PLRHeadquarters Blog Mitch Claymore's Private Label Rights weblog

24Oct/12Off

EMDs Get Punched by Panda!

THE PANDA in question isn’t nearly as cute and cuddly as the ones you see contentedly munching bamboo leaves. This is the one that is the code name for Google’s active algorithm – the top secret code the search engine giant uses to determine what list of pages appear when users type in ‘houses for sale in Kalamazoo’ or ‘listings in Peoria.’

This Panda has attitude: it can maul an innocent website it doesn’t like in a flash. It is good business practice for Realtors® to avoid offending the Panda. In fact, you’d better try to feed it whatever it wants!

The perpetual problem is trying to figure out what it does want. Its dietary preferences are fickle. A few weeks ago, it started turning up its nose at one of its previously tolerated morsels – the EMDs (Exact-Match Domains).

EMDs are the www dot NAMES that exactly duplicate a query: if, for instance, you have named your site ThreeBedroomDoubleWidesInTucson dot com, you knew Google might reward you with a high ranking for a query with exactly that term. As of the beginning of this month, it turns out, not so much anymore.

According to Matt Cutts, the public spokesman for Google’s algorithm lab (think of him as Panda’s keeper), this is just an incremental step in that direction. It’s like Penguin – another of Google’s bestiary (the one that pecks away at spam and bad links).

Through it all, you who post and blog with real content -- articles that please actual humans (the kind the staff at RealtyPLR.com send you every Monday) -- don’t need to fear the latest Panda update. You are still as likely as ever to be a favorite snackable.

25Mar/11Off

Tail Wags Google

This is a tale about a tail, and it’s not a short one.

Last month, when Google’s main Spokesgoogler Matt Cutts reemphasized the search giant’s renewed efforts to help “higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries”, he wasn’t talking about searching for monkeys. The “long tail” in question doesn’t belong on some long-tailed macaque: it’s a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) term,

This kind of “long tail” is what you key in when you google something like “houses for sale in Dubuque, Iowa” instead of just “houses for sale”. The longer a search term is, the longer its tail…and this is the second time in less than a year Google has led us to believe they want to zero in on long tail search results.

This is no monkey business: it’s vitally important to our websites, our industry, and ultimately, sales. You may question exactly how Google is going about adjusting its formulas, but I don’t think this particular 900 pound gorilla is kidding when it puts in print that it’s working overtime “to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users” or which “copy content from other websites”.[ Official Google Blog.]

In Google’s words, when an online user searches for “houses for sale in Dubuque, Iowa”, they want to come up with “sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”. And those sites better have more fresh info than just today’s version of the MLS listings, because it has to be “original”.

We might call this Google’s ‘monkey see, monkey do’ penalty.

This is great news for anyone who has time to research, write and post thoughtful analyses and in-depth reports…at least a couple of times a week. Google will be delighted at your effort, but only when you keep it up month after month. Of course, if you also have the notion of running a real estate business at the same time, that might not be such good news (not by coincidence, RealtyPLR can help in this regard, but that’s a shorter tale).

Anyone who has had the delightful experience of hearing “Google has you on top” knows how important paying heed to the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) can be. It means phones ringing and appointments queuing up — especially if the other agents in town are only monkeying around.

18Mar/11Off

Betting the House (on Google)

Nothing against games of chance — I enjoy a hand of blackjack now and then as much as anyone does. I even used to enjoy an occasional tug on a one-armed bandit (but that was before they turned them all into ATMs).

Nonetheless, since I never bet enough to make it feel even slightly dangerous, you wouldn’t call me a true gambler. That puts me in the same category as 95% of the rest of America.

That’s probably why it is so maddening for anyone with their own real estate web site: suddenly they find themselves in what seems to be a high stakes game of Wheel of Fortune. They’ve invested in a quality web site, hung out their shingle, and then they discover that maybe they’ll turn up on the first page of Google or Bing search results…or maybe not. Sometimes YES!, sometimes NO!.

They can pay big bucks to get into the Paid column on the right (but lots of potential clients ignore the paid ads). It’s not Google or Bing’s fault that they come off like the croupiers at Monte Carlo. They’re in the business of bringing people to sites that have the latest info on what they’re searching for, and that means avoiding crooks who are out to cheat the system.

