Step 1 – Be The Best Online

We’ve always extolled the virtue of quality content with your website and about how it can help completely turn around an otherwise floundering web presence. There are two points when writing your content that seem to get missed frequently, the title of your content and the opening characters.

linkfishThe first sentence of your content is just a little more important that the body of your work, only because it’s often that your search description will be pulled from that phrase. In order to ideally make the best use of that opening phrase a couple of points to consider when beginning to write your newest web page or blog post.

There are actually two sides of the coin with this first one – you can either get directly to the point of your content or if you don’t make sure it is a leading statement which compels the audience to continue reading. This is the hook you need to consider when attracting visitors to your site, do you want to grab them and drag them in with a pointed statement, or do you want to lure them in and have them browse your website and take in more of your pages online. Neither approaches are wrong, one is just a more gentle approach to your online audience.

The other issue that we see when working online is website owners having an amazing website and not showing up in the search results because they’re trying to be too clever with their content. Here at Freshtraffic we offer digital marketing and online branding services and that’s reflected directly in our first sentence when you arrive at our site.

Fresh Traffic is a boutique digital marketing firm HQ in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

We have who we are, what we do, and where we are all in just 76 characters in our opening phrase. Keep that in mind when working on your own web pages and content.

Not to forget though that the other major hook for your content is the title of your page and your content. Your title is the first thing that everyone sees to your content and website online so you need to ensure that it meets a couple of criteria or else you’re just wasting character space on the page. First thing to consider is actually a major point with your opening phrase, the length of your title. Ideally you’ll make your title less than 100 characters, because honestly anything even approaching that length is too long of a title. Use Twitter as a role model, a best case scenario is being able to fit your entire title as a Tweet with room to spare with an added “New Post” or “Flash Sales!” as an idea. The second title point coincides with the first, you should concentrate on making your title extremely clickable, link bait all on it’s own. Making your website and content highly relevant and becoming the leading authority in your niche market goes a long way to making your website linkable (visitors write their own content and link back to your pages) but the title of your pages and posts is the icing on the cake.

We Can Bring You The World

There is to this day a general misunderstanding about search engine optimization and just what it can do for your website and business; SEO will not sell your product for you.

growthWhat optimizing for search does do however is give you visibility online, a very important component of online sales to be sure but it’s only one side of the coin. For the sake of explaining assumptions will be made – seeing as how you likely have your own website for your business it would be somewhat safe to say that there is some experience selling yourself or your wares to your intended audience. When you’re working on a sale for yourself a solid general rule to follow would be around 1 in 10 or so, for every 10 contacts that you make you’ll earn a sale – it may seem low but this is from a strictly hard sell stand point. From that stand point the most difficult part of making that sale isn’t actually the conversation with the customer, it’s generating that initial point of contact. The days of people wandering down the sidewalk and walking into a store front that intrigues them are dwindling, increasingly often consumers are turning to the internet to procure their desired goods.

If you already have a website then a good 30% of the work is done already, you have the potential to turn that previous hard sell approach into a soft sell, qualified visitors to your site are there because they want what you have. That’s where SEO, aka internet marketing can help turn a paltry 10-20 visitors a month into hundreds, if not thousands if your market is big enough. What we can bring your business and website as SEO professionals is visibility, you are looking for the aforementioned qualified consumers – whether you want a sale, a sign up, or an contact me later email, search engine optimization can help make that happen.

What we can not do however, is actually force that sale for you and your website. Every now and then during a campaign there is a tipping point where we sit down with our clients and essentially have the following conversation. Now that we’ve addressed your technical and optimization issues, it’s time to talk about your conversion points and methods. What makes that conversation frustrating is when the advice is ignored or discounted because now that you have all that visibility and traffic your sales will go up the same amount, right?

11 reasons SEO is a science; 14 reasons it’s an art

If your brand has a website, more people are likely to come to it from search engines than anyplace else according to Forrester. That means Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to secure a high-ranking placement in the search results pages, is as essential means of marketing for anybody doing business on the internet.

