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How to Recover from a Google Algorithm Penalty

Has your website been hit by a Google penalty? We unpack what you can do to uncover from a Google algorithm penalty.

Mark Wright

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It’s September 2013 and business is booming. Your website ranks impressively well, in fact it outranks most of your industry’s biggest players. But, little do you know, things are about to change in a month’s time, for the worse I’m afraid. You wake up on October 4th and your once high traffic website resembles a ghost town.

What happened on that fateful day was no mistake, it didn’t involve sabotage or trickery; you were hit by a Google penalty, Penguin 2.1 to be precise.

What this means is that Google basically flagged you in one form or another as cheating, gaming the system, manipulating, exploiting or quite frankly making a fool of the dominant search engine. One thing Google does not take lightly to is being made a fool of.

Here’s how to recover (or do your best to recover) from a Google algorithm penalty:

Step 1 – Identification

The first thing you need to do is determine what kind of penalty you are dealing with. To do this you need to log into your Webmaster tools account and check if you have any messages from Google.

If you have a message from Google saying that they’ve identified unnatural links from your site and your site will no longer perform well in their search results, then this article isn’t for you. Sorry, but honestly you’re actually one of the lucky ones.

If there is no message in your Webmaster Tools account, just a massive drop in organic traffic, you’ve almost certainly been hit by an algorithm shift. I use the term ‘algorithm shift’ as this isn’t a penalty as such, but rather a change in Google’s algorithm that has dramatically reduced how much trust Google has in your website.

Step 2 – Weigh up your options

This step requires you to do some thinking and honest reflection.  Did you do some dodgy link building? Or did you hire an SEO firm or person that did a whole bunch of things that you didn’t understand but involved words like ‘link building’, ‘PR4 and up’, ‘blackhat’ and ‘bots’?

From here you need to weigh up your current investment in your website. How long has it been up, how much time and money have you spent on it and could you under go a rebrand or online overhaul?

If you’re one of the lucky few that haven’t spent much money on your site and could possibly scrap your current domain and start again, I would suggest considering this option.  As for the rest of you, you’re in for the long haul I’m afraid.

Step 3 – Toxic link identification

From here you need to analyse your website’s current link profile to identify the culprits. You’ll need a link analysis tool, a sneaky industry that has popped up since the first penguin update. I’d recommend Link Detox, but there are a bunch of them around.

This tool will help identify what links can stay and what links need to go, while saving you a lot of time in the process. Don’t skip this step in an effort to reduce costs; it will literally save you weeks of work. 

Step 4 – Toxic link removal

Once you’ve got your link report and you know what links caused Google’s Penguin to crash your party, you need to move onto the link removal and disavow stage. This is the part that sucks, a lot.

You need to remove all of these dodgy links. Just how do you do this? By manually contacting each website and asking them to remove the links. It is a time consuming and mind numbing process.

Thankfully, Google understands that this is just not possible as often there is no one monitoring these spammy sites. Thankfully Google introduced the disavow tool, which allows you to tell Google what links you want to be ignored. It’s important to submit your disavow file as soon as possible, as it can take up to 6 months for Google to re-crawl these spammy sites and process your disavow file.

Step 6 – Be patient.

Now you need to step back and wait for the next Penguin update or refresh. It’s a tough pill to swallow but that’s just how it works. You’ve been flagged by Google bot and you now need to wait for the new update for an opportunity to regain your reputation in the eyes of Google.

Step 7 – Invest in consolidated digital marketing

While you wait for the next Penguin update be proactive and start looking at a consolidated digital marketing approach.

Run a content marketing strategy, invest in Google adwords, work on your email database and start getting your head around social media.

By doing this you can take what could have been a game ending injury and turn it into a digital marketing lesson that leaves you better off in the end.

Mark Wright Co-Founder at Cavalry Media - Comes from a Public Relations background, Mark is a devoted enthusiast of the internet. As a wordsmith, consultant and marketer, he aims to bring your ideas to life and attract the attention your organisation deserves.

Online Marketing

6 Steps To A Digital Strategy That Guarantees Results

Create your Brand Hero (Who exactly are you talking to?)

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce

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Digital Strategy

Your Brand Hero is often a mixture of some of your favourite past clients and could even be a version of you 3 to 5 years ago. Go deep and think about what they love to do, how they spend their time, what they passionately stand for and believe in, where they shop, what sort of holidays they like to take and what values are important to them.

Don’t worry about appealing to everyone, the more niche you can be the better. For example: “I help women with their health” vs. “I help new moms regain their energy through tailored exercise and nutrition”. In the second example, it’s crystal clear exactly who the programme is for.

Do market research. Send out a survey (without actually calling it a survey!) and ask them questions specifically around what their struggles or frustrations are. Ask them to select five ways that you propose to help them and see what they want. You can offer them a prize or a free value-packed download in return for completing the form. Keep it less than two minutes as people are time-poor these days.

