This Week In SEO
Apple and Facebook Search Engines, New Manual Penalties, and More

There’s been some big shake-ups in the world of SEO this week.  Before we get into what’s up though, here is this weeks Quick SEO Tip. This is how our team uses SEMrush to quickly check the “health” of a website.


Google is About to Get Some Stiff Competition.

Facebook and now Apple are stepping up their search engine game.google_vs_apple

After much speculation around an Apple Web Crawler, Apple has finally posted a help document confirming the existence of AppleBot, their web crawler.

Apple said, Applebot is the web crawler for Apple. AppleBot is “used by products including Siri and Spotlight Suggestions,” the company said.

If Apple can push their users to use their proprietary search feature, as integrated as it will be, it could really take away some market-share from Google.  One could conceivably see it being more successful than Bing, at least.

We’ll do a better post on this at some point in the future, but I would recommend preparing and optimizing for the Apple-Bot. We obviously don’t know much, but we do know some details on how Siri gets it’s data.

  • Schema Microdata
  • All of the important directories. Not “” but sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Google Maps, Ask, Factual, etc.
  • Niche specific “directories” (lack of a better word). Q&A sites (Bing Answers), Movie (Rotten Tomatoes), Weather (Yahoo Weather), Travel (Trip Advisor), etc sites will all play a part.


In its quest to take all the market-share of everything, Facebook has also been testing out a search function that will allow users to search for things on the web, all without leaving Facebook (a.k.a. to search for things while seeing Facebook ads, and staying away from Google ads altogether).

Facebook told TechCrunch it had indexed more than 1 trillion posts to find out which posts were being shared and who had shared them — data to which Google doesn’t have access.

The entire scheme is part of a larger ploy to keep users on Facebook. The social network has already announced plans to host articles natively on the News Feed and split ad revenue favourably with publishers. If Facebook sells an ad, it will keep just 30% of its revenue, The Wall Street Journal reports. To woo publishers, the site is considering giving them 100% of revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites.

Damn.  If you’ve ever done a post on your website called “is SEO dead?”  Go ahead and quietly delete that post.  Things are about to get reeeeally interesting.

Remember: (search engine) competition is a GOOD thing.

A Plugin That Hides Affiliate Links??

And now, something for our grey hat friends. This was brought to my attention from my man Tung of CloudLiving (who you should follow btw). Neither he nor I endorse this or have even used it, we just thought it was cool. As you may very well know, Google took to sticking it to a lot of straight affiliate sites a few months back giving out “thin content penalties” which were really just a penalty against sites that only exist to promote affiliate links.
So if you’re into the affiliate site game, you might want to take a look at this.

Elf Links is a plugin that causes your links to be hidden when viewing the page source (like how Googlebot would review your site).  It makes links appear to look like this:

What you’re looking at here is a “.” and “amazon” where you’d normally find a URL. The URL is being hidden…

Instead of an affiliate link, you can specify a word or phrase where the URL would go.  Pretty neat assuming it works.

You can check that out here:

But before you do, let me repeat: I am not endorsing this product or recommending it in any way.  In fact, I have not tried it out myself.  Just trying to pass the cool stuff along.  Carry on.


Google Hands Out Manual Thin-content Penalties Monday Morning


The opposite of a golden ticket, but this time the “Thin Content Penalties” are not about affiliate sites. Many people reported getting this message in their web master tools over the weekend as Google cracked down on a possible content network (though many people wrote in to say that they had not, in fact, been part of a network).

It seems Google went after a content network and located many of the sites participating in this network and then slapping them with thin content manual actions. I do not have confirmation from Google but I received a couple notes about it over the weekend from anonymous sources and there are many threads in the various forums with people complaining about these thin content actions.

Searchmetrics chimed in via the comments with some really interesting preliminary data:

Here are four examples with screenshots of their SEO Visibility (a metric that indicates ranking performance and eventually traffic):

– (-89%)

– (-87%)

– (-21%)

– (-25%)

Causes for the drop I found are:

– Duplicate content by indexed paginations (no rel=prev / next or meta noindex used)

– Thin content by indexed hub pages that just tease articles but own no comprehensive copy on a large scale

– Thin content by short news articles

– Thin content by pages with only images and no copy

And some “search visibility” graphs to back it up.





White Hat Link Building Techniques (that go beyond link building)

White Hat Link Building

Ryan Stewart, a “recovering black hat,” has some things to share about white has SEO.

1. White hat SEO is a ton of work. There are no shortcuts.

2. White hat SEO works. Really, really well.

Yes, he takes you through such favorites as “leave good blog comments,” which you might roll your eyes at, but give this a read.  He shows how dropping a big, well thought-out comment not only got him an ‘in comment’ link, but the author of the post went on to tweet the guide he linked to, and later invited him in an ‘authority opinion round-up’ post (worth a homepage link).

So yeah, there’s some obvious tactics here, but each is an in-depth look at the technique included examples and successes the author had.  Recommended.

Side Tangent: I’m a pretty big fan of high quality blog comments believe it or not. Screw the link, focus on traffic from the link. If you have the goal of all of your links bringing in quality traffic then you will be seriously rewarded in the search engines and have qualified visitors all at the same time.

When It Comes to SEO, Airbnb Has Some Catching Up To Do

Why does Airbnb not show up in the SERPs for <city> vacation rental?

Short answer: they don’t need to, because they’re absolutely killing it without needing to answer to Google ($20bn valuation).


This is an interesting article from Priceonomics on what’s going on with the search engine results for Airbnb and competitors.  So grab some popcorn:

On the other hand, Airbnb really has no where to go but up when it comes to ranking well in the Google search results, and generating more demand that way. Instead of living and dying based on the Google Algorithm, Airbnb has built a direct consumer relationship and brand in a way that Homeaway and Flipkey have not, and that is nearly impossible to replicate. It’s much more valuable to have users that download your app or search directly from your front page instead of attracting casual Google visitors.


That’s it for this week’s update.

Sound off in the comments: did any of your sites receive a thin-content penalty this weekend?

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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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