Is SEO a science or an art? Science is facts or truths systematically arranged showing the operation of general laws. Art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.

Online Website Discovery

Here are 11 reasons SEO is a science; 14 reasons it’s an art.

SEO is a science because it operates according to mathematical laws that are statistical reliable and predictive of human behavior.

  1. #1 reason people come to your website (source: Forrester)
  2. 80% of people click on a website that is on the natural or organic side of the search engine page (source: Search Engine Watch)
  3. 35% click through to the website that is in the #1 position (source: SEO Book)
  4. 90% click through on a website that is on the 1st page (source: Search Engine Watch)
  5. Algorithms that comprise hundreds of criteria determine how websites rise or fall in rank for specific keywords
  6. Volume of search for any keyword and key phrase can be easily known with tools the the Google Keyword Planner and Wordtracker.
  7. Demand for those keywords, if it is increasing or decreasing over time, is measurable through Google Trends. So you can even predict what their value is both now and in the future.
  8. Search rank of your domain or your competitors’  can be tracked for any keyword or key phrase to help understand the rise or fall in rank by Ispionage or Rank Checker.
  9. Number of  links that increase or decrease your authority in a particular area and also influences search rank can be found through Majestic SEO or Alexa.
  10. Value the links, whether they are high or low value authority, can be determined by SEO Majestic and Marketing Grader.
  11. Machines, or  search bots, that do the searches on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines are programmed to even identify the underlying meanings behind by keywords to returns the most meaningful results. The is called Semantic Search, predicted to play a more important role with the Google ”Hummingbird” algorithm.

SEO is an art because mathematical models don’t establish business goals, tell convincing stories or know why your audience buys your product. You do.

  1. Search bot don’t buy your product, people do.
  2. It is impossible to model an algorithm on the needs of human being.
  3. Models can’t study your niche, let alone know your audience’s internet surfing habits or their shopping behavior.
  4. Keyword research takes creativity to know what is best for your audience and where there is an opportunity.
  5. People read good content before the read good keywords.
  6. A top rank doesn’t mean people take the action you want unless you’re clear with them on your website.
  7. Good, relevant, quality content is what readers (and algorithms) want. If you focus on this, search visibility follows.
  8. SEO is thinking about how marketing can encompass social, graphic design, link building, content generation, and PR to drive toward a common goal.
  9. SEO and marketing is creating social buzz (especially with Google+).
  10. High value links have to be placed where they are going to be most relevant and cause the most desirable actions
  11. Marketers, not machines and models, tell good stories, use keywords consistently and naturally, and flow them seamlessly into your copy.
  12. Titles that convince people have clarity, creativity, and imagination. The right keywords and key phrases just happen to be in them.
  13. If you view SEO as a byproduct of good content, high search rank generally focus.
  14. SEO won’t make your business a success, but you will.

This post comes out of a dialogue from Hollis ThomasesAugustine FouMike Moran and Mark Schaefer, which was inspiring and worth building upon.

Optimizing for the Semantic Web

Search has changed dramatically over the past year and semantic technology has been at the center of it all. Consumers increasingly expect search engines to understand natural language and perceive the intent behind the words they type in, and search engine algorithms are rising to this challenge. This evolution in search has dramatic implications for marketers, consumers, technology developers and content creators — and it’s still the early days for this rapidly changing environment. Here is an overview of how search technology is changing, how these changes may affect you and what you can do to market your business more effectively in the new era of search.

What Is Semantic Technology?

The word “semantic” refers to meaning. According to Search Engine Journal, semantic search (also known as “entity search”) “uses machine intelligence to determine the intended meaning of words so searches become more relevant.” Semantic technology has been gradually introduced in recent years, offering users easier access to the information and connections they’re seeking. Without even knowing it, consumers are using more natural speech in their search queries and they EXPECT to be understood. As Search Insider puts it, the goal is to “focus less on keywords and more on intent-based collective intelligence.”

