By now, you’ve heard us screaming about negative SEO and for the most part being “pa-shawed” by people and called Negative Nancies, but we have a very bad feeling that it’s about to take front and center during the latest release of what Google is calling Penguin 2.0.
For those late to the party, negative SEO is when “Company A” can pay black hat agencies to set up massive amounts of links in bad neighborhoods linking to “Company B”. When Google sees these massive amount of links, they start penalizing Company B in the rankings because it looks like Company B is illegally buying links. Company A wins. Google denies that it truly has this desired effect, but at the same time released a Disavow Tool for Company B to put in place to tell Google which bad sites to ignore.
Now Google is set to release Penguin 2.0 in the next couple of weeks and will continue in waves over the summer. Penguin 2.0′s primary focus is to clear out and/or penalize websites that are practicing the art of buying links or that try to essentially game Google‘s system, which is exactly what negative SEO is designed to make unsuspecting sites look like they’re doing to Google.
The question is now, how will Google be able to sort out which companies are victims of negative SEO and which companies are actually breaking the rules. Google’s Matt Cutt’s put out a video explaining that Mom & Pop stores shouldn’t worry (see the video on our previous post), but what if you’re not a Mom & Pop store? And as mentioned, he then denoted that you could use the Disavow tool to indicate what websites have you listed on them that you want Google to ignore. The problem there is that you have to know those sites exist and by then, it’s too late.
While we know we sound a tad like Chicken Little here, this simply has bad news written all over it that Google would release an algorithm change that would play right into the hands of negative SEO. People should expect to hear more about this in the coming 1+ months as companies far and wide begin to fall off the Google SERP’s and start screaming foul. Just remember this post when all hell breaks loose in the coming weeks.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately not much, because if you can find those bad links (if you have them), so can Google and they’re much quicker than you probably are. Any bad sites that have your site listed on them are probably already indexed by Google. But if you haven’t experienced any bad effects of their presence yet, the time to act is now.
Use tools like Arelis/IBP to start looking to see if your website has been placed anywhere that you are not familiar with or didn’t setup yourself. You should expect to see certain growth patterns and an occasional bad anomaly, but if you start seeing placement on completely irrelevant websites or sites that contain questionable content, use the Disavow tool like your life depended on it because when Penguin 2.0 is in full swing, your companies online existence may very well be in major jeopardy.
While we did talk about 55 great SEO tools on a previous post, I wanted to go over some of them again and filter out the ones that you probably really need to use.
There are a TON of tools and good bit of which are free and some that cost a little bit of money, but they will be invaluable to you. Here are the ones that I use religiously and that you’ll probably want to use also to accomplish great results. You can obviously do it without these specific tools, but these will make your journey so much easier. I’ll break this down into “must haves” and “should haves”. I highly suggest downloading the “must haves” before you even start the SEO journey.
The Absolute MUST HAVES. Don’t even bother unless you have these.
Google Webmaster Tools
(http://www.google.com/webmasters) Cost: Free
If you’re not using this tool, then you should be shot and hung. All that’s required is that you actually own the site. You verify your ownership by adding a meta tag or uploading a page to the root directory and then you have access to a wealth of information. Everything from broken links, title tag issues, backlinks and more. It’s only shortcoming is lack of competitive analysis, but it’s all here and it’s all FREE.
(http://www.google.com/analytics/) Cost: Free
If you don’t know what it is or how to use it, you are beyond help. If you don’t, then just pretend you do and go there. You sign up for free, put a code block into your web pages and then you have a ridiculous amount of data at your disposal. Traffic patterns, what keywords you’re being found on, e-commerce, where they’re leaving from, what keywords they’re finding you with and tons more. There is some setup involved in this, but it’s worth it and an absolute imperative tool for you to use and again, it’s free.
(http://www.goodkeywords.com) Cost: Free
This program is limited, but it spits out some amazing keyword suggestions. The program is free, which is even better. You type in a basic keyword you’re interested in and it displays a laundry list of alternate keywords from Yahoo and others.
