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I’ve been on Twitter since 2007. I’m certifiably addicted, but I’ve never kept my main feed organized. It was too much work after I let it all pile on. My Twitter was getting fat.
Years ago Twitter was asked, “what are you.” Twitter’s answer, “whatever you want us to be!” Some turned it into a prospecting tool, an RSS feed, a toy, a chat room, a customer service tool, a spamming tool, a stalking/trolling tool, or a brand manager. I realized I never really turned it into anything. It’s like a tornado of people, and I just spiral around in it without any real habitual use. But one thing I never did was look through my raw Twitter feed. I use TweetDeck for Chrome, and completely removed the main Twitter feed.
I was sweeping my mess under the rug. I’m usually very organized, probably due to a little OCD. My Twitter usage did not reflect that. Sure, I relied on lists, but I didn’t build them out nearly enough. I was missing other good things in my main feed that didn’t get automatically filed.
I decided to break off my “relationships” with 3,000 people. I did it by hand using Tweepi. It didn’t give me the sense of power I hoped. Most of the mutual followers didn’t realize I existed (just like High School), but for some reason I was still in a relationship status with them. I certainly expected to lose a ton of followers (assuming many of them were only following me as long as I was following them, but with TweetAttacks vanishing, maybe that was less likely?). In a week I’ve lost only a few hundred.
For some tweeters, it was hard to say goodbye to the icons I’ve gotten familiar with. I’m not kidding. By removing everyone manually, I tried to remember the good times. Some were big brands that followed me back, or big Twitter-celebrities. Yes – I said goodbye to the Zappos CEO. I was impressed 5 years ago when he followed me, but we’ve never spoke (plus he’s apparently seeing 369,000 others). I dropped virtually all the brands I was following. I dropped SEMs and social specialists if we never communicated, or if they never responded – with the exception to a few who were really thought leaders or good friends.
Here was some of my criteria:
1. If we haven’t had a conversation in 2 years, and your content doesn’t really excite me, I broke up with you.
2. If you don’t respond to me, and you’re not a top provider/curator of content, I dumped you.
3. If your icon was a hot woman, but your name was George, I let you go.
4. If your shirt off was in your icon (and you’re a guy) you were severed.
5. If you have a Z in your name where you should have an S, I dumped you on principal.
6. If your icon was an egg, dumped.
7. If you haven’t tweeted in over 3 months and I didn’t know you personally, I cut you loose.
8. If your icon was an animated .gif, gone.
9. If you were an obvious bot, I asked myself how I ever followed you, then gave you the boot.
10. If you retweet really dumb things, I buried you.
11. If you appear to follow everyone who follows you (like I used to, which is how I got into this mess), you’re toast.
12. Abusive use of the underscore.
What Did I Learn?
For me, I realized that I was doing Twitter wrong. I want SEO industry content and some laughs with my friends. I want to be on the pulse of what’s important through the lens of the people I enjoy and respect. I meant no disrespect to the people I cut – I’m sure there are lots of great people, but the connection was never made. I want all my mutual connections to be real connections, more like my LinkedIn. Now I’m following much fewer users, and put my raw stream back into my grid.
It’s been a pleasure. And it’s controllable.
Why Should You Follow Me If I Won’t Follow You Back?
Maybe you shouldn’t, especially if you haven’t stopped to figure out what Twitter should be for you. Granted, my tweets/retweets are 50% relevant to SEOs, with the other 50% being hilarious, but if you’re not into that type of thing, why follow me? I’m also very responsive on Twitter – I respond to everyone, so if you like a good conversation, strike one up with me. That’s another good reason to follow me. If I agree that we’re “hitting it off” I’ll probably follow you back.
But why does Twitter need to be a mutual connection?
My Admission – I Was A Twitter Hoarder
How did I let it get this way? In the beginning I had some bad habits. I followed everyone who followed me using a tool (who’s name I forget). I also did a lot of following of people in lists (instead of just following their lists). I followed a lot of people who others I admired were following. I did this blindly, assuming that I’d be able to find a few favorites after a few weeks of watching tweets. #badplan
I also used to do consulting, and thought of Twitter as a real business prospecting tool. I semi-consciously thought a high follower count could be seen as clout. The problem was, although I had an auto-DM, I didn’t nurture any of the contacts. I was a complete Twitter hack for 3 years. I only got bit by the bug and really started to understand its value in the last couple years.
Twitter has introduced me to great people. I’m excited for Mozcon in a couple weeks to meet people I speak with on Twitter. I’ll learn something there, but suspect much of it will be through conversations and networking due to the relationships I’ve made on Twitter. That’s really pretty huge.
