Maybe The Reduction In Web Traffic Isn’t Your Fault After All

You know, many of us have been griping over the last six weeks about the Google algorithm changes that ended up killing our traffic. Some folks, like our buddy Carl have brought up what Google said the algorithm changes were based on and how they were trying to eliminate bad linking, bad SEO and the like. Some people even speculated that it had to do with bad grammar, something I totally disputed and shot out of the water here.

by Jonathan Assink via Flickr

People have kind of lost their minds. Goodness, I think I lost my mind for a short period there, and obviously I’ve talked about it more than I care to even think. But now I think there’s a new way of talking about this thing, and though I’m not totally sure I agree with everything that I’m going to mention in this post, I do think there’s something to some of it if we look at things with a more critical eye.

For me, this all started by reading a post by a guy named James Hussey, who writes a blog called The Average Genius. He wrote a post titled Why Google Penguin Mauled My Sites and What To DO About It, which I found fascinating and commented on. He wrote back and expressed his opinion on what I said, then he said this: “So stay tuned. The conversation gets really, really interesting.”

That looked good and intriguing, and it then lead to this post which is titled Does Google Really Reward Quality, Original Content? An Interview With AsktheBuilder Tim Carter. This is a seminal post, great post, and one to really make you think. It includes an audio file with a guy named Tim Carter, who has a website called Ask The Builder, which of course you saw above. I’m going to give you some highlights of the audio file, but I think you should both read the post and listen to the file, which is about an hour long, for more detail.

In essence, Tim was the perfect Google guy. He started his site before Google came around, and he’s made tons of money online. When Google came around he added Adsense and made a lot of money off that as well. He’s not a guy who ever got into any of the SEO stuff that many other people did, including me to a certain extent. He was held up as the poster boy for how to do things right by Google. They wrote reports using him as an example. They invited him to seminars to talk about his success in working with them. He even went to Congress on their behalf once, talking about how things worked with him and the fairness of it all.

What happened to the poster boy? Panda and Penguin went through and he lost 70% of his traffic. Bad linking? Nope. Bad content? Nope. Pretty much overnight his website, which means his business, took a major hit. Well now, how does one reconcile that based on what Matt Cutts and company said the update was there to do? How do you crush your poster boy, who never did any of the stuff you said you were going after, in such a convincing fashion?

Now, I had to think about this for a bit, and I want to address a couple of points before I go forward. I wrote a post on April 30th wondering where my web traffic went. I indicated that this blog lost traffic and my business blog lost traffic as well. I mentioned that my finance blog stayed the same and that my SEO blog went up barely.

Well, those aren’t the total truths. Yes, this blog’s traffic suffered, and my business blog’s traffic suffered, which also took down my main business website. But within a couple of weeks traffic on my finance blog started jumping, and my SEO blog traffic almost doubled. My local blog stayed the same, and I hadn’t mentioned that one before.

Here’s the thing. I do the same thing on all the blogs. I do my internal linking, I link to the words that seem to make sense to link to, and I do it on all the blogs. I also link to external sources and, when appropriate, use keywords. Yet out of 4 blogs only 2 suffered; what’s that about?

My theory was actually addressed by Tim in the interview. I thought that there was some kind of adjustment against older websites. Indeed, my business blog has been around since 2002, but then again this blog started in 2007, my SEO website didn’t come around until 2007, and my finance site in 2008. This was and still in my top ranking site, but my business site was actually doing really well at one point. I had talked about my medical billing site, which has only been around since 2009, and traffic there jumped as well; my Adsense money on that site has started to increase since the updates went through.

So, was it age? That’s what I thought, which Tim touched upon, but obviously it doesn’t work across the board. But Tim also touched upon something else, that being that Google has made some changes that aren’t necessarily algorithm changes, yet after the algorithm changes helps to enhance what they’d done.

One, they added the G+, which in their way makes websites where your friends, or at least people you know, that have G+’d something takes higher priority than other links used to. Two, they’ve gone out of their way to make local companies and websites come up more than websites that aren’t from the area for many things.

Tim found that many topics he used to be number one for on Google were gone, and often he wasn’t found on the first 5 to 10 pages of a Google search. He also found that some pages that were suddenly ranking higher than him were actually using his content in some fashion; wasn’t that supposed to be something Google was protecting us all from, that someone would rank higher for content we produced first?

