Posts Tagged ‘Inbound Links’

Are Bad Reviews Good For SEO?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately regarding the topic of bad reviews on websites like Yelp or Get Satisfaction, or any of the other review websites online.  People are asking me if those bad reviews have an impact on the SEO of those bad businesses and if they are actually HELPING the bad business by providing an inbound link from a fairly reliable source (the review website).

The recent buzz on the topic was started, in part, by a lengthy feature in the New York Times which highlighted how an online “designer” glasses reseller, DecorMyEyes.com, enjoyed high organic search engine ranking in Google for designer brand names and keyphrases like “designer sunglasses” – not despite bad reviews and complaints, but BECAUSE of them.  The owner was claiming that all the “link juice” from the mentions of the brands in the poor reviews on reputable websites are actually helping him rank for the terms organically and helping him get new customers every day.

BUT IS IT TRUE?!?

Google addressed the issue on the Official Google Blog earlier this month, tweaking their algorithm to penalize merchants that provide an extremely poor user experience, and explaining the issues they face when considering such upgrades.  As Google pointed out in their blog, many review websites actually use a bit of code known as a “rel=nofollow” which tells search engines that the link is not to be considered an endorsement and is to essentially be ignored.  Most of the “link juice” to the vendor in question actually came from articles by reliable news outlets writing about the owner’s arrest and antics!

the best businesses practices still apply, good customer service is important.

Good Business Practices Still Apply

Even if this “Negative Marketing” was somehow helping the company rank higher in organic search results, a little research would have shown potential buyers that the business has a lot of negative reviews, complaints, and lawsuits against it.  Search engines are trying to provide users with the most relevant content to their search query.  It’s ultimately up to online consumers to use their search engines to research merchants.

I want to assure you that the old saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” just isn’t true online.

The unethical marketing techniques exercised by Decor My Eyes to take advantage of loopholes in search engine algorithms are just an expansion of “Black Hat” SEO tactics.  There may be short-term tricks for temporary manipulation of search engines, but algorithms are constantly evolving and changing.  Eventually, bogus tactics are discovered (remember keyword stuffing, anyone?) and improvements are made to the algorithms to make search results even more reliable.

THE TRUTH ABOUT NEGATIVE ADVERTISING

As a consequence of all this “Negative Advertising”, search providers and review forums such as Google, Get Satisfaction, Yahoo, and others have already taken direct action against Decor My Eyes.  I did a quick search on the brand names he mentioned ranking for in the interview for the New York Times article, and at the time of writing this post, he is no longer showing up in top results for any of them.

Look what happens when you start to search for the company name, Decor My Eyes, in major search engines now!

Google recognizes DecorMyEyes is a scam immediately

Immediately After the Word "my", Google Suggests a Scam

Interestingly enough, at the time this post was written, if you were too quick and used Yahoo Search, you could land on the company’s website without ever being alerted to any scams or complaints, as shown in the screen shot below.  Although, as soon as you start to type the word “eyes” into the search field manually, suggestions about scams and complaints start to appear.

Yahoo DecorMyEyes Search without warning

Yahoo Search - "decor my" WITHOUT Warning of Scam

Yahoo Search Results Warning of Scam

Yahoo Search for "decor my e" Suggests Scams & Complaints

BE A SMART CONSUMER

Bad companies like Decor My Eyes are only able to succeed because of uneducated consumers.  Consider this story as an example of why you should take the extra few moments to do some research on a company before giving them your business!

Seek out and read reviews to see what others are saying about the company.  Look for reviews by established community members, not people who are anonymous or who have reviewed a low number of business, because reviews by less established members are not as credible.  Note whether there are any relevant news articles in your search engine results for the company, such as the final link appearing just above the scroll on the Bing search results about the Decor My Eyes guy getting arrested in the screen capture below!

Bing Search Results Showing DecorMyEyes Bad Reputation

Bing Reveals the Reputation of DecorMyEyes

In this modern age of technology, consuming is easier than ever; we can even do it from the comfort of our home!  This is very convenient, but  it can also lead to the dangerous habit of engaging with businesses we know nothing about.  The best way to avoid being the victim of a scam is to do your research.  Search engines are also a great tool for researching company histories, not just what to buy.