Go one step further and select 5 to 10 people from the survey who filled it out in depth and jump on a call with them. Record it via Zoom and have it transcribed using Rev.com – now, you can use the actual words your potential used to describe their struggles into your upcoming marketing posts, email newsletters or sales copy.

1. Tell Stories

To cut through the 1000’s of marketing messages, your Brand Hero sees all day long online, you’ll need to use stories to connect in a genuine and authentic way. As the online market becomes more sophisticated people don’t respond to boring sales copy anymore. Injecting a story is crucial to creating a community around your brand.

People need to feel like they belong and that they know you intimately, especially if you have a personal brand but this can work for any company. Think about Richard Branson as head of Virgin. He blogs and shares his life via social media. He seems like an all-around nice guy who we love to follow and you’re probably interested when he launches a new product or service.

Humans learn through stories and find them easier to remember than a bunch of facts being thrown at them. Think about making your content shareable. Is what you’re creating and putting out into the online world worth a share? Would you share it? Would you be moved to buy from your own message?

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – Simon Sinek

Share your why. What’s the big why behind your brand and business? What’s driving you to do this? What’s important to you? What impact do you want to create in the world? Share that.

Related: How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape

2. Show behind the scenes, be real and human

A simple tactic to use for your digital strategy is to show behind the scenes of what it is you do. This can work across the board for many kinds of businesses and show the human side of your brand. Who’s doing the work? How’s your product being created? Where are your materials sourced from? Take people with you on a journey and let them see how it’s created.

If you’re a serviced-based business you can do the same. Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and Instagram lives would be perfect for this sort of thing. Once a week, create an hour by hour account of your day and give your audience a glimpse into your workday.

Be fascinating. Don’t spend all your time consuming content. Turn the tables and get into the mode of creating. Treat your business like a mini media company and always be thinking about what you can share.

Create before you consume!

3. Live video streaming

Live video streaming

Live video is by far the number one way to stand out from the crowd. Video will make up 82% of all internet traffic in 2021, according to forecasts released by Cisco. Get uncomfortable by doing the things not everyone’s willing to do. One of those is showing up and giving value on a platform like Facebook Live. Livestreams are great as you can interact with your audience, show your expertise and take Q&A directly from your potential customers.

From a practical point of view make sure you’re in flattering light (preferably natural light from a large window) or invest in some decent lights on a stand. Use a tripod. Get a Rode VideMic Me, a directional microphone for Apple iPhone and iPad so that your sound quality is good. Have your juicy topic ready and write out some bullet points on a whiteboard so you don’t lose track halfway through. Now 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 press that blue live button!

4. Grow your List with an opt-in freebie and give results ahead of time

It’s not enough to rely on social media platforms alone. With ever-changing algorithms and the fickle nature of human behaviour, putting your eggs in one basket could come back to bite you. You don’t own Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin. Take Snapchat for example. When Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, and basically swiped the idea and format, Snapchat lost users in droves! Ensure that you build your email list as that’s a rather valuable asset for your business and if you decide to sell in future you’ll get a higher price if your database is substantial.

Create a valuable PDF, Video series or Mini-Course that people would be eager to hand their names and email addresses over to receive. Create a simple opt-in page or a pop-up on your website with the enticing freebie offer. Once people agree to hear from you, you can then follow up with a welcome sequence and email out your newsletter regularly from your chosen CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) such as Active Campaign, Drip or MailChimp.

Remember to share stories, behind the scenes and valuable content with your readers and don’t simply bombard them with sales offers.

5. Be consistent

Pick two social platforms to focus on in the beginning. Don’t feel as though you need to be on every single one. The most important thing to remember is consistency. Get really good at posting regular content on a consistent basis. Engage with your audience. Respond to direct messages and comments. Build a loyal audience before expanding out to other platforms.

You can use blog posts, like I do, as pieces of pillar content that can then be spread around social media and posted to many platforms. My readers know that every Monday I release a value-packed blog post that will help them move the needle forward in their business. This goes on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Medium and gets emailed out to my list via MailChimp.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

6. Use launches to sell new offerings

Everything mentioned above falls under regular, organic content. When you have a new product, service or program to put out into the world you’ll need to map out a launch plan. This will involve going live more often, posting more often, creating branded graphics for social media and putting some budget behind paid traffic. You can do this by boosting your Facebook lives for example or sending paid traffic to your opt-in freebie that you’ve created so that you build your following faster and have eager buys to launch to.

To keep up to date with Chanelle’s tips visit http://segeriusbrucecoaching.com/blog/

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Online Marketing

The Seven Rules Of Social Media

Here are 8 tips from the proverbial digital playbook.

So Interactive

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Social media has become indispensable when it comes to marketing and PR. Smart, carefully thought out, and well implemented social media strategies have shown to increase exposure and engagement, improve search engine rankings, increase turnover, encourage brand loyalty, and improve lead generation. Converting social media followers into true fans is the key and will set you well on your way to creating long term customer advocates and “ideal” customers.

