SEO Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Links’


What Types of Sites Actually Remove Links?

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Since the disavow tool has come out SEOs are sending thousands of “remove my link” requests daily. Some of them come off as polite, some lie & claim that the person linking is at huge risk of their own rankings tank, some lie with faux legal risks, some come with “extortionisty” threats that if they don’t do it the sender will report the site to Google or try to get the web host to take down the site, and some come with payment/bribery offers.

If you want results from Google’s jackassery game you either pay heavily with your time, pay with cash, or risk your reputation by threatening or lying broadly to others.

At the same time, Google has suggested that anyone who would want payment to remove links is operating below board. But if you receive these inbound emails (often from anonymous Gmail accounts) you not only have to account for the time it would take to find the links & edit your HTML, but you also have to determine if the person sending the link removal request represents the actual site, or if it is someone trying to screw over one of their competitors. Then, if you confirm that the request is legitimate, you either need to further expand your page’s content to make up for the loss of that resource or find a suitable replacement for the link that was removed. All this takes time. And if that time is from an employee that means money.

There have been hints that if a website is disavowed some number of times that data can be used to further go out & manually penalize more websites, or create link classifications for spam.

… oh no …

Social engineering is the most profitable form of engineering going on in the ‘Plex.

The last rub is this: if you do value your own life at nothing in a misguided effort to help third parties (who may have spammed up your site for links & then often follow it up with lying to you to achieve their own selfish goals), how does that reflect on your priorities and the (lack of) quality in your website?

If you contacted the large branded websites that Google is biasing their algorithms toward promoting, do you think those websites would actually waste their time & resources removing links to third party websites? For free?

Color me skeptical.

As a thought experiment, look through your backlinks for a few spam links that you know are hosted by Google (eg: Google Groups, YouTube, Blogspot, etc.) and try to get Google’s webmaster to help remove those links for you & let us know how well that works out for you.

Some of the larger monopoly & oligopolies don’t offer particularly useful customer service to their paying customers. For example, track how long it takes you to get a person on the other end of the phone with a telecom giant, a cable company, or a mega bank. Better yet, look at how long it took AdWords to openly offer phone support & the non-support they offer AdSense publishers (remember the bit about Larry Page believing that “the whole idea of customer support was ridiculous?”)

For the non-customer Google may simply recommend that the best strategy is to “start over.”

When Google aggregates Webmaster Tools link data from penalized websites they can easily make 2 lists:

  • sites frequently disavowed
  • sites with links frequently removed

If both lists are equally bad, then you are best off ignoring the removal requests & spending your time & resources improving your site.

If I had to guess, I would imagine that being on the list of “these are the spam links I was able to remove” is worse than being on the list of “these are the links I am unsure about & want to disavow just in case.”

What say you?

Categories: 

SEO Book

Remove Unnecessary Steps & Win More Links, Shares, and Conversions – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

When creating a product, website, or communication, including a simple user experience is key to success. The easier you make the A to Z process for a user, the more likely they'll be to accomplish the plan you spent time and resources putting together piece by piece. 

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks us through user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Simplicity, FTW!

This week, we've added a still image of the whiteboard for easier viewing. Do you find this addition helpful? Let us know in the comments! 

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

In this first example, embed codes, a lot of websites use embed codes all over the place. SlideShare is a good example. When you get to SlideShare, you find a particular presentation, and then you can copy and embed that onto your page.

Bitly is another good example. When you go to Bitly, they've got a little copy and paste sector. You paste in a link. It turns into the short Bitly link. You grab that out.

All sorts of things do this. YouTube does it. Vimeo does it. Any type of infographic that's embeddable, they all have these embed codes.

Embed codes are a phenomenal way to drive links, especially to content that people are likely to put on their own sites. The problem becomes when you make that a multi-step process. In fact, we've seen research and data from several sources now, saying that if you can make this a single click on here, and it says "copy to clipboard"' automatically, as opposed to popping something up like Bitly has started to do, or having to grab the entire embed code, Ctrl A, Ctrl C. I have to copy it myself, that actually will drive more embeds, meaning more links to the places you want with the anchor text that you want.

We remove an unnecessary step, that secondary piece, and make it so one click right in here with you cursor gets you copied to clipboard, a transitional message or a temporal message that pops up that says, "Copy to clipboard," or says below here, "Copy to clipboard." Now, all I have to do is paste, and I'm done. Very, very simple. Very easy.

Number two:  Shorter, more action-oriented emails. We send a lot of emails. We send emails for outreach. We send emails that are in newsletter format that are trying to drive actions back to our websites. We send emails to try and get shares from our friends or our network, those kinds of things. All of these can be made more concise and more actionable. I see a lot of challenges when we sort of go, "Oh, I'm going to start with some nice fluffy introduction. Here's who I am. Here's more about my company. Oh, and now here, here is the final action. This is what I was actually trying to get you to do. I felt like for some reason I had to do all of this."

Email is a medium where heavy communication is great between people you already know, where there are lots of things to say, and you need to have that more complex dialogue. When it's between new people, between strangers, between someone you're reaching out to, I find that the most effective emails I ever get from an outreach perspective are, "Hey, Rand. Love what you're doing over there at Moz. Would you send this over to someone on your product team or someone on your marketing team?" Or, "Hey, we have this app that we think would be great for your events folks. Could you make an intro?" That is something I'm likely to do very, very quickly. Or, "Just check out this new app. It does this." Great. Really quick.

All the press release ones I get are like, "Such and such is a this type of company, and here's all of this. Here's their latest press release. They raised this round of funding. Would you be interested in writing about them or talking to their CEO on the phone?" Dude, all you have to do is have that CEO email me and be like, "Hey, man. I want to connect." I'll be like, "Hey, let's chat. Sounds good. Sounds interesting,"' if it actually does sound interesting. Shorter, more action-oriented emails.

Number three:  Simpler sign-up forms. Oh, my goodness. You do not need to collect all of this data all at once. I need name. I need first name and last name. I've got to get this person's address, or at least the city and state they're in, because of this. You can collect so much of this data in the application later, as they're using it, if they're actually using it. You can collect some of that from IP address, location sensitive IPs, those type of things. You can tell the type of device they're on.

