Jim Kreinbrink

Penguin 4 has Arrived: What We Know [Summary of Search]

It’s been 2 years since the last Penguin Penalty update. The Penguin Penalties were known to destroy site traffic by placing sites – that were formerly on page 1
– onto page 4 or even page 9. Organic traffic would decrease sometimes to less than 10% of previous levels, and devastate revenue.

Penguin is such a serious update for any site relying on organic traffic, that new insights are being gained daily. This update is a little bit different than previous Penguin updates. They appear to get increasinglpaper-182220_960_720_phixry more harsh.

1. Google still cares tremendously about links

We’ve been expecting Google to use social media at some point for authority, but instead they keep using links as a powerful part of their algorithm. Looking at the amount of processing power, education, penalties and heat they have taken… well, we can assume links will be with us for a long time. And Google cares more about authority than popularity, freshness, content, spelling, valid html, or any of the other hundreds of factors they may (or may not) take into account.

2.  It’s now “realtime”

As Google discovers links to your site, they will be judged as good, bad or somewhere in-between. Rankings will fluctuate accordingly. This system is long overdue: Previous penguin updates have meant years of waiting to see if link removal, disavowal, site pruning, 301 redirecting, gaining high authority links, and other strategies would be enough. It was a horribly unfair system for most small businesses, as years of lost traffic was particularly painful.

3. Realtime can mean weeks

Few have done the math and research in this quora thread, but that sounds like it will be a few weeks.

4. Penguin penalties will now be on the page level, not site level

Penguin used to penalize an entire site, impacting rankings for all keywords and on all pages. This was horribly unfair and we saw several clients over the years being penalized after an intruder built pages (and bad links to those pages). Months and years after the intrusion, site keyword rankings (and traffic!) suffered greatly.

5. Bad links no longer penalize – they just don’t count

This is a return to the “old days”, simpler times when webmasters didn’t have to continually audit who was linking to them. One of the worst parts of previous penguin updates was the way that low quality links provided a “double whammy” to rankings: They stopped boosting rankings, and also penalized the site.

6. Disavow files are still recommended

Google still recommends the disavow file is used. It helps Google identify low quality sites, as well as offering protection against a “manual penalty”, where a human at Google has specifically penalized your site. In that case a disavow file can show that you are trying to distance your site from it’s bad links.

Every day brings more insight into how Penguin 4.0 is impacting rankings and traffic. We’ll keep you updated!

Do Minisites still work? [Summary of Search]

Minisites used to be a good technique, but is getting harder to make them work. Here are 3 challenges for the “Minisite Approach”:minisite

  1. Google doesn’t value new websites.
  2. Google doesn’t value 2-3 page websites.

It’s rare for small sites to have the depth of content that Google values. If this site cannot go into depth on a topic, it might not be seen as valuable – to Google bot, or to human visitors. You can overcome that with link authority, but it’s tough.

  1. Google doesn’t have a powerful “exact match bonus.”

Google used to give easy rankings to “exact match domains,” but lessened that 2-3 years ago. If someone was typing “iPhone ringtones” into Google, it was simple for iphoneringtones.com to rank at the top. In the newer version of Google’s algorithm, exact match domains do not necessarily mean top rankings for little effort – although it is still helpful:

  1. Keywords will be bolded in the URL in some search engines. That can be very tempting to prospective visitors.
  2. Inbound links that use the domain as anchor text will experience a bonus for that keyword targeting. Anchor text is still powerful in Google’s algorithm.

Here are some tips to make the most of your Minisite:

– The content must be unique

Minisites are often created to be a tangential offering of a brand, but shouldn’t just be a copy/paste of the existing content from a site. Instead, the content should be created especially for the Minisite, with some thought given for how this audience might be unique.

– The URLs need to not look spammy to your audience. So many keyword rich URLs can look that way these days. Test with PPC and see if your prospects want to click. No more than a single dash in the URL, only use .com, and two word phrases. For example, this is not a clickable URL:


But this is:


– The keyword phrase should have good search volume.

