Tag Archive | "Standards"

3 Fundamental Editorial Standards for Any Serious Publication

I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal, and when it comes to content marketing today that translates to “have editorial standards or don’t publish.” If a reader, listener, or viewer begins to like you, but you fail to earn their trust, your hard work will feel like a waste. Editorial standards are
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SearchCap: Google bringing AMP benefits to web standards, musicians on Google Posts & Google Lens rollout

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google bringing AMP benefits to web standards, musicians on Google Posts & Google Lens rollout appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Can You Spot the Expert? Test Your Knowledge of Google’s Content Quality Standards

the best way to get search engines to EAT (and serve) your content

Want to hear something scary? No, not scary like Five Nights at Freddy’s. More like disturbing. Alarming. Even depressing.

I used to write articles about:

  • How to protect yourself from necrotizing fasciitis
  • How to escape from an airplane safety slide
  • How to tell if you’ve been poisoned by sushi
  • Whether runners could benefit from platelet-rich plasma surgery
  • How much alcohol you should drink
  • Why the rate of concussions is higher among women

Now, what makes this admission scary is that I’m not a surgeon. And I’m not a nurse practitioner, physical therapist, or chiropractor.

In fact, I’ve never had any medical training in my life — nor have I ever slid down an airplane safety slide!

Horrified yet? Well, just wait. Because medical advice was not the only thing I used to freely dispense as a web writer.

I used to write articles about child injury law, start-up culture, buying an apartment in New York City, and so on. And I have absolutely no training, experience, or knowledge in any of those areas.

But what’s the big deal, you say? Journalists write about topics they’re not experts in all the time. They simply craft a story from expert sources and authoritative studies. What’s wrong with that?

Nothing.

However, the difference between what I was doing and what a journalist does is that I hardly had time to spell-check, let alone hunt down actual experts, studies, or statistics. Who would when you need to crank out 5 to 10 of these 500-word articles each week?

Sadly, the only knowledge I had was what I found online about these topics. Ah, the glory days of ghostwriting.

Uh, so what exactly makes an expert … an expert?

I wasn’t the only one creating this stuff.

Hundreds (thousands perhaps, maybe even millions) of more drones just like me were clogging up the Internet with shallow, water-thin content on every subject known to man … all in service to people who wanted to game search engines.

Fortunately, Google has since put the kibosh on such behavior through updates like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. And, fortunately, they continue to refine those algorithms, most recently with what they call “Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness (E-A-T)”.

expertise-authority-trust

That’s Google’s shorthand for what it takes to create high quality web pages and websites. As written in their Search Quality Rating Guidelines, released November 19, 2015:

“High quality pages and websites need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic.”

These terms — particularly authoritativeness and trustworthiness — are not new to any regular readers of Copyblogger. But have you ever wondered what exactly an expert is?

In some cases, it’s easy to define an expert. For instance, the only person giving advice about knee surgery should be an orthopedic surgeon. Someone with the right training, the proper credentials.

But, according to Google, this is not the only type of expert. Pay attention, because you and I have got something at stake here.

Let me explain.

The rules behind the quiz

I don’t have a college degree in copywriting or content writing.

But because I produce those types of writing for a living — as well as evaluate applications for Copyblogger’s Certified Content Marketers program — it could be argued that I’m an expert.

And you, dear content marketer, are probably struggling with the same type of concern: what exactly makes you an expert?

Well, that’s what this quiz is all about. It’s designed to help you refine your sense of becoming an expert.

Before we get started, let me outline the rules:

I’m going to give you a scenario involving a so-called expert. Your job is to decide if the person described in the scenario is an expert or not.

After each scenario, I’ll tell you the correct answer — according to Google’s content quality standards — and go on to explain the reason behind the answer.

And just so we are clear: every single scenario I share below is a work of fiction, based loosely on real-life experience. But names, places, and incidents are the products of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), businesses, companies, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get going. Ready?

