I'm the CEO of Linkbuildr Marketing and the brains behind our branding and blog content. I specialize in effective marketing strategies for hotels, luxury brands and real estate. If your brand is in need of a boost then don't hesitate to contact me for a free proposal. Follow me on
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I recently got into a discussion with a crew of marketers and “SEO” folks I meet with for beers and the topic of footer links was something that kind of had me stumped. With all the confusion and weirdness surrounding links now thanks to Google and whatnot, it’s hard to have the right opinion on without knowing the right facts.
What we do know is that Google isn’t a big fan of of them and I suspect for the most part they will be devalued, especially if site wide. Taking a look at Google’s link schemes guide it clearly states they have distaste for them, but as usual there is little said which leaves a lot to the imagination.
Flash back to 5-10 years ago and site-wide footer and sidebar links were the equivalent of gold in the online marketing landscape. They worked so well that Google had to crack down hard although they seemed to put a lot of webmasters off of it, blackhatters were and are still buying them up like crack rock. Hell, I’ve even jumped on board with a client and saw their marketing teams doing this without even an inkling that it was against Google’s TOS.
So back to my beer meeting. One of us who wishes to remain anonymous asked us if he should be nofollowing his web design credit links on client sites. I know this is a topic that has been talked about before(here, here, here and here), but I still wasn’t too sure especially after reading those links.
For the most part I think Google will just simply devalue those links. On the other hand, if you’re gaming anchor text then I fully believe trouble will come. I also think there could be a problem(although there’s no way to tell) if you give a client a discount in exchange for that credit link. That alone is enough to get me worried so I thought this topic could be touched on yet again as well leave it open for others to comment on as time goes by.
Matt Cutts On Footer Links
While that video is a little old it gives us a little more insight despite Matt being vague as f%$! as per usual. I understand he has to word it like that as things change over time and who knows what Google’s algorithm will be doing in a year from now. My personal opinion is that if most of your links from from the footer area as a credit link, you may want to reconsider your linking efforts asap.
Two Real Examples Of Footer Link Problems
Looking in the past year I wanted to mention a couple case studies that surrounded the footer link issue. Since they’re quite recent, I hope to push the discussion further. I especially get confused with links from web design companies that usually put a “designed by” credit link in client footers.
This is an interesting case study of sorts thanks to Ross Hudgens who took the time to analyze and report on how it played out. I specifically was glued to this case because the links effecting WPMU certainly were, for the most part, in their control. The other aspect I found quite interesting was the majority of the links were not focused on a “money” anchor text.
I always like to think that Penguin or whatever algorithm update will also harshly look at how many of x type links a website has. With WPMU getting the bulk of their links from their themes and plugins with credit links we can also assume the link placements are the same. Since the Penguin update is a computer and not a human, you still have to be careful even if you’re a big brand producing great work.
Personally, based on how quick their penalty was lifted, I suspect this was revoked manually by someone at Google. It is rare to get your case made public in the media and I would have done some damage control if I were working for the big G. WPMU also had a lot of the footer links in their control as you can see from the post. The point I want to hammer out is of course the problem with their “footer” links.
This was a very recent discussion which involved Matt Cutts himself piping in quite a bit to their issue. Jit Bit creates really awesome software which does have “powered by” credit links on the sites running their gear. Here’s the bit that caught my attention in their thread over at Hacker News.
Our site WAS affected by Penguin indeed, even by the first version of Penguin a year ago. Because we sell web-forum software and ticket-software – that both have a “powered by” link at the bottom, our SEO agency advised to add that…
And we’re still trying to recover… I’m contacting our clients one-by-one and we’re changing those links to “nofollow”.
Sadly another great company gets inept advice from a “SEO” company and they’re left cleaning up the mess on their own dime. It is extremely important to vet your SEO company before taking them on, and yes this even goes to our clients.
Further down in the comments is this other tid bit from the Jit Bit team.
Which ones? The ones above? I’m not sure. Will have to contact them and get back.
