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 series and a few Hollywood movies, meaning Sex And The City was a column by writer 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. 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 consultants. Heavy metrics and non-obvious metrics can often scare people in the PR industry, and so whenever I can teach useful stuff to help their day-to-day work, I do — I’m a unique bridge for them, because I understand their lingo, plus I hang out with marketers and so I speak that lingo too. I see the overlaps.
P. Thomson: For anyone listening that doesn’t know, what is a Google Penalty? What are some things Google doesn’t like? Let’s hear about existing for that long without a Penalty.
A. Yong: Let me start off saying that over the years, educated guesses have led to some basics, like, marketers now know overuse of exact match anchor text and keyword stuffing are bad. SEOs who’ve gone deeper found that if you guest write but you treat some blogs as “just too small” to be associated with, Google is aware that 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.
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 or even bronze medals, he had to build up to all that. So applying that same realism 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 by being a guest writer, well that’s the way “real life” is. . .
Public relations agencies (well, I should say their clients mostly) are frequently guilty of wanting to “be on the big sites only” and that creates the bad straightline cliff on the chart. And I’d say 95 percent of PR professionals don’t know this, sadly, even though it was written about in 2013, albeit on a marketing site that’s rarely visited by PR professionals because most of them feel it’s too advanced — I’m talking about Moz.com of course. There’s free wisdom on Moz.com, why not take advantage of it?! It’s not JUST for marketers. So back to the charts, most brands should avoid being caught with their pants down in some absurd scenario such as having 33 percent of their footprint on sites measured at DA 30, while the same footprint shows absolutely nothing lower than DA 30, that’s ridiculous; that would be like Michael Phelps coming out of the womb with Olympic medals around his neck!! Bronze medals in this example, but still.
And yes, while some brands do catch sudden fire, the legit ones can truthfully say they have DA 90 and higher backlinks, through organic coverage from major media, not from a formula to game-the-system. And they’d most definitely have a footprint on small sites, so, on a data viz you see that gentle slope, in other words what Google would consider “natural” linkbuilding. But, if your backlinks are clustered in the DA 30-50 zone, you create that straightline cliff, indicating discrimination against sites you/clients judge as “too small”. Unwittingly, by being too contrived, you’re opening a pandora’s box to Google Penalties . . . You know the saying: There are no straight lines in nature.
So when Google’s penalty algorithm sees a straightline cliff, it flags the offender as a site that should be scrutinized, then a human employee at Google investigates, and based on his or her judgment, you’ll get a penalty message in your GSC! This is just one penalty example; there are others.
A penalty message in your GSC, also called a manual action, is real aggravation, it’s no joke: to undo the manual action, you’ll need to do Google-sanctioned correctional legwork, and then you’re allowed to appeal. Your penalty might not even get removed after you appeal, 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 two shoes” way, or if you guide your clients to stick to a strategy of high integrity, your footprints will be natural, and you can be worry-free.
Oh, and if a brand or an agent says your site’s not big enough, you can throw the Finlayson charts in their face, nicely of course, and say something like “Smart marketers don’t discriminate, and by being realistic and putting ego aside, a brand benefits by aligning with the way Google sees the real world.”
For example I have a site that’s not even DA 29, but because of the Finlayson finding, it has a ton of cool guests dating back as far as 2013. It has more guests than you’d guess or expect from a site of its size and stature, including a gentleman formerly part of the Clinton administration, the woman who invented The Webby Awards, a former NFL star, and the ex-Googler who put Google Earth into Audi vehicles. For a small new site or even a not-so-new site stuck in a lonely rut, the Finlayson info can be extremely valuable; you just need to work with brands and agents who comprehend it.
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