Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the links Category

Recovery From Google’s Panda Update

Google’s recent algorithm update named Panda has caused many websites to lose rankings in a big way. Most deserved it, but not all. Earlier this month, NPR ran a story about a furniture store called One Way Furniture that had been hurt badly by Panda, mainly due to its use of canned product descriptions, which they copied from their manufacturers’ listings.

Apparently Panda identified the duplicate content and downgraded the value of the pages at One Way Furniture. There are some other suspected factors at work in their rankings plummet as well. Now they’re slowly climbing back to their pre-Panda rankings through a lot of effort:

  • Removing duplicate content and rewriting product descriptions
  • Using the canonical HTML tag to resolve multiple URLs that point to the same page
  • Proper use of 301 redirects
  • Paying close attention to their page speed
  • Constantly building backlinks.
  • One of the things they did was to hire some new copywriters to write original product descriptions aimed at being search engine friendly, and not duplicates of manufacturer descriptions.

CEO Mitch Lieberman said

For example, a bar stool that previously used a manufacturer-supplied bullet list of details as its product description now has a five-sentence description that details how it can complement a bar set-up, links to bar accessories and sets the tone by mentioning alcoholic beverages, all of which makes it more SEO-friendly. What we’re seeing now is what is good for customers and what they see on the site is also good for Google.

Another online publication that was badly hurt by Panda, DaniWeb, published a recovery story earlier this month. They cited their own reasons for the hit and what they’ve  been doing to get out of it:

“I guess it also goes without saying that it’s also important to constantly build backlinks, It is entirely possible/plausible that Google’s Panda algorithm hit all of the low quality sites that were just syndicating and linking back to us (with no unique content of their own), ultimately discrediting half of the sites in our backlink portfolio, killing our traffic indirectly. Therefore, it isn’t that we got flagged by Panda’s algorithm, but rather that we just need to work on building up more backlinks.”

Their experience reminds us to be vigilant. Perhaps Google’s page speed factor is more heavily weighted than we thought. And maintaining fresh inbound links from reputable websites is always important.

A Few Google Notes From Matt Cutts

Matt CuttsMatt Cutts (“The Google Guy”) spoke at an industry meeting a few months ago, and as reported by Search Engine Land, there was news in what he had to say. Here are the most important points to note, in our opinion:

  • Spam reports now get 4 times as much priority as before in the spam queue at Google. If your competitors are using spammy SEO techniques, it can’t hurt to report them. (Your competitors can report you, too, of course, so remember to avoid black hat SEO tactics yourself.) And if you find really spammy web sites like link farms and MFA sites showing up for your keywords, by all means report them to Google.
  • Users are more likely to click on the first link in an article as opposed to a link at the bottom of the article. He suggested you put your most important links at the top of the page. They may not count more for SEO purposes, but will help in driving visitors to click on the links, especially call-to-action links that encourage visitors to buy.
  • Google will be looking at why exact domain matches rank so well. For example, if you have a site at it may rank too well for the keyword phrase blue widgets. Expect the importance of keywords in your domain name to be reduced. We’ve always encouraged different criteria for choosing your domain name.
  • When doing Keyword research, start with keywords your customer base is likely to use, and avoid industry jargon. The rule of thumb is called Ask 10 Taxi Drivers (meaning people NOT in the same business as yours).


Google & Bing Watch Twitter & Facebook

Search engines watch links from FacebokAccording to WebProNews, Google and Bing are both closely watching activity on Twitter and Facebook. The more people buzz about you and your website, the better your online reputation and link popularity.

Google & Bing watch tweetsLinks from prominent people (“authorities”) count more in your favor. So if you get prominent followers and visitors who are motivated to post or tweet about what you’re doing and what’s on your website, Google & Bing will notice.

More at WebProNews.

JC Penney Slammed for Black Hat SEO Tricks

JC Penney penalized by GoogleLast month, the New York Times published an article about a search engine optimization investigation of  J.C. Penney. Puzzled by how well did in organic search results for just about everything they sold, they asked an SEO expert to look into it a bit more. The investigation found that thousands of unrelated web sites (many that seemed to contain only links) were linking to the J.C. Penney web site. And most of those links had really descriptive anchor text (the clickable ntext of the links). It seemed that someone had arranged for all of those links in order to get better rankings in Google.

The Times presented their findings to Google. Googler Matt Cutts confirmed that the tactics violated the Google webmaster guidelines and soon the J.C. Penney web site was nowhere to found for the queries they had previously ranked number one for. Matt tweeted that “Google’s algorithms had started to work; manual action also taken”.

J.C. Penney, when contacted by the Times, claimed they didn’t know anything about the links and promptly fired their SEO firm, SearchDex.

So where did J.C. Penney go wrong? Why did they do it? What have they lost? And how do they get it back? Read on to learn more and make sure this doesn’t happen to you.


Link Maintenance Tips

We estimate that your link popularity accounts for about 40% of where you rank in Google. Consequently, it’s important to make sure your inbound links are providing as much link juice for your website as possible. Having a steady stream of new incoming links is important. But what about all of those old links that have been around for a while? Are they as effective as they might be? Why not take a look at that, because fixing existing links is a lot easier than obtaining brand-new ones.

Here are a few things you can do by way of link maintenance to make sure that those old links are giving you as much link juice as possible.

Correct any links that point to an old domain name.

If you’ve changed your domain name, all the links to your old domain name are doing you no good. The easiest thing to do is to arrange for a 301 permanent redirect from the old domain name to the new one. That should result in the links to the old domain name passing link juice to the new one. Unfortunately, they don’t pass 100% of their value.

Your best bet is to arrange for that redirect, but then contact the webmasters who link to your old website and asked him to change the links so they point to your new domain. That should bring the link values back up to 100%.

Sadly, we are dealing with a client today whose original domain name was owned by their previous web design company. They’ve had their website redesigned, and it’s now at a much better domain name. Unfortunately, their old web design company seems unwilling to arrange for a “redirect” from the old domain name to the new one. With no redirect possible, this client is getting no value from those old links until they get re-pointed to the new domain name.

Fix any links to your website that are broken.

Check your website analytics to find all links that are going to nonexistent pages on your website. Identify those links and contact those webmasters asking them to change the links so they point to real pages. If for any reason you’re unable to reach those webmasters, or if they’re unwilling to cooperate, then you need to arrange 301 permanent redirects  to real pages from whatever nonexistent pages they’re linking to so you can capture at least part of the link juice they pass.

Improve the anchor text of all incoming links.

Optimized links earn you better link popularityAnytime you need to contact a webmaster who’s linking to you, take a look at the anchor text of their link. (The “anchor text” is the word or phrase you can click on to follow the link.) If it doesn’t contain a keyword phrase for the page that it points to, ask them to change what it says so that it does. Keyword rich links can be extremely powerful, as evidenced by our old article on “Google bombing“.

Optimize the internal links on your own website.

Links within your website count for your link popularity, too. It may not be as powerful as external links, but everything adds up to a positive result. Any pages you want to show up in search engine results should be linked from other pages on your own site effectively. Make sure that the navigation on your site is clear and easy to follow and that it includes any pages you’d like to see ranking in the search engines.