CLOUDSPOTTINGSEO is the widely used acronym for ‘searchengine optimization’. It is the practice ofdesigning, building and producing contentfor websites which serves to increase theauthority and relevance of that site; withthe simultaneous aim of ensuring the sitealso appears more highly ranked on searchengine results pages (S.E.R.P’s).When the phrase ‘search engine’ is used,largely it refers to Google because whilethere are other search engines available, likeBing andYahoo! for users to use, Google stillholds the largest share of the search enginemarket, estimated at somewhere between65-70% of the whole (imforza).What is SEO?
CLOUDSPOTTINGPandas andPenguinsThat statistic alone means you need to knowyour Penguins from your Pandas if you’regoing to be successful in handling yourSEO strategy, regardless of whether yououtsource that strategy or handle it in house.The Penguin algorithm focuses mainly onidentifying and penalizing sites that areengaging in activities like using: link spam,paid links, link farms and overly optimisedanchor text. Penguin is concerned with yoursites CREDIBILITY.The Panda algorithm focuses on targetinglow quality, thin and duplicate material.So of course, Panda is concerned with yourCONTENT.I check yourCONTENT...and I check yourCREDABILITY
CLOUDSPOTTINGPandas andPenguins:The good,the bad and thedownright unnaturalInterflora lost visibility in a huge way inFebruary 2013, to the extent that they nolonger ranked in Google for their own name,let alone their most valuable keywords:flowers, florist, flower delivery and flowersonline! It later transpired that Interflora’sSEO team had been acquiring paid linksthrough the method of sending a freeproduct to bloggers.This is a classic example of engaging inunnatural or ‘Black Hat’ back link buildingwhich means it was the Penguin algorithmthat Interflora fell foul of.On the other hand,YouTube gained visibilitywith the last Panda refresh and largely it’sunsurprising as the site relies heavily onuser generated content which is thereforerelevanttousersandunlikelytobeduplicatedor unnatural (interestingly, it’s also one ofGoogle’s companies). However Wabauto.de is a German site, unaffiliated to Googlethat also saw an increase in visibility afterthe last Panda refresh, they recorded a risein visibility of 132.77% (Orchid Box).So, a change in Google’s algorithms shouldnot be synonymous with a negative effecton SEO, if you’re playing by the rules.
CLOUDSPOTTINGWhich hat are you?The distinction between White Hat SEO andBlack Hat SEO is widely debated and haseven led to the suggestion of a third type;Grey Hat SEO.White Hat SEO refers to a method ofsearch engine optimisation that is generallyapproved by search engines.These methodslook to improve the rankings of a website inan ethical manner by staying within a searchengine’s terms of service. In simple terms,this means the website is designed, built andoptimised in a way that will naturally appealto search engines rather than attempting tobluff or deceive them. White hat SEO tendsto produce successful long term, highvalue and low risk search engine rankings.Black Hat SEO refers to methods of searchengine optimisation and promotion that areconsideredtobeunethicalorthatcontravenea search engine’s terms of service. Suchtechniques will often create a poor userexperience or present content in a differentornon-visualway.Examplesincludekeywordstuffing, invisible text and doorway pages.Black hat SEO can be described as a short-term and indeed short - sighted solutionto a long-term problem as websites usingsuch techniques will eventually be banned(either temporarily or permanently) oncethe search engines discover what they aredoing, making black hat SEO high risk, shortterm and low value.FinallyGrey HatSEO refers toSEO strategiesthat (as the colour suggests) fall in betweenBlack Hat and White Hat SEO. As such, socalledGrey Hat techniques can be legitimatein some cases and illegitimate in others.
