The Best of 2014: Top People and Posts from the Moz Blog

Posted by Trevor-Klein

At the end of every year, we compile a list of the very best posts and most popular and prolific people that have been published on the Moz Blog and YouMoz. It’s a really fun way to look back on what happened this year, and an insight-packed view of what really resonates with our readers.

Here’s what we’ve got in store:

  1. Top Moz Blog posts by 1Metric score
  2. Top Moz Blog posts by unique visits
  3. Top YouMoz Blog posts by unique visits
  4. Top Moz Blog posts by number of thumbs up
  5. Top Moz Blog posts by number of comments
  6. Top Moz Blog posts by number of linking root domains
  7. Top comments from our community by number of thumbs up
  8. Top commenters from our community by total number of thumbs up

A huge thanks goes to Dr. Pete Meyers and Cyrus Shepard; their help cut the amount of time creating this piece consumed in half.

We hope you enjoy the look back at the past year, and wish you a very happy start to 2015!

1. Top Moz Blog posts by 1Metric score

Earlier this year, we created a new metric to evaluate the success of our blog posts, calling it “the one metric” in a nod to The Lord of the Rings. We even
wrote about it on this blog. With the help and feedback of many folks in the community as well as some refinement of our own, we’ve now polished the metric, changed the spelling a bit, applied it retroactively to older posts, and are using it regularly in-house. The following posts are those with the highest scores, representing the 10 posts that saw the most overall success this year. In case there was any doubt, Cyrus really (really) knows what he’s doing.

1. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

Dr-Pete

2. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

MarieHaynes

3. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

4. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

OliGardner

5. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

6. Illustrated Guide to Advanced On-Page Topic Targeting for SEO
November 17 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The concepts of advanced on-page SEO are dizzying: LDA, co-occurrence, and entity salience. The question is “How can I easily incorporate these techniques into my content for higher rankings?” The truth is, you can create optimized pages that rank well without understanding complex algorithms.

josh_bachynski

7. Panda 4.1 Google Leaked Dos and Don’ts – Whiteboard Friday
December 05 – Posted by Josh Bachynski
Panda is about so much more than good content. Let Josh Bachynski give you the inside information on the highlights of what you should (and should not) be doing.

8. 10 Smart Tips to Leverage Google+ for Increased Web Traffic
April 15 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
While not everyone has an audience active on Google+, the number of people who interact socially with any Google products on a monthly basis now reportedly exceeds 500 million.

9. The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday
April 04 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Google is increasingly playing the referee in the marketing game, and many marketers are simply leaving instead of playing by the rules. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard takes a time-out to explain a winning strategy.

gfiorelli1

10. The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors
September 30 – Posted by Gianluca Fiorelli
Nothing like the “The 200 Google Ranking Factors” actually exists. It is a myth, and those who claim to be able to offer a final list are its prophets. This post explains how the myth was born and the importance of knowing the stages of search engines’ working process.

2. Top Moz Blog posts by unique visits

The heaviest-weighted ingredient in the 1Metric is unique visits, as one of our primary goals for the Moz Blog is to drive traffic to the rest of the site. With that in mind, we thought it interesting to break things down to just this metric and show you just how different this list is from the last one. Of note: Dr. Pete’s post on Google’s new design for title tags is a nod to the power of evergreen content. That post is one that folks can return to over and over as they fiddle with their own title tags, and amassed more than
twice the traffic of the post in the #2 slot.

Dr-Pete

1. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

OliGardner

2. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

3. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

briancarter

4. Why Every Business Should Spend at Least $1 per Day on Facebook Ads
February 19 – Posted by Brian Carter
For the last three years I’ve constantly recommended Facebook ads. I recommend them to both B2C and B2B businesses. I recommend them to local theaters and comedians here in Charleston, SC. I recommend them to everyone who wants to grow awareness about anything they’re doing. Here’s why.

5. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

MarieHaynes

6. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

Chad_Wittman

7. Make Facebook’s Algorithm Change Work For You, Not Against You
January 23 – Posted by Chad Wittman
Recently, many page admins have been experiencing a significant decrease in Total Reach—specifically, organic reach. For pages that want to keep their ad budget as low as possible, maximizing organic reach is vital. To best understand how to make a change like this work for you, and not against you, we need to examine what happened—and what you can do about it.

n8ngrimm

8. How to Rank Well in Amazon, the US’s Largest Product Search Engine
June 04 – Posted by Nathan Grimm
The eCommerce SEO community is ignoring a huge opportunity by focusing almost exclusively on Google. Amazon has roughly three times more search volume for products, and this post tells you all about how to rank.

iPullRank

9. Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit
January 29 – Posted by Michael King
With the erosion of keyword intelligence and the move to strings-not-things for the user, Google is pushing all marketers to focus more on their target audience. This post will teach you how to understand that audience, the future of Google, and how to build data-driven personas step by step.

Dr-Pete

10. Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day
May 21 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Preliminary analysis of the Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0 updates, major algorithm flux on May 19th, and a big one-day rankings drop for eBay.

3. Top YouMoz Blog posts by unique visits

One of our favorite parts of the Moz community is the YouMoz Blog, where our community members can submit their own posts for potential publishing here on our site. We’re constantly impressed by what we’re sent. These 10 posts all received such high praise that they were promoted to the main Moz Blog, but they all started out as YouMoz posts. 

Chad_Wittman

1. Make Facebook’s Algorithm Change Work For You, Not Against You
January 23 – Posted by Chad Wittman
Recently, many page admins have been experiencing a significant decrease in Total Reach—specifically, organic reach. For pages that want to keep their ad budget as low as possible, maximizing organic reach is vital. To best understand how to make a change like this work for you, and not against you, we need to examine what happened—and what you can do about it.

Carla_Dawson

2. Parallax Scrolling Websites and SEO – A Collection of Solutions and Examples
April 01 – Posted by Carla Dawson
I have observed that there are many articles that say parallax scrolling is not ideal for search engines. Parallax Scrolling is a design technique and it is ideal for search engines if you know how to apply it. I have collected a list of great tutorials and real SEO-friendly parallax websites to help the community learn how to use both techniques together.

Jeffalytics

3. (Provided): 10 Ways to Prove SEO Value in Google Analytics
February 25 – Posted by Jeff Sauer
We and our clients have relied on keyword reports for so long that we’re now using (not provided) as a crutch. This post offers 10 ways you can use Google Analytics to prove your SEO value now that those keywords are gone.

danatanseo

4. How to Set Up and Use Twitter Lead Generation Cards in Your Tweets for Free!
May 07 – Posted by Dana Tan
Working as an in-house SEO strategist for a small business forces me to get “scrappy” every day with tools and techniques. I’m constantly on the lookout for an opportunity that can help my company market to broader audiences for less money. Here’s how to set up your Twitter Cards for free!

Amanda_Gallucci

5. 75 Content Starters for Any Industry
February 06 – Posted by Amanda Gallucci
Suffering from blank page anxiety? Before you go on the hunt for inspiration all over the Internet and elsewhere, turn to the resources around you. Realize that you can create exceptional content with what you already have at hand.

nicoleckohler

6. The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links
June 08 – Posted by Nicole Kohler
For those of us who are trying to earn links for our clients, receiving a nofollow link can feel like a slap in the face. But these links have hidden powers that make them just as important as followed ones. Here’s why nofollow links are more powerful than you might think.

