Six Things You Should Learn from the PostJoint Penalty

Every now and then a little bomb explodes in the search community. Blogs erupt with geysers of information. Authoritative sites spawn dozens of articles, examining the issue from every angle. Webinars offer “answers” to the new issue. And you and I are left to figure out what the heck just happened, and what we need to do about it.

One such bomb is the PostJoint penalty. This one is important, because of how it’s tied to Google’s stance on guest blogging, the future of SEO, and the strategy for content marketing. There are some critical lessons that we need to learn from the PostJoint penalty.

The Story on PostJoint

First of all, let me tell you what happened with PostJoint.

What is PostJoint?

PostJoint connects bloggers with marketers. Bloggers receive content from marketers, publish that content, and often get compensated for doing so. Bloggers like it because they get content. Marketers like it because they get marketing buzz and backlinks.

The website says, “PostJoint turns typical outreach around on its head, and lets marketers and bloggers mutually arrange deals in no time.” Then this — “We’re fast, secure and there’s no footprints.” Apart from the grammatical error in that sentence, PostJoint had a more serious error they committed.

What did they do?

Another term for a site like PostJoint is “guest blogging network.” Although posing as an “outreach” agency or a marketing site, PostJoint is actually in the business of guest blogging.

Guest blogging, as you will remember, was the same primary activity of MyBlogGuest.com, famously penalized by Google in March.

Furthermore, guest blogging, as you will remember, was the primary target of Matt Cutt’s salvo on January 20. His point was that “guest blogging for SEO” is over. While his comments needed some clarification, his words now ring with proven clarity: “If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

(Subtext: “And if you don’t stop, then we’ll stop you.”)

The issue at PostJoint was guest blogging, which is the new worst sin in SEO so far this year. Guest blogging, at least on a blog network scale, will get you nailed.

What happened?

Google’s response was definitive and thorough. Go ahead and Google “PostJoint.” Their branded keyword returns no links to their site on page one of Google, except their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

postjoint serp

In the words of PostJoint’s Saleem Yaqub, “So Google has knocked us off their engine too.” What follows is his Yaqub’s take on “what Google meant to say.”

(Note: This is not an actual image of the penalty message. It is merely a fictional recreated one.)

postjoint business model violation

Though he doesn’t post the actual message from Google, we can assume that it was the dreaded manual penalty violation. Matt Cutts tweeted this:

It’s probably safe to conclude that unless PostJoint completely revamps its business plan and core activity, then it will take them a very long time to recover from this penalty.

What We Need to Learn

I’ve given you this story and context, because we need to learn some valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t in this new era of SEO. The SEO methods of the past are dead and gone. PostJoint provides the perfect case study for discussing these lessons.

1. Don’t stick it to Google.

Some pundits believed that PostJoint taunted Google, which may have led to the penalty. The verbiage on their website makes this plain:

no footprints

Saying we have “no footprints” is like saying, “Psst, come over here. We can help you not get caught by Google!” And Google knows this.

That’s probably why Cutts later tweeted this:

PostJoint’s own blog suggested that they were nervous when MyBlogGuest was penalized before their own penalty. They quickly published an apologetic on how they were different from MBG:

difference between us

Some of PostJoint’s explanation, however, called into question the legitimacy of Google’s algorithm and technique:

And some of it even crossed the lines of what could be considered polite.

What was galling to Matt Cutts, however, was PostJoint’s oft-repeated claim, “PostJoint does not leave any footprints whatsoever.”

Based on this activity by PostJoint, plus the response tweets by Cutts, it seems fairly obvious that PostJoint was penalized, at least in part, by the nature of what they were saying (not just doing) — imprudently claiming impunity for their guest blogging activities.

I’m not saying that you should cower in fear of the all-powerful Google. But as it stands right now, they rule search. Don’t antagonize them.

That leads me to number two.

2. Play by Google’s rules.

Search has evolved to the point where it’s very unlikely that you will not be successful unless you follow Google’s rules. Unless you’re working on the Deep Web, and thus under the radar of standard search engines, then you’ve got to do what Google says is best.

the deep web

From Wikipedia.

