Slap Experiment & Search Quality Interview

You’re not going to believe this, but for the first time in a long time, we went an entire week without a Google update announcement! No new Pandas or Penguins or any other black and white zoo animals!!!

So does that mean Google stayed under the radar for an entire week?!

Of course not. The company didn’t announce any updates, but they did finally unveil their highly anticipated Disavow Links tool:

Google Disavow Links tool

For more information about this tool, check out Danny Sullivan’s coverage, or read my latest post about it: 3 Conspiracy Theories About Google’s Disavow Links Tool.

Now that the Google news is out of the way, let’s get on with the SEO recap…

Why I Hired A Girl On Craigslist to Slap Me In The Face — And How It Quadrupled My Productivity

Technically, this post by Maneesh Sethi doesn’t have anything to do with SEO or Internet marketing (aside from the fact that it has a buzzworthy title that helped it go viral). But it has everything to do with improving productivity, which is a topic we all need help with.

First, Maneesh measured his baseline level of productivity, and he identified a staggeringly low number: 38% (i.e., he spent most of his time online watching The League, playing on Facebook chat, and doing various other non-work-related activities).

To improve his productivity, Maneesh devised an ingenious plan. He placed an advertisement on Craigslist to find someone that would yell at him or physically slap him if he was caught wasting time. He received a number of responses (who wouldn’t want to get paid $8/hour just to slap someone?), and he finally hired a girl named Kara.

Here’s an amazing video of Kara slapping Maneesh when she caught him wasting time:

The results of the slap experiment were fairly staggering. On a normal day, Maneesh’s productivity is around 35-40%. But when Kara sat next to him, his productivity skyrocketed to 98%! Here’s a graph to illustrate the improvement:

Productivity improvement

This productivity improvement is obviously impressive, but the best part of this post can be found in Maneesh’s analysis of why the experiment worked:

If you add a social element to the work that you do, you will become more productive.

That quote captures the overriding reason the experiment was successful, but here are Maneesh’s more granular insights:

  • Someone else knew what needed to be accomplished – Kara acted as Maneesh’s “makeshift boss,” and she helped him stay on task.
  • Kara pushed him through the “Cheese Monster” – we all have urges to do unproductive activities while we’re working, and Kara helped Maneesh push through those urges.
  • Maneesh was able to use Kara as a sounding board – when he was stuck or just wanted to talk about ideas out loud, Kara was there to help.
  • The Slap Challenge added a fun element to work – it was a goofy reminder that Maneesh needed to stay productive.
  • Kara was able to proofread everything Maneesh wrote – while Kara’s hands were ready to do some slapping, her eyes were looking over Maneesh’s work.

An Interview with an EX-Member of Matt Cutts’s Search Quality team!

Matt Cutts has made numerous appearances in previous editions of Gnome Likes because his interviews and public appearances are almost always newsworthy.

In this post, James Norquay gives Matt Cutts a much needed break, and he interviews an ex-member of Matt’s team (Andre Weyher) instead.

The first part of the interview is about Andre’s experiences in the Search Quality team. Then, the interview quickly turns to the topic of algorithm updates. Andre makes the important observation that Google is “fed up with people breaking the guidelines on an industrial scale and are coming down very hard on webmasters who do.” He also gives this valuable insight:

… getting a link from a high PR page used to always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours, relevance is the new PR.

Next, the interview’s focus shifts to advice about recommended on-page and off-page tactics. Andre emphasizes the importance of on-page SEO, and he cautions against spending too much time on link building without a solid on-page foundation (he compares it to filling a car with gas while forgetting to put tires on the car).

While discussing link building, Andre gives three tips:

  • Anything you can do automatically or at scale puts your website at risk.
  • Directories aren’t inherently bad. Just be sure to stick with high quality niche directories.
  • Stay focused on attracting links from high quality websites.

Then, Andre delivers his most insightful comment from the entire interview:

… if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO.

Finally, Andre gives a nice shout-out to Google+, and he makes it very clear that the social network will play a large role in the future of search at Google. And that’s an excellent segue to our next post…

10 Dead Simple Tips to Take Advantage of Google+ for SEO

In this post, Cyrus Shepard highlights numerous SEO benefits associated with Google+. Cyrus begins the post with the following chart, which displays the domain distribution of the first 100 Google results for his “Cyrus Shepard” query:

Google+ SERP domination

As the chart shows, Google+ posts clearly dominate certain types of SERPs, and Cyrus spends the rest of the post describing ways to leverage this domination. Here’s a summary of his Google+ tips:

  1. Follow your profile links – The links in your Google+ bio are dofollow, and you can control the anchor text.
  2. Embed post links – Be sure to share your content on Google+ because your posts are indexed and treated like individual Web pages.
  3. Optimize your Google+ title tags – A fundamental on-page SEO best practice is to write titles that are optimized and compel readers to click on them; the same advice applies to your Google+ post titles.
  4. Unlimited editing power – Google+ allows you to edit your posts whenever you want, which is important if you want to make changes after your post goes viral.
  5. Index new content lightning fast – Links that are shared on Google+ are indexed almost immediately.
  6. Connect with influencers – Google+ offers 17 different notification triggers; use these triggers to get an influencer’s attention (try to be as subtle as possible).
  7. Optimize your author pic for more traffic – Implement the author tag correctly, and then, use an eye-catching profile picture to improve your CTRs!
  8. Test drive a Google+ social media dashboard – Cyrus provides a free Google Analytics dashboard that will help you monitor your social engagement.
  9. Check your CircleRank – See how your Google+ account stacks up against the rest of the Google+ universe.
  10. Be an awesome (Late) early adopter – Google+ is growing fast, and you can’t take advantage of its benefits unless you start using it!

The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning – Whiteboard Friday

Last week’s Whiteboard Friday was all about on-page SEO best practices. This week, Rand Fishkin dives into off-page SEO best practices. Specifically, he gives valuable advice about how to convert old link building techniques into link earning strategies:

Now, It’s Your Turn…

I hope you enjoyed this week’s SEO recap, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What were some of your favorite posts this week? Have you ever hired someone to slap you? Are you actively using Google+?


  1. Pete Mooth says

    Very informative article! Thank you very much.. I also took the liberty to review the tool, owned by the ex-google guy. Promising thing.. stil a good few false positives but it’s still in development. The only thing I wonder… could he be breaking privacy regulations? Any comments?

    • steve says

      Thanks Pete! I’m glad you enjoyed the post :-)

      The Netcomber site reminds me of SpyOnWeb (#9 on this list of free SEO tools). I don’t think there are any privacy issues here. From what I can tell, the site relies on publicly available data (e.g., analytics IDs, WHOIS information, etc.) to make connections between domains.

      Thanks again for commenting!

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