Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site

No one gets a site penalty on purpose. Sometimes it happens through carelessness, sometimes through black-hat techniques and, sometimes, through honest SEO mistakes.
I’ve watched four such mistakes happen recently. These sites were honestly attempting to follow SEO best practices, but they were penalized. Why? I’ll explain all.
It is worth noting that I wrote this article based on a real-life experience, so this isn’t pie-in-the-sky theory. Each point that I discuss below is tied to a real life ranking problem. Each example that I discuss is connected a to a real-life online business. (However, company details have been changed to protect their identities.)
A Disclaimer: If you find any points of connection between your site and the examples, don’t panic. Millions of sites have affiliate programs. Millions of companies engage in cozy relationships. Just because you share a commonality does not mean that you’re careening for a penalty.
1. Link-Leveraged Business Relationships
The problem explained: Many businesses create relationships with other businesses. As a way of cementing the relationship, the businesses offer to create links to one another in order to enhance SEO and click-through traffic.
Sometimes, however, these good intentions – trading links – end up hurting one or both of the sites.
Example: A major online retailer of greeting cards – we’ll call them “FaithCard” — entered into a relationship with a major brick-and-mortar retailer, “AM Stores.”
Every AM Store (and there are thousands of them) carried FaithCard’s products. FaithCard’s arrangement with AM Store provided a discounted product price, as long as AM Store’s website would include a link to FaithCard’s website.
So, AM Store placed a footer link to FaithCard.
Obviously, FaithCard got a ton of links as a result of this footer link – 16 million, to be exact. Every page of AM Store’s website included a direct link to the homepage of FaithCard.
This became highly problematic. Soon after the footer link was added, FaithCard got hit with a manual penalty.
Investigating the link profile, it was obvious that FaithCard had a highly suspicious link velocity (rate at which inbound links are acquired), a disproportionately high number of links from a single site, and link positioning in the footer.
The problem with FaithCard was compounded by the fact that they had quite a few other harmful backlinks. The footer link buildup from AM Stores, however, was the last straw. Footer links are notoriously slippery for SEO. Their impact ranges from negligible to dangerous.
This issue could have been worsened if the two sites had swapped links – that is, if FaithCard linked to AM Stores, and AM Stores linked to FaithCard in a reciprocal way. Reciprocal linking is a shady area and needs to be entered into with extreme caution – i.e., as naturally as possible. No footer link swaps.
Solution: In this case, the solution would be to have the partner site remove the footer link to FaithCard. Obviously, FaithCard will now have to deal with the fallout of the penalty, but one of the best ways to swiftly and conclusively deal with it is to have an actual link removal rather than a simple domain disavowal.
2. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate linking can either help SEO or it can kill it. It all depends on how you implement it. Rand Fishkin once called affiliate links “a nasty gray area and a frustrating one for many SEOs/webmasters/sites over the years.”
It’s true, and it leaves many SEOs scratching their heads to how exactly to deal with affiliate links.
The Problem Explained: Online affiliate relationships are big business. For the most part, they’re spam free. Companies can engage in affiliate relationships without fear of penalization.
But if a company goes into affiliate linking willy-nilly, they can get bit.
Example: In my client’s case, they put together an in-house affiliate program pretty quickly and rolled it out without a very clear explanation to their affiliate partners.
Their business — we’ll call it “ZoomZoomPic” — did brisk sales in the stock photography business. Their affiliate program was designed to help existing customers gain some income while also growing their subscriptions.
When it rolled out, however, the existing customers weren’t told how to implement the affiliate link successfully. Many of these customers, amateur photographers, added sitewide links to ZoomZoomPic’s homepage. These weren’t affiliate links, though. They were just generic homepage links.
You might think that ZoomZoomPic would benefit from all these links, even if they weren’t strictly affiliate links. In actuality, however, it hurt them.
ZoomZoomPic’s affiliate clientele of amateur photographers did not have high-authority sites. In fact, all the links from these sites looked more like junk links.
With the sudden buildup of harmful links, ZoomZoomPic got hit with a major penalty, which crushed their business. Instead of growing through the affiliate program, they got sunk by it.
Solution: ZoomZoomPic engaged in typical link remediation, but they had to be really careful how they asked for removals.
Most of these harmful links came from their existing customers. What’s more, these customers were excited, because they thought that by linking back to ZoomZoomPic, they would be cashing in on some affiliate money.
ZoomZoomPic was honest about the situation, but they still had some negative backlash after requesting the link removals from their existing customers.
The safest way to conduct affiliate linking is through the following methods:
  • Use a trusted affiliate relationship provider to conduct 100% of the affiliate program rollout. This option is best if you or your development team do not have the skill or experience required to create an affiliate program from scratch.
