Submit Express Newsletter #79 (September 2011)
elcome to another publication of the Submit Express Newsletter, where you will find free advice, information and the latest news on search engine optimization, Internet marketing, and social media.
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In this issue read about:
RIP Link Exchange
by Pierre Zarokian
As of this month, Submit Express has discontinued Link Exchange as one of its search engine optimization services. We no longer provide this service to our clients because we believe Link Exchange is dead; in other words, it is no longer an effective way to improve rankings or link building. Furthermore, we believe that the time and effort required to achieve link partners can be better spent on acquiring higher quality links.
The Advent of Link Exchange
Link Exchange, the activity of exchanging links with other websites, became popular in the mid 90s. During that time, several link exchange services were launched that made this process even easier by allowing site owners to participate in a network of sites that exchanged links with one other.
The most popular of these services was LinkExchange, which resided at http://www.linkexchange.com/. The company was co-founded by Tony Hsieh, who later launched the online shoe and clothing shop Zappos.com. (Ironically, Hsieh became one of our SEO clients.) In 1998, LinkExchange acquired several other internet companies -- including SubmitIt, a search engine submission company -- and in 1999, Hsieh sold the business as a whole to Microsoft. Microsoft rebranded the service under BCentral and later killed the brand completely by merging it into Microsoft Small Business Services. (More info on LinkExchange can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LinkExchange.)
Link Exchange was a quick way to gain rankings in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, in the early 2000s, Google started penalizing websites that participated in automated link exchange programs in which websites quickly gained hundreds of back links, mostly from irrelevant websites. Many internet marketers began searching manually for relevant link exchange partners in their own industries. Up until a couple of years ago, if you operated any internet website it was common to receive several link exchange requests on a daily basis.
But over time these types of emails died out. The reason is that Google began lowering the value of link exchanges. While we still believe that any link has the ability to help your website, and that it is natural to have a mix of both low- and high-quality links, it has become extremely difficult over the past few months to find quality link partners. We believe this is for two reasons: (1) Link exchange emails typically end up in spam folders and (2) Many people have stopped participating in link exchange programs.
Therefore, the time and cost spent on acquiring one link exchange partner will be better spent on other link building activities that will achieve far better results. For example, a very good and effective way of getting links is writing articles and submitting them to popular blogs or sites for publication. While this process might be time consuming, you will attain higher quality links.
Back in December, Google announced that it had begun to consider "social mentions", such as Twitter posts which mention your website, as a ranking factor. Today, Submit Express encourages all clients to become active in social media and provides social media marketing services as part of most of its SEO campaigns. Moreover, Submit Express announces the birth of Social Media as a ranking factor in 2011.
Search Engine Optimization is a cat-and-mouse game between the search engines and the optimizers. Good optimizers must always update their techniques to stay ahead of the game. If you are still using link exchange, we recommend that you stop doing so. We officially pronounce Link Exchange dead.
RIP Link Exchange, 1995-2011.
Google's Panda/Farmer Update: How to Embrace the Change
In February, Google launched a major change in its algorithm that significantly impacted countless websites across the board. Known as the Panda or Farmer update, the new algorithm update aims to decrease rankings for low-quality sites that offer regenerated content or duplicate content and give better rankings for sites with high-quality, original content and information.
Although Google has made changes to its algorithm before, the Farmer update is one of the biggest improvements to date. The initial launch (which rolled out to U.S. Google users in February) affected 11.8 percent of Google search results in the U.S. Then, in early April, Google rolled out the change (along with a few other updates) to its English-language users worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 percent of U.S. searches.
On the announcement of the Farmer update, Google said that it can't make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. But just which websites will be most affected? And how can sites avoid being penalized by the search giant, if they haven't been already?
Google Panda 2.3 Update is Now Live
Search Engine Land announced in late July that Google confirmed that it has run an update to the Panda filter once again. The latest 2.3 Panda update went live as of late last week and includes a few new signals that help to distinguish between lower- and higher-quality websites. Not surprisingly, the latest update has caused certain sites to rank higher while other sites have experienced traffic drops.
