The Death Star Strategy: Buying Hundreds of Domains and Paying for Facebook Fans….
In the last several months we have had clients approach us with these two questions:
- I have purchased several hundred domains on GoDaddy. Will this increase my search engine ranking?
- I don’t have enough FANS on Facebook. A service is offering me 10,000 likes for $300. Should I sign up?
The answer to both these questions is an emphatic NO. Both of the routes above can be categorized under a strategy we call “SPAM”. It generally indicates the website owner is obsessed with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and knows just enough about the topic to be “dangerous” to the future health of his website and overall online marketing strategy.
We have seen this happen many, many times: A business owner with a website (or about to launch a new website) spends an hour or so in GoDaddy or Network Solutions excitedly buying up keyword-centric domains. It’s easy, quick and pretty painless. He can’t believe his competition has not got there first!
The domains may look like something like this: mymedicalpracticeUSA.com, 123medicalpracticeUSA, topmedicalpracticeUSA, and so on and so fourth.
Sitting back in his chair, he then has what he thinks are two brilliant marketing strategies that will catapult him past his competition on Google search engine rankings…
Idea 1: Redirection
In this scenario, the domain owner sets about redirecting all several hundred newly purchased domains to his current website. Viola! He now believes that Google will magically give him a higher ranking because all these domains have awesome keywords inside their name. Plus, they all direct back to the main business website, meaning more traffic and more leads.
What he actually has done is become a domain spammer. He has added absolutely no value to the World Wide Web except to offer signals to Google that he is using underhanded SEO strategies to “game” a higher result.
Further, the presence of so many cockamamie keywords in the domain indicates the business is less interested in quality branding and more interested in pleasing a search engine. Can we call this “pandering” to machines?
Instead of rewarding the site owner with a top three search engine result, Google simply lowers the ranking or worse, blacklists the website as a potential spamming outfit.
Alas, many business owners have come to believe that the presence of a “keyword” in a domain name is more important than a business name itself. They also do not consider the Psychological effect it will have on an average customer as he types these weird words into the address bar.
This strategy is doomed for failure and will require months of effort to rectify, especially with the latest round of Google Panda updates intent on identifying and penalizing any type of spamming related to domains, links or email marketing.
Idea 2: Build an army of satellite websites
Oh boy. In this “death star” strategy, the site owner has a better idea: Let’s quickly cobble together some content stuffed with keywords (either through his own efforts or written by some Indian copywriter with questionable grammatical skills) and quickly dump it inside several hundred new “one-page” websites.
Further, lets sprinkle each of these one-page websites with several links that go back to the main business site. Perfect! Now, not only do we get new traffic from all several hundred sites but each individual online landing page will magically get indexed by Google and rise up the rankings. It’s a win-win, a true double marketing whammy, right?
If overnight several hundred websites suddenly link to your primary business site we have a marketing or backlinking strategy known as “link spamming”. What on earth has a website done to deserve several hundred new links in the space of 24 hours, 48 hours or even a month? Did the business get featured on CNBC? Did the business owner win an entrepreneurship award from the President? Did the website produce a viral video that was viewed 10 million times on YouTube?
No. The site owner decided to spam the World Wide Web with content that had little value except to flagrantly advertise another website. Who would want to read that? And, for that matter, what search engine would wish to index it? Definitely not Google, which will repeat its strategy discussed in Idea 1: A lower ranking for the main business site, low or zero rankings for the satellite sites, and a possible blacklisting for ALL websites. Is this really a road you wish to travel down?
It’s hard not to have an ego in the social media world. Now everybody knows how many people like your page, how many users follow you on Twitter and how well connected you are in LinkedIn. And it sure hurts when you see the competition with all those FANS. How did they do that?? One morning an email arrives in your inbox from an unknown sender promising you 10,000 fans on Facebook in a week or less for $300. Wow! Now that’s what I call marketing!!
Excitedly you sign up for the service and within hours hundreds of new fans like your business page on Facebook. By the next morning, the number has climbed to 8,356, and still going up. This is it! You now have social media oomph! Right?
Popularity has its price. 99% of these profiles are fake, not real people, who will post zero contributions to your page and will never, ever buy your product or use your service. Wired Magazine reports that 97% of these fake profiles will identify themselves as woman while just 40% of real users do.
And now you have a bigger problem: Facebook, like Google, decides to update its auto-detection algorithm to sniff out fraudsters and your site shows up on their radar. Guess what? Your site may get blacklisted.
Further, you may lose ranking juice in Facebook’s new “Graph” search app that is the forerunner to a true social media search engine that will compete directly with Google one day.
To make matters worse, Google also uses social media signals from Google Plus and Facebook to now determine rankings for a business. The sudden inexplicable appearance of 10,000 new fans in the space of 24 hours is bound to raise some eyebrows in the world of machines.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
There are instances where purchasing multiple domains does make sense.
- These include preventing your competition from using them to launch their own websites that could siphon off your customer base. They therefore act as competition “buffer”. You may never take them live, but you know your rivals definitely cannot!
- Or, you may acquire a new domain that is better suited to your current business. In this case, redirecting that new domain to your current website is perfectly acceptable.
- You may launch a new product and decide to dedicate an entirely new website and domain to marketing it online. This is referred to as a microsite strategy and many big companies like Nike and Coca Cola regularly adopt this approach. Bare in mind, these companies have huge teams of designers, programmers and marketing staff to handle the content marketing overhead. It’s doubtful whether small businesses can do the same.
While paying somebody to fan or like your page has no place in marketing, there are more ethical ways to pick up followers.
- Offer a 10% discount if the user likes you on Facebook first.
- Hold a contest. In order to enter, the user has to fan your page first.
- Give away something for free, for instance, a free trial, if the user fans your page first.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), there are not many short cuts left open to small businesses these days, if they wish to increase traffic and lead generation. Old, stale SEO tactics like backlinking are losing their power while content marketing, or the regular publication of high-quality content in the forms of blogs white papers and video are becoming more prized by the Google algorithm.
In each algorithm update including Panda, Google is hell bent on detecting and penalizing any form of domain, link or social media spamming.
Facebook is following similar strategies to Google, which essentially means website owners need to adopt long-term approaches for increasing site traffic and leads. Buying hundreds of domains or paying for fans seems like the easy way out, but will will be detrimental to your website over time.
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