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2014 SEO Playbook: On-Page Factors

2014 SEO Playbook Welcome to part 2 of my annual SEO playbook. (Click here for part 1.) I have to thank Danny Sullivan and the Search Engine Land team for giving me the perfect outline for the 2014 playbook, the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. Part 2 will cover on-page factors, including content, HTML and architecture. You'll find more than enough food for thought and some very actionable steps. This is not a step-by-step SEO guide, and it's pretty informal. Before embarking on a search engine optimization campaign, do your research or consult with an expert. Content: Quality Quality was a big d [...]


Google’s Matt Cutts: User Redirection Based On Location Is Not Spam

Matt Cutts Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts, posted a video yesterday clearly stating the geo-location or redirecting users based on their location is not spam. Google will not consider a site that uses geo-location techniques as spam. What Google does consider spam is when you redirect GoogleBot to a web page of content that users cannot see. That is considered spam and a form of cloaking, according to Google's guidelines. Google expects you treat GoogleBot as a user accessing your web site from the United States. Here is the video from Matt: Related Stories: Google Says No Co [...]


The Perils Of Parallax Design For SEO

First it was Flash, then AJAX, and now.... parallax design. As SEOs, we often find ourselves butting heads with Web designers over website design and usability. Certain design approaches and techniques, while helpful for usability, may not be ideal for SEO purposes. But that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice good design for solid SEO -- we just have to be creative and find solutions that marry design with SEO. What Is Parallax Design? Parallax design is a website design approach that's been used for several years now and takes its name from the concept of parallax movement. Instead of linkin [...]


Google’s Definitive Cloaking Video

Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team, posted a long video that he named the "definitive cloaking video." Here is the video, I will post the main points below: Cloaking is showing different content to users than GoogleBot Cloaking Violation of Quality Guidelines Cloaking is High Risk It Is Often Used For Deceptive Reasons No Such Thing Has White Hat Cloaking Details on what might be perceived as cloaking is mentioned in the video Why geolocation and mobile detection is not cloaking Related Stories: Google Vows Renewed Look At Cloaking In 2011 Be Careful When Your A [...]


Lessons Learned at SMX West: Google’s Panda Update, White Hat Cloaking & Link Building

An amazing amount of great information came out of SMX West this week. Below is a summary of some of what I found to be the most actionable and useful. Google's Own Words About the Farmer/Panda Update Google's Matt Cutts said that while the change isn't 100% perfect, searcher feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. He noted that the change is completely algorithmic with no manual exceptions. Blocking "Low Quality" Content Matt reiterated that enough low quality content on a site could reduce rankings for that site as a whole. Improving the quality of the pages or removing the pages alto [...]


Google On Designing Mobile Friendly Websites

Pierre Far from Google wrote a blog post on how to design mobile friendly websites while considering Google's webmaster guidelines and best practices. I've pulled out the key points from this post in bullet format: Google differentiates between traditional mobile phones and smartphones. Google has two bots: Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile. Googlebot crawls desktop-browser type of webpages and content embedded in them and Googlebot-Mobile crawls mobile content. Currently only traditional phones are supported with special useragent strings within Googlebot-Mobile, not smartphones (this [...]


Google Vows Renewed Look At Cloaking In 2011

The head of Google spam fighting team, Matt Cutts, has tweeted that Google will be looking more at cloaking in the first quarter of 2011, perhaps with more clarification of what exactly cloaking is. Cloaking, which is against Google's webmaster guidelines, is defined by Google as follows: Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content or URLs to users and search engines. Serving up different results based on user agent may cause your site to be perceived as deceptive and removed from the Google index. Matt's tweet read: Google will more at cloaking in Q1 2011. Not j [...]


Why Google Should Ban Its Own Help Pages — But Also Shouldn’t

Google takes pride in showing how it will enforce its anti-spam rules even against itself, but apparently there's a limit to how far it will go. Google is declining to ban many of its own help pages that were published in violation of its webmaster guidelines. That's wrong for the reasons has Google's stated. But it's right if it means a more common sense approach to its rules may come out of this. Google's Help Area & Cloaking In particular, Google has a long-standing rule against "cloaking," where a web site shows a search engine content that's different from what a human would see [...]


AdWords Cloaks Its Help Pages, Gets Banned By Google

Search for [google adwords help] or [adwords help] this morning on Google and the AdWords help center is nowhere to be found. Search for the URL itself, and it doesn't appear to be in the index. What's going on? The Polish blog Magiczne SEO i SEM noticed yesterday that the snippet for the Google Adwords help page in the search results seemed a little unusual. (You can read the English version via Google Translate.) Looking closer, the cache didn't seem to match the page the visitor sees. We at Search Engine Land then took a look and found that accessing the page with the Googlebot us [...]


See What Googlebot Sees On Your Site

Google Webmaster Tools has just launched a "labs" section, where you'll find new features that may be early in the development cycle and not quite as robust as the rest of the tools. The features available so far are Fetch as Googlebot, which lets you see exactly what Googlebot is served when it requests a URL from your server and Malware Details, which shows you malicious code snippets from your site if it's been flagged as containing malware. Fetch as Googlebot Of most interest to webmasters, SEOs, and web developers is likely the Fetch as Googlebot feature. You can specify any URL on [...]


