EcomCrew PodcastSEO

Episode 29: SEO and Ecommerce, Understanding Google – Part 2

While Mike is absent today, I continue our discussion of Google and SEO. In terms of that, I talk about ways to apply SEO to your work and how it can help encourage traffic to your site and your business.

The most important aspect all e-commerce business owners have to understand is the Google trust rank and how it applies to sites and SEO. Once you understand how this works, you will be able to create quality content that is also optimized for the Google search engine.

Today’s Topics:

  • Arbitrage
  • The history of SEO
  • Google trust rankings
  • Authorship profiles
  • Keywords
  • Human content review vs. algorithm
  • Machine Learning
  • Tactics and strategy for SEO
  • Getting your SEO off the ground
  • Creating unique content

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Full Audio Transcript

Grant:  Hello, everybody, and welcome to EcomCrew podcast episode number 29.  And this is Grant again with a solo-cast on search engine optimization.  And I actually want to make a quick correction for last week.  I had mentioned that Mike was going to the IRCE conference in Miami and obviously that was wrong.  That IRCE conference was actually in Chicago and Mike was going to Miami for a different reason.  So always fun making a blunder like that on a podcast, but that’s just the way it is sometimes.

And anyhow, I wanted to follow up with part two on the series on search engine optimization.  So last week, we left off talking about a little bit of the history or search engine optimization and I talked about where things started with Yahoo back in the mid- to late 90s and then the evolution of transitioning to Google, which really took over search because of their ability to start weeding out bad search results and what people started doing to really game Yahoo and how people started to game Google.  This week I’m going to talk a little bit more on where Google has gone and where they are now and really bring that into focus to some actionable advice on how you as an operator can really take advantage of SEO and how to apply it for yourself.

So where I left off last week was talking about the type of trust that Google puts into evaluating what types of websites it wants to rank and I talked about the idea of trust rank.  And that idea has been around for quite some time if you follow any of the SEO types of circles.  And what Google has really done is they’ve always been trying to keep up with the search engine optimization guys because at the end of the day it’s really a cat and mouse game where one side makes one move one direction and then Google has to try to catch up and figure out what they’re doing to optimize and stop them from over-optimizing.  And the idea that I put forward last time was that search engine optimization is really just punching outside of your weight class.  And there is an arbitrage that most people believe that is anywhere from easy to difficult to pull off in terms of SEO, and the reality is that the arbitrage is getting much smaller from where it was before.  And it used to be there if you’re a very small guy, maybe you could outrank a very big guy in terms of SEO and that was because you could take advantage of the big guy not really knowing.

Nowadays, that is getting to be a lot farther from the truth and a lot of the reason is that an arbitrage is really an opportunity to take advantage of a situation or at least exploit a weakness in your opponent because you have some kind of information that they don’t or you have some type of ability to front-run them on some other type of opportunity.  And unfortunately, nowadays, everybody really does know about SEO, especially the big companies more than anything.  So most of them have their own internal teams.  They use third party contractors from reputable companies.  And for the small guy, trying to compete on SEO nowadays is going to be much, much more difficult.

So, again, this is why there’s been a huge industry that has arisen that is essentially marketing a non-existent or I would say at best, shoddy services to small business owners and medium business owners, promising the moon in terms of SEO services. But the reality is that even if they were good and professional agencies, they still couldn’t compete with the big companies because, well, the big companies already know what they’re doing.  So a lot of that arbitrage is gone.  Now, is that going to say there is no more room for SEO arbitrage?  Absolutely not.  The reality is that there are still a lot of companies that, even though they might know about SEO, they might not be focusing on it very effectively.  Or there might be small, little industries or niche industries where you can go in and nobody is truly competing.

