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Get These 6 Types of Backlinks (+ 4 Types to Avoid)

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Get These 6 Types of Backlinks (+ 4 Types to Avoid)

We all know that building links is crucial to any SEO strategy. The problem is that with so many link vendors and outreach specialists offering different types of backlinks, it can be challenging to know which links provide value and which you should avoid at all costs.

Because when it comes to building the wrong links, this can be a costly error that can seriously damage your site or, worse, a client’s.

This article will help you start your link building journey the right way. I will walk you through the six types of backlinks that will boost your SEO efforts and, more importantly, four types to avoid.

Six best types of backlinks for SEO

Although there are many types of backlinks in SEO, only some of those are worth taking the time and effort to acquire. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of backlinks and how you can land them.

1. Editorial backlinks

As someone who loves using digital PR for SEO, I guess it’s probably no surprise that editorial backlinks are at the top of the list. 

Being cited within content as an authoritative source is one of the best links you can acquire. These can often come from high-authority sites and also drive tons of referral traffic. 

Editorial link example
An example of an editorial link I landed on The Writing Cooperative.

How it works 

Create high-quality content that other sites will want to cite as a source and include linkable assets like infographics within your content that other sites will be keen to share.

Also, use PR techniques (e.g., newsjacking) or reactive PR with platforms (e.g., Help a Reporter Out, aka HARO), which allows you to be quoted as an expert source on a topic and achieve editorial links to your website.

2. Guest blogging backlinks

Most SEOs will build guest blogging links for every site they work on; in fact, it’s the most used tactic, according to Authority Hacker’s link building survey.

Most popular link building tactics

The only problem with these types of links is that most people don’t take the time to build them themselves. Most SEOs (unless working for an agency with an in-house link building team) outsource to others and, as a result, the links are often on low-quality sites.

These links are relatively easy to acquire, as it’s a win-win for both sites. Not only do you get an excellent backlink from an authority site, but they also get a quality piece of content that will drive traffic to their blog.

With these links, you must do your due diligence before reaching out to sites. Doing your own outreach also means building lasting relationships with web administrators and site owners that you can utilize repeatedly. 

How it works

Find the perfect authority site to reach out to. You can easily do this by using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, entering a keyword or phrase in the title, and filtering the results by Domain Rating (DR). This will help you find appropriate blogs already publishing related content.

In the example below, I have searched for the keyword “link building,” filtering results by DR 30–65. For new sites looking to build links, this DR range works well because it is high enough to move the needle, but not too high that getting a link from the site will be unrealistic.

Content Explorer use example

Once you’ve found relevant sites to reach out to, spend a little time doing some digging. Check a site to see what topics it has covered most recently. Also, be sure to check the quality of links in its backlink profile. I’ll expand on what to look for in a great backlink later on.

Use a tool like Hunter.io to find appropriate contacts for your chosen sites to start putting your outreach emails together.

Example of finding email addresses

Now you can reach out and pitch them your topic ideas. Either pitch new topics relevant to their existing content and audience or check their sites for underperforming content and offer to produce an updated version. 

In my experience, what works best is to put together a detailed content brief on two to three topics and send that over. This allows a site’s content team to get an idea of the article you are looking to provide and how much value it can add.

A detailed content brief should include the following:

  • Title ideas
  • Similar posts on the SERP
  • The goal of the post
  • Post format based on SERP intent (commercial, informational, listicle, etc)
  • Target audience
  • Three to five keywords, their search volume, and keyword difficulty
  • People also asked” questions
  • Optimal word count
  • Suggested outline and key points (including suggested headings for H2s, H3s, and H4s)

If you have an existing portfolio and following, include links in your email and inform them that you will be happy to share the content with your audience once it is published.

3. Relationship-based backlinks

Relationship-based backlinks could technically fall under editorial links. However, editorial links, as mentioned in the context above, are more organic and take less work to achieve. 

Relationship-based links take time and effort to nurture, but they are worth it in the long run. 

How it works 

Reach out to journalists or web administrators who have already linked to you. Take time to thank them and state you are willing for them to contact you if they need any further input. This can be the first step in building ongoing relationships. 

This works exceptionally well in digital PR. Once a journalist knows you are a trusted source of information open to being contacted directly, they are likely to reach out whenever they are working on something they feel you have insights on.