Google’s First Click Free Program For Web Content, Not Just News

Google's long had a "First Click Free" program that allows news publishers to make their content accessible to search spiders but requires human visitors to login if they've already viewed one page on the site for free -- hence the "first click free" name. Earlier this year, Google said this program was OK for web publishers to use -- not just news publishers. Today, they've done a post more formally making that point. Let me take you through some of the history of this program as it relates to web search. Back in March 2007, Danny Sullivan's Yet Another Debate About Cloaking Happens art [...]


The Long Road To The Debate Over “White Hat Cloaking”

I really hate arguments over cloaking. Like really hate them. But Rand Fishkin recently did a chart outlining the degrees of "safeness" to cloaking that in turn riled up Google's Matt Cutts in comments there. No doubt others at search engines also dislike the idea that any cloaking is "white hat." So I wanted to revisit some of the things that Rand outlined about cloaking plus the guidelines Google updated last month. Over the years, content delivery methods that were once considered cloaking have become acceptable. This is a look at what those are and how we need a new na [...]


Google Defines IP Delivery, Geolocation, & Cloaking

Maile Ohye at the Google Webmaster Central Blog has "defined" what Google considers to be IP delivery, geolocation, and cloaking. On the geolocation front, Google recommends you treat "Googlebot as you would a typical user from a similar location." So, if Googlebot's IP is coming from California, then serve up the same page you would serve a web user from California. The same rule applies to IP delivery: serve the "same content a typical user from the same IP address would see" to Googlebot. Clearly, if you serve different content to Googlebot then you would a normal user, that would be cl [...]


Microsoft Reports That Issues With Their Live Search Cloaking Detection System Have Been Fixed

Today, Microsoft has posted to the Live Search Webmaster Center blog that the cloaking detection system they have been running for the past few months has, for some sites, skewed site statistics and ads reporting, as well as caused a high traffic load, and they have made some adjustments to the process to correct these errors. Below, details on the problems this process caused, what Live Search is doing about them, and a brief look at how the engines have historically dealt with cloaking. For the last few months, there have been slight rumblings in the places webmasters frequent about odd re [...]


Google’s Matt Cutts On Cloaking & Search Snippets

Matt Cutts of Google has written two posts on the topic of SEO: Detecting more "undetectable" webspam The anatomy of a search result The first, Detecting more "undetectable" webspam, should trigger some heated comments at his blog. It shows how he was able to find what was claimed to be "undetectable" cloaking and web spam. Matt then issues his warning to webmasters: More generally, if someone is trying to manipulate Google by deceptive cloaking, it means that a webserver is returning different content to Googlebot than to users. That’s a condition that can be checked for by algorithms [...]


First Click Free: Accessing Subscription-Based Articles For Free Via Google News

The Google News Blog wrote about the First click free program that allows publishers to let readers pass registration and subscription barriers, if they come from Google News. I am sure you have seen this in action. You see an article, you click on it from Google News and you are able to read the full article. Then you want to see the article again an hour or so later, but the publisher asks you to login to see the full article. That is the "first click free" program in action. Sometimes publishers do not want even the first click to be free, in those cases, Google will label that news r [...]


Search Illustrated: Black Hat Cloaking Explained

Have you ever clicked on a promising search result, only to find that the web page you land on has nothing to do with what you expected, or even worse, is a page of porn or other spam? If so, you may have been the unwitting victim of black-hat cloaking. Today's Search Illustrated shows how this bait-and-switch tactic is accomplished: Graphic by Elliance, an eMarketing firm specializing in results-driven search engine marketing, web site design, and outbound eMarketing campaigns. The firm is the creator of the ennect online marketing toolkit. The Search Illustrated column appears Tuesday [...]


Google Website Optimizer Now Available, But Is It Cloaking?

Google Website Optimizer, a tool that allows you to easily test different page layouts, is now available to anyone with an AdWords account. Previously, it had been out in limited beta since last October. It remains unclear whether using the tool would be considered cloaking, which is against Google's webmaster guidelines. The Good Cloaking, Evil Cloaking & Detection article from Stephan Spencer here on Search Engine Land looked at this issue last month. Threadwatch has a recent discussion also going. I'll explain more about the situation below, and I'm checking with Google for the offici [...]


YADAC: Yet Another Debate About Cloaking Happens Again

Sigh. Double sigh. Triple sigh. I guess now that the SEO industry has had the required twice-yearly debate about the reputation of SEO, it's time to do the go round about cloaking once again. A quick word about cloaking has Google's Matt Cutts trying to clarify concerns that Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped has been raising about WebmasterWorld. The comments are now up over 100, as people rehash things that have been hashed, mashed, rebaked so many times before. Below, some cloaking history plus an honest plea about trying to get past this stupid, stupid issue. Definition Time Let's do [...]


Good Cloaking, Evil Cloaking & Detection

Is cloaking evil? It's one of the most heavily debated topics in the SEO industry -- and people often can't even agree on what defines cloaking. In this column, I wanted to look at an example of what even the search engines might consider "good" cloaking, the middle-ground territory that page testing introduces plus revisiting how to detect when "evil" old-school page cloaking is happening. Back in December 2005, the four major engines went on record at Search Engine Strategies Chicago to define the line between cloaking for good and for evil. From the audience, I asked [...]


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