Google Doesn’t Think Your Title Tags are Good Enough

For several years now, Google has been changing some title tags in the SERPs. Some of these changes are to be expected, such as when a title tag is longer than what can be displayed in the results. Other changes are a result of differences in how Google views the page content vs. title tag, links pointing at the page, and the query they are displaying the result for. Something I get asked on a regular basis is “How many are actually being changed?” I decided to use our Partner API to find out.

Mining Search Results & Title Tags

I started with a list of a few random keywords, pulled the top 100-120 results for each, and looked over the data. Tori dropped the results into Excel and built a few charts to show what the initial set looked like so we could decide whether to go bigger. We continued this process a couple times to confirm that results looked the same as we added more keywords and results into the mix. The final data set for this ended up being a little over 111,000 results.

As the search result data came in, I would run each URL through our web insights queue, which can be used to crawl pages and parse them into clean, structured data. This allowed me to quickly grab title tags off each page without having to deal with potential slowness of loading each page myself through my own crawler. Our web insights queue can grab thousands of pages in parallel if needed.
More Title Tag Data…

3 Tips For Putting Worries About Google Penguin Behind You

Peguins of Madagascar

I spent most of the weekend thinking about and laughing at penguins, after seeing a promo for Dreamworks Animations’ Penguins of Madagascar (shown above), a hilarious animated comedy set to debut in November. However, on Sunday, when I saw it was confirmed that Google had launched the long-anticipated Penguin 3.0 Update, there wasn’t much laughing to be heard throughout the Internet marketing world.

In fact, for SEOs and digital marketing firms, news of the update likely made for a bad weekend, as everyone prepared for a rough week ahead when they’ll certainly hear from client’s who fear their sites were nailed by what many consider the most punitive of Google’s penalties.

These Penguins Are Anything But Funny

The Penguin algorithm is Google’s way of punishing unscrupulous link builders for spammy, typically bought, links. Getting hit by the algorithm is bad enough, but the difficulty of recovering from the penalty is what makes it so dreaded.

“When you get hit by a Penguin, you are done. Toast,“ says Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge. “Not only that, if you go through a link cleanup project to try and position for yourself for recovering in the next release, and you miss it, when will you get another chance?”

It’s very common for SEO and content strategists to work with clients who’ve purchased links. The links and link networks are quite easy to spot, and if the client hasn’t been hit by Penguin yet, you don’t so much count yourself lucky as much as you see yourself working against the clock to remove as many of those spammy links as possible.

It can be a scary time, especially when you’re working with a clients who are desperate for links and who, because they have yet to be nailed by Penguin, are reluctant to remove as many links as needed. The same can apply to client’s who have been hit by the update, for often they don’t truly understand the difficulty involved in getting the website back on its feet—if it happens at all.

Focus On Building The Right Links Through Quality Content And Outreach

I’ve worked with clients on both sides of the aisle, and I can say firsthand that avoiding the penalty is a hell of a lot easier than recovering from it for all but the luckiest of companies.

The sanest and most effective approach I’ve been a part of worked primarily because it entailed the SEO and content teams working closely together to right the listing ship: SEOs handling link removal, link disavowing and Reconsideration Requests; content team members working to prepare, produce and share quality content, while at the same time expanding the brand’s outreach and honest link building efforts.

Working alongside some great SEOs, and through having clients who were willing to be open-minded, forward-looking and, most of all, patient, I developed a strategic approach that’s easily replicated:

1). Identify quality sources for links: Many of the links I’ve seen get companies into trouble weren’t bought. They were crappy, low quality and totally unnatural for the brand. Take the opposite approach: Look for link building opportunities in and around your category and from high quality sources.

Let’s say you’re a lawn care company based in Fort Worth, Texas. Since the region is gripped by drought, and because of it entire communities are struggling to deal with water restrictions, why not contact the local and regional newspapers with a pitch of being interviewed for their online edition on how to smartly water lawns, the best plants to select or how to re-sod a lawn under such conditions? Better yet, ask about penning a monthly column for them. You could make a similar pitch to national websites, offering free advice to their audience while gaining a link and enhanced authority in the process.

