MLP013: The Current State of SEO – Social Signals & Guest Posting w/ Brent Carnduff

Current state of SEO - Social signals & guest postingWhen Google opened the gates of the SEO Zoo and released all the Pandas, Penguins and Hummingbirds things changed drastically.

Since then, it has been hard keeping up with the current state of SEO.

People have been suggesting that Guest Posting is dead over the last few months.

In fact Matt Cutts himself even said it, and scared everyone to death.

Then we have the good old social signals.

If you get lots of tweets, +1s and pins, then you will get ranked in Google…or will you?

Nothing is what it seems, and SEO is not as simple as it once was.

What is the current state of SEO in 2014?



FREE Bonus: Download my Free SEO Checklist which will show you how to quickly improve your SEO on all pages and post. Included are extra tips and resources to help you even more.

Enter Brent Carnduff – SEO is his game

brent carnduff profileThrowing the cat amongst the pigeons is always a fun game. Watch them fly away scared!

And with his recent post titled – Social Signals are NOT a Ranking Factor, Brent did just that.

He has challenged the status quo. The belief, that has been spreading over the last year, that you have to focus on social to get ranked on Google.

Sure, social helps you get traffic.

Of course, the more followers you have gives you more social proof.

But does it make you rank higher on Google?

Perhaps it is time to think again.

It’s time to understand the current state of SEO.

Take a listen to what Brent has to say about SEO today (or read the transcript if that is your thing).



Read the Transcript

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Or read it below…

Show Podcast Transcript


Ashley: Welcome to the show, Brent. Appreciate your time.Brent: Thanks, Ashley. It’s great to be here. I’m really excited to be part of a podcast. This is my first.Ashley: First podcast version. It’s always fun being on the first one.

Brent: Yes, yes, quite excited about it.

Ashley: I’ll be nice. I’ve got you on the show today to talk about SEO, but I guess before we get started, just a quick rundown of your story.

Brent: Well, I’ve been now running – I own Echelon SEO and have been doing that for about 4 years now. Prior to that, I was a school teacher and basketball coach, and decided at some point that my next career was going to be in financial planning.

So I went back to school to become a financial advisor, and while I was there, I got involved in a website, just a little retail hobby site, and the guy that built it for me came back and said, “I don’t do any marketing, I don’t do any SEO. You’re going to have to do some reading.”

So I started reading, and I just absolutely loved it. I became very interested in social media, very interested in SEO. I like the changing environment and the challenge of keeping updated on what’s going on, and so I went back to my program and told them “I’m going to go into marketing.”

I do a lot of marketing for financial advisors, but I do for other businesses as well. I was fortunate; my university was just going through the process of hiring an SEO company, and so I was able to be part of that, kind of as a non-credited study. Worked alongside with them on the university’s SEO and that got me started.

And then my web developer got me my first client, and I worked for another year as a teacher, and then I’ve been on my own since.

Ashley: Wow. It reminds me a little bit of Ileane Smith’s story of accidentally – I mean, a little bit different – but accidentally starting blogging by thinking she was signing up to her daughter’s website, and all of a sudden she had a blog. It’s like, “Oh, I went into financial analysis and I came out as an SEO expert.”

Brent: That’s great. I think of that term “accidental,” I think most small business owners are accidental marketers. It’s a part of everyday business now that you are probably taking on some of your own marketing or outsourcing it. It’s been an interesting adventure.

Ashley: It’s a funny world we live in. I was speaking to a potential client a few weeks ago, and they have a website and they’re not getting any hits on Google at all, and yet they’re one of the biggest of their kind in terms of what they’re doing in Zurich.

They asked me “Why is that?” and I said, “It’s because you don’t have any content, you don’t have any SEO.” All of this stuff that’s been creeping in for I don’t know how many years, they don’t know anything about.

And of course, neither did I a couple of years ago either. You could get up to speed relatively quick, but most people are walking around ignorant until we need to know, right? Until we start our businesses up.

Brent: Absolutely, and that’s what I find here as well. I live near Boise, Idaho and work with a lot of businesses over there, and I was in talking to one, presenting to a group of businesses, and I realized that they didn’t even know what questions to ask.

As business owners, you know you need a website, so you get one up, but you’re so busy working on your business that you don’t always have time or an interest in the marketing side of things. So I think a lot of businesses go through that cycle of setting up a website and then realizing they’re not getting any visitors.

