We’ve been saying for over a year now that SEO has changed dramatically for the long term. In fact, it has changed so drastically from what it used to be that it is hardly recognizable any more. Much of the advice we’ve given over the years no longer is valid. And it’s Google’s fault.
Now I’m no doomsdayer, and I’m not one who typically jumps on the SEO-is-dead bandwagon. We go through this about once a year, at least. And now there is someone else asking the same old question: Is SEO dead?
Nell Terry makes some good points, and I agree for the most part. Google isn’t changing things around just to target the SEO industry, however, they aren’t trying to make it easy for us either. They want us to get discouraged, maybe even give up. But that’s only because so much of SEO has become nothing more than spam, and Google has a valid economic interest in getting rid of the spam.
I particularly like this paragraph:
I think many techniques are outdated – think keyword placement, strict numbers games, community optimization. It’s about creating a presence in your industry and making a name for yourself in order to climb the SERPs.
What this says, and I agree, is that SEO tactics you were using two years ago probably aren’t going to work today, but that’s not a bad thing. SEOs will just have to learn to adjust. But here are three things that I think are still important, and probably always will be:
- Great content that doesn’t stray off topic – it must be focused
- Social signals are a big driving force today
- Your reputation as a content producer is paramount
In light of these three hard truths, if you are an online content producer, it’s time to start thinking about author reputation. Start today.
Exact match domains have been a target of controversy in the SEO world for over a decade. There are people who are die-hard proponents of exact match domain names, then there are those who cite high profile examples of successful websites that are not exact match domains. Here are a few:
The list could go on.
Exact Match Domains Are In Decline
SEOmoz recently conducted a study on whether or not exact match domains are in decline in SEO results. The conclusion was that they are.
The author of the blog post, however, was careful to point out that the fact that exact match domains are in decline does not necessarily mean that the search engines have targeted them in their algorithms. There could be any number of reasons for this decline. Here’s one:
I suspect that, by targeting some forms of spammy anchor text, Penguin disproportionately hit EMDs. Many people who use EMDs solely for ranking purposes are also aggressive with exact-match anchor text. The EMD drop was probably collateral damage.
Don’t Dump Your Exact Match Domain Yet
There are a number of reasons why a webmaster might want an exact match domain name. If it’s for branding purposes, then I think your chances of ranking well with your exact match domain is better – unless you engage in spammy SEO tactics.
On the other hand, if you want an exact match domain name because you think it will help you rank better in the search engines and your intent is to SEO your web pages using exact match keyword phrases and anchor text until you rise to the top, there’s a very good chance that you’ll over-SEO your website and produce the opposite effect. But that will be because of your on-page SEO spam, not necessarily due to your exact match domain.
My personal opinion is that your domain name, exact match or not, enhances what you do on your web pages. If you engage in solid SEO practices that are well received by the search engines, then your domain name can help. But if you engage in on-page spam, then it could also be considered a part of that spam.
Conclusion: Tread lightly.
Spammers got the idea that cookie-cutter SEO practices might work because at one time they did. In the beginning were keywords and the keywords were little gods that webmasters could insert pretty much anywhere – on the page, behind the scenes, in the code, in the metatags – and expect that those keywords would help them rise in the rankings. And that’s precisely what happened.
But over time the search engines became more and more sophisticated. While there are still spammers slaving away at getting their web pages to rank better, the search engines have gotten a lot better at detecting it.
In fact, last year, Google made history when it targeted content farms with an update called Panda. A lot of websites that were following Google’s own guidelines took a big hit. Some of them were hit unfairly and Google made some adjustments. But a lot of it was justified too.
This gets to the heart of the issue. If you are still married to cookie-cutter SEO practices, you’d better get with the program. Every website is different and has different needs – even when it comes to SEO.
Make your content unique. Make your SEO just as unique. Don’t cut cookies. That doesn’t work any more.
You don’t think you’re a spammer. You’re just doing what all the other Internet marketers out there are doing. You’ve read all the popular SEO blogs and you write your content to their specifications. You’re one of the good guys. Right?
Maybe not. Your content could have some spam in it.
I’m not trying to jerk your chain. Really, I’m not. I’m simply pointing out a fatal flaw in the thinking of some Internet marketers. Here’s the flaw:
Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s not spam.
Stop Following The Spam Crowd
Stop following the crowd. The search engines want you to publish useful, natural, original content. They don’t want you producing unnatural, canned, recycled content just so you can get a link from that cool new website with lots of promise. I hope you can see the difference.
Webmasters, SEOs, and Internet marketers have been conditioned to think a certain way about marketing online, but the truth is there isn’t just one way to do it. There are thousands of ways to market yourself online. The best way is to use a plan that is unique to your business. And that involves the creation of unique content.
