Search engines optimization (SEO), the fake expert brigade and outright cheats

In your journey of blogging, you might have been tempted to ask friends and experts, and research the web about how to popularize your blog. If you are not a very established blogger, the question might still be in your mind.
Chances are that you heard almost the same advice on improving blog / website traffic from your friends and experts and read the same advice on the web. We won’t comment on friends and other real-life experts – you have to base your judgement on their expertise and sincerity on your and others’ experiences. As of the web, as we have cautioned earlier too, if it is full of helpful souls and experts, it also harbors thousands of cut-and-paste experts and people out to cheat you. In search of a money-making formula for themselves, they come across areas in which web-surfers are interested, and dish out useless, untrustworthy stuff. 

In some cases, fake SEO sites evolve a community around them. They support one another and bait gullible visitors with unrealistic claims and offers. They put guest posts and reviews on one another’s sites in which they cross-promote themselves. They also promote each other through laudatory comments, fake success stories, social networking... This trend has, of late, become rule rather than exception.

We will hasten to repeat that there are many genuine, well-meaning advisors on SEO and other website matters who are experts too. You should be able to differentiate between them and the fake ones if you are alert. The fake expert ones will usually have these characteristics: 
  • They make very tall claims. [e.g. I advised this to a friend who started getting a thousand visitors a day and earning a thousand dollars a month.] 
  • They look unprofessional by their website’s look, Google PR, visitor counts etc. The fake ones often have cut-and-paste advice; so, their text is likely to have variation in writing styles because they have cut and pasted matter from different sites. Some of them don’t even have the skills to keep their website professional in looks and free of language errors. 
  • They spread myths and pseudo-scientific arguments to make the visitor worry about his blog / website and feel that only by following their advice can he save it from failure. [e.g. Why do you fail to make money while John makes a thousand dollars  with a similar website?] 
  • They speak in generalities without telling you the logic behind the advice [because they don’t have the required expertise on the matter].
In addition, do remember these points:
  • Search engines keep changing their algorithms, and the specific advice given in even genuine websites would be outdated within a few months if it were not kept up-to-date.
  • Search engines work hard to make their searches more relevant; they are not bothered whether your site did something special by way of SEO. In fact, they are more likely to frown upon excessive and unnatural SEO practices and people trying to fool them. 
  • Link exchanges, cross-comments on one another’s blogs, submitting to directories, putting badges, etc are fine as long as they do not result in spamming and link-‘farming’. But be wary of people who offer thousands of ‘high PR links’ for a few dollars or link exchanges that promise thousands of genuine back-links to your blog: chances are that they will make Google penalize you for inappropriate ways of link-building.
So, what is the takeaway from this short discussion? 
Go for traffic building and monetization if you want to be popular and earn money, by applying sound principles. Quality matters a great deal in the long run in giving your blog popularity – so, concentrate on the quality of blog content. Then, be patient; don’t rush to make money at the cost of quality and visitors’ trust.

Review your website or blog in a few minutes!

Though we continue to review blogs in detail, our limitation of time makes the queue very long. So we are giving a small check-list below, which you can use to analyse your blog for key factors.

If you like, you can play an interesting scoring game: Give your website marks on each question given below:  the marks should be between the numbers given against the question [e.g. -2 to 8]. Give yourself a pat on the cheek if you score more than 80 out of 100. There might be something horrible with the website / blog if you score less than 50. You can have a score of -68 too if you really try hard.

The 26 rapidfire blogging questions

  1. Is your website / blog pleasing and soothing?  0 to 10
  2. Does your content communicate well with the reader? Do you care to write original content? Is your writing style appropriate for the subject? [Corresponding questions in the case of photos.] 0 to 10
  3. Does the opening screen show up the best content in the blog / website [i.e. the visitor does not have to scroll down to find things he’s looking for]? 0 to 9
  4. Are your posts relevant to the main theme of the website / blog? -2 to 8
  5. Do you proof-read posts and check them for grammar before pressing the ‘publish’ button?  -3 to 6
  6. Do you post at a frequency adequate for your type of blog? [Say, daily for a news blog and once a fortnight for a food blog.] 0 to 7
  7. Is your title catchy, and has a crisp and relevant description under it? 0 to 7
  8. Have you put labels on posts and used categorization / labeling properly? Have you made the best use of menu-bar and archives? 0 to 7
  9. Is your text properly readable to a person with slightly poor eyesight and on a bit bright/ dull screen? [Do look at color, contrast, font type and size.] 0 to 7
  10. Are your posts of adequate size? Have you shortened long posts with ‘jump break’? 0 to 6
  11. Is the page length not too long, and width no bigger than about 1200 pixels? 0 to 5
  12. Do you care to respond to comments? -3 to 5
  13. Have you used proper script for long passages of non-English text? -5 to 3
  14. Do you use images in posts [for blogs other than photoblogs] / you give relevant text alongside images [photoblogs]? 0 to 5
  15. Have you put a favicon on the website? 0 to 3
  16. Does your website have a moving element [e.g. video, slide-show, flash animation] that does not allow the visitor to move forward till it has played out? -8 to 0
  17. Does your website play music without user’s permission? [And there is no prominent button to stop it?] -8 to 0
  18. Is your website free from irritants such as distracting animations and pop-ups? -5 to 0
  19. Have you stuffed the blog with irritating SEO tricks? -5 to 0
  20. Does the site have widgets that, when clicked, lead to subscription sites? -5 to 0
  21. Have you kept too many and too bulky images and videos on the site? -5 to 0
  22. Have you stuffed the website / blog with too many and irrelevant widgets and social media icons? -5 to 0
  23. Do you brag too much in ‘about me’, by sermonizing, by egotistical writing? Are you too self-centred? -4 to 2
  24. Does the website have too many advertisements? -4 to 0
  25. Are there too many jerky and contrasting shifts in text coloration and size, images, etc on the site? -3 to 0
  26. Do you ask for registration without much reason or make commenting too much difficult? -3 to 0
Be experimental, but be sensible

These are general points to check, and some types of websites and blogs will do good if they experiment with chaos while keeping the basics in mind. Why not have loud music at the very instant the website opens if the site is one on rock music? Who says there won’t be technical terms on a website / blog on a medical condition? Only a mad guy will say that a kid’s blog should look as serious as a grandpa’s.

You must experiment, show your bubbling side on your personal blog, break rules, declare rebellion. What we humbly  advocate is common-sense approach towards a website / blog -  to use various elements, tools and information sensibly, and not abuse or misuse them.

The final test of a website / blog is: whether your visitors will like it and will the site serve the purpose for which they visit it. If you score 100 here, you have the liberty to ignore the score you’ve obtained by answering the questions above.