It’s official. The legal paperwork is filed. The website and associated properties are changed over. The bank accounts are changed (almost). Other than the DBA I now own for collecting old payments as they come in, it’s both with a bit of sadness and excitement that I can say The SEO Pub is officially closed for business.

How The SEO Pub got started

What a trip it has been. I got started in this online marketing journey all the way back at the beginning of 2001. This was back in the days when you had to be invited to use GMail, if any of you remember that. I actually began by messing around with the fledgling new Google AdWords that had just launched a few months before. 

I felt like a Don Lapre commercial, only my tiny classified ads were all over Google’s search engine and not in tiny newspapers all over the country. 

Google AdWords was truly the Wild West back then. Clicks cost pennies. There were no rules about ads leading directly to affiliate offers. You didn’t have to own the site your ads led to. You could pretty much advertise anything that was not illegal. 

Your ads didn’t even have to match the landing page. Want to run an ad for selling t-shirts and drop the visitors onto a page selling penis pumps? No problem.

You might think I’m joking, but I know someone that was making money doing exactly that.

Although I was running successful ad campaigns, I was always looking for new ways to generate more traffic. That’s how I got started in SEO. To be honest, I had no idea there was a name for what I was doing. I just knew I was working to make my websites show up in relevant search results.

I had long been a lurker on popular internet forums. I never got involved in conversations. Partially, I think I felt I was not as knowledgeable as the regulars and loud voices on these forums and had nothing to offer. I just read a lot, tried testing things I saw people talking about, and just kept adding to my online toolkit.

Fast forward to 2007. I started to see more and more misinformation floated around about SEO, PPC advertising, and online marketing in general. I don’t have statistics to prove it, but I largely blame it on multi-level-marketing companies invading the online space with their often unspoken, and sometimes spoken, mantra of fake it until you make it

It really bothered me to see so many honest people and business owners looking for legitimate answers to their questions about online marketing being led astray by these Pied Pipers who had clearly never sold a thing online in their life other than courses about how to sell things online. 

I don’t remember the first thread that compelled me to do it, but I remember it was anger that drove me to it. After a long time of lurking in these marketing corners, I finally decided to join the conversation. 

As I interacted with some of the names I had seen over and over online I learned something about SEO, PPC advertising, and online marketing in general. I learned that I knew a lot more than most of them did and had a lot more to offer.

That may initially sound arrogant, but I bet many of you who have worked online for any significant amount of time went through a similar journey. Even though you may have been ranking pages and making money online for years, you might still have felt like you were just a small fish in a big pond and believed you didn’t have the experience or expertise to share what you knew about online marketing. Then at some point you may have had an interaction with one or more than one of those individuals who talk a big game online and it clicks for you too. You realize that you know more than you thought you did.

Back to my journey. 

I started answering people’s questions online. Mostly about SEO. Search engine optimization and Google AdWords have long been my real passion online. Before I knew it PM’s started piling up with people coming to me directly with their questions or wanting more clarification on discussion threads.

Although there were many unique questions, I started to see some of the same questions a lot. The thought crossed my mind that I should set up some kind of a resource where I could answer those questions. I could then refer people to those answers instead of typing them over and over.

I know. I should start one of those blog things everyone is talking about these days (this was 2007). 

But I didn’t want to just talk about search engine marketing. I wanted it to be a little more fun than that. I needed to add something else to it.

And one day shortly after while drinking a beer, it hit me. The SEO Pub was born. I could write about SEO topics that interested me or that I saw a lot of misinformation about and I could also talk about beer. It was a win-win.

For those of you who followed me back then, you will remember that intermixed with search engine marketing related posts you would also find frequent reviews of my favorite (and sometimes not so favorite) beers. There was even a Beer of the Month section.

What if I turn this into a business?

The SEO Pub made some decent money through affiliate offers, but I never really pushed that side of it hard. I had plenty of other affiliate sites and that was where my online empire really was.

But something interesting happened pretty quickly after launching The SEO Pub. Instead of just questions about SEO topics, I started getting inquiries from business owners wanting to know if I could help them with their SEO.

The first few I offered some advice where I could, but politely turned them down. I didn’t think people really wanted to hire me for that. These were exceptions, not the rule.

