Web Marketing Lesson 3: SEO Dos and Don’ts

SEO Lesson for Internet Marketers

Web. Social. Mobile. How do you dominate those fields with SEO in an age of smart search engines?

SEO Dos and Don'ts article graphic

First of all, know your SEO history, or be doomed to repeat its failures. Second, make sure you do good SEO and avoid bad SEO. Here’s how.

Good SEO

If you’re doing SEO, do:
1) White Hat SEO only.
2) Be intelligent, if you want to rank at the top of SERPs.
3) Produce the highest quality wherever and whenever possible.
4) Distribute organically on traditional websites, blogs, forums, and social networks, where you have verified or verifiable accounts and profiles.
5) Let the audience come to you.
6) Make sure you know and apply the 5 fundamentals of good on-site SEO (Title, Navigation, Sitemap, Content Hierarchy, and canonical, ahreflang / rel tags / geolocation-based data serving)
7) Use the rel=nofollow tag on most commercial links.
8) Use images, infographics and video more, with proper tags and microdataformat information.
9) Use microdataformats to include good information about non-text media objects like images, audio, video and PDF files, that Google and other engines can easily read and index accordingly.
10) Optimize your site for speed and different platforms (Desktop, laptop, mobile, etc).
11) Use Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and know them inside out as far as SEO is concerned.
12) Remove the worst bad old links you have, and Disavow those you can not otherwise take down.
13) Test, test, test … Apply best possible incremental changes. Rinse and repeat.

Remember that just as in any other form of good marketing, you should focus on giving, selling, renting, leasing or otherwise making attainable to the people what they actually want. The higher your quality of work, the stronger your relationship will be with the user. If you make great content, as I hope I do, then your first goal with a user should be that your work is so great that the user will do everything just to sign-up to the freebie email newsletter on your site.

Keep in mind that unless you’re publishing secrets for being successful in a particular field (as this site does often), you can almost count on your users to spread the word for you. And that kind of prosteletizing is the best kind of word of mouth marketing, or WOMM, you can hope for. This is because WOMM is real. It’s not paid for, and people, being social creatures, are more likely to click on a link from a trusted friend, then from a random marketer who somehow slipped into their stream of data.

Some people who have warnings or even penalties in their GWT, have reported that completely ignoring these warnings and just continuing to produce better content has resulted in the penalties going away. However, for most webmasters, this is simply not the case. Just by opening the message, they are in a way acknowledging that they know that Google thinks they have done something that is a no-no in Google’s SEO rulebook. So definitely open your messages from GWT and fix whatever problem Google has been kind enough to share with you. It may take a while to do, and it may be a month or more until Google decides to lessen or remove your penalty. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it in the long run.

Of course there are also commercial services like MajesticSEO, ScreamingFrog, SEMRush, LinkResearchTool, SEOMoz, SEOBook, QuickSprout, and tons of other SEO tools which can be of great help in finding and removing bad links. LRT is especially proud of their service in this area, marketing their “bad link juice” or toxic link removal feature as a selling-point for their paid service.

Recommended SEO Tools:

Checkout
Know Who Is Your Competition.
Find out with

To date, reports from webmasters are that while LRT is comprehensive, it may also be a little too sensitive about what is and what is not a toxic link. My own experience with LRT is that roughly 20% – 40% of the links which it recommended to remove, were in fact perfectly fine, and that no removal was necessary. At the same time, about 60% – 80% of the links it recommended that I remove for one particular client, which had more than 435,000 backlinks from around the web, did need to be fixed, removed, and in a few cases, disavowed.

Bad SEO

If you’re doing SEO, don’t:
1) Do Grey Hat or Black Hat SEO.
2) Produce a ton of web spam. In fact, don’t publish any webspam at all.
3) Create a ton of thin profiles and accounts to blast cheap-o links and barely legible comments on news sites, .edu sites, .gov sites, online fora, social media and other web sites.
4) Buy links.
5) Buy followers, friends, likes, shares or re-pins.
6) Try to outproduce the largest brands in your field.
7) Googlebomb irrelevant garbage with poor quality links and anchor text.
8) Make most of your links “follow” links.
9) Over-optimize.
10) Use non-readable technologies like Flash and iframes for displaying content on pages that you want to rank high.
11) Think you know everything and that you have nothing left to learn about improving your SEO.
12) Feign ignorance about the latest SEO tweaks, hoping Google will let you slide.
13) Ignore Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo and other big search engines.

