Monthly Archives: January 2013

Our Top 5 Predictions Regarding SEO in 2013

cystal ball

Let me look into my crystal ball...

One of the things I hate doing the most is offering predictions. That’s because I’m often completely wrong about what’s going to happen. For example, I thought that Romney would either win by a thin margin or lose by a landslide. I didn’t predict at all the razor thin margin that Obama won by in November. That said, since I’ve been asked for my predictions on 2013 and SEO, here they are:

Social Media Will Get More Important

I have another piece I wrote recently about how social signals are not enough if you want to rank well in Google and that is very true. That having been said, I believe that social media will become much more important as time goes on.

The fact is that social media, love it or hate it is here to stay and nothing anyone can do is going to change it. People ask each other for suggestions all the time and the loners out there who don’t interact are going to be left out in the cold.

That having been said, I believe that Facebook will become ever less important in the world of social media. There are any number of up and coming challengers to the dominant network, including Google + and Twitter. Plus, I have seen other platforms showing up more recently, from Pinterest to Zeen (okay, not really a social network but a pseudo social network.

Even Disqus is becoming very important in the world of social media (though I do find it tends to encourage an awful lot of mud slinging and not a whole lot of rational talk. Then again, that is a big part of social media).

I also firmly believe that there is room for still more social media online. I’m not really sure exactly what the next big thing in the world of social media is going to be (and I refuse to try to predict it either) but I believe that we have not seen the end of innovation in this realm.

Twitter and Pinterest were two brand new efforts to redefine the social media realm after Facebook became popular and even Facebook was an effort to create something new on top of the popularity of MySpace.

I believe that 2013 may well give rise to yet another social network that most of us have never heard of or which perhaps has not even been created yet. Watch for some new concept to show up and get wildly popular in a short time (and again, I don’t know what it will be but I believe it will happen).

Junk Content and Links Will Continue to Disappear

This is another fairly obvious thing that we should all be aware of – the cheap, junky content that so many of us have been purchasing for next to nothing is going to continue to become useless. I know that there are a great many people still pushing various kinds of spinning programs but I have yet to find one that actually works like a human being does.

Mind you, I get the appeal of cheap content – we all need to fill our websites on a regular basis and having a real writer write real content is very expensive. However, for all the advances in artificial intelligence, I believe that content written by real human beings will become ever more important in 2013 and not less important.

I recently hired a guy on Warrior Forum to post content to my personal finance blog. I fired him after a few weeks and went back to doing it myself. The guy was posting remarkably poor looking spun junk that he found on the web. Yes, he was super cheap but that’s what you get when you want to pay super cheap prices (and yes, I know it’s ironic that a writer is hiring someone to write for him).

Google’s servers may not be able to churn out content which reads well and looks good but one thing they definitely are capable of doing is actually figuring out whether the content you created is pure junk or not. They can and will continue to weed out all the cheap, junky content that you think you were so clever to buy and they will punish websites which don’t cooperate.

Similarly, the cheap junky links that you buy on Fiverr and other places are going to become increasingly worthless as time goes on. I predict that many of us will actually end up spending a significant amount of time using the Google disavow tool in order to remove some of the most egregious links which we may well have created ourselves.

In short, 2013 will be the year the Internet strikes back and good content which is well written along with quality links are the things that people actually look for.

Google Itself Will Be Less Important

Now here’s a bit of irony for you: as much as Google is turning the screws on SEO people, I believe that it will also make itself that much less relevant to SEO people. The amount of competition for trying to make it to the top of the search engine rankings is quite fierce as I’m sure everyone knows. I regularly see offers from SEO companies where they promise to get you to the top of the rankings or work for free.

However, I am also seeing some very smart people in the world of SEO take a step back and completely change the whole paradigm for how they measure success. Instead of an artificial ranking where they say they will get you to the very top of the SERPs, many SEO people are now offering set increases in quality traffic.

I believe this trend is going to accelerate in 2013 as Google continues to wreak havoc on the world of SEO. We’re going to see more and more efforts by the search engine giant to stop people from gaming the system and this will mean in turn that Google will become less and less important for generating traffic.

Instead, I believe that we will see an increase in alternative methods of traffic generation. I wrote a while back in another prediction post that in the future, we’re going to see a lot of people who used to be “SEO” experts becoming something else entirely – traffic generation experts.

This can only continue to become the reality because there really are a great many other ways to generate traffic other than by using Google. And no, I’m not talking just about creating viral videos on YouTube or creating a viral campaign on Facebook. I mean that there will be all kinds of different changes wrought where ideas we may not have even thought of will be used for traffic generation, leaving Google in the dust.

