Halifax Bank – Partial Penalty by Google (Graphs, Charts & Widgets)
Feb08

Halifax Bank – Partial Penalty by Google (Graphs, Charts & Widgets)

23SHARESFacebookTwitter Halifax UK Several sources have analysed the extent of what exactly Halifax has been up to in terms of SEO, with Link Research Tools having done by far the most impressive detective work so far: Case Study: Halifax Bank Google Penalty – A Deep Dive I recommend giving that a read. But I’ll be giving a summary essentially of why they’ve been penalised in this article. Last year, I noticed that Halifax were using these sort of widgets that were really like advertisement banners that promoted certain product categories on Halifax’s website. They contained keyword-rich anchor text that targeted specific areas of their website with “Cash ISA” and “Loans Calculator” being two examples. I wondered to myself and the team that I work on, how are they getting away with this? Are they just far too large to penalise? Are Google not aware of this? What gives? I mean large brands have been penalised before. It turns out that they aren’t too big and according to the data that I’ve got they first received the penalisation last month on the 30th of January. You’ll be able to see this here in the small sample of keywords that I’ve put together and that I am tracking with SE Ranking: Here’s an interesting graph that visually represents the fall of keyword rankings for Halifax.co.uk: As you can see, first page keywords have tanked. I mentioned on a forum I browse called SEO Chat that this has given me a small heart attack. I’m okay now, and can accept that a graph like this can exist and will likely continue to exist going forward for other brands that practice similar SEO methods. So, what exactly has caused this to happen? Widgets. The mass use of widgets filled with rich anchor text that has given them a sharp rise over their competitors in the SERPs – not anymore I suppose. Take a look at this fine example: They’d essentially be embedded onto sidebars of high authority blogs. This sort of handy work gave them the edge when it came to major finance related categories. The only category that I can see right now that they have not been penalised for is mortgages. They still reign supreme with high value keywords such as “mortgages” and “mortgage calculator”. Where can I find these widgets? You can find signs of the widgets by pasting the following (with quotations) into Google: “see if our personal loans could be the answer” “are you making the most of your ISA allowance. Halifax” Loan Widget ISA Widget There’s even a case study setup that shows that Halifax’s visibility increased for “Cash...

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Useful SEO Tools & January SEO Recap
Feb01

Useful SEO Tools & January SEO Recap

10SHARESFacebookTwitter I’ll be introducing a weekly update to this blog from now on. Essentially what I’ll be writing about is what I’ve done in the week that is noteworthy. Simply, anything noteworthy will be listed here and hopefully it will be useful to those reading. If anything, it might only be useful for myself — in that case, my apologies. Tools To start off with I was recently introduced to a new SEO tool called Netpeak. The tool practically runs on APIs and it’s another of those tools that I’ve listed in the “Best SEO Tools for 2014” article. The tool is quite versatile and allows you to check hundreds if not thousands of URLs’ metrics. The metrics that it includes are: Domain Authority; Page Authority; PageRank; Citation Flow; Trust Flow; Ahrefs backlinks; MozScape (OSE) backlinks; MajesticSEO backlinks; Domain Age; Google Index; Social metrics: StumbleUpon, Facebook Likes/Shares, Twitter, Google+ and more. This is very useful for a number of reasons. If you’re doing outreach and you want to get your content on a high quality site then there is no better way to identify a decent website (aside from reading said site’s content) by analysing it with Netpeak. I’ve not only used this for outreach, but for analysing clients’ websites; it’s just another way of identifying backlinks where you did not know you had them at all. I actually recommend using Screaming Frog to scrape your website and then run all your URLs within this tool. It really gives you a nice overview of how your site is doing, especially within the social media aspect of things. Netpeak essentially takes all the manual work out of it all and is a nice package. I really do recommend it. A big thanks to James Phillips, a new co-worker, who recommended it. Methods Two of my clients at the agency I work at recently moved to new CMSs (It’s sort of the reason why I wrote that article on checking the backlink profile of 5,000 URLs), and this of course meant that the URL structure changed. Setting up 301 redirects is obviously one of the most important things to do when a change like this occurs; otherwise, you lose any value that you had in the search results page to a 404 page if there is no redirect in place. What I did actually identified issues that my client were not aware of. We had redirects going to totally irrelevant pages, and simply pages that had been deleted without any redirect taking place. How do you find these? Our relationship with our client is moreover one where we do a lot...

