Break Free of Bad SEO Advice – Optimize for Customers

break free bad seo advice

Despite years of warnings from Google and especially from search quality guy, Matt Cutts, there’s a certain segment of internet marketing consultants that continue to give out bad advice:  SEO shortcuts, tricks and loopholes with manufactured content and buying links to gain an artificial advantage that runs contrary to Google’s Guidelines.  Complicating matters is the fact that large numbers of companies are taking that advice in their rush to win traffic and sales.

The result? Getting penalized, removed from the index or other consequences affecting visibility of their content in search. From the Florida update almost 10 years ago to the Panda and recent Penguin updates, it’s clear Google is committed to narrowing down what kinds of SEO tactics can have an explicit impact on search visibility in their quest for quality.

In my opinion the issue is not as much about complying with Google’s rules, but about managing risk and creating a sustainable marketing effort that bears fruit over and over again. The effect may be the same, but I’m in business to make our clients money, not Google. Serving our clients’ interest is #1 and since helping them connect with prospects and existing customers is the goal, our approach to optimization emphasizes customersas the priority over search engines.  That said, a focus on both is essential to be competitive.

Webmasters and website owners need to not only comply with Google guidelines (which can seem a bit ambiguous with advice like “create good user experience”) by avoiding spammy tactics, but those operating in a competitive category will need to think about how to create a competitive advantage without putting their online business at risk with Google’s increasingly conservative approach to SEO tactics.

To Google’s credit, they have done an increasingly good job of creating content for webmasters on SEO basics, like this recent video from Maile Ohye “SEO for Startups in under 10 minutes”.

But those are the basics and a better understanding of the integration of search, social and content is necessary to win in competitive markets.

Content and social media are important means to connect with customers that also results in rewards from search engines in the form of better visibility. Unfortunately, many SEO tactics that are focused on rankings objectives rather than customer acquisition and engagement limit social media participation to pushing content out through social media channels. In those situations, there’s less of a focus on creating engagement or community, which can actually produce the signals that search engines really value: content, interactions, sharing.  The good news is that many smart SEOs are educating social content producers on the use of keywords and other optimization efforts to improve visibility of social content within search. The win is to do both: optimize for search and social engagement.

Many SEOs are getting on board the content bandwagon, except the common approach so far is to produce “more” content or “great” content (what does that mean?) in order to cast a wider net within search results. This makes sense: The more web pages, the more potential entry points via search or shared links.  But how much more effective would those ranking-centric efforts with content marketing be if there was more consideration of target audience needs during the buying cycle? What about optimizing for customers and business outcomes vs. keywords and rankings?

The best SEO advice isn’t about SEO. The basis of the book Optimize and what we write about here at Online Marketing Blog is to combine best practices SEO with a more customer-centric approach to developing content.  With a strong base of purposeful content, bring in keyword and social media optimization strategically to reach business goals for any kind of content, not just getting products and services pages to rank on page one with Google and Bing. The outcome is a more efficient, effective and scalable online marketing effort that attracts and engages more customers through search and/or social, is risk free and helps grow social networks at the same time.

Successful search marketing isn’t about following the rules, it’s about creating your own rules that satisfy the needs of the market you’re doing business in to grow your own business. At the same time, it’s about managing risk and knowing what the boundaries are. Sometimes that means you have to push to see what pushes back. Ongoing testing and marketing program optimization will be your best source of information, not solely search engine guidelines or industry experts. There is a time and a place for any type of SEO, social media or other online marketing tactics. Just be sure to quantify or clarify advice that seems too good to be true and cross check with your own ability to test and analyze.



A Look at SEO Reports & SEO Analyzer

Last week we introduced a significant update to our Webmaster Tools. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a deeper look at the features we now offer to help you understand what they do and how to use them. For this week, we’ll start off with a couple of the new favorites folks seem to like. Let’s dive in and explore the SEO Reports and theSEO Analyzer.

It’s important to note the order we cover these in, as there’s some logic behind that.

