Matt Foster is the President and CEO of ArteWorks Business Class. Mr. Foster is an expert on search engine optimization and search engine friendly website design. Mr. Foster has been working in this industry since 1995. His firm regularly obtains website placements on the top 15 listings on Google and Yahoo.
Paid Link Pain of Google's Iron Fist
Google has come down hard on paid links. Don't believe me? Just ask sites like washingtonpost, forbes, and many other high profile sites that have just had their page rank reduced by two to four points. Are you still considering hiring that SEO firm that offers "paid text links" or "paid ad buys" as part of their strategy? I hope not.
Google staff began talking about an upcoming shakedown on paid links several months ago. One of the reasons for the shakedown is that paid links are not true, natural links, and therefore shouldn't qualify as "voting" links for the purpose of transferring PageRank. Google prefers to have sites naturally linking to each other, as natural linking is the more reliable way to ascertain the relative importance of a site. In the past, Google has come down on FFA or "free for all" linking schemes, link exchange schemes, link farms, and appears to discount reciprocal linking (link trades or link swaps). Now their target is paid links.
Google is not against paid links per se. Conspiracy theorists aside (who believe Google is trying to end all advertising on the Internet except through their own AdWords service), Google is not stupid and they know that there are legitimate advertising reasons for purchasing links from quality sites that would be good sources of qualified traffic to your site. However, the problem is that people were (and still are) purchasing paid links not for advertising or traffic purposes, but rather to artificially inflate their link popularity.
Google came out this summer and said that all paid links should be identified as such or risk a penalty. Specifically, it has been suggested that paid links should utilize the nofollow attribute, which is an attribute in the linking code of a site which tells Google the link is not intended to transfer PageRank. Use of this attribute clearly identifies the link as "non-voting", and solves the problem. However, many sites ignored Google's warning. Then, in the fourth week of October of 2007, Google slammed down its iron fist. Some very high profile sites, including many in the search engine optimization industry, were hit hard through reductions in PageRank of several points. These were sites such as washingtonpost.com, forbes.com, searchengineguide.com, suntimes.com, and seoroundtable.com. Additionally, many high profile blog sites were hit. The one thing that all of these sites have in common is that they sold text link ads, and did not employ the nofollow attribute.
This served a dual purpose - it served as disincentive for the site owners to continue selling paid links absent a nofollow attribute, as well as a disincentive for link buyers to buy links from these now low PageRank sites.
Rumors in the SEO industry are that the buyers of these paid links could be the next to be hit. So buyer beware. If you are shopping for SEO, avoid any firm or strategy which offers a "paid link buy", "text ad purchase", or anything similar. You do this for a few reasons: first, the links will likely be worth nothing (for SEO purposes), either through use of a nofollow attribute or low PageRank.
Additionally, you could be putting yourself at risk as the link buyer. Finally, any SEO firm offering this service obviously does not know anything about SEO, and as such any of their purported search engine optimization services are suspect.
How can you protect yourself? If you are a seller of links, use the nofollow attribute. If you are a buyer of links, don't do it for SEO purposes, or you will be sorely disappointed. If buying a link makes sense for your business (i.e. the link will be a good source of qualified traffic), then do it. If you expect it to improve your positioning in the engines, however, you are misguided in your efforts.
SEO 101 - Should I Put My Business Name In The Title Tag?
The html title tag of a web page's html header is the single most important "on page" element when it comes to search engine optimization. That being said, is the best use of this valuable real estate served by including your business name in the title? Chances are the answer is a resounding "no!"
The title tag is an html tag which occurs in the header of a web page's code. The first thing I look at when I get a call from a prospective client is their title tag. More often than not, this tag is being used improperly, to the extreme detriment of the client.
Recently SEOMOZ.org released its rankings of the ten most important factors in search engine rankings. The title tag came in at number 1, and this is no surprise to any SEO that has been around for awhile. Google especially pays a lot of attention to title tag content, and uses title tag information heavily to ascertain the relevant keyphrases for which to rank a site. The opinion of search engine experts is unanimous on this one - keyphrase use in the title tag is the number one "on page" factor affecting search engine rankings. This is not disputed, theorized or subject to professional debate. It is a fact.