  • Create a dedicated landing page for large affiliate providers. If you have relationships with major organizations, go ahead and created a dedicated landing page for them specifically. This helps them while also protecting your site.
  • Test all affiliate links from time to time. To maintain site integrity, it’s best to go through each affiliate link and make sure it’s functioning properly. If you find any broken links, be sure to create a permanent redirect.
3. Influencer Outreach
Influencer outreach is a powerful SEO strategy, and many times it works just fine. Basically, you find the major influencers in a given niche, reach out to them with a request, and get link juice, audience exposure, and other major benefits.
I recommend Eric Enge’s article on the topic. Even after we’ve been rocked by several search engine algorithm updates, influencer outreach still benefits the receiving sites.
The problem explained: Influencer outreach is great. But yes, the silver lining is fronted by a cumulonimbus cloud.
If the influencer outreach targets a low-authority niche, the backlinks could compromise the site. Although the influencers are “influential,” the link value from their sites will not enhance your site’s SEO. On the contrary, it could ruin it.
Example: My client’s website, “Superstellar Designs” created inexpensive, ready-to-wear jewelry for tween girls.
They decided to conduct an influencer outreach. Based on their market research and personas, the most valuable source of influencers was in the mommy blog market. Moms with influential blogs were pitched to blog about Superstellar Designs (or tween jewelry in general), and get free Superstellar swag in return.
Superstellar’s influencer outreach seemed successful. They pitched thousands of mom blogs and got an overwhelming response. But the success was short-lived. Rather than exercise discretion over influencers, they invited influencers of all varieties to join in the party.
That’s where things went south. Here are some problems that occurred:
  • Some mom blogs went overboard with links, creating as many as 15-20 exact match anchor text links in the same article.
  • Many mom blogs keyword-stuffed the articles, thinking it would attract more traffic.
  • Many of the mom blogs were very ad-heavy, and under penalty themselves.
  • Many of the mom blogs were very low authority and the backlinks devalued Superstellar’s site.
Solution: Superstellar had a lot of cleanup to do, and they ended up quietly disavowing the links from all the blogs that they had pitched.
If you run an influencer outreach campaign, pick your targets carefully. If you have no choice but to pitch a niche that is characteristically low-authority and spammy, then I recommend the following:
  • Ask influencers to use nofollow links. Provide the code for them to copy/paste into their blog articles for this purpose.
  • Create a specific landing page for the influencer outreach. Use a service such as Unbounce to direct users to a specific page that is designed for the outreach campaign. The upside of this is that you can customize the landing page to the niche, and even conduct A/B testing to boot.
4. Guest Blogging Niche
If you do it right, guest blogging is awesome. However, guest blogging is not without its dangers.
I’m going to discuss one of those dangers, but it might not be what you expect. Like point three above, this danger involves the niche in which you guest blog, not simply the fact that you are guest blogging.
The Problem Explained: Earlier this year, the SEO world blew up when Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced that guest blogging was largely “done” as a link building tactic, explaining that it had become increasingly spammy over the years.
He didn’t outright condemn the practice, however, noting that there “are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging” and that he wasn’t referring to “high-quality multi-author blogs.”
And so, we all stood back up, dusted off our jackets, and went on guest blogging with purpose and caution. We became selective with our guest blogging opportunities, limiting ourselves to high authority sites that would provide some benefit beyond a link for SEO (e.g. traffic, brand exposure, etc.).
Unfortunately, some of us didn’t realize that it wasn’t just about the sites themselves – it was also about the niche we were guest blogging in.
The niche I find myself in is completely legitimate. I’m guest blogging on high-authority sites with impeccable editorial standards and extremely high authority.
But some of my clients weren’t so fortunate.
Example: I worked with an individual who ran one of Europe’s most successful online casino sites. He faced problems prior to the guest blogging fiasco in 2012 when things really spiraled out of control for online gambling and casino sites.
The poker niche is not known for its adherence to ethical, white hat SEO standards. That’s why a lot of the black hat forums are given to discussing nefarious methods of ranking gambling sites.
Thankfully, there are legit ways for gambling sites to rank. The approach taken by my site, “MoneyManCasino,” was not a very effective way. He chose to guest blog on all the gambling sites he could find.
Unfortunately, those sites were spammy, penalized, and downright dangerous. The bio linkbacks he received from the guest blog spots were sending dangerous link juice to his site, which eventuated in a penalty clampdown on his site.
Solution: Obviously, the general solution is to be careful where you guest blog. Although guest blogging lives on and still carries SEO value, it does have sharp edges.
In my experience, the most dangerous side effect of guest blogging has to do with the neighborhood in which you do your guest blogging. If you choose your neighborhood carefully and wisely, you shouldn’t have a problem.