YonDotan

7. A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO
March 17 – Posted by Yonatan Dotan
One day in my inbox I found the dreaded notice from Google that our client had a site-wide manual penalty for unnatural inbound links. We quickly set up a call and went through the tooth-rattling ordeal of explaining to our client that they weren’t even ranked for their brand name. Organic traffic dropped by a whopping 94% – and that for a website that gets 66% of its traffic from Google-based organic search.

malditojavi

8. How PornHub Is Bringing its A-Game (SFW)
July 23 – Posted by Javier Sanz
Despite dealing with a sensitive subject, PornHub is doing a great job marketing itself. This (safe-for-work) post takes a closer look at what they are doing.

ajfried

9. Storytelling Through Data: A New Inbound Marketing & SEO Report Structure
January 07 – Posted by Aaron Friedman
No matter what business you are in, it’s a pretty sure thing that someone is going to want to monitor how efficiently and productively you are working. Being able to show these results over time is crucial to maintaining the health of the long term relationship.

robinparallax

10. The Art of Thinking Sideways: Content Marketing for “Boring” Businesses
April 08 – Posted by Robin Swire
In this article, I’ll examine the art of thinking sideways for one of the slightly more tricky marketing clients I’ve worked with. I hope that this will provide an insight for fellow content marketers and SEOs in similar scenarios.

4. Top Moz Blog posts by number of thumbs up

These 10 posts were well enough received that liked that quite a few readers took the time to engage with them, logging in to give their stamp of approval. Whiteboard Fridays are always a hit, and two of them managed to make this list after having been live for less than a month.

1. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

Dr-Pete

2. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

randfish

3. Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines
July 23 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Recently, Moz contributor Scott Wyden, a photographer in New Jersey, received a warning in his Google Webmaster Tools about some links that violated Google’s Quality Guidelines. One example was from moz.com.

MarieHaynes

4. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

randfish

5. Thank You for 10 Incredible Years
October 06 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
It’s been 10 amazing years since Rand started the blog that would turn into SEOmoz and then Moz, and we never could have come this far without you all. You’ll find letters of appreciation from Rand and Sarah in this post (along with a super-cool video retrospective!), and from all of us at Moz, thank you!

6. Illustrated Guide to Advanced On-Page Topic Targeting for SEO
November 17 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The concepts of advanced on-page SEO are dizzying: LDA, co-occurrence, and entity salience. The question is “How can I easily incorporate these techniques into my content for higher rankings?” The truth is, you can create optimized pages that rank well without understanding complex algorithms.

josh_bachynski

7. Panda 4.1 Google Leaked Dos and Don’ts – Whiteboard Friday
December 05 – Posted by Josh Bachynski
Panda is about so much more than good content. Let Josh Bachynski give you the inside information on the highlights of what you should (and should not) be doing.

OliGardner

8. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

randfish

9. Does SEO Boil Down to Site Crawlability and Content Quality? – Whiteboard Friday
July 11 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
What does good SEO really mean these days? Rand takes us beyond crawlability and content quality for a peek inside the art and science of the practice.

randfish

10. How to Avoid the Unrealistic Expectations SEOs Often Create – Whiteboard Friday
December 12 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Making promises about SEO results too often leads to broken dreams and shredded contracts. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows us how to set expectations that lead to excitement but help prevent costly misunderstandings.

5. Top Moz Blog posts by number of comments

While the discussions can take a big chunk out of an already busy day, the conversations we get to have with our community members (and the conversations they have with each other) in the comments below our posts is absolutely one of our favorite parts of the blog. These 10 posts garnered quite a bit of discussion (some with a fair amount of controversy), and are fascinating to follow.

1. Take the SEO Expert Quiz and Rule the Internet
May 28 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
You are master of the keyword. You create 1,000 links with a single tweet. Google engineers ask for your approval before updating their algorithm. You, my friend, are an SEO Expert. Prove it by taking our new SEO Expert Quiz.

2. The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday
April 04 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Google is increasingly playing the referee in the marketing game, and many marketers are simply leaving instead of playing by the rules. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard takes a time-out to explain a winning strategy.

randfish

3. Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines
July 23 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Recently, Moz contributor Scott Wyden, a photographer in New Jersey, received a warning in his Google Webmaster Tools about some links that violated Google’s Quality Guidelines. One example was from moz.com.

Dr-Pete

4. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

Carla_Dawson

5. SEO Teaching: Should SEO Be Taught at Universities?
October 09 – Posted by Carla Dawson
Despite the popularity and importance of SEO, the field has yet to gain significant traction at the university level other than a few courses here and there offered as part of a broader digital marketing degree. The tide could be turning, however slowly.

6. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

evolvingSEO

7. The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)
July 22 – Posted by Dan Shure
Company blogging is broken. We’re tricking ourselves into believing they’re successful while ignoring the one signal we have that tells us whether they’re actually working.

MichaelC

8. Real-World Panda Optimization – Whiteboard Friday
August 01 – Posted by Michael Cottam
From the originality of your content to top-heavy posts, there’s a lot that the Panda algorithm is looking for. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Michael Cottam explains what these things are, and more importantly, what we can do to be sure we get the nod from this particular bear.

EricaMcGillivray

9. Ways to Proactively Welcome Women Into Online Marketing
September 17 – Posted by Erica McGillivray
SEO may be a male-dominated industry, but let’s step out of our biases and work hard to welcome women, and marketers of all stripes, into our community.

10. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

6. Top Moz Blog posts by number of linking root domains

What, you thought you’d get to the bottom of the post without seeing a traditional SEO metric? =)

Dr-Pete

1. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

Dr-Pete

2. Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day
May 21 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Preliminary analysis of the Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0 updates, major algorithm flux on May 19th, and a big one-day rankings drop for eBay.

iPullRank

3. Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit
January 29 – Posted by Michael King
With the erosion of keyword intelligence and the move to strings-not-things for the user, Google is pushing all marketers to focus more on their target audience. This post will teach you how to understand that audience, the future of Google, and how to build data-driven personas step by step.

briancarter

4. Why Every Business Should Spend at Least $1 per Day on Facebook Ads
February 19 – Posted by Brian Carter
For the last three years I’ve constantly recommended Facebook ads. I recommend them to both B2C and B2B businesses. I recommend them to local theaters and comedians here in Charleston, SC. I recommend them to everyone who wants to grow awareness about anything they’re doing. Here’s why.

JamesAgate

5. The New Link Building Survey 2014 – Results
July 16 – Posted by James Agate
How has the marketing industry changed its views of link building since last year? James Agate of Skyrocket SEO is back with the results of a brand new survey.

Dr-Pete

6. Google’s 2014 Redesign: Before and After
March 13 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s SERP and ad format redesign may finally be rolling out, after months of testing. Before we lose the old version forever, here’s the before-and-after of every major vertical that’s changed.

7. Google Announces the End of Author Photos in Search: What You Should Know
June 26 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Many of us have been constantly advising webmasters to connect their content writers with Google authorship, and it came as a shock when John Mueller announced Google will soon drop authorship photos from regular search results. Let’s examine what this means.

randfish

8. The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing – Whiteboard Friday
April 25 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Great content certainly helps business, but it isn’t as simple as “publish, share, convert new customers.” In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what’s really going on.

OliGardner

9. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

MarieHaynes

10. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

7. Top comments from our community by number of thumbs up

These 10 comments were the most thumbed-up of any on our blogs this year, offering voices of reason that stand out from the crowd. 

MarieHaynes

1. Marie Haynes | July 23
Commented on: 
Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines

Backlinko

2. Brian Dean | September 30
Commented on: 
The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors

mpezet

3. Martin Pezet | July 22
Commented on: 
The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)

dannysullivan

4. Danny Sullivan | July 23
Commented on: 
Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines

5. Cyrus Shepard | October 21
Commented on: 
More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO

SarahBird

6. Sarah Bird | September 17
Commented on: 
Ways to Proactively Welcome Women Into Online Marketing

randfish

7. Rand Fishkin | July 04
Commented on: 
5 Fashion Hacks for the Modern Male Marketer – Whiteboard Friday

mpezet

8. Martin Pezet | September 30
Commented on: 
The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors

FangDigitalMarketing

9. Jeff Ferguson | October 24
Commented on: 
Is It Possible to Have Good SEO Simply by Having Great Content – Whiteboard Friday

magicrob

10. Robert Duckers | March 20
Commented on: 
New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool

8. Top commenters from our community by total thumbs up

We calculated this one a bit differently this year. In the past, we’ve shown the top community members by sheer number of comments. We don’t want, however, to imply that being prolific is necessarily good within itself. So, we added up all the thumbs-up that each comment on our blogs has received, and figured out which community members racked up the most thumbs over the course of the year. (We’ve intentionally omitted staff members and associates from this list, as they’d stack the deck pretty heavily!)

