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There Are Different Ways To Pay For SEO – Which Is Best?

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Search engine optimization (SEO) services are now considered a requirement for online business success. More and more company owners and entrepreneurs are interested in using online marketing services like SEO to increase their online exposure, but many of them, especially those who will be hiring specialists for the first time, do not have an idea of how much they should pay for a specific service or what is entailed in the service itself.

It can seem quite difficult to understand how SEO services are charged for and even more difficult to understand what is involved with their execution. Depending on the expert or firm, charges may be astronomically different from one provider to another. You will find services at a seemingly cheap rate – $100 per month – and others at the opposite end of the spectrum – beginning at 5K+ monthly.

SEO Agencies and consultants also have different means of charging for their services, with some charging hourly, some on a monthly basis (usually as a retainer), others by the project, and some as a combination of these models.

When hiring an agency or specialist to do SEO work for your business, you should determine what kind of cost-pricing method you prefer, but not before understanding what you choose may have a direct impact on the quality and results of the work itself. Here are some of the possible benefits and drawbacks of different types of charging options for SEO services

Hourly Consulting

Paying for SEO on an hourly basis can be very appealing to some business owners due to its straightforward and quantifiable terms and flexibility. However, just like most things in life there are also disadvantages and reasons that this may not be the best option for you.

If you go to several websites offering SEO services or featuring SEO specialists who market the services they offer, you will immediately notice that the hourly rate of every specialist differ from one another. Some will ask for as low as $20 per hour while others might charge you as much as $300 per hour. Most often this is because of the quality of service and the reputation and experience of the provider. One provider may be specialized in a particular area of SEO and may be able to charge more, whereas another may be an entry level general worker. Another consultant may charge a lot because they have a great reputation and track record, but you will also find people charging high prices simply because they can. SEO is a hot commodity and is currently in high demand. As such, fees are bound to be high. Before pay too much or the wrong person, make sure you know what the hourly model can entail.

To know if this if paying for SEO by the hour is best for you and your business, get to know its advantages and disadvantages.


  • Flexibility in time allocation – If the work that you need to get done requires a deadline, you can allocate the specific time you want the specialist to spend on a particular project to be as little or as much as you are willing to pay. You also know when they are actively working on the project and when they are not – at least in terms of measurable time.
  • Fixed hourly rate – With hourly SEO payment, you will have knowledge on how much you will have to pay for the specialist for every hour they spend on your project. This will make it easier for you to predict the total cost you will have to spend, especially if it is a short-term project and you have a specific budget that must be adhered to.
  • High level of accountability and transparency – The SEO firm or specialist you will hire will be more transparent when it comes to their work as it will be easier for you to keep track of how much time they allocate in completing a certain task and the proportional effort they put into that task.
  • Easier cost breakdown – Since you will know how much time they spent on each specific task, you can easily breakdown the costs incurred for each specific service. Onsite optimization versus link building versus content marketing all have different time requirements and based on the eventual ROI, you will have a direct idea of your actual cost.



  • Cost can easily get bigger than expected – With no specific limits on total budget allotment, your bill can easily end up larger than what was anticipated. Make sure to set tight limits in communication and in writing to cap hours at an agreed upon number before the firm or consultant continues to work (and bill you).
  • Seeing results may not be as fast – Businesses get SEO services to see positive results. But in SEO, often times the results take time. If you only hire an SEO firm for a specific period of time, you may end up disappointed with the lack of results for the finite time you contracted them. Educate yourself and ask questions about a timeline. While no real SEO will guarantee results, they should be able to set reasonable expectations.
  • Cut-and-dry business relationship – The SEO specialist you contract as an hourly worker may not give you the same commitment as an employee or larger firm because they are only a contractor. While seemingly unprofessional, this can be a drawback of contractual workers. Make sure to do your due diligence to find a worker you trust and who has a good reputation.
  • Unproductive working hours – Some projects might require you to hire a team of SEO experts for hourly work. This usually occurs through an agency, billing by the hour. If your project requires multiple workers, make sure to have a project manager who manages all contractors, reports to you (and their own company) and keeps everything in budget and on time.

Monthly SEO Payment

The second type of pricing often used for SEO services is the monthly payment model. This can feel as if you have an employee and usually involves less mangagement of the asset, as they are set up to work in this capacity. This is among the most commonly used pricing models in SEO and online marketing services today.


  • Unlimited working hours – In most cases, the SEO expert might spend more hours than expected just to complete your task and produce the results you have hired them for.
  • Continuous work-related conversations – You can talk to your hired specialist about work-related matters almost anytime. This is not the same when you hire them on an hourly basis where you might no longer be able to have a conversation with them without being billed after the initial bucket of hours is used.   Firms may also charge for time past agreed upon services, but many times you’ll find that they are more than happy to communicate without charging.
  • No awkward hourly discussions – Because an agency isn’t accountable to you by the time they put in directly, you don’t have to manage or worry about this.
  • No excuses for lack of results – Since you are paying them on a monthly basis, they are expected to be in line with both the short-term and long-term goals of your business and agreed upon marketing plan.
  • Detailed accomplishment reports – As part of the monthly service, you can expect status update reports outlining the success and current standing of the work being conducted. While this can also occur with hourly workers, it is generally less common, as agencies expect to be held accountable, be transparent, and provide detailed reporting.
  • Better client-agency relationship With a successful client-agency relationship you often find more respect and commeraderie. Hourly workers – even if contractual – often feel like employees. A firm, while still accountable, can feel more like a peer or advocate for your business. A partner of sorts.



  • There are some months when no heavy work is required – When you hire an agency and pay them on a monthly basis, you will pay a fixed monthly rate. You cannot change it from time to time. Because of this, it is possible that there may be more work in one month than another. However, reputable agencies will not only be transparent, they will always give you value at the level of your investment.
  • Locked in a contract – Once you enter this kind of client-agency relationship, there are often contracts involved. A 3, 6, or 12 month contract may be a requirement for some agencies, but not for all. Only commit to a contract if you feel a strong connection with the agency or if they have a proven track record.
  • The challenge with monthly cost – Your business may make more money one month than another. Because of this, you might find paying an SEO agency the monthly amount you agreed on during those not-so-profitable months a little painful (or even impossible).

