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Trying to build links with the threat of a Google Slap

It’s ridiculous how much time can drift by before you realise that you haven’t posted anything to your blog for two – no, three years. Well, time has moved on and so has my involvement with SEO and website promotion. What used to be more of a hobby – an additional bit of experimentation to offer clients who came to us with their website projects has well and truly morphed into an essential element of our website development offering.

Gone are the days of saying ‘we’ll do basic on-page optimization as a matter of course’. Now it’s pretty much expected that the website is going to rank highly for the client’s chosen keyword or key phrase. Nothing like a little motivation to get you cracking.

For quite a while we worked in conjunction with a local SEO firm to develop the online presence of The Contract Chair Company, a hotel and restaurant furniture client of ours. With the development of a new sister site, COCCO Home Furniture which sells contemporary furniture for the home online, so our involvement was ramped up – but with as much of a focus on content creation and development as traditional link building and social media activity.

Google has changed their algorithm so often and unpredictably that it has scared a lot of people into doing very little. The distinct message from Google is that if you set out to manipulate your Google rankings, you can expect to be penalised for it. What were once perfectly acceptable websites to get a link from suddenly became toxic. Suddenly, websites that ‘owned’ a niche found themselves precisely nowhere – and sometimes slapped with a penalty,

One of our clients had the misfortune of trusting a less-than-reputable SEO company with their link building and ended up getting slapped so hard by Google (with literally thousands of un-deletable toxic inbound links) that there’s a chance they’ll never recover. Even with the relatively recent introduction of the Google Disavow Tool which gives us all a little hope that there may be a way back, it is definitely marketed as a tool of absolute last resort – and there are some more cynical folks who believe that it’s just a way for Google to identify sources of bad-practice SEO activity.

There’s always the graffiti analogy that I like to use to expand on this: An advert was put in the paper inviting local graffiti artists to meet up to demonstrate their artwork. Lots of people arrived and they were all encouraged to sketch their tags to demonstrate their style. In doing this they confirmed their identity and the source of all the graffiti in the neighbourhood. They were arrested and charged.

Anyway, enough doom and gloom. If nothing else, it actually encourages me that it’s not all about link building anymore – it’s more about link earning. This suits me better – I despair of all the unsolicited e-mails and worthless, spammy blog comments sent my way that demand links from my websites. The links that I add are almost always to site content that I either like or find very useful. Why would I want to carpet bomb people with the same trash that I despise? OK – it’s going to be harder work, but the results will be enduring and worthwhile.

I hope.

Postscript: Literally as I have been writing this post I’ve come across a new article on Linkedin that signals the rolling out of yet another Google Panda Update. (See how that article just got a natural link from me? All the author had to do was write an article that I actually wanted to read…)

Posted in Building Content, General SEO Posts.

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Action Steps for Launch of Berthon Website

With the launch of our latest (huge) website for Berthon Boatyard I decided to put some solid link-building action steps together to assist with future launches. Usually with link building there is so much to do that unless you followed an ordered path, the process is chaotic and not much is achieved.

The action steps just taken are:

  1. Add website to Google Webmaster Tools and submit XML sitemap
    The creation of an XML sitemap as well as an HTML sitemap is recommended by Google. In the case of the Berthon website, I undertook keywork research for every page and was careful to write a considered, relevant META heading and descriptiion for every one of the 80 or so pages. This was enormously time consuming, but necessary.
  2. Add Google Analytics to every page
    I tend to create a new Analytics account for each client so that they can log in to check progress without seeing all my other Analytics websites. Analytics is very useful, if a little skewed. Only viewers with Javascript enabled show up in the results.
  3. Update Tinstar Site Blog
    After adding the project to our studio portfolio, I added a post to our WordPress blog pointing the user to the new project page, as well as the new website itself, always using keyword rich links where possible.
  4. Update Twitter Post and announce web event
    Use to include links
  5. Add relevant blog post to
    The launch of the site has relevance to my highly ranked training website because it will lead to new tutorials based on some of the Javascript functionality used in its construction
  6. Add links to Delicious, Digg It, StumbleUpon
    Again, if the links are relevant and of interest, it’s worth adding links here.
  7. Go to the Facebook Company Page and add a link to the wall
    Tinstar has a Facebook account with a single page for links and updates about relevant company stuff. It’s easy to add a link here and it automatically populates with possible text for a description.
  8. Add link to DMOZ
    Select a relevant category and take time to write a pertinent description. I’ve had mixed success with DMOZ – some sites appear quite quickly, whilst other sites (no better or worse in terms of type, content and style) seem never to get a look-in. However, a very worthwhile link to get if possible.

These have all been crossed off my list now, so the next step will be to track progress via Analytics and look into more link building ideas. The same needs to be done for the other site which launched this week, Linssen Yachts.

Posted in General SEO Posts.

New Landing Pages for The Contract Chair

One of my regular tasks is to add new landing pages to website. The website is primarily a huge product database, so the addition of useful content is essential to develop traffic for the website.

Today’s task was to add info-guides for stacking chairs and upholstered chairs. The process I go through (after putting the pagfe together according to my client’s brief) is to do some keyword research based on what has been written on the page.

