Please Just Be Honest When Asking For A Link Removal

404 - Broken Links In Google Webmaster Tools

Can we just be honest when asking people to update or remove links?

It happens to all sites. Links move or change, posts occasionally get deleted, categories get restructured and despite your best intentions, you still have broken links coming into your site.

At this point you can either set up 301 redirects to a new location or relevant content, or you can reach out to site owners and ask them to alter or remove their links. Most site owners will be happy to update broken links, but a little bit of honesty will get you a lot further than trying to scare site owners by saying that Google is penalizing your site and the same will happen to them.

I’m seeing it happen a lot lately. Instead of just being honest and saying “Our bad, we restructured our site and don’t care to put 301′s in place” or “We deleted the content you were linking to” or (and perhaps most honestly) “we’re engaging in some reputation management”, most emails of this type appear to be defaulting to the “Google is penalizing us and if you don’t delete the link Google will penalize you and your site will never rank again” tactic.

The truth is that a handful of broken links on my site spread over thousands of posts isn’t going to result in Google issuing my site any kind of penalty.

While you’re at it, make it as easy as possible for me to find the link you want removed. Provide me with the name and URL of the post in which the link appears. Sure I could search for the URL you want removed but that’s more work for me. The easier you make it the more likely I am to actually do what you want.

Do not, ever, ever, ever send me a list of URLs from my site that include category indexes, tags etc. That’s pointless and making more work for me. Just 1 URL. That is all. Show me you’re not lazy and actually care.

Finally a tip for managing and detecting broken links on your own site.  You really should be fixing broken links yourself as it improves not just your SEO but also the user experience. If you’re using WordPress try using a plugin such as “Broken Link Checker” to stay on top of things. Regardless of what platform you use, you should also be using Google Webmaster Tools which also report crawl errors and broken links.

SEO/SEM “Do Follow” Blogs list pisses me off

I don’t know how I ended up on the SEO/SEM “Do Follow” Blogs list , which is currently doing the rounds of the crapper end of the SEO blogs but I want off the damn thing! Now!

If there was ever a reason for me to want to turn “no follow” on for all comments this list is it.

Ever since I’ve turned up on it this blog has been inundated with spammers who, while they take the time to actually write half arsed comments, are still little more than human spambots and hold about as much worth in my eyes.

The question now is what do I do? Do I put up with the fact that I will forever be plagued by these assholes and have to continually manually check all comments, or do I turn on “no follow” and punish everybody because of the behavior of a few?

Guest Post: Aaron Wall – Tips on using video in SEO

I have a special treat for you guys today. Aaron Wall of SEO Book has done a special guest post for O’Flaherty with tips about using video in your SEO. Enjoy!

I think video is a huge boon in many markets. It does an especially strong job of conveying trust to get people to want to learn and/or buy from you, showing things that are hard to describe with words (visualizing them somehow makes them more real … that is why so many e-books have fake covers after all), and sharing humor (as laughter is contagious and video can put you in an atmosphere where others are showing an emotion with clarity).

I added a bunch of 5 minute videos to many of my SEO tools and saw a drastic decrease in support queries. Some people who are too lazy to read a 10 page how to guide will gladly watch a few minute video to learn how to get the most out of using a tool.

In addition to those benefits, video is also easy to syndicate to other sites (via embed widgets you offer directly or via YouTube). If someone embeds your video in their blog they often link back to your site (especially if you use watermarks and/or aggressively brand your site in the video) plus someone embedding a 5 minute video from you  tells your audience that they really trust you.

I think the singular biggest error many people make when syndicating video to YouTube is not also adding more value on their own sites. A transcription of the video placed on their own site adds a lot of descriptive keyword rich text that they can rank for, plus adding a bulleted list synopsis to your own site ensures that your site aspires to remain the destination rather than letting YouTube get all the links you earned. I tried to do a pretty good job of the later when I posted the videos to my blog, but my videos sub-domain is still a bit sloppy and could use some work.

With video content Google does not have much textual content to weigh the videos against, so it is best to use short keyword dense descriptive titles with meta descriptions that help back them up. On many of the videos I submitted to YouTube I made titles that were a bit too long and perhaps spammy to be optimal.

My wife has been playing around with YouTube and has  done better than I have at getting her videos included in the search results than I have.

