Has your site seen a dramatic drop in search traffic sometime in the past few weeks? If so, you’ve probably been scrambling to figure out what on earth is going on. You’re not alone. Sites across the web have been reporting huge drops in rankings and traffic.
With so many sites reporting issues at the same time, the general answer to the problem becomes obvious: Google’s been changing their algorithm again. However, the more specific answer to your site’s conundrum may be a little harder to identify. Why? Because this time around, Google’s been making several significant changes at once.
So what can you do about your site’s traffic drop? We’d recommend three steps.
Step 1: Identify the Culprit
Google has acknowledged three separate things on their end that have had effects on search over the last few weeks. To figure out which (if any) of these items have affected your site, you need to look at your site’s analytics and determine the EXACT DATE when your traffic plummeted. Then compare that to the dates of Google’s maneuverings. Here’s a timeline:
- April 17—Google misclassified some sites as parked domains.
- April 19—Google refreshed their Panda algorithm update (so we’re now on v3.5).
- April 24—Google made a new update to their algorithm, dubbed Penguin.
- April 27—Google gave Panda another refresh (v3.6).
If the date of your traffic drop corresponds very closely to one of these dates, you’ve probably found your culprit. Additionally, if you were hit by the parked domain mistake, Google claims to have fixed the problem, so you should have seen a recovery shortly thereafter.
Step 2: Understand the Target
Before you can move your site toward recovery, you have to understand the types of sites that Google was trying to eliminate from their results. Knowing the reason behind the change will enable you to develop a strategy.
In the case of the parked domains mistake, there was no intended target. It was strictly an error on Google’s part. Google’s Matt Cutts attributed the error to a problem with files connected to their parked domains classifier. And if this is what hit your site, you don’t need a recovery strategy since your rankings should already have recovered.
The Panda refreshes, on the other hand, intentionally target low-quality sites. In a sense, nothing’s really changed, since that was the purpose of Panda when it was first rolled out in February of 2011. Google’s just tweaked their algorithm in an effort to eliminate even more of the same type of low-quality site (though of course there are always some higher-quality sites caught in the crossfire).
The Penguin update aims at devaluing outright spammers rather than low-quality sites. (This turns out to be the much-anticipated “over-optimization” update.) This time they seem to be weeding out keyword stuffing, paid or unnatural link profiles, comment spam, poor quality guest posts, and article marketing.
Step 3: Decide on a Strategy
If you believe your site was mistakenly hit by Penguin, Google has created a new form so you can bring the matter directly to their attention. However, there’s no guarantee that that will actually do anything. They may simply be collecting data. If you DO decide to fill out the form, do your best to make a case for the high quality of your site and how it’s a great result for searchers. That’s all that Google is going to care about.
Whether you were hit by Panda or Penguin, your overall strategy for recovery needs to be the same: improve the quality of your site. Stop engaging in spammy, black-hat SEO tactics aimed at tricking Google’s algorithm. Start providing real value for searchers. Almost exactly a year ago, Google’s Amit Singhal outlined a series of questions that site owners can ask themselves to help assess the quality of their site in Google’s eyes. Those questions give some strong clues as to the kinds of work you need to put into your site in order to keep it Google-friendly.
Still not sure what to do? We’d love to talk to you about ways you can improve your site. Contact us and we’ll talk.
In case you missed it, the SEO world has changed. No, not Google’s philosophy. It is the one thing that has held constant throughout the years. Their philosophy has always been to provide the best and most relevant search results possible. However, their ability to sort out good sites from bad is where the real change has occurred.
There used to be a time when you could in essence trick Google. You could stuff your page and meta tags with keywords. You could find the perfect keyword density in your body content (by the way, keyword density is a myth). You could go and buy 100,000 directory links from PR 4 and even PR 5 sites!!! Act now! You could create a robot and get a million blog comment links. You see, in the past, it didn’t matter where the links were placed. It only mattered that you had links. No longer.
In today’s SEO world, you will not only not win with this mentality. You will get royally screwed by Google. Google is better. They are smarter. They are faster. And they can spot a crappy site from a mile away. To win in SEO for the long term, you need to stop trying to beat Google. You need to give them what they want … an amazing website.
What are the elements you should be investing in to win at long term SEO? I’m glad you asked.
- Create an Amazing Content Strategy – This is no secret. ”Content is King” has been the rule for ever. But instead of just creating content because your SEO guy told you to, create content that will earn links on its own. Ask yourself, “is this content awesome? Would I share it?” If not, then re-work it until it’s ready. One piece of amazing content is 100x better than 50 mediocre pieces of content.