I think, the links we’re being penalised for – are mostly the links that come from our software widget. Check out this page, the very-very top of it: http://algonac.thebestcityguides.com/Forum/forum4195-Minneol…
We have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS links like this (I’mm looking at my WMT right now). I guess this is the main reason. Our site is hit by Penguin…
So if you’re implementing a strategy like this I’d be very careful as it could really effect your business. Footer links can get out of control and make for a stressful removal process some time down the road.
Here’s the latest video from Matt Cutts talking about what to expect in regards to how Google will treat links in the coming months. The war on link spammers rages on and Google at this point in time is still heavily gamed and the results for any money making keyword is full of junk.
Pay close attention to what he says as this is an unusually long video for this series and it is full of insight. He covers not only Penguin 2.0, but all the other link changes coming to the table including;
What Penguin 2.0 will go after
How Google will handle hacked sites
How Google will go after tiered link building
How Google will better choose authorities in a niche..AuthorRank anyone?
I’m not too worried about these updates as we never target anchor text, nor do we actually build links for clients apposed to earning them. It’s a different world but if you’re wanting to run a real brand, you cannot be out there chasing junk links just to pick off those coveted keywords.
Here’s a transcript of the video for those who cannot watch it:
Opening and Disclaimers
Hey everybody, today’s webmaster video is answering the question: “What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?” Okay, so, first off, we’re taping this video in early May of 2013, so I’ll give you a little bit of an idea about what to expect as far as what Google’s working on in terms of the webspam team. In terms of what you should be working on, we try to make sure that is pretty constant and uniform. Try to make sure you make a great site that users love, that they’ll want to tell their friends about, bookmark, come back to, visit over and over again, ya know, all the things that make a site compelling. We try to make sure that if that’s your goal, we’re aligned with that goal, and therefore, as long as you’re working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high quality content to users as well. But at the same time, people are always curious about, OK, what should we expect coming down the pipe in terms of what kinds of things Google’s working on. One of the reasons that we don’t usually talk that much about the kinds of things we’re working on is that the plans can change. Ya know, the timing can change, when we launch things can change. So take this with a grain of salt. This is, as of today, the things that look like they’ve gotten some approval or they look pretty promising. Okay, with all those kinds of disclaimers, let’s talk a little bit about the sort of stuff that we’re working on.
Intro to Penguin 2.0
We’re relatively close to deploying the next generation of Penguin. Internally, we call it “Penguin 2.0″. And again, Penguin is a webspam change that’s dedicated to try to find blackhat webspam and try to target and address that. So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0 and we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin.
We’ve also been looking at advertorials that is sort of native advertising and those sorts of things that violate our quality guidelines. So again, if someone pays for coverage or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank. We’ve seen a few sites in the US and around the world that take money and then do link to websites and pass PageRank. So we’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as far as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines. Now there’s nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow PageRank and there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure so that users realize that something is paid, not organic or editorial.
Examples of Specific Niches to Be Targeted
It’s kind of interesting. We get a lot of great feedback from outside of Google. For example, there were people complaining about searches like “payday loans” on Google.co.uk. So we have two different changes that try to tackle those kinds of queries in a couple different ways. We can’t get into too much detail about exactly how they work, but I’m kind of excited that we’re going from having just general queries be a little more cleaned to going to some of these areas that have traditionally been a little more spammy including, for example, some more pornographic queries. And some of these changes might have a little bit more of an impact in those kinds of areas that are a little more contested by various spammers and that sort of thing.
Going Upstream and More Sophisticated Link Analysis
We’re also looking at some ways to go upstream to deny the value to link spammers–some people who spam links in various ways. We’ve got some nice ideas on trying to make sure that that becomes less effective and so we expect that that will roll out over the next few months as well. And in fact, we’re working on a completely different system that does more sophisticated link analysis. We’re still in the early days for that, but it’s pretty exciting. We’ve got some data now that we’re ready to start munging and see how good it looks and we’ll see whether that bears fruit or not.
We also continue to work on hacked sites in a couple different ways, number one trying to detect them better, we hope in the next few months to roll out a next generation of hacked sites detection that is even more comprehensive, and also try to communicate better to webmasters, because sometimes they/we see confusion between hacked sites and sites that serve up malware, and ideally you have a one stop shop where once someone realizes that they have been hacked, they can go to webmaster tools and have some single spot they can go where they get a lot more info to sort of point them in the right way to hopefully clean up those hacked sites.
