Podcast 15 – Search Engine Optimisation for 2012 post Penguin

Show Notes:

The SEO world has recently been dealt a bit of a shock in the form of Google’s ‘Penguin’ algorithm update.

Learn what this means for your SEO in 2012 and what you should be focused on to dominate your niche online.

And who better to learn this from than well known Australian SEO expert Dan Petrovic?

Dan is founder of DejanSEO, a company he has built from scratch and which now has offices throughout Australia as well as in Europe. He is clearly extremely passionate and knowledgeable about white hat SEO.

Nice to see DejanSEO ranks in the top few results for the hyper competitive terms “Search Engine Optimisation” and “SEO”.

I feel he knows things about the link graph that would impress Matt Cutts himself….

I highly recommend you follow him on Google Plus and on Twitter @DejanSEO

 

Listen above, or if you prefer to read:

Philip:  Welcome to another episode of the online marketing secrets podcast where we interview only the world’s best experts in online marketing.  Today I have an awesome guest, Dan Petrovic.  He is an SEO Consultant in Australia.  Nice to see that he ranks very, very highly for Search Engine Optimization, and SEO, in the top  one or two results which is great.

He’s a speaker at events.  In fact, I saw him recently at SMX and he had a fantastic  session.  He’s a lecturer as well.  And I think one of the things that stands out most about him is his research and his analysis of the link graph.  So he’s an awesome SEO expert so welcome, welcome to the show Dan.

Dan:    Thank you very much and thanks for your kind words.

Philip:  It’s always good to hear about a little bit about your background and how you got started.  So you own a SEO agency based primarily in Brisbane but also offices in Europe.  How did you get started?

Dan:    We’ve got three offices in Australia.  Our head office is based in Brisbane and we’ve also got offices in Melbourne and Sydney and also setting up or have set up businesses in Europe as well.

So the way the whole thing started was basically my decision to step outside of agency work and start my own show and the primary reason for that was because I was never quite happy with how people were doing links on agency side of things.

And that was one of the primary reasons and I wanted to set up my own stuff and do everything properly.  So, in our early days, we started mainly as a link building company.

That’s why I’m mentioning links in initial stage.  So from link building we moved into strategy and the majority of our clients ended up being corporates until we formed a small business division called 1-2-3 SEO in addition to the main brand Dejan SEO.   So we now service both SME’s and the corporate market.

Philip: Nice, cool.  And, what do you love about SEO in the first place?  What is it that excites you about it?

Dan:    Well, it was – actually, before I started consulting professionally, I had one of my own projects that was a music portal and I noticed that I can quite easily, if I change a few things, I can quite easily get the rankings up.

What I didn’t realize at that time – it wasn’t all about technical aspects, it was my content that was generating all these links and this traffic to the site.  But it was all very interesting and I liked that investigative process.

So my analytical nature contributed to me drilling deeper into it.  The more effort I would throw at the website, the more outcome I would get.  So it was very practical experience to the point where I decided to kind of pause my studies at university, go into the industry, get some experience and then I went back to university just to finish my degree.

But by that time I had already established my name in the industry and it’s been one of those things, you just get hooked and you get kind of addicted to bringing that result further and further up.  It’s a bit of a passion.  Most people get excited about that immediate impact of SEO.

Philip:  So, well, I mean, that’s a big, that’s a interesting point because my agency is more on the Pay Per Click side and often compare the Pay Per Click, one of the advantages is around immediacy because generally SEO takes a longer time frame.  What do you think of that?

Dan:    Yeah.  That’s what I was saying – people do get excited about the potential of having that impact straight away but what they don’t realize that it’s the main benefit of SEO work is in the long term gain.

One example is that SEO doesn’t just bring traffic.  SEO means there’s ability in results and people use Google every day.  So if your brand is actually visible for searches every time they search.  If you are persistently in the results over years, you are actually going to build up a brand without being on TV, without being on radio or press quite cheaply.  Without any money put in but SEO.