The thing is, as people browse the web more and more with mobile devices, this guy right here, when I'm on here, I absolutely hate filling out forms. The most I can ever do is an email and password field. A confirm password field really gets me going. It's just infuriating because it's a pain to type those extra letters, especially on something that doesn't have a full keyboard. If you can remove those and ask for that later, remember even if they get their password wrong and they forget it, you have still emailed them. You've got their email address, and you've sent them an email. It says, "Hey, click here to confirm." If they log back in, oh now the password is wrong or they forgot, great, you can fix that later, but you've gotten that initial essential sign-up. That's what you're looking for.

Number four:  I know HTTP is a common protocol. So is GTTP, or at least I'd like to make it one. Get to the point with your content. Get to the point. A lot of the time, I see this stuff tweeted and shared on social networks, put on Inbound.org or Hacker News, where it says, "Hey, conversion rate testing shows that this performs better than that." Cool. Then, I have to scroll and scroll. Where is that? Oh, there's the test. There's that test they were talking about. It's way down deep in the content. I'm not exactly sure why, but a lot of times with blog content, with even infographics, with videos, with stuff that we should be sharing on the web and is good content, we're trying to say, "Here's what I want to tell you, and I'm prioritizing that for some reason above what you actually care about."

What you actually care about should be the primary and potentially only thing on that page. If you really have stuff that you want to tell me, I will go investigate. I'll check out your About page. I'll check out your product pages. I want to see what your company does because it sounds interesting. You've got a cool brand, and you've got a great blog post and that kind of thing. If you really must, you can put it down here below the stuff that I actually care about. I came to your site to watch a video I was told was awesome, to check out an infographic, to see, to learn something about a test, to figure out something, solve some problem. Deliver that to me upfront, please. That will not only make me more likely to come back to your site in the future. I'll have a positive brand association. I'll be more likely to share that content. Just a beautiful thing.

Number five:  You actually see this a lot, and I see tremendous effectiveness when this is done, which is socially sharing links directly to what matters on the page or on an individual site. A lot of times, there will be a product tour section. Then, there's a video, a really interesting video or a demo. I'll see the social shares that are most effective are the ones that point directly. Sometimes, they have a JavaScript field in the URL that has a hash in it or a hash bang system or whatever it is. Those people who share direct do better than the ones who share the broad page. They've gotten into the process and dug around enough to share directly that piece that I care about. You can do this too.

In fact, I have recently seen a test where I essentially had been tweeting a link to something like where we were competing against another company for which company is better at this particular thing. I had been tweeting links to the page. Then you had to scroll down the page quite a ways, and then there was a little voting widget. Then I saw from the voting widget itself, there was actually some hash URL that would link directly to the voting widget on that page. When I tweeted that, it drove way more actions. In fact, like four or five times as many actions. I think something over 100 votes, whereas previously I had shared it a couple times and gotten like 15 or 20 votes from it. That is definitely a way to show that tweeting directly to the thing you want people to do, great way to socially share and to make those shares go further.

Last one, maintaining logged in state. Zappos, Amazon, all do this brilliantly well. Google actually does a pretty solid job of it as well. They maintain a logged in experience for as long as possible. Do you remember back in the day with Twitter? You used to get logged out all the time. They just weren't maintaining cookies and session variables and all that kind of stuff. You were losing your log in. You'd have to log into Twitter, even though you clicked that Remember Me button, you'd have to log in many, many times, every time you came back.

If you have this "Please log in" system here, and it does it even though you clicked "Yes. Please, remember me" down here, remember, please remember. Check. You're killing your conversions. I don't just mean conversions in terms of someone who makes a purchase. I mean someone who might have left a comment, someone who might have participated in your community, someone who might have shared something, someone who might have reached content they otherwise wouldn't have, someone who might have been a lead for you.

Moz actually did this. We have this as a conversion killer, and we can show the data. It was about 18 months ago, I think, that Casey and the inbound engineering team did a bunch of work to make sure, that most of the time, you're logged into your account. You wouldn't be logged out as quickly. I still find some challenges with it, but it's way better than it used to be. The data shows. You can see more comments per post view. You can see more people checking out and filling out their accounts. All that type of activity, that UGC that's driving long tail traffic, just a beautiful thing by maintaining this logged in state.

All of these are specific examples. The big takeaway message here is you don't need unnecessary steps. You don't need to be taking actions and requiring things of your visitors that they don't need to do, especially with the rise in mobile browsing and with the advantages that we've seen from web page speed increasing. We know, as web users and as people who build for the web, that visitors care tremendously about accomplishing tasks quickly. They're getting more and more used to it on their phones, on their desktops, on their laptops, on their tablets. We need to deliver that in order to be successful at marketing as well.

All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

When Links Go Bad

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When is a link not okay? When will you get a penalty for linking to someone else? When will you get a penalty if someone links to you?

This area grows ever more complicated.

The old-hands will know this, but those newer to SEO are justified if feeling confused.

Interflora UK

The Interflora UK site was recently dropped from top position in Google, although it looks like they’ve now returned. As we’ve seen in the past, major brands typically return quickly, because if visitors don’t see a brand they expect to see, then Google looks deficient.

According to this excellent analysis by Anthony Shapley, the Interflora site was likely dropped due to an abundance of links coming from regional newspaper sites. These sites contained “Advertorial” content that looked something like this:

Whilst similar pages don’t appear to have inbound links to Interflora UK now, it’s clear from Anthony’s analysis that they did previously. In turn, sites featuring the Advertorials appear to have suffered a decrease in PageRank. If they were selling space for the purposes of flowing PageRank then that value has likely diminished.

According to SearchEngineLand:

Google has downgraded the Toolbar PageRank scores for several dozen UK operated newspapers and news sites today. It is believed the reason Google has downgraded their PageRank scores is because they were selling links on a massive scale

But What’s This?

So, are Advertorial backlinks “evil”?

It would appear so.

Then again, maybe not, if you happen to be Google. Aaron spotted an advertorial placement – sorry, “Information Feature” – last week. Google appear to be placing content too, complete with backlinks that aren’t no-followed.

When they do it, it’s okay? Or is this simply an “unfortunate oversight” on the part of one rogue tentacle of the sprawling Google octopus? Given Google’s previous stance on such issues, it’s probably the latter. But how many webmasters, especially webmasters of minor web properties, can claim “an unfortunate oversight” in their defense? And if they do, would they receive a fair hearing?

Still, Google, as an organization have done a good job of building their brand, and like most major brands, I’m sure we’ll continue to see them at the top of search result pages. It helps, of course, that if there are any real problems in terms of penalties delivered by an algorithm, or a quality rater who has temporarily forgotten who pays her wages, someone in the search quality team can talk to someone else in the search quality team and clear up any misunderstanding.

