Real Winner of Panda 4.0 Correlation is Causation

I can't believe this was missed by all those SEO experts writing their analysis posts about the latest Google Panda update, this is Panda 4.0! They all are focussing on the wrong stuff. You need to put your thin foil hat on to be able to see it, but it's pretty obvious once it is pointed out to you. The real winner from the Panda 4.0 update is Google!

Here is how this is played out. Google updates their index, shifts a couple of large companies around. Naturally, all SEO's trying to get into the spotlight of mainstream media, throw out a quick headline with a poor analysis of who is the biggest loser. Something like; "Brand X just lost 80% of their rankings, once you find out which company it is, it will blow you away...!" This is all the big smoke screen to hide what is really going on.

However, seasoned SEO's, who have learned the law of correlation = causation see right through this smoke screen.
Tweet: Correlation = Causation?

Here it goes:

My friends at Search metrics wrote an extremely helpful data analysis showing the biggest losers and winners of the Google Panda 4.0 update. As you can see in the losers row, large brands are used to pull up the smoke screen. You will need to pay attention to the winners of this update. Which company is close at the top of the list..? Right, it's Glassdoor.com

Glassdoor winner of Panda 4.0

Glassdoor, off course is the company where we all go to rate the company and our bosses, not using our real name off course!  Well, Glassdoor won in this update BIG TIME! Is Glassdoor so good in SEO, that they had to win? Not sure, as I received an invitation to apply to their head of SEO not that long ago, so they must still be looking for somebody setting out the strategy.

It clicked with me once I saw the headline this morning at the Wall Street Journal;

Google Rated Top Employer for Pay and Benefits by Glassdoor

Google Rated Top Employer for Pay and Benefits by Glassdoor

You see, there is an epic battle going on in Silicon Valley, the way for talent. Free food, free transportation, multi million dollar stock packages, you name it. These are the perks thrown in by tech companies to get the best people to work for your company.But a company get's really the most and best resumes if the perception in the market is that it's the best place to work.

I know a trick when I see one, and by the law of correlation = causation, this must be true. Google has given Glassdoor a giant lift in search rankings to get the #1 spot of best place to work, while pulling up a giant smokescreen so that every SEO analyst will focus on the losers. In the process, Google will safe giant recruiting budgets.

Well played Google, I guess I saw right through your trick!

 

Disclaimer: This obviously is a parody post, to make fun of all the so called "SEO experts" who do half baked analysis on an update just to get the attention. One of the only post I believe describes the facts, is the one from Search metrics, rewarded with a link here

 

 

Revenge on Melissa Bachman for Killing a Lion

With the news of Melissa Bachman shooting a lion in Africa, posing above the corps of the lion, and posting the pictures on Twitter & Facebook. Would Melissa not have thought this could be a big deal, seriously, shooting a lion is a major no-go in my opinion. And most of the world think the same! You think she would have learned from the Bob Parsons video shooting an elephant in Africa. The Google search results show what is happening in more details, where the fresh results based on the searches from around the world are changing with the days based on what the media is reporting.

The first screenshot of the Google search is showing the results for the search "Melissa Bachman" how it looked like 2 days ago. Not so much special to report, just a couple of her own webpages and social media profiles:
Melissa Bachman not yet killing a lion Google SERP

Now, the following screenshot was taken today, where you not only see the outcry of the worlds media being mad about Melissa Bachman shooting a lion for no particular reason, but only for fun. The search results also shows Melissa Bachman will have a reputation management problem for the weeks, months and hopefully years to come. Just imagine her grand kids are searching for what their family is known for, do you think they would appreciate the fact their ancestors were killing lions, which might as well be extinct at that time.

Here is the Search results for Melissa Bachman today, check out how many are describing the lion killings!

Melissa Bachman killing a lion search results

Here are a couple of articles from around the web:

With a little Google Bombing, these will be around for a while..

This is why Guest Blogging is Dead in the Water for SEO

Update: it shows how important this topic is, as the latest webmaster video by Matt Cutts is about Guest blogging. See the embedded video below...

Ever wonder why Google has taken a stance against guest posting? Once again SEO's have killed the tactic and are pissing in their own backyard. Case in point; I received an email with the simple question if I already used guest blogging to build my business. More specifically;

[company name redacted] is developed specifically to grow your business and the level of influence it has on Google on a long term basis through high quality guest blogging. It not only helps you target the strongest keywords in your market, but it builds a platform for your business to solidify your online foundation. If you are already incorporating guest blogging for your sites, I really want to encourage you to try our company out or consider outsourcing to us, as there are few choices in our below-average price range for the level of quality we put out. It'll surely be worth the ROI.

