Friday, 1 September 2017

Bing is Proving the Future of AI is Now for Small Businesses

chatbot-social Bing is Proving the Future of AI is Now for Small Businesses

Small businesses rely on each employee to wear several hats, but being a jack-of-all-trades also takes time away from employees to do their job and do it well. Small business owners need as much help as possible, whether that is freeing up the hostess to get away from the phones and greet customers or focusing your executive administrator on running the front office instead of taking payments.

An employee’s day can easily be derailed by customers calling to ask the same questions over and over again; Are you open today? Where can I pay my bill? How do I find your prices? Where are you located? So, it’s easy to understand the necessity Bing sees in creating chatbots for small businesses. Chatbots save your paid employees time, which saves you money.

How Chatbots Work for Small Businesses

Bing launched Business Bots several months ago and is the first major search engine to do this. Bing Bots are programmed to know the answers to simple questions about a business. The business owner simply supplies answers to frequently asked questions such as hours of operation, location, menu items and more. The chatbots are engineered to understand questions and respond to those questions in natural language. This gets employees off the phone every other minute to say, “yes, we are open.”bingbot-1024x672 Bing is Proving the Future of AI is Now for Small Businesses

Bing’s bots can be used directly on Bing, Skype and even on a business’s website. If someone searches for a restaurant in Bing, the search engine results page (SERP) will bring up the listing with buttons to the website to call or to chat (see screenshot below).

So what if a bot doesn’t know an answer?

The bot has information stored for general questions, but if a customer asks a question it does not know the answer to the bot will provide the person with the business’s phone number. The bot will then reach out to the business owner so the owner can provide the answer to the question, so in the future the bot can be more helpful and again, continue to provide information about the business for its customers. This development may allow bots to continually update data and conduct transactions in the SERP.

The bot will also be available across platforms in the future – you create it once and publish across multiple channels such as Bing, Skype and SMS. Facebook Messenger and Cortana capabilities are coming soon.

The Evolution of the Chatbot

So, what is a chatbot, exactly? It’s a program that maintains a conversation with a user, using natural language. The bot understands the person’s intent and responds with the appropriate information. A mobile messenger is used for the chat, whether it’s SMS, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, or website.

The explosion of interest in chat bots can be surmised by a few developments:

  1. Mobile messenger popularity: Mobile messengers have grown in popularity and are the most used apps on mobile devices. According to Chatbots Magazine, WhatsApp has reached over a billion users, Facebook Messenger is at 900 million and WeChat is at 700 million. Messenger apps have surpassed social media apps in global popularity. It’s easy to surmise that today, people prefer talking via typing, and businesses should adapt to make that an easier and more developed option.bingbot-1024x672 Bing is Proving the Future of AI is Now for Small Businesses
  2. App fatigue: If you’re thinking about creating an app for your business, you may want to reconsider. App fatigue is growing. App fatigue refers to consumers who are tired of installing and then constantly updating new apps onto their smartphones. Put simply, users often download apps, use them once or twice and then never use them again. According to the same Chatbots Magazine study, as much as 23 percent of mobile users abandon an app after one use. A typical consumer has about 30 apps on their phone, but uses less than five on a consistent basis.  As you can see, often times, the development and launch of an app ends up being a waste of resources.
  3. Support for bots through Facebook, Microsoft and other technology leaders: Bot support has grown within the last year, as both Microsoft and Facebook made announcements in 2016 for development and support of chat bots. This has led to the possibility of creating an approved bot and launching it across platforms, seeing affects all across the globe. bingbot-1024x672 Bing is Proving the Future of AI is Now for Small Businesses
  4. Dramatic reduction in chat bot development costs: Finally, the development cost behind chatbots has dropped dramatically. Recently, major software companies like IBM, Microsoft, Facebook and Google have released free advanced development tools, frameworks and research data that has allowed companies to design chat bots for a relatively low price. This has led to advances such in Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Understanding, Speech Recognition and other advanced technologies.

The Takeaway

In the end, it’s easy to see that the mobile world we live in has become the perfect place for businesses to take advantage of chatbots to garner more interest. Chatbots work well with the generations that have grown up on technology and want the easiest, fastest and simplest way to get information. Of course large corporations see value in these and have the development capabilities, but small businesses should pay attention to this as well. With a small team and everyone stretched to capacity, a chat bot could make a big difference in operations and allow your employees to focus on the jobs that take creativity, personality, and intuition.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls

iStock_000017165070_Medium How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls

Have you ever answered a phone call from an unknown number, only to hear a pre-recorded message? These “robocalls” are very common, and most of them are scams. In particular, scammers pretending to work with Google often target small business owners. Keep reading to learn how to stop receiving these annoying, predatory, and illegal calls.

