Archive for May, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A frequently asked question in the SEO world is whether or not branding plays a part in Google’s ranking algorithm. There’s a short answer with a big asterisk, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what you need to know.

Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor Whiteboard

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to try and answer a question that plagues a lot of marketers, a lot of SEOs and that we ask very frequently. That is: Is brand or branding a ranking factor in Google search engine?

Look, I think, to be fair, to be honest, that the technical answer to this question is no. However, I think when people say brand is powerful for SEO, that is a true statement. We’re going to try and reconcile these two things. How can brand not be a ranking factor and yet be a powerful influencer of higher rankings in SEO? What’s going to go on there?

What is a ranking factor, anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you. So when folks say ranking factor, they’re referring to something very technical, very specific, and that is an algorithmic input that Google measures directly and uses to determine rank position in their algorithm.

Okay, guess what? Brand almost certainly is not this.

Google doesn’t try and go out and say, “How well known is Coca-Cola versus Pepsi versus 7 Up versus Sprite versus Jones Cola? Hey, let’s rank Coca-Cola a little higher because they seem to have greater brand awareness, brand affinity than Pepsi.” That is not something that Google will try and do. That’s not something that’s in their algorithm.

However, a big however, many things that are in Google’s ranking algorithm correlate very well with brands.

Those things are probably used by Google in both direct and indirect ways.

So when you see sites that have done a great job of branding and also have good SEO best practices on them, you’ll notice kind of a correlation, like boy, it sure does seem like the brands have been performing better and better in Google’s rankings over the last four, five, or six years. I think this is due to two trends. One of those trends is that Google’s algorithmic inputs have started favoring things that brands are better at and that what I’d call generic sites or non-branded sites, or businesses that have not invested in brand affinity have not done well.

Those things are things like links, where Google is rewarding better links rather than just more links. They’re things around user and usage data, which Google previously didn’t use a whole lot of signals around that. Same story with user experience. Same story with things like pogo sticking, which is probably one of the ways that they’re measuring some of that stuff.

If we were to scatter plot it, we’d probably see something like this, where the better your brand performs as a brand, the higher and better it tends to perform in the rankings of Google search engine.

How does brand correlate to ranking signals?

Now, how is it that these brand signals that I’m talking about correlate more directly to ranking signals? Like why does this impact and influence? I think if we understand that, we can understand why we need to invest in brand and branding and where to invest in it as it relates to the web marketing kinds of things that we do for SEO.

One very clearly and very frankly is links. So when we talk about the links that Google wants to measure, wants to count today, those are organic, editorially earned links. They’re not manipulative. They weren’t bought. They tend not to be cajoled, they’re earned.

Because of that, one of the best ways that folks have been earning links is to get people to come to their website and then have some fraction, some percentage of those folks naturally link to them without having to do any extra effort. It’s basically like, “Hey, you made this great piece of content or this great product or great service or great data. Therefore, I’m going to reference it.” Granted, that’s a small percentage of people. There’s still only maybe two or three out of a hundred folks who might visit your website on the Internet who actually have the power or ability to link to you because they control content on the web as opposed to just social sharing.

But when that happens, in a lot of cases folks go and they say, “Hmm, yeah, this content’s good, but I’ve never heard of this brand before. I’m not sure if I should recommend it. It looks good, but I don’t know them.” Versus, “Oh, I love these folks. This is like one of my favorite companies or brands or products or experiences, and this content is great. I am totally going to link to it.” Because that happens, even if that difference is small, even if the percent goes from 1% to 2%, well now, guess what? For every hundred visits, you’re earning twice the links of your non-branded competitor.

Social signals

These are pretty much exactly the same thing. Folks who visit content, who have experiences with a company, with a product, or with a service, if they’re familiar and comfortable with the brand, if they want to evangelize that brand, then guess what? You’re going to get more social sharing per visit, per exposure than you would ordinarily, and that’s going to lead to a cycle of more social sharing which leads to visits which probably leads to links.

User and usage data

It’s also true that brand is going to impact user and usage data. So one of the most interesting patents, which we’ll probably be talking about in a future Whiteboard Friday, was brought up recently by Bill Slawski and looked at user and usage data. It was just granted to Google in the last month. It talked about how Google would look at the patterns of where web visitors would go and what their search experiences would be like. It would potentially say, “Hey, Google would like to reward sites that are getting organic traffic, not just from search, but traffic of all kinds on a particular topic.”

So if it turns out that lots of people who are researching a vacation to Costa Rica end up going to, well, Google might say, “Hey, you know what? We’ve seen this pattern over and over again. Let’s boost’s rankings because it seems like people who look for this kind of content end up on this site. Not necessarily directly through us, through Google. They might end up on it through social media, through organic web links, through direct visits, through e-mail marketing, whatever it is.”

When you’re unbranded, one of the few ways that you can get traffic is through unbranded search. Search is one of those few channels that does drive traffic, or historically anyway did drive traffic to a lot of non-branded, less branded sites. Brands tend to earn traffic from a wide variety of sources. If you can start earning traffic from lots of sources and have the retention and the experience to drive people back again and again, well, probably you’re going to benefit from some of these potential algorithmic shifts and future looking directions that Google’s got.

