If you’re at all familiar with Reddit, you know about their AMA series, AKA, Ask Me Anything. Superstars from Obama to Rob Delaney have done AMA’s, committing to answer questions from anyone and everyone who shows up to submit a question. And in recent months, a number of top SEO’s have been doing Ask Me Anything sessions in the SEO subreddit (r/bigSEO).


reddit seo amas

Today, we’re bringing you the best of the best: hand-picked advice from the top SEO experts who took to Reddit to share their wisdom in the AMA series.

Our panel of SEO experts answered myriad questions posted on Reddit, which we’ve sorted into the following categories for your convenience:

  • Social Signals
  • Local SEO
  • Link Building
  • Content Marketing
  • Guest Blogging
  • General SEO
  • Learning SEO Advice
  • SEO Predictions
  • Search Spam & Black Hat SEO
  • PageRank & Algorithm Changes
  • More From the Gurus

Without further ado, let’s meet our panel of Reddit SEO experts!

About the SEO Gurus

Joe Hall, Senior Marketing Analyst for Internet Marketing Ninjas

Joe Hall has dabbled in everything online, from AdSense to ebook publishing. He’s built and sold 2 businesses within the last 7 years, and now spends his days working on enterprise level SEO projects with Internet Marketing Ninjas. Joe prescribes to his “Postmodern SEO” philosophy, which you can read about here.

Twitter: @joehall

Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents, Owner of SEO By the Sea Blog

Bill Slawski has been working on the web since 1996, writing about search-related patents first on forums, then on his own blog, SEO by the Sea. Bill currently is the Director of Search Marketing at GoFishDigital, but has also spent years working in Delaware’s highest level trial court as a legal and technical administrator.

Twitter: @bill_slawski

Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

Dr. Pete is a cognitive psychologist, reluctant entrepreneur, coder, content marketer, Star Wars expert, and general ne’erdoweller.

Twitter: @dr_pete

Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

From Thailand to Spain, hotels to cafes, Brian Dean maintains his SEO businesses from around the world. His company Backlinko, launched in 2012, is now a top 50 small business blog (according to Technorati).

Twitter: @Backlinko

AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert of Ghergich & Co.

AJ Ghergich is living his dream of owning his own boutique agency, where he exemplifies his passion for creating and promoting awesome visual assets. He’s also a Twitter legend because of his highly-coveted handle, @SEO.

Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

Ross Hudgens, founder of the Siege Media content marketing agency in San Diego, considers himself an accidental entrepreneur with a background in content promotion and link building.

Twitter: @rosshudgens

Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

Jason Acidre is co-founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, an online marketing agency based in the Philippines. He’s known in the SEO industry as the author of the KaiserTheSage SEO blog. Before Jason got into SEO, he was a pro Counterstrike gamer, playing in national-level tournaments.

Twitter: @jasonacidre

Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

Rand Fishkin, the self-proclaimed “Wizard of Moz,” is the co-author and co-founder of Inbound.orgMoz, and the Art of SEO.

Twitter: @randfish

Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools

Jon Henshaw, co-founder of Raven Tools, has been involved with web development and Internet strategy since 1995. He speaks at many online marketing conferences such as PubCon, SMX, SearchFest, SES, and others.

Twitter: @RavenJon


Social Signals


SEO social signals

Q. There’s been a lot of talk about Google’s (and other engines’) use(s) of social signals. As it relates to Google, what social signals do you actually think they are utilizing to influence results, not just ranking of results?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. Google is definitely using social signals from Google+ in private results (a much better name than “Search Plus Your World” because it helps stave off concerns about privacy). Google+ does have strong roots in the social mail app developed by Grouptivity, and there’s an acquired Grouptivity patent that talks in depth about how social sharing signals might be used to help rank private results – Page Ranking System Employing User Sharing Data. I wrote about those in [this SEO by the Sea article.]

There’s no clear sign that Google is using social signals in logged-out search or non-private results. But, my belief is that Google will likely use something like the User Rank and Credential Scores that appear to have been first developed for Google’s World Wide Q&A type sites, code named Confucius, as described in the patent application: Ranking User Generated Web Content.

Like the score described in the Agent Rank patents (there were three, counting two continuation patents), a reputation score would be based on different topics, so the same person could be considered an expert on SEO, an expert on wines, and a novice when it came to scuba diving.

These reputation scores, as described by Agent Rank, would be difficult to get higher, and easy to go lower in.

I detailed how contributiveness and authority scores might be based on quality signals in posts and responses to posts in a blog post about that patent.

So the quality of your actual interactions with other people at a source such as Google+ could potentially play a large role in ranking signals that Google might use to influence those results. I don’t believe that Google is using some kind of author rank or agent rank at this point in time, but hopefully it’s going to be used sometime soon.


Q. What are some good tactics you have utilized for promoting content that play off the synergy between social media and SEO? For generating links?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. We use social in just about ALL of our outreach. Tools I love to use are Followerwonk, Topsy and Buzzsumo. I mainly use those tools to find influencers related to the content I am promoting.

  • Followerwonk is great for finding overall thought leaders. Just insert your keywords and sort by Social Authority.
  • Topsy is great for finding people who have recently shared very similar content. What we do is find popular articles with lots of social shares that are recent and related to our topic. We use sites like Topsy to find the influencers who shared the article. The odds are if they are sharing very similar content they will like our pitch.
  • BuzzSumo is new but I really like it. It is similar to Topsy but also has a really robust influencers section.


Q. What are your thoughts on the recent semi-scandal re: fake Facebook likes? Should organizations be paying for Facebook ads?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A.  Ethics aside for now, for me it’s just practicality and taking a long-term view. Fake is fake. Sure, buying likes may give you a short-term boost, and that has real benefits (let’s not kid ourselves), but what about long-term? The benefits fade, you could get kicked off entirely, and frankly, you look like an ass to your prospective customers. I’m not a fan of building illusions to impress ourselves – a real business builds assets that last, IMO.

I think social is going to evolve quickly, too, so these games are pretty short-lived. Play if you want, but you’ll be playing a new game every month. I’ve built content 2-3 years ago that still gets traffic when I’m asleep – that’s why I believe in the long game.


Q. What do you think of Matt Cutts saying they don’t use signals from Facebook and Twitter to rank web pages? I’ve seen countless anecdotal accounts and even a post you made on SEMRush a few months ago that directly contradicts his stance. Is he lying to keep SEO social spam at a minimum? Or do they really not matter?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A. I’ve never been a big believer in social signals. That’s actually one of the reasons I wrote that SEMRush post. I wanted to see if there was any evidence that social signals made a difference.

I don’t think he’s lying. I just think that Google has run into a ton of issues with social signals, including:

Spam: As you pointed out, anyone with half a brain can order 1,000 tweets from Fiverr right now. Google’s spent millions of dollars to figure out links. They don’t have that level of sophistication with social signals. Why would they switch from a metric that’s hard to game (links) to one that’s incredibly easy to game (social shares)?

