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Real World Blackhat SEO and What You Need to Know

Gary R BealBlackHat SEO is the process by which you manipulate elements on a website that you believe, or were told, can actually affect your positions with search engine rankings like Google. This is also known as SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, GreyHat, and yes…WhiteHat. I’ve always tried to deliver information that Affiliates and Operators could put to use, rather than twist it in a ‘why they should hire me to do it?’ way. I’ve been heavily criticized for authoring many articles and conference sessions on many of these techniques.

Do I teach how to hack a WordPress site? No. But can we? You better believe it! Want to know how to run a constant DDOS attack or get a website de-indexed? I wouldn’t go that far because there’s always that one nefarious individual who’ll use it against you, and I talk about it so openly. This approach I’ve adopted has obviously given critics reasons to complain.

I have two problems with this criticism: firstly, I started as an Affiliate 20 years ago, so I understand how difficult it can be. Knowing what the competitors may be doing to hurt your income and having the ability to protect yourself should be a no-brainer. If you know what they’re doing or may do in the future, you can protect yourself and be proactive about it. I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Secondly, I do the work for the big guys and Affiliates do the work themselves. I can do this because typically, the giants have a ‘no brand-bidding clause’ in their Affiliate agreement. This doesn’t mean your competition/fellow affiliate isn’t targeting your website. It also doesn’t mean I can’t monitor new domain purchases and scoop your .net and .org or a ccTLD and hold you hostage or rank better than you for your brand and become an Affiliate.

Anything that increases rankings essentially qualifies for BlackHat status. When I write about BlackHat techniques I’m not referring to DDOS attacks, Spoofing or Trojan viruses. I’m referring to the type of rank manipulation,or BlackHat, that anyone can do: a competitor, an upset client or an ex-employee you fired.

The Real World Blackhat Effect

According to a Harvard University study, a single review on Yelp can affect your yearly income by 10%. Another showed that 80% of all online shoppers did their homework online, regardless of whether they actually bought it online or in the brick-and-mortar or offline store. One of the most seemingly “clean” dating sites, eHarmony has almost 2000 negative reviews on Yelp alone. Are the other hundreds of dating sites they compete against doing aggressive BlackHat or is eHarmony actually doing something to cause these? There are many causes, ranging from auto-pay issues to fake profiles. Every dating site has them. It’s inherent. Similar to cheats in online gambling, or Amazon con games that give step-by-step instructions for the Dark Net.

Websites like BlackHatWorld.com and fiverr.com can be used for this and many other services that can hurt your websites rankings and reputation. As an SEO Company that specializes in Reputation Management, we’ve seen these tactics becoming more common and successful. You can either be proactive or reactive. Guess which one is much more expensive? The most popular tactics which manipulate review websites are lesser used tactics (although very effective), like subdomain and subdirectory attacks. I mainly deal with Dating and Casino sites and trust me, there’s no-one more motivated than someone with a broken heart or empty wallet. These people are relentless and will stop at nothing to feel vindicated.

Apart from such types of negative content, your competitor is accountable for the other 40%, and will likely not surrender, unless they can afford a hundred dollars or so per month. Then there’s the issue of combating these attacks when (not if!), they happen. Moreover, there’s the matter of how the right prevention tactics can protect your websites – a well worth it to the investment.

Brand-Bashing Still Works

In certain cases, the internet is a useful consumer tool that puts us in the driver’s seat. As an Affiliate you have competition, as an Operator you have competition and Affiliates to contend with. You’re tasked with dominating the top 10-20 or become a part of that 10% statistic. Reduce your traffic and revenue by 10%, then factor that into a lifetime value… Many companies spend money for CRM and Social Media, yet spend nothing on proactive Brand Protection or reactive Reputation Management. In many cases, they have absolutely zero Engagement as well. Most Brand-Bashing is a result of an unhappy customer that can be made happy.

The Cost

The following is a list of realistic costs associated with negative content:

Payroll – what it costs to be reactive and pay staff to handle negative sentiment rather than spend their valuable time proactively creating positive sentiment and a game plan for engagement and retention.

Payoffs – many clients have elected to offer a payoff or return what this person spent. It’s just the cheapest and quickest way out in some costly circumstances. This is especially true for instances where we’re in the wrong.

Repeat Offenders – They did it once. Who says they can’t create a new Gmail account and repeat whatever they did before and hold you hostage again? However, this time, you have to pay in Bitcoin so you can’t track them and know it’s the same person. Rinse. Repeat.

DMCA – Digital Millennium Copyright Act – 1996 saw this ‘Supermarket Turtle’ rear its head in, ready for action. It can protect you against some of these negative tactics, but besides the average 2 months it takes to get it removed, there’s also the time and money it takes to enforce it by your staff.

