In this case, filing reports with Google to disavow spammy links that are hurting us.
When low quality websites link to us, that can hurt us, since Google thinks we’re buying garbage in attempt to manipulate search results.
They don’t know if it’s us buying, a SEO company who bought them, or a competitor trying to harm us.
So they assume we’re guilty until proven innocent when they see these spammy links.
Meaning we have to reach out to these sites to ask them to remove these links. And then file a proper disavow request to Google saying that these links aren’t ours– that we’d never attempt to cheat the system.
We can easily find toxic links through SEMRush’s Backlink Audit tool, which gives us a list of all the backlinks to our site – good and bad.
We also get their toxicity scores, which is a measure of how spammy these domains are.
We select all the domains with high toxicity scores, looking through them carefully.
Then, all we have to do is export this list into a .txt file – SEMRush makes it easy – and submit it to the Google Disavow Tool.
You probably are aware of Google’s Pagespeed Insights– a free tool that ranks how your website performs on mobile and desktop and provides suggestions.
And you might already be using the Developer Tools inside your Chrome browser to troubleshoot how particular elements of your website load in real-time.
Yes, I know our own website scores poorly– we have many things to fix!
Hey, but at least we got a 96 on SEO.
But did you know that there’s a tab called Lighthouse, which gives you scoring information on your site right there? If you have Chrome on your desktop, you already have it, but might not have seen the option:
Click over to “Lighthouse” and you’ll see these handy stats right there:
We get 4 scores: performance, accessibility, SEO, and best practices. Each of these scores are broken down into components with links on how to address each problem:
I like to think of Google SEO tools as like Microsoft Office– there are so many features that we don’t even know exist!
Much of this Google webmaster stuff is technical. But as a business owner or marketing specialist, you’ll want to generally understand what Google thinks of your website so that you can hire someone to fix them.
The good news is that the main components of SEO do not require an engineering fix— simple WordPress plug-ins will get you most of the way there with on-site SEO factors, while you ability to produce content that gets exposure will drive your off-site SEO factors. In other words, Google is looking at whether people are talking about you to decide what searches you should rank for and how prominently.
I’d recommend running the Lighthouse report once a quarter on your website, whether you are a marketer, business owner, or agency.
If you’re an engineer or sophisticated agency owner, Google provides developer documentation on how you can run Google Lighthouse programmatically– to generate and share reports with team members.But for the rest of us, we are happy to use the web-based tools and browser plug-ins.
I first met Brian via Alex Houg, doing local online marketing projects in Minneapolis. Like most agency folks, he had a mix of awesome and headache clients. You know what that’s like if you’re a consultant or agency owner. One of these clients was so mean that not only didn’t pay, but stole the work and berated Alex and Brian.
There are few people as true and reliable as Brian.
I was at McDonalds recently and noticed the writing on the bag: “Made with 100% Real Beef.” And then something to the effect of “And with a number like that, you can’t get any better.” Reminds of the breakfast cereals that are made “with” 100% real honey— meaning that they have a giant vat of cereal and high fructose corn syrup, and someone with a squeeze bottle squirts in a few drops of 100% real honey.
After all, it’s made “with” 100% real honey, beef, leather, or whatever— as opposed to being made “of” that item.
Whether marketing and advertising are just different shades of lying is a philosophical debate. But what’s not a question is the number of charlatans out there fleecing clients on PPC and SEO. This is not just run of the mill “we’ll get you to #1 in the search engines” kind of talk—- these are professionals that charge insane rates.
One of our clients is a major fast food chain that spends 6 figures a month with us on a full range of PPC, SEO, email, and webmastering. We partnered with an SEO company that in one of first meetings attempted to claim that he could at-will stop people from linking to the client’s site.
When one of our guys asked how exactly this could be done (since I could just create a blog post and link to the site), he said that it was proprietary technology. After 2 1/2 months of keeping this guy on, with no improvement on rankings, we got rid of him— not before he attempted to ask for more fees, and also trumpeted the value of his RSS network, and 3 way linking strategy.
So if you want to make an easy living fleecing corporate clients, do this (I’m not kidding— this is so easy):
Proclaim that you are an expert at SEO: create a local meetup group (with 2 other conspirators) and say that you founded the “SEO experts” group in your city. Join a few professional organizations, such as SEMPO (yes, they are legit).