So it’s a little bit of a similar scenario with Pay Per Click as well.  If your name is always there on the site, you are kind of visible to people.  So what we’re noticing is in fact combining PPC and SEO can be an excellent strategy and that’s nothing new.

But there have been some studies, academic studies, showing that combining paid and organic results can actually improve brand perception and brand awareness increasing clicks by 30%-40%.

Philip:  Yeah, agreed, I’ve seen that.  Yeah, we don’t offer SEO as a service anymore.  We did in the past but we’ve chosen to specialize just around the PPC but we don’t underestimate the value of SEO.  I mean we do it for ourselves, I think it’s absolutely critical specially for small businesses.  So we love it and hence the show.

What are your thoughts on the ability now of small businesses to still compete within Google, right?  So everybody is doing SEO, everybody has been investing in it.  Some businesses, small or medium size businesses have been investing in it for a good couple of years.  Is it becoming really, really hard to get good success?

Dan:    No, not really.  There has been a small window of opportunity, maybe not so small, but time wise there was a great deal of – a few years that a small business could actually enter and start competing in the results.

Right now, it’s a little bit harder because most of Google’s metrics are geared towards authority and trust.  So big brands get a big push, specially since the latest algorithm tweaks.

But Google did not forget about small businesses, right.  There is still a place for small businesses, for local businesses to compete and that is definitely two parts.

One part is their algorithm which has been tweaked to push local results.  If you search something from Sydney, you will finding a lot more Sydney results.  If you are searching plumber and you are physically located in Sydney, you are going to start to see it more in organic results.

This update has been rolled out internationally and now it’s pretty much everywhere including Australia.  So this is one side and of course local businesses still have a choice of entering themselves in Google Places and configuring that to rank well as well.

So Google Places or some people call it Map Results – somebody is not clear on the term – and organic results and search engines can combine really well and they do.  Sometimes they blend.

So that’s the opportunity for small businesses.  So it’s not – all hope is not lost.

Philip:  And do you find that most businesses that you speak to now get it.  They understand the value of it.  I remember selling SEO services in 2006 and it was quite a difficult sell because of the intangibility and people not being familiar with it.

Now it’s, yeah, we’ve heard of SEO, we get the value, absolutely, we understand its importance.  But my next big challenge is how do I find somebody trustworthy to actually do it for me if I want to outsource it?  Would you agree with that?

Dan:    Yeah, that’s definitely the case.  There’s still a fair amount of business owners who are not quite sure what the best marketing practice is for them.  Should I go PPC?  Should I go SEO or should I go affiliate marketing?

My advice is look at the whole thing holistically and make sure that you cover all your bases.  You can’t really rely on Google for all your traffic.  That would be unsafe.  Can you really sleep well at night knowing that all your traffic comes from one single source?

Philip:  Absolutely.

Dan:    Yeah, so you need to diversify your income streams, you need to diversify your marketing stream.  So, for example, for my own business, we fractionally rely on PPC, a great deal of course on SEO and we’ve got various sponsorships, we put ads in papers and all sorts of things.

And I think that’s always been the case.  One thing that businesses should be mindful of when dealing with SEO is that DIY approach is not always a bad thing if you have time and commitment.  But, just keep in mind that SEO companies are meant to act kind of like what accountants do.

They brief and update on the latest tax laws so making sure that you’re not actually in breach of the latest regulations.  A good SEO company will do the same thing.  They will be up to date with the latest news from Google.

They will read what people from Google say such as Matt Cutts and what they say is a good practice and what they say is a bad practice.  And recently, Google has shown a little bit of aggression towards websites that exhibit manipulative tactics and link schemes and that type of thing.

But the thing is that most small businesses didn’t realize that they were in breach of guidelines.  Somebody offers them to exchange links via email, they go, okay, why not?  He says it’s going to increase our traffic.  They don’t know that they are doing wrong.

