Link Building 101: 404 Pages & Link Reclamation

Link Building 101 404 Pages and Link Reclamation

When working for clients (or starting fresh on your own site) one of the best things you can do at the beginning of a link building campaign is pull in a few quick wins. Too many people have been burned by shady SEO practitioners in the past, or link builders who just didn't deliver.

My motto for launching a campaign is always "start at the start." You see, it's pretty easy (and tempting) to immediately dive deep into a campaign and go after big campaign wins.

Big wins are great. Everyone loves them - clients, leadership, the team. Everyone's happy. The problem is, big campaign wins are hard work, and certainly don't happen overnight. They require perseverance, patience, resources, and sometimes a little luck.

So, before (or even while) we go after those big wins, I take the time to work through my list of potential quick win opportunities - searching for quality links - in order to build trust, enthusiasm, and motivation.

The Quick Wins List:
  1. 404 Pages and Link Reclamation
  2. Competitor Analysis
  3. Fresh Web Explorer/Google Alerts
  4. Local Link Building
  5. Past/Current Relationships
Note: Each step will be covered in separate installments of this Link Building 101 series.

404 Pages and Link Reclamation

Websites change over time – it's a fact of life. Products come, products go, information is updated, URLs are modified, resources are reworked; pages are edited, shifted, and moved.

While a lot of this sounds like on-page SEO, it affects off-page SEO as well – specifically links.

If you've secured hard-earned links and then update that page's URL, change subfolders, or even change the information on the page, you've just affected that link, typically by losing it.

Oftentimes page migration involves a 301 redirect, so visitors will be passed along to the new page. This passes link equity as well, although some is unfortunately lost.

However, if there's no redirect in place, and there are inbound links pointing to the old URL, that's link equity lost. So, when picking up a new client, I like to ensure there aren't any dead/404 pages with external links pointed at them.
Salvaging even a few quality links here can be a fairly significant win – especially right off the bat, when you're establishing trust and confidence.

Let's take a look at a couple different methods to find 404'd pages that potentially have inbound links.

1. Webmaster Tools

Getting Webmaster Tool access is the most straightforward (and free) method of finding pages returning a 404. Beyond finding 404s, you should have Webmaster Tool access for general SEO purposes. So, you should be working to get access regardless.

Once you've set up (or received) Webmaster Tool access, you can quickly check 404 errors by going into the crawl errors section:

Google Webmaster Tools Crawl Errors Section

Also note that you can navigate with the menu on the left, by clicking on Crawl>Crawl Errors:

Google Webmaster Tools Crawl Errors

This will display a list of URLs with issues on your website. You'll want to focus in on the URLs returning 404s:

List of URLs with 404 response code

You should take care to clean up these broken URLs as soon as possible. While you do that you should also run these URLs through a backlink analysis tool to determine whether there are links pointing at these lost/dead pages.

Tools that will do this:
Which tool you use mostly comes down to a matter of preference. For this post I'll be referencing Moz's Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO.

To run an individual URL/page, you simply go to the home page of any of these tools and input the specified URL into the search bar.

Here's what running an individual page/URL looks like in OSE:

Open Site Explorer Backlink Analysis

And in Majestic:

Majestic SEO backlink analysis

Putting your 404 URLs in here will show you if any pages are linking to your 404'd pages, and allow you to navigate to the linking pages to analyze the link(s).

From here, you'll want to set about recovering any links pointing at broken pages. But before we get into that, let's take a look at another method to discover 404 pages that have links: Open Site Explorer from Moz.

2. Open Site Explorer from Moz

Open Site Explorer is also capable of reporting inbound links pointing at broken pages.

OSE isn't as prolific a crawler as Google, however. Google just has so many more resources invested into crawling the web – so OSE might not find the same amount of 404s as Google Webmaster Tools. However, it's always great to have a second data source, so definitely check with OSE, especially if you already have a paid account.

So, how do you find the inbound links pointing to 404 pages with Open Site Explorer?

Head over to OSE and enter your domain's URL into the search bar. Then, switch to the Top Pages tab:

Top Pages Open Site Explorer

Now, download your Top Pages as a CSV:

Export Top Pages to CSV

Once you have the CSV with a complete list of your Top Pages, you'll want to filter by HTTP Status:

Top Pages filter by HTTP status

Head over to Data and then click on the filter tab to filter the data:

Top Pages filter tab

Here's a link to common HTTP Status codes. What you're looking for is anything reporting a 404, and possibly 302s (302s are supposed to be temporary redirects – they aren't designed to pass link equity, so any links going to a page that has been 302'd are essentially wasted).

