HardieFlex: Striking While Aldub is Hot

HardieFlex. Yet another reason to stay away from plywood
HardieFlex. Yet another reason to stay away from plywood

Aldub inspired social media ad from HardieFlex

You have to be watching Pinoy noontime shows to understand this ad. In that contex, it is very timely, witty and relevant.

Bravo HardieFlex!


Finding Yourself on Search Results

"Lupa.na.encyklopedii" by Julo

“Lupa.na.encyklopedii” by Julo – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lupa.na.encyklopedii.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lupa.na.encyklopedii.jpg

One of the benchmark exercises that an SEO practitioner should do is to search using his name as a key phrase. Other variations include less obvious variations like nicknames and jobs, or nickname and event. This is a vanity exercise to know where in the world they are. In the same way, this should be the first thing that they should do before engaging a client.

Every few months, I check my name on Google search, just to see if I’m on the front page. A person or a company should also do this often, to see if there are others with the same name. If a company has a website, they should also check out the results for their website name.  For instance, a law firm, like Gabionza, De Santos and Partners can type in their website name, “VGS Law”, to see if they are on the first page of SERP. (They are.) I also looked up “Sol Dean of Law” and Sol Mawis of the Lyceum University of the Philippines was on the SERP.

Sometimes when you search for something, the search key words may not be the most logical, but these are the key words that you remember. Things like, “bakery at the corner of JP Rizal and Bonifacio streets”, will become more common in the following years.

I played around with my variations of my name, like “andoy seo”, and was pleasantly surprised at the results. I was on the first page of SERP, and there were several “Andoy” around. My Quora page was on the page. The funny thing about the search results was that I ran the search with “andoy SEO”, and my other links came up.  This time, my picture was on the page.

This is a simple exercise to see how large your web footprint is. For those who are aggressively pursuing high visibility in search engine results, this is a simple way of finding out your ranking without going to any other analytics page. It is one way for a client or a newbie to understand the impact of SEO, and what it can do.

For those who would want a low profile, this is one way of knowing how small your footprint is. If you have a fairly active social media presence along with Facebook account, as well as Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, and you have a unique name, chances are that you would have the search results pointing at you.

Sometimes, off-page SEO is all about being active, putting up organic shares, comments and interaction with other users. For companies, they have to find out what people are trying to find when they use search engines. This is where the analytics comes in. Page analytics compile data about the website traffic and the searches. This includes search keys. On top of that, because search engines compile data for your searches, they also have data on the search keys, and you can take a look at the keywords, how many searches for the keyword, as well as how many pages use it as a keyword.

This is a more scientific way of looking up the competitive keywords. It also leads to better results.



Back Linking is for Beginners

loom bands

Loom bands

Back linking is an SEO method where links are created in other websites pointing to the promoted website. A back link could be part of a profile, or a comment. It could also be a mention in an article or blog post. It could be a link attached to a picture, animated GIF, video, sound bite or any other media.

Backlink Spamming

Because it is relatively easy to do and very effective, it has become an important tool in any SEO toolbox. Because it is very effective, Google has been working on ways to discount the effects of back linking. Google penalizes excessive back links or a too rapid increase in back links. How excessive is “excessive”? Organic backlinks take time and comes in diverse forms, usually through links in social networking sites, microblogging reposts, blog reposts, social bookmarking, etc. However, if there is suddenly a thousand backlinks after only one day of posting, or there is a huge increase in backlinks without any increase in followers or in posts, then this can be attributed to back link spamming. This is what Google de-indexes, and it also penalizes the website. The website might not show any search for a certain period of time.

Entry-level Task

Back linking is usually a task given to new guys. This is a repetitive task which only needs someone to constantly search for sites to add a “do-follow” link. Candidate sites would be.social media, social networking, other Web 2.0 sites, news sites, directories and feeds. If it is possible to put p a link in a comment or profile, that would work fine.

