Friday, October 18, 2013

As SEO Dies a Certain Death, SEO Marketers are Getting Savvier–Are Bloggers Being Deceived?

With page rank drops heard around the world, many bloggers and site owners have felt the wrath of Panda and Penguin penalties.

Like me, many bloggers are adopting no “do follow” links policy when working with companies. I do not allow for do follow links in any capacity in an effort to maintain the integrity and quality of my blog. I don’t even apply do follow links to sites that I do own and operate separately. The only time I do follow a link is when referring to another page or post on my site.

The results have been pretty good. I’ve maintained my PR status and gained more traffic. I often wonder about those who have built a career around do follow link building will do, now that SEO has died a certain death, and the age of social media marketing has arrived, new tactics for gaining quick and easy page rank has seemed to come to fruition.

Are Guest Bloggers Really Who They Say They Are?

What I can say for sure is that they have become savvier, if not more aggressive. I have experienced quite a few SEO marketers bordering on the fringes of harassment with constant trips to my blog to publish badly written comments with hyperlinks, clearly ignoring commenting policy. One person was so aggressively insistent on publishing hyperlinks, I had no other recourse, but to contact the site he was trying to link to in an effort to stop the ridiculous attacks. He has not since been back.
Recently, I’ve been alerted to a new tactic that I believe has been deceptive to bloggers and site owners alike. Let me explain. This is a true story. Actual names have been changed.

A few months ago, I was contacted by someone, we’ll call her Mary D., who claimed to be a freelance writer and wanted to pen a guest blog. Her only request was that she would be allowed to link to her website and in return, she would promote the post via a “social media campaign”.

She reiterated that she did not want to be paid, although I never heard of the practice, she simply wanted exposure for her site. Mary directed me to her very impressive profile page which displayed samples of her equally impressive writing. Her writing had relatable content that I thought would be a good fit for my site and readers. I asked Mary where the links would be headed to since she did not mention a site and what exactly the social media campaign would entail.

She explained that she would link to two sites, one was XYZ pharmacy and another was a retail site of sorts. Odd choices I thought, but her writing was that of quality. I replied with my stipulations of no-follow links and never received a response back.

Last week, I received another request for guest posting. Valerie C. was her name. The email dripped with Deja vu. Valerie, like Mary, had x amount of children. One with special needs. And like Mary, Valerie was just a simple freelance writer who was simply looking for exposure for her site. However, Valerie asked to link to her company in her author bio. I did a quick search for my email correspondence with Mary and noted how remarkably similar the pitch was, right down to the email subject heading. I decided to investigate.

When I landed on Valerie’s site, my jaw dropped. The profile picture I was looking at was the same profile picture of that on Mary’s site. Although both profiles read fairly the same, Mary’s profile indicated marketing and SEO skills. I decided to read Valerie’s sample writings. Which were, by the way, written on some pretty reputable sites. In the articles I noted two things; in her author bio in some articles, she uses Mary’s profile picture. She claims she is a freelance writer and writes for XYZ pharmacy, the same pharmacy, Mary said she would be linking to in her guest post for my blog.

Interesting coincidence.

I reviewed my email correspondence with Mary. I noted her email signature indicated she owned XYZ Media company (no direct link although). After doing a good old-fashioned Google search for XYZ Media, lo and behold Mary, with Valerie nowhere in sight, has several social media sites, including a Linked In profile!  Mary/Valerie’s picture along with her in-depth profile explains her skills in Penguin Penalty removal and guest blog link building. It’s all crickets when it comes to being a simple freelance writer.

With full knowledge of the deceptive dual personalities, I replied to Valerie’s request asking what links she would be using in her post. I’ve yet to hear back from her. I don’t expect to. I’m sure she knows I was reading her (Mary’s) Linked In profile!

Clearly, the companies the hire XYZ Media are keeping their hands clean in this link scheme...for now. This deceitful, aggressive linking building method is completely disrespectful to the hard work and effort we put into our sites to ensure quality. Not to mention jeopardizing the quality of our content by misrepresenting themselves as an “author”, thus jeopardizing our reader’s trust in us by providing them with factual information from trusted sources.

By the way… XYZ Pharmacy has a page rank of 7. This unassuming website has an astronomical PR of 7! How many unsuspecting blogs and sites have been juiced for that page rank?

It is unethical. SEO marketers must disclose any relationship they have with any links or companies they intend to promote, just as bloggers are required to disclose any promotional relationship to their audience. We have the right to accept or deny any links with full knowledge.

Bloggers and site owners, my advice to you, if you have not adopted a no-follow links policy, I suggest you do. Be fully aware of what links will be published and who they direct to. This is a fantastic way to weed out marketers with unethical motives, potentially saving your site from any potential penalties from Google. Work with companies that are just happy to have the exposure you provide.

Businesses, my advice to you… learn to optimize your own site and put forth your own effort into writing that unique, quality content that brings the boys to the yard. The simple and best way to optimize your site….give Google what it wants, common-sense, relevant, ethical, non-page-rank-manipulating content. It’s just that simple. You can even hire a blogger to blog for you! I promise you, hiring spammy, grammar-broken commenters reflects poorly on your business. You’re actually paying to have your reputation smeared.

Optimizing your site without questionable SEO marketing services may not be the quickest way, but it is the right way. If you do not have the content that lands you on the first page of a search of relevant keywords; then you do not belong there. Period.

Please note: It is against my personal policy to “call out” anyone publically. If you are familiar with the person I speak of in this post and would like to comment, I ask that you maintain the persona I’ve created in this post. It was a great dilemma I’ve decided to write about my personal encounter with XYZ Media. The actions of XYZ as I’ve experienced and seen through my preliminary investigation compelled my responsibility to warn publishers like myself of these deceptive tactics.


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