Now, choose 404s, 302s, and No Data. Note that column F is the number of domains linking to your website. Your sheet should now look like this:

Top Pages filtered

So, any 404s with multiple domains linking to it should be worth checking out (just throw the URL – column A – back into OSE to find the linking sites/pages).
And that's all you need to find your 404s with OSE.

Now let's head into the actual process of link reclamation (reclaiming links pointing at dead/incorrect pages).

Link Quality Analysis

Any sites linking to your 404 pages should be first examined for authority and quality before reclaiming the link. A few factors you should look at:
  • Relevance of the website.
  • Relevance of the page.
  • PR or DA of the home page.
  • PR or PA of the page.
  • The content quality of the page.
  • The placement of the link.
  • The anchor text used.
  • Other links on the page.
  • Other pages on the site.
That should give you a sense of the overall quality of the site, the page, and the link. All are important elements of overall link quality, and shouldn't be excluded. If the link isn't relevant to the site, or even the page, then the link probably isn't quality.

Eventually when you examine enough links you will develop a link sense, often referred to as the smell test – because you know when a link stinks.
So, if the link is worth saving? Two options:
  • Create a 301 redirect for the 404'd page to a relevant page on your site.
  • Contact the linking site's webmaster and let them know the page has moved and ask if they could update the link.
Typically, the first option is the best, unless you only want to reclaim a single link as opposed to every link pointing to the page. You lose a little bit of link equity (the power of the link) using a 301 redirect, but you don't have to annoy and rely upon a webmaster, who might just pull down the link altogether.


  • Webmaster Tools is best (and free) for finding 404s, although OSE works as well.
  • Use backlink explorers to test pages returning a 404 for inbound links.
  • Manually check any links found pointing to dead pages for relevance and quality.
  • Use a 301 redirect to a relevant page to recapture link equity (most common) or ask the linking site's webmaster to fix the link.
Original Article Post by Jon Ball @ Search Engine Watch

Hashtags Come to Google Search Results

The Google+ integration of hashtags is getting a nice updates with Google search. Google+ introduced hashtags on posts back in May, where users can click on the hashtags and get to other related posts on Google+ with the same hashtag.

Google is now gone a step further by allowing those same hashtags to be used when searching in Google. Simply type in “#keyword” for the hashtags you want to search:

Hashtag Emmys Google Search

The search results aren’t just limited to things of been shared on Google+. It also includes things such as Tumbler, some Twitter (as seen on the #Emmys search screenshot) as well as any kind of blog posts, new stories pages that are also utilizing the same hashtag

As for privacy, you can see any Google+ posts that are either public or the been shared with you personally, so you will need to be signed into your Google account if you want to see results that have been shared with you personally that might not be public.

Here's how Google engineer Zaheed Sabur explained it in a Google+ post:
  • When you search on Google for a hashtag, say [#AmericasCup] or [#WaterfallWednesday], a set of relevant Google+ posts may appear to the right of regular results.
  • You’ll only be able to see posts that have been shared publicly or shared with you.
  • If you click on any of these posts you'll go to Google+, where you'll see the full set of relevant posts.
  • You'll also see links to search for these hashtags on other social sites.
So far, Google is rolling out the hashtag search was users in both the United States and in Canada, with the results. On both and

Original Article Post by Jennifer Slegg @ Search Engine Watch

Google Updates Android Search App; Teases New iPhone/iPad Search App

Google iPhone Buy Olive Oil
Google pushed out several updates to the Google Search app for Android 4.1+ users this week. The company also has revealed plans for a new version of the Google Search app for iPhone and iPad users.

Google also announced a new look and feel for Google search across mobile devices.

"It’s cleaner and simpler, optimized for touch, with results clustered on cards so you can focus on the answers you’re looking for," Google said in a blog post.

Google Updates Search App for Android

Here's what's new if you download the updated app from Google Play:
  • Related website for current location
  • Real-time sports and flight updates, no 15 min delay
  • Set reminders from Google searches for album & book releases, tv shows
  • Car rental reservations from Gmail
  • Event tickets for select websites
  • Improved public transit card
  • Additional Smart-TV cards for news & music currently on TV
  • Ability to tell family & friends when you've left work (rolling out gradually)
  • Choose calendars and edit reminders


Coming Soon: New Google Search App for iPhone & iPad

Attention iPhone and iPad users: expect a new version of Google's Search app in the next couple of weeks, with push notifications. The new version is designed to give you notifications across devices, Google announced.