The requests did not stop.

I realized that even though it was not what I intended when I started this, I had a potential business on my hands. Unlike so many of the other people I saw taking on clients at that time, I actually had a few years of experience in ranking websites and making money online.

Later that year I formed and launched the business side of The SEO Pub at TheSEOPub.net. I kept the blog style site going on the .com version.

Many happy clients later I realized there was no real point in keeping the two sites separate and merged them into one site on TheSEOPub.com, and that is where it has lived until this week.

Why the change?

For a few years I have been considering renaming the business. I love The SEO Pub, but we handle so much more for clients than just SEO. In fact, we frequently get contact requests asking if we handle PPC advertising or social media marketing (even though it says so right on the website). The brand name always felt limiting, and as I mentioned above it wasn’t really chosen with the idea of building a business around it.

Two things have stopped me from rebranding the business sooner. 

  1. I never made it priority.
  2. I could never settle on a new name.

Perhaps I should have made it a priority sooner, but there was alway other work to do. The thought of the legal paperwork to change the business name, changing over bank accounts, new emails, new logins, new business cards… all of it felt a little overwhelming.

Turns out, the legal paperwork took all of 20 minutes to fill out with my state and cost me about $100. The bank accounts, well the only hassle with those is my local branch is close, the next closest one is open by appointment only, and they will not do it online. Oh, and I forgot one of the forms I needed the first time I went in, so now I have to go back again tomorrow. No big deal though and should take about 15 minutes.

The other stuff. It is all just excuses I kept making.

The name though. Now that was a tough one. 

Those of you who have known me for longer than five minutes know of my affinity for Spartans. I have had a mild obsession with them since I had to do a history report in 7th grade. We were allowed to pick pretty much any topic from European history. Someone in my family said I should look up the Battle of Thermopylae. For those unfamiliar, that’s the historical battle that the movie 300 is loosely based on. I’ve been a fan of Spartans and Spartan history ever since.

In fact, I left a small part of the story above out where I started a business with a partner called Spartan Online Marketing. Later I created The SEO Pub Academy, which I later moved to Spartan Marketing Academy. 

Something Spartan related was always a possibility, and I did consider it. In the end, it just felt too cliché. Too overdone. No disrespect to anyone running a business today using that name.

I wanted a name that told a better story about what we do.

I went through names that had words in them like summit and peak. Summit Marketing is not a terrible name, right? I went through names from Greek and Roman Mythology. Powerful gods and mortal heroes. Nothing really grabbed me.

One day I was trying to brainstorm new names. Probably the 20th time in two years I had done this. I started just writing down words that were related to what we do and the results of what we do. Objectives, tasks, customer interactions… everything.

The list was much, much bigger than this, but it went something like...

Rankings
Advertising
Reporting
Analysis
Optimization
Marketing
Promos
Press
Content
Conversions
Sales
Leads
Clicks

And that was when it hit me. Clicks. Every customer journey on a website starts with this. Everything we do is about sticking out from your competitors and getting Clicked

Whether it is ranking in search engines, running ads in Google Ads, building a following and posting in social media… the end goal is to generate sales or leads, but that starts with getting Clicked over your competitors.

Once that name popped in my head, everything else just Clicked into place, pun intended.

You can expect all of the same great service and content (plus a lot more and bigger things on the way) that you found at The SEO Pub. 

New name. Same great service.

I thank those of you who have followed me and The SEO Pub this far. I’m excited for what comes next.

You may have noticed something new pop up in your mobile searches in the past week. Google launched a new update to the appearance of their mobile search engine result pages that includes showing favicons along with the URL or URL breadcrumbs above each search listing.

Here is how it looks:

After scrolling past the map pack results, you can see how the sites with favicons stick out more than those with the default “world wide web” looking icon.

This does open up some opportunities to stand out from your competitors, but be careful. Google is already cracking down on people trying to exploit the favicons in search results.

Google has published a list of guidelines to follow.

Google has also provided the following instructions for implementing your favicon in search results.