And this where a professional SEO company steps in.  They are here to advise and moderate the whole process around onsite optimization and link building making sure that small business does not get in trouble through violation of Google’s guidelines.

Philip:  Excellent, well that’s a pretty good segway into the main topic for today.  So listeners probably know that Google has released its or updated its algorithm.  So bit of a change and has caused a fair bit of pain in the online world.  Perhaps you can give us a little bit of an introduction as to what they have done and explain a little bit about the so called Penguin update?

Dan:    Yes, there’s been a lot of talk and chatter about this but generally there’s been only 3% of all queries in Google that have been affected.  So although there’s been a lot of dust and noise about it, the update hasn’t affected all of search results and all the websites.

But those who have been affected have been affected quite severely.  So just to explain, Penguin is a pretty much just a funny name for Google’s latest algorithm addition and that algorithm is designed to target web spam and manipulative SEO tactics.

They pretty much released that algorithm in April and they announced it on 24th April through their Google Webmasters Blog and that’s definitely a place that any savvy business owner and any responsible SEO company should read and monitor because that’s pretty much the main, one of the main channels of communication between Google and webmasters.

So, Penguin is just another in a series of search quality algorithms.  It’s not the first one and it’s not the last one.  There will be many more and there have been some in the past.

There’s been Panda algorithm which targets low content and duplication and Penguin, unlike Panda, actually affects websites that exhibit manipulative tactics.  What that means is basically that websites that have tried to cheat the system or over optimize.  Some people call it over optimization penalty.

Let’s give you an example.  For example, we’ve got a website that does plumbing in Melbourne.  So people will be linking to them with their business name, Bob’s Plumbing.  They will be linking through words like Click Here or Visit Website or just the URL but SEO’s have figured out that if you use the anchor text word, Melbourne plumbing in every link that you put online, that you can gain higher rankings.

So people used and abused this method for many years.  And, I’m quite surprised that it’s only now in 2012 that Google has kind of put a stop on this.  So basically you are at high risk if you have used exactly the same phrase a lot, in a lot of instances of all your links outside of your own website.

Basically this includes directories and article submission, press releases, whatever effort you had, including guest blogging and link exchanges.  So that was one side of things and the other one is when Google notices manipulative tactics on the website itself such as keyword stuffing and article spinning.

They have never liked that sort of stuff and they still don’t.  Again, Penguin is just a name and I would say it’s just an addition to an existing algorithm that looks for spam.  Basically what Google are saying to us, we don’t want you cheat.  We want you to show us the real links that people use to link to you and through editorial content, through real purpose because they wanted to link to you, not because you paid them or encouraged them to.

Philip:  So Google are just getting better at doing what they always wanted to do which is show the most relevant high quality content at the top of their results.

And this going to be happening all the time, I mean there was something like 200 or 300 minor tweaks to the algorithm last year and I don’t think business owners should get too worked up about what all those changes are necessarily in terms of individual changes but focus on the fundamentals which really don’t change too much in my opinion.

You could say there is more of an influence on social triggers and all that sort of stuff now but a lot of it is actually logical I think in my mind.

Dan:    Yeah.  The problem that I find is that, perhaps, this is the wrong approach from Google.  In my opinion, they should have just discounted the links that they find to be unnatural.  They call those links inorganic links.

So they should have just discounted those and just not count them in for rankings because a business owner, like I said, may unknowingly do something that is in breach of Google’s guidelines and get themselves in trouble.

But there is advice and there are guidelines that Google has uploaded to their website.  If you search Google for Google’s SEO guidelines, it’s a PDF.  I encourage everyone to read that whether they be a small business or a SEO company, I think they should be aware of that.

Because in that document, everything that Google wants you to do in terms of SEO is in there.  Link building is definitely not one of those things.  Google does not want you to manipulate the link signal.

That’s not to say that link signals cannot be used to your advantage but I would say play with moderation.  So be careful and don’t use anything that will be obvious, blatant spam.

