Definitive step-by-step guide to Google Penguin Recovery

For businesses like ours which derive most of their traffic through organic means, Google is like GOD and we are always on its mercy. Everyday we live under a constant fear of what might happen the next day; is our traffic in place? And I am sure that even those people who have got all the things right would agree to that since Google is constantly changing the parameters. We at its mercy can only make things correct (as per our understanding) and hope that we would not lose but win.

2013 has been very tumultuous for us. We got hit pretty badly on couple of occasions to the tune of around 40% last year. Here are some traffic graphs.

Penguin 2.0 Update


Above traffic chart is from May. Penguin 2.0 came on 22 May and graphs tells everything. Wait the misery doesn’t end here. Penguin graced us all with its presence once more i.e. in October (4 October). For Google algorithm updates, refer here. Here is the traffic chart from October.

Penguin 2.1


So overall we lost around 40% traffic. Now our task was cut out. If we wanted to bring business back on track, we had to deal with this monster called Penguin (which till now I used to like).

Penguin is concerned about your link profile. It tries to judge you on what sort of company (links) do you keep. Therefore one thing was pretty clear – Our company was terribly bad since GOD punished us and GOD would not do anything wrong. But we were confused about one thing. You see there are 2 ways of improving the kind of company you have -

  1. Get reliable people in your company i.e. get links from good relevant domains
  2. Get rid of bad people i.e. remove bad links

And since we didn’t know how does Google sees things, we had to do both the things. Getting good links is terribly difficult which is time consuming and requires lots and lots of patience and buy-in from upper management. Thankfully we had both and we (our outreach team is brilliant) did some fantastic work in this area. Will probably have a post later on some of the good practices of link building and outreach.

So we had to remove our bad links. But we were still a confused lot and had many questions. Some of questions are -

  1. How to determine whether a link is bad or good? How would Google determine it?
  2. Would Google look at individual link or overall link profile?
  3. If Google looks at link profile, then what all does it look?
  4. What ratio of total link profile be good links?
  5. How would we remove bad links? And what-if the webmaster who created the link in the first place refuse to remove it? And if he charges us, then that would be an extra cost to the business which is already in doldrums.
  6. Is disavowing links good enough for Google?
  7. Does Google has different barometer for different verticals to access link profile?
  8. How to determine whether a domain is bad?
  9. How would Google see a no-follow link from a good domain? And would it count towards making our link profile a bit better?

Questions galore but nevertheless we started. We still are not very confident about answers to these questions but some of the things which we did helped us recover back some of our traffic. The first thing we did was to understand our overall link profile and benchmark it against different players in the same vertical. Below are the steps which we took-

  • We dug out all the links from GWT and charted it out. Here is the slide. Notice the problem here -> Links/Domain is increasing rapidly which is not natural at all. We dug out more to find out that all these links were emanating from directory networks. And these were not created by us. Therefore action point was to contact these directory networks and get our links removed.
  • Links per Domain chartNext we wanted to see how does our referring domains vs Pagerank/DA (Domain Authority) chart look like. Not surprisingly enough, this had to look bad. Approximately half of our links were coming from PR 0 domains. And we knew here that this is quite bad in absolute. We referenced to this article for comparative analysis.
  • Domains vs PagerankNext we wanted to see how do we fare on anchor text vs links distribution. We learnt that it is important to have this distribution look very natural. We referred here for the distribution. Here is a snapshot of how the distribution should look like -
  • Natural Anchor Text Distribution
    • Exact match means – Your business keywords like used car reviews, assignment help etc.
    • Phrase match means – business keywords + some text like online assignment help
    • Brand Name – Your business name for example Long Tail Read
    • Branded – Business name + Some text i.e Long Tail Read is a great blog.
    • KW Branded – Business name + Business Keywords i.e. learn seo at Long Tail Read
    • URL - means URL
    • Our distribution sucked. In almost 50% of links, our anchor text was our business keywords which is not natural. Therefore Action Point was to get rid of those links which had such anchor texts and were coming from PR 0 websites. Not surprisingly enough majority of these links were from directory networks. Tools used: Open Site Explorer and Ahref. Our outreach team simultaneously started building links for branded anchor text as the ratio was abysmally low.
  • Till now we have been talking about links, now we focused on domains. Here is the spreadsheet which we made to decide which one to keep and which one to remove. Domain_file. Brief about each field -
    • Source: Which tool helped us to discover this domain. We have used GWT, Bing, Cognitive SEO, Link Detox beside others.
    • Indexed Pages: How many indexed pages does the domain has on Google? We found that quite a lot of domains from where we were getting links didn’t have a single page indexed. Alarming situation.
    • Outbound Links: How many links from the domain
    • Theme: This is our way of categorizing the domain for example social networking site, directory, Forum etc.
    • DA: Domain authority as per MOZ
    • Alexa: Alexa rank
    • PR: Pagerank
    • IP: IP address. We wanted to make sure that there aren’t too many domains from the same IP.
    • Now one may add more parameters to the list.If you have any more parameter, do tell me – I would be happy to edit ours list too.

