Archived posts from the 'SEO' Category

The Nofollow-Universe of Black Holes

I pretty much dislike the rel=nofollow fiasco for various reasons, especially its ongoing semantic morphing and often unethical implementation. Recently I wrote about nofollow-confusion and beginning nofollow-insane. Meanwhile the nofollow-debacle went a major step forwards: bloggers fight huge black holes (the completely link-condomized Wikipedia) with many tiny black holes (plug-ins castrating links leading to Wikipedia).

Folks, do you realize that actually you’ve joined the nofollow-nightmare you’re ranting about? Instead of trying to change things with constructive criticism addressing nofollow-supporters, you take the Old Testament approach, escalating an IMHO still remediable aberration. This senseless attitude supports the hapless nofollow-mechanism by the way. You’re acting like defiant kids crying “nofollow is sooooo unfair” while you strike back with tactical weapons unsuitable to solve the nofollow-problem. Devaluing Wikipedia links because Wikipedia is de facto an untrusted source of information OTOH makes sound sense, although semantically rel=nofollow is not the right way to go in this case.

I understand that losing the (imputed!) link juice of a couple Wikipedia links is not nice. However, I don’t buy that these links were boosting SE rankings in the first place –although a few sites having only Wikipedia inbound links drop out of the SERPs currently–, their real value is extremely well targeted traffic, and these links are still clickable.

I agree that Wikipedia’s decision to link-condomize all outbound links is a thoughtless, lazy, and pretty insufficient try to fight vandalizing link droppers. It is even “unfair”, because the black hole Wikipedia now sucks the whole Web’s link juice while giving nothing (except nicely targeted traffic) in return. But I must admit that there were not that many options, since there are no search engine crawler directives on link level providing the granularity Wikipedia probably needs.

Lets imagine the hapless nofollow value of the REL attribute would not exist. In this scenario Wikipedia could implement 4-eyes link tagging as follows:
1. New outgoing links would get tagged rel=”unapproved”. Search engines would not count a vote for the link destination, but follow the link.
2. Later on, when a couple trusted users and/or admins have approved the link, “unapproved” would get removed forever (URL and REL values stored in combination with the article’s URL to automatically reinstate the link’s stage on edits where a link gets removed, added, removed and added again…). So far that would even work with the misguiding “nofollow” value, but an extended microformat would allow meaningful followup-tags like “example”, “source”, “inventor”, “norm”, “worstenemy”, “hownotto” or whatever.

Instead of ranting and vandalizing links we should begin to establish a RFC on crawler directives on HTML element level. That would be a really productive approach.

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Is buying and selling text links risky?

To answer the question above: Yes, selling links can be risky, buying links is quite safe, and I do recommend link brokers. I don’t want to fuel the heated “paid links evil or not” debate, but there is so much misinformation out there that I feel I’ve to step in. Two things pointed me to this topic today, TLA’s affiliate program and an article by Jill Whalen.

I got an email from Patrick Gavin from Text-Link-Ads.com (TLA) introducing his new affiliate program. I know he’s a nice guy, so I’ve signed up and placed his banner on all related pages of Smart IT Consulting Internet Services. Checking the link I found this statement on the landing page:

…our ads can … help your link popularity which is a top factor in search engine rankings.

Well, I disagree respectfully, so I wrote an article How to buy and sell (text) links and linked it as editorial note below the ads. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t promote TLA for ‘lousy’ $25 per signup. I do believe that traffic brokers like TLA provide extremely valuable services, and although I don’t use TLA’s service myself I got a few recommendations from trusted sources. So please consider TLA’s program recommended when you buy traffic.

Ok, next I stumbled upon Jill Whalen’s good article Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?. Jill does a terrific job in explaining why paid links confuse the hell out of the search engines and why they dislike selling link popularity. Basically she says that buying links isn’t evil and bought links will not get a site penalized by the engines:

It’s not a matter of if this [dropped rankings] will happen with paid text link ads, but when. It could be next week, next month, or next year. Regardless of when the engines decide to lower the boom, you can bet we’re going to hear a lot of crying in the forums about it! For now, if you’re buying text link ads, or have been thinking about it, I wouldn’t really worry about it. Just make a mental note to yourself that whatever boost to your rankings they may provide now could vanish at any time.

