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How to avoid SEO penalties in algorithm-stricken industries

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How to avoid SEO penalties in algorithm-stricken industries


When trying to rank on Google through search engine optimization, there are some industries which are far more competitive and prone to algorithm updates than others.

Industries such as casinos, insurance, loans, hosting, and FX are highly competitive, and many SEO practitioners will turn to black hat techniques to secure Page 1 positions.

Google is the most popular search engine used by consumers; it makes regular weekly algorithm changes. As a result, firms may find their initial SEO progress is shot down by a penalty which can ultimately lead to a significant loss of traffic and revenue.

The guide below gives some vital tips when trying to rank in the most penalty-stricken and volatile search results on Google.

Choose a good domain

 When trying to rank for a highly competitive keyword, SEO professionals might look at selecting a domain which is very similar to the ‘big money’ keyword. There is certainly evidence that having a domain with competitive keywords in it will give you an SEO boost. For example, carinsurance.com or onlinecasinos.com

However, in today’s marketing landscape, this is not as essential, and Google looks more at brands rather than just keywords within a domain name.

Firms which have an exact match domain or partial match domain (i.e. loans or insurance is in the domain name), will need to be a little bit cautious, however. This is because there will likely be a higher mention of ‘danger’ words, like insurance and loans, a lot more in the content, the meta-data, and the links acquired.

SEO professionals need to be aware of keyword stuffing, or over-use of sensitive words, their brand’s anchor text as this is likely the first thing Google will look at if they are going to penalize a business.

Strong competitor analysis

 Competitors are a good starting point for any SEO professional. Those which rank on the first two pages of Google’s search results will provide insight into what works and what does not.

Not only can SEOs then emulate the right kind of techniques for said industry, but they can also see who has potentially fallen within the search rankings and been hit most by algorithm updates and penalties.

Since the casino and insurance sectors are known to have their own kind of algorithms, SEO’s working in these markets will need to play close attention to whether the landing page, or homepage, is used to rank. Consideration will also need to be given to URL structures, meta titles, and how frequently is a keyword mentioned on a page.

With language in mind, SEOs will also need to take heed of what kind of rhetoric and language is being used within competitor sights, as well as what links are used.

As a result, looking at competitors is essential for ranking in a highly specialized and competitive industry. Firms which are well established in the market are likely to have gone through the motions and have overcome penalties in the past in order to secure such strong positions.

Using low risk link building strategies

 SEOs assisting firms in more penalty-ridden industries will need to be more careful with the links built and acquired.

For starters, getting brand name links to a homepage is always going to be low risk. Spreading these links across several resourceful blogs and guides, will help build a business up as an authority, while appearing organic.

Linking to homepages and guides is much harder to penalize than if links are embedded within ‘money pages’ of hyperlinked to words like casino or loans. However, firms need to ensure their content is not thin and includes real statistics, graphs and images which validate their resources.

It is important, therefore, for SEO professionals to review what percentage of links go to their organization’s homepage, money pages and guides; looking at competitors and their split can be very useful here. In fact, using tools like Majestic can show you this immediately.

Be cautious with link anchor text

 When choosing the anchor text of a links, SEOs should ideally be on the cautious side. In general, no legitimate site will offer hyperlinks of ‘car insurance’ or ‘best casinos’. Instead, SEOs should look to hyperlink to phrases like ‘find more information here’ or ‘check your eligibility’.

Hyperlinking to phrases which can be actioned – like ‘quotes from $300 per month’ – is also likely to be more effective. Using a mix of these techniques will look more organic within money pages.

The use of synonyms can also be helpful when considering which phrases to hyperlink. The word ‘car insurance’ can easily be interchanged with ‘motor insurance’, for example. Rephrasing is also a popular technique used by SEO professionals – instead of ‘car insurance policies’, try ‘insurance for your car’.

Avoiding abbreviations is also a common technique used by SEOs. Instead of saying ‘VPNs’, ‘virtual private networks’ can be used to anchor text more naturally.

 Patience is key 

Overall, the competitive industries mentioned within this article are so valuable that they attract a lot of attention from SEO practitioners, and this means black hat techniques who are trying to game the system and generate some quick traffic.

Whilst cautious techniques will take several months to have an impact, firms can have peace of mind they you will sustain good quality rankings and traffic and avoid future penalties.

Firms which make sure they look carefully at competitors and avoid overusing the big keywords in their content and links should be good to go!



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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

Meta announced that the suspension of former president Trump from Facebook and Instagram will be lifted within a few weeks, with “guardrails” in place to discourage repeat offenses.

2021 Suspension of Trump

Meta indefinitely suspended the account of then-president Trump after he praised the people who engaged in anti-government violence that ended in several deaths.

The suspension was reviewed by the Meta Oversight Board who concluded that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with rules in place for dealing with policy violations.