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Google Taking Action Against Guest Posting Blogs
Feb01

Google Taking Action Against Guest Posting Blogs

12SHARESFacebookTwitter I’m not sure if these are isolated incidents or Google just being Google, but I’ve received messages from 5 different webmasters that have stated they have received a site-wide penalisation for “Unnatural outbound links”. These are predominantly from bloggers that have excessively used guest blogging as a way to gather a constant stream of articles on their blogs. It’s interesting actually because Google has ramped up its assault on guest blogging in general, with Matt Cutts’ recent blog post on the “decay of guest blogging” hitting the industry succinctly last month. This is the message they’ve received in Google Webmaster Tools: Example.com/ : Unnatural outbound links Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links on this site. Selling links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As a result of unnatural links from your site, Google has applied a manual spam action to example.com. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site. What have I advised them to do? The 5 websites that I mentioned at the beginning of this article have all lost their toolbar PageRank, as a result of this. I’ve advised them to actually nofollow or either remove outgoing links on their blogs and to not accept further guest posts until they have sorted out the mess they are now in. Most of them use WordPress, and I’ve recommended an amazing free WordPress plugin that will do the job fairly easily for them. It’s called Outbound Link Manager, a WordPress Plugin that identifies all the external links on your website and allows you to either remove or nofollow them. I recently used this tool on a blog that I purchased and found that the blog was plagued with external links that had no relevancy to the blog’s topic, so I simply nofollow’d  and removed quite a few of those links doing this with the help of the aforementioned WordPress plugin. What can you do to avoid getting in this sort of trouble? Stop accepting guest posts en-masse. I carefully vet any guest post article that goes on this blog. In fact, I’ve only allowed two guest posts on here, as a result of over 100 people contacting me to guest post on here. What people don’t seem to realise is that I actually read what they are writing about to see if what they are writing about actually has any real value or is just another rehashed version of what they’ve written before. (Thank you, Google exact match phrase search option) You just need to be more careful with who you allow to guest...

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How to Quickly Check the Backlink Profile of Over 5,000 URLs
Jan25

How to Quickly Check the Backlink Profile of Over 5,000 URLs

18SHARESFacebookTwitter Migrating to new Content Management Systems (CMS’s) can be difficult at times, especially if the site that is being migrated has thousands of duplicated URLs that have high quality backlinks associated with them. If it’s your job then you better come up with a solution and hopefully this article will provide a few. I was recently tasked to analyse or come up with a way to segment these 5,000 URLs to make it more manageable. I’ll admit I don’t have much experience when it comes to migrating very large websites, so it took me a couple hours to come up with an idea as to how we could go forward. Rather than sit like a lemon all day long and ignore all of these soft 404s that were popping up left, right and centre in Google Webmaster Tools I came up with a few ideas and utilised a few industry tools to help. The first idea that I came up with was using Regular Expressions in Excel to categorise each URL based on the keywords that are in the actual URL. I then realised that I was doing this the wrong way round. The idea behind this was to categorise these URLs and to write a rule to say that if a URL contains a certain keyword then it should redirect to the most appropriate page that likely contains the same keyword. The problem with this is that it isn’t accurate and you could possibly be redirecting URLs to a page that isn’t actually that relevant. So what should I do instead? Seeing as this client is quite large, it’s worth going through to see what the backlink profile is for each individual URL that we grabbed from Webmaster Tools (over 5,000). And that’s easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Luckily for me, the agency I work at has all the tools that you’d ever want for this to work. ScrapeBox or MajesticSEO At first I tried using ScrapeBox on a VPS that we have to scour the backlink profile for all of those 5,000 URLs using the Mozscape API. I left this running over night, but when I got home I looked for other solutions as I knew that Moz’s Index isn’t that large and I might not get all the backlink data as a result. I found out that MajesticSEO has a tool called the “Bulk Backlink Checker“. At this point I celebrated as I’ve found that MajesticSEO is arguably one of the best backlink checking tools in the SEO industry. I simply pasted all 5,000 URLs into a .txt file and...