“How do I get traffic?” And then after they get traffic, they have to go into the “How do I capture leads form that traffic?” It’s kind of an evolution over time.

Ashley: Yeah, hopefully eventually they’ll learn, but I think it’s something that’ll obviously never happen. Everyone’s behind all the time.

In one other podcast that I listen to, the guy said in Australia he had a meeting with Google and – it was a few years ago or last year – 50% of Australian businesses don’t have a website. Whatever that actually means, I don’t know, because it could be one-man shows that don’t need a website or whatever. But anyway, it’s still a big statistic.

Brent: Right. I see stuff like that. I find it shocking when you hear stuff like that, because you and I, we’re immersed in it every day, and we forget that that’s not where everybody else is all the time.

Ashley: Exactly. We’re in the sort of 5% and these people are living in reality. It’s funny, because is I talk to any of my friends or family, nobody really has a clue what I do.

Brent: No, I go through the same thing.

Ashley: Anyway, let’s move on to our topic of the day, which is SEO, and specifically I wanted to talk about something on a post you wrote recently, which was the debate and the interesting question and answer that you had on the post about relevance of social signals in SEO at the moment.

Something that I’ve heard a lot about, a lot of people are saying “Yeah, you’ve got to get on Google+. The pluses are going to give you better ranking,” and other people are saying “No, it’s totally irrelevant. Get off Facebook, and who cares?”

So let’s jump into it. What did you basically go through and find out from your explorations in that post?

Brent: You’re right, it has been a hot topic within the SEO world, and really, you talked to different people and you get a different answer. I was asked at the beginning of the year what’s coming up for 2014, and myself, I, like many other SEOs, wrote social signals are going to become an increasingly important factor.

And I still believe that that’s true at some point. I don’t think 2014 maybe is the time for it, but at the time I switched some of my clients away from more traditional back-link building and towards more of a social media plan or strategy.

What I started seeing is – well, I wasn’t seeing any results. So I started looking into this. This subject has been a point of interest of mine for a few months now, so I started looking into it a little bit and seeing what Google had said and watching Matt’s videos and reading some of the leaders in the SEO industry.

Although there’s still a mixed bag, and you’ll find lots of people saying either way, I’ve come to the conclusion that social media is not an SEO ranking factor. Matt Cutts from Google has said over and over that it’s not. Initially it was, for a short time, and then – that was I think in 2010 they said that. But since 2012, they’ve been saying that it’s not.

So then you either – is Google being forthright? Are they being transparent or are they not? Personally, I don’t see the benefits to them to not be transparent. They don’t tell SEOs everything, by far, but I think the stuff that they do say is fairly straightforward. I think there’s always somebody out there testing and watching them.

Then you look at some of the work Stone Temple Consulting has done; they’ve done some tests, and there are questions on validity and some of the controls. It’s a hard thing to isolate. And there’s been some other great articles.

But essentially, what it comes down to is social signals are not a direct SEO ranking factor, so it does not matter how many likes you get, how many followers you have, how many +1s you have. Now, on the other side of that, what was just a very summarizing statement in my article is that they do benefit SEO, but just not in a direct way.

Ashley: That’s been the big question. Just to be clear for people who are listening and maybe not understanding what we’re talking about, social signals, it can be anything related to social media. So the more whatevers you have, the more SEO you get, whether it’s shares, likes, pluses, or whether you’re more influential or powerful because you have more followers.

Obviously, it has an indirect benefit. There’s always the more shares you get, the more clicks you get; the more clicks you get, maybe the more Google might notice that somehow, whether it’s coming through Google+ or whatever.

But directly, you’ve seen tests, and just looking through your article, you actually went through and really analyzed it and saw that most people are finding that actually it’s very hard to prove that this is helping directly at all.

Brent: Yeah. There’s been a couple things that people brought up as I was looking at it. First of all, Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting have done studies both with Google+ and Facebook, and apparently they’re going to release one very soon on Twitter. So if anybody’s interested, I think is what it is. But if you look up Stone Temple Consulting, you’ll find them, and they had some really good stuff.

But a few other people have mentioned things. First of all, Google, Matt Cutts himself said that they do not have control over their access to Facebook and Twitter. They do over Google+, obviously. So I think if and when it happens, Google+ will definitely be a place to be and a reason to be there. But right now, they don’t control all of that.

