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By Dev Basu

Google recently released what is being touted as the Farmer Update, which is essentially their response to cracking down low quality search results and spam, by effectively removing sites that generate and promote content which is either duplicated, syndicated, minutely re-purposed, or which isn’t substantive.

In an effort to improve the quality of their index, Google’s battle against spammers isn’t new by any means, but it has been heating up over the last year. In part, this is due to major content farms such as Demand Media, Mahalo, and even the Huffington Post creating content en masse which barely passes Google’s duplicate content filters.

12% of US Search Results Will Be Affected

Although Google makes over 500+ changes to its algorithm or ‘secret recipe’ for ranking search results, this change will be its biggest yet, with other such changes having occurred in 2003′s Florida Update, and 2009′s Vince Update . To put this into perspective, several billion search results will be impacted and sites which do not offer up content that passes Google’s algorithmic filters stand a lot to lose.

Who’s Impacted?

Although the Farmer Update isn’t categorically targeted towards Content Farms, they do stand the most to lose in the search rankings. As per Google’s blog post the update  ”is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.” By this definition, the following types of sites will be affected:

  • Content Farms – Examples include Demand Media, eHow, Huffington Post, Mahalo, and Article Marketing sites.
  • E-Commerce Sites which do not have substantive or unique content on product descriptions. This is typical of data-feed driven e-commerce sites.
  • Scraper Websites – Websites which syndicate or scrape content and repost it.
  • Coupon Driven Websites – Like E-Commerce sites, these do not generally provide substantially unique or useful content.

Are Canadian Businesses Going to Be Affected?

Canadian businesses that sell within Canada are not affected at this point in time as the algorithmic test are only taking place on US Google.com results. However, Canadian businesses who sell through to customers in the United States may be affected if their websites are deemed to have low-quality content, as per Google’s algorithm.

Typically, there aren’t the same type of large content farms found in Canada like there are in the United States. However, businesses small and large should be aware that prior and existing search engine optimization campaigns which may have involved content marketing strategies which are not likely to pass Google’s new algorithmic filter, will be de-valued.

How to Survive Google’s Algorithmic Slap

As per Google’s blog post, high quality sites with “original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”, will tend to rank higher in the search results, and effectively be rewarded for their editorial contributions.

For almost anyone who depends on organic search traffic, this change necessitates the need for higher quality content creation with the key focus involving the creation of unique, substantive, and useful content. Interestingly, Google’s blog post confirms that it’s algorithmic change ‘smart’ and thinks like its user do. In an extract from Google engineer, Amit Singhal’s blog post, he mentions:

“It’s worth noting that this update does not rely on the feedback we’ve received from the Personal Blocklist Chrome extension, which we launched last week. However, we did compare the Blocklist data we gathered with the sites identified by our algorithm, and we were very pleased that the preferences our users expressed by using the extension are well represented. If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84% of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits.”

Reposted from Powered By Search

Dev Basu is a Toronto based Search Engine Optimization, Local Search, Internet Marketing, and Social Media Expert. Dev is the founder and CEO of Powered by Search, an internet marketing agency based in Toronto. He blogs on the topic of Local Search and Small business marketing at his personal blog, Search Marketing Insights.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.


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By Krista LaRiviere

When I talk with prospects and clients our conversations usually include standard SEO topics such as keyword phrases, content writing, competitor analysis, social media, analytics and the one topic that ‘links’ all these together – backlinking.

That is, incorporating keywords into backlinks, writing press release content with backlinks, out-backlinking the competition, using social media as a backlinking source and of course measuring backlinks with analytics. Why is backlinking so important to your organic search strategy?

Google’s algorithm places a heavy weighting on the number of web sites that are referencing (or linking back to) your web site.  These are backlinks or inbound links. Google’s logic is pretty simple: if other sites are referencing your site, then it must be a relevant and trusted site with relevant content.

But it isn’t so simple. The backlinks to your site must be:

–  high quality, relevant links freely given based on editorial judgment; as opposed to;

– low quality, spammy, irrelevant links, links from untrustworthy sources or traded links.


Backlink 101: Structure and Definitions

Here are some basics that will be helpful:

1) What is a backlink?
On this web page – http://business.financialpost.com/2010/12/08/canadas-most-innovative-companies – there’s a backlink to http:www.gshiftlabs.com.

2) What is anchor text?
The anchor text for the backlink is “gShift Labs”. (The text that you actually click on.)

3) What is domain value?

Google places a value on a backlink source. So the source “financialpost.com” would have a higher value than say “thebarrieexaminer.com”.

