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Part Four – How do I know I’m not ‘spamming’? I’m just trying to promote my blog

Hopefully last week’s post didn’t make you stay awake at night wondering if you, too, were a spammer. When you leave comments on someone else’s blog how do you know it’s not spam? You can rest easy if you are leaving thoughtful comments on blogs that match or at least have something to do with your blog’s topic. In fact, commenting thoughtfully on someone else’s blog is a great way to get people to visit your own site and create backlinks. If you are cutting and pasting from one blog to another then you just may be.

White hat versus Black hat SEOwhite hat vs blck hat seo

In broad terms, SEO techniques are classified as white hat vs black hat. Just like in the Lone Ranger, if you want to be considered one of the ‘good guys or gals’ you want to be in the ‘white hat’ category. White hat SEO tends to look long-term and builds sites that are based on good design and interactivity. Black hat marketers use tactics that take whatever means to build rankings and often involve deception. One method uses hidden text where the text and background blend together. Another uses a practice called cloaking, which provides a different page response depending on if the page requested is by human or search engine. Search engines may remove black hats from their databases or reduce their online rankings.

And for God’s Sake, Don’t ‘Content Spam’ Either

Bloggers should also be cognitive of Content Spam. We all get ‘good’ at knowing what the search engines want and we want to make it easy for them to get it. If you do this job too well, you run the risk of being tagged a content spammer. Here some things to look out for:

Keyword spamming

This is using calculated placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety and density of the page. This may include keywords that are directed more to the demographic, than what belong in the article. For example: a promoter wants to attract moms with children under 5. He or she places hidden text that may be similar to a popular women’s site hoping that the site will get picked up by search engines and will receive visits from these moms. In reality, the site might be for a matchmaking site or something similarly unrelated.

Meta-tag stuffing

This involves repeating keywords in the Meta tags and using keywords that are unrelated to the site’s content.

Hidden Text

The explanation was covered above in Black Hat SEO tactics.

Scraper Sites

Scraper sites use various programs to glean content that scores high in the search engine results pages. By taking a sampling of info from many sites, and recombining them new content is created. Some of these sites end up with higher rankings than the original writer of the information.

Article Spinning

Article spinning uses existing articles, usually taken from other sites, and rewrites the content. It is usually done by automated means or by hired writers.

Do not confuse article spinning with recycling your content. Using information from blogs you have already written and changing them up can be a good thing. It’s not what you do but how you do it. When using old content be sure to add some life and vitality to it. Can you pull out some questions for a poll? Can you do a video version? Doing things like that separates it from the dangers of article spinning.

Sometimes the lines are less than clear as to what the acceptable standards are. And when they are clear the lines themselves tend to keep changing. As with all things social media, use common sense, ask if you don’t know, and admit that you may be doing it all wrong.

Thank you for visiting my site and if you’ve read all four articles in our four-part series or if you’ve only read this one, I’d love to hear from you. Please don’t be afraid that because I watch closely for spam, I’ll think you are spamming me. Comments are what we bloggers live for! But maybe just add ‘not spam’ in your comment this time, then I’ll know for sure. I dare you.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Part Three – Sorting Out Spam Comments in your Blog

What a thrill it is to get people commenting on your blog. That’s how it works, right? People from all over the world will discover your writing talents, appreciate your knowledge on a certain subject and leave comments. That is what all of us engaging in the social media world have all been promised, right? Well, good comments will happen, but I hate to tell you that here, too, spammers are lurking in the background.

Usually these spammers are trying to get into your site by adding links where you may not even realize it. This is called link spam and they are doing this to give their websites higher rankings by adding lots of links. These link spammers use various methods, which include link-building software, link farms (aka mutual admiration societies), hidden links and spam blogs.

So how do you recognize valid comments from a spam comment?

Many times you can recognize link spam by the nonsensical, irrelevant text and by the large quantity of links that all point to a single site. Link spam causes various problems from wasting your time in reviewing them, to clogging search engines, and in scraping content from other’s sites making real new content difficult to locate.

Sometimes it’s not easy to distinguish between spam comments and valid ones. They try to convince you with their high praise that you are literally the ‘cat’s pajaams’ (I had one that said exactly that).

Here are five things to look for and ways to clean up your comment list quickly:

1- First, delete the obvious ones, like the ones shown below entirely. Don’t let them get any link juice from your site.

Obvious Spam

Obvious spam message in blog

2- Do you know the commenter or business name behind the comment?

3- Is there content that appears original? Meaning that it responds to information that you specifically provided in your post or addresses you by name.

