Link Exchanges And Reciprocal Links – Important?

Every day, I get emails from someone or other, in regard to any one of the web properties I have or that I manage for clients, asking me for a “link exchange.”

In the “good old days” .. as in way way back.. think 1997…1998… yes, link exchanges were pretty popular. That was what the internet was all about.. I will link to you, you will link to me, and internet surfers might click on and discover the great information we have for them!  Sounds good, right?

Not so much today. Link building through link exchanges or reciprocal links pretty much means nothing. There are just so many websites out there, and going to a page with tons of outbound links on it..will you be clicking on everyone of them?  I doubt you’d click on more than a few. And if you don’t find what you are looking for, you’re going back to Google or whatever other search engine you were using in the first place, to try to find some webpage that answers whatever question you have.

Yet today, I still get emails from so called “link builders” asking me for a reciprocal link to their website. They promise me that if I link to them, and they link back to me, that this will be helpful to me in the search engines. This might fool some people that don’t know anything about SEO, but it doesn’t fool me. If you get an email asking you for a reciprocal link exchange, you should probably just ignore it.

Often, these promises of a link back to your site are pretty deceptive too. In their email, the person requesting the reciprocal link from you will provide you with a url to a page on their website where your link to your site will appear. Except, the url is not linked anywhere from their site. It’s just a “lost” page on their site that is unlikely to be found by anyone. Even worse, they may also have that page marked as ‘noindex, nofollow’ which tells the search engines to basically ignore it. So, they get the “link juice” from your website, and give nothing back in return to you.

Although there is nothing wrong with reciprocal link exchanges where there really is value for visitors to your website (and the website you are linking to to provide their visitors with a link to your site) in some circumstances, what you should be trying to obtain are one way back links without the condition of your site linking back. One way back links are far more valuable to you than a reciprocal link exchange, especially with regard to the sneaky methods some employ, as discussed above, to “trick” you into thinking it’s reciprocal.




Domain Name Registration Length – Does It Help With Your SEO?

A couple of years ago, I came across an interesting theory or idea. It went something like this: “If you register your domain name for a longer period than one year, and preferably up to ten years, Google’s algorithms will take that into account because it would appear you are serious about your business.”

As well, it was discovered that Google had taken out a patent that included a time based criteria including domain name registration length of time.

It was an interesting idea. But is it true? Well, some people in the SEO business still seem to think so. In fact, I just had a “hot” report cross my desk, in which there is a “Breakdown” of some “Components of Google’s Ranking Algorithm.” And in that report, it gives a score of 6% to “related to registration data (tip: register all your domain names for at least 2 to 5 years to show Google you are serious about your website).”

Now, before you go off and give your registrar more money, let’s find out the truth about this statement. My own experience is that there is little truth to it. All things being considered, a 6% rating is fairly significant in this case. So, a couple of years ago, when I first came across this theory, I increased the domain registration time for several of the websites I look after, both maintenance and SEO.

They were already ranking well – on the first page, and those domains that ranked higher had a registration period left of between less than a year and two years.  Did I see any significant increase in my search engine rankings? Not one iota. In fact, it had zero effect on any of the domains that I had paid for a longer period of registration (in this case, it was ten years).

I find it  hard to believe that this myth is still being promulgated in SEO circles. If there is any benefit, it is very minute, at least at this time. I’ve had brand new sites ranking on page 1 for mid level competition keywords within three months, and they were outranking sites that had been around for a lot longer, or that had longer domain name registration periods. That in itself tells me that if there is any benefit to a long domain name registration as far as search engine rankings in Google, it’s insignificant.

Of course, the domain name registrars would love to have you believe this is the case too. Obviously, the longer you register a domain name for, the more money up front you are putting in their hands, and taking out of your hands.

Is there anything wrong with registering your domain for periods of time longer than a year? No, except your accountant or financial advisor might raise their eyebrows. Sure, it’s only maybe 12 bucks a year, but why hand over so much upfront (multiply each year’s fee by 10), when you don’t have to?

Put it this way.. a site that has had great search engine rankings for years, has “authority,” and suddenly Google discovers that there is only 6 months left on the domain name registration, is Google really going to drop that site in the SERP’s?

Don’t believe me? Well here’s Matt Cutts of Google Webmaster fame, in a video explaining a bit more:


Hopefully this will help dispel another SEO myth. Now, let’s get on with the important stuff. That works.

Let Me Tell You A Dirty Little Secret About SEO

Via SEO Roundtable, I came across this interesting discussion at Webmaster World. Basically, it’s a discussion about how website owner changed some text on and altered some tags on his website, and saw no effect in his search engine rankings with Google.

We all like dirty little secrets, don’t we?  From my observations, it seems people like all kinds of dirty secrets, even though it angers them, causes them emotional turmoil, and for some reason, people seem to have a vested interest in knowing other people’s dirty secrets. Remember the Tiger Williams scandal? So many were interested, so many had an opinion, so many wanted to exclaim and have some emotional attachment, yet most of them had no personal knowledge of Tiger Williams or his wife at the time.

It seems the SEO world has its own dirty little secret. Are you interested?

The dirty secret about SEO is that content is not as “King” as we’re told it is by the so called “experts.” At least not in the way it is portrayed. Content DOES matter though, and for a variety of reasons. But this is one of the reasons whey I do not write my website content with search engines in mind – content MUST be written for the visitors in mind, and in this case, yes, “Content is still King.”