With more than 100 billion searches per month, Google is still by far the dominant leader in search, claiming more than 65% of global searches. Bing and Yahoo just aren’t a big deal, claiming less than 10% of number of searches.

If you have any interest in successful SEO, you should be complying with Google’s rules.

If you don’t follow the guidelines, your site might be penalized.

3. Don’t use a guest blog network.

True to his word, Matt Cutts is lowering the boom on guest blogging networks. Barry Schwartz tabulated recent targets of the guest blogging penalty in an article on the PostJoint penalty. His list is fourteen long.

We should take heed.

If it feels like a guest blog network, looks like a guest blog network, or sounds like a guest blog network, then it’s a guest blog network. Stay away.

As I’ve reiterated many times, guest blogging — the legitimate, high-quality, and squeaky-clean variety of it — is not dead. But guest blog networks are dead, at least in Google’s eyes. So far, Google has blown several of them out of the water. More penalties may be coming.

Here are two telltale signs of a guest blog network:

  • Any site whose primary purpose is connecting publishers (websites) and writers. There are plenty of places to post legitimately as a “guest.” But other sites, sometimes touted as a site for “connecting” or “blogger and publisher networking,” are actually just a guest blogging network.
  • Any site which claims to be a “guest blogging” site. If a site claims to be a “guest blog network,” then they’re probably telling the truth. This is your cue to click the “x” on the browser tab, and do something different.

There are other ways of gaining great content and awesome backlinks. Guest blog networks are dangerous.

4. Be courteous to your users.

A manual penalty doesn’t just harm the penalized site. It can also affect sites that are connected. The “bad neighborhood” rule of SEO is still true. If you hang out in a web neighborhood with penalized sites, spammy sites, or suspicious sites, you’re going to lose rank.

When PostJoint went down, they took others down with them. Their blog reported this:

You will get penalized for being a guest blogging network, and maybe for purchasing the services of a guest blogging network.

Penalties have a ripple effect. If a site receives a penalty, then sites to which it links may receive a vicarious decline in rank, albeit in a smaller proportion.

There’s an automatic quid pro quo built into the complexity of the algorithm. If you link to authoritative sites, it can lend your site authoritative favor. If your site is linked to by authoritative sites, then it gives your site more authority.

And the reverse is true, too. If you participate in spammy linking efforts, then you will bring SEO guilt upon those who associate with you.

Focus on boosting your site’s credibility by steering clear of spammy sites for destination linking. Occasionally clean up your link profile to erase the negative SEO from spam sites.

5. Engage in alternative marketing methods.

Linkbuilding or guest blogging alone is not sufficient to make your business successful. You simply can’t depend upon it. As recent history shows, the guest blogging networks of today are the keyword stuffing of a few years ago.

It’s time to participate in a diverse array of online marketing methods. At present, content marketing is the most successful, safe, and effective approach to online marketing.

6. Content marketing will accept linkbacks because of great content, but content marketing steers clear of any attempt to manipulate linkbacks.

Content marketing is the high road in online marketing. But, sadly, some have conflated “content marketing” with a tweaked approach to linkbuilding.

Content marketing is not linkbuilding, and isn’t a modified approach to selling, swapping or sharing links. Of course, content marketing has the corollary upside of linkbacks, but that’s not the primary goal.

While we may nod in agreement with the PostJoint penalty, we must make sure that we aren’t engaging in any effort to coax more inbound links apart from purely awesome content.

Conclusion

PostJoint and other guest blogging sites like them have fallen away. They can no longer hope to be successful in the new era of SEO. We should understand and admit that the search environment has changed.

We have new skills to learn and new fields to explore in order to gain a tactical advantage for marketing. Success is still attainable, as long as we make the appropriate strategic shifts.

What other lessons should we learn from the PostJoint penalty?

About the Author: is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.


The KISSmetrics Marketing Blog

Friday Roundup: AdWords gets dynamic, Yahoo gets Flurry and more

Adwords dyanmic linksAdWords, Yahoo, and don’t forget Google.

