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May 2013

No Follow Links From Social Media Sites Beneficial?

By | Link Building, SEO education | No Comments

NoFolDo No Follow Social Links Impact SEO?low links are common practice for a number of blogs and social sites.  The ability to add the rel=”nofollow” tag makes it so no link “juice” from the pagerank passes via that link to it’s destination page.  There are many different reasons to do this, but the point of this quick post is to go over the question of whether NoFollow links are beneficial for SEO.  And the answer is yes and no.

Because NoFollow links do not pass pagerank and according to Matt Cutts do not have an impact on rankings, the simple black and white answer no, there is no benefit to using them for SEO.  But we wouldn’t be good SEO consultants if A) we stopped and didn’t analyze other possible benefits and B) we always listen to Google.

On the point about NoFollow links and how/why they don’t help SEO, here is a piece from a LinkedIn conversation on the topic:

Just because Google shows NOFOLLOW links in WMT does not mean that they “help” your site’s rankings in any way. What is shown in WMT is simply a sample of links to your site “that Google knows about”. They intentially mix those that don’t count (like NOFOLLOW) in with your good links in the sample so that you cannot reverse engineer their algorithm and cannot simply look at WMT to see what they count or don’t count.

WMT has historically always shown NOFOLLOW links as well as links from URLs on other sites known to be penalized by Google. Neither of these types of links will help your rankings. So the meer fact that they appear in WMT is really irrelevant.

NOFOLLOW links from any site (regardless of whether they are blogs, wikipedia, or social profiles) have no direct affect on Google rankings. Their affect on SEO and rankings is only indirect…

IF (big IF in most cases) the links actually drive traffic to the site AND (big AND in most cases) those people following the link in turn decide to link to you somwhere else on the web with a FOLLOWed link THEN (and pretty much only then) you may reap SEO benefits from such links… but again, it’s indirect. The NOFOLLOW link itself does not help.”

So the point of this snippet from the thread is that there is no direct impact on rankings and SEO from NoFollow links and in a sterile world where we speak like robots and everything is black and white, I agree.  All poking aside, I wouldn’t spend my time all day every day building nofollow links or paying others to do so with the hope that those links themselves would increase my rankings.  But, Just a question, isn’t an “indirect effect” still an effect?

Here’s another angle from the discussion that has a bit of a nuanced perspective:

“I’m not sure how much value they have from a pure link standpoint, but I do believe these social signals play a role in the overall algo. Of course, no one knows for sure except the engines. I have a local real estate agent I work with, for the past several months he’s been lingering at the 4-6 positions for about a dozen top terms for his local/industry. We decided to shift focus from link building to social media for the past 3 months and he’s now ranking #1 for 6 of those 12 terms, with no other link building efforts. I have no idea if this is a direct correlation to the social media activity we began, but I do know the rankings have shot up after several months of no movement, despite an active link building/content campaign.”

Yes! Agreed.  Social signals are effecting how sites rank in many cases and even if we don’t know exactly how and what specific role they play in the algorithm, there is a positive correlation.  Here is my response from the thread agreeing with the above point and extrapolating:

Similar to Gary’s experience, I have a client who is in an extremely competitive local niche and in terms of their DA, link profile, content, onsite optimization, etc., they shouldn’t really be on the first page of the SERPS – especially in terms of their backlink profile. Now, add in the social signals we’ve been building and creating – primarily on Twitter and Facebook, and they have a solid position at 5 or 6.

Both times we’ve stopped the social signals for around 4 weeks they drop down to the bottom of page one or top of page 2 – which makes a big difference in their traffic obviously.

Yes, no one can unequivocally say what and how no follow links and social signals impact the algorithm, but experience does tell me that there is a relationship. Yes, Google has mentioned that there is no impact of Nofollow links on rankings, but A) to be quite honest, a complex algorithm that is 100% proprietary and secret summed up by Matt Cutts in short videos doesn’t make me feel certain. At the very least, as has been mentioned, there is an indirect relationship – even if it’s just that these Nofollow profile links allow people to traverse them and visit our sites – which is supposedly a metric that the algorithm does take into account – traffic.