Also, reach out to current and potential vendor partners, offering to share content, deliver presentations or be a part of sponsored activities, all of which would earn your business a link, either as part of a directory or on each vendor’s website.

The key here is looking for natural opportunities for links.

2). Step up outreach efforts: Many businesses dove into content marketing without much hesitation, but also without much instruction of how to properly build links. What that led to was a lot of content being produced without having any clear objective.

To build links effectively and sustainably for your business, you need to think of any piece of content you produce as being potentially link-worthy, in addition to being share-worthy.

If not, why create it at all?

This quote from Moz’s Rand Fishkin says it all.

To make this work for your business, use a tool like BuzzSumo to see what types of content in your vertical are (a) being shared and are (b) popular. Most important, use Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and the like to identify who is sharing the information, and what others are saying about it.

Use social media to reach out to some of the most active, engaged participants on the topic and either ask them to be a part of the content you’re in the process of creating, via interviews, or ask them if they’d help you share the content across multiple social platforms.
Those who take part in creating the content will assuredly throw you a link to their site, and the rampant promotion increases exponentially the likelihood of the content getting additional links.

3). Focus on creating quality content. One of the best ways to ensure sure spammy links are a thing of the past is to make quality content a frequent arrow in your quiver. Content quality is synonymous with link-worthy content, and a sizable percentage of the content you produce should fall under both umbrellas

If your business creates four blog posts per month, make one of them a long-form, meaty piece that tackles a hot topic in your vertical. For example, a realtor might do a simple Google search for the “biggest concerns for first-time homeowners,” then peruse the top three pieces of content in the SERPS.

She could then set about creating a more thorough, nuanced piece of content than those she found, taking the time to add visuals and to massage the text until it’s as polished as it can be. Once the content is posted to the site, she could begin the outreach process, including sharing the information with magazines and websites in the vertical, in addition to reaching out to engaged active communities on social media to enlist their help with sharing the content. (Hopefully, she’s already a member of these communities.)

And because she’ll have at least one of these meaty pieces per month, it increases the likelihood that link building becomes a part of her mindset and the frequency of links to her site should continue to increase over time.

I’ve seen these techniques work firsthand.

What I’ve come to love about this strategy is it forces business owners to think of links as an outgrowth of delivering quality to prospects and existing customers, which results in more shares and links, but fewer Penguin visits.

Plus, once a business owner adopts the quality content-links mindset, it’s far less likely that they’ll fall back into the old habits of buying links or attaining crappy, low quality links

How does your business keep Penguins away?

Image courtesy of MoviePilot.com

Now Provided Report From AuthorityLabs Quickly Finds You More Keyword Opportunities

With the majority of keywords being “not provided” these days, solid information on which ones are driving traffic to your site has been hard to come by. As a keyword rank tracking tool, we see how important it can be for people to understand which keywords are the most important to focus on when planning an SEO campaign. That’s why we created our new Now Provided reports.

These new reports are pulling together our ranking data, Google Analytics data, and a few other data points to show you how many pages are receiving organic traffic and a list of the keywords that those pages rank for. The initial report gathers a full year of data, so it can take some time to generate, but once it’s set up you’re going to love the insights.

Landing Page Report

Once we have the ranking and landing page data, we start looking for keyword opportunities. These are keywords where you’re not already ranking at the top but there is potential for traffic and lower competition. We use that data to generate a list of top keyword opportunities. If there is anything in the list that you aren’t yet focused on, and those terms could drive valuable traffic, start tracking them and put efforts toward improving those rankings.

