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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Should you trade links?

May 2nd, 2013

I received a great question from an ambitious company. They asked about trading links with other sites to increase their visibility in search engines. It’s a question that’s not too uncommon so I thought it worthwhile to share my response here.

While I don’t know all the details of the link sharing that you have in mind, generally speaking, I strongly recommend not posting links to external sites unless it unambiguously provides value for your prospects and clients. The ultimate long-term determination of your site’s success, and coincidentally search engine prominence, will be the consistent quality of the content and resources you serve up on your site—not how many links you have traded.

In theory, trading links with another site does little, nothing, or is actually detrimental to your search engine rankings. You usually gain search engine prominence (called PageRank by Google) from getting links to your site and can lose it when linking to another site. So if you trade links your PageRank may cancel itself out and not much is accomplished.

Regarding incoming links, you want to be as selective as you can because back-links from some sites it can be actually be harmful:

“Google is known to actively penalize link farms and other schemes designed to artificially inflate PageRank. How Google identifies link farms and other PageRank manipulation tools are among Google’s trade secrets.”
(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_ranking)

When sites advertise that they want to trade links a red flag immediately goes up in my mind that these sites might not be good company to keep from Google’s perspective. But even if they are, by trading links there’s not much to gain.

As a rule of thumb, the more links you can get pointing to your site from other reputable related sites the better, the fewer you can get leaving your site the better for maintaining your PageRank.

The basic principle to remember is, make your site for users, not for search engines. (This is a quote from Google)

Here are some good sites from Google with their guidelines.

Also, I’ve written a number of other articles on this topic you might find helpful:

The “Secrets” of SEO

May 23rd, 2012

I get a kick out of all the spam I receive from those claiming to be SEO experts saying they have the secret to make your site jump to the top of Google and generate untold thousands of new customers.

The question that begs asking is if these jokers are really so good at SEO, why then are they then spamming you?  Shouldn’t they be overwhelmed with all the search engine traffic they’ve generated form themselves?

The truth is, there is no “secret” to SEO, there are no special or secret tactics you’ll want to employ on your site (in fact, such tactics can actually get you in trouble with Google).

While there is no secret knowledge or esoteric coding skills required to achieve success, long-term SEO takes a lot of thoughtful work and dedication to achieve.

Here are the basics of how to do that:

  1. Focus on developing a site that offers consistent valuable content that is relevant for your target audience.
  2. Make pages for users, not for search engines.
  3. Use Google’s keyword tool to carefully research the keywords you should optimize your site for and make sure they’re included naturally within the content. Don’t forget to include “long tail” SEO terms in the appropriate information level of your site. For example instead of saying you sell “widgets” include more information about the specific widget you sell, such as “blue X100 Widgets”.
  4. Implement on-site search engine optimization by ensuring your chosen keywords are included in the appropriate densities within your site, within certain code tags, and that your site code is valid and fully indexable by Google.
  5. Develop a blog and social media publishing routing and offer practical “how to” content related to those keywords that appeals to your target audience. People (and search engines) aren’t interested in your sales pitches.
  6. Understand and initiate a plan for developing your off-site search engine optimization. In essence, this is establishing hyperlinks back to your site from other sites that are as high of quality as possible and related to your keywords. This is ultimately the most important part of your SEO process and not coincidentally, also the hardest.

For a more in depth version of this list, see our main Search Engine Optimization page.

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!?!

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.

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