Good Links, Bad Links, You know I’ve had my Share…

With the Pandas and Penguins running amok… everyone is now going backwards like crazy, going backwards with respect to trying to have their links removed from other sites.

Reciprocal links, begging for links via E-mail, the sneaky “3-way” – we all know about those “tactics”. Now people are asking, pleading and begging for their links to be removed! Another *omg-the-algorithm-has-been-updated-knee-jerk-reaction* – we even have the Disavow tool which some think may harm your site rather than do what you’re wanting the tool to do! I’ve even seen companies that claim they’ll remove links from sites that you (or the company) deem undesirable. We’ve gone a full 180! Didn’t we used to pay companies to add/find (mostly bogus) sites that our link would go on????

I sometimes think the people at Google are sitting back and laughing when they make one of their announcements *do this, do that, no do this… wait that might be bad*. They lead SEO’s around by their ear and make us jump through hoops. I’ve thought for years Google didn’t like “us types” but it depends on who you believe. I have my own thoughts on that but we’re sticking with links for now.

Bad, Bad Links!

When you read about links, the acquisition and quality of, you’d typically think that an unnatural link as a “bad” link. Ok, that makes sense… In my opinion if you’re going out of your way in order to help boost your sites in the search engines, it’s probably not a good practice. Before the PR tool was released, you’d naturally link to a page because it was related to your site content and you were providing your users with additional information. For instance, if I had a site about Siamese cats, I might link to other Siamese cat sites naturally. I wouldn’t ask for a link back as I just wanted to supplement the information I had already provided on my site, just another resource related to my existing topic… Again, since the PR tool was rolled out, it just became mad-crazy with people asking for links, asking for reciprocal linking, 3-way linking, etc. When something gets out of hand with SEO practices Google steps in and deems what’s *good and bad*. That’s when updates like Panda and Penguin starts happening. That’s when people start scrambling around before the dust settles. Ah Google… it’s their sandbox so we play by their rules.

What makes a link bad?

Depends on who you talk to. Links from unrelated sites, links from pages with no related content, links from pages full of unrelated links, link farms. Those would be your top culprits.

I read this today:
Why Do You Want Your Link Removed? – which is a great article. I found this part especially interesting:

Some of the characteristics of links we are trying to get rid of MAY include:

-Links from websites with no contact information.
-Links from websites with no privacy policies.
-Links in content that has been duplicated elsewhere.
-Links with artificial or pointless anchor text that really shouldn’t be there.
-Links from pages that may no longer be indexed by Google.
-Links from websites that we believe may themselves be penalized by Google
-Links from pages that are strictly “sales oriented” and serve no other purpose
-Links that exist merely due to a financial arrangement of any sort.
-Links from websites and pages that may be considered to have “thin content”.
-Links from sites/pages with unnaturally low or no inbound links of their own.
-Links from sites/pages with an unnaturally high number of inbound links.
-Links from sites/pages that are using suspicious “on page” SEO tactics.

I’ve never really been a link builder or explored that avenue. I can’t see sitting all day and acquiring one link for a days work. They’re are people that are masters at this area of Internet Marketing (better them than me!) – let the bullfighter fight the bull!

27 Things That Help and Hurt SEO

Let’s look at the common things, many of which are often overlooked or shortcuts taken.

What to pay attention to:

Title tags
Meta Descriptions
Clean URLs
Images and Alt descriptions (also called alt tags)
H1 tags
Social sharing options
Unique content
Depth of content
Matching content type to visitor expectations (text, images, video, etc.)
Usability Page load times (to a certain point – faster is great, but not at the expense of usability and usefulness)
Crawlability (AKA discoverability, so can we actually get to all your content)
News – if you are actually a new site, submit for inclusion

What to skip:

Meta Keywords (fill them in if you like, keep it short and relevant, but not a big ranking factor)
Duplicate URLs
Overly long URLs (no set number, but you’ve all seen these)
Cloaking (comes down to your intent, but risky business for sure)
Link buying
Selling links
Link and link farms
Three way links
Duplication content
Auto following in social media

Full post in the Bing Webmaster blog.

