Making Google Panda EXTINCT in 2012 by using the Right Content!

If you look at the Search Engine Marketing forums on the web, you will often see pleas for help regarding Google’s Panda update, these asking EXACTLY what is needed to get back lost rankings.

If you follow the chatter further, you will see that people have tried to remove the penalties by adding more and more content, a process that rarely seems to have worked. But why is this, was not the main thing that Google were trying to achieve more content?

This is the issue, as people think that just adding new (or more) content to your site will reverse their Panda issues, but they are wrong, research has shown that you need to add the right kind of content and perhaps will need to make other major changes to your Web site.

The sites that have been worst hit by Panda have one or more of the following problems to deal with:-

  • Duplicated content
  • Excessive use of manufacturer descriptive text (often from xml feeds)
  • Non-unique content
  • Excessive on-site ads
  • Poor on-page optimization

Google Have Tried to Help (a little)

But you cannot say that Google have not tried to help (even if it was a bit late in the day) as in May 2011 Google’s Amit Singhal posted an item on the Webmaster Central Blog:-

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

The post gave some insight into how Google assess a high quality site, there being over twenty questions on the content of a site. Just how Google’s systems actually check all these is a marvel (and perhaps some are done by humans?) but if Google are pointing to them, then they must be worth checking up on.

How to get back into Google’s Good Book

So, WHICH content is going to get your site back in Google’s good graces? Well the answer appears to be User Generated Content, or  (UGC).

The next question must therefore me “What is UGC?”

Basically, “User Generated Content” is content that users adds to a web site or which you add as a result of discussions with them

UGC includes any of the following:

  • Customer testimonials
  • Product or service ratings
  • Product and service customer reviews
  • Discussion boards
  • Customer or site-driven WIKIs
  • Product tutorials (video or text-driven)
  • How-to guides or FAQ’s
  • Company or customer interviews
  • Social media content (blog comments, likes, tweets, etc.)

All this sounds to me to be very much like a Forum, as these often serve a niche community, a community that adds content, and promotes and shares that content to others.

This could also of course be achieved by the use of a Blog.

The Blog – the Bridge Between Websites and Social Media

This idea is nothing new, and at Serendipity we have been pushing the idea of a blog being the ‘link’, the bridge between a website and the Social Media for months now. The reason behind this simply being that Social Media Signal is increasingly becoming important to Search Engine rankings, something that is now being found to be fact, Google, via Panda, effectively demanding the sort of content that a blog will provide.

The Emotional Connection

However, word on the street is that even good content won’t be enough any more, no, you also need content that will make an emotional connection with your audience, and thus provide content that they will take on board and run with, posting on Facebook and Tweeting as they go.

To make this emotional connection is in my view not that easy, but for a start you can consider providing content that is

  • Funny
  • Informative
  • Educational
  • Or
  • Just plain shocking (although this is risky)

My advice is to first ensure that your site has reached the first base here, in that it has good relevant unique content, and then work on the emotional connection. Whatever you do, you can rest assured that many will do less, and that will give you the advantage, so do what you can and do it as soon as you can.

Rankings and the traffic they bring are not enough

Many people think that making money on the Internet is as easy as 1 – 2  – 3.

After all, so their reasoning goes, all I have to do is

  1. Have a good product or service
  2. Create a website that will sell these goods or services
  3. Get traffic to the site via Rankings on the Engines or some other way (Although if the truth be known, many do not even consider this a requirement, thinking that the traffic will just come in by itself – See our video on Marketing & Mousetraps)

Well the fact of the matter is that for many sites, especially those want to sell online, that there is another mountain to climb. This mountain concerns the matter of trust, for when you are wanting someone to give you money, they must have enough trust in you before they will be willing so to do.

One sure way to throw away any trust is to have a site that looks out of date or when it has a ‘Contact Us’ page that does not work. If a potential customer sees either of these they are likely top get worried.

This was the case when I was looking to buy a toy tank on the web. I found one that looked OK, however the site’s blog had not been updated since 2009 and then the ‘contact page’ did not work. Sure the Paypal link still worked, but would using that do anything other than give my money to someone, someone who I might have great trouble in getting my money back from?

As this was one of the few places to get this item, I perservered and thought I’d look to see if there were any reviews of the site or comments about the service. There was nothing, not a comment to be found on the web.

Having seen all this I dedcided to steer well clear of the site and hence they did not get the order (mind you they might not be there anymore anyway).