So last month when Google announced major changes to the top secret formula that determines who wins (the ‘big algorithmic improvement’), a lot of folks in the know did the SEO equivalent of rolling their eyes, because when Googlers significantly change their formula, the LAST thing they do is to specify what they are changing to the people who want to trick them.

It would be like Caesar’s Palace taking out a full page in the Times to explains a better way to count cards.

So, what do site proprietors and bloggers do when they’re involuntarily chained to the tables inside the Casino de Internet? Basically, play it straight: keep your site and blog up-to-the-minute with real content that targets potential customers’ search queries, avoid tricky mechanical code maneuvers (the search engines will disregard them anyway), and provide the kind of professional service that makes web word-of-mouth a definite positive.

22Jul/10Off

Think like a Google

You haven’t found me blogging much lately. For a while now, I’ve been determined to avoid falling into the annoying company of those who blog on a schedule rather than when they come across a fresh insight or other useful revelation.

But then the phone rang a few minutes ago. I found myself listening to a robotic (though admittedly fetchingly feminine) voice urging me to stay on the  line. She proposed that I press One, which would not only extend our conversation but also give me the lowdown on how it was that she could guarantee a low-cost way to get my website “onto Google’s first page”.

Now it may be possible that since she is a robot and Google is a robot, the two of them have cooked up something that can make this improbable promise come true, but I doubt it(so I pressed Two).

This was not the first pitch for Googlic domination I’ve been subjected to this week…nor, if you receive a normal volume of e-spam, would it have been the first for you. Large amounts of otherwise productive time are being lavished in pursuit of high placement on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), because they are in fact the virtual equivalents of “location location location” for brick-and-mortar outlets (á la March’s rant).

Since claiming a URL costs a tiny fraction of renting a retail storefront, and since outfitting an actual store is likewise much more expensive than developing a website, the inevitable downside is what MBAs call a low Barrier to Entry. In other words, overwhelming competition. The reality is exactly that: since anybody can afford to go into virtual business, most of them have.

Into this daunting competitive thicket go all of us, at first optimistically hoping to find a piece of web engineering trickery that will yield bigtime Google placement. If there ever were such a simplistic fix, it didn’t last for long.  We know this because we have learned to think like a Google.

Googles are busy busy robots. Always in a hurry to finish one job and get onto the next, there aren’t enough hours in the day for them to get everything done. But that doesn’t mean they are sloppy or likely to skip over important details. But perhaps because so many SEO (search engine optimization) experts have tried to trick them, they have become somewhat mistrustful. When you think like a Google, you find yourself becoming downright suspicious.

Take, for instance, meta tags. When you whiz through a page while pretending you’re a Google, you learn to ignore just about everything jammed into those meta tags unless they relate to what’s actually on the page. You start to figure they’re put there to keep you from checking out the real deal…what a human reader sees when s/he looks at the actual page.

When you think like a Google, you  begin to actually resent pages that promise keyword riches in its meta tags, then neglects them on the actual page. Or has repetitious keyword jumbles all over the place. Or the exact same information you ran into a year ago on a thousand other pages, or phrases that any English-speaker would find unnatural, or anything else that seems out of place to a human being.

The thing is, thinking like a Google means resenting those who evidently assume you as a Google are less than human. It also can make you angry, judgmental, and even make you want to penalize somebody.

By the way, in case you actually are a real Google, I guess you know how the penalizing thing works.

-Your Human Friend,

Mitch
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22Apr/10Off

S.O.S.! Save Our Site!

Our tanker was a day off of Cape Farewell, steaming toward the Maritimes and straight into the mouth of an early spring gale – the kind the North Atlantic is unpleasantly famous for –- when the radio began to splutter the faint but unmistakable code that reads distress in any language: “S.O.S

 

Okay – we might be overdramatizing a bit.  Maybe most of the time we aren’t really anywhere near the Maritimes when the S.O.S. arrives (although the distress part rings true enough). Actually, we’re usually at our desk checking the email.

