Why SEO Agencies Do Great Digital PR

There was a time, not too long ago, when SEO performance could be driven by a handful of technical experts and a budget for purchasing links. Over the years this has been killed off and SEO agencies have had to adapt in order to deliver SEO performance.

Links have always been a major ranking signal, and still are, albeit they share the space with a few other well-known ranking factors. SEO agencies now have to be able to deliver links without a link broker, without relying on article directories, paid blog posts and forum dropping etc… Google’s recent action against link spam has meant everyone has had to clean up their acts.

Most forward thinking agencies saw this coming and as such have adapted over time, in most cases very successfully.

Change in Recruitment Strategy

We decided way back in 2010 to change our recruitment method, up until that time there had been a heavy focus on technical and analytical skills, of course these skills are still very much needed, but for link acquisition we knew we needed to start looking for individuals who were skilled at forming relationships and who understood what publishers wanted to cover.

As such we began to build out our Digital PR and Social department, taking on graduates and executives with marketing, PR and communications backgrounds. This new recruitment strategy brought its fair share of challenges, not just in terms of how we delivered links but also with the dynamics of the agency.

Our Digital PR department is now 15 people strong, and in my bias opinion the best in the country at driving high quality links, coverage, traffic and revenue for our clients.

Positioning

SEO agencies are perfectly positioned to adopt social and PR campaigns into the work they do, particularly campaigns that revolve around digital.

Firstly, SEO agencies understand the value of links; they know which websites are more beneficial in order to improve SEO performance and as such can use this knowledge to shortlist publications and journalists.

Secondly, because of this understanding, they also know which websites to stay away from, or which pieces of coverage could be potentially harmful from an SEO point of view. Very often clients will issue press releases, or come to an arrangement with an online publisher with regards to a piece of content they are willing to publish. Unbeknown to the client the site may be actively selling links, or have been blacklisted for other activity that goes against Google’s guidelines. If an SEO agency has visibility on these placements, they can make some simple suggestions to ensure there aren’t any issues caused through the coverage or links. This could include making the link no followed, adding the domain to the disavow tool or in some cases asking for it to be removed.

Thirdly, a lot of good SEO agencies have been creating digital content for a long time, we have had to understand what content is likely to go viral and what media works on different social networks and platforms. Not only do we know this, but we can create it too! Again most good SEO agencies already have the internal capability to create awesome content, and as UX, personalisation and content marketing become more important, these capabilities are only going to increase over the years. We don’t need to outsource this kind of work; we have been creating it for years, often outsourced to us by traditional PR and Media agencies.

Once you take all this knowledge and capability, and layer it with a communications team who understand what type of content and data gets coverage, not only that, but are capable of developing the right relationships; then you have a team ready to drive links, engagement, coverage, traffic and revenue for your clients.

Where are the Lines Drawn?

There are of course differences in all the disciplines; SEO, PR and Content Marketing are about more than simply getting coverage, on the PR side there are reputation and crisis management activities, audience engagement and advocacy on the content marketing side, and of course SEO involves just about every digital discipline out there.

However, if your aim is to get coverage and be seen online by your target audience, then I can’t see a better option than a good SEO and/or digital marketing agency. Getting coverage that incorporates skills from all of the disciplines allows you to gain coverage and exposure that drives traffic, visibility and revenue.

I was going to write another section at the bottom covering a real example of what could be achieved by combining your SEO, Content Marketing and PR capabilities, however it makes sense for me to just link out so you can go take a look yourselves.

Brits, Boobs & Botox

A simple map using enquiry data to inform users about cosmetic surgery trends and hotspots.

Debt Map

A similar concept displaying debt assessments across the UK.

How Well Do You Know Your Team

Some gamification allowing fans to show off how knowledgeable they are about their respective teams.

All the above campaigns drove links, shares, and revenue directly to the sites in question.

If you want your coverage to give you a tangible ROI, then you have to work with an agency who are capable of delivering not only great placements, but also great content and SEO value.

What Does The Future Look Like?