The graphics to the right of each community member show the number of comments they’ve left on blog posts in 2014 as well as the total number of thumbs up those comments have received.

This list is truly an illustration of how amazing the Moz community is. This site would hardly be anything without all of you, and we
so appreciate your involvement on such a regular basis!

SamuelScott

1. Samuel Scott (Moz username: SamuelScott)
MozPoints: 1557 | Rank: 54

paints-n-design

2. Andreas Becker (Moz username: paints-n-design)
MozPoints: 667 | Rank: 148

MarieHaynes

3. Marie Haynes (Moz username: MarieHaynes)
MozPoints: 4706 | Rank: 7

MarkTraphagen

4. Mark Traphagen (Moz username: MarkTraphagen)
MozPoints: 993 | Rank: 102

steviephil

5. Steve Morgan (Moz username: steviephil)
MozPoints: 1249 | Rank: 72

russangular

6. Russ Jones (Moz username: russangular)
MozPoints: 3282 | Rank: 16

mpezet

7. Martin Pezet (Moz username: mpezet)
MozPoints: 464 | Rank: 211

Pixelbypixel

8. Chris Painter (Moz username: Pixelbypixel)
MozPoints: 2707 | Rank: 25

billslawski

9. Bill Slawski (Moz username: billslawski)
MozPoints: 709 | Rank: 140

danatanseo

10. Dana Tan (Moz username: danatanseo)
MozPoints: 4071 | Rank: 11

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Reblogged 4 years ago from moz.com

Using Modern SEO to Build Brand Authority

Posted by kaiserthesage

It’s obvious that the technology behind search engines’ ability to determine and understand web entities is gradually leaning towards how real people will normally perceive things from a traditional marketing perspective.

The
emphasis on E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) from Google’s recently updated Quality Rating Guide shows that search engines are shifting towards brand-related metrics to identify sites/pages that deserve to be more visible in search results.

Online branding, or authority building, is quite similar to the traditional SEO practices that many of us have already been accustomed with.

Building a stronger brand presence online and improving a site’s search visibility both require two major processes: the things you implement on the site and the things you do outside of the site.

This is where several of the more advanced aspects of SEO can blend perfectly with online branding when implemented the right way. In this post, I’ll use some examples from my own experience to show you how.

Pick a niche and excel

Building on your brand’s
topical expertise is probably the fastest way to go when you’re looking to build a name for yourself or your business in a very competitive industry.

There are a few reasons why:

  • Proving your field expertise in one or two areas of your industry can be a strong unique selling point (USP) for your brand.
  • It’s easier to expand and delve into the deeper and more competitive parts of your industry once you’ve already established yourself as an expert in your chosen field.
  • Obviously, search engines favour brands known to be experts in their respective fields.

Just to give a brief example, when I started blogging back in 2010, I was all over the place. Then, a few months later, I decided to focus on one specific area of SEO—link building—and
wrote dozens of guides on how I do it.

By aiming to build my blog’s brand identity to become a prime destination for link building tutorials, it became a lot easier for me to sell my ideas on the other aspects of inbound marketing to my continuously growing audience (from technical SEO to social media, content marketing, email marketing and more).

Strengthening your brand starts with the quality of your brand’s content, whether it’s your product/service or the plethora of information available on your website.

You can start by assessing the categories where you’re getting the most traction in terms of natural link acquisitions, social shares, conversions, and/or sales.

Prioritize your content development efforts on the niche where your brand can genuinely compete in and will have a better fighting chance to dominate the market. It’s the smartest way to stand out and scale, especially when you’re still in your campaign’s early stages.

Optimize for semantic search and knowledge graph

In the past, most webmasters and publishers would rely on the usage of generic keywords/terms in optimizing their website’s content to make it easier for search engines to understand what they are about.

But now, while the continuously evolving technologies behind search may seem to make the optimization process more complicated, the fact is that it may just reward those who pursue high-level trustworthy marketing efforts to stand out in the search results.

These technologies and factors for determining relevance—which include entity recognition and disambiguation (ERD), structured data or schema markups, natural language processing (NLP), phrase-based indexing for co-occurrence and co-citations, concept matching, and a lot more—are all driven by branding campaigns and
how an average human would normally find, talk, or ask about a certain thing.

Easily identifiable brands will surely win in this type of setup.

Where to start? See if Google already knows what your brand is about.

How to optimize your site for the Knowledge Graph and at the same time build it as an authority online

1. Provide the best and the most precise answers to the “who, what, why, and how” queries that people might look for in your space.

Razvan Gavrilas did 
an extensive study on how Google’s Answer Boxes work. Getting listed in the answer box will not just drive more traffic and conversions to a business, but can also help position a brand on a higher level in its industry.

But of course, getting one of your entries placed for Google’s answer boxes for certain queries will also require other authority signals (like natural links, domain authority, etc.).

But what search crawlers would typically search for to evaluate whether a page’s content is appropriate to be displayed in the answer boxes (according to Razvan’s post):

  • If the page selected for the answer contains the question in a very similar (if not exact) form, along with the answer, at a short distance from the question (repeating at least some of the words from the question) and
  • If the page selected for the answer belongs to a trustworthy website. So most of the times, if it’s not Wikipedia, it will be a site that it can consider a non-biased third party, such as is the case with a lot of “.edu” sites, or news organization websites.

Although,
John Mueller mentioned recently that Knowledge Graph listings should not be branded, in which you might think that the approach and effort will be for nothing.

But wait, just think about it—the intent alone of optimizing your content for Google’s Knowledge Graph will allow you to serve better content to your users (which is what Google rewards the most these days, so it’s still the soundest action to take if you want to really build a solid brand, right?).

2. Clearly define your brand’s identity to your audience.

Being remarkable and being able to separate your brand from your competitors is crucial in online marketing (be it through your content or the experience people feel when they’re using your site/service/product).


Optimizing for humans through branding allows you to condition the way people will talk about you
. This factor is very important when you’re aiming to get more brand mentions that would really impact your site’s SEO efforts, branding, and conversions.

The more search engines are getting signals (even unlinked mentions) that verify that you’re an authority in your field, the more your brand will be trusted and rank your pages well on SERPs.

3. Build a strong authorship portfolio.

Author photos/badges may have been taken down from the search results a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t mean that authorship markup no longer has value.

Both
Mark Traphagen and Bill Slawski have shared why authorship markup still matters. And clearly, an author’s authority will still be a viable search ranking factor, given that it enables Google to easily identify topical experts and credible documents available around the web.

It will continue to help tie entities (publishers and brands) to their respective industries, which may still accumulate scores over time based on the popularity and reception from the author’s works (AuthorRank).

This approach is a great complement to personal brand building, especially when you’re expanding your content marketing efforts’ reach through guest blogging on industry-specific blogs where you can really absorb more new readers and followers.

There’s certainly more to implement under
Knowledge Graph Optimization, and here’s a short list from what AJ Kohn has already shared on his blog earlier this year, which are all still useful to this day:

  • Use entities (aka Nouns) in your writing
  • Get connected and link out to relevant sites
  • Implement Structured Data to increase entity detection
  • Use the sameAs property
  • Optimize your Google+ presence
  • Get exposure on Wikipedia
  • Edit and update your Freebase entry

Online branding through scalable link building

The right relationships make link building scalable.

In the past, many link builders believed that it’s best to have thousands of links from diversified sources, which apparently forced a lot of early practitioners to resort to tactics focused on manually dropping links to thousands of unique domains (and spamming).

And, unfortunately, guest blogging as a link building tactic has eventually become a part of this craze.

I’ve mentioned this dozens of times before, and I’m going to say it one more time:
It’s better to have multiple links from a few link sources that are highly trusted than having hundreds of one-off links from several mediocre sites.

Focus on building signals that will strongly indicate relationships, because it’s probably the most powerful off-site signal you can build out there.

