Winning the (right) race

In every race there are winners and losers. Sometimes though, winning is about choosing the right race. Recently there was a Youmoz post asking if the A-list was closed. Apparently the author feels that he has written some great content but has not received any mention or “link love” from the big boys. I am sure many of my readers are also bloggers and would love to be on the A-list—I sure would like to. But are you doing what it takes to get there? Are you targeting the right A-list?

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Are your paid links passing the test?

As Google continues its propaganda to discourage the buying and selling of text links for SEO purposes, many sites will lose their ability to pass PageRank and Anchor Text. Many sellers will still want to sell such links, and link buyers will need to find ways to determine if the links pass link juice or not.

The first obvious step would be to do a back link check on your site to see if the new links you purchased are showing up in the results. Unfortunately, Google’s link command is extremely limited and is not very useful for link analysis or link research. A better alternative is to use Yahoo Site Explorer’s link command. Of course, the fact that Yahoo counts some links doesn’t necessarily mean that Google does too.

Enter Google’s Webmaster Central, which can provide a comprehensive list of your incoming links. The list really is fresh and very accurate. The only problem is that it includes links with ‘no-follow,’ and if Google is including those it is safe to assume it includes all links whether they pass PageRank and Anchor Text or not. Clearly, this is not very useful for our purposes. Read more

A Google Allegory

When John Chow’s rankings dropped a few months ago, a lot of SEOs believed, and continue to believe, that Google banned him for selling links and wanted to set an example. It seems that many ignored his review for a link back campaign, which was clearly designed to game Google. It was also the main driver in his former top ranking for “make money online.”

Now it seems that something similar happened to graphic designer David Airey, and many started to advise him to remove the paid links from his blog. On the other hand, the site is still listed, only it’s on search engine result page (SERP) 6. John Chow is listed too, coincidently on the same SERP. Some say it might be a duplicate content issue. I have to agree with Jim Boykin, however, that there is no evidence that Google is dropping sites that are selling links, and I can say from experience that duplicate content filters tend to keep at least one version of the content—they don’t remove all of them!

One of the main problems I’ve seen in the SEO industry is that we formulate theories based on incomplete information. The fact that key information necessary to make our job easier remains closely guarded by the search engines (for obvious reasons) does not help either.

There is still some critical information missing here…

Will Google ever penalize sites for selling links? Read more

In the shoes of your customers: Improve your site architecture and find the path to success

If you want to have a successful web site, build it with conversion in mind from the start. Many site owners worry more about creating link paths that are easy to follow by search engine robots. Conversion is an afterthought, and this is one of the reasons why optimizing conversion rates can become extremely difficult and time consuming.

Search engine visitors can land on any page of your site and with completely different expectations. It is not only important to make sure they land on the right page, but also that the page they land on leads them naturally one step closer to the ultimate goal of the site – an RSS subscription, a download, a sale, an e-mail, and so on. Read more

Much Ado about Anchor Text

As SEOs, I feel like we often focus too much on specific ranking factors to the detriment of other factors that might be equally important. One particular case I want to point out is the obsession with incoming link texts, also known as anchor text.

Thanks to some very successful Google bombings, it is almost general knowledge among site owners that getting enough links with the desired keyword in the link text is a surefire way to get high rankings for a site in Google. This also applies to any search engine that relies on link analysis. And while Google has devised advanced filters to reduce this vulnerability, I think that as long as link analysis plays a fundamental role in their ranking algorithms, the practice of Google bombing will always have some effect.

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A detailed look at what can (and can’t) be automated in SEO

robot_flower.jpgIn my post about SEO automation, SEO expert Halfdeck expressed concern about the possibility of customers preferring a sophisticated SEO tool over a highly-trained SEO professional. I am sure many of my peers had the same thought running through their heads when they saw my post on Sphinn. The post even made it to the front page!

The reality is that we should embrace software progress in our field. We should look at software improvements and innovations as tools that can help us scale our own business and be more successful. Is it bad to use SEO software that does all the tedious work and helps us serve 20 clients per month instead of 10?

Man vs. Machine

If we look at the last 100 years, man has achieved an incredible amount of progress. Every invention brings a new level of comfort. You can do many things far easier, faster and more efficiently than before. There is an irreversible momentum in this direction.

The fear of computers replacing the work we do is not unfounded, of course. Machines are replacing human labor everyday. The more repetitive the work, the easier it is to get a machine to do it for you. On the other hand, the more creative and more social the task is, the harder it is for a computer to replicate.

