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Daniel Bailey

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Well this is unexpected good news.
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My thoughts on the problem with obsessing about ROI.
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Recap of Moz's SEO experiments. Anchor text still very much maters. Search valume and CTR might too.
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New Google quality rating guide leaked (sort of). Important read.
Google Rewrites Quality Rating Guide (and what you need to know about it)

According to a post on +Jennifer Slegg's blog (, Google has completely rewritten the Quality Ratings Guideline, the resource that their team of quality raters uses to rate websites for Google.

It has some great new insights into how Google is approaching the search results and what it takes to be a top ranked website.

Side note: even though there have been a few older copies of Google Quality Rating Guidelines in the wild at one point or another, Google wants to keep them from being leaked out again. Not sure how Jennifer got to have a copy, but she mentions several times in the comments 'Unfortunately I was sworn to secrecy and promised not to pass it on.'


♨  This is a brand new version from the ground up; not just a rewrite of the old one.

♨  The new emphasis is the idea of E-A-T, which is a website’s “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness”.

♨  Lacking a certain amount of E-A-T is enough of a reason for a rater to give any page a low quality rating.

What makes an expert?

♨  Google does stress to raters that there are many kinds of experts, all dependent on the topic area.

Knowledge Graphs

♨ Apparently, Google asks their raters to spend quite a bit of time rating just the knowledge graphs alone.

Many Ads = Low Quality

♨  The new guidelines definitely want raters to look at advertising on the page to determine if there is an overabundance of it.

Google specifically mentions layouts that are all advertising at the top, and requires scrolling to see the content – to the point where people could initially believe that there is no content on the page at all. The same for advertising designed to look like navigation links or secondary content.

Supplementary (secondary) Content

♨ What is secondary content: anything on a page that isn’t the main content or advertisements. They consider it important to the overall user experience.

My own conclusions on what quality supplementary content might be for any blog:

* relevant related posts or videos - at the bottom of a post or in the sidebar or both;
* relevant additional resources - could be in the form of external or internal links;
* additional forms of content consumption - like adding a SoundCloud audio of the post, a Slideshare presentation with the gist of the post, etc.

Bad Supplementary Content

♨ they are warning about deceptive ad placement where users can accidentally click on an ad or are lured to click an ad, believing it to be content on the site and not an advertisement.

♨ They also specifically mention advertisements placed under headers such as “Top Posts”.

Poor Page Design

This is more about poor advertisement placement once again.

♨ Google mentions tactics such as popups, large quantity of ads with only minor content and text ads in navigation.

♨ Google is also calling out a specific advertising tactic that many, many websites use – and that is inserting advertisements a few times in the middle of the main content, breaking it up with main content – ad – main content – ad – main content. 

♨ And those fancy links in navigation that are really ads? Webmasters should probably start rethinking those too.

♨ Google considers Inline Advertising (those double underlined links that pop up an ad when you mouseover the link) distracting and can make the main content on the page difficult to read, which equals a poor user experience.


♨ Reference to “thin” affiliate sites has been removed from the new guide. 

Does that mean that Google feels spam affiliate sites are a thing of the past and don’t rank today anyways, that poor quality sites would get a low rating regardless, or that they are happy for affiliate sites to rank, as long as they have some of the other criteria needed for an above average rated website.

Reputation Research

♨ It is clear that Google is putting a greater emphasis on reputation than they did before.

♨ Google stresses that a webpage cannot be given a High rating if the site has a negative reputation.

About Us and Contact info

♨ Google is looking to put a greater emphasis on the presence of such pages as a sign of a high quality website.

What's been removed from the Guidelines?

There were a few items that have been removed from the new Quality Guidelines at all:

1. all reference to spam;
2. cloaking;
3. distracting content (now considered and explained in 'secondary content' section);
4. phrase “Low quality pages may only be acceptable to users if there are no other higher quality pages.”
5. hidden text.

It's safe to assume that most of the things above are generally caught by algorithms nowadays, thus there was no reason to mention them in the new guide.

Jennifer Slegg also mentions that there will be more detailed follow ups on this.

Each day for the next week or so, we are going to do some in-depth analysis of the new parts of the guidelines, particularly how it will impact SEOs and what SEOs should start to think about differently.

Be sure to visit her post for more:


+Mark Traphagen added an important comment to remember: the activity of these raters is not directly inserted into Google's search algorithm. Rather what they do is used by the engineers of the algorithm to suggest possible tweaks and changes to that algorithm.

+Mark Traphagen +Eric Enge +David Amerland 

#googleguidelines   #semanticsearch  
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ROI of marketing activity is not always measurable. Face it.
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Google Is Removing Author Photos from Search. Why?

Anyone who follows me knows that I have invested heavily in trying to be one of the foremost experts on the subject of Google Authorship and Google's overall desire to be able to identify authors as topical authorities.