And that’s where me and Mike tend to operate right now even though we do have a fair amount of background in SEO.  I mean, that’s a little bit of a humble statement.  I’ve done SEO, again, for some very, very large companies and have some very phenomenal results.  But the problem is that even with that type of experience and knowing how to be a very hard-hitting SEO type of person, a lot of what happens is that you end up having quite a bit of resource problems and that involves both outreach, money, time and content.  And it’s no longer just meta-stuffing your keywords or just randomly getting links to you website; it’s a much more holistic and involved process and if you don’t have the resources available to you, then SEO becomes much harder.

So it’s become a much more difficult field and that’s why I do feel like, again, this is a very necessary part to talk about where SEO has come from so that you can have an understanding of why it is difficult and why it is going to be something that you really do need to dedicate yourself to in order to have any kind of success. It’s not simply, “Well, this is what I’m going to do on the weekends,” spend an hour or two to kind of work on the SEO.  It’s not your victory garden and it’s not your goldfish that you take care of every once in a while.  It is more like trying to feed yourself by putting a garden in your background, or it’s more like trying to raise a dolphin or a horse.  It’s not a hobby.  It should be a very major, fundamental part of your game.  And if it’s not part of your game, then you need to have some other way of doing marketing that you can actually bring in people, whether or not that be PPC, email marketing, Facebook ads, or social media.  If you are simply going to build an ecommerce website and hope, magically, that your SEO will just appear, it will not.  I can guarantee you that, unless you have the most amazing product possible out there and you will have a lot of earned media.

Before I get too pessimistic or essentially turn people away from SEO, I just want to say that upfront over here before I kind of start into the kind of strategies that we can get into for how to build it up.  So going back to Google and their trust ranking, a lot of the SEO guys back in the day were really trying to front-run Google’s algorithm by getting links from trusted websites and going to high page rank sites that had a lot of trust and building a kind of popularity contest based on that.  And Google realized that people were doing that as well and they started creating what are called filters into their search algorithm to really stop and analyze a lot of what the links were doing.

So they stopped just being completely based on page rank, which was their main fundamental algorithm that powered Google.  They started using a lot of different factors and they started taking into effect different types of things about your website, such as how old your website is, how fast are you getting links?  The anchor text when somebody links to you, for example, if the New York Times links to Mike’s coloring book website, and it links to it as or if it links to it as coloring books in the anchor tag, Google used to put a lot of weight in the actual anchor tags in there because that’s how they would calculate a type of relevancy.  Because if I link to let’s say my landscaper and his name was Bob and I link to Bob’s site and I just say, “Hey, click here to talk to Bob,” what does that really say about Bob’s company?  It doesn’t really say a lot, it just says there’s a Bob.  So there’s not a lot of relevancy.  But if I link to Bob’s Landscaping and I use that as an anchor text, then Google will actually know it might be about Bob, but it might also be able landscaping too so it adds a lot of relevancy.

So the game used to be that you’d add a whole bunch of keyword tags into your anchor text and jam it up.  Well, Google obviously figured out, like they always do, that that’s a game that people are playing, so it stopped giving a lot of relevancy points if you’re doing that, and in fact, it penalized you if you had too much of that.  So that’s kind of an example of a filter that Google started running.  And so they started running a whole bunch of other filters that really dictate how well you can rank.  One of them was called a sandbox, and a sandbox was a way of prevented people from completely gaming Google where you create a new website, you just blast it with a bunch of links, and suddenly, the website ranks really, really high and it’s most likely a spammy affiliate website where you’re sending a bunch of traffic to non-reputable sites and whatnot.  And eventually Google will get around to banning it but by that time, it doesn’t matter because they’ve created a bunch of traffic, they’re made money.  That website gets banned, they create another domain, remake the website, and do it all over again.

Google was having problems stopping those kinds of SEO-type black hat operatives and so they created the sandbox, which meant that your website really had to be around for a number of years, almost one or two years before you could really start getting some good rankings.  One way of breaking out of the sandbox was getting rankings from very, very high, trustworthy sites that were very hard to game.  And they would essentially be able to figure out what kinds of sites were a high trust because they could actually see what sites would eventually link out to bad sites and what sites don’t.

