Google – The Stupidity of Even Thinking Of Backlink Penalties…

… for links that are so called “dodgy” or from “bad neighbourhoods.”

I have seen so many web masters now worrying about their backlink profile, and for good reason. Google has not been very clear about how a bunch of backlinks that they don’t trust, could affect your own site’s search engine rankings. In the past, Google has indicated that backlinks would not hurt you. The belief was that Google would simply discount links its bots would find while indexing the internet, that their algorithms placed little or no value on.

I think Google and its web spam team are a bit messed up if they think that they can penalize websites that have dodgy links linking back to it, as if the website owner or someone they may have hired, are the ones responsible. Let me explain why:

Years ago, I was pretty anal about going through my website statistics. It wasn’t just the top referrers I was interested in, but it often amused me to check out the large numbers of referrers I’d get that would only refer perhaps one visitor in the entire month. My curiosity was due to the fact I was always interested in any new links my site might have received. It was kind of neat, to me, to see that some site in my niche, with a Russian domain extension, and that had content similar to my niche, had discovered my site and thought it worthwhile to link to.

However, I also discovered that there were some pretty bizarre websites linking to me that had at least one click through to my site as well. At first, I could not understand why a website located in an Asian country that seemed to be all about popular Asian singers, would be linking to my fly fishing site.

There were also times when I would go to a web page that had supposedly referred some visitor to mine with a link, and there was no link there at all, although there would be links to dozens of other sites. Odd that a website would place a link to my page, someone clicked it, and then the link is removed.

But this does not always happen where the link is removed. So what could be the point of this? Most of these sites that seemed totally irrelevant to mine also appeared pretty junky with low or zero PageRank, while my site had a PR of 2 or 3 at the time (4 today).

Well, it struck me one day while I was doing a search for something, and Google returned some site’s Awstats in their results: Perhaps there are some website owners or some so called SEO people who set up systems to create links from their sites to better quality sites, then automate clicks on the links, thus generating a referral in the other sites’ statistical and website analytical packages. Knowing that many websites have their website statistics packages configured so that Google can easily discover and index them, this could provide hundreds and thousands of backlinks to their site from higher quality sites.

That was the only reason I could think of; otherwise what was the point of some ugly website about the hottest Indian Singer, or some corny adult porn site doing with a page of links that included one to a fly fishing site? I would see sometimes hundreds of these types of referrers in my analytics programs (back then, I was using a website analytics package called “http-analyze,” developed by the German company, Netstore.de. I don’t think they continue to do any development on website statistics), however, there are many many websites configured with Awstats and similar packages that are not password protected and that Google has indexed.

I have never hired outside SEO help for that website, so I absolutely know without any doubt, that any link to that site was not anything I did or ever asked for, from these “bad neighbourhood” or irrelevant websites.

And now I’m supposed to worry or be concerned about this? I’m supposed to be concerned that some other website has linked to me, clicked on the link, with possibly the sole purpose of Google indexing my Awstats installation, and finding a link back to their website? And hundreds of them doing this to my site?

That’s insane. I was speaking with a website owner of a very high quality site, aimed at a very professional niche, who advised me that they had recently received a “Unnatural Link Warning” letter in their Google Webmaster Tools. They said, “Ian, I did some checking and found a bunch of really gross pornsites linking to us, and I have no idea why. Even the pages that they have the links don’t make sense.”

This particular website that they own has a PR of 5. Is it possible, that a network of low quality adult sites, could be creating the links themselves to this site and other sites, just for the purposes of getting a link back to theirs from any analytics packages that Google might be able to crawl? It very well could be the case. And if Google is seeing this, and somehow it’s causing a flag, then Google really needs to rethink their whole idea of penalties for websites.

I have a concern that Matt Cutts and the Google Web Spam Team have got such a hardened attitude toward what they call “Web Spam,” that they have gone way overboard, in their attempts to solve what they see as a problem, hoping to give themselves a pat on the back, but in the end, there is that old George Doubleya Bush attitude of brushing off collateral damage they have caused.

I do care if my websites have links that are linking out to dodgey websites. It does come up at times; I might have written an article, referring to something on another site and linking to it, but over time, that domain has since changed hands and now is nothing like what it was when I first wrote the article. I have to keep my eye on that kind of thing. But does Google now expect me to also keep an eye on who is linking to me??

That is just insane. Just as the idea of a “disavow link” button in GWMT’s is insane – I don’t have time for that, do you? Who has time to go and look at every link, and manually “disavow” it? That’s just ridiculous, and many website owners are not even savvy enough to know what they might or should do.

What do you think?

Get More Traffic With SEO Diamond?

I like buying SEO courses. I know that my own methods work well, but it’s always good when you get some new nuggets that you weren’t aware of or techniques that have a different twist. I enjoy testing them to see what works and what does not. I’ve been doing this since 1997.

Many of the courses I’ve purchased are absolute garbage, while some have been worth the price, to me. And let me tell you something: There are many systems and techniques that work, some better than others, and sometimes not as you might expect in different niches. In this way, SEO is an art as well as a science.

