Showing posts with label Google+. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Google+. Show all posts

Friday, 23 November 2012

International SEO: Dropping the Information Dust

As many of you already know, I am Italian and I am a web marketer. These two facts made me discover International SEO very soon because - let's face it - Italy is well-known, but there are not many people in the world who speak or understand Italian.

If you consider the nature of many Italian companies which rely on the foreign market for a good portion of their revenues, you can understand why SEO and International SEO are essentially synonymous for me and many others European SEOs.
This map explains why I must be an International SEO. Image by:
This explains my interest in how search engines treat the problems associated with multi-country and multi-lingual sites. It also influences my interest in how a company can come in, attack, and conquer a foreign market. I've seen both interests becoming quite common and popular in the SEO industry during these last 12 months.

Many small and medium-sized  businesses now have the desire to engage in a globalized market. Their motivations are obviously fueled by expanding their business reach, but are also a consequence of the current economic crisis: if your internal market cannot assure an increase from your previous business volume, the natural gateway is trying to conquer new markets.

My Q&A duties as SEOmoz Associate have made me notice the increased interest in International SEO. Rather than seeing a small number of questions community members publicly and privately ask us, we are seeing many questions based on the confusion people still have about the nature of International SEO and how it really works.

In this post, I will try to answer the two main questions above referencing a survey I conducted a few months ago, which (even though it cannot be called definitive) is representative of the common International SEO practices professionals use.

What kind of solution is best for International SEO?

The answers given in the survey clearly show that people seem to prefer to use country code, top-level domains (ccTlds) against the sub-carpet option and the sub domain. (I'm still wondering what “other” may mean.)

The main reason for this choice is the bigger geo-targeting strength of ccTlds. However, this strength is compromised by the fact that you have to create the authority of that kind of site from the ground up through link building.

Does that mean more companies should go for the sub-carpet option? From an SEO point of view, this could be the best choice because you can count on the domain authority of an established domain, and every link earned in any language version will have positive benefits for the others. Sub-carpet domains could be also the best choice if you are targeting a general language market (i.e.: Spanish) and not a specific country (i.e.: Mexico).

However, there are drawbacks in choosing sub-carpet domains:
  • Even though a sub-carpets can be geotargeted in Google Webmaster Tools, they seem to have less geotargeting power than a country code, top-level domain.
  • In some countries, users prefer to click on a ccTld than on a sub-folder results page because of the trust that is (unconsciously) given to them.
  • If any part of your site is flagged for Panda, the entire domain will be penalized. A poorly organized and maintained multilingual/multicountry site may increase this risk exponentially.
I consider the pro's and con's of both options, and I tend to be strongly influenced by non-strictly SEO needs in my final decision

For instance, it is quite logical that Amazon decided to base its expansion into foreign market using ccTlds. Apart from the SEO benefits, having  all the versions of its huge store on one site would have been utterly problematic.

On the other hand, Apple preferred to use the sub-carpet option as its main site does not include the store part, which is in a sub domain (i.e.: Apple chose a purely corporate format for its site, a decision that reflects a precise marketing concept: the site is for showing, amazing, and conquering a customer. Selling is a secondary purpose.

I suggest you to do the same when choosing between a sub-carpet and ccTld domain. Go beyond SEO when you have to choose between these options and understand the business needs of your client and/or company. You will discover there are bigger problems to avoid in doing so.

The local IP issue and the local hosting paranoia

This is a classic issue I see in Q&A. Google personally responded to this issue in an older, but still relevant, post on their Webmaster blog:

"The server location (through the IP address of the server) is frequently near your users. However, some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so we try not to rely on the server location alone."

Nonetheless, in the case that you are using a CDN, examine where its servers are located and check if one or more are in or close to the countries you are targeting. The reason for this examination is not directly related to SEO, but concerns the Page Speed issue. Page Speed is more of a usability problem, but it has an effect on your site's SEO.
Finally, don’t confuse local IP with local hosting as you can use a local IP via proxy from your own server. In certain countries, a hosting solution can be a real pain, and that drives many companies to host their clients sites in servers located in another country.

Takeaway: do not get obsessed by having a local IP for your ccTld site, as it is now a minor factor.
In case you choose the sub-folder option, another important technical aspect is to create separate sitemaps.xml files for every one of them. Again, common sense, but worth mentioning.

