You're listening to the “REI Marketing Nerds” podcast, the leading resource for real estate investors who want to dominate their market online. Dan Barrett is the founder of AdWords Nerds, a high-tech digital agency, focusing exclusively on helping real estate investors like you get more leads and deals online, outsmart your competition, and live a freer, more awesome life. And, now, your host, Dan Barrett.
Dan: All right, hello and welcome to this week's episode of the REI Marketing Nerds podcast. As always, this is Daniel Barrett here from AdWordsNerds.com. How are you? I hope you are well. I don’t know if you could tell, I've had a big coffee and I feel pretty high energy today. I hope you're having an awesome day, an awesome week, and you are enjoying this wonderful life, enjoying this wonderful weather, wherever you are, and enjoying real estate investing as always. [01:09.8]
Now, this week, we have a sort of a current topic, sort of current events sort of thing to talk about, and that is Google's new link spam detection algorithm update—and if that didn’t make any sense to you, I'm going to explain every single bit of that, but let's talk about, just real quick, who needs to worry about this in general, okay? If you are a real estate investor, do you need to worry about this? And I would say if you have done any SEO, so you've done any search engine optimization for your real estate investing site, whether you did it yourself or whether you paid someone to do it, this is something I want you to listen to. Okay, if you've done any optimization for your site whatsoever, especially if you've paid someone, okay. [01:54.7]
That is because links—by which I mean some other website creates a piece of code on their website that if you click, it will send you over to your website, right, so any link that you click on that it's a link—links are incredibly important to how Google understands what websites should rank highly in the Google search results.
If you look back at the history of Google, Google's core insight, their core innovation, was understanding that networks of links online are essentially votes of popularity. The websites that get a lot of links to them from other websites are generally going to be higher value and they're going to be higher quality. This was Google's big innovation because, before this, the only way you could sort of organize links on the internet was to have actual people look at them and make a decision. [02:58.4]
Google essentially decentralized that decision-making process and said, no, everybody in that network that chooses where to link, they're going to make the decision. All we're going to do is map that network and understand it. So, from the very beginning, all the way back to when Google was just two guys in a garage, right, the classic Silicon Valley origin story, all the way back then, links were central to what Google did and why Google worked, and links remain central.
You're always going to get people in the search engine optimization space, and this is true in real estate investing as it is anywhere else, that are going to say links aren't important anymore. For a while it was going to be social and then it was going to be YouTube, and it's always something else, right? It's always something. Everybody's always got some new thing. It's true that over time links have become less important. Marketers have a big sort of role to play in that, which we'll talk about in a second, but links remain central and critical to the project of ranking your real estate investing website. [04:09.8]
If you want to get leads from Google, if you want to get deals from Google organically, you're going to need to build links to your website at some point. There's just no way around it, so you’ve got to understand what makes links good and bad.
Now, I mentioned that links have become less important over time and that marketers have a big role to play in that. Here's what I mean. You may have heard me say this before. Marketers ruin everything. We ruin everything. I am a marketer. I can say this, right? Marketers ruin everything, because the minute that we figure out that Google is looking at some sort of certain criteria in order to rank websites, what do marketers do? We go out and we maximize that criteria.
It's like you're trying to get a girlfriend or a boyfriend and you found out that the secret genetic clue that everybody looked at was how soft and shiny your hair was, and really all of that came down to or everything in human attraction boiled down to how soft and shiny your hair was. [05:16.0]
If that became true, if that became well-known, what would people do? They would immediately start putting Vaseline in their hair, right, to make it as shiny as possible. That's what we do. We maximize the criteria that we know people are looking at. Okay, but, of course, if everybody does that, if everybody puts Vaseline in their hair, shiny hair stops being a useful cue—and this is what happened to Google. Google would look at which websites got the most links, and when people understood that, what did people do? They found a bunch of cheap and easy and spammy ways to build links. [05:59.3]
Of course, they did. It's exactly the same as the shiny hair. Once I know that Google has a certain criteria, and then if I get ranked highly in Google, I'm going to grow my business and do more deals and make more money. Guess what? Everybody is going to maximize that criteria, and the follow-on consequence of that is that criteria ceases to be useful. If I can spam Google and build a bunch of links and rank highly in Google, that means that the websites that rank highly in Google might not be high-quality websites and that's bad for Google.