The main problem for back linkers include:

  • The mistaken belief that PPC is better than creating back links. Comparing a PPC campaign to SEO is like comparing apples and oranges. Those are completely different from one another. The only thing in common they share is the need for an SEO compliant website. putting up an SEO campaign does not hurt PC efforts. In addition we masters do want to rank high regardless of PPC.
  • The misconception that back linking IS SEO. The belief that SEO is all about back linking is a limited point of view. You can create organic back links without back linking on your own. With the use of social media and social networking sites there is no reason why followers would not share your links. The only requirement is a link which is worth sharing.

As a relatively simple task left to entry-level personnel, back linking is not clearly spelled out, in terms of what it is, and how it works. The newbies just know that they are doing SEO work. When they leave the company or their employer, they have this idea that they are SEO professionals. This is a grave mistake. They then apply with other companies not knowing anything else but creating back links, without any understanding of the ideas and concepts behind SEO in general, and back linking in particular.

In the end, back linking is just a tool. It is not even a strategy. Nowadays, you keep your backlinks in trickles, and try to get the post listed in social bookmarks, sharing sites, in order to create a credible presence.

Getting Things Done with Automation

Salt-powered robot.

Salt-powered robot.

There are a lot of things that need to be done when you have a blog, or when you are into internet marketing. The blog is only the tool to keep your site updated. Informing the internet that your site is updated is a different matter. There are automated tools which you can add to your site, and there are some other tasks you need to do afterwards.

Sitemap and RSS feeds

First off, you have to make sure that your sitemap is updated. There are tools to ensure that the sitemap is updated. If you use a content management system (CMS), it should have its own XML-sitemap creator. Otherwise you can use online sitemap creators and upload the resulting file to your site.

Another automated tool which your CMS should have is an RSS feed. This is one way to send syndication from your site. It is also one way to inform web crawlers that you have updated your site. Independent of the RSS feed, you have to submit the sitemap to search engines, or you can send a ping to RSS aggregators. These are two different things, which aim to do different things, but with the same result. Somehow, the search engines will be informed that your site has been updated and that they need to crawl through it to index it again.

Bookmarking Automation

Moving forward with your update, it is a good idea to have it bookmarked in online bookmarking sites. On top of that, it also has to be shared on social media and social networking sites. One way to automate this is to use a plugin. For WordPress there are a lot of plugins available which automatically post the latest article to social bookmarking sites, and social media, including Twitter and Reddit. For Blogger, there is an option to automatically post on Google+. Tumblr on the other hand can share the post automatically to Twitter and Facebook.

Besides the in-app automation, there are also online automation tools, like IFTTT.com and Zapier. Zapier is a paid service, but it also has freemium accounts. With Zapier freemium accounts, the actions are checked every fifteen minutes, and you can have a hundred actions per month. If you need more than that many actions, you can upgrade to their paid service. Zapier also has access to more sites than IFTTT. It is aimed at a corporate market and a lot of their sites are also meant for business use.

IFTTT on the other hand aims for an easy-to-use interface. The triggers are checked every fifteen minutes with no maximum limit to the number of times the action is done.

If you think that you need more functionality or the target website is not accessible by third-party online automation services, you can create your own, using the target website’s API and some PHP programming skills.

Sharing and Follower Interaction

For each article, you should have a handy sharing button. In fact, just in case you might be anywhere else on the website, a sharing button should always be accessible. You can insert AddToAny’s code to any website and have that functionality.

What you want to happen is for website visitors to share your post and to comment on it on social media or social bookmarking sites. The most common share buttons also have follow and like buttons. These have different functions depending on the social networking site. The main point is that your post will be shared and cross-posted, and visitors can like or follow your blog or your article.


If you had a linux workstation or server, you can put up cron jobs to schedule a lot of things. Otherwise, you can make use of HootSuite, SocialOoomph and IFTTT to schedule your posts, and shares. There are some posts and tasks which are recurring. These can be scheduled beforehand and fine-tuned every so often. If it works, there is a tendency to forget about it, but just keep that in mind.

