Using Google+ to promote your content

I’m still not a fan of Google+. Aside from a lack of ‘real people’ on there – by which I mean people who aren’t SEOs, marketers, scammers etc – it feels disjointed, purposeless and almost completely free of real organic interest.

Nonetheless, it still gets brought up as an area of interest in the trade press and Matt Cutts keeps mentioning it in his podcasts so it seems that it is another thing to add to the roster of things website owners will have to pay attention to in some form or other.

Anyway, it’s a small thing, but I noticed a little update to it today. Until recently, if you had a brand page and you searched for the brand, you’d get a big fat logo parked on the right hand side of the SERPs. As a demo to people it had a certain cachet for the sort of people who like to see their logo.

BUT, if you didn’t update your G+ page for a week or two (and I never pinned down the exact length of time) this would be removed. Google wants you to respond like one of Pavlov’s dogs when you don’t see your logo in the SERPs, so this is another way they’re trying to force your hand to “use” your G+ page. If your boss searches for your brand and the G+ stuff doesn’t appear, you’ll cop some flack – so make sure you’re “doing Google Plus” for brownie points.

When you did so, the results were hardly striking. If you posted a ‘status update’ or a link into your G+ page, that appeared as a badly formatted plain text bit in your G+ box. As of today, that’s changed slightly: if you post a link on G+ it now actually appears as a link:

gplus1

Still got the ugly full URL on display, but it’s a step forward to have a link. It responds quite quickly to new additions too:

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As you can see, it correctly notes that the page was updated “1 minute ago”, which is a pretty rapid turnaround.

This is actually a decent way to use G+ (at last!) If you have something time sensitive you want to promote, you normally have to rely on PPC or try and frig your site architecture to get it to appear within your extended organic SERP listing as a sitelink.

Using your G+ page, you can now put something on your site and give it priority listing in the search results (albeit only for your brand). For sales, company news and – as mentioned – any other time-sensitive issue, this is a relatively neat way to put it in front of people who are searching for your brand. I guess Google are still treading carefully around this to avoid it becoming a spammer’s paradise and it’s still pretty basic but it’s the most promising branding aspect I’ve yet seen from G+.

Still, another baby step towards G+ becoming a proper part of the SEO/marketing ecosphere.

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Can you escape the past?

Interesting post by my ex colleagues at Bronco on Dave Naylor’s blog today – worth a read.

It’s the story of a domain that Bronco came in to help escape from an apparent Google penalty that they’d gained on the basis of past SEO activity – specifically linkbuilding. I won’t rehash the whole post, but I’ll add this: Google are moving into dangerous waters.

Effectively, they could be punishing sites for things that happened in the distance past (in internet/SEO terms). Picture this:

  1. 2007: Company launches
  2. 2007: company hires SEO company
  3. 2007: mass link building begins – site starts to rank.
  4. 2009: SEO company is fired as part of general cost cutting
  5. 2009: company hires an in-house SEO to carry on work at a lower rate
  6. 2009-2010: the company continues to buy a few links here and there but focus on onsite issues
  7. 2010: the company is taken over by someone entirely new. All SEO activity is suspended because the new MD doesn’t even know what SEO stands for
  8. 2012: the site is penalised by Google for linkbuilding and loses all organic traffic

Doesn’t that seem a trifle uneven? And how – if the Bronco example is typical – can you possibly go about rectifying the problem? I could point my browser right this second at 3 or 4 sites in the car market that would fit a fairly similar profile. Maybe they’re just sat in the dark waiting for a hammer to fall.

If Google are really looking years back into the past for infractions, then it’s very hard to see who’s safe: after all, the game even in just 2010 was very different to the game today.

I speak from a position of sympathy. When I took up my current role, the site had been boosted into reasonable positions on the back of a quick, relatively massive linkbuilding campaign. Uneasy about this, I stopped the campaign within a couple of months and went so far as to submit a reinclusion request (which was actually more of a link building mea culpa) in an attempt to pre-empt what I thought would be problems down the line. In effect, I submitted a link disavowal before there was such a thing.

Nonetheless, the progress that had been gained was largely wiped out by Panda and Penguin and it is only thanks to some diligent, detailed work that the site is getting anywhere near where it once was (and that still has some way yet to go).

While we never experienced a massive collapse in traffic, that was mainly due to the fact that the site had never reached the upper echelons of the rankings anyway. Had the business model been dependent on organic traffic, I suspect that we would have had extreme problems.

Today, looking around our vertical, I see several sites who are huge presences in the SERPs who really only rank because of historical old-skook linkbuilding efforts. ¬†To some degree they are quasi ‘brands’ who have become so on the back of legacy SEO tactics. The question is now: when Google bring the guillotine down, who is safe?