No longer focused on just keywords or even phrases, Internet search has evolved to employ a new level of sophistication, the so-called semantic search engine. From now on, Internet surfers will be able to search based on “entities”; in simple terms, persons, places and things. These entity searches will reveal far more about the topic being researched than was possible before. For example, instead of just directing you to a prominent contemporary person you may be researching, Bing’s “Satori” will link you to any and all ”Talks” that person has delivered.

Google’s new “Hummingbird” algorithm allows the user to conduct what Google calls “conversational searches”. By this they mean that the search engine will take an entire sentence into account, not just the words in the sentence. So, instead of directing you to the nearest pizza restaurant, you’ll be directed to the nearest pizza restaurant that’s currently open, has the special ingredients you want and offers a promotion to new and returning customers, or whatever else you type into the search bar. The search engine strives to understand not just the words, but their context, hence the term semantic search.

The New World of Search Engines

Schema.org: Bing, Yahoo and Google recognize that in order to adapt to the new search landscape, they would have to put competition aside and engage in some collaboration. In 2011, they jointly launched the Schema.org initiative. Schema defines a new set of HTML terms which can be added to a web page’s markup. They will be used as clues to the meaning of that page, and will assist search engines to recognize specific people, events, attributes, and so on. For example, if a webpage contains the word “pentagon,” a Schema definition will clarify whether it’s about the geometric five-sided figure or the Department of Defense headquarters building.

Knowledge Graph and Snapshot: Google has been increasing the scope of its Knowledge Graph results, which offers users a box on the right hand side of the search results page that provides images and facts that are applicable to the searcher’s intent. Bing’s Snapshot, which functions similarly, was enhanced in 2013 by the advent of “Satori,” which will assist with understanding the relationship between people, places, events and objects.

Hummingbird: In September 2013, Google announced the arrival of Hummingbird, its new search algorithm. According to Google search chief Amit Singhal, Hummingbird represents the most drastic change in search algorithms that Google has made since 2001. He explains in Search Engine Land that Panda and Penguin were updates to the old algorithm, and some aspects of them will continue to apply, but Hummingbird is actually an entirely new search engine, designed for the search needs of today. Hummingbird offers a greatly increased comprehension of the meaning behind the search terms. Instead of just taking a few words from the query and trying to find pages with those words on them, Hummingbird is actually trying to decipher the meaning behind the query and offer results that match users’ intent. The Search Insider blog points out that Bing and Yahoo have made similar changes, though perhaps less drastic. They have geared their searches to respond more to full phrases and to understand the meaning contained in a string of words.

  Rising Stars: With the advent of semantic search, an array of new search engines are being freshly constructed. Although their user numbers are microscopic when compared to the major search engines, these new players have the advantage of being able to make a fresh start without worrying about modifying earlier structures. Examples of natural language search engines include: Powerset (now owned by Microsoft), Hakia and a handful of others.

 

Applications for Semantic Search  Augmented Reality (AR): With Google Glass, an overlay (of a map, for instance) is layered on top of the landscape that is being physically seen by the viewer. This will lead to more image tagging and visually based searches. This has a natural tie-in to marketing, since shoppers will be able to look at something and then learn about it (and where to buy it) based on its appearance. However, Google Glass still faces some challenges: It uses a combination of image, facial and voice recognition technology, and that means that a continuous network connection is required because you can’t pack enough processing power into just a few ounces. However, this obstacle is likely to be overcome before too long, and wearable technology of all kinds is just over the horizon.

Search and Mobile: According to Search Insider, mobile search and the birth of Siri have been the biggest catalysts for consumers changing approach to search. Since Siri encourages natural language questions, and people have gotten accustomed to having immediate access to the information that they want, voice recognition technology is increasingly driving Search. The mobile search utility Google Now is powered by natural language, and fits into the user’s life by supplying them with the information they want before they even realize they want it. The expectation of this kind of responsiveness has circled back to text-based online searches, and all the major search engines have made adjustments to meet this demand.

