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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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How-to-Recover-from-a-Google-Algorithm-Penalty-_Online-marketing

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

5 Steps In Adwords Competitor Analysis: A Practical Case Study

In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.

Steven Slotow

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adwords

In PART ONE of this article on the importance of competitor analysis in an Adwords campaign, we demonstrated to you the value that can be uncovered by performing a proper analysis of what your foe is up to on Adwords and how they can actually help you do better.

In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.

Pens sharpened? Batteries charged? Lets go!

As a case study of a local Adwords campaign, we’ll be taking a look at one of the main spenders on PPC in South Africa, booking.com, and see what information can be gathered about their competition in paid search results.

Step 1. Find out who your client’s true competitors in paid search are

First of all, let’s get on the same page, by stating that your organic and paid search competition is not the same thing. If you know who you share the SERPs with, it doesn’t mean that you’ll share the paid ads section with the same set of companies.

Booking.com knows what we’re talking about.

Here’s the organic part of the SERP for ‘book a hotel’. Booking.com shares it with Trivago, hotels.com and Agoda.

serp

They could have thought: Okay, so these are my competitors, I know what they’re up to, I’ll look into their strategies and I’ll be fine in both organic and paid search. But wait, what is happening there at the top of the SERPs? Who is this dark horse?

hotel-booking-serp

It’s Expedia! In organic search it stands further down from booking.com than the rest of the domains from the first page, yet in paid results Booking and Expedia are the closest rivals.

Related: 16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing

But that is just one keyword. There are many other keywords for which the companies want to advertise in Google, so to know whether you’re actually competing with them, you need to evaluate your competition level.

It’s a simple process of comparing the number of keywords you have in common versus the number that are unique with that competitor.

paid-keywords

By estimating this value, you can distinguish your true competitors from big generic brands, niche competition and temporary distractions in the paid search.

Jokes aside, Booking and Expedia share a relatively similar online presence and are, of course, familiar with each other’s PPC strategy. That said, if you’re not a huge domain and know your usual competitors, it is even more frustrating to miss an audacious market newcomer or an organic outsider trying to cut the line and get to the top of the SERPs with an aggressive PPC campaign. So, the analysis of your true competition should be performed regularly. For the agencies that we support, we usually revise the competitors list once every quarter.

Step 2. Estimate your competition PPC budgets

Now that you know who you are rubbing elbows with in paid search, try figuring out how much they spend on PPC. There’s no way to know exactly what their budgets are (except for corporate espionage, but we don’t recommend that), but you can still make use of an estimation.

For that, you need to know how many keywords they target in paid search, what their cost-per-click values are, as well as their estimated search volumes. That is practically impossible to reveal manually, but the competitor analysis tool in SEMrush for example provides you with an estimation of the company’s PPC budget based on the data from their keyword database. Similar tools should be found in whatever quality software you’ve opted for.

Here’s the info we could gather about Booking.com by solely analysing the keywords for which it was showing up in paid search and the CPC values of those keywords.

booking-com

Though it is a rough estimation, this info is helpful in planning your PPC campaigns in a way that meets with market trends.

Step 3. Find out your competitor’s unique keywords

What’s even better about competitor analysis is that it will help you save time by not needing to do the tough jobs yourself by letting you (legally) steal the best ideas from your competition and dwell on them. Remember, if you’re doing it to them, they’re probably doing it to you as well! All’s fair in love, war and paid advertising!

What’s the practical value of this? Well, your competitor’s unique keywords can be your missed opportunity.

keywords-match

By comparing the keywords that Booking and Expedia are bidding on, we see that there are a lot of keywords related to means of travelling and travelling companies in Expedia’s portfolio, but they are missing in the Booking.com set. It is obviously just another tactic for such a big brand, but for a smaller company, this comparison list could be a golden goose of new ideas.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Step 4. Research your competitor’s ads and banners

If you have ever been online, you know that the SERPs are crowded. The served results in both organic and paid search have to constantly overcome the viewer’s lack of attention, so the message in your ads should be short, clear, and actionable.

