Sunday, February 23, 2014

Update: SEO Issues - is it Penguin? Is it Panda? or is it me?

It was a little over a year ago that I posted the "SEO Issues - is it Penguin? Is it Panda? or is it me?" in which I detailed out the struggles I had faced with recovering a website that had been hit hard by Penguin and Panda updates. I had first identified which section of the site that was hit the most, and presented my findings to the head of the corporation's division. 
In the months that followed, there were projects quickly rolled out that were designed to fix the site, and to recover the traffic that was lost. After months of the site losing traffic and still getting penalized there was a light at the end of the tunnel in recovered traffic just before I wrote and published the blog post.
I am sure a lot of you who have read the article are wondering where the site is today. Sure, a quick hockey stick of recovered traffic is great, but did that traffic hold throughout the year? 

I am happy to report that traffic has held:

Traffic continued to grow throughout January 2013 (just after the jump in traffic in November 2012) and through February. The industry the site is in sees an overall rise in traffic and consumer interest to purchase from the last week of December through February with a downtrend through the rest of the year every year. While we saw the site follow this trend, in July we saw a boost in traffic. After careful research, it was determined that a Google Panda update confirmed on July 24th was the boost we needed. Ironically, what had taken the site down in the past was now helping the site improve as we continued to clean up issues remaining causing the hits from Panda and Penguin.

Most important issues identified:


  1. Too many on-page links
  2. Top level pages
  3. No site hierarchy
  4. An extremely high number of URLs
  5. Duplicate content
  6. Not enough unique content


In general - the site was not following the core of the Webmaster Tools Guidelines which is the Bible of SEO. If a site isn't following the core of what Google says, then there is virtually no hope for it.

As 2012 was focused on recovering from Panda and Penguin hits, 2013 was focused on cleaning up the remaining issues from parameters, thin content, duplicate content, finalizing the last pages to the hierarchy, and so on. I am happy to report that the site is now 96% complete of all issues, and the first of many projects are underway that are designed to grab new opportunity for the site. Traffic has seen increases in August, October, and another boost in December with continued growth as we are in the peak of our season again.

Courage is Grace Under Pressure


It was what was stated in the image I had added to my post along with the description of the pressures I had faced in 2012.
Throughout those grueling three months there were several Google Panda and Penguin updates. I documented each and every one of them in Google Analytics, and continued to answer questions, gathering data, and dealing with being under close scrutiny that the work I was doing was complete BS.
I sat in numerous meetings, some of which I walked out crying (I'm not afraid to admit it), being questioned about the road I had taken and why we weren't seeing results. There were people within the company recommending that they roll the pages back to where they were before, and even changing the URLs. I fought hard that they don't touch a thing. I sent an article posted on Search Engine Land by Barry Schwartz citing Google's patent that "tricks" search spammers.
But the article and my please fell on deaf ears...
It had gotten so heated and there was fear that nothing was being done while traffic was significantly declining that the company brought in yet another SEO consultant to look at the site objectively. 
It was a lot to bear, and lot to live through. Sadly, what I had experienced in the organization was not unlike the experience many SEOs face. We are constantly questioned and second guessed. Many coworkers and bosses will even take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can, only to find that there is a lot of arguing among the experts in the industry as to what is the "right" way to optimize, and what is "wrong". But for SEO there is no right or wrong way, only what works. My philosophy behind optimizing is to always follow the rules. Start with the guidelines, organize the website, provide information for the user and present it in a way that makes sense. No shortcuts, trickery, or "optimizing". It is a philosophy I fight for every day (and boy do I fight).

Today I am happy to say the tune towards myself and the SEO work that is getting done has completely changed. My Boss now gives me rave reviews, the company has belief in the work done for SEO, and the team (product and engineering) is extremely supportive with any issue or requests needed for SEO. We are a cohesive and supportive team, and the results from the work we are doing is paying off.

Many people in the industry have told me to look for work elsewhere. That not only included people in the industry and some of my supportive coworkers, but the person my Boss reports to had even recommended it. I will admit I had interviewed at a couple of places. What discouraged me was that I knew the work that had been done up until that point would eventually pay off. If I had left then credit would have been given to the next SEO hired, or worse, it would be ruined by someone focusing on getting instant results. Most importantly, leaving the team that is now supportive was just not what I wanted. I love working for this company (the benefits are good), and everyone that I work with is like family. I call us the "Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin." since we are a small office within a very large organization. We are a close family that support one another and they all seem to welcome my quirkiness.

Until Next Year

So until next year, I will be continuing my job and the work for SEO. I have big plans for the website, and will continue to fight for what I believe in for SEO. I will also try to get more informational posts on here as we continue our last bit of cleanup on the site and continue to see results. I am even contemplating writing a book (as I have been told I should for a few years now), but am still reluctant with all those great SEO books already on the shelves - most of which have been written by some very dear friends. Until then - keep optimizing, and fighting for what you believe in SEOs.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So You Wanna Learn SEO?

It's been a while since I have posted anything. Mainly because it's been a pretty crazy couple of months at the office. Traffic for SEO has gone up, now bringing in over 92% of the total lead volume (go us!) and when things get to going good it just makes me want to keep doing more. So the things that help me relax, like writing, tend to get pushed to the side lines.

