Stephan Spencer at Affiliate Summit East 2011

BC: This is the Ask the SEO session. We have a different format. There are zero presentations in this session. This is where you get to ask all the questions you want of us. We've got a lot of different kinds of backgrounds. I've got a great panel here. As you ask the question, ask the pros. You can tweet, but you'll notice we have two microphones set up.

I think it's probably easier for us to keep track of it and to hear you and not have things get out of sequence if you use the microphones. We're kind of used to doing that. My name's Bruce Clay. I'm going to be a moderator. I'm going to be basically guiding this. The format of this, as I said, is Q and A.

The questions are not so much site-specific. This is not a site review kind of session. We're not going to look at sites. We're really going to ask general questions and answer general questions about SEO. I've got a panel of notable industry people who've spoken a lot, who have been in the affiliate space, and who have written books.

We've got quite a panel. I'm going to ask everybody in the panel to logically introduce themselves as it relates to you and spend 30 seconds talking about a topic near and dear to their heart that they think might be a good topic for questions and things that you'd like to hear. We're going to start with Stephan.

SS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Stephan Spencer. I founded an SEO firm called NetConcepts and sold it last year to Covario out of San Diego. I'm also the co-author of The Art of SEO, published by O'Reilly. I'm working on a second edition, which hopefully should be out next year. This is my new book, Google Power Search.

It's a small one, but it's packed with information about how to find anything on Google and Forrester Research reports. You name it, and you can find it. That's me. Am I supposed to give, like, a little, 30 seconds? What's important?

BC: What's important?

SS: I think YouTube optimization is a great new area to explore. You can do things from the very basic of keyword research, you know, from YouTube suggestions and so forth, incorporating those keywords into your titles and descriptions. That's really basic and obvious all the way to more sophisticated stuff like uploading caption files, transcripts that override The automated transcription process that Google does.

It's all searchable, including annotating and tagging your videos. Next to the number of views on each video, there's a little icon that looks like a chart or graph. You just click on that, and you can see all sorts of fantastic stats on your competitors' videos and your own, of course.

Like first referrals, likes, referral sources, trends, increases in views and likes, and all sorts of good stuff like that, you can track your YouTube search rankings because, of course, YouTube's the number two search engine, using a tool called Voot, which is in private beta. If you're interested in getting access to that, come up to me afterward, and I'll see if I can hook you up.

I know the guy who runs VOOT. It's And as far as I know, it's the only tool out there that will track your YouTube search rankings, there you go.  

RD: Hi guys, I'm Rhea Drysdale. Ah, almost hit the table here. CEO of Outspoken Media. Everybody hear me? Great. How many of you were in Will Reynolds keynote this morning?

Awesome. You got a lot of information about link development. What my company does is we specialize in natural link development, SEO, reputation management, and that type of thing. What I'll talk about with my 30 seconds is the 12 site links that you're probably starting to see on a lot of your branded searches.

How many of you notice that as of the last week, you now have at least 10 to 12 different site links appearing? Cool. How many of you are stoked about that? How many of you really hate it? The problem is now with those site links. Some of them are not exactly what you wanted. And removal still works. We took one out within 24 hours.

It popped out of there. But you don't really have control over what Google's putting as a site link for your site. And sometimes that's definitely a negative. You really want to watch that. If you have a site, a branded site, that's starting to see these site links pop up. If you were a company that was having a reputation management problem, and we deal with a lot of them, this update was actually kind of a, Part of my language, pain in the butt.

I'll say butt. I can say butt. And the sense that subdomains now roll up underneath those site links. For most of us, we know that subdomains basically count just like a separate domain. If you were doing reputation management, we'd maybe want to create a couple of subdomains on your site, and it's the opposite of how you would think about SEO.

With SEO, you want to put everything under one domain. But with reputation management, we might want to have a couple of subdomains because we can kind of flood the search results with your own properties on subdomains. But now, with this update, all of those are rolling up under site links, and you still have all those negatives popping up.

I hope that makes sense. But I would say that's kind of disconcerting. At the same time, we will talk about trust and gaining trust if you're using Microformats or to mark up your code, you start to gain trust from users when they're clicking or typing in something and they see that you've got reviews or some other snippet there.

And with these site links, you're definitely going to be considered the authority if you can get them for your brand. And now we're also starting to see them pop up for certain really short-tail searches as well. And that's disconcerting if you're in a certain space and you know that there's one site that's your competitor, your number two guy, and now your competitor has 12 links pushing you below the fold. That's definitely something that you have to pay attention to and figure out how you become the authority and how you gain that trust.  

MS: Thank you. Hi everybody, my name is Michael Streko. Back in 2009, my partner and I had this little crazy idea. We built out a site called, which allowed you to go and type in a username, and it would show you across at the time, it was 84 different social media sites if that username was taken or not for branding purposes.

Fast-forward to the present day. We rebranded and relaunched the site as I currently have a staff of over 40, and we work with everyone from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies to protect their brand names and trademark terms across social media.

Your drug name, or pharmaceutical drug name. We go out, we give you a report to show where your name has already been taken. We also give you the legal contact information for everyone in the social media sites. Our database is currently up over 7,300 social media sites that we do this search for.

Where it's available, then we get it, then go out, and we will reserve the name for you. I guess I'm going to kind of touch on exactly what Rhea did because I find the 12 boxes to be really interesting. It's probably one of the biggest things to come out of Google in a while. We've seen that, knowing that we've been 12 boxes, and we've also seen that through social media branding, where it's kind of broadcasting the same consistent message to all of the different social media sites through your profile. We've seen that some of our clients on lesser-known sites have been able to get the 12 or the 10 boxes from these results.