Mind you, I don’t expect that Google will become completely and utterly irrelevant. I expect that Google will remain the dominant search engine for some time. However, people are increasingly not looking to the search engines to find the information they need. Instead, people are using alternative sources and those sources are going to become increasingly important as time goes on.

Authorship Will Become Increasingly ImportantGoogle authorship

I know – I just got through telling you that Google will become less important in the world of SEO in 2013 and that is true. More people will be looking for alternative methods of traffic generation than ever before. That said, while Google will be less important it doesn’t mean it won’t still be pretty important (i.e. instead of being 90% important, it may become 80% important this year).

One of the things that will keep Google relevant and that will become a big trend this year is the authorship program that Google created. Readers may have heard passing reference to this. I have also seen a handful of WordPress plugins which can handle this. In essence, the authorship program allows you to claim authorship of specific content.

The idea behind it is simple – you can now find out which sites have the writers you like the best and you can vote those writers up while ignoring everyone else. This in theory would allow more people to find the kind of content they really want to read as opposed to the junky content which still clogs much of the web (though again, that is becoming less and less prevalent).

I predict that 2013 is going to be the year of Google authorship because people will become more and more interested in using it as a way to boost their traffic to their websites.

Getting in on authorship by the way is pretty simple – you need a Google + account with a decent, business like image and then you can either manually set up your content for authorship or use a WordPress plugin (if you use WordPress, which I highly recommend) to make every one of your posts follow your authorship. Of course, if you write junk then you may not want to try that idea…

Another Major Update from the Google godsThe Google gods

Finally, I believe that we will see another shakeup from Google this year. It’s not all that hard to predict – they seem to be coming out with new major algorithm updates every single year and so I believe that we’ll see another one this year. Of course, predicting what that major update will be is a lot trickier, but here is my best guess:

I’m guessing that Google is going to look for a way to crack down on fake social signals. Given that we’ve all been taught over the past year or two how important social signals are, I think the Google gods will be trying to find some way to discount the links we create automatically.

To protect yourself from potential Google wrath, I suggest that if you use automated programs you ensure that you use spintax and that you test to make sure that every comment you make using the spintax will actually sound okay once it appears. I also highly recommend that you use a proxy service to make sure that there is no footprint from a single IP address to tell Google that your social signals are artificial.

Bottom Line

Here is one thing that we can all be sure of: Just as it has every single year since the very first websites were created in the mid 1990s, the Internet will change and will throw us some curve balls. We’ll be surprised by some and we’ll know to expect others. Probably half of the predictions I and everyone have made will prove to be wrong and the other half will be right.

In other words, if you want to know what to expect in the SEO world in 2013, expect the unexpected and you’ll never be surprised.

5 Steps to Starting a PPC Campaign the Right Way

pay per clickWhile we are obviously very big believers in using SEO, the fact is that PPC or Pay Per Click is another great way to get traffic to your website, especially when you are just starting out. Eventually, you should be able to switch over to using SEO more and more but at first, this may be a great way to make your mark. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is PPC?

This is for the newbies or those who are not quite certain how this works. For everyone else, feel free to move on to the next section. Pay Per Click is one of four popular methods of advertising on websites. There are others in addition to these four but PPC is one of the big three.

In essence, pay per click means exactly what it sounds like – you pay only for those who actually click your link. This means that in theory, if you ad is displayed 1 million times but only five people click the ad, you end up paying for just five people having clicked the ad. There is no guarantee of course that you’ll make a sale, but it is pretty economical because most people who click are going to be potential customers.

The other three popular ways to buy advertising by the way are:

PPV – Pay Per View. Unlike what you get on cable when you buy a premium movie for 24 hours (or ahem, other kinds of fare not appropriate to talk about here), pay per view in this sense means that you pay for every time someone views you ad. You could for example pay $5 for 5,000 views of your ad on a service like Adfly. The good news – it’s cheap. The bad news – you tend to get fewer clicks and fewer customers. PPC is often more effective.

CPA – Cost Per Action. No, this is not some kind of a physics thing where there is an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, this is the ultimate way to advertise online though also the costliest. This means that you pay a commission for each actual sale someone brings in to your website. The good news – you never pay for people to come by and just “kick the tires.” The bad news – you need to offer much more money per sale to get people to take your ads this way.

Paid Links – Finally, some smaller websites will allow you to purchase or rent a link on the site. Instead of paying per click, you simply pay a monthly fee. Sometimes, you can even get a really sweet deal where you pay once for a permanent link (usually from an article, either one you place or one that’s already there).

