Monthly Archives: December 2012

Top 5 Qualities of an Established SEO Consultant

established seo consultantPractically on a daily basis, we see people trying to toss their hats into the rink to become an SEO “expert.” Everyone and his brother seems to think that they “know” how to do SEO and that they can make some easy money while doing it. The fact remains however that while there are plenty of people who can build links for you, fewer know how to do it correctly.

Whether you work with us or another SEO company entirely, it’s important you know exactly what it is that you are buying into. Here’s how to tell what an experienced SEO consultant would know about as opposed to the guy just trying to make a few bucks:

They Won’t Make Promises They Can’t Keep

An experienced and established SEO consultant knows that nobody can absolutely guarantee that you will make it to first place on the Google search engine results page. It’s just not possible no matter what anyone tells you. Mind you, it is possible to get there, but to make a “guarantee?” That’s not possible and everyone who is honest in the SEO world knows it.

The fact is that getting to the very first listing in Google, especially for a highly competitive keyword is really, really hard to do. No matter how much effort an SEO consultant puts in for you, there are no absolute guarantees that they can get you all the way there.

Mind you, I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of SEO consultants who claim that they can “guarantee” Google’s first place listing to you. Now think about this though: there’s just one first place listing for every single keyword.

If you are in a very competitive niche, say make money online, how is it that several hundred SEO companies, presumably not all working for the same place targeting that keyword can all “guarantee” that they will get their customers to first place? Someone is going to be shown to be a liar. In fact, multiple someones will be shown to be liars because after all, there is only one first place listing.

What I have seen and what I can believe is the places that guarantee that they’ll get you to number one or keep working for free until they do. However, I have a feeling that even those guys after a certain point, if they are not successful will find a way to try to get out of the guarantee.

That’s why established SEO consultants simply don’t make those kinds of claims to begin with – they know better and they have enough steady customers to build links for that they don’t need to make ridiculous offers.

They Understand that Google Isn’t Everything

These days, when there is such a tremendous amount of competition for keyword dominance, especially in hot niches like weight loss and make money online, it’s simply foolhardy to rely exclusively on Google for traffic. I wrote a while back that in the future, SEO will become a bit different – instead of focusing on trying to get to the top of Google’s rankings, we’ll focus on getting quality traffic.

Remember that while Google is obviously important, there are plenty of other places to get traffic from and ultimately, an SEO consultant’s primary job is to get you traffic. In fact, if your site never showed up in the Google listings but you were getting more traffic than you could handle, you really wouldn’t care very much where the traffic was coming from.

The new guys in this business focus exclusively on helping you to build backlinks which will be read by Google but ignored completely by human beings. They’re still trying to game the system. The established SEO consultant by comparison will work with you to get you some organic traffic in addition to the traffic from Google.

They’ll do it by getting you guest posts on high quality blogs in your niche or related niches as well as getting you links from other sites where actual people will see the links and it’s not going to be just Google’s bots that will see the links.

Of course, this is also what Google wants you to do anyway – they’re not interested in having you build junk links which are for their benefit. They want you to build links real people would see and click on because that’s what they consider to be worth something.

Established SEO consultants understand this well and they tend to avoid using lots of bots and offering super cheap links which have no value. Instead, they offer you manually created links which are actually worth something and which will get noticed by real, honest to goodness people.

They Won’t Try Dirty Tricksdirty seo tricks

Unfortunately, I see way too many so called SEO “experts” who think that they can offer you all kinds of dirty tricks to get around the Google rankings. Either they engage in Google bowling of your competition or they engage in very questionable grey hat SEO practices which are completely worthless because Google’s engineers will eventually catch on to it.

A good example of this is a trick I found a few months ago where someone discovered that if you changed the ascii text to a different coding, it would appear in Google as if it had almost no matches. In essence, it was just a trick which was designed to allow you to create a website with all PLR content because Google wouldn’t notice that you had changed the encoding.

