Google’s Link Scheme Changes Mean Changes for Us

September 16, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                        return to JayVee Media Link LLC

When Google makes changes we all need to take notice.  And Google has recently made changes to reinforce its new emphasis on quality content creation.  In fact, its new decrees are forcing a shift away from formerly acceptable methods of traditional link building; thanks to the modification those strategies may now land our sites in the penalty box.

The target of Google’s recent changes appears to be bloggers who sprinkle their posts too liberally with keyword rich anchor text links. In the past such a practice was a good way to attract inbound links.  Writers would guest blog on other sites, or create online ad copy that was stuffed with niche related keywords.  Then they would turn those keywords into links back to their own websites.  Ideally, interested readers would click those links, and voilà!  Inbound links would be earned, increasing traffic to the writers’ own sites.

Google link building scheme screen shot

Google’s recent changes reflect a new perspective on this formerly acceptable practice.  It now apparently views the strategy as more of a scheme, and will penalize websites that use it to increase their visitor traffic.

content crownThe answer to this shift is to adjust our content to reflect Google’s emphasis on quality creation.  Google wants us to build links, but via the natural route: the higher the quality of the value we impart, the more our readers will want to visit our sites.  So we need to concentrate more on readability, word flow and informational value, and less on keyword stuffing and rich anchor text links.  We can also boost our website traffic via other Google approved methods such as our Google Plus and other social media profiles, and registering our businesses with location services.

Do you think Google’s link scheme changes will facilitate the growth of website traffic for businesses?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Building Blog Visibility – 6 Tips

August 5, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                     return to JayVee Media Link LLC

bullhorn overflowing with blog postsYour blog post is done and ready to ride the internet wave.  You used a great title; seeded your keywords judiciously; included a couple of compelling graphics; hit your message concisely.  You release it…and it is promptly swallowed up by the mind numbing horde of other blog posts released at the same moment.  How do you cut through the noise to get your content found?

The first thing to understand is that unless we are already established blog creators, even well optimized content will not necessarily get found right away.  Like so much else in the world of social media, ranking takes time to build.  It takes time physically for the search engine bots to find, crawl and index our sites and web pages.  And it takes time to build a trust factor between those search platforms and the websites they are working to rank.  Unfortunately, these factors are out of our control.

What we can do

We can work to facilitate those search bots’ discovery of our content and websites.  Here are six steps we should take:

1. Write consistently, even if it means delivering only one post per week.

2. Make sure the information shared is of the highest possible value for our target audiences, and presented in a professional manner.

3. Use keywords, but use them judiciously.  “Stuffing” our posts with them will result in rankings penalties.

4. Work hard to come up with blog titles that virtually scream to be clicked.  Titles should never be afterthoughts; they are the gateways to our wonderful content.  The more clicks our titles generate, the more search engines will take notice!  For excellent tips on creating killer titles, see Anne Reuss’ wonderful post “You Can’t Afford Not to Write Bewitching Headlines.”

5. Share widely, across all social media platforms. And include sharing buttons with blog posts so readers can easily share them as well.

6. Google authorship screen shotSet up Google authorship for our posts.  This creates a link between our blog posts and our Google Plus profiles, and adds our thumbnail profile pictures to the meta descriptions of our posts when they show up on Google search.  Rob Henry shared easily understandable directions for the procedure in his excellent post “How to Set Up Google Authorship.”

I’ll note here that promoting our posts is also a good way to gain visibility for them.  But it should be understood that doing so lends a temporary bump which ends with the termination of the promotion.  So even if we plan on promoting we must still do the SEO work to build overall longevity for our posts and websites.  Staying power is the goal, after all!

What additional tips can you add to help boost our blogs’ visibility?  Please share your ideas in the comments Google botsection below!

Google Carousel – How to Hop Onboard!

July 1, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                         return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Google Carousel – a feature that gives an awesome advantage to getting found among competitors in local search – has been rolled out to desktops in the U.S.  Are you ready to take a ride?  Here’s what you need to know:

What IS Google Carousel?

