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SEO after 2016... what has changed?

     
4:50 pm on May 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys,
Between 2010 and 2016 I had a lot of success with my websites. I used to build simple WP sites, to load them with 200-300 posts written by freelances and to create some backlinks to those sites. Paid sponsorships, links in articles on other relevant sites and things like that.

Everything was great until late 2016 when most of my sites were manually penalized for thin content. Since then I can't recover. I feel like I lost the touch with SEO and like it's impossible to rank a site for anything again.

I abandoned most of my penalized sites and started new ones in different niches but my results are very poor. One of new sites was somewhat good from late 2016 to April 2017. Since then there is less and less visitors on them.

Recently I started some more sites, already published 100 or so articles but there are 1-3 visitors per day :) I used to have 10k-15k visitors a day, per website and now can't achieve anything.

What happened in the meantime? What I'm missing? How to back on the track?

Thanks
8:28 pm on May 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Vantelli, thanks for your frankness and your detail.

Back in 2016, you and I had a discussion focusing about the specifics, and I think that thread is worth rereading....

Duplicate Content, Manual Action, and Multiple Sites?
Oct, 2016
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4821209.htm [webmasterworld.com]

At the time, your approach to optimization was virtually a textbook in what not to do. I'm wondering what you've done differently since then which hasn't worked. Unfortunately, there are a lot of members here who think SEO is still about tricking Google, or sending a few "right signals".

It's not... it's about identifying what searchers want and need, and about building and marketing really good websites. What's required now is that a site be extraordinarily good, so good that users find it useful and want to use it a lot, to tell their friends about it... with content that is so unique and well writtien and presented that relevant sites link to it.

There are techniques to this, of course, and that is what the bulk of this forum is about, or should be about. We've got a lot of categories in WebmasterWorld, focusing on the techniques and craft of building and marketing a website, yet most members with troubles seem to focus on the Google Updates thread or the AdSense threads, and to ignore all the rest.

Rather than throwing darts at the universe by making suggestions, which I'm not inclined to do... and no one wants to hand this out on a platter... I think it would be interesting and useful to hear from you what you have tried in the past couple of years that hasn't worked. Then, perhaps, you can get some feedback to give you a sense of what you're focusing on that's no longer helpful, and to point you in some useful directions.

9:38 am on May 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Sites with thin content but good backlink profile ranks better than quality site :)

So basically, Google is prioritizing authority sites.
10:51 am on May 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi Robert, I'm glad you remember me! To be honest I didn't changed anything in the meantime. I'm still employing the same writers, using the same WP plugins, themes etc... There are a few reasons for that:

- I still believe its possible to achieve quick results, but don't know how (and that's the answer I'm looking for)
- I'm trying to establish another business and spent most of time working on it.

I used to pay a few dollars per article and these days writers are asking for like $50-$150 which is crazy. I'm not going to invest $5k in 100 articles only. If there is really no other way but to build a super quality site, then I'll have to give up. For such site one needs a team of 10-20 people at least, huge budget etc. It seems only huge corporations are able to do that, and obviously I'm not a CEO of a corporation.

Here are a few questions:

- Do you guys still do link building or backlinks are totally useless these days?
- What kind of links are working?
- Is it still possible to buy an article with a link for $20 on another blog and to boost your rankings?
How many links a month do you create?
11:21 am on May 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I used to pay a few dollars per article and these days writers are asking for like $50-$150 which is crazy.

With articles paid "a few dollars", you can't expect any original and quality articles. How many hours to elaborate an original article? (research + structuring + writing + spell check).

I still believe its possible to achieve quick results, but don't know how

How many millions web publishers are trying to achieve "Quick result cheap" ? By associating these words, you'll only end with "quick cheap results".

Produce your own original content, this will already be a good starting point.
11:31 am on May 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Think less about link building and think more about traffic generation. Links that deliver traffic are very valuable and tend to deliver good SEO results. Spammy links have been diminishing in value for a very long time.

Don't spin weak content. AI is generating content that is becoming more impressive each year so you need to generate content with much higher value to separate yourself from that AI content. Make sure your technical SEO aspect is great, really great. Fine tune that page speed which helps usability, crawling and ranking. Then work up a social plan to develop brand awareness. The social plan should generate backlinks as people spread word of your unique value. Think less about manipulating pagerank and more about leveraging public/press relations. The difficulty level for SEO has greatly risen and will keep rising. It is harder to succeed if you treat SEO as a solo activity. It is less difficult if you use it as one piece in an integrated marketing plan (seo, ppc, social, apps, local, etc) Good luck.
11:39 am on May 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I was working for a leading SEO firm most of you are aware off. A few years ago we created a website with top content. Some PhD and other university teachers were hired to write content. There was no any traffic on the site for months, until we created backlinks to it. Long story short - the conclusion was links are king, not content.