We’ll run a scan of all URLs found in each domain verified in your Webmaster account every other week. This scan is filtered through our SEO Best Practices and is what’s used to build the SEO Reports automatically for you. As you navigate through these SEO Reports, you’ll find a list of URLs which we’ve flagged as having a particular issue. When you click on one of the URLs noted, you’re brought to the SEO Analyzer, which scans the URL you clicked and builds a real-time report of the issues we’re seeing for that one page. You should expect to find yourself at the SEO Analyzer when you start digging deep into the SEO Reports.

If you like, you can also go direct to the SEO Analyzer, bypass your SEO Reports, and ask the Analyzer to simply scan and report on the URL you type in. The SEO Analyzer is an on-demand tool which works in real-time.

It’s worth keeping in mind that when you want to see bulk details around SEO compliance issues, head over to theSEO Reports. If you need to test something quickly, use the SEO Analyzer.

SEO Reports

These reports are based on a set of approximately 15 SEO Best Practices. The reports will be run automatically every other week and be available through a webmaster account. They run the same SEO best practices as ourSEO Analyzer tool (more below), but for these reports we scan all domains listed in an account and build reports for each domain. Other than checking the reports for what should be looked at or worked on, there is nothing to do as this system does the scanning of all pages (that appear in our index) and reporting automatically.


Domains must be verified, though, as we can only provide data on the verified domains in a webmaster account. These reports provide aggregated counts of all the issues found, across the entire website scanned. Clicking on an item shown in the report takes you deeper into the SEO Analysis Detail, where we explain the issue and show the individual pages affected by this non-compliance with the SEO Best Practice.


SEO Analyzer

With approximately 15 SEO best practices in place, this tool will scan any URL you enter from one of your verified domains and build a report to let you know if the page scanned is in or out of compliance with each best practice. This tool is an on-demand tool which can scan a single page at a time making it great for checking new pages to understand where more work may be required. The user simply types in the URL they want scanned and clicks the Analyze button. The tool fetches the page, analyzes the page against our best practices and displays a compliance report in seconds.

· The left side of the page displays the SEO Suggestions based on items we found out of compliance with our Best Practices scan.

· Error Count tells the viewer how many items for that particular suggestion have been found on the scanned page.

· Clicking on any Description filters the view on the right side to showcase only warning “buttons” associated with the SEO Suggestion selected.

· The right side of the page displays a view of the site with the compliance items noted where they reside on the scanned page. They are noted by the colored “button” with the + in the middle. Hovering on any button will expand the button to explain the issue at that location. Clicking on Expand within the text box will expand the box to show the full explanation for the flag. Click the – symbol in the button to close the text box completely.

· Clicking Clear Selection clears the filters and displays the page view with all buttons present.

· Selecting Page Source across the top of the page viewing window on the right side will display the page code we found when scanning the page.

· Selecting Original simply shows the page we scanned as it would appear on the Internet.




Google’s Computer Brain Learns to Identify Cats

adorable cat wizard meme pew pew pew

It takes 16,000 computers working as a brain to tell if a cat is a cat. We know this thanks to an experiment to create a computer brain carried out in the Google X laboratory, where the machine capable of of recognizing felines was created.

The results of the machine learning study won’t be released formally until later this week, so for now we must be content with a sneak peek via the New York Times.

The neural network made up of 16,000 processors was let loose on the Internet and given the opportunity to learn. What it learned is what a cat looks like.

There is more to it than that, of course. After all, even a dog knows what a cat looks like. What else does it mean?

Despite being dwarfed by the immense scale of biological brains, the Google research provides new evidence that existing machine learning algorithms improve greatly as the machines are given access to large pools of data.

In their abstract the researchers said that the work will also have benefits for face recognition systems.

“Contrary to what appears to be a widely-held intuition, our experimental results reveal that it is possible to train a face detector without having to label images as containing a face or not. Control experiments show that this feature detector is robust not only to translation but also to scaling and out-of-plane rotation,” it said. “We also find that the same network is sensitive to other high-level concepts such as cat faces and human bodies.”

You can check out Google’s official blog post on the subject, “Using large-scale brain simulations for machine learning and A.I.


