I'm in NYC for a team meeting and don't have much of an update. I updated the rankings and that's about it today.
In a contest to prove you are the best, you don't look good breaking your own rules and buying links. That's exactly what Wix seems to be doing in the SEO Hero Challenge. The 4th link we've seen is on a German website http://com-5.de/wix-seo-contest-seo-hero-wettbewerb/. It didn't take long to see the same pattern we've seen on many of the other links talking about the competition and linking to Wix's SEO Hero website rather than the contest entry, FAQs, support page, or rules on Wix.com. There was of course an advertising page on the website http://com-5.de/werben-auf-com-5-de/.
Some of the other posts show signs of paid links as well with some exact match anchor text links that translate to "online marketing agency" and I even found a link to a casino website without looking very hard. This is yet another website that it seems Wix has advertised on before, see http://com-5.de/so-wird-ein-blog-beliebt-und-gleichzeitig-erfolgreich/. The second website we found that looked like a paid link had a sitewide sidebar link was removed when the advertisement was posted showing an intent to hide it but now that I'm seeing a pattern that Wix is using websites they have previously advertised on, I decided to take a look at the websites where they had SEO Hero placements and it didn't take me long to find 2 articles from last year that look like paid promotional posts and use exact match anchor text to promote Wix, http://alltopstartups.com/2016/05/24/improve-your-website-traffic/ and http://alltopstartups.com/2016/08/23/wix-seo/.
For the 5th one we have http://asfonseca.com/marketing-digital/seo/seo-hero-ganar-50000/ which is again about the SEO Hero Challenge and using keyword rich anchor text to link back to Wix's SEO Hero School website. It also didn't take long to find the previously established advertising relationship with Wix. "Tienda online con WiX." or "Shop online with Wix" is right in the sidebar.
2 things are painfully clear to me at this point. Wix is buying links for the SEO Hero Contest but they're also buying links for their normal business. This pattern keeps repeating and seems to be standard operating procedure for them. I'm a little surprised by this as Wix has been called out before for buying links.
I wanted to see what would happen if I loaded all of the content from the weekly pages that are setup with pagination on the homepage again. This website was originally intended to be a one page website but as it grew and as I wrote more it started to take way too long to load. At one time it took nearly 26 seconds to fully load the website, which was unacceptable in my opinion. Of course TTFB wasn't bad and users would start seeing content well before then, but still to fully load took a while. Since then I had setup CloudFlare to cache and fully load my content from the edge, so I thought I'd see how long it would take to load the webpage that way and also see if all the weekly content on a single page rather than a paginated setup would have any impact on rankings. The answer was that a full load took about 8 seconds and after Google had re-indexed the page with more content, I saw no changes in my rankings. Of course all of the eligible SEO Hero websites appear to be artificially suppressed in the Google SERPs, so I didn't expect much of a change, if any. I'm running another experiment now expanding pagination to some of the other SEO hero pages like the rules, competitors, research, cheating, etc to see if once these pages are re-indexed by Google if there will be any noticeable difference in rankings. At least 2 of these pages do have links to them, so if the links are consolidated and the content is counted in the set of pages created, I would expect to see at least some difference in my rankings for "seo hero".
I covered the Quora thread asking if the SEO Hero contest is a scam long ago, but somehow I missed it going from ~40th to the top 10 on 1/17/2016 and today it sits at #4 for "seo hero" searches. The thread itself was created by a guy using the question to promote his own website and even a couple of the answers now have link drops to SEO Hero websites. There's nothing here that would convince me that this should be one of the top search results for SEO Hero, but that's Quora for you.
I'm a little surprised to have found 3 more eligible websites show up in the SEO hero search results today. One is from an infamous (not in a good way) SEO. I wonder how many people entered that still aren't on my list which is just shy of 200 SEO Hero websites. Hopefully Wix will reveal the actual number of entries into the SEO Hero Challenge at some point.
Okay Wix, that's 3 now in the past few days. This one even mentions that you sent them an outreach email and it definitely looks like a paid for article. On https://myinternetquest.com/seo-hero/ it says:
I got an outreach email from them which got my attention.
And also this:
When I first got an email from Wix, I never actually bothered to read because I thought that it might be a spam but after I received their second email a week after, I was sold.