CLOUDSPOTTINGOur philosophyTogiveouropinion,thereisnoGreyHatSEO,Penguins and Pandas are black and white asare all SEO techniques. They fall either in tothe Black Hat SEO camp or the White HatSEOcamp.Byclearlydistinguishingbetweenthe do’s and don’ts of SEO and choosing notto acknowledge the grey areas it makes iteasier to ensure your practices are low riskand search engine friendly.Backlinkbuildinghasbeenalargecontributorto the arguments for positing the categoryof Grey Hat SEO. Indeed some definitions ofWhite Hat SEO would state that full servicewhite hat SEO includes link building serviceswhich involve:• article marketing• social networking• online publicity• directory submission• video marketing• blog commenting• local profiles• bloggingGoogle’s official position is that back linkbuilding is a Black Hat SEO technique.Withthatinmind,weturntosomeguidelineswhich you should apply to ANY links youhave pointing back to your site:1. Ensure the links are quality, as opposedto just large in quantity. It’s the age olddistinction between quality and quantityand as is most common, quality wins!2. Build a concurrent social media presencethat is strong and well connected to supportany backlinks you may gain. If we are aimingto keep Google happy then of course thissocial media building should take advantageof Google+.3.Continually produce content for your blog,your social sites and your webpages that ishigh quality, well referenced, original anduse this to build your SEO strategy aboveany other tactic. Great content will drawin links naturally rather than requiring theactive building of backlinks which Googlefrowns upon.
CLOUDSPOTTINGHow we would approachthe development of aContent Marketing Planfor a clientResearchDataPreparation &assessmentProspectingCreating &PromotionAssessmentIndeed, content marketing is a growingtrend in the search industry with 54%of B2B companies intending to increasetheir content marketing spending in 2013(Content Marketing Institute). So adaptingyour content marketing to also include SEOis a great way to streamline your wholemarketing operation and make contentproduction more successful long term.WerecentlypublishedourContentMarketingGuide for business which you can access herein full:CONTENT MARKETING GUIDEHowever here is also a quick example of howwe would approach the development of acontent marketing plan for a client:
CLOUDSPOTTINGTo conclude ourphilosophyTo expand our philosophy of SEO further,we could go as far to say that SEO is noteven about ‘White Hat’ versus ‘Black Hat’techniques; SEO is about low value versushigh value, high risk versus low risk and longterm versus short term techniques.Low value SEO is most commonlyrecognisable as the use of SPAM, howevera point to note is that not all low valueSEO techniques are illegal and not all arenecessarily unethical depending on yourviews, but all low value SEO techniquesare done purely to affect and theoreticallybenefit an SEO campaign.High value SEO techniques are those thatare employed not only to serve the needof SEO but to also provide the site and sitevisitors with either beneficial material or afavourable experience.Black hat tactics certainly, and evensome ‘grey hat SEO’ tactics have becomeconsiderably riskier than they once were,that means you need to be able to afford tolose if you’re going to make a risky move.With the latest Panda and Penguin updates,affording to lose is a much bigger decisionthat it once was.Deciding on the difference between usingshort term and long term SEO tactics is verymuch dependent on your business. If youknow your business is only functional in theshort term for example if you are targetinga particular trend or event relevant within aspecific time frame, like Movember perhaps,then you can take risks and use short term,techniques relatively safely, that other morelong term business can’t.What can be generally inferred from theexamples of other companies is that ifyou play the SEO game purely to win SEOpoints, you may win a few rounds, but youwill ultimately lose the game.SPAM
CLOUDSPOTTINGThe lesson to learn...The lesson to learn: Once Google sets aPanda or Penguin loose on the low valueSEO tactic you’re using you’re dead in thewater. By their very nature, low value SEOtechniques do not provide for the future andconsider SEO only in isolation.So, the best option is to conduct a longterm, high value and low risk SEO strategybecause, even if you are affected by aGooglealgorithm change at some point, becauseyour SEO strategy is focussing on improvingthe user experience as well as your S.E.R.Pplacement, you will be using a diverse rangeof techniques to do this.Thus whichever one technique an algorithmmay pick up on and penalize you for, you’llhave another technique they are notpenalizing you for. Essentially ensuring younever go back to square 1.
