Penguin 2.0 – Good News or Bad News?

Penguin 2.0 will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Good news for us!

Say whaaat??

Yup, you heard me.

I had that sentiment after I watched the latest Google Webmaster Video titled “What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO from Google?” This is Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam team.

http://youtu.be/xQmQeKU25zg&w=480

To provide you with some context and background, you need to first know more about Penguin.

cute penguin not google penguin
Google Penguin is no where this cute.

Penguin is a set of algorithmic updates by Google that happens occasionally throughout the year. These updates help Google the search engine weed out sites that have engaged black hat methods in order to game the search engines. A lot of these black hat techniques involve spamming, and so you can say Penguin is Google’s attempt to address web spam. This brings me to the bad news.

Why Penguin might be bad news.

Normally, people wouldn’t pay attention to such updates because nothing on the Google search engine shows this change – UNLESS you are a site owner who has been negatively hit. One day you are gloating over your first page results, the second, you find your site missing from the first 10 pages.

Once Penguin strikes, a small percentage (around 1%) of sites will be affected negatively. Sites that employ black hat methods of link building who are unfortunately found, will be slapped with a heavy ranking penalty. Business owners are the ones on the losing end when their site gets penalized because so many website owners hire external SEO companies to increase their ranking, and more often than not, cheap SEO companies use spam tactics.

That is why many SEO companies and business owners are fearful of Penguin updates. They are afraid that their site would be punished. So why do I think it is good news?

Why it is good news for the Good Guys.

“as long as you are working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high quality content to users as well”

That quote by Matt Cutts means a lot to us white hat SEO good guys. This is exactly what we have been trying to work on. As white hat practitioners, we implement SEO in a way that provides a quality experience for users. Black hat practitioners implement SEO to trick spiders. We often find sites ranking ahead of us that are clearly breaking Google’s quality guidelines. The following points made by Matt show us why white hat is the way to go.

“be a little stronger on our enforcement of advertorials that violate our quality guidelines”

What it means – Paid links, sponsored reviews and paid advertorials should clearly labeled as being paid for, and these links should not pass link juice. Google does not want webmasters to pay others to link back to them, and users must know when a review is sponsored and not organic.

Why it’s good news – Paid links are kind of like bribing someone else to place your links on their site. By penalizing sites that buy links, Google will make things a little more fair. Great products and great content get links organically, based on merit.

Uh Oh – If you have paid for links, STOP. If you have links on your site that others have paid you to place them there, make an honest disclosure. Label them as “Sponsored”, and add a “rel=nofollow” tag to that link.

UPDATE. Actually, Matt Cutts just tweeted:

“deny the value of link spammers”

What it means – Links obtained by spamming will be devalued. The most common link spam are: blog comment spamming and site-wide footer links.

Why it’s good news – Blog commenting is a legitimate way of building  relationships with influencers in your industry, but comment spamming has spoiled things. If your competitors heavily employ blog comment spamming to get backlinks, Google might catch them and devalue these links.

Uh Oh – If you have been link spamming, STOP. Start to build up good karma by getting quality links. High quality guest posting is one way to get highly relevant, quality links. You might want to do a link detox to clean up your bad links.

“…try to make those rank more highly if you are some sort of an authority…”

What it means – If Google’s algorithm determines that your site is an authority at a certain subject, you will get a bonus boost in search engine rankings.

Why it’s good news – If you have built up your authority online by writing lots of great articles related to your niche, and have gathered up a good number of followers on social networks (especially Google+), the next time you publish content under your name, Google will help bring up the visibility of that content.

Uh Oh – So you haven’t been creating articles to let your customers know you are an expert in your area of expertise? Or, have you only been mass generating low quality articles that are only submitted to article directories? Time to buckle down, write some high quality, unique, and informative articles that your customers will love and share. Become THE subject matter expert in your niche.

What you should do now.

Matt also mentioned other improvements that Penguin 2.0 would bring. These include: better detection of hacked sites, better Google Webmaster help for people who have been manually penalized, and reduce clustering of results from the same domain. The reason I did not elaborate on these because they aren’t exactly actionable by you to improve your site now.

