We also have a Glossary of internet marketing terms too!

Internet marketing (4)

What is internet marketing?

What is internet marketing?

Internet marketing is the online version of marketing
essentially its about improving your website’s sales outcomes.

The process works like this:

  • What most businesses need are sales.
  • Sales come from sales leads.
  • Sales leads come from engaged website visitors.
  • These are people who find your site when they are looking for your products and services.

There is nothing accidental, incidental or substantially changed about this sequence in the 10+ years I’ve been involved with marketing online.

A good Internet Marketer will:

  • understand what your clients want and how they seek it.
  • attract these people to your website.
  • help these visitors to find out more about your offerings
  • coax them to engage with your business (that’ a sales lead!)

What is a ‘Digital’ Competitor ?

‘Digital Competitors’ are those businesses that complete with you online.
I refer to digital competitors to draw attention to the fact that while a business will know who in their marketplace they compete with, the internet is an entirely different situation:

Same industry different place
The internet does not respect geography. Although there are businesses similar to yours off-line you never compete because they are too far away for clients to consider using them. On the internet they are all as close as your client’s computer screen!

Different industry same keywords
On the internet you compete for keywords
Often you will stumble across accidents of language where the popular description for your offerings coincidentally and unfortunately matches a description in a completely unrelated business or industry.

e.g. You hire indoor plants so your keywords might be plant hire but that’s also what the civil construction industry use to describe earth moving equipment hire !

Which Google should I target?

finding-the-way-coloured

Target the Google that’s in the same region as your customers. You might have noticed that there are different ‘Googles’ in different countries or geographical regions e.g.

In facts there’s heaps of them!  Each version of Google gives local websites a certain priority, and also ‘magically’ people are directed to their local Google so for optimal ranking choose a website domain that matches your target market’s local Google e.g.

If your target clients live in Australia (and hence
use www.google.com.au) a .com.au domain is suggested.

Top level domains (TLD)

Top level domains are a special case as Google WebMasters Tools allows top-level domain ( .com or .org) to be re-assigned to a specific geographic region although they do initially default to USA.

Why doesn’t Google know about my site?

Often Google does not know about a website, and if that is the case your site will not come up in any search results what so ever. I describe this as invisible to search.
As smart as Google is, it can’t spontaneously find out about your site, so to ensure Google knows about your site:

  • Create and register an XML sitemap (highly recommended)
    Submit the XML Sitemap to Google WebMaster Tools
  • Use a menu system that is ‘spider friendly’ (a no-brainer)
  • Providing links in your home page text into pages within the site.
    This is a great strategy as it also draws human visitors to engage further with your site

The only way a prospective client will be able to see your offerings online is if they already know your website address.  That’s OK if you have handed them a business card, or they have seen your off-line advertising, but you have lost the major opportunity that the internet provides; being able to present your offerings at purchase decision research time

PayDay Loans (1)

What is the Payday Loan Algorithm?

In June 2013 Google decided to target search results for some specific terms, which was a new direction in their web spam attack strategies.  Google had previously attacked poor backlink profiles (Penguin) and poor content (Panda – updated to 4.0 this week as well)  This week Google refined the ‘PayDay Loans’ algorithm to version 2.0

Matt Cutts refers to these as ‘very spammy queries’, and the industry has labelled this as payday loans as it is a classic example of these searches.

Why ‘Pay Day Loans’?

'Payday Loans' searches in Australia The search Pay day loans is a strong sales signal for the short term finance industry (NB I didn’t say ‘loan shark’ ) Regrettably its a term that is used increasingly frequently as you can see in the Monthly Searches provided by Google’ Keyword Planner. Is it an indicator of our economy or maybe the increasing reliance on credit?

You might be surprised to learn Keyword Planner also reveals that an AdWords click for payday loans will cost the advertiser upwards of $23 – BTW this is paid to Google. The cost per conversion would be very expensive indeed, and so as you might expect the corresponding organic search (ie SEO) competition would also be commensurately intense. Competing in this environment means that online marketers need to go hard to get a result for their clients, which often leads to schemes that cross Google’s ‘Quality Guidelines’, and that is presumably why Google have decided to address these markets.

 Who is really getting the money?

Given there are approaching 10,000 searches per month this is a big marketplace, and with Google collecting $23+ for every AdWords click they would be making lots of money from it as well as the financiers. You have to wonder if Google’s motive is purely to make an ‘equitable internet’, or is there a hidden agenda to generate more AdWords revenue by controlling the organic search outcomes more tightly?

 Update Pay Day Loans 3.0

13 June 2014 and Matt Cutts from Google has announced the launch of Pay Day Loans 3.0 update

Search Engine Land notes Payday 3.0 specifically targets spammy queries, versus spammy sites. What exactly that means is not 100% clear. But the types of queries this targets includes terms like [payday loans], [casinos], [viagra] and other forms of highly spammy queries.

Watch for more info as it comes to hand…

SEO Principals (3)

Are H1 tags important for SEO ?

What is a H1 tag ?

The HTML H1 tag is an important element for communicating to search engines what a page is about. Use of the Heading 1 tag dates back to the primeval days of the internet when the H1 tag was used to indicate a page’s principal subject through the application of special HTML formatting. Sub-headings H2 may provide more details on a secondary subject such as a section within the page, and so down though a hierarchy of headings H3,h4,h5 etc.