So by now we had figured out which domains to remove and which links to remove, but now we were stuck on whether we should just disavow them or actually make an effort to remove them. We didn’t take any chances. Though we disavowed all of them but also followed up with each webmaster to remove them. Some webmasters tried to squeeze us hard for money and frankly some of them succeeded as well as we were shit scared. In total we invested around $800 to get links removed. But we think it was worth it. 

The worst thing about traffic fluctuations due to such algorithms is that you have to wait for a long time to know whether you have done it right this time or screwed up again. And we had to wait for full one year this time. Penguin graced us again with its presence in October 2014 (October 17 to be precise). And here is what our traffic chart looks like -

Penguin 3.0


We have been able to recover 25% of the traffic which we lost during Penguin attacks and am pretty confident that with further updates, we will come out even stronger.

So coming back to the questions, here is what I think -

  • Google looks at overall link profile and not individual link per say.
  • We looked at different parameters (shared above) to determine the health of link profile. There might be other parameters as well. If you know more, please do share with me.
  • Be prepared to shell out some bucks to get links removed. I am not 100% sure whether this is absolutely required or not but we didn’t take any chance. We negotiated hard and brought people to an amount with which we were comfortable with.
  • People say that disavowing is sufficient but again we didn’t take any chance.
  • We did benchmark some of the parameters against other players in our vertical to get a sense of how we are doing. And my sense says that yes Google should also have different barometers for different verticals.

This has been our journey so far in fight against Penguin (I hate myself for saying that). I would be happy to learn from others’ experiences therefore do share with me.


OMG! Subscription Marketing is so bloody tough

Subscription MarketingRecently at Transtutors, we launched Subscription service for our students where they can access more than 600,000 textbook solutions and assignments in monthly subscription of just $20 per month. And so far result has been not too bad. But it has been hell of a ride from marketing perspective.

All of us at Transtutors are revenue (read – sales) driven people where we track monthly, weekly and daily sales with great fervour. Being a start-up we need to. It is our bread and butter otherwise next month salaries would become a problem. Amidst all of this, we decided to launch Subscription for varied reasons which probably warrants another post.

Life after subscription changed for everyone and it has been one hell of a ride. These are the things which changed in everyone’s daily life-

