Fast Five in Search – Week 44, 2014



So this week I was hoping to post five super fresh YouTube videos about SEO, particularly focusing on Google’s recent algorithm tweaks. But when I went searching – boy was I disappointed! Seems that all my favorite search marketing channels have been too busy to post any fresh content lately. So instead, I did a bit of yak shaving and ended up with five not so recent – but still incredibly insightful – YouTube videos about digital marketing.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Whiteboard Friday: Surviving the SEO Slog by Rand Fishkin of Moz. In this vid, everyone’s favorite bearded SEO super-hero Rand tackles one of the greatest pitfalls of performing SEO – the initial hard slog. In your first few months of SEO efforts, it can seem like you are running on a treadmill to nowhere. You might be putting in a great deal of effort, but not yet seeing the results. Rand amusingly calls the gap the “Delta of Dissatisfaction” and explains how to manage client expectations around this gap from the get-go.

2) The Future of a Brand by Joanna Lord of BigDoor. Joanna is a delight. An ex Moz senior staffer, Joanna’s star is rising high in the world of brand evangelism and digital marketing and she has the type of life I like to follow vicariously through her Facebook feed :-). Although she has since left BigDoor and gone on to bigger and better things, this video really encapsulates her approach to brand marketing and particularly how to evolve and optimize an existing brand into a new entity without losing customer loyalty.

3) How to Create a Business Page on Google Plus by Matthew Meyer of SiteProNews. The reason I included this video is because I get a LOT of questions about Google+ and how to create a business page on Google+. This is one of the best step-by-step vids showing you how to do this.

4) How to Remove an Image from Google Images by Jeff LaFlam from Google Webmasters. Another question I get quite a lot on this blog is how to remove pages or images from the Google search results. This video shows that it’s easier than you think.

and finally…

5) Introduction to Google Plus by Martin Shervington of Google Plus Your Business. This is the first video in a series of five which covers just about everything you need to know about Google+ if you’re a business or organization.

Happy watching!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.


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Q and A: Will changing my PDF document title impact my search rank?

QuestionHi Kalena

When optimizing a PDF, Adobe Acrobat allows users to choose if they want to display the document’s file name or its title in the title bar at the top of the document (File>Properties>Initial View>Windows Options).

During a recent talk about PDF creation I was asked if changing what’s displayed from the default file name to the actual document title would have an impact on search results.

My gut feeling is that it has a positive impact, but I don’t know enough about SEO to actually confirm this. Do you know?

Thanks heaps!



Hi Diane

Your gut is right! The way you name your PDF file can impact where it ranks in search results.

A lot of webmasters believe that PDFs can’t be indexed, but in fact, Google has been able to index PDF files since 2001. Despite the different encodings used in PDFs, Google can extract useful data from them, provided they’re not encrypted or password protected. If text is embedded as images, Google can even process the images with OCR algorithms to extract the text.

Just like other web pages, PDF files have the ability to rank highly in search results, depending on their content, if they have been optimized and also depending on the way they’re embedded and linked to from other web pages.

Google uses two main elements to determine the title shown for PDFs: the title meta-data within the file, and the anchor text of links pointing to the PDF file. You can influence the title shown in search results for your PDF document by updating both. Doing this gives the algorithms a strong signal about which title to use.

Links embedded in PDF files are treated similarly to links in HTML: they can pass PageRank and other indexing signals, and Google may follow them after crawling the PDF file.

You can pick up some more tips for optimizing PDF files in these resources:

Hope this helps.


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Fast Five in Search – Week 41, 2014



I had a student ask me about video optimization this week. By video optimization, I mean SEO for videos uploaded to her company YouTube account. Naturally, she wanted her company videos to appear at the top of the search results when anyone conducted a search on YouTube for her business brand.

I referred her to a couple of my favorite video SEO resources and thought that perhaps you readers may find them useful too.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) How to Optimize Video: Step by Step Instructions by Jennifer Osborne of Aim Clear. Although this post is a little dated, most of the content is still relevant and it contains some tips you won’t see anywhere else.