In that simplistic era, the page heading was a exactly what the page was about. Even with sophisticated formatting and layouts in the modern website, search engine spiders still recognise the H1 tag as an important indicator of the page’s over-all content.

So how do you use H1 for SEO ?

As search engines see H1 as an important indicator of the page’s topic, using target terms in H1 reinforces to the search engine that the page, indeed the site, is about the target term, and so is more likely to be featured in searches that also relate to the topic/keyword.

Is there H1 code in my site?

Click to view the source code in a page (this is dependant on your browser but try right mouse clicking on the page) then search for ‘H1’  The H1 will be surrounded in HTML open and close syntax eg <H1> to open and </H1> to close.  H2 will be similarly opened <H2> and </H2> closed. Capitalisation of the ‘h’ doesnt matter

h1 in code

Here’s how H1 looks in this pages code

h2 in code

Here’s how H2 looks in this pages code

Applying H1

Many new websites do not use the H1 tag, so retrofitting them into an existing site can be high SEO value, and involves using Cascading Style Sheets to re-define the default H1 style to to suit the layout. Avoid the temptation to add multiple or long H1 elements in a page. It is far more effective when kept concise and highly relevant to the target term. Synonyms and headings formatted as a question also provide greater engagement with the semantic characteristics that Google’s Hummingbird release  was designed to seek.

Maximise exposure for your target topics by using variants of the H1 headings and H2 sub headings across your site.

What else can I do ?

Ensure your site’s Title meta tag also contains target topic related terms or synonyms and of course that your posts & pages contain lots of great original content about your target topics

 

How do I find the best keywords?

Selecting the best Keyword(s) for your requirements is the critical activity in almost all online marketing activities, but sadly it seems most of us don’t invest the time or effort to really understand how to do this.

Keyword research

Rather than diving into Google and trying random searches, a considered approach is much more valuable.

  • Sales Objectives
    I usually start with getting inside the businesses objectives – typically sales objectives
  • Client Searches
    Then try to understand what that businesses prospective clients might be looking for – is it a solution they seek or are they more likely to search about their problem?
  • Keyword Planner
    Fire up the Google Keyword Planner and adjust the settings to reflect the client’s geographical demographics
    Then jump in with some generalised terms and observe the results
    Refine the results using the include/exclude facility
  • Excel 
    Download results into Excel where you can filter, slice and dice further

Keyword Tips

Here’s a couple of tips for the keyword research beginner:

Competition: Be aware that some keywords are highly competitive, and so will be difficult &/or expensive to compete against. If you are starting out and dont have an enormous budget or leadtime look for search terms that aren’t as competitive but still represent prospective clients searches ie ‘niches’

Don’t assume: It never fails to amaze me how variable search terms are. I would never ever ever assume what the most frequently searched term is. The Keyword Planner is free – Use it!

Keyword resources

Here’s a couple of resources to drill deeper into the deep depths of keyword research:

  • Discovering your Target Keywords
    I originally published this in 2010 but this white paper still reflects the process of selecting ideal keywords.
    It provides practical advice and strategy.
  • Keywords to the Wise
    Published by Google for use in their Adwords system, Keywords to the Wise provides some AdWords specific tips but much of this can be applied to keyword research for other mediums.
    Well worth a read…

Should I use underscore or dashes in URLs?

This question comes up occasionally when building a website and wanting to design it for absolutely optimal SEO, and it relates to how the URLs should be structured.

Using keywords in URLs is helpful for promoting that term, so if you wanted to promote your site for a search term like SEO in Adelaide then an ideal URL for a target page or directory would be: www.<your domain>/seo in adelaide

Unfortunately this will display using the hex charcaters for a space (2o hex) and look this this: /seo%20in%20adelaide

So to improve the display of this URL we can join the words with a dash (seo-in-adelaide) or an underscore (seo_in_adelaide) but which should you use for optimal SEO outcomes ?

Google’s Matt Cutts explains this including the history behind it here:

SEO Tools (1)

What is ‘WebMasters Tools’?

Google WebMasters Tools (WMT) is an important information service for fine tuning your website’s SEO performance
WMT provides information on issues Google has detected in your site as well as some optional settings.

Bing also has a Webmasters Tools service with similar features.

Spam (1)

I receive emails regarding my site’s SEO. Are they real?

A common concern amongst business people is that they’ve received an email revealing SEO issues or poor SEO performance in your site. These emails are invariably spam, with the SEO claims generalised information and likely not a specific analysis for your site.

How do you know if they are spam emails?

Senders Email Address
By far the easiest way to uncover spam emails is checkout the senders email address.
Spammers typically use a public email such as a gmail  or me etc
Any real and creditable  business will send emails from the same domain as their website eg peter.cornish@succinctideas.com.au

Checkout their website
If the email has come from the business website domain, then you can use this part of the email address to check the senders business out further.
Do they provide details of the businesses location and contact details ?
If not, they are unlikely to be a legitimate business – why would a legitimate business hide these basic details especially if they are trying to attract business?

Ring them
If you are still interested, then ring the business (don’t email them) using the contact details on the website/email. Its much easier for them to hide behind an email conversation than actually speak to you.
Mind you if they are located overseas, you might want to consider if you would like a local SEO who you can speak to in person.