So if you tell your Nexus 7, “OK Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway,” when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you’ll get a reminder. We’ll also show you Google Now notifications so you’re not late to your cooking class.
Original Article Post by Danny Goodwin @ Search Engine Watch

Google Knowledge Graph Adds Filters, Comparisons

Google has added a new filter tool and comparisons as the search giant continues to expand its Knowledge Graph search results. The new tools aim to help searchers drill down deeper into topics or compare some key facts about two things side-by-side.

Knowledge Graph Filters

To illustrate its new Knowledge Graph filter, Google provided an example search for [impressionist artists]. A black carousel now appears above the organic results showing a handful of popular artists in this category frequently mentioned on the web (e.g., Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet). Clicking on any of these artist's pictures will generate a new search results page for that specific artist.

Impressionist Artists Google Filter 

In addition, Google has added a filter, where you can pull down to see more categories: All Genres, Baroque, Contemporary, Cubist, Expressionist, Modernist, Realist, Renaissance, Rococo, Romantic, and Surrealist.

List of Movies Google Filters

Or if you searched for [list of movies], Google's carousel highlights frequently mentioned films such as "Pacific Rim", "The Avengers", and "The Dark Knight". You can further filter by genre (e.g., Action, Adventure, Comedy) and years (All Years or any year between 2005-2013).

Knowledge Graph Comparisons

Ever wanted to compare nutritional information? Celestial objects? Dog breeds? Now you can by using Google's new comparison tool. It looks like this for butter vs. olive oil:

Google Butter vs Olive Oil Comparison

Now right on Google you can see assorted facts compared side by side, such as this Earth vs. Mars example:

Earth vs Mars Google Comparison

You can show more or less information using an up or down arrow that appears at the bottom of the comparison chart boxes.

Original Article Post by Danny Goodwin @ Search Engine Watch

Major Search Engines and Directories

Search engines – webmasters and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals follow their guidelines for the highest possible rankings on them; paid search marketers pay to be featured on them; and users turn to them when they're searching for answers, information, or entertainment.

Search Engine Watch has been covering search engines since June 1997 and has watched the industry evolve to its current state. Over time, many search engines have come and gone, as users have spoken with their keyboards (and literally with their voices – thanks to voice search technology).

In recent years, search market share has remained mostly unchanged – for much of the world, it's Google followed by every other search engine (in the U.S. the "Big 5" search engines consist of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and AOL, which combine for hundreds of billions of searches every month). Meanwhile, many of the players have consolidated or have become footnotes in history. 

What follows is an overview of today's major global search engines, with some history and explanation of why each one is important to webmasters, marketers, and users. We'll then review some of the top directories.

Major Search Engines

Google Logo 
Started in 1998 as a university project by Stanford University students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google is now the dominant search engine by no small margin and that didn't evolve slowly.

In fact, in June of 1999 Netscape Search was updated and AOL/Netscape search began to be powered by Google bringing their search volume to approximately 3 million per day; huge for the time.

On June 26, 2000 Yahoo Selected Google to provide its organic search results (replacing Inktomi) with its impressive index of more than 25 million pages; again, huge for the time.

Google has since become synonymous with the word "search" and as most of us know, is often used in place of the word. Don't know the answer? Google it!

The continued strength of Google as a search provider is based on a large number of factors and won't be debated here, save to say, they have successfully provided the results people are looking for in a manner those searchers either enjoy or are comfortable enough with not to switch to a different provider.

Google continues to tweak their search algorithm multiple times per month and adjust the layout of their results to test for improved visitor experience and advertising revenue.

The majority of Google's revenue is derived from their AdWords and AdSense programs. In fact, advertising accounts for more than 95 percent of Google's earnings. If there is a weakness in the Google model this is it; they need to tweak their layout and results to promote the paid avenues of their offerings. This gives advantages to other engines who may have revenue generation strategies outside of search.

Bing Logo 
Bing was launched in May 2009 as a fundamental upgrade from Microsoft's previous efforts into search, MSN Search.
Since the launch of Bing, Microsoft's share of the search marketplace has more than doubled. Add to that the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo for Bing to power Yahoo's organic results and Bing powers over 25 percent of search.