If you know what this is
you’ll understand the metaphor
of why it’s here now

In essence, the “reality” we were given doesn’t seem to real anymore. What some of us were doing for SEO is just fine; it has nothing to do with how we linked, or broken links, or good or bad content. It has to do with supporting some things Google’s been working on in the background. One last thing Tim mentions in the interview is how suddenly more large companies, those that are actually paying Google, are ranking higher than those of us providing pretty good content. I can’t prove this one, as I tested some search terms and didn’t see that.

Anyway, Tim is irked to say the least, and he’s got some other conspiracy theories he talks about. He’s also getting ready to go postal in his own way, as he’s going on a big congressional campaign to get an investigation going into Google. Seems he’s not alone, as James also advocates this on his blog post. Not that there isn’t already someone in Congress that wants to look into this but these guys are serious.

What’s my stand on all of this?

One, I stick by my premise in another post that some companies like Google are getting too big for our own good.

Two, I think there was a different goal in mind that penalizing people for “bad SEO”, which is actually the type of SEO Google themselves told us to do years ago. I believe this as much as I believe Pacquaio beat Bradley Saturday night. By the way, in case you were wondering about the image above, that’s people playing Dodgeball, which I relate to this because I think Google dodged the truth.

Three, I think losing your mind and deciding to write to Congress is a major waste of time for the majority of us. Then again, if I’d lost as much money as Tim I might have a different mindset on this one.

Four, I still think you should read James’ post and listen to the interview he did with Tim because it will get you thinking and maybe you’ll come up with something else.

And five, I think this is proof that we all just need to continue doing what we were doing, especially in producing the best content we can, because in the long run we’re going to still attract traffic and visitors, whether it comes from Google, Bing, Yahoo, or our own efforts in driving traffic to our sites, and it’s imminently more important to spend time producing that worrying about the why’s and how’s of it all.

And there’s always The Duck. 😉

Guest Posting Scams

You know, it probably seems like I’m totally against guest posting lately. I’m not, even if I did write a post about guest posting lies. I just tell it like it is, and then I show you what I mean.

In this case, I’m going to share what I believe turns out to be a guest posting scam by someone representing themselves as working at a company called Greenlight Digital. It turns out this is a legitimate company; how legitimate the person who wrote me is makes me curious. My issues were thus:

1. She seemed to not know what she was doing. She kept having problems understanding me, as I did her.

2. She parceled out information one bit at a time.

3. She tried to get me to sign up for something where I could “get” articles to put on my finance blog that they were going to pay for, but she sent me the first one.

4. She tried to tell me that I wouldn’t get paid for two weeks, but I had to run the article with their links during that time.

Those are just the highlights. It’s better to share our correspondence here, and you tell me your thoughts on the matter. Hers will be italicized, and mine will be in blue; I know you like that. 🙂 Here we go:


We are currently running a campaign in combination with one of our major UK clients, and were wondering if you would be interested in hosting content on

One of our major clients is currently focusing on increasing the visibility of their pages on the web, and it would be great if you could play a part.

I have several flexible possibilities in mind including bespoke guest posts and articles.

Our writers are flexible and are willing to write the articles based on your focus (also being happy to take topic suggestions should you have any particular topics in mind). The content is bespoke and based on your site so will certainly be in regards to your site’s subject – once it is written you are, of course, free to review the content before placing it on your site and any changes you wish can be made for you to ensure you are comfortable with the content.

In exchange we would offer you payment dependent on the visibility of the content.

If you would like further information or if this has sparked your enthusiasm then please feel free to contact me via email Ve***************@gr***************.com .

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind Regards,

Veronika Kustrova
Web Relations Executive | Greenlight


This is the advertising policy of Top Finance Blog: (not sharing advertising policy here, but it’s my standard policy for that blog)

Hi Mitch,

Thank you for your reply.

We are currently running a campaign for our finance clients such as XXX and XXX (not going to “out” her clients, in case they’re not her clients) and were wondering if you would be interested in this advertising opportunity. I have briefly outlined below exactly what we do and what we are looking for from you.

All we are looking for up to 3 article/blog posts. Our writers are flexible and are willing to write the articles based on your focus (also being happy to take topic suggestions should you have any particular topics in mind). The content is bespoke and based on your site so will certainly be in regards to your site’s subject – once it is written you are, of course, free to review the content before placing it on your site and any changes you wish can be made for you to ensure you are comfortable with the content.

