Are Your SEO Needs Being Met?

handshake isolated on business backgroundIf running a business has you coming and going, what are you doing to make things a little easier on yourself?

For many business owners, the focus is oftentimes lost on how important content marketing is to their success. While there is no doubt hiring the right talent and providing stellar customer service are both critical, so too is properly promoting your brand.

One of the best ways to get your brand front and center in front of countless eyes is by having a content marketing program that properly promotes your brand, leaving no doubt amongst consumers why they should be doing business with you.

With that said, do you do the content marketing or should you farm it out to the pros?

Research Your Options

For those business owners who decided that handling content marketing may be a little beyond their grasp, there is always the option of turning to an outside agency. That agency should not only be able to write eye-catching copy, but they also need to place it in front of as many eyes as possible.

Through search engine optimization (SEO), business owners can get their brand front and center.

But what about finding the right SEO provider to do just that? Can you really afford to just call-out any SEO company to do the work for you? Or do you need to invest time and effort in finding the best SEO agency?

The answer should be obvious, though some business owners oftentimes will simply hope for the best when hiring.

In order for your brand to get the best attention, remember to follow these tidbits in searching for the best SEO provider:

  • Track record – What kind of history does each SEO provider you are reviewing have? Are they all but free of customer complaints? Are they quick to respond to client inquiries or do they leave people on hold? What kind of social network (Twitter, Facebook etc.) do they have? If they have little or no social following, how can they be expected to use social media to help publicize your brand?
  • Read the fine print – Anytime you have someone do work for you; make sure you read the written deal (typically a contract) from start to finish. Those nasty little “hidden fees” can crop up from time to time, leaving you a little lighter in the wallet or purse and a little bit dissatisfied. Some business owners are too busy to read the fine details, meaning they ultimately pay for it in the end.
  • Too many promises? – Another red flag is if an SEO provider promises you the moon. Remember, just as you only promise your customers what you can ultimately deliver, the same should hold true for those doing work for you. Make sure the expectations are clearly defined for both parties. Solid SEO doesn’t happen overnight or at the flick of a switch, so set a clear understanding between your company and your SEO provider of what is needed and expected.
  • Reviews are needed – Finally, it is important that you and your SEO provider sit down and talk about the progress of your site, especially as it relates to link-building, content marketing and social media. What is working? Are there some strategies that seem to be stuck in neutral or even maybe setting your site back as it pertains to Google rankings? Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion; it is your site and money, so speak up when necessary.

In the end, your goal and that of your SEO provider should be to increase your websites traffic and your company’s sales.

When those two come together, your SEO needs can certainly be met.

Photo credit:

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers a variety of business topics on the web.

Why Google is Forcing You to Become Your Own Publisher

By Mickie E Kennedy

The algorithms at Google HQ are moving and shaking again, and they dramatically affect how you’ll approach public relations and press releases moving forward. If you’ve been using the more traditional routes to get noticed “newspapers, magazines, other journalists, etc.“ then you may want to start rethinking your strategies.

That’s because a new update to Panda 4.0, Google’s controversial search algorithm update, came down the wire recently. One of the original Panda’s big changes was a step away from press releases, but the search engine company has changed its tune as of late.

So while Google is now new press release about your brand new smartphone and tablet app called “Monkey Business.” In the past the process would be to send the release out to as many places that would take you. Local newspapers, for example, or if you think the app is worth it to magazines, blogs, and other sources that specialize in phone apps and electronics.

Now, though, the process is a little different. As soon as you write it (and edit the heck out of it so it’s perfect) you want to publish it. Why? Because the first place to publish it gets the results on Google. Anybody else who publishes it afterwards, even with edits or added material, will get pushed way down the results list.

So no more blasting out the release as far and wide as you can make it and sending to everyone on your email list. Keep it on the down-low so you can reap all that sweet attention for yourself. On top of that, you really need to utilize all the resources at your disposal. Link to your website, social media, and other material so your readers will stick around and see what you’re all about – and hopefully download your new app.