Such things could happen to any site IF it does not work correctly or if there are no reviews or comments abouth them anywhere on the web. For me, the total absence of ‘noise’ on the web was more concerning than some negative comments.

I don’t know if I am in a minority here, but I think not, as in my view people want to KNOW that they are dealing with a REAL business and that they are likely to get GOOD SERVICE.

So make sure your site works and GET some NOISE about your site on the Web…

My Fame and Fortune Day!

Are Fame and Fortune about to be mine?? Well I do wonder after the last week. It certainly was a busy time, not to mention all the ‘compliments’ I received regarding my level of knowledge on Search Engine Marketing and Social Media.

It all started with a phone call from a Marketing student who wanted to interview a local (to Hereford) specialist in Social Media. Emma, for that was her name, was in her final year in college and was studying Marketing, with a hope of moving (excuse the pun) into the Estate Agent / Property business.

I agreed to meet her in Hereford for a coffee and a chat. However, just as I was leaving I got another call, this time from a business in Hereford who wanted someone to help them boost their Organic traffic on Google. I offered to see them after my chat with Emma, and they agreed. So I had two meetings to go too, one to help someone else and hopefully one where I and my customer would both benefit.

The meeting with Emma went very well. Over a very nice coffee in Nero’s (as I said to the last person I met there, I’ll bring a fiddle, you bring a match) in Hereford (not Rome unfortunately) I explained how at SOM we used Social Media for our clients.

The Old World and the New

I was at pains to explain that we did not know it all, and that we were really just taking the first steps into the area, using Blogs as the ‘bridge’ between the ‘old world’ of Search Engine Marketing and the ‘new world’ of Social Media Marketing,.

Emma asked a few questions, but mostly, I answered them without the need for a prompt, and at the end Emma pronounced that she was very happy and that I had covered all her questions (and more). I even gave her some tips about the things she could do now to impress any future employer.

I was then off to my next meeting. That was quite typical, in that the prospective customer had a website that needed more traffic, had been bombarded by countless ‘We can get you to Number 1 on Google’ phone calls that he did not want (or believe) and who was seeking to create a relationship with a SEO / SEM company that they could trust and who was local (a lot of people like dealing locally).

That meeting went very well and hopefully, when we get time to discuss the results of the free survey on the ‘health’ of his SEO we will be given the job of improving their traffic levels.

I’m going to write another Blog about the compliments we received in the week, as one of them was really quite enlightening and deserves a post of its own.

More soon

 

Just how long is that piece of Social Media String?

One of the questions any business gets asked is “How much will the job cost?” and in some cases the answer is “How long is a piece of string?”, at least that is until the job is better specified.

With Social Media however, it seems to me, from my experience in the area so far, and from my discussions with other professionals, that you could in theory spend an infinite amount of time building and maintaining your Social Media presence.

As with anything there must be a point at which further investment would not pay its way, however, I for one, at the moment at least, could not point to any particular level and say ‘enough’, much more time is needed before I could be that definite.

So for now, that piece of string is the length that the customer can afford.

How to Grow Your Blog – A Really Good Resource

Just been altered to this excellent post about how to grow your blog, some 17 ways of making your blog really work for you being listed.

At SOM we have our own methods and in April will be launching both our new look site as well as our new Blogging package (so new we have yet to come up with a name!), but whatever, this article will help all who are interested in making a name for their blog.

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/17-ways-to-grow-your-blog-from-top-bloggers

SCS Does Not Care – Want to join in an experiment?

Anyone who has bought anything will have had some good and bad experiences when it comes to customer service. Some businesses bend over backwards to help, their staff being more than helpful, always there and they always, always listen and help whenever they can, even when, as oft is the case, it is the customer who has got something wrong.

But there are other companies that just don’t seem to care. I have come across two that stick out, one was a company called crazycameras which was based in the USA but made it look like they were a UK business. They were totally impossible, but did not care as they were used to using the ‘Phoenix trick’ whereby they just closed up shop and started trading under a different name. This was an OK strategy (for them) as they had no ‘bricks and mortar’ stores to worry about, just a web site.

Others you would imagine, with a good brand and lots of stores would be more interested in behaving properly, but that is, it seems not always the case. One look at the review sites around the web will tell you that.

