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Category: SEO (page 1 of 2)

Google +1: Did google just socialize search?

The Web is about to get a whole lot more social. Yes, MORE. And it’s beginning today.

If you think that’s impossible, consider that Google is finally beginning to socialize search results, which will effectively socialize the largest non-social corner of the Web.

Google introduced +1, Google’s answer to Facebook Likes. Soon you will see 
+1 buttons beside Facebook Like buttons all across the Web. And when you click +1, you have the power to influence your friends, coworkers, and connections. 

Imagine the possibilities when word-of-mouth and search join forces. Rather than depending upon Google’s impersonal algorithms to deliver relevant info, you’ll have the recommendations of your peers to help guide you.

Check out the video below.

Does +1 Change the Order of Search Results?

I haven’t seen Google divulge whether the number of votes will simply show up beside search results or actually influence the positioning on the page. If no: if your network of social friends haven’t visited any of Google’s top ten results for your search, you simply won’t see their votes until you click back further into the results. If yes: search results with the most votes will rise to the top for your network of friends only. This seems unlikely as an immediate roll-out, but could be in the plans for the future.

What Could Stop Search from Total Socialization?

1. This is all predicated upon one simple factor: personalized search.

If you don’t use Gmail, Google Analytics, AdWords, or AdSense, chances are you aren’t logged into your personalized Google account when you start searching. If not you’re signed on as a Google user, you won’t see +1 recommendations from your network. Google hopes you will log in, because doing so creates a greater opportunity to personalize search results and thus increase conversions (clicks to ads on Google makes Google money).

2. A potential ghost town.

Even if you ARE logged into your Google account, the majority of your social networking friends probably aren’t in your Google network.

Who Is in Your Google Network, Anyway?

Since Google isn’t exactly a social network, you might be wondering which friends you’ll be seeing +1 results from. Fair enough. For now, it looks like Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Buzz contacts will make up your network. If you’re like me, the majority of your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter friends are NOT connected to you through any of those Google properties.

What Does This Mean for Marketing?

First, what WILL happen is that Web marketers like me will suddenly expand their network as large as they can. They’ll invite everyone on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn to connect so they can influence more people with their +1s. This rapid increase of networking will provide Google a Twitter-like network infrastructure from which to increase the popularity of +1 worldwide.

Get ready for the conditional statement.

“If” enough people join in and remain logged into Google for the benefit of +1 recommendations (both to influence and be influenced), SEO will finally have to compete with social media / viral marketing for most impactful passive marketing tactic.

Influencing people will be all the more important, which will make influential social media accounts, viral videos, and blogs all the more important in every company’s strategy. Sensationalism will play a huge role in +1 votes just like it did for Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and the rest.

Companies who opt out of establishing an effective social presence will lose ground to those more open to the hip, the viral, and the social.

How JC Penney’s Public Penalization Affects SEO in the Future

The dust has settled, and the topic of JC Penney’s public SEO reprimand is already a thing of the past. You might think that the recently announced logo redesign for Penney’s or the recent Oscar advertising buzz are intended as a quick diversion from the recent reputation crisis suffered at the hands of Google. As one expert says, “You don’t want to use a logo change as a Band-aid.”

No worries. While on the outside it might look like peculiar timing, JC Penney has actually been in the process of redesigning their website and brand for months. The two events are completely unrelated.

But I want to revisit the public embarrassment and discuss what this means for SEOs and search marketing strategies going forward. 

What Exactly Did JC Penney Do?

Before we get into my prediction, you need to understand precisely what we’re dealing with. JC Penney (and their then-current SEO vendor SearchDex) either bought links from other websites or created hundreds of artificial websites from which they posted links to JC Penney. Or both. SearchDex allegedly created websites for the purpose of creating additional links to the JC Penney site. Whether all the links came from sites created by the vendor or from purchasing links from external sources, the results were incredibly good rankings for several months… until someone called them to task.

While it may seem unlikely that JC Penney would rank #1 for everything from dresses to area rugs, it IS possible. What hurt their cause in the eyes of Google was the total irrelevancy between linking site and JC Penney page. Links from World of Warcraft sites, nuclear engineering sites, bulgarian property sites, etc… These links came from sites totally irrelevant to the products JC Penney offers.