- Invest in Great Design – Google has a team of Quality Raters, who literally rate the quality of your site. With Google Chrome, Analytics, Webmaster and more, they are able to compare a lot of data for sites in the same space. They then use that data to give you a relevant grade. What are they looking at? Some items include Time on Site, User Bounce Rate, Pages Visited and more. Bottom line is that if you design an amazing user experience on your site, Google will love you for it.
- Be Trustworthy on Social – Everyone knows they need a Facebook and Twitter page, right? Yeah, but no one knows what to do with it. The reason Social is so hard for companies is that people won’t talk about you or share you with their friends if you suck. Why? This is not a place where you can get links and no one will ever see them. This is people’s Social circles. Their friends and the family actually look at where they engage. Are you good enough to have fans? Are you creating a conversation worth following? Add value. Do the things that no one else will do. That’s how you stand out. It’s harder, yes, but it will reap benefits in the end.
These are just a few places to start, but we are working to change everyone’s perception of SEO. To be awesome at SEO, it extends into every component of your company – research, customer service, design, tech, marketing, operations. All of it.
We get clients all the time who just want a band-aid. They just want a $300 fix from a spam master. Sorry. It’s not going to cut it. You will not win in the long run in SEO, and you’ll see all of the brands who are willing to invest in being awesome swallow you whole. Is this harder? Yes. Does it provide for a better search world? Absolutely. So, while this may be some hard medicine to swallow, take a good look at yourself and ask if you are willing to invest in your company’s SEO for the long term. Trust us, the rewards for being there are going to be worth it.
Last week, LinkedIn announced the introduction of company status updates. Now, your company can post news, job listings, events, videos, photos and other content directly to your company’s business profile. More importantly, your followers can interact with your posts by commenting, liking and sharing it with their networks. The new feature allows businesses to keep their LinkedIn profiles much more fresh and interactive.
The new feature will perhaps be most useful to B2B companies. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks provide great opportunities for brands to reach out to consumers, but it’s a lot harder for businesses to reach other businesses. A recent report published by eMarketer shows that B2B purchasing decision-makers are much more likely to gather information from LinkedIn than from Facebook. It follows that B2B brands would be well-served to focus more of their marketing efforts on their LinkedIn presence. The new status updates feature makes LinkedIn a much more versatile business networking platform—more like a Facebook for businesses.
LinkedIn no longer displays Twitter feeds on company pages, so the new LinkedIn system is now your only option for posting status updates. In order to use the new feature, your company will first need to switch its profile settings to allow editing by “designated admins only,” then choose an administrator or administrators for your profile.
The last month has seen the rise of a host of new tools designed to help brands better understand the impact of their social media efforts. In mid-September, Twitter announced the advent of Twitter Web Analytics, “A tool that helps website owners understand how much traffic they receive from Twitter and the effectiveness of Twitter integrations on their sites.” Then at the very end of the month, Google introduced Google Analytics Real-Time, “A set of new reports that show what’s happening on your site as it happens.” Finally, to open up the month of October, Facebook revealed a new ad unit coupled with new Insights measurements for Facebook Pages to help brands see the reach and impact of their efforts on that platform.
The problem of measuring ROI for social media campaigns has long been a cause for hesitation for companies trying to decide how to spend their marketing resources. While social media advocates have made claims about the benefits of social media efforts for brand recognition, website traffic, SEO and PR, it has been hard at times to back up those claims with measurable data. The number of Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers and retweets a brand gains are of rather limited usefulness in determining the success of campaigns. Those numbers may not represent any real engagement with the brand, and certainly don’t give any indication of conversion.
These new tools should make it much easier for companies to justify putting dollars into social media marketing. The metrics can also help brands to hone their skills in this newer marketing arena based on the data they see. With the new Twitter and Google analytics, brands will be able to see how much traffic is sent from Twitter and other networks to their websites as it happens. Meanwhile, the Facebook numbers should give a better idea of how deeply fans are engaged with posted content.
What other types of social media analytics tools do you think would be helpful for your business? Let us know in the comments.
Here’s a second new Premium video for ya. This one is for Apoko, a company that helps you to manage your online presence.
Apoko was looking for a fun video that flowed well. Celebrities form their primary target audience, so the video had to be informative and fresh, with a polished feel. We stuck with their brand’s magenta color as a base and otherwise worked with more neutral colors so that their logo and other important ideas would really pop.
Check out the new video below that we made for Socialinkd. Socialinkd helps you to connect with people quickly on Facebook and other networks, without going through the hassle of hunting them down.
The folks at Socialinkd wanted something lighter and funnier, since the audience they’re trying to reach out to is younger and more socially engaged. We wanted the video to have some character and attitude, as well as convey some of the emotions involved in the real life problems Socialinkd is designed to alleviate.