I think the key to doing excellent PR, SEO, Content Marketing or any other form of digital marketing is collaboration. If you don’t enrol broader skills you will find yourself delivering campaigns that are not even half as effective as they could be, and won’t deliver against your client’s expectations. Collaboration is the future both client and agency side.

Yes SEOwizz still exists

I admit, it has been a while, in fact over the course of 2014 I only posted twice on the blog, which is ironic considering I had access to more insight than ever before. The truth is I really struggled to find the time, and SEOwizz has been penalised by Google for the last 3 years so there has been no search benefit to anything I have been writing.

Over the past 18 – 24 months Branded3 has seen significant growth, and managing the demands of a growing business has meant my priorities had to change, however I have always planned on coming back to the blog and sharing some of the insight I now have access to, as well as thoughts and opinions on search and the wider digital marketing landscape.

Truth is, since I started SEOwizz back in 2008/9 the landscape has changed, massively, and as the landscape has matured so has my outlook. There are so many posts on this blog alone that are simply out of date and need to be refreshed, SEO is now so much bigger than keywords and links, they’re both still there, and important, but in isolation they’re pretty worthless.

When I started SEOwizz I wanted to focus on what really worked, not what the ideal was, not whitehat/blackhat/greyhat but what really drove results, what signals worked and how to influence them. Because of this I had no interest in ‘real’ marketing, just manipulating well known signals and teaching others how they could do it too. The reason for this was due to the fact that there was so much information out there, some of it was completely wrong and some of it sounded great but didn’t work. I wanted to focus only on what worked, regardless of which discipline it fell into.

So, where are we now?

Well, everything has changed, multiple penalties, algorithm changes and devaluing of historic signals has completely changed the landscape, Google is no longer a place where building a real business can revolve around a handful of tactics. Yes, if you have no long term aspirations for your website, go ahead and game Google, you will win for a while but eventually your site will get burnt. If you’re looking to build a brand this is not a great strategy.

I still want to focus this blog on what works, but what works for businesses that are interested in building their brand, that are looking for longevity; so moving forward that’s what will be happening.

Just by way of an update, I have had my own run in with Google:

SEOwizz Visibility

Only now, nearly 3 years after the original penalty is SEOwizz starting to recover. That’s despite a successful reconsideration, cleaning up content and having some very strong links (check the profile out).

Moving Forward

Helping to grow Branded3 over the past 5 years has been awesome, starting off in a business of 8 people and seeing it grow to 80 really has been a privilege, and there is a lot more to come.

It has given me lots of experience in broader digital marketing, understanding commercial pressures and discovering new signals and areas of importance to drive search performance.

We have invested in technology that allows us to see algorithm changes as they happen, understanding the impact on multiple industries and quickly been able to identify the signals that are driving it.

I get to work as part of a team of experts in their individual disciplines; Designers, Creatives, PR strategists, SEO’s, Analysts, Content Strategists, Developers, Social Strategists, Paid Media Managers etc….. and I get to see what real business benefits these activities drive, both independently and collaboratively.

In other words, the experience I have, the insights I have access to and a general broader understanding of digital and business as whole, means the output of SEOwizz has to move on.

I am planning on writing a lot more, as of the beginning of March it will be weekly, and in the near future a possible domain change, plus the introduction of some solid guest bloggers.

Hopefully, if Google have now forgiven me, I might also get some rankings :)

ps I have had to disable comments due to the sheer amount of spam coming through. Will look into bringing this back online in the future.

The Real Challenge for SEO Agencies

With all the turbulence in the SEO industry at the minute it can be easy to assume that the challenges SEO agencies face revolve around building natural links, understanding users, hiring the right people or producing genuinely interesting content. Whilst all of these areas could be a challenge given the new landscape, there is a much bigger challenge to consider, however, let me first start by revisiting how SEO agencies have previously worked.

Driving Results

When I first started this blog I wanted to ensure that I stuck to what worked; back in 2009 there were wild theories about social, Chrome’s browser share and AdWords being a ranking factor. However, after working in SEO for 5 years at this point, I was a little tired that the advice being offered up was never going to rank a website. So whenever I wrote a new article it focused on the reality, rather than speculating about the future.