So trust was the most important score for a website that you could possibly get.  And I still believe to this day that trust is going to be one of the most important things that you want to cultivate.  That’s why it’s very important not to link out to people that are not reputable or people that want to engage in some silly link farm practices these days.  Most people know better than that now.  You don’t want to link to them.  A lot of bloggers nowadays, when they link out to their advertisers, they add what’s called a no-follow attribute to their link, and a no-follow means that, “Hey, I’m linking to this guy, but I don’t necessary trust this link.”  And they do that because a lot of advertisers are still playing in the mid-2000 game where they go, “Well, I’m just going to buy a bunch of links from a bunch of different people and I hope they send me their SEO juice, but on my website itself, I just do a whole bunch of bad things and I win.”

A lot of the bloggers and other people that create good content, even though they were providing a very good content website themselves, they were being hit with all sorts of penalties because they were linking out to bad people.  It would just be the same as if you were the getaway driver in a bank robbery, you know.  You’re guilty by association.  You might not have been the guy that was doing the bad deed, but you’re helping the guys doing the bad deed, and again, Google is a private enterprise.  They can do what they want. So it might not be even so much that you’re the getaway driver, but you’re the bus driver and a bunch of bad people enter your bus.  Well, it’s your bus.  It’s your job to take the bad people out.  So it’s one of the things where you’ve got to guard your trust very, very closely.

Now, some people took that to the opposite extremes where they said, “Well, I’m just not going to link out to anybody anymore,” but that doesn’t really work out either because that’s like a bus driver that kicks everybody off the bus.  Now you’ve got an empty bus.  Would you want to jump onto a bus that’s got nobody on there ever?  Not really.  So you’ve got to look pretty normal.  And so what these filters really do is they try to look at what an average, normal, high quality website looks like and they evaluate you based on those kinds of filters, of how far are you within the curve of being somebody that seems pretty normal or at least reputable.

So, for example, there’re easily over 100 different filters nowadays and if you look up Google filters or Google search type filters, you can find a lot of different people that have created their own type of theory and whatnot.  But in terms of what I believe in, a lot of filters that I think matter the most is, one, your domain age and how old your domain is and how much stuff you’ve had on there.  Two is your content, and the content that you have on there shouldn’t be just thin content that you’ve got some writer for $20 an article writing.  If you think you can actually get good content for $20, I completely disagree with you.  And I know there are a lot of writers out there that are not doing really great, especially in this economy, but if you really want somebody that can write a fair article for $20, I don’t think it’ll actually work that way.

Okay.  So in order to get good content, you have to have somebody that’s either qualified or has some kind of vested interest in what you’re writing about.  And before, Google used to try using their authorship profiles, which were a collective using the Google Plus platform, to try to understand who the authors were.  And for some time, they were really pushing that very hard along with Google Plus because they really wanted to create, one, a social network that could at least try to compete against Facebook since Facebook has taken away a lot of their market share in terms of eyeballs per day and hours in front of a platform per day.  And they were pushing Google Plus for that reason, but I do believe that the other reason they were really pushing it was to essentially try to create another layer of trustworthiness for the content that was being generated.

An author could create, for example, hundreds of articles a day if they were just being like a typewriting machine and just pumping out nonsensical articles of low quality.  And if Google could actually spot that, they would mark them down.  Now, you could say, “Well, why don’t they just change the name or not put their name on it?”  That’s very true, but they would probably not consider anybody that didn’t put a name or didn’t have a good author profile as low quality.  So for a time, they were really valuing authors that did well, and for a long time, people with authorship on Google would actually look pretty good.

So when authors started having good profiles, Google ended up rewarding the websites with higher rankings because they could trust those kinds of authors.  Now, unfortunately, the Google Plus platform ended up hitting a snag and it really didn’t get the adaption rate that Google was looking for, so they ended up killing that program and taking away all of the authorship types of benefits.  So that was another type of filter that ended up going away, but the idea that Google still rewards strong content is still very much there.  Now, in the past, people used to try to game that system as well, as they always do, by creating sites with a lot of garbage content and that’s why I really talk about getting that $20 content on your website is just not really worth it.

