Google Penguin & The Disavow Tool

broken linkIn April Google released it’s Penguin update. This was aimed at weeding out poor quality links and websites that have over optimised anchor text on the links. This has had far reaching affects both to the owners of the websites that have lost substantial traffic and the SEO industry in general.

We posted a blog in June about how to recover from the Penguin update and one of the most obvious things to do is to remove these poor links but that is easier said than done as by the very nature of these poor links you are unlikely to receive a response to any request to remove these links from the offending sites. So Google have release the disavow tool which can be found in Google Webmaster Tools and allows you to upload a list of URL’s so that any links from there will be discounted in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Good news you may say….. well yes hopefully but we can see immediately how this tool may be open to abuse.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Google are constantly updating their algorithms with the intention of providing their customers with the best search results possible. But for every tweak they make someone will find a way of exploiting this. Years agoNewtons Cradle when blogs first started to appear Google saw a link from a blog as being very powerful as they were seen as links coming from a site which was somebody’s personal opinion and therefore very relevant. The result of this was that a cottage industry set up with sites where you could go and buy blog posts with a link for specific anchor text on blogs with a Page Rank of your choosing – the higher the Page Rank the higher the cost of the link.

The value of a lot of these sort of links have long been discounted by Google but the Penguin update has pushed things to the next level by ensuring that these links actually poison your site. One of the main concerns about this action by Google is that it opens the door for people to negatively affect the rankings of their competitors by creating sites and creating over optimised links to their competitors sites.

The problem with the disavow tool

So Google have released a tool to help us get rid of those pesky links surely that is a good thing isn’t it? Well apart from the fact that by using this tool it could be seen as an admission of guilt by Google there are a number of other concerns within the industry. Yes you can only use the tool within Webmaster Tools where you are the verified owner of the domain so that prevents other from using the tool to discount your links but it opens the floodgates for sites that have made it easy to get back links to be penalised, web 2.0 sites, forums, blogs with open comments etc and if those sites have been penalised that bad ‘link juice’ with flow through to any sites that have links from them even if they were genuine comments, forum threads etc. It also allows for competitors to build links to their site from a site that you have links from and then disavow them and negatively affect your rankings.Google Disavow Tool

So what should I do?

In terms of your competitors using this tool and the penguin update to negatively affect your site that isn’t something you have a lot of control over and it is Googles lookout to ensure that this issue is kept to a minimum. But if you’ve received bad links warnings, been denied reconsideration or been penguinised then this tool gives you the opportunity to get things back on track, but be careful, use conservatively and only use as a last resort after the normal channels of communication to try and get the links removed have been exhausted.

If you don’t have a Webmaster Tools account which is imperative to running a healthy site, or you would like any help with any of the issues discussed here or  then give us a ring on 0115 896 7715

How Google Knowledge Graph Can Inspire Content Creation

By now, many of us will be aware of an additional panel of information on the right-hand side of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). If you haven’t seen this, then search for ‘Nottingham Castle’ and you’ll see what we mean.Google Knowledge Graph

This is the product of Google’s first foray into so called ‘semantic search’ - Google Knowledge Graph – which has now reached the UK, providing what it hopes will be a string of related information that will answer search queries more exactly in terms of the users’ intended context. In terms of search engine optimisation (SEO), the jury is still out as to how this might affect website rankings, but what is clear is that it could irreversibly change the behaviour of Internet users as more information is found directly from Google’s SERPs. We shall wait and see.

Learn from Google

What can be learnt from this experiment is that Google believes Internet users increasingly want access to information quickly that is both relevant, accurate and within context. If we are to trust Google’s judgement here (and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t – given their success with search), then it just goes to show how important it is to generate unique content and copy for your website, blog and social channels that is equally accurate and relevant for your customers.

Here are 3 key areas in which you can improve your content creation:

1.     Use Google to find direct sources

When writing blogs, articles or longer pieces, make sure that you reference the facts. This can be done by citing the original source of the information, or simply by linking to where the information came from. Passing other people’s work off as your own might earn you temporary respect, but once you’re found out – well, you should know what is likely to happen.

Referencing and citing sources actually has the opposite effect – it generates trust and shows the reader that you’ve spent time to research your work properly. Trust and confidence is what you’re after – so that your readers or customers keep coming back to you time after time again.

The following resources are great for finding source information:

  • Google Books – Search and read books and magazines, many of which are shown in their entirety.
  • Google Scholar – Search for links to scholarly papers on every subject under the sun.

