Weekly SEO news: 22 May 2012

Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

After Google's recent Penguin update, much has been written about negative SEO. Does it really exist and can it be used to hurt your website? What can you do to avoid problems?

In the news: Bing recommends that you diversify, keyword stuffing in title attributes can lead to problems, the Wall Street Journal writes about Google's Penguin update, Google ignores unknown tags and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Negative SEO: does it really exist?

After Google's recent Penguin update, much has been written about negative SEO. Does it really exist and can it be used to hurt your website? What can you do to avoid problems?

What is negative SEO?

Negative SEO refers to tactics that companies use to manipulate the organic Google rankings of their competitors. Google's Penguin update penalized websites that used spammy links to get higher rankings.

If low quality links really hurt the Google rankings of a website, then one of your competitors could submit your site to paid link networks and your Google rankings would drop. That's what negative SEO is about.

Other things that your competitors could do:

  • duplicate your website content on spammy sites
  • use known spam link generators to link to your site
  • fake business reviews so they don’t appear natural
  • etc.

Does negative SEO work?

This is a very controversial topic among SEO experts. Some think that negative SEO is not possible, others are sure that it is possible to harm the Google rankings of a competitor.

Instead of penalizing websites that have backlinks from spammy sites, Google could simply ignore the spammy links. People who try to promote their sites with these links would waste their time and other website owners wouldn't be hurt.

Google could also introduce a robots.txt command that tells Google that certain links should be ignored. It's hard to believe that Google's engineers would make it possible to harm other websites if there was an easier solution that would prevent this.

What can you do to prevent problems?

If you want to make sure that your website doesn't get penalized by Google, do the following:

  • Do not use spam methods to promote your websites. If Google ignores these methods, you're wasting your time. If Google penalizes these methods, you will damage your website rankings.
  • If you find fake reviews of your website, ask the website that publishes the reviews to remove the fake reviews.
  • Use white-hat SEO methods to promote your website. If you show Google that your website is a high quality website, then your web pages will get high rankings.
  • Make sure that your website is not too dependent on Google. You should also get visitors through other sources (online ads, offline ads, links on other websites, etc.).

Negative SEO is highly unethical and one can only hope that Google doesn't allow other people to damage your rankings. To improve your rankings, focus on the factors that you can influence and optimize your web pages so that they get high rankings on Google.

2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Bing: penguins & pandas poetry

"You cannot control when a search engine makes an update, or what that update will impact. That much is obvious. But what many websites fail to take action on is forecasting change, preventative work and exercises in the obvious. [...]

Having all your business in one basket is bad news. You need to diversify. When things are ticking along well in one area, start ramping up efforts in another channel."

Editor's note: IBP's Top 10 Optimizer helps you to get high rankings on Google and Bing. Bing has a market share of about 30%. Optimizing your web pages for Bing will deliver additional visitors to your site.

John MuellerGoogle's John Mueller: don't abuse title attributes

In an online discussion, Google's John Mueller says that keyword stuffed title attributes might lead to problems with Google:

"It looks like a lot of the content on that page (and others within your site) is "hidden" behind title-attributes. To our algorithms, that might look a bit sneaky -- and in practice, it doesn't make that much sense, so I'd recommend going through your pages and making sure that you're using title-attributes as they would normally be used."

He also says that automatically translated content counts as spam:

"Keep in mind that automatically translated content would be seen as web-spam, so I'd recommend making sure that it can no longer be crawled & indexed."

Editor's note: to make sure that your web pages are not over-optimized, analyze them with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.

WSJ: as Google tweaks searches, some get lost in the web

"Google Inc. recently tweaked the way its search engine ranks websites, seeking to downplay sites it suspects of artificially boosting their rankings. Now some small businesses say they are scrambling to avoid being relegated to the Internet's junk bin. [...]

Because Google makes so many changes to its algorithm, it's often difficult for small-business owners with limited resources to stay on top of all of its tweaks."

Editor's note: if you want to find out if your website is ready for Google's latest algorithm, analyze your web pages with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.

John MuellerGoogle's John Mueller: if Google doesn't know a tag, they ignore it

"In cases where we don't understand the markup that's used, we'll generally ignore the tag and just keep the text. That allows us to keep up with most of these changes, be it from XML pages or new HTML5 tags like these. A quick way to double-check is to look at the text-version of a cached page."

Forbes: Google can survive too much innovation. You can't.

"[The people at Google] pursue way too many new businesses and new products to become great at any one of them. [...]

For middle-market companies, focusing innovation on the very best opportunities is critical. Using a disciplined process to scrutinize every new product idea makes a business much less likely to drown in innovation."

Search engine newslets
  • Video: What hardware and software powers Googlebot?
  • Google’s Marissa Mayer talks tech with Newsweek.
  • Discussion: did Bing update the index?
  • Google introduces Knowledge Graph.
  • New Google Plus data shows weak user engagement.
  • Measure the impact of weather on your business.
  • Humor: fake Matt Cutts video on how to get ranked on Google.

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3. Recommended resources

Check the backlink profile of your website and much more

SEOprofiler is a full-featured SEO solution that can analyze the backlink profile of your website and much more.

You can also use it to spy on the Google rankings and Google AdWords campaigns of your competitors, it helps you to get new backlinks, it helps you to optimize your web pages, it checks your rankings on search engines and much more.


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