Shout out to the Spam Lords
So if you’re doing high quality content whenever you’re doing SEO this shouldn’t be some big surprise you shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes. If you’ve been hanging out on a lot black hat forums and trading different types of spamming package tips and that sort of stuff then it might be a more eventful summer for you.
But we have also been working on a lot of ways to help regular webmasters. We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space, could be medical or could be travel or whatever, and trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little more appropriate for users.
“Borderline Quality” Sites… Possibly Good for Sites that Were Pandalized
We’ve also been looking at Panda and seeing if we can find some additional signals and we think we’ve got some to help refine things for the sites that are kinda in the borderzone/in the grey area a little bit. So if we can soften the effect a little bit for those sites that we believe have some additional signals of quality that will help sites that might have previously been effected to some degree by Panda.
Ranking Multiple Pages of Same Domain for the Same Query
We’ve also heard a lot of feedback from some people about that if I go down three pages deep I’ll see a cluster of several results all from one domain. We’ve actually made things better that you’re less likely to see that on the first page and more likely to see that on the following pages. And we’re looking at a change which might deploy which would basically say that once you’ve seen a cluster of results from one site then you’d be less likely to see more results from that site as you go deeper into the next pages of Google search results. And that has been good feedback that people have been sending us. We continue to refine host clustering and host crowding and all those sorts of the things. But we’ll continue to listen to feedback and see what we can do even better.
Back to Hacked Sites
And then we’re going to keep try figuring out how to get more information to webmasters. I mentioned more information for sites that are hacked and ways they might be able to do things, we’re also going to be looking for ways we can provide more concrete details, more example URLs that webmasters can use to figure out where to go diagnose their site.
That’s just a rough snapshot of how things look right now, things can absolutely change and be in flux we might see new attacks, we might need to move our resources around, but that’s a little about bit of what to expect
over the next few months in the summer of 2013.
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about a lot of these changes
because we do see really good improvements in terms of people who are link spamming or doing various black hat spam would be less likely to show up I think by the end of the summer. And at the same time we’ve got a lot of nice changes queued up that hopefully will help small/medium businesses and regular webmasters as well. So that’s just a very quick idea about what to expect in terms of SEO for the next few months as far as Google.
It amazes me to see people buying up Fiverr link building packages these days not expecting to tank their legitimate businesses. Either that or us SEO’s and Google are doing a terrible job in educating the average business owner on what’s good and what’s not. Buying thousands of junk links to your site is not only a waste of time and money, it’s a potential businesses ender. I’ve dealt with many companies that have been duped and literally destroyed their entire business because of it. Not cool!
As some of you may know, I spend a lot of time helping and or reading what other people are experiencing on Google’s Webmaster Help Forums. The amount of times I’ve had to bite my tongue and explain to clients why buying $50 worth of links versus $xxxx’s on great content marketing is getting high up there. Real brands should be earning links and if you can’t do that your not going to ever become a niche leader.
Fiverr links have killed my site, now I’m working to fix old mistakes. Please help!
Ignore the usual rudeness of the inept moderators in the thread as they’re usually snobby little %$##!@%&s. This website owner is in for hundreds of hours of work before their site will recover. To get out of a manual penalty you’ll have to do a lot of work removing about 90% of those junk links. You will have to document everything you do to present to the almighty Google Gods, and that for the most part doesn’t work too often. Their Disavow Tool is also a last resort as they want you to try and remove all the spam links you had built…..yikes!
There is however a lot of great information for people in the same boat and reading these threads I find is a good start. Dealing with a manual Google penalty is extremely frustrating and I’m glad we don’t do it as a service. I would however like to hear from other people in the comments on their experience and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask away.
I’m currently going over my fifth link profile since 9am and I’m slightly blind from gazing at spreadsheets for so long. 50,000-ish links later and they all seem to have one common attribute. The majority of the links were earned from being an actual brand and the rest were obviously built by someone from some marketing team or company. Very few people “get it” when it comes to content marketing and even fewer earn the links and social shares how they should be.
