Two events shape this posting. The first, WordPress plugin report this morning about a “comment” that had slipped through this blog’s anti-spam protections (but still won’t be published, because there is a second line of defence . . .) a link-embedded piece of pap that has absolutely no correlation or relevance.
The second, an observation that commercial news release sites may have been downgraded by Google, in another “tweak” of the algorithms aimed at controlling so-called “press release spam” — and reflecting a Google policy decision that links within news releases should, like advertising links on websites, be marked as “nofollow” so that they don’t give “juice” or credit in the search rankings.
(And, yes, I receive inquiries about once a week from offshore services offering to pay for links and advertisements, insisting that in return, we should ensure they have “dofollow” results.)
These observations may seem elementary to you, or they may be utterly confusing. If they are elementary, you have followed and studied the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). If they are confusing, then you have some learning to do, because SEO can be a minefield for the uninitiated.
Undoubtedly, the holy grail of effective marketing is to achieve first place ranking in a Google search for your relevant revenue-generating keywords. If potential customers are searching for your product/service in your area, and you are first in line in the search engine rankings, you’ll combine credibility with volume — trust levels will be high because of potential clients’ trust in Google rankings, while volume will also be high because of course the top listings receive the most click-through action.
Good stuff causes challenges. Google makes most of its money from paid advertising, and commercial businesses will do anything they can to get as much credibility as possible. The game playing between businesses trying to advance themselves in the search rankings and Google takes increasingly complex and challenging levels. The best practitioners study Google’s rules, watch for trends, and stick within the guidelines. Others play dirty — either trying “black hat” models to beat the intended search engine policies or, perhaps more insidiously, selling purportedly instant and effective results to gullible businesses seeking a quick-fix to their low search rankings.
And, sadly, many of these businesses use tricks (such as garbage embedded links) that went out of date (and have no adverse consequences) years ago, and others try to bend the rules that were changed more recently, but equally visibly — since as the issue of “nofollow” links on commercial press releases. In some areas, such as the requirement that publishers mark advertising links as nofollow, there can be some grey, ethical areas — I’m quite sure that I could, if I wish, sell a few spots with “do follow” links and get away with it — but if I built my entire site around that practice, the results would be penalized.
This blog won’t purport to give you the magic SEO answers. However, you can, in my opinion, elect to take two courses (I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating.)
Take a Do-it-Yourself approach, by simply posting great and worthwhile original and not-self-serving new content frequently, with some thought about the keywords you use and perhaps a reasonable number of internal links to useful resources and data within your site(s). In effect, don’t do anything obvious or artificial to boost your search rankings; just provide the kind of content that will encourage links to you.(You may gain traction in this regard by sharing good news stories about your clients, suppliers or community organizations. In my case, the Best Construction Blog competition provides value to both the bloggers and this site, because of the inbound links and traffic the competition generates.)
Pay well for well-recommended SEO consultants. Note this is NOT the stuff you see in spam emails, inbound telemarketing and the like. You’ll find these consultants most likely as speakers at relevant trade shows or conferences, or through referrals from reliable and successful businesses. My best advice to find the consultant you are seeking is to conduct Google searches for the leading business in your field in other cities, and then call them, as they are probably either doing things right in-house and can provide you some tips, or they are working with a good consultant who would not be in conflict to work with you.
Good SEO can be worth its weight in gold. Bad stuff, however, will cost you money, reputation, and your search engine rankings.