Originally a feature for tablets, Google’s Carousel activates on desktops when users effect searches for local businesses.  It is a series of thumbnail pictures placed horizontally across the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) in a filmstrip-type format.  The photos are of businesses that meet the inputted search criteria.  They contain additional information as well:  addresses, number of Google reviews, and sometimes price ranges for goods/services.  The “filmstrip” may be advanced by clicking an arrow at its right end.

Google carousel

Clicking on one of the thumbnail photos brings up more detailed information on the business portrayed there:  additional photos and location details, contact info, hours of operation, website URLs, Google reviews, more links and other information come into view at the top of the SERP page, right under the thumbnail strip.

Google Carousel expanded view

How do we get onboard?

Google’s Carousel helps companies that can’t make the coveted first few spots on the regular vertical result listings to be visible right at the top of the SERPs, which is an obvious benefit.  It allows them to be seen in an eye catching way, with pertinent details right there for the taking.  From where does Google get all this information about the businesses?  It pulls the details from those companies’ Google Plus profiles and local listings – a critical reason to fully optimize and use those Google Plus profiles, as well as provide eye-catching pictures and complete details for local listings.

Since Google applies search algorithms when selecting the companies to showcase in its Carousel, it makes sense to provide the platform with as much visual and textual information as possible.  This includes cross listings on other directory sites such as Yelp, as well as the number of Google followers and reviewers companies have.  The more they show, the better their chances are of winning one of those coveted spots.

One post script: with this initial desktop rollout, Google Carousel deploys for local searches of restaurants, bars and hotels.  But the feature will soon expand to other industries.  So get your company’s Google Plus profile and local listing fully filled out and optimized.  You need to be ready for when the Carousel includes local search for your business niche!

Are you using Google Plus profiles for your business?  How complete is the information you supplied for them and for your local listings?  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

Google logo with carousels for Os

Penguin 2.0: Friend or Foe?

June 10, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli              return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Google Penguin 2.0Penguin 2.0, Google’s latest search ranking algorithm tweak, is just over a week old.  Have you seen a difference of any kind in your site’s ranking because of it?  If you have been doing the right thing you probably didn’t even know it made its debut on May 22.  But if you live to game the system you had best beware!

Google’s latest algorithm update is the product of huge strides in the ability of the search bots to intelligently gather and analyze information.  Using data and feedback it has amassed over the past few years – especially since the original Penguin launched – this new version has become exceptionally intuitive regarding good and not-so-good optimization practices.  Chances are better now than ever before that users of frowned upon “black hat” optimization techniques will be caught and “busted.”

Basically, the way to ensure that our good rankings remain so is to play by the rules.  Google wants to deliver the best quality search results for its users.  The best quality comes from site owners who work diligently to 1. maintain and promote consistently strong branding; and 2. deliver top tier value that others want to consume and share.  When the quality is there it also attracts valuable links from other highly regarded, relevant sites.  This cycle proves authenticity, which in turn instills confidence from Google.  That confidence translates into higher search rankings.

Conversely, collecting links that are irrelevant to our fields and/or of poor quality just to show high volume does not inspire confidence, and will actually adversely affect our search rankings.  Google rightly believes that high quality, authoritative sites need not resort to such sham practices in order to make themselves appear deserving of high rankings.  Hence, it views gamers of its system unkindly.

In the end, it all comes down to this:  maintaining great search rankings on Google is simple.  But it is NOT easy.  It is simple to understand what Google wants us to do – play by the rules in order to help it achieve its goals.  But doing the work that’s needed to achieve what Google wants from us is not easy or quick.  Patience, perseverance, and a strong commitment to the moral path will ultimately save the day for our sites.  These qualities will make Google happy, which in turn will reflect positively in the form of higher rankings and protection from harm when future algorithm changes are introduced.

Did you see any difference in your rankings after Penguin 2.0 rolled out?  Please share your experiences in the Google Penguin 2.0 gives a warningcomments section below!