I’m going to be talking a lot more about creating link assets and doing things that are unique, creative and amazing. This is what gets links naturally, and no it doesn’t have to be right away. I know what you’re thinking: “but I want links now!” That’s all fine and dandy, and some of your efforts will be fruitful sooner rather than later… But don’t knock the tortoise before you’ve crossed the finish line. We have built linkable assets for clients that are still getting linked to years later. You build something truly useful, educational or fun and you’ll find that people will continue to share it as time goes on.
Still wondering what a linkable asset is?
A linkable asset is simply a piece of content (article, image, video, infographic, widget), an app or event that gets the attention of your target market. This is what you call creating content for the user, and not the search engine. You may be rolling your eyes at this point but if you’re commandeering a large brand, you don’t want to mess around. Providing your industry with tools, great blog posts, mobile apps and widgets is a great way to earn a few links.
A great example brand is @Trulia. They do all sorts of amazing things for both Realtors and the user. Just one way they’ve managed to earn a ton of industry related links is with their free tools and widgets. Just about every real estate and mortgage site in the world has their own mortgage calculator, but this isn’t 2001 anymore.
Again, these are innovative and beautifully done tools that are of actual use to people. They took a look at what the industry offered and took things to a whole new level. They’re not gaming for any anchor text and there’s not a care in the world if the link is followed or not. Get me links that send good referral traffic and I’ll show you the money.
Big Brand = Big Press
One of the recent hot topics in the world of links was whether or not press releases helped with rankings at all. Matt Cutts vaguely talks about it in a thread over on their webmaster help forums. If you’re already established your brand and have actual real news to get out to the industry, you will score links that do count.
If you’re already an established brand you should have a much easier time getting your news picked up by sites like The Huffington Post or any other online news site…take your pick. If the news is good, it will get out to the right people. Just make sure that the news is worthy. For example:
Statistics report of whitepaper releases
Merger announcments, IPOs and achievements
A new product launch or even a product recall
Launching a mobile or tablet app
A great example that’s recent was some news from Zendesk who launched a new iPad app. A brand with that kind of clout will definitely earn a few great links from industry authority sites because their news matters.
Real news gets put out there because a new product is out for the hungry consumers. The links earned from this press release are not just from the release that went out from PRNewswire.com itself, but so much more. Zendesk will score links from related blogs, forums, video/app download sites and all the tech and business news sites that picked it up. Not to mention they’ve built some social media buzz and should expect to see a rise in mobile users and social media followers.
All of this = real value.
Video Credit Links
Video is becoming more and more prevalent in day-to-day blogging and how often do you find yourself embedding a Youtube video? Now how often do you credit the website/brand with a link back, just like you would give photo credit? I’ve noticed a lot more large news sites and authority blogs are giving credit to either the Youtube video and/or the company’s website.
If you notice a site that has embedded your video and you don’t see a link, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You’d be surprised how many webmasters will do so just because you created it. I just watched a video of Underground Racing’s twin turbo Ferrari Italia on Autoblog.com. They link to the original Youtube video, but not Underground Racing’s website.
Having a good video does wonders!
Dominos is experimenting with all sorts of social media strategies, but their Pizza Hero is something that stuck around my mind.
This product needs a video to showcase how cool the app is and it certainly got picked up on a lot of blogs, social networks and news sites. It’s not like Dominos needs the links, however the right links sent targeted traffic into their app – which is a sales device all on its own.
I know I said a company like Dominos doesn’t care about link building, but I’ll let the SERPs speak for themselves…
The Power Of The Interview
I’m a huge interview junkie and I noticed my natural tendency to link to and share them more than most content I read. There are so many ways to do an interview, so your content marketing idea well is one that should never dry up. If you already have a big social following, and the person who you’re interviewing has a large follower base, then you’re all going to come out on top. Your readers and their fans are going to want to read it, and they’re going to want to share it.
Some of you may know we’ve launched a luxury marketing company, and this strategy has been an integral part of our growth so far. We’ve done a few dozen luxury interviews over the past year and it has helped grow our user base with followers that actually are productive.