In addition to the most recent Panda algorithm update, Google has run an update to the Panda filter four times this year. According to Search Engine Land, changes people make in between updates in hopes of fixing a Panda issue "won't show any impact until the next update is run."
The tech giant launched the Panda update in February and has told Search Engine Land that it will continue to update the algorithm as part of the company's "commitment to returning high-quality sites to Google users." The Google spokesperson added, "This most recent update is one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year."
2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report Now Available
What is the perfect search engine optimization strategy? What is the most effective SEO tactic? What is the most difficult to employ? Before you begin to answer these questions, you might want to find out what other marketers are doing. SearchEngineLand.com reports that the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report -- SEO Edition - is now out, featuring more than 150 charts from a survey of 1,530 marketers around the world. The report is published by MarketingSherpa.
When asked, Which of the following SEO tactics has your organization used? 93 percent of respondents said they've done keyword/keyphrase research. More than 80 percent said they've employed title tags and meta description tags, while 67 percent said they've employed URL structuring.
Surprisingly, only 59 percent of respondents said they've done any external link building. But when analyzed further by the SEO maturity of the respondents, SearchEngineLand.com points out that "those who have more formal processes for SEO are twice as likely to have done external link building as those without a formal approach to SEO."
Not surprisingly, content creation stood out as the most difficult SEO tactic, but also the most effective. Only 60 percent have employed content creation services, although 92 percent said content creation is either "very effective" or "somewhat effective." According to the marketers surveyed, "good" and "effective" content includes pages with "strong customer-oriented language, good layouts and clear call-to-actions." Other leading examples of good content include webinars and whitepapers, with 46 percent and 40 percent of marketers, respectively, stating that these are very effective content products.
The entire report is available for about $400 and includes in-depth charts and analysis on the best tactics, top challenges, budget trends, and more.
How Will Google Plus Influence SEO?
Only a few weeks after the field trial launch of the Google+ project -- the tech giant's social networking service -- the search engine optimization industry is buzzing with how the new service might affect organic search rankings.
While Google has not answered this question officially (as of July 19, 2011) online marketers and SEO professionals have already chimed in with a few predictions.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEO software company SEOMoz, conducted an experiment of his own to find out whether Google+ can influence rankings, especially after the Twitter Firehose shutdown. Fishkin created two unique pages and shared one page on Google+ and the other on Twitter.
According to Fishkin's results, the Twitter URL performed better and faster in the SERPs than the Google+ URL. Within 13 minutes the Twitter URL ranked number one for its keyword phrase. The experiment also found that tweets not only helped indexation, but also increased rankings (although the exact degree is unknown).
The Google+ URL, on the other hand, took about two hours to rank the top spot for its keyword phrase in Google search results. However, within ten minutes, the URL was shared nearly 12 times; four Google Buzzes appeared and zero tweets.
After conducting the Google+ and Twitter experiments, Fishkin said that he could not find "direct evidence of improved rankings with Google+ beyond basic indexation." He added, however, that he wouldn't be surprised if the "phenomenon existed."
Still, others, including John Paul Titlow of ReadWriteWeb.com, say it might be too early in the game to tell whether Google+ won't have a significant impact on both indexation and search engine ranking results. In an article on the subject, Titlow reiterates, "Whatever the algorithmic effect this may have in the future, right now it's probably too early to accurately predict."
U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab Releases CitySandbox, Hopes to Network Real-World Deeds
These days, Greg Niemeyer, one of the honchos of the U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab, can be caught tinkering with a pet project: CitySandbox. What exactly is that two-word mash-up? It's Niemeyer's grab at getting to a finer integration of online and offline sociability, but by his own admission he still has much ground to cover.
CitySandbox is a social medium for people to "ask questions about specific places in [their] city and discuss them" with fellow residents. The goal is to create real-world action from the postings. The site is designed to promote the formation of social clusters focused on specific local issues through the virtual/real communication between its members that it hosts.
