Research, SEO, and the joy of being nerdy.

Alright people, it’s time to get nerdy. Put on your thick framed glasses and get ready. I admit this might be boring… but it’s also invaluable. What am I talking about? Research.

In all seriousness, research is one of the most important aspects of effective search engine marketing and website optimisation. Without time spent reading, assessing and researching, all of our work is likely to be useless (unless we’re very lucky). In an industry like SEO, it seems that time is always too short.

Nerd by AmuletzWhen it comes to optimising a site for appropriate keywords and phrases, time should always be taken into account. Taking the time necessary to effectively research an industry or product’s appropriate keywords, write effective meta-descriptions and ensure each page is optimised correctly can be pivotal to a site’s performance and to creating a positive user experience.

Why are we in such a rush?

There are many reasons to take time to research your industry, clients, and keywords. This isn’t just important when building a site from scratch. If anything it is more important when refreshing a site.

When looking to earn links we must first ensure that the website is ready, whether it is worthwhile.

We all think our websites our worthwhile, certainly our businesses are but taking time to assess where perhaps your site I lacking before seeking to earn links to it, will save you time in the long run by ensuring you don’t waste time seeking links that will be rejected.

Here at a451, we’re moving forward with our  link building and search engine marketing strategies, ensuring we take time to research and plan 3 months ahead and to really work on creating link worthy content for our client sites. We hope you’ll come along on the journey and spend more time researching and crafting your site before diving into link tactics and fretting about linking and rank. Links will always be important but research is equally so.

So what are you waiting for? Start reading.

Gather your intel, follow the trail of information and see how this changes your business. I guarantee it’ll be a positive experience. Go on, be a nerd… you know you want to.

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One Simple Way to Change Your Success Online…

stop link building (art by legaldevil)I’d like to invite you to an experiment.
For one month, stop link building.

Instead, focus on your site. Focus on your company, on your personality and the personalities that you want to reach through your site.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

    1. Is my site easy to use?
    2. Is my content engaging? Well-written? Well researched? Is it clear what each page is about and who it’s for?
    3. Is my site nice to look at? What does the look of my site convey?

Link building of any kind is less effective and sometimes completely ineffective if your answer to any of the above questions is negative.

Quality links are definitely beneficial to a site, but if your website is difficult to navigate and looks dated or unprofessional your bounce rate will go up faster than anything. You will lose out no matter how many links your site has coming in.

So stop link building. Take a month to assess your site.

A web site is like a shop (art by joy_ang)Imagine your website is a shop. Would you want to shop in a store that has a messy window display, is cluttered, hard to find your way around and the price tags are unclear? I sure wouldn’t.

In person this seems obvious. But many companies still do not seem to take into account that your website is similar to a high street shop. It should be sharp, clean, targeted to who you want to bring in. Your site, like a great shop,  should be welcoming and laid out in a way that helps your customers find the information and products they need. It should also be easy to check out (pay) and move on.

If people are getting lost or confused or jumping ship prematurely then something is off.

It’s also very important to remember that a  great site starts with a great design.

I am a writer. I create images and communicate ideas with words, but I know that text on its own is often not very inviting, especially online.

Think visual - art by Zacharka

First, if you can, make sure your site LOOKS great, and then sort out of your content and how you want others to perceive you as a company. Make sure you are clearly showing your brand personality and inviting others in, rather than simply projecting information at them (a brochure can be useful in person but not online, especially not these days).

The key term here is engage.  Engagement will help you when you return to link building.

Create a site that encourages engagement and your linking and social media efforts will come much more easily (but we’ll talk more about that stage another day). This is something we’re working on with our own clients and with our own site. It’s not always easy, as it takes time and effort and indeed research. But it’s incredibly important to online success.

If you need help with your content or keyword research, please get in touch with a451. We’d be happy to help you.

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Three Tips for the Digital Marketing (S)EvOlution

Years ago when Google announced the importance of links to help establish site authority and search engine rank, many  took this to mean that more links (regardless of quality) meant greater ranking for a site. Unfortunately, this was true for a while.

However, as we’ve said here before: more and more search engines are noting that ranking sites based purely on quantity of acquired links doesn’t generally result in valuable search results for search engine users. This is one of the main reasons why search algorithms are changing constantly. What good is a number one slot if no one wants to click on your site because it’s rubbish or unhelpful?