Had JC Penney’s vendor stuck to buying links / building sites that were actually relevant to the pages they linked to, such a public investigation may have never seen the light of day. There was still no proof of where the links came from, and so Google made a quick and dangerous assumption: if the artificially gained links benefit JC Penney, then JC Penney must be the culprit. 

There WILL Be Consequences for Google

I’ve read through many of the articles and sifted through opinionated comments about JC Penney, link buying, Google policies, and what not. I was searching to see if anyone else was predicting what seemed blatantly obvious to me: this public embarrassment of a nationally recognized brand will do more harm than good. And I don’t think that Google is prepared.

Anyone Can Buy Links Or Build Spammy Sites

The simple truth is that ANYONE can do the things Penneys was penalized for. Not only that – ANYONE can create spammy content with links that point to ANY website. So in theory, one of JC Penney’s competitors could have bought spammy looking links and then tipped someone off in hopes of getting them penalized.

What proof does Google have of purchase? None. You “might” be able to find a connection between the ownership of some spammy sites and Penney’s SEO vendor. I’m not saying there’s a connection, but it’s about the only connection Google could make.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Everyone assumes that either J.C. Penney or their vendor were in the wrong. But there’s no proof. There are only links on completely unrelated external websites which could have come from anywhere.

Which leads us to the ominous prediction of the post… Dun dun dun!

Spammy Link Buying Is about to Skyrocket

Some agencies and inhouse marketing teams will shy away from buying links because they fear the wrath of Google. That’s to be expected. But what concerns me is how easily it will be to get your competition penalized*.

If a penalty consists of more than nullifying the benefits of bogus links, we’re about to see blackhat link building practices skyrocket. Think about it. If you can spend $10k on links for your biggest competitor(s) and then report them for bogus link building practices, you’ve just faked your way into the top spots.

There’s been a similar problem in Online Reputation Management for years. How easy is it to create a fake profile impersonating the leadership of your competitor and make horribly offensive statements which earn them a bona fide reputation crisis? If public opinion can be swayed by an impersonating commentor/twitterer, then a ton of money previously allocated toward self-promotion may be re-allocated toward the much less-dangerous (and perhaps more fun) approach of damaging your competitor’s reputation.

In the world of search, things could get much uglier before they get better.

*NOTE: I have not seen any mention as to what precisely was done during the manual Google update affecting JC Penney’s rankings. Perhaps they simply nullified the benefits of each bogus link. If so, then the naturally reduced rankings for JC Penney are well within accepted responses. If, however, Google simply penalized Penneys a particular number of rankings, then the penalty is based on the assumption that JC Penney is indeed responsible for the bogus links, which cannot be proven.

5 Signs You’re Dealing with a Stone Age SEO Expert

You can’t just take someone’s word for it that they’re operating with current SEO principles, tools, and skills. SEO forums have been around for years (just ask Rand), and hundreds of people are reading REALLY OLD posts about SEO and building a company based on the principles discussed.

SEO isn’t like mathematics – the principles are not universal or timeless. They shift, morph, and change over time. How do we know this? Because search engines like Google and Yahoo! are updating their algorithms and methods for ranking individual terms based on experience, complaints, and mistakes. Google is constantly evolving. Not nearly as quickly as some would like to think (this isn’t anywhere near artificial intelligence), yet still faster than many SEO companies and independents can keep up.

Here are 5 signs that you’re dealing with an SEO. If the person or agency you’re dealing with makes these statements, they do NOT understand up to date best practices.

5 Outdated and Stone Age Ideas for SEO:

#1 Search Engine Submissions
This should go without saying. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO SUBMIT YOUR SITE TO SEARCH ENGINES! This is a scam or an idiot. Either way, save yourself some time and money and move on. Any SEO worth a grain of salt doesn’t waste money on search engine submissions. I’ve discussed this in another post, so I won’t belabor the point.