4- Multiple comments sent from the same address or domain.

Repeat Spam

5- Reply to their comment with a thank you and a question. Do you get an answer? If not , it’s probably a spammer.

Adjust how your blog or website is set up

There are some simple things you can do to deter link spamming in the setup of your website like: adding validation software like CAPTCHA, making comment links “no follow”, not allowing multiple consecutive submissions, and blocking certain keywords (Levitra, etc).

Use an anit-spam software like Akismet or Discus. This software helps by showing multiple email addresses, allows you to track back to the IP address easily and allows you to tag comments for spam, and approve or disapprove comments. I also like it because I can reply to a commenter without using my email address and putting that at risk.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Vanity Suffixes For Your Domain, Small Businesses Need Not Apply

This week in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the Internet body that oversees domain names, voted to open the control of domain suffixes a.k.a. gTLD (generic top-level domains) like .com, .net, .biz, etc. In the past they have allowed a total of only 22 suffixes. Going forward, companies will be able to apply for their own “vanity” suffixes or top-level domains.domain-suffixes

Mom and Pop, hold on! Don’t get too excited, this is probably a little bit out of your league and whether that’s a good thing or not will likely be a matter for future debate. By and large, this should not affect business in Appleton or Green Bay, WI. Let me use an example, likely new suffixes will be .coke, .ford, .canon, and maybe .kc –you get the idea. This move by ICANN is designed for the BIG BOYS and the brands that can afford it, not small or medium-sized businesses.

How Are They Targeted for the Big Brands?

Prices start with a $185,000 non-refundable application fee, plus an additional $25,000 annually just to operate the registry. Ouch! Now, that will keep a lot of businesses out, won’t it? Add in the whole legal cost of paying off cybersquatters to protect those trademarks and maybe Mom and Pop should be happy not to have been invited to this game.

The first round of applications will begin acceptance from next January to April (2012) and start appearing on the Internet by the end of 2012. ICANN will require those applying show a legitimate claim to the name they intend on buying and are hiring hundreds of consultants to adjudicate all of these claims. For those that apply and get turned down, please note that I said ‘non-refundable’ above. That’s right, if you get refused on whatever grounds, you lose $185,000.

Internet interest has of course spiked within all of the social media networks for this subject. The main concern seems to be that corporate interests are once again winning out over the general populace. Some of the other concerns are: 1) user confusion on the URL structure, 2) that there will not be any way to validate URL structures or emails without trying first them, 3) how search engines may be further manipulated, 4) the introduction of offensive domains like perhaps .nazi. and finally 5) those that invested in expensive .com domains will find the value of these assets greatly diminished.

Time will tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing or if it truly even matters. Right now, it looks like our kids will someday wonder what a .com even was.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

SEO Explained through Analogies

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be daunting stuff. It’s the sort of topic that makes one’s eyes glass over and can put the worst insomniacs to sleep. BUT it is one of the four most important elements to Inbound Marketing and is often not understood.

Many consider it the magic behind the curtain. It is not magic –not really. It’s the logical process of improving visibility of a website or web page in search engines without paying for it. When done correctly it can work like magic and is the key to getting found online.

I always like to use analogies when describing concepts like SEO. Explaining complicated ideas is often made easier when tied to something familiar.

Google SearchSimon Cowell of American Idol

Think of Google as an American Idol contest, with lots of fledgling talent: some wannabees, a few already working professionals and some previously unknown and untapped artists -all waiting to ‘get found’. The Google engine is Simon Cowell (I know Simon is so –last year, but to me, he’s still ‘Idol’). He has lots of experience measuring talent. He knows what to look for, how to assess it, and compares each one to the other. Once he decides his top picks he places that influence on others, ruling the American Idol world.

While researching for this article, I found a couple analogies from Aaron Wall’s blog SEOBook. Here are my favorite SEO analogies of Aarons:

Link Reputation

  • search engines follow people – helps explain why new sites tend to not rank well, and how links are seen as votes.
  • roads and highways – used to describe PageRank and why some votes count more than others.
  • multiple audiences – used to describe why many types of content are needed to address different audiences, and the importance of creating content that is loved by buyers, linkers, and search engines.
  • rising tide lifts all boats – used to describe how links to one part of your website help other pages on your website rank better
  • pet rocks & overpriced dolls – describing how perception becomes reality when describing cumulative advantage, and how some poor quality sites are popular while better content remains hidden

On Page Content

  • fish and a fishing pole – when explaining how text heavy sites often outrank thin ecommerce sites, I like to call searchers fish and each word on the page an additional fishing pole in the water. This is really powerful when used in combination with analytics data, showing her the hundreds of phrases that people searched for to find a given page on her site…helping her see the long tail as schools of fish.
  • Don’t Make Me Think – people scan more than they read. Large blocks of text are imposing. People are more likely to read well formatted content that uses many headings, subheadings, and inline links. Expect people to ignore your global navigation, and do whatever you ask them to do (via inline links).

