Should User Generated Content Be Kind?

For 17 years I’ve been active in online communities and tried my best to follow one basic rule – “Is it true, necessary and kind?” – with each comment.  It doesn’t always work.

When search engines began to listen to social signals coming from Facebook, Yelp, G+, Amazon and countless other web sites where the public can leave comments, the opportunities for learning the truth about products and services was easy to find. Generally customer feedback is helpful and polite.  Language and word choices digress, however, depending on the type of product.  Apparently sex toys turn some adults into 12 year olds and all manner of blubbering and crudeness follows in product reviews.

Reputation management came to the rescue in cases where brands experienced vicious public attacks.  And of course we all know someone, or perhaps you yourself, has been the target of trolls or someone’s agenda to discredit you.  The Web has no boundaries.  A conversation of any type doesn’t have to be necessary or true and certainly not kind.  That has been my own personal guideline.

I Think I’ve Broken My Own Rule

Some time ago I started a thread at Cre8asiteforums called Seo Hall Of Shame to draw attention to the unwelcome spam from so-called Search Engine Marketing companies.  Most of it is automated, which explains why they are so terribly off the mark where they land.

GRRR!When I first began the discussion I was polite and removed names and other identifying factors.  Now I don’t.  The reason is simple.  It looks like 1996 out there!

50 full time SEO experts, submission to Search Engines and Directories, Submission to Article Directories, Our Steps and the Activities to Rank You 1st Page on Google!, See our Link Wheels, 150+ Microblog websites, 8500 Directories, 2000+ Web Directories …

Get the NEW linking service that we have recently developed in response to all the new search engine knowledge and algorithm changes at Google. This service has been thoroughly tested and is getting terrific results. It WILL BOOST your search engine rankings – Guaranteed!

I can no longer sit quietly and pretend to ignore the massive amounts of SEO fraud. The first articles I ever wrote in the mid-1990’s exposed these same practices and worse. I stopped protecting the offenders and began posting entire SEO spam emails in the Cre8asiteforums thread. I’m also not preventing members from exposing names, emails, phone numbers, etc.

So while we’re not cussing out these dimwits, we’re not being kind enough to hide who they are. It’s true that we get these offensive emails. It may be debatable that it is necessary that we expose them. But when it comes to being kind, I’ve wrestled with that one. Is there a kinder way to show the world what rip-off, cheating companies do?

Maybe. But I decided that helping to prevent the damage that these scam scum cause is worth breaking my own rule for.


Beat Your Competition – Ask for User Interface Conversions Testing

Hey Web Site Owners, You STILL Get What You Pay For

I was struck by Jordan Kastler’s The Hidden Cost Of Cheap SEO & Social Media Labor because I wrote about this in the 1990’s.

In fact, my article caught the eye of a local newspaper reporter who later interviewed me about my new business and rather forceful writings. He promoted what I wrote about Yahoo! where I stated, “Anyone who says they can get you into Yahoo!’s directory for free is flat out lying.” The original premise of the first Cre8pc web site was focused on all the good and bad of SEO practices and tools. In those days, me, Ammon Johns, and Fantomaster (Ralph Tegtmeier) stalked DejaNews, Usenet groups, and the more popular SEO forums and clubs, trying our best to teach best practices, blast the hell out of incredibly stupid, cheap thrill web site promotion tricks, practices and software that allowed people to rip off clients. (Even the cloaking pioneer, Ralph, had class and integrity in his approach.)

Angry ManIn 1998, I was so frustrated by the SEO industry, that I started the Cre8pc Web Site Promotion club in Egroups, acquired by Yahoo! Groups, and in 2002, moved to a friend’s server and turned into a real forums. Today’s Cre8asiteForums still maintains and supports best practices. Should anyone try to promote idiotic SEO practices, use the forums as a link boost, or post incorrect information that would hurt the vast web design and marketing industries they are instantly removed, with no warning. Every single new member is screened because we uphold our integrity there.

As Jordan wrote in his wildly popular article,

I know how devastatingly costly it can be to launch, maintain, and grow a business. But there are certain aspects of building a business where it’s never okay to cut corners. You wouldn’t hire an inexperienced, too-cheap contractor to build the building. You wouldn’t buy discounted, bruised produce if you owned a restaurant and you wouldn’t buy day-old bread for your sandwich shop.

Even worse, for me, are companies that invest in search engine optimization, search engine marketing, analytics and social media marketing, but totally ignore user experience web design. This still happens and it just freaks me out. Today alone I tried to search for and order a textbook at the college where my son goes. It was so impossibly difficult to figure out where and how and what to do that I gave him my debit card and sent him straight to the college’s bookstore.