I'm not looking aiming for a top quality site with millions of visitors per month. Just need to know how to rank a medicore site with 200-300 posts and to get 2k-3k visitors a day. Lot of such websites are still around, so there must be a way. Probably its about link building? I didn't created much links for my sites recently.
12:09 am on May 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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What has changed since 2016?

1.) Churn and burn websites are harder to build. It takes 6 months to 1 year to rank for high volume keywords.
2,) $5.00 Fiverr articles don't rank. Articles written by ESL students don't rank. Not because of a grammar algorithm but because of a User Experience algorithm.
3.) Shortcut tactics don't work. If you are unwilling to make the best website you can possibly make out there that is useful to the niche you are targeting, go get an offline job.
4.) If you are unwilling to adapt, you are doomed. There is no cookie cutter method. I own 3 websites I niche informational site, 2 niche affiliate sites. I have never built a link on the informational site. 200 articles, 36,000 visitors per month average. 3 years old with content I have personally written over the last 7 years. 1 niche affiliate site site is almost 1 year old. 60 articles, 6,000 visitors per month. I built 20 real and personally written blog comments on related websites, 20 quora comments again really made by me. 4 guest posts, 1 press release, Pinterest, Twitter, and Flipboard social media posts for each article. That is it. It ranks and banks. My last affiliate site is less than 6 months old. 383 articles purchased at $20.00 per 1000 words. Each article is over 2000 words, some 5-6k words. I built 20 blog comments, 20 quora answers, 1 press release, and the same social media posts for each article. Currently it is getting 150 visitors per day. It has 11 top 3 rankings, 53 top 10 rankings, and 178 top 30 rankings in less than 6 months for each page's targeted keywords.
5. The formula? Be willing to work hard. Target a good niche. Do exhaustive long tail keyword research. Especially find those that are very low competition even if they are only 10-250 searches per month. Let Google trust you with those first. Then go after higher volume that is relevant later. Make sure every page you publish has a reason to exist beyond making you money. It must be useful to the reader. Answer a question, solve a problem, give them a chart, price comparison, or some other feature most are not giving. Focus on user experience. How fast is your website? Get it under 1 second. It can be done with Wordpress. I do. Break up your paragraphs into 2 or 3 sentences for those annoying phone users. Make your images less than 20kb. Don't clutter it with ads or widgets. Remove your sidebar. It goes to the bottom anyways on responsive sites and is useless. Interlink all your articles with relevant links. Not "latest posts" or "popular posts" but posts that talk about the same topic. Build 20 or more articles on each topic and interlink them to one another. For instance. If your topic is ballpoint pens. Then an article on best ballpoint pens, bic ballpoint pens, ink used in ballpoint pens, ballpoint pen buyers guide, different types of ballpoint pens. Top ballpoint pen manufacturers ect. Have 50% affiliate content, and 50% informational content that supports your affiliate content.

If you do this, you will get more than 2 or 3 visitors a day guaranteed.
5:47 am on May 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think the expectation from the reader and Google is much higher than it used to be.

I don't think Google should rank a mediocre site when there are great sites out there. Times have changed, there's more competition, when I started out, there were only a handful (at best) of sites doing what I do, now there are hundreds. So why would Google rank a mediocre site when there are so many other sites who are putting in huge amounts of effort to create exceptional content?

It is a much, much more difficult playing field now compared to the past.

I no longer focus 100% of my energy on getting traffic from Google, I created a newsletter, set up notifications, and am very active on Facebook (not so much the other social media sites, I know I should), all of those people are happy to read your content and share it.
5:51 pm on May 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Vantelli, I think many things have changed. Building from scratch and get your site on good position, seems to me harder than it used to be. On the other hand posting good articles on already well positioned websites is working pretty well on my side. I guess the website itself has gained reputation or trust from search engines, I don't know.

Ironically, long, well structured articles are not being fully read by visitors, but still they are well positioned. I posted about this on another thread as how readers have become dumb, there I explained how the contact from visitors started changed (by email) from average to actually pretty dumb questions. Anyway the traffic is there and the new articles get good positions. I don't exactly know what to say about long vs short, but I'm convinced quality still matters.

Back-links? I used to exchange links, post on discussions (I had content that qualifies as answers, reports, research, etc, not just articles), I was also an active member on some specific forums about certain stuff, example: spaceships, I wrote about it, did research so I was an active user that could post useful stuff and experiments about space ships. It wasn't low quality, it was good quality on my niche, great effort. Besides this people, students, whatever... posted articles pointing to mine, that also built back links. My point here is it's been YEARS since I don't do that anymore, I never spent time again building links (I know I should).