The content can remain live for as long as you like unless the specification of the client changes, in which case we would ask you to remove the content. We do ask that there be a homepage link (internal) to the content so that your users can read it. Each post must meet CAP regulations, we provide details on this alongside the content.

You can see some examples of our articles at XXX & XXX. Please note these are examples, do not place this on your site and that your articles will be based on the focus of your site and so will be different from these examples

For the posts we offer a one-off payment per article of £75.

Do you have price for one-off payment per article?

The reason for offering this price is that I expect that the review will be posted in the form of a blog post, which would be top news while it is still fresh (a month or so), to be replaced with newer content as time wears on.

Our partnerships are built on maximum flexibility as we recognise that circumstances can change, for example you may wish to redevelop or refresh your site and may no longer wish to have our items on the site. If the case arises where circumstances do change you need only inform us and we can either renegotiate or end the partnership, and vice versa.

What are your thoughts on this?



Hi Veronika,

We’re going to have to clear up some terminology because I’m not sure what you’re saying.

One, I have no idea what CAP regulations are. Two, I have no idea what “one-off” means. I can’t respond to this without that knowledge. At least I knew what “bespoke” meant; not a term used here in the U.S. I want to make clear that this site is in the United States, and all content on the blog must be geared towards an American audience. As long as it’s on a finance topic and not something we’ve had on the blog within the last month, all should be fine.

I will answer what I do know. Each article gets to have a link in it going back to the site in question, but the link can’t be a blatant ad, and the link has to have relevance to the word it’s linking to. For instance, if the article says “credit card” and the link goes to a credit card company, or a finance company of some kind, it’s a good link. If the article says “credit score” but links back to “Bob’s Young Horses”, that wouldn’t work at all. I’m sure you know this, but I’m just making sure.

Hi Mitch,

Thank you for your reply.

One-off payment means paid just once and CAP regulations mean that the article content and publishing needs to follow correct SEO rules.

As I mentioned in the previous article the content is unique and it is relevant.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Kind regards,


Greetings Veronika,

Just to clarify this part first, you’re saying you’d pay $XX to place each article? Second, I do SEO as one of my businesses, but even a paid post follows the rules of this blog, although I don’t often turn down what’s requested unless it goes against the format of the blog. I still need to see the websites being linked to ahead of time, and need to mention that anything regarding payday loans, either in an article or the website being linked to, won’t be accepted.

If I’m clear in what you’re saying then we can go forward and I will gladly take a look at the posts you have.

Hi Mitch,

Yes that is correct we would pay $XX/£XX per article.

I have already sent you a few examples of our articles for Santander.

I am also happy to take any suggestion of the topic for the article to make sure it will fit your audience.

If you are interested please send me your full contact details for our records (Payee Name, Payment Method (Paypal) Phone Number, & Address) and I shall get the content commissioned for you; you should have it within a few weeks.

Kind regards,


Hi Veronika,

I’d be interested, but the two articles you sent me had blatant advertising in them, and that wouldn’t be allowed, even for a paid post. I just want to be clear on that up front. As long as the articles pertain to something that would interest an American audience, we can take a shot at it. I’d like to see an article to review before I send my payment information, and please remember that every article must have a one line bio with a person’s name that will be responsible for responding to any comments the article receives on the blog.

Hi Mitch,

Please see the article in the attachment.

Kind regards,


Greetings Veronika,

I have to modify a couple of lines but otherwise the article works, and your link will still show. If you don’t have a problem with that then I’ll go ahead and schedule it and let you know when it’ll be going live.

Hi Mitch,

Yes that is fine the article can be modify by yourself.

Please can you add the attached text image “advertorial promotion” to the bottom of the article. Just save file on your pc – please ensure image remains GIF format. Please rename the image to any number, e.g. “23”.gif.

When the article will be publish send us the link and we just check if it meets the CAP regulations.

Please send me your full contact details for our records (Payee Name, Payment Method (Paypal) Phone Number, & Address).

Kind regards,


Hi Veronika,

If I add that image I’m going to have to charge you an extra $XX for it, since that’s obvious advertising. This means the cost of the article is $XXX. If you agree I’ll add the image; otherwise, it’ll still be $XX for the article itself.

My pay information is thus:

Hi Mitch,

Unfortunately we have to use this image according the CAP regulations that is beneficial for both sites.

