Negative SEO: does it really exist?

After Google’s recent Penguin update, much has been written about negative SEO. Does it really exist and can it be used to hurt your website? What can you do to avoid problems?

Negative SEO

What is negative SEO?

Negative SEO refers to tactics that companies use to manipulate the organic Google rankings of their competitors. Google’s Penguin update penalized websites that used spammy links to get higher rankings.

If low quality links really hurt the Google rankings of a website, then one of your competitors could submit your site to paid link networks and your Google rankings would drop. That’s what negative SEO is about.

Other things that your competitors could do:

  • duplicate your website content on spammy sites
  • use known spam link generators to link to your site
  • fake business reviews so they don’t appear natural
  • etc.

Does negative SEO work?

This is a very controversial topic among SEO experts. Some think that negative SEO is not possible, others are sure that it is possible to harm the Google rankings of a competitor.

Instead of penalizing websites that have backlinks from spammy sites, Google could simply ignore the spammy links. People who try to promote their sites with these links would waste their time and other website owners wouldn’t be hurt.

Google could also introduce a robots.txt command that tells Google that certain links should be ignored. It’s hard to believe that Google’s engineers would make it possible to harm other websites if there was an easier solution that would prevent this.

What can you do to prevent problems?

If you want to make sure that your website doesn’t get penalized by Google, do the following:

  • Do not use spam methods to promote your websites. If Google ignores these methods, you’re wasting your time. If Google penalizes these methods, you will damage your website rankings.
  • If you find fake reviews of your website, ask the website that publishes the reviews to remove the fake reviews.
  • Use white-hat SEO methods to promote your website. If you show Google that your website is a high quality website, then your web pages will get high rankings.
  • Make sure that your website is not too dependent on Google. You should also get visitors through other sources (online ads, offline ads, links on other websites, etc.).

Negative SEO is highly unethical and one can only hope that Google doesn’t allow other people to damage your rankings. To improve your rankings, focus on the factors that you can influence and optimize your web pages so that they get high rankings on Google.

6 Steps to Perfect Page Titles

With all the hype about Google’s latest algorithm updates, it is easy to forget about the basics that are needed to get high rankings. Before you work on the links to your site, your web page basics must be right.

For example, the title tag has a very big influence on the search engine positions of a web page. In addition, the title tag is very important because it is the first thing that people see in the search results. There are several things that you can do to optimize your web page titles.

Step 1: Check the HTML code of your web pages

  • It’s astonishing how many pages have more than one title tag in the code. If your pages have more than one title tag, they will confuse search engine robots. The tags might not be read at all or, even worse, search engines might interpret this as a spamming attempt.
  • You can check the HTML code of your web pages with the HTML validator

Step 2: Use your keywords in your web page titles

  • Use the most relevant keywords at the beginning of your web page titles. Many people only scan the beginning of the titles so make sure that the beginning of the title tag contains the right words.

Step 3: Make the titles clear, predictable and irresistible

  • The readers of your web page titles should know what your web page is about and the title should lead to a page that meets the expectations of the searcher.
  • The web page title is the first thing that people see in the search results. Make sure that the wording of your web page titles is appealing, emotional and irresistible.

Step 4: Keep the titles short

  • Although there is no official limit, you should keep the length of your web page titles below 70 characters. The reason for that is that most search engines truncate the titles after 65-70 characters on the search result pages.

Step 5: Remove unnecessary words

  • Words such as “homepage”, “Index” and your company name usually don’t help your search engine rankings. Remove these words from the title tags of your web pages. Your title tags will become more relevant to the actual keywords then.

Step 6: Use unique title tags

  • Don’t use the same title tags on more than one page. Each page should have a unique title tag that reflects the content of the web page. In general, optimize different pages of your website for different keywords. The more pages of your website you optimize the better.

The title tags of your web pages are only one factor that influences the position of your web pages in Google’s search results. Analyze your web pages with MHS’s FREE Webpage Analysis to get a detailed analysis of all factors that influence the position of your pages on Google.

TOP 5 PPC Alternatives to Google Adwords

Having been a long time user and manager of Adwords Campaigns I’ve been forced to find and manage PPC Alternatives for clients.

Realizing how difficult it can be for many small and local business to break the high bid barrier on Adwords we need to discuss some PPC Alternatives. Google Adwords is clearly the established leader in the Pay Per Click industry, from the number of eyeballs you can get on your ad, to the advanced management tools that Google Adwords has for its advertisers.

Don’t be discouraged by PPC though, there are alternatives that serve different markets, and serve your ads in a different way. One of these alternatives may just be the PPC alternative you’ve been looking for to hit your target market.

#1 Alternative is Facebook Paid Ads

Advertising on Facebook’s Paid Ads platform (these ads typically appear in the profile view sidebar) can be a mixed experience.

On one hand, Facebook’s Paid Ads program provides much better targeting features than Google Adwords, enabling merchants to target users according to a number of different criteria, including age, gender, hobbies, geographic areas and more.