Here’s an example of a nice email I got from the team at ScaleMath after reaching out to them in regards to some expert commentary I provided for the blog:

An example of an email from relationship-based link building

Another way to build relationships is by using three-way link exchanges. These types of links are working successfully across the globe, as shown in our recent article on international link building.

However, if these are done excessively and without proper due diligence on the sites you’re exchanging links with, they can be labeled as a link scheme. So take extra care when using this tactic. 

Three-way link exchange

4. Backlinks in business profiles

Building a digital footprint for your business will help search engines consider your website to be well established within your industry. A popular way of doing this is by creating business profiles.

How it works

You can create profiles on business listing websites like Crunchbase or InsiderPages that will include a link to your site. Most of these sites have a landing page that will allow you to go ahead and create a profile, each only taking a few minutes.

Example of a business listing website

A word of warning, though: Be careful—too much of this is considered spammy and may not work for you. Using the biggest established listings as benchmarks, along with common sense, should be enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

5. Backlinks from public speaking

Granted, these types of backlinks are not for everyone. But if you’re confident in front of an audience or even behind a microphone, participating in public speaking opportunities can be a fantastic way to earn quality backlinks.

These types of links are also a fantastic way to demonstrate the double “E” in experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or E-E-A-T

How?

Because you’re building a digital footprint showing you’re experienced in speaking as a subject matter expert, which promotes you as a trusted authority in your industry.

How it works 

You can earn these links through multiple events, including:

  • Live seminars
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Conferences
  • Online courses

Being a guest speaker or instructor means your bit is often posted on the official website with a link so interested users can find out more about you and your experience. 

Example of public speaking link from a podcast
An example of me being a guest in the “Search with Candour” podcast.

6. Embedded asset links

This is one of my favorite lesser-known types of backlinks that not only works a treat when it comes to landing tons of placements but also serves as excellent brand exposure. 

Embedded asset links can be broken into two categories:

  • Tools and widgets
  • Awards and badges

Tools and widgets

It’s important to note that the first of these will only work in specific niches. However, if you work in a niche where this is possible, it’s a great way to score ongoing links with minimal effort.

How it works 

You create a tool or widget on your site and make the code accessible for other website owners in your niche to embed the widget on their sites. 

This works well with calculators, but do make sure your brand (and that all-important link to your site) shows as part of the tool. This numerology calculator from Affinity Numerology is a great example:

Example of embedded asset links

Awards and badges

The second embedded asset link is far more universal if you are creative. I’ve worked with everything from SEO agencies to niche affiliate websites where this technique was used successfully.

The fact is that most people love accolades. Being named the best at something, especially if it is by a reputable company within your industry, is something worth displaying to potential customers. This helps build trust, which is why this type of backlink is so easy to acquire.

How it works 

You create a “best of” style roundup post on your site. You can do this yourself based on your own opinions. Alternatively, if you want to be authentic, you can run a poll on social media or via a tool like Pollfish to get public opinion on your chosen topic.

Then you reach out to the sites you have highlighted in your post and inform them they have been voted the best (at whatever the topic may be). You give them a badge (with your brand and a link to your site) that they can proudly display.

For example, here is a roundup of the “Best Business Blogs” from a U.K.-based SEO agency, Session Media:

Example of a roundup for best blogs

The agency lists its top choices, including “The Dad Blog UK,” which then proudly creates its own post to show off the shiny winner’s badge.

Example of a website displaying a winner badge

And here, you can see the link in the Backlinks report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:

Example of embedded badge link in the Backlinks report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Types of backlinks to avoid

Now that we’ve covered some of the best kinds of backlinks you can build for your site, we need to look at the types of backlinks you should avoid. 

Granted, some of these types of links may give some sites short-term gains. But more often than not, these links can do significantly more harm than good. Plus, the truth of the matter is most do nothing for your site and are simply a waste of time and money. 

7. Link schemes 

The use of unnatural links to affect rankings in Google Search results is known as “link spam” or “link schemes.” Link schemes include both inbound links to and outbound links from your website.

Some examples of link schemes include:

  • Buying and selling links.
  • Excessive link exchanges.
  • Requiring links as part of a Terms of Service or other agreement.
  • Footers or templates with links that are distributed in mass. For example, hard-coding a link to your website into the WP Theme that you sell or give away for free.
  • Followed” links on ads. 
  • Over-optimized, keyword-rich links in guest posts and comments.