Legal – The last and most expensive result. Most of the guys using Real World BlackHat know that a ‘Lawyer Letter’ means nothing. At best, it means they got your attention and are even more motivated. In the worst cases, it could even mean litigation or case filing costs.

And drumroll please….the top reason why being reactive rather than proactive is so expensive?

The Real Estate. Remember the 10% rule; One negative review in the top 10 results = 10% less revenue. Over time this will snowball and then you get two pages/websites at the top 10, then three. It’s all about protecting your real estate.

The Tactics

Besides the obvious places, negative content can end up in search results on such sites like Facebook Pages, Google+ and many other Social Media websites, there are a dozen other techniques anyone can implement. They can learn how to do it themselves on YouTube or they can pay someone to do it for them.

Below are the most common techniques used to steal your real estate:

Subdomain Hijacking/Injection – Imagine a well-ranked site that targets your niche, then add a subdomain. Later, host it on a server in your target geographic region and start building links on some of your other sites using your brand as anchor text, or not. You’ll rank top 10 for your brand or website. An even more seriously nasty tactic that is used along with the next one (WordPress Hacking) is when these guys find a WP security hole and exploit 100k sites running WP or a certain plugin, and then through this newly created back-end access, they add a hidden page the website owner never sees, but the Search Engine Spiders can see.

WordPress Hacking – Probably one of the easiest things to learn in terms of ‘actual’ hacking and can be found all over YouTube. Every time a WordPress update or one of the 15 ‘really cool’ plugins that enhance your site, appears, leaves a gaping hole. Take the easily obtained code and place it alongside the code of the old plugin. Note the differences and employ a good WP guy to find a vulnerability. From here, you can get into the site and change or delete pages, add a no-index command and get completely purged from search results.

Subdirectory Hijacking – There are dozens of people that are the equivalent of website hitmen, and they’re more than willing to sell their services. One of them can take a 50,000 website-strong network and inject 50,000 pages of scraped and scrambled content, putting your brand/website on a new optimized subdirectory page on their websites. No link, just your brand/website in the content and the URL.

Negative Link Buys – Everyone knows you can buy good links, but you can also buy bad links. Alternatively, you can use SEOMoz or Ahrefs and get a trust rank comparison and just choose the de-indexed, penalized or porn sites to post a link to you or the ranking page you have in the search results that you want gone.

Hate-Site Creation – Anyone can buy a domain (with or without your brand/website in the URL), host it and have a WordPress theme installed for under $50. Done correctly, this site can rank for your brand/keyword/domain, especially if you don’t have other pages in this real estate that outperform this new hate-site.

Startup Hijacking – So you spend your time and money obtaining all that’s required to get an Operators license and open a casino, or you’re an Affiliate that is going to market your site that reviews one of these niches. You can use one of the many free tools available to target keywords. DomainTools will email you whenever someone buys a domain with one of these keywords in the URL. Someone sets up a domain sniper that will automatically buy these domains for a few dollars. Now that person owns YourWebsite.net/.org/.co.

Automated Tools and BlackHat Networks – Remember it’s not always about a competitor trying to steal your real estate, it’s also about the haters that will inevitably wish to harm or steal your traffic. ScrapeBox, XRumer and SENuke are just a few of the tools meant for something other than BlackHat techniques when they were created, but they are widely used by the ‘guy next door’ that doesn’t know a thing about coding or hacking.

Review Websites – Sites like SiteJabber and TrustPilot are showing up in the top 20 results for almost every brand/ website search that has a review posted. They carry a lot of trust with Google and the other search engines. For a hefty and ongoing price, you can have some control over what’s posted about you, but again, the time and cost factors need to be considered in the overall business equation. Add to this to the powerhouse presence Social Media has become and the real estate thins significantly.

The Defense – Fortunately, most of these tactics can be proactively prevented from happening.

Subdomain Hijacking/Injection – Probably one of the worst and easiest methods because the only defense you have against this is reaction rather than prevention. Once you’ve been hit, the only way to fix it is by contacting each website via email or WhoIs Webmaster/Admin details and notify them of the page so they take it down. Usually, telling them it’s a scrambled/ spun mess of non-relevant content will motivate them to remove it. In some cases, there’s no one to do it. They paid a friend of a friend to install a WordPress site and it is still running an antiquated version of WordPress, the theme or a plugin. This means you may have to take the DMCA route through Google. But not updating it will just invite another attack.

WordPress Hacking – Personally I avoid WP whenever possible. Primarily because it can slow sites down for several reasons like running cache on them or code-heavy plugins, but also because it creates a need for additional security measures that cost money, and also constant updating that’s required depending on the number of plugins you have.

