Tag Archives: search engine optimization

5 SEO Trends To Stop Talking About (and Why)

If you hear your ‘SEO specialist’ touting any of these trends like it’s 2012, find a new one—fast.

search engine optimization: the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. —Google (so meta!)

It’s 2014, and SEO is still not dead. Its death has been declared time and time again, but the truth is, it will never go away. It will evolve, it will mutate, it will become unrecognizable to many—but it won’t die until search engines do.

SEO firms, however, have and do fade away as they fail to update their toolbox of techniques. What worked in 1997 won’t work today. Hell, what worked in 2012 won’t work today. If you manage an online presence with the help of an SEO partner, it’s good to know how to spot a bad one.

So in typical linkbait form, here are 5 SEO trends we should all stop talking about—or at least change in our conversations. If your SEO specialist keeps dropping these buzzwords and phrases like it’s still 2013… It’s time to move on.

#5. Pleasing the Google-bots.

From the humble beginnings of the SEO industry, two camps emerged: black hat and white hat. For the unfamiliar, black-hat techniques are meant to exploit search engine algorithms, delivering results that might seem impressive but are all-too-often busted by the next algorithm update. The rewards are short-term at best, and devastating at worst.

It’s easy to laugh at black-hat techniques with the advantage of retrospect. Oh, keyword-spammy page footers! Oh, link farms! Oh, Anglo Rank! But big websites are still being penalized by Google’s police force for engaging in shady link-building tactics. If you want to know more about that, ask Rap Genius. They’ve just recovered from a hefty penalty that cost them 80% of their traffic for eleven days. Even major retailers like J.C. Penney have faced “manual action” that Google has taken against them.

White hat techniques, on the other hand, are generally considered to be ethical practices founded on sound marketing principles. It might take more investment upfront, but the results are geared toward the long term. These strategies put the customer first — not the Google-bots.

The fact of the matter is, your primary focus should always be your customers. What you’re doing on your website (and off) should never detract from your customers’ experience or perception of your brand. Stuffing your content full of keywords and doing other things “to please the Google-bots” will only alienate your audience and raise your potential for a hefty penalty. Don’t let a rogue black-hatter trick you with get-clicks-quick schemes!

Photo by Dinkum

#4. Mobile websites.

Hey guys, did you know mobile is the future?! If you don’t have a mobile website, you’re done for!

Just kidding… kind of. Though if you don’t understand the impact mobile devices have had on the way we read, watch, talk, shop—you know, live—well, I’m not sure anyone can explain it to you. Ol’ Steve Jobs really changed everything with the iPhone, you know?

Speaking of the legendary visionary, here’s an interesting factoid: He really didn’t like Flash. He even wrote a lengthy treatise about it in 2010. The fact that Apple refused to support Flash on any of its devices really dealt a blow to Adobe’s widely-used platform. So much so, that even Adobe says Apple killed Flash.

So Flash didn’t really make it to mobile, which was too bad for all the companies that invested lots of time and money into creating dynamic content in Flash for their websites.

For this and other reasons, the differences between coding for websites and mobile sites led most companies to adopt a two-website strategy: one with a mobile domain (mobile.something.com) and one for desktops. This strategy was meant to optimize customer experience, though most of us know that the mobile versions were often stripped-down to the point of being restrictive. Sure, it helped with speed and smaller screens, but shouldn’t there be a better way?

Yep. It’s called responsive design, and if you’re not investing in it, it could be costing you.

Responsive or adaptive design eliminates the need for multiple websites, which is great for several reasons:

  • The “mobile or desktop” paradigm is outdated; we now have tablets and devices of all sorts and sizes.
  • Responsive web design will react to the needs of the viewer, no matter what device or browser they’re using. Your customers get the same great branding experience, every time they visit your site.
  • Google now penalizes duplicate content—so having two websites with the same content is a liability.
  • Google also clarified its stance on mobile website strategies and search results, with strong support for responsive design.
  • Maintaining one site (and one SEO profile) is cheaper, plus it’s easier to push out updates when you only have to do it once!

Ditch the separate mobile site and start thinking about responsive web design. When your SEO guy says “mobile-friendly,” make sure he means “responsive.” And as for Flash… Better to use HTML5 instead.

Photo by Nino Barbieri

#3. Cloned geo-targeted pages.

There is no better example of “pleasing the Google-bots” than creating cloned geo-targeted service pages. They’re essentially carbon-copies of a business’s services with localized keywords thrown in. These pages don’t offer anything new to the customer, and can actually be downright confusing (wait—does this business even have an office here?).

Now understand me: this is different from redirecting users with geo-location techniques based on the user’s location. As long as you aren’t cloaking your techniques, Google won’t give it a second thought. It’s also good practice to create geo-targeted pages that feature unique information about each store location—address, hours, great employees, service awards, you name it. That’s valuable for your customers.

