Archive | July, 2012

Penguin, Panda, it?s not that black and white..

31 Jul

We’re getting quite a few site review requests and SEO consultancy requests recently for people that have been hit by a sudden drop in traffic after the recent Google Penguin update. Because there has been quite some news about Google’s Penguin update and before that its Panda update, people are blaming those. In our perspective, […]

Penguin, Panda, it’s not that black and white.. is a post by on Yoast – Tweaking Websites.A good WordPress blog needs good hosting, you don’t want your blog to be slow, or, even worse, down, do you? Check out my thoughts on WordPress hosting!

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google backlinks

From Failure to Success ? My Affiliate Marketing Journey

27 Jul

Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Cruz and this is my first-ever guest blog post. I run a blog at TylerCruz.com which I started back in October 2005, just two months before John Chow started his. In fact, I’ve known […]

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Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/JohnChowDotCom/~3/o7ruQncHJUQ/

what are backlinks

CLARITY ? Methodology for Picking the Right Agency

25 Jul


(Image Source ? my poorly built logo creator)

In my long career as an Online Marketer, I have had to often pick an agency to partner with or to carry out the different mixes of online marketing, such as SEO, Paid Search, Affiliate marketing, Email Marketing, Analytics, Social Media etc etc. Fact is, I am a rounded marketer who, although spends time on SEO the most, understands and works in most online fields. This means I am often the go to person for brands when they want to pick an agency to work with.

One such day, while in the middle of listening to an agency pitch, I felt quite a bit perplexed. The two pitches I heard were vastly different, and I wasn?t happy with either. The core problem I had with agency pitches was around the following observations:

  • They tend to be too boiler plate. Replace your business with any other and it may feel that it doesn?t matter.
  • They miss the main questions that a business may want the answers for.
  • They miss the opportunity to really sell their USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
  • If they are customised, they lose some of the generic elements necessary
  • They often leave too much room for questions, which can take the process either way.

The above is often true, even if you have issued a clear brief to your agency as to what you would expect to see, or what questions you would want answered. Any agency can follow a brief and answer it, but very few in my opinion see beyond the brief. And as an experienced agency recruiter for brands, I would like to see much more answered within the pitch than I am still seeing.

Many agencies don?t make it CLEAR what they aim to achieve, nor do they try to CLARIFY what the businesses need or want.


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomad9491/2399208582/

So I formulated the CLARITY model for briefs, which could be a frame work for answering pitches ? help you answer your brief, while allowing you to demonstrate much more than the questions at hand. CLARITY, in my opinion, is an agency model that would score very highly but would also form the ethos of an agency environment that is really geared to helping their clients.

At the same time, the model has helped me pick the right agencies over and over again, and as such could be used by in house Digital marketers to form their own judgement sheets.

Although many SEObook readers are SEOs, many are in the agency environment themselves having to pitch, or in house and may have to from time to time help pick an agency. Many are like me, interested in SEO, but involved in much more online and offline marketing. As a result, I felt that sharing my model may help at least a few readers.

Warning: This is a rather long post, and could sound a bit preachy.

Defining CLARITY

The model is a mnemonic that covers the 7 elements below:

  1. Communication
  2. Learning and Development
  3. Access to Support
  4. Respectable and Responsive
  5. Intelligence both in people and processes
  6. Technology and innovation
  7. Yield Based Approach

Communication


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ventodigrecale/315084105/

When working with any outside agency, the type of communication is vital. The overall tone and approach as well as the individual team members all add to a business?s communication strategy. Some businesses like being overly formal, while others find that formal approaches are annoying and could hinder work. When picking the right agency for you, understanding how they communicate with clients and amongst themselves is extremely important to make sure that the working relationship is a healthy one.

For example, how your agency dresses and behaves in meetings is fairly important ? it is a subliminal communication signal. As part of a pitch process I was involved in, one very talented SEO turned up, but was wearing ripped cuff jeans.

The Head of Ecommerce was at the meeting and was not impressed that for such a large pitch, the key person delivering was in scruffy jeans.

Result? They didn?t get the gig because the Head of Ecommerce was distracted by the fact that this person hadn?t bothered to dress appropriately.

My tips to people running a pitch:

  • Find out what the communication standards are for the business ? do they favour email over phone, or vice versa?
  • How do the key stakeholders behave, dress or communicate? If they are formal in their communication, you may have to resort to matching their style, or loosen up if they are a team that prefer informal approaches.
  • Keep your presentations clear and concise, and ALWAYS identify your communication strategy, especially things like reporting regularity, formats, availability of account holders, and even down to how you would deal with a crisis situation that requires communication out of hours.
  • When presenting or pitching, make the objectives clear ? many a pitch goes a bit haywire if the summary of the presentation or of the overall service isn?t clear.