Now pretty much how you realize that you’ve been affected is pretty much through sudden drop in rankings or you might – your phone might stop ringing.  But one important thing to do is to actually listen to what Google is saying to you.

So basically you can receive an email from Google prior to a penalty and be warned that it’s coming and give you an opportunity, give you a chance to clean up the mess that you may have made in the past.

Philip:  Yeah, that’s a good point.  Actually there was a Sydney SEO meet up last week when they had a ex-Google engineer from the quality team talking about this.

Dan:    Yes I saw that.

Philip:  It was a really good session.  Were you at the session?

Dan:    No, I was in Brisbane but I saw photos and summaries after it.

Philip:  Yeah, it was pretty interesting, saying that if you run a legitimate business and you have Webmaster Tool set up which is the basic set up in any good SEO company will set up Webmaster Tools for you.

That’s where you get notified and if you are a legit business and you appear to be doing something bad, they will actually send you some warning saying you’re contravening their guidelines.  If you are just a dodgy website, they will just – they won’t even bother sending you any warnings.  They will just drop you from the index altogether.

Dan:    Yeah that’s right.  Because it’s not only the links that you’ve made in the last 12 months that can hurt you.  You could have been doing some bad stuff five years ago.  You may have signed up for a link exchange.  You don’t even realize that that’s there.

So another benefit of signing up to Google Webmasters Tools is you can click into your link section within Google Webmasters Tools.  You can actually have a look at your links.

I would encourage everyone to go in and have a look and see what’s in there.  If you see a lot of what you would consider spam or rubbish, I would encourage you to go there and try to remove all that stuff.

There’s even been attempts of other companies sabotaging their competitors by putting bad links towards their websites representing themselves as the company.  So it looks like an SEO attempt.

Philip:  You’ve got to have far too much time on your hands and to be far too mean to get involved.  I mean that’s some serious amount of work and pretty negative work isn’t it?

Dan:    Exactly, but the thing is it doesn’t only effect – I think what we need, we need a statement from Google to say you cannot penalize your competitor by attempting easy to get links.  If I go and spam bulletin boards and forum profiles and that sort of stuff.  If I do that, barriers to interest is pretty low, anyone can do that.  I can pay somebody $5 bucks to create a thousand links.

So we really need a statement from Google to say this doesn’t work.  So we get this surge of anti SEO spam can stop because what’s happening is they are damaging the brain and not just – because effectively somebody is seeing your URL and you’ve just spammed that website.  It’s reflecting negatively on your brand.  It’s kind of like anti marketing.

Philip:  So the link building process, I mean, Google as you said, doesn’t want you to go out and build links.  Link building has just been the industry’s response to appearing – trying to reverse engineer the algorithm I guess.

So how should a business actually go about it?  How do you need to build in that process or get as many links as possible in the day to day processes of your business?

Dan:    Well pretty much, all your old school stuff is a matter of history.  You are definitely not supposed to be using techniques like article marketing.  That’s definitely history.  Article spinning was never a good idea but a lot of people did it.

So don’t try to do anything that is easy.  Anything that’s too easy is too good to be true.  So basically, you pay $20 bucks and your press release goes out and there’s hundreds of links.

So article marketing, spinning – press releases, you should be doing, but for the sake of PR and not for links.  You can include a normal generic link at the bottom of your press release or link to a table or a piece of data that is relevant to the press release but not trying to manipulate Google’s results through anchor texts and through links.

How to get links now?  I would encourage to look at all the good practices that were good before these updates.  So basically exploring your relationships in the business world, making sure that you signed up for your industry events, participation in conferences.

One good way is have a look at who’s your web design company.  Web design companies often sign themselves in at the bottom of your website.  If they have signed themselves, why aren’t they linking back to you.

If they’ve built your website, it’s likely you’re in their portfolio.  So you can approach your web design company and say, I see you are displaying my logo and there’s my website that you built in your portfolio, do you mind just linking to me.