Now that we know this, we can talk about the do’s and don’ts. Here are some things to think about:

The Do’s

1.     Be consistent. Google wants to know that you are committed to your backlink strategy and Google’s algorithm can detect if you’re not committed. For example, if you have 59 backlinks today and overnight you have 15,000 (because you bought backlinks from a backlink farm) you will likely be penalized, which will negatively impact your ranking.

Google wants to see that you are adding a consistent number of backlinks to your web presence over the course of a normal time period. For example, 5 to 10 backlinks per week, every week or 50 backlinks per week every week.

2.     Optimize your anchor tags. An anchor tag with the text “Click Here” or “Read More” is pretty useless to your SEO efforts. Instead try to optimize your anchor text with keyword-rich content that matters to you. For example, if one of your top keyword phrases is “orange party dresses” then you’ll want to create anchor text based on this phrase and have it link through to a web page that is also optimized for that phrase.

Note: It might not always be possible to control the anchor text for your backlink.

3.     Unique domains. Google wants to see that you have a strong variety of domains in your backlink inventory. If all your backlinks are coming from one source it is a signal that your web site probably isn’t all that relevant.

4.     But, how do I add backlinks? If you feel dumb asking the question you’re not alone. How should you go about building backlinks? It is really about producing content. You can produce content by:

a.      Issuing regular press releases through a syndication service such as PRWeb.com or MarketWire.com.

b.     Blogging on trusted third-party web sites with links back to your web site (when appropriate).

c.      Getting your website added to relevant industry portals and directories.

The Don’ts

1.     Don’t buy links unless you really really understand the company that is selling the links to you, the quality of the links and the risks associated with the potential outcome of buying those links. Talk to an expert or get a second opinion before committing to such tactics.

2.     Don’t trust any SEO Professional or Agency that promises a #1 organic ranking. A #1 organic ranking is completely impossible to guarantee because there are so many external variables beyond the control of the SEO Professional. Variables such as Google’s always-changing algorithm and competitors’ websites just to name a couple.

3.     Don’t be afraid to ask your SEO Professional what their backlinking strategy is for your web presence. Or better yet, tell them you want a backlinking strategy outlined, before it is implemented.

Now I’d like to share one really sad SEO backlinking story with you.

The Sad SEO Backlinking Story

J.C. Penney hired a SEO firm to optimize its website for organic search. To make a really long sad story short, Google ultimately penalized J.C. Penney’s rankings after it was determined that the SEO firm hired, implemented backlinking tactics that Google considers “black hat” or unethical. The initial outcome of these unethical backlinking tactics was a #1 rank for a variety of keyword phrases that matter to J.C. Penney.

How did the SEO firm accomplish this? They paid to have thousands of backlinks placed on hundreds of sites scattered around the Web, all of which lead directly to JCPenny.com. (New York Times, Dirty Little Secrets of Search, February 12, 2011.). In a nutshell, “paid-for backlinks”. The worst part is that the client, J.C. Penney, was unaware of the unethical practices the SEO firm was employing to achieve the high organic rankings. Bad SEO firm.

Once it was brought to Google’s attention that the J.C. Penney web site was attempting to game Google’s search algorithm, Google began manual actions against JCPenney.com, essentially decreasing their organic rank.

“At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for “Samsonite carry on luggage.” Two hours later, it was at No. 71. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Penney was No. 1 in searches for “living room furniture.” By 9 p.m., it had sunk to No. 68.” (New York Times, Dirty Little Secrets of Search, February 12, 2011).

Moral of the Sad SEO Backlinking Story: Keep your SEO ‘white hat’ or you will be penalized by Google and this will negatively affect your business. A strong, effective backlinking strategy is a marathon, not a sprint.

Reposted from gShift Labs

Krista LaRiviere is the CoFounder & CEO of gShift Labs. This is Krista’s third software start-up having successfully exited from the previous two. Having been in the Internet marketing space for over ten years, Krista is able to identify trends and gaps in the daily lives of Internet marketers. gShift has web presence optimization software that is  demystifying, simplifying and standardizing organic search. Her vision is to change the way people think of and perform organic search optimization.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Krista LaRiviere

Most business leaders I talk to sell their products and services into other countries and all list organic search as an important part of their online marketing efforts and web presence. More frequently I hear this scenario, “My UK Sales Rep says we don’t show up at all in Google, but I see we’re ranked #1. What is he talking about? ”

This is a prime example of an international organic search issue. Once you’ve identified you have one then you need to figure out what to do about it and how to manage it.

Find out how to take control of and improve your organic search results in countries where you’re trying to do business.