The Real Problem with Robo Sales Calls: They’re Illegal

A robocall is an automated phone call that plays a recorded message. As technology makes it cheaper and easier for scammers to send these calls out en masse, robocalls are becoming increasingly prevalent. An estimated 2.4 billion robocalls are made every month. Almost everyone with a phone gets them sometimes.

Robocalls aren’t just annoying. They’re illegal, unless you’ve signed up to receive them, and they’re often fraudulent. Most of the time, robocalls are sent out by scammers to scare people into handing over money or personal information.

How? One common scenario is that you receive an automated call from someone who claims to work for or be affiliated with Google. Some of these callers might claim they can improve your site’s ranking if you pay a fee or sign up for their service. Others might say your business listing is about to expire, and offer to renew or manage it for you. There are lots of ways these scammers might try to fish for your credit card number or other personal information, and you shouldn’t fall for any of them.

Even though this type of call isn’t legitimate, many people mistakenly think Google is behind them. This has tarnished Google’s name a bit, and Google has taken steps to fight back. In 2015, Google sued Local Lighthouse, a California-based SEO company that had been robocalling people and falsely claiming to be affiliated with Google. Google has also published a page with details on how to tell if a call is a scam, and they’ve set up a form where people can submit details about robocalls they’ve received.

Despite all of this, the practice of robocalling is still alive and well. Many of these scammers live overseas and use technology to spoof U.S.-based caller IDs, making them difficult or impossible to track down. It looks like robocallers are going to be around for a while, so what should you do if you find yourself on the line with one?

Identifying a Scam

First, make sure the call is a scam. This usually isn’t hard to do. If you’re not sure, there are a few red flags you can look for:

  • First, know that Google doesn’t use pre-recorded messages unless you request an automated call from them. Any legitimate, unsolicited call from Google will have a real person on the other end.
  • It doesn’t cost any money to list your business or manage your listing on Google. Don’t trust anyone who wants to do this for a fee.
  • Likewise, you can’t pay Google to improve your website’s ranking.
  • Google will not ask you for personal information like your date of birth or credit card number over the phone. (Nor, for that matter, will any other legitimate company.)

What to Do if a Scammer Calls You

Of course, you should never give out any personal information over the phone. There are also a few other things you should do (or avoid doing) if you get an automated call from someone claiming to be with Google.

  1. Do not say anything. Just hang up. If you say something, you’ll confirm that there’s a real person on your end of the line, and the scammer will probably try calling you again.
  2. Don’t push any buttons. Some robocallers will tell you to press a number to speak to someone or hang up. Don’t do it – this will also confirm that you’re a real person.
  3. Report the call to the FTC. Robocalling is illegal if you haven’t signed up to receive the calls. File a complaint with the FTC here. Note that you can file a complaint for a robocall even if you’re not currently listed on the National Do Not Call Registry (more on this in a minute). Below is an example of the FTC complaint page for robocalls:robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls
  4. Report the call to Google. You can find the form here. The more information you can provide, the better Google will be able to track down the company that called you.robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls

Preventing Robocalls

It’s important to deal with robocalls the right way, but wouldn’t it be great to prevent them from happening in the first place? While you may never be able to get rid of the calls entirely, here are a few things you can do to avoid most of them.

  1. See if you can find your phone number online. You may never find out where the scammers got ahold of your number, but it’s also possible that your number is somewhere on the internet where anyone can see it. Google your number and see what comes up. If your number shows up on social media, a list, or somewhere else easy to find, see if you can get it taken down.
  2. Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. The National Do Not Call Registry is a list of phone numbers that telemarketers are not allowed to call. Once your number is on that list, it’s illegal for anyone to pester you. Of course, scammers with questionable business practices may not respect the registry, but it’s a good place to start. At the very least, reputable companies won’t call you anymore. Below is an example of the what the webpage looks like, found here.robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls
  3. Block scammers’ phone numbers. Most smartphones have a feature that lets you block certain numbers from calling you. If you’ve been getting persistent robocalls from the same number, this is probably your best option for stopping them. You may also be able to contact your phone company and report scammers that won’t leave you alone. Below is an example from PC Mag:robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls
  4. Use an app or tool to block the calls. If you’re sick of getting flooded with robocalls from different numbers, an app like Nomorobo or TrueCaller might be what you need. These apps can identify callers and filter out robocalls before your phone even rings. But if you ever need to take legitimate automated calls, such as reminders from your doctor’s office, be aware that these apps may filter them out too.

