What Hath SEO Wrought? The Google Responds

June 4, 2013

What caught my attention this morning was “Negative SEO: Looking for Answers from Google.” Since the early days of The Point, which we sold to Lycos decades ago, my partners and teams have produced content one way. We follow the format of traditional commercial databases; that is, we track important articles like this one about negative SEO and provide a quote and a comment. Traffic is not high on my list of what I think about because I use the content in this blog Beyond Search as a way to keep track of major developments in search, online, content processing, and, more recently, analytics.

The SEO thing has always been a threat to objectivity. Now the article, if it is accurate, suggests that it is possible to use online content as a weapon; that is, weaponized information. I have given some lectures about “weaponized information” to specialist groups in various government agencies. The substance of much of my work in the last couple of years has been to document how specific mathematical methods can be manipulated by flows of specially prepared content.

This “Negative SEO” article struck a nerve. Here’s the comment which caught my attention:

At the end of the day it is the unsuspecting that need protection. I’ve written before about the relations of SEOs and Google. Those in the know that stray toward the boundaries, they do so at their own risk. I don’t play the ‘hat’ game. It’s all degrees of tactics. If you get burned while knowing the risk, then fair play. I worry more about those who aren’t aware and what ramifications it can have on them. I know plenty of great people that have been stomped over the last while and often they have seemingly done little to incur it. Or were mislead as to what “safe” really was. Some type of simpler system would help benefit webmasters and Google as well the way I see it. If you have some ideas on how this could be dealt with by working with Google, fire it off in the comments. A positive discussion is far more likely to get Google working with us than whining about the evil…


My View of SEO

I gave some talks at search engine optimization meetings. I was horrified with several aspects of these local, regional, and national events.

First, the attendees wanted traffic in order to keep their jobs. I was fascinated with the self preservation bubbling beneath the surface of the casual conversations, the get togethers, and the questions asked of the speakers. Maybe the events have changed, which is probably a step forward. However, my recollection is one of finding some way to prove that a Web site or other online marketing activity would deliver the brass ring — a number one listing for a query.

Second, the presentations were an odd blend of “wow, we discovered this” and “you may want to try that” but “we are good guys wearing white hats.” It took me a while to figure out that a “white hat” reported ways to trip up traditional methods of delivering relevant results. A “black hat” used tricks and methods which would result in a penalty from whichever search engine was spoofed. I watched in fascination as a very large industry grew up to undermine precision and recall.

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How to Use Social Media to Keep Your SEO High

June 2, 2013

There is an article on socialmedianz titled How Social Media Impacts SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) has to do with where your content falls in the listings on search engines like Google and Bing. Social media has a huge impact on where your content is, as the article explains,

“Social media can help search engines find and index your content faster. Likes, shares, retweets, etc. indicates to search engine that content is new and interesting, often leading to a temporary increase in rankings. Your content will increase in search results for people connected to you. Increases domain authority and the number of inbound links to your website.”

In other words, the smallest action you can take on social media, clicking Like on Facebook, can have major repercussions for a search engine, like the proverbial butterfly wing-flap causing a hurricane across the ocean. The article provides a helpful flow-chart infographic of these effects. Social activity alerts search engines to the fact that you are authentic, up-to-date, and that you have a network of interested viewers. If this sounds appealing or out of reach, you should visit ArnoldIT to learn about planning a social media strategy that will be both effective and rewarding.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 02, 2013

If you are interested in gourmet food and spirits, read Gourmet De Ville.

Forget SEO Say Hello to AdWords

May 20, 2013

SEO is a hot topic as it is necessary for any marketing and PR plan to take shape. Unfortunately, Search Engine Watch reports that many are taken advantage of by SEO companies. Their recent post, “Moving Forward With a Broken Compass: A Plea to SEOs,” goes as far to say that what these companies deliver is borderline criminal.

The writer of this particular post establishes his ethos at the other end of the spectrum of quality of work delivered. The author describes a time where he went to attend a regular meeting at his client’s conference room but mentions that he never saw past that front conference room.