As part of a practice for many of our clients, we’ll build out a base of social profiles that are branded and include links to their sites. At the very least it’s real estate and potentially, a path back to their site – especially if they are sharing content on them.

Most social profile links are Nofollow, BUT, here’s a tip. Some of the RSS feeds from the profiles of these social sharing sites turn Nofollow links info Dofollow links.

The bottom line for me is a natural and organic link profile which does include nofollow links. If you were in a competitive niche and you ranked well, but had no nofollow links, I wouldn’t be surprised if G cut you down at some point.”

So to sum it up without dragging it out, yes, social links – even if they are Dofollow – seem to be beneficial to SEO.  Although possibly a more accurate statement might be: Dofollow links are beneficial to Inbound Marketing.

You can read the entire discussion here from LinkedIn.

Oh and by the way, the social sharing site that turns Nofollow links into Dofollow links in their feeds of your user profile is………Diigo

Last but not least, here is Matt Cutts looking like a chubby buddhist talking about NoFollow Links.  Related and not related to this post:

Search Engine Land – Organized and Successful Link Building?

By | SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

I participated in a LinkedIn discussion started by someone asking about effective link building and whether it was still possible these days, post Penguin 2.0.  While things have drastically changed over the last 2 years, link building is still alive and well.

While I appreciate the intent of those that share the party line from authority sites like SEOmoz (now just moz), Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Examiner, etc., I feel there is always more to the big picture.  In fact, simply stating that all you need to do is create amazing content and then all of your links will come magically flowing to you is not only repeating the party line, it’s giving false hope – especially if you think this sole avenue will make the difference.
The internet is vast and there are literally millions

or billions of keyword phrases, each with different levels of competition attributable to them based on the websites trying (or naturally) ranking for them.  To think that optimizing your site and then just trying to create ” amazing content” will allow you to compete in the medium to high competition, or even the low competition keywords is simply ridiculous.

Content and amazing content work well in the long run and also work well with longtail keyword targeting and trending news, but for real SEO keyword targeting for competitive terms, your path to link building via creating content is going to be wrought with shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong, using quality or amazing content works – especially to drive traffic from social sites and authority sites, but newsjacking and link baiting has it’s limits.

I’ll write another post soon to go over effective link building methods that are 100% natural and still work.  These are things you can do yourself or pay others to do.

For now, here’s some of the LinkedIn conversation:

Is it possible to have an organized and successful linking program nowadays?

“With all the changes Google is making with their updates, thereby causing websites, like ours, to dump thousands of what was a one time, good links, is it possible to replace those now spamy links with good, relative, and healthy links?

If anyone knows of a good company that can assist with this, I would certainly appreciate it. But, we are not interested in the same old linking promises whereby you use the old linking campaigns. Only acceptable, natural linking links will pass the test today”

First Reply (the party line.  Accurate, but in my opinion, idealistic and limited in its abilities to produce results:

“Honestly, I hate approving posts like this. You’re likely to get bombarded with responses from people around the globe offering link building services with the same old, tired, worthless techniques which now lead to your site being filtered and/or penalized.

Forget about paying a 3rd party to build links. Instead, think of how your website can “earn” links. To come up with a great link building strategy, you should be asking yourself questions like:

Where can your targeted audience be found online? What websites do they frequent?

What can you write or create that webmasters of those sites where your audience can be found would think is useful to their visitors that doesn’t already exist on hundreds or thousands of other websites?

Create that content, tool, or other resource. Make it great, NOT mediocre.

Contact those webmasters and make them aware that your great content, tool, or resource exists.

Those natural, editorial links will come if you’ve truely created something great.

Forget about paying someone to “plant” links on other websites that they do not even own… or on website networks that they DO own… both of these will only lead to trouble.

