Posted by Modesto Siotos
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
Matt Cutts’ statement in March 2012 that Google would be rolling out an update against “overoptimised” websites, caused great turmoil within the SEO community. A few days later thousands of blogs were removed from Google’s index and Matt tweeted confirming that Google had started taking action against blog networks.
Even though thousands of low-quality blogs of low or average authority were manually removed from Google’s index, they weren’t the only victims. For instance, www.rachaelwestdesigns.com, a PR7, DA70 domain was also removed, probably due to the very high number of blog roll (site-wide) backlinks.
These actions indicate that the new update on “overoptimised” websites has already begun to roll out but it is uncertain how much of it we have seen so far.
At around the same time Google sent to thousands webmasters the following message via message via Google’s Webmaster Tools:
In the above statement, it is unclear what Google’s further actions will be. In any case, working out the number of “artificial” or “unnatural links” with precision is a laborious, almost impossible task. Some low quality links may not be reported by third party link data providers, or even worse, because Google has started deindexing several low quality domains, the task can end-up being a real nightmare as several domains cannot be found even in Google’s index.
Nevertheless, there are some actions that can help SEOs assess the backlink profile of any website. Because, in theory, any significant number of low quality links could hurt, it would make sense gathering as many data as possible and not just examine the most recent backlinks. Several thousand domains have already been removed from Google’s index, resulting in millions of links being completely devalued according to Distilled’s Tom Anthony (2012 Linklove).
Therefore, the impact on the SERPs has already been significant and as always happens in these occasions there will be new winners and losers once the dust settles. However, at this stage it is be a bit early to make any conclusions because it is unclear what Google’s next actions are going to be. Nevertheless, getting ready for those changes would make perfect sense, and spotting them as soon as they occur would allow for quicker decision making and immediate actions, as far as link building strategies are concerned.
As Pedro Dias, an Ex-Googler from the search quality/web spam team tweetted, “Link building, the way we know it, is not going to last until the end of the year” (translated from Portuguese).
The Right Time For a Backlinks Risk Assessment
Carrying out a backlinks audit in order to identify the percentage of low-quality backlinks would be a good starting point. A manual, thorough assessment would only be possible for relatively small websites as it is much easier to gather and analyse backlinks data – for bigger sites with thousands of backlinks that would be pointless. The following process expands on Richard Baxter’s solution on ‘How to check for low quality links‘, and I hope it makes it more complete.
- Identify as many linking root domains as possible using various backlinks data sources.
- Check the ToolBar PageRank (TBPR) for all linking root domains and pay attention on the TBPR distribution
- Work out the percentage of linking root domains that has been deindexed
- Check social metrics distribution (optional)
- Repeat steps 2,3 and 4 periodically (e.g. weekly, monthly) and check for the following:
- A spike towards the low end of the TBPR distribution
- Increasing number of deindexed linking root domains on a weekly/monthly basis
- Unchanged numbers of social metrics, remaining in very low levels
A Few Caveats
The above process does come with some caveats but on the whole, it should provide some insight and help making a backlinks’ risk assessment in order to work out a short/long term action plan. Even though the results may not be 100% accurate, it should be fairly straightforward to spot negative trends over a period of time.
Data from backlinks intelligence services have flaws. No matter where you get your data from (e.g. Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, Blekko, Sistrix) there is no way to get the same depth of data Google has. Third party tools are often not up to date, and in some cases the linking root domains are not even linking back anymore. Therefore, it would make sense filtering all identified linking root domains and keep only those still linking to your website. At iCrossing we use a proprietary tool but there are commercial link check services available in the market (e.g. Buzzstream, Raven Tools).
ToolBar PageRank gets updated infrequently (roughly 4-5 times in a year), therefore in most cases the returned TBPR values represent the TBPR the linking root domain gained in the the last TBPR update. Therefore, it would be wise checking out when TBPR was last updated before making any conclusions. Carrying out the above process straight after a TBPR update would probably give more accurate results. However, in some cases Google may instantly drop a site’s TBPR in order to make public that the site violates their quality guidelines and discourage advertisers. Therefore, low TBPR values such as n/a, (greyed out) or 0 can in many cases flag up low quality linking root domains.
