Archive for the ‘SEO/Web Development’ Category

Understanding How the SEO Process Works

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Having a website these days means that you have to be familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to a certain degree. SEO is more than just a buzzword used in marketing circles. It’s a way in which webmasters can actually help search engines find their site relevant in a certain niche and rank it accordingly. Incorporating SEO strategies into your web-based marketing is crucial to getting noticed on the web, but understanding how SEO works can be a little confusing. Here’s a brief overview of how the SEO process works.

1. Consistency is Key

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process and it pays off in the long run to be consistent and persistent. The old saying, "slow and steady wins the race" is applicable here. For an SEO campaign to be truly effective expect to spend a lot of time conducting keyword research and creating high-value content that is relevant to your business or industry around those words. Keyword research is vital to the success of your SEO campaign, without it you stand very little chance of getting noticed online.

Consistent monitoring and testing by your SEO specialist will help keep you on track, but don’t expect results overnight. That’s not how SEO works. Effective SEO includes developing a well-structured site that would be accessible to both search engines and users, incorporating the keyword work mentioned above and adding strong inbound links. You’ll also have to work hard to establish authority and trust to help build your brand and boost your online presence. This is often accompanied by social media marketing, strategic website coding and site analysis and analytics. The results of these activities are sometimes visible after a long time, but the consistent increase of your customer base is well worth it.

2. Keeping Current With Google Algorithm Changes is a Must

Long gone are the days where keyword stuffed pages ranked first no matter the quality of the content. You can thank Google and their algorithm changes for removing most of the spam the users had to struggle with until they found what they were looking for. This isexactly why your SEO consultant will refer to the Google algorithm changes so frequently. The different algorithmic changes have a direct impact on the search engine rankings. In order to continue rising or at least retain your position in a storm of constant algorithmic changes you need to be familiar with how they work and tailor your content to them, and to the users demands for conversion purposes (which is also an important part of SEO).

Though rumors spread every day about possible Google algorithm changes, you have to separate fact from fiction by following the news from the latest search engine conferences, Google’s Head Spam Fighter Matt Cutts, Google’s blog or interviews with Google execs given usually on various reputable SEO blogs.

On average, Google releases 500+ search engine changes every year. Nearly two different changes per day! Luckily, Google makes it easy to track these changes by their formal announcements, usually given after the latest change has been deployed. SEOmoz, for example, compile the changes on a regular basis and organize them by date for easy reading and follow up.

You can also check daily changes happening in Google search with this fun Mozcast tool. The higher the temperature, the more ranking changes have been happening in search engine results. It’s a fun, easy and graphic way to see how busy Google has been.

3. Understand the Impact Algorithm Changes Have on Your SEO Campaign

Keeping current with algorithm changes is essential to understanding the impact they have on your SEO campaign. Fortunately, we know which updates are likely to generate the biggest changes in search results and can focus our attention on those. Google Penguin, Google Panda and Exact Match Domain (EMD) updates always have a big impact on search results. In the official Google statement after each of these is deployed, we are told the exact percentages of results affected by these, to get a notion of the size of the specific update.

Panda updates target bad content, low-quality content and duplicate content. Penguin updates roll out every few months since April 2012, and Penguin 2.0, the next generation has just been rolled out on May 2013. Penguin targets bad or clearly links pointing to websites, comment spam, links in posts on questionable sites. EMD updates prevent poor quality sites from ranking well, just because they have the keyword combination searched in their url, and give high-quality sites a chance to move up in rankings.

The point to remember about all of these updates is that any changes you make to your content or site, such as removing bad links for example, in between updates will have an effect on your site’s rankings, but you may not necessarily see the results of those changes until the next update is deployed. So even if you deleted a bunch of bad links pointing to your site as soon as you received an unnatural link warning from Google, there’s a very strong possibility that you won’t see much change in your search engine ranking until the next Penguin update rolls out. If you don’t want to wait that long you can always try Google’s Disavow Tool. The Tool allows webmasters to notify Google of the low quality links that they cannot get rid of on their own and that they do not want them affecting their site rankings. However it is important to stress that Google highly recommend not taking this tool lightly, and use only if no other way to manually remove the links has succeeded. Having said that, Google do not commit to take into account your link submission (and they will obviously disregard your request if you ask to disavow all your incoming links.

4. Expect Constant Changes and Tweaks to the Campaign

Overall, an important part of the process means is to understand that constant changes and tweaks to your SEO campaign and website are inevitable, as we learn from every algorithm change as we go. In fact, you should be pleased if your SEO consultant recommends changes. It means they’re on top of things, watching out for your rankings and trying to do something about it.

