For an SEO-enthusiast, checking Matt Cutts’ blog is not unlike checking the weather. You don’t have to do it, necessarily, but it’s nice to know which days you’re going to want to bring an umbrella.
Of course, the weatherman isn’t always totally accurate. There was that one time he called for a foot of snow and all we got was a drizzle.
If you’re one of those folks who like to stay on top of the SEO forecast, you’ve probably seen Cutts’ post last month called “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.” It was pretty anxiety-inducing; it’s hard to hear, verbatim, that “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should stop,” right from the horse’s mouth. “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done”; Cutts goes on, “it’s just gotten too spammy.”
But I think it’s the next part that we really need to pay attention to: “In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”
So, you mean, you wouldn’t guest blog without doing it right? Shocker. The weatherman might as well have told us that it’s going to be hot near the equator.
I have to disagree that guest blogging is “done,” “dead,” or “too spammy,” as Cutts argues. The fact of the matter is that, yes, spam is going to be spammy, but guest blogging is rampant with opportunities for those of us who truly want to reap the benefits. It’s all about doing it properly. Here’s what defines good guest blogging – a practice that, I think, will never truly die:
- Increasing brand awareness. Does your brand have a unique voice? Does your company have something unique to contribute to the industry? Is it entertaining? If you’re guest blogging on a site whose audience is well within your brand’s industry, and your blog post gives the audience something to remember your brand by, you shouldn’t have a problem.
- Being authoritative. Get your facts straight. Be thought-provoking rather than obvious. Use statistics and numbers to reinforce your points.
- Building relationships. Get to know the others in your industry, and collaborate rather than compete if need be. Build relationships with bloggers and see if you can pitch a series of blog posts rather than a single post. Use LinkedIn and Google Plus to get to know other people – people who want to give you guest blogging opportunities rather than people who need to be convinced.
- Give and take. If you’re not sure how to build relationships, start by trading opportunities. Let a name in the industry blog for you, once in a while.
- Not having your eye on the prize (links). Remember that links will come naturally if your content is good.
- Be an expert, not a guest blogger. Know what you’re talking about before pitching an idea; don’t do it the other way around.
And if you want to take guest blogging opportunities on for your own blog, use the above as guidelines to find quality contributors. Valuable guest blogging is all about building relationships, which goes both ways.
As our own Chris Countey reported just moments ago, Google’s Matt Cutts announced at #PubCon in Las Vegas earlier today that the world’s most prominent search engine is releasing a “Disavow Links” feature within Webmaster Tools.
Formerly, the removal of damaging, low quality links from Google’s consideration was a tedious and often difficult process. Going forward, removing such links (once they are located) will be a much less complex procedure and the tool is expected to be one of the most useful resources in the digital marketing industry.
The Disavow Links page, which is now live within Webmaster Tools states:
“If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site.”
The tool will utilize a new “disavow.txt” file, which will work similarly to the long-standing “robots.txt” and specific pages containing links (or even entire domains) can be added to the file and subsequently eliminated as a ranking factor.
While this tool has been rumored for quite some time and even hinted at by Cutts since July, the official announcement and debut of the new resource is a major leap forward for SEOs and is certainly going to impact the industry for the foreseeable future.
When you watch TV this week, you may see ads for a new show called Elementary, which is another take on the original Master of Deduction, Sherlock Holmes. In the past five years, Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective stories have been adapted several times in film and television, and their popularity made me wonder how Mr. Holmes would handle SEO. In particular, I wondered how he would see social signals in the overall scheme of things. While nobody knows for certain what Google’s algorithm is, there are certainly some clues that might help us deduce social signals. Let’s take a look at what we do know.
When the Penguin Update came out, Google dropped the hammer on many Black Hat SEO practices. These included:
- Keyword Stuffing
- Overuse of Exact Match Anchor Text Links
- Link farms
- Links from Foreign Sites
Sites that used these and other Black Hat practices were penalized and saw their rankings drop significantly. Google tried to establish the fact that relevancy was king in rankings. Sites that had fresh content and quality backlinks were the ones that were going to appear on the first page because they would be the ones most useful to the user. With that in mind, how do social signals figure into the mix? What about votes of confidence from social shares? Do they really count?