A bit of a rant here. At the risk of putting my credibility on the line, I can honestly say i don’t know for certain how to get better rankings post Penguin and Panda. I know others secretly say this as well. It was easy there for a while – I was almost willing to slap the guarantee sticker on my services. But the flux right now is completely ridiculous. The Google Dance is bad. I have no doubt we’ll figure it out soon, but in the meantime…
I think Google needs an intervention. I just want to shake them and scream, “help me help you!”
How many posts do you see now titled “How to recover / beat / game Google post-Penguin or post Panda?” Did you ever read one? The popular ones are rehashes of the traditional ways of clean SEO. Last night I met some great people from Microsite Masters (at the Philadelphia SEO Grail) who have claimed they’ve seen other sites recover from Penguin, and after explaining how, it sure wasn’t by the fluff that these other posts have been feeding. They went into detail. I believed them. I sure don’t believe the generic, recycled drivel my Twitter feed is being bombarded with. I’ve actually recovered from some Penguin stuff myself – again, not by the way people would expect if all you read is the SEO “content for content’s sake”.
As an industry, there’s a lot of us who are really guilty of patting ourselves on the back, playing the ego game, writing for content’s sake, and not being transparent. This is an industry born in the trenches with new students appearing everyday. The vets know how to look past the “characters” but it’s far from evident to the newbies. I saw a great character last night at my SEO event; many of us in the room enjoyed watching him jump around, but we weren’t going to let his vocal misinformation permeate with the newbies in the room. It was a good feeling of unity and what I think is really required from SEO’s to continue growing. Now’s your chance to put your stake in the ground and have a persona, if it doesn’t have value, it won’t last.
I urge you to start writing content that actually is either 1) actionable, 2) a strong opinion, or 3) proven to some degree. Teach your readers (kids) the things you’ve done to recover, not what you think the answer is. At least be transparent with them and say you don’t know, or you haven’t recovered yet. Do your part not to litter the SEO stream.
This goes for presenters as well.
Thank you for listening. I feel better now:
Updates to this post here: Maybe Authorship Is A Defensive Play
I buy into authorship / author rank as a ranking signal. I can envision the Googlers drawing a web on the white board with the outline to making this “one” supplemental ranking algorithm. The social signals we expected to see take dominance seem to have flamed out before they became a product release, while the spammer market continues buying and selling “likes” and “pluses” like blood diamonds.
The question I see bloggers ask is, “how can Google favor sites fairly through authorship when some high profile domains don’t really promote authors, or have enough concentrated authors?” Think through this. Here’s my WAG on what’s going to happen (I’ve actually been pretty accurate so far… I know, I’m surprised too!).
First, this is likely going to be one algorithm in the pack of all the others. While some algos routinely get turned down with others being turned up (remember, “the natural search algorithm” we refer to is more like a rope made up of smaller algorithms embedded or encasing), this one would be vibrant. It will influence, but not at the cost of domain authority. It would have to be a conditional algorithm, maybe based on the type of sites it ranks against. It’s not going to be a game changer and make everyone change the way they’re producing content on the web. As crazy as Google can be, they’re not trying to turn users into their dogs.
Whether an intended component of author rank, I see it as a counter-balance to the “google favors big brands” complaint that they experienced in the past (and I accuse them again of now thanks to Penguin). Authority (using this not of the more common off-page metric, but instead of on-page authority) could only be counted by the brands impact on the web. Now, it’s digging deeper to spread the experts and relevance apart, opposed to their former approach of aggregating everything. Google makes things we think aren’t scalable just that.
In this there’s a chance that good writers can get the chance to beat, say, Mashable calibur sites, and give their little webpagse the chance for its 15 minutes of fame, because Google could potentially see it was deserving of it based on the writer’s past proving of themselves. Here’s an example – once upon a time I wrote a post about the link shortener services that passed SEO value. I went through every one I could find and tested each one. I got some traffic because I tapped into an interest before anyone else (it seemed). But then, the might Search Engine Land posted a very similar article, and mine got crushed. Still some first page rankings, but ultimately it faded. In this new model, despite my GreenlaneSEO having a PR of 2, I might actually have a chance to beat SEL and maintain some rankings for my own authority thanks to the added push of my personal brand equity.
Maybe I got authorship all wrong, but it makes sense to me. This is an optimization Google needs to make, and it looks to me like they know it. What do you think?
A clarification before we begin. I don’t think Penguin will be eradicated or the name becomes a distant memory like Joe Piscipo (spelled wrong in case Joe has himself on Google Alerts – I’ve seen his arms!), but I am referring to pulling back on some of the areas that are overclocked, and reversing SOME of Penguin. There was some confusion by people who jumped at the title without reading the post. Fair enough, so I’ve tweaked the title for those I’ve infuriated. You’ve made my day.
