David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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Archive for the ‘linking’ Category

More on links from statistics websites

Monday, August 15th, 2011

A couple couple weeks ago, I wrote about links from statistics and valuation websites, and posed the question whether it is worthwhile paying five dollars to have one’s domain submitted to 5000 of them. You might want to read the post before continuing.

There was an interesting comment by Graeme, that said:

“Did you check how my of these sites already had a link to yours? If I search for any of my domain names I get lots of these that I have never asked to list me.”

This is a good question, but it is hardly the full question. Some of these sites have static pages, and might already be linking back to you. But many of these sites create the pages on request. You punch in a domain name, and they grab the information from authority stats sites like Alexa or Compete, or from search engines like Google or Baidu.

So in most cases, the answer is “no” – most of these sites were not already linking to the site I submitted.

But as I said, that is not really the full question.

Think about it for a moment.

Keep thinking…

Aha! That’s it. If the linking page exists only because I requested it, what happens when I leave? Does the page still exist? Or more to the point, is the page stored somewhere for the search engines to find it? Yeah, 280 links or so, but on pages that really exist? A few, perhaps, but not most.

So you probably think I am about to change my mind and poo-poo the $5.00 I spent on this? Not quite. You see, $5 for 100 or 300 or more links (we are not sure exactly how many, remember?) is actually a pretty good deal. Any professional SEO consultant knows how much time it can take and how many fails one has to go through building just a couple links. What if we could take the pages we created on the fly and freeze them in time? Or in space? Or in cyber space?

Here’s what you do:

  1. Check which of the pages actually have a live link to your domain.
  2. Save the list of those pages.
  3. Build links directly to those pages

How? Here are four ways, depending on your comfort level.

  • Create a page on your website just for “Hey, look who thinks they know what our website is worth”.
  • Use these URLs when making blog comments.
  • Include these URLs in article marketing and blog posting (The Free Traffic System is ideally set up for this.)
  • Try some social bookmarking; there are many minor social bookmarking sites that are not as particular as Digg and Reddit are.

When the links you create are spidered, the pages evaluating your domain “exist” for the search engines. Plus, they actually have some small amount of link juice, which probably places them in the top 1% of pages on the each site for link popularity. Remember that most of these pages link only to your website, not to 30 or 40 or 50 other websites on some link exchange page. The more link juice these pages get, the better for your website.

So, the big question I am sure you all want to know is whether there were actually any improvement in rankings as a result of this little experiment. Well, here are the results at Google, keeping in mind that no links have been built in to these pages.

Keyword One before: around #70 (I did not take an exact reading)
Keyword One after: #60 (a couple days ago, I saw this at #55)

Keyword Two before: around #70 (I did not take an exact reading)
Keyword Two after: #65 and #66

Keyword Three before: around #70 (I did not take an exact reading)
Keyword Three after: #59 and #60

So these readings are positive in that it appears the site climbed a bit for all three search terms, even adding an interior page to two of the searches. The movement, however, is not phenomenal and it is possible that it is explained by other factors. It will be interesting to see if there is further movement once some links are built into a few of these pages. I might just have to report back to you again…

 


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Links from statistics websites

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I saw a gig over on Fiverr that caught my eye.  For those of you who don’t know about Fiverr, it is where anyone can offer to do anything (almost) for five dollars.  It’s a bit like The Dollar Store of online services.  You can get some amazing deals on Fiverr – stuff you would expect to pay $25 for.  Or $50.  Or even $100.  You also get some blatant scams.

Some great deals.  Some rip-offs.  But either way, five dollars isn’t much.  Like I said, it’s like The Dollar Store.

The gig that caught my eye was:

I will submit your main domain URL to well over 5000 statistic sites. How This Works. I will submit your URL to various statistic sites. These give a value of your site/blog, and also provide a free link back to your site. My software sends your URL to over 5000 sites which gives you that many one way backlinks and Rapidly gets your site indexed by Google! I will send you a text doc to prove works done too. Order now and get indexed.

Anything that generates hundreds or thousands of links automatically can’t be particularly useful for a professional SEO campaign.  But it did occur to me that a few of these sites might be useful, and the links would most likely be either the domain (some with www, some with http, some with both, some with neither?) or the title tag, so not the usual keyword style links you see in blog comment spam and forum profile spam.  And not from the type of sites my clients would usually get links from, so perhaps it would add a nice little variety to a site’s link profile.

With low expectations and high curiosity, I laid down my five bucks.

OK, first off I must say that I did not check through the full list of 7861 entries (representing 36782 sites?  I think there was a typo), but with domain duplications taken into consideration,  it is still likely that the promised 5000+ were delivered).