And why not? There’s got to be some advantage in being big – and owning the show – right?

What About Guest Columns?

What’s an advertorial?

If someone guest posts on a site, and links back to their site, is that an advertorial? A lot of media websites are run that way. How would an algorithm tell the difference?

But doing so is a standard marketing 101 practice from a time before search engines existed. It’s not a crime to link to another site. It’s not a crime to place self-promotional content on another site that leads back to your own. The visitor traveling across the link is the payoff.

But SEOs know about another layer of pay-off, regardless of visitor traffic.

Google may argue that it’s safest to put a “no-follow” attribute on the link, which indicates intent i.e. “I’m not doing this because of what I read in The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, honest guv!”, but that seems to be an arbitrary way of doing things given people in the SEO community know what a no-follow is, but most webmasters and publishers don’t. Most links won’t be no-followed, regardless of intent.

If Google don’t think the content, and link, is of sufficient quality, then why not just degrade it? Why does the publisher need to jump through arbitrary hoops that won’t apply to everyone, equally? Does the fact a page is labelled an “Advertorial” mean it receives special attention? If so, then won’t we simply see more “integrated” editorial “solutions” in future?

The line is rather blurry.

Best Practice

In the case of Interflora UK, it seems the link problem was largely due to scale. Rule #1 is don’t embarrass Google, and a lot of links coming in from near-identical, low-quality content is a sure-fire way to do so.

It was almost certainly a hand edit, as this practice has been going on for some time, so given the sites are crawled, and in the index, and rank well, as they have been doing for a while, then we can probably assume the algorithms had no issue with them, at least up until recently.

Perhaps a competitor raised the alarm?

Difficult to know for sure.

It’s a good marketing opportunity for Google in that they get to put many webmasters and SEOs on notice again. “Content placement” is not within the guidelines, and if you do it, they may hit you if we see you.

So many webmasters start to fret about where, exactly, the line is drawn.

Google issued a reminder the same day:

Google has said for years that selling links that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines. We continue to reiterate that guidance periodically to help remind site owners and webmasters of that policy. Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.

Pretty clear. If you want to stay well within Google’s guidelines on this issue, don’t run Advertorial pages with links to the site that paid for them, and don’t be the target of same. As we speak, there will likely be hundreds of webmasters pulling down Advertorial-style campaigns. At very least, I’m sure SEOs will be disinclined to label them as such in future.

It raises an interesting issue, though. What’s to stop a competitor doing this? Running an Advertorial campaign on your behalf, reporting you, and taking you out. And if you’re a minor player, will you get a fair trial?

Dastardly competitors aside, the best way to avoid this type of penalty is to ask yourself “What Would Matt Cutts Do”? Matt’s blog is the model for safe linking.

A link needs to be tightly integrated with editorial. A rule of thumb is that the editorial should be closer to balanced journalism and personal opinion and further away from PR – as in press release. The interesting thing about this case is that a lot of press releases will likely fit an Advertorial definition. This is not to say you’ll receive a ban if you’re linked to from a press release, or if you carry a press release you’ll be degraded, but you probably need to be a little wary of badly “written” press releases displayed in a…cough….“systematic” way.

The other rule of thumb is “would this pass human inspection and will that human see the content as editorial”? If so, even if you don’t have a no-follow link, it should be fine. If it’s not, then most of the web isn’t okay, including many of Google’s own properties.

Those who don’t care about Google’s guidelines probably got a good case study in how well Advertorial-with-link placement can work, at least up until such time as the campaign pitches-up above-radar.

Categories: 

SEO Book

Announcing the Just-Discovered Links Report

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Posted by The_Tela

Hey everyone, I'm Tela. I head up data planning at SEOmoz, working on our indexes, our Mozscape API, and other really fun technical and data-focused products. This is actually my first post on the blog, and I get to announce a brand new feature – fun!

One of the challenges inbound marketers face is knowing when a new link has surfaced. Today, we're thrilled to announce a new feature in Open Site Explorer that helps you discover new links within an hour of them going up on the web: the Just-Discovered Links report.

This report helps you capitalize on links while they're still fresh, see how your content is resonating through social channels, gauge overall sentiment of the links being shared, give you a head start on instant outreach campaigns, and scope out which links your competitors are getting. Just-Discovered Links is in beta, and you can find it in Open Site Explorer as a new tab on the right. Ready to learn more? Let's go!

What is the Just-Discovered Links report?

This report is driven by a new SEOmoz index that is independent from the Mozscape index, and is populated with URLs that are shared on Twitter. This means that if you would like to have a URL included in the index, just tweet it through any Twitter account.

One note: The cralwers respect robots.txt and politeness rules, which would prevent such URLs from being indexed. Also, we won't index URLs that return a 500 status code.

search results

Who is it for?

Our toolsets and data sources are expanding to support a wider set of inbound marketing activities, but we designed Just-Discovered Links with link builders in mind.

Getting started

You can search Just-Discovered Links through the main search box on Open Site Explorer. Enter a domain, subdomain, or specific URL just as you would when using the Inbound Links report. Then select the Just-Discovered Links beta tab. The report gives PRO members up to 10,000 links with anchor text and the destination URL, as well as Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics.

One important note on Page Authority: we will generally not have a Page Authority score available for new URLs, and will show [No data] in this case. So, when you see [No data], it generally indicates a link on a new page.

You can also filter the results using many of the same filter drop-downs you are used to using in other reports in Open Site Explorer. These include followed and no-followed links, and 301s; as well as internal or external links, and links to specific pages or subdomains. Note: We recommend you start searches using the default "pages on this root domain" query, and refine your search from there.

How does it work?

When a link is tweeted, we crawl that URL within minutes. We also crawl all of the links on the page that have been tweeted. These URLs, their anchor text, and their meta data (such as nofollow, redirect, and more) are stored and indexed. It may take up to an hour for links to be retrieved, crawled, and indexed.

We were able to build this feature rapidly by reusing much of the technology stack from Fresh Web Explorer. The indexes and implementation are a little different, but the underlying technology is the same. Dan Lecocq, the lead engineer on both projects, recently wrote an excellent post explaining the crawling and indexing infrastructure we use for Fresh Web explorer.