Six more bonus video optimization tips:

  • When in doubt, shorter with better clarity is typically better than comprehensive. And slower / calmer voice is better than quick speaking.
  • Annunciation matters. If you have trouble speaking clearly for long periods of time practice, and then record in smaller chunks. Buy a nice microphone with a pop filter. It is worth it. It makes everything you say more clear.
  • If you post to your site and YouTube try to use a different title on your blog such that you can try to rank for a wider net of keywords.
  • If you have the time to it may be worth submitting to Google Video, MetaCafe, and a couple of the other video sites. Some of them pass link weight and many of them have good authority.
  • Read this TechCrunch post …it offers lots of great viral video marketing tips.

Alexa button and rank myth – revisited

2 weeks ago I was wondering if installing the Alexa button on the your blog will increase your Alexa Rank?

I was doubtful to begin with, considering the results of Steven York who’s results indicated that the theory that having the button embedded on your page would boost your rank was complete bunk.

I’ve done some Googling on this and find many sites that recommend using the redirect however much of it appears to be of the "me to" mentality.

The one dissenting voice I came across was that of Steven York who not only tested redirects but also the theory that showing the Alex widget on your site will improve your rank.

Steven will, I’m sure, be happy to know that my two week trail on two different sites indicates that he was correct.

I had the button installed on 2 sites. The first was this blog and the second was Bloomer, our fledgling social network.

Well the results are in and they don’t support the theory.

O’Flaherty blog is still hanging around the 267,000 mark and traffic has remained pretty consistent over the period. I didn’t experience spikes in traffic which would have created and increase and my traffic has been comparable over the past 2 months so any boost in rank could only be attributed to the button.

There was no boost, so I guess that answers that.

Bloomer was a poor choice for testing the button as we’re seeing growing membership and daily increases in page views so the effect of the button (if one existed) is impossible to gauge.

Myth busted I think..

Oh, Alexa why do we court thee?

Alexa and I have a love / hate relationship, I suppose. I wish it were just just hate from my side but something about this foul temptress keeps drawing me back.

Alexa is know for being far from accurate but many advertisers and PayPerPost type systems uses Alexa to calculate the value of your site or blog.

It goes without saying that if a blogger wants a higher payout for a review or advertising then they should boost their Alexa rank.

One of the trends I’ve seen lately is people employing a redirect in front of every link so that, the theory goes, Alexa can record every page load and in response you’ll see a boost in your rankings.

http://redirect.alexa.com/redirect?

While placing this redirect in front of every URL may (I’m not convinced it does)have a positive effect of your Alexa rank, I can’t help but worry that it must do some sort of damage in terms of PageRank and search engine placement.

I’ve seen two different approaches to implementing the redirect (neither of which I will link to because I’m not sure if they’re damaging to your SERP).

The first is to actually rewrite all the URLs of a site so that the redirect is essentially hard coded.

The second is to handle it with script on the client side so that the search engines see the site as it was intended but every click the user makes results in the redirect being added by the script.

At the very least this can’t be user friendly at the worst it would mean that none of your links work if Alexa has a hiccup for any reason.

For example when posting a trackback to a blog recently I didn’t notice that the trackback URL was had the redirect attached. As far as I know the blog didn’t get the trackback because of that so that blogs readers missed out on a part of the conversation.

I’ve done some Googling on this and find many sites that recommend using the redirect however much of it appears to be of the "me to" mentality.

The one dissenting voice I came across was that of Steven York who not only tested redirects but also the theory that showing the Alex widget on your site will improve your rank.

Steven has some interesting graphs and statistics which indicate that neither of these methods boost your Alexa rank.

I haven’t spent the time to research this properly myself. I have installed the widget on my sidebar to see if I can see any noticeable improvement in rank that can’t be attributed to something else.

What’s your take on this? Have any of these methods worked for you? Or is the best solution simply to get everyone you know to install the toolbar and have them visit your site regularly?

Free Domain names that aren’t..

Cryptic? I don’t think so. I spotted this article (via Buzztracker) talking about how you can get free top level domain names from Co.nr.

Yep, that’s right. I said free.

There are many good reasons for having your own top level domain name. For one it looks a hell of a lot more professional than “mybrainfart.blogspot.com” or some other long name given out by a free service.

So to solve your problem co.nr is offering you to ability to have “brainfart.co.nr” for free. Or so it seems. Here’s what they say:

Signup for http://www.your-name.co.nr – free domain name!
and use this free domain name to access your website, no matter where it is hosted.
Of course, this service is absolutely free and we don’t place any ads on your website!
Just setup a Free URL redirection with URL cloaking (url masking) and forward it to your real website url. We provide many other features, about which you can learn more here

I popped in the name Bloomer to see if it was available (Bloomer is a beta social network for the Danish market) and it was.

