What is “bad” SEO

SEO writing on a windowThe Art/Science/Discipline (delete as you see fit) of Search Engine Optimisation, aka SEO, has many branches. However, the first decision is whether you are going to use best practice or try to “game” the system, aka cheat, to get the search results you need..

The SEO practitioners who cheat are known as “black hats” or “unethical” whilst the good guys are “white hats” or ethical.

Which you choose is up to you, however the impact on your business if you make the wrong choice, could be disastrous

How long does SEO take to have an impact on your website?
SEO takes time, months not days, not weeks but months. However, sometimes there are ways to “game” the system that can deliver results far more quickly. The downside is that they will be using something that goes against Google’s Best practice guidelines.

Yes, your website might rocket up the search engine results but, once your site has been identified as using unethical techniques,Google will apply a penalty

Google Penalties
Remember, Google does not have to list you anywhere, it’s of no real benefit to Google to have you in their listings and if you go against their guidelines you will be penalised.

Google is constantly checking results to make sure that the right sites are listed in the right place, to make sure that sites are not gaining unfair advantage and making sure that sites are not cheating the system.

In my experience, when caught cheating Google has three levels of penalty it can apply, depending on the seriousness of the “crime”.

  1. If it’s a relatively minor digression then Google may simply stop monitoring your site. Any updates that you apply to your site will be ignored which means your site will just slowly drift down the pages until your site effectively disappears.
  2. A more serious misdemeanour will see your site actively demoted, perhaps by 5 pages (for example). With only 10% of Google searchers EVER going beyond Page 2 of the results, if you are on Page 5 you may as well be on Page 100.
  3. Total deletion from the Google database. Remember, Google is under no obligation to you.

Google Search ConsoleThankfully, most issues tend to be (1) and (2) and Google will let you know before a penalty is applied and give you time to put a remedy in place. They do this through the Search Console. You do use the Search Console, don’t you?

Simply put, if you click on the “Security & Manual Actions” link in Search Console’s left-hand navigation menu, Google will have posted any penalties that it is looking to apply. You have about a month to resolve so you need to be checking every fortnight so that you have 2 weeks to resolve any issues.

How to overcome a penalty
If Google advises you that you have done something that goes against their guidelines and that they are about to apply a penalty you need to put a solution in place.

The first step is to identify what has caused the problem. Contact your SEO company and ask them what they have done and instruct them to undo it PDQ. If you have done it yourself then you need to undo the dubious SEO tricks that you have applied to your site.

If Google don’t tell you, how will you know that you have been the subject of a penalty
Over the 20 or so years that I have been doing SEO I have fielded a number of calls from business people (not clients of mine) which all went in the same direction.

“Hi Andy, I don’t know if you can help but yesterday my business was on Page 1 of Google search. Now I can’t find it, and I’ve gone to Page 20. What’s happened?”

What’s happened is that they have been hit, and hit hard, by Google and have likely been deleted from their database.

Another way to tell is through Google Analytics, if your web traffic falls off a cliff, for example – as shown in the Analytics grab below.

Google Analytics graph hit by a Google Penalty

 

If you receive notification from Google that they are going to apply a manual penalty then you have time to reverse the activity that was the cause of this warning.

If, however, you are like the people that have called me, and your site has simply disappeared it might be better to bite the bullet, buy a new domain name, build a new site and start again.

In many previous cases, I have worked with businesses to identify what went wrong, put corrections and rectifications in place and then tried to convince Google to relist them. When, after 6 months, there had been no change, my recommendation was to start again.

However, the last time I did this was a couple of years ago so things could have changed

Types of Black Hat Activity
Cheating has changed over the years. Back in the (very) early days of SEO, all that was required was to add keywords multiple times in the Keywords Meta Tag and repeat them multiple times on the page itself. So you’d have a page of content and them across the bottom of the page you’d see the keyword repeated many, many times.

