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Google’s John Mueller On Link Velocity and Penalties

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Google’s John Mueller answered a question about getting links too fast and if that would trigger a penalty. The rate at which links are acquired is known in the SEO community as link velocity. John Mueller’s answer provided insight into the topic of getting links too fast and whether that results in penalties.

Background of Link Velocity

Some of the people who promote the idea of link velocity don’t cite patents or research papers to support their ideas. That automatically makes their claims speculative and not factual.

It’s important to point out that the idea of link velocity was created by the SEO community.

The idea is based on the discovery of a patent. The patent, among many things, mentions measuring the growth of links in the context of time. The patent is named, Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data.

This patent is about a lot of things. For example, it discusses understanding whether an older web page is outdated and if a newer page is more relevant.

Link velocity is the idea that a high rate of link growth is a bad thing. The patent describes how a new site with a high rate of link growth can be judged to be more relevant than an older site.

The patent contains information that contradicts the idea of link velocity.

This is what it says:

“Consider the example of a document with an inception date of yesterday that is referenced by 10 back links.

This document may be scored higher by search engine 125 than a document with an inception date of 10 years ago that is referenced by 100 back links because the rate of link growth for the former is relatively higher than the latter.”

See how that contradicts the idea of link velocity?

That passage highlights the propensity of some SEOs to pick which part of a patent they will believe because it fits their experience and which part they choose to ignore because it does not fit their narrative of how search engines work.

The patent has more to say about links:

“While a spiky rate of growth in the number of back links may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.”

There it is. That’s where the idea of link velocity originated. Except it isn’t actually proof that link velocity exists.

The patent doesn’t explicitly say that the rate of growth is the reason why the search engine might lower the rate of growth.

It says that a “spiky rate of growth” in backlinks could cause the search engine to lower the score.

That’s not just semantics. The patent uses the word “spiky” one more time in the context of web graphs. Web graphs mean a map of the Internet as connected by links.

This is what the patent says:

“Naturally developed web graphs typically involve independent decisions.

Synthetically generated web graphs, which are usually indicative of an intent to spam, are based on coordinated decisions, causing the profile of growth in anchor words/bigrams/phrases to likely be relatively spiky.”

What that patent is really talking about is the smooth natural rate of growth versus a spiky and unnatural rate of growth.

A spiky rate of growth can manifest over the course of months. That’s a big difference from the link velocity idea that proposes that a large amount of links acquired in a short period will result in a penalty.

A site that attains sudden popularity and a lot of links fast could be indicative of increased topicality. In that case Google would actually promote that page higher. That’s part of the Query Deserves Freshness update.

A Google update from 2011, Query Deserves Freshness, promotes new content that is topical which can be signaled by an increase in recent links.

So to wrap up:

  1. The patent does not mention link velocity. The word velocity isn’t mentioned.
  2. The patent describes a “spiky” rate of growth as a spam signal.
  3. It discusses rewarding sites that obtain links quickly.
  4. The patent is from 2003.

Yes, that’s an old patent. So, apart from the fact that the patent discusses rewarding quickly obtained links and talks about spiky rates of growth and not link velocity, it’s an old patent.

That makes it less likely to still be a significant part of today’s algorithms. Even PageRank was replaced in 2006.

So all of that is the background on link velocity.

This is What Mueller Says About Link Velocity

Will Link Velocity Cause a Penalty?

This is the question:

“If I build 200 backlinks in two days and didn’t perform any link building for years will Google still see this as black hat and penalize me?

What about link velocity?”

John Mueller answered:

“From my point of view if you’re jumping in with a question like this and you’re saying I’m going to get 200 backlinks in two days… then that sounds a lot like you’re not getting natural backlinks.

That sounds a lot like you’re going off and just buying them or having someone buy them for you. And that itself would be kind of the thing that we would not be happy with.”

Whether a Link is Natural is What Counts

Mueller is setting aside the link velocity question and focusing on how natural the links are.

He specifically says that the quality of the links being purchased is what will cause Google to take action, not the speed of the link acquisition.