There is software for almost any professional activity that we do, yet we (the professionals) are still in high demand. Nobody is going to trust his or her business to a computer blindly, after all. If something goes wrong, who would they complain to? 😉

So the question becomes: do we resist change, or adapt and thrive? Read more

Making the world (and your site) flat—via a Reverse Proxy

flat_world.jpgIn order to protect some of the inventions in our software, I’ve been working with a law firm that specializes in IP protection. I’ve learned a lot from them, but I’ve learned far more from reviewing the patent applications they sent me back as possible ‘prior art.’ Let me share one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen so far, Patent Application 20070143283. Here is the abstract:

A system and method for optimizing the rankings of web pages of a commercial website within search engine keyword search results. A proxy website is created based on the content on the commercial website. When a search engine spider reaches the commercial website, the commercial website directs the search engine spider to the proxy website. The proxy website includes a series of proxy web pages that correspond to web pages on the commercial website along with modifications that enhance the rankings of the pages by the search engines. However, hyperlinks containing complex, dynamic URLs are replaced with spider-friendly versions. When a human visitor selects a proxy web page listing on the search engine results page, that visitor is directed to the proxy web page. The proxy server delivers the same content to the human visitor as to the search engine spider, only with simplified URLs for the latter.

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Giving it away – Advanced Link-Building Strategies through Viral Marketing

trophy.jpgAs the Web keeps growing, search phrases become more competitive, and the demand for links increases, the art of link building becomes far more difficult. It’s that much more difficult if you only know traditional link-building tactics. As we move forward, it’s going to be increasingly important to think outside the box and use our creativity to come up with new link-building ideas. Fortunately, as a regular reader of my blog, you won’t have such a problem. 😉

David Hopkins, a loyal reader, asked me last week if I had some advanced link-building strategies up my sleeve. As a matter of fact I do and, as you know by now, when a loyal reader asks I deliver. I have been overwhelmed lately, but luckily Paul sent me an e-mail yesterday unwittingly reminding me about this topic. Here is what he wrote:

Hi Hamlet,
I was reading about on SEOMoz and I was wondering how did Mike [Matt] managed to have so many visitors in such a short period? High position on ‘free dating online’? What do you think?


The post he is referring to is the one in which Matt says he is leaving SEOmoz. I had read the post too and found the numbers truly amazing. I also read an interview that provides more background information about Matt’s phenomenal success, but instead of explaining how he did it (Matt explains this in the interview) I think it would be more useful to generalize the concept and provide a solid framework so that you can build off of the idea.

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Thanks for your encouraging comments

techcrunch401.jpgFor the last few weeks my posting rate has slowed as we prepared to launch our new product at TechCrunch40, and it was taking more than my normal 10- to 12-hour workday. Looking at the ratings on our TechCrunch page, we’re happy to report extremely positive feedback. We brought home several solid leads from potential strategic partners (Intuit and AOL Business, among others) and several VCs. Last Wednesday we were contacted by an investment bank, so it seems they too liked our product and would like to see more customers using it.

After all is said and done, however, we don’t feel that RankSense is ready to leave private beta just yet. So far it has been tested thoroughly only by our technical writer, who has been using the product since it was in alpha. He’s done a fantastic job and seen great results. Pretty soon we hope to have many more success stories to share!

I want to personally thank you all for your kind words and comments. When delivered, I am sure RankSense will provide the most value of any SEO suite out there. We truly have a bright future ahead of us, so keep checking back here and I’ll keep you updated. Thanks again!

A Tribute to Sphinn

sphinn.jpgWhile I don’t participate on Sphinn as much as I should, it’s an awesome site. I have already discovered some really useful blogs I was not aware of previously, and recently the author of one of them tagged me. Sebastian, like me and many of my readers, enjoys the deeply technical stuff. I highly recommend subscribing to his feed, as his topics are very entertaining and along the same lines as mine.

I am sure I would not have found Sebastian’s blog without Sphinn. With that thought in mind, let me share a few more useful blogs that Sphinn has turned me on to:

Ralph, aka Phantomaster. While I followed his blog a couple of years ago, he had stopped for awhile and it was only through Sphinn that I learned he was back. Ralph helps us see Google from a different angle—an angle they definitely don’t want us to see! Subscribe to his feed to find out what I mean.

Michael VanDeMar. I have to believe his FeedBurner counter must be broken: it says he has only 2 readers! I came across his blog when he was ranting about Rand’s post involving Aviva’s directory. He covers some really interesting and controversial stuff. Check out his blog and subscribe to his feed. Let’s move that FeedBurner counter up!

Greg Boser. I recently found his blog via a post asking Danny to include a Dumbass button! I have to say it is hard not to follow a link with such a title.Check him out (and subscribe to his feed while you’re at it!).