That’s a perfectly good link and like, from a very good and well linked company.  So that would bring good benefit to you.  Same thing with all your suppliers, graphic designers, even outside of digital world, cleaning companies, catering companies supplying to you, whatever business connection you have, you should explore to see if they have a website and if there is an opportunity for you to acknowledge that relationship somewhere on their website by linking to you.

I’ll give you an example.  We’ve got an office here in Brisbane at Brisbane Technology Park, right.  And this is a large complex with affiliation with government even, and they have a website.  On that website, what we realized, there’s a tenant directory.  So what we did, we contacted the receptionist say who do we get in touch with to update this website to include ourselves in the tenant directory.

No problem.  Of course we had a tenancy, they’ll give us a link.  So this is exploring your personal relationships, business relationships and another great way to get links is to observe your existing links.

So log into Google Webmasters Tools or use something like Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer, take a look at what people are already linking naturally and ask yourself why did people link to this page.  Why did people link to this PDF?  Why do people link to this tool or template that I have on my site?  And if you realize that this type of material attracts links, perhaps you should replicate.

By replicating what we call linkable assets, you’ll be encouraging people to do more.  So one thing that you can do – once you upload useful material like that, even if you find good material and you replicate it, you can have a little outreach campaign and announce it.  Tell people that it exists.  Use social media for that, that’s quite important.

Outside of your own linkable assets and relationships, you can do an outreach campaign still to build links outside by perhaps using content and social outreach or guest blogging.  I would say use guest blogging with care because guest blogging is starting to look like link exchange of the 2002.

You definitely don’t want to be submitting a guest post into a website of questionable quality.

Philip:  So it all comes back to the – you raised a really good point there.  The old best practices are still more important than they ever have been.  So they haven’t really changed which is around the quality content and getting links to that quality content.  That’s always been around, it’s just a whole lot of the cheating or the short term or the easy stuff that has just become invalid.

Dan:    That’s right.  There’s a difference that Google is saying you’re not supposed to be link building.  But I’m saying go and link build.  The difference is that you’re not going spamming people’s websites.  Link building in my opinion is like marketing your business.

What Google is saying to you, you should have the best product and best service and people will come.  In the business world, that’s like saying you open up a pie shop and make excellent pies and make sure that it’s really good quality and people will come.

What if they don’t?  What you want to do is you put up a big sign on your truck and drive it around and you want to do everything possible to attract people in the first place.  Otherwise, nobody will find out about your product.

That’s what I’m saying.  If you have good content on your site, why not broadcast that?  Do the average campaign and push those links to happen.  I think that’s sort of a benign way of encouraging people to link to you.

What Google doesn’t really like is mass scale outreach that might effect a lot of people through easy to manipulate tactics.  So there’s a big difference between those two.

Philip:  So it sounds like when you working with somebody from a link building perspective from your agency, you would look at their linkable assets.  That’s key to what you’re going to do.  And then, I imagine you establish a gap between what do they have and what do we need to create so you then move into a whole lot of content production.

Dan:    That’s right, exactly right.  One of our clients produced a quick info graphic on how to do up your tie.  They were a men’s clothing shop and a lot of people didn’t know how to do up a tie including myself.

That diagram is like six steps – was shared, loved in social media, people linked back to that page.  Such a simple thing can bring lots of links if you just focus on your product and service creatively.  A lot of people say I’m a boring business, I have nothing interesting to offer.

That is not quite true.  You don’t always have to be funny and outrageous to earn links.  You can provide something really useful, timely and something people will appreciate.

Philip:  So digging further into that concept, we do a lot of online marketing training with Adwords and SEO and content and usability, that sort of thing.  I think one of the big areas businesses struggle with is juggling many balls already and now they have to create more content.

I think it’s just something you have to crack as a business owner or a marketing manager.  Any tips around that in terms of creating this content on an efficient basis?