Brian Dean, who runs Backlinko, a very authoritative back-linking site builder from an SEO perspective, he made a really interesting comment when I questioned him. He said that Google – with a back link, if I back-link to a site, I’m recommending that site or giving it some referral reference, and that does help with SEO.

If I were to do the same thing, if I were to like their tweet or +1 their post, and then 2 years later, that website changes to a different – maybe they’ve gone to adult content or gambling content or something that I no longer want to recommend – with a back link, I can remove that back link. I can’t remove my +1.

So it’s hard right now, and Mark Traphagen has written an article on Google’s ability to read the signals. I think intuitively, it makes sense that at some point they will start using those signals, but right now, it’s a difficult market for them to read and control, and what signals do they count, and which don’t they. I think it’s a harder puzzle than what a lot of us thought going into it.

Ashley: Yeah, that makes sense. We were just discussing this before we started. As a company, if you don’t have access to the data – let’s make this simple and say Google can get data from Twitter, for example, but they don’t own it. Twitter could block that at any time. Google is a business, and Google is wanting to control what’s appearing on their search results so that they get more of us on Google and they make us happy.

Now, if all of a sudden the things that they’re using to rank those pages are pulled out from under them by Twitter or Facebook or whoever – suddenly Facebook realizes they’re getting bigger than Google or whatever and they just turn it off – then Google suddenly has their arm chopped off, and their search algorithm falls apart.

So it makes sense to say “Hang on, why would they be placing a huge importance or relevance on a data source that they cannot even control?”

Brent: Right, agreed. Google obviously wants to give the best answer to their client, the searcher. They are a business; they rely on advertising. So they want the best answer. If they could – and they’ve taken steps towards it with authorship. If they could identify influencers and then identify their engagement or interaction with content out there, it would be a nice way for them to add to their ranking.
But you’re right, it’s a big gamble for them if they don’t control the content and other companies can essentially withhold or change the algorithms just by doing that. So there’s a lot of solutions or problems for them to overcome before I think you’ll see social signals becoming a big factor, a direct factor in SEO.

Ashley: Yeah, it was really a moment for me when I read your article. I’ve been hearing this stuff and not really paying too much attention to it because SEO is not something that I’m specialist in, and I thought “Okay, social signals, I’m using social signals, so whatever. It doesn’t matter.”

And then I read your article and I thought, yeah, that really makes sense, because they can control +1s, but still, if someone +1s something, it’s not quite as committing as putting a link on, as you said. If I put a link on, I’m really making an effort, whereas if I +1 something, it’s kind of a half-hearted thing. It’s pretty simple to do. It’s not even as serious as making a comment on Google+.

Yeah, okay, authorship. Let’s get into that for a second. That’s quite interesting as well, and people who may not be into that – I’m not sure exactly the level of knowledge of the people who are listening, but Google has two levels of identification in terms of content.

They have authorship, which is let’s say who wrote a piece of content, and then they have publisher as well. I think that’s more of a general thing, like a website or you put that on eye level, from what I know. Robert Ryan once wrote a good article on the difference between those two things.

But in any case, let’s just stick with authorship, which is the main one. I put that on all of my articles, even guest posts, so that when something comes up on search, often, but not always, you’ll get a picture as well. That’s also a nice thing that helps people to click through; you’re identified as the author, you get a bit more authority, a bit more influence.

And then Google can also identify when you write something that it’s you who’s writing it and that you’re an authority in your space, because you’re often writing on a specific topic.

Brent: Right, and I think that’s what it is right now. The benefit of authorship is, like you say, it improves click-through rates. People get more information about you when they search and you come up in the listings, because there is your picture, and with semantics, there can be some other information there. So there’s a higher likelihood of them clicking through to you.

A lot of speculation went on when authorship came out that Google can identify, follow you around the web, and what articles do you write, and develop a profile of influencer; who are the influencers in that industry?

It makes sense that identifying those influencers at some point could be an important point in SEO in the fact that, like you said, +1ing is really easy, and personally, I think it would be hard just to have a straight algorithm on +1s, because it’s really easy to game. You talk about all the stuff that’s gone on in SEO with gaming back-links and everything else; +1, you can go over to Fiverr and hire somebody to +1 you 20 times a day or whatever.