In another visit today, I viewed a brand new web site by a web design and marketing company. It’s pretty but has so many usability and organic SEO issues it would take me a few hours to document them all. I really hate web sites where you can’t bookmark a page (AJAX) or the pages cut off the bottom part and there’s scrollbar so you can’t move the page down read more. I also dislike web sites that special needs users will NEVER be able to use and many people will never be able to read due to the poor color contrasts and delicately faint feathery wisps of text that require a magnifying glass to make out.

Clearly, they don’t have a usability person on their team.

Don’t buy your links. Don’t fall for miracle-worker pitches, and be prepared to pay a decent price for a linkbuilding campaign. It’s the only way to ensure you’ll get results—real results that won’t get your site banned.

Bad SEO Practices

That moment when you realize you wasted all your money on a web site that sucks and marketers who ripped you off.

The only thing worse than site owners that believe in buying links, is trying to convince a client to STOP BUYING LINKS while they bitch to you that their PR score is pathetic and their site ranks lower than their competition. There are children starving in the world and yet marketers get away with charging site owners THOUSANDS of dollars a MONTH on linking schemes. (On web pages that suck.)

The Result of Cheap SEO Services

I don’t know if it’s hilarious or saddening that so many people fall for scams and get-rich-quick schemes from amateurs. I don’t know how many times I’ll have to keep exasperatedly saying, “There is no such thing as cheap SEO.” Because there isn’t.

No matter what low price you pay for Web design, SEO, or social media up front, you will wind up paying later on. Your site will get penalized. Your accounts will get blocked. And you will have to spend the time in the long run: whether it’s countless hours spent explaining things to a newbie, fixing a so-called “professional’s” mistakes, or working to recover your reputation, in the end, those pennies saved will cost you all the same.

So here’s a hint, a final plea, a last bit of advice: there are no shortcuts. Anyone who offers you one is a cheat, a liar, a scammer, or someone that has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

Like I said, me and a very small handful of others (Jill, Ammon, Kalena) have been on message regarding hiring the right skills, sticking to best, tested practices and applying the ENTIRE 360 degree approach to design and marketing that begins with knowing and documenting site and business requirements, to human factors web design, and online marketing using real data and strategies that don’t make search engines vomit out the web site.

Some of us, from the 1990’s and early 2000 years, have chosen to work with honesty, credibility and practices we’ve tested and proven to work for the long haul. We charge more because we’re under the impression that site owners want to succeed for years and we’ll support that with gusto.

Others have become famous, risen and fallen, risen and died off, risked web sites destroyed online businesses, and claim to have made millions by out witting search engines and creating the Lazurus Effect (raising sites from the dead). Their methods use cheap labor (Have you seen the fee’s in work from home and freelancer sites for cheap SEO and content spamming? Sheer insanity.)

Dear Jordan Kasteler. Thank you so much for the shameful reminder that in nearly 20 years, nothing much has changed in the search engine marketing industry.

SES NY Speaker Deadlines and Pre-Agenda Pricing

Today is the last day for pre-agenda discount pricing for those heading for the New York Search Engine Strategies conference in March. The New York conference is very popular, with education, training and networking opportunities in abundance. This is not one to miss!

Register today for your pre-agenda pricing, plus another 20% discount.
They have also announced speaker deadlines, which are around the corner.

Go to SES New York 2012 Deadlines

  • Proposing a session: Jan 31
  • Speaking submission: Feb 17

Register now for discounts!

Greetings from SES San Francisco: My Favorite Photos (so far)

I’m in San Francisco this week for Connected Marketing Week and Search Engine Strategies, San Francisco, 2011, blogging for Libeck Integrated Marketing, where I am a Usability/SEO/Project Manager.

The next few days I’ll be bringing you some coverage of a few sessions (there are over 200!), and my favorite photos. So to start with:

  • Packed Crowds at Week of Digital Marketing Training: SES San Franciso 2011
  • There are some interesting new things to note

  • Social Marketing on a Budget Brings Millions in ROI: Search Engine Strategies San Francisco 2011

    Social media solutions on a budget was the topic today at 11am for the Social Media track at Search Engine Strategies in San Francisco today. The biggest proof of a low cost approach that rocked was presented by Jeffrey Harmon, of OraBrush.

Brett Tabke and Bruce Clay

The panel for "Lie Me! Social & Viral Content Tips for Making Your Brand More Sexy

Li Evans, Libeck Integrated Marketing

Mike Grehan

Greg Jarboe

Bill anbd Motoko Hunt, Li Evans

See more Photos from Search Engine Strategies, San Francisco, 2011

SEO Referrals and Setting the Record Straight

Due to the continued increase in work requests coming my way, I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some confusion and share who I pass my overload to.

