Penguin 3.0’s Action and Reaction Guide

As you know, the digital marketing world is a big, fast-moving place. It seems that every channel evolves every day. So one of the biggest parts of any digital marketer’s job is to keep up with headlines in their area.

At North Studio, a number of people work on SEO, but it is mostly my specialized area of knowledge, so it’s my job to keep up with trends, best practices and updates by Google.

Recently, Google has released major updates to their antispam algorithms. However, the biggest headline was the update to the Penguin algorithm.


Eye-Tracking Study: How Searchers View SERPs on Google

The SERP (or "search engine results page") is the Holy Grail of all SEO and SEM professionals. (Well, the first page is.) And deciphering how ordinary people read and analyze these pages is golden information for anyone who's concerned about his or her business' rank on the Google results page.

I really like eye-tracking studies; they've informed a lot about how I write my content–and how I teach others to write content as well. So whenever a new one's out, I take a close look, because it could potentially change the way I do my job. (more…)

PayDay 2.0 and Panda 4.0–What Changed on Google?

It’s always an interesting time in the digital marketing and SEO industries when Google rolls out algorithm updates. Professionals get all abuzz on social media and blogs, everyone begins to search for information on the update, and then we check our own metrics and our client metrics. Sometimes Google tells us when they are rolling out these updates, but more often we are kept in the dark.

This week, Google has confirmed that they have rolled out two webspam algorithm updates: Pay Day 2.0, and Panda 4.0.

"Do you know what today is [spammy websites]? Payday.” Okay, that might not be the thought behind the naming of the algorithm update (I’ll explain the reason below), but it actually works. Google is essentially giving a little payback to spammy areas of the web.

Payday 2.0

Search Engine Land was among the first to post an update confirming that Google had indeed rolled out an update to their Pay Day 2.0 algorithm update. They stated a Google spokesperson told them: 

Over the weekend we began rolling out a new algorithmic update. The update was neither Panda nor Penguin — it was the next generation of an algorithm that originally rolled out last summer for very spammy queries.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team confirmed on Twitter:


The first Payday Loan update started to roll out around June 11th 2013. Both Pay Day updates target niche spammy areas of the web. Google specifically mentioned that the keywords around payday loans and porn-related keywords would be targeted. It should only affect a small percentage of websites, but we will keep our eyes peeled for more affected keywords.

Panda 4.0


The Panda algorithm update first rolled out in February 2011. Since then, there have been dozens of updates to it. This algorithm targets on-page issues such as thin content, content farms, and other content quality metrics. More than ever, Google emphasizes clear, relevant and original content written by experts; this is the time to rethink your approach to content production to ensure that you follow Google's guidelines and produce the type of content that attracts good rankings.

Some previous updates have been on 10-day roll outs, so we'll keep an eye for any changes in our metrics and our clients'.

Are you curious about more algorithm updates? Moz has a good record of Googles Algorithm change history

Google’s Long History of Forcing You To Use G+

When Google+ was launched with much fanfare in 2011, the social media world was abuzz with praise and high expectations. Tech Crunch called it "social, bold, fun and looking good". Early reviews praised the functions and circle features, but had issues with the lack of activity (which was probably just because Google rolled out Google+ only to a select few at first). Most reviewers thought it was a good network, but that it wouldn't be enough to break Facebook's hold on social media; Business Insider concluded that "At the end of the day, Google+ is a solid product on its own. But it's not rich or new enough to get people to make the switch."

Not discouraged on its mission to dominate the web, Google+ has not only maintained its mildly (on Internet terms) popular service (with about 300 million active users) but has also attached numerous services and features to Google+ functionalities. For example, a +1 on a piece of content raises your search ranking position much more than a Facebook or Twitter share, and so does a share on G+'s feed. But these were only the first steps of Google+'s user acquisition strategy, which Dave Llorens of Fast Company has called "the carrot and not the stick". What other carrots are there, and how does the new Gmail/G+ messaging scheme enter into that strategy? Let's take a look.

Google Authorship–Get the writers!

The next step of Google's strategy was to help content producers (mostly writers) to claim their content and help publicize their writing online. By adding a Google authorship tag (attached to a Google+ profile, of course), both the writer and the publication received an SEO bonus. 

Google Authorship promises a boost in SEO rankings for verified writers of high-quality content on respectable websites. However, it REQUIRES a Google+ profile to work. If your author doesn't have a G+ profile, Authorship can't happen, and you would lose the nice ranking boost. So, here's one way to force all respectable web writers to get a Google+ account.

