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July 12, 2018

DIY SEO Tip… Don’t DO This! Please!

Local SEO Google Maps
Photo Credit: laihiu via flickr

Local SEO 101

Some people want to manage their own website. I get that. Maybe you have had some negative experiences with outside “expertise” in this department in the past and you don’t trust anyone else to do the job now. Again, I sympathize.

So if you are going to go it alone and do your own SEO then let me lend a hand with some helpful advice. If there is one mistake that I see website owners make that pains me more than any other it is this: Buying Links

This is my advice on how to buy links. Don’t….not ever. Never, nada, no damn way. And here is why. Because this is one sure way to get your website a penalty. Unless you have been schooled in SEO and link building it is almost a guarantee that you are going to buy something harmful. It’s just the nature of what you are buying.

Guaranteed to get a Penguin Penalty

There are many places that you can buy links online, and they are going to have 5-star ratings and 300 positive reviews which appears encouraging to those who do not understand a good link from a bad one. And honestly, I could not give someone enough instruction in 100 articles like this one that would give you the knowledge to make correct choices in this regard.

So you must be wondering how these vendors get so many positive reviews for their link building service when I am warning you not to ever go there? How can people just keep buying this service and not eventually either get bad reviews and/or run out of potential customers after enough get stung by their bad links?

The answer is somewhat complex but I will simplify it by saying that SEO has a dark side. Some call it “black hat” SEO after Matt Cutts called it that in an interview once. I guess it’s a cool name.

The fact is, there are some types of web properties that you can point these kinds of “bad” links to and it is actually an effective tactic to get them to rank higher. You can point them at properties that you do not own such as your Facebook page or a Youtube video. Often this will help those pages rank higher just like a quality link can help your main website rank higher.

However, there are so many other factors besides just having a link pointing to your website than just the link itself. And these factors do not each contribute to the cause in isolation. Each factor about the link is interconnected to every other factor. For example, the anchor text of the link is a very critical element of the link. Anchor text is the words the clickable link is embedded in, meaning the word or series of words that you actually click on to move to the other website.

But again, the anchor text of the link you just acquired has to be weighed in combination with all other anchors of every other link that is pointing at your website currently. Yes…..Google looks at the entirety of all anchors pointing at your site, not just the individual one you just built. So, as you might imagine, not having access to SEO tools that can measure and scan this information is alone a serious setback to the person “ just wanting to get some links” because some SEO dude on Youtube said it would help and, after all, the guy selling them on Fiverr has 300 positive reviews and those SEO guys are so freaking expensive….I mean really…..how hard can this SEO thing be anyway????

Ah……….it’s hard enough let me tell you.

All links and all the anchor combinations of all the links pointing to your site are just one factor in this equation. The entirety of all SEO factors, as they pertain to the position that your site ranks is so far beyond the scope of this article it is laughable to think that someone from John or Jane Q Public could just spend $20 on Fiverr and replace all the time I have spent ( literally 1000’s of hours) and get the same results as any competent SEO practitioner would get with this amount of training.

It is actually not laughable since the damage I have seen it do on several occasions is quite severe and ultimately avoidable if people would, at the very least, consult with someone in my field before proceeding down the road to link building disaster.

But people like to save money. If only it were this simple!

But I sympathize. It is hard to trust something that is little understood. Not to mention there are no central authorities that train or license those in the SEO field that you can call and no diplomas on the wall to create some trust for those who pay for our services either. That’s a tough situation.

My advice…..use some common sense first. If you are thinking about either doing your own SEO vs not doing it at all….. don’t do it at all. Seriously. It was one of the hardest things I ever learned and it is still ever evolving and I am having to learn new aspects of it every week. A business owner is far better off to concentrate on their craft and earn the money to hire a pro than create an even bigger mess for that pro to have to inevitably clean up after the damage is done.

In fact, I know people in my field that won’t even take on someone who has messed up their site with bad links because it is so much of a setback to future progress and you can only guess who gets blamed when things don’t go perfectly in the cleanup phase when the White Night SEO Squad comes in with all their link detox tools to the rescue.

