An important health warning on inbound links (and why link farms like Social Monkee are harmful to your SEO)


The health warning advice I’m posting here applies equally to organic search results and also to Pay Per Click Google Ads, so it’s worth taking note of!

Google’s index is set up so that it checks not only your page for keyword relevance but also the keyword relevance of inbound links to that page. In other words it checks both ends of each link for relevance.

If it finds that your page is highly relevant, but the inbound links are less relevant in keywords terms, it penalises you accordingly. If it finds that the inbound link is from a page that is completely irrelevant, then it concludes that you are link stuffing and penalises your page severely.

In other words, far from improving your page’s search result ranking, using a link stuffing service like Socialmonkee can reduce your ranking.

The same is true in Pay-Per-Click. Google tests the relevance of your landing page to the keyword content of your ad. If the relevance is high. It rewards you by either promoting your ad above others or reducing the cost per click necessary to get top billing. If the relevance of your landing page is low (for instance if your ad says Cheap iPhones, but the landing page is really selling cheap Viagra) Google will penalise you by either downranking your ad to the bottom of the pile or charging a fortune per click.

The offer of “instant links” is like all other get rich quick deals – it’s a pipedream. There is only one way to build inbound links, and that’s the hard way.

Richard Milton

Is it worth optimising your website for Bing or Yahoo?

When Microsoft and Yahoo decided to pool their search resources in 2010 to fight back against Google’s dominance, it looked as though Big G might have some real competition on its hands with Bing. In fact, it seems that Google now handles even more search traffic now, rather than less.

According to research by Experian Hitwise, Google handled an astounding 92 per cent of all search engine traffic in the UK in July 2011. What was left over was hardly worth fighting for. Yahoo sites handled 3 per cent, while Microsoft has about the same. The remaining 2 per cent went to Ask sites and the other search engines.

On these figures, it’s pretty clear that spending any time optimising for Bing or anyone else is basically time wasted.

Hitwise’s James Murray says, ‘What’s interesting is that although Google is increasing its dominance within search, search engines overall are becoming less significant as a source of traffic for websites. Search has historically accounted for around 40 per cent of visits to all websites but the most recent figures for upstream visits to All Categories show that search accounts for 34.29 per cent of all traffic delivered to websites in June 2011.’

The change, says Murray, has come about because of the increasing significance of social networks as sources of traffic.

You only have to look at the ‘referring URL’ section of your website stats, though, to see that it’s Google all the way.

Richard Milton

An open challenge: name a single successful video campaign

A large number of the posts I see on LinkedIn Groups and other social media sites set out to promote the virtues of using video for PR and marketing and explain how to create “successful” videos.  For all those who post in this vein, here’s a little challenge: 

YouTube carries hundreds of thousands of successful videos.  Name a single successful video campaign that was designed from scratch to promote a product or service.  I’m excluding the following:-

1. Pop music videos (like Lady Gaga)

2. Amateur videos that have gone viral (like “Charlie bit my finger”)

3. Bootleg videos made by professional crews in their lunch break,  like the nosy moggy (cat lovers look away now) who sticks his head into the Ford KA sunroof.

4.  The CEO who crunches stuff up in his blender.

My grounds for excluding them is that if you sell software, or paint, or vacuum cleaners, or hot dogs, you are not going to be able to learn from or emulate any of them (unless you have more money than sense).

If anyone can name even a single valid example, I’ll eat my hat – on YouTube.

Richard Milton
Freelance Writing Services

Why Twitter can be bad for business

Interesting case of “Tweet in haste – repent at leisure” in the PR world. PR agency The Redner Group has been fired by its client, 2K Games, for sending a threatening tweet to journalists.
     2K recently launched an updated version of an old favourite PC game from the 1980s, Duke Nukem.  The game was the Angry Birds of its time and immensely popular and so a natural candidate for updating with modern high-res graphics.  The computer and games press didn’t much like the new version – tagging it as all gloss and nothing new of substance.
     PR agency boss James Redner was so angered by what he saw as the media not playing ball that he tweeted,  “too many went too far with their reviews. We’re reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom.” 
     This was a not too subtle way of saying the bad reviewers were going to be punished for not playing ball by having new games withheld in future.
     It’s hard to imagine any business person being this shit-stupid; still harder to imagine the founder of a PR agency talking publicly like this.
     The result was that 2K Games fired the agency and publicly disowned the comments, saying,“2K Games does not endorse or condone the comments made by @TheRednerGroup and confirm they no longer represent our products. We maintain a mutually respectful relationship with the press and will continue to do so. We don’t condone@TheRednerGroup’s actions at all.”
     In the good old days before Twitter, PR men could go to the nearest bar, down a few Martinis and complain bitterly to the bartender about the ingratitude of worthless hacks to the hand that feds them. Now it’s far too easy to pull out the iPhone in a fit of pique and fire off a broadside.
     The phrase, “Remember Redner” is likely to figure prominently in future wherever young PR men and women are learning their trade in the age of social media.



