What is a Progressive Web App & Who Should Be Using It?

What is a Progressive Web App & Who Should Be Using It? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

According to Google, progressive web apps are the next big thing for “delivering amazing user experiences on the web.” In the same vein as AMP (accelerated mobile pages), PWAs are causing digital marketers to rethink the way they can design and deliver their sites in a mobile-first world. Website owners and designers need to be paying attention. So just what is a progressive web app?

what-is-a-progressive-web-app-pwa

What is a Progressive Web App?

It’s an all-in-one solution for web developers to create a single version website/app that can be delivered across all devices and works like an app but without the hassle of distribution through an app store.

A progressive web app, or PWA, combines the best of a website and the best of a native application. It’s a type of hybrid app. If a user comes to your PWA-run site, they’ll get the mobile version of your site but faster.

With a traditional hybrid app, like the Amazon app, the user’s interactions with it are built into the phone as an app, but the data collected is from the web. Here’s where a PWA is different. A PWA launches a browser to do the same thing. With the introduction of service workers (the scripts running in the background of your browser) and other technological advancements, browsers are more sophisticated than ever. They can do things on your phone that previously could only be done through a native app. This means you don’t have to publish the app in the app store. The barrier to entry of downloading an app is no longer an issue for your users.

As a developer, you no longer have to program different apps for different devices, nor deal with special screen sizes. You can invest your time and resources into designing a PWA. If you have to make a mobile website, you might as well just use a PWA. It’s well worth it.

Talking PWAs with Cindy Krum

My longtime friend Cindy Krum, the CEO and founder of MobileMoxie, is a PWA guru. I wanted to get her take on how far in the future the mass adoption of PWAs looks to be. Here’s what she had to say:

Lots of big companies are already testing PWA code and integrations on their sites. Lyft, Mic, Washington Post, Flipboard, The Weather Channel and more have already launched beta PWA sites for testing. Google has already published some PWA development guidelines for SEO, but I think the update may depend on how aggressively Google and other influential companies promote PWAs.

Google has also been hinting at cross-over between AMP and PWAs, using AMP to make PWA’s work in Safari, so there may be some new iteration of AMP that makes AMP enabled content available in PWA format. The PWA news viewer already behaves a lot like a PWA. My guess is that in the next year, we will see some of the more agile and cutting edge companies take their PWAs out of beta, and making them their main sites, with or without the influence of AMP.

It will be interesting to watch more widespread adoption of PWAs unfold. As with anything new, of course, it can sometimes be hard to get clients to adopt bleeding edge technology. Here’s how Cindy is getting her clients on board.

Cindy: The main recommendation is to try it out. You can add a service worker and an app manifest to any existing website. It is not enough to get the full benefits of a PWA, but it is enough to learn how easy or difficult the integration will be for your company. In our case, we developed an app manifest in five minutes, and a service worker in 90 minutes.

Making web-apps indexable tends to be the harder part of the equation, but that is true with or without the PWA elements. Web apps are hard to index because developers don’t always include URLs for state-changes in the web app.

For the immediate future, PWAs are something to be aware of, and if you’re able to, start working into your testing and planning cycles. There are no guarantees it’ll be the go-forward structure and remain supported by Google forever, but you don’t want to be left behind. There are practical upsides to PWAs that are worth considering regardless of how long it takes this to be a mainstream approach.

Hiring an SEO Company? 6 Critical Questions to Avoid Getting Tricked!

You might have heard the saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” more than once. Before agreeing or disagreeing on it, indulge me while I tell you a bit of its origins. A French writer named Charles Étienne is the “father” of this world wide used phrase but the literal translation is actually – ” One is never served so well as by oneself “- . And with this literal transcription we might be on the same page. And this is because we do believe that each professional has his own defined role in every complex business strategy. Although it’s sometimes hard to leave our business in someone’s else hands, this is necessary for so many reasons we are not going to bore you with.

Hiring an SEO Company 6 Critical Questions to Avoid Getting Tricked

 

 

It might happen more than once to get to a point where you’d need a SEO company to take care of your business. The world of internet is full with appealing suggestions; yet, from all the offers, what should you choose to be sure you’ve made the correct decision? Here is where we are going to give you a helpful hand (hopefully) by suggesting you some of the most important questions you should address to a prospect SEO company:

seo company
Below there is the list of the questions we’ve founded critical to find an answer for, to make sure one has taken the correct decision when it comes to hiring a SEO company

  1. Can You Guarantee that Our Site Will Rank #1 for a Major Search Term?
  2. Can You Share Information on Some of Your Past SEO Customers and Their Results?
  3. Will You Provide Me with an SEO Audit? And If Yes What Kind of Information Do You Usually Include in the Audit?
  4. How Fast Can I Start Seeing Results from this SEO Campaign?
  5. What Kind of Link Building Strategies Does Your SEO Company Use? 
  6. What Do You Need from Me to Implement the SEO Campaign?

 
bt

 

1. Can You Guarantee that Our Site Will Rank #1 for a Major Search Term?

This is a really good question, but not for the reason one might suspect.

If a company says yes to this question, that’s a sure sign you might want to stay away from them.

While getting ranked #1 is an entirely desirable outcome, no one can guarantee that it will actually happen. It’s not that SEO companies aren’t trying hard enough. Rather, there are so many factors influencing the ranking that it would be impossible for anyone to be able to proficiently control all of them. There might be upwards of 200 measurements that influence a website’s rank. Even if someone could verify with absolute certainty that Google’s algorithm was made up entirely of some known measurements , it would be impossible for them to control each and every factor.

So for a company to boast that it will get you to number 1 with absolute is suggests either folly (in which case you don’t need them) or charlatanry (in which case you don’t want them).

Below you can see a screenshot of two companies that guarantee high rankings in record time and the prices are not even that high. Just like a chocolate cake when you are on diet, this sounds very tempting, doesn’t it?
rank#1

 

2. Can You Share Information on Some of Your Past SEO Customers and Their Results?

While privacy is a big deal for any client, most would be OK with some of their positive results being shown to the world. Of course, you won’t be able to see what happened specifically in each case, but a SEO company should be able to show some names and bring up some numbers.

If they can’t share any info at all, it could be a pretty big warning sign.

Clients should generally be pretty open to having their success stories disclosed as good practice examples, because it boosts their success narrative.

SEO companies should definitely want to list other clients, because it represents their portfolio and speaks to their ability to attract and maintain satisfied customers.

If such a list already exists, you can also try to find out more about them (the time spent with the SEO firm, the variety they show) and even to contact some of the clients to try and get some first-hand references.

SEO Company case studies

 

3. Will You Provide Me with an SEO Audit? And If Yes What Kind of Information Do You Usually Include in the Audit?

 

This question is meant to make you understand any SEO company’s level of transparency.

If they are PRO, they should share with you information such as: SEO Visibility, New Links and Lost Links, Keywords Tracked Improvements and Declines, Onpage Analysis with all the whistles and bells (architecture,content,mobile,indexability). It’s important that you know what you’ll be able to get from them and how quickly. Are going to get everything in real time or will some information be available only at certain times?

If the company is vague when it comes to what kind of info are included on the audit, their level of professionalism is probably low.

Also, it is very important for you, as a digital marketer pro, to understand the data presented in the audit. Otherwise, the audit might not serve you much.

You don’t need just a collection of fancy data but real actionable insights that you properly understand and need.

There is a widely held belief that the word “kangaroo” comes from an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “I don’t know.” There is not enough evidence to sustain this matter, yet, the story has a strong moral and goes like this: It is said that Captain James Cook, when he landed to make repairs along the northeast coast of Australia, while trying to understand the way the marsupial animal was named in the Aboriginal language, he misunderstood it and what he had heard was the word “kangaroo”which actually means “I don’t know”. Then again, the story might not be true, yet, what is important to keep in mind is that a proper understanding of the link audit you are provided with is highly important. 

 

4. How Fast Can I Start Seeing Results from this SEO Campaign?

This question is a highly important and a bit tricky one. Although you might be tempted to be glad if you received an answer such as: “your ranks will increase in now-time” or “in max one month we’ll get you there”, the truth is that if you get such an answer you should be looking for a new company.

If the company provides you with a milestone plan letting you know where you will be in 3 months, 6 months and so on, then you might be with a good company.

Once upon a time the trend was to identify the most important 5 – 10 keywords for a business, highly optimize for them and easily improve your ranks. The SEO world looks completely different today as it’s driven by natural language search. We are not talking about ranking for a few keywords anymore; the focus is now on the natural language searches that are growing and changing rapidly.

Higher rankings nowadays cannot be reached in a matter of weeks.

The screenshot below is taken from a SEO company website that promises great results within “great” time.

fastSEO results

 

5. What Kind of Link Building Strategies Does Your SEO Company Use?

 

Luckily or not, links are still an important signal for Google.

Even if you have the best on page optimization, a killer content and amazing social presence, those juicy backlinks are still a must.

And most of the times links are also hard to achieve.  Especially high quality links. You need to keep this in mind when talking to an SEO company.

If they start talking about getting thousands of links in 2 weeks or if they start talking about web directories, paid links, link scheme or any other technique mentioned on this exhaustive list of black hat techniques,  run fast and don’t look behind.

