Saturday, March 5, 2011

Google and Bing Love Anchor Text Link Spam

Google and Bing Love Anchor Text Link Spam
While many bloggers and the media are calling Google's search results out lately, most of the focus has been on the somewhat low-quality pages that show up for informational long-tail searches. My concern for Google's search results is different, however. As I touched upon in the last newsletter, I'm tired of Google (and Bing) returning sites that use anchor text link spam to get on the first page of results.

For those who don't know what anchor text is, here's a quick explanation:

Anchor text is the words in the clickable part of any link. For instance, when someone links to my site, they typically use either my name or my company name in the anchor text, which looks like this:

Jill Whalen is an SEO consultant.


Visit High Rankings for SEO consulting.

But those links are not all that valuable in SEO terms. What would be better (for search engines) is for the links to be more like these:

Jill Whalen is an SEO consultant.

Visit High Rankings for SEO consulting.

...with the keywords that people might type into Google (or Bing) as the clickable anchor text link.

Search engines assign a lot of weight to the words that are in that clickable link. It does make sense because you're telling both people and search engines what they'll get when they click the link.

The problem is that it's not a natural way for people to link unless they know a bit about how search engines work. It's more natural to link using the company name, even through links that just say "click here" or "more information."

Part of what I do as an SEO consultant is to train clients to think like a search engine. I teach clients to link more descriptively on their own sites via "internal" links as well as linking to other "external" sites. But to get honest-to-goodness natural links - that is, links from others just because they really like you or your company - it's unlikely that the link will have the best anchor text for search engines. And yet, natural links are exactly what Google claims to value. It's what their PageRank algorithm was originally based on.

But today, natural links and true citations are nearly useless in helping search engines show the best sites for the search query at hand.

For instance, this past Sunday I was quoted in a Washington Post story about Google's less-than-stellar search results.

I spoke with the reporter for quite some time and also emailed him numerous examples of how some companies easily manipulate Google. He was kind enough to mention me and my company (on page 2) in the article, which was great -- but there was no link. I don't know if it is the Washington Post's policy not to link, or if they just don't think about it, or if they have not ever been taught to link. It seems to me that a mention in the Washington Post in this context provides me and my company some credibility, because the WP is a mainstream news outlet. Yet any credibility I may have gained with the people reading the article is completely lost on Google because there's not only no descriptive anchor text link, there's no link at all!

Instead, the links that Google (and Bing) end up valuing the most are those where people control the anchor text. Unfortunately, when anchor text can be controlled, it often means that the link:

   * was purchased
   * was traded for
   * was added to a site that is controlled by the owner
   * was added to a site in a network controlled by multiple stakeholders (like a link farm)
   * was added into an article or bio of an article and posted to an article directory or similar site
   * was used in a blog comment
   * was part of a forum signature
   * was obtained naturally, but the linker had to be asked to edit the anchor text.
Only the last one of those is truly in line with what search engines want to value, and even that one is sketchy because it becomes somewhat unnatural by virtue of requesting different anchor text.

May the Biggest Spammer Win

Most reasonable people would agree that it doesn't make sense that the companies who own or take part in a network of interlinked websites should rank higher than those who don't. And why should the websites that have people "writing" boatloads of blog comments outrank their competitors who have no desire to spam others' blogs? If you're commenting because you'll possibly get some link value rather than because you feel the need to add to the conversation, it adds unnecessary clutter and should be counted as spam by the search engines (in my opinion). I wouldn't be surprised if 90% of blog and forum comments fall into that category, as do most articles submitted to article dírectories.

Here's the Rub

All of the above types of links still count very highly in Google (and Bing). While links and their anchor text are by no means the only ranking factor for how sites show up in the search engines, they are a very large one at the moment. And surprisingly, neither the relevance nor the quality of those links appears to play as big a role as search engines would like you to believe.

You can take any product search query (both highly competitive and somewhat competitive) and review the backlinks of the sites that show up in Google's (or Bing's) top 10 to 20 results and see what I'm talking about.

Random Example

Let's look at the search query "baby furniture," which I just randomly thought of as I was writing this. I'm not going to call out any of the sites by name, and your results may differ slightly from mine, but you should get the picture.

The first site to show up in Google is a big brand, which makes sense. In fact, I wasn't even going to check the backlinks because I figured they likely deserve to be there based on their brand. But then I noticed it's just a random catalog page from their site. So I looked at their backlinks, and sure enough, there are 357 links pointing to that one page, most from completely irrelevant sites. Some are even hacked sites. But they've got keyword-rich anchors that Google (and Bing) love. Many of the links are in blog comments and others in "pártner site" areas (paid links). Wonderful.

Let's check the #2 site that shows up in Google (which for me was the #1 site in Bing). Looks like there's a whole network of interlinked baby-related sites that use keyword-rich anchor text links to get all the various sites to rank well for those words. While it's possible that all those sites have different owners and they really just want to recommend (using juicy anchor text) all those other baby product sites, it sure smells fishy to me! At least in this case they seem to be on relevant sites, unlike the big-brand one above.

