Posts Tagged ‘Link Building’

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.

Top reasons why you should have your own blog

Are you one of those that thinks having your own blog is too much work and, well, what do I get from it anyway?

Here’s a list of reasons why you should have your own blog:

  • It’s good for Real Estate SEO.
  • Your blog should be part of your real estate website i.e. http://www.domain.com/blog.
  • Blogs offer great link bait.
  • Blogs attract visitors.
  • Blogs will help generate leads.
  • Having your blog as part of your own website (rather than only ActiveRain or Trulia) will give your site credit for inbound links.
  • Inbound links are of a huge value in calculating Google’s PageRank.
  • Blog posts will help your website rank for terms.
  • Whether hosted through a blog platform or part of your website’s CMS each new blog post/article acts as a new page to your website, which means it’s new content added, and thus a new page to be crawled by search engines.
  • You can write content and safe drafts and thus publish at a later date.
  • You can have multiple people write for you, or someone else all together if writing is not your thing.

To sum it up, blogging = more fresh (optimized and relevant) content = more inbound links. All of which = more relevant traffic = more sharing, commenting and more links, and finally LEADS.  Remember: Anything that you put quality time into will give you quality results. Individuals now more than ever are jearning for trust and thus will do their research prior to buying…what a better way than through you blog to present yourself and/or your company.

Happy Blogging.

Real Estate SEO: Link building 101 continued

Link building for your site is not just about gaining a large number of inbound links, but rather a good number of quality links (quality not quantity). I recently wrote a post about gaining quality links during your natural or organic  real estate SEO campaign’s life cycle.  We got some great questions in response to that article and so I am going to drill down into some of the questions and provide you with more feedback on how to improve your campaign:

Why does my Real Estate site need links? Links are an essential part to your web presence, while quality links do take longer to get, the best way to get them is to actively maintain your real estate seo campaign with content writing and publishing as a huge part of that. Actively publishing quality content is the best way to get those links.

Why links? Because you do not want your website to exist in a vacuum. In addition to establishing visibility for your business and direction for your users, your links help establish credibility for your website. A link is almost like a vote, and thus with each incoming link to your site you get a vote…someone saying “Hey, look at this site. It has great information that I want to share with you. Go see for yourself!”

What kind of places should I avoid submitting links to? Two words; “Link Farms.” This seems to be particularly popular in the real estate field (though not everyone). While some of these tactics worked at one time, search engines have become more sophisticated. If you see sites that appear to be spam you should report them and not engage.

Link farms are sites that will link to every page submitted, anyone and everyone gets accepted. Some good key indicators are that they have no or poor PageRank scores  (use this tool to check Google’s PR), display paid advertisement (quality directories never have advertising), and often do not offer very detailed categories or specialty areas. Most link farms or spammers will also require you to place a link on your site in exchange (again quality directories do not ask this) … run when you see this.

What if I have engaged with spam sites? You should remove any links to them and request to have yourself removed. Unfortunately there is no quick way to remedy mistakes of the past. Time is your best ally. Quality SEO practices are what will help you gain trust again, and this can take several months and even several years for you to catch up.

How do I find out whether my real estate site has been banned? This is a simple check. You would know because your site would no longer be indexed, meaning that it would no longer appear in search results. A quick way to find out is do a search for your domain name “www.domain.com” (with the quotes).

I actually recommend, if you are not currently using any sort of tools, like Google’s Webmasters, that you perform a search on your site regularly. It will also show you what links are associated with your site, which can easily help you see the kinds of sites with which you are being associated.

If you have been banned search engines suggest that you do everything to maintain a good standing and then give you the option to resubmit your site for reinclusion.

While the promise of easy link building through link exchanges or link farms is tempting, these tactics often achieve subpar results. Natural, organic inbound links from sites that your competitors can’t get links from are the best way to perform well in the long term. Patience my friend is the name of the game…and trust that as you continue to optimize and maintain your real estate seo campaign, by adding quality and relevant content, links will indeed come naturally.

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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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