How To: Report Competitors Black Hat SEO Techniques to Google

Have a keyword where you have one of the top search engine rankings for, only to have someone came out of nowhere to outrank you?  With few exceptions, websites don’t jump 5-10 spots overnight without some help, so I always get suspicious. This happened to me recently, so I figured I’d share how to recognize why this happens and what you can do to prevent it!  

For those unfamiliar with black hat SEO techniques, “black hat” is a term commonly used to describe SEO techniques that aren’t allowed by Google or other search engines.  Common black hat techniques include hidden text or links (an example would be making words white while on a white background so they can’t be seen by readers, but search engines see them), misleading or repeated words, cloaked pages, deceptive redirects, doorway pages, etc. 

On the flip side, there are “white hat” SEO techniques which are approved or allowed techniques that are encouraged by search engines.  Examples include sitemaps, meta tags, and of course optimizing your websites structure (header tags in the right spots, breadcrumbs, etc.) so search engines can read your entire site and figure out what exactly your site is about. 

I am fortunate in that I’ve got a few different highly competitive keywords where my sites have top rankings in.   While doing my standard review of my rankings (at least bi-weekly) for these keywords, I noticed a website had come out of nowhere and was now ranked higher than my site!   

After my surprise subsided, I began researching this site (which is an established site, but never ranked very highly before) and noticed that the footer of their theme had some links for the three most prominent keywords within this niche. Thing is, they were hidden using CSS, so they couldn’t be seen by human readers. 

This is the kind of thing that Google wants to avoid, so being the Google fanboy that I am, I went ahead and reported the spam to Google.   This is my third time doing this, but the first time the spam affected me directly.   The other two times I just discovered it on accident so I reported it.

The SEO Benefits of Article Marketing

Are you using article marketing to increase your niche sites inbound links?   Recently the Affiliate Classroom blog wrote a great post about the importance of article marketing, and why this strategy is possibly the best SEO for affiliate marketers.   After reading through it, I wanted to mention it here.

There are actually 8 reasons listed, but I wanted to point out a few important ones that I think people fail to think about:

Links are one-way. Some SEO experts believe that search engines downplay reciprocal links in their results calculations. While reciprocal links can still be valuable, they don’t count as much as one-way links to your site. Article directories give you a one-way link.

Links are guaranteed. If you’ve never asked a webmaster for a link before, it can feel a bit intimidating. But when you submit articles to directories, you know you won’t get turned down. Seeing those backlinks show up in the SERPs is a nice confidence booster, especially if your site is brand new. As long as your articles are of good quality, they will also send you targeted visitors for a long time to come.

Links per page are fewer. This is a little known, but valuable benefit. Some SEO experts believe that the higher the number of links per page, the less SEO value each link will have. But the link back to your site in an article directory is usually only one of only a few links on the page.

Backlinks soon multiply. Article sites exist for a reason – to provide other webmasters with access to free, quality content. So just one article, in just one directory, can actually turn into hundreds of links, as webmaster after webmaster finds your article and uses it.

If you’d like to read more about article marketing, I recommend you check out Josh Spaulding’s Article Marketing Domination eBook.

Ultimate Collection of SEO Tools?

Affiliate Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are two things that will always go well together, so I’ve always made it a point to stay current on the latest SEO techniques and strategies.  I recently noticed a new post over at Search Engine Journal that really caught my attention.   They’ve called the post the Ultimate Collection of Internet SEO Tools, and I have to say that after reviewing the post, I’m going to have to agree.

Though it isn’t a complete SEO collection (as it only includes web-based tools), it is a great resource that I think people will love.   It is almost overwhelming just how many SEO tools there are out there!

What are your favorite web-based SEO tools?

Traffic Secrets Revealed 2.0 Now Available!

Have you ever heard of John Reese before?  Unless you’re new to the world of internet marketing, chances are this guy is a household name to you.   For those unfamiliar with the name, John is the author of the incredibly popular Traffic Secrets home study course that has propelled the careers of most full time internet marketers today. 

As we all know, getting traffic (especially search engine traffic) is the key to drive any affiliate campaign, but doing so is much easier said than done. This is especially true without purchasing your traffic via PPC or other methods.  Did you know that there are SEO techniques and other methods you could be using to get natural (and free) search engine traffic?   John has covered all of this in his home study course.  