There are a few notable differences: we don’t use a crawl scheduler because we just index tweeted URLs as they come in. That’s how we are able to include URLs quickly. Also, unlike Fresh Web Explorer, the Just-Discovered Links report is focused exclusively on anchor text and URLs, so we don’t do any de-chroming as that would mean excluding some links that could be valuable.

How is it different?

Freshness

Freshness of data continues to be a top priority when we design new products. We have traditionally released indexes on the timeframe of weeks. With this report, we have a new link index that is updated in about an hour. From weeks to an hour – wow! We'll be providing additional details in the future on what this means.

URL coverage

This index includes valuable links that may be high-quality and topically relevant to your site or specific URL but are new, and thus have a low Page Authority score. This means they may not be included in the Mozscape index until they have been established and earned their own links. With this new index, we expect to uncover high-quality links significantly faster than they would appear in Mozscape.

I want to clarify that we are not injecting URLs from the Just-Discovered Links report into our Mozscape index. We will be able to do this in the future, but we want to gather customer feedback and understand usage before connecting these two indexes. So for now, the indexes are completely separate.

How big is the index?

We have seeded the index and are adding new URLs as they are shared, but don’t yet have a full 30 days worth of data in the index. We are projecting that the index will include between 250 million and 300 million URLs when full. We keep adding data, and will be at full capacity in the next week. 

How long will URLs stay in the index?

We are keeping URLs in the index for 30 days. After that, URLs will fall out of the index and not appear in the Just-Discovered Links report. However, you can tweet the URL and it will be included again.

How long does it take to index a URL?

We are able to crawl and include URLs in the live index within an hour of being shared on Twitter. You may see URLs appear in the report more quickly, but generally you can expect it to take about an hour.

Why did you choose Twitter as a data source?

About 10% of tweets include URLs, and many Twitter users share links as a primary activity. However, we would like to include other data sources that are of value. I’d love to hear from folks in the comments below on data sources they would like to see us consider for inclusion in this report.

How much data can I get?

The Just-Discovered Links report has the same usage limits as the Inbound Links report in Open Site Explorer. PRO customers can retrieve 10,000 results per day, community members can get 20 results, and guests can see the first five results.

What is “UTC” in the Date Crawled column?

We report time in UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time format. This time format will be familiar for our European customers, but might not be as familiar for customers in the states. The time zones for UTC are ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so US customers will see links where the time-stamp appears to be in the future, but this is really just a time zone issue. We can discover links quickly, but can’t predict links before they happen. Yet, anyways :)

CSV export

You can export a CSV with the results from your Just-Discovered Links report search. The CSV export will be limited to 5,000 links for now. We plan to increase this to 10,000 rows of data in the near future. We need to re-tool some of Open Site Explorer’s data storage infrastructure before we can offer a larger exports, and don’t have an exact ETA for this addition quite yet.

export search results

This is a beta release

We wanted to roll this out quickly so we can gather feedback from our customers on how they use this data, and on overall features. We have a survey where you can make suggestions for improving the feature and leave feedback. However, please keep in mind the fact that this is a beta when deciding how to use this data as part of your workflow. We may make changes based on feedback we get that result in changes to the reports.

Top four ways to use Just-Discovered Links

Quick outreach is critical for link building. The Just-Discovered Links report helps you find link opportunities within a short time of being shared, increasing the likelihood that you’ll be able to earn short-term link-building wins and build a relationship with long-term value. Here are four ways to use the recency of these links to help your SEO efforts:

  1. Link building: Download the CSV and sort based on anchor text to focus on keywords you are interested in. Are there any no-followed links you could get switched to followed? Sort by Domain Authority for new links to prioritize your efforts.
  2. Competitor research: See links to your competitor as they stream-in. Filter out internal links to understand their link building strategy. See where they are getting followed links and no-followed links. You can also identify low-quality link sources that you may want to avoid. Filter by internal links for your competitors to identify issues with their information architecture. Are lots of their shared links 301s? Are they no-following internal links on a regular basis?
  3. Your broken links: The CSV export shows the http status code for links. Use this to find 404 links to your site and reach-out to get the links changed to a working URL.
  4. Competitor broken links: Find broken links going to your competitors’ sites. Reach out and have them link to your site instead.

what you can do with Just-Discovered Links

Ready to find some links?

We’ve been releasing new versions of our Mozscape index about every two weeks. An index that is continuously updated within an hour is new for us, too, and we’re still learning how this can make a positive impact on your workflow. Just as with the release of Fresh Web Explorer, we would love to get feedback from you on how you use this report, as well as any issues that you uncover so we can address them quickly.

The report is live and ready to use now. Head on over to Open Site Explorer’s new Just-Discovered Links tab and get started!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

How to Disavow Links in Google and Bing: An Instructional Guide

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How to Disavow Links in Google and Bing: An Instructional Guide was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

To help our clients who would like to use the disavow links tools from Google and Bing, this is an instructional guide.

It’s important to note that Google strongly advises against using the disavow links tool unless it is the last available option and will be implemented by a highly technical power user of Webmaster Tools. Incorrect use of the disavow links tool can harm Google’s evaluation of that site’s rankings and is a difficult process to reverse.

Introduction to Disavow Links

In this 9+ minute video, Google’s ambassador to webmasters and SEOs Matt Cutts tells us why a disavow links tool exists, who might need to use it, and how to use it. It’s a helpful introduction to the topic of harmful links.

Who Might Consider Using Disavow Links Tools

  1. You’ve received a bad link warning in Google Webmaster Tools.
  2. Your SEO has identified that your site is affected by the Penguin Update or manual action penalty removing you from search results.
  3. Or you may have identified negative SEO waged against your site.

In the video above, Matt gives some specific examples of the actions that could put you in category #2 in this list. If you’ve paid for links or used spammy comments or article directories to build backlinks, this is you.

First Course of Action: Link Removal

If inbound links are harming a site’s search engine standings, those links should be removed, or at least, an effort must be made to remove them. Bruce Clay, Inc.’s link pruning process is a vetted link removal method that we have used with success for many clients.

The following resources explain our link removal process, from identification of harmful links to contacting linking domains to tracking and reporting the process to Google for reconsideration:

Google and Bing’s Disavow Links Tools

After having exhausted your link removal efforts and made necessary reconsideration request to Google, the Disavow Links tools in Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Tools may be a viable option for your situation.

