Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips

Basic SEO

Keyword Research and Competition: Something Else to Consider

A lot of us do a basic form of keyword research of one kind or another, using tools like Google’s to learn what search phrases are relevant to our topic and how often those phrases are searched.

By using the words real people use to search our topic, we have a better chance of getting search engines to send us those visitors. Obvious, right? Keyword research is all about finding a common language with our readers.



Backlink Seekers Target Squidoo For Pagerank

Pagerank is a measurement Google came up with in the late 1990s to help it decided how highly to rank webpages, based on which webpages linked to that page (backlinks) and which pages it linked to. Nowadays, Pagerank is only one of 200+ factors that Google uses to decide how high up to list a webpage in its search results. Google has come up with many ways to detect relevance to a particular search query, making Pagerank somewhat obsolete. (See this post by Google spokespundit Matt Cutts for an explanation of Pagerank). Nevertheless, many old-time backlinkers are convinced that Pagerank is still the number one factor in making webpages rank well in Google, so they keep trying to find webpages with pagerank on which to plant backlinks.

Squidoo is a target for these pagerank-seekers. It’s six years old, and many of its older articles have good pagerank. (Many of my older lenses are pagerank 3 to 5, which isn’t bad).

Squidoo is a web 2.0 website with multiple opportunities for visitors to leave links: guestbooks and link plexos and duels. If you leave a guestbook or link plexo unmoderated — and even if you don’t — link spammers will hit your lenses, trying to exploit your pagerank to boost their own rankings. Linkspam is not harmless. If your webpage links to poor neighborhoods, to sites that engage in shady linking practices, or to a lot of non-relevant content, those links could lower the quality, trustworthiness and relevance of your article in Google’s eyes.

Link spam has always been a problem on Squidoo, but two events within the past year have made it more of a target. First, it has been largely unaffected by Google’s Panda algorithm updates, which demoted a huge number of other websites. Second, on March 19, 2012, Google did a major algorithm tweak which de-indexed (removed from Google results) a batch of paid blog networks and other websites whose sole purpose was to publish thin, computer-generated content which appeared to be real articles, and which contained links to sites that paid them to feature those links. People were paying linkbuilding services to create backlinks for them in this way. Now, suddenly, those backlink sites are worthless, and some paid linkbuilding services like “BuildMyRank” have actually shut down.

All the sites which those backlinks pointed to have now lost standing in Google search results.  They’re now searching for new places to plant backlinks in order to replace those they lost. Any blog, guestbook, or “submit your links here” widget is a target, especially on websites that still have some pagerank.

These link droppers are getting ever more clever about trying to disguise what they’re doing so that you let their link through. Today I deleted two comments left on this blog saying it was a very well-written blog, asking me if I coded it from scratch, or saying that the person liked my blog so much he tweeted it to all his followers. It sounded like real humans had written these comments. However, the generic reference to “your blog” without any reference to the subject matter of the blog was a dead giveaway that they were cut-and-paste comments being dropped on any old blog. Their usernames included backlinks to their websites. They were using not only flattery, but one of the “six persuaders“:  reciprocity. If someone does something for you, it’s human nature to feel you should return the favor in some fashion. (The “I tweeted this to all my followers” ploy, which I’ve seen on several link drops lately).

I’ve also received a flood of emails from people offering to pay me to put a link to their sites on my lenses.

Don’t be fooled. Google just dropped or demoted a whole bunch of domains these link droppers used to try and make their own sites rank better. You don’t want your blog, lens or website to be showcasing links to the very people Google just penalized for shady backlinking practices and shallow content. Your lens could get hit by the same algorithm filter that demoted the sites they were using for backlinks before.

Your sole criteria for allowing a link onto your page should be the benefit it gives your readers. Is the site it links to useful, helpful, interesting, and strongly relevant to your subject matter? Will your readers be interested in it? Then approve it. Is it off-topic, or would readers who clicked on it be disappointed? Reject it.

By making sure your lenses only link to good, relevant content that is useful to your readers, you’ll not only make that particular article looks good to Google. You’ll help keep Squidoo from looking like “a place for spammers post their links.”  By keeping our own lenses spam-free, we ensure that Squidoo continues to be ranked well by Google and doesn’t get hit with a Panda penalty (which would cause a traffic drop for all pages on Squidoo).

The Long Tail in the Age of Semantic SEO

I recently did a long tail experiment to catch a few different search phrases.

See my introduction to the long tail, The New Long Tail of SEO, if you don’t know what I mean by that term.

Okay. Here’s the story.


Tip: Check Your Google Snippets!