So what is happening here and what do you need to know?

Google has multiple properties (.com, .ca, .uk, .fr, be,de, etc.)  where the properties represent countries (US, Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, etc.).

When you search on a keyword phrase Google wants to return to you relevant search results. ‘Relevance’ changes based on a couple of factors:

1. Which search engine property are you starting your search from (i.e., Google.com versus Google.ca versus Google.uk)?

2. How you are connected to the Internet? This isn’t a post about how the Internet works, but basically you’re connected to the Internet with an IP Address. That IP Address is assigned to an ISP (Internet Service Provider like Verizon or Rogers). The ISP then assigned an IP to you to surf the web. Those IPs are known to belong to a particular country. Google can then conclude you are connected to the Internet in Canada, the US, the UK, France, etc.

3. Are you logged into Google in any way (Gmail, Adwords, etc.)? If you are logged into Google, then they are collecting data about your behaviour on-line and are going to return search results that are more relevant to you. Yes, this is scary!

So, when you are physically located and logged onto the Internet in the US searching for your product in www.google.fr you will obtain a different set of results then if you are located in France looking for your product in www.google.fr. The implications of this are that you might think you are ranking #1 for something, but to your prospects, located and searching in France, are not being exposed to your company’s organic ranking at all. The further implication is that you are likely losing out on leads and sales.

What should you do? Firstly, don’t give up. Secondly, I have to tell you that international organic search is humanly impossible to manage and gain insight into on a daily basis. The reality is, you really do need an automated way to deal with this. Software exists that gives you the ‘raw’, non-skewed ranking results independent of country and IP address so that you can obtain timely insight into your web presence and position in countries where you’re doing business.

Reposted from gShift Labs

Krista LaRiviere is the CoFounder & CEO of gShift Labs. This is Krista’s third software start-up having successfully exited from the previous two. Having been in the Internet marketing space for over ten years, Krista is able to identify trends and gaps in the daily lives of Internet marketers. gShift has web presence optimization software that is  demystifying, simplifying and standardizing organic search. Her vision is to change the way people think of and perform organic search optimization.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

A few weeks ago I mentioned that brand is not what you think it is, but what your customer thinks it is. And what your customer thinks  of your company is completely in your hands to control.

Witness the recent list of companies who have done their very best to change how their customers view their brand

Toyota noted for quality, particularly when compared to North American auto makers, has broken its promise with seemingly endless recalls. Google and Facebook have both felt the ire of their customers over privacy issues. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, has suffered in the wake of the credit crunch in the United States.

In the past two weeks even the venerable Apple has run afoul of its customers with  its new iPhone 4. Apple finally acknowledged a problem with the iPhone 4’s reception but claims  it isn’t in the external antenna design, but rather with the iPhone 4’s formula to calculate signal strength bars. They promise a fix soon but it’s unlikely to remedy the reception problem, just the fact you will now know when you have lousy reception.

And then, of course,  there is BP.

Tom Bergin, of Reuters had a piece in the National Post BP’s colossal PR blunder about the Gulf oil spill.

“BP’s handling of the spill from a crisis management perspective will go down in history as one of the great examples of how to make a situation worse by bad communications,” said Michael Gordon, of New York based crisis public relations firm Group Gordon Strategic Communications.

“It was a combination of a lack of transparency, a lack of straight talking and a lack of sensitivity to the victims. When you’re managing an environmental disaster of this magnitude you not only have to manage the problem but also manage all the stakeholders.”

BP failed to understand the attitude and perception it was building in its customers’ minds.

The rise of Twitter, and other social media tools, allows companies to monitor what people are saying about them but also help them to engage actively with consumers. It also enables customers to communicate with each other, and it is the stories they share that can shape the future of a brand.

Credibility and trust are pillars in brand management. Break the promise with your customer and it’s difficult to recover.

Your thoughts?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

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By Radi Hindawi

One of the first mistakes individuals make when leveraging search engine optimization and directories, is to assume that the use of these tools is an easy matter. There are no shortcuts around digital marketing. You must be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time and resources in order to yield the benefits of these tools. This may include re-building the coding of your existing design and re-structuring various modules that link to your site.

Below are key mistakes that many individuals continue to make when utilizing search engine optimization and directories to enhance their online presence.

META Tags

One of the biggest mistakes comes from the actual coding of the website. Individuals tend to forget, or avoid using META Tags in belief that they infringe on the privacy of others. This, however, is not the case. META Tags allow you to define your web pages on emerging search engines and directory listings. Even though Google no longer requires an individual to build such coding, many upcoming search engines still use this coding system as a primary means of dictating a name and valid description for a site.