Private blog network (PBN)

The most popular type of link scheme is the use of private blog networks (PBNs). They’re a collection of websites made purely to link to one another and raise the website’s organic search exposure. 

PBNs give the impression that a website has “earned” backlinks from other sites. You create trust signals artificially by linking to your “money” site from all the other sites in your PBN in the hopes that Google will see them as real sites and rank you better in response.

Link building with PBNs (or any link scheme) is risky and can even trigger a Google penalty. 

Automated links

Using automated link building software to send links at scale to one site is not new, especially within the black hat SEO community. 

However, there is an increasing trend of people packaging these links as link building services, like “foundation links,” at incredibly low prices for those with less experience looking to outsource their link building efforts. 

Example of automated links used as a service

This can be dangerous, especially if you are not in control of the automation process and don’t understand what you are getting.

These tools build a massive network of links from blogs, social bookmarks, wiki pages, etc., all pointing back to one central site. They often include layers of complex, tiered links designed to increase the amount of link equity going back to the main site.

Similar to PBNs, these links are designed to manipulate your rankings on the SERPs and are, needless to say, against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

8. Low-quality or irrelevant directory links

As mentioned above, creating business profiles on high-quality listing sites can be a great way to secure quality exposure. 

However, making these at scale on any directory, regardless of the quality, is considered yet another spammy practice.

9. Low-quality forum backlinks

Spamming forums with links to your site is a pretty old-school link building technique that, in honesty, doesn’t do anything for your site. 

If links are ever placed in forums, they should appear naturally as part of a genuine discussion. 

This example from Hacker News shows someone advising different flight simulators as part of a discussion. This is the only way any links should be placed in forums—when used to give genuine advice or offer resources to other forum users.

Example of forum links

10. Non-newsworthy press release links

An official statement issued to the media is known as a press release. It’s frequently used to announce anything noteworthy a business has done to get media attention. Press releases are often used to cover the following:

  • Launch of a product, service, or business
  • Major updates to a company, such as its rebranding, restructuring, or acquisitions
  • Information about a significant crisis

Although press releases serve a great purpose when done correctly, they don’t work so well when the story you are pushing out to the press is not newsworthy. Creating press releases solely to build links is considered a spammy practice.

Of course, if your company has achieved something of merit, experienced a significant change like an acquisition, or released a new product, that’s worth sharing with the press. However, don’t send out a press release about “bring your dog to work Tuesdays” in hopes of building lots of links.

Example of a good press release by Ahrefs

What to look for in a great backlink

So now that we have looked at the different types of backlinks you should build and avoid, let’s look at what kinds of backlinks are valuable for your overall SEO strategy. 

Backlinks coming from trusted, authoritative websites

If a website has a strong backlink profile, it is also likely perceived as an authority in its industry.

Links from high-authority sites also promote trust with search engines, sending a signal that basically says, “Hey, Forbes thinks this site is worth mentioning; check it out.” 

Example of authoritative referring domains
Example of authoritative referring domains from the Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Links with anchor text including your target keywords

We wrote about the correlation between the importance of anchor texts with appropriate keywords for better rankings. To comprehend your page’s content and the keywords it should rank for, Google uses anchor text.

Here are three examples of different anchor texts pointing to the same page sourced from the Backlinks report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. The first two mention the target keyword “anchor text” within their anchor texts, while the third one mentions “anchor text” in the surrounding text:

Example of various anchor texts

However, it is essential to remember that overuse of keywords within anchor text can be seen as manipulative by Google. 

A niche-relevant page that links to yours

Links that are topically relevant to your site are essential and help Google understand your site. However, this is even more true when the page is niche-relevant. 

For example, if I have a site about hiking, getting a link from a general news site’s article on hiking is good. But getting a link from another hiking site pointing to mine as an authority on hiking is better.

The more focused the website is on your niche, the better. But what ultimately matters here is the context of the link within the page and its topic.

Example of a backlink from a niche-relevant page

Followed links

Followed links are the gold standard of backlinks. Everyone wants one because they can distribute link equity to your site and promote trust signals with search engines. 

Any link can be considered “followed” if it doesn’t have link attributes like nofollow, sponsored, or ugc. 