When Google lists your page, it lists a “snippet” — a small excerpt of your content. This snippet will be one of two things:

  • Your META description tag. On Squidoo, this is the first 255 characters of the lens introduction.
  • OR: an excerpt from your page showing the first instance (usually) of the keyword the Google user searched for.

You can’t predict what people will search for. But you should at least do a command-F when viewing your article to see where your top keywords appear. Do the few words on either side of it make someone feel that your article is useful, relevant, and may possibly answer their questions? Or are they vague, poorly written, and don’t give a good impression of what your page is like?
Also, do this for your business name or blog name. Here’s an example. My main mythology blog, Mythphile, gets enough Google love to receive the special Google table-of-contents treatment. (Search for Mythphile and you’ll see what I mean.)
However, recently I finally clued into the snippet description that was showing in search results. I forgot to take a screenshot, but what it said was:

Mythphile by  is powered by WordPress using theme Tribune.

WHOOPS!  That doesn’t tell us a THING about this blog or the content on the page. That’s from the footer at the bottom of the blog. Apparently, I don’t have the blog’s name anywhere on the blog except in the Header and navigation links (e.g. “What Is Mythphile?”), and the snippet tool does NOT excerpt the header, when it’s one word and too short to be a useful snippet.

So I ran to my blog template and added a widget in the upper righthand corner of the sidebar. Now that blurb is what displays in the Google snippet:

What Is MythphileMythphile is a blog exploring the intersection between mythology and modern culture, timeless symbols and current events.

Moral: Make sure that the first instance of your top keyword, username, and brand name/business name/blog name appear in a meaningful sentence, because that’s likely going to be the only data web searchers have to go on when trying to decide whether to click your link in a page of search results.

Yes, this is yet another example of my SEO axiom, “Make Search Results SEXY!”

Bing Still Uses the Meta Keywords Tag!

Uh, oh! Bing still uses the META keywords tag!

META tags. Gotta love ‘em. They are pesky bits of HTML code hidden on (some) webpages to give information about each page. Ten years ago, search engines consulted META tags to help them learn what search phrases each page was relevant for. Then people started manipulating META tags to try and convince search engines their pages were the best pages for particular topics by virtue of their META tags saying so. Search engines wised up to this elementary trick (or went bust).

Not that META tags are completely, utterly, totally dead. On rare occasions, Google still uses the META description tag as the page excerpt it quotes in search results. That is, if there’s not a better and more appropriate quote that fits the search query better.

The META keywords tag, however, was buried several years ago, when even Yahoo/Bing apparently had abandoned it. Keywords as in…

<META name=”keywords” content=”spam, spam and eggs, spam and bacon, spam spam spam and bacon, and oh hey bing this is the greatest webpage ever on spam, so let me repeat the word spam a few more times, spam spam, spam, spammity spam”>

Squidoo fills in the META keywords tag on each lens with your Squidoo tags, by the way. It’s quaint that way.

However — wait! Stop the presses! Our old friend Danny Sullivan has checked with Bing and discovered that Bing still uses the META keywords tag as a signal! 








Multiple Backlinks from One Zazzle Store

NoFollow backlinks aren’t that useful, but people and Google do follow them. (Yes, Google does follow NoFollow Links, and in fact counts them a tiny bit for Pagerank.)

Also, it’s possible that search engines may take notice of how many different domains link to a page. We don’t know, but it’s no more foolish counting backlink diversity than counting backlinks with no idea which of those backlinks are actually weighted as relevant to a particular search.

In that context, I was intrigued to discover through SquidUtils’ Backlink Checker that when you build a shop on, it propagates on,, and (Where’s that?) Now, links in Zazzle descriptions are nofollow, so the backlink on my Mythphile Shop is not passing much pagerank.

Google is probably sophisticated enough to realize those multiple domains are not totally independent: they’re obviously part of an international network of sites. Also, it sees the duplicate content. (I think the duplicate content scare triggered by Panda has set off a bit of hysteria… a few mirror sites won’t send your content off the Google SERPs, it’s just they may not rank quite as well, or maybe only one will rank well in each country. Oops, tangent.) Nevertheless, those links have to count as least as much as forum signature links, which Google is also sophisticated enough to recognize as (a) self-promotion, not an unbiased recommendation and (b) a forum signature — multiple posts with it shouldn’t be weighted any more, or much more, than a single post.

All of this means that you might as well open a Zazzle shop, if you’ve got some visual assets related to your niche.

What kind of assets?

Have you taken your own digital photos related to your topic? Are they photographs of public landmarks, nature, or out-of-copyright (pre-1920 should be safe) products or images? (See this “Legal Pitfalls of Using Photographs” copyright FAQ for more info on what’s allowed.) Commercially-licensed Creative Commons images are also permissible, with credit and a backlink.