However, one day was different:

“I was surprised when the client offered to take us for a tour of their entire facility to have us meet the people we had been actually been working for. The client took my co-workers and I around their office complex and warehouses. They introduced us to people we had never before met, stating things like ‘This is Bob from Company X. They didn’t have a job before the work you’ve done for us. We built Bob’s office and the warehouse for his company off the back of what you’ve been doing.’”

Whether SEO delivers what it promises or not, this is beside the point. If you want traffic, buy AdWords.

Megan Feil, May 20, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

SEO Industry Clear and Ethical for the New Year

March 15, 2013

Whenever the SEO starts talking business tactics this usually stirs up controversy and critics quickly bring up Google and their business motives. However, the Search Engine Journal article “Let’s Make the SEO Industry Crystal Clear and Ethical in the Year Ahead!” points out that SEO firms are actually misunderstood and that regardless of Google’s motives that the actual ethics and transparency of the industry has nothing to do with Google but more with reputation and ultimately survival as a business.

The article goes onto describe some key tactics or skills that can be used to tackle SEO ethically. One of the simplest rules is to remember that the client is part of the strategy. Which means that instead of trying to be the expert and keep information from your client engage them and make sure they are involved because just like you know your job your clients knows their proprietary data. Bad ethics equals bad reputation which ultimately means bad for business. Transparency is key. You need to be able to be comfortable talking to your client and vice versa. Each needs to be able to call on the other and talk if necessary. The author makes an important correlation in the conclusion.

“SEO has become an online branding effort with an emphasis on search, requiring many of the general marketing skills that other online marketers take advantage of. Unlike, say, PPC, we don’t have the option of specializing on a small and specific set of skills. Link building, social media, keyword research, branding, conversions, content production, relationship building, viral marketing, and rich snippets: it’s all a part of SEO. This is the year to let our clients know that we are comprehensive internet marketing experts with the skills to bring them long term success and opportunities!”

Though it won’t happen overnight hopefully this year SEO firms can show they can be trusted and they are the key to growth in the future but as with any new friendship it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

April Holmes, March 15, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Search Engine Optimization: Scumbags? Amazing

March 11, 2013

If you are paying upwards of $2,000 a month or more for search engine optimization, you will want to read “Sick of SEO Scumbags” and the comments to the post. Web site traffic is important. What is tough to swallow is that most of the billions of Web sites get little traffic. You can check out if your Web site rates with a quick check of Compete.com’s free analytics look up. Sign up at www.compete.com.

The search engine optimization experts practice the dark art of SEO. The idea is that these experts have methods which can trick Bing, Google, Yandex, or any other free Web indexing service. Once fooled, a query for a topic will return the client’s Web site at the top of the results list for a query. Magic. Almost.

The problem is that Bing and the other outfits want to sell ads based on the content on a Web page. If the content or other element is misleading, the ads won’t hit their target. Most ads do miss but in today’s landscape a slight improvement in targeting may be enough to keep the ad revenue flowing. Where else can an advertiser go to get traffic? SEO wizards know that paying for traffic works. Some SEO actions don’t work.

The post asserts:

Recently, a well known flower shop lost both the rankings for the brand name and the keyword ‘flowers’, the SEO agency involved are a good agency and this post isn’t about the tactics used but large companies like Interflora have years of brand building, offline campaigns, TV advertising, word of mouth, mailing lists, newspapers and shops to fill the gap incase any one vertical (search) drops, they can and will still survive, there will be a dip in some profit sheet somewhere and someone might lose their job, but the company doesn’t fold. If you do that with a small ‘mom and pop’ shop (Dom’s Flowers) and they get banned or lose the rankings for ‘flower shop east leeds’, Game Over, most of the smaller clients I see depend on Google traffic…

Where’s the scumbaggery?

I’ve seen companies who have built a site for a client, no index it then charge for an SEO package to ‘sort out the rankings’, Domain change audits with no 301?s,  I’ve seen agencies charge £10k for ‘keyword research’ which is copied and pasted straight from Google Adwords and more than a few times I’ve seen companies charge a thousands per month for an IBP report. We all make mistakes, we all have clients that want to be #1 for $crazy keyword, but as the search team involved with the campaign, you have to set realistic expectations and know the risk when placing links and making site changes, those that don’t, that just take the money and hammer with shitty links or try and scam the client to extract more money, those are the SEO Scumbags and they are giving the search industry a really bad name.

