P. Thomson: Alex, would you introduce yourself?
A. Yong: I’m Alex Yong, a journalist at the New York Observer. (Observer.com) Most people don’t know that that media brand is the birthplace of Sex And The City before it was made into a TV show and a few Hollywood movies, meaning Sex And The City was a written column by Candace Bushnell in the 1990’s in the New York Observer. . . If you grew up in New York City like I did, you’d remember the New York Observer stood out on newsstands because it was printed on colored paper like the Financial Times (FT.com). The print version was discontinued a few years ago, so now it’s just Observer.com. I’m also with Small Business Trends (SmallBizTrends.com) which is older than Facebook. 14 years without a Google Penalty.
On the side I also teach organic social media to solo PR professionals. Data-heavy and non-obvious metrics can often scare them, and so whenever I can teach PR professionals about useful stuff to help their day-to-day work, I do — I’m a bridge for them.
P. Thomson: For anyone listening that doesn’t know, what is a Google Penalty? What are some things Google doesn’t like? Talk about existing for that long without a penalty.
A. Yong: A lot of times, educated guesses are the best starting point, like now we know overusing exact match anchor text is not cool. Also, if you guest blog and you treat some blogs as “just too small” to be associated with, Google knows you have that very intentional approach, and they frown upon it — I have a screenshot about that and I’d like to show it to you.
[ Note: The above screenshots apply to link-building in general, not JUST guest blogging ]
A. Yong: Marketers have noticed that Google algorithms often reflect how “real life” works. Like the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps didn’t come out of the womb with gold medals, he had to build up to all that. Applying that to brand building, Google knows it’s tough to get featured, or to have bylines or even plain-text mentions in the Washington Post or the New York Times or other big legacy media sites — and so if you appear on lots of small blogs, whether by citation or being a guest, well that’s the way “real life” is. . . Public relations agencies, well, I really should say it’s mostly their clients, are guilty of wanting to “be on the big sites only” and that creates the bad straightline cliff on the chart. A lot of PR professionals don’t know about this, even though it was written about in 2013; mostly it’s marketers who know.
And now to finally tie that to a penalty example: Google’s algorithms can flag a straightline cliff as something to be scrutinized, and not in a good way; then a human from Google will see the flag, apply his or her judgment, and you’ll get a penalty message in your GSC! This is just one example; there are others. And a penalty message in your GSC, also called a manual action, is when the real aggravation begins: to undo the manual action, you’ll need to do legwork and appeal. Your penalty might not even get removed so just avoid penalties; you seriously don’t want the pain of experiencing one. I have many marketer friends, and I’m in many marketing Slack groups and Skype rooms — this is how I know.
If you do things the “goody 2 shoes” way, or if you guide your clients to stick to this type of strategy, your footprints will be natural, and you can be worry-free.