This is how a lot of SEO agencies developed their focus, they only invested in what worked, which was primarily link spam and paid links. It drove rankings, it helped clients grow revenue significantly and best of all it was easy to execute, which in turn meant it was cheap to supply.

Why would you change this business model? It focused on what worked and gave clients the results they wanted.

The Focus was Wrong

The problem with focusing on what worked was that Google were focusing on something entirely different. It was easy to manipulate Google search rankings up to 2011/12, for the last 10 years SEO’s had been focusing on the algorithm trying to take advantage of any signal that had a close correlation to rankings; in the meantime Google’s sole focus was on generating the most useful, targeted results possible. They wanted to provide the right answers to the right people at the right time; this made for a great user experience and also drove ad revenue.

So in 2011 when Google launched Panda it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to most SEO agencies, but it did. Then in 2012 Google launched Penguin which should have come as even less of a surprise yet the whole industry were up in arms about it.

All the time SEO agencies had been focussing on Google, and at the same time Google had been focussing on the user and delivering a better quality search result.

A New Landscape

There is nothing any agency can do about it now, Google have dropped multiple bombs to clean up manipulation and spam results, there are no shortcuts to top rankings and greater visibility on Google, not if you’re trying to build a genuine brand at least.

So back to my opening paragraph, what are the challenges?

Yes, this change in landscape means a need for genuinely engaging content, a user focus and link acquisition based on ‘being worth talking about‘, however doing these things isn’t the challenge, in fact it’s relatively straight forward.

The Real Challenge

When SEO agencies focused on manipulation they very much worked in a silo, they may have met with the client once a month to deliver visibility reports and updates on rankings. There was no need for them to be involved in the wider business because the work could be done perfectly well in silos, plus, the wider business would have probably had a panic attack if they’d have seen the work being produced.

However, fast-forward to 2014 and manipulation is dead, to deliver SEO results you have to have buy-in from different areas of the business; IT, PR, Content, Product and Marketing just to name a few. You have to be able to work with them, collaborate on projects, educate and help the WHOLE business understand the opportunity that lies within increased visibility on Google.

Very often clients with a good brand, or who at least are trying to build one, are already engaging in PR, advertising, content and creative; the role of SEO is now very much about infusing knowledge into a business to make all that activity significantly more visible.

This is the real challenge, selling SEO into the wider business, building relationships with in house teams and ultimately getting buy-in so that the work you want to do can be prioritised.

Despite being well into the ‘digital age’ some companies still have processes that make them incapable of reacting to market changes quickly, unable to update the website without a formal release, unable to publish content without 10 levels of sign off etc. SEO agencies need to work hard to find a way to get buy-in for their ideas, to get a place on the big table and ultimately manoeuvre into a position that allows them to execute the work needed.

This is the real challenge, to be taken seriously at the top level and to be able to work within businesses, not in an external silo.

Why SEO’s Should Let go of Links

Before I even write this post I am imagining the comments that will begin to come through from those that only bothered to read the title, however if you keep reading I can promise you that this is not a “links are dead post” however I maintain that SEO’s should let go of them.

We all know about penalties, penguins and the hunt for new link networks so I won’t waste your time revisiting that here, however despite all this there is one fundamental principle people just aren’t getting.

Before I go into that principle let’s look at some of the links that have come under scrutiny in the last few years specifically:

Blog Networks – Typically a cheap online service that allowed you to upload the content of your choice with some highly targeted anchor text. These articles were often spun and pushed out to hundreds of low quality websites. All content and links were under your control which meant you could optimise them perfectly.

Press Releases – Press release syndication has also come under the hammer by Google’s web spam team. These services allowed you to craft your very own press release and control your links within it. Again you were able to perfectly optimise each piece before they were pushed out to hundreds of websites.

Directories – Low quality directories started getting deindexed back in 2012, again you would create your listing, control the anchor text and sometimes pay a small fee for the privilege.

