SEO Quotes of the Month - November 2012

Written by Stephen Jones - 11 Dec 2012

November saw not one, but two Panda releases from Google, plus an unspecified update that wasn’t a Panda iteration but must have looked a little bit like one as it caused a noticeable shake-up in SERPs (a Raccoon, perhaps?). Matt Cutts provided some guidance on the ‘disavow’ process, Google got knocked off a top-spot and a former Google Spam Team insider gave some insight on the Penguin filter and penalty process.

Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam, Google [source] giving some further clarification on the disavow process:

"I spoke at PubCon 2012 last month in Las Vegas. A couple people have asked for my slides, so here they are."

For those interested, the disavow information begins at slide #12 although there is a useful round-up of the major activity that’s been undertaken in the year so far, including the page layout update, exact match domain targeting and the supporting activities Google has been doing around communication and Webmaster academies. There’s also a link to the video presentation about the disavowal tool in case readers need a bit more context.

Cutts re-iterates that the disavow file is a “strong suggestion” and if incorrectly done, can seriously hurt a website in the same way that a botched canonical implementation can do. However, there’s a degree of review being undertaken with the file: Google will ignore the file if it includes too many links that Google feel are good value. This has been borne out by many people using the tool to disavow all links to a penalised site and seeing no recovery.

Used properly, the disavow tool can be a fine scalpel to remove the last few traces of poor quality links remaining from a clean-up effort – it certainly isn’t a scatter-gun that can devalue an entire backlink profile.

Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land [source] on 2012 looking like another year of Mobile FAIL:

" … consumers increasingly rely on smartphones for shopping and product research before purchasing. However marketers are not correctly or adequately responding to that consumer behavior. Indeed, most of them are probably not even aware of the extent to which they’re missing the boat."

The report and supporting information makes interesting reading, despite every year being hyped as the ‘year of mobile’ it seems that marketers may well have missed the fact that it has, in fact, arrived for their websites. With only 5% of advertisers following mobile best practices on search campaigns, popular outcomes for mobile audiences not being tracked correctly and an ever-increasing segment of mobile traffic for many people (who will be loyal to mobile friendly sites), it’s time to scrutinise mobile data if you haven’t already.

Rather than arrive in a blaze of glory, mobile usage has steadily, but ruthlessly, escalated - through the popularity and increasing affordability of smartphones - north of 40% for some websites I’ve seen. If a significant amount of mobile traffic is finding your site and a responsive design or well-optimised mobile option isn’t in place, then there’s a huge market opportunity going to waste.

John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst [source] on Webmaster Tools keyword data:

“… the keywords data shown in that Webmaster Tools feature is only based on the crawled content, not based on the relevance for indexing”

This was flagged by Barry Schwartz in SEO Roundtable as it rather conflicted with an earlier statement from Google that the keywords page in Webmaster Tools listed the most significant keywords and provided “ … insight into how Google is interpreting the content of your site”.

Sadly, for webmasters looking for a useful alternative to understanding audience search intent that’s becoming increasingly hidden by the ‘not provided’ segment in Analytics, Webmaster Tools Keywords ain’t it. The keywords report seems just to be a crawl of keyword incidence on a site, therefore the ‘significance’ label on the report may be a misnomer. If Mueller is correct in his statement (and it’s difficult to imagine he’s not) then it’s totally irrelevant in ranking considerations and the search goes on for something useful to help with encrypted queries.

Christopher Rick from ReelSEO [source] on a shock result on web advertising:

“The major change in the chart this month is that Google is no longer the largest video advertising network (collective gasp!). Fine, I won't kill you with suspense. Google got dropped to second by Brightroll this month”

Although I’m no fan of videos being used to run adverts (funny videos that are advertisements are an entirely different story), the fact that there are not just other video ad platforms out there but ones which are challenging and outstripping Google is certainly an eye-opener. Given that YouTube regularly produces mind-boggling statistics about usage and video trends, it’s easy to overlook the potential reach other video aggregators have in the market. If you are considering video as another tactical marketing stream or improving site content with rich media, then have a look at all the alternatives on offer.

Andre Weyher, former Google Spam Team member [source] interviewed by Jayson Demers for Search Engine Journal on what the Penguin is hunting for:

“The most obvious element that it focuses on is ranking due to a large amount of bad quality backlinks but it also takes into account spammy on-page techniques like keyword stuffing and over-optimization of tags and internal links.”

There’s a glimmer of reassurance that even after extensive work has been carried out to amend a backlink profile, recovery that’s still proving elusive may happen through a re-examination of onsite factors. Although keyword stuffing is an obsolete technique that usually stands out prominently from looking at a site’s pages, more insidious techniques from navigation, footer and breadcrumb links can still trigger a Penguin flag if they go too far. These are less obvious as web users ‘tune out’ a lot of the peripheral text on a page, however the Google crawler does not!

This ties in with the stated intention of Penguin to hit sites that had been “overly SEO’d”, so it’s time to look at all those inconspicuous footer links (among others) . . . are they hurting your site?

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land [source] on the subject of bad links:

““What’s the use of PRWeb?,” tweeted Megan McCarthy of Reuters, trying to digest how that service ended up circulating a fake Google acquisition story. Come along, Megan and others, and I’ll explain one of the sorriest uses, getting crap into Google News and out into news sites.”

Well . . . quite. Cutts stated some time ago that PRWeb links aren’t counted by Google. The approach seems to have been taken that the links generated by sites picking up on the story mentioned in the release, and not the release itself, is a safer way of determining relevance. However Sullivan’s article demonstrates how easily poor quality information can be distributed through paid news wire services and picked up and distributed by Google, among others.

There are larger questions here for Google News, and how much influence this will have for blended search now it’s been demonstrated how easily it can be flooded with “crap” (which arguably has been News International’s job for many years). It’s also worth wondering if more scrutiny will be paid towards sites which are, in effect, offering paid links. When organic search results start to publicly suffer from quality issues, a major update is usually not too far behind. Is there already a system in place to tune down the value of all these PR services or will further action be taken?