My specialty and expertise is I know everything from small social media sites to large social media sites, the ins and outs about them, and any questions regarding social media sites or anything. That's what I'll be the best to answer. I'll give you a perfect little statistic I love to throw out. If you go into Facebook right now and you were to start an ad campaign, and you type in the word cats, there are basically 500,000 people on Facebook that like cats so much, and they've put that as one of their tags.

There's a social media network called, which currently has 2 million members. Every member of that social media network really likes cats a lot. That might be a place where you'd want to look at pushing your advertising dollars.  

BC: Okay, and just something about me: I've been doing SEO since 1996. That's three years before Google. I've spoken at over a hundred different conference sessions on the subject of SEO. I have written the Search Engine Optimization All in One for Dummies book from Wiley, 746 pages; it's a big book for big dummies, and there is plenty of material there.

I think between all of us, we can handle it. Quick question: How many of you actually own and operate your own network and sites? Most of you? You consider yourselves, how many programmers are technical? How many are marketing? How many just like going to the bank?

That should have had a unanimous arm raise, I don't know. Okay, the topic today is SEO. Any kind of questions you might have that are general in nature are the ones we prefer. If you wish, please go to one of the mics. Anybody have a question? I'll ask you a question. How many people are concerned about what local is doing to the first page of Google results?

Do you know how many local businesses there are? Do you think local will take over the first page, and you won't be able to get on? Or are you not concerned about local at all? Anybody? This is going to be a hard session to get going.  

MS: I actually have a good question. Does anyone here work in the travel vertical? Affiliate-wise, have, have hotel-related sites? How many people are kind of nervous about now the fact that you can book a hotel right through Google? Yes? How many people here are happy that they sold the majority of their travel sites in 2009?

BC: Okay, please come on and ask a question because that's what the session's all about.  

RD: If you guys want to, write them down and bring them up here if you don't want to stand at the mic.

SS: And incentivize with free books.  

A: Hi Bruce. Excuse me, Jay Berkowitz from Ten Golden Rules. Nice to see you again. I thought I'd get you going. Hey guys, thank you. Panda is obviously the big topic, so why don't we go there? Maybe everyone on the panel could talk about some things to do to improve your sites in the art of Panda.

RD: I'll start. Will was kind of funny in his keynote. He said that Panda was great for him, and it was the same way for our company. It just depends on the methods that you were using. If you were really investing in article creation and you were just pumping out articles, then you probably got hit.

And we didn't; we only had one client that got hit, and that had more to do with quality Signals than with article submission. What is quality? There was an interesting post written by Amit Singhal, I think, on the update. And he had a whole bunch of notes where he said what was involved in Panda.

And it wasn't just article directories or article sites. There were a lot of things. It was saying we're now looking to see if the content that you produce is accurate. If it's truthful, if it's well written, if it's long, if it's unique. If it's got a good reputation. And that's kind of interesting to me.

I don't necessarily know that Google, it's Google's responsibility to, you know, query all of our content to make sure it's accurate. And I don't even know how they could possibly do that, but that's what they're saying. And so on our end, we produce unique content. And you just have to figure out what can you do in your space Um, and push it out there.

And I would say if you have a lot of duplicate content on the site, you need to start looking at that. That was the biggest hit that a lot of sites took was that they had so much duplicate content that are many of you familiar with supplemental results. Back in the day, Google used to display supplemental results.

And we called it supplemental hell. Because if your site got stuck in supplemental, there's a problem. You had an over-indexation of your content. Probably due to duplicate issues. Once you started to reign that in, you would see that your site would pop back up into the main index. I'm of the belief that that still exists, even though they got rid of it, and it's kind of like a seesaw.

If you've got a whole bunch of crap pages, eventually, that's going to outweigh your good pages. You have to start to use different methods to cut out the crap and just produce the good stuff, and if you have a lot of content that is very similar, think about smushing them together into one larger piece that's really of value. Redirect 301, redirect those other pieces into that one, get some backlinks to it, let that pop, and make it fresh.

SS: Yeah, think of it this way: if you look at your site as a whole, like a tree, and all these pages are all these nodes, they're like branches on your tree, right? If you have a lot of dead branches on the tree, then it looks like a very unhealthy tree, a tree that Google shouldn't trust.

You want to prune all those dead branches. And what is a dead branch? It's a page that is more than, let's say, a couple of clicks away from an external link source. If you were to either flow more page rank, be more strategic and effective in your flowing of page rank throughout your site so that you minimize the number of pages that are more than a couple of clicks away from an external link source, the tree overall is going to look healthier, right?

Or you prune those dead branches away by not just no following those links because that's insufficient now. Right? You could do like, for example, cookie detection, who's done cookie detection, using cookies to determine whether it's a human or a bot. Right? That's a more sophisticated way of doing what used to be known in the day as page rank sculpting.

Page-rank sculpting still works. It's still an effective strategy, but not in the way that you typically think about it. Like no following links to login pages and view cart and that sort of stuff. Right? What you're trying to do now with PageRank sculpting is to eliminate those dead branches or hide them.

Google says, "Yeah, just show everything to us. We'll figure it out. Don't worry." Of course, it's in their best interest to say that cause they want you to expose all the crap so that they can see that you're a crappy site and treat you accordingly.

