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I am algo proof

 2:27 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Every two years Google throws in a big change to their algo. They pick the latest thing they don't like and blow the crap out of a bunch of sites. Lots of people get hit.

This process scares the bejeepers out of me. In fact, I lived in fear of the algo for years to the point I wouldn't even meddle in anything less than pure.

I've attempted to make my main site resistant to algo changes. Initially this started out by being whitehat, that's no longer the case. I'm not blackhat, I simply do what works now, and what I expect to work in the future.

Let's discuss specific techniques we can use to keep our sites immune from the next algo shift. How do we build sites so that our rankings don't drop at Google's whim?

- my backlinks are relevant. Not all are from within my niche,but if not, they are from niches that touch my niche - either up or downstream, or sideways. And by relevant, THEIR backlinks must be relevant as well - otherwise the site isn't relevant. For example I've got links from statisticians in my industry. And there's a lot of them - no SEO company has ever gone near this entire community. I wallow in it.
- I get links where SEO companies can't get them. One at a time. Quality over quantity, blah blah blah. What I'm doing is not leaving a traceable footprint. SEO companies must automate across industries in order to scale. I don't scale anything - I am an expert and do everything one-up. Even if a competitor paid to have an SEO company do one-ups, they still have to find someone who can do the one-up work AND is expert in the vertical. Not going to happen.
- Directories only count if they fall into three categories. 1) ultra high quality. that means there are only two left. DMOZ and BOTW. Do both. BOTW is paid, just pay it. DMOZ, I already posted how anyone can get a dmox listing if you care to read the link forum. 2) niche, directories related exclusively to your niche. 3) regional directories. Directories in your town or state.
- Buy links. But don't buy links where anyone else buys a link or using methods anyone else uses. Call someone with a clean site that doesn't sell links to anyone, ever, and strike a deal to be the first.
- never do the same thing three times. Twice, OK. Three times, nope. If you're going to do paid postings, do it only a wee little bit. If you're going to do directories, do only a wee little bit. And then STOP. Do something else. Research or dream up some other way to get links. This isn't easy - and it's darn tempting to throw another shovel full of dirt on the pile - but you're digging your own grave.
- network. I call my competitors and chat. AND share. I learned that trick from someone in my industry who calls and feeds me info. No SEO company is going to do that. And Google can't track it, there's no footprint. I just got an email right now from a direct competitor. Wants my advice on whether to buy a BOTW listing. I will answer him honestly. (he's also given me some wild insider information on one of my competitors online activities in the past)
- network in areas that touch your vertical. I just got offered a link in an article that's liable to go frontpage of a national ISP. Because I called someone not directly in my niche, gave them some value and asked for a link. They wouldn't give me a link, I got this offer instead. It's better.

- do nothing for Google's benefit. And keep onpage SEO to an absolute minimum. I am the village idiot of SEO. If google does a hand review of my site, I want to look like someone who doesn't have a clue. I don't want them to smell SEO. So I don't link out, I don't do sweet in content links (or rarely). I don't use nofollow - I've never even heard of nofollow. I don't even know what their guidelines are - that's how dense I am. I build my onpage stuff to look like it's 1998.

More precisely, I don't follow anything technical. The smell test is, "does this make sense to someone else looking at it?". If so,then it's quality. I can't outwit Google. Instead, the pointyheads heads at Google can then figure out how to make my site rank. They don't always do so - but by taking this approach if I'm not ahead of the curve, at least I'm not ON the curve - I'm diverse enough that I don't get whacked.
I also have to work beside my competitors who use SEO companies. The SEO companies know more about link building generally than I ever will, and about onpage optimization, and so on. I can't compete. So what have I got? No SEO company knows more about my niche than I do, nor do they know more people in my niche. They are SEO experts. I am an expert of my vertical niche. Lots of what I do centers around that.

So in terms of content, I create calculators on stuff nobody else has even thought of. I write articles on topics others won't do. Articles take me 1-3 weeks to write and sometimes involve programmers, accountants, and lawyers.

e.g. If you're a mortgage broker, you'll write an article on las vegas mortages. Or cheapest mortgage rates. I would never have that stuff on my website. I would rather pay a statistician to analyze recent mortgage trends and find out if it was better to lock in your rate for 1 year or 5 year period. Or compare how amortization schedules vary from different countries (interest on mortgages is calculated differently in different countries BTW). 99 mortgage brokers write articles targetted at search terms. I write articles that nobody searches on, but my visitors find interesting and can't be found anywhere else - I leverage my expertise.

I'll do all that other stuff generalized stuff that others do, but not on my main website.

- listen to blackhats, spammers, affiliates, anyone that you want to have a lack of respect. Watch what they do. Clean it up, brush it off, make it respectable. I'm not going to give specifics, but my best, most 'white hat' ideas come from the nether regions of the web. Spinning - it's automated and it sucks. Can you make it automated but not suck? Article directories, low quality crap. Can you do it with high quality? I'm an expert in my niche and well networked, maybe I can.