The Oversight Board wrote:

“…it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.

The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”

Facebook responded to the board that the suspension will last for two years beginning on January 7, 2021 after which the suspension would be reconsidered.

The indefinite suspension remained in place until the announcement that it will be lifted in the weeks following January 25, 2022, just over two years after the suspension.

Why the Suspension of Trump was Lifted

The review of the suspension was timed for two years after the imposition of the original suspension on January 7, 2021. This was by agreement with the Oversight Board.

Meta undertook a review of whether Trump continued to pose a risk to public safety and decided that enough had changed to lower the risk.

The explanation of the decision indicated that multiple factors were considered:

“To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment.

Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.

As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Facebook Public Figure Penalty Guardrails

Meta published updated policies, Restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest, that describe the new protocols for dealing with public figures who violate Meta guidelines.

The updated rules apply to both Facebook and Instagram.

The new policies outline tiered penalties increasing in severity depending on the content violations.

Meta explained that the goal of the penalties were to deter violations of their policies.

The penalties last from one to thirty days to as long as two years for especially egregious violations.

Three factors will be considered to determine the severity of the penalty:

  1. “The severity of the violation and the public figure’s history on Facebook or Instagram, including current and past violations.
  2. The public figure’s potential influence over, and relationship to, the individuals engaged in violence.
  3. The severity of the violence and any related physical harm.”

 

Heightened Penalties

Public figures who return after a suspension will face heightened penalties, including disabling the account of any public figure that fails to respond to repeated warnings.

Meta’s rules targets QAnon content and outlines specific measures they will take that will limit the reach of penalized public figures.

That means anyone who is following the restricted account of a public figure will not see content posted to those accounts, plus the removal of reshare buttons.

“Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.

We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools.

This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump.

We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.”

Response to Reinstatement of Trump

Facebook’s announcement stated that they expect to be criticized but that the decision was guided by guidelines set down by the Oversight Board.

The response on social media was predictably passionate, with congressman Adam Schiff characterizing the reinstatement as Facebook having “caved.”

Others accused Facebook of having no rules or procedures even though Meta’s decision was based on rules and procedures.

Many of the top tweets commenting on the Trump reinstatement commented that Facebook’s decision was based on greed while others lamented the lack of consequences from Trump’s action, even though he was punished with a two year suspension.

Read Meta’s Announcement:

Ending Suspension of Trump’s Accounts With New Guardrails to Deter Repeat Offenses

 

 



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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

Much of the web is ephemeral.

Web pages exist until they don’t. The content on them exists until it’s updated – and then it’s gone.

Unless you go digging in an archive.

Archiving the web is important for cultural and anthropological research. It’s also helpful for business reasons, like competitive analysis. It can even help document or monitor political processes.

Your particular reason for seeking archived content might determine which service works best.

The Wayback Machine is the most commonly known archive.

Screenshot, https://archive.org/web/, January 2023.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization, and the Wayback Machine is the web version of its archive, containing an absolutely massive amount of data.

You can request that it save a webpage in its current state, as well as make use of tools, like an API.

As huge as the Wayback Machine archive is, it’s likely not 100% complete. If you’re having trouble finding something specific or wondering if there are alternatives with more features, these alternatives might help.

I won’t be going over paid SaaS subscriptions, as I don’t consider a paid service a true alternative to a free one provided by a nonprofit.

Let’s go!

1. The Memento Project

Memento is an exceptional alternative to the Wayback Machine because it aggregates several different sources, including the Wayback Machine itself.

On the website, you can access archives from several sources by using the Time Travel tool.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, http://timetravel.mementoweb.org/, January 2023.

This is the first distinction that makes Memento so cool, and it includes some of the other archives on this list, too. That means it’s a customizable experience and likely one of the most complete.

Memento’s other distinct feature is the Chrome extension that allows you to select the date on which you’d like to view your current page. This brings the tool to where you’re browsing instead of making you put a URL into a form.

You can also create a snapshot of a page and generate a link to it that won’t break. This is particularly useful for citation.

If you’re concerned a page might disappear, or the content might get updated, but you want to use the information, creating one of these links ensures that people will be able to see your original source.

2. Archive.today

Archive.today is another “snapshot” tool. It allows you to save a link to a page as it currently exists.

Following the link will send users to an unalterable version of the page.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://archive.ph/, January 2023.

It also features some relatively advanced search queries you can perform on domains and URLs to find snapshots that have been saved with the tool.

This tool also features a Chrome extension as well as an Android app.

Searches on Memento can include results from Archive.today.

3. WebCite

WebCite has powerful applications for authors, journalists, academics, and publishers.

It offers a variety of ways to build and present the archived pages and the URLs.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, rhttps://webcitation.org/, January 2023.

Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, it doesn’t appear to be taking new requests. But you can still access already archived pages. When and if it starts accepting requests again, it’s a very useful tool for that.

Its most powerful feature for authors and publishers is the ability to upload a manuscript directly to the website.

The tool will scan every link in an uploaded manuscript and automatically create archives of each of the pages linked to as they currently exist. This saves a lot of time if you’ve used a lot of website citations.

If you’ve created content that you want people to be able to create snapshots of, then you can add a specific WebCite link to your page that users can click on. This embeds archive functionality into your page, saving users time if they decide to use your work as a citation.

4. GitHub

GitHub is a development and collaboration platform that also prioritizes public projects and open-source code.

It documents and archives open-source code and programs, and is searchable by other archives such as the Wayback Machine.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://github.com/explore, January 2023.

But, if you’re looking for something related to code or software development, it might be easier to go straight to GitHub instead of using another archive service.

While it does have paid business plans, GitHub is free for the average user. It even offers 15GB of storage and some computing power in its cloud developer environment for free for your personal use.

5. Country-Specific Web Archives

Several countries run their own web archives.

These can be particularly helpful alternatives to the Wayback Machine if you’re looking for a website highly relevant to a specific location, or the culture of a country.

More focused archives might have more complete information if you’re having trouble finding it elsewhere, although again, I want to mention that the first alternative in this list, Memento, pulls from several different country-specific archives.

I should also note that many archives specific to a country, region, educational institution, or individual library are partnered with Archive-it, a service provider built by The Internet Archive (makers of the Wayback Machine).

They curate specific collections based on relevance, but all Archive-it partners leverage the same source: The Internet Archive.

These are a few of the country-specific web archives:

Conclusion

When you’re looking for alternatives to the Wayback Machine, you might not realize that a great many of them, in part or in whole, are powered by the same archive.

But there are other services out there you can use. Some have more helpful features, depending on what your goals are.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of alternative tools, but it’s most of the easily accessible tools for the average user.

Others require monthly payments, and some are free to academic and legal institutions, but not to individual users.

I chose to focus on the best of the tools that you could go and use right now with no fuss.

More resources:


Featured Image: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock



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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

Indirect marketing is marketing where you’re not trying to explicitly sell a product or service.

Instead, it focuses on activities that generate brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers, and nurture them to eventually buy from you.

Indirect marketing relies on the assumption that potential customers will not purchase your product or service immediately, but over time. 

And if we look at our buying behavior, that’s probably true. For example, if we need a new pair of headphones, we’ll probably first do some online research, browse forums, ask our friends, and get familiar with available brands and models—all before buying.

In contrast, direct marketing is marketing where you’re explicitly trying to get potential customers to buy right now. Channels include cold email, direct mail, and ads.

Types of indirect marketing

Here are some types of indirect marketing:

1. Public relations (PR)

PR is the practice of positively influencing a brand’s perception by managing communications with the media and the general public.

Common tactics include being newsworthy, responding to media inquiries (e.g., HARO), creating press releases, building relationships with journalists, and creating PR stunts. 

For example, Ahrefs was featured on TechCrunch in 2022.

Ahrefs is featured in a TechCrunch article

This was possible because we had:

  1. A newsworthy event (“we’re making a search engine”).
  2. Relationships with the right people (all thanks to the hard work of my colleague, Daria Samokish).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and its pages to rank higher in search engines like Google. You’d want to make sure your important pages appear on Google for relevant keywords. For example, if someone is searching for your brand, your website should appear:

Google search results for keyword "ahrefs"

But nobody will search for your brand if they do not know it exists. So beyond optimizing your homepage, you should also target keywords your customers are searching for.

At Ahrefs, we create content targeting problems our potential customers have. For example, 14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.  

14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.

This is a problem our toolset helps with, so we created a piece of content targeting that topic.

Ahrefs' link building guide

Whenever someone is searching for that keyword on Google, they’ll discover our content and, in the process, our product and brand. 

Repeat this ad infinitum and you’ll expose hundreds, if not thousands, of people to your brand (in our case, an estimated 3.4 million).

Estimated amount of search traffic Ahrefs receives every month, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Recommended reading: SEO: The Complete Guide for Beginners 

3. Social media

Creating valuable content that persuades people to follow you on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok is a great way to generate brand awareness and build relationships with your audience.

For example, our Twitter account has 128,000 followers, and we regularly share SEO and marketing tips with our audience:

Indirect marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in indirect marketing? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros

Here are the advantages of indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing builds demand and awareness

Why is it important to build brand awareness and demand? 

Simple: There are only so many people who are ready to buy right now. Most of your potential customers are still unaware they have a problem, unaware of solutions, or unaware of your particular product or service. 

So if you’re using direct marketing, you’re only focusing on a small pool of people. Not only that, but you could actually just be reaching out to people who are already primed to buy in the first place.