One word of warning though – any site based in the US will need to have a disclaimer somewhere stating that they have been paid for accepting this link. It’s a requirement of the FCC. Actually, pretty much any kind of advertising requires such a disclaimer these days. It’s usually in the privacy policy though some sites do prefer to explain this in context as well.

Okay, so now that we know what PPC is, let’s talk about how to make it work for you:

Do Your Researchdoing research

Before you start doing anything else, you absolutely positively must do plenty of research. You need to know what your potential customers want to buy and why they would want to buy it. Here are three areas of research to figure out:

What You Hope to Achieve

First and foremost, you need to set realistic goals for your new PPC adventure. Selling $1 million of product when you have an advertising budget of $100 is probably not realistic for example. On the other hand, it may be realistic to spend $100 and hope for at least 20 new leads.

Mind you, when I say leads, I don’t mean customers. I mean people who may buy your product. These are people who may sign up for a free offer or request more information. They are not necessarily people who will buy right away.

Finally, what do you want people to do when they get to your website? Are you looking for people to actually make a purchase or merely sign up for a free offer? Do you want them to ask for more information? Tell a friend? Figure these things out and what it’s worth to you for people to do them and you can make a realistic budget based on that.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

If you run a website selling ringtones, the odds are good that your target audience is not going to be octogenarians. However, you need to know much more than that in order to properly target your campaign. You need to know as much about your target audience as possible. For example, you need to know:

Where do they live? If you are selling your services as a US tax attorney, you probably don’t need to target visitors coming from India.

Why do they need my services? If you can’t answer this question yourself then your target audience certainly won’t be able to.

Why would someone click my link? If you are targeting hemorrhoid sufferers, your customers will have a different reason for clicking your link (i.e. they are in pain) than if you are selling Caribbean cruises (i.e. they desperately need to get away from it all or they are looking for romance, etc.).

What are appropriate keywords to use?

Sure you could advertise using the term “make money online.” The problem is, it’s so incredibly expensive to advertise using that term that it rarely makes sense to buy PPC advertising for it. Instead, you need to do (or have done for you) quality keyword research which will let you know exactly which keywords to target for your particular audience. You want to be able to make money with your campaign after all – not lose money.

Be Highly Focused

You need quality copywriting in order to make money using a PPC campaign. Whether you are doing a graphical image or you are using text based links, you will have to create a campaign which is focused and which actually gets people to want to buy your product.

This means that you cannot just hire a content writer from some third world country to write something up for a dollar or two. Copywriting (unlike content writing, though many people get the two confused and use the words interchangeably) means using words to sell a product.

To understand the difference, consider this blog. It is basically a very soft sell for Quantum SEO Lab’s services. I generally don’t push our services heavily here (I’m not paid to do that) and instead try to simply offer useful insights into SEO. The idea is that when you see that we understand how to make money online, you will be more likely to hire us for your needs.

By comparison, if you want a successful PPC campaign, you would want small, tightly crafted ads which convey powerfully why you would want to hire that company. Here’s a quick example:

They said it couldn’t be done but we proved them wrong! First page of Google in less than 30 days or your money back!

Full disclaimer: This is NOT an official ad for Quantum SEO Labs and we do NOT offer such a guarantee. In fact, anyone who does offer such a guarantee is either insane or lying. There is no way to guarantee Google page one without any doubt.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the above line is very compelling and it’s very focused. It doesn’t go off and tell you how many links will be built. It doesn’t try to tell you how important it is to be on the first page of Google. It doesn’t even tell you what the service would cost.

All this ad does is focus on one thing and one thing alone – the idea that you could get the kind of rankings you need in a short time if you sign up with this imaginary SEO company (which will either quickly go broke or garner lots of complaints for fraud. Mind you, it is possible to get to page 1 in 30 days or less but nobody in their right mind would make a guarantee that it will always happen).

You Need a Great Squeeze Page

I’ve written about this in the past. A squeeze page is the page you use to sell your wares and you need a good one. The fact is that when people click on your link, they will be taken to a specific page on your website.

It would be stupid and patently wasteful to send them to say the front page of your blog (unless your only goal is to get traffic to your blog). The problem is, most people who click your ad will stick around for about 10 seconds before they get bored and go elsewhere. This means that you have around 10 seconds to grab their attention and keep them on your site.

Some elements of a good squeeze page are (and again, I put up a longer post on this subject a short while ago. Just click the link:

  • Loads quickly – If your customers are waiting for more than a couple of seconds for the page to load, they will leave.
  • Doesn’t lose focus—Again, your goal here is to sell one product, not hundreds. Don’t confuse your buyers with all kinds of options.
  • Looks clean—If you provide a squeeze page that looks cluttered, people will lose focus and they won’t stick around.
  • Gets to the point—Don’t tell us your whole life story. Nobody really cares (unless you are selling your memoir). Get to the point of why your product is the greatest thing since sliced bread and the customer would be crazy not to buy it now.
  • Has a call to action—Seriously, I don’t understand why people forget this sometimes. Yes, people need to see the “call now,” “buy now” button or whatever it is.