Dan:    I like that question.  There’s a bit of a philosophy behind that.  A lot of people are saying to me, what does Google want from me?  I sell truck tires, why should I fluff around and write articles and put content?  I just want to do my business.  Why are they making me do my blogging and info graphics?  Why should I do that work?  Why can’t I just focus on doing my business?

And I thought about that for a while and the answer is quite simple.  It’s the same as in offline marketing.  If you are just a shop doing your best and you are not being unique in any way, you will never really succeed to the levels of the ones that are doing something special.

So it doesn’t matter what type of business you are, you need to get serious about your content.  You need to get serious and creative about how you reach out to your audience.  There is just no way around that.

What we find that often our clients just don’t have time to think about that.  So we do that part for them.  Each month we might come up with a few creative ideas and present it to them and all they have to do is pick and choose.  Oh yeah, I really like that.

So that’s how we ended up with series of different viral pieces, info graphics, link baits as we call them.  They are not necessarily manipulative in nature, people love them, react well to them and they also help with their branding in addition to earning links.

Philip:  And I think when business owners raise that question, you just mentioned those.  What does Google want?  That’s really the wrong focus from a business owner’s perspective, it should be what do your customers want?

Dan:    Exactly right.  Google doesn’t care about you and your business, they care about connecting to the one searching to what they want.

Philip:  And we notice – I’m sure you see the same, when you start producing these quality assets or these quality content whatever it is, whether it’s video, images, PDF’s, whatever the content media type is, it has a massive positive impact on your conversion rate.

Dan:    Oh it’s fantastic.  I mean specially now that Google’s introduced their social network, Google Plus.  It’s one of the things webmasters and business owners should keep an eye on.

I would say there will be some sort of carrot along the way that Google will offer to people who are using their social media platform in order to have it activated.  So there’s benefit in getting pluses, there’s benefits in getting shared, it can – of course a big factor in the whole thing is personalization.

Let’s say you create an info graphic that explains how to change a tire and that takes off.  A lot of people are sharing.  Now in the results, that particular piece of content will be ranked higher on the basis of being shared by people you know or by people that know you.

So that personalization element is already in the search results and social signals were in the results for a while now including Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social networks.

So now we’ve got Google Plus as a new player and what I’m saying to business owners is jump on it and use it.  Don’t neglect it because building up a strong profile will do good to your business in the long run.

Philip:  You mentioned that your links are viewable inside Webmaster Tools.  Is there still – Google has traditionally not shown all those links and you get much better link information within Open Site Explorer.  Do you think that’s still the case?

Dan:    I don’t think you should be obsessing about the accuracy of the link report.  I think the link report’s purpose in Google Webmasters Tools is to give you a good insight, a good sample.  Whether you see 100% or 90% or 50% of your links, it does not really matter.

I think what’s important is that you get a good sample to give you an idea of what type of links you are receiving.  But of course, us being an SEO company, we want to know 100%.

So, what we do is we use every tool possible.  We’ll use the link command in Google, we’ll use Google Webmasters Tool, we’ll use Bing’s Link Command, we’ll use Open Site Explorer, Majestic, there’s a whole range of tools available today.

So when we want to find out is many links as we can, we combine all the tools together, the sort of highest resolution picture when we’re looking at the back link profile.

Philip:  Is there one that you think works really well that business owners can sort of check up as to what links they’ve got if they never really become aware of what links they have.  Is there a simple one that you would recommend?

Dan:    Yes, I recommend for depth of information, I recommend Majestic, Majestic SEO.  This one gives good depth of information but it doesn’t have good quality metrics.  On the other side if you want to be able to sort the links by proper quality metrics, I recommend Open Site Explorer.

But those two tools are sort of going a little bit advanced if you are sort of really drilling into it.  Probably the best thing you can do is just sign up for Google Webmasters Tool and export all your back links into a CSV, just scroll down and take a look.

Philip:  Excellent and I’d say to listeners as well, we’ve interviewed Dickson Jones as well from Majestic and Danny Dover as well from SEO Moz Open Site Explorer.  So go back to those podcasts and have a listen.

