One Year After The Penalty, An Interview With Ann Smarty

One Year After The Penalty - Interview Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty – One Year after the Penalty


March 19th marked one year since Ann Smarty’s top-ranked guest blogging website, MyBlogGuest, was hit hard by a Google penalty. I spoke with Ann, this week, about that event – and about how it has affected her life since.

I have to say her answers were not entirely what I expected. See what you think: here is a look at SEO from the perspective of  Ann Smarty.

A Bit About Ann Smarty

I am a longtime admirer of Ann’s work. Her real last name may not be “Smarty,” but she sure lives up to the title. The lady is as smart as they come – and as gutsy.

Fired from a corporate SEO job in her native Ukraine (because she was pregnant), Ann launched a freelance SEO business the very next day. She took on clients for peanuts, gained priceless experience, forged relationships, and ended up becoming one of the most sought-after bloggers on the planet.

An offer from Jim Boykin, CEO of Internet Marketing Ninjas, to move to New York and manage his brand convinced Ann and her husband to pack up and move to the USA. For Ann, it was a perfect chance to get immersed in the English language.

Ann is a marvel. Her ability to cover a multitude of bases without missing a beat often draws suspicions that she may actually have a clone of herself. Well, the Ann I spoke with was certainly focused and intense … but there is only one Ann Smarty.

Ann Smarty’s Reflections On The 2014 MyBlogGuest Penalty

TopHatRank: Ann, it’s been just a little over a year since MyBlogGuest got slammed. How did that action affect your work today? Did it change the way you do things?

Ann Smarty: I’m still not over it. MyBlogGuest was my baby. I poured much of my life into the concept, and a very special community was born there. I suspected Google was going to take action against us – they had singled out guest blogging for negative attention, and we were the largest guest blogging platform out there. They knew where to go to make the loudest sound.

So, I began to get ready for the attack. When the action finally came, I thought I was prepared … but I wasn’t. It still affects me today. It is sometimes difficult to keep focused on my new launch, MyBlogU, because I think back to what happened with MyBlogGuest. Even though the two are different (I’m not even sure what I would use for keywords to describe MyBlogU), still the memory haunts me.

TopHatRank: Do you mean you are afraid that Google might come after you again?

Ann Smarty: No, it’s not a fear, not really. It is a really painful emotional hurt. Especially, I hated that they went after my members. It wasn’t enough for them to penalize me, but they went after everyone associated with MyBlogGuest – they went after my people. That was the thing that hurt most. And it still hurts. I was trying to help people, not get them in trouble.

That community trusted me, and I was leading them as well as I could. We were above-board. We had strong safeguards and good moderation in place. Yet Google came in and made an example of us. They whipped us hard to show others what happens when Google isn’t pleased with you and your ideas. It really is a game with them, a way to herd website owners to do whatever Google wants them to do.

TopHatRank: Recent news says the federal government (FTC) was urged, several years ago, to take action against Google for unfair business practices – but declined to act –  and that Europe may still bring charges against Google. What do you think of those reports?

Ann Smarty: It is not surprising. It is a bad business practice they are doing. I don’t know why the American government let them off so easily. Politics, I suppose. Google has continually dodged the bullet in Europe as well, though some are still pressing for action. Perhaps they won’t get such an easy walk there. Let’s face it, though. Google is big enough to push plenty of weight around. They can buy their way through any difficulty.

Ann Smarty Talks About The Current State Of SEO

TopHatRank: Ann, you’ve been an SEO practitioner for seven or so years now. How has SEO changed since you began? Is it tougher to rank a site on the first page of search now?

Ann Smarty: As far as the basics of SEO, nothing has changed. Sure, it used to be easier to manipulate results, but it is still being done. Things work in a certain way. You must compete against those who don’t follow the rules.

Short of taking shortcuts yourself, the only way to outrank the bad guys is to watch and hope that Google will at some point develop a fair algorithm. The bottom line is – and always has been – that there are times when good SEO doesn’t help; only the bad works. It is a sad fact. But it is true.

TopHatRank: SEO is bigger than just keywords now … it’s content, social media, and more. Do you think that there are now more opportunities to rank for right reasons?