Bing Webmaster Help and How-To use Disavow Links tool

  1. Go to “Configure my site” in Bing Webmaster Tools and then go to “Disavow links” in the following navigation.
  2. Use the Disavow Links tool to select a page, directory or domain you wish to disavow, and then enter the corresponding URL in the “Enter a URL” field.
  3. Click “Disavow”.
  4. The disavow submission will be listed below.
  5. You can delete disavow submissions by checking the box to the left of the listed selection and clicking the “Delete” button.

Bing Disavow Links tool

Google Webmaster Tools explanation of the Disavow links tool

  1. Create a text file (.txt) containing the URL of the links you want to disavow.
  2. Include only one link per line.
  3. To disavow all links from a whole domain, add “domain:” before the link URL of the domain home page (for example, “domain:example.com”)
  4. You may include additional information about links in a line beginning with “#” (for example, “# this webmaster won’t return my requests for removal”).
  5. Signed in to Google Webmaster Tools, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main.
  6. Select the domain from a drop down menu for which you are submitting a disavow links list and click the “Disavow Links” button.
  7. Click through the pop-up warning (Google warns against the dangers of improper Disavow use throughout the process) and upload the text file of links you want Google to ignore and click “Submit”.
  8. You’ll see your .txt file listed here. Click “Done” to finish the process.

Google Disavow Links tool

Expect it to take weeks before the disavow is no longer a calculation in your site’s search engine valuation. Again, we stress not to use the Disavow Links tool without guidance from an expert.

Bruce Clay Blog

Beyond Link Building – Using Links and Content to Hit Business Goals

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Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Few would argue that 2012 changed the SEO industry. In April, we saw the release of Penguin and, for the first time, aggressive penalization of low-quality link building tactics at a huge scale by Google. As an industry, we needed this. We were on borrowed time with these tactics and, let's be honest, they shouldn't have worked in the first place.

I know a lot of SEOs who add huge amounts of value to the businesses they work with through quality, creative online marketing. This is what we should be recognised for rather than using low-quality tactics and tricks that have been labelled by others as a "dark art." Link building certainly fits into this bucket because it is one of the areas where low-quality tactics worked for a long time (some still do) and were far from creative. The 5,000 article syndation links and 10,000 directory submissions you've done was hardly us at our best.

I want to share some thoughts on how we can transition link building from a numbers game into genuine online marketing that adds value to a business, beyond increasing their link counts.

Start with why

Last year, I read a book by Simon Sinek called Start with Why. If you haven't read the book, here is a video of a talk he did at Ted:

The basic message is that successful companies know why they exist, and they use this to guide the decisions they make. They also focus on why they exist when marketing themselves and selling to customers. Rather than getting customers to buy into the what, they get them to buy into the why.

The reason I mention this in the context of link building is because I don't think we ask this question enough. The temptation when a client asks for our help is to dive in and start building links as quickly as we can, but why are we doing it? Are they the right types of links? Are they going to make a difference to the business? Is an infographic really going to help bring more customers?

Instead of this approach, I believe we should be a bit smarter and far more strategic with our recommendations. Yes, links help rankings and infographics (as an example) help get links. But is that the best we can come up with? Can't we build links that not only help with rankings, but also drive real customers to the website?

There is already talk of Google reducing the effectiveness of links built via infographics and guest blogging. Wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about whatever update Google comes out with next?

Why does this business exist?

Whether a client comes to you for link building or not, I think this should be the starting point for an online marketing campaign. To work with a client long-term, you need to really dive into their business and understand it as much as you can. I'm not saying that you necessarily need to become an expert on their products or their market, but getting a deep understanding of how they work and why they do what they do is important.

If you can do this, it will make your job much easier with the following:

  • Understanding their industry and what makes this business different
  • Knowing how to get things done internally by understanding what matters to the company
  • Defining a strategy that is in line with their business goals
  • You can talk the same language and they will trust you because of that – once you have trust, it's a lot harder to fire you, too :)

There is another subtle benefit here, too – if you're pitching to win their business, you're far more likely to win if you show a genuine understanding of their business.

Why do they need SEO?

There are a few answers to this question that I would not be happy with, and would push for a further explanation:

  • More links
  • More traffic
  • More content

These are all good things to have, don't get me wrong. But in isolation, they don't mean much. If you hear this as an answer, you need to ask – why?

  • Why do you need more links?
  • Why do you need more traffic?
  • Why do you need more content?

These will get you closer to the answer you want to hear. Or you can rephrase to be something like this:

  • What matters to your business?
  • How do you make money?
  • What drives your profits every year?

The answer you're looking for is the one that makes the business survive, and the answer will be in line with why the company exists. This is the starting point that we need because from here, every decision we make is driven by it. This is why it is important to start with these questions. Once you've got this clear, you're in a much better position to start defining a strategy that will not only deliver links, but links that will help the business hit its goals.

Don't measure success by links built

Some may not agree, but this is what I feel about link building right now:

The deliverable of a project isn't links; the deliverable is a clear improvement in what matters to the client – revenue.

I'm not keen on working on the basis of building x number of links per month, with little or no thought as to why. Why do you need 50 links each and every month? What type of links are they? If you build them every month, will you improve revenue for your client?

Let's look at a quick example. You're hired by the Head of SEO at a mid-level company and you agree a target of 50 links per month to be built and a three month contract. At the end of three months, you've built 150 links, so you go in for another meeting to discuss the project and declare it a success.

At this meeting is the CEO of the company who hears that you've hit your target. They ask how much extra revenue you've generated as a result of these links. The Head of SEO doesn't know, and neither do you. The CEO then asks how your work has helped improve the brand image of their company. You look at the list of 150 guest posts on unrelated blogs and stay quiet.

See the problem?

If we want to be taken more seriously as an industry, we need to be able to confidently deliver results that the CEOs of large companies will relate to and understand.

The CEO doesn't care if Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO shows an improvement in your backlink profile. They care about paying the salaries of their employees on time, paying the office rent, and making a profit. Links alone, with no thought or strategy behind them, will not do this. They used to work when link building was a commodity and less risky, but no longer can we think like this.

We're hired to make more revenue for the company, if we can do this by building 50 links a month and it happens, that's great. But we start with why we're doing what we're doing – not starting with links as the default answer.

It may not always be as straight forward as though and I know that it isn't simple to get to this point. So here are a few ways to take steps towards it.

Focus on the metrics that matter to your client

If your client doesn't make direct revenue from their website, you need to find an alternative. Imagine you're working with a B2B website who doesn't sell online. In this case, your work should be measured on leads/inquiries which lead to revenue.