With the Microsoft/Yahoo alliance also came the affect that Yahoo's paid search platform would be used to power both Yahoo and Bing's paid results. While this may not seem like a big deal on the surface, it is actually huge.

Where once business owners and marketers had to consider whether it was worth the hassle of managing both a Bing paid campaign (for the significantly lower traffic they yield over Google) and also make the same call on managing a Yahoo paid campaign – the two now are manageable in one convenient location, significantly reducing the time it takes to setup and manage.

This of course makes the cost for these campaigns less expensive and when you combine that with Bing's increased market-share then they're in a position to take some of the ad dollars from Google (or at least, gain some for themselves).

Yahoo is an interesting search engine and one which, until recently, I had a very hard time taking seriously.

Once upon a time Yahoo was a major leader in the search field but has been in decline, making bad decision after bad decision, announcing layoff round after layoff round and making what can only be described as one of the worst business decisions in history when they turned down a takeover from Microsoft valued at $33/share. Yahoo shares dove after that and have never been anywhere close since.

From that point, until 2012, it seemed that every piece of news from Yahoo was bad news, until July 16 when the announcement came that they had snagged Marissa Meyer from Google to become CEO. This was the first move they'd made in a long time and had people wondering if this might just be the breath of fresh air and change of direction that the company needed.

From reviews of all hires and selling key properties such as Alibaba to putting their own search technology back on the forefront; Yahoo has maintained its position as one of the top three search engines, despite not producing their own organic results.

Other Major Search Engines Around the Globe

Google dominates the U.S. and most of the world – but not everywhere. Yahoo and Bing have had about the same luck (zero) making a dent in Google's search market share on other continents, but a couple of search engines in other countries have managed to stay ahead of the Mountain View, California-based search engine. If you're from these countries or interested in marketing to them – pay attention.

Baidu logo 
In China, Baidu is the major player with more than three of every four searches conducted on their engine.

To say Baidu blends organic with paid search is misleading, they use a hybrid approach wherein they have pay for performance (P4P) results (users bid to have their websites place at the top of what would appear to be the organic results).

In addition, Baidu offers PPC which, similar to AdWords, is displayed at the top or right of the standard results. One could argue that the existence of the PPC-like results further confuses the users clicking on the standard results area into believing they are organically generated.

While some investors consider Baidu to be overvalued as a stock, their earnings are consistently high. For companies looking to market into China, understanding Baidu is crucial.

Yandex Logo 
Yandex is the primary and most popular of all Russian-language search engines with significant market dominance in Russia.

On October 1, 2012, Yandex launched their own browser and mobile app to keep their position secure against Google, their only real competitor in the space.

Yandex's advantage in Russian seems to be based on an algorithm that performs much better in understanding the unique syntax used and integrating that into the consideration of what type of results the user is likely looking for (for example – is the search string a question or simply keyword entry).


Directories are an interesting topic. Do they carry weight? Can they hurt your rankings? Should you even bother? The answer here is yes, yes, and yes.
This section will mainly focus on general directories, but the end of this section does include a few tips on how to find niche directories (or even other general directories) and how to determine if they are worth getting a listing on.

The Yahoo Directory was started in 1994 under the name "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web" but in 1996 became Yahoo. At the time Yahoo was primarily a directory with search functionality and (interestingly) neither SEO nor Internet Marketing were even categories at the time.

Through the late 1990s Yahoo pushed to become a web portal and in 2000 even signed a deal with Google that would see Google power Yahoo's search functionality. Their focus at the time was to acquire users through acquisitions such as GeoCities (RIP), bringing more people into their portal and keeping them there. Unfortunately Yahoo! didn't have the same user loyalty that Apple does and the walled-garden approached failed as users Googled their way out of the Yahoo network of sites (ironically right on Yahoo's own properties).

All this said however, they still provide a solid directory (back to their roots). The cost is a non-refundable $299 review fee.

Best of the Web 
Best Of The Web may be my favorite of the general directories due in no small part to the fact that they allow for a permanent listing. The directory was founded in 1994 as a listing of the best of the web (seems to be the year of directories) and actually gave out a series of awards (take a peek, it's interesting to see what types of things won back then). That lasted until 1998 at which time the site lay dormant until purchased in 2002 at which time it became a general web directory.

BOTW is a human edited directory. They will decline your listing if they don't like the site. A submission is $150 annually or $300 for a permanent listing.

