Author: kim

Google Maccabees Update or BS? Is SEO Journalist Barry Schwartz going too far naming updates himself?

As most SEOs know there has been a substantial Google Update last week. SEO Journalist Barry Schwartz previously wrote an article in which he himself gave this update a name instead of Google. Yes, you read that well: He calls it the Google Maccabees Update.

Google Maccabees Update?

I needed some time to process that. I honestly did not know how to respond to this.

As far as I know, it has been a while since someone who does not work for Google named an update. I’d prefer if Google did it.

Earlier this year we already had to deal with the big Google Fred show and to be honest, I didn’t think it could get any worse. But apparently, it can!

I just finished an article about this so-called Maccabees Update on (the most popular Dutch news website about SEO) and decided to make an English version of it so I can share it with you guys.

For the sake of clarity: Barry Schwartz is someone I respect a lot. I have been following him for years and I read almost everything he writes. But that does not mean that I will always agree with him.

Nobody is perfect, and in my opinion, Barry is going way too far by naming Google Updates himself. As far as I am concerned, there has been no Google Maccabees Update in December 2017 but just another Nameless Google Update.

That’s my opinion, who cares? Right? Let’s ask some people!

I actually really wanted to know what other people thought about this, so I asked a couple people with a lot of experience in the field how they felt about this issue. They were really helpful and had to say a couple of things which I’d like to share with you.

Furthermore, Barry himself also got involved in the discussion and his reaction was pretty cool actually. I respect Barry Schwartz even more now because of the way he reacted. Fame has not risen to his head yet.

Does that mean ill always agree with him? Nope, in my eyes respect and agreeing are two very different things.
Nobody should be unquestionable the way I see it. Being unquestionable is a bad thing. I’m pretty sure Kim Jung-Un would disagree, but he isn’t reporting the SEO news, so we’re okay.

Here is what Barry Schwartz had to say about the issue:

In fact, I agree, you should not take my ‘reporting’ as fact. It is far from it. I cover search community chatter and often for the updates I also add in data from the automated tracking tools. But people should use their own brains.

I am 100% overrated and honestly, this is the first update I personally ever named. The other names either come from Google, WebmasterWorld, Gary (i.e. Fred) or other sources. I wouldn’t name it if I really didn’t think it was something bigger than the average update and also a significant update. I cover chatter, sue me. 

* context quote 1
* context quote 2

But what do other SEOs think about this?

Now let’s go on with the opinions of the people I actually asked for their opinion myself. Let’s start with Alan Bleiweiss who pointed out that naming Google Updates used to be done by the SEO community before. So apparently it’s a bit less crazy than I thought it was. However, this would still be the first time that Barry gives a name to an update himself. I could write more about what people said but why don’t we let them do the talking themselves:

Alan Bleiweiss:

Let’s recall how Gary Illyes, being fed up with people asking “did an update happen? What was the update?” And where those asking failed to accept the fact Google makes hundreds of updates a year that change the landscape, resulting in the question becoming tiresome, decided to jokingly say “from now on, all updates are Fred”, upon which Barry and others took to asking “was the latest update part of Fred?”… And Fred became a thing of hilariously stupid epic discussion from serious people.

Barry is not a traditional journalist regarding many aspects of what he does. He just reports on what he reads and hears and sees, without much footwork beyond that, and beyond asking Gary “was that an update? “…

(left out a part here talking about Google Fred)

The bottom line here is it’s not wrong of Barry for having called this latest update the “Maccabees” update. We all seek to understand what goes on with Google, and when Google themselves don’t give a unique name to any one of their hundreds of annual updates (at least the more prominent ones), it’s only natural to want a name to refer to. Hell, Even the first roll out of Panda, was called “The Farmer update” by the industry before Google officially named it “Panda”. And that was back in 2011.

Steve Gerencser:

People still pay attention to updates? Seriously, I have zero problem with anyone naming minor things that look like they might be updates. Plus, if anyone has earned the street cred to name them, it would be Barry. He’s one of the few people still around that pays attention to it all every day.

Jim Munro:

As Steve said, more or less, if anyone can spot an orphan in need of a name, it would be Barry. Every Friday he turns up with his update. It’s hard to think of anyone else with their finger on the pulse to the degree that he commits and, since Google no longer seems interested in naming things, having someone like Barry filling in the blanks for us can’t be a bad thing. If only because it’s helpful to know that we are talking about the same thing.

Michael Martinez:

I have yet to see any evidence of an “update” by Google. But if you’re going to refer to the conversations of SOME Web marketers in relation to changes in traffic around a specific time frame, then you need an identifier. Already a number of people have extended the boundaries of this “update” back into November so it’s looking less and less like an update but no one is going to write out “That mid-December 2017 Change in Traffic Noticed by Some Website Operators”.