Deindexation may be natural. Even though Google these days is deindexing thousands of low quality blogs, coming across a website with no indexed pages in Google’s SERPs doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been penalised. It may be an expired domain that no longer exists, an accidental deindexation (e.g. a meta robots noindex on every page of the site), or some other technical glitch. However, deindexed domains that still have a positive TBPR value could flag websites that Google has recently removed from its index due to guidelines violations (e.g. link exchanges, PageRank manipulation).
For large data sets NetPeak Checker performs faster than SEO Tools, where large data sets can make Excel freeze for a while. NetPeak checker is a standalone free application which provides very useful information for a given list of URLs such as domain PageRank, page PageRank, Majestic SEO data, OSE data (PA, DA, mozRank, mozTrust etc), server responses (e.g. 404, 200, 301) , number of indexed pages in Google and a lot more. All results can then be exported and processed further in Excel.
1. Collect linking root domains
Identifying as many linking root domains as possible is fundamental and relying in just one data provided isn’t ideal. Combining data from Web master tools, Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer may be enough but the more data, the better especially if the examined domain has been around for a long time and has received a large number of backlinks over time. Backlinks from the same linking root domain should be removed so we end up with a long list of unique linking root domains. Also, not found (404) linking root domains should also be removed.
2. Check PageRank distribution
Once a good number of unique linking root domains has been identified, the next step is scrapping the ToolBar PageRank for each one of them. Ideally, this step should be applied only on those root domains that are still linking to our website. The ones that don’t should be discarded if not too complicated. Then, using a pivot chart in Excel, we can conclude whether the current PageRank distribution should be a concern or not. A spike towards the lower end values (such as 0s and n/a) should be treated as a rather negative indication as in the graph below.
3. Check for deindexed root domains
Working out the percentage of linking root domains which are not indexed is essential. If deindexed linking root domains still have a positive TBPR value, most likely they have been recently deindexed by Google.
4. Check social metrics distribution (optional)
Adding in the mix the social metrics (e.g. Facebook Likes, Tweets and +1s) of all identified linking root domains may be useful in some cases. The basic idea here is that low quality websites would have a very low number of social mentions as users wouldn’t find them useful. Linking root domains with low or no social mentions at all could possibly point towards low quality domains.
5. Check periodically
Repeating the steps 2, 3 and 4 on a weekly or monthly basis, could help identifying whether there is a negative trend due to an increasing number of linking root domains being of removed. If both the PageRank distribution and deindexation rates are deteriorating, sooner or later the website will experience rankings drops that will result in traffic loss. A weekly deindexation rate graph like the following one could give an indication of the degree of link equity loss:
Note: For more details on how to set-up NetPeak and apply the above process using Excel please refer to my post on Connect.icrossing.co.uk.
Remedies & Actions
So far, several websites have seen ranking drops as a result of some of their linking root domains being removed from Google’s index. Those with very low PageRank values and low social shares over a period of time should be manually/editorially reviewed in order to assess their quality. Such links are likely to be devalued sooner or later, therefore a new link building strategy should be devised. Working towards a more balanced PageRank distribution should be the main objective, links from low quality websites will keep naturally coming up to some extent.
In general, the more authoritative & trusted a website is, the more low quality linking root domains could be linking to it without causing any issues. Big brands’ websites are less likely to be impacted because they are more trusted domains. That means that low authority/trust websites are more at risk, especially if most of their backlinks come from low quality domains, have a high number of site-wide links, or if their backlink profile consists of unnatural anchor text distribution.
Therefore, if any of the above issues have been identified, increasing the website’s trust, reducing the number of unnatural site-wide links and making the anchor text distribution look more natural should be the primary remedies.
About the author
Modesto Siotos (@macmodi) works as a Senior Natural Search Analyst for iCrossing UK, where he focuses on technical SEO issues, link tactics and content strategy. Modesto is happy to share his experiences with others and posts regularly on Connect, a UK digital marketing blog.