No, what I’m talking about is Some Guy’s Plumbing Service hosting a bunch of pages that look like this:

And no matter which one you read, the message is the same: “If you need [plumbing in CITY, STATE], call Some Guy’s Plumbing Service. We offer all the [plumbing in CITY, STATE] services you need!” Except for about 300 more words. Guess what that looks like to customers and search engines? You got it: straight-up spam.

For businesses who serve a radius-area, there are ways to create great geo-targeted pages. But it takes a little more work than saying to your SEO, “Write 25 new pages, one for each city on this list.” You’re going to have to provide some information and make some basic strategy decisions. If your SEO isn’t already asking questions… Prepare for duplicate content and a potential penalty.

Lest you think I’m blowing smoke, here are a few articles about engaging ways to optimize for [your keyword in CITY, STATE].

Photo by Marcial4

#2. You’ve gotta be on Pinterest!

Ahh, Pinterest. The popular blogging platform has captured the hearts and screens of Hispanic & white females in the 18-64 age bracket. Turns out, that’s a pretty big chunk of the US market in general, so it’s no surprise that trendspotters are shouting “Land ho!” while pointing to the craft & recipe paradise.

But what do the numbers really mean? Should articles like this determine your business’s social media strategy for the new year? Well, that depends. Whether you’re considering Pinterest or any social networking/blogging site, first ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Who’s using the site? If your target market isn’t actively using the site, don’t bother. There are so many sites to choose from, there’s bound to be one that closer aligns with your target audience. You can’t (successfully) use them all, so pick the ones that give you the best odds of reaching your base.
  • What are they doing there? Just as important as who is there is what they’re doing. Each social site has its own culture and “code of conduct” which unsavvy businesses can easily break. Look at tumblr and Reddit, for example. Users on tumblr (a very visual platform) share images and GIFs, using tags to build tight-knit fandoms and communities. On Reddit, it’s all about ideas, as subject-focused subreddits delve deep with long-reads and discussions. If your content doesn’t play by the rules, it’s not going anywhere. It’s important to understand user behavior on any network, and Pinterest is no exception.
  • Can I commit to creating/curating content on this network? So you know your audience is there. You know the types of content they like. Before you throw another social account into your marketing mix, consider — Do you have the time and energy to fully engage for the long haul? Social network success depends on cultivating relationships with fans, customers, and the curious. You can’t repin a few photos and call it a day. Whether you’re curating content from other users or crafting your own, it will take time and consideration to do it right.
  • What will I get out of it? Social media is notorious for being difficult to measure in terms of ROI. If you’re looking for a discrete effect on your bottom line, you’re going in with the wrong attitude. Social media is about managing your brand and connecting with customers—being part of the conversation. There are excellent examples of businesses reaching out on Twitter and Facebook, and brand success stories on nearly every social network.

If you can find the right site and mix of content, you’re going to increase your share of mind with the people who matter most. Could that site be Pinterest? Maybe. But if the above questions don’t point in that direction, well, tell your SEO specialist that you’re “not Pinterested.”

Photo by Martinas Angel

#1. Content is King.

We’ve known this phrase was going to be problematic as soon as it started catching on. Having trouble in the SERPs? No problem! Just get some content on your low-performing pages and watch the traffic roll in. People love content. Content is valuable.

Fast forward to where we are now, and it’s even more obvious that this strategy isn’t going to work forever. People’s web browsing habits have made it clear that quality wins over quantity, every time. The SEO’s rallying cry of “More content!” ignores a vital fact: Content is not inherently valuable, because “content” isn’t actually a thing at all.

No, really. “Content” is one of those words that doesn’t actually mean anything (like “concept” or “value”) until you fill it in. It’s defined as “something contained.” The contents of a book. The contents of an unopened box. The contents of your stomach. Sure, you could put anything in there—but they don’t all guarantee the same results.

And that’s what it’s all about: results. Your content strategy should be driven by business goals and the desired results. It should have purpose. Content for the sake of content is empty and pointless. It fulfills no promise. Content created with a goal—to inform, to persuade, to entertain—is more likely to use vision, strategy, and effort to attain that goal. To fulfill its promise.

There are four main types of content, and the business who wields them wisely will easily pull ahead of the pack. Sharing information effectively in right type (whether it’s text, audio, image, or video) will ‘make’ your message. Ineffective content will break it. Therefore, content should never be your king… It should be your messenger.

This is the logical conclusion of all the previous points I’ve mentioned. Put them all together, and it becomes clear that good content:

  • Puts the customer first, not the Google-bots
  • Is shaped by website design and the customer’s user experience
  • Provides real value, delivers on its promises, and is not empty or repetitive
  • Is accessible and shareable on the sites that matter most to your customers

And the best part of all? This is the kind of content Google—and your customers—will always be looking for.