The group or “crowd sourced” interview is another great idea, as it produces a lot of fantastic content and you have the power of everyone involved spreading it. Jon from Point Blank SEO does interviews all the time and here’s just one example of a group interview that had a lot of influencers in the SEO world.
This is content that will earn links within the first week of going live, and it will earn links over time as new people discover and share it. They definitely will share it too, as it has a lot of great ideas and input from some of the top minds in our little vertical.
Now imagine you’re Disney, Nike or some other large brand. Your already-large follower base is going to eat stuff like this up, and it’s going to bring you a lot of traffic.
Just Because You’re In The Industry
Make some noise in your vertical or go home. I hope that the industry you’re in is one you care about, are passionate about, and perhaps even treat it like your family a bit. There are so many ways to be involved within the community your brand resides in, so make sure you’re out there doing RCS.
A lot of the ideas I will mention here are exploited in a way that I don’t think is all too ethical, but in the world of business that doesn’t always make a difference. In my world, it does and I don’t think a company should shy away from getting their hands dirty and becoming more involved within their niche.
Charity Work & Donations
There are going to be at least a half dozen amazing charities working in your space and I’m a big believer that industry leaders should always be giving back. With that said, I feel a slight bit dirty mentioning, suggesting and condoning also treating charity as a marketing strategy. This is in the world we live in, and I don’t think a lot of money would have gone to help out those in need if there wasn’t a benefit back.
A lot of companies used to buy links – aka donate money – to charities a lot as they usually had authoritative websites. It would only take $50,000 of great links to push a lot of weight to the “donor”. While this did help a lot of people rank for very competitive keywords, it is a flawed linking strategy.
Well, if you think about it most of they wanted a specific anchor text or just wanted the link. You do NOT want a link profile made up of links from your donations. Google will definitely take note of this and I wouldn’t sleep well at night at all knowing what kind of links were inflating my rankings. Donating to 25 charities also is just greasy and if you’re building a brand for the long haul, then there’s no need for a grease stain. Getting involved with a couple industry related charities is a great way to give back and be known for being a part of that community.
sometimes doing RCS comes with a RCC… (real company cost).
One of our clients requires me to go on-site every other month and they are the reason I decided to mention it in this post. They are involved in one charity along with many other local and global brands within their niche. They were involved in a day-long event to raise money in a variety of ways. This one happened to be a casino night which made for a fun but formal affair. The evening went off without a hitch and while I wasn’t there, it looked to be a fun and a fruitful night for the charity involved.
How do I know? I noticed a tweet from their account to a blog post from an employee who attended and recorded a lot via photo and video. This lead me to a whole bunch of other user generated content like Youtube videos, the Instagram hashtag archive for the event, and especially all the blog and news sites that picked up the story. I noticed a lot of those blog posts and news posts had links back to the websites of the brands who were involved.
This reach goes beyond a link from a charity website, and into the social where anything is possible really. This encouraged me to get them to put all the content their staff took into a web app for people to view and explore. This also led to scoring links through outreach; all that content was open for people to take and put up as well, which means we can now go out and ask for links in places they used one of the pictures.
Conferences & Events
If you’ve attended, ran, or operated a booth at a conference or event then you know the major marketing benefits from this. If you’re taking part in industry events like this, there are going to be many real reasons your site should be earning links and social followers.
In this day of blogging and social networks there are also a ton of other ways you can create content and earn links from events and conferences:
Guest blogging your experience of the event
A link from conference websites for taking part
Getting interviewed by your industry’s media
Video and image credit links from other authors around the web
Score targeted social followers from your industry
Have an embeddable presentation for people to link up after you speak
The best part? All of this should be actual fun for you and your staff as they’re just showcasing what they love about their brand.
Create, Share and Don’t Stop
It’s sometimes hard to keep on the creative streak once you’ve had some success, so don’t stop even after a lot of misfires. While there are a multitude of ways you can build your own links, why make it easy for the competition? If your brand isn’t earning even a few links a month you need to really evaluate your organic search strategy.
