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SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation.
It is the practice of designing, building and producing content
for websites which serves to increase the authority and
relevance of that site; with the equal aim of ensuring it also
appears more highly ranked on search engine results pages
(S.E.R.P’s).
The phrase ‘search engine’ largely refers to Google because
although there are other search engines, like Bing and
Yahoo!, Google still holds the largest share of the search
engine market, estimated at somewhere between 65-70% of
the whole (imforza).
That statistic alone
means you need to
know your
penguins from your
pandas if you’re
going to be
successful in
handling your SEO
strategy.
The Panda algorithm focuses
on targeting low quality, thin
and duplicate material.
The Penguin algorithm
focuses mainly on identifying
and penalizing sites that are
engaging in activities like
using: link spam, paid links,
link farms and overly
optimised anchor text.
Changes to these algorithms are designed to remove
‘spammy’, irrelevant or poor quality sites from Google’s
S.E.R.P’s, in order to improve the relevance of these results
for users and their search queries.
These algorithms have a hugely negative impact on sites
engaging in such practices.
YouTube gained visibility with the
last Panda refresh as the site
relies heavily on user generated
content which is therefore relevant
to users and unlikely to be
duplicated or unnatural.
Wabauto.de is a site that also saw
an increase in visibility after the
last Panda refresh, they recorded
a rise in visibility of 132.77%
(Orchid Box).
Interflora lost visibility in 2013,
and no longer ranked in Google
for their own name, let alone their
most valuable keywords (Martin
Macdonald)! It later transpired that
Interflora’s SEO team had been
acquiring paid links through the
method of sending a free product
to bloggers.
This is a classic example of
engaging in unnatural or “Black
Hat” back link building which
means it was the Penguin
algorithm that Interflora fell afoul
of.
The distinction between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO is
widely debated and has even led to the suggestion of a third
type; Grey Hat SEO.
White Hat SEO refers to: a method of search engine
optimisation that is generally approved by search engines.
These methods look to improve the rankings of a website in
an ethical manner by staying within a search engine's terms
of service.
In simple terms, this means the website is designed, built and
optimised in a way that will naturally appeal to search engines
rather than attempting to deceive them. White hat SEO tends
to produce successful long term, high value and low risk
search engine rankings.
Black Hat SEO refers to methods of search engine
optimisation that are considered to be unethical or that
contravene a search engine's terms of service. Such
techniques will often create a poor user experience or present
content in a different or non-visual way.
Examples of this include keyword stuffing, invisible text and
doorway pages. Black hat SEO can be described as a short-
term and indeed short - sighted solution to a long-term
problem as websites using such techniques may eventually
be banned (either temporarily or permanently) once the
search engines discover what they are doing, making black
hat SEO high risk, short term and low value.
Finally Grey Hat SEO refers to SEO
strategies that (as the colour
suggests) fall in between Black Hat
and White Hat SEO.
As such, so called Grey Hat
techniques can be legitimate in some
cases and illegitimate in others
(Redalkemi).
To give your our opinion, there is no Grey Hat SEO, penguins
and pandas are black and white as are all SEO techniques.
They fall either in to the Black Hat SEO camp or the White
Hat SEO camp. By clearly distinguishing between the do’s
and don’ts of SEO and choosing not to acknowledge the grey
areas it makes it easier to ensure your practices are low risk.
Back link building has been a large contributor to the
arguments for positing the category of Grey Hat SEO.
Indeed some definitions of White Hat SEO would state that
full service white hat SEO includes link building services
which involve:
1. Article Marketing,
2. Social
Networking,
3. Online Publicity,
4. Directory
Submission,
5. Video Marketing,
6. Blog
Commenting,
7. Local Profiles
8. and Blogging.
However, Google’s official position is that back link building is
a Black Hat SEO technique, so there are no White Hat back
link building techniques, (SEOhaven) hence the ‘grey area’ of
SEO.
So, here’s some guidelines you should apply to ANY links
pointing back to your site:
Ensure the links you have to your site are quality.
Build a concurrent social media presence that’s strong and
well connected to support your backlinks. Keep Google extra
happy and include Google+.