The “signals”

If you are going to do International SEO, the first problem you will have is translating the content of your site in the language of the country you are going to target.

It is common sense to use a professional translator (or a translation agency), but some people lack common sense and tend to rely on:
  • Automated translation services (especially Google Translate)
  • People in-house who happen to know the language the content needs to be translated to
The latter is nonsensical. Professional translators have studied for years and know the nuances of the language they translate, whereas a professional translator will usually translate from a foreign language into their own language, not vice versa. If your translator is bilingual, that's even better.

The first choice is officially deprecated because it is considered (correctly) as a bad quality signal to Google. Even though Google's translator tool was created for this purpose, it seems as if they are sending some mixed messages and I advise you to look elsewhere for translating services.

A professional translation of your content is the best ally for your keyword search.
For example, let's say you want to rank for “car sell” in the Spanish and Latin American market. If you use Google Translate (or Babylon, WordLingo, or Bing Translate), you will have just one of the many variants of that keyword possible all over the Spanish variations map:
  • Venta de coches (Spain)
  • Venta de carros (Mexico)
  • Venta de auto (Argentina)
  • And so on…
Even worse, maybe you won’t discover that some countries have peculiarities in dialect expressions instead of “official/standard language” ones, or that people in these countries use both the English wording and the equivalent in their language. For instance, in Italy is very common to say both “voli low cost” and “voli a basso costo,” both meaning “low cost flights."
When I have to optimize a site for a foreign language, I give the translator a detailed list of keywords in which they will:
  • Translate properly according to the target
  • Use in the translations themselves
Once the site has been translated, I use the Adwords Keyword Tool suggestions copy pasting the translated keywords. The process includes:
  • Creating a list of keywords with traffic estimations
  • Google suggesting “related to my topic” keywords
  • Collecting and analyzing Google Trends information for the keywords
  • If you copy and paste the translated page (not just the translated keywords list), Adwords will suggest a larger and more sophisticated list of keywords
  • Refinement of the initial list of keywords and, if there are changes to make in the translations due to that keywords analysis, asking the translator to revise them.
Pro tip: Another step I take is to pull the final keywords list into the SEOmoz Keyoword Difficulty Tool to have a complete map of the difficulty and the competitors my site will have to compete with.
Do you think all this is possible using an automatic translator?

A correct translation is one of the most powerful geo-targeting signals a site can have, especially when a language is spoken in more than one country It is an extremely important usability tactic (which is correlated to better conversions), because people tend to trust a vendor who speaks as they speak.
Other classic geo-targeting signals are the use of local currencies, addresses, and phone numbers. Using them is very common sense, but again, some people don’t excel in that field.

However, you may have problems when you target a language all over the world and not a specific country. Obviously you cannot use the local signals described before, because you have the opposite objective. What to do then? I rely on the following steps:
  • If the language has variants, try to use an academically standardized translation which is comprehended and accepted in every country that language is spoken.
  • You may not have offices in the countries your targeted language is spoken, but you might have a customer care department in that language. Try to “buy” legitimate local phone numbers and redirect them to your real toll-free number, while listing them in your “how to contact us” page on the site.
  • Rely more heavily on other signals such as local listings and a balanced link building strategy.

The never ending story of how to implement the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” tag

If you reflect wisely about I have written up to this point, be sure to notice that "On Page International SEO" is not all that different from “On Page National SEO”. However, the slight differences arise when we talk about tagging for multilingual and multi-country sites, and there is a lot of confusion about this topic (thanks in part to some contradicting messages Google gave over the last two years).

The geo-targeting tags are needed to avoid showing the incorrect URL in a determined regional Google search. A classic example is seeing a US site outranking a UK site in, usually due to a stronger page/domain authority. They don’t have any other function than that.

At first sight, its implementation is quite simple:

if Page A (US version) exists also in Page B (Spanish), C (French), and D (German) versions from other countires, no matter if they are in the same domain or different, then on page A you should suggest the last three URLs as the ones Google must show in the SERPs in their respective targeted Googles.
Those tags must be inserted in the <head> section and look like this:

<rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-ES” href=”” />
In this line, “es” indicates the language accordingly to the ISO 6391-1 format, and “ES” the country we want to target (in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format).