Bing Redesigns Image Search: Trends, Filters, Suggestions & More

SEO Bing Image Results

Just a day after a completely redesigned Yahoo Image and Video Search experience came out, Bing has announced their own new Image Search, complete with larger thumbnails, hover-over previews, search filters, search suggestions, and trending searches.

Image searches account for 7 percent of all Bing searches. Now the experience is more immersive, beautiful, and fun, according to the Bing Multimedia Team Program Manager, Jon Noronha.


A small icon depicting three squares of different sizes allows users to find different sizes of any given image. Once on the sizes page, users can hover to see a larger preview as well as the URL where the image is hosted. Choosing a picture and clicking through allows users to preview the entire page it came from (see details below).


Clicking on an image from this page takes users to a second preview pages, with different image sizes arranged in a horizontal bar across the top of the page. A warning box lets users know that selecting an image will take them away from Bing and to the site at which the image is hosted.

Bing Image Search Filters


Users can filter Image Search results by the following parameters:

  • Size: All, Small, Medium, Large, Wallpaper (default)
  • Color: All, Black & White, Color Only, or choose specific tones
  • Type: All, Photograph, Clipart, or Line drawing
  • Layout: All, Square, Wide, or Tall
  • People: All, Just Faces, or Head & Shoulders

Filters can be combined to drill down to specific image types, and reset, as necessary. SafeSearch controls still appear in the top right and can be used to set Strict or Moderate search safety levels on Image Search.

Other Image Search Page Features


Related searches are suggestions that appear in a vertical right sidebar, as thumbnail images with the query in text beside them. Users can also link to See All Trending Searches (which is also the default view for the home page, as seen above) from the bottom of this list.

Below Related Searches, users can view their search history, which can also be cleared or turned off from this area.

At the bottom of the page, users can find links to Privacy & Cookies, Legal, Advertise, About Our Ads, Help, and Feedback, but infinite scrolling means they move down the page too fast to actually catch them and click on them.


The infinite scrolling issue corrects itself once users click through to an image. On the actual image page, users can preview the entire page on which the image is hosted before clicking through, as seen above.

Image Search Latest Component in Bing Redesign

“We hope the new look will entertain, inspire, and inform you about the world,” Naronha wrote in the blog post announcement. “Give it a spin, and then come back to see all the new features,” which seems to indicate more changes are in the works.

The Image Search redesign is the latest is a number of aesthetic changes at Bing. On May 2nd, they launched their new, simplified search results page layout. Shortly after, Bing introduced a new three-column layout, with snapshots and a social sidebar.

The new Image Search didn’t revive Visual Search, which Bing began phasing out last fall.


8 Ways to Find Old URLs After a Failed Site Migration – Whiteboard Friday

In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, we are going to be going through some different ways you can track down old URLs after a site migration. These tactics can be incredibly useful for new clients that have just performed a redesign with less than ideal preparation.

I’ll be presenting eight ways for you to track down these old URLs, but I would love to see some of your own methods in the comments below. Happy Friday everyone!

Video Transcription

Greetings and salutations SEOmoz fans. My name is Michael King. I’m the Director of Inbound Marketing at iAcquire. I’m also iPullRank on the SEOmoz boards and on Twitter.

So today what we’re going to talk about is eight ways to figure out old URLs after a failed site migration. I know you have this problem. You get a new client, they just redesigned, and you have no idea what the old URLs are. They didn’t do 301 redirects. They have no idea what the social numbers are anymore, and you have no idea where to start. Well, I’m going to show you how.

Now one of the first tactics you want to use is the Wayback Machine. You just put the site in there, the URL, the domain, what have you, and see what it has in that index. Once you get that, you can easily just pull off those URLs on the site through the links using Scraper for Chrome or whatever tool you want to use. You can actually pull down a code and pull them out using Find and Replace, whatever you want to do. That’s just one of the tactics that we’re using.

A lot of times people will also not change or update their XML sitemap. So you can just download that XML sitemap and then open it in Excel, and it puts you in these tables. You can just take that first column and copy and paste it into a text file, open it in Screaming Frog, and then crawl and list mode to see if those URLs still exist. Anything that’s a 404, that’s a URL that you can use, and you can easily map those ultimately to the new URLs on that site.