Thanks for reading my article! If you enjoyed it or found it useful, please consider sharing it on your favorite social networks. You can also find me on Google+ and my music blog, ExplorersTM. Keep calm and optimize on. ~Alice

Written by

I’m Alice. Follow me for updates from ExplorersTM… sometimes.

Rap Genius Traffic Has Been Destroyed!

Traffic to a site called Rap Genius remains low after it was nuked by Google for unannounced violations last week.

(Some thoughts on this below the chart…)

1. It’s pretty crazy that Google can just do this to a company. How is this legal? Google is so essential to so many companies, and yet it’s virtually unregulated and can do what it wants to decimate a company. Rap Genius had better have been committing some seriously shady SEO tricks to get this sort of a punishment. Otherwise, this seems unfair.

2. This has to scare the crap out of Andreessen Horowitz which invested $15 million in Rap Genius. It’s not just that Google has nuked Rap Genius. Its Google rank will come back in time if it’s on good behavior. It’s the fact that Google can flip a switch and destroy Rap Genius. As Danny Sullivan noted when the Rap Genius mess kicked up, “it’s probably an incredibly dumb business model to be doing a lyrics site that hopes for Google traffic in a time when Google, like Bing, is moving toward providing direct answers. Lyrics, to my understanding, often have to be licensed. That makes them a candidate for Google to license directly and provide as direct answers.”

3. The Rap Genius guys like to use foul language, so let’s put this in terms they’ll understand: They need to be their own b**ch. This comes from Fred Wilson talking about leaning on Facebook and Google for traffic: “SEO and Facebook timeline integration is ‘best practice’ on the Internet. You should do both. They can be great free acquisition channels. But they are not great retention channels. Because easy come easy go. Be your own b**ch.” In other words, don’t rely on someone else’s platform, build your own.


Growww #2: The traffic source we all love, but hate.

Basic growth tips for your online presence (Growww Series — Part 2 of 10)

From the first time that you create a website or blog and you install an analytics program, you’re most likely hooked on the practice of tracking your site visitors. Seeing where your site visitors are located, how they arrived to your site, what pages they visited, and how long they stayed on your site is fun and addictive – especially if you are using one of the many “real-time” analytics programs.

Case: Melissa Muffintop, Owner of the Muffintop Bakery

Thanks creativecommons.org!

Melissa was a 40-something year old business owner who took her first leap into the world of e-commerce. She hired a top-tier web design firm (her 13-year old cousin’s best friend) that launched her site using http://getfwd.com/ (the best open-source e-commerce platform).

A few days later…

Melissa Muffintop:Oh my goodness! Over one-thousand people have already visited my site and I just launched! I must have the best muffins ever!”

“China! India! Puerto Rico! I’m worldwide!”

Unfortunately for Miss Muffintop, all of her “people” were all bots…but she did not know until it was too late. Not even the top-tier web design firm with 13 years of experience was able to foresee the effects of this.

Her excitement made her oblivious to the fact that none of the visitors actually purchased muffins from her site. She decided to get a loan from the loan sharks to prepare her infrastructure for these massive worldwide orders that she had envisioned.

The rest was history…

As much fun as it is to track visitors, analytics data should not be viewed as being completely accurate. In most cases, the most accurate statistics will come directly from the server, and even those stats are not 100%. In general, there are three types of traffic covered in your typical program.

The Three Standard Types of Traffic Data

The analytics program that most new website owners start off with is Google Analytics, because it’s well known, fairly sophisticated, and free to use. Google Analytics classifies all traffic as originating from one of three primary sources: search, referral, and direct, so your visitors found your site via a search result, were referred to your site from a link on another site, or typed your URL in the address bar (or returned via a bookmark).

Search Traffic – This is the entire reason for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts – we want people to be able to find our sites when they search relevant keywords. These new visitors discover our sites and are exposed to the products and services that we offer.

Referral Traffic Visitors who click on a link in a tweet, a Facebook post, or a link on another website – perhaps from a review of your site, are counted as referrals in Google Analytics. These referrals tend to results from social media activity, online campaigns, reviews, and links from guest posts.

The links from both of these sources often have tags that associate them to particular campaigns which can provide the website owner with valuable information as to the effectiveness of their online advertising and social media efforts.

Direct Traffic – When a URL is typed into the browser address bar or a bookmark is clicked, the result is direct traffic. The importance of this category of traffic is often overlooked in the rush to attract new visitors. Direct visitors are important because they are either:

· Returning visitors who have returned on their own – with no invitation and no effort to get them to revisit expended. These visitors thought enough about your site the first time to want to come back.