You can also submit the language version information in your sitemaps. This is the best choice in order to not burden your site code, and it actually works very well, as Peter Handley discusses in this post. Also, they offer pre-existing tools which integrate the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" value in the sitemaps.xml files, as this one by The Media Flow.

Is not so hard, is it? Unfortunately, SEOs had been discouraged by atrocious doubts, especially when their International SEO previewed targeting countries where the same language is spoken.
What is the reason of these doubts? It is the fear for the (substantially) duplicated content those sites (or sub-carpets) tend to have, and the correct use of rel=”canonical”".

For example, in a multilingual site, we have the US American portion of our eCommerce store on In  we have the Australian version. Both sell the same products and their product pages are substantially identical.

As we know, duplicated and substantially duplicated content is one of the classic Panda factors. So, does that mean we need to use as canonical of the Australian store pages the American ones? The answer is: no!
Google lists a couple of reasons why this is the case:
  • The rel=”canonical” should show a different URL than the one self referential only if the page is an exact duplicated content of the “canonical” one.
  • Product pages are not exact duplicates because they have slights differences like currencies, contact phone numbers, addresses, and – if you localized also the text – in the spelling of some words.
In this cases, as Pierre Far wrote in August on G+: "The idea of rel-alternate-hreflang is to help you signal to our algorithms that although these two pages have substantially the same content, the small differences between them are still important. Specifically, the small differences are relevant for users of a specific language (and in a country). By the same logic, the title can be different too."
Therefore, using canonical to direct to a different URL will cause your users to miss a page with potential useful and important information.

What about Bing?

Bing does not use the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” markup.
As written by Duane Forrester in this post, Bing relies over a series of signals, the most important being the meta equiv=”content-language” content=”x-X” tag.

Inbound Marketing, Link Building, and International SEO

Now we have our multilingual/multi-country site optimized, but even if we choose the sub-carpet way in order to have a first boost from the existing domain authority of the site and the flow of its link equity, we still must increase the authority and trust of the language/country targeted sub-carpet in order to earn visibility in the SERPs. This need becomes even more urgent if we decided the ccTld option.
So, why is the sum of the budget for all of your International SEO link building campaigns usually smaller than the one of your national market?

Logic should suggest that the first answer (“almost the same…”) was the most common.
The reasons typically used to justify this outcome is that “link building in X is easier” or that “the costs for link building are cheaper." Both justifications are wrong, and here's why:
  1. To do link building in every country is harder than it seems. Take Italy, for instance. is not so easy as you can imagine. In Italy, the concept of guest blogging is still quite “avant-guarde.”
  2. To do #RCS which will earn your site links, social shares and brand visibility is not cheap. In Italy (I'm using my home country as an example, again), the average price for a good infographic (not interactive nor video) ranges between $1,000-1,200 US dollars.
My suggestion is to investigate the real costs for International SEO content marketing, link building, and – eventually – social media marketing. You should also ask the opinion of local link builders if you can, even in the common case that you will perform the link building campaigns internally.

In fact, those local link builders are the best source to explain what the reality of link building looks like in their countries. For instance, how many of you know that Chinese webmasters tend to prefer a formal outreach contact via email than any other option? I didn't know until I asked.
Modern-day link building does not mean anymore directory submissions, dofollow comments, or forum signatures than it used to, but it has evolved into a more sophisticated art which uses content marketing its fuel and social media as its strongest ally.

Therefore, once you've localized the content of your site accordingly to the culture of the targeted country, you must also localize the content marketing actions you have planned to promote your site with.
Luckily, many SEOs are aware of this need:
And they usually work with local experts:
If we consider SEO as part of a bigger Inbound Marketing strategy, then we have to consider the importance Social Media has on our SEO campaigns (just remember the several correlation studies about social signals and rankings). So, if you are doing International SEO, especially in very competitive niches, you must resign yourself to the idea that you will need a supporting International Social Media strategy.


International SEO for Google and Bing is SEO, no questions asked. It is also not substantially different than the SEO you do for your national market site.

Sure, it has some technicalities, but you may need to use them if you want to target other languages spoken in your own country, as Spanish is in the USA. All the rest of your SEO strategy is identical, other than the language used.

All the concepts related to Link Building and Inbound Marketing in International SEO and SEO are the same. The only difference lies in what tactics and what kind of content marketing actions works best from country to country.

