Is SEO a Good Investment for Your Small Business?

In our blog post, SEO Tips for Small Businesses, we addressed the importance of developing your SEO strategy for your small business and provided tips to help get you started. Today I want to discuss the next big question every small business owner asks: is SEO a good investment? The answer may seem readily apparent to most people, but when you run a small business you don’t often have the luxury of disposable income. We understand that every dollar counts and we want to make your dollar count, but there are a few things one must understand before investing in a SEO campaign to better your business. Let’s start with expectations.

 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

For business owners new to SEO, managing expectations can be difficult when one doesn’t even know what one wants. Some business owners may not know where to begin. Some feel that they need leads, not SEO, but this would be the equivalent of building a house without laying a foundation. Other owners may feel that investing in link building services is the way to go, but often find that the services they’ve used have only caused penalties and wasted money.Regardless of what an owner might know or not know, it is important to have realistic expectations of the SEO process. Achieving a coveted position in first page results in a search engine may take several months and there are no guarantees that your business will stay at the top. While many business owners will expect immediate and enduring SEO results, consumer trends fluctuate rapidly and repeatedly, which causes changes in keyword ranks. It comes with the territory, but if this reality isn’t made apparently clear from the get-go, then this will likely leave the business owner feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. This might even result in the loss of the client’s business if they’re not sure what to expect from the campaign. This is why it is so important to address and set realistic expectations so there won’t be any surprises.

When it comes to initiating an SEO campaign with an agency, a lot of business owners believe that spending $2k/month is a lot, that it should buy about 40-80 hours of work plus the ability to regularly email their SEO 20+ times per day, etc., but this is wholly unrealistic. In reality, a budget of this value typically allows for an average of 15 work hours per month, which is just enough to do maintenance level work, fix a few technical or minor issues, and maybe do one or two small things per month that might make very small gains in SEO. It may seem surprising, but it’s true, and if you’re promised otherwise, then you should question the credibility of your agency.

If you can spend money at a certain level and achieve 100% ROI, you should do that ALL day long.  Even if it’s a 50% ROI, for a lot of businesses in a lot of industries, that’s a good return.  For some in other industries, maybe 10-30% is realistic.  These numbers are hard to estimate.  For some businesses in some industries, it might be impossible to truly calculate ROI for SEO, as the data might not be available to directly attribute everything to SEO.  In other cases it is next to impos  sible to determine that some of the performance improvements made will directly result in a single sale.  Best guesstimates can be made, but there’s little to nothing in the way of proof.  The bottom line being, you need to spend money to make money, and if you have the ability to calculate that and you can do it at a healthy ROI, then it would be a mistake not to do it.

INVESTING IN YOUR BUSINESS

Investing in an SEO campaign can be one of the best uses of a company’s marketing budget and can serve a company well if it is acquired in an intelligent way. For some businesses, depending on their market, product, service, etc., it might be necessary to spend $100 to make $130 ($30 profit, 30% ROI), and that might be completely realistic. Generally speaking, if a campaign leads to improved keyword rankings, increased organic traffic from those keyword rankings, increased conversions from the increased traffic, and if those “conversions” equaled increased sales of their product/service to a degree, then that was worthwhile for the amount of SEO budget  and your business would have had a good ROI.

More often than not, companies will barely spend anything in SEO and freely dump tens of thousands of dollars into PPC and Google AdWords.  That’s fine, too, but in a situation like this, a company might want to consider reallocating at least a small portion of their PPC budget and invest those funds in SEO to additionally build good long term organic results. As a business owner, it is important to understand the value of SEO, be open to and willing to pay for services that most likely won’t reflect immediate results, and invest enough to provide a decent return on your investment.

 

 

WHEN CAN I EXPECT RESULTS

This is the million dollar question. The short answer is, from a well-executed SEO campaign, about 3-4 months, but achieving this is far more complicated because it all depends on your website, the age of your website, and if any penalties have been imposed against your site.

If your site is brand new, the search engines will most likely acknowledge it sometime within the first 3 months of creation. If your site already has a history with the search engines and is in good standing, i.e. has no penalties, has  built new links, produced meaningful content, etc., then an SEO campaign can reflect results in less time. The type of results you can expect, and how quickly you will see results, will vary from project to project, and as with all projects, patience is an absolute must. Beyond that, the extent of your investment will also determine your results.

IN CONCLUSION

SEO is the foundation that can build long term stability of traffic, while also increasing it as well.  In the long run, SEO and the organic traffic it can help build eventually becomes some of the “cheapest” traffic in comparison to growing PPC budgets.  PPC costs money.  SEO costs to invest in and build it over time, but once it’s built and, provided it was built safely, you often can maintain that increased traffic for far less than it might cost to acquire that same traffic from PPC.

