Is Panda Crushing your Website

Did searchers complain when Google dropped low quality content in their Panda update? Or was it mostly owners of low quality websites who got body slammed by Google, no, they did not take to the streets in a popular uprising. In fact, most regular searchers have probably not noticed the difference.

But what about owners of websites who Google thinks delivers low quality content. I say “thinks”, as some quality sites were hit and some low quality sites untouched.

For example, do a search for “petrol engine” and result number 5 is a mobile phone company. Talktalk – who sent rather rude door to door salesmen to my house a while back so screw them – have decided to throw up a ton of low level content in the guise of encyclopedic knowledge.

Does Google mind?

Doesn’t seem to, after all they are ranking 5th for Petrol Engine. You would think Rolls Royce, Museum of Transport, Imperial College, even Animatedengines.com – check out their Wankle – would rank for “petrol engine”, but no, Google has decided that a mobile phone company should.

Yeah I know, they offer broadband as well, but that’s still nowhere near the German invention which changed the world. Who invented the Petrol Engine

I write about this to give you a quick example that low content crap can work for your website, you just have to do it a certain way.

Cyrus Shepard, writing for SEOmoz, has listed ‘Five deadly content sins’, which, if committed, will see your site penalised by Google’s Panda Update very quickly

On SeOMoZ, Cyrus Shepard wrote about Panda and the, “Five deadly content sins”, which may harm your website.

Brafton.com are reporting from SES San Francisco that

“The key to SEO in the post-Panda searchscape, say SES experts, is creating compelling content pages that site visitors will engage.”

Not sure if the “experts” have been searching for petrol engines recently. Of course, I am searching from Cornwall, UK. So using the Cornish search index which is heavily weighted to Cornish pasties. OK, maybe Google doesn’t have a “Cornish index” yet, I am using the UK bit of Google.

The evidence is clearly that you can put up low quality content and get away with it, you simply have to get Google to view you a certain way. What are these “SES experts” not telling us?

Search for “who invented the petrol engine” and you get an about.com page.

And what you get is utter garbage. You get a page where the actual information is less that a quarter of the page above the fold. The page is actually taken up by the notorious “tip of the belly” adverts. Which allegedly use fake news to promote their diet aid, the acai berry.

In fact some blogs are even calling the tip of the belly marketing technique as a blog scam.

Google seems to hate it when you use fake news to get links, but doesn’t see to mind when promoting sites like about.com which carry these adverts.

So, what can we learn from this?

Is Google really penalising low content sites or is it only certain sites, whilst others are untouched?

From the evidence, it seems the model about.com and Talktalk.co.uk are the kind of low level content sites you should be building.

It’s a shame that Google, once a highly ethical company seems to have no problem with sites who aggressively advertise dodgy diet adverts, in fact they give such sites authority and hold them as an example of quality.

The Bounce Factor

You search for something on Google, click through to it, don’t like what you see so you go back to Google and search again.

Google measures this, clicking the back button is the sign of a low quality site. Seems fair enough. But what if that low quality page has a killer advert for a diet aid. Wow, must click though and get some easy diet pill. And thus NO BACK BUTTON IS CLICKED

DUH!

Is it quality? No of course not. It’s an SEO trick – although I doubt as a trick it’s being talked about at San Francisco SES – negate the bounce rate by getting the searcher to click through to an offer they cannot refuse, or at least 10% – 17% cannot.

Quality content is a nonsense phrase. Because it’s relative, you need content that works. Quality content is beat by low level content constantly, at least from the POV of Google and that’s what we are talking about right? You simply have to look at the search results page to see this truth.

If we are talking about branding and marketing to specific segments of the market I would go for quality content all the time. But for SEO, for Google. Naaaaaah!

“They”, will tell you to go for quality content, but what you really should be going for is content that works and we see with our own own eyes the empirical evidence that clearly states you do not need to quality content to rank, you simply need to create pages of low quality content in specific ways.

Those of you who disagree, please note I am presenting the evidence and pointing to it, if you wish to present evidence of SERPS that present quality, interesting, useful content then please do.

Also, note that the searches done here are based in the UK and may look different to where you are sitting.

Blogging the Topical Miasma

This post is the 4th in a series.

The others are:

They are part of an SEO experiment. I love being in the lab, it’s the best part of SEO I think, tinkering in the lab with stuff and discovering what happens if you put this and this together and give it a twist of this.

So, three posts, pulled from topical news from my feed reader. Written quickly and with a conversational style. Giving useful, actionable information and mostly focussed on SEO, social media or tech.