Me (Kim Pittoors): Right, so you are okay with it?

Not really, no, but Barry usually just tries to cover the discussions. Sometimes he does get a little enthusiastic. Maybe sometimes he knows things the rest of us don’t, given his close relationship with Google (in a journalistic sense). I believe they trust him.

Dawn Anderson:

In the absence of Google naming them someone has to.

Roger Montti:

The updates used to be named by WebmasterWorld. The moderators and Brett Tabke would throw around some names and then Brett would decide. I’m pretty sure that’s how the 2003 Florida Update got its name, as it preceded the Orlando Florida Pubcon by a few months. I wasn’t a part of naming that update because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a moderator yet at that time.

Doc Sheldon:

 I have no problem with it. Google doesn’t even normally even acknowledge updates anymore, much less name them. It helps to be able to discuss major updates when they have a name assigned to them. So whether it’s Barry or someone else, referring to an update by name is infinitely easier than it would be as “Update# 102547.360.25.
Another aspect of that is if you want to research a particular update, to see what results or what testing may have been accomplished, a name allows people to share “Hummingbird algorithm” content or “Panda filtering”… which, in turn, allows the search engine to show you those results in the SERPs. No name… no continuity.

If you’re interested in facts and it isn’t personal, then maybe calling Barry out in your title and calling him over-rated isn’t the best approach. 
Very few people in our line of work put as much time and effort into keeping the rest of us informed about what’s happening around search. Seems like a totally undeserved slap in the face to me.

context of this quote

David Kutcher:

Why not? I think it’s brilliant

Karl Balsmeier:

It’s misleading on the part of Schwartz, because people will actually think there’s been an update, and that’s what it’s name is. Still, others will think anything is “cute” or “clever” unless it actually affects their business in a serious way.

21 december 2017: Danny Sullivan  says there was no single major update, only multiple minor updates

Googles Danny Sullivan recently tweeted about the Google fluctuations Barry Schwartz refers to as the Google Maccabees Update. He said that this is not a major single update but multiple small updates.

Here are his Tweets:

I’m honestly very curious what you think? Am I crazy or is Barry really going too far? Let me know via the comment form at the bottom of this page.

Are Google Native Ads breaking the Google Webmaster Guidelines?

A couple of days ago I received an email from Google Adsense promoting their new advertising format called  “Native ads”. Native ads are ads designed to match the look and feel of your site which makes it harder for users to distinguish ads from the content.

Barry Schwartz of SER recently wrote that Native ads violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines principles based on a tweet by Glenn Gabe. They believe that these kinds of ads lead to a punishment by Google but I don’t think so.  

Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate what Barry does, I have been reading his articles for years and he has a lot of knowledge and experience.

But I am a big fan of thinking for yourself so I don’t always agree with what he says. I spent a couple of hours reading the guidelines and checking various sources but I couldn’t find any proof for Barry’s statement about Native Ads.

Here is Glenns Tweet:

And I am surely not the only one to disagree…
Micheal Martinez from doesn’t mince his words when expressing his opinion:

Michael Martinez about native ads

Let’s Ask Google about the Native ad situation

Since I am not willing to take any risk with my Adsense websites I decided to ask Gary Illyes from Google about it. But it seems that this is a hard question to answer because he couldn’t even answer my question right away.

Here is how that conversation went:

So I guess ill need to wait a week or so. If I get the answer you will be the first to know. If you follow me on Twitter that is 😉

And then: Silence on Twitter. I’ll leave it like that for now. I don’t want to bug Gary even more than I already regularly do. Maybe he doesn’t know the answer either.

Keyboost’s Black Hat Link Network Exposed

In January 2016 I wrote an article with the title: Keyboost proves scraping, cloaking and other Black Hat SEO Techniques still work. The article was about a Black Hat link network called Keyboost.

Keyboost is an automated link building service of a Belgian hosting company called “iPower”. You can find it by typing this word in your address bar and adding .eu behind it. They are active in multiple countries and on multiple domains using the name Keyboost (you can also find it by typing that word with .eu behind it).

I found company websites in Dutch, French and English. I hoped Penguin 4.0 would kill them off, but it didn’t.

At this moment their websites are still ranking very well in Google, despite the fact that I have submitted numerous complaints and even alerted Googles Gary Illyes about it in 2016 (see tweets).

One has to defeat the enemy with his own weapons

Now it’s time to take matters into my own hands, if Google can’t do anything about it, there is only one option left: Naming and shaming!