Keep your Pet Phrase on a Leash!

Pet PhrasesPet Phrases, the thorn in my industry. Clients sometimes have the unrealistic goal of ranking on ONE phrase and ONE phrase only – their “Pet Phrase”. If that phrase isn’t on the first page of Google, then in the client’s mind, their site = epic #fail! Ugh! As you can read here, having your eye on one phrase and judging the worth/efforts of your SEO campaign is not only an unrealistic goal, but isn’t what SEO is all about. A Pet Phrase can be a subset of a realistic more SEO savvy goal, but one phrase when I have thousands to play with??? Come on! That’s just not what we do.

As Jill Whalen put’s it (a industry rock star who’s been in the biz since day one):

No SEO company in the world will be able to help you unless you are ready to forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need.

Remember… you hired US to be YOUR experts… your pros! When we do keyword research to see what humans actually type in a search engine, it’s for a reason and why you pay us very well.

Case and Point

Client had a pet phrase and considered their whole SEO campaign a TOTAL #fail. When you look at the referring keyword phrases for the first month after on-page SEO, there was a whooping 32 unique referring keyword phrases. Jump ahead 6 months and we now have ~5000 unique referring keyword phrases. These are phrases that your site didn’t have traction on before you came to us. Not #fail. The unique visitors increased and the contact form was filled out a good amount of times. Just because you’re not #1 for “my fuzzy purple widget” does not mean the project has failed. You simply need to be educated on what to expect and how to interpret your metrics. Learn what a true goal is and how to lead your potentials TO your goal. Your pet phrase should never be the focus of your organic search engine optimization efforts because in all actuality, people are using many more, many different phrases to find your site. SEO beauty.

The Goal

This end goal of optimization is to create an awareness in the search engines for your site – yes, this is what we do, bring more potential clients/customers to you. In fact, we bring more people to your site on phrases that you’d never even consider. This happens due to what I call the *black box of phrases*. YOU are the expert at what YOU do and most of the time you use an industry specific jargon (whether you realize it or not… it’s not a bad thing as long as you keep in mind that there are other phrases that people think of when looking for your products/services). Regular Joe (or Joette) doesn’t know your industry well nor the jargon you use… but they KNOW WHAT THEY NEED. Be prepared for a wake up call when you look at the phrases that were searched upon that led to your site… it’s a real eye opener (and fascinating to geeks like me)!

When you become a client of ours, you’re sent a focus list and a business analysis form. You fill out what you deem are important phrases to your industry; phrases YOU want to rank on. Don’t get me wrong, those phrases are IMPORTANT but sometimes they don’t have a high search volume. Enters SEO copywriter. Your gold, your secret weapon. After thorough keyword research (based upon the focus list you filled out) we determine the BEST phrases for your site in order to accomplish your goals (more traffic, more clients, more purchases). If we were to optimize a site for Pet Phrases alone, all projects would probably be an epic #fail.

The “Mix” Tactic

One way to make EVERYONE happy is to do a mix of tactics:

1) get client ranking on their pet phrases (even if the search volume is nil)
2) get client ranking on phrases that people actually search on

Keep in mind that if the pet phrase happens to be extremely competitive (highly competitive != highly searched upon!) it will take some time to achieve traction in Google. We can work with the researched phrases and utilize our tried/true methods to get you that traffic while working on the efforts of the pet phrase. People have the NEED to see their pet phrase (no matter how bad of a choice it is) on top of Google. Hopefully, we’ve educated our clients to understand the difference between wanting that pet phrase and obtaining ranking on great phrases that’ll bring them new clients.