What’s the Same?

Don’t take this as a chance to blast as many press releases as possible. Flooding the airwaves with poorly written, unfocused copy won’t gain you any advantage. Panda 4.0 still values quality over quantity, which was the whole point of the update in the first place. It’s just that Google has conceded that press releases are actually worth paying attention to.

“Driving clicks and earning a solid reputation always comes back to one factor – people,” said eReleases founder Mickie Kennedy. “Influencing discourse and becoming the subject of conversations online and off is the only thing that’s ever going to earn you an organic foothold in the search rankings. So what better way to do that than with a well-written press release targeting actual, living, breathing journalists?”

So rather than focusing less on quality, you should double down on it. Make your press releases not just interesting but truly captivating. Give people a real reason to check out your story and your business. Otherwise, there are tons of other places on the web for them to visit. Don’t give them that chance!

How does your business plan on taking advantage of these changes to Google’s algorithm?

Author’s Bio: Mickie Kennedy is founder of eReleases PR in Baltimore, MD, and author of The Advanced Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases.

Caveman SEO

It’s like nailing Jell-O to a tree.

Google’s constantly shifting policies regarding site quality, authorship, linking, and search results are enough to make a business owner go crazy.

Cave painting

I’m here to cut through the SEO insanity with one simple tip.

If you want your website to move to the top of the search engine results, consistently fill it with information that is useful to your customers and prospects.

That’s it. A caveman could understand it.

Following that strategy will never hurt you, because the search engine’s purpose is to find useful information.

Yes, you can hire an SEO firm if you’re in a super-competitive space or want extra help. Google even provides some ideas on what to ask an SEO company during the hiring process.

Don’t let yourself get caught up with anyone who uses the word “trick” when talking about search. Those are the things that could come back to bite you in the next Google algorithm update.

What the heck is an algorithm?

It’s basically the recipe Google uses to bake search results. You don’t need to worry about the algorithm, because its only job is to find good stuff for people who are searching. All of the “algorithm updates” are focused on finding better and better stuff.

  • When you’re writing marketing copy for your website, blogging, posting images or videos, do it with your customers in mind. Write naturally, and use words they use when they talk to you.
  • Next time you’re on a phone with a customer or prospect, take some notes. Better yet, ask them how they found you. If they did a Google search, what did they type? Talk about valuable information!
  • Take it a step further and imagine you’re writing for a customer who is visually challenged. The Google robots can’t “see” any of those beautiful photos you’ve posted unless you properly identify them with descriptive ALT tags.
  • If you haven’t updated your website since Clinton was President, it’s time to add some dynamic information. Brochure websites are not OK anymore. You don’t have to blog, consider adding some user-generated content via forums or community, pulling in a news feed, posting some photos from around the office. Just make it something that adds value.

Stop stressing out about Penguins and Pandas, and focus your full attention on your customers. You’ll never go wrong.

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Photo Credit: williamcromar via Compfight cc

Why is SEO Not One of Your Top Priorities?


Name your top priorities as a business owner.

There is a good chance items like keeping your finances in the black, hiring and retaining the best employees and having the best customer service going are among things you zero in on.

With that said, where does maintaining a strong SEO presence rank? Wait, you are not even up to speed on SEO for starters?

For those a little late to the game, SEO means Search Engine Optimization. If you are not familiar with it, take the time to get familiar sooner rather than later.

With more and more consumers turning to online browsing and buying, business owners must have a solid website that ranks high on Google and other search engines.

When that is not the case, your site can be hard to find in generic searches, oftentimes leaving your competitor/s to rake in the business.

Finding the Right SEO Agency

In order to get your SEO game on and rank at or near the top of your respective industry when consumers search online, working with a knowledgeable SEO Agency is a necessity.

With many business owners glued to their finances, employees and more, knowing how to pick the right SEO agency can be a daunting challenge in some cases.