But as far as search engine rankings, stuff like key word density is not really a factor (unless it’s way too high!). I recently had a client send me an analysis of his website done by some online tool that gave his web pages  a 57% SEO grading. And you know what? It’s mostly nonsense, an all geared to get you to buy into some theory – an unproven theory as well, about what search engines are looking for. Much of the so called “grading” was about keyword density. (Funny – in their pie chart, they had the word “stroke” at 6% – yet in no where on the website was the word “stroke”).

I have never ever worried about “key word density” or other silly theories for many years. Sure, back in about 1997, when search engine technology was rather immature, key word density and even trying to stuff keywords, worked. If it worked, you did it – problem was, people were doing some insane things with keyword stuffing – for example, ranking high for a search on “fly fishing” when the site was really about adult porn or some such thing. Search engines were pretty quick to catch on to this, and keyword density and stuffing were adjusted accordingly in their algorithms.

A couple of years ago, my at the time girlfriend and I were discussing setting up a business in a particular city. A dog and pet service. I created a website. That website was a single page. The page itself had no text. It did have optimized Meta Tags. The only thing on the page was a photo.

I then began some search engine optimization.  Within three weeks, that domain was ranked on page 1 #5 of Google for the location and “dog walking service.”

Sure, it was not ultra competitive,  Unless you lived in that city and were offering that service.

The website (if you can call a single page that only contained a photo a “website”) got traffic. But of course, there was no business as a result of the traffic.

There was no contact information, there was no information about the services that could be offered, there was no phone number, nothing.  So, as much as there was traffic, there were zero conversions – we were not ready to launch the business.

So is content still king?  Well yes and no. Search engine optimization is about 20% internal, and 80% external. But just because you might rank highly does not mean you are going to turn traffic into sales. You need to have a website that is not just optimized for search engines, but also for humans.

Will changing some words around on your website or meta descriptions dramatically change your rankings? It might… and if you have lousy content, or flash based development, or really poorly written meta descriptions, you need to pay attention to this. But ultimately, Google has been able to figure out what is called “relevancy” – in such a way that often, it’s not the actual words on the page, but also what they are relevant to as far as a search is concerned.

There are a number of criteria that are important and have an effect on your search engine ranking, but the actual words, keyword density, etc have less and less to do with it.

And what does this mean for you? Well – content is still King – make your content readable. Write it with your visitor in mind, not the search engines.

And that is the dirty little secret of SEO today. Forget about all the keywords you’ve been told to make sure you have, and with some theoretical keyword density.  It just doesn’t work that way anymore.




Elance SEO Skills Test – My Results

I was having a conversation with someone this evening who suggested that I take a look at the website both with the idea of offering my services to those who need them as well as locating others who could work for me. I have to admit Elance was something I knew about but had totally forgotten about. I had created an account there years ago but hadn’t done anything with it.

So after reconfirming myself, I had a look at some of the requests for proposals and discovered that I first needed to take a test about Elance in general. That was easy enough – 100%.

Then I discovered that they had a test on “SEO” skills. I thought I’d take it. It was 40 questions and I had 40 minutes to complete it. I completed it in about 20 minutes. There were a few questions that I would  say were a bit “controversial” in that they may assume that what some experts claim are correct, however there is divided opinion on the correct answer. It is only theory, and search engines like Google have never come out and told us the right answer or confirmed it.  It begged me to ask, “Ok, which side is the author of this test on?”

Some of the questions were quite technical as well. Which is good. You can’t claim to know SEO if you don’t have some idea of the technicalities that go on with web servers and various meta tags and know what they mean and how a search engine may respond.

There were also questions on Google’s Web Master guidelines, which I found quite easy to answer; but then I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years studying.

In the end, I’m proud to say that I received the “Top 5%” designation of all those on Elance that have taken the test. I was also told that my percentile was 98.  I have forgotten my high school report card days, and was curious about that – and discovered that I scored higher than 98% (or better) of all who had taken the test.

But I’ll tell you what: It’s not just what you can do on a test, it’s also the results you actually get with SEO efforts. And I’m proud to say we’ve got a really good track record going on here over the past 15 years, since we’ve been at it.

At the same time, it is something I absolutely love to do! Yes, there are sometimes bumps along the way – Google doesn’t respond as fast as we’d always like, there are Google updates, but we’ve managed to keep a fairly good pattern in place in spite of these.

And no… I’m not going to tell you the questions and answers! 🙂




Description Meta Tags Don’t Matter? Yes They Do!

I was recently browsing a website that discusses search engine optimization and one of the ideas that was thrown about was that today, description meta tags don’t matter anymore.

This is an unfortunate bit of advice given to both web masters and developers, as well as business owners who are seeking search engine optimization help.  While it is true that for the most part, Google puts little, if any significance on what is in the description meta tag for search engine rankings, it is still very important to make sure each and every page has a description.

Very often (but not always), Google will display this description in the text below the title of a page in the search results. This is your chance to tell people that are doing a search what your page is about. Make it interesting enough to entice searchers to click through!

One common mistake web developers make when creating a website is to use the same meta description text on every page. Google doesn’t like this, and neither do searchers. Each page on your website should have a unique description. That’s what the meta tag is for – to provide a bit of information to describe what the page is about.

It is true that years ago, search engines would include the words that were in the description tag in their rankings, but today as far as rankings it has not as much relevance. But regardless, make sure all of your pages make use of this meta tag.