Each link attribute has a set purpose and provides context to search engines about the link and the page you are linking to. Unfortunately, many people misuse link attributes, sometimes purposefully. 

Followed vs. nofollow link example

Followed links are often used to cite sources with editorial links. For example, writing an article and quoting the results of a relevant study will link to the website where that information was found.

A current trend is for sites to use the incorrect link attribute only to reach out to you and inform you they will be happy to change the link to “followed” for a fee. This should be avoided, as it can be considered a paid link.

Backlinks from pages with strong backlink profiles

When acquiring links, we want to ensure they pass as much link equity as possible to our page. A page with a strong backlink profile of its own is generally going to provide more link equity.

Page with strong backlink profile

Link equity is significant because it is linked to PageRank, which is what Google has been using since forever. In other words, the more link equity a page has, the better the probability of it ranking highly.

Final thoughts

Building high-quality backlinks will always be a crucial part of SEO, and the important thing is to build the right links that will positively impact your website. Ideally, backlinks that not only move the needle but also increase brand awareness and drive referral traffic.

Have you got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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Technical SEO Checklist for 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

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Technical SEO Checklist 2024 Comprehensive Strategies

Technical SEO Checklist 2024 Comprehensive Strategies

With Google getting a whopping total of six algorithmic updates and four core updates in 2023, you can bet the search landscape is more complicated (and competitive) to navigate nowadays.

To succeed in SEO this year, you will need to figure out what items to check and optimize to ensure your website stays visible. And if your goal is to not just make your website searchable, but have it rank at the top of search engine results, this technical SEO checklist for 2024 is essential.

Webmaster’s Note: This is part one of our three-part SEO checklist for 2024. I also have a longer guide on advanced technical SEO, which covers best practices and how to troubleshoot and solve common technical issues with your websites.

Technical SEO Essentials for 2024

Technical SEO refers to optimizations that are primarily focused on helping search engines access, crawl, interpret, and index your website without any issues. It lays the foundation for your site to be properly understood and served up by search engines to users.

1. Website Speed Optimization

A site’s loading speed is a significant ranking factor for search engines like Google, which prioritize user experience. Faster websites generally provide a more pleasant user experience, leading to increased engagement and improved conversion rates.

Server Optimization

Often, the reason why your website is loading slowly is because of the server it’s hosted on. It’s important to choose a high-quality server that ensures quick loading times from the get-go so you skip the headache that is server optimization.

Google recommends keeping your server response time under 200ms. To check your server’s response time, you need to know your website’s IP address. Once you have that, use your command prompt.

In the window that appears, type ping, followed by your website’s IP address. Press enter and the window should show how long it took your server to respond. 

If you find that your server goes above the recommended 200ms loading time, here’s what you need to check:

  1. Collect the data from your server and identify what is causing your response time to increase. 
  2. Based on what is causing the problem, you will need to implement server-side optimizations. This guide on how to reduce initial server response times can help you here.
  3. Measure your server response times after optimization to use as a benchmark. 
  4. Monitor any regressions after optimization.

If you work with a hosting service, then you should contact them when you need to improve server response times. A good hosting provider should have the right infrastructure, network connections, server hardware, and support services to accommodate these optimizations. They may also offer hosting options if your website needs more server resources to run smoothly.

Website Optimization

Aside from your server, there are a few other reasons that your website might be loading slowly. 

Here are some practices you can do:

  1. Compressing images to decrease file sizes without sacrificing quality
  2. Minimizing the code, eliminating unnecessary spaces, comments, and indentation.
  3. Using caching to store some data locally in a user’s browser to allow for quicker loading on subsequent visits.
  4. Implementing Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to distribute the load, speeding up access for users situated far from the server.
  5. Lazy load your web pages to prioritize loading the objects or resources only your users need.

A common tool to evaluate your website speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Google Lighthouse. Both tools can analyze the content of your website and then generate suggestions to improve its overall loading speed, all for free. There are also some third-party tools, like GTMetrix, that you could use as well.

Here’s an example of one of our website’s speeds before optimization. It’s one of the worst I’ve seen, and it was affecting our SEO.

slow site speed score from GTMetrixslow site speed score from GTMetrix

So we followed our technical SEO checklist. After working on the images, removing render-blocking page elements, and minifying code, the score greatly improved — and we saw near-immediate improvements in our page rankings. 

site speed optimization results from GTMetrixsite speed optimization results from GTMetrix

That said, playing around with your server settings, coding, and other parts of your website’s backend can mess it up if you don’t know what you’re doing. I suggest backing up all your files and your database before you start working on your website speed for that reason. 

2. Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile-first Indexing is a method used by Google that primarily uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. 

It’s no secret that Google places a priority on the mobile users’ experience, what with mobile-first indexing being used. Beyond that, optimizing your website for mobile just makes sense, given that a majority of people now use their phones to search online.

This change signifies that a fundamental shift in your approach to your website development and design is needed, and it should also be part of your technical SEO checklist.

  1. Ensuring the mobile version of your site contains the same high-quality, rich content as the desktop version.
  2. Make sure metadata is present on both versions of your site.
  3. Verify that structured data is present on both versions of your site.

Tools like Google’s mobile-friendly test can help you measure how effectively your mobile site is performing compared to your desktop versions, and to other websites as well.

3. Crawlability & Indexing Check

Always remember that crawlability and Indexing are the cornerstones of SEO. Crawlability refers to a search engine’s ability to access and crawl through a website’s content. Indexing is how search engines organize information after a crawl and before presenting results.

  1. Utilizing a well-structured robots.txt file to communicate with web crawlers about which of your pages should not be processed or scanned.
  2. Using XML sitemaps to guide search engines through your site’s content and ensure that all valuable content is found and indexed. There are several CMS plugins you can use to generate your sitemap.
  3. Ensuring that your website has a logical structure with a clear hierarchy, helps both users and bots navigate to your most important pages easily. 

Google Search Console is the tool you need to use to ensure your pages are crawled and indexed by Google. It also provides reports that identify any problems that prevent crawlers from indexing your pages. 

4. Structured Data Markup

Structured Data Markup is a coding language that communicates website information in a more organized and richer format to search engines. This plays a strategic role in the way search engines interpret and display your content, enabling enhanced search results through “rich snippets” such as stars for reviews, prices for products, or images for recipes.

Doing this allows search engines to understand and display extra information directly in the search results from it.

Key Takeaway

With all the algorithm changes made in 2023, websites need to stay adaptable and strategic to stay at the top of the search results page. Luckily for you, this technical SEO checklist for 2024 can help you do just that. Use this as a guide to site speed optimization, indexing, and ensuring the best experience for mobile and desktop users.

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Why Google Seems To Favor Big Brands & Low-Quality Content

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Why Google Seems To Favor Big Brands & Low-Quality Content

Many people are convinced that Google shows a preference for big brands and ranking low quality content, something that many feel has become progressively worse. This may not be a matter of perception, something is going on, nearly everyone has an anecdote of poor quality search results. The possible reasons for it are actually quite surprising.

Google Has Shown Favoritism In The Past

This isn’t the first time that Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have shown a bias that favored big brand websites. During the early years of Google’s algorithm it was obvious that sites with a lot of PageRank ranked for virtually anything they wanted.

For example, I remember a web design company that built a lot of websites, creating a network of backlinks, raising their PageRank to a remarkable level normally seen only in big corporate sites like IBM. As a consequence they ranked for the two-word keyword phrase, Web Design and virtually every other variant like Web Design + [any state in the USA].

Everyone knew that websites with a PageRank of 10, the highest level shown on Google’s toolbar, practically had a free pass in the SERPs, resulting in big brand sites outranking more relevant webpages. It didn’t go unnoticed when Google eventually adjusted their algorithm to fix this issue.

The point of this anecdote is to point out an instance of where Google’s algorithm unintentionally created a bias that favored big brands.

Here are are other  algorithm biases that publishers exploited:

  • Top 10 posts
  • Longtail “how-to” articles
  • Misspellings
  • Free Widgets in footer that contained links (always free to universities!)

Big Brands And Low Quality Content

There are two things that have been a constant for all of Google’s history:

  • Low quality content
  • Big brands crowding out small independent publishers

Anyone that’s ever searched for a recipe knows that the more general the recipe the lower the quality of recipe that gets ranked. Search for something like cream of chicken soup and the main ingredient for nearly every recipe is two cans of chicken soup.