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Those first few weeks when you start a new job are hard. You’re trying to learn names, fit in, feel out the culture and, oh yeah, learn your job.
It’s such a relief when you finally feel like you’re not just hanging on, but actually know what you’re doing. (Monotony sets in later, but that’s another cartoon. . .)
I remember coming home after a few weeks into a new position and telling my wife that I felt like l’d finally gotten into a groove, which I then modeled with my own particular brand of dance. The above cartoon wasn’t far behind. (Who says disco is dead?)
When you’re in business, the lessons seem to come from every direction – it’s true in life as well. In fact, the more we learn and apply, the better our lives can be – and the more quickly we can move our businesses forward. Here are some quick lessons from three of our Small Business Trends experts.
Experience: Does It Cost Too Much?
In “On Experience, Reflection and Change in Business” John Marriotti says, “The worst thing about experience is that you have to live through things to get it, and that can sometimes be painful.” Of course, just because you lived through it doesn’t mean you learned from it. Sometimes people go through the same types of situations multiple times before the lessons click and stick. Personally, I’m trying to get it the first time, if I can. Pain is not fun.
John says, “How the situations turn out makes a lot of difference in what kind of learning occurs—positive (‘do that again’)—or negative (‘don’t do that again’).” My dad called them “from now ons” and “never agains.” Many of the systems I use in my business now come from these “from now on” and “never again” moments.
But if you really want to leverage your learning, then gain knowledge from your experiences as well as the people around you. That’s what books, training, videos, conferences and the like are all about—gaining knowledge from another person’s mess and/or success. The people we study and spend time with mentor different areas of our business and save us the cost of learning the hard way.
Emotions: What Can They Tell You About Yourself and Your Business?
We have been taught to leave emotions out of business. But the human condition comes with emotions, one way or another. Passion and excitement are emotions that can sometimes fuel a team’s creativity. Anger and rage are emotions too.
We can’t get away from emotions, because we’re human. It’s the way we are wired. But we can pay attention to and regulate our emotions. In “Are Your Emotions Helping or Hindering You?,” Susan L. Reid highlights the relationship between emotions and energy. Here are some key points that stood out to me:
- Your Focus Determines Your Energy. Susan says, “Low-energy feelings of lethargy or boredom indicate that there is very little focused energy being summoned at the moment.” She explained that the high energy of being passionate and excited and angry are directly connected to your focus. More focus leads to more energy.
- If Your Energy Is Low, Change Your Focus. Susan discusses what happens when you have an idea that excites you (high energy) but in the coming days you find yourself afraid, in doubt (low energy) and ready to abandon it. “Instead of discarding your great idea as ‘wasn’t meant to be,’ Susan writes, “consider what your emotions are telling you from an energetic perspective. . . Before you give up on implementing your great business idea, experiment with focusing your thoughts exclusively on what you want.”
We are in control of ourselves. I love the idea that we can change our minds about fear, our business, our dreams. Choose to focus on the things and the actions that lead to success.
Attitude: Are You the Only Important Person in the Room?
In “Why You Should Start With a Smile,” Yvonne DiVita explains some lessons she learned from a conference she attended in Toronto. She shares “Five ways to connect without really trying” and “Five ways to really screw things up.”
They are simple tips that ultimately suggest how and why you should “Start with a smile. End with a firm handshake,” as Yvonne puts it. In others words, act like people matter. It’s good for business.
Making the best decisions in your field can always be enhanced by the wisdom of mentors. But what if your mentors slip away one by one along your professional journey? Any hero would buckle if such a challenge was encountered continuously. That happened for executive Carolyn E. Mosby-Williams, and is detailed in her autobiography Unflappable. It was written with Lisa DeNeal, a veteran journalist and correspondent at the Post-Tribune in Gary, Indiana.
You may not have heard of Carolyn Mosby-Williams (who has begun going by Carolyn E. Mosby since the book’s publication), but if you’re a Hoosier you certainly know her mother, the late Indiana Senator Carolyn Brown Mosby. Sen. Mosby fought for the economic vitality of Gary, Indiana, which has seen hard times. Her last major act was the passage of a referendum that permitted casinos in Indiana.