The two most efficient META Tags are “Description” and “Keywords“. “Description” allows you to define your site and its content, while “Keywords” are based on words that people search to find your website.

Site Content

It is also important to structure your content in a more efficient, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way. One of the biggest challenges faced by many existing websites is that the information is so cluttered that search engines cannot build a valid set of tags for them. There are a couple of strategies that can be used to build a website’s content including the use of headers and sub headers, bold/italic text and even bullet points.

It is estimated that today’s users will ONLY browse through your content for around 13 seconds, so you must structure your site accordingly.

Submitting your URL

DO NOT limit yourself to Google.

It is important to submit your site to as many search engines and national directories as possible. Limiting yourself to one system may deter your future plans of growth. The current dominance of Google is likely to waver in the next ten years, in the face of fierce competition. With that being said, it is important to ensure that your site is adopted by as many search engines as possible, to compensate users that use Bing, Yahoo and even Ask Jeeves.

It is also important to look at various directories that can help boost your numbers. In Ontario, many organizations fail to submit themselves to the Ontario Business Directory and DMOZ (Open Directory Project). Even though such submission processes are time-consuming, it is crucial for every organization to research these directories, as they have the potential of sharing your site with more users and a wider demographic.

Getting Individuals/Sites to Link to you

It is also essential for you to constantly promote your site and get others to link back to you. Social networking sites do build on your page ranking, but are NOT ENOUGH to extend your sites’ foundations online. One of the most efficient ways of building ranking today is through blogging. However, the biggest mistakes made when blogging is in terms of the featured content. Always ensure that the content being blogged is:

  • Easy to read and well-organized with links, bold/italic text and bullets.
  • Directly and strongly related to the site that you are promoting. If your website is about your company, do not discuss your personal life on the blog.
  • Linking back from the blog to your website. Confirm that these links are clearly visible, active and not broken.

It is also important to keep informing your blog-followers on any updates and progress to your website, and any URL/page changes.

Radi Hindawi is a Digital Enterprise Specialist graduate from the University of Toronto’s Communications, Culture and Information Technology program. Radi has leveraged his academic background and professional experiences in web development, online communications and digital marketing to found a digital media company and manage a successfully growing blog. For more information, please visit www.radihindawi.com

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By James Burchill

The pen is mightier than the sword. What a great line. Written no doubt by a pacifist I’m guessing, because I’m all for the power of the word (in the beginning there was only the word…) but facing someone in battle armed only with a ballpoint pen… I’d run a mile – unless of course I was Bruce Willis or Stallone, then I’d win no matter what.

But what has that go to do with the price of fish? Not a great deal other than the fact this annoyingly cute saying is in fact correct. Granted, in physical combat it’s a no-win, but in today’s wired world where we communicate at the speed of thought the sword is no match for the word.

And once you accept the power of the word – spoken or written, you begin to understand the true scope of its applicability to our very nature. The nature to which I refer to is that of our social qualities, the act of gathering together and exchanging stories, values, ideas and sharing perspectives and opinions.

The town square and village pub were slowly replaced online by the bulletin boards of the 1980’s and then again with the power of the Web and email. Today the next evolution has occurred with websites like MySpace, Facebook and other social networking venues. And if you think that these websites are just for kids talking about how cute someone is – you’d be wrong…very wrong.

Today many of these social networking ‘watering holes’ get more daily page views (traffic) than Google. Yes you read that right – MORE THAN GOOGLE. This watershed moment happened in the summer of 2007 and it’s been rising steadily since. This shift in “influence” has happened very quickly. The biggest surprise in the traffic game has been YouTube. This site now gets more daily traffic than Google by a very healthy margin and a visitor spends on average at least 15 minutes experiencing the content.

The other sites like MySpace and Facebook are currently matching Google (however this is changing monthly and may well be higher by the time this goes to print.) You can see for yourself if you’d like by visiting www.alexa.com and typing in the names of the sites you’d like to compare.

Is this rapid rise of social marketing a surprise? Not to me. It’s human nature all over again. And if you stop and think about what this means to you, well it can be good or bad depending on how this new ‘force’ is applied. Today with Web2.0 and Social Marketing gaining momentum like never before, I’d have to agree that the pen is truly mightier than the sword – yet again.

James Burchill shows individuals and companies how to profit from the innovative use of Internet technologies, strategic content and social media marketing. Visit www.JamesBurchill.com and you can subscribe to his J-List to receive more than 40 articles and reports about Internet Marketing.

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