Project-Based SEO Payment

Another common type of SEO pricing model is the project-based SEO payment model. This gives you the benefit of knowing how much you will spend exactly for a specific project.


  • One lump sum payment – You will know the exact cost of a specific task. This is perfect for those who only have a limited budget and or specific goals. With this pricing model, you will never exceed budget without first agreeing to exceed the original number.
  • Straightforward timeline – One of the best things about this pricing model is that you will have a better outlook of how much time is needed for the project to be completed. A project is usually estimated based on time. As such, start and end dates should be clear.
  • Let you focus on particular SEO aspects – If you know the capabilities of your business in terms of what you can and can’t do with your online marketing, you can use that knowledge to specifically target what kind of service you need to contract for on a project basis.
  • Pricing structure is very clear – Since it is a fixed rate per project, we can say that the structure is clearer than the other models and usually entrails line-item descriptions of tasks to be completed.



  • Some firms might take advantage – Without specifically outlining all tasks and deliverables to be completed, an unscrupulous firm may context or possibly not deliver the what you feel was agreed upon. Make sure to have everything in writing and outlined at the beginning of the agreement.
  • Lack of flexibility – Once a contract is signed and the project has begun, if you have changes to the project, it may be hard to change in the middle. Agencies work on pre-defined parameters from the contract. Your changes may require a Change Request or a separate project order.

What To Spend on Your SEO Services

While SEO has changed considerably over the last few years with Google algorithm updates and consequent tactical shifts from SEOs, you still find a variety of prices and services out there.
Google “SEO Services” and you’ll find “SEO From $300 a month” ads filling the Adwords spots next to the organic results. Call the top ranked firm and you may be quoted $5000 per month or more.

Simply put, you get what you pay for. While there are definitely expensive services where the results may be lacking, it is nearly impossible to effect change in the organic search results for anything less then $1000 monthly.

For local SEO, it may be possible to achieve success with lower rates, but national terms, organic website rankings, and anything moderately competitive will require technical SEO expertise, ongoing content marketing, and an overall strategy to build assets and increase online rankings and traffic.

In 2010 and SEO could spam their way (and their clients) to the top of the search results and charge $300 monthly to #1 position rankings (seemed like a lot back then). Today, SEO can only be done effectively with real people and manual effort. SEO is now a piece of a total comprehensive strategy and execution for increasing your online exposure via multiple methods like Social Media Marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising, Content Marketing and others.

Real SEOs are specialists in technical SEO, experienced marketers, strong communicators, and effective business people. Because of this, paying someone a low rate for “SEO” will almost undoubtedly end with failure or worse, problems with Google.

Stay within your budget, but don’t believe (or expect) a total solution for less than $1000 monthly.


How Do Social Signals Really Impact SEO?

By | SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

Do Social Signals for SEO Work?Social signals have become an important part of the digital marketing landscape.  Every inbound marketer has a social media marketing strategy and every SEO consultant is working on ways to increase their client’s social signals to improve rankings. 

Each week a new study comes out showing the impact of social signals on a websites ranking (almost always positive and dramatic) and we all now seem to accept this as the status quo from Google.

But what does it actually mean and are the direct signals causing the impact or is it the indirect, or both? While there isn't definitive proof on which part of the social signal is actually affecting a websites ranking, more and more SEO consultants are beginning to theorize that it may actually come back to long-time, good old friend of ours: Backlinks.


What are social signals?

Social signals are things like Facebook likes, Twitter tweets, Pinterest pins and LinkedIn posts, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are literally hundreds of social sharing sites where you can post a link or share a story, bookmark a page or comment on someone else’s sharing. 

Some of the other popular sites include Diigo, Stumbleupon, Delicious, DeviantArt, and of course, Google Plus.  Using these sites to share your (and others) content; to network and connect with other people, sends out signals via the links, @mentions, likes, and pins.  All of these actions then have a digital footprint that is trackable and has an apparent impact on the websites, keywords, and profiles that are most active.  But why?


Direct social signals for SEO benefit?

Direct social signals are the actions we take on the social sharing networks.  Liking or sharing a page, tweeting or retweeting or Plus 1'ing a website.  These are a direct signal, or positive marker for the website or link or person being shared.  In a well-known rankings correlation study by Search Metrics, there appears to be an obvious correlation between social signals and sites that rank better:


search metrics social signals ranking factors

In the last three years, study after study has shown the impact of social signals on rankings.  Many of these put Facebook shares at the top of the power list – in terms of ability to move the ranking needle.  These direct social signals are undeniably important in rankings, but are they directly important or indirectly important? 


Indirect social signals for SEO benefit and increased rankings

The three most noticeably indirect effects of social signals are increased backlinks, lower bounce rate on your website, and increased brand recognition and positive association (usually).  By sharing content socially, people tend to attract linking by others to the source of the content (your website).  Thus, social signals are directly related to the natural building of links to a page or site.

A lower bounce rate for a website is generally associated with higher rankings.  Social signals tend to increase loyalty and rand awareness and drive targeted traffic looking to see or learn about the topic they saw being shared.  Because of this focus from the visitor and increased awareness of your brand, usually there is a longer time spent on your site with more pages viewed.

Increased brand recognition is simple in understanding it's relation to social signals.  More visibility and positive association on social networks tends to imprint on the minds of users.  This can translate into loyalty, positive reviews, and increased traffic and social sharing – simply because of brand trust.

But are these secondary impacts only related to increased rankings and SEO benefit or are they directly responsible? Moz did a correlation study on the relation of social signals to backlinks a couple of years ago, that while out of date, does give us a glimpse:


social signals directly effecting backlinks

We definitely see positive correlation here, although there did seem to be less of an impact related to Twitter. What is important to remember is that none of this data is causal.  What is also important is that this study was done to look at whether there was a correlation between linking activity and how well a page does that on its own, and social signals.  In other words, as it mentions at the top of graph, are social signals a good indicator of a pages linking activity.


Social Signals in 2013 – the new and improved, natural link building.

What we are seeing today, in a post Penguin 2.0 world, is the ability of social media to build links.  Those that said social signals were taking over in importance compared to links seem to have been a bit overzealous.  Links are alive and well, but how many, where they come from, and how they were created is more important than ever.