Nomorobo is a popular anti-robocalling app. They claim to be able to tell the difference between legitimate automated calls and scam calls:robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls

Truecaller works as a caller ID while blocking incoming spam calls:robocall1 How to Stop Those Annoying SEO Robo Sales Calls

Wrapping Up

Robocalls are annoying, especially if you get a lot of them. You know better than to give away your information, of course, but you’re probably tired of dealing with automated calls when you’re trying to focus on other things. Luckily, while scammers will always be out there, there’s plenty you can do to stop them from bothering you. Put these tips to work for you, and you’ll probably receive a lot fewer robocalls in the future.

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

chromesecure Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

Another Google update is on the horizon. In October, the tech giant will release an update to their Chrome browser, and it could have a big effect on your conversions. When it comes out, the new “Chrome 62” will alert users when they type in any kind of information on a page with a non-secure HTTP connection. If you haven’t switched to HTTPS yet, this could be worrisome news for your business. Here’s what you need to know:

Google’s Push for More Security

Google has been nudging webmasters towards improving their online security for a while now. Back in 2014, Google made HTTPS a ranking signal, so more secure sites tended to rank higher than sites using HTTP, and in January 2017, Google released Chrome 56, which warns users when they input credit card information or a password on an unsecured HTTP site.

But Google isn’t finished yet. Chrome 62, which is scheduled to come out October 17, is going to ramp up the security warnings even more. After the release, Chrome users will see a “Not secure” warning message whenever they type anything into a form field on an HTTP page. This includes fields like search bars and lead capture forms. Below is an example of the “!” you see to show you that you’re on an unsecure site:

notsecure1 Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

Chrome 62 will warn users that a site isn’t secure when they type information into any form field. Chrome will also start displaying a warning on all HTTP pages in incognito mode. Many people mistakenly believe that incognito mode keeps information safe from hackers, but it doesn’t – it just disables your browser from storing anything in your history or cache.

notsecure1 Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

When Chrome 62 comes out, any non-secure form fields in incognito mode will load with a “Not secure” warning. Eventually, Google plans to include a red triangle with an exclamation mark along with its warning that a page isn’t secure. This change will happen in future releases, not Chrome 62.

notsecure1 Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

Note: Eventually, Chrome will start displaying a scarier-looking warning on HTTP pages.

These changes are having a major impact on Chrome users’ behavior, as well as websites’ traffic. According to Google, there has already been a 23% reduction in traffic to HTTP pages requesting credit card information or passwords. With the next wave of changes, traffic will probably take an even bigger hit – unless webmasters take action now.

HTTPS: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

At this point, if you aren’t fluent with technology, you might be wondering what exactly HTTP and HTTPS are. What’s the difference between them, and what’s wrong with HTTP?

  • HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol.

In a nutshell, it’s a method for sending information between two devices. For example, when you go to a website, HTTP is the procedure that sends the information from the web server to your browser.

The problem with HTTP is that it’s not very secure. Hackers can intercept and read any data sent through an HTTP connection. Obviously, this is a huge problem if you’re sending sensitive personal information like passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. Enter HTTPS.

  • The extra S on the end stands for “secure.”

HTTPS encodes all of your data before sending it, so if hackers got their hands on your information, they would just see an unreadable string of gibberish. HTTPS encrypts data with the help of two other protocols – SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and TSL, which stands for Transport Security Layer.

You can tell whether a site uses HTTP or HTTPS by looking at the URL bar in your browser. If the site is using HTTPS (and therefore secure), you’ll see a padlock symbol on the left side of the bar.

notsecure1 Conversions Might Take a Hit with Chrome 62

Chrome’s new security features are making internet users more safety-conscious. In the past, it was easy to just not notice whether a site was secure. Ever since Chrome 56 came out, though, it’s much more obvious when a site might not be safe. That’s driving a lot of people away from sites that haven’t upgraded to HTTPS yet – nobody wants their information to be compromised.

How Can You Avoid Taking a Hit?