If you would like to check it out, or purchased the original course, I wanted to give you the heads up that as of 1:00 p.m. EST today, the Traffic Secrets 2.0 home study course has been released. 

Check out Traffic Secrets 2.0!

Google Now Manually Monitoring Search Results?

With the size of the world wide web, it seems impossible to think that Google could manually monitor their search results, but a recent post over at SEOBook.com titled Mom and Pop Websites?  Is Your Brand Big Enough? really got me thinking about whether this is possible or not, and how this will effect small sites designed to snipe certain keywords.

In Aaron’s post, he mentions that someone he knows was banned from Google because his blog used the default WordPress template.   This got my attention.   Even though I’ve never used the Kubrick theme or a variation of it on any of my sites, I think the fact that Google looks at things like this makes me wonder what else they would look at if they are human editing their search results.

Apparently human editing will be more common in 2008 and here are the signs that Aaron recommends you make sure your site does NOT exhibit to help it look authentic:

  • has a default WordPress design
  • has multiple hyphens in the domain name
  • exclusively monetizes via Google AdSense, placed top and to the left in the content area of the page
  • does not have a clear way to contact you
  • lacks an about us section
  • is registered with fake whois

For keyword snipers, this is something to pay attention to.   Where are your ads positioned?  Do you have an About/Contact page?

What is Keyword Sniping?

About a month ago I reviewed a tool called Micro Niche Finder, which is an SEO tool designed to help bloggers find out how much traffic and competition there are for smaller keywords. The idea is that you can easily rank highly in these keywords with only a minimal amount of work. So, once you’ve found your niche, how do you go about actually attacking that keyword?

Well, keyword sniping of course. This is a method I’ve used, and I know several others that have also found a great deal of success by taking over low traffic keywords. There are a few different ways to go about, but most people in the know keep fairly quiet about their techniques. For people interested, I was able to dig up a post written a little while ago by Courtney Tuttle giving a very well written introduction to keyword sniping. His post covers the general idea behind keyword sniping and explains how anyone can make money online doing this.

The nice thing about this method is that it requires very minimal maintenance. Set up your blog and a few posts, then sit back and let your site mature with age. One thing I would recommend that Courtney didn’t cover is to make a very AdSense friendly WordPress theme and use it as a template. That way each time you launch a new site, you can use that same theme and just plug in the specific information for the niche you are attacking.

Have any good keyword sniping stories to share?

Easily Find A Good Niche Domain With Micro Niche Finder

Whenever someone goes to start a new blog, one of the most crucial decisions they will make is to select the niche they will be writing in. Unfortunately, many of these same bloggers are setting themselves up for disappointment, or failure altogether because they chose a niche that is already packed. This may not be a problem if you are blogging for fun, but entering a popular niche is extremely difficult for anyone trying to make some money from their blog.

If you look at closely at the many bloggers that are making money online without having a large audience, you will probably notice that they do so by having a large number of small blogs that strategically fill search engine gaps. The idea is to go out and find under represented keywords and starting these gaps with a website or blog of your own. Another benefit to using this method is that you can usually find a good keyword-rich domain because the lack of competition for that keyword.

One example of this would be starting a “Make Money Online” blog. You might have a great blog, but you are going to be competing with 200,000 other people, and many have established audiences. If you jump into a small keyword, but only have 1,000 people to compete with for traffic on that keyword, some simple SEO techniques could easily get you into the top 3 and net a lot more traffic than a low ranking on a high traffic keyword.

So, sounds great, but easier said than done, right? While it sounds difficult, it doesn’t have to be with the right tools. Micro Niche Finder is a tool that makes it easy to find under represented niches. What this tool does is search for the keyword you specify and provide you everything you need to know. It will go calculate the top searches using that keyword for you, then display the number of other sites that show up under that keyword and allow you to determine the strength of the competition.

One example would be if you entered a keyword such as “online coupons”, you would see that some good keywords to target are “dell online coupons” and “amazon online coupons”. Some keywords to avoid competing in are “grocery coupons” and “free online coupons”, as they have a lot more people competing for a lot less search engine traffic. The goal is to find keywords with good traffic and less competition (supply and demand).

For some videos and additional information about Micro Niche Finder, you’ll want to click here.

Overall, I find Micro Niche Finder to be very useful when I’m out shopping for domains and looking to launch a new website. It can also be useful when trying to select meta keywords to use with an individual post.

