Negative SEO Campaigns Are Still A Thing, Sadly

how-to-remove-bad-backlinks

A couple of years ago I wrote about a clients website who was under attack from a negative SEO campaign and how you can clean up and remove spammy backlinks pointing to your website. First, let me sum up a negative SEO campaign as fast as I can so you can protect yourself against them.

A negative SEO campaign is someone creating a bunch of low quality and spammy backlinks pointing to your website so you get flagged or penalized by Google.

These campaigns are easy to catch if you are using any backlink checking software like Ahrefs.

You will easily be able to see a multitude of massive links in a short period of time. Kind of like I did just now when looking at my Ahrefs dashboard. This is what the dashboard looks like.

ahrefs-dashboard

Wow! 1.6K new backlinks. I can certainly say that we are currently not doing any lnikbuilding for the website so 1.6 backlinks sticks out. The nice thing about Aherfs is you can see each and everyone one of those links. Here’s what that looks like.

ahrefs-backlink-checker

Those Backlinks Look Spammy!

You can see in the top left hand corner I have new backlinks selected and that shows backlinks posting to our website that Aherfs has crawled in the last 7 days. What looks wrong with those backlinks?!

I had a good chuckle when I saw this screen. Over the last two weeks we’ve launched a website for Viva Orthodontics and started web development on another. When we do this we add a backlink to our website in the footer. But that would only equate to 50 or so backlinks as footer links are on each page.

Could someone seriously be going through with a negative SEO campaign on our website? I surely hope not.

The scary thing with these campaigns is that any can launch them on any website. And sadly the majority of website owners who don’t have an SEO company working with them will not notice this until it’s too late and their rankings have tanked or worse, are penalized.

You don’t want any of this to happen so what do you do?

How To Remove & Clean Up Bad Backlinks?

This is an easy two step process.

1 – I’ve already mentioned it but the first step is to signup for a backlink checker tool like Aherfs. Once you sign up, you can go into your dashboard and select referring domains. In the case of this example, I want to remove the new backlinks pointing to my website from the past week so I am selecting the new referring domains.

how-to-find-bad-backlinks

There is a little “Export” icon on the middle right of the screen. I click on that and all these domains get exported into an .csv file.

Once I have this information I can then go onto step 2.

2 – The next step is to submit a disavow file within your Google Search Console. You of course need to have Search Console setup to do this. Using the .csv file I download from Ahrefs, I add the domains into a text file which looks like this. Feel free to download that. Just be sure to change the date on the top line of you disavow file. Also, be sure to rename it.

Now you might want to wait until the bad backlinks and negative SEO campaign has slowed down. Or else you will be submitting this file too many times. In our websites example, I am going to wait a month and see if anymore spammy backlinks are created. That way I can add them onto the disavow file and submit them when the campaign comes to an end.

There you have it! It’s pretty easy to remove bad backlinks pointing to your website. It could save you thousands of dollars. Especially if your main traffic source is Google and SEO.

 

A Better Way To Track GMB Listing Website Clicks

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One of the common things our clients want to know is how many people click through for their GMB listing to their website. Once you’ve properly optimized your GMB listing and are getting reviews, you should start seeing some traction. Whether it’s phone calls or website clicks, you’ll want to know what is going.

In this post I’m going to show you how to better track website click through’s and why you shouldn’t trust your GMB listings insights. Let’s begin!

Google’s Campaign URL Builder

Head over to Google’s special campaign URL builder. From there add your domain to the Website URL  and in the Campaign Source, list “GMBPage”.

Google My Business tracking

At the very bottom, copy your new link which you will replace in the website url of your GMB listing info.

My link would be https://outcareyourcompetition.com/?utm_source=GMBPage.

That was easy, wasn’t it! Now you can better track how many visits are coming from your GMB listing.

Don’t Trust The GMB Listing Insights

Watch the video below where I explain why this is a better way to track those click-throughs. Basically, don’t trust what the insights of your GMB listing says.

 

Using Contests Can See Your Google Reviews Removed

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Google reviews are a key way for clients to learn about your services and hear about other customer experiences first hand. You may have been looking at your business’ Google reviews recently and wondering ‘how can I get more reviews?’. If you have been wondering about getting more positive Google reviews for your business, let this blog be a word of warning: do not use a contest to get more reviews! Let me tell you why.