Firstly, I am and always have been a solo artist. This means I get booked up in advance. The work comes from me only. Yes, I get requests from people who wish to join me and grow a real company, but I’ve never able to fit that in. Why? I started out as a single mom in the mid-90’s. Every drop of income was needed for myself and kids because I refused to take the traditional divorce route. I chose no support of any kind and as close to 50% shared custody as possible. Though remarried almost 6 years ago, my husband’s job is the kind where I’m lucky if I’ll have time with him on a weekend. Therefore, I handle my own business, the kids, college expenses, the house and every possible domestic duty there is.

Some of you will say, “So what, I have the same mess on my hands”. I know. But for those who still don’t understand… I’m a tutor for the Search Engine College, so I have students. I’m on the Board of several community organizations and volunteer webmaster for 2 community sites, as well a web site for a local artist and another for a local speaker in the natural healing arts. I also own and administer Cre8asiteforums, write for Search Engine Land and Search Engine People. And, most days its difficult to walk and that issue is not improving. There’s that “secret” project I bought the domain for, came up with a plan, everyone I speak to loves the idea, but I can’t seem to squish it in. That, and a vacation.

What does Cre8pc Do?

Confusion has existed for years over what I do because I started out as an SEO in the 1990’s and was associated with many of the early pioneers in the industry. As the story goes, my career took two sharp turns while working for some big name companies. Firstly, I got into user interface web design. Then, it was Internet software QA testing in the area of usability, user experience and functionality. When I switched to the latter, there were faint few resources for me, so I developed my own UX test plans and procedures that I rely on to this day in one form or another. I may still be only SEO/UX person skilled in the discipline of Requirements Gathering and Defect Tracking. I’m sub-contracted long term to a company for their Information Architecture needs for each client.

I continue to get calls and email requests for SEO work. To set the record straight, I’m booked up indefinitely with SEO. That could change at any time but for now, that’s the case. The only form of SEO I fit in is for site audits that combine usability and SEO from a holistic, organic perspective. I don’t do PPC, link building, link purchasing, ad campaigns and have no stomach for management that dangles pressure tactics over an SEO’s head with the threat of firing if they don’t perform miracles for them.

What’s With UsabilityEffect?

A few years ago…okay, I think it was 2004, some marketing friends convinced me to re-invent Cre8pc and put everything usability under UsabilityEffect.com. So I made this CSS, table-less, boring web site. It still exists but I’ve had zero time to maintain it. And, as I learned, the Cre8pc brand had already stuck. I use this blog for my voice. The plan, when I get a chance, is to move UE here, put some of that under a sub-domain here and expand this site more.

For the record, I do continue to take web site usability projects. Although I have regular clients who keep me hopping, I do my best to squeeze in new work and especially help smaller businesses with some affordable options, customized for them and their budget.

My site audits are proprietary and change all the time because data changes, new case studies are released, lots of research is out there regarding emotions, our brains and how this relates to the Internet and interacting with web sites. I have to stay on top of it to provide accurate audits. (Equals more time in my day.)

I Need SEO Referrals

I do lots of referrals and try to make good connections that work for both the prospective client and the company or person I refer them to. I never ever refer anyone to any person or company I’ve never worked with before. I also will not refer a prospect to anyone who hasn’t proven to me that they understand why SEO and usability, when combined together, offer the best opportunities for conversions (sales, sign ups, subscriptions, applications, calls, sales leads, membership, etc.)

When you get nowhere with me (I’m notoriously bad with phones) or I take too long to respond to an email (meaning I’m in over my head, which happens a lot), go directly to these folks with my full support:

Kim Krause Berg’s Search Engine Marketing Referrals

eVision, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design Contact: George Aspland

Solas Web Design, Local Search Marketing. Contact: Miriam Ellis. My top choice for any work regarding local search engine marketing.

DazzlinDonna, Search Marketer, Developer and more. Contact: Donna Fontenot. Donna is incredible.

Medthink, Healthcare Software app’s. Contact: Jon Hudson. This company is amazing. They combine SEO/UX into their Drupal development.

Dream Systems Media, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Matt Siltala

Jordan Consulting Group, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Kalena Jordan

RankSmart, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Ben Pfieffer

PageOneRankings, SEO for Small/Med Business with open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Lauren Sorensen. Lauren is a powerhouse, professional, dedicated to budget-strapped businesses and very easy to work with.

Optimized, Full Service SEO. Contact: Mary Bowling

HighRankings, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Jill Whalen. Jill is one of the first to recognize the value of UX for online marketing purposes.