  1. Our unit metric: This has been the biggest and most stubborn change. Change from $ to user. Till recently what drove us were $$ (bling bling) and then one fine day they became secondary to the user. It was painful, heartbreaking, almost like a break-up. How could we let that feeling go – the feeling of being over the moon knowing that previous record of daily sales had been broken. Nonetheless it had to be done. Now we focused on the user. And then we realized that we didn’t know anything about him/her. Can you believe it!!! We didn’t know absolutely anything about our user!! All we knew was visits/sessions. How lame!!! We had to unlearn a lot of things and learn new ones pretty quickly (we are still learning). Innumerable hours went into training of the team and the most difficult lot was chat support team. You see chat support was not essentially chat support earlier, it was more of another sales team. It took time to make them understand that their focal point was now truly a user; they must understand what a user is going through, empathize with him and then propose a solution which is right for him. I must say that I am glad with results so far. One could definitely say that it is far far from perfect but then we are still working on it.
  2. New Growth Drivers: Earlier we used to look external for business growth but after subscription we realized that we had to look inwards. We were getting good number of users on our site, registering with us and subscribing. Therefore inwards meant 2 things -
    1. Keeping our subscribers happy: We didn’t have the tracking mechanism (at user level) to know what they are doing on our site, what they are seeing. Therefore first thing was to get that implemented. Once we had that in place and data started coming in, we were now better equipped to work towards our goal. But as I always say – “Beware! Data takes away your clothes“, indeed data took away our flimsy clothes. We realized that subscribers are not engaging with us, in-fact they are not even utilizing their free tutor credits (we give FREE tutor credits along with subscription) which was a big blow to us. Hence came in personalized mailers geared towards increasing engagement. This is still WIP but am happy to report that entire team is dedicated towards making it a success.
    2. Converting registrants into subscribers: We get good number of registrants everyday through one of our product features. We realized that we don’t have to go anywhere else but dig into our database. We have to get registrants converted into our paid subscribers. On this front, we have not been able to make headway that much as we would have liked but continuous efforts are still on.
  3. Changed Art of Selling: Soon after we launched subscription, we realized that hard selling is not going to work. You see “transaction driven business” thrives on hard selling and we were damn good at that but “Subscription” was totally different beast. Subscription requires Soft Selling i.e. help user/customer in his/her journey and sales would happen as a by-product. On paper this sounds too simplistic but in reality this is a very big change for people. We had to train ourselves not to shove Subscription down students’ throat. And this was no easy task. We still make plenty of blunders (old habits die hard) but we are continuously learning and hopefully in some more time we would also be good at soft selling.

I would like to close this post by sharing how do we feel after 4 months of Subscription. This should give a glimpse of whether the efforts was worth it or not.

  • It was our best business decision so far. It helped us focus on people rather than sessions/visits. It helped us focus on people’s problems and their possible solutions rather than mere transactions.
  • Our monthly subscription revenue is on the rise. December is a very lean month for the industry (with around 40% less volume than November) but our subscription revenue has already matched that of November. A very big feat.
  • Our product management process now puts more stress on ease of the user rather than how fast a certain feature can be rolled out.

Finally we as a team are a happier lot since we now talk and think about people. It makes us humane. 



How to use benchmarking report from Google?

Recently Google made an announcement about benchmarking reports in Google Analytics. Read the announcement here. In case you are wondering how does it look like, here’s a sample. (Note: it is available to only those who have chosen to share their data anonymously with Google)


Google Analytics Benchmarking report


Benchmarking as a concept is a fascinating one and acts as a barometer of team’s performance. Not only it provides opportunities of growth but also show areas where team is already performing well.  Read up Avinash Kaushik’s awesome post on benchmarking here.

In GA benchmarking report, one could drill down the industry (with sub filtering), geographical area and traffic to arrive at the right set of web properties contributing to the benchmark. For example in the above case, if Jobs and Education vertical is drilled down to only Education and the region is selected USA, total of 483 web properties contribute to the benchmark as shown in the image below.

Benchmarking Report Sample


But the big question is what could be learnt from this report? How could it be used to derive actionable? Which team is doing good and which team sucks?

Let’s dig deeper by taking the following example -

Channels report


  • What are my Channels of growth?

It is clear from the above sample that the site in case is overly dependent on organic search with around 72% traffic coming from it as compared to only 38% for benchmarked sites. One Red flag raised since too much reliance on Google is never too good for businesses. From numbers it is also evident that any of the other channels could be built to spew huge amount of traffic specially referral. Even taking into account the difference in traffic size of the sample with the benchmark, referral channel could be built to generate around 120,000 more sessions per month. This is HUGE for a 400,000 sessions/month site. Though numbers for Email is less but considering the fact that Email brings customers back, it makes a case of low hanging fruit. Paid marketing numbers shows that there is enough juice to be extracted from this channel as well.

Nutshell: From purely traffic generation perspective, Marketing team needs to pull up its socks with strong backing from the higher management.

  • But engagement metrics for Marketing activities seemed fairly good!

Yes, engagement metrics for Email, Paid Search and Social are good which means that though Marketing is generating very low traffic but whatever the team is generating, it is engaging with the site. Numbers are especially awesome for Email. Probably the team is taking too conservative approach and hitting only those who are most likely to engage well. Time for them to get their MOJO back.

  • Enough pull down of Marketing, what about Organic Search Guys? Their engagement metrics are real bad.

True. It is clear that product/Organic Search team is generating the bulk of the traffic but the product is not engaging them. It is akin to getting amazing footfall in your showroom but your product/sales guy shoo them away. What a waste of opportunity! 