Subdirectory Hijacking – This can happen on a private network of their own, or on lots of sites running WordPress but not updating them or installing SiteLock or taking other security measures. But again, the only way to fix it is by contacting each website owner via email or WhoIs Webmaster/Admin details, and notifying them of the page so they remove it.

Negative Link Buys – Run a tool that analyses your backlinks once a week. SEOMoz, LinkAssistant and Ahrefs are among a few that can do a comparative analysis and identify the spammy links. Create a disavow file. This states you don’t approve the link. Be sure to disavow at the domain level to prevent future attacks and be careful when selecting links, because you can hurt your site if you’re lazy and don’t do the research.

Hate-Site Creation – These can get very serious because anyone can create them with little or no knowledge. If they find a few people that feel the same as they do then online sentiment starts to kick in and you get the ‘snowball effect’. It may not rank now, but let it get a few good backlinks and it comes out of nowhere. We’ve seen this time and time again. Remember, broken hearts and empty wallets are a big motivator – in some cases they replace searching for a date or a gambling habit.

Startup Hijacking – This one is easy. Someone buys the.org and .net domains for a few dollars, creates typepad or other simple site immediately. Add an RSS feed if you’re lazy or add content to the primary domain and forward the others. Do a few social bookmarks and manually submit it through Google Search Console to get it indexed and you’re good to go.

Automated Tools and BlackHat Networks – Because of the sheer number of tools and techniques widely available to the people looking for them, these networks and tools they use are constantly evolving. If you aren’t budgeting at least the same amount you do for CRM and legal networks/staff on Reputation Management and a proactive plan to defend your property, then you need to run the numbers and see for yourself why this is an essential part of your overall strategy.

Review Websites – I despise these sites. I despise them like I despise decaffeinated coffee and people who give me road rage. But alas, these are some things I cannot change. The difference is, that I can’t add caffeine to my coffee, or ask the turtle in front of me to move it along…calmly, but I can defend my rank status on most review sites. You must be prepared and have your Social Media and CRM people working together with your Rep Management people to proactively reduce your risk and exposure.

We use it for data analysis. And did I say it’s free forever? It’s software called WebGenius. It monitors a brand, website or even your name. Where most tools fall short is that they only use Google’s API. If the negative content is on a de-indexed page, you’ll never know about it. It still counts as negative sentiment and potential risk. Or maybe it gets re-indexed and suddenly appears. This tool covers all Search Engines, data centers, forums, blogs and 2-3 tiers deeper than the tools currently available. And they cost money! Negative content poses a potential threat. Create positive sentiment, engage with your client, and rule Social Media for your site or brand. This is how to protect yourself against Real World BlackHat.

Author: Gary R Beal, MD, Vanguard Online Media

This article was published first on SiGMA Magazine. The magazine was launched at SiGMA show last November. For SiGMA17 sponsorship opportunities click here.

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Erik Bergman

Erik Bergman, CEO of Catena Media will participate in the CEO panel speech about the bright future of affiliate marketing. Catena Media has grown from 3 employees in 2012 to 22 employees in 2014 and aim to keep the same high pace.

“We are reinvesting all our profits in the business and we are constantly looking for other affiliates that might be interesting options for mergers or acquisitions”, describes Erik. In May 2013 the site JohnSlots was founded. Already within its first year it became among the biggest online casino guides in Scandinavia and since then it has kept growing. In early 2014 the twin site of JohnSlots was launched, MrBet with the aim to duplicate the same journey,

“The key to success has been great content, and a lot of it. We have reviewed over 600 games in four different languages that all can be demo played on our sites. We have great relationships with over 75 gaming operators that help us contribute great offers to our visitors. These have been two of the main factors to the rapid growth of our company”, Erik explains further.

Gary R. Beal

Gary R. Beal has been in the Search Engine Optimization field for 15 years. He attended Ohio State University in the US and holds a Masters Degree in Biometrics and Mathematical Statistics.

Gary has spoken at Search Engine Strategies (SES) conferences, SMX London, EIG, G2E Vegas, Casino Affiliate Program/Conference (CAP & CAC) conferences around Europe, Social Networking and Dating conferences such as iDating and iGaming as well as the NMA show in London, and that was just in 2007.

Gary has also been on 4 expert SEO panels and has written specialised articles for multiple online marketing publications. His sessions are always the favourite according to attendees.

Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.

Are you an operator looking for top affiliates? Are you a top affiliate looking for a nice treat with like-minded affiliates playing at the same level?

Alex Sakota

Alex Sakota is an experienced speaker, organising and taking part in various major SEO seminars in Malta.

He specialises in Internet marketing services, including interactive advertising, pay per click advertising, banner ads, e-mail marketing, social, article and affiliate marketing, organic search engine marketing (including on and off site search engine optimization, organic searches and link popularity).

