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…

While it was available for some time on mobile devices, Google has officially launched “Carousel” for users in the US on standard desktop machines.

Carousel is yet another new way Google is experimenting with how it displays search results, now moved out of Beta and into the main stream of Google search. With Carousel, Google provides a horizontal scrolling selection of shiny photo rich results to draw the searchers attention across the top of the results. 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…

UPDATE October 30th, 2014: Hello everyone. I have great news. As of a while back this tutorial is no longer necessary because Bing smartened up and now allows us Canucks to add our business and administrate the listing at BingPlaces.com. The process is very straight forward but if you do have questions please post them in the comments. If I see enough demand I will rewrite this into a tutorial for the Bing Places setup.

Also, if you represent a small business and have any interest in receiving answers to web marketing questions you might find MarketingHigh.com worthwhile looking at. You can ask UNLIMITED web marketing questions of myself and my veteran team of web marketers for the price of a fancy coffee per month. Why us? I have been web marketing successfully since 1997, my Senior SEO has 12 years of experience and we are both 100% white hat (that means ethical) web marketers; we will not give you advice that could hurt your business. For more info check out MarketingHigh.com and please pass the word to other small business owners who could use a helping hand navigating the world of web marketing. This is a mind-blowing steal considering what most consulting costs in this industry.

Cheers, Ross Dunn

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Ask unlimited web marketing questions of experts for $49/year.

 

——- Here is the original article on the old method of Bing setup for Canadians ——-

Rejoice fellow Canadians! After years of crying foul and bugging Bing engineers at search engine conferences I can finally say that Canadian business owners can submit their business to Bing Canada for free instead of relying on YellowPages listings; which were an unreliable solution at best. What follows is a little more detail on the subject and a full walkthrough of the submission process and end result. Also, if you wish to see just how much anger and frustration the previous system created please see my article “Bing’s Local Listing Center Lacks Forethought” posted in 2009: yes 4 years ago, so you can count me frustrated (politely put) with them as well.

What Made Bing Get its Sh*t Together?

Sadly it seems we have no need to thank Bing engineers (or my significant prodding) for this advance in Canuck accessibility because it was Nokia who bridged the chasm. Nokia increased its already significant maps partnership with Microsoft to allow their Nokia Maps system to update Bing’s Canadian Local data. This all started, it seems, back in January 2012 but I can’t find any indication this bromance between the two companies included Canadian business submissions that early in the game. Anyway, if you go to Bing and try to submit your business you will now be redirected to Nokia Prime Place where you can  follow their submission and address verification process which I have outlined in detail further along in this post. Read more…

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Monday, January 14th, 2013

How to Be a Great Blogger

To many business owners blogging is a task they either cannot be bothered with or do not know how to work into their schedules. As an entrepreneur myself I completely understand most concerns about maintaining a blog because I have, at one time, been in the same position. After all, we are already so busy with keeping our clients happy and running our businesses that another task seems impossible to comprehend; never mind a task which many business owners are not convinced will help the bottom line.

All of that said, blogging has a good track record for increasing the bottom line when it is done for the right reasons and with dedication. In the following clip, Gil Namur, President of the popular ezine LifeasaHuman.com explains the motivation you require to be a great blogger:

How to be a Great Blogger from StepForth on Vimeo.

Some Basic Blogging Tips

  1. If possible (and it is not always) pick a topic to write about for which you are passionate so your enthusiasm comes across in your writing.
  2. Offer something of value and remember the chief goal of your content is to help others – NOT to market to them.
  3. Proof read your content and if possible I highly recommend having someone else with a fresh pair of eyes proof read it as well.

How to Find Blog Post Ideas

I find the best story ideas come from seeing popular or trending questions or discussions in my industry. With those angles in mind, here are a few resources and tips for hunting down questions and the latest trending news/topics: Read more…

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Friday, December 14th, 2012

Site Load Speed and Your Competitors

Site load speed has been a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for a while now. I had suspected it was a factor for some time, and then back in April 2010, Google confirmed it.

I was surprised the other day when I learned that Google had removed the site performance data from the Labs section of Google Webmaster Tools. I had fully suspected this would be made into a full-fledged feature, but instead it was removed entirely.

While the site load times shown under site performance were somewhat flawed, it was still useful for getting an overall impression of how fast Google perceived your site to be. If they showed your site as exceptionally slow, then at the very least, it was an indication that something needed to be done. Read more…

Recently we had a non-profit organization contact us for help with their Social Media. They are relatively new and wanted some tips on how they can utilize their social platforms to raise money for their organization. The organization, Urunji Child Care Trust, works to combat malnutrition and illiteracy by providing free meals and educational materials to underprivileged children in Malawi. They currently have a Facebook and Twitter account but have not done much beyond setup.

What do you think is the best social media strategy for fundraising? I can hear it in my head already, people saying “Social Media is about RELATIONSHIPS not a means to an end to raise money.” But through building those relationships, aren’t you setting the stage for those that want to help you?

Below is my ideal strategy for a non-profit starting social media from scratch with the objective to raise funds for their organization.

Research similar organizations that have been highly successful using social media. You won’t be able to tell how much money they have raised strictly through their social efforts but getting an idea of who their followers are and how they communicate their message will be highly beneficial to you in creating a strategy. Ensure you don’t stick to 1 or 2 platforms in this research stage.  You never know which may be the most receptive. Read more…

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Monday, October 15th, 2012

Google EMD Update

For those of you who haven’t heard, on Sept 28, Google unrolled what is being called the Google EMD Update. EMD stands for Exact Match Domain. This update focuses on “low-quality” exact match domains. Matt Cutts tweeted about this as it was happening.Google EMD Update (Sept 28, 2012)

For most, this update will go unnoticed, but for 0.6% of searches, we have seen a change. This sounds like a small number but when you consider that as of August 2012 Google was serving results on average for around 100 billion queries a month – as a result this measly 0.6% impacts about 600 million monthly queries. Read more…

Many have discounted the benefits of the Meta Description Tag because it is no longer considered by Google’s ranking algorithms when evaluating where your site should rank in search results; it is generally assumed spammers abuse of the tag forced search engines to devalue it. This hasn’t left the Meta Description Tag a complete waste of space though. Before explaining why the Meta Description Tag still has an impact on rankings I will first cover what the tag is still widely known to be good for; prompting clickthroughs.

Fact: The Description Meta Tag Can Increase Clickthroughs

Nowadays if a webmaster writes a good representation of a webpage into the Meta Description Tag there is a good chance Google will use the tag as the description of the page in search engine results. As a result, the wise marketer will take this a step further and ensure the Description Meta Tag is further optimized to entice someone to click on her search result versus her competitor’s. Granted, this is only a big help if the page is actually ranking where viewers can see it; which requires the other facets of website marketing not covered in this article (search engine optimization, community building  which is better than link building, etc.).

Now consider the next important piece of the puzzle Read more…

Once you have optimized your Google Places page for your business you can start to look at offsite ways to increase your Local Search rankings. By building valuable links, you will start to notice your rankings move up and you should start seeing more impressions in your Google Places account.

The first and easiest way to improve your Local Search rankings is to submit to directories to increase your inbound links.  After researching and using many directories over time, we have created a rating system to rate the quality of directories. The two main things that we are looking for with directories are do we get our own page on their site and more importantly does that page include a citation. Read more…