Tumblr is banning porn on 17 December. That is good for the blogging world, but is that good for Tumblr?

Tumblr has announced that it is going to ban adult content on the platform that has millions of visitors thronging to it for adult content. It already seems to have filtered quite a few, and on 17th December 2018 it would take down all adult content and will not allow any further posting of such content.

Tumblr CEO Jeff says, the action would  lead to "a better, more positive Tumblr".

The ban or filtering out will impact images and videos while written content is likely to survive. On its site, it advises: Adult Content. Don't upload images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine. Don’t upload any content, including images, videos, GIFs, or illustrations, that depicts sex acts.


It is not that Tumblr does not have other types of blogs. In fact, the blogging platform buzzes with blogs of celebrities and serious bloggers. There is a lot of fun and creative content that is not of 'adult' type. However, due to its lax policies towards porn and other explicit content, the platform made it easy for bloggers to anonymously share such content. That suited children who could avoid their parents' prying eyes.

It is reported that many private, public or limited-access websites have started getting more attention since the news about Tumblr's impending action was announced last week. Especially the creators of erotica are supposed to be keen on finding other platforms for their business.

It is also being argued whether Tumblr's action will deprive it of the huge traffic it had been getting due to prepalence of explicit content. If that happens, the platform might not sustain as bloggers would then choose more feature-rich platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress or go staight to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

It is notable that Tumblr had so far evaded demands for making the platform more strict on adult content. Even when Indonesian government asked it to remove such content or close shop in Indonesia, 9 motnhs back, Tumblr did not agree to remove the content.

What are Google Penalties and how to avoid them in SEO?

What exactly constitutes undesirable actions in the eyes of different search engines is not fully documented. Yet, search engine optimization (SEO) experts have found out what is considered unethical/ undesirable. Some insights have also come also from people within Google, particularly Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Webspam unit. 

By common sense, the SEO actions that are deceitful and excessive are not liked by search engines because these go against search engines' aim of serving the most appropriate results in response to search queries.

We had earlier posted a summary of Google's website rating guidelines (discussed below in brief). These guidelines indirectly - but clearly - tell us what are good and bad actions relating to search optimization of websites.  

We have talked of good SEO actions numerous times. In the present post, let us talk about the bad SEO actions - the ones known to invite penalties from search engines. Some of these actions look innocuous  and harmless, but search engines tend to penalize websites for such actions because unethical SEO guys use and abuse these actions. That's why it is important for bloggers and other website owners to be aware of such actions and avoid them.


WHAT IS GOOGLE PENALTY?


Google penalty is downgrading of a website or webpage on Google search. It can be in the form of de-indexing of a page or less importance being given to the page so that it goes down in search results. 

Google penalizes websites when its algorithm finds something fishy about the website/ webpage. Google also regularly carries out manual review of websites and imposes strict penalties when it discovers wrong actions.

In most cases, Google penalties occur due to black-hat (=wrong) SEO actions taken by the blogger/ website-owner. So, if you do not take any such action, the chances of your getting a penalty are low. 

However, sometimes competitors can take such actions anonymously so as to pull down your blog/ website. For example, the competitor may post comments on shady sites on your behalf.  

It may also happen that if you kept sending emails to recipients who do not want your email, they may report negatively about it in thier social circles or to search engines. That would raise a red flag about your actions.

Sometimes, a Google penalty can occur due to Google changing its policies about what is an undesirable SEO action. In this case, innocent and well-meaning websites/ blogs too suffer. That is unfortunate but a part of one's web life. 


WHAT ARE THE MAIN ACTIONS THAT GET GOOGLE PENALTIES?

Let's quickly see what actions (deliberate or by mistake, it doesn't matter) are likely to get a slap from search engines:

When links come from shady sites. Shady sites may link to you by posting comments on your site or send backlinks to your site. The shady websites can be spamming sites, useless sites linking to good sites for improving their credibility, sites promoting unacceptable content (e.g. porn) etc. Such links are not liked by search engines because these sites have very low reputation.

When cross-linking gets excessive. Search engines do not like multiple sites being opened to promote one another. 

Excessive and unnatural cross-linking also happens when you participate in link exchanges or link farms: a platform registers a number of bloggers/ website owners and rewards them when they send link to or comment on other sites on the platform. This way, hundreds of sites get links and comments from hundreds of other sites. 

Private blog networks or PBNs. In these cases, a network of websites is created by a SEO operator by buying websites and blogs that are no longer updated but have their reputation intact because of earlier postings. These are then used as link exchanges. The PBN operator sells membership to new website owners and promises links from such old blogs/ websites. 

Since PBN websites are kept alive with new content and are carefully chosen for sending links to related websites/ blogs, it is difficult for search engines to discover them through automation. However, when PBNs are discovered, they are likely to get severe penalty. 

Deceptive links. Links made just for search engines and not to help visitors in getting good references come in this category. Some people think that hiding links by making the text very small or in background color would get them 'link juice' without irritating visitors. But this is highly despised by search engines. 

Similarly, linking without relevance (as is mostly seen with text links), links pointing to advertisements, too many links, anchor text that are unnatural and do not flow with the rest of the content, etc are recipes for getting penalties from Google and other search engines. 