Google Plus Getting Better and Better

October 1, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                    return to JayVee Media Link LLC 

flexing body builder with Google Plus headIf Facebook isn’t looking over its shoulder it certainly should.  Google Plus is steadily gaining on the behemoth platform.  With all the quality features it offers, G+ just may catch and surpass Facebook one day soon.

Facebook currently boasts 900 million users, though that number is often called into question with the numerous fake profiles that are known to exist.  Google Plus now has a membership that tops 400 million.  Users are increasingly drawn to the newer platform’s cleaner interface, more user and business friendly features, and the power of its progenitor, Google itself.  Though Facebook is working hard to improve its search function, it remains light years behind Google…and Google improves its search with newer, better features on a regular basis.  Users of Google Plus also benefit from increased visibility afforded them by the platform’s powerhouse parent.

Facebook had a huge head start over Google Plus.  And like G+, it constantly attempts to improve upon its good features. Yet in many important areas it often must play catch up with its younger rival.  In addition to its hands-down edge in search capacities, G+ boasts a few popular features that Facebook lacks.   Biggest among these is likely Google Hangouts, a live streaming group video chat that is a favorite among both personal and business users. And the newer platform is rapidly making up for its lack of any important features Facebook offers, as evidenced by its newest acquisition, sophisticated photo sharing site NIK.

Google and Google Plus have just rolled out yet another new feature that is guaranteed to be a hit with those of us who use the platform for business:  Google for Entrepreneurs.  Its hook:  “You have an idea.  Make it happen.”  Users are encouraged to employ the feature to discover local programs and online resources to launch and scale their businesses.  Here, courtesy of a reposting by our colleague, Sherry Nouraini, is a sampling of Google for Entrepreneurs’ offerings and links:

. Programs: google.com/entrepreneurs/initiatives
. Events: google.com/entrepreneurs/events
. Resources: google.com/entrepreneurs/resources

Website: google.com/entrepreneurs
YouTube: youtube.com/Google4Entrepreneurs
Google+: +Google for Entrepreneurs
More: googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/celebrating-spirit-of-entrepreneurship.html
Twitter hashtag:   #googleforentrepreneurs

Is Google Plus exciting YOU?  How are you using its features to help your business?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Google: The Next Monopoly?

May 7, 2012
by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                             return to JayVee Media Link LLC

all of Google's service offeringsGoogle has changed its algorithms yet again as it strives to maintain its spot at the top of the search engine heap.  It has brought us the Chrome browser, Google Plus social profiles, Gmail, Google Maps, Adwords, Analytics, Google Documents, Alerts.  It has given us the Android phone along with tons of mostly free apps in Google Play.  It owns You Tube; it just rolled out Drive, a cloud based service.  These days, is it even possible to go ANYWHERE on the web and NOT use a service that has some connection to Google?

Back in the day, there was an entity through which ALL telecommunication was routed.  Mind you, there wasn’t much beside literally telephone communication.  The entity was known as Ma Bell, and it was unquestionably a monopolistic enterprise.  It owned all the equipment and all the lines, right down to the phones in our homes.  It was the only provider of telecommunication service.  It charged what it charged, and the only recourse we had if we were unhappy was to not have phone service.

In the 1970s, an Antitrust lawsuit was filed against Ma Bell.  Years later, when the dust finally settled, the big ol’ girl was broken up into several smaller companies.  A number of them have since merged back together, but Ma Bell itself is no more.  With the introduction of competition came an amazing set of phenomena.  Suddenly, prices were negotiable.  We could buy our own equipment. Phones became more stylish, more functional, and even wireless.  We saw the dawn of the digital age, and of fiber optic.  Competition also brought us our lifelines: our mobile phones.  And of course, we were able to hook in to the World Wide Web.

The question that arises from my stroll down memory lane is, has the time come to assess Google, and evaluate whether it is becoming our next big Ma Bell-like monopoly?  We all have probably heard the term applied to Google these days, along with its legal counterpart, Antitrust.

