Is your expert link builder worth the trouble?

Don’t buy questionable link building packages, buy good ones

I was just talking with a friend about link building. He’s a small biz chap with a good product and looking to try and grow what he does.

He asked me for my thoughts on link building and it got me thinking of the variety of services that are out there.  The game’s changed, primarily due to the increased perception of risk generated by the chatter and dings delivered by Google.

It’s basically pretty stupid to pay anyone for anything that takes a cheap arse ‘button press’ type approach to link building. 1000 directory submissions, 20 blog posts and 100 forum sigs might seem fairly attractive, especially if it’s packaged up in a £50 one time fee parcel with promises of boosts for your target keyword/s.

I probably sounded almost cliched but I found myself talking to him about  creating genuine conversations and buzz and how that one of the best ways of achieving that might be to build a fully integrated platform that enabled him to do so, which might possibly mean creating the most kick arse resource in the country/region/planet for his  niche.

I pointed him to a resource that’s fairly niche in the home improvement vertical and showed how they were enabling their visitors to ask questions, give feedback, review products and how they could read  product  how to’s with guides and tools and videos and podcasts  along with the usual social box ticking.

There were a few other generalisms but the point of it all was to try and convey the idea that if you set out to make stuff that is  link worthy, as in kick arse useful content that people will want to share on youtube,  niche home improvement/green/save the world/ type communities, blogs, social networks etc, then half of the battle is won.

I guess I was trying to say that even if his end product out there in the real world is top class, well priced, sought after that if his online shop front didn’t do the same then in lots of ways, he’d be wasting his time. Why do people expect inferior shitty boring user experiences to rule their niches?

Socialise get down, let your souuuul hit the waves shake it now, go ladies, it’s a living dream… *

I don’t need to bang a drum that says that the web is becoming increasingly social. Anyone with half ounce of eighteen pence knows this already. The fact is that if you have a bog standard, say nothing space on the web, then by and large people just aren’t going to talk about you.

So I kind of went full circle and said something like your link building company should really be talking to you about these very things. Your brand, your product, your offering. How they’d go about creating something viral perhaps or how they’d use his voice and identity and add genuine value to the places that they engaged with on his behalf. He’s a small business, he can’t be everywhere, but maybe his link building company can give him some stellar advice as to how he can get others to do so. If they can’t then there’s a chance that they are stuck in some time warp creating very little else but shit.

Sure,  you CAN go and buy links of course. You can go out and spam forums, blogs, pr networks with your stupidly crafted laser targetted anchor text and build links  that way. It’ll work too, for a time, but eventually you might get caught up in some mess that see’s your domain Pandarised or Penguinated. I won’t mention Karma. I won’t mention the offence you’ll cause to all and sundry as you pay a bunch of wankers to go pollute the web with your pony “hi nice post” type comments, or your useless kill me now type shitty guest blog posts, or your no one gives a hoot type add no value to the world type press releases as I hope that’s a given.

 

My closing words were something along the line of ask this ‘expert link builder’ what it is they’ll do.Cut through any old bollocks they give like directories, shitty press releases, guest blog posts in spammy networks and instead listen to those who talk about you and your brand and their understanding of what it is that you are trying to achieve. If they can’t understand that then, I  doubt that long term you’ll get any links worth having.  Sure, there may be some short term SERP success; but if it’s built on a house of cards, then it’ll eventually fall. Far better to take a long view and do it properly the first time around.

Thanks for listening.

 *

Old Mahalo Had a Farm SE SEO

Don’t feed the pigs excrement

I was thinking about the recent farmer update and around some of the things said and around how the algo might work and how new or existing farmers might keep on feeding the pigs and chickens.  A side win is that it also helps one to refocus ones efforts through prudent little implementations and tweaks that might help engagement and perhaps insulate from similar future changes. You can never afford to sit on your laurels in someone else’s playground. We might think that this web thing is open and accessible to all, but for today at least Google still is the defacto gateway and for that reason alone any business intent on getting traffic from them, would be foolish not to sit up and take note.

Are the Sheep Happy? Be a good Shepherd

Kates’ post here http://www.distilled.co.uk/blog/ppc/google-bounce-rates-the-untold-story/ reminded me of past considerations of bounce rates and the masses of misunderstandings that were out there around the issue. I’d both heard and read people going on about bounce rates as a quality metric as if it was some one size fits all thing that applied carte blanche to every web page out there. As Kate rightly says different pages have different outcomes. If user A gets what they want, and leaves within a short time, then the less informed amongst us might be forgiven for sniffing and thinking, crap page, hit and run, poor user experience.