Therefore further investigation needs to be done to identify those pages which are leaking. Also further research is required on SEO team to see if intent behind users’ searches are served well by the product. Most likely in this case it is not.

Nutshell: Product/SEO team needs to dig deeper and find out what their users actually want.


These are only some of the actionable from benchmarking report. I would love to learn how are you using it in your company.


How does India look on 25 June 2014?

I have been intrigued by latest happening around me starting from Majority mandate to Modi Sarkar to Mr. Gopal Subramaniam. All of this has pushed me to create a mind map of How India looks as on 25 June 2014. This is not exhaustive but covers what I read around. Do suggest more and I would be happy to add.

India on 25 June 2014 (2)


Making a shift from activity based mindset to target based mindset

It is more often than not that one will find activity based approach to work than target based approach at workplaces. It will not be rare for managers to hear from their people that they did what they were expected to do and if results are not there, then it is not their problem.

This “activity based approach” mindset is very dangerous. It cripples a person and makes a functioning brain dead. Slowly and steadily it cripples an organization. But how do you make the journey from one mindset to another? In-fact even before we answer that question, we need to ask – Is the shift important at all?

Though for some answer to the last question is obvious, but let me put forward my thoughts.

  • Target based approach makes you accountable just like Karn whereas Activity based Approach only makes you responsible aka Draupadi. More on Draupadi and Karn here.
  • Target based approach makes you a solutions manager whereby you would try out each and every solution possible to meet the targets. Agreed this spirit of meeting the targets by any way possible needs to be regulated to make sure no unethical practices are being followed.

Now how to let your people make the shift from one end to the other keeping in mind that this journey of transformation is very painful and frustrating. So here are some of the ideas -

  • Communicate Clearly the targets – As cliche as it may sound but communication holds the key. The transformation journey begins with manager communicating all the targets very clearly to his/her people through formal channels. Once targets are shared with people, discuss them out with them; provide rationale behind the numbers; and take their buy in on the numbers. My experience says that if this process is done objectively and rationally, more often than not, people would agree to the targets given to them.
  • Reinforce the importance of meeting the targets: Even though targets would have been mutually agreed upon by this step, it is difficult that an activity based mindset will be aligned with target based approach all the time. And if this alignment is not there all the time, then results would not come out. Therefore for thoughts alignment, it is imperative that manager reinforces the importance of meeting those targets. But having said that, care must be taken by the manager that it should not become over the board otherwise his/her people will feel stifled.
  • Empower them: Anyone will be able to work positively towards the targets only if they feel empowered; empowered to make their decisions, empowered to think creatively, empowered to make mistakes and learn. This empowerment need not be in reality but in feelings. And it is here where a manager needs to work like a magician. He/She should make his/her people realize their importance which in turn will make them feel empowered. The manager should also be patient enough like a parent to allow his/her people to fall and rise again all by themselves. One will be highly amazed to see outputs when people feel empowered.
  • Manager to work like a shared resource: When people’s mindset is activity based, thinking of new ways to work positively towards targets become difficult; their minds are not wired like that. In that scenario how does a manager ensure that he/she creates a company of equals? How does he/she ensure that his/her people are motivated enough to work for their targets? The manager can target this problem by allowing himself/herself to be treated like a shared resource. By being a shared resource, he/she would help his/her people reach their targets. He/she would allow his/her expertise to be exploited by his/her people. By this, people would not be burdened by targets yet will get conditioned to handle them.

I am employing all the above mentioned strategies at my workplace (consumer internet company) to change the mindset. The work is still WIP but I am extremely hopeful that results would be great.

Feel free to share any other idea to make this transformational shift.


What if AAP were a website?

It is interesting to draw parallels between 2 worlds and it becomes even more interesting when one of the world is politics – Indian politics – World’s largest democracy.

Delhi election is just 2 months away and this time we have a new contender in the fray – Aam Aadmi party (Thanks Mr. Arvind Kejriwal for saving us the boredom of seeing constipated Mr. Vijay Goel and corrupt Shrimati Sheela Dixit again – Hopefully!). But come to think of it, what would happen if Aam Aadmi Party were a website (ah! are we talking about wireframes again?)? How would it look?

