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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor’s Links As Manipulated?

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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor's Links As Manipulated?


This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Arvin from Vancouver, Canada, who wrote:

“One of our competitors has gotten tons of backlinks from unrelated posts including forums like that of apache.org (and many other .edu sites, too). Even after updates like Penguin, why are they considered relevant backlinks by Google?”

Let me begin by saying, Arvin, that we are a sports-loving family.

I currently have four kids on seven teams.

I love the lessons that sports teach my kids.

And one of the big lessons I work to instill in my kids is never to blame the referees for a loss.

I’ve never seen any sporting event where, if one of the teams did something better, the referee’s call would never factor into the outcome.

This lesson translates well to SEO.

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If you know how to play the SEO game, what your competitor – or even Google and Bing – does should never be your main concern.

Focusing on your competitor’s SEO instead of improving your own is a frustrating waste of time.

But, as an SEO, it is important to understand the factors that are affecting the rankings of each keyword.

Like Anyone Could Ever Know

Unless you work at Google, you can never be certain about why one site is ranking over another.

We can speculate.

We can run sophisticated mathematical models to try to understand the algorithm.

But the bottom line is we can’t ever know for sure.

In fact, I’m not even sure the folks that work at Google could unequivocally tell you why one site ranks over another.

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The algorithm is so complex that no one person could ever decipher it completely.

How Do You Know The Links Are Relevant?

There is no way to know if the links that your competitor has built are being counted by Google.

Google knows a lot more than our tools tell us it knows.

None of the many backlink analysis tools available on the market today can tell you if Google is counting a link or isn’t.

These tools use data gleaned from their own analysis to determine if a link is relevant or if it is toxic.

Your competitor could be spinning their wheels and wasting a ton of money buying links that do absolutely nothing for their SEO.

Meanwhile, one piece of content or simple link from a strategic site could be boosting the site’s rankings.

Concentrate On Your Competitor’s Strengths

When you look at the “bad” things your competitors are doing, you may miss a tactic that could put you over the top for that keyword you just can’t get to rank.

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Instead of looking at all the things you think they are getting away with, look at what they are doing that is legitimate that you aren’t doing.

Frequently, when a prospect comes to me screaming about the travesty of an “inferior” company is ranking above them, the real reason for the ranking usually has nothing to do with the perceived injustice.

But usually when we find the real reason – or at least what I think is the real reason – we uncover a technique that this prospect should double down on.

It could be that your competitor has more robust content around a specific subject.

It could be that your competitor is utilizing technical SEO techniques better than you are.

It could be a thousand things.

Bottom line – when doing competitive analysis, concentrate on discovering things your competitors are doing better than you are.

Look for techniques you can modify for your own use rather than concentrating on how your client is cheating.

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Especially if you don’t plan to cheat yourself.

And I recommend you don’t.

More resources: 


Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured image: VectorMine/Shutterstock

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SEO

How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
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As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

Read More On SEJ

Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

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Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

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AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

Read More On SEJ

Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

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Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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