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Understanding Google and the role of SEO

Search Engines are businesses. Like any business, they want to deliver the best product they can to their consumer – in the case of the search engines, that means the best search results to searchers.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

60% Say Matt Cutts Won't Return To Google

60% Say Matt Cutts Won't Return To Google


Matt CuttsAs you all know, Matt Cutts has been on leave, an extended vacation for a while now. He extended it even more in November and there are no signs of him coming back any time soon.
I asked in November, if you guys felt Matt would ever return to Google. We had over 500 responses to the poll. The responses said 60% felt Matt would never return to Google, while 40% felt he would.
Personally, I think he will eventually return to Google but not resume in his role at the web spam team. I think he will take more of a role of pushing political change to better the internet in some ways. I do not think he would be interested in coming back as the head of web spam.
We had 560 votes, 37% said he would return, 56% said he would not return and the rest said they simply do not care either way.
I do think Google's web spam team is a better place with Matt.
Forum discussion continued at Black Hat World.

Google's Sorry Captcha Lives At sorry.google.com

Google's Sorry Captcha Lives At sorry.google.com


sorry gameWe know sometimes, when you do something on Google, Google wants to verify you are a human and not a robot. So they serve up a captcha for you to prove you are someone typing with real fingers.
I often see people complaining about that in the forums but the truth is, it is rare for a user to stumble upon the Sorry screen in normal daily Google activities.
Did you know that you can access this captcha directly, without fail, by going to sorry.google.com?
I am not sure when that became available? But it is available now.
I also don't see much discussion around this subdomain name in Google. So it isn't a big deal, although everything with Google is a big deal - or it is fairly new.
Here is a picture of what it looks like:
Sorry Google
I spotted this on Hacker News.

Google: Penguin Algorithm & The Engineers Took A Break

summer penguinDuring the busiest holiday shopping season, Google was making ongoing updates to the Penguin algorithm. There is no disputing that, Google confirmed it.
But since the second week of December, Google seems to have stalled all updates.
John Mueller of Google said in a Google+ hangout right before the new year, that the reason he had no updates on Penguin is because the engineers may have been trying to take a break.
John said at around 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the hangout, "I guess, one of the areas where the engineers are trying to take a break and see how things go at the moment, so no big changes happening there."
Here is the Q&A transcript:
JOSH BACHYNSKI: So I guess we're obliged to ask about Penguin and if you have any new information. And if you don't, that's no problem. We can just quickly move on.
JOHN MUELLER: I don't really have anything new to share there, no. Sorry.
JOSH BACHYNSKI: OK.
JOHN MUELLER: This is also, I guess, one of the areas where the engineers are trying to take a break and see how things go at the moment, so no big changes happening there.
Again, to see how active the Penguin changes were during the holiday season, see this post.
Forum discussion at Google+.

Google: Even Without Disavowing, Getting Good Links Can Remove Your Penguin Problems

Google: Even Without Disavowing, Getting Good Links Can Remove Your Penguin Problems