Google’s Guidelines are pretty clear when it comes to link schemes, just as you can see in the screenshot below. Therefore, if you don’t want to get a penalty you should be really clear and straightforward when talking about the link building strategy the prospect company is going to use while working on your website.

 

The screenshot below is taken from a SEO company’s website which makes a stellar offer, somewhat hard to refuse, you must admit. Yet, as we do cherish our beloved cognitives, we’d recommend you to closely analyze  such offers as they might get you into big troubles.

link building

6. What Do You Need from Me to Implement the SEO Campaign?

 

Although it might look like an obvious question, please don’t overlook it. You need to understand exactly what kind of requirements the company has and how much of your/your team time will be needed.

If you have to make all the changes and basically all the work,  than what you are getting is a consultation and not a SEO service.

And we are not saying that consultancy is a bad thing; yet, you need to know what you are paying for.

Also, keep in mind the privacy matter.  There might be data you don’t want tot share. There is absolutely no problem. Just keep in mind that by doing so, you might have to do some extra work. Another matter you should keep in mind is how the changes suggested by the SEO company will be presented to your team and who much time will be required by your staff to do those updates. Surely,  important amount of time might be invested along with the SEO company that you hired, yet, you need to make things clear and now exactly how many hours you will need to dedicate on this.

 

The post Hiring an SEO Company? 6 Critical Questions to Avoid Getting Tricked! appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

5 Ways to Win New Clients

No start-up agency has ever succeeded without asking themselves the most vital of questions: “Where do I find new clients?” and “How do I win more clients?”

All agencies target growth but your agency is sure to see times of turbulence and will inevitably lose some clients along the way. Sometimes you’ll lose them through entirely unavoidable circumstances. Sometimes you’ll just plain screw up. Every agency leader knows that a healthy sales pipeline for winning new clients is vital.

Ignoring the obvious irony, we will assume that your digital marketing agency is doing at least the basics in terms of your own digital marketing activity to try and lure in new client prospects. But there are often some simple avenues for finding new clients that are missed.

#1 Referrals: Lean on Existing Clients

Referrals are a digital marketing agency owner’s dream. Not only because they come at practically zero cost, but because winning referral opportunities are concrete evidence that your clients are happy with your work and you’re doing a great job – and they’re willing to spread the word about you to their friends. New clients from referrals are earned by consistently performing excellent work for your current accounts (which makes new referral clients extra rewarding!)

One area where many agencies fall is they don’t proactively make any effort to facilitate new client referrals. This is often through a misconceived view that approaching existing clients for referrals could appear desperate or in some way damage your current client relationships. Most clients will be more than happy to assist you where they are able when it comes to introductions to new leads and contacts. There are a few things to consider as you get referrals.

When it comes to proactively approaching your existing clients, ensure you pick clients who are up to date with their own workload and any deliverables. (You don’t want to be searching for more work and new clients through a client that is still waiting on current work from you.) Make it personal by saving the referral request for a monthly review meeting (which is typically in person, over the phone or via Skype) — the request will seem more genuine and you can gauge your contact’s state of mind and satisfaction with your services before popping the question. Asking for referrals off the back of a period of success or a major milestone in your relationship with your current clients is always a smart move.

#2 Partner with Other Agencies

There are several reasons that agencies choose to pass on clients – heck, you probably have even turned down clients yourself for any number of reasons. Typically, agencies will pass on projects that are either too low budget for their agency model or because the project in play may require skills or expertise they simply don’t have. Or perhaps they have the skillset but simply do not have availability to timely deliver for that new client. Regardless of the reason, collaborating with other agencies is a great way to win new clients because the lead generation and vetting process is already taken care of for you.

One of the simplest ways to find a mutually beneficial agency partner relationship is to exploit two of the most common reasons for passing on clients:

Go Big – Partner with an agency considerably larger than you with a noticeable difference in pricing structure. These partners will have no problem making an introduction to you for a potential new client that simply can’t afford their services.

Exploit a Niche – Find an agency that doesn’t offer what you offer. Ideally one of your strongest service offerings. Many digital marketing agencies have found success partnering with web development and design agencies who simply don’t have the expertise in house to deliver ongoing digital marketing services post production of a website for example. If winning new clients through referrals like this isn’t appealing to them, you may want to consider offering some of your services as a white label solution.

#3 Thought Leadership: Blogging

Finding new clients can often simply be a case of making it as easy as possible for you and your agency to be found — or even simply stumbled upon. Leaving traditional paid advertising aside, casting your net wider can be achieved with a less direct approach. Rather than advertising what you do, just talk about it.

Blogging is a great route for discovery. You can build yourself, your talent and your agency as an authority in your industry and as thought leaders by producing killer content. Talk about challenges in the industry, share an opinion or simply facilitate conversation via blogging. This can be as simple as keeping an agency blog which is contributed to regularly and shared via social media and through email newsletters. Or you can branch out even further and try your hand at guest blogging for industry leading sites. Offer your content and expertise for others to share and make an impact on their regular readership.

Pick clever, topical titles and pay attention to current trends to make the greatest impact. Ensure your content is unique and credible and you’ll be surprised how a relatively low cost piece can increase your agency’s exposure to a wealth of potential new clients.

#4 It’s Not Over Till It’s Over: Re-Visit Lost Clients

By lost we’re talking more about “the ones who got away.” Those almost clients that, for whatever reason, didn’t become new clients at the time. Leave a reasonable gap — a minimum of 8 weeks – before you get in touch with them again. Ask them how things are going, if their plans have played out as they had expected and, of course, if there is anything you can help them with.

The key advice here is to keep the contact as personal as possible. Leverage the relationship you started to build. Make specific references back to discussions you had with them in the past and ask specifically about targets and milestones. With the right balance the communication will come across as a genuine conversation igniter rather than feeling like a copy and paste sales attempt. Even if you lost out in a pitch to another agency, that’s not to say everything is going per plan with their chosen partner.

#5 Events: Go Beyond Attendance

Industry events, conferences and expos are great for networking and keeping up with trends. Far too often we settle for simply attending events like these. Try going one step further and reach out to event organizers to see if they’re looking for speakers, hosts, panellists or even just contributed content. If you really want to win new clients, get yourself and your agency on the stage in an authority position instead of simply being one of the crowd.

Most event organizers campaign hard to fill their stages with interesting content and speakers. There’s certainly no harm in approaching them and asking, but be sure to do this early on — way ahead of the event date. This not only gives you a better chance of securing a slot, but also gives you time to plan ahead and produce your content/presentation so that you can make the most of any opportunities that come along.

Be specific, have an idea or subject matter in mind when contacting the event organizers. Think of a topic that is going to appeal to the event’s audience. Planning your speaking pitch will make for a much more compelling case for you to be featured.

So there you have it! Five great ways to get new clients. Good luck in prospecting and winning new clients.

The post 5 Ways to Win New Clients appeared first on BrightLocal.

The All-In-One Mobile SEO & Design Checklist

The All-In-One Mobile SEO & Design Checklist was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

The mobile user experience really matters to Google. Proof:

  • Since 2015, more searches are performed on mobile than desktop, meaning mobile is the main device used worldwide for the majority of online browsing time.
  • In April 2015, Google made a pre-announced update to the algorithm that ranks mobile search results. A website’s mobile friendliness officially was dubbed a confirmed ranking signal for mobile search rankings.
  • In late 2015, the Google Quality Rating Guidelines were updated with screenshots from the perspective of mobile devices.
  • In November 2016, Google pre-announced an update to its search index, moving to a mobile-first index. This means that Google uses your site’s mobile version in ranking calculations.
  • And this coming January 2017, sites that show an intrusive interstitial in the transition from a mobile search result to the content clicked will not rank as highly in Google results.

Google is optimizing its users mobile search experience, and webmasters must be in lock step.

Consider this checklist your mobile SEO go-to resource.

mobile seo

If you’re already on board and optimizing for mobile, jump to the section that best suits your needs. If you’re new to the game, start from the beginning and use this checklist as a start-to-finish guide.

Table of Contents

  1. Choose a Mobile Platform
  2. Optimize Mobile Sites for Crawling and Indexing
  3. Optimize for Page Load Speed
  4. Optimize Design for the Mobile UX
  5. Implement Analytics to Track Mobile Conversion Goals
  6. Optimize Your Content for the Mobile Experience
  7. Test Often and Optimize User Experience

1. Choose a Mobile Platform

There are primarily four varieties of mobile page strategies: responsive design, dynamic serving, separate mobile page and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

For both mobile and desktop searchers, Google is looking to rank web pages that show high relevance, trust and great user experience.

Remember, to rank for a target query Google needs to deem your web page the most relevant and “least imperfect” option for that query.

While your desktop-optimized web pages may be incredibly relevant, if your code does not allow for your content to fit the smartphone experience, Google recognizes this as a poor user experience. A poor user experience means your website gets further from “least imperfect” and your rank drops further down the SERP.

Since ranking high in mobile search results needs to be a priority, building a dynamic or separate mobile platform for your content needs to be a priority as well.

You have options for how to display your content for the mobile user agent and visitor: responsive design; dynamic serving; a separate mobile site; and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

The solution – or combination of solutions – that’s right for you will depend on many factors including development resources, conversion goals, mobile keyword research versus desktop keyword research, and persona behavior.