The reason I'm belaboring this point is that there is always some new trick, some new hack, some new thing you're going to do with your Google My Business profile or your Google Calendar, or the text on the website or I build links [unclear 06:54.8] right. There's always something, but it never works long term. [07:03.0]
It's got nothing to do with Google. It's got nothing to do with spammers or whatever. It's got to do with this core, this core dynamic of if you look at a cue and people all optimize and maximize for that cue, then that cue ceases to be useful. This is more game theory and systems dynamics than it is marketing.
Once you understand that, the reason I'm giving you this mental model right now is that once you understand that, you think about the shiny hair and the Vaseline, right? Once you understand that, you're going to understand a lot about what I'm going to talk about now, which is Google's link spam detection update.
Now, Google, since the very beginning, has been working on ways to identify how people abuse links as a ranking factor, right? I said everybody's going out and putting Vaseline in their hair because we all found out that shiny hair is what people like, and so we all put Vaseline in our hair. [08:02.5]
Now, if you imagine that world where everyone's got Vaseline in their hair and now shiny hair isn't as useful anymore, what might happen is maybe people determine ways of figuring out like, Oh, okay, how can I show that my hair is really shiny and I don't have Vaseline in it, right? How can I figure that out? Is there some way I can demonstrate to the world that I'm not using this sort of cheat?
Now, for Google, what they're doing is they're going out and they're trying to find the people that are cheating and this has gone through many stages of sort of ever-increasing ratcheting up sort of conflict between Google and spammers, right? Spammers build links one way, Google changes the algorithm to notice that, to detect it, and then to either penalize those sites or just make it, so that those links don't count. [08:54.3]
And for the vast of spammy links that people buy and use today, I hate to break it to you, they do less than nothing, because I always say like, if you think you’ve found some cool hack, do you think you're smarter than everyone that works at Google, every single engineer that works at Google and does this all day, every day? Do you think you've figured out the thing? Even if you did it, it doesn't tend to last.
Anyway, this new update is a change to this process and it seems from their announcement—and here's one thing, too, that's a little bit weird about these announcements—of course, if Google went out and said, Okay, hey, everybody, we're updating our link-detection algorithm. Here's how we’ve figured out who is spamming and who isn't, and they just told you how they did it, what would everyone do? They would immediately start circumventing those tactics, right?
If I said, Hey, everybody, I started figuring out who's got Vaseline in their hair, now what I do is I just look for people with hats on and that's what I look for now. Then everyone's going to switch to hats on, right? You can't tell people how you're catching the cheaters. You can't tell them, because then the cheaters will work around it, right? [10:11.6]
Okay, they don't specifically say exactly what they're changing. They've got to be cagey about it. They've got to be a little mysterious about it. These announcements are always where I always think of them as the announcements that the Federal Reserve makes, where they can't just say, We're going to raise interest rates, because it will blow up the economy. They have to be real vague.
Anyway, Google is pretty vague in these announcements, but here's what we can figure out. This detection update is all about finding links that are artificial, that are spammy, and that are low-value, and it tends to be or it looks like it's focused on two basic types of links, which are affiliate links and guest posting links. [10:53.5]
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Now, affiliate links, if you're a real estate investor, I don't think you need to worry about these very much. These are really sort of aimed at review sites, so if I make a site that reviews shoes or whatever and then I link to the shoe company, and if you click that link and then you buy the shoes, I get a little kickback. That's an affiliate link. This is not really a thing in real estate investing. It's not really a thing that investors do a ton of, so if you run affiliate sites, definitely be aware of it, go check it out. But I don't think if you're an investor, the average investor, you need to worry about that piece of it. [12:02.5]
The much more important piece is the guest-posting piece. This is critical because pretty much every company right now that works with real estate investors that builds links as part of their service, for example, AdWords Nerds, we have an SEO service. Part of our service is we build blinks for our clients, okay, and there's a ton of companies that do this—obviously we're not the only one—and these companies do this process in a variety of ways that range from really spammy to really high quality.