Learning and Development


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4984567320/

In the digital world, things change daily. And sometimes small changes make big difference ? take the latest Penguin Algorithm update from Google. The change in the way Google is treating a majority of low quality links has caught many an agency unprepared to turn around quickly – and to my knowledge a few, if not a majority, have since drafted communication to their clients about the change and what it means for their SEO.

As part of a pitch process, identifying the potential for such large scale impacts on channels is important ? but more important is to show that your team is up to the challenge. It is important to indicate that your team is an ever learning, ever developing beast, and it may be worth showing some examples where you have bucked the trend, or foresaw changes and indicate how you managed to save, support or shift your other clients strategies.

For example, knowledge of your discipline isn?t enough ? you have to garner some knowledge about your potential clients industry and changes occurring within it, such as legislation.

In one pitch I was part of, we identified that the client was suffering from Voucher Code site abuse ? where the voucher code sites would consistently rank for long tails of the business. Interestingly, the client hadn?t picked up on the fact that the reason that they were losing a lot of organic traffic wasn?t because they had had ranking losses ? rankings were all fine. The reason they were losing their traffic was because this voucher code site was ranking immediately below the clients sites with a discount offering! Our strategy tackled that by investigating the legislation, both applied and subscribed to within the voucher code industry in the UK, and as a result managed to craft a communication brief, which would enable the client from stopping the abuse.

We won the contract, and the work we did was implemented. In the end we came to an agreement with the site in question and they stopped. Clients SEO traffic and conversions soared.

A good agency has an arsenal of resources at its disposal ? indicating these as well as how you constantly add to the armoury is very important ? after all, often agency relationships with clients can span years.

Access to Support


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pat-h3215/7500230750/

For any business, support is important. For any business with large budgets and complicated marketing campaigns, support is critical. Although most agencies work in a 9am to 5pm daily shift 5 days a week, many brands don?t see themselves that way. Their business online is churning round the clock, 7 days a week.

Which means a crisis, issue or even an opportunity may raise itself at the least possible convenient time. Although in a pitch these sort of issues aren?t expected by most businesses, I often find that if an agency covers it, they tend to get ?bonus points? especially if they highlight likely scenarios and how they would respond to them out of hours. Although this point is a subset of communication, it is also important enough as a winning point to be isolated.

One SEO agency I hired for a holiday business proposed that during peak periods of the business refreshing site wide content, (an annual occurrence) they would send one of their content SEOs to sit with the content team to start optimising content as it gets written, and getting it to the publishing team within a very short period of time. Excellent foresight, and was one of the contributing factors to a contract that still runs 5 years on.

On the flip side, another agency pitching an email support platform worth $100,000 in fees a year to them insisted that they would prefer all the communication via email and had a very complicated tracking system that runs through to first line support, then second line and then finally to a specialist if the first two lines couldn?t solve a situation. This scared the client ? sometimes you just can?t wait for three layers of conversations before actioning an urgent change – and as a result they weren?t short listed.

Respectable and Responsive


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mafleen/402792862/

It sounds obvious that you have to be both respectable and responsive to potential (and current!) clients. However what you as an agency see as being ?respectable? may not be necessarily what they feel the definition of the word may be.

Respectable also implies respecting your clients intelligence. One of the key primary things I teach to agencies is that they should research their potential clients carefully. By making your pitch too simplistic may offend their intelligence and could cost you.

Take for example a UK SEO agency that was pitching to a business I was consulting a few years ago. The pitch was about SEO and how they would help the business grow its SEO. Before hand, they had a list of all the attendees, which included my name and the name of the head of Ecommerce (who would at least have a rudimentary knowledge of SEO).

Now if you are pitching to me, you SHOULD know that I know a bit about SEO, if only you bothered to Google my name 🙂

Yet, in the pitch, the starting slide was an animated slide, which was a web with spiders running up and down it ? explaining to us what a search engine bot was and how it crawls the web(!) apart from the fact that the animation was poor (a gif of a spider running up and down the web), they actually assumed that a multi million pound business that they were pitching to:

  • Need to see what a web spider is in a picth presentation
  • Be spoken to as if they were total amateurs

In addition, as I was in the audience I found this actually quite insulting ? the fact that they hired me to be in the room meant that they were serious about a decent SEO strategy. The Head of Ecommerce had the same horrified response as I had ? did the agency think we were complete idiots?