Google monopoly

The argument can be made that Google is not actively trying to drive its competitors out of existence.  If it was, then it would make sense to apply the moniker “monopoly” to it. As a business, it has every right to preserve its top rating.  Strategies to do this include striving to innovate and expand in order to offer its users the best possible online experience.  Its competitors are doing the same thing; as of now, though, they are not doing it as successfully or with the same foresight as the Google folks.  So is that Google’s fault?

I have my issues with Google. Most concern privacy rights.  Yet even so, I have to concede that Google would not be able to offer the broad, interrelated services it does, let alone offer them mostly for free, without more access to my private data than I am comfortable sharing.  On one level, it is my choice to continue using Google and its related services.  But on another, can I really have the benefit of access to all the features I enjoy via other services?  You Tube is a very significant platform in the field of social media marketing; how can I maintain a presence on it without being connected to Google if the platform is OWNED by that company?  And if I COULD sever my ties to Google, wouldn’t I still have the same privacy issues with its competitors, unless I would be willing to pay who knows how much money to use the services anonymously?  Again, that isn’t even feasible for some of the features.

In the end, I do choose to use Google and all of its wonderful offerings.  I fully support its quest to remain the best, so long as it doesn’t look to shut down its competitors.  And I do what I can to safeguard as much of my privacy as possible.

What are YOUR views about Google?  Do you think it’s a monopoly?  Should an Antitrust lawsuit be pursued against it?  What alternatives do you think we have?  Please share your perspective by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

menacing Google Penguin

Beware the Penguin!

More Social Media Profile Changes

April 30, 2012
by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                                 return to JayVee Media Link LLC

The dust has barely settled after the major revisions Facebook recently implemented; now another social media platform has rolled out some big changes:  Google Plus.  Unlike those of the former, I believe many of these modifications are inviting enough to warrant a reassessment of the time that we spend on this steadily growing platform.  Let’s take a look:

google and facebook arm wrestling

Changes we can live with

One of the changes made by Google Plus is suggestive of Facebook’s Timeline; namely, the option to upload a cover photo (at 940 by 180 pixels, a bit longer and shallower than Facebook’s).  But that appears to be where the similarity ends.  For one thing, users are free to design their cover images to include contact info/web addresses, advertising, calls to action, and other things prohibited by Facebook’s Terms of Service.  And unlike Facebook, users have an option to NOT use a large cover picture.  If they prefer, they can choose to display five smaller individual photos (110 x 110 pixels) instead.  Google Plus also has enlarged the size of its actual profile picture to 250 by 250 pixels; interestingly, Facebook is planning to offer larger profile picture dimensions as well (160 by 160 pixels, up from 125 x 125).

Many people still don’t like Facebook’s Timeline layout. Even though it offers some really neat features, the overall look is disorienting and confusing to follow.  In contrast, Google Plus has adopted a cleaner, fresher looking design.  Some of the newer features include:

  1. a single column for reading/writing posts;
  2. drag-and-drop configurable menu options in column format down the left side of the page;
  3. larger viewing area for posted pictures and videos;
  4. easy targeting of posts to specified circles via tabs across the top of the profile.  The middle two of these tabs can be effortlessly customized to display our most important circles for quick access to them.  When on our “profile” pages, the tabs across the top allow for easily accessing their different features (posts, about, photos, videos), including an archive of the posts we have “+1-ed.”
  5. Chat and hangout features now appear on the right side of the profile; hangout can also be accessed via one of the tabs in the left column of the page.
  6. Chat can now be used across all of Google’s different services, including gmail.  And we can now chat across those services with anyone in our circles, regardless of whether or not we have his/her email address.
  7. As of Tuesday, April 24th, Google also rolled out a share button, which can be added to our websites. Now, in addition to allowing visitors to “+1” our posts, they can share our content directly with their Google Plus followers.

