Thursday, May 3, 2007

Use SEO Responsibly!

You ever hear the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely"? This phrase always seems to come to mind when I think about the power that those knowledgeable in SEO hold over those not so knowledgeable. It's actually a little frightening to me.

Although I've only been at this about a month and a half, I've already come across a few instances of the SEO community gaming the system, or basically Googlebombing. There was the Stephen Colbert incident- Jonah Stein (forgive me if I'm wrong and this campaign did NOT originate with Jonah) decided that Stephen Colbert should be #1 on Google for "The Greatest Living American" (there, I helped)! I thought that was funny as hell and proved that Google still hasn't really fixed that pesky little problem of googlebombing. The most recent one I came across has to do with the Ask billboards - you know, those billboards peppered throughout the U.S. that don't seem to make any sense at all?


Quite honestly, I don't think anyone quite gets Ask campaign - as a matter of fact, I can't quite figure out if that first one is a bit offensive to me or not, because I just don't get it. (Feel free to explain it to me if anyone else does).

About mid April Randall over at XKCD wrote a post about the Ask viral campaign and how so far it goes nowhere - Google it, and you get nothing from Ask about it. Instead, a bunch of blogs are as puzzled over the campaign as I am. Makes it a pretty crappy campaign so far.

So in the spirit of Googlebombing (sort of), Randall asked his readers to link to his blog using those billboards as anchor text, so when someone types it in, his site'll pop up. So far it's working fairly well - and it's not even really the "in crowd" of the SEO community participating!

This situation in and of itself isn't bad - it's actually pretty funny, and Randall's site is great, and definitely worth repeat visits. But it got me to thinking about the potential crap storm that the SEO community really could stir up if they wanted to. Really, if everybody worked together, we could probably get to the #1 spot in Google for just about any keyword.

Will this power be used for good? Hopefully. Will it be used for evil? Hopefully not. But it's why I always think about that whole "power corrupts" thing - if one well known SEOer came up with a clever way to beat out some company for the top spot in Google, it could easily be done, regardless of what the consequences would be to said company/website. Yes, I realize that a Google ranking shouldn't make or break a site, but the fact is, many sites erroneously build their profit/livelihood whatever you want to call it, on Google rankings.

Basically, SEOers could really screw a lot of people if they wanted to. For the most part, the community seems like a fairly peaceful and friendly one for as short a time as I've immersed myself in it. I mean shoot, even the idea of that much power has half of me cringing about the ethics involved and the possible consequences, while the other half of me is mentally rubbing my hands together and laughing maniacally at the thought of what we COULD do. Creepy.

Anyway, this is just something I've been thinking about, and I'm kind of curious to see if anyone
has considered the implications. I guess maybe I'm just a worrier....

Monday, April 30, 2007

Movin' on Up in Google SERPs!

Ok, I have the theme song to the Jeffersons' stuck in my head. BUT THAT'S OKAY! Why? Because is movin' on up for the keyword real estate leads (shameless plug, sorry) and I am just too excited about it!

I've been working on our ranking in Google for "real estate leads" for about 2 weeks or so and finally we made some (big) headway! When I started with this, we showed up on page 2 - usually somewhere between #15-20. Where are we now? FIRST PAGE BABY! And averaging about #7 or so to boot! Of course this handy Google Watch tool lets me search Google's datacenters to see see where we're popping up all over. So far we're staying strong from #6-#8.

I'm just so darned proud. So how did I do it?

Good question. Unfortunately, I've done several things with that keyword, and with SEO, sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint the one thing you did to get you higher up in SERPs (and sometimes, it's not any ONE thing). In this case, I think it was the articles I wrote dealing with real estate leads. They have useful content for website but more importantly, contain really great information for any real estate agent who wants to be successful. To get them noticed I sent them to quite a few article directories (linking back to GMHV's real estate leads page of course) and *poof*, lots of back links from relatively trusted sources.

