A few months ago website owner who has worked with us periodically in the past contacted us as a result of a ranking decline around the same time as a Penguin update, and we performed a small audit on his site.

A con man selling watches in a cheap plaid suit and sunglasses

Our investigation had revealed that his inbound link profile consisted primarily of paid links – most of which were from low quality websites with minimal or no relevance. Our recommendation at that time was to remove those paid links and work on expanding his profile with quality & relevance.

Just last week we received a notification from Google that this particular site had received a manual penalty due to unnatural linking. While the notification does not specifically state the source links of the “manual spam action” we remembered the paid link building tactics he was using which we discovered in the past audit.

Passing Along News of the Google Penalty
I forwarded the message from Google to the site owner letting him know what had happened. Initially I suspected that the paid linking had caught up with him. While it is possible that some of the paid links contributed to the problem, it turns out they are far from the primary issue.  A conversation with the site owner quickly revealed he had been using a cheap link building company for the past several months.  I suggested he contact them to get their input on the Google warning. He shared part of his conversation with me and I was completely shocked. Read more…

At StepForth we do not work with websites of an adult nature, and while we turned down the request for a proposal, a recent conversation with the owner of an adult site brought to light a very interesting blacker-than-black hat ranking technique that appears to be working. I just had to take a moment to share it with you.

Remember the old “Miserable Failure” days of Google bombing? The theory that if you built enough links with the same anchor text that your site would rank well for that anchor text? It worked great for a while. Then Google essentially shut it down. Or did they?

The webmaster that contacted us wanted to rank for a specific term, but was disheartened when much of his top 10 competition consisted of several low quality nearly identical sites that literally popped up overnight. Out of curiosity I decided to investigate and what I found was rather disturbing. Read more…

In a world where free organic rankings results can easily make or break most online businesses webmasters everywhere strive to get in the good graces of the big Google. It always surprises me when you hear of companies doing things that are almost guaranteed to sabotage their organic existence.

Some things I understand. While they come with huge risks, black hat techniques, spamming, link buying and other shady methods can sometimes, albeit temporary, come with big rewards. These risks are usually calculated and educated. But when a big company makes a very clear cut error in judgement without doing any research it is a bit of a shock. Read more…

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Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Better than Link Building

Is there really something better than link building? It should, after all, only be a piece of your inbound marketing strategy. The fact is you still need to generate backlinks and you need to maintain a consistent link velocity (the rate at which you acquire links). StepForth has recently moved from offering professional link building services to something we like to call Better than Link Building. It’s a change that we’re all pretty excited about..

Better than Link Building is a way to actively engage with your company’s target audience, build brand recognition, monitor and respond to your niche, all while building natural backlinks.

Here are the problems with traditional link building methods: Read more…

For most sites, increasing your inbound link counts is important. But one aspect of link building that is often overlooked is not actually link building, it is making the most of the links you already have.

Have you ever stepped back and taken a look at your links? Often times when we do site audits we find opportunities to significantly improve the value of links that are already in place. Improving the quality of your existing links usually takes some time, but not usually much money. Read more…

Tune in to Monday the 16th of August’s episode of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM where I (Ross Dunn) and my co-host John Carcutt interview Jon Henshaw and Taylor Pratt of Raven Internet Marketing Tools (affiliate link – this article is, however, a legit preliminary review).

In short, Raven Tools can help you with the following:

Website analytics, managing link building campaigns and tracking their success, search engine optimization, social media reputation and campaign tracking, keyword research, and… see more farther on as I outlined the list of features.

The August 16th show will delve into some of the unique (and very cool) reporting options and tracking functionality that Raven has integrated over the years. From discussing how Raven IM Tools has uniquely layered link building reports and ranking reports over top of your overall site analytics (powerful combination!) to learning more about their integration of bit.ly, social mention and other popular metrics providers, this show is well worth a listen. That said, here is a little more about the show and my experience with Raven Tools since we recorded the program. Read more…

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Monday, June 21st, 2010

Googles View on Quality Links

Over at the Google Webmaster Central Blog, Kaspar Szymanski has published a post about quality links.  One of the most popular questions Google tends to receive is what are the best practices for organic link building. In this post Kaspar explains Googles viewpoint on the issue.

There are no breakthrough techniques listed in the Google post, but every little bit of insight can certainly add up.e sure to check out the full post, but here are some of the main points covered. Read more…

Last night StepForth hosted the ‘WebMarketing Meetup’ at Accent Inns, Victoria, BC and though the turnout was small, the tips offered by the participants were valuable and noteworthy.

One of my duties at StepForth is Link Building and after I shared my ‘nugget’ of information the discussion revolved around the value of submitting to DMOZ. I am definitely not a link building guru but here is what I garnered in trying to answer the question:

The Value of DMOZ (Open Directory Project-ODP) Read more…

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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Is This Link Any Good?

One question that I hear fairly often is not, how to get links, but rather, “How can I tell if a link will be any good?”

Obtaining links from other sites has two main purposes. The first is “link juice” for the purpose of improving search engine rankings. The second is attracting traffic to your site. There are many instances where a link is totally useless for SEO but great for traffic, some that are great for SEO but useless for traffic, and some that are a combination of the two. This article focuses on how to tell if a link will benefit you in terms of SEO.

Search Engine Friendly
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if a link has any SEO value. First and foremost, the most important factor is whether or not Google can even see the link. If Google can’t see and follow your link, then it will hold no value at all. Here are a few things you need to check out to see if Google can see what you’re putting out there. Read more…

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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Top Posts on Links

Today is the launch of our new website. Unfortunately the majority of our blog content still resides on news.stepforth.com while we deal with transition issues so here are the top posts on Links from the old SEO blog.


Link Building Tips with Loren Baker – from SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM

‘The ins & outs of Link Building’

3 Methods to Build Links with a Blog – An Interview with Ross Dunn

‘Advantages of blogging for building valuable links and reputation online.’

Building Links with Directory Submissions

‘Some things to consider before using online directories to build links to your site’ Read more…