The first thing I noticed were how many of the statistic sites were obviously scraping results from Google, Yahoo, Bing and most of all Baidu (If you think China wants to buy up all Western real estate, what does this say about China’s hunger for Internet property?).  To be expected, I suppose, but irrelevant to this review.

I checked through 3 dozen entries, being careful not to duplicate any sites.  I guess my first disappointment were how many came up dead (sites were for sale, 404 error pages, server would not connect, etc.) – nearly half.  But I suspect that for five bucks a gig, nobody will bother to check 5000 sites for deadwood (although, maybe the software should be set up to remove dead sites).

My second disappointment were how many of them did not link to the domain they were reviewing.  They tended mostly to link internally to other pages about the domain in an internal web of sorts.

Did the gig live up to the promise of “over 5000 sites which gives you that many one way backlinks”.  Not a chance.  One of the pages gave a NoFollow link.  Another gave a link from a secondary page (which might have been one of the 7861 entries that I did not check).  Although the sample size is too small for an accurate extrapolation 36 site, or less than one percent of the total – it implies that the site did get over 280 new backlinks, from new pages on established sites.  Even if I am off by 50%, that is still 140 links for $5, with at least a couple of the links probably reasonably good.

Five bucks for 140+ links that took me just a few minutes to order (and a couple hours to blog about, but that’s another story).  I would say that it is worth it.

But there was another residual benefit, too.  A few of the statistic sites (2, 3, 4? – I didn’t keep track)  linked to various authority profiles that link back to your domain.  For instance, a profile on Surcentro.net will not link to your website, but it will link to your profile at:

  • Alexa
  • WayBackMachine
  • Robtex

And each of these links back to your site.  So we can assume that at least another 140 links have been built to your domain’s profiles on authority statistics sites that already link to your site, and that is also a worthwhile.

Would I use this gig again? Yes. I wish more Fiverr gig sellers would cut the hyperbole and be more accurate about what they are offering.  But inaccuracy aside, I would call this gig a worthwhile addition to a comprehensive link-building campaign.

 


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Link Variety or Link Relevance?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Over at WebProWorld this question caught my attention:

One of my ways of getting links for my sites is posting articles on blogs. I submit these articles to a site and they publish them on blogs relevant to these articles. So if I write an article about guitar playing, this article is published on blogs dealing with guitars/guitar lessons/ etc.

I have written a good amount of articles for my guitar site, and they are published on guitar blogs, I get a good few links that way, but they are coming from the same blogs. I was wondering, if I keep on doing this, would it be better, seo wise, to write less relevant articles, say about jazz music or something like that. That way I would be getting links from different blogs.

So my question is:
What is better, getting 50 links from 10 different blogs that are very relevant to my site, or getting 50 links from 50 different blogs that are less relevant to my site?

Here is my response, in a little more detail than I answered in the forum post itself:

I would take a 3-step approach. First, get good coverage in those blogs (and other websites) that are highly keyword relevant. Relevance is perhaps the most important factor for SEO. In this case, his main keyword was “guitars”.  He had submitted articles to all those blogs that were specifically about guitars.  In so doing, he had built up a strong message for the search engines that his guitar site is one that is respected by other sites in the niche.  That is a strong ranking signal.  He now has links at a number of “guitar” websites:

G G G G G G

 

Endorsed by guitarists.

 

But he has not sent a signal that his site is respected by others beyond his niche, but related enough that they really ought to know.

So step two is to submit his articles to websites that cover related topics, such as music in general, musical instruments in general, various forms of music, etc.  He could easily write articles about rock or country or some other types of music that involve guitars, for instance.  The search engines value keyword relevance, but they also value topical relevance (and don’t forget that many of these music sites will have the word “guitar” mentioned here and there.).

Plus, they value a wide variety of linking domains.  Getting a link on many music websites broadens the variety in his link profile, while solidifying the authority in his niche (because music, rock and country are still in his niche).  His link profile now looks more like:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

 

 

Now you’re endorsed by the whole band.

 

Now, on to step three.  Since one of the ranking signals the search engines look for is how widely popular a website is, find ways of writing about other topics that a more diverse blogging community will be interested in.  First define our target.  If you use the Free Traffic System, as I do (see my Free Traffic System review), you can search for blogs by keyword, and easily see which words bring up the most number of blogs, and even what types of topics they cover (some “music” blogs might only cover very specific niches, whereas others might cover anything music-related.) You can also use a Google or Bing search or search one of the larger blog directories. Let’s take a common example – there are a lot of MMO  (make money online) blogs out there.  OK.  How can you write an article about guitars that an MMO blog would want to publish?