Among the factors to look at include:

  • The agency’s history and reputation. Do they have a good record or a laundry list of customer complaints;
  • What kind of service are they going to offer and is customer service a top priority? Bad customer service can be detrimental to your company;
  • Does your SEO consultant/company stay on top of various changes in the industry? If they don’t, you could find yourself getting the necessary advice a day late and a dollar short. From content to links, stay on top of what Google and others do and do not like (see below), allowing you to create the best SEO plan.

Need to Change is Important

Just as you have to make alterations in how you run your business, it is also important that your SEO provider adapt to ever-changing Google moves.

Keep in mind that Google is continually providing updates to its search algorithm during the year, so your SEO expert needs to stay abreast of such changes. If he or she doesn’t, your search ranking will suffer for it.

While your SEO provider should know all the basics from A to Z, it doesn’t hurt you as a business owner to be clued in on important facets of SEO. Keyword research and density, important backlinks, relevant content and how often you update your website are among the items you want to stay on top of.

So, feeling a little more up to speed on SEO?

If you’re still facing questions without answers, consider some of these following benefits in having a strong SEO game plan:

  1. Website experience – You want consumers coming to your site to have a positive experience. If your site does not provide this, you may not see them again, but your competition likely will;
  2. Avoiding penalties – If your site’s content is stale and/or duplicative or has that spam feel to it, Google could very well hit you with a penalty that impacts your PR (page ranking). Once that happens, it can take some time for your site to get back to a positive PR;
  3. Optimization – Last but not least, having a site that is correctly optimized gives you the ability to enhance both your search engine visibility and also your stature within the online community. Google Analytics also allow you to get a better feel for who is visiting your site, therefore helping you customize your advertising and marketing outreach.

Making SEO a priority in your daily business tasks should not be an option, it should come as a necessity.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

About the Author: Dave Thomas writes for a variety of websites on topics such as social media and marketing your business.

5 Reasons Why your Business Needs a Blog

By Teddy Hunt

Blogging might have come to prominence in the late ’90s, but rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Social media might have become the focus for many businesses, but they’re missing out on a valuable marketing opportunity. Read on to discover why your business needs a blog now.

A Blog Helps the Public Relate To Your Business

A blog can turn your company from a faceless corporation to a much more human firm. It’s the place where businesses can show their personality and act a little more light-hearted than they do in other professional avenues.

It may seem daunting to loosen your tie, but it’ll do your brand some good. The friendly voice of a blog can help you cultivate long-term relationships with your customers and increase their brand loyalty. Eighty-two percent of customers say they enjoy reading relevant blog content from brands, and three in five say they feel a company’s positivity through their blog.

Potential employees also read company blogs to help them decide on the best employer for them as they generally create a better sense of what a business is about than a stiff corporate site.

Through your blog, you may find you’re attracting more appropriate candidates for available positions.

A Blog Gains Consumer Confidence

A steady stream of relevant blog posts shows readers you are dedicated to your industry and a good source of information. As your business blogs on a regular basis, you’ll start to establish yourself as experts in your field. Studies show that 81 percent of readers trust the advice they receive from blogs.

The key to gaining this trust is using the blog for more than self-promotion. Share your knowledge about your field, such as your insights about trends and your commentary on local affairs. Posts that are packed with insider information presented in a clear, accessible way are powerful marketing tools that are likely to be shared through email and social networking channels.

A Blog Improves Your Position on the Web

Your social media presence will drive visitors to your website and increase brand awareness, but it doesn’t improve your position on the web the way that blogging does. Every time you update your blog, you add new content to your site, and search engines take notice. Remaining current is one of the best ways to stay on top of internet search engine rankings.

Ranking well is a complex science, but the most important factor Google considers is the number of inbound links. So it’s worth noting that companies that blog have 97 percent more inbound links than businesses that don’t.

Search engines also consider the number of indexed web pages when calculating your ranking. Websites with blogs perform so well because they typically have 434 percent more indexed pages than their competitors.

