SEMalt is Skewing Your Stats

There is a Ukranian bot out there that is crawling and distorting the stats for millions of  websites, and to some degree, is affecting every single site I’ve looked at this past week.

Go to Google Analytics, look at your referrers, and I’ll bet you a beer that SEMalt and crawler.semalt.com are both listed with dozens of visits over this past month.  In some cases we’re seeing a history with them dating back to January 2 of this year.

What is SEMalt Up To?

According to one of their employees: 

What is SE Malt?

Then he answered again, and fed me this load of BS: 

This is a lie

An accident? That’s a lie.

In a page on their website it says this:

Semalt crawler bots visit website and gather statistical data for our service simulating real user behavior: unique IP, browser, display resolution etc. This information is used exclusively within the Semalt.com project and isn’t revealed to a third party.

On their “about” page (their menu is in their footer) they claim to offer various tools, like keyword ranking, brand monitoring, reports, competitor explorer, website analyzer and a report system.

Presumably, these crawls are feeding their “competitor explorer” with info they then provide to their paying subscribers, but I don’t know that to be true.

Here on SEMpdx,  here’s what the referrals looked like for March, where they visited nearly every single day for a total of 94 times.

SEMalt referrals for March

Does it Matter?

If you’re a medium-sized website you probably didn’t notice, but if you’re a local business that only gets a few hundred visitors a month, you may just find that they are your number one referrer, and that’s severely distorting your stats.

They appeared to be friendly enough when I first Tweeted at them the other day, but I’ve done some digging now,  and I distrust them…

Why do I distrust them?

  • They visit sites from no consistent IP address or IP range
  • They are stealing your bandwidth
  • They are using your server resources
  • They are skewing your stats
  • They do not follow robots.txt

Depending on the size of your site,  may be drastically skewing your overall statistics from your overall visitor count, to your conversion percentages and bounce rates.

For example, for one new local client with only about 300 visitors last month, SEMalt accounted for over 70 visits, which is more than 20% of their all their  traffic!

A Special Message

SEMalt has managed to anger this site owner so much, that they added a special message just for them in his website header -

Special message to SE Maltt

How can SEMalt be stopped?

They put up a page where you can supposedly list your domain for removal, but again, I don’t think I trust them.  Here’s a link to their “removal” tool

Since I’ve discovered that blocking them via robots.txt didn’t work, and  found that blocking their IP wasn’t possible, I began looking for the best way to edit our .htaccess file, and I had to try a couple of options before I found something that would work on the SEMpdx server.

Rather than provide you with .htaccess code here, which may or may not work for you in your hosting environment, I’ll refer you to a very useful post, where there are a lot of folks discussing the semalt situation and that’s where they show several options for .htaccess editing.

If they would simply obey a sites robots.txt, I think a lot of people would not worry about it, and might even try their service. Until they do though, we’re aggressively blocking them.


Internet Marketing Jobs

Got a job to offer in the IM world here in Portland? Need an unpaid intern? A senior VP?

Just go ahead and leave the information as a comment here, and include as much or as little information as you want, including contact info or a link to more details, assuming the job is posted somewhere else.

We’ll leave this open indefinitely and see how it goes…


Edit Your New Member Profile

When SEMpdx started, there was no such thing as a “member directory” for WordPress. In fact, at that time you had to hack away at WordPress just use static pages for anything but a blog, and we’ve come a long way.

Over the years, we’ve gone through quite an evolution here, and we’ve just launched a new incarnation of a member directory.  Our previous directory did not allow members to edit their own profiles, and as a result, the changes were not getting done and the end result wan’t all that pretty.

After trying Buddypress, Wishlist and others, we settled on an add-on directory product for our current membership platform called Amember.

With our new Amember directory, our users can add their company names, phone numbers, logos, and social links, and the description area will even accept .html.

That means you can drop all the links you want, either nofollowed or otherwise,  and you can even embed a video… SEMpdx members have 100% control of what their listing looks like!

So Whats the Bad News?

We need your help!  Your listing looks terrible! 

There was an internal debate among board members about how much data should be made public, and we decided to respect members privacy 100%.

Combine that with the fact that we had a lot of distorted company logos, and the fact that we had not collected much information at member signup before, and we simply didn’t have much to work with.

We tried, but could not associate the old member profiles with the new listings, so as a result, your member profile is empty.

Except for the name of the actual person who’s a member, we pretty much have nothing else. No company name, address, logos, or any other information at all.

For those of you that filled out a profile once, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but you’ll need to do it again.

Please log in and update your new member profile for what we’re certain will be the last time, and please post a link to your directory listing here once you pimp it out.

