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John Mueller Answers What to Do About Link Building

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John Mueller Answers What to Do About Link Building

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about link building practices in an Office Hours hangout. Mueller outlined Google’s passive and proactive actions against certain links and offered suggestions for a better way to acquire links.

Is it Necessary to Spend Thousands of Dollars for Links?

The person asking the question noted that he watched many link building YouTube videos and read case studies that demonstrated that link building is necessary for best rankings.

The question asked:

“…The question is on link building practices. So we …approached many… companies… they say they will charge thousands of dollars or ten thousands of dollars to get the link… from the home page or the news sites and…

They also talk a lot… about …we should get a high authority …link and stuff like that.”

Next he explained how companies he approached showed him examples of sites that were high ranking because of their link building.

The person continued:

“…they also showcase that okay, see this is a site which is ranking high on …Google and …they have taken our service and they have paid us.

So if you pay us then your site will also rank because we are going to put …your site backlink with the good article on the home page…”

Are “Such Practices” Necessary to Rank in Google?

Next he questioned the wisdom of spending money on what he perceived as low quality link building, what he called, “such practices,” implying manipulative practices.

He seemed troubled that according to the link building claims, Google’s search rankings reward manipulative practices that cost thousands of dollars.

He continued the question:

“I don’t think that it is wise to put money in such practices or not. Like what are your opinion, like what are your final wordings?

And one more thing. …There are a lot of people over at YouTube and they’re writing a lot of blogs also like these are the best link building practices, you do this… and you do like that and they are charging a lot of money but we don’t want to engage in such stuff like that.”

The person asking the question ended by asking:

“We just want to know… what we should do now?

Screenshot of John Mueller in the Office Hours Hangout

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller answering question about links
Google’s John Mueller paused to answer the question about what to do about link building

How Google Treats Manipulative Link Building

John Mueller related how Google treats artificial links:

What should you do now

I think that’s a super complicated question because there’s no one answer for everyone.

So I think first of all, like you probably recognized, artificially building links, dropping links on other sites, buying links, all of that is against the webmaster guidelines.

And we take action on that algorithmically, we take action on that manually.

And the actions that we take include demoting the site that is buying the links, demoting the site that is selling the links.

Sometimes we also take more subtle action in that we just ignore all of those links.”

Screenshot of John Mueller Explaining How Google Handles Paid Links

Screenshot of John Mueller explaining how Google handle's links

Google: Paid Links Have No Effect

Google’s John Mueller says paid links have no effect:

“For example if we recognize that a site is regularly selling links but they also have other things around that, then we often go in and say okay, we will ignore all links on this website.

That basically means …a lot of these sites are things where people still sell links because it’s like they can sell it and they find a seller then of course they’ll try to do that.

But those links have absolutely no effect.

So that seems like a big waste of time from my point of view.”

Mueller Describes Non-Black Hat Links

Mueller ends his answer by suggesting Google-friendly link building tactics.

His first suggestion is the classic create content and tell others about it approach. It’s an oldie but a goodie but it can work.

Mueller suggests to build it and tell others about it:

“That said, I do think that there are ways that you can approach the topic of links in a way that is less black hat where you’re buying links from other sites.

But where you’re actually kind of actively creating content that you know will attract links and then going out and reaching out to other sites and saying hey, we have this interesting content, don’t you want to take a look at it.

And …kind of encouraging them to link to your site but without this kind of exchange of value, exchange of money, all of that.

And that’s something where some people are very experienced in doing that and they can really kind of guide you to find those topic areas that are interesting for other people.”

Building Links to Product Pages is Hard

Creating content and telling others about it isn’t always an appropriate strategy for an ecommerce website.  An ecommerce website offers products, not articles.

Attracting links to product pages is one of the toughest kinds of links to acquire because people generally don’t feel enthusiastic about certain products and when they do feel enthusiastic the typical ecommerce store is one store of out thousands selling the same product.

The problem with attracting links to product pages is that it’s extremely difficult to make the case that one store out of thousands is more deserving of a link than the other stores selling identical products.

The tactic of building content to help rank a product page rarely works because the links acquired for that content boosts the content and not the products.

One can internally link from the content pages to the product pages and that might help.

But I’ve rarely seen that happen, even for content pages that went viral.

There is simply no replacement for a direct link to a products page.

Here’s what John Mueller said about acquiring links:

“Where if you’re selling refrigerators then obviously a category page of refrigerators is not going to be very interesting for other people.

But if you can create a survey around refrigerators that is somehow fascinating to others that’s something that’s a lot more interesting for people where they say, oh… here’s this really cool survey about refrigerators.

Did you know that they were like this or they were invented like this or whatever.

That’s the kind of thing where you’re creating something that other people find interesting that other people want to link to.

From my point of view that’s the kind of link building that I have less of an issue with because you’re creating something that other people are linking to it because of what you’ve created.

But it’s not that other people are linking to your content because you’re giving them money to do that or because you have kind of these back door relationships with the other site.

So that’s kind of the direction I would take there.”

Mueller Warns Against Link Building Shortcuts

Next Mueller turns away from offering constructive suggestions for building links and returns to discouraging short term solutions because they can get you banned, don’t go for short term rewards at the expense of long term success. That’s pretty much what he advised (you can watch the video below if you’re interested).

Links More Important than Popularity?

Some sites have built-in advantages that help them acquire links.

For example, a wildly popular store cannot rank for their key terms, forcing them to pay to rank for those terms. Their popularity is driven through social media.

A keyword phrase that the popular store should rank has a search result that has in fourth place a regional brick and mortar with stores in a handful of rural states.

Site A is the wildly popular store and Site B is the regional store.

Google Trends Showing Search Popularity of Two Online Stores

Google Trends of Popular Clothing Store Versus Less Popular Store

Site A is wildly popular online with tens of millions of followers on social media.

Site B has social media followers in the low six figures.

The Google Trends graph makes it clear that there is enormous search traffic for Site A’s brand name but Google ranks a relatively unpopular website as #4 for a highly coveted two word keyword phrase.

The relatively unpopular Site B is a regional site that acquires many links from regional news media sites. They also have live links (with coupon codes) from “influencers” which seems to indicate an active promotional campaign.

How Popular is Site A?

Here is a Google Trends graph showing how Site A is nearly as popular as McDonald’s:

Google Trends Graph Comparison with McDonald’s

Screenshot of Google Search Trends for McDonalds

As you can see, site A is nearly as popular as McDonald’s but it can’t outrank a regional store that happens to have decent links…

Circling back to the person who asked John Mueller the question, one can understand the frustration that is inherent in the question that was asked:

“We just want to know… what we should do now?

Citation

Watch John Mueller answer discuss link building at 1 minute mark:

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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