On a recent whiteboard Friday from Moz, Rand talked about multiple ways to naturally attract links via social media.  He also mentions in the video, the suspicion of many SEOs, that it's not the social signals themselves that are causing the most impact on rankings and SEO, but the links that are built (indirect impact) as a result of the social sharing.  Whether these links come in the same day the content is shared socially or three months down the line, sharing social can attract an immense amount of natural links


What are you waiting for? Get social!

Regardless of whether the impact from social sharing on rankings is coming from the initial action of sharing or a secondary effect link link creation, social signals are of undeniable importance to rankings and online presence.  Sharing your new website or blog post on Google + will get it indexed in the search engines faster.  With no followers in a StumbleUpon account, you can drive 30 people in a day to almost any link you want.  The medium is here and in many forms for us to use.  Now it's time to get busy and use it.

Have more questions about social signals and SEO? Get in touch with me!  I work directly with businesses on their inbound marketing needs, as well as an SEO consultant for local web design firms.






Good Organic Backlinks – Straight From the Mouth Of Google

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

organic website backlinks for seo

So Google Penguin 2.0 just happened around a month ago and we don't need to worry about backlinks anymore, just social media, right?  Wrong.  Building backlinks may not be the Wild West anymore where the biggest or baddest links win, but link building is still an integral part of your Inbound Marketing strategy. 

Backlinks from anywhere on the web are effectively a vote of confidence for your website, but they are all not treated equally.  The inbound marketing parade of former SEO black hatters (now basically content spammers) advocates quality content and lots of it (so do mainstream inbound gurus) and this will then draw in natural, organic backlinks, or so they say.  But what are natural organic backlinks?

Well, I suppose the alternative is unnatural, inorganic backlinks (what the black hat guys use).  So why does it matter that we have organic link profiles for our sites and how do we get them?  Simply put, unnatural backlinks are those that were created in whatever way (with software usually, but also manually) with the intent to manipulate pagerank and thus, rankings. This is explicitly against Google’s TOS and they have unleashed the Penguin and Panda (and others) updates to combat this attempted manipulation.  So the quick summary on why you don't want unnatural links pointing at your website is that Google either has or will develop a way to detect these and consequently, devalue them at the least, and devalue (or de-index) your website at most.  In other words, it would be stupid and shortsighted to build these.


So what are organic backlinks and how do we build or get them?

asking for backlinks to our websiteIf you can't build backlinks really, or at least not the kind you want, then how do you get them pointing at your website?  One answer that has been around for years and is still effective and touted by the inbound marketing masses is link baiting.  Creating content on your website or sharing it online with links embedded in it allows others to share it, repost it, tweet it, or any number of other actions.  From this, you get backlinks and a lot of times, traffic. 

This strategy obviously takes time and investment.  Instead of buying or mass creating links, you are in effect, creating content for others to share.  So what are some of the link baiting tactics that can help build organic links to your site?


Tried and tested link baiting strategies for creating natural backlinks

Service or Product Creation

Create a product or service and release it on your website and social channels.  By making something useful that others can learn from or that helps them with what they do daily, you will be a magnet for backlinks and sharing of your service or product.

List Creation

This is a little old school, but you still see it every day because it taps into our psychology.  Create a top 5 list or 10 things you didn't know about list.  Make 6 tips for _____ list.  People love lists and will share them incessantly online and socially.

Periodic Newsletter

Writing a newsletter once a month, once a quarter, or even once a year that has valuable information in it (and links to your website) can lead to people not only reading it, but sharing it online.

Tutorials and Teaching

Much like lists, people love instructions.  They love to be told what to do and how to do it (although they think they don't). Creating a helpful tutorial on something that solves a problem that others have is a very effective way to attract organic links to your website.

Social Media & Networking

Duh. If you aren't sharing your pages and posts and other links to your online properties on your social accounts you are missing a large opportunity.  My blog post traffic doubles by sharing one link to a new post

Research & Study

Have you had to solve a problem for work or for your website that you had to learn how to solve?  Sharing this solution with others can bring attention and appreciation.  Additionally, intentionally researching a topic and sharing it for the sake of link baiting works just as well.

Controversy and Opinions

It may not be putting your best foot forward, but it works.  Why do you think we all watch TV and who do you think buys those magazines at the checkout stands?  People who love to read, hear, and share controversial or juicy topics and opinions.  Create your own and see (hopefully with good taste).


Link baiting as a powerful form of marketing

While link bait is just that – content meant to attract organic, natural backlinks – it is also really about marketing.  The higher quality content and link bait you create the stronger the effect both in attracting links and in attracting actual visitors and visibility.  It's not just about links; it's about your brand.  How are you seen by others and what do you produce that reflects this?  Are you being well received and shared? 

A donut shop may not have the reach (or budget) of a design firm, but they can create a piece of content that goes viral, getting them links, social exposure, and media attention, all for their brand.  The great equalizer of the internet allows for the potential of a level playing field.  To make the field level however, you need to produce unique and quality contributions that others find relevant to their situations.


Right from the mouth of Google himself: Matt Cutts talks about link bait

This is from a Q & A video session from 2009, but all still holds true.  Imagine that. Google knows what works.












WordPress SEO Tips For Increased Exposure In The SERPS

By | SEO education, seo seattle, Wordpress | No Comments

Wordpress SEO tips for increased visitors

Hands down WordPress is the best CMS (content management system) when it comes to SEO, but does this mean that we take advantage of this inherent and potential optimization?  Unfortunately the answer is usually no.  SEO does involve many factors – both on your website as well as around the internet in general, but many businesses look to hire an SEO agency to increase their rankings and exposure before they have examined what they can do on their own.

This post is a short exploration of some actions you can take on your WordPress-run website to further increase your optimization and visibility in the search results.  I'm not going to cover basic on page SEO topics like meta data, internal linking, keyword usage, etc.  Instead these are specific things that pertain to WordPress that you should be doing to increase your website's SEO.


Revisit (or visit for the first time) your outbound page links

Wordpress is awesome in much of its flexibility.  We all love the widget functionality that allows us to customize the sidebar or footer area, and a lot of other WordPress real estate.  The problem is, many of these functions have links galore embedded in them or allow you to add hyperlinks to internal or external pages.  Re-examine this.  If you have a sidebar on every page of your site (or most) that is linking out to another website, you are losing visitors and potentially link juice.  Be selective with outbound links in your sidebars – whether they are follow of nofollow.


