Geo-targetting websites with Country Code TLDs versus Generic Domains

Most of us must be aware about the Geographic targeting feature in the Google Webmaster Console that allows us to specify the geography / location that our website or business page is targeting.

For those who do not know what Geo-targeting option is, here’s the thing -

Log into your Google Webmaster Tools and then go to Configuration>Settings. You will find the section ‘Geographic Target‘ that has a drop down which lets you specify the country you wish to link your site to.

Geographic-target-Google-WMTYou can choose the desired location and save the settings.

Note that this option is only available for ‘Generic Top Level Domains‘ i.e. domains that end with a .com or .org & some other TLD’s that Google treats as Generic. You can check the complete list of Neutral Top Level Domains along with other Geo Target-able top level domains to find whether your site fits in it.

For some country specific TLD’s like co.uk, .fr, .es , etc – Google automatically adds them to the country specific location and the choice of changing this is not available.

How to use Geo-target option most effectively?

As a webmaster, you must be very careful in applying this option as it may or may not be in your site’s best interest to use it.

Let’s understand this with some examples & videos :-

Case 1 – Generic Domains : Say you own a Hotel in Australia & the site is on a Neutral TLD.

It may not make sense for your business to specify a Geographic Target for AU, because that would mean telling the search engines, your business is primarily for people in the AU. And whilst your search results could get a boost in the geo-targeted location (AU in this case), this may lower your rankings or make it harder for you to rank in other Google geographic based searches.

So it might be helpful to create a or a sub-folder on the TLD like myxyzhotelsforyou.com/es or a sub-domain like es.myxyzhotelsforyou.com  - a site that’s in Spanish and mark it’s geo-location as Spain. Now, only this sub domain gets a boost in Spanish search results.

On the other hand, owning a Plumbing Business in U.S. (Texas), it might make sense to simply add your website that’s on a  Neutral TLD, to the Geographic Target for U.S. as you may not be bothered about receiving plumbing leads from Australia.

Case 2 – CC TLD’s : You have a Travel related website that on a Non Generic TLD – say .fr (France).

In such cases, Google automatically treats this as Geo-targeted website for France.

So even though you might want to target Spain or Italy or the rest of the world, unfortunately, at the moment there is no option to do this. You may create a sub-domain like es.travelandliving.fr  but since the main domain is Geo-targeted, this will always target France.

Here’s an old video from Matt Cutt’s where he talks about Geo-targeting cc-TLD’s -

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Keynotes from the video -

  • Google does not consider a Geo-targeted domain with a Country Code TLD to a different country as a good search result for users.
  • Matt says, its better to use a Generic TLD and then make segments (like in case 1, where we create sub-domains) to market in different geographies.
  • Some of the cc TLD’s have been added to the list of Generic TLD’s.

Inferences -

1. Going back to Case 2, it looks like for any Hotel / Travel / Other business websites that are currently on cc TLD’s that are non generic – to market these in a different geography, they may create segments of the website in the targeted geographical language – Spanish in our example, and do an effective marketing campaign by posting promotional deals for Spain users etc.

2. If you know you have a business that must target multiple geographies, stick to a generic TLD’s and use the Geo-targeting option on different segments of your sites. (read case 1 above).

3. Based on extensive usage by large amounts of people as a generic TLD’s, some of the cc TLDs have been included in the list of Geo-target-able neutral TLD’s. For example – .me , .cc, .tv etc,

4. An increase in popularity of using cc TLDs comes from the potential ‘Domain Hacking‘. This is used to get domain names that spell out to meaning full words by combining different levels of domain. For e.g. – gara.ge  , red.it .

And this is where exactly the question of being able to use any ccTLD as Generic Geographically Target-able domain is coming from.

Here’s another interesting video, just recently uploaded by Matt Cutt’s, where he advises the webmaster of ‘ran.ge‘ , Arizona based company to use a generic TLD to be able to target there proper location.

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Best way to use the Google Disavow Links Tool!

Matt Cutts at PubCon 2012, while announcing the tool, said – ‘Use the tool only if you know what you are doing‘. Don’t just randomly start disavowing every second link you come across.

Since then, there has been a lot of debate around the usage of Google’s Disavow tool.

While some SEO’s think they won’t be using it, others find it a boon to kill the effects of Negative SEO (yes it very much exists)!

Well, there is no right or wrong answer to the question – How or Should I, use the Disavow tool? It really depends on what is the current situation of your link profile and what are the ways to improve the state!

After a lot of research on this topic, below is a 3 stage process, which explains the best way to go about Disavowing.