So you might imagine that it came as a huge shock to me when I heard the announcement today that Google will be removing author photos entirely from Google search results. Some might expect I'd even consider it a blow. I don't, but more on that below.

In addition to removing the photos, they will also no longer show Google+ circle counts for Google Authorship authors. All that will remain is a small byline in the result. For more details see


+John Mueller has just added two comments to his original post about this:

"Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Google+, nor with ads. This change only affects how authorship is shown in search (we continue to process & use authorship markup). "

"No, this is really just about the UI shown in seach. We’re always working on making Google Search better -- we made 890 updates in 2013 alone.  We’ve decided this new design works better, particularly on mobile."

**Back to the original post**

Cleaning Up the SERPs
Google's +John Mueller had the following to say about this change:

We've been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we're simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)

And that's why this doesn't come as a huge surprise to me. Google has been telling us (and signalling by much of what they've done) that the game for the future of search is now to be won or lost on the mobile playing field. But with the addition of a street band's worth of bells and whistles on the SERPs these past few years, they had set themselves up for a very wobbly and inconsistent search experience.

In short, mobile users want things simple and clean.

It's the same thing most of us do when we realize it's finally time to unclutter our houses. Ultimately, some things must go. You hold up each object and try to think of ways you could justify keeping it, but in the interest of the bigger project (a cleaner, less cluttered house), that old bowling trophy goes into the waste bin.

The End of Authorship? Hells No
That's how I think the decision process went down at Google. I think they understood the value of the author photos, but at the end of the day, whatever that value was, it was not greater than the value they'd gain by uncluttering their search pages.

Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn't abandoned it. 

Besides, the bigger project here for Google I think is not author photos in search but the much ballyhooed but so far elusive "author rank," the ability to confidently determine who the content creators are in any given topic whom most people trust, and boost their content when appropriate. At SMX Advanced this month +Matt Cutts indicated that was still a priority, but was also still a long way off in being accomplished.

This is a long haul project folks. Don't head for the lifeboats every time Google makes a change.

Am I disappointed to see the photos going? I sure am. But such is the search business. Google isn't driven by whims or emotions. If they're doing this, they're doing it because their data and testing tells them it will be for the better in the long run.

The biggest downside I see is that probably now there will be less incentive for new people to use Authorship markup. But I have a feeling Google isn't worried about that. As I've been saying, they know that most people never would adopt it anyway. They've got to be working on the ability to identify authors and their content without depending on markup.

That's coming, but it will take a while. Stay tuned!

For another very thoughtful take on this development, I highly recommend this post by +Eli Fennell

#googleauthorship   #authorship   #googleauthorrank   #authorrank  

After reading through tons of comments overnight, I made a further long response. Since many people may not read through all the comments, I'm adding it here:

I want to address the idea that this is the abandonment or "the beginning of the end" for the concept of Authorship at Google. I just don't think so. Rather just like I think we are entering into the maturation phase of the place of Google+ in the Google universe, so we are now entering the maturation phase of Google Authorship and its related concepts. 

I believe that Google very much wants to pursue and eventually master the idea of author authority in search. It fits very well with their overall move into semantic search and "things over strings" or "entities over keywords." They know the future is in search becoming more and more like the way we make connections in the real world. And real life human personal authorities are at the top of the list of those connections.

But this is a much harder project than most people understand. You could really see Matt Cutts struggling to get that across to the audience at SMX Advanced when he was asked about author rank. He wouldn't outright deny that author data might be already in use in some small ways. (He confirmed to me in a tweet a few months ago that it can be a factor in qualifying for In Depth Articles, which I already knew.) But his major message was two things:

1. He really believes personally in the concept of author rank and would like to see it happen.

2. BUT the implementation of it as a direct ranking factor is still probably years off.

Here's why (from me, not Matt):

1. Google has realized that rel=author is at best a tiny first step toward understanding author authority. It has never been adopted by more than a tiny minority of the web's authors, and even many of them have implemented it incorrectly.

2. Therefore, author authority is going to have to be based on much more sophisticated means of machine-based identification and understanding. The rudimentary technologies to do those are already in existence, but they need far more refinement before Google will trust them to affect search results. 

3. Even if Google can better understand who the authors of content are and what the content is about (without depending on cooperative coding by those authors), there is still the whole question of what signals do you then use to assess which authors are more "authoritative" than others? Traditional link signals? A good start, but leaves a lot out of the equation. Social signals? Google has said again and again that social signals are a) hard to access for them in anything but Google+ and b) notoriously hard to interpret correctly.

So...I think Google remains committed to the whole project of identifying the most reputable and trusted authors on given topic areas. But I think it is a very long term project, and we are only at the beginning. Furthermore, Google Authorship has not been abandoned. It still exists, even if it now has a more reduced role in search results.
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