Managing client expectations is critical during the initial stages of an SEO campaign. We’re not miracle workers, but we’re pretty darn close 🙂

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed off a list of referring phrases to a client only to hear them say “people actually search on that??”. Yes! Yes they do! In fact Google claims that 20-25% of the phrases people search on have NEVER been searched on before. That’s HUGE! Do you want to miss out on all these phrases? Of course you don’t! With good copywriting you’ll find yourself ranking on phrases you’d never imagine and then some. Yes, these might be long tail phrases, but they’re phrases someone searched on and found YOUR site; they were looking for YOU. Collectively, these phrases bring you a lot of very valuable targeted traffic (and typically these phrases have a higher conversion rates because they’re so specific) as people are searching on exactly what YOU offer. That’s what it’s all about!

When you put an ad in the newspaper (are those still around?) there are thousands upon thousands of eyeballs that glaze over your ad EVERY DAY. They aren’t looking for your services and may never need your products. Heck, they might not even understand what you do (like my mother!) However when someone searches on:

Chicago Accident Lawyer

they’re looking SPECIFICALLY for JUST THAT. That type of phrase will drive targeted traffic to your site and there’s no other advertising medium in the world that can do the same thing (much less track it!)

So please, next time you get in a ruffle about that Pet Phrase, step back and look at the big picture. That’s the one that matters. If your sites gets 5000 unique visitors a month yet doesn’t rank #1 for that Pet Phrase, we’d call that (in Charlie Sheen terms) WINNING.

Other articles about *Pet Phrases*

Is Your SEO Campaign Out of Focus?

Search Engine Optimization – Are You Optimizing For the Wrong Keywords

Ranking Reports – Useless??

I started a new page to archive information about ranking reports and I got to thinking [cue scary music] that the information was probably important enough to create a post about it. This way you’re aware of the new material 🙂 because I know you’re all out there waiting with baited breath.

Here’s an excerpt from the new Ranking Report page:

If a client’s rankings were to tank [which IS natural and WILL happen as all rankings fluctuate. The index is a DYNAMIC beast, not a STATIC one, that has a set of “rules” that also change over time], it would prompt me to perform some checks on the site, run some test, anything but a knee jerk “WE GOTTA CHANGE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW” reaction. Rankings certainly aren’t the end-all be-all when it comes to assessing the success of a site like they once were. Yearrrrrrrrrrs ago it was the only tangible thing you could show a client. Now we have all kinds of goodies to give them. Stats! Joy! When you analyze ALL of your site information (metrics, stats, signals, data) you’ll have a much better understanding regarding the overall “heath” of a site; something you can’t get from looking at a ranking report. SEO isn’t about ranking on that ONE VERY IMPORTANT PHRASE THAT “I KNOW EVERYONE IS SEARCHING ON”. Our jobs #1 is to EDUCATE THE CLIENT. Explain why it isn’t good to rank on *fuzzy yellow widgets* [their pet phrase] and instead rank on a phrase that has a good search volume, one that will bring TARGETED TRAFFIC and hopefully a new client/customer! Teach them about personas/scenarios – everyone does NOT search the same way. When you’re in that box you’re going to miss a lot of possible clients outside of the box that search COMPLETELY different than you and I. And trust me, they do. When you’re on the front line of keyword research, you realize just HOW differently a collection of people search for the SAME THING.

The rest can be found on the new ranking report page.

Rewriting Articles to Avoid Duplicate Content Issues

SEO CopywritingThis is a going to be a cool post. One of my favorite clients has written HUNDREDS of articles about what he does… he’s an international motivational & keynote speaker, and pretty darn successful at it too! He works well with me as a client because he *get’s it*. He understands the hard work that goes into search engine optimization and asks ALL the right questions – joy! Joel understands there’s no magic button, although I wish sometimes there was! If I could make *it* happen any faster for my clients – trust me I’d be all over it 🙂

Joel recently approached me about publishing his articles across different areas on the Internet. He wants his articles *out there* as they’re very helpful and informative in his area of expertise. The Keli “SEO-Red-Flag” ❗ went up… my first thought was duplicate content (remember folks, it’s a filter, NOT a penalty!) How could we make his articles “work” for him across different areas on the Internet? We discussed “unique content” and “unique articles” – after all, if Google has already indexed a copy of his articles, why should Google give ranking consideration to the same article in a different location?