Article directories – Very similar to blog networks, write your content, control your links and send it out to hundreds of low quality content websites.

Guest Posts – Seen as a fairly safe tactic, you would approach a blog that was relevant to your audience, write a great piece and add a link in your author profile, and sometimes within the content.

Infographics – A (sometimes) cool graphic you have created where you encourage publishers to paste a snippet of code which you control, usually with a link back to the said infographic.

My guess is you’ve probably already got the point I am trying to make, what makes your link strategy fail (in the long term) has nothing to do with tactics, and has everything to do with the obsession around link control. If you are engaging in any tactics that allow you to control your links, the content they are in or the anchor text you use, then I can absolutely guarantee you that your link strategy will fall down in the future.

Everything Google has done with regards to links, particularly over the past few years, has been targeted at tactics that display an element of control. When you begin to control the links you acquire they cease to be editorial, and I believe Google only really want to count editorial links.

What does this mean?

It means that you need to become worth talking about, and when you promote your awesome content, ideas, events, data, etc… You shouldn’t worry about the links, where they are on the page, what anchor text they use and the fact they don’t go back to your money page. Anchor text will eventually come back to bite you, so you have no reason for wanting to control this aspect of your links anyway.

Still do your outreach, social advertising, and chase up mentions of your brand, but care less about what your links look like, let go of them and let people link back to you how they see fit.

It’s tough, because historically bad links have worked, anchor text was king, and if a page had no links it couldn’t compete. However, things are changing, natural link strategies are working and so should your focus.

As the title says, it’s time to let go of links and worry more about being link worthy.

One thing to remember is that links you control will come back to bite you, but links you don’t control can do the same. Whether it is a negative SEO attack or someone scraping your content, keep an eye on your profile and disavow any nasty links that come through.

What Is SEO Going To Bring Us in 2014?

Well, this is my first blog post since August, and the first thing I can tell you is that 2014 is going to bring a revival, lots more blogging, tweeting, speaking etc…

Things have been extremely busy over the past 12 months at Branded3, we’ve seen massive growth in SEO, Content, Online PR and Creative; proof that SEO is going through a change, thanks to all the curve balls that Google keep throwing our way. It’s no longer about picking up as many links as you can, strange anchor text formulas or in content links (dear me) to rank well in Google, you have to focus on becoming the best result, and this means more than acquiring a handful of rubbish links.

So, over the last 12 – 18 months I have been working hard with the team to restructure our offering, add new skills to our growing department, and thankfully it’s been a massive success.

What will 2014 bring us then? More link penalites as Google tightens the choke hold? Will SEO finally die? For the next 1000 words ‘ish’, I am going to presume people are interested in what I have to say and reel off what I think are some things to look out for in 2014.

Engagement & Brand Building

Now these have been losely spoken about in the past, but in my opinion they are about to get really important, really. We have a saying at Branded3, “If you have enough links to be in the top 5, you have enough links to be position 1″. I am a firm believer in this, and how someone engages with your site is key to winning the battle at the top of Google.

I was speaking with X Googlers (Web Spam Team) around a year ago, and they kept talking about an algorithm ‘return to SERP’, we’ve adapted this slighty and called it ‘return to search’. The algorithm monitors the time it takes for a user to click on your listing and then click back to Google, either to refine the search or choose an alternative result. If users clicking on your result are back on Google within seconds looking for the next result, then this may suggest you aren’t ‘the right’ result and your rankngs will drop. We believe that this was a part of the Panda algo, but has since been incorporated into the main algorithm, and it’s going to be important over the next 1-2 years as Google tries to identify who should be at the top.

Return to search algorithm

We have trialled this since with great results, moving clients from 4-5 to position 1 without running a single link acquisition campaign. Of course links will continue to be important, but if no one is engaging with your site, link efforts will be a waste of time. Engagement on and off site are going to be really important.

This brings us nicely onto brand building, how else will Google recognise that you’re a result that should rise to the top? Well if thousands are searching out your brand every month this is a pretty good signal, and your link acquisiton strategies should incorporate an element of ‘becoming famous’. Let’s face it, Amazon don’t rank for everything because of their perfect site architecture and quality links, they rank where they do because they are the result everyboby wants to see (Do you honestly search ‘books’ anymore?).

