May 3rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A recent study by hosting comparison site Cyber Compare has found that premium .uk domains have seen a gradual slump in value over the last few years. Here are the figures:
- 2009 Average Sale Price £316
- 2010 Average Sale Price £316 (0%)
- 2011 Average Sale Price £269 (-15%)
- 2012 Average Sale Price £246 (-23%)
Premium domains are ones that contain words or phrases, so we can pretty safely assume these prices reflect what exact-match domains are selling for. It’s perhaps not surprising that the price of EMD’s has slumped in line with Google’s updates. The first Panda update was launched in February 2011 and whilst it was assumed at first to target duplicate content, it’s pretty clear now that it also hits sites with “thin” content – and a lot of EMD’s can be accused of that.
Of course, we’ve all seen niches (payday loans, anyone?) where partial-match domains keep ranking one after the other, so there’s certainly still an economy in these domains. I’m not sure if they were included in the study – would paydayunicorn.co.uk (or whatever) be considered premium?
Anyway, in September 2012 – Matt Cutts said that Google are going after low quality EMD’s and I’m sure this trend will continue. We’re also expecting another Penguin update sometime soon and although this targets links, a lot of EMD’s have a shedload pushed into them to get them to rank (briefly). How much of the EMD marketplace now consists of burned domains being sold on? The potential cleanup needed might be pushing the price down too.
So, will people keep buying exact-match domains? Yes – they’re still a good bet at this point in time but there’s always a risk that Google will really crack down. By that point you want your EMD to be seen as a brand first and foremost, a brand that just happens to live on an exact-match domain.
February 26th, 2013 § 2 Comments
Following the Interflora penalty and Google cracking down on the sale of advertorials, I’ve been reading around on Johnston Press, the publisher that owns many of the titles slapped with a PageRank penalty last week.
According to the Guardian, they’re not really in a great place financially, with print revenue down 12.5% in the first half of 2012 (when the article was written) and debts of over £330 million which they were trying to reduce.
From the article:
Chief executive Ashley Highfield said he was “strategically hanging his hat on” digital display advertising. Digital advertising was up 43.8% year on year.
The publisher’s websites have seen a 39% increase in traffic year on year, while the fledgling mobile business has seen a 100% increase in usage.
I wonder how much of the “digital advertising” uplift came from advertorials. Selling these placements is another way newspapers caught onto to make money, but in order for a web property to be valuable it needs PageRank and it needs good visibility online.
Although Johnston’s web properties may have seen an increase in traffic last year, it’s by no means guaranteed to last now they’re in Google’s bad books.
In fact The Scotsman, one of Johnston Press’s bigger web properties, hasn’t been doing very well for some time:
Both of those drops, on the 13th of October 2011 and the 26th of July 2012, look like Panda to me, but it will be interesting to see their visibility graph once SearchMetrics updates this week.
Obviously Johnston Press own a whole load of newspapers, so let’s take a look at some others:
The Yorkshire Post
There’s a slightly suspicious drop around the time of Penguin in May last year…
Now I just picked a few of their bigger sites to run through SearchMetrics but the story these graphs show isn’t great. Any publisher relying on the internet – as many newspapers now are – doesn’t want to see the big drops demonstrated above.
If you’re an advertiser you’re not likely to spend your money with a site that gets no traffic, and they’ve lost any appeal they had to the SEO community too. It would be interesting to know just what sort of clean-up plan Johnston Press (and other publishers caught selling advertorials) come up with, and if their sites can recover.
Mixed with a tough economy and competition online it’s not a great place to be.
February 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
After over 5 years working at web agencies, including three years at Bronco as an SEO Consultant, I’m finally making the move to go client-side.
Pretty momentous huh?
I say “finally” because going in-house is something I’ve wanted to do for a while – I’ve always had it in the back of my mind as a possible career progression and the last couple of years I’ve thought about it quite seriously.
Working at an agency has its upsides, certainly, but it’s also a very particular kind of job and a very particular kind of environment. I’ve come a long way from my first role as an online marketing assistant in terms of knowledge and confidence, but the day-to-day job hasn’t really changed. I’ve always dealt with clients and I’ve always done SEO – albeit “SEO” has changed a lot over the years.
It’s this changing landscape that’s made me take the leap, really. SEO encompasses so much now, a lot of my job is (or should be) what might better be called online marketing, or inbound marketing, all integrated together. Going client-side should give me the scope to do more of this, to move away from pure, traditional “SEO” and all the account management involved in having clients, and get more involved with all aspects of a business and customer experience.
So where am I going? Well, I’ve got two jobs actually, both part-time, at companies in different niches. It’s an unusual arrangement but should be quite a nice transition from having several clients, and we’re all looking forward to seeing how it works out long-term. They’re both based on the outskirts of Leeds so I’ll still be around, putting my technical SEO skills to good use and learning the ropes of how e-commerce businesses are run.
It’s the end of an era, but here’s to new beginnings!
February 22nd, 2013 § 1 Comment
Following the recent speculation about the causes of Interflora’s fall from grace, Matt Cutts has spoken out about the dangers of buying advertorial links to pass PageRank. Although he carefully avoids mentioning any names, it seems fairly likely this is a direct response to Interflora’s situation, and an implicit confirmation that their advertorial links contributed to their downfall.
From Matt’s post:
Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google’s search results, as well as reduction of the site’s visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google’s search results.
This certainly explains what’s happened to the PageRank on whole load of UK newspaper sites:
If you receive a warning for selling links that pass PageRank in Google’s Webmaster Tools, you’ll see a notification message to look for “possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.”
I wonder how many of these newspaper sites received link warnings? Earlier today I posted about Google rolling out another round of unnatural link warnings to sites undertaking linkbuilding, so it seems as though (in a repeat of April 2012), these warnings are being sent out to link sellers as well.
Matt goes on to suggest that sites remove their paid advertorials or add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to the links they contain. Then;
…you can submit a reconsideration request and if you had a manual webspam action on your site, someone at Google will review the request.
It seems likely that each of these newspaper sites will need to clean up and submit a reconsideration request. That’s quite a big job for somebody.
Finally, Matt says:
We do take this issue very seriously, so we recommend you avoid selling (and buying) links that pass PageRank in order to prevent loss of trust, lower PageRank in the Google Toolbar, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google’s search results.
It looks like Interflora’s “extreme case” is a warning to us all.
February 22nd, 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m hearing reports of another set of unnatural link warnings being rolled out over the last few days – although it reminds me of what happened back in April 2012 the wording is different this time:
We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
We don’t want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realise that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.
If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.
If you remember, Google updated the wording of their unnatural link warnings last year to be more transparent and this particular warning looks like the “least bad” that you could get. So how worried should you be?
Well, in the link above Matt Cutts speaks pretty clearly about these more precise link warnings, and it looks like Google will take action on the specific links they’ve identified as dodgy rather than on your site as a whole.
If I had one of these warnings I’d still start pulling backlinks from Majestic and Ahrefs, getting ready to clean up and submit a reconsideration request if necessary. It’s likely you’ll see at least some ranking drops as links are devalued over the next couple of weeks and this should give some idea of what you’ve been caught out on. The only silver lining is that your site as a whole probably won’t get penalised, but it’s certainly a wake-up call that your linkbuilding may have taken a few too many risks. Google aren’t done trying to wipe out paid links yet.