Five things worth sharing from the last week or so, brought to you by a different member of the Browser Media team every Friday.
This week’s My Five is by Joe.
1. Can you trust anything that you read in the mainstream media?
Over the past year, I have been increasingly disillusioned with the mainstream media. There has been a complete absence of scrutiny on a number of very important issues and, along with the Labour party, the media appears to have morphed into a government agenda loudhailer. Cynical? Me? :-)
My trust in the media saw increased erosion this week, with a couple of staggering examples of censorship and misrepresentation:
1) What march?
Unbeknownst to most people I speak to, there was a significant ‘Freedom March’ in London last Saturday. It is impossible to say how many people were there, but it was a very large protest and the evidence would suggest that it was definitely hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.
Demonstrations are typically controversial and I appreciate that many will feel that now is not the time to be gathering en masse to voice an opinion, but I was appalled by the total media silence. Whereas Black Lives Matter, Sarah Everard vigils or Extinction Rebellion marches are (quite rightly) guaranteed extensive front page coverage, last Saturday’s protest was censored out of existence. It doesn’t fit the Covid narrative, so it’s occurrence is deleted by the media.
That does not feel right. Cancel culture at its very worst.
2) Doctoring of media
Extreme censorship is one thing, but blatant lying is another.
ITV’s Lorraine was caught out promoting a photoshopped story by an observant (and amusing) @NewtonClarkeUK this week:
Far more disturbing, however, has been the coverage of the situation in India over the past week or so.
Terrible footage has been used to depict a near apocalyptic situation in India, despite the country currently sitting outside the top 100 countries affected by Covid according to https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/ (N.B. India has a population of almost 1.4 billion, so absolute numbers are meaningless when comparing to countries such as the UK).
I do not wish to belittle a serious situation, but have been deeply disappointed by the media that has been using old footage that has nothing to do with what is currently happening in India. In my humble opinion, this completely undermines the narrative and introduces question marks about what is truly going on. It is lazy journalism that seeks simply to sensationalise.
The following thread gives several examples of such use of old media:
Propaganda Vs Truth pic.twitter.com/wX97s4JA3Z
— Rishi Bagree (@rishibagree) April 21, 2021
Feeling somewhat appalled at these, I have subsequently used Google’s reverse image search and can confirm that the vast majority of images of Covid carnage are not, in fact, recent media and I find it incredibly wrong that they are being used to stir up fear (again – https://nypost.com/2020/04/01/cbs-admits-to-using-footage-from-italy-in-report-about-nyc/).
I lament the demise of quality journalism and I find it frustrating that we should have to question everything that we read. But I would encourage you to do exactly that – I am afraid that not everything we see in the media is necessarily the truth.
2. Google’s Argentina Domain snapped up for £2
A funny story from Argentina, where a certain Nicolas Kuroña, a 30yr old resident of Buenos Aires, was able to register the google.com.ar domain after investigating why Google’s services were down in the country. He is a web designer, so no doubt more ‘domain savvy’ than most.
He tweeted his surprise at the fact that the domain was available for him to register (which he did, at a cost of 207 Pesos, which is the equivalent of £2.09):
— Nicolas David Kuroña (@Argentop) April 23, 2021
I am not sure why it was available as it was not due for renewal until July this year and I would expect that Google would automatically renew its domains, but it was quite a coup for Nicolas.
He had no intention of cyber squatting and the domain was quickly transferred back to its rightful owner, but rumour has it that Nicolas didn’t get his 207 Pesos back. That feels a bit harsh!
3. How important is Domain Authority?
Domain authority is a metric developed by Moz which is designed to give an indication of a website’s likelihood of performing well across the major search engines. The scoring ranges from 0 (no chance) to 100 (Google domination) and it is very easy, if you are interested in SEO, to become a little obsessed by your score.
I am guilty of a strong interest in domain authority as I do find that it a helpful barometer of your online PR success. It is one of the many metrics that we like to look at to assess the performance of a website’s online marketing campaigns. Please note the use of barometer rather than thermometer as it is helpful at indicating trends rather than absolutes.
It is also very important to understand that Google has nothing to do with domain authority. It is a third party score and there is no actual link between your score and your rankings. This is something that Google’s John Mueller pointed out on Twitter this week, when he suggested that domain authority is not important:
Barry Schwartz picked up on this thread in an interesting post on Search Engine Roundtable. I agree with Barry that an obsession with domain authority is not healthy and that it is often used as a key metric in bartering for paid links (no, no, no) but I don’t think that it is wrong to use it as a measure to chart progress over time when trying to develop your presence online.
It is a good article though and definitely worth a read.
4. Should you disavow links?
SEO is brutally competitive. It can be incredibly difficult to rank well for very popular search queries as the rewards can be massive. Who wouldn’t want to drive a steady stream of highly targeted traffic to their website?
People will therefore go to great lengths to succeed and many web publishers have over-cooked their link building efforts and rightfully incurred the wrath of Google. It was the Penguin update, back in 2012, that really saw how severe this wrath could be, as Google started actively penalising sites which had broken its rules for link building. All those link building techniques that you had relied on to build your presence in the SERPs suddenly backfired and many sites found themselves being penalised for what used to work.
The disavow tool was developed to allow webmasters to wash their hands of links that they did not wish to be associated with their domain. It has always been a little controversial but has definitely fallen out of favour in recent years. Whilst it has always been available to use, via Google Search Console, a lot of folk did not believe that it actually worked and that most links that you would choose to disavow had probably been ignored anyway.
I was therefore interested to read the superb When & How to Disavow Backlinks in 2021 article on Moz.com site this week. This is the best summary of the disavow tool that I have read in recent months and I would definitely encourage you to read it if you are concerned about some skeletons in your closet.
It was of particular interest to me as I recently submitted a disavow file for the first time in several years. It was for a new client who has not received any formal manual action but has experienced a gradual slide in rankings. A detailed review of historic link building activity revealed some very old-school link building, so we have agreed to use the disavow tool to (hopefully) remove the old links from their profile. The links were not terrible, but there was evidence of some rather spammy comment spam and extensive use of low quality directories. The goal is to ensure that the high quality links that we will earn through high quality content will not be held back by these lower quality links. So far, no immediately obvious change but it is early days…
5. Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright
I am conscious that the first of my ‘five’ this week is a bit angry. As an antidote, I wanted to share a brilliant video from the event that apparently didn’t happen as I find it incredibly uplifting. The sun is out this morning and we must all remain positive!
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did:
Have a great long weekend!