White Hat SEO Techniques, There are None

white hate seo techniquesAnother SEO article in response to a question I got asked recently.  This question was about SEO and more specifically what White Hat SEO techniques I use.

Friend: “Adam, what are your White Hat SEO Techniques? What tools do you use?

Me: “There are None!”

You might think this is a strange response but that is the reality for SEO companies.  I do mean that, there are virtually zero White Hat SEO techniques marketing and search engine optimization companies use to rank sites and build links.

Yes, White Hat SEO techniques do exist and people do use them.   However, most of them are ridiculously time consuming.  This includes guest blogging, submitting to article directories, social bookmarking, web directory submissions, straight up link requests, social media, etc.  You could do all this yourself and do it all manually, meaning you don't have a computer program or bot do it.  That's just not the way a lot of companies operate though and most will automate a lot of these tasks.

Big SEO agencies and firms that have a plethora of SEO tools and staff will still use programs to speed these tasks up.  The reality is it's a pain-in-the-ass and they can spend money on SEO tools and software to do it quicker.  The real question is why wouldn't you do the same thing?  Even if you feel it's Gre yHat SEO or Black Hat SEO, it's what people do.  Nobody is playing fair and it's not like it is a secret.  I'll give you an example.

Lately I've been working on a local SEO campaign for a client.  When I did a link analysis on the competitor ranking in the number 1 spot in Google I saw the company had a bunch of paid links in directory sites with the anchor text for the keyword phrase.  Technically it is against Google's guidelines to accept money for a link or pay for links, but why would the SEO agency or the company ranking 1st care?  They ranked the site 1st and did their job and the company is gaining business because of the favorable search ranking.  Even it is a Greyhat SEO or even Blackhat SEO technique it's not like Google has caught them.  I honestly doubt they ever will.  It's been at the number 1 spot for quite awhile and lots of people buy links.  It's been going on since the beginning of SEO practically and even the people in the 2nd and 3rd spot paid for links.  So, what am I going to do?  Recommend to this client we buy links from these directories and other sites to rank quicker, but I will explain Google's guidelines to him.

Get this through your head, just because Google says they don't like something or certain Blackhat SEO technique will not work, that actually is not always the case. Google tells you how they wished everyone acted and they wish the Google search engine worked.  The way Google's algorithm actually works can vary a lot from what they say and can be quite frustrating for those new to the world of SEO.  Follow all of Google's BS advice and you will not get anywhere.  Most professional SEOs are going to tell you the same thing.

I will be honest a lot of the tools and techniques I use are not considered “Whitehat SEO.”  I can't pull data in any other way without using some Google trickery.  If you read my article on “6 Questions to ask a Search Engine Optimizer Before you Hire Them” you will understand why.

The big issue with Google is that they are out there in California holding hands telling themselves how awesome they are since they build self-driving cars and Google Glass.  The believe everyone is in this internet thing together in a hippie commune and people will help each other out with links when necessary.  That is never the case and if Google search engineers, especially Matt Cutts, wanted a reality check they should step out of their Google bubble and get out in the ‘real world' of trying to build and rank a website.  They should also go read articles and posts that rank in Google instead of looking at fucking numbers all day, since nobody gives a shit about your algorithm.  They only care when it doesn't work.

You might think this is jaded, but I am only trying to convey what reality is.  If you want to compete I'd recommend you go out there and see what SEO Tools and Software you could buy to speed-up your link building.  There are White Hate SEO techniques just… nobody sticks to them.

6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE your Hire Them

Hiring a Search Engine Optimizer is no easy task.  For one thing there are a lot of people out there that claim they know how to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and build quality links, when in fact they don't.  Also there are Search Engine Optimizers that will give a great price that undercuts what everyone else told you.  However, what they don't tell you is they will use all BlackHat (meaning Google doesn't like it) link building techniques to rank your site.  You could very well rank for 1st for some keywords for a couple days or weeks, but most likely your site might get deindexed from Google or face penalties.  You could still be listed in other search engines… but who really cares about those?

search engine optimizerAs someone who's seen and heard of waaay to many people getting ripped off by SEO scammers out there, here are 6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE you make the decision to hire them.

