About Kalena Jordan

In my day job, I'm Director of Studies and tutor at the online training institution Search Engine College. In my spare time, I'm a search engine agony aunt and SEO to global clients. I've been marketing websites online since 1996 and blogging about search since 2002. To learn more, visit

Q and A: Is this black hat SEO / link farming?

QuestionHello Kalena

In doing my research for Assignment 4 for your Advanced SEO course, I came across something I think is pretty spammy and crosses the line into black hat SEO.

A supposedly respectable design firm has done a number of websites and lists all their client’s website URLs on their site.  They appear to try to have all their clients link back to them.  That much I can understand from a business point of view although the latter is not the best practice.  But – they appear to have set it up so all their clients link to all the other clients of this design firm, even though they are unrelated businesses and not relevant.  The links are presented as this design firm’s clients and not the site owner’s.

So links from the design firm to clients, most clients to design firm, many clients linking to all the others.  Their list is about 187 or so sites.  Does this count as as link farming if the scale is fairly small?  Would Google or Bing notice?

Dolores

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Hi Dolores

Without being able to see the sites in question, I can’t confirm (feel free to message me with a couple of URLs if you’d like me to verify), but it sounds exactly like a 3 way link scheme.

This tactic is definitely dodgy but something that web design firms and ad agencies persist in thinking is a good idea. It’s also something that Google has warned against time and time again. You can see the very scenario you describe listed in Google’s definition of link schemes in their Webmaster Guidelines as follows:

“…links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines: …Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites”

So you can bet your bottom dollar that Google will notice this and devalue those links, if they haven’t done so already. Bing has a similar stance on 3 way link schemes, so the sites won’t fare well in Bing either:

“Abusive tactics that aim to inflate the number and nature of inbound links such as links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can lead to your site being de-listed from the Bing index.”

The fact that you’ve spotted this link scheme signals that the SEO lessons are sinking in, so well done :-)

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 1: Registration Frustration

elance-logoFollowing on from my lack of cash revelation, I’ve decided to try my hand at being a freelance geek-for-hire for 30 days to see if I can earn enough income to compensate for a full time job.

I’ve decided to start my search for work on Elance. Setting up a profile with Elance was mostly painless. The one positive aspect of registering with Elance is that they’ve partnered with LinkedIn, so you can simply import your entire CV and employment history if you connect your Elance profile with your LinkedIn profile.

However, the one aspect of Elance registration that was not straight-forward was the identity verification process. After fleshing out my profile, it was suggested that I verify my identity by completing an online form and registering for an identity verification interview via Skype. The only problem was, there seemed to be a bug with the Skype interview section of the verification request form.

elance-Screenshot1When I chose my time-zone (Wellington, New Zealand), no available interview times were shown and when I clicked *view more*, nothing came up and then the *view more* option disappeared entirely. No matter how many times I refreshed the form, there were no available interview time slots available. If I tried to submit my verification request, even if all other fields were completed, it wouldn’t let me submit because it said I have to choose an interview time slot. Le sigh. Different browsers triggered the same bug. I even tried at different times within a 24 hour period, with no luck. It was like a mini Ground Hog Day.

How was I supposed to verify my identity if I couldn’t select an interview time slot? In desperation, I lodged a support ticket and was informed that identity verification for Elance was performed by a third party, Aristotle, and that their technical support team was working to solve the error.

True to their word, the problem was solved within a few hours and I was able to set up my Skype interview and pass the identity verification hurdle at last.

Day 1 down. My next goal is to flesh out my profile completion to 100 percent. Catch you on Day 2.

Previous posts in this series:

 

30 Days as a Freelance Geek for Hire

geek-for-hireI came to a dramatic conclusion today. I need more income. As you all know, I’m a digital marketing consultant and trainer.

My contractual consulting work has dried up for the year and the exciting new IT start-up that had offered me 3 months work has been dismantled by their board and abandoned. Bye, bye guaranteed income.

So here I am, a self-employed geek, in need of consulting work in order to pay off a very large tax debt and keep me in coffee and French doughnuts for the foreseeable future. What’s a girl to do?

I had heard that marketing and IT specialists could make a nice little income on the side of their *real* job by using sites such as Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and Guru.com. I immediately thought “I can do that”. I’ll just have to take on enough freelance projects to provide a full-time income.  How hard can it be?

So I’ve decided to spend the next 30 days totally immersing myself in the seedy online job market and pimping my services as a freelance geek-for-hire. I thought my experience might make for entertaining reading, or at the very least provide an example of what not to do for future freelancers. So I’m going to blog about my experiences right here. Watch me as I fly or fail. Or quite possibly both.

If you’ve got any burning questions about freelancing in the digital / IT space, please post them in the comments and I’ll make sure I cover those off during the month. Any words of advice (warning?) for me would also be welcomed.

Wish me luck!

 

 

Q and A: Why is Google having trouble indexing our site?

QuestionHello Kalena

One of the sites we manage has a problem.

The homepage at [URL removed] is not getting indexed anymore by Google. The site was made using Sitefinity 3.7 and the hosting is provided by Rackspace. Something similar already happened two times in the past which we resolved using the option “index this page” on the page generated by Sitefinity (1st time) and by re-creating the XML sitemap and linking it directly to Google Webmaster tools (2nd time).