Google's Disavow Tool data to identify manipulative links

But first, read the ’Thumb Rule’ – It’s Google’s data. Always bear in mind, Disavowing links means you are providing a ‘negative’ signal to Google search engine about a website linking to you. Or in other words, a negative signal from a website owner to your site! 

And let’s face it! Google has full right to use these signals against you, in future, for taking any undue advantages or the one linking to you, if there are too many infractions from multiple sources to the site.

Assuming you have understood the rule above read on -

1.  Prepare a list of bad links and negative SEO - First, you should know which links are harmful for your site. The master list can be drawn primarily from the one’s reported in Google Webmaster’s tools. You may use some other tools like http://www.linkresearchtools.com/. Use some gut feel to queue them in the right category below -

Bad Links - Links that you know who and how you got them in the first place but are no more good for your site due to multiple reasons – crappy site, too many unrelated outbound links etc.

Negative SEO - Links that you have no record how you got them. These could be bought on highly crappy – adult content, penalized sites.

2. Don’t make Disavow your first choice – Emphasize on manual methods of link removal. It’s important to realize that there are other search engines – Yahoo, Bing, Baidu etc. that do not use Disavow. And you want your link profile to be as healthy as possible for them as well.

So once you have the list of Bad and Negative SEO Links, go for a manual outreach first. The process will be faster for the one’s you have the contacts (bad links).

After this exercise, refresh your lists. It should now contain links on the sites where you got no replies.

Remove bad links using Disavow tool

Nothing to WOW about Disavow!

3. No alternative. Disavow it – When you know you have no other way but endlessly wait for the responses to your outreach,  use the tool to at least improve rankings in Google.

Do not hesitate in using the Site-wide disavow feature. For example, use it for site-wide links from an adult site to your baby gift shop.

That’s it! So figure out which stage you are at – 1, 2 or 3 in conjunction with the rule and you would get the answer to whether or not, when or how to use the Disavow Tool.

Update (12th Feb 2013)- Matt Cutts recently announced two very interesting features which is an attempt by Google to send more transparent Unnatural Links Message via the WMT Console. These are -

  • Sort by Date’ feature in notifications of unnatural links – a hint about when did Google discover an Unnatural link.
  • Unnatural Link Samples – to hint which type of sites make an unnatural link for you – To be launched soon. Work in Progress

Since this is fairly new information at this time, it may be used for the most difficult task i.e. to identify bad links, for your manual link removal outreach at least.

About the Author - 

Kirti Anand Sharma @ SEOGirl is an Organic SEO, Link Building Expert. For any SEO related queries, you can contact reach out to her via email – contact at seogirl.co.uk !

 

 

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List of Google Panda Updates rolled out so far?

Since Feb, 2011, there have been several Panda updates by Google. Below is my personal tracker with helpful links for all the Panda updates from earliest to latest  -

The First Panda Update rolled out in Feb 2011

Feb, 2011 – It’s an update Folks!

Panda Update 1 :

Date – Feb. 24, 2011
Scope – English sites of US only
Queries Impacted - Approximately 12%
Summary – Update was intended to improve search results quality by lowering the rankings of thin content sites that were either using duplicate content or too little & in-useful content with a purpose to earn money via ads. At the same time it rewarded sites with highly useful and original content which was backed with research and facts that added value to the readership.

Panda Update 2 :
Date – April 11, 2011
Scope – Websites in English internationally
Queries Impacted – 2%
Summary – Based on the success of the Panda update 1, Google decided to roll out this change for all English language sites internationally which also targeted long tail keywords returning crappy results. They introduced user feedback signals they got from the first update and no. of times the site was blocked!

Panda Update 3 :

Date – May 10, 2011
Summary - There were discussions around the web about another update to Panda. Google denied to publish any details as this was a very tiy rollout, more or less a BAU update to its constantly improving algorithm.

Panda Update 4 :
Date – June 16, 2011
Summary – Another Panda update was in speculation, typically intended to improve the content scraping detection and few webmasters saw their rankings improve post this. There was no official announcement of this update on the webmaster central blog.

Panda Update 5 :
Date – July 23, 2011
Summary – Some more manual updates to the algorithm were rolled out by Google in order to constantly improve the search quality. No specific details were shared.

Ongoing updates to Google Panda!

Did you experience a dip in traffic?

Panda Update 7 :
Date - Sept. 28, 2011
Summary- Another manual update affecting about 500 queries was speculated in last week of September. No official announcement was made.

Panda Update 8 :
Date - Oct. 19, 2011
Queries Impacted -Approx. 2%
Scope – All International sites except Chinese, Japanese and Korean
Summary – Matt Cutts tweeted in the last week of September about Panda related Flux to be experienced. Then during first and second week site owners saw drop and rise in organic traffic. Later it was confirmed that these are series of updates, combined as update 3.0.