Like good old Caesar used to say: “One has to defeat the enemy with his own weapons.” So if they can build bots. I can build bots.

Actually, I didn’t even need to build a bot from scratch, I already had one scouring the web for backlinks.

Being a diehard Linux and Open-Source fan has its advantages. For example, I am not paying companies like MOZ or Majestic SEO on a monthly basis.

Nope, I created my own set SEO tools so I don’t need to pay anyone. Sorry Rand, you are rich enough 😉

So if you thought Linux was a useless toy for nerds, think again! A bit of Linux and programming knowledge are a handy thing to have if you are into online marketing. I can highly recommend Linux Mint for starters!

Mapping the Keyboost Network: Now it’s in the open!

So basically, all I needed to do was change some stuff and add a couple of new scripts and my bot was ready to map the Keyboost Network! Currently (last update 9 jun 2017), it has already found 433 pages, 193 domains, 517 clients and 2879 victims (sites that go scraped).

The bot will keep track of the network from now on and publish a new report in this folder every 1st of the month.

So from now on scraping victims can lookup on which sites their content is being used. And if you are a Keyboost client, it’s in the open for everyone to see.

I hope they will see that and reconsider. Because what works now can stop working one day, and then they are screwed!

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read the SEO horror story of Pete Walter.

Choosing an SEO can make or break your company! SEO is risky business, you should never just hire anyone to do your SEO. Inform yourself first and make sure you are making the right decision before signing anything. Google recently made a video titled How to hire an SEO, it might be helpful to some of you.

Making big money at someone else’s expense

What’s happening here? Well, it seems iPower is making big money at someone else’s expense. Because they don’t do shit their selves! They just create horrible looking pages automatically with stolen content on it and charge people for links on those pages. Easy money right?

This is not okay and it must end now. I have logged almost 3000 victims and 517 clients this month alone. Let’s do the math! Knowing that every client pays at least €65 per month.

65 x 517 =  €33.605 per month, so they could make up to €403.260 ($451.510) per year!

Not a bad pay for doing for doing shit don’t your think? Sometimes crime does pay! But not forever 😉
Want to know how they are doing it? Just keep reading…

How does Keyboost work?

scraping stealing contentiPower started out as a hosting company and a domain name registrar. But since a couple of years, they also do automated link building with Keyboost. They seem to be reusing domains their clients canceled for automated link building purposes. They scrape the content of other websites and fill up those domains with snippets of stolen content.

When seeing these scraped pages the first time I thought it was an amateurish negative SEO tactic. But a little bit of investigation showed that all external links on the scraped pages had a nofollow attribute. And that was quite comforting, even though Google has said that you shouldn’t be concerned about backlinks from scraper sites. They claim they see the difference. But if that were true Keyboost wouldn’t work so well, would it?

But back to business: After I looked at the source code I figured something must be hidden. Why would anyone create pages like this? It would be useless when all links on it are nofollow because none of the link juice would pass trough. Immediately I thought of Search Engine Cloaking. So I did a couple of searches in Google and viewed the cached version.

And this is what I saw:

hidden links cloaking googlebot

In the cached version I saw eight do follow links on top of the page. The first three were links to their own company sites, and the remaining five were very probably Keyboost clients. My theory was: They are scraping content, cloaking Googlebot and using rel=”nofollow” to guide the link juice where they want. To be more accurate, the nofollow is preventing it from going where they don’t want it, but the result is the same.

But how do they escape from the dangerous Penguin?

Well, I don’t know exactly, but only using domains a short period of time is certainly part of it. They are probably just using domains their clients canceled prematurely. Those can be used for free until they need to be renewed. I also noticed that they spread their scraper sites over multiple IP addresses. That could be a factor too. All this makes it very hard to detect for Google.


Want to see more posts like this?

You can follow me on Twitter or FacebookIf you have questions or if you have anything to add to the discussion you can leave a comment by using the form below:

How to get influential followers on Twitter?

Today I want to share a valuable Twitter marketing tip with you guys. I am going to explain how I got lots of influential people to follow me on Twitter by creating interesting content and making lists.

Getting influential followers on twitter

Making lists of influential people from your sector doesn’t only help you to find interesting stuff, it also helps you to get influential followers.

I actually figured this technique out by accident. I just wanted to make a good list for myself where I only see tweets of people producing interesting content.

I didn’t know this would also help me get influential followers. They just came in and I realized that must be one of the reasons.


Why lists will get you more followers on Twitter

Well, when you add someone to a public list they will get a notification. And that kind of notification is more interesting than just another new follower.