1. What SEO Software and Tools Do you Use?

Search Engine Optimizers need quite a few SEO tools and software to pull data about competitors websites and to try to figure out how to rank your site for certain keywords and terms.  Typically they will have a subscription to some sort of rank tracking software or monitoring service, link analysis software, and have one or several VPS (Virtual Private Servers) for running some of these programs.  In addition they might have to hire workers via oDesk or another freelancing service for doing small tasks and jobs they don't want to do.  This could be writing articles, contacting blogs or websites where they might be able to post an article with your URL above the fold (this means not as a comment or forum signature link), link analysis, filling out forms, etc.

Any legit Search Engine Optimizer should be honest with you about what SEO tools, software, and subscriptions they are paying for and what tasks they sub-contract other people to do.  Many feel sharing with clients is giving away trade secrets, but that just isn't true.  If you bought SEO tools, guess what, other people bought use those SEO tools too.

Even though I would let clients of mine know what SEO software I use, they obviously don't have the expertise or knowledge to use the effectively.  Of course if later they want to learn, that's fine with me.  The client is paying me for my knowledge and there is always plenty of SEO business out there. 🙂

2. What link building Techniques & Strategies Do you Use? Blackhat or Grayhat?

This is an important question you really need to be on your toes about.  If it's clear they completely use BlackHat techniques, then run away very fast!  (This is hard to know if you don't have any idea about search engine optimization.)

I assume most people that read my website are looking for long term benefits from SEO.  You need someone who understands that and isn't going to give you a bunch of crappy low quality links, even if they drive traffic.

Consider how your potential search optimizer answers question 1# and what tools they told you they use.  Guess what, you should Google it.  Is it SEO software that is mainly used for BlackHat link building?  Then ask how they use the tools and what strategies they use to build links?

To be fair and honest and what you do need to keep in mind… no Search Engine Optimizer, and I mean NOBODY, completely does whitehat SEO.  Everyone works in “Grayhat SEO” when it comes to link building.

Larger sites and companies will buy links, which is technically against Google's guidelines, for certain keywords they want to rank for.  Smaller sites and blogs don't care since they need the money.  (I know since I've been there.)  It's not like Google isn't aware of it but I've never seen Google do much about it since a lot of these companies have large advertising deals with Google.  Also there is no way the bots are smart enough to figure this out on ever single website out there.

A lot of SEO software is not necessarily considered “whitehat” by Google.  For instance I use a program called ScrapeBox, which everyone uses.  You can't use ScrapeBox with one IP address or Google would ban it.  ScrapeBox sends to many automated queries at one time, so if you are going to use it you need to buy proxies.  ScrapeBox is not a bad tool in my opinion, but Google doesn't like how it pulls data.

Bottom line, a Search Engine Optimizers should be honest about SEO strategies and link building tactics they will use for your website before you give them any money.  Like I said I'd keep in mind Google expects everyone to play fair, but nobody does.

3. What Keywords can you Rank me for within my Budget?

Before you talk with a Search Engine Optimizer you should figure out how much you can spend monthly or for a one-time upfront cost.  You need to understand that harder the keywords you want to rank for, the more time and therefore money it will require.

If you are told by a company they can rank you for some crazy competitive keywords such as “make money online” they might be able to… but it will cost you a lot of money.  That's why nobody posts pricing on directly on their websites.  It doesn't make sense since they are billions of searches for different categories and regions.  Cost and difficulty range with regards to what keywords and terms you want to rank in Google for.

There should be a discussion of what is doable within your SEO budget.  I'm not saying you should not expect something for your money, but understand some companies spend $500-$2,000 a month with SEO firms while other are spending upwards of $10,000+ for a whole range of SEO, social media, and website development services.