Social Media and Semantic Technology: Facebook has announced that its new Graph Search is equipped with semantic search technology so that users can find the connections they want more easily, and advertisers can achieve more intuitive understanding of users’ preferences. Graph Search also enables far more accurate targeting of marketing, since it can make new connections. For example, a user (or advertiser) can find friends who like X who live in Y. Basically, the new technology provides a treasure trove for data mining, although it too has a few challenges to overcome.

The new deeper data levels are based on people spending more time on Facebook, with broad networks of friends and connections. Also, the public concern with Facebook privacy continues and these concerns may prevent people from “Liking” certain things. Overall, however, the prospects are bright; Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, predicts in Bloomberg Businessweek, “Graph Search will grow to about a quarter of Facebook’s revenue, or $3 billion to $4 billion in 2015.”

What are the Implications for Marketers and Content Creators?

In their introduction to Hummingbird, Google states that the new algorithm doesn’t really usher in any SEO changes. SEO success will still depend on simply presenting original, high-quality content. However, the science of marketing is undergoing change in response to semantic search, because improved perception of user intent opens new doors. Users will have far greater success in finding what they’re looking for, and marketing campaigns can drill down to finer and finer demographic sectors based on intent as well as device type, location, history, and so forth.

Graph Search, and its inevitable flock of cousins on other social media platforms, will intensify the networking aspects of consumption, as friendship and commerce become less and less distinguishable from one another. On the semantic web, each user’s identity and intent will become clearer, with the dual outcomes of being more successful at finding what they want and being more findable by the commercial entities who can provide what is wanted.

Penny Herscher, CEO of First Rain, a B2B customer intelligence firm, describes her vision of B2B marketing in the semantic search world. She presents a scenario in which you could see someone at a conference and, with the use of facial recognition software, instantly call up their identity and learn what business they’re in and who their clients and competitors are. Not only that, but you could have instantly available suggestions about whether it will be productive to go over and introduce yourself. Basically, augmented reality is a new relationship between the physical world, including physical face to face interactions, and a world of information that lies behind what you’re seeing. This information influences the way that you will interact with all the worlds you inhabit.

The Direction of Searches and Search Engines

Despite the billions and billions of searches, Google reports that 20 percent of all searches in 2012 were new. It seems quite staggering, but it’s a product of the semantic search rather than the simple keyword search. And the trend will continue. Searches will become faster and more relevant information will be delivered to the consumer. Today, 96 percent of consumers’ time on the Web is spent on content sites. Will that percentage someday reach 100 percent, with time searching reduced to a statistically insignificant number? And, with 35 percent of searches occurring outside of search engines, will your site and/or ads be properly structured to attract traffic from off the search world’s “beaten path”?

There is no definitive answer to all of these questions, just as there is no definitive forecast as to what the future of Internet searching and digital marketing will hold. Will your mobile device detect that you need a haircut and generate a text when you drive past a barber shop? Will your Internet habits allow new algorithms to be developed that will predict your future activities? Certainly, the future possibilities are endless for those who are studious enough to keep pace and agile enough to adjust.

Kerstin Recker is the head of marketing at Vertical Search Works.

Size Doesn’t Matter Online

localContrary to what some corners of the internet like to share, that Google, Bing and all the other search engines are trying to steal you away, they really have no interest in keeping you on their search pages long term. They want you searching for answers and clicking on your chosen result, not hanging out on a blank page with a search box in it. But what does that do for a local business, maybe a little mom and pop store that only has one or two employees? Regardless of your size, you can still leverage the search engines to help grow your business, and believe it or not on the internet everyone has a shot at being number one.

One of the big changes in the last couple of months has been the drive towards semantic natural searching by the search engines. It is an approach and change designed to make searching a simpler affair for the user, the goal for example being “what is the best restaurant 6 blocks from here”. Smart phones and tablets are very good at what they do and with how convenient they are to carry and use this sort of search isn’t that far off in the future. You can already use a search like “best restaurant in winnipeg” and get a fairly decent set of results based on both consumer and editorialized reviews. So what can you do as a mom and pop to take advatage?

