We knew it was just a matter of time before AuthorRank did more than just add a little picture beside your content in the SERPs. That time has come. Are you ready for it?
Google Made AuthorRank Part of Its Search Ranking Algorithm
I’m in no way saying that AuthorRank will be a sole deciding factor when it comes to your rankings. (No shock there. Even simply adding the author’s name and image to the listing seems to increase click-throughs.) But it definitely seems to help. How much? That seems to vary greatly and depend on a whole host of other factors.
To help you better understand and make use of this latest change, I’ve come up with a great list of resources ranging from a beginner’s introduction to advanced, detailed discussion:
Enabling Your Google Authorship Markup from Danny Brown is a nice, simple guide for making use of Google’s AuthorRank.
Google Finally Incorporates AuthorRank Into Its Search Ranking Algorithm from Drive Digital Group is a quick introduction on the change and some of the basic points you should know.
10 Content Experts Weigh in on AuthorRank in 2013 from Vertical Measures has a collection of opinions from various web professionals. This is great if you’re wondering how others are handling the change.
AuthorRank by AJ Kohn is a very thorough, detailed look at AuthorRank, what it is, how it could potentially work, and how it could affect other aspects. I highly recommend it and the comments below, but make sure you perk a pot of coffee and grab a snack first.
Google Authorship and the Fast Track to Better Rankings: A Case Study from Jeff Sauer is an interesting read. It brings up some good points and has some helpful information. I wouldn’t take it as law, however. I think that it’s still too early for any kind of an accurate experiment; there will be a ton of tweaking and changes in the next while. I also find these sorts of things questionable at best since there are just far too many variables and things we don’t know.
Rel=Publisher Versus Rel=Author Is just a quick few slides to help you tell the difference between the two.
I was doing a bit of research for a project yesterday when I came across something very strange. I assumed it had been there for quite some time, but when I came across it again today, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a new Adwords/Google feature.
Anyone have any information on this?
If it is new, I’m going to assume it’s one of those little “extras” big businesses can pay for. Is this accessible to everyone? Details people! Details!
**UPDATE** Well, after a bit of digging, I discovered this feature is not new. On the bright side, TechCrunch made the same mistake. Anyway, Velocity has some good info on how it actually works and there’s more information on how to get it (and similar juicy tidbits) on SEOmoz.
So, now my question is, how well do they work? Anyone?
If there’s one thing the last two Google algorithm updates have in common, it’s panic. The Panda Update started it all off. Legitimate sites tanked, while crap websites floated to the top of the search results. Leaving site owners confused and wondering how to update their content strategies.
(Photo Courtesy of ICanHazCheezburger)
Penguin was next, and it caused just as much panic, if not more. Sites that had sat in the top ten for years suddenly vanished. And practices that had worked well for a good many years suddenly had negative effects on the site’s rankings. The result? Even more legitimate sites felt the slap of the penguin.
While Google said this last update was designed to affect those using crap tactics like link networks and keyword stuffing, it seemed to do much more than that. Duplicate content, (which has been an issue for quite some time), large amounts of copied or republished content, and pages created specifically (and solely) for SEO purposes also seem to be creating hassles.
This has left website owners with more questions than answers. Now what are they supposed to do?
Consider Your Audience
I really thought this was Marketing 101, but after seeing tons of posts recommending that you focus on keywords and link building tactics, I’m not so sure. I’m not saying I disagree, but you need to use basic common sense. If you’re building a brand (as opposed to a turn-and-burn site), you should always consider your audience. That’s the whole point of creating the site in the first place!
Sadly, far too many website owners focus on what they want to tell everyone, rather than what their audience wants to hear. And to these people, I have one thing to say:
You don’t matter.
No one cares about a brand or a company. They don’t care about what you think, and they certainly don’t want to hear about the next big idea you have. They aren’t going to hand over the cash just because they like you.
Customers care about the benefits and value you can provide. That’s it. And without providing them with some sort of payoff, the rest doesn’t matter. It’s only after you’ve provided this value and built up a rapport with your customers that loyalty, devotion, and other important elements in the sales process come into play.
(Photo by Jurvetson)
Stop Creating Content for the Sake of Creating Content
Lots of websites create and publish content simply because they’re trying to maintain a regular schedule, or because their SEO professional told them to publish x number of articles monthly. This is all well and good. These things definitely have benefits, but eventually, you’ll run out of things to say and start publishing junk.