BC: I'll just throw in a comment. One of the things that we have found is that there seems to be a correlation between the trust and quality of your inbound links. We have actually, after Panda, had some sites where we eliminated junk inbound links, links from junk sites, and the ranking of the site. We actually decreased the number of links, and the ranking went up. It fluctuates quite a bit.  

RD: Also, use your canonical, and if you have an e-commerce site or something where you've got a lot of pages that maybe have pagination on them, start to really look at how Googlebot is getting in there and crawling that.

Small thing, if you have pagination, most of you probably have WordPress sites archives are set up where, you know, you get to one page and then it says go to the next page. Well, Googlebot has to then follow that next page, next page, next page, next page. We're working with a client that had 4,000 pages.

That's a pain for Google to follow. We set it up so that it's not just the next page, the next page, the next page. It's page 1, 2, 3, and then there's the next page, and then there's the last page. Find a way to more creatively allow Googlebot to crawl things and get to your content. Because sometimes it's just a matter of access, too and then we also put in the footer, rotating links that would kind of go into some deeper areas of the site.

SS: And as Bruce was saying, take away or clean up all the dodgy crap links that you have pointing to your sites because he probably, like many of us, except for me, never bought crap links.

I was never that naive, but anyway, I'm somebody in your company who probably did this, not you, and you need to clean it up, right? One of the best tools I've found for identifying anomalies and things that look engineered and crap would be Link Research Tools. Who uses that tool set? Yeah, it's really cool.

Quite a cool tool set. You can, for example, look at the themes of the sites that are linking to you and load in a bunch of competitors, sites that are outranking you, and then it averages those and shows you the percentages of those types of themes on those sites versus yours. And you can see, "Whoa, my competitors, on average, have way more bloggy links than I do."

This doesn't look good. This looks abnormal. I need to fix that. I need to go out and build bloggy links, right? Or type of site. CMS-based site or standard sort of HTML site or WordPress-type site. Those site types and themes of sites and so forth, just imagine what the sort of things that will leave a footprint that says, "Yeah, this looks pretty abnormal and deserves a penalty and do bear in mind."

There are two types of penalties. There's algorithmic and manual. Google doesn't even have the Google engineers don't even have insight into what is an algorithmic penalty only manual penalties they can turn off, but they cannot even see if you have an algorithmic one, let alone turn it off.

You know, you just need to back off from the over-aggressive tactics if it's an algorithmic penalty. And then if it's a manual one, you're kind of screwed because it's basically up to, you know, convincing Matt Cutts or somebody like that to pull out their little black book and write a little note and then suddenly you're back in their good graces again some, you know, someday in the future.

These reconsideration requests are kind of like throwing, I don't know, confetti up in the air because you're just like, I don't know, it can work, but it is less likely to yield a positive result versus, you know, having a relationship with Matt Cutts.

RD: I found that they work very well, as long as.

SS: You cleaned it all up.

RD: Yes, you just have to make sure you got everything. Because if you didn't get everything, they're going to know and they're going to point it out, and then you have to figure out what you missed.

MS: And it never hurts to tell them how great they are when you're writing the reinclusion.

A: How do you find crappy content and stuff? And you see this stuff I read three years ago about shit. How do you find this? Because it's on someone's site.

BC: The question is, how do you find bad content within your site?  

RD: Look at your analytics and see what's not getting traffic anymore and see what's decreasing, see what used to rank that's not ranking anymore. I like to go in and look at content that had a ton of traffic at one point, and now it no longer does, but maybe there's a different post that we created recently that actually overlaps on keywords, and I'll identify that overlap and see which one's performing better, and if we just pop it into a sidebar and we link to it again, it might trigger that.

SS: There's also this report that I call the freeloader's report, and these are pages that are getting indexed by Google and crawled but, for whatever reason, are not getting any traffic from search from Google, right?

If you sort that by crawler activity, the top of the list, you know, these are pages that have gotten zero visitors from Google in an entire month. I have an analytics that we've custom built that will show that kind of reporting. And the ones that are at the very top because they've been crawled a lot, they have a lot of interest by Google and they probably have some page rank, but there's something very broken about them.

It could be that it's crap content, or it could be that it's duplicate content, or whatever. But these are low-hanging fruit opportunities that you can fix.

BC: Okay, we're going to move on to another question. Back there.

A: Okay, John Rampton, what is the best way to optimize a Google Places account for local?  

BC: I would suggest you have one.

A: I do have one. I want to get above the competition. What's the best way to optimize that?

RD: One quick thing: If you don't have one and you want to know, use to check your business address. It'll tell you how many of the main local sites you've actually claimed your listing on. And if you're managing hundreds of locations, that'll help.

BC: Yeah, there's about 340 directories out there that are paid attention to. 22 main directories are paid attention to by Google. If you can get the same entry in all of them, it helps. One thing to watch out for you'll notice if you start to go through some of the directories: this one will have a 40-character company name, but this one will have an 80-character company name.

What matters to Google in places is that the company names match, so you get consistent voting for the same company name. Don't put your company name in the 40, then put your company name followed by keywords in the 80 because it won't be voting for the same company. You want to have consistency across all the directories.

MS: And just to hop back really quick onto that last one, I wanted to suggest there's a plug-in for if you want to check how often your content's being spidered by Google, MSN, and Yahoo, called the WordPress Crawl Rate Tracker plugin. And what you can actually do is download that plug in and compare it to your Google Analytics.