Always produce content for your blog, social sites and
webpages that’s high quality, referenced and original because
great content will gain links naturally.
Indeed, content marketing is a growing trend in the search
industry with 54% of B2B companies intending to increase
their content marketing spending in 2013 (Content Marketing
Institute).
So adapting your content marketing to also include SEO is a
great way to streamline your whole marketing operation and
make content production more successful long term.
We recently published our Content Marketing Guide for
business which you can access here in full:
http://blog.cloudspotting.co.uk/2013/05/02/content-marketing-
strategy-guide/
To expand our philosophy of SEO further, we could go as far
to say that SEO is not even about “White Hat” versus “Black
Hat” techniques; SEO is about low value versus high value,
high risk versus low risk and long term versus short term
techniques.
Low value SEO is most commonly recognisable as the use of
SPAM, however a point to note is that not all low value SEO
techniques are illegal and not all are necessarily unethical
depending on your views, but all low value SEO techniques
are done purely to affect and theoretically benefit an SEO
campaign.
High value SEO techniques are those that are employed not
only to serve the need of SEO but to also provide the site and
site visitors with either beneficial material or a favourable
experience.
Black hat tactics certainly, and even some
“grey hat SEO” tactics have become
considerably riskier than they once were, that
means you need to be able to afford to lose if
you’re going to make a risky move.
With the latest Panda and Penguin updates,
affording to lose is a much bigger decision
that it once was.
By sticking to White Hat SEO techniques you
are avoiding any behaviour that may prove
risky.
Deciding on the difference between using short term and long
term SEO tactics is very much dependent on your business.
If you know your business is only functional in the short term
for example if you are targeting a particular trend or event
relevant within a specific time frame, like Movember perhaps,
then you can take risks and use short term, techniques
relatively safely, that other more long term business can’t.
Generally, if you play the SEO game purely to win SEO
points, you may win a few rounds, but you will ultimately lose
the game.
The proof is in the pudding: JC Penny, or rather the SEO
company they employed, built their SEO strategy based
solely on short term, high risk and low value techniques.
Upon investigating JC Penny’s remarkably successful
performance in Google S.E.R.P’s, which saw them ranking in
the 1st and 2nd position for a vast plethora of search queries,
it was revealed that a vast number of seemingly unrelated
websites and webpages were linking back to the JC Penny
site. Equally most of these sites had incredibly detailed
anchor text, leading to the suspicion that someone (JC
Penny’s SEO team) had arranged for those things to point
back to JC Penny. In a word, it looked unnatural.
The general conclusion drawn from the JC Penny case is that
they or their SEO firm had bought into a paid link network, a
huge violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Thus, Google promptly and majorly dropped JC penny’s
rankings for all the terms they had previously been ranking
very highly for. Matt Cutts from Google stated that this was a
result of the algorithms and manual action (Search Engine
Land).
The lesson to learn: Once Google sets a panda or penguin
loose on the low value SEO tactic you’re using you’re dead in
the water. By their very nature, low value SEO techniques do
not provide for the future and consider SEO only in isolation.
So the best option is to conduct a long term, high value and
low risk SEO strategy because, even if you are affected by a
Google algorithm change at some point, because your SEO
strategy is focussing on improving the user experience as
well as your S.E.R.P placement, you will be using a diverse
range of techniques to do this.
Thus whichever one technique an algorithm may pick up on
and penalize you for, you’ll have another technique they are
not penalizing you for, essentially ensure you never go back
to square 1.
Quality Content
Clean Code
Link Credibility
Using Parked Domains with excessive advertising above the
fold is not recommended (this is also an issue which tackles
link credibility) So the fold in the point at which you have to
start scrolling to see the remainder of the webpage you’re
viewing.
To assess whether your advertising above the fold is
excessive of otherwise, Google provided this tool, or rather,
grid:
That’s our website
underneath that grid,
and you can just
about make out, that
we are doing ok as
far as our ad layout is
concerned.
Interesting though,
look at this Google
webpage:
Sadly, the Google Ad
Layout tool doesn’t
seem to allow you to
test a Google search
query page, no doubt
because if it did you’d
see that there is an
excessive use of
advertising appearing
above the fold. At a
quick glance, about
80% of content
above the fold on this
page is advertising.