So the only way that really becomes a factor, I think, or social media can, is by identifying the influencers that interact. If somebody’s a high influencer in whatever field you’re in and they engage with your content and +1 it and share it and stuff like that, then that would eventually become a signal for SEO.

So I think you’re right; right now, it is a better marketing tool from getting somebody to click through once you do appear on the search engine results page. It’s not yet an influencer on appearing on search engine results page, but I think it someday could be.

That’s another good reason to be on Google+. First of all, if – and I’m not in the business of pushing Google+, but if people are concerned about this or wondering about it, if Google starts working off of social signals for SEO, Google will be either the first and only, or it will be the first that they start reading from, even if they start reading the others. But it’ll certainly be easier to use Google+. And then your authorship when you set it up is tied through to your Google+ account.

Ashley: I think that’s a good tip for people. If you want to get a little bit of an edge, and if you’re writing especially blog posts – I think for pages, it’s not really as relevant, but for blog post type articles on your website, it’s worth at least having your Google+ account set up and then bringing in that ID.

And there’s plenty of articles out there; if you just type in “how do I connect Google+ authorship on my WordPress account,” for example, it’s quite simple. You just copy in an ID on a plug-in usually, or something else. It’s a relatively simple thing, and it can help because Google then will probably like you a little bit more. Maybe even just 1% more, but that’s worth it, right?

And then they’ll potentially put your picture up on the search results, which, if you look at a search result and it has an image, like for a recipe or a person, an author, or a review, or a video, it’s a lot more eye-catching than just a piece of text. So it’s worth just having that for that, I think. I personally think it’s worth doing.

So I think if you’re not doing that, just for the audience out there, if you’re not doing that and you’re writing blog posts, get out there and do that. It’s only going to take you half an hour – maybe an hour, if you’re really struggling – and then it’s really going to help you for the future. I think it’s worth setting that up even if you’re not going to jump on Google+ and spend time on there. That’s not I think as crucial, but having your authorship set up is really worth doing.

Sorry, go on.

Brent: No, sorry, I agree. I think that was a great point. And to that fact, there’s been studies showing that the click-through rate is higher. I saw one probably about a year ago where somebody had gone through and tested different images, even, tried to optimize their image, and they noticed quite a difference in what image shows up.

And you may have to play around. I had, for a long time, a black and white image as my image on Google+, and Google would not recognize the black and white. Particularly if you have a side profile and stuff. So you may find that you need to change your profile image or check back every once in awhile to get it to work.

But it is worth having, and I think that’s a great idea that you suggested, that when you guest post, you make sure it connects back to your authorship account.

Ashley: Yeah, I’ve actually had – at least some of the higher profile blogs that I’ve posted on have specifically written to me and contacted me and said, “Hey, make sure you give me your Google+ because I do want to attribute authorship.”

And then the reverse of that, if anyone’s out there guest posting, not only does your ID need to be on the post, but you also need to attribute the site on your contributor’s section of your Google profile in Google+.

Whether or not I think both are a necessity, I can’t say, but it’s worth having them in there anyway, on both sides. There’s a contributor section at the bottom of one of the three or four sections of your profile in Google+. I think that’s definitely worth doing.

That was just going to lead me into the next thing I think that’s worth quickly touching on at the moment, which is I think a hot topic. It was very hot, I don’t know, about 2 months ago, which is guest posting and SEO.

Brent: Yes. Another very hot question right now in SEO is the guest posting. A couple months ago, you’re right, Matt Cutts from Google came out and said that guest posting is dead as far as an SEO element. It follows along a long stream of SEO gaming stuff, and one of the most powerful factors still in search engine rankings is back-links, how many links – more the quality of the back link pointing at your site, but the numbers as well.

Panda and Penguin did a good job of cleaning up some of the real spammy link farms and stuff like that. They’re still working; there was just a new update, Panda 4.0, yesterday or the day before, it came out. Still a work in process.

But one of the things that all of a sudden SEOs were writing all over the internet was that the one good SEO back-link technique is guest posting. That turned into kind of a spammy thing where there were very good, high quality guest posts out there, but a lot of businesses just spinning or scraping articles and putting terrible posts together just to get a back link from a blog post.

So the quality went down; it became very much a game for a lot of the SEO industry, and I think kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back was Matt Cutts got an email offering to raise his SEO. This company was just one of those generic spammy emails, just saying that they would do that for him; if he wanted to hire them to do some guest posting, they could raise his SEO. So he thought enough was enough and came out and said that back-linking is dead.

