Sunday, 30 October 2011

5 More SEO Strategies for SMBs to Avoid

5 More SEO Strategies for SMBs to Avoid
Toward the end of last year I shared six common SEO mistakes that small business often fall victim to and how they could avoid them. As there are obviously more than six mistakes that often plague our websites, I thought today we’d dig into a few more. I mean, sure, let your competitors keep making the same old mistakes, but let’s make you better, right?


Below are five more search engine optimization strategies for small business owners to be aware of and avoid.

Targeting the keywords your competitors are: For a small business owner unsure of which keywords are important to their business or what phrases they should be optimizing their content for, it makes sense to go into your competitor’s Keyword tag and raid whatever they’ve got in there. And, to some degree, it’s not a bad idea. Being aware of what terms your competitors are going after can alert you to phrases you may not have considered or give you insight into their marketing strategy. However, that’s differently than blindly targeting all of their keywords you see. Just because someone in the same field is going after a particular term, doesn’t mean it will convert for you or that it makes sense to your business. It also doesn’t mean that term is working for them. Definitely do some competitive intelligence to see what they’re doing, but know why it is you’re targeting the terms you select. You can’t simply pick up someone’s SEO strategy just like you can’t copy their entire marketing plan.

Building links only to the homepage: When you’re thinking up link building strategies for your Web site, consider your whole Web site, not just your homepage. When a user does a Web search, you want them to find the most relevant page on your site. As your home page will tend to focus on more general topics and keywords that may not be the page you want a searcher to land on. If they’re looking for knee-high boots, you want them to land on your page specifically about knee-high boots, not a page that talks about boots, tops, accessories and luggage. In order for that to happen you need to build keyword-targeted links to that page so that Google knows that’s the most relevant page on your site for that search.

Reciprocal linking: I’m surprised this is still an issue in 2011, but I still see it getting small business owners in trouble. All those emails you receive as a business owner that go something like, “I’ll link to you if you link to me” should be immediately deleted. Right now. Reciprocal linking is not something your small business should get involved with – it’s detectable to the search engines and it’s often not going to provide a good user experience for your audience. It’s worth noting that linking to someone who also links to you, is not a bad practice. But participating in schemes for links is.

The index with useless pages: When you were a kid, you couldn’t wait to be a grown up. And when you’re a scrappy startup, you can’t wait to become a big brand. One way some small business owners will attempt to appear bigger is to create bigger sites by writing endless amounts of shallow content. This has never been a good strategy, however, with the release of Google’s Panda update, it’s an even worse idea. The Panda update released by Google did not take too kindly on sites that either have a large number of low quality pages or that had too many duplicate pages. When it comes to creating content, it’s really important to remember that it’s quality, not quantity that both users and Google are looking for. Do keyword research to find what users are looking for and then craft content that addresses those concerns in a thought-out and knowledgeable way. Don’t create pages just for the sake of it. Before it was just bad practice, now it can actually hurt your site.

Splitting your SEO efforts among multiple domains: As a small business owner, you’re typically going to be better served keeping all of your SEO efforts onto one domain. If you’re creating an event, a training seminar or some type of course, you don’t need to create another site to showcase those efforts. Instead, create a separate section on your existing site for that content to rest. Splitting up your efforts too much can distract from your ranking goals, diluting your link popularity, your focus, and your users.

Above are five more SEO mistakes small business owners should be on the lookout for to prevent making them on their own sites. What mistakes have you learned and grown for? You can share. This is a safe zone.


When White Hat SEO Turns Black

When White Hat SEO Turns Black
I recently caught wind of the ability to grow perfect white (or clear) diamonds in a lab. They have been able to create colored diamonds in labs for some time now, but the white diamond idea intrigued me so I started doing some research. I searched on "white man-made diamonds", "cultured white diamonds", "synthetic white diamonds", "lab grown diamonds" etc. and the site that consistently showed up (at least on the PPC side) was

I spent some time on the site and the more I read, the more it sounded like this company had accomplished creating the perfect white diamond. And the best part was they were incredibly inexpensive! Paying hundreds of dollars in comparison to thousands of dollars made me think I could upgrade my wife’s wedding ring for our anniversary without breaking the bank. I was ecstatic! I did a quick search on the company name to double check its legitimacy and a scan of the first page of results only gave me more confidence. It even looked like they were doing some SEO because their Facebook and Twitter pages were on the first page. Good for them!

Because I was in a consumer mindset (and it was very late at night), I felt like I had done enough research on the industry and the company and I started to seriously consider purchasing. Luckily, something inside of me forced me to sleep on it. The next morning a thought occurred to me: If this company was doing SEO or having someone do it for them, they may have been doing some reputation management on their company name. I checked on it, this time doing a more thorough search on the company name, and lo and behold, every SERP but page 1 made it very apparent that reputation management was being performed for this company. I found hundreds of comments about the company being deceptive, fraudulent, and even illegal in their claims.

According to most, the company was simply a reseller of CZ diamonds that can be found for $10-20 regularly. Now, if you want to sell CZ diamonds for exhorbitant prices to uneducated shoppers, that’s one thing, but when your site appears to claim that you’re selling something very different than what you actually are, that’s a big problem in my book.

In addition, every time I found a negative comment about the company, the very next post was someone who was extremely pleased with their purchase and took the diamond to jewelers who couldn’t tell the difference between it and a real diamond. Odd? I thought so.

What really hurt me most about this experience was that with the exception of the last practice, the marketing that had been done seemed to be fairly white hat. Someone was using good for evil. I know this isn’t the first time this has happened in the SEO industry, but it was definitely the closest I have been to it.

This experience brings up a very difficult question that SEO companies have to face. Even though you may perform transparent white hat techniques for clients, the business model of the client may be "black" or even "grey". Do you still perform the work? Do you make a company successful in Google who doesn’t deserve it?

Hopefully it’s obvious where I stand.