Callum is currently working with Marie Haynes, who is a big name when it comes to Google Penalties and a guiding path to stay away from them, and in case you get penalized, to get out of the rabbit hole.
Callum himself has spoken publicly on how to help websites recover from Google’s Core Quality Algorithm Updates at conferences such as DMSS, in Bali. He also writes on different SEO related blogs and magazines like Authority labs, Link Assistant, and more.
We will be asking Callum a lot of different questions about SEO, Link Building, and Google Penalties in specific.
So here we go!
Question: SEO is getting more and more difficult with the passage of time. Things that used to work back in the days may be considered as spam. So, my question is, in your opinion, how hard SEO has become and where do you see it’s going in the next 5 years? How SEOs of today can be prepared for the 5 next years to come?
You are absolutely right. One of the main goals for Google is to provide SERPs, that answer the searcher’s query with the most accurate, helpful, and high-quality content. Now that is a tall order given how big the web is, and for sure, in the past, an SEO specialist’s job was closer to gaming that algorithm. Finding vulnerabilities that could be exploited, and some of those tactics still work, but they are short-sighted, in my opinion.
“Just like back in 2016-2019 there was some news rotating around holocaust which was later improved by google”
But Google has so much processing power and data available to drive their algorithms. Following Moore’s law, we can only expect that they continue to get better and better at producing results that can’t be gamed.So, in my opinion, there are two things for the SEO companies to focus on. Firstly, creating content that is the best of its kind first and building a legitimate reputation as a trusted, expert, and authoritative source for that content. A lot closer to what a traditional PR firm would do for a print publication or a brick and mortar store!
The second focus is on technical SEO, which has always been important. There is no point in having amazing content that Google can’t find or understand! Taking that a step further, putting systems in place that help to connect all of the signals you have created both on and off site about your authority and expertise is going to help a lot. That includes how you structure the content of your site, how consistent your on and offsite signals are, and connecting them using structured data.
You can refer to a SEO expert like GrowthProton who can help you to sort this problem
Question: If the website is manually penalized because of the questionable link building they have done in the past, what is the best way to combat manual penalty?
Marie and the team have been removing link penalties for 10+ years with a 100% success rate. We have developed a fairly comprehensive process where we first conduct a full, manual link audit of the inbound links to the site. We gather as many links as we can from ahrefs, GSC, SEMrush, Moz, Majestic, and then review at least one link from each domain and decide whether it could be considered unnatural, and if so, we disavow that link. Once done, you can then file a reconsideration request with Google detailing what links you have disavowed, and ultimately apologize. What the webspam is really looking for is reassurance that you have learned your lesson! Recently, we have also published a book on how to conduct this process yourself, which is available on our site.
Question: What is more complex to revoke, a manual or an algorithmic penalty,and what is the major difference between the two of them and why?
A small misconception is that there are algorithmic penalties. When a site sees a ranking drop following a Google algorithm update, the site is not penalized, it’s just not stacking up as well as its competitors, for those search queries as far as Google is concerned.
Fixing that is significantly harder than removing a manual action for unnatural linking because (assuming there is nothing technically wrong with the site), you essentially need to find and make as many improvements to the site and the quality of its content. Analyzing what improvements can be made, and figuring out what Google is currently rewarding for those queries, takes weeks of analysis.
With that said, those improvements ultimately make the site better and will help the site improve in rankings going forward over time, so they are worth doing. Whereas with a manual action, you can get the penalty removed, but if you were only ranking with those unnatural links before, you likely won’t see an uptick in traffic until you make improvements to the site itself.
Question: Top 3 SEO tools that you cannot live without?
- Screaming Frog
- Google Search Console
Question: With the latest updates in Google with regards to SEO like passage-based indexing, core web vitals, and others, do you think in the coming years, the importance of link building/link acquisition will drop significantly?
In its current form, absolutely. It has been for years. I am not saying it doesn’t still work to some extent, and it is 100% niche relative, of course.It will likely be replaced by more traditional forms of PR and outreach where building legitimate authority around a brand/personality is the focus vs. just getting a link. We do partner with a few agencies who are taking this approach with clients, and while it takes a lot more time and resources, it gets better results – and similar to making quality improvements, a legitimate reputation lasts and has further reaching impacts on your business than ranking on the first page (including CTR and CRO).
Question: When it comes to E-A-T, what websites owner should know about, and how important it is when it comes to ranking and online visibility, especially for ecommerce websites?
It is worth noting that E-A-T is just a concept, and not a direct ranking factor in the same way that, say, page speed is. There has been some debate in the search community whether E-A-T is something worth paying attention to at all. I think this is mostly due to semantics and disagreement over terminology, to be honest.
In March 2020, the following was added to Google’s post on Core Algorithm Updates (where they link to our guide on E-A-T!). “Note (March 2020): Since we originally wrote this post, we have been occasionally asked if E-A-T is a ranking factor. Our automated systems use a mix of many different signals to rank great content. We’ve tried to make this mix align what human beings would agree is great content as they would assess it according to E-A-T criteria. Given this, assessing your own content in terms of E-A-T criteria may help align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content.” At MHC we have found that this holds true. While it isn’t possible to measure these kinds of metrics directly (like with, say page speed), by assessing sites through the lens of E-A-T, we are able to find the gaps regarding what elements may be missing both on and off-site. This results in recommendations for improvements that are both good for users and, in turn, can give you an edge for rankings.
It is really hard to fake good E-A-T, and for eCommerce sites, it is a tricky one. Look at what the top-ranking competitors are doing that you aren’t, read the Quality Rater Guidelines, and build an authentic reputation for your brand.
Question:what are the 3 things you will consider when building links for your website or for your clients?
Well, we don’t build links, so I don’t really have an answer to this! My basic recommendations, if you want to go down the link building route, would be to not pay for links and avoid keyword anchors.
Question: What advice will you give to website owners who have been under Google’s penalty? How to get out of it in the safest way possible?
It depends on the penalty! I think we have gone over most of that in the questions above already 🙂
Question: And this is the last question: if someone is making a digital marketing movie and they reached out to you to name it, what would you name it?
So, readers, what do you have to say about this interview?
If this caught your interest, I am sure you would love the whole series.
Junaid Hayat is best known as an SEO Optimizer. He is a keen observer and loves to blog. Gaining digital wisdom and spreading it is what he loves. Problem-solver is his second name, as he likes to help businesses that are in the middle of a shipwreck. When he isn’t solving SEO related problems, you’ll find him lost in the sea of Google, learning more about the ranking factors.You can find him on twitter as @Junaidhayat2