There’s been a debate of how dead is it? Are the quality back-links still worthwhile, or quality guest posts? Obviously, even Matt has come out and said that by no means – he’s not saying that you should not be guest posting, but I do believe that the link, the practice of linking back is going to change, or the amount of impact it has on your SEO.

Ashley: Yeah, I think it wasn’t long after, or even during that period, I was doing about one or two a month in the beginning of the year, and I must say, since then I haven’t noticed a significant increase in anything. I haven’t said, “Wow, okay” – I mean, I got some really higher quality blogs that I was on, and I didn’t notice a sudden jump in my rankings.

So yeah, whether or not my profile was already at a certain point and it’s very hard to push to the next point, I don’t know, because I’m sitting at like 60-something thousand on Alexa. That’s already quite reasonable.

It’s interesting. I went into that thinking, “Okay, this is a relationship-building, an audience-building, and a link-building process.” I think if you just go into it as a link-building process now, it’s maybe a little bit misleading, because you may be disappointed.

Brent: Yeah, and if you go through – there’s been several guest posting companies that have been hit hard by Google, the company and the people that have participated. There’s been questions whether their intent was even to be spammy or not, or just to provide guest posting.

But if the guest post is link-related, you could find yourself in trouble. And in fact, they recommend – there’s been many recommendations that any guest post you do, the links should be no-follow, which is the webmaster there can set up, rather than follow. That just means there’s something in the code that tells – and you probably can explain this better than me, actually, but tells Google whether to follow that link and provide a little SEO to it or not.

I think what you had just said, if you’re guest posting, it should not be for SEO purposes. It should be to reach another audience, to broaden your brand out there. There’s certainly a lot of benefits to guest posting, just like there are a lot of benefits to social media, but they’re just not a direct SEO factor any longer.

Ashley: I think that’s quite important. I think it’s still worth trying it. And one thing that I’ve been learning the hard way, actually, through guest posting as well is to actually have a plan in place.

I think a lot of people, especially when they’re starting out like I was, don’t think about that, which is “I do the guest post, I post” – I mean, there’s a certain etiquette to guest posting you need to be aware of as well, like commenting and sharing as much as possible and being available and all this kind of stuff, which also a lot of people don’t realize. It’s not just a post-and-run thing, which is why you really need to screen your guest posters, if you have any on.

But what I found, I did recently, and I got a few sign-ups, was I specifically posted on a topic and then made an offering, a small eBook related to that topic, and then linked back to it at the end of the post, or in my bio, depending on who you’re posting with. I knew the person, so they were more open to it.

But I didn’t make it spammy; I just said, “Yeah, this is the article.” I put everything I could into the article, got tons of shares, and then at the end, I just had a little offering for a bit of extra information to an eBook and brought them back to my website.

It’s the first time I did that, and I’ve been stupid – I believe I’ve been stupid, but it’s just a matter of learning. And I think that’s something you really need to consider now, is that if you’re not going to get the SEO link juice, you really need to try to get the audience over to your site if possible and get to know them through your email list.

Brent: Definitely. If it’s done right, it can be a win-win for the site that hosts the guest post and for the guest poster, and I think what you got to is true; it needs to be a very quality post, and you want to look to go to quality sites to leave your guest posts. Then I think it can benefit both.

I’m certainly a proponent of both guest posts and social media, but just I think there’s some issues and questions within the SEO aspect that have been very interesting over the last few months – and continue to change, always. So I think it is something worth pursuing if done right.

What you stepped into is that next step. The first step is get your website up; the second step is get found; and the third step is then getting some leads from it, lead gen through making good content available and some offers to the people that come visit you.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s something we have to go through the whole process of learning and then doing. Because I started from zero, so I’ve been picking it up as I go. But yeah, that starts to become far more important.

Getting back onto SEO, obviously we’ve shot two big tigers or two of the Big Five, as they say in Africa. We’ve just shot a lion and a rhino. We’ve killed guest posting and we’ve shot down social media signals, so, without giving too much away – I know SEO is a bit of a mythical beast – but what do you do right now in terms of helping your customers?

Brent: It’s been a really interesting process over the last 2 years, as Google has brought out so many changes within their algorithm that affect SEO directly. Where Google wants to go – a few months ago, about 8 months ago probably, they introduced Hummingbird, which is a new algorithm, a major change to their algorithm.