Log In Here


SearchFest 2014 Mini-Interview: Mona Elesseily

Mona Elesseily will be speaking on the “#FAIL Free PPC” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I work as the VP Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media and have been in the online marketing space for 10 years. I work with several clients and develop PPC strategies related to search, display, remarketing/retargeting, PLA, mobile, geo specific, etc. I also do work related to conversion rate optimization (CRO), landing page optimization (LPO) and develop integrated online marketing strategies. I also write for online publications like SearchEngineLand.com and the HuffingtonPost.com to name a couple.

2) What are some of the most common PPC “Fails” that you see in self-managed (or agency managed) accounts?
There are quite a few fails in campaign settings area of Google AdWords. The default settings are not always obvious so it can take a little digging to get there. One such default setting relates to ad rotation and the default option is to “optimize for clicks” With this, Google will selects the ad that has the highest CTR (not the ad that has the best ROI/CPA) and serves it more often. My advice is to select “rotate indefinitely” so that all ads show more evenly. With this option, you’ll be able to select the best performing ad in terms of CPA & ROI.

Another default option is relates to keyword matching options. The default in Google for phrase match and exact match to include plurals misspellings & other close variants. We opt out of this as we expect misspellings, plurals, etc. to factored in with our broad match strategies that involve precise bidding, negative terms, etc.
My advice is to choose “do not include close variants”. With this, you should have a specific broad match strategy and include specific keyword terms and match types in your accounts.

I’ll cover many more PPC “fails” in my SearchFest presentation.

3) Please share with us some Enhanced Campaign functionalities that most people should be using but aren’t.
There are a couple of functionalities that are not well utilized. The first is advertisers not making bid adjustments to mobile. With Enhanced Campaigns, advertisers are automatically opted into mobile advertising and the mobile bid is equal to the desktop bid. It’s worth noting that it’s not possible to make this change while setting up a new campaign. To change this, advertisers must go to setting tab -> devices to make mobile bid changes.

The other is not modifying bids by geographic region. A very obvious way to improve ROI is to focus on geographic areas that are performing well and/or not performing well. Here’s an example:

New York

Ad spend = $2000
Conversions = 2
CPA = $1000

Chicago

Ad spend = $1000
Conversions = 100
CPA = $10

In the example above, it would make sense to ramp up bids in Chicago and decrease bids in New York. Note: the above example is for illustrative purposes only and there are a lot of other factors that go into increasing/decreasing bids.

I’ll also be covering Enhanced Campaigns in my SearchFest presentation.


Top 14 Reasons To Attend SearchFest 2014

SearchFest is going to happen in a relatively few days…here are 14 reasons why you need to buy your ticket.

14. It’s Portland. Duh.
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13. SearchFest tickets are affordable. We can deliver a top notch search experience for a fraction of the price as the major search conferences.

 

12. Members get to attend a Members Only reception the night before SearchFest with our speakers.
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11. Our speakers are amazing. They’re going to deliver a ton of useful knowledge to the attendees.

 

10. Marty…Weintraub…Live…and…Caffeinated!

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9. All attendees will get a free scarf.

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8. 2014 is our 8th year. We must be doing something right…right?
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7. SEMpdx always throws great parties and we have a Happy Hour and an After Party! Moz is sponsoring the Happy Hour again.

 

6. Six sessions/keynotes throughout the day. Check out the agenda and speaker line-up.

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5. Breakfast is included…a real breakfast with BACON thanks to PSU’s Center for Executive and Professional Education (CEPE).

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4. Four Tracks to choose from including Old School, New School, Social & PPC and a Deep Dive Track. See the full SearchFest agenda.
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3. Beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of content! There are also ample networking opportunities throughout the day. Just ask our Afternoon Networking Sponsor ethology.

 

2. Bookend Keynotes! Start your day with Joanna Lord and finish listening to SHOEMONEY!

 

1. The chance to party with @toddmintz.

What are you waiting for? Register Now!

SearchFest 2014 logo

 


SearchFest 2014 Mini-Interview: Aaron Weiche

Aaron Weiche will be speaking on the “Wrapping Your Brain Around the Mobile Opportunity” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’m a full blown web-net-mobile-search-social-aholic.

I was at a small company 15 years ago and since I had an email address (the only person on staff with one) they thought I should build a web page for the company. I started designing and coding sites and the addiction only increased moving forward from there. I’ve spent the last 10 years helping build 3 different digital shops, creating better and bigger organizations along the way.

I’m currently the COO of Spyder Trap in Minneapolis for the past 3 years. We are a full service digital firm creating responsive websites, mobile apps, search, social and email campaigns. Our team of 35 creates some amazing platforms and strategies for a client list that includes brands big and small. My daily role is wide ranging, but you’ll usually find me developing strategy, meeting with clients, solving problems, honing process and thinking forward.

Outside of the office I’m a faculty speaker for Local University, getting to speak at 8 to 10 events per year around the country on web design, SEO, local search and mobile. I was a founding board member of the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association and continue to serve the organization on it’s Advisory Board. This is my second SearchFest and I can say it’s one of those events that others in our industry should aim to model theirs after, it’s so solid.