WHY BEING GOOD IS ALWAYS GOOD FOR BUSINESS

This story should also serve as a warning to businesses engaging in bad practices in efforts to trick search engines and customers.  Search engines will continue to filter out “black hat” SEO techniques and scams like this “Negative Advertising / Link Building” tactic Decor My Eyes was utilizing.  Any advantages received from unethical ranking techniques are only temporary.  If caught using unethical techniques, search engines can penalize and even ban you.

There are also real-life consequences from the bad press, consumer reviews, and Better Business Bureau complaints this company has been receiving.  The website’s hosting and credit card payment service providers are ending their associations with Decor My Eyes for fear of being associated with an unethical business.  Search engines have also deliberately targeted his company as a result of the bad press.  In the end, the technique had failed, and eventually so will his business.

Businesses would be much better off putting their time and efforts into creating happy customers, writing valuable website content, blogging, and building a positive social media presence, which will only increase in value over time.  You’ll probably also get more sleep than the owner of Decor My Eyes, and not be afraid to have your photo in the paper!

socail media feedback counts

What People Say Counts. Be Good to Your Clients.

Simple SEO for Your Blog

Optimizing your blog for search engines is similar to optimizing your website.  With a little planning and effort, your blog will give your SEO efforts a big boost!  It will take some time to establish yourself as a reliable information source in the blogosphere, and the more relevant blogs you post with valuable content, the sooner this will happen.  We try to encourage clients to blog twice each week.

SEO your blogHOW TO START:

You want each blog post (or web page) to focus on one subject or topic.  Your topic should be fairly focused because you want to keep your readers engaged and make sure you leave yourself topics to cover in future blogs, too!  This will also help you determine which keywords each blog post should try to incorporate.

Much like writing a research paper in school, you should develop an ‘Introduction’, ‘Body’, and a ‘Conclusion’ or ‘Call to Action’ to get the reader to engage in your site further, and become a Lead.

Read our blog on developing subjects to blog about if you’re stumped on what to write about.

KEYWORD STRATEGY:

If you want to optimize your blog, you’re most likely also optimizing your website as well, and you are using your blog as a way to increase traffic to your website and get new leads.  When developing your website/ blog optimization strategy, you need to determine your list of ‘keywords’ (or phrases) that you will focus your optimization campaign around.

Your keywords will be terms you think potential clients you’d like to reach would type into a search engine while looking for your services.  For example, if you are a broker focusing on student apartments in the Fenway neighborhood, you might choose a keyword like ‘Fenway apartments’ or ‘Fenway student apartments’.

There are a variety of free online tools you can use to learn about the popularity of the terms you are considering using and also to get suggestions for new terms.  You can also view the presentation from our Logic Classroom about Long Tail Keywords and Keyword Strategy to learn more.

I’VE GOT MY KEYWORD LIST, NOW WHAT?

It’s important to try to keep these terms in mind when writing your blogs, and develop blog topics that incorporate these words to help improve your site’s organic search engine ranking for them.  As a result, more visitors interested in what you’re selling (Fenway student apartments) will find your blog, and therefore your services, more easily.

You want to use your keywords in as many places as possible, such as in the URL of the page, in the Title of the Page, in the Header, etc. without being ‘spammy.’  If you want to learn more about keyword placement on your website, please read this blog about optimizing your website with keywords.

PRACTICAL TIPS FROM THE PROS:

Meta Titles:  It’s always good to add your company name to the end of your Meta Titles, such as ‘Extremely Relevant Meta Title Here | My Company Name’ to help increase your brand awareness.  You always want the Meta Title to be in ‘Title Case’ (instead of all lower case) so it looks good to a reader because they do see your Meta Titles in search engine results and at the top of the page in the browser tab.  Search Engines typically only index the first 65-70 characters or so (including spaces) of your title, so make sure the important keywords are towards the beginning.

Meta Descriptions should also include your keywords.  Your descriptions should be a brief summary (approx. 160 characters) of what your blog post or page is about.  You should write it using proper punctuation and grammar because the descriptions are seen by visitors using search engines and by search engines to understand what your page is about.  Here is an example of a description I might use for this blog post:

“Learn how to optimize your blog using these helpful tips on keyword strategy, meta data, and more to help increase your website traffic and capture more leads.”