To figure out which mobile optimization strategy is best for you, we recommend reading:

2. Optimize for Crawling and Indexing

When optimizing your mobile platform, don’t forget about your technical SEO best practices.

If you skip the technical SEO on your mobile site, search spiders may have a hard time discerning mobile-specific content from desktop-specific content, which can create a bad user experience in both the mobile and the desktop experience.

Remember the basics: search engine spiders need to be able to discover, crawl and index your web pages in order for them to rank.

In other words, if a search spider cannot find and access your site pages, your site cannot rank.

To help search bots crawl, index and differentiate (if they are different) your mobile site pages, make sure you:

  • Create a mobile XML sitemap with a <mobile:mobile/> declaration after each URL listing.
  • Submit your mobile site and your mobile XML sitemap to Google Search Console.
  • Never design your mobile site using pop-up windows or lightboxes that cannot be discovered through a sitemap crawl.
  • Make sure to implement rel=canonical, rel=alternate media and Vary: User-Agent HTTP Header tags as needed to tell Google when it should deliver a desktop version of your web page and when it should deliver a mobile version.
  • Make sure to allow the Googlebot and Google Smartphone user agents to access your site.

3. Optimize for Page Load Speed

This is very important to both the user and the search spider!

According to the PageSpeed Insights portion of the Google Developers help site, Google prefers above-the-fold content to render in under a second on a mobile network.

Anything longer than a second, they say, can result in a poor user experience. The idea is to get users interacting with the page as soon as possible.

On the user experience end: According to Google and Strangeloop, 85% of mobile users expect sites to load at least as fast as desktop sites. So improving mobile site speed needs to be a goal.

To help get your mobile sites loading faster make sure you:

4. Optimize Design for the Mobile UX

In the context of mobile optimization, design describes the elements of the web page the end-user sees, and user experience (or UX) describes the experience that design creates for the user, how they interact with elements on the page, how the elements on the page make them feel, whether the site is easy to use or frustrating, etc.

Google wants happy, satisfied searchers, so user experience is a huge priority for the search engine. Create a bad above-the-fold user experience and expect your site to rank somewhere far from Page 1.

To really send home the importance of why mobile UX matters, consider this comment by a Google representative:

“According to our studies, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site that they had trouble accessing from their phone. That includes sites that use fonts which are illegible on mobile, or sites where users have to zoom in or pan around excessively.”

Straight from Google. More than half of your inbound traffic is unlikely to return to your mobile site if they are met with a poor user experience. This means serious loss in conversion, as well as loss of mobile rank.

To get your web pages designed and optimized for UX, we recommend starting with these considerations:

Read Google’s 25 Principles of Mobile Site Design to learn what Google considers “mobile site design best practices.”

Consider how your buttons look, feel and function:

  • Are you using Click-to-Call buttons?
  • Is your logo a button that makes it easy to get back to your home page?
  • Are your buttons finger friendly?
  • Have you placed your most important CTA button above the mobile fold?

Consider the UX of your mobile site search:

  • Is the site search visible above the fold in your mobile design?
  • Can you add filter elements to make searching your site on a mobile device easier?
  • Did you make sure it’s impossible for search filters to return zero results?
REI-mobile-search-filtering-2

The REI mobile site makes it easy to filter search results.

Is your mobile experience optimized for task completion?

  • Can your forms be simplified?
  • Can login requirements be simplified? Can users purchase as a guest?
  • Are your menus working for the user? Can you simplify them? Would your pulldown menu work better as toggle menu?
  • Would a third-party payment service make paying with a mobile device easier for your end user?
  • Do any of your forms or other windows open in a pop-up window or lightbox? If yes, fix this. Pop-up windows and lightboxes are bad for UX and SEO.
  • Does your user have to pinch, scroll side to side or zoom out to see your web pages? If yes, fix this. The Google representative quoted above specifically referenced a user having to “zoom in or pan around excessively” as an example of bad user experience. Your mobile platform should deliver web content that is sized to fit mobile devices.

Toggle Menu example

An example of a mobile toggle menu.

5. Implement Analytics to Track Mobile Conversion Goals

It’s not a new concept. How can you understand where your web pages are succeeding and failing if you’re not tracking activity with analytics?

Don’t overlook this important step on your mobile platform to show ROI in exchange for buy-in and budget.

Make sure to:

  • Implement analytics across your mobile site.
  • Develop intelligent mobile- and conversion-centric metrics that give insight into how your personas are interacting with your web pages. Remember to look at micro-conversions and device-specific bounce rate.
  • When possible, define your mobile goals early then build mobile web pages with a task flow that makes conversion easier for the user.
  • Remember desktop rank and mobile rank can differ greatly. Page one in mobile SERPs tends to include significantly fewer organic results than desktop SERPs, and the keywords your personas are using to search for you in the desktop experience are not necessarily the words they’re using in mobile. Make sure your mobile stats are coming from true analysis of mobile SERP activity.
  • Make reporting easier by setting up a custom mobile campaign dashboard.
  • Monitor mobile site speed in Google Analytics by navigating to Content > Site Speed.

6. Optimize Your Content for the Mobile Experience

I won’t say “content is king” one more time, but I will say content really matters. Content is the means by which your users get to know you, your products and your services. Thoughtful content is truly key to conversion. Plus, without strategic content you can’t optimize your web pages for keywords, which means your web pages can’t rank in the desktop or mobile experience.

When approaching content creation with an eye toward mobile optimization think:

  • Is your content resonating with mobile users? Don’t set it and forget it. Instead, keep on adding and testing content types and measuring the corresponding mobile tracking variables.
  • All mobile content is not created equally. What works and reads well on one device type might not work at all on another (think smartphone experience versus tablet experience).
  • Is your content easily read without excessive scrolling or zooming? Are your digital assets – images, videos, navigation, etc. – easy to see without scrolling or zooming?
  • Are you calls to action front and center? Can you place a call to action above the fold?
REI-Find-Local-Buttons-Mobile-UX

Here, the REI mobile site uses a “Find in store” button to optimize for local UX.

  • Can your content be optimized for local? For instance, can you include the stock of product available nearby like REI does?
  • 62% of keywords have different ranks between desktop and mobile. Have you done mobile-specific keyword research? Are your mobile users using search phrases that are very different from the phrases your desktop searchers are using? If yes, consider using dynamic serving to deliver mobile-optimized content to your mobile users.
  • Are your meta tags optimized? When appropriate or necessary, are they optimized specifically for mobile?
  • Social content is mobile content. Are you integrating your search, social, video and mobile campaigns?

7. Test Often and Optimize User Experience

So you picked a mobile platform, designed your mobile pages with user experience in mind, and created mobile-optimized content. Great! Now… is it working?

Does it look like you intended it to look? Is Google seeing it how you think Google should be seeing it? Are all the usability features you built into your web pages actually working for your users?

Don’t set it and forget it. Mobile optimization is all about testing and retesting over and over again.

While testing is the final step in our checklist, remember that testing isn’t like putting a fork in it and calling it done. As an optimizer your work is never done, instead you should consider it “done for now until it’s time to test again.”

When testing and retesting your mobile web efforts, make sure to consider these factors:

  • Have you tested on a range of devices using an emulator, or a series of actual devices?
  • With each website release, the configuration needs to be checked.
  • Are you testing your UX using real people that represent your personas? Have your friends and family test your site.
  • Have you recently run your mobile-optimized website through the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to glean insights about user experience and site speed? (Don’t miss the User Experience section of the SiteSpeed Insights tool!)
  • Google will add snippets to mobile SERPs warning searchers when the website they see listed may yield a sub-optimal user experience. Warnings include “Uses Flash” and “May not work on your device.” Have you checked to see whether your site is being amended with Google warnings in mobile SERPs?
  • Use the W3C Mobile Checker to test your website’s true mobile-friendliness.

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Right

Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t thinking of mobile website optimization when he said “anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

Yet there’s no better quote to emphasize not only the importance of mobile SEO, but more so the importance of effective mobile SEO; of not just optimizing for mobile, but optimizing the right way for mobile.

Times are changing and the way that people use and access the internet is changing, so we as marketers need to be changing the way we think, analyze, create, package and deliver content.

How are you optimizing your web pages to make sure they are mobile ready?

For more information on how to optimize your pages for speed and mobile SEO, we recommend these resource:

 Start the tutorial >>


Let us help you drive and track traffic to your website with a mobile-first SEO strategy. BCI’s services are tailor-made to match your business goals and audience. Let’s talk more about growing revenue through digital marketing.


This post was originally published by Chelsea Adams on Oct. 29, 2014, and updated on Nov. 23, 2016.

44 Black Hat SEO Techniques That Will Tank Your Site

In the old days of Black Hat SEO, these techniques, tricks, tactics or however you’d like to call them may have worked, until the search engines started taking actions and updating algorithms to penalize websites using such Black Hat SEO Techniques. And, as the search engines don’t like to let themselves and their users be tricked, they took measures to keep the search results as clean and accurate as possible.