There used to be this kind of common saying, “content is king”.  Well, people really can only process ideas in very short bite-sized amounts and unfortunately, that’s just a lot of what goes around as easy advice these days.  It’s almost like looking at your Facebook feed and looking at everybody that has some kind of magical quote of the day on how to line your life.  Well, I don’t know about anybody else, but I tend to be pretty jaded.  I don’t think anybody can describe to me how I should live my life in any sort of way within 140 characters.  Same goes for SEO.  If you want to tell me how to actually have good SEO advice in 140 characters, I’ll tell you that you probably have no idea what you’re doing.  So this goes right along that.  “Content is king” is meaningless.  What “content is king” was supposed to mean is that you should have high quality, very well-written content and you shouldn’t try to blast it all the time.

And the reality is that most people thought that you could just shove a whole bunch of content and have a whole bunch of long-tail keywords.  And again, it did work for a little bit but Google caught onto that, and so all these sites that had a bunch of long-tail traffic got destroyed eventually.  And what long-tail traffic is, is that when you have a major search term (and I’m going to use IceWraps for an example for Mike), some guy might be typing in “ice wraps” but they could also be typing in “knee ice wrap” or “shoulder ice wrap.”  Now, those are considered short-tail because that’s a very large group of keywords.  A long-tail keyword would be “shoulder ice wraps for baseball players.”  Now, that’s a very specific keyword.  There are not going to be a lot of people searching for that, but those who do are probably very interested when they finally find an actual result that is really all about shoulder ice wraps for baseball players because they’ll know that that’s very on target for what they’re looking for.

So imagine if you had a series of web pages for shoulder ice wraps for every type of sport available: football, hockey, soccer, and so on and so forth.  You’d probably get a lot of results.  So some guy would think to himself, “Well, maybe I should just create X, where X equals every body part, and Y, where that equals every sport and I’ll just create a custom application that says X ice wraps for Y body part.”  So you’ve got an exponential amount of content that you’re going to generate, and if one person’s going to actually write it, that’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money.  So a lot of people said, “Well, I’m just going to create what’s called kind of a spinner program,” where it collects a hodge-podge of information from Wikipedia, from blog posts, and other forms and just kind of creates a junky content site that has a bunch of content that seems to be unique because it’s pieced apart from all sorts of stuff, but it’s really just meant to grab the long-tail search.

And so that’s what a lot of people did and it worked for a while because Google couldn’t, again, figure out how to analyze this content and figure out if it was actually real.  So what Google started going is started getting real people to look at content, humans essentially to read and evaluate whether or not your content was actually good.  So that was a very difficult undertaking in my eyes, because in order to have people read the internet, you’ve got to have lots of eyeballs and a lot of time and a lot of money.  But unfortunately for the black hat SEO spammers, Google does have a lot of money and they have a lot of time and I’m sure they have access to a lot of eyeballs.

Now, in the current state of where things are, Google’s actually updated a recent algorithm change that a lot of people are talking about that’s even incorporated machine learning.  Now, machine learning is very interesting because when you talk about language and semantics and the ability for search engines to process language, not that many years ago, it was going to be very difficult because how do you process language?  You need, one, an engine that can understand language, and two, you’ve got to actually determine the quality of it.  Well, never say never because a lot of people said Google will never, ever be able to determine if you content is actually good or not.  I think that has changed and AI is going to be the jumping of the shark because AI has advanced very, very rapidly in the last number of years, in part, due to the accessibility of Cloud infrastructure that can let you sync up a lot of processing power and space at one time.  And a lot of machine learning is moving away from having a hard-coded set of instructions into a machine and letting the machine actually figure out how to code the instructions itself.