SEO Tips for Small Business

The term SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization,” is likely to produce a glazed-over look for a lot of people who just don’t know what you are talking about, but if you have a business or are thinking of developing a business, this is a term you need to know.

SEO is a process which affects the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s search results. Whether through natural or organic (un-paid) search results, SEO is what gives rank to your website, and rank is everything when it comes to the success of your business.

If your company has already established a web page or website, you might be asking, “Well, isn’t that enough?” The plain and simple answer is “no.” It is not enough for a web page or website to simply exist; it must be structured in certain ways in order for search engines to read them properly according to their algorithms, i.e. get the most information out of your website and into your consumers’ hands.

How your web page or website is structured, by the addition of keywords and descriptions added to titles, headings, and links, is what boosts a search engine’s ability to find and index things. This is the basis of SEO, and this process of organizing and indexing data is what allows search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo to find your pages. The search engine then uses various metrics and popularity indicators to determine page ranking.

Now you may be thinking, “This sounds expensive.” To this I say: it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish in relation to the size of your company, web pages and website. But if you’re a small business just starting out and on a limited budget, there are still quite a few things you can do on your own to benefit your business.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. Start now. The longer you wait to get started on SEO for your website, the harder it becomes to rank higher than your competitors. Also, if you don’t implement it at all, then there is no way for search engines to find, categorize, or rank your site.
  2. Be patient. SEO results may not appear immediately. Sometimes it may take weeks or even months for search engines to credit your work. Easier said than done, I know.
  3. Don’t expect to automatically outrank older, more established sites. Remember, it takes time to build trust and authority. Repeat Step #2.
  4. Adapt. To gain and retain positive rankings, your SEO strategy needs to evolve along with search engines’ frequency in releasing algorithm updates.
  5. Set up and utilize free Google tools. That’s right, I said “free.” Two important tools are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools (now known as Google Search Console). Google Analytics measures website activity and performance, and provides detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources. Google Webmaster Tools helps you identify issues with your site and provides detailed reports about your site’s visibility on Google. These tools can tell you a lot about who your visitors are, where they’re coming from, and how they’re finding you, which can help you develop important strategies in marketing your business.
  6. Remember your audience. If your content isn’t interesting, helpful, or doesn’t encourage sales, then there’s no point for visitors to stay or return. If it is engaging, visitors will stay longer, return more frequently, and it will send a signal to search engines that your site is relevant and deserves good rankings. It is imperative that you spend a significant amount of time building high quality content (blog posts, YouTube videos, case studies, etc.) that answers common prospect questions while showing the value of your products and services. Use things like Google Analytics and YouTube Analytics to monitor these pages and determine user engagement.  Keep yourself in check and make sure you’re building content that is engaging. This cannot be stressed enough.
  7. Maintain your website. Your work is never done. Rankings fluctuate like the stock market. If you want your site to attract more visitors, sales, or to rank higher, then you should continuously be improving it.
  8. Build your online reputation. When you develop positive relationships through your website, you are building trust, which encourages your visitors to make recommendations to others, which leads to more growth for your business. Creating a Google+ page will give more credibility to your business and will improve your rankings for localized keywords. Within the social platforms and online communities (forums, local sites) where you are active, find other high quality, professional individuals and companies to establish a relationship with.  The more you associate with good quality companies and people, especially those that have a good online following of their own, the more it can assist you in building your online authority and visibility.
  9. Be responsible for your website. The quality of your content, or lack thereof, is a determining factor in your risk for certain Google penalties. Search engines will not remove penalties simply because you didn’t know, didn’t understand, or didn’t realize the effects it would have on your website. Playing risky games with things like inexpensive link building services for large volumes of links can come back to bite you in a big way.  Bottom line, build the best quality content that you can and try to establish relationships in your industry with the best quality people and companies that you can.
  10. If you don’t know, ask. Google support and advice is available online via their Webmaster Guidelines and Webmaster Help Videos.

 

These are but a few of the many steps you can take to optimize your website on a shoestring budget. Remember, you can still achieve big results if you just invest the time needed for creating quality content and establishing online relationships. Consider the resources and relationships your company already has, and how you can better take advantage of them. Then, once your business experiences some growth, you can hire an agency like Apogee Results to help improve your SEO even further. In the meantime, make the most of the tips provided above and tune in next time for more useful tips and advice.

Putting Out Fires—Is Your Company Prepared for a Social Media Crisis?

With nearly three billion internet users worldwide, internet users today spend more time on social media than on any other site. A study conducted in July of 2014 showed that Facebook alone has over 1.3 billion active accounts, while Google+ and Linkedin both listed 300 million, and Twitter followed with 255 million. These numbers are staggering and they only continue to grow, not only for personal accounts, but also in the workplace.