Get an independent opinion

Spam emails often contain meaningless SEO mumbo-jumbo to frighten the recipient (that’s you) into taking action.
This is based on the well known sales strategy called the FUD Factor – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Get an SEO expert, preferably one that you trust to check the claims made in the email.

What can you do about SEO Spam emails?

Google Apps Report Spam button

Google Apps Report Spam

Report them to your Spam service – this will vary depending on the spam product you have access to but, but as a Google Apps user I find the Report Spam button very rewarding.
Once a few people have classed the email as spammy in this way, GMail universally classes emails from that email address as spam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website Hacks (2)

What is a htaccess hack?

htaccess hacks are a relatively common form of website hack.

These hacks are difficult to detect, and typically indiscriminately redirect innocent visitors to ‘socially undesirable’ destinations rather than to your website.

The offenders somehow manage to edit the website’s htaccess file, which can create all sorts of issues your site; probably the worst being that Google detects the hack and displays a warning notice against your website in search result. Between the redirections and Google’s warning to not visit your website tends to frighten prospective clients away, so the htaccess hack its not good for business at all…

Disabling/removing a htaccess hack is a specialist job, so contact me and Ill do it or you.

What is a ‘Brute Force Attack’?

Brute Force Attack LogA Brute Force attack is the modern equivalent of trench warfare. The hacker simply smashes at the attackee’s defences mercilessly and mindlessly until they find a hole to break through.

In WordPress the default login ID is ‘Admin’ so the classic Brute Force attack tries to break into your site by trying to login as Admin then trying thousands of different passwords…

BTW the hacker isn’t sitting at the other end furiously typing, they use  ‘hacker robot’ software that automates the process relentlessly trying to login in over and over and over…  (1,278 times in the log illustrated right)  I have seen as many as 30,000+ failed login attempts.

There’s several strategies to reduce the incidence of brute force hacking including:

Most just stop the less well equipped hackers, but the really determined ones will eventually find a way to breach your site, so ensure you keep current backups in the event you have to throw it all away and start again…

AdWords (5)

What is Keyword Matching?

AdWords attempts match your keywords with searches in Google and occasionally (sometimes often actually!) your ads will appear for search terms you really don’t want.
The dilemma is that you don’t readily get to see those mismatches and could easily assume that everything is OK fine, so checking your Search Term Report regularly is a key maintenance activity.

Login and go to a keyword view; Click the Dimensions tab and use the View dropdown (extreme left) and scroll down and select Search Terms
You will discover a whole new world of search terms which typically differ markedly from your configured keywords

This is where Keyword Matching comes into play:

Broad match indicates AdWords will match anything similar to your keywords in any order

Modified broad match AdWords will match the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order

Phrase match  AdWords will match a search includes your keywords plus additional terms

Exact match  indicates AdWords will only match your exact keywords

Negative match AdWords will not match searches if they contain your negative keyword

This is described and illustrated here with examples of how it works

Setting up Keyword Matching can be complex, so reviewing your Search Term Report is a useful way of determining if you are getting the results you want

What images ad sizes do I need for Adwords Display Network >

Until recently there were 51 different ads sizes so making creatives for your Adwords Display Network campaign was a real chore (read ‘expensive’).
Fortunately AdWords are now automatically resizing ads, so you can reach 95% of the Google Display Network (GDN) with just three core ad sizes:

  • 728 x 90 pixels
  • 300 x 250 pixels
  • 160 x 600 pixels

In the past, the same three sizes could only reach 54% of the GDN. On average, this feature increases conversion volume by 6% at the same CPA.

Many thanks to Scott MacGregor from Google Australia for this information

How does AdWords work?

Pay per Click (PPC) advertising, dominated by Google’s AdWords, is an important online marketing medium.  AdWords is an online auction where you show an advertisement to people searching for your product/services. You only pay if they click on your ad.

Bidding

You bid to gain visibility
Generally the more you bid; the greater your ad’s visibility
You beat your competitors by out-bidding them

Budgeting

Ad exposure is proportional to your total (daily) budget
Increase your (daily) budget to be seen more

Advantages of PPC

PPC is fabulous for

  • simple, short lead time online exposure.
    Your business can achieve almost instant exposure for a managed investment.
  • short term sales campaigning and is important for services that clients need right now.
    i.e. short lead time sales like repairs etc

PPC also avoids the vagaries of Google SEO.
Google is actively stopping traditional SEO techniques so being ranked organically is becoming less reliable.

Disadvantages of PPC

The ongoing expense. Turn off your ads and the phone stops ringing.
For me its like leasing – you never own it

Bid prices creep up over time with:

  • Competition who keep increasing their bids.
  • New competitors bidding for exposure as well.

In my view the greatest concern with PPC is that your business can become locked into a one dimensional online marketing program PPC.
Shut down your PPC campaign you don’t have any sales leads. Arrggh!

What is a Search Term vs a Keyword?

I don’t understand why the keywords I’ve added my campaign are different  from the ones in the Search Term Report

AdWords will match words it thinks are similar and occasionally (in fact often) gets it wrong. Be aware that there’s two kinds of ‘keywords’ inside AdWords:

  • Keywords: The ones you want to target.
    These are the terms you’ve added into your campaign.
  • Search Terms: These are the actual searches that have triggered your ads to be displayed.
    These are displayed as follows: Dimensions tab | View dropdown | Search Terms

Tuning Tip: Check your Search Terms regularly and add negative keywords to prevent your ads from displaying for these terms again and again.