So, for example, machine learning has figured out how to be one of the top Go players in the world, and Go is almost like an Asian version of chess, but it’s got an exponential number of possibilities (far more than chess itself) and Go is one of the games that people thought was never going to be defeated because the sheer amount of possibilities and different ways that you play would be almost impossible.  Not to get too geeky, but the idea is that AI is going to make it to the point where they can figure out what you’re doing on your website and what your intentions are.  And, really, if I were to put all of my eggs in one basket, that should be the statement that you should remember the most.  Google is eventually – if they aren’t already; I’m sure they’re not quite there, but they will understand the intention of your website.  Now, what that means is that if your intention is to game Google, they will figure that out.  It’s not going to be that difficult.

Now, obviously, everybody wants to do SEO and everyone wants to rank very high.  But there’s a right way of doing it and there’s a wrong way of doing it, and if you keep trying to do it the wrong way and taking the shortcut and trying to go and, again, play the arbitrage game, you’re just going to be in for a world of hurt.  And so what it really comes down to now – and this is where I’m going to segue into tactics and strategy for your actual SEO implementation of what you should do.  I’m not going to talk about any kind of tricks, like those fantastic, catchy headlines or viral things, “Here’s 12 tricks to do whatever,” or, “This one weird trick.”  I’m not going to say that doesn’t exist because they still do in SEO, but the reality is that if you’re in ecommerce and you actually want to survive past the three- to four-year window, and Google’s actually getting a lot better at doing updates every year to get ahead of the random SEO tricks, you’re just going to get caught in the net and you’re just going to drown.  There’s no way to keep ahead of the game by constantly playing black hat tricks because whatever works today is not going to work tomorrow and so you’re going to be a goner.

Now, the only reason that a lot of the black hat tricks worked is because a lot of the websites had no valuable content and they didn’t really care if those websites went away.  If you’re running an ecommerce website, you obviously do care very much about your website.  You can’t just simply spin up another website and be done with it.  Now, if you’ve got a very limited amount of products, for example, if you’re selling penis pills or whatever and that’s your one products, obviously you could just pin up as many different websites as you want because you’re selling this one product and it doesn’t really matter.  You’ve got a system in place to rebuild it.  But again, that’s a very niche type of product and I highly doubt you’re doing that and it’s not going to be really relevant to this conversation.

So going to really part two now of what you can do to get your SEO off the ground.  Now, having heard everything that I talked about, you already know everything, hopefully, that you shouldn’t do.  So in that regard, there’s a lot of things that you shouldn’t do and just almost going from that, you should know what you should do.  And what you should do is, again, you should be creating highly valuable content.  And getting cheap content, I can’t stress enough, is not going to be the way to win the game.  You’re trying to cheap out on the thing that matters the most and that’s like one of the most egregious examples of just not understanding what it takes to operate an ecommerce business if you’re going to skimp on the marketing.  And I come from a marketing background so I don’t need to be sold on what it means to market, but there’re plenty of products in the history books that were better that failed because they failed to do the proper marketing.

And when you think of content, you should think of content not as some positive ROI-generation type of deal.  You shouldn’t think about it as something that you’re going to be worried if your own readers are going to read, but you should really think about it as what it really is.  It’s for marketing.  And marketing encompasses a number of different reasons, but the main one is really so that you can get a lot of the search engines to come to your website and whatnot.  So when you develop good content, you also get the ability to get what I call earned inbound links.  And what that means is that if you create compelling content that people will link to, then you get the ability to actually have somebody link to you that’s not, one, a paid link, or two, a sponsored link or any of that artificial stuff where you have to go out and actually get links.

Now, there is a bit of a catch-22 problem with that, which is how do you get people to even find you if you don’t have links to begin with.  And so that’s going to be the number one biggest problem, how to achieve escape velocity because once you’ve been indexed by Google or you’ve got a very good or at least a fair ranking, then whatever you publish will eventually start showing up on first or second page and eventually, hopefully, you get somebody that comes by and says, “Wow, that’s some pretty interesting content.  Let me link to you,” or something like that.  It’s a chicken and the egg problem.