Successful SEO campaigns respond to algorithmic changes and website traffic patterns. You may need to find new keywords, add content or reorganize your site according to customer expectations and the way they use your site constantly changes, meaning that you have to change your site and perspective accordingly. It’s really no different than adjusting your business in other ways to meet customers’ needs and expectations. And, just like other business processes change, it can take some time to see the results of your efforts.

5. Constantly Monitor the Competition

Knowing and researching your competitors is a crucial part of the SEO campaign. Both you, as a business owner and your SEO consultant must know the top 10 results by heart and constantly following up on the search ranking fluctuations. In order to be the best, it is crucial that you learn from the best so make sure to do a comparative research of your site vs that of your competitors in terms of backlinks, title, description, site content, user interface, design and much more to learn how you can get better or where you can appear on the web to push your rankings or improve your conversion.

6. Bounce Rate and Conversion Research and Monitoring

Google have always said that the most important thing for them and the reason behind every algorithmic update is the user or end consumer, and that should be your concern as well. Google loves sites that the users love, so there’s no doubt that the time a user spends on the site before bouncing back to the search results, a quick flow towards the goal of the site or ranking high on a theoretical “trust scale” are very important issues that you should not neglect. Keep the flow of your site clean, the design of your site simple yet visually appealing and the information on your site really useful for the user, not for the search engine.

Despite the time and effort that a proper SEO campaign requires, have no doubt that this is the most profitable marketing channel you can have with the highest ROI. Make sure to give it the proper attention or hire a professional and reliable SEO consultant, with the finger on the pulse, that will involve and consult you every step of the way to yield the best results for your business.

How to Identify Unnatural Links and Remove Them

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Webmasters around the world are still busy trying to clean up their websites after the Google Penguin launch of 2012, and they are even more baffled following the release of Penguin 2.0 in May of 2013. If this sounds familiar you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a brief overview of why unnatural links are bad for your site and provided some tools you can use to identify and remove those links.

Unethical. Before Google upgraded their quality guidelines and started enforcing them in, some might say, a “brutal” manner, anything worked and most of the websites with a history of SEO have purchased or attained links, and these are today considered “unnatural” (the only legitimate “natural” link is a link that another admin chose to place on his site voluntarily because of the added value of your link). SEO professionals and many webmasters didn’t even realize they had those links pointing to their site until they got a warning message about them from Google. Now they are left with trying to figure out which of their links need to be removed and how should they go about doing it.

What Are Unnatural Links From Google’s Point of View?

In a nutshell, unnatural links are artificial links that are intended solely to manipulate page rank and rank higher on the search results. As previously mentioned, these links were often purchased back when any link was considered a good link and it boosted your search results, no matter if it was relevant, surrounded by content or on a low quality site. They may also have been specifically created and linked to your site by spammers.

Why You Don’t Want Unnatural Links Pointing To Your Site

any and all links boosted your search engine results, but that time isis the days when “all links were created equal” are long gone. These days, Google is encouraging webmasters to earn links by creating high-quality content. This type of content encourages users to naturally share it or link to it and gain links naturally and, as a result this will increase the site’s rankings on the search engine result pages (SERPs). If Google identifies a site as having too many unnatural links, the site’s rankings on the SERPs can fall dramatically.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to improve the content. You also need to get rid of the unnatural links that are pointing to your site.

The Message

Many webmasters first learn of their unnatural links when they receive this message from Google:

“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes….”

While it is helpful to know you have bad links, the message doesn’t tell you how to identify them or remove them.

Google Tools You Could Use To Locate Unnatural Links

Recently, Matt Cutts, Head of Search Spam at Google, posted a video that explains how to find unnatural links. In the video he explains that in the near future Google will be adding examples of the bad links as a part of their unnatural link warning messagesin the future. .This is meant to help webmasters identify which links Google considers harmful within the site’s incoming links profile.

Website managers can also use their existing Webmaster Tools account to help identify bad links. Specifically, Cutts recommends sorting the links by date and using this information to get an idea of which links are the problematic ones.

Getting Rid Removing Of Unnatural Links

Once you’ve located the links, the focus now shifts to getting rid of them. To remove unnatural links you need to contact the website’s administrator and ask that the link be removed. Surprisingly, some administrators are willing to do this for you, that is if you legitimate contact information to send the request to.manage to get in touch with them through their site, which is not always the case.

Unsurprisingly, a whole new industry has sprung up aimed at helping webmasters get rid of their unnatural links. Sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee, sometimes for a large fee, these services can help you identify the unnatural links, find contact information for the website, generate and send email requests asking that the link be removed and even track your progress for you. A more negative type of “fee”, in regards to link removal is the one that many of the more “cunning” webmasters demand, which is payment per link removal (another way for low quality site admins to make a living after Penguin and Panda wiped the possibility of them selling another link) .

