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Greg Boser at SEOpen House: Your Post-Penguin Questions Answered

Greg Boser at SEOpen House: Your Post-Penguin Questions Answered

A few weeks ago, we invited Tampa area Internet marketers to our first SEOpen House to talk shop, meet other local marketers, and play some cornhole…

The highlight for many that evening was the Q & A session with our President, Greg Boser. We gave Greg the floor for an hour and let our guests ask him their most burning questions. As expected, he had a lot to say!

We’ve put together the video highlights and summarized some of the key points made by Greg. You can skip to each video using the links below (but I highly recommend watching all of them!):

Greg Boser at SEOpen House

Phase One of Penguin: Duplicate Content vs. Audience Size

Question: Can you comment on Penguin?

Here is the core big picture concept: Google and other search engines have so many more data points that they have to corroborate when they crawl the web. A huge part of these signals are audience and human activity.

Penguin is about finding weak content that has links to you. It’s very strong on links rather than over optimization stuff.

Mimic the link profile of a good site you know Google trusts. Look at their backlinks, how they are structured, and try to replicate that.

You have to be high on the food chain to have a high volume of content. That content needs to be supported by external links and have signs that it’s valid content with an audience demanding more content. The footprint of a non-Panda slapped site has a lot of deep internal linking and articles that are worth reading.

Duplicate content happens a lot. For example, when the Associated Press releases a story and that story gets syndicated across a lot of other high authority sites, this creates a lot of duplicate content.You can see this ripple effect where each site that reproduces that content gets links to their content because they also have an audience. Google can track and see that growth of links as this type of duplication happens.

On the flip side, you have the kind of duplicate content being penalized during phase one of Penguin.

Taking content and spinning it or using an article base is spamming from an algorithmic standpoint. In these instances, Google sees a wave of similar high volume duplication but without the same audience signals as the above instances. No one is clicking on those links, no one is staying on the pages, and there are no RSS subscribers. The content is sitting on a page purely to embed a link that helps someone rank. This is really easy for search engines to see.

Takeaway: The amount that your content can be syndicated and duplicated is directly proportional to the size of your audience.

Phase Two of Penguin:  Over-optimized Internal Anchor Text

This is not happening yet, but based on what Google has been testing to a large degree, Greg sees this coming soon: penalties for over-optimized internal anchor text.

On page over optimization looks behavior you would never do as an actual human.  Real estate agents, lawyers, and the travel space are notorious for this. When every single link on a site says ““St. Pete real estate”, ““Tampa real estate,” etc., you’re being offensive to the intelligence of humans. People are smarter than this, they don’t need you to keep telling them what your page is about.

You know spam when you see it. When you do a search and you click on a link then see too much AdSense, you click the back button and you’re sending Google a negative signal. The back button sends Google the worst signal in the world.

They hate these negative signals so much that if you keep your search history on, these signals will completely change the results you see. Greg says he ends up sending these negative signals a lot when he is just checking out how things rank. If he doesn’t turn this off, within an hour Google is taking stuff from Page 4 and putting it on Page 1, since he didn’t pick anything on Page 1 the first time. It’s really just the fact that he gave such strong negative signals by not clicking on Page 1 results or immediately leaving sites.

Greg remembers when internal links counted just as much as external links. That’s how everything got built at first. But the reality is, this isn’t what a human uses.

If you have an opportunity to legitimately use a phrase within the body of text, then by all means do an in-line link.

Remove your ““money term” out of any navigation. For example, if you’re a realtor and you want a header in your site stating the areas you serve, if you’re listing individual city names leave out the word real estate.

For example, you start looking at terms like ““cheap tickets,” you’ll see a lot of sites have moved away from this. They’ve all over time taken some pretty significant blows. Travel has a lot of mashed up, algorithmically thin content, so it’s a great place to test for duplication. When you do take that money term out, you won’t lose rankings.

You need engagement. Audience is key. Pay attention to metrics like Alexa score and RSS subscribers. Greg pays attention to the average amount of links that get generated when a site published a blog post.

Don’t focus on ““old and crusty” historical data like page rank. Those days are done. If your domain has all of these old links out there, if  Google knows no one is clicking on those links, they want those links to go away. This isn’t an automated thing right now, but if you continue down that road you will eventually get hit.

We’re back to these 36 week cycles. Google’s algorithms are like moving targets. They roll them out and see who complains. Google knows most of those who complain are spammers, but they do look at the ones where they got some false positives and make some tweaks so they don’t throw out too many babies out with the bathwater. Since they are constantly making these tweaks, it won’t be until  4-6 weeks in that you’ll really know how you are doing against the last update.