Once again using images from Wix's contest entry, this time the anchor text is partial match with "SEO Hero School" whereas the other 2 have been exact match anchor text. The website owner admits Wix contacted him not once, but twice. He then wrote up this article that makes it seem like SEO Hero School is actually a place to learn SEO, an alternative to Moz, Quicksprout, Hubspot, etc. and made sure to throw in the quote from John Mueller about Wix being fine for search as Wix keeps touting as well. It reads as a paid for promotional article and the fact that Wix reached out to him and the type of website this is (affiliate / make money online) means it probably is.
That makes 3 links so far that are fishy and showing a pattern of outreach and paid for links in an attempt to manipulate Wix's search results in the SEO Hero Challenge.
The first time a suspicious link showed up last week it was simply speculation that Wix was buying links. Why would someone write about the contest and link to Wix's contest entry seoheroschool.com with keyword rich anchor text rather than Wix's contest announcement page or the rules or the FAQs on Wix.com? It didn't help that this website had a page for all of their advertisement options right in the menu. Now there is another fishy link, and this time it looks like Wix intended to hide the fact that it's paid for.
This time the website is http://www.softandapps.info/2017/01/19/seo-hero-afrontar-problema-reputacion/ and it's an article in Spanish about ORM and talking about Wix starting the SEO Hero Challenge as an ORM strategy. This time like the last, they use exact match anchor text to link to Wix's contest entry and not the SEO Hero announcement page, FAQs, or contest rules on Wix.com. They also use images from SEO Hero School instead of the ones from Wix.com. But where's the intent you ask? How about the fact that there is a sidebar on the website with links to different websites that they happen to link to in most of the articles on the website. Take a look though, Wix isn't there, at least not anymore. The same day the article was published, a sitewide sidebar link that linked to Wix was removed that had said "Wix Página Web Gratis" (see screenshot below) or "Wix Web Page Free". Wix clearly has a relationship with this website and advertise here, except now they are trying to cover this up by removing the link the same day that this article was published. Check it out in Google's cache or Archive.org.
Given Wix's history of buying links and using all sorts of tactics like followed widget links that they use to rank when they shouldn't, I doubt this will be the last violation.
Shocking right? One of the SEO Hero comeptitors asked for links during his presentation for SEO Camp. I would feel bad doing this personally and it may be against the Google Webmaster Guidelines depending on how strictly the judge interprets them. It could be interpreted as a link scheme intended to manipulate the site's ranking in Google search results and the asking is a behavoir that manipulates links to the website which are both considered things to avoid. We'll see if this helps as right now he's in about 25th place in the SEO Hero Challenge. Here's the screenshot from his presentation.
In the first few weeks of the contest I saw a few different wannabe SEO Heroes expose their PBN networks, but since then I haven't seen PBNs used a lot. Now it looks like another competitor is trying to make a move in the competition and exposing their PBN or maybe a network that they've bought into. I'm not sure why they would do this especially since it will be exposed and they have to hand over Google Search Console access to the judge. These are against the Google Webmaster Guidelines and therefore you're not allowed to use them in the competition, although I've seen many black hat SEOs claiming PBNs are white hat these days so they might actually believe it is okay.
A couple of the SEO Hero competitors look to be trying to game the CTR for their websites. At the very least, they may be trying to get their "brand" which includes SEO Hero to be more recognized or into the autosuggested phrases, but more than likely they have setup some kind of system to search for them and click their websites in an attempt to increase their CTR thinking this will lead to better rankings. The screenshot below is from Google Search Analytics 1/12/2017-1/18/2017. CTR as a ranking factor is one of those myths that has spread like wildfire because I think people want to believe it. It doesn't help that people like Larry Kim talk about this and unicorns on every major search website. Google on the other hand has mentioned how noisy a signal CTR is. Representatives such as Gary Illyes and John Mueller have repeated that they use it for evaluation, experimentation, and personalization, but deny that it's a ranking signal. The myth spread quickly and now almost every major SEO website has someone spouting this myth as truth. There was an article just the other day on Search Engine Watch that said Google identified CTR as a major ranking factor, and this simply is not true.
I've looked at many of the Wix SEO Heroes, but I had a glaring omission in the audits I've been doing. I failed to audit the Wix SEO Hero entry seoheroschool.com. The website is still new, only about a month old at this point but there are some glaring issues.