Find Relevant Keywords With The Keyword Suggestion Tool

There are quite a few great SEO tools out there that can really go a long way towards helping you to improve your websites search engine rankings. One of the best things about these tools is that many of them are completely free for anyone to use.

The free tool I want to cover today is the Keyword Suggestion Tool by SEOBook. Hopefully this one doesn’t need much explanation, because the title pretty much says it all. What this tool does is suggest keywords to use for your website, or more importantly, for your individual posts. Before hitting publish on a new post, I recommend pulling up this site in a new window and enter the keyword you are targeting with your post. It will then spit out a bunch of additional keyword recommendations based on a number of various factors.

When I use this tool, I enter a keyword based on the post I’ve written, then focus primarily on the Google Daily Estimate column to see how many people are searching for the various keywords. Then I use any of those that apply to my post as my meta keywords. If you use the WordPress tagging system, your blog will probably use your tags as meta keywords, so you can easily get in the habit of using the keyword tool to suggest tags to use and have it work the same.

Another cool feature of this tool is the links to price estimate tools from Google AdWords. That Google AdWords tool shows the necessary bid to rank #1 for 85% of queries, and roughly how much traffic you could expect Google AdWords to send you based on that bid price and ad position.

Other listed features:

  • Is driven off the Wordtracker keyword suggestion tool. If you sign up for a Wordtracker account they offer many additional keyword research features and tools that are lacking in our basic keyword tool.
  • Offers rough suggested monthly search volumes by market for Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.
  • Links the search volumes to the related global search results.
  • Links to Google Trends, Google Suggest, Google Synonyms, Yahoo! Suggest, and Keyword Discovery keyword research results.
  • Links to various vertical databases like Topix.net, Google Blogsearch, and Del.icio.us to let you know if people are talking about your topic and what types of resources they are referencing.

If this one doesn’t meet your needs, another one I use on occasion was created by Overture, called the Keyword Selector Tool. It is designed to help you figure out which keywords to bid on, but works in a very similar fashion.

The Importance of Search Engine Optimization

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week or avoid sports all together, you have probably heard about the Mitchell Report which was recently released and details a number of Major League Baseball players that used performance enhancing drugs. What does this have to do with this site? Not much really, but I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with search engine optimization while reading over the report.

Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Major League Baseball players used a variety of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to improve their performance on the field and help to avoid injuries throughout the long season. Experts are saying that they believe close to 80% of baseball players were using something to improve their performance throughout this time period, showing that the names released barely tipped the surface. While the effects of steroids on the sport were numerous, probably the worst thing about it is that the few players who were using these drugs to get an advantage forced most of the other players to also use, just to keep a level playing field (at a higher level). If you weren’t using, guys in the minor leagues that are using will come up and take your spot. If you lose your spot, you aren’t getting paid.

Just like in baseball, search engine optimization kind of works the same way. Whether your website uses white hat techniques (working out and practicing), or black hat techniques (performance enhancing drugs), optimizing your website is incredibly crucial for any blog to truly compete in todays online world. Some do so the right way, while others use shadier tactics to improve their site, but either way they are doing what it takes to keep up with the competition. SEO experts are in high demand because everyone wants improve their site to try to keep a level playing field. Those that aren’t working at it, aren’t getting paid.

Are you doing your part to keep your website optimized, or is the competition blowing right by you?

Starting a New Blog? Pick Popular Keywords

Whenever I’m about to launch a new blog, I always try to do a little research first. I’ve learned from experience that I need to have some interest in the blog’s subject matter, or else I won’t spend enough time on it to truly make it worth my while. The other thing I always factor in is whether or not people are searching for the keywords I plan to use. You’ll probably have more competition, but there is also a lot more traffic to go around.

I’ve always found the best way to find high traffic keywords is to track Google’s rising search terms list that they release regularly. By going after rising search terms, you are more likely to find a decent keyword-rich domain that is still available, rather than established ones that have been picked clean.

Center Networks recently posted a list of Google’s Top 10 Rising Keyword Search Terms for both the United States and worldwide. Unsurprisingly, you will find the iPhone topping both lists. You’ll also find the keywords you’d expect to find, such as YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. Some other popular terms include Webkinz and Second Life.   If you want to set yourself up for success, using one of these keywords is a great way to set yourself up.

When you go to launch a new blog, what research do you do first?  How do you pick the blogs subject matter?