Unique content is content that only you can produce. If it looks too much like your competition’s content, then it isn’t unique. It needs to change.
If your content could have been written by anyone, then it’s likely spam. At best, it’s just plain bad content. Good content is content that only you can write. It’s content that is recognizable as your content. No one else could have produced it. To publish that kind of content requires skill. You can’t kick it out in ten minutes.
Many SEOs are still selling spam links to their customers. These are links sold under the guise of “link building.” The problem is, they don’t really provide any link juice. Google has shut them down, which means you should avoid them like the plague.
- Article marketing – Article marketing used to be the bomb. Then it bombed. Google killed article marketing when it began penalizing article directories for content spam. Link spam went with it. Essentially, if you write articles just for the link value, then you won’t get any link value.
- Paid footer links – You get an e-mail from someone who wants to buy space on your blog. They offer you a nice price for a site-wide link, but it’s not related to your niche. So where do you stuff it? In your footer. No one clicks those links, right? Right. And Google pretty much ignores them. They could even penalize you if they detect that paid link.
- Web directories – Like article marketing, web directories used to be high value links. Then everyone started doing it and there went the neighborhood. These days, very few directories are good for links and the ones that are are highly specialized and probably require some form of payment.
- Social bookmarking sites – Two years ago social bookmarking sites were great for links. Not any more. They went by way of directories and articles. Low value if any at all.
- Forum spam – I’m surprised there are people still doing this. Don’t set up a profile in a forum just to get links. It doesn’t work.
- Blog comments – Blog comments are cool if you provide value to the discussion. If you are just commenting to get a link, guess what? The search engines know it.
- Profile spam – So you heard about a new social networking site. It’s popular and gaining users faster than Google can ban link spammers. So you join, add a profile, and link to every site you own. Bad idea. You just wasted your time.
Doing things just to get a link rarely works. Add value and you’ll get the link you want. Be sure to add value.
Google’s latest algorithm update is now starting to be called Penguin. At first it was an unnamed update that Google said was necessary to combat webspam. It’s interesting that now they’ve decided it needs a name.
There is a huge difference between an overoptimized website and a website that relies on spam for rankings. You can be one without being the other. I’m sure Google knows that.
But that doesn’t mean that overoptimization is excusable. You may have crossed a line, but it wasn’t a big line.
So what is overoptimization, exactly? In my mind, an example of overoptimization would be too many keywords. It’s when you focus so heavily on keywords that you end up chasing the keywords and therefore include too many on your web page. Maybe you didn’t go so overboard that you are a spammer. Maybe you just went a little overboard.
Overoptimization happens when fairly innocent Internet marketers try to hard to achieve the right rankings.
Sometimes overoptimization can simply be an aggregate of a lot of small errors. Maybe you have too many keywords in your domain name and too many on your web page, plus your inbound links are all using one keyword so you have no link diversity. The key is to scale back on your use of keywords and use a level head where your content is concerned.
If you write content for human readers rather than robots, you shouldn’t have an overoptimization problem. And you definitely won’t have a spam problem.
If you are an author, artist, performer, or other creative business person who uses pseudonyms in your business for legitimate purposes, then you might be interested to know that you can now use Google+ as your alter ego.
This is a new development for Google+, however, Vic Gundotra, head of Google+, makes it sound like they’ve planned this all along. Maybe they have.
Google+ users have been asking for the ability to use fake names for some time. Now they’ve got their wish. But how does this benefit you?
Anyone who uses a pseudonym for normal business (for instance, Samuel Clemens used the name of Mark Twain), then you can have a Google+. Before now, if your public persona was wrapped up in a pseudonym, then you couldn’t use Google+. You had to use your real name.
This brings up the question, how will Google be able to tell the difference between a legitimate pseudonym and a fake name used for spam? That’s a good question. I suspect that Google has it figured out. If not, we can all expect an onslaught of fake spam accounts to hit our Google+ streams soon.
Business accounts haven’t been rolled out yet on Google+, but Google says they’re coming. When they do, that should boost your social networking abilities.
Blog comments for SEO get a lot of flack – and for good reason. If you spend your time leaving comments on blogs within various niches just so you can get a coveted link back, then there’s a pretty high chance that you are a spammer. Many of your comments may not even get approved. If that the case, then you are wasting your time.
So what would cause a blog comment to get deleted without being approved by the blog master? Here are some reasons your blog comments might get trashed with barely a read:
- It is obvious spam; the blog comment contains multiple links with unrelated anchor text and is even written in such a way that it is mere gibberish. If you can’t take the time to write a cogent comment, don’t expect it to be approved.
