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SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

by Jonathan Barrick

Ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be from XYZ Digital Web Services who’s been researching your company’s website on Google and noticed that it isn’t on page 1 for important keywords? Then they’ll kindly tell you that they can help get you ranked on the first page of all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? After all, it’s a lot of work to get on page 1 of Google. You’re competing with all the really big sites for those top spots, and it’s a real tough fight!

There’s just one problem: They get you there by flooding the internet with garbage. It’s called ‘Black Hat SEO’, and it is the scourge of internet marketers worldwide. It relies entirely on exploiting search engine algorithms for their loopholes and selling these tricks as legitimate services to unsuspecting companies. The newspaper backlinks from Freshlinks is what one could check out when it comes to link building.

For example, let’s look at one of the most common exploits employed by these scammers: Backlinks. Most seasoned SEO pros (see more about it)will tell you of the importance of backlinks. These are links found on other sites that point back to yours. In a nutshell, the more backlinks you have, the better. The quality of those backlinks is the second half of the equation. Backlinks to your site that are found on popular, relevant websites are worth far more in the eyes of search engines than those found on sites that have nothing to do with your company or industry. With the help of SEO services like sirlinksalot you can grow your website.

However, these SEO magicians that claim to boost you to page 1 on Google simply ignore the ‘quality’ side of the equation and just go after ‘quantity’. They employ their armies to scour the internet for any blog or website that allows comments to be posted, and randomly post gibberish text containing links to your site. These poor victim sites and blogs end up with junk comments piling up on their posts, with little else they can do but manually delete each one. Often times they slip by unnoticed, perpetuating the problem for everyone.

There are a few telltale signs that comments are being posted by a link farmer. Often riddled with horrifying grammar and spelling mistakes, within each comment there will inevitably be a backlink embedded in to the text of the comment so that it doesn’t immediately get caught at a glance. You actually need to read it to be sure of what it is. Once you do, you’ll notice how completely irrelevant they are to the content of the original post. When it comes to spreading the word on a service or product, getting target customers and understanding the basics of building a connection with them is important.

Fortunately, Google and other search engines aren’t just sitting on their hands. They don’t want their systems gamed any more than we do, so they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to close loopholes and make results increasingly more ‘real’ based on what you’re looking for.

Often times what happens with companies who fall victim to link farmers and Black Hat SEO will notice a massive drop in their rankings whenever Google releases a new major update to their algorithms. This is because whenever those exploits and loopholes get closed, Google slams the door really hard on sites that have been gaming the system.

Here’s the thing about SEO: No matter what detailed changes occur in their algorithms, search engines will always reward websites that:

  1. Have quality content
  2. Are updated regularly
  3. Are linked and backlinked with relevant partners

If you cover those three bases, then you shouldn’t see any drastic swings when an SEO update occurs. There’s no magic bullet for SEO. It’s a long term investment, and rewards those who focus on quality, above all else. So the next time you get a call from someone promising magical SEO results guaranteed to push you to #1 – Politely say “Thanks, but no thanks”.

But we can each do our part to help minimize the problem:

  • Delete any comments like these that find their way on to your site or blog.
  • Don’t hire any company making lofty promises about page 1 rankings.
  • Spread the word to colleagues to they don’t fall victim either.
  • Focus your site content on quality, and release new material as regularly as you can.

Black Hat SEO and link farming sucks for everyone. Customers hate it because there’s no guarantee that the companies on page 1 of Google actually deserve to be there. Companies hate it because even if they are the most relevant company for the keywords, they can be bumped down on the list of results because of sites who game the system. Unsuspecting companies who do hire link farmers take a major reputation hit when they get found out, and when algorithm changes cause their rankings to plummet. It’s just bad news all around. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on how link farmers operate, and why you should avoid it like the plague. If this post saves at least one good company from getting involved with the ‘bad crowd’, it’ll all be worth it.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Jonathan on Google+

The Promise of Social Brands

Advertising is full of crap. Well, at least most of it is, I think we’d all agree. Advertisements and brand messages have long been full of lofty promises and ridiculous imagery that alludes brands to be magical entities given to us from the heavens to alleviate the pain of every day tortures like laundry, dusting, and what to make for dinner. Without them, our lives would descend in to unparalleled misery and despair.

More than a few humorous articles have been written online chronicling hilarious ads from decades gone by that made promises so laughable, we are astonished that anyone ever actually believed them. Cigarettes that soothe throat irritation. Exercise contraptions that melt fat away while you sit on your ass. Young lovers coming together through a mutual desire to consume lard.


Oh, most definitely. In fact, the promises being made by brands today aren’t that far removed from those of the past. Swiffer dusters that make cleaning so much fun you have to dance. Cat treats so tempting they make your cat destroy fences to get one. Magic shoes that give you an award-winning butt just by wearing them.

Reebok EasyTone Shoes Commercial

Things are different now.

Consumers are talking about everything. We’re comparing our experiences with others, not just in our immediate group of personal friends, but with people around the world. We’re realizing that poor customer service isn’t just an isolated incident, and crappy products abound. We’re voicing our dissatisfaction of companies with the world, and the world is on our side. We’re fed up. We’re speaking up. And companies need to step up. Deliver on your promises, or you will feel the wrath.

This is the promise of social brands.

We’re just at the cusp of this change. Although some forward-thinking businesses recognize the shift of power, many more continue on, blissfully unaware that promises made are now going to have to be kept. Or else.

One of two things is going to need to happen, and it’s going to need to happen fast if a brand wants to earn kudos instead of complaints:

1 – Brands will cease to make promises that cannot be kept.