But of course, getting down to the story being told is always the most important part. How do we want people to feel? Or how are we relating to them? How can we connect with them?
Recently, Marketplace Earth had the opportunity to work with Maines Paper & Food Service, Inc. to strategically brand, design and develop their new food safety website, www.keepingitkleen.com. The KeepingItKleen site is part of a larger public awareness campaign through which Maines hopes to educate the general public about basic steps that can be taken to make sure that the food we consume at home is safe to eat. While restaurants and other food services are regulated by various government organizations, it’s often the personal habits of consumers themselves that lead to contracting food borne illnesses. We were shocked to learn that 80% of the 76,000,000 annual cases of food poisoning originate at home.
Maines needed to reach their audience with this important message in a powerful and engaging way, and having a strong foundation for the KeepingItKleen brand was extremely important. We began by researching their audience (What’s their typical day like? Where do they shop? What do they use to clean their homes? What are their values?) and also took a look at trends in related industries that influence that audience. Based on these findings, we created a visual language for the KIK brand that delivers their messaging in a fun and visually engaging manner. This comes to life in the website we created for them, which offers free resources to inform the public and promote healthy habits.
One resource that’s worth taking 5 minutes to check out is the interactive Home Health Inspection Challenge. Here, users encounter various whimsical scenes (which we custom-designed and illustrated for KIK) through which they examine their own kitchens’ cleanliness. They are then scored at the end of the survey and given the opportunity to pass the Kleen along to their friends and family. This free social object is already making its way around the web and is bringing Kleen to kitchens across the country! We were thrilled to be a part of this exciting initiative from concept to completion.
At Marketplace Earth, we believe that a strong website begins with a strong brand. You’ve got an important message to share with your audience. We’d love to help you deliver that message in ways that engage your audience, inspire their loyalty and empower them to spread that message and respond. Whether you’re looking to develop a campaign portal or launch a brand new website or e-commerce site, beginning with a strategic design direction for your brand can yield an enormous ROI.
You can see more examples of Marketplace Earth’s website design services here, and we invite you to give us a call to learn more about how strategic branding can help build your business.
Monday morning, Google announced changes to Google sitelinks in search results. If you’ve never heard of sitelinks, you’ve almost certainly seen them. Run a search for a specific brand or organization (like this one for Marketplace Earth). You’ll see that underneath the top search result, there are further nested links to sections within the site. Those are sitelinks.
Sitelinks have been around for quite a while. However, now they’re taking up a lot more real estate and are a lot more visible. Take a look at the Google announcement to see some screenshots of the evolution of sitelinks. Today’s launch involves not only doubling the number of sitelinks possible under one search result, but also making those sitelinks look more like regular search results, including a full-size link, URL and a snippet of description text.
What does this mean for site owners? As with any Google changes, it’s next to impossible to guess at all the implications. But to begin with, it’s now even more important to own the top search result spot for your brand, since sitelinks under the first site can knock even the #2 ranked site practically off the browser screen.
Second, it means that you’ll want to search for your brand and find out what Google generates for sitelinks under your URL. These are generated automatically, and there’s no way currently to tell Google what to list, but if you don’t like your sitelinks, you may want to discuss changing the navigational structure of your site with your website designer.
Here’s another example of one of our Premium explanatory videos. Earlier this year, we worked with the team at InboundWriter to help them explain how their social writing application helps businesses to write more engaging content for their websites. We had a lot of fun creating Bob and Steve, plus throwing in a wizard and ninja here and there for good measure. But more importantly, were were able to help InboundWriter give their audience a clear idea of their value proposition. But judge for yourself after watching the video below.
While we’re at, we’d like to congratulate InboundWriter for raising $2 million in Series C funding back in May. Check out the write-up on TechCrunch.
Optimizing your website is essential to the usability of your site. Whether you have an ecommerce, informational or recreational website, there are expectations that your website needs to meet to be fully functioning with respect to search engines.
The important “TY” factors to consider when improving the usability of your website are accessibiliTY, findabiliTY, credibiliTY, authenticiTY, understandabiliTY, browser compatibiliTY and searchabiliTY. It may seem like a lot of responsibiliTY, but if these things are done well they can make a world of difference for your website. You will find yourself getting more visits from users and high rankings with search engines. No user, or search engine for that matter, wants to come to your site and be completely confused by it.
At Marketplace Earth, we make your website’s purpose not just clear to users, but to you as well. We will walk you through the process while we prioritize getting the most usability out of your website, so that it will rank well on Google. Ultimately, search engines like Google will rank amazing websites. Remember that part of what makes your website amazing is its usability.