The bottom line is that your deliverables should make a difference to the business you're working for. Figure out the key metric, then figure out how to improve it.

Real example: I used to work with a SaaS client in the UK who were B2B. A single sale of their service could give them £100k+ revenue a year, but a conversion would take many months to complete. I could track enquiries from organic search, but I wouldn't necessarily know if they converted into a customer, so I made a point of having face-to-face meetings with the Marketing Manager each month to see how good those leads were. She was able to tell me if they were on the way to converting into real customers or not. This communication let me see that we were adding huge amounts of value to their business through search.

Try not to sell short-term projects

To be able to focus on this as a metric that you're measured by, you need to agree on being given enough time to make it happen. Doing a one-off piece of link bait that lasts four weeks is probably not going to help, whereas agreeing a contract for at least six months of activity is much more likely to lead to you having the chance to improve the bottom line.

The only time I think that a short-term project can work is when you're working on a very specific problem, such as lifting a penalty or training an intenral team. I don't think it is a good idea to take on very short-term link building projects because it encourages short-term thinking.

Choose a strategy that helps you improve the bottom line

This is where it all comes together. By this point, you may decide that to improve revenue for your client, you need to come up with a good link building strategy. You then choose the tactics that fit into this strategy.

You should see the clear difference between this approach and just saying, "We need links," within a few minutes of talking to your client.

When we pick the link building tactics in this way, we're choosing ones that will help us improve revenue for the client – not ones that will just let us deliver 50 links per month. If we're driven by pure number of links, our standards naturally drop, and we will be happy to get any types of links we can just to hit the target we've been set.

Examples of getting it right

Let me give you a direct example of a smarter approach: Turning Link Building into Audience Profiling by Richard Baxter. This is link building, but it is driven by a smart strategy that means the links built will mean much more to the company they point to. They will hit that sweet spot where the potential customers of a business hangout and absorb content online.

What about guest blogging? There has been lots of talk about this as a tactic, and it can be a great tactic. But it is also easy to scale, which naturally reduces the quality of the output. Instead of scaling guest blogging, what about doing something like this. This was a guest post that drove more sales of a book than TV and newspaper coverage.

Infographics that matter

No, they're not dead, but they will become less effective if they're not good quality and worth sharing. Rather than creating a regular tower graphic and visualizing things that should never be made into an image, why not create something relevant and helpful to your customers? Like this:

What about content marketing for consumers?

The new SEO buzzword that has actually been around for years and years. Instead of producing a piece of content where the goal is just to get links, what about producing a piece of content that is useful to your real customers? I have a great example here from Swissotel, hat tip to the guys at SEOgadget for showing me this one: 

 

What about content marketing in B2B markets?

I have two great examples here, starting with American Express who work with a lot of small businesses. They have the Open Forum that publishes content that small businesses will find useful:

Simply Business have done the same with their guides for small business owners:

Both of these companies are creating content that fits with why they exist – to service small businesses. This is smarter than creating an infographic on a random topic just to get a few links that month.

The CEO test

Next time you build a piece of content, ask yourself, "What would the CEO think of this?"

This can be a good way to sense check what you're doing and to make sure that it is in-line with the business and will help them hit their goals. Will the CEO be proud of seeing the content on their website? Will they be proud to see the external websites where they're mentioned?

Conclusion

Yes, links matter – a lot. This isn't changing anytime soon and our clients need links more than ever. But I'd love to see our industry step up and build links that stand the test of time, and not waste time being worried about Google updates.

This isn't easy to do – I'm not 100% there yet myself. It involves quite a big change in thinking for a lot of people. But I firmly believe that if we can alter our approach so that we become focused on the goals of a business rather than purely looking at links, the following will happen:

  • You will win more business because the clients will see that you focus on what matters to them
  • You will be forced to use the tactics that really make a difference to the bottom line
  • You will be able to demonstrate that you've increased a key metric for a business, not just number of links or rankings which most CEOs don't worry about

Overall, SEOs will start to be taken seriously as we're being measured on the right business metrics – not pure rankings or number of links we manage to build.

On a related note, I've just released an eBook focused 100% on building links. At 65,000 words, it covers the whole link building process (including a fair amount of information on this topic) and discusses kicking projects off on the right foot to establish business goals early.

I hope you enjoyed this post – please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

My Favorite Way to Get Links and Social Shares – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

So you've got a new blog post you're ready to reveal to the interwebs. You've worked hard on the content, and now you really need to drive activity on it.

If you don't have a widespread network of contacts to help you, you may need some tips to help drive that traffic. In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his favorite way to get links and social shares, while simultaneously seeding future plans to get links automatically built for you.

Make sure to refer back to Rand's post on What Separates a "Good" Outreach Email from a "Great" One for more in-depth tips on conducting outreach.

We'd love to hear your feedback on these processes! If you have thoughts or something to add, make sure to leave it in the comments below.

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I thought I would talk about what my personal favorite methodology for getting links in social shares is. A lot of folks ask about this like, "I need to get a lot of links. I've got to share this new blog post. I have a new white paper I want to put out. I'm trying to get people to share this webinar." Whatever it is, you have some people that have content that you really need to drive activity on, and I understand that.

So even the search engines have evolved. Certainly links are still a huge part of the algorithm, especially in Google and Bing, and we're still seeing the value that social shares can bring, in terms of being a leading indicator or highly correlated with lots of links coming to them. Certainly when you need to get activity and you've got to get something announced and get awareness built, these are very helpful.

I actually don't like a lot of the classic methodologies that are kind of go out there and push a link or acquire a link from a place. I really love it when people will automatically build links to me. If that doesn't happen though, or if you need a seed to get that process started, where people can start coming to you and linking automatically because they like what you've done, to seed that I love getting people, that I'm involved with, involved in that process, meaning friends, colleagues, business connections, people in the community, people who are in the particular field where I'm operating in, where I'm creating content, who might have an interest in it. That's a great way to go to help seed this process. If you don't already have that built up though, it's really hard to get that started, unless you do this. This is my absolute favorite process for this kind of work.

Step one. Go out and assemble a list, as big or as small as you want – it can be as niche or as widespread as you want – of people, friends, colleagues, people who you admire, whom you would like to help out, meaning you want to help them promote their stuff. For example, I might email some other companies in The Foundry and Ignition Portfolios, other companies that have been invested by our investors. I might email some other people in the SEO community, some of my agency friends, and in-house SEO friends, some speakers that I've spoken with at other conferences, some people I really admire on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and that kind of stuff. Then I would reach out to them. Maybe your dentist has a great website and is very web savvy and active, your travel blogger friend, your buddy on Twitter, your old boss, or a writer you admire. Whoever these people are, you're going to help them. You'll see where I'm going with this in a minute.

