Home Forums Tech talk The current state of the SEO industry and how you can avoid getting burnt

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  • #1172092
    John Romaine
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,104
    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    It has always been about content. Links can only support content.

    Not true.

    Go to Google and search for “click here”

    Look at the first result. It’s adobe reader.

    http://get.adobe.com/reader/

    Where on that page, is there “content” that supports that phrase John?

    It’s nowhere.

    It ranks highly for that term because of the contextual links that point to it.

    Infact 0.98% of their anchor text ratio for over 32 million backlinks contains the phrase “click here”, which equates to over 31,000 inbound links.

    That page has nothing to do with “click here”

    It has been demonstrated numerous times that with enough EMA’s a page can rank for a term it shouldn’t.

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    First you need a page that qualifies for the search result list. So, if you don’t have a page that qualifies, the number of links to it won’t matter.

    Perhaps for silly non competitive terms, but definitely not competitive ones.

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    Then there are the words in the search phrase. If an external link has no relevance to the words in the search phrase, it has probably negligible impact on your page’s ranking.

    What?

    John that simply isn’t true.

    What about brand links?

    There are millions of sites that show up in the SERPS that have no commercial terms in their link profile. They’re all made up of non related terms “click here”, “view more”, “view our website”, (company name), and naked urls.

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    After that, there is the volume of competition for the search results list.

    The competition that matters are the 10 sites on the first page. After that, it’s meaningless. Who cares if there are 290 million results?

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    At this point we need to consider the infinite number of search phrases that people may use to find info about your product/service. Now we enter into the realm of the fallacy of “frequently used keywords”. The truth is that “frequently used keywords”, AREN’T!

    But we can identify frequently used keywords??? Using Google’s keyword planner. That’s what its for.

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    Example:
    A search phrase that used to find the example site referenced earlier in the thread was, “hardwood sleepers 200×100 Rockhampton”. There are only 10 pages that Google reports that match this phrase, so none of them need any links to rank on the first page of the results.

    People will say, “Who uses an obscure search phrase like that?” The answer is about 70% of the potential customers for your product or service.

    John, there is no search volume, and no competition for that term, so your example is far from typical, and to be fair, I don’t think should be used as an example here to justify that “links don’t matter”. It is common knowledge for meaningless terms to hit the first page in Google with no backlinking at all

    hardwood sleepers 200×100 Rockhampton – 0 searches per month
    hardwood sleepers Rockhampton – 0 searches per month

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    For much of these SE referrals, links won’t matter at all.

    See above.

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    I could probably rattle off best part of 20 different parameters that I believe Google uses to assess link values. The referenced article touches accurately on very few of them.

    I don’t agree that the value lies in the links. Infact, that doesn’t make any sense at all, because if it did, we wouldn’t need to worry about wherethe links were built/placed.

    The value lies in the referring domain, and the value that the referring page has. Its all about ….

    1. Relevancy (at the page level)
    2. Domain authority
    3. Page authority

    and then if you want to get right down to it, citation flow, trust flow, and page rank (although page rank is becoming a weaker overall signal)

    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    The problem is that we can have very little input on these factors when the links are on someone else’s website. That is part of the reason for Google using these parameters.

    This is why a lot of people build out private blog networks. So that they have more control.

    ** I haven’t read the article you’re referring to, so I’ll leave it there.

    #1172093
    John Romaine
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,104

    At the end of the day, all of this confusing mumbo jumbo that we’re talking about here in this thread is the very exact reason why, when business owners call me to discuss SEO, I never talk about it.

    Instead I bring the discussion back to…

    “How can we increase your revenue?”
    “How can we get you more leads?”
    “How can we increase your conversion rates, to get you more customers and make more sales?”

    These are the discussions that business owners should be having.

    NOT discussions about links.

    #1172094
    Aidan
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,125
    Byron Trzeciak, post: 200678 wrote:

    Here is something further to fuel the fire in this thread. These ranking factors were released by Search Metrics this month I believe. I don’t typically read into this stuff as it’s only one view and one result set but treat it as you like.

    http://www.searchmetrics.com/en/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/

    Byron,

    that image nearly broke my screen!