4. Can you Guarantee 1# Ranking?

This a bit of a trick question since the answer, should be “No!”  If you work with a huge SEO company that's been in the game for awhile and you are paying them tons of money each month, then it might be possible if they have the staff and resources.  Still there is no way any Search Engine Optimizers or company can “100% Guarantee” #1 sport ranking in Google for extraordinarily competitive keywords.

Even these large SEO companies can't always figure out how to get a 1# SERP (search engine results pages) ranking.  People who claim otherwise are blowing smoke.

Google rankings are NOT determined by the search optimizers you hire.  They are determined by Google and their massive computing power and stupid algorithms which sometimes nobody can figure out.  There are over 200 different ranking factors Google uses and they don't tell the public what all of these are.

5. Do you hate Matt Cutts?

The answer to this question, should be “Yes!”  (In case you don't know who Matt Cutts heads the Webspam team at Google and works on Google's search algorithm.  He wrote the family filter engine for Google as well.)

I personally don't trust a lot of things Matt Cutts tells people in the Google Webmaster Help videos on Youtube.  He tells you what Google doesn't like, not what doesn't work.  These are 2 very different things and SEO pros know the difference and will exploit them.

Watching the Google Webmaster Help videos is good for many reasons though.  For instance I wouldn't have been aware Google changed their stance on .IO domains for global use.  Also he gives straight-up advice like Don't Buy a Spam Domain and that you should always Link to Your Sources.

Often times it is quite difficult to figure out what he means in these Youtube videos though.  The issue is he is trying to appeal to beginners watching these videos that don't know much about SEO and people in the SEO industry, which doesn't work.  This was clear when Penguin 2.0 hit and his answers about regarding “Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings?” should have been more clearcut.  (That's why there was a website created call The Short Cutts.)  Additionally Matt Cutts SEO talk at WordCamp 2009 doesn't tell the whole story about Google and SEO.  There are a lot more factors that go into ranking than diverse keywords in articles.

6. Do you hate Google?

The answer should always be “Yes!”  🙂

Other Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer

Obviously I can't account for what your specific situation or website needs are.  There are too many factors or specialty areas.  So you need to feel out how the SEO company or Search Engine Optimizer you are going to hire seems.  Do they seem like an “SEO Diva?” or are they pretty chill.  Try to think of other questions and definitely get on Skype or Google+ to talk with them “face to face” if you can.  If they don't want to take a little time to answer your questions I'd find someone else.

Personally if I get hired by a small business to do SEO work I am always open about what I am doing and I keep them updated.  They are paying me to do work for them and it's my job to make it clear what I am doing and how I am doing it, so they feel they are getting value for their money.  I even try to provide clients with tools and resources other people wouldn't.  Transparency is not something you find often in the SEO world, but you should expect it from whoever you hire in my opinion.  (If you want to Hire Me, I'd be happy to talk with you by the way.)

Ranking in search engines is something you should want to do in the long term, not short term.  Be careful who you hire and just make sure you feel comfortable working with them and what they are going to do with your website.

Think I missed something?  Have anything to add regarding SEO or search optimizers?  Let me know below!

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!

15th Google Birthday celebrated with Google Pinata Doodle & Google in 1998

In case you hadn't heard or seen, today is Google's Birthday.  The search engine giant celebrated with a fun Google Pinata Doodle game.  You earn points by whacking the Pinata for the most candy, which tabulates a score, then you can share you score with people on Google+ if you want.   google pinataGoogle also inserted an Easter Egg into it's search engine so users can be taken back to Google in 1998.  All you do is type into Google's search bar “Google in 1998” and you can see what the Google looked like back when it first started.

google in 1998

What's fun is they have links at the bottom to competitors search engines at the time via Archive.org so you can see how much better and cleaner Google was compared to the other search engines.  The majority of the ones in 1998 are now gone or are were bought out.

Google also made a sweet visual timeline of 15 years of Google.

