How to Rank in Google in 2014

We had a number of questions posed during our December webinar, Google’s Algorithm Updates: How to Rank in Google in 2014. Because of the allotted time, we were not able to answer them all. However, they are frequently asked questions that I think many of you will find insightful and helpful as we all move into the new year. In the webinar, we covered a wide range of topics that applied to the changing SEO landscape in 2014: Google penalties and the recovery process, the role of content marketing, changes in link building, measurement and reporting, and more.

Q: What is a side wide penalty?

Complete Google Penalty Recovery KitA site wide penalty or “domain penalty” is exactly what it sounds like. The penalty impacts the whole site including a-names, directories, etc. Really, it’s everything in the site and it could also include a (-) index which moves the search results back that many pages in the results. We cover every kind of penalty in our recently published Google penalty recovery free guide.

Q: So many of the attributes you mention for sites that incurred penalties are couched in relative terms: e.g. “over-optimized,” “low quality.” How much is “low,” for example?

It is relative in most cases because the algorithm has not been published. The number of pages or the length of content on one site may not trigger the penalty whereas it would on another. There have been a number of studies about length of content and what resonates best with search engines.

Neil Patel has a great blog post on the length of content and its impact in search. This is a good place to start and outlines how well content does based on length.

If you mean site analytics, Google Analytics (GA) is free. It will give you a wealth of information. If you decide to set up GA make sure you also set up Webmaster Tools.

All it takes is setting up an account and then adding a small chunk of code to your site. You can then track your traffic, on-page stats, landing pages and more.

Q: Do Google Ads count the same as content marketing in terms of increasing traffic?

There are two types of Google Ads. Adsense which allows you to put advertising on your site as the publisher and Adwords which is a pay per click service that will drive traffic to your site if done correctly.

No. As good as automation is, it won’t substitute for your internal subject matter experts that know your business throughout. Start with your staff to create content. If you don’t have the resources to write and edit your own content, then use any of the available resources to help you. Vertical Measures can certainly help you there.

Q: Should we use redirects for to or canonical tags instead?

You should use both. The canonical will tell the search engines which page you want to use and the redirect will point out any specific page that needs to be redirected. For example, you may have content that you’ve moved to another page and the redirect tells the search engines that the new page is the correct one.

You should also go into your webmaster tools account and set the parameter here as well:

Select Preferred Domain in Webmaster Tools

The platform doesn’t matter as much as how the site is coded and how it renders in the browser. Use this site to determine if you have code issues and fix them.

Q: How often should you post infographics?

Publish infographics as often as your budget and great ideas will let you.

The caveat is how frequently you can do them right. Better one great infographic a month that has the time put into the idea and development to resonate with the audience, to be designed to stand out from the white noise, and to be shared and repurposed to get maximum reach.

Q: Are short blog posts still good, as in under 200 words?

Yes they are. Sometimes you can answer a question or cover a topic in a short blog post. Just make sure all your posts are not that short and tip the scales on the algorithm.

Yes, internal links do count and many webmasters totally forget to use them. They help the user navigate to related content and also feed link juice to other pages. YouTube links are ‘no follow’ links so they don’t pass link juice but they do send traffic to your site. Make sure to include them when you upload your video. Other video sites may pass link juice but not knowing which you are using it’s hard to say.

Q: Do you recommend geo TLD like,, or folders What about duplicate content?

For multiple variations of sites targeting different international locations isn’t usually a problem if you employ the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” tag

You can read more about the meta tag here:

Local sites on geo-specific TLDs can help in the targeted area, along with country-specific.


Q: Does having Google Analytics give Google the ability to snoop your site and penalize you? If you weren’t on analytics could you get away with doing black hat SEO without having to worry about penalties?

Doesn’t matter if you have a Google Analytics account or not; they know what you’re up to. The web is too transparent to think that you can manipulate the search engines. Even if you could, they would find out and take steps against your rankings.

The trend is in writing content that is helpful, answers questions and helps users make decisions. It can come in any format: text, video, graphics, etc. The key is to make sure you are writing content that resonates with your audience. Find out what questions they are asking, what problems they are trying to solve using your products or services and then meet those with your content focus.

Q: What importance do keywords have on helping people to find your site now?

Keywords are not as important as they once were. Early on you could stuff pages with keywords and that had a positive impact on search results. Now you must be careful to not over optimize pages.

The key is to write great content that is useful to your clients and potential clients. Write content that helps them solve problems and make decisions. Don’t worry so much about the keywords.

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Q: I am an in-house marketer, and often get e-mails from outside marketers that my website is being penalized because I have duplicate content – because my website is in two separate languages, with only a subfolder of /es/ separating it (same ending tags). Is this true? Is this something I need to worry about?

It’s impossible to say without looking at your web site. Use some of the search query recommendations we made in the webinar to see if you do indeed have duplicate content. The English/Spanish versions should not be an issue.

Q: Would posting an interesting article from another source on my blog page hurt me or benefit?

It could if you post the whole article. I would recommend that you write a quick abstract of the article and publish that with a link to the original content. You may also want to make your G+ more robust by publishing abstracts there as well.

Q: We have multiple local pages throughout the country that have similar content on different unique sites but each has local name and geographic terms that are unique — would that be considered duplicate content or is geo info enough to keep the content unique?

It’s hard to say without looking at your pages. Many businesses have ‘local’ pages with thin content as they don’t have much more than a wrapper and a couple of concatenated paragraphs with locations substituted across each page. We recommend that you flesh out those pages with some unique local content to set them off from the rest.

Q: What is the best tool for identifying which keywords your site is ranking for?

I have a couple of tools for you to consider. Use Google Analytics as your first source. There is still query information available and you will be able to see what landing pages are ranking in the SERPs and this will give you an idea of the keyword focus for each.

You can also use mentioned before. It will give you keyword data and your competitor’s keyword data as well. You can get a quick glance for free but it is a paid service.