Blog Comments & Spam

Aside

Yes, I know I said I was going to test spamming blog comment links, but I haven’t got around to it yet.  Much like I struggle to get around to writing here.

However, as I mentioned in the past, there certainly are a lot of people, or a lot of bots, that are pretty damn convinced of the SEO value of blog comments…for some reason.

Much as it pained me, having to moderate several hundred link spam comments a week was really killing me.  So I’ve turned off comments for now.

I’ve got nothing against people sharing useful, interesting and on-topic information, but all those links for fake designer goods and the like were a huge pain.

So, comments off for now.  You can use the contact details if you have the urge to share something relevant, and I’ll post it with credit to you if it’s interesting.

2013 Strikes

Damn, I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since anything got added to this blog.  I take back my original criticism of other local SEO blogs.  It’s easy to plan on doing things on a regular basis, but the depredations of reality impose all too often.

Well, I’m ready to try again.  (I hope.)  (No promises.)  The latter half of 2012 was certainly a busy one when it came to SEO, with more updates, and more options, (like the long demanded, but not much expected, link disavowal tool released by Google).

2013 might be here, but really, when it gets right down to it, the basics will almost certainly remain the same.

Keep your site structure coherent and searchable, and keep your content unique and relevant, and you should be just fine.

I’ll try and make enough time to look into some of the finer points of SEO for 2013 as they crop up, and hopefully somebody will check back every now and then. ;)

 

Promoted Facebook Posts

I think I might have mentioned something about the promoted Facebook posts in another topic, but I was interested to see that among Facebook users, their existence is not yet either widely known or widely understood.

I came to this realisation when a friend of mine mentioned in my hearing that he had been seeing a lot more posts than usual in his feed from some big brand profiles, and was hardly seeing anything from the smaller independents that he also liked.

Imagine his surprise on learning that Facebook was allowing pages with a certain number of followers, (hence only big brand type pages) to pay in order to promote their posts in people’s feeds, with the inevitable result that if your page has fewer than the required number of followers, or if you’re unwilling or unable to pay, your followers will not be seeing your updates.

He had a simple solution though.  All he did was unsubscribe to those brand type pages that were flooding his feed with promoted posts.

I wonder who else is taking this solution to deal with being bombarded by what are effectively adverts.

Comments welcome as always.

Google Update May 2012

Well, the latest Google update is out, with it’s usual announcement of ambiguous changes.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have time today to give it justice, and so instead, I’ll direct you to the official announcement:

Visit the official Google Blog, Inside Search to see what Google has to say about the 39 new changes they made in May.

SEO Implications

If you’re interested in SEO, the ones you’re most going to want to think about are the changes to the title tag handling system, the updates to Penguin and the link scheme detection algorithm, and (maybe) the freshness updates.

Feel free to comment here if you like.  I gotta go…lots to do today.

Facebook Advertising – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Well, all the news recently is about Facebook, isn’t it?  With advertisers pulling out, a disastrous IPO, a plummeting share price, and now the latest news that Facebook users don’t actually click on ads, the social media giant may be looking a little shaky. In certain senses anyway.

Let’s take a look at what people are saying, and how it’s played out up ’til now…

GM Pulls Facebook Ads

If I recall, the first stirrings came just before the IPO launch, when General Motors, the third biggest US media advertiser, pulled $10 million worth of advertising from Facebook, saying that Facebook advertising didn’t work.  You can read about it here on the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook Advertising Compared To Google Advertising

At almost the same time, Market Watch, part of the WSJ, released market research showing that the average click through rate on Google’s Display Network was 0.4%. Almost 10 times as high as the CTR on Facebook, with its increasing cost per 1000 impressions.

You can read the article here, but effectively, it suggests that Google continues to offer better advertising value, and that Facebook’s advertising hasn’t kept pace with its rapid market growth. A particularly significant issue it seems was Facebook’s ongoing failure to integrate its advertising into its mobile platform, and the comparatively limited targeting options Facebook offers.

Facebook IPO Launch

Within days, Facebook launched its Initial Public Offering, but it was off to an immediately shaky start, and began dropping value almost at once.  At the time of writing, 3 weeks since the public launch, Facebook shares have dropped a full 3rd of their value, and are currently trading 33% lower than the price at launch.