Let’s finish up the week with a couple of quick hits.

AdWords is adding deep linking, dynamic sitelinks to search ads. The links are automatically generated and added to the bottom of your existing ad based on searcher behavior.

For example:

When people use Google to search for used cars, they may perform multiple searches and click on several search results before scheduling a test drive on a dealer’s site. While searching, they might see an ad for Joe’s Used Cars with a dynamic sitelink for the test drive page on Joe’s website, based on the customer’s current search activity.

Nice way to get a relevant call to action without any additional effort on your part. (Other than a website with a variety of actionable content pages.)

 Yahoo!

Earlier this week, Yahoo declared their intentions to court mobile ad exchange network Flurry.

Our agreement to acquire Flurry is a meaningful step for the company and reinforces Yahoo’s commitment to building and supporting useful, inspiring and beautiful mobile applications and monetization solutions.

Here’s what Flurry is bringing to the marriage:

Over 170,000 developers are using the Flurry platform for analytics, ad monetization and traffic acquisition. Together, they have over 540,000 applications on our platform. That number has been constantly increasing since 2008 and it is showing no signs of stopping.

Yahoo is bringing around $ 200 million, which seems a little light. We’ll see how it goes.

91,000 people now have the right to be forgotten

Back in May, Google began accepting removal requests as part of the whole “right to be forgotten” rule. They received requests from 91,000 individuals covering 328,000 URLs. Wall Street Journal reports that Google has since processed a little more than 50% of the requests.

Not all requests are getting processed. 30% of requests were rejected and Google asked for clarification on another 12%. That still leaves quite a few mentions that are going to be stricken from the record.

I’m not surprised so many people want their past cleaned up. I am surprised that the majority of claims are legit. I’m also surprised that we haven’t seen more protests from people who think the internet shouldn’t be censored.

That’s it for me. Have a great weekend. I’ll see you back here on Monday.

 

 

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

Amazon rewards Prime Members who choose slower shipping

Amazon No RushOne of the main reasons people sign up for Amazon Prime is to get the FREE 2-day shipping. Heck, since I joined, I’ve seen things arrive the next day! It’s madness — in a good way — for the buyer.

But I’ve been hearing rumors that Amazon now has too many Prime members and can’t handle the shipping load. I think those rumors must be true because Amazon is once again pushing their No Rush reward program.

If you’re a Prime member, and you choose the slower 5-7 business day option, Amazon will give you a $ 1 Amazon Instant Video Credit.

A search on Google shows that Amazon tried this a couple of years ago but they gave away music credits. Now, with their Instant service blowing up, a video credit is much more enticing than a music credit. It is to me, anyway. I watch Amazon Instant Videos all the time and I’m constantly landing on options that require payment. In most cases, I’d happily take the $ 1 credit in return for slower shipping. Not always, but most of the time.

It’s interesting to note that Amazon just reported the biggest quarterly loss since 2012 – $ 126 million dollars. About double what analysts expected.

It’s not all bad news. Revenue was actually up 23% over last year which is better than expected. More people signed up for Prime, even though Amazon raised the price and we’re heading into the busiest time of the year for the online seller so that revenue number is going to keep climbing.

How many people are shopping on Amazon? We turn to Bloomberg for that:

Amazon doesn’t include information on active customers in its earnings report, but the company’s chief financial officer, Tom Szkutak, gives the goods in briskly delivered sermons during the company’s investor calls. This quarter, Szkutak said, Amazon had 250 million active accounts, up 16 percent from last year. That’s solid growth. As a point of comparison, EBay just published 14 percent user growth. Once again, Amazon is growing faster than the competition, which can pay dividends for many years to come.

So why the loss? Mostly because Amazon keeps investing in everything from sell phones to grocery delivery. Not saying a company shouldn’t grow but I don’t want growth in the wrong area to jeopardize the welfare of my favorite online store.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media

Social media is fraught with legend, hysteria, and mass confusion. Because of its intensely personal nature, we tend to approach social media with a lot of strong feelings about its effectiveness, lack thereof, best practices, and how things should be done.