Ann Smarty: Good content will help in 1 of 100 cases. But … unless you go out and promote your content using methods not considered “good,” your content will be hard to find in all the tons of information online. We are dealing with an unfair and poorly-designed algorithm.

SEO will never favor the good guy until the algorithm favors the good guy. You don’t rank because you deserve to; you rank only if you break the rules. To become big you pay for services. You still need links, and you still need to pay for them one way or the other. You can pay Google AdWords for positioning, or you can pay someone else, but ranking takes work.

Just One More Question…

(a personal one)

Arsen Rabinovich: As a husband and father, I know how difficult it can be to make sure both business and home are getting enough attention. You are a rock-star blogger, a brand and community manager for a high profile website, and own several important online properties. You are a content marketing consultant, editor, social media marketing expert, team builder, SEO specialist … and most importantly a wife and a mother.  So … How do you balance work and family?

Here’s Ann’s reply:

Much of it is personality. I have always kept busy.

I do use some tactics, though. For instance:

  • I ask for deadlines, and I show up. Deadlines help me stay responsible.
  • I use a “big rocks” system: Each day, I schedule three big tasks – not more not less.
  • I do everything necessary to get those three things done. I almost always do more, but I never do less.

For how to balance work and family: I don’t even attempt it. That would be impossible. Rather, I integrate work and family. My daughter has never known me not to be working. I was working when I was pregnant with her, I was working when she was born, and I was working when she was a baby. I switch back and forth between my family’s needs and the needs of my work.

Here is an example: If we are driving somewhere, my husband is driving, I am working, and our daughter is napping. When she is awake, I will read to her, perhaps, or play with her. I don’t always need to make a choice between tending to my family or tending to my work. By switching back and forth, I can do both. By integrating work and family, neither has to suffer.

And that, folks, is a peek into the life and perspective of that SEO  powerhouse known as Ann Smarty.

Thank you, Ann.

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One Year After The Penalty, An Interview With Ann Smarty
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13 replies
  1. Don Sturgill
    Don Sturgill says:

    I love Ann Smarty and was one of the moderators for MyBlogGuest. Ann did her best to keep the writers focused on quality content, not on links. Her idea of providing a place for writers and publishers to meet and help one another out was (and still is) a godsend for many. It’s a big world out there … and Ann Smarty helps bring it together.

  2. Philip Turner
    Philip Turner says:

    I know the penalty was telegraphed in advance, but the extent and sheer viciousness of it were astounding. Overnight the rules on links changed and everyone suddenly became frightened of using do-follow links to show trust.
    Ann came through this bullying scarred, but stronger in many ways.
    Before the Google MBG penalty I never heard bloggers talking about anything except how to rank in Google. Now their focus is how to succeed WITHOUT Google.
    Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of an evil monopoly.

  3. Shannon Hutcheson
    Shannon Hutcheson says:

    I also was a moderator at MBG. And a member who’s websites were penalized by association with MBG. It was a despicable and obvious personal attack against MBG and Ann Smarty. Especially as it happened on a day she was speaking at a conference, and Matt Cutts knew it. Yet Ann remained calm and professional throughout that day. I suspect I would not have dealt with that situation with as much grace as Ann did.

    I remain a huge fan of Ann’s and support her whenever I can. I just adore her and yes, I still suspect she has a clone! I want one too please 😀

  4. Leigh Langston
    Leigh Langston says:

    I am also still not over what the penalty caused to happen. Google is greedy and the fact is, Ann was on to something big. The next big thing and she was shut down in her prime.

    If Google had offered to buy My Blog Guest, would you have accepted, Ann?

    • Ann Smarty
      Ann Smarty says:

      I don’t know, Leigh, there are many “It depends” to this… one of those is “It depends on what they were to do with it if they buy it” 😉

  5. Ileane
    Ileane says:

    I’m a huge fan of Ann Smarty and I’ve always supported her online ventures. I know that during tough times we often find out who our true friends are and I’m sure that is the case for Ann. In the grand scheme of things it just goes to show that people and the connections we make with one another are more important that algorithms. Ann continues to be a well respected authority figure in a world where women struggle to dominate.

    Thanks for all you do Ann and just remember that your real friends will always have your back!

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