Google Mayday Updates – A Mixed Bag?

Like many working in SEO, I read with interest the interview from Digital Inspiration with Googler’s Matt Cutts, John Mueller, Zareen Kazim, Koteswara Ivaturi and Kaspar Szymanski.  They gave their valuable insights into some commonly asked questions as well as shedding light on some aspects many hadn’t previously considered.  It’s definitely worth 10 minutes of your time to read.  Below I have given my thoughts to a handful of topics that were mentioned over the course of the interview.

Guest Blogging

A surprise for many was John Mueller’s assertion that he would “recommend putting that work into your own site, instead of creating content for other people’s sites.”.  The practice of guest blogging is commonplace – especially in online marketing circles – so it was quite an eyebrow raiser for Google to imply that adding quality content to other people’s sites wasn’t as beneficial as investing time in your own.  Rhys Wynne’s superb blog post has rightfully been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of days as he manages to cover so many of the reasons as to why there is no reason for Google to play down the beneficial aspects of guest blogging.

In addition to the points Rhys makes what I would say is that I could understand why Google may see a guest post as a ‘red flag’.  Were it not for the that fact the guest blogger could get something in return for their post (i.e a link to their own site),  I’d argue that they probably wouldn’t bother writing quality content for someone else when they could be better spending this time writing for their own site.  You can understand why this would be seen as a deliberate manipulation of links; the problem is that so many sites link to each other naturally in this manner I don’t see how Google could algorithmically differentiate between the two – so it’s hardly worth worrying about, surely?  There is an insensitive to supply quality content to someone else’s site as if the reader derives value from it, they will be curious to see what else is on the author’s site.  Everyone’s a winner.  The overall tone of the interview was one of ‘write great content’ so this could have just been more Mueller towing the party line and there was certainly no implication that Google was ‘waging war’ on guest bloggers.  Snappy title though, Rhys!

Affiliate Links and Long tail terms

Google has a history of showing preference in their results to ‘name’ companies and brands so my initial thoughts were that it was refreshing to read that the recent May update has meant that sites who are well optimised for long tail key terms would take preference, regardless of the site’s authority.

On the topic of affiliate links, Zareen Kazim advised that in order to perform well in Google’s results, affiliate links should carry the ‘nofollow’ attribute.  To me, this would imply that Google is likely to see that sites containing affiliate links may not be of the same quality as one who’s links weren’t there for monetization purposes.

Now this is where the two conflict:  I run an affiliate site and have seen instances where my product page has outranked the site of the original vendor.  If search results are to be based around quality and relevance then surely it would make sense for my affiliate site to rank below the site I am linking to?  Wait – what am I saying??

As an example, I randomly performed as search for a particular make of watch – bringing up the following results:

As we can see, creativewatch.co.uk (not my site!) is outranking the mighty Amazon.  I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a quality site and not one that as a shopper I would put much trust in.

So my feelings on the affiliate/long term issue are mixed.  It feels like Google are trying to give smaller vendors a chance against the Ecommerce giants, however through doing this they are gifting opportunities to affiliate sites who – it is insinuated – are seen to be lower quality.

On the point of performing better in search results if affiliate links are nofollowed – this is something I will be keeping a close eye on as up until now, all affiliate links on my site were ‘followed’ and rankings have been erratic to say the least.  I’ve seen fairly competitive terms fluctuate between the first page and the bottom 50.  It will be interesting to see if my newly nofollowed links will stabilise rankings.

Article Distribution

The question was put to the panel as to their opinion of article marketing sites such as eZineArticles and isnare.  Predictably, John Mueller trotted out the line that your time would be better spent making sure that your site has great content on it.  This is demonstrably not the case.  If I wanted to get a page on my site ranking and I had the choice between ‘adding some great content’ to it, or writing an article for distribution the answer is a no brainer.  Of course I’m not denying that your site should have content that people will find useful, informative or entertaining and there are countless examples of this – however to rule out article marketing as an effective means of site promotion is just daft.

James Chapman
  • Written by on 28th May 2010 at 14:57
  • “James Chapman is an SEO consultant at Fluid Creativity.”
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  • http://www.rhyswynne.co.uk/ Rhys

    Thanks for the kind words :)

    Totally agree with you, article marketing does work with me as well. Adding to your comment though about Guest Blogging, I think bloggers do have something to gain even if there’s no SEO benefit. I’m fairly millitant as a blogger, and don’t allow irrelevant anchor text (I remember a while back on johnchow.com everybody was pushing the “make money online” keywords). But still, people guest post to connect with my readers. Sure a few people made some sales directly from it :)

  • http://www.gospelrhys.co.uk/ Rhys

    Thanks for the kind words :)

    Totally agree with you, article marketing does work with me as well. Adding to your comment though about Guest Blogging, I think bloggers do have something to gain even if there's no SEO benefit. I'm fairly millitant as a blogger, and don't allow irrelevant anchor text (I remember a while back on johnchow.com everybody was pushing the “make money online” keywords). But still, people guest post to connect with my readers. Sure a few people made some sales directly from it :)