· New visitors, who by typing your URL into the address bar, are responding to offline advertising. They saw a flyer, a press release or a news item, heard your web address on the radio or a podcast, or learned of your site via word of mouth, which prompted them to visit your site.

So, why is “direct” my #1 traffic source month after month? Make it stop!

One of the major problems with all tools is that too often, unidentifiable traffic results are forced into the “direct” category because the analytics program cannot determine the traffic’s true source. It can be a huge hindrance for growth, because far too often,a large portion of your sales, subscribers, and profitable traffic come from this unknown “direct” source. There are dozens of contributors, most commonly:

· Improper installation of the tracking code

· Too many tracking / analytics scripts running on the same page

· Link shortening

· Improper UTM structure

· Just because

Just as it is generally much more expensive to attract a new customer as it is to retain an old one, getting repeat visitors or visitors who purposefully seek out your site are analytics that are worth tracking. Unfortunately, the issues mentioned earlier often obscure this very important traffic measure.

So, what can you do to take action?

1) Add UTM tags to your links where possible to identify the sources amongst yourself. UTM tags allow the user to send more data to the analytics program, in hopes for better tracking:


2) Place your analytics code near the top of your page

By default, most JavaScript is placed near the bottom of the page, to allow the visual elements to load faster. Unfortunately, when your analytics script loads last (if at all), you tend to lose or corrupt a large amount of data.

3) Stop using so many tracking programs!

If you feel that one is not working, replace it with another. Too many scripts attempting to pull the same information lead to a bunch of ambiguous data.

4) Use DNS Prefetching on your tracking scripts:

Since many tools are from third parties and their scripts are hosted on a remote location, this will allow quick access and enhance loading times for these scripts. You can read more about this here: http://davidwalsh.name/dns-prefetching

5) Use a real analytics program

Although Google Analytics allows you to track a portion of your user data in depth, there’s a lot more to it. I recommend one of the following:

a. MixPanel (http://mixpanel.com)

b. KissMetrics (http://kissmetrics.com)

c. StatCounter (http://statcounter.com)

Even with all of the above, you must remember that a large majority of the time, your visitors will not only be influenced by one traffic source, but by many. A visitor may visit your site via search, and return when you hit them with a retargeting campaign from another site, or they may run across your site again by viewing an article on a related site.

Many companies, including Google have realized this and are starting to enhance cater to the “multi-channel” funnels in attempt to give a better look on how your users are really being influenced across the web.

R.I.P. Melissa Muffintop

Written by

Growth Hacker / Web {Designer | Developer} / {Internet Marketer | SEO Specialist} / {Fitness | MMA} Junkie / Serial Entrepreneur http://karoshi.io

Published September 19, 2013


GROWTH HACKING – Rap Genius Uses Questionable Search Engine Optimization Techniques In Order To Reach High Rankings in Google Search Engines!

Recently the website called Rap Genius had to apologize for their use of shady SEO tactics that boosted their Google ranking results. The issue is so big that the head of Google’s search spam team, Matt Cutts, said that he and his team are aware of it and will be looking into the strange tactics.


Rap Genius’s practices most likely have been followed by other bloggers, but their tactics were recently ousted by the tech entrepreneur John Marbach. Marbach claims he was told by the website’s co-founder, Mahbod Moghadam, to embed a post on Rap Genius with links that would direct users to the new Justin Bieber album. This move resulted in a huge traffic boost for the website.

The open letter from Rap Genius gave a unique and somewhat unprofessional apology. In the blog post, the founders said they clearly “effed up” but that there were other lyric sites that were definitely doing “worse stuff.” They agreed to stop what they were doing, but ask Google to help in the matter. They asked if Google would take a “closer look” into how the lyric searching is set up and try to make some changes that would help search results for people looking for lyrics. Whether any real improvements are needed is up for debate.

This type of SEO manipulation is also known as “growth hacking.” “Growth Hacking” is most used by blog startups looking to boost their search engine rankings.

What is the New SEO? Pubcon 2013 Takeaways

You’re probably thinking “Great… ‘New SEO’, just what we need, another meaningless marketing buzzword.”

I get it. You’re a seasoned blackhat link-building ninja on the bleeding-edge of semantic analysis. Your domains are aged, you’re immune to caffeine, you’ve never been to Florida. You’re panda-proof, penguin-safe, resilient. “There’s nothing new in SEO,” you reassure yourself, “It’s all keywords, rankings, anchor-text, and backlinks. An XRumer blast here, a little ScrapeBox there, mix in a few link wheels, spun blog posts, fake Google +1’s. SEO mannnnnnn… I got this.”

Search Engine Optimization is difficult to write about; a quickly moving target, often misunderstood, constantly in a state of flux. We’ve got white-hats, black-hats, grey-hats, and blue-hats, and if that’s not confusing enough, 2013 was a particularly volatile year, with Google staging a full-on offensive leaving many to proclaim “SEO is Dead”.