Social media is a great tool for finding a job, furthering a career, launching a product, or just testing a brand’s market, to name a few options, but it can also reveal a negative, less professional side of an employee and cast a pernicious glow over an employer’s head. Some recent social posts that led employers to fire their employees for their comments range from a waitress shaming customers on Facebook for being bad tippers, to a nurse’s insensitive share on Instagram, a Detective’s comments on Facebook about people on public assistance, and a PR-rep’s racist tweet on AIDS.

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Although these are just a few, it is obvious that social media users are taking to the internet in droves to voice their opinions with little concern for their audience or privacy, little thought on how their post might reflect on their affiliations, or the ramifications from such impulsive and public posts. This is bad news for your business.

In cases such as these it is important to recognize that the rules of social media are changing when it comes to business relations. While it is nearly impossible to control the rapid social evolution of a culture, steps can be taken to manage and protect your online reputation.

Establish Basic Guidelines

Since many companies encourage or even require their employees to actively post on social networks, it is important to set some ground rules when it comes to posting in the workplace and for the business. The most important being: no discussion of sensitive or objectionable topics such as politics or religion; no obscenity, ethnic slurs, or sarcasm; no online disputes; and no conduct unbecoming of an employee of Company X.

Employees who utilize social media to discuss work related issues or topics should also clearly identify themselves as a representative the company as defined by the Federal Trade Commission. When publishing outside of the company, they should write in the first-person or provide a disclaimer stating the posts on the site are their own and do not represent Company X’s position or opinions, etc.

Training

The fact that there exists a gray area between “work” and “social” is reason enough for training. This is why it is so important to be very specific and explicit about what is required when posting on social media for the company. Training employees in social media behaviors can also create a sense of alignment with the brand, which can only lead to amazing things for the company. The more confident your employees are utilizing social media platforms, the more frequently they’ll engage and share content; in turn a trustworthy voice will emerge for your customers who will find it easier to spend on the brand, not to mention saving your company money on marketing or advertising campaigns.

Create a Social Media Policy for Employees

This is one option that many companies employ, but it is also the most controversial for reasons of free speech and imposed limitations. If your company chooses to go this route, meeting with a labor lawyer is encouraged to understand the current laws and to determine what, if any, restrictions are safe to impose on employees. This will also prevent any unwanted lawsuits or large legal fees.

Prepare for the Worst

The examples provided above only show the result of these posts, but one can only imagine the frantic scrambling within the company to get ahead of these events. With that in mind, it is crucial to have a strategy outlined for events such as these. Here are some suggestions on how to react:

* Don’t write when you’re emotionally charged. It is only normal to feel defensive or upset, but step away from the computer to gather your ideas rationally and outline a response before hitting the send button. Making emotional responses to negative customer reviews or issues is one of the worst and most detrimental ways to represent your business.

* Never ignore a complaint.
This can only lead to more online troubles. The best idea is to send a brief message to the complainant acknowledging their complaint, apologizing for their experience, advising them that it is being investigated, and that someone will respond with a resolution as soon as possible.

Customer complaints and negative reviews are an excellent opportunity to publicly display your concern and willingness to go above and beyond in pleasing your customers. You can’t please everyone, but you can at least show you’re willing to try, which can build a great reputation for your business.

*Contact the customer directly, if possible. Any opportunity to take the conversation offline and make it a more personal interaction is always a coup for the company.

The long and short of this is to be prepared, be mindful, and be educated as a company. No one is exempt and no one is perfect, but the more your company is cognizant of the potential for public shaming, the more control you’ll have over your brand and reputation.

How to Recover from a Google Backlinks Penalty – Webinar Archive

How to Recover from a Google Backlinks Penalty – Webinar Archive

Did you know that Google gives over 400,000 penalties every month? Your site could be next. Check out this webinar if you have a penalty, or if you’d like to make sure to avoid a penalty in the future.

Josh Butler, SEO Manager with Apogee Results covers how you should react to a linking penalty message from Google.

In this webinar archive you’ll learn:

  • Types of link penalties from Google
  • Actions to take once you know your situation
  • Tools and processes to help you recover from a penalty

Transcript:

This is a subject we’ve been dealing with at Apogee Results quite a bit, how to recover from a Google backlink penalty. And this has been a very important subject to some of our clients because they’ve been put in a penalty box by Google that has greatly affected their business and they came to us unfortunately too late, after they’ve been feeling the pain of the penalty.

What I mean by too late is there’s a time that if you suspect you could be at risk for a penalty you want to address it before get the actual penalty. But we’ll go into more detail of that later.