So let me present here my version of the home page of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Aam Aadmi Party Home Page

Aam Aadmi Party Home Page

Now all the product managers out there would ask —–  WHY??? What’s the logic behind this atrocious home page??

So here is the logic -

  • This website has its logo and branding on top just like any normal site. So no abnormality there.
  • Menu bar fills up the next slot which lists down their important points which is again a normality.
  • And then there is this big fat Footer much like Indian weddings. The footer runs across the site and consume close to 75% of the web space on each page.
  • In the footer, there is a link farm which points only to one destination URL – Arvind Kejriwal.
  • Rest of the space (left over of header, top menu bar and the footer – which is not more than 10%) is consumed by rest of the organization people.

All of us know that link farms used to work like magic in stone age but not now. Now Search Engines (and especially Google) have come down on them very heavily. As a result, link farms which used to generate lots of traffic in early days is now useless. Now only way to generate quality traffic is genuine and unique content aka pages.

In the similar fashion, AAP needs to remove this fat footer of Arvind Kejriwal. For AAP to actually get votes, it needs to build unique content pages (read: representatives from individual constituency). Currently all one knows about the site (AAP) is the FOOTER. Now one might say that voting happens for the party and not individuals but being the outcast, being the new kid on the block, it becomes critical for AAP to get its people familiarized.

This hypothesis is also reflected by surveys conducted by some of the news channels which say that though people want Mr. Arvind Kejriwal to be chief minister of Delhi but that want is not reflected in the number of seats projected for AAP.

Therefore following are some of the product changes suggested for AAP.

  1. Shorten the footer: Mr. Arvind Kejriwal needs to hog less air time. There should be other people sharing the burden equally. Mr. Yogendra Yadav, Mr. Manish Sisodia and Mr. Kumar Vishwas do their bit but still there could be lot more equality. Case in point: Mr. Arvind Kejriwal stealing radio air time talking about some survey conducted by Mr. Yogendra Yadav.
  2. Develop more unique pages: This means that individual constituency candidates should be more prominent and forthcoming in their approach. Though I am aware of AAP candidate’s name from my constituency, I am not aware of what his agendas are or how is he different from other candidates? Should I vote for him purely on the faith? Since AAP is contesting for the first time, it becomes imperative for them to get their candidates familiarized with the common masses.
  3. Create HERO Pages: Like any website, AAP should create proper HERO pages (SILO structure) with correct flow of link juice. AAP has many hero pages like Mr. Yogendra Yadav, Mr. Kumar Vishwas and Mr. Manish Sisodia but all of them act like branch pages. Just like a HERO’s page page-rank increases from its internal pages and not directly, reputation of these people should increase from their candidates’ worthiness and not on their own worthiness.

Currently the initial cut of this product (Aam Aadmi Party) looks promising but user experience is still an issue. I hope they sort out their User experience issues and then we as Delhi citizens will truly get an awesome product. AMEN!



Content Creation vs Content Curation

I am sure every inbound marketer face this issue every working day. A true honest marketer would want to create content whereas the client/business owner would want to focus more on issues like ROI and scalability.

And since I have been on both the sides of the table, I can confidently say that the thrill of creating something original and seeing it go viral outweighs by far the satisfaction from simple curation. But having said, creating original content is mired with lots of problems like people dependency, slow execution and high production costs among others. So how should the decision be taken whether content should be created or curated?

Dilemma between Content Creation and Content Curation

Dilemma between Content Creation and Content Curation

All of us know content is king. With that logic, his (King’s) people would be end users who would consume that content. But for any Kingdom to flourish, King’s mannerism becomes very important. By mannerism, I mean how King rules his Kingdom. In the digital world, that mannerism is synonym with discovery/distribution channels like Search Engines, Social Media, Emails etc.

Therefore for King to serve his people satisfactorily, King must observe his mannerism (discovery/distribution channels).  Put in another way, most critical thing to observe (at the time of content production) is that discovery agents (and majorly Search Engines) treat that content unique and worth revealing to end users. And it is not necessary that worthiness comes only from creation. It is absolutely possible with curation as well as Boundless has proved.

Boundless is the perfect example of how curation is put to use. It aggregates content from multiple sources and then chaff them and puts them neatly in different buckets. The output is not only liked by end users but also loved by investors.

