What you need to know about “Negative” SEO

By Katherine P


If you run a site and follow SEO practices, then you’ve probably come across the term “Negative SEO” and were filled with a sense of dread. Negative SEO…what is that? It sounds bad and it is bad—but it’s probably not happening to you.

Negative SEO is another party’s deliberate attempt to lower a sites search engine ranking. The most common type of negative SEO is “link based”, meaning another party is sending spammy poor quality links to your site which can in turn harm your sites ranking. Sometimes it seems like the tiniest change you make to your site ruins your search engine rankings, so it’s completely reasonable to think that if it’s that easy for you to harm your standings, then it must be just as easy for someone else to negatively impact your site.

However, Google feels that true effective negative SEO is very rare and almost impossible get away with. The Google algorithms have been built to ensure it is highly unlikely for negative link building from a competitor to lower your sites ranking. Before January 2003, Google said that there is “nothing a competitor can do to lower your sites search engine rankings or have your site removed. Later that year they reworded it to say “almost nothing. This change in phrasing was smart because at the time simple negative linking couldn’t harm it, but if a competitor somehow managed to hack into your site and change things, then it could obviously do some harm (something that is still true today). Then in 2007, Google came out and said that negative link building wasn’t impossible, just extremely difficult. In October 2012, Google created the “disavow” tool so that when sites did find harmful links on their site, they could easily tell Google crawlers that they didn’t want those links counted toward their site ranking.

Google insists that Negative SEO shouldn’t be a concern because they have built into their algorithms things that help decide whether the negative links are self-made or not. This means that if there are a bunch of bad links pointing to your site, most likely they will not harm you because Google has figured out a way to recognize whether those links are coming from a competitor or if they’re coming from something that the site owner has done. Google does admit that they aren’t 100% correct all the time, hence why the ‘disavow’ tool was created.

Google says that most of the Negative SEO attacks that are reported turn out to in fact not be actual attacks from other parties, but just negative things that have naturally occurred. For example, you could be getting a lot of bizarre looking links that are actually coming from something you’ve done in the past (link building, a former SEO company that may have outsourced their work), or could be coming from a completely benign source. Some weird links are totally normal and most sites end up getting links from undesirable sources, but Google understands that this is natural and doesn’t count them. If you notice an influx of spammy links and can’t figure out where they’re coming from, it helps to ask around. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a well-meaning friend or family member that thought they could help you get some links.

If by some small chance your site is targeted by a Negative SEO attack, here are some things to look out for:

  • Sudden influx of redirected links or from sites in “bad neighborhoods” like porn, gambling, payday loan, etc.
  • Links from foreign forums—if you suddenly have a lot of links from places like Russia, China, or other foreign countries that really have no business with your site.
  • Flood of links from sites that end with .ru, .cz, .cn, .pl, .ro, .bg, .biz, .com.ar, .com.br and .info. Not all are necessarily bad as a few are completely normal, but a sudden rush of links coming from sites like that could be an indicator that someone is trying to harm your rankings.
  • Large number of links from “nonsense blogs”—blogs that are obviously fake and don’t make sense.

While these are some indicators that a competitor is trying to harm your site ranking, Google has taken strong steps to make sure their algorithms recognize that it is someone else trying to deliberately harm your site, and discount those links. However, if you are creating bad links for yourself, Google will also see that you are the problem and not someone else. Essentially…the only person who can realistically harm your sites rating is yourself. The chances that someone is effectively harming your site through negative link building are extremely slim.




An Update: Predicted Marketing Trends by RBC’s Mark Mahaney

By John Nicholson


The internet marketing landscape is in a constant state of flux. And in many ways this makes the industry attractive and challenging for its purveyors, influencers and consumers. But there must be a man on watch, someone to gauge the winds and guide the sails. Renowned internet analyst, Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets, is the answer. During his speech at Ad Age’s Digital Conference San Francisco, Mahaney outlined several important predictions about online marketing.