Needless to say, they lost the pitch in the first round.

Intelligence


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mukumbura/4043364183/

To be perfectly frank, expect a serious pitch to be faced with some serious questions. At the same time, you would be expected to show real intelligence in the way you present and prepare for the meeting.

Displaying intelligence isn?t showing how many clients you have, or sprouting your company?s internal strap lines. It isn?t displaying how many results you have gotten for other clients.

Intelligence is more about:

  • How well you have both, understood and answered the clients brief
  • How well you have actually understood the clients business
  • Demonstrated a working knowledge of the clients business and THEN demonstrated how your activity would help
  • Demonstrated both creative and critical thinking, and looked into trying to future proof campaigns.
  • Indicate that the right people would be working on the right portions of the campaign. Make some of those people part of the brief

The worst case scenario would be that you have a really intelligent hands on SEO prepare your presentation, and then instead either get an account manager or sales person actually present it, without the SEO present to field any questions. Often the result is a disaster ? yet this a very common approach. Believe it or not, this has happened to me at least three times. Neither the account manager nor the sales person actually knew any SEO (PPC in one PPC agency pitch). Which meant though their presentation was solid, they ability to field questions intelligently was fairly limited to ?We can come back to you on that?.

Technology and Innovation


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/3232133635/

In the online world, when data flows (fairly) freely, technology has to be at the forefront to deal with that data, to rationalise, monetise and sanitise it. An agency coming in to pitch within the digital sphere needs to show (to me at least):

  • Usage of relevant tools and technology existent in the market
  • Development plans for new tools / or custom tools
  • An understanding of how technology available can be suited to your campaign

Similarly, an agency that doesn?t innovate is low on my ?like? list. I would be willing to spend more time with one that has interesting ideas about innovating, than one that actually just rehashes ideas that exist in the market and brand them as their own.

One agency years ago insisted that they have ?market leading? guides on SEO for internal staff – from content strategies to link building. When quizzed what kind of information they would share with the businesses content team for better SEO, we received a document that was clearly well set up, researched and written for the right audience. Sounds great right? Only problem was this was the SEOmoz guide that they simply wrapped up and presented to us. Seeing that I was on one of the top contributors to SEOmoz at that point ( I think I still rank in the top 10) I recognised the document and called them up on it.

Needless to say, I don?t believe they ever repeated that faux pas – and went out and had their own content written.

Similar situations exist when companies tell me of a revolutionary tool A or amazing platform Y – and in most cases they tend to be industry standards that they use and nothing out of the ordinary. Which is fine for a basic pitch ? but for a stellar pitch you need to stand out.

Yield Based Approach


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/3290848235/

Any campaign you build has to deliver a return. It doesn?t matter what the campaign is, it has to achieve its objectives. Which means if you have to pick an agency, the agency has to demonstrate the capability to not only come up with a plan or strategy that works for you it has to demonstrate that it understands what your businesses KPIs are.

This doesn?t simply mean an uplift in sales, traffic, but a clever demonstration of how the Return On Investment would be aimed at and achieved. If an agency cannot demonstrate a clear understanding of your businesses goals, and does not take the time to understand what the ROI of the specific channel being discussed should be, then they fail in using a yield based approach.

A few years back, an SEO agency pitched to me for a UK Holiday business. They were big on numbers by their own admission, and had a clear demonstration of how much it would cost us to rank for Keywords, and in fact had a clear chart identifying the top level ?Category Killer? keywords.

They then went on to demonstrate how one of their current Holiday clients achieved those rankings with their help by spending the same figures that they demonstrated. The top level Keyword was ?Holidays?.

2 problems with that.

First, if they already have a client in the space that they are working with to rank for those exact keywords, then I wonder to myself if the end result would become who spends the most to retain those positions. Which in itself is fine, I have no problem with agencies who have clients in the same niches, BUT, at what point does the competition with one client against the other show a negative return? If spend is the limiting factor, I wouldn?t want a competitor in that space to have the same resources as I do in terms of SEO talent, and then be simply beaten by their capability to throw more money at the campaign. Which wouldn?t be a worry, except if the agency was so willing to tell us exactly how much it cost their other client to rank, how can I trust them not to reveal the same data to our competitor?

The second problem with this scenario was they went straight for the proverbial jugular. They want to work on the money keywords (money for them!). A UK Holiday site may gain some sales on the back of ranking for ?Holidays?, but I promise you that the conversion rate would be dreadful, and probably in the third decimal percentages.