I like Ross Goldberg. Never met him in person, but have had a few small correspondences with him, and have purchased a few of his courses. Some of them I really enjoyed and learned something new. So I was excited to hear about a new one he co-released on the Warrior Forum with “London Paladin.” At seven bucks and change, what the heck?

Well, unfortunately I cannot recommend this course to folks wanting to learn about SEO. If you want, you can read about it here – but read my cautions first. This course is entitled “Occupy Google V 2.0”. I never did see any previous versions of “Occupy Google” so I can’t comment on them.

The course consists of weekly modules over 12 weeks. To be honest, I’ve only got to about week 10 or 11. Each module contains a very short video, narrated by “London” with a couple of PDF files that contain links (some of them are affiliate links) to recommended outsources.

To war hardened SEO types, there is really nothing much new in the course, other than perhaps you might find some new people to outsource some tasks to, if you’re into that sort of thing. For those new to the SEO world, and want to rank their site on their own without having an expert, the first week or two is fairly basic and no major alarm bells went off in my head, except for the idea of article spinning. For someone new to SEO, there was absolutely LOTS left out here and that is the danger for someone using the course.

Today, debate continues to rage in the SEO community about the importance of back link anchor text diversity, and surely, if you’re going to teach a course on SEO, especially in this day and age, you should be touching upon that, and recommending article distribution.

What really scares me is some of the stuff that Ross and London teach that they claim is more “advanced,” in lessons or weeks nine through twelve. In today’s SEO world, doing what they suggest might… and I mean might with emphasis, help you to rank well for a time, but it also could have your site flagged, with the possibility of one of those dreaded “unnatural link warnings” from Google. And for me, this is where it gets kind of interesting. Occupy Google 2.0 sales page provides “proof” of rankings for search terms like:

[get more traffic]
[diamond seo]
[micro seo]

which are not exactly search terms that are used much everyday. Furthermore, the sales copy provides this “proof” after talking about how London managed to get dating sites ranked. Sure, they claim these are “new niches” but also try to infer that they are “fiercely competitive,” and they have nothing to do with “dating sites” referred to in the sales copy.

Well, they are not “fiercely competitive,” and indeed, the one search term [get more traffic] that is #1 in Google goes to an Amazon product – a kindle book I believe, written by Ross Goldberg.

What might impress me more is if Goldberg had created a brand new site, used the strategies he and London claim, and had that ranked above an Amazon product page. But why bother when there are only about 880 exact match searches per month for [get more traffic]?

Sadly, and I expected more from Ross (but had some suspicions) when he wrote in the Warrior Forum thread that this term had about 500 searches per day. That’s only true when you check Google Adwords tool and and use the “broad match” filter. Either Ross made a major mistake, is incompetent, or is trying some marketing fluff on those that don’t know about how to get results on keyword research. I’d like to think it was just a mistake.

However….

Late in 2011, and sponsored by Ryan Deiss and his internet marketing company, Ross created a program about reputation management. It was actually a pretty good program! But what was interesting is that in that program, Ross bragged about how well his father’s “men’s suits” online business was doing in the search engines, and that his father was just paying him a hundred bucks a month for SEO work. Ross touched upon the “fact” that he had hired some girls to do some of his SEO work for him, but that they had not done a good job; they had spent too much time and effort on Ross’ father’s site, and not enough time on the other high paying clients Ross had. But still, the results were there for everyone to see – Dad Goldberg ranked really well for some great search terms. And yes, it was impressive.

Move ahead some months later, and Google has implemented Penguin, and post Penguin, that same men’s suit website is not ranking so well anymore. Ross came out with a new product though. When asked about his dad’s site, his response to the tanking in rankings was something in effect to blaming the girls he had hired. And then fired. That response to me, suggests some transparency problems along with a lack of integrity.

Hey, I’m not a marketer and have no plans to sell an SEO WSO on the Warrior Forum. I do however, am a bit hesitant at recommending products when there are issues and I especially hate to see brand new people doing things that someone has told them to do, and spending time and money on activities and products that are questionable at best.

Occupy Google 2.0 – should you purchase it? No, especially if you are a “newby.” Well, you can purchase it, but do a heck of a lot of research first, before you actually implement any of the recommendations.

I just hate seeing people get burned with expectations, and time spent – even if it only cost them seven bucks in the first place.

Announcement – Teaming Up With VA Networking

Back in about 1997, when most North Americans really had no clue about the Internet, I was introduced to it by a local service provider who built my first website for a small business I had back then. I was one of the first “Custom Fishing Rod Builders” to have a website, and it certainly was quite a mystery to me as to how it all worked.

However, in time I learned to do some on-line marketing (back then, newsgroups were one good way if done correctly – remember them?), met my now business partner who taught me HTML, and from there, learned as much as I could about everything from SEO to Linux server management.

Around that same time, I became acquainted with Tawna Sutherland and we collaborated on some projects together as we both learned to navigate the “world wide web” and the business opportunities it had to offer. My business continued in the direction of web development (I know, you wouldn’t know it by the appearance of this blog today, however, clients come first!) and search engine optimization services while Tawnya built a successful Virtual Assistant business and now has an amazing website full of resources and information for those who are, or who are considering working at home as a VA.