Access: Facebook blocks Googlebot tomorrow. Then what? What about all work Google put into integrating FB likes into the algo? It’s probably harder to undo a ranking signal than add one. They also have issues accessing Twitter.

Quality Signal: It takes 2 second to tweet out a blog post. But it takes REAL effort to add a link. Knowing that, links are a BETTER indicator of quality today than they ever were.

Non-social content: Not all content that’s good gets shared on social media. I know that I’m not going to share an article I just read about hemorrhoids. But I might link to that article from my health site.

Disavows, removals etc.: What happens when a site you link to starts to suck? You delete the link, right? Well you can’t “un-signal” a social signal.


Local SEO


local SEO


Q. I’d like to know what you think are best practices for local SEO. Let’s assume that you have a new client with a regional business. The market is medium competitive (most results on the first page for “their product their location” searches are PR2-PR3). They have a brand new site – nothing done SEO wise. What steps would you take and why?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. I am by no means a Local SEO Guru but here are some steps I would take.

  • A. Make sure you nail the on page SEO including local keyword modifiers of course.
  • B. Implement Schema local tags as well as anything other relevant schema tags.
  • C. Work on getting local reviews to your Google local page as well as relevant sites like Yelp etc.
  • D. Make sure you are in all the right local directories and getting as many links/citations as possible – use tools like Local Citation Finder and don’t forget niche (quality) directories and local chamber of commerce type pages.

Start creating and promoting linkable (visual) assets so your site gains backlinks.

Obviously I am answering this pretty broadly but just trying to give you an idea of where I would start. You can’t even start on page optimization without doing keyword research first. I use SEM Rush a ton in the early phase of the game. I like to download all of the competitor’s organic but especially paid keywords.

This can lead to keywords you maybe are not thinking of in the early stages.


Q. How to you utilize content marketing for a LOCAL business outside of creating content about LOCAL things? For example – NOT a guide to local places/events resources. Let’s say it’s a dentist in Philadelphia…what kind of content should he be creating/promoting and what is the goal of such content?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A.  Well, frankly, I would never rule out local things. The most thought-provoking SEO talk I’ve seen was probably when Dr. Mike (@chiropractic) basically landed in Florida 3 days before BlueGlass and proceeded to collect dozens of content ideas of local interest. It was, frankly, embarrassing, because in 3 days, he did what most people complain about for years and never do. There’s always a local angle, if you approach it with curiosity. For any local business, you can’t ignore that ecosystem.

The other approach is expertise, though. What’s his niche? What does he know that other people don’t? He doesn’t have to be the world’s top specialist, but there’s something he’s got a handle on that can be of benefit. I think that’s tougher, though, overall – because the whole world is a lot bigger than just the local ecosystem.

Frankly, don’t overlook the basics, either. It’s amazing how many local sites don’t have the simplest stuff, like hours, directions, etc., and fail to convert what little traffic they get. Build a decent FAQ – I know it sounds lame, but it matters to his patients. Address their fears of dentistry – why is he different, and how will he make their experience as positive as possible? You don’t have to attract the whole world – just the right few people and build word-of-mouth momentum.


Q. What would you recommend for starting local SEO on a small budget? I’m new to SEO and am looking to grow my local business to higher positions in the search results. What kind of content and link building works well for local?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A.  The first thing I’d do is choose your keywords VERY carefully. Think of EVERY keyword that potential customers might type into Google, including both local (dentist London) and non-local (dentist).

See what types of results come up in Google. Are they 100% organic? Mostly Google Places/Google+ Local? Both? Once you know that you can start to develop a plan. If you find that the results are mostly Google+ Local, you definitely want to focus on citations and Local SEO, which is a bit different than “normal” SEO.

Either way, you’ll want to do a lot of the same types of things: producing content that generates links. I also recommend checking out this local SEO guide.


Q. If you had a local client from Toronto, let us assume it’s a storage rental. Please put forward your suggestions.

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. I’d probably implement these:

  • Build citations, that’s for sure.
  • Lead generation-oriented link building. This is mostly done by monitoring discussions from the web that pertain to the product that your client is selling (like continuously tracking forum threads, Q&As, blog discussions, etc… where people ask about storage rentals). You can also search for discussions that are already ranking on search results, and be able to contribute on these threads, since they’ll most-likely show up when your client’s target customers start researching about storage rentals.
  • Create more top-of-the-funnel content (like lists, how to, curated content, etc…) not just for links, but also to establish rankings for long tails that may eventually help capture more leads.
  • se the skyscraper technique. Identify the competitors’ top informational and most linked pages, and make a better one. Then reach out to those who have linked to them in the past. You can also create content around the most frequently searched queries in that space, and check the competitors’ content targeting those queries.
  • Invest on a slick mobile version of the site (or responsive).


Q. What are your recommendations for site structure as it pertains to service based companies with only one location, but many service areas? Do you recommend that these sites put the locations in the footer or create a folder structure, where they all go into a bucket, which would mean more clicks for the user.

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. It depends a lot on scope, but be really careful, because the footer-based approach running to geo-targeted pages got hit hard by some of the Panda updates and is definitely risky. Focus on your core service areas and, as best you can, write original content for each one. There’s way too much spun geo-content. Do not link to all of them in the footer or make a page that’s just a list of 1,000 cities that you theoretically service – even if it’s 100% true, it’s just going to look thin to Google.

I think it’s absolutely fine to have landing pages that are finely geo-targeted for PPC, but if that’s the case, NOINDEX them. They’ll have limited value for organic search. If it were me, I’d probably start with large regions and build up some original content for those pages, branching out from there. Google is not kind to sites trying to rank locally without locations, so you have to tread with caution.

Of course, you can have all the pages you want for actual visitors – I’m just speaking in terms of what I’d let Google crawl and index.


Link Building


SEO link building advice

Q. What are some actionable, definable tips for acquiring links that drive traffic?

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. In my experience, the links that are really valuable and able to constantly send qualified traffic are links that are contextual and coming from Moz-like sites. They also come from pages you’ve created on sites that can easily rank for the long-tail keywords that you’re also targeting (like YouTube and Slideshare).

The most actionable advice that I can really give when it comes to getting these types of links is to work your way up (not an easy route, but for long term campaigns, it’s definitely the way to go). The best way to get into these kinds of websites is to really prove that you have something that their readers would really want.

Which I think is a better way when setting up link building campaigns, as you’d first need to start with the content assets that should be up and running on the client’s website – before you can actually get to pitch the top blogs in that industry. It’s a win/win in the long run, knowing that these assets will eventually be able to attract links from other sites that you weren’t even targeting in the first place.