What can really make International SEO much more difficult than “classic SEO” is one basic thing: not understanding the culture of the country and people you want to target. Don't make the mistake of having your International sites written by someone like Salvatore, the literally multilingual character of "The Name of Rose" by Umberto Eco.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Google May Discount Infographic Links in Future ! Ridiculous

Last week in an interview with Eric Enge, Matt Cutts mentioned that Google might discount Infographic links in future. To quote Matt, “if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.”

As a justification for this probable move he cited a few reasons :

“What concerns me is the types of things that people are doing with them. They get far off topic, or the fact checking is really poor. The infographic may be neat, but if the information it’s based on is simply wrong, then it’s misleading people.”

He also mentioned, “people don’t always realize what they are linking to when they reprint these infographics. Often the link goes to a completely unrelated site, and one that they don’t mean to endorse.”

So to summarize, three reasons why Google might be discounting infographics links in future are :
Infographics could be far off topic in relation to what the business is dealing with
The fact represented in the infographics is really poor - resulting in misleading info
People don’t realize what they are linking to when they republish an inforgraphics

And for these Google might discount all infographic links. Really ?? Are you kidding me? It is completely ridiculous and it seems Google is increasingly getting the God complex.
Google has always mentioned about creating extraordinary content that people would love to link to and now when people have identified a definitve form of such content they want to discount those links.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the points mentioned above..
  1. Off topic Infographics : Yes, this could definitely be  a valid reason to discount the links. If we are dealing with SEO and publish an infographics on the most influential political leaders of the world, there is every reason and justification for Google to devalue any link that the site gets through it and they also have the capability to judge this contextual relevancy of the graphics to the overall theme of the website.
  2. Poor Research Data : How is Google going to determine the quality of the research data ? In an infographics all research data are graphically represented and while Google might have really advanced their capability to read and understand image, I don’t believe it is anywhere close to interpreting graphically represented research data. The only option is manual verification - that is not a scalable and feasible process given the volume of infographics published and also, two different reputable sources could have two different value for same data point, what if Google looks at a source other than the one you used for infographics ? Does that make your depreciate the data quality of your infographics ?

  3. People don’t realize what they are linking to why republishing infographics :  Really ? Webmaster’s and content editors are that foolish ? Someone who maintains a good quality website ( because that is already a prerequisite for the link to be valuable) would definitely be wise enough to know and check what they are linking to. For a second, let’s accept that webmasters are foolish enough to link to a website without checking it. In such case whose responsibility is that ? When I am linking to a website from my site in whatever form, it is my responsibility to check what I am linking to, if I am linking to something wrong / irrelevant / unethical that should go against me and not the site I am linking to. So in this case, if at all Google has to take any action they should take it against the re-publishing website and not the site that created the infographics.
I have worked on several infographics for different projects and website and know for sure an infographics with this data or poor graphics would never succeed ( yes, we tried that too and learnt from the mistake).

How infographics get links ?

Let’s look at how infographics get their links. Once you create an infographic, the first thing that you do it is publish on the social media channels and as it starts getting shared, it catches the attention of bloggers who start republishing. Now the prerequisite here is the infographic getting “shared” and that only happens when it is of certain quality and actually provides some interesting/ useful information for the readers. So if the content isn’t of good quality it wont get shared, neither would it get substantial number of links. And when people have endorsed the infographics through social sharing ( and consequentially by linking) - why does Google have a problem with it  ?

Of course there are other ways to get links for infographics, like mailing to bloggers directly, doing press release etc but even there anyone who republishes an infographics would definitely spend a couple of moments to evaluate the quality of it and when Google’s discounting these links seems like a sheer disrespect towards people’s judgement. This is an unbelievable arrogance resulting from Google’s monopoly in the search space.

Is Google Socially Blind ?

Search engines today are increasingly relying on social data and in this case social data could be one of the key indicators of the quality of the infographics. Should we / Do we have to believe that Google doesn’t have access or capability to judge the social response to a page ? and when they see a major positive reaction, isn’t that enough to tell them about the quality of the content ?