A screen shot of search engine results for keywords

Links: When you add a Hyperlink leading to another page from your blog, especially in the beginning or middle of your blog post, I prefer to have the link open a new window or tab in the visitor’s browser instead of replacing the page they are on (your extremely interesting and informative blog).  This is easy to do with a Boston Logic Sequoia real estate website.

When you create your hyperlink, be sure to click onto the ‘Target’ tab when you are entering the Link information in the Link popup window.  This tab will allow you to choose if you want the link to appear in a new window, and also provides the opportunity to name the link- which is great for SEO.  I’ve attached screen shots to help walk you through it.  Making the links bold is a good idea, too, because search engines know to considered words in bold to be highly relevant to the content of the page.  Just don’t go making everything bold or it will lose its effectiveness (and annoy readers).

It is better for your SEO (and human visitors) if the links are using relevant keywords, not just ‘click here’, and if the link leads to a page that has those words or something similar in the URL and page title.  For example, if you were writing a blog about the amenities of the Fenway neighborhood you could mention ‘ living in an apartment in Fenway’ and make ‘apartment in Fenway’ an internal link to your ‘Fenway Apartments’ Town Page.

Categories: Blog categories are not as important to SEO as some of the other elements mentioned, but they are VERY important to your visitor’s experience.  If you have relevant blog categories that are well-organized (you can have ‘parent’ and ‘sub’ categories) and make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for, they will be more likely to read several of your blog posts and return for more information in the future.

You want to make sure you make a category for each of your keywords, and that you are putting blog posts into every category they are related to.  Visitors will see and use these categories when searching your blog, so don’t just add your posts to categories for the sake of trying to increase ranking on certain keywords because it will actually hurt your SEO if visitors are regularly bouncing from your blog when they find that it’s unrelated to the keywords they typed into their search engine.

Meta Tags, again, are not as important to SEO as the content, Titles, Descriptions, and Links, but they are still worth putting effort into.  You want to make sure you’re not wasting your meta tag space with extremely broad, single word keywords such as ‘luxury’ or ‘Boston’, however, because they will not help your SEO.  Instead, try to be creative and use more targeted keywords, such as ‘Boston luxury apartment’.  You want to make your tags as specific and relevant to the post/ page as possible.

Also, be careful with where you place the commas in your list of meta keywords.  For example, if you entered ‘Mandarin, Oriental’ into your keyword list, that’s actually telling the search engines that you are using the two words separately ‘mandarin’ and ‘oriental’.  Instead, you should keep the name of a building as one key-phrase by not putting a comma between the words you want to be seen as together, like ‘Mandarin Oriental’.

Calls to Action improve user conversionCalls to Action: One final suggestion is to leave the reader with some sort of internal link and a call to action to keep them engaged.  Each blog should strive to do this in some way, even just ‘Contact a trusted advisor for more information’ with a link to the blogger’s email or a link to the Contact Page.

IN CONCLUSION:

Having a blog is a great way to add fresh and informative content to your website to help potential clients find your website and see that you are a knowledgeable leader in your industry.  You need to create a list of relevant keywords (or phrases) to help you focus and organize your blogging strategy and bring you the type of readers you are hoping to find and convert to leads.

If you take the effort and time to optimize your blog, and consistently blog at least twice each week, you will begin to see an increase in your search engine ranking and site traffic as a result.

If you have any questions regarding optimizing your website and blog, or wish to learn more about the services we provide, please feel free to contact the Boston Logic Marketing Department.

Backlinks for SEO, Quality not Quantity

It’s amazing what some people will tell you.

We’ve been working on signing a new client for our SEO practice. They really are nice folks. They own a real estate office, surprise surprise, and I’ve spent my time in touch with a couple of the members of their marketing department. After telling them what we offer, sending a document on what to expect from our SEO services, I then sent along a service agreement. Pretty much, this is our standard sales process when someone signs up with us for SEO work.

This client wrote back asking us to write into the agreement that we would create 150 “backlinks” each month during the SEO campaign. This set off an alarm right away.  First of all, it was obvious that some SEO provider had told the client that this was an SEO best practice. Well, it’s not. So, we took the time to explain to them that when it comes to inbound linking, you want quality links, not just a high quantity of links.

