Finally a Google Penguin Update? Happy Now?
Google, according to one Gary Illyes might maybe be launching a Penguin Algorith refresh next week. We’ve heard a few cries of wolf before but maybe if testing goes well this might be the big one.
According to the article on SearchEngineLand.com, most people will find the new Penguin algorithm “a delight.”
Thinking of a quick rush to disavow links? Forget it. Too late. That index has been built as of a few weeks ago.
Search Engine Land says the good guys at Google are “working hard on making both webmasters and users happy. Last time someone said everyone would be happy was when the writers of the Lost series finale created a flopper that made exactly .0053% of the viewing audience happy.
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This comes down to the truth vs. the PR campaign that, just like the fun at Googoe, never stops. It also comes down to attempts by Google to put everyone’s focus on driving organic search profiteers away while sequestering to themselves an army of non-commercial content providers and paying Adwords advertisers. This is a model that the TV and movie industry could never quite achieve. Let any would-be popular star try their hand at being content producers on the web and see how they fare. Google is shoring up dollars and ad revenue with every algorithmic update and penalty.
Barry Schwartz at SERoundtable says it looks like Penguin 3 is about to roll out. I wouldn’t be too surprised. There has been some unusual volatility in search results over the last couple of days even among my customer base. Spikes in volatility are typical just prior to a major update in the Google search engine.
Penguin updates are real and harmful to a lot of businesses but Google doesn’t mind that as long as they can improve their search results to their liking. It’s our job to make sure we don’t get hammered by an update like this or any.
If your website was hit by the last Penguin update, now is the time to have already done your disavowal’s etc. If you start now it’s probably too late for this cycle.
The advice from Google will probably not change much. If you have been hit by Penguin or get hit this time around, as far as organic search rankings is concerned, it’s probably best to just start over with a new website.
In my own experience, I have, to be largely true. I have struggled for months on end with recovering websites from penalties with marginal results while on the other hand, I’ve been able to rank brand-new domains for fairly competitive markets with hundreds of thousands in population in the real estate niche on two page 1 for market high-volume terms in 60 to 90 days flat.
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Requiem For Google’s Last Honest Dance
In the movie Man In The Iron Mask, the young king spends the night with another in a series of very naïve young women who thinks she is in love by morning. She starts to talk to the king about breakfast and what they might enjoy to which the king replies, “I like to eat alone. By the way, you’re leaving tomorrow.” This in essence, is what Google has done to everyone they drew into the ballroom to dance with them in celebration of Google plus. At the end of the night, we have all been screwed and the illusion is over. One of the biggest incentives to online marketers and bloggers alike to form a new allegiance with Google on their new, if slightly clumsy social network and it’s oddly named similarities to likes and shares, was the promise of increased interactions and click-throughs because of the visibility of authorship images in organic search results.
Now they don’t need us anymore and they don’t want people to see us hanging around the palace. Best to make us invisible.
After two years of apparently feigned courtship to bloggers, marketers and business owners, Google pulled the plug on authorship images in search results.
I am not especially disillusioned and I understand that Google is a business. I am also under no illusion that what I present here is somehow a full representation of the truth about what Google is doing with authorship. The problem it illustrates however is how Google tends more often now, to treat people with disrespect especially as Google grows larger and richer.
What I say here is true, not in the sense that it is true to the exclusion of other truths and bigger truths about why Google made their decision. It is true alongside of those other truths. It well may be that Google’s intent and best effort was to improve their search results but doing so is like damming up the Yellow River in China to get more power. If thousands or tens of thousands of people live along its banks and have lived there for centuries of generations, that’s just too bad. Their homes will now be flooded and destroyed. They will be displaced and forced to live in strange new unwanted environments.
Google CFM “censorship for money” is what is happening. Maybe not from Google’s perspective but definitely from the perspective of everyone they have dismissed and disenfranchised in the course of making their large-scale decision that respects stockholders and profit margins more than they respect the people that helped get them there to enjoy those values.
Google brought all of us into a dance two years ago, promising a world where we had a voice and a means of expression like never before. We could interact with others on the web and retain our identity across search. That was until it somehow got out of their control. Once again, Google decided to take the easy route of censorship in the virtual universe. If you get too visible. If you get too much advantage. If you get out of line. Google will not hesitate to single you out and delegitimize or even punish you as an entity or as an individual. Play by our rules or we will silence you. It may not technically be a universe that they control but it is practically and functionally on a daily basis, an entire virtual universe that they control. It works like a universe and entities live and die there whether Google ever intended that or not. At some point, they began to leverage that reality with Google Plus. The problem is that this is not a universe they created. It’s not really their virtual property but they took control of it anyway. They simply came and took over a very large portion of the World Wide Web. Functionally and perhaps unfortunately, they have positioned themselves as a sole gateway and keeper of this world wide web for the majority of people who go online. They make the rules and enforcement is swift and targeted. They will punish you even if only to make you an example of you to others. They will destroy your entire business just to demonstrate that they can do so to others. This is as if to say “We can’t kill all of you but the next one we see, we will execute. Now, don’t get out of line, the rest of you.”