I clicked through to the site to understand the business proposal and guess what, it's a link scheme in the form of article placement... This will surely get you into trouble. You will pay for every post written by a sweat shop in a low income company, distributed through email spamming bloggers that don't know any better;

[company name redacted] is an internet marketing company focusing on the use of guest blogging to generate more traffic to your webpage. You pay for however many posts you want to buy, and our team of advanced guest bloggers will develop a high-quality blog post with great content and place them on blogs relevant to your topic that already have great traffic coming to their site. By doing this, you will gain credibility and develop more link juice for your site, giving it positive recognition by Google.

Really... you just mentioned Link Juice..?  And from the order form you can see that it's all about the link with direct match anchor text...

guest post order form

And from the email:

We focus on strictly "real" guest blogging. We don't use networks or other services to speed up, we simply build relationships with site owners and get high-quality content posted on blogs in your niche. The posts usually fall on sites with a page rank range of 2 to 5 and a minimum
domain authority of 25.

The pricing scheme is pretty expensive, where you need to commit for at least 4 months, at a $67.50 per post! Wow...! Nothing about the quality of the content written, or anything about the outreach strategy.

Can I start running now..?!? No wonder so many people not involved in real SEO hate the SEO industry.

 

How can I guest blog without it appearing as if I paid for links?

Own the SERP’s

Sometimes you learn more about SEO, other times you learn a little. Today, with the launch of Android KitKat, the Search results (SERP's) for the search term KitKat changed significantly in a short time. Based on some comments online from a former search quality engineer, after I posted the screenshot of the Android/KitKat page ranking #2, we can determine QDF (QDF = Quality Deserves Freshness) can trump page authority for high volume searches with news trending. So how can you dominate search? Own the SERP's!
dominate-search
Here is the old SERP for the search term KitKat. Where the timeframe for the pages ranked was changed using the Search Tools. Data range: 8/1/2000 - 8/31/2013, to make sure we include all the published content on KitKat for the last 13 years prior to today!

KitKat Search Results before the Android announcement

Now, based on today's news; the announcement of the partnership between Nestle's KitKat and Google's Android, the search results for KitKat look much different. What is interesting is that the knowledge graph box is showing on the right side of the results in the latest results, while it is not showing in the results set when you change the timeframe.

The search results for KitKat today after the Android news brokeSo what is here to learn, QDF is strong... Maybe even stronger when it's about a Google product..?

QDF chat

What have you learned in SEO world today? What have you seen in the SERP's?  How can you dominate search? Own the SERP's! Literally 

The Curious Case of Webmaster Central Search Query Data

For some time, we SEO's have known Google Webmaster Central query data is not always accurate. Ian Lurie even called it worthless. Still I look at the data once in a while to find good opportunities or small wins. For the last couple of weeks, I've been following a rather curious case in our Webmaster Tools data (Google Webmaster tools from now on abbreviated with GWT). I suspect the phenomenon I'm describing in this post has started to occur with the change in image search on Google, which resulted in a massive decrease in image search referrals for websites explained here by Define Media, (trust me, I know; I lost a lot of image search traffic on this website). The data in GWT has become even more inaccurate. Here goes...The Curious Case of Webmaster Central Search Query Data.

Please share with a Tweet:

Washington DC Images

When you do a search for the keyword Washington DC, you will spot an image from Airbnb's Washington DC Neighborhood page in the image search universal box:

Washington DC Airbnb image ranking

You would think you could expect a whole lot of traffic from an image like this high up in the Google search results. This might have been the case, where the old image search lay out could be a great source of traffic for any website, however, let me disappoint you right there, that since the new image search lay out, hardly any traffic is clicking through to the website where the image originated. Google, the scraper site, is keeping all those visits on their own properties...

Here is that same search query on Google image search:

image search Washington dc Airbnb

As you can see, the Washington DC image from Airbnb ranks really well, even without proper SEO best practices like file name of the image nor the domain it's being served from (yeah, don't get me started on that one..)