Most importantly I’m a husband and father of 3 daughters that make the world right with me at all times.

2) How would you choose an optimal mobile bid modifier for a PPC campaign?
Of course every account is going to act and perform differently based on it’s components. The no brainer is to start by asking “does it even make sense”? If it does here is a sampling of places to start.

1. Is your site optimized for mobile and is it already converting mobile users? If it isn’t, test cutting the bid in half with a modifier and then review the results.
2. Segment your mobile traffic out in analytics and look for pitfalls or opportunities in the behaviors. Can you find intent or behaviors that would suggest a test of a modifier?
3. Look at patterns in the time of day of you mobile traffic. If you see certain mobile behaviors at specific times, then test an increased modifier during those times. An example would be towing services and auto collision repair increasing mobile PPC during rush hour times.
4. Analyze differences in CTR and CPC. If mobile is pushing a strong click through rate at efficient levels, start to test the modifier to find a sweet spot. You might be able to lower your bids and still capture results.

It’s just what you’d except in process: ideate, test, analyze, refine and start the whole loop over again.

3) What is the state of tracking cross-channel attribution in 2014 and how can businesses deal with the issue of visitors using different devices in various parts of the sales funnel?
Cross device tracking is evolving, but still imperfect. Google’s Universal Analytics is the strongest attempt to reach that point. One of the main issues is companies/brands not meeting the customer where they are and delivering a strongest experience regardless of device. Cross channel experience needs to improve for many and the hope is that the ability to track follows suit. I’m excited to see the continued development here.


SearchFest 2014 Mini-Interview: Marshall Simmonds

Marshall Simmonds will be speaking on the “Structured data for SEO: Which markup matters?” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’m the Founder and CEO of Define Media Group, specializing in enterprise search marketing and strategic audience development. I’ve been involved in search since 1997, was the Chief Search Strategist for About.com from 1999-2011 of which the last five were spent quarterbacking all search strategy initiatives for the New York Times Company portfolio. Define Media Group started in 2005 and officially spun off from the NYTCo in January of 2011. Define manages key components of audience development initiatives for the most influential brands and publishing networks in the world.

2) Can you give me the top reasons why website content should be “marked up”?
In a word, opportunity. In working with enterprise sites, typically our biggest obstacle early on is indexation. Essentially opening up the site to maximize crawl budget, bring approximate parity to content offered versus content indexed by the engines and, depending on the site, decreasing time spent downloading pages. Getting Google et al to effectively index a site is hard enough for a number of technology reasons both internal and external.

In addition to raw extraction and subsequent contextual analysis, structured data refines that signal, much like good SEO is intended to do. Schema offers yet another means to specify content elements for advanced markup. Anything that aids Google’s interpretation of, what can be, massive amounts of data is a good enough reason to put resources behind the effort.

The most important aspect to enterprise SEO is fast, efficient, execution of best practices and emerging technologies to support a brand. This means monitoring the opportunities, assessing viability of new releases and being able to lobby an organization for inclusion. Not necessarily an easy or quick task, especially with roadmaps established months in advance. However those that are quick to adapt and adopt are typically rewarded. It’s also good career management to error on the side of ‘innovative’ and avoid the difficult conversation with your boss about why your competitors beat you to it.

3) How do you think technical markup will evolve in 2014?
Honestly, that’s why I’m excited to present with and see Aaron Bradley speak. He’s the thinker and in my opinion the ultimate expert in this field. My job is to locate the opportunities for our clients. Schema is, dare I say, vast. There are a lot of objects to consider, some that even though Google says are supported haven’t really proven to be worthwhile unfortunately. It’s a trial and error process so my WISH for 2014 is Google will update and fully support (*see ingest and display) all objects featured at Schema.org.


PSU CEPE and SEMpdx Present: Search Engine Marketing Scholarship – 2014 Spring Term

Portland State University Center for Executive and Professional Education

It’s that time of year again. The time when Portland State University’s Center for Executive and Professional Education and SEMpdx partner up to offer a Spring scholarship for the Search Engine Marketing Course (within the Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate Program). This really is an amazing opportunity for one lucky person. This course begins on March 7th, 2014, and will run for three consecutive weeks (classes are 10am – 4pm on Fridays only), ending on March 21st, 2014. The current scholarship covers the entire course fee ($675)! For your chance to take advantage of this incredible opportunity, please complete the scholarship application by the deadline, which is 5pm on February 21st, 2014. The winner will be selected and notified on or before February 28th, 2014.

Note: Please apply only if you are able to attend all three classes. If you are employed, we’d recommend discussing the opportunity with your employer to ensure you’re able to take off work for three consecutive Fridays.