Even though the website is so new, there's already plenty of SEO issues. There's some 301s already on the website, mostly related to /home which redirects to the homepage. I have a feeling this is a theme issue. SEO Hero School also has the same image issues as the other Wix SEO Heroes in that the images are renamed before being output. Wix also doesn't seem to believe in using alt attributes for the images. The URL structure is awkard for the blog, in that it goes from /seo-hero-blog back down a folder for the posts as do all Wix websites and start to include /single-post/YYYY/MM/DD/ before the post title. The page titles for the blogs also seem to have some issues perhaps because of a setting where "SEO Hero | Fishkin's SEO Hero School for Gifted Optimizers" is added to all the posts along with the post title, making many of the title tags far too long and keyword stuffed. There's some issues with multiple h1 tags and a noticeable lack of h2 tags, especially for the blog posts. There's of course the lack of canonical tags and I'm surprised to see they seem to use a beta version of the platform that has hreflang tags, but the website is only in English. They would have been better off using the version of the Wix platform that supports HTTPS as at least that would provide a little SEO benefit. While they don't seem to have enough blogs yet to make a second page, it's highly doubtful we will see pagination setup correctly and I'd expect to see duplication in title tags when the second page happens as that's all I've seen on the Wix platform so far. There's also some serious page speed issues. There's so many files called, so much JS, and so many large images that the homepage took nearly 13 seconds to load in my test on webpagetest.org.
I feel like Be An SEO Hero is a real website now that it has sparked at least one offline conversation by SEOs while drinking beers. I'm flattered.
I called it out a while back, and I wouldn't be surprised if Wix didn't learn of the negative SEO attack from reading Be An SEO Hero since they're on my website so much. There are some issues I have with this new post on Wix's seoheroschool.com blog. One is that it was the homepage ranking in the SERPs, and when it dropped out, the ranking page was replaced by their blog page in about the same position. Wix would have you believe that it was their homepage and that it dropped a couple hundred positions. They even talk like they recovered to better than they were, when in fact the rankings have only fluctuated a few positions (which is nothing considering they're around 70th most days), but the reality is that it was the blog that was showing instead of the homepage.
They also said that both the homepage and the blog were ranking before the attack, but with the blog ranking much lower. Think about it for a second. The blog is just another page on Wix's SEO Hero School, and as such you won't have more than 1 show in filtered results unless they are one after another because of domain clustering.
I would love for Wix to say when they started disavowing links to compare it to when they recovered so that we could see if the page recovered on it's own or because of the disavows. They seem to think that this attack was "a widespread negative SEO attack" when in fact this looks like the work of one person with one automated tool. This is a tiny, tiny negative SEO attack and it's still early in the competition. I would expect the last few weeks of the contest will be crazy, with potentially hundreds or even thousands of people setting up automated tools to spam participants.
Wix released their first commercial recently for a campaign leading up to Super Bow LI campaign. The CMO said "It is an ongoing narrative about Wix and our customers, and our message about always enabling our users in a world that is often disruptive so that they can be heroes." Could they use this campaign to promote their SEO Hero website? They promote their customers as heroes on seoheroschool.com and are doing the same with the Super Bowl campaign and I just can't help but wonder about the wording and the timing. This is the kind of promotion that Wix could do that other SEO Heroes could only dream of. It's not exacly a level playing field when Wix is already leveraging the power of Wix.com, promoting SEO Hero School through their newsletter and massive social following, and possibly even buying links for the website, but a Super Bowl ad would be over the top. It would practically ensure a win for Wix using a strategy no other SEO Hero could afford.
Their latest is about mobile popups, but without more details it sounds like they're saying don't do popups on mobile. That's not what the Intrusive Interstitial penalty is for though, it's targeting more aggressive popups that cover the content. If you have say a newsletter signup that only takes 10% of the screen or something, you're not going to see an impact. SEO tips like these without more information leads to rumors that people start to believe.
Wix's latest SEO Hero is an affiliate marketer and author writing about healthy living and recipes. I was a little surprised about the recipes as I feel this is a missed opportunity for her. She can't markup her recipes with schema on the Wix platform because it's not supported. She seems passionate and writes about what she loves and looks to have at least read a beginners guide to SEO. The site looks great, she does rank for a lot of niche recipes, and she has built a good social media following. There are some usability issues though as I kept trying to click the text for recipes to take me to the pages and I have to click the images, which I'd say is also an internal linking opportunity. She's also in the scary situation that she could lose all of her income at a moments notice. She has not disclosed her Amazon affliate status on the website, which means Amazon could shut her down at a moments notice and cut off all payments. She also hasn't disclosed for the FTC.