However it the page that load made it readily apparent that the name is not “free”.

The page states that in order to use the name you must:

(1) Link back to CO.NR is Absolutely required

Although, we do not place any forced ads (banners, popups, etc.) on free .co.nr domain name accounts, we require the link back to CO.NR to be placed on the MAIN page (the very first page) of your web site. The link MUST be exactly like this: (*graphic removed*)

So, you see it’s not free after all. Actually it comes at a potentially high cost to the user.

The first is this, you provided the domain co.nr with a link back generating a lot of Google juice for these guys and creating a domain with a high page rank. That alone is worth cash…

Second you only have the name as long as they allow you to.. and under their terms of service you can be shut down at any time without notification:

CO.NR reserves the right to modify or discontinue the Service with or without notice to the Member. CO.NR Free Domain Name / Free Subdomain Services shall not be liable to Member or any third party, should CO.NR exercise its right to modify or discontinue the Service for any reason.

This could mean you loose traffic, readers and revenue while you hunt for a new free domain name.

If I was an evil person and I wanted to artificially boost the value/PR of a domain, offering a service like this would be one sure way to get it done.

Sure the boost would be only temporary and would die off after you discontinue the service but I’m sure, considering how many folks start blogs on free services and abandon them that many of those links would stay in place for a long time.

There are plenty of reasons why you would want to do this.

I’m not saying that’s what’s happing here.. I’m just saying that it’s something I thought of.

Either way, the best way to make your site appear professional (besides being professional) is to buy your own domain name.

Then you’ll never have to worry about being shut off without notice.

Dr. Robert Silkey says SEO is illegal!

Don’t you hate it when you turn on the TV or what a video where there’s some “expert” farting on about a topic and it’s clear to you that the guy doesn’t have a clue?

Doesn’t it just make you want to throw something at the screen in the vain hope that it will magically pass through the screen, pop out the other side and flatten the guys nose?

Well Stefan Juhl found a video on Google Video with one such internet “expert”, a Doctor Robert Silkey (CEO of Einstein Dental), who actually says that various SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques are illegal!

Not wrong, or unethical or against search engine guidelines  (link is to the Google guidelines) but ILLEGAL, as in punishable by law!

Not only that but Silkey’s company actually offers SEO and website design services for Dentistry.

Now, I know somebody will probably say the guy is right.

There are, after all ,many definitions of illegal and not all specifically refer to the legal/judicial system.

    • prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules; “an illegal chess move”
    • Doing something against the rules that is cause for disqualification.

    However, probably the most commonly accepted or understood use of the term illegal is

    Prohibited by law.

    It’s the “prohibited by law” that most ordinary viewers will take as meaning from the “expertise” Silkey shares with us all.

    The guy actually uses the terms “illegal” and “search engine guidelines ” side by side, making it sound as if not adhering to search engine guidelines is punishable by law.

    Actually listening to this guy is hilarious. He says:

    The other type of spam is website spam. And what happens is, a lot of people will take their website. They’ll put it under five or six different domain names. Same content. Register it with the search engines. And that’s website spam. And so the ahh.. and that’s illegal.

    There is no law against reposting my content on multiple domains. There is no law saying I can’t have 2, or 20 domain names that land at the one site.

    It may not be best practice, it may not be in accordance with search engine guidelines but it’s not ILLEGAL!

    I’m wondering who is to blame here? Is it the “expert” himself? Is it the media producers (National Dental Network) for using the guy? Is it both?

    Either way, a lot of people have now been given the wrong impression.

    Even worse, I’d bet that there are more than a few dentists who had no idea of how to create or promote their website but wanted to try who have now been put off trying because they’re afraid of the legal ramifications if they do something that may not be in the search engine guidelines.

    My thanks go out to the “National Dental Network” for keeping dentists misinformed.

    Deutchlands Googlers are coming wearing black hats!

    Philip Lenssen points out that Germany has a new official Google Webmaster blog “Webmaster-Zentrale” who are not adverse to a little blackhat SEO in their very first post!

    and they’re pulling off a hidden keyword blackhat SEO hack right in the first line, which reads (quote from Google’s source):

    Willkommen zur Premiere des deutschsprachigen Blogs der Google <span style=”font-size:0;”>Webmaster-Zentrale</span>>>

    Update: They changed their post, though some “hidden keywords” remain. Just look for “font-size:0;”…

    Vi have vays of inkreasing yur Page Rank!