You also want to use your Backlink profile. When I say that, I don’t want you to essentially use one tool, I want you to use as many tools as possible. So definitely start from Open Site Explorer. Also use Majestic, Ahrefs, whatever you want to use, and collect as much link data as possible. Also Webmaster Tools has your links, so use those as well. Then crawl all those links, all the targets of those links and make sure those pages are still in existence. All the 404s, again, you know these are old URLs that you can then redirect to new pages.

Then you also want to check the 404s from Google Webmaster Tools and map those pages to new pages as well. Then you can also use analytics. So pull your historic analytics from before the site redesign and find all those URLs and see which ones are still in existence. Again, go back to Screaming Frog with list mode and make sure that they’re 404ing or 200ing. The ones that are 200, you don’t have to worry about. The ones that are 404s are the ones that you need to remap.

Then you can also use CMS Change Log. So, for example, when you make a change in WordPress to a URL, there’s a record of that, and you can actually pull those URLs out and use those again for mapping.

Then, for those of you that are a little more adventurous, you can go into your log files and see what URLs were driving traffic before it. Same thing as what you would do with the analytics, but just from a server side standpoint rather than just your click path stuff.

And also social media. So people share these URLs. Any shared URL has equity beyond just link equity. So you definitely want to make sure that you’re pushing those social shared numbers to the right URLs that you’re mapping towards, and I wrote a post on that on Search Engine Watch for how you can do that. But you can use the Facebook recommendations tool. So it’s not really a tool. It’s a demo for widget that goes on your site. But essentially, you can go through this tool and put in the domain name, and it’s going to give you all the shared URLs, all the shared content. The way it comes in the box is it’s 300 pixels tall, but if you expand that to a 1,000 pixels, you’ll see the top 20 pieces of content that were shared. So real easily identify a popular URL that you can then redirect.

Also you can Topsy the same way. If people have tweeted these URLs, you can just put that domain name in there. It’s going to search for them. It’s going to give you all the URLs that Topsy has indexed. You can also use Social Mention, any social listening tool you can use the same way. And then also social bookmarks, so things like Digg, Delicious, and such, look and see what people have actually shared and bookmarked for your site.

So that’s a quick one. Hope you guys found that useful, and I’d love to know how you guys have found this to be worthwhile. So holler at me in the comments down there, and thanks very much. Peace.

Introducing Yahoo! Image and Video Search Re-imagined

With the World’s Most Recent and High Quality Photography from Getty Images

Searching for images and video on the Web should be the most visually stunning experience possible. After all, sometimes a photo or video can tell a story better than words.

Today, we are taking Yahoo! Image Search and Video Search to an eye-catching new level. Through an extension of our partnership with Getty Images and some reengineering (and redesigning) of our multimedia search experiences, we are delivering a more timely experience, supported by the most recent, and often never-seen-before content.

That’s right, thanks to Getty Images, Yahoo! Image Search will have access to some of the highest quality digital images on the planet. And these are not just any photos, they are the crème-de-la-crème, from the collection of more than 20,000 new Getty Images added every day by Getty Images’ award-winning network of photographers. Of course we also help people find top quality images of the very latest headline news, sports and entertainment events within minutes of being taken.

Optimizing Your Results – New Image Search and Video Search Results Pages

With this amazing influx of new content, we thought it was only fitting to juice up the entire experience. So we’ve introduced awesome new features to help people take a closer look at the images and videos they want.

    • Thumbnail Viewing Experience –Users can now get a fantastic thumbnail viewing experience of images and videos. The new search results page sports a neatly tiled look, with each image and video squarely sized, then becoming larger when you hover over it.
    • A New Video Search Results Page, with preview on hover and continuous scroll

The new Video Search results page introduces continuous scroll, and each video equally sized, then becoming larger and playing the preview when you hover over it.

  • High Quality Badge & Latest Filter – We have introduced two prominent filters on the left rail to help you find the highest quality and most recent images. For images, the HQ badge identifies photos with at least 2 megapixels and a 1024 x 768 aspect ratio. For Yahoo! HQ videos, we use adaptive streaming technology to optimize your viewing experience by continuously adjusting the quality of the streamed Yahoo! hosted video to match the capabilities of your network and device. The Latest filter allows you to discover the most recent photos and videos available on the Web, so you can always keep up to date.