Web position is so important because three-quarters of browsers never scroll past the first page of Internet searches. A blog can help your business stay in pole position and more than double its website views.

A Blog Increases Sales

As you might expect, a blog doesn’t just drive readers to your business website. It also encourages customers to spend up. Roughly three in five consumers say they’ve made at least one purchase based on the information they’ve read on a blog post.

There’s even evidence to suggest blog posts may be even more important than traditional advertising, with 70 percent of consumers insisting they learn about businesses through articles rather than ads. This may be because customers can mentally switch off when they feel like they’re being marketed to. Blog posts are a much more subtle form of advertising, so they can capture the interest of these customers that don’t warm up to commercials.

A Blog Can Become Part of Your Social Media Strategy

Coming up with all those pithy status updates for your Facebook and Twitter pages can be taxing, but your blog can help you out. It’s easy to blast every new blog post into your social networking feeds (just be sure to tweak the update to suit each social network, and engage with those who share it).

This means you can spend less time social networking yet still give your connections fresh, new material. Integrating your blog with Facebook and Twitter will also drive traffic back to your blog and company website, which gets customers one step closer to making purchases.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no better time for your business to get blogging!

Author’s Bio: Teddy Hunt is a freelance content writer with a focus on technology. When not behind a computer, Teddy spends the majority of his free time outdoors and resides in Tampa, Florida.

Leading Your Business Through The Google Landscape

By Georgina Stamp

As the leader of an online business there are many responsibilities that you carry upon your shoulders; one of these is ensuring that your business survives each and every hurdle that Google has to throw at it. Most of these obstacles come in the form of changes to the way in which Google works and how it views and verifies the authority of websites. In order to efficiently lead your business through Google’s changes you need only follow these straightforward steps.

1. Your Website

Your main priority during Google’s updates should be the functionality of your website; ensuring that it’s clean, easy to use with plenty of unique content that’s appropriate for your target audience.

Google analyses each page of your site and estimates whether it is useful for a user so key aspects include content that is exclusive to your website and text that is not stuffed with search terms that you would like to rank for. With a strong focus on content, you should look at adding a blog/guides section where you can add content on a regular basis for the benefit of your visitors. This is something that search engines value greatly.

Creating an optimised, user-friendly website is the first step towards leading your business through the Google landscape.

2. Website Links

A link to your website on an external site is the equivalent of a recommendation in the eyes of Google; this means that the more links that you place on authoritative, quality websites that are both relevant to your site and that post regularly, the better your own site will appear to be.

This strategy is essential if you want your online business to survive Google’s updates and changes as a lot of organic traffic to your website is dependent upon where Google ranks you – and this depends partly on how many “recommendations” you have received from high quality websites.

In the past, websites were able to accrue backlinks from all sorts of websites with little attention to quality or relevance but Google has put a stop to this and even punished some with penalties.

3. Social Media

Another method of leading your company into a brighter future is through the use of social media; Google includes social media as another tool by which they can judge your reputation and your authority.

It’s essential that you build a following, post unique content frequently and interact with your audience on the various social channels.

The best social channels for you to utilise include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn; when using the first three of these social channels we recommend that you attempt to communicate with both your audience and relevant authoritative figures.

It’s also important to keep an eye on your social metrics – the aim is to acquire more followers, likes or be in more social circles than vice versa. Not only will this look good to the individuals that may be interested in what you’re sharing, but it’ll also increase the likelihood of Google noticing an increase in your reputation.

By following these simple steps you can stop fearing changes from Google and start taking advantage of organic traffic for your online business.

Author’s Bio: Georgina Stamp is a dedicated member of the team at Marble Hill Partners and spends a lot of her time assessing individuals with leadership qualities.

How Bloggers Can Capitalize on the Second Screen Wars

By Sam Melton

The Internet has changed the way we live.

Many people gravitate to the Internet to do everyday things and to keep entertained. A decade ago, consuming media primarily involved watching TV, but in today’s technologically advanced world, there are dozens of ways to consume media without sitting in front of a television screen. 

