Q and A: Is it good SEO practice to have navigation menus in both header and footer?

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QuestionHello Kalena

May I ask you about navigation menus on a site?

Imagine that a web site has two navigation menu blocks – on the header and on the footer of the site. Some buttons/links are doubled (or even all the links).

On one hand, it’s good for site’s visitors. When they reach the bottom of each page, there is no need to scroll up it to find and click on the necessary navigation button.

On the other hand, we all know that doubled links to the same page are not good. Bots can consider such practice as an attempt to give more additional weight to the page. Moreover, doubled navigation links together with the all other page links may exceed the number of 100.

However, if it stands for usability, site design should give visitors an opportunity to find the necessary buttons in a quick way.

My question is “Is it good to add doubled navigation menu to header and footer of any web site?”

What is your opinion on this topic? I’d highly appreciate your answer.

Thank you in advance!

Maksim

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Hi Maksim

The answer depends on a few factors:

1) Is your main navigation menu built with Javascript (e.g. drop-down menu) or other functionality that search engines may have difficulty indexing? If the answer is yes, then it might be a good idea to include a plain text navigation menu in your footer to ensure that search robots can index the links.

If the answer is no, the main navigation is already search engine friendly, then there is no need to duplicate it, in my opinion. Keep in mind that the more links you have per page, the less PageRank value each link passes to the linked page. So you can dilute the value of each page on your site if you’re not careful. Also, Google recommends you keep the number of links per page to a maximum of 100 or they may not all be indexed.

2) Does the addition of another menu help the usability of the site? i.e. is the page content so complex that visitors may require the second navigation menu to help them navigate around? If yes, then include the extra menu. If no, then… well you know the answer.

I guess the important thing is to make the decision with visitors in mind foremost and search engines as a secondary consideration.

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The post Q and A: Is it good SEO practice to have navigation menus in both header and footer? appeared first on Ask Kalena.

July 31st 2015 SEO

Interview with Bing’s Duane Forrester: Looking Into the Future of Search & Tech

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Interview with Bing’s Duane Forrester: Looking Into the Future of Search & Tech was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Duane Forrester wins Search Personality of the Year at the 2014 U.S. Search Awards.

Bing’s head of search Duane Forrester being crowned Search Personality of the Year at the U.S. Search Awards. Photo by Search Engine Journal | CC by 2.0

Anyone who knows Duane Forrester, Bing’s head of search, knows he’s a got a ton of SEO knowledge to share, plus personality to go with it (he is, after all, the U.S. Search Awards reigning Search Personality of the Year). Duane joined Bruce Clay in the studio for a special episode of digital marketing podcast SEM Synergy.

The podcast episode is 30 minutes filled with future-forward perspective on a lot of the search engine optimization industry’s favorite topics — from how and when wearable tech will really take off to the emergence of digital assistants like Cortana and Siri.

Listen to the full interview here:

Read on for highlights from this exclusive interview with Duane Forrester. You don’t want to miss it when he sounds off on:

Duane Forrester on Why Google Glass Matters

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Everyone saw Google Glass come and go. I had Glass. I still have Glass. I still don’t use it. It didn’t meet my expectations but in some ways it exceeded my expectations because it was a first generation object moving us in a direction (towards wearables and augmented reality).


“What #GoogleGlass does is expose society to the coming change.” — @DuaneForrester
Click To Tweet


The biggest thing that something like Glass does is expose society to the coming change. Now you start to see things like Hollow Lens and you see all of these ideas that are natural low growths. Let’s be clear, all of these things were under development at the same time. You don’t bring something to market just after something else goes off the market because it took you a month to develop it. These are years in development and the time you roll out is generally decided by a number of factors, the least of which would be a competitors product.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, I personally can’t wait for these things. I’ve already told my wife to clear the credit card because whenever ones comes from market, doesn’t matter what the price is it’s coming home and that will be it. This is where Google Glass was pivotal for us. It’s that first iteration. It’s that gen one of a product. That gen one taught us that being able to talk to our technology, as goofy as it felt the first few times, actually had tangible benefits for me. Now we have things like Cortana on my phone. I’m constantly talking to my phone now. What’s entertaining and intriguing about it is that she talks back to me. I can carry an ongoing conversation across multiple points of reference just like I would with a human being and the system understands that what I mean is a continuation of the conversation, not individual, individual, individual each time but a continuation. Things have really progressed.

What Users Really Want on Mobile

mobile device
Someone doesn’t necessarily want the latest, beautiful 3D movie playing in the background on their handheld device because they’re walking down the street trying to get to a location because they want dinner at this restaurant. The first thing in their mind is I want to go to dinner, not what does this experience look like and how do I feel about this place. It’s “get me to my location.” It’s “give me the object I want right now.”


Users don’t necessarily want the latest, beautiful 3D movie playing on #mobile — @DuaneForrester
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The Growth of Mobile-Specific Algorithms

If you don’t render a good experience on mobile then you lose the affinity of the people. They generally becoming dissatisfied with you and they kind of move away. We face that same wall as everyone else does except the problem that we have is we also have the added hassle of we have to return the result and it has to nail it every time or people are disappointed with us.


If you don’t render a good experience on #mobile then you lose the affinity of the people.
Click To Tweet


People aren’t disappointed with the website that’s poorly designed and doesn’t render well — they’re disappointed with the search engine because we didn’t give them a good result. To avoid that, you see this growth of the mobile-specific algorithms happening. There’s a very good reason for it because it makes it a lot easier to be able to go into that environment and assure that that user, when they are on a mobile device, is getting the best possible mobile experience …

The natural growth is you will see that algorithms develop specifically for the mobile environment. You’ll see things like tags that are mobile friendly so that the searcher then has some indication.

That’s a step for us to help the searcher understand but it is a very long road to walk down because it doesn’t matter how much you actually put that out there, the general population of users will take a long time to adapt to that change and say, “Oh, hang on a second. I get it, so if it’s tagged as mobile friendly I have a better experience when I go there.” It is something that we feel is an important step to alert people to.