I've also been spending time on real estate blogs and forums. And no, I'm not just posting to get my link in there - I only respond to posts with what I think is very useful information for the reader. What's my reward? Working in a link back to GMHV's real estate leads page of course!

I think mostly though, it's the article thing. Pumping out useful articles not only builds content on our site, but gives me the excuse to get my writing and our link out there to tons of directories.

Now I know some SEOs may not like those tactics, but shoot, they work for me. But I'm constantly searching for new angles to get GMHV links and work up up on SERPs, so feel free to leave any suggestions you may have.

**Quick side note - I did a Google search this morning and we came up #7, did it now, we're #9. Grrr. I'll have to see where we're at tonight from home**

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Social Media & Networks

So I'm keeping pretty busy with writing articles and building links for our Home Value page. But I still need to find time to continue researching SEO and new ways of helping GMHV get to the top of the SERPs. We've got some pretty stiff competition (frickin' zillow) so I think it may take a bit of time, but I don't see any reason why I can't get us up there for several keywords.

I'd like to take this week to dig a bit deeper into the social networks. I'm on Digg but haven't gotten to utilize it too much. I'm also on but I'm not so sure I've grasped the concept of that site. I assume I probably need to get more involved, do some networking, then hopefully people will check out my bookmarks. Personally, so far I'm liking Digg better. They even have a new(er) area to post podcasts, and my bosses do a weekly podcast together that winds up being pretty darn hilarious. I'm hoping to get them up there over the next week or two.

Anyway, I think Digg could have some real potential, unfortunately, the focus of GMHV is real estate, and Digg doesn't really delve into that topic too much. Anyone know of a Digg-like site that is more in the real estate niche? Yeah, didn't think so.

Then I'm sitting here thinking about MySpace. It took me FOREVER to get my own page up and the only reason I did it was so I can be nosy and check out people I used to go to school with (can we say "get a life?"). So as I was browsing my MySpace page - I realized that I could totally create one for GMHV and any other sites I'm working on!

Okay, okay, not a new or innovative idea - honestly, it's something I meant to do when I first started this position but I got distracted by learning! I have NO idea whether a MySpace page would help us climb the SERPs, but I definitely don't think it can hurt. So that's the goal for this week (besides lots of link building): create a MySpace page. It's a shame I was so anti-MySpace before, because I'm pretty sure my 10 year old nephew can come up with a cooler layout and profile then I can. Maybe I should talk to him....

On a personal note, my teeth are killing me but it will all be over soon! I'm just worried I'm going to OD on Motrin before I get to the dentist. I mean the bottle says don't take more than 6 caplets in 24 hours. Uh oh. I think I average about 12. Crap.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

I had to at least write a quick post because the whole thing just rocked my world. This was such a senseless, violent tragedy that I can't seem to shake it. I'm the kind of girl who can barely bring herself to kill a bug that's bothering her, let alone hurt another human. All those young lives...I mean, damn I just graduated college in 2005. I still feel young as anything, and those that died were younger than me!

I just can't comprehend what it is like inside the mind of someone who can so easily take a human life. My prayers have been going out nonstop to the students, families, friends, everyone involved in the thing. Even to the killer himself (though admittedly, at first I was angry that he killed himself, thinking he got off too easy). Now that a few days have passed, I think I just feel really, really sad for him. I just can't imagine the emotional and mental pain he had to be dealing with for it to result in the needless killing of over 30 people.

I will continue to pray for those involved and start thinking about other things I can do to hopefully help out.

On a slightly lighter side - I was kind of surprised that the dude turned out to be Asian - kind like the whole DC sniper thing, I TOTALLY thought it was some gun crazy white dude. Being a white girl myself, I guess I have some interesting stereotypes about my own ethnicity. Oh well.

I bet I wasn't the ONLY one who thought both those tragedies the result of an over-zealous white pro-gun lobbyist.

Not so Natural Link Building

So my main focus for this week has been working on link building for GetMyHomesValue and the keyword real estate leads (yes that right there is a shameless linking plug).