No list of directories would be complete without DMOZ. DMOZ was founded in June 1998 as Gnuhoo. It was purchased by Netscape in October of the same year at which time it became The Open Directory Project. By April 2000 it had surpassed the Yahoo Directory in number of URLs in it's index and currently sits at about 5.2 million.

For those in the industry long enough to remember, DMOZ suffered a catastrophic failure in October of 2006 at which time they had to display a backup version of their directory. This wasn't remedied until December and new sites couldn't be suggested until January. This is he time when it seemingly became increasingly difficult to get a listing in DMOZ as any editors seemed to have found new things to do with their time.

It is still possible to get a listing in DMOZ. For the 10 minutes it takes, it's well worth the time and it's free to submit. (Tip: try to submit to a category that has an editor.) was started in 1999 as a search engine for business and corporations. They came close to bankruptcy during the dot-com bubble bursting but after major layoffs and restructuring they became profitable once more in 2003. is focused on business-to-business resources (so take that into consideration when thinking about submitting. The cost is $299 per year and all submissions are reviewed manually.

As with Yahoo and BOTW, the fee is non-refundable if your site isn't accepted. You're paying for the review, not the link.

Honorable Mentions
Moving past the major players, there are also a number of other good general directories. These directories have all survived many updates including the Penguin and Panda rounds.

Remember, though, link building is about balance. You don't want to submit to a bunch of directories and consider your job done. A better strategy would be to bookmark this page, submit to a few and as you're building more links using different strategies, add a directory or two mixed in with the rest.
  • JoeAnt – $39.99 one-time fee.
  • Jayde – Submission is free.
  • Ezilon – $69 annual fee of $199 permanent.
  • Alive – $75 annual fee or $225 permanent.
  • 01 Web Directory – Free submission option or $49 one-time for a guaranteed 3-day response time.
  • Aviva – $50 annually or $150 permanent.
  • SunStream – $29 annually or $49 permanent.
  • Wow Directory – $43 for a permanent listing.'
  • GoGuides – $69 one time.
Again, this list only contains consistently solid general directories.

Directory Guidelines

You'll want to also look at niche directories (which may well hold more weight than any of the general directories above), but you need to be careful. There are many horrible directories out there.

Here are a few directory guidelines to follow that universally apply:
  • Is the submission a guaranteed placement? If a directory will list you automatically (with or without a fee) then it's not an editorial link and either doesn't carry weight or likely won't in the near future. It should be avoided.
  • Do they require a link back? If they do (even for their free listings when a paid is available), it probably should be avoided.
  • Is their PageRank 3 or below? Yes, it's an old metric, but is still helpful to gauge general site health. A directory with a PageRank of 3 or less will, at best, pass virtually no weight; at worst, it'll cause you problems. Generally, you should only look at PageRank 3 directories in the case of niche directories; with general directories, don't even consider anything less than a 4.
  • Common sense. Ah, the toughest one because our brains can trick us into seeing what we want to see. When you look at a directory (or any other link source for that matter) you have to ask yourself, "does it make sense that this link should pass weight to my site?" If you can honestly say "yes" to this then it's likely a good link.

A Final Warning

The saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket" comes into play here. Once again, directories can provide good and relevant links to your site (and hey, even some traffic) but a solid link profile contains variety.

Never put all your energies into one single link source. If you find a lot of great niche directories, put them all on a list and add a couple each month while you're engaged in other strategies to help remind Google that you're not a one-trick pony. You have good content liked by directory editors, bloggers, social media netizens, and others.

Original Article Post by Dave Davies @ Search Engine Watch

How Will Voice Search Change SEO for Local Stores & Global Enterprises?

Speak now 
In 2009 the authors of "The Art of SEO" predicted an increased importance in voice recognition search. Over the past few months, voice search has shown significant improvement and attention:
Clearly, Google is interested in making voice search work.

As the evolution of voice search continues to advance, it also has increasing international adoption.
  • Yahoo launched their first voice search around 2008 and continues to release new versions.
  • Bing just released an improved version of voice search available on windows phones.
  • Yandex has always been ahead of the curve – it currently has a voice search option within their search engine and has been using their voice technology for other applications.
  • Baidu and Sogou recently launched their voice assistant applications this year. People are now utilizing voice search across smartphones, tablets, desktops, as well as the new crop of devices like Google Glass.
As voice technology is refined, the first big question search marketers have to ask is: Is there a difference in voice search vs. text-based searches? The short answer is definitely, "Yes". Based on a study by Chitika, the biggest category for voice search is news at 20 percent, while text-based searches is reference-related topics at 22 percent. Additionally, mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text.

