Category Archives: Internet Related

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The SEO Halo Effect – Explained

I’m not talking about the latest instalment of the Halo franchise on the Xbox 360 nor am I writing about religious beliefs but an effect that happens on SEO campaigns that is often overlooked. You’ll sometimes hear this phrase being mentioned in pitches or discussions but it’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone comprehensively explain the process and results in actual detail – so here goes..

The best way of trying to understand the effect is to not think about SEO at all – recently a couple in the UK won £148 million pounds on the Euromillions lottery, lucky them. Now those people to date had earned a specific income, which they paid out to various people and businesses each month – this could include; utility bills, rent, phone bills, supermarkets, corner shops, local café, pubs and pocket money for their children. Now their income would generally dictate how much money they would spend on some of these areas (excluding utility bills), so imagine what that’s going to look like now they have more money than they can possibility imagine?

For a start I’m sure their children will get more pocket money which means they could afford better toys, drinkers in their local pub might get lucky with a couple of rounds of free drinks, the local shops will probably find themselves with an increase in sales with a couple of “big shops” and generally the people around the lucky winners will see themselves better off financially. Not only that but I’m sure they’re going to start spending at places they could previously not afford, like expensive car dealerships or luxury holiday agents.

So let’s start putting this into SEO perspective, imagine those lottery winners are in fact your target keywords that you’ve chosen for a link building campaign. So the keywords that you link to will pass some of their link value to keywords that are related to them and also to keywords that you hadn’t considered before.

The diagram above shows what happens when you see an increase in links/social signals to one particular product or keyword – other related keywords will also benefit, but at a much filtered lesser amount (the lottery winners give money to those around them, the more they give, the richer they will be – same rule applies to time for link building). For this this work properly you obviously need to make sure you have the right internal linking structure, be it in a content silo or contextually linking to related products (think category/sub-category).

What’s interesting about the Halo Effect is that it also works the other way round too;

So if you have many incoming links/social signals coming to the longer tailed keywords then as a Halo Effect (or side result) you will start seeing better rankings for the more important or “parent” keyword.

It’s important then, that you think about what areas of your website and which keyword to target when thinking about your link building strategy as the Halo Effect will help you more than you think.

Problem with exact match anchor text links?

Lots of chatter online about the upcoming/in-progress “over optimisation” algorithm update – the general consensus being that exact match anchor text spamming might now be a cause for concern. This has primarily been prompted by a number of “unatural links” messages from Google to be sent out and reports by a number of websites that they have seen drops in their rankings.

For many years exact anchor text matches in your backlink profile would be a big indicator to Google as to the content on the link location and many SEO’s have benefited from such optimisation (as it did work). So with all this talk of exact match “over” optimisation you really should not have been relying on such a tactic for so long (sorry to preach).

Firstly if you’ve been relying on exact match anchor text links as a large percentage of your overall strategy then you have only yourself to blame. Most worthwhile SEOs out there will have been creating good content for their sites which will inevitably result in a natural mix of anchor text links anyway. Even if you haven’t had the luxury or resource to build “good content” then whatever your link building strategy has been; directories, articles, PRs, paid links etc then what you would have found is that you will actually get better results by spreading the amount of links evenly across the different types:

  • Exact Match – i.e. Credit Cards
  • Phrase Match – i.e. looking for a credit card
  • Brand Match  - i.e. Matt’s Credit Cards
  • Natural Match – i.e. or click here

There is of course a glaringly obvious issue which I’ve yet to see be discussed, what does this mean to exact match domains?

Besides having keywords in the domain, which has for a long time been weighted extremely heavily in Google’s algorithm, the other attractive element of exact match domains is that you are much more likely to be referenced “naturally” with your target keyword (as it’s your website name). This does then present a dilemma, if your brand name is  the same as an exact match keyword with high search volume will you continue to benefit if a high percentage of your links are exact match? I’ve not seen any reports (or my own sites) start to behave irregularly or take drops so I’d say that if there is any over optimisation for exact match links there’s a rule in place which does not apply to the exact match domain name – yet.

Paid Linking Methods That Still Work

I was reading a great post on Bruce Clay about paid links last week that tied up really well with a current client that is constantly battling against competitors with glaringly obvious paid link profiles. For those individual SEOs and agencies that have complete ethical and risk free link building strategies its always a challenge but even more so when paid links appear to go unpunished.

There are a few techniques which I see still work very well in manipulating rankings which perhaps avoid automated detection by Google. Hopefully by highlighting them here people will know what to look out for when looking at ways to get ahead of competitors that pay for paid links. These methods are by no means new or groundbreaking but can sometimes get missed when looking for paid links:

Paid links within CSS style banners

This is something that I’ve seen systematically work time and time again for competitors over a multitude of industries (although most common in finance and travel verticals). The process would usually work by providing a piece of code to the site selling a link(s) – this code consists of a CSS style, made up of colour, boarders, widths and fonts, then at the location of the “banner” the <div> calls the CSS class making it look like a normal banner. In reality the text in the visual banner is search engine readable as are any links too. So to many (and seemingly search engines) this goes usually un-noticed.

Drop Down Boxes with Paid Links

I’ve seen this become more popular within the last few months. Works on the same princible as the CSS banners but instead of appearing visually like a banner it looks like a harmless drop down box. Again the coding is unique to the drop down box so doesn’t interfere with any existing site style sheets. The links dont look external and again seem to go unnoticed.

Blogroll Paid Links

A couple of years ago I talked about how and if Google would ever discount blogroll links as so many blogs sell links in these locations. I guess the answer is no (for now), but it’s the easiest location for bloggers to sell links and it’s a genuine area of a blog that would usually contain external links so to Google it probably appears “normal”. This happens most effectively on blogs that link out to relevant websites in their blogrolls - even for manual paid link reviewers there’s no way to distinguish paid and natural links here.

Personally I feel that blogrolls are part of blogging and help people share genuine resources and useful related websites, just on occasions this is used for paid links.

(NB – I do not sell blogroll links on this site, I’m just using an example of a blogroll)