Keyword, Keyword, Keyword, Keyword. Keyword, Keyword

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so the web developers realised that this looked bad so they changed the font colour to match the background so the visitor couldn’t see the text but the search engines could.

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so Black Hat SEO people simply made the font size 0. The text disappeared from the page, but was still visible in the HTML that could be read by the search engines.

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so the SEO folks went for keyword “stuffing”. Cramming the keyword in to as many keyword places that they keyword possible keyword could

The visitors didn’t like this and went elsewhere.

Next came Link Building and Link Farming. Buying back-links from websites that simply published lists of websites on thousands of pages, for a fee. These pages effectively looked like a phone directory where the only content was links to websites.

But Google didn’t like this and link farm users were likely to find them,selves deleted

So, the next technique was cloaking. Your web-server can differentiate between you and I visiting a website and a search engine. Black hat SEO folks learned this and created content that was precisely what the search engines were looking for and only showed this content to the search engines. It was a bit like putting a honey pot at the end of the garden to attract the wasps when you’re having a picnic in the garden on a sunny day

But Google didn’t like this and  users of cloaking were likely to find their sites deleted

How can you tell the difference between White and Black Hat SE Optimisers
If someone approaches you, offering to do your SEO and they guarantee to get you on Page 1 then I’d be inclined to avoid them. Nobody can guarantee this unless they are either

  1. Running a Google Ads campaign – but they should tell you this
  2. Running a Black Hat campaign.

If you ask an SEO agency how they will optimise your site, they should tell you what they will be doing. They should also tell you that they can’t guarantee results, just that they will use their skills and experience to move your site higher in the search results.

Avoid being hit by a penalty, give me a call to discuss ethical, White Hat SEO for your website by giving me a call on 01793 238020 or dropping an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

You’re thinking of PPC Advertising – but where should you place your money?

In my experience, when thinking about advertising on the the web, most people think of Google and Facebook Ads and that’s about it but there’s a wide range of Pay per Click (PPC) opportunities available and the key to success is deciding which are the platforms most likely to deliver the best results.

In this post I’ll be looking the top 8 platforms that you should think about,

  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Google Ads
  • Linkedin Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Yahoo Ads

Bing Ads

Run by Microsoft, Bing is the search engine that seems to be forgotten but is in daily use by millions of people. My experience is that clicks are cheaper than those from Google and frequently of better quality. It gets better because if you have a Google Ads campaign, Bing Ads have a tool that will import all of your campaigns at the click of a button.

Bing also powers the Yahoo Ad network so you’ll have the added benefit of your Ads appearing across Yahoo too.

Look hard and you’ll also be able to take advantage of £100.00 credit to get you going (there are terms, of course but essentially, it’s free advertising)

Facebook Ads

Facebook, largest Social Media platform on the internet. 2.2Bn users worldwide and about 32m in the UK so why wouldn’t you want to advertise here. Well, if you have something to sell to consumers then you should give it some thought. You can have image ads, text ads, video ads, sponsored updates and much much more. 

Not only that but you can target specific audiences and markets through the demographic data that Facebook hold, making it a far more targeted campaign than other platforms.

However, if you are in the Business to Business market, Facebook may not be the ideal platform for your ads.

Google Ads

Not the longest running Ad platform but certainly the most well established, the most popular and the one with the greatest reach, with more than 3.5Bn searches taking place on Google every day!

Google ads can be placed on Google, YouTube, the Content Network as well as Google Search Partners.

You can have simple text ads, image ads as well as responsive ads targeted at mobile phone users.

Google Ads is also a great way to waste money if you don’t think carefully about where your Ads are displayed, to whom they are targeted and the way your search words are formatted and used. Campaign management (either in-house or outsourced) is essential to get the most from your Ads investment.

Linkedin Ads

Linkedin is home to over 520m professionals and so if your business is focussed on selling things to, or providing services to, a business market place than Linkedin is the natural home for your ads.