How many times has Google started out as your friend and turned out to be your enemy or at least your frenemy? Google often starts out promoting themselves as being on the moral high ground but somehow they end up on the strategic high ground only, and then their supporters defend them saying they are just a corporation taking the best course for their business, so morality doesn’t apply. That’s fine as long as morality is on the same level throughout the process from beginning to end and from the start when Google attracts new customers and new subscribers, but that isn’t what they do. They can best be judged not by what they say but what they do next.
In the attraction phase, they naturally acquire and accumulate a small cadre of dedicated defenders. Those defenders are also quick to correct you and are even ready to report you to the authorities if they see you breaking either the old rules or the new ones or even one that they decide are important that they make up themselves. When you get in bed with Google, the end always turns out the same. Just as you are marveling at how cool the king and his palace are, the king says “I like to eat alone. By the way, you are leaving right now.”
As long as we are willing to put up with the behavior of a bad king, the bad behavior we get is Google as it is today. Unilateral, unfettered, unbridled exercise of power regardless of what it does to any or most or even all of us.
Next time Google throws a party, and invites everyone to come in for a great time, I’m at first inclined to say “no thank you” but like most of us, I will probably go, but with my eyes wide open. They have done everything possible to ensure that no other choices are available.
The tension remains between so-called “Great content” or “awesome content” and old school SEO metrics like domain authority, page rank and inbound external links.
In my next update, I’ll more fully address my recent observations about a post on one of the Realtor.com websites about real estate SEO
. It is a perfect example of how a website with a lot of links and domain authority is able to totally blow off anything remotely close to valuable content and still rank
. It ranks on links and domain authority alone. The content is 100% borrowed and condensed like canned milk
from another website- complete with attribution. It shows up high in Google for the search “real estate SEO
” despite the worthless and plagiarized and frankly lazy
nature of its content. Its advice could not be more elementary even with great effort to be less than it already is, and its information
is already well known by the vast majority of the audience.
It is pure unabashed drivel.
Nonetheless, it achieves the goal of ranking high. Almost as if to say, “see? We can beat you anytime we want to.”
SEO By Giants or Large Trolls
None of that matters to people in my industry or to me. The flip side of awesome content is that it is not really about awesome content at all. It is about value in the mind of the reader. That value can be entertainment or it may be about something monetary but above all, it must be motivating enough for the reader to take a desired action or it doesn’t really matter to a business.
If you’re neither entertaining nor helpful, you might be a realtor.org re-hashed post.
My own website for this topic of real estate SEO gets relatively low traffic but when people arrive, the conversion rate is extremely high. About 15% to 25% of the people who consume my “content” contact me. This is an astronomical conversion rate by industry standards. It is because of how I write and how targeted the focus of my so-called “content” is.
There is a balance between ranking in Google and selling the right thing to the right people but is achieved by a few real estate agents online. Many real estate agents do a fair to bang up job in their other marketing efforts but it’s almost as if though they are paralyzed when it comes to online marketing. They somehow are lured into thinking they have to compete directly, head-to-head with Realtor, Trulia and Zillow by offering a website that calls the visitor to engage in real estate searches, looking at property after property until they grow bored with the process and leave the website.
I know an agent with a beautiful website and after some back-and-forth we finally took a serious look at the analytics. This agent complained that no one was calling and no new business was coming in. They had business back in the summer and it dried-up. Their perception was that something happened on the website that caused that drop in business so we began to examine what the difference was between then and now. Peeling back the layers, we determined that the website had never delivered any business to this real estate agent at all. All of the business in the summer had come from direct referral and none of it had come from the website. Almost unbelievably, the agent just hadn’t seen the reality of the situation. Even looking at the evidence square on, it was difficult for the agent to accept that the website had never been a source of business since it was created.
The analytics data held an even bigger surprise. The website was receiving just over 100 visits per day! 65% of those visits were first-time visitors. That was a really confounding revelation because not one website visitor was contacting the agent in any way. The website and its content were aligned and designed to encourage visitors to search properties, following the strategy and feel of an aggregator website. It was not selling the agent in any way that encouraged people to make a personal one to one connection with the agent.
People may want to peruse and search homes but that doesn’t persuade them to work with an agent. In this case, giving visitors exactly what they want delivers nothing to the agent who puts so much time and expense into providing it.
People in my industry and many others too, do the same thing- being like everyone else and claiming to be oh so much better than every one else while saying the same thing as everyone else. I easily bring in all the business I can handle to the point of choosing who I will accept and setting my own terms for engagement from website platform to the message that goes on that website because I’m very different from my competition and my visitors understand that as soon as they arrive.