If I had to pitch that gig, I would have started at the lower rung, moving upwards towards the chain to the category keyword ?UK Holidays?. The spend to rank for most those would have equated to the total that the agency wanted as its fees, but the ROI for ranking for the RIGHT keywords would have been much, much higher. And an easier sell.

So the agency failed t understand the business, and as such failed to demonstrate that they could deliver the right ROI for them.

Conclusion?

If you have stuck with me so far, congrats (and thank you!). I am genuinely hoping that agencies that pitch, take something away from this post, and people who are paid to listen to pitches, do as well. I know that these principles have been successful for a large number of agencies when pitching, despite the fact that the agency didn?t realise that they were following a successful model.

The aim isn?t to follow my thoughts flat out, but learn form a person who has been involved I both sides of a pitch process, with a decent success rate in both, picking the right agency, and being picked for a campaign.

Rishi Lakhani is a freelance Online Marketing Consultant working with a number of brands and agencies in the UK, and spends a large portion of his free time on twitter. Follow him at: https://twitter.com/rishil

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Source: http://www.seobook.com/picking-the-right-agency

what are backlinks

Curious case of small business and SEO

23 Jul

We all read the advice online: don?t build crappy links. Don?t use short term benefit tactics in SEO. But do we always heed that advice? Can we always afford to?

The latest reality check came in the shape of a small online business in the UK, Children?s Furniture Store (CFS). Jane Copland  tweeted about an online letter in which they announce that, due to Penguin update, they are forced to close their business down.

This really got me. Firstly, I hate to see a small business go under. These people put their hearts and souls into the business and it breaks my heart to see them being closed especially due to changes in Google algo. Furthermore, it seems from their closing letter that they were a victim of bad SEO advice and that reflects poorly on all of us. We have enough attention seekers out there calling us out for asshattery as it is so I would rather be pictured as someone who helps small businesses rather than the one that puts them under.

A lot of people started reaching out to Children Furniture Store?s twitter account, offering help and advice. Unfortunately, it was too late for them; they have already started folding up their business and have ceased trading.

I am sure this is not the only case that has or will have happened. As a matter of fact as a result of my activity on twitter around this, I was contacted by another small business asking for help on similar issues. Other people I know encounter these situations on weekly basis.

So why is this happening? Who is to blame for this? A business is closing down, people are losing their jobs, we can?t just dismiss it as ?that?s life? and ?business is hard?. We cannot learn anything from this case and other similar cases if we do not take a hard look at all the possible culprits responsible for these situations and try to understand what could have been done to prevent this from happening:

This is the list of guilty parties, according to my opinion, ranked by a decreasing amount of responsibility:

The business owner

The business owner is the most responsible party here. They probably didn?t mind when the money was rolling in and never thought about the ?what if? scenario. These are the things that they did wrong:

  1. Never ever put all the eggs in one basket ? I think this is the most common and widespread piece of advice given to website and general business owners, yet people manage to ignore it again and again. Had CFS had various sources of traffic (which they could have developed with the profits from the organic traffic) or even had they started developing offline business, Google Penalty would have hurt much less. This is true even if you are not using blatantly spammy SEO techniques, you never know where Google?s business goals may be tomorrow and when the line between what is kosher and what isn?t is constantly moving, you never know when you will find yourself on the other side of the line. Having additional sources of traffic/business immunizes (relatively) you against this scenario. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and PAY for the traffic ? for example Paid Search. Building a social presence would help too. Luckily they HAD kept their mailing list and were able to sell any leftover inventory using it ? but mail is a good channel to optimize sales too.
  2. Get educated ? there is a lot of SEO information out there. No one can follow all of it. But it is your prerogative as an online business to keep abreast of the most important best practices and pitfalls within the marketing channel that is providing you with the majority of your income. Had this business done their due diligence, they would know not to rely on only one stream of traffic, they would know that the practices used by their SEO provider are shady at best, they would know that they are paying too little for the SEO services for them to safely provide them with edge over their competition in their niche. They would also know what to do when shit hits the fan and not wait for a full year for the second hit which will ultimately decimate their business.


    In this case, the business owner did say that they spent a lot of time trying to read on the internet about similar issues ? apparently they didn?t find any ?real? advice. Should Business Owners learn to navigate online information a bit better? Or should we, as an industry, make sure that the information found on these issues is top notch? But more about that further down. In this particular case, the owner of the business did several things ? tried reading about the possible problem, turned to an independent SEO (who told her to let the site die and start anew) and fired the agency that was probably the cause of all this. Still there was much more to be done and I hope other businesses will act differently in similar situations.