Easy.  Prepare a video about guitars to post on YouTube in order to draw traffic to your site.  Next write an article about how you posted a video on YouTube to draw traffic to your guitar site.  Make sure to explain how you portrayed the guitars or how video is a great medium for showing off guitars – just to make sure your article about making money online is also an article about guitars.

So he should identify each target set of blogs and figure out what he can write about that will be about guitars (or whatever your main keyword is) but also about their niche.  All of a sudden, the link profile starts to look more like this:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

n y e d c g y o p s j q c x j d b i m l j e d s a r t h y u v q l o j y z h u y l p a s r c b v e q j h y t f v x s a k f d h u j m n r s w a g c e w b g k l u q i o v r s

 

Now the whole crowd is cheering for you!

 

Wow!  Let’s review what the search engines see when you follow this approach to link-building:

  1. Websites just like yours link to you.  That is an expert endorsement.
  2. Websites related to yours link to you.  Lot’s of them.  That is quite an impressive endorsement, too.
  3. Lots and lots of websites of all kinds link to you.  Your website is profoundly popular.  It must be good.

Now go out and show everybody what an amazing website you run.

 

 


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SEO Shotgun or SEO Rifle?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Or both?

For a huge website (ecommerce, directory, etc.) with many variations of the same product or service, whether by location or by brand, the effort to work individually on each one would be monumental.  For that reason, we often focus on:

a)   The home page, which is naturally where a fair number of links will have to go.

b)   A selection of the most important interior pages (such as those cities which might yield the best ROI) with a purposeful effort to help them rank better for relevant searches.

Some of the activities we do will help just those pages; some will help the entire site.  To understand this better, it helps to understand what types of ranking signals the search engines look for.  They include hundreds of specific signals, but most of them can be grouped as follows:

On-page relevance to a specific search query.

The changes we will make to the template(s) will bring benefits across the site to every page they apply.  In other words, even if we identify 10 city-specific pages on which to focus, every city-specific page will benefit.  If we add text or other elements on a page-by page basis, only the pages we work on will benefit.

Off-page relevance to a specific query.

Links that we obtain to 10 city-specific pages will often (but not always) confer relevancy.  The extent to which this occurs will depend on the content of the page that is linking, the anchor text of the link itself, and a number of other factors.  This relevancy is specific only to the page being linked to.  For instance, a link to the Chicago page of the website confers no relevancy to the London page.

Off-page importance/popularity.

Inbound links to a page also convey “importance” or “popularity”.  They represent a “vote” for the page in the eyes of the search engines.  That importance or that vote is specific to the page that is being linked to.  But, Google’s PageRank algorithm also spread the link-love to other pages that are directly linked. 

For instance, let us assume the Chicago page links directly to other Illinois city-specific pages, such as Rock Island, but not to any Florida city-specific pages.  If we obtain 20 links to the Chicago page, that will greatly boost the popularity of the Chicago page.  It will also boost the popularity of the Rock Island page, but not the Miami page (at least, not noticeably). 

This is why internal linking patterns for a big site like this are so important.

Domain credibility/authority/popularity

This is the exciting part.  Every quality link we build into the domain, strengthens the credibility/authority/popularity of the entire domain.  Every day the domain ages, strengthens the entire domain.  Every time a high-authority site links into the domain, every time there is a social media mention, every time the domain is renewed for a longer period of time…the entire domain – every page – benefits.

So the efforts we make for a few specific pages can benefit them all to some degree.  For a highly competitive sub-niche, that might not be enough.  For a smaller, less-competitive niche, the page might rank well without any direct attention to it.

 


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REVIEW: Blog Engage RSS Subscription Service

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Each social bookmarking website distinguishes itself in some way. OK, so that’s not totally true, but most of the good ones do. Brian over at BlogEngage has built on something original to that platform, an optional program called the Blog Engage RSS Subscription Service. The banner ads, like the one below, bill it as an “Adsense Sharing Program”.

 

Memberships, RSS, Blog Engage

However, I am not going to review the Adsense aspect of it, but some of the other benefits, for several reasons.

  • I think there are several much more exciting aspects to the program.
  • As you know, I am not really one of the monetization folks – best leave that aspect to someone who is, like Justin Germino
  • I haven’t tested the program long enough to have much to comment on the Adsense aspect.