CLOUDSPOTTINGThe 3 C’s f SEO:quality content,clean code and linkcredabilityThis serves to illustrate thatwhen it comes to your SEOstrategy, you do as Googlesays not as Google does.1. Do not produce low quality/ thin content2. Consolidate any pages that are similar tominimise duplicate content.3. Any offending pages should be moved toa new domain or 404’d4. Provide Google with a site map to helpthem learn the structure of your site andincrease their coverage of it to help yourusers find the content they need.5. Create content that is: useful, informationrich, clear, and accurately described.Using Parked Domains with excessiveadvertising above the fold is notrecommended.Sadly, (and no doubt deliberately) theGoogleAd Layout tool doesn’t seem to allowyou to test a Google search query page, nodoubt because if it did you’d see that thereis an excessive use of advertising appearingabove the fold. At a quick glance, about 80%of content above the fold on this page isadvertising. Tut tut.6. Use the keywords you are aiming to rankfor within your on page content to increaseyour sites relevance.7. Use text not images where possible8. Try to ensure advertisements don’t affectsearch engine rankings.You can useGoogle’sAdSense or DoubleClick to do this as theyare blocked from being crawled.9. Make pages primarily for users not searchengines10. Make your website stand out especiallyfrom others in your field#1: quality
CLOUDSPOTTING#2: clean code1. Stuffing title tags, Meta tags, anchortext and navigation links with keywords isanother method Google penalizes websitesfor.2. Vary anchor text again avoiding duplicatecontent.3. When using an image make use of the ALTatribute to include a snippet of descriptivetext.4. Make sure theseALT attributes and <title>elements are both descriptive and accurate.5. Check and correct any incorrect HTML.6. Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header, this will alertGoogle if your content has changed sincethey last crawled your site.7. Use the robots.txt file on your webserverto indicate to crawlers which directories canand cannot be crawled.
CLOUDSPOTTING#3: linkCloaking: This is a form of search enginesubterfuge whereby visitors are not shownan indexed web page when they click onthe link to it in Google. Cloaking can work ineither direction in that, the visitor is cloakedfrom Google and Google’s indexed contentis cloaked from the visitor. What cloakingachieves is to attribute a high PageRank tocontent that would normally receive a lowPageRank. However an important point tonote is that cloaking is not necessarily illicit,i.e. a specific form of cloaking can be used todeliver ISP tailored or web browser tailoredpages to a user which is perfectly legitimate.(SE Partner).Using redirects is a tactic which sends a userto a different page from the one they actuallyclicked on in the search results, often the pagethey are redirected to, is less relevant than thelink they clicked on suggested. (Paul deSousa).Doorway pages: Similar to using redirects,doorwayorentrypagesastheyarealsoknown,send visitors to an entirely different site thanthe destination they thought they clicked on inthe Google S.E.R.P’s. (SE Partner).Using affiliate sites. This is borne from affiliatemarketing whereby one business rewards oneor more affiliates for the business it receiveswhich is brought about by the affiliatesmarketing efforts. When it comes to SEO,having affiliates can boost PageRank throughassociations, the least orthodox methods ofusing this method is having affiliates publishproduct reviews and services offered by oneanother. This is similar to the practices thatgot Interflora in to trouble.Build high quality and relevant links to yoursite and simultaneously delete, destroy ordilute suspected low quality links your site(Relevance of Disavow Links tool).Cancel or remove any unnecessary footer linksfrom your pages.Be conservative with internal linking.Avoid or limit buying sponsored links: organicis better.Design and build a site with a clear hierarchicalstructure complete with text links. Every pagein the site should be accessible from at leastone static text link.Keep links on any given page to within a‘reasonable number’ (sadly, there is no real,specific guideline as to what this reasonablenumber is.Check and repair any broken links.
CLOUDSPOTTINGIn a nutshell... 1. Test your site2. Optimize load times, this keep in linewith Google’s aim to provide users with thebest user experience they can and fast sitesincrease user satisfaction.3. Don’t deceive users.4. Avoid tricks to improve search rank.5. Avoid: automatically generated content,link schemes, cloaking, sneaky redirectshidden text or links, doorway pages, scrapedcontent, affiliate programmes withoutsufficient value, irrelevant keywords,malicious behaviour like phishing, installingviruses Trojans or other ‘bad ware’, abusingrich snippets and sending automated queriesto Google.6. Engage in good practices like monitoringyour site for hacking and remove hackcontent ASAP and preventing and removinguser generated SPAM on your site, the mostcommon example of this being left typicallyas blog comments loaded with links.