Mosby-Williams shares a series of personal losses – the cancerous tumor that hindered her mother; the prostate cancer of her mentor, Indiana Black Expo president Rev. Charles Williams; and the coma of a boyfriend suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The book delves into Mosby-Williams’ management of her life and how she grew from the trials.
I purchased a copy after connecting with the author on Facebook and to support a Gary native who happened to graduate from my high school. Mosby-Williams, who now lives in Indianapolis, was a board member of the Indiana Black Expo, one of the largest black business trade shows in the country. She was recently appointed president and CEO of the Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council. While the book focuses on Mosby-Williams’ tribute to her mother and her own growth, hints of Northwest Indiana and black history are infused in the story as well, showcasing how a memoir can inform the reader.
Where a Fighter’s Spirit Comes From
The book introduces the reader to the Mosby family. John Oliver Mosby, retired from his own janitorial contract business, raised his daughter with a “whimsical approach to life…He was not lazy…He just had a contented aura of peace and leisure about him.” But it was following Sen. Carolyn Mosby, born in Nashville but raised in Gary, that gave Mosby-Williams the budding communication and media skills learned from helping her mother with her first campaign.
The elder Carolyn also gave her daughter wonderful exposure to thoughtful people, such as the faculty at the University of Chicago “who were noted intellectuals in American history….including Milton Friedman, who won the Nobel prize in economic science…[and novelist] Saul Bellow….” For Mosby-Williams, the Senator became “the master craftsman that constructed my foundation.” Mosby-Williams would later establish her own introductions, having worked with notable actors, celebrities and professionals.
Readers familiar with Indiana will quickly identify local nuances as Unflappable deftly weaves much of the last 40 years of the state’s history with Carolyn’s coming of age. You’ll read about the abandonment of downtown Gary due to racial tensions, and local institutions such as radio station WLTH.
The casino legislation was a hallmark for Sen. Mosby. East Chicago and Hammond opened casinos soon after the first two casinos opened in Gary. Opposition existed, as a family friend, a leader at a popular church, demonstrated against the bill. If you are a reader from an economically overlooked community, you’ll relate to the struggle Sen. Mosby led to develop an opportunity. The struggle is made more poignant as Sen. Mosby discovered her tumor at the time the legislation passed.
How a Business Rose Remains a Rose by Any Other Name
While some books like Guitar Lessons (see the review) incorporate industry insights, Unflappable uniquely unveils Mosby-Williams’ professional insights through her personal relationships, much like author Atul Gawande’s medical perspective of the checklist in The Checklist Manifesto (see the review). Below, Mosby-Williams explains how her professional life in communications and media intertwines with her personal choices.
“If you dated me, you were also dating my career and IBE. You were immediately thrown into the craziness of Expo and all that it entailed….People who are not in communications or in the media do not understand the hours of work required to make sure [attendees] have a great time…Not maintaining a cooperative, businesslike and cordial relationship with the media can result in major scrutiny if something problematic happens.”
Reveals like this can connect to young professionals who see media opportunities but are also unaware of a business’s potential impact on a personal life. Mosby-Williams keeps it real about her personal trials, but never descends to the paparazzi-tell-it-on-TMZ level. She mentions some of her youthful indulgences, but she does so to show that these episodes don’t have to overwhelm a work ethic, one which now finds her up at 4 or 5 in the morning: “Any of my friends would tell you that while they are asleep, I am already in the middle of the schedule for the day.”
Unflappable offers distinctive wisdom for young entrepreneurs and professionals who are in the midst of personal decisions and need to see how a leader considers her choices. There are no how-to processes like the one Living a Richer Life offers. Instead, the book complements such approaches by offering poignant insights like the women featured in Jewels (see the review).
Mosby-Williams writes with the savvy that one would expect from a professional who successfully led PR assignments for corporations, a political campaign and a major expo before reaching the age of 30. She also displays how much family can influence your leadership with mentions of her grandmother, part of the inspiration for the name of her PR firm.