The Blog Engage RSS Subscription Service is optional

Let it be noted that the service is optional. Of the 2000-plus active users of BlogEngage, I would guess that a few dozen have signed up for the service. BlogEngage is one of the best social bookmarking websites, in my opinion, and was just recently promoted to top line at The Bookmarketer .

The service does cost money. It is not expensive, but some bloggers are counting their revenues in the cents-per-week range, and obviously they will be more hesitant to sign up.

And it is only for bloggers. Indeed, BlogEngage is only for blog posts, as the name implies. Got the world’s funniest video? Put it in a blog post if you want to see it at BlogEngage. Created a life-saving app? Blog about it first, then submit it at BlogEngage.

Cool benefits of the Blog Engage RSS Subscription Service

Automatic submission. Once you write your blog post, that’s when the hard part comes. You have to pull up all your social sharing websites and submit your post. Well, not all – through the RSS service, BlogEngage automatically grabs your post and submits it (under your account, so you are still the submitter).

Extra vote. Do you spend what seems like a ridiculous amount of time cajoling friends to vote for your social submissions and retweet or like or thumbs up your posts so that they get more exposure? Well, at BlogEngage it takes eight votes to “pop” (at which time your posy gets home-page exposure and becomes a DoFollow link) – and the RSS service votes once. When you have voted, that makes two votes already, saving you from wearing down your cajoling muscles.

More links from more domains. All RSS submissions are automatically syndicated to Blog Serp, Top Blogged, RSS Leak, Blogger Ink and Blogger Tag. This means more DoFollow links, as these are automatically published, even if they don’t get enough votes on BlogEngage.

Better promotion. BlogEngage also auto-tweets and autoshares on FaceBook all RSS Service submissions, making it easier to garner the votes required to “pop” and also spreading the word about your blog posts.

Contest Sponsorship. This is brand spanking new… ” All our Gold membership customers and above will automatically be added into our guest blogging contests as sponsors.” That means fame, fortune and links. OK, maybe not fortune, but if fame and links can earn you a little extra money, I though I would slip the fortune in there for you.

And of course, there is the Adsense sharing, which I promised not to address. I won’t even mention it. Just forget that you read this line.

Five levels of membership

 

Memberships, RSS, Blog Engage

There are five levels of membership to choose from, the lowest costing just $1.99/month. The highest – a premium enterprise service if you run multiple blogs – costs $19.99/month. The gold membership I mentioned earlier costs $4.88/month. If you blog daily or almost daily, it is a worthwhile expense.  You can learn about the differences between the plans directly at the Blog Engage RSS Subscription Service page.

 


This post was featured in the That Girl Is Funny Blog Carnival.

 


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How Two Webmasters Discovered 25,000 Surprise Backlinks

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Two Canadian webmasters were reviewing their website stats, and discovered 25,000 new backlinks from one domain. This is how they did it – and how you can, too.

It should be noted that the link-building technique that will be described here is applicable to everyone. However, the precise mechanics of it are available to you only if your website:

1) Is Canadian.
2) Features informational content, such as a blog, a photo gallery or an articles directory (This is 2010 – if you are even considering SEO as a means of attracting traffic, I am sure that informational content is part of your plan, right?).

backlinks-street-sign

A Tale of Two (Canadian) Webmasters

Vancouverite Daniel Snyder, of Info Carnivor, was first to notice. He discovered 15,000 new backlinks from one domain, and that left him puzzled. He had only submitted two of his blog posts to the site, so how come he suddenly had 15,000 backlinks.

Next it was Hamilton-based Jim Rudnick, of Canuck SEO, who’s website saw a “sudden increase of inbound backlinks – 25,000 brand new ones” – and all from the same domain. He asked the support team at his stats tracking supplier to double-check this obvious error, but they confirmed it was right.

What Was the Site and How Could This Happen?

The site – or should I say “the domain” (I’ll explain the distinction shortly) – is Zoomit Canada, a social bookmarking website just for Canadian news, blogs, articles, etc. If you are familiar with Digg and Mixx, you will understand how Zoomit works.

So how did they do it? That is simple enough. They submitted their blog posts to Zoomit, and they did a little bit of networking (voting for/commenting on other people’s submissions). Because both Daniel and Jim submitted good quality content and supported the good quality content of others, other folks also voted for their submissions – enough to be voted to the front page.

And that’s when the magic happened.

As with most social bookmarking websites, it’s when a story gets voted to the front page that the inbound links really begin to count. This is the case with big social bookmarking websites, like Digg and Mixx, as well as with smaller ones like Old Dogg and MMO Social Network.