Do Your Homework

I know – you probably thought homework was a thing of the past when you left high school or college. However, the fact remains that homework is almost always part of the job when you run your own business. In this case, by homework, I mean that you have to take the time to pour over the statistics of who clicked your ad, how long they looked and why they looked.

Here’s a great example of what I mean: I read an article a while back about some social dating site (I forget what it was called). They were focused primarily on attracting young singles in the New York City area and had spent most of their time focusing on that demographic. They’d run parties and advertising throughout the city.

While studying their analytics, the owners of this social dating site noticed something kind of odd – they were getting an awful lot of people visiting the site from Pakistan (I think it was Pakistan. It may have been another country but the salient point is that they had a lot of traffic which was not in their prime demographic area).

At first, they ignored this statistic and kept focusing on New York City. However, after a while, they had an “aha” moment and realized that if they were getting lots of traffic from Pakistan then maybe they should focus some energy on that. At the time I read the article (this was around 2-3 years ago and the name of the site escapes me), they were one of the leading sites in Pakistan (or wherever it was) and they were making money hand over fist from it.

The bottom line here is that once your campaign is active, you need to closely study who is coming to visit your website and why they are coming. Then, you can hone the advertising to either target more of the same or to target a different demographic if that’s who you want to target.

Keep an Eye On the Moneykeep an eye on the money

Finally, it is very easy to get sucked into the excitement of a PPC campaign and to spend more money than you actually have in your budget. Keep a close eye on the money and make sure that you are not wasting it by pouring thousands of dollars into an advertising campaign which is not paying off.

You need to keep close track and figure out how much each new customer is costing you to acquire. If it costs you $20 to acquire each new customer but on average you are making just $10 over the life of a new customer then you need to either stop using PPC or find a way to fine tune it more so that you are making more than you are spending.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that PPC is a great way to get plenty of extra traffic to your website. People really will click your links and you really will make plenty of money. However, if you do it the wrong way, you can end up wasting a great deal of money and not get much in return.

Our Findings: 5 Reasons Why Websites Get Penalized By Google In 2013

Under Google's bootFirst and foremost, I should stress that just because a site gets penalized by Google does not mean that it becomes worthless. Nor does it mean that you have committed any kind of a crime. Websites get delisted or dropped in the rankings all the time and this doesn’t mean your life is over. It does mean that if you want Google to love you again you’ll need to do something a little different.

Things Have Changed in the Past Few Years

The other thing to remember is that things have changed over the past few years and what was fine a few years ago is no longer fine today. In other words, I’m not going to discuss keyword stuffing your meta tags because that’s old news. Nor will I discuss other obvious kinds of black hat techniques such as hiding keywords in code and the like. The following five things are relatively new issues which can get your site penalized:

Junk Content

I know that spinning is still really, really popular these days. The Warrior Forum still gets lots of people talking about how to spin content they find online. The fact is though that spinning is generally a bad idea. It just doesn’t work the way it used to. Even content which is human spun but which is poorly written can get you penalized by the Google gods.

The way this works is that Google uses a system known as latent semantic indexing. The best way to understand this is to think about the IBM supercomputer Watson which beat a number of Jeopardy champs a few years back.

Watson was a development of IBM which was designed to do something truly revolutionary – it was designed to understand nuance. To us, we can figure out when someone asks, “did you hear about Paris Hilton?” that they are talking about the famous socialite. To a computer though, it could just as easily be a question about the Hilton hotel in Paris, France.

Watson was specifically designed to parse thousands of possible answers and to understand the nuance of the English language – it can understand that when someone asks a question like that, they are likely referring to the person and not the hotel. That’s why Watson mopped the floor with Jeopardy champions.

Google in essence uses a similar concept to weed out the junky content on the web. It is capable of reading what you wrote on your site and realizing that it is poorly written. It’s obviously not perfect. The system doesn’t have quite the same capacity as a human being.  This means that an errant sentence or two won’t trigger it.

The odds are good that even if you have whole articles on a blog which are poorly written they won’t get your site penalized as long as they are an extreme minority. But put up dozens of junk articles on your blog and watch the rankings drop regardless of how many backlinks you create. It’s a brave new world and spinning is simply not going to cut it anymore.