Keyword phrases that do not show search volume in Google’s Keyword Planner may not be worth investing in. One of the main advantages of a minisite on a custom domain is the “exact match domain” that should exactly match your prospects’ query. Without search volume, that’s one less compelling reason to do a minisite.

– Don’t rely on type in traffic. Prospects using Internet explorer when it was the dominant browser would type in “sales management” and be taken to salesmanagement.com. A few years ago, 12% of search traffic could arrive like that. Chrome is now dominant and it searches Google for what you type in. So that type in traffic isn’t as prevalent as it was.

– Buy keyword focused domains if there is good search volume. Test them with PPC (for both click through rate and conversion), and then build out larger sites of 20 pages, blog weekly on the site, have videos, get some good links etc.

But this technique is not the easy road it once was. There are many fewer shortcuts in today’s Google.


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9 ways to get the sitelinks you want (and deserve!) [Summary of Search]

Organic sitelinks are the sub-links that appear under your homepage URL in search queries specific to your company.

Matt Cutts explaining how sitelinks are generated:

A typical company listing has 4-6 sitelinks meant to help users navigate your site directly from the search engine results page, rather than having to click your primary URL to navigate. Some URLs may have up to 12 sitelinks below the primary search result!

Organic sitelinks are great for users (and for you!)

There are many key benefits to organic sitelinks:

  • Users can quickly and easily gain access to a better-suited landing page than the homepage. This quick navigation option is great for the user and it reduces your organic bounce rate too.
  • Sitelinks provide a large presence on the search results pages. PPC Hero did some research into sitelinks, and found that, why they’re not clicked as often as the primary link, they do provide additional CTR and conversions. Read more the PPC Hero study. Showing 64% increases in PPC ad Click-Through-Rate with sitelinks
  • Having numerous – and well-crafted – sitelinks helps to make your brand look more popular. Big brand tends to have more, and better, sitelinks.


9 tips to get the sitelinks you want (and deserve!)

Typical sitelinks include a Contact Us page, plus other pages that look important to Google.

However, Google often misunderstands what the key pages are on your site! That’s why it’s crucial that companies watch over and adjust their sitelinks.

While you can’t specify sitelinks directly to Google, and they don’t disclose exactly how they choose organic sitelinks, there are key tactics you can use to get the sitelinks you want (and deserve!):

  1. Be #1! You will typically only get sitelinks for branded searches, such as for your company name. Sometimes the #1 result will get sitelinks as well, but it’s typically branded queries.

  1. Submit a sitemap.xml in Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). This appears to be a necessary step before sitelinks are “granted” by Google.

Demote undesirable sitelinks in Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) if you find that any are showing up.

To demote a sitelink URL:

  • On the Search Console homepage, click the site you want.
  • Under Search Appearance, click Sitelinks.
  • In the For this search result box, complete the URL for which you don’t want a specific sitelink URL to appear.
  • In the Demote this sitelink URL box, complete the URL of the sitelink you want to demote.
  • You can demote up to 100 URLs, and demotions are effective for 90 days from your last visit to the demotion page (no need to resubmit – just revisit the page).
  1. Look at what you’re linking to sitewide (stop linking or do nofollow), especially in your main navigation elements.

  2. Googlebot seems to like lists of links, including H2 tags with links to sections or pages and bulleted lists of links. Learn more here: http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/get-organic-google-sitelinks-long-form-content/

  3. Use rel=nofollow. Sometimes, privacy policies show up as sitelinks because they have a link on every page of the site. Use a rel=nofollow on pages that Google is incorrectly choosing as sitelinks.

  4. Optimize your pages. Ideally, your best pages should already be optimized, but make sure titles and meta-descriptions are in order.

  5. Inbound links look at where other sites are linking to (change your redirects or outreach to other sites and ask them to update their links).

  6. Googlebot prefers popular pages, including landing pages with volume in analytics.

Organic sitelink takeaways

While there is no direct formula for sitelinks, these tips can help you better communicate to Googlebot what you would like to show up for your brand.

Since search results are often very personalized and based on Google’s algorithm, it may be that certain sitelinks appear for some users, but not for others.

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