PS: I would read EVERYTHING you can find by Eric Ward. He is one of the most prolific link builders in the history of the web, and he has advocated this type of merit-based link building for many many years.”

Third Reply (Again, I agree, but I like this response a bit more, because it’s beginning to talk about other possibilities):

“I also agree with Jim that posting a request like this one could lead to getting replies from marketing firms using the old, tired techniques that don’t work anymore. However, earning links can only go so far, and for someone who is not in the marketing business, doing everything necessary to reach out to those who can send you links can take away time used actually taking care of the customers you worked so hard to attract – which is where a professional marketing firm comes in.
I also agree that paying someone to plant links on websites they do not own could lead to trouble. For those who have access to their own group of websites, a “network” could have negative connotations. They could all be on the same server, or they could be part of “black-hat” techniques or tricks. That’s why we refer to the websites we own or control, none of which are on the same server or IP address, as a “community” of websites.
I have seen many of Jim’s post, and will readily admit that he is much more knowledgeable than I am, Fortunately, the staff at our company that actually does the SEO work is also very knowledgeable and experienced, and knows better than to use the “old,

I responded a couple of times, but this was my last response:

“Well, to be clear, this isn’t a service that I offer – buying and creating sites for backlinks or traffic – but it does work and if done correctly, it’s 100% white hat and natural. My service is publishing posts on high DA sites that have contextual links in them. These are on sites that I do not own, but have relationships with and the ability to publish on. And they aren’t sites you’ve never heard of. Most of them are sites we all know and hear about daily online – hence the power of this service.

In terms of buying or creating sites that you can link to your money site from, this is a viable way of passing link juice, authority, and traffic. Yes, there is the ‘dark side’ of this process that can get you in trouble, but as I mentioned, many big brands and online giants (like Google) actually do this.

Think of it this way, if I were an electronics retailer online and my money site covered all of the electronics I sold, I could also either use affiliate sites or smaller specialty sites to sell products only from each category, rather than the whole. And in doing this, I could link from these smaller sites to my money site naturally because they were relevant to each other and both, legitimate businesses.

For example, If my money site was electronics.com I could also have tvs.com, computers.com, cellphones.com, etc., that were real and functional websites with quality information and even sales. If these subcategory sites linked back to electronics.com, this is completely understandable and natural. You aren’t gaming anything, you are increasing your online real estate and using your SEO brain to maximize the linking you have – just like Google, Facebook, and others do.

Of course, as mentioned by others, you need to be aware of how to do this technically and not fall into situations where you are sharing IPs and other things that the algorithm may flag as ‘unnatural’.

I think we all need to understand that the internet needs quality content and that we need to represent ourselves as real and legitimate businesses online. This means holistic and quality SEO and social branding, but it doesn’t mean we shudder in our boots every time Google makes a new update and follow the heard in how we market ourselves.

Salvation Army and Dish both lost 30+ % of their traffic in the Penguin 2.0 update and many many other legitimate business with only white hat SEO techniques lost more than 50%. The point is, we need to get creative and think outside the box without spamming the internet or trying to game everything.

For those that say you just need to create super content and share it and this is how you attract links, that sounds good and is very important, but for many of us, it’s not not going to produce the results we want on it’s own.”

You can read the entire thread here.

Again, this is just from a short discussion on a Search Engine Land LinkedIn thread, but I wanted to take the opportunity to point out that there is more to SEO than becoming a content factory producing “amazing content”.  Yes, link building has drastically changed and you need to temper it with social signals and a myriad of other approaches, but this doesn’t mean we abandon original thinking and creative approaches to achieving results.

More to come on post penguin effective link building in an upcoming post

Grow Your Business With Google Plus Local (Google Places)

By | seo seattle | No Comments

 

Google Places for small BusinessI recently wrote an article for Pacific Edge Magazine on basic tips for small businesses to improve their visibility and rankings via Google Places.  While Google Places is only one way to gain visibility online, it’s quite powerful in that most people gravitate towards the listings when they appear in the search results.  This means increased visibility and customers for those businesses who are able to break into the top 7 and show up on the first page.

