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BrightonSEO 2014: Two Ex-Googlers & A Link Builder Debate 'The Reality of SEO'

Written by Craig Charley – Thu 24 Apr 2014

We always look forward to the panel debates at BrightonSEO as the discussion is more open. It's even better when they involve ex-members of the Google Search Quality team (and a "former" spammer).

Moderated by theMediaFlow's Nichola Stott, this year's panel included Fili Wiese and Kaspar Szymanski, both ex-Google turned SEO Consultant, and Gareth Hoyle, representing LinkRisk.

Watch the full panel debate

Key Takeaways

  • You cannot recover from a penalty with just a disavow file, you have to do link removal
  • Google is using the disavow tool to crowdsource bad links/domains
  • A bad link is any link "made for SEO"
  • Link building is fine, as long as you build for traffic
  • Google can tell if a link is getting clicked or not
  • Negative SEO is far less common that it is talked about, it is usually a spam attack or result of miscommunication
  • Sites hit by negative SEO are never clean to start with
  • There are hundreds of reasons that your site might drop in Google, not always a penalty, so do discovery on your own site, don't look for answers on the internet
  • Google focus on users, not SEOs/webmasters, so there is always going to be collateral damage
  • You can't recover from a penalty and then delete your disavow file, Google keeps track of everything and will find out
  • Second penalties are much harder to recover from that first ones

BrightonSEO 2014 Panel Debate Reality of SEO

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Scaled to Death: Is Guest Blogging Still Worth It?

Written by Craig Charley – Sun 07 Jul 2013

Update 09/07: Search Engine Land have reported that Google's John Mueller has twice stated that if you are guest blogging for links, then those links should be nofollowed. This is stronger proof than ever that Google considers guest post links a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines and it's a matter of time until we see some sort of 'guest post link penalty'. I think this should be taken with a pinch of salt so you shouldn't rush out and nofollow all your posts, but you should definitely think about the kinds of sites you are writing for and the quality of your content.

Nearly two years since we wrote about guest blogging as the next big thing for SEO and link building, it's time to look at how guest posting has changed, the impact of scaling and whether it's still a valuable SEO technique.

It's important to remember that content marketing is not just guest blogging. Find out exactly what it is on our Content Marketing Course or read our Content Marketing Guide.

guest-blogging-in-2013

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Big Wins that Last - Why Big Evergreen Content is the Best Content Strategy

Written by Craig Charley – Sun 21 Apr 2013

In 2013, most businesses realise the importance of content. That's why so many SEO agencies are repositioning themselves as content agencies, or at least offering it as a primary product. Our Content Marketing courses used to attract mainly bloggers, but since the Panda and Penguin Google updates we have seen a large increase in SEOs wanting to learn about content.

Yet this mass conversion to content brings up some issues - there is too much noise. Most businesses are still stuck in an outdated content strategy - regular, mediocre quality blog posts with little intent. The content is happening, but is it working?

With content at the forefront of so many marketing strategies, it seems at first glance that big businesses have a massive advantage. Whole in-house marketing teams as well as high profile agencies on hand to craft incredible content. How does a small business compete against this with a 1-3 person marketing team?

Big Evergreen Content

Big Evergreen Content

The idea for this post was sparked by Hannah Smith's talk at BrightonSEO 'Go Big or Go Home' (excellent write up on State of Search), which prompted me to revisit Dr. Pete's SEOmoz post at the end of last year 'Why Big Content Is Worth the Risk'. Both Hannah and Dr. Pete explain why big content is necessary and how it can help your business stand out in a very crowded world of below par blog posts:

"We all want the low-hanging fruit, but let’s be honest – the low-hanging fruit is rotten, bruised, and covered with the grubby fingerprints of all the other spoiled brats pawing at it."

The consensus of both the talk and the post is that big content takes around 40 hours to produce. Hannah compared this to an average 12 hours for 'small content' but I think that's a huge overestimation for the majority of businesses. James Carson recently alerted Twitter to the existence of a job ad for an agency looking for a Marketing Executive who for £18,000 a year had to write 25 blog posts a day. That's well over 6,000 articles a year on a range of topics, written by somebody with little knowledge about the subject and obviously no research.

With that much noise, it's important to be different to break through, and that's where big content comes in. But I'm going to go a step further and ask you to consider another element - sustainability. Another popular topic at BrightonSEO, and a common phrase in marketing blogs at the moment is Evergreen Content.