This idea is no different in my opinion than when people figured out that they could simply stuff their pages with keywords by putting into the same color as the background (i.e. they would make the keyword appear multiple times in white on a white background). Or they would code in the keyword in order to keep it for Google but not for the site visitors.

All of these kinds of “tricks” are hallmarks of people who are trying to rip you off. Almost inevitably, they’ll work for a short while and then they’ll ultimately backfire on you and get you into a whole lot of trouble. If you try these “tricks” on your own websites then you could easily see them end up being de-indexed.

And yes, I know that the tricks sometimes do work. This reminds me however of an old story back in the 1980s where someone was selling “information” about how to send out letters with just a 3 cent stamp (even then it was significantly more expensive). They would send a photocopy of an old postal regulation saying that the cost of mailing a letter was 3 cents. As proof, they would say to look at the envelope where they had indeed used a 3 cent stamp to mail the letter.

The post office, asked to explain how they could get away with this explained that their automation machines sometimes mistook older 3 cent stamps and assumed that they were the current postage. It didn’t work all the time but it worked just often enough for the above scam to be run. These days, the machines are supposed to be more sophisticated and able to tell the difference.

The above is an example though of how a scammer can rip you off – yes, they can offer you some dirty tricks which may work for a short while. You’ll pay good money for those tricks and then when it blows up in your face, they’ll say they never heard of you.

They Don’t Offer Just One Kind of Link Package

An established SEO consultant knows that building backlinks means doing more than plugging a keyword into a bot and hitting run. Even if they do use a bot, they have to program it properly to make the anchor text and words surrounding it diverse. They also know that you need to create lots and lots of different kinds of backlinks from all kinds of places.

The newbies in this business tend to have a handful of types of links they say are the be all end all. It used to be article directories. Then it was forum profiles. Then it was wikis and these days, I hear a lot of people talking about web 2.0 sites. You know what? All of these kinds of links can and should be part of your package. However, none of them should be the only thing that you do.

An established SEO consultant knows that in order to survive in a post Penguin world, you need lots of anchor text diversity and lots of link diversity. They also know that insisting on exclusively do follow links is a fool’s errand both because some sites will change later anyway and because Google’s system can easily detect that kind of footprint.

They’ll Take the Time to Understand Your Businessi'm listening

Finally, an established SEO consultant will take the time to understand your business and what it is that you need done. They won’t just offer you a quickie package and say give me a few keywords you want to rank for and then run a bot. They’ll explain what they want to do for you and how they plan on doing it. They’ll also show you in detail what you need to know in order to make an informed decision about their services.

The new guys are desperate to attract business and so they won’t spend time talking with you and learning about your business. They’re already looking to get the next client and the next client. The established SEO consultants though know that this is not the way to build a sustainable business and they’ll get to know you and your business and will be involved in helping you to build your business.

Does Google Hate Over Optimized Websites?

alligator daisy

Over optimization is like an animal trying a little too hard to get noticed.

If you are looking for the short answer to this question then the answer is a definite yes – Google does hate over optimized websites. However, it’s not quite so simple as to say that Google hates such sites because the question is, what exactly is an over-optimized website anyway? Here’s what you need to know to avoid the dreaded Penguin:

Just What Is Over Optimization Anyway?

Those who follow this blog regularly know that my favorite analogy of how SEO works is that it’s kind of like being in high school and trying to climb the social ladder. Very briefly, when you were in high school and didn’t know a soul, you probably wanted to figure out how to become the “cool kid” in the school.

There were really two ways to accomplish this. The first was to find an “in” with the kids who were already popular for whatever reason. This might be that you have an older brother who is popular or it might be that you join the football team or the cheerleading squad and then make friends with the head cheerleader or the captain of the football team.

The other way that you might have become popular in high school was by building a kind of grassroots organization where you basically meet lots of other kids and slowly build your popularity by getting everyone to know who you are that you’re “cool.”