    I’m very much in the ‘links matter’ camp for competitive search but I hate the searchmetrics stuff because it gives folks the impression that tweets and facebook likes and shares are going to help their SEO.

    They don’t – and Google have told us so (many times now)

    It’s so important to differentiate corelation from causation. Just because a high ranking page has lots of shares and likes does not mean those shares and likes made the high ranking happen. They happened because the page is good and/or has been promoted well.

    Unfortunately some less attentive SEO folk will take that Searchmetrics stuff as licence to tell their clients to “do something on social media” for their SEO – I know, I’ve seen it espoused many times, including here on FlyingSolo.

    #1172095
    MD Clean
    Participant
    • Total posts: 308
    JohnW, post: 200682 wrote:
    Paul, You have an office and business cleaning service on the Gold Coast. If you start publishing content that is based on some unrelated, “trending topic”, “WOW” factor that is NOT related to what you do, who you do it for and where they are, your SE referrals will decline as will your rankings for your relevant search terms.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    My site is a work in progress, I am building up my citations and I have a lot of SEO work to do in future that will take some time, but probably, more importantly, some focus eg, I, right now, I could be writing a blog post on 5 Of The Best Cleaning Products That Hardly Anyone Knows About”, or “7 Things You Should Do Today To Manage Your Commercial Cleaner”, or “9 Tips To Get The Best Price From Your Commercial Cleaner”.

    Instead, here I am.

    Whilst my site is only 7 months old, I owned 2 niche recruitment sites in the US and Canada for 8 years and ranked page 1 for some very competitive keywords – ahead of sites like Monster, Career Builder, Indeed and Simply Hired.

    In any case some observations on some keywords to shed some light under the bushes of where G is at in Australia in 2014.

    For the Keyword, “Commercial Cleaning Gold Coast”,

    1.The site that probably ranks best has a network of micro sites – 1 for each suburb.
    2. The same site has a lot of KW Stuffing
    3. There is a lot of KW stuffing in the results generally.
    4. There are a lot of different type of businesses in the results and G does not differentiate between them, eg, general commercial cleaners, bond cleaners, home cleaners, window cleaners, pressure cleaners and carpet cleaners, cleaning jobs etc – the Yellow Pages are a lot more efficient at pointing the searcher in the right direction. BTW, this also occurs for search terms such as “Office Cleaning Gold Coast”
    5. Some Gold Coast search terms only return Brisbane search results on page 1, including Brisbane Google Business pages.
    6. A lot of blog posts have been stolen from elsewhere as you see terms pop up that are not in the Australian idiom eg, washrooms and janitorial services.

    These are just some of the mixed results popping up that I can think of off the top of my head- in short, I think G has a very long way to go before it gets to where it wants to be.

    My personal view is that 4G (and fibre) will have a big impact on search in future making page speed loading less important and responsive design more important.

    #1172096
    JohnW
    Member
    • Total posts: 2,642

    Hi JohnR,
    I suggest the single most important attribute of SEO is relevance. We are talking to small business owners here about small business websites.

    1. Who is going search for an Adobe page using “click here” as the search terms?
    2. How many small businesses on FS are going to generate 32 million links to their websites?
    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    Perhaps for silly non competitive terms, but definitely not competitive ones.
    The point is that most SE relevant referrals potentially come from these “silly, non competitive” search terms.

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    “What about brand links?”
    Many of these will also be the site’s domain name.

    If it is an unusual name it also can fall into the non competitive search terms category.

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    The competition that matters are the 10 sites on the first page. After that, it’s meaningless. Who cares if there are 290 million results?
    If there are 1,000 pages that match the search phrase then you need a miniscule number of “ranking points” to be on page #1 than if there are 290 million competitors. There is a lot less SEO implementation you should have to do and the SEO cost should be a fraction for low competition search phrases.

