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Submit Express Newsletter #84 (May 2012)

ith two Panda updates and Google's crackdown on over-optimization, last month was really an active month for SEO. But not to worry! Submit Express has dutifully stayed on top of the latest developments, and, as usual, brings you fresh and relevant information from the ever-changing worlds of search engine optimization, internet marketing, and social media.

Our May Newsletter features up-to-date industry news, along with important information about Google’s much-anticipated Penguin update. Our comprehensive coverage of news, tools, and techniques are available to better serve your business and improve your internet marketing campaigns. If you’re not a subscriber yet, start receiving our free monthly newsletters by visiting

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Recovery After Google’s Penguin Update

by Pierre Zarokian

We knew it was coming. In March, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that the search engine was working on a major algorithm change designed to penalize over-optimized websites. Then, on April 24, as the industry was still recovering from the Panda 3.5 and 3.6 updates, Google launched the Penguin Update, shaking nearly 3 percent of search queries.

What is Penguin?
The Penguin update is Google’s latest attempt to track and penalize illicit webspam techniques, such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, and many others. Penguin also targets sites that openly violate Google’s quality guidelines. How is it different from the Panda updates? The Panda algorithm focuses on punishing sites with low-quality content, such as content farms. While Google has always been on the lookout for webspam, the Penguin update is the company’s most advanced weapon against such “black hat” practices.

Were you Hit by Penguin?
It depends. If you’ve seen a major drop in your search-related traffic from Google right after April 24, you were most likely affected by Penguin.

Life after Penguin
Unfortunately, Google hasn’t revealed the specific signals it uses to regulate websites under the new change; however we have a few ideas on the practices that Google considers webspam or over-optimization. In addition to following Google’s quality guidelines, start with fixing any issues brought to your attention by Google either via a message in Google Webmaster Central or an email about spam activity. It’s also possible Google is targeting sites with too many repeated keywords within the anchor text of their links. Avoid this problem by not repeating a keyword more than 20 percent in the anchor text of overall backlinks. Tools such as SEOMoz Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO can be used to find the anchor texts (and their numbers) that are being used on any site. Usually a company's name and/or URL should have the most anchor text links and when a keyword features more, it looks unnatural, or over-optimized. We also believe that Google might be comparing sites for particular keywords and industries. Sites with more links than average might be penalized as over-optimized webspam.

Another webspam technique to avoid is creating too many pages featuring keyword rich content, and keyword rich title tags. Try leaving around 10 to 20 percent of the website pages un-optimized with short title tags. Finally, stay away from an excessive or unstructured internal linking structure.

Regardless of whether you were purposively spamming to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines, one thing’s certain: you will need to remove spam from your website if you want to bounce back from the Penguin update. Recently I wrote an article for Search Engine Watch entitled "Insights From the Recent Penguin & Panda Updates" that details some findings with a few sites that were affected with this algorithm change. Please read the article if you would like more details of what to do.

Google Unveils April Changes, including Panda 3.5 and 3.6

Google launched more than 52 improvements to its algorithm in the month of April, including major updates, such as Penguin and Panda 3.5, as well as significant changes in indexing, spelling, sitelinks, and more.

The Penguin update was launched on April 24, and aims to more effectively punish webspam, such as link schemes and cloaking, as well as sites that are openly violating Google’s quality guidelines. (You can read more about the Penguin in our feature article.)

In the same month, Google rolled out two consecutive updates to its Panda algorithm designed to punish low-quality sites. Panda 3.5 and 3.6 launched within eight days of one another (April 19 and 27, respectively), making it difficult for webmasters and industry professionals to distinguish just which one of the search engine updates was responsible for dropped or improved rankings in the month of April.

But there is a way to find out if you were hit by an update. According to SEO expert Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, the best way to tell which update your site was affected by is to analyze your search-related traffic from Google after each date. For example, if you notice a dramatic drop within a day or two before April 19, then it was most likely Panda 3.5.

Penguin and Panda weren’t the only changes to Google’s algorithm in April. Google also announced a few improvements related to search and ranking, including an improvement in the way search terms are scored in ranking. Google also updated the signal it uses to find more authoritative content. What might be related to the Penguin update is the “spam” improvement; Google has enhanced the way its classifiers detect keyword stuffing.

April was also the month Google decided to increase the size of its base index, the main index for providing search results. The new size is now 15 percent larger than the previous size, increasing the number of documents that are available in the index.

Other changes in the month of April included expanded sitelinks, better ranking of expanded sitelinks, and less snippet duplication in expanded sitelinks. See Google’s complete list of 52 Changes for April.

Small Social Networks on the Rise

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that when it comes to social networks, gargantuan Facebook reigns supreme. However, after eight years of unprecedented growth and the accumulation of enough clout to make an indelible imprint in the world for decades to come, the company that next month will go public on Nasdaq is now facing competition from so-called “disruptive technologies.” What are these?

They’re smaller social networks like Instagram, already bought by Facebook, and Path that allow folks online to socialize within a less public network. Although it seems counterintuitive, it’s not. People still like the medium that social networks provide for sharing pictures and life updates but, increasingly, they’re seeking to do it within more confined parameters. Also, they want to do it using their mobile devices.

Because what you want to share with your best friends rarely coincides with what you’d like to share with co-workers, companies are springing up that cater to the desire for more easeful selective sharing. The new social networks, by virtue of their not having reached the scale of Facebook, give users the feeling -- perhaps unfounded -- of greater privacy, and it’s precisely that which invites more relaxed sharing. Let’s face it, no one really wants to keep meticulous track of who has access to what on their FB profile.

San Jose State Business professor Randall Stross just wrote about the subject for the New York Times, and although he believes that the smaller networks do not pose any real competition to the giants, FB’s $1 billion buyout of Instagram begs to differ.

Google Releases AdWords for Video

Google has launched a new model for video advertising called Google AdWords for video, making it possible for advertisers to create and manage video campaigns from the same place they manage their search and display ads. Similar to search advertising, advertisers only pay when a user decides to watch their advertisement.

Available to everyone, Google AdWords for video allows advertisers to open an account and begin promoting videos in less than five minutes. Users will need to log in and choose a new campaign. The new “video campaign” product will be listed in the pull-down menu option for campaign type.

According to Google, the new product helps advertisers find their target audience by using a variety of tools. For example, advertisers can promote their videos by keywords, demographics, or select to display ads according to the topics their customers are most interested in.

Google AdWords for video also makes it possible for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, and only shell out cash for engaged views.

In an effort to help businesses invest in video, Google is giving away $75 credits to people who are new to AdWords.

Latest News

Airtime, Sean Parker’s New Platform, Due Out June 5th
Sean Parker, famous co-founder of Napster (and famously played onscreen by Justin Timberlake), has teamed up again with Shawn Fanning -- they created Napster together. For their latest project, they’ve produced Airtime. What’s that, you ask?
It’s a start-up that will make its namesake platform public June 5th. Once on it, users will be able to meet new people as they broadcast live video. It’s already possible to sign up for the service through Facebook Connect. Read more.
Instagram Goes Android, Bought by Facebook for $1 Billion
Instagram hit the App Store October 2010 as a free, photo-sharing social network for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Although it’s expanded to Androids, and its pictures can be shared on the Web, it’s still strictly a mobile app. Instagram became big with the under-25 crowd, whose members loved to post vintage-y looking snapshots with a little help from the app’s sixteen filters for digital photos. Like on Twitter, posters could follow and be followed, and like on Facebook, users could comment on pictures. Read more.


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