To see what pages are getting clicks and how often they're getting crawled that's a good thing to look at. That's what I use on all of my WordPress blogs. One more time, WordPress Crawl Rate Tracker Plugin.

RD: It's from BlogStorm.

MS: Yeah, it's from BlogStorm.

RD: On the Google Place page optimization, for reputation management, what I like is that you have to have your name be the same. If you have a lot of negative views, it always helps to just maybe mess up your address or something, and then it stops showing for your business. However, on the actual optimization side, there are a lot of rules. If you haven't already read it, I would read David Mim. He does a local ranking factors report.

And I think earlier this year, they released the 2011 version. Gigantic. I mean, massive. The thing with places is you have to be very careful because there are certain things that can actually hurt you. If you just cram it full of optimization, like keywords in there, if you have something that is not a physical phone number, if it's an 800 number, that type of stuff, if it's a P.O. box, it's not helping you.

You have to have a real location. And I would say, also on the places side, do everything you can to make it look natural. Fill out your profile completely, add pictures, and get people who have actually used your business to write reviews; don't fake those reviews.

MS: The best thing that we've suggested to clients is to keep their coupons fresh. Google loves those little deals and likes to see that stuff being constantly changed. Don't get lazy with it, where like, a liquor store by my house, they constantly always give, if you print out their places page and bring it in, you get 10 percent off of an order of a case of wine.

Freshen that up a little bit. You know, change it around and make it, like, maybe one month, you'll get 10% off a case of wine, and maybe the next month, you get 5% off of 6 bottles of wine, which is half a case. It's the same offer, but it's just giving new content to the engine.

SS: It used to be that distance from the city centroid was an important factor. It's not as important anymore. As Rhea mentioned, the local ranking factor survey is a really important place to start to get data. A sense for some of these different factors, the ratings and reviews are important.

If you, if nobody says you're any good, then you're kind of screwed. If it's all crickets, there are no ratings or reviews. If it's all bad, you're, you're in big trouble.

MS: Never buy reviews.

SS: Yeah. Never.

MS: There are those sites; everyone's heard of Fiverr, FIVERR. You can go there, and they'll be. We'll send 30 reviews of your local business for 5 bucks; just fill them out here.

The issue with that is, listen, it's Google, Google's smart. Unless they see that the zip code and the IP address of where those reviews are coming from aren't in the same area that your business is. Nine times out of ten, those reviews aren't going to count for squat and they're going to hurt you more.

If they see, you know, if your business is located in Florida and they see 15 reviews coming from the Philippines and then 30 coming from India, more than likely, it's not going to help. Let the reviews happen organically. If you do own a local business, contact Google. They'll send you one of those things.

We have a places page with a little icon there. Get a QR code. Tell them to scan your QR code and do a review right there, right on the spot. That's the type of stuff you want to do. Never fake reviews.

SS: Yeah, another thing that you don't want to do that would get you in big trouble, maybe not initially, but just think of the stuff that you do in Google as if it's stuff that you would not feel comfortable telling Matt Cutts.

You're basically developing a rap sheet for yourself. It's not a question of if you're going to get caught, but when. And if you're at all left, you're, like, who is information on your domain names open and stuff. I mean, they have access to so much domain information. They can connect all the dots, and they can really screw you big time.

They can go back into historical who-is information, just like I could using domain tools if there was like one week where your privacy information, your privacy guard or whatever came off and you're exposing the true owner of the domain names. I mean Google. It can totally catch you for this sort of stuff.

Like doing idiotic things like using UPS stores as your locations because you're an affiliate and you don't have physical locations, you want to show up in umpteen number of different cities. I mean, you're just asking to get burned.

RD: Nobody here does that, right?

MS: I used to do a lot of shady affiliate stuff all straight when Bing first came out with Bing Local; they weren't matching when you would get a card placement, like mailed to you with the code that you would have to put in.

Initially, Bing was not matching up like "What store it was to that code that they sent." Basically, you could take any store and create a big local page and say, send me the card. And then I would just flip through my random card and say, "Okay, here you go. Here's a code. This one works." And then have an address.

I had, I think, 15 businesses listed out of my house that were all in the loan-related space. If anyone's in that space and it worked like a charm nowadays, no, it doesn't work anymore. No one should do that, either. That's bad.

BC: Okay. We'll take the next question.  

A: Okay, this is kind of an SEO 101 question, but since we're looking for questions, it'll probably be a quick answer. I'm still a little bit confused about duplicate content. If I write a legitimate article that I think is interesting in some blogs, pick it up, and post it, do I get credit for the links coming back to me if I've, you know, got them in and the other way around, if I see somebody's article that I think would be useful to my readers and I post it, am I somehow penalized because I've posted duplicate content?

SS: Duplicate content is a filter, not a penalty, in most cases, unless you're doing something really egregious, right? A filter means that it's an applied query time filter. Google picks one winner, and they filter out. From the search results that you're looking at, all the near duplicates, right?

Things that would be a poor user experience are those that have the same or similar titles, the same or similar snippets, and so forth because they want diversity in the search results. If you're like dealing with a blog article that you're syndicating out or that other people are with your permission, reposting what you want to do is have a little blurb at the bottom.

This is your byline. This is your little bio and link, not just to your homepage of your blog, right? But also link to the URL of the permalink URL of the article. Right? And because you're going to be the first to post that on your blog, probably, right? You are also linking back to your original permalink location. Many of these scrapers and so forth will then syndicate the post in its entirety, including the little blurb at the bottom. Also, just another little pro tip is to put a little photo of yourself in that little blurb because that looks good, adds legitimacy, it's kind of like social proof or something, it's good.