What you can, and should do now is

  • Stop buying or paying for links.
  • Stop spamming links. Build good quality content that attract natural links.
  • Become the authority in your niche. Show off your knowledge that sets yourself apart from competitors.

His final words.

“I’m really excited about a lot of these changes because we do see really good improvements in terms of people who are link spamming or doing various black hat spam would be less likely to show up I think by the end of the summer. And at the same time we’ve got a lot of nice changes queued up that hopefully will help small/medium businesses and regular webmasters as well.”

And that is just fine by us, Matt. At SeoGoodGuys, we try to uphold Google’s quality guidelines, and we mostly help small businesses. Isn’t it nice when Google is on our side too?

Penguin 2.0 – Good news or bad news? Share your thoughts below.

Do You Need SEO? The Truth.

seo truth and lies

Easy answer: YES you need SEO.

Many of us have questioned whether we really need to “SEO our websites“. The simple and undisputed answer is YES! Till today, I cannot find a legitimate reason why a site should not be optimized for search engines.

As long as you run a legitimate website in hopes of getting leads, selling products or services, gaining exposure for a cause, having an online presence, sharing information or even just ranting about life on a blog, you WILL benefit from increased traffic from search engines. Sweee lah hire the Seo Good Guys now?

But that is just the EASY answer.

What do I mean?

Search Engine Optimization as you should know by now, consists of on page optimization and off page optimization.

On page optimization is basically making sure that Search Engines can read the content on your site properly, and display the information to searchers in the most relevant way possible. Almost ALL sites should make sure that their sites can be crawled by search engine spiders.

There is absolutely no reason why a website should not provide the viewer with a good surfing experience. And that is why anyone can easily say that all sites need SEO – to make sure that the basic site is user friendly and search engine friendly. Haven’t we come to the age where we expect search engines to deliver all the answers we need? Your site has to be able to live up to that expectation too.

Hard answer: Mmmmyeaahh you probably need SEO.

The hard answer comes when you involve off page optimization.

Off page optimization is mainly link building and other efforts to market your website to external sites on the internet. Most services that SEO consultants offer involve off page optimization. Various studies done by leaders in the search industry point to the relationship between off page ranking factors and search engine rankings. (Examples: SEOmoz’s 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors and SearchEngineLand’s Guide to SEO)

Since off page SEO activities make a more significant difference to search engine ranking, most people automatically assume that “SEO = off page.” Sure, link building and outreach efforts can help you get more traffic, and improve your search engine rankings.

BUT. Not every type of website needs to heavily invest in off page link building activites.

This makes the answer to “Do I need SEO” less clear cut.

The better question is: Do I need to hire an external SEO agency?

In my humble opinion, this is the better question; and this is the question that most startups would likely want to ask. There are certain scenarios where no, you might not need to hire someone else to do SEO for you.

#1 You do not have a website.

Stupidly obvious. Let’s move on.

#2 Free labour

I’m not referring to the code name for naive university interns. I’m talking about your partners or employees who actually have time on their hands to do some SEO related activities. If you have some free time, why not invest some of that time to learn more about the basics of search engine optimization?

There are plenty of things you can do yourself. Do a little keyword research to make sure your content matches to what people are searching for. Do some outreach and relationship building with bloggers in your industry. Write quality content so that people want to share and link back to you!

#3 You already have an in-house marketing team

Sometimes it’s better to rely on your in-house marketing team. They know the direction the business is heading. They know the kind of branding your company is trying to achieve. They are SUPPOSED to evolve to include digital marketing in their marketing strategies.

[Reasons for investing in digital marketing: Digital Advertising Spend in Singapore exceeds S$100m mark (seems like they removed the source)]

If you already have a marketing team, allow them to create the content and do outreach. Well, unfortunately not all in-house marketing teams are educated in digital marketing and Search Engine Optimization.

 #4 You know you don’t need outside traffic

There are just some kinds of sites that do not require search engine traffic or any outside traffic at all! The purpose of the site might not even be for business.

