Google Places Allows Spam Reviews

Posted: April 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Local SEO | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Unfortunately, Google is failing to crack down on fraudulent spammers who post negative reviews about their competitors. This particular spammer is a local cabinet maker who posted two dozen 1-star reviews about its competitors’ businesses, all on the same day. And on the same day, gave itself a 5-star review. It’s pretty dumb, because it makes it really obvious who the culprit is.

Google allows users to report inappropriate comments. Several of the companies affected have reported the spammer. But, Google has done nothing about it. Owners have the opportunity to respond to to negative reviews, and can point out that the comment is spam. But, if Google does not take down the review, the affected company’s average star rating remains compromised. In fact, one of the affected companies is a client of mine. Because my client is honest and does not inflate his listing with fake reviews, he has a modest number of reviews, all positive except for the fraudulent 1-star review from his competitor. That 1-star review brings his average rating down to 3.5 stars. That’s what you see when my client comes up on Google Places. Maybe some potential customers will take the time to click for more info and see that the one negative review is a fake. But most won’t. Why would they, when several other cabinet makers with higher averages appear in the local search results?

I warn all of my clients of the dire consequences of trying to trick the search engines. “You WILL be caught,” I always say. So, it’s really frustrating to watch this one company get away with it. It’s been two months now, and Google has done nothing so far.


Should I Re-Brand?

Posted: January 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Google Page Rank, SEO | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I have noticed that many sole proprietors brand themselves. And re-brand themselves. Is this a good idea?

I’m going to address this from an SEO perspective. And it does take careful consideration. Building your current site’s ranking took time. You don’t want to throw that away because you thought of a new business name you like better. If things have gone relatively well, other sites link to you, and maybe not just to your home page– maybe you’ve got valuable “deep links” to your other content. Search engines have found you and indexed your pages, and are even taking into account the age of your domain.

Let’s backtrack for a minute though. If you are a sole proprietor or sole practitioner, and plan to stay that way, do you really need to brand yourself in the first place? Maybe you should build a reputation for your real name, instead of a brand name. The brand name may sound outdated within a year or two, if trends change, or if your business goes in another direction and, you will find yourself in this re-branding pickle.

Assuming you already went the brand route, and realize now that you chose the wrong brand name, what now? Do not have any illusions here– when you change your domain name, your search engine ranking will be affected, probably for several months, but hopefully there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Think carefully, and choose a new domain name that can be with you for a long time, even if you narrow or widen your business focus, or alter your business in some other unforeseeable way.

  1. Go through your old site, and make sure you have a record of each and every URL.
  2. Go to Yahoo.com and type in link:http://www.yourolddomain.com and find out who is linking to your old site, and what pages they are linking to. Use the dropdown menu to Show Inlinks “Except from this domain” to “Entire Site.”
  3. Think about whether you are going to use the same URL structure (will your about page still be called about.php or is it going to be called about-our-company.php?).
  4. Launch your new site.
  5. In your server’s .htaccess file, use 301 redirects to re-direct each old URL to each new one, or if file structure remains the same, you can redirect the whole site to the new domain in one fell swoop. More on this.
  6. Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account for your old domain. If you never did this before, you need to now. Fill out a “Change of Address form”.
  7. Get a Google Webmaster Tools account for your new domain, and submit a sitemap of all your new URL’s.
  8. Contact all the web sites from step #2, and request that they update their link to your site. Even with the re-direct, you should do this, to preserve your “link juice” from those backlinks.
  9. Don’t wait too long to take your old site down if there is duplicate content. You can be penalized for this.
  10. Have patience…. several months of patience.

Ask yourself… is it still worth re-branding?


Google’s Duplicate Content Penalty: Moving WordPress

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Google Page Rank, SEO, Wordpress | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Just a cautionary tale if you’re planning to move your WordPress blog from wordpress.com to your own domain. When you move your content from one domain to another, conventional wisdom tells you to use a 301 redirect to inform search engines that the site is permanently moved. However, when a blog is hosted at wordpress.com, this option is not available to you.

One client hired me to set up WordPress and a premium theme at her domain. She already had a site at that domain, which she was replacing with a WordPress site. She also already had a blog hosted on wordpress.com, and was moving all those posts (about 50 of them) to the new site at her existing domain. I set up the theme for her, and she exported all of her posts from the wordpress.com site and imported them to her domain. I informed her about the legendary “duplicate content” penalty and told her that she would need to take down the content on wordpress.com, but not to do anything drastic before Google crawled her new site at her domain.

Fast forward 6 weeks; Google had found the new content, alright, but the old content still remained. Google must have decided the wordpress.com site was the original source of the content, and dropped her domain from its index completely. The domain, prior to the installation of the WordPress site, had an old static site that had previously had a moderate Google page rank.

The first step I told her to take was to remove the text of each of her posts from her wordpress.com site and replace it with a “this article has moved….” link to the same content on the new site. Once this was done, I could be sure there was no more duplicate content. I then submitted a “site reconsideration request” through Google Webmaster Tools. I explained that both domains were run by the same business (there had been no plagiarization) and that the duplicate content had been removed. There was a rather cryptic response about a week later that said the request had been processed, but it didn’t mention whether the domain would be re-indexed. It’s been about 3 weeks since then, and the domain is still not listed in Google’s index.

This is a pretty drastic implementation of the duplicate content penalty, as the client has gone from about 300 visits a day to only a handful. Be sure to avoid this situation altogether by removing duplicate content as quickly as possible when moving your site from wordpress.com to your own domain.


Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 2: Stream your blog posts and tweets to your static home page

Posted: October 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Google Page Rank, Local SEO, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This month I’ve been auditing some small, local Brooklyn web sites for searchability, or more accurately, findability. In Part 1 of this article, I touched on a few elements that help a page stand out on the search results page. Here in Part 2, I’ll offer two tricks for keeping some fresh content on the home page of your static web site.

From an SEO perspective, static web sites are at a certain disadvantage compared with blogs. Search engines like to see text, and they like to see that pages are updated periodically. A blog automatically fulfills both of these criteria. The home pages of the static web sites that I looked at were just that — static. And some were almost completely graphic without hardly any text at all.

For those owners of static web sites who also have blogs, there is a quick and almost automatic solution. Create a box on your home page that will automatically display your latest blog post titles with links to your blog posts. You can also include a short excerpt from each blog post if you desire. I employ this tactic on my own static home page. This is relatively easy to accomplish using this Feed to Javascript service.

In the same vein, if you use Twitter, then you can automatically display your most recent tweets on your web site. Go to the Goodies/Widgets section of Twitter to get the code to add a Twitter badge to your home page.

Doing one or both of these will keep your home page fresh with updates and relevant keywords. Best of all, once these are set up, you will be able to see changes to your home page that you generate yourself without any help from your webmaster.

If you have neither a blog nor a Twitter account, then I recommend adding a Twitter account to get started — it’s a much smaller commitment than blogging, and it will still help enliven your static home page.


Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 1: Mind your search engine results page.

Posted: October 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Google Page Rank, SEO, Web Design | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I’ve had a good response this month from Brooklyn bloggers, entrepreneurs and artists looking for ways to increase traffic on their web sites. I’m happy to report that all the sites I looked at are headed in the right direction and can easily increase their traffic by devoting about 5-10 hours to that end and changing a few habits. I’ll be devoting the next few posts to talking about some of the things I found when doing these audits.

Many small business web sites use the same duplicate page title on every page. My guess as to why this happens is that the coder uses a template, and doesn’t think to change the title when plugging copy into the bodies of the pages. The small business owner who is employing the designer/coder doesn’t, in most cases, know what a page title is. If they don’t see it within their design they don’t realize it exists. It’s seemingly a small oversight but the stakes are high. Google awards quite a bit of weight to page titles, but there’s another reason to be concerned about them. They are what users see in the search engine results page (SERP). Getting a page onto the SERP is only the first step. On the SERP, there are 9 other pages competing for one click– so the title really has to be right.

While we’re on the subject of SERP’s, let’s talk meta tags for a moment. Ever since we found out that Google doesn’t use the description meta tags, many web designers and coders out there have decided that meta tags are dead. That may be when it comes to PageRank but that’s not the whole story. If there’s no meta description tag, then Google grabs the first few words of the web page and uses those as the description on the SERP. In many cases, it’s the navigation that shows up– and it’s great to be using text links in the nav — but, which of the following two examples would you click on?

Example 1:
SERP example 1

Example 2:
SERP example 2

So, before spending money on PPC ad campaigns, small businesses should take a look at their sites and see if they can make a few small tweaks that could go a long way.

Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 2


Free Offer: SEO audit for small Brooklyn businesses

Posted: October 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Local SEO | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

For the month of October, I am offering a free SEO audit to any independently owned small Brooklyn business, entrepreneur, or sole proprietor with an existing web site.

What does this mean? Send me your web site address, and I will provide you with a document that details what you could be doing to drive more traffic to your web site.

You must meet the following criteria:

  1. Your business must be based in Brooklyn
  2. Your business must have no more than 50 employees
  3. Your business must be independently owned and operated

This offer also applies to freelancers and sole proprietors such as artists, acupuncturists, etc. There’s no need to be a bricks and mortar operation in order to qualify. The offer is good October 1 – 31, 2009.


Does your web site say what you are?

Posted: September 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Local SEO, SEO | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I am repeatedly amazed by how many businesses, large and small, do not define themselves on their web site home pages. When I point this out to clients, they are stunned.

Take, for example a Brooklyn hair salon with a highly functional and well designed site. When you arrive at their home page, you can tell immediately that they’re a hair salon, and if you already know that the famous neighborhood Park Slope is in Brooklyn, then you can tell it’s a Brooklyn hair salon. But, Google can’t! The words “hair” and “Brooklyn” do not appear on their home page! The word “Slope” as in “Park Slope” does appear, but is invisible to Google because it’s part of a graphic in the logo.

With the yellow pages model, hair salons are forced to think of themselves as hair salons, and can be found in the hair salon section under the letter H. The freedom of the web unfortunately frees us up to completely miss the most basic opportunities for getting found.

One way to make sure that your business is correctly defined is to create a footer that appears on every page of your web site. The footer should include, in HTML text, your business category as it would appear in the yellow pages as well as your location.


If you do nothing else to promote your small business web site, do this

Posted: September 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Local SEO | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Register your business location and web site with Google Local. Your web site itself may rank low for the search term “Brooklyn bike repair”– but without doing a single thing to your web site, you can get listed on the first page of Google’s search results by verifying your business address with Google Local. When you do this, you have the opportunity to appear on the Google map that appears at the top of your search results when you search for location-specific businesses.

Simply go to http://www.google.com/local/add and add or claim your business. Even if your business has already been listed, you should claim your local business listing so that you can edit it and add more specific information.

For example, a client of mine is an artist with a storefront studio. In addition to selling his art, he also does commissions, such as ketubahs and pet portraits. By claiming his listing, he was able to label his business with up to 5 categories. Now, he is not limited to coming up for the broad term “Brooklyn portrait artist”– for which there are a lot of results. He also added “ketubahs” and “pet portraits” as categories and he now comes up for those as well.

Here’s some more information on Google Local