MS: Rel equals author tag, too.

RD: I'll give a quick example. If you're not following the blog, check it out. Lisa Barone writes for it all the time. Many of you might know her. She also writes at Small Business Trends. And she's really good. She has a huge name for herself in the industry for being one of the leading bloggers. She started at Bruce Clay, and everybody reads her and eventually, Business Insider came knocking, and they said, "You know what? We would love to republish your content. And we're kind of like not sure about just taking every single post that we have and putting on a business insider We said just take a couple" well eventually they just said, and they started publishing every single post.

The problem is that Business Insider, naturally, is a more powerful domain than Outspoken Media. We have a lot of links, we don't have as many links as they do. On top of that, I think it was that started publishing our posts on Business Insider, and then the Wall Street Journal started doing them, too.

PayPal also picked up one of ours. It just happens because it's good content; everybody wants it. And we often will say, "Yes, go ahead and take one post." But when it becomes our blog feed, what we notice is if you click on the title of a blog post that we had published, we stop ranking number one. Business Insider now ranks number one for us.

And then after that was And then after that was Wall Street Journal, because they're huge. Great. Our content is on amazing sites, and we're getting backlinks from them. It's not great because we don't rank for our own content, and we're SEOs. We had to figure out how do we solve that?

There are a couple of different methods. As Stefan said, the best in my mind is that you don't give the full article. You just give a snippet of the article and then continue reading over here because we want that traffic. We don't want it on your site. The alternative to that is that you use a canonical tag. And that's just tending to make Google look like it's a cross-domain canonical tag. Many of these large publishers are not going to want to put that on their site.

SS: There's no way they'll put that on there.

RD: We had one that said yes, but it takes a lot of, you know, finagling, and most of the time, it's not going to happen for something like that. If it's just, you know, Joe Bob on his blog, I can probably strong-arm him and make him do it. But I'm not going to get these other sites to do it. The other option, as you said, is to go ahead and put something in your bio that says the original post was published over here.  

SS: You can also paraphrase your post, right? What you do is you'd publish with the Wall Street Journal or wherever, and you'd create a paraphrased version, not the same exact version that you would then post on your own blog.

RD: Give them a different feed. This is important for all affiliates. If you have products or anything on your site that you have feeds coming in from a manufacturer, you want to differentiate yourself. Don't just pick up the same feed that you're getting from every other affiliate in your space;, you need to make it unique.  

MS: Just one real quick story of their content being republished, which you all find hysterical.

RD: PayPal.

MS: PayPal picked up one of their articles and republished it and decided to send it out to every single person that was a PayPal merchant.

RD: How many of you have a PayPal account?

MS: You got this email. All of you got our contact. You got this email. In this article.

RD: They didn't tell us this.

MS: In this article. Halfways down, it was a suggestion to use my service on our site. I'm sitting there in the office with two of the other guys and the 800 number starts ringing off the hook left and right.

At the point where we were picking it up, saying, "Hold on one second, hold on, hold on, hold on." I didn't understand what happened. Finally I said, "where did you hear about this? What happened? Oh, PayPal just emailed us and Lisa Barone says that we should use your service." And their phones rang too straight for two days.

RD: Before Thanksgiving, I had 250 contact forms.

MS: We had about 150 phone calls and all contact forms. Your content being republished at times can work for you. This time it worked against you. It worked against us bad. I think we got one lead out of all of you. Our business got at least one lead out of all those calls. I'm not sure how many you guys got.

BC: Okay, we'll take one question at the back, and then I'll cover some of the questions that are coming up.

SS: Can I just add one more point that I think is really important? If you uniquify, and I like that word, I made that up, your content by simply aggregating multiple data sources together, like Wikipedia and Twitter feeds for the keywords that you're trying to rank for and stuff, to add additional content to try and, I don't know, make, make something that's like a mashup that appears unique to the search engines.

Because you're just republishing what everybody else is, is publishing some affiliate feed, some, you know, manufacturer-supplied product copy, whatever, right? That doesn't really work because if you think about like this, that you know, there are these things called Shingles, which are like, if you imagine like a five-word window or just some X number word window, and you run that across.

Two pages to compare. Which one do you know, are these pages unique, or are they different? A lot of these shingles have a common feature between the two pages. You could move paragraphs around, and you could add some additional content from I've seen this before, and it's ridiculous, right?

You're trying to rank for, like, I don't know, Knob Hill Real Estate or San Francisco Real Estate, and you pull out. Nob Hill or San Francisco from Twitter, and just take the latest stuff that mentions Nob Hill as if it's going to be valuable content for your user base.

That's crap. I mean, just that's crap. Don't do that. And just adding a bunch of content that's elsewhere on the web, like in Wikipedia, is not properly unifying your content. Instead, you need to do paraphrasing. You need to, if you want to, like, systematize it and maybe use Amazon Mechanical Turk to have people or text brokers pulling content that's uniquely written for your articles to augment them or to paraphrase them. You know, that's a much better approach than. Reusing Wikipedia content and Twitter content.

RD: Have you had really good success with Mechanical Turk writing content?

SS: Not Mechanical Turk, no, the way I do it, I get really good authors and I pay good money for that. I have an insider at, which was one of those sites completely decimated by a panda. I don't think there's anybody left.

I don't even think the janitor comes anymore. The writers there was this huge stable of really good writers that worked there, and then there were crappy ones too, but I have an insider who knows all the good writers, and she's able to hand pick for me, like different, for my clients that you know, need a writer on, I don't know, men's health and testosterone or on life coaching or what have you.