Q. I know it varies per industry, but what types of link building would you do for a larger ecommerce site that isn’t a household brand?

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. As for building links, these are the things that I’d be implementing more:

LB1. Building more links pointing to the site’s important categories (most profitable ones, and those that the client would want to drive more traffic to). Well, there are so many tactics to choose from when building links to categories, such as:

  • Guest blogging (targeting niche blogs that are focused on the categories you’re working on).
  • Getting links from resources pages.
  • Press releases (whenever there’s a new product being released under a certain category).
  • Getting sitewide links from blogs (through sponsorships – but using the nofollow tag, or building microsites that can continuously generate traffic).

LB2. Blogger outreach for product reviews. If your client is open to giving away few of their products to be sent out to bloggers for reviews, then that’d be one of the best options.

LB3. Invite guest bloggers to the ecommerce’s blog section, to absorb followers/readers from them, and most of the time, these bloggers will link to the guest blogs they’ve submitted to your site, so that’d enhance the amount of deep links the site is getting (then you can just pass through some of the value from these natural links through internally linking the blog posts to the site’s important categories).


Q. What are your go-to tactics for getting links? (ex. guest posting, broken link building, paid, directories etc.)

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. Here are my go-to tactics:

  • Continuous content development = more content, more traffic, more chances to attract natural links
  • Linker outreach = directly promoting my content to people who have linked/shared the competitors’ similar content (higher link acquisition rate, since they have a history of linking to a content covering the same topic).
  • Scaling reverse engineering = tracking where the competitors are getting links/mentions on a daily/weekly basis. Then understand how/why they are getting these links (if it’s possible to replicate, then do so). I also expand this approach by finding other sites similar to the ones who are linking to my competitors (to take a step ahead).
  • Building traffic generators = this one’s my favorite. I just build pages from domains that have high search share, so that the pages/links I acquire from them can continuously drive traffic to my site. The methods that can be used in this type of link building are becoming a regular content contributor on the top blogs in the client’s industry (and submitting content to these blogs twice or thrice a month), and distributing content on digital content platforms like Youtube, Slideshare, etc… – since pages from these sites can easily rank on search results.

I’ve actually written a post about these tactics recently, you can check it out here.


Q. What’s your favorite link building method today?

Answered by Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools

A. Creating free tools or compelling interactive content coupled with awareness via social media. Takes longer and costs more, but works almost every time. It’s also the least risky and has the greatest ROI long-term.


Q. What are your current go-to tactics for link building?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert


Step 1: Create a quality visual asset.

Step 2: Prior to launch, find a high level site to launch the asset with.

Step 3: Create a very specific and DEEP outreach list to compliment your launch partner.

Step 4: Use social media advertising to get your asset in front of the right audience.

Step 5: Rinse & Repeat.

PS. Infographics still work amazingly if you do them right.


Q. What tools to you use to keep your outreach efforts organized? Gdoc spreadsheets? Raven’s CRM?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. We are pretty addicted to Google dive and Google spreadsheets. I love dropbox but the integration with spreadsheets and such makes it so nice to just be in the Google Ecosystem.

We are constantly looking for new ways to keep organized. We use insightly for a lot of task management. I also personally really like Asana. I used to use Raven but have not in a while. May be time to circle back around to them. In the end our process is so custom that sometimes spreadsheets are easier.

I do not miss emailing around the same damn spreadsheet 10 times on a project lol. Love updating is a God send.


Content Marketing


SEO content marketing

Q. “Content Marketing” is beginning to take over as the popular vernacular for “link building” at most search agencies, but I feel that it’s still harder than ever to define, much less quantify. What’s content marketing mean to you, and how would you recommend it be integrated into a core SEO practice?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A.  A very early example of content marketing that I was involved in, almost completely by accident – when I was an in-house SEO back in the late 90s/early 2000s, we decided to add a currency converter to the services site I was working on because a lot of our clients were in different countries, and we thought it would help them.

We chose a free currency converter, and while it worked well, it was difficult for most people to set up. Looking through log files for the site one day, I noticed that a number of other ecommerce sites on the Web were linking to the currency converter page, rather than setting up one of their own. I reduced the language on the converter itself that referred to our business, and increased the branding on the rest of the page to tout our services, including a call to action.

Content marketing is creating something that other people will find interesting, engaging and/or useful to help attract attention, links, and awareness. The changes I made didn’t cost us any customers and may have landed a few new ones. The Google Toolbar was out in its first version in 2000, and the currency converter page had a PageRank of 6, while the home page of the site had a PageRank of 5, so it was earning external links to the site.


Q. Do you work with content calendars? If so, how and do you have any tips regarding them?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. We end up creating so much content for clients that we pretty much have to have an editorial calendar. Right now we use Insightly a lot and in the past I have used and loved Asana. I know many in the SEO community are in love with Trello as well.

Pretty much you just need to find what works for you and get an editorial calendar going.


Q. As a content marketing agency, how do you find/approach potential clients?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. By doing content marketing ourselves. We actually don’t post nearly as much as I’d hope (because we’ve been so busy), but there’s no doubt that the best way to get clients is to show that you can create content yourselves and have success with it. We still get most of our clients today from our content marketing efforts 1-3 years ago – things like blog posts, sharing on Twitter, and speaking at events. And, of course, referrals from doing good work.

Show diversity of content types, different skills in design, development, and copy, and you’ll be a company that people would want to hire for content marketing.


Q. Is creating linkbait-ey interactive games and interactive infographics, or #RCS stuff like the “How do tech companies make money” piece by SEER Interactive still a viable part of a company’s bag of tricks? If so, where does it fit in? In your content marketing for boring industries you talked about GE integrating graphics on their product pages, but are independent graphical pieces still good?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. I think any truly RCS stuff is definitely worth including in the bag of tricks. I loved this grid by Distilled – it shows all the different types of content a business can make, including the random one-off stuff that’s “bigger”. I’m into investing in big stuff myself like our checklist and our embed code generator. We’re actually working on another big tool right now as well.

These fit nicely into a content calendar and make a site truly interesting – where you know that you should stay tuned in because they are going to keep you on your toes and bring it with something unexpected and super valuable from time to time.

To address your question specifically, I think infographics are definitely still worth doing – they just have to be good. I tell our team that our infographics should be 100x better as an infographic than they would be as a text post. If that’s true, we should build that visualization. If not, we’re doing some weird SEO play that we shouldn’t be.

I constantly look to /r/infographics/ for inspiration, as everything that’s upvoted there is going to be a truly great infographic that was built to be a helpful visualization, not just an SEO play.


Q. Why do you think so many companies are hesitant to invest in content marketing?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. Because it’s incredibly hard to get moving on. Old school SEO blocking and tackling was something you could get a lot of traction with by hiring an agency off-site to do guest posts and not mess up your on-site work. Content marketing is building a staff, establishing a strategy, designing a beautiful site – the costs are quite huge, especially in the short run.