Circling back (if you’ll excuse the pun) to Facebook, my thoughts are:

  1. The platform forced changes upon its users that most did not want or like, and that many still don’t;
  2. other than slightly enlarging its profile picture dimensions, the only other more recent change for Facebook users is that we can now download an app to make our profiles appear for our own viewing pleasure as they would on the Pinterest platform.  I find that a curious offering, particularly as it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose.
My concluding thoughts

The conclusion I draw from all of this is that Facebook’s “powers that be” have either lost sight of what is important to their users, or they have become too arrogant to care.  The changes effected by Google Plus, along with the choices afforded its users, have created a ripple of excitement about possibilities and potentials that is quickly spreading throughout the online world.  As Google Plus continues to give its users more positive changes and features, it is going to see continued growth.  Right now that growth isn’t expansive enough to threaten Facebook.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean things will always be that way.  Just saying…

Will the changes and choices now offered by Google Plus make you consider setting up or spending more time cultivating your presence on that platform?  What are your thoughts on how they compare/contrast with Facebook’s recent changes – and the way those changes were implemented?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

google gets more positive attention than facebook

For more information, see 8 New Google Changes and How They Impact Your Business, by Mike Delgado of Social Media Examiner

Internet Privacy – The Lingering Issue

April 2, 2012                                                               return to JayVee Media Link LLC

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli

An abundance of blog posts about internet privacy hit the web last week, illustrating the fact that the issue remains foremost and escalating in the minds of web surfers these days.  The demand for privacy is hitting a fever pitch, particularly stoked by the recent changes in Google’s privacy rules as well as loopholes uncovered in Facebook’s policy as the platform is changing its layout to the new Timeline design.  Growing concern is causing a considerable public outcry, demanding that privacy rules be tightened and strictly enforced.

Facebook: Exhibit One

Facebook and the privacy issue

Facebook received kudos late last week when it fought to crack down on the rising number of employers who were openly demanding the passwords of potential employees in order to do character evaluations.  But while its stand was met with appreciation, Facebook was still coming under fire for fissures in its own privacy walls that were ripe for easy exploitation.  Among other things, it was discovered that a loophole allowed users to stalk the profiles of other users.  The breach resulted from profile users being unable to un-friend ill intentioned others who continually deactivated and then reactivated their profiles.  Facebook has since patched that vulnerability.  Another concerning practice that is ongoing is that third party applications can mine users’ personal data even if the users didn’t give permission for the apps to do so.  If any of their Facebook connections use the apps, their information can be extracted as well.  With practices like this one still in play, the old saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” comes to my mind.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy that Facebook is going after anyone who would demand the access information of another regardless of the reason.  I just think the platform needs to clean its own house a little better in the process.  Unfortunately, as it moves toward a public offering, Facebook has taken its eye off being a social network and is instead opting to be more of an advertising network.  Hence, it seems unlikely that those policies will change any time soon.  In other words, what’s good for them is not good for anyone else.

Google: Exhibit Two

The consolidation of information across all the various Google services has been the subject of much talk for several weeks now.  The disturbing potential for trouble appears to outweigh considerably the stated benefits of improved, more personalized search results.  Interestingly enough, even some of those close to the Google empire believe that it is taking things too far.  In one instance, former employees of the corporation have launched a new company devoted to stopping Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook from tracking its users. Disconnect.me is dedicated to the principle that internet users should be the owners and stewards of their own personal data.  To that end, it is committed to expanding its service to block additional sites that track users and mine their private data.

Google and the Privacy Issue

Regardless of how you look at it, mining personal data is pervasive these days.  And the issue is only going to become more onerous.  As difficult as it is to accept, the only way to guarantee that your private information remains so is to diligently guard what you share and be mindful of your online behavior.  Privacy settings MAY slow down the data mining process.  But they are never a guarantee. As a detective with the Internet Crimes Unit of my county’s Sheriff’s Department once said, regardless of how stringently you set your privacy controls, once you click the share button all bets are off.

Are you altering your online behavior in the face of all the personal data mining reports that have swept across the internet lately?  What steps do YOU take to protect yourself?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5 Ways Google is Changing Its Search, and How the Changes Will Affect Blogging

March 26, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                             return to JayVee Media Link

google searchThe blog: the lifeblood of our social media existence.  Micro, macro, informational, promotional; ultimately, everything online comes back to our blogs.  Small wonder, then, why it is critically important to optimize our compositions to ensure maximum visibility.