As I said above, what we are discussing here is applicable to everyone. However, the precise mechanics are available only to Canadian content. You see, Zoomit added an extra twist that you won’t find on those other social bookmarking websites – a top domains widget.

Look down the right side of the page and see that there is a “Top Domains” widget that lists the 20 top domains in alphabetical order. In other words, submit your post, network a bit and you’ve got yourself thousands of backlinks.

What Are All These Links Worth?

Now you might ask, what are these links worth, SEO-wise. You might have heard that a sitewide link isn’t worth all that much. This makes a great case study to separate fact from fiction. Here are four points to consider:

First, 25,000 links from one domain are nowhere near as useful as 25,000 links from 25,000 domains. Link diversity does count for both Google and Bing.

Second, 25,000 links from one domain are better than 24,000 links from one domain. And both are better than a single link from that domain. Yes, every link counts.

Third, a sitewide link in most cases (certainly in this case) includes a link on the home page, something that is generally considered quite valuable in SEO. In this case, the home page is PR4.

Fourth, look at the Zoomit Canada site structure. Each province and each news channel is hosted on a separate subdomain. Subdomains are generally treated by the search engines as separate websites. In all, this website – oops, sorry… I mean this “domain” – includes 13 province subdomains, 21 channel subdomains, plus the main domain. That adds up to 35 home page links by being a “top domain” on Zoomit Canada.

Given the effort in building quality links, and the unlikelihood that you’ll ever have links from 25,000 different domains – and possibly not even from 2,500 domains, the effort to get those 25,000 links from one strong domain is worthwhile. Lucky Canadian webmasters who benefit.

Don’t despair if you post non-Canadian content. Social bookmarking and other social sharing is a great strategy, and every great piece of content (quality stuff, not $25 articles written offshore by someone who knows about as much of your topic as my neighbour’s cat and writes in something that almost exactly fails to resemble English) you create and promote creates links back to your website.

Every sales person, every lobbyist, every entrepreneur, every preacher, every person who wants to deliver a message knows that the most important words are “Please” and “Thank You”.

So a big “Thank you” to Daniel and Jim for inspiring this post.

And (shameless plug alert) please let us know if you need writers for your content – to write good quality, meaningful posts – the type that my neighbour’s cat just can’t produce for you – and promote them in the world of social media.

 


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Article Spinning – Spin like a pro

Monday, November 15th, 2010

In my review of the “Free Traffic System” (FTS), I recommended spinning manually your articles before submitting them through FTS or through any other article submission program. And I promised to share with you some advance spinning tips. This blog post is divided into two parts:

1. Why manual spinning is superior to an automated spinning program.

2. Exactly what to do to manually spin an article – my advanced spinning tips.

For those who are new to this topic, let me quickly review what spinning is. Those already in the know can skip to the first sub-heading below.

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh feeling you get.

The sentence above is, technically, four different sentences. When this sentence is fed through an article submitter that recognizes spin code (This is the particular syntax used in FTS, but the principle is universal), it comes out as four different “unique” sentences at four different article directories or blogs:
The wonderful thing about outdoors is the fresh feeling you get.
The wonderful thing about nature is the fresh feeling you get.
The beautiful thing about outdoors is the fresh feeling you get.
The beautiful thing about nature is the fresh feeling you get.

The math is simple: two words, each with two options, creates 4 “unique” sentences. The value in this is to ensure that the hundreds of articles pointing back to your site are not duplicate content, which is supposed to be frowned upon by the search engines’ algorithms. Try this one:

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful|amazing[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh feeling you get.

Two words multiplied by three options gives 6 “unique” sentences. Why do I put “unique” in quotation marks? That’s in the next section, but the theory of spinning leads to the conclusion that you are getting past whatever duplicate content filter the search engines might place on the pages linking back to your website. One more…

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful|amazing[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh [spin]feeling|sensation[/spin] you get. A [spin]holiday|vacation|trip[/spin] out of doors will [spin]refresh|relax|reinvigorate|benefit[/spin] you more than you can [spin]imagine|dream[/spin].

The concept of article spinning, just to belabour the point one more time, holds that just with this one paragraph spun as above, there will be 192 “unique” articles (3x2x2x2x4x2) on 192 websites, each one pointing links back to your website.

That is spinning in a nutshell.

Why bother spinning articles manually?

Before I dive into the benefits of manually spinning, as opposed to using one of the automated or semi-automated article spinners on the market, a big CAVEAT: This is a strategic issue. This is not a rule. Follow my logic, then make your decision, because there are trade-offs involved. Trade-offs of quantity versus quality. Trade-offs of long term results versus crash-and-burn-results. With a bonus of risk assessment thrown in for good measure.

