Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Google Rolls Out Biggest Update to Algorithm in Years

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Menlo Park, CA -  At an event held today in the garage where the company was founded, Google announced that they quietly rolled out the biggest update to their search algorithm in years.  The new update is being called Hummingbird, sticking with the theme of naming their updates after animals (e.g. - Panda and Penguin).

The news comes as no surprise.  Search marketers have been speculating that something changed in late August (August 21-22 is the most common guess), and some had even coined the change as "Google Phantom," a nod to the fact that something had happened, but nothing official had been announced.

Dips in traffic are customary after such an event, and there is a good chance that some sites could see substantial dips, especially if those sites are using spammy tactics to game the system.  Even the strongest, above-board sites will probably experience what I call "the wobble effect."  When a big change occurs it generally throws all of the search results out of whack when it first hits.  Sites you've never seen before are suddenly on the first page and some long-standing sites seem to vanish.  Over the next few weeks, though, the solid sites that aren't now being penalized will gradually rise back up to their original standing.  They don't fall, they just wobble.  (And as any fan of science can tell you, a wobble can turn a desert into an oasis).

But, like I said in my previous post today, every time a change like this occurs there is an upside.  If this update goes further to lessen the positive impact of linking schemes, fake reviews, and spun content than those of us who follow "ethical SEO" tactics can only benefit.  

And then there is the less obvious benefit:  it just might be okay to have less traffic, as long as you get more relevant traffic. So much of the traffic we all receive has no value.  We sometimes take over sites from other providers and discover that a huge portion of their traffic is from STUMBLEUPON.  This is okay for a blogger, but is there really a single person on this planet who picks a lawyer because they stumbled upon their site?  I hope not.  

If we think about what Google's goal is, then we should welcome the changes.  The only traffic our clients really want are the visitors who are looking for a lawyer or are doing research on the law because they don't yet realize they need a lawyer. Our job has always been to make sure that our clients sites look like a resource to the search engines for people with just those needs.  

According to Amit Singhal, Google VP, Hummingbird is primarily aimed at giving Google’s search engine a better grasp at understanding concepts instead of mere words. "The change needed to be done because people have become so reliant on Google that they now routinely enter lengthy questions into the search box instead of just a few words related to specific topics." 

It is too soon to say what changes will need to be made, if any, to existing sites to get them in line with the new algorithm, but rest assured that we will make whatever adjustments are necessary to make the most of this update. 



Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Fake Reviews: Why We Have Never Offered Them, and Why You Should Never Buy Them

Thursday, September 26, 2013

As widely reported last week, regulators in New York state have begun to crack down on businesses that post fake reviews to boost their own or their client’s businesses.  Businesses that provide these fake reviews, many of which are SEO companies, have been the primary target of this first wave of crackdowns, but no one should think the investigations will end here.

“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. “When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”

Another point that has been reiterated over and over is that while it might be annoying to be fooled by a fake review for a restaurant, it is potentially much more costly to believe the glowing report for the more professional services.  As the New York Times put it, “the investigation uncovered a wide range of services buying fake reviews that could do more permanent damage: dentists, lawyers, even an ultrasound clinic.”

At Omnipresent we have never provided fake reviews for our clients.  In times where we’ve noticed clients who have fake reviews from previous marketing efforts we have always advised you have them removed.  Beyond the obvious ethics issues, to put it bluntly you are risking your entire practice if you take part in a fake review scheme.  In California, and presumably most states, the Bar Association takes a very clear stand against its members participating in any advertising that is misleading.   Fake reviews seems to clearly fall in that category.

The Silver Lining

Here is the good news:  as states, bar associations and presumably review sites start cracking down on “the cheaters” those of us who have stayed honest with our reviews can only benefit.  Reviews are still one of the most powerful tools on the internet, and you should certainly encourage your clients to leave them for you if offered (preferably on Yelp or Google).  

The bottom line: never pay anyone for reviews, never offer anything for reviews, and never ever hire a company to provide you with reviews from people you never provided services.  The short term gain is not worth the long term pain.




Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Why An Attorney Should Use Facebook and Google +

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Working with attorneys over the past 7 years has taught me something.  Not very many want to try anything new until it's been proven...and then it's too late.  When I first started working with law firms a simple website with decent title and meta tags would provide an unbelievable ROI.  Attorneys were tentative about building websites.  Some didn't think they needed it because they got all of their clients from referrals.  Others didn't trust the internet and some "old school" attorneys didn't feel comfortable "advertising" online.  By the way, talk to Blockbuster about waiting too long to jump on the internet train.  Oh wait, they were bankrupted by companies like Netflix.

Now here we are, 7 years later and almost every law firm has a website.  The number of potential clients hasn't increased exponentially but the number of attorneys online has.  So, how do you differentiate yourself?  How do you stay one step ahead of your competitors?  The answer...be an early adopter.  You don't need to jump on every band wagon but when Facebook has almost a billion users and Google puts out a new product, you should check it out.

Will you get any clients from Facebook?  Probably not.  At least not this year but you never know what Facebook will turn into.  They are already working with Bing to include Facebook entries into their results page.  The age old adage "you get out of it what you put in" really applies here.  Setting up a Facebook page and letting it sit there does you no good.  This isn't traditional marketing.  You're not buying an ad in the YellowPages.  That page should be used to push out information about your firm or showcase your knowledge in your field.  I say this to all of my clients, you need to give in order to receive when it comes to the internet (take this blog for example).

Google + will probably have a better impact in the near future on your online marketing.  It allows you to customize your page and use the status section as an external blog.  You can also tie your Google local account into your + page.  Make sure to do your research before setting up your page.  You want to maximize the effort you spend on your social media so make sure you're doing it correctly.  Look at other accounts that perform well and research what they are doing.

Of course, you can always wait until these new resources reach maturity but by then it will be too late.



Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Have You Been Penalized By Google?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Matt Cutts released this blog today:

"If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.

If we've taken more severe action on your site, you’ll likely notice a drop in search traffic, which you can see in the “Search queries” feature Webmaster Tools for example. As always, if you believe you have been affected by a manual spam action and your site no longer violates the Webmaster Guidelines, go ahead and file a reconsideration request. It’ll take some time for us to process the request, but you will receive a followup message confirming when we’ve processed it.

Update: Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on this change. An engineer worked over the weekend based on the suggestions here, and starting on Sunday we made two changes so you can tell the "individual links aren't trusted" messages from the "our opinion of your entire site is affected" messages.

First off, we changed the messages themselves that we'll send out to make it clear that for a specific incident "we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole." So anyone that gets a message going forward can tell what type of action has occurred.

The second change is that these messages won't show the yellow caution sign in our webmaster console at http://google.com/webmasters/ like our other webspam notifications. This reflects the fact that these actions are much more targeted and don't always require action by the site owner.

Thanks again for the feedback, and we'll continue to work on ways to provide more useful and actionable information for site owners."

If this post by Mr. Cutts makes sense to you then you are doing more SEO work than legal work.  This post is meant for those who were "damaged" by Google Penguin.  Google Penguin was released to strip away the benefit that some law firms were getting from buying links.  This has been a common practice for quite some time but Google finally decided to put its foot down.  Law firms who may have gotten away with this practice for months or even years are now paying the price.  

If you are an attorney reading this, the best piece of advice I can give you is to not try to trick the system but to work within it.  That means, provide information on your website (and other online profiles) that will be helpful to the legal community in general.  You can fool some people some of the times but you can't fool Google for very long.




Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Yet Another Move by Google to Enhance Social Media's Role in Search

Friday, February 18, 2011

As we have written about before, Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) is creeping into the world of search.  It makes perfect sense, really.  A big part of Google's traditional algorithm is evaluating how many links come into a web site, and who those links are from.  Think of it as peer review.  

But in that scenario, the "peers" are other web sites, not people you know.  Ah, but the people I know are all on my social networks.  What if Google and the other search engines could know who my friends are and then cross reference what they like when giving me answers to my queries?