Also, there is a premonition to stick with what works. Many people in the SEO industry have done SEO their whole lives and are really incapable of seeing through the weeds to notice that things have changed. SEO is what they’ve done and they’re not going to pivot (well) until they’re put out of business. It is really tough and ballsy to do something new when you’ve done something your whole life – this is why people never move, never quit the jobs they hate, and etc. The same concepts apply to a branding/skills shift.

That said, I think that there are lots of companies investing in content marketing today, and that number might now be greater than the ones that aren’t. People know now that it’s what required after having it pounded into them for the past 3-4 years – and also seeing their traffic and revenue decrease.


Q.  With the world in full panic mode around link building at the moment, what are some ways you manage expectations of clients when they’re worried that some content piece you’ve created does naturally generate links?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. I would create secondary KPIs. One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing companies make (that I’ve also been guilty of) is not creating a marketing flywheel from the start.

If the content you build adds new subscribers, followers, likes etc, that’s an asset that can be utilized in the future, and also likely be a positive signal to the search engines. If you’re taking one-off approaches with every single piece of content you build, I think that’s a really risky strategy and one that will not give you the long-term assets to be dominant in your space. Repeat to yourself: build a flywheel, build a flywheel, build a flywheel. More reading here from Rand Fishkin.


Q. What are some of your favorite paid content promotion channels (outbrain, nrelate, etc.) Any you’ve tried and would avoid in the future?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. I love StumbleUpon right now, it’s such an easy way to get 20k visitors for about $20 if you target it right. The best way to do that is demographically slice the content piece you’ve built, for example, you have the opportunity to target by age group, location, and interest – that’s incredibly powerful if you do any kind of market research.

Facebook is the next best option, boosting content and/or doing demographic targeting is another powerful segmentation option that’s super powerful for any marketer. Any time you can segment like you can on FB/StumbleUpon, there’s no way to not have a lot of success as long as you have good content. Facebook is going to be a lot more expensive though.

I haven’t tested Outbrain and nrelate to the extent that I’d like – really most of the studies I’ve heard thus far seem mixed as to whether or not they’re worth using extensively, at least for the purposes of what most of us are doing for SEO benefit.


Q. How do you come up with the right content ideas?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. I lean on the experts. There are certain sites that have similarities to our clients – commercial, investing in content, somewhat similar verticals – that can be referred to as inspiration for our own ideas. The good thing about content marketing overkill is there’s a TON of content to learn from, and most of the ideas can be ported to other areas with no loss in success.


Q. How much journalist outreach do you use to get traction for your content pieces?

Answered by Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media

A. Depends on the piece, but overall, a ton. We’ll only do journalist outreach if we feel our content is a “study” or somehow newsworthy and not casual content.

Journalist outreach takes a bit longer as we feel like we need to customize it more, but it’s definitely worth it because they are a great place to get the piece snowballing for additional coverage.


Q. How do you come up with the right content ideas for a website?

 Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. I don’t know if I’d use the word “right” – I’ve come up with the wrong content plenty of times, and that’s how you learn. Best advice I can give is – do the work. The difference between bad, good, and great content isn’t the topic, IMO – it’s the work, the research, and the story. There are only so many stories in the world, so bust your ass and find a new way to tell it.


Q. What tips do you have for the distribution/promotion phase and how important is it to a piece of content’s success?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO blog Backlinko.com

A. Promotion isn’t just important…it’s an absolute must.

Most blogs fail for two reasons: 1. Not publishing epic stuff/publishing too often 2. Not promoting the stuff that they publish.

Here are a few practical strategies for promoting your next piece of amazing content (if it’s not amazing, this won’t work).

Know how you’re going to promote it before you publish. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you hit publish and then say “now what?”, you need to change your approach. In fact, I’m at the point now where I choose content based on who I’ll promote it to. For example, the next piece of content at Backlinko was inspired by the fact that there is/were a lot of outreach opportunities around that topic.

Find out where your target audience hangs out and become a respected member of that community. Forums are a goldmine because a) they usually have thousands of targeted people and b) it’s the perfect place to showcase your expertise and provide value. Then, when you have something worthy of sharing, you’ll have a small army of supporters to help you get the word out.

Email outreach like a boss. BuzzStream is great for this. Find 100+ people in your space who would be genuinely interested in your content and shoot them an email to give them a heads up. Don’t ask them to share it, just say “I thought you’d like it because…”


Q. My question has to do more with supplementing a “Content is King” SEO strategy with techniques such as blog post submissions, blog commenting, article submissions, forum postings, high PR blogroll and other direct link placements, and the occasional “web 2.0” linkwheel services which would include squidoo lenses, blogspots and such.

When I was doing SEO for a start-up I founded a few years ago, I had a ton of success with the above techniques — however I’ve heard whispers that these are no longer viable linkbuilding strategies. I’m wondering from your professional experience if building links in the same way as was common a few years ago has any impact on supplementing a great CiK strategy or if it is a waste of time. And if it is a waste of time, what the hell are the article-spinning, link-wheel submitting SEOs of days past doing now?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. Good question. I think the issue is that anything that is super easy to scale will end up being in Google’s crosshairs. If you can outsource the project to someone overseas who does not really know you business or your niche and they can just got at..building links etc.

If that is the case you a probably doing something that will eventually get popped by Google. That is why I really do not advocate doing things like link wheels and such.

Lastly, all the fake SEO experts just became fake Content Marketing experts 😉


Q. I was going to give you grief about coining the “the Skyscraper technique” as a redundant term but you justified it quite well at point 17 on your SEO techniques article.

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A. You’re right: that’s one of the reasons I HIGHLY recommend coining terms whenever you come up with something new (or a twist on something that already exists). It’s something that Ramit Sethi does really well (check out The Briefcase Technique video). The Briefcase Technique is really just getting your shit together before going to a meeting. But the phrase makes it memorable and establishes him as an authority. Branding FTW!


Guest Blogging


guest blogging SEO

Q.  Part of me thinks that Google and Matt Cutts release information or decrees just to affect the SEO community in an effort to “level the playing field” so that people who simply go around guest blogging aren’t reaping tons of undue ranking benefits.

Could any of this simply be a big scare tactic? Propaganda? Do they really have the ability to determine what is spammy guest blogging and what is legitimate? Kind of like when your 3rd grade teacher stands in front of the class and says “we know who did it and if they don’t come forward they’re going to be in even bigger trouble.”

Answered by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

A. There’s probably a little bit from column A) and a little from column B). I don’t think Google is going to be perfect at shutting down all the value from every guest post. But they might indeed start doing a lot more manual penalizations, and they might have some pretty good algorithms for shutting down much of the value guest post links pass (you’d be shocked how amazing machine learning is – toss a few hundred thousand examples of guest posts you don’t want to count in with Google’s database of factors and out pops an awful good-looking detection algo).