Unnatural Link Removal Tools

So if you don’t manage to clean your link profile on your own, there are a few tools that could help you with that. Cyrus Shepard at Above The Fold has complied a great list of four tools for link cleanup. Another good tool is the one by SEOGadget. This free service makes it easy to collect the data on all of your inbound links and identify the links that need to be removed.

…And if all else fails: Google’s Disavow Tool

Following countless complaints by admins frustrated by the various algorithmic changes that turned things for the worst for them, and the various difficulties they encountered upon link removals, Google finally announced the launch of their Disavow Tool. This tool is meant for webmasters who have already pointed out the bad links coming in to their site and were not able to remove them any other way, despite previous attempts. Via this tool, available directly from their Google Webmaster Tools account, admins can send Google a detail report of which links they would like Google to “ignore” (low quality/unnatural links). However, they clarify that Google has no obligation to act upon the admins request, and this tool serves merely as a recommendation for Google, perhaps another way for them to learn about low quality links and even (as the more “paranoid” SEO professionals think) be used as a tool for Google to identify sites that violate their quality guidelines systematically and punish them as a result.

In conclusion, although it can be frustrating and time-consuming, SEO continues to be a very profitable and traffic generating channel, and in order to safeguard your online business, you need to continue being on the lookout for new updates and constantly study your impact on the site. And f you want to play by Google’s rules you need to get rid of those artificial links, and the previously mentioned tools can be just what you need to get started.

8 Google Tools All Webmasters Should Know About

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Webmasters who rely on Google to drive traffic to their site should know about eight very important and very helpful tools. Here’s a brief overview of each one and how it can help make your job easier.

1. Google Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools will tell you everything you need to know about creating a Google-friendly website. With all the recent algorithm changes, it’s more important than ever to understand what “Google-friendly” means these days, and Webmaster Tools is the best place to find that information.

Here, you can:

  • Check for any issues with your site that Google may have detected.
  • View and analyze your search traffic to figure out how visitors are getting to your site.
  • Review Google site guidelines and optimize your site so it’s easier for Google to find.
  • Add sites and/or additional users/owners to your site or sites.
  • Look through the Webmaster FAQ’s to get answers to some of the most common questions Google receives.
  • Contact Google directly with questions or concerns.

Click Here for more detailed information.

2. Google Tag Manager

Every website manager should know how to use this tool. Google Tag Manager lets you update and manage your site tags yourself, just like Google Analytics Code, Adwords Remarketing, etc. – whenever you want to and at no cost. This is an excellent tool for marketing pros who want to be able to make quick tag changes without getting help from IT to do it.

Find it at: Click Here

3. Google MCC Account – My Client Center

My Client Center is designed specifically for running ads online with Google AdWords.

In My Client Center, webmasters/PPC person can easily review and manage all of your AdWords accounts from a single location. You’ll be able to track performance, add and delete accounts, manage budgets and set up alerts from one dashboard.

Check out My Client Center Click Here

4. Google Top Contributors

Top Contributors is a way to identify the top contributing, most knowledgeable individuals in Google forums. These people essentially work for Google for free, taking the time to answer questions posted in Help forums by Google users. These contributors are easily identifiable through the green badge that appears next to their screen name. If you see a badge next to a name, be sure to check out what was posted. It’s sure to be full of useful information. Top contributors are truly helpful people who are doing this on their own time to make Google a better experience for all users.

Instead of digging through forum after forum to find a knowledgeable contributor, head over to Top Contributors and find answers fast.

Find Top Contributors at: Click Here

5. Google Engage

Engage is another tool to help you run your AdWords campaign. This is a membership program that provides AdWords support, training and webinars. You’ll get sales and marketing tips that are great for small agencies that specialize in search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), website development and online advertising.

Learn more about Engage at: Click Here

6. Google Adwords Proposal

This is the place to go if you want to get your ads placed on Google. Just submit the web address you want to advertise and get a proposal back from Google. It’s a very cost-effective way to start advertising online since you only pay for the service when someone clicks on your ad. Best of all Google sets up the campaign for you automatically!

Learn more at: Click Here

7. Google Moderator

Google Moderator lets you submit questions online that can be answered in Webmaster Central Office Hours in Google+ or Video Questions – 2012, usually by Matt Cutts, himself. You submit a topic and let the audience send in the questions and ideas that interest them the most. There’s even a voting box to help draw attention to recent submissions and those that are generating lots of discussion.

It’s a good way to get feedback on new products or ideas. Best of all, it’s a free product available to anyone.

Explore Google Moderator at: Click Here

8. Google Data Highlighter for Event Data

This is a brand-new tool from Google that will help you provide structured data to Google without having to mark up your site’s HTML code. It gives you nice, rich snippets in Google results. With Data Highlighter, you can do just that – highlight the data you want to share with Google. It is as easy as it sounds and works just like the highlight function in word processing software, but better. Data Highlighter can actually learn your formatting and once it does, will begin automatically suggesting tags.