SEO is basically the same sort of thing as that – you either get links from really popular websites or you get them from sites which are not as popular but you get lots and lots of them. Those links then become a measure of how “cool” you are by whom you are associated with.

Okay, so what does this have to do with over optimization? Think back to high school and remember the kid who just tried too hard to become “cool.” He or she was what my generation might call a “spaz.” Back in the 1980s, he might have greased his hair and started being a jerk to girls because he though that’s what being cool meant.

Over optimizing your website is kind of the same thing – you’re just trying way too hard and Google doesn’t like that. Of course, they don’t care whether you really are “cool” or not. All they care about is that it looks like you’re doing too much to try and game the system. Now, there are two basic ways that this happens. One is with on site over optimization and the other way is with off site over optimization.

On Site Over Optimization

Let’s stick with the high school analogy for just a bit longer. Our “spaz” kid who is desperately trying to too hard to become accepted by the cool kids might do some weird things to himself in order to try to be accepted.

For example, he might decide to slick his hair back and wear a leather jacket (usually a cheap knockoff though). He also might have gone for a Mohawk (I grew up in the 1980s when Mr. T was really popular) and or for various piercings. Colored hair was also a popular way for kids who didn’t know better to try to act like they were cool.

If all of these things seem obvious to you as ways to act like an idiot instead of a “cool” kid that’s because they are. However, while there were only a handful of kids when we grew up who tried too hard, there are a much larger number of people who create websites and try too hard to get themselves noticed by Google. Ultimately, they end up getting themselves into trouble.

Some very obvious ways to over optimize your site include things like keyword stuffing (for example, you write a sentence like this: keyword stuffing means stuffing keywords throughout your article so that the keyword stuffing will stick out for Google and make your keyword stuffing noticeable so that the keyword stuffed website will get picked up for your keyword because of your keyword stuffing).

The above is obviously a very bad way to write a sentence because it makes very little sense however it does show you what keyword stuffing is. This is something that Google hates and just like our kid who is trying too hard, your site will ultimately find itself on the “outs.” Google tends to be pretty humorless about these things and will de-index you quickly.

Another good example of on site over optimization which is less obvious to some people would be to put in tons and tons of PLR content with your keywords without bothering to put in any of your own original content. PLR stands for Private Label Rights and basically it’s content you can buy and use on your site, putting your own name on it.

I like to explain it by noting the store brand products at your local supermarket – they’re not actually made by Kroeger or Giant Eagle or whomever your local major chain is. They’re made by a different company and those supermarkets just slap their labels onto those products.

Now mind you, PLR has its place. As long as it’s high quality content which is well written, you can use some PLR on your website and you should be fine. However, if 95% of your site is PLR, that’s another no no and another example of over optimization. In essence, you’re trying to use a shortcut to get Google to notice you.

To understand what this might be like, think of a supermarket where all you see is shelf after shelf of the local store brand. It would seem like something out of the old Soviet Union and you’d almost be asking where the bread line (for those who have no clue what I’m talking about by the way, you are probably too young to remember it – see Robin Williams in Moscow On the Hudson).

All of these techniques are what is known as black hat SEO. They’re techniques which are well known and which Google’s engineers have figured out ways of detecting. In essence, try too hard to make your site look good to Google and they’ll punish you for it just as surely as the kid with blue hair and a goth look was also ridiculed in high school.

Off Site Over Optimization

graffiti

Off site over optimization is like a boy putting graffiti about himself in the boy's bathroom.

If you’ll indulge me for a bit longer, let’s look one more time at our hapless high school kid who is trying too hard to get “in” with the popular kids. In addition to dressing up in a way that seems cool to him but is comical and or weird to most others, he may well try to do some other things to get noticed.

