Possibility, Probability and Proof: On Case Studies, Correlation and Causation in SEO

I wanted to spend a bit today dealing with a pretty big issue that I see regularly in our industry, bickering over the state of research in search engine optimization. Rarely a week goes by where someone doesn’t say something about correlation does not equal causation in response to the mere sight of the word. So today, I’m going to write about 3 types of SEO research we see in our industry quite regularly and what I believe the appropriate response should be… Case Studies This one is actually my pet peeve. We tend to let this one go with a pass nearly every time despite the fact that it is likely the least meaningful SEO research presented. I was particularly drawn to this issue after a series of case studies coming out of Link Research Tools...

An Appeal to Conferences: Matt Cutts, Not Provided, and the Google’s Relationship to our Community

Matt Cutts has always shared an interesting relationship with the SEO industry. It was always strange to have the head hen visit the fox’s parties, but – then again – it seemed like a fair trade. His relationship to our community generally seemed quid-pro-quo. He would learn much about industry players, our tactics, and give a human element, while sharing some amount of information useful to us. Of course, this often came with a good deal of FUD, but it seemed worthwhile. There have been plenty of SEOs, like myself, who have questioned that relationship for some time. The balance has seemed to tip more and more in favor of Google over the years, as a “relationship with Matt” has been reduced to “fill out a reconsideration...

Keyword Research on Regular Expressions Steroids in Grepwords

There really hasn’t been much innovation in the keyword research space for a while and for good reason – the largest problem of getting good data has long been answered by top providers like SEMRush, Trellian KeywordDiscovery, WordStream and others like KeywordSpy. The data they provide is wonderfully useful, but the one thing that always felt limiting was the way we could get at their data. While they might provide accurate estimates for Google traffic, or useful data on large numbers of keywords, getting at the data required clumsy querying techniques no better than exact, phrase and broad match. As a developer, I found this cumbersome. Recently, though, I have found a better solution – Regular Expressions. At Virante we have long had access...

Adding Keyword Data to Google Analytics

Here is a quick little Chrome extension I had thrown together to get keyword data added into Google Analytics. [Install] At present, it has the following features on the Organic Keyword Traffic section of GA, you will see 4 additional columns with new data… CPC: The estimated cost per click of the keyword in google adwords Search Volume: The estimated monthly local (US) traffic for the keyword Traffic Value: The value of the traffic you received (CPC*Your Traffic) Estimated Rank: The estimated rank of your site in Google for that keyword over the previous 30 days For this tool to work, you will need an API Key from Grep Words. I am thinking about adding in SEMRush as well, but it is a bit more expensive than GrepWords. If a lot of you use it, let me know...

Open Penguin Data Project – Calling for Submissions

Many of you may have seen the launch of my new project Open Penguin Data. The description of the project isn’t quite clear so I thought I would explain a little further. What is the Open Penguin Data Project? I want to crowdsource potential variables that might be used by Google to determine which pages are caught by Penguin. I have created a CSV of URLs that are marked as either (1) hit by penguin or (2) not hit by penguin for a series of keywords. I need the SEO community to provide variables and their values for each one of the URLs in the dataset. For Example: Let’s say you believe that having links from blog comments might be a variable Google uses as part of Penguin. You would download the CSV of URLs and mark each one as either having or not...

Stupid Shit People Say Post Penguin

“There is more spam now than there was before”. The reality is that Penguin most likely only impacts sites that were already ranking well. Google is not going to use their most computationally intensive algorithms to check every URL on the web. They are likely segmenting based on commercial value of the SERP, the visibility of the URL, and the search volume of the keyword in order to limit the number of pages they need to analyze. This means that those more spammy sites sitting at positions 15 or 16 might get skipped in this iteration. However, now that they are in the top 10, they will be picked up for analysis in the next update. Moreover, many will be scared into believing they are next on the list and will clean up. This takes time, but ultimately...

You’re Still Penalized and It’s Your Own Damn Fault

Because Virante owns Remove, ’em a blended tool and service that helps webmasters remove bad links pointing to their websites, we have had a unique vantage point in the post-Penguin world. We actually just celebrated our 1,000,000th link removal. Our perspective has allowed us to see hundreds of webmasters struggle through the process of reconsideration requests and penalty removals – some taking as long as 2 years – and there are a couple of things we have noticed time and time again. By and large, the largest obstacle to getting out of a penalty tends to be the website owner him or herself. I do not mean to trivialize what webmasters go through, I often think it is incredibly unfair, but we all fall victim to a human tendency to prefer...

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