Since Apple's Siri release and the launch of its competitor, Google Now, search has become more conversational and relative by displaying results based on the user's previous search intent. In addition, the continually expanding knowledge graph provides encyclopedic data to users directly in the SERP – no need for click through, but less shelf space for companies.

Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cuts confirmed in June of this year that at some point we need to change our viewpoint and adapt to the user's conversational query syntax. When users complete a voice search, they typically tend to talk in complete sentences and add more words than a typed search.

In text-based search, this may bring back fewer and less accurate results. However, as voice search algorithms are refined Google and other search engines are delivering not only more, but better results for natural language queries.

Voice Search for the Local Stores

Now that we know voice searchers behave differently, how does that affect local optimization? Let's take a quick dive into a recent voice search example on YouTube using Google Now for Android phones.

If a user searches [where am I], Google will display the user's current location and a map. If the user continues to search [show me things to do there], Google will remember the previous search and give them results for popular local attractions.

Google San Diego Points of Interest

Google's previous results would have shown something like this:
Google show me things to do there

If the user continues to search for a particular attraction, in this example the San Diego Zoo, the search results will continue to pull the most updated information mainly through Google Maps. If an action-based term is searched such as [call them], Google will get the phone number from their local places profile if available and immediately make a call.

Prior to recent updates, if you were to perform a similar typed search, let's say [call san diego zoo], the first result would be a link to the company's site:

Google Call San Diego Zoo

Similar to other voice search programs, the searcher is able to have a conversation in order to gather all the information they are looking for without ever leaving the program or clicking through to a company's site.

Consequently, it has become ever more important to keep local profiles up to date, displaying the correct address, store hours, and phone numbers. Since the user will get everything they need without leaving the SERP, there may be a potential increase in offline conversions and a decrease in direct traffic to the company's website. Furthermore, it will be essential to analyze impression data from your local profiles to see common customer needs.

Voice Search for Global Enterprises

When it comes to large brands or enterprises that don't necessarily have local stores, we should determine whether they need to modify their search strategies. The main difference between (non-local) voice searches vs. typed searches is elongated search queries.

Let's say, for example, a user searches for a cell phone store location. On a desktop, these searches would most likely be searched as [cell phone shop] (12,100 search per month in US). When a user searches for [cell phone shop] you may not know what their actual intent is, whether that be to buy a new cell phone, speak to someone about cell phone plans, or find the closest cell phone shop for repairs.

Voice search users typically search in more complete sentences or questions. Additionally, the user tends to complete more searches on a faster basis, adding more words around their main query.

A users could search a variety of different queries such as [find a t mobile store near me], [where can i sell my cell phone in san diego]. If a brand has difficulty ranking for all highly competitive terms within their industry, they may have a more successful search campaign if they target these phrases or frequently asked questions.

Brands can optimize for conversational or long-tail queries by deploying a FAQ or Q&A content strategy. A Q&A strategy would not only improve your customer service by answering common questions, but it may increase their search presence by ranking for more long-tail keywords. This strategy may also help the brand become a reference for industry knowledge across the web and may in-turn improve brand reputation.


The number one goal of search engines is to conveniently provide the user with their original search intent. Since voice search can be more convenient, quicker, and continues to gain popularity worldwide, yes, digital marketers may have to yet again adapt some search strategies around another vertical.

Obviously optimizing for mobile devices is very important for voice search. Companies with multiple retail locations can benefit from voice searches by keeping their local profiles up to date, especially Google Maps.

Additionally, by adapting to more conversational/natural search pattern, businesses can construct a content strategy around common searched sentences. This would not only increase their search visibility, but help build their brand awareness by becoming a resource within their industry.

Author's note: Special thanks to Cassandra Gucwa, Sr. SEO Specialist for her research for this article.

Original Article Post by David Cato @ Search Engine Watch

Does Google Penalize For Invalid HTML? Matt Cutts Says No

Matt Cutts

It's easy to make a mistake when trying to create perfect HTML code that validates correctly every time. When one of the features in Google Webmaster Tools is the ability to validate your code to see if there are any errors, certainly it raises the question of how important it is to have validated code.

While we all know the reasons why we should write valid HTML, in reality it doesn't always happen. But from an SEO perspective, how important is valid HTML when it comes to your Google rankings in organic search. That is the topic of the latest Google webmaster help video.