Panda Update 9 :
Date  - Nov. 18, 2011
Queries Impacted – <1%
Scope – All International sites except Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Summary – There was another tweet from Google about data refresh of the Panda Algo.

Panda Update 10 -
Date - Jan. 18, 2012
Summary – There was a data refresh and a page layout algo update that targeted crappy and thin content webpages intended to make money via ads in January. Just a day before this notification, there were speculations about the Panda data refresh as well.

Panda Update 11 -
Date – Feb. 27, 2012
Summary – In addition to another data refresh for the Panda update, there were 39 other changes made to improve the search quality and search experience.For example local results, related search results, auto filling policy, link evaluaton metrics and lots more.

Panda Update 12 -
Date – March 23, 2012
Queries Impacted – about 1.6%
Summary – Another Data refresh was tweeted but no major details shared.

The Panda and Penguin strike together

April 2012 – Panda followed by Penguin!

Panda Update 13 :

Date - April 19, 2012
Summary - In the month webmasters saw the first Penguin update, prior to the roll out Matt Cutts from Google confirmed that there was also a Panda update that took place approx a week prior to the penguin release. No specific details were shared.

 

Panda Update 14 :

Date – April 27, 2012
Summary – Just few days after #13, another update with over 500 changes to the ranking algorithms were being blogged about.

Panda Update 15 :
Date – June 9, 2012
Queries Impacted – ~1%
Summary - Yet another tweet by Google about Panda data refresh impact about 1% queries worldwide.

Panda Update 16 :
Date - June 25, 2012
Queries Impacted – ~1%
Summary - Panda refresh was tweeted by Google impacting about 1% queries worldwide.

Panda Update 17 : 
Date - July 24, 2012
Queries Impacted – ~1%
Summary – There was another speculation about Panda refresh by Google impacting about 1% queries worldwide.
Panda Update 18 :
Date - Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
Queries Impacted – ~1%
Summary – Another tweet confirmed speculation about a Panda refresh by Google impacting about 1% queries worldwide. no more details were shared.

Panda Update 19 :
Date - Sept. 18, 2012
Queries Impacted – < 0.7%
SummaryGoogle tweets about expected Panda Flux for the 20th time since Feb, 2011. This was a minor one affecting less than 0.7% queries. No details shared.

Yet another update!

20th Update of Panda Algorithm followed by EMD update!

Panda Update 20 :
Date – Sep. 27, 2012
Queries Impacted -2.4% English queries
Summary – Just a week before the roll out of EMD update, there was a Panda update that had noticeable impact on about 2.4% English queries and 0.5% in other languages.

Panda Update 21 :
Date - Nov. 5, 2012
Queries Impacted – 0.4% Worldwide and 1.1% English-language queries in US
Summary – No details of the update shared.

Panda Update 22 :
Date - Nov. 21, 2012
Queries Impacted - 0.8% English queries
Summary - Another data refresh to Panda. No details of the update shared.

Panda Update 23 :
Date – Dec. 21, 2012
Queries Impacted – 1.3% English queries
Summary – Google tweets about another data refresh to Panda. No details of the update shared.

Panda Update 24 :

Latest Panda update went live on 22nd Jan 2013

Panda wishes you a Happy New Year 2013!

Date – Jan. 22, 2013
Queries Impacted – 1.2% of English queries
SummaryTweets about First data refresh to Panda in 2013 . No details of the update shared.

About the Author - 

Kirti Anand Sharma @ SEOGirl is an SEO and Link Building Expert with experience as an In house and an Independent Consultant.

You can contact reach out to her via email – contact at seogirl.co.uk !

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What is the Google Panda update?

For those who don’t know what is the Panda Algorithm update, here’s a quick insight -

google-panda-hates-thin-content

Don’t Angry Me!

Panda – The name comes from a Google Engineer (Panda), who is reportedly the man behind it’s success.

On February 23, 2011, Google rolled out Panda update to its ranking algorithm to penalize the sites serving low quality content (thin content, in other words) and over optimized sites aiming to make money by displaying ads.

To figure out these shallow content or low authority sites, Google’s quality testers rated many websites. They used some of set of questions like -

A) Would you trust on the legal advice given by this site?

B) Would you provide your bank account or credit card details on this page?

C) Do you think the site has irrelevant content?

D) Do you think there are too many ads?

E) Does this page answer what you were looking for?

F) Would you want to return to the website? and so on..

The results were then analysed to look for similarities between the Good sites and the not so Good sites.

They were then mapped with signals (factors) on the website that would return the same result in a mathematical form. For example -

1. Content  – Questions regarding relevant or irrelevant content, trustworthy information, too much or too little content, etc was mapped with this factor. Sites that published duplicate content or information provides no value to the user were typically considered of low quality.

