Google Says It Hates Keyword Stuffing But Why Do Top Sites Still Use It?

Google hates keyword stuffing and clearly addressed this SEO tactic in the Panda update last year. In fact, Google actually states this in their webmaster guidelines about keyword stuffing:

 “Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

Examples of keyword stuffing include:

  • Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
  • Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
  • Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:
    We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.”

Here are some sites online that are using keyword stuffing so you can take a real world look at this technique in action:

http://www.ranchland.com/
Take a look at the footer to see the stuffing in action? But although this site is clearly in violation of Google’s rules, it is still getting top placement on important industry specific keywords. Take a look at the content and you’ll see that it is in some places nearly unreadable for keywords interspersed in the content. So why has this site not been penalized? There simply may be more at play than we know that is keeping this site in the top spot.

 

Keyword Stuffing in action.
Keyword Stuffing in action.

http://www.bowcolabs.com/
Here’s another site that is using the tactic that Google has clearly disavowed at the bottom of the page just as an example. Although this site does not have top 60 result placement, it is a fine example of what to steer clear of in regards to keyword stuffing.

So back to the topic, if Google hates keyword stuffing, why are top sites still using it and why have they not dropped in placement? Although these sites may have slipped through Google’s filter, there may be other factors at play that are keeping top sites using stuffing still at the top. Or it may also be that Google simply has not caught up with sites using these tactics. Whatever the reason, for sites that are using this stuffing, I would recommend a slow revision to remove it while improving content and user engagement.

I personally don’t believe that using just these disavowed techniques will get any site top placement. What gets placement is a combination of quality content, some degree of keyword density (1% to 2%), quality inbound links, and shareable content.

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CoffeeCup Sitemap Builder a Great Little Tool

I love CoffeCup’s Sitemapper and wanted to share my personal unpaid review on this product with you. This is an easy to use and highly configurable application. I routinely use it to rebuild my own Google sitemaps and those for clients. With a low cost of only $39 and the ability to do a free trial, this is one application that every webmaster should have or at least check out.

Screen shot of the Sitemapper.
Screen shot of the Sitemapper.

With Sitemapper, you can scan your files two ways, you can scan from a web URL or you can scan your local files. Once set up, you let the application run and it will create a compliant XML site map automatically. But before you even generate the final sitemap, Sitemapper provides a visual file tree allowing you to delete files and file types.

With configurable options such as setting the update frequency for Googlebot and the page priority, I think that you’ll find this an excellent application and well worth the small price.

I particularly like the error tracking feature that allows me to know what broken links I have that will generate a 404 page from pages in my sitemap. In fact, I’ve just finished scanning a 3,500 page site and have about 50 links to review to clean up my new sitemap. It’s a great time saving assist!

Although I don’t use this feature, you can even connect the application to your Google Webmaster Control Panel for a quick upload. I prefer to review my sitemap personally and then load it to my server root via FTP.

I think that you’ll like this nifty application, I find it indispensable for my own personal needs and a real help for my customers especially those with large websites.

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GMail and the Promotion Tab

Google has made some big changes in the last several weeks in GMail. One of the biggest changes is that they are now more aggressively showing advertising in your inbox that looks like actual messages. One of the other big changes that impacts those of us that do e-newsletters is that this type of correspondence will now appear in the default “promotions” tab.

In this video from the Social Media Examiner, you can see how you can help consumers to understand how to tag your emailings so that they will go to the main inbox versus the promotion tab. It is an interesting short video and well worth the look to see if you need to do any instruction in your next newsletter on how to tag your mailings.

So far the industry is reporting about a 10% drop in openings from GMail users now that Google has instituted this design change/filter in GMail accounts.

To watch this online, please visit this page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Elz_1KQnmA

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Using Google AdWords Experiments for Testing

The ability to test using AdWords Experiments has been around for a while, but Google is making it much easier now to do some interesting testing in your account. Here is one of my favorite test scenarios and how to set it up.

Test Different Ad Landing Pages for Conversions

1. First create a new version of your AdWords landing page. Typically we go whole hog and really work to create a completely different look. The control page is the normal page and the test page may be more video heavy, have stronger marketing language, and may even be a different layout than the normal page.

2. Using AdWords Editor, copy the ad group in entirety that you want to test. Then paste the copied ad group back into the same campaign. Go to the ad tab and change all the URLs in your test ad group to your new test landing page.

3. Then log back onto the online version of AdWords. Go to the campaign where your test resides and click settings. At the bottom of the page is a link called “experiments”. Click it to open and set up your settings. I will typically do a 50/50 test between the control and test. Set your start and end dates. I will typically do more than 30 days and I will typically set up for 60 but do a full statistical review at 30 days. Save your experiment. Now if Google will not allow it so save – as it will do sometimes, you need to check to see if in your budget setting on the same page you are using eCPC or Enhanced Cost Per Click settings. If you are, you need to move to manual bidding and remove all automation. Then try again to save your experiment.