Data Highlighter is currently only available in English and only works on events like concerts, exhibitions and festivals, but that will change very soon. Keep an eye on this tool. It’s sure to come in very handy.

For more information on Data Highlighter for Event Data visit: <Click Here

SEO Thought Leaders I Followed in 2012 and Will Keep Following in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The world of SEO/SEM is constantly changing. In order to keep up, it’s important to find resources you can trust to give you the information you need, when you need it. I want to share with you the SEO leaders I followed this year and will continue to follow in 2013.

Each of these leaders offers tips, insights and analysis that cut to the heart of the matter and make sense of the changes affecting SEO almost as soon as they occur. If you have a minute, I highly recommend reading some of their posts or bookmarking their sites so you can follow along with them too.

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is a News Editor at Search Engine Land. He’s been covering search news for five years and maintains the Search Engine Roundtable – his own search blog. In addition to these two positions, he is also the CEO of RustyBrick, a New York web service firm specializing in customized online technology.

I follow Barry on Search Engine Roundtable where he provides insight into the hottest topics in searching such as search marketing tips and how search engines work, always keeping up with the latest changes in search functions and techniques. You can catch him in his weekly video cast, “Search Buzz Recap” for a quick update on the week’s most pressing search news.

I follow Barry Schwartz here.

Matt Cutts

If you don’t know this name, you should! Matt Cutts is the head of the webspam team at Google. Matt freely provides a great deal of information about Google’s newest techniques and strategies to combat webspam and in a very matter-of-fact and straightforward manner. It makes him easy to understand and follow.

Anyone who relies on Google for their search engine results should keep up with Matt Cutts and what he is saying at any given point in time. He often provides insight that can help you navigate algorithm changes that Google implements and tips on how to maximize your SEO work.

You can follow Matt Cutts on Twitter and view his video Q&A’s on the Google Webmasters You Tube page.

Pete Meyers

When I really want to go deep into SEO and algorithm data analysis, Pete is the man for the job. He works at SEOMoz and does an excellent job of explaining extremely technical and hard-to-understand data for the layperson.

I follow Pete Meyers on Google+.

John Muller

John is a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. He provides great technical website tips and tricks to maximize your use of Google. I follow and look forward to his participation in the weekly Webmaster Central Hangout on Google+. This is a weekly Q&A session hosted by Matt Storms.

John Muller can be followed at his Google+ page.

Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin is the CEO of SEO software company; SEOmoz. SEOmoz is one of the top companies in the SEO world. What I follow most closely from Rand is his “Whiteboard Friday” blogs. Nearly every week Rand posts a blog, usually with video, on the biggest issues and questions facing SEOs everywhere. His answers are common-sense and easy to understand and give some great step by step instructions for improving your site and using SEO to its maximum advantage.

You can check out Whiteboard Friday here.

Or follow Rand Fishkin on Twitter.

AJ Kohn

I started following AJ on Google+ this year. He’s the owner of Blind Five Year Old, an online marketing firm specializing in search. AJ is a whiz at SEO marketing and strategy and his posts on Google+ provide some great information. He was one of the first SEO’s to offer a case study on Authorship and how it relates to boosting site authority but he posts much more on his profile page. You might find yourself with a sudden urge to travel or try new foods when following AJ, since he posts so many tempting images on his page.

Visit AJ Kohn’s Google+ Profile here

Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan is the editor of SearchEngineLand.com, a site that covers Google, SEO, PPC and all aspects of SEM. The wide variety of topics and great insights are just two of the reasons I follow Danny and SearchEngineLand.com.

Find him at Search Engine Land

Will Reynolds

Will is the founder of SEER Interactive, a search engine marketing agency and one of the greatest presenters on internet marketing out there today. For proof of this, just check out this presentation from Mozcon 2012 here.

I follow him on Google+

There you have it! These are some of the top minds in SEO today. Taken together, they provide everything from tips on how to navigate SEO changes to theoretical discussions on the future of SEO. It’s a well-rounded group and I’m excited to see what they come up with in 2013.

How about you? Did I miss anyone? Is there anyone you think I should add to the list? I’d love to hear your comments and recommendations. Sound off below!

Understanding Google’s “Owner Removal Incomplete” Message

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

On November 30, Google started sending out “Owner Removal Incomplete” messages to webmasters around the world, causing confusion and panic. If you received one of these messages, Don’t Worry! The notification is actually a great security measure of Google’s. It doesn’t mean someone has hacked into your server and tried to delete accounts. It just means that you may have some loose ends that need to be secured.

What the Message Means

The message is simply a reminder to you that you’ve removed someone’s access in Webmaster Tools, but you did not remove their verification elements (or token as it says in the message from Google) on the website. Google flagged this as a security concern because it is still possible for the person to gain access to your site until all of their verification elements have been fully removed from your server.