So the question should be -

Is the content (being produced) considered worthy enough by Search Engines to show to end users?”

So any business owner/marketer needs to answer this question first. There is quite a possibility that original content is also not considered worthy enough to be shared whereas curated content is making raves.

Hence after that question, whether to create or curate depends entirely on the budget and the commitment from all the stakeholders.


Facebook Embedded Posts & its relevance to Inbound Marketing

Facebook has made public the feature to embed any post from Facebook to any web property be it a small blog or a big website after testing it with big publishers. Here is a quick guide on how to embed a Facebook post.

  1. Click on the right hand side arrow of the post you want to embed. 

    Facebook Embedded Post

    Facebook Embedded Post

  2. Click on the embed Post to get the code

    Facebook Embedded Post

    Facebook Embedded Post

  3. Now paste this code in the HTML of the page where you want to embed the post. This is how it will look after embedding.

Once we have understood how to embed Facebook post in a website/blog, let’s understand the motivations behind this move by Facebook.

With this, Facebook has taken the social interaction out of its closed walls. FB has enabled people to share social chatter on other web properties thereby helping them collate different data sources. With all of this Facebook gains more visibility, outreach and engagement much like Twitter.

Now let’s delve deeper how this feature could help inbound marketers. Here is the list of the items; and this is not exhaustive by any means.

  • It becomes easier to enrich on-page content with this feature. For example – if Hubspot wants to take any particular piece of engagement from Facebook Page to their blog, they can do that thereby not only collating different data sources but also enriching their overall content of the blog. 
  • With enriching of the on page content, engagement would be higher (in all possibility) which would lead to higher average time spent on the page resulting in returning favorable signals to Search Engines.
  • With this feature, we would also witness monies being paid for new kind of visibility. Now brands would pay established bloggers to include their FB snippets in their posts. This would work much like sponsored links with the only exception that it will not be seen in bad light. Bloggers are you guys listening? Facebook has just introduced one more revenue stream for you.
  • I will also not be too surprised if new crop of online products come up based on only this feature – something like Pinterest of Facebook. And the idea indeed looks exciting.

I am really excited about the possibilities with this new feature. Please share with me if any other comes to your mind.


5 advanced tips to keep in mind for content marketing

Content marketing isn’t new; it is there since ages. But for last few years it has gone beyond an important marketing tool to become the latest fad in the industry. And crusaders of content can’t be blamed as well since it has actually become the central point of every marketing communication. (Disclaimer: I am also one of those chaps). The importance of content is all the more important in digital space since it also helps you in getting discovered (through organic means) beside engagement and recall.


Content Marketing

With my experience, I have tried to compile a list of 10 things one should look while doing content marketing. Some of these points will help in the discovery whereas some of them in engagement and better association. Therefore it is possible that not all points are relevant to everyone.

1. Know your Users’ Persona (KYUP)- Content is best served when impactful; which means it is always better to give your users the content which gels with their persona. For example – persona of a student looking for information on 2 stroke engine would be entirely different from say a mechanic looking for the same information. Therefore it is advised to first create user personas and then design the content according to that.

Why is it important? – KYUP is important since it will affect the way the content is consumed and then the possible actions taken by the user. For instance in the above example, theoretical content on 2 stroke engine might not be helpful for the mechanic who is looking for some specific answers.

2. Know Users’ Intent (KUI) – Once user personas are created, next step is to know the user intent. User intent helps to understand the stage(in the buying cycle) at which the user is at currently which would in turn help not only build better content but also do better keyword research. For example – “Nokia vs Samsung” query tells that the user is still at the comparison stage and therefore if the content is designed to cater to that intent, the relevance and hence engagement would be higher. Here is an interesting post on User Intent.

3. Google Recommendations – This tactic was discovered just a couple of months back and therefore might not yield 100% results in all the cases. The reason why it is mentioned in this list is because the results are promising for the time being. Basically this tactic is about including related searches recommended by Google in content. For example – if elasticity of demand is searched, here is the screenshot of some of the recommendations by Google -

Recommendations by Google

Therefore try to include these terms in the content. Logic: Google acknowledges that these terms are “related” to the main topic therefore if these are included in content, Google search algorithm would rank such pages higher. We are employing this tactic daily and seeing some promising results.