Tuning Tip: Using keyword matching options to ensure you target the specific terms you need  

What is a Negative Keyword ?

Communicating with AdWords about the particular searches you want your ads to match with can be complex, and if you get it wrong you can end up with a lot of wasted clicks and money with no leads!

Negative keywords is one of a series of Keyword Matching Options AdWords provides to specifically identify your desired searches. These can be applied in a Boolean style to ensure  AdWords knows exactly which searches you want to target. Negative keywords can also be applied to individual AdGroups or across an entire Campaign

If you want to displays your ads when someone searches for  widget but not for searches on purple widget then a negative keyword of purple will achieve this by preventing searches with purple in them to match your ads.

If however you want some searches containing purple to be matched then it gets a little more challenging and I’d suggest speak to me about your requirements

Analytics (2)

What are Analytics Top Conversions Paths?

Conversion tracking is the ability to capture and review what happened prior to a successful outcome in your website. Typically a conversion is a sales objective such as:

  • a contact enquiry form submission
  • newsletter registration
  • download of a PDF
  • an ecommerce sales transaction

We track these successes to find out what’s working and what’s not in your site.

Multi-Channel Funnels

Visitors don’t always reach the conversion phase in a single visit, and may take several visits. In these cases understanding how the client returns to complete the conversion is critical.
Often its the last step in the process is recognised as the successful medium when it not.

top conversion paths sample

For example, I click on an Ad to visit your site.
I consider your offering; discuss it with my wife or business partner etc
After some time I return to your site with a Google search of your business name after deciding to register for the newsletter

It is your advertisement that attracted me to your site, not the followup Google search for your business name

Understanding how a new client engages with your business is critical so it can be replicated and reinforced to generate more leads for your business.

Analytics provides a deceptively simple conversion chart showing the channels and their order that contributed to the conversion.

Illustrated right is an extract of the Top Conversion Paths screen showing the sequence of events that lead to conversions:

  • two organic searches
  • two directs (ie typed in the web address)
  • two referals (ie clicked on a link in another site)
  • three referals (ie clicked on a link in another site)
  • a referal then a search

How do I see how much traffic is coming to my site?

This depends on what statistics system is currently active for your website:

Google Analytics

My preferred stats system, Analytics is a powerful yet free website traffic monitoring system provided by Google.
To install it, Analytic’s scripts must be installed in your website, then data is accumulated from that point on. These scripts are provided when setting up your Analytics account. NB You will need to have a Google ID to create your Analytics account.

To view and analyse the data, visit the Analytics page: www.google.com/analytics and sign in using your Google ID.

Webaliser et all

Your web hosting package may provide a statistics package for your website using one of these tools:

  • Webaliser
  • AWStats
  • Logaholic
  • Analog

These tools process your web hosting server’s activity logs to present activity etc for your site. These tools are considered to be less accurate than Analytics and are unable to provide as much activity data because of the way that they work.

Other stats packages

There are also a number of other website stats packages including:

Stat Counter
www.statcounter.com
A free yet reliable invisible web tracker, highly configurable hit counter and real-time detailed web stats.

Site Meter
www.sitemeter.com

Google (6)

What is Google Penguin 5?

Penguin 5 is the fifth update to the Penguin series (also known as Penguin 2.1) of Google’s spam detection filter. Penguin 5 penalises websites that its algorithm says has “low quality back links” and /or “thin content”.

Affected sites can be identified by the sharp drop in ranking (typically between 20 to 30 rank positions) within days of the Oct 5 2013 release. Notably, Penguin 5 impacts all organic ranking results in the site – ie across all terms for the domain.

Read more about Penguin:

Penguin History

Penguin is a part of Google’s results processing that detects and removes or diminishes ‘web spam’  in search results.

Where does low quality content come from ?
‘Low quality’ web content exploded after backlinking became proven as a technique to improve Google website rankings. This lead to commercialisation of backlinking  driven by businesses wanting to maximise their exposure in Google. The technique was to create multiple articles online containing links back to the client’s site, and to maximise the value of the link, the link text contained the clients’ target terms. As a result thousands of websites also emerged with the ability to publish articles, directory entries, bookmarks and other forms of ‘thin content’ that could be quickly created to generate the desired backlinks.

In the meantime Google’s Caffeine infrastructure upgrade (August 2009) enabled Google to more effectively digest literally all content on the internet, including this burgeoning ‘web spam’.

Google launched its first major web spam offensive in April 2004 with what has become known as Penguin; a filtering process that identifies and removes web spam from Google’s search results. After several iterations, Penguin version 5 emerged in Oct 5 2013 as a much more evolved ‘web spam detective’ targeting low quality backlinks and ‘thin content’ as these are the signals that Google interprets as web spam.

Particularly notable in recent Penguin releases Google is being more heavy handed with penalties for websites it determines are connected to link spam; applying penalties such as a rank reduction of 20 to 30 positions, sometimes across all searches for the site through to complete removal of the website from Google search results.

What is a ‘low quality’ Backlink?

Since the arrival of Penguin 5 there is a great deal of interest in understanding what a low quality backlink is : specifically what Google ‘thinks’ is a low quality backlink.