- It appears on an unrelated blog or unrelated blog post. If your comment is about rotating tires and it appears on a dentistry blog, it’s likely spam. Or, if your comment about rotating tires appears on an auto mechanic’s blog but the blog post is about changing spark plugs, then that could be considered spam.
- You don’t use your name. Rather, you use a keyword phrase like “Tire Rotations” within the name field.
- Your comments contains multiple links within the body of your comment, each one trying to garner keyword anchor text juice.
These are just some of the reasons why your blog comments might be considered spam and deleted. Take the time to leave good comments on the right blogs and they’ll be approved.
It’s hard to believe that many SEO companies, Internet marketers, and companies online are using blog comment tactics from 2005 – tactics that aren’t at all effective and could hurt your reputation. On a daily basis, Reciprocal Consulting deletes spam comments, and some of them are from other Internet marketing consults who should know better.
Here are 5 specific ways that your blog comment might be considered spam and sent to the spam folder or the trash bin:
- Your comment is generic and adds no value to the blog. I see this all the time. Comments that are written and are so generic they could appear on anybody’s blog. If you aren’t commenting on something specific within the blog post you are commenting on, then your comment could be considered spam.
- The name you add to the comment form name field is your company name or a keyword. People like reading comments from other people. Companies and keywords don’t interact well with people. You’ll get more respect for your comments if you add them under your own name.
- Your e-mail address doesn’t match your domain name. This one is particularly puzzling when I see a comment from a Web marketing company representing a client and the e-mail address is from the Web marketing company’s domain rather than the client’s. I delete them.
- Your comment is full of links. The reason we ask for your website address is so that you can get a link back for your comment. There’s no need to add multiple links to your comment. We consider that spam.
- Your comment is in a foreign language. I see this often enough that it’s worth a mention. Why comment in Japanese or Spanish when the blog you are commenting on is English? I’m just saying.
With all the valid link building strategies available today, blog comment spam isn’t necessary. Why waste your time?
Quora has made a name for itself as a Q&A site. Relatively new to the game, it has grown quickly and is the Q&A home of many savvy and high profile people. Originally, the site had a strict no self-promotion policy. However, recently, that has changed.
There are two ways to look at this change. You can see it as an opportunity or you can see it as a problem. If you are of the glass-half-empty variety, you could see it as the spammers are taking over. But if you think in terms of the glass being half full, then you’ll want to jump on the Quora bandwagon real quick.
In April, Google started indexing Quora in its real time search feature. That’s awesome news for marketers using Quora for traffic generation. It’s already been established that Quora posts are great for SEO.
Whether you see the glass half full or half empty, the risk is there for Quora to become another content farm under Google’s Panda rules. Quora can avert that eventuality by incorporating a few simple rules into its answers policy to combat link and content spam. But will they? The debate is on.
Until this is settled, the best thing for a social media marketer to do is to get involved in Quora and reap the benefits. If you post on Quora now, you can enjoy the benefits of excellent social media positioning and search engine optimization. Rarely do online marketers get to kill both of those birds with one stone.
Spam is a big problem. There’s search engine spam, e-mail spam, social media spam, and canned spam (just kidding; checking to see if you’re really reading). :-)
I’ve read blog posts from SEOs and Internet marketers that essentially blame Google and its policies for search engine spam. I don’t think it’s a fair accusation. Who would you blame for e-mail spam? Or how about social media spam?
Whenever there is money to be made, there will be cheaters. Stock markets provide a way for people to invest money in hopes of getting a profitable return. Certain practices, like using insider information, are illegal and considered unethical. But people still practice them, and if they are caught they will pay the price.
Of course, spam is not illegal. But the search engines have policies in place to address spam in their indexes. Are they perfect? Do the search engine policies effectively control spam 100% of the time? No. But it’s not for lack of trying.
The real cause of spam is greed. Some people would rather risk future profits for the quick dollar now. That’s essentially the motivation behind every spam message you see – whether in your e-mail box, your search engine listings, or your social media walls. If you are a legitimate Internet marketer, however, you don’t want to get caught being a spammer. It can be a real reputation destroyer. Instead, focus on providing value and deliver on your promises.
Internet marketing has few dos and don’ts. There are not a lot of rules and best practices is largely a matter of experimenting to see what works. Most Internet marketers today have learned from others who have gone before them and pioneered the strategies that are in common use. But there is one big, huge don’t – a practice that everyone detests and that will do your business more harm than good.
The big Don’t in Internet marketing is Don’t Spam. That’s easier said than done.