But, yeah, the messaging is helpful, too. It puts marketers on notive and helps bring awareness so that if you get hit in the next few months/year, at least Google can say they warned you.


Q. Let’s talk regular contributions to blogs, something you recommend quite a bit. Are you only pitching blogs that have already accepted other regular contributors to (or even one-off guest bloggers)? Or are you also pitching blogs that you don’t see any outsiders writing for? And how do you stand out from the crowd when pitching these blogs? Or are you just playing a numbers game with conversions (no shame in that)?

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. Regular contributions – I have so many approaches to this. Like finding easy targets, you can start with those who have already linked to you in the past or have tweeted your post(s), these blogs are easier to target and get accepted, because they already know the caliber of your content (so when pitching to them, you can just start off by thanking them for linking/sharing your content, then eventually ask if they’re looking for regular columnists, etc…).

Or you can also start with those who are really accepting contributors – just to build a content portfolio around the niche of your client (and to build authorship points as well, if you’re using personas).

Though as for this method, we have stricter metrics, such as at least DA 40+, high SE traffic price (SEMRush metric) – to ensure that their pages have the ability to rank better for long tail keywords, Alexa (optional).

The way we use this method has evolved over the past year. Before we didn’t really pay much attention to the amount of contributors the site was getting each month (ex: community sites like Yourtango.com, Biggerpockets.com, etc…). But now, I mostly filter the prospects out based on the engagement of the content (amount of shares, avg. links per post) – though it’s understandable that these metrics aren’t applicable to some verticals. So that’s why we heavily rely on Domain Authority and traffic price.

Standing out when pitching would really require a solid sample (preferably content published on the client’s site – to effectively demonstrate expertise).


Q. What are your thoughts on guest blogging now with the recent blog post from Matt Cutts?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A. Good question.

Guest blogging is like any other SEO strategy right now: you either have to go super black hat or pearly white hat. It’s grey hat stuff that gets you into trouble.

Here’s what I mean: If you’re going to do guest posting for SEO, you need to post on sites that either a) don’t say you’re the author or b) allow you to use a pen name. Publishing as “Clayton” and linking to “ClaytonsZenGardens.com” will get found out and devalued eventually. It’s going to be at least 2 years before they can truly get to the bottom of it algorithmically, but you always want to be ahead of the curve.

So that’s the black hat approach: guest posting anonymously (“Ghost Posting”) and dropping a contextual link back to your site. That kind of thing will pass a manual review. The only downside is that the types of sites that allow that sort of stuff aren’t that great. But you get a contextual link. So it’s a balance.

The other side of things is the “I’m just going to guest blog to get traffic to my site” approach. That’s kind of where I’m at with guest blogging right now. I think that contextual links in these type of quality guest posts will always help a little bit. But I’m not willing to risk it. So I only guest post on sites that will help generate traffic to my site.

The grey hats that think they’re doing the right thing are the ones that get blindsided by updates. And it’s the same with people that outsourced guest posting and have 100s of links in author bios right now. It’s only a matter of time before those links get devalued or (less likely) penalized.


General SEO


general seo advice

Q. If you were trying to build something like Expedia or RapGenius, how would you get the required SEO rankings without resorting to black hat techniques?

Answered by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

A. Re Expedia/Rapgenius – check out what folks like http://oyster.com or http://maptia.com have done/are doing. They’re building value, community, content, and press without worrying too much about Google & SEO. I think that’s the way I’d approach it, too. I’d try to build my brand without SEO and then get SEO as a side benefit of my brand growing. Tactics like social, content, community, branding, video, etc. would be my primary methods. Incidentally, I think that’s what Google wants, too.

I’m certainly not saying “don’t do SEO.” You can and should use your SEO knowledge to enhance the value you get from every aspect of this – the content you create, the community you build, the social sharing, etc. But the kind of active “link building focused” SEO that doesn’t actually add any value to the business, the brand, the site, or your visitors/customers isn’t interesting to me (and I think Google’s trying hard to kill it – I’d hate to be on the other side of that).

Re: link building, check out http://moz.com/blog/category/link-building – there’s literally hundreds of tactics that still work great!


Q. I’ve recently started working SEO on a fresh ecommerece website. I want to know your suggestion how to proceed further with SEO in a right way? I mean On Page and Off Page Optimization techniques.

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. For a fresh ecommerce website, here are the things that I would focus on implementing:

  • Make sure that search engines aren’t indexing pages that wouldn’t be useful to searchers (duplicates, poor content pages, internal site search results). Compare the amount of pages from the site’s XML sitemap to the pages that have already been indexed by Google. Identify the URL parameters that the site has (via WMT) and see if those parameters are being indexed. Then just block access to them via robots.txt or by using the noindex tag.
  • Build more internal links to the site’s key pages (product and category-level). If the site has a blog section, that’d be a perfect place to build more thematic internal links (to pass of authority/ranking ability to them).
  • Build incoming links to the site’s important categories, so once you build up the authority of the site’s categories, they can just flow the PageRank down to the product pages under them. And you’ll have better chances of ranking for both short and long-tail search queries.
  • Start implementing structured data (schemas). They’ll be very useful in the future.
  • Find 3 – 5 authority blogs in your client’s space, and try to become a regular contributor/columnist (like submitting content twice or thrice a month). Creating signals through this approach (instead of guest blogging to hundreds of blogs) is definitely more efficient/realistic and a better combination with the continuous on-site changes that you’ll be implementing on the site.
  • Use mention.net or fresh web explorer, and monitor where your competitors are getting mentions/links on a daily/weekly basis. That’ll be a good head start in understanding your competitors’ marketing activities (don’t just copy them, beat them on their own game if possible).
  • Invest on relationships and strategic content partnerships. Invite guest bloggers or regular columnists for your client’s blog, so you can also absorb their followers (your client’s target customers).


Q. What is the biggest SEO mistake you see people make when setting up an online store?

Answered by Joe Hall of Internet Marketing Ninjas

A. The biggest mistake I see way to often is not controlling faceted navigation. Maile Ohye (@maileohye) from Google actually wrote a really great piece about this not long ago. She does a much better job explaining it in her post than I could in this tiny comment box.


Q. If you could only list 1 thing, what would you say has been the biggest change in how you approach SEO in the past decade?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. The technical audits that I do these days have been getting a lot longer, and include things like a review of site speed and other technical elements, but in many ways there’s a lot of similarity between what I do now and what I’ve done in the past.

I believe in a holistic approach to SEO that considers the usability of a site, improving conversions based upon site objectives, getting a good sense of who the audience members of a site might be and designing a thoughtful information architecture for a site. I’ve been proactive in terms of avoiding site structure problems, and approach link building with a preference towards creating things to attract links rather than trying to build them.