Google defines broadly defines low quality backlinks in its WebMasters Guidelines in the Link Schemes section where they refer to these as:

  • Buying or selling backlinks
  • Excessive Link exchanges
  • Large scale article marketing
  • Automated programs to create links

Google also provides a range of examples of unnatural backlinks including:

    • Text advertisements (without a no follow directive)
    • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles  (without a no follow directive
    • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. 
    • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
    • Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
    • Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
    • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:

My interpretation is:

  • Backlinks from advertiser sites that do not include a no follow tag
  • Backlinks from low quality sites eg sites that are clearly just a backlinking farm

Ironically backlinks that may have helped your website rank prior to Penguin 5, may now be the cause of its non-performance.

What should I do to avoid or recover from a Google Penguin 5 penalty?

Your site may be penalised by Google’s Penguin 5 if it calculates that your site has Low quality backlinks 

Recovering from Low Quality Backlinks 
If Google determines your site has a significant number of unnatural backlinks it may be at risk of a ranking or even a manual penalty.

Unfortunately backlinks seem to be more typical cause of a Penguin 5 penalty. Read more.  To recover from or prevent a future Penguin 5 penalty, arrange to have the low quality backlinks removed or converted to no follow links ASAP.

Unfortunately this is not as easy as it sounds as the link(s) that need to be removed or reprogrammed are at the originating website, not yours so you need to convince that person to take action on your behalf.  Further, many website owners are just not aware of the risk they are exposing your site/business to and probably all of their other clients as well!

If all else fails then you can request Google ignore or disavow your unnatural links via your Google WebMasters Tools interface.

If all else fails contact us and we can facilitate the removal or disavow of unnatural links from your site.

 

What is a Google ‘Manual Action’?

If your website is considered to be ‘naughty’ by Google i.e. if they believe your site contravenes Google’s Quality Guidelines Google may choose to ‘manually’ enforce a penalty on it. If you are using Google WebMasters Tools for your site then this will be reported under the Search Traffic/Manual Actions menu item.

Notably there are two forms of Manual Actions:

  • Site wide matches
    Impacts your entire website
  • Partial matches
    Impacts a page or section in your site

To remove a manual action, you need to Request a Review via Google WebMasters Tools

Read more about Manual Actions here:

In the video below Matt Cutts, Head of WebSpam at Google talks about Manual Actions.

What is Google Trends?

Google accumulates an amazing amount of search activity data and also provides a number of publicly accessible portals to selected portions of this data. Google Trends is an interesting tool that provides information about searches conducted in Google. Trends has data captured since 2004 and can regionalise and compare results. Trends is a valuable free research tool and to illustrate its ability we’ve prepared the South Aussie Rising Searches display in our website. This shows Rising Searches for South Australians over the last week as a simple illustration of Trends amazing ability.  

Rising Searches are those searches that have increased significantly compared to the previous period (in this case the last 7 days), providing the ability to identify trends as they emerge – a valuable research tool for business where subtle changes in customer interest can mean the difference between success an failure.

Given the widespread use of Google, this Trends display literally shows what is top of mind for South Australian’s this week…

 

 

What is Google Panda?

Panda is a Google search engine ‘sub-system’ that assesses website ‘quality’, and then may impose a ranking penalty (ie reduce the website’s position in search results) if it determines the website’s quality is ‘too low’.

The challenge is understanding what Google (or its Panda subsystem really) is programmed to flag as ‘low quality’, particularly as this changes over time.

The terms ‘thin content’ or ‘thin sites’ are used to describe low quality sites that Google want to weed out of search results, but sometimes well meaning websites get innocently caught up in Panda’s filters and are impacted by rank penalties too.

Consequently Google is regularly reviewing and releasing updates to Panda to refine its ability to exclude innocent sites and also to include other forms of low quality sites. 

 

 

What is the Payday Loan Algorithm?

In June 2013 Google decided to target search results for some specific terms, which was a new direction in their web spam attack strategies.  Google had previously attacked poor backlink profiles (Penguin) and poor content (Panda – updated to 4.0 this week as well)  This week Google refined the ‘PayDay Loans’ algorithm to version 2.0

Matt Cutts refers to these as ‘very spammy queries’, and the industry has labelled this as payday loans as it is a classic example of these searches.

Why ‘Pay Day Loans’?

'Payday Loans' searches in Australia The search Pay day loans is a strong sales signal for the short term finance industry (NB I didn’t say ‘loan shark’ ) Regrettably its a term that is used increasingly frequently as you can see in the Monthly Searches provided by Google’ Keyword Planner. Is it an indicator of our economy or maybe the increasing reliance on credit?

You might be surprised to learn Keyword Planner also reveals that an AdWords click for payday loans will cost the advertiser upwards of $23 – BTW this is paid to Google. The cost per conversion would be very expensive indeed, and so as you might expect the corresponding organic search (ie SEO) competition would also be commensurately intense. Competing in this environment means that online marketers need to go hard to get a result for their clients, which often leads to schemes that cross Google’s ‘Quality Guidelines’, and that is presumably why Google have decided to address these markets.

 Who is really getting the money?

Given there are approaching 10,000 searches per month this is a big marketplace, and with Google collecting $23+ for every AdWords click they would be making lots of money from it as well as the financiers. You have to wonder if Google’s motive is purely to make an ‘equitable internet’, or is there a hidden agenda to generate more AdWords revenue by controlling the organic search outcomes more tightly?