The #3 site that I see on Google is also a big brand, and it looks as if many of their links are purchased from mommy blogger-type sites, based on my random clickthroughs of their backlinks. While they at least seem relevant, most are anything but natural. I would consider them akin to ads, aka paid links. Nothing wrong with them purchasing ads on relevant sites, but it's Google's job not to count paid links, and yet they do.
READ MORE - Google and Bing Love Anchor Text Link Spam

Facebook Advertising Made Easy With SocialBoost

Facebook Advertising Made Easy With SocialBoost
Powerful and Effective Advertising on Facebook
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1. You choose your target audience based on age, gender, location,
  hobbies, education and interests.
2. Customized advertisements are created from scratch to deliver the
  perfect message to your target audience.
3. Your advertisements are live on Facebook within 24 hours, and
  SocialBoost provides updated reporting that monitors how many
  users are reached each and everyday.
What is SocialBoost?
SocialBoost is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to
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With packages starting at only $149 per month, SocialBoost offers an
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allows you to target your client base more effectively and increase
your sales substantially.
We will provide you with:
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READ MORE - Facebook Advertising Made Easy With SocialBoost

Top 5 Tips to Grow Your Social Media Tribe

2010, social media became an integral part of most businesses many of which committed to spend a significant portion of their marketing efforts on social media engagement. In 2011, this trend will only continue as businesses realize that it can naturally result in more buzz, leads and therefore, more sales!

You may have already established a social media presence for your business. However, you - like many others - may be facing the challenge of getting loyal followers and fans. You want to grow your authority and influence in the social networks. You want to earn the trust and interest of your blog visitors, but where do you begin? 
Okay, so now that the scene has been set, let's dive in. Listed below are 5 great tips that I have been using to grow my tribe of followers and fans. Pretty successful so far. My influence now extends beyond my blog and I am actively engaging my followers and fans on a myriad of social media platforms. How do I achieve that?

Provide Exclusive and Unique Content

The number 1 bait to attract visitors to your blog or website is to have compelling content. Personally, I spend around an hour a day to update my blog with fresh, great content. Every single day - without fail. That is the only way to satisfy my tribe which is always thirsty for knowledge. With a little creativity, you can even use premium content as a means of getting fans to "like" you on Facebook. I also use controversy to generate lots of buzz and interactions on my blog. Controversial blog posts usually get viral very rapidly. Controversy sparks emotions and makes it compelling to share that sparked emotion with others. If you can do it correctly, it will create a flood of new visitors and readers for your post. However, be mentally prepared for the backlash when people start to debate on the points you have made.

Engage the Tribe Through Interactive Sessions

This may sound overwhelming and requires a considerable amount of effort as compared to other methods, but the returns are good.  
Webinars, for example, are great. I was able to interact with my subscribers who asked me questions and got their answers on the fly. Such platforms are awesome in gathering valuable feedback and concerns from my tribe followers.

How about hosting a contest? People love to participate in contests. Contests with your blog audience can grow the amount of engagement you experience rather than having them simply reading, re-tweeting and sharing status updates. For example, I held a contest called "My Biggest Fan" where I had my fans tell me why they love my blog. The prize? A four hour private consultation with me. Not really that great, but it did help the contest wínner who went onto make a four figure income every month. My contest results? 2,937 comments, 5,846 re-tweets and an additional 1,547 subscribers on the day of the contest. Pretty incredible huh?
The Trust Factor

Trust is the most important element in any true relationship and it is something that you need to build with your tribe. No tricks or tactics here. There's only sincerity and honesty required. So how do I build the trust between me and my subscribers? I listen to them. I empathize with the problems that they face. I provide advice and resources to help them solve their problems. Well, even if I do not have an instant solution at hand, I am able to provide a listening ear, just like a friend will if his friend is in need. Create honest relationships with your tribe and you will reap the fruits of your labor!

Creating Value

This point re-emphasizes what I covered earlier. A blog reader or customer may ask, "What's in it for me?" Thinking from the perspective of my blog audience, I do constantly reflect on this - on whether I am creating value for my blog audience or not. If you are an Internet marketer, you need to create value for your subscribers first before they are willing to hand you the cash from their pockets. That rule hasn't ever changed since the start of civilization. But whether that value is tangible or not, it does not really matter. It has to be there however to propel people to take any action. Most of the time, I will do my best to solve my customers' problems, to satisfy their needs or just to answer their queries. That is unless the odd demanding customer's request really ticks me off when I am out of sorts. HA! Alright, I am just joking, but I am a nice guy generally. My subscribers have always said that I have over-delivered on most occasions so I guess I am!

