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How to Avoid Link Spam and Getting Banned

Alternate Title
Three SEO Spamming Techniques that Can Get Your Website into Trouble

We all know the importance of that elusive top spot ranking on the Google search results page. In fact, an entire industry, has evolved to help businesses achieve precisely that result – the SEO industry.

Different SEO strategies are employed to secure high rankings for websites. And some of these strategies, which are intended to fool the search engines into bumping up the search rankings, while adding no real value to the searchers are collectively termed as spam (or webspam to distinguish it from email spam).

Such techniques often border on or are Blackhat SEO and are banned by Google, which means overuse of such techniques can get your website downgraded or even banned.

So What Exactly is Webspam?

It is all a matter of perspective. If you look at it objectively, what an SEO expert does is come
up with techniques that influence Google to place your website high on the search results. So
is SEO itself spam? Fortunately not, as Matt Cutts of Google has confirmed on this page http://searchengineland.com/google-says-seo-is-not-spam-98266. To quote Mr.
Cutts “SEO is a valid way to help people find what they are looking for via search engines”.

What we can infer from this statement is that any ‘invalid’ ways of influencing search engines
constitute webspam and will not be received kindly by Google.

Spammers Were Smart… Google Got Smarter

We have to admit that spammers are smart businessmen who took advantage of the loopholes
in the system to enhance their rankings. However the fact that remains that in the process that they were greatly inconveniencing searchers probably did not even cross their minds. (They belong to the ‘end
justifies the means’ school of thought). Thus Google has found ways to determine and spot spam websites (link pages, three-way-linking, link exchanges, etc) and have downgraded the value of such links so that they aren't as valuable as good quality article links or blog post links.

Three of the most common SEO spam techniques

(a) Keyword Stuffing

As search engine bots are designed to look for specific keywords while crawling the web,
keyword stuffing was the # 1 SEO spam tactic. Nonsense content stuffed with keywords,
automatically generated by software programs was used to enhance rankings.

Google’s algorithms are well up to the challenge of detecting keyword stuffing and can take
strict action on your website including banning it, as Matt Cutts explains on http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/avoid-keyword-stuffing/.

Thus why take that risk when with genuine relevant content, you not only rank higher on
organic results, but also add value to your readers and keep them coming back. Check out The SEO Checklist for a list of techniques for improving your SEO.

(b) Content Submission to Article Directories

Article marketing was considered a very useful (and easy) SEO technique. Getting articles
submitted to various article directories enhanced the online visibility and increased the chances
of higher search ranking.

But along the way, content farms entered the fray, focusing on submitting multiple copies of the same articles to the directories, rather than focusing on the quality original content itself.

The Google Panda update changed all of that. The Panda update is a content focused algorithm
change that aims to ensure that content available on websites is original and relevant and not
spammy. An important change brought about by Panda was that it reduced the relevance of
content on several popular directories such as ezine, goarticles, hubpages, articlesbase and
others.

HOWEVER if the content was original, then it became more important and more valuable for SEO.

(c) Link Spamming

Link popularity has always been an important factor for search engine ranking. And this led to the proliferation of manipulative link building practices such as reciprocal link exchange programs, paid links from links from link farms and obtaining backlinks through comment spamming. All these techniques focused on getting maximum number of links, without bothering about the relevance of the linking site.

The Google Penguin update changed all of that. The focus is now on natural links, anchor text
diversity, and diversity of the link profile.

Website owners beware. If you are entrusting your SEO to a third party, make sure that it is a
reputed White Hat SEO company like designSEO.ca.

And remember that SEO, like all advertising is a gamble. If a SEO person is trying to guarantee you huge results in a small amount of time, they're just trying to get your money and their guarantee is no more valuable than the piece of paper it is written on.

A true SEO expert will tell you that SEO takes time, at least 6 months, to see the full results. You need to be thinking long term White Hat SEO. Short term Black Hat SEO may look good on paper, but you will regret it later when your website gets banned or downgraded.

Why Spamming Comments on Other Blogs doesn't Work

When doing SEO for a client you want to get lots of links from on-topic websites with specific keywords that will boost the client's website in that topic.

Now lets pretend for a moment that you want to get links from popular blogs by posting comments on them and including a link in the comment.

In my experience this doesn't work because too often people just spam comments that have little or no value and it is very obviously spam.

What then happens is the blog owners monitor the comments and then delete all the spammy comments and approve the comments which aren't spammy.

