November 27th, 2012.
‘Google Authorship’. You’ve probably heard it being bandied around and if you haven’t taken the time to look into it, now’s your chance. Google Authorship will arguably prove to be the most significant tool for building rankings that Google has ever introduced; and if you’re smart about it, you can start benefiting immediately. This post will explain what it is, its implications and how to use it, so it’s a great place to start. Before we begin, it’s important to say that Authorship and AuthorRank are separate, but inescapably linked. Just like nobody ever talked about Tom without mentioning Jerry, it’s hard to talk about Authorship without thinking about AuthorRank.
What is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship is Google’s strategy of linking web authors to their online content. So anything you write online can be linked to your online profile (no prizes for guessing it’s your Google+ profile). Google haven’t officially said that this will lead to a writing-quality based ranking system; but they’ve implied it pretty heavily. In 2007, Google patented something called ‘Agent Rank’. You can take a look at the patent here , but if you’re not versed in patent law, Bill Slawski gives a pretty good run down over in February 2007.
Obviously we’re now spoiled by blogs explaining where they were going with this patent, but with the advent of Google+ and Authorship the theories are starting to become an impending reality.
It’s important to remember that Google Authorship and AuthorRank are separate entities.
You can read all about Authorship at the horse’s mouth; but broadly, it’s the link between authors and their content. AuthorRank is the rating system associated with this link. Authorship is in operation now. AuthorRank isn’t.
In a lot of press stuff the G-team has been saying the main focus of Authorship is to link authors to their content. Google Software Engineer, Othar Hansson appears to be obsessed with the fact that it puts your picture next to your post on SERPs and the psychological benefits of this in terms of connectivity. In his words, it’s Google’s way of ‘making the internet more human’. It’s a lovely sentiment, but cynical-old-me still thinks this is all part of the much bigger AuthorRank picture. And that’s not a bad thing. AuthorRank will be a great way of promoting online content based on the merit of its production and weeding out spammers. It punishes anonymity, but celebrates connectivity, and that’s surely a step in the right direction.
AuthorRank isn’t officially in use yet, but the buzz around it has become almost deafening and smart money is on it being run as an operational algorithm very soon.
But, back to Authorship…
Why should Authorship bother me?
Why shouldn’t it? This is the first chance we’ve been given to associate all of our online work in one centralised beacon. If, like me, you originally avoided the Google+ hype, change your mind now, or you might just get left behind.
There’s never been a better reason to join up. It will ensure you get the praise you deserve for the stuff you’ve written in your field of expertise by linking to similar articles you’ve written. In fact, that plan is already in action. Matt McGee has found that as soon as you’re finished reading an article by an author signed up to Authorship, you press ‘back’ on your browser and Hey, Presto! You’re presented with more articles on the same subject from the same author. This is the perfect type of promotion and will benefit your traffic in no time.
Pros and Cons of Authorship (and, inevitably, AuthorRank)
Let’s take a look at the effects Authorship could have on your business:
- Association with good writers and good content is bound to have a positive influence on your site’s PageRank. AuthorRank will undoubtedly go hand-in-hand with PageRank!
- People will be able to interactively see the merits of your site by clicking the author links on each post.
- Verified quality writers will encourage more people to link to your site. It’ll work wonders for Domain Authority.
- What if that writer who’s earned you all those Click-Throughs leaves? Well, they’ll always be tied to the domain that published their content. So even if they stop writing for you, as long as you both stay on top of your game, you’ll both benefit.
- You’ll get more Clicks because people will trust that smiling Rich Snippet of yours more than they trust a farmed-in link.
- People will be more willing to contact you with their thoughts. That means you’ll be able to engage more with your audience.
- Spammers will be much more easily identified. No Authorship will mean no verified author. Quality content will be rewarded.
- If you rely on one writer for a high ranking/readership and they leave, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep on top and stay fresh. But there’s nothing new there!
- Authorship can’t be attributed to your company, only to your writers.
- Authorship can’t be attributed to a team, only to ONE writer.