(This has had an interesting and probably unexpected knock-on effect, with 44% of users saying that the IPO and subsequent drop in share value had reduced their confidence in Facebook.)

Within a few days, Facebook rolled out a new “Promoted Posts” feature, allowing page  owners to pay to have their status updates promoted in fans newsfeeds, with different price options available, depending on how many fans you would like to reach.

Facebook Advertising Criticism

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Facebook has been receiving what must be a record amount of criticism regarding both its public offering, and its advertising.  The technology review, occupying one end of the spectrum, published an article saying that Facebook would go down, and that it would take the rest of the web with it. (Read their article on The Facebook Fallacy here.)

Now, I don’t think that the author is necessarily right myself, but he does raise some interesting and legitimate points about Facebooks advertising model, which may be better explored in this article from Behind Companies, Facebook Advertising Is Fools Gold which expands on the question of Facebooks targeting, pointing out that their targeting model, which is to display ads to specific demographics, does not address the way, or the reason, that people actually buy things.

Stats, Stats, Stats

In the wake of the questions, US search marketing company Greenlight has released a survey that they conducted in the US, showing that 44% of internet users never click on a Facebook ad, and that 31% rarely click on them. That leaves 10% of users who often click, and 3% that regularly click. (The rest don’t have Facebook accounts.)

They also conducted a worldwide survey examining the tendency of users to “like” a brand or company on Facebook.  According to the survey, 17% of users said that they would never “like” a brand or comapny, 37% said that they rarely did so, and 26% that they often did. (9% did so regularly, and the remainder of respondents did not have a Facebook account.)

A similar Reuters / Ipsos poll showed that 34% of users were spending less time on Facebook than before, and only 20% were spending more time on it, while 4 out of 5 users had never bought a product or a service as a result of either advertising or comments on the site.

So, Facebook probably needs to reconsider how it monetises its data.  But it’s not all bad…

The Good…Finally

While all of the above may (and should) encourage people to review how they’re using Facebook advertising, and especially, to review their expectations, remember that not all advertising is about sales.  Advertising has another, almost intangible, benefit. And that benefit is brand recognition.

Sure, nobody is clicking on your Facebook ad.  But at least people are seeing it. (People who don’t block ads anyway.)  That has to be worth something, right? Visibility is its own reward, and it looks like this is something that Facebook may be pushing in the future.

As a vehicle for brand exposure and recognition, Facebook can certainly leverage its 900 million users into something both valuable and useful.

Promoted posts and stories, Facebooks newest offering as mentioned above, can indeed increase the visibility of a brand. That doesn’t mean that people are going to click on your promoted post or status, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’re going to buy anything from you, but it does mean that their chances of seeing it will be much higher.

In Conclusion

So…what conclusions can we draw from this?  Well, in terms of CTR’s and conversions, Google is still way ahead.  Delivering ads to people when they’re in the process of looking for something that the ad is relevant to is not only smart, but it has always worked for them, and will continue to work for them.

In terms of brand recognition and exposure, something like Facebook advertising, (and other social media efforts) still has its place.  Just don’t expect your sales figures to jump because you’re advertising on Facebook.

IPv6 Switchover

Once upon a time, back when IBM thought there was no market for home computers, when the internet was something university professors were using to send research back and forth with, when people dialled into bulletin boards, in order for devices to find each other, they each needed a personal address.  This address got called an IP address. And IP stood for Internet Protocol. And it worked.  And the protocol they wrote used a 32-bit string for an address, and it allowed for 4 billion addresses, because they couldn’t imagine ever needing so many.  And they called it IPv4.

Fast forward 35 odd years, and practically anything you name can be connected to the internet.  Our computers, our printers, our faxes, our phones, our tablets, our laptops, our cars, our fridges, our tv’s.  Suddenly we realise, (we realised a while ago actually), that 4 billion addresses is nowhere near enough.  We’re running out. Enter IPv6.

An updated form of the old internet protocol, IPv6 uses a 128 bit string, allowing for trillions of internet addresses.  And the way things are going, we’ll need them.

