Do you find yourself baffled by the latest Google algorithm releases? Have you ever wished you knew the secret to the art of SEO, as well as the best practices to avoid those dreaded penalties? Maybe, like millions of other businesspeople, you just wished you understood how Google works. Now’s your chance. Every Wednesday morning, EverSpark Interactive hosts their What’s New In The World of Google Meetup — giving professionals from a multitude of industries a chance to gather and discuss the latest developments with the search engine giant, as well as excellent SEO tips, tools and practices. The meeting is free and open to all.
Please join us at our next meeting on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 from 8am – 9:30am. You can RSVP on the Meetup.com link below. Too busy for the meeting that week? No problem. You can always catch up on our discussions with our blog recap posts. This is also an excellent way to recap previous discussions you may have attended, and investigate some of the issues covered further. After all, nobody likes taking notes if they don’t have to.
The meetup takes place at the EverSpark Interactive offices located at:
6 Concourse Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30328
RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Whats-New-In-the-World-of-Google-Everspark-Interactive/
What’s New This Week:
The New Rules of Link Building
Ever since the My Blog Guest penalty several weeks ago, there’s been a great deal of speculation as to what this means for the future of link building. Considering that past actions and practices are now coming back to haunt many websites, it would only seem natural that you would want to turn away from link building completely. However, links and link building are still a huge part of Google’s algorithm, and therefore vastly important to the SEO value of your site. So where does a site go from here? Cyrus Shepard, the Senior Content Astronaut at Moz.com, goes on to explain that by playing by the rules, you can still get great value out of link building. Essentially, its all about the game plan.
So essentially, the do’s and don’ts are as follows:
- Continue link building! By following a good game plan, you can have a winning formula.
- Focus on distribution. The more eyeballs that see your link, the more those links are going to naturally build.
- Outreach rocks. You can get some great tips on the best way to do this by reading this great guide on outreach from the folks at BuzzStream.
- Link value = quality of traffic. Look to have links from relevant and quality sites.
- Embrace the nofollow link. Google uses these links for crawling and signal purposes. Not every link has to pass page rank to be valuable.
- Beware of links where you control the anchor text. These links could be subject to penalties and devaluation in the future.
- Be careful with links that scale. This can include widgets or author bio boxes.
- Never ask for anchor text. This can raise red flags to Google, as it creates patterns. It’s generally better to allow anchor text to be placed naturally.
- Don’t link externally in the footer, as it can look like you’re trying to pass your page rank internally. If you already have a navigation at the top, you don’t need to repeat this at the bottom with an external footer link.
- Avoid site-wide links.
At its very core, good link building practice should be indistinguishable from good marketing. If you focus on delivering great, well-written content and avoid using unnecessary links that look unnatural, you’ve developed a game plan that should serve you well through Google’s frequent algorithm changes. Try different tactics for your content. For example, one interesting way to develop your website’s content is by doing interviews with your clients or customers. This can generate interesting and educationally-driven content, and can also act as a springboard for future posts and campaigns. Additionally, be sure to link out when you do this. For example, if you mention someone like Matt Cutts on a blog post, be sure to link to his blog, or a social media account like Google+. By engaging your audience this way, you can not only encourage social sharing but you also help to create a more educational piece for your readers. Essentially, to get some love for your page, you need to show some love to others.
The Dark Arts of Black Hat SEO
Despite Google’s recent crackdown on bad SEO practices, it would appear that there are still people who are using black hat SEO tactics and seeing some success with it. Although only time will tell how long this kind of success will last, with every new Google algorithm release they seem to get closer and closer to driving these practices into the SEO graveyard. EverSpark Principle, Jason Hennessey, was quick to point out that he does not recommend you engage in tactics such as this, particularly if they are pointing back to your own website.
The example Jason used was that of Tampa DUI lawyers, Finebloom & Haenel P.A. If you were to search on Google for “Tampa DUI lawyer,” there are many listings that come up on the first page. One of the first to appear is their Twitter account @DUITampa, followed next by their Facebook page. Although neither of these pages have been updated since November 2013, they’re seeing the highest rankings on the first page. The next listing on Google’s first page is for their Avvo page, followed by their Yelp listing. Essentially, this one law firm has been able to monopolize most of the first page of Google for the “Tampa DUI lawyer,” search, taking up a huge amount of real estate. So how did they do this?
By going to Ahrefs.com, Jason was able to reverse engineer how these pages were ranking so highly on Google’s first page. For example, their Yelp page has 129 backlinks coming from 95 referring domains. Even though most of the links use a spammy link building strategy, they are all linking back to their Yelp page rather than their own site. Seeing as Yelp is considered a trustworthy site in the eyes of Google, it is unlikely that the site or the strategy used would get penalized from Google.
To see the document that shows the links that were reverse engineered from Finebloom & Haenel’s Yelp page, CLICK HERE.
