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.

Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty a 3% Step

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty an Evolution, Not Revolution.”

Google’s much discussed over-optimization penalty turned out to be a moderate evolutionary step in Google’s site quality crusade. Launched April 24, Google wrote in a blog post of its update, “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.” I addressed the over-optimization penalty on Practical eCommerce last month at “Google Plans SEO Over-Optimization Penalty,” and expressed optimism for the impact here at “Cautiously Psyched For Google’s Planned Over-Optimization Penalty.” But it seems the impact will be less than I had hoped. Only time will tell.

According to the Google blog post, an estimated 3.1 percent of U.S. search results will be affected by the algorithm update, while sites in countries like Poland that are more prone to produce webspam could see as high as 5 percent change in rankings. The algorithm will more aggressively penalize webspam tactics like keyword stuffing and irrelevant linking from sites that “spin” content with barely readable content. “Spinning” refers to the practice of scraping content from other sites and then manually or mechanically rearranging the words to create a “new” piece of content.

Read the article, as well as how to determine if your site was hit, in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Comment Spam Outing on TechCrunch

Personal Note: You may know that I am the SEO Manager for Groupon, a competitor/co-opetioner with some of the sites mentioned here. I found this example reading group buying industry news, not in an effort to spread stories about other sites in Groupon’s space. I would have felt compelled to post this perfect example of good and bad commenting even if it had been a story completely unrelated to my employer’s industry simply because it is related to the SEO industry.

Comment spam is one of the lowest forms of “link building.” Yet people continue to do it because it’s easy, because they think it works and because they don’t understand that many comment sections aren’t crawlable even if the links are followed. But sometimes comment spammers get outed, like in the comments on this TechCrunch post about the partnership between BuyWithMe and SCVNGR. I grabbed a couple of screen shots in case the thread is deleted to illustrate this example (click them to enlarge).

What’s wrong with these comments? If they are from real people with real opinions, nothing. But the same users allegedly posted these comments on multiple posts on the TechCrunch, leaving links to UrbanSpoils on each. Other readers recognized the tactic and called him/them out on it. Personally, I can’t find any duplicate comments from these users, but I didn’t look very long either. The point remains: Comment spam at your peril — is the link inserted valuable enough to risk the scorn of the other readers and commenters? My answer is no. And in this case at least, certainly not. Here’s why:

  • Disqus.com comments are fed into posts using JavaScript. The comment spam isn’t even crawlable in this instance (see cache). So if the goal was to seed links into posts to improve link popularity, #fail.
  • If the intent was to gain click-through traffic from other readers, it’s possible that some clicks were achieved before the outing. Afterwards, I would doubt that many clicked, at least not with the intent to transact. But only the log files know for sure. Still, I call this a #fail.
  • And lastly, even any positive brand recognition that positive comment mentions would have generated have very likely been more than negated by the tongue lashing from other commenters. So #fail.

Not all commenting is spam, of course. When you legitimately have something of value to add to a conversation and when you disclose your identity if you have a self-interest, then comment away. On the very same post, the co-founder of SayLocal comments, disclosing his identity and self-interest. You’ll note that no one flames his comment. It may be just as self-interested, but he has given us the ability to judge his comment honestly.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Lamest Comment Spam from an “SEO Company” Ever.

All right, all bloggers get comment spam. You just delete them and don’t really give it a second thought. But when it’s so freakishly blatantly SEO spam and it comes FROM an “SEO company” and it’s left ON an SEO blog, I’ve really got to wonder: How dumb are these guys? Do they really think I’m going to approve their comment and that I won’t resent that they’ve tried to paste their unrelated, poorly written marketing drivel in my comments? This is just another example in a long list of reasons why good SEOs have to work so hard to prove themselves — because any numb-nut can call himself an SEO and claim that his lame tactics are SEO best practices. Yuck.

Here’s the text from The Web Coast, minus the links of course, for your amusement.

Our affordable san diego seo services will give your website the web page drop necessary for you to find for those looking for what you do and where they do it. Our expert san diego seo website offers affordable san diego seo services. We know that your company is specialist and it is important for you to find a partner that provides expert honest, ethical results. http:// thewebcoast . com [link removed] is a company that provides affordable search engine placement and investment results not excuses san diego seo website.The site and san diego seo services can provide more traffic to your website than any other online offering. If you use pay per click advertising to reach a page on Google or other search engines as natural biological techniques to dive into a shallow pool share up 14% of traffic for the whole page. If you’re not in two or three first places for your pay per click campaigns, you can see very significant traffic using our Affordable San Diego san diego seo Services. Studies show that 83% of people searching on the internet use organic techniques.
You can read more about it here: http:// guiaourense . com / story . php?id=34824 [link removed]

It all starts including Organic SEO Services. You might call for an Organic SEO Services blog or just natural old economical seo services. We can help you uncover this. Just give us a phone call to get on track. We can answer many questions and satisfy in any blanks that you have.We are a San Diego SEO corporation that offers smart Affordable SEO that include everything from Website Promotion to specific e-commerce solutions and online marketing tools.We take a research-based approach to make sure that you locate target customers through valuable and reasonably priced seo services. If you are interested in improving your organic search engine standing please take advantage of our offerings.

Seriously. Yuck.

I suppose there’s a small chance that a rival of The Web Coast posted this comment to make it look like they were spamming, in the hopes that bloggers would post negative things about them. Looking at their site, the links they included in the comment, and the pages that those links link to, it looks an awful lot like a legitimate and seriously poor attempt at funneling links through various blog and forum posts and profiles, none of which add any value, to get external links eventually pointing back to their primary site. If this is an elaborate smear campaign against an innocent SEO company, I invite The Web Coast to let me know and I’ll gladly recant. I won’t hold my breath.

UPDATE: A comment from Brian R. Brown left on Facebook:

I’d exercise caution in using their services…based on their terms, you might have to pay a restocking fee on any returns: “You will have to pay for all shipping cost along with being SUBJECT TO A 25% RESTOCKING FEE.”

Based on this, the comment spam and a brief look around the site, I’d say Richard Kingston of San Marcos, CA is lucky if he can spell SEO, let alone perform it. Sorry Dick, calling yourself an SEO doesn’t make you one… a spammer is a spammer, regardless of their stripes.

What DOES a keyword restocking fee cost, anyway? A link restocking fee?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.