Google’s John Mueller Addresses Link Velocity

Mueller then circles back and addresses the so-called “link velocity.”

This is what John Mueller says about link velocity:

“So it’s not so much a matter of how many links you get in which time period. It’s really just… if these are links that are unnatural or from our point of view problematic then they would be problematic.

It’s like it doesn’t really matter how many or in which time.

That is a clear statement that the quality of the links, whether they are natural or unnatural is what counts.

Mueller states that the rate of link acquisition and the time period those links are acquired in are not a factor.

Some in the industry will continue to hold on to the idea of link velocity. Many will say that their experience proves it exists.

But what one sees is one thing. What caused what is seen is something else. Two different things.

I have provided the background showing where the idea of link velocity came from and why it’s never been an accurate SEO theory. John Mueller’s response seems to confirm that the concept of link velocity is not a factor. More importantly, Mueller confirms that it’s factors specific to the link themselves that matter.

MARKETING

How to choose a content marketing automation platform

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How to choose a content marketing automation platform



A 1917 poster says in bold capital letters: “I WANT YOU FOR THE U.S. ARMY,” along with the famous image of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer.

In 1917, most advertising was blunt and direct, but in the following 100+ years, consumers have become desensitized to typical marketing strategies. As a result, companies have turned to new forms of marketing to reach their audience.

One of these forms of marketing is content marketing: an indirect type of advertising that delivers blog posts, podcasts, and other forms of content to indirectly market a brand to consumers. Today, businesses can automate many aspects of content marketing, and choosing the right platform for content marketing automation unlocks new efficiencies and return on investment for companies.

Key takeaways:

  • Content marketing is a powerful way to reach customers by providing value through content.
  • Automation makes content marketing efficient and convenient.
  • Optimizely can help you take your content management to the next level.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a new strategy for reaching potential customers by delivering content they want to consume. Content marketing improves the brand’s image by providing useful or entertaining content which builds goodwill and brand recognition among potential customers.

Content marketing takes many forms: podcasts, digital video, webinars, articles, infographics and more. Creating and delivering quality content is difficult because it must deliver on multiple levels: it must be useful, entertaining and informative, but it must also inspire confidence and credibility. In other words, quality content marketing must be both good content and marketing material.

Why would a company spend its marketing dollars on content marketing instead of more direct forms of advertising? There are several reasons content marketing is a good choice for companies:

  • Content marketing improves organic reach by delivering content that customers want to consume. This can range from entertainment like TikTok videos or online quizzes to more serious informative content like how-to guides and video conferences.
  • Content marketing inspires confidence in your brand by establishing your company as an expert and key player in your industry.
  • Content marketing improves goodwill by delivering personable, relatable content that meets customers where they’re at. Rather than trying to make customers interested in your company directly, content marketing capitalizes on the things your customer is already interested in.

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How to automate content marketing

AI can’t host a podcast or present a webinar (at least not yet), but automation plays an important role in content marketing.

Social media

Social media is one of the largest opportunities for marketers. Social media is the second largest market within the world of digital advertising, second only to search marketing. Content marketing is uniquely poised to cover both categories as it can optimize content for organic search results and social media sharing.

This is where automation comes into the picture: automation can’t take over your social media presence for you, but it can take on some of the most tedious and error-prone aspects of your digital presence. Some key ways you can automate your social media content marketing are by scheduling posts, connecting various social media platforms to publish content on multiple platforms at once, regularly sharing your content, automatically promoting content and more.

Recently, AI has taken significant steps forward in Natural Language Processing (NLP), which makes AI chatbots a powerful way to connect with users on social media platforms (as well as on your platform).

 

Email marketing

A fan of the television show Arrested Development would finish the phrase “The money is in the…” with “banana stand,” but experienced marketers know that the right answer is “the money is in the list.”

This popular phrase refers to the fact that email marketing is one of the most important aspects of a marketing plan, and a longer list of quality leads is one of the most reliable ways to grow sales. Email newsletters are one of the most popular forms of content marketing but sending email after email is a tedious and treacherous process as it creates limitless opportunities for human error.