When you’re trying to increase your inbound link count, you need to increase the number of quality links. This is just one of the elements of good SEO. Here’s how you judge whether it’s a good link.

  1. Google assigns every page with a PageRank. They don’t make these page rankings public, but you can see a version of your PageRank by downloading and installing the Google toolbar. If your links are from pages with PR (PageRank) 1, then they’re pretty much worthless. If you can get inbound links from pages with PRs of 5, 6, 7, and higher, then you’ll really be doing more for your SEO.
  2. Links to your site should be from pages with similar content. So, if your website is about Boston Real Estate and you’re trying to increase your ranking for the term “Boston Real Estate” then the inbound links to your site should be from other pages about Boston Real Estate. Also, ideally, the sites that those pages are a part of are sites about Boston Real Estate. The search engines look at this like the site is an authority on the subject. So, another example would be: a link from this website to a site about Real Estate SEO would be of high value to that other site; whereas a link from this website to a site about plumbing would be of far less value to that site.
  3. Link farms are bad. If the link to your website is from a page or website with many other outbound links on it, then this is not going to help your placement all that much. Google and Yahoo! can tell when a site is a link farm. All they have to do is count the number of outbound links on a page and on the site. So, if you’re just one of 100 outbound links on a page, then that link isn’t going to be looked upon very favorably and this will not help your SEO.

OK, now that we understand what makes for a good link and that many links aren’t worth much at all, let’s remember the following: Good SEO links are about quality and not quantity. If you can remember this mantra, then your SEO campaign will have a much better chance of performing well.

OK, that’s about it for now. If you have any questions about this topic, drop us a note and well get back to you. Thanks.

Your Real Estate Links – Paid or Unpaid

One of our clients asked whether paid links are worth the investment. In my reply to him, and to you – there has been a lot of debate regarding this recently – most SEOs believe that “paid links” are not a good practice.

Here’s why – when you consider linking opportunities you must do your homework first. Like most things you have examine your options from all angles. The short answer is “no” paid links are not worth the time or finances because they go against most search engine policies/guidelines. While some websites may get away with this activity for a while or the practice was useful at one time, I would never recommend paying for links. Sooner or later those who have a quick-fix desire and try to take shortcuts in business do get penalized, such is life. See Google’s quality guidelines for more information.

That said, there are a few exceptions to the rule, Yahoo’s! paid directory being one of them. And so, when our client asked about Yahoo! I said the following: “The directory submission has a fee of $299 and followed by a yearly recurring fee of the same amount. Now the thing with the Yahoo! Directory, while Google does value its addition, Yahoo! does not guarantee that your paid entry will actually get listed, they will guarantee a review for your fee and maybe get you listed.”

The choice whether to make that submission is yours, at worst you’ll be out $299, at best it could help with your traffic, branding and increase the number of inbound links which helps your Google Page Rank.

As with all linking opportunities, I recommend that you keep your eyes and ears open. Here are some strategic tips for your Real Estate link building:

  • Consider your networks as a place to go to for links, you already have the connection now all you need to do is ask, nicely. Present them with the opportunity and how it will benefit their visitors by having access to additional relevant information.
  • Make noteworthy mentions of top brokers and websites, homes etc on your blog. People will like the gesture and most likely add a link without being asked.
  • Sign up for Google Alerts, use your business and like terms to gather potential link leads. The same can be done through a number of social media networks.
  • Take a look at similar businesses and your competitors to see who is linking to them and what directories they are using.
  • Definitely sign up with big local directories and sites, but only those with a well known reputation, like Boston.com, business.com, botw.org
  • Review the site’s age and PR (google page rank). If either of these is low then browse along.
  • Beware of spamy looking directories, follow your gut – if it looks unprofessional then don’t add your site, even it is one more possible inbound link and even if it is free, it’s not worth it.

While we certainly do recommend link building as part of your Real Estate SEO campaign, try to keep these tips in mind, remember to do your homework first. Your site’s reputation is on the line and you don’t want to risk a penalty. If you have any questions about linking or your Real Estate marketing feel free to contact us for advice.

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