Gnome Likes: Search Result Hijacking, Social Signals & Unbeatable Proposals

Google finally broke their silence this week by releasing Panda 21. This is the company’s first publicly announced update in almost a month (Top Heavy 2 was announced back on October 9). Here’s the official tweet:

But I’m sure you’re tired of hearing and thinking about Google updates so there won’t be any more update talk for the rest of this recap. I promise. Now, let’s get on with the show…

How I Hijacked Rand Fishkin’s Blog

This is one of the most interesting (and terrifying) posts from last week because Dan Petrovic shows just how easy it is to hijack a site’s search results.

Search result hijacking is made possible by Google’s treatment of duplicate content. When Google identifies two duplicate documents, they pick the document with the higher PageRank, and they forward all links for the duplicate document to the document they selected. This image is an excellent representation of the process:

Google duplicate

Thus, if you want to hijack a document’s place in the search results, you simply need to post the document’s content on a page with higher PageRank. To evaluate the technique’s effectiveness, Dan attempted to hijack pages from four different websites.

Shockingly, Dan was able to hijack a page from each of the four websites. The severity of the hijacking varied for each site (in some cases, he was able to completely replace to original page with the hijacked version, and in other cases, he was only able to hijack specific search queries), but the important takeaway is that search result hijacking is possible.

Your Guide to Social Signals for SEO

In this post, Jayson DeMers investigates a range of topics related to social signals and their influence on search rankings.

Jayson begins by identifying the elements of social engagement that provide a direct and indirect impact on organic search rankings. As shown in the following graph, the direct influencers are first order social engagement signals (e.g., number of Facebook shares, number of Twitter tweets, etc.):

social signals

Strong social engagement also has an indirect impact on rankings because it bolsters the following old school ranking signals:

  • More backlinks and citations – People can’t link to your site or even reference it unless they know it exists, and social media helps build that awareness.
  • More positive reviews – When you do social media well, you build a happier (and more engaged) audience. When your audience is happy, they’re much more likely to give you positive feedback!
  • More on-site user engagement – If people know about your brand (and are interested in it), they are much more likely to spend time on your site (and to visit the site on a consistent basis).

Clearly, social signals already play an important role in ranking content, and that role will only expand over time. Therefore, Jayson concludes the post with a 5-step guide for launching your social media presence:

  1. Register your brand at the most popular social media sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).
  2. Create a company blog, and begin blogging on a consistent schedule.
  3. Establish your onsite content engine. The more content you have on your site, you more opportunities you have to generate social signals.
  4. Establish your offsite content engine. Someone needs to actively manage your social profiles to ensure that you’re engaging with your audience.
  5. Integrate your onsite and offsite content engines. When something happens onsite, be sure to announce it offsite.

How to write universe-conquering proposals

In this post, Ian Lurie offers extremely helpful advice for writing proposals that will separate you from your competition. The post is written for an Internet marketing audience, but the tips are generally applicable to anyone that writes client proposals.

The beginning of the post makes one point abundantly clear: your proposal MUST focus on the WHY. Specifically, you need to explain why clients should hire you. Don’t just tell them what you’ll do or how you’ll do it. Tell them why you’re in business and why you’re the best option.

The rest of the post is focused on specific tips for building your proposal’s imputed value:

  1. Change your frame of mind – the proposal isn’t just a block of text; it’s a window into your company’s soul that tells clients why they should choose you instead of all other options.
  2. Pick your tools – Be sure you’re well equipped to create a compelling proposal; select your favorite fonts, image editors, etc.
  3. Start with the WHY – Your why is the most important part of your proposal so make sure it’s prominently displayed.
  4. Have a personality – writing – No one wants to do business with a lifeless robot. Be yourself, and try to write like you speak.
  5. Have a personality – imagery – Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality with images. You want clients to know what you have to offer.
  6. Get to the point – No matter how entertaining you are, no one really wants to read a proposal. Be as concise as possible, and make sure you get your point across before you lose the reader’s interest.
  7. Illustrate whenever possible – Everyone loses pictures. They’re easier to process than blocks of text, and they make your proposal pop.
  8. Avoid an assault – The purpose of the proposal is to explain to clients why they should go with you. Don’t overwhelm them with information that isn’t critical for this task.
  9. Make eye contact – When you use images, make sure those images look at the reader.
  10. Choose stock photos wisely – Make sure the images in your proposal make sense and are appropriate for the message you’re trying to get across.
  11. Don’t use bare stock photos – You want to stand out from the crowd so don’t use the same generic imagery that everyone else is using.
  12. Use data sparingly (and well) – Again, you don’t want to overwhelm the readers. Emphasize the most important points.
  13. Be consistent – Make sure your proposal paints a consistent picture all the way through. Don’t confuse your reader, and don’t make it difficult to read the proposal.
  14. Think about typography – You want to make your proposal as easy to read as possible. The easier it is to read, the more likely people will read it!
  15. Use PDF – If you convert your proposal to a PDF, it helps ensure that the reader will see the proposal exactly as you intended (unexpected formatting issues are minimized).

No, Content is Not the Only Way – Whiteboard Friday

One of the biggest buzzwords in the industry right now is “content marketing,” and it’s gotten to the point where people believe content is the only way to attract links. Fortunately, Rand Fishkin addresses this misconception in this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday by describing a few inbound marketing strategies that don’t require content:

Over To You…

I hope you enjoyed this week’s SEO recap, and I want to hear from you in the comments. What were some of your favorite posts this week? How important do you think social signals are for ranking? What are some of your best tips for writing effective proposals?


steve
About The Author:  is an SEO audit specialist at Web Gnomes. He received his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech, where he published dozens of articles on Internet-related topics. Professionally, Steve has worked for Google and various other Internet startups, and he's passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences with others. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.


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3 Responses to “Gnome Likes: Search Result Hijacking, Social Signals & Unbeatable Proposals”

  1. Oleg November 12, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    The result hijacking experiment blew my mind. Although it looks like a few of the rankings are now fixed, I still see MarketBizz being outranked by his duplicate. Think G took notice?

    Love the proposal post – kick ass tips and will look into that recommended book.

    Great roundup as usual Steve!

    -Oleg

    • steve November 12, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks Oleg!

      My mind was also blown by the experiments. I definitely wouldn’t call MarketBizz “authoritative,” but it has a few authority signals. So I’m shocked that it was completely hijacked.

      Not sure about G’s awareness of this study. At the very bottom of the post, Dan mentions that he reached out to the authors of the original paper (Peng and Dabek). I hope they get back to him because I’d love to hear their response.

      -Steve

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  1. Gnome Likes: UX Tips, 100K Organic Visits & Greedy Travel Sites | Web Gnomes - November 19, 2012

    [...] Before I dive into this week’s exciting recap, I need to add a quick addendum to the search result hijacking post that was featured last week. [...]

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