David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

Ethical SEO or SEO Spam

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

You cannot always believe what you read, and in SEO you have to be very careful.  Take for instance the good folks at OutsourcingforSEO.com .  They repeatedly spam Zoomit Canada with non-Canadian submissions.  I have deleted several dozen accounts, but they keep creating new ones.  They don’t seem to get the message or they are gluttons for fruitless work.  They also seem to have figured out a hack to add many more tags per submission than the form allows.  One day last month they even created accounts with names like danysulivan8 and leeoden4 and johnbatele4, mimicking the names of high-profile SEO consultants (I know these colleagues to be reputable, but imagine what can happen to their reputations if such accounts are being created elsewhere!).  I suppose they thought I might let their submissions pass if I thought somebody respectable was doing the submitting.

seo-spammer

Of course, this all must be part of their “Ethical SEO Website Traffic Services”, as seen in the screen capture below that I took just before deleting another of their spam posts.

SEO spam to the extreme

I think this is the first time I have ever called out another SEO company. It’s not that I haven’t seen plenty of pure spam and plenty of questionable stuff, too. But it’s a slippery slope and I’m not big on rating other SEO consultants. But these guys are so determined to keep spamming Zoomit Canada, over and over and over and over, that I’ll make an exception. If anybody knows of a spammer award, I would love to have this company submitted.  After that, committed.

The moral of the story is to be very careful who you hire for SEO services.  This company is submitting its client websites, too, exposing them to potential sanctions from the search engines and being banned by other social bookmarking websites, too.  You don’t want a purposeful spammer representing your website.

 


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Ethical SEO and the non-client testimonial

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Sigh.  This SEO client won’t make me any money.

But first, a story.  Our fancy vacuum cleaner was slowly seeming to get weaker and weaker, until it really would just not suck anything up anymore.  This would have precipitated immediate action, except that we have a ShopVac, which at least can pick up most of the dust from out carpets. 

So “repair the vacuum cleaner” went onto our to-do list.  Which is a lovely place for something that doesn’t seem too urgent.  And as long as the ShopVac did 90% of the job, repairing the vacuum cleaner never really became as urgent as dozens of other things that would pop up.

If you have ever had items remain on the to-do list in perpetual procrastination, you will understand how over time they psychologically grow to epic proportions, to the extent where they become jobs that just seem too burdensome to want to tackle.

But one day, not all that long ago, I picked up the phone and called the vacuum repair guy.  OK, it actually took several days, because these guys don’t just hang out at the foot of my driveway, and over the years the Canadian rights to the vacuum brand had been sold to another company.

The repair guy asked me a couple questions and gave me a homework assignment.  Before charging me a whopping repair bill, he suggested that I check out the *****.  Which I did.  And the vacuum began sucking immediately.  I won’t tell you what ***** was, because I don’t want you to know just exactly how foolish I was and how little this epic repair challenge actually was, but suffice to say that I felt silly.  I called him back and thanked him for being so kind and so ethical.

Which brings me to the “testimonial” I received yesterday from a non-client.  The gentleman wanted some link-building for both SEO and targeted traffic.  After a bit of back-and-forth, it was clear that he had a few specific websites of the Fortune-500 variety in mind.  He also had good reason to believe he had a shot at getting those links, based on what he was offering related to their sector.  I had to tell him much what the vacuum repair guy ended up telling me:

It sounds like you are seeking somebody to pitch these very specific websites on the value of linking to yours.  Unless these are paid links, in which case money talks, you really are the best person to make that pitch.  While this is a superb idea, both for direct traffic and for some pretty strong SEO benefits, it is not something you need or should hire an SEO consultant for. 

The “testimonial” he provided was a short email back to me:

The advice you have just rendered indicates clearly you are the epitome of your firm’s motto “ethical seo services”. It is nice to know.

So those conversations made approximately $0.00 richer than I was before they began (plus interest!), proving that great non-customer service is just like my “refurbished” vacuum cleaner — it really sucks. But in a sector where so many fly-by-night charlatans look for ways to suck website owners into their own little vaccuums, I believe it pays to be honest in the long run (that’s the “plus interest” part).

Here is our ethical SEO consultant page.

 


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A Degree in BS?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

We get requests for all sorts of writing, and every now and then somebody ignores the quote plastered on every page of our website about not doing their school papers for them and cheating them out of an education.  So on occasion we get to ignore a request like this:

I need someone to help me with a continueaction book report  on why should I celebrate thanksgiving , I have done part one  which was 12 pages part 2 need 38 pages  it is just that i have so much to do before I gradurate in may for my B.S. degree form bible college. 

 I think she might have taken the “B.S. degree” thing too literally!