People will realize that you are really interested in following them, that you are not just in it for the follow back. But that you actually really have a genuine interest in what they do.

Because of that the chance they will look at your profile is much higher when you add them to a list than when you just follow them. You should, of course, make a good list also.

Don’t just start adding anyone to it. You should only add people that really have your interest. Be genuine! Otherwise, it probably won’t work. Some of the people I added to my list subscribed to it. So the content of the list is also crucial. Choose wisely!

Good content is the key

Also, don’t forget to tweet things that might have their interest first. Sharing articles from other people is okay. But the technique works even better when you write something on your own site.

An interesting blog post for example. Use an original image also when sharing. This is quite important. Never underestimate the importance of good graphics.

This technique helped me to get followers many times more popular than me on twitter. Because actually, if you post good content many of those influential people will follow you, even if you have only 50 followers yourself.

Do you have a question about this Twitter Marketing Tip or do you want to get more tips in the future? Follow me on Twitter.

Did you know that choosing an SEO can make or break your company?

Did you know that choosing an SEO can make or break your company?Did you know that choosing an SEO can make or break your company? The Google Penguin updates (battling unnatural links) are a good example of this.

Some companies got hit so hard by Penguin, that they actually needed to fire people or even worse, they went bankrupt.

A good example of this is the SEO horror story of Pete Walter from Deal with the Media who almost went bankrupt because of Google Penguin.

So think twice before you hire an SEO. SEO is risky business. If you need help selecting a good SEO I would recommend you to watch Googles video: How to hire an SEO

Keyword cannibalization is one of the most common mistakes among starting SEOs.

Did you ever hear the term “keyword cannibalization”? That doesn’t sound good, does it? Well, it’s actually one of the most common mistakes among starting SEOs.

Keyword cannibalization occurs when a site has multiple pages about the same subject. Don’t do that! It’s completely senseless to add the same set of keywords to every page of your site.

Keyword Cannibalization

What I also see a lot is people adding the same keywords in every page title. While those words are not in the content and the page is about something completely different.

This will only confuse Google… Make one page and concentrate on the quality of that page only.

Most common mistake made when switching to HTTPS: Mixed Content

Since Google announced that websites running on a secured HTTPS connection are getting a bonus, many websites owners have installed an SSL certificate and switched to HTTPS.

But a lot of those sites have mixed content issues. I guess it’s safe to say that having mixed content is the most common mistake made when switching to HTTPS.

What is mixed content?

Mixed content is a term used to describe pages running on a (secure) HTTPS connection which contain sources that are loaded over an (insecure) HTTP connection.

Want to know more details? Click here to read more about mixed content in a post from Google.

Why is mixed content an issue?

When accessing a site on a HTTPS connection all data will be safely encrypted and the location of the server is verified. When you have mixed content issue’s, parts of the data will be sent over an insecure, unencrypted and unverified connection.

So when you have mixed content your site could possibly leak data and is more vulnerable to malicious activities. So this basically means that you might as well not use SSL at all. Mixed content makes your SSL certificate useless.

How to identify mixed content issues and fix them?

You can easily see when a site has mixed content issues in the address bar. When you are using Google Chrome, for example, you will notice that the HTTPS part of the web address is not green but grey and the word “secure” is also missing.

Mixed content example

To fix this you need to make sure that every resource you use in the code of your site is running over HTTPS. If you are using WordPress I can recommend the following article by ManageWP: WordPress SSL Settings and How to Resolve Mixed Content Warnings

Being yourself is the best personal branding you can get

I am a firm believer in being yourself, I wouldn’t have come so far if I were not. A lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to show their selves for who they are. They are afraid that people will judge them and disapprove.

And yes that does happen, but if you are neutral, flat and fake you won’t attract people either. My tip to all starters: Just be yourself. That’s the best personal branding you can get. Don’t try to be anything you are not.

For example: If you are a freelancer or have a small company, then don’t pretend to have a big company. I see this a lot and it doesn’t make sense, believe me.

Instead, use the advantages you have as a freelancer or small company: Affordability. Flexibility, Accessibility and a personalized service. In other words: focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

And don’t be afraid of being yourself and showing yourself.

Do I have to 301 redirect the “none www.” version of my domain to the “www version” or the other way around?

Do I really have to 301 redirect the “none www.” version of my domain to the “www version” or the other way around? Yes, because if you don’t this can happen:

subdomain shifts

It happened to one of my clients (ignored my advice). After many years of running that site on the “none www version” Google decided one day that the “www. version” was actually tastier.

You can see the shift of traffic in the screenshot above which I made. So yes, just add that redirect, and set your prefered domain in the Google Search Console.