Link building isn’t about quantity. As search engines and the web continue to evolve,  link building is going to be hard work that is time consuming and involves the efforts of both SEOs and companies. But don’t let that scare you!

Here are three tips for surviving the web marketing evolution:

1. Everyone, say goodbye to quick fixes.  

If a company tells you they can guarantee a number 1 Google rank, ask them for how long. Ask details. What are their tactics? Quick and easy links are rarely links that will be helpful to your site and brand. Not to mention that rank on Google is beginning to lose weight. It is less about number 1 and more about simply being found by the right audience. Targeted content, advertising, and link gaining is the way forward and this isn’t quick or easy. It takes time, dedication, research and effort. It’s not just link building that takes time either. Great content, blog posts, layouts, design, marketing… all of this takes time and effort to be done well.

2. SEOs, don your fedoras!

Just like Indiana Jones on the hunt for an elusive, ancient treasure, link building is becoming a treasure hunt full of many obstacles and in the end, rewards for your site and your target market. Link building is going to involve lots of research, contact, time and investment. Imagine yourself as an explorer. Tactics and strategies need to be long term and focused on relationship building not mere acquisition.

3. Companies, know thy self.

Branding is an important part of link building and the future of online marketing. Your brand, your name, your personality are all part of the mix. If you don’t know who you are, how will your audience know if they want to use your services, or even trust you? Your tone of voice, relevant keywords, and social engagement should all be connected with your vision, services, and personality. Without this, even great SEO won’t help your site. Therefore, companies. You must know yourself, and let yourself be known. Don’t be afraid to capitalise on your local market either. Local listings are a great way to get noticed on Google. So letting Google and your local market know where you are can help you get found online.

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Is This the End of Link Building?

End Of The World by *oO-Rein-OoIt’s the end of the [link building] world as we know it and I feel fine.

SEOs, lay down your linking swords. The era of link building supremacy is nearing its end.

As a writer who works in the world of SEO, I’ve always had a tempestuous relationship with link building, especially shady or spammy link building tactics that dumb down content. It can be infuriating to be a writer in this industry, but only truly when dealing with black hat SEO that lacks respect for the time and energy it takes to create good content, and indeed the importance of content not just for gaining links.

To me, writing content exclusively to gain a link is just as bad as paying for one.* Thankfully, I don’t  work in a world where I am made daily to write for SEOs using black or even grey hat tactics such as article spinning, snippets, and other cringe-worthy methods to artificially build a site’s rank.

Link by VonnLink building is a strange phenomenon. SEOs have been doing this for years now, but as Google continues to update its algorithms causing sites with spammy links to vanish into search oblivion, it begs the question:

Is link building worth doing anymore?

I recently read this article by Adam Audette of RKG online marketing. In his article Audette explains that links are effects and not causes. I agree. If a company has a positive, interactive online presence on social media, practices good marketing, and engages with quality content, this will automatically bring in more links and boosts rankings far better than any forced link building tactics.

SO… back to the question, is link building still worth doing? Well… sort of. But not with the fury and focus SEO has given it in the past.

Ensuring quality links are coming into your site does help rankings. Researching your market and finding ways to gain links and get links included in directories and resource pages can be helpful in building up a site’s authority. However…

If your content is rubbish and your site is hard to navigate, no amount of links will help you. We need to change focus.

Website owners still care most about links, rank, and conversions. You won’t get quality links, rank and conversions if your product isn’t represented well and no one knows who you are. As I said in a previous post SEO is a team sport now. It’s one part of the whole.

Rather than focusing on rank and number of links, we need to look at the company’s personality as whole. How is this site and company being perceived by visitors? Start there. If it’s not easy to navigate, if the content isn’t engaging or clear, if people don’t like you? Fix it.

SEO is one aspect of the larger world of digital marketing. Links are one relatively small aspect of the whole. The primary goal is no longer links.

The goal is to increase the awareness of brands whether big or small. This happens through well-written, clear, optimised content with the correct tone of voice, alongside social media engagement, customer satisfaction, and effective PR and advertisement.