You may be thinking, “But I didn’t try to remove anyone’s access!” If this sounds like your situation, it’s likely that you had some older verification elements left on your server that you were unaware of and these are the elements that got flagged by Google. They could be quite old and probably forgotten about.

What’s a Verification Element?

Verifications elements, files and tokens are meta tags, HTML files or DNS records that exist on your server. Archived files contain them, so it’s possible that a former employee’s name is still associated with a file somewhere, which prompted Google to send the message.

How Do I Fix This?

To fix this possible security issue, you’ll need to delete all of these verification elements/codes/tokens from your server then go back to Webmaster Tools and unverify the email ID associated with that element/code/token from the list of account owners.

Finding the Verification Element

To find the HTML filename, meta tag codes or DNS record you’ll need to go into Webmaster Tools. From there, follow these steps.

  1. Click on “Manage Site Owners”. This is located near the top of the right hand side of the page next to “Add a New User”.
  2. Under Action, click “Unverification pending.”
  3. You’ll receive a pop-up that shows you the HTML file name associated with the suspect email:  *google-file-name.html.
  4. Go to your FTP and delete the HTML file name that appears on the pop-up.

Once you’ve deleted all of the suspect verification elements, make sure you unverify the email ID associated with the verification token. Do this in Webmaster Tools in the list of account owners.

You should now stop getting the “Owner Removal Incomplete” message.

Link Building Versus Link Earning: What’s the Difference?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

If you’re still spending your time building links to keep your website relevant and ranking high, it’s time to stop. There are better ways to improve your SEO and link building is not one of them. In fact, link building can earn you a trip down in rankings now, rather than up.

According to Rand Fishkin, link building is out. But link earning is in. We agree with Rand, so here are some important things you need to know about earning your links.

The Downfall of Link Building

If there is one thing Google has taught us in 2012, it is that they do not like link building. The Penguin algorithm update last spring penalized sites that were abusing link building. Later on, exact match domain links were penalized and even more recently, article links and directories have been hit.

Obviously, Google wants us to stop link building! No more buying links. No more acquiring links artificially. No more actively seeking out and adding links. Instead, we are being pushed towards link earning.

Content is Key

Link earning is a welcome change for ethical SEOs who want to promote great content. Content creation has always been the best way to gain backlinks from relevant websites, but it wasn’t a nice and easy way to increase your links like buying them was. So, many webmasters skipped the content part of gaining links and went straight to buying them. Now they find themselves with a lot of links, but very little content and it’s hurting their rankings.

How Do I Earn Links?

Now the question becomes how do you earn links? The main idea is to earn backlinks from authoritative sites based on content that you create.

Here are a few techniques that have proven successful with the search engines.

  • Natural links earned through partnerships and cross promotion. This kind of link earning occurs very naturally such as when one company mentions the other via a blog post, article or other type of content. Contrary to the old techniques of reciprocal links and link exchanges, these links are not contrived, nor are they anchor text links to specific pages.
  • Social media and social sharing. You may find an article that you want to share with your network. So you share it. With any luck, it will get passed on by others and you’ll start getting links back in a very natural, organic way because readers are interested in what you have shared. You’ve now earned your links simply by sharing information.
  • Earn links with content. If you create content that others want to share, embed or link to, you can earn links. Become an authority in your industry and create great content that can be broadcast socially or via blogs, articles, press releases, etc.
  • Submit to curated lists and directories. Just submitting your links to any old directory won’t earn you any links. But if you submit to certain directories, it can pay off. The key is to find a directory that is curated or maintained and updated regularly. This could be something as simple as a Yelp list or a BBB directory or something as high-profile as a “Who’s Who” directory in your industry.
  • Be a guest blogger or writer. This will only work if you are a guest blogger on very particular sites and blogs. You want to do this for sites that are viewed as authorities in your industry. They’re pickier about who they let on the blog, but if you can land one of those guest posts, it can pay off tremendously simply because of where you blogged – on a well-respected, authoritative expert site for your field.

Link earning has the potential to not only improve your site rankings, but perhaps more importantly, transform your site into a respected authority. Think of earned links as testimonials. When you earn a link, an outsider is linking to you and saying to the online community, “This site has the information I need and trust. You should look at it too.”

As you earn more and more links in this completely natural manner, you’ll see your site rise in the rankings and wonder why you didn’t start earning links sooner.

Making Sense of Google’s New Disavow Links Tool

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Webmasters who’ve had trouble getting rid of bad links can get some help from Google with its new disavow links tool. Below is a brief overview of this new tool, including how to determine if you need to use it.

What Is The Disavow Links Tool?