After reading MANY SEO blogs and tutorials of the experts...I'm pretty sure I'm a bit of a black- hatter. Ok, no, I won't say that. I think I will call myself a gray hatter. I'm pretty sure that I am engaging in link building tactics that true SEO experts may frown upon. But you know what? Tough shit. I'm new at this, I'm still learning a lot, and I'm sorry, but I just don't have the expertise yet to do all the little intricate things to get natural links (plus I don't have ultimate power over our websites, so anything I may want to seriously change, I need to get an okay from the boss men.)

So what have I been doing to build up links for the keyword real estate leads? Two words: articles and blogs (I guess technically that's 3 words, but whatever.)

So far, the easiest and most interesting way for me to build links and gain traffic is article writing. Why? Because I love to write. At heart, that's what I am: a writer. So it's nothing for me to take a few days, come up with like 5 different articles utilizing real estate leads and than submit them to a bunch of free directories. And you know what? It works. We've gotten more traffic on another site I wrote articles for, and even made some money b/c they used our affiliates. Will Google perhaps catch on to this and penalize me? I sure as heck hope not, b/c to be honest, I think as long as I'm providing useful information, there's no reason why I can benefit a bit by getting a back link. Maybe expert SEOers out there are cringing reading this but hey, when it comes to link building a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I'm also working on getting in the real estate blog community - possibly getting in on some forums, reading blogs all over the place, responding when I feel I have something interesting to contribute. And if I just happen to link to in the process, well, so much the better than. I wouldn't call it spamming, b/c shoot, I've got more knowledge to lay than half the people commenting, but yes, I wind up getting a link out of it. (And truthfully, when it comes to blogs, it's not the links so much as possibly getting the authors of the blogs to check out my sites - word of mouth advertising rocks too and if they like what they see, they just might blog about it).

Are these tactics considered black hat SEO? I don't think so, but again, I'm not the expert. I would say at the most they are "Light Gray Hat" SEO. Will they help GMHV? Will they hurt it? Only time will tell. (Crap, I REALLY hope they don't hurt it!)

I can only assume that as I gain more knowledge and confidence in the subject, I may be able to leave more questionable link building tactics behind. But we'll see. I'm a good girl, but I've always had a bit of a naughty streak lurking!!

Oh! One more thing. While checking out my normal SEO blogs this morning, I came across a GREAT post by Stuntdubl entitled The SEO Playbook: Welcome to the Rabbit Hole Alice - an AWESOME resource that you can tell he put a lot of time into. Lots of GREAT info and resources on link building. THANKS TODD!

Monday, April 16, 2007

How Do Paid Links Impact Google Search Results

Well, that seems to be the question over at Google. Matt Cutts has posted a couple blogs about paid links and how Google will be working on detecting them and figuring out what kind of impact they have on Google's search results. I'm not going to go into the details, just my take on things, so for more info, you probably want to shoot over to Matt's posts about reporting paid linking and hidden links.

I am in no way an expert on these things, but I like to think I'm getting more SEO savvy as I go, so this is my basic understanding of the situation:

First, the number of sites linking to yours have a large effect on you ranking in Google search results (but it's not the only factor by a long shot). So, if you can afford to buy a ton of links, congratulations, you'll rank #1 for your keyword(s). Now obviously, that sucks, b/c all it means is the sites with the most money will fill in the top ranks in Google. Google wants to make sure that doesn't happen (good for them) hence them requesting that webmasters NOT use paid links as backlinks, since technically, they're not "natural" links (no matter how relevant the site you're paying to link to you is to the subject of your own site). They would like paid links to be reported or for the linkers to put the nofollow attribute in the link coding so the spiders won't count it as a backlink. (You still with me here? I know the terminology gets old).

So if a webmaster does THAT, it means the paid link is strictly to get traffic to your site, not to help your ranking in Google search results. My honest opinion? That's bullshit (excuse my language). If I'm going to pay for a link, I want the best of both worlds. I want it to help my ranking AND get me more traffic and I don't care who knows it. There is nothing wrong with that tactic - when used in moderation.