 Update Pay Day Loans 3.0

13 June 2014 and Matt Cutts from Google has announced the launch of Pay Day Loans 3.0 update

Search Engine Land notes Payday 3.0 specifically targets spammy queries, versus spammy sites. What exactly that means is not 100% clear. But the types of queries this targets includes terms like [payday loans], [casinos], [viagra] and other forms of highly spammy queries.

Watch for more info as it comes to hand…

Who are the Victims of Penguin 5?

Backlinking Industry

This ‘industry’ was an enormous global market that was made instantly redundant by Penguin 5 – Presumably thousands of people with previously gainful employment have been impacted.  Some of the backlink creation businesses are still operating, despite the risks of compromising the websites their work is intended to assist.

Businesses with Backlinked Sites

If your website was involved in an SEO program prior to Oct 5 2013 it is very likely that a backlinking program was part of it. If the Penguin 5 filter deems the level of ‘unnatural links’ in your site is too high then your site will be penalised by not appearing in search results.
For contemporary businesses reliant on online sales or sales lead generation penguin 5 penalties are catastrophic.

Innocent victims of Penguin 5

I have witnessed several ‘innocent victims’ of Penguin 5 as a result of :

  • Directory sites
    Google has clamped down on backlinks even from well known directory sites who provide links without a no follow directive.
    I’m sure I’m not the only SEO specialist who is contacting the directory site’s management to have my client’s backlinks removed or converted to no follow. These people are typically shocked and in denial of the thought that their site is compromising their clients sites. I feel for them, as they are providing a genuine and valuable service. There is no way they would deliberately compromise their clients sites – Who would ‘bite the hand’ that feeds them ?
  • Advertising Links
    If advertising links to your website do not have a no follow directive it can result in ranking penalties. As an example, Ive been involved in one case where banner advertising on an industry portal site didnt not contain no follow resulting in a client’s site being penalised with significant ranking drops.

How do I remove un-natural backlinks?

Backlinks are connections from other websites to yours, so removing unnatural backlinks to your site involves persuading the operator/owner of the remote website to remove the link(s).  The process involves:

Identify the unnatural backlinks

There are a number of excellent tools now available to collect backlink data to determine if the link is potentially unnatural, but the most relevent information comes direct from Google WebMasters Tools.  Refer to the Google Quality Guidelines, and in particular those that refer to link schemes

Form the links into a list so the remote webmaster can easily process them – the easier you make their job the more likely they will action your removal request for you.

Determine Contact details

Many of the websites that generate unnatural links will not have phone contact, indeed many don’t have any form of contact in their website.
If you manage to get an email address that is probably most helpful, as you will need to send your list of backlinks to them anyway. Emails make it easy to followup and of course also create a paper trail of your interactions with them.

Dispatch the Request and backlink list

Send a removal request with your list of links

Followup

If you don’t hear from the remote site followup, followup and followup
Removing bad links is the fastest way to recover from a Penguin penalty so is you best option.

Can’t get the links removed?

If the remote website wont remove the links, they may agree to converting the links to NOFOLLOW
In some cases NOFOLLOW is a preferred option, for example where you attract prospective sales leads to your site, but don’t wants the link’s unnatural characteristics to compromise your site. A backlink that Google thinks is a paid or sponsored link is a case in point.

Still cant get the link removed ?

The final option is to ask Google to consider disavowing the unnatural links.
This process involves uploading these remaining unnatural backlinks into Google WebMaster Tools’ Disavow Links Tool
Be *very careful* as this tool can completely destroy your site’s Google authority if used incorrectly.

What is Keyword Matching?

AdWords attempts match your keywords with searches in Google and occasionally (sometimes often actually!) your ads will appear for search terms you really don’t want.
The dilemma is that you don’t readily get to see those mismatches and could easily assume that everything is OK fine, so checking your Search Term Report regularly is a key maintenance activity.

Login and go to a keyword view; Click the Dimensions tab and use the View dropdown (extreme left) and scroll down and select Search Terms
You will discover a whole new world of search terms which typically differ markedly from your configured keywords

This is where Keyword Matching comes into play:

Broad match indicates AdWords will match anything similar to your keywords in any order

Modified broad match AdWords will match the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order

Phrase match  AdWords will match a search includes your keywords plus additional terms

Exact match  indicates AdWords will only match your exact keywords

Negative match AdWords will not match searches if they contain your negative keyword

This is described and illustrated here with examples of how it works

Setting up Keyword Matching can be complex, so reviewing your Search Term Report is a useful way of determining if you are getting the results you want

What images ad sizes do I need for Adwords Display Network >

Until recently there were 51 different ads sizes so making creatives for your Adwords Display Network campaign was a real chore (read ‘expensive’).
Fortunately AdWords are now automatically resizing ads, so you can reach 95% of the Google Display Network (GDN) with just three core ad sizes:

  • 728 x 90 pixels
  • 300 x 250 pixels
  • 160 x 600 pixels

In the past, the same three sizes could only reach 54% of the GDN. On average, this feature increases conversion volume by 6% at the same CPA.

Many thanks to Scott MacGregor from Google Australia for this information

How does AdWords work?

Pay per Click (PPC) advertising, dominated by Google’s AdWords, is an important online marketing medium.  AdWords is an online auction where you show an advertisement to people searching for your product/services. You only pay if they click on your ad.