44 Black Hat SEO Techniques That Will Tank Your Site

Using the proper techniques to rank and to get organic traffic can be hard, but it’s the best thing to do. Therefore, try to not fall in the trap of following the next black hat/shady SEO techniques:

I. WEBSITE OVER-OPTIMIZATION

  1. Keyword Stuffing – Writing Thin Content or Using Keyword Stuffing Gets You Penalized by Google Panda
  2. Over-Optimized Alt Description – Practice the Keyword Stuffing in Your Alt Description Image
  3. Commercial Anchor Text on Internal Pages – Using Keyword-Rich Anchor Texts for Internal Links
  4. Irrelevant Keywords – Abusing Irrelevant Keywords Just to Rank Will Damage Your CTR
  5. Linking Over-Optimization – Trying to Over-Optimize the Inbound Links Will Ruin Your Link Profile
  6. Hidden/ Invisible Text and Links – Hiding Links and Text or Writing Tiny Text for the Sole Purpose to Build Links
  7. HTML Heading Over-Optimization – Using Multiple H1s on a Page

II. CONTENT SCAMS

  1. Duplicate Content – Writing Duplicate Content Will Hamper Your Ranking
  2. Content Automation – Using Automated Ways to Generate Content
  3. Bait and Switch – Fraudulently Using the Bait and Switch Technique to Trick Google
  4. Article Spinning – Crafting Manual or Automated Article Spinning
  5. Scraped Content – Hatching Scraped Content Is Not Only Forbidden but Also Illegal
  6. Cloaking – Using Cloaking Violates Google Guidelines, and You Risk Getting Penalized by Google Penguin
  7. Malicious Active Content – Building up Pages with Malicious Behavior
  8. Clickbait – Fabricating Deceptive Headlines Will Decrease Your CTR

III. LINK MANIPULATION

  1. Web Rings – Building Web Rings to Get Traffic from Related Websites
  2. Guest Post Spam – Unrelated Guest Blogging Just to Generate Links
  3. Link Farm – Manipulating Your Link Profile by Increasing the Number of Inbound Links
  4. Linkbait and Switch – Revitalize Your Content into a Commercial One Using Linkbait and Switch Method
  5. Buying Reviews with Links by Offering “Free” Products – Manipulating the Practice of Sending Free Products in Exchange for Reviews with Links
  6. Link Exchange – Excessive Link Exchange Is Considered a Link Scheme and It Won’t Let Your Site Appear in SERP
  7. Blog Comment Spam – Comment Spamming to Get a Large Number of Backlinks Easily
  8. Shady Redirects – Using 301 Redirect with Link Exchange
  9. Commercial Anchor Text Keywords – Using Less or Not at All Non-Branded Keywords
  10. Spammy Footer Links – Loading the Footer of Your Website with Links Will Only Get You a Large Number of Unnatural Links

IV. PAID LINKS

  1. Link Selling – Selling Links Will De-Index Your Website and Cut Your Traffic to Half
  2. Buying Links – Stop Buying Links to Receive Link Juice
  3. Paid Advertorials – Paying for Advertorials to Pass Authority
  4. Directory Listing – Registering and/or Buying Placements on Low-Quality Directories

IV. SERP SPAM

  1. Parasite Hosting – Setting up a Parasite Hosting to Take Advantage of the Authoritative Domains from Google
  2. Google Bombing – Influencing the Rank of a Page by Artificially Increasing the Number of Pages That Link to It and the Anchor Texts Used
  3. Doorway Pages or Gateway Pages – Using Doorway Pages or Gateway Pages to Rank Higher in SERP
  4. Rich Snippet Markup Spam – Creating Irrelevant Rich Snippets Markup
  5. Automated Google Queries – Sending Automated Google Queries

VI. CROOKED WEBSITES

  1. Mirror Sites – Designing Mirror Sites to Increase Your Rankings
  2. Private Blog Networks – Creating Blogs to Generate Link Juice
  3. Typosquatting or URL Hijacking – Putting Your Reputation and Brand at Risk of Facing Cybercrime by Using Typosquatting or URL Hijacking
  4. Toxic Sites – Having Links on Toxic Sites Hurts Your Link Profile

VII. ILLEGAL WAYS TO MAKE MONEY

  1. Cybersquatting or Domain Squatting – Registering Domains Similar to a Trademark or Business for the Sole Purpose of Getting Monetary Benefits
  2. Cookie Stuffing or Cookie Dropping – Making Cookie Stuffing Is an Illegal Practice

VIII. VICIOUS TACTICS

  1. Negative SEO – Falsely Reporting Your Competitors to Get Them Penalized
  2. TrackBack Spam – Improperly Use the TrackBack Feature to Get Visitors on Your Site
  3. Referrer Spam – Polluting a Site with Fake Statistical Data as a Result of Referral Spam Technique
  4. Social Network Spam – Sending an Enormous List of Irrelevant Links in the Social Network

 

1. Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is an old technique that had its moment of glory. It was highly popular before the 2000s, until Google started noticing that content with a great keyword density isn’t relevant to the user.
 
For example, if you are the manager of a company that sells chips and somebody asks you if you have chocolate chips, I bet you don’t answer to them “We do have chocolate chips. Our best selling product are the chocolate chips because these chocolate chips have better taste than our simple chips and our customers love chocolate, so chocolate chips will be a better decision. Try chocolate chips.” You sound like a crazy person if you talk like that. I mean, who can actually talk like that? Ever?
 
Repeatedly using a keyword in an article or a small piece of text – is like giving a definition of a word by using the same word over and over again. It’s not natural and healthy, nor unique. It’s bad user-experience and, worst of all, it will get you penalized by Panda Google Algorithm for low-quality content. It’s better to use expressions and write like you’d be talking to someone because the big G values more the content that is written for people than SERPs. But you already knew that, so why not put it into practice?
 
What do you think about the next page?
Keyword-stuffing addictinggames.com
Does it look natural to you? I bet that you can find a range of online games on the site, but honestly, you don’t need to write it a thousand times to understand that.
 
And since we’ve talked about Google Panda we should see what impact can keyword stuffing can have on several sites.  The website presented below is one affected by this algorithm:
 

Well, that might happen if you stuff your site with keywords; you and your site will suffer alike.

2. Over-Optimized Alt Description

The story goes on with image alt descriptions that are over-optimized. A little trickier than keyword stuffing, this technique is found by search engine crawlers even though you burden your images with a lousy number of keywords instead of your text (content). Ever if you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean it’s not that harmful.
 
Let’s make a thing clear: It is recommended to add images to your articles to make them more approachable. More importantly, you should write alt descriptions to your images, but don’t abuse it.

3. Commercial Anchor Text on Internal Pages

If you read #1 and #2 you can see it is easy to get carried away from the right path – white hat technique. Using keyword-rich anchor for internal links is a clear sign of over-optimized website or overly SEOed, and it will look exactly like this unnatural smiley face.
Fake smile

You need to keep your site neat and tidy. For example, you are writing an article on your blog about your beautiful trip to Barcelona and want to recommend a tour you sell on your site.
 
Recommended: If you’d like to have an amazing trip to Barcelona, you should check out our amazing 6 day trip to Barcelona with a free travel insurance.
 
Not recommended: If you’d like to visit Barcelona, we have a range of tours and activities; just check them all out at Barcelona For You.
 
Google has come with a “solution” for those who are looking for the easy way to rank in the top; it’s called penalty. Some sites have qualitative content but don’t rank so well and some sites rank better, but have thin, over-optimized content.
 
You might wonder which of the above cases is better. Te professionals think that means unique content written for the user and not for search engines and which has meaningful, relevant information. But don’t take our word for it, look at the examples below to see the rankings. In the screenshot below, you can find a site which provides a good user-experience.

The second example from the screenshot below looks like an over-optimized site:

Now you see it’s not a myth anymore that using keyword-rich anchor texts for internal links to over-optimize your website can bring you a “pretty” penalization from Google.

4. Irrelevant Keywords

Another “joy” of the over-optimization game is taking abuse of irrelevant keywords just to rank. Just to make myself clear let’s say you like to play poker, but we know you are bluffing, just like your visitors will do when they enter your site, and they will run like bats out of hell. And your CTR will suffer.
 
Gaining traffic by using lots of unnecessary keywords to rank won’t work. Cheating, like in every relation, is punished, and Google will take you/your site down.
 
I get that you have plenty of topics in your niche, but stay there, don’t jump the garden to your neighbor. The dog will bite you! You might lose users that could have become clients, and they will buy from your competitors. That happened just because you weren’t honest with them.
 

Michael Panuthos, SEO and SEM specialist says that:

Sometimes your SEO specialist is so eager to get you on the first page of Google, he or she will neglect relevancy. If your SEO specialist gets you on the first page of Google for irrelevant keywords then you may not receive traffic. Relevancy is key.

5. Linking Over-Optimization

Webmasters find all kinds of scammy ways of ranking. This black hat SEO technique happens when you forcefully place internal links on the homepage for pages like “About us”, “Contact us”, “Products” and so on. It’s not only unpractical but also useless because those pages have a lot of traffic as they are, and it’s better to have deep links to strengthen your internal links.

6. Hidden/Invisible Text and Links

Hiding links and text for the sole purpose of building links comes in different sizes and shapes. Google has discovered all schemes: hiding text or links using CSS to position text off-screen, using the same color font as the background, setting font size to 0 or hiding a link to a single character.

You would be surprised, but novices still use this ancient deceiving technique.

Not all hidden text and links are bad for your site. For example, using a descriptive image alt description, a script for Java or code for Flash files is acceptable. The last two technologies will help improve the experience of your site with the search engines.