For stacking chairs, I used the Google Keyword Tool to analyse the phrase ‘stacking chairs’. The top result was exactly that, but I selected ‘stacking chair’ as the seed keyphrase for the page. It had lower demand, but also lower supply, so my chances of getting traffic on it should be higher than the most popular phrase.

I then selected a few additional keywords to scatter about the page and META tags.

Once the page had been assembled, I always move to my favourite tool, the SBI Page Analyzer. I enter the page information into the form piece by piece, from the title of the HTML page to the keywords, headline and body text. I then run it and generally come up with something which looks like this:

SBI Analyzer Results - needs work!

SBI Analyzer Results - needs work!

What I love about this tool is that it tells you exactly what you need to do to improve the page – down to how many instances of the key phrase you need to add or remove in order to achieve best results. This tool is actually a part of my SBI account which controls, but I occasionally use it to test pages on other sites of mine – it works just as well.

There’s a fair bit of speculation about the value of keyword density and how best to populate META tags – but the SBI method has worked really well for me, so this is the one I trust.

Once I’ve tweaked the page appropriately, I run the analyzer again and get the magic result:

What I like to see

What I like to see

This is more like it. Once I get to this stage, I publish and move onto phase 2 – updating the sitemap and submitting the site to DMOZ in my monthly effort to get this site listed! It’s become a mission…

Posted in Building Content, Keyword Research, Page Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization for my Internet SEO Blog

Now that my blog has got well under way and posts are coming thick and fast, it’s time to let Google know about it. So far I have done nothing to promote it, so here’s where I’m going to begin.

To kick off, I’m going to take the following actions right now:

  • Submit the blog feed to Feedburner
  • Bookmark the site in Google Bookmarks
  • Bookmark it in Digg
  • Bookmark it in Delicious
  • Announce the launch in Twitter using the #seo tag
  • Create a sitemap and add it to Webmaster Tools

That done, we’ll see what it did for the traffic tomorrow! We’re starting from zero here…

Posted in Link Building, RSS Feeds.

Link Building for New Forest Tourist Website

Today I contacted the authority which governs the New Forest National Park (whose website has a PageRank of 5) on behalf of my site. I’d love to have a link from their site to mine, but my request simply asked if they’d be interested in seeing my map of the forest boundary markers which I made last year.

New Forest National Park Boundary Marker

New Forest National Park Boundary Marker

The New Forest has almost 50 Douglas Fir boundary markers (designed to resemble a stylized oak tree) marking the perimeter of the National Park. As an excuse to have lots of day trips around the forest, my family and I tracked down and photographed as many markers as possible. I then created a Google map of them using exact GPS coordinates to plot them onto the map.

I’m certain that this hadn’t been done before, and certainly not as extensively, so I’m hopeful that I might gain a link from the NPA website… time will tell.

Posted in Link Building.

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Book Review of Get to the Top on Google by David Viney

I’ve just finished “Get to the Top on Google – Tips and Techniques to Get Your Site to the Top of the Search Engine Rankings – and Stay There” by David Viney, ‘The SEO Expert’.
I thought I already had a fairly good idea of the kind of work involved in getting good search engine rankings, but I still devour books like this, hungry for new ideas and methods.  The book delivered validation of my current SEO activities, a few new ideas to try, and some different approaches to simple tasks, like naming pages and styling page titles more like breadcrumb trails than headlines.

David Viney certainly seems to know what he wants to achieve with this book. The title alone (as shown above) reads like an over-optimized landing page – and his methods must work, because if you type get to the top on Google into Google, the top result is a landing page which sells this very book, unsurprisingly.

Viney also heavily promotes his subscription-based SEO Expert Services website throughout the book. There’s a monthly fee for members, although purchase of this book gives you six months free. The coupon code required for this free period of membership can be found on page 3.

So the book is designed and written to make money through cross-selling and self-promotion – not that this is a bad thing – I mean, anyone reading a book like this is more than likely to be doing it because they want to make money online by promoting their website. But more important than this is the fact that the book gives very good advice to readers aspiring to be SEO experts.

Search Engine Optimization is a Seven Step Process

Viney’s SEO methods centre around a seven stage process which if followed in order, will deliver good results – assuming you’ve done everything correctly. The basic steps are:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Making your site easy for search engines to find
  3. On-page search engine optimization
  4. Building links
  5. Paying for additional traffic
  6. Optimizing a site for a geographical area
  7. Analyzing website traffic and search engine results

The chapters are organized according to these steps and there are case studies and plently of links and pointers along the way (and we are often reminded that there are many more to be found on the SEO Expert Services forum).

Book Summary in a Sentence

If I were to summarize the basic message of the book in a single sentence, it would be as follows:

Once you’ve identified your broad subject, undertake exhaustive keyword research to identify your niche (using plural keywords wherever possible), use Google Webmaster Tools to submit a sitemap, write your page with easy navigation and your chosen keywords in mind, get as many links as possible leading to your site from websites with as high a PageRank as possible (being careful not to upset Google by buying links), and then analyze your results using Google Analytics, tweaking the site until your traffic ship comes in. 

