Archive for March, 2011

Getting to know your competition

A SEO consultant has to be aware about his competition at any point of time. Which of them are ranking well. Not only just that but also how much traffic they are cornering, the movement on Google search rankings and ongoing SEO activities by your competitors.

Sounds overwhelming?

For an idea on how to evaluate how to get rough figures of CTR of your competition check out http://www.seomoz.org/blog/defining-your-true-competitors.

It has summed up easy to use techniques. Results will not be very accurate or revealing but can be an important tool to measure your competition. Though, many SEOs like me rely more on checking competitors across a range of keywords and then ranking competitors accordingly. Why? because accurate CTR stats are hard to get by and may fail to give a clear picture.

Do chime in with your opinions.

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What to learn from Demand Media?

Demand Media’s success has created a lot of material for analysts to chew about. Their sweatshop model was recently explained in an article in Wired.

It explains the whole process on how Demand Media uses latest automated techniques to churn out articles especially created to fill public’s demand for knowledge. The sheer scale of this operation and ambition is something which can even amaze most experienced industry expert.

Demand Media’s low product cost and high output model certainly resembles China’s economic model. But there are much more serious issues with Demand Media.

The issues are about credibility and quality. With the runaway success of their model, Demand Media is getting highly ambitious. But only to produce low quality mass produced content where they can put their Google adsense ads! Millions of pages filled with crap is not going to help internet users but Demand Media doesn’t care to think so.

But there are many lessons to learn from Demand Media. Some are worth emulating and others are what you simply should not

1) Before writing content always do proper keyword research: Demand Media mines millions of search data to find the best keywords and then create title with help of highly sophisticated algorithms and cheap proofers.

If you also want to succeed, then you will also have to learn how to research for the best possible keywords. Find out what people are looking for and write about that topic. People search on internet for “Why”, “Where” and “How”. And advertisers place their ads in pages answering these questions.

2) Keep costs low: Demand Media knows that revenue from each article is not too much. Therefore, it has to keep its cost low by using powerful softwares, cheap writers and producing millions of articles every month.

Even big media groups are bent upon lowering their costs all the time then small companies like us also have to invent new ways to keep our costs to minimum. Demand Media’s process can give us lot of ideas on how to do so

3) Quality matters:  Even though Demand Media is the toast of the town right now, it is increasingly getting bad press because of its bottom-of-the-pile quality of articles. The standard of information is low.

You should not emulate this step. Always create high quality content. This may not be apparent now but in near future this will play a big role. We can already see that happening with Google’s Panda Update

4) Credibility matters even more: Demand Media chain of sites have very low credibility because of all the fluff they produce. People have complained about rephrased, low quality and generic information on it’s pages. People on street know this too well and many have even stopped clicking on its links in search results.

As a small business owner credibility should be of highest importance to you. If you provide verified, high quality information you will be respected and deemed an authority. And this will never harm you!

5) Business Model: Demand Media’s business model is based on revenue from Google ads. Though, it has avoided censure from Google till now because of its relations with YouTube, it cannot bank on it for too long. Google has been criticized for spam from content farms such as Demand Media dominating search results.

Google will have to weed out low quality pages sooner then later to re-instate its credibility. This will mean a huge chunk of web pages from such content farms will simply vanish from search results. This will hurt their revenue model.

Never base your revenue model on just ads and never get too dependent on Google.

Many have learnt it the hard way. Make sure you do not!

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Google Panda Fallout : Quality Content the New King?

Google Panda update shook up the entire SEO industry like never before. Perhaps it was long overdue. But what prompted Google to do so? Were there ulterior motives or was Google simply responding to the scathing criticism it faced because of its search results which were run over by spam?

Since last few years, all that was required to make a website top the ranks in Google search results was to have a lot of content on web pages and a bunch of inbound links from sites with good Google PR. SEO consultants soon found a loophole. They figured out that though content was a key factor, quality was not. Taking advantage of this loophole, many websites sprang up with dubious content which were mostly scrapped, rewritten, or spun from other sites. These websites served thousands and thousands of web pages with very low quality content replete with profitable keywords.