Biggest change though is probably how much a lot of what I do involves coaching clients in terms of being authentic on the Web, and representing themselves well. Not so much an SEO strategy as much as it is a broader marketing strategy.


Q. What are your thoughts on SEO, UX and to some extent PR converging into one large discipline? Do you think businesses in the future will take all 3 into consideration?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A. Absolutely. I’d just throw content production/promotion in there too. My feeling is that the future of SEO is going to be to get the most search engine value out of the stuff your company is already doing. The idea that you can just “do SEO” right now is just insane. But that doesn’t stop people from selling SEO like it’s still 2010.

I first started taking on clients in 2010. I was a total spamaholic. I didn’t care what they sold or what type of content they had on their site. It didn’t matter. I’d just send out some nonsense press release or buy some links from a forum and watch them climb the first page.

Today, the game has changed in a BIG way. It’s actually one of the reason I don’t take on SEO client anymore: I don’t even know how I’d “do SEO” for them without having a hand in everything else they do (content, UX, PR, customer service, outreach, relationship-building).


Q. What is the best way to find patterns programmatically?

Answered by Joe Hall of Internet Marketing Ninjas


1) Pull your data – this can be backlinks, or even crawl results from screamingfrog. Save data into a spread sheet or database.

2) Make a list of your “footprints” that you need to identify. Anchor text, URL structures, ectra.

3) Sort the data/parse the data based on the footprints.

4) Look for anomalies. So if you see a large chunk of links pointing to a product page, then cross reference those links with an anchor text sort, and volia you have found your first manipulative link pattern.

This is all pretty basic, and can get WAY more complex, but the simple steps above are what I use.


Q. What’s the most common problem you see on websites when conducting a site audit?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. If you had asked me this question last year, I might say setting up canonical link elements for series of pagination pages so that they used the first page in the series as the canonical link element for all pages in that series. It felt like this was something I was seeing at least once a week for 3-4 months (but I was looking at a lot of sites).

I’ve been looking at less ecommerce sites this year, and many more sites that use WordPress as a CMS, and that happens much less frequently on those.

Issues around site speed, including image files that are much too large, a lack of textual compression, and a need for longer caching in visitor’s browsers are still pretty common though there are some plug-ins that can help for WordPress sites.


Q. What are the biggest misconceptions you have head from other authorities/experts regarding Google Hummingbird? I understand much is speculation in regards to which patents are applicable. I’ve heard a lot of discrepancies between people, and I have my own opinions, but it’s difficult to disseminate beyond a basic level. Much misinformation.

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. There was some interesting speculation going on about Hummingbird on the Thursday that it was announced. I was absolutely convinced that it involved a series of patents that I had been writing about, and had almost done a Google On-Air Hangout on one of them with Max Minzer. Except that I thought the topic, query re-writing based upon synonyms or substitute terms identified through co-occurrence of words in search results for those terms, might be a little too much for most listeners. Who knew how fun that would have been, to be doing a Google On-Air hangout about Hummingbird while Google was announcing Hummingbird. 🙂

Instead we did a hangout on “marketing your SEO services,” which I had suggested as an alternative to the query re-writing topic, which I had guessed might not have interested a lot of viewers. It wasn’t until after the hangout ended that someone tweeted me a question on what I thought about Hummingbird, and how it was related to schema.org. What the heck was a Hummingbird?

I Googled it, and found the announcement from Amit Singhal, and Danny Sullivan’s posts on it, which I’m guessing were likely from press releases sent to him early under embargo. One of those was a “Frequently Asked Questions” about Hummingbird, even though no one really had any time yet to ask any questions. 🙂

Danny’s FAQ included this example:

”What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.

The patent I was looking at included an example query of “What is the best place to find and eat Chicago deep dish style pizza?”

It explained that it might find “restaurant” to be a synonym for “place” in that query based upon synonym/substitution rules and upon the context of the rest of the query, such as the inclusion of the words “eat” and “pizza.” Restaurant was a good substitute based upon a confidence level associated with eating and with pizza.

People wrote blog posts about how Hummingbird was tied to the knowledge base, since the (long) announcement included a lot of information about the knowledge base. People wrote that people should fill their pages with answers to questions, since Hummingbird was about answering questions. A few more people asked me how large a role “schema.org” was involved in Hummingbird, because that’s what they associate with semantic search. But, the patent I wrote about did use a semantic approach without using schema.

So Amit Singhal announces Hummingbird starting around minute 32 in this video:


And he tells us that it works best in answering complex and conversational long queries.

The patent was one of a number that described a different approach to treating probabilities between queries and search results and clicks upon search results, and measuring the quality of results based upon things like long clicks upon some search results. I had started writing posts about those in August, and covered at least 4 that showed a subtle but very real difference in how Google was treating search. Were they something that Google had implemented? The Google 15th anniversary announcement of Hummingbird seemed to say that they were.

Google has a wide range of patents involving synonyms and their use by Google, but the example in the FAQ, and Amit’s announcement seemed to say that this new approach to probabilities based upon different search entities was at the heart of Hummingbird.


Q. What change of behavior in clients you observed or found changed from past to present?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. I remember asking a client in 2005 if it would be possible to get log files for their site, so that I could look at see what kind of site searches were happening on their site, and what kinds of referrals they were getting to their site. They were stumped, but worked with their IT guys to get some to me.

Now it’s much more common for people to have Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools set up on their sites, and to often initiate access to those for you by asking what account you wanted added to them. There’s definitely more knowledge and a higher level of sophistication in clients when they come to their web properties and to understanding a need for a view of analytics.

I do think a lot of clients are more educated about the Web and about things like SEO than were in the past, but that might be the people I work with these days.

I’m seeing more willingness on the part of clients to adopt and use a CMS such as WordPress rather than to insist on a proprietary software for their web sites. They recognize the ease of maintenance and being able to update and add plug-ins, and seem to like that a lot.

There’s still a hesitation on the part of some to put themselves out as a personality shared with potential clients and customers and vendors, but there’s a growing recognition of the value of being involved with others in social networks and conversations about their businesses and their communities. I think this is a healthy growth.


Q. How do you explain what you do to people who are non-technical (like older relatives)?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. It really doesn’t matter – no matter what you say, you either (a) work for Google, or (b) design websites. Either way, they’re surprised you can feed your kids. I tend to say something like “I build systems to study Google and see how it changes” and then their pacemakers shut down out of boredom. Edit: My parents don’t have pacemakers, and my dad was a nuclear engineer in the US Navy, so none of this is actually true.


Learning SEO Advice


learning seo

Q. I am still in my first year of SEO & Content Marketing and think I have the general basics down. I want to take my knowledge to the next level but am having a hard time figuring out how to do that since I have been self-educating. My question is-What resources/tools/whatever did you use to learn about this industry and how do you still stay on top of it now?