It really always comes down to moderation. Should you purchase 1000 links to get ranking on Google? Probably not. Should you purchase several well researched, relevant links to both drive traffic and help out your rankings? Why not? You have every right to do it, and I don't see that as being "black hat" SEO tactics. Maybe a bit on the grayer side of white, but what of it?

Personally, I think Google is getting a little high handed - which doesn't surprise me, given the fact that the online community are the ones that gave them all the power. People - Google is not a monopoly - there are plenty of other search engines out there - not all are as good as Google, but they all have their features.

Don't get it twisted - I still love Google - it's the first SE I go to when I'm searching - I just don't want them to get too much of a God complex going on when it comes to the rules of determining what should and shouldn't be done when it comes to SEO and getting your website ranked on search engines.

Rather than try and do away with most paid links by getting them reported - why not figure out a way to separate those who use paid linking responsibly, from those who are just taking advantage. Granted, might be tougher than I make it sound, but Google's got a ton of great minds - I'm sure they can come up with something fair.

Monday, April 9, 2007

5 Important Tips on Link Building

I've learned some things about link-building the past few weeks. Most are probably fairly obvious, but it took a whole heap of research for me to come to these conclusions (there is a RIDICULOUS amount of SEO/linking tutorials/blogs/information out there).

Here's the top 5 tips that are in MY head when I'm thinking about building backlinks for my company websites.

1. Relevance, relevance, relevance.
If you're looking for pages to link to your site (case in point, I'm working on backlinks for, look for websites that have to do with the topic of YOUR website. GMHV deals with nationwide real estate and homeowners needs. I'm not going to try and get us linked on some page about the Amazon rain forest. There's no connection between those 2 subjects. I would however, try and get on any site about real estate (that's not a competitor of ours) and even spread out into homeowner related sites, like home improvement, furnishing sites, etc. Also, since we're nationwide and deal with real estate, it might be a good idea to look into sites about individual areas, like a county's website or something - the type of site a homeowner who's thinking about moving may want to look at. It's important to have relevant pages linking to you, but don't be too narrow in your focus on what constitutes a "relevant" site.

2. Trustworthy pages.
This is just common sense. If a site it looks spammy and really low-budget, chances are Google isn't going to hold it in high esteem, and therefore a site like that linking to yours isn't going to do much to improve your rank (and might wind up hurting it). Search engines are smart now: they know not to put too much stock in big ol' link farms. Your best bet is to look for quality pages, with good content and preferably, the longer they've been around the better.

3. Education is power and the Government rocks!
Okay, by that I mean if you can get any .edu or .gov sites linking to you, you're going places! These sites are very trustworthy and many have been around for quite a while, so SEs like them. If .edu or .gov sites are linking to you, than that raises your importance in the eyes of the search engines.

4. Reciprocal linking...*shrug* eh
Sure, it's good to have a links/resources page on your site, and yes, doing the whole "I'll link you if you link me" thing is okay in some instances, but don't rely on this as your only key to getting links. The best kind of links come from not even having to ASK for them - if someone finds your site so useful that they just link there on your own, THAT is a great link for you. Reciprocal linking has it's uses, but should be used moderately.
(I'm trying to overcome this one myself). Your site should be so useful people want to link for the sake of content, not just to get a link in return.

Which leads nicely into #5:

5. Content is key
If you don't have anything useful on your site, then really, what's the point? But if you've got unique or extremely useful content, that goes a long way towards just naturally acquiring links. Whether it's video, audio, a useful widget, great research, etc, your site HAS to have SOMETHING to offer it's visitors. Really. Or else the whole thing is just pointless.

Hope anyone reading this finds it useful - it helped for me to sum up up some key things I want to keep in mind when I'm trying to build up backlinks. There TONS of other things to think about and look into as well, but I think these 5 tips are a great baseline for where your head should be when thinking about getting links.

If anyone has anything to add, by all means, go for it!