How Duane Uses Technology to Overcome Human Flaws

I was going out the other day and I promised my wife I would pick up the mail on the way home. I am probably the worst human being on the planet for making these innocuous commitments and then totally spacing out on them and just not …

Walking in the house happy that I’m home and hoping everyone’s happy to see me and being genuinely baffled when I’m asked where’s the mail and seeing the disappointment because I had previously promised I would get it. I grab my phone and I said set a reminder and it said what. I said get the mail. When? When I am near home again. That’s the when.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese digital assistants understand proximity to a location. They understand location because it tracks my time there over a period of time. Over about a three-week period of time my assistant looked at my pattern of whether I was in the office, whether I was at home and it determined that home was where I was when I was there for a long period of time overnight.

Bing’s Approach to SEO Wish Lists

There’s no sense being coy about this — there’s absolutely a wish list of items that comes to me. I never don’t get wish list items. That is a consistent inflow. What’s remarkable to me is how much overlap there often is. There’s a lot of chatter that happens in the industry and comes up. You’ll have different versions of the same concept basically. Then from there we have to look at it and understand what the business implications are for Bing.

Obviously if we will invest our resources, there has to be some return on that for Bing. Sometimes the return can simply be if you build a better website, the better the quality the search results are, the better it is for Bing. Other times the resources, the return on that resource investment has to be much more direct. A lot of ideas are great ideas but then the resourcing behind them, it may be a two and a half million dollar a month cost to us to actually enable that at the level it’s desired. I can tell you right now, right? Webmaster tools is not a cost center. We don’t make money.

Why Search Engines Aren’t as Transparent as They’d Like

If there were no such thing as black hat tactics, I think you’d see (Webmaster Tools) being even more transparent and even more helpful. Ultimately, if I want you to paint your barn blue it would be probably good if I called you, talked to you and sent you an email asking you to paint your barn blue …

The problem right now is that if I go around telling everybody they need more blue barns then suddenly all these fake blue barns start popping up and it becomes really difficult to separate an actual blue barn from a fake blue barn. This will always be a challenge. This is why you see this gap that exists, right? We, otherwise, wish there was no gap and it never existed.


To listen to more free SEM Synergy podcasts, check us out on iTunes. New shows air every Wednesday at 3 p.m. PT on WebmasterRadio.fm. Join Bruce Clay, Virginia Nussey, Mindy Weinstein, Robert Ramirez and me for lively discussion on digital marketing hot topics every week!

July 30th 2015 bing, SEO

Don’t block your CSS and JS files

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Yesterday, we got a question on Facebook that made me feel the need to respond publicly:

are you guys going to have a fix for the Google Bot issue that came up today?
For every site I have using Yoast for my sitemap I got this error from Google Webmaster Tools today:
“Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files”

Let me first say that this is not something that’s being caused by our Yoast SEO plugin. I’ll explain what this is all about.

Yesterday a notice was sent out from Google Search Console that a lot of webmasters have probably gotten. It basically tells people they shouldn’t be blocking their CSS and JS files. I have to admit, that this made me chuckle a little bit. You might remember a post by Joost from over a year ago stating this exact thing: don’t block your CSS and JS files. We’ve also been telling our Website Review customers for over a year to stop blocking their CSS and JS.

Lets see what the message says. The email looks like this:

_67627_Googlebot_cannot_access_CSS_and_JS_files_on_-_Google_Search_Console_Team

In effect nothing has changed much, but Google’s focus on it has definitely increased. Based on the amount of emails we saw people get, this is probably going to start a little fuzz again. Luckily Google provides the webmasters with a nice list on what to do.

It basically comes down to changing your robots.txt so it doesn’t disallow access to your site’s CSS and JS files anymore. If you’re on WordPress, this can actually be done directly in our Yoast SEO plugin.

What also caught our attention is that Google also mentions the fact that your site needs to be mobile-friendly twice in this email. While not necessarily related to the blocking of your JS and CSS files, they wanted to mention this twice. That just makes clear once again that “Mobilegeddon” is still in full motion.

Causes for WordPress sites

As I’ve already mentioned, this notice from Google Search Console is not triggered by anything our Yoast SEO plugin does. Yoast SEO offers a way of editing your robots.txt through WordPress, but we don’t put anything in there.

Also, having a plugin or anything else calling admin-ajax.php, will trigger this email as well if you have /wp-admin/ disallowed in your robots.txt. Just another reason we feel you shouldn’t have /wp-admin/ disallowed, which Joost explained in this post.

We’ll say it again

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: don’t block Googlebot from accessing your CSS and JS files. These files allow Google to decently render your website and gives them an idea of what it looks like. If they don’t know what it looks like, they won’t trust it.

This post first appeared as Don’t block your CSS and JS files on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

July 30th 2015 SEO

Weekly SEO Recap: Google Panda 4.2

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Joost's weekly SEO recapFirst things first: I type this as I’m getting ready for a holiday, so the next weekly SEO recap will be on August 21st. Luckily, Google released Panda this week, so I can cover it now. And there’s more, including a statement by Google about the new top level domains. Let’s dive in:

Google Panda 4.2

Google has rolled out Panda 4.2. There are several posts out there, like on SearchEngineLandTheSEMPost and Search Engine Roundtable, covering it. Let me try to explain the most important details about this update in layman’s terms.

Panda 4.2 is not an update, but a refresh

Technically, Panda 4.2 is not an update: Google didn’t introduce new signals, it just reapplied the same signals on new data. This needs some explaining for most people, so let me try: Google Panda is the result of a very deep analysis of Google’s index. One that it can’t run continuously, like it does its normal ranking, but a calculation that takes months. So this is what we call a “data refresh”: it has run the analysis on a new set of data.

Because Panda needs to be “refreshed”, it has a very negative side effect, especially as these updates don’t exactly run often. The previous update was 10 months ago. If you were hit then and have been improving your site since, this was your first chance to “get out” of Panda. If you think that’s harsh, you’re not alone. Many SEOs out there take issue with this but I’m guessing that’s not going to help them. If you get hit now, you should be aware that recovery is going to take several months, probably up to 10 or 12, even if you get it right the first time.