Take a look at the personality of your brand. Imagine how visitors will perceive you. Engage and get involved. Remember, links are not the goal. Links are a by-product of a great site, product, brand personality that is satisfying to customers.

The era of link building dominance is over. It’s a new day.


*paid advertisements are not the same as paid spammy links. Advertising and PPC are upfront about what they are and their success is based on good choice of content.


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4 Tips for Writing Effective Onsite Content

The_writer_by_tasteofomiQuality content is a hot topic, but what exactly makes something quality? How your website performs, from search engine results to conversions, is very much informed by your content.

The formula for quality onsite content (beyond good grammar and effective turns of phrase) isn’t set in stone. What makes content effective varies depending on the type of site, the intention, and the target audience. There is quite a bit of rubbish, unfocused and generally boring content online… especially on company websites.

To begin with you must ask yourself, honestly:

Is my content rubbish?
Does my content effectively communicate what I want it to?
Can people arriving on my site find what they are looking for?
Or have I fed them irrelevant or poorly created content that will cause them to bounce off the site almost as soon as they arrive?
Am I actually targeting the right audience?

Many site owners think their site content is amazing, generally because they wrote it themselves. Unfortunately, even a good education doesn’t automatically make you a good writer, nor does being able to write well make you automatically able to write effective online content.

This isn’t to say that all site owners are rubbish at writing; on the contrary, some are excellent. However, we must always remember that writing effective site content isn’t just about slapping information on a page.

Even well written content can be useless if not well chosen.

Here are a few tips for positively affecting your website’s rankings and increasing targeted traffic through well chosen content:

1. Focus: Find out what you really want to say and who you want to say it to. Then, say it as clearly and concisely as possible. This can take time to get right, but it is pretty much a guarantee that properly focused content will help your traffic and conversions,. It’s amazing how many sites have content that is irrelevant to the audience they want to reach. Don’t be one of them. If you are, fix it!

2. Do a little research: If you want to target a specific market for a specific product, have a look at Google’s keyword tool or any other keyword tool. Play around in search engines and find out what comes up when you type in a specific keyword. Target one and stick in the first paragraph of your text. This tells Google and your visitors whether or not they’ve found the right page. Make sure you know who you’re targeting and what you hope to achieve as this will have an effect on how you write your content.

3. Mention your brand: It’s a strange phenomenon but many companies don’t like to say their own name in content. This is silly. When writing a bio or telling someone about yourself, you tend to mention your own name, who you are and what you stand for. Don’t be afraid to mention your brand or name in your site content. Brand is important.

4. Link internally: Linking isn’t just about incoming links. It’s also about internal links. Think about it this way. If someone is reading your content and you mention say, SEO or a freelance copywriter, put a link in (see what I did there?). This means if they’re curious about the topic, they can follow the link and find out more about it. It’s intuitive and also a natural way of giving your site some authority and ease of use.

Quality content is not just well written content. Ensuring you’ve done your research, targeted your content to the correct audience, included your keywords, brand, and internal links where appropriate is all part of effective onsite content creation. Remember, site content should always be search engine optimised and user optimised.

If you need help creating optimised, targeted content, please get in touch with us as we’d be happy to help you create effective content for your site.

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Is Bing Getting It Right? Social Search Evolves in Style

Bing recently rolled out a revamped, cleaned up version of its search engine, and it looks really rather good. Yesterday, they made it better.

On the10th of May, 2012, Bing introduced the ‘New Bing,’ a search engine that subtly involves social signals to help you “spend less time searching and more time doing”.

We talk quite a bit about Google here. This is because Google is currently the biggest search engine and greatest  influencer of search in the market. However, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is hot on Google’s heels and vying for a place in the limelight. Little brother to the search giant, Bing has a few tricks up its sleeves and seems determined to prove that search can be better.

Back in December, 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Stefan Weitz, Director of Search at Bing in the US. Back then Stefan baffled several SEO engineers by speaking of Bing’s potential to create a different kind of search, indeed to effectively incorporate social networks into search engine results. The conversation sparked much debate about the relevancy of Bing to SEOs at all, and spiralled into philosophical debates about the potential of social search, or personal search, to cater too much to individual biases. It was an intriguing day. Many scoffed at the relevance of Bing, thinking of it still as the underdog but of little significance.