Junk Backlinksjunk backlinks

Speaking of junk, another thing which we are seeing sites get penalized for is heavy reliance on junky backlinks. This means that if you buy those cheap packages of junk links on Fiverr and never bother to do some quality backlinking, you could also end up being penalized by the good folks at Google.

Now I know that some people are thinking about the issue of Google Bowling. I wrote a piece on this a while back and to be honest, I’m still of two minds about the whole issue. The fact is that nobody knows for certain exactly how many bad backlinks will end up triggering the wrath of the Google gods. What we do know is that sites which rely heavily on such materials tend to fare badly with the Google SERPs.

Fortunately, there is a way to do something about this. Google unveiled a new tool called Disavow. In essence, it allows you to tell Google that specific links which point to your website should be utterly ignored because they are junk links which someone else posted (or which you posted yourself but which you now regret).

The bad news is that using the Disavow tool to find and neutralize all those bad links does take a great deal of time. It’s not going to be easy to get rid of all of them so you may need to hire a seasoned SEO professional to help you eliminate them if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

By the way, I can definitely see the opportunity for some hanky panky here. Not only could an unscrupulous SEO “expert” use the new Panda update to beat up on competitors of their clients but they could also use it to blackmail potential new customers.

The way it could work is that they would themselves create the junk backlinks and then contact the company who they did it to, offering to remove them for a fee. They wouldn’t even have to admit to having done it. They could simply claim to have found the junk links pointing to your site and be looking for new business.

I see no real way to stop this from happening either because there are plenty of legitimate businesses that do cold sales and which genuinely will have just found the bad links and be offering their help in eliminating them. It is something to keep in mind though if someone contacts you out of the blue and offers specifically to help with dealing with junk links on your behalf.

Building Too Many Links Too Quickly

This one is actually a bit tricky to explain because it’s not the sort of thing that is necessarily bad so you need to pay a bit of attention here to understand what the real issue is. In short, if you create too many links too quickly, Google’s servers are likely to know that something is up and penalize you for having done so. The thing is, it’s not quite as simple as all that.

First and foremost, there is the question of how new your website actually is. A brand new website which gets thousands upon thousands of backlinks all of a sudden is much more likely to get penalized by the folks at Google than a website which has been around for a while. The logic is that your brand new website is very unlikely to garner so much attention so quickly.

In addition to this, there is the question of link quality and link diversity. In essence, if you were to create thousands of blog comments and little else, you are much more likely to get flagged by Google. Remember that SEO is technically not something that Google wants to see. In theory at least, they would prefer that all links are completely natural.

In practice though, Google’s engineers know that people do artificially create links all the time. They tolerate it to a point. However, when they see very obvious efforts to game the system and use one type of link exclusively, they know very well that you have been cheating and they’ll penalize you for doing it. In addition to this, your links need to have good diversity on the anchor text.

I recently worked with another client of mine who had been writing articles (quality articles mind you, which were well written) and where every single one of the articles ended with an exhortation to contact the company if you needed their particular kind of service. The anchor text was always the name of the company.

I can’t reveal many details about it because of confidentiality concerns, but what I can say is that this company was spending a great deal of money to have these articles written and placed. I told them they were throwing money away if they were having the articles written that way and they changed their ways pretty quickly.

In essence, if all you do is use a single anchor text thousands of times, you may as well hold up a giant sign for Google’s spiders saying “look at me, look at me, I’m spam.”

Bottom line with this, create your links carefully. Stagger them so they don’t all appear at exactly the same time and make them into something worthwhile.

Using Blog Networks

This is another technique which was really popular for a number of years but which has lost its shine. Blog networks such as linklicious have gone out of style since Google has been cracking down on them lately. I have read that some of these old blog networks are trying to find ways to get around this by avoiding some of the footprints which have made them vulnerable but I’m not really sure about these.

What I think may be safe are the non network networks where you post on real blogs which have real content and which simply accept guest posts in exchange for being able to post guest posts on other sites. These seem a bit less spammy but again, you shouldn’t use such networks as your exclusive method of building backlinks.

By the way, speaking of guest posts, generally doing guest posts still works pretty well and I do recommend trying to place them.

Overdoing Your Advertisingadvertising

Finally, believe it or not, if you overdo it with the advertising, you will find that Google won’t like that and may penalize you for having done so. I know it’s tempting to try to squeeze every ounce of advertising money out of your site, especially if you run something like a newspaper, but Google’s system is designed to look for sites which are especially top heavy on advertising and they will penalize such sites.

Not to mention that if you have too much advertising, you’ll also lose some of your readers because people get turned off by the constant bombardment of ads all over your site. So tone it down and try other methods of monetization if you want to avoid being penalized by the Google gods in 2013.

by EricHammer, on       2 comments