7. HTML Heading Over-Optimizing

Using multiple H1s on a page is a widely spread tactic to influence on-site SEO. Abusing this black hat technique makes your site look stuffed.

Take for example the site below. It exploits the use of headings and keyword “plumber”.

Heading Over Optimization Best plumbers

 

Never-the-less, I encourage you to write headlines, but take in mind that you should always have only one H1, and H2, H3, etc. just when it’s necessary.

8. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a type of content that appears on more than one site. Also, duplicate content might be content stolen from other places (URLs). It is only giving a hard time to search engines to choose from all the duplicate content, and show the correct piece of information – which usually happens, and Google is showing the original content in SERPs. That because it can’t show duplicate content – it’s not relevant to the user.
 
Oh, the good old days of SEO when duplicate content wouldn’t damage your site so bad! Nowadays, using this technique will hamper your ranking in a blink of an eye. Besides that, you might put your site at high risk of getting penalized by Google Panda.
Google Panda eBay
A safe way that is not considered duplicate content is using citation for the information you gather from external sources.

Share content on other sites
Before you submit your content online and make it public you should check it to see if it’s plagiarism free.

9. Content Automation

Content automation means using tools or scripts to generate content automatically and publish it on your site without any effort from your side. The automated content is written with no intent for the user, and doesn’t have any format or style whatsoever, without pictures, HTML headings, paragraph spacing, alignment and so on.
 
Maybe you would think it’s a good idea in the short term because you’ll have a site with a lot of content in no time and effort, but you start to experience significant rank loss, keyword stuffing and worst of all risk of getting blacklisted from the search engine.

There are plenty of tools to do the dirty work for you. But you’d better think of what the consequences will be before you act.
 
I can tell you a safe way of getting ideas to generate quality content. You can try BrandMentions to inspire you to write and generate organic traffic and rank. It is useful and fun to find and search for information or keywords and see what’s trending.

10. Bait and Switch

Bait and switch is a false way of changing your content just to a get a page to rank. The first step is to write a page for Google with a set of keywords, and after it ranks, the author changes it with another project or product. When users enter the site, they see something entirely different. This is indeed a crafty idea, and the person who came up with this technique was creative. This cheesy way of tricking Google might have worked well in the past but now it will get you banned and if you “hit the jackpot” you could be subject to a lawsuit.
 
In 2011, Groupon used ‘’Bait and Switch’ in Search Ads and was accused of running “false and misleading business and advertising acts” by a bus tour company in San Francisco. The keyword they used was “incline village snow play area”.
Groupon bait and switchBut when you clicked on the link you would see this on the site:

Groupon site

This is another example of a page that used the bait and switch technique:
Bait and switch download games example

Bitcoinspot.nl took action and ranked for the keyword “download games”, but the site is about Bitcoin.

11. Article Spinning

It is the act of crafting a (manual or automated) way of rewriting content just to escape the ”duplicate content” – umbrella and to generate “new” content to look good in front of the search engines. It’s considered black hat because you don’t bring any value and relevant information for the user. If you discovered something new about a topic you already covered in an article, you could just write the new piece of information as an update. This way you can help that article rank better and give it a boost.
 

Article spinning

12. Scraped Content

Scraping content is stealing content from other publishers with a little help from scripts and post it on your website. It is an interesting practice because it was the subject of some cases regarding breaching copyright of the original site owner. Hatching scraped content is not only forbidden but also illegal in the United States and other countries. For example, in 2011 in Canada there was a cased called Century 21 Canada Limited Partnership v. Rogers Communications Inc., 2011 BCSC 1196  which stated that “The prohibited uses expressly include but are not limited to “screen scraping”, “database scraping” and any other activity intended to collect, store, re-organize, summarize or manipulate any Content (whether via an automatic program or a manual process).” It is against Google Guidelines, also. Over the time, thereappeared that sidebar with “latest news” implemented by webmasters, but some of them got carried away and published too much information. You should be careful with how much information you post on other sites so that you won’t upset the big G.
 

This goes both ways. If you are a victim of this act, you can find software to help you discover who is stealing content from you and complaint against the site that has stolen your content.
 
I’m not giving you ideas, just helping you make a difference between what’s wrong and what’s right and get away from the temptations and the bad guys. And I’m not talking about Google, he’s the good guy. Well, he is good as long as you’ve done nothing to upset him.

13. Cloaking

It is a dishonest way of using two pieces of content. One is written for the search engines to rank and Googlebot to crawl and the second one for the users. Using cloaking violates Google Guidelines, and you risk getting penalized by Google Penguin. That is because cloaking is believed to be used to fool search engine’s algorithm.

 

14. Malicious Active Content

This type of content uses malware software through animated website, Java applications, Javascript, Flash content or relying on browser plugins to display video, audio files or download files on the computer. The most common types of malware are considered adware, bots, bugs, rootkits, spyware, Trojan horses, viruses, and worms. Not only is this kind of behavior against Google Guidelines and will get you penalized big time, but it is also illegal.

On the other side, if you are a user, the best way to avoid being a victim of such software is to install an antivirus and update it regularly, avoid downloading files from unknown websites, keep away from shady sites or to click on ads that look too good to be truth.

15. Clickbait

Clickbait is an eye catching and deceptive headline written with the sole purpose of making you click on it. It says one thing in the headline and another thing on the site. It uses expressions to entice you such as “You won’t believe …” , “Important news about …”, “Shocking!! You need to see this…” and so on and so forth. This deceiving technique will decrease your CTR, and on the long run, it’s bad for your site. Usually, those who use clickbait want to generate income based on the number of clicks. You can see this excessive technique in tabloids, where it is widely spread.
 
An excellent example of clickbait is offered for “free” by Xpango, which says that it can give you a free Apple iPad and even promises in the description that it’s “not catch and it’s free”.
Clickbait

Though, when we enter the site we see that we need “just 25 credits”. No catch you say?!
 
Facebook wants to stop clickbait. The aim is to de-prioritize posts with headlines that hold information and entice you to click just to find out.

16. Web Rings

Multiple sites that are connected between them in a circular network to rank and get traffic from related websites create a webring. Sage Well was the one who came with a script to develop such concept in 1994, when it began to become popular before Google times. To be a part of a webring, you must receive approval from the webmaster. Even doing bad things became harder and harder.

17. GuestPost Spam

There are plenty of people out there that use this technique to get backlinks. Don’t be one of them. They usually send messages to bloggers to publish an irrelevant article with a link and most of the times it’s a dofollow link. Guest Post spamThose who send requests for guest blogging on a site can hurt its ranking if the site they link to has bad user experience.
 
An example of a message sent for guest posting might look like that:
 
“My name is NAME and I am a writer. I found your site and I think it is very interesting. I was wondering if I can do a guest post? I write about different topics for different niches and I think I would be a great fit for your audience. My articles have 400 – 500 words, depending on what want. If you allow me, do you think it would be possible to add a single link to our site?”
 
If it doesn’t say the name of the site how could I possible now if it’s relevant? This is kind of obscure.
 
By any chance, if you are one of the bad guys you will pay your debt sooner than you think. Not only will it affect you, the guest blogger, but it will also affect the site that accepted it. In 2014, DocSheldon.com received a manual side-wide penalty for having an outbound link pointing to an unrelated site from a guest post.
 

Matt Cutts, the former head of the webspam team at Google touched a sensible part in the next tweet in 2014.
Matt Cutts about Spam Guest Post

You need to offer information that will help the audience and send it back to your site to generate traffic, not irrelevant links that will get you down for good.

18. Link Farm

“Old McSpammer had a farm, e-i-e-i-oh,
And on that farm he built some links, e-i-e-i-oh
With a backlink here, and a backlink there,
Here a link, there a link,
Everywhere a link, link…”, by Scott Willoughby, found on moz.com

 

As the song says, a link farm is a collection of websites connected with each other, manipulating your link profile by increasing the number of inbound links. It has a negative impact since Google sees link farming as a spammy way of getting links. The content of a site that participates in a link farm looks just like every other site on the internet with an exception: it has text covered with irrelevant hyperlinks linking to random sites. The use of link farms was popular in the days when Google Page Rank mattered, but as time changed, Google also changed, and now this practice will get you penalized because the generated links are considered to be unnatural. Humans do not create the exchanged links for humans, but rather for search engines.

19. LinkBait and Switch

This strategy happens when you “revitalize” your content into a commercial one. The trick is to gain links for a particular article and then change it entirely with a commercial one having no connection whatsoever with the first topic. Even though the content you ranked for was unique and qualitative and the links were natural if you changed it to something else it shows you’ve frivolously looking to gain traffic.

Linkbait and switch animation

20. Buying Reviews with Links by Offering “Free” Products

Since Google has found many ways of getting rid of those who manipulate the right way of reaching the top of SERP, people get way more creative and not in a good way, but by trying new methods of cheating. And that is how the practice of sending free products in exchange for reviews with links appeared. Don’t get me wrong; it’s ok to ask your clients for a review, but not with links. Using this technique in an excessive way could get you down, rather than up in the search results. And don’t get me started about the fake reviews that appear on your site with the sole purpose of gaining trust, which brings exactly the opposite if you get caught, which happens most of the times.
 