In 2010, Danny Sullivan wrote an article in Search Engine Land that highlighted how Google and Bing might be using social data from Twitter and Facebook to help determine rankings. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, responded with this YouTube video on his channel. He suggested that social signals figured greatly in Google’s real-time search results and confirmed that Google was dabbling into the idea of author authority. Still, he didn’t reveal too much about social signals’ weight in rankings.
In the time since then, several events have occurred that may bring more light to where social signals come into play. Twitter and Google’s deal officially expired in 2011, which led to the end of real-time search results.
We discussed the Twitter fire-hose being closed off earlier this year on You Tube
Google bought several patents in the earlier part of the year, creating buzz that it’s looking to add more social elements into search results. Finally, Cutts weighed in just last month and said that Google was unable to crawl Twitter’s pages for 1.5 months after their deal ended, which gave him some cause for concern over third party platforms. However, he did again reiterate that Google is always looking for those who are important because they’ll bring relevancy and quality searches.
What concerns would Google have with third party platforms. Google has consistently said it does not weigh +1′s seriously into it’s algorithm at this time and considers Search Plus your World more at this point.
So we have some clues and hints, but what does this all mean? David Harry of Search Engine Watch released a great blog post several months ago that takes an in-depth look at social signals and shows that however they figure into the algorithm right now, being involved in different social channels can certainly increase your visibility and overall authority. Those who follow and are fans of you or your business will more likely link to you, retweet an interesting thing you said or tell others about you. These will organically boost other signals that are known to figure into the algorithm right now.
But this is in direct contradiction to what Google is saying, other than the OG (Open Graph) argument. Fact of the matter is that social signals have an indirect relationship to increased visibility in SERP’s and can be explained as mentioned above. Improving your impressions (and CTR) the Search Plus your World and other avenues will positively lift your site pages in the rankings.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently commented that the company is “uniquely positioned” and it’s search team are working on ways to develop its Search Engine for purposes other than People Search.
Also, as you might have noticed, I used relevancy several times in the blog post. Google is all about producing the best results for its users. It wants websites to build real relationships and followings. Perhaps, that’s why there are whispers that guest blogs produced by paid spam sites might be next on Google’s hit list. These disingenuous routes to produce fake results are a thing of the past. A strong social media presence with fresh content and active engagement is something that people who use the web want.
Just as the days of getting 500 bookmarks and 500 directory submissions have long passed we anticipate the days of buying mass quantities of low quality blog advertisement posts (poorly spun and disingenuous content) are next on the radar.
For example, Webimax uses a variety of techniques for its clients to help bolster their social media presence. The goal is to create a voice that others who are connected to you will find interesting and engaging. This will include actively approaching leaders in the industry; encouraging users to participate in contests, surveys, or polls; and building a network of different social media platforms around your brand. All of these things will make you more relevant, which should make you friendlier to Google.
Social Signals is such a great term when we understand it’s meaning. Deeper than tweets and shares related to an article or piece of content. Within our daily lives we stumble upon many actions we give off and receive from people in our lives. A cashier at the checkout with the attitude signals to us that you may not shop their again. A construction worker who holds the door for an older person at the convenience store signals you to take notice of his uniform. These are all great signals of trust, right?
Not necessarily. In these examples; Consider the cashier had a bad day because she couldn’t pick up all three of her kids from day care on time and got hit with a hefty fee. Consider the gentle construction worker who held the door generously had intent to not draw suspicion of his shoplifting plot. These certainly are extreme examples but lay the groundwork for sentiment and trust and how we reward those with it.
Maybe this is Matt Cutts whole argument for Google against truly evolving the algorithm to further heavily weight social signals. How can you really know (and rank) trust and authority socially?
This is the problem Google will likely be more transparent about by the end of the year with the evolution of digital media, specifically mobile and tablet usage. Users are relying on social signals to form opinions on local businesses and other services. If Google can’t find a way to incorporate these signals into it’s main engine then it will lose out, not to other search engines but to other distribution platforms such as social mobile applications.
If Google does not use social signals in its rankings or at least start to use them more in the near future, how relevant can its search results really be? It doesn’t take a world class detective to tell you that social signals will factor in SEO for years to come. But will we be thinking of Google when we are are considering them?
Co Author: Christopher Hardwick, WebiMax