URL permalink structure optimization – post name

While there are many factors in why a page ranks where it does in the search engines, what words or phrase are in the URL for that page do play a role.  If you page is instead of, you aren't getting all of the credit for the topic of that page.  WordPress by default still use the permalink structure ?p=<postid>, so you need to change this.  Under settings in the WordPress dashboard, go to permalinks. At the bottom you should have the ability to choose "post name" which will automatically propagate then below field with /%postname%/. If you do not see the "post name" option, manually paste in /%postname%/ under "custom".  For more advanced permalink editing, you can check out a great page from Yoast.


Google Authorship Markup – your picture next to your website in the search results

Even experienced SEO consultants and web designers are new to much of what is working in SEO in 2013.  Partly because SEO is changing quickly.  Google Authorship and Publisher Markup language allows Google to track and assign authorship and authority to web publishers.


seo seattle pro google authorship example



It allows publishers to get credit for their work and gives added SEO trust to their content.  It also gives a better CTR (click through rate) than other websites who don't have markup. You can add the code for publishers (businesses) or authors (individuals) to your entire domain, a page on your site, or a blog post.  Yoast wrote another great article (and simple) on how to do this with his SEO plugin.  You can also do it manually.  To check if you have correctly set up your author or publisher markup, you can use the Google Snippet Tool, as any changes you made will not show up immediately in the search results.


Plugins Plugins Plugins. which should I use and how many?

One of the best features of WordPress is the ability to use plugins.  There are thousands of plugins from different programmers that do all sorts of things.  Most of them are unnecessary.  However, everyone has their own needs and functionality to their website, so there are definitely custom considerations and preferences.  Here are a few you shouldn't live without that are specifically related to SEO:

Wordpress SEO

Duh.  As an SEO professional, I always recommend and personally prefer WordPress SEO by Yoast.  There are other SEO plugins, but this plugin is the best in my opinion.  You don't necessarily need all of the functions that it comes with, but as you progress with your website, you just might.

W3 Total Cache

Designed to improve site speed and thus, user experience (and SEO) the W3 plugin is a necessity for all WordPress users.

RB Internal Links

This plugin dramatically cuts the risk of 404s on your site by dynamically updating internal linking.  Instead of using URLs, RB uses Post ID to track links – those eliminating potential errors for no longer existing pages.

Simple URLs

You can use this plugin to control your external links, effectively pointing authority and link juice where you want it to go.  Just install Simple URLs and control your outbound links from one place.


Slow down on your excessive usage of tags

The ability to quickly and easily add relevant tags to your posts in WordPress is great, but you need to consider that every time you are adding a tag, you are effectively adding a page to your site.  Tags ability to benefit your SEO similar to the ability of a sign to point you in the right direction.  The tag itself is not good for SEO; it’s the direction and navigation that can lead to proper site silo structure and therefore, relevancy and therefore, optimization.  You can (and should) manually delete old and unnecessary tags – or you could look for a plugin to do it!


Wordpress is an amazing tool but like most tools, it’s all about the individual using it.  Proper WordPress SEO begins with proper on page SEO just like it does on any other CMS.  From there, you can begin to implement and understand some of the benefits of WordPress itself in terms of SEO specifically, and practice them on your website. 


Google Algorithm Penalty Or Negative Link Velocity?

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

Google Penalty or Negative Link Velocity?

SEO in some ways is a moving target.  Best practices and effective strategies seem to change quite rapidly.  Not just with independent SEOs and agencies, but with industry leaders as well.  Not that Rand Fishkin was ever spamming the internet with thousands of fiverr profile links, but he does notice and then report on what no longer works and what is around the corner and in many ways, is just as much in the dark as anyone else.

With that stated, obviously people in the SEO industry should have a better understanding then business owners and novice SEOs right? Well, you would think so, but this isn't always true.  I recently read a piece in a major SEO publication about a client’s site being hit by a Penguin 2.0 penalty and what could be learned.  While the piece was thorough and well written, to me it had a glaring error:  The erroneous assumption that fluctuation or loss of rankings around a major Google update is a penalty.

This assumption is something I hear frequently, but mostly from clients and webmasters who "know SEO" and come to me asking for help recovering from a penalty.  What I find is that they moved from the top of the first page to the bottom, or from the bottom of the first page to the somewhere on the second page.  This isn't a penalty folks.  But if it happened in the vicinity of a penguin algorithm change, it could be related.  So what is it?  Most likely negative link velocity and yes, it's correctable.


What Does A Google Algorithm Penalty Look Like?

matt cutts giving algorithm penalty

I try to be informative and educational in my blog posts, but I always need to remind the reader (because I remind myself) that no one knows definitively how everything works with Google – including penalties.  Well, except for Google.  Because of this we can only talk about trends and patterns based on experience. 

So here are the two main penalty types we see from Google.  I'm not talking about exactly why these happen (is it Panda or Penguin), just the consequences:


Google Algorithmic Penalty

A negative adjustment down in the rankings for your website after Google has run an update.  Based on the change to the algorithm, your website has less favorable indicators and metrics and consequently is lowered in ranking in the search results.

Consequence:  Generally a drop of at least 3 pages (30 positions) in the search results and often times more like 10+

Google Manual Penalty

A negative adjustment down in the rankings for your website after a Google employee has reviewed your website and deemed it to be against Google's TOS.  You may get an unnatural links warning message in your webmaster tools, you may not.

Consequence: Usually a drop of at least 10 pages (100 positions) in the search results and often times your site will drop out of the top 500 results.  Additionally, a site can be de-indexed by a manual penalty.  This results in a website not showing up in Google’s index, even by directly searching for it.


Google algorithmic penalty graph example

The image above is taken from Google Analytics and shows the impact on traffic from an algorithmic Google penalty.  A manual penalty could look the same or worse.


Negative Link Velocity Impact On Rankings And SEO Health

It's a natural thing for sites to have loss of backlinks.  Whether you built them yourself or others were linking to you, sites go down, pages get deleted, it happens all the time.  The rate at which you build links is called link velocity and its theorized that Google takes into consideration both how fast you build links in general, as well as how fast you build them in relation to your competition.  In other words, there are link velocity metrics for websites, keywords, and possibly even industry verticals. 