I just spent the past week at PubCon with some of the brightest minds in search and I can assure you, SEO is doing fine – just don’t count on Google being the most transparent business partner.

All of this got me thinking, if SEO is dead as we know it, what exactly is the new SEO and how can we start taking advantage of it today?

Use Schema.org Semantic Markup In Your Content

In the modern marketing environment you need amazing content to succeed; content that provides value, gets people’s attention, makes them stop and think. Publishing great text on the web used to be enough, but with the adoption of semantic web protocols like RDFa, JSON-LD, microdata, microformats, and schema.org, the Internet is transforming from a web of linked pages into a web of linked concepts, or as some like to say “From strings to things”. Semantic markup helps Google and “the machines” better understand your content.

If you’re not doing so already, go to schema.org, check out the schemas, and start using semantic metadata to enhance your content. Schemas allow you to wrap your unstructured content in tags that signify the semantic meaning of the content they contain. Semantic metadata is added directly to HTML using attributes. You can use schema today to markup events, people, reviews, products, local businesses, and much more. Google will index this data and reward you with enhanced SERP listings, wider distribution, and potentially increased keyword rankings.

Keep an eye on schema.org going forward as new content types are added. If you need help getting started, check out this awesome Schema Creator tool from Raven Tools. The recent Google hummingbird update has made semantic search a reality, effecting 90% of all queries. In the coming months features like persistent context, computed query results, and serendipitous search will become increasingly apparent.

*As a caveat, only use schema.org markup where your content truly fits a specific content type. There is such a thing as “over-optimization” and you may be penalized for it.

Google+ Is Not A Social Network

You’ve heard it’s a ghost town; no one hangs out there except photographers, internet artist types, eccentrics, Robert Scoble – the lonely fringe of the Interwebs. You may log on every once-in-a-while to discover a notification that you have new followers, “How the hell? Who are these people?!?”

Many people think of Google+ as a social network like Facebook or Twitter. It’s easy to mistake it for one, but if you dig deeper you’ll realize that Google+ is the social spine powering all of Google’s services. Google+ is Google.

Here’s why Google+ matters, Google Glass jokes aside. Google is forcing value on Google+ by rewarding publishers with social signals, traffic, and faster indexing. That’s right folks, a post shared on Google+ will be indexed by the Google search engine within 6 seconds. How’s that for real-time SEO?

It gets even better. Although Google claims there’s no SEO benefit from a Google +1 or a Google+ share, we know better than to trust what Matt Cutts tells us. Numerous studies have shown Google +1’s and other social signals from Google have a direct correlation with increased search engine traffic and rankings.

Google+ recently reported 540 Million active users worldwide; that’s a pretty active ghost-town if you ask me. Regardless of your opinion of Google the company or Google+ the service, using Google+ as a channel for social signaling, content distribution, and traffic is a requirement going forward. Check out the Google+ API for more detailed integration instructions.

People Are The New Links

Back before people openly identified themselves online the only relationships that could be easily mapped were hyperlinks between pages. Web pages were the atomic units of the web, everything beneath that level could be considered an unstructured or semi-structured resource. Hyperlinks became the main signal for search engine relevance with PageRank and the distribution of backlink anchor-text powering the SERP rankings for all queries.

Facebook was the first large-scale consumer web service to enforce true identity online by requiring users to authenticate with an official University email address. Then along came Twitter, and OAuth, FullContact, and now Google+. Along with concepts like recipes, businesses, and products, search engines now identify people. Google is using its concept of a person to attach a semantic link between authors and the content they publish across the web, resulting in a new ranking factor called Author Rank, which many believe will soon be more important than PageRank.

To take advantage of this today you’ve got a few options. As an author you create a Google+ profile and link to this profile from every site you publish on using the tag rel=”author”. Then, through your “about” page on Google+, you can reference the domains you publish to, completing the Google+ authorship link.

As a publisher you’re going to create a Google+ page for your site or business, use the rel=”publisher” tag to link to your Google+ page from your domain, and finally, like authorship, add a link to your domain from your Google+ page to complete the link.

If you’re a publisher or business with multiple authors underneath your umbrella the next step would be to implement authorship across all content on your site so that individual authors are associated with the content the create. This way, you can benefit from the added Author Rank your writers bring to the table.

Environmental Linking

This one took me a few seconds to grok, but once it sunk in, it made a ton of sense. Environmental linking is as simple as including 3 to 5 (or more based on the length of your content) natural links to relevant sources referenced within your content. Is this just a complicated way of saying “Include external hyperlinks within your copy.”? Kind of.