Bidding

You bid to gain visibility
Generally the more you bid; the greater your ad’s visibility
You beat your competitors by out-bidding them

Budgeting

Ad exposure is proportional to your total (daily) budget
Increase your (daily) budget to be seen more

Advantages of PPC

PPC is fabulous for

  • simple, short lead time online exposure.
    Your business can achieve almost instant exposure for a managed investment.
  • short term sales campaigning and is important for services that clients need right now.
    i.e. short lead time sales like repairs etc

PPC also avoids the vagaries of Google SEO.
Google is actively stopping traditional SEO techniques so being ranked organically is becoming less reliable.

Disadvantages of PPC

The ongoing expense. Turn off your ads and the phone stops ringing.
For me its like leasing – you never own it

Bid prices creep up over time with:

  • Competition who keep increasing their bids.
  • New competitors bidding for exposure as well.

In my view the greatest concern with PPC is that your business can become locked into a one dimensional online marketing program PPC.
Shut down your PPC campaign you don’t have any sales leads. Arrggh!

What is a Search Term vs a Keyword?

I don’t understand why the keywords I’ve added my campaign are different  from the ones in the Search Term Report

AdWords will match words it thinks are similar and occasionally (in fact often) gets it wrong. Be aware that there’s two kinds of ‘keywords’ inside AdWords:

  • Keywords: The ones you want to target.
    These are the terms you’ve added into your campaign.
  • Search Terms: These are the actual searches that have triggered your ads to be displayed.
    These are displayed as follows: Dimensions tab | View dropdown | Search Terms

Tuning Tip: Check your Search Terms regularly and add negative keywords to prevent your ads from displaying for these terms again and again.

Tuning Tip: Using keyword matching options to ensure you target the specific terms you need  

What is a Negative Keyword ?

Communicating with AdWords about the particular searches you want your ads to match with can be complex, and if you get it wrong you can end up with a lot of wasted clicks and money with no leads!

Negative keywords is one of a series of Keyword Matching Options AdWords provides to specifically identify your desired searches. These can be applied in a Boolean style to ensure  AdWords knows exactly which searches you want to target. Negative keywords can also be applied to individual AdGroups or across an entire Campaign

If you want to displays your ads when someone searches for  widget but not for searches on purple widget then a negative keyword of purple will achieve this by preventing searches with purple in them to match your ads.

If however you want some searches containing purple to be matched then it gets a little more challenging and I’d suggest speak to me about your requirements

Panda (1)

What is Google Panda?

Panda is a Google search engine ‘sub-system’ that assesses website ‘quality’, and then may impose a ranking penalty (ie reduce the website’s position in search results) if it determines the website’s quality is ‘too low’.

The challenge is understanding what Google (or its Panda subsystem really) is programmed to flag as ‘low quality’, particularly as this changes over time.

The terms ‘thin content’ or ‘thin sites’ are used to describe low quality sites that Google want to weed out of search results, but sometimes well meaning websites get innocently caught up in Panda’s filters and are impacted by rank penalties too.

Consequently Google is regularly reviewing and releasing updates to Panda to refine its ability to exclude innocent sites and also to include other forms of low quality sites. 

 

 

Penguin (5)

What is Google Penguin 5?

Penguin 5 is the fifth update to the Penguin series (also known as Penguin 2.1) of Google’s spam detection filter. Penguin 5 penalises websites that its algorithm says has “low quality back links” and /or “thin content”.

Affected sites can be identified by the sharp drop in ranking (typically between 20 to 30 rank positions) within days of the Oct 5 2013 release. Notably, Penguin 5 impacts all organic ranking results in the site – ie across all terms for the domain.

Read more about Penguin:

Penguin History

Penguin is a part of Google’s results processing that detects and removes or diminishes ‘web spam’  in search results.

Where does low quality content come from ?
‘Low quality’ web content exploded after backlinking became proven as a technique to improve Google website rankings. This lead to commercialisation of backlinking  driven by businesses wanting to maximise their exposure in Google. The technique was to create multiple articles online containing links back to the client’s site, and to maximise the value of the link, the link text contained the clients’ target terms. As a result thousands of websites also emerged with the ability to publish articles, directory entries, bookmarks and other forms of ‘thin content’ that could be quickly created to generate the desired backlinks.

In the meantime Google’s Caffeine infrastructure upgrade (August 2009) enabled Google to more effectively digest literally all content on the internet, including this burgeoning ‘web spam’.

Google launched its first major web spam offensive in April 2004 with what has become known as Penguin; a filtering process that identifies and removes web spam from Google’s search results. After several iterations, Penguin version 5 emerged in Oct 5 2013 as a much more evolved ‘web spam detective’ targeting low quality backlinks and ‘thin content’ as these are the signals that Google interprets as web spam.

Particularly notable in recent Penguin releases Google is being more heavy handed with penalties for websites it determines are connected to link spam; applying penalties such as a rank reduction of 20 to 30 positions, sometimes across all searches for the site through to complete removal of the website from Google search results.

Who are the Victims of Penguin 5?

Backlinking Industry

This ‘industry’ was an enormous global market that was made instantly redundant by Penguin 5 – Presumably thousands of people with previously gainful employment have been impacted.  Some of the backlink creation businesses are still operating, despite the risks of compromising the websites their work is intended to assist.

