Google Slap = “what we need to do more of” strategy

We recently got our first ever Google “slap” a few weeks ago when Google  launched the Penguin update to their search algorithm.

So many people posted solutions and possible interpretations of the algorithm changes and we tried everything they recommended. For the most part, we have now recovered.

Now, looking forward I have pointed a few things (having read this article) that we NEED TO DO, moving forward – things that will not only ensure we avoid future slaps, but also things that may help us win the SEO battles ahead:

  1. Publish content that gets natural links because it just is INTERESTING – ensuring people we don’t even know are doing the SEO work for us.
  2. Build links slowly and consistently – not too fast and not in short bursts. A link a day keeps the Google slap away
  3. Build deep links – not just to the homepage as this looks suspicious
  4. Vary anchor text – avoid using only your url.
  5. Focus on more than PageRank for links – look at age & content quality (sites whose PR will likely go up too)
  6. Conduct competitive anaylsis for link sources – who our competitors are using
For Diamonds in Africa we are completely reviewing our link building strategy and for Rare Pink we are likely to start off with this new strategy very soon.

30 Day Challenge Experience

I’ll admit it, this year I am yet to the do the 30 Day Challenge (now re-branded to “the Challenge“). I suck, I know. I have however done it for the past three years and although none of the websites I have created through the 30DC are making me millions, I have made money from all of them.

It was interesting for me to observe the evolution of the method used through the SEO of two sites which have similar competition and were created, step-by-step, using the suggestions from the 30DC crew.

The first is: Poker Amateur

  • The site ranking for the search term “poker amateur” is NON-EXISTENT. I have a very strong feeling that some of the suggestions from the 30DC that year were in fact black-hat SEO tactics (or at least ‘not-encouraged’). This may have penalised me because it was ranking quite well for a while.
  • I realise that LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Scribd all rank really well with Google. Although the relevance factor is often missing, I am still convinced it is worth having a profile/articles on all of these – 75% of my traffic comes from these sites.

The second site is: Diamond In Africa

  • Ranking really, really well. In fact I see it as no1. for the search term “diamonds in africa“. Could be slightly different for others.
  • I believe that ‘phrase’ is not commercially attractive and my intuition is that people searching for “diamonds in africa” are most probably not looking to buy. However I have two results on the first page of searches for “buy diamonds from africa”. Score! Probably should set up some conversion tracking to check were people enquiring about prices have come from.
  • As our target market and greatest traffic is from clients in the US, I specified on Google Webmasters that the site should be focused on US searches. The odd things is, as soon as I did this I got to no.1 for but went down the rankings in Odd… Things seem to have returned to normal now though.
  • Getting about 250 clicks per month, 70% of that traffic comes from search engines. SEO Score! Market Size fail!
  • I now rank higher than the site for my SEO phrase – somehow I thought I would never take no1 away from that site, but I now know the big guys can be removed from their throne. Amazon and Wikipedia, make way for Nik and his cheesy SEO tactics. (I wonder if I’ll now rank for “cheesy SEO”)

My question, to anyone willing to answer this is…

“How important is the domain name? If I find a market that can be SEOd (good traffic, little competition) should I pursue it even if I can’t get a good domain name for the keyword? Also, I have been reading something about the new Google algorithm liking brands… does this mean its now easier to build a and optimise it for a different set of keywords?”

Its clear that Diamonds In Africa is a success while Poker Amateur was not. I now know there are many reasons for this but my advice to anyone doing the 30DC is: Think of it as rough guide, not an Internet marketing bible… but as far as rough guides go… the 30DC is pretty damn good.

SEO – The 10 Golden Lists

So here goes… my first entry to the 10 Golden Lists and it’s on Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. As a disclaimer, I’m no guru and could easily just copy and paste a dozen articles that are bound to be more credible and interesting than this, but the point of creating these lists is to have a single point of reference (my blog) or a ‘checklist’ for our own online businesses to follow.

SEO is, as Ed Dale would cringe to read, a symphony of four parts. Think of everything below as “rule-of-thumb” advice and remember, only Google (& Bing) really know exactly what works. In true marketer-turned-nerd fashion, I’m going to give tech talk a cool acronym; I introduce to you:


The lists below will never be complete. Some things will be added and others will go as SEO evolves. Feel free to comment and leave your own additions.