Happily, Google Authorship has positive consequences for respectable content writers around the world: it is slowly smothering the low-quality, link-baiting guest post industry, as explained by Rohit Palit in Search Engine Journal. So, someone like me who cares about useful content and good writing is willing to humour G+ with an account if it helps kill the industry that's hurting our reputation and keeping our wages artificially low.

Google Places–Business does G+

The next step was to get at the business listing industry. We usually suggest to Stikky clients who have a brick-and-mortar store or office to claim and populate their Google Places listing… which becomes a Google+ page for the business at the same time. And with automatic integration to Google Maps, Google made it very hard to resist getting a Google Places account.

As claiming your Google Place automatically claims your Google Plus page for the business, Google strongly suggests that you use your G+ page to connect with other users. And using Google+ on a regular basis also improves your SEO.

More importantly, Google Places business listings now integrates information from a bunch of other business listing and review sites such as Zagat and ratings left on Google Plus. By using everything it knows about you and the people you interact with on Google Plus, Google is able to give you the information that's most likely to be relevant to you through its own ratings and reviews system. It's basically like Yelp, but better.

Google Apps–Communicate at work

Instead of using a number of communication and collaborating tools like Yammer and Skype, many businesses have made a complete switch to Google-based communications. They use G+ circles for chatting among teams and the company, Hangout for video and voice calls, Google Docs for collaborative writing and document management, and of course Gmail for email. When everything's in the same place with the same accounts, everything's just easier… and Google makes it easy to do just that.

Adding the circle functionality of Google Plus to manage work teams in a company, especially if workers are remote, is an especially strong way to use G+ once companies switch to Google-only communications. 

Gmail integration–Talk to strangers

After all these integrations between all Google tools, it should come as no surprise that Google came up with yet another way to "interest" people in Google Plus: the ability to send an email to any Google Plus user through Gmail. Although no email addresses are exchanged in the process, it still gives total strangers the ability to send you an email that you will get in your Gmail inbox.

Like most of Google's features, this will happen automatically to anyone with a G+ account–and thus by extension anyone with a Gmail account. When the feature is rolled out, you will be able to opt out of it through your settings. However, automatically enrolling everyone in the feature raises privacy problems. As Dante D'Orazio notes, "it turns a private space — your inbox — into a social one." 

Personally, I'm not quite sure I'm ready to let random strangers email me. I already get enough strange events that randomly appear on my Google Calendar through G+. I would feel better about it if it went into a different folder of my email so it doesn't clog my inbox. Not that I think I will get emails from strangers, because I don't really have that kind of clout on Google Plus (or elsewhere) and I don't really spend time on it either.

I imagine that this will mostly affect major influencers, thought leaders and other "social-media-important" people who have tons of followers. The ability to email your favourite blogger or writer directly instead of leaving a comment in an already busy timeline seems attractive, for sure. But maybe they will be the ones to push back against this new feature, since they are probably the ones who will see their inboxes filled with emails from their fans. Or maybe they'll just turn the feature off and forget about it.

What do you think? Should Google turn back on this feature or is the ability to opt out enough for you? What do you think is the next step to Google's internet domination?

Google Places for Business Changes

Has your Google places dashboard changed recently? Google constantly introduces new ‘products’, but tends to remove and change them just as fast. If you're a local business and don't know about Google Places, we have some useful information for you as well.


Google’s Penguin 2.0 Update: What You Need to Know

There's been a bit of panic in Internet marketing circles lately. SEO experts around the world have been blogging about changes they noticed in search ranking patterns, and some of them have been somewhat panicking.

Although some worry is normal when something as important as Google changes drastically, the best response is never panic. As professional SEO experts and internet marketers, we can stay ahead of these changes and help our clients adjust to them.

This update is being nicknamed "Penguin 2.0", which means that it's a major update. Here's a bit more information about what we know of the update for the moment.

What will change? An overview

Well, according to Search Engine Journal, there will be several major changes

In a nutshell, most of these changes have to do with unscrupulous techniques that shady internet marketers have developed to get around Google's guidelines. Some techniques like

  • Paid links
  • Advertorial pages
  • Spam of all kinds
  • Keyword stuffing (a personal nemesis of mine)

will be more severely penalized. 

On the positive side, Google will reward

  • Organic, natural links
  • Secure, non-spammy sites
  • Authority and expertise

The goal, as it always is with Google, is to provide the most relevant and informative pages for any search term. Being relevant and informative is hard work, but it's not rocket science.

What you can (and should always) do

As a website owner, the one thing you should focus on is, and has always been, interesting, relevant, informative and factual content. Google rewards this work every time. Outstanding content gets more links. More links improve your ranking and increase your authority.

Unfortunately, the work of producing that kind of content can't be done once and then left to its own devices. Constant updating through blogs or news, participating in social media (watch for things shared on Google+ gaining more importance in search rankings) and working every day to be helpful and informative is still the most prudent and effective strategy.

