Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the links Category

Changes at Google Places – Emphasis on Reviews & Citations

For brick & mortar businesses and those that involve face to face customer contact, Google Places (and Yahoo Local and Bing Local) are important sources of traffic. These are the listings that show up next to a map of suitable matches.

Google PlacesGoogle Places is sporting a new look that also reflects changes in their approach. For example, there’s an increased emphasis on customer reviews. At the same time, Google will no longer re-post reviews from paces like Yelp as it did in the past. Instead, it will be emphasizing reviews from within Google Places itself — with two prominent red Write A Review buttons to encourage that. You can read more about this at Search Engine Land.

Citations are more important now than ever. Citations are mentions of a business, even if they don’t include a link. So in addition to the well-known positive effect of link popularity on your organic listings, non-linked citations can be especially helpful in your local listings.

Update Note: Google Places is now Google My Business and Bing Local is now Bing Places for Business.

Can You Really Get Links By Email Requests?

Relevant incoming links may count as much as 40% toward top rankings in Google.

But just sitting back and waiting for them to happen by accident isn’t a meaningful action plan. One potentially fruitful approach is to find relevant websites and send them an email asking them to link to you.

Email link requests have gotten a bad name.

Most website owners with any degree of visibility on the web get link request emails. Most often these are poorly written and come from off-shore mass link builders. They’re pretty easy to identify and most people just delete them as spam. That’s one reason that at Rank Magic we follow up email link requests with a phone call (almost no one else does that!).

According to Website Magazine,

Direct link requests get a bad wrap as they are used (and often used poorly) by those that either don’t care or don’t know any better (believing inbound link volume outweighs inbound link quality – which it doesn’t). It should not have to be said but know that email link requests do not typically work when they are misdirected or provide no immediate or long term benefit to those providing the link.

But there are things you can do to increase the positive response to your link request emails.

Follow a few simple suggestions from this Website Magazine article and you should see your email link request success rate improve.

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 www.blue-widgets.com 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.