A second issue here is the number of search engines these scammers supposedly submit to. There is ABSOLUTELY no need to submit to 20 search engines, much less 200. In this day and age, you do not need to even think about more than four search engines, and that’s pushing it. The only four worth considering at this point in time are Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, and Ask. You’ll get more traffic from a directory like than the rest of those less popular search engines (and probably more than Ask also).

#2 Google Sandbox
The age of the Google Sandbox is over. Deal with it. Yes, brand new websites used to not exist on search results for six months or so. It’s very true. This happened to my first website. It suddenly appeared after a few months (yet still had no backlinks). The key phrase here is “used to.” With the mad blog craze and the dependency on search to deliver timely news results, Google has since altered its algorithm to include new sites and content almost immediately. This is part of Google’s attempt to deliver timely and accurate results for up to the minute news.

#3 Reciprocal Linking
Dozens of companies posing as professional SEO agencies are pushing reciprocal linking or “link swapping” on ignorant webmasters and marketing managers. This is an outdated process. Google learned how to tell the difference between reciprocal and one way links and at some point penalizes sites for participating in swapping links. Just as with link buying, Google disapproves of any practice that muddies the waters of its link-based algorithm. While there are supposedly hundreds of factors contributing to the ultimate ranking of results, links have always been and always will be a very important factor in determining rank.

Each link pointing to an external web page is supposed to be a statement of importance and relevance by the person adding the link. Throw in link swapping and links become worthless. Suddenly everyone can have as many links as they want. All they have to do is trade, thus rendering Google’s algorithm mostly useless.

#4 Google Pagerank
Anyone can install the Google Pagerank add-on for Firefox or Google “page rank checker” and find 10 different sites that will tell you your site’s pagerank. Google knows this, and that’s why higher Pagerank does not equal better rankings. There are simply too many factors used to determine search rankings for obsessing over pagerank to be worthwhile.

#5 Ranking Reports
If a monthly ranking report is all you have to show for your SEO dollars, something could be wrong. Ranking reports aren’t bad, of course, and neither are they meaningless. But they are growing increasingly irrelevant in today’s online culture. Ranking reports are beneficial primarily in tandem with analytics reporting and interpretation. After all, though we may tend to obsess over our rankings, we’re really after the traffic, right? And if there’s a better way to drive traffic to a particular page or site, wouldn’t you rather know than throw money at something less effective?

Example: some websites really don’t need much organic SEO work done unless new content is created. If your site contains 10 pages or less, you can only target so many popular phrases. The rest go untargeted because you lack the content to successfully go after any more. In this case, your money is better spent on copywriting, blogging, and PR.

Another example is this one company that sells satellite photo services for large land owners as a security measure. This company’s marketing manager was happy with the traffic received on most pages, and wasn’t willing to spend any more on SEO. Because his target audience is so small, he found other ways to reach them effectively. There is a certain website where his type of audience goes, and he simply pays for a banner ad at the top of the homepage. This simple technique drives excellent leads to his website. Again, not a solution for everyone, but experimentation CAN pay off.

Well, there you have it. As always, you can ask any question you have and I’ll do my best to deliver a quick and complete reply. And if you know of other stone age practices you want to call to our attention, feel free to add them in the comments section. Continues to Differentiate Itself From the Pack has been fourth place search engine since its inception. Google, Yahoo, and MSN Live all drive more traffic to websites like yours. Ask has made some interesting moves over the past year, and this latest move is no different. reports that will unveil its new privacy control today. This means that the terms you search for will be purged from Ask’s records within mere hours, compared to the industry standard of 13-18 months.

Google originally pitched the idea of data recording under the guise of personalized search. The concept states that a search engine that remembers what you’ve looked for and clicked on will be able to modify search results and deliver more accurate and relevant information to each user tracked. Some users think it’s a great idea. Others don’t want anyone knowing too much about their habits or interests.

This has been a year of major rebranding for They’ve ceased trying to compete with Google and Yahoo strictly on the basis of search results and have instead rebranded to be the Web 2.0-ish search engine with cool looking features and cross pollinated services. For users preferring a slick looking search experience, Ask is definitely the way to go. Still, their algorithm does not drive the most reliable results to your doorstep, making it still a subpar search experience.