Aretha Franklin once sang a song of inner strength and beauty called A Rose Is Still a Rose. When one considers their own “inner rose,” sometimes one needs to know the realities of the care required to make that rose bloom. If you know a young adult trying to cope with a life challenge or in reflection, you may want to give them Unflappable. It’s a beacon of where their lives can take them–with the right balance.
Users of Google+ are quickly coming to the conclusion that one of the game changing features offered up by this new social network is the following and sharing filter called Circles.
For those that have not yet wandered into G+, you can segment those you follow into groups (circles) with the idea that this gives you the ability to share selectively – business contacts get business stuff, family and friends get pictures of cats doing funny things, etc.
One of the things that is plain to see, even in just a week of exploring G+, the world of online users have learned a great deal more about how to use social networks than just 3 or so years ago when we all jumped into Twitter.
Instead of blindly building followings people seem to be using the Circles tool specifically as a way to meter the stream of information and perhaps focus on smaller numbers in an attempt to limit the eventual overwhelm and uselessness that comes with large unfocused followings.
In a way G+ is acting as a bit of a do over for the early business users of Facebook that now find it harder to keep business and personal separate. This is by no means a proclamation that Facebook is dead, I’m simply finding in the early stages of G+ that people are using G+ in a way that differs from some other networks. That too will likely evolve.
Because the act of creating circles and then determining who goes where is so central to G+ it presents an opportunity to address the thinking process that goes into how we analyze these circles. I for one think it illustrates one of the most profound changes in social network use.
Instead of simply categorizing the default sounding demographic type circles such as family, acquaintances and coworkers, I’m seeing a move towards circles that consist of a focus on content – or what you expect to hear and how you expect to interact with members of a circle being the guiding light.
While Google Plus suggests some generic names for your first circles you are free to create and name as many as you like (there may be a limit, but not aware of one).
The image in this post was my attempt (humorous or not) to illustrate how I believe people are really thinking about their circles. I first published this image on G+ and it was shared over 1000 times by users, so I think others are sensing this and feeling this and struggling with this as well.
If you’ll allow me to get a little geeky here, this to me is the exciting part of the world we live in today – not that we have this new, new thing to go on about, but that change, evolution and growth are all organic parts of the social web and what may seem valid or not today will surely change as more and more people come to grips with practical uses for each new member of the parade of tools.
I’ve often said the difference between sales and marketing is that marketing owns the message and sales owns the relationship.
Harvest by St0rmz
Some folks suggest that the onslaught of social media, content publishing and real-time search has rendered the need for a traditional sales department unnecessary and to that I still contend: sales still owns the relationship. While content and context are easier to put out there, online connection and community are still best supplied by a person.
So, the fundamental purpose of a professional salesperson has change little, but the function of an effective salesperson in today’s content-driven environment has changed dramatically.
The skills once required, and sadly still taught in most sales training programs, are no longer applicable and organizations and independent salespeople that get this are exploring, evolving and adopting an inbound selling mindset.
Below are five ways that content marketing has changed selling.
1) Listen over say
Salespeople have always been taught to probe, listen and offer solutions. Well, in today’s world they must listen intently before they ever pick up the phone, send an e-mail or draw up a solution.
Salespeople must monitor the social graph of a prospect in order to begin to mine for opportunities, frustrations and buying signals. They must also be adept at constructing ways to put the pieces of information together in a package that opens doors and starts relationship building.
2) Insight over information
A great deal of the salesperson’s role at one time was to deliver information. Most salespeople today face the possibility that a prospect may actually know as much or more about the product, service or solution being offered as the salesperson doing the offering.
Today’s salesperson must provide context and meaning, must aggregate and filter and must become a resource of insight for today’s information overloaded buyer.
3) Proof over promise
Price is a direct reflection of the buyer’s perceived value. This doesn’t always mean it’s a reflection of the true value or even rational reflection of value, but the ROI question will never go away unless, and until, an organization can show proof of value rather than promised value peppered throughout marketing materials.