The end result is that spam comments don't work. It only annoys the blog owner and they will routinely, with a dose of anger in their minds, delete all the spam comments.

So then your client gets zero links from all that effort.

Lets pretend you even wrote a good quality comment. A nice long, well thought out comment. And then sometime during the comment you include a link to Italian cooking lessons in Toronto or whatever it is you are promoting.

I would wager apples to oranges that even though you spent all that extra time and thought writing something meaningful that half the time people will just delete your comment anyway. Thus such comments on blogs are not a reasonable way to promote your website.

Yes, you could spam the words private cooking lessons in the comment sections of websites... But you would probably just be wasting your time and annoying the owners of those blogs.

What you should be doing is contacting the blog in question and then offering to PAY THEM for a review or an advertisement for cooking lessons in Toronto or similar keywords. Having the keywords in an actual blogpost are 10 times more valuable because the topic of the blog post should be closely connected to cooking lessons, the name of the local city (in this case Toronto), the specific topic "Italian cooking lessons", and so forth. The quality of the blog post and the quality of the links will be dramatically better.

Furthermore people don't usually click on links within comments. But they DO click on links within the actual blog post.

Conclusions

Spammy comments = Bad

Paid blog posts = Good

To learn more about blog spam check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_in_blogs

Affiliate Programs = Waste of Time

Don't get involved with any affiliate programs. They are just looking for free advertising, are basically a complete waste of time, and any amount you receive from them will be a pittance.

My message to affiliate program organizers:

You have to understand that advertising is a bit like gambling. There is no incentive for me to gamble on your product. If you want advertising then the gamble has to be yours.



Online Marketing Methods

Search Engine Marketing - Commonly known as PPC (Pay Per Click) SEM provides you an instant way of gaining visitors to your website but be careful as the money can soon mount up as you are paying for each and every your receive a visitor so making sure the phrases you are paying for is totally targeted to the page you are sending them to. ie. Google Adwords.

Banner and Link Advertising - Pay to have a banner and direct link placed on another website. Research what other types of websites your target customer base uses. Contact the owners of these websites and ask them if they could place a banner on their website for a monthly fee. You will find that websites which accept banner advertising have a page setup advertising the fact. The link is usually located at the very bottom of the homepage 'Advertise'. ie. Lilith eZine Advertising Opportunities.

Joint Ventures or Partnerships - Let's say you are a supplier of kitchens but you do not fit them. Why not contact the kitchen fitters in your area and do a deal where you advertise their fitting services on your website if they advertise your business on theirs. Maybe this is not the best example of a JV partnership but it gives you the general idea. HOWEVER WHEN LINKING BACK AND FORTH REMEMBER TO USE rel="nofollow" To learn why read The Importance of Non-Reciprocal Links.

Google Places - If you are a local based business then you need to make sure that your website is listed within the Google Places (or Google Maps as most people know it) section of the homepage.

Online Sponsorships - Sponsor an event or a charity in return the charity will be happy to provide your company with exposure on their website and exposure means brand awareness.

Social Media Marketing - With the massive following sites like Facebook and Twitter have it is a must that your business has an account. There is no cost involved, just a little of your time is needed. Building up a large following on both Twitter and Facebook can provide massive brand awareness. Do not use these sites to try and sell your services or products but use them to provide free information. Post links to the new articles you have written. Be informative not sales orientated. The idea behind using social media is that you want to make a name for yourself and seen as one of the experts within your industry. People might not need your product there and then but if they keep hearing your name you can be sure that you will be the first place they go to when they do require your service.

Online Press Releases / Newsletters - If you have some very interesting news about your business then getting a press release written and distributed is one of the best ways of getting the news out to the world. Maybe you have a new product launch or you are the only company within the UK who are able to supply the latest craze. If the news is good enough then spend a few quid and get your press release professionally written and distributed. You never know, you could even get a call from your local newspaper wanting to do a story on you. Building a newsletter and getting lots of people to read it is tricky, but worth doing.

Industry Related Blogs - Search for the top industry related blogs. Sign up and start contributing to the latest discussions. Again, do not try and sell but just provide advice, help people and join in the discussions. Once you have been a member of the forum and if you maintain an active presence, provide quality information then you will start to get asked for a quote.

Affiliate Programs - If you sell anything online then you should consider setting up your own affiliate system. This is where other people promote your business for you and in return they get a set percentage of any sale from people they have refered to your website. There are also well established affiliate networks you could look at.