She can find me a really good writer for that. You have to pay because that doesn't come cheap, but it comes a lot cheaper than, let's say, a year ago, before Panda.

BC: Okay, question at the back.

A: Yes, earlier this month, it was announced that Google had made an undisclosed financial investment in a company that owns a suite of deals and coupon sites.

Will that, do you think Google actually owning or being invested in content is something that will influence the results in the future or is that something we need to be concerned about?

MS: In my opinion, can you name me one product besides YouTube that Google's invested in or actually like been able to take off with and do well? I've seen them take over social networks, make investments, and just try to get into every space. Nine times out of ten, in my opinion, they'd sent it, almost spreading themselves a little too thin. I'm going to the Google deals. I'm going to be interested to see how it takes off. I know; I believe it's being piloted right now in certain cities.

There are actual Google deals with them making the investment, which will probably turn into an acquisition at the end of the day. I think it's just them trying to stick their nose at Groupon and say, "You didn't let us buy you, so we're going to buy all your competitors and try to make a better service."

But it didn't work with Orkut, it hasn't worked with Picasa, and I mean, Google Plus is probably the only stab at a social network so far that they've had that they actually developed in-house. It kind of does look a little like Facebook, but they developed it in-house. As far as the deal space, I don't think. I just see it as them trying to take a stab back at Groupon since Groupon passed on the acquisition offer.

RD: I think it's interesting from the technology side of it. I'll be curious to see what they end up doing with that: rich snippets, place pages, and integration with Google Plus. I think there are some ways in which they're going to try to integrate that with their other products. They could do that very successfully to the point that, as Bruce said, with local, you're starting to see that people type in searches, and if you have a local listing, often Google's now starting to essentially click because people don't have to click through to the site.

At the same time, is it meeting the user's needs because they're finding what they asked for, their phone number or their email address instantly? I don't know; it's questionable. I'll be curious to see. We have a coupon client; we're going to have to watch it.  

SS: I'm personally very cautious about Google because I think that they're going to take over the world, you know. I can think of plenty of instances where Google has reached its tentacles out and dominated or come close, you know, Android, for example; yeah, that was quite a successful acquisition. I mean, they're kicking ass, I would be scared, I'd be scared that they are going to give Groupon a run for their money, they're already doing what's that, what's that thing called honey? Honeypot.

You know, it's like, some of the things are a big, colossal disaster, like Google Wave, you know, but then there, I think Google Plus is going to kick ass. I think it's going to really give Facebook a run for their money, and I would definitely be afraid of Google. I think that it's only a matter of time before we're all in line for the Google implant.

BC: Yeah, I agree. You're going to see coupons start going into other products, but I don't see them being a separate product. But I see it being integrated heavily into the local. That'll happen. Question?  

A: It's my understanding that having really relevant anchor text linking to your site helps boost your SEO. However, if it's overly repetitive, it can be harmful. Do you mind talking about how Google looks at anchor text and a good way to find a healthy balance?  

SS: If you're looking at the anchor text distribution graph, many of these tools do this for you, like Link Research Tools, SEO mods, and Open Site Explorer.

RD: Just Google Webmaster Central.

SS: Yeah. Majestic SEO. Of course, Google Webmaster Central, but that's only for your own site. Right. I want to look at my competitors and see how over-engineered they are under-engineered. And if you're doing too much keyword-rich anchor text, like, you know, it's like, all targeted to one particular page with particular anchor text and its commercial phrase, competitive, and it is at greater percent greater percentage than links that anchor text that's like your URL and your company name or brand name.

That looks pretty engineered, and that's going to get you a keyword-level penalty. You won't find that you're not ranking for anything. You'll still rank for your brand, and other terms and pages will rank, but the page that you targeted with this anchor text, you'll just disappear, and you wonder what the hell happened.

Why is this subpage ranking, and my main page, which is all about this keyword, isn't anywhere? So that's a keyword-level penalty. You can see that through these pie charts that show X percentage of, um, whatever keyword phrase, and then a smaller percentage is your brand name, and that doesn't look right.

BC: Okay. I'm going to walk through some of these fast. You should keep a 301 redirect forever. The only reason to drop a 301 is if you want to resurrect the domain that you're redirecting or if there are no links to the old site; therefore, you don't need to refer them anywhere.

SS: If you're 301 instead of a 404 if the page really shouldn't exist because it's like some garbage URL, I've seen this before, like status code 200 or 301 to the homepage for anything like you could make up adf adf, and it will 301 to the homepage. That's a really stupid idea, or if you're serving up an error page that says, "Oops," but the status code is 200 instead of 404, then Google loses trust in your site.

BC: Make sure a 301 is done right.

MS: And one thing with the 301, I had a friend who got for one of his affiliate sites, got an amazing link for the New York times. And it was for an article that wasn't keyword-rich, which wasn't what he wanted. He came up with the brilliant idea to, "Hey, let me 301, that page that New York Times was linking to my main site to see if it gives me more juice." Never 301 to try to pass link juice in that aspect. It never works.

Google will always pick up, and you won't get the results. If you write a good article, it's going to help your domain and your domain authority at the end of the day. There's no need to ever 301 good content that has a good link to it.

BC: And one of the things that one of the things that Google has said a 301 actually transfers, not just the link juice, it'll transfer the penalty. If you have a site that is penalized and you do a 301, the penalty moves with the 301.