If you’re already using a secure page to ask visitors for any sensitive information, such as payment information, you’re OK for now. But in October, you’ll need to make sure your whole site is secure. If you’re still using HTTP when the update happens, any kind of form field – like a search bar or an email opt-in form – will flag your site as not secure. This can do a lot of damage to your credibility, and you’ll probably see a steep drop in your conversions and new leads.

The solution is simple: make sure you’re using HTTPS by the time October rolls around. Using HTTPS is just a good practice anyways. It increases customer trust, and it could give your rankings a boost. And, of course, security is a must if you ask your visitors for personal information.

Should you migrate your site to HTTPS by yourself? That depends. It’s possible to do the job on your own, but if you aren’t familiar with how the process works, you might find yourself feeling lost or overwhelmed – or, worse, unsure of how to fix something you broke. If you’re worried about that happening, it’s best to ask your web developer to help you, or hire someone specifically to migrate your site.

If you’d rather make the switch yourself, here’s an overview of what you’ll need to do:

  • Obtain a SSL certificate. You can get one for free from Let’s Encrypt.
  • Make sure your server is correctly configured for the update.
  • Install your security certificate.
  • Go through your website and update any internal http links to https links. Check your CSS, JavaScript, images, and canonical tags to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Set up 301 redirects from old http links to new https links. That way, people who follow old links to your site from around the Internet don’t end up at a broken page.
  • Update your business’ social media pages, your Google Webmaster Tools account, and any other links around the Internet to reflect your new URL.

After you migrate your site, you might see some fluctuations in your rankings, but those should even out after several weeks. If you can, make the switch to HTTPS at a low-traffic time. That way, Google will be able to index your updated site faster, and your rankings will stabilize sooner.

Google has released a guide on updating your own site to HTTPS. If you’re planning to make the switch by yourself, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process ahead of time. You can find the guide here.

The Takeaway

For webmasters who aren’t using HTTPS yet, the time to take action is now. Otherwise, your conversions (and your reputation) will be in trouble come October. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to migrate your site and avoid any negative repercussions of the change. If you still need to make the switch to a more secure site, do it sooner rather than later, so you can work out any snags well before Chrome 62 is released.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

5 Guaranteed Ways to Get Devalued by Google

hv-blog-competitive-analysis 5 Guaranteed Ways to Get Devalued by Google

For website owners and/or managers, there are many paths for online marketing and optimization. From SEO to PPC and content marketing to social media marketing, there is certainly no shortage of ways through which to achieve your goals. However, those options and opportunities for your website come with rules that you have to play by, and if you don’t, you could find your website in hot water.

If you’re reading this and what I’m saying applies to you, then there’s a good chance Google is your search engine of choice for marketing and optimization. In regards to SEO and general website management, Google plays by the rules they’ve carefully developed and continue to evolve over time. The guidelines Google has for website management keeps the focus on providing the best experience and information possible for users while also preventing any one website or brand from cheating their way to the top.

That being said, there are many instances in which businesses end up on Google’s bad side or with a penalty without doing so intentionally. You’ve probably heard horror stories of this happening to website owners, seeing a drastic plummet in rankings overnight or realizing they’ve fallen victim to an algorithm update and earned a penalty. Such penalties can severely hurt a website or business, as they can negatively impact traffic, ranking, and performance. In my experience, I’ve seen plenty of websites from clients that were completely unaware they’d done anything to get on Google’s bad side in the first place.

While there’s a long list of things that can get your website slapped with a penalty or red flagged by Google, there tends to be a few common ways that businesses end up in that position. Check them out below, and ensure that you’re actively taking steps to prevent these slip-ups.

Common Ways a Website Gets in Trouble

  1. Black Hat SEO

One of the single most common issues that gets website in trouble is Black Hat SEO. This includes shady practices like cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, using link farms, and much more. In short, black hat SEO practices try and skirt around the rules to get SEO results in half the time. As I’ve said before, there are no short cuts when it comes to SEO, and any practice that tries to take such a shortcut will very likely get you in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, some businesses hire what they think is a reputable SEO company and later find out that they were doing black hat SEO for their website after being caught by Google. As a rule of thumb, website owners and managers should familiarize themselves with what black hat SEO is so they can spot it early if it’s coming from an SEO provider or avoid it altogether.

  1. Duplicate Content

Many website owners and managers don’t realize what a problem having duplicate content is. This is especially true for e-commerce websites with hundreds of product listing pages, as it can be difficult to come up with unique content over and over again. However, in the eyes of Google, duplicate content directly equates to low-quality or less useful information for users. It’s a labor of love, but the copy on your website should be well written and unique on every page.