This time we can’t seem to find the reason. We checked if the end-user that works as the back-end has made any changes or if there was any notification from Google Webmaster Tools reports but nothing came up. Here are some more technical details:

1) The site homepage is [URL removed]. But the site root is [URL removed] which is an empty page with a redirect to the home page using a 301 redirect.

2) In Google Webmaster Tools we set up 2 Sitemaps:

  • The first at [URL removed] is indexing the Top pages of the Home page (static)
  • The second [URL removed] gets populated with the pages content generated by Sitefinity (dynamic)

3) Also, from the back-end options, a metatag ROBOTS was set at page level for the top pages, as Google suggests.

4) Google reports 5 blocked URLs when crawling our robots.txt with the message: “Google tried to crawl these URLs in the last 90 days, but was blocked by robots.txt”. This seems suspicious, because I can’t seem to understand what could be blocking it, the robot is pretty simple and not restrictive.

Could you give us an hand? I’ve left a generous donation for your coffee fund.

Thanks!
Jim

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Hi Jim

First up, thanks for the caffeine donation :-)

As for your problem, oh boy. You’ve got a few different issues going on, so let me address each of them separately:

1) Your XML sitemaps are missing contextual data specified by the Sitemaps protocol. In particular, your < loc > child entries per URL are messed up. I’m surprised this hasn’t generated an error in Webmaster Tools, but I’m pretty sure it would be confusing Googlebot. Go check your sitemaps against the protocol and re-generate them if necessary. Maybe use one of the XML generator tools recommended by Google. Personally, I like XML Sitemaps (yes that’s my affiliate link).

Also, why 2 separate sitemaps for HTML pages? I can understand having separate ones for RSS feeds or structured data stuff, but your standard site pages should all be listed in the one file so you can better manage the content and keep track of indexing history in Webmaster Tools.

2) Your robots.txt file is blocking a number of pages that you have listed in your XML sitemap. So on the one hand you’re telling Google to index pages within a certain directory, but on the other, you’re telling Google they are not allowed to access that directory. This is what the error message is about. You’ve also got conflicting instructions on some of your pages in terms of robots meta tags vs. robots.txt.

3) The 301 redirect on your root directory is your major problem. In fact, that empty landing page is your major problem. Why do you need it? You don’t use Flash and it doesn’t appear to have an IP sniffer for geo-location purposes so I can’t understand why you wouldn’t just put your home page content at the root level and let search engines index it as expected.

The way you have it set up right now is essentially telling Google that you have moved all your content to a new location, when you really haven’t. It’s adding another step to the indexing process and you are also shooting yourself in the foot as every 301 contributes to some lost PageRank. Google clearly doesn’t like the set up or isn’t processing it for some reason. There also appear to be several hundred 301s in place for other pages, so I’m not sure what that’s about. I don’t have access to your .htaccess file, but I can imagine it reads like a book!

4) Unless you specifically need a robots meta tag for a particular page scenario, I would avoid using them on every page. You can achieve the same results with your robots.txt file and it’s easier to manage robot instructions in one location rather than having to edit page by page – avoiding conflicting issues as you have now.

Apart from the obvious issues mentioned above – have you considered switching away from Sitefinity and over to WordPress? I’ve struggled optimizing Sitefinity sites for years – it’s a powerful CMS but it was never built with search engines in mind and always requires clunky hacks to get content optimized. Plus that’s a really out-dated version of Sitefinity.

Given the other issues, it might be time for a total site rebuild?

Best of luck

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The 2015 Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Table of SEO Success FactorsEarlier this month, the team over at Search Engine Land updated their brilliant Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.

Now in it’s 3rd edition, the table is a fantastic SEO resource and one of the few items on my Ubuntu desktop that gets regular eyeball attention. Content is divided between on-page and off-page factors and clearly color-coded to make it visually intuitive, with relevancy weight ranging from -3 to +3.

The new edition references new factors of SEO importance including vertical search, Direct Answers and HTTPS, with mobile friendliness and structured data acquiring a relevancy weight increase in line with recent Google updates.

The idea behind the table is to highlight tasks within the SEO process and to act as a visual reminder about what is most important and what areas to focus on for clients.

Danny Sullivan describes the goal and philosophy of the table:

“Our goal with the Periodic Table Of SEO is to help publishers focus on the fundamentals needed to achieve success with search engine optimization. This means it’s not about trying to list all 200 Google ranking factors or detail Google’s 10,000 sub-factors. It’s not about trying to advise if keywords you want to rank for should go at the beginning of an HTML title tag or the end. It’s not about whether or not Facebook Likes are counted for ranking boosts.

Instead, the table is designed to broadly guide those new to or experienced with SEO into general areas of importance. Title tags are generally important. Think about making sure they’re descriptive. Social sharing is often generally seen as good for SEO. Aim for social shares, without worrying about the specific network.”

While not exactly a cheat-sheet, my SEO students at Search Engine College tell me it is their favorite resource for assignment preparation, so that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The Table can be downloaded as a PDF in large or condensed format, or you can grab the code to embed the infographic directly into your web site.