So, what have I in mind? Well I have had trouble with SCS and by the looks of it (from those self same review sites) have others. My idea is therefore to see if we can use the weight of public opinion to teach them a lesson, not for my benefit, but to ensure that they change their ways (to protect future customers) and also to give a message out to all businesses that ‘don’t seem to care about people’s views or valid grievances’.

If you would like to join in, then please do two things:-

1. Search on Google for ‘scs sofas does not care’ and click through to my site or if it appears the scs main site.

2. If you can, link to the scs site using the term ‘scs sofas does not care‘ from your blog or Tweet this message using your Twitter account (or mention it on your Facebook page).

As I say, I  am not doing this for any reward, just want to try to get a message to them and others that they must treat the customer in the right way.

Your support is appreciated

Are Businesses Really Worried About Internet Comments?

My recent brush with SCS Sofas has got me thinking. SCS seemed totally unconcerned by the fact that I was going to use the Internet’s review sites, Twitter etc to say what I felt about their lack of good customer service (is this a British disease? – another story perhaps).

This led me to think of the issue I had with Crazy Cameras, as they do did not care, although in their case I have been told they just go for so long and them change their website / company name and just go on doing the same old ‘bad things’ under a different guise.

But with SCS, I thought it would be different, an established brand spending a lot on TV advertising, was one I imagined would be more ‘sensitive’. As it seemed not, I did some research and found that the huge majority of reviews were saying that SCS was rubbish, the customer service angle being one that annoyed people the most (I won’t tell you what the S in ‘S??? Customer Service’ stands for in my view).

This made me think, ‘Heh, was all the fuss that people like Starbucks made when Google started putting Twitter comments in the results just a PR exercise?” I mean were and are they (and companies like them) genuinely worried about what people think about their businesses?? It is said to be a fact that reviews are taken into account by Google when handing out the Google Places positions, so one day perhaps they will do the same for the normal results (they may be now for all we know), and if so that would be a reason to keep a clean nose.

But until then are businesses really worried?? Another reason they may be unconcerned is that of ‘dilution’, as with so many ‘Review’ sites around maybe they are actually diluting the messages about companies so much that they are never heard in a single clear voice?

It must be said that many businesses do keep a close eye on areas like Twitter. Tweet something about a Broadband connection and you will more than likely get a Tweet from BT asking if they can help. Others too I’m sure scan the Twittersphere for their business name or Brand and are quick to comment, all of course to protect their position and maintain good customer relations.

So, I think that some businesses are worried about ‘negative’ comments, whilst others are not.

Perhaps, this is a good test of how a business is likely to treat you as a customer? I say this as if they don’t care enough about the negative comments to mount some form of spirited defence, perhaps they are just either too complacent or as I say ‘not bothered’.

Either way they are best avoided, or at least that is what my experience has shown

How-To: Setup Regular Backups & Secure WordPress

This blog was written by Cat M, a guest author from Axon IT on the EvoHosting blog. She certainly seems to know her stuff and it was that good that I just had to replicate it so that my readers could back up and secure their precious blogs too.

Cat – the author

Over the past few years, WordPress has evolved from much more than just a blogging platform.  While WordPress remains a popular out-of-the-box solution for bloggers, it is widely used as a customisable CMS for business websites, because it allows individuals to regularly update content and manage their site’s functionality.

However, as WordPress is a database-driven application, there are risks associated with the sensitive information stored in the website’s backend.  Should the data within this administration panel get into the wrong hands, there are multiple implications, which is why it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure maximum security.

Aside from the security precautions that can be retrofitted to a default WordPress install to enhance security (some of which will be covered below), data needs to be backed up regularly in the event of a security breach.   While many web hosts offer data protection with their business hosting solutions, it is still important to regularly backup your WordPress databases to a safe location.

Out of the many WordPress database plugins available, WP-DB-Backup is one of the most reliable and secure in terms of setting up regular database backups. WP-DB-Backup works to solve two backup issues: firstly, the ability to backup as and when required (either via a zipped file download, or straight to email); secondly, the ability to schedule backups at regular intervals,  including hourly, daily, and weekly.

In order to use WP-DB-Backup, you need to download the plugin and install it via your WordPress admin area.