That’s right, the destination page may not get the PR boost, but the page carrying the link may get penalized, and unfortunately she doesn’t mention the latter fact.

If Google or another SE takes away a site’s ability to pass reputation in links that’s fatal. It may be not that big deal with outgoing links (although that’s pretty much questionable!), but internal links do lose their power too. If a site concentrates incoming links on the home page or few points of entry, the result may be that all the content pages attracting the money terms in lower link levels disappear from the search results.

So if you sell links, via broker or not, you really should make clear that your links will be castrated. Selling links with condom is fine with the engines. If you buy links, don’t worry but don’t expect an everlasting ranking boost, if any - just enjoy and convert the traffic.

Related links:
Sell and buy links via Text-Link-Ads.com (affiliate link to TLA)
Jill Whalen’s article “Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?”
My notes on buying and selling text link ads

UPDATE: Patrick’s statement: “We recommend only purchasing links on websites that have a good chance of sending you targeted traffic that converts for you. If you are getting your money’s worth in targeted traffic you don’t have to worry about how the search engines treat the link and any benefit will be a bonus.

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The "Internet Advancement" - Scam

Rand Fishkin, a respected and well known SEO, was cold called by a jerk from a “SEO firm” (read scammer) who tried to sell him laughable services like monthly submissions to 8,500 minor search engines to “gain ‘linkpop points’ which boost the rankings in all major engines like Hotbot, Netscape and DMOZ”. Rand’s “Internet Advancement”-asshats transcript is pretty funny, and I agree that there should be kinda SEO-blacklist anywhere on the net to prevent small businesses from wasting their marketing budgets.

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Spam Clinic for German Web Sites

All the talk about Google banning BMW.de, Ricoh.de and other big non-US brands has inspired me to launch a spam clinic especially for german sites. Every now and then I stumble across a German SERP and I do not like what I see. Spam rules Google.de and I don’t get why Google has an 80% market share over there. I do speak German, so helping to clean up these cluttered SERPs should be a home match;)



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Google’s Sitemaps Team Interviewed

Recently I had the great opportunity to interview the Google Sitemaps Team: Shiva Shivakumar who started the program in June 2006; Vanessa Fox, the extremely helpful spokeswoman who blogs for the Sitemaps team and assists Webmasters in the newsgroup; her coworkers Michael and Andrey from Google’s Kirkland office, Grace and Patrik from the branch in Zurich, and Shal from the Googleplex in Mountain View. Matt Cutts chimed in with some good advice too.

I want to thank those friendly Googlers for taking the time to contribute loads of great technical advice and extremely valuable information to the Google Sitemaps Knowledge Base.

Besides Sitemaps related information, the interview provides the ultimate answer to the endless “404 vs. 410″ debate, explains the URL removal tool Matt Cutts was talking about yesterday at Webmasterradio, provides hints to optimize dynamic Web sites … hey, just read it to find all the gems:

Google Sitemaps Team Interview

Consider bookmarking the Google Sitemaps Info Page and subscribing to the Sitemaps Feed to get alerted on future stuff like that.

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Link building tips for small business sites

Everybody is talking about link baiting, but it’s hard to create a good link bait when you have no noticed voice. I thought it might be useful to repeat some well established techniques of link acquisition, that is link building tips for small sites with a tiny marketing budget:

The value of links from a search engine’s perspective

Question: What is a link worth with regard to search engine rankings, what kind of links should I hunt for if I’m not the WSJ, and where do I have a realistic chance to get linked?

Answer (summary): Valuable links generate human traffic, trafficked sites do get a ranking boost. The article provides examples and explains why some inbound links are utterly useless.

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v7ndotcom elursrebmem: Turn something completely silly into something good

When you search Google for for “v7ndotcom elursrebmem” the results will confuse you, until you stumble across GrayWolf’s v7ndotcom elursrebmem page.

Q: So what’s v7ndotcom elursrebmem?

A: Using the Web to help kids with cancer.

You really should support GrayWolf’s campaign by dropping links to his charity page:
<a href='http://www.wolf-howl.com/v7n/'>What is v7ndotcom elursrebmem</a>?<br>
Using the Web to help kids with cancer.