Just an interesting
point.
Do not produce low quality/ thin content and consolidate
similar pages to minimise duplicate content.
Move any offending pages to a new domain or 404 them and
provide a site map to help Google index your site and help
users find valuable content.
Create content that is: useful, informative, clear and
accurately described and use your keywords in your on page
content, to ensure your site’s relevant to users
Use text not images where possible and ensure ads don’t
affect S.E.R.P’s by using Google’s AdSense as its not
crawled.
Make pages primarily for users not search engines and make
your website stand out from competitors.
Don’t stuff title and meta tags, anchor text or navigation links
with keywords.
Vary anchor text again avoiding duplicate content
Use the ALT attribute for images by including descriptive text.
Make sure ALT attributes and <title> elements are descriptive
an accurate.
Check and correct any incorrect HTML.
Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since
HTTP header, this will alert Google if your content has
changed since the last crawl.
Use the robots.txt file to indicate which directories to crawl.
•
Do not use cloaking, it is a form of search engine subterfuge
where visitors are not shown an indexed web page when they
click on the link to it in Google. Cloaking can work in either
direction, e.g. the visitor is cloaked from Google or Google’s
indexed content is cloaked from the visitor. Cloaking achieves
a high PageRank to content that would normally receive a low
PageRank (SE Partner).
Using redirects is a tactic which sends a user to a different
page from the one they actually clicked on in the search
results, often the page they are redirected to, is less relevant
than the link they clicked on suggested. (Paul de Sousa).
•
Similar to using redirects, doorway or entry pages as they are
also known, send visitors to an entirely different site than the
destination they thought they clicked on in the Google
S.E.R.P’s. (SE Partner).
When it comes to SEO, having affiliates can boost PageRank
through associations, the least orthodox methods of using this
method is having affiliates publish product reviews and
services offered by one another. This is similar to the
practices that got Interflora in to trouble.
•
Build high quality and relevant links to your site and delete,
destroy or dilute suspected low quality links your site.
Cancel or remove any unnecessary footer links
Be conservative with internal linking
Avoid or limit buying sponsored links: organic is better.
Design and build a site with a clear hierarchical structure
complete with text links. Every page should be accessible
from at least one static text link.
Keep links on any given page to within a “reasonable number”
(sadly, there is no real, specific guideline for this).
Check and repair any broken links.
•
Test your site
Optimize load times to give users with the best experience.
Don’t deceive users
Avoid tricks to improve search rank
Avoid: automatically generated content, link schemes, cloaking,
sneaky redirects hidden text or links, doorway pages, scraped
content, affiliate programmes without sufficient value, irrelevant
keywords, malicious behaviour like phishing, installing viruses
Trojans or other “bad ware”, abusing rich snippets and sending
automated queries to Google.
Monitor your site for hacking and removed hacked content
a.s.a.p. and prevent and remove user generated spam on your
site e.g. blog comments loaded with links.
•
If you would like help or advice with your SEO strategy,
get in touch today…
T: +44 (0)113 234 1542
E: info@cloudspotting.co.uk
www.cloudspotting.co.uk
http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=33313
http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769
http://www.searchenginejournal.com/important-seo-habits-to-adopt-for-post-panda-
penguin-era-survival/59415/
http://www.seo-haven.com/google/seo-in-2013-future-of-backlink-building/
www.redalkemi.com/glossary.php
http://martinmacdonald.net/interflora-seo-penalty/
http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/02/22/interflora-seo-rankings-penalised-
google-it-loses-top-search-spot
http://www.webpronews.com/panda-hubpages-google-2011-04
http://www.orchidbox.com/post.php?title=Google_Panda_Update_Goes_Global_B
ut_What_is_The_Effect
http://mysalontools.hubpages.com/hub/link-building-link-wheel
http://www.seroundtable.com/google-page-layout-penalty-14612.html
http://searchengineland.com/new-york-times-exposes-j-c-penney-link-scheme-that-
causes-plummeting-rankings-in-google-64529
http://www.separtner.com/SEO-glossary.htm
http://www.pauldesousa.co.za/seo/glossary
http://www.imforza.com/blog/8-seo-stats-that-are-hard-to-ignore/
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-build-a-content-marketing-strategy
•

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SEO Best Practice Techniques

  • 1.