Does the crawler really care about valid HTML? Validating gives me 23 errors, 4 warning(s)

In a new video, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explained why it's best to have validated HTML code and ensure your code is clean.

"It makes it more maintainable, it makes it easier whenever you want to upgrade, it makes it better if you want to hand that code off to somebody else, there's just a lot of good reasons to do it," Cutts said.

There are a lot of coding purists, where every little piece of code has to perfectly validate before they will launch a website, and then there's the other end of the spectrum where many have atrociously coded HTML, yet it ranks extremely well. The rest fall somewhere in between atrocious and perfect.

Cutts continued saying that Google needs to work with the webpages that are available, not the perfectly validated webpages in Google's perfect world. And because of this, Google's webcrawler has to compensate for people's poorly coded HTML, or for told that has been changed for things like for loading purposes.

"So Google does not penalize you if you have invalid HTML because there would be a huge number of webpages like that and some people know the rules and then decided to make things a little bit faster or to tweak things here there and so their pages don't validate and there are enough pages they don't validate that we said OK this would actually hurt search quality if we said only the pages that validate are allowed to rank or rank those a little bit higher."

He does caution that Google could make changes in the future.

"Now I wouldn't be surprised if they correlate relatively well, you know maybe it's a signal we'll consider in the future, but at least for right now do it because it's good for maintenance, it's easier for you if you want to change the site in the future, don't just do it because you think it'll give you higher search rankings."

Original Article Post by Jennifer Slegg @ Search Engine Watch

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads: 4 Smart Strategies


Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) have been available to all AdWords advertisers for several months now. RLSAs are really flexible. As a feature it opens up a lot of potential strategies.

This article will look at some smart strategies evolving for different types of advertisers to give you an idea of what could work for each one. These aren't the only potential strategies for that client type, but hopefully it'll give you a start for how to apply these to your business.

What I want to avoid is telling you what will work. That's akin to telling you what keywords to choose: it'll be different for everybody.

1. High-End Retailer

High-end retailers rely on finding their demographics. If you're willing to spend $5,000 on a sofa, chances are you're also the right person to spend $800 on a lamp.

For these advertisers, repeat customers are key. The fact that they have purchased once is the best possible indicator that they will purchase again.

Use RLSA to bid much more aggressively for existing customers. If they're searching again for a different item you carry, you absolutely want to be present and you can expect a better conversion rate than from everybody else.

This strategy is a good starting point for almost any advertiser where repeat customers make up a large proportion of their sales.

2. Subscription Service

Subscription services are unlikely to sell a subscription twice. It can happen, but in reality conversion rates for those users will be much lower, even if they're searching again.

I have Lovefilm and Netflix subscriptions. After I found Lovefilm, I kept searching in the same market for the second, but I wasn't going to get a second Lovefilm subscription.

RLSA here takes the opposite form: reduce bids for people who have already subscribed. They (probably) don't need it again.

Some subscriptions are more complex. There may be multiple stages (e.g., 1. register for free; 2. pay to subscribe). In this case, as soon as somebody completes the first stage you have their information.

There's no need to spend money on search again. You can save that budget and use much more targeted emails instead.

3. Low-Margin Retailer


A low-margin retailer probably can't afford to spend much per click or bid on expensive head terms. These guys are likely to be competing against Amazon, eBay, major supermarkets, etc.

Once a user has visited the site however, a whole new world opens up. That's a user who recognizes your brand now. Somebody saw something compelling enough in your messaging before to click your ad or otherwise visit your site. Take advantage!

Create a new campaign with all the keywords you can't normally afford. There is traffic there. Lots!

It's super exciting if you can get it, and now you can limit yourself to just the subset of users who have engaged with you before. More affordable, better conversion rates. Great!

4. Comparison Shopping

Finance (and many other markets) involve a lot of comparison shopping. These users will visit your site as part of a longer journey including several of your big brand competitors.

Create a new campaign with competitor names as keywords, and bid on it only for users who have visited your site recently. Make sure you don't drop off their shortlist while they're comparison shopping!