It's incredible to think how quickly technology and how fast Google has evolved over the years.  Recently Google switched their popular Google Keyword Tool to the Google Keyword Planner and they just celebrated 10 Years of Google Adsense.  In addition Google's most used tool, their search engine, got updated with Google Penguin 2.0 to improve search quality and results.  (At least that's what Matt Cutts and Google claims.)

In tech years Google is probably considered 100 years old since the titan of search has been around for so long.  How old do you think Google is in tech years? 🙂

Have any thoughts about Googling turning 15 years old? Want to share your experiences of how Searching the web was before Google?  How has Google's search engine and many other products improved, changed, or ruined your life? 🙂

Does site Downtime hurt Search Engine Rankings?

search engine rankings

Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings? ”

This is a question that is hotly debated by webmasters, search engine optimization specialists, bloggers, hosting companies, etc.  A lot of people say that a little bit of downtime, say 20 minutes, in a day, can hurt SERPS (search engine results page) for your website.  Others say that you can have a little bit of downtime here and there and it will not matter much.

Well this question was touched on in one of a Google Webmaster Help videos with Matt Cutts recently. Check it out and the question that was asked.

I got a “Googlebot can't access your site” message in Webmaster Tools from my host being down for a day. Does it affect my rankings when this happens?
Sally

Matt Cutts initial response to this question was,

“Well if it is just for a 1 day you should be in pretty good shape. If your host is down for 2 weeks then there is a better indicator that the website is down and we don't want to send users to a website that is actually down but we do try to compensate for websites that are transiently or sporadically down.  We make a few allowances and we try to comeback 24 hours later… So it is just a short period of downtime I wouldn't really worry about that.”

While I mostly agree with what he said in the video, and after explaining that the Googlebot was having trouble crawling sites a few weeks ago, Matt Cutts commented, “If it is just 24 hours I really wouldn't stress about that very much.”

Well… a friend of mine recently had his websites on a JustHost dedicated server and it went down for 1 day.  He told me hasn't been able to get back his SERP rankings since the downtime.  Despite what was said you should realize downtime can hurt your search engine rankings in Google.  I've heard this from a number of experienced webmasters.

However, I want people to think about how the Googlebot spider works when indexing pages.  I will not go into everything as it would take too long to explain but just do a quick overview.

When you do a Google search you are not actually searching the web instantly, like a lot of people assume, but you are actually searching Google's stored version of the web.  For instance when this article was first posted it DID NOT immediately get indexed by Google and was searchable. Why?  While this blog gets ok traffic my current pagerank is 3, which is decent but not too high.  Sites that post content more frequently and that have a higher pagerank are going to get crawled before mine.  Websites like FoxNews and NY Times will get crawled first since they have a higher pagerank, more content, and are in Google News.

So if my website was down for say 1 hour it is actually pretty possible that Google will not even see my website is down since the Googlebot may not crawl it.  While Google is really good about crawling new webpages very fast these days they can't get to every new piece of content posted simultaneously.  If you were running FoxNews and had downtime 24 hours that would be a much bigger deal since they get millions of visitors a day and the Googlebot expects there to be content frequently.

So my answers to the question “Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings?” would generally be the same as Cutts.  I caution anyone asking this question to consider the type of website you are running, how much traffic you get, and your user's expectations which will influence Google's.  Choosing a reliable web hosting company is very important if you want good uptime and don't want to have to worry about websites going down.  I prefer Site5 and you can read my Site5 review to get a better idea about their web hosting services.

So that is my professional opinion on this topic of site downtime and search engine rankings.  By the way if you want to monitor website downtime and uptime I highly recommend a service called Uptime Robot.  It will ping your website every 5 minutes to see if it is up and if it isn't you can get a text message, email, or RSS feed notification.  Best part about Uptime Robot is that it is completely free website monitoring service.

Has website downtime ever hurt or affected your search engine rankings?  Have you ever had your website hosted with a hosting company that had frequent downtime?  Share your experiences below as I am sure a lot of people have something to say about this.