In his address to like-minded e-commerce marketers and marketing professionals, Mahaney touched on ideas that seem at once like logical progressions of the field, and others that would sound like pure sci-fi just a decade ago. Outlined below are some of the highlights, but for the full-on Mark Mahaney experience, visit the Ad Age article here.

1) Mobile has officially crossed the threshold from ‘trend’ into “material”. Accounting for more and more e-commerce traffic and revenue, mobile will only continue to grow in the future. Similarly, Mahaney predicts a bright future for mobile-based companies, such as Pandora, Spotify and Uber. Don’t be surprised to see many more continue to pop up.

2) A brand will not succeed without a social media presence. It just won’t — there are too many valuable opportunities for expansion and brand storytelling there.

3) Same day delivery is a game-changer. From groceries (think Amazon Pantry), books and electronics to clothes and any other CPGs, Mahaney believes the new system will completely alter the way consumers shop online. In an age of instant gratification, what more could we ask for?

4) Self-Realized Robots. Just kidding — but Mahaney does see healthy growth in  the “internet of things” (Google Glass; Apple Watch) market.

The Benefits of Quality Copywriting

By Katherine P

Not surprisingly, good copywriting can make a huge difference in sales and page views for your site.

Quality copy on your website can tell your customers “Hey, this is a company run by people–not robots,” which in turn can relate to a more trustful relationship between customer and company. It inspires loyalty, and –if the copy is witty and insightful—entertain customers and entice them to stay on your site for longer periods of time, which can possibly improve conversation rates. If a company employs in-house writers it can also foster better employee satisfaction due to increased creative freedom. A writer who gets to have fun with the copy, is a happy writer indeed.

Well done copywriting can include a variety of styles, but many of the sites with stand-out text are able to infuse a sense of playfulness into their writing, while also being informative and display their information is an innovative way. For example, the outdoor recreation store, Moosejaw, marries humor with inventive ways to display information. On a page advertising a sale promotion, their writers came up with a “periodic table” of sale options with the cheeky copy “My mean boss said we’d only have a sale like this periodically. I wasn’t sure what that meant, so this is what you get.”

copywriters love words

Another style of good copywriting can be to keep it smart and simple. Dropbox, the online file sharing site, does a great job of using no-fuss writing with a sense of wit. Their tagline of “your stuff, anywhere” is a prime example of the “less is more” attitude. Hipmonk, a travel comparison site, stood out because they took into account what their users are actually looking for when shopping for flight/hotels and created fun filters such as “agony” which shows users flight options by length of flight, price, and amount of layovers.

Filling your site with quality text is a great way to keep your customers interested and coming back to your site. Find the voice that suits your needs, and you’re bound to see the benefits.

5 Metrics To Consider In A Post-Pigeon Ranking World

By Jason Bauman

What Metrics To Watch After Ditching Rankings

When Google updated their search algorithm with Pigeon, it drastically changed the rankings for sites who targeted local SEO.  Even now, it’s not unusual for sites to shift in local rankings on almost a daily basis.

For companies focused on local content, this can make tracking the effectiveness of their campaigns difficult, since ranking reports are less reliable when results can fluctuate so wildly.  Instead of trying to discern meaning from them, here are five key metrics that can help you judge how your site is doing, without rankings.

Organic Traffic

It’s easy to get lost in the search result ranking game, but what’s really important is ensuring that people who view your search listing will follow the link through to your page.  Organic traffic reports, or a list of what sites your users were on before coming to you, will help you discover how effective those links are.

Pigeon’s algorithm updates will cause your traffic from Google to fluctuate, but by looking at it either on a monthly or yearly basis, an overall trend should be clear.

Organic Landing Pages

Most direct traffic to your website should be the homepage, while organic traffic will hopefully lead users to relevant, deep content on your site. By discerning what pages are popular search destinations, you’ll start to get a feel for the keywords your customers are looking for.  Be mindful of unusually high bounce rates, however, as this could mean that the keywords you’re optimizing for do not relate to the queries customers who land on your site hope to have answered.