That is precisely what they are doing with the announcement of Social Search (see Google's blog post here). 

This isn't an entirely new product.  Previously, Google announced the incorporation of similar things in the SERPS, but this takes it to a new level. 

Conspicuously missing from Google's Social Search, however, is Facebook.   The two companies have not been playing nice lately (Facebook has been raiding Google's best employees, and recently Google stopped allowing Facebook to access its users Gmail accounts, etc), and I assume that is a factor in all of this.  But for Social Search to really have an impact, it is going to need to include Facebook eventually, and I am sure that it will.  (The other scenario, which is certainly possible, is that Facebook will finally add a SEARCH feature that only shows results from your connections). 

The bottom line is this:  search is changing, and it is obvious that it is moving towards a much more customizable and socially based system.  If your business isn't yet listed on the Social Sites, soon you might find yourself no longer listed on most people's search results either. 

MORE INFORMATION:

Why A Business Should Be On Facebook


A Video From Google About Their Social Search Update:





Omnipresent SEO Blog Posts

Great Article in the New York Times "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yesterday's New York Times had a great article about the SEO tactics employed by JC Penney's SEO Company that initially vaulted the JC Penney web site to the top of the Google rankings, but that eventually were then flagged by Google as being in violation of their rules. 

This brings to mind something we always talk about with our clients:  short term versus long term gain. 
As the article demonstrates, using some of these "black hat" SEO tactics can certainly work.  JC Penney was showing up #1 in the Search Results for searches of "Samsonite", "skinny jeans," "area rug," and hundreds, if not thousands, more keywords.  If you had asked JC Penney a few weeks ago if the strategy was paying off, I'm sure they would have called it an unqualified success.  And why not?  As the NYT article mentions, a JC Penny spokesperson was crowing about the company's December sales, saying “Internet sales through jcp.com posted strong growth in December, with significant increases in traffic and orders for the key holiday shopping periods of the week after Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas.”

But now the celebration is over.   Google is on to JC Penney, and suddenly they aren't ranking #1 for much anymore.  In fact, in many cases they aren't on the top10 PAGES anymore.  Worse, they will now probably be put under a much higher scrutiny by Google, which will make their future SEO campaigns all the more dangerous.  Even a well-meaning campaign can cross the line occasionally, which normally is never even noticed, let alone punished.  Recitative black-hat behavior, however, would seem a much more punishable offense. 

The December sales results notwithstanding, it is hard to say that JC Penney got what it paid for.  The thousands of links they purchased are no longer of any value.  I'm sure they spent a lot of money, and today they have nothing to show for it. 

Properly executed SEO is a much slower, more genuine process.   The goal should be to make a web site the most user-friendly, valuable resource for users.  If you provide users with invaluable information, the links, the rankings, the traffic and the page rank will follow.  It can take years to establish such a strong site, but when you perform SEO like this, it makes it much harder to get knocked off your pedestal.  It's a lesson JC Penney learned the hard way. 

But now the celebration is over.   Google is on to JC Penney, and suddenly they aren't ranking #1 for much anymore.  In fact, in many cases they aren't on the top10 PAGES anymore.  Worse, they will now probably be put under a much higher scrutiny by Google, which will make their future SEO campaigns all the more dangerous.  Even a well-meaning campaign can cross the line occasionally, which normally is never even noticed, let alone punished.  Recitative black-hat behavior, however, would seem a much more punishable offense. 

The December sales results notwithstanding, it is hard to say that JC Penney got what it paid for.  The thousands of links they purchased are no longer of any value.  I'm sure they spent a lot of money, and today they have nothing to show for it. 
Properly executed SEO is a much slower, more genuine process.   The goal should be to make a web site the most user-friendly, valuable resource for users.  If you provide users with invaluable information, the links, the rankings, the traffic and the page rank will follow.  It can take years to establish such a strong site, but when you perform SEO like this, it makes it much harder to get knocked off your pedestal.  It's a lesson JC Penney learned the hard way. 





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