Keyword Opportunities

Individual Landing Pages

After you’ve checked out the possible quick wins that are available in the keyword opportunities list, you can start digging into individual landing pages. Any landing page in the report that we have keyword data for will be linked and can be expanded for deeper insights. Click on the landing page you want to view details for and you will see a list of keywords, current ranking position, and several other metrics that will help you determine the best keywords to spend time on. If a keyword has high search volume and low competition, it is probably worth moving up your list of priorities. Keep in mind that you want to focus on terms that convert to leads or sales, so if you’re comparing keywords that are close together in volume and competition, take a look at the CPC data to see which ones are likely more valuable.

Landing Page Drilldown

As of today, everyone with an active AuthorityLabs account has access to this new report. If you don’t yet have an account or haven’t checked out our interface in a while, sign up now and start your free 30 day trial. If you already have an account, login now and follow these instructions for getting set up.

Friday Humor: Videos You Can’t Miss

It is Friday, thank God. It has been a long week of work and unpleasant news. So, I thought we should share some videos that might bring you some enjoyment and relaxation today, because honestly, you deserve it! Everyone at AuthorityLabs wishes you a happy Friday and a relaxing weekend.

Grasshopper.com Videos

Earlier this week Zapier had a blog post on viral videos and I feel in love with Grasshopper’s video strategy and wanted to share the humor with you.

Jimmy Fallon – on Ello, #ThatWasStupid and The Walking Dead

Great Music – New Dork

Jimmy Kimmel – This is Sad- Who Is Joe Biden

How To Build Relationships And Links For Your Business

julie-joyceLink building is one of the most talked about but most poorly understood areas of online marketing and SEO. Everyone recognizes the value assigned to links; not enough people understand the best means of acquiring links or the role links play in making their business stick out from the crowd.

However, for Julie Joyce, links are her bread and butter. Joyce, one of the most-recognized names in link building, is a prolific writer and speaker, in addition to being the director of operations for Link Fish Media, a Greensboro, N.C.-based link building company.

She agreed to let me pick her brain and provide my readers with some fantastic tips.

Q&A

RS: There is so much confusion and misinformation associated with link building. “Yes, you should do it.” “No, concentrate your efforts elsewhere.” “It’s a shady enterprise,” etc. Where do you see link building as fitting on the pyramid with all the other areas at play in online marketing?

JJ: It’s definitely a shady enterprise. Haha! OK, seriously, it can be [shady] and that’s why so many people hate it. It doesn’t have to be though, not if it’s done well, and that’s what everyone forgets. Doing it well is painful and incredibly time-consuming, and in this crazy attention-deficit decade no one wants to do anything that doesn’t have an immediate payoff. I don’t think links are the only answer, but I think it’s difficult to do well online without good links unless you have amazing social media in place. Link building should not be the main focus of marketing any site, though, and sometimes it is and webmasters ignore everything else and that’s never good.

For someone new to link building, what are some of the first things they need to know? That bad links can completely ruin anything good you do.

They need to understand how to look at a site like a human being and think “Will this really be a good link?” instead of getting caught up in the metrics. They need to know why we build links, which is so basic but you’d be surprised at how many link builders couldn’t explain that well.

RS: Many times, the owner of a new site realizes she needs links but worries about where to put her time and energy (e.g., blogging, offline PR/branding, etc.). Where should link building fit on her list of marketing priorities?

JJ: I actually almost never work with brand new sites because some of our tactics are risky, and it’s not a good idea. I’d probably say get your ducks in order everywhere else and then start trying to get some good links, whether it’s by pursuing them or attracting them with your content. I’d probably opt for starting out with social media rather than diving into link building.

RS: How should a business define relevance when looking to attain links from other sites? Dominant site? Dominant site in their vertical? A site that should attract conversions? Easiest opportunities?

JJ: Never go with easy opportunities. A site that should attract conversions is my pick here. I don’t care if it’s a dominant site, if it’s a good site and I think doing a link there is beneficial to both parties [I say go for it].

RS: A lot of chatter now centers on link building vs. content marketing, as if you cannot do both simultaneously. We know that’s not true, but for the business owner who feels she cannot do “everything” at once, what’s your counsel to them?