SEO Techniques To Master In 2015 | SEO tips 2015 |

5 Essential SEO Techniques To Master In 2015
SEO has truly come into its own as a marketing channel, but columnist Jim Yu argues that that doesn't mean we should rest on our laurels.
Jim Yu on January 27, 2015 at 9:42 am

Each year, SEO evolves to become a more sophisticated discipline. As marketers refine their skills sets, as search engines improve their search products, and as brands across industries continue to see the impact that organic search can have on their growth, search engine optimization has come from humble beginnings to become a recognized strategic field of marketing.
Organic Search Past & Present
Industries across the board benefitted from SEO in 2014, and there is no sign of this slowing down in 2015. According to this study by the National Retail Federation, search marketing – including SEO – was the most effective source for acquiring new customers in 2014 for 85 percent of online retailers.
Other data points last year showed that organic search was a key starting point for brands to put their products and services in front of the target customer. According to this data from Kenshoo, search is the starting point for the majority of people looking to book travel (58 percent of leisure travelers and 64 percent of business travelers).
In a study conducted by BrightEdge (my employer), we discovered organic search was the largest driver of traffic and revenue for almost every industry analyzed. For B2B marketers, organic search drives over 51% of traffic.

So, what can SEO practitioners do to keep the momentum going in the new year? Following are five areas in SEO that should be on every marketer’s list to master in 2015.
1. Map Strategy To Audience & Competitive Insights
Over the years, SEOs have become really good at understanding keyword intent and segmenting the marketing strategy to match intent.
With the loss of keyword data in Google Analytics, and the general progression of SEO as a discipline, we are starting to merge more traditional marketing concepts into SEO to create a new way of segmenting audiences.
Now, we must merge quantitative data around the topics that are driving search demand and pair that with market insights about who our personas are, and what types of information is useful to them on their buying journey.
In addition, we need to gain an understanding of what the competition is doing for those topics driving demand, because as we know, search is a zero sum game.
That means finding data points that can help us:
  • Identify new ways to tackle adjacent markets
  • Discover new keywords to target
  • Understand what types of content perform
  • See where the competition is doing well, and where you can do better
Progressive SEO means technical, analytical and traditional marketing all rolled into one.
2. Align Your Content & SEO Teams
Your SEO efforts are really only as good as the experience you’re creating for your target persona. That’s why great SEO needs to work in tandem with great content. If you’ve taken the time to explore Step 1 in this article, you have a good foundation for content and SEO alignment that’s focused on the user.
Data coming from the Content Marketing Institute in 2014 show that B2Bs and B2Cs are embracing content in the form of blog posts and web content as a key facet of their content marketing.
Many of us believe that that the best approach is to start with strategic content and apply SEO best practices to help maximize its value and visibility online. Google algorithms like Panda tell us that user experience and quality are what we should all be striving for.
And while recommendations on making creative content and technical SEO come together sound great in theory, many brands are still struggling with which department or team does what and in what order.
I talked about this in a 2014 article on content and SEO, where I touched on one solution to ensure that the creative and technical teams are working in tandem: Establish a clear workflow from content creation to optimization.

I’ll mention again one important takeaway from that discussion for brands that are trying to define how technical and creative teams can work together: Uncover all the roles and skill sets on the digital marketing team, and discover where overlap and cross-training opportunities exist for creative folks to learn SEO, and SEO folks to learn creative.
For more insights on creating value through your content in 2015, I would recommend reading this recent article over on Marketing Land.