But first I want to introduce myself. If you’re new to Apogee or me, my name is Joshua Butler. I’m the SEO Manager for Apogee Results. I’ve been leading the SEO services team. I’ve been involved in learning SEO since 2004. And I started in marketing a multi-local franchisor. I was the resident designer and became the marketing manager leading the company toward an integrated digital strategy. I went from knowing nothing about SEO to leading the SEO strategy integration into the website development process.

We had a very successful launch in 2006. The franchisees enjoyed receiving leads from the website in their local areas and this became a huge selling point for the franchise system, as we made it easy for new franchisees to start getting leads soon after they set up their business. Since then, I came to Apogee Results in 2010 and began providing SEO consulting and services to all kinds of businesses from enterprise IT software companies to local home builders, as a couple examples.

The SEO team at Apogee Results has helped several companies navigate Google penalties. Some had partial penalties, others had site-wide penalties, but we were successful with reconsideration process for each client, and we got them out of Google’s penalty box. Now you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter. I’m on twitter @joshuajbutler and if you want to see all the types of things I’m interested in, if you want to see posts about Bitcoin and politics and SEO, you’ll find that there.

So, moving on to what are the effects of the Google penalty. There’s a few different types of penalties, and the most devastating penalty is the site-wide penalty. The site-wide penalty could basically wipe out all of your organic Google traffic. You’ll get no traffic for your brand, nothing for any of your business offerings. Nothing. It will just disappear over night. And this is the part that just completely devastates businesses. This puts businesses at the crossroads of do I retire my website and rebuild from scratch.

What do I do? The reason why you’re hear at this webinar is to understand that you don’t have to retire your website and start from scratch. But that is definitely the question businesses and business owners will ask themselves when they get hit by a penalty like this from Google. So this can have a pretty major consequences on a business.

Also, just want to call out the image source for this slide. This is a nice graphic that was put together by Aaron Wall, and he’s got a great blog post on Google and how they’re dealing with their penalties, if you want to get into the nitty gritty, the URL is at the bottom of the screen there. SEObook.com. If your interested in SEO subscribe to SEObook.com. It’s a great source of information.

Moving along, we’re going to talk about the partial penalty. This is a symptom of a partial penalty. You will lose traffic to the site, but not all of your traffic. So if you see a drastic dip in traffic to your site from your organic channel hopefully you have Google Analytics or another analytics package setup on your site tracking you would definitely want to have that set up.

If you see something like this, this could be a sign of a partial penalty. It could be other things, but a partial penalty is one of the possibilities of seeing analytics like this. And this can still hurt your business quite a bit. You could have your traffic drop significantly which would impact your conversions, conversion numbers, especially if your business runs on selling ad space, this would drastically impact your business. And your advertisers would be very unhappy if they saw this happen.

So you definitely want to prevent this from happening. And if you do have this happening there’s a way out. But, we’ll talk about that soon.

So next I want to talk to you about how common the penalties are coming from Google. In this video presented by Matt Cutts, who is the head of the Google’s search quality team, and basically the head of the anti-spammer team. He’s explaining in this video, at this time in this video at 8 minutes and 43 seconds he’s talking about how many messages are sent out to webmasters every month. And it’s 430,000 messages per month that are getting sent out. And these messages are penalty messages.

So there are literally hundreds of thousands of sites being penalized every month. And this has huge impact on a lot of businesses. And most of them are just giving up, and saying, OKAY, this site’s done with, and I’ve got to start all over again. Out of those four hundred thousand messages they send out every month they receive back from webmasters five thousand reconsiderations, and those, a reconsideration or a reconsideration request is basically a letter that you send to Google that explains that you’re sorry for what you’ve done. That you’re cleaning up your act. You provide proof of how you’ve cleaned up your act, and then again you apologize and say, now we’re definitely going to follow Google’s guidelines in promoting our site, and we’re not going to try to manipulate Pagerank.

And that’s the whole purpose of what this penalty is about, is when Google finds out that you have been manipulating Pagerank with your linking practices. So it’s a very common issue and many webmasters are suffering the consequences of, we’ll say, backlinking tactics that worked in the past, but is rapidly catching up to them, and being punished, that activity that used to work. So I want to go ahead and open up to questions.

If you have any questions about the backlink penalty, if you have a backlink penalty and you want to ask a question about it you’re welcome to ask here. Go ahead and in the public chat, please go ahead and ask your questions. We have a section later in the webinar, where I will be addressing your questions, so I’m not going to be addressing them right away. But, please post them there and we’ll be reviewing them the questions they come in and preparing to answer them later in this webinar.

So moving along. Basically we want to cover the three situations regarding the backlink penalty. And, the first situation is the site-wide penalty. The second situation is a partial penalty. And the third situation is you have no penalty.

Hopefully all of you in this situation where you are in no penalty. And if you are, then, you’ll just want to do some checking about how much at risk you are at getting a penalty. So, first of all, how do you find out about if you have a penalty? Well, you need Google Webmaster Tools.