Based on studies conducted by eMarketer, 2013 marks the first year in which the amount of time spent online surpassed the amount of time spent watching television.

According to the study, the average person spends five hours and 16 minutes on digital platforms, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes with television. Not only has the time spent online increased by more than 15% within three years, the time spent watching television has also declined.

The television screen is taking a backseat to the new first screen – the Internet.

The modern individual and multitasking

Life is all about multitasking. Individuals do a myriad of tasks at once, and the Internet helps. Whether it’s to check email on a smartphone, access apps on a tablet, shop from an online store or pay bills, the modern consumer is capable of getting a lot done in a little time. ??The Internet offers a host of media from all around the world, and TV can be limiting. Although consumers still watch plenty of television, statistics show viewership has dropped by 500,000 households since 2012. This number is expected to decline as more people opt for high-speed services from providers such as Verizon FiOS Internet or Google Fiber.

With connections as much as 100 times faster than broadband, streaming has become a more affordable and convenient media option. Internet service replaces the need for television broadcasts because services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu encourage binge-watching and replace the need for TV. 

Two of the most popular activities on the Internet

Just because the average person spends less time watching traditional television programs does not mean TV content is on the decline. With so many streaming services available, content being consumed online is on the rise, while traditional television viewership has fallen.

Although streaming television shows contributes to time spent behind the new first screen, perhaps the most popular activity to date is surfing social media. According to a research study conducted by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, the average user between age 18 and 64 spends 3.2 hours on social media sites daily. 

This emerging trend contributes to Internet surpassing television. 

Social media and streaming usage are on the rise, and this contributes to more time spent online. When more time is spent online, it takes away from what the average media consumer can spend watching TV. Although digital television services aren’t putting TV networks out of business, as a whole, the Internet is now the first screen.

How to capitalize as a blogger

Bloggers are well-positioned to take advantage of this shift.

No doubt the allure of the written word draws readership, but we can easily take it a step further.

  • Podcasts
    You don’t need expensive audio equipment. Such an addition to your blog gives your readers a chance to hear the voice behind the words. If you make it a regular feature, you’ll likely see a spike in readership.
  • Slideshows has an incredible tool that will allow you to easily construct a slide show of your photos on the side for your blog. It will even generate HTML code to place in on your page.
  • Vlog
    Give readers a visual and auditory version of you. It’s an interesting way to express an opinion. Be sure to make the content as engaging as your written word! It’s a good idea to find other vloggers’ styles you like.

Are you working to get own your slice of the screen time pie?

Author’s Bio: Sam Melton is a business professional turned freelance writer specializing in business technology. He blogs at:

How Will Google’s Hummingbird Update Affect Small Businesses?

By Michelle Rebecca

When Google issued its most recent update (named Hummingbird) to the company’s 15-year-old search algorithm, it raised a number of concerns for small business owners. The update has two primary objectives: using so-called conversational searches to find results, as opposed to the traditional keywords, and displaying search content on the far right side of search pages.

Many small businesses rely on search engine optimization to gain the notice of potential customers. As with any algorithm update, this one will impact SEO in a big way. Here’s what small businesses can expect, and what measures they can implement to ensure that their rankings don’t take a hit.

Google's hummingbird algorithm change

Think Like Your Customer

The Hummingbird shift to conversational searches is based in part on the impact that mobile phones are having on search. These days people can vocally ask their tablet or smartphone a question, like “where’s the best Chinese restaurant within 5 miles of here,” instead of simply searching “Chinese restaurant” with the keypad. Google’s goal has always been to think like its users, therefore bringing back the most relevant and helpful results. And so it’s changing its search to anticipate questions.

Small businesses must do the same thing. Any SEO company should now advise their clients it’s time to rethink search. You must expand beyond keywords and instead think about conversational search terms that could lead people to your site. Try to anticipate what sort of phrases people might use to search out your wares. For example, if you provide plumbing services, a good place to start would be “where can I find the best plumber?”