Some private websites do not want to be found on Search Engines. It could be a private blog, or a private online shop for distinguished guests only. It could be a school’s website, or a company site where only people with special access can enter.

#5 You are operating an extremely abstract and niche business

Do you have a business selling Life Sized Solid Chocolate Baby Heads?  or Are you thinking of selling Five-Pound Fat Replicas?

evil baby head cakes
Oh. God. Why.

 

I can almost guarantee you that there is so little search volume for them (meaning no one searches for such terms), that it makes no sense to invest heavily in an SEO campaign. You are better off selling on third party sites or through social media. It doesn’t mean if you sell handmade crafts, SEO is totally not an option. You just have to understand your market, and what people might be searching for.

 So who needs to hire an external SEO consultant?

Of course I cannot just end the article without addressing this. I am NOT trying to be self promotional here. In the following situations, you just might need to hire an external SEO consultant.

  • Your in-house marketing team has been under-performing, or they do not practice digital marketing. They know very little about SEO, or they have not enough time to do SEO related activities.
  •  You have not been getting traffic from organic search, despite being in an industry where there is a lot of search volume
  • You are in an industry where Pay Per Click costs are extremely high – like Insurance, Loans, Mortgage industries (Source: Wordstream)
  • You are just starting out in a highly competitive market dominated by big names, and you do not have the big budget for marketing
  • Your traffic had suddenly plummeted and you are not ranking for your important keywords (possible Google penalty)
  • You have no idea why no one visits your awesome site

I assure you, the list can go on. Now I am not promising that SEO can be sole reason for your site’s success. You still need factors like an excellent web design, useful content, and good products. It just does not hurt that when people are searching for something that your website provides, your site is ranked high enough on the search engines to fulfill that need.

I personally want to believe that when you create good content, sell wonderful products or provide an excellent service, people will come. It just doesn’t always work so ideally, and so I provide SEO services for people who might need my help getting found.

Do you think content is enough, and that SEO is not needed? Sound off in the comments below!

[SEO Infographic] Not Just a Hype! Are You Keeping Up?

Rising Importance of SEO for revenue

Why It’s an Exciting Time for Search in the Enterprise

A while ago, Mavenlink.com released an infographic  that pretty much showed how businesses are increasing their efforts on SEO. That was a result of a survey of marketers and business owners over the past year. It was good news for us in the search industry because it meant we could still put food on the table. More importantly, what does it have to do with you?

Information Breakdown

Now I am not going to explain every statistic in the infographic because most of them are pretty self-explanatory. However, there are some important trends I need to point out, and to explain their significance to startups and small businesses.

66% of Marketers increasing their SEO budget - SEO Statistic

66% of marketers say their budgets have grown.

SEO is often called a race, though it is more often a marathon than a sprint. A constant effort is needed if you want to stay ahead of the competition at the rankings. As more businesses understand how search engine optimization can directly affect bottom lines, more of them are willing to invest more in SEO efforts. If you remain stagnant, or have not even started optimizing your website for search, you will stand to lose out.

Getting visibility on organic search is a great way to attract new visitors to your site. Although I would not stress search rankings as the most important contributor of traffic, it is still evident that you will get significantly less views the lower you are ranked on search results pages.  Rankings are constantly changing, and you cannot rest on your laurels just because you are ranked top for your targeted keyword. If your rivals are revving up their SEO efforts, what are YOU doing to counter that?

 

Growth of SEO in the work space - SEO statistic

 Search is getting its own department, with increased headcount. 

46% reported that SEO is under the jurisdiction of the Marketing department. 16% surveyed said that Search has its own department – and the number is climbing FAST. The number of people devoted to SEO is also increasing, and 60% of those polled said they are expecting to increase further.

Do you have a designated team member for search optimization? Does your webmaster have SEO knowledge, and is able to do on page optimization at the very least? Do you have a regular blogger to churn out quality content and who understands keyword targeting? Do you have time to do outreach and networking to build relationships with your peers, customers, and the online community?