For starters if you have a website with a brick and mortar location then you should have your Google+ local listing filled out and attributed to you. Formerly known as Google Places, the local listings are the results you see that show up on the map with the lettered marker points directing you exactly where to go. It allows Google to verify your listing and location with you and tells the search engine that you’re a real business with doors and walls and everything! It’s a very simple step to take which only helps your visibility and actually leads into the next point – customer reviews.

Having an A+ rating is great where the local better business bureau is concerned, but even better for yourself is when you can encourage your customers to post a review to your local listings. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon, or even on your Google+ local profile it serves two fold for your business needs. First it lets visitors who find your site have a little bit of insight into how you conduct your business and how you might treat your customers. Even the negative reviews can be extremely helpful in this case, provided of course you can properly remedy the situation. And secondly it is like adding a notch on your belt for the search engines, just another way you’ve proven to them that you have an active visitor/customer base.

A final, and one of the more obvious steps that you’d be surprised to learn gets missed is to ensure you have your physical address on both your website, and your local profile. It’s a surprisingly often missed step where site owners are concerned which is sometimes lost with the addition of a contact form added to a website. It is assumed that a site visitor will automatically use a form or page to get a message or question into a site owner, but what if they would rather walk in your door and talk to a person? Or call and talk to someone to have their questions answered? You need to make sure your location and contact information is included in your website, your local profile listings and in doing so you’re likely to see increased foot traffic, as well as web traffic. The easier you are to find, the more likely you are to make a sale.

Have You Found Your Place Online

Have you ever stopped to consider why your website may not be performing quite as well as it used too? It is always worth it to stop and have a close look at what your offering as an online presence to the public, because sometimes a face lift is in order.

growthOnline marketing and branding is still a rather new avenue of growth for every business out there, and it’s one that needs to be monitored and measured appropriately to make sure you’re getting the most you possibly can out of it. Every now and then we have a client come to us with their woes of poor online performance and when we look at their website it’s like looking through a time warp. An outdated appearance on a website can be detrimental to an otherwise successful business offline. Tech is always improving and we’re a long way from using tables and basic HTML scripting to design and build websites, having a recognizable and intuitive website design is a significant part of a successful online presence.

Businesses are always growing and changing and sometimes your old mission statement and goal doesn’t match your current model. It doesn’t mean that you need to completely redesign and develop your website, but it can always help to revisit your content and your vision to make sure that your websites message matches that of your vision. Also to keep in mind is just how does your website react when you visit it with a smart phone or a tablet? If your site isn’t at least somewhat responsive you’re only losing out on providing your visitors with both their desired and required experience. If your site is difficult to use and navigate then your visitors are likely to leave in favor of finding someone else to provide them with their needs.

As strange as it might seem, we’ve been approached by some people looking for help online and found that while they have an incredible site, and a great message and content they’re just not meeting their conversion goals. There are usually only a couple of reasons that we can boil this down too, one of them being that the conversion message, or call to action is lost in the complexity of the site. Keep your message and conversion message simple and you’re more likely to end up with that coveted sale. Additionally we have even had some site owners come to us and have found that their designer of their site neglected to allow indexing of their site via an htaccess or robots.txt file. There is always time for you to reevaluate your website it’s content and it’s call to action, and always make sure that if you need assistance with any of your online issues to make sure to call the experts here at Freshtraffic.

Searching The Web – An Exercise in Futility

The internet is a pretty big place and with Facebook throwing its hat in the search ring with their trillion of connections made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a search engine doesn’t immediately deliver exactly what you’re looking for with your first search.

penguin2Google is often placed under the microscope when complaints about the web or search quality come up, but it seems exceedingly rare that anyone actually talks about how big a job it is to be a search engine. Using Facebooks example of having an index of a trillion connections made using their social software alone, it should be clear that the web is a huge place. An estimate of the size of the internet is somewhere over 100 trillion web pages and users and complainers are often quick to pass judgement on the search engines when they couldn’t find what they want. Google is the largest and most widely used search engine on the web, still holding onto more than 2/3 of the audience out there and even they don’t even try to get close to curating that massive amount of pages.