So in the beginning, what you should really be doing is creating a good body of work that has good content.  For example, for CuttingBoard, essentially I’ve written a lot of my own content for my own website because I am the most knowledgeable person out there and if I hired somebody to try to write about cutting boards, they’re simply not going to know anything about it.  Now, they could ghost write for me, and I’ve had other people help by being ghost writers and then I can publish in my name because they’re better writers, but I still have to supply most of the content for them.  And if you’ve got some other type of product that you’re selling where you have an expert on hand, I would definitely go and see if you can get that expert to at least have a ghost writer to help create the content for them as well.

Now, once you’ve got that content and you’ve published it on your website, this is really the hard part about SEO.  You’ve got to go and get your boots on the ground and try to get people to link to your content.  And a lot of that is really almost like the PR game where you’re going and doing outreach.  You’ve got to go and contact other people in the field, other people in similar types of websites and say, “Hey, I published this content.  I’m starting out here.  I’m hoping that you wouldn’t mind linking to it if you think it’d be appropriate for your readers.”  Now, unfortunately, this game is being played every day by tons of new website owners because it’s not unique.  So if you’ve ever run a website on your own, you’ll understand that it’s pretty common to get about – depending on the popularity of your own website – 10 to 20 of these requests per day.  And in a lot of the websites that Mike and I have run, I would say I got almost 30 to 40 of these types of requests per day like, “Hey, I’m a new website.  I just made this.  Can you link to me?”

Now, I know exactly what they’re doing.  They want to get some SEO value out of my link to them.  And it’s a problem that I call kind of the beauty pageant problem, which is that you’re the guy onstage (or gal as it might be) and you’ve got all these like adoring fans that want you to provide value to them.  Now, the question is why should you provide value to them?  There’s no reason to.  You’re obviously on a better level than they are.  So that’s where the difficulty comes in because why should they work with you?  So the trick is create some kind of value on why they do want to work with you.  Now, for the unimaginative, you would say, “Well, that’s easy.  I’m going to offer them money,” because what better than cash to make it worthwhile?

So obviously, there’s a lot of uncreative people in the world.  You’ve got a lot of approaches that offer money.  So, again, out of the 40-odd emails I would get a day from this kind of crap – and eventually I just made some spam blockers that would essentially hunt and search for these kinds of things and kill them off, but a few would come through so I’d see them every once in a while.  But I’d get offered anything from $50 a month to $200 a month to link to them.  And the reality is, at the time, I would probably have valued the link (because I know how to value an SEO link) on my website as something on the order of $5,000 to $8,000 a month for me to link to you.

Now, a lot of people out there are thinking, “That’s an absurd amount of money,  Why would you ever do that?”  Well, I was in a very specific niche and it was not something that many people could get into and it was essentially the way that anybody else could try to get a leg up so I know that anybody that would actually have a serious approach would be possibly willing to pay that much.  The thing is I never actually sold a link because, to me, that $5,000 to $8,000 wasn’t worth it.  I didn’t want to be linked to a guy that ad a bad reputation or who knows what they were going to do.  And the reality is I didn’t want to create a competitor.  That’s really the number one thing that it comes down to, so I never ended up selling a link at all because it was just, to me, a ridiculous proposition.  It doesn’t help me in the long run and I don’t get any benefit.

The problem is that I were on the opposite side of the fence, how do I approach a guy that’s going to want $5,000 to $8,000 a month for a link when I want to offer him $50 to $100?  So this is where you have to get creative.  Now, sometimes somebody just simply wants money.  And this is where I’m going to differ from a lot of people because you’re really going to get two kinds of camps in the SEO industry.  One of them is going to say, “Never buy or sell links because you’ll get in trouble.  It’s against Google’s TOS,” and all that kind of stuff.  And there’s the other camp that’s going to say, “Buy and sell links as much as you can.  Screw what Google says.  We’re in the game to win,” and this and that.