4. You’re not done yet! Go back to the campaign tab, click to get to the campaign details page where you have all your ad groups showing. You’ll see a new icon at the left in front of the ad group name. Click the drop down and label your original ad group as the control only and your test ad group as experiment only.

If you may changes to ad text or keywords as you are running your test, make sure to use AdWords Editor to copy the changes into both programs.

Some of the interesting results we’ve seen are increases in conversions and increases in phone conversions. To learn more about using AdWords Experiments, here’s a great article written by Tom Demers at Wordstream.

If you are looking for a savvy AdWords account manager, I invite you to call me to chat about your needs.

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Google Wants the Fastest Web Pages to Rank the Highest

Google has a new team that is King for now, it is the Making the Web Fast Team headed by engineer Ilya Grigorik. You’ll be hearing a lot about this new team in the days, weeks, and month ahead.

Speedometer showing excessive speed.
Google is all about PageSpeed now.

To understand how important this new thrust into page speed is for Google, I recommend watching Ilya’s recent presentation on the topic. The bottom line is that Google is serious about website page speed, and has even come out point blank to say that PageSpeed (a new term coined by Google) is now part of their algorithm used to rack and stack websites in the organic results.

Google is so fixated on speed that they want you to be as well and so as a result has set up a new tool where you can check your own PageSpeed online: http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. Using this tool – the PageSpeed Insights Tool, Google will quickly spider your site as well as your mobile site and give you a score as well as tips on how to improve your site speed.

So just how important is PageSpeed to Google? 

Well this is what Google says specifically, “Fast and optimized pages lead to higher visitor engagement, retention, and conversions.” That means that Google feels that to keep its own search engine in the number one spot for users the sites that it returns in the organic results had better be FAST!

Okay, how fast is fast?

Google wants speeds of 2,000 milliseconds or less for page load time. If your page loads in about one second or less, Google should be happy with your site. If your site loads in over one second, I would recommend you start looking to drop images, compress image files, enable http caching, and strongly looking at ways to speed up your page load time.

Here are some great resources from Google to help you improve your PageSpeed.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/ developer tools provided by Google

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/service a beta by invitation PageSpeed improvement service

http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ pagespeed testing tool

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/psol page speed optimization libraries

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On Page Optimization Only Affects Organic Placement by 25%

Google has really mixed up and turned upside down how website owners now go about trying to get organic placement in this past year. It used to be that on page optimization was the first and foremost thing to do to improve placement on Google.com. Now on page optimization only impacts organic placement by a meager 25%.

Build web authority and trust to place better on Google.com.
Build web authority and trust to place better on Google.com.

So what are the big impacts that bump up organic placement on Google now?

  1. Sharable content that other blogs and users want to link to for more information.
  2. Resources that speak about you and your site as authorities and experts in your industry.
  3. Social media chatter about your business and content.
  4. Followers that become advocates for you and your services through social engagement.
  5. Authority websites that link to your content.

With only a 25% impact coming from on page optimization, is it worth the time and trouble to update your meta title and meta description tags? You bet! Although this is now a small part on what it takes to get ranking on Google.com, it is one of the easiest factors for you to update quickly and may give you the “bump” in placement you need to move above your competitors.

Sure the other 75% of factors are tough, really tough to impact, but with great content and being active in social media, you can work to engage others and start buzz that will directly impact placement on Google over time. Personally I believe that having a great content strategy is the very first step.

In this strategy you’ll want to look at the following:

1. Set a schedule for creation of sharable white papers to be done on a monthly basis. This gives your site something unique to push in social media and provides value to readers. I would not necessarily lock this new content down behind a gateway, but rather allow it to be used free and widely as long as links back to your site are maintained.

2. Set a schedule about how frequently you’ll self-promote in your social updates. Typically we recommend one soft sell update a day out of five updates.

3. Make sure your blogger is focused on supplying content for your target audience. The days of pushing your service in each and every blog are long gone. Now you’ll want to provide something of substance in your blog posts that others you want to have become customers will consider real value.

4. Monitor your progress. You won’t know if what you are doing is working if you don’t have a starting benchmark and check regularly (monthly) to see if what you are doing is impacting your organic placement.

5. Know that everything you do now should be to improve your user experience and not to cater to search engines. By putting your customer and prospect first and foremost in your new strategy organic placement is sure to come over time.

If you need top level, but down to earth practical help with your content strategy, it all starts with our initial SEO evaluation. Take a few moments to find out if we may be a good match for your needs.

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