    This info can be mission critical in assessing what SEO activities you may need to implement and for what search terms. This is the heart of cost-effective SEO. It may not be important to large clients with big SEO budgets but I would have thought VITAL for small business clients.

    If small businesses want to avoid being burnt by SEO firms they should want to know about parameters like this that can help them assess their SEO bang for their buck. This should be a “biggie” for them!

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    But we can identify frequently used keywords??? Using Google’s keyword planner. That’s what its for.
    Actually, the Google Keyword Planner is to help Google generate Adword revenue at higher prices. It is not designed to support research into generic search usage. When SEOs use it as a tool to plan search phrase targeting, they better know what it is reporting AND its limitations.

    There has never been any keyword suggestion tool that adequately answered this issue. All you get from the Google Planner is a small number of search phrases. It does not give much info on search methods and is frequently only of much use for consumer oriented searches.

    I suggest most of the small businesses on FS will get little value if they solely rely on “keywords” spat out by the G Planner.

    You can probably delete all those businesses in the B2B supply of products and services and quite likely all those small businesses whose potential clients are in near proximity to them.

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    John, there is no search volume, and no competition for that term, so your example is far from typical and to be fair, I don’t think should be used as an example here to justify that “links don’t matter”. It is common knowledge for meaningless terms to hit the first page in Google with no backlinking at all.
    First, I’m NOT saying “links don’t matter”, I’m saying links don’t matter for some search phrases..

    Second, Here’s a surprise, it seems we agree that there are some search phrases where backlinks are not needed.

    All that’s left is to assess is what traffic is at stake and whether it is cost-effective SEO for a small business to head into the expensive world of link building programs.

    The facts are that if you implement SEO effectively, most generic SE referrals WILL BE from the type of phrases I used in the example.

    Google Planner and every predecessor won’t/didn’t report anything but a fraction of the search terms that are really used. Google representatives have said that 25% of all searches per month are unique. That means there are 5 billion keywords that won’t be reported in Planner this month, another 5 billion next month. In a year there will be 60 billion searches. It won’t take that long to end up with some serious numbers of information searches that if ignored, will cost your site most of its relevant traffic.

    I used to use the number of unique search phrases in G. Analytics as a simple but valuable SEO performance metric. If the number of unique search phrases used to create generic SE referrals did not increase by about 50% every 6 months, then there may have been an SEO problem that needed work. Unfortunately this little performance metric has been removed by the “not provided” bin.

    To give you the full info on the “railway sleeper” site and I will use pre-Jun 2013 numbers so “not provided” is at a minimum…

    The site ranked #1 for the Google reported “most frequent” search phrase. That phrase referred 6,000 visitors to the site – a bit under 10% of all referrals.

    Over the same time there were nearly 12,000 different search phrases used to refer generic visitors. If I knock off the referral numbers for every Google reported “frequent keyword”, the site would still have around 70% of its traffic.

    If you ran all 11,000+ keywords that generated 70% of the traffic through the Google Planner, it would report “0” search numbers for ALL of them.

    That is the way the thing works. When it reports “0” keyword usage, it means the keyword usage did not meet Planner’s minimum reporting threshold. It does NOT mean no one used the keywords.

    People need to realise that “frequently used keywords” as reported by Planner are for Adword management, not for assessing search words and phrases in generic search.

    I find Google’s predictive search function much more valuable for planning generic SE programs.

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    I don’t agree that the value lies in the links. In fact, that doesn’t make any sense at all, because if it did, we wouldn’t need to worry about where the links were built/placed.
    I don’t understand what you are disagreeing with?

    If someone searches for “office cleaning services Gold Coast”:

    An external link from a PAGE whose content was about “office”, “cleaning”, “services”, “gold” and “coast” should generate more link value for that search phrase than a page that is just about the tourist attractions in the Gold Coast.

    If the search phrase was “retail shop cleaning services”, that link from the original page will have less value because it now uses fewer parameters that can score ranking points.

    Do we agree?

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    The value lies in the referring domain, and the value that the referring page has. Its all about ….