(While James Chartrand didn’t specifically mention SEO or marketing benefits in her post about abandoning her editorial schedule, she did talk about how the constant need to create great content can ruin your image. The comments are also full of good information and ideas.)
And your customers want something in return for investing time and energy into your company (even if that “investment” is nothing more than clicking a link to your site). Stop providing that value, and they might not come back.
Think of it like this: Every time you come home, the family dog greets you at the door and you give him a treat. Then, you run out of treats, so you shout at him. Run out of treats often enough, and the dog is going to stop greeting you at the door (or bite).
You might not be yelling at your site visitors (and I’m not saying they’re dogs), but you get the idea. Everything you create, publish, and spend time on should have a purpose and a point. And if you keep your audience’s needs in mind, this step should happen naturally.
If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
“All you have to do for a number one ranking is distribute 30 articles a month to 2000 different sites. These articles cost $10 each, so you can be number one for just $300!”
Ready for the bad news? If an SEO strategy seems really easy and cheap, it’s probably not going to work. And if it does work, it won’t work for long. As soon as Google updates its algos, the value will disappear and all that money and time will be wasted.
Bad article marketing is just one example. Even great link building techniques can be a bad thing if they’re overused. Your marketing strategy needs to be customer-centric and have variety, if you want to get anywhere and avoid animal updates like these.
To do this, you need to take three steps:
- Assess what you’ve already done and what you have access to.
- See where your industry is in terms of news and information.
- Identify things your target audience isn’t getting from your competitors.
The resulting strategy you create should be as unique as your website and the customers who frequent it. (As a side effect, creating a strategy like this should also naturally eliminate low-quality tactics like keyword stuffing and constant content republishing.
(Photo by Cayusa)
Resist the Urge to Put a Band Aid on the Issues
It’s hard to resist the panic when your site’s rankings and traffic drop, but don’t scramble and take desperate measures to fix things. You could very well end up costing yourself far more than you gain.
For example, I recently spoke to a website owner who removed all the backlinks to his site that didn’t come from standard websites that had a Toolbar PageRank of 3 or higher. This sounded good, at first. But think about it: Now, all his links are the same. There’s no variety. And there are now no low quality links, which would appear naturally anyway. He also spent the better part of a week getting rid of these links. (The value and accuracy of Toolbar PageRank is a whole other post…)
My suggestion? If the links and content you’re worried about are really bad and likely having a significant negative effect, get rid of them. Otherwise, forget about the low quality stuff and start investing in higher quality content and links. Take the opportunity to do it right. Create a link bait strategy and build better links, for example.
Here’s something else to be aware of:
In the process of trying to fix things, this site owner obliterated all of his content, except the site’s main pages. This worked. The site rose in the search results. But, a short time later, the site’s rankings started to fluctuate, and eventually it plummeted beyond its previous position.
It could have been a few things. First, he may have very well eliminated content and links that were keeping his site afloat. Interestingly, Google had also released another algo tweak while he was making changes to his site, so that could have done it, too. But because everything happened so quickly, he has no idea which actions helped the site and which one harmed it.
All the time and money he had invested in his site is wasted. Customers that might have landed on his site through various links will now get a 404 page. And, instead of a few tweaks, this site owner now has to start over from scratch.
If you feel the best way forward is to remove content, links, or make other changes to your site, do yourself a favour and make the changes slowly.
- Keep track of what you do and when you do it.
- Give the search engines time to assess and rank everything, before making additional changes.
- Make sure the changes are reversible, at least at the start.
- Try to change a small area first. This way, you can get an idea of what the results will be, before you invest heaps of time into making the change.
- Get a second opinion and do some research. This way, you can be sure that the problems you’ve identified are actually problems.
Variety, Creativity and the Desire to Stand Out
Perhaps the best thing to come out of all this is the challenge Google has presented to the billions of brands trying to be found online. With these last few changes, the search engine has upped the ante and challenged website owners to go beyond blending in. Take advantage of it.
Get creative with your strategies, your content, and your branding. Take risks. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to branch out a little. You’ll give your readers some relief from the same old stuff and improve your rankings and authority in the process.
Focus on variety. Use different mediums, markets, industries, and strategies to give your site (and link profile) as much variation as possible. Not only will this help immunize your site against future updates, but it will also help expand your reach and capture the eye of different audiences.
Remember: Nike didn’t become an industry leader by fitting in. This company created amazing products, took chances, and did things differently from everyone else. And today, thousands (or even millions) of people won’t wear anything else but Nike brand sneakers.