I hope you can answer Yes to those, because they are essential to the longevity and success of a website.  

 

More executives becoming familiar with Search

63% of executives feel that their familiarity with SEO has increased.

Business leaders are feeling compelled to understand more about SEO. It makes perfect sense. If something can contribute directly to your company’s sales, wouldn’t you want to know how to improve it? If you are still in the state of mind of “I have heard of it, but I’m not sure how it can help”, please check out some SEO Blogs to get a little education 🙂

As a business owner, you also need to know whether your Search team is using the right methods to implement SEO. Are they putting the brand of the company first when they do manual outreaching? Are your external SEO consultants using black hat techniques instead of using white hat methods?

 

Rising Importance of SEO for revenue

 65% Agree that SEO has a role in the bottom line.

While optimizing for search may not bring significant advantages for every business in every industry, there is no denying that it will play a part most of the time. As more businesses shift online, and even brick and mortar shops understand the need for an online presence, it just shows the importance of getting search visibility.

SEO has been shown to give good ROI numbers, moreover, it can bring other intangible benefits other than revenue. For startups and small businesses that might not be able to compete in terms of brand recognition on the streets, solidifying their brand online with search dominance is a good alternative.

Top 5 Search Goals of marketers

 The Future Of SEO

SEO will take a greater role in a company’s activities than ever before. These are the top 5 search goals for marketers in 2013. Content developmental strategy is becoming a big part of SEO because of the rise of content marketing. As usual, keyword targeting is still a big focus in optimization efforts. There is also increased emphasis on social media – whether it is social media marketing or using Google+ to gain an upper hand on SERPS. Including these goals into your search strategy would be a good idea.

As you can see, you can no longer neglect Search Engine Optimization as part of your business development and marketing strategy. More businesses will invest in SEO as it gains prominence and the advantages it brings become more measurable. Startups have greater adaptability than big companies, and you should use that advantage to make sure you can keep up with the changes in the SEO landscape. If you do not stay ahead of the game, your competitors are more than willing to overtake you.


What are your search goals for 2013? How are you planning to increase your SEO efforts and stay ahead of the competition? Sound off in the comments below!

What The Heck Is SEO?

what is seo, search engine optimisation

Search Engine Optimization

Okay so you probably knew that. If this is the first time you are seeing the term SEO, then you might want to read closely. Unless you stumbled onto us mistakenly wanting to know more about Korean artistes with Seo in their name.

In a nutshell, search engine optimization is about making your website more visible on a search engine’s organic results page, through techniques that improve on-page factors or off-page factors. (or see Wikipedia definition) However, that is a very simple explanation which might have created more questions than it answered.

Let’s take a closer look at what SEO is.

what is seo, search engine optimisation

A little about Search

To know why search engine optimization exists, you need to know about this tiny thing called the Search Engine. Without delving too deeply into what a search engine is and how it works, here is a quick explanation. Search Engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are online services that help locate answers for queries that a user types into the search box. The answer comes in the form of a list of websites arranged from what the search engine thinks is most relevant to what you are searching for, to the least relevant. (Learn more about how search engines work from one of my favorite SEO resource sites.)

With more than 70% of people online using search engines to find local businesses, you bet it is important that your customers are able to find you with a search engine. One way to make yourself more visible on search engines is through Search Engine Optimization. It means to tweak your site structure, its contents and its links so that it becomes more relevant for people and search engines.

It is like giving your site a make-over so that your customers are able to find the information they need from you easily, and search engines are able to determine that your site is in fact more relevant to your customer’s needs relative to your competitor’s site.

Ideally, the more useful and relevant the information you provide, the higher you will rank for search results related to your content. As a result, you are more likely to attract the clicks.