Site Structure

  • Broadway Street in Manhattan – used to describe the value of descriptive .com domain names, and when describing what top search engine rankings are worth.
  • a pyramid – when explaining how some phrases are more competitive than others, and how to structure a site.
  • chapters of a book – used to describe the importance of focused page titles, and how to structure a website.

Do you have a favorite analogy to explain SEO? Was this helpful? Let me know what you think.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’s current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Dispatches from Blogistan, A Book Review

Described in the subtitle as “a travel guide for the modern blogger,” Suzanne Stefanac’s book, Dispatches from Blogistan, is worth reading whether you are a blogger or not. This is not so much a how-to book as it is a why-to-blog book.

The first two chapters offer a new take on the history of communications. And the book really begins with the introduction of the internet as radicalizing the way communications occur. Instead of pushing messages (from advertising to propaganda), the shift is to pull the audience to the message. Instead of one-to-many or one-to-one channels of communication, the shift is toward many-to-many channels. The blogosphere is the heart of the many-to-many messages.

Stefanac provides a layout of the landscape in her explanation of the blogosphere. Even though the book was published in 2007(by New Riders in Berkeley) and some things have changed, her insights into the culture still ring true. Technorati is no longer the only major search engine for blogs, for example. Google, Yahoo, Bing and most others now include blogs in their search engine results. Such changes confirm how spot-on Stefanac is about the democratization of media.

With a common sensical approach she addresses issues of trust, privacy, security, and legal safeguards. Yet its reading about the power of collaborative discourse — many-to-many conversations — that gets to the heart of blogging.

There are so many basics to blogging covered in this book I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand this new social media phenomena. People all over the world upload more than a million new blog posts every day. Every day.

News blogs are written by citizen journalists and professional reporters. Food blogs by farmers, grocery stores, chefs, home cooks, foodies, gardeners, and upscale food magazines, food manufacturers, product advertisers, etc.

Blogs as diaries. Blogs as clubhouses. Blogs as news feeds.  Blogs as soapboxes.

Stefanac takes the blogger on a road tour. She gives the reader driving instructions but most importantly takes them under the hood of the car to explain how the search engines work. And how to check our own fluids, tire pressure and lights. It’s a handy desk reference for a seasoned blogger and a wonderful place to start for someone who is new to blogging.

Blogging has never been easier. WordPress makes it the easiest.

First Steps to Successful Inbound Marketing

So, you’ve watched Socialnomics with Eric Qualman and now you ‘get it’.

Haven’t seen it yet? Here it is again.

Now, you’re ready to begin the first steps to successful Inbound Marketing. Because traditional marketing will never be the same. It will no longer get you ‘there’. If you want to move your business forward, then you will need to focus on what you’re doing online. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Own Your Own Website
There is nothing more important than owning your own website. It’s your basecamp. The place that all your social media efforts revolve around. The place where all your communications should originate from -and end up at.

Location, location, location!
Now more than ever location matters. Whether it’s a busy street corner or a hard to find hole in the wall, getting your spot on the map right is vital. My recommendation is first things, first. Can people find you? If you’re a restaurant, hotel or auto repair shop, then start by registering your address and details on Google Places. This will literally, put you on the map.

Google Places http://www.google.com/help/places/index.html

Get Found
Make it easy for others to find your website (you do have a website, right?) by adding it to these most popular search engines, as listed below. Yes, all of them. This will allow the search engines to find you without waiting for them to ‘crawl’ your site. Being proactive on this is a good thing.Socialnomics

Google – http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl
Bing- http://www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx
Yahoo! Local – http://listings.local.yahoo.com/
Yelp! http://www.yelp.com/business?country=US

Consider these:
__Craigslist- http://yourcity.craigslist.org/
__Here is a link where you can submit your site to MANY places:
http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm

Next steps
For all businesses, the top things that you need to do is establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and start a blog. For hospitality businesses, include TripAdvisor in that equation. Put it at the top of the list.
I’ll cover those in future articles. Stay tuned!