But it’s more than that. We all know we should be linking to other sites when our content references a concept. That’s the beauty of hypertext and the web; you can instantly be transported to a new resource at the click of a link, and that relationship is logged in the link graph. But how often do we actually do it? I find myself being more concerned with internal linking and linking to my own sites rather than giving my precious link juice away for free.

The problem is if you hoard your links for yourself, your link profile ends up looking highly unnatural. Environmental linking obfuscates your links by including them within content, embedded along side contextually relevant links. If you think about it from the perspective of the link graph, you’re associating your site and content with the content you link to, feeding topic relevancy signals to search engines in the process.

After you write your content, as you scan through it, look for opportunities to use hyperlinks to your advantage. Your content will look a little bit more like a link-rich Wikipedia article and that’s a good thing (ever wonder why Wikipedia ranks for so many terms?)

Open Graph, Twitter Cards, and Google+ Markup

Similar to schema.org, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks provide special metadata for you to include within your markup. Reference the documentation for Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Cards, and the Google+ API for specific implementation details.

It’s always a good idea to play nicely with social networks and feed them the yummy meta-data that they crave. KnowEm has put out an awesome social media optimizer tool to help you validate your social network metadata. Use this tool to verify that you’ve correctly implemented this code on your site.

Disavow Backlinks

There are a few scenarios that would lead you down this path. The obvious one is that you’ve received a penalty from Google and you have no choice. I’ve been reluctant to use the Google and Bing disavow link tools for some time, thinking that by using them I was somehow raising my hand and saying, “Hey Google, hey Bing, I broke the rules, but I’m a good boy now. Please don’t make your punishment too severe.”

After some thought and talking to experts with way more experience using these tools I’ve come to realize that for the right site, disavow can be a powerful SEO tool.

Say you have a client and this “client” paid for some not-so-legitimate back links a few years back. Or worse, say your client was a full-on link-buying bandit, ala. JC Penney, shelling out millions of dollars for paid links. Either way, it doesn’t matter how you got them, if you bought them for yourself, or if a competing SEO is trying get you de-indexed using negative SEO. If this is your lot in life, disavow is your friend.

The nitty-gritty of disavow involves auditing a list of all backlinks pointing to your site, an inbound link quality audit. You can start with link data sourced directly from Google and Bing webmaster tools (Bing has recently added new features and more backlink data to their tools, it’s worth checking out).You can also use data from a paid service like Link Detox from Link Research Tools (I really like this tool, they source their backlink data from Moz, MajesticSEO, and ahrefs). You’ll use this data to weed-out a list of the bad links you’ll reporting to Google and Bing through their respective webmaster tools.

Link-Building Isn’t Dead

If someone tells you link building is dead, ask them for some data to back it up. A more accurate statement would be “illegitimate link building is dead”. The key is to always cultivate and maintain a natural link profile and the easiest way to do that is to stop buying links and start earning them.

Easier said than you done you say? Not possible? Oh, well it is, and many people much smarter and more creative than me have turned organic, non-paid link building into an art form.

I probably shouldn’t say this, as it goes against all the advice you’ll hear from the most respected names in the SEO industry, but you can still buy backlinks, and that can still work as a strategy (I’m not recommending you do this). Just like financial investing, SEO is all about risk management. Backlinks and anchor text remain a major search ranking factor and they can still be manipulated, in a natural looking way, to increase your ranking and traffic, although I’d argue this is a short-term, high-risk strategy that is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off. Are you smarter than the army of PHDs at Google? All the power too you.

Speed Is Everything

No one likes a slow website, especially mobile users, especially Google. This SEO tactic is as old as search engines and it remains more true today than ever. In terms of user experience, engagement, bounce-rate reduction, and how Google views your site, speed is unquestionably a major factor.

80% of performance optimizations happen on the client-side, which means you need to work with a front-end developer who can audit, streamline, and optimize the delivery of your site’s images, CSS, and JavaScript assets. There’s too much to go into in this post, here are a few key points to point you in the right direction:

  • Install Google modPagespeed on your server.
  • Optimize image file size using compression and new formats like WebP.
  • Setup caching within your CMS (ie. w3 total cache or wp-super-cache in WordPress).
  • Use tools like Pingdom Tools, WebPageTest.org, GTmetrix, and Google Pagespeed tool to benchmark you website performance.
  • Use a CDN to host static assets like CSS, JavaScript, and images.
  • Optimize SQL queries on the backend.
  • If you’re using PHP, activate APC opcode cache on your server.
  • Host your DNS records using a robust, distributed provider such as CloudFlare, Amazon Route53, etc.
  • Setup uptime mointoring with a tool like Pingdom to track the speed and uptime of your site over time.
  • And please don’t host your beautiful website on a commodity web host (ie. Dreamhost, Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, etc). You’re better than that.