Yet of course this is patent nonsense as the page in question might just have exactly what the user wanted, requiring no more time or interaction on the page other than the hitting of the red x or the back button. Some sites  like blogs, often have a one hit wonder effect, be they shared through a social network or arrived at through a search engine query. The user visits with the express intent of reading about that particular issue and that’s that.

They don’t want to go deep and read about a lot of  indirectly related topics as their focus is elsewhere. Old style forum threads in comparison have much lower bounce rates, due in the main to things like pagination or general time difference between search indexing and user visit. Lots of page visits of very small time samples followed by rapid exit might be a signal of a poor user experience. OTOH, it might also be the obverse (photo gallery for example) . The truth is that unless, there’s some like for like standardised similar type site to compare it’s very difficult to determine algorithmically, what is and what isn’t a poor user experience based upon single metrics like bounce or time on site.

There are lots of other examples, that have differing outcomes most of which I’m sure the experienced Internet user has encountered at one point or other, and I’ve kind of veered off the main point a little as this isn’t directly related to the content farm thing; at least not in the totality of reasons why you’d get your arse kicked in this update but it does nonetheless, bring to mind the core of what you should be considering when bringing people to your site and making them happy. Give them a shitty user experience where they don’t want to come back againor begin to rank for everything they want and they’ll start to complain about it. If they complain enough in sufficient numbers, then sooner or later you might just be toast. Thinking about shit like the above, get’s you back on track.

Elsewhere on the farm..

A thread at webmasterworld http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4276279.htm cites the Cutts and Singhail http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/03/the-panda-that-hates-farms/all/1 post on Wired which is full of interesting little nuggets.

From an algo watcher perspective it’s fascinating stuff full of little clues and perhaps the odd red herring, yet much as I snark the truth is that in many ways it’s full of things that should really be common sense to the accomplished Webmasters of this world. A look at the list from Sistrix http://www.sistrix.com/blog/985-google-farmer-update-quest-for-quality.html shows the various winners and losers.

Outside quality raters were involved at the beginning

…we used our standard evaluation system that we’ve developed, where we basically sent out documents to outside testers. Then we asked the raters questions like: “Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card? Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?”

The cynic in me had already covered the ground of hmmn, how many low quality type Q and A sites are out there and how long would it really take a multi billion dollar corporation to task a team of individuals to seek out and identify crap sites, or sites that were clearly just taking the piss a little with ads and stuff like that.  How long would it then take to run the sites through a bunch of  quality raters http://www.beussery.com/blog/index.php/2008/03/new-google-spam-recognition-guide-for-quality-rater-reviewed/ and score them across the various metrics? So this kind of re-inforces that as fact 🙂


Excessive ads were part of the early definition

There was an engineer who came up with a rigorous set of questions, everything from. “Do you consider this site to be authoritative? Would it be okay if this was in a magazine? Does this site have excessive ads?”

If you look at some of the sites involved prior to getting Google thumped, you’ll see that a lot of them were indeed rife with adsense and ads from other networks (some still are) . It wouldn’t be so difficult to have a script look for such instances and then determine a threshold above which, you get issued with a nice pair of lead boots to weigh you down.

The update is algorithmic, not manual

…we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side. And you can really see mathematical reasons.

This part is of course all the more interesting as it more or less says that here are a bunch of sites with lots of quality signals and on the other are sites with not as many.  I’m not going to sit here and dissect the strategies of all those bumped, but there really is gold in them thar hills. Sure there are anomalies. Mahalo has been hit despite a big PR push on it’s recent change in approach. The powers that be IMO have decided that a continual get out of jail free card just wasn’t in their PR interests. EHow, that much maligned repository of textual verbosity has also survived the cut no doubt someone demanded that their media http://www.demandmedia.com/ was worthy of a little more time http://www.fastcompany.com/1723737/did-demand-media-ipo-just-in-time.

Some people (aka spammers) will no doubt have seen the opportunities that these ructions present and will have been up bright and early repositioning downgraded content into new loftier place holders. Lessons will have been learnt, content will take account of things said by Messrs Cutts and Singhail and the show will roll on. Only time will tell if Google has done enough to slay the beast of public scrutiny, these things come in cycles and for now at least the monster seems to have been given a bit to chew on.

Paying to Play in SEO

The Bad SEO  Rep Thing

SEO as an industry has for a long time now suffered with a terrible rep. The web is littered with case after case of burnt individuals recounting stories of being mislead at best and defrauded at worst – An examination of a lot of these tales will often reveal a well trodden path of company promised one thing whilst delivering another, usually in the form of not very much at all, or in extreme cases a nice page 6 ranking penalty from the Google monster.

Top 10 is it then Len?

