Sunday, December 27, 2015

Organic Website Optimization & Negative SEO: The Battle Between Good and Bad

A recent article from The Dallas Morning News reveals the most complex challenge facing SEO firms today: perception. Despite the increasing knowledge of experts and laymen, SEO continues to be characterized in a negative light.

The Morning News' characterization of SEO is laughably biased--and false. The article focuses on the extortionist practices of William Stanley (or William Laurence, William Davis or William Harris--the man goes by many names), who had been charged with extorting a Dallas firm--referred to as "GE"--who had hired him to "improve its online reputation."

Of course, Mr. Stanley himself, working under the guise of SEO, reveals a terrible view of SEO. He was hired by the Dallas firm (and others) under the pretense of performing website optimization. In reality, instead of optimization, he performed a form of "negative SEO,"--as Stanley admits in his plea, "illegitimate SEO."

In his plea, Stanley admits to threatening his clients by "posting fraudulent comments and creating negative reviews online if the victim did not pay him a certain amount of money."

Negative SEO--the practice of harming another site's search engine rankings--is as old as SEO itself, yet this form of Negative SEO, however, is relatively innocuous. Worse is the creation of websites whose sole purpose is to damage another website's reputation. Stanley practiced this form of negative SEO, too: "he created websites," he stated in his plea "that had the ability to damage GE’s reputation by associating GE with a scam."

Stanley is likely referring to the creation of "bad links," one of the earliest weapons in the arsenal of so-called Black Hat SEOs.

Like Darth Vader, Black Hat SEOs represent the "dark side" of SEO
In early incarnations, Google's algorithm used incoming links as an indicator of website success. Black Hat SEOs manipulated these early algorithms by creating link-building schemes, such as building subsidiary websites to send links to a primary website. With an abundance of incoming links, the prime website outranked many reputable sites.

The Penguin Algorithm was created to eliminate this type of abuse. Google clarified its definition of a "bad" link: “Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.”

With Penguin, it wasn't the quantity of links that improved your site but the quality. As we wrote in a previous post, "Bad Links? Bad News!":

"Many SEO specialists lamented the change. Some even wondered: "Is link-building dead?" At the time, however, The Organic SEO Blog (and its sponsor, Stepmans PC) rejoiced! After all, the purpose of the new algorithm, to punish those websites and SEO specialists that built bad or artificial links, could only advance the work of the SEO specialists who had played by the rules  and built links based on relationships, integrity, and quality content."

Penguin was good at eliminating link-building schemes that profited websites, yet the problem of Negative SEO, is seemingly trickier to handle. Despite Google's best efforts, this practice of harming other websites has become easier in recent years. With its Penguin 2.1 update, in 2013, Google's began penalizing companies for bad incoming links, creating a new way for Black Hat SEOs to perform Negative SEO.

Of course, Negative SEO hardly deserves the to be called SEO at all. After all, building bad links is not at all "optimization." 

The trouble with The Dallas Morning News article is how it associates this form of trickery with a reputable practice, endorsed by Google, and performed by millions of ethical SEOs across the world: organic website optimization. 

When describing SEO, the author of the article, Robert Wilonsky, seems to take his cue from Mr. Stanley:

"Stanley was in the search engine optimization business, meaning he was paid by companies to make their websites more popular by any means necessary."

Nonsense. Organic SEO, when performed with integrity, does not use "any means necessary" to optimize websites.  In fact, the best SEOs view their work as a partnership with Google--an attempt to make websites that work best for the people who use Google.

In short, the Morning News rightly points out the extortionist practices of Stanley, but it does not offer a balanced view of SEO.

***

Any website can be harmed by incoming links. You might be surprised by the links spammers have created to your site. More then ever, now is the time to contact a reputable link removal service or quality SEO specialist, like Stepmans PC.

Now is also a great time to take advantage of Stepman PC's FREE Website Audit.

If your website is under-performing, Stepmans PC’s Organic Website Optimization Audit will clarify the exact elements of your website that require improvement--including bad incoming links!

As apart of the audit, Stepmans PC will provide a detailed report showing you the quality and quantity of your links. To take advantage of this limited time offer, call Stepmans PC now: 215-900-9398 or complete the form on Stepmans PC's website.

Friday, December 18, 2015

SEO 101: Learn From Your Competitors

The goal of SEO is to increase traffic. The value of traffic is different for each website, but the goal is the same. The nature of this goal is competitive; to increase your own website's traffic you must, by definition, decrease your competitor's traffic.

The intensity of this competition is most evident in the diminishing traffic from to the top to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP). According to a 2013 study from Chitika, the first result on on the first SERP receives 33% of all traffic; the second result receives about 18%; and the third result receives 11%. Websites not on the first page miss 92% of all traffic.

Citing this study before, we added a simple calculation:

"If you know how much traffic the Internet drives to your business, and you can quantify that number in dollars, you can easily see the difference between, say, the third result and the first. By optimizing your site to be the first result, you could potentially triple your profits (from 11% to 33%)."