Where Google wants to go is they’re thinking forward to voice search. With Siri and Android already having voice search, more people are doing that, and one of the things that happens with voice search is, where people used to just put in a keyword when they’re searching, when they’re searching with their voice, it’s more statement or full question or sentence.

So Google wants to move away from identifying a few broad keywords and guessing as to what you want and move towards really understanding the context of your question. I read a great book on semantic search, which is part of Hummingbird and all the updates, but where Google wants to go is to where Star Trek has gone. If Captain Kirk walks into the Enterprise, he says “Computer” and asks the question; the computer answers.

This author related where Google wants to go to that. They want you to be able to speak to your computer, ask a question, and they want to provide the right answer. So when somebody searches Rio, Google wants to try to understand, are you searching for the city? Are you searching for the movie? Or maybe the casino? And give you the right answer.

It’s becoming more personalized, and they’re trying to understand the context. They do that a number of ways. First of all, where are you searching from? They take that in. They take into consideration your search history. So they’re going to be learning more and more about you. If you’re someone that searches kids’ movies all the time, then they’re probably going to give you Rio the movie. It’s trying to learn more about you, learn more about where you are, and give you a better answer.

What I found, though – there were all kinds of articles, including mine, that came out at that time saying “Search is changing, this is where it’s going. You need to change what you’re doing.” What I found right now, though, is it’s going to be a slow move, I believe. I have found that they’re still not there yet. There are some issues with search.

I live in a small mountain community in Idaho, and there are three little towns in our valley: Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum/Sun Valley. I have a client over in Bellevue, and I can be sitting in his office – he’s an accountant – and I can search “Bellevue CPA,” and what we get is search results from Bellevue, Washington. You have to tell it “Bellevue, Idaho CPA” to get anybody from that community.

So Google’s not there yet. Where they want to go – right now there’s something called a title tag that’s a pretty big part of on-page SEO. It’s just your way of saying what your page is about to Google and the search engines, and it was always best practice to put very specifically what you were about. “Boise CPA” or “Boise SEO” or whatever you were about, and then just list it out.

Well, the idea of where Google is going is they want to be able to, even if your business doesn’t do a great job with SEO, they want to be able to understand the content you’re giving and be able to rank you even if you don’t understand SEO.

Ideally, they would be able to understand that I’m saying I am an SEO, that I should be able to write “I offer SEO. I have offices in Boise and Hailey,” and go on from there. But what I found is, again, I still need to say “Boise CPA” or “Boise SEO” and not go into the full sentence and assume that Google understands it yet.

So they have a place where they want to go and they have a place where they’re at, and I still think they are closer to more traditional on-page SEO factors and back-links than they are to this all-knowing answer machine.

I’ve gone back and reverted to more traditional SEO, on-page SEO. Certainly not – I’ve never gone into any of the black hat stuff. I don’t go back into that. All the link farms and stuff that were effective for some people are harming people now. But the traditional on-page stuff, make sure your keywords are where you’re at – content is a big thing.

But content marketing is not SEO. I saw a lot of articles awhile ago, and still see them, “SEO is dead” or “Content marketing is the new SEO.” Content marketing is a huge part of the SEO process. If you’re interested in being found in search engine rankings and you’re in a competitive industry, you need to consider yourself a publisher as a secondary business. Whether it’s video or podcasting or blogging, you need to be producing content for Google. But SEO is still much more than just producing content.

Ashley: I think that’s an important point, though. Again, it was something I was talking about with this client in Zurich, which is that most people haven’t come to the realization that they need to produce content to be found.

I think, I don’t know, 10 years ago, maybe even longer, you could just keyword and have your keywords meta-tag, which is pretty much dead, and then all of this stuff, and then you would just be ranked. And if you had a few more back-links, then you would be ranked higher.

Whereas now, it’s about content, it’s about freshness, it’s about – what this other term? I’ve forgotten the word for it. I think maybe it’s written in your article here, where they’re finding terms near other terms, and then they’re – there’s a specific word for that. I’ve forgotten. I read about it.

Brent: Are you thinking co-citation or co-occurrence?

Ashley: Yeah, those two terms. That’s also coming more from the content side of things, right?

Brent: Yes.