Your competitor’s copy can be a  great source of information.

competitor-adverts-and-banner

Comparing your ads to your competitor’s allows you to see the context and the standards of messaging in your niche and adjust your voice to or diversify from the usual tone.

Also, sometimes you need to develop multiple ad copies with similar content. Whenever creativity abandons you, you can look into your competitor’s copy and borrow a few ideas from them.

Step 5. Check your competitor’s target URLs

Imagine running an online retail business. Summer sales are coming, and you want to promote your goods with an AdWords campaign. Apart from the keywords that you want to bid on and creating appealing ad copy, you also need to think about the page which your ads are going to take your leads to.

Is it common in your client’s niche to have a specific landing page for a promo like this? Or is it enough to have banners on the home page? Take a look at your client’s competitor’s target pages and find out.

seasonal-sale

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Online Marketing

The Value Of Competitor Analysis On A South African Adwords Campaign

If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you.

Steven Slotow

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south-african-adwords-campaign

Running a successful AdWords campaign can sometimes be like trying to understand the maths that Elon Musk is using to put a human being on Mars: you’re pretty sure it will work, but trying to figure how and why burns too many brain cells.

Well, help is at hand! In this TWO PART article, we’re going to demonstrate to you the value of performing a competitor analysis on an Adwords campaign, and show you just how and what you should be looking for.

As a digital marketer of any kind, you’ve probably had a crack at running and managing an AdWords campaign. Let me guess:

  • Predicting the results and outcomes was impossible;
  • You outsourced to an agency this one time. It cost you a fortune and they kept asking questions you couldn’t possibly have answers to;
  • Setting the budget was more complicated than understanding the nature and purpose of Snapchat;
  • And speaking of budget…it’s NEVER enough and always runs out too quickly.

Nobody is arguing with the fact that AdWords is one of the most complicated digital marketing efforts that you can undertake on behalf of a client or yourself. However, if done right, it could also be one of the most rewarding, effective and business-altering activities you could do.

Related: How to Use Pay Per Click Using Google Adwords

If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you:

South African PPC market in numbers

In 2017 the total spending on Google ads in South Africa across all industries reached $30 million. The market’s thriving!

google-ads-spend

And these websites were the most generous spenders on Google ads. If only your budgets could compete, right?

top-advertisers-in-google

However, these were the industry’s spendaholics.

Generally, businesses are way more careful with their PPC budgets: only 3.8% of all the companies spend more than R50 000 monthly, and the majority of 34.1% is just indulging their curiosity with somewhere around 1000 bucks a month.

percent-of-advertisers

And if you worry about your ad copy, take a look at the most popular phrases and CTAs used in South African ads:

top-phrases-in-adverts

Related: Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies

So, how do you enter that market AND, at the same time, save your money?

Well, that’s like eating an elephant — get help and do it in pieces.

If you thought that running and managing an AdWords campaign was complicated, try getting advice from the pros on best practices to net best results. Just like deciphering that Musk math again.

  • Split test your copy
  • Use different ad extensions… or all of them
  • Try out different calls to action
  • Manage and track your budget daily
  • Get your targeting on point

But also don’t forget about the foundation of any marketing campaign, digital or not: research your competition.

As wholesalers of digital marketing services to South African digital agencies, by far one of the most important and most advised best practices we suggest to the agencies that we support when running an AdWords digital marketing campaign is to ensure that they practice comprehensive and thorough competitor analysis.

What is competitor analysis for your Adwords campaign and how do you streamline it?

adwords-competitor-analysisRunning a competitor analysis during an AdWords campaign is like having a video camera in your competitions training session. It’ll help you pull back the curtain, see what they’re up to and adjust your efforts accordingly to ensure optimum results from your AdWords campaigns.