Eventually, you’ll still need a way to open up a pool of potential customers. And you can do that with indirect marketing tactics. 

2. Indirect marketing is less intrusive and non-pushy

Prospects purposely seek out content that helps them solve problems. Not only that, but indirect marketing tactics also rarely involve reaching out to people. 

Cons

Here are some downsides to indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing takes time

You can’t build a brand overnight. Neither can you amass 100,000 followers in one day. Relationships with journalists take time to build. And ranking on Google takes time too.

Results for a poll on how long SEO takes

Recognizing that customers need time to buy also means recognizing that nurturing the relationship takes time.

2. Indirect marketing is less trackable

Life gets in everyone’s way. You must have had the experience of researching for something to buy, only for you to give it up for a few years before suddenly returning to purchase it. Your customers are the same too. 

As a result, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which indirect marketing tactic contributed to the success. But it doesn’t mean that indirect marketing doesn’t work, just that it’s not attributable. 

Direct marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in direct marketing? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros

What are some advantages of direct marketing?

1. Direct marketing is measurable

Direct marketing tactics are usually trackable—how many opens, how many clicks, how many conversions, and so on. You can see these metrics on ad platforms and email marketing software.

2. Direct marketing is fast

Since it’s intended to elicit a response or purchase, direct marketing tactics can have an immediate impact on a business’s bottom line. 

Cons

Direct marketing is not all sunshine and roses. There are some downsides.

1. Direct marketing is intrusive

Direct marketing tactics like cold email and ads are generally seen as interruptive. That is because the prospect did not request them and yet is still served a sales message.

An unwanted ad from Emirates on the Twitter timeline

2. Direct marketing has a smaller reach

As mentioned earlier, there are only so many people who are ready and willing to buy. Direct marketing merely converts these people, but it cannot generate purchases among people who don’t even know you exist. 

3. Direct marketing can be blocked

CAN-SPAM, GDPR, ad-blockers—they exist to prevent unwanted sales messages from reaching consumers.

Examples of successful indirect marketing

Looking for successful examples of how companies have used indirect marketing? Here are three to be inspired by.

1. Ahrefs – Blog

The main marketing type we use is SEO-driven content marketing. It can be summarized into one sentence:

We create and maintain high-quality, search-focused content about topics with business potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential.

To break it down:

  1. We research topics our customers are searching for on Google.
  2. We filter them by checking their business potential—how easy it will be to pitch our product while tackling these keywords.
  3. We prioritize by analyzing their ranking potential—how viable it is for us to rank in the top three with our available resources.
  4. We create content targeting those topics.
  5. We update or rewrite them if they don’t rank or are out of date.

This strategy means customers are always discovering us whenever they’re searching for solutions to their problems on Google. 

Ahrefs customers mentioning that they found out about our product from Google

Our strategy is simple. No fancy tactics or the latest hot trend. But this deliberate simplicity makes the strategy easy to follow and is the driving force behind our eight-figure annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Learn how to replicate our strategy in the guide below.

Recommended reading: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework) 

2. Wendy’s – Twitter

Wendy’s is a fast-food restaurant chain. Yet, you might not be able to tell from its tweets:

If you’re out of the loop, Wendy’s basically revolutionized how brands can use social media and communicate with their customers. Rather than post boring bureaucratic tweets in “corporatese,” it decided to do a 180° by sharing memes, roasting rival companies, and posting in a sassy tone. And it rarely has a call to action to visit a Wendy’s restaurant.

But this indirect marketing works for it. In a highly competitive fast-food scene, this social media strategy puts its brand top of mind. 

Not only do its tweets gain attention on the network itself, but it also spreads virally across other channels. Memes, anime parodies, and YouTube videos—the list goes on. 

Since 2012, Wendy’s has overtaken Burger King to become the #3 U.S. fast-food chain.

3. Slidebean – YouTube

Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses. It has >400,000 subscribers on YouTube. Many of its videos aren’t about pitch decks or pitch deck design; instead, they’re about startups, marketing, and business.

This is deliberate. It initially started out with topics related to its product. But it found that it exhausted those topics in a short amount of time. So it decided to move up the marketing funnel into broader topics.

Since we had found a “YouTube formula,” we decided to apply it to other kinds of content, and one of them was this idea of exploring failed companies. The first one was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called “Startup Forensics.”

However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened that up to “Company Forensics” to broaden our horizons.

Jose Cayasso

This allowed Slidebean to get as many eyeballs as possible on YouTube, which puts its brand top of mind. The company hit $1.5 million in revenue with 3,000 customers in 2022. 

Final thoughts

The best companies use both indirect and direct marketing. They don’t discriminate between strategies. If you want to improve your business, you should use both. 

Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter



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