The disavow links tool is a way for webmasters to tell Google which inbound links they do not want associated with their site. This is important because of the way Google algorithms count links coming in to a site in their ranking algorithms. Since the Penguin launch April 24, 2012, some webmasters saw their site ranking drop because of artificial, bad or low-quality inbound links to their site. Since then, webmasters have been trying to get rid of these bad links as a way to regain their rankings. The problem is, sometimes the site that is linked to yours isn’t responding to removal requests, or willing to get paid to remove the link (I’ve seen reply from webmasters offering to remove the links for $10 – $99). Unfortunately, if none of your attempts work, you’re stuck with the link.

Here is where the Google disavow links tool comes in. By using the tool, webmasters can communicate to Google the links that they cannot get rid of on their own and that they do not want counted towards their site rankings.

Who Needs It?

According to Google, “A typical use case for this tool is if you’ve done link building that violates our quality guidelines. Google has sent you a warning about unnatural links, and despite your best efforts, there are some links that you still can’t get taken down.” It is also a viable tool for sites that are impacted by ‘negative SEO’ or bad link building practices

The important part of the statement above is “despite your best efforts.” Google wants to see a solid effort on your part to remove the links before the disavow tool is ever used. Remember, the disavow links tool is just a request to Google that they ignore those unwanted links coming in. That means Google does not have to honor your request. In fact, there is a chance the company won’t honor disavow requests if the site under question hasn’t tried to remove the bad links on their own first.

So don’t look at this new tool as a quick and easy way to remove unwanted links from your site. It isn’t. It’s exactly what the name says it is, a tool to help you in your efforts to clean up your links.

How Do I Use It?

Using the disavow links tool is actually very simple. Just login to your Webmaster Tools account and click here then select the website for which you want to disavow links. Next, click on the Disavow Links function and upload a text file containing the addresses of all the links you want to disavow.

Screenshot from Official Google webmaster tools blog

A day or so later, submit a reconsideration request and in it mention using the disavow tool. After that you’ll have to wait to see if your rankings are affected. It may take several weeks before you see a change. Just be patient and, in the meantime, keep an eye on those inbound links. Eventually your efforts will pay off.

For more helpful tips on using Google’s disavow links tool, check out this Q&A session with Google’s Matt Cutts.

Building Online Business Authority And Trust

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The internet has become a pivotal resource in the way we do business today and has helped many entrepreneurs get their business off the ground and thriving. Yet, with as wide reaching as the internet is, it can be difficult for businesses, large and small, to get noticed. Even more important, how can those companies increase their web-generated business? Is there a way that businesses can convey a sense of legitimacy, develop or strengthen their brand or become recognized as an expert in their field?

In short, yes, there is. It’s called Online Business Authority and it falls into the same category as Public or Media Relations. Similar to public relations efforts in print media, to increase online authority you need to put forth some effort and reach out to the appropriate media outlets or audiences. Over time, you’ll earn a reputation as a trusted resource.

Shaping Domain Trust And Online Business Authority

2012 authority building is different than that of a decade ago. It used to be that you could build up your online business authority with links galore, no matter the content. Now, it’s more important to have fewer high-quality, natural or organic links, than hundreds of bad or average links if you’re trying to increase website authority.

But link building in and of itself is not necessarily the best way to increase website authority or build trust. What works better is establishing yourself as an expert in your field and gaining exposure from that. Once you do this, you will increase website authority naturally and legitimate websites will soon want to be linking to your website or blog.

Establishing Yourself As An Expert

How can you establish yourself as an expert? Again, it comes back to taking the time to put yourself out there:

  • Reach out to reporters, magazine, blogs, local and national news outlets. Volunteer to speak at industry conventions or to author or edit industry articles and publications.
  • Start blogging. Blogging has become a popular way for experts to establish themselves. By blogging on your own website you maintain complete control over the information that goes out and what readers learn about you and your business or expertise. It’s important to include a head shot and use your real name on your blog.
  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities. The more exposure you get and the more widespread that exposure, the greater your expertise appears.
  • Use your past work to establish expertise. Here’s where the blog comes in handy. When you’re contacted by a journalist or media outlet, refer them back to work you’ve already published. The more you have, the better, since it clearly shows you know what you’re talking about on a particular subject. If you’ve been cited by other outlets, broadcast the information! It acts as proof of your expertise.
  • Work each and every lead. Leads are precious. You won’t get one every time you try so when you do make sure you take the time to follow up on them and work them to your advantage.

Quickly Increase Website Authority

While you’re working on establishing yourself as an industry expert, there are some simple things you can do to your website to make it appear more trustworthy to visitors. These include:

  • Contact us pages
  • Physical addresses
  • Executive team profiles
  • Phone numbers
  • Terms and conditions pages
  • Copyright statements
  • Current dates
  • Privacy policy is a machine readable version as defined by the W3C
  • Stories that have author bio-lines and photos
  • Author profile page
  • Author social media
  • Authorship markup

Just like any other PR effort, it may take some time to establish your expertise but the payoffs are enormous. Once you’ve gained even a little bit of exposure, it can and will build up your reputation, driving traffic to your website and ultimately your business.