  3. Reach out ? as their ?we are closing the business? letter started circulating, more and more people started saying that they are willing to help. In a matter of minutes, both in public and private channels, a picture of what needs to be done to help this website started emerging. Getting this kind of analysis from industry experts can cost a lot of money, but if a business owner harnesses the benefits of the SEO community, either through Twitter, SEOBook Forum, Google Webmaster Central forums, SEOMoz Q&A forum, G+, Facebook groups, etc., they can get a pretty clear picture about what hit them and what needs to be done. They would be more aware of the risk levels involved with the SEO strategies they were using and would be able to move away from them much earlier, making the cleanup a more viable option. With all the misgivings of this industry, it has some of the most generous and helping people in it and this can be a tremendous asset for small businesses that are struggling to come with terms with the challenges involved in promoting your website in organic results.

SEO Company

  1. Spammy strategies ? one look at the CFS? backlink profile shows patterns of a backlink network.

    Further conversations with people that are connected to the company showed that this is indeed the case. Bunch of footer links, clearly paid-for blog posts, sidebar sitewide links from non-related sites in non-English languages? You took a small business that doesn?t know what they are doing, promised them wonders at three-digit monthly recurring price and it worked for a while. Did you warn them about the risks? Did you tell them that if Google decides to target these link-building practices, their whole business can go down the drain? Or did you encourage them to enjoy the party while it lasts? Did you instruct them to take the profits of these short-sighted tactics and invest them in diversifying their traffic sources? No you didn?t. You are no better than a drug dealer, reaping profits from the lack of knowledge of unsuspecting client, allowing them to risk their whole business and you should be ashamed of yourself for that. You sir, are an ass hat. 

  2. No responsibility ? as the graph attached above shows, the CFS site was hit at two occasions, one in May 2011 and the other in May 2012. According to them, they have stopped working with you by the time WMT warning notices have arrived. Do you think that releases you from the responsibility for your work? What did you do in between those two dates? Did you take responsibility for CFS situation? Did you instruct them on how to fix their situation? How did you allow a business that found itself in a shitty situation, partially due to your actions, to get to the point where they have to close their doors? Do you honestly not care that people are going to be jobless because of the bad advice you have provided?

Google

Yes Google.

By allowing crappy linking strategies to work for so long, they have created a situation where the only viable option to stay competitive in certain niches was to join the bandwagon and use spammy links. You can stand on your soapbox only for only that long and preach ?whitehat? techniques while your competitors are laughing all the way to the bank and cashing in. So yes, at some point they will probably be penalized, but until then they will have developed enough capital to be able to safely switch to some other domain/SEO strategy and have developed their brand to the point where they are practically immune from algorithmic changes. You have created a situation in which following your Best Practices was a financially unviable option for a lot of small businesses and for this you carry a part of the blame

Furthermore, you should realize that the information you give out about these penalties is not read only by sinister SEOs spending their days and nights trying to reverse engineer your precious algorithm. Why is it so hard to tell the business owner what is it they are getting penalized for? Tell them ?your site has a large amount of paid links/unnatural anchors. You can find these links marked with a huge red exclamation mark in your WMT link report. Get rid of them?. Doesn?t Google have a responsibility of providing decent, informed content around these sort of penalties so that  a business owner can refer back to the source? When they penalize a business ? shouldn?t it be their responsibility to say EXACTLY why? Is a bland, notification in GWMT sufficient?

When you Google ?Penguin? or ?Panda? etc ? shouldn?t Google?s own written guidelines on recovery be ranked at top positions, so no one else gets scammed? Yes, it is not all Google?s fault that these businesses were told that it is OK to do whatever it takes to rank. Yes, Google does not owe anyone anything but it would be a sign of goodwill towards those that provide the content of the web for Google to crawl and serve ads on.

The SEO Community

How is the SEO community responsible? By greatly diluting the information space in our industry. The number of inane posts, all written in the same ?10 ways unrelated-X affects your SEO-Related-Y? format, all based on conjectures and rehashed hearsay, make it almost impossible for a non-industry person to get to the meaningful information. I have seen articles with link building strategies that were covered in 2006 being peddled as ?current? and ?cutting edge? in 2012.

Without knowing the authors, companies they work for, their level of experience and history of their posting, there is no way that a person who doesn?t spend significant amounts of time wading through the noise created in the SEO space can know what is reliable and what not. Furthermore, the lack of propensity to call out crap information when we see one, complete avoidance of confrontation within the industry, limiting critical discussion on quality of content behind gated walls of private Skype chats and limited Facebook groups, makes the pruning of this jungle of nonsense an impossible task and for that all of us bear some part of responsibility.