Once you have downloaded and installed the plugin, you will find a “Backup” option under “Tools” in the WordPress Dashboard. The scheduled backup section can be found in the bottom half of the page. To configure this plugin, you need to do the following:

  1. First, choose how often you would like your automatic backup to occur. Ideally, you should backup your database daily, especially with large or busy websites.
  2. Secondly, select the tables from the right-hand side that you wish to backup. By default, the core WordPress tables will be backed up; if you want any of your additional plugins to be included in the backups, then you need to select them individually.
  3. Finally, enter the email address you want your backup to be sent to. If you want to backup your databases on a daily basis, then you may want to consider sending your backups to a Gmail account, as Gmail offers large store capacities.

Once you have completed the steps outlined above, simply click the “Schedule Backup” button.   The plugin will automatically begin to create a backup of your WordPress database based on your chosen settings.

These regular backups will provide you with external copies of your data in the event of data loss or corruption. Combined with the data protection and backups provided by your web host, WP-DB-Backup helps ensure you will have always have a recent copy of your WordPress site.

While regular backups are an imperative aspect of securing your website, you can further protect your WordPress site by doing the following:

  1. Install and activate the Login Lockdown WordPress plugin
  2. Install and activate the WP Security Scan plugin
  3. Where possible, ensure your database tables don’t begin with the prefix ‘wp_’
  4. Change the main administrative user account so the default username isn’t ‘admin’
  5. Ensure you are running the latest version of WordPress, and keep your plugins updated

A guest post on the EvoHosting blog by small business IT support specialist axon IT. Along with keeping your online data secured, all of your offline business data (including files, emails and invoices) can be automatically secured with a managed offsite data back-up solution.

Six Essential Marketing Tips for 2011

Just picked up on this blog from http://marketinguk.posterous.com when it arrived in my inbox as a Purple Penguin post.

The first and most important point (in my view) is:-

“No. 1 Start a Blog Starting a blog for your small business is a way to not only improve credibility for your business, but to also bolster your search engine optimisation and social media marketing. Having a blog can build credibility quickly by posting regular updates for your customers and prospects, and giving them the opportunity to leave comments on your articles. This demonstrates that you are transparent about your business and expertise.”

it is said that for 2011, BLOG stands for

Better
Listings
On
Google

and I for one am not disagreeing.

However there is more to be done than just Blogging and the article goes on to say that you also need to

  1. Encourage customer reviews (useful for Google Places / Hotpot too)
  2. Publish Testimonials
  3. Show you know your subject

and also be easy to reach…

All very good information.

May the Fourth Be With You..

Sorry for the Star Wars pun (yes another one on the band wagon) but it is relevant to Search Marketing, as the Fourth Factor in SEO is becoming something that you cannot afford to ignore.

But Hey, you say the Fourth, What are the other three then?

Traditionally Search Engine Optimisation was about two areas, On Page optimisation and Off Page optimisation. The first dealt with the words on the pages and how they ‘talked’ to the Search Engines, whilst the second was all about the links to a site.

Then a third started being banded about. I’m not totally certain just how valid this is, but logically it sounds like it could well be a factor in Google’s algorithm (you know the one that they won’t publish) and that makes it one to bear in mind, at least in my opinion.

Activity – The Third Area of SEO

Basically, the third area is about ‘matching’ the visitor profile (numbers) with the linking profile (number of links), the argument being that if you have a site with lots of links and no visitors then it must (a) be pretty useless or (b) all the links to it have been constructed (i.e planted by an SEO company – shame on them…).

Either way, it is said that Google will consider the site to be of little interest and it will therefore ‘file’ it in the basement, which of course means it rarely, if ever, gets ranked on any results page that is worth having.

So, bear this in mind when doing your SEO. By the way, the best method of getting around this issue is to buy some Adword clicks, that way you are sure to get some traffic and be placed on the Google radar for future reference. Another way, one that overlaps the ‘Fourth’, is to start Tweeting and use the Google URL shortening tool in the Tweets. If you make the Tweet interesting enough you should get a click, which as they use the shortened URL alerts Google to the visit to your site – job done!

But how about the Fourth One then?

The fourth issue is of course SOCIAL MEDIA. By now, anyone following the latest trends in Search Marketing will have picked up on the link between Twitter and Facebook and SERP’S (Search Engine Results Pages).

I am pleased to say that I spotted the link some months before Google and Bing came clean about it all, and am now making very sure that this angle is totally covered, but it is still a new game and one that will take some time to understand in full.

So, if you are interested in getting the very best rankings you can, check out the Google announcement of 2010 and start making sure that you are using the FOURTH (area of SEO) to full effect.

Yoda Rules OK..