I highly recommend that you have Google Webmaster Tools setup on your site. It’s very easy. If you are the admin for your site, if you’ve got Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager, it’s very easy to add Google Webmaster Tools to your site. So I’m not going to go into the details of Google Webmaster Tools, but I’m just going to say as a webmaster and internet marketer I would say Google Webmaster Tools is a basic minimum requirement to be an online marketer.

Once you have Google Webmaster Tools, this is the interface Google uses to communicate with webmasters. They use Google Webmaster Tools messaging interface so if you do not have Google Webmaster Tools set up you will never know if you have a penalty except if you have a major traffic drop and then you’ll wonder why do I have this. If you don’t have Google Webmaster Tools you will not find out if you have a penalty.

So you need to have Google Webmaster Tools setup to know if you do or not. And if you have Google Webmaster Tools setup and you see that in your manual actions area that you received a message that says unnatural links to your site that affects all of your website, this basically means that you will not receive traffic from Google organic search anymore. And this a very devastating message to receive, you do not want to see this. If you do, you definitely want to contact a professional that’s been through this process, because you can get through it. And then we’re going to show you the high level approach to the situation later.

Second situation is a partial penalty. And sometimes we’ve seen it happen where a site will receive a partial penalty and, and say you don’t do anything about it, you don’t change your ways, this can escalate into a site-wide penalty.

So partial penalty is a pretty major slap in the face, but it’s not like, you haven’t been put in to the pit yet. So you can lose traffic but not all your traffic. And this is what the message looks like coming in Google Webmaster Tools where it says, you received a partial match, and you’ll notice it says under affects, some incoming links. These incoming links can affect certain areas of your site like, an entire subdirectory, maybe a subdomain, or a just a single page. It just depends on your particular backlink structure, and the type of red flags that Google identified as being manipulative.

So again this is the view you will see Google Webmaster Tools if you have a partial penalty, you do not want to see this, but it’s not as bad as a site-wide penalty. Then if you have no penalty, that’s good news, that means you’ve not lost traffic due to Google taking a manual penalty against you. You can lose traffic from algorithmic reasons, and you would not receive any type of message from Google Webmaster Tools about that. And that’s something you want to be involved with an SEO professional to help you to navigate that situation if you’re dealing with an algorithmic issue with losses in rankings and traffic.

But, we’re not going into that right today. We’re going to talk about the no penalty situation. And basically, the first thing you want to do is you want to investigate your risk.

So moving forward, put this on your checklist, is investigate risk if you do not have a penalty. And, there’s two conclusions you can come to once you’ve investigated the risk, is either you’re at high risk for a penalty or you’re at low risk for a penalty. And, if you’re at low risk for a penalty, high fives all around, mission accomplished, you’re doing great, just keep doing what you’re doing. And, yeah you’re good.

But, if you find out that you’re at hight risk for a penalty, it’s time to make some changes. So, we’re going to show you a little bit about what you do, first of all, have Google Webmaster Tools and check the messages in there, just to double check and make sure you have no penalty.

The other part is you’ll want to look at, look for the red flags of risk. You’ll want to look at your backlink target distribution.

Do you have all of your backlinks focused with a single page of your site targeted for exact match anchor text? And if you don’t understand what that means exactly, basically you don’t want to over optimize and look manipulative to Google. And if you have some questions about what does that mean exactly go ahead and post that into the chat box and we’ll answer those questions.

You want to look at your anchor text distribution, and your anchor text is, that’s the text used, or that you click on when you click a link on another site. And, so you’ll basically, and Google, SEO’s have known this, Google uses the anchor text of links to help identify what the topic is around that site and what kind of relevancy you have for a site, as well as importance, which are two major factors in Google’s algorithm.

So you’ll want to look at your anchor text distribution, and you want to make sure it’s well balanced, it looks natural, you don’t have too much exact match anchor text. You want some good distribution there.

And then you want to look at your follow nofollow distribution, and if you have, like 90% followed and 10% nofollowed, that’s not good. Then also, if have 10% follow and 90% nofollow, that’s not good. You probably want a good 50-50 split, 60-40 either way, is fine, but you don’t want to anything too extreme either direction, you want a good share between them.

Nofollow basically means you’re getting a lot of Facebook shares and tweets and social media interaction to round out your backlink profile. And a followed link just means sites that are linking to you that are basically saying, hey I’m putting my reputation on the line to say that these guys are a good website, I’m vouching for you. That’s what a followed link means to Google.