So link building is not just about getting ahead of others in terms of quantity and quality, but also about maintaining what you have built to date.  Both of the Google updates, penguin and panda, can directly affect your site without directly penalizing it.

Penguin and panda can and do de-index websites and backlinks as well as de-value them.  This means that if you have a fairly large number of links coming from sites that all of a sudden become de-indexed or devalued after an algorithm update, you lose some of your foundation and consequently can see a drop in rankings.


negative link velocity example



If you go to Majestic SEO Site Explorer or any link analysis tool and check for lost backlinks after an algorithmic update, you will usually see a grouping of negative spikes.  That is, a loss.  Depending on the quality and quantity lost, this is most likely the reason you have seen a small drop in the rankings. 

The sky is not falling, just your backlink count. None of this should be confused with negative SEO and trying to bomb another website with massive link velocity and spammy links by the way.  That is a whole different topic and one I don't care to go into.  Needless to say, link velocity and its impact on your rankings is important. 

So when you were in the "A" position for Google Places and dropped to "D", you weren't hit by a penalty.  When you were in position 7 and now dropped to 10, it's not Google Penguin, it's your links – or lack thereof.


So What Is A Healthy Link Velocity?

There is no magic number of links that you should aim for or stop building at.  Many people talk about link "drip feeds", or the practice of gradually doling out links instead of building them all at one time.  In reality, what is natural is what makes sense.  A press release may gain you hundreds or even thousands of links in one week.  Similarly, if you build websites and put a site-wide footer link on an ecommerce site with thousands of pages, you'll have thousands of links when the site goes live.

So my answer is always build them naturally – whether this is on your own or through an SEO link building service.  You can't beat natural link building and Google isn't stupid. If you focus on quality, it won't matter if you build 10 per day or 10 per week.  Of course, 10 guest blog posts in one day isn't natural, so use common sense.

If you really want a parameter for what you should be doing, look at your competitors.  By scrutinizing the websites in the top 10 results for your targeted keywords, you can learn at what rate they acquire new backlinks.

A solid link building plan to acquire diverse, relevant, and authoritative backlinks is one key element of your online SEO plan. Understanding that you have not been hit by Penguin when you drop or fluctuate 3 – 5 places should help you to stick to that plan without deviation.


Longtail Keywords for SEO : Find, Use, Thrive.

By | keyword research, Onsite SEO, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

longtail keywords for targeted traffic

Many people (including SEOs) don't properly understand what longtail keywords are, so I thought I could ask my friend the Diplodocus to help illustrate the idea. While longtail keywords do usually have more words in the search phrase then head keywords, this isn't the key point.  What is key is the specificity and relative uniqueness of the search.  There is also usually a smaller amount of monthly searches.  Simply put, longtail keywords are more specific, lower search volume searches that tend to have much lower competition for ranking then do most head keywords.  Because of this, using these longtail keywords naturally for page titles, in meta descriptions, in your content, in your social campaigns, and really anywhere naturally can bring direct targeted traffic to your website.  Like everything else you do online, the use of longtail keywords needs to be a contribution to the internet, not a manipulation of it. However, with proper etiquette and a strong strategy, longtail keywords are a very power way to drive visitors with relatively little work once the content and optimization have been completed.


Who Cares About Penguin and Panda!

Well, most of us in the online marketing world do but the point is that with longtail keywords, you can care significantly less.  Not because you are immune, but because you won't be doing anything that would even remotely trigger a penalty.  Yup, that's right, very often there is no need to build backlinks or send social signals.  No need for viral content, or optimizing every last detail of a content piece.  With longtail keywords – especially when you have really isolated long competition longtail keywords – you can simply get your page indexed and ranked on the first page just because it exists.

Yes, I know, the Google algorithm is complex and there are over 200 different correlations related to why pages rank.  But here's a secret… Google is a giant index!  When there is little or no competition, they are simply looking for either an exact match (best) or the next most relevant result to match your search, period. 


Manual Ways To Uncover Longtail Keywords Using GKWT

Alright, so this isn't revolutionary information, but as you know, using the Google Keyword Tool, you can uncover a lot of longtail keywords.  Google offers up to around 800 related results when you search on GKWT.  Depending on the niche, I can general generate up to 200 LTKW (longtail keywords) from the first search like this.  Here are a couple more tips to increase this number still using the free GKWT:


Switch out of [exact] and back to 'broad'

Although using GKWT is generally best done and most accurate (for our purposes) when searching using the [exact] parameter, once you have established a seed base of keywords, if you enter those into the tool and then search broad terms only, you’ll get a lot more variation.  Don’t be selective on based on volume, just grab terms that are related to your seed terms.  Now armed with more keywords, enter them back into the [exact] search to filter out any that have no volume.  For whatever reason, Google won’t always show you all of the related [exact] terms when you only search in [exact].  Bringing keywords over from broad can expand your list.


Double dip your search in the GKWT cheese

Not sure what that heading means, but I know what I meant:  GKWT won't always give you all related terms the first time through.  Do a thorough once over of the initial keywords they give you, pulling the most relevant.  Now, re-enter those back as your new seed keywords and believe it or not, Google will give you more! 

See what Google is giving you under "seaches related to"

Take your top 5 primary LTWK and Google them.  What does Google give you as related results at the bottom of the first page?

Google Searches Related To Suggestions

These may or may not have much volume, but you know Google considers them relevant.  I wrote about ways to use these relevant keywords that Google provides in a post here.


Using Multiple Longtail Keywords On One Blog Post or Page

Again, a longtail keyword isn't defined by its search volume or number of words in the phrase.  Yes, there is consistency with this, but it isn't the key point.  You could have a longtail keyword with 5000 exact monthly searches or one with less than 10.  That said, who should you decide when to use a LTKW in a page title or paragraph heading?  How many should you use on a page?  Well, this is relative, but here are some tips to get the most out of your longtails:


Unless you want to build links and invest time and money, don't get competitive

There is no point in building pages using longtail keywords that are completive, unless your plan from the beginning is to do the work necessary to compete.  Just like head keywords, LTKW that are completive will require a sustained investment of time and energy to build relevance and authority.  The beauty of many LTKW is that they are low competition or even zero competition.  Don't get cocky.  Make sure you know how to judge keyword competition.