Consider making postcards or small prints with them. (Don’t be misleading and print ordinary-sized images on a poster when the original picture is 600×800 pixels; it’ll look awful blown up to poster-size.) Write keyword-rich descriptions. And tie it in somehow to your topic, as I did with my Mythphile Shop. Plant the backlink. It’s not much link juice, but it’s a little. It’s worth expanding your online assets and footprint while creating a possible venue for money-earning.

(This is where I plug my Zazzle tutorial.) Anyway, it’s a thought.


A Good SEO Article to Ponder

One of the places I browse often for SEO wisdom and trends is SearchEngineLand. Here’s a good article they recommended: 33 Ways to Get Penalized By Google. Nothing earth-shattering there, but a good reminder of core best practices.

In other news, Fluff points out that Hubpages is back on Quantcast, and shows a slight uptick from the July 23 Panda 2.2 update. Way to go, HP! I don’t expect it ever to regain the hyper-inflated numbers it had before– I honestly do not believe its quality/spam ratio is more than double Squidoo’s– but I expect it to be fairly comparable.

SEO Mojo: How’d He DO That?

Here’s another riddle.

Google “Greatest SEO” if you don’t mind somewhat strong language from a crass but knowledgeable SEO guy.
1. How’d he do that?

(Highlight for answer: Meta Description tag, which on Squidoo is supplied by the Introduction module.)

2. It’s ugly as Trump’s toupee, but it’s effective search engine optimization. It’s a tacky version of my mantra, “Make search results sexy.” It stands out in a page of search results, it’s liable to attract clicks, and, very importantly, it demonstrates that the website excels at what it promises: SEO.

So what can we learn from this? There are ways to do extremely powerful SEO that don’t involve backlinks or promoting your site. They don’t even involve keywords. They involve catching the customer’s attention, proving you have and know something they’re looking for, and then following through by delivering the promised content when they reach your page.

SEO Tip: Save the Date

Sorry to post so much today, but I wanted to share this Squidoo tip before I forgot. Old hands know this already: where relevant, use the year in your page title (but NOT in your URL, since you’ll want to change the title each year.)

Users who search for product reviews, news or information often include the date (“best flatscreen TVs 2011″).  People sometimes do this to filter results which are eclipsed by another similar but different search (“2004 eruption Mt Saint Helens”  as opposed to the 1980 eruption). For certain topics, people may even include the day and month.

I noticed my new Volcanic Eruptions Update lens is getting a lot of date-based hits, so I added the month/year to the end of the title. The catch, of course, is that this only works for pages which you update substantially and often enough to justify the monthly (or at least yearly) title change.

Hubpages vs. Squidoo Traffic: Holding Steady

With all the hullaballoo lately I haven’t had much time to follow my pet project, the impact of Google Panda on Hubpages and Squidoo (there’s another lens that needs rewriting before page breaks vanish, sigh).

I just wanted to post a quick follow-up. I was actually checking to see if Squidoo traffic is down across the board, because I and a number of members have seen a very slight drop. But traffic drops every summer. But here’s Hubpages traffic vs. Squidoo traffic, measured directly via Quantcast:

The Feb 24 and Apr 11 Panda Updates are visible on Hubpages’ line. They’ve implemented a lot of changes, but it may take a while for Google to recrawl and reassess. The problem is (I believe) that part of Panda is a special algorithm that evaluates the quality of a domain/site, and from that derives a handicap which it applies to pages on the site. When someone asked how long before traffic came back after one totally re-tooled a site, Matt Cutts said the Panda algorithms have to be re-run. If I’m interpreting that correctly, it means that the site penalties are being updated less frequently the daily crawl to find/index content.

So Hubpages members need to stick tight a little longer and wait for Google to reassess what Hubpages has done to correct its problems. I’m hoping for their sakes (and mine; I’m trying to get a few irons in the fire over there) that they will have good news soon. Meanwhile, Squidoo members need to stick tight and see whether Squidoo has second-guessed itself in a wise or foolish way by implementing vast numbers of changes after successfully passing through Panda I and II unscathed. Most of them aren’t content-related, but some are navigation-related; in particular we’ve lost a vast number of internal links with lensroll getting phased out. And I’m uneasy about the extra line of adsense above the fold. We’ll see.

A quick survey of Panda news reveals nothing much, but M. Martinez has detected hints that Panda might unroll in Latin America next. To recap, Panda was implemented on U.S. Google results on Feb 24, all English-based Google results on Apr 11, and a minor Google update whose impacts I haven’t been able to see in the sites I’ve studied. I shall be interested to see what happens when Panda is implemented for French, Russian, and especially German Google.