The value of a top ranking is evident: increased profits [Photo Source]
Is this a realistic goal? In a word, yes. Unfortunately, for many websites owners, this goal seems unrealistic.

New websites owners, especially those transitioning from brick and mortar business, have a hard time visualizing a first page ranking. A brick-and-mortar's competitors are located nearby. When you enter the online marketplace, the competition increases exponentially. After all, for each specific industry thousands of websites vie for the same first page search ranking.

The numbers are daunting, but the dynamic nature of search engine algorithms guarantee that each and every website has a fighting chance. Algorithms crave change. Over time, browser's interests change. By paying attention to this evolution, you can learn how to keep pace with the top results.

To study the evolution, pay attention to your competition--the top results for your specific industry. To discover these results, search for the precise keywords that most adequately describe your website--the keywords you would want your customers to use to find you.

Scrutinize the top three results. Then try to answer these questions:

1. Why is this website ranked first (or second or third)? 

SEOs constantly analyze top-performing websites for website optimization clues. If you have no website optimization knowledge, you can still learn the same clues by paying attention to your competitor's design and content.

In many cases, the quality of a top result is apparent. Look at that design. Read the content. Is the website attractive and easy to use? Is the content helpful and relevant to the keyword?

Define the elements of your competitor's success.

Incidentally, if the quality of the top result is not apparent, the website might very well be the best of a bad lot. When this is the case, pounce accordingly. In this scenario, an SEO campaign can work quickly.

2. How is this website better (different) than my website?

If you an define what the elements of your competitor's success, you can easily create a plan to beat your competitor at his own game. Of course, you do not want to steal design ideas or content; instead, translate your competitors successful elements to your own style.

To do so, simply compare the design and content of the top results to your own design and content. How can you change (evolve) to meet the standards of the top results? This is a very straight-forward question.

Remember, though, your goal is to attract real people. We say "search engine" optimization, yet we do not optimize for search engines. In fact, SEO shares the same goal as the top search engines: to deliver relevant and appealing websites that answer the needs of humanity.

3. How can the this website improve?

Better than defining the elements of your competitor's success is defining his inadequacies. Do you notice certain design flaws? Is his product up to par? Is the content truly relevant (and error-free)? Has he provided copious relevant content? One of the easiest ways to compete with a top result is by matching not merely the quality but the quantity of content. Offer more and you will begin to attract more.

Is your indecisiveness about SEO costing you money? Call Stepmans PC!

If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized website. Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional.

Stepmans PC is now offering a free mobile website audit. Contact Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's mobile performance: 215-900-9398.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What is Good Content?

Good content is the key to achieving a high search engine ranking. A blazing fast, beautiful website can only take you so far. To attract the visitors you deserve, you must create good content. But what is "good content"? The term is ubiquitous, yet often misunderstood.

In its Webmaster Tools, Google offers a working definition:

 "Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site."

When writing content, then, heed these guidelines from Google:

1. Offer useful/helpful information targeted to your specific audience
2. Offer intriguing content that will inspire visitors and webmasters to "link to your site"
3. Answer your specific audience's questions
4. Provide rich, detailed information (properly cited) that "clearly describes your topic"
5. Include precisely-targeted keywords to attract your specific audience.

In essence, when writing, ask yourself, "What can my audience do with this information?"

Your content must be useful, intriguing, and precise.


For Google, content is king [Source]

Easy enough? Hopefully--because useful, intriguing, and precise content is not enough...

Many websites fulfill these requirements on a weekly or daily basis. To truly compete, you must match the content-production of your competitors, article for article, word-by-word.

For some websites, especially local websites, this task is not so hard. Many local competitors, you might notice, fail to update or refresh their content frequently (or even infrequently). To compete in this context, you need only to create enough content to stay atop the first page results.

How much content? To assess your needs, monitor your rankings and search metrics daily as well as the rankings and search metrics of your competitors.

For websites that hope to compete on a national basis, however, the task is more daunting. How often do you add new content to your site? When answering, remember, content can be defined as images, videos, or even emoji, but the cornerstone of content is--and will likely always be--text. The most successful websites add new content on a weekly or daily basis.

More than simply adding new content, however, the best websites refresh old content. Remember, good content must be useful--or, as the SEO community often says, "relevant." To assess the value of your old content, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How old, exactly, is your content? Months? Years? Decades?
2. Does your content accurately reflect your business and the marketplace?
3. Is your content still /useful to your specific audience?
4. Is your specific audience interacting with your old content?

If your old pages don't attract much attention, you might dramatically improve their performance simply by "refreshing" the content to conform to the guidelines above.

When doing so, pay special attention to the evolving marketplace. Ask yourself more questions:

1. Are your keywords still relevant?
2. Is each piece of content answering a specific question?
3. Are your links bad?

In future weeks, we will cover these topics in depth. Check back soon for our post on refreshing old content.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with good content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.