An example in this area is TripAdvisor. An Italian newspaper created an account for a fake restaurant in Italy to see if TripAdvisor’s review moderation and fraud detection team will discover it. The restaurant, named Scaletta got lots of fake reviews and started to look like a real place. After a month it was rated the best restaurant in town. The experiment ended when the newspaper sent a message to TripAdvisor explaining their intent and proved that TripAvisor’s reviewing system is defective.
 

21. Link Exchange

It refers to an agreement between 2 sites to rank in Google. I will spoil the moment so you won’t get tempted by this method because it’s considered a link scheme and it won’t let your site appear in SERP anymore. The good guys run with the speed of the light when they hear about this black hat SEO technique.
 
At a quick search on the internet you’ll find lots of sites and directories that offer links in exchange. They even make big promises such as free links, quality links for your niche, no footprints and you can even make money through their affiliate program. It is easy to do link exchange and rank afterward, but you will get penalized just as easily.
 

You can see below just one example of many:

Link Exchange Request

22. Blog Comment Spam

It occurs when you try to generate links by commenting on different blogs and sites to link back to your blog/site, despite the fact that the sites are relevant or not to your niche or activity profile.
 
Blog comment spam
Usually, this kind of technique uses links that go to the homepage. Commenting just to get a large number of backlinks easily is considered a black hat technique.

If you are a blogger that received this kind of spammy comments, you can do something to stop them. You can delete them as soon as you got them, but the adequate way to proceed is to mark the incoming comments as pending and waiting for approval just to avoid polluting your site with links that could get you penalized if they come from bad, toxic sites.

23. Shady Redirects

301 redirect is actually a good practice. You can use it to send a user from a URL to another one if  the original page has moved or changed. Sadly, over the years, it began to be used as a bad SEO technique.  Webmasters take advantage of expired domains to keep the link juice. They are redirecting the old site to their site. In this case, using 301 redirects is a shade of gray hat SEO.  You could easily fall into the dark area of SEO if the expired domain is not relevant. Would it matter if I told you that you might get penalized by Google for this practice? It should!
 

Another shady redirect is practiced on online movies sites. When you click play to see a movie it redirects you on all kind of sites, most of them being unrelated.
Shady Redirect

301 redirects, as a grey hat SEO, is used to generate traffic on sites not in a natural way.

24. Commercial Anchor-Text Keywords

Commercial anchor text keywords are those money keywords used to generate financial value. If your site has fewer or not at all non-branded keywords, it will show that your Anchor text profile is not organic at all. You can use the Anchor Text Distribution & Classifier from cognitiveSEO tool to see the ratio between commercial vs. brand keywords and to classify them.
 
A brand anchor text is considered to contain the brand name, URL. This is a site that has a natural anchor text profile:

Brand anchor text

For example, if your brand name is BRAND X and you have a site about website templates, then commercial anchor text is considered to contain words like “website template”, “best website template”, “free website templates” and so on. This is a site that has a spammy anchor text profile:

Commercial anchor text

 

25. Spammy Footer Links

We call them spammy, junky or scammy footer links because you write them with the sole purpose of ranking and cheating your way up to the top. The links are not written naturally, in an article, showing and explaining the connection between you and the site you’re linking to. Sadly, this is a practice used by many people and in the end it will lead to rank loss. You could end up with a penalization in the worst case scenario.
Spammy footer links about-spain.net
Loading the footer of your website with links will only get you a large number of unnatural links and this can cause rank loss.

As you can see below, the Unnatural Link Profile can be caused by other practices, too:
unnatural-profile-metamorphosis

26. Link Selling

If you’re selling links to pass domain authority, it will de-index your website and cut your traffic to half (if you’re lucky) because it’s against Google Guidelines. There isn’t so much to say about this ancient technique. Just be careful and don’t try this at home or … anywhere.
 
Matt Cutts argues that if the site that sells links gets caught and it was linking to you, all the value you were receiving from that link goes away.
 

You can find some great pieces of advice and explanations from Matt Cutts in this video:
 

27. Buying Links

Remember what we’ve talked about selling links? Well, buying links isn’t so far from that. Even though the site you are buying links from says they are qualitative, don’t get yourself fooled. It sounds too good to be true. Stop buying links to receive link juice. You will lose money and time for ranking. Not to mention that you will need to spend time again to correct the mistakes you’ve made. 

Selling and buying links

28. Paid Advertorials

A significant change in Google occurred when it was discovered that people were paying for advertorials to pass PageRank and since PageRank was officially declared dead, it doesn’t mean that now paid advertorials are not against Google’s Guidelines. The former head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, tweeted about the connections between paid links and advertorials pages.
matt-cutts-advertorial-update
When you use this technique, you have paid links. And paid links could also pass authority.
 
The good thing for those who use this practice is that paid advertorials seem to be indexed in Google News. This loophole appeared in Google’s guidelines, and that gives the possibility to publishers to appear in that section. But this doesn’t mean that it won’t come a time when Google penalizes your site?
 
You can see an example for this situation from Lean Cuisine that paid for an article in Mashable.
Paid advertorials Lean Cuisine
At the end of the article, you will see this message: “BrandSpeak is a Mashable Studios program that allows advertisers to share their content with our audience. Mashable news department was not involved in the creation of this content.”

Mashable message for paid advertorials

If you want to do good things that will count in the future and want to pay for advertorials, then a good practice will be to set all links as no follow.

You know that saying “What goes around comes around”. Well, that applies to this technique also, as for the rest.

29. Directory Listing

If you are registering and/or buying placements on low-quality directories, it is not good practice. A great importance is the value of that directory and if it proves to be a link scheme, well you know what happens, you’ve got the picture.
 
A real question will be “Are there any good directories that I can register on?”. Yahoo has a directory that could fall into this category. They have a well-put set of rules; not everyone can register, and I think it is a good example. Before that, you should create an account for GoogleMyBusiness, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin and then see what the best options are for profile and niche. Don’t do what everybody has been doing, be BOLD!
 
The next question will be “Are paid directories held to the same standard as paid links?” and the answer comes from the one and only Matt Cutts.

 


 

Cutts says that the Google team looks at the value of the directory and how much work is put into it. “If it’s not substantially a lot of work and, primarily, it looks to be more-less a link scheme, then paid directories are held to the same standards as paid links. ”
 
You need to understand that Google will always try to get smarter and offer valuable content for its users and directory listing is an option. At least, not anymore.

30. Parasite Hosting

It is an illegal way of gaining access to a site, creating a web page on it and inject it with lots of keywords and links pointing to the black hat SEO practitioner’s commercial page. They set up a parasite hosting to take advantage of the authoritative domains from Google. This way they would receive traffic for their site and money from those who want to buy. Usually, this happens without the knowledge or consent of the person who owns the authoritative domain.

Parasite hosting

Before you get caught, and God knows what will happen to you and your site, you must wonder “Is the black hat SEO worth it?”. Just do good and good will come to you.

31. Google Bombing

It is a way of influencing the rank of a page by artificially increasing the number of linking to it and the anchor texts used for that. A black hat SEO practitioner will manipulate Google’s algorithm by “helping” one-page rank for an entirely different keyword. This happens because it is the same anchor text used for the pages that link to that page in particular.
 
One of the most discussed examples of Google bombing was the query “completely wrong” for Mitt Romney. If you search images for “completely wrong”, Google will show you a picture with Mitt Romney.
 

If you are a victim you must know how to defend yourself by these evil ways of hijacking your site.

32. Doorway Pages or Gateway Pages

Doorway pages refer to the practice of inflating a site for a particular query in SERP using some cloaking and sending the user on a page that doesn’t have any connection with the query whatsoever. It is an adapted way of redirecting, a more crafty one. Those who use this technique want to rank higher in SERP in an unnatural way, of course.
 
In March 2015, Google launched a new doorway page penalty algorithm especially for this type of technique.
 
If you search for “prednisolone without prescription” you will find this result in Google:
prednisolone without prescription
And when you go on the site you discover a doorway page. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but instead a list with top pharmacies online.

Doorway page

33. Rich Snippet Markup Spam

Structured markup data can be a great way of formatting how your site appears in the search results when somebody looks for information. Also, it will help index your site. On the other hand, if you are creating irrelevant rich snippets markup you risk getting manually penalized by Google for this scammy technique.
 
For example, if you use snippet markup for reviews and you don’t have a policy of reviewing on your site it’s counted as rich snippet markup spam.

faking the serps rich snippets

34. Automated Google Queries

Sending automated Google queries means that you use a software to inflate the number of searches for a specific keyword to rank higher in SERP. If you aim at positioning your site higher in the search results in this unnatural way, Google has a way of disappointing you and penalizing you.

Google-Automated Queries

35. Mirror Sites

A mirror site is used to reflect the original website content into a new one in order to increase its ranking. This could be another way of duplicating content from your site or other resources.
 

The bad guys out there will try and convince you that they are using this technique just in case of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. DDoS is a cyber attack where multiple compromised systems are used to target a single system to access important (personal) information . 

36. Private Blog Networks

Private Blog Networks (PBN) are a collection of blogs created by a person to generate links to a site and to help it rank in Google. It is a powerful way of creating a massive number of links from different domains to a site. The owner of the network has the capability to change the content however he wants, to add how many links he wants and to manipulate the content to his own wishes to boost the rank for a site. This is how a PBN  looks like:

Usually, PBNs are created using expired domains. This is because they already have link juice and that can come in handy when you are trying to pass authority to another site that doesn’t have so much. Yet, this is not mandatory.