While contests can be a great way to foster excitement and attention for your business, you need to be very careful with what action you are asking your customers to take. On social media, feel free to ask them to like, share and comment in return for a prize. You can even ask your clients to share their favourite thing about your business, tag you in a photo, or use your unique hashtag. But do not use incentives or prizes to foster client reviews. Just don’t.

Recently, a law firm in the United States did just this. They hosted multiple contests and giveaways that asked clients to author a Google review in return for entries into the contest. Before it was found out that the firm was using incentives to get more reviews, they had around 100 Google reviews. And now? Just one review. That’s right, because the firm was found to be giving away zoo passes in return for writing a Google review, the majority of their existing reviews were removed by Google. The firm’s Facebook page also has a high number of reviews (around 1000 5-star reviews), most of which probably also come from incentive programs.

While Facebook doesn’t seem to have strict guidelines about this type of activity, Google certainly does. They currently have written guidelines stating that businesses should not use reviews for advertising, should not include promotional or commercial content in reviews, should not offer or accept money for reviews, and should not solicit reviews from clients in bulk. It seems as though Google takes these guidelines very seriously as they were recently revised, so be sure to adhere to them.

While it isn’t clear whether businesses are allowed to offer contests or prizes directed at an individual rather than a group also violates these guidelines, it is still wise to be careful. In the case of the US firm, Google felt that this situation represented bulk solicitation of reviews. Because of this, the reviews were removed.

The firm never claimed whether they were trying to maliciously trick the system, or simply making an honest marketing mistake, but either way their actions were penalized. This is a great opportunity for you to learn from their mistakes – but don’t let this scare you too much. While you most certainly should not use incentives to get reviews, don’t be shy in asking individual clients to review your business (just do not do so in bulk).

I know that it seems as if Google has the strictest regulation on running contest for reviews, but think twice before trying to do this on other sites such as Yelp. Believe it or not, Yelp has even stricter rules and will send consumer alerts to users who are viewing a business that has violated policy. This can seriously damage trust between your clients and your business – so again, just don’t do it!

Mobile First Hits Local Business Websites

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Since 2016, small business owners have been keeping tabs on Google’s new mobile-first index. This new phenomenon, announced by Gary Illyes, places higher ranking emphasis on websites that are optimized for use on mobile devices. The more suitable your website is for mobile use, the higher your website will rank.

Now, here we are in 2018 and after hitting many major sites, the mobile-first index is now working for small local business websites. Google has been rolling this out slowly in small batches already, but recently one of the largest batches of websites yet has been released. While Google claims the wait has been due to the need to not trigger extreme changes in search results, this raises questions about the needs of key business players. Since Google cares about rankings of large online players such as Amazon or Facebook, it seems reasonable that they would not want the mobile-first ranking to affect the rankings of these large sites if they weren’t optimized for mobile as much as other sites. For the sake of their business relationships and their determination to keep search results from changing drastically, it has been a slow roll out for the mobile-first index.

For you as a small business owner, it may be time to think about optimizing your site for mobile use if you haven’t already. The bad part about the mobile-first index is that this ranking is applied whether the user is using a mobile device or not, meaning that your website will have a lower ranking based on mobile suitability even for someone searching on a desktop computer. Because of this distinction, you will want to optimize your website for mobile use even if many of your customers won’t be accessing your website from a mobile device. To Google, a mobile-friendly website is one that offers the same content on both mobile and desktop users. This doesn’t always mean the site has the same layout – just the same content is needed.

Many people have already begun preparations since the announcement came in 2016, but if you haven’t, consider getting a mobile site up and running soon as your search rankings may drop significantly if you don’t. If you aren’t sure about how mobile-friendly your site is, a good first step is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test online. It is a good sign if your website passes this test, but this doesn’t mean your site is as mobile-friendly as it could be. Consider the features below to make sure your website is great for use on desktop and mobile:

  • User Experience: Your website will be different on a mobile device versus a desktop, and you not only need to consider dimension and orientation, but also the way the users navigate the site. Google won’t actually go on your website and rate the experience, but they will track the time spent on pages when viewed on a mobile device and compare it to the desktop version.
  • Font: It is not only important for text to be placed correctly on a mobile site, but the font also makes a huge difference to readability. Trying using a minimum of size 14 font across your website.
  • Spacing: A smaller screen means less space for content and text. That paragraph nicely centered on your desktop website may actually be tough to read on a mobile device. Try adding line breaks more often, making your content short and to the point, and try to imagine if you were reading that content on a mobile device.
  • Keep the same content: Google will check that your website has the same content and links on the mobile and desktop sites. This can be tough to manage as your site may have had to be reduced to make it responsive, but it is not impossible!
  • Continue testing! Digital services need to be continually tested for responsiveness and quality. As you add and change content on your site, you will need to change the way your content is shown on mobile devices, and this means you will need to test these changes. To keep those search rankings high, make sure to always test your changes.

Once your mobile website gets going, watch your rankings stay stable and maybe even rise. Learn more about our website design service.

How Long For Better Local SEO Rankings?

how-long-for-better-seo-rankings

No matter what you hear or read, local SEO is alive and well. It’s the reason you’re here reading this blog post. You obviously want to know how long local SEO and better search rankings will take.

You might be wondering how long is it going to take to see page 1 and top 5 search rankings. This is a common question I get asked during almost all of my calls and emails from potential clients. It’s understandable as you want to know when you can start seeing more traffic, leads and clients come your way.

The problem with trying to answer this question is that it’s too difficult to correctly predict. There are too many search rankings factors to do this.

I use to offer a guarantee for our SEO services but I stopped that very early on. Why? Because I think our past results prove that our services work. That and I wasn’t getting the types of clients I wanted.

Regardless, I always give a potential client a rough estimate of when they can expect to see page 1 results. Once our SEO work begins and a few months go by, I can see how the search rankings are improving and give a better idea of when page 1 and top 5 results will occur by.

But at first, I need to look at a few factors.

Search Ranking Factors At Play

There are so many search rankings factors, but when determining how long a potential clients website will need to rank on page 1 and the top 5, I look at:

  • what search terms you want to rank for
  • is your website well optimized for those search terms
  • how many websites/webpages rank ahead of you for those search terms (direct competitors and directories)
  • how many business listings does your business have and are they consistent
  • how many and what type of backlinks does your website have
  • how long has your website been around
  • what type of content is on your website
  • does your website have great local SEO content
  • have you changed business addresses or domains in the past

There are 200+ search ranking factors, but these are the ones I look at when determining how long it will take to rank a website.

Trial Period

With every potential client, I always suggest a three month trial period of our services to show them what kind of results they can expect to see after 6 and 9 months. If after three months we don’t see much improvement, it’s not a good sign. If that’s the case, which it rarely is, I offer a partial refund for the three months.

It’s risk reversal. We have to perform and generate better search rankings in those first three months. If we haven’t, then I don’t feel comfortable receiving money for not doing our job.

New Websites Vs Existing Websites

With this three month trial period, you might be wondering if that is enough time to improve the search rankings to page 1 and the top 5. Rarely will this happen, unless you are already ranking somewhere on page 2 and have an existing website.

Existing websites are, for the most part, going to take less time to rank. Why? Because an existing website has been indexed by the search engines, has business listings and backlinks created along with quality SEO content on the site. It’s built up existing credibility with the search engines which is going to take a lot less time to rank than a new website.

A new website doesn’t have the credibility and thus, is going to take a longer time to get to the top of the list. In all cases, SEO is a long term investment. Once you rank higher, you stay there as long as you update your website.

SEO As An Investment

With traditional advertising or even pay per click (ppc), you always are paying money. That’s not the case with SEO. Depending on what industry you are in, once better search rankings are achieved, you only need a few new clients to pay the SEO services off. Even better if you offer a service where the lifetime value of a client is high.

With all potential clients though I do suggest running a ppc campaign in coordination with an SEO campaign. Yes, it will cost more but with a ppc campaign, you will get targeted traffic to the site right away. Then as the search rankings improve and they get more organic traffic, we can reduce the spending on the ppc campaign.

Running a ppc campaign will also tell us if the website is good at converting so you can generate new leads and clients. If not, then we will have to make some conversion adjustments.

I hope I’ve been able to provide a detailed enough answer to the question of how long will it take for my website to rank higher with local SEO. If I haven’t, please contact me today and I’ll be happy to answer any further questions you may have.