When other influential entities in your space are vouching for your brand (whether it’s through links, social shares, or even unlinked brand mentions), it allows you to somehow become a part of the list of sites that will most likely be trusted by search engines.

It can most definitely impact how people will see your brand as an authority as well, when they see that you’re being trusted by other credible brands in your industry.

These relationships can also open a lot of opportunities for natural link acquisitions and lead generation, knowing that some of the most trusted brands in your space trust you.

Making all of this actionable

1. Identify and make a list of the top domains and publishers in your industry, particularly those that have high search share.

There are so many tools that you can use to get these data, like
SEMRush, Compete.com, and/or Alexa.com.

You can also use
Google Search and SEOQuake to make a list of sites that are performing well on search for your industry’s head terms (given that Google is displaying better search results these days, it’s probably one of the best prospecting tools you can use).

I also use other free tools in doing this type of prospecting, particularly in cleaning up the list (in
removing duplicate domains, and extracting unique hostnames; and in filtering out highly authoritative sites that are clearly irrelevant for the task, such as ranking pages from Facebook, Wikipedia, and other popular news sites).

2. Try to penetrate at least 2 high authority sites from the first 50 websites on your list—and become a regular contributor for them.

Start engaging them by genuinely participating in their existing communities.

The process shouldn’t stop with you contributing content for them on a regular basis, as along the way you can initiate collaborative tasks, such as inviting them to publish content on your site as well.

This can help draw more traffic (and links) from their end, and can exponentially improve the perceived value of your brand as a publisher (based on your relationships with other influential entities in your industry).

These kinds of relationships will make the latter part of your link building campaign less stressful. As soon as you get to build a strong footing with your brand’s existing relationships and content portfolio (in and out of your site), it’ll be a lot easier for you to pitch and get published on other authoritative industry-specific publications (or even in getting interview opportunities).

3. Write the types of content that your target influencers are usually reading.

Stalk your target influencers on social networks, and take note of the topics/ideas that interest them the most (related to your industry). See what type of content they usually share to their followers.

Knowing these things will give you ton of ideas on how you can effectively approach your content development efforts and can help you come up with content ideas that are most likely to be read, shared, and linked to.

You can also go the extra mile by knowing which sites they mostly link out to or use as reference for their own works (use
ScreamingFrog).

4. Take advantage of your own existing community (or others’ as well).

Collaborate with the people who are already participating in your brand’s online community (blog comments, social networks, discussions, etc.). Identify those who truly contribute and really add value to the discussions, and see if they run their own websites or work for a company that’s also in your industry.

Leverage these interactions, as these can form long-term relationships that can also be beneficial to both parties (for instance, inviting them to write for you or having you write for their blog, and/or cross-promote your works/services).

And perhaps, you can also use this approach to other brands’ communities as well, like reaching out to people you see who have really smart inputs about your industry (that’ll you see on other blog’s comment sections) and asking them if they’ll be interested to talk/share more about that topic and have it published on your website instead.

Building a solid community can easily help automate link building, but more importantly, it can surely help strengthen a brand’s online presence.

Conclusion

SEO can be a tremendous help to your online branding efforts. Likewise, branding can be a tremendous help to your SEO efforts. Alignment and integration of both practices is what keeps winners winning in this game (just look at Moz).

If you liked this post or have any questions, let me know in the comments below, and you can find me on Twitter
@jasonacidre.

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Reblogged 5 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

Unraveling Panda Patterns

Posted by billslawski

This is my first official blog post at Moz.com, and I’m going to be requesting your help and expertise and imagination.

I’m going to be asking you to take over as Panda for a little while to see if you can identify the kinds of things that Google’s Navneet Panda addressed when faced with what looked like an incomplete patent created to identify sites as parked domain pages, content farm pages, and link farm pages. You’re probably better at this now then he was then.

You’re a subject matter expert.

To put things in perspective, I’m going to include some information about what appears to be the very first Panda patent, and some of Google’s effort behind what they were calling the “high-quality site algorithm.”

I’m going to then include some of the patterns they describe in the patent to identify lower-quality pages, and then describe some of the features I personally would suggest to score and rank a higher-quality site of one type.

Google’s Amit Singhal identified a number of questions about higher quality sites that he might use, and told us in the blog post where he listed those that it was an incomplete list because they didn’t want to make it easy for people to abuse their algorithm.

In my opinion though, any discussion about improving the quality of webpages is one worth having, because it can help improve the quality of the Web for everyone, which Google should be happy to see anyway.

Warning searchers about low-quality content

In “Processing web pages based on content quality,” the original patent filing for Panda, there’s a somewhat mysterious statement that makes it sound as if Google might warn searchers before sending them to a low quality search result, and give them a choice whether or not they might actually click through to such a page.

As it notes, the types of low quality pages the patent was supposed to address included parked domain pages, content farm pages, and link farm pages (yes,
link farm pages):

“The processor 260 is configured to receive from a client device (e.g., 110), a request for a web page (e.g., 206). The processor 260 is configured to determine the content quality of the requested web page based on whether the requested web page is a parked web page, a content farm web page, or a link farm web page.

Based on the content quality of the requested web page, the processor is configured to provide for display, a graphical component (e.g., a warning prompt). That is, the processor 260 is configured to provide for display a graphical component (e.g., a warning prompt) if the content quality of the requested web page is at or below a certain threshold.

The graphical component provided for display by the processor 260 includes options to proceed to the requested web page or to proceed to one or more alternate web pages relevant to the request for the web page (e.g., 206). The graphical component may also provide an option to stop proceeding to the requested web page.

The processor 260 is further configured to receive an indication of a selection of an option from the graphical component to proceed to the requested web page, or to proceed to an alternate web page. The processor 260 is further configured to provide for display, based on the received indication, the requested web page or the alternate web page.”

This did not sound like a good idea.

Recently, Google announced in a post on the Google Webmaster Central blog post,
Promoting modern websites for modern devices in Google search results, that they would start providing warning notices on mobile versions of sites if there were issues on those pages that visitors might go to.

I imagine that as a site owner, you might be disappointed seeing such warning notice shown to searchers on your site about technology used on your site possibly not working correctly on a specific device. That recent blog post mentions Flash as an example of a technology that might not work correctly on some devices. For example, we know that Apple’s mobile devices and Flash don’t work well together.

That’s not a bad warning in that it provides enough information to act upon and fix to the benefit of a lot of potential visitors. 🙂

But imagine if you tried to visit your website in 2011, and instead of getting to the site, you received a Google warning that the page you were trying to visit was a content farm page or a link farm page, and it provided alternative pages to visit as well.

That ”
your website sucks” warning still doesn’t sound like a good idea. One of the inventors listed on the patent is described in LinkedIn as presently working on the Google Play store. The warning for mobile devices might have been something he brought to Google from his work on this Panda patent.

We know that when the Panda Update was released that it was targeting specific types of pages that people at places such as
The New York Times were complaining about, such as parked domains and content farm sites. A
follow-up from the Timesafter the algorithm update was released puts it into perspective for us.

It wasn’t easy to know that your pages might have been targeted by that particular Google update either, or if your site was a false positive—and many site owners ended up posting in the Google Help forums after a Google search engineer invited them to post there if they believed that they were targeted by the update when they shouldn’t have been.

The wording of that
invitation is interesting in light of the original name of the Panda algorithm. (Note that the thread was broken into multiple threads when Google did a migration of posts to new software, and many appear to have disappeared at some point.)

As we were told in the invite from the Google search engineer:

“According to our metrics, this update improves overall search quality. However, we are interested in hearing feedback from site owners and the community as we continue to refine our algorithms. If you know of a high-quality site that has been negatively affected by this change, please bring it to our attention in this thread.

Note that as this is an algorithmic change we are unable to make manual exceptions, but in cases of high quality content we can pass the examples along to the engineers who will look at them as they work on future iterations and improvements to the algorithm.

So even if you don’t see us responding, know that we’re doing a lot of listening.”