Article spinning: the story so far…

A) Once upon a time, people would submit articles to the article directories. To both of them, in fact. Search engines loved these content-based links, and all was good.

B) Then, people got smart. Because these were good links that helped sites rank better, more people started writing more articles and more article directories sprang up. Search engines loved these content-based links, and all was good.

C) But people loved these more and more and more and more and the number of articles was multiplying and multiplying and people got even more clever and created submission software so that even more articles could be distributed in a fraction of the time. Ah, the miracle of automation.

And spammers just love miracles and they love automation. Ah, the curse of automation!

This would be a good time to refresh your memory of what search engines are all about. Which is, of course, making money. To make money, they need eyeballs. To keep eyeballs, they need lots of people really liking the search results they deliver, which is why they have meticulously crafted and carefully guarded algorithms. Do they care if people try to maipulate their results? Not really. Do they care if people succeed at manipulating their results? You bet! Let’s look at the three steps above from a search engine company’s perspective:

A) So what?

B) So what?

C) Wait a second, massive link-building can skew our results. Automation makes link-building scalable, especially to spammers, and needs to be balanced out of our algorithms.

And so, the effectiveness of duplicate content in article submissions was (as best we can determine through the observation of thousands) reduced to very little.

A) So people started manually spinning their articles to avoid duplicate content.

B) And some smart person came up with a lazy way to spin, using automation.

C) Spammers, being inherently lazy, caught wind of this as did everyone else, and now everybody is spinning their articles using automation.

And the search engines’ reactions?

A) So what?

B) So what?

C) Wait a second, massive article-spinning can skew our results. Automation makes article-spinning scalable, especially to spammers, and needs to be balanced out of our algorithms.

We don’t know if C) has happened yet or whether it’s on its way, but I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that it is not far away.

At this point, I know that some readers who are using automated spinning programs will dispute this, typically saying, “Well, it’s worked for me so far.” I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have heard this line about one link-building technique or another shortly before the search engines have taken step C. and webmaster forums are filled with the gnashing of teeth from all the people whose websites lost rankings. If you want to build your rankings based on the past (as most people who call themselves “SEO expert” seem to), you can stop reading here.

What I can tell you about the past is that one pattern has proven enduring, and that is the same pattern as you will see in the stock market: when everyone is rushing to buy, that is the time to sell (before the crash). When a particular linking method becomes so scalable through automation that even the spammers are doing it, stop sinking more resources into it.

Let us look, then, more specifically at automated article spinning. It does offer a very seductive advantage over manual spinning. It can be done quickly. In fact, a typical testimonial for article spinning software would be, “It took me minutes to do what it used to take me all day.” So you can do 5-10 articles in the time it takes to do one. The advantage is quantity.

But does it give quality? The very simple spinning examples I gave above in my intro all replace single words with synonyms. Here is a screenshot pitching one popular automated article spinner program:

synonyms

They create “unique” articles, but do they create unique articles. Well, I guess if you can’t find a thesaurus, they create hundreds of unique articles. But what if Google and Bing have thesauruses? What if megalithic Google’s and Bing’s computing power, funded by millions of dollars of capital, is somehow bigger than the computing power of your little $70 article spinning software? Sure, unlikely…but what if? Let’s face it, those four sentences I used as an example in my introduction are not unique – they use synonyms, but they remain the same sentence…and any algorithm drawing data from a thesaurus can see that faster than you or I can.

So quality versus quantity. And when the search engines do devalue duplicate content links with the help of a simple thesaurus, it becomes long-term results versus crash-and-burn results, as all those “unique” links you’ve built are suddenly worth less (not necessarily worthless, but worth less).

But I also mentioned risk assessment earlier. So let’s imagine for a moment that a search engine sees that you have 573 identical articles pointing to your site. Let’s further imagine that the search engine has identified that these are not organically identical, but identical by virtue of synonym manipulation. In other words, duplicate content, disguised as non-duplicate content to try to trick the search engines. If there is one thing we know about Google (and I can only surmise it is likewise with Bing), is that is punishes blatant attempts to trick it – hidden text, doorway pages, concealed links. Perhaps also fake unique articles?

I leave it to you to determine whether Google would consider this deceptive and whether they would do something about it – whether automated article spinning is just poor quality work or whether it actually places your website at risk.

How to manually spin your article

To do what I would consider a quality spin, you need to create articles that are significantly different. By significant, I mean more than just replacing words with their synonyms. In the extreme, this means writing from scratch a brand new article for each place it appears. Yup, one for each of those 573 article directories. Look up the word “unique” in the dictionary.