Given this fact, we must look at how to best use the title tag to optimize our site for search engines. Many sites place the business name in the title tag (or even worse yet leave it blank or with default content such as "untitled document" or "home page"). Any of these variations can be disastrous!
Let's use an example of a company that manufactures widgets. The primary keyphrase for that company would be "widgets", this being the phrase for which the company would like to rank highly for in the search engines. Now let's assume the company name is "ACME Manufacturing Company, Ltd.". Notice that the word "widgets", which is the desired keyphrase, is not extant in the company name.
So the company goes out and builds a wonderful web site to promote their widgets. However, throughout the site the title tag contains the following content: "ACME Manufacturing Company, Ltd." What is the effect of this?
First off, the effect of this is that the site will likely rank highly for the search query "ACME Manufacturing Company, Ltd.". The problem is that nobody is searching for the company name, they are searching for widgets. So all of ACME's competition shows up in the search engines for a widget query, but poor ACME is nowhere to be found. How do we help ACME rank highly for the search query "widgets"? We must optimize the title tag for the search engines by replacing the current title tag content with the desired search query: "widgets".
Generally speaking, the company name should never appear in the title tag unless you actually expect to derive most of your traffic from searches involving your company name. As this is a rare situation, avoid the temptation to put your company name in the title tag - save it for elsewhere on your page. Put your desired search keyphrases in the title tag, and leave it at that.
Following this methodology throughout your site by optimizing title tag content for each page according to the desired search query for that page will be a major step in the right direction for high search engine rankings.
Your Competition Now Works for Google
Still think you can fool Google with your unnatural links? I'm talking about link exchanges, link farms, hidden links, and now even paid links. Google's Matt Cutts recently wrote about Google's plan to catch you. You and I know it as vigilantism.
Prior to the Google era search engines were mediocre at best, looking at on page factors only which could easily be manipulated and spammed. These factors included metadata (especially the keyphrase tag) and the number of times a search term appeared on a page.
Those days are long gone. With the advent of Google, the concept of link popularity became tantamount to the determination of the relevance of a page to a specific search query. But what is Google looking for when it comes to links?
The answer is natural, one way, inbound links from trusted sites to unique, original, useful, informative, or educational content, with the anchor text of the link containing keyphrases relevant to your site.. The answer may also be found in what they do not want: link farms, link exchanges, hidden links and paid links. And guess who they have watching you? Your enemy.
Cutts wrote in his blog this week the following:
"I’d like to get a few paid link reports anyway because I’m excited about trying some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms. Google may provide a special form for paid link reports at some point, but in the mean time, here’s a couple of ways that anyone can use to report paid links:
- Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form, then include the word "paidlink" (all one word) in the text area of the spam report. If you use the authenticated form, you'll need to sign in with a Google Account, but your report will carry more weight. - Use the unauthenticated spam report form and make sure to include the word "paidlink" (all one word) in the text area of the spam report.
As far as the details, it can be pretty short. Something like "Example.com is selling links; here’s a page on example.com that demonstrates that" or "www.shadyseo.com is buying links. You can see the paid links on www.example.com/path/page.html" is all you need to mention. That will be enough for Google to start testing out some new techniques we’ve got — thanks!"
Whoa! Google is now asking your competition to report you if you buy or sell links. Interesting, isn't it, when Google's massively popular AdWords program is all about paid links. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that Google is trying to take over and control all paid advertising on the Internet, worldwide. But I digress. The point is that Google is asking your competition to report you if you buy or sell links. Period.
So what to do? Create the kind of links that Google wants. There is only one way to do this, and that is through the regular creation of unique content. Here is what you do:
1) Set up a blog (blogger.com is owned by Google and a great one to use as they crawl all of their blogs regularly) 2) Post content in the form of articles 3) Syndicate those articles through article distribution sites (do a search for "article distribution" to find these sites), use your keyphrases within anchor text links back to your site (these links are usually included in an about the author section, but can be in the article body as well) 4) Get active in social bookmarking and social media optimization, sites such as digg, furl, and del.icio.us to name a few.
Those four simple steps are all it takes to conduct an effective link building campaign that won't get you into trouble.
Name: Matt FosterCountry: US