With this new privacy control, individual consumers are the obvious target, as with the rest of’s marketing strategy. It’s not an industrial use search engine, but it can be a fun and enjoyable search engine. There’s definitely a market for fun and appealing, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see Google rebrand at some point in the next two years to totally obliterate’s current niche.

Why Does My Site Only Appear Twice for this Keyword?

I’ve only heard this question a few times from a client, and that just proves that most clients haven’t taken the time to notice it is true. At the most, your website can only rank twice for any given keyword phrase. That would seem strange to a company whose every page is well-written and targeted for their industry’s primary keywords. Nonetheless, Google has limited each website to two results maximum in most cases (some long tail searches may still yield additional results).

Matt Cutts recently referred to this as “host crowding”, which is as good a name as any. Host crowding has been guarded against for more than a year, and Google is apparently perfecting it’s algorithmic defense.

How does this host crowding fix affect my company?

Simply put, this means that you don’t need to target more than two pages with one keyword phrase. Keep in mind, however, that the combination of one consistent phrase with a unique secondary phrase could potentially help you cover the gamut of keyword phrase combinations based on one primary word or phrase. I’m not recommending you tack on a word or phrase onto each page. I am simply saying that it IS possible that you could rank for various combinations that might bring you some traffic. It’s also just as possible, however, that you could diversify your keywords targeted and your page copy more and actually draw a wider net of visitors to your site.

AB Testing is not a bad idea. If you want to see which method is better for your site and industry, take at least four pages and optimize two of them with the same primary phrase and give them both unique secondary phrases. See how those pages perform and how traffic increases/decreases based on your changes. Compare their performance with two other pages whose content and title tags do not share the same primary phrase.

Which SEO Resources Should People Really Read?

That is an excellent question. There are hundreds upon hundreds of SEO blogs and informational websites out there now. In fact, most everything has been said by someone else (and repeated a hundred times by newbies). So with all the clutter out there, how do you know which sites most people are reading?

I love this website – This site runs free traffic analysis on most websites. As long as the website has been around for six months or more and gets more than a couple thousand visitors per month, you’ll probably find data on it here. Without joining for free, you can check and compare three domains at a time. After you join for free, you can check and compare five domains for free simultaneously.

With this information, you can keep throwing out popular SEO domains and see which are really popular, and which are full of hot air. Just so you know, if you search for MysterySEO, we would appear to be hot air because we’re new and have done no advertising. I know that seems to contradict the logic of actually having and updating a blog, but you’ll see the reasoning more clearly in the months to come.

So, let’s take a quick look at some of the more popular SEO blogs and sites. We’ll just look at monthly visitors for now. We’ll compare the month of October 2007 to give you a snapshot view of site popularity. – approx. 445,441 visits – approx. 424,735 visits – approx. 383,716 visits – approx. 375,425 visits – approx. 273,147 visits – approx. 262,443 visits – approx. 253,636 visits – approx. 249,712 visits – approx. 188,105 visits

There are, of course, other resourceful websites that did not make the cut for this post. Please note that many of the more well-known SEO blogs currently receive somewhere between 30k and 65k visitors per month. This does not mean that they are not valuable resources. They just didn’t fit into today’s metric.

Feel free to comment and contribute other SEO resources that you believe fall under this “most popular” category. I’ll look each one up and respond.

Link Exchange Programs Still A Bad Idea

Through one of my other websites, I was just solicited for a link exchange by Link Helpers. I managed to chuckle despite how annoying these requests are. I get a request every month or so. It irritates me because these companies exist for the sole purpose of exchanging links for their clients under the guise of professional SEO. This is why it pays to educate yourself and take the mystery out of SEO. You need to know when you’re being taken for a ride.

Link exchanges worked five years ago. Maybe even still three years ago for some industries, but the folks over at Google aren’t idiots. If you participate in multiple link exchanges, you run the risk of serious penalization from Google. Sites have dropped from page one to page ten over such discrepancies.

What’s so wrong with link exchanges?