Most real estate agents have a journey ahead of them to sort out how to differentiate themselves from their competitors. “I’m more dedicated”, “I provide better service”, “I spend more time with the client” and a dozen other real estate agent platitudes are all commoditized approaches and non-unique propositions. The background noise of a thousand local competing agents drowns out this kind of boilerplate sales talk.
The opportunity to win hands down against every aggregator website and nearly every other real estate agent and brokerage in the local market is there for any agent in virtually every market.
But it does take creativity, hard thought and imagination to break out of the mold of real estate boilerplate talk. Some agents are so conditioned to obey and so eager to comply with marketing status quo messaging pre-determined by associations, corporations and even brokerages that they will never break free and light the spark needed to turn a casual visitor into an engaged and eager prospect who has just decided “This is most definitely the agent for me.“
Well, you have some of the meat and bones of my next article here as I’ve been wanting to address this topic in light of the worth-less Realtor.org post that has moved to the top of search on the force of 12 million domain links.
The local real estate agent still rules, especially if they are just willing to exert the thought and creativity it takes to become different and more valuable in the eyes of a visitor than any and every other option available. That’s a tough call to create that message, but once done, but it pays off forever.
Realtor.com is almost always in the top 3 results for your real estate market. (It’s not fair and that’s the way it is.)
One of the biggest reasons why Zillow, Trulia and Realtor get the lions share of local search terms such as “Boca Raton real estate for sale” is natural link volume and diversity.
Google’s Penguin algorithm supposedly punishes over optimization of anchor text yet I have found, According to Google itself, a phrase that shows up in 11 million links pointing back to Realtor.com. How is this possible? One reason is that this particular phrase shows up as part of much longer and varied phrases but its influence on search results is clear and compelling. There are some takeaways regarding this approach to anchor text at the end of this post.
By link diversity I mean two things that are equally applicable.
1. Diverse domains.
In simple terms, Google runs a test to see who links to your website. If they determine that most of your links come from only a few people that means a lot less than you have links coming from a larger variety of people(Websites). Checking on the authenticity, server location and geographic location of domains with links to your website helps them determine your website’s importance.
2. Diverse anchors.
This is another test to see if you are over optimizing(Manipulating) the search engine by using repeated anchor text. This is with the penguin algorithm is all about. Failing this test can wipe your website off the Google landscape. The days of gaming search results for a keyword by creating a lot of links with that keyword across a limited set of websites are over. The days of high visibility for a topic, a concept and quality ideas is certainly here to stay. This is not to say that keywords and links don’t matter. It’s just that Google’s testing has become a lot more sophisticated and has really put the pressure on to stay away from artificial manipulation of specific keywords and lean toward authentic content and authentic link acquisition.
These two factors are algorithmically assessed by Google’s computers and scored.
The more of these kind of links that you have the higher you will be shown in search results.
Despite the rising crescendo of Google’s nonstop PR campaign and FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) campaign about link manipulation, links are still king in search engine optimization.
My studies continue to show evidence that these aggregator websites provide widgets that systematically and programmatically change anchor text pointing back to their particular Community search pages so that there is always a balanced ratio of anchor text to avoid the Penguin penalty. I even suspect that these widgets are programmed to display one thing to visitors and another to search engines. This is a clear violation of Google’s TOS if it is true but big brands get away with a lot of things that you and I supposedly cannot.
Realtor.com is in the number one position for the search”Miami real estate.” and a quick evaluation on Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer revealed this anchor text: “miami real estate – miami, fl homes for sale – realtor.com®” coming from several websites pointing back to the Miami page on realtor.com. Every one of them that I checked did not have the link when I visited the webpage but they did have a widget that is deployed across in about 46,000 websites (shown below).
Realtor is not the only one to provide widgets that come with their own TOS and it usage agreement which typically restricts the user from altering any code whatsoever in the widget. This leaves the owner of the widget free to create and rotate links and anchor text at will. Will Google ever do anything about this? I don’t know but they certainly will hammer you if you try it!
This is an ingenious approach to link building because the anchor text is very long and does not focus on one particular keyword but rather that uses multiple longtail keywords combined with a brand. This seems to have completely bypassed the Penguin algorithm to the benefit Realtor.com.
In fact, if you have a look at the trailing part of that anchor text and search it by exact text, Surrounded by quotes, in Google, Google says there are 11 million such instances of that phrase within link anchors. I guess they get a pass because other words precede that phrase.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Google loves a brand even when they clearly manipulate links and anchor text.
Longer anchor texts appear to survive Penguin much better than short ones.
A lot of people are handing the farm to the aggregator sites so that they can use their tools.
Don’t worry, there is still plenty of room on page 1 of Google search for a well-crafted website with good quality links pointing to it and of course a good social signal doesn’t hurt at all. Contact me for help.
Stay away from repeated over-use of shorter anchors of obvious commercial intent. Penguin won’t be far away.