Ashley: You’re writing words naturally in sentences and then Google’s bringing them together, saying “Okay, those three words, which I think are important, is almost right next to that word, which is also important, and so I’m going to throw them together.”

Brent: Yeah. That’s been an interesting element. There’s an Idaho-based link-building company here called Page One Power, and they’re quite well known, and I was talking to one of their guys. He said they’ve noticed that that’s become a bigger thing or them, is not only – especially if you’re getting links and stuff, not only what is that link, but what is right above that link, right below it, and the words right beside it that Google – he had a great term for it, but there’s a little circle around that link that Google looks at everything around there to figure out what it’s about and what it’s attributed to.

Ashley: I’ll just do a quick summary. Basically where we are at the moment is that all of these things that everybody’s talking about that may change search or are partially changing search are not as far as we think. The evidence – and your article is really detailed; you’ve cited some really big guys.

The listeners may not know some of these people, but Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen, for example, are really huge on Google+. I think Mark Traphagen’s probably one of the biggest guys on Google+. He is Mr. Google+. He has I don’t know how many gazillion followers, and was there from the beginning. He knows what he’s talking about, and he constantly researches his stuff.

You’ve cited a lot of his research, and he’s said, “Look, there’s no clear answer, but it seems clear that Google can’t fully rely on this stuff at the moment. And also guest posting, be aware that it’s not what it used to be, and spamming people with emails to get guest posts isn’t going to help you.”

So what you really need to be doing, then, is still getting relationships, getting good links from people you know with reasonable text – not always the same text. Maybe sometimes “Click here,” maybe sometimes not; that’s what I was also hearing. Vary your anchor text. Is that still…

Brent: Yes. Yeah, if you’re getting back-links, you want to have a natural-looking profile. Google wants to create the best answer, and so they don’t want somebody out there artificially making back-links. That’s where a lot of the Panda and Penguin and the guest blogging thing has gone to.

So yeah, your anchor text, the stuff that’s pointing at you, they want it natural-looking. It should be a variety. There’ll be some “click heres” – where a few years ago, it was best practice to make sure that if I wanted to be ranked for “Boise SEO,” then anybody linking back to me said “Brent Carnduff is a Boise SEO” and linked that Boise SEO topic, where now, you don’t want to do that. You want to have it very natural-looking.

Ashley: Google’s basically getting smarter at seeing that stuff.

Brent: They are.

Ashley: And you don’t have much control of what people are linking to you. Maybe you know the person, maybe not, and if so, maybe you can direct them to change it if you’ve got too many “click heres” or too many names of your company – which I also had a problem with. But I think the name of the company, Google forgives you for, but specific pages should be linked quite naturally.

But yeah, if you’re linking out to somebody, just vary the text up. Sometimes have a huge link, sometimes have a little link; sometimes have a “click here” or “more info here.” Don’t just highlight the most SEO-friendly sounding words if you used to do that. I used to do that, and I’m stopping doing that as well.

I think the other area we were discussing is Google authorship is worth getting onto if you want to try and power up your SEO, just even a smidgen. And writing good content and linking out to authority sites, and getting relationships so that you’ll get links back, I think that’s really powerful.

This relationship thing, I think it’s now touched on almost every podcast I’ve done. If you’re not out there getting relationships with people and getting powerful or less powerful friends, then in the end, you’re probably not going to get very far.

Brent: No, I agree. And that’s where social media becomes such a big thing, is in helping you develop those relationships. AJ Kohn – I believe that’s how you pronounce his name – he writes some very interesting stuff. His website is Blind Five Year Old, and I cite him in the article.

The article of his that I cited and referenced to was really interesting, and it’s changed my perspective a little bit. I’ve always told clients you have two people that you’re writing for: you’re writing for your customers and you’re writing for search engines. And you always have to have good content for your customers, but make it as search engine-friendly as you can so the search engines know what it is and share it.

Well, he presented the idea of a third party that you’re writing for, and that is the influentials. You want back-links, but in most industries – in marketing, the people that we write about are used to linking out to people and they write content, but in a lot of industries, they don’t do that.

What he has found is there’s really only 1% of people online that provide the links to everyone else. So you need to write content – I just took a webinar from Brian Dean about back-link building, and he said that Moz came out with it first, but called them the “Linkerati.” The people that will actually write articles and link back to you.