The problem lies in the method of acquiring links, and this is always the case. Links weigh heavily upon search results because Google prescribes to an ideal: that only someone who values the content or message of your site will link to it. Links are supposed to be a sign of popularity, authority, and validity. Link exchanges and link buys defy Google’s measuring stick of relevance. It is for this reason that Google penalizes hundreds and thousands of websites for unethical linking campaigns.

I use the term “unethical” somewhat loosely. Google’s algorithms are based on ideals, which of course do not always agree with reality. Reality is that some morons are good at personal branding and networking. They go to conferences and workshops and organizations where they network and build relationships with a core of people who link to them. It’s like a popularity contest of sorts. How are you supposed to earn backlinks if no one can find you to read your pages? How do you get the message out there prominently enough to earn recognition and greater exposure?

It’s a catch 22. I have never done a paid link campaign for any of my sites, and you can tell. I received tens of thousands of visitors for just three blog posts that I wrote at the beginning of this year. They were HUGELY popular, but I don’t think I earned a single link out of those tens of thousands of visitors. Why? Because I draw the wrong kind of visitors. Most of my visitors are consumers and readers, not website owners or web professionals. My target audience on that site is the crowd that feel extremely self-congratulatory simply for using Google’s search engine with greater efficiency. Anything beyond a search is too high tech for them. A blog is still relatively confusing for most of them.

You may own a website and have no knowledge of search marketing or linking campaigns. You may come across some company offering “link exchanges” or “reciprocal linking”. Do yourself a favor and avoid them. While some websites benefit for a short time from link exchanges, most of these websites are caught and penalized by Google. After you’ve been penalized by Google, it will take you some time and effort to get back in their good graces.

Before you jump at an offer to receive an amazing deal on search marketing, feel free to drop me a line and check on the legitimacy of their offerings. Blogsteading is NOT an SEO company, so we in no way compete with other agencies or individuals. We’re strictly here to offer experience and insight that will help you make wise decisions for your web marketing campaigns.

The Benefits of Working for an Interactive Marketing Agency

This may be the first time I give him credit, but I have to acknowledge Identity’s post on SEOMoz entitled, How Do You Role Your SEO? His post was insightful and worth reading. There, I said it. I hope my tongue doesn’t swell.

Working for a search marketing agency or an interactive agency large enough to have a search marketing division will play an invaluable role in the career of ANY SEO. Many SEOs start off as individual consultants who saw a need and learned what they needed to get some contract clients. Some SEOs are trained in-house because they expressed an interest in changing roles. Then you have your agency SEOs, who probably experience the fastest pace and most frequent challenges of them all.

As an in-house SEO, you may learn quite a bit about succeeding in your company’s industry. Perhaps you can even turn that into a niche specialty down the road. But for many of you, you’ll find that in-house work limits your exposure to multiple industries. Unless you’re in-house in a major niche industry with plenty of opportunity for advancement, agency experience stretches your ability to solve problems among multiple industry categories. What works for retail might not for industrial. You get the point.

There are hundreds of small agencies around the world where you can serve a dozen or more clients and really develop a sense of universal best practices and industry specific recommended tactics. Even most of the larger agencies will assign each SEO several clients, so you get the benefit of encountering unique problems and challenges with each site and the opportunity to overcome them.

Learning to deal with people is essential in any business venture, and SEO is no exception. I have witnessed many a meeting where the agency folks and the client weren’t speaking the same language. The difficulty is in realizing that regardless of your position, you are comfortable with a set of terms and ways of describing what’s happening that might be foreign to the other party. I’ve seen agencies who behave like snobs, and insist that their clients learn how to speak “correctly” about SEO. I’ve seen clients interrupt agencies and tell them how it’s going to be, regardless of whether their position is actually the best one. I’ve seen clients banging their head into the wall (not literally) because they couldn’t understand the gibberish.

There are lots of challenges and opportunities to get frustrated. But in facing those frustrations and slowly working through them, you develop new people skills and more advanced problem solving skills. These are a few of the qualities that make a top tier SEO.