I am really sad for CFS. It depresses me that a business can go under so easily from causes that could have been prevented. There are real people behind these websites, making their living, in spite of Google doing a lot to make their success harder (by promoting big brands and at a switch of an algorithm button making previously acceptable and successful practices – damaging). I hope that this post will help other businesses make sure that they are doing everything possible not to find themselves in a similar situation.

Many thanks to Rishi for helping with editing and some background info.


Branko Rihtman has been optimizing sites for search engines since 2001 for clients and own web properties in a variety of competitive niches. Over that time, Branko realized the importance of properly done research and experimentation and started publishing findings and experiments at SEO Scientist. Branko is currently responsible for SEO R&D at RankAbove, provider of a leading SEO SaaS platform ? Drive.

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Source: http://www.seobook.com/curious-case-small-business-and-seo

web 2.0 backlinks

Were You Hit by Negative SEO?

19 Jul

Posted by Dr. Pete

Since Google’s “Penguin” update, hysteria over negative SEO has exploded, with people blaming it for every problem from falling rankings to their hands turning orange (Pro Tip: Check to see if you just ate a bag of Cheetos). I feel roughly the same way about post-Penguin negative SEO as I do about aliens. I’ve created the following graphic to illustrate my beliefs:

My take on aliens

Ok, maybe that sounded a little harsh, but here’s the point – while I believe negative SEO is possible – and I’ve seen a handful of cases where I’m pretty sure it was effective – it’s usually not the root cause of a ranking drop. In other words: most people who think they’ve been hit by negative SEO haven’t been. This post is an attempt to ease your fears and help you find out if you’re one of the 0.1% who really saw that UFO.

What Is Negative SEO?

Broadly defined, “negative SEO” can mean anything malicious someone does to harm your site’s rankings. Rand’s recent video on negative SEO covers many examples and is a great recap. Within the context of the Penguin update, though, negative SEO really only means one thing – that someone has launched an organized effort to make your link profile look bad. This usually means that they’ve hit you with a ton of low-quality or clearly black-hat links across a large number of domains.

I don’t want to downplay attacks on your site. If you’ve had a security breach, such as a DDoS that is taking down your site or an SQL-injection attack that has modified your content or added outbound links, take it seriously and handle it quickly. With link-based “attacks,” though, the situation can get a lot trickier, and the cures can sometimes be worse than the disease. If you just start hacking at links or throw all of your time and money into fighting a perceived threat that’s not the root cause of your problem, you could set back your SEO efforts months.

What Are The Signs?

Let’s say you wake up one morning to find that your cat’s gone missing and your rankings have dropped. Does that mean that your competitors are up to no good? It’s possible, but I think it’s critical in 2012 SEO to step back and assess the problem. Solving the wrong problem can be catastrophic – at best, it’s just a waste of time and energy.

Even if your competitors are trying to cause trouble, that doesn’t mean that what they’ve done has caused your problems. I’ve seen people do ridiculously ineffective “negative SEO” – one client’s competitor hired a low-rent firm to create a copy of the client’s site. That copy sat on a staging server in India with no links and all but the home-page blocked in Robots.txt. Was it malicious? Sure, but malicious idiots are still idiots. It wasn’t worth an international incident to take that one rogue site down. Real negative SEO takes a concerted effort and a fair amount of know-how.

When someone is really attacking your link profile, and if that attack is going to be effective, you’ll typically see unexplained, low-quality links from a variety of root domains. Just slapping your link in the footer of one bad site isn’t going to bring you down – low-quality links happen in the wild all the time. You need to see a large-scale pattern. Typically, you’ll also see a sudden spike in these links. An aggressive attempt at negative SEO isn’t going to happen over years – it’s going to be done in weeks. When you see massive, unexplained growth in low-quality links, then you may have a problem.

I’m not going to dive deep into the tools, but there are multiple good ones for getting different views of your link profile (and using more than one is generally a good idea):

The new Bing Link Explorer replaces Yahoo! Link Explorer and seems promising, but you’ll need to sign up for their webmaster tools. Both our paid campaign management tools here on SEOmoz and Majestic's tools will track historical data about your links. Keep in mind, though, that link counts can spike for a lot of reasons. You’re not just looking for a jump in the numbers – you’re looking for a clear pattern of malicious links.

Even if you do see a spike in malicious links, the impact of an attack is often temporary. Many times, people use methods that get quickly removed or discounted (such as injecting links on other sites). When the links go away, the problem often goes away. It’s not of much comfort in the short-term, I realize, but it’s easy to be so aggressive that Google spots the attack and devalues the links. Getting the balance just right isn’t easy – many attempts at negative SEO fail.