4 Things You Can't do With RLSA

Due to certain limitations, there are a few things you can't do with RLSA that you might like to:
  • You can't tell the user you know them: There are some very real privacy and policy issues at play. If you know that user A just bought a sofa, you can't use your ads to say "Buy this side table, it goes great with your new sofa!" You can (and sometimes should) adjust your ad texts to be more compelling based on what you know about the user, but expect your ads to get disapproved if you start verging close to the line. Don't tell them what you know.
  • You can't remarket to people from a year previously: There is a limit of 180 days on these lists. That's a shame. A compelling case for remarketing on display is for services that renew once per year, like insurance. That's out of play for search, you simply can't hold people in your lists that long. Sorry.
  • You can't use them with Product Listing Ads: This is annoying. Several good use cases for RLSAs involve ecommerce websites. But the best ecommerce ad format is incompatible. I have no idea if we can expect this to change soon, but it seems an obvious connection to make. Keep your eyes peeled.
  • You can't see the stats separately: You can't segment search queries (or quite a lot of other helpful data, frankly) by audience. This is a problem because a negative keyword for one might not be appropriate for the other. This is an argument to keep your RLSA targeted ads in a separate campaign, so that you'll get entirely separate search query reports for each.
Original Article Post by Alistair Dent @ Search Engine Watch

Google Celebrates Birthday With Playable Piñata Doodle Game

Google officially turns 15 today. For the first time, the search giant is wishing itself a happy birthday with a playable Google Doodle in which you play as the lowercase "g" in Google's name and whack a piñata to score as much candy as possible.

Google 15th Birthday Logo

To kick off the game, click on the play button located on the 15th birthday cake. A star-shaped Google-colored piñata will appear, and the lower-case "g" now appears blind-folded and wielding a stick, as the other letters bounce and watch.
Google Doodle Pinata Game
Using the space bar or your mouse, you have 10 chances to whack the piñata as hard as you can and knock out virtual pieces of candy. Every time you hit the piñata, with the exception of the very first time, pieces of candy in Google-colored wrappers will fall into a pile in the back yard scene.
Google Doodle Score

After you've taken all your swings, Google will give you your score and let you share your score on Google+, go to search, or play again.

While Google has given us better playable Doodles in the past, such as the Les Paul Doodle and Pac-Man, it's still a pretty addictive game that makes you want to keep trying to beat your score. Hey, at least it's Friday!

In addition to today's playable Google Doodle, Google also revealed a 15th birthday Easter egg, which lets you see what Google used to look like in 1998.

But bigger and far more important than that, Google announced one of the biggest overhauls to its search engine in years – and did so from the garage where Google began 15 years ago. The algorithmic update, dubbed Hummingbird, aims to deliver better results to users for more complex search queries and has actually been running for about a month now.

As we've mentioned in previous years, the day Google celebrates its birthday has moved through the years. Since 2005, Google has celebrated its birthday on September 27th, even though Google filed for incorporation on September 4, 1998, was established three days later on September 7, and the domain was registered September 15.

The first Doodle dedicated to Google's own birthday appeared on Sept. 27, 2002, for their fourth birthday.

Here's a look back at how Google has celebrated its birthday through the years:

Sept. 27, 2012

Google Doodle 14th Birthday

Sept. 27, 2011


Sept. 27, 2010


Sept. 27, 2009


Sept. 27, 2008


Sept. 27, 2007


Sept. 27, 2006


Sept. 27, 2005


Sept. 7, 2004


Sept. 7, 2003


Sept. 27, 2002

Happy 15th birthday, Google!
Original Article Post by Danny Goodwin @ Search Engine Watch

Google Hummingbird Takes Flight: Biggest Change to Search Since Caffeine

Google Hummingbird

Google quietly made a huge change to its core search technology in the past month, one that affects about 90 percent of searches worldwide. Calling it Hummingbird, the technological update of Google search is designed to handle more complex queries.

Calling it the culmination of 15 years of work, the news was revealed by Amit Singhal, Google's senior VP, one day before Google officially celebrates its 15th birthday. He spoke at a special press event today in the garage that Susan Wojcicki rented to Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they started Google in Menlo Park, California,

"Our algorithm had to go through some fundamental rethinking of how we are going to keep our results relevant," Singhal said.

Beyond announcing that Google search is now be better at understanding concepts, relationships between concepts, and more complex questions, and despite numerous questions from reporters, Google wouldn't give any more details about how Google Hummingbird actually works, according to various reports.

As TechCrunch explained:
The main focus, and something that went repeated many a time, was that the new algorithm allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.
Caffeine, which rolled out in 2010, was designed to improve indexing speed and provide users with fresher results.

Original Article Post by Danny Goodwin @ Search Engine Watch
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