  • Search While You Watch – For those of us interested in a lot of different topics, we now have a “search while you watch” option, to search for a video without going back to the search results page. For users who want to look at interesting video search topics, clearing of the search query on the full image page now shows recommended & trending topics to provide them with an experience of continuous discovery.

  • Full Screen Viewing – Since we have built on the power of the HTML5 browser, we’re now providing a full screen option and cross-device support to help you discover the content you are looking for more easily.

Now more than ever, it’s easier to discover the images and video you are looking for on Yahoo!. We could not be more excited about these enhancements, and so is the Getty Images team (check out their post). Give us a try next time you want to find top quality images and video.


12 Questions to Ask a Prospective Link Building or Contact Marketing Client

If you’re an SEO/SEM/inbound marketing/content marketing agency that offers link building or content marketing services independent of other services (such as keyword research, a technical site audit, etc.), you’ve probably gotten an inquiry from someone who wants “link building” services but isn’t exactly sure what that entails.

Obviously, if a prospect has a very specific request (i.e. they know that they want X guest posts placed per month or Y articles created and promoted), that’s easy enough to figure out, but what if they have a list of target keywords they want to drive more traffic around, and they are asking for “link building” while expecting you, the vendor, to help them sort out what they need?

Questions You Can Ask to Help Structure a Link Building Proposal

There are some core questions we’ve found to be helpful in customizing a proposal for someone who is interested in link building services in one of two core areas:

  • Goals & Budget – There’s almost an infinite number of things you could potentially do for a site under the link building and content marketing “umbrellas.” By understanding the specific goals and budgetary constraints of the client, you can better comprehend the tactics that will help you get a desired result.
  • Internal Resources – Understanding what resources the potential client has available can help you determine which tactics will be possible and where you might be able to leverage existing internal assets to help the client achieve their goals while conserving budget.

Goals & Budget

  1. Are there any specific goals we should be aware of (i.e. you’d like to increase organic traffic by X% by Y date, or you’d like to rank well for the following terms, etc.)?
  2. How many different keywords and/or pages are you planning on targeting?
  3. Will the link building efforts be focused solely on your core site, or do you have microsites you’re also planning to target?
  4. Do you have an idea (even a range) of where you’d like to be in terms of budget?
  5. Is there anything we should know about current traffic levels, value per lead, or conversion rates as we’re evaluating the opportunity for you? For instance, if you’re converting traffic at 1%, and each lead is worth $10, then for us to be a profitable expense for you, you’ll need to get around 100 additional unique visitors for every $10 spent.

Internal Resources

  1. What sort of content resources do you have in-house? Do you have people who could write a blog post or an in-depth guide that would be compelling to writers/bloggers in your niche?
  2. Is there any content you have (PDFs, brochures, engaging videos, interesting charts, graphs, etc.) that is primarily informational that you haven’t previously promoted online? Some things we commonly find are really in-depth guides on topics that are in PDFs, but they haven’t been “pitched” to bloggers, or a tool or widget or calculator that you have on your site that you haven’t done a lot of promotion around, etc.
  3. Do you have any development resources in-house? Mainly, we want to know if there’s someone who would have the bandwidth to develop a free tool or widget.
  4. Do you have any graphic design resources in-house? One tactic we may want to leverage would be data visualizations (a.k.a. infographics). Is there someone who could execute on a design concept?
  5. Do you have any video content or the capability to easily create video content?
  6. Do you do any industry studies or surveys?
  7. Are there any hurdles to publishing content on your site that we should be aware of?

Depending on the prospect and the conversations you’ve had with them, you may not need to include all of these questions. And, of course, depending on the client and the services you’re offering, you may consider asking additional questions beyond this list.

The main thing, though, is to try to create a framework for gauging as quickly as possible exactly what questions will get you to a detailed proposal that will allow you to get the client as close to their goals as possible with the budgetary constraints they’ve outlined.