- It acknowledges the achievements of individual writers rather than a whole business.
(But the kudos is shared by association, so everyone’s a winner.)
One point which is a mix of a Pro and a Con: a lot of people have been reporting that their Rich Snippets have taken weeks or even months to show up. Generally, Google seems to giving it on a priority basis to people they think have earned it. That is, people who are getting a lot of traffic for a lot of posts. It seems a little harsh to begin with, but at least this way you know Authorship has truly been earned.
At face value, the pros seem to outweigh the cons; and the cons concerning companies benefiting from the writing of their employees seem to be part of an on-going morality battle. Is it OK for an employer to take credit for their employees work? That’s a question for another time on another blog. But in any case it would seem that Authorship unequivocally promotes and celebrates individualism and, to bang the Marxist drum, denies the power of anonymous corporatism.
How Can I Get On Board?
2 Things you’ll need for Authorship before you start out:
- Online Content (you already have that though, right?)
- A Google+ Profile!
I don’t have Google+!
Let’s start from the start. I’ll show you how to set up a Google+ profile from Scratch; using the perfect blank slate: me!
Step 1: We’ll pretend like none of us has a Google account and start from the front door. Head over to Google+
Step 2: Fill in the Details form
Step 3: After a verification process, you’ll be presented with this box:
Step 4: Get your photo up! This will be the photo used in your Author Rich Snippet.
Step 5: … and Get Involved!
There are plenty of posts around the web that can give you a complete overview of what Google+ has to offer, but since this post is about Google Authorship I’ll leave you with one piece of advice:
Use Google+ as much as possible. The more you engage with your profile and the circles you build, the more you’ll gain from the service and the more strength you’ll have around the web.
So how do I link between my profile and my posts?
Well, there’s a lot of ways this can be done. The process can be quite confusing, but Rick DeJarnette gives a decent overview.
NB. It’s still a little jargony in places.
I’ll break it down as best I can in a second, but if the HTML stuff gets too much, feel free to watch this video of Matt Cutts and Bond-Villain-in-Waiting, Othar Hansson looking uncomfortable and explaining the HTML coding in very accessible terms.
For Sites with One Author:
If you have an email address on the same domain as your published work:
Step 1: Head over to the Authorship sign-up page and fill in the form.
Step 2: Click ‘Verify’ in the Verification Email.
Step 3: In the ‘Edit Profile’ section of your Google+ profile, you’ll now find you’re a ‘Contributor to’ the domain of the email.
Step 4: Start writing as much as possible at that domain. The more Google sees people are looking at your content, the more important Google thinks you are and the sooner you get your picture on the Search Page.
If you don’t have an email address on the same domain as your published work:
This may also be useful for posts in blogs where you’re a guest poster.
The best way in this case is to include a hyperlink with an HTML “rel=author” tag at the bottom of each page you write.
Basically, rel=”Author” is a way of telling Google that the author of this page is at the other end of this link.
The complete HTML link will look something like this:
<a href=”https://plus.google.com/101369752982717498462#101369752982717498462?rel=author”>Joe Shervell</a>
And behave something like this:
Now go back to ‘Edit Profile’ on your Google+ page and edit the ‘Contributor to’ section to include the site you posted to. It may be more beneficial to give the exact URL of the page, like this:
But reportedly listing the domain’s homepage will still work fine.
My site has multiple authors.
That’s ok, so does ours!
Step 1: Make sure you have a Bio Page set up for each writer. Something like this.
Step 2: Set up a Hyperlink from the Content Page to the Bio Page, but make sure you include our old friend, the rel=”author” tag.
Step 3: Set up a Hyperlink from the Bio Page to your Google+ profile, but this time include a rel=”me” tag. Simply put, Google will read this as you saying ‘this is me’.
Step 4: Head back to “Edit Profile” on your Google+ profile and enter the URL of the bio page in the “Contributor to” section.
That’s about the size of it!
But I use WordPress. What about me?
If you’re WordPress savvy then it’s really straight forward:
Step 1: Grab yourself a copy of a plugin like this one.