Want to know more? Head over to Success Works to watch Heather Lloyd-Martin’s video on the subject. In the meantime, what tips do you have for recovering from Google’s algorithm updates?
While looking up the distance between my hometown and Vancouver to find out how far away a friend was from me, I came across this:
If you look at that, you’ll notice there is a spot for you to enter your departure and return date. It seems Dean Cruddace was able to reproduce the same results with his query:
Google now selling flights? No! They’re pushing travel sites. When you click the link, you get this:
Interesting right? But wait! There’s more!
The site links below the title link are as follows:
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Now, the title link has several referrers: http://www.expedia.com/pub/agent.dll?qscr=fexp&flag=q&city1=YXH&citd1=YVR&time1=720&time2=720&cAdu=1&cSen=0&cChi=0&cInf=&infs=2&date1=10/29&date2=11/05
The site links? As Thomas Fjordside pointed out, some have ref=googleflightlink. Others have what looks to be affiliate codes, and others have nothing really substantial aside from tracking codes.
So what’s the deal here?
Are these sites simply authority sites? Has a deal been reached with the companies? Or is this something they’re just testing and those are the sites they picked out of their magic hat?
Google Beating Up On the Small Guys By Profiting Off the Big Guns?
This has me asking lots of questions:
- Has Google entered into partnership with Expedia?
- What about the little guys who are missing out on the profits?
- Will this spread to hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, and other competitive niches in the travel industry?
Not sure I like what’s going on here, but I’m sure we’ll find out more in the near future. I’m going to do a bit more digging around, and I’ll get back to you when I find out more. In the meantime, have a look yourself and let us know what you find!
What are your thoughts on the new feature? How could clients use that to their advantage?
The entire concept of people squabbling over the death or validity of SEO is absurd, completely ridiculous, and a waste of valuable time on all sides. If I hear someone tell me ‘they don’t use SEO because it’s evil and the Google gods will smite them and wipe them from existence if they use it’ one more time, I’m going to need one of these:
You know what? If you own a website, you’re already using SEO. It might not have the most effective tactics on the planet or be one of the worst methods to ever hit the WWW, but it’s still SEO. Don’t believe me? Answer these questions and assign one point for each ‘yes’ answer:
- Does your website have a URL?
- Does your site contain text?
- How about images? (one point for each pic)
- Do you give visitors the option to explore your site via navigation?
- Does your site contain any links to any other internal or external page?
Here’s the deal: if you scored ’1′ or more on this test, you’re using SEO. And if you own a website and you’ve called SEO evil, denounced its existence, or said it’s dead, you’re an idiot. Congratulations.
URLs, text, images, navigation, links and many other features are all part of SEO. They’re just done well, poorly, or disgustingly.
SEO isn’t about title tags, anchor text, or what color hat you wear. It’s not dead because, last time I checked, it isn’t breathing, it doesn’t grow, and doesn’t have life. SEO isn’t about how good your buddies think you are, or whether you made it onto some list somewhere as the biggest marketer on the planet. Let’s knock off the bullshit and just cut to the nitty gritty shall we?
SEO is about usability. Period. It’s about making your website, content, ad, or whatever easier to use for both crawlers and humans. It’s about getting found for the right things and providing ‘good customer service’ from the moment someone finds your site until he leaves. It’s no different than keeping the aisles of your store clean, the shelves and racks neat and someone at the cash register.
Got it? Good! So, now that we’ve got that sorted, let’s look at the two basic ‘rules’ of SEO.
If something makes your website more user friendly, easier to explore, and more effective, do it. If it makes the site impossible to identify, difficult to use, complicated, and just plain nasty, or if it clutters up the Web and becomes a pain in the Equus Asinus, it’s a bad thing. Don’t do it. No! Don’t! That’s enough of that silliness.
Now, I know this has been harsh, but it’s for your own good.
If I can’t use your site, or have to fight with you to sell me something, I’m just going to go elsewhere and so will everyone else who might happen to stumble across your site while searching for ‘pink and purple polka dotted squirrels with eating disorders, bald tails, and bad attitudes’. (If your site provides information on pink with purple polka dotted squirrels with eating disorders, bald tails, and bad attitudes, you’re in luck.)
Whether you like it or not, you have to cater to your customer, regardless of whether it’s a human customer or a bot.
I think most would agree that SEO is constantly evolving and changing. It needs to in order to continue serving visitors of all kinds effectively. But, so long as websites exist, SEO will always be there in some way, shape, or form.
Done deal. Can we get on with it now?