Does SEO work? The answer is that what actions the SEO expert takes may help or hurt a client. What annoys me is that the word “search” gets dragged into a traffic and click related exercise. Using the word “search” to refer for methods of buying traffic and for actions such as finding information in an organization’s archive muddies the water.

When it comes to scumbaggery or to a more serious activity such as enterprise search, clarity is useful. If a Web site wants traffic, man up and buy it from Google. If you want to build a brand or position a person, use content. No tricks required.

Stephen E Arnold, March 11, 2013

SEO Pro Suggests Peers Try Ethics

March 8, 2013

Transparency and ethics in the search engine optimization field? Interesting. Writer Pratik Dholakiya at the Search Engine Journal has some advice for his colleagues in, “Let’s Make the SEO Industry Crystal Clear and Ethical in the Year Ahead!

The article opens with this acknowledgement: in SEO circles, “ethics” and “transparency” have become dirty words, connected to Google‘s highly-resented efforts to impose quality control onto its search results. Dholakiya seems to understand he is swimming against the tide with his fifteen suggestions, most of which focus on ways to embrace, rather than reflexively reject, such principles. For example, he suggests his peers resist the urge to protect secrets from their clients and, instead, involve them in their planning. He may get more traction with entry number two, which attempts to position “ethics” as a question of smart strategy rather than morals.

See the article if you are curious about Dholakiya’s advice. The Panda and Penguin make an appearance, of course, as do radical concepts like building strong relationships and emphasizing the long view over short-term thinking. His conclusions give us a clue about why he feels now is the time to implore his colleagues to change their tune:

“We are entering an age when SEO can’t be considered separate from online marketing in general. Instead, SEO has become an online branding effort with an emphasis on search, requiring many of the general marketing skills that other online marketers take advantage of.

“Unlike, say, PPC [Pay Per Click], we don’t have the option of specializing on a small and specific set of skills. Link building, social media, keyword research, branding, conversions, content production, relationship building, viral marketing, and rich snippets: it’s all a part of SEO. This is the year to let our clients know that we are comprehensive internet marketing experts with the skills to bring them long term success and opportunities!”

So, he suggests that behaving ethically might better serve these consultants in an evolving landscape. What a novel concept.

Cynthia Murrell, March 08, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

SEO Community Jumps to Conclusions About Google and Press Releases

January 15, 2013

Are press releases the red-headed stepchild of Google, or just misunderstood from a lack of complete information? An SEO pro schools his colleagues in Search Engine Journal’s “Get Over Yourself—Matt Cutts did Not Just Kill Another SEO Kitten.” His is a voice of reason in a field that tends to defensively vilify Google’s attempts to serve up only quality content.

The latest dustup began in the Google forums, where one poster asked about press release companies that only push their stories to “legitimate” (quality content) sites. Google’s Matt Cutts (probably unintentionally) stirred things up with his simple statement: “Note: I wouldn’t expect links form press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.” Hyperbole ensued.

Many in the SEO community took those words to mean that Google will now ignore all links in every press release it encounters, and were quite perturbed. Writer and SEO veteran Alan Bleiweiss takes the alarmists to task, and it is entertaining to read. I’m more interested, though, in his comments on press releases. After acknowledging the wealth of garbage that is now often distributed as “press releases,” he wrote:

“REAL press releases, that communicate TRULY time sensitive newsworthy information, have, and always will be a valuable means of spreading information that deserves to be spread. REAL press releases don’t get written purely for the links. REAL press releases are designed to communicate with legitimate news people. REAL press releases are designed to let others know valid updated information.

“And a well-crafted press release, targeting truly accurate niche recipients can lead to legitimate journalists, bloggers and social media influencers contacting a site’s owners, or doing their own write-up on the subject, and potentially even generating their own links.

“So from a sustainable SEO perspective, press releases are STILL an SEO best practice recommendation. As part of a comprehensive marketing solution that is vital to providing multiple layers of direct and indirect signals for SEO purposes. But ONLY when those releases are executed properly.”