Automation revolutionizes email marketing by automatically sending emails. With a customer relationship management platform, email automation can automatically send emails based on milestones and timelines and personalize emails based on the customer’s name and history. This level of personalization is difficult for small businesses and impossible for large ones, but with automation, it’s straightforward and convenient.

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Tracking performance 

One of the keys to marketing automation is tracking marketing communication performance. Marketers should be performing A/B testing to see which campaigns perform the best and merit further expansion, but tangibly measuring the outcome of these tests is difficult without the right tools.

Automation helps companies track the performance of their content marketing by collecting data from various platforms, bringing it all into one convenient place and providing metrics about the traffic and conversions coming from each piece of content. 

Features of the right content marketing platform

Harnessing the value of these powerful automation options requires a quality content marketing platform. The right platform should include some qualities that maximize its usefulness.

  • Flexibility. One of the essential functions of automation is the ability to share content on multiple platforms simultaneously. While this is already a powerful option, it becomes more powerful with a headless API that empowers you to deliver content on various platforms.
  • Personalization. 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% become frustrated when companies don’t personalize their communications. The right content marketing platform makes personalization second nature with robust personalization tools that go beyond copy-and-pasting names. Content marketing platforms like Optimizely target personalized digital experiences to dynamic customer segments.
  • Capacity. Your business has unique needs, and your content platform shouldn’t hold you back. Rather than making your job harder, the right content marketing platform makes your job easier by offering a wide range of options and high-capacity storage for all your needs.

When it comes to content management, Optimizely is an industry leader. Optimizely’s advanced tools range from A/B testing, e-commerce support and headless digital experience management.

To learn how Optimizely can help you harness the power of automation and revolutionize your content marketing, request a meeting today to start the next chapter of your marketing journey.


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Skills to Look for in a Freelance Software Developer

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Skills to Look for in a Freelance Software Developer

According to Statista, the number of software developers around the globe is expected to increase to 28.7 million by 2024.

Freelance software developers benefit companies because of the ease and speed with which they can be onboarded and used as project-specific resources. This blog will answer the most asked concerns about using contract services.

Benefits of Hiring Freelance Software Developers

When hiring a freelancer, your first expectation is impeccable skills and expertise, followed closely by cost savings, or vice versa. Here are the most popular reasons why companies choose to hire freelance talent.

Cost-efficiency

Full-time employees cost an organisation a salary, as well as added investments in training, equipment, perks, overheads of utilities and rented space, and benefits such as healthcare and social security.

Freelancers work remotely using personal resources; businesses reduce investments without losing quality.

Reduced Risk

Businesses reduce financial risk by working with freelancers on an hourly, monthly, or project basis. Setting a clearly worded contract that the freelance software developer agrees to and signs, mitigates financial risk and clearly stipulates ownership of intellectual property.

Expertise

Freelancers with niche expertise such as software development company in London, provide companies with the best talents for their projects. Hiring freelancers for different projects allows businesses to match the varying demands of each project, streamlines workflows and ensures productivity.

Global Talent

Businesses choose professional freelancers expecting them to complete any given task with minimum input from the organization. You can access talent from across the globe on platforms such as UpWork, People Per Hour, Fiverr, and Toptal, amongst others. Client reviews on such portals help in assessing proficiency and expertise.

Work Quality

A freelancer is as good as her or his portfolio. Successful freelancers achieve credibility by building long-term relationships and providing consistent quality. Freelancer work depends on referrals and good reviews, hence a potential contract employee’s work portfolio, and reviews showcase their abilities.

Skills of A High-Quality Freelance Software Developer

The first criterion for hiring a developer for your project is knowing what skill sets are needed. List your project specifications to customise your search and determine the expertise required for the project. Freelance developers may work on web development (front-end, back-end, or full-stack developers) or mobile application development.

Front-end freelance developers

Front-end software developers design websites and web applications and manage the graphical interface of websites. They use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and technologies like Foundation, AngularJS, Bootstrap, Backbone, DOM, and EmberJS to create layouts and graphics.