I don’t know if Penguin is a penalty or a tweak (Update 7.28.2012 – you’re reading a post that’s a bit outdated; Matt Cutts said this is not a manual penalty) – I don’t care. At the end of the day it is a furthering attempt to organize the index to show less webspam. Either by downplaying some factors or emphasizing others, it’s a calibration nonetheless, and one that has thrown more babies out with the bath water than I have to believe was intended.
The best time to go on vacation is when Google makes a big algorithm adjustment. Ignore the posts for a couple weeks. When the dust starts to settle, and you see the end result is publically declared “bad rankings” across the board, it’s pretty hard for a company not to be reactionary. Google, who is usually pretty staunch, has to be listening to this one.
The SERPs look like they did a few years ago, when Google was getting heat for favoring big brands, which ultimately came from high domain authority. That didn’t bode well for them then, and it will be worse now.
These Google engineers are smarter than I’ll ever dream to be, but I truly believe that the algorithm they created is a monster. A series of thousands of gears built upon each other, so deep and complex that a master blueprint doesn’t even contain it. Until a Googler tells me otherwise (and even then I’m sure I’ll doubt), I think a lot of their search quality meetings end with, “Ok – let’s make that change and see what the hell happens.” I don’t think they will ever understand the true extent of what even a simple tweak will do. Forget this 3% or 7% shit – it’s clearly been a variable number with a huge “give or take.”
So, I think Google will silently develop another tweak and pull this one back. Maybe the requirement will be to pull back an offending Panda update that just isn’t meshing well anymore in this jumble, or pulling back the scrutiny lens on anchor text (including internal). I don’t know. But I do believe that headlines like As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web, from the Wall Street Journal, get passed around in the C-suite pretty quickly. Google knows perception is reality, and doesn’t want to be seen beating up the little guy.
If Google does reverse Penguin – and by “reverse” I mean pull back some of the overclocking errors, I have to think (and hope) there’s a down-turn in current domain authority factors, and a real algorithm thread that truly values this “quality content” we’re told by every SEO post to create. But without parameters, who the hell knows what a confused algorithm will consider quality.
I’m going back on vacation. Let’s see if Sebaldamus is right on this one!
Update 7.28.2012 – They still haven’t. Damn. The Google Dance is still on high. Results are still favoring brands, and SEOs are scrambling to develop more link tools to make a quick buck (like link removal tools). Penguin is starting to settle in, and as Wil Reynolds said at Mozcon 2012, it might have been the best thing to happen to our industry, and might actually improve the reputation of the SEO industry while allowing us to benefit Google. If they can just make the rankings good, well, that would be super.
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Google Analytics is rolling in reports to help you answer this question. Well… kind of.
Check out the Social Sources report:
First thing you’ll notice are two graphs to compare against each other. The top is your social referrers (that is, traffic from all the sites that Google buckets out as a social site), which is detailed deeper in 1 – 10 detail list further down the page.
Let’s drill in one step deeper. Click one of the listings (ie, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc).
Clicking the social platform you to compare takes you into that profile. You can change between different pages now with a new selector that appears above, which looks like this:
So what are we comparing?
We’re comparing Visits via Social Referral (blue) with All visits (orange). So, it’s a quick view of how much social traffic contributed to your overall traffic. Are you doing a lot of social media work? Did you have a bump on a Friday, and wanted to see where it came from? Go to this report. Set your date range and you’ll be able to see pretty quickly.
But it gets more interesting. Click the Activity Stream tab:
Now the comparison changes to show Data Hub Activities (blue) vs. Visits (orange). These are the same “visits via social referrals” that were in the first snapshot. So what’s this Google Data Hub? Google says, “The social data hub is a free platform that social networks and other social platforms can use to integrate their activity streams.” Sounds like Google’s version of Facebook’s social graph.
So this makes sense. If you notice in the Activity Stream, there are far less sites than Google was originally reporting. Missing for me are Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook, etc. Why? Because they’re not playing ball with Google and the data hub. Google doesn’t have information about shares and retweets here. In other words, they’re not behind the wall. They know Twitter is a social network, and buckets it that way, but they don’t have accurate data out of the Twitter firehose.
But what we can see from the sites participating with Google is what traffic you receive from social engagement. For example, here’s what it looks like filtered to Google+.