Did Google’s Penguin Update Affect Your Site? Understanding The Penguin Update

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012


When Google’s latest algorithm update, Penguin, hit the Internet on April 24, webmasters around the globe found themselves wondering how the update affected their site’s rankings.

The update targeted sites that were violating Google’s quality guidelines by engaging in web spamming practices such as: keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, “sneaky” redirects or “doorway” passages and purposeful duplicate content.

But, as we all know, nothing ever goes according to plan. So what kind of results did we get with Penguin? Did it succeed in the task it was designed for? Was your site negatively affected? If so, what can you do to recover?

Penguin’s Noble Goal

Google is in the business of providing information to web users. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to promote websites that provide high-quality content and not spam. Penguin was Google’s latest attempt to block webspam.

The algorithm change penalizes sites that had been spamming Google by violating their quality guidelines. Google makes these algorithm changes periodically to level the playing field and to base the rankings on site quality. By periodically updating and refining the algorithms that rank sites.

How Can I Tell If I’ve Been Hit By Penguin?

The easiest way to determine if the Penguin update has affected your site is to review your search-engine organic traffic on Google Analytics. Did it drop after the Penguin launch date on April 24 or did your site gain traffic after that date? Either way, whether you saw a drop or a rise in rankings Penguin was probably the cause. If you noticed no change, then the update didn’t affect you, which means you’re doing a good job keeping your site clean and full of quality content with ethical link building. Good Work!

If you did notice a drop in rankings, there’s a good chance you had keyword stuffed pages or more likely, spammy links. Prior to Penguin, these actually pushed your rankings; this is no longer the case. If you relied heavily on these links to push your rankings, then you probably noticed a drop.

In essence, your rankings are now where they should have been all along had you been following Google’s quality guidelines to the letter.

Recovering from Penguin

The algorithm targets spammy methods such as those previously mentioned, so if you want to recover from Penguin you need to rid your site of the spam that flagged it. If you don’t know why your site was targeted, another thing to do is check your messages from Google at Google Webmaster Central Tools. If you have a message from Google such as the unnatural links message for example, You might try removing links that directing to your site from low quality sites.

If you don’t have any messages and you are certain Penguin affected your site, remove everything you can think of that could be construed as spam from your site.

This includes:

  • Keyword stuffed pages
  • Intentional duplicate content
  • Linking schemes that are specifically intended to up rankings
  • Cloaking and sneaky redirects

If you have checked all of the above and still think Penguin wrongly targeted your site, try to notify Google by submitting your story in your feedback form. According to the interview with Matt Cutts on June 5th, even if you didn’t manage to remove all bad links pointing to your site, if you show them a serious removal effort, they will take this into account.

Remember, this was an algorithm change as opposed to a “manual action” or “penalty.” Sites are not being flagged manually, which means filing a reconsideration request with Google won’t help your situation. The feedback form is your best bet if you’re certain you’ve been incorrectly targeted. Some sites such as WPMU, have reported a bounce back after the latest reported Penguin refresh. This occurred after submitting their case in the feedback form as well as removing a large quantity of their low quality links from various sites using their WordPress templates, and keeping the link to them located in the footer.

The Road Ahead

Overall, Google seems happy with the results of Penguin. The algorithm is doing what it was designed for in Google’s opinion – prioritizing sites doing “White SEO,” or following Google’s quality guidelines, versus those engaging in “Black/Grey SEO” or webspam.

If you have been hit by Penguin, don’t panic. Google frequently tweaks their Penguin algorithm thanks to data received via webmasters like you, as a part of their regular algorithm updates. This is important because it means you have time to change your site, get rid of the spam and place yourself in a better position for the next time Penguin is refreshed.

According to Google, once the spam violations have been corrected, the site should recover in rankings naturally. It may take time for you to recover since you’ve lost so many links that used to count in your rankings, but if you play by the rules, and start adding quality links and quality content, you can get there.

Revolution Web can help turn your site around and recover from Penguin casualties. We offer quality content writing and web marketing services that are designed to increase your rankings naturally so algorithm changes like Penguin don’t hit you in the future. Contact us at

866-203-2002 to learn more about our services.

Using Directories for SEO in 2012 – Emphasis on Quality

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Whilst in the past we used to accumulate all the directories Google would present to us (Free, Bid, Paid) and submit blindly, without understanding the effects that this might have in the long run. Today, in the post Panda and Penguin age, it’s evident that this activity can be flagged as a low quality SEO activity, resented by Google.