The Embed Code Issue 

Google can definitely have some problem with the embed codes that are provided with infographics, as that proactively suggests the link and poses an opportunity for the publishing site to get the same anchor text link. However, with Penguin in place it should not be a tough job for Google to work out the anchor text bit. But if there is no embed code provided there will be a ton of people copying and republishing infographics without crediting the original source - what happens then ? We have seen Google crediting authority websites when they republish some great content that was originally created by some lesser known sites and while most reputed bloggers do provide necessary citation to source, I have encountered two cases where two extremely reputed authority sites have published our infographics without any credits ( they did add a link to us, only after we requested them to mention us as the source). For one of those infograpics Google still ranks that authority site above our site even though the original site has received enough links and social mentions. In this situation, can a business investing in creating a good infographics really afford not to use an embed code ?

I look at providing embed code as an initiative to make the content more linkable. If you are creating a good content that you know people are going to love and link to, what is wrong with making it a little easier for them ?

I can understand if they decide to discount links coming from infographics directories as any one can get a link from those but saying that they might discount links that an infographic receives sounds ridiculous. This is as good as saying that we may devalue the organic links that you have earned by creating some awesome content that loads of people loved, linked to and shared.

This is one of those frustrating moments when I really wish that we had a strong competitor from Google that would make them think twice before contemplating such ridiculous steps.

How to Rank #1 in Google

Ranking no. 1 in Google for targeted keywords is definitely the dream and objective of any and every SEO consultant, however, it has never been easy and particularly so in this troubled time when Google has successfully created an unnerving experience for SEOs, using the cutest of animals - Panda and Penguin.

But well, all's not gone. Matt Cutts here tells you a simple formula on how to rank #1. Watch the video and get your SEO guns going ablaze.

So are you ready to follow his instructions ?

* This post is just for fun and is actually a mash up of multiple genuinely helpful videos from Matt. It was put together by Sam Applegate. Please do not follow the instructions given in the video for SEO as it is sure to backfire. 

How Can Google Stop the Black Hats?

Google, the black hats are winning. Despite a persistent and partly effective effort to clean up SERPs and allow brand-building tactics to win, the most coveted SERPs are still being owned by the smartest algorithm gamers and black hats in the business – the very guys Panda and Penguin was out to destroy.
And the pressure is growing it seems for Google to do something about it.

The Independent newspaper published this column on the issues with the non-compliance of many well-ranked websites just last week. In it the Office of Fair Trading was asked to take a view on why so many sites had no credit license.

And the issue doesn’t end there. Analysis of other highly competitive verticals, including gambling, reveals similar problems. One site owner even wrote in detail about how advanced much of their “work” is, and how hard it is to escape.

The question is how are they managing to own such hardcore niches, and what can Google do about it?


How are the Black Hats Winning?

In the case of the payday loan niche, the tactic has been well documented by CognitiveSEO, but it appears that the same “link bombing” technique is being used to game other highly profitable sectors, such as key gambling SERPs.

The basic premise is simple. Look at almost any of the sites positioned in the top 10 search results on for “payday loan” and you’ll see that they are “powered” by a blog or link network using owned or hacked sites. In the vast majority of cases those domains are less than a month old – yet they are some of the most valuable positions available in organic search.

The way they do it is actually quite straightforward. After hacking or creating a huge network of sites (all of which are indexed and have equity to pass), they simply create a script that allows them to inject hundreds of exact match anchor links to the domain and site of choice simultaneously.

Often they will test the network first on an unsuspecting domain to gauge its effectiveness before switching it to their preferred domain, explaining the occasional random rankings seen recently.

Those links won’t all be dropped in one go though. They are usually added in over a 7-14 day period. If we look at the acquisition profile for (currently position 1 as I write) we can see the domain was registered on October 19.
On that same day it started gaining links, the vast majority of which used aggressive anchor text, pointed at the homepage:
It’s a tactic that will undoubtedly fall prey to Penguin, EMD, or even Sandbox quickly, but one other trick is used to prolong the site’s life, by playing Google’s crawlers.

How Google Crawls the Web

To understand why this works you need a brief understanding of how Google currently crawls the web.
Googlebot, as it is widely known, has always been a text-based web crawler, capturing the web by recording and organizing sites and pages looking at the code that makes up a site.

In recent years the appearance of visual snapshots and an understanding of headless browsers and the theory that Google uses its Chrome browser as part of that crawl have pushed us toward the belief that Google actually “sees” the web page too.

The problem is that the trick being used here suggests that those two crawls aren’t in parallel, or don’t talk to each other at least, to match what the text crawler is seeing to that of the visual crawler.