It is still the underdog but now that Bing has rolled out its new social search, it’s sort of made Google look… anti-social.

Next to  Bing’s layout, Google appears like the kid in the corner thinking he’s too cool for all the other students, the ones who don’t drive BMWs and have all the latest clothes. Bing on the other hand appears the social floater,  engaging with everyone where they’re at. While I am pro-Mac and tend to steer clear of Microsoft, I must admit I am intrigued by Bing’s new offering. Because it’s different. Because Bing appears to be thinking bigger.

Let’s face it, Bing has some style now.

So what has Bing done and what could this mean for the world of Search? I won’t go into too much detail yet as I haven’t had a chance to use it myself and other people have already done a great job of explaining it.

In brief… here are three ways Bing has changed its Search experience by incorporating  Social:

1. Instead of forcing everyone to choose one social network (Google+), Bing has schmoozed its way into the parties of several social networks, using public social information and harnessing it to guide your search results. This means If you’re looking for a place to stay in Hawaii, and a friend of yours has been to Hawaii, Bing lets you know this through it’s “Friends who Know” box. Whether your friends are on G+, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Blogger or any other social network, Bing can pull in info to let you know how they can help you navigate search results and find what you’re really looking for.

In addition to this, a “People Who Know” box lets you know if someone in the industry you’re enquiring about might be able to answer your query or has linked to insightful blogs or content. This includes Google + accounts, celebrities and specialists in fields you may be searching in.

2. Bing has de-cluttered its search results. Instead of going the Google route and adding social signals right into results, Bing has decided to honour what they call ‘purity of core web results’ and instead put all thing social elements to the right side, giving you a social sidebar which you can choose to interact with or not.

3. Bing’s new algorithm allegedly keeps track of your search history and works to help discover what you’re really searching for. In some circles this is controversial, but the intention is clear. Bing doesn’t want to be Google, it wants to be the best search engine it can be. That is quite exciting.

Should SEO’s be paying attention to Bing? Yes. Bing may still be the little brother but it’s coming up fast. As more people experience frustration with Google’s sometimes insular focus and become disillusioned by search, Bing may well pick up the stragglers as it continues to seek to transform search and social. Has Bing gone too far? Maybe. It has definitely taking a risk, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it paid off.

For a quick rundown of Bing’s social search sidebar and how it works, check out this video:

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Penguin and the future of Internet Marketing

art by Silver5

There is a new Google algorithm in town. Its name? Penguin (this is the algorithm formerly known rather conspicuously as the “webspam” update).

This latest Google revision has resulted in some unexpected hits and hard times for some web owners (Google quotes the number of glitches at 3%) and many frustrated SEO companies. In an effort to calm the tide of anger and bewilderment, Google has provided a place to complain or give feedback if you feel your site was wrongly hit by Penguin.

For those who don’t know, in brief, the Penguin update is targeted at reducing the rankings of sites raised by spammy links, keyword stuffing, exact match anchor text, paid links, link networks, etc.

In theory, such an update should benefit small business and SMEs, and provide a reward for SEOs engaging in white hat tactics. Assuming Google soon issues a fix for Penguin’s glitches, this attack on spam could be a very good thing for the web.

So what does “Penguin” (glitches and all) mean for businesses big and small?

1) This is a good reminder to stay aware and keep learning. If you think you know everything you suddenly know nothing. Having a (hard-working) student’s attitude is the best way to approach SEO. Search engine optimisation is an industry that is always evolving and adapting. Approaching SEO as a fully knowable field will inevitably cause problems somewhere down the line. Therefore it is wise to embrace unknowing and be willing to experiment intelligently.

2) SEO is now a team sport. If Google’s updates tell us anything it’s that the days of spammy linking, tricking the system and technical elitism are likely to disappear into history very soon. Effective SEO can no longer be a solo sport. As search becomes increasingly personalised it’ll not always be about that number 1 spot either. Now more than ever SEO must combine forces with marketing teams, content creators, PR specialists, design, social media and branding in order to create effective strategies.