Thank you.

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Can you trust a SEO who steals?

Tahir J. Farooque runs a SEO service in Los Angeles: Cresoft Corporation. Instead of writing up articles on search engine optimization for the company’s Web site at cresoft dot com, he prefers to steal those from other Web sites.

Tahir J. Farooque is not only a content thief, T.J. Farooque is an incredible stupid plagiarist. When this not that savvy thief receives a cease & desist letter, the stolen content gets shortened a bit. Laughable to think a thief can get away with theft by rearranging the sales pitch thrown together from stolen content. But that’s Tahir Farooque’s poor mind. Putting a business at legal risk and asking for bad publicity seems to be easier than writing an own copy. Perhaps Tahir F. is not capable of doing his own research, but then he lacks a fundamental skill for a search engine optimizer. Would you assign SEO work to a stupid thief?

I’ve put up a page with screen shots, whois info etc. under Content Theft: Tahir J. Farooque’s plagiarism at CRESOFT.COM (Cresoft Corporation), feel free to link to it with a suitable anchor text.

UPDATE: The content theft sold the company, and the new owner apologized for the plagiarism. That’s why I’ve removed the info page linked above and crossed out the company name.

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If your Web site was banned by Google

If your Web site was banned by Google for reasons like hidden text, invisible links, client-sided instant redirects, doorway pages etc., chances are the ban is limited to 30 days or a few months only. When you search for your domain name and you get a result page stating “Google knows zilch about that shady site”, and you previously had some listings on Google’s SERPs, then:

Save all your server logs and extract each and every request by a Googlebot.

Shortly after banning a site Google usually will drastically reduce its crawling frequency. That is Googlebot starts to check for suspected stuff, and no longer crawls for indexing purposes.

Look at every page requested by Googlebot. Double-check it for hidden stuff and artificial linkage. Fix the on-page mistakes (polite description for over-optimization). Delete the page if it is part of a thin-page series (high amounts of pages carrying low amounts of repetitive but keyword optimized textual content, a.k.a. “doorway pages”). Delete all (thin) pages which do a client-sided redirect to the homepage or a profitable landing page. “Deletion” means physical removal, not redirection to a clean page. If your doorway pages don’t respond with a honest 404 when Googlebot revisits them, the ban will not be lifted. Consider canned site-search results, thin product pages with full navigation (e.g. only SKU, name and image), and stuff like that shady too. If you think those pages are helpful for visitors though, then make sure SE crawlers cannot fetch or even index it.

Hire a professional SEO for a last check and a second opinion as well. Removing questionable stuff is a good opportunity to implement effective optimization.

As soon as the crawling frequency goes back to the old cadence, and you’re sure your site is clean, file a reinclusion request. Write up honestly what you did to cheat Google, explain how you’ve fixed your stuff, and why it can’t happen again.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a second successful reinclusion request. That means if you cheat again, even unintentionally, your site is toast.

If your site was suspended for 30 days or so, it can reappear on the SERPs even without a reinclusion request. However, filing a reinclusion request should not hurt, and doing it before an estimated algorithmic reinstatement can speed up the process, if the initial penalty was a hand job, which seems to require a human review to lift the ban.

Best of luck!

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SEO for Consulting Firms, Laywers, Tax Advisors …

To attract targeted search engine traffic, a consulting firm must publish all business secrets on the ‘Net. Well, that does not mean the payroll and the balance sheet, but I needed a provoking slogan for a piece I wrote on a suitable SEO strategy for consultants, which by definition do not tell anything without a fee payed upfront ;)

Asking why so many consulting firms lack search engine visibility leads to a simple conclusion: they hide themselves on the Web. They do actively prevent search engines from ranking their Web sites in top spots on the search result pages, although they spend shitloads of jolly green giants to operate fancy Web sites, which please the ego but not the engines or even the user.

In their constant fear to reveal knowledge which may be sellable some day, they praise their genius in terrific mission statements and generic visions, but they don’t put up any indexable content with the potential to rank for solutions and services they provide.

I hope it’s a good read: A SEO Strategy for Consulting Firms

Related link: Web Logs for Lawyers: Lessons from Ernie the Attorney

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