  1. Excessive Guest Blogging

Google just recently issued a warning about abusing guest posting in order to gain links. To be clear, guest posting is by no means a black hat or shady strategy. However, having an article published across many different sites or guest posting low-quality content is considered a violation of Google distributor guidelines and should be avoided at all costs. For bloggers especially, it’s important to focus on building relationships that open up valuable guest posting opportunities. The posts you guest blog should be your best work and in no way reflective of spammy or less useful content, or Google will eventually catch up with you.

  1. Slow Page Speed/Poorly Performing Site

This matters a lot, because Google regularly crawls sites and accounts for how functional and accessible they are. Having a slow page speed, not being mobile friendly, or having a difficult to navigate site shows Google that your site isn’t the best option for users to find in their search results. By now we know that page speed, mobile friendliness, and ease of website crawling are factored into algorithms. Checking to see how your website performs through user testing and testing page speed are both things website owners should check on if they haven’t already.

  1. Hacked Websites

Security is a big factor for Google, because they want to know that user information is secure on the websites they visit. Hacked websites are up 32% in the past year, posing a significant threat to the performance and success of websites as well as the security of users. Securing your website is an important and necessary step all webmasters must take if they intend to be successful on Google. From simple practices like implementing two-step authentication to purchasing more advanced security packages, it’s in your interest to make your website security airtight to avoid a penalty from Google.

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Friday, 7 July 2017

Google’s Exciting New Tool for Small Businesses: The Who, What, & How

hv-blog-local-search Google's Exciting New Tool for Small Businesses: The Who, What, & How

SEO helps businesses of all kinds optimize their websites to have a presence online. It helps them gain visibility, traffic, and generate leads through business websites that act as a storefront on the web. But what about small businesses? The businesses so small they don’t even need a website?

For some small businesses, having a website is more work than it’s worth. For example, a local mom and pop shop that sells liquor or local groceries doesn’t have a need for a multi-page website. They don’t sell products online, so there’s no need to develop e-commerce functions, and they don’t run a blog, so there’s no need for content pages. So, if they don’t have need for a website but don’t want to miss out on the business that comes from online traffic, what are these small businesses to do?

This is exactly what Google’s new tool for small businesses aims to address.

What’s the new tool and who is it for?

According to Google’s announcement:

“One of the most common actions people take when exploring a Google listing is to go to the web site, but we know that getting a website can still be a challenge for a lot of small business owners around the world: too complex, too expensive, too time consuming. Millions of small businesses (60% of small businesses globally) don’t yet have a website.”

In response to this problem, Google has developed an exciting single-page website builder designed with small businesses in mind. In keeping with the simple and easy nature of this tool, it is simply called, “Website.” Through it, small business owners can easily create a single-page website in minutes from either any device from desktop to mobile phone.

How do you do it?

For small business owners to create a website, they have to have a completely filled out Google My Business listing (Website is an extension of GMB). This is because Google pulls the information from a business’s GMB listing to create the website. From there, business owners have the option of customizing the theme, photos, and text on the website.

Updating the website is as user-friendly and simple as updating your GMB listing is. This, of course, brings certain limitations in terms of how creative business owners can be with the design, but overall it’s a great option for small businesses.

Why this is Good News

This is exciting for small business owners because it presents a way for them to have an online presence without creating a resource they don’t actually need. Best of all, Website is free to use, which makes it an easy and uncomplicated step for a small business owner to quickly take to enhance their business.

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Updates to Google’s Local Guides Program: What You Need to Know

maps2 Updates to Google's Local Guides Program: What You Need to Know

Some recent updates to Google’s Local Guides Program expand it to offer more levels and more ways to contribute. It will also bring new perks and overall improve the program for both contributors and users. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Local Guides Program?

Local Guides is a program that allows anyone to sign up and contribute to Google Maps. Contributions from local guides include sharing reviews, photos, and knowledge about the places around you to help inform other people. Contributors to Local Guides can connect with other individuals who have shared passions, attend meet-ups, and be recognized for their contributions and achievements through the program. Local Guides help Google collect the reviews, map information, and photos to provide as much accurate information and feedback as possible about local businesses.

Why do people do it?