For better or for worse, Google actually believes that its bot is now smart enough to make most decisions about what is high quality content and what is webspam. Even if you know you’re doing everything by the book, you should probably incorporate a few things that de-optimize your SEO strategy a little. Otherwise, it will reek of manipulation, and that’s a no-no in today’s SEO reality.

Keep in mind that the days of owning the search results by tricks and shady ruses are long behind us. Yes, you can still get short term gains from those methods, but they will eventually come back to bite you in the backside. And if you make a bad mistake, you could even harm or kill a real, valuable brand.

Just look at what happened to JC Penney. Someone there doing shady SEO tricks tried to fool Google with paid backlinks in 2012 and got spanked hard by Google. It took them a long time (relatively) and a lot of headaches (and probably lots of money) to get back into google’s good graces.

Remember that those brands and marketers who have legitimate massive appeal will organically crush most of their small-time competition without even trying. Unless you’re selling cold-fusion in a cup for under a buck, or something as cool, useful and catchy as WhatsApp or SnapChat, there is just no way you’re going to have millions of users and genuine backlinks overnight, or even within years. That kind of popularity is usually grown slowly … repeat … s–l—o—-w——–l–y.

Staying on top of the lesser search engines is also key to SEO success, because, even though individually they may not add up to much, overall, they account for at least 25% of all searches, and even more if you also include social media search engines. This means that you should be sure to do some non-google optimization, lest you ignore those audiences, and lest you make googlebot think you are only targeting google for exploitative purposes.

And always remember that very often, the best SEO looks very much like organized chaos. Organized on the back end, and often chaotic-looking on the front end, with no single routine or format to encapsulate all of the work that goes into it. All the same, you should be more concerned with being organized. The organic nature and the benefits of what appear to be chaos will ensue, just by the very work that is done by you, and the audience with whom you have cultivated a relationship. Done right, they will eagerly look for ways to link to your site from at least one of their own sites or social profiles, if not more.

    Useful SEO Resources:

    The SEO Guide you must read:
Google’s official SEO Rules as a PDF document:
    An SEO you can learn from:
Connect with an SEO Ninja
    SEO tools
Checkout SEO Resource
    Another great SEO tutorial
Read this Advanced SEO Guide

My independent social agreement with you: If you like what you saw on this page and want to help me in my quest to challenge Google’s public pronouncements on publishing great content, then please share the link to this page on your social network profiles and anywhere that you think it might help other people.

Previous Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2.6: SEO Overview : A brief history of search engine optimization.
Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 4: Building A Site After Domain Name Registration. The best, easiest, fastest way to build your website, pre-optimized for search platforms and different devices, right from the start.

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A neat tool quietly rolled into Gmail

Google surprise: A neat tool quietly rolled into Gmail

There’s something nifty in a popular Google product, even if you don’t know it’s there.

Gmail attachment checker

Despite my not-always-positive views of the Google, overall I do think they are a remarkable company. One of the great value assets is their ability to create really useful software applications.

Gmail, the popular google version of email on the web, aka: webmail, is one such application. In Gmail, when you write an email, and mention an attachment to your recipient, the webmail application checks the message to see if there is in fact a file attached. That way, you don’t accidentally send without the file you intended to attach.

Here’s an example of what it looks like, from inside a Gmail account:

google gmail file attached checker feature

You’ll see a screen similar to this (minus my in-signature cartoon) when you forget to attach a file in your gmail message.

Try it for yourself. Compose a new mail in your Gmail. Write “attach” or “attachment” or “attached” in an email that you send to any of your contacts (or to yourself if you don’t have anything to send anyone). Don’t attach any file. Hit Send. You’ll see the screen get darker and a window pops up and says:

  • Did you mean to attach files?
  • You wrote “attached file” in your message, but there are no files attached. Send anyway?

And then it offers you to “Cancel” – go back to the message to attach the file you want to include, or “Send Anyway” – without an attachment.