Also you want to look for if you have thousands of links from irrelevant domains, you could be at risk for, you could be in the high risk zone for a penalty. And, also, if there’s evidence of a link network. So if you have thousands of links from, say 30 different sites but they are all on the same IP address, basically meaning they’re on the same server, then that could look like a link network, so you want to be careful about giving Google any sort of reason to give you penalty. And if you do determine that you’re at high risk for a penalty, you don’t need to do a reconsideration because you’ve not been penalized, but you want to do the disavow process, and get rid of the backlinks in your backlink profile that could cause you harm and basically tell Google, hey, we don’t agree that these links should be linking to us, we don’t know, we don’t want to get any credit for these links, please disavow these, and basically take them out of our backlink profile.

And we’ll talk about that process. So, basically what is the process that you do once you figure out that you have a site-wide penalty. How do you deal with it? Well, this goes a little bit against what Google recommends in Google Webmaster Tools, we flip it a little bit.

They say to do your removal request first, then the disavow, then your reconsideration request, we kind of flip that because we found that it’s much more efficient and it actually flows better in the order of operation.

So if you start with your disavow, this is where you do all your discovery work to find out, well which links should I disavow. Which ones are actually causing me harm and giving Google a reason to give me a penalty.

This is, you identify all of those poor quality, manipulative backlinks during the disavow process. And so, what we’re going to get into some more detail about what this disavow process is a few slides later.

But then, once you have your information from your disavow process that feeds into the removal requests where you ask people, hey, please remove my link, or change to a nofollow, and you, during this process you’ve got to document all your communications, and it’s very tedious, very time consuming, it’s a huge time suck, but you’ve got to do it.

And, you’ve got to record all the emails that are sent out, you’ve got to record all the responses, and you’ve got to, then that feeds to the reconsideration request as the proof of the work that you’ve done as part of this reconsideration request. You’ve got to document everything and prove everything to Google that says, hey, I went through the hardship of doing all this stuff that you’ve asked me to do, and here’s the proof of it. You really need to bend over backwards to show Google you’re serious about changing your ways of, you’re not going to manipulate your Pagerank through linking schemes, which is basically what it says in the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

So that’s the major process, these are the big bucket steps for dealing with a site-wide penalty. The disavow, removal requests, which goes out to webmasters that you’ve identified during the disavow process.

You record all of that and keep that in a spreadsheet, and you have to use Google Docs to do that, so you’ll use Google Docs during the removal request process, document all of the communications, and then you can link to that in the reconsideration request. So anything that you link to from your reconsideration request letter needs to be in a Google Doc, otherwise Google will not trust the file. How convenient, right.

Next section is the partial penalty. On the partial penalty, you don’t need to submit a reconsideration request. All you need to do is a disavow process. The the partial penalty, you’re not really going to get that removed, there just, it’s very similar to them, to Google, just basically discounting the links to a certain section of your site.

And you’re doing the same thing basically saying, OK, here’s all the bad links that we could have seen come from the partial penalty, and what this will do is prevent your site from getting a site-wide penalty by you not doing anything at all. So you want to definitely submit a disavow file, and you want to stop any sort of manipulative link building activities as soon as you know that you’ve received a partial penalty. Or before. If you know that your company is investing in SEO services that are building you thousands of links from questionable sources, stop that immediately. No questions asked, just end it. Just stop it now, because they’re putting you at risk.

You could tank your business completely by continuing that behavior, so just you’ve got to hit the brakes on that, whatever you do, just stop it now. And, if you know that that’s happening you want to start doing the disavow process right away. Even if you have no penalty, just, this will help to prevent you to be in the penalty situation. So, here’s the disavow process, the big buckets are, collect data, analyze data, compile the disavow.

So in the collect data section, basically you want to download your backlink profile, and there’s Majestic SEO, a great source of doing that. Depending on your backlink profile size, if you have a small backlink profile of say, if you’re in the hundreds, or in the thousands, but not tens of thousands, you could probably use Google Webmaster Tools and download the backlink profile from Google Webmaster Tools.

Once you have your backlink profile data in a spreadsheet, you’ll want to collect more data around those links that can help you understand that information. We’ll show you a screenshot of what that may look like for you. But then, you, and I think, Blair, you had the question, what are your favorite tools for identifying links that are likely bad.

Backlink Miner is a pretty good source, tool for doing that. And it collects information around your backlinks to tell you what’s going on. Also, as a supplement to backlink miner you can use Scrapebox to collect additional information that Backlink Miner may miss. But, for 99% of the situations Backlink Miner can handle it.

So, Blair hopefully that answered your question. Then once you have the data, you’ve got to analyze the data. The first step you take, and this is, sometimes it takes a while to collect all of that data, so you definitely want to make a backup of the file once you have it. Backup that file, make a copy, move it somewhere, put it on a USB drive or something, and keep it safe.