The timing for such in-SERP warnings might have been troublesome. A site that mysteriously stops appearing in search results for queries that it used to rank well for might be said to have gone astray of
Google’s guidelines. Instead, such a warning might be a little like the purposefully embarrassing “Scarlet A” in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel The Scarlet Letter.

A page that shows up in search results with a warning to searchers stating that it was a content farm, or a link farm, or a parked domain probably shouldn’t be ranking well to begin with. Having Google continuing to display those results ranking highly, showing both a link and a warning to those pages, and then diverting searchers to alternative pages might have been more than those site owners could handle. Keep in mind that the fates of those businesses are usually tied to such detoured traffic.

My imagination is filled with the filing of lawsuits against Google based upon such tantalizing warnings, rather than site owners filling up a Google Webmaster Help Forum with information about the circumstances involving their sites being impacted by the upgrade.

In retrospect, it is probably a good idea that the warnings hinted at in the original Panda Patent were avoided.

Google seems to think that such warnings are appropriate now when it comes to multiple devices and technologies that may not work well together, like Flash and iPhones.

But there were still issues with how well or how poorly the algorithm described in the patent might work.

In the March, 2011 interview with Google’s Head of Search Quality, Amit Sighal, and his team member and Head of Web Spam at Google, Matt Cutts, titled
TED 2011: The “Panda” That Hates Farms: A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers, we learned of the code name that Google claimed to be using to refer to the algorithm update as “Panda,” after an engineer with that name came along and provided suggestions on patterns that could be used by the patent to identify high- and low-quality pages.

His input seems to have been pretty impactful—enough for Google to have changed the name of the update, from the “High Quality Site Algorithm” to the “Panda” update.

How the High-Quality Site Algorithm became Panda

Danny Sullivan named the update the “Farmer update” since it supposedly targeted content farm web sites. Soon afterwards the joint interview with Singhal and Cutts identified the Panda codename, and that’s what it’s been called ever since.

Google didn’t completely abandon the name found in the original patent, the “high quality sites algorithm,” as can be seen in the titles of these Google Blog posts:

The most interesting of those is the “more guidance” post, in which Amit Singhal lists 23 questions about things Google might look for on a page to determine whether or not it was high-quality. I’ve spent a lot of time since then looking at those questions thinking of features on a page that might convey quality.

The original patent is at:

Processing web pages based on content quality
Inventors: Brandon Bilinski and Stephen Kirkham
Assigned to Google

US Patent 8,775,924

Granted July 8, 2014

Filed: March 9, 2012

Abstract

“Computer-implemented methods of processing web pages based on content quality are provided. In one aspect, a method includes receiving a request for a web page.

The method includes determining the content quality of the requested web page based on whether it is a parked web page, a content farm web page, or a link farm web page. The method includes providing for display, based on the content quality of the requested web page, a graphical component providing options to proceed to the requested web page or to an alternate web page relevant to the request for the web page.

The method includes receiving an indication of a selection of an option from the graphical component to proceed to the requested web page or to an alternate web page. The method further includes providing, based on the received indication, the requested web page or an alternate web page.

The patent expands on what are examples of low-quality web pages, including:

  • Parked web pages
  • Content farm web pages
  • Link farm web pages
  • Default pages
  • Pages that do not offer useful content, and/or pages that contain advertisements and little else

An invitation to crowdsource high-quality patterns

This is the section I mentioned above where I am asking for your help. You don’t have to publish your thoughts on how quality might be identified, but I’m going to start with some examples.

Under the patent, a content quality value score is calculated for every page on a website based upon patterns found on known low-quality pages, “such as parked web pages, content farm web pages, and/or link farm web pages.”

For each of the patterns identified on a page, the content quality value of the page might be reduced based upon the presence of that particular pattern—and each pattern might be weighted differently.

Some simple patterns that might be applied to a low-quality web page might be one or more references to:

  • A known advertising network,
  • A web page parking service, and/or
  • A content farm provider

One of these references may be in the form of an IP address that the destination hostname resolves to, a Domain Name Server (“DNS server”) that the destination domain name is pointing to, an “a href” attribute on the destination page, and/or an “img src” attribute on the destination page.

That’s a pretty simple pattern, but a web page resolving to an IP address known to exclusively serve parked web pages provided by a particular Internet domain registrar can be deemed a parked web page, so it can be pretty effective.

A web page with a DNS server known to be associated with web pages that contain little or no content other than advertisements may very well provide little or no content other than advertising. So that one can be effective, too.

Some of the patterns listed in the patent don’t seem quite as useful or informative. For example, the one stating that a web page containing a common typographical error of a bona fide domain name may likely be a low-quality web page, or a non-existent web page. I’ve seen more than a couple of legitimate sites with common misspellings of good domains, so I’m not too sure how helpful a pattern that is.

Of course, some textual content is a dead giveaway the patent tells us, with terms on them such as “domain is for sale,” “buy this domain,” and/or “this page is parked.”

Likewise, a web page with little or no content is probably (but not always) a low-quality web page.

This is a simple but effective pattern, even if not too imaginative:

… page providing 99% hyperlinks and 1% plain text is more likely to be a low-quality web page than a web page providing 50% hyperlinks and 50% plain text.

Another pattern is one that I often check upon and address in site audits, and it involves how functional and responsive pages on a site are.

The determination of whether a web site is full functional may be based on an HTTP response code, information received from a DNS server (e.g., hostname records), and/or a lack of a response within a certain amount of time. As an example, an HTTP response that is anything other than 200 (e.g., “404 Not Found”) would indicate that a web site is not fully functional.

As another example, a DNS server that does not return authoritative records for a hostname would indicate that the web site is not fully functional. Similarly, a lack of a response within a certain amount of time, from the IP address of the hostname for a web site would indicate that the web site is not fully functional.

As for user-data, sometimes it might play a role as well, as the patent tells us:

A web page may be suggested for review and/or its content quality value may be adapted based on the amount of time spent on that page.

For example, if a user reaches a web page and then leaves immediately, the brief nature of the visit may cause the content quality value of that page to be reviewed and/or reduced. The amount of time spent on a particular web page may be determined through a variety of approaches. For example, web requests for web pages may be used to determine the amount of time spent on a particular web page.”

My example of some patterns for an e-commerce website

There are a lot of things that you might want to include on an ecommerce site that help to indicate that it’s high quality. If you look at the questions that Amit Singhal raised in the last Google Blog post I mentioned above, one of his questions was “Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?” Patterns that might fit with this question could include:

  • Is there a privacy policy linked to on pages of the site?
  • Is there a “terms of service” page linked to on pages of the site?
  • Is there a “customer service” page or section linked to on pages of the site?
  • Do ordering forms function fully on the site? Do they return 404 pages or 500 server errors?
  • If an order is made, does a thank-you or acknowledgement page show up?
  • Does the site use an https protocol when sending data or personally identifiable data (like a credit card number)?

As I mentioned above, the patent tells us that a high-quality content score for a page might be different from one pattern to another.

The
questions from Amit Singhal imply a lot of other patterns, but as SEOs who work on and build and improve a lot of websites, this is an area where we probably have more expertise than Google’s search engineers.

What other questions would you ask if you were tasked with looking at this original Panda Patent? What patterns would you suggest looking for when trying to identify high or low quality pages?  Perhaps if we share with one another patterns or features on a site that Google might look for algorithmically, we could build pages that might not be interpreted by Google as being a low quality site. I provided a few patterns for an ecommerce site above. What patterns would you suggest?

(Illustrations: Devin Holmes @DevinGoFish)

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Reblogged 5 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

Feed the Hummingbird: Structured Markup Isn’t the Only Way to Talk to Google

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

I used to laugh at the idea of Hummingbird optimization.

In a recent poll, Moz asked nearly
300 marketers which Google updated affected their traffic the most. Penguin and Panda were first and second, followed by Hummingbird in a distant third.

