Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

February 18, 2011

Paid Links For SEO

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:41 pm

It’s been an exciting week concerning paid links and SEO. Last weekend the NY Times broke the story about JC Penney selling links and how Google responded with a ban.

Today, securing high-quality ‘do-follow’ links is no easy task. However, it stands to reason that things will be difficult because every company is trying to find and secure the best links for themselves; the difference is that some do it better than others. That’s where a good service provider like SEO Melbourne comes in!

Shortly thereafter we had Forbes posting about similar Google actions in the Google webmater help forums. Looks like they had a penalty for their links too – which they kind of sort of but not really cleaned up.

Now we’ve got Barry Schwartz admitting that he sells links to SEO companies. Combine all of these events and you’ve got a perfect shit storm of SEO arguments just ripe for a flame war to break out. Somebody call the fire department, a backdraft scenario is imminent.

First I just want to say kudos to Barry for doing whatever the hell he wants to do regardless of whether or not Google advises it, but that’s not what impresses me. What impresses me is that Barry is willfully violating Google guidelines and NOT bitching up a storm about how evil Google is. He’s accepting his penalty. I wish more webmasters would do that. Barry’s living out the advice I gave in my SEO Columbus post: Own Up To Your Shit.

What annoys me are all the SEOs in the comments of Barry’s Article who are trying to defend paid links. It’s even getting kind of personal with one calling me an SEO Noob after I stated that paid links shouldn’t be part of most sound SEO strategies. He goes on to further (incorrectly) label me, but none of that matters. This isn’t an argument about ego, clients, or e-penis size. It’s an argument about the validity of paid links and whether they’re a viable SEO method. (plus, for the record, my E Penis is huge!)

Instead of entering a virtual measuring contest, I’d rather elaborate on what I mean when I say paid links should not be a part of most sound SEO strategies. Since I hate how wonky Disqus comments can sometimes be, I decided to do that here.

The simple answer is all about risk/reward – for both the SEO agency and the client. If your site is penalized for paid links the results can be devastating. Not only will you lose traffic, you’ll also have an ORM nightmare on your hands. For a major client that means hundreds and hundreds of man hours being dedicated. For an SEO agency it means potentially losing a client, and lowering the chances of getting future clients. To me, none of these risks are acceptable.

Even if you do put on the short-term success blinders and accept the risks, I still feel that there’s better methods than paid links. Let’s take JC Penney for example:

Not counting their paid links, they still had around 2 Million earned, high-quality, anchor text diverse links pointing to the site. As Alan Bleiweiss points out they also had much bigger problems than linking. Their site is ripe with canonical issues, duplicate content problems, faceting nightmares, a terrible URL structure, and title tags that look like they’re all auto-generated based upon what you last clicked on. That’s a lot of problems, and I only spent 3 minutes looking at the site.

If you ask me those issues, and not the lack of links, are why natural search only makes up 7% of JC Penney’s traffic. They needed those paid links with the anchor text to rank because they weren’t getting the true value out of their 2 million earned links. They weren’t getting the value out of them because the search engines were (and still are) having trouble crawling the site and finding relevant, optimized content. Who knows what would happen to that 7% number if they spent that paid links budget actually fixing the issues on their site.

And that’s why paid links aren’t a viable SEO strategy. They’re a band-aid. They work great for short term success but the risks just aren’t worth it.

In my opinion there’s only 3 reasons to use paid links:

  1. You’re short sighted and only care about quick, unsustainable results
  2. You’re spamming or don’t care if your domain is banned from Google
  3. You’ve suck so much at SEO that you have no choice

Disclaimer:The views in this post are mine and mine alone. They in no way reflect the views of my employer or clients. With that said I have never recommended nor have I bought links for any clients nor do I intend to. I have both bought and sold links for personal sites in the past, mostly just to test things out.

February 9, 2011

Gaming Google Suggest

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:14 pm

Was playing with Google Instant / Google Suggest today and couldn’t help but get my mind spinning.

Imagine the following hypothetical scenario:

[Scenario removed because it was pointed out to me that yes, this WOULD be a good way to spam Google, and yes it WOULD work. So in an effort to be a good netizen and not help propagate more spam, I took it down.]