Put up a canned website with huge logos for Google, Yahoo, MSN, Verisign and other network: saying that you are partners with them in advertising. List yourself in a few directories.
Get a few clients: Word of mouth marketing is easy. You won’t be keeping clients very long, so make sure you have a steady inflow of new clients to replace the ones who find out they’re getting fleeced.
Don’t have references? That’s okay— mention that your clients are confidential. After all, you wouldn’t want other clients to know about what we’re doing for you, right? In your initial client meeting, spend the whole time talking about 301 redirects and 200 status codes— sound ultra technical, especially if you can’t actually program. Don’t worry, the client doesn’t know how to program either, so your cover will hold.
Create ranking reports: Using your proprietary technology (just pay for a subscription at seomoz.com or seobook), create a monthly ranking report on terms that you choose. The key is to choose terms that have no traffic and nobody else is competing for.
Choose 4 and 5 word search phrases: go for “large, custom blue widget manufacturer Los Angeles”, not “widget” or “blue widget”. Claim that the longer terms are “higher relevance.” When the client asks for how long it will take to get results, say that nobody really knows the search algorithms except Google and Yahoo themselves— and that anyone who makes firm promises is a charlatan. This excuse will buy you lots of time.
Set up a few WordPress sites: Using those search terms you listed, buy the domains. To flush out this snake oil peddler mentioned above, we ranked on “franchise review site”. Within a couple days, you’ll be on the first page of Google for that term— if not in position 1. If you’re sophisticated with programming, auto-generate a bunch of fake content by scraping other blogs.
Or follow what bluehatseo.com has to say about this. Not needed—- buying a few domains and putting up free wordpress templates is sufficient here.
Proclaim victory!: Whew, it’s been a LOT of hard work, but look— we got a #1 ranking on these 5 terms. If you want to get more mileage out of it, do it with lots of fanfare and spread out the results over time. If you deliver these results right away, they’ll think it was easy.
Go on vacation for a few weeks, then come back and proclaim victory. If there’s someone who’s smart about SEO in the client meeting, who asks questions about whether those terms have traffic, babble on about how you have to take a holistic approach to SEO and that many factors will affect rankings.
Collect fees as long as you can: If you’re lucky, nobody will ask any questions. But if they do, be ready with these excellent comebacks:
Why aren’t rankings on my main terms going up?:
“Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back”— fluctuation in results is perfectly normal. Your site needs more unique content. We’re going against some strong competitors here, so it will take some time.
But PPC seems to be driving traffic and leads, not SEO: PPC is a short-term solution that is bleeding you money. The real pro’s recognize that organic results are more trustworthy to users— and getting in naturally will save you money over time.
I don’t understand what you’re doing— in fact, I don’t think you’re doing anything:
There are many factors involved here that only trained professionals like myself will understand. I go to a lot of conferences to network with other people like me who don’t know anything either. We have a proprietary RSS network and series of blog sites— I’m sure you can understand why we don’t divulge trade secrets.
I don’t see any more inbound links than when we started:
Okay, the client must have talked to someone else, since they didn’t know what an inbound link was before. You know you don’t have much longer with this client.
Throw a Hail Mary: “I don’t think we’ve been giving your account the proper level of service here. What I’d recommend is that we move you to a premium package at $__k more per month, which will allow us to put more effort on your initiatives.” If they don’t go for that, try to talk about social media optimization and the power of online communities, Web 2.0, twitter, and such.
As a final effort to block this other firm that the client has been talking to, try to scare him with the risks of black hat SEO, that they could get banned FOREVER.
What’s sad is that this is pretty close to what has happened at a major client— the difference being that we actually put up the WordPress sites to reveal the trick. I know— it’s bad etiquette to expose the tricks that other magicians use. But someone is eventually going to realize that it’s a magic show and that the coin was behind your hand all along— and that there was a hidden compartment with a mirror hiding what was in that supposedly empty box.
Well, in this case, the box actually was empty.
If you are an SEO who is making money doing what I’ve described above— kudos to you for living by your wits. But now it’s time to learn some real skillsto place in your bag of tricks.