Here are 8 tips from the proverbial digital playbook. They lay out exactly what brands can do and the ground rules that they should follow to prevent social media faux pas:

1. Don’t Over Promote Your Brand

Your profile or page on any social media platform should clearly communicate your brand message and offering to your target audience. Your social media posts need to be more than overt marketing tactics. Offer your audience relevant, interesting, and engaging content. Overly sales orientated content is a sure way to lose followers. Conversational and on trend content is the way forward.

2. Think Before You Post

Always take the time to properly consider your content before posting it. Think it through and ask yourself if it is relevant to your target customer, if it uses the correct tone, and does it put your brand message across accurately. Consider the purpose of each social media platform and the content that is generally consumed on each of them.

Plan, evaluate your messaging, and use relevant hashtags.

Related: Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

3. Always Fact Check & Cross Reference

Fact checking isn’t just for journalists and TV news. Always fact check your content, especially when trying to tie in news and current affairs into your messaging. A careless mistake in your content can be extremely damaging to your brand. Making time to fact check can save you at the end of the day.

4. Damage Control

It is important to react quickly and professionally, be careful not to respond with knee jerk reactions. Never delete a post, comment, or response. It is important to own your failures and mistakes. Address issues out in the open and hold yourself accountable if need be. How you respond will make all the difference at the end of the day. You need to be prepared to take immediate action, to act fast, and at any time.

Take the time to properly assess the situation and make a calculated decision that is in the best interest of your business and brand. Transparency is key and showing that you managed a situation flawlessly will only reflect positively on your business.

5. Post Regularly

Manage and maintain your social presence effectively while promoting your offering by posting regularly. This ensures that your brand is kept top of mind while increasing brand exposure. It is important to keep in mind that over posting is not in your best interest and will only hold your brand back from gaining traction in the online space.

Your online audience and social platforms including social media could very possibly view your content as spam and flag it as such, including on Facebook. One to three posts a day are best practice and a formula used by most brands the world over.

6. Invest In The Time To Do Solid Research

Researching your customer personas, target market, your niche in the market, and so forth, should be researched very early on in the making of your business. However, going forward research makes for amazing content that is tailored to your target audience. A few hours of solid research can go a very long way in the process of creating quality social media content. Posting social content for the sake of the act itself is simply not an effective strategy. Posting carefully curated content for your target audience will yield higher engagement and conversions.

Related: 4 Key Social Media Mistakes You Might Be Making – And How To Avoid Them

7. Never Ignore Enquiries & Comments

Social media allows for two-way communication and conversations between businesses and their potential customers. Social media goes beyond simply putting the content on your timelines and onto the news feeds of your audience, it includes engagement between brand and customer in the online space. It is important to acknowledge your followers and your fans, every single time. This encourages brand loyalty and gives the impression that you value your followers. Answering messages and responding to comments shows that your brand is present and listening to the needs of the customer. Personal engagement and a speedy response speaks volumes.

Your first step is to consider getting a respected social media specialist onboard. Johannesburg based So Interactive is a highly respected digital marketing agency with an excellent reputation in South Africa and across borders. So Interactive is a boutique studio offering clients quality digital solutions. Get in touch to get your next digital campaign off the ground. Talk to So Interactive, and together you can create a winning social media marketing campaign.

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Online Marketing

The Six Second Sweet Spot

Six-second video has been all the buzz since Google showcased the best of its six-second hackathon at Sundance in January 2017.

So Interactive

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video-marketing

In June last year, Fox announced it was on board with six-second bumper video ads. Google recently performed a study which established that nine out of ten bumper video ads drive ad recall while 61% increased brand awareness. Six seconds is proving to be the perfect time frame within which to tell your brand story.

The six-second video amplifies the beauty of storytelling in that it creates a much faster, more accessible and memorable way to communicate messages. The time constraint can be quite daunting and, at first, some would consider it a creative hinderance. However, a short sentence, a single word, a stand alone image, or a six second visual is often more than enough to catch and keep the attention of your audience as it pushes creatives to think differently and with more focus.

YouTube recently challenged creative agencies worldwide to retell fairytale classics by using only six-second video. The challenge was met overwhelming enthusiasm and creativity. From Bollywood classics to local folktales, every entry proved, for the first time, that short, powerful stories have much broader impact and memorability than their longer counterparts.

Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV

Six-second video is a snackable content trend that is paving the way forward for online content. Respectable industry leaders and key players in the field are predicting that six-second video ads will continue gaining traction at the end of 2018 and through into the coming year. Short form video has literally become the six-second sweet spot and will continue reshaping the way digital marketers address their audiences.

So Interactive, based in Johannesburg, are known for their work in video. If you are looking to create a six second brand message or a short series of six second videos that form a single brand story, then So Interactive is a fantastic fit and brilliant option. Go with the professionals, get a brilliant creative team on board, and get your six second video out to the world. Get in touch with So Interactive to discuss your next six second video marketing campaign.

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