 


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Google cracking down on paid links

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

First, let me preface this post by saying there is nothing wrong with buying paid links, regardless of what Google says or what you think Google says.  Paid links are called advertising.  “Free” links, which are never actually free, are called public relations.  This has been going on since someone in ancient Egypt first wrote a sandwich board reading “The End is near” and someone else asked, “How much to add ‘Reserve your burial plots today!’”

However, Google does not appreciate links sold strictly to boost PageRank, specifically targeting its ranking algorithm.  This is understandable.

So what is a website owner, intent on promoting his website and his services, to do?  Go for the best links possible, whether they are paid or free, sticking within budget.  If most of your links are paid, that sends quite a red flag that maybe there is nothing on your website of enough value to actually earn links.  In fact, that in itself is a pretty good case for Google to demote your website in its rankings.

On the other hand, if there is a website that could be sending you some targeted traffic, that can show high relevance and offers good link juice, why not pay for the link?  Google will not penalize you for having bought a link or two; Google will penalize you for trying to purchase a re-arrangement of its listings.

 


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BegForPost :: Why pay per post when you can beg?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

This is a totally new, humorous and deadly serious Internet marketing concept: BegForPost :: Why pay per post when you can beg? It’s a marketplace for those who want blog exposure and those interested in giving blog exposure.  It is being reported in places like TechCrunch as an alternative to “the ethically questionable PayPerPost service that allows advertisers to pay bloggers to write about their products”.  (That’s a debate for another day.)

One of the toughest problems when promoting one’s website to bloggers is finding the right ones…not just those who might be interested because they are in your niche, but those who actually are interested because they want to receive your PR material.  Those adventuresome website marketers who take on that challenge waste a lot of time sending emails and filling in comments forms to bloggers who have no interest, who in turn waste a lot of time reading and deleting unwanted messages.

BegForPost is a start, but it needs something more.  It needs a way for bloggers to search for webmasters who are interested in getting exposure on a topic (for guest blogs, joint ventures, free samples, etc.)  It needs a way for webmasters to search for bloggers in their niche who are interested in listening.

I just took BegForPost for a spin.  I had no way to know which blog to target, so I looked at whom others were targeting, picked one, and begged for a post on behalf of a client.  My begging is at this point in the hands of a moderator.  But how do I know if the target blogger wants to hear from my client.   

This is a cool idea, but it needs a little more sophistication before it is likely to be genuinely useful.  However, I will report back if my test drive ends up bearing fruit.  If not, I might try again with another client. 

 

 

 


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Google’s In-text Ads

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

We have word now that Google is planning to sell ads mid-paragraph on websites.  AdWords currently appear only in separate sections of a web page. 

The first reaction to this has been negative.  Although I say this cautiously, the development makes sense. 

We all know that Google’s organic listings value an inbound link within a paragraph on a content page more than a directory style listing. 

Why? 

Think, think… 

Because in the middle of a paragraph sounds so much more real.  It just looks like somebody is really referencing or recommending that link in that very context, as opposed to just one of many links on a list that might be more or less relevant to something or other. 

The same holds true for advertising.  An in-text ad link says that this product is relevant to what the reader is reading.  It’s being where your customer is, which is always a good thing. 

Of course, one must ask whether the customer likes this.  If you ask him, he will say “no”.  But he persists in reading “free” web pages that somebody takes the time to post, so his actions say that he does.  Every now and then, a subscriber to my “free” Daily Dose of Happiness ezine complains about the ads.  If that subscriber was paying a buck a month, he would have every right to complain.  I wonder if he cheerfully goes about his job, refusing his pay check every two weeks.  I think not. 

Google’s idea to put ads in the text, labeled as Google Ads in the pop-up bubble, seems to me to be a good move.  It certainly will not look as awful and ugly as the current Google ads marring more websites than I can count.  

But I am not 100% sold on this view.  Maybe there is a good reason to oppose this.  Let me know what you think.  

 

 

 

 

 


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Google’s In-text Ads

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

We have word now that Google is planning to sell ads mid-paragraph on websites.  AdWords currently appear only in separate sections of a web page. 

The first reaction to this has been negative.  Although I say this cautiously, the development makes sense. 

We all know that Google’s organic listings value an inbound link within a paragraph on a content page more than a directory style listing. 

Why? 

Think, think… 

Because in the middle of a paragraph sounds so much more real.  It just looks like somebody is really referencing or recommending that link in that very context, as opposed to just one of many links on a list that might be more or less relevant to something or other. 

The same holds true for advertising.  An in-text ad link says that this product is relevant to what the reader is reading.  It’s being where your customer is, which is always a good thing. 

Of course, one must ask whether the customer likes this.  If you ask him, he will say “no”.  But he persists in reading “free” web pages that somebody takes the time to post, so his actions say that he does.  Every now and then, a subscriber to my “free” Daily Dose of Happiness ezine complains about the ads.  If that subscriber was paying a buck a month, he would have every right to complain.  I wonder if he cheerfully goes about his job, refusing his pay check every two weeks.  I think not. 

