As the majority of the SEO community now knows and too the now presumably unemployed agency/in-house team of Interflora – advertorials and link networks will cause you great problems in organic search. If you want to read the two best articles on why Interflora lost rankings for a number of high value keywords (including their brand terms) then these pieces by Martin Macdonald and Chris C Cemper are the best around – and both right in my opinion.
What I found more interesting was Aaron Wall’s blog post on how Google themselves had done the same, promoting some of the core services and products like Adwords, Analytics and the Chromebook. One can only presume that the internal marketing department for those areas are NOT familiar with their own webmaster guidelines – which really actually doesn’t surprise me, given the size of the business.
Anyway – I managed to spot another national UK Newspaper with an advertorial – the Mirror seemingly putting 4 do follow links with exact match anchor text pointing to “MoneyVista”. (view the page here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/personal-finance/cheap-insurance-compare-comparison-sites-1705747)
I would hope that the guys over at the Mirror are now formatting the links in this article with the correct no-follow and start implementing a checklist for the guys that upload the content to avoid reductions in PageRank.
Moving on to the broader subject we all know paid links are bad but what’s not been discussed in specific detail before are the parts of the subject that constitute “grey areas” – of which there are many.
- Advertorials are often done by the biggest brands in the world by people that don’t even realise what SEO is – they look for consumer reach and PR pickup. While it’s completely the responsibility of the buyer and seller to know the correct technical setup such as the “no follow” – these are often missed
- Product reviews – what’ to stop someone like Apple giving away 10,000 Mac Book Pro’s to the top most authoritative bloggers? Nothing. I’d be willing to bet that at least 30% would write about Apple and most likely link to them too
- Blogroll Links – a lot of bloggers still genuinely like to link to their friends, colleagues and respected similar websites but with the risk of penalties I’m sure many now avoid this
- Web Designer Links – many agencies and web designer like to mark their work with “Produced by” or “Designed by” at the bottom of websites. This usually happens to businesses that are small or medium sized as they don’t usually know the implications of leaving it there
- Partner Links – for larger businesses there are often company partnerships, these often result in crossover linking, either on a stand alone page or in the footer of a website. Sometimes this is a business requirement and useful to consumers – but would search engines know this?
- Guest Blog Posts – at the moment this is OK to do but only if you have a genuine reason to write something of value. Small or duplicated guest blog posts are NOT acceptable but many still fear their good ones could put them at risk.
I’m sure most of these links above will become outlawed if they’re not already – or simply just no-follow all links to remove risk.
So it seems that Google is currently in the process of updating how Google+ brand/business pages are being displayed in the SERPS.
Besides the new thumbnails showing the old brand logos has reduced in size and the business description now removed. At the moment (9am GMT) the thumbnails are not showing fully in the UK but they are on google.com – most likely because it’s rolling out now.
What else is interesting is that Google now seems to be cutting off posts after 24 hours, probably in a bid to keep results fresh:
You can see that in the UK for a number of brands that do actually have quite a good presence on Google+ they now do NOT trigger their listing in the search results:
- Toyota has over 200k +1′s and over 2 million followers
- Burberry has over 2 million +1′s and 2 million followers
If anyone else has any more information on this update please let me know.
This is an area that I’ve always been questioned with by large businesses that want as much ownership from their brand in Google’s search results as possible. There are a number of reasons for wanting to own the first page of Google’s results (be it 10 or 7 results) but the simple fact is that if a potential customer is searching for your brand then you want to do your upmost to ensure that it’s only your brand they can find, not a competitor.
It’s something that Google has also tried it’s best to address with numerous, and not always successfully updates to its algorithm; think of the various versions of sitelinks, multiple listings from the same domain in search results, Google+ integration and the most recent destruction of extract match domains which will eradicate any attempt of tapping into your brand share by affiliates.
I do, however still see many brands, big ones too, that are losing out on at least 25% of their brands search volume – simply by not owning listings after position 3. So what can you do?
Social Networks – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube
This is the most obvious of locations to start with but don’t confuse them with being easy to rank for, if you don’t optimise them they won’t rank for your brand name for a long time. Remember to use your business name where possible when setting them up i.e. in username, URL, bio, descriptions. To really get better rankings for all these networks there needs to be a verified relationship in place, essentially link back to your website from all profiles and on your website link back to all the profiles (think reciprocal). Even with the setup in place it will take time (but nowhere near as long as before), you’ll need to post regularly of course, your own content as well as others – build your fans & followers etc.