One of the classic jokes of the boy who desperately wants to be cool is that he goes and writes a note in the boy’s bathroom about how he’s so “hot.” This obviously does nothing to improve his reputation because he needs to get it into the girl’s bathroom but he’s so clueless he doesn’t get it and he thinks he’s done something good. Of course, these days, he might attract a boyfriend, but that’s another discussion entirely…

Off site over optimization is pretty much the same kind of thing – you create lots of links on spammy, junky websites which you really shouldn’t be looking for links from. Where once those kinds of links were just ignored by Google, now they can be weighed against you if there are too many of them and too few of the good kinds of links.

So what you want is to go after quality websites and to vary your links. All web 2.0 properties is no good nor is all wiki properties or all forum backlinks. You want variety and you want them on quality sites which actually are not going to look super spammy to Google.

But What If My Competition Does It?google bowling

This is known as Google Bowling and in essence, the idea is to trash your competition by creating lots of spammy links on junk sites which will make your website look over optimized. This is one of the big complaints regarding the Penguin update – that Google bowling could become rampant.

I wrote a piece on this a while back where I discussed the issue and explained how and why this sort of thing may be done but the jury is still out as to whether or not a competitor can Google bowl you (the question is, do you have quality links too or exclusively spammy links?).

However, if you are worried about it, it’s possible to actually look up any links to your site which are not good and then “disavow” them with the Google Disavow tool.

There’s also currently a pretty cool program available which helps you find the links to disavow. Supposedly, the offer ends in two days so it’s best to hurry if you want a copy (I find that many of these “closing soon” things really mean we’ll close and open a week or two later but you never know). It’s called SEO Resurrection.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that yes, Google hates over optimized websites. However, if you do your SEO correctly, you will never have to worry about your site being considered to be “over optimized.”

Is PPC Better Than SEO?

cat and dog

Actually, they're just different but not necessarily "better" than one another. Kinda like PPC and SEO.

If you want the short answer to the above question then the answer is a definite no. PPC is not better than SEO. It is however different from SEO and is in some cases more useful. In other cases, SEO is more useful. Thus, it’s important to understand the two systems and why one of them may be useful in one case and not in the other. So let’s take a look.

What is PPC?

In case you are a complete newb in this business, PPC stands for Pay Per Click. It’s a system of advertising where you get to put your ads on various websites all over the Internet and then pay only when people click on your ads. Probably the most popular PPC system available on the Internet is Google’s AdWords by the way though there are others.

Other kinds of ads are PPV (pay per view – you pay per 1,000 people who see it regardless of how many clicks you get) and CPA (cost per action – you pay only for those who make a purchase). There are also solo ads and context ads amongst others, but that’s not really the point of our discussion here.

Using PPC

PPC is a great system for getting lots of eyeballs to your site really quickly. It doesn’t require you to build up a portfolio of backlinks and Google doesn’t care if your site is completely brand new but blanketing the Internet with PPC ads. They will generally be happy to have you use their AdWords program to advertise your stuff regardless of how new your site is (as long as it fits their guidelines that is).

Thus, PPC can be very useful when you are trying to get a site noticed quickly and don’t have the time to wait for SEO to do its magic. It can also be helpful for giving your website an initial boost once you’ve created it and before your SEO efforts have the effect you want them to have.

The catch of course with PPC is that it can get to be pretty expensive pretty quickly. I recently put up a blog post here about what are known as second tier PPC networks (well most of them were – some are PPV) and these do tend to be much cheaper to use than the big guys like Google’s AdWords. The problem is that they often don’t have the reach of fine tuning capabilities of AdWords.

Now, if you happen to be targeting a relatively low competition niche, then PPC could easily pay for itself as long as there are people willing to buy whatever it is that you have for sale. So for example, if you wanted to run a website about an obscure problem people have with oil fueled heaters, you could easily make PPC pay for itself.

On the other hand, if you were to target a really tough niche, for example, make money online, the odds of actually getting enough people to click and buy whatever it is that you have for sale are pretty small. Ultimately, you would then end up wasting money on PPC.