1. Advice about a sports injury

Third-year University of Georgia, Athens economic student and ultra-marathon runner Heather Soso got tired of her chronic plantar fasciitis, a condition she’d been ignoring since her senior year in high school.

Naturally, she did what we all do when we want medical advice: she looked it up online.

She was amazed at the variety of amateur and professional advice available on treating and preventing the condition. Each approach might have some scientific support, but it was mostly anecdotal.

Which approach should she try? It was so confusing! But then she had a brilliant idea: she would try them all and blog about it.

Over the next year, she tried each approach and wrote dozens of articles. Her most popular page was about the six toe exercises that treated her condition successfully.

That’s right: six exercises for her little piggies.

So, what do you think: would Google consider Ms. Soso an expert? Her article on toe exercises authoritative? Trustworthy?

The answer is “yes,” because while her website’s topic is medical in nature, Google would view Heather as an “everyday expert” — someone with relevant life experience.

And because plantar fasciitis is not a life-threatening condition, Google will “not penalize the person/page/website for not having ‘formal’ education or training in the field.”

And this is true for other activities, such as cross-fit training, passing the GMAT, and even teaching SEO. If you’ve got everyday experience, flaunt it!

2. Retirement advice

Dee Dell, from Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, is frustrated to no end over the fact that so many Americans don’t have a retirement plan — and don’t even seem to care.

Furthermore, he believes this is not good for our economic future since this may mean that nearly 40 million people will be dependent upon a government that is already stretched thin.

This professor of business management and partner with MegaMo Asset Management is on a mission to encourage men and women over 40 to start saving — and he’s showing them exactly how to do it.

But because Dee is an impatient, aggressive man, his articles are often brief, rushed, and laced with profanity — but oh so much fun to read because of his passion for the subject!

This allows him to churn out four posts a week, but his company and busy schedule with the school keep him from updating the information in his content.

So, what do you think Google would think of Dee’s pages? Expert enough to be authoritative and trustworthy (since he’s got the credentials)?

It’s more than likely that Dee’s pages may not be of the expert variety despite his credentials. Google is explicit that financial advice should come from expert sources but also that the content “should be maintained and updated.”

That’s something Dee is not doing.

In addition, to improve his pages and be taken more seriously by Google, Dee should write in a professional style, go in-depth (even if this means he publishes only once a week), and have his content edited — possibly even reviewed by a peer as well.

3. Tree house building advice

After winning $ 8,047,882 in the Canadian lottery, former newspaper editor and math teacher Kimball Saddlechurn took it upon himself to scratch an itch he’s had since childhood: mastering the art of building tree houses.

But not just any tree houses — really high tree houses.

In the last 6 years, he’s built 14 multi-room tree houses more than 90 feet above the ground. It’s still not clear whether or not these tree houses are legal, but he could care less since he’s a multimillionaire.

Which got him thinking: $ 8 million may not last forever, so maybe he could pad his retirement nest by flipping his hobby into a source of income.

During a casual lunch of veal limone and rabbit gnocchi, his girlfriend told him about the benefits of content marketing. Intrigued, Kimball washed down his meal with a tumbler of Aultmore of the Foggie Moss, spread his laptop out on his indigo pajama bottoms, and launched a sleek website.

In his blog posts, he goes into great detail about the structure and safety of building a tree house that high off the ground. He offers multiple blueprints and considerations about weather conditions and tree types.

This is important, because there is not only money on the line (it takes thousands to build a tree house of this caliber), but lives as well, which makes this Your-Money-or-Your-Life content. (YMYL, for short.)

So, what do you think: would Google consider Kimball’s pages expert enough, especially given the financial nature (people will be dropping thousands of dollars to build a tree house) and risk to life?

Answer: yes.

The reason is that while Kimball is a hobbyist (a rich one at that), he’s got the right type of experience: 6 years, 14 tree houses, and, most importantly, no one has ever fallen out of a tree.

Besides, Google smiles upon the fact that Kimball writes in-depth articles (with blueprints at various angles to boot).