Now, it is a little silly to call the “go back to the message” button “Cancel”. Why not just label the button “Go back to message to add attachment(s)” ? or just “Attach” and make it go straight to the file attachment facility? I don’t know. I guess they have a reason for it, like, the software engineers don’t know how to communicate plain English so fluently now that Marissa Mayer has moved over to Yahoo! All the same, it is a brilliant and handy little feature, ensuring a higher quality experience when sending email from your Gmail account.

So there you have it.  If you already use Gmail, I hope that you enjoy this useful built-in feature.  And I publicly applaud Google for this great tiny evolution of webmail. I hope other email and webmail makers include a similar feature in their own applications, sooner rather than later.

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How Spam and Google effectively ruined the internet for millions of publishers and other people

How Spam and Google effectively ruined the internet for millions of publishers and other people

satire editorial cartoon of google copyright school 2011 april 14

black and white editorial comic of the google copyright school by laughzilla for thedailydose on 2011-04-14

The day the indie publisher died, care of Spam and Google

The gold rush of the first Internet wave

Back in the heady days of the 1990s until mid-2000, independent internet publishers were able to easily thrive online, both by email and on the then-nascent world wide web.

Back then, you literally just had to know how to have a web page set up (whether you built it or had a friend do it for you), set up an email list, start publishing to your email list (and sometimes to your web site, too), make sure you were indexed in Yahoo! and AltaVista, and a dozen other engines and directories, and your list would probably start to grow, as long as you delivered a consistent product or service, like a newsletter or research paper or magazine.

Once your traffic was rolling, you could start calling advertisers (by looking them up online or in the yellow pages), and start selling ads for $500 or $2000, minimum, without having to negotiate very much at all. It seemed like a lot of money for independent publishers, and an incredibly cheap deal for advertisers.

Publishers were happy. Advertisers were happy. Everyone seemed happy.

Then something happened, and it wasn’t what you might think.

In October 2000, the tech bubble popped. Billions upon billions of dollars were vaporized, and gone were the masses of well-funded no-value companies, who managed to rake in huge sums of investor funds, without so much as a penny of revenue, let alone profit.

At the same time, independent companies, with real revenue and (cough cough) real profit margins were hit by something much worse: Spam and heavy reliance on vaporware advertisers.

Those advertisers with so much money to spend on low ROI branding, were only too happy to spend a fortune when times were good, money was plentiful, and the living was easy. We were all drunk on the ease of it all. The advertisers did not want or expect results, because they were overloaded with just getting their clients online, anywhere they could be seen.

All of a sudden, they had no more money, because they were too proud of their “burn rate” for far too long. Rather than taking a long, slow approach to building real value with their substantial investments, they spent it all with a splash, and went out with the crash.

Of course, the publisher were not complaining when the dollars were raining down in a torrent. Then again, they were not doing anything to prepare for the likelihood that the party would end, and reality would sink in. The future, for anyone who had a clue, was bleak, difficult, and full of years of survival, let along growing pains.

All of that is just the fault of everyone legitimately involved in the internet publishing industry back in those days. In that sense, we were all to blame.

Even so, that failure to properly manage well-heeled bank accounts to support these fledgling companies, was nothing compared to the illegitimate abuse of internet resources.

The first villain to rear its ugly head in that way, was spam. Unsolicited mail. Junk email. The junk that used to pile up in your inbox, and somehow, despite all the advances in anti-spam filters, still does.

Spam killed email.

Yes, it’s been said before. I just have something particular to say about it.

Spam killed off the publishing of a Pangea-sized ocean of perfectly legitimate, hard-won email lists, built up by wonderful businesses whose primary access to the online world, was their inbox.

Email lists, of all kinds, belonging to all sorts of publishers, from small to large, from independent to large publicly traded corporations, could no longer reach their customers, because spam flooded their inboxes so badly, that people simply switched addresses, or stopped using email as much as possible.

While it may not sound so bad, the net result was that it killed off the creme de la creme of online publishers who had managed to build up real trust with people through their email.

Of course what led to so much spam was also partly to blame on some of the publishers themselves. They had been selling off or renting off lists of their subscribers to the highest bidder, or any buyer who would offer, without knowing anything about those buyers, their interests, their motives, or any of their future use plans. Of course, spammers did not rely solely on buying lists. They used bots. Little software robots that could gather email addresses automatically from emails, web pages, and other places on the internet.