Our experience of click throughs on Facebook has been very low for clients, and we’ve figured out why. While it may be the limited text you can put in an ad, it may also be that nature of the Facebook user, they’re on FB to socialize, not search, and NOT Leave FB. You need to give them a damn good reason to leave their nice comfy atmosphere with all their friends.

Because Facebook users have been trained to gloss over advertisement sections on the site, your message must be truly captivating in order to draw clicks. Think carefully about the image you place in this ad, you MUST grabe their attention away from the content they are their to view.

It’s all about the image, choose something stunning, funny, out of place, odd, it doesn’t even need to be related to your content, it just needs to make the look, make them curious, make the click.

#2 Alternative is LinkedIn DirectAds

Overall, LinkedIn’s DirectAds platform functions just like Facebook’s, this PPC alternative allows you to target the specific users who will see your advertisements within the LinkedIn website based on several metrics that LI collects from its users.

LinkedIn’s very targeted network comes at a prices that isn’t for everyone, first there is a minimum bid of $2/click, so don’t be looking for the low lying fruit here. Upside is the target market.

Take the time to analyze your target market and you could benefit highly from LI, especially with their demographic tools.

A downside to LI’s DirectAds is their reporting, very limited in comparison to Adwords, so you might want to find a PPC management tool that supports LinkedIn DirectAds, this may give you better feedback metrics to measure your PPC ROI.

#3 Alternative is 7Search claims to be becoming a leading Pay Per Click Search Engine Advertising and Affiliate Network since their inception in 1999. 7Search is the closest to Adwords of our 5 PPC Adwords Alternatives, and that’s no secret, most of their advertising is based on their comparison to Google Adwords.

Advertisers need metrics to measure results and ROI, this is where 7Search excels, clearly the best PPC metrics you’ll find.

#4 Alternative StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

Our forth alternative Adwords PPC program that deserves mention is StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery, unique from our others in concept and options, while it may be called a PPC program, it’s more a Random View Program.

To understand Paid Discovery, you first must understand StumbleUpon, a tool we find useful in finding random web designs. StumbleUpons downloadable toolbar, website, and mobile apps allow you to randomly surf the net based on your interests, or selected categories. Rather than clicking on ads, you end up on pages randomly by chance. Paid Discovery allows you to cut in line, and pay for more “random” views.

Is it worth it? It really depends on how “sticky” your website is, websites that are well designed, calls to action, alluring photos and captivating advertisements have a far greater chance of success with Paid Discovery. It’s just so easy to hit the Stumble button. Next.

#5 Alternative is Adbrite

Our final PPC Alternative is Adbrite, almost as different as StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery, Adbrite approaches things altogether differently, but allows you to reach targeted websites.

adBrite is the largest independent ad exchange offering an entirely transparent marketplace, direct access to superior campaign data and analytics and ultimately, greater control over what matters most – results. (well that’s from their website)

Banner ads are common, and can easily be obtained on Google Adwords across their partner networks, but be an Adwords Partner Network you need to have a monthly traffic rank of 8 or higher, something like 10,000,000 views per month. Adbrite allows you to advertise on the smaller ‘nitch’ sites that my just be the targets you needs.

Of course, these are only some of the different PPC alternative sites available today, there are dozens more. These are 5 we’ve used here at MHS for ourselves and our clients and through trial and error found successful PPC campaigns that have produced a positive ROI.

If you’ve had success with one of these or another not mentions we encourage you to share you stories bellow, you need not be specific, just sharing.

Have you received a Google Webmaster notice?

During the last few weeks, Google sent many webmaster notification messages about unnatural links. If you have received such a message, here’s what you have to do to make sure that your website doesn’t get penalized.

Google Unnatural Links

What is this Google unnatural links message?

Google has sent the following message to many webmasters:

“Dear site owner or webmaster of

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Google Search Quality Team”

What will happen when you get such a message?

  • Webmasters who received such a message observed that many sites were penalized 3-4 weeks after the message. The penalty is for the keywords that are included in the unnatural links.
  • If most of the links that point to the website are unnatural links then the whole website might be penalized.

What are unnatural links?

There are several backlink types that Google finds unnatural:

  1. Public backlink networks: Google doesn’t like fully automated or paid backlink networks. If you participate in a backlink network that can be joined by anyone (even for a fee) then it is very likely that Google has already penalized the network or that the network is a target for the near future. If you can find the backlink network, Google’s engineers can find it, too
  2. Private backlink networks: some SEO agencies have private backlink networks. Google probably has the technology to detect these networks without creating accounts
  3. Paid sidebar links: if your website has too many backlinks from the sidebars of other websites, Google might find them unnatural
  4. Over-optimized anchor text: if the links to your website all use exactly the same anchor text, it is likely that Google might reconsider the rankings of the linked pages
  5. Fake forum and social media links: some tools create fake forum and social media site accounts to get backlinks to your website. Chances are that Google can detect that type of link.

What should you do?

If you used one of the methods above to get backlinks to your website, try to get rid of these links as quickly as possible.