More Focused Results

In the past small businesses were often fighting with bigger ones, with bigger budgets, over choice keywords. But with the greater focus on phrases, which tend to be more precise, small businesses will gain an edge. Geo-targeting, or targeting by location, becomes increasingly important with these Hummingbird updates.

Small businesses should increasingly focus on searches confined to a specific area, where they stand to benefit most, rather than broader search terms. Hummingbird will take the location of a search into account whenever possible, and a small business with a very narrow focus is more likely to come up in results than a big one with locations across the country.

Dealing with the Drawbacks

Of course, for every up there is a down, and the down for small business owners is the other Hummingbird adjustment, which is designed to give users answers to their questions without ever leaving the Google page. Displaying search content on the search pages means in essence that Google will try to anticipate the information people are searching and highlight the answer in special boxes on the right-side column that offer small glimpses into web pages without making the searcher click on the result.

For example, if you’re looking for the date that the song “My Girl” was released, Google might display a few lines from the “My Girl” Wikipedia entry that answer the question on the right side of the search results page, eliminating the need for further searching.

The end result is less web traffic for your business’s web site. The dilemma is how to get people to click to your site anyway. Small business owners will need to come up with some innovative answers. One is to offer something of value on the site that can’t be “scraped” onto the right side by the Google bots, such as a coupon or voucher for a free sample. You might try offering contests on your site that you can advertise on the homepage but require clicking on the site to actually enter. The smartest businesses will play around with different approaches to see what delivers the most traffic, at least until Google offers another update.

Will you be making any changes to your SEO strategy because of the Hummingbird update?

Author’s Bio: Michelle is a freelancer who currently works for a top SEO company. She has a passion for the Internet, specifically social media and blogging. She loves how social media connects people across the globe, and appreciates that blogging gives her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience. Follow her on Google+.

Making Google+ Work for Your Business

By Brittany Thorley

Google+ is fast becoming a vital part of social media marketing for businesses of all sizes, yet still many professionals are unsure about what the social platform can do for their company and how they can get started with a business-focused profile that gets their name and ethos out there.

Despite launching in 2011, Google+ has surpassed the active user numbers of Twitter making it the second largest social networking site in the world. Back in May 2013, Google+ reported a total of 500 million registered users worldwide and with 235 million of those users actively updating their circles and looking for interesting information on a personal and professional level, businesses that aren’t utilising this platform are inevitably missing out!

But for those unfamiliar with this platform, how can you get started? We have compiled the essential steps for getting started with Google+, plus a few more top tips on how to make the most out of the platform to boost business, extend your customer reach, and get your company noticed by the people who matter.

Getting Started

Setting up your business page with Google+ couldn’t be easier! But before you begin you must create a personal profile; from here you can create a page for your business by simply clicking ‘create a page’ in the right hand corner of your profile. Setting up a personal profile will also enable you to claim authorship to enable you to gain influence and build authority.

Google+ will take you through the process of setting up a business page step-by-step. You can add your business type, tagline, profile photo or logo, website URL, social links and company details to personalise your business profile and make it identifiable to your target audience.

Posting on Google+

Once you have completed your profile, you can start adding existing contacts and posting to your profile. Like Facebook, you can share pictures, videos and links to let potential customers and clients get to know your business. When posting always think about what you want to achieve and how you want your brand to be portrayed in the public domain and your specific industry. Ensure all posts are as engaging as possible and convey your business’ unique selling propositions (either directly or indirectly) as well as occasionally promoting your products or services. In addition to this, keep posts personal and authentic.

Know Your Customer

When it comes to launching any social media marketing campaign, how well you know your customer can make or break your efforts, so make sure you are prepared and incorporate your customers’ wants and needs into your social media objectives. Before you start posting, devise a few ideas about what images, videos and links will be of interest to your customers and what offers and information will get them talking about your business.

Get Your Timing Right

It’s not just what you post that can affect your campaign’s success, it’s also when you post to your Google+ account. The peak times for sharing on Google+ are from 11am to 2pm and 7pm to 10pm Eastern US time, so focus your efforts on posting at these particular periods.