It’s just a whole lot easier to go get a client without that kind of baggage. This is why the people who specialize in fixing these kinds of link building disasters are so damned expensive. Trust me…some of them are $2000 just to do the analysis before they even agree to do the job. Personally, I hire the job out to people who specialize in fixing these kinds of problems. They are more qualified to do the job. This should be a clue to website owners who want to DIY their way to the top. I am wise enough to hire my betters even though I could probably do a link cleanup gig just fine. I know when not to!

So what does a website owner do to assure they are hiring someone who is competent in the SEO field?

1) Ask them for a few references. It’s common in many fields and if an SEO person doesn’t have a few people that you can talk to regarding their success then they are not very smart business people. It’s kind of standard practice in any field where trust is hard to come by via traditional standards like credentials and licenses. Not that diplomas and pieces of stamped government paper are any kind of guarantee mind you. They are illusory comfort elements at best.

2) Ask them to do some small tasks for small money and see how they treat you during this time. Get them to build out a few social profiles or a Google My Business page for $30 and see what kind of job they do. Get them to do a small on-screen video showing the steps they took while they explain each step to you. You will get a feel for their attitude and skill level through this.

Really, you are going to have to narrow down the choice of who to hire for this job and eventually make a leap of faith over the void of uncertainty which will inevitably be awaiting you near the decision point. You can never remove all risk from a decision like this. You just have to remove as many risk variables as humanly possible.

3) So now that I have seemingly told you not to do your own SEO let me tell you some things that you can do as a website owner.

Do your on-page SEO. Make sure your site title is filled out fully and don’t repeat your business name in the title. This is a waste of an opportunity to place a keyword or phrase in the title. This is a strong cue to Google as to what you want to rank for. If your business is plumbing in Chicago then you may want to make your site title ” Plumbers Chicago | Chicago Plumbing Contractors ” so as to take advantage of that search. So often I do an analysis of a potential client and find that their website name is joesplumbing.ca and their site title is Joe’s Plumbing. Such a waste of an opportunity.

I have started with clients that are stuck on page 2 for all their keywords, changed their site title to a keyword phrase and within a week they pop up to the bottom of page 1. Amazing what a simple change can make sometimes.

Build your citations. Citations are free directories that you can use to put your name, address, and phone number plus a naked URL link to your website. They are critical for ranking in the Google Map Pack. They are a small pain in the ass to fill out and a bit time consuming but they are worth your time. Make sure your name, address and phone # are identical to your Google My Business page info. How do you find your citations? Simply place your competition’s web address in a search query like this “competitor.com” and look at the search results for their citations. The top ranking competitors will most assuredly have filled out citations.

Build out your social profiles. Obviously, you should already have a youtube channel, Facebook Page, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Twitter but there are many other lesser known social profiles that you can fill out that also lend authority to your web domain. You can go to “knowem.com” and find a list of available sites there. There are literally hundreds of these available to you. This is a standard part of the service we provide for our clients.

Build up some videos of some aspect of your business and put them on Youtube. I know, I know….. you are camera shy. Tough…. If you want to be successful then suck it up and get the camera rolling. If, for example, you are an HVAC pro, do a few videos of yourself on the job and talk about what problem you are solving as you work at the task. You will probably be thinking through the steps as you work anyway so just speak them out as if you are teaching an apprentice and record that. You could probably do 20 of these little 2-5 minute videos in a week and put them on Youtube. You would be amazed how many people I know in various industries that have pulled in business with Youtube. And it’s FREE!!!!!

Facebook….don’t waste your time. Facebook has become the domain of advertising and that’s the final word on that. Spend your time elsewhere.

These tasks will keep you busy for a while and in many cases, will bring you some results. If you are in a competitive niche, then don’t expect massive success. You will need a pro for that.


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Tom Gustar is an independent SEO practitioner from Bowmanville ON Canada. His sole focus is Search Engine Optimization. All other digital marketing tasks are outsourced to local professionals in their field with no cost markup.

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