As for the website itself, this is the first time I think we've seen one of the websites that was converted from the hashbangs (#!) that Wix used to use to the cleaner structure. While there are a few broken links, there are tons of redirected links that look to mostly be from the hashbang URLs. Likely the process of switching over didn't clean up internal links. There's the same issue with Wix changing image names we've seen on all Wix sites and there's a good amount of alt attributes not filled out. There is pagination setup that's causing the exact homepage title to be used on 55 pages while not properly indicating pagination. She tends to stuff Paleo, AIP, Whole30, Vegan, and even her branding into the title tags along with the recipe names which makes most of them longer than they should be. Tons of keywords stuffed in the meta keyword tag as well. There's a lot of missing h1 tags and she doesn't seem to use h2s at all. There's also standard issues like no canonical tags and the previously mentioned schema markup which would be great for her recipes.
If there's a lesson here it's to build something you're passionate about even if you're not the best at SEO. A little work could make this website even better but for some items she would need to move off of the Wix platform. I'm also truly terrified for this lady because she didn't disclose her Amazon affiliate status. It seems she relies on that income to be a stay at home mom and it could be taken from her because she didn't follow directions.
We're past the half way point in the SEO Hero Challenge! The big highlights would be more evidence the SEO Hero contest being an ORM campaign, Wix possibly buying links for their SEO Hero website, Wix advertising SEO Hero School on AdWords and Facebook, and more negative SEO. There's been some hijinx as one SEO Hero had forgot about the contest and it looks like Wix is keeping a close eye on my website now. I'm back in whatever filter is pushing SEO Hero competitors down after hitting a high of 2nd for the search term "SEO Hero". I added a tools section and started adding FAQs to my SEO Resources page.
Wix has made a lot of changes on their SEO Hero website. They made a video with the characters, added a quiz that matches you with one of their characters depending on the score, redid the menu, added more SEO hero tips, and added more of their customers as SEO Heroes. It seems that Wix is taking this a lot more serious and on top of the hard work, as mentioned previously, they may be looking to take some shortcuts that they shouldn't.
Uh oh! Looks like someone tried to drop a spam link in the comments section of the Moz blog. With Rand lending his name and likeness to Wix's SEO Hero website I'm not surprised this happened, just surprised it took this long. Looks like they have a dilligent spam fighting crew over at Moz though and they caught the attempted spam by some SEO Hero.
On the bright side, I just found my first bit of "SEO Hero" spam! How very exciting!— Felicia Crawford (@fellythemozzer) January 17, 2017
It's basically a visualization of connections based on your inputs. Made by Benj Arriola, you can find it at http://www.seoherotools.com/your-seo-hero/. You answer who your first SEO teacher was, your SEO mentor, and your SEO inspiration and then who you are. This is based on Twitter handles and the data is connected with other people's answers and visualized in a connections graph.
There's a press release for a name change to SEO Hero that made it on Yahoo Finance, there's so crazy videos about SEO Hero "Squirrel" but it's a cat. Things are getting interesting, or weird, I'm not sure which.
I saw on one of the competitor websites that Wix had sent an email to people subscribed to their newsletter linking to their SEO Hero website, seoheroschool.com. Does anyone have a copy of this that they could send me? I'd like to see what they wrote. Apparently this was sent back in December to announce the launch of the website.
The ego bait works. One of Wix's SEO Heroes shared the post on their social media. It's funny that there was a relevant story shared at the Raleigh SEO Meetup last night by Phil Buckley. He mentioned that a couple years ago he made a post on his blog of the top 100 people you should follow in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) and got a lot of play from social and even links from major corporations sending out announcements and press releases.
Why would you do such a thing is basically the reaction of SEOs on /r/seo in a new thread on Reddit. You can see why Wix needs to do something like the SEO Hero Challenge to change the mind of SEOs because there is no love lost for the platform in this thread.
Wix fixed the broken link. I wonder if they noticed it or read about it on my website?