Now, exactly how much experience he needed before he became an expert is unclear. Was it the eighth tree house or the ninth? Maybe it was the fourth?

Here’s a moral I think you can get out of this: there is no perfect time to get started. As long as you are not dealing with lives and big money, you don’t have to wait until a certain number of years to launch.

This is equally true for activities like photography, dog sitting, and learning how to play guitar.

Just start publishing because there are advantages to having a website with age.

4. Advice on a forum

Morton Ambledowny Piff loves Quora — the question-and-answer site where community members ask, answer, and edit the responses. Morton particularly loves sharing answers about his speciality: North Korean culture.

So, it may come as no surprise that this 72-year-old widow and ex-Marine, who spent 37 years working for the government-run Foreign Languages Publishing House in North Korea as a publicist (his fluency in six Asian languages was a major boon), has one of the most popular posts on Quora.

In fact, the article — along with several others — are among the top-ranked in Google search results for a specific keyword phrase. But these top-ranked posts from Morton are not about North Korean culture; they’re about stage IV lung cancer.

You might be thinking, “Huh? How could a former North Korean publicist give medical advice on such a complicated medical topic? Shouldn’t YMYL content come from a medical professional?”

It depends.

See, Morton not only had the unfortunate experience of caring for a father who died of stage IV lung cancer, but Morton himself now suffers from stage IV lung cancer. And his Quora answers are all about his personal experience with lung cancer.

So would Google consider these posts authoritative? This is what Google writes:

“In fact, some types of information are found almost exclusively on forums and discussions, where a community of experts can provide valuable perspectives on specific topics.”

As long as Morton writes about living with and caring for someone with stage IV lung cancer, Morton is an “everyday expert.”

To some degree, he might even be able to write authoritatively about prevention and treatment, but those subjects should probably come from medical professionals.

5. Lifestyle advice

The 33-year-old Wiga Mikolajczak-Jefferson, usually one to agonize for long periods of time over a decision, knew the moment she laid eyes on Blake “The Mighty Thigh” Jefferson that he was her man.

Three days later she was married.

What she didn’t realize was that she’d be moving into Blake’s 251-square-foot bungalow.

But since she was an interior designer by trade and smitten to the bone over her boy, she decided to give it a try. And wouldn’t you know it: after several months of rearranging the bed, she fell in love with the simplicity of living in such a small space.

And because she was a recovering McMansion dweller, she decided to start an email newsletter to tell everyone else about her discovery and the advantages of living a simple, clutter-free life.

Over time, her newsletter attracted 22,000 readers, which made her kind of famous. Unfortunately, though, her blog posts weren’t getting very high search rankings.

Wiga didn’t respond well to this.

“Why are you treating me this way, Google?” she would cry in the dead of the night, shaking her fist.

“Don’t you understand I’m a professional interior designer, have 22,000 readers on my mailing list … and am married to the former NFL running back star Blake Jefferson? Don’t you know that?!”

Sadly, Google ignored her pleas. See, the problem with Wiga’s content boiled down to three things:

  1. Sloppy writing (she refused to capitalize “I”)
  2. Reams of rambling prose (she never got to her point, and when she did, she usually fell down another rabbit hole)
  3. Bunches of broken English

See, according to Google, lifestyle advice falls into the category of “future happiness,” so “advice on parenting issues … should also come from ‘expert’ sources which users can trust.”

And this type of content demands expertise (which she had, both professionally and personally), but it also demands clear, concise, and compelling writing. And it would help to think like a Google engineer, too.

Which, fortunately, means that Wiga can instantly improve the credibility of her content by simply hiring an editor.