As a founder of Growth Hacker and High Creative, Sakota is running network of websites that receive over 3 million unique visitors per month where over 90% of traffic comes from search engines. Due to his own initiative, Sakota developed a plan for opening a new multimedia center in Belgrade with the budget of 5M, which was supported and financed by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Sakota has an extensive background of major computer software, hardware and LAN issues with expertise in SEO, including professional multimedia software on both Windows and Apple platforms.

Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.

Are you an operator looking for top affiliates? Are you a top affiliate looking for a nice treat with like-minded affiliates playing at the same level?

Sergio Montebello

Sergio Montebello is the founder and Managing Director of Fibonacci Marketing (www.fibonacci-marketing.com), a results-driven marketing agency specialising in SEO, content creation, social media management, web design and more. Since inception, Fibonacci Marketing has grown to service clients across Malta, the UK, USA, Canada, Singapore and the Middle East.

Sergio moved to Malta from London in 2013 following a successful career as the head of marketing for some of the world’s leading companies.

Content Marketing Trends for iGaming

Content Marketing Trends for iGaming 

For many iGaming websites, content writing is the cornerstone of their internet marketing strategy. Supplying a steady stream of original and useful material not only benefits gaming websites by boosting their search engine rankings, but also provides an important touchpoint between the brand and its customers.

The fields of content writing and content marketing have shifted and evolved greatly over the years, however the absolute majority of the iGaming business seems to be unaware of the marketing possibilities that lie beyond the published word, as well as the diverse ways that a single piece of content can be re-interpreted and re-used across a wide variety of channels.

 

Targeted content

No matter how original and well-written the content on your website is, it will be merely filling up real estate on your web pages if it doesn’t resonate with your players’ interests and goals.

Content writing must be targeted to the player, and the truth is your website doesn’t have a player but several sub-groups of players with different: histories (old vs new winners), bankrolls (high-rolling vs low-rolling), gaming behaviour (casual vs serious), and gaming preferences (casino vs sports betting).

Seeing your players through the prism of these four character dimensions reveals a spectrum of player types (at least 16 basic ones), each of whom should be addressed with a specific tone and type of content.

Therefore it is vital that promotions—and the way in which they are communicated—should be targeted according to the underlying psychology of the player segment being addressed in order to increase the likelihood of a positive response.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing

Going multimedia (and multi-channel)

The written word is a content writer’s speciality but it needn’t be their sole method of communication. Unfortunately, many gaming websites seem to lack the imagination necessary to promote the experiences they offer in more exciting ways.

The focus of internet marketing today is multimedia and the good news is that you can work with your content writer to develop written material that can then be adapted to new digital media formats.

Podcasts, video tutorials, webinars and webisodes are media that are greatly underutilised by the iGaming industry, which is still heavily reliant on text and graphics when communicating with players.

The new media mentioned previously are all based on written scripts which any expert content writer can create and that serve to literally give a distinguishing voice (or face) to your internet gaming outlet. The potential of these channels will be greatly enhanced since players are being offered a more interactive experience even before firing up the hit game you’re promoting.

 

The year of audiovisual

The year 2015 has been touted as the year of video by many marketing experts. The ease and variety of methods to distribute video content online has increased over the years. Now, video content is finally set to reach a tipping point and spill over into every internet business’s marketing plan.

At first glance, video content may seem far removed from the practice of content writing as most people know it. However, the ability to deliver a tight narrative which combines together elements of persuasion, education and entertainment is the hallmark of a professional copywriter. Therefore writing for internet video should be part of the expert wordsmith’s arsenal already.

iGaming companies mustn’t miss the opportunity to capitalise on this trend as early as possible, while the rest of the industry is still slumbering in a bed made of text and hyperlinks. Content writing is more versatile than commonly believed and it is both the suppliers’ and contractors’ loss that they aren’t exploiting its potential to the full.

 

Stronger social integration

Social is an important aspect of any iGaming website’s content strategy. In fact, the lines between content marketing and social media marketing have become increasingly blurred, since the same content can be repurposed under various guises and on various channels.

Key takeaways from an article published on your website’s blog can be tweeted one by one over a period of time – linking back to your original post, snippets from a video can be posted on Facebook or YouTube, and interesting quotes from a podcast can be superimposed onto images and uploaded on Pinterest.

As you can see, written content can be sliced up and distributed in different ways, but you shouldn’t be the only one pushing content around.

Giving your players the tools to spread the content you publish virally is a no-cost, all-impact addition to your marketing efforts, especially if you make the effort to create content that is genuinely entertaining and informative.

 

In summary

Remote gaming operators, just like their non-gambling counterparts, have seen their audience grow and diversify over the years, such that it is no longer advisable or sensible to keep adopting a one-size-that-fits-all attitude to marketing.