My advice: If you are looking to enter the search engine optimization fray, look for an internship with an agency. Turn that internship into a job. Keep in mind that other agencies and regular companies have very different ways of doing things, and just allow yourself to grow in that busy environment. Once you’ve developed your resume, working for an in-house agency should be much easier because you are well-prepared to deal with change and conflicting opinions. Some of you will find that in-house work is boring after the fast paced lifestyle of an agency. I’ve had anywhere from nine to twelve search marketing clients on my plate at one time, and trust me, that will stretch you.

Each of us has our own path to take, so I don’t want you to feel that this post is telling you that there is only one right way to go about joining or growing in the SEO industry. Far from it. These are my thoughts that will ring true for some percentage of the population that think like me… I’m pretty sure there are at least a few of you out there.

Who Wins? Branding Versus SEO

In my last post, “Branding Experts Clash with SEO,” I introduced the problem in that post, and I’d like to provide an example of branding versus SEO in the real world.

Let’s take a look at Helio. For those of you not familiar with the brand, Helio is an MVNO, or in plain English, they are a company who markets really cool cell phones to teenagers and young 20s, and their service plans piggy back on the Sprint mobile network. It’s actually a very difficult industry to succeed in, when you consider that a majority of their fees go to Sprint for service. They charge enough over the standard Sprint fee to make a profit, but they have to compete with every other cell phone company on the market, including Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.

They accomplish this goal by providing phones with extra features and cool designs and some marketing genius. In every Helio Ocean radio commercial I’ve heard, they always say, “Don’t call it a cell phone, call it an Ocean!” Even in traditional marketing circles, they realize that they have to mention the term cell phone, even when they are distinguishing themselves somewhat snottily as superior to the standard cell phone.

I picked Helio because I am enamored with the Ocean, their top of the line “device”. Like many companies offering premium products, Helio wants to distinguish themselves as separate from the cell phone. They focus on the data streaming functionalities and casually mention, “Oh, and you can make calls too,” as if that were a necessary evil. They realize that a new generation has emerged that prefers to send text, emails, photos, etc back and forth with friends rather than talk. What that says about our culture is an entirely different subject, though probably worthy of discussion.

Helio wants the Ocean especially to be considered the “iPhone killer” for one, and a step or two above a cell phone for another. The branding of their product calls for a differentiation between Helio and cell phone. However, go to their website and you will see title tags and META tags including cell phone related terms. Granted, the site isn’t optimized as well as it could be for cell phone terms (no static copy on the home page or most pages and “Helio” always precedes other words in the title tag), but they have made a concerted effort to include the phrases “cell phones”, “mobile phones”, “wireless phones”, “camera phones”, and “mobile devices” along with the Helio branded terms and MySpace and YouTube functionalities.

Truthfully, Helio has a chance at branding themselves in such a way as to become a household name. The company name is catchy and pleasant sounding enough to hold its own. Perhaps their title tag orders are not evidence of poor SEO, but rather a belief that optimizing for Helio terms will actually draw more traffic in the long term. It’s a gamble, but one that some companies believe is worth taking. In truth, the Helio site is more optimized for the word “Helio” than anything else. This isn’t really necessary, because Google has been giving domain names much more authority over the past year and a half. shouldn’t have much competition for the word “Helio”, unless a bunch of other people buy domain names with “Helio” in the domain, and even then, I have my doubts that anyone will outrank So it seems a given that they will rank #1 for “Helio”.

That being the case, what is a company like this doing to reach all the other customers who haven’t heard the great news about their company yet? Obviously, the majority of their advertising is going towards television and radio. Get people talking about a brand name, and then they’ll search for it online. That’s probably their thinking. And granted, cell phone phrases are some of the most competitive phrases for search. It WOULD be difficult to rank in the top ten for “cell phone company” or “best cell phones”, but it’s an endeavor Helio can’t afford to avoid.

Unlike Helio, there are hundreds of corporations out there focusing entirely on traditional branding and wording concepts who refuse to compromise on the wording for their site. They end up ranking very well for phrases nobody searches for. If that’s what you’re into, I can help you think up dozens of unpopular phrases you can easily be #1 for. If, for some strange reason, however, you want your SEO efforts to yield measurable results, you will need to set aside your prejudices and listen to the recommendations of a proven SEO strategist.

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