2.     Use specialised search engines and online encyclopaedias

Some search engines already specialise in trying to answer questions. The most well-known is the Wulfram Alpha – the computational knowledge engine which has a free and subscription version (the latter providing additional interactivity and visual depiction of results). Wulfram Alpha

This search engine is excellent for collating statistics for use in content creation. It provides citations to the original sources from where information is collated, which means that you can explore further and find additional detail and information for your content too.

Here’s a search we did by simply typing in London versus Nottingham – this provided us with a comparison of various statistics between the two cities, including population and flight times, for example.

You could also pay to use an encyclopaedia such as the now completely online Encyclopaedia Britannica – a well-known and trusted resource. The cost runs at about £7.60 per month – not bad for access to a reliable source of detailed information. There is also of course the free Wikipedia (which has improved greatly in terms of accuracy over the last few years) and its many sister websites, all specialising in various areas of information and data – for the full list, visit the Wikimedia Foundation website.

3.     Social media and social search

One obvious way to get information and answers is by sharing your questions and research ideas online using social channels. Quora is an excellent example through which professionals and experts pose and answer questions on a huge range of subjects across various industries. Social media and networks are also an excellent way to find out about the latest trends and conversations that could spark you to debate and comment on current issues.

Topsy How Google Knowledge Graph Can Inspire Content CreationThere are various social search engines, such as Topsy or Social Mention that will search across channels for specific queries giving links to the source of a conversation.

If you’re looking for collaborators or experts on a specific subject to help you or contribute to your content creation ideas, then Followerwonk is a great way to search and filter through Twitter users’ biographies.

Further advice

For further advice about SEO and content creation, please feel free to contact Landingnet with your query.

Why Free Local Search Listings Help Online Business Visibility

Today’s announcement that £1.5 million is to be made available for High Street regeneration at various locations across the UK highlights that local businesses need investment to survive.Local Search High Street

The sum of money available isn’t huge, especially when you compare this to health and education budgets for example, but at least it highlights that investment is crucial if local stores are to become a solid foundation again for the traditional town shopping centre whilst helping to boost local economies.

Free Local Search

It also highlights that whilst money is tight, businesses must begin to utilise all the means available to them to ensure that they succeed. One way to do this is to ensure an online presence, either through a website or simply through using free existing systems to ensure that appearances are made in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Google Places

Google, the Internet search giant, is by far the most popular search engine used by UK users. This is good news for all businesses (even those without a website) because Google allows businesses to create free listings for their business which it then includes in their SERPs – it’s called Google Places.

Google Places - Free Local SearchGoogle Places is a way for businesses with a physical address (this could be an office, shop or warehouse for example) and telephone number to describe their products, display photos, offer special discounts and list opening time information to promote their business online for free. Whilst it’s possible to link the listing to a website (and local businesses will usually stand a better chance of being found online if they do this) it isn’t essential before creating the listing or to appear in the search results – it all depends on the competition for the business’ sector.

So, if a searcher looks for ‘florists in Nottingham’, Google Places listings will invariably appear with the relevant local florists for that area. And, because Google can recognise where a searcher is based geographically, simply typing ‘florists’ could bring relevant local shop information to the search results without the need to include the keyword ‘Nottingham’ in the search. Not only that, Googlers can find contact information on the search results page directly – meaning that they can contact the business without the need to click through to a website first.

The emphasis on local search results has been something Google has been constantly improving throughout 2012, especially through the ‘Google Venice’ algorithm update from February (detailed information about this can be found in this great blog post at SEOmoz), so from an search marketing point of view, the information here has never been more relevant.

Bing and Yell.com

Bing too allows businesses to list themselves online and it’s important to ensure that directories such as Yell.com have an optimised listing. Again, as with Google, this can be done simply and for free. For yell.com for example, a business simply claims the information Yell.com already holds by creating an account and completing the relevant information about the services, products and company information.

Brand Consistency

The importance of maintaining consistency throughout all online entries on Google Places and Yell.com is also very important (as explained in this excellent SEOmoz Whiteboard Takeover from October 2011 on brand domination in the search results). If for example a business uses the abbreviation ‘Ltd’ in their company name, then they should make sure they use this abbreviation everywhere, rather than using ‘Limited’.

The aim here is to give Google consistent information so that it begins to recognise a brand online from several different sources. If consistency isn’t apparent, then Google naturally gets confused – how is it supposed to know that all the multiple entries of a business online are the same if names are spelt slightly differently or main telephone numbers are different for example? If Google can’t tell, why should it ensure regular page one listings for a business in the SERPs? The more consistent entries a business has across different sources tells Google that it’s important – which ultimately can assist with good rankings, both for websites and for Google Places listings.

It’s also just good practice.

Contact Landingnet

If you’d like further information or advice about free local search listings on Google Places or elsewhere, please get in touch.