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BlogWorld TV: 5 Questions with Mark Lassoff, Interview with Shane Ketterman

mark Lassoff
mark Lassoff

Mark Lassoff

In this week’s BlogWorld TV, I sit down with Mark Lassoff. He is the co-founder of LearntoProgram.tv – a website that helps people understand different programming languages. If you are looking to learn HTML, AJAX, CSS and HTML5, then check out his site.

Mark talks about his reasons for going to BlogWorld & New Media Expo. He is a business owner who wants to make sure he’s doing things right with social media. Of course, there is also the hint of social media in programming.

Shane Ketterman

Shane Ketterman

I also talk about my newest purchase – the Cerevo Live Shell. I will be walking around BlogWorld & New Media Expo live streaming from the camera. It’s a great experiment in using a single camera stream.

Lastly, I sit down to talk with Shane Ketterman – the BlogWorld & New Media Expo conference director. Shane talks about all the people that put together the tracks, and how he helped coordinate the keynotes. He is really excited to see some of the speakers in this conference. It is definitely impressive.


10 Exceptional Bloggers Answer The Question, “What Is Quality Content?”


Session: Shane Ketterman
Speaker: Where Did My Traffic Go? How To Create Compelling Content In A Post-Panda World

Some would say nothing has really changed over the past year in terms of quality content.  But I say it certainly has.  Some would also say that quality is quality and the rules remain about the same as always.  But since Google made major changes to their coveted search algorithm throughout this past year, known affectionately as Panda, I have seen a lot of changes in the organic search results and the way Google views your content when it comes to displaying it on that coveted “first page” of the search results.

Google’s Panda update, also called the “high-quality sites” update definitely had an impact on many sites out there in terms of their organic traffic from search.  Originally, it was targeted at sites known as content farms but on April 11th, 2011, it went even further.  On that date, Google rolled out the U.S. Version of it’s Panda update and people who were not running content farms (including myself) saw a major drop in traffic.

In the days that followed and even more recently, we now know that this new algorithm that Google is using has redefined not only the SEO field but had put a new face on what is considered ‘Quality Content’.  In order to determine what quality content is, Google needed to get better at making the determination and in order to do that, it starts off with human quality raters.  These are real people (not machines) who look at hundreds of websites.  As this is occurring, computers (using machine learning languages) are following along with the humans and mimicking them.

Once the computer running the Google search algorithm becomes as good as the human at rating the sites, then it is pushed out onto the Internet.  Also known affectionately as GoogleBot.  If you have Google Webmaster Tools installed (and you should) then you can see crawl rates and references to GoogleBot.  This is the algorithm.

In essence, the new way Google judges your site is from a human point of view.  If this sounds a bit like we are getting closer to singularity, then you aren’t alone. Ha!

So. What happens next is a series of judgement calls that I will be diving into during my talk on Friday, November 4th at 3:00pm , and I’m even going to dive into some very controversial findings that may surprise you. However, here are a few of the new content sins and following that are some responses from a few really well-known and respected bloggers I got when I asked the question, “What do you consider quality content?”

A Few Content Sins

1.  How much of your unique content is above the fold? If you bring up your site, take note of how much actual original content exists within your eye-level view.  This is important because it should be more content than, say, ads.  Also, if there is not a lot of original content above the fold, it can be considered duplicate content.  Here is a great free tool to check your own values.

2.  Trust and Design factor.  How trusted is your site?  Would you trade your credit card information for something on this site?  Would you tell others about the content because it is so amazingly written and unique?  Quality over quantity is at play here.  Also, how is the design of the site? Can you navigate easily? Is the design pleasing to the eyes? Derek Halpern talks a lot about this topic over on Social Triggers and this post he wrote about the headline test is an excellent example.

A few more questions that the algorithm may be seeking are whether this site’s articles are driven by genuine interest or whether it’s written for search engines; do the articles include insightful analysis; and if this were a book, would you bookmark these articles to come back read later?

3.  What is the ratio of ads on each page to the content displayed?  Having a greater ad ratio to content ratio is definitely one of the newer content sins.

4.  Does your site have a lot of affiliate links and auto generated content?  Google sees this as “machines” building your sites and not a real human.

I’ll definitely be presenting more of these at BlogWorld but suffice it to say, it’s a new world in terms of organic search traffic.  Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz says that for those sites out there that are suffering, it’s best to begin improving engagement metrics and start shifting from pure SEO to “web strategist” when thinking of search.