Unsurprising, because unlike Panda and Penguin,
Hummingbird doesn’t specifically combat webspam

Ever wonder why Google named certain algorithms after black and white animals (i.e. black hat vs. white hat?) Hummingbird is a broader algorithm altogether, and Hummingbirds can be any color of the rainbow.

One aspect of Hummingbird is about
better understanding of your content, not just specific SEO tactics.

Hummingbird also represents an
evolutionary step in entity-based search that Google has worked on for years, and it will continue to evolve. In a way, optimizing for entity search is optimizing for search itself.

Many SEOs limit their understanding of entity search to vague concepts of
structured data, Schema.org, and Freebase. They fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to participate in the entity SEO revolution is to mark up your HTML with complex schema.org microdata.

Not true.

Don’t misunderstand; schema.org and structured data are awesome. If you can implement structured data on your website, you should. Structured data is precise, can lead to enhanced search snippets, and helps search engines to understand your content. But Schema.org and classic structured data vocabularies also have key shortcomings:

  1. Schema types are limited. Structured data is great for people, products, places, and events, but these cover only a fraction of the entire content of the web. Many of us markup our content using Article schema, but this falls well short of describing the hundreds of possible entity associations within the text itself. 
  2. Markup is difficult. Realistically, in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to get authors to write a title tag or get engineers to attach an alt attribute to an image, implementing proper structured data to source HTML can be a daunting task.
  3. Adoption is low. A study last year of 2.4 billion web pages showed less than 25% contained structured data markup. A recent SearchMetrics study showed even less adoption, with only 0.3% of websites out of over 50 million domains using Schema.org.

This presents a challenge for search engines, which want to understand entity relationships across the
entire web – not simply the parts we choose to mark up. 

In reality, search engines have worked over 10 years –
since the early days of Google – at extracting entities from our content without the use of complex markup.

How search engines understand relationships without markup

Here’s a simple explanation of a complex subject. 

Search engines can structure your content using the concept of
triples. This means organizing keywords into a framework of subjectpredicateobject.

Structured data frameworks like schema.org work great because they automatically classify information into a triple format. Take this
example from Schema.org.

<div itemscope itemtype ="http://schema.org/Movie">
  <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1>
  <span>Director: <span itemprop="director">James Cameron</span> (born August 16, 1954)</span>
  <span itemprop="genre">Science fiction</span>
  <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html" itemprop="trailer">Trailer</a>
</div><br>

Extracting the triples from this code sample would yield:

Avatar (Movie)Has DirectorJames Cameron

SubjectPredicateObject

The challenge is: Can search engines extract this information for the 90%+ of your content that isn’t marked up with structured data? 

Yes, they can.

Triples, triples everywhere

Ask Google a question like
who is the president of Harvard or how many astronauts walked on the moon, and Google will often answer from a page with no structured data present.

Consider this query for the ideal length of a title tag.

Google is able to extract the semantic meaning from this page even though the properties of “length” and its value of 50-60 characters
are not structured using classic schema.org markup.

Matt Cutts recently revealed that Google uses over 500 algorithms. That means 500 algorithms that layer, filter and interact in different ways. The evidence indicates that Google has many techniques of extracting entity and relationship data that may work independent of each other.

Regardless, whether you are a master of schema.org or not, here are tips for communicating entity and relationship signals within your content.

1. Keywords

Yes, good old fashioned keywords.

Even without structured markup, search engines have the ability to parse keywords into their respective structure. 

But keywords by themselves only go so far. In order for this method to work, your keywords must be accompanied by appropriate predicates and objects. In other words, you sentences provide fuel to search engines when they contain detailed information with clear subjects and organization.

Consider this example of the relationships extracted from our
title tag page by AlchemyAPI:

Entities Extracted via AlchemyAPI

There’s evidence Google has worked on this technology for over 10 years, ever since it acquired the company Applied Semantics in 2003.

For deeper understanding, Bill Slawski wrote an excellent piece on Google’s ability to extract relationship meaning from text, as well as AJ Kohn’s excellent advice on Google’s Knowledge Graph optimization.

2. Tables and HTML elements

This is old school SEO that folks today often forget.

HTML (and HTML5), by default, provide structure to webpages that search engines can extract. By using lists, tables, and proper headings, you organize your content in a way that makes sense to robots. 

In the example below, the technology exists for search engines to easily extract structured relationship about US president John Adams in this Wikipedia table.

The goal isn’t to get in Google’s Knowledge Graph, (which is exclusive to Wikipedia and Freebase). Instead, the objective is to structure your content in a way that makes the most sense and relationships between words and concepts clear. 

For a deeper exploration, Bill Slawski has another excellent write up exploring many different techniques search engines can use to extract structured data from HTML-based content.

3. Entities and synonyms

What do you call the President of the United States? How about:

  • Barack Obama
  • POTUS (President Of The United States)
  • Commander in Chief
  • Michelle Obama’s Husband
  • First African American President

In truth, all of these apply to the same entity, even though searchers will look for them in different ways. If you wanted to make clear what exactly your content was about (which president?) two common techniques would be to include:

  1. Synonyms of the subject: We mean the President of the United States → Barack Obama → Commander in Chief and → Michelle Obama’s Husband
  2. Co-occuring phrases: If we’re talking about Barack Obama, we’re more likely to include phrases like Honolulu (his place of birth), Harvard (his college), 44th (he is the 44th president), and even Bo (his dog). This helps specify exactly which president we mean, and goes way beyond the individual keyword itself.

entities and synonyms for SEO

Using synonyms and entity association also has the benefit of appealing to broader searcher intent. A recent case study by Cognitive SEO demonstrated this by showing significant gains after adding semantically related synonyms to their content.

4. Anchor text and links

Links are the original relationship connector of the web.

Bill Slawski (again, because he is an SEO god) writes about one method Google might use to identity synonyms for entities using anchor text. It appears Google also uses anchor text in far more sophisticated ways. 

When looking at Google answer box results, you almost always find related keyword-rich anchor text pointing to the referenced URL. Ask Google “How many people walked on the moon?” and you’ll see these words in the anchor text that points to the URL Google displays as the answer.

Other queries:

Anchor text of Google's Answer Box URL

In these examples and more that I researched, matching anchor text was present every time in addition to the relevant information and keywords on the page itself.

Additionally, there seems to be an inidication that internal anchor text might also influence these results.

This is another argument to avoid generic anchor text like “click here” and “website.” Descriptive and clear anchor text, without overdoing it, provides a wealth of information for search engines to extract meaning from.

5. Leverage Google Local

For local business owners, the easiest and perhaps most effective way to establish structured relationships is through Google Local. The entire interface is like a structured data dashboard without Schema.org.

When you consider all the data you can upload both in Google+ and even Moz Local, the possibilities to map your business data is fairly complete in the local search sense.

In case you missed it, last week Google introduced My Business which makes maintaining your listings even easier.

6. Google Structured Data Highlighter

Sometimes, structured data is still the way to go.

In times when you have trouble adding markup to your HTML, Google offers its Structured Data Highlighter tool. This allows you to tell Google how your data should be structured, without actually adding any code.

The tool uses a type of machine learning to understand what type of schema applies to your pages, up to thousands at a time. No special skills or coding required.

Google Webmaster Structured Data Highlighter

Although the Structured Data Highlighter is both easy and fun, the downsides are:

  1. The data is only available to Google. Other search engines can’t see it.
  2. Markup types are limited to a few major top categories (Articles, Events, etc)
  3. If your HTML changes even a little, the tool can break.

Even though it’s simple, the Structured Data Highlighter should only be used when it’s impossible to add actual markup to your site. It’s not a substitution for the real thing.

7. Plugins

For pure schema.org markup, depending on the CMS you use, there’s often a multitude of plugins to make the job easier.

If you’re a WordPress user, your options are many:

Looking forward

If you have a chance to add Schema.org (or any other structured data to your site), this will help you earn those coveted SERP enhancements that may help with click-through rate, and may help search engines better understand your content.

That said, semantic understanding of the web goes far beyond rich snippets. Helping search engines to better understand all of your content is the job of the SEO. Even without Hummingbird, these are exactly the types of things we want to be doing.

