This Week In SEO 48
New Google Manual Action, SEO Theory, Twitter in the SERPs, & More


Google Penalizing for Unnatural Outbound Links

Over the weekend Google sent out manual action penalties to some webmasters for “unnatural outbound links.”

Here’s one such message:

google manual penalty links

The interesting thing is that the site itself isn’t being penalized by falling in the rankings. Check out the message to see:

Google has detected a pattern of links from your site to other sites that is either unnatural or irrelevant. This pattern attempts to artificial boost other sites’ ranking in Google Search results. Such unnatural ranking would cause search results to show preferences for results not relevant to the user’s actual query. It also violates Google Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, we are discounting the trust in links on your site. This manual spam action has been applied to To fix this, remove the unnatural links on your site and file a reconsideration request. After we determine that you have complied with our guidelines, we will remove this manual action.

If you find yourself hit with this action, here’s the official “next steps” from Google.


Analyzing Twitter Feature Results in the SERPs

Twitter SERP appearance by follower count

BuiltVisible took a look at all the different variables involved in determining when a twitter result is displayed for a specific keyword.

It’s an interesting post–especially if you’ve got a big twitter following with a verified account.

To sum it up:

The main takeaways were that an account seems to need to pass a threshold on validity, possibly based on followers and verified status to have it be likely to show up in a feature. The tipping point seems to be 12-15,000 followers for an unverified account, or 20-25,000 for a verified one. Seemingly being verified increases the likelihood of a result showing up, but may also require more followers to prove that the verification is truly notable from Google’s perspective. Getting to those numbers takes, on average, around three years.


Online Scheduling: A Ranking Factor in Local SEO?

Google Local Scheduling

Take this all with a grain of salt. These are merely observations of the author, but they are worth paying attention to.

There are a few reasons why online scheduling functionality in Google local results might be (or end up being) a local ranking factor–the strongest of which is:

One thing I’ve noticed is that a business using online scheduling only tends to outrank other businesses if it’s got reviews (Google reviews and others). As with Google Maps driving-direction lookups, a combination of online bookings and an influx of reviews might suggest to Google that customers do business with you and live to tell about it.

Something to keep an eye. I think it’s important to always be looking new possibilities and thinking outside the box–even if it seems kind of crazy. I’ll be paying close attention to see how this unfolds.


The Longevity of Links
links and rank brain

Is it wise to start a new project and invest time, energy, and resources in building quality links, when we don’t know if links will even matter in 3.. 5… 10 years?

That’s the central question posed here by Jon of Point Blank SEO. A wonderful post of SEO theory backed up by some solid examples and true experts weighing in on the topic.

A highly recommended read.

So let’s now focus on figuring out how to make an accurate prediction. Predictions are based off a set of factors. The “secret sauce” of machine learning is figuring out which factors are more important than others in determining what you’re predicting. As Will put it in his article, it won’t be humans doing this manually in the future, but rather “the machine tweaking the dials.”

That explanation helps to explain why links and the concept of RankBrain are not at odds with each other. They’re apples and oranges. It’s like saying historical forecast data and a weatherman are at odds with each other over predicting the weather. One is information and the other is an interpreter. They are two separate types of things.


Using as a Source of Traffic

Medium Traffic Stats

I’ve seen many examples of Medium being a great way to increase your traffic by utilizing it as a republishing platform.

The first link (above) is an article on how someone new to Medium used the platform to generate 10,000+ visits to his website. The article explains some of the things the author did to generate that traffic:

While your company blog might cover a range of topics, it’s best to narrow your scope for Medium and go after a the audience of a particular tag. For me, that was the UX tag.

There doesn’t seem to be a master list of tags, but, as can be expected, Medium is pretty smart and will suggest tags for you after you import your article (explained in a moment).

The benefit of narrowing your focus down to one tag is that you can afford to gather a lot of information about the authors and publications in that space.

The second article linked above is from Medium itself, and addresses the issue of duplicate content. Basically, if you’re republishing content somewhere else, is there a risk of getting penalized?

When you import your posts to Medium using the official tools and then switch to a custom domain hosted by us, Medium automatically handles re-directs (see below), so old links will go correctly to the new content. There will be no loss in organic traffic for landing pages that transfer over to Medium, such as your homepage. It may take search engines like Google some time to correctly index each of your new pages (up to 3–4 weeks at most)

While it’s nice to see them addressing a topic that is on every SEO’s mind, just be aware of their bias here–they want your content, so they’re going to assure you it’s OK. I’m not saying it’s not, I’m only saying to think critically about a piece of advice before following their every step.

Featured Snippets, Purposeful Content, Redirecting Old Pages, & More
Local Ranking Factors, Google News, Social Media Engineering, & More

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Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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