By looking at the graph above, I can see that on Monday, May 7, a link from my site was interacted with 4 times (blue), and led to 2 Google+ referrals (orange). For you data junkies, if you have enough data you can put together your own value of social with your own KPIs per platform. You can determine that spending most of your time on one network, vs. another, is a wise or dumb move. Or, you can rely on the “conversions” report right below the sources report (if you use “goals”). Do you have to be more social for your KPIs? Or do your current circles, say Google+, just not give a damn about the latest kind of content you’ve been sharing? […]
Once upon a time, the prince of SEO, Matt Cutts, said that only a small percentage of web links are nofollowed, and we shouldn’t pay much attention to it.
I must only be surfing that small portion of the web because I rarely see external “editorial” links that are followable anymore. Or, it’s media sites that are creating entity profiles so they never have to link out externally (ala Wikipedia). I think it’s sad. Many of these are the editorial links Google originally built an algorithm around, but simply failed to measure the link graph for a publisher’s intent.
Google. What have you done???
So I have questions for all you bloggers, webmasters, spammers, etc:
The major blog and social media platforms nofollow all posted links by default. They blame spam, but in this automated world, where they press a button to spam 10k blog comments, is the nofollow really deterring anyone?
We’ve been told that Page Rank scultpting doesn’t work anymore, but are some of us still concerned with leaking Page Rank? Or have the other signals stepped up to pick up where Page Rank leaves off?
Does having a lot of nofollows signal to Google that you care about them not misunderstanding your endorsement, or does it signal that you really don’t care who you link to?
Or do you think the nofollow is being counted (somewhat) by Google now anyway, and it doesn’t really matter?
Personally, I leave this blog dofollow. I get a lot of spam that gets caught either by my spam script, or by my own eye. It’s not difficult to moderate – in fact, it’s actually fun. I see the comments and get a chance to contribute to the conversation. My old company used to moderate comments for the NFL and other leagues; it was quite managable. In the past I had clearly marked rules and regulations for my own sites, where I would clearly state what kind of comments and guest posts I would allow (or turn on the “dofollow” for). If someone gave enough of a damn to leave me a comment and engage me, I’d like to see them get a little token of my appreciation.
I think the whole nofollow thing is a Google protocol that has gotten out of hand, and in light of Pandas and Penguins, I think we need these good editorial links back. I think we need a fundamental shift in this industry, but I don’t have the voice to declare it.
What do you think?
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Well, since I slept through April in its entirety, and missed April Fool’s Day, I’m dedicating May 1st as its make-up day. Yup – that just happened.
We all know about the Miserable Failure Google Bombs, but I started to think about other pranks. There had to be more, right? Yup.
Smack The Link Finding Tools
Update your websites terms and conditions to include a “service fee” for automated scraping without written consent. Send Open Site Explorer, Majestic, etc. an invoice with reference to the T&C’s. Just don’t stand by your mailbox waiting for a check.
Share Analytics Code
Copy the Google Analytics code from the source of a website, and paste it onto one of your crap, spam sites. Hilarity ensues as they start to notice traffic for Viagra terms. (Ok, I don’t know if this really works, but I’ve been told it does, and that’s just ridiculous on Google’s part).
Mess With Keyword Reports
Not too unlike the last prank, start Googling terms that will force the target website to appear, while appending funny movie quotes. When the website shows, click the listing, and laugh at the thought of the SEO looking at their keyword report and seeing “target.com Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?”
Have any of your own pranks to share?
Disclaimer – This post is for entertainment purposes only. If you actually do this stuff, you have way too much time on your hands, and probably need to find a relationship. Quick.
Today was interesting. I’m in beautiful visiting Mexico on vacation, and while shopping at a local flea market, I was approached – practically all at once after distinctly hearing one merchant yell out “Americans” – by over 30 different people selling random products. They were aggressive in a “buy my shit or I’ll make sure you don’t leave here alive” kind of way, but some were pretty good at targeting my interests. My first feeling was that of being overwhelmed, but slowly I got my balance back.
One merchant said, “I have best price on Harley Davidson shirt. Almost free!” Interesting. I wasn’t wearing any Harley stuff, but I do ride a Harley. I am fond of them. Maybe it was my 2 week old scruff?
“We have 50 different kinds of tequila here,” said another. Again, brilliant relevance. I have a soft spot for hard liquor.
“Buy your lady a hat!” Shit, that guy tried to chump me right in front of my girlfriend, so of course that would make me bite.
But then the last one said, “Blow? Weed? Viagra?”
I’m not a drug guy, and don’t need… umm… Viagra (yet). So maybe since I looked like a drunk hippie biker, I looked like a good prospect? Either way, it was off target, and I got the hell out of that part of the market.
