Don’t Be Afraid of Google Changes

I got no short of 50 emails in the last two weeks asking me the same question:


Fear mongering much?

Some of you may be wondering ‘Why now?’ Well, Google changed it’s algorithm April 21. Some called it ‘Mobilegeddon’ which is something that would make many people 1) pay attention and 2) freak out.

The link above is to an entire archive of Google’s changes. Yes, Google changes. several times in one year (at least 6 times a year according to that link). But a few things to keep in mind when dealing with this (or other) changes from The Google:

1) Dealing with a neg artist is not really fun.

If you get an email out of the blue from someone you barely know (or even better, someone you don’t) negging your website, this means you are dealing with a certified d-bag.

Negging is a term I am borrowing from the pickup artist world. It means when you subtly (or not so subtly) insult someone as a way to get their attention and bring down their confidence a bit. This guy will tell you all about it. (Note comments disabled on the video, wonder why.)

Don’t let the web guru equivalent of this dude insult your website. It’s not their place to give you feedback. When you are ready for feedback, a website person you trust will happily (and nicely) give you constructive advice when asked.

Negging in the dating world works on insecure people. Someone negging your website will only work if you are insecure about your website, which brings me to…

2) Coming to decisions from fear and lack of information ensures they won’t be good ones.

Take some time to understand about this Google change if you are concerned about it. Moz and other trusted search engine specializing websites and blogs will have information when Google does a shift: (Nicole summary: Um, the world didn’t end. At all. There was a bit of an uptick though in traffic for mobile-friendly sites.)

My point is don’t listen to some random person emailing you to scare you. Do research and understand the change as much as you can, so you can make the best decision for you and evaluate the advice you are geting.

3) Your customers AND Google want you to have a mobile friendly site.

If you look at your website data, you can see mobile versus non-mobile user behavior. Not just percentage of people who come to your website but how long do mobile visitors stay? What information do they look at? What device are they on? etc.

So Google is now giving some juice to sites that are mobile friendly. OK but guess what? Your customers also want you to have a mobile friendly website so if you are going to make the change, do it for them too.

4) You aren’t just relying on Google to get people to your website.

The people I meet who truly panic about changes like Google made a couple weeks ago are those who only rely on Google traffic for their customers. When you go from the #1 ranked, say, coffee mug dealer to #3 in Google and you ONLY get customers from Google search, of course you’ll panic as a Google change, however small, means less dollars in your pocket.

But most of you have multiple ways you reach your customers online. You do social media. You have an email list. You do paid ad listings occasionally. You have a blog on your website. You crosspromote stuff with your online friends.

In other words, the faucet is not ever being completely shut off for you because you smartly are NOT putting all your eggs in one basket.

5) Do your thing, don’t care if they like it. -Tina Fey

I know a lot of people make a game of ‘tricking’ Google. Oh hyperlinked keywords are now being more heavily weighted? Let’s go through all 1,100+ blog posts we have and change all the link text we have.

Um no.

In general, just follow the rules Google has always says it wants you to follow and you’ll be fine. If one year, Google decides to prefer search engine friendly links higher to, say, h1 tags, you don’t have to worry because you’re doing both!

Common sense stuff to do (for Google and the people who visit your website):

1) Have words people are searching for on your website.

2) Use tools like bolding and larger fonts for more important concepts.

3) Have search engine friendly URLs (ex: versus

4) Name photos and use alt text/captions to describe what is in the photos.

5) Make sure your website loads fast. Here are some tools if you need to check.

Things spam websites do (to make sure you aren’t doing them):

1) Use content that has appeared elsewhere before. (A lot of spammers copy content from other websites and put it on theirs.)

2) Pretending your website is about X topic when it is really about Y topic. (Anything deceptive really.)

3) Ads all over the place.

4) Use so many keywords and phrases that it sounds like your robot wrote your website.

How To Not Be Catfished Online

A relatively recent reality obsession of mine has been the television show Catfish. The premise of the movie (and now spin off show) is that someone is in an internet- based relationship with someone they’ve never met… until they do. And it’s never what you’re expecting.

Here’s a trailer for the show (hosted by Nev, the original Catfish victim (or experiencer- depending on  your outlook) whose experience was documented in the movie).

So it may have struck you, as it did me, that in the days of Google, it’s weird that this kind of thing could happen. Sure before Facebook and Chat Roulette, when most of the country was only online to check email and maybe enter an occasional anonymous chat room, the ability to completely deceive someone about who you are seemed possible.Now this would seem to be much much harder.

While the reveal in this show is supposed to be the shocking part, I am equally as interested in why these people don’t dig around for the identity of a person they are in a relationship with… especially when that person never wants to meet you or video chat.

Am I saying to show up to your next first date knowing the person’s shoe size, birthday, and mother’s maiden name? Of course not. But all of us should know who we are entering (or thinking of entering) into relationships with.

If it’s a question of knowledge you have come to the right place. What tools are at your disposal for this sort of thing? Here are a few:

This app (that you can install on your Windows computer) will check the Facebook images of a profile against what else is online. Here is a man who apparently is in love with my friend Carrie (have friend requested her with professions of love):

Even having one photo available can help you spot a fake profile. Sadly, this is not Carrie's Irish dream man.

Even having one photo available can help you spot a fake profile. Sadly, this is not Carrie’s Irish dream man.

Google image search

This is one of the Catfish show’s primary tools. You can upload photos (either from a URL or your computer) and see if they exist anywhere on the internet. Please be amused that my photo looks like a dude’s photo:



But I included this photo not just to make you laugh but to show you what I mean could happen. Look below. See how William Secor and Jack Appleby have the same photo? Clearly one of them (at least) in impersonating the other.

WhoIs Lookup

Is someone pretending to be in an artist or some other figure that you can find a website for? If so, this is handy to know.

Unless a domain is privately registered (which you pay extra for), you can tell who owns a domain by typing into the address bar of your browser:

Here’s what you see when you look up Breaking Even Communications:



You see my name, email, address, and phone number. Not so easy to be mysterious online!

These tools should at least get you started on some paths (pseudonyms, locations, etc.) that can improve your Google searching.

So enjoy looking at all those mysterious muscled guys who friend you on MySpace and bikini girls who find you on Facebook… because now you know what’s behind the curtain.


Marketing Monday: Standing Out Among The Email Sales

Between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, I’m already starting to get email sale fatigue. Bad sign huh?

All these sales are a blur, or are they? Photo by Flickr user Chris22090.

All these sales are a blur, or are they? Photo by Flickr user Chris22090.

How can you make your holiday promotions stand out among the masses? I’ve been trying to figure out which emails I open and why. Here’s what I found:

Offer free shipping. Walmart is offering free shipping this holiday season and successful online retailers like Zappos have been doing this for years.

Be a part of what’s going on locally, in terms of events and search. If 73% of all online activity is related to local search, try to optimize for your products or services locally. You can even add a coupon go your Google Places listing for free (the listing is also free). So why wouldn’t you?

Try out a group buying site, or offer group buying on your site. Websites like Groupon (coming to Portland Maine soon!) are a way to get your business in front of a lot of local eyeballs. The idea isn’t limited to local businesses; if you sell things online, you could offer a deal like this.

Create a gift list, with photos. Like everyone, I’m stuck on a few people. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent browsing the ‘Treasury’ section of Etsy this weekend looking for nice gifts for a few people on my list. If you put a nice list with photos on your website for ‘pseudo in-laws who have everything you can think of getting them’ and ‘cool girlfriends who you don’t want to accidentally impose your decorating or fashion taste on’, I will buy something from you.

What’s your favorite way a company has stood apart from the bazillion sales happening in the next week?