It works by overlaying a Google map of a local area, Berkeley, in this case, with social networking capabilities. Users select a map location and then ask a question about it or propose a real-life event to address a particular issue.
Here goes one example. Concerning the location 1503 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94709, USA, CitySandbox user SEstar asked, "Who is the person that spends every night on this bench?" The user explained that the unknown person slept while "sitting upright," "dressed in a dark long coat with a hoodie," and kept "his/her legs crossed."
SEstar's query, after three weeks, only got one response. It came from user Shovel, who in some sort of commiseration posted: "Kind of creepy. But you could leave a note for him." Helpful, indeed.
Niemeyer still has some way to go before hitting upon the online terrain that will truly nurture the creation of collective, real-world action from online discussions, but he feels he's on the right track.
Facebook Builds Momentum Among Recruiters
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Light has just published a piece about a growing trend in job recruitment circles: trolling Facebook for job candidates. The use of social networks in the employment arena is nothing new, but the noticeable uptick in the use of Facebook for recruitment purposes is.
Facebook has traditionally been viewed as a place for personal connections, where the veneer of workplace formality is rubbed off or not bothered with at all. Jeff Vijungco, who oversees talent recruitment for Adobe Systems, Inc., told the WSJ that job candidates in focus groups reported being keenly disinclined to having recruiters reach out to them through Facebook.
Recruiters, however, are taking a closer look at the network's advantages: Facebook has the lion's share of users; people spend more time logged on Facebook than on LinkedIn; and folks are, in general, more likely to apply for positions pointed out to them by friends and family than ones glanced at on job boards. Even job boards themselves, like Monster.com, are getting in on the trend -- the popular employment site released BeKnown, a Facebook app, this past June.
Jobs2Web, a firm dedicated to keeping tabs on the origins of prospective and actual hires, crunched Facebook's hire numbers and found that they "account[ed] for less than 1% of the total hires companies are making." The same company is predicting that Facebook will become a real recruitment force in 2012.
Yahoo! To Shut Down Site Explorer
Yahoo! announced in July it plans to discontinue Yahoo! Site Explorer, an SEO tool that has been around for nearly six years. Webmasters are encouraged to use Microsoft's Webmaster Tools as the source for Bing and Yahoo! webmaster site and analytic data.
Google Warns Webmasters About Bad Links Pointing to Websites
Since January, Google has notified webmasters via email whenever it discovers and penalizes a website with bad links pointing outwards, or for selling links. Now, the search giant is informing webmasters of the opposite: when it detects links pointing to a site, or for purchasing links.
The Woman that Helped Facebook Find Its Groove
If there's one woman in particular who's making her impact felt around Silicon Valley, it's Sheryl Sandberg. Although there seems to be some unremarked upon gender conflict around her, no one is doubting that she is, in fact, the number two honcho at Facebook, the world's biggest social network.
User Pictures and Names Come Off of LinkedIn's Social Ads
In early August, LinkedIn blogged an announcement concerning its decision to scrap its then-current iteration of social ads. The major issue was user complaints about the prominent placement given to user portraits and names in advertising for followed products and companies.
LinkedIn Releases "Apply with LinkedIn" Button
Since its big debut as a publicly traded company, news from LinkedIn has been on the wane. Luckily, in the week of July 26, signs of life not having to do with the most current stock price finally surfaced: LinkedIn has a new button, and true to its careerist commitments, the button will provide an exceptionally simple way for LinkedIn-sters to apply for work. All they'll need to do to apply will be to press a button. The button's name is "Apply with LinkedIn."
Google Hands Out Badges to Competitive Readers
Google is keeping its social momentum going by setting free onto the web its new Google News badges. It's definitely a social feature for those who like to share, and let's just say it out right, brag a little about all the stuff they read. Yes, for these folks, badges that track reading and prominently display to others their "badge level" are just the thing. The badges are sharable among Google contacts.
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