I think it’s interesting that this happens, despite the wealth of info out there.  Google even publishes a guide to SEO, which for the DIY brigade, is a good little reference point. Yet the reality is that whatever way you dice it, there’s only ever really 10 organic spots to be had and unless you’re above the fold, you might as well not be there.

Sure, there’s Local,  Universal and Social and all that blah blah blah but let’s face it, if you aren’t ranking at positions 1 to 5  in a clean non obfuscated SERP then…need I state the obvious?

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Online PR – Off Site SEO – If there’s a difference it depends on who you are

Online PR or off site SEO?

I was talking w/ a colleague the other day about Online PR versus Off site SEO. Whilst chatting it became clear that in the minds of some people out there that a degree of confusion exists around the terminologies due in the main, to the many cross overs of both.

I thought it might be useful therefore,  to layout the benefits of each, and highlight what they do, and show the commonalities and differences of each, showing both how they may be perceived and the benefits of each of their respective approaches.

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Holistic 360 Internet Marketing Are You Doing It too? Search..

Holistic Search Marketing

It’s been ages since I wrote anything anywhere near interesting or controversial so I thought I’d sit down and have a go and see where it leads me. 🙂

We often hear the word ‘holistic’ bounded about these days. Increasingly (and rightly so) companies are looking to connect the dots and put together the various pieces of their marketing puzzles.

The challenge for many is that they aren’t quite sure themselves, they are looking for people and companies who can sit down and explain to them what fits where and why.

How Does PPC affect Organic CTR’s?

Just recently I was having a discussion about PPC and it’s relationship with SEO in the SERPs, specifically, does a PPC listing help organic clickthrough (CTR).

It was very late and I’d had quite a few beers and was very stuffed with Chinese food but even so, we managed to get to a point whereby we discussed a variety of other questions which such a question begged, namely that it depends on the vertical, the user, the PPC position, the Organic position, the brand, the creative etc.

In other words, there is no simple answer other than yes, quite probably. PPC helps organic CTR.

The Pie is big with lots of flavours

I used this example because it’s relatively fresh in my mind and has a natural segue to the core question. SEO and PPC are indeed just a part of the online marketing pie – there’s also Online PR, Social, Affiliate and Display too – All are related, very few large corps can do one without any of the others as there are lots of inevitable overlaps and blur lines – It’s right today in these frugal times that marketing managers looking to maximise the impacts of their budgets, should be asking probing questions like – Should you do one w/ out the other? What aspects of each inform the other? Where should they target their budget to get the most bang for their buck? How will you track ROI for them? Which piece of the pie will deliver the most? Yet answers to these aren’t always as clear cut or as straightforward as we’d like. Many of them require scrutiny and analyses of the pieces used and the pieces that are likely to come into play. Not many big corps still really *get* online. Many struggle with the idea of a unified strategy, preferring to go with the segment that’s the most tried and tested.

No surprise there either, why would they direct positive ROI spend anywhere else – it’s all about ROI after all Rob you dummy!

Well yes and no. Yes because absolutely, if company X invests 100k and gets 300k of sales from a single Channel then the jobs a winner, it’s a no brainer, right? Yet no, because to do so is to take ones eye off of the ever shifting fluidity of the other channels out there. 2k On PR could deliver 50k worth of Organic Serp positions, as could 10k invested into Affiliate, Display or PPC. Whilst it’ll usually be on a case by case basis, there will be very few scenarios where wholesale investment in one channel would be a sensible online strategy.

Some of you reading this might be asking, “yeah ok, but what about offline” and of course you’d be right to ask too! Why wouldn’t a good agency consider offline, they’d be mad to ignore the impact of a good TV, Radio or Paper Media campaign. Your agency or individual (if they were any good) should be falling over themselves to get access to your analytics package to advise upon strategy or to demonstrate past impacts through retrospective analyses.

Yet how many today do? How many companies can actually sit down and give a coherent definitive overview and strategy and deliver on budget? My guess is not too many. It’s a good reason why that on many projects, you’ll find quarterly or monthly inter agency reviews, whereby agency A will sit down with client and agency B, C and D and all attempt to discuss the strategy w/ out giving away too much IP to probable or likely competitors. Yet for the companies who can provide that full 360 overview, who can clearly demonstrate how and why doing X will deliver Y to the bottom line, who can clearly show how aspect XXX strengthens the position of strategy component Z, the benefits and potentials to win new business is huge.

To state the obvious, it’ll be the companies who are demonstrating these traits and abilities who’ll grab the most market share – companies who invest in their people and think outside of the box with experience and insights are the ones who forward thinking businesses will want to trade with. Businesses that recognise that having six or seven different relationships to manage is a whole lot more time consuming and draining than one.

Companies like the one I work for (plug plug) who can step up and deliver, should do really well as a result. 🙂