    1. Relevancy (at the page level)
    2. Domain authority
    3. Page authority
    Forgive me but my memory must be failing me. I don’t recall Google ever referring to “domain authority” or “page authority” as signals in its algorithm.

    Aren’t these terms created by the USA SEO company, MOZ to describe a predictive formula that they developed to help compare large websites over time?

    Domain Authority – Learn SEO – MOZ
    “Domain Authority represents Moz’s best prediction for how a website will perform in search engine rankings. Use Domain Authority when comparing one site to another or tracking the “strength” of your website over time.”

    Info about MOZ’s “page authority” term is here.

    Page Authority – Learn SEO – Moz
    “Page Authority is Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in Google.com’s search results”

    The other widely used SEO tool developers all have their own terms for similar but different predictive formulae.

    What they all have in common is that none of them really knows how Google assigns search ranking values to individual links. (Oh, and as G changes its algorithm about three times per day, doesn’t that mean they are always out of date?)

    Please correct me if I’m out of date, do any of these SEO tools calculate link values based on specific search phrases? Last time I checked they didn’t.

    So, if we are agreed that specific search terms appearing in the referring page’s link text, title and content are very important in calculating a link’s value, how accurate/valuable are tools that can’t assess any of these specific and crucial search word factors?

    John Romaine, post: 200688 wrote:
    At the end of the day, all of this confusing mumbo jumbo that we’re talking about here in this thread
    For the majority of small business owners, I couldn’t agree more. However we headed into detail in response to one FS’s post and your subsequent comments.

    He seems to be interested and if I can save him from adopting dangerous tactics, it will have been worth it for me.

    If some others pick up the odd snippet of accurate and relevant info about SEO, cost-effective referral tactics and even the limitations of Google and other SEO tools, it will be a bonus.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1172097
    JohnW
    Member
    • Total posts: 2,642
    MD Clean, post: 200694 wrote:
    My site is a work in progress…

    I, right now, I could be writing a blog post on 5 Of The Best Cleaning Products That Hardly Anyone Knows About”…

    For the Keyword, “Commercial Cleaning Gold Coast”…

    …There is a lot of KW stuffing in the results generally.
    Hi Paul B,
    You are really taking us into a level of detail that is beyond the capability of a forum.

    Broadly, forget external “blog” posts. What you want is to think about the info people want and to publish this on your site.

    Don’t think about article topics like “5 Of The Best Cleaning Products That Hardly Anyone Knows About”. This has no relevance to your potential clients or the services you offer.

    Some of your clients are going to use search words that relate to the type of business they are in or the type of premises they want cleaned. They will will include search words like: school, council, retail, shop, warehouse, office, hotel, nightclub, restaurant, etc. Create landing pages for these searchers.

    These searchers will want info relevant to their search terms. I.e. If they searched for “school cleaning services Gold Coast” they will be impressed by testimonials / case studies you can offer about your school cleaning experience and results.

    When it comes to targeting a bunch of suburb name inclusive search phrases, if you can offer testimonials and case sudies that include the location word, you should be heaps ahead of the location keyword stuffers.

    This is a very broad overview of the sorts of tactics that you should pursue to generate more relevant SE referrals.

    Hope this helps.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1172098
    JohnW
    Member
    • Total posts: 2,642
    Aidan, post: 200691 wrote:
    I’m very much in the ‘links matter’ camp for competitive search
    Amen Brother Aidan,
    I could not agree more.

    Have you got any comments or words of wisdom for us about the plethora of uncompetitive search phrases?
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1172099
    John Romaine
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,104
    JohnW, post: 200697 wrote:
    This is a very broad overview of the sorts of tactics that you should pursue to generate more relevant SE referrals.

    Or you could just reverse engineer your competitors terms and know exactly which phrases will bring SE traffic.

    Suggestions don’t provide results. Solutions do.

    #1172100
    Aidan
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,125
    JohnW, post: 200698 wrote:
    Amen Brother Aidan,
    I could not agree more.