Are Aliens Among Us?

About 70-80% of the time someone comes to me having just spotted a bunch of unexplained low-quality links to their site, a little digging turns up that it was the result of bad SEO by either their own team or someone they hired. If it’s your own team, that’s good news (even if it doesn’t feel that way) – you might be able to undo those links more easily or even have a record of them. If you hire an outside link-building firm, make sure you get a record of what they’ve done. Once you realize they’ve trashed your link profile, it may be too late. Monitor new link builders closely and insist that they track links. If they refuse, fire them. It’s that simple.

Can You Prevent It?

If someone really is out to get you and wants to spend the time and money, there’s no doubt they can do a lot of damage. In most cases, though, it’s just not cost effective, and building up a wall of defenses and monitoring your links every hour isn’t cost effective for you, either. So, what can you do to prevent the most common forms of attack?

Probably your best defense is to have a clean, authoritative link profile. Google is looking at your entire pattern and history of links, and if your site is strong with generally high-quality links, it’s a lot harder to do you damage with a short-term attack. The most vulnerable sites are new sites or sites that already have engaged in too much low-quality link-building. If 80% of your links are junk, it’s not going to take that much for a competitor to push you over the edge.

At the risk of oversimplifying: do good SEO. I’m not trying to downplay the possibility of negative SEO – it does exist and it can do real damage. I’m trying to drive home the point that it’s still very rare, and most people are spending far too much time and money on tinfoil hats. In 99% of cases, the SEO problems of websites in 2012, even after Penguin, are self-inflicted. Start with what you control, and build a better mousetrap – it’s still your best protection from anything the competition can throw at you.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/80RLSDFg5hY/were-you-hit-by-negative-seo

what are backlinks

Bing Offers Up a Free Link Graph

17 Jul

Bing refreshed their webmaster tools offering & now allows you to look up link data for 3rd party sites.

We recently interviewed Bing’s Duane Forrester about the new SEO tools & their product roadmap.

Here is a screenshot of their new link explorer, but I highly recommend setting up an account and checking it out firsthand.

For a long time Yahoo! provided great link data, but most other search engines were more reserved with sharing link data for competing sites. What were some of the driving forces behind Bing opening up on this front?

Bing values the power of strong partnerships as one way to spur innovation and deliver compelling experiences for our users. For any partnership to be effective, remaining as transparent as possible is critical, including those we forge with agency and publisher partners. Sharing link information was something very clearly asked for by tool users, so after doing the internal work to see if we could provide the information, it was an easy decision to build this tool when the answer came back positive. You wanted it, we had it and could share it. Done.

As a search engine your web index is much much larger than most SEO tools. On Twitter Rand mentioned that the index size of Bing’s new Link Explorer was fairly comparable to Open Site Explorer. Is the link data offered in the tool a select slice of the index? Were you trying to highlight the highest quality link sources for each site?

We see the entire index, or at least “can” see the entire index and link ecosystem. We?re limited to the actual number we can show at any given time, however.

Currently it appears as though the tool lists link source URLs & page titles. Will the tool also add anchor text listings at some point?

On the list ? sometimes we run into data sourcing issues, so when we hit those walls, it takes us longer to add features. Bing WMT pulls data from all the sources available within Bing Search, and sometimes those have limits imposed for other reasons. In those cases, we must abide by those rules or seek to influence changes to increase our own access/capacities. A search engine is a complex thing it turns out? J

There are filters for “anchor text” and “additional query.” What are the differences between these filters?

Anchor Text is pretty clear to most SEOs. “Additional Query” allows you to look for, as an example, a page with “N” text appearing on it. So text not just as “anchor text”, but simply appearing on the page.

Currently if I search for “car” I believe it will match pages that have something like “carson” on it. In the future will there be a way to search for an exact word without extra characters?

I?m going to split this answer. Users can enable ?Strict? filtering to only see ?cars? data by selecting the ?Strict? box. To your point, however, this is what some of our tools are Beta. We will continually refine them as time goes on, adding features folks find useful.

Will you guys also offer TLD-based filters at some point?

First time anyone’s mentioned it, so I?ll add this to our list for consideration.

A few years ago my wife was at a PPC seminar where a Bing representative stated that the keyword search data provided in the tools matched your internal data. Is this still the case?

