Avoiding SEO Shortcuts

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “5 SEO Shortcuts to Avoid.”

Search engines are programmed to reward relevance and popularity, and are striving to algorithmically determine quality as well. Ecommerce sites are programmed to sell product to customers as efficiently as possible while offering a positive brand experience. Ecommerce sites often strive for quick search-engine-optimization wins, which can be easily mistaken for SEO shortcuts that should be avoided.

Companies with little brand equity may be able to afford to try shortcut solutions that could work well in the short-term but can be exposed and penalized as time goes on. These companies tend to have hundreds of domains that they can test on, push the limits on, and then abandon if they burn down. Most ecommerce sites can’t afford a model like that. Companies that value their brand equity need to avoid SEO shortcuts that can potentially result in search-result dampening or even getting banned from search results entirely.

It’s critical to remember that organic search marketing is entirely dependent on organic search engines and their definitions of value and quality. It doesn’t matter how fantastic the product is, how hard the company tries or how earnestly the marketing team wants to succeed in SEO. The search engines make the rules.

It’s up to site owners to decide whether to play by those rules for slower growing, long-term success or to look for a way around the rules to short-term success and higher risk.

But which strategies are high-risk shortcuts that should be avoided? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but as Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts said recently in an interview with SEO industry leader Eric Enge, “The main thing is that people should avoid looking for shortcuts. In competitive market areas there has always been a need to figure out how to differentiate yourself, and nothing has changed today.”

Read the article in full and all FIVE TIPS at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Bon Jovi SEO: They Give Search a Bad Name

Spam on my site and you’re to blame,
Darlin’, you give search a bad name!
I paid your bill now my sales are in pain,
Darlin’, you give search a bad name!

Excerpts from my latest article on Practical eCommerce, “SEO Professionals Can Harm an Ecommerce Business.”

Like Bon Jovi’s song, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” some search engine optimization companies give that profession a bad reputation. Practical eCommerce recently fielded a question from a reader wondering why his site was being penalized for work his SEO company had done on his behalf. It doesn’t seem fair, he complained. He’s right, it doesn’t seem fair when you’ve trusted a company to improve your site’s organic search performance and instead the company makes it worse. Shouldn’t the SEO company be punished instead of the hapless site owner? It just doesn’t work that way, whether it seems fair or not.

Anyone can call himself or herself an SEO professional, just like anyone can call himself or herself a web designer, a landscaper, a chef or any number of other professions. Skill and knowledge levels vary greatly in any industry, as does the professionals’ interest in providing a fair service for a fair price.

Is the company ethical, does it strive to provide the best service possible for every client, or is it just out to make a quick buck? For ecommerce merchants looking to retain an SEO professional, here’s how to tell the difference: SEO Professionals Can Harm an Ecommerce Business.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Cautiously Psyched for Google’s Planned Over-Optimization Penalty

I’m excited to see what google pulls out of it’s algorithmic bag of tricks next. The pre-announced over-optimization penalty should theoretically align SEOs more tightly with information architects, usability experts and professional content creators to produce sites that are great for users and great for driving users to sites via organic search. At least in theory. Of this happens, everyone wins but the spammers. If it doesn’t … It could be a bumpy ride for sites that rely on organic search traffic.

More on this topic from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Google Plans SEO Over-Optimization Penalty.”

Google’s head spam cop Matt Cutts announced the impending launch of a new over-optimization penalty to “level the playing ground.” The disclosure came earlier this month at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas during an open panel — entitled “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” — with Google’s and Bing’s webmaster and web spam representatives. Google’s goal for the penalty is to give sites that have produced great content a better chance to rank and drive organic search traffic and conversions.

Pretty much all site owners can point to the search results for their dearest trophy phrase and point out at least one site that just shouldn’t be allowed to rank. Competitive ire aside, sometimes sites have poor content but focus extra hard on their search engine optimization efforts. These sites are easy to spot. They usually have a keyword domain, lots of keyword-rich internal linking, and heavily optimized title tags and body content. Their link portfolios will be heavily optimized as well. But their content is weak, their value proposition is low, they’re obviously —to human observers —only ranking because of their SEO. The upcoming over-optimization penalty would theoretically change the playing field so that sites with great content and higher user value rank above sites with excessive SEO.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

My SEO Circle of Trust: The Short List

I’m often asked which SEO blogs can be trusted. Knowing which “experts” to trust in the nebulous world of SEO is a big challenge for those who don’t spend their daily lives steeped in it. Expertise comes from experience, but a shocking number of  candidates I’ve interviewed over the years for SEO jobs are convinced that their book learning and blog reading has made them experts. Worse yet, these folks feel free to preach the word as they’ve read it on their blogs and in social media.

In an industry as mercurial as SEO where algorithms change without warning and new data disproves old notions daily, how do you know who you can trust?

I read and respect many more SEOs than are listed here, but for those folks who can’t afford to spend hours keeping up on all the different perspectives and niches of search marketing these sites are my recommended short list.

Independent Search Marketing Sites
These sites write about SEO news, methodology, tools & tips. Most SEO agencies have a blog and some are quite good, but they’re typically trying to sell you something at least in passing. These sites feature authors from all over the SEO industry and are thus less beholden to one agency or set of tools and approaches than another. Of course, that’s not to say they’re not trying to sell you something….


Search Engine Land

Search Engines’ Sites
If you’re looking for SEO truth, one side of that truth will come from the engines themselves. Their version of the truth may be less explicit than the SEO industry’s version, but at the end of the day the engines hold the algorithmic keys. Since the engines determine what ranks, it only makes sense to stay on top of what they’re dishing out. The industry blogs above will offer their interpretations of what the engines release, of course, but I like to go to the source on the really important things.

Google Webmaster Central

Bing Webmaster 

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Dilbert Flashes His White Hat

I guess SEO has gone completely mainstream: from outing articles in the New York Times to Dilbert’s cartoon take on black hat activities.

Yesterday’s strip has Dilbert’s boss intentionally asking for black hat SEO methods. In reality most management types don’t actually request for the black stuff by category, rather they request SEO tactics that they are unaware are discouraged by webmaster guidelines. SEO tectics such as buying links, doorway sites, cloaking, keyword and link stuffing, and other tactics all fall into this camp. Still, it’s far funnier this way.

So what happens? It’s unclear whether this result could be classified as banning or some form of bombing, but who cares. It’s funny!

PS: Scott Adams, if you’re listening, your Facebook Share button doesn’t share the image thumbnail, only the text and URL. At least on Chrome. Sad face.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.