This is all about letting the search engines know what your site is about. Things to consider include:

  1. KEYWORDS (o.k. this one should be its own letter up above, but it would spoil my whole CULT thing). Spend time researching your keywords. For this I use Market Samurai but there are loads of tools out there. Remember three things when doing this:
    • Competition – some keywords or phrases will have more sites competing for them than others, making it harder to get to page one (e.g. “hotels” will be harder than “Manchester hotel” which is harder than “Manchester city centre hotels”)
    • Traffic – while making sure your competition is low don’t forget that if the competition is too low it’s probably because no one is searching for these terms. A balance between the two is needed, considering your budget and the market you’re in.
    • Secondary keywords are important too – for more about these, read this post on semantics.
  2. Be unique and only use original content. Even if you want to put some content from your site on Scribd or Ezine articles, tweak each one a bit to make it unique.
  3. Use an appropriate length. I use a minimum of 250 words for articles/posts.
  4. Density – For every 100 words of content, include your primary keyword once.

SEO changes all the time. It is impossible to keep up-to-date with all the ins and outs unless you are a large enough company to have dedicated SEO peeps. Try your best by following key influencers on Twitter and getting top SEO blog posts onto your RSS reader.

Only the other day I read that Google can now/will very soon be able to read the content on sites made in flash. Then a few days later I had a developer tell me that he wouldn’t recommend using flash on my site because of SEO and I had to break the news to him.

I definitely think this is the most important element of SEO as without Links we only have CUT, which is what Google will do to you if you neglect link building.

Its all about influence, relevance and politics!

So when trying to get people to link to you, remember to look for sites with:

  1. a high PageRank (PR)
  2. an old domain age
  3. relevance to your site
  4. many links pointing to them.

What’s also good to remember:

  1. DMOZ, the Yahoo Directory or any other relevant directory listing is a really good link to your site.
  2. Links from government or educational organisations are valuable (although difficult to get). Examples include any site that ends in .edu & .gov in the US, or &
  3. When blogging or writing content, link your SEO keywords even if its just to another part of your site. does this really well to cover a huge set of travel related keywords (look near the bottom of their site. This is called “internal linking” and it guides Google to content within your site.
  4. Social Media could help with SEO and is worth testing for your site (the jury is still out though). For example, Richard Branson who has a really high PR, could retweet a link I have tweeted – go figure out the benefit of having 10 influential people who retweet you or post your link (especially since Google has started using that content when indexing). I also got a lot of help from one of my pages on Facebook with 35,000+ fans – it had a PR of 5 and all my sites get a link from it.
  5. Social Bookmarking works really well as well.
  6. Grow your links slowly, not all in one go.
  7. Reciprocal links (where two sites link to each other) are NOT as valuable as when a site links to you without the return link. If you have to return a link, consider masking it (e.g. using a “no follow” tag).

A big thank you to the E-word, a Search Engine Consultancy in Manchester, for some of these tips.

By tricks I am NOT referring to black-hat SEO

Some structure/formatting tricks include:

  1. Use headings, descriptions, meta-tags (not so important anymore) and page titles that tell the engines what you are optimising for.
  2. Use heading tags like h1, h2 etc. to tell the engines where the headings are.
  3. Use Alt tags and name your images appropriately.
  4. Make SEO keywords bold and use bullet points. Google likes content that is well layed out.

Other ideas:

  1. Youtube is sometimes called the second largest search engine after Google – food for thought in terms of what you define as content. Or to spell it out for you, video SEO could be where you decide to optimise if it fits your business model.
  2. Use Google Analytics and Google Webmasters to monitor traffic and possible site problems.
  3. Speed matters – use Google’s Page Speed to check if your site downloads fast enough.
  4. Submit a sitemap to the search engines and make sure you have RSS.
  5. There must be hundreds more, will add as I remember or come across them.

Already synergies are appearing at its only the first post in the series. The connection between social media and SEO is predicted to increase significantly over the next few years.

And now, it’s Friday and writing this has drained me of my very last ounce of weekday energy. I am now officially in weekend mode so apologies to anyone that has somehow managed to read this far. Thank you and have a good weekend.