A search for Authentic Mexican Tacos results in recipes with these ingredients:

  • Soy sauce
  • Ground beef
  • “Cooked chicken”
  • Taco shells (from the store!)
  • Beer

Not all recipe SERPs are bad. But some of the more general recipes Google ranks are so basic that a hobo can cook them on a hotplate.

Robin Donovan (Instagram), a cookbook author and online recipe blogger observed:

“I think the problem with google search rankings for recipes these days (post HCU) are much bigger than them being too simple.

The biggest problem is that you get a bunch of Reddit threads or sites with untested user-generated recipes, or scraper sites that are stealing recipes from hardworking bloggers.

In other words, content that is anything but “helpful” if what you want is a tested and well written recipe that you can use to make something delicious.”

Explanations For Why Google’s SERPs Are Broken

It’s hard not to get away from the perception that Google’s rankings for a variety of topics always seem to default to big brand websites and low quality webpages.

Small sites grow to become big brands that dominate the SERPs, it happens. But that’s the thing, even when a small site gets big, it’s now another big brand dominating the SERPs.

Typical explanations for poor SERPs:

  • It’s a conspiracy to increase ad clicks
  • Content itself these days are low quality across the board
  • Google doesn’t have anything else to rank
  • It’s the fault of SEOs
  • Affiliates
  • Poor SERPs is Google’s scheme to drive more ad clicks
  • Google promotes big brands because [insert your conspiracy]

So what’s going on?

People Love Big Brands & Garbage Content

The recent Google anti-trust lawsuit exposed the importance of the Navboost algorithm signals as a major ranking factor. Navboost is an algorithm that interprets user engagement signals to understand what topics a webpage is relevant for, among other things.

The idea of using engagement signals as an indicator of what users expect to see makes sense. After all, Google is user-centric and who better to decide what’s best for users than the users themselves, right?

Well, consider that arguably the the biggest and most important song of 1991, Smells Like Teen Spirt by Nirvana, didn’t make the Billboard top 100 for that year. Michael Bolton and Rod Stewart made the list twice, with Rod Stewart top ranked for a song called “The Motown Song” (anyone remember that one?)

Nirvana didn’t make the charts until the next year…

My opinion, given that we know that user interactions are a strong ranking signal, is that Google’s search rankings follow a similar pattern related to users’ biases.

People tend to choose what they know. It’s called a Familiarity Bias.

Consumers have a habit of choosing things that are familiar over those that are unfamiliar. This preference shows up in product choices that prefer brands, for example.

Behavioral scientist, Jason Hreha, defines Familiarity Bias like this:

“The familiarity bias is a phenomenon in which people tend to prefer familiar options over unfamiliar ones, even when the unfamiliar options may be better. This bias is often explained in terms of cognitive ease, which is the feeling of fluency or ease that people experience when they are processing familiar information. When people encounter familiar options, they are more likely to experience cognitive ease, which can make those options seem more appealing.”

Except for certain queries (like those related to health), I don’t think Google makes an editorial decision to certain kinds of websites, like brands.

Google uses many signals for ranking. But Google is strongly user focused.

I believe it’s possible that strong user preferences can carry a more substantial weight than Reviews System signals. How else to explain why Google seemingly has a bias for big brand websites with fake reviews rank better than honest independent review sites?

It’s not like Google’s algorithms haven’t created poor search results in the past.

  • Google’s Panda algorithm was designed to get rid of a bias for cookie cutter content.
  • The Reviews System is a patch to fix Google’s bias for content that’s about reviews but aren’t necessarily reviews.

If Google has systems for catching low quality sites that their core algorithm would otherwise rank, why do big brands and poor quality content still rank?

I believe the answer is that is what users prefer to see those sites, as indicated by user interaction signals.

The big question to ask is whether Google will continue to rank what users biases and inexperience trigger user satisfaction signals.  Or will Google continue serving the sugar-frosted bon-bons that users crave?

Should Google make the choice to rank quality content at the risk that users find it too hard to understand?

Or should publishers give up and focus on creating for the lowest common denominator like the biggest popstars do?



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Google Announces Gemma: Laptop-Friendly Open Source AI

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Google Announces Gemma: Laptop-Friendly Open Source AI

Google released an open source large language model based on the technology used to create Gemini that is powerful yet lightweight, optimized to be used in environments with limited resources like on a laptop or cloud infrastructure.

Gemma can be used to create a chatbot, content generation tool and pretty much anything else that a language model can do. This is the tool that SEOs have been waiting for.