Alliance Link, Link Building. Contact: Debra Mastaler

KeyRelevance. Full Service Search Engine Marketing and Usability. Contact: Christine Churchill

ThinkProspect, Organic SEO out of Australia. Contact: Sophie Wegat

SeerInteractive, All things SEO/M and open attitude towards UX design. Contact: Will Reynolds

That should hold you for a bit. These are companies and people I’ve worked with many times. This is the only way I know for sure where they are with regard to SEO, but also they take it up a notch or so by bringing in usability and true understanding of what that means to marketing.

I admire or respect the work of the folks whom I link to in my blog roll. I’m fussy about who I put there (I don’t take requests for links). The companies linked to do a variety of services including search engine marketing, social media, usability and web site design.

That’s all…hope it helps.

Gotta run.

The Impact of Battling SEO Spam

A couple weeks ago I lashed out at people, places and things pretty much everywhere I went. I was so angry and later, depressed, without understanding why.

Giving Tree

Most everyday I get to look at trees out my windows because I live among them and working from home gives me this gift. I consider every tree to be a Giving Tree. When I want to be strong and centered, I visualize being Grandmother Willow, only younger and without gray hair. I want to be tall, graceful, and grounded in the Mother (Earth). Instead of arms, I imagine that my branches are parts of me running around the Internet or the local food store meeting new people and learning a zillion new things. As a tree, I expect to be able to bend during harsh storms or flutter my leaves gently in silent, loving support of everything.

SPAM Lumberhacks

An elegant, wise tree is not something I’ve been lately.  After considerable time hiding and feeling miserable about my behavior and locking myself up until I could be the Tree, I came to understand one of the things that has been hurting me, and I felt that perhaps I could share that with you.

As the owner and lead Administrator for a volunteer-run, non-profit forums, I get what I thought was a birds eye view of the Internet. I figured that since Cre8asiteforums was global and targeted web development and all things related to that, I would have a constant finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there. I was wrong about that and many people corrected my thinking. I may not have responded to it all, but I was listening.

Every single day I have to check into the forums. Holidays, weekends, vacation. Sometimes there is someone to back me but I hate to bother anyone for help. It’s volunteer. Nobody HAS to be there, not even the Moderators. It’s a Community. Well, it was. In its heyday. But like a tree, there are seasons and changes. Some years there were industry well-known mentors who came often to teach and help with questions. They can’t have been expected to be there from 1998 until 2010. As much as we miss them and their contributions, they may not ever return. They have their own businesses and commitments now.

Imagine what it’s like to build something for everybody, only to be forced to tolerate a daily, non-stop barrage of people trying to break into it so they can do some type of damage.  This is what spammers do.

Every single day I am met with a minimum of 50 spammers at the forums. With a blog, most spam is caught and whatever is not can be deleted fast and easily. A blog owner can tell what is spam and kill it on sight or just let it sit there until they come in to moderate the day’s posts before they permit any of them out front to the public. With a forums, it’s different. The procedures vary. Cre8asiteforums is extremely strict about who gets in because the Community expects us to keep the conversation intelligent and productive.

So for us, every new member has to be validated before they are admitted. Of, say, 500 new member candidates every week, maybe 3 will be real people who want to be there. Of that 3, one of them will ignore our rules and spam the Community or leave a stream of 1-liners with a link to their website in the post. Funnily enough, they never complain when their posts are all removed and their account disabled. What they don’t seem to understand is that if they come to my place and break the furniture, I turn them into a spammers database to warn all the other forums out there.  I report spammers every day, including weekends.

During the past few weeks I came to understand the impact of dealing with daily SEO spam was chipping away at me .  I realized I hated the industry  I was associated with because it’s filled with people who think spam is marketing. I learned that I’m not alone in feeling that way. I stopped being able to focus on anything. I was utterly and completely spent, with nothing else to give. When you devote yourself to something for a long time, only to wake up to find there is no place for you and the house looks completely different, it hurts. Every day my blog is spammed with one-liners and url drops that never see the light of day. Who are the stupid people who think this is doing their sites any good? What myth is this one?

My idealist little brain has such a hard time accepting some of what’s happening out there in Web LA LA Land. Facebook absolutely has no interest in anything other than using members for its own gain. Google is no privacy saint.  Internet marketing has become a game of who can rip off the most and get away with it. Every fight leads to links, so that’s a good thing because links are more valuable than people.

For the last several weeks I’ve questioned everything regarding my career.  It’s an odd feeling sensing what I want, but I have no clue what that translates into in practical, making a living terms.

I want to be the tree where birds come to nest and sing.

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