Since most of us use Facebook, we think we know how effective it will be, or what kind of posts garner the most attention and interaction. Since we have a Twitter account, we have a sense of knowledge about how it works, and what a business should do (or not do) on Twitter.

All that is great, but how much of our social media behavior is founded upon fact? I decided to dig into the data and do some research. What I’ve extracted below are five surprising data points that will have a profound effect on how you approach social media.

1. Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%.

Source: Direct Marketing Association

What? A statistic about email? You thought this was about social media, right?

My title is “Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media.” This statistic qualifies as shocking, and it impacts the way we approach on social media.

The basic fact is this: Email marketing has a huge ROI — way better than any social media marketing ROI can ever dream of achieving. Compare 4,300% that with the ROI of social media, which is crawling around on the floor. Is there even a comparison?

Take a look at this chart, released by Custora in 2013. They surveyed the owners of ecommerce sites to find out where these sites got their customers. Here are the top six sources:

acquisition by channel

Paid and organic search have the highest customer acquisition percentages. The next biggest contender is email. Based on its ROI — higher than paid and organic search — it’s a no brainer. Email marketing is awesome.

According to the chart above, the fascinating thing about email marketing is that its acquisition rates are rising dramatically. It has quadrupled over the past four years. Email marketing’s effectiveness far outranks any social media platform, and its growth outstrips them.

Even the customer lifetime value (CLV) of social media is hardly worth a second glance. Again, email marketing crushes social media by a huge margin:

customer lifetime value by channel

Simply put, email marketing is way more effective than social media marketing. It has greater effectiveness, better ROI, and higher CLV.

Learn this lesson: Spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.

2. YouTube has the highest engagement and lowest bounce rate.

Source: Shareaholic

Whenever we think of “social media,” we automatically think of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What about YouTube? Check out these engagement stats!

  • Average time on site: 227 seconds
  • Average pages per visit: 2.99
  • Average bounce rate: 43.19%

How does this stack up against the rest of the social media landscape? Decide for yourself:

social media post click engagement

The Shareaholic analysis is based on post-click behavior, which refers to clicking on a link that a friend shares socially. As the Shareaholic analysis stated, “YouTube is the undisputed champion. YT drives the most engaged traffic.”

YouTube deserves more of your social media time and effort. You can’t afford not to put more work into creating and adding videos. The more YouTube content, the more you’ll engage your potential customers.

Learn this lesson: If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.

3. Facebook drives more referrals than any other social platform.

Source: Shareaholic

Want to know which social media site sends you the most amount of traffic? It’s Facebook — by far.

Shareaholic analyzed metrics taken over four months, measuring the effectiveness of social media platforms. There was no contest. Facebook crushed the competition, asserting itself as the most powerful social media referral engine on the planet.

social media traffic referrals

Companies gripe and complain over the way that Pages have been squashed in the Facebook algorithm. I get that. Facebook wants more ad revenue.

But even though page interaction is shrinking, there’s nothing shrinking about the number of referrals that Facebook continues to drive. Simply stated, Facebook still drives more traffic than any other social media site, soaring way above its nearest referral competition, Pinterest.

social media traffic referrals

The reason why I’ve included this in my list of facts is because many marketers have become disillusioned with Facebook.

Kevan Lee of Buffer writes:

Nowadays, when I endeavor to check my Facebook statistics, I do so with the window open, birds singing, a pint of ice cream at my desk, and party jams playing on my jambox….Checking Facebook statistics has been bad news for a lot of us lately as we wrestle with declining numbers and shrinking reach.

While Kevan is staving off Facebook depression with ice cream parties and fresh air, Eat24 just decided to end the relationship with a “How dare you!”

6-how-dare-you

The super long breakup letter that went into overtime with a P.P.P.S.S.S. was full of foodie talk and hurt feelings. But they were gone from Facebook for good.