  1. Create a favicon that follows the guidelines.
  2. Add a <link> tag to the header of your home page with the following syntax:

<link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”/path/to/favicon.ico”>

rel

Can be any of the following strings:

href

        The URL of the Favicon. Can be a relative path or absolute path, but must be in the same domain as the home page.

  1. Google will look for and update your favicon whenever it crawls your home page. If you make changes to your favicon and want to inform Google about the changes, you can request indexing of your site’s homepage. Updates cn take a few days or longer to appear in search results.

Two of the popular spokespeople for Google have let their distaste for websites using “read more” or similar buttons to expand the content displayed on the page be known.

“Why would a site want to hide their content?” asked John Mueller. “I hate those.”

Meanwhile Gary Illyes tweeted his confusion over the use of such buttons. “I’ve never understood the rationale behind that. Is it generating more money? Or why are people doing that?”

Someone asked them if this could lead to a penalty from Google’s new mobile interstitial penalty, to which John said, “It’s not an interstitial…”

Here is a screenshot example of what they are talking about:

example of 'read more' for content button

It is pretty easy to understand the ‘why’ behind the use of these. You mostly see them on mobile sites. Several years ago, Google released an update around the user experience of a website. One thing this update targeted was sites having too many ads above the fold. In other words, if most of what a user saw was advertisements before scrolling down, that was a negative ranking signal.

What the ‘read more’ type buttons do in this case is let sites put ads above the fold, or very close to it, without someone having to read the entire page of content before getting to ads at the bottom of the page.

It is sort of a way to avoid Google’s layout penalty, but still get ads in front of visitors more often. So yes, Gary, it is to make more money.

Could it be something that Google targets later?

You never know for sure, but I don’t really think so. It is not really hampering someone from getting to the content they were looking for. It is all right there on the same page. If the click caused loading of another page, that would be much different, and hamper the user experience.

Also, if it is getting more clicks through AdSense without being a significant hindrance to the user experience, why would they want to target it?

On January 10th, Google launched what it called an intrusive interstitials mobile penalty. What does all that gobbly gook mean?

It means Google was promising to penalize websites that were using intrusive ads in their mobile display. You've seen those sites you click on and an ad immediately pops up before you can see any of the content you were trying to get to or the ones with ads all over the place that you have to dodge like you are trying to navigate a minefield.

Here are examples that Google posted of what they were targeting:

examples

Google claimed that when this new update rolled out, sites heavily using these sort of ads would see a decrease in their rankings in the Google SERPs.

To be honest, I don't see a ton of these sites in the SERPs. I see them much more often posted on Facebook, and anything Google does in search is not going to impact those sites relying on social media for traffic.

I'm following a few people that have been tracking groups of sites using these, and none of them are seeing rank decreases across the sites.

It is certainly possible that the update is still rolling out, but it would seem that this is another example of Google trying to scare webmasters into behaving the way they want them to behave.

What am I talking about?

Remember Mobilegeddon? Last year Google claimed that they were doing a big update that would see sites which were not mobile friendly have big ranking drops in mobile search. I tracked a bunch of the most unfriendly looking sites I could find on mobile. None of them dropped. Some of them even saw increases in rankings for really competitive terms.

Nonetheless, in the months leading up to Mobilegeddon there were tons of webmasters freaking out and making sure their website was changed to a mobile-friendly format.

Then there was the talk of site speed... Yet some of the slowest sites you can find are dominating search results.

And remember this one?

Meme about HTTP being a ranking signal

Welcome to The New SEO Pub

The SEO Pub was long my running blog about search engine optimization, internet marketing, and beer.

The blog grew and had a lot of great followers and readers.

After releasing two new training courses about SEO, I launched The SEO Pub Academy. That was eventually re-branded into Spartan Marketing Academy. Spartan has a private discussion area for members who purchased the courses and a public forum was also attached.

With the launch of those sites, The SEO Pub blog was left behind somewhat. Most of my thoughts, tips, strategies, etc. were being shared in the forum.

I have received quite a few messages that people missed the old site, and to be honest, I kind of did too. Recently, someone decided to hack it and tear it down. It's my own fault for leaving it somewhat neglected. However, it gave me all the motivation I needed to rebuild and redesign the site. Honestly, the old Thesis theme I was using was old, outdated, and showing its age.