Click-through rates

Same story a little bit when it comes to click-through rate. Now, we know from experience and testing that click-through rate is or appears to have a very direct impact on rankings. If lots of people are performing a search and they click on your website in position number four or five, and they’re not clicking on position one, two, or three, you can bet that you’re going to be moving up those rankings very, very quickly.

Granted there is some manipulative services out there that try and automate this. Some of them work for a little while. Most of them get shut down pretty quick. I wouldn’t recommend investing in those. But I do recommend investing in brand, because when you have a recognizable brand, searchers are going to come here and they’re going to go, “Oh, that one, maybe I haven’t heard of it. That one, I’ve heard of it. That one, I haven’t heard of it.”

Guess what they’re clicking on? The one they’re already familiar with. The one they have a positive association with already. This is the power of brand advertising, and I think it’s one of the big reasons why you’ve seen case studies from folks like Seer Interactive, talking about how a radio ad campaign or a billboard ad campaign seemed to have a positive lift in their SEO work as well. This phenomenon is going to mean that you’re benefiting from every searcher who looks for something, even if you rank further down, if you’re the better known brand.

So is brand a ranking factor? No, it’s not. Is brand something that positively impacts SEO? Almost certainly in every niche, yes, it is.

All right. Looking forward to some great comments. I’ll try and jump in there and answer any questions that I can. If you have experiences you want to share, we’d love to hear from you. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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PostHeaderIcon How To Back Up and Restore Steam Games

We show you how to back up your games, so you don’t have to re-download them

With modern PC games tallying up download sizes of 20GB (and even soaring up to GTA V’s massive 70GB), sometimes it’s better to back up the game to an external drive rather than slog through the long download again. If you’re using Steam, there are two methods you can use to back up your games to another drive and restore them later, and thus avoid the hassle of a re-download. We’ll go over both methods and point out their pros and cons.

Back Up Through Steam

Steam has a built-in backup tool to use with any of the games and software you own. You can back up (or restore) individual or multiple items at once. Steam will then compress the game(s) to a location that you specify. There are a few limitations to the tool, however. One is that any modifications done outside of Steam Workshop will not be backed up. Another is that games that are updated outside of Steam cannot be backed up. This usually applies to MMO and F2P games.

1. To start the tool, either:
Go to Steam > Backup and Restore Games. Select “Backup currently installed games” and click “Next”
Right-click on a game that you want backed up and select “Backup Game Files.”

SteamBU 1a

You can invoke the backup process either from the top menu…

SteamBU 1b

…Or by right-clicking a game title.

2. A game selection window will come up. Tick the checkbox of each game you want to include in the 

SteamBU 2

3. Next, select where you want the backup to be saved. The selected games will be saved into one folder. For this example, we used C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Backups.

SteamBU 3

4. Name the folder for the selected games and how to split them up. If you plan on burning the games to a CD or DVD, you can select the appropriate option. There’s a third option for a custom size. This will create folders named in the format Disk_#, starting with Disk_1. When the backup reaches the size limit, it creates Disk_2, and so on.

In this example, we will save into C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Backups\Cities Skylines and F1 2013. 

SteamBU 4

5. Now, go enjoy a cup of coffee, have a shower, or run some errands. If you’re backing up your entire library, this will take a while! Note that if you cancel now, you’ll have to delete the folder where the backup would’ve been saved if you want to user to that folder again. Otherwise, Steam will complain that the folder exists when you try to use it.

SteamBU 5

6. When the backup process is complete, you’ll get a confirmation page and the option to open the folder where the backup was saved.


To restore games:
1. Go to Steam > “Backup and Restore Games…” From there, select “Restore a previous backup” and press “Next.”

SteamBU R1

2. Steam asks for the saved backup directory. It’s is a little picky in that it wants the root directory of all the Disk_# folders. If it’s happy with the directory you’ve selected, it will show what games were found.

In this example, we saved our backup to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Backups\Cities Skylines and F1 2013. This folder must be specified; Steam won’t find anything in C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Backups.

SteamBU r2

3. Tick the checkbox of the games you want to restore and press “Next.” This will continue the install process like the normal Steam install process.

SteamBU 3

* It’s built-in and straight-forward to use
* You can split the backup into chunks if you need to
* The backups are compressed

* It’s tedious to do at the individual game level
* Since it compresses/decompresses games, it takes a while and will be slower on less powerful machines.
* Backups don’t preserve modifications you’ve made

Manual Backup

There’s a manual process you can use to back up your Steam games. One of the reasons you may want to do this is that Steam’s backup utility doesn’t preserve game modifications. This can be useful if you have, for instance, a heavily modified version of one of the Elder Scrolls games.

First, locate the games in your system. In Windows, the default location is C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps. On Linux, the default location is /home/[username]/.local/share/Steam/steamapps (or ~/.local/share/Steam/steamapps). 