37. Typosquatting or URL Hijacking

This hijacking method is based on a typographical error to create malicious domains to look similar to well-known brands. This error counts as common misspelling, unnoticed foreign spelling, an abuse of the Country Code Top-Level Domain. The reason for this “affiliating” practice is to profit from the trademark name and brand’s fame.
 
Here you can see the official site of Cartier’s brand.
Cartier official website

And this is an attempt of URL Hijacking by Carter:

Carter diamonds website

The downside for this practice is that it will put your reputation and your brand at risk of facing cybercrime.

38. Toxic Sites 

If a site is created for the sole purpose of link building and it has one of the link issues named in the picture below then we might be talking about toxic sites. These link issues are just a few of the possible ones you can stumble upon in the big world of the internet and toxic sites.

Link issue

If you are having links on toxic sites, they can damage your business. Also, having bad links from toxic sites as a result of a black hat SEO practice should determine you to review those links. An easy way to do this is by checking them within the Unnatural Links Navigator in the cognitiveSEO tool. Directly from this tool you have the possibility to manage them and even disavow them if that’s the case.

39. Cybersquatting or Domain Squatting

Cybersquatting means registering domains similar to a trademark or business for the sole purpose of getting financial benefits. It contains the word “squatting”, which means acknowledging a public place without permission. Fraudsters who practice this technique could receive lawsuits because they gain money. They are redirecting people who came on the fake domain to an expensive pay-per-click advertising site.

40. Cookie Stuffing or Cookie Dropping

Cookie stuffing is a way of using scripts, pop-ups, toolbars and images embedded in message boards for a publisher to receive money. How does he receive the money, you may ask? Let’s say, for example, a publisher sends a visitor to the Example.com site and he gets credit for every sale made. You must know that stuffing cookies is an illegal practice.

41. Negative SEO

As the name says it, negative SEO does the opposite of what you would expect and that is to cut traffic and decrease SEO visibility continuously. But who wants that? I would that say a lot of people since we talk about it. They don’t want to do it for their own site, but rather false reporting their competitors to get them penalized.
 
Gary Illyes,  a webmaster trends analyst at Google, tweeted on his account saying that Google hasn’t seen a real example of negative SEO?

gary negative seo

The sad part for those who actually get penalized for something they didn’t do is that they don’t know who “buried them alive” but they could get an idea. If you are using the tool from cognitiveseo you can search through the Unnatural Links Navigator to review your backlinks and see where they are they coming from. Also, a great indicator of rank loss can be spotted by visualizing SEO visibility’s graph.
 

An example from a famous SEO agency that got affected by negative SEO technique:
jellyifish-ranking-drop

42. TrackBack Spam

TrackBack was used only to facilitate the communication between blogs by sending pings. A ping is a message sent from a blogger to those who are connected to him. Using it moderately or only you have a new article is not considered spam. Though, when you improperly use the TrackBack feature to get visitors on your site and send them numerous pings, it’s counted as natural.

43. Referrer Spam

Referrer spam is a sort of spamdexing which is manifested by polluting a site with fake statistical data. The spammer aims to improve the ranking of his site. It doesn’t harm the site except for  increasing its statistical data regarding traffic, visitors and so on. The positive side is that you have the possibility to filter the referral spam.
Referral spam from a travel agency

44. Social Network Spam

Social Network Spam is a relative new form of spamming. Since web 2.0 appeared, spammers have found new platforms where they could spread their links. When they are sending an enormous list of irrelevant links in the Social Network, that is when the red flag rises.
 

Spam in Social Networks is known to appear as links in comments to different posts, unrelated to the site; as sharing malicious links in irrelevant groups/pages/people; private messages sent to all kinds of people/pages one time or several times.

Conclusion

To sum everything up, we reiterate a quote from Matt Cutts, who says “The objective is not to ‘make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural”. You think you could get away if you try some of these black hat SEO techniques, but sooner or later you may lose rank or traffic, damage your reputation, get a penalty from Google, lose credibility and clients, or worst of them all, face a lawsuit. Be an SEO practitioner of evergreen content. Until next time, be good to Google and he’ll (probably) be good to your site.

The post 44 Black Hat SEO Techniques That Will Tank Your Site appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

How to Write Proposals: Creating a Winning Digital Marketing Proposal

Ah, the glory of the agency pitching process. Your well-oiled lead generation machine has done its job and produced a solid lead from a potential new client. These are the moments you live for. This is your opportunity to show this potential new client what you’re all about and why you, above all else, deserve their trust and ultimately their business. Now all you need to do is write a winning digital marketing proposal. Easy; right?

Unfortunately, as any digital marketing agency leader already knows, as vital as generating initial leads from genuinely interested businesses can be, ultimately it’s your proposal writing ability that earns the client’s signature on the dotted line. With genuine leads often being few and far between — particularly for smaller or newer agencies — the pressure on your pitch is monumental. This is crunch time and your proposal writing ability is one of the last hurdles between you and a shiny new client.

With the amount of time and effort you already invested in generating the lead and having follow-up sales meetings with the potential client to understand their needs and goals, you might feel like you’ve already thrown everything you’ve got at your prospect. Fear not! Though it’s generally frowned upon to have a copy and paste proposal template, it pays to be prepared and that means a bit of leg work now can actually ease your workload the next time you’re in it to win it.

So, fire up the coffee pot and get comfortable — let’s work through how to develop a scalable proposal writing approach so you aren’t always staring at a blank page and blinking cursor whenever a new prospect comes in. Here are some hints and tips for winning proposal writing.

There is No Set Standard for RFP Expectations

Depending on your lead and how they have approached agency shopping, the initial RFP (request for a proposal) can be viewed in different lights. Some will consider the initial RFP as a way to create an agency shortlist. They’ll then invite their favorites through to further stages, making for a competitive pitching process. Others will consider the proposal stage to be a more end-to-end affair, expecting many of the details you’d expect to see in a final pitch right off the bat.

It’s important that you define exactly what your prospect is expecting before you start writing any client proposal documents. The more information you can gather regarding your prospect’s needs, budget, ambitions and current sticking points regarding their digital marketing activity or agency relationships to date, the better. Taking time to get down to the nitty gritty of what led them to take your cold call or seek you out in the first place will empower you to create a winning digital marketing proposal with much fewer grey hairs and endless all nighters.

By the same token, you need to lock down a budget before you dedicate hours to a pitch. You can only create a killer proposal that checks all the boxes when you know what kind of cash the client has available. There’s nothing worse than spending hours crafting a stellar proposal only to later find the client has only 10% of the required spend available.

Regardless of whether the RFP is more pitch orientated or not, you’re going to want to address as many of your prospect’s requirements up front. Addressing important requirements, wants and needs (and subtly rebuffing any concerns) in your proposal document is a must if you want to ensure you get through to the next round of Agency Idol! 

How to Write a Proposal

Relevancy Will Triumph Over Generic Boasting for Case Studies

Many agencies like to show off their best work in their proposals by including case studies. Before you include this info in a proposal, ask yourself if the project you were planning to highlight is actually relevant to your prospect. Many agencies build up what becomes a standard case study offering and throw one of those case studies into every digital marketing proposal without much extra thought. This library of awesome examples should include your best performing campaigns, stellar ROI growth charts and a bit of name dropping to show the bigger brands and names you’ve worked with. Of course you want to get this across to your prospect and drive home exactly what you’re capable of. But, we recommend you dial it back a little.

Why? Well, don’t get us wrong…Your case studies are important documents but, we’d argue that the place for name dropping and number crunching (we saved X client $$$$) is better placed as a line or two in your agency creds rather than embedded in the depths of your proposal.

Bear with us on this. The vast majority of businesses will be looking to find similarities to their own situation when they look at your work. So rather than throwing in the biggest brand project you can think of, take a different approach. Consider how you can demonstrate understanding and empathy with your prospect’s deepest digital marketing concerns through previous work. It may be that you can find relevancy at a channel level rather than finding a client which is directly comparable as a business. If your prospect is a small business looking to grow their social media following for example, showing off a big brand client with millions of followers may be impressive but it’s more than likely your prospect would prefer to see how you’ve helped a smaller outfit gain social media traction from a very limited start.

Try to find examples in each channel and at various budget levels so you can display more than just a deep level of expertise in the channel management itself, but also a correlating scenario your prospect can relate to.

Sell A Relationship Not Just Services

Explain to your prospect how you plan to work with them — not just how you’re going to expertly deliver against the various digital marketing channels in your strategy. It’s something often missed in client proposals, but communicating what the day-to-day realities of working with your agency and team actually look like is a very powerful persuader. No one likes the unknown.

Outline a contact plan, introduce the team members that will be working on the account and even detail important milestones like weekly calls with senior members of your team, monthly meetings and quarterly reviews. Be succinct.

Don’t leave these details open to assumption or ambiguity and don’t wait for your prospect to ask you for this information. Be upfront and clear that you have a firm grasp of what it takes to run and maintain an effective working relationship with your clients. It’ll instill an additional sense of security for your prospect and generate an additional air of professionalism for your agency.