Organic Conversion Sources

If customers find your site, and find the information on the site useful, it’s important to track the effectiveness of the conversion tactics your using on the page.  Whether this is a customer adding product to their shopping cart, or filling out a free form for more information, if you’re spending time and effort bringing users to your site, you want to make sure that it’s positively impacting your ROI.

Google My Business Impressions

Using Google my business, the search engine will distribute your information across their search results, maps, and G+ s0 that customers can find your listing no matter what device they’re currently using.  This is metric will show you the overall impressions, or how often your business was seen by a customer.  A customer clicking on your business within Google Maps, or paging through the new search carousel will not always lead to website visits, even though this impression could lead customers to your store, making it an important metric to track.

Clicks For Driving Directions

If a customer is clicking a provided link to get directions to your location, chances are good that they’re seriously considering a trip to your store.  While the results to this metric, like those of Google my business, are approximate, this is a strong indicator of how effective your onsite content is at converting visitors to potential customers.

Ranking Is Not Dead, Just Less Important

Ranking is still a useful metric to aim for, but it should not be the sole focus of any successful local SEO campaign.  Obtaining a higher rank in search results will help improve all five of these other metrics, but the ranking fluctuations of pigeon make it a difficult metric to track.

Instead of chasing the fickle pigeon, focus instead on creating useful, high conversion local content utilizing the above metrics as guides.

Source: Search Engine Land

Pigeon Image Source

Evolution in eCommerce Site Design – 2011 to 2014

By Jessica Herbine

Three years may not feel like a long time, but in the realm of technology it can mean the difference between listening to a 90’s single with HitClips and a custom 2000’s playlist on a first gen iPod. Back in 2011, Econsultancy analyzed the trends that emerged from a look at the navigational menus of 26 selected ecommerce websites. Now Econsultancy is comparing those designs to each company’s present-day layout, looking for patterns and clues into what’s changed and why.


Maplin, 2011



Maplin, 2014

Here are some of the key takeaways Trinity Insight found from these side-by-side comparisons:

  • It is common now for mega menu drop downs to fill the entire screen, rather than a piece of it. This is likely due to the use of responsive design where mobile and tablet users need the full range of screen to read all of the choices for sub-categories available.
  • Conversely, some websites are condensing their menus to consist of only one or two columns for simpler browsing to reduce overwhelm – some even getting rid of their drop down menus all together.
  • Headings have gotten larger. Again, in an effort to help users shop more quickly and efficiently, the sub-headings under each department have been made to stand out with color, font size, spacing and even icon pictures and hero images to help visitors navigate the menu more easily.
  • Numerous retailers have added in vanity pages that are meant for browsing. For example, John Lewis included a whole “Highlights” column for special offers and seasonal products; ASOS expanded to include the ranges “Boutique” and “Preowned”; and House of Fraser includes “Highlights” and “Inspirations & Ideas” under each category.
Mamas & Papas, 2011

Mamas & Papas, 2011

Mamas & Papas, 2014

Mamas & Papas, 2014

Very few companies maintained an identical design over the last few years, and all made notable changes to the mega menu taxonomy. It’s apparent that every business within this sample geared their redesign towards a user base that has progressed to mobile shopping. To stay competitive in the marketplace, you need to be constantly reassessing your user experience, testing the results of different keywords and categories, colors, images, branding and more.

Novatech, 2011

Novatech, 2011

Novatech, 2014

Novatech, 2014

Amazon Reportedly Seeks to Enter the Ad Space

By John Nicholson

It seems Amazon will be going head to head with Google. The Wall Street Journal published a report that says Amazon will expand its reach into the realm of online advertising — a place Google has reigned supreme for quite some time.

The international e-commerce giant plans on unveiling the “Amazon Sponsored Links” program in late 2014. It will be Amazon’s version of Google AdWords in an effort to replace Google AdSense and other third party ads on the site. Over the years, Amazon has accrued mountains of vital consumer, product and shopping behavior data that will undoubtedly add a brand new element to the analytics AND shopping experience.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “Amazon is building a tool to help advertising agencies buy in bulk for potentially thousands of advertisers…Building such a system could enable Amazon to boost its business placing ads on third-party websites.”