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Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Really!?! “SEO Expert” Spam

July 27th, 2010

Really!?! “SEO Expert” Spam

This blog post was inspired by Saturday Night Live’s, Really!?! with Seth and Amy.

We receive inquiries on a regular basis asking about unsolicited emails received from self-proclaimed SEO experts. This topic has come up in previous blog posts of ours over the years but since you may not be a devoted fan of our blog let me just cut the suspense and fill you in about these types of emails—they’re complete scams; if you receive one promptly delete and add the sender to your blocked sender list.

Take this real example of an email received by an unsuspecting small business:

A quick look at your website’s home page [a community bank] reveals the need for optimization for better rankings. Your website has a total link popularity score of 505, which is low, and is poor on Google and Bing/MSN and weak on Yahoo. In comparison, Wells Fargo has a popularity score of 672,016 and Bank of America, 1,004,188 . . . Please reply to this email or call me to set up a meeting to learn more and MSI will provide a free website analysis, a $300 value.

Really!?! Does this email really have any logic or legitimacy to it or are these guys just one of the many scammer predators prowling the Internet?  Consider the following:

  1. Comparing a small community bank with two branches to some of the largest banks in the world?  Really!?!
  2. “Popularity score of 505” . . . really!?! Given the your logic as demonstrated above why should we give any credibility to a “popularity score” that you made up? Why wouldn’t we want to use the free and reliable Page Rank score provided by Google? Really!?!
  3. “Free website analysis, a $300 value,” Really!?! Is that the same exact free website analysis that anyone can get by simply typing in “site:http://mydomain.com” in Google or using any of the free (and legitimate) Website tools provided by Google?
  4. And the biggest Really!?! of all . . . if you’re company is so darn good as SEO why are you looking for sales using the most desperate and bottom-feeder method of all, Spam! Really!?!

The Secret to Writing Blog Posts that Get Noticed

June 16th, 2010

Google Wonder WheelAs you may be aware from the myriad of past SEO posts we’ve made, the holy grail for getting more customers from Web searches is getting more backlinks (or linkbacks if you prefer). Specifically, multiple high quality link backs from other Websites in the same or related industry to yours. These are the “votes” Google uses to decide how high up on the search results page your site should be listed for a given keyword search. Google itself provides two incredibly powerful tools that have the potential to exponentially improve your return on blog writing time.

The strategy is simple:

  1. Research current hot topics and searches on Google using Google Trends and Google Wonder Wheel.
  2. Find a keyword that fits within the realm of a hot topic, applies to your area of knowledge, and appeals to your target customers.
  3. Post a quality blog focused on the hot topic keywords for your target customers.

Here are the tools:

  • Google Trends Find out what search terms and topics are currently high traffic. Self explanatory and intuitive to use: http://www.google.com/trends
  • Google Wonder Wheel Expand keyword options and refine a topic to find a keyword topic that fits you and your client base best. To utilize Google Wonder Wheel simply perform a Google search, then expand the “Search Tools” in the left hand column of the result page and click Wonder Wheel.

If you use these tools I would love to hear about your experience.

Don’t get blacklisted by Google

December 3rd, 2009
Google has become so massive and so powerful that it can’t help but be dangerous to the small guys if not approached and treated with the most extreme of respect and caution.”

Yesterday Dan Macsai over at Fast Company posted, G-Railed: Why Did Google Bury the Web’s Oldest Entertainment Publication?, which was a timely underscore for two strategic principles that we’ve been passionately advocating for some time:

1. Placing too much weight on search engine marketing creates a high-risk business plan

Counting on Google for demand generation is extremely risky because it places the life of your business completely out of your direct control. You’re creating a system with a single point of failure and giving a kill switch to a capricious third-party who may not be “evil” but by the nature of its massiveness has become indifferent to the particular wants, needs and even justice afforded to the insignificant speck your business represents. I believe strongly that Google’s approach to search engine ranking was founded on truly noble principles; namely that the Internet community be the ultimate authority as to the value of a particular site. However, as a wise Englishman once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Google has become so massive and so powerful that it can’t help but be dangerous to the small guys if not approached and treated with the most extreme of respect and caution.

To hear more ranting on this topic, please review the post I made just a few days ago entitled The Danger of Relying on Search Engines for Your Business in which I advocate a strategy of building a business plan which does not rely on search engines to exist, but which absolutely still takes advantage of the marketing opportunities they offer.

2.Play SEO by the book (the Google book that is)

We’ve pontificated on this topic ad nauseam in the past all of which might be summed up with the statement:

  • Do not under any circumstances engage in any SEO practices that might be regarded as unfavorable by Google.

In other words, don’t fall for the scams of those SEO firms that keep spamming you. Great ignorance has persisted in this area giving rise to myriads of carpetbagger “SEO” firms from whom you’ve likely received an email from this type recently implying some proprietary approach to SEO and implying they posses secrets that will somehow fool Google into granting you a high search engine page placement. Not only are these types of approaches scams, in the long run they are more likely to damage your standing with Google.

There is no secret to SEO, in fact Google tells us plainly how to make your site Google friendly.  Even cheating a little is not safe anymore. Google’s algorithms are continually evolving and improving, much as anti-virus software does, and may at some point recognize and penalize even your smaller infractions and indiscretions (how many domains do you have auto forwarding to your main site for example?). Don’t be left like Studio Briefing was, scratching your head and looking on in despair as Google shutters your cyberdoors.

Conclusion

Google’s unrivaled power and indifference to your particular business is not a bad thing, but it is a fact that you have to embrace. For those who grant Google the respect and caution it demands, its power can be channeled towards your significant benefit. To play Google’s game right, here’s where to start:

  • Build using a smart business plan that mitigates potential risk from Google while maximizing the potential for benefit. Put simply don’t rely on Google for demand generation but take all you can legitimately get from them. Understand that (unless you intentionally are developing a high-risk/high-reward business plan) search engines should not be a foundational element of your comprehensive strategic business plan.
  • Religiously adhere to Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine tactics as guide lined by Google.
  • Be extremely wary of “SEO” solicitors.

Comments and questions are welcome.

The Danger of Relying on Search Engines for Your Business

November 30th, 2009
Your business plan needs to rely on demand generation from a source other than organic Internet search engines—a source over which you have more direct control.”

I ran across a great article by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger entitled, “What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop.” In it he recounts a time when his site’s traffic dropped a dramatic 70% suddenly and for no apparent reason. He relied on Google to bring in most of his site visitors and some unknown change in their algorithms resulted in this costly (for him) change of fortune. While not the point of his article, this example underscores a principle that we’ve been emphasizing for years—it’s very risky to rely on awareness and demand generation being driven primarily by high search engine result page placement (please note my emphasis of the words rely and primarily).

I’m not suggesting at all that search engine optimization efforts are not important, but rather that your business plan needs to rely on demand generation from a source other than organic Internet search engines—a source over which you have more direct control. The risk of building your business with a single point of failure over which you have no direct control whatsoever is prohibitively risky in almost all business scenarios.

It’s for this reason that we typically advise our clients to build a business plan without consideration for demand generation via search engines (referral marketing is always the most desirable and secure foundation for demand generation) and then go ahead and implement a best practice SEO strategy. If your business plan is solid and your unique value proposition legitimate a by-the-book (Google’s book that is) SEO campaign will generate demand over time; all of which should be treated like “gravy” until significant enough to begin including in your sales forecast. This strategy then mitigates the high-risk of relying on search engines for your business while at the same time taking advantage of the great high ROI opportunity that organic search engine marketing offers.

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