Mixing search longtail keywords on one page based on search volume

So if I had a massive content budget and endless time, I would create one page for every single LTWK that I wanted to use.  Unfortunately, spending time and money to optimize a page for a LTWK that has less than a few hundred monthly exact searches may not create a positive ROI.  Instead, you can find a higher monthly search volume LTKW to use for the primary page title / theme and incorporate lower search volume LTKWs into paragraph headings and general text.  For example:

  • Primary LTKW with monthly search volume of 500+ gets incorporated into my page title
  • Secondary LTKW with monthly search volume of 200 – 500 gets used as an H2 – H4 paragraph heading
  • Third level LTKW with monthly search volume of 50 – 200 gets sprinkled naturally into the body text.

Not only have I found a way to use these LTKWs on one page, but I am creating a theme of relevancy on that page for the search engines to understand.


Don't Over Do It With Longtail Keywords

The two most frequent things I see people doing with LTKWs that simply aren't effective or can lead to trouble are targeting competitive LTKWs, and using too many and in an unnatural way on their websites.  This post is meant as somewhat of a guide and while not techical, assumes that you are practicing solid and contributary website publishing.  That is, you are a real business adding quality content to the internet.  Armed with longtail keywords, someone like this can fluorish.  Just armed with longtail keywords and not much else and you won't get very far. 




4 On Page SEO Tips To Push Link Juice And Increase Indexing

By | Onsite SEO, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

advanced onpage seo strategies to push link juice and increase indexingSEO consultants still have varying techniques for how they do on page SEO.  With the advent of Panda and the push towards a more natural and inbound marketing experience, old school SEO tactics aren't as effective and can be dangerous.  Obviously keyword stuffing has been taboo for a while, but now many SEOs are staying away from any meta data, h1 or other traditional onpage SEO tactics.  Instead, they advocate 100% natural content with little or no mind of keywords or SEO.  "Just write awesome content and it will be found and shared" they say.  Well, while over-opitimization on your website can be an issue, but I'm here to tell you that onpage SEO is alive a well.  I'll write about onpage basics and how I set up a page in another post, but for now I'm actually going to jump a head a bit and cover some things you hear less about.  These things can make a difference in how your site is indexed by Google and how the linkjuice is passed around your site – helping your pages rank.  I'm going to keep it all as simple and strait forward as possible.  One last note before we begin…..there is nothing wrong with creating high quality, natural content with no mind to keywords or SEO and in fact, I do this regularly.  As SEOs however, we need to cover and be on top of what works when we need it.


H2 Tag Optimization For Framing Your Search Engine Position

I'm going to talk about site structure and silos in another point in this post, but the concept here is similar.  It used to be that SEOs used h2 tags (amongst others) to drop keywords in (maybe LSI or phrase match) to try and get more bang for their buck.  While this is still relevant, you do need to be mindful of over-optimization.  What I now do and I have found from experience which seems to help the page and the entire site rank is I create an ongoing theme for the site via my h2 tags.  If you look at your h2 tags as an opportunity to drop in words and titles that are most relevant to your entire website, your business, and your industry, you are setting up a theme or structure that tells Google over and over where you belong.  It's almost branding to Google directly.  For example, the h2 title to this paragraph doesn't have any keywords I've targeted at all.  I made it up as an appropriate description of the paragraph, but was mindful to use words that are relevant to my industry and site.  This is natural and relevant and yet, intentional.


Category Silo Structure On Your Website To Prevent Theme Bleeding

This can get confusing quickly, so I'll try to keep it simple.  Basically you want to set up your website, pages, and posts so that structurally, there are 'buckets' that groups of pages or posts fall into.  Themes if you will.  It's easier to understand when you think of WordPress categories and posting similar posts into the same category.  What you are looking to do is to keep the interlinking within each silo up until the 'end' of that silo, at which point you point it to the beginning of another silo or prominent page on your site.  Here's a visual example:

SEO silo structure example

Image courtesy of Dan Raine from his Silo Plugin

In this way you are keeping as much of the link juice within a particular category or silo and thus developing a theme for the search engines to follow, notice, and index you.  Another way of saying it would be how and where you publish into a silo on your site tells Google how and where to index your new page.  The search engines are complex.  Helping them by assigning content to organized structures within your site that they understand makes their job easier and your traffic grow.


Stop Link Bleeding Through Mindful Interlinking On Your Website

Ok, so this one is fairly simple, but widely misunderstood – especially by many novice SEOs.  At one point PageRank sculpting was everywhere and people understood it as mainly using nofollow links on your website to direct the flow of link juice so it would accumulate where desired, thus forming increased PageRank.  Well, Google wised up quickly and addressed this both to us at large and via their algorithm, effectively making this practice obsolete.  Because of this, many people hear the term PageRank sculpting and think it's bad or you cannot do it anymore, but they are wrong.  Maybe it's a you say potate-o, I say potaato kinda thing, but PageRank sculpting or the elimination of link bleeding can make a major difference in your rankings.  Here's what I mean:

First and foremost your interlinking and hyperlinks on any page should be set up for proper user experience.  Next, you are looking at silo structure and site architecture – what makes sense and is logical.  Next, if you are mindful of interlinking for SEO, you will be looking at how you may pass link juice on a page to anther page – possibly using internal anchor text hyperlinks to tell users and spiders what page is what.  Ok, good, now you’re done, right?  No, now you need to go back and cut.  In the same way that people used to try to use nofollow links to preserve link juice (this doesn't work btw and is a gross misunderstanding of how Google passes link juice and PageRank), you need to eliminate unnecessary links or pages that are draining your juice.

For example, maybe there are pages on your site that can be combined, but that you currently have as two separate pages. A privacy policy page and terms of service page can be made into a single page.  Another thing I see all the time is a top level menu for users and then the same menu somewhere in the middle of the page, followed by the same menu in the footer.  Are you kidding?  If it's absolutely necessary and functional, ok.  Otherwise, you are literally bleeding all over the place.   Lastly, do you really need that footer menu listing your privacy policy on every page of your site?  No.  The privacy policy is mainly for the search engines.  List it in the footer on your homepage and then get rid of that link on all of your other pages.