Did Google Drop 100+ Small Directories? On May 16, 2012 Barry Schwartz reports that ~100+ small directories have been removed from Google’s index.

SEOMoz dug deeper, and conducted a research to investigate how widespread is this phenomenon: Web Directory Submission Danger: Analysis of 2,678 Directories Shows 20% Penalized/Banned by Google

Then why are directories still relevant?

1. Because it works, and it’s a good tactic for the long run when done right as a picky one-time effort.
2. SEOMoz did not come to the conclusion you should not submit to directories, on the contrary. All they did is to remove from their list of directories (available to PRO accounts) all those deindexed directories, and left only high quality recommended directories, and even stated that

“Some directories and link resource lists are likely going to be valuable and useful long term”.

How can we use directories as an efficient SEO effort?

We need to hand-pick our directories:
Check the site’s metrics and traffic (Page Rank, Alexa Rank, Majestic’s Citation/Trust Flow, SEOMoz’s Domain and Page Authority).

Make sure to submit to a relevant category, that is also cached (PR as well would be preferable).

Best directories would be niche directories, meaning specific directories of many sites relating to the same field however a high quality directory with a specific relevant category would be better than a low quality one in our niche.

Make sure that they have a strong quality assessment mechanism. If a link directory puts quality at the top of its priorities, they will obviously not publish any link submitted to them, regardless of its contents and the site it points to. The kind of directory that would actually be good for your site, is the kind that hand-picks the sites submitted to it and approves only the high quality sites in each category. To understand how Google might evaluate a good quality assessment mechanism, we can go back in time to February 23, 2011, to the Farmer/Panda Update.

This update dealt with article directories with thin content, with poor quality assessment mechanisms, meaning that anyone could have anything published on them absolutely free, and this added immense quantities of spam to the web. Once Google realized how ridiculously easy it is to get spam published on these sites, without any filtering mechanisms, many of the biggest article directories sustained serious ranking hits or disappeared off the index altogether.

This is why we need to be prepared, and to make sure to submit in directories with a strong quality mechanism, the kind Google respects.
Since it’s not easy to maintain such a serious quality assurance operation, especially on big link directories, getting hundreds of submissions a day, some directories take volunteers, like DMOZ, the highest quality directory on the web, and getting accepted could sometimes take months.

Other high quality directories hire quality personnel, and require payment from each submitter to finance this effort, these are called ‘Paid Directories’.
Google realizes that this sort of high quality effort requires funding, so the links in those directories, are not considered ‘paid links’ of the negative kind, like those you would just buy from someone, there is reasoning behind each inclusion. There was someone behind the scenes handpicking those links and publishing them only if relevant.

Andrew Shotland refers to this type of directories on this post he wrote for Search Engine Land, The Four Keys To Post-Penguin Directory Submission Happiness

“Many paid directories continue to be good signals of authority, due to the cost of entry that pays for their editorial reviews that help ensure quality. In particular, vertical and niche directories can be high quality, but you should steer clear of those that are covered in ads and don’t have an editorial review process.”

If you choose to find a list of directories and start submitting, this can be a good tactic, just make sure it comes from a trusted source:

- Recommended Directories from Search Engine Journal
- Search News Central info and Spreadsheet of Directories
- SEOMoz’s updated list of directories (removed deindexed ones)

Case Study about Efficiency of Directories, Neutralizing Other Link Building Methods

The best case study to show how to use directories right is a brand new site without any other link building activity on it, like we did.

  • In order to not waste time and make it as efficiently as possible, we decided to choose the absolute best ultimate 20 link directories (following the parameters above) and submit the listing in all as a one-time effort (as opposed to ongoing).
  • Each of the listings included a different and unique description.
  • Following 99.9% of the directories’ request, the title had to be the sites name/company name, as opposed to generic keywords. We were only allowed to submit the generic keyword in 2/20 directories, so the rest were submitted under “the brand name + keyword” (which, surprisingly, turned out for the best).
  • Without any other links for the site, and just those ~20 directories accepted, we managed to reach the top #100 under the generic term we used in combination with the brand when we weren’t even trying (FYI, we are talking about one of the most searched and competitive terms in Google UK).
  • Once we did add link building activity under this keyword, we immediately jumped to #35.

To conclude, good, high quality directory links are not only helpful, but they could be a great basis for your site’s liftoff and a good source of link diversity.
In order to start with this effort, you have to get into Google’s state of mind, and think if the directory you’re assessing would be appreciated by them, and ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Are there other high quality sites in my niche?
  • Reading the guidelines – do they talk about their filtering mechanisms (which sites are welcome or out)?
  • Did I find this directory on a trusted source?
  • Would you trust this directory enough to pay them to register?
  • Does it have traffic good metrics?
  • Once you ask relevant questions, this effort could really boost your SEO efforts.

 

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