Switchover This Week

The big switchover to the IPv6 system is set to take place this week, at 00:01 UTC on Wednesday, 6 May 2012, and according to ICANN, (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) who control the internet access system, the only way you’ll notice is if anything goes wrong.

The system will run alongside the existing IPv4 for a long time to come, and the majority of users shouldn’t have many, if any, problems.  Eventually, some devices may need to be replaced with IPv6 devices, but that won’t be necessary for several years at least.

Although there may be some “frustrations” in most cases there won’t be any problem, as systems are in place to reroute traffic through compatible systems if necessary.  In the event this happens, you might experience a slight slow-down, ICANN explained, but most transitions can be managed as part of a normal upgrade as technology improves anyway.

Google Knowledge Graph Changing Search

Well, the inevitable has happened.  Google is changing the way it displays results again, and this change looks to be a big one.

Starting today, Google is rolling out their “Knowledge Graph” in the US, to be followed “soon” (whenever that is), everywhere else.

What is the Knowledge Graph?  Why not see what Google has to say about it in the official blog post? (I’ll wait.) Ok.  Now you know about as much as anybody else does, but I’ll summarise briefly in case you didn’t feel like reading it all.

Google’s Knowledge Graph

The knowledge graph changes the way that results are displayed, and the way that people interact with the search engine results themselves. It is intended to improve the contextual understanding of your search terms, offer you options on the results to let you filter out unrelated results if your search is for a homophone, (words that are spelt the same, but have different meanings, like rose (the flower) and rose (to the occasion), display related information based on context, and, (what I’m most interested in here), offers users summaries of information that matches what they’re searching for.

Information Summaries In Results

That’s right…think about that for a moment.  If you’re searching for information about Marie Curie, (to take a random example from Google’s blog post), then alongside your search results, you’ll see a brief summary of important information about her.  Google compiles this summary based on historical search data from their database which shows them the facts that people usually search for about her, and displays it right in the results.

The outcome?  The user doesn’t have to actually visit a web page to see the information.  They never need to leave the search engine results page if they don’t want to.  Now, what sort of implications can this have for SEO?

It’ll be very interesting to see what happens to website traffic for example, when you can get information you’re looking for without actually going to the site on which it appears. And of course, it’ll be very interesting to see the reaction this causes in the SEO industry.

Additional Implications

And here’s another implication I’ve just thought of…going by the screen shots in the official Google blog post, it looks like all this extra functionality is going to appear in the side bar of the search results.  You know…the place where it usually displays AdWords ads.

Now obviously these are samples, so maybe they’re not showing how ads will display in this new interface, but I wonder if bidding for the top 3 positions is suddenly going to rise, with a corresponding loss of screen real estate on the right?

Obviously this isn’t going to affect anybody else for a while, as at present, only users in the US are going to be experiencing the knowledge graph, but they’re planning on rolling it out globally sooner or later.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so feel free to comment.  Otherwise, check back every now and then, I’ll be talking about this more as new details become known.

Google’s April Update

In a by now regular monthly announcement on the official Google search blog, the latest tweaks to the search algorithm have been publicised, and boy, were there a lot of them.

You can see the full list by clicking on the link in the paragraph above, but I’ll cover a few of the ones that you’re most likely to be interested in, if you’re here for the SEO.

SEO Ranking

In that sense then, the most important ones are probably the tweaks that will be affecting rankings.  In true Google style, there’s not much detail about the actual changes, but we do know that they’re making improvements to a range of factors involving search.

These include improvements to the scoring of search terms that appear in page content, improvements in detecting keyword stuffing and classifying it as such, and increased diversity of domains. (Less results from the same domain, in other words.) They’ve also tweaked a signal they use to surface more authoritative content, although what that means in practice is difficult to determine.

And finally, more freshness.  And less freshness.  They’ve improved their freshness signal, and at the same time, started giving less weight to content which is fresh, but which is also poor quality. (This change was codenamed “NoRot by the way, which is quite amusing.)

SiteLinks

Another thing they’ve been doing more work on is the sitelinks feature, that allows additional internal links to show up below your main site listing.