What inspired me to write something tonight was an update I saw in my Facebook feed. I see the question come through often, and even get the question myself more often than you would think. You see, people want to learn SEO. Not necessarily so they can be SEOs themselves, but to understand what it is us SEOs are talking about when we say "SERP", "Meta Tags", or "Canonical Tags". So they can envision why we say you can't have two pages with the same word on them (duplicate content), or why we tell them they have to have links to important pages of their website from their homepage (but not too many links). So I put together a long list of resources recommended by some of the best experts int he industry, and even some sent over my newbies that are learning SEO that have read, completed, or tried the following and highly recommend them.

Get Started - SEO Resources for Beginners


The Next Step - Buy The Book


Get Certified - Academies and Certification


This should be enough to get your started - perhaps just enough to be slightly more than dangerous even. Of course if you ever have any questions for SEO, I am always available - just contact me. I will at times hold a workshop that has been streamlined to 4-5 hours and covers all the basics you will need for SEO. The workshops are small and I am available to answer questions as you have them so it's a great time to get a list of your questions together, and perhaps even have me take a look at your site for just a few hundred bucks.

I do occasionally take on consulting if you need more than just a quick question. A basic SEO Audit runs around $1,000 to $2,500 (depending on the size of the site, and how in-depth you need) and generally takes a week or two (remember I still have a full time job with ADP, and that takes up my daytime). I have been known to find some really interesting issues with sites even with the most basic audits and managed to get them back from the dead after Panda and Penguin updates. Ongoing support can come in the form of an hourly retainer - which I am happy to discuss. Do remember though, I only take on 1-2 clients at a time so that I can give all of my attention and focus on the work and making sure I am there whenever you need me (I demand quality customer service, and therefore ensure my clients get the utmost 100% best service possible as well). 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Secret to Making Viral Content

I have been in online marketing for many, many years now and have watched as others have made the oddest content go viral. Viral content is like the Loch Ness Monster, few have seen it, some swear it exists, but it is ever so elusive, and only shows up on random occasions. I was there when JibJab released their funny animation in 2004 titled "This Land is Your Land" spoofing the Presidential Election between George W. Bush and John Kerry to the tune originally by Woodie Guthrie. Gregg Spiridellis (co-creator of the famous viral video) said it himself that the video required 4 key points:
1) First and foremost, it was the right piece of content at the right time. The political dialogue was totally asinine and we seemed to capture that spirit. The writing and enhanced production values made it something people wanted to watch.
2) Broadband penetration has skyrocketed since our 2000 election parody making our work accessible to a much larger audience.
3) Processor speeds have also increased making it more enjoyable to watch video/animation on a computer.
4) Everyday people are more comfortable with technology. I can't tell you how many times we heard "my grandmother sent it to me". Grandmas were not emailing in 2000.
 Remember this is coming from 2004 - and viral content is now easier than ever to generate. I was in such awe of what they had accomplished that I have been trying to recreate the same affect for years now.

So you have to understand how amazed I am that one simple Google search for "Car Funny" brought me to the cutest baby pic with a statement that would spark a debate among car enthusiasts. Now, it's not some unique meme I knew immediately would go viral, it was among hundreds I gathered and scheduled to post on my fun Facebook Page called "POS Cars" that supports my even more fun website EmbraceYourPOS.com. The website was created for the sole purpose to make me feel better about owning a 95 Toyota Corolla with over 320k miles, shakes when I go above 65, doesn't unlock from the driver's side, has tape player that doesn't work, zip ties holding the bumper on, and the list goes on...

That photo was posted on September 7, 2013 nearly one month before the photo truly went viral. I hadn't spent a dime on promoting the post, nor did I spend anything on the Facebook page to encourage 'like's.

Yesterday I noticed the post had hundred of shares - and a lot of comments. This afternoon I checked again and the photo has officially gone viral with over 21k 'like's, over 10k shares, and 1,348 comments.

The funny thing is I didn't realize the photo has a misspelling, which seems to be one of the points commented about almost as much as the smack talking among the Mustang and Duramax owners.

So what is it that made the photo go viral suddenly?

To be honest, I can't tell you why, so asking me to do the same thing for your Facebook page isn't going to work. I wouldn't feel comfortable taking your money for the consulting fees, and you probably won't get results from it anyways.

What I do look for when posting content is something controversial that can spark a debate. This clearly fit that bill. A photo that is cute or just in the right context is funny. What I also think played a part in the photo going viral is that there is no hidden agenda to the post or the page. I run the advertising for UsedCars.com and you could probably tie this page to that website somehow and start making money, but that wasn't the point. I have scheduled posts going to the page daily that link to specific years of cars on the site, but it doesn't generate a lot of revenue from them. Nothing near what the SEO for the site does anyways.

You can spend money on sponsored posts, I have often thrown $15-$20 here and there to try and get something going, but it won't guarantee anything other than people seeing your post. If you are still chasing the viral Loch Ness Monster thinking that if you get one it will make you a ton of money, think again. No matter how hard you try to recreate or even just create, something that will go viral the odds are a million to one. If you do hit that viral moment, there is an even slimmer chance that the virality will generate revenue.

But by all means - keep posting that controversial, cute, and funny stuff for your fans, They will love you for it, and when it comes to asking them to give you money for something in return, they just might be more likely to do it.

Want to try one of the baby pics for your site? Here's a Google search for you with plenty to choose from - enjoy