RD: I can share a fun story about that. I worked in-house at an e-commerce site. We bought another website for about a million dollars. You know, something small like that. They decided they wanted to rebrand and redirect.

The old website, which had a keyword in it, to the new one, which was more of like a big brand name. They did this but didn't do thorough research on it. I got brought in right as they were making the switch. And they didn't realize that that old domain that they bought for a million dollars was penalized and had been selling porn, pills, cloaking, and doing everything that you can possibly imagine in this domain.

The next thing you knew, it dropped. And I was, you know, I was kind of young. I was a new SEO, only a couple of years in. I'm thinking, "Okay, we know that there's going to be a little bit of a drop." Even a significant drop does this type of gigantic redirect. They did a full redesign at the same time. It was a disaster. About a month in, we're not coming back. In fact, we're dropping worse and worse and worse. And that's when I realized, "Okay, there's something else here." We dug in and had to fix it. Their entire site, everything was a disaster for about a couple of months, and it took us a long time to come back from that penalty.

And there's nothing they can do because they completely rebranded. They were in the catalog business; they're a multi-channel marketer, and everything was rebranded. They couldn't go back.

SS: Okay, a couple of quick things a 301 transfers the anchor text as well, if you're 301ing from one URL to another URL, and by the way, a 301 does not transfer 100 percent of the link authority.

And there are multiple kinds of 301s in terms of the way that Google treats them. Like there's a bounce type of redirect where that page never existed, that URL never had a page with a status code of 200 at it versus one that it's a crusty old page that's been around for a long time and you're just moving the content from one location to another.

The location, at the new location, that content is still there, and Google has a history of that, the page, and the URL actually containing content versus, let's say, a short URL that never had content. It was always a 301. That doesn't transfer as much link authority as the former, for example, where there was, you know, crusty old content there, and then it's been moved.

But the anchor text transfers. That's why, for the longest time, you'd see that a search on the word women in Google would return an iVillage page, even though the women didn't appear anywhere in the body copy or title tag or whatever that they had acquired many years ago, and then 301 redirected URL to iVillage, that was why they ranked like number one or number two for women.

A penalized 301, so a penalized URL, you can 301, like Ria was saying, the penalty to the destination URL. This is an evil tactic; don't do it, but some black hats have actually 301'd to competitors, as well as buying links for competitors and doing all sorts of blog posts.

Comment spamming to their competitors, and if they don't have enough link authority, then it can actually get them penalized. Especially if they're doing dodgy on-page stuff, too, that further reinforces that they probably are dodgy. This thing that Google says, you know, the bad links aren't going to penalize you if a competitor is doing that to you, is completely bogus because you can completely nail a competitor and bury them if you're a bad person.

Don't do that. And then lastly, if you link baiting and you create an article that's like, you seven funniest commercials about X or, you know, some infographic or some cartoon or personality test or whatever, and you get this brilliant idea to 301 that all that link juice coming into that particular link bait on after all the traffic dies away.

That's a bad idea as well. You want to drive the link authority or page rank from that link bait article to your important landing pages. Yes, you don't want a 301 directly, there and remove that link bait article because, you're eventually going to get nailed for that, if not immediately.

BC: Okay, I have three questions. One had to do with tools and monitors and things like that. I think we all have our favorites. I actually have a full tool set, I'd be wrong to kind of just dwell on it, but I'll comment. Google has changed the API to be a paid API. There are two classes of ranking monitors: those that scrape and those that use an API.

And if you use an API probably not going to see the same thing that end users see. You're going to have to be careful about what ranking monitor you have. If you want to talk to me about tools or others, come up at the end and we'll talk to you about tools. I give mine away for 60 days if you give me information, you know, that kind of stuff.

I think we all can. The ones that seem to make the most sense to talk about is WordPress. We've not talked about WordPress yet. The question is things like what plug ins do you use and how do you optimize WordPress?

SS: Okay, I'm a little bit biased because I wrote a plug-in for WordPress for SEO. It's still a good plug-in. It's kind of old. The screenshots make it look like this thing is ancient, but I'll update those screenshots someday. But the tool itself is still useful. It's called SEO Title Tag, and it allows you to mass edit or mass optimize your title tags across your entire blog.

This includes pages and posts, tag pages, and category pages. Any URL, even like a pagination page, it'll allow you to customize that title tag. Decouples the post title, page title or category title, whatever type of page it is. It decouples that from the title tag, and then you can customize it, you can write your own custom title tag, work in synonyms, various verb tenses, singular, plural, whatever, right?

And it does it in an interface where it's very easy to crank through hundreds and hundreds of previous posts and pages and so forth very quickly. Anyway, it just shows the title tag. A current post name, if you're on posts or pages or tags, if you're on the tag pages interface, shows all those. And then a field next to each one, and if there's already a custom field defined, I mean a custom title tag defined, then it fills that in.

You just go bang, bang, bang, you know, crank through, optimizing all your title tags across your blog. That's a really beneficial activity. If you haven't done that, go back across your old blog posts and, you know, optimize your title tags. Don't go like a page at a time with, uh oh.

And there's also the Yoast SEO plugin. I like that one too. Yoast is

RD: Get anything that you make.

MC: You should install any of his plugins. The guy's amazing. Framework-wise, I'm a huge fan of Thesis. I use Thesis for all of my sites and blogs.  