Answered by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

A. Back when I was learning, we didn’t have nearly the resources available that we do today. A few things I really like for diving into SEO/inbound/content marketing:

  • A) Distilled U
  • B) Market Motive
  • C) Conferences, in particular I like Searchlove
  • D) Moz stuff – http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo and http://moz.com/learn/seo

How I stay on top of it now – I read (and skim) a lot! Social media helps – I can scroll through my Twitter and G+ feeds and by following a good set of folks, make sure I know what’s going on. It also helps that I have to teach and give a lot of forward-looking presentations. That forces me to know a lot about the field even if it doesn’t pertain specifically to Moz.


Q. Any advice for aspiring SEO / online marketers? You built your name from scratch. Your advice would be really helpful.

Answered by Jason Acidre AKA Kaiser the Sage

A. I believe that there’s no single path in this industry, and what have worked for me, may not necessarily mean it could work for others. But the things that I would really want to share to the ones who’re still new and trying to build their name in the SEO industry:

  • Never stop learning and testing! It’s an ever-evolving field, so it’s really important to keep yourself updated. And it’s also vital to learn more about the other aspects of online marketing, not just SEO.
  • Don’t just follow other people’s advice, test on your own! Experience is always the best teacher.
  • Write! Writing/blogging about the things that you’re continuously learning is the best way to remember them.
  • Always challenge yourself.


Q. What advice do you have for kids today interested in going into SEO or digital marketing? What should they learn, do and study?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. Even though the industry is evolving, there’s still plenty of room for self-starters. Obviously, I value education, but I think SEO is still a word where you have to get your hands in and just do something. Build a site and get it indexed and ranking. Learn the hard way. Write a crawler. Learn XPath if you like (you won’t regret it). Just do something, even if it seems ill-advised. The best code is ill-advised.


Q. What would you recommend for someone new to SEO to really get into it and learn about what makes for good SEO and how to go about doing it?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. Build a site, and learn the hard way. Obviously, I love Moz and the Beginner’s Guide and Q&A, etc., but it’s like learning to code. If you just start typing code out of a book (like I did) or you take a few CodeAcademy courses with no project or skin in the game, you’ll get bored. Create something that matters to you, and you’ll care if you rank and if you succeed or fail. That makes all the difference to learning, IMO.


Q. If you could give advice to someone starting SEO in 2014, what would it be?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

Build a site and get it to rank. It’s not just about learning by doing, but you’ve got to have some skin in the game. Ranking your own site is a labor of love, and you’ll learn. Ranking a client’s site can feel like a chore in the beginning.


Q. What advice(s) you will you give to young entrepreneurs who are starting with zero or shoestring marketing budget. After building it, where they should focus to do online marketing and to get first 20+ paying customers?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. The first 20 have to be hunted, like wildebeests. Find them where they graze – in person, online, in forums, who cares. If you can, make sure those 20 are zealots – the early adopters who will spread your message far and wide. Learn their ways, and live among them. Sorry, I’ve had a lot of caffeine.

For me, it meant forums and blogs, not for do-follow links, but for getting to know people who were also just starting out. We “grew up” together, and those friends became the influencers. Don’t chase the “A-list” (whatever that is) and don’t underestimate anyone.

Finally, be relevant. We all want to appeal to everyone, but that ends in a muddy message that resonates with no one. Pick a niche of your audience and appeal to them hard-core. Go out with a well-defined narrow offering, get people to love it, and then expand. It’s against all of our natures to define ourselves, but if you can target a narrow audience with a laser-focused message, you’ll get attention and you’ll connect. You can always expand.


Q. What do you perceive as being the greatest skill gap currently in our industry? What would you recommend people become a wizard with to increase their perceived value in the industry?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. I think technical SEO skills are starting to wane, and for big sites, they’re essential. You need to know how a site gets crawled and indexed and what can stand in the way. When I see a question like “I think I got hit by Penguin/Panda/MayDay/Frogger” and then the whole site is blocked in robots.txt (yes, even in 2014), I die a little inside.

I also think we’ve got to be mindful of CRO. Ultimately, the goal is to sell something, in most cases, and marketing should be part of that funnel. If we’re getting traffic that doesn’t deliver, than what’s the point?


SEO Predictions


seo search predictions

Q. Search in 2016, what does it look like in your mind?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. I don’t see any diminished need for search or SEO, but there’s clearly an evolution going on that will be focused more upon mobile devices, and upon social and real time results.

The writing is also on the wall that Google will be searching for additional revenue models focused on hardware. I can also see Apple getting more into search, especially as providing maps and local search results leads them along that path.


Q. What do you see as the future of data gathering from Google itself, since getting it from Google directly is unreliable and scraping it through a third party is getting more difficult?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. I’m a bit careful with the S-word, for obvious reasons, but yeah, let’s not kid ourselves – either you’re calling Google pages or you’re paying for data from someone that does, because that’s the only way to do it.

It’s difficult – I think Google is public, essentially, and I think they need accountability, so I do what I do, but I don’t do it blindly or without considering the ethics or impact. MozCast is a relatively small experiment, and most of it is my fault, but in the broader world of SEO tools, it gets a lot trickier. If Google were more transparent about data and it wasn’t such a black box, I’d be ok with that. Unfortunately, I don’t really see that happening as they pass the $60B mark and have more and more pressure to keep ad revenues up.

I think, over time, we’re going to have to get past ranking data – Google will evolve beyond “pure” organic, and we need to be mindful of the impact of traffic, not just the raw numbers. Plus, frankly, we need to diversify beyond Google, for our own survival. Moz preaches content, and yet we haven’t supported content in our tools as well as we should – we’re working hard to address that. For now, ranking is part of the puzzle – a problem Google created for themselves, I’d say – and people need that data, but we also need to think to the future and life beyond ranking.


Q. With more device-based search (Glass, Google Now, etc.) and more focus on Google being the content publisher, what do you think us SEOs are going to be recommending in the future?

Answered by Dr. Pete, Marketing Scientist at Moz

A. I think already see a trend of Google designing search around mobile and Glass first and desktop second. Google is going to become more card-like and less structured – they’ll provide the combination of answers that fit the environment you’re searching in, and that’s going to mean we have to raise our games.

I think we have to think beyond ranking, honestly. Organic, as it stands now, is going to evolve radically in the next five years, IMO. We have to treat ranking as a consequence. If you focus on ranking first, but don’t build anything behind it, and the rules change, then you lose. If you build things that drive ranking, drive social, etc., then even if the rules change, you still have that core value proposition. Ultimately, you have to make things people want.


Q. What kind of impact do you think “Okay Google” voice search is going to have on SEO, if any?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. It could be quite substantial.

A Pew Internet Life report told us that recently told us that 78% of all teens had a cell phone, and the growth in adults who connect to the internet by phone has been reported in many places as growing substantially as well.