For whatever is worth, and I hope it helps you, I based my work on what's been posted here on WebmasterWorld as good advice: good original content, research, post with structure, titles, semantics, pictures (I took time to work on photography, I'm also a photographer) and when you mention how expensive freelancers are charging you today, I can't help but remember how it feels creating good articles, I did it, and did the same work for others too (as a freelance webmaster) the funny thing is I'm not looking forward on doing this again. I got the feeling it doesn't matter how much I charge, it's not a fair pay, only if I do it for myself. (I feel it that difficult).

I don't mean to criticize what you posted, but MFA (made for adsense) sites kinda match your description. No bad intention here, I mean focus on one topic, from there as you write about it (like space ships) you will surprise yourself on how many more articles you need to expand or just to explain that same article (rockets, energy, the sun, gravity, etc. Each important word used on your main article actually needs it's own article. I used spaceships because we can't use specifics, spaceships serves better than widgets in this example.

It takes time... and effort. I don't exactly like my own advice here but focus on ONE website and put your efforts there, then expand. Paying someone it's valid, explore the possibilities on doing it yourself, it will give you a better sense of direction, where to go.

*Posted about 100 articles* you said. In my case, from advice found here many years ago (wouldn't question anyone who does it differently) but it works in my case: create your 100 articles but don't post them at once. Create your structure and set an order, post 3, 5, then 2 per week, when you see bots visiting you constantly to crawl then go 1 every two days or daily, but only good content. And as much as I dislike this, post on facebook groups, FB is not magic, but a lot of captive traffic moves around there regarding your topic.


*** In case I confused you up there, I mean creating good articles it's not easy, I stopped doing it as a service for clients despite whatever they want to pay me, it's an effort I'm only willing to do for my websites. I see it that hard.
10:48 pm on May 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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With the increased AI in search results, is their really any SEO at all now?

Seems to me, all SERP control has been removed from on-page attributes and instead been fully levied on user intent (and of course Google bias.)
1:47 am on May 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If anyone thinks SEO is dead, I have a few questions for them to ponder...

Do you think websites with better design & usability tend to have an easier time to rank higher in Google?
Do you think websites with valuable & engaging content tend to have an easier time to rank higher in Google?
Do you think websites with strong technical aspects that load very fast tend to have an easier time to rank higher in Google?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, then you are saying a webmaster can do things to optimize their chances in search results aka SEO is still alive. It might not be the same as it was 10 years ago but it still exists.
2:01 am on May 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I've never considered any of that as SEO.

Putting good content & usability on a well designed presentation is just good webmastering. My traffic is high and climbing all the time. If that was SEO then why do I get a dozen spammy emails weekly all saying I need SEO?

To me, SEO has always stood for trickery & attempts to manipulate ranking through sketchy technique.
3:08 am on May 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the OP simply asking how, in 2018, he can create a franchise of movie rental stores? Perhaps like the Blockbuster model? Bring that same level of idiocy to launching some little niche money making site(s) that are going to make money on ads when ad blockers are the rage, ads pay less then ever and most every affiliate program on earth has been reducing their commission payouts. And people are advising this is a smart idea? Like on Shark Tank. Kevin scolds some of the others when they encourage stupid people with dumb ideas to keep on going. People selling hope or speaking on how to do things when they are leveraging old websites that are riding the good 'ol days. I also get nobody really wants to say this partially out of self interest (SEO) and partially because of ego.
8:08 am on May 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think you need to learn SEO again, there are so many things has been changed in SEO world, SEO in 2018 is different than SEO in 2017 and 2016!
1:07 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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One word - Capitalism - an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

The web is constantly undergoing an evolution in capitalism. Well funded big brands have many more people working on their content whereas most webmasters tend to sit back on their laurels, relying on past performance and then wondering why they are falling in rank and traffic while not doing enough to keep pace with the big boys. Amazon is the prefect example of pure capitalism eating M&P stores lunch. In the wild, it's called natural selection.
3:27 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I believe to understand the original post angle, but from there it's going diff directions, I think there is potential to discuss diff topics here but diff threads would be needed, it's just going diff angles.
Vantelli: I lost the touch with SEO and like it's impossible to rank a site for anything again.

Focusing on what I think is your goal (website positioning) I believe you didn't lost the touch, the method wasn't solid from start. I don't know the reasons or specific dynamics but thin content vs solid content... humans will react the same way, I mean things have changed and some visitors rely on search engines like 300% for the info they are looking for, I mean some people just won't even look past page #1 on results and believe whatever they read there. Originality is not the only point at stake but also credibility.

From there, while you describe the situation, I don't see you describing or covering how original your content is or how deep you review/check/analyze the content your freelancers create. What I mean is, are you covering all the points to be sure it's not just "thin content"? or perhaps they are creating cheap articles? I understand they used to charge little money, that would mean you get what you pay for. In this sense, while creating content on my own I discover simple topics that had complex and confusing issues, it looked simple but it took me days to finally set things straight, like some sort of "disambiguation". I worked on editorial tasks and I've seen copywriters and editors many times taking for granted people know what they mean, when that's not the case. Long story short, do you have solid confidence on your content quality?