Ask The Bloggers

I asked 10 bloggers ( a lot of them speaking this year at BWELA) a simple question: “What do you consider quality content?” and here are some of the excellent answers:

Chris Garrett – ChrisG.com
“Quality Content is relevant to the audience, easy and interesting to understand, easy consume, and achieves the goals you had in mind for it.”

Tyler Tervooren – Advanced Riskology
“Quality content” has always been the same thing to me ever since I started reading in first grade.

#1: It’s useful and teaches me something I didn’t know before.
#2. It’s entertaining and makes me happy I read it.

Caleb Wojcik – Pocket Changed
“Quality Content is about putting in more effort than you need to when creating. Instead of stopping at the “good enough” stage, you keep at it until what you publish is pure gold.”

Chris C. Ducker – Virtual Business Lifestyle
“In my eyes, quality content is content that is simply jam-packed with MASSIVE value. Ideally, it should motivate, inspire and solve problems for the reader / viewer – and above and beyond everything else, it should change the way that people think about what you’re talking about in the content itself. I always try to make sure that when somebody is done digesting MY content, that they sit back for a minute, or two and then – take ACTION!”

Adam Baker – Man Vs. Debt
“Quality content is simple. Content that helps solve a specific need of a reader or customer in an unique method or style.”

David Risley – DavidRisley.com
“Does it help people accomplish something? I think that’s a pretty good gauge for quality content.”

Amy Parmenter – The Parm Farm
“Quality content is content that serves your audience.  So, what does your audience need?  If you can answer that question and deliver day after day – or even week after week – that’s quality content, and your readers will probably respond and engage accordingly.”

Pace Smith – The Connection Revolution
“Quality content is content that makes a difference in you — that leaves you more inspired or more informed than you were before you read it.”

Ben Eadie – Video Blog Basics
“This is very subjective in my eyes, a beauty is in the eye of the beholder instance. Quality content is content that informs, educates, entertains or any combination of these. Quality does not mean professional writing, does not mean perfect video it does not mean you need to spend a ton of money making the content. As long as it is one or more of the above points of informing, educating, or entertaining to your audience you have made quality content.

Lara Kulpa – LaraKulpa.com
“Quality content comes from the ability to think differently than everyone else. Just because mashable.com writes an article about how G+ users have increased 1297% since it opened up doesn’t mean you should write the same article. Now, if you wanted to write about it, you’d fare better than stating the facts if you compared it to the total number of Twitter followers that Lady Gaga got in her first month (by percentage). Or what the profit loss percentage has been of Company X over the last year. Think different, write different, stop rehashing what the big guys put out there and make it your own. That’s quality content.”

I’d like to thank all of the bloggers who participated and I’d like to ask you what you consider quality content and if that has changed within the last year as Google adjusts it’s algorithms?

Shane Ketterman shows people how to invest in their future selves by offering handcrafted work that helps them discover ways to live and work on their own terms, find their purpose, and live a better life without having to follow the typical templates. His work can be seen at http://www.rewirebusiness.com.

Reclaiming Your Traffic And Monetization After The Panda Update


Speakers: Shane Ketterman
Session: How To Build, Grow, and Monetize Your Own Blogging Empire
Date: Thursday, May 26
Time: 2:30PM
Location: Jacob Javits Center 1A14

Was your blog or site affected by the latest roll-out of Google’s Panda algorithm update? Mine was. And I want to share this story with you so you can understand a little of what I am doing right now. Additionally I want to share this with you if you are a site who lost revenue due to the lower traffic numbers.

On April 11, 2011, I was blissfully going through the day excited that the night before I had taken in my largest adsense day and my weekly Amazon affiliate sales were skyrocketing.

I was able to take a recent event, write a bunch of articles, and drive traffic. A lot of it.

After about 2 weeks of this, I felt good. I felt like I was really getting somewhere and I felt like Google was my new BFF (best friend forever), because it was bringing me traffic and that traffic clicked ads. And those clicked ads gave me money.

But at 4pm on April 11th, that friendship took a detour. Google and I had different ideas about the quality of my recent traffic-driving posts. And as I learned, Google wins.

Each day I would check my “impressions” on my site and it was just amazing to me at how it was going up and up. Come to think of it – it felt like 2006 when real estate values were increasing in the double-digits.

Lesson #1: When something is increasing at a rapid rate, be very aware.

So at around 4pm, I was checking my impressions and I nearly choked on my sandwich. It wasn’t the peppers. It was the traffic. “Where had it gone?” I surmised that it must just be a Monday dip.

But it wasn’t. I had been affected by the latest Google Algorithm change called Panda, or the Farmer update.