Step 2: Install it (It’s all explained in better detail right here)
Step 3: Fill in the information on your WordPress User Area.
Step 4: Keep posting and sharing and Google will notice you and give you your well-earned Rich Snippet.
So I’ve Set Up Authorship. Now What?
By setting up Authorship you’ve put yourself on Google’s radar as a writer, and that’s a huge step in the right direction. When AuthorRank does arrive, (and it’s not a matter of if, but when?) the more prestige you’ve earned as a writer, the better.
Use your Google+ profile to interact with your community of readers. Write about what you know, and write about it well. Google will see you as someone worthwhile in the field and give you a better rating in the rankings battle. This ‘writing about what you know’ is an important point. If you’re Noam Chomsky, then Google will recognise all the stuff you’ve written on Language Acquisition and if you decide to blog about it, you’ll be rewarded with high rankings based on your previous work. If you’re Noam Chomsky and you decide to write a blog post about Animal Husbandry in the Serengeti; you might not get the same level of respect.
That seems like an important point; one that I’m loathe to gloss over. Google Authorship can reward expertise. If you build a following and recognition as a writer in a certain field, then it will be reasonably safe for Google to assume that anything you write on that subject will be of a similar calibre. That’s not to discourage you from branching out into other fields; but if you do, make sure you have a community willing to accept that change or you might be punished by negative response.
To sum up neatly; Authorship is essential to let Google know you are a legitimate and quality writer who isn’t out to scam or spam. In the future, AuthorRank will come into the equation, and when it does, make sure you’re ready by building a big following and professional group now on Google+.
And even if we’re all wrong about AuthorRank… what’s the harm in having Google’s Seal-of-Approval on your work?
Is Video a useful SEO tool?
Nearly 4 years ago, Nate Elliot made the groundbreaking claim that properly and strategically indexed video pages are 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than their text-based cousins. Why? There were simply fewer videos than web pages. Brands and video-makers who took the time to index their videos were living the page rank dream.
But that was 4 years ago. Michael Jackson was still with us and some 113,529,600 hours of video had yet to be uploaded. So is video still the unsung secret hero of an SEO’s arsenal?
Honestly, there is no simple answer. Video can help you, but how you choose to use it depends on how it will help. Most of the time your video decisions will require you to choose between supporting your brand and increasing traffic to your site.
Treated with spruce and correct SEO techniques, there’s no reason a decent YouTube or Vimeo video can’t draw traffic. But the traffic won’t be going to your site, it will be going to the video hosting site. This can be an excellent way to increase awareness of your brand, but remember: Search Engines don’t watch videos! The written-side-of-things is your ally. Treat the text the same way you would treat any SEO post. Keep the title and description keyword-heavy and utilise tags for maximum keyword coverage.
Also, don’t neglect the power of transcriptions. There are plenty of transcription services on the web. There are automatic ones such as YouTube’s frankly awful Auto Caption service, but also high quality human versions. There are plenty of ways to get written versions of your video which can be placed in the video description and, if they’re keyword-heavy, you’ll see an improved search rank in no time.
Hosting or Embedding: The Big Debate
So should you host the videos on YouTube or your own server? As we’ve already established, and as with anything else in the big bad world of SEO, it’s a tug of war. YouTube is certainly more straightforward and more searchable, but even embedded on your site, the YouTube page will be raking in the traffic and any links to your video will be links to YouTube. Self-Hosting on your own servers or a cloud service like AmazonS3 can give you greater customisability and video protection, but perhaps less exposure to a passive audience. I would say if your site has better domain authority than YouTube (it doesn’t); or if you’re confident in your video’s ability to go viral, then by all means host on your site. If not, build your reputation first with your own YouTube channel.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you do decided to host your own video content and if you do expect it to go viral that you make sure that your hosting provider can handle the traffic and that you can handle any extra potential charges.