The Trick

I say this because in the case of several successful black hat sites they appear to be using a clever CSS trick, hiding links in powerful places that pass huge chunks of link equity, while part fooling Googlebot, buying them precious time at the top.

A lot of key links are “placed” in a position so high up on the page that they are “invisible” to the normal user, often sat in the header in pixel position -9999px or similar. That way the user, and visual crawler, doesn’t see the link and so it takes Google much longer to find out how that site is actually ranking.
Here’s what the offending script usually looks like:

As an added bonus, as well as buying time for the site, Google may also be seeing this link as a header link, passing even more link juice across because of it. A 2004 patent application by Google suggested they planned on assigning greater relevance to links in such positions and I wrote a little more about personalized PageRank in “Is Google Afraid of the Big Bad Wolfram?

Those making money out of the sites know this, and they also know that by the time Google’s crawlers piece together the picture from their main “base” crawl, not just their regular visual and “fresh” crawls, that they have already made a chunk of money.

The time comes, of course, when the site will be taken out, either by sandbox or by a Panda or Penguin crawl, but by that time the money is made and time bought to simply line up another site. And the process is then repeated.

How Does Google Fix it?

There is little doubt that Google’s engineers are very aware of this problem. The fix will no doubt become higher priority once they have figured out Penguin and as pressure increases from financial regulators to prevent non-compliant sites from ranking.

In my opinion, they have three basic options available to them, each requiring a different level of resource and investment to make them work.
  1. Manual Policing: This is the most obvious route to take and would be most straightforward. The problem is that Google may then be charged with editing results (something they have been very careful to avoid for obvious reasons). In practice it simply requires a manual search quality rater to monitor key verticals daily, analyzing backlink profiles, domain age, and other key telltale giveaways to prevent those sites from surfacing.
  2. 301 Redirect Check: In some cases black hats are able to remove any penalty and return quickly by redirecting a bad domain to a new one. For a period of time this bypasses the filter. Google could fix this by algorithmically searching for redirects when it crawls a top-level domain and matching back to historical crawls, or any index of penalized domains that may exist.
  3. Look Again at How They Crawl the Web: There is a gap, seemingly, between what each specific crawl “sees”. Much of this would be prevented if Google could find a way to pull the data semantically into parallel so the data is held centrally. That way they could spot hidden links quickly and immediately penalize a site for the tactic. Even if that penalty were simply a trigger to prompt a manual review or to pull the site “to one side” so it could be crawled more in depth faster the problem of hidden links would go away overnight.
If theories that Chrome is Googlebot are true, and I believe it is the case, then the solution cannot be too far out of reach.

The next problem to solve of course is hacked sites, and that one is very, very difficult to solve. Perhaps manual backlink checks are the only solution to this issue?

As one prominent SEO practitioner said to me as we discussed the issue, “Penguin has removed the crap black hat brigade, leaving the very best to get very rich.” For me, that pretty much sums up where we are right now. Only Google has the tools to change it.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Google Never Recommends Parking Domains – Not in Reality

Parked Domains are discouraged by Google, but their official pages display a different story

Matt Cutts answers to questions asked by people in Google’s ‘Webmaster Help Forum’. Now that’s not news, but what happened yesterday is that, instead of Matt selecting a question from the forum list he opted to answer his own question. Probably he intentionally did this to convey a valuable message to webmasters worldwide. 

The question is as below:

                               “I have a parked domain and want to launch a new website on it. Are there any pitfalls I should avoid? Should I keep my domain parked or put some sort of stub page there?”

Matt mentions that they have got a parked domain filter OR detector that prevents these parked pages appearing in Google’s search results. He mentions that if you have your domain parked for a while before launching the actual site (rich with content and links), it takes time for the above mentioned filter to advise Google’s algorithm that the site is no longer ‘parked’. Matt advises users to add a paragraph or more mentioning that this domain will be the future home of XYZ site and mentioning more about the business that is getting ready to kick-start or which already exists. He warns that leaving the domain bare without content, due to lack of business ideas the time you purchase the domain, will end up in the filters detecting your launched website a little later than usual.

What is a Parked Domain?
Parked Domains are additional domains placed without any content by a primary domain, mainly serving advertising purposes. These domains are single-page websites often developed by webmasters for future uses. Or you can also launch a parked domain right before the actual launch of a website. 