For those of us who don’t have 1500 hours in a day, the extreme option is not an option. Below is my guide to what I believe is effective in creating articles that are unique, rather than just “unique” with what I view as a reasonable amount of grunt work. Who knows if I am being paranoid or just over-cautious — or perhaps I am not creating articles that are unique enough and these might still be seen as duplicate by a search algorithm. Take what you want and leave the rest.

The title is the most important part of the article to make unique, as it often appears in <title> tags, in a page’s URL, in <H> tags and in links to the page. This is the one place where I’ll sit down and write 100 options from scratch, trying for many variations of style.

Because I am partially lazy, I usually start out with a few styles, such as:

6 ways to enjoy your villa rental
Why a villa rental is tops in accommodation
Villa or hotel?
Choose a vacation villa over a hotel or motel
Six reasons villas are tops
The villa choice for luxury

Then I will rewrite each one, mixing up several elements. For instance, here are some rewrites of the first style:

Six reasons to enjoy your rental villa
Six ways to enjoy your vacation rental villa
6 reasons to enjoy your private villa rental
Six ways to enjoy your private vacation villa
6 ways to enjoy your private rental villa

The first sentence is pretty important, so I tend to write 3 or 4 versions of it in completely different styles…

When you use your credit card, it would be worth stopping to remember that credit card issuers are businesses with shareholders.

Who issues your credit card? A business, of course.

Some folks view credit card issuers almost like quasi-government institutions. Not a chance. They are businesses like any others.

Notice that I totally reworded the first sentence. Each example sets up the second sentence equally well, but notice that the three options are different length, even different number of sentences and, of course, totally different wording. These are completely unique. Mix up not just individual words, but the sentence structure itself.

Do the same for entire paragraphs. Take a paragraph, then rewrite it so that it is shorter. Then rewrite it so that it is two paragraphs. Use some of the same wording if you are feeling rushed or lazy, but remember that the more you change the better.

At least once in your article, rewrite a long paragraph as a short paragraph followed by a bullet list. It helps to create a few versions of the list, changing the order of the bullets and even removing some of them in some versions. Bullet lists are often the easiest to play around with.

When rewriting a word, don’t always choose a single word as a replacement option. For example…

When rewriting a word, don’t always choose a single word as a [spin]replacement option|replacement|replacement option in your article|replacement option, but try to add in more text so that some versions of the article are truly different and unique[/spin].

When creating options, more is better. In 5. above, the example has four options, much better than two. There is a time versus uniqueness trade-off here, but if you can create more than just two or three options, especially in the first few paragraphs, it helps make your articles more unique.

Let’s end with one of the most important places to have variation – your linked text. As much variation around your keywords as possible…but you probably already know that from other link-building efforts. Vary the actually links (link to different pages of your website in different versions, if appropriate), vary the link text, very the surrounding text and vary the order of your links (in some, the home page might be the first link, so make it the second link in others).

Nothing I have had to say here should be taken as “The Truth”. It is my best assessment of the most effective compromise between various trade-offs, based on my experience in SEO since 2003. I just hope it is helpful for people who might seek a similar balance between quantity and quality…and don’t want their “Yippee!”s turn into wailing at the next major algorithm shake-up.

 


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SEOthropology 101

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

A lot of SEO specialists and webmasters frequently check their link partners for those elusive missing links. We call them “SEOthropologists”.

 

Publish this SEO cartoon on your website or blog


 


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Look who follows NoFollow links!

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Earlier this year, I speculated on how the search engines treat NoFollow links.  For those who might be a little green, NoFollow links are not totally ignored by the search engines.  For those who really, really green, NoFollow links are believed to be totally ignored by the search engines (because they have the rel=”nofollow” attribute in the link code).

So we ran a little experiment. 

A client of ours had a fully developed website that has never been used.  Not a single link points to this website, so in the eyes of the search engines, it should not exist. 

It was not indexed at Yahoo. It should go without saying that Yahoo displayed no backlinks.

The site was indexed at Google.  (How, why and whether Google should index orphan sites that have not been released to the public is a topic for another post.) Google showed no backlinks, but the site did rank #8 at Google for one very important search, based primarily on the name of the domain. It did not show up in the top 100 for a few other key searches. All searches are for local terms specific to a certain city, so they are moderately low competition.

For three weeks, we posted comments on NoFollow blogs (yes, intelligent comments reflecting the specific content of the blog posts) to create a steady stream of NoFollow links, without creating any DoFollow or “normal” hyperlinks.