The inbound marketing world changes so fast, except great content marketing is not going anywhere… Ever. Stop thinking about Mozrank, dofollow and PR for a bit and just enjoy what you do. Showcase your brand’s more unique aspects, educate customers on your products and have some fun while doing it.
Hopefully by now you’ve picked up on the theme of doing real things to earn real links, no games.
I am actually shocked it took this long for someone to try something funny towards our site. I don’t think I’ve pissed anyone off all that much in the past year or so, but regardless someone has blasted Linkbuildr.com with a load of anchor text specific links from blog comments. Looks like Scrapebox went to town on us and pushed us into the top 5 for the target keyword they focused on.
We certainly never had that many links before and I honestly haven’t even checked in months as all of our business comes from people reading my content and referrals. We do not build links and the majority of them come from me being apart of the industry and our content getting linked to.
Negative SEO Attempt
So far we’re now ranking in the top 5 for “link building blog” which has rose since these nofollow links came flooding in from blogs all over the world. I’m not too worried about it as they’re nofollow anyway and no one has really seen a full proof case of negative SEO working.
With that being said, I kind of hope the Google algorithm burns us for it because I’ll turn that into some sweet link bait. Luckily for us, our business of getting new clients does not rely on free Google traffic all that much. While I also don’t have a whole lot of time any more to handle social media relationships either, we get a lot of content shares from the great people of this industry.
What Kind Of Links Did We Get?
The majority of links are the usual crap you get from the services sections of the “SEO” forums that plague the internet. I’m always ragging on Warrior Forum, Blackhat World, Digital Point and the like so perhaps someone from there is responsible for the new link love.
At least they were polite!
Blog Comment Spam:
Will We Get Dropped?
I decided to write about this publicly just incase we do get hit as it will make for an interesting discussion. I don’t think much will happen and if negative SEO does work, it shouldn’t be this easy. There are certainly a lot of people coming into Google’s webmaster help central complaining that competitors are doing this and its working. Problem with that is so many companies hire “SEO” companies and have no idea they’re just getting link spam.
Like I’ve stated before, 99% of SEO companies out there are spammers and either know they’re just slinging junk or still think that manually submitting a site to 250 directories, doing one line blog comments and submitting to social bookmark sites is marketing. I also state that Google keeps ranking link spammers and snake oil SEO consultants at the top for every and any keyword related to online marketing.
So you might be thinking….is Ryan getting crazy in his old age? What’s this nonsense about guest blogging and paid links being mentioned in the same sentence? One of the major staples in our inbound marketing campaigns for clients is doing kick-ass content marketing on off site blogs. I’ve taken the time to compile the data just over the last year from all of our guest blogging outreach and the results were a little funny.
While paid links in all sorts of ways are still happening, guest blogging has been the “beacon of light” for a lot of agencies and consultants. It’s a great way to reach your target audience, and frankly, the link you “earn” isn’t the highest of priorities for myself and our clients. Overall brand awareness and reach is what I’m going for and what better way to earn that then providing amazing/unique/intelligent content to the targeted masses?
Two Plagues Of Guest Blogging
1) Shitty content and targeted anchor text
The majority of guest blogging taking place is just the same lame article marketing style of content Google has tried to tapper off in the past couple of years. There’s no value being put forth and all these clueless “SEO’s” are overdoing anchor text and its just all about the link.
2) Blog owners want money to allow you to guest post
I’m sure those that do a lot of guest blogging outreach like we do get asked all the time to pay to be able to guest blog for the site. The biggest blogs in your vertical will most likely ask for money and this is the majority according to our data. Google will definitely be cracking down on this in the near future as they will see this as a paid link. I, however, think you will be fine so long as you provide outstanding content, and the social media reactions are somewhat abundant. When you’re “guest blogging” on a large site in your vertical it should be all about the brand exposure. I can see why you’d need to pay because you’re also getting reach through their(hopefully) large social media following, newsletter and whatever else they have going on. Oh, and don’t bother picking anchor text that’s not normal and stick to a nice looking site/brand link.