I understand your point. Please can we try to negotiate for $XXX/£XX per article? The price would include also the PayPal fees.



Before I had time to respond to the earlier email, I received another email from someone that said the same exact thing as Veronika’s original email. I wrote her back mentioning Veronika, and she wrote back saying to just work with Veronika. Then I got this:

Hi Mitch,

We contacted you recently about hosting content on your site for some of our clients, and you’ll be pleased to know we may have some content for you.

We’re doing some work for XXX, and wanted to know if you’d consider the following proposal.

Proposal details (this lead to a link that wasn’t on their site, and, because I have Mailwasher, would have led to one of those strange links that would have altered the link on my site, something I warned about Gera Agency)

As soon as you’ve accepted, one of our editors will prepare the content for you, and get it over for you to approve.

Also…please note that if you haven’t accepted or declined within 7 days we may automatically assume you’ve declined, and this opportunity will expire, so please be sure to let us know either way.

If you have any questions about this request, or email, please don’t hesitate to contact us, either directly on the number below.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Veronika Kustrova

I had actually scheduled the article for publication and sent a date telling her when it would go live; then the email above showed up and irked me to no end, to whit:


No, I’m not doing that, and I’m not clicking on that link. If that’s the only way for me to participate then I don’t want any part of it. If that’s how this works and the only way it works, then I’ll just delete the article I already have ready to go next week and we’ll part ways now.

Hi Mitch,

I am afraid I have to do this. Otherwise I am not allowed to raise the payment for you.

Kind regards,


Then I’m sorry we can’t work together. I will remove the article so you can place it elsewhere. Maybe another time.

Hi Mitch,

After talking with my manager. I can approve it.

Please let me know when the content is life.



Hi Veronika,

As I previously mentioned, the article will go live on XXX by 10AM EST. I won’t be around, so you’ll have to check based on time conversion. Hopefully payment will be made within 24 hours of its going live. Thanks.

Hi Mitch,

Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately the payment takes approximately 1-2 weeks to transfer. I will try my best to proceed the payment as soon as possible.



Hi Veronika,

Your company seems to have a lot of rules I’ve never had to deal with before with anyone else. I’ll wait 24 hours and then I’ll remove the links until I’m paid; that is, if you still wish to go through with this project. I’m not feeling like a valued partner, and thus I will not feel like being taken advantage of for one or two weeks of links to your client’s sites without payment.

Hi Mitch,

Apologies I cannot proceed further.



And that was that. Now, I mentioned the 4 issues I had with what went on; was I sensitive, overly protective, or spot on in my assessment of the situation?

Here’s the thing. I’ve talked before about how we get offered certain amounts of money and it can help to make us kind of stupid sometimes. If you’ll do anything to make money, you set yourself up to be taken and scammed. There was just too many strange things that occurred here for my comfort level. If I was making the contact, I’d have put it all up front so there wouldn’t be any questions. I should have known earlier that they’d want to add a banner ad, that they’d think I would want to sign up at some kind of link go to get articles (which makes no sense) and that they hoped not to pay me for two weeks. I wouldn’t have gone for it, but at least it would have been honest.

That’s why I share this stuff. It just feels like a scam, and it leaves me wondering if it’s legitimate or not. The link make me suspect. Always take care of yourself, because it’s your blog or website. Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of for pursuit of the almighty dollar.

DuckDuckGo Search Engine

A couple of days ago I was talking about whether it was a good thing or not to trust companies that end up being too big. I mentioned Google specifically because these days they’re in the news almost as often as Facebook. I wondered if there was an alternative to some of these large companies.

Of course I already knew of one when it comes to search engines, and it’s called Duck Duck Go. It sounds like a silly name but it’s a serious search engine and fast becoming the nerds option for searches where they don’t want to be tracked by cookies. Indeed, it’s what Google used to be at the beginning; a clean interface that only does searches, with no advertising, no tracking, and sometimes more accurate results than what you might find on Google. Sometimes, that is.

You’re asking about the “more accurate” part I assume (of course you are lol). I did a test by running a search term for one of my business sites. On Google I’m not even listed in the top 100 for the term; on Duck Duck Go I came up at #22. Why I say it’s more accurate is because on Google all these sites come up that aren’t local, that somewhere on their site might have “Syracuse” listed but, because it’s a large site, they end up outranking me for the term. On The Duck (I think I’m going to call it that) it eliminated almost all of those sites, although there were still a bunch in front of me. Still, more sites that were above me were local, even if they don’t do one of the terms I mentioned, using it a much different way than I meant it.