It is released in two versions, one with two billion parameters (2B) and another one with seven billion parameters (7B). The number of parameters indicates the model’s complexity and potential capability. Models with more parameters can achieve a better understanding of language and generate more sophisticated responses, but they also require more resources to train and run.

The purpose of releasing Gemma is to democratize access to state of the art Artificial Intelligence that is trained to be safe and responsible out of the box, with a toolkit to further optimize it for safety.

Gemma By DeepMind

The model is developed to be lightweight and efficient which makes it ideal for getting it into the hands of more end users.

Google’s official announcement noted the following key points:

  • “We’re releasing model weights in two sizes: Gemma 2B and Gemma 7B. Each size is released with pre-trained and instruction-tuned variants.
  • A new Responsible Generative AI Toolkit provides guidance and essential tools for creating safer AI applications with Gemma.
  • We’re providing toolchains for inference and supervised fine-tuning (SFT) across all major frameworks: JAX, PyTorch, and TensorFlow through native Keras 3.0.
  • Ready-to-use Colab and Kaggle notebooks, alongside integration with popular tools such as Hugging Face, MaxText, NVIDIA NeMo and TensorRT-LLM, make it easy to get started with Gemma.
  • Pre-trained and instruction-tuned Gemma models can run on your laptop, workstation, or Google Cloud with easy deployment on Vertex AI and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
  • Optimization across multiple AI hardware platforms ensures industry-leading performance, including NVIDIA GPUs and Google Cloud TPUs.
  • Terms of use permit responsible commercial usage and distribution for all organizations, regardless of size.”

Analysis Of Gemma

According to an analysis by an Awni Hannun, a machine learning research scientist at Apple, Gemma is optimized to be highly efficient in a way that makes it suitable for use in low-resource environments.

Hannun observed that Gemma has a vocabulary of 250,000 (250k) tokens versus 32k for comparable models. The importance of that is that Gemma can recognize and process a wider variety of words, allowing it to handle tasks with complex language. His analysis suggests that this extensive vocabulary enhances the model’s versatility across different types of content. He also believes that it may help with math, code and other modalities.

It was also noted that the “embedding weights” are massive (750 million). The embedding weights are a reference to the parameters that help in mapping words to representations of their meanings and relationships.

An important feature he called out is that the embedding weights, which encode detailed information about word meanings and relationships, are used not just in processing input part but also in generating the model’s output. This sharing improves the efficiency of the model by allowing it to better leverage its understanding of language when producing text.

For end users, this means more accurate, relevant, and contextually appropriate responses (content) from the model, which improves its use in conetent generation as well as for chatbots and translations.

He tweeted:

“The vocab is massive compared to other open source models: 250K vs 32k for Mistral 7B

Maybe helps a lot with math / code / other modalities with a heavy tail of symbols.

Also the embedding weights are big (~750M params), so they get shared with the output head.”

In a follow-up tweet he also noted an optimization in training that translates into potentially more accurate and refined model responses, as it enables the model to learn and adapt more effectively during the training phase.

He tweeted:

“The RMS norm weight has a unit offset.

Instead of “x * weight” they do “x * (1 + weight)”.

I assume this is a training optimization. Usually the weight is initialized to 1 but likely they initialize close to 0. Similar to every other parameter.”

He followed up that there are more optimizations in data and training but that those two factors are what especially stood out.

Designed To Be Safe And Responsible

An important key feature is that it is designed from the ground up to be safe which makes it ideal for deploying for use. Training data was filtered to remove personal and sensitive information. Google also used reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) to train the model for responsible behavior.

It was further debugged with manual re-teaming, automated testing and checked for capabilities for unwanted and dangerous activities.

Google also released a toolkit for helping end-users further improve safety:

“We’re also releasing a new Responsible Generative AI Toolkit together with Gemma to help developers and researchers prioritize building safe and responsible AI applications. The toolkit includes:

  • Safety classification: We provide a novel methodology for building robust safety classifiers with minimal examples.
  • Debugging: A model debugging tool helps you investigate Gemma’s behavior and address potential issues.
  • Guidance: You can access best practices for model builders based on Google’s experience in developing and deploying large language models.”

Read Google’s official announcement:

Gemma: Introducing new state-of-the-art open models

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Photo For Everything



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