Category Archives: SEO Crap

Building Content The Right Way

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

-HG Wells, 1945

We all know that well written, original content is extremely useful from an SEO perspective. It is 100% worth doing and is vital to any holistic SEO strategy. That said, if you’re writing your content with the search engines in mind as your primary target, you’re doing it wrong.

2015 is quickly turning into the year that Google finally forces websites to be customer focused. We all know that Google released their “mobile update” in April and the reason for this was to force websites to focus on design for the end user. If you have a mobile friendly site, you get a boost in Google’s mobile rankings. If you don’t, you won’t get the boost.

This really started a few years ago when Google announced that they would stop providing keyword data for organic. In 2011, Google started withholding keyword data. In 2015, pretty much everyone is seeing 90%+ of their organic keyword traffic being reported as “not provided”. This isn’t news of course, but Google’s reasons for doing this are becoming much more clear.

For years, Google has asked SEOs to stop focusing so much on keywords and focus more on the user experience. SEOs continued to focus on brute force style SEO, so Google basically said “you children can’t be responsible with your data, so we’re not giving it to you anymore”. That was the first true shot across the bow when it came to Google’s war on keyword based SEO. Since 2011, they’ve done the following:

2011
Pushed Panda Live, punishing sites with “thin content”
Removed virtually all organic keyword data via keyword encryption
Rolled out the “Freshness” factor update
Released an update that penalized sites who were showing too many ads “above the fold” (or rewarded those who don’t, depending on how you look at it)
Started adding authorship to articles in the form of pictures and bylines

2012
Rolled out the “Venice” update to improve localized results
Rolled out Penguin to further penalize people for keyword stuffing, article spinning and lots of other no no’s
Rolled out the Knowledge Graph, showing more emphasis on semantic search and giving searchers the information they’re looking for easier and faster
Rolled out the “Pirate” update, to better identify copyright violations
Rolled out the EMD update, devaluing exact match domains

2013
Replaced the core algorithm with Hummingbird, while keeping several of the key updates mentioned previously (Penguin, Panda, etc)
Started the removal of authorship due to widespread abuse of the markup

2014
Rolled out Pigeon to improve geolocated search results
Completed the removal of authorship markups

2015
Rolled out the Mobile Friendly update

If you look at these updates, they all have something in common. The pattern is clear and obvious for all to see. Google is telling SEOs to focus on user experience instead of ranking or expect to see your coverage and visibility slide. They’re also telling SEOs that Google wants you to do as they say, not as they do (as their knowledge graph and answer boxes are nothing but unoriginal, scraped content), but that’s a rant for another day.

There are always going to be sites that play in the grey or the black in order to get ranked. That should not be your focus, as it is 100% beyond your control (unless you enjoy ratting out your competition, and even then there’s no guarantee that anything will happen). Instead, focus on what you can control – content quality, site speed and ease of use.

Good guys don’t always win, but at least they can sleep a little easier knowing that they won’t wake up one day to find their site completely deindexed with a message sitting in your inbox that reads something like this:

Dear site owner or webmaster,

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team

Posted in SEO Crap.

Oh Google Answer Boxes, I Truly Loathe You

Ok, let me start off by saying this is not my find. It was originally found and tweeted by Cognitive SEO and Wordstream did a really nice job of writing a follow up here.

From a content builder’s perspective, the Google Knowledge Graph  and the ginormous answer boxes are just awful.  The argument that’s been made for this is that it helps people find the information they need. This would be true if the information that was being pull was actually fact checked, but as we’ve seen with the recent Long Beach Police Department phone number issue, that isn’t the case at all.

All of this to a certain degree is not surprising, especially given all the jokes about “if it’s on the internet, it must be true”. The problem though is that the answer box was originally set up as a fact scraper which primarily seems to rely on Wikipedia, a site notorious for opinions being presented as facts (due in large part to the fact that literally anyone can create an account and edit any article on the site).

Now, not only are they at times presenting “facts” that are inaccurate, but they’re positioning these “fact” boxes with a direct link to purchase said listed product. Essentially, they have trained their users to look for their facts in those answer boxes, but now that is quietly being turned into an advertisement. Take a look at the embeeded post above. Take a look at this screenshot I took myself (using the same search term as the others, natch). Tell me where Google flags this as commercial.

retail-knowledge-graph1

Now I’m sure what Google would say if asked (and they actually responded) would be something along the lines of “this isn’t an ad, because we’re just pulling facts from a trusted website and presenting the information”. I suppose they’re not technically “ads” as I doubt that Amazon is paying for this placement, but the listing does lead directly to a page that sells the product being shown in their answer box.

Rather than talk about the ethical mess they’re creating my completely erasing the line between editorial content and advertising, let’s talk about the “facts”. Is this really the world’s smallest car cam? Does Google even realize (or care) that the title, description and specs weren’t even written by Amazon? They were actually written by “zjchao123″ (some rando Amazon seller who also happens to sell anal butt plugs, digital turntables and “breathable ball gags”).

As someone who also sells on Amazon, I can tell you that they continually allow sellers to put whatever the hell they want in the title and the specs. I can’t count the number of times we’ve received calls asking for free cases with their pool cues just because some jackass went and rewrote the title and description to include that information. And this is who Google is trusting for their precious answer boxes.

When you get down to it, the the Google Answer Box is nothing more than a very poorly devised scraper. The irony of course is that they have specific rules about scraping in their quality guidelines. Here’s what they have to say about scrapers (excluding themselves of course):

“Purely scraped content, even from high-quality sources, may not provide any added value to your users without additional useful services or content provided by your site; it may also constitute copyright infringement in some cases. It’s worthwhile to take the time to create original content that sets your site apart.”

-Google

So is it really the world’s smallest car camera? I don’t know and I really don’t care. What I do know is that if I want to find the real answer, I wouldn’t get it from something as unreliable as Google’s answer boxes (not that Yahoo Answers or any of the other thin content, crowdsourced Q&A sites are any better).  You know what else I know?  This feature of Google is the epitome of scraping.  They take information from other sites, don’t add anything new or original and force feed it to their users.  Now that’s a company that really cares about their users.

Can’t wait to get the call from my Adwords rep telling me about this awesome new advertising opportunity.  I’m figuring it will happen, oh I don’t know, say around November.  The perfect time to maximize new ad sales and push all organic below the fold once and for all.

Posted in SEO Crap.