Pluck out a newsy topic, write some stuff quickly and then publish. It’s actually a quite common technique which focusses on the power of the title tag and the authority of a website/blog. These terms are topical and so get searched for, although it’s mostly used by sites who make money from displaying adverts but it can be useful for other business models.

The trick is, you have to write well and have an attractive style. You also have to know a little about what you’re talking about. Not a lot, it doesn’t have to have depth, but it needs to have a wide surface area and you need to know how to communicate that in a way that is pithy and makes sense.

Oh yeah, it also helps with your writing if you know a few uncommon words which you can include here and there, it makes people think you are more brainy than you actually are. I’m a lover of words and have a book shelf full of books on words, so it flows out when I need it.

How does this help you if you have an affiliate blog selling model trains online?

Best to outsource if this to your team members. What do you mean you don’t have a team and you do everything on your own? Hmmm, that’s for another post.

Hire poets to write your blog posts, they are the fastest and most exciting bloggers, if you can get them to stop smoking weed for a few mins. Don’t hire copywriters, the art of the word is beaten out of these people from birth. You want to rise above the swamp, not add to its moist, fecund mass.

And there is another reason for this series, I love to write this kinda stuff.

And you really should do what you love.

AT&T get not talked about in Huffington Post blog that zzzzzzzzz

I used to like the Huffington Post a lot, run by…. you know the story. Look, I even gave Arianna – or is it AOL – a link. But come on on guys, simple pumping out the Reuters news feed is a bif naff.

Here is the headline.

AT&T Sues Users Who Want To Block T-Mobile Buy

Hypnotists are thinking of using the headline to put users into a deeper trance, it made me take a one way trip to snoozeville.

And here is the story.

AT&T Inc is turning to the federal courts to thwart an effort led by law firm Bursor & Fisher to derail AT&T’s $39 billion takeover bid for Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile.

Real page turner right. But come on, any good SEO worth his weight in PR knows what’s going on here. Get a blog Google loves and then start pumping out the soporific dross which will cause a mind numbing freeze to take place. Only released by repeated visits to the Onion.

From a business POV it makes sense, because this is how Google does the Internet. Should you do it, of course, it’s a proven model. Should I do it, I think I may have to if I want that Aston Martin.

Should Small Business being getting excited about QR Codes?

Short answer, no.

I assume you know what QR codes are, if not go read and learn.

I used them once, in Pizza Express, one was on the back of a menu and it gave me a business idea for a crowd sourced event. I scanned the scatty image and it sent me a recipe of classic pizza. Which is cool. Although I never looked at the recipes or use the QR codes since, even though I see them pop up like a rash on the hot, sweaty back of a Ginger in Ibiza.

What I do use the scanner for though is – and I hope no one from Waterstones is reading this – is checking out the books in Waterstones, scanning them with Red Laser and checking out the prices online. Mostly I download books by Kindle and If I could do it through the wifi at Waterstones (they don’t have wifi and neither does the Costa within the Waterstones) I would be willing to pay a few quid to have it there and then.

I like to have things as soon as I want them, strange how consumers are these days.

How much profit does Waterstones make on a £10 book, couple quid I assume. But if instead of selling the book it merely acted as a showroom for books then….

That is not the only use of Red Laser, it is also useful as a note taker of things you like to buy. It’s quite interesting to mooch around Tesco and Sainsbury’s scanning stuff. Well I find it interesting, but then I’m an uber geek.

So, should small business get excited about QR codes? Not yet. Soon though, as more and more, business will be conducted in this manner and although it’s fun, the masses have not yet adopted it. Much better to let first movers iron out the kinks and allow you to analyze what works and what does not.

Although, I quite like my idea using QR codes. I think I shall save it for Dragons Den.

Kate Plus 8

Know what Kate Plus 8 means, me neither until today. It was a reality show on TLC which was recently cancelled, which gives us enough information to know not to go any further.

But what was weird is when I googled the term (I noticed it come up in some trackers I use) howimakestuffworks.com was the domain which came up.

Now I thought howimakestuffworks.com would be about telling me how stuff works. But now, they stick on the tlc sub-domain and suddenly the tail is wagging the dog. Possibly because Google gives howimakestuffworks.com they have decided to dump as much content on their as possible and soak up CPM advertising goodness.

Does this make the search experience worse or better. Not sure, as the page offered up was the official page, just on an odd url. This possibly pushes all the user generated fan pages to the bottom of the swamp, but is that a good thing.

If you had two options on Google, one for the brand loving official stuff and one for the wet and wild user generated fan stuff, which would get pushed the most?

My thinking is the user gen stuff as it’s more authentic, more from the heart. More passionate.

But saying all that, from a pure business play, howimakestuffworks.com is probably doing the right thing.