The Internet changes constantly, and so we must change with it. If you feel like your search rankings may be hurt by this update, it's not too late to make the necessary changes to control the damage. 

Photo by xrayspx

Google Apparently Penalizes Exact Match Keywords in Links

Exact Match Keyword Penalty - Stikky Media BlogPart of the work we do at Stikky Media is monitoring our clients’ analytics patterns and SEO results. We check for keywords, organic or referred visits, and many other factors including monitoring when pages get penalized to determine why and fix it fast.

Lately, though, we’ve noticed that something has changed in Google rankings and referrals. It seems that the technique of using exact keywords in incoming links is getting penalized by Google. We haven’t found any official news on that matter from Google, but we think we’ve caught on to something here.

What exactly does this mean, though? Here’s an overview explaining what an exact match keyword penalty is and some easy steps you can take to avoid it.

What are exact keywords in incoming links?

One of the big parts of SEO is developing incoming links from reputable websites. This is why we have link-building strategies. One SEO technique is to have the incoming link use keywords related to your product or website, i.e. keywords you want to rank for on Google.

So, before we noticed the change, it was desirable to have your incoming links use your keywords as anchor text. It told Google that your website was relevant to that keyword.

So, what changed?

For the past few weeks, it seems that Google doesn’t quite like those exact anchor text keywords anymore. In fact, we’ve seen some of our websites penalized for them.

Why did this happen? Our basic theory is that exact match keyword anchor text is a sign of a paid (therefore “unnatural”) link. And paid links are a big no-no. As Google realized that companies offered links for a price, they looked at what these links looked like most of the time, and discovered that they almost always use exact keywords.

In the world of natural and organic linking, when websites link to other websites, they almost never use keywords that exactly match those the website wants to rank for. Instead, they insert the link in a series of words or a phrase that describes the content or the relevance of the link to the content around it. Google considers these kinds of links more “natural”, therefore more desirable. These links are less likely to be sponsored or paid for, hence also avoiding an exact match keyword penalty.

What can you do to avoid an exact match keyword penalty?

For links coming from external websites, there isn’t much you can do, since you don’t control the content. However, when dealing with internal links, you want to start using more natural sentences instead of trying to fit the keyword in your text.

For example, imagine I’m writing content about Victoria attractions for a local bed and breakfast’s blog. Instead of writing “There are many attractions at a walking distance from our Victoria bed and breakfast“, which feels stilted and a bit salesy, I can now write something like “Because Victoria is so compact, most downtown attractions can easily be accessed from your accommodations.” Basically, your keywords should not define your links anymore. Simply write your content, find a logical and relevant place for your link, and add it there.

Do you have any questions about the effect of this apparent change in Google’s algorithm? Contact us to discuss with one of our SEO experts.

Image by Xanthi Syrakou

8 Handy Google Search Tips and Tricks

In 1998, Google reported that it handled 10,000 global searches a day. That number jumped to 4 billion searches a day in 2010, according to a report from comScore. That’s 175 million Google searches per hour, or 2.9 million per minute.


Setting up your Google+ Brand Page

Google’s social network is ready for business. And while Google+ is still getting off the ground, word on the street is that Google+ Pages will soon trump those of the other, more popular social networks. Simply put, Google+ has the most to offer your business. So why not jump the boat and get your presence established on Google’s social network now?


More Than Barrel Roll: 7 Fun Google Tricks for 2019

Google is continually keeping us on our toes, and not just in the arena of digital analytics and IoT. Entertaining us with their daily doodles and hiding “easter eggs” is part of the fun-side of Google that we all enjoy. Here are some of Stikky Media’s favorite tricks we found in Google’s magic hat.

Do a Barrel Roll.

One of the first “easter eggs” released by Google, “do a barrel roll” is a popular Google search trick released in 2011 and, is still active today. 

To experience an authentic Google-style barrell roll, type the words “do a barrel roll” into Google’s search engine. Hit enter and watch your screen do a 360-degree turn!


With a clever click of an icon in Google search, Marvel comics’ super-villain Thanos can release the power of the Infinity Gauntlet directly on your screen! 

To feel the power of the Infinity Gauntlet:

  • First, type the name Thanos into the Google search query and hit enter.
  • Second, click on the Infinity Gauntlet icon located on the right-hand side of the screen.

thanos google trick



Watch as the words mystically disappear from your screen as the magical gauntlet’s powers “whoosh” about. The trick will finish in about 30 seconds. To replace the missing text, simply click on the Infinity Gauntlet icon a second time; the search page will magicaly return to normal. 