After you’ve completed the Digital Marketing Strategies certificate, you can explore the Advanced Digital Strategies course next (Note: the program would be out of pocket for the student and is not included in the scholarship). This is a brand new program, and an excellent opportunity to continue your education in the digital marketing world. Don’t miss your opportunity to advance your knowledge and skills.

 


SearchFest 2014 Mini-Interview: Elise Ramsay

Elise Ramsay will be speaking on the “Using Video to Build Your Brand” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

1)Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I was once a ballerina, spent a few years working in neuropsychology, then started a few projects of my own that led me to Wistia. I’m their Community Manager (and frankly, just a huge fangirl. Shh, don’t tell them!)

2) How can video be effectively used to grow and maintain communities?
Video creates a depth of relationship with people unlike any other form of content I’ve seen. Any video you make, no matter how scrappy, is going to let your audience get to know you as people. The scrappier the better, actually. Behind the scenes footage is especially popular, as well as videos that directly respond to customer questions or concerns.

3) What part of the sales funnel is video most important?
While there’s no one magic step at which to use video, we’ve had the most success with using video to nurture our core audience. Listening to our existing community and providing them with consistent value and personality helps us learn a lot and motivates our community to spread the word for us.


SearchFest 2014 Mini-Interview: Adam Audette

Adam Audette will be speaking on the “SEO for eCommerce” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
You know I actually thought about it, and this is my 7th year speaking at Searchfest. Pretty amazed to have been involved that long, and it’s all due to you, Todd, giving me my first shot back in 2008. Thanks for that.

Since we’ve done at least six of these over the years, I thought it would be fun to link to each of them here:

Adam Audette Searchfest Mini Interviews:

2008
http://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2008/sempdx-searchfest-08-audience-mini-interview-adam-audette/

2009
http://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2009/searchfest-2009-interview-adam-audette/

2010
http://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2010/searchfest-2010-mini-interview-adam-audette/

2011
https://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2011-blog/searchfest-2011-mini-interview-adam-audette/

2012
http://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2012/searchfest-2012-mini-interview-adam-audette/

2013
http://www.sempdx.org/blog/searchfest-2013/sempdx-searchfest-2013-mini-interview-adam-audette/

Online marketing is in my blood! I’m a digital marketer who focuses a lot on search, especially SEO and social. I’m chief kitten knowledge officer at RKG. I’m a father of two and happily married.

At RKG I work on the overall strategy of our SEO, social and content offerings, on partnerships, and special projects. I’ve been distracted the last several months with some other priorities, but in 2014 I plan on doing a lot of writing and speaking, which has been a big focus of mine the last 8 years. I also work closely on one or two SEO projects to keep my sword sharp.

RKG is fast approaching 250 people. We’re best known for paid search and SEO, and work with amazing clients like Google, Zappos, Walmart, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Walgreens… many more and lots of interesting projects.

2) What are some scalable SEO Practices that can positively affect 100K+ page E-Commerce Sites?
Scalable SEO practices for ecommerce sites… it’s a great question. First, technical. It’s important to create efficient, canonical crawl paths for bots. The most important thing is consistency: canonical annotations, internal links, XML sitemaps – they should all be consistent and reference the same set of canonical URLs.

Next, smart keyword mappings. It sounds really, really basic, but mapping the right terms to the appropriate pages is significantly important. It means understanding who your target audience is (on big ecomm sites, there are lots of personas), and knowing the kind of search queries they’re using to accomplish their tasks, and lining those up on the site. Not only keyword mappings, but also that customer journey – when they come through from organic search, what’s their path? How can you make it easier for them to find what they want, and to convert? This is where content strategy and site architecture come in, which are first-order priorities before even considering SEO.

Finally, good mobile experiences. To me responsive design really is the way forward, especially if it’s done right it can be really fast and seamless. You can still create mobile-specific experiences, too, in addition to RWD.

Then there are all the other things: thinking about SERP presentation and CTR, microformats for rich snippets, the Knowledge Graph and G+ and authorship.

3) How would you “site architect” a massive e-commerce site for efficient spider crawling?
Not sure I would architect the site from an SEO perspective. Actually, I know that I wouldn’t. I’d first understand the reasons why and how the site is architected from the UX and front end teams. Once I have that understanding, if there are big areas I see as SEO issues, that can be covered. But SEO crawling comes after the site is architected from a user perspective. In some cases, there can be SEO insight prior to the IA being developed, and that’s beneficial if possible, but it’s more frequently the case at large brands that the site is developed with very little SEO insight. That can actually be an okay thing. As long as SEO input can be fed into actionable implementations, we’re good. We just need to get things done, and that means having a seat at the table, but importantly having a resource allocated to execute on our recommendations.

Last a little nugget: the key to internal linking on a large ecomm site is the category (and possibly sub-category) level. That is where your focus should be, not at the product level. I’ll talk more about this at Searchfest.

Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/audette