Just in case you mess it up, and need to start all over again with your analysis side of it. And then, what you do is through your analysis process, you will look at, you want to remove the high quality site from this list, because the purpose of the analysis is to widdle it down to poor quality links that says, these look like manipulative links, so you just go through and look for what looks like something trustworthy, what looks relevant, what has good metrics, and remove that from the list so that all you have left are the links that you want to include in your disavow file and that you want to, if you’re dealing with a site-wide penalty, that you want to collect information around the site, the webmasters, and get their email addresses.

So, once you’ve done the analysis then it’s time to compile the disavow file. The guidelines for the disavow file are in Google Webmasters guidelines, just look for Google disavow file in Google, they’ll give you the format that it needs to be in.

It’s really simple, it’s not complicated at all. It’s a text file. So, once you’ve determined what your low quality manipulative links are they should be included in the final disavow file, and then you’ll want to submit the disavow file to Google Webmaster Tools, and then we, for us, when we, a part of our process, of course, is to report the date that the disavow file has been submitted. And you can only submit one disavow file per site, and if you update the disavow file in Google Webmaster Tools it will overwrite the old one, so you’ve go to make sure that the whatever disavow file you’re uploading now is inclusive of any previous disavow files that you’re uploading.

Because it does overwrite it. So that is the disavow process, again, you collect the data, you analyze the data and then you compile the disavow. So here’s what a spreadsheet would look like once you’ve collected the data from backlink miner and you’d see the source URL, so the question there is do you, does this source URL look spammy?

First of all, does it look trustworthy, and you can see some of these URLs, they’re not branded, I mean, like this three jay kay que jay, that’s not a brand, you don’t want that in your backlink profile. The overoptimized anchor text, you, you want to look in here and say, does this, is it overoptimized, basically meaning is an exact match term that has high search volume, get a lot of, it’s got high competition in Google Adwords.

Those type of clues will tell you if it’s an exact match term. You do have to do your keyword research. You need to know what your exact match terms are. And those are the terms you definitely want to rank for, you just got to be careful with how many, how many time you have that in your anchor text pointing back to your site.

You can have a few, but just don’t do it too much. Also, you want to look at, is the link indexed by Google, if it’s not, if it’s not indexed by Google it’s not helping you at all. You don’t need it in your backlink profile, so you just, you need to get rid of that.

It’s it has no place to be in your backlink profile. Because that site is just not helping you at all. And then you want to look at the authority metrics here. So, we’re looking at domain, Pagerank, domain authority, page authority, and these are Google’s Pagerank metrics, and these are domain authority and page authority are believe are from MOZ, Moz.com, formerly SEOMoz.

Do they look like they’re valuable or, or not. If they’re, like if page authority is one probably not that great. Domain authority, some of these are OKAY, but you typically you want to look at your page authority that’s linking. So these are your low quality link indicators that you would need to look at. It does take some time to go through that an analyze it, especially if you have millions of links, it definitely takes some time to go through that process.

We’ve done that process for site that had millions of links, and it’s quite tedious. But, that’s why we get hired, to go through that tedious process for you. Now so, what’s the whole purpose of all this? Why not just disavow your entire backlink profile. Well, you probably have good links in your backlink profile, you probably, you’re, you, probably most of your links are pretty good, and the manipulative links that have been added to your site, getting them removed, yeah that will affect your rankings and such, but, if you have good links to your site, you want to save those links. And that’s why doing that analysis process during the disavow is so important.

So you want to save your good links, you want to save your rankings that you can. Yes, you, through the disavow process it is possible to see that your rankings will drop for certain areas, but you’re going to be standing on firmer ground at that point, and you can only move up from there.

And you won’t lose all of your traffic, especially your branded traffic, which is, for most sites, and businesses, most of your traffic is branded traffic. So you want to make sure you maintain that.

So, yes, it’s not going to be not as rosey as before where you had been slapped with a penalty, once you determine that you’re at risk for a penalty and you want to mitigate that risk, you may get some slight rankings drops, but it’s definitely going to be worth it in preventing a major outage of traffic in the future.

So you want to save everything good about your site, and make sure you save the rankings that you can. So, here’s the situational response for each one of these situations. So if you know that you have a site-wide penalty, you need to do a reconsideration request or retire your website. Those are your choices.

There’s nothing in between, and there’s no grey-zone. That’s what you’ve got to do. So, if you have a legitimate site, and you think you have something worth saving, go with the reconsideration request. If the entire site backlink profile has been manipulative, you might want to consider retiring the website and starting all over.

For the partial penalty, really the only response is to do the disavow process, and prevent you from getting a site-wide penalty. And if you have no penalty, that’s great news, but you do want to investigate your risk, and make sure that you will not be handed a penalty in the near future.

So, now I’m going to go ahead and answer your questions. See we have here is question; without webmaster tools messages would you ever disavow links? What are the risks? I would say yes, if you did not receive a webmaster tools message you’d still want to investigate your risk.

