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!

3 Persistent SEO Misconceptions [Summary of Search]

SEO has had many changes over the years. As marketers and small business owners have worked to understand its many complexities, several misconceptions have remained.


Misconception #1: SEO is “free traffic”

Many small businesses are interested in SEO — they see it as “free traffic”. Tired of the ever-increasing click costs of PPC, they are drawn to the siren call of a tactic that will bring free traffic — forever. But this is a giant misconception. Search engine optimization was once a simple process of using the keywords your audience is searching for. And that worked fine  until 2001 or so. But now, competitors are a bit savvier, and ranking in search engines is more like a horse race requiring effort: server configuration, mobile responsiveness, image optimization, tagging, schema, AMP, plenty of content, and — oh yeah — the content should be interesting.

Misconception #2: SEO is one time (rules, competitors)

In the old days of websites and SEO, getting your site “SEO-ed” could be a one-time process. While the web has changed substantially, this view of Search Engine Optimization has persisted. Modern SEO is indeed a horse race, in which competitors must constantly be bettered by:

  • constantly adding awesome content 
  • earning and seeking inbound links

and we think probably:

  • social sharing
  • usability metrics

Misconception #3: High-traffic keywords are the best ranking targets

High traffic keywords can sometimes sound like the best keyword targets, but they are often the worst! High converting keywords are best in every case. Consider this example: Several years ago we received a call from a prospective client that wanted to rank #1 for “Travel”. Wow, I thought: This could be Expedia or Travelocity on the line. But actually it was a Breckenridge Condominium property.

Competing for rankings for the term “Travel” is a really bad idea for (at least) 4 reasons:

  1. People searching for “Travel” do not yet know where they want to go — they aren’t necessary looking for Breckenridge — and we don’t know if they would want a condo.
  2. In a best-case scenario, the site could get to page eight — and that still doesn’t mean any prospects would book a condo. Even page two is a ghost town, with page eight as quiet as deep space.
  3. They are competing at a huge level, way beyond what is necessary to rank number one for “Breckenridge Condo.” It’s crazy inefficient,  like investing in a triple-crown champion horse when you just need a healthy horse to win the race.
  4. In a fantasy universe, a Breckenridge Condo would get to number one in Google — and receive an overwhelming amount of bad leads a day. Keyword targets are also a prequalifying process when done right.

A better approach is for the condo company to first compete for exactly what they are:

  • “Breckenridge Condo”
  • “Breckenridge Condominium”

(These are the keywords with a 100% chance of conversion)

Only then should they look at broader terms likely to have some prospects:

  • “Breckenridge Hotel”
  • “Breckenridge Motel”
  • “Summit County Condo”

This phenomenon isn’t just among condo owners — we all have daydreams of ranking for something that delivers huge traffic. Instead, focus on what your best customers are typing into search engines — just make sure it does have some search volume.

SEO has changed much over the years, and has evolved from a one-time process of using high-search-volume keywords to using targeted keywords with a high search volume and high conversion rate.

After Keyword Research – What do I do with these keywords?! [Summary of Search]

Getting a keyword research report is just the first step in enhancing your on site SEO. Once the research is complete, it is important to use those words to build out new pages – or improve tagging on existing pages.

Buying a keyword rich domain name is not as lucrative as it once was, but there are still good opportunities. See last month’s article: Do Minisites still work?

Savvy business owners may use words and phrases found in their keyword research to name products, services, and even companies. There is no better way to show your audience that you have their solution than to name it (or the whole company!) appropriately.

Social Destinations
Social sites can rank for your keywords and act as informational channels. While your best prospects are not likely searching Pintrest or YouTube for solutions, certain keyword searches might be good content channels. Even in the long buying cycles of business to business sales, social media content will help inform and qualify prospects. Consider which of these channels might work well for your keywords:
– Pintrest boardshyper-dog-media-keyword-research-report
– YouTube channels
– LinkedIn groups
– SlideShare presentations

Consider that a keyword-focused social destination may not be appropriate for your entire brand: You may want a brand focused YouTube channel and a campaign channel focused on a specific keyword phrase.

Blogging Topics
Ranking at the top of search engine results for any competitive keyword phrase requires you to be “all about that phrase.” To be relevant for the many topics and categories of your targeted phrase, you will need many different pieces of content around that phrase. Consider online tools such as HubSpot’s blog topic generator to help inspire your next article: to generate “clickable” blogging ideas – be sure to check that the blogging titles themselves have search volume. That’s a nice bonus you don’t want to pass up!

Content Formats
Some key phrases give away hints as to what kind of content would be best to produce. “How to” searches may lend themselves to tutorials and videos. Other topics are worthy of any entire channel or perhaps a white paper. For any keyword phrase you may want to target, taking the searchers’ needs into account is always the best approach: Consider what content your audience is looking for with each query.

A keyword research report is the beginning of any good SEO campaign. Depending on the site, audience and available resources any number of tactics could be deployed. For each of the above methods, however, focus should always come back to your target audience.

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