Bing Advertising is completely separate from Webmaster Tools. I?m not sure if that rep was meaning data within the adCenter tools matches data or what. Bing WMT does import CPC data to showcase alongside keywords which sent traffic to your site. That data matches as we pull direct from adCenter. The data we show through our tools comes direct from Bing Search, so that?s a match if this is what you?re referring to.

Bing’s Webmaster tools offers an API with keyword research & link data. Bing’s Ad Intelligence is easily one of my 3 favorite SEO tools. Will Bing eventually offer a similar SEO-oriented plugin for Excel?

No plans on the roadmap for an Excel plugin.

At SMX Derrick Connell suggested that there was a relevancy perception gap perhaps due to branding. What are some of the features people should try or things they should search for that really highlight where Bing is much stronger than competing services?

Without doubt people should be logging in and using the Facebook integration when searching. This feature is tremendously helpful when you?re researching something, for example, as you can reach out directly to friends for input during your research process. While searching, keep your eyes open for the caret that indicates there is more data about a specific result. Hovering over that activates the ?snapshot? showing the richer experience we have for that result. Businesses need to make sure they focus on social and managing it properly. It?s not going away and those who lag will find themselves facing stiff, new competition from those getting social right. Businesses also need to get moving adopting rich snippets on their sites. This data helps us provide the deeper experiences the new consumer interface is capable of in some cases.

You have wrote a couple books & done a significant amount of offline marketing. One big trend that has been highlighted for years and years is everything moving online, but as search advances do you see offline marketing as becoming an important point of differentiation for many online plays?

In a way yes. In fact, with the simplification of SEO via tools like our own and many others, more and more businesses can get things done to a level on their own. SEO will eventually become a common marketing tactic, and when that hits, we?re right back to a more traditional view of marketing: where all tactics are brought to bear to sell a product or service. Think of this?email marketing is still one of the single best converting forms of marketing in existence. Yet so many businesses focus on SEO (drive new traffic!) instead of email (work with current, proven shoppers!).

In fact, neither alone is the “best” strategy for most online businesses. It?s a blend of everything. Social happens either with you or without you. You can influence it, and by participating, the signals the engines see change. We can see those changes and it helps us understand if a searcher might or might not have a good experience with you. That can influence (when combined with a ton of other factors, obviously) how we rank you. Everything is connected today. Complex? Sure, but back in the day marketers faced similar complexity with their own programs. Just a new “complex” for us today. More in the mix to manage.

What is the best part about being an SEO who also works for a search engine?

On Wednesday, June 6th at 10AM PST, I was part of the team that brought a new level of tools forward, resetting expectations around what Webmaster Tools should deliver to users. Easily one of the proudest moments of my life was that release. While I?m an SEO and I work for the engine, the PM and Lead Engineer on the WMT product are also SEOs. 😉 To say Bing is investing in building the partnership with SEOs is no mere boast. Great tools like this happen because the people building them live the life of the user.

What is the hardest part about being an SEO who also works for a search engine?

Still so few people around me that speak this language. The main difficulty is in trying to understand the sheer scope of search. Because everything you thought you knew as an SEO take son an entirely different dimension when you?re inside the engine. Imagine taking every SEO conversation and viewing it through a prism. So many more things to consider.

And, finally, nothing against Matt here, but why are dogs so much better than cats?

1 ? they listen to you and execute commands like a soldier
2 ? generally, they don?t crap in your house
3 ? you can have a genuine conversation with a dog
4 ? one of my dogs drives
5 ? when was the last time your cat fetched anything for you?
6 ? your dog might look at you funny, but won?t hiss at you
7 ? guard cat? Hardly? you?d be better off with peacocks in the yard.
8 ? dogs make great alarm clocks
9 ? even YOU know you look strange walking your cat on a leash?
10 ? dogs inspire you to be a better person

—–

Thanks for the interview Duane & the great new tools. 🙂

Duane also did a video review of their new tools on SEOmoz, which highlights how they show rank & traffic data on a per keyword & per page basis. To learn more about Bing, subscribe to their search blog & their webmaster central blog. Duane also shares SEO information on Twitter @DuaneForrester & via his personal blog.

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Source: http://www.seobook.com/bing-offers-free-link-graph

what are backlinks

Content Marketing: How To Sell Executives On The Idea & Cost

15 Jul

What Is Content Marketing? Content marketing is the process of publishing content that helps to engage or entertain a prospect and then move them into the sales funnel. Content marketing isn’t necessarily new, however, over the last few years it has become more popular with all types of online marketers mostly because … Read more

Source: http://www.seo.com/blog/content-marketing-how-to-sell-executives-on-the-idea-and-cost/

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