Suggested Proposal Structure

Creating a process/procedures for writing your digital marketing proposals makes visualizing the final document easier, ensures you have a narrative that makes sense and serves as a guide for team members who contribute to the proposal-writing process. The extra planning and attention made upfront will give your proposal a nice, confident flow. You should also decide early on what team members will be writing which portion of the proposal — and who is responsible for reviewing the entire proposal before it’s submitted to the prospect to ensure voice, details and terms are consistent and correct.

The outline below is purely a guide for your proposal. These are the sections that are the foundation of a winning proposal:

  • Introduction
  • Discovery
  • Strategic Approach
  • Channel Management
  • Fees
  • Timing and Schedule

(Note: If your potential customer included a list of criteria or required information in the RFP, you will want to follow those guidelines instead.)

Introduction

This is all about you and what your agency stands for. Be sure to inject your personality and agency mantra here as best as possible. However, this section also needs to be concise and flow well to avoid being overly self-indulgent. Your prospect will want to move swiftly to areas that talk about them and their needs. Whet the appetite, be succinct and always leave them wanting more.

Discovery

This is where you demonstrate your understanding of your prospect’s industry, needs and current status. Show your research and make specific references to successes and failures in your client’s industry. Be relevant to what they are trying to achieve. If you have conducted any overarching competitor analysis, highlight your finding here for extra brownie points.

Strategic Approach

Based on your discovery and demonstrated understanding, you now need to show how you will react to that information and formulate a strategy to help your prospect achieve their goals. This part of the proposal writing process is a great place to highlight your channel selections. Keep this part of the proposal in tandem with your preferred strategy so your potential clients gets a preview of why your strategy will drive the success they’re looking for.

Channel Management

With the strategic overview covered, any details on channel execution can now be added to compound your ability to deliver. Channel specific case studies should be referenced here when available/appropriate. Show that you understand each channel as well as how they all work together. It’s also crucial to reference how you will monitor the success of each channel. Provide ROI calculations or projections if this is something you have available.

Fees

Don’t over complicate this area when writing proposals. Be open and honest with a simple round up of fees. Aim for transparency without having to resort to a giant spreadsheet. You can provide additional details and granularity when asked, but don’t hide or caveat too much here. Aim to give a clear sense of cost vs. deliverables.

Timings and Schedule

There is sometimes an air of ambiguity around whether or not you should include a timeline and schedule in the proposal — you might not want to appear over confident. No one wants to leave a proposal with any ambiguity, so including a schedule of next steps and a clear sense of when work can begin will put your prospect’s mind at ease.

And there you have it – a tried and tested method for writing rock star client proposals. Use this as your framework and modify it to suit each lead.

The post How to Write Proposals: Creating a Winning Digital Marketing Proposal appeared first on BrightLocal.

How Well Do You Understand the Google Mobile-First Index? Mobile SEO Quiz

How Well Do You Understand the Google Mobile-First Index? Mobile SEO Quiz was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Google reaffirmed in a November 4 post on the Webmaster Central Blog that a mobile-first index is coming.

I think many people have heard the news. I think many of those people are confused by it.

Are you clear on how a mobile-first index will impact your websites, clients and mobile SEO strategy?

bruce clay's mobile seo quiz

See how many of the questions on this eight-question quiz you get right. (Skip straight to our mobile-first checklists.)

1. True or false: Google has two search indexes: a mobile-first index and a separate index of desktop sites.

False. Google has said that they have only one index. There will not be two different indexes for mobile sites and desktop sites, despite the massive amount of confusion.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, the algorithms are different for mobile and desktop search results.

Google has decided that mobile is the first priority in everything they do and represent.

More people are going to search on a mobile device, therefore all the results are going to be optimized for a mobile device. Hence, Google designs a separate mobile algorithm, but a single, mobile-prioritized index.

Google is going toward a mobile-first index because Google has decided that’s where the market is going.

But we should understand that for responsive sites, the page is the same on desktop and on mobile, thus the indexed content is the same.

I stress that this change is fundamentally around mobile algorithmic variables being weighted first.

2. True or false: Mobile-friendliness is pass or fail.

False. While the results of the Google Mobile-Friendly Test is binary — you’re either gruesome or awesome — I’d bet there’s a hidden scale in the Mobile-Friendly Test.

If you run your site in the Mobile-Friendly Test, you might get “awesome” but you may be only 71 percent of the way to being optimized for the mobile UX.

Don’t settle for an “awesome” result and assume you can’t get better. Google has a tendency to change the rules, and awesome today may not be good enough tomorrow.

awesome result of mobile-friendly test

3. True or false: An SEO strategy is constructed for the mobile ranking algorithm, not the mobile-first index.

True. It used to be the case that a responsive site, if not particularly mobile friendly, could still rank on a desktop, and you could still show up on a mobile device.

Search engines have a different expectation for how the page performs and elements of the page on mobile, like items tested by the Mobile-Friendly Test.

The Google opinion is that if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load a page, they’re not going to show you that page in the search results.

They’re going to keep track of page performance, and slower pages will suffer in the rankings.

They expect everything to display in the initial screen above the fold in under a second.

There’s going to be ranking related to AMP issues, and other things that have yet to be announced. These factors influence whether or not a mobile site is ready for prime time and ready for showing up in the Google search results.

StockSnap digital watch

4. True or false: A good desktop site that functions on mobile is better than a broken mobile site.

True again. There was a clear caveat in the Google announcement: if today you only have a desktop site, don’t rush out and publish a poor mobile site. From the Webmaster Central Blog announcement:

“If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site.”

Make sure you’re serving visitors rather than checking boxes by making sure that the functionality is all there.

5. True or false: A responsive site is a good user experience.

False! Don’t mistake a responsive site for a good mobile UX. You might think that your site is responsive, pages are resizing – but consider the user experience.

Resizing is just one part of a responsive and mobile-friendly site. What is the user doing differently on a phone?

People search differently on mobile vs. desktop. What info is someone looking for on a mobile site and how easy is it for the user to find it?

6. True or false: User intent differs from mobile to desktop.

True. We used to think about user intent as “Do, Know, Go” – complete a transaction, get information, or navigate to a web or physical location.

Today we think of user intent in terms of “micro moments”; there are so many degrees of user intention that mobile web browsing affords.

  • 82 percent of smartphone users turn to their phone to influence a purchase decision while in the store.
  • 91 percent of smartphone users use their phone to get ideas while performing a task.
  • 90 percent of smartphone users get things done online toward a long-term goal or multi-step process while out and about.

Source: Think With Google Intro to Micro-moments

think with google micromoments

What sort of info is someone likely to be looking for on your mobile site, and how easy is it for someone to find that information?

How well are you catering to people visiting you from your phone?

Are your links smart? Are your location and hours easy to find, and do you have markup on those?

How does your site search work?

For someone looking for your business location, are your directions marked up with structured data?

Do you have markup on pages? From the Google blog post: “Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.”

7. True or false: People consume different content types on mobile.

True, of course. Catering to the mobile experience is much broader than sizing and formatting.

Have you thought about what people are doing on their phones?

Navigation, images and content that is easily digested is key to mobile success.

Unique to the mobile experience is performing voice searches and a higher demand for finding brick-and-mortar locations.

And then there’s the time spent on a mobile device viewing videos. That means mobile SEO includes optimizing for video search or optimizing for a YouTube search.

8. True or false: AMP could be a game changer, in more ways than we imagine.

I’m predicting this will be true.

We know AMP is a dominant algorithmic variable. Consider the SEO benefits of AMP on top of the mobile-first index, and AMP could be irresistible to highly competitive enterprise organizations.

In time, as AMP and mobile-friendliness factors get ratcheted up in the mobile algorithm, the definition of a top-ranked organic site may be that you bought into AMP and you got your organic listing by spending a ton of effort to optimize your site in AMP.


Mobile-First Index SEO Prep Checklists

We develop checklists around the technical processes we do for our clients. For our general SEO checklist, check out the Always Up-to-Date SEO Checklist.

To make sure our client sites are ready for the mobile-first index, we created these mobile-first checklist items to use along with our All-in-One Mobile SEO & Design Checklist.

Use this checklist to prep your sites with responsive design.

In general, no extra work needs to be done for a fully and properly configured responsive site because the same content exists for mobile and desktop, adjusting to the browser and size of either. However, confirm two things:

Use this checklist to prep separate mobile sites.

In addition to the above two points, here’s a check list of additional safeguards to take for clients with a separate mobile site:

  • Check the mobile site with Google’s robots.txt testing tool to ensure that Googlebot is not blocked.
  • Review the mobile site’s content depth to make sure it will merit the long-tail searches that the desktop site qualifies for.
  • Make sure any structured markup on the desktop site also exists on the mobile site (to protect featured snippets and other SERP elements).
  • Note: Canonical tags may be left in place (assuming they are implemented correctly on the mobile site).

Google has decided that being mobile-friendly and being fast is critical. The announcement isn’t news because Google has been discussing this at conferences for a long time.

Still there’s much to do in adapting to the fact that user intent, content consumption and varying form factors differ from mobile to desktop.


Let us help you drive and track traffic to your website with a mobile-first SEO strategy. BCI’s services are tailor-made to match your business goals and audience. Let’s talk more about growing revenue through digital marketing.