A summary of what you should have learned

Let’s wrap this up with some tidy little principles about what we learned, based on section 4.3 of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines:

  • When it comes to high quality medical advice, it “should come from people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
  • However, some topics, even medical in nature, only demand that you are an “everyday expert.” Google writes, “These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience.”
  • Aim for deep and detailed content no matter what you write about, but especially if you’re dealing with YMYL content.
  • Perform original research to help your content go deep.
  • Avoid redundant or duplicated content — and don’t steal content from other sites.
  • Edit your content. In other words, spell correctly, fix factual errors, and repair poor grammar.
  • Maintain and update your content on a regular basis.
  • Write in a professional style: clear, concise, and compelling. Be sure to avoid jargon.
  • Remain balanced, professional, and worthy of your audience’s trust.
  • Financial advice should come from expert sources.
  • Cover a topic comprehensively. Don’t aim for an arbitrary word count and stop once you reach it.
  • When giving “future happiness” advice, make sure you have the appropriate expertise (even if it is of the “everyday” variety) and make sure it’s professionally written.
  • Avoid the obvious. If 30 people have already reported on the Facebook Graph Search, then find something else to write about (unless you have information nobody else does).
  • Write content a professional print magazine would publish.
  • Spend an insane amount of time on detail.
  • Commenting on forums like Quora can get you attention and build trust — as long as your posts are encyclopedic, accurate, and easy to read.

Share what you learned in the comments below, and let me know if you have any questions or doubts about whether or not you are an expert.

I know this was somewhat of an unorthodox way to cover this topic, but my hope is that you had fun. Because I know I did.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Want to become a content marketing expert?

Authority is our advanced content marketing education program. Inside Authority, we pull back the curtain on the topics, tactics, and strategies that don’t show up in public blog posts.

The doors to Authority are open until this Wednesday, January 27, 2016, and then we close our doors again until later this year.

Click the button below to join Authority today before the doors close on January 27, 2016.

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IAC: We Comply With Google’s Toolbar Standards

Amid industry discussion about what Google’s enforcement of new policies will mean for its AdWords distribution partners, IAC says its Mindspark toolbar company, and all of its companies, are fully in compliance with the policies currently in place. Google put new standards for its partners…



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Google+ Takes No-Nonsense Policy on User Identity & Community Standards

Google+ has demonstrated how serious it is about user identities by banning accounts that seem to be using fake names and discussing ways in which celebrity identities can be verified. Several groups, including the hacktivist organization Anonymou…
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Scammers, Spammers & Industry Standards

A Friendly Warning

I got an email the other day titled “small business SEO scam”

My name is Ryan, and I head small business outreach for ConsumerAffairs.com.

Recently, we started receiving a rash of complaints from small business owners concerning illegitimate SEO consulting companies they have used.

These small business owners are paying hundreds (in some cases thousands) of dollars to have these SEO consulting companies remove negative comments from ConsumerAffairs.com.

However, these small businesses are being taken advantage of – ConsumerAffairs has no relationship with these SEO firms and there is no way for them to remove comments/reviews about their firms from our site.

ConsumerAffairs is very concerned that small businesses are being mislead by these SEO firms, and we are trying to get the word out through small business resource blogs, such as yours.

I do not know if you have heard about this scam, but we hope you can help us get the word out and possibly even blog about this. We recently published an article about this if you would like to read more about this topic consumeraffairs.com/news04/2011/04/bogus-complaint-removal-sites-prey-on-small-businesses.html

Also, in response to these complaints, we have launched the ConsumerAffairs.com Accredited Business Program. Under this program we alert the small business owner when a consumer submits a review/complaint, and the company is given the ability to respond to the consumer.

ConsumerAffairs realizes the majority of SEO firms do incredible work for small businesses and in no way are we grouping these illegitimate firms with all SEO firms.

If you have any question please feel free to contact me,

Ryan

The Problem With Complaints Websites

Here is the problem with complaints sites though: so many of them cover all the “evils” of the marketplace without ever covering the positive sides of said industries. The email solicitation to me states that they are aware that the majority of SEO firms do incredible work, but searching their site comes up empty for any such recognition, just complaint after complaint.