2) Moz Whiteboard Friday: SEO for Video Content by Scott Willoughby of Moz. Well, Scott is just the post author, but the content is actually provided in video format by Rand Fishkin in one of his ever-helpful Whiteboard Friday videos.

3) Video SEO: A Technical Guide by Joost de Valk of Yoast. An incredibly clever guy, Joost is the creator of several uber-successful WordPress plugins and knows an enormous amount about SEO. This was the first post I found that waded into the technical concept of meta markup for video content.

4) Distilled Guide to Online Video Marketing by Cheri Percy of Distilled. These guys don’t do things by halves. Big fans of downloadable white-papers and reports, the Distilled crew have created this Guide as a PDF doc for download. It’s pitched as “a practical and expansive guide covering all aspects of online video marketing” and it totally delivers on that promise.

and finally…

5) Markup for Videos by Some Poor Guy Who Didn’t Deserve a Name But Apparently Deserved Sub-Titles of Google. This video posted on Google Webmaster Tools Help explains how using on-page markup to describe your videos will allow Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to index and show your videos in search results.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.


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Q and A: Is re-writing content from another blog a legitimate SEO tactic?

QuestionHello Kalena

My sister has just hired a SEO company based in The Philippines to provide weekly content for her company blog. As I’m a bit more web savvy than she is, she asked me to look over their service outline just to be sure she made the right decision.

Problem is, this “Google optimized content” they are providing seems to consist of copying popular blog posts from other sites in the same industry (women’s health and beauty) and re-writing them in a slightly different way before publishing. I don’t know a lot about SEO, but I am sceptical that Google would approve it. Besides the SEO consideration, this tactic just doesn’t sit right with me.

Is this a legitimate SEO tactic or could it harm my sister’s site in any way?

Thank you



Hi Leon

You are absolutely right to be sceptical. By the sound of things, this *SEO* firm employs a technique called site scraping – where the content of other sites is copied or “scraped” and either republished unchanged on a different site, or re-written slightly and THEN republished.

Long term readers of this blog might recall my hilarious battle with site scrapers in the past and the revenge I took on them. I’ve got no problem outing site scrapers, especially when all attempts at communication have been ignored. Their tactics are not only unprofessional, but go directly against Google’s published Webmaster Guidelines.

Take BrainySEO for example. This “blog” (run by some clown called Mayank Jain in Singapore) blatantly scrapes the content of hundreds of blogs across the net, including mine. What’s hilarious is that the scraped content is run through some bizarre automated plagiarist thesaurus (I’m guessing Babel Fish) to translate it into a slightly different version of the same content as a way to avoid Google’s duplicate content filters. It is then published on servers based in the UK.

Compare these two posts:

1) My Fast Five post from week 39 (original)

2) BrainySEO’s scraped Babel Fish version (scraped)

The second (scraped) version reads like a drunk Aunty.

The service that your sister has signed up for sounds suspiciously similar. As Google re-iterates in their Quality Guidelines:

“Scraped content will not provide any added value to your users without additional useful services or content provided by your site; it may also constitute copyright infringement in some cases”.

Typically, Google and other engines will ignore or filter scraped content out of the search results for target search terms. But that’s not the only negative impact it can have.

Sites like provide a rudimentary way of measuring the trustworthiness of sites and suitably, BrainySEO is ranked as *seems suspicious*.

So my prediction is at best, the content your sister pays for will be worthless. At worst, it may impact the reputation of her business and the trust of her customers.

My advice is that she should sever the contract immediately, perhaps citing Google’s Quality Guidelines as her justification.

Let us know what happens!


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Are You Over-thinking SEO?

no-inspirationYou might be a little shocked by the time you finish this article. You might even refuse to believe me. But I’m telling you straight: when it comes to SEO, you are almost certainly over-thinking it.

Let’s take a quick poll. Are you reading every SEO article you can get your hands on? Are you constantly tweaking your page title and meta tags to see if your site moves up the rankings? Are you running daily search queries to see how your site ranks for certain keywords? Do you break into a cold sweat every time Google rolls out a new algorithm update?