His question to me:

“How different does my article need to be in order for it to be considered unique?”

WONDERFUL question Joel… and it beats me! I have no idea…. you’ll see articles everywhere discussing how unique your content should be but they don’t define “how unique” and to what capacity that uniqueness should be. One article mentioned that articles should be “50% different/unique” – but what the heck does that mean??? I’m a mathematician and understand percentages but I don’t have the gift/art of creating compelling copy for search engines yet this “50% unique content” idea kinda blows my lid a bit.

I don’t do much copy writing at all, for reasons you can probably already pick up on, but Joel does and does it well. He has a copywriter he depends on that needs to be up to date on *our* latest practices – he wants the most bang for his articles. His copy is GOLD – very informative, unique and very niche. He understands that he should create his copy as his keyword research dictates. The problem is… how to make all his wonderful articles work across the Internet, in different areas, in such a way that it’s not hit with the dup content filter (not penalty folks!)?

Joel did some research and came up with the following guidelines for his copywriter. Guidelines on how his articles should be *re-crafted* in order to be considered *unique*. He wants his message out there and wants it to work for him. It’s a wonderful list and makes sense to me. With his permission, he allowed to publish his research findings below (and yes, I even recreated his content to make it unique for myself!)

Tips for Rewriting your Article to Avoid the Duplicate Content Filter

In order to make your articles “count” in more places than one, when publishing around the Internet, they need to be somewhat “unique”. Unfortunately, there’s no numerical explanation or definition of the word “unique” when it comes to writing articles. You’ll see mention around the Internet that your articles should contain at least 50% “new content” for the newer article.

The idea is to turn 1 article into 2-3 articles based upon new concepts and/or angles related to the original article while maintaining some of the initial ideas and messages of the original article. Whew!


• Read the article first so you have an idea of what it’s about. This helps with the rewriting process.
• Make an outline of the original article. Take the gist of each paragraph in order to help put together an outline. Proceed to make a new article based on that outline, repeating only words or phrases that are quite essential to get your point across (be sure to include your original keyword research in strategic, key areas!)
• Review the original article and select 3-4 non-developed ideas that exist in the article.


• Reword and insert your own thoughts into the new article.
• Include facts, quotes, stories and statistics.
• Create a “Call to Action” at the end of the new article.
• Change the headline to include your researched keyword phrases.
• Add subheadings appropriately, users skim when they read!


• Rewrite each of the sentences (structure and formation).
• Rearrange the sentences of your new article in a logical way.
• Changes words, phrases, and sentences (use a thesaurus or look at other sites).
• Use synonyms to come up with new words that help to rework your sentences.
• Add new opinions, comments, phrases and sentences to your rewritten article.
• Change the order of things you list out in your articles (ex: Poppies, Zinnias and Marigolds are popular flowers to plant outside. Could be written as, These are some popular flowers to plant outside your home: Zinnias, Marigolds and Poppies).


• Write a new paragraph around each of the non-developed 3-4 ideas found.
• As long as it makes logical sense, swap the order of your sentences and/or paragraphs.
• Review each paragraph-can you convey the same idea with different words?
• Select a paragraph and turn it into a list of items. (Helps with the human scanning bit too!)

There’s your recipe, ie “cookbook” instruction set for creating new, unique articles based upon existing articles in such a way to avoid the duplicate content filter while at the same time getting your message out there in multiple places. If done properly this “could” help your overall SEO efforts of your main site if you utilize your articles correctly with researched keywords in your anchor text… but that’s a whole new post!

Thanks Joel!

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