4. Use Google Trends – It happens a lot of times that content is written for a specific country and therefore it is very important that common parlance is used. But more importantly it is necessary to take into account the life of that common parlance. For example – Below is the graph from Google Trends which shows the trends for Homework Help and Assignment Help.

Google Trends for Homework Help

As is clearly seen that Homework Help searches has dropped drastically over last few years therefore any website which is optimizing the content for Homework Help needs to factor this drop and therefore might decide to alter its course of action. Having said this, Google Trends gives only relative numbers, absolute numbers will still be fetched from Adwords.

5. Co-Occurrences – Rand talks about Co-Occurrences in this post. Basically he says that anchor texts are dead and Google will continue to put more focus on Co- Occurrences. But I would stretch the concept further to design the content also in the similar fashion. For more on Co-Occurrence Definition, refer to the image below which is taken from Search Engine Journal



So if a company’s name(website or brand) is seen near certain term lot of times, Google believes that those 2 are related and hence assigns more weightage and therefore better rankings. It is speculated that Co-Occurrences will eventually murder anchor texts. But the story doesn’t end here. If we believe that Google search algorithm will eventually become so smart as to catch Co-Occurrences in links then the same can safely be extrapolated for content as well. It means that while designing content, it needs to be taken into account that certain terms would be in close proximity to let Co-Occurrences work its magic.

I am excited to learn about your experiences of employing either of these tactics and know how they fared for you.


Penguin 2.0 – Observations and Learnings

Matt Cutts had recently indicated about the changes to be expected this summer. For more on the same, here is the Video – Click Here. And on 22 May, Google rolled out Penguin 2.0 update. Here is the post from Matt’s blog. Penguin 2.0 rolled out.

Before we look at what are the main observations let me slip in a question here. Has anyone seen any changes in their SERPs post the roll out?

So what are key observations of this update which Google is internally calling Penguin 2.0? Here is the list -

  • Around 2.3 % of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice.
  • Social networking sites and real user’s enagegment have emerged as winners
  • Fishy websites with lots of crappy back-links have been demoted

Now what does the first observation mean? It means that 2.3 % of the total search volume is affected by the update. But what does “to the degree that a regular user might notice” mean? It means that top SERP results are affected hence making a user take notice. Dr. Pete wrote a fabulous blog post sometime back explaining the same concept. Here is the blog post. Since Google sees data from aggregate perspective, it says 2.3% but for webmasters and business owners, it could practically mean 100% in some cases. Has any of your SERP rankings for a particular keyword been pushed out of Page 1 post the update?

Second and Third observations are inter-related and gives us a sense of the direction where Google Web Spam team is heading. Here is an interesting screenshot which is been taken from Dr. Pete post on SEOMOZ blog.

Affect of Penguin 2.0 on Big 20 Sub-domains

Affect of Penguin 2.0 on Big 20 Sub-domains

Glancing through the list, one notices that social networking sites in general have gained post the update. This also indicates that Google is rewarding real engagement from real people as compared to crappy interaction of links. Have you seen any changes in your SERPs because of your social media optimization?

So what are the lessons to be learnt from all this. Here are some suggestions, these are by no means exhaustive and 100% accurate so please feel free to add/modify (to) the list.

  • Integration of social with your website. This starts with simple things like integrating of social plugins, user interaction through FB comments plugin etc.
  • Incentivize your users to talk more about your business keywords on social platforms. A social campaign revolving around core keywords would not only create a buzz but also help in SERPs.
  • Write Content for humans and not machines. This is such a simple and basic thing yet majority of people still can’t get it in their heads. The chances of sharing or engagement comes only when a user would read the content.
  • Use lots of images in driving the content. These images needs to be user centric and not content centric. The image should pique user’s interest to first read and then share. Another benefit of using images is that the same (directly from website) can be pinned on Pinterest thereby increasing chances of virality of the URL.
  • Don’t invest time in link building. Rather invest time in relationship building. This statement might seems to be cliche but it holds true forever. And the difference is in the perspective. Relationship building perspective is long term with real benefit whereas link building perspective is short term and shady.
  • Branding of website (through inbound marketing) becomes important. This will not only build trust with users but also positive credibility with search engines. This will be covered in much more detail in a separate post.

Would you want to add to the list or modify anything? I would be more than interested in discussing, just let me know through comments. :)