The most important part is that the article you posted gets moving. It should be seen by the most number of people, discussed and commented on online. With these automation tools, you can focus on the website content and not worry over much about promoting your site.

SEO Automation and Its Limits



If you have been blogging and putting up articles for some time now, you would notice that there are some necessary tasks after the article has been posted. These include sending the RSS to an aggregator and ping the blog, putting up bookmarks and sharing on social networking sites. At least, these are things you would want to do if you want to promote your site.

If you don’t really want to promote your site, you can just depend on your free-blog’s default settings, whatever they may be.

The reality is that there are a lot of new blogs being put up every day. Some are company sponsored blogs, others are attached to a corporate or ecommerce site and are official blogs of sorts, and the majority are personal blogs. Blogs which are associated with a company’s official site are meant to promote the company or its products. The same goes for ecommerce and internet marketing blogs. Personal blogs are usually self-promoting, but mostly these are not meant to be shared to the public at large. Personal bloggers write for the fun of it, for their own enjoyment and for sharing within their circles. Usually, these are not promoted outside of those circles.

For corporate and ecommerce blogs, that is another matter. These are promoted as aggressively as possible, and all that time the website owners are hoping that it would not be de-indexed by Google. This is a walking a fine line, because there is no way of knowing beforehand when Google’s newest algorithm release would affect the site or not.

Without the use of backlinking services (which Google hates and tries to filter out of their algorithm) there are only a few things which can be done to promote the site. Basically, what it all boils down to is to ping the site for new updates (with RSS), bookmark, and promote on social media. These are mundane and daily tasks which can be automated up to a certain degree.

There are plugins and scripts available which can take the RSS feed and post the update to bookmarking sites, and social media. There are automated services on the internet which can post on other social media. The posts can even be scheduled on a recurring basis. However, there is a limit for which these could be done. Taking the next step in automation, the website owner has to think of creating scripts using popular social media APIs in order to post to these other sites. At least, an automated posting system makes a whole day or several days’ work out of the picture and the admin can keep to creating content for the website.

There are other ways to promote the site. But these take a lot more work and some level of creativity. The most important part is to carry a conversation with the audience. It is no longer enough to post to Facebook, or Twitter. Taking the next step, there should be interaction between the audience and the blog. Carrying the conversation over to social media is one way of getting a lot of mileage for the blog.

Treading the Backlinks Path

Cropped image of the Wikipedia welcome page.

Cropped image of the Wikipedia welcome page.

Search engines have their own individual proprietary search algorithms. That is a purposely redundant statement. Regular internet users take search for granted, but internet marketers shake, mutter and ejaculate expletives with every news in search algorithm revisions. This on top of all the debatable things which marketers do.

Among the go-to tools in an internet marketers grab-bag is what’s called the backlinks.

As an activity, backlinking has been hovering between white-hat (organic backlinks) and blackhat (massive backlinking). Simply put, backlinking is the creation of links on other websites which point back to the promoted site. It can be done organically, through blog sharing and article mentions. It can also be done as a separate activity by creating profiles on sites which allow for member registration, as well as in blog commenting, and forum posts. For an effective backlink, the link should be a do-follow, where clicking on the text link would open the promoted URL on a new page.

There was a time when backlinks were in vogue. The idea was that search engines would index websites and count links to other websites. These links would be indexed and those with more backlinks would rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). The thinking was that a page with more backlinks would have more credibility because there are more sites which mention it. However, because internet marketers made too much use of this strategy, effectively they were spamming sites with backlinks. This resulted in SERPs which showed those sites which had the most backlinks. Internet users were then forced to skip the first page or two of the SERPs, in order to get to the more relevant web pages.

As an aside, I once had a client who wanted to have his website appear on the second page.

Google has since revised their algorithm to take into account backlink spamming. If a website suddenly has a spike in backlinks, then it is supposedly penalized. It seems that the backlinks weight is no longer included in computing for the page rank.