Although it is technically correct that we PLR (private label rights) providers don’t have a Code of the Sea (or even the P.C.), it is a fact that we will do our best to come to the rescue. But it would be better for everyone if the Mayday!s could be avoided in the first place.

S.O.S. (Save Our Site!) situations are often the result of neglect, absent-mindedness, and/or misinformation. When someone puts up their website in the first place, they usually inject a great deal of thought (and often budget) into its creation. Then wait for something to happen. Whether anything good happens as time passes has a thousand variations — but eventually, whether successful or not, a sort of settling tends to happen.

And the direction of almost all ‘settling’ tends to be downward.

Neglect and absent-mindedness is common because of the misinformation. The misinformation is that time alone is an internet ally, since trust and traffic build after you’ve been around long enough to establish that you are not one of the fly-by-night kind of operations. This is just about precisely half true.

True, people and search engines sometimes reward longevity, but only the kind that they’re looking for. If you have a site that has been rock solid since 1999, hasn’t changed a whit since then, Google may decide that the rock in question is a tombstone. Most of their customers (and yours) are interested in finding outfits that are actively doing business with living breathing human beings. That’s why it’s a necessity to inject a steady stream of fresh and relevant new content on a regular basis via dedicated blogging, dedicated creative staff research, or (more efficiently) canny use of the right PLR articles.

When those Save Our Site! calls come in, they’re almost always due to a period of neglect — failure to man the bridge. Suddenly the alarm sounds because inattention has caused everything to drift off course which threatens to dash the company website vessel onto yawning shoals of…well, seldom onto yawning shoals of coral.

 

More often, just shoals of yawning.
- Mitch
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22Feb/10Off

Linking for Dromedaries

The above title may be a cheap trick , but it’s there for three important reasons. They will be fully explored in a moment, but first it’s time to disclose something of a trade secret:

It’s a thought that is discouraged by our Private Label Rights brethren and sistren. It has to do with the theme that PLR providers (as well as hucksters) are forever harping upon — namely PLR’s core value:  the importance of fresh, relevant content to any web traffic-building campaign.

 Web content is just about the most important aspect of building your web site’s traffic!”, we will say.    Or,

It’s near the top of any list,” we will say.

If you come across these sales points when your eyes are bleary (probably from reading so many conflicting opinions about Search Engine Optimization strategies), you might just nod and read on instead of leaping to the implied follow-up question, “Uh…then what’s at the top of the list? What’s that most important aspect?”

Admitting this may be close to apostasy in the Private Label Rights community, but here it is, anyway: linking, not content, is what’s  most valuable. Linking to quality sites in your keyword universe will move your site toward the top of the SERPs more quickly and more reliably than anything else. And maybe even keep it there for a good long time!

So why wouldn’t every sophisticated web entrepreneur just concentrate on link-building and forget about coming up with fresh content [by subscribing to a PLR resource like ours at PLRHeadquarters]?

First, wrangling links to quality partners takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and also doesn’t get you anywhere if the site you’re building isn’t worth visiting in the first place. Google and Bing! and Yahoo Search have campuses fully-manned with pocket-protectored software folks using megacomputers to keep on top of that determination. If your site is static, they’re going to notice.

Second, quality link partners decide whether to link to you after they’ve checked out your site’s content. If they’re true quality sites, they’ll check back, too – and more than once. They’ll drop you faster than a Texas hailstone if you let your site go stale.

Last –and we owe the blog at linksmanager.com a nod for this–:

“Never forget: The search engines are trending the rate at which you obtain links, so slow and steady beats fast and furious.” [our emphasis added]

In other words, effort over time works: blasting away in a hurry looks like what it is: a short-lived stab at popularity. In all cases, even while you’re tending to all the parts of the equation that will bring SEO success, the one foundation component that has to be there and has to be changing is your content. Either hire those writers, do it yourself (and abandon everything else you should be doing), or subscribe to a service that does what PLRHeadquarters does.

Now, back to the beginning: why is this entry called “Linking for Dromedaries”?  Again, there are multiple reasons. First, “Linking for Dummies” is not only already taken, but it’s derivative and, frankly, just not original enough. Second, dromedaries are quite fascinating animals with a name you don’t see every day. At least not nearly as often as ‘camels’. Third, it got you reading and you’re still reading, so it proves the point that amusing and interesting content tends to get and hold readership. You might say it gets you over the hump.