Data Refresh
Just a refresh into an old blog post by Google. This was posted back in 2011. As mentioned in this post, one of the search refreshes done by Google was on ‘Parked Domains’ – not to show them anymore in search results.

                           “New “parked domain” classifier: This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads. In most cases, we prefer not to show them.”
The Real Question is this, Matt

See below the screenshot of Google’s support domain page -
Google parked domain page
 It doesn’t make sense when they lead us to a ‘setup instructions page’ and a ‘Help Center’ page (both landing in a single page), which deliberately encourages and fuels creating parked pages. The rule-maker is the rule-breaker here! Will it not apply to Google’s AdSense for Domains, which cheered for parked pages?
Here is the video:

How Search Engine Works

Every day Google answers more than one billion questions from people around the globe in 181 countries and 146 languages. 15% of the searches we see everyday we’ve never seen before. Technology makes this possible because we can create computing programs, called “algorithms”, that can handle the immense volume and breadth of search requests. We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible, and we are constantly looking to find better solutions. We have more engineers working on search today than at any time in the past.

Search relies on human ingenuity, persistence and hard work. Just as an automobile engineer designs an engine with good torque, fuel efficiency, road noise and other qualities – Google’s search engineers design algorithms to return timely, high-quality, on-topic, answers to people’s questions.

Algorithms Rank Relevant Results Higher

search algorithmsFor every search query performed on Google, whether it’s [hotels in Tulsa] or [New York Yankees scores], there are thousands, if not millions of web pages with helpful information. Our challenge in search is to return only the most relevant results at the top of the page, sparing people from combing through the less relevant results below. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.

Today our algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals, some of which you’d expect, like how often the search terms occur on the webpage, if they appear in the title or whether synonyms of the search terms occur on the page. Google has invented many innovations in search to improve the answers you find. The first and most well known is PageRank, named for Larry Page (Google’s co-founder and CEO). PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

Panda: Helping People Find More High-Quality Sites

To give you an example of the changes we make, recently we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of Google searches. This change came to be known as “Panda,” and while it’s one of hundreds of changes we make in a given year, it illustrates some of the problems we tackle in search. The Panda update was designed to improve the user experience by catching and demoting low-quality sites that did not provide useful original content or otherwise add much value. At the same time, it provided better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Testing and Evaluation

search testing Google is constantly working to improve search. We take a data-driven approach and employ analysts, researchers and statisticians to evaluate search quality on a full-time basis. Changes to our algorithms undergo extensive quality evaluation before being released.
A typical algorithmic change begins as an idea from one of our engineers. We then implement that idea on a test version of Google and generate before and after results pages. We typically present these before and after results pages to “raters,” people who are trained to evaluate search quality. Assuming the feedback is positive, we may run what’s called a “live experiment” where we try out the updated algorithm on a very small percentage of Google users, so we can see data on how people seem to be interacting with the new results. For example, do searchers click the new result #1 more often? If so, that’s generally a good sign. Despite all the work we put into our evaluations, the process is so efficient at this point that in 2010 alone we ran:
  • 13,311 precision evaluations: To test whether potential algorithm changes had a positive or negative impact on the precision of our results
  • 8,157 side-by-side experiments: Where we show a set of raters two different pages of results and ask them to evaluate which ones are better
  • 2,800 click evaluations: To see how a small sample (typically less than 1% of our users) respond to a change
Based on all of this experimentation, evaluation and analysis, in 2010 we launched 516 improvements to search.

Manual Control and the Human Element

In very limited cases, manual controls are necessary to improve the user experience:
  1. Security Concerns: We take aggressive manual action to protect people from security threats online, including malware and viruses. This includes removing pages from our index (including pages with credit card numbers and other personal information that can compromise security), putting up interstitial warning pages and adding notices to our results page to indicate that, “this site may harm your computer.”
  2. Legal Issues: We will also manually intervene in our search results for legal reasons, for example to remove child sexual-abuse content (child pornography) or copyright infringing material (when notified through valid legal process such as a DMCA takedown request in the United States).
  3. Exception Lists: Like the vast majority of search engines, in some cases our algorithms falsely identify sites and we sometimes make limited exceptions to improve our search quality. For example, our SafeSearch algorithms are designed to protect kids from sexual content online. When one of these algorithms mistakenly catches websites, such as, we can make manual exceptions to prevent these sites from being classified as pornography.
  4. Spam: Google and other search engines publish and enforce guidelines to prevent unscrupulous actors from trying to game their way to the top of the results. For example, our guidelines state that websites should not repeat the same keyword over and over again on the page, a technique known as “keyword stuffing.” While we use many automated ways of detecting these behaviors, we also take manual action to remove spam. 