    Have you got any comments or words of wisdom for us about the plethora of uncompetitive search phrases?
    Regs,
    JohnW

    There wouldn’t be much to add to what you’ve already said mate – its all about the content and answering the needs of the person searching.

    I often find myself telling SEO beginners to concentrate on the content first and foremost because Google’s main goal is to present the content that best answers the search query. People will use all manner of search queries around a main keyword idea that might indicate a need for price info, location info, particular uses of an item, review info, etc. All that descriptor type stuff you often talk about here. I’ll often show them real search query data from AdWords to demonstrate the point.

    I put it to them that when Google thinks it has lots of good answers to present to a search query it then looks at other signals to help put an order to the pages, such as meaningful backlinks among others. The point being the horse must be before the cart, it is always content first.

    IMHO Google is getting better and better at algorithmically identifying good content and will likely look to lessen its dependance on backlink signals more than it already has. They will probably never go away entirely but will remain as a much smaller contributing factor.

    As for anchor text backlinks – forget keyword anchor text would be my advice. Just get links in whatever way the other sites owners normally link. A natural looking profile will be largely brand anchors, not keyword text and if a link source site does not use keyword anchor text to other sites, then it should not do to your site either. I also now suggest that simple non linking citation (mention) might be a good idea too.

    Some of us are starting to think keyword anchor text might be used as a spam indicator rather than as a ranking booster now though its just a fledgling theory and what the trigger point might be to turn it into a spam signal is unclear. As I said its just an unproven possibility at this point but I would not be at all surprised if in a year or two we learn that keyword anchor text has indeed gone the way of the meta keyword and pagerank sculpting, both of which Google eventually admitted it did not use.

    #1172101
    Byron Trzeciak
    Member
    • Total posts: 422
    Aidan, post: 200691 wrote:
    Byron,

    that image nearly broke my screen!

    I’m very much in the ‘links matter’ camp for competitive search but I hate the searchmetrics stuff because it gives folks the impression that tweets and facebook likes and shares are going to help their SEO.

    They don’t – and Google have told us so (many times now)

    I agree Aidan, you’re spot on. Google loves to say what doesn’t work when it clearly still does or alternatively they might highlight a ranking metric when it has very little effect. There are so many people writing and blogging about SEO and the only experience they have is installing a few plugins in WordPress or running a tool, so you’re right you have to be careful what you read and absorb.

    Best thing to do is to try it yourself, have the experience to know what works rather than guessing.

    Aidan, post: 200691 wrote:
    Unfortunately some less attentive SEO folk will take that Searchmetrics stuff as licence to tell their clients to “do something on social media” for their SEO – I know, I’ve seen it espoused many times, including here on FlyingSolo.

    I think that goes for Searchmetrics and many other sources of SEO information as JohnW pointed out with the SPI article.

    You can read all you want, including research like search metrics, but unless you’ve got the experience of knowing what works and what will get results then it’ll be a long road for the SEO agency and client.

    Do links work? Absolutely.
    Are links necessary? Not always.
    Does content work? Absolutely
    Is content necessary? Not always.

    It’s often the case for local business in non-competition industries or locations that you can simply build a website, do onsite and achieve first page or even high first page results. However if you want the long jeopardy then you’d want to be doing one or all of the above, especially when targeting phrases or long tail keywords to gain the benefit of diversifying your traffic amongst many keywords.

    To me it doesn’t make much sense to put all your eggs into one basket and target one keyword only. This is not a dig at you Aidan btw I think all these discussions show that there is simply more than one way to get results and each client has its own goals, industries and level of competition.

    #1172102
    Aidan
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,125
    Byron Trzeciak, post: 200709 wrote:

    To me it doesn’t make much sense to put all your eggs into one basket and target one keyword only. This is not a dig at you Aidan btw I think all these discussions show that there is simply more than one way to get results and each client has its own goals, industries and level of competition.

