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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weather.com and HuffPo's SEO

Still curious about how the Huffington Post was able to transform itself from a virtually non-existent publication in 2005 to a 20 million+ unique visitor juggernaut with a $315M valuation? Aside from its fierce and loyal following, much of HuffPo's success comes from a savvy and aggressive manipulation of Google's search engine algorithms. In fact, HuffPo has a 75% higher share of its traffic coming from search engines compared to competitors in the news category, and in this business search traffic means page views and advertising dollars.

A lot of HuffPo's tactics are fairly well known, such as writing content exclusively designed for search engines and based on trending topics like the Super Bowl. Do a search for "what time is the super bowl" and you're more than likely to see HuffPo's "What Time Does The Superbowl Start?" article, an unlikely candidate for the Pulitzer Prize.

Less well known are the aggressive link buying tactics employed by the Huffington Post, a practice nearly identical to the J.C. Penney link buying scandal earlier this year, but of the white shoe variety. Rather than buying links from hundreds of blogs like J.C. Penney did, which HuffPo can generate organically, HuffPo targets large authority sites for its link building. A flagrant example is Weather.com's "Partners" section found across their site, where HuffPo has a direct follow link with targeted anchor text of "Latest News." In the screenshot below you can see that WebMD and GoDaddy are also taking advantage of this opportunity--a clear violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines because they are intended to manipulate rankings. These manipulations are working, evidenced by the first page ranking for all these sites for the keywords they are targeting.
If you have more examples of HuffPo's search engine optimization, I'm compiling a list, so please leave a comment below.