2 – Brands will actually deliver on the promises they are making.

Companies cannot afford to be called out for not delivering. It’s too easy for the reality of the brand experience to be brought to light by customers and made public for the world to see. Social is going to force brands to be real about their promises, one way or another. If a brand makes an ad depicting a fragrance so potent it makes women de-clothe as they passionately run towards an unsuspecting man, we’ll call BS on it before the logo even appears. It’s not going to be worth it to create stuff like that anymore.

Social is reducing the variance between the ridiculous promises brands make & the reality of the actual brand experience.

Eventually, we’ll hit an equilibrium where the expectations we have of a company based on the messages we receive will be exactly what we get. Or if we’re lucky we’ll get more than we expect. That’d be nice.

Of course this all hinges on the vocal consumer. Consumers need to continue speaking, louder and louder. Share more and more. Call out brands that don’t deliver, and praise those that do. Smart companies will do what they need to do, and we’ll all be better for it. Companies that don’t? Well, we really don’t need them around anyway.

Ok brands, it’s time to deliver.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Twitter is Stupid. (until you realize…)

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Twitter is one of the world’s most popular social networks, but many still see it as pointless, inane and trite. (Yes, even today there are TONS of people who believe this to be true) They’re looking at it all wrong.

Here’s why: In a recent discussion I had with a group of tech-savvy  young adults, I posed the question “How many of you have Twitter accounts?” – Only two hands raised.

Next question: “How many of you think Twitter is the stupidest thing ever?” – Nearly everyone’s hand thrust in to the air. Reasons like ‘I don’t care what people have for lunch, the Kardashians are awful, etc’ were not uncommon to hear from this group in response to this particular query.

Ok, let’s talk about something else: “How many of you watch TV?” – Everyone’s hand up.

“Anyone hear of a show called ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’?” – Laughter from the group.

“How many of you think that is the dumbest show on TV right now?” – Virtually every hand raises in agreement.

“So, I guess that everything on TV is stupid, then?” – As I scanned the crowd, I saw several faces change as they realized what I was saying.

Saying Twitter is ‘stupid’ is like saying all of TV is stupid. All newspapers, all magazines, all radio, all movies. EVERYTHING is stupid if that’s how we think.

The truth of the matter is that if all you’re tuning in to is the worst, most annoying things you can find on TV or on the radio, then EVERY kind of media will provide a horrible experience. Every person on Twitter is like their own TV channel, or radio station, and every tweet is it’s own show. Tune in to the channels that have the best shows, and your Twitter experience be awesome. Tune in to people that post junk, and you’ll hate it. It’s not the channel that’s stupid; it’s the content we choose to see. Ultimately, if your Twitter experience sucks, it’s your fault, not Twitters.

This is where the awesomeness of Twitter really comes from: CONTROL. Control to tune in to the things you like, and tune out of the things you don’t. You wouldn’t judge all of TV based on 2 minutes of Real Housewives. It’d be far more sensible to watch some Mythbusters, Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Property Brothers, and So You Think You Can Dance before casting your final judgment on the entire media.


A Twitter experience isn’t made in 2 minutes. It’s crafted over time. It occurs as you discover awesome people you’ve never heard of. It occurs when you begin to see the world differently because you’re exposed to the lives of interesting people from all over the globe. It occurs when you interact with them. It occurs when you inspire them, and are inspired by them.

So, if you’ve never tried Twitter because of stereotypical reasons relating to Hollywood gossip or updates about people’s food, then you need to at least give it a chance. Talk to someone you trust about who they follow and try out a handful of their top recommended “channels”. Really test things out, then make up your mind whether it’s for you or not.

If you’ve tried Twitter and left because all your friends were posting updates from the bar or sharing the latest and greatest cat meme pictures, maybe your friends aren’t who you should be following. Try business contacts. Try the top leaders in your profession. Try your favourite comedians. Try your favourite musicians. Try your favourite brands. Change channels until you find shows that you find interesting. With more than 140 million channels out there, you’re bound to find SOMETHING that delivers the goods.

Find something great, tune in, and enjoy the show!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Disaster-Related Promotions Never End Well – KFC’s Facebook Fail

by Jonathan Barrick

I sure would like to meet the person who thought that THIS would be a good idea. Evidently, some genius over at KFC in Thailand was struck with the inspiration that most people in the country would be too busy monitoring the news for earthquake and tsunami updates to cook, and therefore this would be a great time for everyone to order a bucket of chicken.

Seriously, they actually posted this on their Facebook wall:

“People should hurry home this evening to monitor the earthquake situation and don’t forget to order the KFC menu, which will be delivered direct to your hands,”

Knowing what I know about people and how they typically react to things like this, there are a couple of things I feel are inherently wrong with this strategy.

1 – History has shown that we tend to frown upon businesses looking to profit from natural disasters.

2 – What makes them think anyone would be taking the time out during a major earthquake alert to see what’s new on the Facebook page dedicated to fried chicken?

Evidently news of Kenneth Cole’s poorly thought out tweet during the Cairo riots last spring never made it to KFC Thailand’s marketing team. Too bad, because if they had followed that story, they would have seen the general public express a massive amount of outrage at the fact that Kenneth Cole would trivialize such an event this way.

After Thailand began voicing its outrage at the post, it was taken down and a public apology was issued, but has done little to assuage the anger generated as a result.

Several words come to mind summarizing KFC’s mistake: Insensitivity, Greed, Irresponsibility, Ignorance

Ultimately, the message for brands here is pretty clear: During times of national crisis or social upheaval, you might want to stay away from business promotions tied directly to such events. They rarely end well.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com