Dan:    Absolutely.  One thing that’s coming up in the Open Site Explorer is they will be introducing very, very soon, link quality metrics in terms of level of spamminess as they call it.  That’s coming up, they’ve just sort of announced that they are working on that.  So Open Site Explorer will be able to tell you how bad your links are.

Philip:  That’ll be handy.  Google also has spoken in the last couple months about link networks and how they are now targeting link networks.  So that was a bit of a scam in terms of your way about link building.  Can you expand on that?

Dan:    Oh yeah, link networks are nothing new.  They’ve been used for a very long time.  It started off as being as link farms and link farms were easily detectable because they were just random words thrown at a piece of page, a document and so what Webmaster started doing, they started increasing the depth and sophistication of how they embed those links.

So the next level was semi automated or automated blogs that were fed with content that didn’t really make sense.  So it was content that was spun as they say and just thrown in random keywords and pointing to different websites to have them ranked.

So that’s what Google has a problem with because it’s a mass attempt at gaining the algorithm, right.  That’s their sore spot.  Whatever starts effecting people on a large scale, that’s when Google starts activating and going against it.

So we have seen in the past link networks being attacked and since the most recent algorithm changes, specially since Penguin, there’s been a lot of them completely de-indexed.

One of them, the famous one is Build My Rank.  A lot of people relied on that as an easy solution, as an easy way out but Google hasn’t fixed all their problems in their index at the moment.

Even with Penguin being designed at attacking the manipulative tactics like that, it hasn’t cleaned up 100%.  So I would imagine in the next few months or in the next year or two even, they will be going further and further and deeper into more clever tactics that people are using until they reach that satisfactory level where they’re happy that there is no more spam.

But I think Google will try to do that and spammers will get more clever.  So there’s two ends of the story.  One, people trying to game the system and then Google trying to bypass that.

I don’t think they will ever stop but it’s not a matter of breaking the law.  You have to realize that Google is a company and they can index or de-index whoever they please.  It’s your choice, a business choice, whether you want to be going grey or black or whether you want to stay safe.

It’s just a matter of risk management really.  So they say that they have sort of wiped out more than half of all of the link networks that are currently existing.  If you get an email from somebody offering you to buy links, that’s definitely not something you should do.

Philip:  Yeah, it’s always been a dodgy practice hasn’t it but I know a lot of people have been doing it, getting away with it up to now but why not just focus on sustainable practices that Google likes.  Do you always want to be asleep with one eye open?

Dan:    That’s right.  There is an interesting article to read.  It’s called Why Link Schemes FailWhy Link Schemes Fail is an article that I wrote on SEO Moz.

Philip:  It’s a great article.  I recommend that, it’s great.  I was reading that yesterday.

Dan:    Excellent.  Basically describes the entire thought process that I went through when trying to design an approach or a method that would prevent outlines from being linked from dodgy places.

So basically I analyzed all our clients’ back links and I collected all that information into one very large database.  We analyzed everything and then we started noticing patterns.

We had so many patterns that we had problems visualizing the entire thing.  So what we had to do next we used a series of different visualizations until we started noticing patterns in links.

And then we realized there are so many footprints that an artificial linking structure can leave behind including the domain name registrars, including email or name servers and footprints and all sorts of things like that, that could potentially highlight a flag, the website that is linking to you and cause a whole domino effect until it causes a penalty.

So I published that article and a lot of people were laughing at the time not knowing that Panda and Penguin will follow.  So I think a lot of people have opened their eyes and starting to look in the white head direction.

Philip:  And it’s a phenomenal article and I think that really sums up why we actually wanted to have you on the show.  It shows your level of understanding of scientific analysis of the link graph, not many other people do out there which is – so thanks.

Dan:    Yeah we knew it was coming and we took every measure to protect all our clients.  Unfortunately, I have to say not everyone was safe.  We’ve got some three or four clients that have been affected by this and the links that have been flagged on their end were stuff that they made five years ago or something like that.