Tailoring content to target specific player segments is quickly emerging as an essential requirement in content writing briefs, in a bid to provide a more analytical context to content writing rather than approach it as a purely intuitive endeavour.

Furthermore, it pays to be bold and present content in different formats, giving the opportunity to brands to gain more leverage from the content they have written for them and exposing players to their messaging multiple times without fatiguing their customer base. Truly, the future of content writing is more than just words.

DIY SEO for brand & reputation management

In today’s dog-eat-dog world of online gambling, Brand Protection and Reputation Management has become one of the top “paid-for” services. Search Engine Optimisation (a.k.a. SEO), Paid Search, Email and Retention used to be the model of a successful internet marketing plan. In 2014 the spend on Reputation Management and Brand Protection has nearly equalled SEO and PPC spend for the companies that invest heavily online and offline to promote their brand. Add to this Social Media and you have a very full plate to be concerned about.

Brand Protection and Reputation Management are like driving a car; Better to be on the defensive, not the offensive side. Being proactive as opposed to reactive can mean thousands or millions, depending on your approach.

Brand Protection

Brand Protection is sometimes needed because someone is ‘cybersquatting’ on your domain name with a different extension (e.g..net, .it or .com.mt). They are either holding you hostage over the domain or, as an Affiliate or competitor, attempting to draw traffic by using your brand. It could even be a disgruntled but SEO-skilled individual as I have seen many times. But that’s more about Reputation Management and I’ll cover that later.

Proactive Strategy – The truth be told, anyone can buy a domain with your brand in the domain or not, have advanced knowledge of SEO and rank for your brand name. Then they either build traffic and attempt to sell you the site, or they sign up as an Affiliate through you or a third-party and steal your traffic. PPC, although not as effective as in the past, used to be a goldmine for this type of strategy: They bid on your brand.

The obvious solution is to copyright your name, regulate your A

Example: Dragonara Casino Search

Example: Dragonara Casino Search

ffiliate agreements and enforce the DMCA when necessary. The not-so-obvious solution is to use a domain monitor tool like DomainTools.com. This tool takes your brand (or keyword) and monitors any domain purchases that include it and notifies you. While this may not be a solution to the problem it gives you the information you need to know to help deter the buyer from DMCA actions. TIP – Google has a tool that will allow the site owner to manually remove a page/ website. This may be a useful if you have fallen in to the next category.

Reactive Strategy – In most cases the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can protect you against a direct violation such as using your copyrighted brand in their URL (website address), using your logo or selling your goods or services using your brand. Usually this can be accomplished without the “Lawyer Letter” needed in the past. In fact many blackhat SEO’s regularly send fake DMCA violation reports to big names like GoDaddy and 1&1 to get sites taken down for a short period. Unfortunately this ‘short period’ for some can amount to millions.

Reputation Management

Reputation Management is necessary in many situations. Some of the projects we have worked on have deserved the negative posts, whether from an individual, an organization or a watchdog site. Others are simply victims of a competitors questionable practices meant to slander their rivals in an attempt to scrape clients away from them. In either case we approach them the same.

I have seen these types of seemingly rare cases escalate into full-blown war, fuel a blow-back that cost a company millions, and yes, even put some out of business all together.

The internet and the inception of Social Media has changed the playing field from a one-on-one phone call or email, to a completely public forum where everything is exposed to the public and can sometimes go very wrong for a company if not handled appropriately. We have seen teams of people posting bogus negative reviews on websites like ScamVictimsUnited and SiteJabber and these same teams visit the other members posts and “agree’, ‘vote’ or ‘like’ them to the point that it takes on a viral head of steam that gets completely out of control. These services are for sale right now.

Unfortunately in some cases the company does not deserve this type of slanderous feedback, but a disgruntled punter on a gaming site, a guy that didn’t meet his soulmate on a dating site, or a traveller that got a bad waiter one night and they decided to vent it publicly. Even worse is that in this day and time in an online environment a company receives good feedback from 1 out of 10 clients. They receive bad feedback from nearly 8 out of 10.

Then you have the overly outspoken drama-king, the “I’m having a bad day” guy, or of course the individual that no one could ever please under any circumstances.

 

Proactive Strategy – Of course a proactive strategy is difficult to incorporate if you don’t know when or where this negative feedback will show it’s ugly head, but there are ways to proactively spend time putting things in place that could help minimize any negative aspects due to actions taken, or not taken on your part.

The first thing that we do before undertaking a new project is to evaluate the damage that is done. Not necessarily the story or the credibility behind it. (That is left for when everything else has been done and you just need to pay them off if possible, or make them happy…but we have never reached that point…knock on wood).