  • 2. SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation. It is the practice of designing, building and producing content for websites which serves to increase the authority and relevance of that site; with the equal aim of ensuring it also appears more highly ranked on search engine results pages (S.E.R.P’s). The phrase ‘search engine’ largely refers to Google because although there are other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo!, Google still holds the largest share of the search engine market, estimated at somewhere between 65-70% of the whole (imforza).
  • 3. That statistic alone means you need to know your penguins from your pandas if you’re going to be successful in handling your SEO strategy.
  • 4. The Panda algorithm focuses on targeting low quality, thin and duplicate material. The Penguin algorithm focuses mainly on identifying and penalizing sites that are engaging in activities like using: link spam, paid links, link farms and overly optimised anchor text.
  • 5. Changes to these algorithms are designed to remove ‘spammy’, irrelevant or poor quality sites from Google’s S.E.R.P’s, in order to improve the relevance of these results for users and their search queries. These algorithms have a hugely negative impact on sites engaging in such practices.
  • 6. YouTube gained visibility with the last Panda refresh as the site relies heavily on user generated content which is therefore relevant to users and unlikely to be duplicated or unnatural. Wabauto.de is a site that also saw an increase in visibility after the last Panda refresh, they recorded a rise in visibility of 132.77% (Orchid Box). Interflora lost visibility in 2013, and no longer ranked in Google for their own name, let alone their most valuable keywords (Martin Macdonald)! It later transpired that Interflora’s SEO team had been acquiring paid links through the method of sending a free product to bloggers. This is a classic example of engaging in unnatural or “Black Hat” back link building which means it was the Penguin algorithm that Interflora fell afoul of.
  • 7. The distinction between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO is widely debated and has even led to the suggestion of a third type; Grey Hat SEO. White Hat SEO refers to: a method of search engine optimisation that is generally approved by search engines. These methods look to improve the rankings of a website in an ethical manner by staying within a search engine's terms of service. In simple terms, this means the website is designed, built and optimised in a way that will naturally appeal to search engines rather than attempting to deceive them. White hat SEO tends to produce successful long term, high value and low risk search engine rankings.
  • 8. Black Hat SEO refers to methods of search engine optimisation that are considered to be unethical or that contravene a search engine's terms of service. Such techniques will often create a poor user experience or present content in a different or non-visual way. Examples of this include keyword stuffing, invisible text and doorway pages. Black hat SEO can be described as a short- term and indeed short - sighted solution to a long-term problem as websites using such techniques may eventually be banned (either temporarily or permanently) once the search engines discover what they are doing, making black hat SEO high risk, short term and low value.
  • 9. Finally Grey Hat SEO refers to SEO strategies that (as the colour suggests) fall in between Black Hat and White Hat SEO. As such, so called Grey Hat techniques can be legitimate in some cases and illegitimate in others (Redalkemi).
  • 10. To give your our opinion, there is no Grey Hat SEO, penguins and pandas are black and white as are all SEO techniques. They fall either in to the Black Hat SEO camp or the White Hat SEO camp. By clearly distinguishing between the do’s and don’ts of SEO and choosing not to acknowledge the grey areas it makes it easier to ensure your practices are low risk. Back link building has been a large contributor to the arguments for positing the category of Grey Hat SEO. Indeed some definitions of White Hat SEO would state that full service white hat SEO includes link building services which involve:
  • 11. 1. Article Marketing, 2. Social Networking, 3. Online Publicity, 4. Directory Submission, 5. Video Marketing, 6. Blog Commenting, 7. Local Profiles 8. and Blogging.
  • 12. However, Google’s official position is that back link building is a Black Hat SEO technique, so there are no White Hat back link building techniques, (SEOhaven) hence the ‘grey area’ of SEO. So, here’s some guidelines you should apply to ANY links pointing back to your site: Ensure the links you have to your site are quality. Build a concurrent social media presence that’s strong and well connected to support your backlinks. Keep Google extra happy and include Google+. Always produce content for your blog, social sites and webpages that’s high quality, referenced and original because great content will gain links naturally.