Most small businesses going online today to market their businesses listen to SEOs and Internet marketers who are simply trying to sell a service. Nothing wrong with running a business, but spamming the people you want to become your customers is not the answer.
Online, marketing is about building relationships, otherwise called Pull Marketing. It is about drawing people to you with a message that will make them want to see you out. It isn’t about “pushing” your product or service upon them in hopes that they will see its value. This kind of marketing is different than the kind of marketing that most small business owners are used to, but it is a type of marketing that is effective online. We hope you’ll see its value for you.
When you survey the landscape of Internet marketing history you’ll see that certain developments over time have really changed how people conducted Internet marketing. The Open Directory Project, Yahoo! offering display advertising, Overture, the advent of Google, pay-per-click marketing, the creation of the landing page, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. These are just the big ones.
It’s enough that tools like Twitter and Facebook exist. But when they get so important that search engine monoliths like Google partner with them then you know they’ve really arrived. Google today announced that real-time search is here. That’s big news. But I think it’s only going to get better.
This could very well change the way Internet marketing is done. Marketers will likely start focusing on hitting the top search results spots in real-time. That means an increase in spam. But it also means an increase in real opportunities.
I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years of search and Internet marketing. These are exciting times. They’re about to get more exciting.
Sometimes the SEO world folds in upon itself and starts doing weird stuff. Such a thing happened just recently when Matt Cutts made an offhand remark about Archive.org. Michael Martinez sums it up pretty well.
If you read his blog post and come to the conclusion that you should NOT block Archive.org because you don’t want to be accused of being a spammer then let’s go back to school. Matt Cutts wasn’t sending a signal that anyone who blocks Archive.org is a spammer. On the other hand, simply blocking Archive.org isn’t going to solve all your problems either.
Clearly, whether you block Archive.org or not is a decision you have to make for yourself. There are legitimate reasons for doing so. Spammers – some spammers – do it, but they do it for a different reason.
When it comes to SEO, don’t follow the crowd. Don’t listen to the myths and turn them into religion. Just do what makes sense.
These days, it seems like everyone has a blog. While the vast number of blogs on the Internet might seem to lessen the chances that your’s will be the victum of hacking or spamming, the greater quantity of blogs out there only encourages more of these annoying pests to attack.
In the Internet marketing world, spamming has unfortunately become a popular way to get free links, referals, etc. While legitimate Internet marketing firms such as Reciprocal Consulting look down on these sorts of black hat practices, the most annoying thing about these spammers is that some people actually click on these links, hence giving them a reason to continue to do it. If everyone knew how to spot spam and no one ever clicked a spam link, they would probably die out, but unfortunately this is not the case.
So, as long as there will be spammers and hackers, there will also be those who wish to put an end to it, and a lot of these programs are not only free, but coded specifically for your needs. The best example is a self-hosted WordPress blog. Due to ever growing popularity, the WordPress blog has become a prime target for spammers, both human and robot controlled, but by the same token, so has the number of anti-spam WordPress plug-ins increased. There are also a few other ways to protect your self hosted WordPress blog.
- Choose your password wisely- it may seem like elementary knowledge but believe it or not, many people don’t know what makes a password good. The first step is to choose something that is easy to remember, or something that you can write somewhere you will always be able to look it up if you forget what it is. Worst case scenario, you can always have the password sent to your email address, but that should only be the last resort. I personally have a password that includes numbers and letters, both lower and upper-case. The further your password is from a coherent English word or phrase, the better, which is why the combination of numbers and letter is best.
- Check your settings- The WordPress self hosted blog has a lot of built in features to help protect your blog, many of which can be found in the settings. Many times, an effort to allow more user interaction via comments on a blog will result in more spam, so what I have found to be the best settings for comments is allowing anyone to post, but first requiring myself or another admin to approve the comment. Once a comment is approved for a user, then comments from that user no longer require approval. This way, anyone who’s posted before can feel more welcome posting, which could increase visitor loyalty. There are also a number of great plug-ins available on the WordPress.com site which can help you deal with spam and security. These are conveniently organized by category, so performing a search for “anti-spam” or “security” should get you a plug-in that works the way you want it to.
- Watch Those Links- WordPress blogs have a handy feature on the dashboard that tells you who is linking to you. This is a great way to network, but also a good way to see when people are linking to you, even if you don’t want them to. Should you encounter a website that is saying bad things aboout you, or one with a large readership that might send unwanted traffic your way, you can easily see this and send a kind email over to ask the administrator at the other site to remove the link.
There are plenty of more advanced tactics to protecting your blog, but these are the most basic, and believe it or not, the ones most often overlooked.