From a Panda standpoint, look at your content even if you haven’t been hit. What is your content performance ratio (CPR)? How much of your content that is indexed is producing traffic? If you have a bunch of content indexed that isn’t sending you visitors, get rid of it. Trim your site down to make your CPR as high as possible.

You want to maximize Google’ efficiency when they crawl your site. They won’t continue crawling through millions of pages only to find a handful of nuggets. That’s why they do things to encourage people to stop this kind of behavior.

Google’s been punitive and they’re going back in history to send a message. They know you won’t be able to take down all of your old links. But, they want you to feel enough pain so that you keep working at it and think twice about spammy behavior.

Takeaway: Be proactive with every update. Even if you haven’t been hit yet, audit and assess your site for the behaviors being penalized. Then, make little tweaks you can adjust back in case you slip.

Scalabale Content Marketing : Shifting Your Business Model & Client Education

Question: Blogger outreach is hard and time consuming, do you have any insight?

Greg explains this question from a business model perspective and explains the BlueGlass approach.

We keep hearing ““content marketing has this big buzz, but how do you actually go out and do it?” It is very labor intensive. The BlueGlass approach was to go out and acquire people who are really good at it. :)

The hardest thing is consistency. But, the biggest mistake anyone running their own shop does is not charging appropriately. It takes a lot of time between emails and building relationships to get a good piece of content on a Mashable-caliber site, it takes a lot of man hours and there’s just no way around it.

You can’t cut corners with pitching. Some of the stuff we’re working on at BlueGlass, like AuthorPress, are tools that will make distribution of quality content to people easier. But at the end of the day, it really is still about relationships. The upside is Google is finally at the point where they reward those kinds of links more than they used to. Before, it used to be the traditional link seller/buyers would compete for your budget.

When you have a piece of content published and you get a link back to you, you want that page to get a lot of links to it. It’s amazing how much stuff will move in the rankings based on two or three placements like this.

The hardest part from a business model is charging properly for this type of work. Greg has worked to scale this and price it properly. It involves a ton of education with clients. For example, if you have a great team that goes out and gets an amazing placement that generates hundreds of links and you charge almost nothing for it, now your client expects this every time. You’ve raised the bar so high that you have a problem of managing your client’s perception. They now think this price is all that all of those links are worth.

We’re a pivot industry, you have to be able to pivot and change, then take these new things and create more work. But you also need to be able to explain these shifts to clients.

Takeaway: Use time tracking tools (like Toggl) to see how long each piece of your services take. Use this to figure out how to price services. Knowing what these numbers are and educating clients both probably take the most work, but they’re worth it.

Abandoning Old School Link Development

Question: Does content marketing comprise the majority of your link building efforts?

Greg answers this is all we do now at BlueGlass.

He gives the biggest takeaway for the night: Google looks at link development as a byproduct, not a stand alone thing. To Google, building links is a byproduct of other marketing efforts. They’re going out of their way to reward footprints in links that develop that way.

He can’t stress how much Google hates old school link development.  He is telling people to look at their referring sites and compare that to their linking domains.

Pull all of the referring domains out of your analytics, then go to something like Majestic and pull all of your linking domains. Things like sitewide links aren’t bad in themselves if they’re coming from a site where people are actually clicking on them. If you have a huge chunk of backlinks that show up and no one is clicking on them, that’s a huge problem.

When you get a link published on a site with an audience, you actually get business from the link. Forget all the SEO stuff. We get a ton of leads from content marketing we do and it has nothing to do with search.

He knows it’s hard to abandon the other kinds of link building models. Everyone’s done it. The hardest part is convincing the client to make the change.

Takeaway: Compare your backlinks to your referring domains to determine link quality.

How Local Can Save the Little Guy

Question: How would you tackle a local client without a lot of budget or reach?

There are pros and cons. Big national brands have a huge impact now because Google has moved the dials on localization a lot. With localized terms, what’s key is not looking to see not how they rank when you plug in “Tampa plumber,” because that’s obvious. What Google’s working to do is tie localization to queries that don’t have a geo-qualifier attached to them.

Start looking at how SERPs are different from city to city. Make a list of phrases that are geo and non-geo. Identify the phrases that don’t have a city name in them and that generate localization for you or your client.

Once you have separate those terms, ask “are they localized organically?” It’s not always Places listings. 40-60% of the organic listings are favored towards sites that don’t have Places. Geo-domains are the new exact match keyword. If you have a domain that says tampaplumber.com, Google will shape the organics.

Sometimes you will never be able to get above the local listings. If there are these localized roadblocks for a phrase, you don’t want to include that in your strategy. Sometimes a phrase you wouldn’t pick on paper or from a keyword tool is the best one because it doesn’t have those localized roadblocks.