3) Brand identity, trust, and awareness is becoming more and more important, even for search engine optimisation. Customers are increasingly concerned about trustworthiness and authority in businesses and products. This is especially important for e-commerce. If your site comes across as untrustworthy or uninformed, you’re not likely to see high conversion rates. How does this effect SEO?

It is very important to know a brand’s identity and unique voice (along with its goals and target audience) in order to write focused, optimised content that effectively communicates the brand personality, authority and credibility. This is something SEO content creators will need to embrace now, if they haven’t already.

If technological trends and advancements continue at the astonishing rate they are at now, the world we’ll exist in just a decade from now is likely to be very different from the world we see today. Our information is becoming increasingly digital. We aren’t burning books but we are printing less of them. Being prepared for rapid change means staying informed and rolling with the punches.

If your site was unfairly hit by Google’s Penguin Update, let Google know, then move on. The best plan is to embrace a unified online marketing strategy that combines PR, content, SEO, brand awareness and social engagement. The wider the scope of your online marketing and awareness efforts, the harder it will be to bring you down.

And yet? Ultimately, as Aaron Wall wrote in an article for SEO Book, the future is unknowable.

It is therefore wise to embrace the unknowing with optimism, creative planning, and wonder… not fear.

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a451 Marketing Associate to take on 2012 Horst ETU Powerman Duathlon this weekend!

a451’s IronMan in the making, Chris Wood, is taking part in the 2012 Horst ETU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon European Championships taking place this Sunday the 29th of April 2012 in Horst, Netherlands.

A standard duathlon, Chris explains, is a 10km run along with a 40km bike ride and a final 4km run, but long distance is 15km, 60km and 7.5km.

Chris has always loved to push his personal limits and has been involved in sport since junior school. He is a member of the Black Country Triathletes where he trains for sprint, Olympic, and middle distance races along with racing at IronMan distance, one of the world’s most intense long distance endurance races. He also races for Fred Williams Race Team at time-trail and road racing.

Training for IronMan typically involves more than 15 hours a week swimming, cycling and running. In other words, it’s not easy. It takes determination and dedication. As part of his training, Chris will take part in more middle distance (Half Iron Man) races as preparation (typically 1.2mile swim / 56 mile bike / 13.1 mile run).

Chris was very pleased to qualify for Team GB early in the season and is looking forward to taking part in the Championships in Horst this weekend, as well as hopefully the World Duathlon Championships and Long Distance Triathlon Championships later in the season in France and Spain respectively.

Chris is sponsored for this event by High5 Race Nutrition, Fred Williams Cycles,, & and is in talks with new sponsors for later in the year.

Getting ever closer to his dream of competing at the IronMan World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, Chris will be racing at iron distance events later in 2012 and again in 2013.

We are very excited for Chris and wish him all the best in the Netherlands, Germany and beyond!

You can find out more about Chris and keep track of his many adventures on Google +

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High Traffic + Low Conversions? 3 Tips for Reconnecting with Your Customers Through Content

In recent days we have noticed a frustrating trend: increased traffic = decreased conversions.

Obviously a rise in traffic is happy news, and this is something we very much like to see. However, low conversions indicate there’s a weakness somewhere. Often this is due to a disconnect between visitors and site content.

In our experience, this high traffic-low conversion problem generally comes down to unfocused or under targeted content. SEO can be great for getting traffic to your site, but conversion is about more than a few scattered keywords.

In the old days, the goal was just to get as many people as possible to visit your site. Nowadays however, the goals need to be different. Websites need to be focused.

Most businesses aren’t interested in high traffic alone. The idea is for traffic to convert into customers. If it never converts, what’s the point? It’s like bad evangelism. You don’t want people turning away because you haven’t preached your company’s message well enough or to the right people.

If you’re seeing a high traffic-low convert trend in your site, here are a few tips to help optimise your content and turn that traffic into targeted traffic and higher conversions:

1. Know who you’re target audience is: This can sometimes be as simple as figuring out what you want as a company. A quick example: more rentals or more sales? If you’re content is targeting rentals but you really want sales, then your content isn’t optimised for your specific needs and goals.

You may find you have different niche markets and are only targeting one and losing the other because your site doesn’t cater to them. This could be solved simply by providing targeted content and niche landing pages for different customer groups. But you have to do your research and identify these unique personas or groups before you can target them.