2. Site layout and design – Questions regarding too many ads, site usability, site architecture  time spent on the page, willing to return or not etc were mapped with this factor.

3. No. of times a site was blocked – Questions regarding security, sites that were not liked due to multiple reasons by others , were mapped with this factor.

Altogether, it stressed on the concept of site ‘Authority‘ that seemed to overtake the traditional Page rank as a measure of quality and better rankings.

But this was not a one time update. The change initially affected about 12% of queries as it was rolled out to impact English queries limited to English-speaking countries only.

Ever since then, Google has been rolling out Panda updates (version controlled) that targeted English queries worldwide,  followed by English-as well as non-English queries globally.

And the most recent one was just few days back on January 22nd, 2013 – Panda #24 impacting approx. 1.2% English based queries.

Here is a list of all the Panda updates with summary from my personal tracker!

About the Author - 

Kirti Anand Sharma @ SEOGirl is an SEO and Link Building Expert with experience as an In house and an Independent Consultant.

You can contact reach out to her via email – contact at seogirl.co.uk !

 

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Guest Blogging Tips – Things to avoid to be successful

Post Penguin, link building has got a new meaning. Its no more about getting links. Its about acquiring them in a way that they look like a natural recommendation your site.

This lead to the popularity of, Guest Posting Services. Some may refer to it as Guest Blogging or Guest Blog Posts.

Below are some tips that will lead you in the right direction.

Things to avoid to get your Guest Blog Post Published :

Don't use content that's not yours!

Don’t use content that’s not yours!

#1 Using content that’s NOT written by yourself – It’s advisable not to outreach blog owners with articles that’s not written by you.This happens generally when you are guest posting on blogs for your clients.

There are greater chances of such articles to be rejected as they would generally reflect a different tone that yours.

Further, possibility of grammatical errors is more.It could also be that the writer wasn’t well versed with the topic hence quality was compromised.Outreaching with articles by a 3rd party content writer may harm your reputation as a Guest Blogger.

Make use of Google Blog Search, Keywords tool while Guest Posting

Ignorance is not always bliss!

#2 Ignoring Keyword research tools- Do not forget to optimise your guest post with keywords relevant to your topic and the web page you want to link it to.

Also, do keyword research to prepare a list of related niches and their blogs that allow Guest Posts to be published.

 #3 Ignoring Shortcuts like Google Blog search – google.com/blogsearch – If you are looking for Blogs, so why not use Blog search to get faster results. It saves some time shunting out completely irrelevant results.

a-guest-blog-post-without-images

What is the use of a Book without pictures?

#4 Ignoring Images - Everybody likes to read books, newspapers, magazines that have images, interesting pictures tell a thousand words!

It’s because pictures register instantly. What we see is what we remember.

A book without pictures is like a show without audience?

So, don’t forget to include images in your blog post if you really want to attract more readers.

Tracking your blogger outreach is important for reselling

Status report of your Blogger Outreach for Guest Posting

#5 Being Lazy to prepare a Tracker sheet – Don’t be lazy to maintain an Excel sheet for tracking all the work done – blogs contacted via email, or samples submitted including here current status – Approved, Pending, Rejected.

Such reporting does not only help you keep a track but also evolve over the period into a huge list of contacts that you can re-sell your services.

#6 Contacting Publishers via Unstructured messages - Do not write unstructured mails with insufficient information to publishers and expect them to respond back. First, it’s highly unprofessional. Second, it reflects your writing skills!

Create a template that you can use to contact multiple blog owners to save time, but ensure that neither its too less nor its too much of information to leave the publisher confused.

follow-up-cycle

Interact, Connect, Know, Relate!

Here’s a Blogger Outreach Email Checklist that you can use -
1. Message title should be short – e.g. Guest Blogging about[Niche] on [YourSite]
2. Introduce yourself, purpose of contacting and where did you hear about this blog.
3. Tell what topic would you be writing on.
4. Ask for any particular guidelines to follow (if not mentioned on the website)
5. Ask for a suitable time to discuss the offer further.
6. Signature – include @Twitter, facebook, yourbusinesswebsite.com, Phone etc.

#7 No Follow-ups – Lastly, do not hesitate to follow up a publisher via mail or twitter and know the status of your request! A successful Guest Author should be able to create a personal connection with the Blog owners and Publishers.

Hope you find this post useful!

About the Author - 

Kirti Anand Sharma @ SEOGirl is an SEO and Link Building Expert with experience as an In house and an Independent Consultant.

If you are looking for a Guest Posting service, you can contact reach out to her via email – contact at seogirl.co.uk or use the contact form.

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