So you need to write content that your industry’s Linkerati will be interested in getting links to. And again, that’s from a perspective of building search engine ranking, not – the whole world, I realize, doesn’t revolve around that, but mine does. So from an SEO perspective, you want to write or your customer, you want to write for the search engines, and you want to produce some content for your industry’s Linkerati.

Ashley: I think it’s always worth connecting with people. When you’re working a 9 to 5 job, it happens in 9 to 5 jobs, too. If you know the secretary, you might get hold of the beamer that you otherwise couldn’t get for your meeting tomorrow. It’s always worth knowing people, even if it’s for no particular purpose. Even if it’s just to be friendly.

And it should be just to be friendly, but at the same time, you also need to be a little bit decisive on who you connect with, because you’ve only got so much time in your day. You’ve got to look to people in your industry.

That’s also why I’m starting to go to conferences. If anyone’s in Antwerp in June, I’m heading to the Fusion MEX Conference in June, just because I happen to be in the area that week.

But yeah, I’ve heard this from so many people, too: get out there and meet people, connect, and then that helps you in absolutely everything you do. Yeah, stretch your boundaries as well. I think that’s always a great thing. SEO is always changing.

Brent: It is, it is. One of the things that I think we see happening in marketing is it’s becoming less divided. A few years ago, there was SEO specialists, website specialists, social media specialists, and I think what we’re finding is you can’t just do one thing and be found.

Marketing now, online, is producing good content, making sure you can be found by the search engines, and interacting with other people that are in your industry and not in your industry. The social media or the social aspect is a big part of it.

From a personal perspective, I’ve found it’s not all online as well. There’s still definitely value in going to those meetings you’re talking about. I still go to my chamber meetings and interact with local business owners. I think there’s value in all of that. But relationships, whether they’re virtual or the face-to-face kind, are hugely important in any business marketing aspect, I think.

Ashley: All right, that’s a good place to leave it. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground and confused a lot of people – or helped a lot of people, depending on where they’re at. But hopefully we’ve provided some value. I’m sure I’ll get you back on to make some further enlightening points about SEO in the future.

Yeah, is there anything else that you quickly wanted to mention or touch on coming up that might be worth going over, or where people can find you?

Brent: My blog is just Brent Carnduff. It’s my site. I love connecting with people on social media, so if you’re particular to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or even Facebook, I’m there.

Ashley: You haven’t abandoned ship yet.

Brent: Not yet, not yet. But as Ashley said, there’s lots of information available. Check it out. I would love to connect with anybody that’s interested online. If they have questions, they’re more than welcome to find me on social media or on my website and forward them to me.

One of the things I found that I forgot to mention that this last article was my first attempt at is long form content. That’s one of the SEO factors that really has been working really well, is longer blog articles. Or longer content on your website. I found some businesses having trouble getting found; we’ve added 200 or 300 words to their website page, and all of a sudden they start showing up.

Ashley: What numbers are you talking about then? How many words?

Brent: I found on a website, going from the 300-400 up to the 600-700, 500 to 700 is good. For blog content, my typical blogs are usually 500 words. What people have found is Google really identifies if you start hitting the occasional one above 2,000 words. I think my last one was 2,300. It really does have an impact. And people share it more.

So I would recommend, from that standpoint, make your webpage content a little bit more full, and every once in awhile, throw in a long blog. Find something that’s really keyword-related to what you want to do and post it. I’m going to try to start doing, every couple months, a long form blog post. So that’s another thing that’s working out there.

But I do want to thank you, Ashley. This has been great. I loved being on a podcast. I love adding that to my resume now, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Look forward to the next time.

Ashley: No worries. Appreciate your time. Have a good day.

Brent: Thanks. You too.

Posts and Resources from the Podcast

Brent’s Post Discussed in the Podcast

Social Signals are NOT an SEO Ranking Factor

Connect with Brent

Echeolon SEO- Brent’s Website



Thanks for the Review on iTunes – Or Stitcher

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Previous Podcast Episodes

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Final Words

SEO is far more difficult that it has ever been and you have to stay on top of what is happening.

Social signals and guest posting may or may not be what you thought they were, but writing great content and connecting with your visitors is far more important than ever!

Let Brent and I know in the comments below how you think SEO is in 2014 and what you experiences have been.

FREE Bonus: Download my Free SEO Checklist which will show you how to quickly improve your SEO on all pages and post. Included are extra tips and resources to help you even more.

About the Author Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).

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