If you determine that you’re at high risk, that’s when you definitely want to do a disavow file. Of course, you’d want to do the full disavow process, you want to collect the data, analyze the data and then compile the file. The, it’s very important to be preventative in this situation, because, once you receive a penalty, I mean all, every single day that you’re suffering from a penalty is painful to your business, it is extremely painful, so if you can prevent that situation from happening you definitely want to do that.

But, you don’t want to just do a disavow file to do a disavow file, you want to determine if you’re at risk or not, and if you know you’re at risk based on knowing the history of your backlinking policy, or practices, you would want to go ahead and start that process, the disavow process.

If you’re not sure, you want to evaluate the risk and just make sure that you’re not at risk. And if you’re not at risk, then great, don’t do the disavow file at all. You definitely don’t want to do that. That was the only question we had.

So, let’s see here. I want to introduce you to the Apogee Results penalty recovery team, and we’re a nationally ranked search engine marketing agency based in Austin, Texas. We’re a data driven, and all of our efforts are handled in-house. We work as an extension of your team and we custom tailor our strategies to fit your business. Search engine marketing is not a one-size fits all type of thing. And we work with you to assess the best online marketing strategy for your business.

Wildfires Rage In Central Texas

As you may or may not have heard by now, there are some pretty serious wildfires going on around our beautiful city. While no one at Apogee has been directly affected by any of the fires, our hearts still go out to those who have lost their homes, livestock, pets, livelihoods, and unfortunately, lives.

For anyone who may be wondering, the largest fire, known as the Bastrop Complex Fire, is about 25 miles east of downtown Austin. Smoke has hung heavy over the area for the past couple of days, due to thankfully calm winds. The smoke should blow out today due to a weak front we have pushing through, but that also means higher winds that increase the risk of flareups, new fires, or exacerbating the situation for the fires that still aren’t contained. At this point, we desperately need rain, but the entire state will gladly accept prayers, rain dances, good vibes–whatever you’ve got.

firefighter

Capt. Alan Donaldson of the Bastrop Fire Department looks at his his destroyed firefighting helmet at his burned down home on Tonkawa Drive in Bastrop’s Circle D Estates neighborhood on Wednesday Sept. 7, 2011. Photo courtesy of Austin American Statesman

These fires, though, have prompted a lot of people to ask: What SHOULD/WOULD you grab if a fireman knocked on your door and told you to evacuate immediately? The Austin-American Statesman has compiled a list of things it would be nice to be able to take in case of an evacuation (let’s face it, though, if you have two minutes to get out odds are you’re thinking, pets, underwear, purse, cell phone and that’s about it).

Here’s the packed in advance evacuation kit list:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day for three days
  • A three-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Flashlights
  • Battery or hand-crank radio, with extra batteries
  • First aid kit, including prescription medications
  • Personal hygiene items, including hand sanitizer, soap, toilet paper, wipes, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Copies of personal documents (deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) and a plastic pouch to keep them in
  • Cell phones with chargers
  • Names and phone numbers of emergency contacts
  • Extra cash, checkbook and credit cards
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids
  • Baby supplies, including diapers and formula
  • Games and toys for kids
  • Pet supplies, including leash, bowls, cat litter, cat box and pet food
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Manual can opener
  • Whistle
  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Duct tape
  • Blankets, sleeping bags and towels
  • Wedding albums and other important photographs

Looking at that list, it makes total sense to have those things ready to go in case of an evacuation. If you know a hurricane is barreling towards you, or in our case, if you know a fire could pop up at any minute, it’s completely feasible to have those things loaded into the car and ready to go. But what if you only have a few minutes? You won’t have time to gather those things. My “must grabs” would be:

  • My dog (he’s my “baby”), his leash, and dog food
  • My fiance (okay, so I would grab my fiance first, and then the dog)
  • Both of our cell phones
  • Purse, wallet(s)
  • Underwear
  • Eyeglasses
  • If time: birth certificates, social security cards, irreplaceable photographs of my grandparents and myself as a baby, external harddrives
  • Ideally, I would LIKE to be able to escape with our tandem bicycle, but that might be asking a bit much–and nothing that homeowner’s insurance can’t replace

Overall, I hold the very firm belief that a house can be replaced. Televisions and computers and bicycles and Keurig coffeemakers and toys can be replaced. Appliances can be replaced. Fences rebuilt. Trees replanted. But you can’t replace a life.

If you were facing evacuation orders, whether it be from a hurricane, flooding or wildfire, what would you take with you? Also, if you would like to help the victims of the local wildfires, here’s a list of Austin area agencies accepting donations, and what they most need. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to all of the firefighters and volunteers who have put their lives on the line and who have worked almost non-stop–you are all very appreciated.