This is again one of the more obvious ideas for protecting your organic brand listings but another one that’s not as straight forward as you might think. If your brand page already exists on Wikipedia then it will either be for another company with the same name or generally just a skeleton profile with very little or inaccurate information showing. Creating a Wikipedia page is something of an art form; to ensure its setup correctly be sure to provide as much company information as possible, be neutral when writing, highlight key historical dates, stats and achievements and be sure to cite credible references throughout. In the external links section make sure to link back to your business, although this is a nofollow link it does show Google again that it’s a relevant result and there is some relationship in place – this is one of the results that can very quickly start ranking for your brand phrases and is certainly a good place to start.
Although iTunes and Google play applications have been around for a while now it’s only quite recently I’ve started to see the landing pages for them appear on the first page of brand searches. This could be for a number of reasons; brands are now leveraging mobile more with the building of apps and Google’s ever changing algorithm assigning more authority on iTunes landing pages. This will certainly be one of the more expensive ways of adding another owned listing to the search results but whatever application you have it will add to your brand experience and draw a high percentage of the CTR in from the search volume opportunity.
This is probably one of the oldest methods of protecting a brand in Google, often unintentionally of course. Whatever the reason for your company using them, be it an international/language strategy or simply a way to segment a section of the main domain (think press and jobs) Google will still list these under the main domain if they carry enough authority. You just need to search for Google to see how they’ve segmented all their services (like maps, images, news etc.) and they are one of the few brands (that until recently) own all 10 listings (if you search in .com). As sub domains are treated like separate websites you will of course need to build up links and authority which may take some time.
GEO-IP Detection with TLDs
Top Level Domains are my preferred choice when thinking international targeting, sometimes, depending on your location you could have multiple language versions of the same site appear in Google. This usually happens in locations that have the same language i.e. US, AU and UK results are often mixed – when searching for a specific brand this is even more apparent. There is one area which boarders on being sneaky and not entirely in line with Google; if you own a .com then set the server side GEO IP detection to that of whichever country the user is in so they get redirected to the correct content. At the same time promote/link build for the local TLD and what you’ll get is both (for example see Alexander McQueen websites) the .co.uk and .com appearing in the same search results.
This is one of the more expensive ways to ensure your brand occupies the entire first page of results and since the EMD update slightly less effective. If your company is large enough and you have a genuine reason to create a microsite; could be for a PR campaign, launch of a new product or even a sister company – then this is still a viable option. You’ll need to optimise the sites for your brand keywords as well as supporting the authority with external links and links from your main website.
LinkedIn could fall under other the social platforms point but as its more business orientated it provides an alternative way to take up organic space in Google. A LinkedIn profile can be enhanced by the way you set it up as well as by the number of employees you have within your organisation. If your company has a few hundred employees that all link to your website externally as well as internally you’ll find the profile building up authority reasonably quickly. If you have fewer employees then participation in discussions is the best route to building up a good profile. Finally a good tip is to have certain employee’s link to other areas of your business such as sub domains or microsites, i.e. Head of HR link to a jobs. sub domain or a specific microsite. Besides taking up space in the organic results it also illustrates a good overview of your business and who’s involved in the running of it, for certain niche’s, especially marketing and technology these act as trust enhancers.
Let’s not forget of Google local and how powerful this can be in certain verticals, especially travel and high-street retail. If you run a business that has many physical locations then you should consider this an advantage for SEO, especially when thinking of organic brand visits. Currently in the UK, high-street retail/travel brands display up to 3 local listings within branded search results, usually within the top fold of the page. My personal tip for local is that to try and make each local listing link to a related landing page on your main company website, the content on that destination page is heavily considered by Google when looking at generic phrases.
Google Authorship and author-rank has already grown in value over 2012 and this will continue in 2013. This is quite a recent addition to the SERPS but Google will now display people when users search for brands; this makes complete sense as people’s search intent could now shift towards people included or involved with brands. The example above shows how Rand is now displayed for SEOmoz related search queries – of course you need to have strong social signals for the personal profile and between the brand.
With all these options in place you should be able to capture as much of your organic brand search volume as possible, not only that but reinforce to potential customers how much of an authority your brand is online and deliver the best experience over multiple websites.