The formula to high rankings on Google is very easy:

Good content + good backlinks + no spam = high rankings

Optimize the content of your web pages to make sure that Google and other search engines know what your website is about. Then get good backlinks to show search engines that your website can be trusted.

Google has become more aggressive regarding spammy backlinks. In the past, a website might get high rankings for several months until Google detected the site. Now it seems that the it takes a maximum of 3 months until Google detects the spammers.

Do not fall for SEO solutions that promise quick and easy backlinks. It doesn’t make sense to get high rankings for 2-3 months just to get penalized after that time. If you are serious about your business, you have to use strategies that deliver high rankings that will stay, even if it takes longer to get these rankings in the short term.

Google Announcement on Search Engine OVER Optimization

Last week, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s anti-spam team, announced that Google is working on a penalty for over-optimized websites. What does this announcement mean to your website and how should you react to this announcement?

Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts

Here’s what Matt Cutts said in detail:

“We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit.

All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over-optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t optimize your web pages anymore?

This announcement is aimed at people who are trying to push the limits too far. Of course, it is perfectly okay to add your keywords on your web page and it is also perfectly okay to exchange links with other websites.

Actually, all of these methods can have a very positive influence on the Google rankings of your website. The problem starts when these elements are overused. This usually happens when you use fully automated tools and services to promote your website.

For example, it is likely that the following SEO methods will get your website in trouble:

    • automated link exchange networks that add your link to hundreds on other websites
    • tools that automatically create fake forum accounts and comments with a link to your site
    • tools that automatically create keyword rich web pages for you on your website
    • participating in paid link schemes

Fully automated solutions always mean spam when it comes to SEO

Google wants to show high quality web pages in the search results. Web pages that have been created automatically cannot have the same quality as a web page that has been created by a human editor.

Fully automated solutions lead to low quality links and content that is not helpful to the average web surfers. Businesses that “optimized” their websites with these methods are the ones who will be hit by the new ranking filter.

If you see the words “fully automated” and “hundreds” or “thousands” in one sentence that you can be sure that the advertised product or service is spamming and your website will get in trouble if you promote it with these methods.

Don’t panic and create a symbiotic relationship with search engines

If you haven’t used the spam methods described above to promote your website, then your Google rankings won’t be in trouble.

Optimizing your web pages remains very important because you have to show Google and other search engines that your website is relevant to a particular keyword and that your website has a high quality.

The key is to focus on the user. 

Optimizing your web pages is important but you have to make sure that you play by the rules. If you do it correctly, search engine optimization leads to lasting high rankings, more customers and more sales.

If you’re pushing the limits too far, your website will get in trouble sooner or later. If you want to get lasting results, consult a professional SEO expert to get the latest in SEO expertise.

Top 5 Ways to use AWstats

What is AWstats?

There are many perks to being a Maine Hosting Solutions customer but one of the most amazing features that we offer is often overlooked- AWstats.

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Lets take a look at what AWstats is:

  • Advanced Web Statistics (AWStats) is an amazing web server logfile analyzer that shows you all your web statistics including: visitors, pages, hits, hours, search engines, keywords used to find your site, broken links, robots and more.
  • The main advantage of AWstats vs. other web analyzers such as google analytics, is that this program will not only analyze web logs, but also FTP and mail ones, which will give you a lot more detailed information about the activity taking place on your website.
  • AWstats allows you to get a good understanding of visitor numbers from both humans and robots, and monitor how much bandwidth is being used. You might also be able to detect if someone is hotlinking to your images or document files too, and taking your bandwidth that way.
  •  It is a tool for network administrators as well as marketers. Don’t waste your time or money on stat counters or visitor counters which are usually inaccurate- AWstats is a server based analyzer and is included in any of our hosting packages that are offered from a Starter Plan to a Super Plan! AWstats is located in the control panel and contains just about any information that you could ever want or need in regards to monitoring activity on your site. 

Screen Shot 2012-02-09 at 2.45.24 PM

Here are the top 5 pieces of information that you can pull from your AWstats:

  1. Monthly History: This graphs out the unique visitors, number of visits, pages, hits and bandwidth on a month by month basis (seechart).
  2. Weekly/Rush Hour Activity: This charts out the activity of your site based on the hours of the day. It will show you the busiest and slowest times that activity is being generated.
  3. Search Keyphrases: This analyzes and displays the keywords or key phrases that users typed in in order to get to your site. This can be a huge to tool to utilize if you plan on doing any SEO or promotion for your site.
  4. Fan Favorites: AWstats allows you view your sites most viewed, entry and exit pages by visitors. It also calculates the number of times your site is “added to favorites bookmarks”.
  5. Robot/Spider Counter: These are automated programs that enter into websites and follow internal links to seek content and use them as key phrases that may pertain to your websites products. With AWstats, you can track these search engine robots and estimate when your website will be found and be established on the internet. 

Let us summarize by saying that AWStats is AWESOME! You can pull data and create graphical and textual displays of your sites activity.  As an added bonus, AWStats offers the ability to export data into an XML format for presentations. Remember that this program is free with any hosting package and is located right in your control panel. Enjoy!


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