These mega-sites were soon termed as “content farms”. On the strength of the sheer volume of pages, they soon bulldozed their way to the top of Google’s search results. They also found out that users searched with long tail keywords like “Things to remember while traveling to XYZ”. They created articles around long tail keywords to dominate Google results. The problem was not that they created or allowed articles geared around such particular keywords but that most of these articles were of dubious quality.

As a result, Google search results for such keywords showed pages from such content farms. This raised a serious question regarding quality of Google’s search results. Industry analysts rightly questioned the effectiveness of Google’s algorithm. They asked if it was so easy to game Google?

Google’s reputation took a beating. With other search engines such as Bing, providing arguably “better results”, it was time for Google to pull up its sock.

And it did! Google’s latest algorithm update coined “Panda” update severely downgraded sites with low quality content aka “Content Farms”. Many article directories also suffered as a consequence not too mention many small and big sites that had serious issues regarding their content.

Many innocent sites were also caught in the crossfire as result but industry is hoping that as Google fixes its algorithm such incidents will reduce substantially.

One important message to take home after this update is that website owners should renew their efforts on developing quality content. The more authoritative the content is the more chance it stands of ranking well. Yes, Google won’t ever be able to fully and correctly judge the quality of the content if it depends exclusively on algorithms. But still it will take help of many indicators to evaluate content’s authority.

Google’s update is not the perfect solution to the increasing problem of spam but it has sent a clear signal to all websites.

Are you listening?

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Bing surpasses Yahoo

Seems like TV product placements have helped Bing afterall. Mircosoft’s Bing has displaced Yahoo as the world’s second most popular search engine. According to Statcounter, Bing grabbed 4.37% of the global pie whereas, Yahoo! is at 3.93%.

The figures may seem paltry when compared to Google’s share of 89.94% but nevertheless, is a good news for Bing which trying harder to place itself as the next viable alternative to Google.  

In US market though, the picture is slightly different. Yahoo! is still at second position with 9.74%, with Bing trailing with 9.03%. Google’s share is less but still substantial 79.63%.

Hope the industry become much more multipolar for the sake of users.

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Google Update: Why webmasters should not panic (not at least yet)

The Google update has claimed many innocent casualties and even reputable sites have suffered. While, some may dismiss off the distress of these sites as inevitable collateral damage when a serious purge is going underway, the matter is quite serious for those affected.

Google is the main source of traffic for most of the sites on internet and any dip in traffic means huge amount of revenue loss. When it’s a matter of your next pay cheque, the matter is serious enough.

My take on this issue is that those sites who have been penalized for no fault of theirs will see rankings improve very soon as the Google will be working overtime to fix the glitches. After all, I don’t think Google would like to seen as this bully who goes on picking geeks arbitrarily.

While there is not much a webmaster can do except take the case on various forums like http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters?hl=en  and wait while Google cleans up the mess it created.

What this episode has done is that many companies will be now asking tough questions from their SEO consultants. Advice for SEO consultants – Be prepared for any eventuality. Your site could be the next victim of Google update. Till then, you can just keep doing legal SEO stuff and try not get involve in shady SEO practices.

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Google update – Traffic down, biggies cry foul!

The Big G has updated its algorithm which will now supposedly weed out sites with poor quality content, called, content farms. Google has been whipping up frenzy against these content farms for some time now as users have complained about abundance of top ranking spam sites dominating the search results.

In an attempt to deliver high quality search results, Google embarked on a mission to update its algorithm.

According to Google Blog:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

These changes will affect 11.8% of their queries. So how has this Google update affected the sites? 

Many big sites such as ezine articles, PRNewswire, PRNewswire, Technorati, Associated Content, Suite101, HubPages, Mahalo, EzineArticles have reported negative reports from this algorithm change.

Almost every of site would hate to be labeled as a “content farm” and many of them have objected on how they have been penalized even though they have been providing high quality content over the years.

What has piqued the industry analysts is how eHow not only escaped any harsh penalty but also benefitted from the update even though they have been accused of low quality content on their site.

Google is not going to reveal what it constitutes as good quality content and how it judges it, any time in near future. A SEO company can only guesstimate what can help them in getting good rankings. For now the only clue is “provide good quality content which benefit users”. Whatever that means!

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