Another additional tactic is the use of question sites such as Ask.com. By building fake profiles, it would be easy to ask questions that are relevant to legal DUI questions for someone to answer and provide a link to the law firm’s Yelp, Facebook or Twitter page. You can see an example of this here. This protects the “mother site” of the homepage, while allowing the links to build up and rank on Google’s first page. This sort of tactic can also be done on review sites such as Yelp to build up the profile of the company. Given that, can review sites actually be trusted, or are they far too easy to manipulate to count as a source of valuable opinions?
Review Sites: Can You Really Believe What You Read?
When you decide to go out to dinner or even find a good hair salon, what’s the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you might check an online review site such as Yelp, Google or Reddit to see what others are saying about it. After all, it’s good to know these things before you walk in the door. Who wants to part with their hard-earned cash only to have a disappointing experience? However, how would you feel if you learned that many of these sites and their reviews are being manipulated for either SEO purposes, or to hurt competition? What if you learned that some of these sites are actually using bad reviews as a way to generate money from companies with the promise of removing the negatives, or pushing them down some of the nicer, more positive reviews? Would you still trust these sites then?
While there are plenty of sites who claim all of their reviews are real opinions written by actual customers, the truth is that oftentimes it is difficult to monitor every single one of the thousands of reviews a site receives every day. Given the importance and weight consumers put on these review sites, many companies are turning to freelancers, or companies like Crowdsource or eLance to find writers who will fill their review pages with positive reviews to help entice consumers to purchase their products or services. This problem has been addressed in numerous articles, including CNN and The Guardian, yet the response from the review sites remains largely the same: that they’re constantly working on their systems to ensure these reviews don’t get through. However, this is not the only concern that businesses have to consider anymore, as more websites are recognizing the power of their reviews and the available revenue stream that could provide.
While most businesses recognize the importance of review sites, many also recognize that you’re not going to be getting that 5 star review every time. While looking at a negative review as a chance to get important feedback or fix a problem for a customer, what do you do when a review has clearly been maliciously written? These could come from a competitor, an angry ex-employee or even someone who just had a bad day. Though you may reach out to this individual, you may get no response or they may not wish to remove it. Now you’re stuck with a terrible black mark against your reputation, and there’s seemingly nothing you can do about it. Worse yet, these can appear in your search results, particularly if they’re on a heavily weighted site such as RipoffReport.com or Yelp. Never fear. These can easily be removed… for a price.
Though Yelp has long been accused of manipulating reviews for those who advertise with them, it would seem other sites are also cashing in on the need to keep your reputation squeaky clean. This article in the East Bay Express gives a good outline into Yelp’s alleged foray into the business of extortion, however they tend not to publicize it. However, other sites such as RipoffReport.com are all too eager to outline how they can help you recover from your bad review, including a handy price list.
Unfortunately, Jason Hennessey and EverSpark Interactive were recently victims to such an attack on RipoffReport. A former business partner went on to the site and made fraudulent claims against both the company and Jason himself. This can be seen here. Given the weighting of the site in Google’s eyes, this particular review then appeared on the first page of Google’s search rankings when you look up “EverSpark Interactive.” Not only was this damaging to the business itself, it would be impossible to tell how much potential business that EverSpark might have lost as this appeared on the first page of the Google search results. Upon contacting RipoffReport, the company was told they could pay $2,500.00 to have someone mediate between EverSpark and the person who wrote it. In essence, it became a “pay us or it stays” situation.
While it may seem that legal action should be the first and easiest course of action, there are current cases pending against several review sites for loss of business and to prove that their reviews aren’t fraudulent. Currently in Virginia, a company called Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is currently taking his case against Yelp all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court for defamation of character and loss of business. Though he is asking for Yelp to prove that their reviews aren’t fake, the website is currently standing behind this being a first amendment issue. It would seem that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning isn’t alone in their displeasure with Yelp and other review sites. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 2,046 complaints against Yelp alone from 2008 until May 2014.
You’ve Got A Negative Review – Now What?
There are a couple of steps you can take if you’ve received a review that you feel is fraudulent, unfair or just simply requires a response.
- If possible, contact the reviewer to see if you can put things right. On some reviews sites such as Yelp or Google+, they can even remove or amend their review if you can resolve the situation.
- Keep a log of your contact with both the site and the reviewer. This will be helpful should you need to make the situation a legal one.
- Encourage your customers and users to leave reviews for you on review sites. The more positive reviews you have, the less weight the negative ones get.
- If you are being constantly harassed and you are aware of who it is, have a lawyer draft a Cease and Desist letter to the reviewer.
- Ask that the reviewer sign a retraction that you can either present to the court or to Google.
- Take the individual to court to sue for damages. You can also ask for a court order to get Google to de-index the page at that time.
While all of this may take some time, managing your online reputation is important. Be sure to take the time to make a weekly check of any review sites you may be listed on to see if there are any issues that require your attention. By taking a proactive approach, you will be better able to handle any negatives that are headed your way.
Other Interesting Stuff…
If you want to know more about what’s going on with the websites you work on or even the ones you visit, try downloading the SEOBook SEOToolbar. Best of all, it’s totally free! Here’s a brief tutorial of just some of the things it can help you with:
See you next week!