For years I had kept my business website under the same brand, but on a different URL at TheSEOPub.net. It was showing signs of its age and was in need of a redesign too. I decided to combine them into one site here instead of maintaining the two separate sites.

I have been able to recover a lot of the old posts from The SEO Pub blog, but unfortunately, all of the comments were lost. I'm reposting many of the old posts, rewriting some, and others are being left in the trash heap.

The redesign is mostly done, with some minor tweaks to add here and there like messing around with fonts and some small layout issues.

Just to be clear, this in no way, shape, or form means that I am abandoning the Spartan Marketing Forum. I will be just as active as always there too. I think we have a great budding community that is continuing to grow.

I am just going to be getting back to some of my roots, so to speak.

Please excuse the mess as we tidy things up.

While the SEO and webmaster community wait with baited breath for Google to launch its promised Disavow Links feature in Google Webmaster Tools, Bing went ahead and launched a disavow tool of its own.

Duane Forrester, head of Bing Webmaster Tools cautions:

You can easily export the list as you build it over time.

These signals help us understand when you find links pointing to your content that you want to distance yourself from for any reason.  You should not expect a dramatic change in your rankings as a result of using this tool, but the information shared does help Bing understand more clearly your intent around links pointing to your site.

In other words, what I take this to mean is you are still better off trying to remove bad links, but this is a step in the right direction.

Some have speculated that Bing rushed to get this out because their search engine algorithm does in fact punish sites for bad links. I personally am not sure about this. Many webmasters have come to me who were hammered by Panda. When I investigate their site, I often find outstanding rankings in Bing. That could mean that Bing is not punishing sites for bad links or it could mean that Bing has far different guidelines than Google for what it considers to be a bad link. Nobody is certain.

You have probably heard by now, but Google unleashed a fairly large change to their search engine algorithm last week. They are calling it the page layout algorithm change. At its heart, it really is a continuation of the changes that began with Panda last year. They are continuing to focus on the user experience, and punish sites that do not provide a good experience for visitors.

This change is focused on sites that are delivering ad heavy content above the fold.

Google says…

… we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward. ”

What is now considered acceptable? Well they are a little less specific about that.

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page. “

They do not describe in any detail what is considered excessive ads at the top of the page. They do say that this change will impact about 1% of search queries.

One thing I read about this update was that if you get smacked by it, even after making corrections, Google says do not expect an immediate rebound. It will take some time, similar to Panda. This likely means it is some score stored somewhere in their database that only gets updated when the entire site has been re-crawled. That could be days to weeks after making changes.

What I would recommend is that you make certain that when someone visits your website, including any page on the site, at least a full solid paragraph, if not more, of content is visible without having to scroll down the screen. That should keep your site safe from this update.

I have seen a lot of people overreacting to this news. Here is what you need to know.

This is from Google…

“If we see a very large fraction of sites on a specific freehost be spammy or low-quality, we do reserve the right to take action on the freehost as a whole. Taking action like this is not really something new, and it is something that we may do elsewhere at Google as well.”

I have seen people saying that .info’s are next and speculating about other TLD’s. That is rubbish.

Google has never eliminated a TLD from the index. All of the other .cc domains were untouched. It was just this one subdomain of .cc that was removed. The .co.cc subdomain was all owned by the same entity. That entity was giving away domains for free under that subdomain. As a result, many spammers were using it because it was free.

Google saw that a large percentage, my guess would be over 90%, of the stuff on this subdomain was just junk.

Like I said, other people were speculating that .info’s will get the same treatment. That is ridiculous. People think they are used for spam a lot because they are so cheap. Well, I see spam coming from .com’s, .net’s, and .org’s too. Also, .info’s are only cheap for the initial purchase. Have you ever renewed a .info? I have. And trust me, I have never been able to renew one for $1.99.

There is a lesson to be learned here though. Do not base your business around a free domain. Many people starting in IM will use Blogspot rather than buying their own domain and hosting. I do not see Google removing Blogspot from the index anytime soon (they own Blogspot), but it is their playground, their rules. They could easily devalue Blogspot in the index if they see the same thing happening too much.

Free and cheap are not always better.