If you’re guilty of one or more of these actions, you are totally over-thinking SEO and you need to stop. Right now.

I’ve been in the Search Engine Optimization business for 18 years – long before the acronym SEO was even coined. I’ve witnessed the birth of Google, the death of AltaVista and more algorithm tweaks than Yahoo’s had CEOs. With all the changes the search industry has experienced over the years, I can tell you that the key to SEO is this: understanding your audience. That’s IT. That’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to understand latent semantic indexing, you don’t need to know HTML, you don’t need to know Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon or any of the other latest algorithm changes. You just need to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you don’t know your audience you need to get to know them. Quickly. Talk to them, talk to the staff who deal with them most often. Find out what makes them happy and what is turning them off. Look at their purchase history, their feedback, their interaction with your brand on social media. Survey them.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web and how this is changing SEO best practice. Well guess what? SEO has always been about semantics. The main purpose of the Semantic Web is to enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Just like it has always been, the Semantic Web of today is based on searcher intent.

Every search is a question in disguise. When deciding what web content to rank highest in search results, Google compares the content of your pages with the original search query to see if they match semantically. In other words – does your content answer the intended question posed by the searcher?

Let me give you this example:

  • Oil
  • Hammer
  • Spaghetti
  • Car
  • House
  • Toothbrush

Take these six items and mentally put them into either two groups of three, or three groups of two, based on the first grouping that comes naturally into your mind. My initial grouping was:

  • Oil / Hammer / Car
  • Spaghetti / House / Toothbrush

My justification was that the first group was outdoor related and the rest indoor related. Did you group the items the same way as I did?

Now, if you give this same exercise to someone else, their groupings would likely be different to yours. I regularly present this exercise to my SEO training workshops and the outcome is almost always different for everyone. Some people group the items based on assets and consumables, others might group based on the number of letters in the words and there are always different assumptions about whether *oil* is the edible kind or the motor kind.

What does this tell you? Everyone is DIFFERENT. Depending on what time of day you did this exercise, or even whether you were hungry at the time, it might change the outcome. What does this tell you about the way people search? Everyone searches with a unique mindset and question in their head. Different day, different mood, different mindset, different question.

So how do you identify searcher intent? How do you use the semantic web to your advantage? By understanding your audience. By studying the search terms that your target audience uses to find the goods and services you offer. Once you understand HOW they search and what questions they are asking, you can optimize your content to ensure you answer their questions. Doing that will give you a much better chance of Google, Bing and Yahoo ranking you above your competitors in the search results.

Another SEO shortcut is to create user personas for your main customers. Track what pathways they take through your site. Notice what pages they visit most often and what content they share. Publish more of that type of content. Create unique and distinct marketing campaigns for each persona you identify. Your ROI will hit the roof.

Call your best customers on the phone, buy them a coffee. Get to know them, reward them. Show them you care. They are your advocates and should be your best friends. Turn them into brand evangelists and they will do half the marketing for you.

Spend less time looking at algorithms and more time looking at your analytics and customer feedback. Publish content that your audience is asking for. Publish content that your audience is searching for. Publish OFTEN. Internal Site Search is your best friend. Don’t have internal site search? Get it fast and review what people are searching for within your content.

Re-purpose and re-package your content in different ways. That newsletter that you sent out via email last week? Publish it on your web site – and I don’t mean a PDF – put each individual article on it’s own page. Search engines love fresh content. Ask your best customers why they like your product. Write an article about that. Create a Q and A blog post out of a help-desk ticket. Publish your customer testimonials. Write a case study with the help of your favourite client. Turn your Knowledge Base into several white-papers for download. Republish your blog posts on your Facebook page. Tweet the links from your Twitter account. Add the images to your Pinterest boards. Embrace social media and cross-promote your social channels.

You can do this. Everyone reading this article can do SEO. Everyone. It is NOT a specialist skill. It takes a holistic approach, but primarily it comes down to 3 words: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

So stop over-thinking SEO and just get on with it.

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