However you are welcome to pay the complaints site $ 100 upfront then $ 10 per month fee if you want to rent their credibility & get a trust badge so you can be accredited to let them disitermediate your customer service. Sorta like “get satisfaction or else.” Making things worse for those who run legitimate businesses, the media trains consumers to smear brands for upgrades & on the internet even non-customers feel entitled to crap on your brand if you don’t set your wage at $ 0. And, since many complaints sites are at least semi-anonymous, they also invite competitors to smear each other.

Trust Us

The issue with “solve it with a trust label” approach is that people lose faith in a lot of those labels, because lots of trust label sites are less trustworthy than those without them. A scammer always optimizes with an aggressive sales pitch that removes *perceived* risk. It is precisely why the FTC had to crack down on scams wrapped in fake news sites.

And who was promoting the fake news sites? None other than the mainstream media (which even promotes the scams on articles about avoiding scams like SEO)!

In response to one such hate bait SEO article from a sleazy polarizing news organization I posted about it and flamed them, writing “If people talk trash, lie, and misinform consumers about a topic often enough then they destroy some of the perceived value of that field. Maybe you don’t work as hard as I do and maybe you don’t help out as many people as I do. But I work way too hard to just not care when a bunch of sleazeballs trash my trade by pumping biased misinformation through a megaphone.”

Who is the Scammer?

Back to the reputation management “SEO scam” mentioned at the top of this article, if a small business thinks they can pay someone a couple hundred Dollars to fix their bad reputation & it doesn’t work then were they really scammed? Weren’t they really trying to manipulate the market for pennies on the Dollar? Isn’t getting scammed the expected outcome when you under-pay for services?

Also oddly enough, the above complaints site which was out to inform consumers about scams embeds inline AdSense so aggressively that many folks likely can’t tell where the content ends and the ads begin

Since those are Google ads, they are contextually relevant & the articles about “scam x” often contain ads with pumped up ad copy for the very services that the article allegedly warns against. Not surprising considering that Google AdSense has a “get rich quick” category.

Why is it that such consumer “protection” services can run ads in the content & simply fall back on this “Advertisements on this site are placed and controlled by outside advertising networks. ConsumerAffairs.com does not evaluate or endorse the products and services advertised. See the FAQ for more information.” in the footer? If they wanted to protect consumers, wouldn’t they also give you links to report bad ads and/or solicit feedback on them and/or claim some responsibility for them and/or not blend them so aggressively in the content area of the page?

That FAQ page states

I see ads for companies that are criticized on your site. What’s that all about?

We don’t control which ads appear on our site. They are placed by outside agencies. The fact that an ad appears on our site by no means indicates we approve of the product. Same thing’s true for an ad in the newspaper, or on television or radio.

This seems wrong. How can you take money to advertise products you don’t approve of?

It’s a free country. Companies, even the ones we don’t much like, have as much right to advertise as we do to publish our site, just as we have the right to publish critical comments about them.

That “use the small print” game is exactly what the aggressive info-marketers do.

The Scam of Mainstream Media

How is it that if you don’t disclose an affiliate relationship for a 3rd party some people will view you poorly, while the media can run on a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to monetization? Eric Janszen recently highlighted how this isn’t an accident:

Assume the laws of human nature are in force and you are not getting the truth when a powerful and politically connected industry is in crisis. It took decades for the health risks of tobacco to come to light. The media was no help until the tobacco industry was already on the ropes. Once cigarette advertising was widely banned and the advertising revenue dried up, it was safe for the media to cover the obvious dangers of a product that killed millions. Only then did the media join in on the side of consumers.

Are Standards a Good Idea?

In spite of the bizarro way that the media world operates (screw whoever you can while claiming you are ignorant that you are selling them down the river) some folks who are concerned about the state of the SEO industry think they can fall back on industry standards. Industry standards are no real solution though:

  • most people who operate such organizations push self-promotion aggressively (anyone remember the SEMPO tiers with the inner circle at $ 5,000 level, but free to certain folks?)
  • such self-promotion also aligns with business biases (remember how early “research” out of such organizations aggressively promoted paid search while making SEO seem like an also-ran?)
  • scammers won’t abide by standards of any sort, but they will get the logo (the guy who ripped my wife off many years back / before she met me had logos on his site from TopSEOs and Sempo
  • those who are desperate need to do “whatever it takes” and that would make standards irrelevant to them. Consider this following “dear team” email I got from a non-customer