3. Make Mobile SEO A Priority

We’ve been hearing about it for years: Websites and brands should have a mobile marketing strategy. In 2015, it’s safe to say that the year of mobile is well upon us.
In fact, mobile has surpassed desktop in digital media time spent by device, according to comScore:
May [2014] turned out to be a banner month for mobile as it delivered on some huge milestones which underscored just how impressive the medium’s ascendance has been in the past few years. Mobile platforms – smartphones and tablets – combined to account for 60% of total digital media time spent, up from 50% a year ago.
When it comes to search engine optimization, creating a mobile site should be at the core of any solid SEO plan in 2015. But be careful in your configuration – research from BrightEdge last year found that mobile configuration errors resulted in a 68 percent loss in smartphone traffic on average.
And even though Google recommends a responsive design, you may find that a hybrid approach suits you best for your marketing needs.
And remember that whichever route you choose, Google wants sites to render above-the-fold content in under one second. Slow sites could negatively impact mobile rankings.

4. Find Measurement & Reporting That Works

While the research studies we read on the impact of organic search are important for gauging how we’re doing as an industry, we still struggle as brands and marketers to measure results, quantify our efforts, and continue to prove our position for SEO budgets.
Even back in 2013, we were talking about the need for marketers with analytics skills. And in fact, according to the, 44 percent of survey respondents said they lacked the metrics to demonstrate the impact of marketing in 2014.
This sentiment was echoed in an Adobe survey in 2014 that showed 49 percent of marketers used intuition, not data, when thinking about where to invest marketing spend.
Reporting does not have to become increasingly complex. In 2015, SEOs should focus on simplifying their data sources and work to uncover the right information via structured data sources.
That means identifying the KPIs that truly matter to prove marketing efforts (those that impact the business), and obtaining the technology that can pull multiple data sources into one platform to provide real insights in performance.

5. Integrate SEO Data Across Teams

Don’t forget that the SEO practitioner or team is working towards some of the same goals as other teams are. When these various marketing teams share their learnings and work in tandem for cross-channel marketing, the concerted effort can be much stronger than when performed alone.
Take SEO and PPC as one example of two channels that have a symbiotic relationship. SEO data can inform PPC, and vice versa. Reports from Google, Kenshoo and others show just how much organic and paid search can impact one another’s success.
In 2015, are there ways you can share your SEO data with other teams to create a concerted effort in your marketing campaigns?

Monday, April 28, 2014

IRCTC Railway Launches Train-tracking Mobile and Desktop Applications | IRCTC Apps | Railway Launches Train-tracking Mobile Applications

The process of train tracking is a herculean task for the people. Most of the time, we try to get the real-time information by calling the nearest railway station. If we are lucky enough, you get an answering voice on the other end. Otherwise, we get no answer at all from the other end. Hence, a government organization has come out with an application that tells the users about the real-time information about the trains. The name of the organization that has rolled out this mobile application is Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS).
Mobile Application
Railway_app (3)
This application tells the rail users about the expected arrival and departure timings of a particular train of their choice. This application can be freely installed on your mobile for easy tracking of trains. This versatile application is developed by CRIS, the information and technology arm of Indian Railways. According to a senior Railway official, this new application can be used to find out train timings, train position and train location in real-time. Along with the mobile version, CRIS has also released a desktop application that runs on Windows 8 platform. This desktop version also provides the train enquiry results with the help of Microsoft backup.
Features of Application
CRIS has implemented the different features in different tabs in its newly launched mobile and desktop applications. They are listed below.
1. Spot Your Train: This real-time application sports a Spot Your Train tab. This enables the user to query information about the current position of the train, its expected arrival time and its expected departure from a particular station.
2. Train Schedule: The second tab provides the complete list of stations a train is likely to stop enroute to its destination. The exhaustive list also shows the arrival and departure times at each station in the list.
3. Complete Train List: This tab provides the complete list of trains that operate between a source and destination. This list also tells on which days during the week a particular train is available.
4. Cancelled Trains: The fourth tab enlists all trains that are marked as cancelled. It displays trains that are cancelled through the entire root and those that are canceled on partial route.
5. Rescheduled and Diverted Trains: The fifth tab in the application gives the list of rescheduled and diverted trains.