JJ: Hire someone else? Honestly if you have the time, I think that link building is really not that tricky unless you’re a complete idiot. I don’t think that it should be conducted by someone who doesn’t have the proper time to focus on it, though, because that’s when all the bad links happen.

I’d say the same for content marketing. I think that it’s easier to just build links than it is to develop and properly promote amazing content. They’re both hard work, so I’d seriously recommend hiring a pro if you don’t have the time to do things well.

RS: I’ve written about the importance of working offline to grease the skids for links. What are a few tips you can share along these lines?

JJ: I want to say “be nice, open, and helpful,” but that sounds so simplistic. However, it’s true in many cases. I’ve been asked to do things that led to links because I helped someone out with something as simple as answering a question that was emailed to me after the person didn’t understand a point I made in an article.

That’s not offline, of course, but it’s also not directly online in the way we think of it in terms of getting a link. It’s hard to tell you that you need to connect with people but you do.

I met Lisa Myers ages ago at a London SEO function, and we decided to start the SEO Chicks blog. My writing there ended up getting me a spot somewhere else, and that gig got me a spot somewhere else, and it kept going.

Get out there and nicely network but don’t do it expecting anything. Do it because it’s appreciated by other people and doing something offline can be quite lovely if you spend all day staring at a screen.

RS: Finish this sentence for me: “Businesses that commit to link building can expect to _____________”

 JJ: “[B]roaden their reach and traffic sources.”

Measuring, Managing and Marketing What Matters Most: Part 1

manage-measure Recently, I was digging around the web for stats related to online marketing, when it hit me: We’re all awash in a sea of information. There’s data on top of data on top of data associated with anything and everything, from social media to content amplification, web design and branding.

What marketers need is answers, not more information.

That’s why we’re kicking off our “Measuring, Managing and Marketing What Matters Most” series. We want to help modern marketers gain clarity about what information is relevant, thus important, to them, then share tips about how to effectively measure and manage that information.

In a nutshell, this snapshot is designed to help you get your mind around an area of the business that deserves attention, allowing you and your team to dive deeper and make the area a point of emphasis for an allotted amount of time.

By doing so, we help you wade through the morass of useless information to get at what’s important, in addition to why and how you can use what’s available to effect change in your business.

Where Do You Start?

Online and in conversation, the most-asked question in marketing is “Where should we start?” There are just too many rabbit holes to go down for any one person to be able to keep it all straight:

  • Content
  • Analytics
  • Social media
  • Web design
  • Personas
  • SEO
  • CRO
  • Customers
  • UX
  • IA
  • Conversions
  • Mobile

And on and on and on.

Most businesses choose to focus on the area that yields the biggest dividends first. However, the most successful businesses tackle the area that’s likely to cause the biggest problems if not handled carefully and with conviction. No matter what industry you’re in, customers top that list.

Focus First On Customers, Not Strategy Or Tactics

Talk to any marketing strategist worth her salt, and she’ll tell you the weakest spot in just about every marketer’s repertoire is customer knowledge. Marketers know who they’ve sold products to. They typically have no idea of those customers’ overall needs with regard to the business, however, and they know even less about how to continue serving them.

Don’t fall into this trap.

Use this three-step approach to get your team and your business headed in the right direction:

  1. Brainstorm about who your ideal client/customer is - don’t be restrained by thinking only of the clients/customers you’ve done business with.
  2. Think of what they desire from a brand such as yours in the way of content - ads, web page, web design, web copy, style, tone, social media presence, etc.
  3. Discern what your business is uniquely qualified to offer this audience – what makes you different but more relevant than the competition?.

Have an assistant or member of your team type up this information, then share it across the company, asking for input. At the next meeting, bring this information to the table, at which point you begin discussing how to put information to action, creating content based on this newfound knowledge.

What seems like the simplest exercise known to man or woman is actually the missing element for many businesses, especially those who can’t seem to gain consistent traction for the brand. The information gleaned during this exercise becomes a veritable blueprint for everything your company does going forward.

Give this exercise a try and let us know what you think.