Include "Searches Related To Your Keyword" In The Body Of Your Post

Targeting and incorporating longtail keywords into your posts and pages is a great way to increase targeted traffic without needing to compete much.  I have a post on proper longtail keyword SEO brewing in my mind, but for now, let's talk about the longtail keywords that Google gives you and that you can use directly in your content.  When I Google "how to target longtail keywords", aside from the search results, at the bottom of the page I get "searches related to how to target longtail keywords" and then a list of the following searches:


  • what is a long tail keyword
  • how to find long tail keywords
  • seo long tail keywords
  • what are long tail keywords phrases
  • how to use long tail keywords
  • long tail keyword research
  • long tail search strategy
  • long tail keyword search


Not only has Google given me 8 longtail keywords that I can use in a my post about longtail keywords, but they have given me what they consider to be the most relevant search terms related to what I am searching for.  This means they are telling you what is relevant and how create a them for your post that they will understand.  Now how you include theses terms in your post is up to you.  They can be naturally in the text, you could use them in h2,h3, or h4 tags, or even some as hyperlinks to external or internal pages.  Regardless, you are framing relevancy to Google that they have told you they recognize.  The only caution I would add is to be mindful of overuse of specific keyword combinations.  Get creative, it will pay dividends.

Each of these points I've written about is a solid way to increase your onsite optimization for the search engines.  While different in approach, they all represent practical means to naturally benefit your site.  The architecture and silo structures are quite powerful, but usually require advanced planing and site adjustments.  H2 and longtail keyword optimization, using the points discussed above are easier to implement and can be used in your next post.  Eliminating link bleeding is something you can do in stages.  Don't bring out the chainsaw right away!











6 Metrics For Assessing A Website’s Link Building Worthiness

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

Assessing The quality of a potential linking website

The current cool aid for all of us to drink as link builders and SEOs is the "link bait" flavor – and rightfully so.  Creating quality content or content that others will share and link to or embed on their own websites is a powerful and natural way to build quality backlinks.  Link development is still a viable means for attaining important backlinks as well and a targeted SEO link building campaign can achieve massive results, even in competitive niches. And while we cannot always control who links to our website, we can control which sites we develop and build links on. 

The days of quantity and power in link building are over.  Now we must look for relevancy and authority as measured by various aspects of the Google algorithm.  But how do we apply this to the sites we are looking at building links on and what are some of the most important metrics to judge a site by?



The Relation Of A Website's Niche, Page, And Text Content To Your Primary Keyword

While none of the metrics I list here have a certain order, I would tend to list relevancy towards the top.  When assessing a link building opportunity, looking at the relevancy and relation of the overall website to your website, or at least, to the page you are linking to on your website is of key importance.  Better yet, a link from a relevant website, from a relevant page on that website, wrapped in contextually relevant content.



How A Particular Page Or Website Is Seen By Its Peers And The Internet In General

On one hand this is a bit of a more obscure metric and on the other hand it is not.  You can look at tools for trust like MozTrust or SEO Majestic's trust flow measurement and these give you a good idea of the quality of inbound links (and therefor trust) that are coming into a particular site or page.  While trust is somewhat vague and does blend into some of the other metrics, it is increasingly becoming one of the most important factors in a websites strength of ranking.


Site Age

The Age Of A Domain That You Are Building A Link From

There are varying opinions on the importance of domain age when it comes to ranking. In my own experience, I have seen time and time again that older domains perform better in general.  I have also seen that backlinks from older domains seem to carry more weight at times than links from newer sites.  While not a deal breaker, the age of the domain or webpage (the older the better) is something I take into consideration when developing backlinks.


Social Media

Does The Website Have An Established Presence In Social Media?

This is something that relates to the next metric and gives an indication of its validity: is the website a real business? Having at least social presence, if not an active social presence, is an indication that you are dealing with an operational website.  A website that has its own purpose and activity and not just a site for links or a content black hole.  A link from a website with social presence holds more value and reflects the authenticity of that website's existence.


Real Business

Is The Website You Are Developing A Backlink On An Actual Business?

It's funny that we have to look at this question, but it is increasingly important.  In Google's push to rid the internet of spammy websites, it has become increasingly important to have links to and from other websites that are real businesses. Does the website have a brand, a logo, a phone number or address?  Do they show up in Dmoz or other directories?  In the same way you want to show Google that you are a legitimate business with a good reason for having and internet presence, you want backlinks from other websites like this.


Backlink Profile

Does The Backlink Profile Of The Page Or Website You Are Linking From Reflect Authority?

The link profile of a page you are considering developing links on is a good way to assess the worthiness of building those links.  While it used to be all about PR and OBL numbers, the quality of the inbound links coming into a particular page is of key importance.  A page with trusted inbound links – no matter the domain authority or PageRank – is almost always going to have more trust than any other page.  Looking at the site age, social presence, trust, and relevancy of the sites that are linking to the page you want to develop a link on is an excellent way to assess the inbound link profile.  I'll take trusted links all day long over inflated PR links that will adjust down in the coming Google updates.


Putting Your Link Development Strategy Together

If you look at the points I've mentioned as rules, you might have a hard time developing a sustainable link building program.  They are meant more as guidelines or a reference when assessing the value of a link.  Obviously business citations on directory sites aren't going to have some of the qualities I've listed, but they will have others.  Link Development is about
outreach, relationships, networking, and good old fashioned creativity.  As long as your website is operating under similar principals to this post, you will have no problem finding solid link building opportunities.







SEO Moves Towards Traditional Marketing in 2013

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SEO moving towards traditional marketing

To be more accurate, Google is moving SEO towards traditional marketing and it began in 2011 and continued in 2012 with the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates.  Regardless, this is where we are at in 2013 and most likely beyond, but is it really so bad? 

It used to be that you could throw a bunch of your targeted keywords all over your site and then race to the top of the first page with an army of anchor text optimized backlinks – the larger the amount, the better.  Google measured trust and authority with a relatively rudimentary backlink assessment that could be (and was) gamed by those that knew how to manipulate it.

Now, in additional to targeting so called "web spam" (unnatural backlinks) and over-optimized websites, Google is continuing to move the needle on how they measure trust and authority.  While backlinks still play a major role in sending signals that Google uses to rank sites – they have developed additional ways to qualify those links and their importance to ranking.