I like to think that AdWords Nerds is on the really high-quality end of the spectrum, and then on the really spammy end of the spectrum, you have low-cost providers or people that are building a lot of links very quickly. They tend to be doing it via commenting on blog posts or using what's called private blog networks of these interconnected networks of websites that they own. [13:05.6]
There's a variety of ways that people do it and the more spammy ways tend to produce stuff that the client likes, like I can say I built 10 links this month, which sounds great, but in reality, those sites almost never, those links almost never do anything because Google knows that they're artificial or they get you penalized, which actually hurts you over time.
I always say with link building, in SEO, in general, but in link building, not only do you get what you pay for. You get more than what you paid for in the negative sense, because oftentimes you not only just stay where you're at. You often take a few steps backwards, right?
But a variety of companies along this spectrum between really high quality and spammy will use guest posting as a method, and what guest posting is, is I find a website, somebody else's website. Let's say you're Investor A and I'm the SEO provider, and I find Person B, who's got a blog all about knitting or whatever. [14:09.2]
They've got this great knitting blog, and I, the SEO person, will email this knitting blog and I’ll say, Hey, I really like your knitting blog. Would you allow me to write a blog post for you and post it on your website? The person at the knitting blog says, Sure, great, yeah, I'd love a free blog post. I write the blog post, the SEO person. I write this blog post and I put it on this knitting site, and in the blog post, I link to you, the investor, my client. That is a guest post. It's a post on someone else's website that includes a link back to you, my client.
For a long time, this was considered kind of the gold standard of how to build links, right? This was considered a completely legitimate way to do it, generally a good way to do it. Over time, it has really fallen off the map a little bit, and here's why. To return to our theme, marketers ruin everything. [15:05.0]
Marketers ruin everything, because once people figured out that this was working and this was the gold standard and was great, what did people do? They beat it absolutely into the ground. People would be mass emailing thousands and thousands and thousands of websites, trying to get guest posts.
Because you can't actually write that many blog posts, they'd post the same thing over and over and over again on multiple sites, and generally just created this kind of cesspool, where over time this whole tactic has just become really unsuccessful because nobody even looks at these emails anymore. If you have a blog, you will get these emails all the time and they're almost always a waste of your time.
In any case, guest posting has become less successful, but it's still a very common link-building tactic that companies will use when they work with real estate investors. [15:58.2]
If you are a real estate investor that has paid for SEO in the past, it is likely that you have some links that are going to get picked up in this algorithm update in your sort of backlink history, right? It's very likely. I am going to estimate that this is going to have, this update is going to have a fairly significant impact on real estate investors, in general, just because this methodology has been so common in the past, this mass emailing, mass blog posts, the same blog post everywhere, and so on and so forth.
How are you going to know if you're getting picked up in this algorithm update, right? Is your website going to be damaged or penalized? And the good news is that, no, I don't think your website is going to be damaged or penalized by this, even if you have these links, because Google specifically says in the update that there are going to nullify the links, and there is a very big difference in the sort of technical terminology of Google between nullification and penalization. [17:01.5]
Penalization means I am actively penalizing you. I am knocking you down several pegs as a punishment for breaking the rules. Nullification simply means this link no longer counts. It can't help you, but it also doesn't hurt you. That is what nullification tends to mean.
This seems to me like what's going to happen is, if you've got these links, it's not like they'll disappear. It's not like you'll notice anything major, but they will simply stop helping you rank if they were helping you rank before.