It’s not “create content and let the search engines figure it out.” It’s “create great content with clues and proper signals to help the search engines figure it out.” 

If you do the latter, you’re far ahead in the game.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird

Posted by MarieHaynes

If you’re reading the Moz blog, then you probably have a decent understanding of Google and its algorithm changes. However, there is probably a good percentage of the Moz audience that is still confused about the effects that Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird can have on your site. I did write a post last year about the main 
differences between Penguin and a Manual Unnautral Links Penalty, and if you haven’t read that, it’ll give you a good primer.

The point of this article is to explain very simply what each of these algorithms are meant to do. It is hopefully a good reference that you can point your clients to if you want to explain an algorithm change and not overwhelm them with technical details about 301s, canonicals, crawl errors, and other confusing SEO terminologies.

What is an algorithm change?

First of all, let’s start by discussing the Google algorithm. It’s immensely complicated and continues to get more complicated as Google tries its best to provide searchers with the information that they need. When search engines were first created, early search marketers were able to easily find ways to make the search engine think that their client’s site was the one that should rank well. In some cases it was as simple as putting in some code on the website called a meta keywords tag. The meta keywords tag would tell search engines what the page was about.

As Google evolved, its engineers, who were primarily focused on making the search engine results as relevant to users as possible, continued to work on ways to stop people from cheating, and looked at other ways to show the most relevant pages at the top of their searches. The algorithm now looks at hundreds of different factors. There are some that we know are significant such as having a good descriptive title (between the <title></title> tags in the code.) And there are many that are the subject of speculation such as 
whether or not Google +1’s contribute to a site’s rankings.

In the past, the Google algorithm would change very infrequently. If your site was sitting at #1 for a certain keyword, it was guaranteed to stay there until the next update which might not happen for weeks or months. Then, they would push out another update and things would change. They would stay that way until the next update happened. If you’re interested in reading about how Google used to push updates out of its index, you may find this 
Webmaster World forum thread from 2002 interesting. (Many thanks to Paul Macnamara  for explaining to me how algo changes used to work on Google in the past and pointing me to the Webmaster World thread.)

This all changed with launch of “Caffeine” in 2010. Since Caffeine launched, the search engine results have been changing several times a day rather than every few weeks. Google makes over 600 changes to its algorithm in a year, and the vast majority of these are not announced. But, when Google makes a really big change, they give it a name, usually make an announcement, and everyone in the SEO world goes crazy trying to figure out how to understand the changes and use them to their advantage.

Three of the biggest changes that have happened in the last few years are the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm and Hummingbird.

What is the Panda algorithm?

Panda first launched on February 23, 2011. It was a big deal. The purpose of Panda was to try to show high-quality sites higher in search results and demote sites that may be of lower quality. This algorithm change was unnamed when it first came out, and many of us called it the “Farmer” update as it seemed to affect content farms. (Content farms are sites that aggregate information from many sources, often stealing that information from other sites, in order to create large numbers of pages with the sole purpose of ranking well in Google for many different keywords.) However, it affected a very large number of sites. The algorithm change was eventually officially named after one of its creators, Navneet Panda.

When Panda first happened, a lot of SEOs in forums thought that this algorithm was targeting sites with unnatural backlink patterns. However, it turns out that links are most likely
not a part of the Panda algorithm. It is all about on-site quality.

In most cases, sites that were affected by Panda were hit quite hard. But, I have also seen sites that have taken a slight loss on the date of a Panda update. Panda tends to be a site-wide issue which means that it doesn’t just demote certain pages of your site in the search engine results, but instead, Google considers the entire site to be of lower quality. In some cases though Panda can affect just a section of a site such as a news blog or one particular subdomain.

Whenever a Google employee is asked about what needs to be done to recover from Panda, they refer to a 
blog post by Google Employee Amit Singhal that gives a checklist that you can use on your site to determine if your site really is high quality or not. Here is the list:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Phew! That list is pretty overwhelming! These questions do not necessarily mean that Google tries to algorithmically figure out whether your articles are interesting or whether you have told both sides of a story. Rather, the questions are there because all of these factors can contribute to how real-life users would rate the quality of your site. No one really knows all of the factors that Google uses in determining the quality of your site through the eyes of Panda. Ultimately though, the focus is on creating the best site possible for your users.  It is also important that only your best stuff is given to Google to have in its index. There are a few factors that are widely accepted as important things to look at in regards to Panda:

Thin content

A “thin” page is a page that adds little or no value to someone who is reading it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a page has to be a certain number of words, but quite often, pages with very few words are not super-helpful. If you have a large number of pages on your site that contain just one or two sentences and those pages are all included in the Google index, then the Panda algorithm may determine that the majority of your indexed pages are of low quality.

Having the odd thin page is not going to cause you to run in to Panda problems. But, if a big enough portion of your site contains pages that are not helpful to users, then that is not good.

Duplicate content

There are several ways that duplicate content can cause your site to be viewed as a low-quality site by the Panda algorithm. The first is when a site has a large amount of content that is copied from other sources on the web. Let’s say that you have a blog on your site and you populate that blog with articles that are taken from other sources. Google is pretty good at figuring out that you are not the creator of this content. If the algorithm can see that a large portion of your site is made up of content that exists on other sites then this can cause Panda to look at you unfavorably.

You can also run into problems with duplicated content on your own site. One example would be for a site that has a large number of products for sale. Perhaps each product has a separate page for each color variation and size. But, all of these pages are essentially the same. If one product comes in 20 different colors and each of those come in 6 different sizes, then that means that you have 120 pages for the same product, all of which are almost identical. Now, imagine that you sell 4,000 products. This means that you’ve got almost half a million pages in the Google index when really 4,000 pages would suffice. In this type of situation, the fix for this problem is to use something called a canonical tag. Moz has got a really good guide on using canonical tags 
here, and Dr. Pete has also written this great article on canonical tag use

Low-quality content

When I write an article and publish it on one of my websites, the only type of information that I want to present to Google is information that is the absolute best of its kind. In the past, many SEOs have given advice to site owners saying that it was important to blog every day and make sure that you are always adding content for Google to index. But, if what you are producing is not high quality content, then you could be doing more harm than good. A lot of Amit Singhal’s questions listed above are asking whether the content on your site is valuable to readers. Let’s say that I have an SEO blog and every day I take a short blurb from each of the interesting SEO articles that I have read online and publish it as a blog post on my site. Is Google going to want to show searchers my summary of these articles, or would they rather show them the actual articles? Of course my summary is not going to be as valuable as the real thing! Now, let’s say that I have done this every day for 4 years. Now my site has over 4,000 pages that contain information that is not unique and not as valuable as other sites on the same topics.

Here is another example. Let’s say that I am a plumber. I’ve been told that I should blog regularly, so several times a week I write a 2-3 paragraph article on things like, “How to fix a leaky faucet” or “How to unclog a toilet.” But, I’m busy and don’t have much time to put into my website so each article I’ve written contains keywords in the title and a few times in the content, but the content is not in depth and is not that helpful to readers. If the majority of the pages on my site contain information that no one is engaging with, then this can be a sign of low quality in the eyes of the Panda algorithm.

There are other factors that probably play a roll in the Panda algorithm.  Glenn Gabe recently wrote an 
excellent article on his evaluation of sites affected by the most recent Panda update.  His bullet point list of things to improve upon when affected by Panda is extremely thorough.

How to recover from a Panda hit

Google refreshes the Panda algorithm approximately monthly. They used to announce whenever they were refreshing the algorithm, but now they only do this if there is a really big change to the Panda algorithm. What happens when the Panda algorithm refreshes is that Google takes a new look at each site on the web and determines whether or not it looks like a quality site in regards to the criteria that the Panda algorithm looks at. If your site was adversely affected by Panda and you have made changes such as removing thin and duplicate content then, when Panda refreshes, you should see that things improve. However, for some sites it can take a couple of Panda refreshes to see the full extent of the improvements. This is because it can sometimes take several months for Google to revisit all of your pages and recognize the changes that you have made.