Step two. You need to reach out to them. That outreach process looks like this. Note that you want to share and recommend some stuff. It really helps if you've got, either on your personal website or your blog or your company's site, a recommended resources. These are companies and people or company's content and resources that we recommend, we've loved here at SEOmoz, or I have loved personally over the years and would recommend to you as well. I do this with books and with vendors here in Seattle, that we've used as a company, or that I've encountered. I do it with SEO people. I have a whole recommended list of SEOs. All this kind of stuff.

Then I would note to those people, "Hey, I'm trying to get more active in my social sharing and building up my recommendations list, and you're a person that I really like and admire. Do you have anything that you would like some help promoting? Is there anything I can do to help you promote something out there? Is there something I can link to for you, maybe put on a recommended list. I could socially share this. I could tweet it. I could put up a Google+ post about it." Keep that email just short and friendly. You can reuse a lot of that same email. I'll do this sometimes when I outreach to people. I'll construct the body of it, and I'll just put a new opening line or two and a new closing line or two, but the body of that main paragraph will stay the same.

Then people will reply to you. They'll be like, "Oh my gosh, Rand. That's awesome of you. Yeah, actually I wrote this post last week. It hasn't got a ton of attention, but I think it's a good one. Would you help share it? I think you've got a community of technology people who would really care about this." Or, "Yeah, actually, my friend runs a cleaning service here in Seattle, and I would love if you could reference them. That would be a great citation for them." Terrific. Great. Now I am going out and helping all of these folks, and in the future, right after you've helped all the people, the next time you need help promoting something, whatever it is, you have a group, a list of folks that you know you have already helped out. You can reach out to them again and say, "Hey, I have this thing, and if it's not too much trouble, I would love some help promoting it."

This is not a direct reciprocation, like, "Well, I did this for you, so now you do this for me." This is just seeding the pot. You are creating a positive impression with these folks. Trust me, a lot of the time, even if you don't have something to promote, if you do this for people in your network and people in your world, just try and make their lives better and promote their stuff, they will automatically be incented for the next few months to do something nice for you. If they can think of anything, they will try and do it for you. They will be more likely to help you out. If you do ask for a share, you'll be more likely to get it.

This process is very, very effective in getting results and getting a group of folks who can help you share. I highly urge you to do this. I think the wonderful thing about this is that you're going to help all these people before you ask for any help yourself, which is a great thing too.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Semantic Web and Link Building without Links > The Future for SEO?

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Posted by simonpenson

Rand’s recent WBF about co occurrence was a real wake up call for those still transfixed with link building practices of old. While anchor text based links may still have some effect there is little arguing the fact that the factor’s importance is dwindling. In its place are things like social signals, link age and most importantly a growing reliance on relevancy and how that is deciphered.

For those that haven’t read it yet, I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about what I felt recent Google penalties are really trying to solve. My view is that Google is really trying to clear up the link graph and with it valueless links so that it can clearly understand relevance and associations again.

It’s something that web ‘creator’ Tim Berners Lee first wrote about back in 2006 in this magazine article and Google has been talking about ever since, ploughing lots of cash into acquisitions to get it there.

So, why invest so much time, effort a resource into such a game-changing project? Quite simply because its existing keyword based info retrieval model is in danger of being bettered by semantic search engines.

To understand why this is the case we must first delve into semantics and why it changes the way search engines work.

Semantic Association

Put simply Google wants to better map the associations between content so it can deliver what it believes will be a more personalized and effective result.

The nirvana for the engineers working on the project is to map the associations between types of content with an understanding of the intent of the user when typing in a query.

So, let’s say I type in ‘what’s the weather today?’ At present Google might know where I am but would find it difficult to associate other content to that query. The reason I’m searching for it may well be because I want to know whether I can BBQ, or complete that landscaping project I’ve been researching online.

Google can improve its results by ‘knowing’ why I’m searching for the weather so it can also throw up food offers or home improvement guides.

It can only do this if its data set is clean, and right now there are far too many spammy links muddying the waters; hence why Penguin came in to begin addressing that issue.

Why is Relevance important?

It is quite clear to see why relevance is therefore important and why search engines may reward those helping them out or working to this new system.

How does Google Measure this?

Clearly we are still a long way from a purely semantic engine and Google may never get to that point. The important thing is that they are certainly motivated to make much more of relevance to diversify search results.

As a search marketer your first thought will undoubtedly be ‘how can I ensure I work in a way to take advantage of this change?’ The answer to that question begins with an understanding of some of the patents Google currently holds that may help it do this.

(Hat tip to Bill Slawski and Dan Thies on some of the below)

Topical PageRank

Google had a busy time of it back in 2003, bringing in Taher H. Haveliwala, the genius PHD student behind a new way of applying topical relevance to the company’s faltering PageRank model.

His research around applying greater relevance to links from topical pages as graded by their newly acquired Applied Semantics’ CIRCA Technology meant that they could start developing ways of measuring relevance.

Reasonable Surfer Model

This theory is then taken another step further by applying differing weights to different links on that same page based on their ‘likeliness to be clicked on’. The more likely it is they will be ‘used’ the more authority handed to them. Everything from font size to position and even colour are taken into account in this computation.

Phrase Based Indexing

To further complicate the picture Google then also looks at co-occurrence of words and phrases on a page to work out their ‘meaning’. If you take the phrase ‘hair of the dog’ for instance, Google needs a way to understand its meaning.

To do that it will look at other pages that mention that same phrase to see what else they mention. If they also mention things like ‘drink’ and ‘the morning after the night before’, for instance it will understand that it, and the page it is linking to is talking about a drink to offset the impact of a heavy night out it will assign more authority to that link as it is extremely relevant.

Had it talked about dog hair’ it would be less relevant and therefore a less valuable link.

This is a key development as it is most likely responsible for a lot of the penalties we are currently seeing as a result of spammy link building practices. To stop a page ranking Google can simply remove the connection between the page and any particular term in its index.

It also throws up some interesting opportunity and new ways of working for those looking at how to optimize sites, and we’ll come onto that a little later.

