Working at an SEO agency it’s safe to say that I get to see my fair share of link audits, disavow files and reconsideration requests. For years now Google have been moving the goal posts with regards to what they count as good links or bad links - helpful or harmful, manipulative or editorially earned etc. Their relatively recent manual action and review process was a move towards greater transparency in their search rankings, but I do wonder sometimes if Google have made a rod for their own back?

Knowing the kind of links that Google likes (or ‘chasing the algo’) has been central to link building activity ever since SEO was born. Let’s assume you’re building links that you believe Google likes and will help you rank, but what if Google change their minds about what they like? Where are you going to be 6/12/18 months down the line? In the past, if Google didn’t like the kinds of links you were building they would effectively ignore them and not count them in their scoring - it was down to SEOs to work out which were the good links to replicate, and which were the bad to not!

In 2014, the way that whole process works is very different. Now, not only do bad links not get counted in rankings, Google will actually punish sites for their bad links. There are algorithmic filters such as Google Penguin, but also manual penalties are now becoming more prevalent. A manual action, as its name suggests is a manual penalty given directly by a Googler who has been snooping around your backlinks. These penalties can either be site-wide or partial (I’ve written about brand penalties previously).

Are these penalties right? Is it right that Google can banish your site from the search results, in some cases even for branded queries? Do Google make mistakes in their manual actions and in the example links they give? I suspect so.

Google would argue (fairly) that if a site has been spamming that they deserve to be slapped on the wrist, and for sites who haven’t been spamming to be promoted. While I understand this POV, there are 2 glaring caveats:

  • EVERYONE has spammed. Okay, maybe spammed is a little strong, but everyone has a few skeletons in the closet and the odd dodgy link which is clearly there for SEO reasons. Often the bigger sites are the most guilty, and they seem to keep their heads down due to their site authority.
  • The process needs to be BULLETPROOF. Not pretty accurate, not really accurate, bulletproof. In order to be fair, Google need to be sure about action they’re taking against bad links, and I’m just not sure how that’s possible. Sure, some links are easy to see have been paid or manipulated in some way, but how does Google know for sure on all links? Where do they draw the line between a paid link and an incentivised link?

I just don’t believe they can ever really know for sure.

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I love this time of year at the cinema. The period running through December, January and February is commonly regarded as ‘award season’ in Hollywood, with big motion picture releases scheduled to attract interest from film lovers and the also folks who dish out the Golden Globes, BAFTA’s and Academy Awards. Here are some of my favourites from the last couple of months:

The Wolf of Wall Street

3 hours of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll stockbroker fraud, Martin Scorsese has produced undoubtedly my favourite film of the season. Other Oscar contenders have more powerful stories and messages but for all out entertainment and enjoyment, The Wolf of Wall Street is top of the pile. There’s great performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and relative newcomer Margot Robbie (h), and a ferocious pace and relentlessness which adequately brings to life the story of real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort. A lot has been made of the length of the picture (Marty has a four hour director’s cut planned for the DVD!) but I honestly never felt like it was dragging. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been tempted to go back for a second viewing, then again I might wait for the home release - I’ll need to set aside a whole evening, obviously!

American Hustle

I’m a big fan of David O. Russell; I enjoyed The Fighter (“go faakh ya’ self!”- oh and still one of the best trailers I think ever) and thought Silver Linings Playbook was brilliant, and American Hustle is another solid piece of work to add to his growing reputation. Centered around a con artist couple in New York (played well by Amy Adams and fantastically by Christian Bale), the film was very enjoyable and has a great cast all performing at the top of their game. Russell is known for his loose improvisational style on set, allowing his cast to explore the material and the characters with multiple takes. American Hustle is no different in that regard, and despite at times it feeling a little too loose (and bordering on self indulgent), overall the movie was thoroughly enjoyable.

12 Years a Slave

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12 Years a Slave is a powerful and frightening story based on the memoirs of Soloman Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the US in 1841. 1841, so recent. Too recent. That was my overwhelming take away from this excellently made film, that it’s difficult to imagine that something so heinous was legal and so recently, too. Michael Fassbender is terrifyingly good in his role as the malevolent slave owner, and there are likewise great performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o. It’s predictably a hard film to watch, but an important one too.

Inside Llewyn Davis

I’m a big fan of the Coen Brothers, and a film about guitar music set in Greenwich Village NYC sounds just about as up my street as it goes (“how was I not in that movie?”), so man was I disappointed with Inside Llewyn Davis. I just didn’t really get it, sorry. One or two nice bits of guitar playing and singing (genuinely done live by actor Oscar Isaac), some lovely Noo Yawk accents and a lot of scenes about a cat - the sum of the parts, I’d say.

Dallas Buyers Club

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Dallas Buyers Club (aka that movie where Matthew McConaughey lost a bunch of weight and Jared Leto dresses as a woman) I really enjoyed. McConaughey plays Ron Woodruff, a real dude who gets diagnosed as HIV positive and later develops Aids. Ron, a macho, straight chap doesn’t take the news well initially, but in the hunt for medication to help relieve his symptoms, he becomes part of a community of other Aids sufferers, and attempts to help them by providing medication that is unavailable and unlicensed in the US. I thought the film was really really good - great performance, a funny script and a powerful message about the attitude towards Aids sufferers during the 1980s. The real life Woodruff sadly passed away in 1992, but his battle against big pharmaceutical companies and the FDA, to help others like him in pain, will live much longer indeed.