Today’s salesperson must commit to working deeply with clients to help measure and communicate true value received as a completion of the sales process. With that piece in place, today’s salesperson can offer proof as part of the trust-building, lead-conversion process.
4) Publish over prospect
Marketing departments around the world are scrambling to feed the market’s expectation that they can instantly find content on any subject or need imaginable. Search engine usage has made consistent content production mandatory.
Few salespeople see writing content as a good use of their time, but it’s a skill that today’s successful salesperson has embraced. Not every organization will allow their salespeople to blog, but the ones that do have the opportunity to create a stream of content that is potentially informed with real-life customer stories and experiences. Smart salespeople have also begun to curate content as a way to become a resource for their clients as well.
5) Harvest over hunt
This last change probably runs counter to traditional selling as any of the others outlined above because it sounds so passive. Salespeople have been taught to hit the street, knock on doors and close deals.
The problem is the street is closed, the doors are made of bits and no one answers the phone anymore.
Working the soil, planting seeds and watering the harvest with care is the new metaphor for turning “know,” “like” and “trust” into “try,” “buy,” “repeat” and “refer.”
This post originally appeared on American Express OPENForum
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
The title to today’s post is a thought that’s making the rounds these days as Google announced that their new social network, Google Plus, added 10 million users in the first two weeks of limited beta launch.
A great deal of the conversation is decidedly skewed as much of the buzz is coming from hard core social media users and those predisposed to move away from Facebook, but none the less, this is a valid question.
I asked my Facebook followers if Google Plus had impacted their time on Facebook and over 50% claimed they were not yet Google Plus users. At the root of the question, however, is the issue of time. No matter what happens we only have so much budget for business building activities such as social networking and something is going to have to give. It’s like a family budget, if you buy a new car you might not go on vacation – it doesn’t mean the auto industry has targeted the travel industry, but they’ve impacted them anyway.
I think the same is true as people consider their available social time budget – something’s gotta give – it’s yet to be seen clearly what that something is, but it may not be as obvious as another social network such at Facebook.
For some perspective I turned to a guy that’s still very bullish on Facebook. Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable – How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks) .
In this interview, Kerpen addresses the obvious success of Google Plus, but is quick to point out that Facebook’s place is still firmly rooted in the hundreds of millions of users that spend hours on the network every day. Kerpen’s take is that people don’t want to create yet another network on another social platform.
Kerpen also points to the killer targeting aspects of Facebook’s platform as reason enough to still engage and use the network. Kerpen emphatically states, “You know what’s cooler than 750 million people on Facebook? Being able to target the 750 that are your perfect prospects.” He goes on to tell a story about how he targeted a birthday wish ad that only his wife could see.
My take is that we have some interesting times ahead and we may very likely see a shift in audiences coming.
So, what’s your take?
You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
I’ve owned my own business long enough to have experienced many things. I’ve seen what happens when I’m impatient, when I try to be something I’m not, when I trust my gut, when I overcome fear, when I wait something out, when I start something, when I finish something, when it’s time to move on, what it’s like to start over, what it’s like to commit fully and what it’s like to let go and embrace whatever happens.
But, mostly I’ve come to understand that if there’s no tinge chaos, no doubt about what’s going on around me, no lingering sense of unknown – nothing magical will happen.
My best work, I’ve discovered, is to construct questions – not to have all the answers.
I believe anyone has the ability to create the most remarkable business ever imagined and to do so only requires letting go of the need for what most define as order. So often we are so afraid of own chaos that we try to copy the rules, methods and processes of others in an attempt to mask it.
We fear above all else that this chaos might make us look foolish as we attempt to fashion something that we hope is art.
It is the illusion that this fear creates that leads us to generate businesses that are lifeless and dreary.
I’m not suggesting that we throw all process to the wind and intentionally build businesses that don’t serve, I’m am suggesting however, that this seeming chaos which we feel is actually a laughing, singing, dancing, remarkable order or its own.
If we can only find a way to embrace this order, the businesses we build will be the kind that feed the heart and soul.
This is strategy, this is culture, this is customer – this is the essence of a business that’s truly alive – embrace it.