Can social media boost your Kindle sales?

It’s hard to believe but Amazon has just announced that it is now selling more than twice as many Kindle books as paper books.

Given this volume of sales, I’ve abandoned my lifelong aversion to electronic publishing and joined the gold rush.  Even I  can see that electronic publishing is the future, and that the writing is . . . well, no longer on the wall so much as on the Facebook Wall.  So I’ve swallowed hard, taken a deep breath, and launched my thriller Dead Secret on Kindle today.

However, this is the age of social media so I’m taking the opportunity to experiment with websites, blogs, facebook, linkedIn, Twitter and anything else I can think of to see if it makes any difference to online sales.

 I’ve created a website.  No, it’s not “”.  That’s not a keyword anyone would search on, so the site would never show up on Google that way.  I used Google’s keyword tool to check out the most searched on book-related terms in the past month and found out  it’s “good books” and “books online”.  As you might expect  “” was already taken, but I found that was still free – and Google doesn’t care about hyphens so that’s what I’ve called my new site.

I’ve linked to it from my other sites and re-submitted them all to Google, so that the Googlebots will crawl them all as soon as possible and add them to its index.

I’ve created a Facebook page for Dead Secret which leads people to the new website.  I’ve put the URL of the new site on my LinkedIn page and Tweeted about my new Kindle baby.  On the much-discussed question of pricing, I’ve decided on $6 in the US, £4.95 in the UK. It may be that a lower price would have sold more books but I feel the price contains a subtext message “It’s worth it”.

Probably the most constructive thing I’ve done is to write a press release, stiff with keywords about “paranormal thrillers” and “kinky sex” (if you’ve got it, flaunt it) and posted it widely on free online press release sites.  That means it will be indexed by Google News, the world’s biggest news aggregator and hence will at least pass across the desk of every magazine and newspaper on the planet.  Best of all, online press releases are forever.  They may go into the bin today but, like The Terminator,  they’ll be back – every time someone, somewhere conducts a Google search on one of “my” keyword strings.

Time will tell whether any of this pans out.  If you’d like to know how my social media masterplan works out, email me or keep in touch with this blog.

Why social media has resulted in marketing stalemate

The good news is that almost the half the people on the planet are connected to the internet – one billion PCs and two billion mobile devices.  The bad news is that the people who use these devices are virtually immune to any form of interruption marketing, have kicked off their shoes and are throwing  a party in the social media lounge, to which we marketing people are not invited.

Not so long ago, we could buy their attention with advertising, PR, direct mail, email and exciting gimmicks.  Now it goes right over their heads.  They’re having such a good time, they don’t give a damn about us, our products or our clients’ products – and, frankly, I’m with them.

Social media means that people talk and listen to each other, not to brand representatives.  According to the New York Times, only 14 per cent of people trust advertising while 76 per cent of people trust the recommendations of other customers.

So if you want to market your products, or your clients’ products, to social media users, you have to find a way to get them to spread the word themselves.   There is no alternative any longer.  Viral is all.  The bottom line today is: how the dickens do you get everyone  talking about your product  and recommending it to their friends? How do you join in a conversation between friends when you’re an outsider?  How do you talk to people who aren’t listening when waving a red flag no longer works?

Well, once thing is certain – it’s not by using YouTube.  If ever  there was an acid test of customer  fickleness and marketing failure, YouTube is it.  Tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands of CEOs, authors, and PR smartarses have made product videos in disguise and uploaded them.  I can think of only two that succeeded: the CEO who puts things in his blender (but I can’t recall his name or his product name) and the cartoon character trying to buy an iPhone (and I can’t recall what that was selling – I think it’s the cartooning system.)

If you look at the commercial videos that went viral over the past few years they’re of two kinds.  First there’s the videos made by professional crews during their lunch hour while they were being paid to make a TV commercial.  Example: the cat that unwisely sticks its head into the Ford KA sunroof.  If you’re already spending hundreds of thousands making a TV commercial, then you have no problem coming up with a potentially viral bootleg sideline.  If you’re not spending that kind of budget then keep thinking.

The second kind of YouTube success – and these are the overwhelming majority – are subjects that no-one could have predicted would spread so far and so fast.  Think of “Charlie bit my finger” or the Star Wars Kid remixes.  If you can’t predict the outcome, what’s the point?  Do you just keep making daft videos in the hope that someday people will fall about laughing?  It doesn’t sound like a rational basis for a marketing strategy.