In the rest of this post I'm going to try and convince you why your content should be both big and evergreen for the holy grail of content marketing.

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Optimising Business Pages for Facebook Graph Search

Written by Craig Charley – Wed 16 Jan 2013

Last night Facebook announced Facebook Graph Search, putting to rest the many rumours surrounding the cryptic launch event in Los Angeles.

These rumours included Facebook Mobile & an external search engine, but the most popular rumour turned out to be spot on - Facebook has radically overhauled their internal search function in a move that should frighten other social networks, traditional search engines and privacy advocates alike.

Introducing Facebook Graph Search

There are already tons of posts about the new search function and very few people have access yet (you can sign up for beta here), so instead we are going to focus on how brands (and individuals) can optimise to appear higher and more frequently in search results. One of those lucky few to get early access was Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, so head over there for a full run down of how Facebook Graph Search works.

It's very interesting that Facebook is the first social network to bring out a search engine like this. On our SEO courses and social media workshops we emphasise how you can use social media to help rank better in search engines, maybe now we'll have to include a section on using SEO to rank better in social networks!

How Does Visibility Work with Facebook Graph Search?

Mark Zuckerberg may claim that Graph Search isn't a direct competitor to Google, but it's still a search engine and so there will always be ways to rank higher. Facebook have managed to produce something that Google have been working on for a while - an Internet of Things. Instead of a database of web pages, they have a database of information on things - likes, photos, businesses, people, jobs, locations and many more - and can distinguish between these items.

facebook-graph-search-logo

Your visibility rests on how your business is connected to searchers - the more of their friends have connected with you, the more visible you are in their search results. But this can be just one of many factors affecting your visibility, including:

  • Total number of likes
  • Total number of check-ins
  • The level of engagement on your page
  • How often people talk about your business
  • The frequency that people check in/ engage
  • The recency of check-ins/ engagement
  • Your location
  • Your potential reach (are your likes/check-ins just local or are people coming from further afield?)

There are likely to be many more I haven't thought of, and the impact of each is determined by the type of search performed.

If a searcher is looking for businesses their friends like, then that will be the major factor. If they're looking for businesses in their area then total likes and of course location will have more of an impact.

But it's not just friends! You can search using an overwhelming number of factors. My favourite example of this is again from Danny Sullivan - "Search for Restaurants run by employees of a particular cooking school". So it's not just about number of connections, but about the type and value of those connections.

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Google Data Highlighter - How to Mark Up Events

Written by Craig Charley – Thu 13 Dec 2012

Google have just announced an incredible new Data Highlighter in Webmaster Tools which allows you to mark up events on your site with simple point-and-click actions.

This is a life saver for webmasters who want to add structured data to their sites but don't have the skills to implement microdata, microformats or RDFa on their site.

For those unfamiliar with structured data markup, it is code added to a site, page or page element that makes content more understandable to search engines and other crawlers which is then translated into Rich Snippets - extra information shown in SERPs with your result. Previously, this would involve marking up elements individually using tags like schemas but now with Google's new Data Highlighter even those with no understanding of HTML can markup certain elements.

Internet of Things

The idea behind Structured Data is to take the internet beyond just an archive of 'pages' and instead becomes an 'internet of things' - something that search engines are racing to be the best at. It's something Facebook does - recognising people, relationships, faces and interests. Google are on the right track with authors, publishers, knowledge graph and semantic search but they need the help of webmasters to take this a step further.

Structured data is vital for SEO - something we're looking to add to our SEO courses - not only does it help search engines understand your content but also gives you more visibility in SERPs. Likewise it's a must for content marketers - not so much for blog posts but for other content that needs clear labelling.

Currently the Data Highlighter tool just for events, but we believe that if this test is successful then other elements will be supported. Google made a similar move by making authorship markup (rel=author) easier to implement using email verification rather than tags.

How to Use Google Data Highlighter

Google Data HighlighterThe main point of Google's new Data Highlighter tool is that it is dead simple to use. It just requires a Webmaster Tools account and (of course) events on your website.

Disclaimer: If you're thinking "I love the sound of extra real estate in SERPs, but I don't have events, I had better set some up!" then please stop right there. Tools like these only work if they're not abused. If you must, think hard about what real event you could put on - it could be a talk, a free session or a demonstration - just don't set up fake events.

Firstly, log in to your Webmaster Tools account, click on Optimization in the sidebar and select Data Highlighter. Then click the big red 'Start Highlighting' button.

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