 

Here’s the first part of the article:

 

 The online marketing landscape is moving faster and faster while maintaining (and increasing) it’s effectiveness and potency for all forms of business.  One medium that has multiple benefits for both businesses and customers is Google + Local.  Google + Local is the synthesis of Google Places and Google +, combining a location-based online business listing with the social network (over 100 million users) of Google +.  Throw in the Zagat review system and you have a more powerful version of Yelp with much higher visibility.

 

 

 

Why does this matter for your business?

 

Many of these listings automatically show up on the first page of the Google search results resulting in massive exposure to potential customers already searching for you. A Google + Local page can bring you increased web traffic, social proof, and higher rankings with less work than is generally needed for similar results with a regular website.  People trust Google + Local pages in the search results and it shows, literally.  Heat mapping technology has shown that when Google + Local pages are present, people tend to focus on and click these results first. 

 

 

 

Steps to a successful Google + Local page

 

First of all, if you don’t have a listing already, claim it.   While each business niche and search term carries a different degree of difficulty in terms of ranking there are several points that should be implemented for all Google + Local pages.

 

The rest can be read at zmags – the online magazine viewer that hosts the digital version of Pacific Edge Magazine.  The article is geared toward the novice business owner looking to set up and do some basic optimization and work on their Google Places page. 

 

More Advanced Google Places Tips

 

For those looking to do more advanced work on their Google Places listings and wanting results faster, there are a number of things that can work to achieve this.  Creating and uploading a kml and kmz file to the host server for your website gives a “map identity” to your business online.  Google can read this and attribute more local relevance to your website and Google Places listing.  

 

Another strategy to boost your Google places results involves tiered ‘white hat’ link building to existing business citations.  This process is like any other tiered link building, but with an end result pointing at your Google Places page and helping to increase rankings.  Building quality social bookmarks or sending social signals via twitter links or Facebook shares that point at directories and other listings that show local relevance can pass juice and authority ultimately back to your Google Places listing.   As with any link building, take care to only create manual and quality links during this process.  Done correctly and you will see results quite quickly.  Done in haste and you could make your listing disappear!

 

Another noteworthy point is that having your organic website on the first two to three pages of the search results for the keywords you want your Google Places page to rank for can also be a great benefit.  In fact, I’ve had experiences where we were not able to get a Google Places page to pop onto the first page until we had strong organic website rankings in the first few pages.

 

Penguin 2.0 and Google Places

 

Google released a new algorithm last week that they internally referred to as Penguin 2.0 – the next generation of spam fighting online.  What were the effects on Google Places with the 4th Google Penguin Update?  While data is still pouring in, I have noticed an increased emphasis on local results when searching generic ‘head’ keywords like “soccer” or “paint”.  Google has always blended local results when people search terms like “pizza” or “dentist”, but now it seems that they are widening that to include more generic terms.  The result is more local resources and results when searching for seemingly non-local terms.  These aren’t necessarily Google Places listings, as I’ve seen plenty of organic local results coming through.  What does it mean?  Google is continuing to corral us towards a more social community search engine experience.

 

From this data, no new approaches need to be undertaken at this time.  Simply creating a quality website that is optimized both for your keywords and for the business locality you operate in (including your address and phone number) will help to tell Google you are relevant to these searches.

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

While a sustained Google Places SEO campaign does take some strategy and resources, a lot can be done by the business itself.  Follow the basic tips in the article from Pacific Edge Magazine to establish your Google Places listing.  From there, work on one piece of the pie at a time as you navigate more advanced techniques for local SEO or hire a professional.  Either way, feel free to drop me an email with any questions you have.  I’m always happy to take a quick look at a website or business listing.