The notion that you’ll lose out on exposure by hosting on YouTube is a myth. Ultimately, as long as you provide Google with a well-made Video XML Sitemap, it shouldn’t matter too much. Google can spider the video and you won’t miss out on any due traffic. Not all video hosting sites provide this service (YouTube does), but take a look here for a fairly comprehensive guide on How-To. Also make sure you provide a link to your site in the YouTube description! It won’t count for much in terms of backlinking, but it will encourage viewers to visit your site.
How do I make my video popular?
Now all you have to do is make your video go viral. ‘What makes a video go viral?’ you ask? Other than promotion through your social media, I would say originality and unexpectedness are key. Whether it’s babies rollerskating to promote Evian, or pandas increasing their chance of extinction by scaring each other with sneezes; originality and cuteness reign supreme.
Heroes and Zeroes of Viral Campaigns
Everyone on earth, Mars and The Moon tuned in to the Kony 2012 video on its release. Its success was down to its emotive nature and high production values. Its failure was in its shady backing and a one-man nude march by its creator.
Reebok released a pair of videos to support their ‘I am what I am’ campaign featuring notorious rapper 50 cent. One was a 30 second montage of news stories discussing Fiddy being shot 9 times interspersed with the man himself sitting in a flooded warehouse, ominously counting to 9.
The video was pulled by Reebok amid concerns from anti-gun groups.
A sister video was released featuring the same man spending time with his son and discussing his emotional rags to riches story.
It’s a genuinely moving video, but compared to its violence-focussed equivalent has garnered little attention on YouTube. The moral of the story: Be Controversial. (But not so controversial you blow the whole multi-million dollar campaign).
So what do I do now?
You need to find a video that’s right for your business. Popular types include ‘How to…’ and ‘Tricks and Tips’ videos. What little-known industry facts can you share on the web to bring traffic to your site? Make a YouTube channel for your company and start sharing your passion with the world. But make sure you follow the tips above!
Alternatively, you could take the creative approach. Looking at viral hits such as Rebecca Black’s Friday, Psy’s Gangnam Style, Singing Cats, Talking Dogs and Children acting Childish; I would propose a video of a baby performing dressage on an Alsatian to a synth-pop accompaniment would be the perfect video to support any brand.
And don’t forget….
Time visitors spend watching the videos on your site is time spent with your brand, and it’s time spent on your site! That’s never a bad thing. Now go and make videos!
If you are at all familiar with the concept of classical conditioning, then you should understand why roughly half the webmasters in the world wince every time Matt Cutts (Google’s head of search) mentioned a change to their algorithms. We’ve been burned too many times by the likes of Penguin, Panda and the fold algorithm and as such most of us treat his announcements a little bit like we treat a trip to the dentist – with a lot of trepidation.
Well if your website is called ‘www.oompadoo.com’ then you can breathe a sigh of relief – this time Cutts is overlooking you and giving you a bit more time to lick your wounds. This time Google is interested in targeting the owners of ‘www.buycheapfuronline.com’ and ‘www.bestbodybuildingarticles.com’. That’s right – ‘exact name domains’ or ‘exact match domains’ that have URLs designed to precisely mimic the phrases people are searching for. According to a tweet from Cutts this will only affect 0.6% of English queries – though sometimes as we know these low sounding statistics can leave fairly devastating shockwaves.
Why This Change?
Of course the reason for this change is that many sites that use ENDs do so in lieu of actual good content. This is an easy way for a site to get to the top of the SERPs and so in many cases the quality content simply isn’t there to back it up. At the same time this strategy lends itself to sites that don’t have very diverse content but rather simply focus on answering a single question in order to get AdSense revenue.
In fact this is something that has been on Google’s agenda for a while now, and not so long ago a foreboding announcement came that Google would be favouring websites that focussed on building a brand for themselves with a recognizable name and image rather than one-hit wonders. Of course this direction wouldn’t favour ENDs.
What Does This Mean?
It’s worth noting that Cutts’ tweet also stated that the change was targeting low quality exact match domains – but of course there is likely to be some collateral damage and some perfectly good sites are likely to see their rankings drop too. Some sites of course use ENDs simply because they were there, and some business names happen to be great keyphrases.