Those little bots not only gathered the lists, they “cleaned” them by merging and purging. They formed them into new lists and automatically started blasting away highly targeted ads for pills, porn, casinos and other delightful adult products and services we all obviously need every single day.

But even that did not finish off the little publisher, or the large publisher who wanted to hang in there and ride out the storm for better days.

Nope. It wasn’t spam. Because after all, smart publishers were able to migrate from one media to the next, and if they were resourceful enough, they could do it without losing too much in the shuffle. They might even find the new media to be more profitable. For a while.

And then Google ate the Internet

It was right around the tech bubble bursting that Google became the rising superstar leading up to the lovable fuzzy cyber monster muppet that it is today.

Google, complete with its whiz-bang algorithms, was the talk of tech. They had secretly formulated the perfect recipe to deliver exactly what you asked for, by searching for things in plain human languages. Or so they said, and most people seemed to believe them.

Google is a brilliant company. Thousands of the best minds, all working together, developing software and applications that mere mortals dare not dream. Google has created many wonderful tools which have vastly improved the usability of the internet, chief among those being their search engine, and their email known as Gmail.

Still, what Google also did, was to use the power of their search engine, to legitimately buy out the online advertising industry, and like a gorilla, crush it.

Anyone could join google’s ad network. Anyone could use google’s search on their site, even customized. Anyone could let google copy their entire website, and forever own the copies they made and store. And anyone could earn a sliver of the amount they could earn with direct advertisers for the same space, before Google decided to stick itself into everyone’s business, and lower the money flow to pennies on the dollar, if that.

So yes, they managed to lower ad rates, and that was good for advertisers. But by doing so, they killed off many good and valuable media by pawning off low value traffic to the same advertisers, and not paying the good media a rate commensurate with their value. Google’s ad network became the largest cesspool of bottom feeders. And that attracted all the web spammers who ruined search, thus decreasing the value of those google ads, even further.

So much for the Google creed, “Don’t be evil.”

Google stole the Internet by asking for it

Permission marketing is a very positive idea in business, developed online by Seth Godin and others of that stream of thought, which says that sales and marketing are like a date: you have to speak to your date before you go together to the dance, or movie, or dinner. You need permission for every step. That sort of behavior builds solid trust. Lacking that behavior shows a lack of trustworthiness.

Google used permission marketing, by offering the greatest app ever (free search) for anyone’s web site, accompanied by the only app that at the time seemed even greater than the greatest app ever. And that application was: Google AdSense.

By opening up the web to millions more websites into the advertising pool, Google managed to lower the bid rate and value of advertising on the web. They effectively killed off the amounts that advertisers were willing to pay for perfectly good media on sites that had actual audiences.

Google, with all its good intentions, may have delivered better search results, but the cost was that it killed off ad revenues by more than 90% for most internet publishers. That, more than Spam, more than the economic disaster that followed the tech bubble, put millions of websites out of business.

The net effect is that now, more than a decade later, we have yet to see a return to any heyday or good times for publishers online. The exception to that are those publishers who have the means to build or buy themselves a significant, targeted distribution network, with a minimum of millions of contacts. For most media companies, even if you were reaching millions of people a day back in 2000, you probably aren’t doing that anymore. And you can thank Google for doing that, by “organizing the world’s information” in the way that they prefer, and destroying its value in the process.

By making everyone believe that they would always find what they wanted on Google, hundreds of millions, if not billions of people are now basically clueless as to other ways of finding information online. Google is not the be all and end all of search engines. Users relying on google innocently caused so much traffic to be lost from sites that had worked to build something of real value, that those sites could no longer support themselves with Google blocking everyone’s way to their sites.

Of course, the GOOG was not the only one to ask for permission to copy and own your content, in exchange for cheap-o advertising and free search tools. But, they were the best, and the fruit they bore was to build the world’s largest internet advertising network, and the most popular search engine, all at the cost of ruining the ad revenue of millions of companies that were around online, long before anyone had heard of Google.

The story doesn’t end in darkness. There is a better future.  A brighter day did arrive. It’s for another post.

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