In early 2007 I fell asleep on a bus home from college. I had a weird dream that I saw Jane Copland, Rebecca Kelley and Rand Fiskhin (all of SEOmoz at the time) sitting at the front of the bus. The conversation we had wasn’t very interesting, and it probably shows a very geeky time of my youth, but it does highlight one thing: Even at 16 I was crazy about SEO and the communities discussing it.
In the last 72 hours the SEO world has gone crazy about the news that PBN’s (Private Blog Networks) are being hit by Google. The one person I’ve looked up to all of this time, Rand Fishkin, was quick to label anyone involved in the practice as a Blackhat SEO. It was an interesting comment from someone who recently emailed me to thank me for the transparency I share in this space, but not one that I agree with. If I’m a Blackhat SEO now, I’ll continue to be one: Because I’m not slowing down the growth of my own private link network.
We all know that Google updates can be highly frustrating, especially when Google are never forthcoming about exactly what changed and what you can do about it if you feel you were unfairly penalised. For some though, Google changes can slice millions of dollars off the valuation of your company. When Panda 4.0 was rolled out on May 22nd, Retail Me Not’s stock dropped 10% or in other words, Google’s change helped to wipe $170 million from their market cap in a single day.
While eBay also took a hit on the same day, estimated to have lost rankings for up to 80% of long-tail keywords, their stock didn’t take much of a hit. This is likely because Paypal is the big driver in eBay’s stock price. The Yellow Pages however, trading as Yellow Media on the stock market, were estimated to have lost around 20% of their organic search traffic. Since a high in April their stock has dropped 29%. What if you could predict Google hitting other companies hard? Could you get rich trading their stock? Let’s find out…
As a result of so much of my time being spent focused on building an SEO company and ranking websites, I’ve been fortunate to come across a number of people who are on a similar journey. Today I would like to introduce one of those people, Matt Prados, to the world. Matt has managed to build a 7-figure yearly revenue stream running his SEO business by targeting two specialist niches in the medical field.
When I first started out with SEO I was determined to be as “whitehat” as possible. I wouldn’t do anything to potentially risk my site being penalised by Google. In fact, after just one year of running this website I had the opportunity to get a link from Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam.
Matt emailed me privately to ask that my content was only preaching white hat SEO and that he wouldn’t regret linking to me. I had nothing to hide and told him as such. Later that day I got the link I was hoping for. I’m sure that was the first and last time such a thing will ever happen.
A few weeks ago I was one of the tens of thousands of people who enjoyed reading a blog post on Priceonomics about “The SEO Dominance of RetailMeNot”. It was an absolutely fascinating read because, being a total SEO geek, I rarely find information in this space that hasn’t been repeated 100 times before. I knew about the company already, but I had no idea about the scale in which they were absolutely annihilating their competitors.
For the thousands of popular search terms that are out there in the coupon world, you’ll see RetailMeNot as the number one search result for the vast majority of them. The Priceonomics article was a great read, but it’s clear that a number of their readers were disappointed with what the article lacked, rather than what it included. I’m always up for doing some digging into the SEO background of a website, especially when 63% of their traffic comes from search and they’re valued at $1.7 Billion dollars.
On January 28th you may recall that I did a huge blog post on why I’m building a bigger link network. In that post I showed in great detail how Godaddy were utilising customers who are using their SSL services and getting top search rankings by adding anchor-text-rich backlinks in the widgets that clients place on their websites.
About a month after my blog post, Godaddy dropped back to page two for all of the terms they were ranking number one for. Even though they dropped off the radar slightly, the SSL certificates niche is still an industry I watch with great interest because it’s one where big brands can get away with doing pretty much anything they want (unless someone calls them out on it?). The latest update from that industry is pretty bold: Symantec have since taken over all of Godaddy’s rankings and they’re doing the exact same thing, having amassed almost 3 million backlinks in the last 7 months.
Penguin 2.1 has caused quite a shakeup in the SEO world these last few weeks. Launched not long after Google’s Hummingbird update, there seems to be fewer people talking about this then there was for the introduction of Penguin or even its version predecessor, Penguin 2.0.
Though I previously shared that I had a lot of success on the back of helping people get over Penguin 2.0 – especially since I own Penguin2.com – I’ve yet to write anything about Penguin 2.1 until now. The reason is simple: I wanted to be absolutely sure I was giving the right advice on what to do after this update. After looking at hundreds of sites in my own network (yes, hundreds) I certainly am now.
Update: I have greatly edited this post to blur out those involved. A few people who were mentioned are actually readers of this site and kindly emailed to ask to be removed. My theory has been that I have to show at least one example to verify what I’m saying, but I think I’ve probably went far enough on this topic.
These last few posts have went pretty viral around the web and while I appreciate the attention, I also understand that fellow marketers do deserve to stay under the radar. I’ve been ‘outed’ counltess times myself but that doesn’t mean I have to do the same to others. Hopefully the original readers got something out of the post, and I just want to thank you all again for your feedback and wisdom. I appreciate the audience here more than you could ever know.
To say the last few days around here have been crazy would be an understatement. I’ve replied to hundreds of comments, received hundreds of tweets for my content and basically been amazed at all of the sites that linked to me. It was hard to look far away from my analytics. They’re all referring to my recent blog post, The New SEO, which has had tens of thousands of visitors in just one week.
I wanted to use this blog post to keep discussion on this issue going while the topic is still hot. There were a lot of comments received 150, 200 and 250 comments down which will never really see the light of day. My aim is to change that and share the issues that real webmasters are having, and how Google is in its worst state that I’ve ever seen in years.
This post is going to create a bit of a stir, but before I get into the meat of the content, I want to make a few points. First of all, I know that building a search engine can’t be an easy thing. If it was, Microsoft’s billions pumped into Bing would have gave it more than a few % market share. Trying to create an algorithm which brings back relevant websites when everyone is trying to reverse engineer and ‘game’ the system has to be one of the hardest technical challenges for a business in the last decade. That being said, it amazes me that every SEO blog is preaching the same old things that they’ve been saying for years.
One person I was disappointed to see doing this was Rand at
SEOMoz. I won’t say his surname, as I don’t want this post to rank for his name (I don’t like ‘outing’, either). SEOmoz has been a website I’ve read for as long as I’ve been doing this stuff, back when Oatmeal used to be their CTO and Rebecca and Jane were regularly posting on the blog. I’m a huge fan, but what Rand recently advocated on his blog is just… totally misguided the total opposite to what is really working right now.
Last Update February 5th, 2017 As many of you will know, I love WordPress. I use it on most of my affiliate sites which make me thousands of dollars per month and I also use it on my blogs, such as this one. I’m certainly not alone when it comes to utilising this CMS though — tens of millions of sites online are powered by the software.
For all the great things there are to be said about WordPress, though, out-of-the-box SEO certainly isn’t one of its strong points. As I use the software so much and make a lot of my income thanks to search engine traffic, I have come to learn what works best in terms of optimising your WordPress setup.