That said this will likely call a stop to people buying up keyword domains and selling them on and it might level the playing field for those sites do have more obscure and original URLs (that said ENDs will still have some value due to direct traffic which Google can’t control). For every person who will be angry at the changes there will be a new opportunity created for webmasters to jump in and fill a void at the top of the SERPs. Whatever else you say about Panda and Penguin they do seem to have reduced the amount of spam sites that come up and this does make for a better browsing experience…
So looks like this time ENDs haven’t made the most recent Cutts. But the real question still lingers… could bad puns be next? (Then I’m in trouble…)
The author of this article, Jeet is an avid blogger and expert SEO analyst. He is also a good writer and often writes guest post on SEO niche. He founded GetLinksPro, a link-building and SEO company. He also shares his knowledge and tips on SEO on twitter. You can also follow him on twitter @getlinkspro.
May 22nd, 2012.
There has been a lot of discussion around the search marketing industry over the past few weeks thanks to what many consider to be a pretty major update released by Google. There has been a lot of speculation that has followed with some good and not-so-good advice as a result.
With all of this information floating about it’s difficult for anyone without their ‘ear to the ground’ to get a concrete understanding of exactly what ‘Penguin’ is, and what the effects have been. I’ll put the speculation to one side for the moment and start with the facts:
What is it?
Google’s latest update aimed at rewarding high-quality sites in search results by targeting and demoting sites appearing ‘overly optimised’. Some sites that have used or are continuing to use outdated tactics (specifically tactics to get other websites to link to theirs for the purposes of improving rankings in search results) have been affected by this, however there are reports of websites that have never engaged in such tactics being affected by the update as well.
When did this happen?
Google released a blog post stating that the update would roll out “in the next few days” back on 24th April- almost one month ago at time of writing. Most sites affected by this will have noticed changes around 24th onwards.
How to I tell if I was affected?
Sites affected by the update will probably notice a change in rankings and visits from organic search traffic (specifically visits from Google) around this time. If using Google Analytics you should be able to tell by navigating to ‘Traffic Sources’->’Sources’->’Search’->’Organic’, making sure you have a date range that spans a few weeks before and after this date. To be sure it’s best to limit the data you are viewing to Google only. Look for ‘Primary Dimenson’ and click ‘Source’ next to it to give you a list of organic search sources, and click on ‘google’:
The example above shows a drop in visits from organic search (specifically from Google)- if you see a consistent increase in visits around this time it is likely that a competitor may have been affected and your site may have improved in rankings as a result.
OK it looks like my site has been affected- What else do I need to know?
1- You’re not alone-
thousands of sites have been affected by this update- some undeservingly so (to the point where Google has created a feedback form for sites that don’t believe should have been affected by the update)
2- Penguin is an algorithmic update- it isn’t personal.
Google has identified your site as being within this ‘category’ based on the data it has, not due to a human reviewing your site personally.
3- Reconsideration requests won’t help-
“Because this is an algorithmic change, Google has no plans to make manual exceptions. Webmasters cannot ask for reconsideration of their site, but we’re happy to hear feedback about the change on our webmaster forum.”
4- Noone that has been affected by Penguin has recovered… yet-
There is a wealth of speculation and tips for recovering from the penguin update online, however noone can confirm what the best solution to recovering from this update is. Currently there has been no ‘refresh’ or ‘reevaluation’- sites that were affected are still in the same boat.
5- Penguin isn’t ‘real-time’-
Like the ‘Panda’ updates before, the Penguin update isn’t continually reevaluated in real-time, meaning any changes that are made now won’t have any impact until Google reevaluates their data at a later date.
How can I get my traffic and rankings back?
The only certain answer at this stage is no-one can be 100% sure (as with pretty much anything within the SEO sphere), but the potential signs of redemption lie in evaluating the existing links to your website and the methods used to attract links from external websites.
Microsite Masters released some interesting findings of sites they analysed that had been affected by the Penguin update:
“every single site we looked at which got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money keyword” as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links. On the other hand, the sites that were not hit by the update had much more random percentages.”