I’ll likely be blogging/speaking on this throughout 2014 quite a lot, so hopefully I can catch up with you at one of the events.

Links

Boy, they have had a rough ride for the last couple of years, does anyone know what a natural link is anymore?

There is a lot of speculation about links, what works, what doesn’t work, people still trying to trick Google etc…. For me there are a couple of very clear cut facts:

1) Google are still going to ‘manually’ identify unnatural links.

2) Google are going to penalise any website operating any form of manipulation, the bigger you are the harder you’ll fall.

When I hear people talking about anchor text formulas, mixing up landing pages, and brand link building only, I can’t help but think they’re just not getting it. If you’re trying to think about how you fly below the radar, then it is only a matter of time before you’re in trouble. Real people are looking at your links, if you’re using low quality blogs, or even high quality paid links, it is going to stand out. Google are active on ‘black hat’ forums, and other SEO forums looking for new tactics and supposed tricks, lets face it, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but just in case they probably have those too.

Your links have to be a natural by-product of genuine activity, think traffic first, or brand exposure, or social interaction, think anything, but don’t run a link strategy where the sole purpose is to acquire as many links as possible.

To make my point you only have to read the post on iAcquire with regards to how they would solve the RapGenius problem (once they have recovered of course).

Badges?! Isn’t that too risky? Not if you switch up the link destination and ALT attribute randomly using Javascript magic.

They are talking about giving badges to fans, however, if you have to go to lengths to manipulate links using JS then your strategy clearly isn’t the type of thing Google want to work. Natural links shouldn’t need manual intervention, we should all be moving away from link control, unless of course you are disavowing the nasty ones.

Great post otherwise, but I’m not sold on this particular tactic.

The Disavow Tool

Yes, I think this tool will continue to be heavily used, simply because it works. I do think Google will come out with an official statement which makes it clear that the tool works and put an end to the crazy amount of link removals that are happening. Going to blog on Branded3 early next year about link removals and why they are a bad idea.

Lets keep this simple, continue to disavow your bad links, even if you have no manual penalty, keep things clean. It will prevent as well as recover.

Link Tools

Little left field this one, but I think link tools will go through a drastic change. A lot of link analysis is now dead, you simply don’t know what your competitors have disavowed, or what may be penalising them, so mining their links is a waste of time. However, understanding what links are harmful is key, so tools that help you audit and disavow nasty links will become more popular. Tools like Linkrisk and LinkDetox already exist and I expect to see a few new competitors pop up in 2014. (I would always manually audit your links as well as using these tools, if Google can’t create an algo to detect all the bad links, I doubt anyone else is close.)

Even though technical link information is going to be less popular, competitor strategies are still going to be important to understand. What is the campaign, who is talking about it, how popular is it on platform x, where did the conversation start… these are all questions Online Marketers and SEO’s are going to be interested in.

Guest Blogging

Time up I’m afraid, it’s been overdone and I think Google are going to be all over this in 2014, penalising blogs with follow links on posts marked as ‘guest post’ and sites that have lots of links coming from such posts.

Yes, if you are an expert looking for brand exposure, and the posts have an authorship box that links back to your Google plus profile, and you only post on the best quality, high traffic blogs etc…. then yes, it is still worth doing, otherwise I would simply leave it alone.

So where does this leave SEO?

Well, it leaves it exactly where it has always been, going strong.

SEO has never been about link spam, anchor text, high PR links, sidebar links, keyword stuffing etc… it’s always been about driving relevant search traffic to your web property, those were simply tactics to artificially increase rankings. Search traffic is still there, it’s still extremely profitable, and you will still need to inlist the help of a search expert to help you get at it.

You will absolutley need collaboration between different teams and skill sets, but the objective remains the same, more relevant search traffic.