Use #Hashtags

Like Twitter, Google+ supports the use of hashtags to give you the exposure you need to the right followers. Insert simple and relevant hashtags in every post to ensure your social media interactions are targeted and sharable – who knows you may be trending very soon!

Author’s Bio: Brittany Thorley handles the social media and marketing activities for a range of businesses, including the Personal Statement Service, a student-focused company that provides writing advice and personal statement examples.

Thank you Brittany! Those are some great tips.
I’d add that the Google+ community, in particular, tends to reward exclusive content and well-thought-out articles, rather than simply posting a link to your blog posts or other social media updates.


What Google Added To The Link Schemes Document Found In Webmaster Tools

By Matthew Schmoldt

Recently, Google updated the “Link schemes” informational document found in Webmaster Tools. The change was easy to miss. There were no large scale announcements.

Unlike a Wikipedia document, there is no easy way to see what was changed. Thankfully, the Internet has the wayback machine for such matters. The tool shows that two records have been kept this year for the page in question. One archive is from June 28th, the other is from August 5th.

As you can see, there seem to be significant changes. The June 28th version of the link schemes page had an opening paragraph that explained why external links were important and why Google uses them as a key influencer in search results. Now the document begins with a stern warning:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

To many, this paragraph is not only troubling but troublingly ambiguous. You will notice the use of the word “intended” in the paragraph. How does Google determine if a link is intended to manipulate PageRank? In the second sentence, is Google saying any link building efforts will be considered manipulation?

On July 10th, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, was interviewed and said the following:

“No, not all link building is bad. The philosophy that we’ve always had is if you make something that’s compelling then it would be much easier to get people to write about it and to link to it.”

Does the July 10th interview with Matt Cutts answer the questions of the August update to the link schemes document? My guess is, yes. Google seems to be preparing to take the webspam fight to the next level and has updated their official link schemes document with a hardcore and broad stance.

In the same interview, Matt Cutts said:

“I would concentrate on the stuff that people write, the utility that people find in it, and the amount of times that people link to it. All of those are ways that implicitly measure how relevant or important somebody is to someone else.

Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover that, and maybe over time social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”

It is clear to me, that link building is quite appropriate and still legal. But, shift from thinking about link building to the idea of link earning. High quality links from high authority links should be the target. These sorts of links are earned and not built with a few clicks of the mouse.

What else was changed in the link schemes document?

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

The above paragraph seems to be fairly black and white. Google doesn’t want people to sell links for money or for products. But, what If you sign up for a Chamber of Commerce and pay a fee. Have you just purchased a link from their site? Should you request a nofollow of your link just in case?

Matt Cutts has said that you should only pursue a link if it is something you would have built or pursued if SEO did not exist.

Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking

The use of excessive and exclusively are ambiguous and troubling in this new entry in the document. It is impossible to know where the line is with this rule. But, remember, Google wants you to do things naturally. They want you to do things that make logical sense. If you are a flower shop, it makes sense to have a linking relationship with the local chocolate shop. It may make sense to link to the local cookie shop, to the local wedding dress store, etc.

Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links

The ambiguous word here is “large-scale.” To me, I refer back to my rule of link earning and not link building. If the link is too easy to get, it’s probably not the kind of link that is desirable. Removing the easy to get links removes most of the ability to create a large-scale link building operation. The hard links take time to get. Also remember, Google is targeting keyword-rich anchor links and not generic links in articles.

Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

This seems to be the one area where Google was decisive. Do not use automated means to build backlinks. If you are tempted to use automated programs, don’t. Google is constantly indexing the Internet and can detect a sudden and unnatural increase in backlinks.

Author’s Bio: Matthew Schmoldt is an Internet marketer who has been published at Yahoo and Moz. He has four years of SEO and social media experience. He is the owner of Cool Things To Buy Inc. His website features amazing gadgets other neat stuff.