So you’ve got essentially your white hat and your black hand somewhere in the middle, you’ve got your gray hat, which are people that want to get links.  They don’t want to be a black hat necessarily but they don’t believe that being a naïve white hat is really where you should be.  I would definitely call myself somebody that like works in the gray area.  And the reason I say that is the reality – and I really try to say this to most people – is that when you’re getting your feet off the ground, it’s incredibly difficult to get anybody to link to you for the reasons that I’ve put out.  and you’ve got to make it worth somebody’s while.  And if you can be careful about it, getting a link through some kind of compensation – not always cash, but in terms of making it worth their while – is going to be the only way that you can provide value because, again, there’s nothing that you can provide really that they’re going to want.

And so a lot of the techniques that people have created were essentially doing guest posting, where they say, “Hey, I’ll write a free blog post for your website and all you’ve got to do is post it on here.  It’ll be unique and then in this blog post, I’ll only have like one or two links back to myself.”  And a lot of bloggers, they kind of said, “Wow, that sounds like a great deal.  I don’t even have to write anymore.  I get this great content for free and all I have to do is link out to these people.”  So that’s essentially a deal with the devil and a lot of those bloggers got hit again with penalties because you’re really buying a link and you’re not going around and doing things the correct way.  So it all got banned.

So you end up having all these kinds of people that either got hit with these types of penalties or they heard about these penalties and they go, “Well, you should never do this and that.  And this is what Matt Cutts says.  You should always be a white hat and never buy links.”  So that’s where a lot of people feel that way and again, it really is against Google’s TOS.  You should never manipulate somebody else into getting a link for you.  Now, unfortunately, I don’t think most of the people that have worked at Google have actually tried building a website in a competitive environment.

For example, let’s just say you are in an environment where there aren’t a lot of people that will naturally link to you, and I’m going to point out some very competitive industries, such as, say, pornography.  Now, pornography’s a very, very interesting field because it’s completely commercialized.  And I wouldn’t say that I’m somebody that understands that field very well.  I’ve never really had any kind of professional experience in there, but I would imagine that there’s not a lot of people that publish a high quality content blog just for the fun of it in the porn space that are just doing it for the goodness of their heart.  I don’t think it works that way.  I think everybody that’s publishing in that space is doing it for cash and for self-benefit.  So if you were starting off a new site in that field, how do you get people to link to you when everybody’s in it for self-benefit?  Everyone’s either going to demand cash from you or they’re going to demand some form of compensation because what are you going to have that’s so unique?

So that’s a problem because let’s say you are just a website that is a reseller of somebody else’s content and you don’t have anything unique.  So this is a serious problem.  You can’t get people to link to you and you don’t have highly compelling content because you’re just a reseller so what do you do?  Now, this is a major dilemma and my answer over here, to be perfectly honest, is that these kinds of websites don’t deserve to exist anymore.  And this is why Mike and I have really, truly decided to get out of the affiliate space because affiliates have a very difficult problem generating legitimate content that is both compelling and unique.  When you’re just reselling somebody else’s stuff (and these even comes down to ecommerce products a lot of the time), if you’re just reselling a bunch of products that somebody else is making for you, how are you really going to generate some kind of buzz or some kind of novel, unique approach to your products?

For example, if I’m selling pots and pans and I’ve got an All-Clad and I go to a blogger and say, “Listen, I’ve got a wonderful All-Clad over here.  Would you link to it?”  Now, why do they want to link to your All-Clad pan or your Shun knives or whatever as opposed to linking to Shun directly?  It just doesn’t make a lot of sense and the only thing that you can really say is maybe, “Hey, I’ve got a great sale going on over here so link to me,” but now you’re in the boat again of obviously propositioning them for a commercial purpose and if that blogger is smart and they’re doing a good job blogging, they will know to put a no-follow link to you.  So it’s a catch-22 because the people that aren’t smart that will link to you while you compensate them, they’re most likely going to get banned and then you’re going to get a link from a banned site or somebody that’s been taken out by Google.  So you’re going to have a problem where you’re just kind of trudging in quicksand.