The fact that Panda needs refreshes also means that making changes now won’t do you any good in terms of staying out of Panda. It has a cut-off date and it won’t see anything after that. That being said, now is always as good a time as any to start improving your site.

Panda 4.2 is a slow Panda

The quote from Google’s spokesperson says it all:

“This past weekend we began a Panda update that will rollout over the coming months”

You read that right. This Panda rollout will not take hours. Not days. Not even weeks. It will take months. This is probably why nobody noticed the update as it began rolling out. This slow roll-out will also make it virtually impossible to correctly assess a win or loss as a definite Panda issue.

If you want to read more, I think Jen’s coverage over at theSEMpost was the most extensive.

Don’t want to be hit by the Panda? Don’t be bamboo!

If you’re afraid of being hit by Panda, and want us to make sure you’re not going to be a candidate, order a website review. We’ve seen many Panda victims over the years and we know we can help. Both when you’re hit or when we think you’re bamboo (also known as: a likely victim).

New TLD’s and Google

Other things happened besides Panda this week, and a few warrant being mentioned. The most important thing for many (aspiring) domainers out there was this post by John Mueller on Google’s webmaster blog. It details how Google deals with new top level domains. In short: like it would with any other domain. This bit is very important:

Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.

Another important bit is whether Google would treat new domains like .london and .amsterdam as local TLD’s or as “global” TLD’s, aka they can rank anywhere in the world. The answer is clear:

Even if they look region-specific, we will treat them as gTLDs. This is consistent with our handling of regional TLDs like .eu and .asia.

Of course, Google wouldn’t be Google if they didn’t add an exception to that straight away:

There may be exceptions at some point down the line, as we see how they’re used in practice.

Sigh. So. They’re global, for now. Over time, they might become local.

My opinion on the new TLD’s

You didn’t ask, but I’ll give you my opinion anyway. I like the concept. I would have liked 3-5 new TLD’s. A number that would work and that maybe people could remember. The gigantic amount of new TLD’s now is pure nonsense in my opinion. Would I use it for a transactional site? Probably not for a while longer. If trust is one of your main issues, and let’s face it, with eCommerce it still is, using a TLD that some of your users might have never heard of is not a good idea. The same goes for getting links to domains like that. It’s going to be harder.

Another problem I see with the new TLD’s is that they won’t work nicely as an email address for quite a while. Of course, you can receive email just fine. Email validation in forms will be broken for at least another decade or so, which means that it will tell you your new hipster email address is invalid when it isn’t.

Overall, I think what the new TLD’s do more than anything, is strengthen the value of .com domains. If you have a nice short and rememberable .com, I think you’ll be stronger in the long run.

Featured snippets and how to get them

This post on SEL by Eric Enge should be required reading material for anyone playing in SEO. This quote, from the end of his article, explains best why you should know about this:

… getting a featured snippet for key pages on your site is a good thing. The business value depends on identifying common questions that a potential customer might ask related to your market space.

I’m thinking of some experiments for our own site right now, but they’ll have to wait. It’s time for my holiday first. Did you notice the banner with my sleek summer outfit? If not, check out the Yoast SEO Premium sale we have. If you’ve been pondering buying it, now’s the best time to do so.

That’s it, see you next month!

joost signature

This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Google Panda 4.2 on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

July 24th 2015 Google, SEO

Searchmetrics Releases New Content Performance Research Tool

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by Jayson DeMers

When more than 5,000 marketers were asked, “Does your organization use content marketing?” for the fifth annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America report, an astounding 86% responded with, “yes.” However, when asked, “How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI of its content marketing program?” only 21% said that they were successful.

So, why would you continue to spend money on a content marketing budget if you aren’t able to effectively measure its performance?
In most cases, you wouldn’t. But on July 15, 2015, Searchmetrics announced a new solution called Content Performance within its Research Cloud that not only lets you check your website’s traffic, it also gives you the ability to view holistic KPIs on a page-by-page level, as well as measure the competitors who are outperforming you, providing the “whole” story of a website. It’s described as “an ad-hoc analysis solution on a URL basis within the biggest search and content data pool available.”
What is the Research Cloud?
Searchmetrics has revamped its software; you can now enter a domain into the search field and receive relevant metrics in one overview page. The changes are aimed at helping SEOs, bloggers, and marketers answer two important questions; “Where am I currently positioned?” and “What can I achieve?”
The backbone of this new feature is the large data pool that includes billions of pieces of information from more than 100 million domains, SEO, PPC, content, backlinks, and social data available within the Research Cloud.
Introducing Content Performance
Content Performance, within the Research Cloud, allows users to create a better and more detailed picture of any website, which shows all the relevant performance metrics along with a unique solution to analyze landing pages. 
What makes Content Performance so useful is that it focuses on holistic content as opposed to single keywords. While it may have been acceptable to focus solely on keywords in the past, Content Performance also explores a URL. This is important because landing pages that contain a wide-range of content clusters and topics rank better in Google organic search results. 
Additionally, with an overview of a URL, you can better understand the web projects that your competitors are working on, and even analyze every page from hundreds of millions of domains in just a matter of seconds. This includes:
  • Competitor’s top pages
  • Inbound links that refer to the top pages
  • The keywords that your competition ranks for
  • If there are any secondary keywords that are being targeted
  • The strongest inbound links
  • Competitor’s social media strategy
Besides allowing you to understand your competitor’s web projects and use them to your advantage, Content Performance gives you the ability to analyze the environment of your market in a matter of seconds. 
Research Cloud Features