This suggests that sites with a higher percentage of links that use the keyword they are trying to rank for (‘money terms’) in the clickable part of the link to their website (‘anchor text’) are more likely to have been affected by this update. This isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ issue, and I’m certain that Google would have considered several other factors rather than the percentage of keyword-rich links a site has, but suggests that Google are looking for more evidence of brand promotion rather than search engine manipulation when assessing the links to your website.
As with other large updates introduced by Google in the past, this re-emphasises the importance of diversifying the sources of income your business as a whole has. Depending on one revenue channel alone can be risky- even when times are good, so it’s important to remember that channels such as paid search, email marketing, online PR, affiliate marketing and social can be profitable.
img credit: opencage.info
So, what’s the problem?
Nothing, if you haven’t been massively over-zealous about how well optimised your website is. Being vigilant and up to date isn’t a problem, the issue Google is trying to fix relates to those link-fiends who have over-used their ‘white hat’ so much so, that is has turned a miserable shade of grey (In case you’re confused, I refer to this post).
Okay, so what is ‘over-opimisation’?
In a nutshell, it’s the act of doing everything that is possible to optimise your website, in a non-human and bot-like way.
Sure, over optimisation can include (and will probably be identified by inclusion of ) any of the following:
- Scraped, copied web content
- Too many ads on the page & not enough original content and copy
- That fact that your website loads faster than the speed of light
- When all links that are inbound and have identical anchor text
- Infinite forum links
- Hidden text (in a colour that matches the background, so it can’t be seen)
- Sites linking to you that are dodgy or malicious in any way
This list is not exhaustive as there are many more examples of things Google might suspect & then penalize you for.
Below, I’ve included a helpful video from SEOMoz’s very own Rand Fishkin that does well to explain what changes should be made to save your site from dropping in the ranks and possibly fading into obscurity online after Google’s next update:
March 7th, 2012.
Barry from Search Engine Roundtable posted an interesting find from a Google Webmaster Central forums post. The OP pointed out that PC World (a leading electronics chain in the UK) is ranking with “Mothercare” (a leading baby/parenting chain in the UK) as it’s title in search results for the term ‘PC World teeside park’:
I’m still very intrigued as to how this happened, but after some digging around I think I’ve found a reason why (which I posted on Barry’s post).
1- It’s showing up for ‘mothercare teeside park’ as well (suggesting it’s not ‘one way’). Both results show a Google Places result with the same address and a phone number: 01642 618325
2- A quick search for ’01642 618325 pc world’ returns http://uk.wowcity.com/hartlepool/?what=digital+camera+consumer+products
3- On this page the first result for Mothercare links through to PC World’s homepage (although the details are correct for Mothercare). Note this passes through an internal tracking script and isn’t a direct link.
This looks to me like an error in Wowcity’s listing as the cause of the problem, and probably isn’t anything to do with the folks at PC World or Mothercare (or the agencies they may be working with), but is an interesting fine nonetheless.
If my theory is correct it begs the question- Does Google Places trust it’s citation sources too much? Would love to hear your comments (particularly if you work for PC World, Mothercare and Wowcity!) below.
December 6th, 2011.
A few weeks ago we asked a few folks on Twitter to complete a short (okay, maybe not that short) 22 question survey, looking specifically at the business side to working in SEO. We asked the all important questions, including:
- Where are you based?
- What kind of business are you?
- How many people work in the business?
- What other services do you offer besides SEO?
- How many clients do you currently manage?
- Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
- What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
- Your average charge per month for SEO services?
- Typical client retention period?
- Biggest issues facing your business today?
- Biggest barrier to sales?
- Biggest source of leads?
- What activities are included in a typical campaign?
- Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
- Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? )
- What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
- What keyword tools do you use primarily?
- How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
- What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
- How did you get into SEO?
- What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
- Have you ever had a site penalised?
The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:
We’ll be releasing the source data as promised in the next few days. Let us know how your company compares to these averages in the comments below!