Google’s idea to put ads in the text, labeled as Google Ads in the pop-up bubble, seems to me to be a good move.  It certainly will not look as awful and ugly as the current Google ads marring more websites than I can count.  

But I am not 100% sold on this view.  Maybe there is a good reason to oppose this.  Let me know what you think.  

 

 

 

 

 


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A brand-new SEO scam

Friday, March 9th, 2007

This SEO scam is so new that it hasn’t even begun yet, at least not to my knowledge.  I don’t want to give SEO scammers ideas, but I am 100% certain that this is coming and that there will be many, many, many (did I mention “many”?) unsuspecting webmasters who will fall for it, so let’s for once get the warnings about the scam out there before it begins. 

Google’s new personalized search has already begun, and within months it will start to skew Google’s rankings in two ways.  

First, data Google gathers about how people are searching will certainly start to be factored into the general algorithm.  This means that on-page relevancy and inbound links will have to share the stage with such factors as click-through rates, click-back rates (back to Google from the site), length of visit, number of pages viewed, repeat visits, etc.  In other words, Google will be better able to measure “good” content from trash.  

A whole industry will sprout up to help webmasters take advantage of this, much of it black hat (like click fraud, perhaps?), some white hat, mostly to create more “sticky” content, improve click-through rates and encourage people to “vote” in some way for the site. On the white hat side, TheBookmarketer can help you move ahead right away, as I reported in this post on how to use social bookmarking to a website’s advantage

Second, the data it collects from each individual will be used to present more personalized results to that individual.  Exactly how this will work remains to be seen, as there are many ways that Google has hinted it can factor the information into a person’s individual results.  But one thing is for certain…as soon as SEO scammers get a sense of some of the factors that affect personalized results, the scamming will begin.  Here is exactly what the scammers will do:  

1. The scammer will tell the website owner to sign up for a Google account.  

2. The scammer will tell the webmaster to “visit your website every day” or “visit at least ten pages of your site in succession every day” or “Google bookmark your website” or “do the following ten searches and click on your site from the rankings every day”.  The precise instructions will depend on the factors that most influence personal search.  

3. The scammer will promise that the website owner will see his site move up in the rankings.  And he will see it move up in the rankings.  But only on his computer using his personalized search.  Even if his website shows up as #1 for “broken glass”, none of the broken-glass-buying market might even see his site in their results. 

This scam won’t fool everybody.  It is most likely to work on the little guy, who operates from one computer and would not think to compare results.  It might not work forever, but what scammer will stick around to argue the finer points once he’s sucked the money out of an unsuspecting website owner’s pockets? 

Google will surely take steps to reduce this in order to protect the integrity of its results (remember the searcher is whom Google must please), but like every game of locks and lock-pickers, there will be plenty of scams flying under Google’s radar or keeping one step ahead. 

The best protection a webmaster has against this sort of scam is to include mention of it in passing in every article posted on the Internet about personal search.  Hopefully not too many webmasters will miss it before hiring an SEO scammer.  And that’s why today I am outing the scammers before they even start!

 


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Business Ethics on the Internet

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

I was quoted last week in Maclean’s, Canada’s national newsmagazine (sort of an equivalent to Time or Newsweek) on a matter of ethics.

I get to see two very contrasting worlds of ethics on the Internet.  First, we run an SEO marketing service, which means that we spend a lot of time swimming in polluted waters.  Let’s face it, for every really good and honest SEO, there are several incompetent ones, and probably as many outright dishonest (unethical ones).

On the other hand, we run a freelance writing agency.  Writers tend to be a highly ethical group, sometimes overly so.  We’ve only had to ever sever our relationship with one writer who showed signs of being unethical.

So it might come as a surprise that we were commenting on ethical lapses related to writing.  The context was a cover story on cheating in universities in both Canada and the United States, and how the universities are pretty much ignoring this destructive wildfire sweeping their campuses.

And, of course, the Internet is fueling this fire, offering both anonymity and instant access to “information”.  And for every person seeking a ghostwritten term paper, there is some dishonest writer willing to write it.

Ethics is ethics.  Period.  Anonymity does not make something right.  The Internet does not make something right.  Notwithstanding that many things that are really matters of pour etiquette get labeled “unethical” on the Internet, there are all too many people willing to be evil to make a little extra money (What, me, use strong language?)

OK, I know you’ve been salivating to know what I had to say about ethics and writing in Maclean’s, so here’s the excerpt:

Running a freelance writer agency, I can tell you that the second most-frequent writing request, after books, is for school papers.  We have even been requested to write PhD entry essays.  We respond to all such queries by refusing to help a student cheat himself (or herself) out of an education.

 

 


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