Here are questions we received for our monthly marketing Q&A session. This month we received a lot of questions about online marketing, SEO and other relevant topics. If you have any questions you would like for us to answer, leave them in the comments below or click here to email us a question.
The following questions are from February 2011:
– Google Penalties
– Article Marketing
– Mobile Marketing
– Social Media
Q: Why were JC Penney and Overstock.com penalized by Google? How long will their penalties last?
JC Penney was penalized for using link farms to increase the rankings of specific product pages and Overstock.com was penalized for obtaining .EDU links in exchange for discounts on merchandise. Each site incurred a manual penalty where Google goes into their software and adjusts their rankings as opposed to an algorithmic penalty which is automatic and is removed once the infraction has been corrected.
In a Q&A panel at SXSW yesterday, Matt Cutts stated that Google tries to match their penalty with the severity of the offense and that something like having white links on a white background could incur a 30 day penalty but penalties for systemic abuse can last much longer. Considering the methods used by JC Penney and Overstock, it could be months before everything gets reset and even then, where will they rank considering the loss of links?
Q: Should site owners be held accountable for penalties incurred by their search marketing company?
A: Absolutely. Ignorance of the law and is not a defense. CMOs need to understand that just asking for a ranking report is not sufficient, you need to know your SEO and link building strategy and the exact components that are going into it. While you don’t need to be familiar with every little aspect of the process, you need to understand how your links are being built.
Q: How do I know if Google’s algorithm change helped or hurt my site?
A: Don’t look at ranking reports for the answer. Ranks are always changing and if you gained 2 spots or lost 2 spots for a particular keyword over the last 3 weeks, it has more to do with natural variance from ongoing SEO than any low quality content issues. What I would do is go into Google Analytics and do a comparison of search traffic before and after February 23.
Select a date range after 2/23 and then click compare to past and select a date range before 2/23. Setup an advanced segment to remove keywords that contain your brand or staff members and then compare the actual search data. Depending on the length of time and difference in search data you should be able to establish whether your site gained or lost traffic as a result of the change.
Q: Are paid links bad?
A: Paid links are bad regardless of whether or not you get caught buying them. You simply have to weigh the possibility of a penalty against the possible gains in rank. If you’re site is having difficulty gaining traction in the SERPs, paid links are not the answer.
Q: What is Google’s stance on article marketing?
A: For the last decade, article marketing has been the cornerstone of many SEO campaigns. Write as many articles as possible, put them on as many sites as possible, use different anchor text and destination URLs and watch the ranks go up and traffic roll in. Of course the problem with that strategy is that in order to accomplish it, you had to put out thousands of articles and that involved “article spinning” which was creating a template, using a dynamic insertion process to create new articles then adding the custom anchors and destination URLs. As a result, article marketing sites were often flooded with the same article written hundreds of different ways and often just breaking the minimum word count.
Google is not opposed to article marketing they just want users to create quality content in the process which means that the value of “article spinning” is now greatly diminished. Article sites took a huge hit when Google released the farmer update and some sites like Ezinearticles have responded by increasing minimum word counts and editorial scrutiny.
Article marketing is still a viable strategy but if you are spending a lot of time creating quality content, wouldn’t it make sense to publish it on your own site instead?
Q: Are phones faster than computers?
A: While phones are definitely getting faster, they aren’t necessarily faster than a laptop or desktop computer. However mobile processors are now able to handle complex tasks and in the next few years, phones will continue to improve. (It’s even been rumored that the iPhone 5 will have a dual-core processor). Regardless of how fast a smartphone can process data, site owners need to keep mobile visitors in mind and make sure their sites are mobile friendly especially with locally targeted businesses.
Q: How do you improve your Twitter account?
A: We wrote an earlier post about improving your Twitter bio but that’s just one component. Many people struggle to attract followers and become relevant on Twitter and if you’re struggling to find an audience, the last thing you should do is follow 500 accounts and hope they follow you back. Rather focus on creating and sharing content that people will want to discuss or retweet. Becoming both an active producer and sharer is a great way to build a natural presence as opposed to following random accounts that have no motivation to follow you back.