Discipline, Patience and Your Road to Success

There is no way (other than using some automation tools which are pretty much useless from what I see) to amass tens of thousands of followers in the space of days. Patience does go a long way. Right from the start, I pushed myself to share at least a post a day on my blog. Well, not that I was really pushing myself hard since I enjoy blogging, but as the days went by, it was really gratifying to see my subscribers growing steadily from my consistent efforts.

Fans and followers do matter. They are the ones who will be interested in what you blog about and what you pitch. Remember that they are always right. They can choose whether or not to read your blog or your messages. My fans, my followers and my customers are my bread and butter. Without them, I would not be earning a six figure income every single month.

What tips do you have to get more fans - more followers - more subscribers? I may have missed some. How are you using social media to grow your tribe? Share your thoughts - the comments are yours. 
READ MORE - Top 5 Tips to Grow Your Social Media Tribe

How Social Media has Changed SEO

 How Social Media has Changed SEO
Social media websites have spread like wildfire over the past couple of years. Today, so many people spend more time on Facebook, Twitter or some other social network than any other website.

Aside from connecting people, social networks also provide advertising opportunities. Take Facebook, for example. What do you do when you come across a website with half a billion active users? Develop Facebook Web promotion strategies and use the website as a marketing tool, of course.

It's not surprising to find so many businesses utilizing Facebook Web promotion these days.

In fact, lots of businesses have an FB page as their second homepage. So, the challenge here is how to use social media SEO to your business' advantage.
Social Media SEO

It's not so hard to advertise via Facebook Web promotion. FB and other social networks allow you to post ads, updates, pictures and videos in a snap. When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), on the other hand, there is some doubt whether Facebook SEO is really effective. For one, this particular social media site uses the “nofollow” tag. This means that your backlinks from Facebook aren't given any value by search engine crawlers. Thus, those links aren't affecting your search engine rankings at all (but they will still give you traffic).

Facebook links may be nofollow, but this doesn't mean that the website completely doesn't have social media SEO opportunities. Here are a Facebook SEO tactics:

    * Post links to your website in less obtrusive areas. A good thing about Facebook Web promotion is that it presents ads and links in a rather subtle way. If you can notice, most of the ads on FB are at the right side. Although links can be found everywhere, they aren't slammed right in your face. By posting links only in your bio box, info tab, right side panel etc., you won't be turning off users by spammy messages. Thus, there are more chances of people checking out content in your site and linking to it.

    * Don't stop the posting. Many a time have companies felt excited about reaching fans via Facebook Web promotion, but find that the excitement dwindles after a month or two. Keep on posting --- send out daily posts, and write about interesting things regarding your business, services, and products. These posts can encourage conversation, likes, and comments. Besides, if all your status messages are all about your products and services, your page will lean more on spammy.

    * Give away free stuff. Almost everyone loves free stuff. Start a contest or coupon codes with enticing value to encourage fans to participate in your social media SEO campaign. If you get fans excited, they just might tell their family or friends and blog about it. This Facebook Web promotion tactic can result to more links pointing to your main site.

    * Don't hesitate to ask for a link. It never hurts to request, or even beg, for a link. Once you have a minimum of 25 fans, post an update and ask your fans to post a link pointing to your site on their blog. If they're truly your fans, chances are they'll help you out with this Facebook SEO strategy. To increase the chances of getting that link, give out coupon codes or other free items.
READ MORE - How Social Media has Changed SEO

Facebook SEO vs Regular SEO

Facebook SEO vs Regular SEO

Using Facebook SEO can get a bit tricky since the social media SEO benefits are indirect. On the one hand, Facebook also has lots of search potential. In fact, many Facebook users today are blurring the lines between social and search. External websites are being tied up to FB's internal systems, allowing the social media site to hop on the search market bandwagon.

With that said, seriously consider integrating Facebook Web promotion in your online marketing efforts now before you miss out on great online marketing opportunities.

Moreover, FB isn't exactly a search engine; or at least it's not an Internet search tool we're used to. Nonetheless, one other nagging issue is hitting the heads of SEO experts: Should Google worry about Facebook Web promotion's SEO potential?

Ever since the social network's search engine enhancements and open graph were announced, the SEO world increasingly heard about Facebook SEO. What's more is that Facebook and Microsoft has partnered, and that Bing will start integrating FB features in searches.

It may be too early to say that Facebook SEO has Google shaking at the knees. What this tells us is that social media has made a great impact on search engine optimization. While Facebook remains the most popular social network today, there are other social media sites can provide direct link building benefits. LinkedIn, for instance, allows you freely to embed valuable inbound links. There's also Digg, which has become a destination for social media SEO and even link spamming.

Social Media SEO has immensely evolved over the last ten years or so. It may take a while for you to build an account in each of the major social media sites, but it's definitely worth it. Moreover, Facebook web promotion and marketing via social media is a fun online marketing strategy. Make the most of this lucrative social media SEO to reap the rewards.
READ MORE - Facebook SEO vs Regular SEO