When you factor in that many pages on the web and an algorithm that sorts, ranks and tries to properly place every one that it crawls <em>and</em> that it can deliver your results pages in less than a half second it should really be amazing that it can be done at all. Constant updates and improvements to the algorithm that does the bulk of the work can alter the pages you see when you search, and even sometimes appears to completely break the results pages as was the impression when Panda and Penguin were integrated into the algorithm. As an exercise in just how massive an undertaking this can be, and how Google and the other search engines aren’t out to get you and your site specifically give this a go. Imagine you have 100 pennies in your possession all with a different year on them, after shaking them all up in a can pick out the one with the year of your birth on it, if you don’t pick out your year it goes back into the can. You might get it in the first few or it may take you 30 – 40 tries, now repeat that experiment 100,000,000 more times and you’ll have a sample of how much work the search algorithms do every time they perform your search.

Giant Verus Giant

Shots have been fired across the bow of the Google command ship and they came from a source that is not only extremely early, but somewhat unlikely – Facebook.

Zuckerberg-FB-pressJust a short time ago Mark Zuckerberg came forward during the most recent Facebook earnings call to state in no uncertain terms that they will compete directly with Google to be the kings of search. Over the last year Facebook implemented their graph search which allows you to perform contextual searches based on your friends and what ever information they have shared with you, to hopefully find answers to what your question may be. They’re working on being more of a source of answers instead of a source of results all while targeting the mobile platform in order to facilitate mobile searches.

The Facebook graph search has by their records the largest index on hand, larger than any other web search engine. They estimate they have somewhere more than a trillion <em>connections</em> between their users, interests, groups etc. While the number sounds impressive to be sure, and while Zuckerberg believes that they happen to have the largest database on hand the proof will be found in the pudding as they say. The actual size of the index that Google has is difficult at best to try even try and envision as a number let alone an actual one, but the last count that seems to be passed around is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 billion pages, growing at a rate of 5+ billion pages per year based on people creating, modifying and changing their web presence.

Where the house of cards that Facebook has built for themselves as an opponent in a giant versus giant battle is also tied to their earnings call unfortunately. The likely timeline that Facebook could pose a realistic threat as a web search engine is in 10 years. 10 years on the web is an eternity where technology is concerned, and at the rate that Google and other search engines are growing and adapting, Facebook is likely to be left out in the cold when the time comes to fight.

Once More Unto The Breach

seoThere is always a someone talking about how SEO is a dead industry, and more often than not the doomsayers used a very specific type of optimization methods.

When the online marketing game started it was a fairly simple matter to get almost any website listed. You didn’t even really need to have any content of merit or even any kind of following to your website. You didn’t even need to have an okay website never mind a high quality one and as for any kind of best practice guide it didn’t really exist in the beginning. There were no pure white hat methods, although there were many black hat methods and it took a while before the search engines even began to lay penalties to some of the worst offenders. This all started with real gusto across the web in the mid to late 90s.

As the web grew and expanded and as the search engine bots, crawlers and tech got better, the types of things that you should do and shouldn’t do began to become clearer. After a few years of clean up, the search engines and their algorithms fell almost into a routine. You could build a site, create or scrape some content, point any kind of a backlink at it and make a site start to show up in the results pages. It was at this point that the terms ‘search engine optimization’ really started to become widespread and the notion that you could make money from SEO started to become an avenue for people who frequented blogs and discussion forums about the quickest and easiest way to make a dollar online. This was in around 2005-2010 era of SEO, when the industry became suddenly inundated with experts in the field. It really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, that these are the same folk who are calling SEO a dead industry these days.

