• http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Great post, Eric. What are your thoughts on bounce-rate? That seems like a darned good measure for separating quality content from garbage, and I’ve heard Cutts both deny that it ever will be a signal and imply that it already is.

  • http://www.rickbucich.com/ Rick Bucich

    Well thought out post.

    It’s so darn easy to spot these frivolous low quality links on a manual basis that it seems like an obvious progression. I think the scope from an algorithmic perspective gets cloudy when trying to determine incidentally accumulated backlinks from those curated. I’ve seen some pretty awful looking natural links in my day.

    @george – I can’t say whether bounce rate specifically is a factor but after reviewing hundreds of Panda affected sites, it seems clear that some level of engagement is a metric.

    I’ve seen sites that had truly original & useful content dip in traffic post update and the common thread seemed to be the heavy use of stock images. If your images aren’t passing the duplicate content filter, they’re likely dismissed altogether and you’re left with a really plain looking page to a bot.

  • http://www.stonetemple.com Eric Enge

    Hi George – I believe that bounce rate is already a ranking factor. Other possible factors are time on site, page views per visitor, % of repeat visitors, and more of this type of data. Great way to measure user engagement. Important point though: what matters is how you compare to your competitors on these types of metrics.

  • http://www.zaddleinternetmarketing.com Liam Lally, Googler

    Hi Eric – something I am coming across more and more are fake twitter accounts (lots of them) that all tweet a link back to someone’s blog post (usually a genuine one). I came across 20 recently, each with a different picture, different bio, similar name and ALL retweeting stories from this blog post. When you click the website link (usually a bit.ly) address you go to a “make money online” website

    Is this a “paid service” that is happening to help people rack up browny points for SEO via twitter tweets being “shared”?

    The “fake” accounts had over 5000 followers each – but when you looked through their tweets they were posting the same things time and time again.

  • http://www.stonetemple.com Eric Enge

    Hi Liam – Must be some sort of scam. I would think that what you describe would be really easy to detect. You said they were tweeting stories from this blog post? Can you send me an example?

  • http://www.webcircle.com.au/ Dan Norris

    What do you suggest web developers do? Ditch the footer link?

  • http://mattinertia.com Matt Inertia

    I thought footer links had been de-valued for a while? Along with sitewide links such as the stat counter?

    I wouldnt be surprised if keyword domains get a hit soon. They still get far more weight than they deserve IMO.

  • http://www.danieldeceuster.com Daniel Deceuster

    Great article, I think you are absolutely spot on. I think the most obvious target on Google’s list would be anchor text though, I’m surprised it is not on your list. Exact match anchor text for long tail keywords is such an easy filter to make. Just think about phrases like “cheap overnight cash advance online.” This is a legit search that is performed, however, it is not natural language. You shouldn’t have a single link with this as the anchor text. If you do, it is unnatural. If 90% of your backlinks have this anchor text, it’s clear you are probably not playing by the rules.

    I think all Google needs to do is implement an anchor text filter on long tail keywords. After all, those are the phrases most targeted by spammers. Spam has a hard time rankings well for competitive, short phrases so they target the easier long tail searches. I’m sure this change is coming some time this year.

  • http://www.sensational-hosting.co.uk Nathaniel Bailey

    I think most of what you said would be a good move for google to clamp down on but just how many innocent sites would be effected by these changes if google was to make them bad for everyone!?

    I know a lot of people use the footer link to link to relevant pages/sites and the same for articles (I only submit each article once) but what are we to do about links in articles/guest posts if google think they are spam or manipulative like you said above?

    Its not that I dont think google need to stop poor quality articles and footer links etc, I just think if/when google do such updates to the algo, its going to f’up innocent sites as well as those that are doing bad seo :(

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com L.T.

    A google spam engineer stated on hackernews that a change is actually coming, and I quote him by saying \we will drastically change the way we view links\.

    Over anchor text abuse is too rampant and this is clearly the change that’s coming! Finally :)

  • http://www.stonetemple.com Eric Enge

    Point taken on anchor text! Unnatural anchor text distribution is also a prime target. I’d expect that to be in the mix as well.

  • Ian Howells

    “For the first time, user experience and content quality became ranking factors in SEO for Google.”

    Oh, rly?

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call them ranking factors just yet. At least, not ones that can make or break your positions. It seems as though user feedback can be the tipping point in whether or not a site/page gets put through a separate algorithm sequence that checks for other factors. (Ad to content ratio, number of pages with no external links, etc etc)

    Content “quality” still does not matter from a pure ranking perspective (with a few exceptions). Google still can’t read. They know what words should be showing up in a document with other words – which can still easily be faked with garbage content. I have way too many pieces of garbage content on my testing network that are drawing in traffic to believe otherwise.

    Now, those exceptions I noted. Garbage content can lead to you getting reported as spam or lead to very high bounce rates (and fast bounces at that). These can absolutely work against you, but the fact that Google can track what typically happens with garbage content doesn’t mean the content itself is the ranking factor – its the results produced by that content.

    Now, I might be complaining about semantics here, but I do think this is important. Here’s why.

    Calling “good content” a ranking factor gives people the Utopian impression that they can just write great content then sit back and reap the benefits. That’s flat out false, and completely unfair to people new to the industry.

    For generating long term, sustainable rankings, creating great content is only the first step of many.

    It, in and of itself, can not get you ranked.

  • http://www.candlesandfavors.com Nick Goudoras Jr.

    Hi Eric,

    I am currently using Article Marketing Automation and blog commenting to get some links to my retail sight. I thought this was the best way to get some quality inbound links so that maybe I could beat my competitors. We have always played by the rules and it hasn’t seemed to really get us anywhere with the search engines. We have tried to consistently adding well written content in our blog as well as on the product pages and provide great products and customer service yet I am always told back-links are our biggest issue. What is the answer because, I do stay up late at night worrying about how to add more value for my customers.