Besides Content Performance, the Research Cloud also contains the following features:
  • Mojo and Desktop vs Mobile Visibility
The “mojo” feature allows you to see if a domain has strong search traffic, but is under-performing in other areas, such as social media traffic, at a glance.
  • Visibility and Google Updates
Underneath the mojo is a graph that illustrates historical organic search visibility and paid visibility. If you’re using the free version, you can only review the last 3 months. Registered members, however, have access to years of historical data.
Another exciting new feature is “Google Updates,” which allows you to see instantly all previous Google algorithm updates.
  • Geography
This is another new feature that allows you to view differences between specific countries. For example, you could compare the SEO visibility for the top ten countries for your brand. This information allows you to analyze various global markets.
  • Rankings
This feature provides the national SEO Rank or PPC Rank of your domain. It also provides the quantity, value, and position of keywords for which the domain ranks in organic search. With this data, you can see the relationship between SEO and PPC behavior and keyword distribution of a domain.
There’s also a “most important keywords” as well as a “winners/losers list” that can be used for answering any ROI-related questions.
  • Mobile Performance
This gives you a glimpse into the performance of a domain across mobile devices.
  • Market Analysis and Industries
This module allows users to conduct a competitor analysis where you can find how a keyword ranks for a specific domain.
  • Links and Social
This feature gives you a holistic view that examines inbound links metrics, as well as an overview of your domain’s social rank, social signal quality, and visibility on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Conclusion
With the addition of Content Performance, Searchmetrics’ Research Cloud is a fantastic suite of tools for online marketers. If you’re interested in giving Searchmetrics Research Cloud a try, head over to Searchmetrics and see what new insights you can gain from this set of tools.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

19 Fresh Thoughts on Link Building & Disavow Shared by Top SEO Minds from John Mueller to Neil Patel

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19 Fresh Thoughts on Link Building & Disavow Shared by Top SEO Minds from John Mueller to Neil Patel was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Among search engine optimization folks there are a couple questions that continually spur on conversation, and one of them is: Link building — Is it black hat?

Fresh thoughts on link building imageThe last few weeks have seen a surge of articles and online chats on the topic of link building and its proper place in search engine optimization. Unlike black-hat forum discussions of past years, these recent discussions about links bring to light the battle-worn wisdom of knowledgeable, go-to search engine optimization minds, like John Mueller and Neil Patel, whose advice has been indispensable in the two years since we first were introduced to Google’s Penguin algorithm update.

These latest conversations exposed unknowns and some new fears, along with newly released tools and solutions to the problems of links, good and bad. Here we’ve harvested highlights from the articles and online conversations on the following topics that may surprise and wisen SEOs and webmasters of all experience levels:

  • Link building today — its current definition and role
  • Natural vs. unnatural links — staying in Penguin’s good graces
  • Disavow files — tools and techniques for backlink cleanup

When we started listing all the thought-provoking insights from SEO thought leaders, we found that there have been so many fresh thoughts lately that we decided to number them in a list here. Enjoy these 19 fresh thoughts on link building, link cleanup and disavowal.

1. Google Portugal: “Do not buy, sell, exchange or ask for links that may violate our linking webmaster guidelines.”

The latest wave of link building talk was spurred in part by a statement on the Google Portuguese webmaster blog that, translated into English, gave this bold advice to webmasters: “Do not buy, sell, exchange or ask for links.” Period.

If you, like many, read that and grew concerned that just asking for links might cause site penalties, you were not alone. Google soon calmed everyone down by revising the Portuguese blog post to be less alarming: “Do not buy, sell, exchange or ask for links that may violate our linking webmaster guidelines.”

Upshot: Google really doesn’t want you to be soliciting links, but link requests are okay as long as they adhere to Google webmaster guidelines, specifically those regarding link schemes.

2. “There simply is no sustainability in trying to manipulate the algorithm.” –Linkarati writer Andrew Dennis

Let’s first state the obvious: Links still count in the search engine algorithms as one factor among many that influence search results ranking. But the old days in which unethical marketers could buy a thousand links and get a rise in search engine placement are long gone, squashed by the Google Penguin algorithm update as well as a savvier Internet user base. Columnist Andrew Dennis said it well in a July 7 post on Search Engine Land: “There simply is no sustainability in trying to manipulate the algorithm.”

3. “(O)nly focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website than actually helps.” –John Mueller, Google webmaster trends analyst

Is there any good in trying to build links today? Google representative John Mueller answered the question in a February hangout. He said:

In general, I’d try to avoid that (link building) … only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website than actually helps.

4. “Is linkbuilding dead? Nope. Apparently not. Not only does daily practice affirm its existence, but the industry moguls do, too.” –Neil Patel

Experienced SEOs still practice some form of link building. Patel published a Forbes article wherein he explains why links are still necessary for SEO: “Though oft maligned and long abandoned, linkbuilding is one of the most effective ways to make your website rank higher.”

Is Link Building Black Hat?

5. “The term ‘linkbuilding’ has some baggage, but it is not inherently black hat. Still prefer ‘link earning’. All about intent.” –Bruce Clay, Inc. SEO Manager Rob Ramirez

Last week we got to host #SEOChat, a Twitter chat that addresses SEO issues, and we chose to discuss link building. In the chat, our SEO manager shared this gem:

6. “We don’t know what to call it, so we might as well call it linkbuilding […] Link earning? That describes the practice better, but it just doesn’t have the same sonorous and electrifying quality.” –Neil Patel

As a counterpoint to Ramirez’s thoughts, Neil Patel’s take on his preferred term for link building/earning shows the power words hold. It’s reminiscent of the debate over whether or not SEO is dead. SEO is not dead, but evolved, and link building/earning with it.  

Natural vs. Unnatural Links

7. What is an unnatural link? “Well any link which is built is, by definition unnatural.” –Alastair Kane during #SEMRushChat

Obtaining links naturally is every web marketer’s goal. You want to have content that attracts people so that they like and then link to it. A strategy of earning links is far safer in today’s world than going after them with any link-building campaign. A participant in the July 15 #SEMRushChat (yes, two industry Twitter chats devoted to the same subject last week shows how topical this is!) put it this way:

8. Link earning isn’t a passive activity. “Actively seek out websites that are relevant to your website and audience, and promote yourself.” –Andrew Dennis

The columnist argues that a user-first approach is needed to earn links. But Dennis doesn’t think you have to just wait for them:

While it’s possible to earn these links passively, in order to take full advantage of your opportunities you need to manually promote your value. Actively seek out websites that are relevant to your website and audience, and promote yourself.