It is good to see such reasonable sentiments from someone in the search engine optimization field. Will Bleiweiss succeed in talking sense into his colleagues?

Cynthia Murrell, January 15, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Relevance Plagues SEO Pros

December 25, 2012

The future of search through SEO sunglasses has been revealed, we learn in “Online Business Expert Predicts Next Search Engine Change Will Be Equivalency Score” at PRWeb. The press release recounts a recent interview with Steve Fitzpatrick from DigitalDomination.com in which the online business consultant explains what he believes will be the next big challenge for players in the search engine optimization game. The press release states:

“Mr. Fitzpatrick revealed [that] since 2010, Google Trends shows that search engine optimisation interest has flat-lined, reaching saturation point.”

That’s great news, at least for those of us concerned with relevancy. Finally! However, for those who make a living or build their businesses by gaming search engine results, this turn of events could spell trouble. The write-up quotes Fitzpatrick:

“Now most commercial business interests are heavily contested in the organic search results, with very little separating the top competitors for the number one spot. . . . This means that if the top four commercial search results are equivalent in nature, Google will show them in a different random order each time the results appear. So no one business will have a monopoly at position number one. A change like this will provide challenges to business and SEO professionals who are ill equipped to deal with them.”

Fitzpatrick’s advice, naturally, is to turn to his company for help navigating these choppy waters. To which I submit this caveat—businesses who have focused on supplying honestly helpful information, rather than on gaming the search engine, never entered those waters in the first place. Google is constantly revising their algorithm to better serve good information to its users. Isn’t it time to realize that the entire SEO field is destined for obsolescence?

Cynthia Murrell, December 25, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

HP Autonomy and SEO

December 18, 2012

Online Media Daily recently reported on the use of Autonomy’s Optimost Campaign platform by Omnicom’s search division, Resolution Media, in the article, “Resolution Media Gains Autonomy, May Extend New Search Platform to All Omnicom Clients.”

According to the article, Hewlett Packard and Omnicom have been working together for years and in February 2009 Omnicom took over HP’s marketing efforts. Since Autonomy was acquired by HP last year, the company is incorporating its SEM campaign with the Optimost platform. This technology has been found to improve cost per clicks and conversion rates.

The article states:

“A case study with Braun Corp. earlier this year documented improved SEM returns, based on Autonomy’s search platform. The campaign generated a 42% increase in conversions, 64% decrease in year-over-year cost-per-acquisition, and 17% decrease in year-over-year cost-per-click. Other Autonomy customers include Avis, Discover Financial, Hilton Hotels, Macy’s and Target.

HP’s Software business includes two units: Autonomy and the legacy HP software business. Autonomy, which HP acquired in October 2011, focuses on supporting a product suite, rather than marketing services. Rivals IBM and Adobe support clients through software and Web-based products, but also a full suite of services.”

Interesting approach from the struggling HP which seems to be moving from its comfort zone into some new territories. How will the HP way match up with the SEO way?

Jasmine Ashton, December 18, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Government Needs to Prioritize SEO

November 18, 2012

Search Engine Watch recently reported on a federal government initiative to consolidate government domains, websites, and databases in the article, “Government SEO is Broken.”

According to the article, there could be one major hinderance to this operation. The United States government is not taking SEO into account when executing this plan. Since the federal digital presence currently includes more than 1,400 domains and 11,000 websites run by 56 agencies, consolidating is certainly necessary. However, it is also important that the government consider the daunting task of employees needing to search for information in that mess.

The article states:

“Each negative or frustrating online experience contributes to the public perception that government is too large, unresponsive, and indifferent to the needs of its diverse set of stakeholders.

But what if users were able to quickly and easily connect to government directly from the search engines with a minimum of clicks? Instead of visiting a government agency home page, navigating the site, and finally finding the information they need? What if agency activities and perspectives were highly visible and above private sector sites in the search results?”

The fact that government agencies are not number one on search engines like Google and Bing is ridiculous. The federal government needs to take advantage of the preferential treatment it receives by ranking algorithms and make search a priority.

Jasmine Ashton, November 18, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com

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