You want to talk tracking? They have a link where they tell you how they don’t track you. They also have a privacy policy that’s much easier to understand.

Now, before you say you like something like this and will leave Google forever, there are some things you need to know. Right now it only does searches for pages. If you want to search for images, news, blogs, etc, it doesn’t do any of that. That’s why I have them side by side in my toolbar, so I can select which one I want to use for which purpose. And there seems to be some relationship between them and the Mozilla folks, but since I’m a major Firefox fan I don’t have a problem with that.

Anyway, it’s a nice alternative, and one I’ll be using more often. One can only hope that when they get bigger, and they will, that they hold true to their mission in some fashion. I will never have a problem with them adding advertising, but I don’t want to be tracked and, well, imposed upon all the time.

Post #1,300, And On Friday To Boot

What a great way to end the weekend, with a monument post. This is #1,300, and it took me just over 5 months to get there. I had said I was going to slow down some, and based on what’s occurred I can’t see me writing 300 posts this year. Still, I’m on pace for 240 posts on the year, and that’s still saying something, though I’m not holding myself to that number. Whether it’ll end up higher or lower… well, we’ll see.

It’s been an odd last 5 months since we reached #1,200. It’s a period where my traffic dropped drastically because of Google; that’s just how it goes, and of course if you saw yesterday’s post you know how I feel about some of this. It’s a period where only two posts written in it made the top 10 viewed, those being the posts about the Smush-It issue (which was written just a month ago so that’s pretty good) and the one about my biggest issues with social media. It’s a period where I did what I said I was going to do, that being to write my Black Web Friday series and the prediction that traffic wouldn’t support it; man, I hate being correct about that.

It’s a period where I created a custom header for the site, which I like but just can’t seem to get it to want to stay in place. It was a period where most of the posts were on blogging and social media again, but I took some strides forward in talking about marketing, real marketing, which isn’t easy. And it was a period where I wrote some nice motivational posts, something I think we can never get enough of.

That’s what I’ve done. What’s coming? Truthfully, I have no idea. Strange as this sounds, as I write this I really don’t know what’s upcoming here or anywhere else. I’m close to reaching my 1,000th post on my business blog, I just passed #600 on my finance blog, and I’ve still yet to hit 100 posts on either of my other two blogs. Frankly, a part of me is thinking that I need to start concentrating on business as much as I’ve been concentrating on blogging.

This means I could slow down across the board or continue as I’m going and find a business focus that brings in more income so I can keep blogging as much as I want to. The one thing you don’t have to worry about is that I will stop blogging; I still have too much to say and too much to share.

Of course, there’s an intriguing change that’s come because of Google. They’re started ranking and penalizing sites with a couple of things known as Penguin and Panda. This is a landscape changing bit of work, so let’s briefly talk about it.

Penguin is going after sites that have a lot of unnatural links. It’s actually ironic because they’re the ones who created this culture, and most of us have had to deal with people trying to get us to trade links to their sites or write guest posts for us that, mostly, aren’t up to snuff. I know what’s coming; lots of people are going to be scrambling and asking us to remove links that they paid someone to leave; ugh! That’s going to be messy, and none of us really want to deal with that.

Panda is going after sites where it considers that a lot of the content isn’t all that useful. Initially that’s going to be scary because how does one analyze what’s useful? Are we expected to write longer posts or posts that are educational and well researched? Are we not allowed to offer our opinions anymore because, well, how would that be considered useful? Does it change the overall culture of blogging or web content? Finally, do we all acquiesce to the Big G and only write content that satisfies them?

Well… yes and no. What it’s going to take is an observation of rankings of some type. You might have to look more deeply at your traffic figures, like I mentioned above while talking about mine. I’ve gone from one of the highest ranking blogs in the United States to a place I don’t really recognize. I can only hope that I don’t end up having to go back through all 1,300 articles and having to either edit them or rewrite them; what a project that would be! lol

In any case, I hope you stick with me as I enter this next phase of exploration. I think this next 5 months is going to bring great strides; that is, if I can get beyond these Google updates and get some of my traffic back. Now there’s a subject I hope I don’t have to talk about again in the next 100 posts.