  • 13. Indeed, content marketing is a growing trend in the search industry with 54% of B2B companies intending to increase their content marketing spending in 2013 (Content Marketing Institute). So adapting your content marketing to also include SEO is a great way to streamline your whole marketing operation and make content production more successful long term. We recently published our Content Marketing Guide for business which you can access here in full: http://blog.cloudspotting.co.uk/2013/05/02/content-marketing- strategy-guide/
  • 14. To expand our philosophy of SEO further, we could go as far to say that SEO is not even about “White Hat” versus “Black Hat” techniques; SEO is about low value versus high value, high risk versus low risk and long term versus short term techniques.
  • 15. Low value SEO is most commonly recognisable as the use of SPAM, however a point to note is that not all low value SEO techniques are illegal and not all are necessarily unethical depending on your views, but all low value SEO techniques are done purely to affect and theoretically benefit an SEO campaign. High value SEO techniques are those that are employed not only to serve the need of SEO but to also provide the site and site visitors with either beneficial material or a favourable experience.
  • 16. Black hat tactics certainly, and even some “grey hat SEO” tactics have become considerably riskier than they once were, that means you need to be able to afford to lose if you’re going to make a risky move. With the latest Panda and Penguin updates, affording to lose is a much bigger decision that it once was. By sticking to White Hat SEO techniques you are avoiding any behaviour that may prove risky.
  • 17. Deciding on the difference between using short term and long term SEO tactics is very much dependent on your business. If you know your business is only functional in the short term for example if you are targeting a particular trend or event relevant within a specific time frame, like Movember perhaps, then you can take risks and use short term, techniques relatively safely, that other more long term business can’t.
  • 18. Generally, if you play the SEO game purely to win SEO points, you may win a few rounds, but you will ultimately lose the game. The proof is in the pudding: JC Penny, or rather the SEO company they employed, built their SEO strategy based solely on short term, high risk and low value techniques. Upon investigating JC Penny’s remarkably successful performance in Google S.E.R.P’s, which saw them ranking in the 1st and 2nd position for a vast plethora of search queries, it was revealed that a vast number of seemingly unrelated websites and webpages were linking back to the JC Penny site. Equally most of these sites had incredibly detailed anchor text, leading to the suspicion that someone (JC Penny’s SEO team) had arranged for those things to point back to JC Penny. In a word, it looked unnatural.
  • 19. The general conclusion drawn from the JC Penny case is that they or their SEO firm had bought into a paid link network, a huge violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines. Thus, Google promptly and majorly dropped JC penny’s rankings for all the terms they had previously been ranking very highly for. Matt Cutts from Google stated that this was a result of the algorithms and manual action (Search Engine Land).
  • 20. The lesson to learn: Once Google sets a panda or penguin loose on the low value SEO tactic you’re using you’re dead in the water. By their very nature, low value SEO techniques do not provide for the future and consider SEO only in isolation. So the best option is to conduct a long term, high value and low risk SEO strategy because, even if you are affected by a Google algorithm change at some point, because your SEO strategy is focussing on improving the user experience as well as your S.E.R.P placement, you will be using a diverse range of techniques to do this. Thus whichever one technique an algorithm may pick up on and penalize you for, you’ll have another technique they are not penalizing you for, essentially ensure you never go back to square 1.
  • 22. Using Parked Domains with excessive advertising above the fold is not recommended (this is also an issue which tackles link credibility) So the fold in the point at which you have to start scrolling to see the remainder of the webpage you’re viewing. To assess whether your advertising above the fold is excessive of otherwise, Google provided this tool, or rather, grid:
  • 23. That’s our website underneath that grid, and you can just about make out, that we are doing ok as far as our ad layout is concerned. Interesting though, look at this Google webpage:
  • 24. Sadly, the Google Ad Layout tool doesn’t seem to allow you to test a Google search query page, no doubt because if it did you’d see that there is an excessive use of advertising appearing above the fold. At a quick glance, about 80% of content above the fold on this page is advertising. Just an interesting point.