Back-end freelance developers

Back-end developers handle server-side processes such as website security, speed, databases, servers, application logic, and APIs. Back-end developers are typically skilled in Java, Python, and PHP, as well as SQL, Git, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Full-stack freelance developers

Full-stack freelance developers handle both the front and back ends of the website. They are responsible for everything from project planning to website coding. Front-end frameworks include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and backends employ NodeJS, ExpressJS, Django, Flask, and C++. Full stack programmers manage database systems (such as SQL SERVER, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and Oracle Database), version control, and web hosting.

Mobile app developers

Mobile app developers develop, create, and test mobile applications for iOS and Android operating systems. Mobile app developers have programming language skills such as NodeJS, PHP, Python, or Ruby on Rails. They must also be proficient in back-end frameworks, database management and security, and hardware interaction. They need expertise in UI/UX design, security, and the Internet of things (IoT) for mobile devices.

How to Locate the Best Freelancers  Online

Talent portals such as Upwork, People Per Hour, and Fiverr showcase many talented freelance software developers. Here are steps on how to hire talent from an online opportunity marketplace.

Set a Hiring Budget

Look for similar job postings to learn what are the current hourly rates for the work you require. Define a reasonable budget. Beware that a freelance software developer may have higher hourly rates than regular employees.  

Clearly Define Project Requirements

Freelancers can be effective resources when you provide clear details about your project requirements. Be sure to mention the following

  • Allocated Budget
  • Payment terms
  • Project start and end dates
  • Clear job descriptions
  • Project expectations

Shortlist and Assess Freelance Software Developers

Top software developers typically work harder and achieve results because client reviews are essential to their ongoing success. The details you post make it easier for them to determine if they fit your requirements. Once you begin receiving qualified responses, choose according to their ratings and reviews, your interview process, and any sample project to build software and check their skills.

Six Factors to Consider when Hiring Freelance Sofware Developers

Hiring a freelancer revolves around their technical skills, certifications and education, attitude towards work, and ability to deliver results. Here are some crucial pointers to help you find the most appropriate fit for your project.

Technical Expertise

Freelancers must be able to handle the technical requirements of the project. They should be well-versed in software stacks, coding, development and task management software, version control tools, and deployment processes. Freelance software developers may charge more for specific technical abilities such as mobile app development, web development, or project rescues.

Experience

Freelancers who have worked on similar projects will have come across pain points and solutions. Any relevant experience enhances their expertise for your project and boosts their ability to strategise toward productive outcomes. Note that a freelancer’s experience typically increases their pay rate.

Cost

Experience and expertise increase a freelancer’s worth, but their services must provide value for your money. Knowing current hourly or project rates ensures that you are connecting with the right candidates. Freelancers that accept less payment may be new to the market and want to create a client base. Or, are choosing to supplement their income with multiple projects, which may reduce their work quality.

Professionalism

Education and certifications improve a freelancer’s pay scale, but they do not signal a freelancer’s abilities. The easiest way to gauge work ethic is from social proof such as client endorsements and their portfolio. A professional freelance software developer will openly share these details, with their client’s approval, of course.

Reliability

A reliable freelancer will have a long-standing client base, developed by consistent efforts and proven results. The more repeat customers a freelancer has, the better the chances of them being dependable. The following actions demonstrate the integrity of any freelance work and can be testified by customer reviews.

  • Following instructions
  • Regular updates
  • Quickly responding to queries
  • Willingly accepting critique
  • Meeting deadlines consistently

Location

One of the best features of acquiring freelance talent is access to global resources. Ensure that your communication skills match. Also, check that the culture and holidays in the freelancer’s location do not conflict with project development. Location can also affect fees, where freelancers in the USA charge the highest as compared to their Asian counterparts.

Conclusion

Finding and hiring the right freelance software developers is easy when you have the necessary checklists in place. Software development work is complex, make sure you are vetting your candidates carefully to get the best fit for your project. Good luck!

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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