Google Webmaster Tools Query Data

At first glance, looking up the Washington DC Neighborhood page in the Top Pages report in Google Webmaster Central it looks all fine. The Washington Neighborhood is the second page when it comes to impressions in the Google search results, when filtered on the US and Web alone! However, if you're in the travel vertical, you'll know this order of destinations is not right! New York is a much more popular destination, where especially Airbnb is well represented with a large number of great listings in Manhattan or in Brooklyn. Even the San Francisco on Airbnb should show larger number of impressions, just from a gut feeling alone.

webmaster central Washington DC traffic

It becomes even stranger if you click the page open to see the search terms for that page. Suddenly, the query Washington DC shows a higher number of impressions than the overall page does. The clicks are way off,  and not by a little, but by a landslide...

Webmaster Tools strange numbers

Hypothesis on the Difference in Click Numbers

My hypothesis on the differences between the numbers as reported in GWT is simple. Back to the Image universal search box on the Washington DC query:

Universal Search image box Washington DC

What if the number of impressions represent the number of times this image was presented to searchers in the SERP's, both web or images. Where the the lower click number, 700 clicks, represents the actual to the page on all keywords, and the clicks on the keyword Washington DC, 3200 clicks, represents the clicks on the image where those folks stay at Google, but only see the larger image as it was scraped crawled.

What do you think..? Please let me know down here in the comments...

Made it this far down, why not share it with a Tweet:

Localized Sitelinks for Brand Query Airbnb

After last weeks post about the local tree houses in the Google SERP's, I came across the local sitelinks for our brand term (thanks to my neighbor colleague who was asking about the difference between the paid and organic sitelinks). When I do a search for the brand term Airbnb here in San Francisco, I get a number of local pages on Airbnb as sitelinks. You see a link to the SF city page and a link to listings in downtown San Francisco Airbnb San Francisco sitelinks

If you change the location to New York, the sitelinks change to pages on Airbnb with rentals in New York, and specifically in Manhattan. Airbnb sitelinks in New York

Taking this same location based search to a smaller city in the US, but a very hospitable one, Tampa (which came out of our study; Airbnb’s Hospitality Index: America’s Most Hospitable Cities), you see again local sitelinks, but the anchor text is focussed on the room type like; house & Apartment. Airbnb sitelinks in Tampa

 

Going to try one more; a popular summer destination for Vacation rentals in Myrtle Beach; the sitelinks for keyword Airbnb change again into more local site links with specific anchor text; North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach MYR. Just one of these does not have a localized anchor text; Apartment. Airbnb Myrtle Beach sitelinks

I tried to see if the local sitelinks are a travel vertical phenomenon. None of the travel sites I tried, I was able to replicate city level sitelinks based on the searcher location. The only website I was able to replicate this for, was for YELP: Yelp localized site links

Localized Sitelinks, Is this Good for Users?

A standard answer for any change made by Google is: It's good for users. It's questionable how useful these localized sitelinks really are for users. As I live in San Francisco, it's actually not really good for my experience to showcase San Francisco Airbnb pages, unless you would like to become a host on Airbnb.

My hypothesis is: Google is trying to become a mobile first company, where location of the user is becoming pre-dominantly important. Only if this is true, the localized San Francisco sitelinks make sense, as I might be looking for a place to stay in the city where I do a search on my smartphone!

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

 

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

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

 

Always Be Linking, Especially with Students

Always be LinkingOne thing I'm trying to learn fast, as this is a big black spot in my SEO skillset; Link Building. First rule of Link Building: ABL

Always Be Linking ABL

Tweet this quote:

Take up every opportunity to gain a true endorsement in the form of a link. And what better opportunity to get a new backlink than when a group of MBA students from Berkeley get a tour in your office, and you just happen to have your DSLR, with an awesome lens on it with you! Snap a couple of grou pictures and start chatting...

Me: "So, did you like the tour..?"

Group lead: "We sure did, we are a bunch of MBA students from the Haas Business School in Berkeley"

Me: "Is that right..?"

Group lead: "Hey, any chance we can get a hold of those pictures you just took of us?"

Me: "Yeah, sure where would you post it"

Group: "We have a Facebook page..."

Me: "Don't you have some sort of journal on the Berkeley.edu website"

Group lead: "Sure, we can add it to our newsletter, which is published online"

Me: Bingo..!! "Great, I will send you the file, would you mind giving me a credit link in it"

Group lead: "Sure, no problem man..!"

Me: "Thank you, and I hope you guys had fun here in the office..."

So, here you can download a large version of the picture. Now I hope they will follow through...