  1. Use schema.org semantic markup for things link events, people, locations, businesses, reviews, etc.
  2. Use Google+ for quick indexing, social signals, and traffic. Reference the Google+ API docs for tighter integrations.
  3. Link your content to your Google+ pages using rel=”author” and rel=”publisher”.
  4. Use environmental linking within your content, both internal and external to your site, to create a more natural looking link profile.
  5. Implement code for Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Card, Google+ Integration, and other social networking metadata tags.
  6. Use the disavow link tool along with backlink data pulled from SEO tools to identify and disavow any negative or low quality backlinks. Communicate directly with Google and Bing using webmaster tools.
  7. Links will always remain an indicator of relevance in search engine ranking algorithms. The key is to cultivate and maintain a natural backlink profile.
  8. A faster loading website leads to an enhanced user-experience, longer time on site, a lower bounce rate, and increased engagement. Both Google and your users will reward you for increasing your site’s performance.

I hope you found this post useful. Follow me on Twitter @devevangelist for web development and internet marketing content curated daily. Thanks for reading!

Written by

Web Developer, Marketer, Founder of @WPGrid and @InboundIQ, Editor for @FounderCode, Curator for @StartupDigest, @devevangelist on Twitter.


The real problem with the fall of Rap Genius


By L. Rhodes on December 28, 2013 Email


You may have already heard what happened to Rap Genius last week. A Web developer caught the lyrics analysis site in an elaborate scheme to ensure that links to its pages topped the Google results for rap and pop lyrics searches. To penalize the site for its shady dealings, Google knocked it far down in the rankings, even in searches for “rap genius.”

Rap Genius responded with the sort of Janus-faced apology that’s been standard operating procedure on the Internet in 2013: Yes, we did something wrong, but most of our competitors are doing it, too. The apologetic half would sound far more genuine were it not paired with a rationalization. The rationalization would make for a pretty reasonable point had it come from just about anyone else.

With news sites splitting their time between enjoying Rap Genius’ comeuppance and speculating on whether the move will kill them outright, an aspect of the story that’s taken largely for granted is Google’s Zeus-like power to strike an offending site with lightning.

That isn’t to say that Rap Genius was in the right, or that Google abused its power in taking the site down a few notches. If a site wants the benefits of search visibility, it should be prepared to play by the rules of search providers. If search providers want sites to obey their rules, they have to be prepared to penalize those that don’t. Rather, the problem is with the online market, and the way in which we’ve allowed a few powerful services to grow into gatekeepers for the rest of the Internet.

To understand why that’s the case, it’s important to acknowledge that one of the more enduring difficulties created by digital media is the way in which it conceals. That leads to a number of problems variously termed “visibility” or “discoverability,” but which can be illustrated by imagining that you’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, looking for something to read. Because print magazines are physical objects, each one asserts its own presence simply by virtue of the space it occupies. One may get buried under the others, or slip behind a chair, but it should be easy to sort through them to find one that interests you.

Google Chrome
Google Chrome (Photo credit: thms.nl)

What happens, though, when you copy those magazines into the virtual space of a tablet or smartphone? Since they no longer take up a discernible physical space, there’s no obvious way to sort through them—unless, that is, someone builds one. Without the reader app on your device, it would be significantly more difficult to find the magazine you want; without some basic menu functions, you’d be unable to access them at all.

Most of the interfaces we deal with on digital platforms are just that: solutions for sorting information in a way that makes the concealed accessible to humans. Menus work well enough when you’re dealing with a dozen magazines or so, but when you’re dealing with millions of pages, you need a more powerful way to sort and index all that information.

That’s where search engines step in. They’ve long since proven themselves as an effective way of navigating the wealth of sites and pages on an ever-growing network, but they’ve bred a reliance from which even the sharing economy of social media has failed to wean us. To an unsettling degree, we’re dependent on search, and more and more over the last 25 years, that’s meant a dependence on a single search provider.

Before Google achieved dominance, there were dozens of options—like Lycos, Infoseek, and the recently departed Altavista—each delivering a slightly different view of the Web. Some of the early contenders are still around, but none comes close to the market share held by Google. In 2013, it handled slightly more than two-thirds of the searches conducted on the Web. Even sharing search results between them, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing only managed about 11 percent and 17 percent respectively, with everyone else netting single-digits or a fraction of a percent.

Google’s gotten there by maintaining a nimble and reliable search algorithm, which might make this seem like an example of fair competition producing a clear winner. That’s an immense amount of power to concentrate in a single company, though, and it has consequences for how the Web as a whole operates.

One consequence is what we’ve seen happen with Rap Genius: When Google turns against a site, traffic drops off precipitously. While that may be an inducement to Rap Genius’ competitors to tread carefully when it comes to creative strategies, it’s also a reminder of why they game Google in the first place. For most consumers, searching means Googling, and that means commercial sites must fight for the same real estate: the first page of Google results for relevant keyword searches.