In the last few years SEO has had some major shifts with the algorithm much the same as the industry saw in 2003 with the Florida update which cleaned up a great deal of the spam across the web. Penguin and Panda were the most recent additions to the Google algorithm which changed the world of SEO enough that the prior blogged about methods of spammy content and tons of anchor text and backlinks disappeared as a viable strategy. They were very simple methods, easy to implement and even easier to spam multiple sites to help drive a target to the top of the results pages. But since the means and the methods became unusable as a reliable way to rank a site, it is suddenly the end of SEO as a viable means of marketing. So the next time you’re approached by an agency who tells you that ‘SEO is dead’ take a moment and remember that the industry is far from dead – if anything it’s growing. It’s only the that the wheat has finally been separated from the chaff.

Expedia Google Penalty, Right or Wrong

So Expedia has been hit hard with a Penalty and lost 25% of its visibility. There’s even been talk about a Negative-SEO attack, really? Let’s cut the bullshit here, we all know that most large firms on the net use all sorts of tactics to rank higher, after all BIG BUCKS are at stake and that’s all that matters to these guys.

 expedia google penaltyWe had BMW a few years back, JC Penny last year with a host of others around the globe all screaming they didn’t know, I Call Bullshit to all these. You hear the same excuses, we didn’t know, it was the SEO Company who did it, yes the good old SEO Firm gets it in the ass again.

Okay let’s look at some facts for Expedia.com, the reasons why may be Google slapped them.

This started back in December 2014 when a single post of an angry SEO who had received a penalty wrote and pointed out that “big players” could buy low quality links and get away with it. The post gained a huge following in the SEO community which obviously brought it to the attention of Google. Exactly a month later Expedia’s visibility was declining and so was its stock price.

So with a little research it’s easy enough to find loads of link networks, sponsored low-quality articles, and WordPress Themes with a hidden link to Expedia.com, even black on black links for cheapest flights, very circa 2008. You can see travel blog themes created in 2011 with php code to expedia, so it begs the question about negative SEO, why would anyone do that for such a long time, 3-4 years.

With a little checking it was found that the owners of these sites was a company called Myers Media Group who own a company called Enterprise SEO who just happen to have a client called expedia who they have worked with since 2007, the plot thickens.

So unless this company is a huge scam, there was not any “negative SEO” attack. Creating WordPress Themes with a keyword rich footer is not new, like I said earlier very 2008, Definitely black hat and definitely outside of any Google Webmaster Guidelines – back than and even more than ever today.

A day after Expedia rankings started to drop, by coincidence or not, all the old themes started to get updated with the footer links missing, magic. The sponsored links word was also removed. May be the giveaway on these was the created by the Expedia cheapest flights team. So they did know?

Keyword rich links were dropping by the thousands from all these themes. Actually now, the word “expedia” is not present in this updated theme at all. So basically, on January 20, 2014, the theme was “wiped” clean from everything that could have brought Expedia into trouble.

So did they get punished for just these themes or was there more? Well we noticed that links from shady auto generated networks were also disappearing, in honesty they looked more like link farms they had setup for cheap hotels in Vegas etc., but it doesn’t stop there, in looking deeper expedia.com had other link networks that were shady. Looking at the backlinks it’s pretty easy to see which were clearly part of a network.

They clearly knew what they were doing, link networks, paid links or advertorials, paid guest blogging with low quality posts, real spammy, submissions in free or paid online directories, Sponsored articles or Press Releases with do-follow, keyword rich links, Yes They Knew.

So what now? Well as I write they are trying to clean house, on-page changes, and link removal even the agency working for the Expedia.ca site left many minor “bugs” that they are now fixing.

It takes two to tango and as you know I speak my mind, the companies make huge dollars listing at the top of Google for Big Hitting keywords, always have always will, but to get there is another matter, it takes dollars, lots of them and time, lots of that too along with know-how. There’s clearly some things that still work today that worked 10 years ago and are within the guidelines which make a huge difference, but if you ask me today can I list tops for the big hitters without going a little grey, in honesty no you can’t, Big Bucks will always rule, even if you get it for only a short time 2-3 years before your caught, because you can always throw the card, I didn’t know, it was the SEO.

Will Expedia be back?, Sure they will, they’ll clean house, spend another 10 million on Adwords this year, “Google likes that”, and start again, only this time they will be a darker shade of white.