With the ever evolving algorithms that Google is experimenting with/implementing, attaining and maintaining maximum visibility is like riding a constantly shifting paradigm.  What used to work doesn’t anymore; in fact, it could conceivably work AGAINST us.  Hence, it is crucial to stay abreast of the changes that Google is making to their search and ranking parameters.

Lately there has been a flurry of reports covering the various ways Google is looking to change its criteria.  Some were started a couple of years ago and are still works in progress; others are being rolled out imminently.  The most important aspects of these changes are:

  1. Google’s bots are being “trained” to downgrade sites that appear overly optimized.  Remember how keyword density used to be a great way to get noticed?  Now a Google search spider will label a site that uses keywords excessively as spammy, and will downgrade the “offending” site’s ranking.
  2. The same holds true if Google’s bots find too many links on a website page.  Like keywords, they are still important.  But overusing them will result in a lowering of your site’s ranking.
  3. This is really more of a reminder than a change, but I thought I’d add it anyway because it is significant.  It is still advised to add pictures to your blogs; in fact, pictures offer yet another dimension for gaining visibility thanks to sites like Pinterest.  But it’s important to remember to add alternate text to the pictures.  The Google bots don’t actually “see” photos, but they will read and score contextually optimized descriptions of them.
  4. While continuing to experiment with this dimension, Google is phasing in “semantic” capabilities in its search.  Its objective in doing so is to go beyond simple word recognition in queries, to a point where the bots can actually begin understanding what is being asked.  For this end, Google has acquired an open source knowledge graph called Freebase.  By building infrastructure layers in a knowledge graph like this one, its idea is to use Freebase as a tool to aid the creation of more knowledge. The aim is for Google’s bots to ultimately understand the actual context of a search query or a web page that they are crawling.  This is why good quality user generated content has gained so much significance in the rankings contest.  The search bots are learning to recognize and award rank value to contextually relevant written passages.
  5. Google panda fighting off poor content

  6. Incorporating content from Google Plus profiles, the Picasa photo sharing service, and content approved for sharing on these two platforms is yet another method Google has recently implemented in its quest to deliver smarter, more personalized search results as well as higher site rankings.  This is something else we must bear in mind going forward as we continue to create our content while aiming to win the best possible visibility.

So…are you ready to retool the way you create your content?  What will you change to maximize visibility, given these new Google search and ranking parameters?  Please share your thoughts in the “comments” section below!

See also:
Google Search Set To Change

Google Plans to Penalize “Overly Optimized” Sites

Google Plans Major Revamp for Search Engine

How Important is Unique Content in the Eyes of Google Panda?

Bing Too??

February 12,2012                        return to JayVee Media Link LLC
by Jeanine Vecchiarelli

Last week, I wrote about Facebook, Google and the Privacy Issue.  In that post, I mentioned that Google’s position is, if you don’t like their new privacy policy you can always take your business elsewhere.  Well, okay, but…take it where?  In the world of search engines, the big three are generally thought to be Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Many people view Yahoo with nearly the same distrust as they do Google.  Hence, it would seem that Bing would be the logical default choice.  Well, not so fast there!

Liz Gannes recently shared a blog post which brings to light the fact that Bing has quietly bing, twitter and facebook iconsmade a deal with Twitter and Facebook.  One of the perks of this cozy little arrangement allows Bing wide open access to the unlimited stores of personal information archived by both of these social media giants.  All in the name of delivering its users a more efficient search experience, of course.  Sound familiar?

The plot thickens…

bing and androidThere is yet another interesting wrinkle here, as I see it.  Somewhere along the way there HAS to be a connection between Bing and Google.  Why else would Androids, which are Google phones, have Bing browsers as their default search engines, and use Bing Maps when their own is the widely preferred service?  Strange…

What now?

For the growing number of internet users who are concerned about these privacy issues, the question is, what service DO you use when Google tells you that you can always go elsewhere if you don’t like the way they use your personal information?  If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears!  Please let me know in the comments section below this post!