Fighting Spam

Ever since there have been search engines, there have been people dedicated to tricking their way to the top of the results page. Common tactics include:
  • Cloaking: In this practice a website shows different information to search engine crawlers than users. For example, a spammer might put the words “Sony Television” on his site in white text on a white background, even though the page is actually an advertisement for Viagra.
  • Keyword Stuffing: In this practice a website packs a page full of keywords over and over again to try and get a search engine to think the page is especially relevant for that topic. Long ago, this could mean simply repeating a phrase like “tax preparation advice” hundreds of times at the bottom of a site selling used cars, but today spammers have gotten more sophisticated.
  • Paid Links: In this practice one website pays another website to link to his site in hopes it will improve rankings based on PageRank. PageRank looks at links to try and determine the authoritativeness of a site.
Today, we estimate more than one million spam pages are created each hour. This is bad for searchers because it means more relevant websites get buried under irrelevant results, and it’s bad for legitimate website owners because their sites become harder to find. For these reasons, we’ve been working since the earliest days of Google to fight spammers, helping people find the answers they’re looking for, and helping legitimate websites get traffic from search.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Google Coming Soon Top 10 to 7 in Result Pages

It looks like Google is willing to experiment even with sacred elements of search, like displaying 10 results per page. The guys from Search Engine Land and SEOMoz started spotting last week some pages with only 7 results.

Here’s a link to the Search Engine Land article talking about it: 7 Is The New 10? Google Showing Fewer Results & More From Same Domain.

Apparently only 20% of search queries are displaying this behavior, though, and the reason might be connected with sitelinks. Those are the extra, smaller links you get when you search for the name of an authority website. It seems that Google wants to clean those pages a bit, as the sitelinks themselves already add a bunch of extra links.

Another theory is that Google wants to give more value and real estate to authority websites, as displaying only 7 links allow them to dominate the first page for some search queries. Here’s a quote from the SEL article:
Indeed, back in the middle of 2010, Google made it official that in some cases, sites might be able to dominate all the results then expanded this later that year.
Now, it feels like another expansion is happening. As said, that’s not directly connected with the shift from 10 to seven results. But it does mean that potentially that brand sites will have an even easier time than ever before to “push down” negative content.
Google recently covered that it’s been working on changes to both sitelinks and site clustering (its term for how it groups pages from the same site). Both shifts covered may be connected to this. But we’re checking with Google to learn more.
The bottom line remains the same: invest your time and effort into creating authoritative and value-packed websites, as those tend to perform much better over the long term.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Updated Guidelines For Webmaster By Google

Following its regular practice of updating its various applications at regular intervals, Google has time tried its hands on integration of some additional guidelines in its Webmaster Guidelines thus enhancing blog writers to detail various topics that were not integrated in their blog prior to these guidelines. However all these guidelines do not seem to be some extraordinary guidelines for regular readers of blogs, but can be regarded new guidelines for webmasters and SEOs.

There is no short cut of gaining top position for your website until unless it do not adheres content of superior quality that is beneficial for readers. Apart from this hyper linking of your site with authentic sources will enrich search engines to get true picture regarding queries made on them.

The major updates adhered in Webmasters Guidelines can be summarized as below:

1. Integration of Rich Snippet Guidelines: Rich snippets can be described as summary of content that reveals information regarding content available in it. Thus enhancing the potential reader to have an idea about content.

2. Enhancement of linking scheme: Linking of pages to protect cross linking of various pages, use of automotive programs that will create links for your website, advertisement of text that is helpful in improving page rank, integration of links into article that are consistent to support article.
3. Stuffing of keywords:  Listing of cities and states that are used by webpage for ranking.

4. Additional updates include: paying money for articles that have supportive links, exchange of goods and services for links.

Besides these updates it is expected that soon Google will bounce some more updates to Webmaster guidelines.