Green Hill Zone

Enter the words “Green Hill Zone”, aka the first level of the iconic 1991 video game Sonic, into Google for a fun throwback to the classic Sega game.

This Google trick is similar to Thanos, as the icon of the game, a blue hedgehog, is responsive when clicked on. Click on the Sonic the Hedgehog icon to hear the ear-splitting tone made legendary in the early ’90s. Keep the fun going by clicking the icon a total of 25 times to see Sonic become powered up.

Roll a Dice

roll dice google trickGoogle the phrase “roll a dice” into the search engine for a virtual dice throwing experience. You can choose from several different die styles and combinations.  Click on the blue “roll” button to initiate the dice rolling.

An easy way to play any number of dice related games on the fly!


Type in the word “askew” into your Google search bar and watch your screen shift slightly down and to the right, essentially, going askew itself.

This one’s a Google oldie, but still a goodie. 🙂

Pac-Manpac-man Google trick

A quick entry of the words “Pac-Man” and you’ll be playing the classic arcade game in seconds. 

Enjoy the rush of being chased by pastel-colored ghosts, without running out of quarters!

Zerg Rush

Want to see Google colored circles jerkily move there way down your page while you try to click on them? Then search the words “Zerg Rush” for a fun and quick challenge.

Red and yellow circles will descend down your screen, erasing all the text,  then migrate back up to form 2 uppercase“G”’s. 

This Google easter egg pays tribute to another classic video game. This time, it’s the 1998 strategic game Starcraft.

Google has some pretty amazing tricks up their sleeve, some are for fun, but many are extremely useful too. Here are a few perks from Google, for anyone to use, just by making simple queries:


If you need quick access to do some number crunching, say, when it’s time to split a bill, double-check receipt charges, or figure out tip amount, Google is there to help! 

Enter “calculator” into your Google platform and a handy-dandy calculator will pop up. 


Language barriers can be broken down with Google’s translator services. A wonderful tool to use when traveling or, in other language-restrictive situations. Google translator, like almost all things Google, is quick, easy-to-use, and powerful.

Package Tracking

Enter your UPS, USPS, or FedEx tracking number into Google for a quick update on your package’s location. How handy is that?

We love having fun with today’s tech trends! Want more relevant info and fun tech tips? Check out our blog!

Google Maps Unveils Its Coolest Feature Yet: Helicopter View

Getting driving directions just got easier, thanks to Google Maps’ latest feature. Helicopter view, known in tech circles as 3D Preview, lets you see your drive from the comfort and safety of a fake chopper. Compared to the 2D, top-down view we’ve become so accustomed to, helicopter view is a more realistic portrayal of how we see the world—horizontally, not vertically.


Google Flight Search Finally Takes Off

Google has launched its new airfare tool, dubbed Flight Search, that allows users to search for cheap flights in a simple, attractive way. The new service was supposed to be rolled out quietly in true Google fashion, but an unfortunate snafu involving the World Trade Center made for a very bumpy takeoff.


Google Makes Science Fairs Cool Again

Kids, put away your hand-me-down baking soda and vinegar volcanoes—science fairs just got a whole lot more interesting.

Google is about to hold the first ever global online science fair, which means first place no longer depends on the child’s ability to use poster board and scotch tape. Kids aged 13-18 submit their work via Google Sites, and must include either a slideshow or a video on their homepage. They can also use YouTube, Docs, Maps, Earth, Search or any other Google-y tools.


Victoria Rides The Google Transit Bus

Last week, BC Transit rolled out a new trip planning tool, Google Transit, for its Greater Victoria schedule. Although it’s a pilot project, users have access to the entire system and its bus stop locations, route numbers, departure times, arrivals, trip lengths and walking routes.


A List of Google Ranking Factors

As an SEO, I often assume that others know what the Google Ranking Factors are. It became clear to me on a recent sales call that there is no way that the general public, or even many web designers, would hold even any knowledge of the kinds of things that Google takes in to account when ranking a page. To most people it is so magical system that some ultra smart people came up with that could never be understood.

What’s New From Google?

Google has been busy this week releasing a few new features on various platforms that are of significance to web marketers and surfers alike. What’s new from Google? Added features in Google Analytics, a light weight YouTube option for slower computers, region tags within the SERPS, and Site Performance in Google Webmaster Tools that will help you speed up your site.


Voice Recognition with the Google Mobile App

Matt Cutts of Google recently released a video on the Google Mobile App which uses voice recognition to return Google search results. The application is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia S60 and Android phones. The voice recognition system appears to work very well for Matt in the video below. Most voice recognition systems have been frustrating to say the least. I know I have had my fair share of frustration with the 1-800-GOOG-411 phone system.

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