There is also an issue with what’s known as ad blindness. People tend to ignore ads that they see on the sides and bottom of a website because they’ve gotten used to seeing them everywhere. Thus, PPC has a limited effect since you will not get some customers regardless of whether or not you have a saturated PPC campaign for your keyword.

In fact, one study I read showed that just 20% of people clicked on the paid ads when they were displayed on Google’s first page with 80% clicking on the organic listings. Of course, if you can’t make it to the first page because your SEO campaign is still very new (SEO does take time), then PPC can be helpful even if all you get is one out of 5 clicks.

Using SEO

SEO by comparison is free to create (although these days, it’s best to hire a professional to help you with getting all the ins and outs right). It does however take a significant amount of time to make SEO do the job and you do have to work hard to keep yourself in the top place, especially for a very competitive keyword.

In essence, SEO is the kind of thing that you want to think of as being a long term investment which will get you plenty of benefit later on in the life of your website because it will ultimately pay for itself many times however. However, unless you are trying to rank for a relatively low competition keyword, the chances that SEO will work quickly are pretty small.

In fact, in most cases, SEO companies (at least the honest ones) will admit that they cannot guarantee you the top position in Google no matter what they do. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot guarantee to help you to build up a solid portfolio of links which will get you at the very least into the top three positions.

Understanding the Differences

The thing to remember is that unlike PPC, SEO is designed to work on an organic level. The intention here is to make your site appear to be popular by getting the word spread far and wide. Let’s go back to my favorite analogy regarding SEO to understand how the two are different:

I’ve often said that SEO is kind of like being in high school and trying to climb the social ladder. In essence, you are trying to get to be popular. One way you do that is by getting some of the popular kids to notice you for whatever reason that they notice you (maybe you have an in with them because one is your older sister or maybe you’ve been friends with them for years).

The other way to get to be popular in high school is by starting out slow and building up – you work your way up the social ladder by identifying what might be called “low hanging fruit” of people who might want to be your friend and who aren’t super cool but aren’t total nerds either. You then work your way up the social ladder slowly by building a larger and larger base of people who know you and like you.

SEO is basically the same –if you get yourself onto the website of a major influencer, then you are likely to be catapulted all the way to the top of the Google rankings. On the other hand, you can also get yourself noticed by simply pushing yourself in lower level websites and getting more and more people to notice you.

Now, getting back to the question of PPC versus SEO, I’m reminded of a classic 1980s film called Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s a silly high school film where a kid decides to approach a super popular girl in the school and help her out of a jam in exchange for allowing him to hang out with her and become “cool by association.”

PPC is kind of the same thing – you are in essence trying to jump the line and become popular by paying for the privilege of doing so. Eventually, your hope is that by having paid for becoming popular, you will no longer need to pay for it because your SEO (i.e. your own coolness factor) will have made you into someone people respect.

One More Issue with PPCclick fraud

Another issue to keep in mind with PPC by the way is that there is always the problem of click fraud. In essence, this is where unscrupulous website owners will deliberately click your link repeatedly in the hope of being able to grab some extra cash from you. Google is pretty good at detecting this but not everyone is as vigilant about it.

When using SEO, click fraud is obviously not an issue because people will find your website based on whatever keywords you are ranking for and nobody is going to have an incentive to keep clicking your links (unless of course they want to see what you’ve got on your site). Of course, it is also possible that you could end up with a hacker trying a denial of service attack, but that’s rare…

Bottom Line

Look, the bottom line is that PPC and SEO should never be considered to be mutually exclusive of each other. Each kind of traffic definitely has its place in the mix of getting your business before the eyeballs of the masses. They are simply vastly different from one another.

So should you look only at SEO? Of course not – even though we sell SEO services here, we understand that there are times when some PPC would be very helpful and we’ll recommend it if that’s what you need. On the other hand, looking only at PPC is also a bad idea because you will ultimately end up losing out on lots of customers who would never ever click a PCC ad.

by EricHammer, on       Comments are off for this post