Then we look at the top 100 search results and categorise them into the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s the difference;

• The Good – Very few social media sites showing in top 10-20 positions. Neutral or positive comments/feedback or reviews – Proactive Campaign

• The Bad – A derogatory comment or single review ranking top 10 – Reactive Campaign

• The Ugly – Multiple negative listings in the top 1-20 results, multiple user-generated negative comments, bad reviews on review sites, negatives like WOT ratings and Google ratings/ votes, brand-smashing websites created by competitors, etc.

– Reactive Campaign: The Proactive strategy here is to dominate the top 5, then the top 10, then the top 20 for your brand search. The way we do this is by dominating search results with a mixture of social media, press releases, optimized images, pdf renderings, doc files, sub-domains, subdirectories, multibrand domains, multiple domain name extensions and aggressive posting on various other sites like Wikipedia that rank high due to natural trust and authority earned through Google algorithms.

The strategy here is to create and/or push your YouTube, Facebook, Twitter accounts, website images, press releases, reviews etc. up in to the top results because they represent your brand, and they will prevent a dual-listing from say a disgruntled client or an evil competitor from showing up in any search results.

These Social Media sites usually adapt a ‘DMCA-style’ approach. So if you have a copyrighted brand it is possible to get a rogue Social Media account (your brand) back, or even get these sites/accounts taken down or banned. Another proactive measure would be to monitor your brand on multiple levels. When your brand is mentioned you need to know about it…good or bad.

Google Alerts – Create a Google Alert to monitor your brand or website and email you immediately when it finds any results. This will be in real-time. When I have a new client the first thing I do is add multiple specialised and global monitoring tools;

• Technorati – Blogs

• YackTrack – Social Media

• TweetBeep – Twitter mentions

• Filtrbox – only delivers most relevant and credible mentions

• SocialMention – searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and microblogging services

All of these services can email or send you an SMS immediately. This is the best time to handle the problem. But if you are notified of negative content you have unfortunately dropped into the Reactive Strategy category.

Reactive Strategy – At the end of the day there will always be the one that you couldn’t manage to budge a bit. We have had situations where somehow someone upset a person to the point of no return, and even the offer of a cash settlement wasn’t an options. We have also had clients that had ruthless competitors that would stop at nothing to become more successful or hurt the clients rankings or reputation. Posting bad reviews, pointing bad links, hiring voter-teams to steer a negative results or creating a website specifically naming & shaming you, all of these are real threats.

Unfortunately in these cases, when you have done everything else you can to protect your interests, you need to fight fire with fire.

The mission here is to get the top 10 results showing for a brand search and purge the unwanted.

This is where SEO comes in to play.

You have a few options; black hat, grey hat, white hat, and the natural order of things. We are going to concentrate on the white-grey versions.

Pointing bad links using SENuke, posting banned keyword links on 1000’s of blogs with Scrapebox, buying nasty links through services on Fiverr or creating your very own relevant website network, get it penalised, then starting your own little blackhat network is not what I want to tell you about… that’s Blackhat after all.

Google’s Universal Search and their endless updates (the last being the 4.1 Panda) mean that fresh, quality content from trusted sources are websites that carry an unnatural bit of Google Goodness and are considered to be more trustworthy and authoritative in Google’s eyes. Done tactfully you can create or push more of your desired results in to the top 10.

In a few cases we have even created sites that rank top 10 for a certain brand to fill the results with positive content.

Some examples of these sites are Facebook (Pages and Corporate), Twitter, LinkedIn, PRWeb, ABNewswire, Local Directories, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, VK (Russia), Flickr, Vine, Google Images, Google News, Wikipedia and PPC.

All of these referrer sites have the potential for a top 10 listing for your brand, but keep in mind that many websites dominate the rankings with their brand and brand strength. 888 Casino for instance dominates the results with alternate properties as well as subdomains. A search will result in these sites as the top 5 on Google;

1. 888Casino.com 2. 888.com 3. us.888.com 4. 888games.com 5. 888casino.sg There are very effective ways to duplicate this strategy and even take it to the next level and dominate the top 10 with nothing but brand and positive non-brand results.

Conclusion

Losing a top 3 position to negative feedback can be a huge blow. The top 3 non-paid results are funnelled-out to thirdparty sites like iWon, Netscape and AOL.

Additionally they take that traffic from your website. This could amount to thousands of visitors. Losing one spot in the top 10 results can also result in an equal loss, especially if the culprit knows what they are doing and create a damning headline like “YourCasino.com is a Scam!”, so it is important that your strategy towards online marketing includes not only a budget for SEO and PPC, but also content, social media, brand protection and reputation management.