    No dig perceived Byron, I would not advise putting ones eggs in the one basket either – that’s why I generally like to see clients doing SEO and PPC and/or Social and/or Email and/or whatever else is going to work.

    While I still target keywords, I see it more as focusing on a keyword theme for a page rather than chasing rankings for a single keyword.

    :)

    #1172103
    pauls
    Member
    • Total posts: 120

    Phew, what a long read that was.

    Just goes to show SEO is very alive and an extremely broad topic.

    John, I know you like to use your railway sleepers site as an example. This backs your point that some industries can get away with thin content and hardly need links as they are very niche and competition is extremely low, however step into more competitive industries and back-links along with hardworking content becomes extremely important.

    Some great quotes here regarding keywords..

    Aidan, post: 200710 wrote:
    While I still target keywords, I see it more as focusing on a keyword theme for a page rather than chasing rankings for a single keyword.

    As for anchor text backlinks – forget keyword anchor text would be my advice. Just get links in whatever way the other sites owners normally link. A natural looking profile will be largely brand anchors, not keyword text

    Some of us are starting to think keyword anchor text might be used as a spam indicator rather than as a ranking booster now

    With the right structure and strategy, content is king, however you need to craft topics and content that attracts and engages with audiences from different sources – eg. Google, social, e-newsletter.
    “Top x ways to reduce your cleaning budget”, for example would work via social channels to attract clicks and sharing of your content, but as mentioned by John W not so focused for Google searches that could be more targeted towards, “last minute office cleaning service”.

    Exact match links are dead – if you’re still thinking I want to rank in Google for “cleaning services gold coast” and building links with this phrase only, you will end up being penalised by the big G.

    There are many sites that are sitting in the grey area when it comes to onsite and offsite tactics, to avoid this ticking time bomb, my recommendation as always focus on long term gains and make your initiatives look as natural as possible.

    As Aiden mentioned, a more natural looking link typically includes a brand name. So if you are having links built, try and ensure they are coming from sites and pages with relevant substance and the links are diverse.

    Google is clever enough to rank you for related synonyms. SEO isn’t dead but exact match sure is.

    #1172104
    John Romaine
    Member
    • Total posts: 1,104
    pauls, post: 200737 wrote:
    Exact match links are dead.

    They’re definitely not dead, because some people still link this way naturally.

    I would reword it to “slamming your site with EMA’s is extremely dangerous and will trip an algorithmic penalty”.

    Gone are the days of quantity, it’s now about quality.

    Here are some safe backlinking building examples…

    1. Naked URLs
    2. Brand
    3. Brand long tail
    4. Commercial terms (be careful)
    5. Long tail terms
    6. Images (no text at all)
    7. Non related terms
    8. Synonyms

    And of course, you should be linking to your home page as well as inner pages.

    Diversity :)

    #1172105
    JamesNorquay
    Member
    • Total posts: 83

    You usually get what you pay for with SEO. If some one is charging $299 a month then you can usually expect to get what you pay for. At that rate you are probably off better doing SEO yourself.

    My advice is to monitor real ranking research like this one –

    http://www.searchmetrics.com/en/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/

    If your current company is not including many of the metrics noted then it is time to look around.

    Here are some other good resources for picking an SEO company –

    http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/how-to-avoid-snake-oil-seos/
    http://jamesnorquay.com/tips-for-selecting-a-company-to-do-your-seo/

    Thanks

    #1172106
    JamesNorquay
    Member
    • Total posts: 83
    pauls, post: 200737 wrote:
    Exact match links are dead – if you’re still thinking I want to rank in Google for “cleaning services gold coast” and building links with this phrase only, you will end up being penalised by the big G.

    Agree, so many industries will get hit by the next Penguin refresh in coming days or weeks. If your link profile has above 2% Exact Anchor targeting you can probably expect to worry. Due to the fact we work with many brands in US niches and I have noticed people get hit for far less.

    So many SEO companies in Australia have no idea what they are doing, people who run them come from a non-technical background, they have no past experience, they do not TEST things and in the end of the day they probably do not even care about your business.

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