Businesses with Backlinked Sites

If your website was involved in an SEO program prior to Oct 5 2013 it is very likely that a backlinking program was part of it. If the Penguin 5 filter deems the level of ‘unnatural links’ in your site is too high then your site will be penalised by not appearing in search results.
For contemporary businesses reliant on online sales or sales lead generation penguin 5 penalties are catastrophic.

Innocent victims of Penguin 5

I have witnessed several ‘innocent victims’ of Penguin 5 as a result of :

  • Directory sites
    Google has clamped down on backlinks even from well known directory sites who provide links without a no follow directive.
    I’m sure I’m not the only SEO specialist who is contacting the directory site’s management to have my client’s backlinks removed or converted to no follow. These people are typically shocked and in denial of the thought that their site is compromising their clients sites. I feel for them, as they are providing a genuine and valuable service. There is no way they would deliberately compromise their clients sites – Who would ‘bite the hand’ that feeds them ?
  • Advertising Links
    If advertising links to your website do not have a no follow directive it can result in ranking penalties. As an example, Ive been involved in one case where banner advertising on an industry portal site didnt not contain no follow resulting in a client’s site being penalised with significant ranking drops.

What is a ‘low quality’ Backlink?

Since the arrival of Penguin 5 there is a great deal of interest in understanding what a low quality backlink is : specifically what Google ‘thinks’ is a low quality backlink.

Google defines broadly defines low quality backlinks in its WebMasters Guidelines in the Link Schemes section where they refer to these as:

  • Buying or selling backlinks
  • Excessive Link exchanges
  • Large scale article marketing
  • Automated programs to create links

Google also provides a range of examples of unnatural backlinks including:

    • Text advertisements (without a no follow directive)
    • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles  (without a no follow directive
    • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. 
    • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
    • Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
    • Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
    • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:

My interpretation is:

  • Backlinks from advertiser sites that do not include a no follow tag
  • Backlinks from low quality sites eg sites that are clearly just a backlinking farm

Ironically backlinks that may have helped your website rank prior to Penguin 5, may now be the cause of its non-performance.

What should I do to avoid or recover from a Google Penguin 5 penalty?

Your site may be penalised by Google’s Penguin 5 if it calculates that your site has Low quality backlinks 

Recovering from Low Quality Backlinks 
If Google determines your site has a significant number of unnatural backlinks it may be at risk of a ranking or even a manual penalty.

Unfortunately backlinks seem to be more typical cause of a Penguin 5 penalty. Read more.  To recover from or prevent a future Penguin 5 penalty, arrange to have the low quality backlinks removed or converted to no follow links ASAP.

Unfortunately this is not as easy as it sounds as the link(s) that need to be removed or reprogrammed are at the originating website, not yours so you need to convince that person to take action on your behalf.  Further, many website owners are just not aware of the risk they are exposing your site/business to and probably all of their other clients as well!

If all else fails then you can request Google ignore or disavow your unnatural links via your Google WebMasters Tools interface.

If all else fails contact us and we can facilitate the removal or disavow of unnatural links from your site.

 

How do I remove un-natural backlinks?

Backlinks are connections from other websites to yours, so removing unnatural backlinks to your site involves persuading the operator/owner of the remote website to remove the link(s).  The process involves:

Identify the unnatural backlinks

There are a number of excellent tools now available to collect backlink data to determine if the link is potentially unnatural, but the most relevent information comes direct from Google WebMasters Tools.  Refer to the Google Quality Guidelines, and in particular those that refer to link schemes

Form the links into a list so the remote webmaster can easily process them – the easier you make their job the more likely they will action your removal request for you.

Determine Contact details

Many of the websites that generate unnatural links will not have phone contact, indeed many don’t have any form of contact in their website.
If you manage to get an email address that is probably most helpful, as you will need to send your list of backlinks to them anyway. Emails make it easy to followup and of course also create a paper trail of your interactions with them.

Dispatch the Request and backlink list

Send a removal request with your list of links

Followup

If you don’t hear from the remote site followup, followup and followup
Removing bad links is the fastest way to recover from a Penguin penalty so is you best option.

Can’t get the links removed?

If the remote website wont remove the links, they may agree to converting the links to NOFOLLOW
In some cases NOFOLLOW is a preferred option, for example where you attract prospective sales leads to your site, but don’t wants the link’s unnatural characteristics to compromise your site. A backlink that Google thinks is a paid or sponsored link is a case in point.

Still cant get the link removed ?

The final option is to ask Google to consider disavowing the unnatural links.
This process involves uploading these remaining unnatural backlinks into Google WebMaster Tools’ Disavow Links Tool
Be *very careful* as this tool can completely destroy your site’s Google authority if used incorrectly.

WordPress (1)

How frequently should I post on my blog?

This is genuinely one of the most frequently asked questions I get when trying to encourage business owners to post blogs in their website.
The simple answer is blog as many times as your time allows.

Scheduling your posts

Scheduling WordPress postsIn terms of encouraging you to post; It might suit you or be more productive to write several posts at the same sitting, and its not ideal to publish them all at once. Karen over at Copy with Cream says she writes posts at night which is not an ideal time to publish them if you are using them as a newsletter.

Fortunately WordPress allows you to schedule the publish time and date for your post in the Publish dialog on the right hand side of the add/edit post editor page. I’d recommend adjusting the publish date to give at least day between publishing so you are drawing Google back repeatedly