Viral Video Marketing - With sites like YouTube viral video marketing has never been easier. We now have a free to use platform with millions of active viewers. The question is, how do you get a video to go viral? Viral meaning lots of people spreading the word about your video to lots of other people and so on. You need to create a video that includes an element of comedy. If something within a video is really funny or very unexpected then it will go viral a lot quicker. The video does not have to directly promote your company. As long as your brand is in the video somewhere then subconsciously it will stick in the back of peoples mind.

Researching Keywords for SEO

Making sure you are Search Engine Optimizing your website with the correct keywords and key phrases is vital. Especially if you are running a niche business or a local business.

We have seen it many many times before where we get a call saying "I am on the first page of results for bla bla bla but do not receive any inquiries".

Why? Because they chose the wrong keywords that nobody uses and/or they forgot to focus on LOCATION. If you're advertising Italian suits but live in Toronto Canada, people are going to be confused by your website.

One of the biggest factors which contributes to having no inquiries is that you or your marketing company are just not working on the right phrases. You need to do keyword research and make sure the phrases you are targeting are actually getting searched for. If you get this wrong then you might as well throw all the time and money you have spent in the bin.

ie. Don't bother with synonyms for the name of the place. Hogtown may be a slang term for Toronto, but nobody actually searches for it.

A very simple way to find keywords is to first determine who are your main competitors who are successful and see what keywords they are using. Look at their website titles and headings to see what phrases they are using. You can then use the Google Adwords keyword tool to see how many people per month are typing those keywords and phrases in. The tool will also suggest other keywords and phrases and list them in order of search volume.

You need to implement your selected phrases into the title, meta description, meta keywords, page title, first sentence of your content, your H1 and H2 tags, the body text etc... If you do not know how to do this, ask your web designer about these things as they should have been considered at the time of designing and building your website.

If you get the right keywords and phrases then you are on the right path to Search Engine Optimization success.

Organizing your Website to be Search Engine Friendly

It is important that the search engines bots can easily spider through your website, read all your original content fast without anything delaying or blocking them. Search Engine Friendly Website Design is a rarely used skill in the website design industry because so many designers these days want to use Flash and know nothing about making a website Search Engine Friendly.

Here is a few pointers to make sure your website is search engine friendly are:

1. Make sure you do not have any dead links. These are old links on your website that points to pages that no longer exist.

2. Build an internal multiple linking structure. By this we mean, do not just have one single link going to any one page. Link to other pages from the content your website making sure the words you are linking actually relate to that page.

3. Do not use a flash buttons to link to other pages on your website unless you have a second standard form of linking structure.

4. Every single page on your website must be accessed within three clicks maximum.

5. Make sure that every page on your website loads fast. The search engines are not going to stick around if it takes too long to load your website or pages.

To learn more on this topic read Search Engine Friendly Website Design.

Branded Content is King

Have you ever heard of the saying 'content is king'?

Well it is partially correct. "Branded Content" is the real king. By branded I mean its unique, Google recognizes it as your original content because you were the first to post it, and anybody else who copies you is just ripping it off word for word and Google can recognize when other sites do that and bans/devalues them.

So in order to make sure your website isn't devalued you MUST make sure that your website includes quality and unique content. Never copy content from another website and paste it onto your own. For one you do not own the copyright to that content and two search engines like Google will know that the content on your website is a direct duplicate of that on another site and as such they will devalue your website.

No Duplicate Content, create your own Branded Content

Always write your own Branded Content for your website. We hear all the time "but I don't know how to write content". You may not be able to write a story book but this is your website and as such you are writing about a subject that you are meant to be an expert or professional in. All that knowledge you have in your head, just sit at a PC and type it all out. Don't worry about mistakes and grammar at this stage. You can always proof read your content after and use SpellCheck / GrammarCheck.

If for any reason you just do not want to write the content for your website then take on the services of an experienced copywriter. This is a person that writes website content for a living.

It is also important that new fresh original content is added to your website on a regular basis. No matter if you do it once a day, week or even month the fact is you need to be adding new pages to your website filled with fresh unique branded content. You also need to make sure that the content you are writing is informative and is of a nature that people will actually want to read it. Add a couple of images to the new pages which relate to the subject you are writing about.

