Expect new Google algorithmic update to penalize guest blogging

Yesterday Matt Cutts posted a clear message on his personal blog that guest posting is dead. He said “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop….I’d expect Google’s web-spam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward”.

Google has been issuing warning about this practice to get links in the past. In July 2013, Google’s John Mueller  said  “it is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building”. In October 2013, Matt said “guest blogging best done in moderation”. Then in Dec. 2013, Matt noted in a video that guest blogging abuse and spam is on the rise. Read more

How to design your Homepage for 2014 and beyond

It was always a big challenge of what to feature on your website homepage, what keywords to target, should it have links to all important pages, and what about latest blog posts, and so on. The traditional approach has to been to target homepage for most important keywords, and feature all the services or products you offer. You tended to put lots of content about your company and all the innovative, unique things you offer. You did this because search engines like Google tend to show the homepage link the most in search results pages (SERP).

The end result was that you ended up putting up a little of everything on the site, hoping that both the visitor and Google would love it. But perhaps the visitors were all the time confused by all the things featured on the homepage, not clear where to navigate next?
From 2012 onwards we have seen Google roll out updates both announced and sneaky to its algorithm. The long running fear that ‘SEO is dead’ seems to be coming true. Panda, Penguin, EMD, and the latest, Hummingbird. The truth is that SEO is not dead, we only need to look at it with fresh eyes.

The old way of SEO was actually trying to trick  Google and hoping that visitors were not turned off by all the keyword laden content, the long not-so-original articles, long page titles, jumbled string of keywords in titles and  headings, lots of content. Then you built all those links from directories, article directories, bookmarking sites, forums, etc. You were building links to homepage and your most important pages.

After Google’s Hummingbird, we need a new approach to website content.  Hummingbird  is designed to better focus on the meaning behind the words; instead of serving up  pages matching just a few words, it  matches pages to the meaning of the whole query  – all the words. The critical implication of Hummingbird is that now Google is looking at entities, and what content answers queries (long tail keywords, like ‘How to design your Homepage?’).

It follows that now you create content using concepts  or topics. Use phrases that people  use while thinking and searching. Use meaningful phrases in titles, and headings, do not use  shorthand or abbreviations with keywords. The old SEO content strategy was to create landing pages for each keyword and its extensions like product attribute or location.  The new, recommended way is create a page around a topic and use all the keywords that define the topic (i.e. try to use all the keywords that would be served by this page).
From now, you should be measuring performance of organic search traffic + traffic from social media  to a specific landing page (instead of to given keywords). Measuring keyword based traffic is no longer possible after Google stopped sharing keyword referral data.

Here are the recommendations for a homepage that uses SEO best practices going forward.
–    Focus on  very few keywords, or just your brand or company name in homepage. You used to put in lots of keywords in homepage because that is page that has highest PageRank, got most incoming links, and is most often ranked in SERP. Now the search engines do understand what a website as a whole is about. Now the domain authority of your site is inherited by all the sub-pages. So if you have other topics (aside from most critical featured on home and keywords), you can create pages for those topics and group of keywords and deeper level in site. Even without external links and social signals like likes and mentions, these sub-pages will perform well.

–    Content should be targeted to the most important visitors and what they are looking for
–    Visitor should be easily able to find and navigate to all  the major topics or sections of website, instead of promoting all the major sections with text

–    Show testimonials and social citations

–    Communicate your USP (unique selling proposition) or value proposition about your company and across all its offerings in home page. Why your brand? What is that makes you great?

– Use structured data markup on your pages. Structured markup helps Google and Bing better understand how your content and match it to a query

–    Today people do not have time or patience to read through long content. Instead of using lot of text to explain, just use bullet points or a compelling visual

–    Call to action which will guide the visitor to the next step work well, like ‘try it for free’ or ‘contact us for free SEO evaluation’

–    Old advice was to keep most important stuff ‘above the fold’ (part of page which is visible without having to scroll down). The screen size on desktops has been changing over years, and on tablets and smart phones people have got used to scrolling. So what you need to do is keep some interesting stuff just above the fold, so that visitors will be motivated to scroll down.

Hope this will inspire you to re-look at your home page and come up with a design and both visitors and Hummingbird love!