SEO Trust Now Coming From Content And Authors

Moz has been using the MozTrust rank for a while now – simply put – an algorithmic metric gained by measuring the proximity and occurrence of inbound links to a page or website from other known trusted websites.  This is definitely a solid way to measure and look at trust online.  Google however, is seemingly adding to the trust arena the importance of relevant content and authorship of that content as measured by co-occurrence and Google's rel="author" tag.

Lexical Co-occurrence – an Idiomatic Expression of SEO Relevance

Where keyword based anchor text links back to your site used to boost rankings, now brand or naked URL links from pages that have co-occurrence to relevant content (measured by keywords) carry significant weight.  Semantic proximity of a backlink to related keywords on the page give an indication of trust in part because this is more difficult to manipulate and is how natural linking occurs.  Now the degree of importance given to co-occurrence and how it is measured exactly is unknown, but it would stand to reason that a co-occurrence brand link coming from an authority site would be given more weight than a co-occurrence brand or naked URL link coming from a web 2.0 page you created on your own.  In other words, it's not just about co-occurrence.


Google Authorship for Brand Credibility and Trust

Another way to weight co-occurrence and to measure the value of a piece of content (and therefore the contextual links embedded in it) is with Google Authorship.  This is the Google equivalent of authority social signals – a way to measure the significance and reach of a piece or content (via a link) amongst online users. If there is a piece of content that has authorship markup, it now seems more likely to rank ahead of a piece of content that is optimized for the targeted keywords, but does not have authorship.  Of course there is a scale here – Google calls it "author rank" – supposedly a way to rank the value or trust of an author.


Matt Cutts on Google using Authorship for trust

"If you can move from an anonymous web, to a web where you have some notion of identity and maybe even reputation of individual authors, then… you kinda get a lot of benefits for free.  It's harder for the spammers to hide over here in some anonymous corner"

I'll put the full video (although it's only 2 minutes long) below the post to watch in its entirety, but he's basically confirming what's been talked about in the SEO world for over a year now – the rise of Google Authorship.


"Traditional Marketing, Meet SEO, SEO, Meet Traditional Marketing"

While this is a bit of an overstatement, it does reflect the direction that SEO has taken.  In their pushing the algorithm to rank and display websites and content based on reputation, authors, brand mentions, and relevancy, Google has inched closer to the mechanisms of traditional marketing. 

Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and managing customer relationships in ways that also benefit the organization……Marketing is the science of choosing target markets through market analysis and market segmentation

Target markets? Market Segmentation? Communicating value? Authorship and co-occurrence are just two of the ways that Google has figured out how to measure authority and relevance to reflect these principles and use them to steer our search experience online.

One of the cool things about this system is that it theoretically levels the playing field. While a large marketing (or SEO) budget can give corporations a leg up, the tools are available for any business or individual to gain authority and trust online. A solid understanding of the fundamentals of SEO, such as keyword research, and especially, the use of longtail keywords for SEO can quickly level the playing field.  SEO may be much closer to traditional marketing then it has ever been, but the internet is still a vast arena.  Solid Search Engine Optimization practices are still key to a successful online presence – it's just that what solid SEO can be defined as is constantly evolving.  SEO is dynamic.  Run away from anyone who claims differently.





Is Relevancy The New PageRank And What Is Considered Relevant in SEO?

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Is Relevancy the new page rank in seo?

While we cannot pin down the exact inner workings of the Google algorithms, we can watch for trends and listen to Matt Cutts tell us what direction Google is headed in in terms of online search.  It used to be that authority was king and Google's algorithm seemed to reflect this in the way they rewarded sites with high pagerank (PR) and sites that had links from high PR pages.  While this is definitely still a powerful metric to keep tabs on and no, pagerank is certainly not dead, it does seem that it has been dethroned as king of SEO importance.  What has taken its place?  Well, there may not be a king any longer and in fact, it may be more of a democracy ruled by a system of multiple indicators, but, if there is an heir, it might just be relevancy. 

Relevancy on all levels – website, page, keyword, social, brand, etc., seems to be making major waves and becoming increasingly important.  A backlink from a site in your niche is powerful.  A link from a site in your niche ranking on the first few pages for a keyword you are targeting is gold.  A link from a site in your niche, ranking in the first few pages for a targeted keyword and surrounded by contextually relevant content is flat out ridiculous.

The SEO Relevancy Spectrum – It's Not Just Black And White

We have clients who come to us asking for relevant link development services – for all kinds of links we can build.  We are always happy to meet the client’s needs, but often I find that they might be misinformed about what is relevant.  A client may say "I only want a relevant link to my site, not a link from a site in a different niche".  And yes, we don't want to create a totally irrelevant link on a site that has no relationship to our clients business, on a page that has nothing to do with their topic, and in a paragraph that is not related to the page we are linking too.  But in that last sentence, you can see there are different levels of relevancy and while it would be ideal to have them all, that is far from required.  For example, a link from a page that is related to the niche of your website, but from a site that has nothing to do with it can be quite powerful.

I'll take a link from a trusted domain with a great DA that isn't related to my site in anyway, but has a link embedded in relevant and quality content on one of their pages all day long.

Different Types Of Relevancy For High Quality Backlinks

Site Level

Backlinks from a website that is in or related to your niche = site relevancy

Page Level

Backlinks from a page that is about (content is related) to your niche = page relevancy

Paragraph Level

Backlinks from a paragraph(s) that is about (content is related) to your niche = content relevancy

Now take this all with a grain of salt and use your brain when applying it to your link building strategy.  A link from a site that that is relevant to your topic, but has any number of untrustworthy issues isn't a good link.  The same applies at the page and paragraph level.  You must look at other aspects of the website besides relevancy to judge whether the link can benefit you.  This is a topic for another post, but things like site age, quality of incoming links, trust level, social presence, are they are real business, should come into consideration when assessing the quality of a potential relevant link.  

A Better Internet Search Experience Through SEO Relevancy

So what does this all boil down to?  The point of this post was to explain that relevancy can come from different levels of a website, not only one.  That we should look for quality opportunities to develop links on the site, page, and paragraph level. What this also means is that as we become more selective and integrated with relevancy in our content and link development efforts, we are actually contributing to the internet by putting useful links in appropriate places for visitors to traverse.  It's not just an SEO benefit and a new rule to follow; it's literally an opportunity for a more natural experience for the visitor and thus, a contribution to their experience.