The tactics for achieving that goal have spawned a niche industry around Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and modern SEO is concentrated almost wholly on keeping up with Google. Competition is so fierce that Google periodically changes how it ranks links in order to keep sites from voluntarily deforming their pages to gain an SEO advantage. Otherwise, many sites would build pages that play better to Google’s algorithm than they do to their human audiences. That would be bad for audiences, bad for the sites that produce worthwhile material, and bad for Google since its reputation depends on its ability to connect the two.

With a more balanced market—one where Google’s market share was balanced against at least two or three near equals—there would be less incentive for sites to lean so heavily on Google-specific SEO practices. That might not stop bad faith players like Rap Genius from trying to game the system, but it would mean that fewer reputable sites would feel that their survival depends on how well they play Google’s game.

The tricky part is getting to that point. We can cross our fingers and hope that a few competitors build search engines and marketing campaigns capable of putting a dent in Google’s hegemony over the search market. In the meantime, though, we may be better served by looking for a composite approach that balances our reliance on Google against strategies that open alternate portals into the vast wealth of the digital world.

Photo via Vogelium/Flickr




Own your name on Google

Increase your online visibility, enhance your personal brand, and float to the top of Google search results

As society becomes more connected and more and more things move online, it becomes increasingly difficult to own your name on Google. That said, it is now easier than ever to develop a personal brand and showcase it online, but you have to be able to manage the noise.

When people search for your name online, you want to make sure that you are in control of what shows up, bumping up web pages you want people to see and hiding or “bumping down” pages you’d rather not be associated with. This is commonly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).[Here’s a 32 page document from Google on SEO]

Disclosure: I’m by NO means a personal brand expert or SEO expert,but these are some things I’ve done to own my name on Google.

This is what a Google Search for my name looks like on Incognito Mode (so the search isn’t influenced by my browsing history).

A Google search for my name on Incognito Mode.

8 of the 10 links that appear on the first page, are links of me.

Here’s how I did it

This is by no means the only way to increase your online presence, but if you’re looking for a quick way to get your name to the top of Google’s search results, these 3 things might be worth a try.

Landing Page

My Vizify landing page

A landing page should be one page, where you can direct anyone to, to find out more about you. Its a one stop shop, for everything you on the web.

There are several alternatives out there for creating your own landing page for free, including About.Me, Vizify and others. (You can also create your own website.) About.Me is the most common, but I opted to go with Vizify to create my personal landing page.

Vizify offers a few more robust options and tools than About.Me, and is super easy to set up. I had a personal landing page set up in 10-15 minutes, that gathered what I wanted to showcase of my online presence, all in one place.

Having one link that captures all of your online presence that you want to showcase is extremely powerful.


I started to edit my online social profiles, with my newly created landing page in the links field of Twitter, LinkedIn, and even on my email signature. Consistency is key to both developing your personal brand and increasing your SEO.

The way Google figures out which links to show before others is really complicated, but one thing that it does factor in is how many times a link shows up in related webpages and gets referred to for the particular search term.

This is why consistency is key — having a consistent bio across all of your platforms online and then linking them to your personal landing page, increases your name’s visibility on Google. This naturally helps to boost your links to the top of Google search results.

Increasing Visibility

Now that all the pieces were in place, I got BrandYourself, to increase my visibility on Google. BrandYourself’s free version, allows you to boost the visibility of 3 links on Google.

Once you sign up, you have the option of increasing the visibility of your landing page, and a plethora of social profiles from your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and so many more. Personally, I chose to boost my landing page and LinkedIn, as these were the 2 links I wanted people to see when they Googled my name.

BrandYourself, offers suggestions and tips on how to improve your social profiles, including enhancements you can make. For instance, on LinkedIn, it will recommend adding a profile summary and offer tips as to how to write an effective one.

Once you’ve boosted the links you want, BrandYourself, shows you a list of links that currently are associated with your name. From there you can choose which ones are positive (ones you want to showcase) and which ones are negative (ones you want to bumped down or ones that are not really you). This provides you with more control over your web presence.

So there you have it, my personal experiences and observations in trying to boost my personal brand and owning my name on Google.

What are some things you’ve done to increase your presence on the web?

Shubham Datta is passionate about technology, startups , sports, and investing. He earned a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and is an aspiring CPA at KPMG. You can find out more at www.vizify.com/shubham-datta

Further Reading

7 Steps to Own the Search Results for Your Name

 — Auditing & optimizing search results for your personal brand If you’re online, you have a personal brand. This is a lot like a company’s …

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B.Math from @uwaterloo | aspiring CPA @KPMG | opinions are my own | Follow me @shubham | Let’s Connect: www.bit.ly/Shubham-Datta |e: shubhamdatta@gmail.com