RD: I'm a big fan of Genesis. I do like Genesis, and there are some great people that have worked on it. Greg Bozer, I know he's made a lot of contributions to that. It's just kind of; it's got this inherent nice SEO solid background to it, and Thesis does as well. I'm gonna go through some quick plugins that we use.

These are just the base things. No matter who we're working on, we go through them. Google Analytics for WordPress. I'm gonna do this kind of fast. Permalink Redirect that's one of Yoast's, and it's really important. It will help you handle redirects. FeedBurner plugin. Google XML Sitemaps. WordPress Database Backup.

Make sure you have some kind of database backup. Absolutely important. Headspace 2 is a competitor to SEO Title Tag. They're both great, it just depends on the client. Get recent comments, which is gonna help Similar Posts. I really like similar posts. It's going to help discover other content that is similar to the posts that you're on, puts a little plugin down below.

You can bring in four links to other posts. It's easy but helps get links to that old content. Like we were talking about subscribe to comments. That's not really an SEO one. And then WP super cash, just get some kind of cash plugin. It's up to you which one you like.

MS: Yeah, WordPress tends to be a resource hog, especially when you have a lot of pages and get spidered. I've seen some of my WordPress sites slow to an absolute crawl when they're being hit by one spider. You definitely want to have caching in place. Absolutely.

RD: And if you use plugins, that'll slow it down ridiculously. A one-quick note on WordPress: I would not install your social plugins personally on your blog's homepage.

Just do it on the post because, depending on whether you're using Facebook, Twitter or everything else, it just eats up that load time. Also, Scribe SEO is kind of fun. If you have a lot of people publishing content to your site and you're not the person putting that content on there, you want to make sure that they are doing really nice, well-optimized posts.

You can just put Scribe SEO. It's got little check boxes. Did you create your title tag? Did you create your meta description? Is your content ready? And it's just like a check-off list. If you know, you have an affiliate site and a whole bunch of people creating content that might help.

BC: One of the things that we did to our blog is we just took the entire right-hand column, all the archive and blog roll and that entire 200-link area. We just made a mod to our own that put it into an iframe and took it off the page. We only had, you know, 30 links on the blog post instead of 250.

That allowed us to take inbound links from somebody linking to the blog post and move them more effectively within our site.

RD: Wait, is your blog role in that? Is your blog role in that?

BC: Yes. You're welcome. We have other ways. We just don't have to post it on a thousand blog posts.

RD: That's okay. We use nofollows on everything but the blog's homepage.

SS: I'll throw in a few more. WP sticky. Do you guys know what a sticky post is? Who knows what a sticky post is? Raise your hand, I better explain it. A sticky post always floats to the top, and this gives you keyword-rich intro copy that helps set a stable keyword theme for the page, right?

If it's a tag page or a category page, your keyword theme or focus for that page is kind of random, isn't it? Because it's just the latest 10 posts of the moment. And if you have really great excerpts or, and the other one the excerpt should be unique from the content of the post, right?

You don't want to just take the first two paragraphs or whatever, use the more tag, and now you've got duplicate content all over the place, right? You have a unique excerpt. That is WordPress, and then that's what gets republished, and there's a bit, a couple sentences of code that will allow you to override the, to use the underscore excerpt instead of the first, you know, paragraphs or whatever, or the, the whole post.

If it's defined, do that, but also this sticky post, there is sticky post functionality built into WordPress, but it doesn't work right. You want to use this plug-in so that you have a post that, let's say you have a category called blue widgets, and you want to rank for blue widgets; you write a post that introduces the category of blue widgets and you know, synonyms and so forth.

And by making it a sticky post. It always is at the top no matter how old it is, and then your most recent posts are underneath that. Keyword prominence is important, much more important than keyword density. Having the important keywords high up in the page versus like randomly or maybe at the bottom or not at all, this is a much better approach.

WP total cache I like better than Super Cache. There is a plug-in that maybe most folks aren't aware of, which a friend of mine coded. It's called Search Commander. It does some analysis of the page, gives you some tips of what to optimize and so forth. Just randomly, there's a plug-in that has nothing to do with SEO from the like on the page.

But it's really cool for off-page in terms of link baiting; it creates personality tests. You could, like my daughter, create a whole blog of personality tests. How boy crazy are you? What designer handbag are you? And all that sort of crazy stuff. Right? I wrote up the plugin or actually had one of my coders create this plugin, which does personality tests.

And these can, if you have a really good personality test, this can go viral. Like what would my flesh taste like to a cannibal? Have you seen that personality test? That's a creepy one.

MS: How many Justin Bieber's could you, what's that?

SS: How many five-year-olds can you take on in a fight?

RD: That's basically in Matt Inman and a plugin.

SS: Okay, we've got I don't know about that one. This one I had coded about two years ago.

RD: Inman. Matt Inman. Oatmeal.

SS: Right. I'm talking about the oatmeal. Yeah. That's an example, but I don't know of a plugin that does this. I had to create it, and I'm happy to share it with you guys.

It's not out there on the internet. I decided to pull it offline. If you want it, I'll give it to you for free. Maybe just come up afterwards and give me a card.

BC: Okay. As a general comment, we are very close to the end of our time. Stephan has a stack of books to give away. He is ready to give away 20 books.

If you want to give away, get a book, you can come up, get a book. All of us certainly are gonna answer questions. We can answer them all day long. As I mentioned, if you want my tools, bring me a card that says tools on it. I'll give you 60 days of tools. Everybody else,

RD: I'll give you a hug.

BC: I'm in line for the hug. Please thank our panel. It is now lunchtime. Thank you. 

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