I could go on, but I’ve covered the things I want to discuss, yes social will continue to be important, more so as an activation tool in my opinion, but nevertheless important, and yes mobile, we all know it is huge, and having your site in order is a priority, Google have already fired the warning shot.

Anyway, hope eveyone is enjoying the holidays and looking forward to 2014.

Happy New Year!

Stop Building PPC Landing Pages and Expecting Them to Rank Organically

You may or may not have read my post in April on SEO and Ecommerce websites, it discussed the need for a change in mindset as well as covering some of the basic technical problems ecommerce websites face.

This post expands on the change of mindset based on conversations and experiences I have had in the last few months, in my opinion people are still struggling to understand what Google want from them. Rankings are declining, organic traffic is dropping and business owners just don’t understand what to do.

If you have an ecommerce website there is one simple truth you have to understand, Google only want to rank you organically if:

A) You’re a brand (aka the result people want and search for)

B) You add genuine value on and above the average ecommerce website

Historic Ecommerce SEO

For the last 10 years it has been pretty easy to rank ecommerce sites, you build your category page and then you get as many links to it as possible. You didn’t worry if the content justified the links, or even think to yourself ‘Why would anyone link back to a list of products?’, even if you did think about it you couldn’t overcome the undeniable fact that it worked, it made you a lot of money.

So for the last decade ecommerce site owners have been using link building tactics to rank their category pages and make a ton of cash.

The Truth

If you have a list of products that you want to market through Google, Google want you to pay for it.

Afterall, they can do a good job on there own of finding and listing products:

Google Shopping SEO

Do you remember when Google shopping used to be free, happy days.

The fact is Google can find and index products, and then make you pay for it on Google shopping, and if they can’t find the products they can send you to Amazon :)

Google does not want to list your page of products, for free, and let you make a load of money, it’s that simple really.

Making Conent Unique

Of course, any good SEO will always advise unique product descriptions, and ensuring that canonicals are set up as to avoid duplication across categories, this should be the foundations of your SEO strategy. However, this is not going to get you the best rankings possible, because you’re still only displaying a list of products.

Your content needs to be unique, yes, but it also needs to add genuine value. If you sell wallets, why would someone visit your website over any other?

– Do you use videos and other rich media?

– Do you have expertise, insights or even a qualified opinion on your products/industry?

– Are you creating compelling offline campaigns that are driving brand search?

– Are you investing in creative digital campaigns that drive natural links, citations, traffic and brand engagement?

– Are you considering the user journey and developing content/campaigns that aim at engaging customers at different points in that journey.

If you aren’t thinking about the above, then you’re going to struggle organically moving forward.This is why content marketing/strategy is such a buzz word at the moment, because a sound strategy helps to add that value, gives people a reason to share/link to your site and ultimately allows Google to award you with organic traffic.

How do I know it will work?

Despite all the buzz around content, I feel there is still some hesitation in investing in great content and creativity. I think in part it is due to the fact this is real marketing and not link spam, therefore it requires a greater investment, but also I think some are struggling to accept that the good old days are over.

12 months ago we began work with a client in a really competitive industry, flooded with link spam and blackhat tactics, yet we insisted on a campaign fuelled by content and creartivity. Yes, the investment was greater, yes results weren’t fully realised in the first 3 months, and no we didn’t deliver 100 links every month, in fact link targets aren’t even set, we’re measured against what really matters, results.

As of today this client has more traffic, higher rankings (dominates a lot of keywords), better engagement, increased social following, and importantly more conversions than ever before. All this despite disavowing previous poor links, never using exact anchor text, and only ever acquiring links to pages that genuinely deserved it.

A content/creative strategy can work for every website, of course the thinking behind it has to be sound, and the execution planned and implemented well, but it will work.

How can you measure this?

Traffic – Not just from Google, a content strategy should increase referals from social and other websites as well as from search engines

Links/Shares/Citations – Your campaigns should always include a promotional element, in fact it should make up a major chunk of your time. If done correctly this will always produce buzz in the form of mentions.

Brand Search – Brand search almost always increases as you invest in real campaigns

Sharing/Following – Your social stats across the board should increase

What about engagement?