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Is 2014 The End of Guest Blogging?
Jan20

Is 2014 The End of Guest Blogging?

12SHARESFacebookTwitter Matt Cutts has come out with a post on his personal blog entitled “The decay and fall of guest blogging“. It’s quite interesting as it’s something that I wrote about around a week ago on Densely.org called “The Way We Guest Post – Content Marketing“. In it, I wrote: Google will try to become more aggressive as we become more aggressive at guest posting. My prediction for 2014 is that we’ll see algorithmic updates, similar to Penguin, which will dive straight into world of guest posting. – 11 January, 2014 It makes sense. If everyone starts doing something that is very popular then in the end it will become abused and overused. The strategy behind guest blogging from an SEO perspective has always been about gaining links that would help boost your rankings. It’s a tactic used by many SEO agencies and I’ll admit that I’ve done my fair share. But Google has not made it easy to rank in the search engine results page. For many start-up websites it is impossible to rank and compete, unless you engage in activities such as guest posting. I’ll agree with Matt on this though: Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. – Matt Cutts He’s right. Guest posting has indeed been turned from being a legitimate practice, whereby you would be a guest author on big sites such as TechCrunch, WSJ, Mashable etc and you’d give your professional view on a subject of your expertise. This still happens, but this has been outweighed by the fact the majority of guest posts are now for those lovely dofollow anchor text links. So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward. – Matt Cutts The last bit of Matt Cutt’s post is actually quite informational. Is he suggesting that there will be an algorithmic update of some sort that would dive into the world of guest blogging — like I had predicted just only a week ago? Maybe and very likely, yes. I also see Google devaluing guest posts and lowering their effectiveness when it comes to rankings. I doubt we’ll see Google penalising every website that has used guest posting as a method to increase rankings. In effect, the only websites that will be hurt from this are for sites that have gained the majority of their backlinks by...

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Semantic Search for Song Related Queries
Jan18

Semantic Search for Song Related Queries

11SHARESFacebookTwitter I came across this while I was at work and I hadn’t seen this before, so I thought I’d create an article on this subject even though this feature has been around for a while. Music isn’t an industry that I can relate to and the clients at the agency that I work for do not have any music involvement, which means I don’t really have to lookout for search queries like this.  On the 30 August 2013 Google released Hummingbird, a new algorithmic search enhancement that focused on user intent and providing more in depth search results than ever before. That said, Google have really pushed into what the user intent is for people who would be searching for artist’s songs and they’ve done so in a clever way by combining various sources to come up with search results that are not only helpful, but in depth using Google’s Knowledge Graph base.  If we take a look at the music niche, there’s a very interesting way that Google has managed to collate data into this very useful search result. If you look at the top of the screenshot below you’ll find a music carousel, which lists all of Lily Allen’s songs. Not only that, but you’ll get a short biography of the artist – creating an environment where the searcher is more informed without having to do any additional actions. What does this mean for websites? Google faces a very big challenge with the way that search results can be manipulated, which is why they’ve invested heavily into semantic search. As you can see by the screenshot example above, there is no need to go to SongFacts.com. Google has essentially provided the person searching for Lily Allen songs a perfect resource without even having to look at or consider clicking on any search results. I can bet you that this has likely affected many of the websites that rank high for these newly crafted search results pages, and has resulted into a lower amount of click-throughs and thus traffic. Diving a little deeper If you click on any of the songs, you’ll be directed to a new page where an embed of the song on YouTube can be played. Note: You cannot actually play the video in the SERPs and the image below that looks like a video will simply direct you to the relevant song that you’ve searched for where you can then play the song.   The Result Of This In effect semantic search for song related queries has resulted in 2 important things: Google is trying to increase their YouTube Share of Voice by directly plugging YouTube videos at...

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