But I wasn’t an article farm. I was just blogging. I was…..well it doesn’t matter what I was or wasn’t, the fact is Google decided to get me off that pedestal a bit and show me how much power they have with their algorithms.

So I could have got angry. I could have quit and deleted the mysql database of all my posts. I could have just been complacent and ignore it.

But if you are one that blogs and depends on Adsense or other affiliate sales that are all driven by organic search traffic then you see that money literally disappear before your eyes.

Lesson #2: Do not depend purely on organic search as your sole sense of income.

So now you know what happened but now I want to help you understand what I’m doing about it because this is about not giving up and it’s about an income from a blog.

First things first. Do not panic. Do not get angry (it won’t help). Don’t do anything irrational and feel like a failure. An algorithm update hits millions of sites. So you are not the only one.

Now it’s time to get practical. When and if this happens to you, head over to the Google Webmaster forum to see what kind of messages they are posting. Read with care. Watch for articles from trusted SEO resources like the following:

Search Engine Land

Step 1. Try to see what the veterans in SEO are finding and do not follow everyone’s advice until the dust has settled. I know you will feel an urgent need to fix this but you have to be careful and make sure you are doing it right.

Step 2. Read the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Believe it or not, they really do tell you exactly what Google considers quality.

Step 3.
Read what the update affected (from Google) and try to understand how this might have applied to ANY page on your blog/site. One low quality page can bring down your domain’s standing in the SERPS. Panda in particular targeted:

  • Sites and pages plastered with ads “above the fold” or ones that have a high ad to content ratio.
  • Shallow, or thin content pages that generally do not add any value
  • Pages with poorly written (grammar, spelling) content
  • Duplicate content (copying from other sites intentionally or unintentionally)
  • Add value and something unique to your articles if it is one that is covered elsewhere
  • Sites with low-quality backlinks

There are more issues that Panda targeted but you get the idea. It’s about the quality and uniqueness and in Google’s eyes, they are trying to deliver the absolute best experience that they can for searchers.

Step 4. Get into your Analytics and use the great comparison feature. When you are looking at your dashboard, you can select the dates you want to view and there is a checkbox for “compare to past” which allows you to do a great comparison.

Compare your traffic for one week prior to your loss in traffic to a week after and take note which pages took the most hits.

Step 5. Determine if you are going to get rid of those pages, update them or just put a noindex, nofollow on them. Either way, dig through and make a decision on what you are going to do with low-quality pages.

Step 6. Open Google and take the title of one of your articles within quotes and simply search for it. What do you see? Do you see your exact article on the top of the results or do you see other sites copying your content?

I was not even aware but there were 8 sites copying all my posts. Thanks to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers for giving me some pointers on this. This is all duplicate content and it can harm you. File DMCA requests with the site owners or hosting providers and get this removed right now.

There are also plugins you can get for WordPress to help with scrapers as well but it’s my belief that getting it removed entirely is best at first. RSS Footer is one such plugin that you might want to check out.

Step 7. Look at your pages from the perspective of a user. How does it feel? Does it feel spammy? Too many ads in the content? Ask others. Above all, ask the hard questions and be willing to consider some house cleaning to present a higher quality experience. This might mean taking ads out of those areas that get a ton of clicks. It might mean reducing your ads. Or it might be just fine.

Also, look for pages with more internal links than content. I had a few pages where I referenced other content but the links outweighed the actual writing so I added a lot to those pages.

Step 8. Go over to your Google Webmaster Tools page and dig in. Do you have errors? Get them corrected. Do you have duplicates meta tags or title tags? Webmaster Tools will tell you. Get that corrected also. Basically, make sure you square up with Google.

Step 9. Take a break and plan out how you will get rid of your low quality content. I have over 650 articles so It’s not like I am going to sit down and just do this on one sitting. Take it in chunks but above all, begin doing something.

These are some practical steps you can take. There is advice all over the place but there is no better advice than from those of us dealing with it and trying really hard to improve.

Here is the best advice, however, for a site that you are monetizing. Do not depend solely on organic search traffic. Do not get complacent and lazy and start posting anything less than quality and original material. Try to get other forms of traffic such as from YouTube, social media participation, RSS Syndication partners, relevant blog directories in your niche, and the occasional guest post where it fits your audience.

The best news about his is that it will really cause you do grow as a blogger and as one that is monetizing for a living. Now if you want to hear all about how to get the blog started and growing in the first place then you can see my talk at Blog World East on Thursday, May 24th at 2:30 pm. Here I will be showing you in my own unique way how to build, grow and monetize a branded affiliate blog just like I have done – even in a post-panda world.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask and please share your own story especially if you were hit by Panda.

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