Google Disavow Machete ManIn a video hangout with Google's John Mueller, John said that even without using the disavow file or removing bad links, it is possible to recover from a Penguin penalty (aka algorithm). Let me say that again... If you are hit by a Penguin issue on your site and you don't want to remove the bad links either manually or by using the disavow file, you can instead try to build up better quality links.
Google's John Mueller said Penguin looks at links at an "aggregated level across everything that we have from your website" and thus, if the algorithm tips in the favor of good links, then you are going to see a recovery. Now, he wouldn't say what the percentage was - because (1) he doesn't likely know and (2) it probably doesn't work on a percentage. But he said it is possible to recover without disavowing or removing links, but he would still recommend you remove bad links.
He said this 33 minutes and 52 seconds into the video, when he was asked this. Here is the transcript from YouTube:
Question: Let's take a hypothetical situation where a webmaster doesn't know about the Webmaster Tools disavow tool, and the majority of his links are directories or websites selling links, and is obviously affected by the Penguin penalty.
Meanwhile, he goes ahead and gets some good-quality links, and the percentage of low-quality links changes-- gets smaller. But again, he doesn't use a disavow file or anything else.
Would this help him-- so if the majority of the links become the quality links, would this help him remove or would Google robot remove the Penguin penalty?
JOHN MUELLER: That would definitely help. Yeah.
So, I mean, we look at it on an aggregated level across everything that we have from your website. And if we see that things are picking up and things are going in the right direction, then that's something our algorithms will be able to take into account. So in the hypothetical situation of someone who doesn't know about any of this and they realized they did something wrong in the past and they're working to improve that in the future, then that's something that our algorithms will pick up on and will be able to use as well.
Still, if you're in that situation, it wouldn't be that I'd say you should ignore the disavow tool and just focus on moving forward in a good way, but instead really trying to clean up those old issues as well. And it's not something where we'd say that using the disavow tool is a sign that you're a knowledgeable SEO and that you should know better about these links. It's essentially a technical thing on our side, where we don't take those links into account anymore. It doesn't count negatively for your website if you use a disavow tool. It's not something you should be ashamed of using. If you know about this tool, if you know about problematic links to your site, then I just recommend cleaning that up.
Question: OK. I'm not really in that situation. Again, it was just a hypothetical. I was mainly curious from a technical point of view. I mean, would the penalty actually get removed if the majority of the percentage of low-quality links diminishes? The actual Penguin penalty-- would it be removed?
JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. That's something that our algorithms would take into account-- where if they look at the site overall and they see that this is essentially improving, if it looks like things are headed in the right way and the important links are really good links that are recommendations by other people, then they'll be able to take that into account and modify whatever adjustment there was made with that change there on that website.
So they would take that into account. I wouldn't say that you have to have more than 50% and then the algorithm will disappear for your website. Let's say there are lots of shades of gray involved there, where the algorithm could say, well, this is looked really bad in the beginning. They worked a lot to kind of improve things overall. Things were improving significantly across the web with lots of good recommendations for this site. So it's kind of headed in the right direction. So it wouldn't be that it disappears completely, but maybe it'll kind of step-by-step improve.
This was spotted by Whitey in WebmasterWorld.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld and Google+.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Webmasters Talk About 2015 SEO & Search Trends & Predictions

Webmasters Talk About 2015 SEO & Search Trends & Predictions


SEOThere is a wonderful thread that is pretty deep right now, going on at WebmasterWorld talking about the 2014 trends in search, and what people expect to see in search in 2015 - mostly on the organic side.
To me, the big scare are more and more knowledge graph and quick answers showing up in Google's search results. This is a trend that is not slowing down at all and seems to be replacing the need for the ten blue links. Of course, mobile growth is massive. Matt Cutts being away from Google so long and the issues of transparency between webmasters and Google on the algorithm side is upsetting. This is evident in the latest Penguin updates that have shocked and hurt more than it helped. Of course, sites still are being hit by Panda, that clearly should not be - despite Google's efforts.
Here is just a short list of some of what is being discussed in the thread:
  • Matt Cutts Leaves Google Temporarily, Where It Outreach?
  • Bing Fires and Rehires Duane Forrester
  • Panda Algorithm rolls out without much softening for those impacted
  • Penguin was a mess this year and not getting any better.
  • Mobile search growing beyond desktop search
  • Social growth and traffic increases
  • Schema more of a role
  • Knowledge Graph and Quick Answers eating up search traffic
  • Link networks and devaluing links
  • Keyword density issue
  • More user intent metrics
  • Geo-specific ranking changes
  • Personalization changes or less personalized results?
  • More ads in place or organic results
  • Will SSL make much of a dent?
  • More mobile ranking factors?
What do you think will be the biggest trend in SEO in 2015?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto for SEO words