His article goes on to detail many approaches to doing this.

9. Behind every real link is a real person. “Remember that your goal here is more than just a link—it’s a relationship, which could be mutually beneficial to both of you.” –Ruth Burr Reedy

In a June 25 post on the Moz blog, Ruth Burr Reedy wrote: “The kinds of links that Google wants you to build are the kinds of links that you get when a real live person decides to share or link to your content.” She goes on to explain how you can attract links in person — at trade shows, conferences, meetups and trade associations — as well as how to assess these relationship-based links.

10. “Linkbuilding, if you want to call it that, is risky business. (…) Content marketing is the safest and most effective method of building links.” –Neil Patel

Patel calls link building “a high-risk activity” because of the danger of Penguin penalties. One thing is certain: Websites have to be careful how they get links.

He simplifies the process a bit by recommending that content marketing is the most effective way to earn links naturally. He concludes:

Thus, content marketing is the superhighway to links. Instead of creating artificial and spammy links, marketers are churning out real and high-quality content that warrants legitimate and relevant links.

Patel’s article gives three ways to (more-or-less) safely come right out and ask for links when sharing your content.

11. “As of now guidelines are pretty clear: You cannot reimburse links in any way. Let’s stick with that!” –Ann Smarty and Jim Boykin

Last week’s Jim & Ann Show discussed how one could go about asking for links in order to stay within Google’s guidelines. They covered lots of specific scenarios such as, “What if I sent free stuff but didn’t ask for a link? Should I be worried if that person links?” (They answered yes.)

12. “(M)ake it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy …” –John Mueller

When you’re sure you have high-quality content worth linking to, Mueller suggests two ways you can make it easier for people to link to your pages:

  • Put a little widget on your page that helps someone link to it.
  • Make sure URLs are easy to copy and paste.

13. “Go through your entire backlink profile MANUALLY. Any that look remotely suspicious, investigate (& where necessary remove)” –Dan Smith

During the #SEMRushChat Twitter chat, the other part of link management, dealing with unwanted backlinks to your site, was addressed. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom on the need for link pruning to avoid or recover from a Penguin penalty:

Backlink Disavowal

14. Should every site submit a Google disavow file? “Depends on the penalty situation. If not penalized, no disavow. Pruning for sure though, in all cases. Everyone’s got skeletons” –Matthew Young, senior SEO strategist at Adobe

The link pruning process starts with monitoring your site’s backlinks to try to identify your weakest (least trustworthy and relevant) links. Most SEOs today agree that watching your backlinks is essential. Once identified, those low-quality links should be removed — which means going through the painstaking process of contacting the linking site and requesting they take down your link. When that doesn’t work, webmasters have a last resort: They can disavow the links they cannot remove.

One of the #SEOChat questions asked: Do you always recommend a site submit a Google disavow file? The answers were mixed:

Tools for Backlink Research and Cleanup

15. “We believe there has been, up to this point, a critical imbalance in disavow link data. (…) We decided that instead of letting Google and Bing keep the data themselves, there is a way to have more intelligence about our backlinks and disavow files if we crowdsource the data.”  –Bruce Clay

In June we released DisavowFiles, a free tool that started as a dream of Bruce Clay’s to have greater visibility into Google’s black box of disavowed link data. During the weekly digital marketing podcast SEM Synergy on June 10, which was one week after launching the tool, Bruce explained the genesis of DisavowFiles:

We give all this (disavow link data) to Google in bulk. All of us give it to Google because we don’t want the penalty, but we have no way of seeing that data ourselves. They keep it from us. We decided that instead of letting Google and Bing keep the data themselves, there is a way to have more intelligence about our backlinks and disavow files if we crowdsource the data. Everybody gets to give us their disavow files, and with our new service, DisavowFiles.com, this is what it does — it collects the data and allows us to query and get answers to these questions.

16. “Very TAGFEE: (…) DisavowFiles – upload file & can see whether others have disavowed links that point to you” –Rand Fishkin

Because DisavowFiles is a crowdsourced database and we’ve shared it among the SEO community, Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin called DisavowFiles “very TAGFEE.” Since its June launch, the tool has more than 1,200 members signed up and hundreds of Google disavow files uploaded so far.
 
17. “It also made sense in a lot of ways to share data, especially when you’re dealing with the same types of link farms, the same types of sites that scrape and are showing up in a lot of our clients’ backlink profiles.” –Rob Ramirez

In the announcement podcast, SEO Manager Ramirez chimed in with another reason that DisavowFiles.com is such a helpful tool for speeding up the link cleanup process:

Like all good ideas, (DisavowFiles) was born out of necessity. We had a very real need to simplify and speed up the process of doing link audits. It also made sense in a lot of ways to share data, especially when you’re dealing with the same types of link farms, the same types of sites that scrape and are showing up in a lot of our clients’ backlink profiles. Simplifying that process, being able to share the data across our clients, was something that was a very real need that we had.