You can usually find a path for the local guys, there’s still a lot of opportunity.

Question: I’ve seen a lot of different definitions of anchor text diversity, what are your thoughts on it? Some people are saying you can do partial match. What if you have a satellite site where the entire site is based around a “money” keyword, like if the brand name itself is a “money keyword”. Do you need to do all of the “click here” type of things or can you get away with variations? 

One of the things he brings up that’s important are exact match domains. The dirty little secret is exact match domains tend to only rank for that phrase. If diversity is your thing, exact match isn’t necessarily the way to go.

If you take the time to take any query and sample the top 10 results and all of their backlinks. SEOmoz will give you 20,000 links, we calculate the percentage and assign an anchor text exact match percentage. From there you can look at a link profile and see “X percent” of the links say your phrase. When you start modeling the sites that you know Google likes, exact match is way under double digits. Typically, domain, URL and brand matches are 60,70, and 80 percent. That footprint is very common because that’s the way natural links are built.

So, if you’re going to penalize and create a threshold for exact match anchor text, you can’t apply that same filter to sites with an exact match domain because people link using that domain.

Greg looks at it in terms of exact match, partial match, branded, partial branded. He likes to keep all occurrences of exact match under 10%.

Note: Greg points out this is just for external linking

Takeaway: Local businesses with small budgets can still succeed by focusing on ranking locally for less obvious, non-geo phrases.  In terms of the overall percentage within all of your links (branded, partial match, domain, etc.), exact match anchor text should be under 10%.

Did you make it through all of the videos? What questions would YOU ask Greg? Let us know in the comments below…


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  1. Gotta love when Greg speaks. “Old noble one” – can see him in 20 years in a conference with a cane, while the room is packed and everyone listens to the “I remember when Google did…..” stories.

    • Bill Hartzer says:

      Dwight, it’s not “I remember when Google did”….for those of us who are REALLY the old timers (like Greg), it’s more like “I remember when Excite did…” or “I remember when Altavista did…”

      You’re an old-timer when you were doing SEO before Google even existed.

  2. Kaj Kandler says:

    What does a website do that tries to deliver on the spot information, such as How To …. for a specific (complex) application suite (i.e. a site like http://plan-b-for-openoffice.org/). If such a site does its job right for the searcher/user it has the trafic profile that is frowned upon by Google now (click there, get the right information and go back to do something else). The information is there to solve a problem, not to entertain magazine style.

    Any ideas what to do to escape the wrath of the Panda for such a site?

  3. Ayaz says:

    Thanks for providing great informative video’s and I was looking for such kind a tutorial regarding these types of question and learned great tips from this article. Really appreciate it ;-)

  4. Thomascharli says:

    Seo House provide Many information & helful Question & answer

  5. Richard says:

    The real issue here is that it is very hard to get backlinks from reputable sources unless you deliberately ask them, which I think will not bear any fruit. So the only way to attract links is to create good content and wait up to 2 years.

  6. Reg-NBS-SEO says:

    In my opinion, and I have been doing SEO since ’96, is that Greg has a few facts wrong.

    ->”Penguin is about finding weak content that has links to you. It’s very strong on links rather than over optimization stuff.
    It is not about weak content. It is about links to your site on non-relevant pages. Off topic links if you will.
    See Google’s example graphic, http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Ct8q_RAxrFY/T5bafaCjA4I/AAAAAAAAAOc/ehd5krRkUks/s320/link-spam.png
    Panda cleaned out all the weak content sites. Penguin attacked the link schemes.

    -> “Mimic the link profile of a good site you know Google trusts. Look at their backlinks, how they are structured, and try to replicate that.”
    Just take a look at Google’s own link profile. Panda cots them over 8 BILLION links.
    Linking is out as a SERPs influence.

    Greg is getting confused between Panda and Penguin when he says, “you have the kind of duplicate content being penalized during phase one of Penguin.”
    Duplicate content was Panda.

    From http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html
    ->”Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”

    Deep analysis needs understanding of what Google is doing.
    Correlation is NOT causation.

  7. Gouri says:

    And finally, Google has started cracking down on EMDs…

  8. Economisez 50% sur le beats by dre sur notre boutique, nous vendre beats by dre pas cher et de haute qualité, beats by dre soldes en ligne !

  9. chris faron says:

    Great SEO advice for the “I don’t want to change…..old school SEO techiques

  10. Melissa says:

    Agreed with Katrina Dan’s opinion, it is very important to meet deadlines on time and choosing a reliable time tracking tool can help in this regard. Talygen is among the top time tracker apps offering innovative features under feasible price plans.


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