Links meant to manipulate. When links are given so as to seek favor or when links are solicited, that also raises eyebrows of search engines because that such linking is also artificial and undesirable.

Bad external links. This might not be too much a bother when there is a genuine purpose, but are likely to incur Google penalty when they are meant to impress search engines. For example, if you maintain a directory on your blog, there might be all types of links on the directory page; perhaps Google will understand that. However if you have a blog on which you have numerous links to all types of unrelated sites, that raises suspicion - especially if the links are to shady sites. 

What you can do when you need to give links to bad sites (e.g. when you want to caution your visitors against such sites) is to no-follow such links. If this concept is new to  you, it works like this: When you give a link to another webpage, it means that you endorse that link or webpage. Such links are called dofollow links. On the other hand, when you add rel=“nofollow” attribute in the HTML of the link, it becomes nofollow link (e.g. <a href=abc.com rel="nofollow">) and search engines do not consider it as an endorsement.

google penalty
Google is watching yourbad SEO actions!


HOW TO AVOID GOOGLE PENALTY


Surprising as it might look, Google loves search engine optimization! It likes people taking such actions on their websites that would make the websites relevant to search queries - and ethical SEO actions come handy for that.

Google keeps giving guidance on search engine optimization, and its latest SEO guidelines are linked here. The linked article also guides how and when to hire an SEO expert. Coming directly from Google, these are the most authentic set of guidelines and you should go no further if you are seeking information and actionable points on SEO.

Another epic set of guidelines from Google are its 'search quality rating guidelines'. These are meant for quality rating carried out internally by Google and are not directly SEO guidelines. Yet, they provide a minefull of insight into how Google thinks about SEO. In the post linked here, Top Blogs has made a focused and actionable summary of these excellent search guidelines.

These linked articles explain what to DO - and we need not repeat that here. They also gives best practices to specific aspects and also what to avoid. However, they do not talk about penalties that might arise due to wrong use of SEO actions and how to avoid these penalties. These are nothing but the opposite of what constitutes penalties. Let's quickly visit them:
  • Do not put external links of this type on a web page: 1. links that are unrelated to the subject; 2. links to shady sites.
  • Do not put links that are unnatural: 1. hidden links; 2. links that point to unrelated pages; 3. links that take visitor to advertisements.
  • Do not go for this type of linking: 1. when links from first site promote a second  site and the other way round; 2. circular or complicated routing of links among different sites; 3. many sites promoting one site (including PBN networks); 4. many sites promoting each other as part of a link exchange or link farm.
  • Take care to: 1. not have too many links on webpages; 2. not repeat exact anchor text within the same webpage; 3. not get backlinks from shady sites.
  • Audit your site once in a while for link reputation, and remove bad links. A simple way to audit links is to register your website with Google Search Console, copy links and manually check them for being genuine and relevant. Remove all suspicious or irrelevant links.
  • Finally, detox your website or blog by continuously writing good, useful content. This will help Google or other search engines to not penalize your site when others hurt it by way of black-hat SEO on your behalf.

Get free web hosting, yet run your blog with independent domain name!

How much do you need to maintain a good website or blog?

Thanks to Google, which runs the Blogger blogging platform, very little.

Please note that we are not talking about a huge website with ecommerce or huge data sharing. We are also not talking about a blog like the Huffington Post, which employs hundreds of employees to maintain it. We are talking about a nice looking website or blog, which is regularly updated and has hundreds of posts with photos and occasional videos too.


Blogger provides free web hosting to even blogs with an independent domain name!


When you open a blog on Blogger, it gives you a blog address (e.g. example.blogspot.com) and hosts it free for you. There are limits to how much you can post and store on Blogger, but these are big enough for a blogger not into blogging for business. For example, you can post as many posts as you like but not more than 50 a day (most good blogger publish 2-4 posts a week); and your photo storage is limited to 15 GB. With the photos getting compressed in Google Photos, this is quite good space. Besides, small photos do not count towards your space limit.

What you need to do is to buy a relevant and good domain name. You can choose any (e.g. GoDaddy). But Google can help you choose one (on the blog, go to Dashboard> Settings> Blog Address>Set up a third party URL for your blog). In both cases, you have to BUY the domain name (=your website/ blog address) and keep renewing it year after year. This is the only expenditure you incur and your blog remains hosted on Blogger servers, and you continue to use all Blogger tools.

When you go to the given link on Blogger (Blog Dashboard> Settings> Blog Address>Set up a third party URL for your blog), it asks you for the new domain name or offers to get one on payment. You choose the option, give it an independent name and that's it. Now your blog example.blogspot.com becomes example.com. You have got free web hosting while having an independent domain name: great, isn't it?


Free web hosting for Blogger blogs

There are numerous advantages of letting Google host your blog, and these include: no botheration of the blog's security, very small chance of it getting hacked, free HTTPS security, and use of the latest web technology. In addition, you can earn from the blog by publishing different types of ads.

The other big free blogging platform, Wordpress, also allows you this facility of mapping your example.wordpress.com blog with an independent domain name, but charges you for that!