Inverted Pyramid2. Put key content at the top: We need to remember that most people who use the internet have what I like to call media-induced ADD. Put simply, we don’t stay still for long. A culture of instant gratification and high speed internet, constant adverts and the like have made us impatient. As a result, we move on very quickly if we don’t find or can’t find what we’re looking for.

When it comes to content, using the old inverted pyramid newspaper format can come in handy. Don’t save your best content for the bottom half of your paragraph. Stack it on top! This helps Google, and your audience, know what your page is all about very quickly.

3. Watch the tone of voice: This might sound simple, but it’s very important to keep in mind – if your targeting people over 50, make sure you don’t sound like you’re talking to a 16 year old. And equally, a website for kids shouldn’t sound like it’s for their parents.

Focusing your content is one of the best ways to increase conversions and more targeted traffic to your site.

If you’re interested in having some targeted content written for your site, please get in touch as we’d be very happy to write for you or help you come up with a content strategy!

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Plant Trees NOT Weeds: Google Link Algorithm Updates and Forward Thinking SEO

As weeds are to trees and flowers, so spam is to natural linking.

We know that Google likes to keep SEOs on their toes. The Google algorithm seems determined to evolve at exponential rate until it has reached its prime (or lead to the destruction of mankind).

The latest whisperings in the SEO world are about Google’s decision to combat unnatural linking or rather to step up its combat of this type of linking. This includes spammy links, link networks, and exact anchor text in linking. Many companies have been receiving emails about the shadier side of their link profile. Shortly after receiving said email, these sites have seen radical drops in search rankings.

Combating unnatural linking makes sense. To be honest, I’m not sure why it’s taken Google so long to do this as it’s a great way to cut out spam and increase authentic and social linking (but then, I’m not a techie and don’t know the details of how algorithms like Google’s work, not beyond the basic theories anyway).

So cutting link networks seems obvious but the place where SEOs may be hit hardest is exact anchor text.

This tactic by Google does make sense thoughl Think about it: how many non-SEO’s put something like “holiday to [destination]” or an exact key phrase match when sharing a link? I don’t, not when I am posting on blogs or recommending links to friends.

Despite all the logic against it, many SEOs have been confident to carry on using spammy tactics and unnatural link building because of the short term positive effects. With this in mind, here are a couple points to think about:

1. As with most things in life, the quick and easy solution is often not the best and certainly not likely to be the most reliable in the long term.

With Google’s continuing adventure in seeking out websites with true authority, content, information, links, and quality, easy to get spam-based links are not going to be the way forward anymore.

It’s like planting weeds instead of trees.

Weed choking flower: Spam vs Natural Linking

I’m no gardener. In fact, I’d say my thumb is quite clearly grey, not green, but I know that while some weeds look pretty in a garden or field, they will choke the life out of other plants (the ones you really want). Weeds are ruthless and mean plants. They don’t sit happily beside their neighbours, they try to crush them. Spam is the same thing.

Spammy and unnatural linking results may look nice for a little while, but as the search algorithms continue to seek out and destroy all weeds, if you’re not careful some of your prize plants (links) may be destroyed in the process.

So if you’re not already, now is the time to plant trees (some good solid links… without the exact anchor text).

If you’ve been hoarding spammy weeds, let them go. Spend some time watering those roses. Even better? Focus on the saplings. As they grow, their roots will spread, creating strong foundations.

Do some SEO gardening, pull up the weeds and give room for the natural links and great content to breathe in fresh clear air and spread roots.

2. Like the conservation of forests, SEO link tactics should be about preparing for the future, not just today.

Conservation of forests isn’t just about some hippie notion of wanting a greener earth. Conservation is about preparing and planning for the future. Trees hold landscapes together preventing avalanches and mud slides. They filter the air to provide clean oxygen, and so much more. We know this.

Conservation is common sense.

So. In the same way that conservation of forests is common sense, spam free natural link building is common sense. Why plan for today when you can plan for tomorrow? You might not end up on top right away but as that saying goes “aim for the moon and you’ll land in the stars”.

If you want your site to be found, ranked well, and maintain a consistent level of authority and respect by Google and other search engines, cut the spam and focus on good, solid natural linking, great content and social media.

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