Metaweb Acquisition

While this wasn’t a direct algorithm patent or algo change Google’s purchase of Metaweb, an open source entity database of people, places, things, powered the development of ‘Knowledge Graph’ and fast-tracked its move to add more diversity and ‘user intent understanding’ to search results.

It’s addition allows Google to better understand associations between pages based on their real life connections, not just how they are linked to.

How can you develop a Semantic Strategy?

Knowing all of the above is useless with some actionable ‘next steps’ in terms of how it affects your own search marketing efforts.

So let’s look at some of the ways in which this kind of knowledge has helped me structure our own on and off page process at Zazzle.

Mapping Relevance

The first thing you must work on when considering your off page plan of attack to proactively improve your own relevance profile is to understand what is considered ‘relevant’ to you, and how, in a semantic world. Below is an example of related words to ‘content marketing’ and how they are connected:

Semantic relevance map

The good news is that there is no need to use guesswork here. Tools exist to take the hard work out of the process and a few of the best are listed below:

http://ctrl-search.com/blog/ – this is a great tool to enrich your on page content. Effectively semantically optimizing your own site. By pasting in snippets of your post the engine finds semantically associated images and other content for you to link out to and add.

http://lsikeywords.com/ – a few great blog posts have been created recently around the subject of LSI, or Latent Semantic Indexing, including this one linked to on our own blog.

We wrote about it, as it’s a key part of our own outreach process now. For every piece of work we do we will use a tool like this to ensure we stay relevant.

LSI Keywords is one of a handful of tools that will present a list of semantically relevant keywords and phrases for you to widen your outreach approach.

http://bottlenose.com/ – is a tool I have mentioned before here and its great for a multitude of things, especially big data led content cu ration. One of its ‘tools’ however is great for understanding degrees of relevance separation. Once you type in a keyword you have the option to scroll through a number of different tools but the one that we want to use for this is the Sonar+. It visually maps real time semantic relationships between concepts based on Twittersphere sharing and other big data.

Google Semantic Operator – not a tool per se but a really useful operator to help define semantic keyword relationships. By adding the ~ Tilde symbol when searching Google for your key phrase (e.g.: ~travel) you will see other words that Google has mapped against that word, such as Hotels, Flights, Holiday, Tours.

http://ubersuggest.org/ although it is not officially a semantic tool ubersuggest is built on Google predictive search engine and so by default it delivers semantically relevant searches, which makes it great for building outreach keyword lists.

All of the above tools give the user the ability to create a keyword-based map of where to outreach to if links are your project aim.

Building the Outreach Plan

Once you have a view on where you want to outreach too then the next step is to construct a plan to do that.

The next stage is to create a time-based project plan to detail each and every step of the process. This is extremely important when carrying out outreach, as it can be very easy to get distracted and pulled sideways and out of your defined semantically relevant zone.

We use a simple excel table to plan this and below you can see an example based on a two week outreach campaign for a fitness brand.

outreach plan

As you can see we have planned time days on specific areas to ensure we cover off as much semantically relevant opportunity as possible. Into this plan we would then add outreach contacts and note what communication we have had with each.

How to outreach well has been covered in detail by posts like this, this and this and this post is already far too long to delve into this right now but one tip that must be followed is to be as exhaustive as possible in exploring each avenue. Think Face to Face, Phone, Twitter and finally email in terms of contact medium hierarchy as the further you get down the list the lower the conversion to placement will be.

Where things get VERY interesting in a semantically driven project, certainly in terms of off page activity, is when you begin to consider what the real value of that work is; the metrics you’ll be monitoring as your KPIs for the campaign.

Posting without links

Posting content without the need to obtain a link may seem like an insane proposition, especially if you are measuring success by ranking and search engine visibility metrics, but that may not be the case.

Real marketing is not about links. It’s about connecting your brand or business to people with similar interests and beliefs. Links are simply a mechanism that drives Google visibility to get you in front of more of those people more often.

Google understands that while its entire business is built on links it really needs to get away from that model and motivate us to act like above-the-line marketers. And that is where Lexical co-occurrence comes in.

For those really interested in this, both Bill Slawski and Joshua Giardino wrote great technical pieces on what it is and how it works.

In simple terms however it is a way of ranking websites and pages not on inbound links but by how many times they are MENTIONED in close proximity to key phrases.

That’s game changing.

If Google can work out what you are relevant for not by looking at dumb anchor text but what people write about you and what other phrases you regularly appear close to it changes the way you outreach and market your content.

Imagine being able to outreach awesome content without having to look for links. Simply make people aware of what you are doing and get them to talk about you. It’s how it should be and it would have a profound effect on the type of content you might produce and brand-marketing activity you might pursue. Expect PR stunts galore!

On Page Semantic Optimisation

Another key element of semantic ‘link building’ is to build out your relevance to widen the scope of what you are ‘about’. If Google is looking to diversify results then the more words and phrases you can associate yourself with the better.

This means expanding your repertoire. Writing more about those peripheral semantic phrases that are still on brand but may help you rank for a greater number of related searches.

In many ways this is not dissimilar to how any good content strategy should be constructed anyway but below are a few simple reminders and additional points to consider when designing content for a semantic engine:

  1. Proximity > keyword mentions, as we know are useful for helping keyword-based retrieval engines like Google work out what you are about. To improve this further augments the phrase with synonyms, as these are strong semantic signals that you are relevant for a cluster of phrases. Try and then align URL, H1, bold and italic text etc. to ensure continuity, as you normally would to strengthen the page. How close keywords are to key modifiers, and to other links, and the higher up in the code they are the better.
  2. Relevant Shingles and Keyword Co-Occurrence > Use the aforementioned tools and ensure you are adding in those co-occurred phrases within the copy of the page.
  3. Synonym keyword linking > Ensure you link from semantically relevant keywords back to key landing pages for bigger terms to create a strong semantic theme. So link internally using ‘holiday’, ‘hotels’ and other terms back to a key ‘travel’ landing page.
  4. Linking out > again this is not new but by choosing ‘Authority’ or ‘Expert’ documents within the niche, as described by the Hilltop Algorithm. This means looking for high authority sites already ranking for the term you want to be relevant for.

Takeaways

We have covered a lot of ground in this lengthy piece. My hope is that it gives a solid overview of where Google, and other key search engines, are heading. More importantly is gives some actionable tips and suggestions for you to begin implementing now to ensure your site benefits from these forthcoming changes.

Simon Penson is founder and MD of Zazzle Media, a UK digital content marketing and SEO agency. Catch him on Twitter.

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