(Then again, it might be better if you didn’t.)
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5Feb/10Off

PLR SCAMS REVISITED (IV)

From time to time we are privileged to enjoy sharing the experience of the first-time visitors to the Private Label Rights universe. Often such innocents have run into the term “PLR” while investigating Search Engine Optimization techniques: he or she knows it has something to do with freshening a site’s content and making sure Google is aware of the fact. But ‘PLR’ and ‘Private Label Rights’ aren’t terms that explain themselves, so they warrant a bit more discussion.

Since searches for  ’PLR’ is how a goodly number of subscribers find us, somebody from PLRHeadquarters is duty-bound to keep tabs on what comes up when you google it. Since I have a well-developed sense of humor, I’m usually elected. These forays never fail to provide chills and spills, scams and spams, and the same kind of general merriment experienced when you’re suckered into the Clown Toss “skill” game at the dimly-lit far end of a carnival midway (no offense to the gypsies, who actually do have a Code of Honor).

This last time, we decided to Bing “PLR value”. We found the resulting galaxy of values much unchanged. Try Binging it yourself, and you’ll come up with the usual Opportunities of a Lifetime. About 627,000 of them, to narrow it down. Click on 95% of them, and you’ll be urged to purchase subscriptions or packages or booklets or videos dealing with some subject or other (sometimes, apparently, ALL subjects). And you will usually be encouraged to sell them again, probably to the next person who Bings “PLR value”. And best of all, you are urged to charge more than you paid in the first place, and to keep selling them over and over again!

Who ever heard of a better bargain? Just think: you’ll make money with little or no effort (“97% of the work has been done for you”) and then just relax. The relaxation never stops. You’re supposed to sit back and watch the coin roll in…no, POUR in (assuming you bother to watch the Free Bonus Video about Thinking Positively).

These ubiquitous ‘PLR ’ offers are clearly aimed at inciting would-be internet entrepreneurs to set up their own PLR sites to offer the articles/videos/e-books they just bought to the next set of would-be internet entrepreneurs for sale to even more internet entrepreneurs who can set up their own sites, etc.

It’s a little like what happens the first time a child sits down in a barbershop: they look in the mirror and are amazed to find an endless progression of images of familiar-looking children getting more and more haircuts! And like the size of those images, these ‘PLR’ products somehow diminish in value until, by about the fiftieth iteration, all value sort of disappears in the distance. In case this business model seems vaguely familiar, we all recall Bernie Madoff, who perfected a much bolder version of a similar idea.

The good news is that after Binging ‘PLR value’, somewhere on those results pages, squished in between the 625,000 values, there are firms who in fact offer content that’s worth paying for (i.e., fresh, engaging articles written by real degree-holding English-speaking writers who never allow their stuff to be resold).

Other than (obviously) our group, I can’t really propose a foolproof way of identifying who those actual PLR creators are. But who they aren’t is a good deal easier — for guidance I refer you to my sporadically-updated monumental work on the subject, “20 Foolproof and Amusing Ways to Spot PLR Scams”. And no – it isn’t available for sale or resale (even though it is certain to drive massive targeted traffic and is certainly selling at the amazingly deep-discounted one-time-only limited bargain price offer while it lasts)…

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14Jan/10Off

Change change and more change

I was sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend and long-time client last week, and the familiar topic of watching TV/Movies on the Internet came up.

I admitted that after years of successfully avoiding watching ANY entertainment on cramped computer screens, I was finding myself sporadically having to do so, most often after forgetting to record something on the DVR. People like me have a fondness for BIG screens, not itsy ones. But lately I’ve come to notice how many pieces of video are only available on the web – especially the short, controversial (frequently hilarious) ones.

My friend was more easy-going. His kids keep sending him links, he keeps clicking on them; the consequential lean-forward viewing is inevitable. He’s gotten used to it.