Impossible to rank a site for anything again? I doubt it, there is a lot of competition: yes. But I've seen cases (few) where people start from scratch and get nice rankings. My strongest site enjoys solid positioning and over a year a non-competitor became a competitor. Instead of doing what others tried (thin, copied, regurgitated content), they have a team of copywriters making good research and posting good articles (with links giving credit to sources etc etc), I understand what they are doing is not cheap, it's hell of content posted weekly but now that they are my competitors I can say with all honesty they are doing a great job, not cheap, it looks to me clearly as something expensive, many people, many hands involved.

From there I can't tell you more, or clues, all I can say is what I've done and what I've seen being done (and now still working nice) is written on this forum as solid brick and mortar websites, lots of work.
2:46 am on May 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Links are still king, but the best way to get links is with great content.
6:53 pm on May 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Links are still king

With the fears of penalties, more and more web publishers are no longer daring to add links to external sites, or if they do, they use nofollow attribute.
12:47 pm on June 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My personal opinion: SEO didn't change that much since 2016, Google even officially says it's still mainly about content and links [youtube.com...]

Neverless, there is a huge change when it comes to quality. In earlier years, especially before 2012, before Panda and Penguin, it was a lot about quantity. 200 articles, thousands of links, throw enough s*** to the wall and some will stick. Loads of this stuff became toxic, today it's about quality over quantity, adding real value, content that really answer questions people have, content on topics instead of single keywords. Same for links, they are still very important, but those you can create yourself like comments, directories, guest books, article directories, etc. do more harm than good. It's all about editorial links from high quality sites, earned links. So, basically, the cutting corners approach doesn't work any more.

Ok, reality check, waiting for earned links isn't a very promosing approach in a competitive niche and most site owners are still paying for links...but with common sense and that's what even many agencies are lacking. They call it "outreach" but when you look at the sites, it's still the cheap old blog network BS made for SEO purposes only.
1:58 pm on June 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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SEO and User Experience is pretty much the same thing now days. For example if your site is faster and your layout is well designed you most likely will get an increase in rankings and users will stay on your site longer. This was always Google's goal but they are much better at parsing websites for signals now, plus as web designers we have more tools like rich snippets, structured data, etc...

Good content (that people will want to link too) is still king and so are backlinks. The problem is these days is most sites use nofollow on all external links which makes it very difficult for new sites to succeed.

Google has caught on to paid sponsorship and guest posts with links (lots of posts on this forum about these topics). If you are using these for backlinks that is probably one of the reasons why your sites have not gained any traction.
7:54 pm on June 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am in the same boat, just getting back to it after a 5 year holiday. It seems like it is more of a catch 22 with sites using nofollow now. Build quality content so you gain natural links but you can't gain natural links unless people can find you.
9:29 pm on June 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Good content (that people will want to link too) is still king and so are backlinks. The problem is these days is most sites use nofollow on all external links which makes it very difficult for new sites to succeed.

Does rel="nofollow" mean "ignore entirely," or does it just mean "don't follow (and don't use in calculating PageRank)?" Has Google commented on this recently?
11:19 am on June 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I have also seen larger news sites start to use redirects for external links. They link to an external site via a gateway link (like https://www.example.com/goto.php?id=32hihsdf) which then redirects to the external site page. It has a HTTP response status code 302.

The large news site quoted my site several times which is nice but they linked back using a redirect like above. How does Google treat something like this in terms of calculating PageRank etc?
12:07 pm on June 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The primary difference ( due to personalised SERPs all but negating what was pushed and sold as SEO ) is that the snake oil vendors now mention their satisfied clients more often in threads, and hint at secrets that only they can know, or strategies that their "satisfied clients" have seen the benefits of..

How many of these SEO's ( and marketing gurus, web , or otherwise ) I wonder work on the basis of only being requiring paid when they achieve actual tangible results..That is to say an increase in profits ( over what would be their SEO / marketing "fee" ) for their clients..Beware of Maya.
9:52 am on June 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@ JesterMagic my guess would be that these links count so long as there is not a direct statement (such as 'nofollow') for Google to ignore them.

My understanding is that Google renders the page visually as part of their assessment. It's less of a bot and more of a browser (search 'Googlebot is Chrome' for more on this).

I've not tested all the different ways to send traffic from one place to another when something is clicked, but if Google are sent from A to B without an official directive that A is NOT vouching for B then I would expect that referral to be noted. Of course you'd have to add in assessment of whether B has paid A and other factors in terms of how much to rely on the referral.

But the bottom line for me is that outside of the official ways to tell a bot to ignore a 'link' - whatever form that takes - I guess they have the ability.