So they did a manipulative tactic for link building two, three, four years ago and they even forgot about it and now it’s biting them back.  So like I said earlier, go into your back link profile, analyze and make sure that there is nothing suspicious in there because once your business grows to that level, you’re even more likely to be looked at.

Because that’s one thing to understand about Google, Google often lets the small guy fly under the radar because they are not effecting too many of their users, because they can’t police the entire internet.

So what they do is they said that they have a policy of balancing their resources and only targeting whatever issue effects the majority of their users.  So if you get to that point where you’re so big and so prominent in a search result, that you are starting to affect a sizeable chunk of their users, they will start flagging you and looking at your link profile.

Philip:  Excellent.  Do you have any other thoughts about now that Penguin is out in the wild.  It is strange how these algorithm updates are always seem to be named after black and white animals.  There was a bit of a joke at SMX recently, the next one – I think that Bruce Clays said that the next update is going to be Orca the Killer Whale that’s going to wipe out half the internet.

Dan:    I don’t think Orca is the – sounds good enough.  I’m in favor of Zebra.

Philip:  Zebra would be good.  If you’re interested in the naming of these things which you may or not be, there’s an interesting article in Search Engine Land by Danny Sullivan about the naming of these things.

Google actually don’t like to give them names and only when pressed do they actually come out with them.

Dan:    Yes, so, interesting thing to know is that the original algorithm that started the whole animal trend was Panda Update but that wasn’t named after an animal.  One of Google’s engineers, his surname is Panda, spelled exactly like Panda and so that’s how the update was named.  SEO’s sort of took that as the first one and then now we’ve got Penguin and God knows what’s coming next.

Philip:  So they’ve got an employee called Penguin as well obviously.

Dan:    Unlikely.

Philip:  So what do you think we’re going to be speaking about in 12 months time regarding SEO?  How do you think things could change that we haven’t foreseen yet.

Dan:    There’s some exciting stuff that Google’s been cooking in their labs and they’re not too secretive about it but not too out either.  So traditionally Google has always worked as a search engine around links.  That was their basic advantage in comparison to all the other search engines which were just looking at the content on the site.

So in addition to links, now they have another graph.  First one, we’ve got link graph which is a collection of links on the web.  Now we’ve got people graph, social graph, because Google’s social engine is actually at a certain level where you can start making sense.

In this year and next year, we can start seeing more growth of Google Plus platform and we can start seeing Google trusting that platform more.  Another element is semantic sense.  Google will become smarter and they will understand queries, they will be able to give us more straight answers.

Why I know this is because they actually purchased a company that was dealing with knowledge and they’ve grown this database from some 20 million nodes to 200 million knowledge nodes.

So social, semantic understanding and knowledge of the results and continuous focus on search quality.  Those are the three main things to look out for the future.

Philip:  Beautiful.  Well I think that’s a really great note to end the show on.  Thanks so much for your time.  It’s really appreciated Dan.  You did mention as well that you actually have a fantastic special offer for our listeners of the show.  So do you want to describe what that is?

Dan:    Yes, we’ve actually got a tool that we utilize to understand the traffic and keyword potential behind any website.  So people who contact us will be able to utilize this tool free of charge and we’ll give them the report that highlights and pin points exactly what phrases they can target to bring the maximum results for their website.

To find out more about the tool, you can search for Traffic Potential Calculator or Phrase Potential Calculator and you can find it in Google.  It will be under the Dejan SEO website.

If you contact any one of our team and mention this interview, we’ll be glad to help you out with the research and come up with the best strategy for targeting your phrase.

Philip:  Beautiful, that sounds great.  And where can people find you online Dan?

Dan:    Just search for SEO.

Philip:  There we go.  What a great note to end on, thanks so much for your time.

Dan:    Alright, thank you very much Philip.

By Philip Shaw

Learn about our Adwords Training & Management Solutions.