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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Google Jagger Update - Reciprocal Links Killer

Google's latest update, named Jagger by Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld, appears to have dropped site rankings dramatically of those that relied heavily on reciprocal linking schemes and especially those that gained most of their inbound links from limited networks of sites controlled by single companies. Some firms routinely sold those links or marketing firms that had provided links from their own network of sites to clients.

This type of artificial link inflation has clearly been downgraded by Google in the Jagger update and many sites participating in extensive purchased links as well as marketing network links have been dropped dramatically in rankings of competitive phrases they previously did very well for.

Some of my own clients that had extensive reciprocal linking schemes in place have dropped in rank quite seriously. They naturally come running to me to ask why. When I point to their reciprocal links directory, full of non-relevant reciprocal linking partners, they can barely believe me that it would drop their rank so severely. When I remind them that I had very early in our relationship suggested that they drop those link directories from their site, it is difficult NOT to smile while saying "I told you so" to them.

One client had recently agreed to a substantial writing project to add extensive copy and additional textual material on their industry and products to their site. They were ranking on page three of results at Google previous to the Jagger update and I had convinced them that that position could be improved by adding about 20 pages of focused and highly relevant copy to their site. I completed that project a few weeks ago and we're waiting for review and editing for the new section to go live.

Meanwhile, Google completed the Jagger update and this same client has dropped dramatically in rank for their most coveted keyword phrases. Why? They had been participating in a large link agreement with a single network of sites - a network that was not relevant to their industry or their products - but with thousands of links throughout the network pointing one-way links to them using anchor text with their keyword phrases included. Now that network has been recognized in the latest Google algorithm changes and the client site is no longer rewarded for those thousands of links. They lost their page three position and have dropped entirely off the charts.

But - and I'm smiling here - as soon as we go live with the 20 new pages of highly relevant and focused copy that I just completed for them, I'm sure they'll bounce back in the rankings as soon as the new section is indexed and ranked where highly relevant and useful copy belongs. This will clearly demonstrate the value of that added copy and is likely to guarantee that we continue with the additional 30 pages of valuable industry and product content I had previously recommended. More industry focused and highly relevant content means better rankings.

I've long insisted in my online ramblings that reciprocal linking is a form of insanity. Thankfully, now Google has agreed and clients are returning to have me save their position on the SERP's. We'll first do what I recommended several years ago and begin seeking one-way inbound links from relevant vertical directories, industry news sites and client partners and vendors. Then we'll add substantial relevant textual copy - both original content and industry news, how-to's and reviews contributed by partners and vendors.

Once they bounce back in rankings due to the added content and new worthwhile links, I'll be smiling again along with my clients. Maybe they'll believe me more readily when I tell them not to look for quick fixes and easy answers. Because it's more expensive and time consuming to do things well (add relevant content and seek one-way inbound links) than to look for the latest simple tricks to game the system.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Google as Tool in Criminal Investigations

This linked story from the Durham, N.C. News site discusses how police tracked a suspected murderers Google searches, which he apparently used to research killing his wife and how to dispose of her body. The single case itself is not terribly relevant to search engines, but is a clear indication of the importance of search to every aspect of our lives. Now it appears that anyone who owns a computer will have their Google searches monitored when they run afoul of the law.

It is not too far of a stretch to imagine that every police department, government agency and investigative body looking at anyone accused of crimes will check searches done by that person or company online as a routine part of forensic criminal investigation.

The ease with which a persons interests and actions can be tied to internet searches done at Google (or any search engine) is clear. It seems that Google could probably launch a criminal investigation arm tied to computer forensics and be profitably employed by law enforcement agencies. No doubt that bad guys who own computers will use them to research bad deeds in advance.

An addendum, since I wrote this last week ... New York Times Editorial piece suggests that Google should make users more aware of how their information is used and with whom it is shared. This case may attract further attention from the press now that the NY Times has shined a spotlight on the Google privacy policy, which allows law enformcement to access the data at Google with a warrant, yet the person being investigated has no access or control of that same information on themselves.

We have Google Base, Google Analytics, Google Talk, so... Google Forensic Investigations anyone?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cross Selling SEO by Web Designers & Developers

I occasionally have clients ask if I do web design, and I say no, send them to partners that do web design and move on to the next SEO/M job. I often have developers or web designers call asking if I'll partner with them because they have some clients that have asked them about SEO/M and they don't want to do it themselves. I agree, send them one of my marketing page promotional bits and give them a 35% markup on sales of my services to try sell SEO/M to their clients. But only very few actually come through with those jobs because they aren't good at selling SEO/M and usually underestimate the cost to their clients. They don't understand the value themselves so aren't very good at convincing anyone else to spend money on it.

Long story short - you gotta specialize.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dress Codes in SEO

I recently attended a Search Engine Watch Forums Live event at Disneyland hotel and got to see a couple hundred SEO's or so in attendance. Just as at most conferences and events, most wore business casual, a very rare few a wore suit and tie. Don't recall seeing anyone in full dress power suits or flip flops and shorts with Hawaiian shirts. The linked headline above leads to a Search Engine Watch forums discussion of dress codes practiced by SEO's and it ranges the full spectrum.

I'm talking with a corporate client tomorrow and will look forward to seeing the dress code in that office. Most California clients I've visited at their corporate offices walk the middle line. I'll be wearing slacks and sweater under a sport jacket for this first meeting, as always. But my daily commute to the living room and my computer is usually sweat pants and t-shirts. SEO dress code? Hmmm.

Searching for Search Engine Marketers

This headline is linked to a story from where a relatively long article discusses the rising importance of professional "in-house" search marketers being scouted and hired for both corporate and consulting positions at Search Marketing firms across the country.

Interestingly, there is a quote from a company that competes with a client of mine. While I am doing quite well in positioning that client - it seems the competitor is using a staff of FOUR to attempt to best me. I'm managing a campaign for organic SEO as well as a PPC campaign for this client and it seems we're doing pretty well against them. ;-)

I quickly pointed this out to my client in order to make them feel better about the energy and commitment (read budget) that it is taking to beat these guys. I hope my own client realizes how well I'm doing for them when they read this story. I know that I've met and even exceeded some of the goals set for the search positioning campaign we started two months ago.

But the article overall points out some interesting things for SEO and SEM specialists. We're hot property when it comes to recruiters and headhunters. While the six figure income numbers mentioned for some SEM department heads and SEO managers sounds a bit wild, there is no doubt that we're worth it to those companies who have the foresight to hire us and take our advice - whether that is for a short run up to Christmas sales or long term search positioning campaigns.

I'm looking forward to my upcoming vacation next week to keep me sane, because work has been seemingly endless for the past 6 months and I can sure use the break. Who would have ever thought SEO could become so important to business success even just a few years ago?