Every now and then, instead of just
refreshing the algorithm, Google does what they call an update. When an update happens, this means that Google has changed the criteria that they use to determine what is and isn’t considered high quality. On May 20, 2014, Google did a major update which they called Panda 4.0. This caused a lot of sites to see significant changes in regards to Panda:

Not all Panda recoveries are as dramatic as this one. But, if you have been affected by Panda and you work hard to make changes to your site, you really should see some improvement.

What is the Penguin algorithm?

Penguin

The Penguin algorithm initially rolled out on April 24, 2012. The goal of Penguin is to reduce the trust that Google has in sites that have cheated by creating unnatural backlinks in order to gain an advantage in the Google results. While the primary focus of Penguin is on unnatural links, there can be other 
factors that can affect a site in the eyes of Penguin as well. Links, though, are known to be by far the most important thing to look at.

Why are links important?

A link is like a vote for your site. If a well respected site links to your site, then this is a recommendation for your site. If a small, unknown site links to you then this vote is not going to count for as much as a vote from an authoritative site. Still, if you can get a large number of these small votes, they really can make a difference. This is why, in the past, SEOs would try to get as many links as they could from any possible source.

Another thing that is important in the Google algorithms is anchor text. Anchor text is the text that is underlined in a link. So, in this link to a great 
SEO blog, the anchor text would be “SEO blog.” If Moz.com gets a number of sites linking to them using the anchor text “SEO blog,” that is a hint to Google that people searching for “SEO blog” probably want to see sites like Moz in their search results.

It’s not hard to see how people could manipulate this part of the algorithm. Let’s say that I am doing SEO for a landscaping company in Orlando. In the past, one of the ways that I could cheat the algorithm into thinking that my company should be ranked highly would be to create a bunch of self made links and use anchor text in these links that contain phrases like
Orlando Landscaping Company, Landscapers in Orlando and Orlando Landscaping. While an authoritative link from a well respected site is good, what people discovered is that creating a large number of links from low quality sites was quite effective. As such, what SEOs would do is create links from easy to get places like directory listings, self made articles, and links in comments and forum posts.

While we don’t know exactly what factors the Penguin algorithm looks at, what we do know is that this type of low quality, self made link is what the algorithm is trying to detect. In my mind, the Penguin algorithm is sort of like Google putting a “trust factor” on your links. I used to tell people that Penguin could affect a site on a page or even a keyword level, but Google employee John Mueller has said several times now that Penguin is a sitewide algorithm. This means that if the Penguin algorithm determines that a large number of the links to your site are untrustworthy, then this reduces Google’s trust in your entire site. As such, the whole site will see a reduction in rankings.  

While Penguin affected a lot of sites drastically, I have seen many sites that saw a small reduction in rankings.  The difference, of course, depends on the amount of link manipulation that has been done.

How to recover from a Penguin hit?

Penguin is a filter just like Panda. What that means, is that the algorithm is re-run periodically and sites are re-evaluated with each re-run. At this point it is not run very often at all. The last update was October 4, 2013 which means that we have currently been waiting eight months for a new Penguin update. In order to recover from Penguin, you need to identify the unnatural links pointing to your site and either remove them, or if you can’t remove them you can ask Google to no longer count them by using the 
disavow tool. Then, the next time that Penguin refreshes or updates, if you have done a good enough job at cleaning up your unnatural links, you will once again regain trust in Google’s eyes.  In some cases, it can take a couple of refreshes in order for a site to completely escape Penguin because it can take up to 6 months for all of a site’s disavow file to be completely processed.

If you are not certain how to identify which links to your site are unnatural, here are some good resources for you:

The disavow tool is something that you probably should only be using if you really understand how it works. It is potentially possible for you to do more harm than good to your site if you disavow the wrong links. Here is some information on using the disavow tool:

It’s important to note that when sites “recover” from Penguin, they often don’t skyrocket up to top rankings once again as those previously high rankings were probably based on the power of links that are now considered unnatural. Here is some information on 
what to expect when you have recovered from a link based penalty or algorithmic issue.

Also, the Penguin algorithm is not the same thing as a manual unnatural links penalty. You do not need to file a reconsideration request to recover from Penguin. You also do not need to document the work that you have done in order to get links removed as no Google employee will be manually reviewing your work. As mentioned previously, here is more information on the 
difference between the Penguin algorithm and a manual unnatural links penalty.

What is Hummingbird?

Hummingbird is a completely different animal than Penguin or Panda. (Yeah, I know…that was a bad pun.) I will commonly get people emailing me telling me that Hummingbird destroyed their rankings. I would say that in almost every case that I have evalutated, this was not true. Google made their announcement about Hummingbird on September 26, 2013. However, at that time, they announced that Hummingbird had already been live for about a month. If the Hummingbird algorithm was truly responsible for catastrophic ranking fluctuations then we really should have seen an outcry from the SEO world of something drastic happening in August of 2013, and this did not happen. There did seem to be some type of fluctuation that happened around August 21 as reported here on Search Engine Round Table, but there were not many sites that reported huge ranking changes on that day.

If you think that Hummingbird affected you, it’s not a bad idea to look at your traffic to see if you noticed a drop on October 4, 2013 which was actually a refresh of the Penguin algorithm. I believe that a lot of people who thought that they were affected by Hummingbird were actually affected by Penguin which happened just a week after Google made their announcement about Hummingbird.

There are some excellent articles on Hummingbird here and here. Hummingbird was a complete overhaul of the entire Google algorithm. As Danny Sullivan put it, if you consider the Google algorithm as an engine, Panda and Penguin are algorithm changes that were like putting a new part in the engine such as a filter or a fuel pump. But, Hummingbird wasn’t just a new part; it was a completely new engine. That new engine still makes use of many of the old parts (such as Panda and Penguin) but a good amount of the engine is completely original.

The goal of the Hummingbird algorithm is for Google to better understand a user’s query. Bill Slawski who writes about Google patents has a great example of this in his post here. He explains that when someone searches for “What is the best place to find and eat Chicago deep dish style pizza?”, Hummingbird is able to discern that by “place” the user likely would be interested in results that show “restaurants”. There is speculation that these changes were necessary in order for Google’s voice search to be more effective. When we’re typing a search query, we might type, “best Seattle SEO company” but when we’re speaking a query (i.e. via Google Glass or via Google Now) we’re more likely to say something like, “Which firm in Seattle offers the best SEO services?” The point of Hummingbird is to better understand what users mean when they have queries like this.

So how do I recover or improve in the eyes of Hummingbird?

If you read the posts referenced above, the answer to this question is essentially to create content that answers users queries rather than just trying to rank for a particular keyword. But really, this is what you should already be doing!

It appears that Google’s goal with all of these algorithm changes (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) is to encourage webmasters to publish content that is the best of its kind. Google’s goal is to deliver answers to people who are searching. If you can produce content that answers people’s questions, then you’re on the right track.

I know that that is a really vague answer when it comes to “recovering” from Hummingbird. Hummingbird really is different than Panda and Penguin. When a site has been demoted by the Panda or Penguin algorithm, it’s because Google has lost some trust in the site’s quality, whether it is on-site quality or the legitimacy of its backlinks. If you fix those quality issues you can regain the algorithm’s trust and subsequently see improvements. But, if your site seems to be doing poorly since the launch of Hummingbird, then there really isn’t a way to recover those keyword rankings that you once held. You can, however, get new traffic by finding ways to be more thorough and complete in what your website offers.

Do you have more questions?

My goal in writing this article was to have a resource to point people to when they had basic questions about Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Recently, when I published my penalty newsletter, I had a small business owner comment that it was very interesting but that most of it went over their head. I realized that many people outside of the SEO world are greatly affected by these algorithm changes, but don’t have much information on why they have affected their website.

Do you have more questions about Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird? If so, I’d be happy to address them in the comments. I also would love for those of you who are experienced with dealing with websites affected by these issues to comment as well.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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