The “OK Google” voice search can be used on Desktop computers as well as mobile computers. One of the main reasons that Google provided to explain their Hummingbird update was that it would help aid in conversational queries where someone ask for information in question format rather than as a short string or list of words like they might type into a search engine.

They may also ask a series of questions where they expect information from one query to be carried over to the next, such as “how old is Barack Obama,” and then “how old is his wife?”

Google being able to adequately address longer and more complex queries, and being able to carry over information from one query to the next, goes beyond the simple keyword matching approaches and behaviors we’ve seen from Google in the past.

I did write about the patent “Synonym identification based on co-occurring terms” and how it describes a process that can be helpful in better understanding synonyms that might be substituted in some queries based on the context of other terms within the same query.

Google has been writing about how they might find and use synonyms for some terms in a query for over a decade using a number of different approaches, but this was the first one I can recall that then looked at the context of the whole query to see if there was a high enough level of confidence in that substitution to use it for the query.

The patent shows an approach to natural language processing that’s a little more advanced than what we’ve seen in most of those other patents involving synonyms. It’s not yet the Star Trek computer of Google Head of Search Quality Amit Singhal’s dreams.


Q. In 10yrs; Will link building remain relevant? What’s the next big internet thing you see happening (e.g Google, Facebook)?

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. It really depends on how you define link building really. I am not so concerned with what search engines will value in the future. The reason for this is that I know that no matter what they will always value really cool content. So if you can create great content that is highly visual (this is the key) and promote it you will be fine.

How a search engine evolves will not really matter for you…maybe in the future you will be going for social shares more than links but in the end it won’t matter. Popular content will always give off the right signals. So my advice is to create great content (of course lol) but to get REALLY good at content promotion. Once you do that you are set for the future.


Q. With all this, will SEO even exist in 5 years (except technical)?

Answered by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

A. I cannot see any future in which SEO dies in the next 5 years. The job of crafting a brand people want to share, earning amplification, building community, choosing keyword terms/phrases/concepts, optimizing content and landing pages and the funnel – these will be core to SEO and to marketing overall for a long time to come.


Search Spam & Black Hat SEO


spam black hat seo

Q. Sometimes I will see in OSE that my competitors are getting dofollow links from banner ads. These ads are usually not run by ad networks, but are basically linked jpgs set up on blogs or small business websites. Often these pages have excellent page authority and the link will rank among my competitors’ best in OSE. Is Google smart enough to know that a 120×600 linked image is probably an advertisement? Or are these links truly passing a lot of authority? Google’s webmaster guidelines aside, would/should buying more advertisements to get these links be a legitimate strategy?

Answered by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz

A. Yeah, there’s a lot of this still out there. My sense is that Google is clearly discounting some of this, but not all of it. However, if you’re paying for those banners and hoping for SEO benefit, it’s probably not going to work long term (so make sure to buy based on the value of the visibility, not the link).

Those blogs also do get in trouble sometimes with Google (and lose their rankings) if they don’t put nofollow on those links. The West Seattle Blog had that happen, and they clearly had no idea what nofollow even was (sad situation).


Q. What sort of black hat techniques, if any, do you use? Do you utilize private blog networks? Thanks again.

Answered by AJ Ghergich: SEO, Link Building, & Content Marketing Expert

A. Honestly none. A single infographic will typically net me 30 to 100 unique root domains linking in for example so I just do not need to do anything else.

The logic is…why cheat when you can just win straight up and not have to worry at night that it could all crumble.


PageRank & Algorithm Changes


page rank and algorithm changes

Q. Have you seen any changes to Google’s Algorithms that received little notice or no official announcement?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. We’ve been told repeatedly that Google has been changing and updating its ranking algorithms an average of at least 500 times a year for the past few year, so this definitely happens close to twice a day, where Google makes changes to their algorithm with little notice and no official announcement….At some point, Google’s PageRank went through a transformation (probably more than once) that wasn’t accompanied by an announcement, so that the amount of weight that they might pass along (PageRank, Hypertext Relevance, etc.) might be different based upon features associated with them. I wrote about one patent describing such changes and called it “The Reasonable Surfer Patent,”. While we did get some statements from Matt Cutts that there are some links that probably don’t pass along as much weight as others on pages, we never received official announcements or notice about the change, and I’m not sure that we should have….

Patents are not official notices or announcements of changes to Google’s algorithms, and yet if I wasn’t paying attention to them, I wouldn’t be aware of many of the things that they’ve been trying to do.


Q. With all you know about their patents and where they are headed: Are links dead? Is their value to ranking dropping? Is social the next big signal? Where does keyword research fit into the knowledge graph and intent based search?

Answered by Bill Slawski, Expert on Google Patents

A. The more you look at patents, the quicker you realize that there are multiple paths the search engines are following, and more than one algorithm they might be experimenting with at any one time.

We were told by Matt Cutts recently that Google had experimented with a version of their index that didn’t include links, and that it didn’t provide results that were very good. I’d say that inspite of some of the problems, we won’t see things like PageRank or hypertext relevance disappear very soon.

I first wrote about Agent Rank in 2007 over at Search Engine Land, and I’ve been waiting ever since for some kind of reputation scoring to influence search results. At this point, it does look like we will see that happen, but will likely have to wait for Google to figure out how to better attribute sites to specific authors or creators.

Regarding keyword research, I still think it’s very important to have an idea of the language that people who are potentially your clients and the audience you talk about use when they search for and try to find the services and goods and information that you provide on your website. Google has filed for patents that focus upon topic-based search and better understanding the categories that websites and queries might fit into which can play a role in intent based search, but I wouldn’t recommend too many changes to keyword research.

With the knowledge graph, it can help having an understanding of the different ways that Google might treat named entities, and extract information from the Web about them, and their related attributes, and that probably should augment any keyword research that you do.


Q. In light of comments by the likes of AJ Kohn (about the death of authorship, at least in its current form) and the seemingly slow uptake, in what form do you see it moving forward, if at all?

Answered by Brian Dean, Founder of the SEO Blog Backlinko

A. I see Authorship as another way for Google to hedge their bets against ranking absolute crap.

Because the algorithm is so heavily link-based, they’ve slowly incorporated non-link ranking signals into it. It’s easy to game links alone. But gaming links AND social signals, UX signals, brand signals and authorship is more trouble than it’s worth.

It’s unlikely that someone trying to rank for “best poker bonus” is going to have Authorship set up. And if he does, he’s not likely to contribute to other sites in that space. So that site may get beat out someday by another site with a similar link profile AND Authorship signals.

That being said, I’d be shocked if authorship contributed more than 5% to the algorithm in the next decade. Google’s crushing it and doesn’t need to overhaul the algorithm (and if they made it heavily Authorship-based, people would just game that).


Source – Word Stream