This is a difficult metric. If you start investing in content when historically you have had a page full of products, then you might see decreases in time on site, and increases in bounce rates. This is due to the fact people will leave as soon as they have read the content, they’re not coming to browse your products, they are coming to engage with the value you have added. However, they have engaged with your brand and now stand a better chance of returning and buying from you when they are ready.

You can decrease the risk of increasing bounce rates by producing content that catches people whilst they are in that buying cycle, but this has to involve a lot of tact, we’re looking to add value at this point, not sell directly.

If you want to understand the commercial value of the content you’re investing in, then you can do this using page value in Google analytics. This will help you understand how each page contributes to your sites conversions by giving it a value based on how it fits in to the conversion funnel.

I could write another post on this but Stephen Kenwright does a much better job than I could: Using Page Value in Google Analytics to measure the ROI of content marketing

If you aren’t willing to invest in content, and producing real digital marketing campaigns, then I suggest putting all your budgets into paid media. If you’re paying for SEO services that are focussed on building links to category pages that don’t add value, then I suggest you stop, you’re paying for something that won’t pay dividends and potentially land you in trouble in the long run.

I’ll be speaking on Ecommerce and SEO at BrightonSEO in a couple of weeks, I’ll also be running a penalty recovery workshop on the 12th.

Hope to see you all there.

What The Hell Did Penguin Do?

So Penguin rolled out 2 weeks ago, I posted some early thoughts over on the Branded3 blog, and since then I have been trying to work out exactly what Penguin actually did, because being 100% honest, there are a lot of sites I expected to get hit that didn’t get touched!

What the hell did penguin do? By the way, if anyone genuinely knows please say so in the comments.

A few of things we did see were 1) a definitive boost for perceived authority domains, 2) some kind of adjustment to the freshness algorithm and 3) a drop in authority for sites that had used the disavow tool extensively.

None of this has been confirmed, but here are a few examples of the kind of thing we have been seeing:

Authority sites

In the legal sector we saw huge gains for high authority websites like advice guide and the law society. However, when I search ‘injury claims’ am I really looking to read a long piece of boring text? Or do I actually want to make a claim?

Injury claims serps

Let’s presume I want to make a claim, if so 3 of the top 5 results are fairly useless. Let’s hope Google’s return to search algorithm deals with this.

Freshness

Now, you may have seen an increase in high authority newspapers ranking for what seem like irrelevant queries:

Buy a coat serps

When looking to buy a coat I always run straight to the daily mail and telegraph…

However, it’s not just news sites that seem to have had a boost, it’s also any pages that are displaying dates, check this supplement result out:

ds craze serp

The site in 5th has a date in the snippet, this actually relates to a review that has the date within a h tag. Close monitoring of product pages on this site seems to show some correlation between a new review being left, and a temporary boost in rankings. It also seems to be more prominent since the last penguin update.

Disavowed Links

We probably have more experience than any other agency using the disavow tool, and in preparation for Penguin we audited all client links and disavowed any that weren’t 100% natural. In most cases this meant we had very few issues after the update, in fact we saw some great results. However, there were one or two which left us puzzled.

I disavowed over 1200 domains to SEOwizz (dodgy article directories from 2008), all I have left is 300 – 400 domains still linking, all from great websites (including the great and powerful moz and even Google themselves). I disavowed them nearly 5 months ago with no impact on traffic or visibility.

SEOwizz searchmetrics

Then penguin hits, my site loses all visibility and traffic drops from 3000 – 1800 a week… thankfully I don’t rely on the site commercially.

….and this isn’t a one off, we have seen this trend on 4 – 5 different sites who all disavowed links anticipating penguin.

Cyrus published his thoughts on this over on SEOmoz (now moz :) ) last week, he disavowed all his links as a test, nothing happened (the disavow tool doesn’t work right?), then penguin hit and it died!

cyrus searchmetrics

So as you can see, there are still a lot of question marks around the most recent update, please, if you have any insight leave it below or drop me a line. Also, if anyone has recovered when Penguin rolled out please share :)