    As sad as that email is (telling me they are ignorant of SEO, yet are taking on SEO clients, yet need me to do it for them) it is actually worse than it appears at first blush. Why? The anchor text they wanted me to get was for keywords about SEO, so some SEO who is claiming to sell “professional” SEO services is paying dirt to some poor third world worker & is having that person optimize the SEO’s site! If their services for their own sites are that bad imagine what they must be doing for clients!
  • we already have a set of standards (in Google’s guidelines) but they are already selectively enforced, an additional layer would do nothing but inhibit potential
  • some projects have different risk and reward potentials
  • standards are backwards looking & would provide no protection from something like Panda, which is requiring small businesses to fire tons of employees as they grasp for straws & careen toward bankruptcy
  • The table is already tilted toward certain types of sites. If you agree to an across-the-board arbitrary standard you cede marketshare to those chosen few. Matt Cutts said: “we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side.” Some search results already look like the following, where the top brand has 3 AdWords ads and the top 3 organic results
  • If SEO standardization happened then it would see more job outsourcing & additional wage compression
  • Any such standardization would require additional constraints on smaller players while allowing “too big to fail” to ignore them. Remember how Google stated that bloggers need to disclose? Well they missed the fact that Google invested in creating automated paid links, and I have even seen ads on Google Finance without any label on them.

Scammers Operate Anywhere There is Money to be Made

Read the news any day and you will see stories like this:

Nearly 300 people fell ill in central China after eating meat suspected of containing illegal additives, the latest in a spate of contamination problems to emerge even as the government vows to crack down on food-safety violators.

The state-run China Daily newspaper blamed clenbuterol, a substance that speeds muscle growth in pigs but can cause headache, nausea and an irregular heartbeat when consumed by humans.

People may be a bit more careful with eating some types of meat in China in the near-term, but based on that news story you don’t get an immediate “OMG never eat pork” reaction. Yet so many of the scams in the online space (even those funded by Google & those not directly related to SEO) are conveniently labeled as SEO scams.

When pharmaceutical corporations hide studies which shows their drugs as being less effective than originally claimed are they labeled as drug scams?

I was recently emailed by a PR firm working on behalf of Pfizer, which wanted to make a “documentary” about the escalating issue of counterfeit drugs. They are concerned about legality and consumer safety when someone else is making money, but you know what Pfizer has repeatedly had no problem with? Pushing drugs for off-label purposes:

New York-based Pfizer agreed to pay $ 430 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, and the company’s lawyers assured Loucks and three other prosecutors that Pfizer and its units would stop promoting drugs for unauthorized purposes. What Loucks, who’s now acting U.S. attorney in Boston, didn’t know until years later was that Pfizer managers were breaking that pledge not to practice so-called off-label marketing even before the ink was dry on their plea.

On the morning of Sept. 2, 2009, another Pfizer unit, Pharmacia & Upjohn, agreed to plead guilty to the same crime. This time, Pfizer executives had been instructing more than 100 salespeople to promote Bextra, a drug approved only for the relief of arthritis and menstrual discomfort, for treatment of acute pains of all kinds.

The drug companies now consider criminal fines as a calculable cost of doing business, so much so that the government is now looking to hold executives responsible for the crimes of their companies.

The pharmaceutical industry has paid billions of dollars in civil and criminal penalties over the past decade, but the government believes they no longer have much deterrent effect.

The new use of exclusion is meant to “alter the cost-benefit calculus of the corporate executives,” said Lew Morris, chief counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services’s inspector general, in congressional testimony last month.

Scammers operate anywhere there is money to be made. They will even claim to follow standards, while doing every dirty thing in the book. But it doesn’t mean that everyone in those markets are scammers simply because their business model doesn’t have the margins and scale needed to pay off the mainstream media.

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