There are still a lot of openly available backlink pages which assure product credibility. One of which is Wikipedia. If you can get your product listed in Wikipedia, with their strict standards, and multiple references, then you have a solid product with a solidly credible backlink. This, to me, is the Mt. Everest of backlinks.

If a lot of the above statements seem conjectural, it’s because it is. Internet marketers can only deduce the direction of Google search algorithms. They don’t know what the code does, and they can only surmise what Google wants to happen. The only way for anyone to understand the algorithms is with the SERPs. A lot of internet marketing websites are affected everytime Google changes their algorithm. It then becomes an exercise in trial-and-error, in trying to find a strategy which works. This results in different opinions about different strategies.

Nowadays, the thinking is that backlinks work, but only if it is done slowly. Making a massive number of backlinks would spook off Google and penalize the website. However, if the backlinks are built up slowly, Google would not notice and think the backlinks are all created organically. There is, however, no consensus as to what the magic number is.

In addition, there are some instances where massive backlinking matters, simply because everyone in the market niche is doing it, or because the internet marketers don’t care if they are not mentioned or indexed on Google.

For SEO campaigns where ranking on SERPs is the goal, this is very important. Backlinks still matter.

For pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns, there is the opinion that backlinks don’t matter. Those employees tasked with PPC campaigns sometimes believe that SEO campaigns are outdated. Backlinkers (those employees tasked to do backlinks) have no answer to that accusation. Personally, I believe that PPC will not get anywhere unless there is some form of organic SEO and social media or social networking campaign in the background.

A typical PPC campaign would show an ad on the SERP, which is related to the keyword. My point is that if an ad appears on the top of the page, and tagged as an ad, and yet there is no link to it in the SERP, there is no credibility for the ad.

A case in point, if an ad appears stating that it is the best selling skin whitening soap, and yet I don’t see it in the first page of the SERP, I would have to question the credibility of the blurb.

Change.org Magcommute Online Campaign

Magcommute Petition campaign

Change.org Magcommute campaign page

I’ve recently started promoting a site called change.org. Specifically, there’s a campaign on that site petitioning government officials to commute to work. Or in the case of President Benigno Aquino III, to ride the public transport at least once a month. He lives and works in the Presidential Palace and there’s no need for him to leave the place to go to work. He can work from home if he wants to.

As I was saying, change.org has about a hundred petitions asking different local and national government officials to take the bus, jeep or train to work. On the surface, this looks like a quixotic quest as there is no reason these public servants should accede to the petitions. They have access to government vehicles with allotted fuel budgets which they can use for whatever purpose they want. They do not have to justify their use of these vehicles.

The problem with mass transit in the Philippines is inadequacy and lack of focus. In Metro Manila there are an estimated ten million people living or working within its boundaries. This number includes those who live outside of the metropolis but work or study in the city. About 80% of the population do not have their own vehicles and have to commute.

There is a mass transit system built around three light rail lines. There are at least two light rail commuter lines set to start construction soon. There is a new elevated rail line connecting Clark and Manila. There is also the continuation of the Skyway project connecting the South Luzon Expressway with the North Luzon Expressway.

What these new projects will do would be to make it convenient to for commuters to get to the city. What THAT would result in would be a lot more people commuting to Metro Manila. Meantime, travel within the city will continue to depend on the existing light rail, buses, jeeps, and UV shuttle vans.

There is no space for road widening, and no space for new roads. The traffic is expected to worsen and then worsen some more. After it gets worse, it will get a lot worse.

Government officials have not been seen doing anything about the ordinary citizen’s daily plight. Commuting is a hardship for a lot of people. For office workers it could take up to two hours to get to the office. Some spend a total of as much as six hours daily getting to and from work.

The petitions aim to get public officials to experience firsthand the daily stress of the commute. There may be small chance of that but it is a way for citizens to express their disgruntlement before things get ugly.