So we are both arriving at the same conclusion: like so many other facets of present-day media, the value of resisting change seems to fade and disappear ever more quickly. PC Magazine, for example, advises against ever buying another old-fashioned DVD player (at the moment it’s surrendered to Blu-Ray, and soon enough online streaming will destroy them, too). Tweeting’s another case in point: fad or not, its allure is undeniably strong…enough to cause a planetary sensation. For a web owner to refuse to even consider its possibilities (especially the commercial ones) is about as defensible as a newspaper media buyer refusing to check out circulation statistics.

The analogy to Private Label Rights is direct. To succeed on the web, a site has to do more than greet visitors with the information or entertainment they’re after. It won’t even get the chance in the first place. It has to ‘get found’ first — and the proliferation of sites makes the odds of that happening by accident highly unlikely.

Originally, anyone could live with the straight-out-of-the-carton Company Web Site (just a Home Page housing the Company Blurb and the Stuff Being Offered;  or maybe a premium version with a captive search box leading to the Exact Stuff Being Offered).

No more: to keep up with today’s changing search requisites, the Company Site has got to pump iron, bulk up with current content of pointedly relevant interest, and then keep on keeping on! Change change change!

But seeing as the Company keepers of the brand are correct to insist that the Company Blurb never change, and seeing as the Home Page really needs to provide exactly the same kind of visual continuity so return visitors feel warm and comfy — keeping fresh becomes problematical. If a Home Page looks and reads the same to the loyal customer, it also reads the same to the not-so-loyal search engine spiders (and they don’t like that so much). True, the Stuff Being Offered may or may not change – but unless that Stuff is totally unique, by itself those edits arent likely to score big points with Google or Bing or their arachnid minions.

Updated content (and PLR is only a very convenient way of achieving it), when created intelligently, and integrated gracefully, rewards the visitor with the latest in what he was seeking – which is exactly what the SERPs are designed to list.

However awesomely web site owners may have created their original sites, if they haven’t kept abreast of the search engines’ demands for new, changing content, they are increasingly likely to find themselves pitted up against competitors who have.

Like giving in to laptop video or tweets in the afternoon, accepting change means keeping time with the changing marketplace and its customers. And — who knows ?– if we hustle to the front of the parade, we might just become a leader!

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2Jan/10Off

Less than a 2009 PLR ‘Top Ten’ List…

The year just over — so what have PLR users and providers learned? I’ve been trying to compress the jumble of change and growth into something less breathless than a ‘Top Ten’ list. In fact, I’ve decided it’s more useful to just chuck the list and acknowledge the single preeminent trend: the now (finally) undeniable ascendence of web search knowhow as the clear in-your-face marketers’ top-performing gottahaveit Skill Set of the Year.

You hear the term ‘Web Informatics’ to describe the greater arena, but it’s all really devolving into ‘web search’, or ‘web search-for-marketing’, or — to be rigorously honest – ‘web search-to-snag-new-customers-to-keep-the-doors-open’.

Nowhere we traveled in 2009 could we find much more than a vestige of earlier reluctance to recognize the merit of practical PLR to focused search engine optimization strategies – most notably among proprietors of smaller businesses. The SES last March in Manhattan was an early indicator, for it turned out to be more than the usual nice excuse to spend a few days in the City. Despite the economy, the floor was fairly mobbed with small shop entrepreneurs; they looked and talked less like techies and more like business people; and many of them seemed a bit longer in the tooth than in previous gatherings. Most seemed focused and determined in a distinctly non-hobbyist sort of way and not nearly as distracted as usual by the Gotham diversions  (and keep in mind this was long before we knew that even the Tavern on the Green would find itself among the fallen!).

We chatted and eavesdropped and observed. By the final day, we’d seen what amounts to an economics-driven sea change in web enterpreneurs’ perspective. Whereas two or three years ago a typical small company website may have been gathering dust as little more than a vanity accessory for the boss (or else a project to keep Junior interested in the family biz), by the end of the year just about every content consumer we deal with had redrafted their priorities: the site had to be more than competitive – it had to PULL, it had to RANK; it had to PRODUCE!

Sigh. Here we’re in the content, not the web redesign business.  But the number of sites that now have to actually perform means, quite often, sites that have to be redesigned from the ground up, because now it’s really serious.

But of course it always was.

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