This includes showing “sub” sitelinks instead of the usual snippet, ranking sitelinks pages by assigning them the same ranking score as the page used for the main ranking, a refresh of sitelink data, and a reduction in the number of duplicated snippets.

Speaking of snippets, they’ve improved the snippet generation process, and will also be showing more content from the beginning of pages for generated snippets.

Local Search

As of this update, Google says that when searches include a location, they’ll be more likely to rank the local navigational homepage of a site in the top position, even if that page does not contain the location. They’re also expanding country identification identification for individual webpages, rather than for domains, so you might have pages on the same site which are identified as relevant for different countries or regions.

Other Changes

Lots of other changes.  In fact, this announcement covers (briefly) 52 changes that have been made to the algorithms in the month of April.  One thing is for sure…they’re not resting on their laurels. Check out the link at the top for a comprehensive list of the new changes.

Of course, a cynic might ask whether all these tweaks and changes actually make much difference, and whether or not they would be better off just building a whole new system, rather than continually patching the old one.

That said however, even a new system would need to be patched regularly.  Annoying as Google’s changes are, I don’t think anybody would deny that the evolution of the medium alone requires it.

 

 

 

Google Update – Spam Not SEO

Well, the much awaited Google update is rolling out, and this is apparently the one that was supposed to contain the much hyped “over-optimisation” penalty, that I talked about in “How Much Is Too Much SEO.

And of course, already posts and articles are appearing forecasting (once again) the death of SEO.

The SEO Death Knell – Not

This happens every time Google claims that it will be intensifying its “fight” against poor quality content and links in their new update.  Everything that Google has done for the last few years has been supposed to herald the end of SEO.

And yet somehow, it hasn’t. And this one is no different.  In fact, if you look at the official Google announcement for the update, Matt Cutts, who was responsible for the original comment about an over optimisation penalty, spends the first four paragraphs expounding on the difference between “spam” and SEO, and the next 6 talking about what sort of thing will be affected by this change.

No word about over optimisation.  Instead, it’s about keyword stuffing, and following the Google guidelines. Same old same old.  Bad link exchanges, duplicate content, that sort of thing.  Nothing new at all.  Just (potentially) the same thing but more effective.

Better Content, Better Quality

As always, Google is out to provide quality, relevant results. And that means that if, as an SEO professional, you’re making sure that your clients have good sites, with high quality relevant content and quality, natural and relevant links, then you’re optimising in line with their guidelines and (should) have nothing to worry about.

In Conclusion

In conclusion then, this update is about targeting spam, not SEO. How effective it will be remains to be seen.  But it certainly isn’t going to “kill” SEO any more than Panda did.

 

 

Blog Links Spam Comments Abound

Yes, I know…I haven’t exactly been keeping up with regular posts here.  Hopefully that’ll soon change, although knowing my luck, probably not.  However, although I may not have been posting, a lot of other people have.  You don’t see what they’ve been posting because it is, not to put too fine a point on it, spam.

Spam Blog Comments

I’ve been having to log in nearly every day to “moderate” comments and unfortunately, most of them are pure link spam.  Now, a relevant comment, with a link in the right place is fine.  When you’re trying to shoehorn your link into the actual text of the comment too, then it’s a clear indicator that it’s spam for blog links.

I mean, I know this used to be a valid (as in frequently used, not as in acceptable) method of getting backlinks, but is this sort of link really worth it? Let me go looking…

…And it looks like all the most recent discussion is on whether or not to allow comments on your blog.  (I like blog comments myself, when they’re genuine anyway. They’re a nice way to interact with people, and to get a feeling that at least you’re being read by somebody.)

Blog Comments Still Have Relevance

And some people are saying that they’re still a good way to “gently” build backlinks, with the occasional caveat that comment links are not as valuable as “editorial” links which appear in the body of the post.

So, really there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on the question.  I did find one article from a couple years back where a guy wanted to test whether they affected rankings or not, but unfortunately the link to the site he was running the test from was dead.

I think it’s high time that somebody tested this, and as soon as I have some spare time, I think I’ll look into doing it.

If you have any ideas about it, feel free to add a comment.  As long as it’s not spam, it’ll be approved. ;)

EDIT:

How ironic…this thread seems to be getting more spam comments so far than any other. *shakes head*