If you have a fan base below 10,000 (that’s most of us), and only 28 interactions per post, please don’t be discouraged, don’t binge eat, and don’t write a breakup letter. You’re right where you ought to be, as ranked by Social Baker’s average interaction chart.

average interactions by page size

And if you’re in an unsexy industry like finance or telecom, you can expect your average post interaction to be lower, than say, an alcohol or fashion site.

average post interaction by industry

In spite of the apparent downward spiral of Facebook metrics, I suggest not giving up on Facebook. Though it is fickle, and though your page isn’t featured at the top of everyone’s news feed, and though you may have to turn up your party music while you check your stats, Facebook is still giving you referrals.

As Kevan’s brilliant article concluded — “A counterintuitive way to combat Facebook reach: Stop caring about it.”

Learn this lesson: Stick it out with Facebook.

4. Pinterest pins are worth 78 cents each.

Source: Piquora

First off, a Pinterest disclaimer (or two), and then a Pinterest happy dance.

The first disclaimer is this — Pinterest has high bounce rate (53%) and low engagement. Disclaimer number two: Pinterest doesn’t work for everyone. If you are into food, crafts, photography, weddings, design, fitness, humor, travel, fashion, and inspirational quotes, then Pinterest is killer. It holds promise for some, but not for all.

The happy dance is this — Pinterest is the second biggest social media referral platform. Though it trails Facebook distantly, it still beats out Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn by a sizeable margin.

Now, let’s talk about ROI. Pinterest, as it turns out, does have one. But it’s a delayed reaction. When a pinner curates his or her pinboard, it takes a while for there to be social buildup, let alone revenue. Unlike Twitter, which has a short half-life, Pinterest visits increase as time goes on. It’s like wine. The older, the better.

cumulative visits from sites oldest pins

As it turns out, the revenue doesn’t start happening until more than two months after pinning. Pinners spend more time exploring other people’s pinboards then they do searching for stuff offsite to pin. The average Pinterest pin gets 10 repins, but it takes time for those pinners to start repinning pins. This leads to a corresponding delay in revenue.

cumulative revenes and orders from sites oldest pins

Pinterest is money, but it’s slow money. It’s like investing in a CD or a bond. The egg just takes a little while to hatch.

Learn this lesson: Use Pinterest. And be patient.

5. 65% of Twitter users expect a response in under two hours.

Source: Lithium

Customers use Twitter like a company hotline. If you don’t respond within minutes, you’re toast. Here are the lofty chronological expectations of Twitter users, in all their statistical glory:

twitter response times and customer happiness

Image from Hubspot.

The Lithium study that produced this statistic had the headline, “Consumers Will Punish Brands that Fail to Respond on Twitter Quickly.” The flip side, “consumers will reward brands that harness Twitter’s power to meet their rising expectations.”

What kind of punishment are we talking about?

  • “38% feel more negative about the brand.” As a result, they may no longer purchase from the company.
  • “60% will take unpleasant actions to express their dissatisfaction…publicly shaming the brand on social media” In other words, they may spread their grief further on Twitter. It’s easy to tweet off a 140-character-or-less gripe about the company. “74 percent of customers who take to social media to shame brands believe it leads to better service.”

What’s in it for brands who are on the ball, and who respond to Tweets instantaneously?

  • 34 percent are likely to buy more from that company;
  • 43 percent are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products;
  • 38 percent are more receptive to their advertisements;
  • 42 percent are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

There’s a lot to gain by a quick response, and a lot to lose if you don’t. So if you get that Twitter notification on lunch break, don’t wait. Step on it, respond right away, and please your customers’ socks off.

Learn this lesson: If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.

Conclusion

Here are the five lessons we need to learn

  1. For right now, spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.
  2. If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.
  3. Stick with Facebook.
  4. Use Pinterest. And be patient.
  5. If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.

Facts are indisputable, and the action points are obvious. Let’s not get lost in the romance and novelty of social media. Let’s stay clear headed, smart, and engaged. There’s power in social media, and we need to handle it in the right way.

What are some of the most compelling social media statistics that you’ve heard?

About the Author: is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.


The KISSmetrics Marketing Blog