Many companies have watched their hard-earned foundations crumble or revenue earnings undermined due to poor Reputation Management and negative content and/or poor Brand Protection due to a lack of attention.

Cybersquatting, a few indiscriminate Affiliate sites, and competitor efforts prey on these types of companies and look for the weak spots. Many could have been prevented. (i.e. UltimateBet) Get your overall website health in check, monitor 100% of what is online in real-time, take control of the assets you have accessibility to, and have an emergency fund set aside for this sort of thing in case it comes to a worst-case-scenario situation.

At the very least I recommend you have a full-time internal or external Brand/Reputation Management Specialist in your operating budget.

This person/Department/Agency handles everything I have mentioned here, but most importantly he/she/they have experience in negotiation and are very detailed. But most importantly they are not afraid to use hardcore methods required sometimes to win. Put a plan in place now rather than later.

Consider what a few months of losing 40% of your revenue is worth…This is your annual BPRM budget. It is significantly easier and faster to act proactively rather than spending a lot more on fixing the problem already in place. As an Agency 100% of our clients have consistently required problem-fixing rather than defending themselves against these increasingly common negative tactics.

Like they say, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”. Unfortunately the majority of our clients are in the reactive category. And that gets expensive.

This article was submitted by Vanguard Online Media, a specialist in Gaming SEO.

 

Julia Logan: Are link intelligence tools becoming obsolete?

Ever since Yahoo! stopped supporting the linkdomain: search operator back in 2010, link intelligence tools have become a necessity for most online marketers. With links being an integral part of any ranking algorithm (up to this day, despite all the changes and updates), knowing what links to a site is a clue into ranking successfully.

Traditionally, link intelligence tools have been used for competitor research – if you know what a successfully ranking site is doing (and doing = building links), you know what you can do to achieve the same results. As of lately, since links became not only a ranking factor but also a large penalty factor, a different need arose for these tools: controlling the quality of your own site’s link profile.

However, when we look at a site’s backlink profile, are we really seeing the complete picture?

Take a look at some highly competitive SERPs and then check the backlink profiles of the top sites ranking on the first page – you will likely see thousands if not hundreds of thousands backlinks. But every once in a while, you can spot a link profile like this:

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Seriously? 620 links off 36 domains – and this site is ranking for a really competitive keyword? How did they do it?

We are missing one very important point here. Look further, and you will likely see a breakdown like this:

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Redirects, here is the clue. And never mind that you are only seeing 2 of them, in all likelihood there are more redirects in this site’s inventory (I would not even call it a link profile) than actual links. Problem is, no existing link intelligence tool is good at detecting them. Why?

Backlink tools are just that – tools designed to discover a site’s links. Redirects are a completely different animal. There are various ways to redirect URL A to URL B, including but not limited to: 301 and 302 (implemented via .htaccess), meta refresh, Javascript redirects, all sorts of conditional redirects and so on. To add to the hassle, there can be multiple redirects connected into a chain where URL A redirects to URL B which then redirects to URL C (this can go on for any amount of steps). Link intelligence tools have not been built for the task of discovering, dissecting and tracking down all different kinds of redirects, and although some of them are trying to catch up, this is not a trivial task and a lot of ideological as well as algorithmic questions have to be answered to build a suitable working solution.

The linking landscape has changed a lot in the last few years since Google has started its war on links. Ironically, the idea of punishing for low quality links has brought about an unseen amount of workarounds – not cleaner SERPs as Google was hoping.

Various redirects are just one of them. They haven’t been invented recently of course – but never before have we witnessed such a widespread use of redirects. To avoid penalties, some website owners have started using secondary throwaway domains, building links to them and then redirecting these domains to the main domain. If a site was caught by Google and penalized, all its owner had to do is remove the redirect. When buying aged domains with strong link profiles has become cheaper, easier and less risky than trying to do clean linkbuilding to your own site, more online marketers started doing just that – buying aged domains and redirecting them to their money sites. When redirecting a penalized domain to a new one began being perceived as a way to get rid of a penalty, this yet another reason to use redirects has further spurred their popularity.

But it is not just barely detectable redirects that dim the picture as we look at sites’ backlink profiles. The ability to disavow links, introduced by Google in October 2012, has been an enormous game changer. Initially promoted as “webmaster’s best friend” for cases when link removal (e.g. when trying to remove a penalty) was not possible, it soon started getting used and abused in ways never imaginable before. Good sites are getting disavowed along with bad sites, whole domains as well as individual URLs, and it’s all based purely on each site owner’s subjective judgement and often complete lack of understanding. The impact of the disavow tool is likely much larger than most people are willing to admit. Essentially, we are dealing with a giant black box: we do not know what goes into it, we don’t know what rules are applied inside, we don’t know if/when our disavow requests are granted, we don’t know how many disavow submissions make a site “bad” in Google’s perception and how it can influence all the other sites linked to from it, not just the site on whose behalf the disavow request is submitted. By looking at a site – any site – there is no way to tell whether or not it has ever been disavowed. And that’s where it becomes scary.