1. Email newsletter un-subscribing

The recent event that caused this very muddled rant was my (amusing) experience un-subscribing to a random email newsletter (that I never signed up to in the first place, which is neither here nor there apparently). We’ve all done it, bought something online and unwittingly signed your life away and committed yourself to receiving a million spam shit newsletters. Usually I just hit delete for any nonsense that hits my inbox, but occasionally I’m in a mood, no, on a mission to un-subscribe the hell out of everything. I expect to see a discreet ‘unsubscribe’ hyperlink at the bottom of the email, I expect to click on it, and I expect to be un-subscribed. What I don’t expect is to be teleported to some random webpage where I’m asked for one or any combination of the following: to login to my account to change my email settings, to provide feedback on why I’m leaving, or to enter my email address which I’d like to un-subscribe. World, can we implement a one-click un-subscribe rule please?

2. Sulia

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I follow a lot of football fans, journalists and general sports experts on Twitter, and over the past year or two it seems that the ‘Sulia’ fashion has ravaged my Twitter feed. I can’t claim to be expert on Sulia, but the basic premise (as I understand it!) is that people on Twitter (normally those with lots of followers) sign up, and post their tweets and content through Sulia, and get paid for every click they get. Click at your peril, and if you do you’ll be attacked by ads, a dark screen overlay, all the irritating stuff you don’t want - it’s even difficult to find on the page what you clicked to see in the first place. As a matter of principal I now unfollow anyone tweeting Sulia links - that’ll teach them, losing one follower!

3. Keyword [not provided]

Work related this one, but to use ‘privacy’ as a reason to hide organic keyword data from marketers, is such a load of bollocks. Can we still see paid search data? Course we can.

4. Sponsored stuff on Facebook

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There is a clear separation between the way I use Facebook compared to using Twitter. The former is my ‘private’ social network where I keep in touch with friends and family, and Twitter is very much work/fun/news/music/sports stuff - there are certainly things I would post on one that I wouldn’t on the other. So for some reason ‘Sponsored Posts’ on Facebook annoy me a lot more than they do on Twitter. I don’t really have a rational reason why this is, but I can tell you that on a couple of occasions it’s driven me to comment on Facebook ‘Sponsored Posts’, just to inform them how ‘welcome’ their intrusion to my feed has been.

5. Website overlays / lightboxes

This drives me mad, when you land on site and then everything goes dark except a small popup box begging you for your email address - I think I’ve adequately addressed newsletters already. Worse still, some of these overlays make it damned near impossible to find a way of closing them, and occasionally clicking away from the box (which in my book should always cause the box to close) takes you to yet another obnoxious ad you didn’t ask to see. Please, just let me browse your website, or else I won’t come back.

6. Auto playing music / videos

*open up loads of tabs*

*music starts playing*

*shut down whole browser*

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Between now and June 2nd every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Roy) will have their say on which 23 lucky English lads will make the trip to the World Cup in Brazil next summer (and inevitably disappoint and under perform etc etc). I thought I’d beat them all to the punch and name my 23 man squad:

Goalkeepers: Hart, Ruddy, Forster

Despite being dropped by Man City recently, Hart is still England’s best keeper. All keepers make mistakes but the betters ones have longer gaps between them, and Hart over the last 2 or 3 years has shown that he’s a really good keeper. If, come March/April time comes round and Hart is still not playing regular football (I expect he’ll win his place back much sooner), Hodgson will have a tough call to make in goal. Ruddy and Forster to make up the numbers.

Defenders: Clyne, Walker, Cole, Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones

The full backs I think pick themselves here. If you’re reading this and saying ‘where is Glen Johnson’, I would say I hope he’s as far away as possible from Brazil next June - he’s a defender, who can’t defend. Simples. The likes of Gibbs and Shaw will get their turn but this tournament is one too early for them and a Steven Caulker. I’ve only gone for 3 centre backs, Roy will obviously go for four (the fourth being Chris Smalling) but I’m of the mind that I’d rather have an extra midfielder/attacker spare in order to try and WIN a game, than another pointless, slow defender who will almost certainly not play at all.

Midfielders: Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Carrick, Barkley, Lallana, Milner

Stevie G and Lamps there for experience, I think Carrick could be a steady head and a useful option (even at centre half if needed), and Jack can still be our best players if he can find form (possible) and avoid injuries (impossible). I don’t rate Cleverley but expect he’ll go, I don’t particularly rate Milner either but his versatility and stamina just sneaks him onto the plane. Barkley looks in really decent form, as does Lallana who can play right across the midfield.

Forwards: Rooney, Sturridge, Walcott, Lambert, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Townsend

Assuming he can get back fit and into the Arsenal side, I still think the Ox is quality and versatile enough to deserve a place. Even when fit, can he get enough game time between now and June? Possibly not, which is why Welbeck will probably go in his place. Theo and Townsend have done enough already I would guess, Rooney/Sturridge will probably be in our first XI, and Lambert gets his place as the traveling party’s ‘big man’.

Hi, my name is Patrick and this is my website. There’s not a whole lot to look at (yet!) but I’m on a mission to write more do please come back to visit with me. If you want to get in touch all of my social details are over there to the left. :)