Maybe you forget Youtube and talk directly to the kids on Facebook? Well, yes, except that the kids go on Facebook to talk to their friends, not to you. And they go there in search of free stuff, cool news and bargains (at least 50 per cent off something that they would normally pay full price for.)  Are your words really cool enough to excite a twentysomething into repeating them?  Really?

Many companies and marketing people have simply given up trying to sell directly over the internet because they have recognised that the mood of the overwhelming majority of users is not one in which they can be sold to.  People are much more reluctant to pay for something on the internet because the internet has got them used to getting what they want free or very, very cheaply.

They irony is that, at the very moment when marketing people are lowering their sights in despair and accepting the collection of emails address as a solid return on investment, back in the real world people are spending more than ever on the internet, for things they really want – but they’re listening to their friends, or the collective wisdom of the blogosphere, not to anything you can put on your site or in your phony blog.

When I was a lad, it used to be said that the two things necessary for a successful business were a brisk demand coupled low competition.  What the internet offers marketing people is complete buyer apathy coupled with seller competition so intense that a keyword-density difference of 1 per cent can make the difference between ranking first on Google (60 per cent of the click throughs) and second (20 per cent).

Even the big corporations with the big bucks are flailing around wildly and ineffectually.  Take Intel’s The Museum of Me. It must have sounded like a great idea when it was being kicked around the boardroom table. And technically it’s very sophisticated.  But what the heck is it?  What’s it for?  Who is going to give it any more than a second look?  It’s the kind of thing that large corporations spend big money on to make themselves feel good when they don;t know what else to do – a kind of corporate retail therapy. 

Curiously, for a while there, it looked as though marketing people, especially in PR, were becoming redundant, because people were no longer listening to professionals, but to each other. What the social media stalemate has done is project PR people back into a position of importance.  Only now, instead of broadcasting to millions, they may well be targeting only one influential voice at a time.

So what’s a slick marketing guy/gal to do?  Stop coming up with bright ideas for Facebook competitions and start listening to your target audience.  Do they want competitions?  No.  Then what do they want?  Don’t ask me.  I only work here.

Why Apps are child’s play

I wrote a piece  in The Daily Telegraph on 5 May urging graduate engineers to look at the apps industry as promising a bright career path – at least in the immediate future. In the course of researching the article I found a young lad of 17, Ben Tattersley, who has not only written and published his own apps, but is running classes in how to write apps in his school, with the support of his teachers.

Tattersley was at a loose end over the spring holiday last year and amused himsef reading an article about H-P’s webOS smartphone operating system.  A week later he had written his first app – a blogging program called Tumblbox for the Tumblr platform – a social media site where you can follow and de-follow people’s blogs.

It was Tattersley’s idea to teach the app development course and when he approached his tutors they were happy to back him. “I wanted something on my CV that made it different from everyone else’s, and the school has been very supportive.

Currently he is concentrating on his A levels, and looking to go to Loughborough or Brunel to study industrial design.

Is Google being too intrusive?

In all the recent hooh-hah over Facebook hiring PR agency Burson Marsteller to rubbish Google anonymously, one issue seems to have gone unreported: is Google becoming too intrusive and violating users’ privacy, as FB and its spinmeisters claim?

Over the past couple of years, Google has been linking its various applications more closely together, aiming for a single sign-up for Gmail, Google Messaging, and all its other applications, in the same way that Yahoo and Microsoft have been tying their empires together.

But Google has been going a little further. It started with Gmail. When you send an email to someone over Gmail, Google’s bots read the content of the email, pick out the keywords, and serve up GoogleAds that are relevant to the content. If I email you about ice skating, you and I will see ice-skating ads.

This is intrusive in the sense that one gentleman shouldn’t read another gentleman’s mail – but who cares? It’s only a robot. And the relevant ads could be genuinely useful to me.

But Google is now seeking to take all this a step further by identifying how influential we all are as individuals against the keywords in its index. It is using its expertise at developing relevance-based software to extend its reach from websites to users – to us. And linking our usage of all Google applications together is one more step in this process.

In the near future, Google’s database will have assigned all of us a value as an influencer against all the most searched-on keywords in its index. It will then be able to make use of this information to target us individually for advertising, emails and anything else that it can make money out of.

This may well have it’s good side – seeing only stuff we’re interested in and having the e-crap filtered out, in much the same way that our ISP servers currently filter out what they think is spam on our behalf. But there is also a downside. As users we will no longer have total control of what we see and read. Many choices will be taken for us by Google’s bots.

Google is obviously highly sensitive about this issue because it is strenuously denying that it is doing any such thing. But it made the mistake of recently patenting software that does exactly this kind of intrusive pigeonholing of users, thus giving the game away.

It’s perhaps ironic that in all the debate about privacy versus transparency currently taking place about superinjunctions, few seem to be concerned about an area that is potentially of far greater concern.