February 8, 2011

SEO Columbus

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:39 am

When I was leaving work today I caught a glimpse of a blog post about a trademark on the keyword “SEO Columbus.” Basically, some SEO in Columbus who went by the name SEO Columbus had sent a few threatening emails to some other SEO in the Columbus area who used the same word on his blog asking him to take it down. (If you want the back story, it’s all here.) I see this shit all the time so I paid no attention to it and went to go work out.

I couldn’t believe all the “SEO Columbus” crap that was waiting for me when I got home. Wow! In a mere few hours the SEO community banded together and beat the virtual crap out of Mr SEO Columbus (whose actual name I’m going to protect in this post)

We’re talking all out ORM barrage here. Facebook groups, youtube channels, blog posts on major SEO blogs, sucks domains, and tweets. Nothing was spared. It really amazed me how quickly and cohesively the SEO community banded together. I’m just a little ashamed it was over an SEO Columbus trademark abuse.

It just goes to show: the SEO community is a tight one (both in and out of Columbus) and you don’t want to piss us off. (trust me on this. I’ve done plenty of that in the past.)

It’s also a good reminder of the importance of SEO for ORM. SEO isn’t a stand alone practice anymore. It’s quickly merged with social media and ORM to form one monster of a profession – and if you don’t keep up you can find yourself on the outs quickly (just ask Joe SEO Columbus about that.)

So How Can I Avoid An SEO Columbus Fiasco From Happening To Me?

Good question. Here’s a few SEO/ORM tips to avoid your own ORM disaster.

  1. Don’t be a dick. This goes without saying. If you’re not a douchebag you won’t have to worry about ORM – but let’s face it, being a bit snarky can be fun and we all sometimes make mistakes.
  2. Register [yourname]Sucks.com If you don’t, the first SEO you piss off WILL register it. While you’re at it, pick up the .net, .org, .info, .ws, .us, and .co version of your name. I just checked a few minutes ago and most of the upcoming SMX West speakers still don’t own the .co version of their names. Remember (as some of us learned the hard way by being assholes) it’s perfectly legal to own the “sucks” and “I hate” version of somebody else’s brand. In this case, there’s nothing SEO Columbus can do about another SEO owning seocolumbussucks.com As long as he states it’s his opinion that it sucks and sticks to factual information he’s not breaking any laws. (Disclaimer: IANAL)
  3. If you do fuck up, eat it. You’ve gotta own that shit. Admit to what you did wrong, apologize (sincerely) and learn from your mistakes. The SEO community will actually respect that. Trust me. I’ve pissed off a lot of people in the past but I apologized and offered to make amends and now several of them still offer to buy me drinks at conferences. (Note: I’m a nice guy now, and I don’t go around pissing people off anymore.) My gut tells me if this guy would have said “my bad, sorry guys” and let it be none of this would have happened and he’d still be ranking #1 in Google for seo columbus instead of scurrying to re-brand himself and his business.
  4. Establish a social media presence – even if you don’t plan on using it. You don’t just have to worry about domain names anymore, you also need to worry about social media sites. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Blogger, FourSquare, Quora, DailyBooth, Blippy, the list goes on and on and on. (check out KnowEm for a good place to start on this. ) Then use them. Join the community. Say Hi. Build friends. In this case, nobody knew who SEO Columbus was so nobody stuck up for him (granted, when the full details were revealed it was clear he didn’t deserve sticking up for.) If he had been involved in the community though, somebody would have sent him a DM and said “dude, chill out it’s no big deal. Just say sorry.” Instead, this guy used his twitter account like a billboard. He only posted relevant “columbus” garbage and didn’t engage anybody. He had nobody in his corner when the bell rang, and the SEO community came out swinging.

If you want to do SEO in Columbus (Or Detroit, or anywhere) then you’ve got to follow those basic rules. Respect the community, establish your presence, apologize if you fuck up, and don’t be a dick. After that, it’s all beer drinking and profit. Hopefully well all learn from SEO Columbus (I know I have.)

And by the way. If you ever run into this guy at a conference and he’s actually eating some humble crow, buy him a beer to help wash it down. No doubt he could use it.

Powered by WordPress