For Search Engine Optimization beginners, this read will be fantastically useful. It gives information on everything from keyword research techniques to on-page optimization, how to find and solicit good quality links to your website, how to make your website appealing for search engine robots and much more.

What it doesn’t do (quite rightly) is tell you how to create the most important ingredient of all – good quality, original content. It suggests places to go to find articles which have been written for your chosen niche, or to find people to write on your behalf, but if someone is looking for a single magic answer to how to get to the top of Google, you won’t find it here. That’s because no such answer exists… not one that’s ethical, anyway.

There’s no single thing you can do to get your site great search engine rankings – no big green button to push. It’s all about hard work, time and effort. As Viney says, (in so many words), SEO is like throwing mud at a wall. The more you throw, the more will stick – so throw as much as possible.

Essentially, this means don’t pay too much attention to forums that say ‘the ALT tag is a waste of time’ or ‘the META keyword tag is now completely ignored’. Viney says pay attention to everything – because even if it’s a tiny part of the whole process, it’s another bit of mud to throw that just might stick.

For intermediate internet marketers, the book has a great deal of useful information, resources and a couple of eye-openers. Again, there’s nothing mystical about SEO – it’s mostly common sense. The reason most people fail is because it’s such hard work and so time consuming.


An easy-to-read book with a lot of useful information and resource links. Excellent for beginners, a useful reference for intermediates, but probably not too much new information for experts. When reading it, I felt almost as if I was chasing a golden goose through the pages as I turned them, only to find that it had never been there in the first place. But that’s not the fault of the book – that was just me being lazy. I want SEO to be easy; but it’s not.

Posted in General SEO Posts, Keyword Research, Link Building, Page Optimization.

Good Search Engine Result Using AddThis and Google Bookmarks

Just under four weeks ago I added a new article for my drumming website. This was part of a big optimization push I was carrying out on the site after leaving it to stagnate for a while. After doing some keyword research I found that a promising phrase was ‘how to tune a drum‘, so I optimized the page for it with the help of my SBI Site Builder Analyzer.

In addition to on-page optimization I added a social bookmarking tool, AddThis, and then added the page to Google Bookmarks. After a couple of weeks the page appeared third down on page two of Google for my chosen phrase, and the listing looked like this:

How to Tune A Drum. Good for Bass Drum Tuning, Snare Drum Tuning …
If you want to know how to tune a drum, this is a simple article about snare drum tuning, bass drum tuning or tom tuning. Remember to use more than one drum…/how-to-tune-a-drum.html - Cached - Similar -
Making drums sound good. ]

The square-bracketed phrase underneath: [Making drums sound good] only appears if I’m logged into my Google account, because the [Making drums sound good] phrase was a label I had given a bookmark to this page within Google Bookmarks. It’s hard to be certain with Google, but I am reasonably confident that my adding the page to Google Bookmarks helped the ranking of this page.

The other good results was after looking at the Analytics attached to AddThis, the page had been bookmarked 9 times by visitors to the site.

Good progress.

Posted in Building Content, Link Building, Page Optimization.

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Adding Videos to YouTube for Content and Link Building

YouTube is a great way to get content embedded on your site, and simultaneously get good rankings in Google. I just added some video clips to the Sabre 27 Owners Association channel so that I could embed them on the Sabre 27 Rally report page, which I update a few times a year.

It’s the first time I’ve used video and this link-building technique on this website, but for proof that it works, type hair cutout in photoshop and you’ll see a couple of results for at (or near) the top which used this simple technique. It also works for other video sites like Metacafe.

Basically, all you need to do is upload a video (ideally relevant to your content), and then copy the ‘embed’ code into your HTML so that the video appears on your page. Click on the bottom left YouTube logo to view the video on YouTube. After you’ve done this, a link to your referring page will appear in the list of ‘Sites linking to this video’ (I think there are a maximum of five in the list with the highest ranking referrer at the top). It’ll take a short time for the site to register in the list.

I uploaded another video (for my drumming blog) and created a referring link like this about a week ago, and within two days the link showed up on YouTube and then was in Google shortly afterwards.

Posted in Building Content, Link Building.

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Wordtracker Free Keyword Suggestion Tool

If you haven’t already found it, the Wordtracker Free Keyword Suggestion Tool (which is a Firefox plugin for bloggers) is really handy. I’m using it as I write this post, although I’m trying quite hard not to let the page look as if it’s been optimized for search engines! Failed in this paragraph, obviously.

The tool is for simple keyword research, and based on the content of your post or page, it’ll suggest keywords that are relevant, show how many people have been searching for it and how many times the keyword appears in your post as you write it.

The tool can be found at

Posted in General SEO Posts, Keyword Research.

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SEO Books I Just Bought

Not everything can be found online, and I love to read. I just ordered these three titles on recommendation, so I’ll update this post with my reviews. Meanwhile, feel free to review them if you know them.

  • Get to the Top on Google by David Viney
  • The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
  • Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day by J Grappone and G Couzin
  • Posted in General SEO Posts.

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