Now, in practice or in your personal experience, this may feel like a penalty, because if you were ranking well because of some of these links and they no longer count, you may watch your rank decline over the next couple months as that sort of gets sort of reweighted and everybody sort of gets rejiggered up and down the search results pages. It may feel like a penalty in that sense, but it's not like a black mark against you in your permanent record in Google or anything like that. It's just that this advantage that you had is no longer going to be an advantage. [18:14.0]
Now, what can you do instead if we can't do these kinds of services where you're doing this mass guest posts? The thing I want to point out here is that I think guest posting as a strategy is still valid and can still be really useful. The key, the absolute key here is that it has to be relevant. It has to be small scale and it has to be high quality.
What I mean by that is you've got to be posting on sites that make sense. The knitting blog does not make sense to link to the real estate investing blog, okay? It just doesn't make sense. It's got to be somewhat related to your local industry or to your local market or to the industry or whatever.
Secondly, you cannot mass-email thousands of thousands of people and try to get the same blog post everywhere. Every time you do it, it's got to be completely unique and you've got to do it on a relatively small scale. [19:07.6]
When I work with clients for SEO, I build, on average, one or two links a month, and we bust our butts to do that. We absolutely bust our butts. It is hard work. It is labor-intensive. That's because the stuff that we produce is high quality. Anything more than that, either you've got a huge team or you're just doing this the wrong way, in my opinion. Okay, so it's got to be small scale. All the blog posts have to be unique, right, as well as being relevant.
Then, finally, it's got to be high quality. It's got to be on something. You should aim for websites that are ranking for stuff, aim for websites that have sort of high authority within Google, aim for websites that are just important, and you've got to make sure that that content that you post there, isn't some 300-word thing that you just threw up there, but is a high-quality piece of content that by itself is going to provide a lot of value to the marketplace, in general. [20:06.5]
Again, this is this battle of wills and people always get into words like, How do I game the system? How do I find the hack? Oh, what's the way that I can sneak around Google and make this thing happen? I’m telling you, I am telling you, I have been in this game nigh on 15 years now. This stuff never works. It never works, and all the time and energy we spend looking for these little hacks and stuff, if you just spent it making high-quality content, serving the needs of your clients, and making your website awesome, you would be getting more deals and making significantly more money than you would doing any number of hacks that people are going to come up with. All right? [20:53.6]
That is all about this month’s Google spammy-link detection algorithm update. That's quite a mouthful. It went live on July 27, so if you're listening to this, it just went live recently. Watch your analytics, folks. This is what I'm going to tell you. If you've got Google Search Console, okay, which I recommend that every investor get, it's free. You can sign up for it. Just Google “Google Search Console” or sometimes it's called Google Webmaster Tools. Get that and watch your impressions in the search results pages and see if it goes down over time. That's an indicator that you might've gotten swept up in this algorithm update.
If you don't have that, you can watch your Google Analytics. If you've got that, just watch the traffic to the site. See if that declines over time. Obviously, if you're tracking keyword rankings with a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush or whatever, if you pay for an SEO tool, you can track it there as well; or if you're working with an SEO person like me, you can just ask the people on your team if they can monitor this over time, but that's going to be probably the best indication. Google isn't going to tell you that you’ got swept up in this, so that's going to be the best way to tell if this is affecting you. I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions. [21:57.8]
Hey, by the way I posted about this first in the REI Marketing Nerds Facebook group. It's a free group. I would love to have you there. You can go to AdWordsNerds.com/group to get added. I'm going to be going live in there much more regularly. I'm going to be posting a bunch of content. We're going to be putting tools in there, spreadsheets, all sorts of cool stuff to help you get more leads and deals online if that's your bag, and I hope it is if you're listening to this.
Listen, I appreciate you. Thank you for showing up every single week and listening to the REI Marketing Nerds podcast. I will see you next week. This is Daniel Barrett singing off. Cheers.
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