Tag Archives: Search Engine Optimization

The Google Farmer Update Impact

adword-confusionTwo weeks ago and just then tweaked last week by Google, the Farmer algorithm update clobbered a number of website in regards to organic search placement. There was complaining in all the major webmaster forums. In fact the complaints were so loud that at the end of last week, Google announced that it would tweak the update to minimize that had been felt on many legitimate websites.

It is not unusual for Google to tweak an algorithm once it was launched. Several years ago an algorithm update was so serious that it started the naming of updates. It was called Florida. It has become famous in my sphere for screwing up placement on many, many websites. Google has gotten better about including web professionals in their updates. Although we’ve only received advanced notice on one algorithm update in recent history, it is not uncommon for Google to release an algorithm and then tweak it based on the blow-back from pros in the industry.

For our clients, we did not experience significant drops as this change was really created to drop the placement of scraper sites, those with duplicate content across the Web, and sites that are not actively catering to readers. If your website has dropped from this important update, now’s the time to very carefully address your content creation strategy and create a systematic way that you are building thoughtful and informative content for your readers.


Paying Monthly for SEO Services? What Exactly Are You Getting?

Now that you have had your website optimized and you are improving your organic search placement, it’s time to ask your service firm exactly what are you getting for your monthly service fee.

It is not uncommon for a business that has had optimization done by an SEO firm to be paying a monthly service fee of anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars a month. But what are you really getting for this monthly service fee? Do you even know?

For $300 a month times 12 months that’s $3,600 a year, not an insignificant amount of cash, it is important to know what you are getting. To find out, it is key that you ask the right questions to evaluate the answers in order to identify if this expense is warranted or is just an income stream for your SEO firm that they are hoping you will not challenge.

Here are the pointed questions you should ask your own SEO firm:

  1. What is my monthly fee paying for? If this is for link work, how many links did you get me last month and the month before?
  2. If this is for your code to remain on my web page and is just a monthly subscription fee to keep the code there let me know this clearly. What happens when I stop my services with you?
  3. I understand that no one can pay their way to the top of Google so if I am paying you $300 a month and $3,600 a year exactly what am I getting for my money? Anything?
  4. If you say you are tweaking my code weekly or monthly for my $300 investment. I would like to see what tweaks you actually did last month and the month before. Were these done only to my home page?
  5. If I stop my services with you what exactly on my home page will be changed if anything?

Pretty pointed questions if you ask me, but questions that you as a business owner should ask and know the answer to, to make sure that you know exactly what your SEO investment is doing. It is important for you as a business owner to know that many SEO firms have this model for pricing and that they do not do much on a monthly basis to help you retain or improve placement after their initial work is done. This is an income stream for them and they just hope you are not asking the questions to pin them to the wall to really tell you, if they even will, exactly what they are doing monthly for you for this payment.

I would be highly surprised to hear that the things that an SEO firm does to earn the $300 for a monthly subscription fee is actually worth the actual cash value if your webmaster billed you by the hour to do the same things. Especially if your SEO worked does not include blogging, content creation, or any changes you can notice on your website. You may simply be paying $300 a month for a “feel good” report at the end of the month to encourage you to continue to pay monthly services.


Social Bookmarking Not My Favorite Way to Boost SEO

I do like social bookmarking for some clients as a way to build one way inbound links, but I feel that there are better ways for other clients. Social bookmarking works great to build links for website and blog content that is timely, well written, and a hot web topic.

For the majority of business sites that focus on their own services, more mundane topics (although they could be of interest to a specific audience), social bookmarking may simply be too much trouble for the results that it generates. One big caveat is that if you have a well developed social bookmarking profile and many followers, you may have much better success than just opening an account and starting to bookmark away.

I find that if you are going to really invest time in building links a faster more sure way is to write article pieces and syndicate them on newsletter and content sites for others to grab while keeping in your bio block and link information. Even better is to see if you can guest write for a professional organization in your industry. The key here however is that any article you provide must be informational in nature and not focused on your own particular services.