- One site? Hardly. You will get whacked. It's not if, it's when. I guaran-freackin-intee it. I have at least two sites that have seperate backlink profiles and content. They rank OK. They are ready for a push for the day when I do get whacked. Behind that, I have a half dozen old, well backlinked sleeper sites ready for strong content and a push, sites I've gathered or bought through the years. Behind that I have numerous one trick pony websites that help diversify my traffic. Combinations of {color}{widget}{demographic}{niche} make for interesting sites. I am not algo proof - I am algo resistant, with a backup plan. I'm not that smart, but I'm prepared.

In short, leverage your expertise that SEO companies don't have. Do lots of different things, and not much of anything specific. Network. If you leave footprints, make them small, and leave lots of different profiles. If Google dials down one profile, you don't get hit hard. If Google dials up another profile at the same time, you'll benefit.

that's some of what I do. What've you got? How can we make our sites proof against an unknown future algo change?

Note to mods: resist the urge to modify my title to something more palatable to the masses :).



 5:43 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nice, Wheel. I tend to agree with you and I also have not lost a site since the disaster called Florida. After that, I changed my approach.

That said, many people are feeling the pressure of clients that want something done ASAP. They are seeking answers to a question that hasn't even been fully developed because clients are panicking. Often, clients want things done their way - even when told of the risks.

Tread easily on others as SEO business dealings with clients is MUCH different than building your own website.


 6:04 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not talking about current fixes - I can't help. I'm talking about strategies we can use to ensure this doesn't happen again.

I've mentioned things I do. What can an SEO company do to ensure this doesn't happen to their clients? Remember, we don't know what the next target will be - could be any attribute.


 6:22 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I do some of what you do. Don't do a lot with links. I mean, obviously I try to make content that's linkable, but as far as clients, 65% of my work is B2B, which doesn't lend itself to a lot of links. I do a lot less "SEO" than people would think (probably more webmastering than SEO) But mostly I try to create an environment that would make it seem ridiculously unthinkable for the sites over which I have some control NOT to be found in search engines.

Florida was actually when my first important site popped up to the top.


 6:26 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

my work is B2B, which doesn't lend itself to a lot of links.

I claim my industry, consumers won't link to it. So instead, I use my competitors - b2b for links. Who's got relevant websites for links? My competitors do. I spend quite a bit of time keeping in touch with my competition, sharing both ways. And once in a while, asking for a link.


 6:43 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sooooo much more diplomatic wheel, I'm not sure if you get a +1 for that or not! LOL Nice post again, and thanks for sharing ... There are some good ideas, advice and plans in there.


 6:48 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nice post Wheel. Based on my success for the past 10 years, I'd have to say that we see eye to eye. I have also tried to work closely with competitors. Many have been very receptive and we email/chat often. We don't tattletale or fill out spam reports. We also try to be trailblazers with respect to our backlink profiles, but unfortunately there will inevitably be those who link chase and end up duplicating every move you make. I've got my active sites and my sleeper sites and they are ready to jump into action.


 6:51 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hey there, wheel:

Thanks for the info and inspiration (again).

I do have to point out one thing though:

Your description of "success' might not be the same as someone elses description.

Someone more entrepreneurial than you or I might say that your methods leave a lot of money on the table. They might prefer a slash-and-burn method; after all, domains are cheap. Hosting is cheap. Links are cheap. content is cheap.

mahalo or suite101 might find it more profitable to get as much money as they can, and when they get slammed by google, reinvent themselves. It will be costly to do so, but if they made enough money during the good times, it could still be a very effective business model.

I am not defending their actions. And I applaud your methods (which I am trying to incorporate into my own strategies). It's just that the big money people in this game would look at the money you DIDN'T make as being LOST revenue.

Thanks again and keep the good stuff coming.


 6:53 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure if you get a +1 for that or not!

Just do it, MadScientist! :)

(First time I saw you do it in a thread, nearly fell out of my chair laughing, since I had just finished reading the thread about the whole google +1 phenomena.)


 7:10 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I claim my industry, consumers won't link to it. So instead, I use my competitors - b2b for links.

We have a few of those, as in some cases competitors are also suppliers or customers. But for the most part, that's not my call. And in two particular areas, my clients are so solidly on top of the niche that #1 the competitors pretty much hate them and #2 their online presences are so pathetic that links would probably not be of much value anyway.


 7:11 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree with much of that, especially the part about not doing too much of one thing. I have seen people post hundreds or thousands of articles in an article directory with links pointing back to their site. If Panda didn't hit them, I bet some future algo iteration will devalue their site.


 7:13 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)


Planet13 Glad I could give you a laugh ... I actually like ours better than G's, it's so much more 'old school' ... lol


 7:15 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've mentioned things I do. What can an SEO company do to ensure this doesn't happen to their clients? Remember, we don't know what the next target will be - could be any attribute.