Going back, how do you get links from the get-go to begin with?  And the reality is that you’ve got to really create, like I said, some kind of compelling reason for somebody to go to your website.  And I know that’s really a macro level of discussion and, unfortunately, I know that it’s a very difficult place to be.  And when you think about some guy that is offering to give you high search engine results for $500 a month, that’s why it’s garbage, because to even come up with an idea or some kind of game plan or campaign to create some kind of viral content on your website that’s actually going to get picked up by social media or other people or this kind of stuff, it’s not going to happen.  When I used to do SEO consulting, I’d give you two hours for that kind of price to come up with some kind of viral campaign for you because it’s not like you could just recruit any random person off the street to be able to come up with an idea that would work for you.

And, to give you an example of a campaign that I ran for another company, I actually ran a giveaway that was almost on the order of six figures.  And they ended up doing a giveaway by doing a month-long campaign, which turned into a multi-month long campaign of having a tournament that was for bloggers only.  Again, it was in a very specific niche and a lot of these bloggers knew exactly how much a link costs.  A lot of them, if you approached them directly, the very top guys would’ve said $2,000 to $4,000 will get a link from their website.  Now, if you wanted to get 100 links, you can see where things start getting very expensive.  You’d get around $200,000 to $400,000 for links from 100 different websites.

So when you compare that to the budget that I was working with, which was about $100,000 in terms of giving stuff away versus the cost of simply buying the links from these kinds of sites, that’s what you were dealing with.  And again, my idea is that buying links is never your top option.  And it’s really the option of last resort, if an option at all.  Unfortunately, the link that you can buy is, most of the time, the link that you don’t want.  It’s really the case with a lot of stuff.  It’s kind of like going into a bar.  And if you’re a single guy or a single girl and you approach somebody at the bar and you say, “Hey, let’s go have a good time out and after that, let’s enjoy our company,” if you go back to your place and somebody’s like, “Well, I really had a good time.  Now that’s going to be $300 an hour,” you go, “Well, wait a minute.”  Now you’re kind of wondering, “Is this safe?  Do I really want this anymore?”

And that’s really what it comes down to: a paid link.  Somebody that’s willing to sell you a paid link has probably sold a paid link to somebody else as well and they’re probably not a part of a good network.  So if there’s one great reason to avoid paid links, it’s because you’re going to be clumped in with a bunch of other low quality websites and it’s just not going to be a very good use of your SEO time and you’re not going to get a lot of SEO benefit out of it.

So I think we’re starting to run a little bit close to our allocated time over here so I’m going to save some of these tactics for part three on how to get your SEO off the ground.  And after that, we’ll talk about where SEO is headed into the future.  So if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in our comments and, again, as always, we love feedback and we love getting reviews for our podcast, so if you could please leave a quick comment or leave a review for our podcast for EcomCrew, we would really appreciate it.  And we will be announcing our winner for our last campaign for our free hour of consulting and we will also most likely be giving away another free hour of consulting, and if you want to get some great SEO strategy and advice, it will definitely be included in the hour giveaway.  So if you enjoy what I’ve talked about, definitely leave some feedback and we’ll enter you into the campaign automatically.  So this is Grant from EcomCrew signing out for the week and I hope to see your guys next week.  Thanks.

Outro:  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Head over to and sign up for the EcomCrew newsletter to get regular updates on what’s working in ecommerce today, and get the latest from our blog.  If you haven’t already, we’d really appreciate an honest review in iTunes.  These reviews help us make sure we’re delivering exactly the content you need to be successful.  And make sure you subscribe to the show for more tips to move you up in the business ladder and into success.  We’ll see you next week.

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