The World Wide Web has been called the World Wide Web for a reason – essentially, it IS a giant web where all things are connected to each other. It is built with links, links between URLs are its living matter.

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Long before links became a ranking factor, they became the building material of the web. Long after Google is no longer around, links will still be there. EVERYTHING is connected to EVERYTHING and depends on EVERYTHING. Destroy links, and the web will be destroyed. Come up with as many alternative ranking factors as you can, links will still be there and they will still be important because they make up the World Wide Web.

Policing the links is the worst thing anybody could ever come up with. First assigning the links a meaning that was never meant (links as votes), then distorting that meaning and making it impossible to even approximately evaluate it. Unless Google decides to open its black box and share the data, we will never know what is really going on inside – and no link tool can help us here. Google itself could probably provide an adequate link tool presenting clearly all these data – but Google historically has been notorious for hiding the link data rather than sharing them.

Does all of this mean link intelligence tools have now become obsolete? Absolutely not.

As I mentioned above, one of the important uses of link tools is controlling one’s own link profile. Getting penalized is easy, removing a penalty is a tedious job never guaranteed to bring the desired result, and it is solely the responsibility of a site owner to keep a close eye on what is going on with their link profile.

Case in point: negative SEO attempts. Just to be clear, negative SEO is a very real threat, although it is not only about links, and not every negative SEO attempt is successful. But because of a few articles that have been making rounds, many people believe negative SEO is as easy as pointing a few spammy links at a site, and that type of negative SEO attempts accounts for the largest part of all negative SEO ever becoming discoverable.

Link intelligence tools can be very helpful in detecting such link based attempts. A sudden spike in link acquisition coupled with unrelated to the site’s topic anchor texts are usually a good indicator of some of the more uncanny attempts:

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Moreover, these signals, coupled with a specific URL being linked to by the attacker, often serve as a “signature” allowing to trace it back to its originator.

Link audits are a vital procedure that should be done not once or twice but regularly as a prevention measure. Most site owners only decide to audit their links after a penalty has happened or a site’s rankings have dropped for some other reason, when in fact this is already too late. Timely detection of an issue can help solve it faster and easier.

But any tool is only as good as the person using it. Link audits should never be run by inexperienced interns or outsourced on the cheap. I have seen link removal requests resulting from poorly done link audits, ridding a site of its best links – not by some evil competitor but by the site’s own SEO team. Hiring an experienced consultant, ideally somebody specialized in link audits, is bound to be an expensive procedure, but there is no other way to do it properly. No automated tool kits, no amount of articles written on the topic of link audits on SEO sites can replace the experience, sharp eye and often even intuition of a true professional. We are dealing with fragmented information scattered all over the place in no logical order, and unless you can put it all together and read a site’s link profile like a book, don’t even attempt it.

The purpose of a good link intelligence tool is much more than just scraping the web and detecting the HTML syntax for links. A good link intelligence tool should be also capable of detecting and analyzing connections, dependencies, relationships between sites, evaluating links and other factors influencing the site and coming up with adequate metrics connected to existing search realities formally describing the results of these evaluations. The best link intelligence tools – such as MajesticSEO – are already evolving in this direction, but it is still a long and complicated way they need to make to get us closer to understanding the web better. The scientific foundation for this ongoing development is just beginning to be created and will no doubt involve the brightest minds.

 

This article by Julia Logan, aka the Irish Wonder, was first published on SiGMAgazine, Issue 1. Cover image credits: Jackie Hole. Cover image source: www.stateofdigital.com

WATCH: SiGMA interviews SEO expert Lukasz Zelezny, uSwitch

Following his contribution at SiGMA panel discussion entitled “Bet, Call, Check your SEO activity & Get the Best Possible link: 30 Factors in 30 minutes”, SiGMA interviewed Lukasz Zelezny, director of acquisition at uSwitch.

Lukasz Zelezny

Lukasz Zelezny is the head of organic acquisition at uSwitch.com, a UK based price comparison website with offices in London. Leading his team, he is responsible for the uSwitch.com brand’s organic visibility, conversion rate, traffic and engagement. Lukasz is a hands-on person, he spends lots of his time keeping up to date with the changes in the technology of online marketing.

Lukasz started his career in 2005 and has since been responsible for the organic performance of a number of companies including HomeAway, Thomson Reuters, The Digital Property Group and Fleetway Travel.

He is a graduate from the Silesian University of Technology with a BA in Marketing.

Twitter: @LukaszZelezny