Fifteen years later, Tawnya and I are teaming up again in a small way, and I’m very excited and proud that she has asked me to moderate and help out with the SEO questions that may get posted to her forum as well as offer advice and updates to her great visitors and members.

It’s pretty exciting when a friendship that was formed more than a decade ago can once again have mutual business interests and we can work together on some projects. Just goes to prove that networking can be a very valuable tool with business and friendship relationships being formed; and you never know when those strong relationships that are forged will continue to be beneficial for all concerned.

My first post at the VA Networking forum was a quick tip on some possible on-site quality issues to look for and address if you were hit by Google’s Penguin filter.  You can read it here.

And while we’re at it, if you work at home or would like to work from home, and are thinking of becoming a Virtual Assistant (or perhaps you are already in this line of work), I highly recommend you visit Tawnya’s site at http://vanetworking.com

Tawnya is a great motivator and coach and sometimes that’s all we need to get us out of the doldrums and back to work when discouragement sets in.

I am looking forward to being of assistance over at Tawnya’s place!

Google Penguin Update

About an hour or so ago, I happened to check my twitter feed and noted that within the two minutes prior, he had tweeted the following message:

“Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches. Context: http://goo.gl/4f7Pq

~ https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/206232437427154944

Many of us in the SEO world were expecting that this would occur soon, and a monthly update seemed like a reasonable assumption. So far, on all the sites I’m looking after, there have been zero changes in rankings as a result of this particular update.

However, in other parts of the web, I’m reading that some were drastically affected with huge drops in rankings in Google search.

At this point, I have no comment to make as there is not enough information, especially with the fact that at my end, nothing has moved either way. I’ll have to wait to have some conversations with those that did experience major movement.

Did your site experience any major movements up or down since the evening of May 25? What sort of search results are you seeing now that is different than what you were seeing prior to this update?

And if your site did move, do you have any thoughts on the erasons for it?

Is The Penguin Scratching Under Its Feathers?

Google keeps putting out posts and guidelines and talk about “quality” (however that is defined – quality in this case is subjective and how one ever create a logarithm that can precisely define it is beyond me), but I know quality, at least to me, when I see it.

I also know junk when I see it. And from continuing to use Google for search, I can see that for me, and I’m sure for an awful lot of other humans, the machines at Google are producing low quality, junky search results in many instances.

The sad part right now is that there are so many so-called “experts” who are claiming they know the answer to getting your site ranked again if it tanked with Google’s latest update called “Penguin.” If you want, you can read a bunch of different opinions, and what is funny, you’ll often find the exact opposite opinions as to why or what caused your site to drop, or what you should be doing to help revive the rankings.

Almost everyone that has an interest in SEO knows that when Penguin hit, the search results for the term:

[viagra]

were totally bizarre, as were some other competitive search terms. The corporate website for Viagra, viagra.com, appeared to have been penalized! This has since been fixed, but this evening, I did a search on the term, and again see totally irrelevant results on Page 1. Page 1, #10 is a link to this page: http://pinto.scripts.mit.edu/Research/Monster16GPU

It’s a page about a 16-GPU Monster computer and there is no mention of viagra anywhere on it, including in the HTML source code.

This is junk. This is not quality. Mat Cutts might be a really nice guy, but he also comes across as this guy that is kind of like Forrest Gump, but with a side that he’s out “to get over SEO’d” sites – which is fine – and he’s also admitted that Google makes mistakes – which is great.

But come on! There is a huge mistake that is still going on with the Penguin! It’s getting close to offering up an apology and instead of smugly suggesting they’ve caught bad SEO practices, they need to fix their mistakes which are so glaringly obvious. They have ruined some great sites that I used to find in search results – sites that I never bookmarked, assuming I’d find them again when I searched on Google.  And they seem pretty smug about it, and confident – I wonder if any of the spam team search engineers have done a search on commonly searched on words and phrases?

Something, or some things, in this latest update has introduced some pretty big fleas under the Penguin’s feathers. Now the question is, are the engineers just scratching the Penguin’s feathers to relieve the itch, or are they going to get rid of the fleas that have been introduced?

With such crappy results for so many searches, one wonders why Google did not revert back to its algorithm pre Penguin. Most companies, upon seeing such a lousy result, would do so. But perhaps Google as a corporate entity has now grown so smug about itself, it has forgotten what made it a great search engine in the first place. While it tries to rule the world with all it’s “services” and get everyone hooked in, perhaps they think they are now “King” and so crappy doesn’t matter anymore.

In all seriousness, and I never thought I’d see the day when I would say this, but Bing provides far better and more relevant results for many searches than Google does. So does http://duckduckgo.com which also guarantees privacy.

Here’s another interesting thing I’m seeing – after the Penguin update, on those sites I have Analytics installed on, those who found those sites via Bing or Yahoo have a much lower bounce rate than those who arrived via a Google search.

What does that tell you? Bing and Yahoo are providing results that are actually more relevant to the searcher’s intent than Google is.

Quit scratching, Google. Penguins are cute, but I’m sure a penguin with fleas is not a sorry sight, and it’s time to take this Penguin to the veterinarian.