Were the NoFollow links followed?

At the end of week 4, we found Yahoo had indexed the website and showed 51 backlinks.  All of these are NoFollow links. The more important searches were all showing in the top 20, one as high as position #6. Remember that these are moderately low-competition, local searches, but this is all on the strength of a few weeks of exclusively NoFollow links.

Google showed no backlinks after 4 weeks.  No surprise there; Google is very sporadic with if, when, how and which sampling of backlinks it chooses to display. The ranking at position #8 had not changed, but a couple other search terms were now ranking at Google, one of them as high as position #11. Again, this is exclusively on the strength of NoFollow blog comments.

What can we conclude about NoFollow links?

NoFollow links still obviously count at Yahoo.  Do they count as much as DoFollow links?  A more complicated experiment might help answer that question.  Anyone feel like taking up the challenge?

NoFollow links also appear to count at Google.  Or perhaps some do and others don’t, depending on other factors Google might use to rate links from specific domains. However, we can be sure that Google does follow at least some NoFollow links.

The conclusion I would draw from this is that people really should not focus on the NoFollow/DoFollow issue. Build links that are officially followable when you can, but don’t let a NoFollow attribute in a page’s links dissuade you from creating a link you would otherwise pursue.

 


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Want a link on a throw-away domain?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

A while back, I wrote about why to ignore three-way link requests.  Many of the reasons I listed had to do with the quality of the site linking back to you.  But what if it’s a PR3 home page.  Sounds like a juicy link to score, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe not.  I don’t want to pick on one domain or another, but I need an example, so the one that came in today will do.  In the words of the link-exchanger:

Mate its PR 3 schoolsprepared.org
 
Check it again..not throwaway… :-(

There are so many domains like this, and while a link from that page might not carry zero value, it’s caveat emptor.  Here are seven reasons why this is not a ” Wow! A PR3 home-page link!”

The domain will get dumped.Like so many others, this domain used to be a real website, but no longer. One glance at it with naked eyes shows that it was nicely set up and had a purpose. It accumulated a PageRank of 3, which means it was somewhat active on the Internet. And like so many others, the owners bailed out and sold the domain to someone who thought a PR3 website would be great for three-way link exchanges. So what happens once the site is “used up”? Once it is so stuffed with links that it is no longer useful for attracting link-exchanges, what do you think will happen to that website (and your link on it)? Come on, be honest, do you really trust that they will continue to maintain the website?

The page will fail to keep up. Let’s suppose they do maintain the website, honestly remaining committed to protecting the link they posted to your website, as promised. How long will the page remain PR3. Remember, PageRank is relative; as the total number of web pages and the total number of links on the Internet increase, so too does the link juice required to maintain a given PageRank. But the owners are not building links to this site; they are building links to another site.

The page will not attract new links. The eyeball test tells you this is a link farm. Even if it isn’t technically a link farm, it looks like one on first glance. Nobody will want to link to it. No bloggers. No industry sites. Nobody. The owner could be less careless and format the links nicely. But, as with most such situations, the owners did not.

The page will suffer link attrition. OK, let’s take this one step further. Over time, all websites suffer from link-attrition. That is to say, links die every day (websites close down, links pages are cleaned up, links get pushed deeper and deeper on directory pages, etc.), and links pointing to the page your link is on will die. In the case of a website that looks cheap like this, it stand to suffer accelerated attrition, as some websites linking to it will remove their links when they realize what they are now linking to.

No targeted traffic. As Yura Filimonov pointed out to me, sites like this won’t deliver targeted traffic.  Anyone who lands on such a page will quickly see that it is useless and back out the door.  Of course many links don’t deliver much traffic, but one of the benefits expected from a home page link is some targeted traffic.

PageRank will be diluted. Eventually there will be dozens, maybe hundreds of links on the page. The PR from PR3 (what’s left of it) will be diluted before the domain gets recycled, is dumped or simply disappears.

You are not fooling the search engines. If I can see with a glance that this is a flipped website turned link farm, do you really believe that Google and Yahoo are being fooled? Please, don’t flatter me; I know they are smarter than I am.

“So, OK, David…would my link on a page like this place my website at risk?” you ask.

I doubt it.  If you have 100 inbound links and 80 of them are from home page link farms, that might throw up a pretty big red flag.  But if you have a dozen links on silly pages like this amongst 500 links of various quality, I can’t imagine it harming your rankings.  Just don’t go jumping for joy thinking you’ve struck gold.  You’ve just found a penny.

Related reading on a humerous note: a spammer link exchange note.

 


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