DisavowFiles signup
 
18. “Tried (DisavowFiles) again today and it worked — found ~1,000 more domains and URLs to add to our file.” –Daniel Thomason of Online Performance Marketing in Dallas, Texas

The primary purpose of DisavowFiles is to show webmasters which of their own backlinks have been disavowed by others in the database. This kind of insight gives them more confidence in disavowing links. Here’s what one told us:

Hey everyone,
Tried [DisavowFiles] again today and it worked — found ~1,000 more domains and URLs to add to our file.
Thanks for innovating with a tool like this.
–Daniel Thomason

19. Would you want to know if your website has been disavowed by others? “Yes, I would like to know. There’s no reason to be oblivious in this respect imo” –Jesse Stoler during #SEOChat

There’s a side benefit for DisavowFiles.com participants, and that’s being alerted whenever someone else disavows one of your own website’s pages. Google has stated that being listed in a disavow file does not affect your site negatively. Nevertheless, knowing that people consider your web pages worthy of disavowal can cause you to take a good hard look at your site. #SEOChat participants were asked whether they would want to know if their pages are disavowed. This question would have been unthinkable before this tool because search engines don’t share this kind of intel. The SEOs balanced their answers between common sense and confidence in their own website ethics:

Off-Page SEO Evolves

So is link building black hat? Is SEO dead? No! The role of search engine optimization continues to evolve, and as long as Google’s webmaster guidelines change and its search engine ranking algorithms along with them, so will the definition and target of link building. Off-page SEO once was defined primarily by link building. Today, link assessment, cleanup and disavows are off-page optimization tasks that require careful attention by search engine marketers. Take pride in staying up on the debate and the journey, and enjoy the ever-changing practice that is SEO.

July 23rd 2015 SEO

Yoast SEO 2.3

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FB Yoast SEO 2 3 1200x628We’ve just released a major release of Yoast SEO, bringing it up to version 2.3. This new version of Yoast SEO helps you optimize your site and keep it optimized. It shows errors straight from Google’s Search Console, and points you at posts that need work. But first of all, we’ve changed the name!

WordPress SEO by Yoast === Yoast SEO

Nearly everybody we know already called it “Yoast SEO”. We were stubborn enough not to do that. It used to be just “WordPress SEO”. It became “WordPress SEO by Yoast” somewhat later, now, we’ve finally caved. The plugin will henceforth be known as Yoast SEO. Somewhat in jest, we add “for WordPress” to that. We do that as we’re working on making our SEO plugin available for other platforms.

Google Search Console integration

This release brings a feature that used to be specific to Yoast SEO Premium to Yoast SEO free. Google released a new version of the API for their Webmaster Tools. It also recently renamed it to “Search Console”. This new API meant we had to rebuild things anyway and as we did that we decided to make this feature available to everyone.

The option to create redirects straight from this interface will remain premium. But if you can create redirects in another way, this is a great, free, way to make sure your site stays optimized.

See what it looks like:

Yoast SEO Google search console integration screenshot

Pointing you at posts that need work

This was actually a user submitted feature request. Brandon Hubbard suggested a widget in this GitHub issue, which we thought was a great idea. So now, when you login, you’ll see a widget like this:

Yoast SEO dashboard widget

Breadcrumbs in the customizer

If you use and like our breadcrumbs, you might like this even more. If your theme declares support for yoast-seo-breadcrumbs, we’ll automatically enable them and even add a panel to the Customizer so you can customize them:

breadcrumbs-customizer

Instructions on how to make this work with your theme(s) can be found here.

There are literally tons more small bugfixes in this release, so we’re certain we can say this is the best Yoast SEO ever. So, go update and tell us what you think!

Summer Sale on Yoast SEO Premium

And to top it all off, we now also have a sale on our Yoast SEO Premium plugin! It is now exactly the same pricing as our other SEO plugins, so it starts off from $69!

This post first appeared as Yoast SEO 2.3 on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

July 21st 2015 SEO, wordpress

Link Building in the Penguin Age: SEOs on Earning, Pruning and Disavowing Links

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Link Building in the Penguin Age: SEOs on Earning, Pruning and Disavowing Links was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Link building is a matter of hot debate among search engine optimization analysts because quality links are vital for top rankings while spam links can land a site with a serious search engine penalty. In the age of Penguin, attention must be paid not only to the links themselves but how they are earned. Even asking for links the wrong way can violate webmaster guidelines, according to a Google blog post from earlier this month. (Here’s the original Google post in Portuguese.)

As moderators of last Thursday’s SEO-focused Twitter chat, #SEOchat, we wanted to hear what top SEOs were feeling about the current state of link building, link removal and disavowing links. The debate was lively and at times surprising. We asked questions like:

Here are a few of the thought-provoking and controversial points of view shared:

Do you think link building is a black-hat technique?

The term “linkbuilding” has some baggage, but it is not inherently black hat. Still prefer “link earning.” All about intent. (@ramirez_robert)

Do you always recommend a site submit a Google disavow file?

Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t walk up to a cop and say “hey, someone left these drugs in my pocket.” (@tonyxrandall)

To remove weak links for Google Penguin recovery, how much time do you spend pruning links vs. disavowing links?

Very sensitive issue to be handled per site. Many sites don’t require disavows – and when used – I fear a red flag is raised. (@EricLanderSEO)

Would you want to know if any site has disavowed you? How many disavowals would it take before you were alarmed?

Yes, especially in cases where you suspect negative SEO. I would want to be notified immediately. (@MatthewAYoung)

Yes, I would like to know. There’s no reason to be oblivious in this respect IMO. (@JesseStoler)

Yes, especially it were part of a pattern. Might be bad SEO, maybe my baby is ugly. But getting disavowed is a call to action. (@CallMeLouzander)

Read on to find out what SEOs had to say during Thursday’s #SEOChat on Twitter!


Has the Penguin update simplified the link building process for you or made it harder to tread?

Eric Lander: My clients tend to view content quality and social engagement as triggers for quality links. So in short, it’s beneficial for me.

Netvantage Marketing: Depends on a website to website basis. Need to pay close attention to sites that dabbled in bad link building in the past.

Creative California: Definitely more difficult. I now have to scrutinize every site before I look to get a link on it.

Matthew Young: Neither hard nor easy. By having a content-forward link earning strategy, nothing has really changed.

Do you think link building is a black-hat technique?

Robert Ramirez: The term “linkbuilding” has some baggage, but it is not inherently black hat. Still prefer “link earning.” All about intent.

Dragon Search: It can be either, depending on how you go about it. A little strategic PR goes a long way.

Brian Baker: Difficult question. It’s all about the intent behind the link building.

John Alexander: I’ve always been suspicious of link building campaigns, TBH. Find relevant directories, sure. But how systematic can you be?