Although adding regular Branded Content to your website is good for your search engine reputation but it also increases the number of people looking at your website with every article you write. Why? Simply because people are looking for information on a daily basis and as long as you write about a subject which people want to read then each and every article will be found on the internet somewhere.

The search engines, especially Google, want to see websites growing with good solid information that is original.

Building great original content on your website should be the first step before you even discuss promoting your website.

The Benefits of Search Engine Marketing

What are the benefits of doing Search Engine Marketing?

1. Marketing your website on the search engines is sometimes more cost effective providing a much higher ROI compared to most offline marketing methods.

2. You have the ability to promote your business Locally, Nationally and even Internationally.

3. The ability to target directly the people who want and need your product or service.

4. Depending on your industry and geographical target area(s) you have the ability to send a large amount of visitors to your website.

5. You can build up a strong brand awareness. If done correctly your brand (business or company name) could be seen many thousands of times per day.

6. Unlike an advertisment in a newspaper or magazine (unless you are paying a serious amount of money), search engine marketing has a long term future as long as you conform to all the online guidelines.

7. SEM takes less time than doing traditional SEO. SEM is great for people who lack patience and have extra money to burn.

However we should note that money wise SEO (Search Engine Optimization) may take more time and patience, but it also produces MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK.

Common Search Engine Marketing Terms

FOR A MORE DETAILED LIST SEE THE SEM GLOSSARY.

Knowing what these terms mean is the first step in strategizing your SEM campaign.

SEO or search engine optimization is the process of gaining a first page ranking on the search engines for any given keyword or phrase.

SEM or search engine marketing is a collection of all internet marketing methods you use to market your website on the search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

ROI or return on investment is the difference in percentage between what you spend on your marketing campaign to how much profit you generate from that marketing.

PPC or pay per click is the ability to pay a search engine for advertising your website on the internet and each time anyone clicks through to your website, you then pay an agreed amount per click / visitor.

Search Engine Spiders are the tools that the search engines use to automatically spider through your website and then determine where to rank your site.

Landing Page is a page on your website which has been designed to sell or promote a certain service or product. These pages are sales based with a good call to action. The landing page is the first page on your website which your potential customers will see.

Keyword or phrase is the wording used when performing a search on the search engines.

Keyword Research is the process you use to determine what the best key phrases are for each page of your website. You need to find out what people are typing into the search engines to find your product or service then optimize your website for them phrases.

Analytics is the software used to track your website visitors, the number of visitors to your website, what pages are being looked at and much more depending on what analytics system you are using. ie. Google Analytics.

Confessions of a Designer

Anneke Short is a London-based designer who has come up a series of minimalist posters that are out to challenge the preconceptions that people have of graphic designers and website designers.

‘Confessions of a Designer’ is a collection of quotes based on ideas Short has either found herself thinking or she has heard other designers complain about. The quotes portray the frustration and realities that designers often face when dealing with clients who just don't understand the business of design.

Update, see also:

10 Things People Say to Graphic Designers

10 More Things People say to Graphic Designers







What is VVM? Viral Video Marketing

Want to learn more about Viral Video Marketing?

Visit http://www.designseo.ca/Viral-Video-Marketing.html to learn lots of great business advice on how to make your own viral videos. Or if not viral, at least how to make videos that generate customer leads.



The Changing Responsibilities of SEO

When it comes to keeping SEO clients happy you really have to deliver the goods. Its basically a shopping list of responsibilities you have to do.

However as time goes on its becoming clear that there is many more responsibilities for the SEO expert to do than there used to be.

In the beginning...

1999 - SEO was really just links, navigation and basic keyword search. Over time things like spider readability, avoiding duplicate content, HTML sitemaps and so forth. Blogs started appearing, image ALT text became more important.

2004 - Five years later they were making HTML and XML sitemaps, issues surrounding rel="nofollow" coding, complex keyword analysis, social media was starting to appear, widgets, articles, content research, Search Engine Marketing rears its ugly head...

2009 - Videos and social media has gone mainstream. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, bookmarking websites, AddThis codes, guest writers, guest bloggers, PR companies getting in on the SEO action, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, reputation strategy and tracking...

2012 - Its become so much that one person can't do it all. You have to have separate people doing SEO, SMO and SEM because one person can't be an expert at all three.



The problem is that the general public sees "SEO" as a catchphrase for SEM (Search Engine Marketing, which is completely separate) and SMO (Social Media Optimization, a whole other topic)... without realizing how different they are.

