getting a ton of link removal requests, expect your inbox to show a flooding of new link removal requests rather sooner than later! Will you comply with the request, or have the requestor take more aggressive steps, like legal threads and stuff. I've heard of some very aggressive take down requests, even with authoritative domains. So far, I've received only one take down request, but have not taken the link down, since it was purely editorial. If the webmaster has screwed up their own link profile by being way to aggressive, that would be their problem. So I stand by Kim here, No I Will NOT respond to your disavow link paranoia. Bug off! 

So bring it on.. I'm ready for another Penguin update!

Black & White Penguin with a red bow tie

 

Planning a Content Marketing with In-Page Analytics?

With the launch of a new city in the Neighborhood projectLos AngelesAirbnb just launched the largest number of city Neighborhoods so far, 61. I really enjoyed day dreaming with the great pictures of Neighborhoods like MalibuSanta MonicaVenice or Hollywood. Maybe one day we will have the chance to move and live in Los Angeles, which has always been a secret dream for me. But then again, San Francisco is also not too shabby! I love walking around in the Richmond District, and get a sense of the Asian, Russian mixture of the Neighborhood and make great street pictures.

Another dream home town for me has been New York. Maybe a little bid too much out of our league, as living in a Neighborhood like TribecaSoHo or West Village with 3 kids is just very difficult. Let alone we would ever be able to afford a Townhouse at the Upper West Side! Brooklyn seems to become the new hot spot in New York, especially as the New York Times just published an article on how Hispters are taking over Neighborhoods like Williamsburg, or how they call it Will.I.Amsburg. But enough for the dreams I might have when winning the lottery, what I thought would be interesting to talk about what to search for or to look at for you as a marketeer to plan a content calendar for the pages you have on your site. To conduct this research, I'm using the following tool:

  • Google Analytics; with the in-page analytics reporting

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How To Use In-Page Analytics To Direct Your Content Marketing

In page analytics are an often overlooked tool for conducting user research, and a great way to get new topics to write more on. And the best thing is, your users already told you those topics are the ones they are interested in! From the Google help document (underline and red mine)

In-Page Analytics is available under the Content section on the Standard Reporting tab. It lets you make a visual assessment of how users interact with your web pages

So looking at which Neighborhoods  in New York we would need to write more about, I pulled up the In-Page analytics on the New York Neighborhood page, and used the Color bubbles to showcase popular Neighborhoods based on what the users have clicked on.

Neighborhood heatmap

Where the colors give the scale of popularity relative to each other. This means, the warmer the color, the more clicks the link got in the time period I checked (data was for the month of April).

What stands out, is that there is one Neighborhood in particular popular, and the only one which gets a red color: Upper East Side. Some Neighborhoods didn't even got a color, so it's safe to say, these are the least well known, or not so popular neighborhoods in New York; these are:

Honestly, I never heard of these either, except for the name civic center, which we have here Civic Center in San Francisco as well.

Popular New York Neighborhoods Stacked Up

So pulling all the New York Neighborhoods in a spreadsheet, and making a bar chart of the results, it shows how all the Neighborhoods stack up on popularity:

Popular New York City Neighborhoods stacked up

 

Now it's only a matter of creating a massage map per Neighborhood and research the topics before the editor can start writing.

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You can access the report in Google Analytics in two ways:

  • In Standard Reporting > Content, click In-Page Analytics.
    This option opens the report on the page you identified in your profile settings.
  • In the Pages report (Standard Reporting > Content > Site Content > Pages), when you drill in to a specific page, click the In-Page tab.
    This option opens the report for that page.

Airbnb Blog Running on WordPress, Genesis & Websynthesis

With Posterous closing, a race started a couple of weeks ago to move the Airbnb blogs from Posterous to WordPress. Lucky me, I have a number of years experience with WordPress, and more lucky me, I know people who even have more experience with WordPress and WordPress hosting. The Airbnb blogs are now running on the following stack:

teach them young So yesterday evening, I was busy checking all the migrations with my little man with me. Teach them young they say..

Just in time for our major Trust announcement this morning. Now, all we need to do, is create a new child theme, so that we can style the blogs completely according to Airbnb standards... So much opportunity to expand right now, having full control! Love it!

Other blog we migrated is the Nerds at Airbnb! Worth it to check out if you are into coding