Do I feel that social bookmarking has a place? Yes, absolutely, but it is labor intensive and best used for certain topics, content, and specific clients.


Sometimes SEO May Not Be Right For You

Sometimes SEO source code optimization of a website to improve organic search placement may not be the right choice for a project. In some cases content creation for the website, blog writing, and a focus on Google Placements (Google Maps) may be a better use of funds.

Organic code optimization of a website may sometimes run over $2,000 to $3,000 – and that’s for a relatively small website. When keyword research shows very little volume of searches on keyword targets and the client sells in a local geographic area, spending cash to optimize may simply not be a wise investment. Especially when the keyword targets in a very specific market don’t show statistically in the keyword research.

In this case, a program of content revision and creation with a focus on location additions, blogging with location targets, and work in Google Maps may actually generate the results the client really needs and be less expensive.


Help My Meta Description Has Been Hijacked!

This is a real case study and has happened recently to one of our clients. We present it as a cautionary tale to anyone who has dropped significantly in Google search results.

We follow the organic placement for this customer on a monthly basis. This past month we saw that on many of his important keywords he had dropped totally off the radar screen on Google. Additionally in the Google Webmaster control panel in the brand new keyword section word were showing up for his account on casino, blackjack, and gaming.

I closely reviewed his website and any insertions of code and saw none. The client and I got with the web host to review any problems, there were none. Then when the client was reviewing Bing, he saw that his meta description for certain pages of his website mentioned gaming and casinos. This was serious.

I started doing research on the hijacking of meta tags and found on Webmaster World another person who was asking for help to resolve a similar situation but over a year ago. The savvy response was that there was code inserted and cloaking had been done to deliver a page for search engines that no one else could see.

The client got with Network Solutions and a security tech was able to identify that there were two files in the clients WordPress blog that had been altered. One was a 404.php file in the current theme template directory and the other was hidden in this directory: wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/spellchecker/classes/utils/utils.php.

If this ever happens to you make sure to check these two places first. The tech support person at Network Solutions said that using a script like this allows the perpetrator to deliver content just for a search engine on any page they desire of your website.

Man, was that a wakeup call! What a nasty situation! What was even stranger was only certain pages in the website had been targeted. The home page and then just some of the inside directory pages.

Now I don’t know if this client’s site was just randomly targeted or if a sneaky competitor in his highly competitive field was stealing his Google placement, but what I do know is that to me the attack was invisible. I tore up the site looking for code and there was none. I never thought to look in the blog as the blog we had confirmed was not affected with the malicious meta tag problem.

Needless to say we have enabled some serious security, changed all the passwords, and destroyed the code. This example can be a lesson to any person with a website who has experienced and unusual and significant drop in Google. But most telling of all is the brand new tool in the Google Webmaster control panel for popular keywords is an excellent heads up if you have a problem.


To Pipe Or Not To Pipe – That’s | In Meta Tags

Confused about using | in your meta tags?
Confused about using | in your meta tags?

What I am talking about here is whether you should use pipes or | to separate your keywords in your Meta title tag. Some SEO gurus swear by it and others blow it off. I have used pipes and not used pipes on websites and do not have a strong preference one way or the other but for my own website I do not pipe the Meta title tag.

That being said for mature sites where we have a narrow list of keywords I have used pipes and gotten excellent improvement in organic placement. The best tip I can offer is: if your site is new don’t pipe. If your site is mature and you have had good placement previously but have dropped lately, try pipes to get a boost that may help you organically.

The big key on whether to use pipes or not is the nature of your keywords. If you need a wildcard match or have a number of phrases and word combinations that you want to place on then I would stay away from pipes. You only have 80 characters or so in the title tag and so need to use every character well. If your phrases are only one to three words and you have only one or two try piping the title tag to see what happens.