Google Website Optimizer
(http://www.google.com/websiteoptimizer) Cost: Free
This is also another tool that you can use to split test pages so that you can try out two different versions of a page to see which one performs better. Free.
Yahoo Site Explorer
(https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/) Cost: Free
If you want to research a competitors inbound links or even your own, you must use Yahoo’s Site Explorer over Google’s. Google simply does not want to give up everything because it doesn’t want you to know exactly everything it sees, so it only offers you a piece of the puzzle. Yahoo on the other hand will give it all to you. Forget the whole “Google rules” train of thought and leave it at the door. Yahoo’s Site Explorer is one of the most important free tools to have at your disposal. Click the link, bookmark it and plan to use it often.
IBP (Internet Business Promoter)
(http://www.Axandra.com) Cost: Check site for current cost
I shouldn’t give away this secret, but I use this tool very heavily. It has keyword tools, web optimization tools, competition analysis and a very, very cool reporting feature that spits out 50 page reports in seconds showing analysis of what the top 10 competitors are doing and suggestions about how you can fix your site to be in line with what they’re doing. It’s amazing. One of my favorite tools on the list.
Now these are the Should Haves. These will make your life SO much easier.
This is by far the mack daddy of SEO tools to have in your arsenal if you’re expecting to make it up the charts. I have brought companies to the top of Google without using this tool and also with it. And I can tell you that using it makes the process not only easier but hundreds of times quicker. It will shorten your efforts by weeks if not months. It shows you everything from what your competitor is doing, what keywords you should use, how to structure your code, keyword ratios, IP addresses of inbound links, and the entire gamut. It’s amazing and will literally get you to the top of Google very quickly. Get it.
Wordtracker has been around forever and while they do offer a free version of their keyword tool, the paid version offers a wealth of information that will simply blow you away. You’ll have such ridiculous insight into keyword conversions that you might actually get sick by the spinning array of data. It is worth every dime.
SEOBook is run by SEO mastermind Aaron Wall. You will find lots of free tools in the Tools area of their website that you can download and use with the Firefox browser. Dozens of plugins to make finding information about your competitors much easier. There are also free Rank Checkers so that you can track your progress as you go, find out whether or not your link partners are legitimately linking to you, etc. They also have a membership area as well that will give you a lot of extras and access to some very cool stuff.
PPC Web Spy
This program is designed to basically spy on your competition while you’re browsing the web. It’s a plug-in for your browser that shows you the keywords that your competitors are focusing on in their Pay Per Click Campaigns which ultimately gives you an advantage to capitalize on words they’re probably missing. It literally will show you all of your competitors ad copy for Google AdWords. Their cost per click, their position, and even how much they’re spending. In reality, this is very covert and is really a crazy amount of information to be able to get. A very dangerous tool. To your competitors.
Ultimate Guide To WordPress Plugins
If you plan on starting a blog using WordPress, you need this. It’s the major difference between a blog that gets a few views as opposed to hundreds a day outside of compelling content. Using the right plugins in WordPress is imperative to that effort. This little guide documents the plugins that you must have by all means necessary and others that will tweak the blog beyond anything you could imagine. And it’s cheap.
The “They’re Free, so you might as well get them” tools.
A pretty amazing piece of software that is also completely FREE and is literally beaming with greatness. Plug in the keyword you want and you get a treasure trove of long tail keywords that your competitors are most likely missing. Then you can take that list and tweak it out, multiply results and much more. It’s free.
Another FREE program that does have a paid component for it, but it offers so much free content out of the gate, that it’s hard to ignore. You can get some pretty amazing information here from keyword research, code alteration, and some very valuable tips. And again, it’s free.
Google Keyword Research Tool
Google Adwords is imperative for anyone to use if you’re just starting online. This tool spits out arbitrary numbers, but it will tell you what keywords are the most competitive, which ones will eat you alive in click through cost, and what words no one is even bidding on. An invaluable FREE tool.
If you’re curious as to what people are searching for right now and what’s the most popular? Look no further than Google Trends. A glimpse at the most common searches at that given time. You can then use this info to write blogs or articles that are guaranteed to snag traffic.