The digital world can be like a flea market. We’ve gotten better at yelling more relevant things at prospects thanks to remarking cookies, analytics, and so on. But with all the growing noise, it’s still really hard to tune into any one voice – especially if you’re not in a buying mood. We know the majority of people in a buying mood are using search. So, the inbound marketers try to create more relevant landing pages, but even we can miss our target if we assume we’re being heard correctly. In this case, a landing page about Harley Davidson products, tequila, and Mexican hats for my girlfriend would have probably held my attention perfectly, and pushed me towards a conversion. But one awry signal too many and a red flag goes up. We wind up punching out, going back to Google, and hitting the second listing… if not refining our search.
What Can You Do To Convert In Your Marketplace The First Time?
Only hit people with exactly what they want, and don’t hit too hard. It’s my belief that people really don’t want to search. They use Google because they have to, but if they have to search your site (or even your landing page) once they click off Google, you’re risking a bounced visit. Make the items worth highlighting big, bright, and bold. Assume you have 3 seconds to lock them in before they retreat back to the SERPs.
Make they’re life easier. Just give them the offers or content, with as little fluff or obvious funneling as possible. For most of us who aren’t major brand stores or news outlets, less is more. You have a better chance at being a “convenient store” than trying to go up against an Amazon, but if you’re landing pages are also uber-niche to boot, you’ll be more successful.
Finding out exactly what to write about isn’t too difficult. I look at Ubersuggest, a great keyword research tool run off Google Suggest. Run some queries relevant to your topic idea, and jot down a few that seem like potentials. Do they inspire buckets? Or do they inspire a single paragraph, or maybe a whole stand-alone page?
Also look at the new attribution feature in Google Analytics. Do you see any back to back searches that suggest what a user is really looking for? Did they search Girl’s Harley Hat, then Gifts For Women? If I saw that I’d sure be wishing I had a page titled “Harley Davidson Gifts For Women – Harley Hats” (or something like that). What I wouldn’t want to do is add men’s hats, or other motorcycle hats on this page (except maybe in the navigation). Too much noise and irrelevance doesn’t make your landing page convenient. I’d even try to find a way to write something interesting about women bikers who are passionate about the Harley brand and collect hats (yes, these women do exist). Do this, and you’d have just created a small, relevant, clean, clear, niche page that may not get a huge amount of traffic, but can get a few interested shoppers who intend to stick around. Better yet, you won’t have to chase them down and yell at them. Great success!
Oh, and some proof that this is a true story, here’s my girlfriend walking out with the hat I got suckered into buying:
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If you haven’t visited inbound.org, try it. It’s a nice aggregator of digital marketing and design news. User submitted, and user promoted. Sound like Sphinn? Yup.
I bailed on Sphinn pretty early. Back then the SEO rockstar thing wasn’t as big as it is today, but it was still in play. I’ve been blogging since 2008, and never got anything “sphunn” up to a visible level, even though I had a few really good articles. I received thousands of visits off Google for a post I did about SEO friendly link shorteners (before SEL came and did the same article… bastards!) It was a highly searched topic, and I was first to market, but on Sphinn, I was shit. I pretty much determined it was because I wasn’t endorsed by a regular Sphinner.
This happened a few more times. I couldn’t break in to get any traffic. I couldn’t get any endorsements. Now I don’t have heaps of empirical data, but I have come to the conclusion that it became a popularity contest. That reminds me of High School, and I hated High School. More bastards.
Let’s not let this happen again. Here’s what you – the community – can do to prevent it.
1. Click the “Incoming” button. Don’t just troll the “What’s Hot” – I promise you that plenty of awesome content lives there. I promise you find so many more posts that are relevant to your interest. Give them a vote. Unlike the SERPs, there is life on the second pages. In my opinion, the “Incoming” page should be the homepage. How’s that for a twist? Give all the people the same power!
2. Don’t submit low quality. If it’s not something that’s new, or a fresh perspective, pass on it. Even if it’s written by your favorite repeat SMX speaker. Is it actionable? Is it something that’s going to get people thinking? Is it something that will garner a lot of comments? A lot of the rock star SEOs post the same generic stuff over and over because they’re flushed for ideas. This is a great way to build your real-life authority as a curator.
3. On the same tip… don’t vote something because the person who submitted it is a rock star. It doesn’t make you a rock star by default. It makes you a sheep.
4. Please don’t try to game it. It’s not a sophisticated system. History shows that all these “gamed” voting sites end up blowing up after they’re manipulated to hard.
5. Please don’t spam it. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say this, but my OCD wanted me to make this a Top 5 list. So there you go.