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Ask Benj Arriola an SEO Question

Many of my friends ask me questions about SEO, and many times I am willing to answer them. I interact a lot on SEO Organization Philippines, on various FaceBook groups, from SEO Hacker, Facebook SEO Group, and several more. LinkedIn groups and other online places. And I guess you can’t avoid some people just wants to ask you a question in some other way, by IM, email, FB message or whatever, and sometimes the questions you ask, I have answered in way form or another to some other person. So I decided to just put up this page and will start answering from here, that way it is an easy way to go back to when other people ask the question.



Does article spinning work?

Original Question:
Sir Benj, Ask lang po ako kunting advise baka mai alam po kayo. We are on the edge of buying an article spinner but sabi nila. Hindi na daw advisable mag spin ngayon. Totoo po ba yon? Duke Alton (via FB pm)
Answer: Generally No. Article spinning does not work, the rationale behind all of this was to give diversity to content to avoid any duplicate content issues and gain ranking in search engines. Since it can be time consuming to come up with unique content for a web page and if you are doing this at a large scale, like for 10,000 pages, using a content spinner, does a series of word or phrase replacements. Since several replacements can be done in a single phrase, and in a large piece of content on a single web page can contain multiple phrases, you can come up with multiple combinations and all of a sudden a 1-page piece of content can turn into 1,000 pages.

The objective of doing content spinning

  • Having Unique Content The more unique your content is, the better it ranks and the less it runs into duplicate content issues which is a negative ranking factor.
  • Gaining More Links The more pieces of content you can use, the more you can distribute online in different sharing/distribution/syndication services and not run into a duplicate content issue, thus in effect gaining more links from various external web pages.
  • Mass Production to Scale the Process If content can be distribute and has to be unique, and you can gain several links from these distributed content, how can you do this for a large number of pages and make the process scalable? Many people have resorted to article spinning to solve the issue.

Why content spinning does not work?

Google has picked up on this tactic. And Google awards well linked sites with better ranking since a site linking to you should generally be linking to you for a reason. They like you, they love you, they find you trustworthy, an authority, or a credible source of information. Now the fact that you are just using article spinning to gain more links is very unnatural. You are gaining links not because of the same reasons. Thus Google came out with the Penguin update that looked at the quality of links. And any sign of unnaturalness are given significantly less weight in the ranking algorithm. Google also came up with the Panda update which is all about having quality content. A content spun page, when done at a large scale may not be quality controlled well. Many sentences may appear unnatural and not give quality to the user. Sure these are just words, but that does not mean Google cannot analyze the quality of content. Content with low quality has also significantly decreased in ranking.

Some say it works and others say it doesn't

Different people doing SEO can always have inconsistent views. And I suggest you read the answer to this question to get a better idea why. So the important thing is to analyze the differences in the situation of each SEO person making any claim on what works and what does not work.

Why do different SEO experts have different views on what works and what does not work?

Several debated issues can arise from a question like this. Like on quality of links, some say spamming links work, some say they don't. Some say article spinning works, and some say they don't. Some say profile links work, some say they don't. And there are a tons more of topics that are like this, and somehow the answer seems to be different depending who you ask.

Why are results of specific SEO tactics different among different SEO professionals?

There can be a number of reason and here are my reasons for these SEO inconsistencies that other SEO specialist claim and I have arranged this on what I believe to be the least probable to the most probably answer.
  1. Some SEO guy does not know what they are talking about
    Simply put, you are talking to someone that does not know what the hell he/she is talking about. They are just ignorance and lacks experience and may have read something, somewhere online without validating anything and treated it as the golden truth.
  2. Not running a good experiment setup to draw good conclusions
    In any good experiment, if you are observing the effects of a single ranking factor, you have to keep all other factors constant. Thus if links are tested, then everything onpage should not change. Let's say the title tag is tested, then the testing site should not gain any links from anywhere else. As much as possible you are trying to keep all other parameters constant except for the tested variable alone. When you have 2 or more variables changing and you see a ranking change, it would be more difficult to attribute the ranking change to a specific single factor, thus the effects are not measured properly.
  3. The claimed statements are biased
    It can also be the case that the main source of an SEO claim directly affects the sale of a tool or service. Example, let's say there is some kind of automated forum posting tool, and someone is claiming it is effective. But if you check and follow the root of the claim, it can be traced back to the tool creator or a company offering a related service. It is in their best interest to prove things like these work since they make more money when people believe they work so SEOs would invest in buying their tools or service.
  4. Online competitive market landscape may differ
    Some SEO gurus may claim a certain SEO concept, strategy or tactic works, then a separate group of SEO gurus may claim the exact opposite. This can actually really happen and both groups may be equally correct, but they are not just comparing apples to apples. Let's say a website was hit by Panda and Penguin with the use of article spinning tools and automated article submission/distribution. Panda and Penguin are algorithm updates and not manual penalties. They may appear like penalties because their sites with bad quality content and bad quality links significantly decrease ranking by a large margin that it almost looks like you are penalized. Having said that, you can imagine this situation, if your website is hit by Panda, but if for your targeted keyword phrase only shows 20 results, and all the 20 other websites are also hit by Panda, then it levels the playing field and other factors will be checked. So this may skew the thinking of some people that article spinning works because they still see their website ranking high.