  • 25. Do not produce low quality/ thin content and consolidate similar pages to minimise duplicate content. Move any offending pages to a new domain or 404 them and provide a site map to help Google index your site and help users find valuable content. Create content that is: useful, informative, clear and accurately described and use your keywords in your on page content, to ensure your site’s relevant to users Use text not images where possible and ensure ads don’t affect S.E.R.P’s by using Google’s AdSense as its not crawled. Make pages primarily for users not search engines and make your website stand out from competitors.
  • 26. Don’t stuff title and meta tags, anchor text or navigation links with keywords. Vary anchor text again avoiding duplicate content Use the ALT attribute for images by including descriptive text. Make sure ALT attributes and <title> elements are descriptive an accurate. Check and correct any incorrect HTML. Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header, this will alert Google if your content has changed since the last crawl. Use the robots.txt file to indicate which directories to crawl. •
  • 27. Do not use cloaking, it is a form of search engine subterfuge where visitors are not shown an indexed web page when they click on the link to it in Google. Cloaking can work in either direction, e.g. the visitor is cloaked from Google or Google’s indexed content is cloaked from the visitor. Cloaking achieves a high PageRank to content that would normally receive a low PageRank (SE Partner). Using redirects is a tactic which sends a user to a different page from the one they actually clicked on in the search results, often the page they are redirected to, is less relevant than the link they clicked on suggested. (Paul de Sousa). •
  • 28. Similar to using redirects, doorway or entry pages as they are also known, send visitors to an entirely different site than the destination they thought they clicked on in the Google S.E.R.P’s. (SE Partner). When it comes to SEO, having affiliates can boost PageRank through associations, the least orthodox methods of using this method is having affiliates publish product reviews and services offered by one another. This is similar to the practices that got Interflora in to trouble. •
  • 29. Build high quality and relevant links to your site and delete, destroy or dilute suspected low quality links your site. Cancel or remove any unnecessary footer links Be conservative with internal linking Avoid or limit buying sponsored links: organic is better. Design and build a site with a clear hierarchical structure complete with text links. Every page should be accessible from at least one static text link. Keep links on any given page to within a “reasonable number” (sadly, there is no real, specific guideline for this). Check and repair any broken links. •
  • 30. Test your site Optimize load times to give users with the best experience. Don’t deceive users Avoid tricks to improve search rank Avoid: automatically generated content, link schemes, cloaking, sneaky redirects hidden text or links, doorway pages, scraped content, affiliate programmes without sufficient value, irrelevant keywords, malicious behaviour like phishing, installing viruses Trojans or other “bad ware”, abusing rich snippets and sending automated queries to Google. Monitor your site for hacking and removed hacked content a.s.a.p. and prevent and remove user generated spam on your site e.g. blog comments loaded with links. •
  • 31. If you would like help or advice with your SEO strategy, get in touch today… T: +44 (0)113 234 1542 E: info@cloudspotting.co.uk www.cloudspotting.co.uk
  • 32. http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=33313 http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769 http://www.searchenginejournal.com/important-seo-habits-to-adopt-for-post-panda- penguin-era-survival/59415/ http://www.seo-haven.com/google/seo-in-2013-future-of-backlink-building/ www.redalkemi.com/glossary.php http://martinmacdonald.net/interflora-seo-penalty/ http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/02/22/interflora-seo-rankings-penalised- google-it-loses-top-search-spot http://www.webpronews.com/panda-hubpages-google-2011-04 http://www.orchidbox.com/post.php?title=Google_Panda_Update_Goes_Global_B ut_What_is_The_Effect http://mysalontools.hubpages.com/hub/link-building-link-wheel http://www.seroundtable.com/google-page-layout-penalty-14612.html http://searchengineland.com/new-york-times-exposes-j-c-penney-link-scheme-that- causes-plummeting-rankings-in-google-64529 http://www.separtner.com/SEO-glossary.htm http://www.pauldesousa.co.za/seo/glossary http://www.imforza.com/blog/8-seo-stats-that-are-hard-to-ignore/ http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-build-a-content-marketing-strategy •