Three tips for SEO success: (Houzz.com, tricks, spam and more)

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Glen Allsop
Glen Allsopp discusses how Houzz and some other large sites are stretching the SEO rules here

I hesitated briefly before accepting the link from what appeared to be a spammy email promoting SEO tricks. And I’ll still hesitate in recommending the site or even providing the publisher with a backlink here. But, in the midst of the blogger’s assertions that big brands are winning the cat and mouse game with Google about SEO tricks and techniques, this gem from Glen Allsopp at viperchill.com’s blog caught my eye because he discussed Houzz’s success in SEO and asserted the renovation/decorating site (that has become the go-to social media place in the remodelling space), is up to some sneaky tricks with its SEO that might, on the surface, seem to go against Google’s backlink manipulation controls.

He suggests that several other large corporate players are up to tricks that would probably result in severe penalties for smaller guys, resulting in another couple of questions about where and how you should risk taking more extreme and unconventional techniques within SEO strategies.

This advice rings rational:

I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions (I’m primarily writing this for new visitors to the blog) that I advise you to build another site in the industries you’re targeting and really push the boundaries. Don’t jeopardize a 5-year old website with great branding because some ViperChill guy says the Google guidelines don’t mean shit. Try out “greyhat” tactics on your new domain and see what happens.

You may just be pleasantly surprised. There are a lot of flaws in the Google algorithm at the moment, not limited to how to recover a rankings penalty in 2-3 days and get hundreds of thousands of pages indexed quickly (which rank).

In light of these observations, at least one of my blog’s SEO competitors appears to be doing some interesting things, with three distinctive, but (to me clearly related) sites feeding off of each other, and apparently pushing them to the top spots on Google for my own relevant keywords, “construction marketing.”  (You, like I, might not notice this sort of stuff if you look simply at your own search results — remember Google will take social media and other signals and send you the results “you” are seeking. You need to get around this stuff by using a third-party proxy server and have a look at what the results are, either unfiltered, or in a broader or different geographical space.)

So, what should you do with these observations My views here continue to be to preach caution with search engine optimization trickery unless you (a) really know what you are doing or (b) wish to live very dangerously.

There’s enough scammy and scuzzy stuff out there about “we’ll help you with SEO”, and enough bad and outmoded advice floating through the spam-sphere, that you will almost inevitably discover the first, second, or even third thing you read or hear about what to do, or not to do, is absolutely wrong and counterproductive.

However, SEO strategies which I believe will work include:

Play it by the book. Write great content, relevant stuff, update your site/blog frequently, and retain your integrity. Be pure. Be good. Be honest. You’ll probably do better than the quick-fast-cheap-cheat competitors, and you’ll almost always retain a healthy place within the SEO universe, if you are patient. (The blog here may not be number one, but it still ranks highly enough, and our regional publications certainly do well in their niche markets, also.)

Experiment and risk on a separate site. I would advocate keeping things totally separate, possibly even operating your “grey hat” operation on a second server. Be especially cautious about your backlinks to your main site, but try things you think might work. Yes, to a certain extent I am doing some things with “blast emails” (spam? . . .don’t kill me) hosted on a separate site/domain) that if I were a pure good guy, I would consider to be downright evil.

Contract for support with people you really know and trust and can prove their experience (and generally I think you’ll meet these people offline) AFTER you know the basics of what you are doing, and what you should not do.  That is one of the longest “header sentences” I’ve ever written, but it shows the challenge of finding support and guidance in the SEO space. You cannot/should not believe anything you read in inbound spam messages or from unsolicited telemarketing calls, and you should be wary of joining the bandwagon just because friends, competitors, or some guru who writes a daily blog tells you to do this or that. But you may be able to judge the experts if you have some expertise yourself — and you are able to validate this perspective with other, expert advice.

So, I’ll give Glen Allsopp and Houzz a free backlink or two here, but your best SEO bets may rest in a combination of your own content quality, creative experimentation, and thoughtful selection of relevant consultants and advisors. Play it by the rules. Experiment with the boundaries (safely, if possible). And be thoughtful about who you listen to for advice. These are my three tips for SEO success.

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