Kristi Kellogg: Personally, I feel time is better spent investing in creating quality content and promoting it than link building. My logic being that if you build something amazing, links will be a byproduct naturally.

Eric Lander: No, and it never has been. People push envelopes across marketing initiatives — link building is essential, but far from black. To be clear, aspects of SEO can be pushed in gray/black areas. It’s up to us to ethically provide quality services and results.

Netvantage Marketing: Providing value to users = white hat. Only trying to manipulate rankings = black hat.

Creative California: Not at all. Most link-building we do is local directories, media quotes, social. If we don’t pursue these, they’ll never happen. In other words, you can’t naturally get links if you don’t promote yourself.

Matthew Young: Depends on who you ask. Google says ‘Don’t build links,’ but the irony is that the algo is built on them.

Do you think it’s acceptable to ask for links? When and how?

Brian Baker: Of course it’s acceptable, just don’t be pushy!

Eric Lander: Yes, asking when relevancy is clear and there’s a visitor value added to the host site. All require direct, quality conversations.

Netvantage Marketing: Absolutely. When you can provide value to their users — by asking in a personable way.

DragonSearch: I like to barter. Provide something in exchange then ask for a link in return.

Matthew Young: It’s acceptable under the right circumstances.

If you could offer one piece of advice for link building in a Penguin world, what would it be? Go!

Kristi Kellogg: Be aware of who’s linking to you at all times. It’s your responsibility.

Brian Baker: Focus on existing relationships, link reclamation, and natural links. Go after low-hanging fruit for max effect.

Eric Lander: Stop emulating what others are or have been doing. Developing a unique approach in your space has explosive opportunities.

Netvantage Marketing: If you have to question if a site is a good link prospect, the answer is probably no.

DragonSearch: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

To remove weak links for Google Penguin recovery, how much time do you spend pruning links vs. disavowing links?

Robert Ramirez: Actually removing bad links from the internet > disavowing links. Google rewards cleaning links sooner than relying on disavow.

Brian Baker: Penalties and the disavow process are a nightmare. Talking about it further will put me in a tailspin.

Netvantage Marketing: Depends on the penalty and size of backlink profile. We outreach to sites at least once when we see a link we don’t like.

Eric Lander: Very sensitive issue to be handled per site. Many sites don’t require disavows – and when used – I fear a red flag is raised.

Matthew Young: The pruning takes way longer than the disavowing. Plus you have to account for the time a site remains penalized before the next Penguin refresh. So, yes, a long time.

What link pruning tools do you rely on? How do you identify weakest links?

Brian Baker: I’m loving @Moz’s spam analysis tool – GREAT starting spot + Manual Ahrefs review.

Eric Lander: My go to tool is @ahrefs for link quality, research and competitive/shared reviews. Then Excel. And logic. :)

Matthew Young: I use a combination of Majestic, @ahrefs and Google Search Console. Can’t forget Excel either.

Netvantage Marketing: A machete and beast mode bit.ly/1J0rbm5.  

John Alexander: Majestic makes my life so much easier, including their browser plugins.

Bruce Clay, Inc.: Who’s tried DisavowFiles.com? It’s a free crowdsourced tool that lets users compare disavow files to their backlink profiles.

Do you always recommend a site submit a Google disavow file?

Eric Lander: No. Rarely. I need to see a direct correlation of a Penguin release date and traffic and/or rankings loss to even consider it.

Matthew Young: Depends on the penalty situation. If not penalized, no disavow. Pruning for sure, though, in all cases. Everyone’s got skeletons.

Netvantage Marketing: No. We only go disavow route if we suspect a penalty is in place.

Tony Randall: Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t walk up to a cop and say “hey, someone left these drugs in my pocket.”

Would you want to know if any site has disavowed you? How many disavowals would it take before you were alarmed?

Eric Lander: No. If you know what a disavow is, you should be comfortable with your own site (being disavowed). Feeling “alarmed” is not a productive state.

Matthew Young: Yes, especially in cases where you suspect negative SEO. I would want to be notified immediately.

Creative California: I think I’d see many other signs that my sign was spammy long before I noticed disavows.

Jesse Stoler: Yes, I would like to know. There’s no reason to be oblivious in this respect IMO.

John Alexander: Yes, especially it were part of a pattern. Might be bad SEO, maybe my baby is ugly. But getting disavowed is a call to action.

Google has stated that data from disavow files is NOT part of the quality algorithm. Do you believe it? Could that change?

Eric Lander: Change is inevitable. So too are algorithm hypotheses. As an SEO, you focus on what you can control – and stay the course. Don’t mean to suggest that you don’t innovate your approach, but you cannot obsess on what you don’t know and be successful.

DragonSearch: Pretend your client somehow gets added to the list of low-quality disavow sites. Imagine trying to get out of THAT penalty.

Matthew Young: Anything could change. It’s Google. You can’t see me, but I’m wildly shrugging right now.

John Alexander: I haven’t seen direct correlation. But as part of online reputation, I’m sure it can come later to bite you in the … server logs.

Want to join the search engine optimization conversation? #SEOchat takes place every Thursday at 10 a.m./1 p.m. PT. Meet up with your fellow digital marketers for a tactic-packed hour of SEO goodness.

July 21st 2015 SEO, Twitter

Weekly SEO Recap: Newsflash!

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Joost's weekly SEO recapI’m a bit feisty this week. I apologize upfront. We’ve been doing tons of website reviews after last month’s sale and it had me quite busy. But there’s good news this week if you’re looking for a job as an SEO: here’s your chance! Google is hiring one. SEO’s all over the web had fun with that this week, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The only thing Google just did is acknowledge that SEO is worth doing. So much that they hire people to be in charge of it. Luckily, there was more!

Twitter blocking robots? Guess not.