Here to sort out this mess is three handy definitions:

SEO - The process of creating a network of links to promote specific keywords targeted at one website with the purpose of getting it to the top of the search engine. This process is called Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short).

SEM - The process of advertising on search engines directly via Google AdWords and similar advertising programs and paying per click each time people click on your ads. Search Engine Marketing does not boost SEO.

SMO or SMM - The process of writing buzz on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking websites. The links all have rel="nofollow" and Social Media Marketing do absolutely nothing for SEO. SMO, wherein the O stands for optimization is a misnomer because it doesn't really "optimize" anything. Its just buzz.

And last but not least...

VVM - Viral Video Marketing. Blame YouTube for that one. Still in its infancy VVM is either a grand waste of time and money or a really lucky win when it actually works. VVM is a bit like shooting a bullet at another bullet and hoping the two will ricochet, that is how awful the success rate is.

See Also
The Laughable Expectations of Non SEO People

5 Hot SEO Tips

1. If you absolutely MUST use Javascript drop down menus, image maps or image links, be sure to put text links somewhere on the page for the search bots / spiders to follow.

2. Content is king, so be sure to have good, well-written and unique content that will focus on your primary keyword or keyword phrase.

3. If content is king, then links are queen. Build a network of quality backlinks using your keyword phrase as the link. Remember, if there is no good, logical reason for that site to link to you, you don’t want the link.

4. Be SMART about PageRank. If the topic of a PageRank 1 website is more on topic with your product it is more valuable than a PageRank 2 or 3 website (but not a PageRank 4).

5. Be sure you have a unique, keyword focused Title tag on every page of your site. And, if you MUST have the name of your company in it, put it at the end. Unless you are a major brand name that is a household name, your business name will probably get few searches.

How to Promote your Business via SEO

#1. Set a budget.

Decide how much you want to spend on promoting your business via SEO. I recommend a minimum budget of $300 if you want to make a dent. (Less than that won't do much.)

#2. Go for quality links on quality websites.

A PageRank 1 link is worth FIVE PageRank 0 links. A PageRank 2 link is worth TWENTY-FIVE links. PageRank 3 = 125. The quality of the website has a direct value which can be measured in quantity thanks to the popularity of the higher PageRank.

This means if you're advertising your business its better to go after the higher PageRanks first, especially on websites which are on topic for your website.

Your goal should be to find ten PageRank 3 or 4 websites that are on topics directly (or closely) related to your website and get ten high quality links for $30 per link (the links will be renewed annually).

If you're looking for a website to advertise on I recommend the Lilith eZine, a general purpose online magazine with topics on everything.

#3. Pick your keywords.

Ie. If you're selling Toronto Maltese puppies then that is the keywords you want to choose. You should also use alternate variations like Maltese puppies in Toronto or Maltese dogs in Toronto. The idea is to emphasis the location and what the product is. Notice that I also used differently links for each one. This will also help to boost the SEO of the entire website and not just main page.

#4. REMEMBER to renew your ads every year. The longer the link is there the more valuable it is.

Maximizing the Toronto Poet, how to get the most out of your Link Keywords

Lets say you are promoting a particular website, ie. The Toronto Poetry Club.

Should you really be using the same keywords all the time? SEO amateurs would say yes, but any expert will tell you its better to use a mixture of keywords.

In this case I recommend using the words:

Toronto poet
Toronto poetry
Toronto poems

And of course, Toronto Poetry Club.

Why is it so important to use a mixture? First of all not everyone Googles the same words. You don't want your SEO to be too narrowly focused. Secondly, you don't want people landing on your website that are off topic. ie. they were looking for the Toronto Archery Club or perhaps a Toronto dance club. Or worse, they were looking to buy a spiked club made of wood and metal spikes. Or that club that people stick on the steering wheels to prevent their cars from being stolen.

When making ads for the website (to be placed on 3rd party blogs and websites) you will often find yourself in a position to post three links instead of just 1. In such a scenario what you want to do is use three sets of keywords to get the maximum advantage out of your purchased links.

ie. Why bother hiring amateur website designers? Hire professional website designers in Toronto. Local website designers always provide the best service and you can meet them in person to discuss your Toronto website. They can also give you helpful SEO advice for when it comes time to promote your website.
If you need SEO, SEM or SMO help in Toronto then you need to contact designSEO.ca
Get started by emailing contactus@designseo.ca.
Consultations are $30 per hour.