Sometimes, nothing. One of my clients (a large publishing company) recently began to have unusual fluctuations in the SERPs. After looking into it a programmer had "heard that keywords were great for SEO" so he decided to do something about it (in large companies it's very hard to have all things relating to the website get checked off by the SEO team).
This programmer added new fields in the website template and encourage people to stuff in their favorite keywords. He then did something similar to this across hundreds of pages - <span style="Google keyword">blah blah</span>. Basically, he would surround the keyword with the span and stuff it in pages.

They are recovering from that misstep, but if Google had turned the dial the wrong direction at that moment it may have been catastrophic.

Sometimes, you just weather the storms...


 8:28 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nice post wheel. Very nice.


 8:35 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I tend to agree with the concepts of moderation, diversification and the regular addition of unique content providing stability in the SERPs.

I mildly disagree with the directory aspect. Historically, a DMOZ listing would lead to a site being listed in "B" or lower grade directories using DMOZ as a seed. To the best of my knowledge that never hurt anyone. I'm not opposed to one way links from smaller directories, but I'd never link back and I do look very strongly at review fees if they are charged. A $5 review fee isn't somewhere I want to be, if it's more than $30, then I'm going to look a lot closer at overall value. I really don't see a downside as long as it's part of an overall package and not the exclusive method of link building.


 8:37 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

[irony]Wheel do you have to keep telling us how wonderful you are ![/irony]

+1 btw

ps - I prefered your original title


 8:55 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Much better than the post that got deleted.


[edited by: kd454 at 9:11 pm (utc) on Apr 5, 2011]


 9:11 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Good post; as others have said, better than the post that got deleted. So good in-fact that it's already at three +1s. I'll add to that:




 9:56 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd say anyone that gets a majority of traffic from search is not algo proof.

Now if you have a newsletter with a quarter million subscribers or a facebook page with 50,000 fans I would say you are more algo proof. Or any other non-search sources of traffic as the majority of your visitors. That is where real stability comes in.

My newsletter is only 10,000 strong but my goal is 100,000. Then I will feel algo proof. :-)


 12:57 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Great post. I have to say though, any good "SEO company" should be doing all of these things. A SEO consultant doesn't necessarily have to be an expert in your vertical, but they should have the skills to research the vertical extensively and create a custom plan. He should also be able to utilize the expertise of employees of his client, seeing content and link opportunities and putting them to work.

I don't believe in worrying about footprints, but I do believe in keeping things natural. Do what makes sense for the end user and you'll be on the right track. That means useful content and information architecture that makes sense for the end user.

For links, just concentrate on editorial links. There are always non-editorial links that are easy to build up in bulk, but the engineers at Google know about these and they hope to someday devalue them. We saw it with reciprocal links, the addition of nofollow and most recently you saw the article sites get hit.


 1:18 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

do nothing for Google's benefit.

That is such a brilliant counter-intuitive insight that too many of us (including myself) came to understand too late in the process. Who woulda' thought that doing what Google implies it wants is potentially disastrous? The line of people testifying to that exact experience is very, very long. Makes me wish I had thought of wheel's "Village Idiot Strategy" years ago.



 2:21 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Good post; as others have said, better than the post that got deleted. So good in-fact that it's already at three +1s. I'll add to that:



Remember when Digg was the rage? I would sometimes watch someone give an aritlce a +1 and then someone else would come along and knock it down one. LOL


 5:13 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Great post...noted...thanks


 5:46 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am algo proof

Are Not! lol


 5:58 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

It might be better, as long as search traffic matters for your business, to think "I have been algo-proof so far". However, all the steps you describe certainly sound like a good mind set. You may have missed some traffic windfalls by not looking for algorithm loopholes you could exploit, but you did build a stable business.


 5:58 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Great post wheel I'm more than happy to run some "tests" on your URL - :)


 7:06 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

You may have missed some traffic windfalls by not looking for algorithm loopholes you could exploit, but you did build a stable business.

He said he's used them, just not on his main site. I'm personally a fan of this approach if it's actually going to be beneficial.


 2:28 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm scared too. The result is that I am extremely hesitant to touch my best site at all for fear my rankings, and thus my traffic, will fall. It's not broken, it's working, and even writing a new article changes the internal links dynamics so I hate even writing new content.

Ultimately I find myself working on my #2 and #3 sites almost exclusively to bring multiple sites up to the same success level because I just don't feel safe with only one site performing extremely well. The 2nd and 3rd sites aren't even related to the first in any way, in fact they are as different as I could muster.

I'd rather work on just one site, but I can't get wiped out in one blow. Family depends on me. That feeling wasn't as strong even 2 years ago and Panda put it over the top.

I've embraced social media with good results recently and am looking to algo proof myself further, which isn't great news for Google either.


 2:34 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks Wheel, Your posts and contributions are proof of how serious you take writing. Thanks for the inspiration too.

creative craig

 4:20 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Bookmarked for a time when I can go through your post in more detail!

So much to digest there :)

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