You can focus your ads on almost any of the demographic metrics that Linkedin collects, whether geographically, job title, seniority, job role and much more.

Traditional ads are shown on the right hand side on your Linkedin home page and across the top whilst promoted posts appear in the newsfeed and hate works best are hints, tips and white papers.

Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is quite new to the paid advertising market but is rapidly catching up, as demonstrated by it’s initial valuation before going public on the 18th April 2019 at $19/share valuing the company at $12.7Bn.

With more than 200m active, monthly, users who are researching trends, looking for ideas and inspiration it’s an ideal place to sell “things” – especially if your target market matches the key Pinterest demographic with 70% of Pinterest users being women and 40% earning more than $100,000 or more

Twitter Ads

Twitter is used by 330m people every month and is recognised as a key source of breaking news. 

Unlike a lot of the platforms mentioned here, Twitter ads stay on Twitter and so can be particularly effective and remain fully under your control. Your ads can be simple text but photos work better and videos are event more effective.

Yahoo

Yahoo was one of the original sellers of search ads and was the model that Google based Adwords on. Yahoo still stumbles on as part of the Oath network (Yahoo, AOL, Huff Post and Tumblr). 

Yahoo has a partnership agreement with Bing which means that your Bing Ads will also be displayed on the Yahoo network (and vice versa) and your ads can be simple text, images, video and any other supported media across the network

Conclusion

There are numerous Ad networks fighting for your advertising spend. My advice is to start small, test AND measure. If, after a couple of months, it seems that one of the platforms isn’t working for you then stop and switch to a different one until you find the right platform for your business.

And, if you need any help, I’ve been doing this since 2003 so give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, initial chat to see whether I can improve your existing campaigns or help you launch something new.

More changes on the way from Google

On 24th May 2016 Google held one of their annual seminars, the Google Performance Summit and announced a number of changes to Google Ads, many of which have been driven by the streamlining of the way that Google Ads are displayed on Search Results Pages (SERPs)

1/ Longer Text AdsOld Google Ad
Previously, Google Ads comprised of a headline of 25 characters, 2 descriptive liners of 35 characters and a web address together with a “hidden” link that takes people to the most relevant page for their search.

Later this year, Google will roll out a new format, to enable Ads to make better use of the space they now have at the top and bottom of Google Search Results,

  • 2 Headlines, each of 30 charactersNew Google Ad
  • Single description line of 80 character
  • Auto Selection of most appropriate landing page (with a manual over-ride)

2/ Better Device Targeting
At the moment, you can target your Google Ads at Desktops (desktop and laptop computers) and Mobile devices (phones and tablets) by setting a bid value multiplier, so you could bit for a desktop keyword at £1.00 per click (for example) and use the multiplier to set a different bid value for mobile devices so, an Ad targeted at Mobile devices could have an 80% multiplier meaning that you’d be bidding £0.80 per click.

Later this year, you’ll be able to target each device uniquely by setting unique multipliers for phones and tablets

3/ Promoted Pins on Google MapsGoogle Ads Promoted Pins
With 1/3rd of all mobile searches being people looking for something in their area Google will be launching the ability to promote your business in Google Maps so that uses will see Promoted Pins along their route – or nearby.

4/ New Look Local Pages
Along with the ability to promote your business through Google Maps, Google are also overhauling their Local Pages so that you’ll be able to include more information, including product inventories, discounts and promotions to encourage visits

5/ New Google Ads Management ConsoleNew Google Ads interface
The current Google Ads management console is now more than 15 years old, New features have been bolted on and, as time has passed, the interface has become less intuitive and harder to understand and use. As a consequence, the Console is getting a complete overhaul and it’s likely that there will be a greater focus on Ads targeting Mobile devices.

As mentioned at the start, these changes are being rolled out this year although the changes to the Management Console are being rolled out more slowly and most of us probably won’t see the new interface before 2017.

If you are having trouble with your Google Ads, or just want it to work better for you, then please get in touch andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020