People like being part of the Local Guides program for a handful of reasons. In some cases, people with a passion for coffee shops in their city enjoy sharing information about the best places. Or in other situations, a handicapped person might enjoy sharing information about which businesses are and are not handicap friendly around the city, so that other handicapped individuals can see that information online. Here’s a blurb from Google about some passionate Local Guides:

Luis Duran, from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is passionate about helping people with disabilities better navigate and explore his city. Kim Flowers, in Melbourne, Australia, believes everyone should think locally and prides herself on helping businesses in her community. Chioma James from Lagos, Nigeria, is working to ensure that victims of sexual crimes can easily find necessary resources like hospitals, police stations and counseling centers. All three of these individuals are Local Guides—people from around the world who help their communities by adding reviews, photos and updated location information to Google Maps.

What’s new about the program?

There are a handful of new perks and features coming to the Local Guides program. Previously, all contributed information was weighted the same. That means that if a Local Guide answered a question, updated a map, added a photo, etc., it was all worth the same amount. Now, these contributions will be weighted differently according to value.

Previously the program only had 5 Levels for Local Guides to achieve and unlock through points from their contributions. Now, there are 10 levels, with unique achievements badges for levels 4-10 that recognize Local Guide for theirs contributions. It also helps users quickly identify Local Guides who contribute the most. You can learn more about this in the video they released:

Changes in Incentives

Per a write-up from SearchEngineJournal, Google used to give out more rewards for contributions from Local Guides. In comparison to the two years of a free terabyte of cloud storage they used to award for reaching level four, the rewards of badges and discounts in the Google Play store seem lackluster in comparison. However, the incentive to connect with others who have similar passions and meet up with local guides who have shared affinities remains a compelling reason to participate in itself.

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Monday, 3 July 2017

Google’s Warning About Guest Posting to Build Links: What You Need to Know & Not Do

panic Google's Warning About Guest Posting to Build Links: What You Need to Know & Not Do

When it comes to blogging and link building there are a handful of effective ways to make connections while enhancing your marketing strategy. Outreach emails, exchanging thoughts and ideas, and collaborating are all great ways to broaden your reach and presence within an industry. But like many other long-standing practices, some people have abused the practice of guest posting and raised red flags to Google that there may be too much of a good thing circulating.

In late May, Google issued a formal warning about shady guest posting practices. In it, they discuss the notable increase they’ve seen in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated post.

While they clarify that guest posting isn’t at all a bad thing when it informs or educates users to another cause or company, they also reiterate Google’s guidelines on link schemes. Link schemes, as referred to as the main intent to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site, are a violation of those guidelines when taken to an extreme.

Included in this article were a few specific examples of practices that violate Google’s guidelines:

  • Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles
  • Having the articles published across many different sites; alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites
  • Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on
  • Using the same or similar content across these articles; alternatively, duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site (in which case use of rel=”canonical”, in addition to rel=”nofollow”, is advised)

The warning then goes on to encourage sites accepting and publishing guest posts to ask questions like: Do I know this person? Does this person’s message fit with my site’s audience? Does the article contain useful content? If there are links of questionable intent in the article, has the author used rel=”nofollow” on them?

Quick Dos and Don’ts for Guest Posting

There are always ways to abuse a respected practice, but this warning doesn’t mean you have to abandon your guest posting strategy altogether. Rather, it simply means that content distributors should keep their guest posting practices clean, spam-free, and honest in their intent. To do that effectively, here are a few quick dos and don’ts for your guest posting strategy.

Do be transparent: Be clear about why you’re pursuing guest posts. This might involve you saying something like, “Hey, I think this article I wrote really fits the message of your website well and is something your audience would enjoy.” If you can’t be transparent about why you’re seeking a guest post, then you probably should be pursuing the opportunity.

Do provide quality content: If you’re trying to guest post on another website, it should be your best content. The same goes for featuring guest posts on your website. Remember, Google rewards quality content that provides the best value for users. Low-quality content almost never performs well or is recognized by Google.

Don’t outsource your guest posts: You shouldn’t be sourcing your guest posts from a content farm or broker, firstly because it’s dishonest to the featuring website and secondly because it’s missing the point of guest posting entirely. Write your own guest posts and do them well.

Don’t be spammy about guest posting: Google’s guidelines on this couldn’t be clearer. Don’t keyword stuff or spam the internet with an article by having it published across multiple websites, or it will likely end up marked as spam.

Key Takeaway

It’s always important to remember that you’re trying to build relationships, not just links. While having a featured guest post certainly has its benefits in terms of SEO, it’s also important to pursue opportunities that have a long shelf life. By broadening your network through productive and mutually beneficial relationship, the rest of the link building and guest posting opportunities will follow.

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