There was quite a bit of fuzz on Twitter the last few days about Twitter blocking robots.txt and how bad this was:

Luckily my buddy Martin MacDonald looked for two more seconds and discovered this wasn’t exactly the case. Why Twitter doesn’t just 301 redirect www.twitter.com to twitter.com is completely beyond me. That would be the only real SEO solution in my (not so) humble opinion.

Penguin is months away

In not so surprising news (as it’s bloody hot here and penguins aren’t known for their love of heat), Google’s Penguin update apparently is months away as they are “working on making it real time”. We’ll see.

Google sends notifications, then wonders why

In another not so surprising move, Google is starting to realize that some messages are not making much sense to each site owner. They send out a ton of hreflang messages this week, only to realize not everyone might be interested. So now they’re asking for your feedback on how you like the messaging coming out of Google Search Console.

Lots of us would probably rather have them fix issues like the current issue with index numbers. And maybe help their colleagues on fixing the referral spam in Google Analytics.

Flash is dead, bye bye!

Firefox is now blocking Flash by default. Flash was always a stupid idea, but in the off chance that you’re still using it on your site, you probably should stop for real now. I mean, we have animated GIFs for annoying content!

Flash is dead

XML Sitemaps are hard

Gary Ilyes from Google tweeted about how to properly format the last modified time in XML sitemaps:

His answer also states “in most of the cases it’s ignored by search engines”. We knew that, but it doesn’t hurt repeating it. The same is true for the priority field, which is the reasons our Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t have a ton of interface to change them. They simply don’t matter that much.

That’s it, see you next week!

joost signature

This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Newsflash! on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

July 17th 2015 Google, SEO, Twitter

Preparing your blog post

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Writing a good blog post all starts with thinking. You should think about what you want to say and to whom you want to say it. It is important to realise, that proper writing takes some time. In order to write a good, readable piece, you will have to follow three steps:

Proces of good writing explained in a picture: 40% prepaparation, 20% writing, 40% correcting

All writing begins with preparation. I will take you through this first phase in this blog post. If you want to read more about how to write an awesome blog post, make sure to buy our content SEO eBook.

In the first step of your writing process you will have to answer a number of questions. The answers to these questions will be the preparation of your blog post or article.

  1. What is the purpose of your piece? Why are you writing? What do you want to achieve?
  2. What will be the main message of your post? What is the central question you want to answer?
  3. Who are your readers?
  4. What information do you need to write your piece?
  5. In what order will you present your information? What will be the structure of your article?

I will elaborate on these questions in this blog post.

1. What is the purpose?

When you start to write content, you should first take some time to think about the purpose of your writing. Articles can have different purposes. You can write because you want to persuade people: you want them to adopt your political ideas or you want to convince them to buy your product. The aim of your article could also be entertaining. The purpose of your text would then be to amuse people. A column is a good example of an entertaining text. Your blog or article could also be informative. Different articles on your website could have different purposes. Also, many articles have multiple purposes. A blog could very well be informative as well as entertaining.

The purpose of your article will give you some rules or guidelines to follow. An article in which you want to persuade people should have some other features than an article with a sole informative or amusing function. I actually wrote another blog post about the differences between amusing text, an informative text and a persuading text.

2. What is the message?

Before you start writing, take some time to think about what you want your readers to know or do after they’ve read your text. We refer to this as the message of your text.

In order to come up with your message, you could try to phrase a question which your text should resolve. We refer to such a question as the central question of a text. The text you will write will be the answer to your central question.

Make sure that your central question is clear. Try to come up with a summarized answer to your central question in one or two sentences. We refer to this answer as the message of your article. Perhaps you will not be able to phrase the message of your article until you have done some research. You should then attend to your research first (see question 4!).

Example 1

If you would write a post about the importance of well-structured texts, the central question of this post could be: ‘Why is it important to write well-structured blog posts?’

We usually put the message in the introduction of the post (telling people what the post will be about) as well as in the conclusion of the piece. Making your message really explicit is in our opinion especially important in web texts. It helps your readers to instantly grasp the message of your article and increases the likelihood people will keep on reading.

Example 2

The message of a post about the importance of well-structured texts could be: ‘It is important to write a well-structured text because it will allow people to understand your text better, it will lead to higher conversions and to higher ranking.’

3. Who are your readers?

Before writing your text, you should take some time to think about the people you are writing for. Make sure you adapt your text to their level. You should adjust the difficulty of the information in your piece as well as the difficulty of your style (use of jargon, long sentences etc) to your audience.

In many cases, it is really hard to find out who your readers are. And if your audience is a very heterogeneous group (consisting of very different people), it can be quite hard to decide upon the difficulty of your topic and your text. It could be very helpful to do research concerning your audience on a regular basis. If you would like to read more about analyzing your audience you can read my posts about Analyzing your audience and Yoast Research: get to know your audience.

4. What information do you need?

In some cases, all the information you need to write your text is already in your head. If Joost de Valk writes an introductory piece about SEO, he doesn’t need to open any books. In many other cases, you will need some sources (the internet, books, newspapers) to provide the information you need for your text. You should take the central question of your piece and come up with a number of sub-questions.

Example 3

For the central question: ‘Why is it important to write well-structured blog posts?’ one could pose the following subquestions:

  • What does text structure have to do with SEO?
  • What is the influence of text structure on conversion rates?
  • What is the influence of text structure on bounce rates?

Find answers to all your sub-questions in your sources (books, internet, scientific articles etc.). You can write these answers down. You will then already have the basis of your post or article.

After this phase, the (central) message of your article should be entirely clear. Take some time to phrase or rephrase your message (the summarized answer to your central question) in one or two sentences.

5. What will be the structure?

The final step in the preparation process is the most important one. You have to give some kind of structure to the information you want to communicate to your readers. In another post, I gave practical tips on how to create a decent structure.

Conclusion: Take some time to prepare your post!

Writing a blog post all start with some thinking and preparing. Take time to do that. Ask yourself the 5 questions of this blog post and the most important phase in your writing is covered! If you would like to get the full information, you should definitely read our Content SEO eBook!

This post first appeared as Preparing your blog post on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

July 17th 2015 SEO