On-Page versus Off-Page

There are two main phases in the optimization of your website. The On-page Optimization and the Off-Page Optimization

On-page optimization deals with the items on your website/webpage. Factors include

  • Title tag and Headers
  • Proper HTML Tags
  • Meta Tags
  • Internal Link Structure
  • Keyword Optimization
  • URL and Domain name

Off-page optimization deals with items that are not on your website(duh). Factors include

  • Link popularity
  • Social media activity
  • Relationship with other leaders in the industry
  • Number of quality inbound links

Exactly how do we optimize those factors? That will take a whole other article (or read this SEO tutorial) to explain in greater detail. But basically, if you knew how to optimize all the given above, you will stand a better chance at performing better at attracting human viewers and ranking well in search engines.

SEO is not a miracle cure

That said, even the best SEO efforts may not help you achieve some of your goals. It is definitely not the ultimate cure-all for all your traffic woes. While making sure that your site is properly optimized should be the top of your list of must-dos, it does not mean that SEO will guarantee you success.

It all boils down to how good your product or service or content is.


Any other questions about SEO in general? Sound off in the comments below!

Top 3 Reasons Why SEO Is Important For Startups

search engine importance

SEO gives you a fighting chance.

Picture this scenario:

1. You think of a great business idea while taking a dump in the toilet.
2. Excited, you think of all the possibilities of having the business online, the potential markets, the success, the fame, the money, the girls..
3. You do a quick search on Google, and realize some big name brand already dominates the market.
4. You give up your idea, pull up your pants and forget to clean up.

Okay so maybe that only happened to me… but you get the point!

Starting up a new business online is not as easy as it sounds. Even if you have the best idea, there are plenty of road blocks that would hamper your progress. Capital, logistics, experience, manpower, time… the list goes on.

Even if you manage to overcome those, finding success still eludes most startups. They are forever stuck in the internet limbo, doomed to never make it past 10 Likes or 10 Followers or 10 Customers.

This is where Search Engine Optimization can help. These are the Top 3 Reasons why  SEO is important for startups.

search engine importance

#1. Perfect for the budget conscious

Also known as the poor bastards. (I kid I kid..) I started this website having close to no money to do pretty much anything, and so I understand the pains that startups have when well, starting up. Having little capital and a tight budget means every cent counts. As a result, most small-medium-businesses have very little to spend on the “frivolous” activities, like Marketing.

SMB annual marketing budget

 

Of that marketing budget, you definitely want to make the biggest bang for your buck, and SEO is a great choice for that. With search engines accounting for much of the traffic to a website, ranking well for your important keywords would pull in good organic traffic. SEO can even be done without spending a single cent (provided you have the time, manpower, and know-how). Even hiring an external SEO service is usually better for your ROI. This is great news for you budding entrepreneurs!

#2. Dominate your niches for a start

Most of you know that choosing the right niche will help you attract your initial customer-base. Most startups choose to focus on a market that their bigger name counterparts have neglected, but does your niche really hold that much potential? Are you sure no one else is competing in that market?

With keyword research and properlytargeting the right keywords, you can corner the market with the best keywords that describe your business or website. You will not find overnight success, but having the right start will save you from countless pitfalls in the later stages of the business.

#3. Build brand recognition and online reputation.

As a startup, it is hard to have the same level of brand recognition as the older, more established brands. However, with the right SEO strategy, you can even rank higher on search engines and become more popular online than these brands.

Though higher rankings on search engines are by no means a reflection of the actual authority, success, and scale of a business, most people have come to accept that if you rank near the top for some search results, your website can be trusted. You can also gain brand recognition and become a subject matter expert through your content creation and with the help of our link earning process.

You may take years to beat your established rivals for overall market share, but you can easily become a cult favourite online. With SEO, you can target the right niche, work towards building a brand for the long term, and do it all with a modest budget.

Try this. Google “get credit card” on Google.com.sg. You will find that one of  the top results (if not first) is a small blog talking about money. There are some other blogs on the first page that are not easily recognisable brands. Wouldn’t you expect the big banks to dominate a term like “get credit card” ?

That’s the power of SEO. (and good content)

Some entrepreneurs when starting up, tend to neglect the importance of marketing. If your business has an online presence, all the more essential that you invest some time in SEO. It is becoming less of a good-to-have, and more of a must have.

Why else do you think startups should invest time in SEO? Share your thoughts in the comments below.