SteamBU m1
The contents of a steamapps folder, where Steam programs live.

In the “steamapps” folder you’ll find another folder named “common.” This is where all your games and software live. A manual backup is a simple copy and paste of the game from this folder to the location where you want it stored. You can also right-click a game and select “Properties,” then go to the “Local Files” tab, and click “Browse Local Files.” This will open a file browser at the game’s location.

However, there’s another file you’ll want to back up to avoid an additional headache. In the “steamapps” folder, there are several “appmanifest_####.acf” files. These files tell Steam which games are installed. To locate the appmanifest file that’s tied to the game you’ve backed up, point your browser to the game’s store page on Steam and look for the store ID number. For example, if Bioshock Infinite is to be backed up, its Steam store page URL is The number at the end is the store ID. So for Bioshock Infinite, the appmanifest file is “appmanifest_8870.acf.”

To restore the game, copy the game back to the “common” folder and its appmanifest file to the “steamapps” folder. Restart Steam and the game will appear already installed.

If you don’t have the appmanifest file for the game, you can still copy the game and then use Steam to install it. When Steam asks where the game should be installed, choose the drive where you restored the game. For example, if you restored the game onto the E:\ drive, have Steam install the game to the E:\ drive. 

SteamBU m2
As this copy of Bioshock Infinite is on the E:\ drive, point Steam to “install” it on E:\.

Steam will then run the install process, but will say “Discovering existing files….” This process takes several minutes, as Steam checks to see if every file is there. After this, Steam will either consider the game installed or it will download additional files for the game as needed. 

SteamBU m3

Steam finds Bioshock Infinite is already on the drive, and is checking it.

* It’s a simple copy and paste.
* It works well from individual games to groups.
* It preserves any modifications you’ve made.

* You need the game’s appmanifest file for the game to immediately show up on Steam. Doubly annoying is that the appmanifest file references the game by the game’s Steam Store ID.
* Steam may end up downloading the game anyway. The best way to avoid this is, at the time of the backup, ensure the game is up to date and that you can run it without error.
* Backups take more space since they’re not compressed.

Bonus Tip: How To Back Up Save Files and Settings

Of course, what’s the point of backing up games if you don’t back up your progress and settings as well? Unfortunately, there’s only Steam Cloud and not every game supports that. You’ll have to figure out where the game save files and settings, and manually back them up.

In Windows, your games’ save files and settings are located in one of these places:
* In “Documents” under either the game’s name, or the game’s publisher’s name, then the game’s name. For example, “Documents\4A Games\Metro2033” or “Documents\Arma3.”
* In “Documents\my games.” Games will usually be stored by name.
* In “C:\Users\[username]\Appdata\Roaming.” You can type %APPDATA% as the location in File Explorer and it will take you there. Files are stored either under the publisher’s name or the game’s name.
* Where the game is installed. This is more common in games made before 2005.
* Some games may store data in “C:\ProgramData,” but it’s not save files. For example, Codemaster’s racing games store replay data here.

In Linux, most game saves can be found in /home/[username]/.local/share (or ~/.local/share), in a folder of the game name itself, or the publisher’s name, then the game’s name.

To restore those files, copy and paste the files where you found them.

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PostHeaderIcon AMD Reveals High-Bandwidth Memory Plan

AMD is calling HBM a “revolution in chip design”

GDDR5 will soon stall GPU performance growth, says AMD. According to the red team, GDDR5 is entering an inefficient region of the power-to-performance curve.Amd Stall

GDDR5 will soon reach a performance bottleneck.

Historically, AMD would try and solve these power-to-performance issues by shrinking chips and integrating functions, but the company says that on-chip integration isn’t ideal for DRAM, as DRAM is not size- or cost-effective for integration in a logic-optimized process.

You could theoretically scale GDDR5 to be faster, but this requires more bandwidth and would consume more power.Amd Interposer

Here’s the layout for AMD’s HBM interposer.

AMD is attempting to solve these issues by introducing its interposer, which brings DRAM closer to the logic die. According to AMD, this closer proximity enables a much wider bus width, which also improves the bandwidth per watt as well. AMD says that bandwidth per watt is much more important than the sheer amount of RAM a graphics card has. And in case you were wondering, each stack here amounts to 1GB. So if AMD’s hypothetical next-gen GPU were to have 4GB of high-bandwidth memory, there would be four stacks.

The benefits of using the interposer along with this high-bandwidth memory method is that it takes up much less surface area, and this combination gives you much more bandwidth than GDDR5 at less than 50 percent the power consumption.

Amd Dram For An Interposer

Here’s the anatomy of AMD’s new high-bandwidth memory stack.

While this will be applicable to discrete graphics cards, AMD believes it will be able to leverage the technology to cover multiple verticals, including APUs, consumer applications, enterprise solutions, and more. The company is calling HBM a “revolution in chip design” that will ultimately allow for up to 3x performance per watt compared to GDDR5, and will consume 94% less PCB surface than GDDR5.

What do you think of AMD’s approach to solving the GDDR5 issue? Let us know in the comments below.

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