Guest Blogging Results By The Numbers
From the numbers below you can clearly see that the larger sites wanting money had more to offer than just that link. If your content stays top notch, you’re putting it on a high quality blog in your vertical and you’re also paying for their follower base(social + newsletter), I don’t ever see a problem with Google in regards to those links. I’m sure there is room for argument so I will leave that up to you folks as you know I love hearing your thoughts.
99% of the “SEO” firms out there are nothing more than petty link spammers that have no clue how to do anything of value. Sadly most of them have no clue that what they’re doing is against Google’s TOS. So many real brands hire these snake oil providers because they themselves are not on the up and up.
If your brand offers nothing worth linking(or worth socially sharing) to then please stop every marketing tactic you’re currently doing and refocus. I get a dozen emails a day from people wanting to work with us and I sadly have to turn down nearly all of them. That or they get offende when I state they’ll need a few thousand dollars a month to compete in their competitive verticals. So please stop emailing me unless you want to actually, as Wil Reynolds puts it, “real company shit”.
Sadly, I also get a large number of emails from real companies who have hired these know-nothing consultants who have done nothing but keyword stuff their pages and build god awful links. I hope to help a little by ranting like an angry old man as well as provide you with the knowledge to sniff out a snake.
Audit 1: Their Link Profile
So let’s say you’ve gone to Google and typed in “whitehat SEO services” or “SEO services” or “link building services” etc etc…you will be presented with pretty much only companies who spammed to get their and do the same to their clients. Even some of the “big name” companies showing up here are just spamming to justify their rankings. I’m not one to out a company anymore so for that reason I won’t be naming names.
So in order to audit their links it’s quite simple, just use one of the free or paid tools out there such as Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, MajesticSEO. For this example below I’ve used Open Site Explorer because you can signup with a free account and get quite a bit of data.
Just as suspected, the first result has the lamest links with all targeted anchor text. So much for Google’s updates…
Anyone who pays attention to the organic SERPs know that Penguin and Panda are a joke if you’re a spammer. You can still make tons and tons of money within a few month time period with nothing but a 2-3 page website and tons of link spam. The site in question here recently did a big blast to secure the top position for any link building service related keyword.
If you see a potential SEO firm with really unnatural anchors like that stay far away because they have no idea what they’re doing. Before you start commenting in anger at me, yes I know target anchor text ranks a site and thus they have an idea of what they’re doing. You just don’t want your legit company being handled by the likes of someone from Digital Point or the Warrior Forum.
Audit 2: Their Clients
The second thing I’d recommend taking a look at is if they list any clients on their website. A lot of SEO firms do this to establish credit, so take advantage of that. I recommend taking a look at the following:
Their link profile, specifically anchor text levels and types of links
Their on-page SEO and quality of content
What kind of social signals
Check the rankings for the clients main keywords
Check prices…if they’re a few hundred dollars you’re just going to get spam
You will quickly see a pattern emerge and should be able to tell if the SEO company is garbage within just a few minutes. If they don’t offer any clients(as we don’t) on their website just ask. If they don’t provide any you know you can move onto the next or just give me an email.
That’s It Folks!
As you can see it doesn’t take much effort to figure things out and please do investigate before handing over the life of your brand online. I don’t care if you don’t contact us to handle your brand, but please don’t let some scumbag SEO company ruin your organic rankings.
So we often hear that no press is bad press and in the case of Burger King’s Twitter hacking they certainly will come out on top. While a lot of nefarious things were mentioned and done on the account no one will really care, so in the end Burger King will definitely enjoy the buzz.
The reason I hope they don’t care? No one will remember this in a week and during that time, I imagine the will get thousands of links and social followers because of it…so what’s the big deal? Let this sink in and be a lesson on how to turn a bad thing into something good.
If I were them, I would also try and get interviews from highly authoritative places about the incident and perhaps talk about brand image and or social media security…it’s kind of a snooze fest but I imagine a lot of publications are looking to talk to someone over there while the news is hot.
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Negative SEO Attack?
Check out the anatomy of a "negative SEO" attack on our own site in our latest post. There's too much worry about these attacks happening, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Come read what I think and just what to do if anything like this happens to your brand.