Do Profile Links Work?

Original Question
Sir good day profile link building especially on forum profile is good seo techniques? - Herbert Arouse (via FB)
Answer Links are links. There are good links and there are bad links. There are strong links and there are weak links. Even if the Penguin update as devalued many types of links, I would not 100% say a profile link is automatically a bad link. But I would consider it a very weak link. If the profile is an authoritative one and is a highly relevant one to your target market, maybe it may have a little bit more value. But if you are just posting profile links in all places possible and making this a major link building strategy, many of these links would be of less value. I highly recommend not spending efforts on these types of links but rather thinking of nice creative ways to attract your audience naturally and make people link to you naturally. You can add on to this by influencing others to link to you, but the quality of your content should be there in the first place so that it is easier to compel them to link to you.

Some say it works and others say it doesn't

Different people doing SEO can always have inconsistent views. And I suggest you read the answer to this question to get a better idea why. So the important thing is to analyze the differences in the situation of each SEO person making any claim on what works and what does not work.

Do I add my blog on a new domain, a subdomain or a folder?

This is a common question I get from actual clients and there are advantages and disadvantages in both.

Advantage of a Folder - example.com/this-is-a-folder/

It is part of the main domain so any metrics domain authority or trust metrics Google may be looking at are inherently passed on to the folder. Link juice of the homepage as well gets passed on to the folder more than in a subdomain or new domain.

Advantage of a new Domain - example.com

A new domain is totally a separate site. And starting SEO from zero is a greater challenge because the site has no links, the site has built no authority and trust. The site is not even indexed yet. And it is also not aged. All of these are ranking factors that improve ranking but will not help in a very new domain. But the advantage here is eventually the site will age, get some links, get indexed and build it's own trust and authority over some time. And when that happens, and the blog links to the main website, then the link will be viewed as an external link and not an internal link and external links are given more weight in search engine ranking. From a marketing point of view, a blog that is too promotional of a single company may sometimes tend to be less inviting where the readers have this feeling that the blog post are always written in a way to sell them something. And when a blog is totally branded as a separate entity, then there is a possibility of gaining and wider audience especially if quality content is placed on the site and there is no blatant promotion of the products or services of the company that owns the blog.

Advantage of a Subomain - this-is-a-subdomain.example.com

A subdomain is like somewhere in between a folder and domain in terms of inheriting trust and authority metrics search engines may be looking at. Search engines may recognize the overall trust and authority of the root domain, but still identifies the subdomain as a separate website and Google Pagerank flow will not be as direct as how it is in a folder. Having the main domain included in the subdomain is still associating the sites main brand which we cannot really say if that is an advantage or disadvantage, it all depends on the product and service marketed. In terms of links, since the subdomain is a different site, then links are like external links which are given more weight than internal links. Although links should still be done naturally, thus subdomain links should not be abused since the root domains are still the same, if you link to your own site unnaturally just might raise some red flags.

Progressive Approach / Upgrade as You Go

Sometimes what I recommend to clients at IMI, is to start off as a folder so all trust, authority and link juice passes down well to the blog. And when enough trust and authority is built, then there is the option to move into a subdomain or new domain later and just 301 all old URLs to their new URL counterparts, then you also gain the external link factor.

Is hosting multiple sites on a single server good or bad for SEO?

I depends what you are looking at. There is a situation where it can be bad and there is a situation where it does not matter.

When is it bad?
When you are creating an internal network of websites for the sole purpose of linking to your own website. Links supposed to act like votes of trust, credibility and authority because when people link to you, they like you, they find you credible, trustworthy and has the authority to talk about a certain topic. If you are linking to yourself, that is creating some kind of false popularity and the links are not showing these same signs Google is looking at.

In trying to game the system, some people thought of making multiple websites that they all own and just link to themselves. And from an economic standpoint and scalability standpoint, it is easier to run that all on the same server. And when you do, often they will have the same IP or at least the same C-block IP address. And Google is aware of that and that is one thing they can definitely look at and see if links are natural or artificial, and they look artificial, then the Penguin algorithm kicks in and your links get discredited or worse, might even push you down in ranking.

When does it not matter?
When you have multiple websites but are not linking to each other to make a link network. When they are just a bunch of individual sites that are not even competing against each other. They can even be all about different topics and all are good standalone websites all independent of each other. In fact if you sign up for a web hosting account on any of the cheap web hosting companies, more often than not, your IP address is shared with another customer that can be on the same server that you are totally unaware of.

What if there was a porn site on the IP address sharing a hosting server with your site?
Same thing, your sites are independent of each other and if there seems to be no internal link network there should not be a problem unless a very large majority of the sites hosted on the IP are really bad websites. Let's say 80% of the sites on the server is porn, pharmaceutical and online casinos, and many of them are deindexed, then yes, it may cause some problems.
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