In our experience, many companies do not perform PPC competitive research, or don’t do it as often as they should. However, not having the full picture about your PPC competition is risky and can result in running ineffective campaigns. That means wasting your or your client’s budget without netting tangible results or missing the opportunities available to your client by underinvesting.

But recognising the difference that competitor analysis can make in your AdWords campaigns is only the first step. The next step is to find the right tool to help you perform your competitor analysis on a regular basis. The stats and data provided in this article were pulled by our team using SEMrush. It’s a software that we have found invaluable in helping us to provide white label, wholesale digital marketing services to the South African and international digital agencies that we support.

That being said, there are a wealth of similarly effective and powerful digital marketing tracking tools on the market worth investigating. We encourage you to get out there and see what works best for you.

Related: 16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing in 2016

The data that you should drill out of your competitor analysis

On all the levels of digital marketing, there’s a constant rivalry between best practice and revolutionary ideas. The question of whether to follow a well-trodden path or to do things differently in an effort to distinguish the brand you’re working on is always on the table. Or desktop in the case of digital marketing.

However, to make an informed decision you need to know the niche you are playing in as well as its main players. These questions will help you gather that information:

  • Who is your true competitor in paid search?
  • How much do they spend on PPC?
  • What are their most profitable keywords?
  • What do their ads and banners look like?
  • What URLs should your ads target?

Now you know WHAT to ask. But what do you do with the answers and how do you use them to improve your own Adwords performance.

In PART TWO of this blog, we’ll be diving into just that. CLICK HERE TO READ ON!

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Online Marketing

There Is No Silencing The ‘Chatter’ Bots

In a world governed by technological advances, it is no surprise that the business world has adopted technology of their own to better their processes.

Jandre de Beer

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chatbot

There has been a strong movement in the business environment towards automated processes through the use of Chatbots, introduced in order to support business teams in their relations with customers.

Chatbots are essentially personal assistants developed to assist you. They are artificial intelligence systems that we can interact via text or even voice interface. In the business world the idea is to automate repetitive tasks in order to lighten the workload for employees, allowing them more time to concentrate on more important tasks at hand.

As futuristic as this all sounds, the reality is that this is something that businesses are already using and the benefits are definitely worth mentioning.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google PPC Ads

Chatbots in Business

The main aim of any business is to keep the customer happy – that’s where the money comes from after all. In such a fast-paced, technologically advanced world, customers are expecting so much more from businesses in terms of service delivery, so this is where Chatbots come in.

Unlike humans, Chatbots can work 24/7 without a break and without the added expense, two factors that will definitely benefit any business, never mind the improved customer satisfaction that comes with that.

Customers no longer have to wait to be put through to the next available operator; Chatbots are replacing live chat with other forms of contact such as text and emails, ensuring that customers are dealt with faster than was previously possible.

Chatbots can have conversations with thousands of people simultaneously, something that humans just can’t do.

Dealing with difficult customers is also a thing of the past. Chatbots are bound by rules and specific instructions so they will always deal with customers in a polite and professional manner, another positive for customer satisfaction.

In the travel and hospitality industry, dealing with customers that speak other languages is also a possibility with a Chatbot trained in different languages.

The Long-Term Cost Saving

There is major movement in all businesses to keep costs down, especially as the business grows. A major monthly expense for businesses is the paying of salaries. Although it isn’t possible to completely cut out this expense, Chatbots can help businesses reduce the amount of staff needed.

Related: The Best Conversion Rate Optimisation Tips To Help You Grow Your Business

Chatbots can deal with simpler customer queries and only escalate more complex queries to agents. Chatbots can also lighten the workload of a sales team by engaging with customers and gathering information about what the customers want, supplying the sales team with valuable information to help in the sales process.

Chatbots are a one-time investment, and any company with a website can make use of them – simple and cost-effective in the long term.

There are so many benefits to using Chatbots, and as technology continues to advance, who knows what these bots will be capable of in the future.

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